Book of Abraham/Joseph Smith Papyri/Size of missing papyrus

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Cette page est basée sur une question posée à FAIR, ou une question posée fréquemment.

Quéstion

At the 2007 FAIR apologetics conference, Egyptologist Dr. John Gee (PhD, Yale) presented new data on the scrolls from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. This material has since been published in John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 113–138. off-site PDF link wiki.

Dr. Gee demonstrated how a formula developed by Friedhelm Hoffmann can be used to determine the total length of a papyrus roll based upon measurements of the extant scroll:[1]

Z ≈ ((E2-6.25)/2S) - E

Where:

  • S = average difference between winding measurement
  • E = length of last winding
  • Z = theoretical length of the missing proportion

When this formula is used, the Document of Breathings scroll (sometimes called the Book of Breathings) in the Joseph Smith Papyri (JSP) is shown to be missing 41±0.5 feet. Obviously, with so much papyri unaccounted for, it is entirely possible that the Book of Abraham was on the portion of the Joseph Smith papyri which was destroyed. And, that Joseph Smith had this much papyri is attested to by eyewitnesses.

Some internet critics have recently claimed, based on measurements made of the papyri from photographs, that this calculated size is too large. That they would want to deny that there is a large amount of text unaccounted for his understandable, since they cannot then claim that we have the papyrus from which Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, which does not match the Egyptological translation of it.

We asked Dr. Gee if he would care to address these issues. The following is his reply, lightly edited for clarity, and published here with his approval.

Réponse

Is the formula correct?

In August 2008 I asked Hoffmann if he still stood by his formula. He could see no reason not to, the math was correct. (I checked the math too; he is correct.) So the formula holds up.

When I first did the math, I checked both the measurements and the formula and its derivation. Critics have thus far not challenged the formula itself, either because if they understand math they can verify its correctness, or if they do not they are incapable of correcting it.

The measurements

If the formula cannot be critiqued, this leaves only the measurements to be questioned. I have access to the originals of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Critics who have challenged the conclusions I have drawn have done so only on the basis of the photographs found in Chuck Larson's book.[2]

Larson's photographs

To understand the problem facing critics who would use Larson's photographs, we need to know how he obtained them. When the Joseph Smith Papyri were on display at BYU about 1970, some photographs of them were taken and placed in the BYU Special Collections. Special collections does not have the technical details of the photographs;[3] they do not even know for certain which year they were taken. Larson arranged to borrow these photos and was allowed to do so on condition that no copies were made. Larson violated his agreement.[4]

Photographic distortion

All photographs are subject to a number of distortions:

Perspective distortion is influenced by the angle of view of the camera and the angle of view at which the photograph is viewed. The angle of view of the camera is dependent on the distance of the camera to the object and the focal length of the lens on the camera. Neither of these is known for the original photographs that BYU took as no technical details about the photographs are known. This is compounded by the process used to duplicate the photographs when Larson made his copy, which involves taking a picture of the photograph introducing another set of variables where neither the distance of the camera to the object nor the focal length of the camera lens is known.

Lens distortion is primarily a factor of the lens of the camera involved. Since the technical details of the BYU photographs are not known, the lens and its type are not known, nor is the type of distortion that they will produce. One can correct for lens distortion only if one knows the details about what needs to be corrected.

"Doctoring" Photos

Joseph Smith Papyri I, X, and XI have been physically separated since the 1840s at latest. They were mounted on paper at that time. They were stored in frames and now the individual fragments are encased in one of the standard papyrological encasings. Any picture including those in Larson's book showing them joined has been doctored or altered from how the papyri are presently. What we do not know in any given case is the extent of the doctoring or the process of stitching the photographs together that has been used. It is at this juncture that the distortions in the photographic process can also come into play again as distortion from the lens and perspective can make portions that should match up not match up and the photographs must be further distorted (perhaps by scaling or other means) to make them meet.. How are the photographs made to fit together? We have no details.

Distortion can enter in at every step at the photographic process, in taking the photo, in copying the photo, in printing the photo, in stitching the photo. It does not have to be intentional but the phenomenon are very real and adversely affect any measurements taken from photographs. This means that the measurements from photographs are not necessarily intentionally dishonest but are nonetheless dishonest.

Potential sources of error in measurement

There is a lacuna (or gap) in the middle of the roll that eliminates about half a column of text. Because we have other copies of the text we are confident in the general amount missing. Although it could be theoretically calculated, and we know the number of rollings missing, it would be folly to base anything on the measurements of the lacuna. The lacuna and any partial measurements involving lacunae were dropped from the evaluation which I made.

How will this affect the data? One of the numbers required by the formula (S) is an average. All the measurements that make up this average are within 2 mm. of each other so the range of measurements is small. Since the lacuna falls in the middle the preserved papyrus fragments, the measurements cannot be less than the smallest measurement. It will be larger than the largest measurement only if there is a fold in the scroll (which seems unlikely). I do not think that it is practical, possible, or desirable to measure in any units smaller than a millimeter. Any average based on this data will be within the 2 mm range with or without the measurements of the lacuna. It will not adversely affect the data.

Given the inherent error in measurement, there is an error factor of ±0.5 foot.

Alert readers will also have seen that the criticisms leveled at the argument were anticipated in the article.

Length of scroll versus contents

What I find amazingly silly in this discussion is that while the calculated length of the scroll does account for all the known historical data (whereas those who argue against it cannot account for all the known historical data), it does not tell us what was on the scroll. If the critics were honest they would simply say that the length of the scroll does not prove that the Book of Abraham was on it. This is true. I have no problem with that. It also does not prove that the Book of Abraham was not on it.

Since, to the best of our knowledge, the missing portions were destroyed in the Chicago Fire in 1871 and we have not been able to find a copy of the scroll (and I have been through all of Seyffarth's papers in two archives looking for a copy), there is no possible way at this point to determine what was on the scroll. An honest scholarly assessment would simply say that we do not have enough information to determine what was on the part of the scroll that we do not have.

Conclusion

Individuals can believe whatever they want to about what was on the interior portion of the roll of Horos, and that will be their belief. We have reached as far as scholarship can take us and after that point our assumptions and presuppositions and beliefs plainly take over. However, until someone demonstrates that either the formula is in error, or there is a source of error in the measurements of the original papyri which is unaccounted, the approximate size of the original Joseph Smith papyri is on solid scientific ground.

Notes

  1. [retour]  Friedhelm Hoffmann, "Die Lange des P. Spiegelberg," in Acta Demotica: Acts of Fith International Conference for Demotists (Pisa: Giardini Editori e Stampatori, 1994), 145–155.
  2. [retour]  Charles M. Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri (Inst for Religious Research, 1992).
  3. [retour]  Tom Wells [photoarchivist] BYU Special Collections, oral communication to John Gee, 11 December 2008.
  4. [retour]  Chad Flake, oral communication to John Gee May 1992

Lectures complémentaires

Les articles FAIR wiki

Livre d'Abraham: les articles FAIR wiki
Abraham et l'Astronomie

FAIR en ligne

FAIR Book of Abraham materials
  • FAIR Topical Guide: Book of Abraham FAIR link
  • FAIR Topical Guide: Kirtland Egyptian Papers FAIR link
  • Michael Ash & Kevin Barney, "The ABCs of the Book of Abraham" (2004 FAIR Conference presentation) FAIR link
  • Michael Ash, "Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology" (2006 FAIR Conference presentation) FAIR link YouTube link
  • John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," 2007 FAIR Apologetics Conference (Sandy, Utah) YouTube link
  • Brian Hauglid, "Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: Myths and Realities" (2006 FAIR Conference presentation) YouTube link

Videos

ABCs of the Book of Abraham, Michael Ash, Kevin Barney, 2004 FAIR Conference
Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology, Mike Ash, 2006 FAIR Conference
Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: Myths and Realities, Brian Hauglid, 2006 FAIR Conference (YouTube Video)

D'autres sources en lignes

Book of Abraham on-line materials
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources," Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 3), John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, eds., (Provo: FARMS, 2006): 107–30. off-site
  • E. Douglas Clark, "A Powerful New Resource for Studying the Book of Abraham (Review of Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham)," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 91–95. off-site PDF link
  • John Gee, "Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob (Review of The Use of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical Review by Edward H. Ashment)," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 19–84. off-site PDF link
  • John Gee, "'Bird Island' Revisited, or the Book of Mormon through Pyramidal Kabbalistic Glasses: Review of Written by the Finger of God: A Testimony of Joseph Smith's Translations by Joe Sampson," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 219–228. off-site PDF link
  • John Gee, "One Side of a Nonexistent Conversation (Review of: The Papyri of Abraham: Facsimiles of the Everlasting Covenant)," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 81–85. off-site PDF link
  • John Gee, "A Method for Studying the Facsimiles; Review of: A Study Guide to the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 347–353. off-site PDF link wiki
  • John Gee, "Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts," Ensign (July 1992): 60–?. off-site
  • John Gee, "New Light on the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 19/2 (2007): 245–260. off-site PDF link wiki
  • John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 113–138. off-site PDF link wiki
  • John Gee, "Telling the Story of the Joseph Smith Papyri (Review of The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham: A Study of the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri by James R. Harris)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 46–59. off-site PDF link
  • John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors (Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 93–119. off-site PDF link
  • Brian M. Hauglid, "Nibley's Abraham in Egypt: Laying the Foundation for Abraham Research," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 97–90. off-site PDF link
  • Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site PDF link
  • Hugh W. Nibley, "Approach to John Gee, Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Review of: A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri)," FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 63–64. off-site PDF link
  • Hugh W. Nibley, "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers," Brigham Young University Studies 11:1 (Summer 1971): 350–399. off-site PDF link
  • Michael D. Rhodes, "The Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture (Review of By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson)," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 120–126. off-site PDF link
  • Michael Dennis Rhodes, "A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus," Brigham Young University Studies 17:3 (1977): 259. PDF link
  • Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus...Twenty Years Later." PDF link
  • Kerry Shirts, "Abraham, Father of the Faithful, Or Osiris, Pagan Egyptian God?", Mormonism Researched (accessed 6 October 2005). off-site
  • Kerry A. Shirts, "On Anubis, Masks, and Uniqueness of Facsimile #1 in the Book of Abraham." off-site
  • Kerry A. Shirts, "On Wings & Thumbs & Other Things" off-site
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "The Use of Mnemonic Devices in Oral Traditions, as Exemplified by the Book of Abraham and the Hor Sensen Papyrus," Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 120 (April 1970): 2–10.
  • Benjamin Urrutia, "The Joseph Smith Papyri," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4:2 (Summer 1969): 129–134. off-site

Source(s) d'impression

Book of Abraham print materials
  • Richley Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "A Study of the Hor Sensen Papyrus." Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 109 (25 October 1968): 1–6.
  • Richley Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes. "The Hor Sensen Papyrus as a Mnemonic Device: A Further Study." Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 114 (2 June 1969): 6–13.
  • John Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri," The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo: FARMS, 2000).
  • John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 1. ISBN 0934893543.
  • Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2nd edition, (Vol. 14 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Gary P. Gillum, Illustrated by Michael P. Lyon, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000), 1. ISBN 157345527X. off-site (subscript. required) GospeLink
  • Hugh Nibley, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Sunstone (Issue #17.18) (December 1979): 49–51. off-site
  • Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd edition, (Vol. 16 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005), 1. ISBN 159038539X.
  • Hugh W. Nibley, "Phase One," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3:2 (Summer 1968): 101. off-site
  • H. Donl Peterson, The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1995); ISBN 0875798462, ISBN 978-0875798462.
FARMS Studies in the Book of Abraham series
  • John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 1) (Provo: FARMS, 2001). ISBN 0934893594.
  • Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 2) (Provo: FARMS, 2005). ISBN 0934893632.
  • John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, eds., Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 3) (Provo: FARMS, 2006). ISBN 0934893764. off-site