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Smith 2007 draft first draft July 1971 third draft July 1976 Julius Wellhausen, the father of documentary analysis, was born in 1844 – the year of Joseph Smith’s assassination. If he knew anything at all about Mormons, it would undoubtedly have been through the lectures and writings of his contemporary, Eduard Meyer. He might have agreed with Meyer’s assessment of the Mormon phenomenon, i.e., that, while Mormonism represented a very interesting, even authentically biblical character, the Old Testament heroes themselves were really the stuff of myth, fairy tale, and legend.1 It is intriguing to imagine the reaction of Wellhausen to the Mormon Canon of Scripture and to the possible application of his methods of source analysis thereto. Latter-day Saints have generally shied from such analysis (notably at BYU early in the 20th century), though, squarely facing the problem, B. H. Roberts expressed unmitigated confidence in the strength and resilience of his Church’s Scripture.2 And, more recently, John L. Sorenson showed that application of the Documentary Hypothesis to the Book of Mormon can be very productive and coherent.3 Indeed, documentary analysis is regularly applied by scholars to the widest possible range of literature. Take, for example, “the longest and greatest literary composition written in cuneiform Akkadian,” the Gilgamesh Epic, which, as Stephanie Dalley tells us, provides the unique opportunity . . . for tracing earlier, independent folk-tales which were combined in the creation of the whole work, and we can see how the whole work in written form never became fossilized, but was constantly altered through contact with a continuing oral narrative tradition.
Meyer, Ursprung und Geschichte der Mormonen (M. Niemeyer, 1912), reviewed by H. Nibley, The World and the Prophets (Deseret, 1962), 18-22 = The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, III (FARMS/ Deseret Book, 1987), 21-25. Roberts insisted that the Book of Mormon “submit to every analysis and examination,” e.g., specifically to archaeological and historical tests, as well as to the higher and lower criticism – comments made in the Logan Tabernacle, April 2, 1911, as reported by F. E. Barker in Improvement Era, 14 (June 1911); and Roberts, “Higher Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” Imp. Era, 14 (July 1911), 781. Sorenson, “Brass Plates and Biblical Scholarship,” Dialogue, 10/4 (Autumn 1977), 31-39 = Nephite Culture and Society: Collected Papers (SLC: New Sage Books, 1997), 25-39.
In addition, “each period and area had its own version of the story, . . .”4 Following a short review of the legacy of Wellhausen & Co., I briefly examine herein the current theories surrounding formation and transmission of pentateuchal tradition – oral as well as written – particularly the Primeval History and Patriarchal Narrative sections of Genesis dealing with Abraham. The composite nature of the LDS Book of Abraham itself is then laid out and possible modes of transmission for it suggested in light of Frank Moore Cross’ more recent exposition of the New Documentary Hypothesis. Finally, the Yahwist (J) and Priestly (P) character of the Book of Abraham is detailed in both analytic and synthetic approaches. A technical excursus on the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri is attached at the close. Graf-Wellhausen Despite the brilliant and intuitive studies by J. Astruc, H. Hupfeld, and others,5 when Wellhausen came on the scene, documentary analysis was yet in its infancy. Wellhausen possessed a fine analytical mind, a knowledge of biblical Hebrew (as well as of Arabic language and history), an acceptance of K. H. Graf’s late dating for Leviticus and Deuteronomy,6 and a firm belief in Hegelian historical evolution (dialectic) and apriorism.7 During the last quarter of the 19th century, Wellhausen demonstrated, in a most rigorous and convincing manner, the apparent soundness of what has come to be known as the “GrafWellhausen” source theory for the Pentateuch – though the method has been extended to the
Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, 39, where Dalley mistakenly assumes that “a master version with variants” can be reconstructed and edited for ancient Hebrew and Classical texts. If anything, the Mormon Canon demonstrates the impossibility of such a task, i.e., “to produce one coherent edition.” As Ephraim Speiser said of Genesis 1, “it can be established that (1) the material was imported for the most part, and (2) that the ultimate source of the borrowings and adaptations can be traced to a single land,” i.e., Mesopotamia (Speiser, Genesis, LIV). See the summary by R. de Vaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, trans. D. McHugh (N.Y., 1971), 31-48 – reprinted from VTS, I (1953), 182-198.
Graf, Die geschichtlichen Bücher des alten Testaments (Leipzig, 1866).
His Hegelianism he inherited from Vatke; Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, trans. Menzies & Black (Edinburgh, 1885/N.Y., 1957), 245, and passim. Marx followed the same currents in Hegel and achieved a similar distortion of history. As pointed out to me by Louis Midgley over 40 years ago, Hegel’s dialectical process or doctrine of progress was well refuted in 1834 by Joseph Smith Jr. – B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Deseret, 1960), II:5-15; cf. W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968), 1 (n. 3), 265; F. M. Cross, Jr., Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Harvard, 1973), vi, 3, 82-83; Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition (Harper & Row, 1976), chapter 6; despite the exuberance expressed in Dialogue, IX/1 (Spring 1974), 34-41, the canons of Brodie’s “New Mormon History” are basically Hegelian and a priori.
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY remainder of the Old Testament. The theory, actually the result of the work of a host of early scholars, generally held that the Pentateuch represented a post-Exilic redaction or edition of several separate and distinct literary works (documents), the origins of which were then considered to be as follows: 1. The J document, characterized by certain unique aspects of style and vocabulary – including the preeminence of the name “Jehovah” (Yahweh) – composed ca. 850 B.C.; 2. The E document, characterized by very different but equally unique aspects as well as by the name “Elohim,” composed ca. 750 B.C., and combined with J by an editor ca. 650 B.C.; 3. The D document, or Deuteronomic Code, originating ca. 621 B.C. (presumably at the behest of King Josiah), and added to JE ca. 550 B.C.; 4. Finally, the P, or Priestly Code (ca. 500-450 B.C.) was added ca. 400 B.C., when the final unvocalized (unpointed) redaction was made (R).8 This theory, while not unopposed, was soon backed by a strong consensus, although numerous scholars practically made a mockery of it through an endless series of ever more minute divisions of the basic documents (as was to be done to Isaiah). These intemperacies, as well as the late dating systems, may now be disregarded. For, with the belated popularity of Gunkel, the advent of form-criticism,9 and the discovery and translation of textual matter antedating the Israelite period, it became clear that the late dating, for all but D, could only be anachronistic – particularly for the patriarchal narratives.10 The evidence has also led to the conclusion that history is “oscillatory” and “unpredictable” rather than linear and progressive.11 Successive redactions (editions and revisions) of biblical material have left relatively untouched vast sections of archaic narrative, law, and poetry. An extended discussion would be required
R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (Harper & Row, 1948), 139-140; the Tiberian or Massoretic vowel pointing system dates from the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. H. Gunkel, The Legends of Genesis: Biblical Saga and History, trans. W. H. Carruth, and Foreword by W. F. Albright (N.Y., 1964); from the 2nd German edition (Göttingen, 1901). J. Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed. (Phila.: Westminster, 1972), 69-70; Wellhausen’s subjective, Hegelian conclusions are now rejected by responsible scholars; particularly absurd was his assumption that the Psalms were completely post-Exilic; today we know that the poetic sections are among the most archaic in the Bible, as in any literature (Albright, YGC, 1-4); the texts from Ugarit and Ebla not only reinforce the early dating, but raise their horizon considerably. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1969), 406, n. 48, citing Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 107-108,204, n. 37; cf. K. Kenyon, Archaeology of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. (1970), 52; C. P. Delougaz, “Concluding Remarks,” in Delougaz, Hill, and Lloyd, Private Houses and Graves in the Diyala Region, OIP 88 (Univ. of Chicago, 1967), 275; A. A. Barb, “Mystery, Myth, and Magic,” in J. R. Harris, ed., The Legacy of Egypt, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1971), 159; E. Fisher in Judaism, 22 (Winter 1973), 21-22; R. A. Nisbet, Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development (Oxford, 1969); see also n. 5, above.
11 10 9
here to cover the problem in detail.12 Suffice to point out that the basic Documentary Hypothesis is yet operational as a starting point in any serious biblical analysis. Hence, it is necessary to survey the LDS Book of Abraham by the “objective” criteria of Graf-Wellhausen, as subsequently modified by the scholars who have successfully employed such criteria. Tradition Most biblical scholars recognize that a great deal of ancient literature was handed down orally and that, where written tradition existed, it did not replace, but acted as a control on oral tradition.13 There has been disagreement as to the relative import of each mode of transmission and on the lengths of time involved.14 However, an impressive list of scholars support a very long oral transmission period for the Genesis sagas or “patriarchal narratives” (originating ca. 2400-1500 B.C.): Noth, Speiser,15 Bright,16 Freedman, Nyberg, Birkeland, Engnell, Gunkel,17 and Albright,18 among others. Speiser referred to this “traditional” oral corpus as T, the “common base” postulated by Noth as G (Grundlage), from which the later written versions were quite faithfully culled.19 But how may T, J, E, D, and P relate to the Book of Abraham? Or to each other? The traditional narrative portions of the Pentateuch framed or redacted by the hand of P are certainly as old as those in J,20 and both should probably be seen as older epic traditions
See the excellent summary by C. R. North, “Pentateuchal Criticism,” in H. H. Rowley, ed., The Old Testament in Modern Study (Oxford, 1951), 48-83; but cf. C. H. Gordon, “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit,” Christianity Today, 4 (1959), 131-134.
J. Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed., 71, citing Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity,
R. Harrison, IOT, 65-69,163. E. A. Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible 1 (Doubleday, 1964), XXXVIII. Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed., 71-75.
Harrison, IOT, 36,66-69,163, citing G. E. Wright, ed., Bible and the Ancient Near East (N.Y., 1961), 204.
Albright, YGC, 79-85.
Speiser, Genesis, XXXVIII-XL, XLV; despite divergence in the order of events and details of parallel accounts (recensions), Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 72. H. F. Hahn, The Old Testament in Modern Research, 2nd ed. (Fortress, 1966), 30, citing Sellin and Welch; G. von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, rev. ed., trans. J. Marks (Phila.: Westminster, 1973), 25; from 9th German ed. (1972).
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
assuming normative form – apparent in our written tradition (ca. 10th century B.C.) – during the periods of Moses and the Judges.21 It is with the rise of the Israelite monarchy that a professional scribal class comes to the fore and that a true historiography appears in the Bible. Prior to that time the forms of transmission employed, though foreign to modern history-writing, were the most appropriate and dependable under the then prevailing circumstances.22 All of this is well in line with what the Tradition-historical (Traditiongeschichtliche) school has been urging for over a generation. Thus, when R. Pfeiffer sees P as written composition and J as oral tradition,23 he may be correct, but when he insists that J’s story of Abraham in Egypt is mere “invention,”24 and when he refers to Genesis 2:4b-25 as composed from two S documents (“South” or “Seir”),25 it is interesting, though hypercritical and unjustified. In some cases, we may have to drop standard documentary distinctions, i.e., when some pentateuchal sections are divided by most critics, yet seem to be poetic units, Pfeiffer suggests that they might be older than the basic documents.26 The “Priestly” character of Genesis 1 has even been called into serious question,27 though there is a suggestion that parts of it are far more ancient than commonly supposed.28 As Cross sees it, “P was directly dependent on Epic tradition,”29 and “there can be little doubt that the Priestly editor
Cross, CMHE, ix, 167, 293-295, 301, 306, 324; Speiser, Genesis, XXXVII-XXXVIII.
Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 71; A. S. Yahuda, The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian, I (Oxford, 1933), 48-49, agreed in substance on the basis of the pentateuchal nonspecificity in Pharaonic name use; during and after the Solomonic period, however, both Egyptian and biblical literature specify the Pharaoh by name. R. Pfeiffer, IOT, 203; cf. R. E. Bee, VT, 23:266, 270-271; Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, series A, 134:611-622; 135:406-421.
Pfeiffer, IOT, 171. Pfeiffer, IOT, 159-160.
Pfeiffer, IOT, 273, observing that, when Gen 27:27-29 (Isaac’s blessing of Jacob) is divided by most critics, yet seems to be a poetic unit, it may simply be older than either J or E. L. R. Fisher, “An Ugaritic Ritual and Genesis I, 1-5,” Ugaritica, VI (Paris, 1969), 203-205, hinting that Genesis 1 may originally have been of a liturgical or cultic Gattung; cf. S. E. Loewenstamm, “The Seven Day-Unit in Ugaritic Epic Literature,” IEJ, 15 (1965), 121ff.; Gordon, UT, §17.6, p. 294; G. M. Landes in H. D. Bream, et al., eds., A Light unto My Path (1974), 289 n. 30. L. R. Fisher, “Creation at Ugarit and in the Old Testament,” VT, 15 (1965); A. R. Millard, “A New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story,” Tyndale Bulletin, 18 (1967), 3-18; C. F. Whitley, “The Pattern of Creation in Genesis, Chap. 1,” JNES, 17 (1958), 32-40; cf. R. E. Simoons-Vermeer, “The Mesopotamian Floodstories: A Comparison and Interpretation,” Numen, 21 (April 1974), 17-34.
29 28 27
Cross, CMHE, 295.
drew on poetic sources in composing Genesis 1,” i.e., catachetical (iterative) poetry.30 It is quite likely, therefore, that we are dealing in Genesis 1 with ancient liturgy on a par with the AssyroBabylonian Epic of Creation, commonly called Enûma eliš – which was the centerpiece of the springtime New Year Festival in Babylon31 – which has systematic parallels with Genesis 1.32 Poetry is more easily memorized than prose, and memorization is inseparable from oral tradition. A major concern for us, then, must be for identifying the cast and character of the original sagas, and for assessing relative value or efficacy toward memorization. Everyone admits that poetry is better than prose for oral transmission accuracy, i.e., poetry in the broad sense.33 Some see the original as metrical,34 while C. Pfeiffer said that “Semites did not consider rhyme or meter essential to poetic expression. Instead they used the phenomenon of parallelism.”35 This emphasis on parallelism is true of most of ancient Near Eastern literature, and it is certainly true of the Book of Abraham with its chiastic, direct parallel, refrain, and keyword structure. Indeed, M. Dahood saw parallelism as an argument in favor of unity of authorship.36 In the biblical version of the Abraham story, moreover, the important chiastic reference points of the LDS Book of Abraham are all but absent. The biblical version is also much shorter (in direct textual correlation), which is just what one usually expects from a later edition – or later stage in the oral transmission.37 Furthermore, as pointed out by George
Cross, CMHE, 167 (n. 87), 301 (n. 32), citing John Kselman, “The Poetic Background of Certain Priestly Traditions,” doctoral dissertation (Harvard, 1971).
S. Dalley, Myths of Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, 231-232.
Speiser, Genesis, LIV, not only is there “a demonstrable relationship with abundant cuneiform sources,” but there is “a far-reaching correspondence in detail with the Babylonian account of Creation as presented in Enûma eliš” (cf. his comments on pp. 8-13, citing esp. A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis).
Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 71.
Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 73, n. 13; R. C. Culley, “Metrical Analysis of Classical Hebrew Poetry,” in J. Wevers and D. Redford, eds., Essays on the Ancient Semitic World (Univ. of Toronto, 1970), 12-28; results are not yet conclusive. C. F. Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible (Baker, 1962), 64; cf. Albright, YGC, 31; M. A. Murray, Egyptian Religious Poetry (London, 1949), 50; M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I (U. C. Press, 1973), 11-12. M. Dahood, Psalms, III, Anchor Bible 17A (Doubleday, 1970), 276,336; cf. R. E. Brown, Gospel According to John, 2 vols., Anchor Bible 29A (Doubleday, 1970), II:725. The tendency was to lose material – P. W. Skehan, “The Scrolls and the Old Testament Text,” in D. N. Freedman and J. C. Greenfield, eds., New Directions in Biblical Archaeology (Doubleday, 1969), 92-93, though he also cites “expansionist” exceptions which prove the rule; W. J. Adams makes the same point in J. A. Tvedtnes’ “Internal Evidences for an Abrahamic Oral Tradition,” Book of
37 36 35
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY Reynolds in 1879, the dischronologized and disjointed structure of the Book of Abraham is also an argument in favor of its authenticity.38 Composition
Thus, the original story, as conceived by Abraham himself, may have been composed in Egyptian in verse form “to be sung or to be chanted to the accompaniment of musical instruments,” and with an already familiar melody in mind39 – although its possible connection with the text of Papyrus Joseph Smith XI, i (post-600 B.C.), makes it possible that we are dealing with a late (sectarian) redaction of Abraham’s story. There should be nothing surprising or upsetting in this. Nor does it invalidate the superscription to the book. After all, the Bible and the Book of Mormon have long been taken to be the work of later editors or tradents, and to be faithful representations of the intentions of supposed original composers or groups. As James R. Clark has pointed out, there was a good deal of talk during the last century about the actual transmission of, and additions to the Abrahamic papyri by Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and others.40 Abraham himself used the records of predecessors and contemporaries (Abraham 1:12, 14, 28, 31).41 Excerpts from such separate records may be discerned and described as follows: I. II. III. IV. Abraham 1:21-27 Abraham Facsimiles 1 & 3 Abraham Facsimile 2 Abraham 3 - 5
I. Abraham 1:21-27 treats of the matriarchal origin and genealogy of the first dynastic house of a united Egypt – the blessings and curses borne by that house. The matriarch herself, Egyptus (or Zeptah in some MSS), not only bears in her name the correct association and pedigree among the gods and partriarchs of the ancient world as daughter(-in-law) of Noah-Ptah, . . but also fits the nd remarkably similar 2 century B.C. story of the Babylonian or Jewish sibyl named Sambçthç
Abraham Symposium, April 3, 1970 (Salt Lake LDS Institute of Religion, 1971), 45-46, citing JCS, 5 (1951), 1-17, on the condensed Akkadian version of the Sumerian “Descent of Inanna.” Reynolds, The Book of Abraham (Deseret, 1879), 48-49; cf. W. J. Martin, “‘Dischronologized’ Narrative in the Old Testament,” VTS, 17 (1969), 179-186, with examples from the Bible, Sinuhe, Thutmosis III (Gebel Barkal), Annals of Sennacherib, etc.; cf. also J. C. Exum, ZAW, 85 (1973), 57. Albright, “Impact of Archeology in Biblical Research,” in Freedman & Greenfield, eds., New Directions of Biblical Archeology, 12; see also A. Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel (London, 1969), 160, on the singing of poetry in the preliterate stage, citing R. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, 272.
40 39 38
Clark, The Story of the Pearl of Great Price (Bookcraft, 1955), 111, 113-114, 137-138, 165. Clark, Story of the Pearl of Great Price, 114, 235-236.
(Sambathis, Sabbe), a daughter-in-law of Noah, who travels to Egypt after the great Deluge.42 This fits very well both the apocalyptic nature of the Book of Abraham (the sibyl is a prophetess), as well as Marvin Pope’s and William F. Albright’s identification of this basic complex of mother-goddesses with the conflate Atargatis-Cybele (sister-wife of Attis-Adonis-Apollo).43 These verses are inserted into the midst of a first chapter which appears to be a composition by Abraham himself, separate from the remainder of the book and not attested biblically. Chapter two is likewise separate in nature, though attested biblically in large part. II. Facsimiles 1 & 3 – Described at Abraham 1:12,14, the vignette originally employed by Abraham as Facsimile 1 was probably hieroglyphic in nature, though it need not have been the much later Papyrus Joseph Smith I (part of the same papyrus on which Facsimile 3 appeared), a copy of which is used in the current Book of Abraham.44 Moreover, it need not have been an Egyptian vignette. Note, for example, that a putative Aramaic (Chaldean) term is used to describe it, and that
Sibyline Oracles, III:809,823-827 (R. H. Charles, Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, II:392-393; J. H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, I:380), from the oldest and most certainly Jewish section of OrSib (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 14:1490); Alexander Polyhistor of the 1st century B.C., quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, IX, 17, 30-34, 39; cf. Pausanias, Graec., X, 12, 9; Pseudo-Justin Martyr, Cohortatio ad Graecos, 37:3, 7; Aelian, Varia Hist., XII, 35; Pliny, Historia Naturalis, VII, 37; Plutarch, De Pyth Or., VII; Epiphanius, Adv. Haer., 26 §8; discussed in H. C. Youtie, “Sambathis,” Harvard Theological Review, 37 (1944), 213-217; see also V. Tcherikover, et al., Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, III:47-52; W. Bousset, ZNW, 3 (1902), 23-49; C. C. Torrey, The Apocryphal Literature (London/Hamden, Conn., 1945/1963), 109; nonbiblical stories about Abraham, also remarkably parallel to the LDS Book of Abraham, are found in literature from this same period (esp. from Egypt) – see below. Albright, YGC, 128-135; J. Kaster, Wings of the Falcon, 66,69, n. 6; M. H. Pope in J. A. Sanders, ed., Essays in Honor of Nelson Glueck: Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday, 1970), 178-196; matriarchy is discussed below, and the genealogical data is too extensive for this paper. Papyrus Joseph Smith I is the beginning and illustration to the Snsn-text in P. JS X and XI (and fragments in IV), and concludes with the unrecovered illustration known as Facsimile 3 – the latter being paralleled in the Book of the Dead 125 vignette of P. JS III; this is made clear by K. Baer in Dialogue, III/3 (Aut 1968), 111-128; cf. Nibley in Ensign, 6 (Mar 1976), 34-36; whether the Book of Abraham was encoded in P. JS XI, i, as a cue-word list for example, is yet an open question – B. Urrutia, Dialogue, IV/2 (Summer 1971), 130-134; R. Crapo and J. A. Tvedtnes, SEHA Newsletter, 109 (Oct 25, 1968), 1-6; 114 (June 2, 1969), 6-13.
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY Menant has shown that on certain early Babylonian cylinders we find a representation of human sacrifice. The victim, however, is a man who is always about to be struck by the sacrificing priest in the presence of a god.45 We also know that Egyptian settlers and garrisons abroad built sanctuaries there to their own gods, but towards the native gods they behaved as they so often did in Egypt towards the god or goddess of another town: they simply considered them as different names and forms of their own Egyptian deities.46 Finally, when H. O. Thompson finds “Egyptians worshiping a Sumerian god in Canaan,”47 or when the palace of Cyrus sports a winged figure dressed as an Elamite wearing an Egyptian crown,48 it seems reasonable to suggest later, syncretic versions of vignettes contemporary with Abraham. III. Facsimile 2. Like the other two facsimiles, the hypocephalus is borrowed from Egyptian documents and used as an independent theological adjunct and illustration to the Book of Abraham.49 It deals with the cosmogony of Abraham 3 - 5, and specifically points to the “first
A. H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., Hibbert Lectures, 1887 (Williams & Norgate, 1893), 78-79, n. 4, citing Menant, Catalogue de la collection de Clerq, I:18,112ff; plate xix, no. 181, for cylinder seal; Sayce, The “Higher Criticism” and the Verdict of the Monuments, 4th ed.(London: SPCK/ N.Y.: E. & J. B. Young, 1894), 185 n. 1, for the quote; cf. W. J. Adams, BYU Studies, IX:473-480; A. Ben-Tor, Cylinder Seals of Third Millennium Palestine (Scholars Press, 1978), giving the context of glyptic art in the ancient Near East; H. Frankfort, Cylinder Seals (London: Macmillan, 1949); A. Green,
J. Èerný, Ancient Egyptian Religion (London, 1952), 41; see also p. 128.
Biblical Archaeologist, 30 (Dec 1967), 122 – the god is identical with Abraham’s Mahmackrah and/or Shagreel; see also Thompson, Mekal: God of Beth-Shan (Leiden: Brill, 1970). J. M. Myers, I & II Esdras, Anchor Bible 42 (Doubleday, 1974), facing page 168 (figure 174 in R. Girshman, Persia: From the Origins to Alexander the Great), bas relief of winged spirit. See M. Rhodes’ analysis of the hypocephalus written for the 1975 Nibley Festschrift (= “A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus,” BYU Studies, 17 [Spring 1977], 259274), and my own 1975 “Joseph’s Explanations: Facsimile Two of the LDS Book of Abraham” (part of my larger Commentary on the Book of Abraham, forthcoming); cf. Edith Varga, Acta Orientalia, 12:1-3 (1961), cited by C. Veteto, SEHA Newsletter, 101:32 (May 1, 1967), 5-7.
creation” (Facsimile 2:1,10-11, Egyptian sp tpy).50 However, the Hypocephaus of Sheshaq (the original so far unrecovered) need not be the original document employed by Abraham here. IV. Abraham 3 - 5. Though couched in terms of a vision, most of these three chapters can be closely paralleled in ancient Near Eastern creation texts contemporary with and more ancient than the Abrahamic period: Cuneiform51 and Egyptian52 documents have already been compared within biblical archaeology, and the LDS version is generally more coherent and provides greater continuity with the ancient documents than does the biblical version.53 That Abraham used “Urim and Thummim” in producing this section does not explain its relationship to similar documents certainly unknown to Joseph Smith Jr, though our sibyl was known to make use of a kind of “seer stone” (Greek pétra).54 The Book of Abraham is a planned and purposeful assemblage of documents, some incomplete, tied together by refrains, key-words, literary structure, etc. It is entirely possible that such a compilation was transmitted orally and in writing among Egyptian Jews down to the Greek and Roman periods.55 One should not be perplexed at the disappearance of specific
S. Morenz, Egyptian Religion, trans. A. E. Keep (Cornell, 1973), 166-167, from the 3rd ed. (1960); see discussion and examples in John Huddlestun, “Who Is This That Rises Like the Nible?” in A. Beck, et al., eds., Fortunate the Eyes That See: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 342, 356-357, nn.14, 67, 75. Speiser, Genesis, 9-13, compares Babylonian Enûma eliš, “When on High” (ANET, 60-72), noting the striking parallels in the same order as in Genesis, starting with “coexistent” and “coeternal” cosmic matter, citing A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, 1st ed. (Univ. of Chicago, 1942); 2nd ed. (1951), 129; see also Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, 1st ed. (Univ. of Chicago, 1946); Albright, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 116 (June 9, 1972), 234-235; A. S. Kapelrud, VT, 24 (April 1974), 178-186; contra G. F. Hasel, Andrews Univ. Seminary Studies, X (Jan 1972), 1-20; VT, 22 (1972); B. Mazar, JNES, 28 (1969), 73-83; Hartman, JBL, 91:31. Sayce, “The Egyptian Background of Genesis I,” in S. R. K. Glanville, ed., Studies Presented to F. Ll. Griffith (Oxford, 1932), 419-423; E. A. E. Reymond, Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple (Manchester Univ., 1969), passim; J. Èerný, Ancient Egyptian Religion, 45-46,58, on creation by intellect and fiat (cf. the Shabaku Stone 2John 1); the Book of Abraham is more Hermopolitan than Heliopolitan; see also J. Wilson in J. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed., 3-8,31,368-369; cf. ZÄS, 67:34ff.
53 52 51
Cf. J. L. McKenzie, CBQ, 14 (1952), 323-335; 21 (1959), 277ff.
Pausanias, Gr., XII, 1; Plutarch, De Pythiae oraculis, IX; cf. Coptic Gospel According to Thomas, logion 19, “these stones will serve you”; cf also John 1:42 in KJV and Inspired Revision. Ptolemaic Egypt was “a center of world Jewry,” Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed., 346; V. Tcherikover, “Prolegomena,” in Tcherikover & Fuks, eds., Corpus papyrorum Judaicarum, I (Harvard, 1957), 1-93; the Jews involved may have been an apocalyptic (and Hassidic) sect, some of whose
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
portions of the Abrahamic tradition from Jewish lore (requiring revelatory restitution in certain cases), though, in fact, many of the unfamiliar points in the Book of Abraham do appear in little known apocryphal and talmudic sources.56 With the Hellenization of Egyptian and Judaic intellectual life, the newer doctrines of divine transcendence, ex nihilo creation, geometric logic, etc., would hardly tolerate the continued above-board existence of certain older Abrahamic traditions.57 Transmission Precisely where, how, and by whom the transmission of the Book of Abraham was effected is not at all clear, though major Jewish settlements in Egypt, at Elephantine, Tahpanhes, Memphis, Migdol, etc., are known to have begun no later than the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43:7, 44:1),58 and probably much earlier in some cases, as well as under Pharaoh s Psamtik II Hophra, and Ahmose II.59 Later, a Jewish settlement at Thebes is known to be contemporary . . with the Joseph Smith Papyri, but it is difficult to know how many other places might simultaneously have been involved,60 or whether the transmission had been effected entirely within Egypt. The Jewish revolt of 115-117 A.D., at the close of the reign of Trajan, had a
traditions are to be found in apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, and the aggada; R. Pfeiffer mentions the oral tradition of the elders (cf. Matthew 15:2-3,6; Mark 7:3,5,8-9,13; TB Pirqê-‘Abôt 1:1), Pfeiffer, Intro. to the OT, 134; G. W. Buchanan studied the key-words in this process in To the Hebrews, Anchor Bible 36 (Doubleday, 1972), XXVI, 38, 227, and passim. H. Nibley, Improvement Era, 72 (Jan-Nov 1969); 73 (Jan-Apr 1970); see the marginal objections of W. P. Walters in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 16:39, n. 58 (cf. Nibley, Improv. Era, 73 [March 1970], 86). Cf. Philo Judaeus, De opficio mundi, 7 (II, 367M), versus the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, 11:17; R. Pfeiffer notes that the 2nd century A.D. Babylonian Targum Onqelos avoids anthropomorphisms (Intro. to the OT, 78). Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 346-347; C. H. Gordon, “The Origin of the Jews in Elephantine,” JNES, 14 (1955), 56-58; F. E. Peters, Harvest of Hellenism (N.Y., 1970), chapter VII; on earlier settlements, see Jeremiah 24:8. H. I. Bell, Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Liverpool, 1953/1954), 25-32,106; the Jewish temple at Elephantine (Yeb) was apparently completed during the reign of Ah . mose II (570-525 B.C.), and the colony there was not eliminated until about 399 B.C. V. Tcherikover and A. Fuks, CPJ, I:3-47; note also the Jewish temple of the High Priest Onias (Honyo ) IV at Leontopolis of the Heliopolites (Tell el-Yahudiya), Lower Egypt, from the 2nd century ò B.C. till its closure under the Romans in 71/73 A.D. (M. Bietak in K. A. Bard, ed., Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt [Routledge, 1999], 791-792; Peters, Harvest of Hellenism, 269; S. Sandmel, Herod: Profile of a Tyrant [Phila./N.Y.: Lippincot, 1967], 48; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, 3, 1ff.; 65, 70; Jewish War, VII, 427).
60 59 58 57 56
disastrous affect on the lives of Jews in Egypt,61 and this may have quashed the independent survival of the complete tradition – partially restored by Joseph Smith Jr. Aside from one of the recovered facsimiles, no direct papyrological link with the Book of Abraham as published in the Times and Seasons for March of 1842 is known, i.e., the original Egyptian papyrus supposed to have given Joseph his main text for translation has not been recovered,62 although some apparently deny that it ever existed and find Joseph’s work to be pseudepigaphic and deceptively based on the “Breathing Certificate Usage Instructions” (the Snsn-text of P. JS XI, i). However, the possession and use of late documents does not at all rule out the continuous recopying of far older documents, as the copying of Pyramid Texts on a Book of the Dead papyrus in Roman times clearly demonstrates.63 In any case, later texts were merely versions and condensations of the earlier, e.g., Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts (including the Book of Two Ways), the Book of the Dead, the Book of Breathings, etc., constitute a continuum of tradition,64 and even pre-Christian Jews are thought to have illustrated their biblical manuscripts via otherwise pagan iconography65 – just as they decorated their synagogues. The late date called for by the evidence is made more reasonable in light of Cross’ version of the New Documentary Hypothesis: As we have noted, Cross sees J and E as differing versions of the Epic tradition maintained by competing priesthoods within the Israelite tribal league. Thus, J was transmitted by the Aaronides of Hebron, Jerusalem, and Bethel, and E by an old Mushite-Levite-Qenite coalition of Shiloh, Nob, Anathoth, Qadesh-Naphtali, Dan, QadeshBarnea, and Arad.66 So saying, it is also possible to show that D is northern and closer to E,
Tcherikover & Fuks, CPJ, I:xx; that independent traditions were maintained among the Jews is certain – I Chronicles 2 for post-Exilic data from the centuries in Egypt before Moses, and upon which the Bible is otherwise silent (K. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World, 75).
Roberts, ed., History of the Church, VI:476 (June 16, 1844).
A. Szczudlowska, “Pyramid Texts Preserved on Sêkowski Papyrus,” ZÄS, 99 (1972), 25-29; this was not an uncommon thing, and copyists regularly reproduced Old Kingdom texts upon, or attached to later documents. E. A. T. W. Budge, Book of the Dead: Papyrus of Ani (London, 1895/ N.Y., 1967), ix-xlvii; cf. Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd ed., I/2:522; H. Nibley, BYU Studies, IX:72-78; XI:163; the Book of the Dead fragments among the Joseph Smith Papyri reproduce parts of Coffin Texts contemporary with Abraham (CT 90, 93, 151-152, 179, 218, 223, 355, 358-362, 404-405, 431, 969, 1075, 1184, etc.). M. E. Stone, Scientific American, 228 (Jan 1973), 87; cf. C. H. Kraeling, The Synagogue, in The Excavations at Dura-Europos: Final Report, VIII, part 1 (Yale Univ. Press, 1956), 394-395, cited and doubted in C. A. Moore, Esther, Anchor Bible 7B (Doubleday, 1971), 115; K. Weitzmann, Ancient Book Illumination, Martin Classical Lectures 16 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1959).
66 65 64
Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 71-74,86,197-201,204-205,211,293.
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
while P appears to be southern and nearer to J,67 though P “never had existence as an independent narrative source,” but only created a framework for “the received Epic tradition of Israel”68 during the Exilic or post-Exilic periods.69 Parsimony asks us to search for just such a period of flux in the Hebrew Canon. For only once cast in Egyptian form and buried might we expect such a text to survive later sacerdotal-theological assault, and we cannot ask that the final redaction be earlier than circumstances allow. Yahwist and Sacerdotal The Book of Abraham is strongly Yahwist (J), but it is not only Yahwist. There is in fact a good deal of what was normally handled by P (Sacerdotal), as well as material of unknown origin, i.e., by the established rules of documentary analysis. The case for Yahwism is not made simply by the two instances of “Jehovah” (Abraham 1:16, 2:8, aside from Facsimile 2:1 “Jah-oheh”), though the word “Lord(s)” occurs 44 times in the Book of Abraham, and could reflect original Yahweh-Jehovah, i.e., either as Hebrew YHWH (the Tetragrammaton),70 or as translated by Egyptian nb “lord; Lord” (dual nbwy “Lords”). Actually, Yahweh presents no serious problem. It appears as YhwÇ in Egyptian toponyms of South Palestine during the 14th and 13th centuries B.C., and it appears as a name-element in Old Canaanite and Amorite texts from Mari and Ebla nearly contemporary with Abraham, though it has yet to be proved to have been an independent name at so early a date.71 However, Joseph Smith’s New Translation (“Inspired Revision”) of Exodus 6:3, as if an elliptical interrogative in Hebrew, is supported by Martin72 (and utilized by the NIV Bible in a note), while Mowinkel, Speiser, Haran, and Andersen have all seen “Yahweh” as pre-Mosaic.73 The following analysis indicates the
Cross, CMHE, 73-74,207, 233, n. 62; C. R. North in H. H. Rowley, ed., OT and Modern Study, 67,69,82 n. 1; cf. F. R. McCurley, Jr., “The Home of Deuteronomy Revisited,” in Bream, ed., A Light unto My Path, 295-317.
Cross, CMHE, 306; von Rad, Genesis, 27-28.
Cross, CMHE, 294-295 (possibly from documents in the Jerusalem Temple archives), 323-324; von Rad, Genesis, 25; Kapelrud, VT, 24:180. Hebrew Yhwh is an epithet meaning “He-who-creates (that which comes into existence),” and was later substituted for by Hebrew &Adonai “My-Lords; Lord” (an honorific dual Qere).
Cross, CMHE, 60-75; the Ebla texts require careful analysis.
W. J. Martin, Stylistic Criteria and the Analysis of the Pentateuch (London, 1955), 18ff., cited in Harrison, Intro. to the OT, 399-400. C. R. North in Rowley, OTMS, 54; Speiser, Genesis, 37-38 (cf. Genesis 4:26); M. Haran, “The Religion of the Patriarchs,” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute, IV (1965), 39; F. I. Andersen, Sentence in Biblical Hebrew, Janua Linguarum, Series Practica 231 (Hague: Mouton, 1974), 1-2.
complete absence of the E document, and that the Book of Abraham, by standard criteria, might be a redaction of J, P, and some traditional material (RJPT). The Book of Abraham is characterized by these Yahwistic items:74 “Canaanites,”75 though occasionally employed by P, appears 6 times (instead of the “Amorites” common to E)76; Haran (the city) 8 times, and Nehor once77; “behold” appears 11 times; “now” 14 times; “famine” 7 times (though J uses this only in the story of the Descent to Egypt); the textual correspondences are listed in Table I – the J story of the problem with Pharaoh in Egypt (against the same problem with King Abimelech in E), Sarai, not regarded by J as Abraham’s sister, is agreeable to Abraham 2:2 (though E thinks she is his sister, Genesis 20:12),78 primeval history, etc. Other basic qualities of J include revelation, and an “anthropomorphic” God who is concerned with people (Abraham 3:11,23-28), and a higher order in apparent chaos. E’s interest, on the other hand, lies in a transcendent, distant God, and prophetic mediation.79 Von Rad found J to be “spiritual” and to contain “the freshness of the joy of a new discovery,”80 and that is the Book of Abraham heart and soul. The P tradent, meanwhile, generally avoiding artistry and revelation,81 is obsessed with priesthood and genealogy – purity of line82: “record(s)” 4 times; “seed(s)” 10 times; “descent” and “descendant” 3 times; “race,” “lineage,” and “chronology” each once. P is also noted for its concept of foreordination (Abraham 3:23,27), and, while it uses the name “Elohim” (like E), it also employs archaic “Almighty” (Abraham 1:15; Vulgate Omnipotens, and LXX Pantokrator
Following throughout the list of S. R. Driver, Genesis, 10th ed. (London, 1916), vii-xxv, recommended by Speiser, Genesis, XXIV.
Cf. von Rad, Genesis, 140,142; cf. Genesis 10:6. J. Van Seters rejects this distinction in JBL, 91 (1972), 182.
Haran is used by both J and P (Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 77,85-86); neither is ever mentioned by E; cf. von Rad, Genesis, 156. Von Rad, Genesis, 158,227; cf. T. W. Mackay, “Abraham in Egypt: A Collation of Evidence for the Case of the Missing Wife,” BYU Studies, X (Summer 1970), 429-451.
E has no Primeval History; von Rad, Genesis, 25-27; cf. also Cross, CMHE, 343-344. Von Rad, Genesis, 29-31. Von Rad, Genesis, 27-28. R. Pfeiffer, IOT, 197-198, “racial purity.”
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
being the conventional, and erroneous translations of Hebrew Šadday; cf. Exodus 6:3).83 At times parallel texts disagree, e.g., the age of Abraham on leaving Haran (Abraham 2:14-15 ò 2Genesis 12:4b-5), but the overall textual correspondences leave no question as to the standard sources for the predominantly Mesopotamian creation story in Abraham 4:1 - 5:4a (2Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a),84 which is really only a part of that material which Speiser saw as a broad introduction to the saga of Abraham.85 The second section too is, as Albright has noted, Mesopotamian in origin (Abraham 5:4b-21 2Genesis 2:4b-25).86 Here one finds “Lord” (whether YHWH or nb) wholly absent, though the section is regularly considered Yahwistic in the biblical version. The occurrence of “God(s)” (in non-pagan contexts) 73 times, even if seen as reflecting Hebrew &Elohim, does not indicate the presence of the E source (indeed, “God” or “Gods”may reflect Egyptian ntr, ntrw; thus nb ntrw “Lord-of-the-gods”87 2Hebrew YHWH-&Elohim). As noted, “Elohim” is equally characteristic of P, and von Rad took its appearance in Genesis 2ff. as evidence of a final P redaction there.88 Abraham 5 takes us a step further in eliminating “Lord” (YHWH, or its equivalent), but it is still combined with a document of a differing style and vocabulary (Abraham 4). Although the Elohist does interpose angels and is less direct than the Yahwist, this is a matter of emphasis and can only be taken along with other evidence – of which there is an utter and complete lack – not to mention the close personal relationship with God which the Book of Abraham generally indicates (anathema to E). The twin instances of “Potiphar” (Abraham 1:10,20) are unrelated in time and space to the biblical Potiphar of E, though they do function as chiastic key-words in the Book of Abraham (as in Genesis 37:36, 39:1-20, 41:45,50, 46:20). Since the biblical Abraham story includes E sections (possibly merely a northern recension of J),89 the singular absence of E in the Book of Abraham might be considered evidence of the
E. F. Campbell, Jr., Ruth, Anchor Bible 7 (Doubleday, 1975), 76-77, saying that Shadday “seems to have had a special connection to judging, and to the conferring of deliverance or punishment, blessing or curse” (cf. Abraham 2:11, 3:14; Genesis 49:25, Numbers 24:4, 16, etc.).
Albright, YGC, 91-92,97; Kapelrud, VT, 24:178-186. Speiser, Genesis, 9. Albright, YGC, 91-97.
A. de Buck, Egyptian Readingbook, 2nd ed. (Leiden, 1963), 49:5, from the Punt Expedition of Queen Hatshepsut; K. A. Kitchen, “Egypt and the Bible: Some Recent Advances,” Faith and Thought, 91/2 (Winter 1959), 189; 91/3 (Summer 1960), 190; the Akkadian and Egyptian masculine plural are here virtually identical.
Von Rad, Genesis, 77, i.e., supplementing the J material. So Albright, YGC, 34; Bright, AHI, 2nd ed., 72.
authenticity of Joseph Smith’s “translation.” Such selectivity would constitute an incredible “accident.” The Matrix This cursory survey of the Book of Abraham results in he following tentative assignments: Abraham 1:2-31, and 4:1 - 5:4a seem primarily Priestly in character, while 2:1 3:28, and 5:4b-21 (though using “Gods” in place of biblical “Lord God”) are traditionally Yahwist. For chapters 1 and 2, such a view merits support due to the separate integrity of the two large chiasms and key-word overlays. Yet, as can be understood from Table I (below), this is gross oversimplification. For the entire book is an interdependent matrix of chiastic and direct parallel structuring, while traditional P and J are inextricably mixed in four of the 5 chapters (as well as in the larger chiasms) of the book, and, while a document possibly making use of such an admittedly late papyrus (Papyrus Joseph Smith XI, i) as a mnemonic aid or cue-word list might be expected to mix the sources – other matrices had developed in Egypt, Palestine, and Babylonia90 – we are faced with the possibility that the entire Documentary Hypothesis, as presently conceived, must be reevaluated in light of biblical parallels with the LDS Canon.
Abraham 1 has an overarching concern for Priestly matters, and even promises more detail (1:28), though, as James R. Clark has observed, Joseph Smith did not “translate” all of the Abrahamic record.91 At the same time, it bears the unmistakable characteristics of J. In Abraham 1:16, for example, a direct quote includes “Jehovah,” making us reluctant to assign other portions of the same quote to P. In addition, when we observe how the quote is in chiastic parallel with Abraham 1:15-18, or when we note that “Shagreel” in 1:9 is certainly related to the Hebrew term for the personified “gates” of a J Psalm (Ps 24:7,9; cf. Ps 118:19-20),92 our mood for equivocation is enhanced. Moreover, traditional J is not entirely unconcerned with purity of lineage, or with priestly functions (cf. Genesis 13:4, 24:3-4), though it is easiest in all such cases to claim that P simply redacted older J material.93
G. E. Wright, “Biblical Archaeology Today,” in Freedman & Greenfield, eds., NDBA, 153, citing HTR, 57:181-199, IEJ, 16:81-95, and BANE, 140-169, the Babylonian text being chosen as our present MT circa 100 B.C., and the LXX representing the Egyptian Hebrew recension; cf. R. Pfeiffer, IOT, 68,105-106.
Clark, The Story of the Pearl of Great Price, 113, 235; cf. Facsimile 2:8-21.
See M. Dahood, Psalms, I, Anchor Bible 16 (Doubleday, 1966), ad loc.; C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Rome, 1965), Text 1018:1, and Glossary 2468, 2721; Gordon, The Living Past, 125, seal 15; Cross, CMHE, 91-92,98.
S. E. McEvenue, The Narrative Style of the Priestly Writer (Rome, 1971).
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
In Abraham 2 we have much the same problem, though with much clearer perspective – thanks to direct parallels with Genesis – and the apparent muddling of sequence (Abraham 2:3-4; cf. 5:20-21) accords well with what we know of the needs inherent in the creation of inclusions and chiasms.94 Abraham 2:14-15 is commonly attributed to P, and the syntax of 2:6 (in dual chiasm with 2:19) can only be found in Genesis 17:8, which is also P (cf. Genesis 17:1). One can even be sure of some of the Hebrew vocabulary – at least in the minds of those Jews who may have passed on the tradition in Egyptian: Abraham 2:9 would have employed the Hebrew goy of J for “nation” (with a territorial base),95 rather than the )am common to P, while the Shaddai (“Mountain-One,” or “Twin-Breasts”; instead of conventional LXX “Almighty”) of P is surely to be assumed for Abraham 1:15,96 though such terms may have been rendered by Egyptian equivalents in the text translated by Joseph Smith Jr. One must note the absence of the P-rubric of Genesis 11:2797 at the beginning of Abraham 2. References to “Ur of the Chaldeans” (not in southern Mesopotamia98) are usually 99 attributed to P, since J knows only Haran. Von Rad claimed that only P originally used . Abram, purposely shortening the name in the text prior to Genesis 17,100 but new texts from Ebla use Abramu – making the short-form likely the more original. The first publication of the Book of Abraham contained the short-form “Abram” at Abraham 1:16,17, 2:3,6,14, and 17, though several earlier Kirtland manuscripts employed it also at Abraham 2:2.101 This, like the age
Note the placement of the creation story; cf. Peter F. Ellis, The Yahwist: The Bible’s First Theologian (Notre Dame: Fides, 1968), 123-127; W. F. Albright & C. S. Mann, Matthew, Anchor Bible 26 (Doubleday, 1971), CLXVI, on key-words as a mnemotechnique; see also J. W. Welch, “Chiasmus in Ugaritic,” Ugarit-Forschungen, VI (1974), 421-436.
JBL, 79 (1960), 157ff. Cross, CMHE, 59-60,322-323; see n. 80 herein, above. Cross, CMHE, 301-304; but see on Abraham 5:4a, below. Dahood, Psalms, I:223. Von Rad, Genesis, 157-158.
Von Rad, Genesis, 157,199-200, suggesting that Abram is merely a shortened form of popular Mesopotamian Abamram; cf. p. 202 on Sarah/Sarai. See Times and Seasons, III/9 (March 1, 1842), 703-706; III/10 (March 15, 1842), 719-722; III/14 (May 16, 1842), 783-784; Book of Abraham MSS 2 and 3 (MSS 1 - 4 employ the short-form at Abraham 2:2); these short-forms were lengthened in the July 1842 Millennial Star (likewise in Roberts, ed., History of the Church, IV:520-534, and in the Pearl of Great Price); Walter L. Whipple, “An Analysis of Textual Changes in ‘The Book of Abraham’ and in the ‘Writings of Joseph Smith, The Prophet’ in the Pearl of Great Price,” master’s thesis (BYU, 1959), 52; cf. H. Nibley, BYU Studies, XI (Summer 1971), 350-399; though they are incomplete, the Book of Abraham MSS 1 - 4 agree in using the
differential at Abraham 2:14 (62 years old versus biblical 75), attests to the independent tradition preserved here. Abraham 3 is difficult to assign with confidence. On the one hand, it is clearly part of the creation story in the following chapter (at least from 3:23), apparently reflecting some pristine Pwork; on the other hand, the “Lord (thy God)” appears 17 times in chapter 3, and the use of the one-thousand-to-one metaphor (3:4, Facsimile 2:1) matches two J Psalms (84:10, 90:4). Both J and P closely follow the basic Mesopotamian cosmogony.102 J’s “anthropomorphic” God is there (Abraham 3:11, 19-28), but so is the foreordination of P (3:23,27). Abraham 3:14 seems similar in language to a wide variety of J and E texts, making the comparative techniques, “sands of the sea,” “stars of the sky,” etc., common enough – Yahuda listed numerous such instances in Egyptian.103 Most intriguing of all is the description of the Heavenly Council in Abraham 3:21-28. It conjures up the rîb-pattern (lawsuit oracle) and apocalyptic of Psalms 82, 89, and Daniel 7, which have very archaic Canaanite and Mesopotamian associations,104 and Lichtheim even discerns Egyptian parallels.105 That stars should play so prominent a role in this chapter is also completely appropriate.106 P never hesitated to preserve such material in its “archaic garb.”107
short-form from Abraham 1:16 - 2:17 (MSS 2 & 3 cease before this point); Aramaic &nh &brm “I Abram” is characteristic of the Genesis Apocryphon from Quman Cave 1 (1QapGn), and “Abram” is used as a name ca. 137/138 B.C. at Ptolemais in Egypt (SB, 6184, cited in Tcherikover & Fuks, CPJ, I:xvii, n. 2). Albright, YGC, 91-97; the preference of “Gods” over “Lord God” provides a veneer of P to the usual J of Genesis 2:4b-25 2Abraham 5:4b-21.
A S. Yahuda, Language of the Pentateuch, I:76-78.
Albright, YGC, 191-193; Cross, CMHE, 345-346 n. 13; M. H. Pope, Job, Anchor Bible 15 (Doubleday, 1965), 134-135, 219; M. Tsevat, “God and the Gods in Assembly; An Interpretation of Psalm 82,” Hebrew Union College Annual, 40-41 (1969-1970), 123-137; E. T. Mullen, Jr., The Assembly of the Gods, Harvard Semitic Monograph 24 (Scholars Press, 1980); Albright & Mann, Matthew, XCVI.
Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I:73,79, n. 59.
Albright, YGC, 232 n. 69; Èerný, Ancient Egyptian Religion, 51-52; Pyramid Texts 405, 733, 782, etc.; Ed. Young, Studies in Genesis One (Presbyterian & Reformed Publ., 1964), 93 – geocentrism cannot be inferred from normal modes of speech.
Von Rad, Genesis, 28.
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
The first thing to observe about the creation story in Abraham 4 (2Genesis 1) is that it is progressive and climactic.108 Although it is generally believed that Genesis 5:1 was the original continuation of the document handled by P at Genesis 1 - 2:3,109 note how the present combination of the two chapters produces a unified, even chiastic emphasis on the creation of man: In Abraham 4 (2Genesis 1) man is the climax and conclusion of creation; in Abraham 5 (2Genesis 2) man is the first and central creation following the subordinate and conditional clauses in verses 4b-6.110 This dual creation story is in addition an example of prototypic patterns (Abraham 4) and their fruition (Abraham 5).111 Mormonism would appear to favor such a view (Abraham 5:2).112 The transition effected at Abraham 4:1, from “Lord” to “Gods,” is logical following the Heavenly Council. Indeed, both Sayce and von Rad heartily approved of a frankly plural meaning attached to &Elohim.113 In comparing Abraham 4 with Genesis 1, it is noteworthy that the days in the former are even-to-even (as in the Gospel of John)114 while the latter is believed by Keil and Young115 to be
See nn. 26-27, 48, above, on the possible origin of Genesis 1; cf. F. Hvidberg, “The Canaanite Background of Gen I-III,” VT, X (1960), 284-295; however, B. Urrutia, “The Structure of Genesis, Chapter One,” Dialogue, VIII/3&4 (Aut/Winter 1973), 142-143, is too narrowly based to be of any use here, and ignores ternary groupings in his S 5, 6, and 8 (far from being an afterthought, “stars” are always present in ancient creation myths); see, rather, on the essential heptaemeron, N. C. Habel, Literary Criticism of the Old Testament (Phila.: Fortress, 1971), 69-70. Von Rad, Genesis, 68; Genesis 2:4a and 5:1 being the usual P rubrics or transitional superscriptions (63); Albright, YGC, 91-92, sees Sumero-Akkadian formulae here, as does SimoonsVermeer elsewhere, Numen, 21:31. Von Rad, Genesis, 75-77; cf. B. Porten, HUCA, 38:95; Albright, YGC, 93; McEvenue, Narrative Style of the Priestly Writer, 63. See n. 49, above; Albright, PAPS, 116:234-236; R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Anchor Bible 18 (Doubleday, 1965), 70. PGP Moses 3:5 (IV Genesis 1:5,9), Doctrine & Covenants 77:2, 131:7-8; Joseph Smith in Roberts, ed., History of the Church, VI:50 (Oct 9, 1843); cf. Ellis T. Rasmussen, Ensign, I (Nov 1971), 37; II Enoch 25:1-3, Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16.
113 112 111 110 109
Sayce, HCVM, 84-85; von Rad, Genesis, 58-59; cf. Psalm 82.
Genesis 1:16-18 (but see Speiser, Genesis, 5, on Genesis 1:5 as even-to-even); cf. Leviticus 23:27,32, Psalms 55:18 (KJV 5:17), Mark 1:21,32 = Luke 4:31,40, John 20:1; even-to-even was the Greek and Mesopotamian mode; the Romans, on the other hand, followed a midnight-to-midnight scheme – Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, 2nd ed. (Princeton, 1959), 553-554, 597.
Young, Studies in Genesis One, 89, citing Keil, 51.
morn-to-morn (as in the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts).116 This may be another indication of the sectarian, independent nature of the tradition preserved in the Book of Abraham. Another odd item is the “great waters” mentioned in Abraham 4:10, 22 (not in Genesis 1:10, 22). This may be an Egyptian term.117 In Abraham 5:4b-21 it is important to note the absence of the names of the rivers of Eden in Genesis 2:11-14, and the apparent insertion of Genesis 2:21-25 between the verses of Genesis 2:18-19 – it is likely that the biblical rivers are a later gloss118 – and Abraham 5:15-19 was moved biblically to a position following Abraham 5:21, thus destroying a nice chiasm (see Table I). Abraham 5:18 (2Genesis 2:24) may preserve “something from a time of matriarchal culture,”119 as could also be said for Abraham 1:23-25.120 Whatever one’s point of view, the hand of the redactor of the Book of Abraham is evident in such trivia as the mention of “Adam” in only the first and final chapters. Indeed, “Adam” is a key-word in the first and final chiasms of the book.121 There is much that has not been examined here, e.g., variant traditions in the Book of Moses, Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, etc., but the Book of Abraham is the one LDS “standard work” besides the Book of Mormon which claims to be a textually based
Cf. Genesis 1:16-18, 19:34, Mark 11:11-12, 16:1-2, Matthew 28:1, Luke 23:56 - 24:1, Acts 4:3; morn-to-morn reckoning was the Galilean as well as Egyptian mode – Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past.
ZÄS, 59:47, mw )Çw “great waters.”
LDS belief favors the Yellowstone, Missouri, Platte, and Little Missouri Rivers here, with Eden as the Great Plains (= Sumerian EDIN); cf. Albright, AJSL, 35 (1919), 161-195; 39 (1922), 15-31. Von Rad, Genesis, 84-85; cf. Ohio Journal of Religious Studies, II (Apr 1974), 79-82; J. J. Bachofen, Myth, Religion and Mother Right (London: Routledge, 1967), translated from his Mutterecht (Stuttgart: Kries, 1861). For a negative view, see David R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage: A Sociological Study (London: Epworth, 1953), 81ff. (opposing A. Lods); Wilhelm Rudolph, Das Buch Ruth, Das Hohe Lied, Die Klaglieder, in Kommentary zum Alten Testament, 2nd ed., XVII, 1-3 (Güttersloh: Mohr, 1962), on Ruth 1:8 vs Genesis 38:11, Leviticus 22:13, Numbers 30:16, Deuteronomy 22:21, Judges 19:2-3; yet Songs 3:4, 8:2, and Genesis 24:28 support Ruth 1:8 (see discussion by Campbell, Ruth, 64-65); cf. also E. Baumgartel, JEA, 61:28-32, on the matriarchy in Naqada I Egypt, and patriarchy in Naqada II. Cf. J. Lindsey, Daily Life in Roman Egypt (Barnes & Noble, 1963), 19-20, on the ancient matrilineal system of inheritance. A source-analysis is not the place in which to lay out the formal structure of the book. I have done so elsewhere (Smith, “Joseph’s Explanations: Facsimile Two of the LDS Book of Abraham,” 1975). The word “chiasm” is used here for want of a better term (see Welch, UF, VI:421-436), and one might better view this phenomenon of recursion as a palistrophic form, as does McEvenue, Narrative Style of the Priestly Writer, 27, n. 18.
121 120 119
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY
translation, and therefore more directly testable on a secular academic basis. Whither such testing as I have presented here may lead is an open question, but those who have handled the transmission of this document have left their tell-tale, archaic “fingerprints.” It is only a matter of time until we discover more about them and the source of their sectarian, apocalyptic, and sacerdotal beliefs. For now it is only possible to hint at an apocalyptic, Hasidic Jewish . connection which later found expression at Qumran, in Maccabees, in Johannine literature, etc., but which – to judge from Abraham 2:14 in particular – must have been the product of a group dissenting from the great chronological recalibration and systematization of the main parts of the Hebrew Canon ca. 235-230 B.C. (possibly rendered via the Jewish Great Assembly to coincide with the Egyptian Canopus Decree of October 22, 238 B.C.).122 The LXX Greek Bible, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Book of Jubilees, Ethiopic and Slavonic Enoch, the Book of Abraham, etc., each have their variants from this standard chronology. The entire matter deserves a closer look than it is getting.
See Gerhard Larsson, The Secret System: A Study of the Chronology of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 1973); Larsson, “Is Biblical Chronology Systematic or Not?” Revue de Qumrân, VI/24 (March 1969), 499-515; Knut Stenring, The Enclosed Garden (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1966); Larsson speaks of this as the “C” redaction of the OT. On the place of “P”, see Chayim Cohen, “Was the P Document Secret,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University, I (1969), 3944 (esp. for Akkadian scribal disciplina arcana).
DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS Table I. DOCUMENTARY CLASSIFICATION
Times & Seasons III:704706 1
Book of Abraham
1:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 2:1a 1b 2 3 4a
priesthood “ “ ; seed; Adam righteousness, holy; Lord-God
now; altar Potiphar’s Hill now, royal descent; Ham
behold; Lord...God; Almighty Jehovah behold; priesthood Noah royal; Potiphar’s Hill; altar Canaanites; descendent ” “ forbidden race patriarchal priesthood; Adam lineage chronology famine, Chaldea “ ” stars; records
(cf. 17:7 Canaan) (cf. 9:26, 17:7) (9:26) (9:26)
11:28 11:29 12:1
P P P P? P? P P? J? P P P? J? P? P? P? P? J? J J? P? J? P? J? P? P P P P P P P P P J? P? J? P? P? J? J J J J?
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY Times & Seasons III:704706 Book of Abraham Genesis Themes Documents
2: 4b 11:31 (cf. 12:5) P 5 (cf. 11:32) famine; Haran J? P? 11 6a J? 6b (cf. 17:1,8; 24:7) Lord appeared P? J? 6c J? 6d cf. 17:8 (24:7) seed P? J? 6e J? 7 8 (cf. Ex 6:3) Jehovah J 9a 12:2 nation J 9b 10 (cf. 12:2) J? 11a 12:3a (cf. Num 24:9) J 11b 11c 12:3b J 11d 12 12 13 14a 12:4a J 14b cf. 12:4b 62 vs 75 years P? 15 12:5 P 16 J? 13 17 famine J? 18a 12:6a J 18b -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------T&S III:719Abraham Genesis Themes Documents 722 14 2:19 20a 20b 21a 21b 22 23 24 12:7a (cf. 24:7) 12:7b 12:8 12:9 12:10 cf. 12:11 cf. 12:12 cf. 12:13 seed J J J J J J J J
(1QapGn 19:9) famine (1QapGn 19:10) (1QapGn 19:19) (1QapGn 19:20)
24 T&S III:719722 Abraham
DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS Genesis Themes Documents
2:25 3:1 2 3 4a 4b 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 3:28 4:1a 1b 2a 2b 2c 2d 2e 3 4a
(1QapGn 19:20) Urim & Thummim stars Kolob (Fac 2:1) Kolob; 1000 yrs = 1 day
J J? J? J? J J?
(cf. Pss 84:10, 90:4)
Kolob stars anthropomorphic God (cf. Abr 2:7) star, stars
J J? J
Kolob star star
intelligences foreordination anthropomorphism estates foreordination estate-fall
1:1 1:2a 1:2b 1:2c 1:3 1:4a
P P P P P P
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY T&S III:719722 Abraham Genesis Themes Documents
4:4b 4c 5a 5b 5c 5d 6 7 8a 8b 8c 8d 8e 8f 9 10 11 12a 12b 12c 12d 12e 12f 13a 13b 13c 13d 13e 14 15 16a 16b 16c 17a 17b 18a 18b 18c 19a
1:4b 1:5a 1:5b 1:6 1:7 1:8a 1:8b 1:8c 1:9 1:10 1:11 1:12a 1:12b 1:12c 1:13a 1:13b 1:13c 1:14 1:15 1:16a 1:16b 1:17 1:18a 1:18b cf. 1:18c 1:19a
P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P
KJV “seas” vs Abr “great waters”
26 T&S III:719722 Abraham
DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS Genesis Themes Documents
4:19b 19c 20 21a 21b 21c 22a 22b 22c 23a 23b 23c 24 25 26a 26b 26c 27 28 29 30 31a 31b 31c 5:1 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5 6 7a 7b 7c 8a 8b 8c
1:19b 1:20 1:21a 1:21b 1:22a great waters 1:22b 1:23a 1:23b 1:24 1:25 1:26a 1:26b 1:27 1:28 1:29 1:30 1:31a 1:31b 2:1 2:2 2:3 2:4a 2:4b 2:5 2:6 2:7a 2:7b 2:8a 2:8b 6th (LXX, Syriac) vs 7th (MT) man-theomorphic
P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P P J J J J J J J
rubric KJV “Lord God” vs Abr “Gods” passim
SMITH’S BOOK OF ABRAHAM COMMENTARY T&S III:719722 Abraham Genesis Themes Documents
5:9 2:9 J 10 2:10 J 11 2:15 J 12 2:16 J 13a 2:17 J 13b Lord’s time; Kolob; Gods 32 14 2:18 J 15 2:21 Adam J 16 2:22 J 17 2:23 Adam J 18 2:24 J 19 2:25 J 20 2:19 Adam J 21 2:20 Adam J --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Cf. Dan Wilcox, A Study Aid for a Comparison of the Books of Moses, Genesis and Abraham (SLC: Deseret Book, 1963).
DOCUMENTARY ANALYSIS Table II. ABRAM / ABRAHAM IN THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
T&S III:9-10 Saints’ Herald III:1 I, Abraham Abram! Abram! Abram
Book of Abraham Manuscripts (KEP) 1:1 - 2:18 1:4 - 2:6 1:4 - 2:2 1 2 3 I, Abraham
1:1 - 2:19 3:18-26 4 I, Abraham
1:1 1:16 1:17 2:2 2:3
Abram, Abram Abram, Abram Abram, Abram Abram! Abram! Abram I Abram Abram Abraham?? I, Abram Abram (Abram) Abram Abram I, Abram Abram I, Abram Abram
I, Abraham Abram
I, Abram I, Abram I, Abram I, Abram I, Abraham I, Abraham I, Abraham I, Abraham
I, Abram I, Abram I, Abram I, Abram
I, Abram?? I, Abram I, Abram I, Abram
2:17 2:20 2:21
13 14 15
2:25 3:1 3:6 3:11 3:15 3:22 16 17 19 20 22
I, Abraham Abraham I, Abraham Abraham Abraham Abraham
3:23 Abraham Abraham ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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