Part 16: CES Letter Book of Abraham Questions [Section G]
by Sarah Allen
Facsimile 3, like Facsimile 1, is difficult to classify because it doesn’t have the standard features that it should if it was a “common” scene “discovered elsewhere in Egypt.” Once again, also just like Facsimile 1, there are accusations of the facsimile being “altered” and “wrong”. As Quentin Barney explains:
The assumption that parts of Facsimile No. 3 had been “changed” or “badly drawn” was held by the majority of individuals quoted in [Franklin] Spalding’s work. Archibald Henry Sayce, for example, argued that “the hieroglyphics, again, have been transformed into unintelligible lines,” and “hardly one of them is copied correctly.” William Flinders Petrie appeared to have trouble with both the text and the figures, stating that the figures were “badly drawn” and the text was “too badly copied.” Another claimed that “Cuts 1 and 3 are inaccurate copies of well-known scenes on funeral papyri.”
I haven’t mentioned Franklin Spalding yet, but his work will come up in a later post, so I wanted to take a quick moment to elaborate on that. Franklin Spalding was an Episcopalian Bishop who wrote to a bunch of Egyptologists about the Book of Abraham and then, in 1912, published the findings of those who responded that were critical of Joseph in a book titled Joseph Smith, Jr., as Translator: An Inquiry Conducted. B.H. Roberts, Joseph F. Smith, Hugh Nibley, and others rebutted this work, most notably in the February 1913 edition of The Improvement Era and in Nibley’s Abraham in Egypt. Jeremy Runnells quotes from several of these Egyptologists later, though, so we’ll discuss it all more than.
So, was the facsimile altered by Joseph or anyone else? We don’t know. We don’t have the original and there are no mentions of it being damaged or altered, but that’s yet another unanswerable question about the Book of Abraham. Anyway, these criticisms that the scene has been changed contribute to the fact that Facsimile 3 doesn’t fall neatly into categorization. Sometimes referred to as “the most neglected of the facsimiles,” much of what has been said about it has been incorrect.