The Book of Abraham, Its Authenticity Established.../Chapter 4

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ABRAHAM IN EGYPT.--CONFIRMATORY STATEMENTS OR JOSEPHUS, NICOLAUS OF DAMASCUS, AND OTHERS.--ABRAHAM'S INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGIONS OF EGYPT, PERSIA AND HINDOOSTAN.--TRACES OF GOSPEL TEACHING IN THE MYTHOLOGIES OF EGYPT, PERSIA, CHALDEA, GREECE AND ROME.--FIRST DEPARTURES FROM THE TRUE FAITH.--THE EGYPTIAN WORSHIP OF ADAM AND THE PATRIARCHS.--THE BOOK OF THE DEAD.

THE Book of Abraham states that God commanded the patriarch to show unto the Egyptians the things that He had revealed unto him. Josephus, in narrating this portion of Abraham's history--being only partially acquainted with the facts of the case from the authorities at his disposal--tell us that Abraham went down into Egypt to avoid the famine in Canaan, and to "become an auditor of their priests, and to know what they said concerning the gods; designing either to follow them if they had better notions than he, or to convert them into a better way if his own notions proved the truest."[1] After his arrival in Egypt, and the circumstances arising out of the attempt of Pharaoh to add Sarah to the number of his wives, the outcome of which placed the monarch under obligations to the patriarch, Josephus states that "Pharaoh gave Abraham leave to enter into conversation with the most learned among the Egyptians, from which conversation his virtue and his reputation became more conspicuous than they had been before. For whereas the Egyptians were formerly addicted to different customs, and despised one another's sacred and accustomed rites, and were very angry one with another on that account, Abraham conferred with each of them, and, confuting the reasonings they made use of, every one for his own practices, he demonstrated that such reasonings were vain and void of truth; whereupon he was admired by them in those conferences as a very wise man, and one of great sagacity, when he discoursed upon any subject he undertook; and this not only in understanding it, but in persuading other men also to assent to him."[2] In another place the Jewish historian states, "He (Abraham) was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things, and persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue than others had, and he determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God."[3]

So far as Josephus' testimony, confirmatory of this portion of the Book of Abraham, is concerned, we deem the above abundant. In later chapters we shall show the great political and religious changes that Abraham's visits to Egypt produced.

From Egypt we will turn to Persia, and from the writings of various modern authors adduce testimony to prove that Abraham's power as a religious teacher was felt, known and recognized in the faith and creed of that nation.

In the sacred book of the ancient Persians and modern Parsees-- the Zend Avista--"it is declared that the religion taught in it was received from Abraham; and according to Hyde, who supports his statements by quotations and references, this was believed by leading Arabian writers not only of Persian Magianism but of Indian Brahmanism." The same writer remarks: "The claims of Magianism to have been influenced by the revelations made to Abraham are far from being discountenanced by the laws of historical probability. For the war waged so successfully by Abraham in behalf of his kinsman, Lot, against the five kings, among whom was the king of Elam [i.e., Persia], is of itself a sufficient proof that the Father of the Faithful, Abraham, the Hebrew from Ur of the Chaldees, must have been as well known to the eastern kingdoms as Moses was in after times."[4]

It is generally admitted that in the days of Abraham the forefathers of the Persians and Brahmins were one people, inhabiting one region of country. It is supposed that the ancestors of the latter race moved to India from 1500 to 1300 years B. C. That these two races are of common descent is urged from the close relationship existing between the Sanskrit, the language of the Brahmins, and the Zend or Persian; it is also said that the "remarkable identity between the Brahminical and Persian mythologies indicates, unerringly, the original union of the two." It may also be noticed that Hitzig, in his "Geschichte dcs Volkes Israel," reasons from the identity of certain practices observed by Abraham and the patriarchs of Israel on the one hand, and by Brahminical Hindoos on the other, that a community of some kind once existed between these people.

The two nations being thus admitted, by authors of research, to have been one people in Abraham's time, it is supposable that the Brahmin as well as the Persian branch of the family would exhibit some traces of Abraham's ministry. On this point it has been written "Abraham's influence extended to Bactria, and the most complete proof at once of its spread, and the spread with it of the name and renown of Abraham, is contained in the language and name of the Brahminical Hindoos."[5]

"The name Brahma signifies he who multiplies; the name Abraham likewise means the father of a multitude. (Arabic, Rahama, a multitude. Genesis xxii, 5.) The wife of Brahma was named Savitree. The wife of Abraham was named Sarai or Sarah." [6]

Mr. Goodsir, remarking on this last extract, writes: "These coincidences appear to us to be well deserving of attention, though we are not aware that they have ever before been noticed. We leave them and the whole question of the identity of Brahma and Abraham to the judgment of our readers, merely observing, in conclusion, that having found Adam and Noah and Ham to have been the father-gods of Egyptian mythology, and Japhet the father-god of that of Greece, there is abundant analogy as well as probability in our inference that the father-god of the Indian superstition was Abraham."

Admitting the truth of the following extract from the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus, referred to by Josephus, it is very easy to understand when and how Abraham obtained his great influence in Persia; and we know of no conflicting testimony to render the statements unworthy of our consideration. He writes, in the fourth book of his history: "Abram reigned in Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldees; but after a long time he got him up and removed from that country also, with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea. * * * Now the name of Abram is even still famous in the country of Damascus, and there is shewed a village named from him, the habitation of Abraham."

We now come to the consideration of the traces, ofttimes scarcely discernable, found in the pagan religions of the ancient nations of the eastern continent, of a time when the worship of the true God was taught and understood in their midst, for we fully believe that having made of one blood all the nations of the earth, "God guided and ruled over pagan nations in a manner the same in kind, though much modified in degree, as in the case of the chosen people; and for the same great final end." Let it not be supposed, in the following pages, that we desire to extenuate the sinfulness, or to palliate the foulness of idolatrous, cruel, unclean and licentious paganism in any of its branches. Our desire is to exalt the goodness of God, as well as to show that under all the vileness, the indecency, the lust and cruelty of many of the forms of ancient paganism, could be found a sub-stratum of pure revealed truth, testifying to us that at some period the fathers of these peoples held intercourse with the servants of the true God, but had fallen away from the principles of righteousness aforetime taught them, and after their own peculiar ways and to suit their own peculiar notions and desires, had heaped to themselves gods and demons, creeds and rites, ceremonies and mysteries, oracles and auguries, differing in different nations according to the force of circumstances and the direction given to them by master minds.

As a proof of the truth of our position, we have but to refer to the fact that it has been demonstrated that the further we go back through the centuries to the primeval days succeeding the dispersion of mankind at the Tower of Babel, the more frequent and more noticeable are the traces of pure religious truth found intermingled with the follies and vagueries of man-made religions. As an example of this, it is recounted by Levy, the Roman historian, that certain sacred books having been found at the burying place of Numa, the great religious legislator of early Rome, they were burned because they were not suited to the times in which they were discovered, when Rome had added scores of gods to its Pantheon, though they were considered suited to the early era in which they were written, when Numa forbade images and their worship as well as the offering of human sacrifices.

It is not difficult for those who believe in the Bible as it is written, to understand that immediately after the flood there was but one form of faith upon the earth, and that the true one. Noah was a preacher of righteousness both before and after the deluge, and because of their obedience to God's laws, he and his family were saved from the universal destruction that came upon the wicked. But their descendants, in an early day, began to depart from the purity of the truths that had saved "the fathers," and a knowledge of the forms of iniquity that existed amongst the antediluvians was in some manner conveyed to them, and incorporated in their debased new systems of worship. Noah, Melchizedek and others battled with but partial success against these growing infamies, and Abraham was especially called of the Lord to usher in a new dispensation. We have seen, in part, how he fulfilled this call; we shall now refer to some Gospel ideas that for many centuries afterwards were found incorporated amongst the filth and rubbish of paganism, some in Egypt, some in Persia, some in Chaldea, some in Greece, Rome and other nations. From this almost universal admixture of the true and the false it is evident that there was some primeval source from which the ancient gentile nations drew that which was good and true in their religions.

In our researches into the mythology of these peoples we find, amongst others, the following Gospel ideas:

The belief in the existence of one great father God.

The prophecy and expectation of the coming of a Son of God in the flesh.

A reverence for Adam as the great prince of his race, in some nations, extended to his worship as the father of the terrestrial gods.

The belief in a resurrection, and in future rewards and punishments.

The necessity of faith in the gods, and under certain very remarkable circumstances, to be hereafter noticed, of repentance and baptism.

The administration of washings and anointings.

Traditions, more or less perfect, of the great war in heaven when Lucifer and his angels were cast down upon the earth.

The belief in good and bad angels, ministers of the will of heaven.

A belief in the eternity of matter, and

The almost universal practice of sacrifice.

To give strength to the above assertions we shall now appeal to a number of well-known authors.

The Rev. Mr. Goodsir, in his work on Ethnic Inspiration, writes: "The principles of mythology enable us to discern the true order in which the various erroneous and morbid developments of human belief arose. It proves both that monotheism--the knowledge of the true God, preceded the various forms of polytheism, and especially the worship of the heavenly bodies; and that the worship of dead men preceded other forms of false or idolatrous worship; and the same facts which show that the worship of dead men was the first step in false religion, prove at the same time the original grafting of this on the belief of a heavenly Creator and Father. Were there no other than the single case of Egypt, as explained from its language, hieroglyphics and monuments, by Mr. Os-born, it would place the matter beyond all doubt, so clear and well-supported is that case. Adam and Eve, Noah and Tamer, Ham, Mizraim[7] and Phut were all deified there, while the supreme God was incontrovertibly known; and the sun was only a symbol and the supposed abode of Adam. There is reason to believe that the state of things in Chaldea and Babylon was substantially the same as this."

To this we may append the remark that the Egyptians appear to have recognized the partial truth that there be "that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there be gods many and lords many," but were ignorant of the corollary, "but to us there is but one God the Father." (1 Corinthians, viii, v. 5, 6.)

It must be evident from the light thown on the early history of the world, more especially of Egypt, by the Book of Abraham, that under the almost universally existing form of patriarchal government that "the fathers" were not only High Priests unto God by right of their "fatherhood," but also the kings of the earth by that same right,[8] and it was 0ne of the easiest things in the world for the descendants of these men, who ruled by right divine, to not only reverence them as ministers of heaven's will in all things, temporal and spiritual, but also to deify and afterwards worship them. Indeed in the case of most of these holy patriarchs it was but a very small step in advance of their true position in relation to the sons of men; for "He called them Gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scriptures cannot be broken." (John, x, 35.)

We next appeal to Mr. Osborn, author of "The Religions of the World." In writing of the Egyptian mythology, he states: "This most ancient mythology, as described by authors who lived before the Christian era, and as set forth on the walls of the temples in which its ritual or worship was performed, was taught to the initiated and concealed from the vulgar, that God created all things at the first by the primary emanation from himself, his firstborn, who was the author and giver of all knowledge in heaven and on earth, being at the same time the wisdom and the word of God. The birth of this all-powerful being, his manifestation as an infant, his nurture and education through all the succeeding periods of childhood and of boyhood, constituted the grand mystery of the entire system." So convinced were the priests of this people of the coming of a Son of God, that they had chambers prepared in their temples for his nativity.

Another quotation from Mr. Osborn will, we trust, make the matter yet clearer to our readers. He says: "The founders of the nation knew not only of Ham and Mizriam, but of various men and women contemporary with, them, even of our first parents, Adam and Eve, as well as of our second progenitors, Noah and his wife Tamer. Adam has thus been handed down to us as Athom, the guide or governor of the sun; Eve as Hathor, who presided over the moon; Noah as Nuh, who presided over the Nile; while Ham, Mizraim, Phut, Neveth, or Neith, the wife of Ham, and others, occupied singular and sometimes multiform positions and offices in the Egyptian Pantheon."[9]

We will now leave modern writers, and draw attention to that wonderful papyrus, the Ancient Egyptian Ritual or Book of the Dead, and from its hieroglyphics show the relation in which Adam stood in their mythology, reminding our readers that the abode of the great father of humanity was supposed by them to be the sun, and that the chief seat of his worship was at Heliopolis, the city of the sun, the On of the Scriptures, Aseniath, a daughter of one of whose priests was married to Joseph, the son of Jacob.

Our extracts are necessarily brief, and simply intended to prove the trustworthiness of the quotations already made.

In the fifteenth chapter it is written :

"The praise of Athom[10] when he sets from the land of life, saith the Osir,[11]

" Glory be to Athom, setting from the gate of life,

"When his colors glow in the western gate of the horizon,

"Hail to thee setting from the land of life,

"Thou father of the Gods."

Again, (chapter xvii,) Adam is represented as saying:

"I am the great God, creating myself;

"I am the great Phoenix which is in On;

"I am the creator of beings and existences."

In another place it proclaims:

"Glory be to thee, O Sun; glory be to thee, O Athom,

"When thou goest down, perfect, crowned and glorious."

Adam is also called "the old man whose palace is at On," the "God alone in the firmament," "Father Athom," "Righteous Athom," and much more. Probably were we better versed in the mysteries of its hieroglyphics and idioms, the translation of this wonderful testimony to the belief of the ancients in the immortality of the soul, which this ritual is, would be yet plainer and more instructive. As it is, much of its imagery is very difficult for modern minds to grasp.

From the Egyptians we will turn to the Persians, the people next most likely to show traces in their religion of the influence left by the preaching of the Gospel in patriarchal days. Mr. Hyde, in his "Religion of the Ancient Persians," points out how that Magianism, as set forth in its sacred books, taught that the human race sprang from a single pair; that it bore testimony to the occurrence of the flood; that it mentions Noah and his sons; that as far as Abraham is concerned, it declares him to have been its own author; and that it makes mention also of Moses. Moreover, it contains predictions respecting the appearance on earth of a Savior, who would ultimately overthrow the kingdom of darkness and make supreme and universal the kingdom of light and of God. It also taught the existence of good and of bad angels, also a resurrection of the dead.

The religions of ancient Greece and Rome were, to a very great extent, originally drawn from those of Egypt, Persia and Phoenicia. Many traces of Gospel principles can be found in them, hidden concealed under the mass of filth and abomination that in later ages disgraced the religions of the kingdoms of brass and iron. Still, in all these nations it is admitted that "so far from atheism and godless irreligion being the rule, belief in the Divine, however mistaken, and worship of the Divine, however superstitious, everywhere prevailed." With regard to special Gospel ideas prevailing in all these nations, it has been remarked that "baptism was as completely a portion of the primeval ceremonial worship as was the tenet of immortality and resurrection a portion of the primeval creed." It is also noticeable that all the Greek schools of philosophy taught the doctrine of the eternity of matter, and not only had these races a knowledge of things that occurred in antediluvian days, but in their different, absurd ways they recounted the history of the war in heaven when Lucifer was cast out. Those curious on this point can read their accounts of the war between the Titians and Heaven, and of the giants against Jupiter.

Late discoveries at Nineveh have demonstrated that the Chaldeans had also a very distinct tradition of this pre-Adamite war, as many particulars relating thereto have been found transcribed on the earthen tiles exhumed from the mounds where that once mighty city is supposed to have stood. These tablets having been translated by Mr. Geo. Smith, of the British Museum, prove to be an account of the war in heaven before the creation of this earth, of the fall of man, of the flood, the building of the tower of Babel, etc. The similarity between the statements on these cuneiform records and the Bible account of the same events is very remarkable and interesting, while at the same time they prove how wide spread in ancient times was the knowledge of God's dealings with humanity.

[1] Josephus, Antiquities, Book 1, chap. viii.

[2] Ibid, Book 1, chap. viii.

[3] Ibid, Book 1, chap. vii.

[4] Ethnic Inspiration, by Mr. Goodsir, pages 73 and 80.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Osborn's "Religions of the World."

[7] Mizriam is identified with Osiris, chief lord of the land of the departed.

[8] Max Muller says "king" originally meant "father."

[9] "Religions of the World."

[10] The Egyptian form of the name Adam.

[11] The deceased.