Book Review: Abraham in Egypt, by Hugh Nibley: Non-fiction, ancient studies
This book is a fascinating study of the Book of Abraham and other documents which have come to light, which tell the same heretofore unknown stories of Abraham’s life. The papyri which contained the Book of Abraham were found with several mummies which were brought to America. These papyri were translated from ancient Egyptian to English by Joseph Smith and first published in 1842. At the time of its publication, none of the other documents had been discovered, and the leading Egyptologists of the day scoffed at the Book of Abraham, refused to study it, and claimed it was a fraud. However, in this exhaustive study, Dr. Nibley gathers together evidence that shows that the Egyptologists of that time had only begun to learn to read ancient Egyptian. Dr. Nibley shows us that each glyph, image and symbol has many meanings depending on the context. He explores the many ancient documents which have been found and translated since that time, which tell the same stories – of the brutal sacrifices and immorality of the main religion of Abraham’s day, of his being offered as a sacrifice but rescued by God, of Abraham journeying into Egypt, of Sarah’s sacrifice, of Abraham and Isaac’s sacrifice, and about the people who discovered and founded Egypt.
Beyond the proofs which he sets forth, Nibley gives us a glimpse into the greatness of Abraham’s character, as well as of his wife, Sarah. They were both devoted followers of God, who lived through terrible droughts, betrayal of parents, attempts on their lives, and hostilities from the local people as they traveled through the land. Abraham and his family come alive in the pages of this book, as the culture of the day and the ancient stories are revealed. Abraham becomes a hero, and you begin to see why he was called “a friend to God.”
Hugh Nibley (1910-2005) was an American scholar and an apologist of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was a professor at Brigham Young University for nearly 50 years. He was a brilliant man, a prolific author who wrote apologetic works supporting the archaeological, linguistic, and historical claims of Joseph Smith. He was fluent in many languages, both modern and ancient, including Egyptian and Coptic. He loved to learn. I once attended a lecture given by him at BYU, and it was like sitting before a fire hydrant that gushed forth water. He was amazing.
In his lectures and in his books, Dr. Nibley gives us the incomparable gift of gathering together the enormous wealth of data from ancient works, translating, compiling, and making it all come together so that the earnest student can understand it and learn from it.