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Home Book of Abraham Special Section The Patriarch Abraham & Sarah, His Wife/Sister. Did He Lie, and is the Book of Abraham Correct in its View?

The Patriarch Abraham & Sarah, His Wife/Sister. Did He Lie, and is the Book of Abraham Correct in its View?

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by Thomas W. Mackay, BYU Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1969-70

Edited by Kerry A. Shirts

Commentators have always been bothered by the morality of Abraham's action while in Egypt, for the patriarch claimed to be his wife's brother, not her husband. Expressions have varied from blatant condemnation ("He was guilty of prevarication and deceit, he lost his perfect trust in God's guardianship; and he endangered his wife's chastity and honour in selfish care for his own safety." [Rev. William J. Deane, Men and the Bible: Abraham: His Life and Times (New York: Auson D. F. Randolph & Co., [n.d.]) p. 51.]) to Augustine's uncomfortable dismissal "he silenced a little bit of truth, he didn't say anything false." [Augustine contra Faustum 22. 34: (PL, 42 422) "indicavit sororem, non negavit uxorem; tacuit aliquid veri, non dixit aliquid falsi."] One minister called it "unquestionable" that Abraham suffered from his "sinful agreement" with Sarah, [Samuel Crothers, The Life of Abraham the First Missionary (Chillicothe, Ohio: Ely & Allen, 1847), pp. 67-73.] and a contemporary scholar deplores the action as being a "cynical, utilitarian consideration." [Gerhard con Rad, Genesis, 2nd ed. rev., trans. John H. Marks (London: S.C.M. Press Ltd., 1963), p. 222.] Calvin applauds the end sought (his life); however, he cannot fully excuse the means employed (the lie). [John Calvin, Commentaries on the first Book of Moses Called Genesis (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Soc., 1847), p. 360; see pp. 339-65.] Luther, himself hard pressed to justify the lie, remarks that the scripture is difficult for exegetes to explain:

There have never been any theologians or other readers whom the passage before us would not have offended, even among the Jews. It is so amazing, so full of questions and offenses, especially if it is correctly understood; for here offenses both of faith and of morals reveal themselves. . . . The Jews, like those sevenfold asses, the Stoics, interpret this action quite harshly and accuse Abraham of a sin so great that they maintain it was punished among his descendants by the Egyptian captivity. [Martin Luther, Luther's Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Daniel E. Poellot (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1960) pp. 288, 292.]

Skinner, [John Skinner, International Critical Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh; T. & T. Clark, 1956), p. 249.] still uneasy after making every explanation possible, states "lastly, it is assumed that in the circumstances lying is excusable." The gravity of the problem is seen in the implications noted by the Jerusalem Bible:

The purpose of this narrative . . . is to commemorate the beauty of the ancestress of the race, the astuteness of its patriarch, the protection that God afforded them. The story reflects a stage of moral development when a lie was still considered lawful under certain circumstances and when the husband's life meant more than his wife's honour. God was leading man to an appreciation of the moral law but this appreciation was gradual.

This all sounds so very familiar--the utter helplessness of rabbinical, patristic, and contemporary writers to understand Abraham. Every phase of the motifs of sacrifice and obedience represents a stumbling block. In fact, there is no moral or ethical justification for Abraham's actions, despite all the casuistries and sophistries conjured up by learned minds. All the protestations, all the confusion, all the embarrassment only demonstrates the bankruptcy of the world: the story of Abraham has dumbfounded learned commentators for centuries. Now people are beginning to look to Abraham, not Moses, for the origin of the covenant, but their efforts still leave them baffled and only emphasize their discomfort. The Book of Abraham gives us the new material needed for reevaluation leading to understanding.

Whenever confronting a problem, we should first scrutinize the ancient evidence and ascertain just what the limits are to the evidence proper. Frequently this gives us a fresh approach and shows possible weaknesses in our analysis. Also, we often discover that we have somehow failed to consider some very obvious possibilities which are dear in the evidence, but obscured by presuppositions. We propose here to go back and study the story of Abraham accounts in Genesis, Jubilees, Jasher, Genesis Apocryphon, and the Book of Abraham. [Nahman Avigad and Yigael Yadin, eds., A Genesis Apocryphon. A Scroll from the Wilderness of Judaea (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press of the Hebrew University, 1956); Geza Vermes, The Dead Seas Scrolls in English, rev. (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965); Theodor Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, rev. and enlarged ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964). For a fairly complete bibliography, see Christoph Burchard, Bibliographie zu den Handschriften vom Toten Meer (BZAW, 76 [1957] and 89 [1965]). Jubilees is included in R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (N.Y.: Oxford U. P., 1963). An old translation of Jasher has been recently reprinted: The Book of Jasher (Salt Lake City: J. H. Parry & Co., 1887).]

Genesis and the Book of Jubilees (c. third century B.C.) provide the most abbreviated accounts. In fact, according to Dupont-Sommer, the author of Jubilees takes great care to compress the narrative, as though to suppress everything which might question the loyalty and character of Abraham. [A. Dupont-Sommer, Essene Writings from Qumran (Cleveland & N. Y.: World Publishing Co., 1962), p. 285, n. 4.] The Book of Jasher (which is purported to be the book mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18) and the Genesis Apocryphon embellish the story with details drawn from Jewish lore [Many of the stories may be found in Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 5 Vols., trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1913).] and consequently present more expanded versions. Although the Book of Abraham devotes only a small portion of our present text to the sojourn in Egypt, it would seem, to judge from Facsimile No. 3, that Abraham, after recording his Revelation of the creation (Chapters 3-5), probably continued his personal narrative. However, the few verses which do remain offer one very interesting point stated by no other source, namely that God commanded Abraham to use the "brother-sister" device (Abraham 2:25).

The text of these five accounts is given in parallel columns. A comparison of the sources raises several questions of which the following will be briefly considered: (1) the antiquity of the Book of Abraham; (2) God's intervention and Abraham's "lie"; (3) Abraham's healing Pharaoh; (4) Abraham on Pharaoh's throne; and (5) the wife-sister motif.

The Antiquity of the Book of Abraham

Dupont-Sommer assents to the affinities of the Genesis Apocryphon with Jubilees, although he is somewhat reluctant to accept the opinion of Avigad and Yadin (in the editio princeps) that "the scroll may have served as a source for a number of stories told more concisely" in the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. These last two books may be attributed to the fourth, third, or second centuries B.C.; [Cf. W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1946), pp. 266-67.] consequently the composition of the Genesis Apocryphon would antedate those, even though the scroll itself, "the earliest Aramaic example of pseudoepigraphic literature that has come down to us," [Avigad and Yadin, p. 39; cf. Manfred H. Lehmann, "1 Q Genesis Apocryphon in the Light of the Targumim and Madrashim," Revue de Qumran, 1 (1958-59), p. 251.] is dated between 50 B.C. and 70 A. D. [Avigad and Yadin, p. 38; Geza Vermes, Studia Post-Biblica, Vol. 4: Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. Haggadic Studies [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961], p. 96, n. 2) prefers the second century B. C., as does H. H. Rowley ("Notes on the Aramaic of the Genesis Apocryphon," Hebrew and Semitic Studies Presented to Godfrey Rolles Driver, ed. D. W. Thomas and W. D. McHardy [N. Y.: Oxford U. P., 1963], pp. 116-29), but H. E. Del Medico (The Riddle of the Scrolls [London: Burke, 1957], p. 178) had tried to date it to the second century A. D. See also E. Y. Kutscher, "Dating the Language of the Genesis Apocryphon," JBL, Vol. 76 (1957), pp. 288-92; P. Winter, "Das aramaische Genesis-Apocryphon," TLZ, Vol. 82 (1957), pp. 257-62; E. Y. Kutscher, Scripta Hierosolymitana, Vol. 4: "The Language of the 'Genesis Apocryphon.' A Preliminary Study," Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. C. Rabin and Y. Yadin (Jerusalem: The Magnes of the Hebrew University, 1958), pp. 283-96 (reviewed by G. Molin, Revue de Qumran, Vol. 1 [1958-59], pp. 284-85). J. W. Doeve ("Lamech's Achterdocht in 1 Q Genesis Apocryphon," Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, Vol. 15 [1960-61], [. 414) asserts that "1 Q Gen. Ap. is een essense midrasj." Matthew Black (The Scrolls and Christian Origins [N. Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961], p. 193) calls attention to the anthropomorphic god of G. Z. 22. 27 (cf. Gen. 15:1; n.b. Acts 7:2) as differing from the targums, which eschew anthropomorphism.]

It should be obvious that the date of any given manuscript of ancient literature is hardly ever the date of composition, and ' that the date of composition will not always be the origin of any particular element. The Homeric question should be sufficient to warn us about that! To cite merely one specific example of how an ancient account can be preserved for centuries without leaving any written trace, even among literate people, the story of the two pieces of the coat of Joseph, related by the Book of Mormon and by Tha'labi (an Arab writing in the eleventh century A. D.), [Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the book of Mormon, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964), pp. 177-80. The Testament of Zebulon Vol. 4. 10 (cf. Marc Philonenko, "Les Interpolations chretiennes des Testaments des Douze Patriarches et les Manuscripts de Qoumran," Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses, vol. 39 [1959], p. 33) is not relevant.] must have been passed on for more than sixteen centuries in the Near East, and even longer if it remounts historically to the actual event! As to the Abraham story, Vermes assures us that "Genesis Apocryphon is securely established within the current of tradition whose origins, inherited eventually by targumic and midrashic literature, must derive from .an earlier age." [Vermes, p. 123 (italics ours); cf. J. T. Milik, Studies in Biblical Theology, No. 26: Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea, trans. J. Strugnell (Naperville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, 1959), p. 31: "The Genesis Apocryphon . . ., even if it contains sections translated verbatim from the Hebrew of Genesis, is no true Targum nor Midrash. Rather it is an ambitious compilation of traditional lore concerning the Patriarchs. . . ." n. b. Lehmann, p. 249.]

Naturally this does not mean that everything in the Genesis Apocryphon is factual or even that all of it antedates the fourth century B.C. Nevertheless, there are some considerations that ought to be made. First, the earlier portion of the Genesis Apocryphon account is related in the first person. Second, the earlier part of the narrative is "rich with haggadic amplifications." Third, the later portion is told in the third person, and, fourth, it adheres much more strictly to the biblical text. It seems, therefore, to be a conflation of biblical narrative and extra-biblical stories. This indicates that Genesis Apocryphon, as we know it, was probably composed some two to four centuries before our extant copy was made, and it includes some old accounts not in Genesis. But it is not necessary to suppose that if one source gives a fuller story than another the longer version perforce is a more recent expansion of the shorter account. Where Genesis Apocryphon does not follow the strict biblical narrative on Abraham, it relates a lengthy first person story from old Jewish lore.

The Book of Abraham employs the first person, as does Genesis Apocryphon, and the nature of the history and especially the creation ritual are so sacred that the Pearl of Great Price Abraham might not have been circulated as widely as other, possibly abridged, versions. Yet, both the Book of Abraham and Genesis Apocryphon agree in employing the first person and in narrating an instance of God's intervention to protect the righteous. The nature of the differences and similarities of the Pearl of Great Price (PGP) account to our other sources would therefore indicate that (quite apart from the palaeographical date of the papyrus Joseph Smith used and not worrying about how he used it) the story antedates these other sources.

God's Intervention and Abraham's "Lie"

The Revelation and commandment to Abraham to claim that Sarah was his sister is related in varying--thought not contradictory--terms by the PGP (commandment by the Lord's voice) and Genesis Apocryphon (a dream interpreted by Abraham). Dreams were a regular means of divine communication in the Old Testament, and so Genesis Apocryphon does not need to specify that this one came from God. Rather it leaves the interpretation to Abraham. Since the identification of Abraham and Sarah with the cedar and the palm is an established part of the tradition, this aspect of the dream presents no difficulty. Still, it is left to Abraham's ingenuity to devise the "she is my sister" trick. In contrast to all other sources, the PGP specifies that God told Abraham what he was to do. He was therefore acting by commandment, and to do otherwise would have been just as much a sin as for Nephi to have failed to kill Laban.

To understand the internal conflict this divine injunction may have caused Abraham, we need only to recollect his statement at the beginning of the PGP account:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. (Abraham 1:2)

So here we have a righteous man who desires perfection and who has just received the promise of land, a righteous, numerous posterity, etc. Now the Lord tests Abraham--and Sarah!

It is strange that the one thing which would have averted the need of "covering up" for the great patriarch of the House of Israel should have dropped out of later tradition and should appear only in modified form in Genesis Apocryphon. At any rate we do have here an instance of an account, given by revelation through Joseph Smith, being corroborated in a certain measure by one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It would indicate that at the time of composition of Genesis Apocryphon, the story of God's intervention before Abraham entered Egypt had not yet altogether been lost from the tradition. The importance of establishing the concept that Abraham was acting under God's directive cannot be overstated. (1) It vindicates the patriarch of an action where his righteousness is seriously questioned. (2) It pictures the patriarch deeply grieved not at his own mistake (as many would have it) but at what has happened despite his following explicitly what God had commanded. We can now understand that (3) Abraham's sojourn in Egypt was a period of severe trial where he adhered strictly to what God had directed, and (4) that Abraham continued to trust in God even in times of serious adversity when it seemed as though the covenant would never be fulfilled. Hence, instead of viewing Abraham as jeopardizing the covenant, we rather see him relying on God when God seems to be effectively terminating the covenant. Or, to put it more bluntly, Abraham's trial when ordered to sacrifice Isaac was preceded by at least one other similar instance when, because he was doing what God had instructed him to do, his covenant seemed doomed to extinction while he was in Egypt. Both times he chose to honor and obey God. Both times he proved that his loyalty to God and his confidence in God's knowledge and power were stronger than any impulse to turn against God in time of crisis. By faith he retained the covenant, recovered Sarah, and returned with great wealth to his promised land. He had been tested, tried, and proven worthy of his blessings. His trial in Egypt prepared him for the time when God instructed him to sacrifice his son, and Abraham, it will be remembered, had nearly been sacrificed himself. [Abraham 1:5-20; cf. fac. 1; see also Hugh Nibley's discussion of human sacrifice and the pharaonic cult in the Improvement Era, Vol. 72 (Feb-Sept, 1969).] One other aspect of the trial must not be overlooked. The sojourn in Egypt was to prove Sarah's willingness to obey her husband in his righteous obedience, and she too showed herself faithful. Abraham's covenant was not for himself alone but in conjunction with Sarah. Hence both Abraham and Sarah were tested in Egypt.

Abraham's Healing Pharoah

Genesis Apocryphon recounts a healing by the laying on of hands, and we can substantiate from other sources that this was well within Abraham's right and power. Hence the healing scene may well be an authentic story antedating the introduction of the Mosaic Law. In Galatians 3:8 Paul affirms that the gospel was taught to Abraham, and we know that Melchizedek ordained Abraham. [D&C 84:14; TPJS, pp. 322-23; cf. Gen. 14:18-20.] The order of the Priesthood Abraham held--sufficient for exaltation--includes the keys of such spiritual blessings as the healing of the sick. [Jas. 5:13-15; D&C 42:43-44; cf. D&C 66:9; 84:68.] So it was within Abraham's right to perform such a miracle--provided that he had already received the Priesthood prior to entering Egypt. The Book of Abraham intimates that he did, but when and from whom? What, then, did he receive from Melchizedek? Was it the keys of presidency (which seems to be the most important aspect of the birthright he transmitted) in a patriarchal order?

Dupont-Sommer observes that the Old Testament prophets imposed their hands for many purposes--but not for healing. [A. Dupont-Sommer, "Exorcismes et Guerisons dans les Ecrits de Qoumran," Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, 7, Congress volume, Oxford, 1959 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960), p. 251 and n. 1.] This is understandable since the O.T. is almost entirely the record of the House of Israel under the Law of Moses, that is, without the Melchizedek Priesthood. Yet even so there was some knowledge of healing, for Josephus informs us that the Essenes healed the sick, [Jos. Bell. lud. Vol. 2, p. 136.] and in Jubilees x. 12-14, angels teach Noah about medicines to combat sickness sent by evil spirits. Dupont-Sommer also cites the Prayer of Na bonid, fragments recovered from Qumran cave IV, [Dupont-Sommer, pp. 253 ff; cf. J. T. Milik, "'Priere de Nabonide' et autres Ecrits d'un Cycle de Daniel. Fragments Arameens de Qumran 4," Revue Biblique, Vol. 63 (1956), pp. 407-411.] as an example of exorcism and healing. His assertion is that the therapeutic stories are rather late--Essene--accretions to the legends. There are, to be sure, very definite affinities with New Testament miracles: (1) sickness is associated with and caused by sin; (2) healing includes exorcism of the evil spirit and therefore a forgiveness of sins preceding the healing; (3) prayer is often offered before the ordinance of the laying on of hands; (4) the healing is effected through the authoritative laying on of the hands. [Dupont-Sommer, pp. 252, 261; see also D. Flusser, "Healing through the Laying-on of Hands in a Dead Sea Scroll," Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 7 (1957), pp. 107-108; W. H., Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible (N. Y.: Oxford U. P., 1964), pp. 120-21; H. Nibley, "Qumran and 'The Companions of the Cave,'" Revue de Qumran, Vol. 5 (1965), pp. 195-96; Geza Vermes, "Essenes-Therapeutai-Qumran," Durham University Journal, n.s. Vol. 21 (1959-60), pp. 97-115; Geza Vermes, "The Etymology of 'Essenes,'" Revue de Qumran, Vol. 2 (1959-60), pp. 427-43; J.-P. Audet, "Qumran et la Notice de Pline sur les Esseniens," Revue Biblique, Vol. 68 (1961), pp. 346-87; H. G. Schonfeld, "Zum Begriff 'Therapeutai' bei Philo von Alexandria," Revue de Qumran, Vol. 3 (1961-62), pp. 219-40; Geza Vermes, "Essenes and Therapeutai," Revue de Qumran, Vol. 3 (1961-62), pp. 495-504.]

These are precisely such similarities as we would expect to find in a full dispensation. And in the parallel story related in Genesis 20, Abraham is instrumental in healing Abimelech (Gen: 20:17-18). Certainly this account is not Essene. So there is an ancient tradition which appears in a different form in different sources intimating that Abraham did heal at least one person of royal station. Genesis Apocryphon may well be recording an early account of some historical event when it has Abraham tell how he healed Pharaoh. In light of our other evidence, we need not assume that Dupont-Sommer has correctly identified the origin of the story. Certainly an amplified version need not always be presumed to be more recent than the simple one, especially when dealing with historical material; [For instance, the account related in Gen. 18 appears "to belong to a longer and more personal story of Abraham" (James Barr, "Theophany and Anthropomorphism in the Old Testament," Supp. to V. T. [cited supra, n. 27], Vol. 7 (1959), p. 38.] the Book of Mormon offers familiar evidence which confutes that assumption.

With our new collation of sources, we can reevaluate the evidence. For example, scholars have regularly condemned Josephus and Eupolemus for claiming that Abraham taught the Egyptians astronomy. [Jos. Ant. Lud. Vol. 1, p. 167; Eupolemus is paraphrased by Alexander Polyhistor whom Eusebius quotes (Euseb. Praep. Ev. Vol. 9, 17 [PG, p. 21, 708C-709A]). ] Nevertheless the cosmology of the PGP indicates just such a possibility, particularly since Abraham interrupts the Egypt sojourn account to relate how, through the Urim and Thummin (Abraham 3:1) and the "records of the fathers" (Abraham 1:31), he learned of the universe and the creation. We may assume that after concluding the creation account and possibly a brief sketch of the earlier dispensations he continued his personal history. One other thing is relevant: Facsimile No. 3 notes that Abraham is sitting on Pharaoh's throne with the consent of Pharaoh teaching the Egyptians astronomy! [Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 14 (Whole Number 50; May 16, 1842), pp. 783-84.]

But the fact that he is represented as sitting on the throne is indeed strange, for that was the prerogative only of Pharaoh. In the May 1956 Improvement Era, Hugh Nibley applied to Facsimile No. 3 Helck's study of Egyptian royal succession, a process of adoption. [W. Helck, "Rp't auf dem thraon des Gb," Orientalia, n.s. Vol. 19 (1950), pp. 416-34.] Some of the striking features are (1) the Pharaoh and his son are represented as women, since (2) coronation scenes always include two women (goddesses) to effect the transmission of authority; (3) the scene takes place in Egypt, (4) on Pharaoh's throne; (5) Abraham is wearing the sacred Atef crown and (6) holding the "Heqat-scepter. . .'the Scepter of justice and judgment.'"

Was Pharaoh trying to make some sort of agreement with Abraham to share the rule of Egypt with him if he would share the Priesthood? Does the coronation scene help explain the extensive presents and great wealth which Abraham received from Pharaoh? Also, what is the significance of Pharaoh bestowing purple (regal) clothing to Sarah? Is this, too, relevant? We must remember, Cyrus H. Gordon informs us, [Cyrus H. Gordon, " Abraham of Ur," Hebrew and Semitic Studies. . . [cited supra, n. 14]. esp. pp. 78, 82.] that Abraham was a basileus, or king, of the Homeric type, and that he was quite at ease in the company of kings. And so, when he left Egypt, Pharaoh provided a royal escort.

The Wife-Sister Motif

E. A. Speiser concludes that the wife-sister motif is very ancient and, in fact, remounts to the Patriarchal Age. [E. A. Speiser, "The Wife-Sister Motif in the Patriarchal Narratives," Biblical and Other Studies, ed. A. Altmann (Cambridge: Harvard U. P., 1963), pp. 15-28.

] It is therefore relevant to consider extra-biblical evidence, and in so doing, Gordon notes a striking parallel in the three Genesis accounts of the "disposable-wife" (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:6-11), Helen-Menelaus-Paris, and the Kret epic. Incidentally, on the basis of literary criticism, the PGP presents elements of the Abraham story even more explicitly and accurately than Genesis in the Patriarchal Narratives, elements which Gordon dates to the thirteenth or fourteenth century B.C. [Cyrus H. Gordon, The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations (N. Y.: W. W. Norton, 1965), pp. 131-55, 228, n. 1; cf. T. B. L. Webster, From Mycenae to Homer (N. Y.: W. W. Norton, 1964), pp. 64-90, with other references at n. 2, p. 64. See also Cyrus H. Gordon, "The Patriarchal Age," Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 21 (1953), pp. 238-43; Cyrus H. Gordon, "The Patriarchal Narratives," J.N.E.S., Vol. 13 (1954), pp. 56-59; cf. Leonard Wolley, Abraham: Recent Discoveries and Hebrew Origins (N. Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936).]

Speiser has written concerning a special legal adoption process among the Hurrians whereby one's wife "could have simultaneously the status of sister." After examining the evidence of the cuneiform sources, Speiser applies the custom to our biblical narrative and concludes that "Sarah was Terah's daughter by adoption, which is why the relationship was not duly recorded in Genesis 11. At all events, Sarah had adequate credentials to qualify, in one way or another, as Abraham's sister in the broader sense of the term. Yet all this is but a weak apology, a dodge. The ambiguity of the dual usage of "sister" was used to disguise the situation to Pharaoh, for he was duped' as Abraham and Sarah and the Lord knew he would be.

There are many other things which need to be considered, and those who want to dispose of the Book of Abraham are doing justice neither to themselves nor the ancient evidence. Abraham's account is essentially a dialogue on priesthood--authority from God--vs. authority through Nimrod. The disappearance of this history caused later compilers to confuse and change the story to such a point that it no longer portrays clearly the extent of God's approval and direction of Abraham's life; witness the difference between Sarah giving Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:1-3) and the Lord commanding it:

God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises. Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.

(D. & C. 132:34-35)


In summary, we find that by collating our ancient sources, the evidence leads us to several conclusions:

(1) The story told in the Pearl of Great Price appears to be much older than the others.

(2) There is strong literary evidence that the 'disposable wife' motif was well-known in the second millennium B.C.

(3) Genesis Apocryphon seems to present a simplified form of the PGP account to which other, probably later, embellishments were added.

(4) One of the early elements of the Abraham tradition was God's intervention to instruct Abraham to disguise being Sarah's husband.

Other elements we may well suspect to be early axe (5) the healing of Pharaoh and (6) the subsequent coronation of Abraham.

(7) Also, one other very common idea, is consequently brought into question: the evolutionary development of morality in the biblical world.

There are indeed, many aspects of the life of Abraham which cry for clarification, and it seems a shame that there are so few LDS. scholars willing to examine intelligently the myriad of problems. However slothful we may be in the study of the ancient world, Joseph Smith did not hesitate to bring forth new evidence about antiquity, evidence which remains new and virtually untouched after so many years. We are amazed both at Joseph Smith's lack of trepidation and at his accuracy in giving us long-lost information about that great Patriarch, Abraham.

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