The Ship in Facsimile 2 as the Throne of God
by Kerry Shirts
Some Critics have judged that Joseph Smith's interpretation of the boat in figure three of facsimile 2 of the BofA is incorrect, but in this essay I take issue with that assessment. Smith says of figure 3: "Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed."
DeHorrack, who worked with some hypocephaluses in the late 1800's called this ship "the bark of Osiris defunct." (as quoted in James R. Harris - "facsimiles of the Book of Abraham", p. 66). Samuel Birch described this figure in the boat as the "god Ra in the (soul) boat vignette of chapters 100, 101, 102, and 136" of the Book of the Dead. Above the boat is a vertical scarabeaus, or sacred beetle called the god Khepra, the creator. (Harris, p. 66). It is interesting to note that variations of the other hypocephali include a horizontal or a vertical scarabas beetle with the name-signs, forms, or combinations representing the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. They pray for Osiris' resurrection and on some hypocephali they are portrayed addressing supplications to the ba (spirit) or image of Osiris. Birch described the figure on the right of the upper hemisphere in the British Museum Hypocephalus 36188 as the "god Ra in the (souls) boat" in the chapters of the Book of the Dead mentioned above. Above the boat is a vertical scarab beetle. Notice also that the figure in the boat holds the was scepter, the symbol of dominion. (Cf. Alan Gardiner, "Egypt of the Pharoahs", p. 215 for several of the principle Egyptian deities, Seth, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Re-Harakhti, Amen-Re, Chnum, carrying this scepter).The idea is very similar to the "Emblem of Min of Koptos" which, according to Wainwright was the lightning bolt, the light weapon. Wainwright, who was one of the excavators of the Great Pyramid as well as Mastaba No. 17 at Meidum (I.E.S. Edwards, "The Pyramids of Egypt," p. 291), says, "In Greek mythology the thunderbolt is the light-weapon with which Zeus blasts his enemies, just as in Semitic mythology the angels of Allah destroy devils and evil djinns with the meteorite. Good evidence that the Greeks themselves identified the lightning with the meteorite is supplied by the expression "star-flung thunderbolt." The expression in Burton's "Thousand Nights and a Night" of "cast at the 'afrit' (me) with a shooting star of fire (shihab min nar). Shihab is the ordinary word for shooting star, but the dangerous nature of it is with the added word 'fire.'" (G.A. Wainwright - "The Emblem of Min" in "Journal of Egyptian Archaeology", 17(1931), p. 25). That the Was scepter means dominion is mentioned in Karl-Theodor Zauzich, "Hieroglyphen ohne Geheimnis," p. 115, and Alan Gardiner, "Egyptian Grammar", p. 559 - "w3s, dominion, lordship"; Cf. Amun in Bonnet "Reallexicon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte", p. 32; also Manfred Lurker - "Gotter und Symbole der Alten Agypter", p. 128 for picture of was scepters flanking ankh [eternal life symbols] in the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. Lurker says the was scepters also represented well being and happiness, p. 127 So it was dominion, but a thoughtful dominion for care over the creation). Budge "AHieroglyphic Vocabulary to the Book of the Dead", notes that the "Heq" scepter is an "emblem of rule", while the "heqet" scepter means "rule, sovereignty, dominion." (p. 281).
Interestingly, in connection with the scarab, a Pyramid Text of Unas reads: "This Unas flieth like a bird and alighteth like a beetle; he flieth like a bird and alighteth like a beetle upon the throne which is empty in the boat of Re." Interestingly, the British Museum Hypocephalus 36188 portrays this god with a scepter capped with a scarab. This is very similar to Joseph Smith's interpretation of the figure as God sitting on his throne with a sun disk "symbol of eternal light" above his head. (Harris, p. 66)
An illustration of this boat of the god in the Egyptian Book of the Dead is shown in full color in Raymond Faulkner's "The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead", Univ. of Texas Press, Edited by Carol Andrews, 1972, pp. 126f, where it is described as Atum, Hathor and three other enthroned deities, all holding was scepters, pulling on ropes attached to a boat on whose prow squats Horus as a child. Nakht stands in the boat poling, alongside a large falcon's head wearing a sun disc. In the following boat, steered by Thoth, the falcon-headed sun-god sits enthroned behind the scarab-headed Khepri and Isis. Chapter 136 of the Book of the Dead says "I am the Great one among the gods, coming in the two barks of the Lord of Sau, the figure of the great saluter, who hath made the Flame sun. Let the fathers and their apes make way for me, that I may enter the mount of Glory and pass through where the great ones are." (Harris, p. 66). The Faulkner translation says "A path is made for me at the head of the Sacred Bark, and I am lifted up as the sun disc...let me pass, for I am a mighty one, Lord of the mighty ones; I am a noble of the Lord of Righteousness, whom Wadjet made." (Faulkner, p. 126). Note here that Wadjet is mentioned, but is not pictured in the accompanying vignette. However, in the Joseph Smith diagram the Wedjat Eye is shown twice. Now this is interesting because it is the symbol for the resurrection, for life, wholeness, and the nourishment of the gods. The restored eye is symbolic of life and the resurrection. (Harris, p. 67). Abraham in one papyrus is called the pupil of the Wedjat-eye, fourfold Qmr, creator of the mouth, who created creation, great verdant creation, (Cf. John 1:1! - "En arkhe en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos" - the word is what created!). Qmr means something like creator, creation, mightier, or one who has power over. Here it is very noteworthy that the Patriarch Abraham is called "the apple of the Wedjat eye." The Wedjat-eye was a symbol of perfection, prosperity, preservation, wholeness, completion, health, and resurrection. It is mentioned frequently and is closely related in some chapters of the Book of the Dead (162-167) which treat the theme of preserving the dead until the time of the resurrection. (John Gee, "Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts", in "The Ensign", July, 1992, p. 61). The hypocephalus itself symbolized the eye of Re or Horus, i.e., the sun, and the scenes portrayed on it relate to the Egyptian concept of the resurrection of life after death. To the Egyptians the daily rising and setting of the sun was a vivid symbol of the resurrection. The hypocephalus itself represented all that the sun encircles, i.e. the whole world. The upper portion represented the world of men and the day sky, and the lower portion (the part with the cow) the nether world and the night sky. (Michael Dennis Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus...Seventeen Years Later", FARMS RHO-94, 1994, p. 1). Bonnet "Reallexicon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte", p. 314, 630 gives the astronomical background to the "Horusauge" being involved with the sun and the moon.
What is so interesting is that the pieces of the eye represent aspects of an almost complete personality. All parts of the eye equal 63/64ths, leaving 1/64th unidentified. To understand the full compass of the eye was to have the key to eternal life. Since this symbol is consistently identified by Joseph Smith with the "grand key-words of the Priesthood" we can speculate whether the 1/64 could be what the Egyptians regarded as the secret or sacred name of God. Those possessing the secret of the eye were believed to reach a new and higher level of consciousness. Further possession of the eye would determine the successor of Osiris in the battle between Horus and Set; its possessor would, therefore, have the right to rule and reign in heaven. Truly this sign, the wd-t, could appropriately represent the "Grand Key-Words" and highest aspirations of the priesthood. (Harris, p. 67). The Wedjat eye is explained by Plutarch (De Iside et Osiride, 51) to represent "divine providence" (literally "foreknowledge"), the divine wisdom by which God oversees and cares for all his creation. It is not unreasonable to see in this "the Grand Key-Words of the priesthood" (The glory of God is intelligence D&C 93:36). (Rhodes, p. 9). Manfred Lurker, "Gotter und Symbole der Alten Agypter" says "The resurrection of Osiris was attributed...partly to Horus who embraced his father and gave him the eye of Horus to eat." (p. 93). The Wedjat eye, Lurker points out, also is "a symbol of the pwer of the god of light... some wedjat eyes had an arm carrying the ankh or the papyrus staff, symbol for 'to flourish'. The wedjat-eye was also used as a protection against the evil eye." (p. 129). Gardiner ("Egyptian Grammar", p. 197) said that the missing 1/64 was supplied magically by the God Thoth. That the wedjat-eye is shown twice with the "ship of the god" is entirely appropriate in the context of what the Egyptians felt it represented, and with what Joseph Smith described it as. *Nothing* is incorrect or exaggerated or incomplete with the symbol and its accompanying description.
Now the idea of the god in the boat. Budge in his "Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection", vol. 2, notes some interesting things with the gods in their ships. Isis prays and says to the god in the ship "Thou hast conquered heaven by thy greatness of thy majesty in thy name of 'Prince of the festival of the fifteenth day.' [notice in the bottom flank of the ship in fig. 4 the fifteen dots!] Thou risest upon us like Re every day; thou shinest on us like Atem. Gods and men live at the sight of thee." (Budge, p. 62). "The holy and divine emanation which cometh forth from thee vivifieth gods, men, quadrupeds, and reptiles, and they live thereby...Hail thou Lord, there existeth no god who is like unto thee." (p. 63). "Grant thou that I may have my being as a follower of thy majesty...the god thereof is the Lord of Maat, the Lord of offerings, the Most Holy One...assuredly there shall be joy to him that performeth Maat..." (p. 73). "Homage to thee, O thou God, holy one, great in beneficient deeds, thou Prince of Eternity, who presideth over his place in the Sektet Boat, thou Mighty One of risings in the Atet Boat!" (p. 74). "Thou rollest up into the horizon, thou hast set light over the darkness, thou sendest forth air (or light) from thy plumes, and thou floodest the two lands like the Disk at daybreak. Thy crown penetrateth the heigth of heaven, thou art the companion of the stars, and the guide of every god." (p. 77f).
Or, in short, God "clothed with power and authority, with a crown of eternal light upon his head"! Joseph Smith knew whereof he spoke!
Ed Ashment argued that Joseph Smith simply took this ship from J.S. Papyri IV from the and filled in space on the hypocephalus. Ashment also contends that the text by the figure's head closely resembles rubrics from the Book of the Dead 104 and 106. So, when we look at the plate XXI of the Greenfield Papyrus in the British Museum, which is a rendition of the Theban Book of the Dead 104, we see it repeated 4 and a half times, while the inscription appears 3 times in the J.S. Papyri IV. This rubric which Ashment believes Smith took off of Pap IV appears numerous times in the Book of the Dead and is recited in order to allay a threatening situation for the "dead" in the Netherworld.
Tehet Metu khf an - "To recite a formula in front of or at a time when" (you're in trouble).
Ashment's problem is obvious. While there is a similarity in the general shape of the signs comprising this phrase when compared with the signs in fig. 3 of the Hypocephalus, the specific signs are radically different. And the meaning of the rubric phrase from Papyrus J.S. IV is totally inappropriate for this god seated in his ship, while the hieroglyphic phrase that is in fig. 3 by the head of the figure in the boat is *exactly correct*. The meaning of J.S. Fac. 2 inscription placed in Fig. 3 can be read as follows:
the chick = "u"
the feather = "a"
the ax = "ntr", followed by the determinative.
The meaning of this in Budge's "Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary" is:
"Ua[a]ntr = The Sacred Boat [of the seated God].
Budge, vol. 1, pp. 152 the first column shows the chick when used in various contexts of various gods clearly and obviously means "the boat of the god" exactly as Joseph Smith has it. The "uaa-ui" Budge says "the two great boats [of the sun god]. Budge p. 401 "neter" obviously means "god", and on p. 403 the "Neter tep-t is the "boat of the god Ra." Joseph Smith is directly correct in this identification of the god sitting in his boat.
Now the critics have made a big to-do about this part of the hypocephalus being missing. However, far from being a liability against Joseph Smith, this actually turns out to be in his favor. Consider that Joseph made a valid and defensible even remarkable interpretation of the Egyptian material. Consider also that if a cow scene had been put here Smith would have blown it badly. In other hypocephali the ship with the god is in the upper regions of the hypocephali exactly where they should be. A ship of the god in this upper area of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus is not out of place at all. (James Harris - "Understanding Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham", p. 96f; Cf. Hugh Nibley - "The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri", pp. 133-135!). Gardiner also noted that the "wi3" boat is "particularly divine ship" and notice that the word starts with a chick, which the Egyptian hieroglyph in the J.S. hypocephalus also does. ("Egyptian Grammar", p. 37 2nd column of vocabulary).
All in all, as one carefully analyzes the hypocephalus and Joseph Smith's marvelous interpretations we begin to see just how powerful his prophetic insights were. I believe the hypocephalus is the strongest witness to the truth that Joseph Smith taught. It's symbolism is exact, precisely religious involving us all in the cosmic afterlife, in glorious resurrection. The big picture is never lost sight of. It is the perfect example of the correlation of the microcosm [mankind] with the macrocosm [the eternal life in everlasting realms of light].
Kerry A. Shirts