The Book of Abraham is part of the Mormon scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price (1). It was produced by Joseph Smith in 1835, and Smith claimed that it was based on Egyptian papyri which he bought from a mummy exhibition.
Based on Smith’s testimony, Mormons believe that the Book of Abraham is a translation of ancient records which were the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt around 2000 BC. The narratives of the Book of Abraham can be divided into five chapters, each with their own set of narratives (2):
Chapter 1: Abraham looks for the blessings of the patriarchal order, he is persecuted by false priests in Chaldea, Jehovah saves him, and the origins and government of Egypt are reviewed.
Chapter 2: Abraham leaves Ur to go to Canaan, Jehovah appears to him at Haran, all gospel blessings are promised to his seed and through his seed to all, and he goes to Canaan and on to Egypt.
Chapter 3: Abraham learns about the sun, moon, and stars by means of the Urim and Thummim, Jehovah reveals to him the eternal nature of spirits, he learns of pre-Earth life, foreordination, the Creation, the choosing of a Redeemer, and the second estate of man.
Chapter 4: The Gods plan the creation of Earth and all life on it, and plans for the six days of creation commence.
Chapter 5: The Gods concluded their planning of creation, bring creation according to their plans, and Adam names all living creatures.
The Book of Abraham ascribes an important theologically rich vision to Abraham not found within the Hebrew Bible. This was of a pre-mortal existence, the creation of the world, and the idea that the Gods created the universe from pre-existing elements instead of creating it out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). The Book of Abraham further ascribes events to history such as the priest of Elkenah attempting to sacrifice Abraham, God’s revealing of the holy priesthood, and stories concerning the origins of Egypt and its government.
Unlike the Hebrew Bible which Christians and Jews believe portrays a single creator God, the Book of Abraham ventures towards polytheism, the belief in many gods. For Mormons, an important doctrinal deduction from this book is the idea of “first” and “second” estates which hinge on the idea of pre-mortal existence. According to this doctrine, spirits are eternal and possess different intelligences. The first estate denotes the spirit’s existence prior to mortal existence in that the spirits exist in the “first estate.” When spirits take on mortal form they then entire into the “second estate.” Mormons believe that The book of Abraham is an evidence of the inspired calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith (3)
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Book of Abraham: Teacher Manuel. Available.
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Book of Abraham. Available.
3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Book of Abraham: Teacher Manuel. Available.