In the article, Kevin suggests that √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??the facsimiles may not have been drawn by Abraham√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs hand but may have been Egyptian vignettes that were adopted or adapted by an Egyptian-Jewish redactor as illustrations of the Book of Abraham√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě (108).
In his study, Kevin provides this hypothetical Egyptian-Jewish redactor with the original name J-red. According to Kevin, J-Red adopted or adapted vignettes from a Book of Breathings and a hypocephalus as illustration for the Book of Abraham. In so doing, J-Red reinterpreted the Egyptian symbols in accordance with Semitic traditions.
In my mind, part of the strength of Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs theory includes the fact that ancient Israelite and later Jewish authors demonstrate a strong propensity towards adopting and adapting foreign traditions into their own religious writings.
While Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs article naturally focuses upon the Jewish cultural and religious adaptation of Egyptian materials, including such works as the Instruction of Amenemope, the Bible contains a myriad of examples of Israelite authors adopting and adapting Mesopotamian and Canaanite traditions as well.
Even a cursory survey of this biblical trend towards assimilating while revamping √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??pagan√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě religious traditions would involve literally hundreds of examples. In my mind, however, one classic illustration of biblical adaptation includes God√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs struggle with Leviathan. For a historical consideration of this legend from Near Eastern, to biblical, to finally rabbinic traditions, I would highly recommend Michael Fishbane√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Regarding this example of biblical adaptation, C. Uehlinger notes that √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??some assimilation of Egyptian religious traditions and the Leviathan concept could have occurred in Southern Palestine and Northern Egypt already during the Hyksos period√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě C. Uehlinger, √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Leviathan,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 1999): 513.
However, even the prophet Isaiah draws upon this √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??pagan√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě theme stating in Ugaritic that Baal √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??smote Litan the wriggling serpent, finished off the writhing serpent√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě through his prediction that the Lord will eventually punish Leviathan √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??in that day.√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě Isaiah√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs adaptation of the Baal cycle, therefore, ultimately provides a nice analogy for Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs theory regarding the Book of Abraham.
Similarly, the conflict between Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Son of Man depicted in the book of Daniel parallels the Baal Cycle in which the younger god Baal empowered by the older god El defeats Yam (The Sea); see J.J. Collins, √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Stirring up the Sea: The Religio-Historical Background of Daniel 7,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě The Book of Daniel in the Light of New Findings; A.S. van der Woude, ed. (Levuven 1993): 121-126.
As another example of Canaanite influence upon late biblical texts, Simon Parker has argued that the depiction of El√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs residence at Ugarit √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??at the springs of the Rivers among the streams of the Deeps√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě is √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??exploited in Ezekiel√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs account of the presumptuousness of the king of Tyre, who, Ezekiel says, has claimed, √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??I am God (El), I sit in the seat of God in the midst of the seas√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ę (Ezek 28:2).√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě Simon B. Parker, √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Ugaritic Literature and the Bible,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě Near Eastern Archaeology 63:4 (2000): 231.
Indeed, as Andr√??√?¬© Caquot has suggested, imagery associated with early Canaanite mythology may even appear directly reflected within the New Testament:
As these examples illustrate, if Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs theory concerning J-Red is correct, then the development of the Book of Abraham via a Jewish adaptation of foreign symbols is perhaps even more similar to the development of the Bible than any of us had previously before assumed (personally, I would even take Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs theory one step further in suggesting that the first person references in the Book of Abraham fit the general pseudeopigraphic trend witnessed in such biblical books as Deuteronomy and therefore, the Book of Abraham many not have been written by Abraham at all).
Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs theory regarding a Semitic adaptation of Egyptian traditions explains why the Book of Abraham features so many ideological links with ancient Semitic texts√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ěmany of which were unknown to 19th century audiences.
While in addition to the examples provided by Kevin in his ground-breaking study, we could point to a number of supplementary examples of Semitic ideology reflected in the Book of Abraham, one of my favorites includes the BOA√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ęs depiction of the divine council.
Semitic texts from the ancient Near East that feature stories of the divine council of gods typically begin with a crisis in which the head God calls together the gods of the council to resolve the dilemma. During the council, a series of proposals are offered. Finally, a √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??savior√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě steps forward, offering his services to the council. This savior then receives a commission to perform his redemptive role (this summary is based upon the pattern identified by Simon Parker, √?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√??Council,√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√?¬Ě in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Karel van der Toorn, et al. eds. Leiden: Brill, 1999: 206).
This common Semitic pattern is witnessed, for example, in the Mesopotamian story of divine kingship known as Enuma Elish. In the Babylonian myth, the head god of the pantheon calls together the gods in a council to resolve the dilemma created by the goddess Tiamat. Following a series of proposals, Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, receives a commission as savior.
In the myth, Marduk agrees to perform the role of savior on the condition that his Father, Ea, the head god of the council, will grant Marduk all power and glory. The same pattern appears in the Assyrian myth Anzu, however, in this rendition, the god Ninurta agrees to serve as council savior while allowing his father to retain his position.
These myths, unknown to 19th century audiences at the time of Joseph Smith, feature important parallels with the view of the divine council provided in the Book of Abraham.
Finally, Kevin√?¬Ę√Ę?¬¨√Ę?¬Ę theory also works well with research that I have performed on the connection between Semitic presentation scenes depicted on Mesopotamian cylinder seals and facsimile 3.
As a Jewish-Egyptian redactor, J-Red may have simply converted the Egyptian drama featured in facsimile 3 from a scene that originally fit an earlier Semitic context.
Thanks Kevin for a truly important study.
Edited by David Bokovoy, 16 August 2006 - 12:36 PM.