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AussieMatt

Book of Abraham

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While not exactly new, I was reading an article on the Salt Lake Tribune website about an essay which was published last year (2014) about the Book of Abraham and how the church believes it to be 'inspired' scripture and perhaps not a direct translation of the Egyptian papyrus scrolls.

 

The essay can be viewed on the LDS Church website here: https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng&query=scholar

 

The article I read on the matter within the Salt Lake Tribute can be accessed from this link: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58162708-78/book-abraham-translation-says.html.csp

 

What are your thoughts on the Pearl of Great Price and more specifically the Book of Abraham?

Edited by AussieMatt

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My thoughts? Maybe Joseph just made a mistake. I'm a realist, so I understand that prophet does not mean perfect. I accept his gift his prophetic revelation and accept that he was not flawless. I'm confident most LDS people think roughly the same. 

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Without question the Book of Abraham is an intellectual enigma.  It would seem obvious that the text we have is by any measure a stretch from the facsimile that remain.  But there is no question the style and structure is absolutely flavored in ancient Egyptian style and format.  Ancient Egyptian science, mathematics and physics was based in relationships and ratios.  This science was successful in producing the most enduring architecture in the entire history of mankind - including present day.  Their understanding of sound harmonics is the foundation of modern music and their understanding of light and color harmonics was not duplicated in modern times until we mastered laser technology.  Wonder of wonder - this technology came from no where and exploded in ancient Egypt during the era of Abraham.

 

Our current science is based in a foundation of the rudimentary constructs of Newtonian physics and number theory.  A couple of interesting constructs between modern Newtonian physics and number theory and relativistic comparisons to ancient Egyptian science and mathematics  comes from the representation of pi and the square root of 2.  Modern mathematics represents both of these numbers and ratios as irrational number that have and continue to confuse students trying to understand modern theory.  The ancient Egyptians simply understood the ratio of pi as the ratio of a circle to its diameter and the square root of 2 as the ratio of of a side of a square to its diagonal.   Sizing architecture to the ancient Egyptian was a simple matter of geometric ratios compared to modern mathematics based in number theory.

 

Now with this background read and compare Abraham chapter 3 with Doctrine and Covenants section 88.  Realizing that both cover in essence explanations of the same doctrinal ideas that came from the single source of Joseph Smith that was not an expert in Newtonian physics (obvious from personal writings) nor was there any understanding of ancient Egyptian science during the lifetime of Joseph.  One being a wonderful match of ancient Egyptian understanding and one being a wonderful match for someone from a Newtonian era.

 

Say what you will about Joseph Smith and his 3rd grade education but the empirical evidence that is presented in the text and structure of the Book of Abraham far exceeds even the most accomplished experts of our day.  But the criticism remains that the translation of the Book of Abraham and the remaining facsimiles make no sense in our modern setting.

Edited by Traveler

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I think the text of the Book of Abraham originated with Abraham himself. I do not think the original book as authored by Abraham had a direct connection to the scrolls Joseph actually had, except insofar as the Book of Breathings may have contained some corrupted concepts and maybe even graphical representations that ultimately were introduced into Egyptian culture by Abraham.

I like the "catalyst theory". In spite of D&C 8-9, we tend to assume that Joseph's translation process was merely a matter of looking into the seer stones and having the translation immediately present itself. But it wasn't that simple. I think it was Bushman who noted that with the Book of Mormon, Joseph seems not to have known how to begin at first; and initially Joseph simply copied long extracts of characters from the plates. Joseph's Egyptian Grammar and Alphabet seems to reflect a similar process of experimentation. (Why create it otherwise? If a charlatan, Joseph must have known it would be useless in generating any further "translations" of other Egyptian texts either by himself or his associates, because at best it would result in a string of English words in completely random sequence.) Moreover, we know that the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible came through intensive study and with no manuscript more ancient than a recent edition of the King James Bible.

That said: there's pretty good evidence that Joseph and his family believed that the scrolls themselves were the ones actually written by Abraham and bearing his actual handwriting. From the evidence available, that belief seems to be in error.

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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The book my wife and I used to read the sturdy the Pearl of Great Price is called....Your Study of the Pearl of Great Price Made Easier by David J. Ridges. Excellent book in my opinion. He talks about how many members today in the church could relate to what Abraham went thru. Abrahams father and other relatives fell away from the gospel. They were so upset with him worshipping God that they nominated him to be a human sacrifice in their area. Facsimile number 1 depicts that. I have read the Pearl of Great Price many times over the years but this time while we studied it....it was awesome.

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I think the text of the Book of Abraham originated with Abraham himself. I do not think the original book as authored by Abraham had a direct connection to the scrolls Joseph actually had, except insofar as the Book of Breathings may have contained some corrupted concepts and maybe even graphical representations that ultimately were introduced into Egyptian culture by Abraham.

 

...

That said: there's pretty good evidence that Joseph and his family believed that the scrolls themselves were the ones actually written by Abraham and bearing his actual handwriting. From the evidence available, that belief seems to be in error.

 

I'm not sure why anyone would draw this conclusion when the greater portion of the scrolls are unavailable for review.

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I'm not convinced that the 19th-century descriptions of the Abraham scroll's length are accurate (the length of the now-lost Book of Joseph scroll certainly could have been, but I read an article in the last year or so that mathematically extrapolated the JS-papyri's possible original length based on how tightly they were originally rolled, based in turn on repeating marks on the mss itself. I'm not holding my breath for the rest of the scroll to turn up; and moreover it would frankly bizarre for an account of the monotheistic Abraham to turn up on the same scroll as a pagan funerary text from the 1st century BC).

Moreover, Fig 2 (the hypocephalus) was reproduced with sufficient clarity that most of it it can now be translated by Egyptologists; and the literal translation just doesn't match Smith's explanations. (The potential symbolic interpretations, of course, are very interesting indeed.)

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I think many people (And please OP, I am NOT including you in this) view the BoA as evidence that Smith was a "fraud". While I see how people think that way, I think it's an extremely naive and immature way of looking at it. Anti-LDS people smugly dismiss the entire church just from issues with the Book of Abraham, and while I admit there are issues that need further investigation, in all honestly my faith in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is not effected in any way due to the Book of Abraham. 

 

I'm not sure we even have the right scrolls, frankly. They were probably burned in the Chicago fire. 

 

All these replies have been amazing. 

Edited by MormonGator

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No one mentions of the parallels to non-biblical stories about Abraham in ancient times?   Or the similarities between the Book of Abraham we have and pseudepigraphic works of the Apocalypse of Abraham and Testament of Abraham? What about ancient Egyptian names that he got right? 

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I'm not convinced that the 19th-century descriptions of the Abraham scroll's length are accurate (the length of the now-lost Book of Joseph scroll certainly could have been, but I read an article in the last year or so that mathematically extrapolated the JS-papyri's possible original length based on how tightly they were originally rolled, based in turn on repeating marks on the mss itself. I'm not holding my breath for the rest of the scroll to turn up; and moreover it would frankly bizarre for an account of the monotheistic Abraham to turn up on the same scroll as a pagan funerary text from the 1st century BC).

 

Per this ^ -- this:

 

I'm not sure we even have the right scrolls, frankly. They were probably burned in the Chicago fire. 

 

 

Moreover, Fig 2 (the hypocephalus) was reproduced with sufficient clarity that most of it it can now be translated by Egyptologists; and the literal translation just doesn't match Smith's explanations. (The potential symbolic interpretations, of course, are very interesting indeed.)

 

Per this, there is some evidence that the Egyptologists translations are inaccurate and biased and that Joseph's views were more accurate.

 

I'm just not convinced that drawing conclusions one way or the other is valid. Per the church article, we don't really know. But I'm not ready to presume that it was (or was not) a literal translation of scrolls he actually had.

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Something important to remember when studying the Book of Abraham is the problem of confirmation bias. None of us are immune to it. Most of the time we twist/ignore facts that don't agree with our preconceived notions. 

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I'm on the team of "we don't have the right scrolls" and the scroll containing the Book of Abraham burned in the Chicago fire.

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There is a really good article about the Book of Abraham on jefflindsay.com.  As far as I can see, however, you are not going to find definitive proof outside of spiritual confirmation as to whether Joseph Smith was inspired or mistaken from what facts are available.  The facts are simply not there, and the closest anyone can come up with is a reconstruction of history, which may or may not be correct.

 

At the same time, I believe that the arguments that the Book of Abraham was a fraud are really nothing more than speculation - "maybe this happened, and if this is true, the Book of Abraham is a fraud".  Basically, I have read the arguments against the Book of Abraham, and I am not convinced.  I believe the Book of Abraham is exactly what it purports to be - a literal translation of a record from a scroll that we no longer have.

Edited by DoctorLemon

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At the same time, I believe that the arguments that the Book of Abraham was a fraud are really nothing more than speculation - "maybe this happened, and if this is true, the Book of Abraham is a fraud".  Basically, I have read the arguments against the Book of Abraham, and I am not convinced.  I believe the Book of Abraham is exactly what it purports to be - a literal translation of a record from a scroll that we no longer have.

Amen! 

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I don't really dwell on the material source.  The Book of Moses was inspired by the Genesis, and not a literal translation of any known documents.  So, clearly when God needs to reveal certain truths, he reveals them.  The material source is (parden the pun) immaterial.  It's the spiritual message that's important.  And the Pearl of Great Price is filled with ancient truths that were lost, perhaps with no physcial way to retrieve them. So, God delivered truth.  The truth is more important than the method of revealing the truth.  And it's something we can't ever really know.  I don't think Joseph Smith could even explain it.

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Instead of looking for a scholarly answer we could also look for a scriptural answer.

 

In D&C section 110 we read 12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

 

According to that we have committed to us the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham.

 

That sounds kind of important.  Dispensations are kind of a big deal.  And this one appears to be happening right now... So what is it... what can we expect to be happening during it?

 

We can look to the scriptures to find the answer, but the only place it is found is in the Book of Abraham.  Probably one of the reasons the Lord felt it necessary for us to have it anyway.  The idea that the Lord today is fulfilling the promises given to Abraham, should be something we are all aware of.  Thus the Book of Abraham clearly has an important place in helping us understand what God is doing.  Hastening the Work indeed.

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Instead of looking for a scholarly answer we could also look for a scriptural answer.

 

In D&C section 110 we read 12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

 

According to that we have committed to us the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham.

 

That sounds kind of important.  Dispensations are kind of a big deal.  And this one appears to be happening right now... So what is it... what can we expect to be happening during it?

 

We can look to the scriptures to find the answer, but the only place it is found is in the Book of Abraham.  Probably one of the reasons the Lord felt it necessary for us to have it anyway.  The idea that the Lord today is fulfilling the promises given to Abraham, should be something we are all aware of.  Thus the Book of Abraham clearly has an important place in helping us understand what God is doing.  Hastening the Work indeed.

 

Plus, without it we wouldn't know what Kokaubeam was.

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Instead of looking for a scholarly answer we could also look for a scriptural answer.

I like this! Both are so important. Heavenly Father wants us to be scholars, but also wants us to use scripture. 

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I do not believe God would instruct us to read from good books, the scriptures, and to seek an education if he didn't care about us becoming scholars; although, in order to become exalted one doesn't need to be a scholar at anything and in this case I would agree, God doesn't care one whit.

 

Spencer W. Kimball counseled, "Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up! After all, who has any greater need to “treasure up” the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?"

 

I assume, it really depends on what context an individual is using "scholar" and whether or not God cares a whit or doesn't.  

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I like this! Both are so important. Heavenly Father wants us to be scholars, but also wants us to use scripture.

The Glory of God is Intelligience ....not sure about scholars.... we as Latter Day Saints need to study and pray more. Of course my opinion.

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While not exactly new, I was reading an article on the Salt Lake Tribune website about an essay which was published last year (2014) about the Book of Abraham and how the church believes it to be 'inspired' scripture and perhaps not a direct translation of the Egyptian papyrus scrolls.

 

The essay can be viewed on the LDS Church website here: https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng&query=scholar

 

The article I read on the matter within the Salt Lake Tribute can be accessed from this link: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58162708-78/book-abraham-translation-says.html.csp

 

What are your thoughts on the Pearl of Great Price and more specifically the Book of Abraham?

translation is not a cut and dry nor a direct process, any more than language is ever truly set in stone.

no one can prove or disprove that joseph did or did not translate the book of abraham (a museum fire destroyed it later) the only things we have to work off of are notes and a few pieces that were seperate or were seperated from the main items and hence avoided the fire.

I'm in the "its a translation" camp. Meaning and connotation change over time, and as time goes on and we find out more and more about ancient egypt Joseph smith ends up nailing the meanings and concepts behind the stuff.

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The Book of Abraham falls into the Faith category for me. Was Joseph Smith a Prophet of God? If the answer is yes than the Book of Abraham falls into place. Scrolls or no scrolls.

 

The Brethren and the body of the church view it as doctrine. Good enough for me.

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