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.)