Kolob, The Governing One

Book of Abraham Insight #17

One of the more memorable contributions of the Book of Abraham is its depiction of Kolob (Abraham 1:3–4, 9, 16; Facsimile 2, Fig. 1). According to the Book of Abraham, Kolob is characterized by the following features:

    • It is a star.1
    • It is a “great [star]” and a “governing one.”
    • It is “near unto [God]” or “nigh unto the throne of God.”
    • It was used to tell relative time (“one revolution [of Kolob] was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou [Abraham] standest”).
    • It “signify[ed] the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit.”

Latter-day Saints have long been interested in Kolob for its doctrinal and potential cosmological significance.2 The opening words to the beloved Latter-day Saint hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob” written by W. W. Phelps was, of course, inspired by Kolob in the Book of Abraham.3

In recent years, spurred on by promising discoveries in Egyptology and Near Eastern archaeology, some Latter-day Saint scholars have sought to situate Kolob in the ancient world. Although there are still many uncertainties, a few points in favor of Kolob being authentically ancient can be affirmed with reasonable plausibility.

First is the matter of the etymology of the name Kolob. One of the more common proposals is that the name derives from the Semitic root qlb, meaning “heart, center, middle,” and is thus related to the root qrb, meaning “to be near, close.”4 This explanation is enticing because it works well as a pun on the name provided for Kolob within the Book of Abraham itself: “the name of the great one is Kolob [qlb; “middle, center”], because it is near [qrb] unto me [i.e. the Lord]” (Abraham 3:3).5 The drawback to this theory, however, is that qlb as a Semitic word is only attested as far back as Arabic, which is considerably later than Abraham’s time.6 That being said, there are conjectural Afroasiatic roots that could potentially place this word in Abraham’s day.7

Another promising proposal is that Kolob derives from the Semitic root klb, meaning “dog.”8 This theory has been circulating since at least the early twentieth century, when a non-Latter-day Saint named James E. Homans (writing under the pseudonym R. C. Webb) postulated this idea in 1913.9 This, in turn, has prompted some to identify Kolob with Sirius, the dog-star.10 Known as Sopdet (or Sothis in Greek) in ancient Egypt, Sirius held both mythological as well as calendrical significance to the ancient Egyptians. Usually associated with the goddesses Isis and Hathor, the star Sirius “had a special role because its heliacal rising coincided with the ideal Egyptian New Year day that was linked with the onset of the Nile inundation.”11

Both Sirius and Kolob share a number of overlapping characteristics, including:

    • Both are associated with the throne of God.12
    • Both are recognized as the “greatest” (probably meaning brightest) of stars.13
    • Both are depicted as governing other stars.14
    • Both are associated with creation.15
    • Both are significant in measuring time.

While these convergences are compelling, the main drawback to this theory is that, as far as is currently attested, klb (“dog”) appears to have been used anciently to identify the constellation Hercules as opposed to Canis Major (which contains Sirius).16 However, by the Greco-Roman period of Egyptian history (the period that the Joseph Smith Papyri and facsimiles date to) there is evidence that Sirius (Isis-Sothis) was “represented as a large dog,”17 and it is possible that this representation pre-dates Abraham’s day, although this point is disputed among Egyptologists.18 At this point, the identification of Kolob as Sirius is promising but remains unproven.

A depiction of Isis-Sothis riding a large dog in Salamuni Tomb 8 from Akhmim, Egypt. Image from Venit (2016), 184.

Conceptually, the way Kolob is depicted in the Book of Abraham interplays well with ancient Egyptian cosmology. As explained by Egyptologist John Gee:

The ancient Egyptians associated the idea of encircling something (whether in the sky or on earth) with controlling or governing it, and the same terms are used for both. Thus, the Book of Abraham notes that “there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, . . . which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:9; emphasis added). The Egyptians had a similar notion, in which the sun (Re) was not only a god but the head of all the gods and ruled over everything that he encircled. Abraham’s astronomy sets the sun, “that which is to rule the day” (Abraham 3:5), as greater than the moon but less than Kolob, which governs the sun (Abraham 3:9). Thus, in the astronomy of the Book of Abraham, Kolob, which is the nearest star to God (Abraham 3:16; see also 3, 9), revolves around and thus encircles or controls the sun, which is the head of the Egyptian pantheon.19

While questions about the identification of Kolob still remain, there are some very tantalizing pieces of evidence that, when brought together, reinforce the antiquity of this astronomical concept unique to the Book of Abraham.

Further Reading

John Gee, “Abrahamic Astronomy,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 115–120.

Hugh Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2010), 250–260.

John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 1–16.

Footnotes

 

1 The Book of Abraham tends to conflate “star” with “planet,” leading some Latter-day Saints to speak of Kolob as a planet or world. See for instance Brigham Young, “Territory of Utah: Proclamation, for a Day of Praise and Thanksgiving,” in Journals of the House of Representatives, Council, and Joint Sessions of the First Annual and Special Sessions of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT: Brigham Young, 1852),​ 166; John Taylor, “Origins, Object, and Destiny of Woman,” The Mormon 3, no. 28 (August 29, 1857); Orson Pratt, “Millennium,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 28, no. 36 (September 8, 1866): 561; Bruce L. Christensen, “Media Myths and Miracles,” BYU Devotional, November 8, 1994. While confusing for modern readers, this conflation makes sense from an ancient perspective, as discussed in John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 11.

2 B. H. Roberts, A New Witness for God (Salt Lake City, UT: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1895), 446–448; George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press, 1965), 308–312; The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2017), 71–73, 78, 81.

3 Hymn #284 in the current hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; first published in 1856 under the title “There is No End,” Deseret News (November 19, 1856), 290.

4 Janne M. Sjodahl, “The Book of Abraham,” Improvement Era 16, no. 4 (February 1913): 329; “The Word ‘Kolob’,” Improvement Era 16, no. 6 (April 1913): 621; Sidney B. Sperry, Ancient Records Testify in Papyrus and Stone (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1938), 86; Robert F. Smith, “Some ‘Neologisms’ From the Mormon Canon,” in Conference on the Language of the Mormons (Provo, UT: Language Research Center, Brigham Young Uniersity, 1973), 64; Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus . . . Twenty Years Later,” FARMS Preliminary Report (1994), 8; “Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles,” Religious Educator 4, no. 2 (2003): 121; Richard D. Draper, S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes, The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005), 289–290; Hugh Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2010), 250–251.

5 The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, ed. John A. Brinkman et al (Chicago, Ill.: Oriental Institute, 1982), s.v. qerbu; Jeremy Black, Andrew George, Nicholas Postgate, eds., A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2000), 288.

6 The closest attested word in Abraham’s day to the Arabic qalb would probably be the Old Akkadian qabla or qablu (qablītu), meaning “in the middle” or “middle part.” The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, s.v. qabla, qablītu; Black, George, Postgate, A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 281.

7 See Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 32, who cites the reconstructed Afroasiatic root ḳlb/ḳrb for the Egyptian and Akkadian cognates qꜣb (“interior”) and qerbum (“inside”), respectively; compare James P. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Language: A Historical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 35.

8 The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, s.v. kalbu; Black, George, Postgate, A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 142.

9 Robert C. Webb [James E. Homans], “A Critical Examination of the Fac-Similies in the Book of Abraham,” Improvement Era 16, no. 5 (March 1913): 445; cf. Joseph Smith as a Translator (Salt Lake City, UT: The Deseret News Press, 1935), 102–103.

10 Webb, “A Critical Examination of the Fac-Similies in the Book of Abraham,” 445; Joseph Smith as a Translator, 103; Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 251–252.

11 Joachim Frederich Quack, “Astronomy in Ancient Egypt,” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Medicine in the Classical World, ed. Paul T. Keyser and John Scarborough (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018), 62. See also Raymond O. Faulkner, “The King and the Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 25, no. 3 (July 1966): 157–160; Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames and Hudson, 2003), 167–168; Jay B. Holberg, Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky (Berlin: Springer, 2007), 3–14.

12 One of the ancient Egyptian epithets for Sopdet/Sirius was wˁbt swt or “pure of thrones” in Pyramid Text 442 (§822a) and Pyramid Text 504 (§1082d). The image of the Throne of God in the heavens is commonplace in the Bible (e.g. Psalm 11:4; 103:19; Matthew 5:34; 23:22; Revelation 4:1–2, 5–6).

13 “[Seirios] originally was employed to indicate any bright and sparkling heavenly object, but in the course of time became a proper name for this brightest of all the stars” (Richard Hinckley Allen, Star-Names and Their Meanings [New York, NY: G. E. Stechert, 1899], 120). “Greek writers made special reference to Sirius, the brilliant star in the constellation [Canis Major]. The name has been derived from Seirios, ‘sparkling.’ This term was first employed to indicate any bright sparkling object in the sky, and was also applied to the Sun. But after a time, the name was given to the brightest of all stars” (Charles Whyte, The Constellations and their History [London: Charles Griffin, 1928], 231–232). “[Sirius] is the brightest of the fixed stars. . . . [and] has been throughout human history the most brilliant of the permanent fixed stars” (Robert Burnham, Jr., Burnham’s Celestial Handbook: An Observer’s Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System [New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1978], 1:387, 390). “Among the brightest stars of the northern winter sky, Sirius is prominent as the principal star of the constellation Canis Major, Latin for the Greater Dog” (Holberg, Sirius, 15).

14 As “the star which fixes and governs the periodic return of the year” (James Bonwick, Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought [London: K. Paul & Co., 1878], 113) and the annual inundation of the Nile, Sirius (specifically its godly manifestation as Hathor/Isis) bore the epithets “Lady of the beginning of the year, Sothis, Mistress of the stars” (nbt tp rnpt spdt ḥnwt ḫꜣbꜣ.s) and “Sothis in the sky, the Female Ruler of the stars” (spdt m pt ḥqꜣt n[t] ḫꜣbꜣ.s). Barbara A. Richter, The Theology of Hathor of Dendera: Aural and Visual Scribal Techniques in the Per-Wer Sanctuary (Atlanta, GA: Lockwood Press, 2016), 4n8, 96.

15 Richter, The Theology of Hathor of Dendera, 4n8, 96–97, 173, 185; Holberg, Sirius, 14. One late Egyptian text describes Sirius as “[the one] who created those who created us” (r-ir qm nꜣ ỉỉr qm.n), making the star the supreme creator, as it were. “She is Sirius and all things were created through her” (spt tꜣy mtw.w ỉr mdt nb r-ḥr.s). Wilhelm Spiegelberg, Der Ägyptische Mythus vom Sonnenauge (Strassburg: R. Schutz, 1917), 28–29.

16 The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, s.v. kalbu; Douglas B. Miller and R. Mark Shipp, An Akkadian Handbook: Paradigms, Helps, Glossary, Logograms, and Sign List (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996), 55; Black, George, Postgate, A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, 142. In Syriac, kelb does refer to Sirius, although this language post-dates Abraham considerably, and so it is uncertain if this identification extends as far back as the Middle Bronze Age in earlier proto-Semitic forms. R. Payne Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), 215.

17 Wilkinson, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, 168; Marjorie Susan Venit, Visualizing the Afterlife in the Tombs of Graeco-Roman Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 183–184, 186, 192–193; Catlín E. Barrett, Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos: A Study in Hellenistic Religion (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 187–189.

18 Barrett, Egyptianizing Figurines from Delos, 187; Laszlo Kakosy, “Sothis,” in Lexikon der Agyptologie, ed. Wolfgang Helck and Eberhard Otto (Wiesbaden: Harrosowitz Verlag, 1986), 5:1115.

19 John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 116–117; compare Kerry Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3,” Religious Educator 10, no. 1 (2009): 37–43.

Shinehah, The Sun

Book of Abraham Insight #16

One of the astronomical terms defined in the Book of Abraham is Shinehah, which is said to be the sun (Abraham 3:13). Earlier in the Book of Abraham the “god of Shagreel” is identified as the sun as well (Abraham 1:9). The context of these passages suggests that Shagreel is a Chaldean (Northwest Semitic) name or word while Shinehah is an Egyptian name or word, although this is not explicit from the text.1 We do not know how Joseph Smith intended this word to be pronounced; whether, for instance, shine-hah or shi-ney-hah or some other way.2  However it is pronounced, contrary to the claim made by some of Joseph Smith’s skeptics,3 there is evidence that Shinehah is an authentic ancient Egyptian word.

Beginning around 2350 BC, “the walls of the inner chambers and corridors of ancient Egyptian pyramids were inscribed with a series of ritual and magical spells” known today as the Pyramid Texts. “These inscriptions constitute the oldest body of Egyptian religious writings,” and were later copied “on tombs, sarcophagi, coffins, canopic chests, papyri, stelae, and other funerary monuments of nonroyal Egyptians.”4 Discovered in 1880 and translated into English for the first time in 1952,5 the purpose of the Pyramid Texts was to outline the “deceased’s relationship to two gods, Osiris and the Sun,” and guide them through the afterlife as a glorified spirit.6

Among other things, the Pyramid Texts provided astronomical or cosmological information meant to help guide the deceased on this afterlife journey.7 “Since it was predicated on the Sun’s daily cycle of death and rebirth, the deceased’s own afterlife was envisioned as a journey in company with the Sun.” The path of the sun through the sky from east to west, known as the ecliptic, was envisioned in the Pyramid Texts as a celestial canal or waterway that bisected the sky into northern and southern hemispheres.8 Indeed, this canal or waterway was probably seen as “the celestial counterpart of the Nile.”9 Inscriptions from the Pyramid Texts overtly speak of the sun (or the solar barque) traveling along this celestial waterway.10

There are two names given for this celestial canal or waterway (the sun’s ecliptic) in the Pyramid Texts. The more common spelling is mr-n-ḫꜣ and is translated by Egyptologist James Allen as “Winding Canal.”11 A less common but still attested second name for this same “Winding Canal” in the Pyramid Texts is spelled in a way that by Abraham’s time would have probably been pronounced similar to shi-ne-hah (š[ỉ]-n-ḫꜣ).12 Although they alternate in the Pyramid Texts, the different spellings of the name would have likely been seen as being synonymous,13 and so Egyptologists today typically standardize the spelling to read all attestations of the name the more common way (mr-n-ḫꜣ ).14 Despite this, the name survived into Abraham’s day in texts known today as the Coffin Texts (which were, in part, something of a “direct descendant” of the Pyramid Texts) predominantly as š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ.15

One of the attested hieroglyphic spellings for the sun’s ecliptic (š[ỉ]-n-ḫꜣ) in the ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts.

From this evidence it is clear that both š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ and mr-n-ḫꜣ are attested as names for the sun’s ecliptic. The latter is more common in the Old Kingdom (circa 2686–2181 BC) but the former is more common in the Middle Kingdom (circa 2040-1782 BC) and thus Abraham’s day. The spelling of the name as attested in the Coffin Texts from Abraham’s day matches the spelling of Shinehah in the Book of Abraham fairly closely. What’s more, the context in the Book of Abraham is significant since Shinehah (the sun) is oriented in a tiered cosmos of graded celestial bodies (the moon, stars, etc.) rotating around the earth at faster or slower revolutions depending on their relative distance to the earth (Abraham 3:4–9, 16–17).16 In other words, the Book of Abraham appears to conceive of the position of the sun in the cosmos in a way similar to how it is conceived in ancient Egyptian texts: as a heavenly body traversing the sky from the relative vantage point of the earth below.

So while the Egyptian word for the sun itself is not the same as in the Book of Abraham,17 one of the Egyptian words for the sun’s ecliptic (the path of the sun through the sky) as attested in Abraham’s day is. This in addition to the cosmic orientation of Shinehah or the sun in the Book of Abraham that parallels ancient Egyptian views reinforces belief that the text is authentically ancient.18

Further Reading

John Gee, “Abrahamic Astronomy,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 115–120.

Hugh Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2010), 333–335.

Footnotes

 

1 The identity of this god isn’t certain, but there are a number of plausible possibilities. See the explorations in Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS), 416–417; Hugh Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2010), 173–175; Robert F. Smith, “A Brief Assessment of the LDS Book of Abraham,”  24; Richard D. Draper, S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes, The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005), 251.

2 The 2013 edition of the Pearl of Great Price published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not provide a standardized pronunciation for Shinehah or the other astronomical terms in the Book of Abraham.

3 Samuel A. B. Mercer, “Joseph Smith As An Interpreter and Translator of Egyptian,” Utah Survey 1, no. 1 (September 1913): 33–34.

4 James P. Allen, trans., The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, ed. Peter Der Manuelian (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005), 1.

5 Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 2.

6 Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 7–8.

7 Rolf Krauss, Astronomische Konzepte und Jenseitsvorstellungen in den Pyramidentexten (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1997).

8 Krauss, Astronomische Konzepte und Jenseitsvorstellungen in den Pyramidentexten, 14–66; Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 9; John Gee, “Hypocephali as Astronomical Documents,” in Aegyptus et Pannonia V: Acta Symposii anno 2008, ed. Hedvig Györy and Ádám Szabó (Budapest: The Ancient Egyptian Committee of the Hungarian-Egyptian Friendship Society, 2016), 60.

9 Robert G. Bauval, “A Master-Plan for the Three Pyramids of Giza Based on the Configuration of the Three Stars of the Belt of Orion,” Discussions in Egyptology 13 (1989): 10.

10 PT 334 (§543a–b), PT 548 (§§1345c; 1346a–c).

11 Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, passim, 444. PT 263 (§340d), PT 264 (§343a), PT 265 (§352a), PT 266 (§359b), PT 304 (§469a), PT 334 (§543b), PT 359 (§§ 594b–f; 596b; 599a–d; 600a–b), PT 504 (§1084b), PT 507 (§1102d), PT 522 (§1228b–c).

12 PT 437 (§802a), PT 512 (§1162c), PT 555 (§§1376c; 1377c), PT 569 (§1441a), PT 624 (§1759b), PT 697 (§2172c), PT 767 (§20). There is some question about the original pronunciation of the first consonant in the name š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ. The hieroglyph used to represent the sound sh (š) (cf. Rainer Hannig, Ägyptisches Wörterbuch I: Altes Reich und Erste Zwischenzeit [Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 2003], 1278–1279) was also used in Old Egyptian (the form of the Egyptian language the Pyramid Texts were written in) to represent the sound x (). Questions remain as to whether the glyph was originally pronounced sh (š) or x (). See the discussion in Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 34; James P. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 44–45; Grammar of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Volume 1: Unis (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2017), 25–26. By Abraham’s day several centuries later, the glyph was being pronounced uniformly as sh (š), so while the original pronunciation of this spelling of the name remains debated, the way the word is rendered in the Book of Abraham with sh is entirely justifiable. Unfortunately, because the vocalization of ancient Egyptian is still largely unknown, especially when it comes to the vowels, at this point we can only give approximations or educated guesses about how š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ would have been pronounced in Abraham’s day. What matters most for Shinehah in the Book of Abraham is that the consonants match š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ rather nicely. On Middle Egyptian vocalization, see James P. Allen, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 18–21.

13 This might explain the odd spelling mr-{š[ỉ]}-n-ḫꜣ in PT 510 (§1138d).

14 Krauss, Astronomische Konzepte und Jenseitsvorstellungen in den Pyramidentexten, 15; James P. Allen, A New Concordance of the Pyramid Texts, Vol. 1: Introduction, Occurrences, Transcription (Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 2013), passim; also mr nḫꜣỉ in Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, 444.

15 Rendered “Winding Waterway” by Raymond O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, 3 vols. (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1973–1978), passim. CT 18 (I 53); CT 61 (I 259); CT 62 (I 270); CT 163 (II 405); CT 214 (III 174); CT 241 (III 326); CT 268 (IV 1); CT 285 (IV 35); CT 347 (IV 380); CT 393 (V 67); CT 418 (V 253); CT 473 (VI 15); CT 474 (VI 26); CT 479 (VI 42); CT 582 (VI 199); CT 905 (VII 111); CT 987 (VII 194); CT 1129 (VII 458). Attested as mr-n-ḫꜣ in CT 305 (IV 59). The first attempt to compile and publish the Coffin Texts was undertaken by the French scholar Pierre Lacau beginning in 1904. Adriaan de Buck published the first complete collection of these texts between 1935–1961. The first accessible English translation of the complete (or near-complete) corpus of Coffin Texts were the volumes published by Raymond Faulkner cited above.

16 John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), esp. 7–8, 12.

17 The word for the sun itself in ancient Egyptian is , the same word for the name of the sun-god Re.

18 See further Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 333–335, who propose an etymology for Shinehah deriving from the Egyptian words šnỉ (“to encircle”) and nḥḥ (“eternity,” “many,” “millions,” etc.) and thus reconstruct the word as *šn+ḥḥ (effectively, “one eternal round”). While this is plausible etymologically, the main drawback to this proposed origin for the word Shinehah is that it is hypothetical and reconstructed, whereas š(ỉ)-n-ḫꜣ is attested. Nibley and Rhodes also rightly pick up on the cosmological significance of the sun’s “motion relative to that of other heavenly bodies” in Abraham 3:13.

Abrahamic Astronomy

Book of Abraham Insight #15

The Book of Abraham is noteworthy for its description of so-called Abrahamic astronomy. Chapter 3 of the Book of Abraham, along with Facsimile 2, contains this astronomical portrait, which is not always easy to understand. Scholars looking at the text have articulated at least three different models for interpreting this chapter.

The first model seeks to understand the astronomy in the Book of Abraham through a scientific lens. Those who accept this paradigm have offered arguments for how Abrahamic astronomy can be harmonized with modern science.1

The second model works under the assumption that the astronomical concepts presented in the Book of Abraham are rooted in ancient cosmology. In particular, this model sees the Book of Abraham as depicting a geocentric (earth-centered) view of the cosmos, which differs from our modern scientific understanding that the sun is at the center of our solar system.2

The third model argues for essentially an inverse of the second model and puts forth a reading of the Book of Abraham’s astronomy that places Kolob, not the earth, at the center of the cosmos. This model argues that while the astronomy of the Book of Abraham may be ancient, the main focus should be on the spiritual truths that can be gleaned from the text.3

Each of these models have their respective strengths and weaknesses. For the purposes of this series placing the Book of Abraham in the ancient world, the second model that sees the Book of Abraham’s astronomy as an ancient geocentric cosmos is worth paying close attention to.

The cosmology of the Book of Abraham when read as a geocentric text. Courtesy of Mike Parker.

As summarized by John Gee, a leading proponent of the geocentric model,

The astronomy in the Book of Abraham uses as its point of reference “the earth upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:3, 5–7). It mentions various heavenly bodies, such as “the stars” (Abraham 3:2), among which is Kolob (Abraham 3:3–4). These provide a fixed backdrop for the heavens. Among the stars are various bodies that move in relation to the fixed backdrop, each of which is called a “planet” (Abraham 3:5, 8) or a “light” (Abraham 3:5–7), though since the sun and moon and certain stars are each also called a “planet,” we should not think of them as necessarily being what we call planets. Each of these planets is associated with “its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof” (Abraham 3:4). These lights revolve around something, and that is the fixed reference point, “the earth upon which thou standest” (Abraham 3:3, 5–7). The Book of Abraham thus presents a geocentric astronomy, like almost all ancient astronomies, including ancient Egyptian astronomy.4

Importantly, the Lord explicitly told Abraham: “I show these things [the heavenly bodies described in Abraham 3] unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words” (Abraham 3:15). Evidently the astronomy revealed to Abraham was meant, in part, to take conceptions of the cosmos familiar to the ancient Egyptians and replace them with a proper gospel understanding. “Abraham was to teach not only astronomy but also gospel principles the Lord explained through astronomic means.”5 This could explain why the Book of Abraham contains an apparently pre-scientific description of the cosmos rooted in the ancient world. This could only be feasibly accomplished if Abraham communicated to the Egyptians and likened the cosmos to gospel truths in ways they understood.

While the Book of Abraham’s astronomy symbolically teaches important truths about the Plan of Salvation,6 and while it is interesting to explore how modern science might inform our understanding, the cosmology in the text can also be comfortably grounded in the ancient world.

Further Reading

John Gee, “Abrahamic Astronomy,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 115–120.

Kerry Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3,” Religious Educator 10, no. 1 (2009): 33–50.

John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 1–16.

Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody, “Astronomy and Creation in the Book of Abraham,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 17–36.

Footnotes

 

1 Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody, “Astronomy and Creation in the Book of Abraham,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 17–36; cf. Michael D. Rhodes, “The Scriptural Accounts of the Creation: A Scientific Perspective,” in Converging Paths to Truth, ed. Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2011), 123–50.

2 John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, 1–16.

3 Kerry Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3,” Religious Educator 10, no. 1 (2009): 33–50.

4 John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 115–116.

5 Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians,” 35.

6 Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians,” 43–48.

The Ancient Owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri

Book of Abraham Insight #14

Thanks to the work of Egyptologists over the past decades, in addition to knowing what texts the extant Egyptian papyri acquired by Joseph Smith in 1835 contain,1  we also know quite a bit about the ancient owners of the papyri. “From the names, titles, and genealogies written on the Joseph Smith Papyri, we know” the owner of the papyri designated Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI, and X (from which Joseph Smith got Facsimiles 1 and 3) was a man named Hor (or Horos in Greek).2

Hor lived “about the same time period as the Rosetta Stone,” that is, around 200 BC, and was a priest or prophet of three Egyptian deities in the ancient city of Thebes.3  “As prophet, he was a spokesman for various gods, who interacted with prophets on a regular basis. As a prophet, Hor had been initiated into the temple’s sacred places, which represented heaven, and had promised to maintain strict standards of personal conduct and purity.”4

Being a priest or prophet in ancient Egypt had its privileges. For example, a prophet like Hor “had access to the great Theban temple libraries, containing narratives, reference works, and manuals, as well as scrolls on religion, ritual, and history.”5 Hor lived at a time when Egyptian religion was eclectic, with elements of “Greek, Jewish, and Near Eastern traditions” making their way into Egyptian culture during this time.6 “The papyri owners also lived at a time when stories about Abraham circulated in Egypt. If any ancient Egyptians were in a position to know about Abraham, it was the Theban priests.”7

The first god for whom Hor served as a prophet was Amun-Re, whose magnificent temple still stands today in modern Luxor, Egypt. As a prophet of this god, Hor “would have gone into the holy of holies and would have encountered the statue of the deity face to face. He also would have participated in the daily execration ritual, in which a wax figure of an enemy was spat upon, trampled under the left foot, smitten with a spear, bound, and placed on the fire. He also would have known a creation account that starts with God creating light and then separating out the dry land from the water, followed by the creation of multiple gods who together plan the creation, cause the sun to appear, and vanquish evil.”8

The temple of Amun-Re at Luxor/Karnak via Pinterest.

Hor was also a prophet of a god named Min-Who-Massacres-His-Enemies. This lesser-known god was a syncretized or combined deity between the Egyptian god Min and the Canaanite warrior-god Resheph. “This deity was worshipped by performing human sacrifice in effigy. Two rituals are known for certain: one involves the subduing of sinners by binding them, and the other involves slaying enemies and burning them on an altar. These rituals seem to have also been part of the execration ritual that [Hor] would have performed as prophet of [Amun-Re].”9

Finally, Hor was a prophet for the god Khonsu (or Chespisichis in Greek). In this capacity he “was involved in a temple that dealt with healing people and protecting them from demons. The founding narrative of this temple deals with a pharaoh who had extensive contact with far-flung foreign lands, who takes any woman he thinks is beautiful as a wife, and who asks for and receives directions from God. The narrative also deals with the appearance of angels and God appearing in dreams to give instructions.”10

By knowing these details about Hor and his occupation we can say something about the plausibility of a text like the Book of Abraham having attracted his interest or having come into his possession, or at the very least why the illustrations from his papyri (Facsimiles 1 and 3) were used by Joseph Smith to illustrate the Book of Abraham.

The hieroglyphs in this column to the right of the image reproduced in the Book of Abraham as Facsimile 1 contains the priestly titles of Hor, the owner of the papyrus. The text reads: “[Osiris, God’s father,] prophet of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, prophet of Min-Who-Massacres-His-Enemies, prophet of Khonsu, the one who is powerful in Thebes.” Hieroglyphic text from Rhodes (2002), 21, translation modified.

As a priest in Thebes, Hor would have been highly literate and would have had access to texts about Abraham and other Jewish figures.11  As a prophet of Amun-Re he would have had an interest in themes such as temple initiation, seeing God face-to-face, and creation. As a prophet of both Amun-Re and Min-Who-Massacres-His-Enemies he would have “had a professional interest in . . . stories about slaughtering and then burning people on an altar.”12  Finally, as a prophet of the god Khonsu or Chespisichis he would have been attracted to a text that featured angels, contact with foreign lands, and a king who takes any woman he thinks is beautiful. These elements are, of course, prominent in the Book of Abraham.

While this does not prove that Hor had a copy of the Book of Abraham, it does reinforce the plausibility that he could have taken an interest in a text like the Book of Abraham and would have wanted to retain a copy for himself which then fell into the hands of Joseph Smith many centuries later.

Further Reading

John Gee, “The Ancient Owners of the Papyri,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2017), 57–72.

Kerry Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 20–33.

John Gee, “Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri,” FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 113–137, esp. 123–135.

John Gee, “The Ancient Owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri,” FARMS Report (1999).

Footnotes

 

1 Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005); Michael Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2002); Books of the Dead Belonging to Tshemmin and Neferirnub: A Translation and Commentary (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2010).

2 John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2017), 58; cf. Marc Coenen, “The Dating of the Papyri Joseph Smith I, X, and XI and Min Who Massacres His Enemies,” in Egyptian Religion: The Last Thousand Years, Part II: Studies Dedicated to the Memory or Jan Quaegebeur, ed. Willy Clarysse, Antoon Schoors, and Harco Willems (Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 1103–1115; “Horos, Prophet of Min Who Massacres His Enemies,” Chronique D’Égypte LXXIV (1999): 257–260; John Gee, “History of a Theban Priesthood,” in «Et Maintenant Ce Ne Sont Plus Que Des Villages…» Thèbes et Sa Région aux Époques Hellénistique, Romaine et Byzantine, Actes du Colloque Tenu À Bruxelles les 2 et 3 Décembre 2005, ed. Alain Delattre and Paul Heilporn (Bruxelles: Assocation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 2008), 59–71; “Horos Son of Osoroeris,” in Mélanges offerts à Ola el-Aguizy, ed. Fayza Haikal (Paris: Institute Français D’Archéologie Orientale, 2015), 169–178.

3 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 59.

4 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 59.

5 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 59–61.

6 Jacco Dieleman, “Coping with a Difficult Life: Magic, Healing, and Sacred Knowledge,” in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt, ed. Christina Riggs (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 339.

7 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 61.

8 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 61.

9 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 61; cf. John Gee, “Execration Rituals in Various Temples,” in 8. Ägyptologische Tempeltagung: Interconnections between Temples, Warschau, 22.–25. September 2008, ed. Monika Dolińska and Horst Beinlich (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010), 67–80; Coenen, “The Dating of the Papyri Joseph Smith I, X, and XI and Min Who Massacres His Enemies,” 1112–1113.

10 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 61–63; cf. John Gee, “The Cult of Chespisichis,” in Egypt in Transition: Social and Religious Development of Egypt in the First Millennium BCE, ed. Ladislav Bareš, Filip Coppens, and Kvĕta Smoláriková (Prauge: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University in Prague, 2010), 129–145.

11 Kerry Muhlestein, “Abraham, Isaac, and Osiris–Michael: The Use of Biblical Figures in Egyptian Religion, A Survey,” in Achievements and Problems of Modern Egyptology: Proceedings of the International Conference Held in Moscow on September 29–October 2, 2009, ed. Galina A. Belova (Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, Center for Egyptological Studies, 2011), 246–259; Kerry Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 20–33.

12 John Gee, “Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri,” FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 128.

The Ancient Egyptian View of Abraham

Book of Abraham Insight #13

Some wondering about the Book of Abraham might ask how likely it would have been for the ancient Egyptians to have known anything about the biblical figure Abraham. In fact, evidence survives today indicating that stories about Abraham were known to the ancient Egyptians as early as the time of the composition of the Joseph Smith Papyri (ca. 300–30 BC).

The earliest documented appearance of the biblical story of Abraham in ancient Egypt dates to the third century BC. It was at this time when the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) was translated into Greek in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. This translation is commonly called the Septuagint.1

In addition to the biblical text, extra-biblical stories about Abraham circulated in Egypt during this time. For example:

    • “During the reign of Ptolemy I, Hecateus of Abdera traveled to Thebes and learned stories about Abraham from Egyptian priests; he wrote these stories in a book called On Abraham and the Egyptians. This work is now unfortunately lost, but Clement of Alexandria, a second-century AD Egyptian Christian, quoted a short passage from it in which the worship of idols is condemned.”2
    • “The writer Eupolemus, who lived under Egyptian rule in Palestine in the second century BC, recounts how Abraham lived in Heliopolis (On) and taught astronomy and other sciences to the Egyptian priests. In connection with Abraham, Eupolemus seems to think that the Egyptians descended from Canaan.”3
    • “In the first century BC, the Egyptian Jew Artapanus wrote an account of Abraham teaching astronomy to the Egyptian Pharaoh.”4
    • “Philo, a first-century AD Egyptian Jew, claimed that Abraham studied astronomy, the motion of the stars, meteorology, and mathematics, and used his reasoning on these subjects to understand God.”5
    • “The Testament of Abraham describes Abraham’s tour of the next life before he dies. Scholars think that this work was written by an Egyptian Jew around the first century AD. It is notable for its reinterpretation of the Egyptian judgment scene in a Jewish fashion. This text was read liturgically the Sunday before Christmas during the Egyptian month of Khoiak.”6
    • “[A] fragmentary text from Egypt about Abraham describes how the king (the word used is pharaoh) tries to sacrifice Abraham, but Abraham is delivered by an angel of the Lord. Abraham later teaches the members of the royal court about the true God using astronomy.”7

An additional significant body of evidence for the Egyptian view of Abraham comes from a collection of texts commonly called the Greek Magical Papyri or the Theban Magical Library. This corpus of texts from the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes preserves “a variety of magical spells and formulae, hymns and rituals. The extant texts are mainly from the second century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.”8 Significantly, numerous biblical names and figures are used in these texts alongside native Egyptian and Greek names and figures.9 The name for this common ancient phenomenon is syncretism, where elements of different religions or traditions were harmonized together into a new synthetic religious paradigm. In some important ways the religion practiced by the Egyptians during the time of the Joseph Smith Papyri was a highly syncretic one.

Why were biblical figures syncretized with Egyptian religious or magical practices? We cannot know entirely for sure, but one very plausible reason is that “Israelite religious beliefs and stories had a number of things to offer the Egyptians. . . . Israelite religion could offer the Egyptians stories associated with sanctity and sacred space, amulets, angels, a personal relationship with deity, and a god who acted in history.”10 Whatever the exact reason might be,

A noncomprehensive list of nondivine names [in these texts] includes Abimelech, Abraham, Adam, Ammon, Aziel, Dardanos, David, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Gomorrah, Isaac, Israel, Jacob, Jeremiah, Jerusalem, Judah, Lot, Lot’s wife, Michael, Moses, Solomon, and even Osiris-Michael. Names for the Israelite deity include Adonai, Adonai Sabaoth (as well as just Sabaoth, which is more common), Elohim, El, God of the Hebrews, Yaho (the abbreviated version of Jehovah that was often employed by Jews in Egypt), and blessed Lord God of Abraham, along with many variations and combinations of these names and titles that undoubtedly refer to the Hebrew God, such as “He who drew back the Jordan River,” or referencing “the God who drove the winds at the Red Sea and met someone at the foot of the Holy Mount to reveal his great name.”11

Abraham and Moses were two popular figures used by these Egyptian priests in their magical practices.12 They were so popular, in fact, that an early Egyptian Christian writer named Origen even registered his outrage that his pagan neighbors were invoking “the God of Abraham” without properly knowing who Abraham really was.13

From the evidence of the Greek Magical Papyri we can conclude that “a group of priests from Thebes possessed, read, understood, and employed biblical and extra-biblical texts, most especially texts about Abraham and Moses.”14 This evidence, along with the other evidence for a knowledge of Abraham circulating in ancient Egypt, bolsters confidence in the Book of Abraham’s authenticity by providing it a plausible ancient Egyptian historical and literary context.15

Further Reading

John Gee, “An Egyptian View of Abraham,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 49–55.

Kerry Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 20–33.

Kerry Muhlestein, “Abraham, Isaac, and Osiris-Michael: The Use of Biblical Figures in Egyptian Religion,” in Achievements and Problems of Modern Egyptology, ed. Galina A. Belova (Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, 2012), 246–259.

John Gee, “Abracadabra, Isaac, and Jacob,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7, no. 1 (1995): 19–85.

Footnotes

 

1 John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 51.

2 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; cf. Clement, Stromata 5.14. The authorship of this source is disputed amongst modern scholars, with some insisting the texts attributed to Hecataeus are pseudepigraphical. For a discussion, see Bezalel Bar-Kochva, The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature: The Hellenistic Period (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2010), 90–135.

3 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; cf. R. Doran, “Pseudo-Eupolemus,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985), 2:881. As with the works attributed to Hecateus, the authorship of the texts attributed to Eupolemus remains disputed. See Ben Zion Wacholder, “Pseudo-Eupolemus’ Two Greek Fragments on the Life of Abraham,” Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963): 83–113. Regardless of these texts’ true authorship, they nevertheless do preserve accounts about Abraham circulating in ancient Egypt (and the broader Jewish world of Antiquity) that parallel the Book of Abraham.

4 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; J. J. Collins, “Artapanus,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:897.

5 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; cf. Philo, “On Abraham,” in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. C. D. Yonge (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 417.

6 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; cf. Dale C. Allison, The Testament of Abraham (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2003); Jared Ludlow, “Appropriation of Egyptian Judgment in the Testament of Abraham?” in Evolving Egypt: Innovation, Appropriation, and Reinterpretation in Ancient Egypt, ed. Kerry Muhlestein (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2012), 99–103.

7 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 53; cf. the Coptic homily translated and discussed in John Gee, “An Egyptian View of Abraham,” in Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown, ed. Andrew C. Skinner, D. Morgan Davis, and Carl Griffin (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2011), 137–156. Additional extra-biblical texts and traditions about Abraham can be accessed in John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2001). 

8 Hans Dieter Betz, “Introduction,” in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, ed. Hans Dieter Betz (Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press, 1986), xli.

9 Kerry Muhlestein, “Abraham, Isaac, and Osiris-Michael: The Use of Biblical Figures in Egyptian Religion,” in Achievements and Problems of Modern Egyptology, ed. Galina A. Belova (Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences, 2012), 246–259.

10 Kerry Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 26.

11 Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” 23.

12 Spells from this corpus that invoke Abraham (or Abraam) can be read in Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 8, 125, 164, 171, 191, 194, 262, 276, 300, 310.

13 Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” 26, citing Origen, Contra Celsum 1.22. The spells Origen may have had in mind include one for “driving out demons” that includes the line, “Hail, God of Abraham; hail, God of Isaac; hail, God of Jacob” (PGM IV.1235), in Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 62; or one that reads “I conjure you all by the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that you obey my authority completely (PGM XXXV.15), in Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 268.

14 Muhlestein, “The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,” 30.

15 See the extensive discussion in John Gee, “Abracadabra, Isaac, and Jacob,” FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7, no. 1 (1995): 19–85.