Jonathan Moyer
© May 2003

The Jewish Origin of the Book of Abraham

Historiographic Introduction

From the second half of the nineteenth century, the LDS Book of Abraham (BA) has been the object of considerable controversy, which continues to the present. In his own hand upon papyrus: a new look at the Joseph Smith papyri (Grand Rapids MI: Institute for Religious Research, 1992) Charles M. Larson outlines three main waves of criticism leveled against the Book of Abraham. In 1856 a scholar at the Louvre, Theodule Deveria, penned the first scholarly critique of the LDS BA.1 Until T.B.H. Stenhouse re-published Deveria's findings, the Church apparently took little notice of the French scholar's dismissal of Joseph Smith.2 Reynolds (of imprisonment for polygamy fame) responded to Stenhouse's work in a brief article, and argued for multiple levels of interpretation of the Egyptian elements. The Church officially responded a few years later with a few minor editorial changes (see below), and then canonization of the BA in 1880.3

The second phase, began with the efforts of Rev. Spalding, of Salt Lake City. In 1912, the Reverend asked the foremost scholars in Egyptology to examine the facsimiles in BA and provide comments. Their response reverberates even today: although disagreeing amongst themselves as to the precise meaning of the vignettes, they were united in attacking the official interpretations appended to the facsimiles in BA.4

The Church lost no time in responding to Spalding's seemingly devastating attack. Prominent church officials such as James E. Talmage, B.H. Roberts and others sought to lessen the deleterious impact of the scholars' attack.5 Although Mormon apologists continued the argument for decades after, the scholarly world seemed to consider the matter closed.

The controversy entered the third phase in 1967, when the Church announced the rediscovery of the JS Papyri in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.6 Rather than ending the debate, the discovery of the papyri has exacerbated the already fierce disagreements. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought asked several prominent Egyptologists to translate the JS Papyri, and add their assessments of the ancient Egyptian works. The Egyptologists cast doubt on the interpretations offered by Joseph Smith as they universally identified the surviving papyri as common Egyptian funerary documents.7 Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley countered by raising important questions concerning the precise relationship between the papyri and BA, as well as BA's relationship to numerous Abrahamic legends in Egyptian, Jewish, and Christian traditions.8 Yet, despite Nibley's impressive scholarship for many the antiquity of the BA and the precise relationship of the papyri to BA remain unanswered.

Mormon scholars have offered several different theories regarding the potential relationship of the BA text to the JS Papyri.9 This paper seeks to explore one approach that has received relatively little attention thus far. In 1981 Mormon scholar Blake Ostler examined BA as a pseudepigraphon.10 Ostler outlined several impressive parallels between BA and ancient pseudepigraphical writings, and many of these other Jewish texts to ancient Egyptian funerary arguments. As the controversy regarding the correlation between BA and the papyri continues,11 this paper shall revise certain aspects of Ostler's pseudepigraphon theory and expand other elements of it also.

The Argument & Methodology

This paper argues that the Book of Abraham is a work of Hellenistic age Judaism, originating in Egypt, among one of the numerous Jewish communities there. This paper shall demonstrate that the Book of Abraham presents numerous similarities to other Jewish writings of that time. This paper shall also offer a hypothetical reconstruction of the means whereby the Egyptian Jewish community crafted the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham which process may be briefly summarized as a deliberate Jewish reinterpretation of Egyptian funerary facsimiles.12

Because of the nature of BA's translation, and the content of the material itself, ultimate proof may remain elusive. Therefore, this paper shall examine the proposed milieu of the BA, and argue for a general historical context of the book, and leave the reader to determine on an individual basis whether or not the metaphysical claims of BA possess any validity. In order to demonstrate the potential historical context of BA, this paper shall highlight some of the major motifs found in Jewish Hellenistic writings. We shall then proceed to analyze these motifs, comparing them to BA itself. In other words, the primary test of the proposed historical context will be the presence of Hellenistic Age motifs in BA.

Of course, this is not a perfect science. How does one identify a specific motif? How many commonalities indicate a strong correlation, rather than coincidence? These are important concerns that often factor into questions of provenance of many texts, and this paper will not attempt to blaze new ground by illuminating infallible proofs of origin. Rather, the attempts of this paper shall be quite modest. It will attempt to take note of the motifs already identified in the current scholarly literature, and then compare those same motifs to BA. The admonition of Collins informs much of this analysis when he reminds scholars, "Parallels, however, can be illuminating even if they are not definitive."13 The parallels presented will not necessarily be identical but attempt to highlight similarities in worldview, eschatological expressions, or more elemental concepts. Collins provides another key insight when he comments, "What is required, then, is not holistic correspondence but that the use of a particular image be rendered intelligible by analogy with the proposed prototype."14 Along those lines, this paper seeks to bring together ancient parallels that help to determine the ancient setting of BA and perhaps elucidate its doctrines arguing that the BA may best be understood in light of the Greco-Roman Age parallels.

To the degree possible, this paper will attempt to apply the same critical standards of analysis to the BA and the more general pseudepigraphal writings. Scholarly analysis of BA is somewhat hampered by not having recourse to all of the primary materials, so one must rely upon the printed text of BA. By comparing BA with Hellenistic Age texts one can then determine whether or not BA "fits" into the proposed milieu. Although general commonalities must be noted, it is those elements that are most incongruous, puzzling, and peculiar that will provide the greatest "checks" of this papers hypothesis. If it can be demonstrated that the BA bears strong resemblances to Hellenistic Age texts in specific episodes, general motifs, themes, and theological content-especially for those elements that seem most out of the ordinary-then we shall consider this paper as a successful argument for the plausibility of BA's Hellenistic provenance.

In considering the proposed background of the BA one must steer clear of anachronistic notions of orthodoxy or propriety in either the content or the means of constructing the text in question. Present concepts of acceptable ideologies and dogma cannot be projected backwards in time; the past cannot accurately be fitted onto a Procrustean bed made to the specifications and expectations of the present. One must be prepared to encounter some rather startling ideas in any survey of the past. Many surprises await all who closely examine the BA.

Historical Background of the Papyri

In order to understand the BA a brief recitation of its modern extraction may be helpful. In 1835 Michael Chandler brought several mummies to Kirtland that aroused great excitement among the Latter-day Saints.15 Joseph Smith too took note of these objects from antiquity. Initially attracted by his native curiosity, Smith soon realized the significance of the ancient artifacts. Upon examining some of the writing on the papyri accompanying the mummies, Joseph noticed some resemblance to those characters on the plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon.16 This was Smith's first indication that there may have been more to the mummies than mere objects of curiosity. Applying his abilities towards an understanding of the characters, Smith soon presented Chandler with a brief translation of some of these characters, with which Chandler was duly impressed.17 Only after later and more extensive examination of the scrolls did Joseph learn that the scrolls contained writings allegedly originating with the great patriarchal figures of Israel's past.18 The similarity in writing systems of these two communities is compelling, as not only did it signify to Joseph Smith the great importance of the papyri, but perhaps it also helped him decipher the full meaning of those writings. Perhaps the similarity in writing systems Smith observed led him to tentatively posit larger connections between the respective communities which had produced the Book of Mormon and the papyri accompanying the mummies. Some early witnesses identified Hebrew characters on the papyri in addition to the Egyptian elements. As William I. Appleby said, "The writings are chiefly in the Egyptian language, with the exception of a little Hebrew."19 Appleby's identification of Hebrew characters meshes well with the BM writing Joseph first noticed on the papyri. This connection of the Book of Abraham with the Book of Mormon could also provide the key to our own understanding of the Book of Abraham and the individual or community that produced it.

Jewish Elements in Papyri

If one examines the Book of Abraham, as it is preserved in the Latter-day Saint scriptures, one may notice a rather peculiar circumstance for what some allege to be an Egyptian work; the Egyptian elements are rather random and sparse. These obviously Egyptian elements are limited almost exclusively to the facsimiles. This is surprising as one may expect pagan Egyptian ideas to predominate in a work that is supposed to emanate from such a source.

In several of the explanations of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham, the Egyptian is rendered into Hebrew.20 The significance of this curious arrangement has been little analyzed or appreciated. If Joseph Smith had been translating directly from Egyptian, why would he add Hebrew translations? They do not serve to illuminate the text any further, but they may aid in identifying the original authors of the text. If Joseph Smith felt it necessary to include the Hebrew analogues of the ancient Egyptian (and 'Chaldean') words accompanying the Facsimile explanations, then perhaps the Hebrew is actually part of the document from which Joseph was deriving his translation. In other words, the Book of Abraham from which our current version originates is actually a Jewish text, rather than a quasi-pagan Egyptian document.

As just one example, one may consider the strange names in the explanation of Facsimile 1.21 Though the transliteration may be somewhat unconventional, many of the words in the facsimile explanations seem to be a recognizable form of Hebrew, perhaps Hebrew adaptations of Egyptian words, as in the case of "Pharaoh". Likewise, Kolob is perhaps a rendering of Hebrew terminology.22 These mysterious words must be considered in light of their context in the Book of Abraham itself, as well as in the proposed cultural milieu from which the book was derived. When viewed in light of their Jewish origins, the significance of not only many mysterious terms but also other curious components of the Book of Abraham becomes apparent.

Another piece of circumstantial evidence is manifest in the names of the primary actors of the book. In the original version of the Book of Abraham as published in the Times and Seasons, the eponymous figure of the book is sometimes Abram, rather than Abraham; Sarah is referred to exclusively as Sarai.23 This could be due to the Book of Abraham's preservation of ancient Hebrew traditions about Abraham and Sarah, and the covenantal significance of their new names. The god who reveals himself to Abraham gives his name as Jehovah, an unlikely epithet for a purely Egyptian deity, or an American's translation of one.24 This preferred self-identification of the god as Jehovah, rather than 'the Lord', or 'God', as well as the older names used for Abraham and Sarah impart a distinct Jewish flavor to the Book of Abraham.

Taken individually, none of these factors mentioned thus far would be very convincing. As a body, however, they begin to indicate a clear direction of influence-one that leads far away from notions of pagan authorship. As we have seen, the indisputably Egyptian elements in the work are generally limited to those portions that clearly identify themselves as copies or facsimiles. These facsimiles are presented with accompanying explanations that are clearly not exclusively Egyptian interpretations. Rather, these explanations often translate Egyptian words into Hebrew. More importantly this paper shall demonstrate that although the facsimiles are originally Egyptian the ideas expressed are Jewish. These Jewish elements considered in conjunction with the dating and provenance proposed by the Egyptologists are enough to allow one to make a reasonable hypothesis concerning the possible origin of the book-namely that BA follows the same pattern of Jewish appropriation of pagan elements common to Hellenistic Jewry. We shall discuss below the writings of the Hellenistic Jews and the reasons why they adapted pagan writings to distinctively Jewish ends.

Writings of Hellenistic Jewry-Syncretism or Aesthetic adjustment?

The Jews of the Greco-Roman age produced numerous writings and re-workings of ancient scripture. One may consult Charlesworth's two volumes on Jewish Psuedepigrapha for many of the texts composed during the Hellenistic Age.25 Also essential to an understanding of the Jewish texts are related works authored by Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hermetica, the Greek Magical Papyri, and many Coptic Gnostic works, particularly those in the Nag Hammadi library. Early Catholic writers also add important background material on both heterodox views and the emerging orthodoxy of the Great Church. Later Jewish thought, specifically Kabbalistic writings may be used occasionally (and carefully), generally only after noting their possible origin in and connections to ancient thought.

Despite the truly vast quantity of works originating among Hellenistic Jews, some commonalities may be determined. Most important for our present purposes is an element identified by Borgen who said, "typical for the literature is the attempt to combine distinctive Jewish observances with a fusion of Jewish and Greek ideas or Jewish and Egyptian ideas. The superiority of Jewish religion is stressed, and in the end time the Jewish nation will play an exalted role among the nations."26 John J. Collins also took note of "the tendency of some Hellenistic Jewish writers to attribute to Israelite heroes whatever would redound to their glory in a pagan context, without regard for orthodoxy-for example, Artapanus, who claimed that Moses had founded the Egyptian animal cults."27

One may ask why the Jews made these overtures to the Greek and Egyptian cultures. Gruen's introduction to Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition is invaluable in answering this and similar questions. As he says, "the prevailing culture of the Mediterranean could hardly be ignored or dismissed. But adaptation to it need not require compromise of Jewish precepts or practices."28 Collins agrees with Gruen's assessment regarding Jewish appropriation of pagan religious elements, "Use of the imagery from another cult does not necessarily reflect any compromise with its practice."29 But if the Jews did not abandon their ancestral faith, neither did they retire to some sort of cultural cocoon. Rather, they sought a way "of defining and expressing their singularity within that milieu, the special characteristics that made them both integral to the community and true to their heritage."30 Hellenistic Jews were not powerless pawns in the cultural ferment of the Mediterranean, they "engaged actively with the traditions of Hellas, adapting genres and transforming legends to articulate their own legacy in modes congenial to a Hellenistic setting."31

Although Hellenism is sometimes thought of as synonymous with syncretism and religious innovation, Hellenistic Jews did not seek to unite their teachings with those of paganism-contrary to the common charges of syncretism leveled against them.32 In Gruen's view, the Jews of Hellenistic world did not develop adaptations of their traditions in order to proselyte the 'gentiles',33 nor was it generally to refine their own beliefs. The revised Jewish literature of Hellenistic times did serve several important functions within the Jewish community, including bolstering the ethnic pride of those who might waver amidst the ideological ferment of the times.34

Although Gruen rightly emphasized the abiding integrity to their ancient faith of Hellenistic Jews, other scholars offer a more nuanced view of Hellenistic Jewry. Hellenistic literature also directly impacted faith; some Hellenistic age Jewish authors felt that they could not adequately worship within their own faith without the aid of the best pagan philosophy. Philo of Alexandria is a prime example of selective appropriation of pagan philosophy in the service of Judaism. In Philo's view, one must select, "appropriately from the opinions of the philosophers, whether they be Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Pythagoras, or the Skeptics. And many Christian writers emulated Philo in this eclectic approach (following the spoliatio motif), selectively choosing the flowers from which they, like bees, would draw pollen for their honey."35 The spoliatio motif to which Jastram refers recalls the looting of the Egyptians by the Israelites as the freed slaves recompensed themselves with Egyptian gold, silver and other valuables. As a literary metaphor, spoliatio is actually a "'double spoliatio' motif" in Philo "which portrays Jews taking back wisdom which others have previously taken from them."36 Philo believed that the greatest truths in pagan philosophy originally came from Moses, Abraham, and other great patriarchal figures.37 Thus, Philo advocated Greek philosophy not only because he believed it derived ultimately from the Israelite revelations, but also because, "he saw it as the 'preparation' by which Greeks could reach philosophy and become converted to the ultimate truth, of which they had but partial knowledge." More provocatively, "It was also the 'preparation' by which Jews could arrive at the same truth, of which they too had partial, though more complete, knowledge." As Jastram explains, "Philo regarded the encyclia as a preparation for attaining ultimate truth, both for Greeks and Jews. Traditional Greek and Jewish learning were both inadequate: Greek learning, because it often produced sophists with misguided opinions, pederasts, or others who were only in love with things of this world, materialists who never passed on to true philosophy; and Jewish learning, because it produced either dull-witted simpletons who could only see the surface (i.e., literal) meaning of the Torah, or over-enthusiastic allegorists who wanted to sweep away the literal sense of the Torah completely."38

Jewish literature of the Hellenistic age found new methods of expression-taking advantage of all the philosophical truth and intellectual polish available to them-to deliver a message that was true to the traditions of the past.39 Of course, what precisely was covered under the rubric of 'Jewish' at that time is subject to intense scholarly debate,40 and this paper can do little more than touch upon some of the controversies within Jewish thought that relate to the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham. In summary, one may do well to remember the succinct admonition of Nickelsburg, "borrowings from Hellenistic sources do not a work Hellenistic make."41

As Gruen, Tiede, and Jastram argued above, Jewish appropriation of pagan elements did not signal a surrender of "Jewishness"; in Philo's case Jewishness isn't complete without pagan philosophy. Thus the mere presence of pagan elements in a Jewish Hellenistic work does not necessarily indicate a lack of fidelity to the faith of the fathers. For some Hellenistic Jews appropriating pagan philosophy and religious elements was thought of as reclaiming parts of a lost heritage. Thus, borrowing from paganism was viewed as diametrically opposite to syncretism.

As Gruen and other scholars have noted, Hellenistic Jews re-worked pagan elements to culturally dialogue with non-Jews. It is significant that in reaching out to their pagan peers, the Jews often turned to traditions about Abraham. The great patriarch was a powerful symbol not only as the father of the faithful, but also as representing true universalism.42 As Collins explains, "Abraham had come from Chaldea and lived among the Phoenicians and Egyptians. Unlike Moses, he was not associated with the restrictive aspects of the Jewish law."43 Thus one may expect to find Abraham associated with works that may have demonstrated a universalistic bent, and perhaps especially in those works which featured appropriations from pagan (i.e. Egyptian and Chaldean) sources. The modern surveyor of the Hellenistic age may find many of the ideas and appropriated components in Hellenistic-Jewish works surprising or strange. Such a judgment does not help to elucidate the significance or meaning of these works; rather, one must attempt to understand these works in light of their milieu.

Several of these pagan elements in BA will be examined, and explained in light of the hypothetical Hellenistic background. Scholarly skeptics and evangelical opponents dismiss BA as little more than a modern mistranslation of ancient Egyptian. However, when viewed in its Hellenistic setting, its deep Jewish faith becomes readily apparent. One also begins to appreciate the surprising sophistication of ancient Jews who were able to adapt the most intricate and deeply held beliefs of their pagan neighbors to serve the Jewish religion.

Patriarchs as Pagan Gods & Demiurges

Although somewhat obscured by later Rabbinic 'revisionist' tendencies, Hellenistic age Jewish thinkers often sought to intellectually engage their pagan peers. Part of this process of intercultural communication was of course religiously based. Jews and pagans attempted to understand one another's traditions, and felt no compunction about identifying portions of their own religious heritage with that part most appealing in another tradition. Significant in this regard was the Jewish practice of equating their patriarchal figures with pagan gods, some of which will be discussed below. Two Jewish inscriptions from Ptolemaic times, found in Upper Egypt, seem to identify Pan, the universal god, with the God of the Jews.44 Simple inscriptions asserting the common identity of pagan deities with the Jewish god were not the only or even most important means whereby Hellenistic Jews sought common ground with their neighbors. For example, Hellenistic Jews sometimes reinterpreted Egyptian vignettes identifying Abel45 and Abraham46 as Osiris, Dokiel as Anubis, Enoch as Thoth,47 and Moses as Hermes.48 "Isis-Lactans became Eve, 'the mother of all living,' Atlas was said to be the same as Enoch, and Sarapis no one else but Joseph."49 Thus Facsimile 1 of BA that identifies the Egyptian Osiris as Abraham is clearly in line with some currents of ancient Jewish thought.

The figure of Enoch in particular has received extensive scholarly attention, with the result that some scholars have argued that Enoch may be closely related to Mesopotamian mythological figures. VanderKam closely examined the Jewish traditions concerning Enoch and documented several similarities between the great ascended patriarch and Enmeduranki, often presented as the seventh king in Mesopotamian king lists.50 Specifically, VanderKam notes "Enoch's low total of years offers not so much a chronological statement as a reflection, however indirect, of Enmeduranki's ties with the sun god"; the name of the sun god being variously understood as "Utu was his Sumerian name, Shamash the Akkadian one".51 VanderKam continues his comments on the similar ages of Enmeduranki and Enoch and their solar significance saying, "These data alone suggest that the similarities are no coincidence; it seems far more likely that they exist because the biblical writer has exploited yet another Mesopotamian tradition in his presentation of the seventh man."52 VanderKam explains the origin of this borrowing in the bible by a phenomenon we shall see in our discussion on the origin of many Jewish pseudepigraphical works. He says, "It is plausible that those Jewish people who lived in Bablyonian and other eastern territories heard stories about characters such as Enmeduranki and adapted them to their native traditions about Enoch."53 Other traditions maintained that Enoch was actually Hermes-a tradition "shared by Hebrew, Arabic, and Christian sources."54 These startling conclusions are in reality no more syncretistic than Paul's similar equation of the Christian god with Zeus (Acts 17.28), or McConkie's euhemeristic identifications of Mormon deity with an ancient Egyptian god.55

Pagans too recognized Moses as a great magician and miracle worker, and as such he is often called upon in PGM. As Gager relates, "the Moses of the magical documents is a figure unto himself. Here he emerges as an inspired prophet, endowed with divine wisdom and power, whose very name guaranteed the efficacy of magical charms and provided protection against the hostile forces of the cosmos."56 However, as we shall see below, Abraham was even more important in the PGM than Moses.

The Jewish practice of identifying their patriarchal figures with pagan deities went a long way towards bridging the intellectual gap separating Jews and pagans in the Hellenistic world. The willingness of Jews to appropriate these pagan identities for their patriarchal (and matriarchal) figures is perhaps as surprising as the similar elevation of these same Jewish figures to godly status-that is approaching, if not fully reaching the divine status reserved for God alone.

For Hellenistic Jews, Enoch was more than just the exemplar of righteous action; he was also the "lesser YHWH".57 Pearson has noted that in the Pistis Sophia, an important Coptic Gnostic work the deified Enoch may be called Jeu, from YHWH.58 Fallon points out that, "the apocalyptic seer Enoch, after being translated in spirit to heaven and being shown by Michael the temple of the Lord and his throne, is proclaimed to be the Son of Man."59 The traditions in the Pistis Sophia, 3 Enoch and ApocAbr seem to be linked to common speculations on the leading angels and their enthronement.60 In some of these traditions, including TAB, there is the motif of two thrones, one for God or a leading angel, and then a spot for the ascended seer.61

Several other Jewish patriarchs were described as achieving super-human status. For example, in 1 Enoch 88 Noah and Moses are depicted as sheep that became men. In apocalyptic imagery this progression from animal to human status indicated an ontological progression from mortal to angelic condition.62 Greco-Roman Jews maintained several other traditions concerning the deification of their great lawgiver, Moses.63 This is the same idea one meets in Samaritan theology,64 Biblical and rabbinic tradition, as well as other writings of Egyptian Jews, and some early Gnostic groups.65

One example of this, Ezekiel the Tragedian wrote an account of Moses' ascension to the throne of God. After seeing God upon his throne,66 Moses himself is invited to sit there also. "He handed o'er the scepter and he bade me mount the throne, and gave to me the crown; then he himself withdrew from off the throne. I gazed upon the whole earth round about; things under it, and high above the skies."67 Scholars have noted the similarity of this pericope to descriptions of Enoch's ascent as well as that of Abraham in ApocAbr 19.68 Moses' throne vision was also of great importance for later Merkavah and Gnostic speculations.69

According to some early traditions, when Moses stood on Mt. Nebo, he stood in the presence of God and the angels.70 Some of these early sources are consistent with the biblical record concerning Moses' death. However, others also record that Moses did not die, but "ascended into heaven to perform service" just as Enoch and Elijah did.71 After Moses left the mortal sphere, he ascended to his position on God's throne, according to some traditions, to resume his role as vice-regent for God.72 Some scholars see Moses' throne as representing "not only the dynasty but also the kingdom or nation, which Moses is ultimately to found when he leads the people out of Egypt."73


The elevation of Moses and other patriarchal figures in these ascension episodes provided an important theological element for ancient Judaism linking a transcendent God with a fallen world. Moses, and his enthronement with its subsequent investiture of powers, was especially important for the Hellenistic philosopher Philo of Alexandria. In a widely influential argument, Philo held that "the ineffable God does not directly act himself, but through his first manifestation, the Logos, and it is through the work of the Logos that his creative and ruling powers, expressed in the names God and Lord, become manifest."74 Although the scholarly community still vigorously debates certain aspects of Philo's thought, it appears clear that Philo accorded several of the Jewish patriarchs near godlike status.

The most important patriarchal figure for Philo was Moses. Philo terms Moses "a divine man", and bestows on him the controversial epithet, θειος ανηρ (God man).75 Other times, Philo regarded Moses as "God and King."76 Apparently in Philo's thought Moses occupied some intermediate stage between God and mankind while not participating fully in either.77 Instead, he was a mediator between the two worlds. Philo described Moses' demigod status as an "archangel" and the "eldest Logos", who actually "becomes kin to God."78

Other patriarchs were also regarded in this semi-divine light. As Tiede expresses it, Moses' godly status was different from the other patriarchs "in degree, not in kind."79 Indeed, Philo seems to grant nearly the same divine status to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as he accorded to Moses.80 Like Moses, "Aaron, Levi and Melchizedek are all called Logos", and Abraham "reaches the state of full knowledge his pace [then] becomes equal to the Logos and both become companions with God as leader."81

Although both Moses and Abraham were seen as exemplars worthy of imitation in the eyes of early Gnostics,82 in other traditions, Abraham clearly surpassed Moses. When Abram's name was changed to Abraham, this signified a dramatic existential leap. Many early rabbis believed that "the He added to the name of Abram was the creative instrument of God."83 The He, as part of the Tetragrammaton, was believed to be endowed with the power of God himself. In some traditions, not only was the Name of God "an instrument used by God when he was engaged in the creation of the world. But there were also traditions according to which it was a hypostasis."84 By adding this part of his name to Abram, God was granting that same creative power to his friend.85 In some traditions, "God regarded Abraham as having been 'associated' with him in the creation because of the patriarch's knowledge of the Divine Name."86 As Segal notes, "Philo did not shrink from the idea that God's agents are called gods themselves, nor from the idea that God had help in creation-ideas which the later rabbis opposed."87 Thus, Abraham was regarded as the great magus, able to work all wonders (including creating golem) because of the power of the Name.88 Others also figure prominently in these co-creator motifs, including Adam and the angel Gabriel.89 It may be of interest to note that according to some traditions, God is a "great magician who creates the universe by means of the Sefer Yesira." Of course, the book itself credits Abraham as its author.90

Abraham's grandson, Jacob, was also regarded as a demiurge, a creator figure under the direction of a higher god. As Wolfson relates, "the notion of an angel named Jacob-Israel is also known from Jewish-Christian texts...and appears as well in Gnostic works such as the Nag Hammadi treatise On the Origin of the World and in Manichean texts."91 Some of these early traditions make it clear "that the image of Jacob is a divine or at the very least an angelic power."92 Based on these early traditions, later Jewish thought took the dramatic step of according equality with God to Israel-Jeshurun.93

Prayer of Joseph

These conceptions concerning Jacob's angelic status also appear in the Prayer of Joseph, a work now extant only in patristic citations, primarily Origen's Commentary on John.94 PrJos is an early work which came perhaps from first-century Alexandria. Its most important commentator, J.Z. Smith, describes PrJos as "a myth of the mystery of Israel."95 PrJos describes "Israel's descent", and Smith postulates that originally the work contained "a ritual for Jacob's (and the sons of Jacob's) ascent. The soteriological experience would accord with the well-known pattern of the ascent of the mystic to the Merkabah, an ascent threatened by angelic adversaries, which results in a vision of the form of God on the celestial throne and the 'angelicizing' of the adept as he joins in the heavenly chorus of praise."96

According to ancient ascension traditions, a part of this elevation to the heavenly court was the dangerous ascent through various guarded heavens and the likewise threatening conflicts among the rival angels around the throne. Some traditions related the heavenly rivalry to animosities among the national angels. Each nation (traditionally thought of as 72 or 70 in number) had a guardian angel in the heavenly court as its celestial representative and advocate.97 As Culianu explains, "the national angels act as a sort of ministers for their people at the heavenly court. They defend their own nation and bring accusations against others."98 Some scholars have seen Jacob's struggles with the angel Israel as actually Jacob wrestling with the guardian angel of the Edomites, which of course was seen as prefiguring Israel's own struggle against the Roman Empire.99 Interpreted in this light, PrJos may be related to readings of Gen 32 that indicate that Jacob as the earthly incarnation of an angel (perhaps not unlike the figure of angelic Jacob and Israel-Jeshurun discussed above) encountered several armed camps of angels, and perhaps waged battle against them.100

Smith seems to prefer situating PrJos in the more general tradition of angelic rivalry before the throne. As he says, "their conflict is concerned with their relative position within the celestial hierarchy."101 In this regard, Smith notes the similarity of PrJos to other examples of mystical Judaism, including Merkavah texts, ApocAbr (18.8-10), to which one may add Ascen Isa (7.9), Apocryphon of James (15)102 and consider whether such an encounter is perhaps implied in BA (3.28). In the extant fragment of PrJos, the angel Israel expresses jealousy regarding Jacob's preeminence in the celestial court. The language and conceptions concerning the angelic hierarchy, as well as the image of the angel Israel standing before the throne of God are paralleled in the Nag Hammadi text On the Origin of the World.103 "Israel, in the Prayer of Joseph, plays an analogous role to the Ogdoad in Gnostic traditions" and similar roles paralleled in Merkavah texts.104 Other titles are more explicitly related to mystical Judaism as expressed in the ascension texts.105 It was probably this latter connection to ascension literature in general that was considered most important by the early readers of the Prayer of Joseph.

Smith notes that the purpose of a work like PrJos was perhaps to provide a ritual of ascent which could then be "appropriated by its believers."106 Such circles of believers looked to the ascended patriarchs as paradigms of salvation.107 As Smith indicates, PrJos taught the would-be seer how to ascend; a related work discussed below, PrJac, "is the expression of the experience of this salvation on the part of the individual believer."108 Through texts like PrJos, ancient groups of believers learned to look to the great patriarchs of old as exemplars of ascension and thus salvation, perhaps one of the purposes of BA's redactor also, as BA's Abraham also ascends to heaven. So important were the traditions concerning the patriarchs for ascensions that the patriarchs were sometimes considered to be the Merkavah (the mystical chariot/throne of God).109 Although PrJos does not explicitly focus on Abraham in the extant text, it may be of interest to note that in addition to already mentioned elements, PrJos also speaks of the preexistence of Abraham and Isaac.110

These varied traditions indicate that ancient Jews may have held surprising views of their patriarchs. The above traditions demonstrate that the "noble and great" status accorded Abraham in BA, even before he was born is consistent with Hellenistic age ideas of the patriarchs. One should note also the similarities in their respective depictions of the Creation; just as the elements obeyed the exalted Moses,111 so too did the elements obey the primordial gods of Abraham 4-5. PrJos records the tradition of patriarchal ascents to the throne of God, as does BA. Likewise, PrJos preserves traditions regarding angelic rivalry, and Abraham's preexistence, just as Abraham 3 does also. Additionally, several early traditions regard the great Jewish patriarchs as co-laborers with God in the creation, an idea implied in BA's account of the creation. The throne motif as part of the seer's ascension experience, also seems to be evidenced in BA. Perhaps BA extrapolates from earthly to a heavenly enthronement, as do the other Hellenistic age enthronement pericopes.112

A survey of the literature produced or edited during the Hellenistic age reveals many close connections between Judaism and pagan, especially Egyptian, thought. Specifically, one finds numerous examples of Jewish appropriation of pagan Egyptian papyri, which pagan writings were then reinterpreted in light of Jewish theology. This next section shall briefly introduce several examples of what appears to be a rather common pattern of appropriation and reinterpretation.

Joseph and Aseneth

An excellent example of appropriation from a pagan source followed by reinterpretation through Jewish thought is Joseph and Aseneth. As Bohak notes in his important study on Joseph and Aseneth, the work was written in Egypt, probably during Ptolemaic times.113 On the basis of strong internal evidence, Bohak concludes that its author was a descendant of Levi, but also a soldier.114 Thus, he connects the work to the Oniad temple community at Heliopolis. This plausible connection is further strengthened with his analysis of Joseph and Aseneth as an extended allegory of the emigration of a Palestinian priestly community to Egypt, where they then erect a new temple.115 As other scholars have noted, the Oniad Jews built their temple from the ruins of a structure dedicated to a pagan deity. Portions of the Oniad writings may also be similarly dependent upon Egyptian originals. Bohak demonstrates that certain descriptions of Aseneth's house resemble "Tabubu's house...that Egyptian priest's daughter whose beauty so impressed Setne-Khamwas in the famous Demotic story."116 According to Bohak, the description of Aseneth's house is also reminiscent of Ezekiel's description of the temple.117 As Bohak shows, these two elements, Judaism and traditional Egyptian culture are blended together in Joseph and Aseneth. In light of the text's background and other ways, this allegory may provide insight into the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham.

Although the author of Joseph and Aseneth 'detests' native Egyptians,118 this revulsion is not carried over in his attitude towards Pharaoh.119 If the positive Jewish attitude towards this harsh taskmaster seems surprising, it must be said that the Pharaoh of this work is just as unusual. For example, when Joseph requests permission to marry Aseneth (after her conversion, of course), Pharaoh "rejoiced with great joy and said to Joseph, 'Behold, is not this one betrothed to you since eternity? And she shall be your wife from now on and for ever (and) ever.'"120 Pharaoh also recognizes Joseph's special favor in the eyes of the Jewish god, "May the Lord, the God of Joseph, bless you, child, and let this beauty of yours remain for ever (and) ever, because justly the Lord, the God of Joseph, has chosen you as a bride for Joseph, because he is the firstborn son of God."121 Pharaoh also promises Aseneth, "And you shall be called a daughter of the Most High and a bride of Joseph from now on and for ever."122 Not only does Pharaoh use language which makes him sound like a fellow-believer to Joseph and Aseneth, but apparently, Pharaoh performs the wedding ceremony.123

This is a strikingly similar view of Pharaoh to the one in the Book of Abraham. Like Joseph's Pharaoh, the Egyptian king featured in the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham was "a righteous man...[who] judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign".124 Both Pharaohs appear as believers in the patriarchal deity, and sincere imitators of the priesthood order. Likewise, both Pharaohs humbled themselves before the true representatives of the priesthood. In Joseph and Aseneth, after learning of Levi's piety and graciousness to the royal house, Pharaoh "rose from his throne and prostrated himself before Levi on the ground and blessed him."125 This unusual display of Pharaonic humility closely resembles the scene in Facsimile 3.1, which depicts Abraham sitting on Pharaoh's throne, "reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy".

Much of Joseph and Aseneth deals with the conversion of Aseneth to Joseph's god, so that she may marry the handsome and powerful Jew. Although Aseneth begins as a typical idolatrous Egyptian, after seeing Joseph, she is smitten with an immediate desire to repent. After a week of fasting and praying, Aseneth is visited by an angel, "the chief of the house of the Lord and commander of the whole host of the Most High."126 The angel declares to Aseneth that her name is written in the "book of the living in heaven" and "it will not be erased forever. Behold, from today, you will be renewed and formed anew and made alive again, and you will eat blessed bread of life, and drink a blessed cup of immortality, and anoint yourself with blessed ointment of incorruptibility."127 She is even promised "your name shall no longer be called Aseneth, but your name shall be city of Refuge, because in you many nations will take refuge with the Lord God, the Most High, and under your wings many peoples trusting in the Lord God will be sheltered...."128 As the angel continues his revelation of the "unspeakable mysteries", it becomes clear that he is in fact speaking of the founding of the Oniad temple community at Heliopolis.129

Bohak has performed an invaluable service in bringing to bear extensive historical and literary evidence in deciphering the lengthy allegory in Joseph and Aseneth. The conversion of Aseneth in this work is quite a significant step, because as Bohak explains, Aseneth represents Egypt. Thus, the Oniad Jews expressed their openness towards the Egyptians in a rather dramatic way. While there could not be any doubt as to the supreme god, or for that matter, the supremacy of the Jewish religion, apparently the Egyptians were invited to convert and participate in Judaism. As John J. Collins, has noted, "there is ample evidence that [the Jews] welcomed the affirmation of Gentiles who embraced Jewish religious practices in various degrees."130 Other Jewish works of this time and place indicate a similar perspective.

Sibylline Oracles

One of the works of Egyptian Jews that illustrates this close relationship to paganism is the Third Sibylline Oracle.131 Both Jews and Christians drew upon the popular Sibylline tradition to justify their respective positions.132 As with Hermes Trismegistus, the Sibyl claimed an antediluvian authority for her pronouncements.133 Although this supposed antiquity afforded her pronouncements much respect, the Sibyl's oracles were reworked to provide commentary and prophecy concerning contemporary events.134 The Sibylline Oracles were often politically charged, and were a "major source for the ideology of resistance to Rome throughout the Near East."135 In addition to revealing much about the political sentiments of those times, the Sibylline Oracles also outline important details of the contemporary theological conceptions with which they were inextricably intertwined.

According to the foremost authority on the Sibylline Oracles, John J. Collins "Books 3-5 are generally recognized as Jewish compositions, while Jewish strata can be recognized in Books 1-2...and 8."136 The Jewish Sibyl "was sometimes mistaken for Babylonian, or Egyptian, or Persian, in the Greek world, a fact due in large part to the pseudonymity of the Jewish writings and the attempt to conceal their Jewish authorship."137 This disguise was deliberate, and was practiced in other Hellenistic-Roman Jewish writings as well. Other examples noted by Collins are, the "pseudo Orphic texts, pseudo-Phocylides" and other instances "where Jews imitated Greek literary forms" such as "the tragedy of Ezekiel, the epics of Philo and Theodotus".138 These examples, especially the Sibylline Oracles, demonstrate that the lines separating Jewish and Egyptian thought were porous. As Collins indicates, "the willingness to incorporate material from pagan oracles shows a significant readiness to build on the common human basis of Jews and gentiles."139

Joseph and Aseneth demonstrated the openness of Egyptian Jews to accept humble overtures from their Egyptian neighbors, just as several of their works displayed a great deal of respect for Egypt itself. Perhaps the reason that the Sibylline Oracles share with Joseph and Aseneth this positive view of Egyptians is that the two works may share a common milieu; scholars have traced the origin of the Third Sibylline Oracle to the Heliopolis Temple community.140 The process by which the Oracles actually took on their Jewish characteristics is an intriguing paradigmatic process highly relevant to the production of the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham.

The origin of certain key passages in the Third Sibylline Oracle is to be found in native Egyptian prophecies. As Collins explains, these passages "must be understood against the background of Egyptian mythology....A precise parallel is found in the Potter's Oracle, a nearly contemporaneous piece of Egyptian nationalist propaganda in oracular form."141 Gruen agrees, and locates the source of these elements "in Pharaonic imagery and ancient Egyptian religion."142 Collins continues saying, "The Potter's Oracle stands in a tradition of native Egyptian propaganda, exemplified in such works as the Oracle of the Lamb to Bocchoris and the Demotic Chronicle."143 This same Egyptian prophecy was also co-opted in the Jewish-Christian Apocalypse of Elijah144.

In other words, actual phrases and ideas in the Sibylline Oracles were taken directly from the Potter's Oracle, and then reworked by Egyptian Jews to reflect their distinct brand of Judaism. Just as the Oniad Jews rebuilt a pagan edifice into a Jewish temple, so too did they use the building blocks of Egyptian prophecy to proclaim their own orthodox message. This is a frequent pattern among Hellenistic-Roman Jews, and one which we shall discuss below in our proposed reconstruction of the origin of the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham.

Although there is a general consensus regarding the origin of the imagery used in the Sibylline Oracles, the agreement ends when discussion of its meaning begins. According to Collins, the Sibylline Oracle provides a positive view of the Ptolemies, expecting a future Messianic ruler to arise from their ranks.145 Gruen strongly disagrees, and argues rather that the Oracle expresses "Egyptian nationalist sentiment, certainly not advocacy of Ptolemaic rule."146 The Sibyl's favorable view of Egyptian queens, generally associated with Isis, seems to substantiate this view.147

This apparent affinity for Isis is not necessarily syncretistic; it may be hearkening back to ancient Jewish traditions of the female consort of God, which have a long history among the Jews of Palestine and the Mediterranean. It must be stressed that although these Jewish writings freely appropriated pagan terms, ideas, and imagery, these same elements took on "a different meaning in a Jewish context."148 Thus, the Sibylline Oracles and the Potter's Oracle, although using the same language, partook of radically different eschatological expectations.149 Collins has noted the appropriation of other pagan elements by the Sibyl in her Jewish prophecies.150 Although based in part upon pagan documents, the Third Sibylline Oracle is a distinctly Jewish work, which fits "snugly" within the Jewish apocalyptic context of Daniel, 1 Enoch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.151


Gruen's connection of the Sibylline Oracles with Daniel and the Jewish apocalyptic tradition is especially revealing. The Third Sibylline Oracle shares similarities with Daniel in addition to a common apocalyptic worldview. Like several other Biblical works, Daniel derives significant portions of its imagery from pagan sources. This should not be surprising for an apocalyptic work, as Frankfurter has noted that a "distinctive aspect of Egyptian Jewish apocalyptic literature is its evident interest in non-Jewish and native Egyptian traditions."152 Collins evaluates several different cultures as potential influences upon Daniel. Determining influence is often a difficult issue because pagan influence on the text may be "neither direct nor conscious", but may derive from the general cultural milieu.153 While the means of transmission may not be discernible, the relationship between two texts may be apparent, which is ultimately more significant.154 With these caveats clearly in view Collins proceeds in his analysis of influences on Daniel.

The possible sources of Daniel's imagery are rather varied. For example, "the schema of four kingdoms" in Daniel 2 "has Persian roots."155 Along these same lines Collins notes, "An intriguing parallel to Daniel 2 is provided by the Oracle of Hystaspes, which is described as admirabile somnium sub interpretatione vaticinantis pueri ('a wonderful dream, interpreted by a prophesying boy')."156 While noting the similarities Collins cautions "It is not necessary to posit direct influence between Daniel and Hystaspes, but the Oracle shows that political oracles in the form of dreams had a broader context in the Hellenistic Near East."157

Collins also identifies other potential influences on Daniel in his authoritative analysis of the complex text, noting that some scholars have alleged Egyptian influence on the Biblical work.158 As Collins relates, "some scholars have argued that Daniel's vision should be understood against the backdrop of the myth of Horus and Seth. There is in any case a basic structural similarity between the various combat myths of the eastern Mediterranean world and the Near East."159 Collins goes on to explain that biblical writers and editors used portions of this Near Eastern imagery for propagandistic purposes. This kind of appropriation of Mediterranean mythology, in particular Egyptian deities, by Jewish editors will be further discussed below, as it relates to the Book of Abraham.

Other cultures must also be considered as potential influences on Daniel. For instance, Kvanvig maintains "that Daniel shows dependence on the Akkadian Vision of the Netherworld."160 Although Collins disagrees with Kvanvig's theory of Daniel's dependence upon Akkadian myths, Collins offers his own view of the pagan basis of Daniel's origins. According to Collins, "the ancient Canaanite myths provide the most adequate background for understanding the configuration of motifs that we find in Daniel 7."161 Based upon numerous parallels with the ancient Ugaritic texts, Collins concludes the apocalyptic "imagery of Daniel is drawn from Canaanite myth, filtered through a long history of Israelite usage."162 Yet, one must note that as with several other examples of Jewish appropriation of pagan myths one does not find servile imitation. Though the Canaanite influence is undeniable, "Daniel 7 is not simply a reproduction of an older source, Canaanite or other. It is a new composition, which is not restricted to a single source for its imagery."163 Although the ideas and means of expression may have originated among the Canaanites, the ideas are given a completely new significance in Daniel. Collins explains, "We have here [Daniel 7] a distinctively Jewish adaptation of the myth."164 As shall be argued below, BA demonstrates a similar kind of Jewish adaptation of pagan myths that then take on a different meaning in the new context. Other Biblical works besides Daniel also follow this pattern of pagan appropriations.

Proverbs and Amenemope

Another example of Biblical appropriations of pagan elements is found in Proverbs 22.17-24.22, known as the "Words of the Wise". Scholars have demonstrated a close relationship between this part of Proverbs and Egyptian Instruction literature. In light of the "numerous close parallels-often verbatim agreement-between the book of Proverbs and the Instruction of Amenemope, some literary relationship must be posited."165 Although there are many close parallels between the two works, Washington argues that one must also consider the numerous "affinities with wisdom traditions from a large number of identifiable sources, Egyptian, Aramaic, and Akkadian."166 When discussing parallel texts, determining which text is the primary source is often difficult, and scholars valiantly attempted for years to demonstrate the priority of the Hebrew tradition over the Egyptian.167 Yet despite these efforts, the scholarly consensus seems to favor "Amenemope's priority" over Proverbs.168 Amenemope apparently served as the basis for other biblical texts also, including parts of Jeremiah and Psalm 1.169

The close relationship between the two, and Proverbs' dependence upon Amenemope may be explained when it is understood that Hebrew scribes received special training in Egyptian writing systems. "Judean royal scribes...would have required special training for foreign correspondence, trade, and diplomacy. This would have included Akkadian and Egyptian in addition to regional dialects, especially Aramaic and Phoenician. Thus, foreign literatures were probably cultivated in the select circles of the Jerusalem court....In particular, the Instruction literature of Egypt and Mesopotamia seems to have been adapted for training Hebrew scribes in an apprenticeship system."170 These scribes also played an important role in crafting official court propaganda, which was also influenced by Egyptian hegemony.171 More specifically, Egyptian Instruction literature, some of which may have had its antecedents as far back as the "14th century BCE" was then "mediated through Canaanite culture to the Hebrew Proverbs" perhaps through these Judean royal scribes trained in Egyptian literature.172

Whatever the precise means, it is clear that the "Words of the Wise" text "is a direct descendant of the Egyptian tradition."173 As Washington relates, "the extended admonition against drinking in stanza two, vv. 31-35, is patterned after a section of the New Kingdom Egyptian Instruction of Any (4.6-11)."174 "The common motifs in these two texts and the common order in which they are presented suggests that Any 4.6-11 is the primary literary source for the second stanza of the biblical poem against drinking."175 In addition to Instruction of Any and Amenemope, there are several "verbal correspondences...between Proverbs and Ptahhotep", another work of Egyptian Instruction literature.176 Other passages in Proverbs demonstrate a dependence on "Old Kingdom Egyptian Instruction addressed to Kagemni."177

The Wisdom of Solomon

Other Jewish works from the Hellenistic period also employed Egyptian imagery in their attempts to reach a broader audience. For example, Frankfurter argues for Egyptian eschatological elements in the Wisdom of Solomon. In pursuing a kind of gnosis, Wisdom demonstrates "a special interest in afterlife details (integrating vividly Egyptian images of judgment into its scenario-4:20-5:1)."178 Other scholars focus on the Egyptian cult of Isis which apparently influenced the Jewish book of Wisdom.179 As Winston relates, "the author of Wisd[om] skillfully adapted the Isis aretalogies for his own use in describing Sophia."180 These connections between Isis and Wisdom continued in other Jewish wisdom works. According to Collins, a "connection between Isis and Wisdom has also been argued with reference to Proverbs 8 and Sirach 24."181 He then documents several points of contact between the Egyptian cultic mythology and the Jewish works, similarities "that would have been apparent to any Hellenistic reader."182 After noting the similarities in the salvific roles of Isis and Wisdom, Collins concludes "it is reasonable, then, to assume that the model of Isis had some influence on the formulation of Wis[dom of] Sol[omon]."183

It is important to stress Collins' point arguing against simple syncretism on the part of Hellenistic-Roman Jews. Collins clarifies this by saying, "the tacit allusions to Isis are taken up into the complex picture of Wisdom to enrich it and make it more attractive and satisfying to a hellenized Jewish readership. The allusions to Isis are not essentially different in function from the more overt allusions to Greek philosophy: they make the figure of Wisdom intelligible by depicting it in terms that were familiar and well-respected in the Hellenistic world."184


Although several of the works in the Nag Hammadi library demonstrate important connections to BA, one work in particular is of great relevance to the present discussion. Eugnostos (Eug) is a Jewish work dated to first-century BCE Egypt, which also survives in an 'updated' Christian format known as Sophia of Jesus Christ (SJC).185 Eug develops a philosophical view that is based upon the "combining of a universalized Egyptian cosmological system and a speculative system based on Genesis."186 This metaphysical mélange may have served as the basis for other Coptic Gnostic works such as Apocryphon of John and Gospel of the Egyptians.187 Eug also demonstrates important connections to key Kabbalistic works. Moshe Idel has identified compelling commonalities in Kabbalistic works and Eug, and perhaps to another important Nag Hammadi text, On the Origin of the World. These similarities indicate the possibility of a common source for both Kabbalism and some aspects of Gnostic thought.188

Though it is part of the Nag Hammadi library, there is nothing in Eug that is distinctly Gnostic.189 Eug may have been the work of a group of proto-Sethians, an Egyptian sect that often made use of Egyptian cosmological elements.190 Perhaps, like the Apocalypse of Adam, a related Gnostic text, it represents "a transitional stage in an evolution from Jewish to Gnostic apocalyptic."191 Parrott postulates that, "the writer of Eug may have been a teacher of some significance, since his writing is preserved in two quite different versions, testifying to long usage."192 van den Broek has noted several parallels between Eug and later Christian writers, including the apologist Aristides, Valentinus, and the great Alexandrian theologian Origen.193

Parrott briefly summarized the Egyptian cosmological system appropriated by the author of Eug: "An initial all-encompassing divinity (Amun in Egyptian thought), creates a separate divinity by himself (i.e., no consort is involved). This divinity is then responsible for the creation of four other divinities, each of whom have a single female consort, thus making a total of eight (in Egyptian thought, the Eight Urgöaut;tter of Hermopolis)."194 Important figures within this cosmological structure are "three androgynous men, Immortal Man, Son of Man, and Savior" which are "the result of speculation on the first five chapters of Genesis."195

In this system, Son of Man is equated with the heavenly Adam.196 In the Christianized version, SJC, the Son of Man is equated with Jesus. The proto-Sethian community that transmitted Eug apparently was influenced "by a speculative thought identifying antetype Adam (taken in a collective sense) with the type of an assembly that would subsequently appear, perhaps the assembly of Gnostics."197 Similar types of speculations may be contained within BA, as Abraham 3.24 refers to "one...that was like unto God", which may be an English translation of the angelic proper name, "Michael".198 Joseph Smith declared Michael to be the heavenly, pre-existent Adam prior to the patriarch's descent into mortality.199 In some early Mormon theological circles, Adam was credited with divine status, which closely parallels ancient Gnostic and Jewish thought.200

Sepher ha-Razim

The Sepher ha-Razim is a conjectural reconstruction of a "magical handbook from the early Talmudic period"201 which may have originated in Alexandria.202 Although Sepher ha-Razim was apparently preserved by an Egyptian Jewish community, its similarities to other works (including the Aramaic incantation bowls) indicates that a non-Egyptian provenance cannot be ruled out.203 This intriguing work consists of two distinct parts: "the first is a cosmological framework which shows a marked similarity with the hekhaloth literature. The second is a collection of unrelated magical praxeis which show a marked similarity to the materials preserved in PGM."204 Morgan contends that the magical praxeis are significantly older than the cosmological speculations grafted onto them,205 thus providing another example of Jewish appropriation of pagan elements. According to Gruenwald, the "elaborate angelology" rather than reliance on magical words may "reveal [the author of Sepher ha-Razim's] desire to judaize certain essential elements of the magical papyri."206 Rather than the magical rituals found in PGM, Sepher ha-Razim endorses petitions to the numerous angels enumerated in the work.207

According to Sepher ha-Razim's own mythic derivation, it was delivered by an angel to Adam, transmitted through patriarchal descent until Solomon, the archetypal Jewish magus. Sepher ha-Razim's magical praxeis call for writing on gold foil, conjuring and trapping demons in waterpots,208 and ritual use and burying of hieratic papyrus.209 Critical to Sepher ha-Razim are the elements of Merkavah mysticism, which feature more prominently as the magus ascends progressively through the heavens.210 Concomitant with the adept's ascension is the decreasing role of magic in Sepher ha-Razim; "magical prayers are sometimes replaced in Sepher ha-Razim by semi-Merkavah hymns."211 This process continues until the ascendant reaches the seventh heaven, which is utterly devoid of "magical material" and instead features a depiction of "God sitting on His Throne of Glory."212 What began in seeming heresy ends in an effulgent display of piety and deep spiritual longing which finds fulfillment in the rapprochement with the God of All.

Sepher ha-Razim is an important text for highlighting the tensions between emerging Rabbinic orthodoxy and older magical practices.213 Many of the "ritual performances" required by Sepher ha-Razim "according to traditional standards, are downright idolatry."214 That the Rabbis preserved and perhaps enjoined so many obviously pagan practices begs numerous questions about the precise nature of Rabbinic orthodoxy.215

Apocalypse of Abraham

Mormon scholar Blake Ostler has identified important connections between Egyptian and Rabbinic traditions, especially those in the Apocalypse of Abraham, an early work emanating from either first-century Egypt or Palestine. In his "Abraham: An Egyptian Connection", Ostler notes earlier works linking the NT parable of Lazarus in Abraham's bosom to the Egyptian work "known as the Demotic Tale of Satme-Khamaus".216 Ostler argues that earlier Rabbinic works also appropriated Egyptian tales, and then substituted Abraham for Osiris.217 As Ostler explains, "both Abraham and Osiris represented the figure who must make the journey of the dead to view the afterworld, for ' the very seat of divine authority, for he was originally the lord of Amente, Osiris.'"218 Other Egyptian gods became Jewish angels in Rabbinic appropriations of elements from the Book of the Dead,219 a pattern with great relevance to the present discussion of the origin of BA.

Testament of Abraham

An even more compelling example of the close relationship between pagan sources and Abrahamic traditions is the Testament of Abraham. The Testament of Abraham was most likely written in Egypt, although some scholars have argued for a Palestinian provenance.220 The Testament of Abraham was probably produced during the 1st century CE, although some have argued for a significantly earlier date.221 Authorship is also debated, although the consensus seems to favor the Essenes or the related group in Egypt, Therapeutae.222

Several prominent scholars have argued for the dependence of the Testament of Abraham upon pagan Egyptian sources, most commonly chapter 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. M.R. James first suggested an Egyptian provenance for the weighing of souls scene in Testament of Abraham.223 Birger Pearson also maintained that the dramatic depiction in the Testament of Abraham of weighing the souls "is reminiscent of the weighing of the 'heart' in the Egyptian judgment scenes, and the 'righteousness of God' mentioned in ch. 13 is reminiscent of Egyptian maat, the feather against which the heart is weighed. There can hardly be any doubt as to the influence of Egyptian ideas on T[estament of] Abr[aham]."224 Pearson also refers to S.G.F. Brandon's analysis of ancient religion The Judgment of the Dead, in which Brandon discusses these same elements. Brandon states that the judgment motif in Testament of Abraham parallels "Anubis and his office in the Osirian judgment scene," and thus "an Egyptian derivation of this psychostasia appears most probable."225 Brandon and Pearson agree that Testament of Abraham and other related writings from the same milieu were "instrumental in spreading the idea [of the weighing of souls] among Christians outside of Egypt."226

Schmidt has also vigorously argued for the Egyptian origin of the judgment scene. He has compared the Testament of Abraham with the Egyptian documents The Book of the Dead of Pamonthes and The Tale of Satani-Khamosis, both roughly contemporary with the JS papyri.227 Schmidt documented several compelling Egyptian analogies of the Testament of Abraham judgment scene; he even posited an original identity of Osiris rather than Abel as the great judge.228 As Nickelsburg explains, "the parallel is made closer by the fact that both were victims of the jealousy of their brother and were the first among the gods and among men to experience death."229 According to Schmidt, the Testament of Abraham used an Egyptian judgment scene for its model, and then substituted Jewish angels and patriarchal figures for the Egyptian gods, i.e. Dokiel for Anubis, and the recording angel for Thoth.230

Nickelsburg argues that Schmidt goes too far, accusing Schmidt of overlooking several traditionally Jewish elements in the scene drawn from various pseudepigraphal writings.231 Nickelsburg summarizes his assessment of the judgment scene, and thus the provenance of the Testament of Abraham by saying, "What was originally a traditional Jewish judgment scene has been expanded and fleshed out with details from a comparable Egyptian piece."232

It may be noted in passing that TAB develops an interesting theology regarding mortal punishment as mitigating eternal judgments. As Abraham views the destruction of the wicked, a heavenly voice tells Abraham, "Those whom I destroy while they are living on the earth, I do not requite in death."233 Perhaps coincidentally, Brigham Young taught a similar doctrine, also connecting the principle to the covenant of Abraham concerning his descendents.234 It may be significant that JS Papyri IIIA and IIIB are depictions of the same chapter from the Book of the Dead as used by the TAB.235

Sundry Examples

Other Jewish apocalyptic writings demonstrate a dependence upon Egyptian mythology as well. 2 (Slavonic) Enoch, which probably originates in 1st century CE Egypt, displays "parallels to Egyptian mythological motifs".236 Some scholars see Persian influence in addition to the Egyptian elements in 2 Enoch.237 As noted previously, several books of the Bible are dependent upon pagan religions. For example, Fallon relates that scholarly studies have "shown the resurgence of Canaanite myth in 3 Isa and Zech 9."238

Frank Moore Cross cites several other examples in his wide-ranging book Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. According to Cross, Israel frequently drew upon Canaanite terminology in the Yahwist cult. Cross notes that earlier scholars had discovered that Psalm 29 was originally a Canaanite hymn.239 As Cross states, "The language of theophany in early Israel was primarily language drawn from the theophany of Ba`l."240 Much of this language borrowed from Canaanite cults was employed in texts central to Israel's faith. "Israel used traditional Canaanite language in early descriptions of Yahweh's theophany, and it is this traditional poetic language, objectified and historicized in excessively literal prose that we find in the Epic accounts of the revelation at Sinai."241 Canaanite influences extended even to the Solomonic temple built in Jerusalem.242 One may summarize much of Cross's argument as, "Israel's religion in its beginning stood in a clear line of continuity with the mythopoeic patterns of West Semitic, especially Canaanite myth."243 According to M.S. Smith, the influence of pagan religions upon biblical society was so pervasive that "Israelite literature incorporated some of the characteristics of other deities into the divine personage of Yahweh."244 Just as the "imagery of Yahweh riding on the clouds is itself derived from the storm-imagery of the theophanies of Baal," so too is the depiction of "stormy sea" in the Hebrew bible "derived from the Sea, Yamm, of Canaanite myth."245

Several apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books are also dependent upon pagan sources for much of their content. Aristeas may be "adapted from a Hellenistic tract."246 Likewise, 4 Maccabees draws upon several philosophical schools of thought-some scholars argue in favor of Stoic, some for Platonic influences.247 Testament of Levi with its doctrine of three [or seven] heavens may draw upon Babylonian cosmological influences.248 Some scholars have gone so far as to maintain that even the great defender of Judaism, Philo, was "influenced by Hellenistic Egyptian mystery religions and a host of conflicting philosophical theories."249 Other examples may also be cited including many from the Christian tradition,250 although it is not the purpose of this paper to indefinitely multiply the evidence.

Latter-day Objections/Questions

Faithful Latter-day saints generally dispense altogether with questions concerning authorship of the Book of Abraham. They often contend that the statement accompanying the Book of Abraham explicitly identifies Abraham's immediate authorship of the book. The cause of the confusion is perhaps related to the book heading which reads, "A translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt.-The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus."251 Generally they interpret this as meaning that Abraham must have handwritten the book that bears his name. However, just as this heading is copied in every edition, so too might it have been copied by succeeding generations of Jewish scribes preserving some digest of Abrahamic traditions and teachings. It may be significant that the earliest editions of the Book of Abraham bore a different heading. Originally the heading read, "Of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catecombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt, called the BOOK OF ABRAHAM, written by his own hand, upon papyrus."252 The distinction between records actually being the writings of Abraham as opposed to purporting to be is subtle, yet significant.

This does not mean that the writings therefore bear no relationship to Abraham. For instance, the Book of Mormon contains The Book of Ether, which is declared to be "The record of the Jaredites, taken from the twenty-four plates found by the people of Limhi in the days of King Mosiah."253 More specifically, we might say it is the record of the Jaredites as translated by Moroni from the twenty-four plates, and then translated by Joseph Smith. We are thus removed from the actual Jaredite account as written (or abridged) by Ether by several steps. This does not present a problem for the believing Latter-day Saint, who correctly continues to term the work the Book of Ether, although all we possess is Moroni's concise digest of the work. This perhaps overly academic evaluation does not negate in any way the inspired quality of the work. It does, however, provide an analogy to the Book of Abraham, as neither the existing papyri nor the book that bears his name are likely to be the direct work of Abraham, but faithful facsimiles of various abridgements made of Abrahamic writings.

Many might immediately point to various statements made by close associates of Smith regarding the antiquity of BA. For instance, Wilford Woodruff, an important recorder of many early statements by Joseph Smith reports, "Joseph the Seer has presented us some of the Book of Abraham which was written by his own hand but hid from the knowledge of man for the last four thousand years but has now come to light through the mercy of God. Joseph has had these records in his possession for several years but has never presented them before the world in the english language untill now."254 In the above quote, Woodruff almost certainly was referring to the contents of BA-elements of which the ancient Jewish redactor preserved in the edited BA translated by Smith. In other words, the highly edited BA may still have contained elements from Abraham himself, and thus, the book would be regarded as far older than the published version itself. This is really no different from the way some modern scholars refer to ancient works. For example, the accomplished scholar H. Michael Marquardt states "The Genesis text about Abraham is around 1,000 years older than the papyrus fragment (Joseph Smith Papyrus No. XI) used in preparing the text of the Book of Abraham Translation Manuscripts."255 Marquardt obviously could not maintain that the Bible itself is 1,000 years older than the JS Papyri, although the traditions in the Bible relating to Abraham may be much older than any of the extant texts.256 The biblical fragments from Qumran add little to our knowledge about Abraham, and the other ancient biblical texts do not begin to approach the age that Marquardt's words seem to accord to the bible. Nor does the authenticity of the Bible rest on its preeminence in age. The original introduction to BA recognized the ambiguity regarding the original author, although BA was clearly regarded as translated from ancient texts originating in the Greco-Roman age. Rather than grand pretensions to direct patriarchal authorship, Joseph Smith published the translations, with little commentary respecting their derivation from Abraham.

Many of the sources from LDS witnesses and others attest that JS translated BA from the papyri. However, they often note that Smith utilized the Urim and Thummim in order to accomplish this feat. Although this information is welcome, it does not necessarily explain precisely how Joseph translated ancient materials. Did Smith enter into communion with the ancient Egyptian Jews, or did he merely repeat their ancient hermeneutical techniques? Did Smith restore the ancient Jewish interpretation/appropriation of the Egyptian papyri? Such is clearly the case with the Facsimiles. The appended explanations demonstrate Hellenistic Jewish conceptions consistent with their patterns of appropriation and adaptation of traditional Egyptian elements.

Joseph Smith should be understood as having "renewed" the BA through the spirit from the papyri fragments found with the mummies. Renewing was an accepted ancient process in the Judeo-Christian tradition. To renew ancient writings a prophetic figure was inspired by the holy spirit and was able to recreate scriptures previously lost. 4 Ezra 14.37-48 portrays Ezra, the "new Moses"257 as restoring the books of the bible in this manner after foreign invaders had destroyed all the holy books.258 Tertullian explains the existence of the Book of Enoch through the process of renewing by Noah after the Flood.259

One must keep in mind that what initially arrested JS's attention was the presence of BM characters on the papyri. As noted above, apparently Joseph translated a few of these characters for Chandler, which translation seemed to coincide with scholarly opinion formerly offered to Chandler regarding the interpretation of the characters. Just as with BM, Smith believed that he was restoring an ancient Jewish work, which may have been recorded (in part) in an Egyptian script.

Some Hellenistic age Jews believed that the Egyptian characters were originally revealed to "Jewish" patriarchal figures.260 Even earlier, some Jews were trained in Egyptian writing, to serve as official scribes. BM may have appropriated some elements of Egyptian writing for orthographic ease of etching on metal or perhaps merely perpetuated professional clerical shorthand, whereas BA may have appropriated Egyptian writing for more theological purposes. In any event, the two scriptures ought to be considered together.

Hypothetical Reconstruction of BA

In closing this paper offers a brief hypothetical reconstruction of how BA may have been crafted. This hypothesis seeks to explain the incorporation of Egyptian elements in what appears to be a Jewish text. This seeming syncretism may be explained by recapitulating a few points. Although the Egyptian Jews freely used Egyptian terms and imagery, they employed a radically different interpretation of these religious symbols. For the Jews, their idiosyncratic interpretations of these scenes were wholly at odds with traditional Egyptian religious understandings. This distinctive methodology was a means of demonstrating the antiquity and superiority of Jewish beliefs. Despite the seemingly unorthodox use of pagan illustrations, the teachings were still traditional religious beliefs, and drew heavily upon the Jewish apocalyptic heritage.

On the basis of the patterns we have seen thus far among Egyptian Jews, we may draw some tentative conclusions concerning the possible process whereby the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham was written. I propose that one of the many sects of Egyptian Jews, or perhaps an individual from among them,261 began to edit some of the vast traditions about Abraham. This editor began working with the facsimiles now in the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham, as well as others on the Joseph Smith papyri. He interpreted these Egyptian scenes in light of the Abrahamic episodes that he was editing-using a methodology similar to that of the author of the Testament of Abraham. When he came to the common funerary scene of Facsimile 1, he did not care to use the Egyptian hermeneutical methods; he appropriated the image, and used it as part of his account of the sacrifice of Abraham. He then followed similar procedures for the other Facsimiles.

It is to this anonymous Egyptian Jewish redactor that we must look as the ultimate author of the explanations of the Facsimiles. These explanations did not originate with the prophet Joseph Smith; they are the products of the creative interpretative ability of Egyptian Judaism. This is clearly indicated by their consistency with patterns of ancient thought demonstrated above. Joseph Smith did not mistakenly identify Osiris as Abraham-he was restoring ancient Jewish records that had maintained such idiomatic equivalencies. Nor was Joseph Smith erroneously translating Egyptian-he was restoring ancient Jewish records that had appropriated Egyptian imagery from common funerary documents. As we have seen with other works emanating from Egyptian Jewry, the Jews opted for this seemingly syncretistic methodology in order to make their own works understandable to others in Egypt. No doubt they also did this in order to demonstrate the greater antiquity and superiority of their own tradition. Perhaps this was part of their own attempt to bring all truths, from whatever source, together into one great whole.

As we have seen, Egyptian Jews also equated their great patriarchal figures of the past with various Egyptian deities. They freely reassigned identities, and did not feel bound by standard Egyptian rules of interpretation. They certainly would have felt more constrained to preserve the essence of their own records, even if allowing for a certain interpretative elasticity in their appropriation of Egyptian elements.

Smith was drawn to the Jewish authorship of this work by the presence of the characters on some of the papyri-the same kinds of characters he had translated on the gold plates. This led him to assume that God had led another group of Jews into exile, perhaps this time into their place of traditional refuge, Egypt. By exercising his prophetic gifts, Joseph Smith was able to understand the original composition of the texts, as redacted by the Egyptian Jew(s). The text of the present Book of Abraham is likely a digest of a much larger Abrahamic work, as it moves rapidly from one episode to another. The Book of Abraham is thus Smith's restoration of a Hellenistic Jewish work, which was itself a digest of traditional Jewish legends, 'fleshed out' with scenes from Egyptian funerary documents.


Latter-day Saints have long ignored the other writings that purport to be from the hands of the great figures of the earlier ages. Many of these writings were excluded from the traditional Jewish or Christian canon as they clashed with the growth of new religious traditions that were themselves at odds with both earlier teachings and latter-day revelations. Latter-day Saints should not feel bound by the traditions or rulings of creeds,262 particularly those so obviously at odds with the spirit of Mormonism. Extrapolating from the principles outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 91, Latter-day Saints have a charge to seek out the truth in these other writings, as revealed to us by the Holy Ghost.263 All truth reflects the divine being who identified Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the Hellenistic Jews recognized, "All wisdom comes from the Lord",264 irrespective of where it may be found. There may be far more truth in these extracanonical writings, perhaps even many "plain and precious truths" waiting for the Latter-day Saint to discover,265 just there is far more truth in the Book of Abraham, and the rest of the Restoration scriptures than the world can understand, or will admit.

If BA were to have been found in other ancient manuscripts and translated by traditional scholarly means, then its contents would be recognized for what they are-accurate, faithful presentations of ancient Jewish traditions of Abraham. BA fits remarkably well into the milieu of Hellenistic Judaism, as it incorporates Egyptian imagery and cosmological elements while maintaining a traditional Jewish faith. Scholars should gratefully acknowledge the additional information BA provides on the trials of Abraham, as well as ancient views of preexistence and creation. There is nothing implausible in the idea of an ancient Abrahamic text with appropriations from pagan Egyptian texts being found in an Egyptian tomb.266 Ultimately, BA is not regarded as an ancient work because it was restored through miraculous means, and the world does not believe in "visions or revelations in these days", thus the book is dismissed out of hand.267

Scholars have dismissed Joseph Smith as an imaginative rustic or conniving fraud who foisted false notions on unsuspecting followers, including supposedly sham translations of Egyptian. If Joseph Smith was restoring an ancient Jewish work, then discussions of Smith's ability to translate ancient Egyptian are meaningless. For scholars who may doubt supernatural provenance, they may simply bracket that issue, and study the book for its own merits. Evangelical critics maintain that any pagan elements in a religious work invalidate the whole.268 Why this same standard is not applied to the Bible, which clearly incorporates pagan elements in apocalyptic portions of the OT and parts of the NT is for each to individually consider and conclude. One could just as easily argue that the pagan elements are redeemed through their incorporation into a work of sacred scripture, rather than contaminating the text.269

We have seen how the Jews of Hellenistic Egypt took pagan documents, including common pagan Egyptian scenes, and then used them to tell traditional narratives of the great Israelite figures of their past. We have seen how several of the great Israelite patriarchs were equated with the Egyptian gods and other pagan deities, as well as exalted to near godlike status within Jewish thought. We have seen how several Jewish texts from the Hellenistic era bear episodic and theological similarities to the Book of Abraham. We have also seen the diversity within Hellenistic Judaism, and within Egyptian Jewry in particular, which despite its diversity displayed a fascination with Egyptian religion. Each of these considerations increases the plausibility of the Hellenistic origin of BA. There is nothing from the world of antiquity that would obviate the plausibility of the Hellenistic origin of the Book of Abraham. Nor is there, so far as we can see, any argument from LDS sources that would invalidate this hypothesis. Ultimately, the only proof of spiritual matters can come from a spiritual source. Until that witness or contrary evidence is forthcoming, let it be considered that the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham is a product of a Jewish community in the Hellenistic age.

Excursus on Kolob

William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and John Gee have advanced the theory that Kolob may be a reading of qalb, Arabic for "heart".270 They have based this upon the writings of seventeenth century Sufi philosopher, Mullah Sadra, who apparently took a mystical view of the cosmos. In Sadra's view, the throne of God is the heart of the cosmos, located in the heart of man.

Some have argued for a reading of Kolob as a variant of keleb, Hebrew for "dog". Specifically, this would refer to the dog star, Sirius. Sirius was the object of great speculations by many ancient cultures due to a singular sidereal property: it is unaffected by the precession. For the ancients, this seemed to indicate great significance.271 The ancient Egyptians associated Sirius with the flooding of the Nile, as well as the beneficent god Thoth.272 In other cultures Sirius was known as the "Chief One" (according to a hypothetical Phoenician reading), and others as "leader".273 Kant considered it to be the central sun of the Milky Way.274 More relevant to our present concern, some early Christians apparently equated Canis (Sirius) with the Logos (Christ).275 Thus, the reading of Kolob as Hebrew keleb is certainly possible given the propensity for ancient Egyptian culture and primitive Christianity to equate Sirius with their respective deities.

Another possibility is that Kolob is a rendering of the Hebrew words kol ("whole" or "all") and ab ("father").276 This seems plausible when considered in the context of its usage in the Book of Abraham.277 This form of referent for God was quite common in ancient writings. Philo's discussions on the deification of Moses refer to the "Father of All"278, as Paul seemingly does in Ephes. 4.6. Justin Martyr also refers to the "Father of the All", as does Irenaeus in his discussion of the early Gnostics.279 The Jewish Christian/Gnostic Pseudo Clementine Homilies 3.17 also refer to God as the "Father of the All." Epiphanius of Salamis relates that several Gnostic groups utilized the term also, including the Simonians (Panarion 21.4.3) and the Carpocratians (Panarion 27.2.1). Several Gnostic texts share this terminology, including numerous references in the Untitled Text of the Bruce Codex to the "Father of the All".280 This same usage is found in many of the Nag Hammadi codices, and other Coptic Gnostic scriptures, including: Gospel of Truth, 20; Gospel of Philip 71; Valentinian Exposition 23; Tripartite Tractate, 85; Hypostasis of the Archons, 88; Eugnostos, 73; Sophia of Jesus Christ, 95; The Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth 53; Thought of Norea 28; Zostrianos 2; Allogenes 50; Apocryphon of John, 22, 32, 51 (According to the Codex Papyrus Berolinensis 8502),281 and perhaps Melchizedek 9, 14, 16. Although translators vary in their preferences (some render the "All" as the "Entirety", the "Universe") the Coptic is consistent in each of the above instances (Peiwt ptyrf). Similar terminology is also found in Corpus Hermeticum V.10, Iamblichus' On the Mysteries 1.21, and the Prayer of Jacob, a Jewish work extant now among the Greek Magical Papyri.282

Many of these Gnostic works and the above-mentioned magical work have obvious roots in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition. Other works emanating from that milieu also employ similar terminology in referring to God. The famous work, Bahir, often connected with Kabbalistic speculation, places great emphasis on an ontic source depicted as a great tree, known as the kol, the All.283 Moshe Idel has documented several other points of connection between the Nag Hammadi text Eugnostos and later Kabbalistic thought.284 Although one may argue against calling upon Coptic Gnostic and Kabbalistic texts as evidence for discussions of ancient Jewish religious ideas, Idel demonstrates the common ancient Jewish source for some Gnostic and Kabbalistic conceptions.285

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