I want to say to you, read the book, the Pearl of Great Price, and read the Book of Abraham. The Pearl of Great Price I hold to be one of the most intelligent, one of the most religious books that the world has ever had; but more than that, to me the Pearl of Great Price is true in its name. It contains an ideal of life that is higher and grander and more glorious than I think is found in the pages of any other book unless it be the Holy Bible. It behooves us to read these things, understand them: and I thank God when they are attacked, because it brings to me, after a study and thought, back to the fact that what God has given He has given, and He has nothing to retract." - Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report (April 1913), 74

"...it must be evident to all who seriously consider the matter, that if the Book of Abraham as given to us by Joseph Smith be true, it must have been translated by a greater than human power." - George Reynolds, The Book of Abraham: Its Authenticity Established as a Divine and Ancient Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1879), 4

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Iconotropy and the JS Abraham Facsimiles

This post was originally written and published online by Bill Hamblin at Mormon Scripture Explorations on April 7, 2013, and is reproduced here without alteration (except for slight formatting changes), courtesy of Professor Hamblin - my sincere appreciation.

Iconotropy is an English neologism from Greek, meaning literally “image turning.”  It is defined as “the accidental or deliberate misinterpretation by one culture of the images or myths of another one, especially so as to bring them into accord with those of the first culture.”   Iconotropy is, in fact, the most common ways cultures deal with images from foreign or ancient cultures.  That is to say, we almost always misunderstand and/or transform, at least to some degree, the iconography of other cultures or religions.  The further distanced we are from another culture in time, religion, ideology, or space, the more likely we are to misunderstand their iconography.

There are numerous examples of iconotropy in human history.  The most well-known is the Nazi swastika, which originally was an Indo-European good-luck symbol, possibly representing the sun, and can be found in most cultures throughout the world.  The Nazis iconotropically adopted this symbol for their Nazi ideology, and it is thus understood by most Westerners today.   But among Buddhists, the swastika is an auspicious religious symbol, often associated with images or temples of the Buddha (Below: Buddha with swastika on its chest.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Coptic Spell of the Second Century

In Kerry Muhlestein's latest article, "The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I,"1 he furthers the work of illustrating the cultural context of the mid-Ptolemaic period in its adaptation of Biblical figures in place of Egyptian deities that occurs within Egyptian religious texts. John Gee had previously presented a paper providing significant historical and cultural insight into the ancient owner(s) of the Joseph Smith Papyri, including the pertinent connection between the period in which the JSP emerged and the Ptolemaic Egyptian culture's usage of Biblical materials.2 Muhlestein's paper seems to be a continuation of this subject with a shift towards the culture at large, the culture in which the JSP owner(s) were situated. Also relevant to this discussion is Bill Hamblin's comments on iconotropy, which is partially defined as the "accidental or deliberate misinterpretation by one culture of the images or myths of another one...," but in this case, "the Egyptians themselves, engaged in inconotropic reinterpretations of their own symbols in different Egyptian denominations and times."3

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Millennial Star - Hypocephali in Vienna - 1903

While serving as President of the European Mission, Elder Francis M. Lyman was the general editor of the Millennial Star. A few weeks prior to the article posted below, he became the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles following the passing of Brigham Young, Jr. While editorials were likely written by the general editor, the following editorial was probably authored by "J.J.C." This article references two missionaries in the Swiss Mission, James L. Barker and  John A. Mathis, who noticed a reference to Facsimile 2 from the Book of Abraham in a catalogue for the Imperial Museum of Art History in Vienna: