The Philosophy of a Future State

CES Letter Core Question

Did Joseph Smith steal ideas found in Abraham chapter 3 from a novel by Thomas Dick?

The Latter-day Saint scientist and author Erich Robert Paul offered an important discussion on Joseph Smith's cosmology in comparison with other 19th century cosmologies, and specifically discussed the Book of Abraham and Thomas Dick, in his 1992 book published by University of Illinois Press.

Paul writes:

Although [Fawn Brodie] implies that Joseph Smith derived his notion of Kolob from Dick's idea of the throne of God, Dick views God as omnipresent, universal, and ethereal, which would preclude Joseph Smith's idea of a universal center upon which God, as being, dwells. Joseph Smith, and many others, shared Dick's and the eighteenth-century philosophes' view of the perfectibility of man. But Joseph Smith argued for the ultimate divine perfectibility of humans, a concept Dick rejected. On such crucial doctrines of eternal progression, creation ex nihilo, and the eternal nature of matter, there is also wide divergence of belief. Moreover, Dick espoused a dualistic metaphysics, while Joseph Smith became a strict monist.

Theologically, Dick claimed that humans are utterly contingent upon God, while Joseph Smith eventually argued that humans are necessary. On the nature of evil, sin, and the fall, the two also held polar views. After an exhaustive analysis of the external evidence and doctrinal issues dealing with God, man, salvation, and other theological and metaphysical views, at least one contemporary writer, Edward T. Jones, concluded there are so few similarities in their thinking that Brodie's assertion must be rejected. 

Paul concludes that it is "unlikely that Joseph Smith benefited significantly from Dick's ideas," and that the Prophet otherwise "likely did not use available literary materials" such as Dick "as primary sources for his own version of pluralism." Paul concludes:

The idea that Joseph Smith may have borrowed from cultural sources cannot, of course, be totally discounted–––or confirmed. Yet asserting indigenous sources requires at the very least an explanation for both his deviations from the available sources and his integration of his pluralistic ideas with his scriptural writings. In the pluralist concept Joseph Smith seems to have deviated significantly from the mainstream of those writing on the subject, whether evangelical or deistic.

The author of The CES Letter fails to do just this, and as such his conclusions should only be accepted with great skepticism. As Paul explains:

The mere availability of pluralist views is in itself not an adequate argument for Joseph Smith's coherent system of beliefs. Ideas by themselves do not form an integrated and consistent system without the dimensions of a broader conceptual structure.

If Joseph Smith was slavishly cribbing from Dick, as the author of The CES Letter asserts, then he must explain the Prophet's departure from Dick. He must also account for the entirety of the cosmological vision in the Book of Abraham, and not merely cherry-pick the parts thereof that seem to support his argument.


 See:

Book of Abraham/Plagiarism accusations/Thomas Dick

 

Additional Book of Abraham Resources:

 Top Websites:

FAIRMORMON: Book of Abraham

Questions About the Book of Abraham by Jeff Lindsay 

 

Top Essays:

“Book of Abraham,” from LDS.org Essay

“Introduction to the Book of Abraham Manuscripts” JosephSmithPapers.org Essay

“Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View,” by Kerry Muhlestein

“Thoughts on the Book of Abraham” by Brian M Hauglid

A Method for Studying the Facsimiles –  by John Gee

The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses,” (PDF) (2010 FAIR Conference) by Jeffrey Bradshaw

The Book of Abraham: Dealing with the Critics,” (PDF) (2003 FAIR Conference) by Michael D. Rhodes

Ancient Affinities within the LDS Book of Enoch Part One, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen

Ancient Affinities within the LDS Book of Enoch Part Two, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen

Revisiting the Forgotten Voices of Weeping in Moses 7: A Comparison with Ancient Texts, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw,Jacob A. Rennaker, and David J. Larsen

The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition by Brian M. Hauglid

“Look unto Abraham Your Father” –  by Brian M. Hauglid

A Faint but Interesting Christian Voice from the Dust of Egypt –  by John W. Welch

A New Resource on the Book of Moses –  by Brian M. Hauglid

A Powerful New Resource for Studying the Book of Abraham –  by E. Douglas Clark

An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham –  by Kerry Muhlestein, John Gee

And I Saw the Stars – The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy by John Gee, William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson

Approaching Understandings in the Book of Abraham –  by Kerry Muhlestein

Astronomy and the Creation in the Book of Abraham by Michael D. Rhodes, J. Ward Moody

Cedars and Stars: Enduring Symbols of Cosmic Kingship in Abraham’s Encounter with Pharoah by E. Douglas Clark

Egyptian Society during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty by John Gee

A Note on Chiasmus in Abraham 3:22-23” by Julie M. Smith 

Enoch Translated –  by John W. Welch

Enoch Translated –  by John W. Welch

Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125 by John Gee

Notes and Communications: Two Notes on Egyptian Script –  by John Gee

On Elkenah as Canaanite El –  by Kevin L. Barney

Out of the Dust: Ancient Semitic in Egyptian Pyramids? –  by Paul Y. Hoskisson, Michael D. Rhodes

Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri –  by John Gee

Telling the Story of the Joseph Smith Papyri –  by John Gee

The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking –  by Larry E. Morris

The Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture –  by Michael D. Rhodes

The Book of Breathings in Its Place –  by Kerry MuhlesteinBook Notes –

The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources by Kevin L. Barney

The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I –  by Kerry Muhlestein

The Larger Issue,” (2009 FAIR Conference) by John Gee

Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel,” (PDF) (2001 FAIR Conference) by John Gee

“Encirculing Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3” by Kerry Mulestein

“Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers” by Kerry Mulestein

“Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles” by Michael D. Rhodes

“Abraham’s Creation Drama,” [Transcript] (1999), by Hugh Nibley

“Introduction to the Egyptian Materials” JosephSmithPapers.org Essay

Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham by Brian Hauglid

 

Top Podcasts:

Marginal Characters in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts. by John Gee

Mormon FAIR-Cast 62: “A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Book of Abraham”

Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham– Evidence and Insights from the DVD Most Remarkable Book

The Book of Abraham- Interview with Brian Hauglid– Fair Mormon Podcast part 1

The Book of Abraham- Interview with Brian Hauglid– Fair Mormon Podcast part 2

FAIR Conversations, Episode 7: Brian M. Hauglid p.1, Brian M. Hauglid, 0:50:15A

FAIR Conversations, Episode 8: Brian M. Hauglid p.2, Brian M. Hauglid, 0:55:52

Mormon FAIR-Cast 62: “A Most Remarkable Book”, Tyler Livingston, 0:09:59

Mormon FAIR-Cast 139: “The Book of Abraham and the Prophetic Power of Joseph Smith,” Martin Tanner, 0:19:54

Top Videos:

“Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt,” by John Gee (25min)

“Joseph Smith and Egyptian Artifacts: Towards a Preliminary Paradigm for Evaluating Prophetic and Mundane Ideas Regarding Aspects of the Ancient World,” by Kerry Muhlestein (25min)

 “Respondent to John Gee, Kerry Mulestein, and Brian M Hauglid” by John S. Thompson (15min)

Where did the book of Abraham come from? A Most Remarkable Book

How can Jewish Scripture be Associated with Egyptian text in the Book of Abraham?

Evidence for the Book of Abraham: Most Remarkable Book

Lion Couch Scene in the Book of Abraham: Evidence of Authenticity

Council of gods in the book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book

The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses by Jeffrey Bradshaw

Abraham 1:11

Book of Abraham evidence. Facsimile 2 fig. 6

Could Joseph Smith have written the book of Abraham?

How can we know the book of Abraham is true?

Did the Church try to hide the Joseph Smith Papyrus when it was found?

Could any scripture come from Egypt? By Allen Richardson

The Missing portion of the Abraham papyrus or Lacana: Evidence of the book of Abraham

What is the book of Breathings and book of the Dead?

Biblical Characters associated with Osiris and Egyptian Gods

Did the Egyptians Know about Abraham? Evidence of the Book of Abraham

The Egyptian Endowment

Egyptology, an Evolving Field- Book of Abraham

Most Remarkable Book: Evidences of the Divine Authenticity of the book of Abraham- Bonus Features

Challenge 1: Papyri Found and It Doesn’t Relate? Book of Abraham

Challenge 2: Facsimile 1 Not About Abraham? Book of Abraham

Challenge 3: The Three Facsimile Translations Wrong? Book of Abraham

Challenge 4: Joseph Smith’s Attempt at an Egyptian Grammar. Book of Abraham

Challenge 5: Translating Without Knowing Egyptian? Book of Abraham

Challenge 6: The Joseph Smith papyri were made nearly 2,000 years after Abraham. Book of Abraham

Challenge 7: Anachronisms? Book of Abraham

Challenge 8: Evidences. Book of Abraham

Challenge 9: Other Egyptologists Opposed? Book of Abraham

Challenge 10: Main Summary: More and More Questions? Book of Abraham

Challenge 11: What value is the Book of Abraham text itself? (extra)

Challenge 12: Are Egyptologists Joining the Mormon Church Book of Abraham YouTube original

Challenge 13: Are You, Kerry Muhlestein, Qualified Book of Abraham

Challenge 14: hat About the Internet Videos That Prove You’re Wrong Book of Abraham

Authentic Ancient Names in the book of Abraham by John Tvedtnes

The Microcosmic Egyptian Temple

An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

The book of Abraham: Dealing with the critics by Dr. Michael Rhodes

Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri by John Gee

Abraham Upon the Altar: The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the book Abraham- DVD preview

Facsimile 3 in the book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham

pt 1, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 2, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 3, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 4, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 5, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 1, Facsimile 3. The book of Abraham

pt 2, Facsimile 3, The book of Abraham

pt 3, Facsimile 3, The book of Abraham

pt 1, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 2, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 3, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 4, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 1 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 2 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 3 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 1, The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

pt 2, The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

pt 1, Book of Abraham 201

pt 2, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 3, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 3, The Role of Violent Rituals in Egyptian Temples

pt 4, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 1 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 2 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 3, Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 4, Investigating The Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 5, Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 6 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 7 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 1, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

pt 2, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

pt 3, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

“Abraham’s Creation Drama,” by Hugh Nibley (1:20min)

The CES Letter improperly represents the Joseph Smith Translation in order create the appearance of a contradiction.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is more of an inspired commentary to expand the text and enlighten the readers.

The Joseph Smith Translation does not purport to be a restoration to the original texts. The CES Letter creates a straw man argument by embracing an unjustified expectation. It expects the text to be restorative and then demonstrates that it is not. 

The reasons for similarity between several chapters in the Book of Mormon and the Bible are unknown, but could simply be because the material on the gold plates was similar or because God (through the seer stone) interjected that material into the translation.

No witnesses reported Joseph using a Bible in translating the Book of Mormon, but that he might have implemented similar texts would not be surprising.

It appears that The CES Letter’s expectations are unduly narrow and reflect a misunderstanding of the Joseph Smith Translation text and history.


Additional resources:

Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) by Robert J. Matthews

The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden (PDF) (2008 FAIR Conference) by Jeffrey Bradshaw

Insights Available as We Approach the Original Text –  by Kerry Muhlestein

Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon –  by L. Ara Norwood

Joseph Smith and the Text of the Book of Mormon –  by Robert J. Matthews

Joseph Smith Translation (Bible Dictionary)

How Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript –  by Royal Skousen