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Proofs of the Book of Abraham?

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Hmmm. There's a bit of a focus on sex when Corianton goes after the "harlot Isabel."

The question is....... is it enought to get him to read?

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Hi friends,

In view of some of the (mistaken) claims posted on this thread, here is something I threw together for ZLMB a few years back.

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This is just a sampling of Abrahamic legends that were circulating in early-19th-century America

Dear Brent. Thanks for the helpful info. I was not aware of this point. I for one, feel that it is important to have the voice of an informed critic in such forums.

Sincere Regards,

David.

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Brother Metcalfe,

I almost didn't recognize you with your new closing:

Kind regards,

Brent

What happened to "Cheers"? Nice to see you roaming the boards again. How goes your KEP critical text project? Still going to make it in time for the Prophet's birthday?

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Are there any non-lds egyptologists who have reviewed the papyri found in the 60s and concluded that they are anything more than funeral text ceremoinies?

Have any non-lds egyptologists reviewed the BoA inscriptions and reached the same conclusion that the lds claim?

I can't remember, but somewhere I thought Nibley studied under a well known egyptologist who had reviewed both the above and had concluded that they had nothing to do with what the lds church claims. Does this sound right?

It has nothing to do with what the actual translations are. The Egyptologists are not in the correct "Spiritual Plane" , so they will never be able to translate them properly.

Interestingly enough, the Dead Sea scrolls can be translated into the Book of Breathings, if you are in the correct "spiritual plane". This is a proven fact. :P

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Are there any non-lds egyptologists who have reviewed the papyri found in the 60s and concluded that they are anything more than funeral text ceremoinies?

YES, from the perspective of a prophet who is receiving ideas through revelation. In such a case the text and vignettes found on the fragments could be used to create a myriad of concepts or ideas.

Egyptologist Juan Castillos said:

"If one day a statement is made that what Joseph Smith translated were concepts transmitted to him by God, not necessarily the ordinary understanding of such ancient documents, then there could be no further opposition between the readings made by scholars of these objects and that made by the Prophet since it would become strictly a matter of faith which would be outside our field of study".

Therefore, we LDS are not bound or obligated to accept a conventional translation, interpretation, or explanation offered by the prophet Jospeph Smith who translated in a spiritual state of mind! The prophet didn't work within the framework that the critics demand!

The Book of Abraham lives on! It has NOT fallen. The testimony is sure and the Latter-day Saints affirm that it is true.

Paul O

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Thanks Paul.

Exegete: This Sanborn reference is great. It shows that midrash were indeed being published in America quite early.

But do you have proof that Joseph ever read this stuff? Or that he was even aware that it existed? He did not exactly move in the most literate circles within American society.

This goes back to the same question of the past 20 years.

What was in the Palmyra/Manchester library? And did Joseph read all of it?

We can guess what the answer is going to be.

Beowulf

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Yes, we know that midrash dealing with Abraham was available in the U.S. in Joseph Smith's day. And would have been of particular interest to Jewish scholars. We also know that Smith studied with the Jewish scholar Joshua Seixas in 1835-36. (Lewis Zucker went into this in detail n "Dialogue" in the summer of 1968.) In addition to the works cited above which were available in Smith's time, the 1809 book "A Critical Commentary on the Old and New Testymanet" (Symon Patrick and others) relates beliefs about Abraham, such as that his landsmen knew astronomy, his father Terah was an idolater, they lived among idolaters. Just another reminder (as Grant Palmer notes in his book) that there were stories in circulation about Abraham in Smith's era. Had he wanted to write a book that was supposed to be by Abraham, he could have asked scholars (such as Joshua Sexias, who was already educating him about Hebrew and certaioly would have been happy to share lore about Abraham. Yes, the Book of Abraham may "sound"in some ways like an ancient story because it echoes various ancient stories. But that can be most simply explained by the idea that the author (Smith, presumabl) drew upon older stories that had been passed down for many years, and were in assorted books, and had also been transmitted orally from one Hebrew scholar to another, as part of their heritage or tradition. (Sexias could also have told Smith that the Hebew word rendered God in some passages in the Hebrew Biible could be read as plural, as referring to "Gods." A scholar would easily recognize a plural word.)

Those who want to believe that the Book of Abraham is authentic will find a way to find "evidence" that they which they want to believe is true, regardess of strong dis-confirming evidence. It is only human nature to want to hold onto long-held beliefs. If Smith had claimed that he'd found papyri which--when translated through inspiration--turned out to have been written by Adam or Cain or Noah--some people would no doubt say, "I believe." It would not matter if leading Biblical scholars said that Adam and Cain and Noah were not historcal figures but mythical figures created by pious story tellers seeking to answer questins about the origin of man. Those who want to believe anything can find a reason to do so. Accepting the validity of the BOA is strictly a matter of faith. For those who want to believe on faith, that is fine. Some people believe James Strang translated holy scruiptures as well, on comparable evidence. Others will be more septical. (I'm in the latter camp.)

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Others will be more septical.  (I'm in the latter camp.)

It's not necessarily that you're "more skeptical," Louis D. (Nor even, though I like the formulation very, very much, that you're "more septical.")

You see, I'm very skeptical of some of the things that you plainly believe.

Besides, portraying oneself as less gullible than the na

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Part of what makes me skeptical as to the historicity of figures like Adam, Cain, Noah, and Abraham is that similar patriarchal figures with similar stories may be found in assorted ancient cultures. The evidence strongly suggests that myths were carried from one region to another, with people in different regions adding their own modifications to the stories. But the ancient Hebrews appeared to have borrowed some stories from other peoples. There are too many similarities. (These conclusions, of course, are hardly original with me; religion professors I respected at Princeton suggested these views represented the consensus of leading experts in the field.) I understand the appeal of the timeless stories we're told about Noah and the flood. I my youth I believed them to be literally true. Today I view them as allegorical.

I think that when an editor gathered various stories to include in Genesis--many, many years after the events were supposed to have taken place--he was gathering traditions people felt inspired by and valued; he was not putting together a pure history book. Some of the stories that were accepted by the Hebrews as being part of their heritage may well have been borrowed from other cultures; good stories get passed around and repeated.

Since Daniel Peterson has said, in response to what I've posted on this thread, that he is skeptical about my beliefs, perhaps it is fair to ask if Daniel Peterson believes that Adam was a historic character? Or Cain? Or Noah? Or Abraham? (I suspect Joseph Smith and his contemporaries in the Church believed all these figures were historic.) Certainly many scholars today are skeptical, based n studies of other cultures.) And does Daniel Peterson believe the stories told about these patriarch figures in in Genesis, or the stories in the Book of Abraham, are literally true, historic tales? May I ask what exactly that I have suggested in this thread I believe is it that Daniel Peterson skeptical about.

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Hi David,

Thanks for the kind comments. And I return the sentiments: you bring a refreshing, informed believer's perspective to LDS scholarship. I look forward to your continuing contribution to Mormon studies. (BTW, our mutual friend David Wright speaks well of you.)

My best,

Brent

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

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Hi Greg,

Thanks for your inquiry.

Well, the critical text is done (though not proofed). Whether the BoAbr anthology is an early, on-time, or belated birthday present, remains to be seen. If I follow the FARMS publishing schedule, plan on something closer to 23 December 2010. :P

And, for old time's sake ...

Cheers,

Brent

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

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Hi Beowulf,

"Proof" that Joseph Smith knew early-19thC reports of Abrahamic legends?

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I'm skeptical of many of your counterexplanations.

Dr Peterson, is there a reason you didn't answer his questions? Maybe they weren't as clear as you'd like. Perhaps my feeble attempt will work:

Do you believe Adam was a real man as you are? ie, that he walked, breathed, lived on this earth at some point?

Do you believe that Noah was a real man as you are?

Do you believe that Cain was a real man as you are?

Do you believe that Abraham was a real man as you are?

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I'm skeptical of many of your counterexplanations.

Dr Peterson, is there a reason you didn't answer his questions?

Yes. They're irrelevant to the topic of the thread.

If he wants to start a new thread devoted to the topic, I'll happily answer them there.

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Brent's observation is interesting, but we have no evidence that Joseph Smith or any other Mormon read Sanborn, and it does not account for the differences between Sanborn and the Book of Abraham. For example, Nimrod does not appear in the Book of Abraham.

A more interesting challenge is to take the information available in America during Joseph Smith's day and see what the Book of Abraham should have looked like if it was borrowed from those sources. Would you get names like Olishem in Abraham 1:10 that turn out to be authentic Near Eastern place names that were not published until 1928?

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Olishem is easy.

It's nothing more than a combination of the biblical name Shem and the common Norwegian personal name Ole. An examination of U.S. census records for the period demonstrates that several "Oles" had already immigrated to the United States by this time, and, undoubtedly, Joseph Smith had met or heard of one of them (The Norwegian violinist Ole Bull was born in 1810, and was famous enough in America by 1843 that he undertook the first of five national tours of the United States; he even tried to found a Norwegian colony in Pennsylvania in 1852.) Alternatively, the Oli- component in Olishem may have been derived from a common childrens' game involving the chant Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!, or it may be a transparently-near homophone of "Holy Shem" (Shem occupying an exceptionally important place in Mormon thinking).

There is nothing in the Book of Abraham that was not readily available in Joseph Smith's environment.

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More on Ole, a XIXth Century song sung along the Erie Canal by boatswains' mates to female Norwegian poledrivers (to accompaniment by Cornish gleemen):

My name he bane Ole Oleson.

I jus' come over from Norvay.

I lands in New York.

And I can't get no work.

So I t'ink I go vest right avay.

Vell I gets in the train to St. Pauli.

And I gets in one helluva fine car.

The conductor he comes and says, "Ole!

You must ride in the immigrant car!"

Men it's Ole!

Dey jus' call me Ole.

I don't know how dey find out my name.

I never tell any dem fellas.

Men it's Ole! jus' the same.

I gets off the train in St. Pauli.

And I has but one fifty cent.

So I buys me a pint alcoholi.

And on a big jag-on I vent.

Ven a man wit brass coat and blue buttons,

He says, "Ole! you come along vit me."

He pushed and he pulled and he drug me.

An' he locked me up vit a big key.

Chorus

Next morning the jag-on was over.

And dey took me before Judge Green.

Dey stands me in front of dem fellas.

An' I vas made 'quainted vit dem.

Says he, "Ole! old hobo from Norway,

Dey feed you on stockfish, dey say."

An' he gave t'ree days on the rockpile.

So I t'ink I remember dat day.

Chorus

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What an un-PC song. :P Its hilarious!

To Louis D:

I too have read about the common tales throughout human cultures. Hugh Nibley, for one, noted this years ago.

The question becomes, then, whether they are common tales because we are all human, or because they all stem from a single source. The academics that I have read (and discussed this with) are divided on this point.

Where I personally come down on this is slightly different: The stories are all the same because the same things happen over and over again. In other words, just because Abraham's tale is similar to other tales in the Middle East or elsewhere does not mean that the events did not actually happen to him.

To Exegete:

I do remember that Joseph Smith had contact with Joshua Seixas, who taught him much things Hebrew, including probably Jewish folklore of various types. Nevertheless, I do not see that as tying into reproduction in a purportedly translated work like the BofAbr. However, I am interested in seeing what else you have.

Beowulf

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Hi Beowulf,

Thanks for your comments.

[beowulf @ Jan 26 2005, 01:57 PM]

I do remember that Joseph Smith had contact with Joshua Seixas, who taught him much things Hebrew, including probably Jewish folklore of various types. Nevertheless, I do not see that as tying into reproduction in a purportedly translated work like the BofAbr. However, I am interested in seeing what else you have.

Actually, I'm not convinced that Seixas contributed much, if anything, to Joseph Smith's repertoire of Abrahamic tales since Smith had dictated up through Abraham 2:18 before Seixas' arrival.

Best regards,

Brent

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

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Hi xerego,

Thanks for your response.

[xerego @ Jan 26 2005, 10:50 AM]

Brent's observation is interesting, but we have no evidence that Joseph Smith or any other Mormon read Sanborn, and it does not account for the differences between Sanborn and the Book of Abraham. For example, Nimrod does not appear in the Book of Abraham.

Nor am I suggesting that Joseph Smith necessarily read Sanborn's publication. Joseph had numerous potential sources and resources at his disposal, including his fertile imagination and storytelling prowess. (At last count, I have more than a dozen early-19thC references to the attempted sacrifice of Abraham.) My citation of Sanborn's 1829 discourse demonstrates that folks in Smith's era had access to extrabiblical legends about Abraham that some BoAbr apologists have claimed were not known in early-19thC America.

[xerego @ Jan 26 2005, 10:50 AM]

A more interesting challenge is to take the information available in America during Joseph Smith's day and see what the Book of Abraham should have looked like if it was borrowed from those sources.

This is precisely what another author and I do in my forthcoming BoAbr anthology. (Stay tuned.)

[xerego @ Jan 26 2005, 10:50 AM]

Would you get names like Olishem in Abraham 1:10 that turn out to be authentic Near Eastern place names that were not published until 1928?

Olishem doesn't salvage BoAbr historicity or antiquity. Smith didn't invent Olishem in a vacuum; the name has a phonemic history. As Joseph progressed through his Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar project, certain phonemic combinations were favored in creating faux Egyptian words. Note the following patterns in words/names that appear in Smith's "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language":

  • ash (four occurrences)

  • Crash ma kraw

  • Ele ash

  • Kai-e ven-rash

  • Kai-e van-rash

  • Kaii ven rash

  • Chalsidon hi^a^sh

  • Za Ki=o^a^n-hi^a^sh

  • ZaKi on hish

  • Enish-go-on=dosh

  • Enish go on dosh (two occurrences)

  • Shineflis

  • flis

  • Lish Zi ho e oop Iota

  • Ah lish (three occurrences)

  • Ahlish (two occurrences)

  • Oliblish (two occurrences)

  • oliblish

  • Obbles isim

[*](Shem

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Zaki on hish = Heh maybe my name has Egyptian roots!

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Olishem doesn't salvage BoAbr historicity or antiquity. Smith didn't invent Olishem in a vacuum; the name has a phonemic history. As Joseph progressed through his Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar project, certain phonemic combinations were favored in creating faux Egyptian words.

Abraham 1:10

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