Comparing the Book of Abraham and the Gospel of Judas

Ok, comparing these two books might seem a bit odd, but let me explain.  First of all, I’ve already done a few posts on Abraham.  In the first, I compared the Book of Abraham to the Koran, and wondered if Joseph might have translated an Islamic text, because the story found in the Book of Abraham where Abraham destroys his father’s idols is quite similar to a Koranic tale.  Then my second post on Abraham, I learned that this story is also found in the Jewish Midrash, so there is another non-biblical source for this story.

For those who don’t know the origins of the Book of Abraham, Joseph claims to have translated the Book of Abraham from some Egyptian papyrus that he purchased from a person exhibiting Egyptian artifacts.  The papyrus were originally believed to have perished in a fire, though some of these scrolls were actually discovered in 1967, and translated by Egyptologists.  The translation has no resemblance to the Book of Abraham, and seems to be a sort of funeral scroll.  Therefore, some people charge that the Book of Abraham is really a fraud.  Even if this is a fraud, how does this explain the similarities to the Jewish Midrash, and the Koran?

To counter these claims,  Hugh Nibley notes that not all of the papyrus was found.  Perhaps there were some funeral scrolls mixed in with the Book of Abraham, and perhaps the real Book of Abraham that Joseph translated was not found.  Many critics scoff at this claim.

However, I have also been learning about the Gospel of Judas.  Scholars have known for centuries that a gospel attributed to Judas existed, because of a reference by an ancient Christian priest named Saint Ireneaus in 180.  The Christian canon did not exist in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and St Ireneaus was of the first Christian leaders to try to create a canon of Christian writings.  He was one of the first to make the claim that there should be four gospels, and that many of the other gospels (at least 50 at the time) that were in existence at the time were false.  He specifically mentioned the Gospel of Judas as an especially dubious heresy.

Until recently nobody knew the Gospel of Judas existed.  Some Egyptian papyrus was discovered in 1978, and shopped on the black market for many years.  (It was actually advertised in the classified ads in the New York Times, and sold or stolen several times on the black market.)  There was even a National Geographic special announcing the discovery of the Gospel of Judas in 2006.

The discovery is very interesting, and the ancient document was written in an ancient form of Egyptian, called Coptic.  (Is this “reformed Egyptian”?)  The Coptic Christian Church still exists today, and dates from this early time period.  The copy discovered isn’t quite as old at Ireneaus, but dates to about the 1600 years ago.  It’s not quite as old as Ireneaus, but it certainly is ancient, and might be the same gospel he was referring to.  Ireneaus was talking about a Greek text, but he Gospel of Judas is probably a Coptic translation of the original Greek text.  (You may want to learn more about Gnosticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Nag Hammadi Library from my previous post on this.)

Prior to the National Geographic special, rumors that the Gospel of Judas had been found were rampant among the academic community.  The book was mixed up with several other books (apparently these ancient Egyptians were trying to conserve papyrus), many of which had nothing to do with spiritual subjects.  Someone apparently leaked a photograph of some of these papyri on the internet, and most scholars were of the opinion that the Gospel of Judas did not really exist.  The internet photograph claimed that the writings were the Gospel of Judas, but the translation was obviously of another book.  So, the Gospel of Judas find was deemed a hoax.

However, National Geographic obtained the papyrus, and had some modern scholars translate it.  Sure enough, the internet photographs were genuine, but only contained a portion of the entire papyrus.  The Gospel of Judas, was mixed in with some other writings, and it is an extremely important and interesting find in ancient Christian writings, because it shows a much greater diversity of Christian thought.  The Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic text, which was a competing form of Christianity, and was just as big or bigger in some parts of the Roman Empire.  When Constantine converted to Christianity, he converted to Orthodox Christianity, and then set about persecuting the Gnostics.  Eventually the persecution forced them out of existence.

So, I want to quote from Bart Ehrmann’s book called The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot.  Bart is a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participated in the translation of this lost gospel.  I just found some of the experiences with the Gospel of Judas as strikingly similar to Nibley’s theory about the Book of Abraham.  From page 67,

In chapter 1, I described my trip to Geneva in December 2004.  There I laid eyes on the Gospel of Judas for the first time.  I was obviously elated by the possibilities.  But as I returned from my trip I had more questions than answers.  I had looked over some pages of the Coptic text but had no opportunity to study and translate them.  What could be found on the pages I had seen?

…page 68

While still thrilled by the prospects, I found a discussion on the Internet that made my heart sink.

There is a Dutch blogger name Michel van Rijn who runs a very peculiar web site that specializes in debunking claims about modern art and ancient artifacts.  Van Rijn had gotten wind of the Gospel of Judas story, tracked down some leads, and learned that National Geographic was planning to spend considerable time and effort promoting the release of the document and its translation-and presumably would make a lot of money off it.  Van Rijn decided to explode the entire operation by publishing all the surviving materials before National Geographic itself had a chance to do so.

Van Rijn found an American scholar, Charlie Hedrick-a New Testament scholar I have known and liked for years-who claimed to have photographs of the Gospel of Judas and to have already made preliminary translations of them.  In order to squash any speculation about the Gospel, and to beat National Geographic to the punch, van Rijn published the photographs and the translations.  When I read them, I was massively disappointed.

The first text appeared to have nothing to do with Judas and Jesus.  It was a Gnostic document whose main figure was someone called Allogenes, who prays to God and hears God’s answer.  The text had Gnostic characteristics, and it would be of some limited interest to scholars of Gnosticism.  But as far as Judas and Jesus were concerned, it was a complete bust.

It is amazing how even those of us who teach for a living fail to practice what we preach.  Every semester in my undergraduate courses at Chapel Hill I have to tell my students not to trust everything they find on the Internet, since anyone can publish anything there, and there is often no way of knowing if the source is credible or bogus.  In this particular case, not having followed my own advice, I was completely taken in.

What I didn’t know at the time, but eventually came to realize, is that Hedrick had translated the wrong text.

My first indication that something was amiss came in July 1, 2005.  I was in New York on other business and had set up a lunch date at the Harvard Club with Herb Krosney, whom I mentioned earlier as the investigative journalist who had originally tracked down the Gospel of Judas, found that it was owned now by the Maecenas Foundation in Geneva, interested National Geographic in the story, and more or less single-handedly pushed the story forward-leading eventually to my hurried trip to Geneva six months before.  Over lunch in July I expressed my real frustration that the whole story was soon to collapse on itself, that there was not in fact much of a story at all, because I had read the Hedrick translation and frankly couldn’t understand why National Geographic was still interested in pursuing the matter.

Herb knew what was actually in the text, but he was not at liberty to give me all the details.  With a twinkle in his eye, he suggested that I not believe everything I read on the Internet (the advice I give students just about every week).  But I persisted; I had seen the photographs of the Coptic pages, they looked similar in quality to the pages I had seen in Geneva, I had seen Hedrick’s transcription of the pages, and I had checked his translation.  There just wasn’t much there.  All Herb could do was throw out a tantalizing hint: maybe Hedrick was translating a different part of the book.

It was only later that I realized what had happened.  As we will see in this chapter, when scholars first gained access to this manuscript and were able to determine its contents, they believed it contained fragmentary copies of three texts. Two of which were already known from earlier archaeological discoveries: the Letter of Peter to Philip and the First Apocalypse of James, copies of which had been discovered had been discovered among the writings of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945.  The third text was the gold mine: the Gospel of Judas.  But it was not until Florence Darbre, the expert in manuscript restoration, and Rodolphe Kasser, the eminent Coptologist responsible for editing and translation the text, had worked on the manuscript for three years that they realized what no one-including van Rijn and Hedrick-had before suspected.  The final part of the manuscript contained not just one document-the Gospel of Judas-but two.  The other one was a fragmentary copy of an otherwise unknown Gnostic treatise about this figure Allogenes.  Hedrick had assumed that his photographs were from the Gospel of Judas.  They weren’t.  They were from a different text.  This changed things drastically.

…page 70

One of the strangest facts about archaeological discoveries of early Jewish and Christian manuscripts is that the most spectacular finds are almost never made by trained archaeologists.  Most of them are the result of pure serendipity.  Moreover, they are typically discovered by people who have no idea what it is they have discovered and no sense of their real worth.

…page 71 [formatting slightly changed]

The limestone box contained four different manuscripts in codex form (that is, they were books, not scrolls).  Later scholars would identify these ancient codices as follows.  None of them, except the Gospel of Judas codes, has yet been published or otherwise made public:

1.       A mathematical treatise, written in Greek

2.       A fragmentary copy of the Old Testament book of Exodus, also in Greek

3.       A fragmentary copy of some of the New Testament letters of the apostle Paul, written in Coptic

4.       The codex containing the Gospel of Judas (as I will explain later, we have the complete beginning and end of the Gospel, and much of the middle, but some portions have not been lost because of the rough handling of the manuscript after its discovery; about 10-15 percent of the text is now unrecoverable), along with three other fragmentary texts, all of them Coptic:

a.       The Letter of Peter to Philip (in a version slightly different from the one discovered at Nag Hammadi),

b.      The First Apocalypse of James (also different from the Nag Hammadi version),

c.       And the Gnostic treatise on Allogenes (which is a different work from the Nag Hammadi tractate that is entitled “Allogenes”)

The discovery of the Gospel of Judas, with the initial skepticism of its existence lends credibility to Nibley’s contention that the Book of Abraham might still be still missing, and that they were combined with other non-religious texts.  Since I have been reviewing Rough Stone Rolling again, I decided to see what Bushman had to say on the topic.  From pages 285-6,

…Michael H. Chandler, who arrived in Kirtland on July 3, 1835, with four mummies and some rolls of papyrus.  Something of an opportunist and promoter, Chandler had exhibited the artifacts in Cleveland in March and come to Kirtland, he said, because of Joseph Smiths translating powers.  Chandler’s account of the mummies is full of contradictions.  He claimed he had inherited the artifacts from his uncle, Antonio Lebolo.  Lebolo had indeed obtained Egyptian artifacts around 1820 and distributed the finds to various European museums before he died in 1830, but no mention of Chandler or mummies were made in Lebolo’s probate papers.  He had earlier arranged for a Trieste merchant to sell eleven mummies that were forwarded to New York, and probably Chandler purchased the artifacts in New York, thinking to exhibit them and then sell them.  On inspecting the papyri, Joseph announced that one rolls contained the writings of Abraham of Ur and another the writings of Joseph of Egypt.  Excited by this discovery, he encouraged some of the Kirtland Saints to purchase four mummies and the papyri for $2,400, a huge sum when money was desperately needed for other projects.

Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham is best thought of as an apocryphal addition to the Genesis story of Abraham, in the same vein as the Enoch passages in the Book of Moses.  Characteristically, Joseph’s translated account did not repeat the familiar biblical stories, instead expanding on a few verses about Abraham’s origins in Ur of the Chaldees, adding material not mentioned in the Bible.  The published version contained two chapters giving an account of Abraham’s ordeal in Ur and his departure for Canaan and Egypt.

… page 290

The Abraham texts gave Joseph another chance to let his followers try translating.  While working on the Book of Mormon in 1829, Joseph invited Oliver Cowdery to translate: he tried and failed.  Now with the Egyptian papyri before them, Joseph again let the men with the greatest interest in such undertakings-Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Warren Parrish, and Frederick G. Williams-attempt translations.  Parrish was told he “shall see much of my ancient records, and shall know of hiden things, and shall be endowed with a knowledge of hiden languages.”

Through the fall of 1835, the little group made various attempts.  “This after noon labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with [brothers] O. Cowdery and W. W. Phelps,” Joseph’s journal notes.  They seem to have copied lines of Egyptian from the papyrus and worked out stories to go with the text.  Or they wrote down an Egyptian character and attempted various renditions.  Joseph apparently had translated the first two chapters of Abraham-through chapter 2, verse 18, in the current edition-and the would-be translators matched up hieroglyphs with some of his English sentences.  Their general method can be deduced from a revelation given to Oliver Cowdery after he failed to translate the gold plates:  “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you.”  One can imagine these men staring at the characters, jotting down ideas that occurred to them, hoping for a burning confirmation.  They tried one approach after another.  Joseph probably threw in ideas of his own.  Eventually, they pulled their work together into a collection they called “Grammar & A[l]phabet of the Egyptian Language,” written in the hands of Phelps and Parrish.

Of all the men working on the papyri, only Joseph produced a coherent text.  What was going on as he translated?  For many years, Mormon assumed that he sat down with the scrolls, looked at each Egyptian word, and by inspiration understood its meaning in English.  He must have been reading from a text, so Mormons thought, much as a conventional translator would do, except the words came by revelation rather than out of his own learning.  In 1967, that view of translation suffered a blow when eleven scraps of the Abraham papyri, long since lost and believed to have been burned, were discovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and given to Latter-day Saint leaders in Salt Lake City.  Color pictures were soon printed and scholars went to work.  The texts were thought to be papyri with his translation, and the same pictures appeared on the museum fragments.  Moreover, some of the characters from the Egyptian grammar appeared on the fragments.  The translation of these texts by expert Egyptologists would finally prove or disprove Joseph’s claims to miraculous translating powers.  Would any of the language correspond to  the text in his Book of Abraham?  Some Mormons were crushed when the fragments turned out to be rather conventional funerary texts placed with mummified bodies, in this case Hôr’, to assure continuing life as an immortal god.  According to Egyptologists, nothing on the fragments resembled Joseph’s account of Abraham.

Some Mormon scholars, notably Hugh Nibley, doubt that the actual texts for Abraham and Joseph have been found.  The scraps from the Metropolitan Museum do not fit the description Joseph Smith gave of long, beautiful scrolls.  At best the remnants are a small fraction of the originals, with no indication of what appears on the lost portions.  Nonetheless, the discovery prompted a reassessment of the Book of Abraham.  What was going on while Joseph “translated” the papyri and dictated text to a scribe?  Obviously, he was not interpreting the hieroglyphics like an ordinary scholar.  As Joseph saw it, he was working by inspiration-that had been clear from the beginning.  When he “translated” the Book of Mormon, he did not read from the gold plates; he looked into the crystals of the Urim and Thummim, or gazed at the seerstone.  The words came by inspiration, not by reading the characters on the plates.  By analogy, it seemed likely that the papyri had been an occasion for receiving a revelation rather than a word-for-word interpretation of the hieroglyphics as in ordinary translations.  Joseph translated Abraham as ne had the characters on the gold plates, by knowing the meaning without actually knowing the plates’ language.  Warren Parish, his clerk, said, “I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphicks as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of heaven.”  When Chandler arrived with the scrolls, Joseph saw the papyri and inspiration struck.  Not one to deny God’s promptings of Abraham and Joseph.  The whole thing was miraculous, and to reduce Joseph’s translation to some quasi-natural process, some concluded, was folly.

The peculiar fact is that the results were not entirely out of line with the huge apocryphal literature on Abraham.  His book of Abraham picked up themes found in texts like the Book of Jasher and Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews.  In these extrabiblical stories, Abraham’s father worshiped idols, people tried to murder Abraham because of his resistance, and Abraham was learned in astronomy-all features of Joseph Smith’s narrative.  Josephus says, for example, that Abraham delivered “the science of astronomy” to the Egyptians, as does Joseph’s Abraham.  The parallels are not exact; the Book of Abraham was not a copy of any of the apocryphal texts.  In the Book of Jasher, Abraham destroys the idols of King Nimrod with a hatchet and is thrown into a furnace; Joseph’s Abraham is bound on a bedstead.  The similarities are far from complete, but the theme of resisting the king’s idolatry and an attempted execution followed by redemption by God are the same.  The parallels extend to numerous small details.

Joseph may have heard apocryphal stories of Abraham, although the Book of Jasher was not published in English until 1829 and not in the United States until 1840.  A Bible dictionary published by the American Sunday School Union summed up many of these apocryphal elements.  Whether Joseph knew of alternate accounts of Abraham or not, he created an original narrative that echoed apocryphal stories without imitating them.  Either by revelation, as his followers believed, or by some instinctive affinity for antiquity, Joseph made his own late-and unlikely-entry in the long tradition of extrabiblical narratives about the great patriarch.

…page 293

In light of Joseph’s language study, the Egyptian grammar appears as an awkward attempt to blend a scholarly approach to language with inspired translation.

So, what do you make of Nibley’s contention?  Is it plausible?


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82 comments on “Comparing the Book of Abraham and the Gospel of Judas

  1. MH – you seem to be reading past me. I didn’t say the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham was false. Just as I didn’t “completely ignore” your Maimonides comment or lump the Crusades and Inquisitors together to “show” how bad religious ideas are.

    I merely said that – “The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham suffer from scientific gaps which would, from a purely logical standpoint, make them false.” Of course, what I then said was, and have been saying, is that one cannot look at these from a purely logical standpoint, one must also consider faith.

    And, at risk of being further misunderstood, it is not enough to say: “please consider all these evidences we are putting forward.” Because from a purely scientific standpoint, those evidences are not convincing. One author used the example of a forger trying to convince you they found a letter of Thomas Jefferson that referred to a computer. It wouldn’t matter to you that the author of the letter spoke like Jefferson or told stories only Jefferson would know, or that there are supportive documents from others who claim to have witnessed Jefferson write the letters – there were no computers in Jefferson’s time and that one anachronism is all a rational person would need to know that the letter was a fake. They wouldn’t have to address each and every evidence that made it look like it might be genuine – for only one is needed to prove it false.

    As I’ve been discussing with FT, the BoM includes a reference to a compass. Indeed, it tries to describe the Liahona by comparing it to a compass (which, it seems, is a perfectly decent comparison). But compasses weren’t invented for a thousand years. It is the Jefferson/computer anachronism which cannot be explained by scientific/rational means.

    Now, FT believes that in the translation process, God made JS Jr aware of English equivalents to otherwise “unknowable” words. This is just as valid a faith argument as Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus feeding thousands with five loaves and 2 fishes. I respect his faith position and it is valid. But it is not a scientific argument. It is not “evidence” an objective observer would accept.

    So while I am not saying the Book of Mormon is false (contrary to what you say that I’m saying) I am saying that, if one were to look at it strictly scientifically, one would come to the conclusion that it as false. Of course, those of us in the restoration movement, may offer our faith to fill in these gaps or, in the words of Maimonides, these conflicts between science and faith.

    Might further scientific knowledge make us eventually realize what faith can now make us realize? Sure.

  2. Chicken, I guess I am not fully understanding your position. I think I’ll just have to do a new post on science vs religion, as the comments lately have digressed off topic of Judas and Abraham.

    And, at risk of being further misunderstood, it is not enough to say: “please consider all these evidences we are putting forward.” Because from a purely scientific standpoint, those evidences are not convincing.

    Nonetheless, I am pretty sure you will agree with me on this point. Not everyone looks at evidence the same way. The outliers of birds flying was not convincing enough for many that man could fly. I’m glad the Wright Brothers were still able to prove these unconvinced people wrong.

  3. But if the Book of Mormon had originally said “Lehi came to the new world in a Liahona, which is being interpreted, an Airplane” we likely would not be having this conversation. Even if a century later we knew what an airplane was.

  4. Thanks for the comments Chicken. I don’t fully agree, but I am not smart enough to articulate why, although I do think Firetag did a great job. And I should clarify that I have not provided “reams” of evidence on my site. My site is primarily designed to post preliminary research and get quicker feedback. It also tries to fill (or attempt to fill) a lacuna in textual study of the BoM. The vast amount of research I referred to comes from people much more established in their fields such as Sorenson, Hamblin and Welch.

    Thanks again for the original post MH. I found it very thought provoking and enjoyed the comments even if they went in 20 directions.

  5. I’m sure you’re more than smart enough Morgan. The “reams” I was referring to was from your quote above in #17. I’ve been reading your site and enjoying it very much.

  6. Thanks Morgan. It has been very interesting to see all the directions this post has gone.

  7. A friend just directed me to a very interesting article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought concerning the Book of Abraham. It is found at http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=1014&REC=11

    (You need to go to page 109 to read the actual article–most of the issue is about Joseph Smith’s presidential platform.)

    Anyway, I found it interesting to note that the papyrus found in the NY museum date around the time of Christ to about 100 BC, which would have been well after the time of Abraham. I believe Abraham dates to around 2000 BC. Someone please correct me if I have that date wrong.

  8. Those are the same dates that I have heard as well. I read a FARMS article that stated it was possible that the papyrus was a copy of Abrahamic text.

    So let me see if I got this straight:
    1. Some would view that as evidence for plausibility
    2. Some would view that as evidence for non-rational thinking, making it scientifically false

    Funny thing is that the common link is that both viewpoints require faith.
    1. Faith that plausibility equals validation
    2. Faith that the gaps cannot be filled rationally

    Seems we have a conundrum

  9. Please forgive my absense from this discussion, and I’m just in and out for a short moment as it is. (One of the characteristics of working for a government support contractor is that Federal employees arrange schedules to complete THEIR milestones immediately before holidays — which mean that holiday weeks are usually contractors’ busiest times!)

    I think we’re finally getting to the point where we see that the issue is how we define the boundary between faith and science. I would suggest that there is a great range of valid possible boundaries. It isn’t just that we define faith differently, we define science differently.

    The LDS tradition, as MH as noted, tends toward a very expansive boundary. The doctrine of exaltation and the notion of Heavenly Father (took me a while to realize the significance of the difference between that and “the” Heavenly Father) almost requires a belief in a system LARGER than God in which God is an INTERNAL element, albiet an element unimaginably far above us.

    And that isn’t even the boundary that BTC is concerned about, because the RLDS/CofChrist tradition (like mainstream Christianity) doesn’t share it. These latter traditions are children of the West, and are shaped by assumptions about whether a God EXTERNAL to the natural world exists. We tend to frame the debate as faith if the assumption is “yes” and science if the assumption is “no”. But even within that framework of “no”, I find BTC’s boundary much more rigid than would be the norm in physics in regard to actual physical phenomena, but I’ll save that discussion for a future post on my own blog.

    Non-Western and even pre-Enlightenment Western religions frame the debate differently. I’d be the last one to claim to understand those various mindsets.

    Me, I have a very strange opinion about how reality is put together. IMO, God IS the natural world, and the spiritual and physical really are inseperable. I guess that makes me a pantheist, so I can offend everybody in the West.

  10. Tara, I know that we disagree regarding Abraham. I was trying to use your logic that we should do anything God asks, even if it seems to contradict our logic and reason. I don’t really have a problem with obedience per se. I think we should be obedient to God.

    My problem is that I don’t believe God was commanding Abraham to kill Isaac. If it could be conclusively proved that this was God’s command and not Abraham’s imagination, then I guess I can support Abraham being obedient to God. Similarly, if Judas is doing this as an act of obedience, then I don’t really have a problem with it.

    Tara, let’s assume that Jesus did command Judas to betray Jesus. Are you saying it would it be ok for Judas to disobey Jesus?

  11. FireTag, I think you illustrate my (and Mormons position in general) quite well.

  12. I still must be falling short communicating my point, as I agree with everything FireTag says, other than where he says I have a rigid boundary between nature and faith. But still, something must be wrong if I agree with all the people that are disagreeing with me. 😉

  13. BTC, I agree with you.

    I also agree with MH regarding Abraham, but probably for different reasons.

    I think a lot of the OT stories (like Abraham/Isaac) are parables.
    I don’t think they really happened.
    That is how I reconcile things that don’t make sense like Genocide, a global flood that could not have happened, or giving commandments that have to be broken (Eve).

  14. If Jesus commanded Judas to betray him, he should’ve obeyed. I have no problem with that. That scenario just doesn’t make sense to me and it doesn’t fit with the text the more I read.

    Oh, and regarding God giving commandments that have to be broken, I’ve got a good answer for that one when you do a post on Eve. I just don’t want to spoil it too soon.

  15. Abraham learns about the the divine council, cosmology and creation from Jehovah.
    Judas learns about the Aeons, cosmology and creation from Jesus.


  16. Depends on what you define as gnostic 🙂

    But yes, if the restoration is a restoration then this kind of stuff needs to come back.

  17. Pedro, are you familiar with the Gnostic Christians? On the one hand, they have some beliefs in common with Mormons–like the belief in exaltation. On the other hand, some of their beliefs are strange–like no resurrection.

  18. I haven’t read Pres. Kimball’s statement. Could you link me to it? I would like to read it. But you know, prophets aren’t perfect. Or is Pres. Kimball an exception ? 😉

  19. I don’t think Pres. Kimball was an exception, he also made statements that the Lamanites (American Indians) were getting whiter referring to the Indian children being placed in LDS homes. He was also duped many times by Hoffman.

  20. @MH
    Im familiar, I recommend you read Elain Pagel’s “The Gnostic Gospels”. Great stuff.There is actually one small surviving sect of gnosticism in Iraq called the mandaens. I did a little thing on them in my own blog. You would probably do a better job since all I did is cut and paste. Check it out its fascinating.

    I say “depends on what you call gnostic” because they had such a variety of doctrines that it makes modern Christian theological diversity look silly.

    I was just thinking, the Gospel of Judas was written in Coptic, making it an Egyptian Christian work. The BoA claims Egyptian provinance and they both have a description of astronomy, followed by pre-earth going ons, followed by a creation account.

  21. Pedro, I have heard of the Mandeans before, and knew that they revered John the Baptist as a prophet, while rejecting Christ. Does Elaine Pagels call them Gnostic? I know there is some diversity, but I was not aware they were referred to as Gnostics. I do know there were Gnostic Christian, as well as Gnostics Jews. I agree with you that the BoA seems to share some Gnostic traits.

    Tara, I’ll see if I can find that quote. So far, most of the quotes I’m finding deal more with Peter than Judas, and people are extrapolating the Peter quote to Judas, which I think is a plausible explanation.

  22. Due to the time frame, wouldn’t Gnostic Christians and Gnostic Jews be one in the same, especially if Gnosticism and Protestantism are similar?

  23. I see what you’re saying–that early Christians and Jews were indistinguishable at first. While this is true, after the burning of Rome under Nero (60’s AD), and the Bar Kochba revolt (130’s AD), then Christians and Jews became quite separate. So Gnostics Jews and Gnostic Christians would have separated as well–due mostly to their acceptance/rejection of Jesus.

  24. and people are extrapolating the Peter quote to Judas, which I think is a plausible explanation.

    Well for me, a lot depends on who’s doing the extrapolating. I also may not read their extrapolations in the same way as you.

  25. BR,

    About your Gravatar, is that you or is that the dude from “The Office”? I’m still on vacation and am using my cell phone and the picture is too small to tell for sure.

  26. It is Dwight Shrute from The Office. He is much taller and better looking than me.

  27. Tara,

    I can’t find Pres Kimball talking about Judas, so it appears I am misremembering Pres Kimball’s quote. It seems that Pres Kimball was taking issue with the portrayal of Peter as weak. His talk can be found here.

    Briefly, here’s some of the points Pres Kimball makes in regards to Peter.

    (1) Matthew 16:21 Jesus tells the disciples that he will be killed. In verse 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

    So, Jesus is telling Peter that Jesus is supposed to die, despite Peter’s objections. It’s all part of the plan of Jesus.

    (2) When Judas betrays Jesus in the Garden, Peter lifts up a sword and cuts off the ear of a high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:47). Jesus again rebukes Peter, telling him that “they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Note Jesus reaction to Judas. It is hard to tell if he is sarcastic, or welcoming in verse 50, “And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Is Judas a Friend here–why does Jesus not clearly condemn Judas here? In fact, Jesus never condemns Judas, does he?

    (3) President Kimball concludes with

    “Could it be that in these last hours Peter realized that he should stop protecting his Lord, that the crucifixion was inevitable, and that regardless of all his acts, the Lord was moving toward his destiny? I do not know. I only know that this apostle was brave and fearless.

    Events followed each other in rapid succession. At Gethsemane Peter was futilely trying to defend his Lord one hour; in the next he was following the mob. Apparently the Savior was voluntarily suffering men to heap monumental indignities upon him. What should Peter do?

    He boldly and meaningfully postulated to the Savior, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” (Matthew 26:33.) To which the Lord replied, “This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Matthew 26:34.)

    This was a critical moment. Peter’s act of protection with his sword-slashing had been after this prediction was made. He had tried. He had seen one apostle betray his Master with a kiss, and his Master had not repulsed him. Peter had been reminded that angels could be summoned if protection was needed; he had been commanded to put away his sword. Even now he did not desert his Master but followed sorrowfully behind the jeering crowd. He would remain to the end. He likely heard every accusation, saw every indignity heaped upon his Lord, felt all the injustice of the mock trial, and noted the perfidy of false witnesses perjuring their souls. He saw them foully expectorate in the face of the Holy One; he saw them buffet, strike, slap, and taunt him. He observed the Lord making no resistance, calling for no protective legions of angels, asking for no mercy. What was Peter to think now?

    His Denial

    A smart aleck damsel accused Peter, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.” (Matthew 26:69.) What would his further defense of the Lord accomplish in this situation? Would it displease Jesus? Would it only destroy Peter himself without beneficial effect? Would Christ want him to fight now, when he had denied him that privilege earlier that evening?

    Then another maid announced to the bystanders and villains, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” (Matthew 26:71.) Peter replied, “I do not know the man.” (Matthew 26:72.) And others, recognizing his Galilean accent, declared, “Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.” (Matthew 26:73.)

    What was he to do? Could he do more? What would have been the result had he admitted his connection? Would he have lived to preside over the church? Peter had seen the Savior escape from crowds many times and hide from assassins. Is it conceivable that Peter also saw advisable advantage to the cause in his denial? Had Peter come to fully realize the hidden meaning in the oft-repeated phrase “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4), and did he now understand that “now is the Son of man glorified” (John 13:31)?

    I do not pretend to know what Peter’s mental reactions were nor what compelled him to say what he did that terrible night. But in light of his proven bravery, courage, great devotion, and limitless love for the Master, could we not give him the benefit of the doubt and at least forgive him as his Savior seems to have done so fully. Almost immediately Christ elevated him to the highest position in his church and endowed him with the complete keys of that kingdom.

    Simon Barjona did not have long to consider the matter or change his decisions, for he now heard the cock crow twice and was reminded of Christ’s prediction. He was humbled to the dust. Hearing the bird’s announcement of the dawn reminded him not only that he had denied the Lord but also that all the Lord had said would be fulfilled, even to the crucifixion. He went out and wept bitterly. Were his tears for personal repentance only, or were they mingled with sorrowful tears in realization of the fate of his Lord and Master and his own great loss?

    Only hours passed until he was among the first at the tomb as the head of the group of believers. Only weeks passed until he was assembling the saints and organizing them into a compact, strong, and unified community. It was not long before he was languishing in prison, being beaten, abused, and “sifted as wheat” as Christ had predicted. (See Luke 22:31.)

    Now, I’m sure you don’t hold my opinions in high esteem, but as we look at the scene where Jesus says someone will betray him, why didn’t the tempestuous Peter stand up and try to stop Judas when Jesus dipped his sop? Could it be that Peter also understood that Jesus was commanding Judas to betray him? After all, in Matt 16, Jesus already said he would die, and rebuked Peter for disagreeing. It seems that Jesus had a plan. According to Pres Kimball, it seems that Peter was to quit defending Jesus. Could it be that Judas was called to betray him “to fulfill all righteousness” (quoting Nephi.) After all, Jesus did not need to be baptized for the remission of sins–yet he did it anyway. Perhaps Judas needed to betray Jesus to fulfill all righteousness. Perhaps Peter needed to deny Christ to fulfill all righteousness.

    Certainly Pres Kimball’s portrayal of Peter is different from all other portrayals of Peter. Everyone talks of Peter’s weakness, yet Pres Kimball tells of Peter’s strength and courage at this critical moment.

  28. MH, I remember the Judas quote too. Maybe it was GBH and not SWK.

  29. Sept. 6, 1842:

     21 And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!

    The angel Raphael, as well as many other angels, appears in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which he is sent by God to re-warn Adam concerning eating the forbidden fruit. He also tells him about the war in heaven and the fall of Lucifer. Raphael is also mentioned in the Book of Tobit and the Book of Enoch.

    Joseph Smith wrote in Times and Seasons, Sept. 1, 1842, in reference to Abraham, “the book of Jasher, which has not been disproved as a bad author, says he was cast into the fire of the Chaldeans”.

    1842 is the year Joseph Smith referred to the book of Jasher and the year he wrote about the angel Raphael (from the book of Enoch) in D&C, showing that he was aware of the apocryphal books by that time.

    “The complete work [of the Book of Abraham] was first published serially in the Latter Day Saint movement newspaper Times and Seasons in 1842.” Facsimile No. 1 and Chapter 1 through chapter 2 verse 18 in Volume III, No. 9, dated March 1st, 1842; Facsimile No. 2 and chapter 2 verses 19 through chapter 5 in Volume III, No. 10, dated March 15th, 1842; Facsimile No. 3 in Vol. III, No.14, dated May 16th, 1842. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Abraham

  30. Thanks, it looks like an interesting reference.

  31. Hello,
    Antonio Lebolo was my great grandfather.. My father met with prof Peterson when prof Peterson was tracing our family tree.. They had some very interesting meetings together

  32. Fascinating. Do you have any interesting stories about Lebolo?

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