Source:Muhlestein:How would ancient Jews have interpreted the Egyptian facsimiles

How would ancient Jews have interpreted the Egyptian facsimiles?

Parent page: Book of Abraham Facsimiles

How would ancient Jews have interpreted the Egyptian facsimiles?

Kerry Muhlestein,

Even though it is obvious to ask whether or not Joseph Smith’s explanations of the Facsimiles matches with those of Egyptologists, it is not necessarily the right question to ask. For example, as we compare Facsimile One, or any of the Facsimiles, with similar Egyptian vignettes, we may be barking up the wrong tree. What if Abraham’s descendants took Egyptian elements of culture and applied their own meanings to them? We know this happened.[1] For example, Jesus himself did this when he gave the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which clearly draws from the Egyptian tale of Setne-Kamwas. The Apocalypse of Abraham and Testament of Abraham are two more examples of Semitic adaptations of Egyptian religious traditions. [2] Maybe we shouldn’t be looking at what Egyptians thought Facsimiles meant at all, but rather at how ancient Jews would have interpreted them. [3]


  1. See Kevin L. Barney, The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources, in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies and Brigham Young University, 2005),107–30. Also see Kerry Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus One,” in The Journal of Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22/1 (2013), 20-33.
  2. See Barney, “Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation”; Jared W. Ludlow, “Reinterpretation of the Judgment Scene in the Testament of Abraham” in Proceedings of the Evolving Egypt: Innovation, Appropriation and Reinterpretation, ed. John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2012), 99-104; and Jared W. Ludlow, Abraham Meets Death: Narrative Humor in the Testament of Abraham (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).
  3. Kerry Muhlestein, "Interpreting the Abraham Facsimiles," Meridian Magazine (1 Sept. 2014)