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consiglieri

Book of Abraham Bull's-Eye?

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The 2001 tome, Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, (eds. Tvedtnes, Hauglid and Gee), contains a large sampling of extrabiblical texts relating to Abraham, together with points of contact between this literature and the Book of Abraham found in the Pearl of Great Price.

I would like to bring up one connection not mentioned in that book, but which I feel worthy of exploration.

The third chapter of the Book of Abraham has as a prominent theme the observation that one thing exists above another, followed by the inductive argument that a third thing exists above the two, and so on until ultimately we come to God.

This line of argument is applied to

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Well done! I agree that this is quite an impressive parallel.

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Interesting stuff!

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good stuff

The 2001 tome, Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, (eds. Tvedtnes, Hauglid and Gee), contains a large sampling of extrabiblical texts relating to Abraham, together with points of contact between this literature and the Book of Abraham found in the Pearl of Great Price.

I would like to bring up one connection not mentioned in that book, but which I feel worthy of exploration.

The third chapter of the Book of Abraham has as a prominent theme the observation that one thing exists above another, followed by the inductive argument that a third thing exists above the two, and so on until ultimately we come to God.

This line of argument is applied to

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Kudos to those with the tenacity to wade through that OP.

I wanted to throw out that, although Josephus was famously available to Joseph Smith, and Josephus also mentions Abraham's piecing out the existence of God by looking at the earth, sea and heavenly bodies, the method of reasoning is quite different.

In Josephus, Abraham reasons the existence of a perfect God by viewing the imperfectness of the creation.

CHAPTER 7.

HOW ABRAM OUR FOREFATHER WENT OUT OF THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS, AND LIVED IN THE LAND THEN CALLED CANAAN BUT NOW JUDEA.

1. Now Abram, having no son of his own, adopted Lot, his brother Haran's son, and his wife Sarai's brother; and he left the land of Chaldea when he was seventy-five years old, and at the command of God went into Canaan, and therein he dwelt himself, and left it to his posterity. He was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things and persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue than others had, and he determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God; for he was the first that ventured to publish this notion, That there was but one God, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed any thing to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power. This his opinion was derived from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun, and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, thus: - "If [said he] these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they co-operate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to Him that commands them, to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving." For which doctrines, when the Chaldeans, and other people of Mesopotamia, raised a tumult against him, he thought fit to leave that country; and at the command and by the assistance of God, he came and lived in the land of Canaan. And when he was there settled, he built an altar, and performed a sacrifice to God.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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The seven generations are: (1) wooden idols; (2) fire; (3) waters; (4) earth; (5) sun; (6) moon and stars; and, (7) the

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Seven generations of creation also.

I also think this shows that God is speaking to Abraham "in his language". Not only the grammatical language Abraham possessed, but with the use of the types of cultural information and format that would speak best to Abraham and to the Egyptians he would teach.

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Consiglieri, the late Saul Lieberman once explained how you know if you've found the peshat (plain meaning) of a text.

"After you have explained something no one else has explained, it must sound so reasonable that a person who hears it will say, 'So what? What is the novelty? It is obviously so!' Then you know you have it."

Bravo.

You should also bear in mind that at the time the Apocalypse was written stars and heavenly bodies were seen as metaphors for men, thus providing another link.

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I think it also interesting that Joseph Smith, in his last recorded sermon (in the grove), refers to Abraham 3, saying that Abraham himself was the one doing the reasoning (as opposed to having it revealed from God, which appears to be the plainer meaning of the text).

Joseph Smith also transcends Abraham 3, noting that Abraham arbitrarily ends his reasoning process at God, whereas the inductive argument presented would not end with God, as the same reasoning would lead to the conclusion there is a being above God, as well.

Joseph Smith goes on to teach that God himself has a father, and intimates this goes on forever.

When I look at Abraham 3 again, I note there is some wiggle room in the understanding that God is the greatest of all.

3:16--If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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The third chapter of the Book of Abraham has as a prominent theme the observation that one thing exists above another, followed by the inductive argument that a third thing exists above the two, and so on until ultimately we come to God.

This line of argument is applied to

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Consiglieri,

I want to personally congratulate you on your remarkable insight here.

There has been much discussion that the BOA was geocentric, including honored members of our forum who published that idea. Intuitively I rejected that idea -- it was too shallow and missed the real concept. You have now given us the meaning behind those verses.

You have made a major breakthrough in my understanding of the Book of Abraham.

Bravo!

I have now taken one more thing off the shelf.

I appreciate your kind words.

I probably should add that I agree our Book of Abraham is geocentric. Everything is measured outward (and upward) from our earth, upon which Abraham is standing when he "saw the stars."

(This is itself a mark that the text is ancient as it describes a cosmos different from what Joseph Smith would almost certainly have understood.)

Interestingly, Abraham pieces out that one heavenly body is higher than another based upon their time of movement, the faster ones being closer to the earth, and from there getting progressively further away from the earth until we get to the slowest measurement of time of all, which is Kolob.

I doubt this has any reference to the passage of time on those heavenly bodies themselves, but they seem to be calculations based upon their rate of movement relative to a person on the earth looking at the sky.

If this is correct, I think it likely the place Abraham referred to as Kolob would be Polaris (or possibly Vega at the time, if memory serves), being the north pole star around which all the other stars are seen to move relative to the earth. The pole star would be seen to not move, and since slowness of movement appears to be the determining factor for the author of the Book of Abraham, that would be the likely place for him to pinpoint the location of Kolob.

Indeed, if Abraham's measurements of observation were sufficiently sharp, he may have known that the pole star does remain entirely stationary, but describes a tiny circle in the night sky, as our pole is not pointed directly at it, only almost so. If this is the case, it may explain why Abraham said God does not live on "Kolob" (i.e., the pole star for our purposes), but only "near" it. God would apparently dwell in that location (space) where there is no visible movement whatsoever.

I think it would be interesting to find out more about why Abraham thinks slowness of movement of heavenly bodies automatically translates into being nearer to God, and why being completely stationary translates into the place where God dwells. Could it be that Abraham views lack of movement with lack of time, and lack of time with the eternal nature of God?

Having said all this, I do not believe this has any basis in ultimate and objective reality, but it does help us understand what the text of Abraham may be saying.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I appreciate your kind words.

I probably should add that I agree our Book of Abraham is geocentric. Everything is measured outward (and upward) from our earth, upon which Abraham is standing when he "saw the stars."

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I agree, this in and of it's self is interesting point.

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I appreciate your kind words.

I probably should add that I agree our Book of Abraham is geocentric. Everything is measured outward (and upward) from our earth, upon which Abraham is standing when he "saw the stars."

OK, and the universe (sun, starts, etc) was created after the creation of the earth. I can show it in the scriptures if you wish. It's pretty clearly stated.

That is certainly part of the geocentric universe -- first the earth, then the rest of the universe. If you accept the geocentric doctrine, then I would think that one must logically accept that the earth was created first.

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OK, and the universe (sun, starts, etc) was created after the creation of the earth. I can show it in the scriptures if you wish. It's pretty clearly stated.

Exactly!

I think it wise to try to see writings from within the culture of the author.

Problems mount as we try to force our own cultural and scientific understandings on ancient texts.

Jack West (among others) was famous for trying to make Abraham 3 teach modern scientific principles, with less than stellar results. (Pardon the pun.)

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Ok, as long as we agree that this is a "parable" a teaching concept, within the concept of how Christ taught, and not the real world. Abraham did not believe in the geocentric concept.

The Lord is not teaching astronomy, but presenting a logical argument, just as today we would not run a farm based on the parable of the sower and the seed.

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consiglieri,

Here are my thoughts on your parallel.

The argument in Book of Abraham 3:16-19 is a kind of argument from gradation: the differences in greatness among heavenly bodies and the differences in intelligence among spirits testifies to the existence of the greatest and most intelligent being of all, namely, the Lord God. This is properly classified as an argument from gradation because the comparisons have to do with degrees of the same quality (degrees of intelligence, for example). In the case of heavenly bodies, the passage argues that some heavenly bodies are greater than others in terms of their "times of reckoning" pertaining to the speed and period of their movements (3:4-10).

The argument in Apocalypse of Abraham 7 does not seem to be an argument from gradation. Rather, it is an argument from subjection or dominance. The wood is subject to the fire that can consume it; the fire is subject to the water that can extinguish it; the water is subject to the earth that absorbs it; the earth is subject to the sun that dries it and even to the man that tills it; the sun, though the earth and the airs it warms are subject to it, is in turn subject to the moon and clouds that can block or obscure its light; the moon and stars are subject to the darkness that often obscures their light as well (7:2-9). Abraham concludes that he will seek to know the God that made all of these things, a knowledge that must come by God revealing himself (7:10-12). The argument here employs stock Greek categories of the "elements," progressing through the classic four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) to the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars) that ancient Greek science held were composed of a fifth element (quinta essentia, "quintessence"). Physical objects in our world, such as the wood in a wooden idol, were viewed as compositions of two or more of the four terrestrial elements. Once we recognize this, we can see that the argument leads by ascent through the various elements to conclude that there must be a God that is responsible for all of them: (1) fire, (2) water, (3) earth, (4) air, (5) quintessential bodies, and (6) God.

This is clearly a very different argument from the one in Book of Abraham 3; it is also clearly a very different argument than one that the historical figure of Abraham would have used. Note that the Apocalypse of Abraham, known to us only in a Slavonic translation of a Greek translation of a Hebrew or Aramaic original, from manuscripts dating from the Renaissance and later, was probably composed in the late first century or sometime in the second century.

Apocalypse of Abraham 19 is not a theistic argument at all. Abraham in an apocalyptic vision stands on the seventh firmament and looks down to see lower firmaments inhabited by angels or other incorporeal beings of pure spirit. He sees no one in any of these firmaments worthy of worship, other than the Lord God. Scholars seem generally to agree that the apocalypse proper (chaps. 9-32) originated separately from the narrative of Abraham escaping from Terah and idolatry (chaps. 1-8 ), and there is no question that they are two entirely different genres.

I see no "bull's-eye" here.

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Abraham did not believe in the geocentric concept.

Why would you think this to be true?

I have no problem whatsoever thinking Abraham accepted the best science of his day, which likely included the fact that the earth is the center of the universe.

I should mention in passing that this concept is strictly true, even by modern scientific standards, so long as the observer is standing on the earth.

It is all relative to the point of view of the observer.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I see no "bull's-eye" here.

I appreciate the time you have taken to set down your thoughts in so scholarly a manner, Rob.

I agree that the AoA does speak in terms of "subjection," and your distinction with BoA 3 is well taken.

I see these two lines of argument as more similar, perhaps, than do you, at least as expressed in BoA.

For example, BoA 3:3 introduces us to Kolob by saying that God "set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." If Kolob "governs" all other heavenly bodies, it seems likely we can reverse the statement by saying that all other bodies are subject to (i.e., governed by) Kolob.

When BoA compares all intelligences/spirits to ultimately arrive at God, the text says that God "is greater than they all." This, to me, seems to invoke ideas of subjection, as well as ideas of gradation.

This idea is reinforced later in BoA 3 where, after introducing the varying grades of intelligences/spirits, God says he stood in the midst of the "noble and great ones," adding, "These I will make my rulers." (3:22-23)

Over what shall these noble and great ones "rule" if not the lesser intelligences? And if God is the one appointing them to be his "rulers," God must be the one who is ruler over them.

In this way, I think the BoA applies concepts of gradation as well as subjection both to heavenly bodies and spirits.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

P.S. I did not mean to leave the impression I thought the vision of the seven firmaments in AoA was reasoned out by Abraham. It is clearly portrayed as a revelatory experience couched in such a way as to balance Abraham's earlier reasoning process.

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Why would you think this to be true?

I have no problem whatsoever thinking Abraham accepted the best science of his day, which likely included the fact that the earth is the center of the universe.

I should mention in passing that this concept is strictly true, even by modern scientific standards, so long as the observer is standing on the earth.

It is all relative to the point of view of the observer.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I cannot believe that Abraham believed that the earth was the first creation and that the universe was created afterwards. That all plants and animals were "created" and not already in existence elsewhere. All of these concepts are elements of the geocentric doctrine of the universe. If the earth is the center of the universe, it was created first. You think that God gave Abraham a vision of the grand scheme of things and left him in ignorance of the real nature of the creation -- the best science could offer at the time.

I guess that you and I will not be able to agree on whether Abraham had a correct understanding of the nature of God, creation and the universe.

As an observer, I can see the geocentric universe as I look in the sky, but I understand that is not the real world. I can see the edge of the horizon, see a ship "fall" of the edge of the earth, as an observer, but still know that the earth is round.

As an observer I "see" things that are not real, but I can speak about them as if they were real. Thus, the moon, the sun, is "above" the earth, but my mind knows better.

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I guess that you and I will not be able to agree on whether Abraham had a correct understanding of the nature of God, creation and the universe.

But my question is how we would know a "correct understanding of the nature of God, creation and the universe" if we saw it.

What I think is happening here is the logical fallacy called "presentism," where everything else in past ages or other cultures is judged by our own age and culture.

I think what you actually mean is you believe that Abraham understood God as current Mormons teach the nature of God, understood creation the way (take your pick) teaches creation, and understood the universe the way science presently teaches us the universe is constructed.

All of these things will change.

God is much more complex than we know.

The creation is likewise.

We know a lot about the universe, but are we to expect no new information? Our best models will continue to change, even as they have in the past.

I believe Abraham understood the "correct" nature of God, and creation and the universe, in the same way we believe that we do.

They are different, but that doesn't mean either is "incorrect."

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I cannot believe that Abraham believed that the earth was the first creation and that the universe was created afterwards. That all plants and animals were "created" and not already in existence elsewhere. All of these concepts are elements of the geocentric doctrine of the universe. If the earth is the center of the universe, it was created first. You think that God gave Abraham a vision of the grand scheme of things and left him in ignorance of the real nature of the creation -- the best science could offer at the time.

I guess that you and I will not be able to agree on whether Abraham had a correct understanding of the nature of God, creation and the universe.

As an observer, I can see the geocentric universe as I look in the sky, but I understand that is not the real world. I can see the edge of the horizon, see a ship "fall" of the edge of the earth, as an observer, but still know that the earth is round.

As an observer I "see" things that are not real, but I can speak about them as if they were real. Thus, the moon, the sun, is "above" the earth, but my mind knows better.

To jump quickly into this offshoot, I heard ofna very interesting analysis of varying LDS accounts of the creation. The point was that both are accurate, depending on the view; the creator or the creation. Whatever Abraham believed or thought likely depended on the camera angle, and there's a chance he saw both. I suppose my point is that the either/or may be a false dillemma.

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To jump quickly into this offshoot, I heard ofna very interesting analysis of varying LDS accounts of the creation. The point was that both are accurate, depending on the view; the creator or the creation. Whatever Abraham believed or thought likely depended on the camera angle, and there's a chance he saw both. I suppose my point is that the either/or may be a false dillemma.

There was an article in BR comparing the two creation accounts in Genesis to the multiple POVs in Rashomon.

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To jump quickly into this offshoot, I heard ofna very interesting analysis of varying LDS accounts of the creation. The point was that both are accurate, depending on the view; the creator or the creation. Whatever Abraham believed or thought likely depended on the camera angle, and there's a chance he saw both. I suppose my point is that the either/or may be a false dillemma.

1. Nibley.

2. Read my post carefully. I have already responded to that argument.

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I would agree that this is a very impressive observation.

Perhaps the creation account also found in the Book of Abraham teaches the same type of concept. The last thing God creates is man. Man has dominion (or governs) everything else. And man is the most intelligent of all other earthly intelligences as well. Perhaps the eternal potential man is being taught.

Then if you take this analogy a step further, you would notice that woman was created very last. Woman has dominion over man and is more intelligent than they all (including man).

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