Book of Abraham/Anachronisms

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Alleged anachronisms in the Book of Abraham

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Question: Is the mention of "Ur of the Chaldees" in the Book of Abraham an anachronism?

The Chaldeens are mentioned a number of times in the Book of Abraham

The Chaldeens are mentioned a number of times in the Book of Abraham (Abraham 1:1, 8, 13, 20, 23, 29, 30, 2:4 and 3:1.) Abraham 3:1 states:

And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees

It is claimed that the mention of "Ur of the Chaldees" in the Book of Abraham is an anachronism. According to Stephen Thompson, "scholarly estimates for the age of the patriarchs range from 2200 to 1200 B.C." [1] The Chaldeans, on the other hand, did not appear until hundreds of years later. Thompson notes that, "anything occurring after 1500 B.C. is definitely anachronistic to Abraham's lifetime." [1]

An additional complication is that scholars today place "Chaldea" in southern Mesopotamia, which is too far away to have any Egyptian influence.

The phrase "Ur of the Chaldees" appears in the Old Testament in connection with Abraham (Abram) and his father Terah

The phrase "Ur of the Chaldees" appears in the Old Testament in Genesis 11:26-28 in connection with Abraham (Abram) and his father Terah:

26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 ¶Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

The location of "Ur of the Chaldees" is not known

The location of "Ur of the Chaldees" is not known, although that has been much speculation among religious scholars concerning its possible location. It is noted by the Church that "Most scholars today locate “Chaldea” (or Ur) in southern Mesopotamia, removed from the area of Egyptian influence, but cogent arguments have been made for a northern location, within the realm of Egyptian influence." [2]


Question: Why does the age when Abraham left Haran in the Book of Abraham differ from the Bible?

The age at which Abraham departed out of Haran is stated to be 75 years old in Genesis, and 62 years old in the Book of Abraham

"So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran." Genesis 12:4


"So I, Abraham, departed as the Lord had said unto me, and Lot with me; and I, Abraham, was sixty and two years old when I departed out of Haran." Abraham 2:14

Other non-Biblical ancient documents found since Joseph Smith's day indicate Abraham left Haran earlier than 75 years old

There exist other, non-Biblical, ancient documents found since Joseph Smith's day which indicate that Abraham left Haran earlier than 75 years old[3] Which year is most accurate? We do not know.

Both dates may be correct: One indicating Abraham's exit from the city, and the other from the greater area

However, the more likely possibility is both dates are correct. If one was mentioning an earlier exit from the city, and the other the greater general area of Haran (Los Angeles city vs. Los Angeles-Southern California area), Abraham could have left the city, then later, the greater area. Hugh Nibley explains that in the ancient "Sepher ha-Yasher" or "Book of Jasher", "Avram" (Abraham) left Haran twice.[4]


Paul Hoskisson (1991): "I will suggest an alternate location for the Ur of the Chaldees in the story of Abraham"

Paul Y. Hoskisson, "Research and Perspectives: Where Was the Ur of Abraham?", Ensign (July 1991)

Most people have an interest in the material settings of the scriptural accounts they hold sacred. Beyond this interest, physical settings become particularly important when scholars locate scriptural sites on present-day maps, because on this basis scholars augment and supplement our body of scriptural knowledge with facts from the indicated sites. For instance, many scholars place the site of Abraham’s Ur in southern Mesopotamia, and on that basis suggest that Abraham had contact with and was influenced by the dominant cult of that Ur, the cult of the moon god. With the aid of the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, I will suggest an alternate location for the Ur of the Chaldees in the story of Abraham.[5] —(Click here to continue)


John Gee: "If Oylum Hoyuk is Olishem, the Ur of the Chaldees should be one of the dozens of Middle Bronze II sites in the Kilis plain"

John Gee,

If indeed tablets from Hittite from the site identify it as Ullis, the it is probably the Ulisum that Naram-Sin attacked and is a likely candidate for Olishem. If Oylum Hoyuk is Olishem, the Ur of the Chaldees should be one of the dozens of Middle Bronze II sites in the Kilis plain. We await further discoveries and publications. At present, given the many uncertainties, we can regard this identification as promising but not proven.[6] —(Click here to continue)

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 1995)
  2. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Footnote 35, Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  3. https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng
  4. http://www.bookofmormonpromisedland.com/Abraham%20in%20Egypt.htm
  5. Paul Y. Hoskisson, "Research and Perspectives: Where Was the Ur of Abraham?", Ensign (July 1991)
  6. John Gee, "Has Olishem Been Discovered?," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture Vol. 22, Num. 2 (2013)