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Abraham's Astronomy


Strindberg

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At the FAIR conference I purchased the book "Astronomy, Papyrus, Covenant". Terrific book. I eagerly read the small chapter (by Gee, Petersen and Hamblin) that argues for the geocentricity of the astronomy presented in Abraham 3. Great stuff. I'm now reading the chapter that follows it (by Rhodes and Moody) which argues that it is not geocentric. And I'm studying the text itself to see what I think. In the meantime CK has argued that the astronomy cannot be geocentric because the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar proves otherwise. He makes what seems to me a reasonable case. Of course there's still the possiblity that it is geocentric, simply, whatever the EAandG says. That is, if it's geocentric, it's geocentric. But can we really know? Given that Rhodes can find the same astronomy compatible with modern scientific theories, is there really enough there for us to say that it's one sort of astronomy or another? Like I said, I'm reading the text along with these papers, but I'd be glad to learn what other factors are worth considering in this regard.

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At the FAIR conference I purchased the book "Astronomy, Papyrus, Covenant". Terrific book. I eagerly read the small chapter (by Gee, Petersen and Hamblin) that argues for the geocentricity of the astronomy presented in Abraham 3. Great stuff. I'm now reading the chapter that follows it (by Rhodes and Moody) which argues that it is not geocentric. And I'm studying the text itself to see what I think. In the meantime CK has argued that the astronomy cannot be geocentric because the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar proves otherwise. He makes what seems to me a reasonable case. Of course there's still the possiblity that it is geocentric, simply, whatever the EAandG says. That is, if it's geocentric, it's geocentric. But can we really know? Given that Rhodes can find the same astronomy compatible with modern scientific theories, is there really enough there for us to say that it's one sort of astronomy or another? Like I said, I'm reading the text along with these papers, but I'd be glad to learn what other factors are worth considering in this regard.

Tolle, Lege! -- Sorry to push to the top (just this one time), but I really want comments on this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Benjamin Winchester, writing in 1889, may provide some inkling of how early Mormons understood the BoA astronomy:

In regard to Joseph's literary work -- his "translations" -- I well remember some of it at Kirtland. They had there in the temple some Egyptian mummies, four of them I am positive. From one of them Joseph had taken a scroll lettered over with what purported to be Egyptian characters. It was kept on exhibition in a glass case. To this scroll Joseph applied his peep-stone or "Urim-Thummim" and made out a translation purporting to be a vision of Abraham in which the modern theory that the world is round and that it revolves was sustained against the ancient theory prior to the time of Galileo. It also purported to enlarge upon the Biblical account of the creation of the world and to make clear the solar system. I am not sure whether this work was ever published or not.

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune - Vol. XXXVII. Salt Lake City, Utah, Sunday, September 22, 1889. No. 135.

(Benjamin Winchester, left the church in 1844)

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B.H. Roberts briefly analyzes the astronomy in CHC, I am reading the chapter dealing with the issue.

It is questionable whether the interpretations of earlier Saints must stand as official statements or binding interpretation on the astronomy contained in the BoA.

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B.H. Roberts briefly analyzes the astronomy in CHC, I am reading the chapter dealing with the issue.

It is questionable whether the interpretations of earlier Saints must stand as official statements or binding interpretation on the astronomy contained in the BoA.

I agree with you. Since I posted I re-read the relevant passages in the BoA. On the basis of what's there, I think Gee, Hamblin and Petersen have a good case. The trouble is that Rhodes, et al., see almost exactly the opposite. I haven't studied either paper well enough to be able to judge between them for myself. In any case, if you really did have a geocentric astronomy there it would be quite interesting--since, for one thing, it's difficult to see how Joseph could have created a consistent geocentric system out of whole cloth. If it was clearly geocentric, then it wouldn't matter what the EAandG says or what any of the contemporaries thought about it.

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I do not interpret the relevant passages in the Book of Abraham as describing a "geocentric" astronomy. Rather, I view them as being essentially "Kolob-centric." Initially, the description of the heavens is made purely in reference to Abraham himself. Yes, Abraham is on the earth, but the phraseology is (in my opinion) less focused on the earth than it is on the man. In other words, from Abraham's viewpoint, this is how things look, and the furthest extent of the heavens, in the context of Abraham the man, is the place where God resides, which is "nigh unto Kolob." Then, the viewpoint is almost directly reversed, and one could say that the astronomy becomes "Kolob-centric." From these precincts, the "throne of God," all else is governed.

If one pictured Kolob as being the center of the galaxy; some huge, mega-massive star around which everything else in the galaxy is revolving, then one gets a picture of the way I view the astronomy as expressed in the Book of Abraham. Whether it is an accurate expression of astrophysics is, to me, irrelevant. It is more an expression of Priesthood hierarchy than anything else.

That's my two cents.

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Interestingly, it isn't a picture of a "static" Universe.

Also, an interesting little tidbit from an Orson Pratt discourse speaking of the resurrection comes to mind. We are told that the 3 glories are, respectively, sun moon and stars. We know there are bigger stars than the sun, of course, but from our vantage point on earth the sun best represents the highest brightest glory. Pratt says:

Here, then, are three distinct classes of beings in the eternal world, all of whom partake of happiness, each to be rewarded according to their works: one is represented by the sun, another by the moon, and a third by the glory of the stars, that is, by the apparent glory of the stars, or as they appear to us, and not as they would appear to individuals who are in their immediate vicinity. (JoD 2:368)

Perspective matters.

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I do not interpret the relevant passages in the Book of Abraham as describing a "geocentric" astronomy. Rather, I view them as being essentially "Kolob-centric." Initially, the description of the heavens is made purely in reference to Abraham himself. Yes, Abraham is on the earth, but the phraseology is (in my opinion) less focused on the earth than it is on the man. In other words, from Abraham's viewpoint, this is how things look, and the furthest extent of the heavens, in the context of Abraham the man, is the place where God resides, which is "nigh unto Kolob." Then, the viewpoint is almost directly reversed, and one could say that the astronomy becomes "Kolob-centric." From these precincts, the "throne of God," all else is governed.

If one pictured Kolob as being the center of the galaxy; some huge, mega-massive star around which everything else in the galaxy is revolving, then one gets a picture of the way I view the astronomy as expressed in the Book of Abraham. Whether it is an accurate expression of astrophysics is, to me, irrelevant. It is more an expression of Priesthood hierarchy than anything else.

That's my two cents.

I knew that if I stayed on this board long enough that I would find something we agree upon! I'm not even sure "Priesthood hierarchy" is how I would define it, but I don't think Abraham's "astronomy" that he taught to the Egyptians had as much to do with the physical world as the spiritual world. Ancient people did not differentiate like we do today.

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I knew that if I stayed on this board long enough that I would find something we agree upon! I'm not even sure "Priesthood hierarchy" is how I would define it, but I don't think Abraham's "astronomy" that he taught to the Egyptians had as much to do with the physical world as the spiritual world. Ancient people did not differentiate like we do today.

Metcalfe and Vogel's essay "Joseph Smith's Scriptural Cosmology" in The Word of God makes a pretty good case for the view that BoA astronomy is ordered in the same way as priesthood hierarchy. The fifteen fixed stars, for example, include three governing ones, which would be a first presidency and quorum of the 12.

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Metcalfe and Vogel's essay "Joseph Smith's Scriptural Cosmology" in The Word of God makes a pretty good case for the view that BoA astronomy is ordered in the same way as priesthood hierarchy. The fifteen fixed stars, for example, include three governing ones, which would be a first presidency and quorum of the 12.

Or, the three governing ones represent Mom, Dad and child setting the family as first.

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ktg:

I knew that if I stayed on this board long enough that I would find something we agree upon! I'm not even sure "Priesthood hierarchy" is how I would define it, but I don't think Abraham's "astronomy" that he taught to the Egyptians had as much to do with the physical world as the spiritual world. Ancient people did not differentiate like we do today.

CS:

Metcalfe and Vogel's essay "Joseph Smith's Scriptural Cosmology" in The Word of God makes a pretty good case for the view that BoA astronomy is ordered in the same way as priesthood hierarchy. The fifteen fixed stars, for example, include three governing ones, which would be a first presidency and quorum of the 12.

Iâ??m really starting to feel just a bit concerned about my eternal welfare at this point.

Iâ??m on the same page with Kate, Brent, and Dan? All at the same time?

I think Iâ??ll head to the top of Brian Head peak right now and begin my fasting and praying until I get the spirit back â?¦

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John Pratt's article, Abraham's Three Truths of Astronomy

The planets form a progression of increasing set times, designed to reckon time, beginning with the earth and moon and ending with Kolob.

++++++++++

Third Truth:

The planets form a progression

of increasing set times, designed to

reckon time, beginning with the earth

and moon and ending with Kolob.

+++++++++++++

Thus, it is not just the orbits of the earth and moon which have been precisely designed, but also the periods of reckoning of the other planets in our solar system, and even of a progression of stars, which take us right to Kolob....

One key point from the revelation is that the progression starts from the earth, from which it was clearly designed to be viewed. What use would a great clock in the sky be to man if it had to be viewed from the sun? When the Lord told Abraham to begin at the earth and to count the moon as second in the progression, he was not implying that the earth is fixed nor that is in the center of the universe. He was simply explaining the design of the solar system, namely that there is a progression of planets designed to keep time, as seen from the earth. In that progression of "one planet above another" the moon "standeth above the earth" because it "moveth in order more slow," meaning the earth is first and the moon, in the slot above it, being second in the order of increasing periods. The Lord implied that the sun stands above the moon in this progression because its period (the year) is greater than the moon's (the lunar month).

http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/me...004/truths.html

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ktg:

CS:

Iâ??m really starting to feel just a bit concerned about my eternal welfare at this point.

Iâ??m on the same page with Kate, Brent, and Dan? All at the same time?

I think Iâ??ll head to the top of Brian Head peak right now and begin my fasting and praying until I get the spirit back â?¦

It surprised me too... :P

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It surprised me too... :P

I read the Vogel and Metcalfe essay years and years ago, like maybe 15 or so, therefore don't remember it too well (Somewhere I have that Word of God book). I like the Gee, Petersen, Hamblin essay on geocentricity. I'm not a competetent judge, however. Does anyone think they make a good case? It seemed pretty good to me; obviously it raises some interesting questions about revelation and context.

Anyone know of any other fairly rigorous treatments of this topic?

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I read the Vogel and Metcalfe essay years and years ago, like maybe 15 or so, therefore don't remember it too well (Somewhere I have that Word of God book). I like the Gee, Petersen, Hamblin essay on geocentricity. I'm not a competetent judge, however. Does anyone think they make a good case? It seemed pretty good to me; obviously it raises some interesting questions about revelation and context.

Anyone know of any other fairly rigorous treatments of this topic?

I can appreciate their points, but I take a different view of the "literality" of what was being shown to Abraham. As I expressed above, I don't really think it was meant to convey an understanding of the actual workings of the solar system and/or galaxy. I think it is meant to convey an understanding of the "order" of things in a Priesthood sense. That is, of course, the context in which Abraham has gone to God seeking knowledge.

Abraham 1

2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.

4 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.

I also think that John Pratt makes some very good points. The astronomy of Abraham seems to be relative to his position on the earth. But, as I said above, it also assumes that there is some "center place" (Kolob) from which everything is ultimately governed. Therefore, I still maintain that this astronomical understanding is more accurately termed "Kolob-centric."

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I can appreciate their points, but I take a different view of the "literality" of what was being shown to Abraham. As I expressed above, I don't really think it was meant to convey an understanding of the actual workings of the solar system and/or galaxy. I think it is meant to convey an understanding of the "order" of things in a Priesthood sense. That is, of course, the context in which Abraham has gone to God seeking knowledge.

I also think that John Pratt makes some very good points. The astronomy of Abraham seems to be relative to his position on the earth. But, as I said above, it also assumes that there is some "center place" (Kolob) from which everything is ultimately governed. Therefore, I still maintain that this astronomical understanding is more accurately termed "Kolob-centric."

That seems like an equally plausible position. I'm not sure what I think; I'm also not sure what else to say about it at this point. I think I'll go back and re-read.

Thanks to all who have replied. My own perspective on this has been enlarged.

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