A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
IN THE LIGHT OF EXTRA-CANONICAL
The Department of Graduate Studies in Religious Instruction
Brigham Young University
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Rabbi Nissim Wernick
At this time, I wish to express my thanks to the many people whose assistance
has brought me to this final study in my doctoral program.
Particularly indispensable was the valuable assistance to this study
rendered by members of my Advisory Committee, who graciously gave time
and experienced counsel. These committee members were: Dr. Sidney B. Sperry,
Dr. Ellis T. Rasmussen, and Dr. Daniel H. Ludlow, whose guidance assisted
in expediting this work.
To Dr. James R. Clark, who introduced me to this study through his course
on the Pearl of Great Price and who gave his unusual insights to this project,
and whose relationship to me gave me strength and hope, deep appreciation
I would feel remiss if special appreciation and heartfelt thanks were
not tendered to my dear friend, E1lis T. Rasmussen, whose warm friendship
and suggestions both as committee member and advisor provided the impetus,
the matrix, and encouragement which made this study possible.
To my wife, Diane, who gave the special incentive which made enduring
endurable, and has been so patient and helpful that I might have the necessary
time to complete this study, I give my love and appreciation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Statement of the Problem
- Manner of Collation and Presentation of Data
- Concerning the Language in which the data is presented
I. JEWISH LITERATURE
II. PRE-MORTAL EXISTENCE
- Introduction to the Book of Abraham
IV. MAN, THE PINNACLE OF CREATION
- Biblical View of Man
- Rabbinical View of Man
- Modern Attitudes on the Nature of Man and Religion=s Answer
- The Battle Within Man
V. PRIESTHOOD AND
THE CULT IN EARLY ISRAEL
VI. CHARACTER OF ABRAHAM
VII. URIM AND THUMNIM
VIII. THE DIVINE PROMISE
- Affirmation of the Promise
Go to Endnotes
There have been many misunderstandings between Judaism and Mormonism
regarding the various concepts found in each religion. This project will
be devoted to looking at the concepts found in the Book of Abraham and
attempting to find parallels in light of extra-Canonical Jewish writings.
The Book of Abraham portrays a broad spectrum of concepts that at first
glance might seem foreign to Judaism. Creation is described in the Book
of Abraham as denying the concept of creatio ex nihilo. This world was
created by God fashioning the already existing materials present in the
world. The existence of a pre-mortal soul is emphatically portrayed as
the pre-mortal existence of the spirit children of God. These spirit children
were foreordained before their mortal births to perform their missions
on earth. Abraham is viewed as being the rightful heir of the Melchizedek
Priesthood. This was transmitted to him by Melchizedek, himself. The Book
of Abraham also states that Abraham possessed the Urim and Thummim with
which he was able to see many wonderful things. Detailed investigation
of these concepts with the light of Jewish writings will be the domain
of this dissertation.
Statement of the Problem
The above paragraph notes that there has been much misunderstanding
between Mormonism and Judaism regarding the concepts found within the teachings
of Mormonism. There is evidence that these misunderstandings can be alleviated
if a better knowledge of Judaism and Jewish writings come to the forefront.
The purpose of this study is to present an orderly exposition of evidence
of parallelism regarding the concepts found in those two arena. The purpose,
therefore, is to bring those concepts to the attention of the reader by
correlating these concepts as found in Jewish literature with the Book
of Abraham. This project was undertaken with the assumption that a comparative
study aide of those two areas would allow a conclusion to be drawn as to
the meaning, effect or significance of the similarities. It is assumed
as a preliminary hypothesis that by showing similarities within the two
traditions, a better understanding of the relevance that these literary
works bear upon each other will result.
Ninety per cent of the data accumulated comes from the traditional ancient
Hebrew texts; the rest of the research was devoted to modern discoveries
and how they validate these texts. Throughout the research, one purpose
was always present: to show the parallels between the Book of Abraham and
The Midrash was the main Jewish source for it is a running commentary
on the Bible as viewed by the Rabbis. There is no other commentary so rich
in concepts as the Midrash. The Mishnah and Talmud
were also used as a source when the Midrash proved fruitless. Many times,
medieval commentaries were employed to sum up and verify the traditions
put forth by earlier sources.
The Book of Abraham was the main source, in regard to Mormon doctrine,
for it was from it that the concepts to be investigated were taken. To
verify these concepts, the Doctrinal Commentary of the Pearl of Great Price,
The Story of the Pearl of Great Price, and Pearl of Great Price Commentary
were used. Mormon Doctrine was also employed to clarify concepts that were
Other commentaries and general exegetical works consulted during the
course of this study are cited in the Bibliography.
Other books of Sacred Scripture are likewise cited, in the text if quoted,
or in the Bibliography, if reference to them was made.
Manner of Collation and Presentation of Data
Every occurrence of any concept in the Book of Abraham was located and
copied out with a sufficient portion of the context to be meaningful. This
was organized as to its relationship to Jewish literature.
Brief analyses and evaluation of the significance of both, Jewish literature
and Book of Abraham, are presented chapter by chapter, and some of the
implications of these are summarized at the end of each chapter.
Concerning the Language in Which the Data is Presented
The research for this study was necessarily done in the languages of
the documents studied: Hebrew and Aramaic. The passages marked for consideration
in this study were, as indicated in the previous section, classified and
evaluated before being translated into English and copied into this report.
This process was adopted for two primary reasons:
(1) Since the study is concerned with concepts and their meanings, the
third language, English in this case, served as a common denominator for
expressing the meaning of each concept found.
While it would be desirable for those readers who understand Hebrew
and Aramaic to see the passages selected in its original forms throughout,
for many, however scholarly in related fields, but lacking training in
those languages, only the conclusions would be available for evaluation.
The compromise presentation of translation and transliteration seemed to
be a suitable vehicle for conveying meaning to all readers.
Go to Endnotes
This first chapter is devoted to a detailed description of Midrash,
Mishnah, Tosefta, and Gemara, in order to acquaint
the reader with the sources and origins from which Jewish concepts originated.
Therefore, this chapter is divided into three sections, each dealing with
one of the three aforementioned topics. These three mayor branches of Jewish
literature constitute the world of the Talmud.
The basic method by which the Ora1 Torah was developed in Judaism was
the Midrash. The word derives from the Hebrew daroah, which
means "to probe" or "to search." Midrash was
a process of probing into the written text of the Bible to deal with the
various problems suggested by it. These problems varied from the obscurities
of linguistics to ideology. They ranged from the quest for the simple elucidation
of a text to the quest for underlying principles of theology, ethics, or
law that might be applicable to new situations in need of guidance, when
explicit direction was missing in the biblical text.
The masters of the Midrash in some cases are clearly innovators, but
their probing is an attempt to find come clue, even if indirect,
in the biblical text so as to establish continuity between the old and
the new. The Midrash that Concerns itself with law is called Midrash Halacha;
the term Halacha referring to law. The non-legal Midrash is called Midrash
Haggadah; Haggadah; the term Haggadah conveying the sense
of a general utterance in any realm of thought except law. The dialectic
of the Talmud is an exemplification of the midrashic method, and
to understand this method is to grasp the process by which the Talmud
moves from the confrontation of a problem toward its solution.
Midrash forms a major part of the contents of the Talmud.
But as is noted later on, there are other elements in the Talmud
besides Midrash. There is, for example, the pronouncement of law
of doctrine, without reference to the chain of reasoning by which these
are related to the biblical source. The primary source of Midrash
is not in the Talmud proper, but in a number of special midrashic
works called Midrashim. Quotes from a number of these works are
inserted throughout this dissertation.
Among the Midrashim are the Sifre and Tanhuma.
Sifre is one of the oldest Midrashim, dating back to the
second century C.E. Its title means "books," and it is an abbreviation
from Sifre de-be Rav, or "The Books of
the School." Its form is that of a running commentary on the biblical
books of Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Tanhuma, so called after a
teacher who directs the discussion in this volume, has been traced to the
second half of the ninth century. It is a running commentary on each of
the Five Books of Moses. The material covered in the two Midrashim
is often the same, but there is variation in treatment. The material itself
is, of course, much older, and the sources from which the compilers drew
their material are of course, older than the date of compilation.
The Sifre is one of the oldest Midrashim and its tendency
is to be terse in its comments. The Tanhuma as noted, often covers
the same material but presents it more profusely, with incidents and parables
and other biblical episodes to reinforce its point.
The observations of the Rabbis cited in the Midrash are not a
total answer to certain mysteries, but they are a contribution to the answer.
The linking of a text with another biblical passage that expresses more
forcefully the interpretation chosen, and the citation of illustration
from common experience, are all characteristic of the endeavor of midrashic
writing to illuminate a text under discussion. In the process, the discussion
seems to wander far afield, but the underlying ideas gain in depth and
relevance for helping to meet the ongoing perplexities of life.
The Midrash has as its objective the clarification of the Bible,
but sometimes it creates obscurities of its own. Many a midrashic passage
is baffling because its idiom is unclear. All the problems that beset a
biblical text often beset the midrashic text as well. The Bible tells us,
"And the Lord said to Abraham, 'Get thee out of thy country, from
thy kindred and from thy father's house unto the land which I will show
Commenting on this verse, Rabbi Isaac is quoted as saying:
Abraham was like a man traveling from place to place and he continued
to see a palace illuminated within. He said to himself, 'Can it be that
the palace is without a master?' Then did the master of the palace look
and say to him, 'I am the master of the palace.' Similarly did Abraham
look out upon the world and say, 'Can it be that the world is without a
master to guide it?' Then did the Holy One, praised be He, look out upon
Abraham and say to him , 'I am the Master of the world.'2
The point of Rabbi Isaac's comment as hero interpreted is that Abraham
was sensitive to the teleology, or purposefulness, in the world. There
was design, order, and purpose in all things in nature and this ruled out
for him the absence of a guiding intelligence. The universe required a
master to account for itself, as the palace surely had a master to direct
its purposeful operation. It was because Abraham revealed this sensitivity
that God saw him as a fitting emissary, and called on him to undertake
his ministry to the world, which commenced from his departure from his
The key word in this interpretation is the Hebrew doleket. We
have translated it as "illuminated." However, another translation
for doleket is possible, one that is descriptive of both the palace and
the world..."afire." The analogy invoked would then be to a person
who beheld a palace afire and wondered whether there was no one who cared
that such a stately edifice was being consumed by fire. Similarly Abraham
saw that the world was being consumed by injustice and falsehood, and he
wondered whether anyone really cared that the world was being destroyed.
It was then that God revealed Himself to Abraham, and made it clear to
him that He is the Sovereign of the world and that He indeed cares and
it was because he saw in Abraham a sensitivity to the evils of his world
that He deemed him a fitting emissary to reform the world. God therefore
charged Abraham to leave his birthplace and journey to a new land where
he was now to commence a ministry of service to "all the families
of the earth."
Which of these two interpretations is correct? It is difficult to resolve
the question. Some commentators on the Midrash follow the one interpretation,
others the other. The ambiguity of language gives each an element of legitimacy.
The biblical text itself is silent on the subject. The Bible begins with
Abraham's call. Rabbi Isaac projected imaginatively, as the authors of
the Midrash often do, a plausible setting for this call.
Rabbi Isaac's exposition is not necessarily to be taken as a factual
statement of what really transpired. The past has come down to us in meager
records and we are ever engaged in a labor of imaginative reconstruction
to make the past intelligible. In this labor of reconstruction, the past
is seen in the light of the present. Contemporary experience is used as
a clue to the past, but this is an inescapable procedure. The tools employed
are the mind and heart, which acquire their predispositions from the existing
world. Rabbi Isaac's statement is clearly an imaginative reading into the
past of what was in his own mind and heart. But this does not make it false.
Its value is partly in the light it sheds on the biblical world. Its value
is also in the insights it conveys independently of the biblical text which
This principle is vital to appreciation of the Midrash. Its expositions
are frequently not meant as factual characterizations. They are suggested
as being a kind of poetry. They are a work of creative imagination, which
begins with a perception of the world and its condition, and of the values
by which it may be redeemed and perfected. This perception is sometimes
projected forward in to the unborn future and sometimes backward into the
past. These imaginative flights are precious in themselves, because the
perceptions in which they are rooted enrich mightily the treasury of wisdom
The midrashic collections quoted follow the running text of the Bible.
There is also a group of midrashic works in which the order of biblical
passages discussed follows the Torah readings on the Festivals and
special Sabbaths. There are, in addition, a number of other special collections
based on various books of the Bible or on special themes, which expound
their lessons regardless of the order of biblical sources where these themes
are dealt with. But all these works follow the method of the Midrashim
from which quoted. It is recognized that the most comprehensive of all
the midrashic collections is the Yalkut Shimeoni, compiled
by Simon Karo, of the thirteenth century. His sources are usually the Talmud
and the earlier midrashic works, but some of them clearly suggest that
he had access to earlier works, a number of which have been lost to subsequent
readers. The Yalkut is a summation of the entire treasure of midrashic
literature and it covers almost all the books of the Bible. It is the richest
single work in this vast literature that sums up more than a thousand years
of Jewish thought and experience.
The method of Midrash, that was just examined, yielded a rich
harvest to the development of Jewish tradition. Its chief asset was that
it expressed the central position of the biblical text in the literary
expansion which was inspired by it. The biblical text stood out like a
jewel in the center. All around it was woven the rich tapestry of comment
and elaboration that was characteristic of the Oral Torah.
The Midrash was ideally suited to serve the longings of the Jewish
people for a literature of edification and inspiration. It has long been
customary for Jews to study the Pentateuch in weekly installments. These
were supplemented with selections from other books of the Bible. But instead
of studying the bare biblical text, it came to be studied with the enriching
embroidery of Midrash.
There was another need, however, that the Midrash could not meet.
The Bible was not meant only for edification. One of its principal elements
is law, and here a more rigorous approach is necessary. The legislation
of the Bible is scattered in many different sections of the Pentateuch.
Through the method of Midrash the biblical law was expanded and
became a vehicle for disciplining life, but the new legal elaborations
created by the masters of the Midrash were also scattered. Moreover,
each legal statement-as evolved in the school of Midrash-was formulated
in an elaborate and involved exposition. The process by which the new developments
were inferred from the old provisions was preserved, with the arguments
and proof texts and the give-and-take of academic dialectics.
Those interested in law felt the need for a work of simplification and
systematization. They felt the need for a work that would state the legal
formula succinctly without reference to the manner of its derivation, one
that would organize the different provisions of the law along thematic
lines without reference to the order in which the subject was treated in
Scripture. Such a work was eventually created, and it has come down as
The term Mishnah derives from the Hebrew word shanah,
which means "to repeat" or "to study." The Mishnah
is a source book of Jewish law, as it evolved from its biblical beginnings.
It was edited by Rabbi Judah the Prince and his disciples who were active
in Palestine in the third century C.E. Rabbi Judah utilized earlier collections
of law, but he also engaged in original research. Its objective was to
encompass all the legal opinions that had been pronounced by jurists in
the preceding centuries.
The entire Mishnah states its provisions anonymously. This indicates
that the jurists who had discussed the subject had reached unanimity. None
had challenged those rulings. Whoever had taken the initiative in formulating
those rulings cannot be determined from the Mishnah. The greatest
triumph of a juror was to have the court adopt his views and propound them
as his own.
How did the Jurists reach their decision in areas where the Bible is
silent? An ingenious dialectic sometimes developed inferences from what
is given in the biblical text. But beyond this dialectic there was the
intrinsic logic of a situation which recommended certain courses of action
It is the nature of the Mishnah to ignore the considerations under lying
a decision. Its rulings are presented categorically, as codified formulae
of what should or should not be done.
Rabbinic literature also includes a work that parallels the Mishnah
in content and in form; it is known as Tosefta, literally, a "supplement."
A precise definition of this work in relation to the Mishnah is not
easy to offer. The editors of the Mishnah had apparently omitted much material
in order to make their text as concise and brief as possible. Material
excluded from the Mishnah was called baraita, Aramaic for "outside."
The omitted material was also of interest to scholars, and in time a collection
of some of this material was produced to create the Tosefta as a supplement
to the mishnaic text. Subsequent editions of the Mishnah readmitted certain
passages from the Tosefta to make for a fuller text. The Tosefta itself
is divided, like the Mishnah, into orders and tractates that bear the same
names as parallel divisions of the Mishnah.
Sometimes the statement in the Tosefta extends the discussion in the
Mishnah by citing additional contingencies. Once understanding of the Mishnah
is achieved, it becomes a simple matter to continue the discussion in the
Note the following two passages: one from the Mishnah, the other from
the Tosefta which parallels it, dealing with found property. It illustrates
the closeness of the two texts. as well as their divergence.
If one fount scrolls he should read in them once in thirty days. If
he cannot read, then he should roll them out. However, he must not study
from them a subject for the first time, nor may he permit another person
to read with him.
If he found a garment, he should shake it out once in thirty days; he
should spread it out for its benefit, but not so as to add to his own prestige.
Silver and copper vessels he may use if it is for their benefit, but
not to the point where they become worn. Golden and glass vessels he is
not to touch but leave them until the coming of Elijah.
If he came upon a sack or a basket or any object which he would not
normally carry, he need not take it.3
If one found scrolls, he should read them once in thirty days. But he
is not to read the weekly portion from Scripture and review it, nor is
he to read it and then translate it. Three are not read from one volume,
nor is he to unroll more than three folios at a time. Simkus said, In the
case of new books, he is to read them once in thirty days, but in the case
of old books, he is to read from them once in twelve months.4
The other statements of the above Mishnah are similarly supplemented
in the Tosefta, with additional provisions or illustrations, and, in some
cases, with additional opinions by teachers whom the Mishnah had ignored.
The Mishnah and Tosefta are the two classic sources for the succinct
formulations of rabbinic law. But the Mishnah was by far the more influential
work and it has remained a basic landmark in the literary flowering of
the Bible. To be sure, the Bible is not generally cited in the text of
the Mishnah; but the Bible is the silent, invisible spring from which it
flows on the far-reaching course of its development.
The Mishnah was a triumph in the history of Jewish tradition. In brief
and succinct formulations it preserved for posterity the great treasures
of rabbinic law. Zealously, students poured over its contents. By studying
the Mishnah they were able to master the distillation of tradition which
had grown from biblical beginning.. But in due time the literary history
of tradition turned in a new direction and yielded a new harvest, called
the Gemara (from the Aramaic gamor, which means "to learn") or
"The Teaching. "
How was the Mishnah studied? The first objective was to master its immediate
contorts, to learn the formula itself, and to know how to associate the
name a of the scholars represented in the Mishnah with the views expressed
by them. But the rabbinic mind was always impatient with the arbitrary,
the dogmatic. It sought underlying principles; it sought a logic and rationale
in man's life within the beliefs and practices of the Jewish faith. The
rabbis sought a basis for the law in Scripture or in the exigencies of
life and they sought a consistency in the various legal opinions of Jurists
who crested the system by which Jewish life was governed. They also allowed
themselves to digress, to tell an anecdote, a parable, or a piece of folklore,
or to recall some historic event, or invoke some religious or moral observation,
at times only remotely bearing on the subject under discussion.
The Mishnah also served as the basis for legal decisions by jurists
who held judicial positions within the Jewish community. The Mishnah, as
was mentioned previously, was edited in the third century C.E. Jewry then
lived within a larger non-Jewish world, in Palestine as part of the Roman
Empire, and in Babylonia as part of the Parthian Empire. But both these
empires allowed the Jews a large measure of autonomy, which included the
right to maintain their courts where the Jewish law was administered. The
Mishnah was the source book of law, but no legal formula applies itself
automatically. There is always the continuing need of discussion and argument
in which judges draw on their own discretion, as wolf as on the knowledge
of the law, to assess the precedents of another age and evaluate their
relevance for the new facts of life, in which there is always some element
of novelty not anticipated by ancient formulations.
The Mishnah became the center of a vast intellectual endeavor spread
over the centuries in the leading academies of Palestine and Babylonia,
where the mayor Jewish communities existed. Various unofficial records
were kept of these discussions but it was inevitable that these records
should receive a more formal recognition, as a supplement commenting on
and clarifying the Mishnah. As the Mishnah and Gemara are presently arranged,
each individual Mishnah was followed by its appropriate Gemara. Not every
tractate of the Mishnah was supplemented by the Gemara, only those that
were of interest to the teachers who created the Gemara. The Palestinian
Gemara, frequently called Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem Gemara, supplements
thirty-nine of the sixty-three tractates of the Mishnah; the Babylonian
(the "Bavli"), only thirty-seven. In scope, however, the latter
is three times as large as the former, the Babylonian Gemara being more
elaborate in its discussions. The same teachers are often represented in
the two Gemaras, for the academies in both countries maintained contact
and sought to bring their labors into mutual harmony. The Palestinian academies
enjoyed the prestige of functioning in the Holy Land, while the Babylonian
academies enjoyed the advantage of a more flourishing Jewish community.
For in post-mishnaic times the Jewish community of Babylonia had overtaken
Palestine as a center of Jewish culture and life.
The teachers who are represented in the Mishnah are called tannaim,
those represented in the Gemara are called amoraim. Both terms are Aramaic.
Tanna means "a teacher," amora means "a lecturer."
The Mishnah has often been edited as an independent text, but the Gemara
does not appear separately. It is broken down into sections relevant to
the individual Mishnayot to which they are added as a supplement. The Mishnah
and Gemara as an integrated text constitute what is called the Talmud.
The Palestinian Talmud was edited sometime in the fifth century, while
the Babylonian Talmud was given its literary form by teachers who lived
toward the end of the same century. In the two versions of the Talmud are
the vast intellectual resources of one of the most brilliant epochs in
the history of Judaism.
Sometimes the language of the Mishnah was not precise and it needed
clarification. Sometimes a particular Mishnah appeared inconsistent with
another Mishnah or a teacher quoted elsewhere in the Tannaitic tradition.
The Gemara deals with these questions, seeking in every instance clarity
and consistency. This phase of the Gemara usually clears up the apparent
inconsistencies found in the Mishnah.
It is also appropriate to note that the scholars often reflected
their own world. Prayer at sunrise has an exhilarating quality, but in
an urban society where people rise at a later hour, this would be clearly
impossible and it could not have been held up as the norm. The urging of
prayer at an early hour would presuppose a rural setting or perhaps working
habits of people in the cities where it is customary to awake at early
A frequent preoccupation of the Gemara is to resolve apparent contradictions
between several Mishnayot and a Tannaitic statement in another stratum
of this literature, or between a Mishnah and the views of an Amora for
whom the consensus reached in the Mishnah should have been authoritative
Some of the most precious information we have concerning the lives and
times of the talmudic epoch have come down in historical notes scattered
in the pages of the Gemara as incidental observations or digressions from
the main theme.
The teachers of the Gemara, in some cases, invented parables to speak
for them. When reflecting on Roman power they felt especially inhibited
against speaking directly. Shifting their observations to another epoch,
reading the incident into the behavior of other historic personalities,
they achieved an apparent dissociation from the world around them, though
the knowledgeable person could have had little difficulty in recognizing
The Gemara is the fascinating labyrinth in which the details
of a legal system are spun out for all to see. But sometimes the masters
of the Gemara are reminded of the peril posed by an over-concentration
on details, which obscures the larger goals severed by the law. They therefore
seek to relate those details to the general value concepts expressed by
them. The particularities of practice demanded by the detailed provision
of the law are thus shown to be a means to a larger end. This end is the
larger goal or Justice, or mercy, or love--the love of God and the love
The Gemara became, in turn, a new subject for commentaries and supercommentaries,
which have continued to be written by zealous students of this mighty branch
of Jewish literature. But with the completion of the Gemara is reached
the most important landmark. Together with the Mishnah, around which it
is embroidered as a clarifying supplement, it makes up the Talmud, into
which all previous literary creations of Judaism flowed and from which
all subsequent creations derived their major directions and scope.
Go to Endnotes
Introduction to the Book of Abraham
The Pearl of Great Price is one of the four books of Scripture of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is presented as the word
of God. The Book of Abraham is one of the books present in the Pearl of
Great Price. It is believed that the Book of Abraham exhibits & glowing
example of revelation from God to man. It furthers the Mormon concept of
The Book of Abraham is & translation of an ancient papyrus scroll,
codified and translated by Joseph Smith in 1835. It was finally published
in 1842. The book asserts that Abraham was the original author and therein
contains information regarding the Gospel, the nature of God, pre-mortal
existence, priesthood and creation.
The information contained in the Book of Abraham is otherwise unobtainable
from any other scripture of book in existence today. It is this information
that will be investigated in the light of Jewish literature
Unlike the L.D.S. theology and the Book of Abraham, Judaism does not
claim as one of its foundations the concept of pre-mortal existence. However,
the concept of pre-mortal existence appears in Jewish history as a common
tenet of the religion, i.e., that in one period of Jewish history this
concept was very prevalent in Jewish thought.
According to Dr. Hyrum Andrus, the Book of Abraham, "affirms that
man existed as a conscious entity before coming to this earth; and in that
state of life, many organized spirits acquired great intelligence and power,"5
He further adds that "Abraham made clear that the 'intelligences that
were organized before the world' existed were spirits."6 Therefore,
even Abraham had existence in pre-earth life. As the Book of Abraham states:
"Abraham, thou art one of them; thou west chosen before thou west
The concept of pre-mortal existence therefore runs through the Book
of Abraham like a thread constantly tying up this concept with pre-earth
existence, creation, and a life after this world. The Book of Abraham regards
these "spirits" or "intelligences" in the affirmation
that "They are gnolaum, or eternal."8
With this in mind, what is Judaism's, or to be more specific, Jewish
literature's point of view with respect to pre-mortal existence?
To begin with, it must be stated that today, in 1968, Judaism does not
reckon with the concept, for to Judaism today it does not exist. However,
this does not mean that never did this concept have any effect or influence
on the Jewish mind. On the contrary, it surely did. At one time during
the long history of Judaism, pre-mortal existence was very much a part
of the philosophy of Judaism.
But before any discussion of pre-mortal existence in Jewish literature
is attempted, a brief study of the Hebrew word for "soul" or
"spirit" is needed. The Hebrew word nefesh (soul) is used in
many senses; it has different shades of meaning in different contexts.
It denotes the principle of life, the thing that constitutes a living being.
"Man became a living being" (nefesh chaya) when God had "breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life" (nishmat chayim).9 The Torah
applies nefesh chaya to animals as well as men, "since the life of
a living body is in its blood,"10 "for blood is life."11
Though life and blood are not quite identical, the blood is the principal
carrier of life.
Since the term nefesh is related to the verbs nashaf and nashav (to
blow), as in Exodus 15:10 and Isaiah 40:7, it is defined as that which
breathes, the breathing substance or being, the soul, the inner being of
man. Hence the expression, "nafcha nafsha,"12 "she breathed
out her soul." Nefesh is used for life itself as well as for an individual
person; as in Exodus 21:23 ("life for life") and Numbers 23:10;
Judges 16:30. The verb yinafash (Exodus 23:12; II Samuel 16:14) is employed
in the sense of taking breath, refreshing oneself.
The terms "ruach" and neshama" are sometimes used synonymously
to denote spirit and breath. The dualism of human nature, consisting of
body and soul, is frequently mentioned in talmudic-midrashic literature.
All beliefs about souls are related to the doctrine of the revivification
of the dead. The souls of all generations are said to have been created
at the beginning of the world, and kept until the time of their birth in
a heavenly repository called "guf" (body). One of the daily morning
prayers, borrowed from the Talmud reads as follows:
My God, the soul which Thou hast placed within me is pure. Thou hast
created it; Thou hast formed it; Thou hast breathed it into me. Thou preserves"
it within me; Thou wilt take it from me and restore it to me in the hereafter.
So long as the soul is within me, I offer thanks before Thee... Lord of
all souls... who restores" the souls of the dead.13
In this devout meditation, the term "neshama" is used repeatedly
for "soul." The talmudic sages hold that the body is not the
prison of the soul but its medium for development and improvement. Jewish
spirituality combines heaven and earth, as it were. It does not separate
soul from body or mind from nature, but understands man and history in
the unity of man's physical and spiritual life. Accordingly, the soul must
not boast that it is more holy than the body, for only in that it has climbed
down into the body and works through its limbs can the soul attain perfection.
The body, on the other hand, may not brag of supporting the soul, for when
the soul leaves, the flesh falls into decay.
According to the kabbalistic teachings, the destiny of every soul is
to return to the source whence it came. Those who in their earthly existence
failed to develop that purity and perfection necessary for gaining access
to their heavenly source above must undergo incarnation in another body,
and even repeat that experience more than once until they are permitted
to return to the celestial region in a purified form.
The Bible states that Man was endowed with life by a "spirit"
or "breath" (wind) by the Creator.14 The Bible further states:
"The spirit shall return unto God who gave it."15 It is, therefore,
seen that Jewish thought had to reckon from the beginning with a concept
of a nefesh given to man by God. The nefesh had to exist before Man in
order for it to be given to him. The Wisdom of Solomon states that when
the body returns to earth its possessor "is required to render back
the soul which was lent him."16
However, an even more explicit statement of the doctrine of the pre-mortal
existence of the soul is found in the Apocrypha: "All souls prepared
before the foundation of the world."17 According to another apocryphal
book, the number of the righteous who are to come into the world is foreordained
from the beginning.18 All souls are, therefore, pre-mortal, although the
number of those which are to become incorporated is not determined at the
very first. We have a statement made by the Midrash, that is ever more
explicit than any of the previous sources.
The Midrash Kee Tov, states that before the creation of the present
world there were 1,972 generations. During this time all the souls of the
righteous were present including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. It ends
with the following statement: "They [souls] were with God before the
creation of the world."19
There is also a tradition found in rabbinic literature that each and
every soul which shall be from Adam until the end of the world, was formed
during the six days of Creation and was in paradise, being present also
at the revelation on Sinai ... At the time of conception, God commanded
the angel, who is the prefect of the spirits saying:
'Bring me such a spirit which is in paradise and has such a name and
such a form; for all spirits which are to enter the body exist from the
day of creation of the world until the earth shall pass away " The
spirit answered, 'Lord of the world' I am content with the earth, whore
I have lived since Thou didst create me.' God spoke to the soul saying:
'The world into which you now enter is more beautiful than this.20
This statement brings to mind the following concept found in the Book
And they who keep the first estate shall be added upon; and they who
keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with
those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate
shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.21
Throughout Jewish thought it is apparent that man is placed on this
earth to be proved. Many times in the Bible the concept of God proving
man is found. Adam was proved and so was Abraham. What is the entire book
of Job, amongst other things, if not a kind of proving!
The Midrash Tanhuma Pekude, just quoted, reveals a spirit (soul) that
was placed on earth. It had a shape and form. Presumably the soul passed
the test--or it "kept the second estate," and therefore would
be rewarded with an existence "even more beautiful" than the
present,-i.e., "shall have glory added upon their heads forever and
Similar to the Book of Abraham, Jewish writings confirm that the spirit
(soul) has its origins in the Supreme Intelligence, in which the forms
of the living existence may already be distinguished from one another.
At the time the Holy One, Blessed Be He, desired to create the world,
it came in His will before Him, and He formed all the souls which were
prepared to be given afterward to the children of men; and all were formed
The Book of Enoch relates that before God created the world, He held
a consultation with the souls of the righteous. It speaks of an assembly
of the holy and righteous ones in heaven under the wings of the Lord of
the spirits with the Elect (the Messiah) in their midst.23 Enoch especially
mentions the "first fathers and the righteous who have dwelt in that
place (paradise) from the beginning."24 In fact, it is a "congregation
of the righteous" in heaven that will appear in the Messianic time.25
It also states that the Elect who had been hidden will be revealed with
them.26 Practically the same sentence is employed in IV Esdras when it
states that "the hidden Messiah will be revealed together with all
those that are with him."27
Jewish literature not only deals with the concept of the pre-mortal
existence of souls, but also the concept that these very same pre-mortal
souls served an important role in their pre-mortal existence. They were
consulted with and did consult God on many vital matters, and especially
on the matter of Creation. Amongst these souls are mentioned the Patriarchs
who were part of the Merkabah.28 The Merkabah was the Heavenly Throne.
Therefore, the Patriarchs, in their pre-mortal life were part of the assembly
to whom God consulted on various divine matters. This does not mean that
God would change His mind after consultation, but only that these souls
wore consulted, or advised.
Jewish literature also affords the example of a mortal ascending to
heaven and while there, he is shown the pre-mortal soul of a future teacher
in Israel studying with his disciples the laws of the Torah. The Talmud
states that when Moses ascended to heaven, he found God occupied ornamenting
the letters in which the Torah was written, with little crown-like decorations.
He inquired as to the significance of the crowns upon the letters, and
was answered by God:
Hereafter there shall live a man called Akiba, son of Joseph, who will
base in interpretation a gigantic mountain of Halachot, upon every dot
of those letters.
Moses said to God: "Show me this man." God said: "Go
back eighteen ranks." Moses went back to where he was bidden, and
could hear the discussions of the teacher sitting with his disciples in
the eighteenth rank but was not able to follow their discussions, which
greatly grieved him. But just then he heard the disciples questioning their
master in regard. To a certain subject: "Whence doest thou know this?"
And he answered, "This is a Halacha given to Moses on Mount Sinai,"
and now Moses was content.29
This leads to another concept found in Jewish literature, vis., the
concept of the pre-knowledge of the pre-mortal soul. The soul knew everything
before entering the world.
A light burns on the head of the embryo by means of which he sees from
one end of the world to the other, but that at the moment of its appearance
on earth an angel strikes it on the mouth, and everything is forgotten.30
The Book of Abraham, regarding the pre-mortal soul, affirms that:
God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of
them... and he said unto me... Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast
chosen before thou wast born.31
In the Book of Abraham, the words "spirit"
and "intelligence" are used interchangeably. God is the Supreme
Intelligence. Intelligence implies a being, but it also implies knowledge.
God, therefore, being the possessor of all knowledge, or the Supreme Knower.
Now the Book of Abraham states that God saw that these souls were good.
What would be the good to a Supreme Knower? What would be good to a being
that considers intelligence a good? Another intelligence, another being
that possesses knowledge. Then God tells Abraham that he is one of them.
Abraham is, therefore, also one who possesses knowledge, or one who possessed
knowledge in his pre-mortal existence. Then verse 23 continues with God
telling, (or perhaps reminding) Abraham that he was already chosen--that
in his pre-mortal life he had acquired this state. Abraham is in need of
this information because he had forgotten all that was taught him. He,
therefore, is now reminded. Only through this re-acquaintance with the
past is Abraham able to begin his mission.
Dr. Andrus states:
Abraham was also shown the organized intelligences or spirits, of man,
in his various states of existence, is a creature of the universe whose
life is not confined to this mortal state.32
The Book of Abraham reveals that these intelligences, spirits, or souls
were not all alike, but some "more intelligent than others."33
Abraham is told that Just as there are different phenomena in the mortal
world, so did the souls of pre-earth man differ.
These concepts are not foreign to Jewish literature. As already stated
on page 20, the body is not the prison of the soul. There are souls of
different quality. Solomon says: "Now I was a child of parts, and
a good soul fell to my lot; nay rather being good, I came into a body undefiled."34
The term "good soul" presupposes that there are other types of
Dr. Andrus believe a that the spirits were unequal but that each had
the potential of being the "good" soul, i.e., to become like
God. Since each spirit was independent of the other, it is correct to assume
that they need not necessarily have been equal. Independence gives rive
to indifference. And Abraham was thus informed.35 Therefore, Dr. Andrus
concludes, "Thus the basic point of Abraham's statement is that there
was a gradation of intelligences among spirits."36
Similarly, the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch distinguishes between righteous
and common souls in the following passage, which describes the Messianic-period
and what is characteristic of the concept of pre-mortal existence: :
The storehouses in which the fore-ordained number of souls is kept shall
he opened, and the souls shall go forth, and the many souls shall appear
all at once, as a host with one mind. And the first shall rejoice, and
the last shall not be sad.37
Comparisons, therefore, can be made; parallels do exist between the
Book of Abraham and Jewish literature, with regards to pre-mortal existence.
Similar to the Book of Abraham there is a pre-earth state of man, these
souls are different, but have the potential of becoming equal. These souls
are consulted and take part in the affairs of heaven. This analysis affords
a fuller understanding of some areas of correspondence between Judaism,
its beliefs and concepts, and those of the Book of Abraham.
Man is placed here to be proved, and if man is successful while on earth,
then the Lord will accept the souls back to their eternal abode where they
will have glory added upon their heads forever and ever."38
Go to Endnotes
There are many problems that arise when one begins to discuss creation,
for the study of it in the Hebrew text is a work for the specialist. Those
who read the Bible in English bypass many of the problems posed by the
original, which had to be coped with by the translator. He has to commit
himself on the definition of each Hebrew word. He had to resolve the many
obscurities of language which beset the original text, the ambiguities
of phraseology, the unfamiliar allusions and idiomatic expressions. In
many cases he has to consider the date to be ascribed to particular biblical
books or portions of books, to give the allusions relevance. All literature
presents such problems to one probing its meaning in depth, especially
a literature written in an ancient language. Thousands of years separate
the reader from the earliest record of the Hebrew Bible and it becomes
a formidable task of scholarship to master its meaning. All the aids of
linguistic science, including comparative philology and archeology, have
to be invoked in this process. The translator has at his disposal a formidable
body of commentaries which have wrestled with the study of the original
Hebrew text. But once the translator has done his work and given the fruit
of his labor, reading is performed without stumbling, unaware of the rough
road by which ho reached his destination. Consider, for example, the opening
sentence of the Bible: "Bereshit bara Elohim." The very opening
word, Bereshit, is beset with problems. It usually means "in the beginning."
This may be taken to introduce the order of Creation, that in the beginning
God created heaven and earth. But it may also be taken as a declaration
of great antiquity, that "in the beginning, in the dim past, in the
long, long ago, the events about to be narrated had their occurrence. On
the other hand, the prefix "be" in Hebrew also means "with"
and bereshit may be taken to mean "with the beginning." The rabbis
showed that the Torah is sometimes described as "reshit," "the
beginning." A design, a plan, indeed precedes all creation. The Torah
is the blueprint of existence, and the opening sentence may, therefore,
be taken to declare With the Torah (the beginning) God created heaven and
The conventional translation of this verse, "In the beginning God
created heaven and earth," has a Juxtaposition of words in the Hebrew
which allows for an altogether different interpretation. The word for God,
Elohim, may be the object as well as the subject of the sentence. In the
pagan world where the Bible originally took form, the notion was current
that the deity was born or created from a pre-mortal eternal substance.
One of the common themes in pagan mythologies is the genealogy of the gods
who procreate. Is there perhaps an echo of this notion in the opening sentence
of the Bible? As far as the grammatical structure of this sentence goes,
it may be conceivably rendered thus: "In the beginning he created
God together with the heaven and the earth." This would certainly
involve a doctrinal revolution in the understanding of biblical religion.
The text needed interpretation to yield the traditional meaning which is
generally given to it.
The problem with the word "Elohim" also exists. The form is
plural. The belief of a plurality of gods is foreign to Jewry Why does
the text then use a plural form "Elohim?" Does this perhaps carry
directly or indirectly an illusion to the conception of the deity prevalent
at the time? It is interesting that Christian commentators have occasionally
cited this usage as a support for Trinitarians conceptions. Here, for example,
is a statement by Rev. Robert Jamieson in his commentary on Genesis:
By its use here in the plural form, it is obscurely taught at the opening
of the Bible, a doctrine clearly revealed in other parts of it, that though
God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead-Father, Son
and Spirit, who were engaged in the creative Work.39
Not quoting from Genesis, Joseph Smith, however, stated:
I will preach on the plurality of Gods... I have always declared God
to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage
from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and
a Spirit: and these three constitute personages and three Gods...40
The several interpretations discussed above assume that the opening
verse is a complete sentence. There is, however, a school of commentators
who take this verse as an opening clause introducing the principle declaration
which is in verse two, an interpretation which is perfectly compatible
with the original Hebrew. Indeed the new translation of the Bible being
published by the Jewish Publication Society of America adopted this interpretation,
rendering the verse thus: "When God began to create the heaven and
the earth-the earth was unformed and void…"
It is clear that proper research is fraught with great doctrinal difficulties
and significance. Such interpretations can be arrived at only through deliberate
and careful study of the biblical texts.
The Book of Abraham reiterates that Abraham was privileged to witness
the council of the Gods as they were preparing to create the heavens and
the earth. Dr. Andrus and Dr. Hunter state that this should be considered
the "blueprint of creation." Throughout the verses found in the
creation section of the Book of Abraham, the concept of "plan"
And the Gods said: Let us prepare the waters to bring forth abundantly
the moving creatures that have life;... And the Gods said: We will bless
them, and cause them to be fruitful and multiply.41
And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said and organize
them; and behold they shall be very obedient.42
And thus were their decisions at the time that they counseled among
themselves to form the heavens and the earth.43
The Book of Abraham, therefore, propounds the idea of the Gods making
a "plan" or a blueprint" of creation before an actual creation.
As was mentioned before, this, too, can be paralleled in some Jewish literature
and Jewish thought.
The act of creation to the religious mind presupposes the bringing of
the world into existence by the act of God. Many Jewish philosophers find
in the word, "beriah," the concept of creatio ex nihilo. However,
a closer study of the Hebrew word refutes this notion. The etymological
meaning of the verb, "beriah" (creation) denotes, "to cut
and put into shape," and therefore presupposes the idea that some
material has to be employed. This was easily recognized by Nachmonides
and Maimonides in their respective commentaries on the Bible.44 It is further
taught that "God looked into the Torah, and through it He created."45
Also, the book, Wisdom of Solomon, posits a formless archmatter which the
Creator simply brought into order.46 It is evident that Man had to be taught
the manner of creation. It can, therefore, be inferred that Adam needed
instruction in the manner of creation, not only with regards to Eve, but
also with regards to all creation.
Notwithstanding the impressive parallels of "blueprint," there
is a greater parallel to be found within the framework of those two stories.
The creation story as related by the two separate accounts serves to
convey certain statements of faith. It tells something about the nature
of God who is the creator and Supreme Sovereign of the world and whose
will is absolute. It asserts that God is outside the realm of nature, which
is wholly subservient to Him. He has no myth; that is, there are no stories
about any events in His life. Magic plays no part in the worship to Him.
The story also tells something of the nature of Man, a God-like creature,
uniquely endowed with dignity, honor and infinite worth, into whose hands
God has entrusted mastery over His creation. Finally, this narrative tells
something about the biblical concept of reality. It proclaims the essential
goodness of life and assumes a universal moral order governing human society.
To be sure, the affirmations are not stated in modern philosophical
terms. But, as we have pointed out, the audience of the Bible had its own
liberary idiom. Therefore, to understand them properly, it is important
not to confuse the idiom with the idea, the metaphor with the reality behind
it. Mormonism and Judaism proclaim, loudly and unambiguously, the absolute
subordination of all creation to the Supreme Creator who thus can make
use of the forces of nature to fulfill His mighty deeds in history. They
assert unequivocally that the basic truth of all history is that the world
is under the undivided and inescapable sovereignty of God. In brief, the
Genesis Creation narrative is primarily the record of the event which inaugurated
this historical process and which insures that there is a divine purpose
behind creation that works itself out on the human scene.
As was just stated, God has no myth. There is no notion of the birth
of God and no biography of God. Never does a statement appear with regard
to the existence of God. God's existence is self-evident as life itself.
Therefore, the creation stories begin immediately with an account of the
creation activity of the pre-mortal God.
There is no room for magic in the two philosophies. The God of Creation
is eternally existent, removed from all corporeality, and independent of
time and space. Creation comes about through the simple divine fiat: Let
there be! And this creation is created from matter.
Each of the acts of the creation drama covers a period of one day. This
raises the problem of whether or not the world was truly created in seven
days. Or did it take longer than seven days, as is reckoned? To be sure,
the Book of Abraham answers this question much more clearly than does the
And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob
was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in
the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after
his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time
appointed unto that whereon thou standest This is the reckoning of the
Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.47
Genesis does not answer the question of time. However, Jewish tradition
does answer the question. Nachmonides states that the six days of creation
are equal to all the days of the world, for the earth will be established
for six thousand years; for "one day according to the Lord is equal
to one thousand years."48
Genesis Rabbah uses practically the same language to express the same
sentiment. It quotes God as saying: "One of My days is equal to one
thousand years (according to man's reckoning).49
Another answer to this problem is mentioned by the Book of Abraham:
Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord's time which was after
the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his
It was not that the earth had not been appointed its reckoning.
In conclusion, both the Book of Abraham and Jewish literature are in
agreement that the creation did not occur in seven days as is reckoned,
but rather in seven thousand years.
Be that as it may, both literatures describe creation by means of divine
fiat-"Let there be," "Let us make." It has been maintained
that this notion of the creative power of the word is known from elsewhere
in the ancient Near East.51l3 But the similarity is wholly superficial,
for wherever it is found it has a magical content. The pronouncement of
the right word, like the performance of the right magical actions, is able,
or rather, inevitably must, actualize the potentialities which are inherent
in the inert matter. In other words, it implies a mystic bond uniting matter
to its manipulator.
Worlds apart is the concept of creation by divine fiat. Notice how both
narratives, Genesis and the Book of Abraham pass over in absolute silence
the nature of the matter upon which the divine word acted creatively. Its
presence or absence is of no importance, for there is no tie between it
and God. "Let there be!" or, as the Psalmist echoed it, "He
spoke and it was so,"52 refers not to the utterance of the magic word,
but to the expression of the omnipotent, sovereign, unchallengeable will
of the absolute, transcendent God to whom ail nature is subservient. This
liberates religion from the baneful influence of magic.
The task of seeking parallels reaches its greatest test when discussing
the God of Creation. To both, Genesis and the Book of Abraham, the moral
nature of God stands out. That God is moral is not accidental. To God there
is only one standard of ethics and morals. The God of Creation is not all
morally indifferent. On the contrary, morality and ethics constitute the
very essence of His nature. The Bible presumes that God operates by an
order which man can comprehend, and that a universal moral law had been
decreed for society. Thus, the idea of an ethical God embedded in Genesis
as well as in the Book of Abraham has profound ethical implications. It
means that the same universal sovereign will that brought the world into
existence continues to exert itself thereafter making absolute, not relative,
demands upon man, expressed in categorical imperatives-"thou shalt,"
"thou shalt not."
One of its seemingly naive features is God's pleasure at His own artistry,
the repeated declaration, after each completed act of creation, that God
saw how good His work was.53
The concept of God behind the cosmic machine, with its ethico-moral
implications, emancipates man from thralldom to the vicious cycle of time.
In place of fortuitous concatenation of events, history becomes purposeful
and society achieves direction.
This basic belief in the essential goodness of the Universe is, of course,
destined to exert a powerful influence upon the direction of the religion
and to affect the outlook of life of its people. In Judaism, it found its
expression in the concept of the covenant relationship between God and
His people and ultimately achieved its most glorious manifestation in the
notion of Messianism. The Deity described in the two books is one whose
will is absolute and incontestable and whose word is eternal, and who is
able to give assurances that human strivings are decidedly not in vain.
There seems to be one point of difference between Drs. Hunter and Andrus
in their views relative to the creation of the seventh day. Dr. Hunter
sees in the seventh day a planned rest-"that the Gods planned to rest
from all their labors on the 'seventh time'" (day).54 Dr. Andrus,
on the other hand, views the seventh day quite differently. He propounds
a theory with great acumen, "that on the seventh day the Gods sanctified
the earth which they had formed..."55 But to Dr. Andrus, the act of
sanctification was an act of creation and through this act of creation,
He "also formed man out of the dust of the earth,"56 on the seventh
day. At the beginning of the seventh day, "there was not yet flesh
upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air."57 "Then
man was formed, a garden was planted, and man was placed in the garden
as the first flesh upon the earth."58 This evidently moans that there
was an act of creation in progress on the seventh day. This, Judaism does
not accept. This, Dr. Hunter does not accept. According to Judaism, the
seventh day is and was a day of rest.
This unshakable conviction in the essentially benign nature of divine
activity, is reflected, too, in the description of the cessation from creativity.
It is written that God "ceased on the seventh day from all the work
which He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy,
because on it God ceased from all the work of creation which He had done."59
It is noted that the statement about God here cited contains no mention
of the sabbath as a fixed weekly institution. It refers only to the seventh
day of Creation, to the divine cessation from work, and to the blessing
and sanctification of that day. But the name "sabbath" is not
to be found, only the cognate verbal form "shabat," meaning,
"to desist from labor." Yet the connection between the weekly
sabbath day and creation is explicitly made both in the first version of
the Ten Commandments:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that
is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed
the seventh day and hallowed it...60
There is also another passage emphasizing the sabbath as an external
sign of the covenant between God and Israel.61 In other words, while Genesis
ignores the weekly sabbath day, these texts understood this self-same passage
as being the source of the institution.
As a matter of fact, there are no biblical sources recounting the founding
of the weekly sabbath-day. The antiquity of its existence is presupposed
in all the legislation and even in the narratives. Just one month after
the departure from Egypt, and before the Sinaitic revelation, the sabbath
is assumed to be already established.62 Moreover, the very formulations
of both versions of the Decalogue-"Remember/ observe the Sabbath day"-take
for granted an existing institution.63 There cannot be any doubt that the
sabbath belongs to the moat ancient of Israel's sacred days.64
Judaism and Mormonism, as reflected in their respective literatures,
conceive of a plan, a design that preceded all creation. Both posit a formless
archmatter, which the Creator simply brought into order. Both proclaim
the absolute subordination of all creation to God who thus can make use
of the forces of nature to fulfill His mighty deeds in history. Together
Judaism and Mormonism propound that God is outside the realm of "sure,
which is wholly subservient to Him and that man is a God-like creature,
uniquely endowed with dignity, honor and infinite worth, into whose hands
God has entrusted mastery over His creation. The essential goodness of
life is evident in both philosophies and it assumes a universal moral order
governing human society. The Book of Abraham and Jewish literature are
in agreement that the Creation did not occur in seven days as is reckoned,
but rather in "seven thousand years." Both agree that God rested
on the seventh day from all the work which He, in creating, had made. but
most important, both state that it was God, Himself, who created the universe.
It may, therefore, be concluded that the sacred literature of Judaism
and Mormonism stand on parallel ground when evaluating the concepts of
MAN, THE PINNACLE OF CREATION
Go to Endnotes
Judaism is not the religion of the Bible. It is founded on the Bible
but is not identical with it. Biblical religion differs from classic Judaism
as the seed differs from the flower that finally has blossomed from it.
Judaism has been a living faith that never became static and unchanging.
Each generation has deposited something of its own experience to enrich
the total treasury of Jewish wisdom that comprises the Jewish tradition.
The classic character of Judaism was given form by the Sages who created
the Midrash and the Talmud. A more generic term for the Sages is "Rabbis,"
and we call the Judaism as formulated by them, "rabbinic Judaism."
It will be helpful to review the transformation that biblical religion
underwent in the process of becoming classic, or rabbinic Judaism, so that
a better insight is acquired into the nature of man, as the Rabbis saw
The Hebrew Bible seeks to teach man how to live in the existential world,
the world of nature, the world of history, the world of social relations.
The different books of the Bible reflect diverse interests and tastes;
they reveal both the divergent minds of the men who gave them literary
form and the particular setting of locale and of historical circumstances
in which they arose. But those who determined the selection of the books
to be included in the biblical canon sought unity amidst diversity. And
there is added such a unity that underlies the varied experiences recorded
in biblical literature. The unity consists in the conviction that the existential
world is man's home, that finite existence fulfills a divine vocation,
and that man, by ordering his life within a certain discipline vindicates
his own life as well as that of the world which God saw fit to bring into
II. Biblical View of Man
The Bible begins with the story of Creation. The Book of Abraham has
within its framework the story of Creation as well. One of the main functions
of the Creation story is to declare the world of material being, the world
of man and nature, as a divine creation, as an embodiment of "good."
It is to declare the dignity of man, his primacy in the order of existence.
It is to declare that his life is subject to divine imperatives, that he
is under obligation "to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth
and subdue it."
Other biblical stories help round out the vision of man, of his place
in the world, of the eminence to which he is called as well as of the depths
to which he may fall, of his need to struggle in order to meet the claim
of his Creator which continues to press on him.
God is pictured as charging one man and his family, in whom He sees
an embodiment of His dream to go forth to the world as His emissary, to
lead the families of the earth to the knowledge of God and His law of righteousness.
The one man and his family become the founder of a people, who are given
the mandate to continue the work till it shall finally be accomplished.65
III. Rabbinical View of Man
The Oral Torah, as it developed in Judaism, remained with the basic
conception of the Bible. It only sought to clarify and to implement these
conceptions. The goal that underlies the Oral Torah is the same that pervades
the written Bible. It is to define man's way as a child of God and as citizen
of the world. It is to define more clearly his responsibilities to God
and to the rest of creation, and to chart his duties toward the emergent
goals of history, the establishment of the messianic age of justice, freedom
and peace, of the universal knowledge of God and the universal obedience
to His will. "There is a living bond between rabbinic thought and
the character of Biblical thought are not essentially different."66
The Rabbis broadened the biblical recognition of the universal worth
of all men, regardless of religious affiliation. The dimension of universality
is always present in the Bible, whether expressed or not. Abraham's call
has as its motivation that "all the families of the earth shall be
blessed,"67 through him. So it is seen that the Bible, Jewish writings
and the Book of Abraham are emphatic in their inclusion of all peoples
in God's concern and in the recognition that all men have the capacity
to respond to God's word in deeds of penitence and in growth toward moral
and spiritual perfection.
The Rabbis placed the dimension of Jewish universalism into doctrinal
terms. Probing into all the implications of the verse, "Ye shall therefore
keep My statutes and Mine ordinances, which if a man do he shall live by;
them,"68 one teacher asked, "Whence may it be demonstrated that
a non-Jew, when he conforms to the moral law of the Torah, becomes the
equal of a High Priest in Israel?" From the words, "which if
a man do he shall live by them" (the term being universal and referring
equally to Jew and non-Jew). Similarly it is said "This is the law
of mankind, Lord God."69 It is not stated: "This is the law of
the Priests, Levites and Israelites, but (the more inclusive term) the
law of mankind." In similar manner, too, Scripture does not say, "Open
the gates that Priests, Levites and Israelites may enter."70 And again
it does not say, This is the gate of the Lord, Priests, Levites and Israelites
shall enter into it," but, "the righteous shall enter it."71
Likewise, it dose not say, "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye Priests, Levites
and Israelites, but, "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous."72
And finally, it does not say, "Do good, O Lord, to the Priests, Levites,
and Israelites, but, "unto the good."73 It is thus abundantly
demonstrated that even a non-Jew provided he adheres to the moral discipline
of the Bible, is the equal of the highest ranking priest in Israel."74
Thus both Jewish literature and the Book of Abraham view man with utmost
dignity. Dr. Hunter says about man: "Of all of God's creations, Man
is His masterpiece."75 Both literatures proclaim that man is created
in God's image. Both aim at the same goal and that is: through the emulation
of the Godhead (to the best of one's ability), one can and must become
A problem of comparable importance in Genesis 1:26 which describes the
creation of man, rendered literally, thus reads: And God said, "Let
us make man in our image, after our likeness." In what sense was man
created in God's "images and after His likeness"" Does this
imply that God is endowed with a particular shape or form? And with whom
did God consult when He resolved to fashion man Many different interpretations
of this verse are available. The image of God in which man was created
has generally been applied, in Judaism, to his moral and spiritual sense
which differentiate him from other creatures in the scale of life and make
man truly human. The plural "Let us make man," has been interpreted
by some commentators, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra among them, as a plural construction,
but is really singular in substantive meaning. E.A. Speiser, who translated
the Book of Genesis for the Anchor Bible, renders this verse in the singular:
"Thus God said I will make man in my image after my likeness."
The new Jewish Publication Society translation of the Pentateuch, The Torah,
also renders this verse in the singular: "And God said, I will make
man in My image, after My likeness." The latter is followed by a clarifying
footnote that the translators took the Hebrew plural forms as plurals of
It is stated simply that God created man "in His own image,"76
nothing being stated of the matter used in the act of creation. But in
another portion of the story it is related how God "formed man from
dust of the earth."77 Note that the word here translated "dust"
is used quite often in biblical Hebrew as a synonym for "clay."78
It is readily recognized that this is a theme frequently encountered in
The very fact that the creation of man in the two books' description
is an exception to the rule of creation by divine fiat, and that solely
in the case of man la the material from which he is made explicitly mentioned,
implies emphasis upon a unique position for man among the created things
and & special relationship to God. This, indeed, is reinforced in many
and varied subtle ways, It is as though for the climactic performance,
the usual act of will was reinforced by an act of divine effort, Man, alone,
has the breath of life blown into his nostrils by God Himself. Only by
virtue of this direct animation did man become a living being, drawing
directly from God his life source. The creation of nothing else in the
cosmogonic process is preceded by a divine declaration of intention and
, purpose, "Let us make man."80 Man, in fact, is the pinnacle
of creation " and the entire story has a human-centered orientation.
So much is noticed regarding a special status accorded man in the cosmos,
that the relationship between God and man is sui generis. Furthermore,
the story reiterates the theme of man being actually created, in the "image
of God."81 The phrase "in the image of God" is difficult
to explain, but must be associated with the immediately following divine
blessing: He fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule
the fish of the sea, and birds of the sky, and all the living things that
creep on earth."82 Also:
And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause
them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it,
and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the foul of the
air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.83
This exclusive distinction outdoes man with power over the animal and
vegetable worlds and confers upon him the right, nay the duty, to exploit
the resources of nature for his own benefits. In this setting, the idea
of man "in the image of God" must inevitably include within the
scope of its meaning all those faculties and gifts of character that distinguish
man from the beast and that are needed for the fulfillment of his task
on earth, namely, intellect, free-will, self-awareness, consciousness of
the existence of others, conscience, responsibility and self-control. Moreover,
being created "in the image of God" implies that human life is
infinitely precious. Such indeed, is the meaning given to the phrase: "Whosoever
sheds the blood of man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God
was man created."84 Man is possessed with honor, purpose, freedom
and a tremendous power.
Yet the pre-eminence of man over beast is not the same as total independence.
This is where the vivid picture of the clay origin of man comes into play
once again. The figure is suggestive of the activity of a potter molding
the malleable raw material into the desired shape. The very verb used in
the second account of the creation of man-"yatzar"85 is the same
form from which the Hebrew word for "potter" is drawn. Most significantly
the terms for "creator" and "potter" may be expressed
in Hebrew by one and the same word, "yotzer." This figure is
a well-known biblical symbol evocative of the notion of God's absolute
mastery over man.86 Human sovereignty can never quite be absolute. It must
also be subject to the demands of a higher law, the divinely ordained moral
order of the universe. Man has glory and freedom, but at the same time,
inescapable dependence upon God.
Therefore, Jewish and L.D.S. Traditions look upon man as the crown end
glory of creation. He is at the confer of the drama of life. In him is
the purpose of all existence on the way to fulfillment. This doctrine,
becomes apparent over and over again in the biblical story and in the Book
of Abraham, which portrays all stages in the appearance of life as but
preliminary to the great moment when man enters upon the scene. It is expressed
in the declaration that God made man in his own image. It never loses sight
of the finite character of man, his smallness, his unworthiness when compared
to the perfection that is in God. But at the same time, it sees in man
the closest approximation to the divine which a creature may attain.
The Psalmist expressed it thus:
O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is Thy name in all the earth! ...When
I behold Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which
Thou hast established, what is man and the stars 1 which Thou has established,
what is man that Thou are mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou
has regard for him? Yet Thou hast made him but a little lamer than the
angels and hast crooned him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion
over the works of Thy hands, Thou hast put all things under his feet...O
Lord our Lord, how glorious is Thy name in all the earth!87
The psalmist was aware that from the perspective of God's majesty man
was too trivial to merit His mindfulness, but as he saw it, God had nevertheless
crowned man with glory And honor and had made him pre-eminent in the hierarchy
IV. Modern Attacks on the Nature of Man and Religion's Answer
This estimate of man has often been challenged in the modern world.
The challenge has derived from various sources. Some have pointed to man's
lowly origin, as revealed in the scientific studies of the evolution of
life on earth. Instead of being the direct creation of God, a noble being
separate and distinct from the rest of existence, man appears in the findings
of Darwinists as an integral part of evolution. He has sprung by traceable
stages from the most primitive beginnings of life, and his immediate ancestor
was in the ape family, to whom he bears many striking resemblances.
Others have mocked the claim of man's alleged greatness by citing the
new astronomy which began with Copernicus. Vast is the universe that modern
astronomy reveals, and man is like a speck of dust, and oven less, before
the stupendous beings, the stars and planets without number j that move
in their orbits in cosmic space. The earth itself, which is man's home,
has been dethroned from her ancient eminence. She is no longer conceived
of as the center of the solar system, with sun and moon and stars to render
her homage by illuminating her darkness. She is but a tiny planet in a
universe of planets and revolves as they all do in endless gyrations on
a path around the sun. Astronomers, moreover, are increasingly drawn to
the opinion that other planets too have life on them, and who knows whether
a race of creatures more intelligent and nobler than man may not inhabit
another planet-home somewhere in Space.
And man has also been mocked because of his mortality. He is here today,
and for a while struts proudly across the scene of his labors. But in the
midst of all his plans and ambitions, his breath departs, and he must drop
everything to which his hands cling so lovingly. What significance can
be attached to life when it must be lived against this knowledge of ultimate
doom for which there is no reprieve?
The most serious challenge to man's alleged greatness is his moral failure.
There are episodes of wisdom and goodness in the human scene, but how infrequent
and fleeting they are! Man has continued to betray beastly qualities. All
kinds of dark forces are operative in his nature. He has disappointed the
hopes and placed in him by continued displays of folly and meanness.
It is one of the grossest errors made by some protagonists of religion
as well as by some of its detractors to take the biblical story of creation
as a complete account of the origins of life. The biblical account offers
only the sketchiest generality, and it is clear that it is intended to
deal with questions other than those normally dealt with in science. The
biblical story seeks to communicate certain religious values. It seeks
to convey a value judgment concerning life, concerning the world at large,
and specifically concerning man. It expresses through this account the
deepest conviction of Judaism and Mormonism, that existence had its origin
through the action of a beneficent Creator, that the world is the embodiment
of His design, that it is purposive and friendly to man, and that man himself
is the apex of the creative process.
It is not the study of how man developed, of the stages through which
he passed before reaching his present status, that issues vital to Judaism,
in the story of man's origin, is the value judgments involved.
Is man immodest in claiming greatness for himself because astronomically
speaking he is so insignificant?
If there be intelligent beings on other planets, then it is not contrary
to biblical thought to assume that they certainly share in man's dignity.
For within the realm of the physical, there is continuity in the universe.
It can be assumed, within the realm of the ever-probing related fields
of science, that the basic properties of matter, the basic laws of motion
remain the same in all the worlds of all the galaxies as they are on earth.
Otherwise a science of astronomy would have been Impossible. Hence, is
it equally Justifiable to assume a Similar continuity in the spiritual?
If intelligent life exists on any planet in the universe other than earth,
it may be far ahead of terrestrial man or behind him, but it is undoubtedly
of the same stuff. For consciousness is the most precious element in the
treasury of creation, its culminating point in the surge of life. And wherever
there be creatures with these properties they must be seen as bearing the
divine image in themselves. In such a eventuality, God's wonders would
indeed be even greater than man ever surmised.
V. The Battle Within Man
Whatever the Lord has made is intrinsically good: whatever He planted
in our nature is directed toward a good purpose. No area of life illustrates
this more profoundly than sex. Considering the onerous commitments which
a mate assumes to his partner, a powerful drive is needed to overcome a
person's clinging to privacy, to singleness. This drive is present in the
call to sexual gratification felt by all creatures at certain stages in
their development. Sexual union is the Convergence of divine energy on
its continuing objective to create and perfect life. The very first commandment
of the Bible is: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and
subdue it."88 The basic imperatives of life are written in the human
heart no less than in the texts of the Scripture.
The painful dilemma of man is to discover the golden mean, the proper
direction ho is to give each claim in his nature. This is a prize he must
earn at great cost, and he must enlist toward its achievement all the resources
open to his life, the fruits of reason and revelation and the knowledge
gained through experience, his own and that of the race.
The raw or unrefined play of the instinct is what is sometimes described
in Jewish tradition as the 'yetzer ha-ra," the so-called "evil
inclination." It is balanced by what has been called the "yetzer
ha-tov," "the good inclination." The Rabbis denied that
there is anything intrinsically evil in man, for God would not have fashioned
what is wholly evil. It is evil only in the sense that it is often misdirected.
The Rabbis present this thought in commenting on Genesis 1:31: "And
God saw everything that He made and behold, it was very good."89 "Very
good," the Rabbis explained, referred to the two impulses, the "yetzer
ha-tov" and "yetzer ha-ra," the good impulse and the evil
impulse. But it was asked: "How can the evil impulse be called good?"
The answer given was: Were it not for that impulse, a man would not build
a house, marry a wife, beget children, or conduct business affairs."90
The battle for man's moral refinement is a battle between these two
impulses. The so-called evil impulse presses us to follow its way Without
regard to the limiting and refining considerations that are to describe
in proper expression. The good impulse cautions man in the name of there
refinements, asking him to set bounds and conditions for the fulfillment
of his gratifications. It reminds him of other values that might be at
stake, and if he does not listen, it continues to speak to him, to rebuke
him for his failure, and to fill him with remorse. The tug of war goes
on in all men. The evil impulse holds man in bondage to the self that he
habitually is, while the good impulse bids him to transcend it. At other
times when man becomes subject to strong passions which seek to break the
dikes of his behavior patterns and destroy the refinements built around
his instincts, then the good impulse plays a conservative part, bidding
him to hold these dikes and not permit them to yield to the sweep of raw
and undisciplined energy.
This is a struggle which truly tests a man. Ben Zoma said: "Who
is might? He who controls his passions; and so it is written in Proverbs
16:32, 'He who is master over his own spirit is mightier than he who conquers
Both impulses are subtle in their operations. The evil impulse has in
its armory all kinds of powerful weapons to deceive man and keep him in
bondage to his baser self. It whispers enticing words casting all kinds
of allure over the zone that is forbidden. It can rationalize its propositions
and robe them in seemingly virtuous trappings. And once a person yields
it weaves a fabric of habit, strong and unbending, to keep in bondage to
itself, so that he can extricate himself only at the cost of the greatest
But let no one underestimate the weapons in possession of the good impulse.
It affects those it seeks to heal with all kinds of therapeutic afflictions.
Those who lead empty, uncreative lives it smites with boredom and with
a sense of emptiness in life. Those who transgress, it smites with a sense
of guilt. It fills some lives with a discontent with themselves and their
world and sends them dreaming, yearning for something better than what
Man is born with original sin, in the sense that the "evil impulse"
begins its operations as soon as life begins. But this is only half the
story. Man is also endowed with original virtue, and from the moment he
is born the "good impulse" begins to propel him toward the heights.
Modern psychology has dwelt at length on this subject, testifying to
this dual aspect of man's nature. John Dewey and James H. Tufts put it
Confining ourselves for the moment to the native psychologic equipment,
we may say that man is endowed with instinctive promptings which naturally
(that is, without the intervention of deliberation of calculation) tend
to preserve the self, and to develop his powers; and which equally tend
to bind the self closer to others and to advance the interests of others.
Any given individual is naturally an erratic mixture of fierce insistence
upon his own welfare and of profound susceptibility to the happiness of
others--different individuals varying much in the respective intensities
and proportions of the two tendencies.92
Even Sigmund Freud, who has often spoken of the dark forces operative
in human nature, concedes a wide range of nobility in man. "It is
no part of our intention," he declared, "to deny the nobility
in human nature... We dwell upon the evil in human beings with a greater
emphasis only because others deny it, thereby making the mental life of
mankind not indeed better but incomprehensible."93 One psychologist
has read these tendencies in the very beginnings of organic life:
When the first living cell divided to form two cells, when it gave up
its life for two others, we have the beginnings of true altruism... Altruism
is the very nature of living matter... an integral part of life.94
Man as he is yields many clues to his greatness. But he is only a fraction
of himself. he is still a creature in transition. Many qualities of moral
excellence lie dormant in his nature, waiting to reveal themselves as man
attains a greater maturing. Only as man succeeds more fully in refining
his "raw" nature will it be possible to Judge what it means to
be truly human.
As the noted scientist, Alexis Carrel, has expressed it:
Man is simultaneously a material object, a living being, a focus of
mental activities. His presence in the prodigious void of intersidereal
spaces is totally negligible. But he is no stranger in the realms of inanimate
matter. With the aid of mathematical abstractions his mind apprehends the
electrons as well as the stars... He appertains to the surface of the earth,
exactly as trees, plants and animals do... But he also belongs to another
world. A world which, although enclosed within himself, stretches beyond
space and time. And of this world, if his will is indomitable, he may travel
over the infinite cycles. The cycle of Beauty, contemplated by scientists,
artists and poets. The cycle of Love, that inspires heroism and renunciation.
The cycle of Grace, ultimate reward of those who passionately seek the
principle of all things. Such is our universe.95
Jewish tradition and the Book of Abraham therefore view man from the
same perspective. Both claim that man is created in God's image. Both help
round out the vision of man, of his place in the world, of the eminence
to which He is called as well as to the depths to which He may fall. Both
reject the modern view hold by some that man has a lowly origin and therefore
should not be considered as the pinnacle of Creation. And in answer to
man's moral failure, the two traditions are emphatic in their inclusion
of all people in God's concern and in the recognition that all men have
the capacity to respond to God's word in deeds of penitence and in growth
toward moral and spiritual perfection.
PRIESTHOOD, AND THE CULT IN EARLY ISRAEL
Go to Endnotes
Dr. Hunter begins his chapter of "The Holy Priesthood" with
the following statement: "Priesthood is the power of God."96
This is quite true! Judaism could not and would not ever cony this fact.
One is chosen by the Eternal to be consecrated to the service of the sanctuary,
and more particularly of the altar. This might hold true more in the use
of the latter rather than the earlier stages of the Hebrew priesthood.
For the Bible does state that one was not required to be specially consecrated
in order to perform the sacrificial functions in early days; anyone might
approach the altar and offer sacrifices. Thus Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh,
sacrificed in person at the express command of God.97
However, going back to the beginning of the Bible, it is noted that
Adam had received the priesthood. It matters not whether Jewish literature
or the Book of Abraham is approached, the fact remains, that according
to these traditions, Adam had the priesthood.
But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the
right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in my own hands...
It [the Priesthood] was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came
down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yes, even from the beginning
or before the foundations of the earth to the present time, even the right
of the firstborn, on the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through
the fathers unto me.98
Jewish literature confirms this hypothesis when it states in the Yalkut
Shimeoni: "Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be [to Abraham]: 'Follow
me and I will make you a High Priest after the manner of Adam.'"99
It is, therefore, concluded that Jewish and Mormon tradition have within
their traditions the very same concept with regards to the origin of the
It is believed, according to LDS literature, that the following held
the priesthood: Adam, Noah, Enoch, Shem, Melchizedek and Abraham. It can
be shown that Judaism will accept fully the same concept, with perhaps
one variation. It is agreed that Adam, Enoch, Noah and Abraham possessed
the priesthood. It is also agreed that Shem and Melchizedek possessed it.
However, there seems to be a controversy whether Shem and Melchizedek were
two distinct personalities, or one in the same. Nachmonides states that
Melchizedek was Shem, son of Noah, who left his land to serve the Lord
in Jerusalem. There he served in the capacity of High Priest.100
Whether or not Shem and Melchizedek were one or two different personalities
is irrelevant with regards to this dissertation. It is agreed by all that
Shem and Melchizedek possessed the priesthood and this is most relevant.
The concept of hereditary priesthood developed in Israel whereby no
longer was this sacred task conferred on any man, but rather he was born
into it. At this point, it is relevant to look at the development of the
hereditary priesthood, commencing with its origin in Exodus.
It is noted that the Aaronites and Levites were elected by God to be
the hereditary priesthood of Israel.101 From that time onward, indeed the
priesthood played a decisive role in the formation of the Israelite religion.
This is substantiated in Deuteronomy where the priesthood (i.e. the Levite
tribe) is praised as being the tribe of God's devoted and loyal men.102
The religion of the Israelites received from the priesthood such great
contributions as the ark of the covenant and the Tent of the Wandering
Congregation, the temple cult in the land, the symbols of holiness and
impurity, and finally, the centralization of worship.
It is the popular view that the cult was manifested in order to secure
the blessing and favor of God.103 It magnified the popular view that the
temple was the place where God revealed Himself and manifested His election
of Israel. This is made apparent by God's commandment to Israel to make
a sanctuary so that He might dwell in their midst.104 This shows that God's
presence was not geared as a convenience whereby he might hear their prayer
and attend to their wants, but rather that His mere presence was the primary
factor. The very name: the Tent of Meeting, is clearly descriptive as being
the place appointed by God for "meeting" Israel. One duty of
the cult was to hallow the sanctuary, to guard it from impurity and to
surround it with awe. With such a setting, the sanctuary was deemed a fit
place for God's revelation. It is further noted that the Bible views the
Tent of Meeting as an oracle. The Ark of the Covenant is the heart of its
archetypal temple, upon whose cherubs God appears in a cloud and between
which He speaks. Each Israelite temple is a replica of the ancient tent
and each holy of holies is conceived of as a place of God's revelation,
as if the ark were there. It is interesting to note that Ezekiel does not
mention an ark in his future temple, but it does have a "devir,"105
which is the ideal site of the ark. The Second Temple similarly did not
contain an ark, yet the entire cult was performed as though it lay in the
holy of holies.106 The terror that surrounded the ancient ark prevailed
in the Second Temple as well. The heart of every synagogue now bears the
symbol; the "holy ark," in which the Torah scrolls are housed.
Indeed the "holy ark" is most sacred to Judaism.
The cult is described in great detail in the Torah and we assume that
a combination of the practices of various temples are contained therein.
The deity is not glorified by magical or mythological rites and there is
no rite designed to call on man God's material blessing of rain or fertility.
Festivals are heightened by an additional sacrifice (whole and sin offerings,
with their meal and wine adjuncts) in order to attain atonement and because
they supply an obviously "pleasing odor."107 The first sheaf
is waved before God with the hope that Israel will be acceptable before
Him.108 Indeed this rite, with the accompanying offerings, allows for the
enjoyment of crops (vs. 14), and yet this rite is not to be confused with
a fertility rite. To commemorate the festival of first fruits, the priest
waves two loaves and two lambs (vast 17ff.). It must be noted that the
stress is placed on thanksgiving for past blessings rather than an appeal
for the future. The rite of the Day of Atonement is the priestly rite par
excellence. The Day of Atonement, for later Judaism, is marked as the day
of judgment on which the fate of each man is determined for the coming
year. In the Bible, however, the priestly ritual for the Day of Atonement
places no activity aimed at seeking a good decision for the individual
or the people, for priests or laity. The stress is placed on purification
Both the priesthood and the people sought divine blessing and it was
understandable that the mere presence of God in Israel presumably implied
a guarantee of His tangible favors. When the priest blesses the people
after a sacrifice109 and sets God's name upon Israel for a blessing,110
these activities are solely on the periphery of priestly ritual. These
priestly rites, it is noted, are mere adjuncts to the main rites. For within
the temple itself, at the altar and within the holy of holies, all priestly
rites are directed towards the sanctification of God's dwelling place and
the purification of whatever comes near it. Indeed the awe of holiness
prevails rather than the atmosphere of supplication and entreaty.
The various acts of the priest are performed in silence and hence the
priestly temple could be best described as the kingdom of silence. The
Bible does not make mention in regard to a spoken dialogue-either between
man and God or man and man-while these temple rites are performed. The
priest kindles the altar fire, removes the ashes, tends the lamp, burns
incense, arrays the shrewbread. He daubs some sacrificial blood on the
corners of the altar, pours out the rest at its foundation, burns the fatty
parts, the limbs, and the meal offering, makes libations, eats the flesh
of sin and guilt sufferings, burns bulls and goats outside the camp, sprinkles
blood to atone and purify, waves consecrated objects in the temple, and
so forth. All of these activities are done in silence without inference
of spells or psalms, and in this priestly cult, prayer is not even evoked.
Deuteronomy 26:1ff offers a typical example of a festival whereby the priest
is merely the silent performer of the ritual. In this particular festival
of bringing first fruits, the farmer is the participant in regard to reciting
the thanksgiving formula at the temple, and it is the priest who merely
takes the basket of fruit and places it before the altar. Priestly speech
is found only outside the temple. It is contained in the temple service
only when it is apart from the essential cultic act. The priest does make
confession on the Day of Atonement, over the head of the scapegoat for
"all the sins of the Israelites."111 The priest then blesses
the people112 at the conclusion of making the offering. Deuteronomy 27:12ff
states that it is the Levite priests who recite the blessing and curse
the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. The priest exhorts the army going out
to war.113 Whatever priestly speech is found throughout the course of the
temple rite itself, is indeed altogether wanting. For it is further evident
that even song is not employed in any form of the priestly cult. It bears
mention that oven biblical psalms are not a part of the priestly cult and
henceforth are not attributed to priests. Within this domain of silence,
the Israelite cult lacked intrinsic meaning in regard to ritual. The outcome
of the rite simply became a vehicle expressive of human submission to the
command of God. Amidst the significant lack of speech, it is a positive
belief that the silence of the temple cult was inducive to an atmosphere
filled with awe of holiness. A similarity in the Islam cult is seen, where
song was excluded on the pagan Arab notion that song was inspired by spirits.
Musical or orgiastic elements in the priestly cult of Israel are not
employed,114 nor is there any sexual element. Priestesses were non-existent
as well. The Dionysiac element of the Israelite religion is apparent outside
the priesthood. According to the Israelite view, prophetic frenzy and ecstasy
are efforts of the divine spirit and bear no connection with human activity
as such emotional display is believed to be solely a gift of God. "Prophesying"
as a fixed critic phenomenon, as a goal of sacerdotal rites, was therefore
omitted by Israel's priesthood and also every element of enthusiasm and
ecstasy was intuitively negated by the priest as well.
For the priest to be defiled by the impurity of a corpse was a strong
conviction which necessitated his strict removal from any situation of
mourning or death. The priestly laws of the Bible forbade any association
between the priest and the realm of death. Priests did not attend to the
dead unless they were his kin and in such an instance, the high priest
was entirely exempt from participation. The priest is further excluded
from displaying signs of mourning.115 In the temple there was no motif
connected with death and any vestige of self castigation or mutilation
The Torah was in the priests' charge and it should be noted that the
Torah was not an esoteric lore of cosmic magic. The Torah consisted of
law and statutes, cult and morality of which it was the priests' responsibility
to preserve the word of God and guard His covenant. Primarily he teaches
God's judgments to Jacob and His Torah to Israel.116 He does not, receive
God's law at His mouth; this is the prerogative of the prophet. The priest
merely "handles" God's law and transmits it.117 There are occasions,
however, when in the Torah it is not unusual that the prophetic and priestly
elements join hands.
It is a natural occurrence that in spite of the priestly cult in the
temple of silence, tumult and passion found their place outside the sanctuary.
The joyous popular cult of passion and enthusiasm, though rejected by the
priesthood, was most apparent with the folk and what might otherwise have
savored of magic became innocuous. Since the folk did not enter the temple,
but rather remained outside and around it, their activity was not linked
with any specific symbol of sanctity.
The essence of great national festivals lay outside the temple where
the popular celebrations were held. Within the temple walls, the priestly
rites were held on such occasions. The Day of Atonement, of all the holy
days, is essentially sacerdotal; the people fast and cease from working,
but it is the priests who perform the activity of the day.118 The distinctive
characters of the various festivals differ in composition' with the basic
offering of another sacrifice by the priest remaining the same.119 Hence
the popular cult gave each festival its particular character.
The priestly cult was of no great consequence in regard to the historical
rationales of the three great festivals. Moreover, it was the popular contributions
that were most significant. The paschal sacrifice which took place in the
home, commemorated the deliverance of the Israelite first born on the eve
of the Exodus. This dramatic element of the festival was entirely apart
from the Temple rite. Although an additional sacrifice was performed within
the temple, it nevertheless bore no suggestion of this commemorative aspect.
The popular cult also claimed propriety over the eating of matzos for the
Temple rite did not include this symbolic rite. The later bringing of the
first sheaf to the Temple was associated with the Passover festival.
Like the bringing of the first fruit, the sheaves were probably brought
in a festive procession by the people and this rite was a main part of
the festival. The Festival of Weeks was celebrated at the conclusion of
reaping the harvest and the first fruits were brought to the temple. The
priestly act of waving and offering the fruits did not receive the credit
for the Joyousness which prevailed. Indeed the gaiety of the festival was
produced by the folk who, in Joyous procession, brought their produce and
added the distinctive tone to the occasion. The chief popular festival
was The Feast of Tabernacles. The holiday highlighted the ingathering of
the crops and its distinctive characters wore found outside the temple.
The ingathering was commemorated by the erection of booths which were fashioned
out of prescribed materials.120 Once again, it is apparent that there was
an historical connection with the Exodus and this did not reflect in the
The Sabbath, the festival of the New Moon and the festival of the New
Year-all three cosmic festivals-were made meaningful by the popular cult.
They possessed "color" and vividness which were not a part of
the priestly rites. The temple worship did not reflect the "myth"
of the sabbath,121 as was displayed in the people's rest. It was the socio-moral
rationale of the Sabbath, set forth in Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5:14
5., that is linked with national history. The sign of Israel's covenant
is a part of the Sabbath observance.122 and it is also regarded as a memorial
to the release from Egyptian bondage.123 The cosmic significance of the
day is embodied by the people on the Sabbath, and the resting is significant
of the social-historical rationale. On the Sabbath, the repose of slave
and boast signifies the perpetual observance of the day by which Israel
testifies to the covenant between it and the Eternal God.
Similarly, the festival of the Now Moon bore popular features which
added to its distinguishing flavor. The folk refrained from working on
this festival and observed this day by participation in a solemn family
feast124 or a visit to the man of God.125 The distinctive cultic feature
of this occasion was the blowing of trumpets over the sacrifice.126
Two new year days seem to appear in Ancient Israel; one in the spring
and one in the autumn. Exodus 12:2 accounts for the new year occurring
in the spring month in which the Exodus took place and was. believed to
be the first of the year's months. It is noted that wherever months are
counted in the Bible, Aviv-Nisan is the first. Exodus 23:16 and 34:22,
claim the feast of the ingathering occurs at the "end" or "turn"
of the year, consequently at the beginning of the new year. Contrary to
some beliefs, it bears no relevance to suppose that the spring new year
is a late importation from Babylonia. We do, however, support the fact
that all the sources count the "matzot" festival as the first
of the three agricultural festivals,127 and thus the antiquity of the spring
counting of the months is validated.
The spring new year was a priestly festival and the autumn new
year in the harvest time, was claimed by the popular religion. It is
interesting to note that a connection was apparent in the development of
this festival with that of the Day of Atonement, as the priest and folk
did manage to influence one another in some instances.
The cultic year began on the first day of the first month; the month
of the Exodus.128 On this day, the tabernacle was erected. The Bible relates
that Israel entered Canaan in the first month129 and Passover was the first
festival celebrated in the land.130 The Second Temple was inaugurated by
the beginning of the cultic year131 as well. Later, it was considered that
the first of Nisan marked the beginning of the cultic year.132 The month
of ingathering was the beginning of the agricultural year. In Exodus 23:14ff.
and 34:18ff, a combination of both reckonings is found. The first festival
is marked by the "matzot," while the ingathering festival is
marked by the harvest which occurs at the turn of the year. Leviticus 25:8ff
bears a similar combination which shows that the seventh month of the cultic
year (Tishri) is the beginning of the Sabbatical and Jubilee year, since
these are connected with agriculture. In I Kings 6:1, the counting of years
from Exodus was shown and connected to the priestly year. Both Solomon
and Jeroboam conceded to the popular custom when they inaugurated their
temples at the autumn festival. This was an expedient measure since the
spring festival did not attract many people to Jerusalem as the folk remained
at home to participate in the family type observance of the spring festival.
The tenth days of Nisan and Tishri had sacred meaning as well. The paschal
lamb was consecrated on the tenth of the month,133 the day commemorated
in the Bible as the day of Israel's entry into Canaan.134 The tenth of
the seventh month was a great fast day135 and in Leviticus 25:9, the Jubilee
year is proclaimed on that day.
The popular religion had exclusive claim on prayer. The individual prays
for himself, ordinarily. There are occasions when an intercessor appears,
but he is not a priest, rather he is a righteous man or prophet.136 The
tithe-confession is the only prayer formulated in the Torah and it is non-priestly.137
Although prayer was employed by the popular folk, it was preferred that
the sanctuary be the site of prayer.138 However, there was never a controversy
over the legitimate places of prayer as there was in regard to sacrifice.
The specific location where a person chose to pray is of little concern
in the Bible. Prayer may be offered to God outside the land139 which differs
with the practice. of sacrifice and cultic song. For example, Jonah prayed
from the belly of the fish; Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, from Babylonia and
Persia. As with location, there were no limitations on time of prayer.
Prayer could not have a fixed form or season since it was, in many cases,
a spontaneous "cry" and "shout" to God for mercy. Prayer
was manifested as an independent, non-priestly religious realm. The Bible
shows that prayer is almost entirely separate from sacrifice (the two appear
together only in I Samuel 7:9; Job 42:8).
To the Jew; a priest was born and not made. Only those were admitted
to the priesthood who could prove their descent from Aaron. When the Jews
returned from the Babylonian captivity, all those who claimed priestly
rank but were unable to produce documentary evidence of their descent from
Aaron were disqualified.140
Also, the principle duties of the priests were those connected with
the sacrificial service of the temple in Jerusalem, as well as teaching
the people the laws of the Torah. In the course of time, the number of
priests increased to such an extent that it was necessary to divide them
into twenty-four divisions, serving in the temple in rotation each for
one week. Each division was sub-divided into several families who served
one each day.
This gave every priest an opportunity of discharging his duty. Since
the priests were allowed no share in the land, the Torah assigned certain
benefits to them in compensation, which originally formed their so1e source
of income. At the three great annual festivals, known as the pilgrimage
festivals, all the twenty-four divisions are said to have officiated simultaneously.
The high priest, who was the spiritual head of the people, was regarded
at times as the secular head of the community as well. During the Hellenistic
period, his contact with the foreign rulers, for whom he collected the
taxes of the people, introduced a process of assimilation among the priests.
In the storm and stress of the times, the real control of priestly pedigrees
has been placed by family tradition. The duties and privileges of priests
are now limited to pronouncing the priestly benediction on festival days,
the avoidance of contact with a corpse, the redemption of the first born
males on the thirty-first day after birth, and the precedence of a priest
at functions such as the public Torah reading.
The Book of Abraham is silent on this subject. For this institution
did not commence until long after Abraham had passed from the scene of
history. However, the Book of Abraham is quite vocal on a different sort
of priesthood, as will be shown, Jewish tradition will agree wholeheartedly
with the notion of a priesthood in existence before the advent of the Mosaic
priesthood; i.e., the hereditary priesthood.
Who Was Melchizedek?
In the Book of Genesis, Melchizedek came to greet Abraham after his
victory over the five kings and ascribed the victory entirely to God. Melchizedek
brought out wine and bread, blessed Abraham and received tithes from him.141
In Psalms. reference is made to him where the victorious ruler is declared
to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.142 This is neither
an invention nor the product of an error but rests upon an ancient Jewish
tradition.143 A feature ascribed to him in the Midrash is his supernatural
origin in that he is described as being "without father and without
mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,
but made like the son of God abiding forever."144 Rabbinical literature
identified Melchizedek with Shem, the ancestor of Abraham.145
If Melchizedek indeed possessed the characteristics as described in
Ruth Rabbah, then a valid answer to commentators who reject the idea that
Melchizedek was Shem, is achieved. For Shem lived two generations prior
The incident with Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of "God
Most High," is most puzzling. It interrupts the continuity of the
narrative.147 If Salem be identical with Jerusalem, as is suggested by
its use elsewhere parallel with Zion,148 then Melchizedek was a Canaanite
king. Yet he blesses Abraham in the name of God using the very epithets
that the patriarch himself employs in his dialogue with the king of Sodom.
Moreover, Abraham acknowledges Melchizedek's blessing by paying him a tithe.
There is some evidence to suggest that the incident here recorded was
once part of a fuller tradition about Melchizedek since lost. This shadowy
figure appears once again in biblical literature referring to a king of
Israel as being divinely endowed with sacral attributes, "after the
order of Melchizedek."149 This would make sense if the symbolism were
easily understood, but it is not. Does LDS theology fill in the gap that
is missing in the Bible?
In view of this, Abraham's oath to the king of Sodom150 is particularly
important. Unlike the case of Melchizedek, the text has here prefixed the
tetragrammation YHWH, as though to leave no doubt as to the correct reference.
But this is not the whole story, for by giving a tithe to the priest, Abraham
actually acknowledges that the deity of Melchizedek is indeed his own.
The insertion of YHWH, therefore, can only be meant to emphasize the identity,
not the difference, between the God of Melchizedek and the God of Abraham,
known to the people of Israel as YHWH. This accords well with the biblical
idea of individual non-Hebrews who acknowledge YHWH. Thus Melchizedek belongs
to this category.151
Why did the narrative introduce the Melchizedek incident here at all?
This question cannot be answered with any degree of certainty, though some
plausible suggestions may be put forth. True, it is not known. The Bible
does not as much as hint as to the Parson for his inclusion. However, if
the accounts of the Talmud and Jewish literature be correct, than the plausible
answer is that the Bible saw fit to include Melchizedek because he was
a high priest who had already received authority from God. Melchizedek
thereby becomes the agent of God in transmitting the high priesthood to
Abraham. This is sound Mormon and Jewish thinking. What happened to the
original text and why is it not given in the Bible? Perhaps, it is assumed
by some scholars, that it eroded away as many other ancient documents.
CHARACTER OF ABRAHAM
Go to Endnotes
Primary inspiration is the gift bestowed upon the chosen few. The active
pursuit of moral and spiritual values is part of what Maimonides called
the moral prerequisite for prophecy. The divine influence does not settle
on a person capriciously. The intellect and the imagination are tools.
The intellect functions in the revelational experience, to some extent,
as it does in the act of reason. It translates the experience into intelligible
conceptual terms. The imagination fashions the images and symbols by which
the concepts are profusely illustrated, giving the inspired word its singular
potency. But neither the intellect nor the imagination will be activated
unless the self reaches out by an act of will to seek divine illumination.
This seems to be borne out right at the outset of the Book of Abraham.
"In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my father, I, Abraham
saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence."152
The chapter goes on to say that Abraham was not satisfied with his residence,
or with his own state of mind. Therefore he sought to obtain the "blessings
of the fathers" for he was a man of righteousness. And only after
relating the moral decadence present in this world does God appear to Abraham.
The Rabbis appear to have shared this very same conviction. They suggest
that God did not suddenly break in on Abraham to send him forth on his
vocation to be a religious pioneer in civilization, but rather that Abraham
had taken the first step. He had brooded on the nature of existence. By
his own quest to understand the universe, he came to feel the insufficiency
of existence without a divine Sovereign to account for the world's rationality
and purposefulness or to assume the ultimate triumph of moral virtues against
the pressures of the dark forces rampant in the world.153 The divine influence
needs a receptive vessel through whom to perform its work. It finds it
in one who yearns for God, who cares deeply about the issues which involve
righteousness and truth. Thus begins the career of Abraham as a prophet.
The newly discovered A Genesis Apocryphon, seems to favor the view that
there is more to the story of Abraham than the Bible would lead one to
believe. The editors state:
On the left-hand side of column XXII we can still see the seam of the
next shoes which was torn out of the scroll before it was rolled up at
the time it was hidden away. We conclude from this that the mission sheet
contained the continuation of the story of Abram as given in Genesis XII
The editors also seem to imply that these missing links in the scroll
are attached to apocryphal stories about Abraham.155 Note one additional
piece of information. Like the Book of Abraham, the Apocryphon is written
in the first person. Therefore, a tradition in favor of a larger tradition
with regards to the narratives of Abraham is clearly illustrated. Who knows,
perhaps, the Book of Abraham is that lost piece of literature.
In recent years, much doubt has been raised with regards to the authenticity
of the patriarchal narratives. Was Abraham truly a historical figure, or
merely symbolic and therefore not to be regarded as factual? This question
must be decided before entering upon any discussion regarding Abraham,
Not so long ago it was accepted as one of the finalities of scholarship
that the documents that make up the Book of Genesis, chapters 12-50, were
thoroughly untrustworthy for any attempted reconstruction of the times
about which they purport to relate. The events described were regarded
as a late collection of folkloristic tales originating in the soil of Canaan,
and it was thought to be naive in the extreme to expect them to yield any
reliable information about the beginnings of the history of Israel.
This Judgment, however, was inaccurate, even in the light of nineteenth
century critical methods. It overlooked the remarkable fact that the origins
of Israel related in the Bible are not hidden in the mists of mythology.
The Hebrew patriarchs are not mythical figures, not gods, or semigods,
but intensely human beings who appeared fairly late on the scene of history
and whose biographies are well rooted in a cultural, social, religious
and legal background that ought to be verifiable. It is not to be wondered
at that in recent years a thorough-going revolution has taken place in
the scholarly attitude to the patriarchal narratives; in fact, no period
in biblical history has been so radically effected. Irrespective of the
dating by many modern critics, one thing emerges clear. The traditions
of the Book of Genesis are now acknowledged to be an authentic reflection
of the age with which they claim to deal. Those narratives have come to
be accepted as the starting point for the reconstruction of the patriarchal
... there is scarcely a single biblical historian who has not been impressed
by the rapid accumulation of data supporting the substantial historicity
of patriarchal tradition.156
The biblical sources are emphatic and consistent about the Mesopotamian
origins of the patriarchs, and the narratives describe the continued contacts
with the native land even after the migration to Canaan. It was to his
kinsmen in the Haran area that Abraham sent to find a wife for his. son
Isaac.157 It was to this very same place that Jacob repaired when he fled
from the wrath of Esau.158 Here he spent a good part of his adult life
and here, too, he found his wives and begat, with one exception, all his
sons, the fathers of the future tribes.
However, this intimate association with Mesopotamia ceases with Jacob's
return to Canaan, and is not again encountered in the Bible. There could
not be any conceivable reason either for inventing these traditions or
for abruptly discontinuing them at the end of the patriarchal period. They
must, therefore, represent an authentic historical situation.
This argument may be strengthened by yet another peculiarity of the
narratives. Their foreign origin and associations make Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob always strangers and aliens in Canaan. They are wanderers and tent-dwellers
ever on the move, with no roots in the soil and much dependent upon the
goodwill of the inhabitants. It must be admitted that this is a very unusual
and inconvenient tradition for a people that laid eternal claim to the
land of Canaan as a national home. It is, fact, highly significant that
Israel never made conquest or settlement the basis of its rights to its
national territory. Its title to the land derived solely from the everlasting
validity of the divine promise to the patriarchs. It is this very inexpedience
that authenticates the traditions of the Book of Genesis relative to the
Mesopotamian origins of Israel.
Much the same conclusion as to the antiquity of the patriarchal narratives
may be derived from the simple fact that they have preserved materials
offensive to the latter religious consciousness of Israel.
Abraham is said to have married his paternal half-sister,159 although
such a union is prohibited by later Torah legislation.160 Jacob was married
simultaneously to two sisters, a situation repugnant to the morality of
another age.161 The stories of Judah's relationship with his daughter-in-law
Tamar,162 and Reuben's affair with his father's concubine and the mother
of his half-brothers,163 are recorded despite their objectionable character.
All these events can hardly be retrojections of later "ideals."
Pursuing the same line of inquiry with regard to the picture of tribal
relationships as presented in the Book of Genesis, a similar conclusion
emerges. The contrasting historical situation, as compared with later times,
If Reuben is represented as Jacob's first-born son, it must reflect
a time when the tribe bearing that name was the most powerful.164 Yet the
biblical sources show clearly that the tribe of Reuben enjoyed no such
supremacy in the post-patriarchal history of Israel.165 The identical situation
applies to the fortunes of the tribe of Menasseh. Since it was very early
eclipsed by Ephraim,166 there is absolutely no reason why Menasseh should
have been depicted as the first-born of Joseph unless the story represents
an authentic tradition about the one-time supremacy of that tribe. In the
patriarchal narratives, Levi displays none of the priestly interests which
later characterized the tribe. He is depicted as a warlike and ruthless
adversary who collaborates with Simeon in predatory expeditions.167 But
Levi took no part in the wars of conquest in which Simeon was the partner
of Judah who subsequently absorbed that tribe.168 Here, again, the information
of the Book of Genesis must reflect the two situation in pre-conquest times.
In the period of the conquest of Joshua, and for a long time after,
relationships with the inhabitants and neighbors of Canaan wore generally
marked by outright hostility. This contrasts very strongly with the atmosphere
of peaceful and harmonious contacts that characterize the patriarchal period.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wander freely through the country, make pacts
with local peoples,169 and purchase land from them.170 Melchizedek blesses
Abraham who thereupon gives him a tithe.171 There is no tension recorded
between the religion of the patriarchs and that of their neighbors. Neither
Ishmael nor Esau is portrayed as an idolater.
The attitude to the Arameans is particularly illuminating. From the
time of David, and through most of the period of the monarchy, Aram was
the warring rival of Israel. But the Book of Genesis does not hesitate
to make Nahor, brother of Abraham, the grandfather of Aram,172 to identify
the house of Laban the Aramean with Abraham173 and to assign to Isaac and
Jacob Aramean wives.
Israel waged a war of extermination against the Canaanites, yet Judah
lived peacefully among them and intermarried with them.174 Simeon, too,
took himself a Canaanite wife.175 In biblical literature, Edom is the implacable
enemy of Judah. But Edom176 is the brother of Jacob.
Still more striking is the role of Egypt in the lives of the patriarchs
as contrasted with later history. Abraham descends to Egypt;177 Isaac would
do so if not forbidden by God;178 Joseph spends all his adult life there
and marries the daughter of an Egyptian priest;179 Jacob and his entire
family settle there and are very well received by the Egyptians.180 Yet
in al1 the stories of the conquest of Canaan, and until the time of Solomon,
Egypt is neither a politica1 nor a military factor and of all the external
cultura1 and religious influences upon biblical Israel, that of Egypt was
Finally, the picture of the Philistines in the patriarchal age differs
radically from that of the later historical books. They are not organized
in five coastal city-states led by Seranim,181 but dwell in the vicinity
of Beersheba and are ruled by the King of Gerar.182 They are far from being
the principal enemy of Israel, as they are from the days of the Judges
until their subjection by David.
All this shows that the patriarchal traditions about the mixed ethnic
origins of Israel and the associations with the local inhabitants and neighbors
of Canaan are not retrojections of later history, but authentic reflexes
of a true historic situation. The biblical material was not reworked in
the spirit of later ideas, experiences and legislation.
The most startling confirmation of the conclusion about the archaic
nature of the patriarchal materials result from archeological excavations
of a few sites in Mesopotamia and elsewhere. The material has completely
revolutionized our understanding of the formative period in Israel's history
and has illuminated many a biblical text in a most unexpected manner.
The outstanding site from the point of view of the sheer wealth of relevant
materials is the town of Nuzi, twelve miles or so southeast of the modern
Kirkuk in northeast Iraq. Excavated between 1925 and 1931, it yielded many
thousands of clay tablets comprising mainly of public and private archives.
The legal, social and business activities of the leading citizens of the
town over a few generations are meticulously recorded in these documents
which date from the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C.E.
This people infiltrated middle Mesopotamia about the beginning of the
3rd millennium B.C.E. By the middle of the second millennium, or just about
the time of these records from Nusi, the Hurrians were at the height of
their power and constituted the dominant ethnic element in the kingdom
known as Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia. They had also spread out widely
over Syria and Palestine.183
What makes the archives of Nusi so significant for the study of the
patriarchal period of the Bible is the fact that one of the most important
political and religious censors of the Hurrians was the town of Haran in
northwest Mesopotamia. Nusi and Haran were both part of an integrated ethnic
and cultural area, so that the picture of life and custom as it emerges
from the Nuzi texts would apply equally to Haran.
Now Haran is the most prominent place-name connected with the origins
of the patriarchs. Here Torah lived with his family and from here Abraham
set out for the promised land.184 His kinsmen stayed on in Haran for generations
as it was, as has been already mentioned, to this same area that Abraham
sent for a wife for Isaac.185 It was in the Haran area, too, that Jacob
spent so many years of his life, married and raised a family.186 The reconstruction
of life in this place was bound to illuminate the patriarchal narrative,
and this it has indeed done to an extent that is truly remarkable and to
a degree of detail that is truly astonishing.187
Westward from Nuzi is the modern Tel Hariri on the right bank of the
middle Euphrates, as well as the site of the ancient town of Mari, about
seven miles northeast of Abou Kemal near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Excavations
at Mari were begun by French archaeologists in 1933 and continued for several
years, in the course of which it became apparent that hero once stood the
capital of a highly important state. Situated strategically on the highway
from southern M6sopotamia to Syria and Palestine, Mari was under the control
of the western Semites. It was one of the largest and richest commercial
and political centers in Mesopotamia in the second millennium B.C.E. The
great palace of the king was one of the show places of the ancient world.
It covered no less than seven acres and contained about three hundred rooms,
halls and courts. This magnificent edifice was found in a fine state of
preservation and the royal archives of the eighteenth century King Zimri-Lim
have yielded approximately twenty thousand clay tablets. About one-quarter
of these comprise the royal diplomatic correspondence from many kingdoms
of Western Asia. The rest are economic and administrative records.188
These documents constitute a rich source of material for Mesopotamian
history; they also are of the greatest importance for understanding the
early history of Israel. Most of the persons mentioned are, like the patriarchs,
western Semites, and the close ties that existed between Mari and the Haran
area naturally arouse the interest of the student of the Bible. The dominant
ethnic group at Mari was the Amorites, the people most frequently mentioned
in Scripture with the exception of the Canaanites. In the second millennium,
Amorite tribes had spread out over Palestine, Syria and northern Mesopotamia.
How numerous they were in Canaan in the time of Abraham may be seen from
the fact that the chief reason against the immediate fulfillment of Godly
promise of the conquest of the country was that "the sin, of the Amorites
was not yet complete."189 Abraham was linked to the Amorites in an
alliance of mutual assistance,190 and the language of this people was very
closely linked to that of the Canaanites and the patriarchs. The excavations
at Mart, like those at Nuzi, have thus provided fruitful source materials
for biblical studies.
Between the Tower of Babel episode and the life of Abraham is interposed
a long genealogical chain delineating the descendants of Shem, son of Noah.191
The purpose is clearly to provide the bridge between two epoch-making events
in history as seen from the biblical perspective. These lists, however,
are of special interest to the historian for several reasons. Of thirty-eight
names connected with the patriarchal family, no loss than twenty-seven
are never found again in the Bible. This fact, alone, makes it highly unlikely
that the narratives are products of later inventiveness, and increases
the probability that they reflect historic traditions actually derived
from patriarchal times. Furthermore, quite an appreciable proportion of
these names conforms to the onomatic, or name giving, patterns common to
the Western. Semites during the first part of the second millennium B.C.E.
But most important of all, is a surprising discovery involving these personal
and place names.
The city of Haran from which Abraham migrated to Canaan has already
been referred to. This place, together with its neighbor, Nahor,192 is
very frequently mentioned in the Marl texts. Interestingly, the name Nahor
was borne also by Abraham's grandfather,193 and brother. The name Haran
was commemorative of Abraham's brother who died in Ur.194 This identity
of place and personal names is not uncommon in ancient Near Eastern literature
and occurs, too, with other members of Abraham's family. Terah designates
a town near Haran, and the same is true of the name Serug, Terah's grandfather,195
and Peleg, grandfather of Serug.196 Every one of these names is peculiar
in the Bible to the ancestors of the patriarch, and at the same time each
denotes a place-name in the area in which the family resided. This manner
of naming localities, brought to light by the Mari texts, constitutes striking
additional or independent confirmation of the authenticity of the Genesis
traditions about the associations of the patriarchs with northern Mesopotamia.
The name Abram, or Abraham, has not so far turned up in precisely the
Hebrew form, but a closely connected name occurs in Akkadian texts. In
sixteenth century Babylonian texts, Laban, the name of Jacob's uncle, was
an epithet of the moon-god, the chief deity in Haran. The noun is found
as a component of several old Assyrian and Amorite personal names. Jacob,
itself, occurs numerous times as the basic element of Semitic personal
and place names throughout the Fertile Crescent in the first half of the
second millennium B.C.E.197
Among the most intriguing of all the names in the Mari texts is that
of the Semitic tribe repeatedly cited as the Bin-Yamina. The epithet means,
"sons of the right-hand," i.e., southerners. The tribe had pasture
lands south of Haran, and its rebellious and predatory nature was a constant
source of worry and trouble to the kings of Mari in the eighteenth century.198
The history of this tribe as it emerges from these texts readily calls
to mind the description of the tribe of Benjamin in Jacob's last blessing.199
That Abraham should have left Canaan for Egypt in time of famine accords
well with what is known of conditions in the second millennium B.C.E. An
excellent illustration is the report of an Egyptian frontier official sent
to his superior, the "Scribe of the Treasury," concerning Edomite
shepherds to whom permission was given to cross into Egypt for seasonal
pasturing of their flocks in the Delta. He writes:
We have finished letting the Bedouin tribes of Edom pass
the fortress, to keep them alive and to keep their cattle alive.200
Isaac, too, it will be remembered, had intended to descend to Egypt
in time of famine in Canaan,201 and the ultimate migration of the tribes
of Israel was the result of the same cause.202 Egypt, of course, unlike
Canaan, was not dependent upon seasonal rainfall. Its fertility derived
from the less capricious rise and fall of the life-giving Nile.
One of the strangest of patriarchal narratives is that recording the
attempt by Abraham to ward off personal danger by passing off his wife
as his sister.203 The wife-sister motif occurs only in the Book of Genesis
where it is repeated no less than three times, Abraham is again forced
to resort to the device in his dealing with Abimelech, King of Gerar.204
The explanation that Sarah was indeed Abraham's half-sister205 is not adequate
to explain Isaac's experience.206
Recent research in Nuzi archives sheds totally new light on this problem.
There was an institution, peculiar it would seem to Hurrian society, which
may be described as "wife-sistership." "Sistership"
in Nusi did not necessarily have anything to do with blood-ties, for it
could indicate a purely legal status. In other words, the woman enjoyed
the dual status of wife-sistership which endowed her with superior privileges
and protection, over and above those of an ordinary wife.207
In the light of this situation, it must be assumed that Sarah and Rebekah
were both holders of this wife-sister privilege, peculiar to the society
from which they came and in which the legal aspects of their marriage were
negotiated. Therefore, the patriarchal narratives have faithfully recorded
the unique institution of wife-sistership. Abraham and Sarah, as well as
the other patriarchs, were real human beings and not the figment of someone's
imagination. An analysis in depth with regards to the parallels found between
the Book of Abraham and later Jewish writings is now inserted.
With regards to the man, Abraham, Mormon tradition and later Jewish
writings agree. He was a great man, possessed of great knowledge, and indeed,
Upon reading the Book of Abraham, one notices immediately that the entire
book is written in the first person. This fact presupposes that Abraham
possessed the knowledge of writing in order to write the book. Is there
found among other sources indications that Abraham possessed the knowledge
of writing? Indeed' For in the Talmud it states that besides the discovery
of astronomy, was the invention of the alphabet. Also the. Midrash states:
Abraham was the author of a treatise on the subject of Creation. 208 This
would coincide very nicely with chapters 3, 4, and 5 of the Book of Abraham.
The Doctrine and Covenants Sec. 84:14 relates that Abraham received
the priesthood from Melchizedek, and that this priesthood originated from
But the records of the fathers, oven the patriarchs, concerning the
right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands...
It [the Priesthood] was conferred upon me from the fathers: it came
down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning
or before the foundations of the earth to the present time, even the right
of the firstborn, on the first mans who is Adam, our first father, through
the fathers unto me. 209
What does Jewish literature state concerning this?
The Midrash states very clearly that God informed Abraham, He was going
to make him a High Priest after the same order as Adam.
Thus saith the Lord to Abraham Follow m5 and I will make you a High
Priest in the same order as Adam. 210
The Zohar goes further in trying to show a connection between Adam and
Abraham by stating:
Adam's book, which contained celestial mysteries and holy wisdom, came
down as an heirloom into the hands of Abraham; he by means of it was able
to see the glory of his Lord.211
The Yalkut Shimoni also states that Melchizedek brought bread and wine
to exhibit symbolically the transference of the High Priesthood. The Rabbis
thus infer that the bread symbolized the holy Shewhread, and the wine libations.212
And the Yalkut Shimoni explains Genesis 23:1, "...and the Lord blessed
Abraham as a priest and distributed to him a tithe from all things,"
for the Yalkut says that the true meaning of this verse is that God, Himself,
treated Abraham as a priest and distributed to him a tithe from all things.213
Therefore, it is seen that Jewish literature not only ascribes to Abraham
the Priesthood, but that God, himself, is pictured as treating him accordingly.
The L.D.S. theology states that Melchizedek received the priesthood
from "the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah."214 This implies
that Melchizedek received it from Shem. Judaism will concur with this statement.
However, there is another tradition that states that Melchizedek could
not have received the priesthood from Shem, because he was Shem.215 This,
however, will not refute the statement that Abraham received the priesthood
from Melchizedek. It only questions the identity of Melchizedek. Also:
Rabbi Jochanan teen Nuri says: The Holy One Blessed Be He, took Shem
and separated him to be a priest to Himself, that he might serve before
Him. He also caused His Shechinah to rest with him, and called his name,
Melchizedek, priest of the Most High and king of Salem, where...Abraham
came and... learned the Law at the school of Shem, where God, Himself,
instructed Abraham so that all else he had learned from the lips of man
was forgotten. Then came Abraham anc1 prayed to God that His Shechinah
might ever rest in the house of Shem which also was promised to him; as
it is said, 'Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.216
The Book of Abraham would have it believed that Abraham was a man possessed
of great knowledge--that he knew the celestial Mysteries of the world (astronomy).
It would be believed that he knew all about the nature, of man and the
nature of the universe. This is a bold statement seeing that nowhere else
in the Old Testament could the veracity of this statement be proven.
However, the Midrash and Jewish literature offers insight to the fact
that the Book of Abraham is recording a tradition that can also be seen
in Jewish literature.
Alexandrian Jews, under the names of Hecataeus and Berosus, who lived
during the third and second centuries B.C.E., wrote works on Jewish history.
Josephus gives the following information regarding their works on Abraham:
Abraham, endowed with great sagacity, with a higher knowledge of God
and greater virtues than all the rest, was determined to change the erroneous
opinions of men. He was the first to have the courage to proclaim God as
the sole Creator of the Universe, to whose will all the heavenly bodies
are subject, for they by their motions show their dependence on Him.217
Is this not one of the missions for which God chose Abraham?
And the Lord said unto me: Abraham I show these things unto thee before
ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.218
Afterward, when he came to Egypt, he entered into disputes with all
the priests and the wise men, and won their admiration and, in many cases,
their assent to his higher views. He imparted to them the knowledge of
arithmetic and astronomy, which science came to Egypt from Chaldea only
in the days of Abraham.219
In facsimile no. 3 of the Book of Abraham, is shown : "Abraham
sitting upon Pharaoh's throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown
upon his head, representing the Priesthood.220 This facsimile is stating
in picture form that which Josephus reports by the written word.
An explanation accompanying the facsimile says that: "Abraham is
reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy in the King's court."
The Book of Jubilees relates an episode about Abraham watching the stars
in order to forecast the year's fertility. God then informs him that all
astrological predictions are valueless. He receives the word to leave the
Chaldeans and set out on his mission to bless the nations by teaching them
the higher truths.221
It is also written: God lifted him above the vault of heaven to cause
him to see all the mysteries of life,"222
The whole world once believed that the souls of men were perishable,
and that man had no pre-eminence above the beast till Abraham came and
preached the doctrine of immortality.223
All this supports the claim that Abraham was a wise man possessed of
great knowledge, nay, the wisest of his day. He is revered by all and is
a prince among the nations. One concluding Midrash from the Talmud will
prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, the nature of the man, Abraham.
When Abraham died, all the chiefs of the nations of the world stood
in line and exclaimed, 'Alas for the world that has lost its leader' Alas
for the ship that has lost its helmsman "224
Indeed Abraham was considered by all as the leader of the world-the
"father of all the nations."
That Jewish thought and Mormon tradition stand hand in hand with regards
to the man, Abraham, has been illustrated. Both claim that he, indeed did
live--that he was High Priest--that he attained the priesthood, the very
same priesthood of Adam and Noah, from Melchizedek. Both agree that he
was one of the wisest of all in his time; that he learned the secrets of
the universe and the higher truth from God and that he sought to teach
the world these truths. He was recognized by all as the prince of the nations.
Once again, Judaism and Mormon tradition do not stand apart from each other
in many of their concepts, but rather their parallel concepts are a uniting
Go to Endnotes
The Book of Abraham makes the following claim:
"and I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my
God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees.225
Unlike many of the other concepts found in the Book of
Abraham, it is very difficult to find elsewhere any reference to
Urim and Thummim with regards to Abraham. The first mention
of the Urim and Thummim in the Bible is found in Exodus and this
immediately excludes Abraham from its possession. However, under further
investigation, it is noted that Abraham did possess some stones the nature
of which will be discussed later in this chapter. The first discussion
will be based on what the Urim and Thummim was according to Jewish
The high-priestly ephod and the breastplate are described in Exodus
28:13-30 with reference to the Urim and Thummim. The breastplate
is referred to as a "breastplate of judgment" and it is noted
that it is characterized as being "four square and double" and
the twelve stones are located outside the breastplate. Further reference
to the breastplate is found in the following passage:
He [Moses] put upon him [Aaron] the coat, and girded him with the girdle,
and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded
him with the cunningly woven band of the ephod, and bound it unto
him therewith. And he put the breastplate upon him: and in the breastplate
he put the Urim and Thummim.226
This ritual was performed by Moses in compliance with the command in
Please note that the Urim and Thummim was not part of the breastplate,
but had to be placed therein.
Deuteronomy mentions Urim and Thummim in the following instance:
And of Levi he said: Thy Thummim and thy Urim are with the godly
one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, with whom thou didst strive at the
waters of Meribah.227
The Urim and Thummim, since it is mentioned only approximately
eight times in the Hebrew Bible, is difficult to define. However, it is
worth noting that in spite of the fact that the exact nature of Urim and
Thummim is uncertain, various speculations have been offered. It
has been suggested, for instance, that Urim and Thummim is a lot
of some kind which was drawn or cast by the high priest to ascertain God's
decision in doubtful matters of national importance.228
"Therefore Saul said unto the Lord, the God of Israel: 'Declare
the right.' And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot [Thummim]; but
the people escaped."229
Another concept for Urim and Thummim is offered in the
following passage: "And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered
him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by the prophets."230
Indeed it can be ascertained from the above that the Urim was further
employed as a means of divine communication.
Another mention made in the Old Testament in which Urim is used
as a means of divine communication appears in the following:
And before Eleazar the priest he shall stand, who shall inquire for
him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord; at his word shall
they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children
of Israel with him, even all the congregation. And Moses did as the Lord
commanded him; ...231
It is noted from this instance that Eleazar was then the high priest,
and Moses was permitted by the Lord to address Him directly. It is further
noted that Joshua and his successors could communicate with the Lord through
the mediation of the high priest and by means of the Urim and Thummim.
The various explanations of these mysterious objects identify them with:
stones in the high priest's breastplate, sacred dice, and little images
of Truth and Justice. According to rabbinical literature, Urim and
Thummim was regarded as the "great and holy name of God"
written on the breastplate of the high priest.232
Consequently the use of the Urim and Thummim ceased with the
destruction of the First Temple, and there is no mention of the Urim and
Thummim having any part in the rites of the Second Temple.
Indeed, it can be added that "... this oracle had been silent"233
for 200 years before the time of Josephus.
The use of the Urim and Thummim was employed, as previously mentioned,
as a means of consultation or communication between man and God. The high
priest was the intermediary and performed his official task by first donning
his eight garments. The person for whom the priest sought an answer stood
facing him, while the priest turned toward God. The question was a brief
one, and while it was pronounced by the priest in extreme brevity, it was
not pronounced aloud. Only one question was pronounced at a time, and the
answer was a repetition of the query and it was repeated either
in the affirmative or the negative. The answer to the single query was
given by the letters of the names of the tribes which were engraved on
twelve precious stones on the Breastplate of Judgment. It was important
that each question was precisely worded; otherwise, the reply risked being
And the children of Israel arose, and went up to Bethel, and asked counsel
of God; and they said: 'Who shall go up for us first to battle against
the children of Benjamin?' And the Lord said: 'Judah first.'235
It can be assumed, that the stone of Judah reached a greater brilliance
than the other stones, thus signifying the answer.236
A decision by the oracle was sought only by the king, or by a prominent
man of the community, such as the chief of the highest court. The decision
was sought only for the common weal. The breastplate was also used to proclaim
victory in battle. It is understandable that the high priest who questioned
the oracle was a man upon whom the Shechinah rested.237
The Breastplate of Judgment, it can be summarized, had a most effective
role in regard to the Urim and Thummim. The exact nature of these two mysterious
objects is debatable and yet it can be surmised with reasonable confidence
that it was a lot of some kind which was drawn or cast by the high priest
to ascertain God's decision in doubtful matters of national importance.
The gleaming of the gems in the breastplate was a miraculous means of
confirming the answer which occurred to the high priest while he was offering
prayer for divine guidance. There are those who believe that the answer
was inward illumination; and other interpreters are of the opinion that
the answer was revealed by an external sign. Nevertheless, the high priest,
in his great faith, believed that the response which dawned in his mind
was divinely inspired and therefore correct.
As was previously stated, and according to the Jewish tradition just
mentioned, Abraham could not have possessed the Urim and Thummim
as the Bible and Jewish literature describes it. However, there are three
references that must be mentioned that will show a tradition that Abraham
and Noah did possess "stones" that can be compared to the Urim
'A window shalt thou make in the ark' (Gen. 6:16): Rabbi Ammi says,
'it was a real window!' Rabbi Levi, on the other hand, mentioned that it
was a precious stone, and that during the twelve months Noah was in the
ark he had no need of light of the sun by day nor of the moon by night
because of that stone, which he had kept suspended, and he knew it was
day when it was dim, and night when it sparkled.238
The illuminative characteristics of the stone brings to mind the illumination
of the stone of Judah in the Book of Judges 20:18.
It is also noted that:
Abraham built an iron city, the walls of which were so lofty that the
sun never penetrated them: he had a bowl of precious stones, the brilliance
of which supplied them with the light in the absence of the sun.239
Again the brilliance or the illumination is the characteristic of these
And: "Abraham, our father, had a precious stone suspended from
his neck, and every sick person that gazed upon it was immediately healed
of his disease.240
David Whitmer is quoted by Roberts with regards to the stones as follows:
"In the darkness the spirit light would shine.241
Whitmer also says that there were, "two transparent stones set
in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate."242
This is the only comparison that can be made. But it is a good comparison.
The Urim and Thummim as reflected by L.D.S. theology and the tradition
of the stones as mentioned in these last three reports coincide. The breastplate
not being mentioned in these last reports need not be of concern, for the
breastplate is not the essential feature of the Urim and Thummim
but rather the stones. If this be true, then once again a parallel between
the Book of Abraham and Jewish literature is apparent.
Thus Abraham, indeed possessed certain stones that could be called Urim
and Thummim. If not, then they still possessed the same characteristics.
THE DIVINE PROMISE
Go to Endnotes
The tenets of Judaism that will be discussed in this chapter and the
teachings of the Book of Abraham are so pre-eminent
that they are found in the basic sources of Judaism, the Hebrew Bible itself.
So common is the concept of a covenant of God with Israel which makes of
Israel God's servant, His messenger, His witness, it is not subject to
the defining, describing, defending and delimiting to which the many more
controversial and less established subjects are submitted in the Mishnah
and Gemara, the Midrashim, etc.. It will be instructive and pertinent
to note the basic facets of the concept of the covenant, the Divine promise,
and the "mission" of Israel in Genesis and the Book of
Abraham, for example.
The Book of Abraham and the Hebrew Bible, both
relate that Abraham was to be the father of a great nation, and that his
name would be great among all the nations.243 It is also stated that Abraham
and his posterity would be given a land which would be for an everlasting
inheritance.244 Further information reveals that Abraham's posterity would
be as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the sand of the sea;245
and that in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. God
promised Abraham to bless them that bless him and curse them that curse
him.246 The circumcision was the sign of the covenant247 and the covenant
was to be an everlasting one.248 These promises would all be fulfilled
only if Abraham and his seed would obey God's divine commandments, according
to both sources.
In Genesis 12:1-3, the Bible signals the beginning of the integral history
of Abraham and his family. There is nothing in the Bible in preparation
for this call. Abraham is asked to pull up his stakes and leave for a destination
as yet undisclosed. The command means a complete break with his environment.
This command was accompanied by the assurance that the patriarch was to
become the progenitor of a "great nation."249 Since this was
not the kind of promise that could possibly be fulfilled in the lifetime
of the recipient, it was something that had to be accepted on faith. Certain
is it that Scripture intended to emphasize just this aspect of Abraham's
personality and the magnitude of his act of faith.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Sarah was barren;250 therefore, God's
pledge of nationhood taxed the patriarch's credulity to the full. Nor was
the vagueness of the ultimate destination-"the land that I will show
thee"251-calculated to arouse an enthusiastic response; moreover,
the migration from Haran involved for Abraham the agonizing decision to
wrench himself away from his family in the sure knowledge that he was not
likely to see his father ever again.
It might appear somewhat strange that the divine promise of nationhood
should have necessitated a sacrifice of his nature. Could not the ancestral
soil of Mesopotamia have witnessed the birth of Israel?
The answer to this question may perhaps be sought in the very nature
of Mesopotamian civilization as contrasted with the destiny of the nation
yet to emerge.
The land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was already heir to
tradition of hoary antiquity by the time the patriarch arrived on the scene.
It could justifiably boast of monumental achievements and rightly take
pride in the success of its administrative accomplishments. Intensive agriculture
and extensive foreign trade sustained a stratified society controlled through
a highly centralized royal authority with its professional bureaucracy
and an elaborately organized temple government. But it was not a situation
that would be likely to encourage a challenge to its basic conservatism.
The burden of tradition lay very heavily upon the ancient Near East, above
all, in the sphere of religion. The overcrowded, changeable pantheon, resting
upon a mountain of complex mythological symbolism, served to accentuate
the inherent deficiencies of paganism in providing satisfactory answers
to the problems of existence. The ever-present pall of anxiety that hung
over Mesopotamian life is the measure of the failure of its civilization,
religious speaking. Consequently, it is not to be wondered at that the
fulfillment of God's purposes in history through the mediation of a new
people required a radical break with the past and the finding of a new
and more fruitful soil.252
It should be noted that the divine blessing, bestowed while Abraham
was still in Haran, made no mention of the gift of land.253 This would
have detracted from the act of faith involved in heeding the simple command,
"Go forth!"' It would also have been a meaningless promise, being
contingent upon the patriarch's obedient response to the divine call. No
sooner, however, had the destination been reached than the divine word
came once again to declare that that very land through which Abraham journeyed
would become the possession of his offspring.254 The promise of nationhood
was supplemented by the grant of national territory, two themes that henceforth
dominate biblical history and theology.
The pivotal nature of the divine promise may be gauged from the numerous
times it is repeated to the patriarchs and cited in later literature, usually
in times of crisis. No sooner had Abraham received the picture of a glorious
future than the contrasting reality of the present asserted itself. There
was a famine in the land and the patriarch was forced to depart for Egypt.255
When he had arrived, he found himself confronted with personal danger of
a different kind.256 These two incidents are of special interest to the
historian and have already been discussed in Chapter VI and need not be
Affirmation of the Promise
The famine in the land of promise and the physical danger that threatened
to engulf Sarah and Abraham exemplify one of the characteristic features
of the patriarchal story. The hopes generated by the divine promise of
nationhood and national territory seem to be in perpetual danger of miscarrying.
Reality always seemed to fall short of the promise. Yet the purpose of
God cannot be frustrated, and the hand of Providence is ever present, delivering
the chosen ones. Hence the recurring theme of peril and recurring theme
of peril and reaffirmation of the promises throughout the Book of Genesis.
As soon as Abraham was back once more on the soil of Canaan, fresh trouble
developed over rival claims to the limited pasture land available.258 The
quarrel with Lot was amicably settled and at once evoked God's renewed
and strengthened reassurance:
Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south,
to the east and west, for I give all the land that you see to you and your
offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of
the earth, then your offspring too can be counted. Up, walk about the land,
through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you.259
The entire land was now actually given to Abraham himself, as well as
to his offspring, for all eternity, and the promise of nationhood is made
more explicit through the use of picturesque language. It is quite probable
that God's order to "walk about the land " etc. (v. 17), preserves
some ancient contract formula describing the performance of a symbolic
physical act that legally validated title to land received by gift.260
Another reaffirmation occurs in Genesis 15, in a dialogue with God.
Abraham complained that material reward would be of little use to him since,
having no offspring, his servant was to be his heir.261 To this, God replied
with an emphatic promise of a natural born heir.262
Three stages are discernible in the unfolding of the divine promise
of national territory to Abraham. Soon after the arrival in Canaan from
Haran, he was told, "I will give this land to your offspring"
(Gen. 12:7 & Book of Abraham 2:6). After the separation
of Lot came the word, "I will give all the land that you see to you
and your offspring forever" (Gen. 13:5 & Book of
Abraham 2:6, 19). Here Abraham is included among the beneficiaries,
the gift is made irrevocable, and is protected by what is most likely a
legal formality performed by the recipient.263 With the vision in chapter
15, a new stage has arrived. Ownership of the land by Abraham is sealed
by a covenant ritual in which God, Himself, plays a dominant role.
The subtle changes in the tense forms of the verb used each time are
illuminating. "I will give" became "I gave" and then
"I hereby give" (Gen. 15:18). The covenant actually marked the
transference of real ownership. The future conquest under Joshua, in the
biblical view, was but the conversion of ownership into possession.
Israel never made conquest or settlement the basis of its rights to
its national homeland, but that it always regarded its sole title-deed
to be the eternally valid divine promises. Even more striking is the moral
rationalization of God's actions.
It is perfectly obvious that the biblical genealogical conception of
the origins and growth of the people of Israel left no room for immediate
occupation of the land. The idea of nationhood through a process of natural
proliferation, rather than through amalgamation or confederacy of existing
tribes, meant that scripture had no option but to envisage the realization
of the divine promises only after the passage of many years.264 But this
"natural" explanation is only hinted in the text (Gen. 15:13).
We are told that the other cause of the delay was that "the iniquity
of the Amorites will not be fulfilled until then" (v. 16).+
This amazing explanation means that the displacement of the native population
of Canaan by Israel was not to be accounted for on grounds of divine favoritism
or superior military prowess on the part of the invading Israelites. The
local peoples had violated God's charge. The universally binding moral
law had been violated, just as in the days of Noah, and with the same inevitable
consequences. The pre-Israelite inhabitants of Canaan had been doomed by
their own corruption. Yet God's justice is absolute. In the days of the
patriarch the measure of the pagan sin was not yet complete and Israel
would have to wait--and suffer-until God's time was ripe. Divine justice
was not to be strained even for the inheritors.
The turning point in the life of Abraham is marked by a further affirmation
of the diving covenant.265 This time, however, the patriarch was no longer
to be a passive onlooker, but is ordered to play an active role. The spiritual
progression indicated by a change of name is to be supplemented by circumcision--physical
alteration, a painful, self-inflicted act in submission to the divine command.
Circumcision is conceived of as being divinely ordained and as deriving
its sanction solely from that fact. It is an everlasting pact (Gen. 17:14).
It is a "sign of the covenant" and a covenant itself (Gen. 17:9,
11, 14). It is a token of the immutability of God's unilateral promises
to Israel, and at the same time its operation constitutes a positive act
of identification and dedication as a member of the covenanted community.
The divine promise and how the reaffirmation of these promises emerged
are basic to both Jewish tradition and Mormonism as seen through the Book
of Abraham. Identical concepts are found when viewing them,
and the evidence suggests that they are similar.
Go to Endnotes
The study of the Book of Abraham in light of Jewish
literature affords a great deal of insight into the parallels present between
Mormon and Jewish traditions.
Pre-Mortal existence is found in both traditions. The
souls of the pre-mortal life are different but have the potential of becoming
equal. These souls are consulted and take part in the affairs of heaven.
Man is placed on this earth to be tested, and if he passes the test, then
the Lord will accept his soul back to its eternal abode.
Creation poses no problems when viewed from the literature of
Judaism and Mormon tradition. Both the Book of Abraham
and Jewish literature propound the idea of a "plan" or a blueprint
of creation before an actual creation. The etymological meaning of the
verb, barah (create), denotes "to cut and put into shape,"
and therefore presupposes the idea that some material has to be employed.
Jewish literature and Mormon literature both point to the idea of a formless
archmatter, which the Creator simply brought into order.
Man. as viewed by the two traditions, is proclaimed with the
utmost dignity. Both literatures state that man is created in God's image.
Both aim at the same goal and that is: through the emulation of the Godhead,
one can and must become like God. This exclusive distinction endows man
with power over the animal and vegetable worlds and confers upon him the
right, nay the duty to exploit the resources of nature for his own benefits.
Moreover, being created "in the image of God" implies that human
life is infinitely precious. Man, therefore, is the crown and glory of
creation. He is at the center of the drama of life. In him is the purpose
of all existence on the way to fulfillment.
The Priesthood is believed to be held by the following: Adam,
Noah, Enoch, Shem and Melchizedek. Both Judaism and Mormonism will accept
this theory. Both agree that a priesthood existed before the Mosaic priesthood
was established; i.e., the Melchizedek priesthood.
Melchizedek was a high priest to God and was accepted as such
by Abraham. There are those who claim that Melchizedek and Shem are identical
personages. This can be illustrated with reference to Ruth Rabbah
where it is stated that Melchizedek was "without father and without
mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,
but made like the son of God abiding forever." The tradition
of Melchizedek is authentic and Mormon theology from the Book of
Abraham represents a tradition long forgotten or lost in the Hebrew
Bible. Jewish literature and Mormonism are identical in their evaluation
Abraham as described and portrayed in the Book of Genesis is
not the complete story. This view is widely accepted today among the scholars.
The recently discovered, A Genesis Apocryphon, seems to favor
the view that there is more to the story of Abraham than the Bible would
infer. Both Judaism and Mormonism agree that Abraham was one of the great
men of his day, and indeed lived. He invented an alphabet and was the author
of a treatise on the subject of creation; he was also in possession of
a book which contained celestial mysteries and holy wisdom. He also received
the priesthood from Melchizedek. All the leaders of the world accepted
Abraham as the "father of all the nations."
Urim and Thummim as described in the Book
of Abraham with regards to Abraham's possession has no parallel
in Jewish literature. However, Abraham did possess certain stones that
could be described as forerunners to the organized Urim and
Thummim as described in the Book of Exodus. They were most possibly
the exact stones that were in Noah's possession and they had some revelatory
aspect to them.
The Divine Promise as portrayed in Judaism and
Mormon tradition relates that Abraham would be the father of a great nation
and that his name would be great among all the nations. He and his posterity
would be given a land which would be for them an everlasting inheritance.
His descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the heaven and the
sand of the sea. The promises and their re-affirmation occur throughout
the Bible and are not only paralleled in Jewish and L.D.S. theology, but
are indeed identical.
Based on the evidence submitted, Mormon and Jewish tradition stand on
common ground with respect to the significant parallels between the Book
of Abraham and Jewish literature.
Albright, William F. Archaeology and the Religion
of Israel. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1956.
_____. "Northwest Semitic Names in a List of Egyptian Slaves from
the Eighteenth Century B.C." Journal of American
Oriental Research Society, 1954.
Altmann, Alexander. Biblical and Other Studies.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963.
Andrus, Hyrum L. Doctrine&1 Commentary of
the Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake
City. Deseret Book Company, 1967.
Avigod, Nahum and Yadin, Yigael. A Genesis Apocryphon.
Jerusalem: The Magnes Press and Heichal Ha-Sefer, 1956.
Bright, John. A History of Israel. Philadelphia:
The Westminster Press, 1959
Carrel, Alexis. Man, the Unknown. New York: Harper
and Brothers, 1935.
Chiera, Edward and Speiser, Ephraim A. "A New Factor in the History
of the Ancient Near East." The Annual of the
American Schools of Oriental Research.
New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1960
Clark, James R. The Story of the Pearl
of Great Price. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1965.
Cutter, G.B. Instincts and Religion. New York:
Harper and Brothers, 1940.
Dewey, John and Tufts, James H. Ethics. New York: Henry Holt
and Company, 1932 r
Finkelstein, Louis, ed. The Jews: Their History.
Culture. and Religion. New York: Harper and Brothers,
Freedman, David Noel, and Campbel, Edward F., eds. The Biblical
Archaeologist Reader 2. New York. Doubleday and Company,
Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.
trans. J. Riviere. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1952.
Gelb, Ignance J., et al. Nusi Personal Names. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1943.
Ginsberg, Louis. On Jewish Law and Lore.
Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962.
Hunter, Milton R. Pearl of Great Price Commentary.
Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965.
Husik, Isaac. A History of Mediaeval Jewish
Philosophers. New York: Meridian Books, Inc., 1958.
Jamieson, Robert. A Commentary on the Old
and New Testament. New York: S.S. Seranton and Company,
Josephus, Flavius. The Genuine Works of
Flavius Josephus. trans. William Whiston. Boston: Walker
and White, 1856.
Kaduahin, Max. The Rabbinic Mind. New York. The
Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1952.
Kaufmann, Yehezkel. Toledot Ha-Emunah Hayisroelit.
Jerusalem: Hotzaat Mosad Bialik, 1937.
Lewy, Hans. Three Jewish Philosophers. New York:
Meridian Books Inc., 1960.
Lewy, Immanuel. The Growth of the Pentateuch.
New York: Bookman Associates, 1955.
Maimonides, Moses. Perush Ha-Rambam Al Hatorah.
New York: Pardes Publishing Company, 1952.
________________. Moreh Nevuchim. New York: Pardes Publishing
Margolis, Reuben, ed . Sefer Chasidim. Jerusalem: Rotzaat
Mosad Ha-Rav Kook, 1937.
Meek. T. J. "Some Gleanings From the Last Excavations at Nuzi."
The Annual of the American Schools
of Oriental Research. New Haven: American Schools
of Oriental Research, 1933.
McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft,
Orlinsky, Harry M. Ancient Israel. New York: Cornell University
Polinsky, Aaron. Sefer Haparshiyot. Midrash Kee
Tov. Jerusalem: Aleph Machon Lehotzaat Sefarim,
Pritchard, James B., ed. The Ancient Near East.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958.
Roberts, B.H. A Comprehensive History of
the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, 1930.
Sarna, Nahum M. "Journal of Biblical Literature," LXXXI, 1962.
Silverstone, Abraham. Mimaynei Hachasidut. New York: Rabbinical
Assembly of America, 1957.
Smith, Joseph. History of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Edited
by B.H. Roberts. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967.
Smith, W. Robertson. The Religion of the
Semites. New York: The Meridian Books, 1956.
Speiser, Ephraim A. Genesis. New York: Doubleday and Company,
The Apocrypha. trans. Edgar J. Goodspeed. New York: Random
House Publishers, 1959.
The Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1949.
The Midrash. New York: Pardes Publishing House, 1944.
The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake
City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1949.
The Talmud. New York: Notzaat Me'orot, 1959.
The Torah. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society
of America, 1962.
Torah, Nevi'im, Ketubim. Tel Aviv: Hotzaat Sinai,
The study of the Book of Abraham in light of Jewish
literature affords a great deal of insight into the parallels present between
Mormon tradition and Jewish tradition. It is the objective of this writer
to expose a variety of topics which appear both in Mormon and Jewish theology
and which can only add to verify the notions that these two great theologies
do indeed concur on many issues.
The souls of the pre-mortal life are mentioned in both
traditions. Although the souls differ, they have the potential of becoming
equal. Mormon and Jewish literature concur when viewing Creation inasmuch
as it is agreed that life was manifested of a formless archmatter which
the Creator simply brought into order. Man is created in God's image
according to both traditions; this implies that human life is infinitely
precious and therefore is the crown and glory of creation. Both traditions
propound the view that Adam, Noah, Enoch, Shem and Melchizedek possessed
the priesthood. Abraham, viewed as one of the greatest men of his
time, is so portrayed in both traditions. He invented an alphabet and was
the author of a treatise on the subject of creation. He received the priesthood
from Melchizedek. Abraham possessed certain stones that could be described
as the forerunners to the organized Urim and Thummim
as described in the Book of Exodus. Noah possessed the same stones. Both
Jewish and Mormon literature portray the Divine Promise with reference
to Abraham being the father of a great nation. He and his posterity would
be given a land which would be for them an everlasting inheritance.
2 Genesis Rabbah 39:1
3 Mishnah Baba Metzia 2:8
4 Tosefta Baba Metzia 2:21.
5 Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price
(Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967), p. 99.
6 Andrus, quoting Book of Abraham 3:22-23.
7 Book of Abraham 3:23.
8 Book of Abraham 3:18.
9 Gen. 2:7.
10 Lev. 17:11.
11 Deut. 12:23.
12 Jer. 15:9
13 Talmud Berachot 60b.
14 Gen. 2:7
15 Eccles. 12:7.
16 Wisdom of Solomon 15:8
17 Slavonic Book of Enoch 23:5.
18 II Esdras 4:35.
19 Sefer Haparshiyot, Midrash Kee Tov, “Alef” Machon Lehotzaat Sefarim,
T.D. Jerusalem, 894, p. 31.
20 Midrash Tanhuma Pekude, 3.
21 17Book of Abraham 3:26.
22 Book of Zohar I. 96b
23 Book of Enoch 39:4-7, 40:5, 61:12.
24 Book of Enoch 70:4.
25 Book of Enoch 38:3, 53:6, 62:8.
26 Book of Enoch 48:6, 62:7.
27 IV Esdras, 8:28, 13:52, 14:19
28 Genesis Rabbah 72:7
29 Talmud Menahot 29b
30 Talmud Niddah 30b.
31 Book of Abraham 3:23.
32 Andrus, p. 119
33 Book of Abraham 3:18
34 Wisdom of Solomon 8:19.
35 Book of Abraham 3:18.
36 Andrus, p.19
37 Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch 30:2-3
38 Book of Abraham 3:26
39 A Commentary on the Old and New Testament (New York: S.S. Scranton
and Company, 1874).
40 DHC, VI, p. 474.
41 Book of Apraham 4:20,22.
42 Book of Abraham 4:31
43 Book of Abraham 5:3
44 31.Perush Haramban Al Hatorah, Genesis 1:1; Moreh Nevuchim, 2:30.
45 Genesis Rabbah 1.
46 Wisdom of Solomon 11:17, Book of Abraham 3:24.
47 Book of Abraham 3:4.
48 Perush Haramban Al Hatorah pp. 30, 31.
49 Genesis Rabbah 19:
50 Book of Abraham 5:13.
51 Samuel N. Kramer, History Begins at Sumer (London: Thames & Hudson,
52 Psalms 39:9.
53 Genesis 1:4 etc.; Book of Abraham 4:21.
54 Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary (Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft, 1964), p. 79.
55 Andrus, p. 169.
56 D&C C 77:12
57 19 Moses 3:5.
58 Andrus, p. 172.
59 Genesis 2:2f.
60 Exodus 20:11.
61 Exodus 31:12-17.
62 Exodus 16:5, 22-30.
63 Exodus 20:8, Deut. 5:12.
64 See N.M. Sarna, “Journal of Biblical Literature," LXXXI (1962),
P. 157, and the literature cited therein, n.ll.
65 Genesis 12:1-9, Book of Abraham 2:3.
66 Max Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind (New York, Jewish Theological Seminary
of America, 1952), P. 300.
67 3Gen. 12:3, Book of Abraham 2:9.
68 Lev. 18:5.
69 II Samuel 7:19, a possible rendition of the original Hebrew.
70 Isaiah 26:2.
71 Psalms 118:20
72 8 Psalms 33:1.
73 Psalms 125:4, which clearly refers to good men among all nations.
74 Yalkut Shimeoni, on Leviticus 18:5.
75 Hunter p. 99.
76 Genesis 1:27, Book of Abraham 4:26, 27.
77 Genesis 2:7, Book of Abraham 5:7.
78 Genesis 11:3, Job 10:9, 27:16, 30:19.
79 Job 4:19, 19;9, 33:6; Isa. 29:16, 45:9, 64:7
80 Gen. 1:25, Book of Abraham 4:26~27.
81 Gen. 1:26-27, 5:1, 9:6; Book of Abraham 4:26-27
82 Gen. 1:28.
83 Book of Abraham 4:28.
84 Gen. 9:6
85 Gen. 2:7, 8.
86 Isaiah 29:16, 45: 9ff; Jeremiah 18:21.
87 Psalms 8:2, 4-7, 10.
88 Gen. 1:28.
89 Bereshit Rabbah 9:7.
90 Bereshit Rabbah 9:7. _
91 Ethics of the Fathers 4:1.
92 John Dewey and James H. Tufts, Ethics (New York: Henry Holt and Comany,
1932), p. 43.
93Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (trans. J.
Riviere, London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1952 p. 123.
94 G.B. Cutten, Instincts and Religion (New York: Harper and Brothers,
1940), P. 43.
95 Alexis Carrel, Man, the Unknown (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1935),
96 Hunter, p. 128.
97 Judges 6:26.
98 Book of Abraham 1:3.
99 Yalkut Shimeoni 12:63.
100 Perush Haramban Al Hatorah 14:18.
101 Exodus 28:1ff., 32:26ff; Numbers 8:5ff., 16:5ff.
102 Deuteronomy 33:8
103 Genesis 28:18ff.; Exodus 20:21; I Kings 8:29ff.
104 Exodus 25:8
105 Ezekiel 41:3 f.
106 Mishnah Yomah 5:1-3.
107 Numbers 28.2
108 Leviticus 23:11.
109 Leviticus 9:22 f.
110 Numbers 6:23ff.
111 Leviticus 16:21.
112 Leviticus 16:21, 9:22 f.; Numbers 6:23ff.
113 Deuteronomy 20:2 ff.
114 The horn and the trumpet are the two instruments of the priesthood--both
alarms, and employed as such, not as musical instruments (Numbers 10:1-10;
115 Leviticus 21:1-12.
116 Deuteronomy 33:9 f
117 Jeremiah 2:8.
118 Lev. 16, 23:26ff; Num. 29:7 ff
119 Numbers 28.
120 Leviticus 23:40
121 Numbers 28:9 f
122 Exodus 31:13ff
123 Deuteronomy 5:15
124 I Samuel 20:5, 24, 27
125 II Kings 4:23.
126 Numbers 10:10; Psalms 81:4; There is evidently a connection between
the Sabbath and the New Moon, The moon in created anew each month, therefore,
like the Sabbath, the new moon recalls the Creation.
127 Ex. 23:14; 34:18; Deut. 16:1ff.
128 Ex. 40:17.
129 Josh. 4:19.
130 Josh. 5:10 f.
131 Ezra 6:14ff.
132 Mishnah Rosh Hashonah 1:1.
133 Exodus 12:3.
134 Joshua 4:19.
135 Leviticus 16:29, 31.
136 Gen. 20:7, 17; Nu. 12:13; Dent. 9:10; Jer. 15:1.
137 Deut. 26:12ff.
138 Joshua 7:7ff.; Judges 21:2 f.; I Samuel l:l0ff.; II Samuel 7:8ff.;
I Kings 8:22ff., 44; II Kings 19 14 ff.
139 Leviticus 26:40; I Kings 8:46ff.
140 Ezra 2:62
141 Genesis 14:18-20.
142 Psalms 110 4.
143 Talmud Shabbat 156a,b; Genesis Rabbah 43.
144 Ruth Rabbah 5:3, also refers to Psalms 110:4.
145 Talmud Nedarim 32b.
146 Bruce R. McConkie, "Melchizedek," Mormon Doctrine (Salt
Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 475.
147 Genesis 14:21
148 Psalms 76:3, see Genesis Apocryphon, column XXII, line 13.
149 Psalms 110:4.
150 Genesis 14:22.
151 Yehezkel Kaufmann, Toldot Ha-emunah Hayisroelit, Vol. I, p. 224,
152 Book of Abraham 1:1.
153 Bereshit Rabbah 39:1.
154 3Nahman Avigod and Yigael Yadin, A Genesis Apocryphon, The Magees
Press of the Hebrew University, and Heikhal Ha-Sefer, Jerusalem, 1956,
155 Avigod. p. 22.
156 Louis Finkelstein, ed., The Jews (New York: Harper and Brothers,
1949), "The Biblical Period," by William Foxwell Albright, vol.
I, p. 3.
157 Genesis 24:4 ff.
158 Genesis 28:2, 10.
159 Genesis 20:12, cf. Book of Abraham 2:2.
160 Leviticus 18:9, 11; 20:17, Deuteronomy 27:22.
161 Leviticus 18:18.
162 Genesis 38:16.
163 Genesis 35:22; I Chronicles 5:1.
164 Genesis 35:23; 46:8f.; Exodus 1:2; II Chronicles 2:1.
165 Gen. 49:3; Deut. 33:6; Judges 5:15.
166 Gen. 48:1-20.
167 Gen. 34; 49:5 f.
168 Josh. 19:9; Judges 1:3.
169 Gen. 14:13, 21:22-32, 26:28-31.
170 Gen. 23:2-20.
171 Gen. 14:20.
172 Gen. 22:21.
173 Gen. 24:38.
174 Gen. 38:2.
175 Gen. 46:10; Ex. 6:15.
176 Edom is Esau, Gen. 36:1.
177 Gen. 12:10-20.
178 Gen. 26:2.
179 Gen. 41:50-52.
180 Gen. 47:7-10.
181 I Sam. 5:8.
182 Gen. 20:2; 21:31-34; 26:1. 8, 14, 33.
183 John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: The Westminster
184 Gen. 11:31, 12:4; Book of Abraham 2:5-6.
185 Gen. 24:2, 10.
186 Gen. 27:43, 28:10, 29:4.
187 For more information, see Cyrus H. Gordon, "Biblical Customs
nd the Nusu Tablets" The Biblical Archaeologist Reader 2, Freedman,
Campbel, ed. Doubleday & Co., 1964.
188 William Foxwell Albright, "Northwost-Semitic Names in a List
of Egyptian Slaves From the Eighteenth Century B.C.” J.A.O.S., p. 1954.
189 Gen. 15:16
190 Gen. 14:13
191 Gen. 11:10-32.
192 Gen. 24:10.
193 Gen. 11:22 ff.
194 Gen. 5:26, Abraham 2:1-4.
195 Gen. 10:25, 11:20-23.
196 Gen. 10:25, 11:16-19.
197 See W.F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore:
The John Hopkins Press, 1956.
199 Gen. 49:27; Judges 20:16; I Chronicles 12:2.
200 J. Pritchard, ea., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament, p. 257.
201 Gen. 26:1-2.
202 Gen. 42-46.
203 Gen. 11-20, cf. Abraham 2:22-25.
204 Gen. 20:1-18.
205 Gen. 20:12.
206 Gen. 26:6-11.
207 cf. E.A. Speiser, The Anchor Bible Genesis (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday
a Co., 1964)
208 Midrash Nishman Chavim, ch. 29.
209 Book of Abraham 1:31a, 3.
210 Yalkut Shimoni, 12:63.
211 Zohar, Parshat Bereshit; cf. Abraham 1:31.
212 Yalkut Shimoni 14:74.
213 Yalkut Shimoni 14:74
214 Doctrine & Covenants 84:14.
215 Nedarim 32b; cf. John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government
(SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1939), pp. 9-12.
216 Avodat Hakodesh, Part 3, oh. 20; cf. Psalms 110:4.
217 Antiquities I 7, paragraph 8.
218 Book of Abraham 3:15,cf. 2:6.
219 Antiquities I 7, para. 8.
220 Book of Abraham, Fac. #3.
221 Book of Jubilees, ch. 11; cf. Genesis Rabbah 42, and Abraham 2:9.
222 Sefer Yetsirah,--last page; cf. Genesis Rabbah 15:5.
223 Nishmat Chayim, folio 171; cf. Abraham 2:11 “even of life eternal.”
224 Baba Batra 91b.
225Book of Abraham 3:1.
228 S.R. Driver, "Deuteronomy," International Critical Commentary,
(New York, 1895), p. 398.
229 I Samuel 14:41.
230 I Samuel 28:6.
231 Numbers 27:21-22.
232 Sefer Haparshiyot, "Midrash Kee Tov" Aleph Machon Lehotzaat
Sefarim, T.D. Jerusalem, 1894, p. 92.
233 Book of Antiquities III 8 paragraph 9.
234 v. Judges 20:18, Ralbag's comment; also v. Ezra 2:63-commentary
in Soncino Bible, pp. 123-124.
235 Judges 20:18.
236 Pirke de Rebbe Eliezer, ch. 38, com. on Jud. 20:18.
237 Talmud Yoma 73b.
238 Bereshit Rabbah, ch. 31.
239 Masechet Soferim, ch. 21.
240 Babba Bathra, 16b.
241 "Address to all Believers in Christ," pamphlet published
by David Whitmer, 1887,.p. 12; Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. I, p. 128.
242 Roberts, quoting Whitmer.
243 Gen. 12:2; Abraham 2:6.
244 Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 17:8; Abraham 2:16, 19.
245 Gen. 13:16; Abraham 3:14.
246 Gen. 13:16; Abraham 3:14.
247 Gen. 17:10-14.
248 Gen. 17:7.
249 Genesis 12:2; Abraham 2:9.
250 Gen. 11:30.
251 Gen. 12:1; Abraham 2:3.
252 See E.A. Speiser, Israel Exploration Journal," VII (1957),
253 The Book of Abraham reflects something of this Mesopotamian establishment,
and of the response to Abraham's early religious reform attempts in Abraham
254 Gen. 12:1, 7; Abraham 2:6, 19.
255 Gen. 12:20; Abraham 2:21.
256 Gen. 12:11-20; Abraham 2:22-25.
257 See pages 60-70
258 Gen. 13:5-12
259 Gen. 13:14-17, although there is no direct parallel in the Book
of Abraham, we must assume that Abraham encountered the identical experience
according to Mormon theology, and therefore it might be said that it is
alluded to in Abraham 2:19.
260This view held by Rabbi Eliezer in Babba Bathra 100 a; see also Joshua
18:4; 24:3; Ezekiel 33:24.
264Gen. 15:13, 16.
265Gen. 17:19. ?? 9