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Extra-Biblical Details in the “Book of Abraham” Compared with Parallels in Published Sources Available to Joseph Smith in Early 19th Century America

Extra-Biblical Details in the “Book of Abraham” Compared with Parallels in Published Sources Available to Joseph Smith in Early 19th Century America

Adapted and expanded from an unpublished paper by the late Wesley P. Walters
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Abraham lived among idolaters

“My fathers, having turned from their righteousness ... unto the worshipping of the gods of the heathen ...” Abraham 1:5. “Abraham himself also, most agree, was bred up in the same idolatry” (Symon Patrick, et. al., A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old Testament, 1809, on Joshua 24:2).

Abraham's father, Terah, was an idolater

“my father was led away by their idolatry” Abraham 1:27.

“my father turned again unto his idolatry” Abraham 2:5.
“Terah was an idolater, living in a country from whence, as many think, idolatry first came.” Patrick, op. cit., on Joshua 24:2.

Terah was said to have been a priest

“I will ... put upon thee [Abraham] ... the Priesthood of thy Father ...” Abraham 1:18. “The Jews, in Schalsch Hakka-bala, say he was a priest” Patrick, op. cit., on Joshua 24:2.

Abraham had a knowledge of astronomy

“a knowledge ... of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, I have kept even unto this day” Abraham 1:31.

“Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of astronomy, in the king’s [Pharaoh’s] court.” Abraham, Facsimile No. 3, Explanation.
“Berosus mentions our father, Abram, without naming him, when he says thus: ‘In the tenth generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science.” Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, 7.1.

“He [Abram] communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt, they were unacquainted with those parts of learning ...” Josephus, Antiquities, Book I,7.2.

“Those who dwelt in Ur were either priests or astronomers” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible ... Commentary and Critical Notes, New York, 1832, on Daniel 2:10).

“Astrology is an holy, and most excellent Science .…It is asserted by good Authority, That much of this Learning came out of Paradise, and that our Father Adam after the Fall did communicate the same unto his Son Seth, out of his Memoirs of the state of Innocency: and that Seth made impressions of the same in certain permanent pillars, which were able to withstand both Fire and Water; and that hence Enoch had it, and Noah, and from him Shem, and so it came to Abraham, who increased the knowledg[e] by Divine helps; and taught the Chaldeans, and the Egyptians the principal Rudiments of what they knew herein” (John Butler, Astrology, A Sacred Science [London: N.p.,1680, “Preface”], as cited by D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised ed., [Salt Lake City: Signature Press, 1998], 221. Quinn comments that, “Claims for patriarchal conferral of astrology continued in occult literature down to Joseph Smith’s generation” (221).

Abraham's life was threatened but he was delivered by God

“My fathers ... hearkened not unto my voice, but endeavored to take away my life” Abraham 1:31

“the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also” Abraham 1:12

“the angel of the his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands” Abraham 1:15
“this tradition of the Jews says Abraham was cast in the fire for refusing to worship idols, and out of which he was delivered” (Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments ..., London, 1811, on Daniel 3:6.

“If we may credit the tradition ... Abraham was cast into such a fire by this idolatrous people, because he would not worship their idols” (Clarke, op. cit., on Daniel 3:6).

Abraham won converts who followed him to Canaan

“I, Abraham, departed ... and the souls we had won in Haran” Abraham 2:14-15 “And all the souls they had gotten ... The Chaldee paraphrase interprets this of the proselytes he had won to God” (Patrick, op. cit., on Genesis 12:5).

Abraham wrote of his ministry in a book

“But of the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of the Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands ... and I shall endeavor to write some things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” Abraham 1:31. “And some of the Hebrew doctors are so nice as to say that Abraham instructed the men ... concerning which he wrote a book ... and left it to his son Isaac.” Patrick, op. cit., on Genesis 12:5.

“that the learning of the Jews – I mean their Kaballah – was chemical and ended in true physical performances cannot be better proved than by the Book of Abraham, the Jew, wherein he laid down the secrets of this Art … [in] a gilded book, very old and large.” (Thomas Vaughan, Magica Adamica, 1650, 171-72, as cited by Quinn, 201)

“God restored it [the Cabala] to Adam; and that it passed from Adam to Seth. The Jewish fables go on to relate that the book being lost, and the mysteries contained [being] almost forgotten, in the degenerate age before the flood, they were restored, by special revelation to Abraham …” (William Enfield, History of Philosophy, 1791, 2:212, as cited by Quinn, 221. Quinn notes that Enfield’s book was advertised for sale in the Palmyra area from 1804 to 1828)