Inspired Pseudepigraphon

Could the Book of Abraham be Inspired Pseudepigraphon?

For over five years before his work on the Book of Abraham, the Prophet had been giving revelations from his own mouth that believers accepted as the word of God. He did not need to produce a biblical-like forgery in order to claim that a revelation was inspired. He was dictating his own revelations all the time. Certainly producing a lost book of Abraham would have legitimized Joseph’s own revelations, but even this perspective illustrates how different the Book of Abraham is from what Ehrman calls forgeries.

A superior genre label for the Book of Abraham that takes into consideration the observations of Higher Criticism would be “scriptural attribution.” With this view the 2013 introduction to the Book of Abraham as “an inspired translation of the writings of Abraham” could be understood, not as a description of what Abraham literally wrote, but instead as a description of what Abraham would have written if given the chance. In producing this inspired pseudepigraphon Joseph Smith was the revelatory conduit for this scriptural text. In terms of genre, this, in some ways, places the Book of Abraham among the many other pseudepigraphal sources in the biblical canon.

It seems clear that Joseph believed he was producing a literal translation of the papyri he possessed. We should not assume, however, that the Prophet fully understood the revelatory process in which he was engaged. When read as a revealed document, the Book of Abraham can be viewed as another important piece to the theological structure Joseph Smith was revealing. A Latter-day Saint who accepts the views of Historical Criticism need not believe that the Book of Abraham is a supernatural, though traditional, translation of an ancient text written by the patriarch Abraham, nor the translation of a Hellenized pseudepigraphic book of Abraham originally written in the first century BC,; instead, it can make even more sense that by engaging the ancient papyri, the Prophet Joseph was inspired to produce this book of scripture as author, or in his vernacular, “seer/translator.”

Rather than diminishing the inspired nature of the work, approaching the Book of Abraham from this perspective could provide an even greater authoritative stamp upon the scriptural text. If one accepts the Documentary Hypothesis and the inspired nature of the Book of Abraham, then it must be either (1) a pseudepigraphic work of scripture written by an unknown (though possibly inspired) author in the fourth through first century BC; or (2) an inspired pseudepigraphic work written by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The simple application of Occam’s Razor would require us to cut out the unnecessary excess and accept the latter option. Not only is this approach more simplified and reflective of the papyri evidence, cutting out the unknown author leaves Latter-day Saints with a directly inspired scriptural text that adopts and transforms biblical concepts by linking images from the past to the framework of a highly sophisticated theological scheme. (David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament, p. 172-173)

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About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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One Response to Inspired Pseudepigraphon

  1. Pingback: Why is the Book of Abraham text not on the papyri? | LDS Scripture Teachings

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