The Book of Abraham
This week (Feb 3) on Shabbat Night Live, it’s not in your Bible, it’s not even in the Apocrypha, but it is part of scripture according to the Mormon Church.
Jake Hilton exposes the fraud behind The Book of Abraham, a supposed “lost book” written in hieroglyphs by Abraham himself while he and Sarah were living in Egypt.
Watch the episode — included on this blog post.
While you watch, consider the questions below. The timeline for each discussion topic in the video is noted on each question. Post your answers in the comments section, and let’s get some discussion going!
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 16:00) How does the apocryphal Mormon text The Book of Abraham demonstrate the astonishing presumption of revising and repurposing scripture for an ostensibly sacred yet essentially manmade endeavor? How does this further dramatize the pervasive ignorance of scriptural integrity by professed Christians who predicate their evangelization upon discreet biblical quotations that are frequently devoid of proper context?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 20:00) How does the early 19th-century infatuation with Egyptian antiquities underscore the central conceit behind Mormonism? What is the essential ethos behind both the crass commercial publicity of important ancient artifacts and Joseph Smith’s opportunistic claim of understanding the written papyri and his appropriation of them for his own contrived religious doctrine?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 24:00) Similarly, how does the brief sojourn in Egypt of Abram and Sarai in Genesis 12 offer a questionable prospect for exploiting public gullibility during a period of pervasive fascination and ignorance of ancient languages and cultures? How is this syndrome still evident today in both New Age occultism and attempts to recontextualize scripture to render Yeshua as an accessible, contemporary figure?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 28:00) How do the equivocal words of W. W. Phelps regarding the apparent legitimacy of Joseph Smith’s ensuing translations of the papyri, along with Smith’s own ambiguous diary entries on this subject, inadvertently reveal the validity of Mormonism as a foregone conclusion by both men? How does this further suggest their exploitation of their congregation’s credulity regarding ancient texts?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 32:00) Similarly, how does the rhetoric of Smith’s November 14th diary entry suggest a self-serving fait accompli regarding the providential involvement of Warren Parrish? How does the ersatz biblical phraseology of this passage, along with its supposed source in divine revelation, indirectly reveal a categorical attempt to seize control of his congregation through manipulation of doctrine, as further suggested by his entry of December 12th?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 38:00) How does Smith’s lengthy denunciation of a young would-be follower regarding the antiquity of the Egyptian papyri anticipate the familiar hysterical reactions of those who defend politically correct or “woke” perspectives in our own time? Why do such attempts at verification of received opinion often elicit such vicious ad hominem attacks instead of rational argumentation from those in power?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 41:00) How does the sycophantic behavior of Joseph Smith’s “scribes” regarding the legitimacy of his translations of the Egyptian sources serve to support the view of him as a cult leader? How does the cynicism of Martin Harris regarding financial gain from these efforts reveal the corrosive effect of false prophesy and its potential for spreading corruption on a massive, popular scale?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 46:00) How does the extent of Smith’s translation of one specific depiction in the scroll – involving purely imaginary insertions of imagery, faux Egyptian names of “idolatrous gods,” and even a misapplied Hebrew construction – dramatize the dangers of amateurism in matters of historical folklore? How does Facsimile 1 ironically foreshadow such public embarrassments as the Piltdown Man or the “1692 A.D.” date of the prose poem “Desiderata”?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 50:00) How does the eventual discovery of the intact Hor Book of Breathing demonstrate the opportunism of those who underestimate future breakthroughs in archeology and paleography? How has the rise of Egyptology studies in various disciplines completely undermined Smith’s “translation” as a cornerstone of his contrived religion?
- (VIDEO TIMELINE: 54:00) How do Smith’s presumptive identifications of the various figures in Facsimile 3 reveal aspects of chauvinism regarding race and gender that have been invalidated by historical research and growing enlightenment since the early nineteenth century? How likely is Mormonism to survive accusations of “institutional racism” in a period of increasingly global and multiethnic commerce?