Gospel Topics: “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham” July 08 2014
This morning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published another essay in its Gospel Topics series at LDS.org, this one on the subject of “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham.” The essay discusses a number of complexities surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Abraham, with a refreshing candor that balances scholarly rigor and faith in the book's scriptural authenticity and value.
Among other things, the essay offers an insightful approach to this book of scripture that takes into account many of the issues raised by contemporary scholarship. Rather that treating the scriptural text as a direct translation of a papyrus written by Abraham himself, the essay suggests that:
Thus, a space is clearly opened up for faithful Latter-day Saints to consider the Book of Abraham as a kind of midrash, an inspired account of the life and teachings of Abraham, revealed directly to the prophet Joseph Smith.
Author David Bokovoy has discussed these issues at some length, establishing himself as perhaps the premier exponent of the catalyst theory of the Book of Abraham. In his book, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis—Deuteronomy, he explores in great detail the questions and insights raised about Abraham by historical criticism and documentary analysis. Professor Bokovoy's chapter on the Book of Abraham in Authoring the Old Testament is an absolute must read for Latter-day Saints interested in these questions.
David Bokovoy holds a PhD in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East and an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies both from Brandeis University. He received his BA from Brigham Young University, majoring in History and minoring in Near Eastern Studies. In addition to his work in Mormon studies, David has published articles on the Hebrew Bible in a variety of academic venues including the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vetus Testamentum, Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, and the FARMS Review. He is the co-author of the book Testaments: Links Between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible. The father of four children Kate, Rebekah, Joshua, and Madelyn, David is married to the former Carolyn Bird. He currently teaches courses in Bible and Mormon Studies at the University of Utah.