The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

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drumdude
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The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by drumdude »

Today’s reading in the new issue of BYU Studies was Stephen O. Smoot and Kerry Muhlestein, “Prophets, Pagans, and Papyri: The Jews of Greco-Roman Egypt and the Transmission of the Book of Abraham,” BYU Studies Quarterly 61/2 (2022): 105-134. Stephen O. Smoot holds a master’s degree in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizationsf rom the University of Toronto and is a doctoral candidate in Semitic and Egyptian languages and literature at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Kerry Muhlestein, who holds a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), is a professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University Here are some of my notes from the reading:



“One question that remains open for examination is how a purported autobiography of the patriarch Abraham could have been transmitted from his time (most likely circa 2,000-1,800 BC) into the Ptolemaic period (when the Joseph Smith Papyri were created) — a journey of well over a millennium and a half! How feasible or likely is it that a copy of Abraham’s writings could have been recovered from a point in history so far removed from his own time? How was the text transmitted, and when? And by whom? And for what purpose(s)? And how likely is it that Abraham’s writings would have been associated with a collection of funerary papyri seemingly unrelated to anything Jewish or biblical?” (106-107)
“To answer the question of how a putative copy of Abraham’s writings could have been transmitted into Greco-Roman Egypt (and subsequently into the possession of Joseph Smith), this paper will first look at the evidence that demonstrates a Jewish presence in Greco-Roman Egypt. After reviewing this evidence, it will then explore questions related to the direction of cultural exchange between Egyptian and Jewish groups. Did Jewish migrants coming into Egypt absorb Egyptian culture more than they imported and disseminated their own culture and customs? Did the Egyptians ever borrow or adapt Jewish ideas and figures? Was there an even flow of cultural exchange in both directions? What kinds of exchange are detectable in the surviving evidence? Finally, this paper will explore how all of this may shed light on a plausible way in which the Book of Abraham could have been transmitted down to the Hellenistic era.” (107)


Brothers Smoot and Muhlestein acknowledge that their argument for a plausible ancient path of transmission for the Book of Abraham is only relevant on “the assumption that Joseph Smith had in his possession a physical ancient copy of Abraham’s writings” (107). If, however, one posits the notion that the Book of Abraham came via revelation that was merely catalyzed by an ancient papyrus that didn’t actually contain the text — an idea that they expressly say both possesses some merit and is compatible with belief in the Book of Abraham as genuine ancient scripture — their argument will, as they themselves admit, be essentially irrelevant. Another possibility is that “the Book of Abraham might be a pseudepigraphic text composed by a Jewish author during the Greco-Roman period. Much of what is laid out in this paper may be highly relevant to this line of thinking,” as well (107). Why bring up these two additional possibilities? Here is their explanation:



“[D]espite the important advances scholars have made in recent years, no one single theory for the origin of the Book of Abraham can account for all of the evidence. . . . Further, we wish to emphasize that our putting forward this theory [for a plausible means of manuscript transmission for an ancient Book of Abraham text] does not mean that we strongly favor the theory that the text of the Book of Abraham was on the papyrus over the theory that the papyri served as a catalyst to Joseph Smith’s reception of a revelation of an inspired scriptural text. We are merely exploring ways that the text of the Book of Abraham could have been transmitted if that text was actually on the papyrus Joseph Smith owned.” (109, emphasis in the original)



Here is my abbreviated summary of their final summary, which occurs at pages 132-134:



“Archaeological and textual evidence conclusively demonstrates that ancient Jews migrated into Egypt beginning as early as the eighth century BC.”
“In addition to founding new communities complete with civic and religious structures (including temples), these Jews not only brought with them their religious texts (including the writings of the Hebrew Bible) but also composed and disseminated new literary works while residing in Egypt. . . . This evidence provides a plausible route of transmission for a copy of Abraham’s writings into Egypt.”

“Many Egyptianized or Hellenized Jews of the Greco-Roman period maintained their religious heritage and identity while also not hesitating to freely syncretize Greek and Egyptian elements with their own religious traditions and texts.”

“On the other side of the equation, the polytheistic Egyptians, for whom “the very concept of a false god was alien,” likewise imported Greek and Jewish religious elements into their very own religious structures. They willingly incorporated Jewish religious figures including Moses and Abraham into their magical practices and participated in the broader cultural exchange that occurred at the time.”

“What we know about Hor, the ancient owner of P. Joseph Smith I+XI+X (the Book of Breathings), and his occupation as a priest of Thebes (a city that saw cross-cultural exchange during the Greco-Roman period) could very plausibly account for why he might have been interested in a copy of a text like the Book of Abraham.”

“The Book of Abraham itself would have been right at home in the literary and religious milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt.”


And here is their concluding paragraph:



“Taken together, the evidence above provides a plausible scenario for how a copy of a text “purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt,” could have been transmitted into Greco-Roman Egypt by a group of Jewish emigrés and eventually [come] into the possession of an Egyptian priest. . . . When it comes to explaining how an ancient copy of the Book of Abraham could have been transmitted into Egypt, we can, with a fair amount of confidence, position ourselves atop this evidence as a solid starting place to launch future investigations.” (134)

I'd love to see what real Greco-Roman and Egyptian scholars think about the Book of Abraham story being "right at home" there :lol: . I imagine they would laugh and then cry.


Also interesting and bolded above, Mopologists now acknowlege and embrace the shell-game on the origins of the Book of Abraham. No one single theory explains it away, so they have to employ several mutually contradictory theories simuntaneously. They're so clever that Book of Abraham problem just vanishes away in a swift puff of faulty logic.
IHAQ
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

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“Taken together, the evidence above provides a plausible scenario for how a copy of a text “purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt,” could have been transmitted into Greco-Roman Egypt by a group of Jewish emigrés and eventually [come] into the possession of an Egyptian priest. . . . When it comes to explaining how an ancient copy of the Book of Abraham could have been transmitted into Egypt, we can, with a fair amount of confidence, position ourselves atop this evidence as a solid starting place to launch future investigations.” (134)
If only the papyrus supported that plausible scenario. I guess Smoot and Muhlestein still believe the actual papyrus is missing, and that the facsimiles...well...erm...

Isn't the starting point to show that a. Abraham was a real person, and that b. the papyrus Joseph had contained his writings?
Most historians view the patriarchal age, along with the Exodus and the period of the biblical judges, as a late literary construct that does not relate to any particular historical era;[8] and after a century of exhaustive archaeological investigation, no evidence has been found for a historical Abraham.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham
Philo Sofee
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by Philo Sofee »

They are just fishing since nothing has worked, so they are combining different approaches hoping something works. I mean, it makes sense, they have nothing else to go on.
hauslern
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by hauslern »

I notice Royal Skousen was not on the speakers list.

https://humanities.byu.edu/wp-content/u ... -J2019.pdf See his opinion on the facsimiles page 39

Kerry Muuhlestein recenty purchased Tamas Mekis book on hypocephalus. Nothing there that supported Smith's interpretations.
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by hauslern »

I emailed Kerry asking him does he still thinks the standing figure in fac 1 was holding a knife along with a picture i got from an Egyptologist at York University.
So far no response

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P1l ... HNVYg/edit
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Dr Moore
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by Dr Moore »

“[D]espite the important advances scholars have made in recent years, no one single theory for the origin of the Book of Abraham can account for all of the evidence. . . .
One theory does.
It was a product of Joseph's study and imagination.
Alphus and Omegus
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by Alphus and Omegus »

IHAQ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 8:36 am
Isn't the starting point to show that a. Abraham was a real person, and that b. the papyrus Joseph had contained his writings?
Most historians view the patriarchal age, along with the Exodus and the period of the biblical judges, as a late literary construct that does not relate to any particular historical era;[8] and after a century of exhaustive archaeological investigation, no evidence has been found for a historical Abraham.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham
It's shooting fish in a barrel, but you're absolutely right that proving Abraham actually existed must be done before trying to make other arguments about the Mormon scripture volume of that name.

There is so much more evidence that Judaism's origins are in Canaanite paganism rather than the Homeric epics related in the Torah. Abraham did not exist. Moses did not exist, etc. These facts don't really harm Christians who don't believe in a literal Bible, but good-standing Mormons must believe in Biblical literalism because Smith claimed to have personally met some of the characters in it or to have directly interfaced with their work ("by his own hand").

Peterson, Smoot, Muhlestein, and their cohort are an intellectual dead-end. They imagine that they are somehow different than the standard-issue TBMs who believe whatever the manual says, but ultimately Neo-Orthodox Mormonism is fundamentalism, just with a fancier vocabulary and a love of bragging about fancy dinners on the internet.

This is ultimately the reason that the younger Mormon intellectuals who aren't driven away by the church's policies and censorious attitudes toward criticism is that Neo-Orthodox Mormonism is craven and absurd.
huckelberry
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by huckelberry »

IHAQ wrote:
Wed Sep 21, 2022 8:36 am

Isn't the starting point to show that a. Abraham was a real person, and that b. the papyrus Joseph had contained his writings?
Most historians view the patriarchal age, along with the Exodus and the period of the biblical judges, as a late literary construct that does not relate to any particular historical era;[8] and after a century of exhaustive archaeological investigation, no evidence has been found for a historical Abraham.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham
I could not help but laugh. I am aware of reason to doubt the Exodus and conquest stories. I have read some archaeological material on the question and can see reason to think of the background of Israel to be the Canaanites.
My sense of the absurd was aroused by the observation that archeology could not find Abraham. Archeology finds cities, forts, monuments, important building, trash piles from cities etc. It does not find some wandering family from wherever who may have lived four thousand years ago.
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by Gabriel »

At first glance, this article seems like a hot mess. But I believe that it's salvageable. In order that it might pass muster in any reputable peer-reviewed journal on the planet, as editor I would insist on inserting a word that not only encapsulates the article's content but elucidates its authors' intent, thereby redeeming the whole.
As follows:

“Prophets, Pagans, and Papyri: The Jews of Greco-Roman Egypt and the Transmission of the Book of Abraham,”

by Stephen O. Smoot and Kerry Muhlestein

Abstract:Squirrel!
hauslern
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Re: The Book of Abraham right at home in the literary milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt

Post by hauslern »

I shared the Patheos item with Egyptopologist Tamas Mekis He wrote "Hope you are fine! Thank you for the update on the Book of Abraham. As for my personal opinion, I do not understand how anybody can believe these nonsense theories.." If you want to check him out use google scholar.

As a Hungarian Ukaine war troubles him "We are really in a difficult situation here in Europe, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. We have to economize with energy, especially with gas. We are not at war with Ukraine nor with Russia, so we are not obliged to fight against any of these countries.
If Russia will use nuclear weapons, their effect will surely affect us. I hope Russia won't use such instruments.
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