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The Geocentric Model of Abraham 3


consiglieri

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This week we are talking about Abraham 3 in Gospel Doctrine class.

As part of the lesson, I plan on reviewing some of the findings in the paper, "And I Saw the Stars," The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy, by John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson.

The point of using this in class is that Abraham 3:1-11 is confusing to those who have a modern version of space and the heavenly bodies.

I think this was illustrated by the comment my wife made last night when I was discussing the subject with her. She mentioned she didn't get the idea of God sitting upon a throne, as if the throne were "hanging out there somewhere in space."

I explained to her the ancients' view of things as brought forth in the paper; that God's throne was not seen as hanging out there somewhere in space because the ancients did not view the cosmos the same way we do; that they viewed the earth as the center of the cosmos, and that over our head is a hard, crystalline firmament in which the heavenly bodies/lights are imbedded; that in more sophisticated forms of this idea, there were separate firmaments in which different heavenly bodies are imbedded, and that the firmaments move at different speeds, which account for the different motions of the heavenly bodies around the earth.

I mentioned that these "firmaments" are often called "heavens," which is why we find frequent references to "heavens" in the plural; and that these firmaments containing the different heavenly bodies are ordered above the earth in accordance with the speed of the revolution of the heavenly bodies; that they were seen as going from fastest to slowest as one proceeds upward toward God, who is above (or in) the top-most firmament. So God's throne was not seen as "hanging in space," but rather sitting on the hard crystalline firmament, from which vantage point he can look down upon the earth through the intervening heavens, and can also send commands or angels down to the lower heavens and the earth in order to accomplish his will. (And sometimes, God comes down himself through the heavens to visit the earth.)

Regardless of the specific order being used by the system, it is generally agreed that the moon is closest to the earth (and hence moves fastest) and the stars are the furthest from the earth (and hence move the slowest); the other planets and the Sun falling at different locations in between the moon and the stars.

_____

The remarkable thing is that this seems to be precisely what is being described in Abraham chapter 3; an authentic ancient cosmic view of the heavens.

Not only does understanding ancient geocentric astronomy make Abraham 3 comprehensible to modern readers in a way not possible by trying to read it with our modern conceptions about the universe, it also raises the interesting question:

What is the ancient view of the cosmos doing in a writing that came forth in mid-19th century America?

_____

I have a couple of other thoughts on the matter, but want to wait to see what other people might think before proceeding any further. (Mainly because this OP is already too long, and often long OP's don't get much play.)

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Hi, Consig.

Good article. Also pertinent is John Gee's presentation "The Larger Issue" at the Fair conference. He ties this to God telling Abraham to declare these things to the Egyptians (3:15) and then looks at the link between stars and spirits in Egyptian thinking at the time.

Regards

Groovy, baby!

Thanks for the link, my friend. I just printed it off and will review it this evening.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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May I suggest you inspect carefully Facsimile 2 before you go further. It comes from the same Abraham apparently, altho with some changes/interpolations by copyists, as Joseph Smith's comments show. (It certainly was separate from the papyrus that had the text)

Some questions to help you puzzle out this X-centric cosmology: (X representing the unknown quantity to be identified)

1. What's in the center of the diagram? The earth?

2. Where is the earth in this diagram?

3. Where is the Sun?

4. Where is the Moon?

Now, another question about the text of Ab. 3... What here even hints that the earth is the center of anything?

Finally, what is the relationship between Abraham's teachings, modern science, and medieval "science" ?

Wood

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May I suggest you inspect carefully Facsimile 2 before you go further.

* * *

Now, another question about the text of Ab. 3... What here even hints that the earth is the center of anything?

I believe the following two excerpts from the paper address your questions:

The clearest indication of this geocentricity is found in the frequent references to a hierarchy of celestial bodies, each one higher than the preceding and all above the earth. The most explicit statement comes from Abraham 3:17: "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." Likewise, the moon is elsewhere stated to be above the earth: "[The moon] is above or greater that [the earth] upon which thou standest" (Abraham 3:5). Furthermore, we find that "one planet [is] above another" (Abraham 3:9).
God's revelations likewise must descend through the various heavens: the explanation for figure 7 of Facsimile 2 has "God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood." (Facsimile 2, explanation to fig. 7, cf. 3:21). From the perspective of ancient geocentric cosmology, all of this was conceived literally; God is indeed above the earth in or above the highest heaven and needs to physically descend, or send messages, down through the heavens to arrive at the earth.

As to the hypocephalus in Facsimile 2, I am not aware that it purports to be a map of the cosmos.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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This week we are talking about Abraham 3 in Gospel Doctrine class.

As part of the lesson, I plan on reviewing some of the findings in the paper, "And I Saw the Stars," The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy, by John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson.

The point of using this in class is that Abraham 3:1-11 is confusing to those who have a modern version of space and the heavenly bodies.

I think this was illustrated by the comment my wife made last night when I was discussing the subject with her. She mentioned she didn't get the idea of God sitting upon a throne, as if the throne were "hanging out there somewhere in space."

I explained to her the ancients' view of things as brought forth in the paper; that God's throne was not seen as hanging out there somewhere in space because the ancients did not view the cosmos the same way we do; that they viewed the earth as the center of the cosmos, and that over our head is a hard, crystalline firmament in which the heavenly bodies/lights are imbedded; that in more sophisticated forms of this idea, there were separate firmaments in which different heavenly bodies are imbedded, and that the firmaments move at different speeds, which account for the different motions of the heavenly bodies around the earth.

I mentioned that these "firmaments" are often called "heavens," which is why we find frequent references to "heavens" in the plural; and that these firmaments containing the different heavenly bodies are ordered above the earth in accordance with the speed of the revolution of the heavenly bodies; that they were seen as going from fastest to slowest as one proceeds upward toward God, who is above (or in) the top-most firmament. So God's throne was not seen as "hanging in space," but rather sitting on the hard crystalline firmament, from which vantage point he can look down upon the earth through the intervening heavens, and can also send commands or angels down to the lower heavens and the earth in order to accomplish his will. (And sometimes, God comes down himself through the heavens to visit the earth.)

Regardless of the specific order being used by the system, it is generally agreed that the moon is closest to the earth (and hence moves fastest) and the stars are the furthest from the earth (and hence move the slowest); the other planets and the Sun falling at different locations in between the moon and the stars.

_____

The remarkable thing is that this seems to be precisely what is being described in Abraham chapter 3; an authentic ancient cosmic view of the heavens.

Not only does understanding ancient geocentric astronomy make Abraham 3 comprehensible to modern readers in a way not possible by trying to read it with our modern conceptions about the universe, it also raises the interesting question:

What is the ancient view of the cosmos doing in a writing that came forth in mid-19th century America?

_____

I have a couple of other thoughts on the matter, but want to wait to see what other people might think before proceeding any further. (Mainly because this OP is already too long, and often long OP's don't get much play.)

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

See now Consig, I'm with you here. I have no problem with this discussion in a Gospel Doctrine class--surprised? Are you going to discuss Rhodes' paper as well? If I recall correctly, he argues for a heliocentric model in Abraham.

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See now Consig, I'm with you here. I have no problem with this discussion in a Gospel Doctrine class--surprised? Are you going to discuss Rhodes' paper as well? If I recall correctly, he argues for a heliocentric model in Abraham.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, I suppose.

I will read Rhodes paper. I am not certain how he gets heliocentricity out of a chapter that doesn't even mention the sun except to say that Abraham is given to know "the set time thereof" and then add that the name of the sun is "Shinehah."

We will see.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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What in the chapter tho (rather than the paper) hints at geocentricity? What in it is incorrect science?

Here's a picture of a nearby galaxy. Our galaxy looks something like this, according to current thinking in astronomy

http://www.cv.nrao.edu/course/astr534/images/Andromeda.jpg

(Remember that the many individual stars in this photo are not part of it, we are looking out thru our own galaxy full of stars to look at this neighboring galaxy)

The earth is believed to be out on one of the spiral arms, out near the edge of the disk.

Compare this to Fac. 3. The earth is located out away from the center, way out in a little corner.

Wood

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I explained to her the ancients' view of things as brought forth in the paper; that God's throne was not seen as hanging out there somewhere in space because the ancients did not view the cosmos the same way we do; that they viewed the earth as the center of the cosmos, and that over our head is a hard, crystalline firmament in which the heavenly bodies/lights are imbedded; that in more sophisticated forms of this idea, there were separate firmaments in which different heavenly bodies are imbedded, and that the firmaments move at different speeds, which account for the different motions of the heavenly bodies around the earth.

While I'm not all that familiar with ancient Hebrew cosmology, I'm not aware that they in any way viewed the heavens as "crystalline". To my knowledge, the concept of aetheric shells is something popularized by Eudoxus and Aristotle (well after Abraham). The "crystalline" being a descriptor for the concept of the immutable and unchanging heavens. Again, not to my knowledge a Hebrew cosmology idea (or Egyptian).

I mentioned that these "firmaments" are often called "heavens," which is why we find frequent references to "heavens" in the plural; and that these firmaments containing the different heavenly bodies are ordered above the earth in accordance with the speed of the revolution of the heavenly bodies; that they were seen as going from fastest to slowest as one proceeds upward toward God, who is above (or in) the top-most firmament. So God's throne was not seen as "hanging in space," but rather sitting on the hard crystalline firmament, from which vantage point he can look down upon the earth through the intervening heavens, and can also send commands or angels down to the lower heavens and the earth in order to accomplish his will. (And sometimes, God comes down himself through the heavens to visit the earth.)

Again, not too sure about the whole crystalline thing.

The remarkable thing is that this seems to be precisely what is being described in Abraham chapter 3; an authentic ancient cosmic view of the heavens.

Not only does understanding ancient geocentric astronomy make Abraham 3 comprehensible to modern readers in a way not possible by trying to read it with our modern conceptions about the universe, it also raises the interesting question:

I'm not entirely persuaded that Abraham is a good visitation of ancient cosmology. Geocentric, certainly, but that's by no means a bad thing. Most of the pictures I see of those describing a Hebrew cosmology are not geocentric per-se -- not at least in the same post-Plato geocentricism that we think of.

Additionally, Abraham seems to have put out a few interesting ideas.

1. There are lots of stars -- many, many more than we see (Abr 3:14). The naked eye can see some 5,000ish stars over the course of a year. Not quite as the grains of sand. Maybe. /shrug

2. There are lots of planets -- different orders. Anciently planets were just funky stars (they varied their speeds). We had Morning and Evening Mercuries, Morning and Evening Venus (it took them awhile to realize these were the same planets), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The remaining 2 weren't really visible to the naked eye. Given that facismile 2 mentions 15 planets/stars these might be interpreted as saying there are plurality of orders of planets/stars well beyond the known ones.

3. Beings actually resides on a planet. The phrase, "upon which thou standest" seems superfluous if that's the only thing upon which one can stand and reckon time.

These are only a few ideas with little thought into them. Speculative and certainly not the only way to interpret things. But I do not see in Abraham the ancient Greco-Geocentricism. It might be easy to interpret Abraham in that framework but he predates by quite a bit and some clues suggest that the Abrahamic geocentricism goes well beyond it.

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Okay.

I hate to ask this, but what's the Kolob Theorem?

(It sounds like a Star Trek episode.)

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

How could you not have heard of the The Kolob Theorem?

It's a good resource for people that think John Pratt is too conventional.

Abraham was shown the governing stars near to the throne of God, and they were a long way away from the earth. Clearly, Abraham did not think that the earth was the center of the universe, for it was dwarfed by the brilliant stars near to the throne of God. It is Kolob, which is near the center of government and of time-keeping, which is most likely also near the center of the Lord's creations. The prophets have long known that "it is the earth that moveth and not the sun" (Hel. 12:15). The Lord was merely explaining that the Great Timepiece of the solar system was designed to be viewed from the earth.
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While I'm not all that familiar with ancient Hebrew cosmology, I'm not aware that they in any way viewed the heavens as "crystalline". To my knowledge, the concept of aetheric shells is something popularized by Eudoxus and Aristotle (well after Abraham). The "crystalline" being a descriptor for the concept of the immutable and unchanging heavens. Again, not to my knowledge a Hebrew cosmology idea (or Egyptian).

The BoAbraham has a lot in common with the Apocalypse of Abraham, an apparently pseudepigraphal document circulating among early Christians around 100 A.D. In that light, perhaps it ought to be considered genuinely inspired pseudopigripha wherein we can expect influence from the Greeks.

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The BoAbraham has a lot in common with the Apocalypse of Abraham, an apparently pseudepigraphal document circulating among early Christians around 100 A.D. In that light, perhaps it ought to be considered genuinely inspired pseudopigripha wherein we can expect influence from the Greeks.

Or, perhaps the Apocalypse of Abraham has a lot in common with the Book of Abraham. Personally I am of the unverifiable opinion that the Book of Abraham is indeed an accurate accounting of writings that Abraham personally authored.

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This is why I post the text of chapters... the discussion would be so much better if people have read it very recently, very closely

Abraham 3

1 And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;

2 And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

It looks to me like Abraham is seeing a view as if flying around, either among these great stars or looking into the region where they are. How could this be regarded as a geocentric view? The earth is way back there, a little provincial speck of crud. Here, here is the center of all things, and Kolob is right near that. The biggest, greatest stars - this, kids, is the Big City. Gaze and be astonished, what you thought was big stuff back in Hicksville was just a little backward planet out on the frontier, still in its mortal throes.

Wood

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This is why I post the text of chapters... the discussion would be so much better if people have read it very recently, very closely

Abraham 3

1 And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;

2 And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

It looks to me like Abraham is seeing a view as if flying around, either among these great stars or looking into the region where they are. How could this be regarded as a geocentric view? The earth is way back there, a little provincial speck of crud. Here, here is the center of all things, and Kolob is right near that. The biggest, greatest stars - this, kids, is the Big City. Gaze and be astonished, what you thought was big stuff back in Hicksville was just a little backward planet out on the frontier, still in its mortal throes.

Wood

I suppose the theory would be that even with knowledge of the size and scale of the stars, Abraham may still have assumed they were orbiting the Earth? After all, it's all relative in the end.

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