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The Book of Abraham and the New Testament
The Book of Abraham and the New Testament
Question: Does the Book of Abraham plagiarize from the New Testament?
Some of the Book of Abraham’s more sophisticated readers have alleged that the Book of Abraham quotes the New Testament.
Specifically, these reviewers allege that 2 Peter 3:8 is quoted in Abraham 3:4 and that Jude 1:6 is quoted in Abraham 3:26.
|New Testament||Book of Abraham|
|2 Peter 3:8 - "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."||Abraham 3:4 - "And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob."|
|Jude 1:6 - "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."||Abraham 3:26 - "And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever."|
Some believe that Abraham alludes to Jude and 2 Peter. Others believe that Abraham quotes Jude and 2 Peter. In either case, critics use it as fodder to claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized the New Testament in his allegedly fictitious creation of the Book of Abraham.
Both Quote and Allusion are the Wrong Terms
In the case of 2 Peter, one can really only say that the two verses hold conceptual identity or similarity with one another. There is little to no good indication that the verses are consciously interacting with one another at all.
Whether using quotation or allusion to describe the relationship between Jude and Abraham, the term is inadequate or incorrect.
In the case of quotation, there is no formal quotation of the New Testament. There is no citation, whether in the text of the Book of Abraham or out of it, of Jude. Quotation is clearly an incorrect term.
In the case of allusion, one can take a couple of different perspectives.
An allusion is “a figure of speech, in which an object or circumstance from unrelated context is referred to covertly or indirectly.” Allusion requires preexistent material to allude to whether in spoken or written form.
The papyri from which the Book of Abraham was translated date from anywhere between 300 BCE to 100 AD. The Book of Jude, if “indeed authored by Jude the brother of Jesus…was probably written between A.D. 40 and 80.”
If Joseph Smith is assumed a translator of the Book of Abraham, then allusion is the wrong term as applied to Joseph Smith, but could be correct if referring to Jude or Abraham, depending on which text was written first:
- If the composition of the Book of Abraham predates the book of Jude, and Jude or someone close to him came into contact with the Book of Abraham, then Jude could be alluding to Abraham.
- If the Book of Abraham postdates the book of Jude, and then a later redactor/editor of the Book of Abraham came into contact with Jude, then that redactor/editor could be alluding to Jude.
- One could also assume that Joseph Smith, as translator, merely used or, in the words of Book of Abraham scholar Stephen O. Smoot, "appropriated" language from the book of Jude to communicate the conceptual message of the Book of Abraham. In this case, allusion is clearly an incorrect term. It would be more correct to say that the Book of Abraham holds conceptual similarity (and not identity) with Jude and that Joseph Smith as translator used/borrowed/appropriated, whether consciously or unconsciously, phraseology from the book of Jude to communicate Abraham's message. We say "similarity" because Jude indicates that those that don't keep their first estate are condemned with Satan and his emissaries. Abraham indicates that those that keep their first estate and second estate will have glory added on their heads progressively. The two books are addressing related but still, to an extent, dissimilar concepts.
If Joseph Smith indeed authored the Book of Abraham, then allusion, allusive plagiarism, or other terms of that sort would be correct.
Whether assuming that Joseph Smith as author or translator, it is clear that either Jude echoes Abraham's language or Abraham echoes Jude's.
We obviously believe that Joseph Smith was a translator of the Book of Abraham and not its author. There is much evidence to support that view. If that is the case (that Joseph Smith was a translator and not author of the Book of Abraham), then any one of the three above options may be available as viable positions in describing the relationship between Jude and Abraham. If any one of the three above options is accepted, then it is not the case that Joseph Smith plagiarized the New Testament in "fabricating" the Book of Abraham.
- "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics Essays, accessed April 15, 2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng.
- Stephen O. Smoot, The Pearl of Great Price: A Study Edition for Latter-day Saints (Springville, UT: Book of Mormon Central, 2022), 71.
- Stephen O. Smoot, John Gee, Kerry Muhlestein, and John S. Thompson, "A Guide to the Book of Abraham," BYU Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (2022).