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David Bokovoy

Internal Evidences For The BofA

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So much is made over the fact that Joseph Smith, admittedly, did not produce a literal transltion of the Egyptian papyri in his possession.

When all is said and done, however, the Book of Abraham presents a variety of profound religious and cultural links with ancient Near Eastern tradition, including the Hebrew Bible. When I have some free time, Iâ??m going to put an article together on all of this someday.

I thought Iâ??d share a few ideas with the board for the time being.

Though Josephâ??s views concerning a divine council of deities shocked many contemporary 19th century Christians, today, biblical scholars recognize that the council of Gods provides â??a fundamental symbol for the Old Testament understanding of how the government of human society by the divine world is carried outâ?; Patrick D. Miller, â??Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament,â? Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 432.

In an important article published in 1975, biblical scholar N.L.A. Tidwell provided a useful definition of the biblical council genre as

â??a narrative of events in the heavenly council on an occasion when the council is gathered to make some fateful decision concerning the affairs of men. In fact, wherever in the OT the activities of the council are described, or the deliberations of the council may by thought to be alluded to, some decision of great moment is always involved.â? â??Waâ??omar (Zech. 3:5) and the Genre of Zechariahâ??s Fourth Vision,â? JBL, 94 (1975): 352.

Significantly, the Book of Abraham presents a heavenly council story that perfectly reflects Tidwellâ??s definition.

In The Book of Abraham, this council story appears with a preface in which Abraham learns that the "stars" may serve as types for the members of the heavenly assembly. As biblical scholars, we now know that stars serve a similar purpose in the Hebrew Bible.

Indeed, from a biblical perspective, God â??reckoned the number of the stars; to each He gave its nameâ? (Ps 147:4 JPS), and according to the book of Judges, these are the divine beings who, as â??stars fought from heaven, From their courses they fought against Siseraâ? (Judges 5:20).

A link between human beings and divine stars appears in Danielâ??s statement concerning the final judgment:

â??Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence. And the knowledgeable will be radiant like the bright expanse of sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and everâ? (Daniel 12:2-3 JPS)

Of course the issue of divine stars raised in The Book of Abraham appears as an important motif within the biblical story of Abraham:

â??[God] took [Abraham] outside and said, â??Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.â?? And He added, â??So shall your offspring beâ??â? (Gen 15: 5).

According to the biblical promise, Abrahamâ??s offspring would be like the stars, both in number, but also in divinity.

In Abrahamâ??s vision which introduces the council vision in The Book of Abraham, the Prophet saw that the stars â??were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto itâ? (Abraham 3:2).

Though obscured in the King James Version, the concept of â??great starsâ? appears in the biblical promise to provide Abraham with eternal progeny:

â??I will make your seed great like the stars of heaven, and assign to your seed all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirsâ? (Gen. 26:4)

Significantly, the biblical promise declares that Abrahamâ??s seed will be "great like the stars of heaven" and that God will assign his seed to provide a â??blessingâ? to the nations of the earth.

In the Book of Abraham, the Lord speaks to his Prophet concerning the stars of the heavenly host and declares:: â??These are the governing onesâ? (Abraham 3:3). The governing stars in Abraham 3:3 simply serve as a segue to Godâ??s division of â??great and nobleâ? intelligences in the council story depicted in 3:22:

"And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born" (Abraham 3:23).

Not all of the intelligences/stars in the council carried an equal luster. â??Stars, as heavenly beings (Sons of the Gods), are brighter than earthly beings, but even among them some are more brilliant than others, â??for one star differs from another star in splendorâ?? (1 Cor 15:40-41)â? F. Lelli, â??Stars,â? Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 810

In reality, the entire portrayal of the stars and council in The Book of Abraham parallels what we now know about the cosmological view featured in the book of Deuteronomy: â??When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods (Deut. 32:8; NRSV).

These "gods" who, according to Deuteronomy 32, serve as the â??governing onesâ? first appear as â??starsâ? in Deuteronomy 4: 19-20:

â??And when you look up to the sky and behold the sun and the moon and the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must not be lured into bowing down to them or serving them. These the LORD your God assigned to other peoples everywhere under heaven; but you the LORD took and brought out of Egyptâ? (Deut. 4:19-20)

According to the Book of Abraham, God declared:

â??I dwell in the midst of them all [the stars/intelligences/gods]; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seenâ? (Abraham 3:21).

Hence, God rules amongst all the spirits and/or stars whom he dwells amongst. According to the Book of Abraham, in this council setting, God rules â??in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.â? Given the divine council setting established in the Book of Abraham, this reference to God dwelling amongst the gods of the assembly and ruling all â??in the heavens above, and on the earth beneathâ? proves quite meaningful.

Concerning the biblical word pair â??heaven and earth,â? G. Ernest Wright argued that readers should specifically â??interpret such passages in the light of the Divine Assembly, the members of which constitute the host of heaven and of earth;â? G.E. Wright, The Old Testament Against Itâ??s Environment (London: SCM Press LTD, 1950), 36.

In other words, heaven and earth provides a type of merism or â??polar expressionâ? whereby the speaker addresses all of the gods of the council through the antithetical word pair.

We could go on and on for pages, but this is the type of evidence that I'm afraid critics both "big and small" unfortunately fail to consider.

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I purchased Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, and John Gee) and gave it to my Dad for Christmas. We are discussing what is in that book. The information is absolutely fantastic, although admittedly very difficult reading for us "novices". However, anybody (critic or apologist) should be familiar with these things.

It seems that critics are giving much attention to the facsimiles, but not saying too much on the content in the Book of Abraham, but I am no expert on the critics' claims.

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I purchased Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, and John Gee) and gave it to my Dad for Christmas. We are discussing what is in that book. The information is absolutely fantastic, although admittedly very difficult reading for us "novices". However, anybody (critic or apologist) should be familiar with these things.

It seems that critics are giving much attention to the facsimiles, but not saying too much on the content in the Book of Abraham, but I am no expert on the critics' claims.

Excellent!

Really, the entire series from the Studies in the Book of Abraham collection has been fantastic!

If the material collected in the first volume interests you, you may wish to get a hold of Annette Yoshiko Reedâ??s â??Abraham as Chaldean Scientist and Father of the Jews : Josephus, Ant. 1.154-168, and the Greco-Roman Discourse about Astronomy/Astrology,â? in Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Periods 35 (2004):119-158.

In the essay, Reed does an interesting job of analyzing Josephus' approach to Abraham and astronomy/astrology in Ant. 1.154-168. Josephus' retelling of Genesis 12 portrays Abraham as inferring the oneness of God from the irregularity of the stars and thereby his rejection of "the Chaldean science." Josephus then relates that the patriarch transmitted astronomy/astrology to Egypt.

Regards,

--DB

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Speaking of Abraham, Philo of Alexandria (Philo Judaeus, a Jewish priest of the first century A.D.) recorded the following:

53. The Chaldeans are great astronomers, and the inhabitants of Charran occupy themselves with the topics relating to the external senses. Therefore the sacred account says to the investigator of the things of nature, why are you inquiring about the sun, and asking whether he is a foot broad, whether he is greater than the whole earth put together, or whether he is even many times as large? And why are you investigating the causes of the light of the moon, and whether it has a borrowed light, or one which proceeds solely from itself? Why, again, do you seek to understand the nature of the rest of the stars, of their motion, of their sympathy with one another, and even with earthly things?

69. â?¦ investigating the arrangement existing in them with reference to the periodical revolutions of the sun, and moon, and the other planets, and fixed-stars â?¦

The Works of Philo, C.D. Yonge, translator, London, 1854 (the first English translation) emphasis mine

Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2:

5 Fig. 5. Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.

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So much is made over the fact that Joseph Smith, admittedly, did not produce a literal transltion of the Egyptian papyri in his possession.

If someone is unaware of Japanese idioms they might create a funny sounding literal translation of a Japanese book. But that's not what you mean. I think you mean that he just didn't create a real translation at all.

Yet he claimed to translate and gave no indication that by "translate" he meant something else altogether.

To me Joseph had a rich imagination and had a little exposure to occult ideas floating around about exotic topics like ancient Egypt. He used ambiguous poetic sounding language and like a cold reader made a few (very few) good guesses. Now apologists with a flair for finding "hidden" meanings etc. also have creative imaginations.

Joseph's creative fictions + apologist's sophisticated hidden pattern seeking talents = illusion that Joseph may have done something needing supernatural power. (It works the same way with the writings of Nostradamus)

I still see it as a case of him inadvertantly exposing the fact that he did not have the special divine gifts he claimed he had.

The truth will out but people with prior commitments will still fail to see it.

David, your thinking about this stuff is too sophisticated. You are looking beyond the mark.

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You guys talk to other scholars. Do they really think that a man without classical training could have devised this on his own, a century before most scholars were discovering it?

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Hello Tarski,

If someone is unaware of Japanese idioms they might create a funny sounding literal translation of a Japanese book. But that's not what you mean. I think you mean that he just didn't create a real translation at all.

Yet he claimed to translate and gave no indication that by "translate" he meant something else altogether.

I actually agree with your assessment. I believe that Joseph Smith did not create a real translation at all. I also believe that Joseph most likely believed that he had created a real translation of the papyri.

I believe that as the Prophet struggled to understand the documents, the Lord gave Joseph a spiritual downpour that resulted in The Book of Abraham with all of its wonderful textual allusions to doctrinal truths now known to appear in the Hebrew Bible. I have no problem accepting the very real possibility that Joseph may not have understood the full nature of this revelatory experience.

This is why Iâ??m quite interested in a literal translation of the papyri offered by contemporary Egyptologists and appreicate Ritner's effort. This information only enhances my appreciation for what seems to have taken place.

Hope all is well,

--David

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Yet he claimed to translate and gave no indication that by "translate" he meant something else altogether.

Oh, for Pete's sake Tarski. Think about what you are saying. Joseph called what he did to produce the Book of Mormon "translating." Yet, as you guys take such glee in repeating over and over, he was not sitting at a table with the gold plates in front of him reading off them to a scribe! At least try to be a little consistent with your anti arguments, please!

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Hello Tarski,

I actually agree with your assessment. I believe that Joseph Smith did not create a real translation at all. I also believe that Joseph most likely believed that he had created a real translation of the papyri.

Does this hold for the facsimiles also?

Sargon

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Oh, for Pete's sake Tarski. Think about what you are saying. Joseph called what he did to produce the Book of Mormon "translating." Yet, as you guys take such glee in repeating over and over, he was not sitting at a table with the gold plates in front of him reading off them to a scribe! At least try to be a little consistent with your anti arguments, please!

I am being consistent. You are not.

To translate is to translate even if you do it by magical means with a stone. It is the production of the translation of a text into a new language but with approximately the same meaning.

The case of the BoA is just not a translation while if what you believe about the BoM is true then it IS a translation. The BoA is a pretended translation. I was asserted that the meaning was such and such and it wasn't.

So "oh for Pete's sake right" right back at you (double!).

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I am being consistent. You are not.

To translate is to translate even if you do it by magical means with a stone. It is the production of the translation of a text into a new language but with approximately the same meaning.

The case of the BoA is just not a translation while if what you believe about the BoM is true then it IS a translation. The BoA is a pretended translation. I was asserted that the meaning was such and such and it wasn't.

So "oh for Pete's sake right" right back at you (double!).

If you would like to challenge Joseph Smith's use of the word "translate" then you are free to do so, but all his "translations" are the following: the Book of Moses, which he translated into English from thin air; the JST-Matthew, which he translated into English out of thin air; and the Book of Mormon, which he translated to English without looking at the text. His definition of "translate" differs greatly from yours and you try to retroject your own personal interpretation into his use of the word and judge him based on that context. Bad form and poor scholarship.

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If you would like to challenge Joseph Smith's use of the word "translate" then you are free to do so, but all his "translations" are the following: the Book of Moses, which he translated into English from thin air; the JST-Matthew, which he translated into English out of thin air; and the Book of Mormon, which he translated to English without looking at the text. His definition of "translate" differs greatly from yours and you try to retroject your own personal interpretation into his use of the word and judge him based on that context. Bad form and poor scholarship.

Tarski is innocent of retrojecting his personal interpretation onto JS. We know JS thought he was doing a conventional, literal translation because of the figure legends on the Facsimiles, which say things like "the name of this person, as indicated in the text above his head." Even David Bokovoy accepts that JS was wrong in his thinking that a literal translation was taking place.

In order to advance in your apologetic technique, you need to make the transition to thinking like an internet mormon. :P You don't change the "facts" to fit the prophet; you do change the "prophet" to fit the facts.

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We could go on and on for pages, but this is the type of evidence that I'm afraid critics both "big and small" unfortunately fail to consider.

This is awsome stuff. I'm really impressed by your knowledge. keep it coming

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This thread appears to be going the same way DB was hoping to avoid. That is, the critics are not addressing the content of the BofA, but getting stuck on the production of the BofA and what translate means.

:P

I guess "changing the prophet to fit the facts" is a problem since we all know that LDS think that prophets are infallible and that God, as a rule, gives answers to questions that are not asked. Being a prophet means that said prophet knows everything about everything, otherwise one simply cannot be a prophet. Yes, this is LDS doctrine. If you doubt it, just ask one of the myriad of LDS critics, some of which are on this board. Of course, they're likely to deny that this is their view, either practically or theoretically. And whatever they say goes. And remember, they never imply anything.

Of course, I'm the only one who can understand what I just wrote, cuz I don't make any sense.

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Tarski, either way the scholarship tumbles, first prove that the discovered papyri is the one Joseph translated from in the first place. Just because it has one of the facsimiles means nothing, facsimiles could have been on multiple documents. Joseph had a bunch of papyri, and thus logically the reason it was out there in the first place to be found is because it had no relevance to the Revelation Joseph received, meaning it was one of the ones he got rid of, just as those who translated it have discovered.

At it's inception, this is where the anti-mormon argument falters, and every reasoning therefrom is fruit of the poisonous tree, not to mention the fact that some of the fruits themselves are inaccurate.

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David,

Great stuff...Let us know about that article.

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If you would like to challenge Joseph Smith's use of the word "translate" then you are free to do so, but all his "translations" are the following: the Book of Moses, which he translated into English from thin air; the JST-Matthew, which he translated into English out of thin air; and the Book of Mormon, which he translated to English without looking at the text. His definition of "translate" differs greatly from yours and you try to retroject your own personal interpretation into his use of the word and judge him based on that context. Bad form and poor scholarship.

It depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

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This thread appears to be going the same way DB was hoping to avoid. That is, the critics are not addressing the content of the BofA, but getting stuck on the production of the BofA and what translate means. :P

That's pretty much par for the course.

As John Gee observed in a 1992 book review:

One of the major problems . . . with all the anti-Mormon efforts to discredit the book of Abraham, was most succinctly encapsulated by the eminent Egyptologist Klaus Baer: "Whether the resulting book of Abraham is or is not inspired scripture can . . . only be told by examining the PGP." This the anti-Mormons have consistently refused to do. As Hugh Nibley put it, "To this day the critics insist on confining their efforts strictly to an expos

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Tarski and Dude's replies simply make David's point. They are more than willling to focus on the translational issues but don't want to go anywhere near the content of the text itself.

Deal w/ the material David actually posted, not the straw dog of translation.

C.I.

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I believe that Joseph Smith did not create a real translation at all. I also believe that Joseph most likely believed that he had created a real translation of the papyri.

I believe that as the Prophet struggled to understand the documents, the Lord gave Joseph a spiritual downpour that resulted in The Book of Abraham with all of its wonderful textual allusions to doctrinal truths now known to appear in the Hebrew Bible. I have no problem accepting the very real possibility that Joseph may not have understood the full nature of this revelatory experience.

So the papyri was the McGuffin and the Spiritual Download was the real deal? Hey that sounds pretty good. Will you be presenting this at Sunstone or FAIR? It would make an excellent presentation.

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David,

I see no reason to believe that the stars literally represent divine beings. They have too many characterstics that only actual celestial bodies would have: length of days, revolutions, speed, etc. Rather, the BoA gives a literal account of the organization of the cosmos, which mirrors the priesthood organization of the church. The heavens are said to reveal, among other things, the grand key-words of the priesthood. This is not unexpected, since JS had already evidenced an awareness of the connections between the heavens and the priesthood, as well as an interest in other inhabited spheres. For example, in 1840 he had joined the Freemasons (whose interest in key-words is well known):

"Mormon use of Masonic symbols has also been publicly acknowledged. Mormons were hardly discreet in their depictions of symbols long associated with Freemasonry...including the square, the compass, the sun, moon, and stars, the beehive, the all-seeing eye, ritualistic hand grips, two interlaced triangles forming a six-pointed star...and a number of other Masonic symbols on endowment houses, temples, cooperatives, grave markers, tabernacles, church meetinghouses, newspaper mastheads, hotels, residences, money, logos, and seals." ("Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry": The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism, by Michael W. Homer, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol.27, no.3, Fall 1994, p.73, emphasis added) (c.f. a picture of the Nauvoo temple sunstone, http://www.utlm.org/images/masonictemplear...tory_p298b.jpg)

There is also no question that Joseph was aware of 1 Corinthians 15:41:

"There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory."

In fact, he had made this the basis for his three degrees of glory, revealed in D&C 76. This revelation came 3 years prior to 1835, when the BoA's system of astronomy was first "unfolded." Even prior to that, JS had offered us the Book of Moses:

"And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten... But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them."

The likelihood of a plurality of inhabited worlds was a hot topic in Joseph's day. It is oft-noted that Thomas **** had published an influential book on the subject that might have influenced Joseph Smith, but the idea would have been part and parcel of public discourse, and I don't think there's any need to posit that JS had personally read ****. For more on this topic, I recommend Vogel and Metcalfe's essay "Joseph's Scriptural Cosmology" in Word of God.

Prior to his translation of the last several chapters of the BoA with their plurality of gods JS had also spoken of "A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest." He continues,

"All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or starsâ??All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of timesâ??According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest." (D&C 121:28-32)

This suggests to me that even prior to his translation of the relevant portion of the BoA, JS was contemplating the possibility that there are many gods, and also thinking about this in connection to a plurality of worlds. Perhaps the fact that God is the "God of all other gods" aided JS in coming to this realization. More significantly, however, I think it was tied to his ongoing study (and revision) of the Genesis creation narrative. Anthony Hutchinson demonstrated in a Dialogue article some years ago that the Genesis narrative went through several Joseph Smith-rescensions, including the Book of Moses version and the Book of Abraham version. Particularly since he started studying Hebrew, Joseph was utterly aware that Genesis 1 used the title elohim of the being(s) who created the world, and that this term means "gods" (when he defended the doctrine in his "plurality of gods" sermon, he appealed to this very fact). He undoubtedly noticed in this connection that God says "let us go down." And finally, Joseph noticed the many places in the Bible where Yahweh is clearly sitting in a council of unspecified heavenly beings. He put two and two together, and came up with a cosmology that is not identical to any ancient cosmology, but that rightly has some parallels in ancient cosmologies. Given JS's interest in biblical and occult arcana, and especially in resolving problems in the Genesis creation narratives, I am not surprised that he fixated on this particular topic.

The bottom line is that there is nothing about the cosmology->priesthood or cosmology->multiple glories correspondences in the BoA that don't find a comfortable home in the overall trajectory of JS's theological speculations. There is also nothing he couldn't have easily deduced from 19th century sources (like Genesis 1) that he would have been intimately familiar with. I see no reason to deduce from any of this that the BoA is an authentic ancient document.

-CK

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Hello CK,

I see no reason to believe that the stars literally represent divine beings. They have too many characteristics that only actual celestial bodies would have: length of days, revolutions, speed, etc.

It seems that in your reading you may have missed Abraham 3:16-19 where Abraham specifically draws a comparison between the star Kolob and Jesus Christ. Abraham explains that just as one star is greater than another, so there is another spirit â??more intelligent than the other,â? but the Lord God is â??more intelligent than they all.â? As a star, Kolob appears â??after the manner of the Lord.â? Hence, much like the Hebrew Bible, the account clearly uses stars as a symbol for divine beings.

As several LDS commentators have noted, Kolob itself is like Christ in as much as the star is â??the greatest of all the Kokaubeamâ? and is â??nearest unto the throne of God" (vv. 2-3, 16); Kolob holds the â??key of powerâ? (facsimile 2; fig. 2); there exist many â??great onesâ? near Kolob that also govern under it (vv. 2-3); like Christ, Kolob is the source of light for all other stars and planets (fac. 2; fig. 5).

In presenting stars as a symbol for the gods of the council, The Book of Abraham reflects Lehiâ??s vision in which the Book of Mormon prophet saw Christ â??descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above the sun at noon-day; and he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmamentâ? (1 Nephi 1:9-10).

Given this information, together with the suggestions I provided in the opening post, I see every reason to believe that LDS scripture, including the Book of Abraham uses stars to represent celestial beings.

Rather, the BoA gives a literal account of the organization of the cosmos, which mirrors the priesthood organization of the church. The heavens are said to reveal, among other things, the grand key-words of the priesthood.

Why do you feel that the Book of Abraham must feature a singular meaning?

"Mormon use of Masonic symbols has also been publicly acknowledgedâ?¦

â??There is also no question that Joseph was aware of 1 Corinthians 15:41â?¦

â??In fact, he had made this the basis for his three degrees of glory, revealed in D&C 76â?¦

â??The likelihood of a plurality of inhabited worlds was a hot topic in Joseph's dayâ?¦

â??This suggests to me that even prior to his translation of the relevant portion of the BoA, JS was contemplating the possibility that there are many gods, and also thinking about this in connection to a plurality of worlds. Perhaps the fact that God is the "God of all other gods" aided JS in coming to this realization. More significantly, however, I think it was tied to his ongoing study (and revision) of the Genesis creation narrative. Anthony Hutchinson demonstrated in a Dialogue article some years ago that the Genesis narrative went through several Joseph Smith-rescensions, including the Book of Moses version and the Book of Abraham version. Particularly since he started studying Hebrew, Joseph was utterly aware that Genesis 1 used the title elohim of the being(s) who created the world, and that this term means "gods" (when he defended the doctrine in his "plurality of gods" sermon, he appealed to this very fact). He undoubtedly noticed in this connection that God says "let us go down." And finally, Joseph noticed the many places in the Bible where Yahweh is clearly sitting in a council of unspecified heavenly beings. He put two and two together, and came up with a cosmology that is not identical to any ancient cosmology, but that rightly has some parallels in ancient cosmologies. Given JS's interest in biblical and occult arcana, and especially in resolving problems in the Genesis creation narratives, I am not surprised that he fixated on this particular topic.â?

â??The bottom line is that there is nothing about the cosmology->priesthood or cosmology->multiple glories correspondences in the BoA that don't find a comfortable home in the overall trajectory of JS's theological speculations. There is also nothing he couldn't have easily deduced from 19th century sources (like Genesis 1) that he would have been intimately familiar with.â?

You and I clearly have a vastly different view on the nature of revelation. I do not deny that Joseph Smithâ??s study of Hebrew seems to have had an impact upon his revelations.

Neither did he, for that matter.

â??Attended the school and read and translated with my class as usual, and my soul delights in reading the word of the Lord in the original, and I am determined to pursue the study of languages until I shall become master of them, if I am permitted to live long enough, at any rate so long as I do live I am determined to make this my object, and with the blessing of God I shall succeed to my satisfactionâ? Joseph Smith, Personal Writings, 191.

By studying Hebrew, for example, as part of the revelatory process, Joseph acted in strict harmony with Godâ??s instruction regarding the revelatory act: â??But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must askâ?? (D&C 9:8 ).

Joseph was clearly well-versed in this process.

Indeed, many of the great doctrinal truths given through Joseph Smith came as a direct result of Joseph studying Hebrew out in his own mind. Through such study, the Lord â??opened [his] mind in a marvelous mannerâ?:

â??This day we commenced reading in our Hebrew Bible with much success. It seems as if the Lord opens our minds in a marvelous manner, to understand His word in the original language; and my prayer is that God will speedily endow us with a knowledge of all languages and tongues, that His servants may go forth for the last time the better prepared to bind up the law and seal up the testimonyâ? Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:376-377.

The same holds true for Josephâ??s work in the Inspired Translation. D&C 132, for example (a section that you have wrongfully maligned on this board) derives from three separate questions Joseph had while studying the Bible out in his own mind.

And thank goodness Joseph had those questions through his study.

Unlike you, I happen to believe that D&C 132 is one of the most powerful revelations God has ever given to humanity.

You see, whether weâ??re dealing with biblical Hebrew, the King James Version of the Bible, or even a group of Egyptian papyri, the Prophetâ??s labor to understand these things directly led to revelation.

Speaking personally, I know of no other way in which God issues a revelation other than the pattern witnessed time and time again through the life of Joseph Smith.

I see no reason to deduce from any of this that the BoA is an authentic ancient document.

Of course the BofA is not an ancient document. When all is said and done, itâ??s a 19th century book of scripture produced via divine revelation given to an American Prophet of God living in Kirtland Ohio.

Fascinating, however, how well it works with Old Testament symbols and theology.

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It seems that in your reading you may have missed Abraham 3:16-19 where Abraham specifically draws a comparison between the star Kolob and Jesus Christ. Abraham explains that just as one star is greater than another, so there is another spirit â??more intelligent than the other,â? but the Lord God is â??more intelligent than they all.â? As a star, Kolob appears â??after the manner of the Lord.â?

I meant for these statements to be included in my description: "the BoA gives a literal account of the organization of the cosmos, which mirrors the priesthood organization of the church." The fifteen fixed stars, I believe, mirror the church's priesthood leaders (the twelve and the first presidency). Christ (corresponding to Kolob) stands above them, and above him the Father. The point of the BoA description, I believe, is that God has organized the cosmos in much the same manner as he has organized the church; the cosmos are presumably meant to stand as a testimony to proper priesthood organization. I don't know that this is really all that different from your statement that "the account clearly uses stars as a symbol for divine beings." In much of the ancient world, celestial bodies were literally thought of as celestial beings; thus are the "heavenly host" spoken of as members of El's council. By contrast, the relationship in the Book of Abraham is primarily a symbolic one, one of a correspondence of organization.

Of course the BofA is not an ancient document. When all is said and done, itâ??s a 19th century book of scripture produced via divine revelation given to an American Prophet of God living in Kirtland Ohio.

Fascinating, however, how well it works with Old Testament symbols and theology.

You are quite the enigma, David. Let me ask you this: if you acknowledge that JS's revelation was preceded by a working out of these issues in his own mind, and was based on a careful study of the relevant biblical texts, then how have you arrived at the conclusion that partial correspondences of the BoA to ideas expressed in these same biblical texts is a powerful internal evidence that the BoA is scripture? Let me put it another way: if we concede that prior to his revelation JS was asking questions about the existence of plural gods, the symbolic significance of the organization of the cosmos, and the interpretation of certain biblical passages, what makes "revelation" a better explanation than "reason and imagination" for how he went about answering those questions?

I don't think you have offered any compelling internal evidence for the truth of the BoA.

-CK

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CK,

I meant for these statements to be included in my description: "the BoA gives a literal account of the organization of the cosmos, which mirrors the priesthood organization of the church." The fifteen fixed stars, I believe, mirror the church's priesthood leaders (the twelve and the first presidency). Christ (corresponding to Kolob) stands above them, and above him the Father. The point of the BoA description, I believe, is that God has organized the cosmos in much the same manner as he has organized the church; the cosmos are presumably meant to stand as a testimony to proper priesthood organization. I don't know that this is really all that different from your statement that "the account clearly uses stars as a symbol for divine beings." In much of the ancient world, celestial bodies were literally thought of as celestial beings; thus are the "heavenly host" spoken of as members of El's council. By contrast, the relationship in the Book of Abraham is primarily a symbolic one, one of a correspondence of organization.

Very nice! It appears then that you and I do not disagree on this issue.

You are quite the enigma, David. Let me ask you this: if you acknowledge that JS's revelation was preceded by a working out of these issues in his own mind, and was based on a careful study of the relevant biblical texts, then how have you arrived at the conclusion that partial correspondences of the BoA to ideas expressed in these same biblical texts is a powerful internal evidence that the BoA is scripture? Let me put it another way: if we concede that prior to his revelation JS was asking questions about the existence of plural gods, the symbolic significance of the organization of the cosmos, and the interpretation of certain biblical passages, what makes "revelation" a better explanation than "reason and imagination" for how he went about answering those questions?

Because of course the significance of the stars as representatives of the divine council of deities in the Hebrew Bible could not be appreciated by the modern world until the discovery of Near Eastern texts such as the cuneiform tablets of ancient Ugarit, ca. 1928.

Neither had the pattern for divine council texts in the Bible presented in 1975 by Tidwell been addressed by any contemporary readers.

With the opening words â??one of the chief perils in the exegesis of ancient writings is that we should take figuratively that which in origin was meant quite realistically,â? biblical scholar H. Wheeler Robinson was the first biblical scholar I know to even address the issue of the biblical portrayal of a divine council of Gods in print; see â??The Council of Yahweh,â? The Journal of Theological Studies (1944): 151.

It took the discovery of Akkadian, Ugaritic, and Phoenician council depictions before scholars could beginning to piece together what Joseph derived through his revelatory studies in the 19th century.

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