Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations


Joseph Smith Papyri, Book of Abraham


The Book of Abraham has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention since some of the papyri once owned by Joseph Smith were rediscovered. A focus of this attention has been the source of the Book of Abraham, with some contending that the extant fragments are the source, while others have argued that the source is either other papyri or something else altogether. New investigations suggest that, while the relationship between papyri and text is not clear, it is clear that the fragments are not the source and that the method of translation was not the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. Additionally, further investigations into the source of the Book of Abraham as well as the interpretations of the facsimiles have made it clear that much of the controversy about the Book of Abraham has been based on untested assumptions. Book of Abraham studies have made significant strides forward in the last few decades, while some avenues of research are in need of further pursuit.

Original Publication Citation

“Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: an Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations,” The Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 22 (2016): 17-49,

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


The Interpreter Foundation




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor