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Chiasmus In The Book Of Abraham?


Sethbag

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In another thread, CaliforniaKid had a post with a few line-items. One line mentioned chiasms in the Book of Abraham.

I was curious about that. I was not aware that Abraham would have spoken Hebrew, or used Hebrew literary structures.

Is anyone able to expound a little on what language Abraham would have spoken? And whether or not things like chiasmus were a part of that language at that time?

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I've never heard that claimed before.

I'm not aware of any, but I will try to remember to pay particular attention the next time I read it through.

My understanding is that chiasmus represents a much later development in the Hebrew literary tradition.

Maybe David Bokovoy will wander through and give us a more informed opinion on that matter.

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Says Blake Ostler in Dialogue,

Book of Mormon Authorship has made a prima facie case for the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon. It fails, however, to respond to scholarly criticism in some crucial areas. For example, since Welch first published his study on chiasmus in 1969, it has been discovered that chiasmus also appears in the Doctrine and Covenants (see, for example, 88:34-38; 93:18-38; 132:19-26, 29-36), the Pearl of Great Price (Book of Abraham 3:16-19; 22-28), and other isolated nineteenth-century works. Thus, Welch's major premise that chiasmus is exclusively an ancient literary device is false. Indeed, the presence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon may be evidence of Joseph Smith's own literary style and genius. Perhaps Welch could have strengthened his premise by demonstrating that the parallel members in the Book of Mormon consist of Semitic word pairs, the basis of ancient Hebrew poetry. Without such a demonstration, both Welch's and Reynold's arguments from chiasmus are weak.

(Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 16, No. 4, Winter, 1983, p. 141-143)

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Joseph Smith might have employed the technique while producing the Book of Abraham.

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Says Blake Ostler in Dialogue,

Book of Mormon Authorship has made a prima facie case for the ancient origins of the Book of Mormon. It fails, however, to respond to scholarly criticism in some crucial areas. For example, since Welch first published his study on chiasmus in 1969, it has been discovered that chiasmus also appears in the Doctrine and Covenants (see, for example, 88:34-38; 93:18-38; 132:19-26, 29-36), the Pearl of Great Price (Book of Abraham 3:16-19; 22-28), and other isolated nineteenth-century works. Thus, Welch's major premise that chiasmus is exclusively an ancient literary device is false. Indeed, the presence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon may be evidence of Joseph Smith's own literary style and genius. Perhaps Welch could have strengthened his premise by demonstrating that the parallel members in the Book of Mormon consist of Semitic word pairs, the basis of ancient Hebrew poetry. Without such a demonstration, both Welch's and Reynold's arguments from chiasmus are weak.

(Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 16, No. 4, Winter, 1983, p. 141-143)

Let's test that, shall we?

Abraham Chapter 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.

17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.

18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

I see various parallel statements in this passage; but chiasmus?

Here is a real example of chiasmus:

Mosiah Chapter 5:

9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for

(A1) he shall know the name

(A2) by which he is called;

(A3) for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

(A3) 10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take

upon him the name of Christ

(A2) must be called

(A1) by some other name; therefore,

(B ) he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

(C ) 11 And I would that ye should remember also, that

(D] this is the name that I said I should give unto you

(E) that never should be blotted out,

(F) except it be through transgression;

(F) therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress,

(E) that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.

(D) 12 I say unto you,

(C ) I would that ye should remember to retain the

name written always in your hearts,

(B ) that ye are not found on the left hand of God,

(A) But that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called,

and also, the name by which he shall call you.

As you can see, I have highlighted and marked the parallel items. I haven't tried to do that with the Abraham passage, because I don't see the chiasmus, and didn't want to prejudice anyone else's reading. If anyone wants to try their hand at showing how the Abraham passage is chiastic in any way analogous to the Mosiah passage, I'd be most interested in seeing it.

Regards,

Pahoran

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Isn't Chaismus supposed to be the language of the Lord? I have heard it stated that Chiasmus is the language of the Lord. IF so then one should expect to find an example of a Chiasmus in the Book of Abraham. Also another question here. Are there any examples of Chiasmus in the Apocalypse of Abraham?

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Isn't Chaismus supposed to be the language of the Lord?

Supposed by whom?

I have heard it stated that Chiasmus is the language of the Lord.

Really? Stated by whom?

That passive voice really is a nifty way of asserting something without taking responsibility for it. The notion is a novel one to me. Of course we know that all it takes is a couple more iterations, and it will become Established Mormon Doctrine, and anyone bold enough to challenge it will be rejecting Every Word Spoken by All the Holy Prophets Since the World Began.

That's why I'm stating for the record that this is the very first time I have ever heard the idea that "Chiasmus is the language of the Lord." The understanding I have regarding chiasmus, from the first Jack Welch article to the latest Internet discussion, is that it is a Hebrew poetic form that is not common in English, and as such evidence of a non-English source for The Book of Mormon.

Also another question here. Are there any examples of Chiasmus in the Apocalypse of Abraham?

I haven't seen one in The Book of Abraham yet.

Regards,

Pahoran

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For the record, a couple LDS scholars have suggested that chiasmus is the language of the Lord, citing its presence in D&C and BoA as evidence. However, I don't recall their names, and they're certainly in the minority.

David Gorton is one of them. THis article explains his theories.

http://www.davidgorton.com/Articles/article15.htm

I've talked with Dr. Welch about this and he makes a good argument about the degree of sophistication of the chiasms in the Book of Mormon compared to other standard works. The chiasms in the BoM range from simple inverted parallelism to entire chapters and books with several intricate chiasms lacing bigger chiasms. The ones in the other standard works are not crisp and clear, and they lack a lot of the centrality and intention of the BoM ones. I think one could find chiasms wherever they wanted to, but to fire of the Book of Mormon in a from-the-hip translation with no references and have some fantastically intricate chisms interwoven in a complex plot with complex character developments is nigh unto impossible.

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Makelan,

Here is another study on the high degree of intention of BOm chiasmi and the probability of the minor Book of Abraham's chiasms as accidental.

http://byustudies.byu.edu/chiasmus/pdf/Edwards.pdf

I've talked with Dr. Welch about this and he makes a good argument about the degree of sophistication of the chiasms in the Book of Mormon

I sent Welch a substantial chiasm and we had a couple of emails about it. He said it was interesting and complex and that he needed more time to look at it, then he never emailed back. He talked to one of my friends over six months later and said he was still looking at it but still has not contacted me long after that.

If you speak with him on a regular basis ask him what's the deal with my Helaman chiasm. I'm sure he'll know which one youre talking about.

I'm going to put in on the MB soon but I don't want to have to reformat it to fit the MB. Copying and pasting always discombobulates the structure and I don't know if we can attach documents to posts since I have never seen it done, but it would be handy.

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While we're on the subject of chiasmus: I wonder if anyone has calculated a "chiasm density ratio" for various scriptures. This would almost certainly be a pointless endeavor, given the subjectivity in recognizing a "genuine" chiasmus. But then again, that hasn't deterred apologists in the past.

Anyway, I wouldn't be suprised if the BoM turned out to have more chiasms (chiasmuses? chiasmi?) than the perennial Hebrew text, the Old Testament. One of the tell-tale signs of pseudepigraphal work is that it tends toward charicature. If you have a friend that says "totally" a lot, and you wanted to write something the way your friend might write it, you would also use "totally" a lot. But you would probably use it too much. And that's what I suspect has happened with the BoM--not that Joseph intentionally used an excessive amount of chiasm, but that in attempting to ape the style of the bible, he used bible-type language even more than the bible itself.

But until someone actually calculates the CDR of the BoM and the Bible, we'll never know.

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There is also the BYU masters thesis Richard C. Shipp titled "Conceptual Patterns of Repetition in the Doctrine and Covenants and Their Implications."

There is also Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 33 No. 4, Winter 2000, p 163, by Robert Patterson, "Hebraicisms, Chiasmus, and Other Internal Evidence for Ancient Authorship in 'Green Eggs and Ham'"

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

..I do not like green eggs and ham.

...Would you like them here or there?

.....I would not like them here or there.

.....I would not like them anywhere.

..I do not like green eggs and ham.

I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

And for some reason Homer Simpson seems to speak with Chaistic structures.

Call Mr. Plow

..That's my name.

..That name again.

Is Mr. Plow.

Simpsons 4th season episode 9

Phaedrus

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CK,

Warship, just take a screenshot of your structure and post it as an image.

Good idea..I hadn't thought of that. Thanks, I'll try it.

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I find it interesting that the more complex examples of chiasmus are found in the BoM... if, as our critics assert, this was written by JS... shouldn't the BoM contain the weaker examples? After all, this is his first attempt at something of this nature. By the time he was writing the BOA and D&C the chiasmus should have greatly improved in style and technique... rather than be the poor examples that they are. I mean, for the rest of us humans this is how it works....

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I find it interesting that the more complex examples of chiasmus are found in the BoM... if, as our critics assert, this was written by JS... shouldn't the BoM contain the weaker examples? After all, this is his first attempt at something of this nature. By the time he was writing the BOA and D&C the chiasmus should have greatly improved in style and technique... rather than be the poor examples that they are. I mean, for the rest of us humans this is how it works....

Ah, but as Curelom demonstrates, above, the ingenuity of the critics is equal to any emergency. I am absolutely confident that they would be able to not only explain it away, but actually twist it around to support some revised argument for a naturalistic origin of The Book of Mormon.

Regards,

Pahoran

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