Question: What are the differences between the Genesis account of creation and that of the Book of Abraham?

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Question: What are the differences between the Genesis account of creation and that of the Book of Abraham?

There are several key differences in the accounts.

Many critics posit that the Book of Abraham creation account is the same as that found in the Bible. Just a few key differences include

  1. The Genesis account frames the creator of the earth as “God”. In the Book of Abraham it is “Gods”. The audience for this account was the ancient Egyptians, who actually worshipped multiple gods, and whose creation accounts typically featured multiple gods. This is strengthened by the council of Gods motif.
  2. The Genesis account and the Abrahamic account differ in terminology to describe the creative periods-“days” in Genesis and “times” in the Book of Abraham. Wording describing the periods differs between the two accounts.
  3. The two scriptural accounts differ in how each deal with the end of every division of time. In Genesis, most divisions contain a statement like “And God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis 1:4). Only once does the Book of Abraham say that the Gods saw “that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21). Instead, the Book of Abraham contains a parallel statement about obedience: “And the Gods saw that they were obeyed.” (Abraham 4:18). This implies that they had to observe the heavenly bodies for an extended period of time to determine if they were actually following their ordered motions which determined “the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time” (Abraham 3:9)
  4. The two accounts differ in how they depict matter. The Genesis account states that it was “created” whereas the Book of Abraham is clear about it being “organized”. The Book of Abraham is careful to specify this.
  5. The two accounts differ in views of creation. The Genesis account seems to read as spontaneous creation of life where as the Book of Abraham states that God prepared the earth to bring forth different forms of life. This difference has been noted for its openness to the possibility of biological evolution.
  6. The Genesis account states that God created the “firmament” whereas the Book of Abraham states that they formed the “expanse” (The facsimile 1 explanations do mention the "firmament over our heads").
  7. The Book of Abraham account includes Abraham’s observation about reckoning. This is illuminated more by reading the work of Hugh Nibley on facsimile 2.
  8. The Genesis account states that god called the waters which he had made “Seas” whereas the Book of Abraham calls them the “Great Waters”.
  9. The Book of Abraham is consistent in using the future tense to describe the actions of the Gods in creation.
  10. The Book of Abraham account ties themes of pre-existence into the account (Abraham 3). There are traditions about Abraham which state that he saw the premortal spirits:
  • Al-Kisä’i 28, p. 384
  • Al-T'abari‘ 216, p. 333
  • Al-T'arafi‘ 32, p. 373
  • Apocalypse of Abraham 19:6—7; 21:7—22:5, pp. 57, 58—59
  • Book of Jasher 12:38, p. 146[1]
  • Clementine Recognitions 33, p. 186
  • Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis 4.18.1, p. 479
  • Medieval Testament of Naphtali 9:5, p. 127
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 14:6, pp. 89—90; Ecclesiastes 3:112, p. 113
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Cherubim 4, p. 35
  • Scfer Yetzirah Long 6:8;
  • Saadia 8:5, pp. 87—88
  • Symeon Logothetes 2, pp. 250-51
  • Vettius Valens,
  • Anthologla‘e 2.29.1—6, pp. 476—77


Even more differences can be noted as one compares the accounts. Below is a side by side comparison of the Genesis and Abraham creation accounts:

Genesis 1-2 Abraham 4-5
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 ¶ And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 ¶ And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 ¶ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

[Chapter 2]

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

4 ¶ These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 ¶ And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

18 ¶ And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.


1 And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

2 And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.

3 And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.

4 And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.

5 And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night. And it came to pass that from the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day; and this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called day and night.

6 And the Gods also said: Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and it shall divide the waters from the waters.

7 And the Gods ordered the expanse, so that it divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so, even as they ordered.

8 And the Gods called the expanse, Heaven. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and this was the second time that they called night and day.

9 And the Gods ordered, saying: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the earth come up dry; and it was so as they ordered;

10 And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.

11 And the Gods said: Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass; the herb yielding seed; <and> the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, whose seed <is> in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon the earth; and it was so, even as they ordered.

12 And <the> the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.

13 And it came to pass that they numbered the days; from the evening until the morning they called night; and it came to pass, from the morning until the evening they called day; and it was the third time.

14 And the Gods organized the lights in the expanse of the heaven, and caused them to divide the day from the night; and organized them to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years;

15 And organized them to be for lights in the expanse of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so.

16 And the Gods organized the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; with the lesser light they set the stars also;

17 And the Gods set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to cause to divide the light from the darkness.

18 And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.

19 And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that it was night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that it was day; and it was the fourth time.

20 And the Gods said: Let us prepare the waters to bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that have life; and the fowl, that they may fly above the earth in the open expanse of heaven.

21 And the Gods prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters were to bring forth abundantly after their kind; and every winged fowl after their kind. And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good.

22 And the Gods said: We will bless them, and cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas or great waters; and cause the fowl to multiply in the earth.

23 And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and it was the fifth time.

24 And the Gods prepared the earth to bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so, as they had said.

25 And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey.

26 And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.

28 And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And the Gods said: Behold, we will give them every herb bearing seed that shall come upon the face of all the earth, and every tree <in the> which shall have <there is> fruit upon it; yea, the fruit of the tree yielding seed to them we will give it; <to you> it shall be for their meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, behold, we will give them life, and also we will give to them every green herb for meat, and all these things shall be thus organized.

31 And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and they numbered the sixth time.

[Chapter 5]

1 And thus we will finish the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them.

2 And the Gods said among themselves: On the seventh time we will end our work, which we have counseled; and we will rest on the seventh time from all our work which we have counseled.

3 And the Gods concluded upon the seventh time, because that on the seventh time they would rest from all their works which they (the Gods) counseled among themselves to form; and sanctified it. And thus were their decisions at the time that they counseled among themselves to form the heavens and the earth.

4 And the Gods came down and formed these <are> the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens,

5 According to all that which they had said concerning every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Gods had not caused it to rain upon the earth when they counseled to do them, and had not formed a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

8 And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the Gods to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life, also, in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 There was a river running out of Eden, to water the garden, and from thence it was parted and became into four heads.

[The narrative about the names of the rivers is removed here]

11 And the Gods took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it.

12 And the Gods commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,

13 But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the time that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord’s time, which was after the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning.

14 And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the man, for it is not good that the man should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for him.

[Verses 19 and 20 from the Genesis narrative are placed at the end of the Abraham narrative.]

15 And the Gods caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and they took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof;

16 And of the rib which the Gods had taken from man, formed they a woman, and brought her unto the man.

17 And Adam said: This was bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; now she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man;

18 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

19 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

20 And out of the ground the Gods formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.

21 And Adam gave names to all cattle, <and> to the fowl of the air, <and> to every beast of the field; and for Adam, there was <not> found an help meet for him.

As can be seen, the Book of Abraham contains several key narratological, theological, and textual differences.

Aside from the differences, why might there be similarities between the KJV textual rendering of the Abraham account and the Book of Abraham?

Three or more possibilities exist:

  1. The account we have in Genesis is generally a clean rendition of the account left by Abraham, and scribal errors/interpolations have not entered the account.
  2. The Genesis writers and the scribes/editors/redactors of the Book of Abraham may have been contemporary to one another
  3. Joseph/The Lord decided that the KJV rendering of the text was sufficient to render the general meaning left in the Book of Abraham.
  4. Some combination of the 2 to 3 of the above.

Further text critical research of the Book of Abraham will need to be performed to establish what might come from which. Until then, FairMormon remains neutral as to how members see the text as currently canonized.

Notes

  1. The Book of Jasher reads only that "...and it is he who created the souls and spirits of all men..." It does not give any more detail.