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consiglieri

Book of Abraham Bull's-Eye?

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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.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I think this raises some intersting questions regarding revelations or potential revelations. Sometimes we receive an insight that is spot on and we know the full meaning of it. But what happens when a vision is received which we must interpret with our own limited ability. I think that may be one reason personal revelation is required, ie the membership must receive the insight that the interpretation of the vision is on the right track as well as a unanimous acquiesence of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency. In essence we (members and the Quorum of the Twelve) become the "check" upon the prophet to ensure he is on the right track (in regard to visions at least).

The implication makes sense.

That was a good post Consig, my hat is off to you. :P

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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.

I do perhaps in a way you don't. Consider that the major Gods of the Mesopotamian region (Babylonians, Sumerians, et al pretty much covered the same types of Gods) also had a heirarchy in which Enki (water), Gibil (fire), Nahusag (earth) and Enil (air) were subservient to An or Antu the God in Heaven. If Abraham was a product of that culture and civilization, his cultural paradigm would have reflected and pulled upon his understanding and progress. The vision would have necessarily changed the order and paradigm of importance. It takes a great deal to shift form poly to monotheism. Purely speculation on my part, but it does bear some additional scrutiny.

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Jeff,

It is the Apocalypse of Abraham, not the Book of Abraham, that presents a theistic argument utilizing the rubric of fire, water, earth, air, and the heavenly bodies. The fact that some sort of parallel can be developed between that second century AD document's argument and the more ancient Mesopotamian conceptions of the gods does nothing to situate the Book of Abraham in the ancient world.

I do perhaps in a way you don't. Consider that the major Gods of the Mesopotamian region (Babylonians, Sumerians, et al pretty much covered the same types of Gods) also had a heirarchy in which Enki (water), Gibil (fire), Nahusag (earth) and Enil (air) were subservient to An or Antu the God in Heaven. If Abraham was a product of that culture and civilization, his cultural paradigm would have reflected and pulled upon his understanding and progress. The vision would have necessarily changed the order and paradigm of importance. It takes a great deal to shift form poly to monotheism. Purely speculation on my part, but it does bear some additional scrutiny.

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I understand, but from my perspective I see the Book of Abraham being equally valid and therefore in a sense a tie in between the two. Was the AA merely written around 100 or did it transcribe from earlier works? Much is left unknown about the origins, or perhaps a human addition reflecting the destruction of the temple in Israel but with elements of a much earlier time? I am simply seeing some correlation to what I deem to be a valid comparison.

Though I do understand your point in the matter.

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Jeff,

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the courteous nature of your replies. I don't take it for granted.

Methodologically, you seem to approach this issue from an a priori faith commitment to the belief that the BOA is authentic. Although my orthodox Christian faith views the BOA as inauthentic, methodologically my approach to the subject presupposes neither that it is authentic nor that it is inauthentic. I look at proposed parallels not simply to explain them away but to examine the cogency of the comparison as evidence. If I thought the BOA displayed evidence of being situated culturally in the time of Abraham, I would rethink my disbelief in its authenticity. Weak parallels to a writing dating from two millennia after Abraham don't even begin to make a dent in the case against its authenticity.

All writings, including the Apocalypse of Abraham, have some sort of root in earlier thought, but there are limits. No scholar thinks the Apocalypse of Abraham has anything to do with authentic historical memory about Abraham beyond the fact that it amplifies what we are already told about Abraham in the book of Genesis.

I understand, but from my perspective I see the Book of Abraham being equally valid and therefore in a sense a tie in between the two. Was the AA merely written around 100 or did it transcribe from earlier works? Much is left unknown about the origins, or perhaps a human addition reflecting the destruction of the temple in Israel but with elements of a much earlier time? I am simply seeing some correlation to what I deem to be a valid comparison.

Though I do understand your point in the matter.

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Has there ever been the exception where a writing was thought to be recent (relatively) and with research found to be older than earlier presumed? I am thinking sanskrit in the Indo European tongue.

Yes I did take an apriori approach of faith towards the Book of Abraham, and yes it is likely based on what is known that the Apocalypse is not as old as Abrahamic history. My point is more along the lines of parallels between writings and the coincidence if one believes in such things. My apriori approach would have allowed for revelation to reveal the writings without an archeological timeline through revelation, much as the Book of Mormon.

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I look at proposed parallels not simply to explain them away but to examine the cogency of the comparison as evidence.

Dear Rob,

You first argued that the method of argumentation between the AoA and the BoA were dissimilar, the first based on subjection and the latter on gradation.

I answered (with citations) showing that the BoA is also based on subjection as well as gradation.

Should I understand from your lack of response that you concede the point of similarity?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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You are correct about the importance of the pole-star in Abe's time -- it was ? Ursae Minoris, otherwise known as Kochab "Star" (as in BofA 3:13), and it was the fiducial point or pivot around which the eternal circumpolar stars of God circled (the Heavenly Council in Isaiah 14:13-14).

Dear Rob,

Thank you for your thoughtful and scholarly response.

I find it interesting that so much of Abraham 3 takes for granted a shared (and rather strange to early 19th century America) cosmism from which to argue and expound.

There is no attempt to lay the groundwork for this cosmism in the BoA, which to me tends to evidence an authentic document coming from an authentic cultural world view.

It seems Abraham was given these "arguments" for God's existence to use when teaching the Egyptians, and hence it would be reasonable to conclude the shared world view would coincide with contemporary Egyptian ideas.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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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?

I think the lack of movement and lack of time is both literal and metaphorical. Metaphorical in the sense that with God, there is no degree of variance - He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Literal in the sense of the theory of relativity. We know that as we approach the speed of light, time slows down, and if it were possible to reach the speed of light, time would cease to exist. We know that time is only reckoned by man and time does not exist with God, so it makes sense that the closer you get to God, time slows down. This opens a whole line of thought and study about the concept of light in the scriptures. Apparently God operates at or beyond the speed of light wink.gif.

Well done Consiglieri. A very interesting topic.

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Has there ever been the exception where a writing was thought to be recent (relatively) and with research found to be older than earlier presumed?

Before the discoveries in the Cairo Genizah, the paraliturgical poem Untaneh Tokef was believed to have been writing by R. Amnon of Magenza, an 11th century German Jewish martyr. Copies of this poem dating centuries prior to R. Amnon (if he ever existed) have shown that it dates to the early Byzantine era in Palestine.

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I am amazed at the syncretistic use of religions to move Abraham from polytheism to henotheism. The use of familiar religious symbols to induce a distinct path, which Consig has related to us when he inferred that Abraham had to use his own reasoning in order to understand the covenant being made. In my view it shows how difficult such a thing was.

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...Any thoughts?

...

Hi,

Assuming that scholars are correct, (and I do) the AoA was produced around 70-150 AD and made to look like Abraham wrote it. So I am wondering how significant the parallels you find are.

Could you explain the significance of this as you see it?

Richard

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