For many struggling Latter-day Saints, a pivotal moment in their transitioning faith comes when they are confronted with the mismatch between traditional teachings about the Book of Abraham being an ancient text written by the patriarch Abraham and a nearly universal scholarly consensus that it is based upon much later, and quite ordinary funerary documents that have nothing to do with the biblical figure. Further exacerbating the difficulty is the tenor and often strained mindset behind apologetic efforts to defend a traditional view of the texts, translation processes, interpretations of the book’s three facsimiles, and the general relevance of Egyptian studies in understanding them as possibly still relating to Abraham. As many Latter-day Saints confront these issues, they find themselves in the difficult position of having to rethink their views about scripture in general, the nature of prophetic revelation, and the type of “translating” in which Joseph Smith engaged if they are going to be able to continue thinking of the Book of Abraham as “scripture” or “inspired.”
In this two-part episode, Brian Hauglid, David Bokovoy, and Charley Harrell join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a discussion about all of these issues. Part I focuses primarily on the historical background of the various papyri that came into Smith’s hands, his and other early leaders’ efforts to translate them, the eventual production of the Book of Abraham, and the various scholarly views and angles of argument presented by defenders of traditional understandings. Part II then turns to the meta-questions of “scripture,” revelation, translation, how Smith might have been so wrong about the nature of the papyri and yet still genuinely moved by the Spirit in the text he produced and presented as from Abraham, “written by his own hand upon papyrus.” The panelists each share some of his own journey to reorient his thinking about the Book of Abraham and these wider issues of prophetic inspiration and the production of scripture both in ancient and latter days.
Please listen and then share you thoughts in the comments section below!
David Bokovoy. Authoring the Old Testament–Genesis – Deuteronomy (Kofford Books, 2014)
Brian M. Hauglid, “Thoughts on the Book of Abraham,” Religious Studies Center publication.
Kevin Barney, “The Book of Abraham,” By Common Consent blog, 27 June 2013 (Brian Hauglid suggests this for someone looking for an excellent overview of Book of Abraham issues.”
Kevin L. Barney, “The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute publication. (Mentioned in the podcast as presenting what has been called the J-Red hypothesis.)
Charley Harrell interview on Mormon Stories that contains a good discussion of the expansive views of revelation as a divine-human hybrid that he also shares about in this episode. (25 January 2012, Episodes 317 and 318)
Community of Christ affirmations about the nature of scripture and its role in human faith (mentioned by Charley Harrell in this podcast).
Dan Wotherspoon, “Reaching, Calling, Hungry, Thirsty: Imagining Abrahamic Creation,” published under the title “Keepers of the Stories” in Irreantum 4, no.2 (Summer 2002), 46-51.