Abraham 3

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Home > The Pearl of Great Price > Abraham > Chapters 3-5 > Chapter 3

Subpages: Verses 3:1-21  •  3:22-28

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Relationship to Chapters 3-5. The relationship of Chapter 3 to the rest of Chapters 3-5 is discussed at Chapters 3-5.


Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 3 include:


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  • Abraham 3: Prologue to the Creation. Certainly the first--and perhaps the only certain--thing to be said about this chapter is that it forms, within the text of the Book of Abraham (as it now stands), a transition. Whereas Abraham's first two chapters record events that gather about a sort of trajectory from Chaldea to Egypt, this third chapter introduces a sort of interruption of the journey. It can be called an interruption because one presumes that the complete Book of Abraham would return eventually to the account of the journey and record the completion of the narrative (with whatever experiences Abraham had in Egypt). This interruption is doubled because of the radical otherness that characterizes the content of most of this chapter. If it were only that the account of the journey suddenly faded into the background of a revelation recorded at length, this chapter would not be considered such an oddity in LDS scripture. The sense of interruption the reader feels at the threshold of chapter 3 is primarily the sense of a movement from the broadly familiar to the radically other.
LDS pastoral citations of this chapter are almost universally limited to the passage beginning with verse 22. This suggests that (at least LDS) readers feel "at home" again in the story of "the" pre-mortal council as it is told there and beyond. In short, Abraham 3 has been effectively divided in two by traditional approaches to the text: the first twenty-one verses are understood as a rather bizarre interruption of an otherwise simple story, and the remaining seven verses are separately a very straightforward account of the proceedings of "the" pre-mortal council of the gods. If this chapter might best be read as a transition, then it is clear now what that transition signifies in the broader scheme of the Book of Abraham: Abraham 3:1-21 forms a transition, from Abraham's journey from Chaldea to Egypt, to the revelation he received concerning the (whole?) history of man, a history stretching from "the" pre-mortal council to (implicitly, since the text does not reach so far) Abraham himself.
These introductory comments perhaps provide a framework for interpreting the first twenty-one verses of Abraham 3. It is apparently best read as a sort of transition from particular historical circumstances to a very broad overview of history; from Abraham's journey to the Lord's revelation of all things from the beginning. One question that might guide interpretation of Abraham 3:1-21 concerns the transitional role of the passage (perhaps now called a "passage" for more than one reason).
Besides being transitional, Abraham 3:1-21 absolutely must be read as an event. That is to say, these verses cannot be read as an astronomical treatise. Abraham does not at all abstract himself from the revelatory experience to discuss with his readers a labeled map of the cosmos, nor does he apparently concern himself greatly with whether or not his readers are following very well what he writes. Verses 1-21 are punctuated constantly by phrases that explicitly tie the text to Abraham's very real experience, characterizing every word with an undeniable event-ness. Perhaps the most important consequence of this aspect of Abraham's text is the fact that what Abraham has to say about the nature of the stars, etc., is necessarily kept at some distance from the interpreter. The reader can only make sense of Abraham's words if he or she has full and uninhibited access to Abraham's own experience, which is--barring an entirely new revelatory experience on the reader's part--completely impossible. Abraham 3 is inevitably a trace, merely a trace of an experience. As a trace, however, it is meant perhaps to put readers on the track of having just such a revelatory experience (see commentary at Abr 1:28).

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