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Relationship to Chapters 3-5. The relationship of Chapter 4 to the rest of Chapters 3-5 is discussed at Chapters 3-5.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 4 include:
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- Brigham Young taught that the Gods of creation were God the Father (Elohim), Jehovah (Jesus Christ), and Michael (Adam). This needs a cite or to be deleted.
- Abr 4:11. Note a change here. The Gods say here "Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass" as opposed to saying "Let the earth bring forth grass." This is a departure from the Genesis story we are familiar with (Gen 1:11 and Moses 2:11) but also a departure from the earlier pattern in this text itself where the Gods complete their actions: in verse 1 they form the heavens and the earth, in verse 3 there is light, in verse 4 they divide the light, etc.
- As the text continues, the division between those actions that are completed (e.g. the creation of the sun and moon) and those actions that are prepared for (e.g. creation of life in the waters) breaks down between the non-living and the living. It isn't until man is created Abr 5:7 that the other living things are created. (This is consistent with Moses 3:7 that man is the first flesh on the earth and Moses 3:5 which can be seen as a re-interpretation of the creation in Moses 2.)
- Another (and, ultimately, a complementary) way to read this division is to recognize that the distinction itself seems to derive from "that whereon [one] stand[s]" (Abr 3:4), from one's literal point of view. The actions completed in chapter 4 are completed because they can be performed from the Gods' location in the council (on Kolob?), whereas preparatory actions cannot apparently be completed until the Gods themselves come down into the earth (and they are, for that reason, completed in chapter 5). This clear distinction between these same two physical locations and what can be done, seen, understood, interpreted, etc., from those two points is a major theme in chapter 3 (see especially verse 4). In fact, in that same chapter, a whole hierarchy of relative standpoints is discussed (verses 4-10 especially). A major connection, then, between Abraham's apparently arcane vision and the creation story at work in these last two chapters, seems to be bound up with physical location, with a "relativity" of sorts.
- Generations. I love your reading of "generations." I'm wondering where else that might bear fruit. The Hebrew word usually translated "generation" in the OT is dwr, and it means a gathering into a circle. I wonder how that might bear on this reading (certainly in a confirming way, but might it flesh it out some?). Excellent start.
- The seven-day creation theme. I'm wrestling with where to post these comments, and any advice would be appreciated. I think it is important to recognize the departure from and dependence upon Genesis that characterizes both Moses and Abraham in terms of creation. In 1 Cor 15:45-47, Paul offers an interpretation of Gen 1-2 that breaks those chapters into two separate creation stories (a move that was perhaps common in his time--Philo, etc., read the same there). Of course, following Wellhausen, the two chapters are often read as two separate accounts eventually juxtaposed in the text. But it seems to me that such a distinction between two creation stories can be traced back at least to Paul.
- I suppose I bring this up only because I really like Paul's reading, though if it is taken in absolute historical terms it would cause some difficulties for reading the Moses/Abraham (even the temple) creation stories. As I interpret Paul's point, he seems to me to be saying that Gen 1 (roughly) is a ritual text that projects the history of the world as it was portrayed in the temple, whereas Gen 2 (roughly) is a "historical" (perhaps "mythical" in the pure sense of the word) text that discusses the beginning of history, etc. In other words, he sees Gen 1 as non-historical (not even as history-generating) in the sense that Gen 2 might be said to be historical (or "mythical"--am I getting to obscure here?), and he seems to think this interpretation is important since he grounds his entire view of the Christic moment on it. To be honest, I wonder if he wasn't deriving this point of view from something in the temple rites of the time, or from something in the Eucharist (was there a difference between the temple and the sacrament then?). It seems, for a number of reasons I haven't even really hinted at here, a very fruitful reading of Genesis.
- But then Abraham and Moses draw Gen 1-2 into a single story, Abraham especially. However, I'm wondering if the guiding idea behind Paul's reading of Gen 1-2 does help to interpret the meeting point between Abraham 4 and Abraham 5. If Gen 1 is so liturgical because of its systematicization in terms of the number 7, then might Abr 4 (the creation from Kolob, or at least from a distance, by the choral throng, perhaps in song and dance--very ritual) be read as a sort of liturgy that Abr 5 concludes so that history itself begins. In other words (I'm fearing more and more that this is coming across as complete nonsense--I'm only formulating this outside of my head as I write), doesn't Abr 4 read Gen 1 just as Paul does, as a liturgy, with the simple qualification that it is a liturgy that was at work before the actual creation as well as after (in the temple, the Eucharist, etc.)?
- Perhaps for anyone to respond to the above, I need to work out some commentary in 1 Cor 15, and then in Gen, and then discuss the issues. If anyone can follow the above, what are your thoughts? If not, let me know, and I will get to work.
- Great thoughts. I have very much the same issue, though not so well thought out. I read the Abraham text in some sense as a reaction to the Moses text but I don't know if this makes any sense --since Abraham predates Moses.
- One more thing. If I understand correctly then at the end you conclude that by giving each separate creation account a different role to play, Paul infact makes the two stories into one. In that sense this is the same thing done by Moses and Abraham though their wording is different in important ways overall each of them seem to be setting out similar roles for the two separate creation accounts in order to make them part of one creation story. Do you agree?
- If at the end I conclude that Paul makes the two stories into one, it is only through the mediation of the Abrahamic story that I see the possibility of reading Paul that way. I think Paul quite explicitly keeps the stories separate so that he can make his point (in fact, he reverses them: chapter 1 was not first, but chapter 2). But Abraham's working of the two into one story (similar, I think, to what Moses does--though, as your comments imply, we need to do some serious thinking about how Moses and Abraham come together in terms of creation) offers an "interpretation" of Genesis 1-2 that works even with Paul's radical separation and reversal of the two. I know that sounds somewhat paradoxical, but I hope it is clear how. If Paul separates them because the first one is to be understood as a ritual text, as the script for a liturgical drama, then when Abraham uses the seven-day creation experience as a heavenly liturgy that preceded the creation, he might just be implying that, as a liturgy, it was both before and after the "historical" creation of Genesis 2. The liturgy, then, becomes a re-enacting of the pre-creation liturgy, and hence a return to the heavenly order of things. (I take it that Paul separates and reverses the two creation stories precisely to ground his division of the "plan of salvation" into two, rather than three, parts: he reads the creation and fall as one completely intertwined event, and then the atonement as a separate, part, a reversal of the creation/fall. In other words, Genesis 2 is the creation/fall as one single event--there was nothing to happen as a result of the creation except the fall, very like Lehi's discussion in 2 Nephi 2--and Genesis 1 is the atonement--even perhaps, through Abraham, to be read as the liturgy of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, etc.)
- All of this is doubly significant to me on two accounts. The temple creation account seems to me only readable in terms of a seven day creation: our liturgy remains a seven-day account (not two separate ones), so it seems we have Paul's endowment there. Second, the Book of Revelation, which I think can only be read as a lengthy exploration of the Eucharist, is based on this repeating number seven. There is some interesting tie between the Eucharist and the endowment, and the number seven itself might open up that possibility.
- Apocalypse of Abraham. I noticed there's a big discussion of authenticity issues regarding the Book of Abraham at the BCC blog. I didn't really read the post or discussion since it didn't interest me, but I read this post and thought the "Abraham's ascension" part was interesting (not that it's particularly relevant here, but thought I'd pass it along in case someone is interested or can shed light on connections with the text of the Book of Abraham here...).
- Are you not familiar with the Apocalypse of Abraham, Robert? You absolutely must read it. It is found in volume 1 of Charlesworth's two volumes of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (it's worth just buying them both for your shelf), published by DoubleDay as part of the Anchor Bible series. There are a number of fascinating connections between the two texts, and there are scholars who believe that the apocalypse is a later, derivative version of our Book of Abraham.
- Thanks for the link. I did end up reading through the whole bcc page and a few of the links. I spent too much time on it but it is easy for me to get sucked into that stuff. Anyway, I'm sure you saw it but just in case you are looking for the text to the Apocalypse of Abraham, a link was given there to that as well: http://www.cimmay.us/pdf/box_landsman.pdf.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- The Genesis / Moses account says that God pronounced the earth and seas good. The Abraham account says nothing of this, but does instead tell us that the Gods saw that they were obeyed. What is the significance of this particular difference?
- Abr 4:1: The Gods of creation. Who are the Gods of creation mentioned here?
- Abr 4:18: Until they were obeyed. "And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed." What does this difference teach us? What does the word until signify in this context?
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