Is the Book of Abraham Incomplete?

First, textual evidence suggests that there’s more story to be told.

  1. The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Pharoah is interrupted (Abraham 2:22-25). That is, we know that Abraham tells Sarah that they’re going to tell Pharaoh that she is his sister, not his wife. But since that story is interrupted by Abraham teaching the Egyptians astronomy, we never find out what happened. Does Pharaoh find out that Sarah is Abraham’s sister? How? What does he do about it? Is this how Abraham becomes wealthy (it is in the version in Genesis)? We don’t know the answer to any of these questions.
  2. Abraham’s retelling of the creation account(s) is interrupted in Abraham 5:21. This happens after Adam has named all the animals, which occurs after God creates Eve (notably, this order differs in Genesis). Clearly, this is not the end of the story, although this does correspond to the end of Genesis 2, given the switch of Adam’s naming of the animals and Eve’s creation.
  3. Finally, in Abraham 1:28, Abraham gives us a brief outline of the work. According to this outline, the work is incomplete. He says: “But I shall endeavor, hereafter, to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time.” He does begin retelling the creation, but he does not connect the creation to his own chronology.

Second, Joseph Smith appears to have claimed that there was more to come. Kevin Barney reports (here) that “In February of 1843, Joseph promised that more of the text would be published, but none ever was, and no manuscript evidence of additional text has been discovered.” Brian Hauglid says “Evidence from multiple sources suggests that JS may have produced other Abraham material that is no longer extant. However, JS did not subsequently publish any additional Abraham texts” (Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 5–6., cited here, scroll to the bottom of the page.).

Of course, this isn’t really anything more than an exercise in textual analysis (at least initially; obviously the points from Barney and Hauglid go beyond that). It’s interesting to think of what more Joseph Smith might have written about Abraham.

Note: While I realize that I don’t have much in the way of readership right now, I will point out that any comments not on topic, including comments about the relationship of the Book of Abraham to the Joseph Smith Papyrus and Joseph Smith’s role or status as a prophet will be deleted. This is not the place for that conversation.
 

Advertisements

OTGD Outline: Lesson 6: The Ark

I taught Lesson 5 (Cain and Enoch), but my lesson outline drew so heavily on Ben Spackman’s notes that I chose not to post the outline.

Genesis 6:5, 8:35
Gen. 6:5 (KJV): “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

First: This seems pretty extreme. We often hear leaders and members of the church bewailing the wickedness that prevails today, but it strikes me that the wickedness in Noah’s day was worse. What does the phrase “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” mean?

Let’s fast forward to after the flood. God says:
Gen. 8:21 (KJV): I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of
man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have
done.”

*So now we have God restating humanity’s desires. What are humanity’s desires? Did the flood change anything on this point? What do we take away from this?

What do other scriptures have to say about the nature of man and his desires?

Genesis covenant (Gen 8:21)

  1. “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s (Adam’s) sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” [I didn’t ask but wish I had: Is this an undoing of the ground that was cursed for Adam’s sake? (Gen. 3:17)]
  2. Ask: what was the covenant? As each person answered, I asked “is that all”? The first time it prompted an answer about the rainbow, but I was getting blank stares the second time (which I was sort of counting on). [It’s worth pointing out that strictly speaking, this may not all be of a piece with the covenant, but it’s presented in such close proximity that it may be.]
  3. There’s lots more going on in this covenant in Gen. 9. Read Gen. 9:1-13 (piece by piece).
    1. never again curse the ground (Gen 8:21)
    2. never destroy every living thing again
    3. multiply and replenish earth (gen 9:1)
    4. “dominion” over animals, plants–different context. Compare Gen. 1:28. Here it’s a fear of man, not a dominion. (gen 9:2) [We had an interesting discussion on this point, it’s difference compared to Gen 1:28 and 29-30, whether fear and dominion differ, and whether fear might relate to the fact that people can now eat animals, given Gen. 9:3-4
    5. Okay to eat plants and meat, but not meat w/ blood (gen 9:3-4). v. 5-6 as some sort of
      explanation. (NET Gen 9:3: “As I gave you the green plants, I now give you
      everything.” See Gen. 1:29-30, Gen. 3:17-18.
    6. Covenant with Noah, his family, and animals: Gen. 9:9-10. That is, the covenant is not just with a man and his family, but with animals. [For LDS approaches to covenants, this is weird, and I thought worth pointing out.]
    7. Rainbow as sign of covenant. Gen. 9:12-13, 16. Who is the rainbow a sign for? (It looks like it’s a sign for both man AND God, so that God will remember his covenant). This lead to an interesting discussion as well, since again we aren’t used to thinking that God might need reminders. In a later conversation with my wife, she pointed out that telling people that God was going to be reminded of his covenant by the rainbow too might have been a way of comforting them.

OTGD Lesson 4 Notes: The Fall

Texts:
Genesis 2–3; 1 Corinthians 15:20–22; 2 Nephi 2:5–30;
2 Nephi 9:3–10; Helaman 14:15–18; Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–19;
29:34–44; Articles of Faith 1:2; “Fall of Adam,” Bible Dictionary, page 670.

Try Ardis Pashall’s DH approach here (see here, scroll down to “Here’s a point about Biblical studies”):
These chapter and verse divisions are foreign and largely arbitray; the story of Genesis 1 appears to wrap up in Gen. 2:4. Then a new story appears to begin. So we “wall off” story 1 and study story 2. The only thing we really bring to story 2 from story 1 in our reading tends to be the commandment to multiply (also the bit about dominion over the earth, but it doesn’t figure much into our fall narrative). This approach also highlights some of the other differences between story 1 and story 2, whcih I won’t get into, but which are worth exploring on your own.

Also “these are the generations of ___” framing. Generations of earth and heaven, Adam, Noah, etc.
1:1-2:3 Prologue
2:4-4:46 History of heaven and earth
5:1-6:8 Family history of Adam
6:9-9:29 Family history of Noah
10:1-11:9 Family history of Noah’s sons
11:10-26 Family history of Shem
11:27-25:11 Family history of Terah
25:12-18 Family history of Ishmael
25:19-35:29 Family history of Isaac
36:1-37:1 Family history of Esau
37:2-50:26 Family history of Jacob
Gordon Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis, 1:xxii, found here.

The above is a framing device generally attributed to one of the DH sources, while the details get filled in by one of the other sources, if I recall correctly.

Splitting the stories up in this way is interesting because it highlights something about the “conflicting commandments” approach we often take with the Fall. That is, the conflicting commandments story is only possible when you squish story 1 and story 2 together and read them as one story. It is also worth pointing out that the conflicting commandments argument about the Fall comes from John Widstoe’s writings in the 1940s–even for Mormonism, this is a pretty late doctrinal development.

LDS approaches to the Fall:
1) Fortunate Fall
2) Conflicting Commandments

Results of the Fall (a-j in the manual; k – are my additions)
a. Adam and Eve were able to have children, which allowed us to come to
earth and receive mortal bodies (Moses 5:11; 6:48; 2 Nephi 2:23, 25).
b. We experience physical death, or separation of the physical body from the
spirit (Moses 4:25; 6:48; 2 Nephi 9:6).
c. We experience spiritual death, or separation from God’s presence (Moses
4:29; 6:49; 2 Nephi 9:6).
d.We are partakers of misery and woe (Moses 6:48; Genesis 3:16–17).
e. We are capable of sinning (Moses 6:49, 55; 2 Nephi 2:22–23).
f. The ground is cursed, causing us to need to work (Moses 4:23–25; Genesis
3:17–19).
g. We can learn to recognize good and evil (Moses 4:28; 6:55–56; 2 Nephi 2:23;
Genesis 3:22).
h.We can have joy in mortality (Moses 5:10; 2 Nephi 2:23, 25).
i. We can know the joy of our redemption (Moses 5:11).
j. We can obtain eternal life (Moses 5:11).
k. Eve cursed with painful childbirth, desire toward her husband.
l. Adam to “rule over” Eve.
m. We are afforded some protection from disembodied spirits (Joseph Smith, find ref)

Are these descriptive–that is, statements of how things will be or prescriptive–that is, statements of how things should be?

The sin-transgression discussion could be interesting.
1. A sin and a “transgression of the law” are different things. Elder Oaks compares this to the difference between something wrong because its wrongness is inherent, while other things are wrong because they are prohibited. (Why isn’t breaking the Word of Wisdom coded as a transgression, but not as a sin? To me, it’s the pinnacle of a commandment based on malum prohibitum). Were Adam and Eve “punished” or were the changes in their state a natural result (or simply the consequences) of their actions? This seems to feed into the descriptive vs. prescriptive question about the results of the fall.

Adam and Eve:
1. Talk about Adam and Eve as a model of Aristophanes’ double-people who are split in two as a result of an attempt to scale Olympus. The half-people have a yearning for their other halves. Eve is formed from a part of Adam–does he miss it? How does he feel to be reunited with his missing part? Eve is literally a part of him.

2. Eve as “help meet”: help is divinely given; meet is something like “equal to” or “sufficient for”. What does this suggest about gender relations?

3. Moving on from their creation and their status before “the Fall”–what are the differences between life before and after the eating the fruit? What can we learn from these differences? Are the changes descriptive or prescriptive?

The Bible rarely seems to comment or follow up on Adam and Eve and the Fall. None of the passages refer to this series of events as “a fall”–although the Book of Moses does. What do you make of this? How does the Bible “solve” the problems of the Fall? How does modern revelation and modern scripture solve the problem? (There’s got to be a less awkward, more “Mormon” way of saying this. I guess it is interesting that there really isn’t any sort of intervention by God to “solve” the problem of “fallen” man and women, but that God’s later interventions have different motivations. Indeed, it does seem like Christianity is more interested in this question than Judaism is, as it provides Christianity with some grounds for requiring redemption from sin.)

Satan is the “father of lies”: What lies does he tell Eve?

Is there something to be said about the likelihood that Eve’s desire is sexual and connected with her pain in childbirth? I’m not really sure what I’d say or how I’d say it or what sort of discussion would be worth having on the point.

I feel like I’m leaving out Jesus. This isn’t a class on the text of the OT, but on how we as Mormons read the OT. And the manual is right that the Fall is important because it tells us why we need something. It doesn’t necessarily tell us what we need–it could be a law, although perhaps it suggests that law is not what we need. There is lots of interesting stuff here about Jesus, about how the gospel solves the problem of the fall.

Things I read to prepare for this lesson:

The BYU Studies lesson resources page is fantastic. I found the first two articles there.

  • “Mormonism’s Satan and the Tree of Life,” by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Ronan J. Head, Element: A Journal of Mormon Philosophy and Theology, Volume 4, no. 2. The authors lay out a three-fold puzzle regarding Satan’s role in the Fall, according to Mormon scripture: First, it’s not clear what Satan means when he says he’ll redeem all mankind; second, it’s not clear how Satan can destroy human agency; third, it’s unclear why it’s necessary for spirits to get embodied. They propose a solution to these problems by arguing that Satan acted in the garden in an unauthorized manner. In this sense, he said and did nothing that was incorrect, except that it wasn’t his job. Additionally, God intervenes to prevent Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life, which Alma explains would have eliminated their opportunity to use their agency in a probationary state. Satan “redeems” mankind by preventing them from leaving an immortal, innocent state, “removes” agency by preventing mankind from having a probationary state, and prevents them from having bodies, which Joseph Smith and Lehi taught protect them from Satan and others who wish them ill.
  • “The Cherubim, the Flaming Sword, the Path, and the Tree of Life,” by Donald W. Parry, The Tree of Life: from Eden to Eternity. The article makes some interesting points about the garden of Eden and its geography, although I’m pretty skeptical about the author’s conclusions about the path. The Garden of Eden is on the East of Eden, the Garden appears to be walled off or hedged such that only one gaurdian-cherub was necessary (although cherubim is plural, but still, it/they are only placed East of the Garden). (Also discusses Ezekiel 28)
  • Lehi’s Theology of the Fall in Its Preexilic/Exilic Context,” by Bruce Pritchett, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3(2): 49–83. This article was especially interesting in terms of the possible references to the Fall and Adam that may be included in the Bible. I think he may be overplaying his point somewhat, but it’s still really interesting to see the possibilities here.
  • Ben Spackman’s Blog at Patheos.com. This will probably be a major source for every lesson I teach.
  • The Mormon Theology Seminar on Genesis 2-3 Collaborate Blog (start here)

OTGD Lesson 4 Outline: The Fall

Introduction: Bruce R. McConkie calls the Fall one of the “pillars of eternity”. What does he mean? Why is the fall so important?

After asking about the pillars of eternity, I just planned to dive right it, by asking:

What was life like before the Fall?

  1. Adam to “dress” and “keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15).
  2. Not (surely) dead (Genesis 2:16)
  3. Adam and Eve naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:25).
  4. No children (2 Nephi 2:23).
  5. Innocent: no joy, no misery; no good, no sin (2 Nephi 2:23)
  6. Eve a “help meet” for Adam. Discuss this point. Suggests a state of equality. The verb is “meet”–it means something like “sufficient for” or “equal to the task of”. The particular Hebrew noun, “help”, is pretty rare in the Bible, and refers to divinely granted aid. Only used in reference to Eve and God. That is, only Eve and God are equated with this particular form of “help”. My source.

What was life like after the Fall?
Results of the Fall (1-10 come from the manual; 11 – 13 are my additions)

  1. Adam and Eve were able to have children, which allowed us to come to earth and receive mortal bodies (Moses 5:11; 6:48; 2 Nephi 2:23, 25).
  2. We experience physical death, or separation of the physical body from the spirit (Moses 4:25; 6:48; 2 Nephi 9:6). Somebody brought this up–I think as part of the list about pre-Fall life. I pointed out that this is not an obvious point, and pointed to Ezekiel 28 as a case of somebody being kicked out of the garden and killed (probably not Adam, as argued here (see here), but probably not Satan either). It would have been better, I realized after the fact, to point out that BH Roberts thought there might have been “pre-Adamites” based off of his reading of Genesis. Church leaders/manuals hammer this point, but this is one point where I think careful reading suggests some different viewpoints.
  3. We experience spiritual death, or separation from God’s presence (Moses 4:29; 6:49; 2 Nephi 9:6).
  4. We are partakers of misery and woe (Moses 6:48; Genesis 3:16–17).
  5. We are capable of sinning (Moses 6:49, 55; 2 Nephi 2:22–23).
  6. The ground is cursed, causing us to need to work (Moses 4:23–25; Genesis 3:17–19). Ask: What does it mean that it is cursed “for Adam’s sake”?
  7. We can learn to recognize good and evil (Moses 4:28; 6:55–56; 2 Nephi 2:23; Genesis 3:22).
  8. We can have joy in mortality (Moses 5:10; 2 Nephi 2:23, 25).
  9. We can know the joy of our redemption (Moses 5:11).
  10. We can obtain eternal life (Moses 5:11).
  11. Eve cursed with painful childbirth, desire (probably sexual) toward her husband (Genesis 3:16).
  12. Adam to “rule over” Eve.  This does NOT mean “rule with” (see here). I read this as a difference between the state of equality prior to the Fall and a state of inequality after the fall. This point went okay. We fell into a discussion of men presiding in the home and so forth, which pretty much ignored the point I was trying to make, but nobody attacked the point itself, instead the comments sort of dodged it.
  13. We are afforded protection from disembodied spirits (Joseph Smith, see Matthew Brown, The Plan of Salvation, pg. 33). We didn’t end up discussing this point, as I don’t think we got this far. I think we got tied up in discussion at 12).

A comparison of Genesis and the Book of Moses presents an interesting pair of views on the fall and its effects.

  • Read Genesis 4:1 (story of Cain and Abel)
  • Read Moses 5:1-5 (different story)

What do you make of this comparison? That these stories come immediately after the fall can (and probably should) tell us something about the effects of the Fall. What, then, are the effects of the Fall according to Genesis? What are the effects of the Fall according to the Book of Moses? [This is not the right question. I had a great thought about this earlier, but I can’t quite recover it] I ended up wrapping up my lesson on this note. I pointed out that the Book of Moses and Genesis present two perspectives on the Fall. In one, God (almost) immediately acts to resolve the effects of the Fall, while in the other, he doesn’t, and we can (or should?) see the effects of the Fall in our families and even our most intimate relationships. On the Fall and families, see these two posts. This point was wrapped up in my closing testimony, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for anyone to respond to this point.

Are the changes descriptive–talking simply about how things are, or are they prescriptive–talking about how things ought to be?  In particular, I used this point to try to address the point in 12. That is, if the state of things as God lays it out in the “curses” in Genesis 3 describe how things are and don’t prescribe how things ought to be, then we can both recognize our fallen-ness and make some attempt to overcome the effects the fall has on our relationships.

Mercy and the Fall (we sort of got into this, but not much)
God tells Adam that “you will surely die” when he eats the fruit. Adam does not die. What’s going on? In one reading, God does not punish Adam and Eve with death as a result of their eating the fruit: he’s merciful to them and only kicks them out of the garden of Eden. Of course, the first answer to this question is he dies spiritually. From one perspective, I’m fine with that answer, but it really does short-change the text. I’m not sure I managed to get that across to my class at all.

Another mercy: God makes them clothing. Does this strike any of you as a mercy? Why or why not?

What other aspects of the fall strike you as merciful?

Sin vs. Transgression (We did not discuss this)

A sin and a “transgression of the law” are different things. Elder Oaks compares this to the difference between something wrong because its wrongness is inherent, while other things are wrong because they are prohibited. Were Adam and Eve “punished” or were the changes in their state a natural result (or simply the consequences) of their actions? This seems to feed into the descriptive vs. prescriptive question about the results of the fall.

Post-Lesson Thoughts

On the whole, things went well. I felt like I lost the audience a bit with the Ezekiel thing, although I am glad I managed to throw that in there. I was disappointed that the point about pre- and post-Fall gender relations didn’t get taken up more seriously, but it also didn’t devolve into something more than the usual soft patriarchy of “presiding.” I had lots of extra material which I hoped would have made for interesting discussion, but we just didn’t get to it.

OTGD Round 1: Lesson 4, The Fall

So, one of the things I’m going to do here is post my lesson outlines and notes for my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine (aka OTGD) lessons. So I’ll present a somewhat revised version of my class outline with some commentary about how things went in class and some notes about what we did or did not cover. I’ll also (probably) include my pre-outline notes, which often include a lot of questions, ideas, and material that I end up cutting from the lesson, although there is going to be at least some overlap between my notes and outline. I may also post a list of the things I read to prepare for my lesson, although that’s currently at the end of my notes post.

So, you can find OTGD Lesson 4 Outline here and OTDG Lesson 4 notes here. Enjoy!