Thursday, August 29, 2013

On the Book of Abraham as Pseudepigrapha II

In an incoherent argument by a commenter over here I am accused of a number of things:
John Gee has gone so far as to state that “the Book of Abraham is not like the Book of Mormon; it has no equivalent of Moroni’s promise; it is not a sign of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.” Gee has also said publicly that “the Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Christ.”
Yes, the scriptures define the gospel as:
  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. the gift of the Holy Ghost
  5. enduring to the end.
In a strict sense, the Book of Abraham is not central to that. I have also written about what the significance of the Book of Abraham is. It is not insignificant and its rejection loses a number of important things. Without the Book of Abraham we lose much of what it means to be Mormon, not the gospel, but plain and precious things nonetheless.

The argument then becomes completely incoherent:
if Gee and Muhlestein are correct in their arguments that the BofA literally appeared on the papyri Joseph possessed, the BofA would be a late pseudepigraphic text authored by either an Egyptian or Jewish scribe who syncretized Jewish and Egyptian religious traditions.
This is absolutely false. My have never believed that the Book of Abraham was a pseudepigraphic text. I have always believed and argued that it was written by Abraham. My latest article on the subject implies that the pseudepigraphic position is false.

The incoherent argumentation reveals some intriguing clues:

The BofA revises the opening chapters of Genesis which scholarly consensus attributes to two separate Judean sources that date long after the time period associated with Abraham.
The author does not mention that there is no hard physical evidence of the Judean sources ever existing. They are imaginary inventions of the nineteenth century. So the irony of this is that the Judean sources are pseudepigrapha, and not even ancient pseudepigrapha. So, ironically, someone must accept two modern pseudepigrapha to argue that the Book of Abraham is ancient pseudepigrapha.  If the Pentateuch was really compiled from documents that never existed until they were invented in the nineteenth century then a number of valid propositions become untenable and incomprehensible. If we limit ourselves to real documents, however, there is no basis to the claim.

One of the advantages of Near Eastern studies over biblical studies is that one must work with real documents. Scholars of the ancient Near East don't have to indoctrinate our students into the blind acceptance of imaginary documents as an article of faith. For the Book of the Dead, for example, we have thousands of manuscripts extending over thousands of years. We can, if we choose, investigate how the text developed over time. We do not have to hypothesize or invent sources, we have them. We do not have to speculate about the processes of text formation, we can explore them.

As one author wrote:
We possess and thus can present good-quality, original comparative data, all with very clear date limits; therefore, will all respect, one cannot possibly consider substituting physically unsupported theories or wholly theory-originated "works" in their place. (K. A. Kitchen, Treaty, Law, and Covenant [Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012], 3:241.)
So, with the Idrimi inscription, we possess and can present good-quality, original comparative data with clear date and space limits. This trumps wholly theory-originated works, no matter what consensus might support it.

The only way one can take my arguments as indicative that the Book of Abraham is ancient pseudepigrapha is if one privileges nineteenth century pseudepigrapha to actual ancient documents.