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A Striking Passage in the Book of Abraham


consiglieri

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I was off-manual yesterday teaching my class about the Book of Abraham, and went into some detail regarding a beautifully constructed passage that occurs in the first chapter.

The entire theme of this first chapter is that of dueling priesthoods, and whether the Pharoah (represented by his priest in the story) or Abraham has the true patriarchal priesthood.

Of course, Abraham is spared at the last moment, but a substitionary sacrifice is found in Pharoah's priest himself, who is slain instead.

Making the dichotomy of the story more emphatic is the use of three words/phrases at the crisis of the story when Abraham is going under the knife.

These three words/phrases are: (1) Lifted up; (2) Hand; and, (3) Take away.

The priest is described as "lifting up" his "hand" to "take away" Abraham's life.

In a reversal of fortune commensurate with the priest dying in Abraham's stead, the three words/phrases are then used to show how God is interceding in Abraham's life; Abraham "lifts up" his voice to God for deliverance; God saves him and promises to "take him away" to a strange land, which he will inherit, further stating that God will lead Abraham by "the hand" and "take him" and put upon him his name, even the Priesthood.

I thought the word usage here striking and wanted to share it with the board for any comments you may have.

Below is the passage with the relevant words/phrases bolded:

Abraham 1:15 And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands;

16 And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father

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That is really fascinating. "Lifting up" one's voice is an idiomatic phrase. Considering the original language almost certainly doesn't have the same idiomatic phrase, it's quite impressive that such wordplay can be found in the English translation.

It's something like this:

Yea, and it came to pass that we did fill an exceedingly large number of buckets with dirt. And verily, so many buckets did we fill with dirt that Shlomo did himself kick the bucket.

Wordplay in English. Gibberish in any other language.

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That is really fascinating. "Lifting up" one's voice is an idiomatic phrase. Considering the original language almost certainly doesn't have the same idiomatic phrase, it's quite impressive that such wordplay can be found in the English translation.

It's something like this:

Yea, and it came to pass that we did fill an exceedingly large number of buckets with dirt. And verily, so many buckets did we fill with dirt that Shlomo did himself kick the bucket.

Wordplay in English. Gibberish in any other language.

Wordplay often can survive English translation, just not always.

And, you are full of it when you claim that such an idiom as "lifting up the hand" is not Egyptian. Consider the following translation of an Egyptian formulary given by the dead on approach to Amenta:

I lift up the hand of the man who is inactive. I have come from the city of Unnu. I am the divine Soul which liveth, and I lead with me the hearts of the apes...
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I was off-manual yesterday teaching my class about the Book of Abraham,

Holy Hathor consig! You've got guts!

Did you cover the facsimiles?

Papyri?

KEP?

Chaldeans?

Even if you didn't mention any of these, you still get an A+ in my book for your radical detour.

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And, you are full of it when you claim that such an idiom as "lifting up the hand" is not Egyptian. Consider the following translation of an Egyptian formulary given by the dead on approach to Amenta:

If you read the comment you quoted, the statement was specifically aimed at lifting up a voice, not a hand. Obviously a hand would be lifted up in any language.

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Holy Hathor consig! You've got guts!

Did you cover the facsimiles?

Papyri?

KEP?

Chaldeans?

Even if you didn't mention any of these, you still get an A+ in my book for your radical detour.

You get the solid gold no-prize for honing in like a laser beam on that controversial aspect of the post.

I introduced the class by saying that "somehow" we had managed to skip one of the most important aspects of Church History; an aspect of Church History that actually ended giving us a book of scripture. (I made it sound like it was my fault--I didn't say that in a four-year curriculum devoted to studying the standard works, the Correlation Committe somehow managed to overlook saying anything about the Book of Abraham; although I did mention that pretty much all we use the Book of Abraham for is to trot out 3:23-25 when we talk about the premortal existence.)

I did not cover the facsimiles in any detail, though I did mention that the Book of Abraham is my favorite book of scripture because it is the only one that comes with pictures. I also said that we have every reason to believe we do not have the full text of the Book of Abraham because, whereas facsimiles one and two appear to be referenced to some degree in the text, there is no mention of facsimile three in the text; and in fact, the book ends before Abraham even makes it to Egypt. (Also mentioned the missing Book of Joseph.)

I also mentioned facsimile one in a little detail, explaining how the figure representing Abraham is actually in the Egyptian heiroglyphic pose of prayer or petitioning, and that this facsimile seems to be a snapshot of Abraham 1:15 when the priest is lifting up his knife and Abraham is lifting up his voice to God, and the Lord sends the angel of his presence to deliver Abraham. (I had everybody open to the facsimile, and then turn it sideways so they could see what the actual heiroglyph looked like right-side up; I may have embellished a wee bit when I said that when we look at this, it just looks odd, but any Egyptian looking at it would see right away that the figure on the altar is praying.)

No time for KEP or Chaldeans, I am afraid. I almost gave myself a hernia carrying a bunch of big books to class which I never used, such as The Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt, the FARMS collection of extra-biblical Abrahamic literature, and the third volume in their Abraham series with a collection of essays about Abraham; heck, I even took my Old Testament Pseudepigrapha so I could have the Apocalypse of Abraham ready to go, but didn't have time for any of it. The best I could do is say at the outset that we could devote an entire year's worth of Sunday school to the Book of Abraham alone. (There I think I was not embellishing!)

Thanks for the A+, though. The Sunday school president has gently prodded me that we need to move on with Church history so we can cover the manual by the end of the year. I told him I would double up on lessons, and would make it up to President Monson by the end of December. He laughed and said he wants me to get to one prophet after President Monson.

He's a pretty cool guy.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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You get the solid gold no-prize for honing in like a laser beam on that controversial aspect of the post.

I introduced the class by saying that "somehow" we had managed to skip one of the most important aspects of Church History; an aspect of Church History that actually ended giving us a book of scripture. (I made it sound like it was my fault--I didn't say that in a four-year curriculum devoted to studying the standard works, the Correlation Committe somehow managed to overlook saying anything about the Book of Abraham; although I did mention that pretty much all we use the Book of Abraham for is to trot out 3:23-25 when we talk about the premortal existence.)

I did not cover the facsimiles in any detail, though I did mention that the Book of Abraham is my favorite book of scripture because it is the only one that comes with pictures. I also said that we have every reason to believe we do not have the full text of the Book of Abraham because, whereas facsimiles one and two appear to be referenced to some degree in the text, there is no mention of facsimile three in the text; and in fact, the book ends before Abraham even makes it to Egypt. (Also mentioned the missing Book of Joseph.)

I also mentioned facsimile one in a little detail, explaining how the figure representing Abraham is actually in the Egyptian heiroglyphic pose of prayer or petitioning, and that this facsimile seems to be a snapshot of Abraham 1:15 when the priest is lifting up his knife and Abraham is lifting up his voice to God, and the Lord sends the angel of his presence to deliver Abraham. (I had everybody open to the facsimile, and then turn it sideways so they could see what the actual heiroglyph looked like right-side up; I may have embellished a wee bit when I said that when we look at this, it just looks odd, but any Egyptian looking at it would see right away that the figure on the altar is praying.)

No time for KEP or Chaldeans, I am afraid. I almost gave myself a hernia carrying a bunch of big books to class which I never used, such as The Joseph Smith Papyri, Abraham in Egypt, the FARMS collection of extra-biblical Abrahamic literature, and the third volume in their Abraham series with a collection of essays about Abraham; heck, I even took my Old Testament Pseudepigrapha so I could have the Apocalypse of Abraham ready to go, but didn't have time for any of it. The best I could do is say at the outset that we could devote an entire year's worth of Sunday school to the Book of Abraham alone. (There I think I was not embellishing!)

Thanks for the A+, though. The Sunday school president has gently prodded me that we need to move on with Church history so we can cover the manual by the end of the year. I told him I would double up on lessons, and would make it up to President Monson by the end of December. He laughed and said he wants me to get to one prophet after President Monson.

He's a pretty cool guy.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

Awesome Consig! I give you full credit for meeting my challenge. I didn't think anyone ever would. You may be the only Gospel Doctrine teacher in the last 40 years to say anything substantitive about the facsimiles.

As for your SS president, I can tell that you're not afraid of him. We all know that the SS prez has the cushiest calling in the church (except his counselors, of course). That's why I've been lobbying for it during these past several months.

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As for your SS president, I can tell that you're not afraid of him. We all know that the SS prez has the cushiest calling in the church (except his counselors, of course). That's why I've been lobbying for it during these past several months.

Do you think your gaffe in the PEC meeting will count against your chances?

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What do you think it all means? You've made a very interesting observation. Why do you think the same words were used do describe the "action" that took place and the subsequent "reaction" on Jehovah's part?

An excellent question!

I'll tell you what I told my class by way of introducing the text.

The first chapter of Abraham is structured as a direct competition between the agent of Pharoah (the priest) and the agent of God (Abraham). When we recognize that Pharoah was viewed as divine, the contrast comes into sharper focus.

It is a competition reminiscent of Moses and Pharoah's magicians, or Elijah and the priests of Baal.

It is a story of duel and duality.

The priest of Pharoah has all the cards; Abraham is bound and ready to be sacrificed on the altar; but at the critical moment, God intercedes on behalf of Abraham and instead of Abraham being sacrificed, it is the priest who gets the honors.

As in the story of Isaac, a ram in the thicket was caught and a substitute for the intended victim was found.

It is in this context that the three words become significant, because the same three words that are used to describe the priest on the point of sacrificing Abraham are then taken and used by God on behalf of Abraham to bless him; which emphasizes the complete reversal of fortunes depicted in the story.

What the priest of Pharoah was going to do to Abraham, God now does for Abraham.

This is why I find the passage so striking and, yes, beautiful.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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If you read the comment you quoted, the statement was specifically aimed at lifting up a voice, not a hand. Obviously a hand would be lifted up in any language.

In Egyptian there are several phrases and words that carry the meaning of "to lift up" some of which have the "lifting up of the voice" inherent in the meaning of the word itself. Depending upon context such a word either could mean "singing praises" or "lifting up the voice". There is also a phrase that means literally "raising up the voice."

So, MC still is full of it. :P

Be careful of the old dictionaries like Budge. He often translates "voice" as "sound." While there is some degree of crossover of thought here, context governs. Don't expect that because someone cannot find something in the Book of Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead) it did not exist. There are many genres of texts amongst what have been preserved, not just funerary texts.

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