THE THREE FACSIMILES FROM THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
Hugh W. Nibley (1980)[Typos and typographical nonsequiturs are not Nibley's. This is still in the editing process. Full references will be provided and some additional notes when time allows.]
In the middle of the present century a highly respected university librarian in Salt Lake City
went about fervidly proclaiming that the one fatal indiscretion committed by Joseph Smith in all
his ministry of deception was his daring publication of facsimiles of three ancient Egyptian
drawings in his possession, accompanied by his own peculiar interpretation of them. A
hand-written confession of fraud could not have been more damning, according to Mr. F, than
this foolhardy challenge to the scholars of the world. A mere shake of the head by the first real
Egyptologist to look at the engravings and read Smith's explanations, would be enough to bring
down the whole structure of Mormonism.
It is not the purpose of these articles to review the various assaults made on the Book of
Abraham, and why none of them has proven fatal or even very effective. That story has been told
elsewhere. This is a look at the facsimiles themselves and the Explanations thereof in the light of
recent trends and discoveries.
The three Facsimiles included as part of the Book of Abraham present some engaging problems for people who like puzzles. At first a major issue was whether the Mormons themselves had not made significant alterations in the drawings; but the discovery of one of the originals now makes it safe to assume that the Facsimiles are not such bad copies after all, since it is at once apparent that much of the crudeness of the work must be laid at the door of the Egyptian artist himself. Everyone is free, gazing upon these images, to work things out to his own satisfaction and to compare his solution to the Explanations given by Joseph Smith.
But that is only the beginning of the digging that must be done if we are to get to the bottom
of things. At least four more sources of wisdom remain to be explored.
1) First of all we must ask, what did the Egyptians themselves have to say about these scenes?
2) what do the Jewish records report about the strange episodes depicted--can these Egyptian pictures possibly concern Abraham?
3) If we ask whether the writings of the "Gentiles" of old touch upon the subject we shall be surprised to discover how extensively they do.
4) Finally, what has modern, especially contemporary scholarship come up with? In the past this
last has been the only question asked, but since the scholars have been totally remiss in
consulting the other sources we must ask them to wait a while and stand aside until that very
necessary work is done.
There are many hundreds of drawings found in Egyptian funerary documents that closely resemble our Facsimiles No. 1 and 3, and over a hundred on the pattern of No. 2. No two of these, however, are exactly alike, and recent studies comparing them have come to appreciate that though the man on the couch and the man on the throne belong to obviously stock situations, what appeared at first glance as minor variations in the pictures, or may even escape the notice of the casual viewer altogether, are sometimes of real significance. Thus a recent study of more than a hundred compositions of the type of facsimile No. 3 has shown that though they all deal with scenes at the court of Pharaoh, no two depict the same event, and that they are not funerary scenes at all, but records of those memorable occasions in the lives of the men who commissioned the pictures when they had the supreme honor of being presented at court.
Sometimes one of these "stock representations" differs drastically from the others, none
moreso than our Facsimile No, 1.
FACSIMILE NO. 1
The instant reaction of most professing Egyptologists to the sight of Facsimile No. 1 is to announce that it is the most- routine and common place object imaginable, that countless drawings identical with this one are to be found on tomb and coffin walls and papyri. Some of the better scholars were given pause, however, and right from the beginning T. Deveria insisted that the Mormons must have made drastic alterations in the sketches, because they were decidedly not as they should be. The main effort of the learned since the discovery of the original in a damaged condition in 1967 has been to reconstruct the missing parts in a way to show that they were really nothing out of the ordinary, while quietly ignoring the really impressive uniqueness of the parts that are not missing.
For instance, an eminent Egyptologist maintained that the fingers of the reclining man's upper
hand are really the feathers of a bird. In time, however, he yielded enough to declare that even if
they were fingers it would make no difference to the interpretation. Wouldn't it? If this turns out
to be the only instance known of the man on the couch lifting two hands, that would indeed make
a great deal of difference. But forget about the fingers and the feathers; in what other
"embalming scene" does a priest with or without an Anubis headdress, lean over a corpse that is
waving both an arm and a leg? That gesture, as a number of special studies have pointed out,
indicates a stirring to life and a rising from the couch, not the utter quiescence of a corpse about
to be laid away. And what about the big crocodial under the couch? Or the lotus stand? You
will not find them in any of the other Lion-couch vignettes. This figure waving an arm and a leg
is indeed quite uncommon among lion couch scenes, being rarely described, we are told because
of its peculiarly sacred nature (Era, June 1969, 126), but it does occur, and in a most significant
The best-known examples of such a figure (e.g., from the tomb of Seti I and the Temple of Opet) are depicting an episode from the Sed Festival, in which the King is ritually put to death and then restored to life. An important part of the Sed Festival was the choosing of a substitute to die for the King, so that he would not have to undergo the painful process to achieve resurrection. So in pictures resembling this one we do indeed have a situation such as that described by Joseph Smith as the attempt by agents of Pharaoh to sacrifice Abraham. The Jewish traditions tell us that the attempt was actually made and failed in the manner described in the Book of Abraham.(Era, 1969, )
The Egyptians have a good deal to say on the subject. A few clear statements should suffice,
since this is not a detailed study. In the first place there is an impressive lion-couch scene
showing the King on his back, while above his head we read the word "Awake!" He is not about
to be buried; he is going to escape that fate, though that appears to be his doom. The Sed
Festival entailed putting the King to death only so that he could arise anew as the ruler of the new
cycle having overcome the powers of death and thereby demonstrated his own divine power and
vindicated his life-giving authority. A dramatic text has been discovered and and commentated
by a number of top-ranking Egyptologists, which vividly recalls the scene before us in Facsimile
No. 1. It is a very old dramatic production preserved in Spell 312 of the Coffin Texts and the
78th Chapter of the Book of the Dead. The scene opens with the King as Osiris lying helpless on
the lion couch, calling upon the Most High God to deliver him from his plight; in reply to his
prayer a Messenger (angel) appears in the form of a hawk and offers to save him; but the
messenger has neither the power nor the authority--he must go up to heaven go get the proper
authorization from the Lord of All. While he is away a false Horus--a comic character according
to same--appears and boasts of his power and glory, offering to deliver the victim on the couch.
A few questions dealing with the mysteries of the veil soon expose him as an ignoramus and a
fraud, and the real Horus appears, while a voice from heaven attests his bona fides, and the hero
on the bed is delivered. Bed or altar? Both: the actual discovery of Egyptian beds, altars of
sacrifice, and embalming tables shows that all three faithfully preserve the form of the
lion-couch. But it was the Book of Abraham that first pointed that out.
Granted that the Egyptian dramatization reminds us very much of the situation in the Book of
Abraham, where does the false angel come in, and how does the Osiris on the couch happen to be
Abraham? The former is always designated by Prof. Brunner as "the Angel of Light," and from
his lines in the play it is plain that he is Satan. The man on the couch is Pharaoh at the Sed
Festival, or someone honored by being permitted to substitute for him in that uncomfortable
situation according to the established Egyptian practice in which Abraham was definitely
involved according to Hebrew traditions.
The Jewish scenario to which we refer, frowned upon by the Rabbis of Normative Judaism calls for a certain Cosmocrator, usually designated as Nimrod, but in the earliest versions of the story emphatically identified with Pharaoh , who sees in the youthful Abraham a rival claimant to his universal kingship and priesthood, and attempts to put him to death on a specially constructed altar. At the crucial moment Abraham calls on God for deliverance and an angel comes to the rescue, while the voice of God is heard from above , the altar is overthrown and the sacrificing priest is killed, thus supplying the required human sacrifice and satisfying the King's need for a substitute. An important element of the story is the intervention of Lucifer, sometimes flying through the air as a bird, first trying to effect the sacrifice and then trying to prevent it, claiming that he is the one who can save Abraham-----is he the False Horus of the Egyptian drama? In some versions Abraham refuses the help of the real angel until the voice of God speaking directly from heaven, effects his deliverance. Frequent references to Hagar as the Egyptian Princess whose father was the one who tried to sacrifice Abraham, identified the mysterious Nimrod with the Pharaoh, as does much other evidence. The altar built for the sacrifice was a special structure, sometimes specifically described as a "an ingenious bedstead." Such altar beds were set up in Sodom and Gomorrah where Abraham's servant who exactly resembled him was seized as a sacrificial victim by the same people who sacrificed the three daughters of Lot because of their virtue. All of this from sources unpublished in Joseph Smith's day.
The earliest stratum of Greek legend preserves the story of the sacrificial beds not only
procrustes but of many kings who engaged in the common practice of putting noble strangers to
death as substitutes for themselves in sacrificial rites meant to bring fertility to lands blasted with
drought. We should mention here that in the Egyptian as well as the Hebrew traditions,
including those in the Old Testament, a desperate dominion of withering heat and famine was
the motivation for the human sacrifices intended to relieve it by appeasing the powers; and
everywhere the King, as the one responsible for the prosperity of the people and the fertility of
the land, was expected to pay the price--unless he could find a substitute. Many Greek legendary
heros, entering such blighted lands in their wanderings, were routinely entertained and
confronted by the local ruler who challenged all such comers to some kind of a duel or contest in
which the loser lost his life and thus supplied the needed sacrifice in place of the King. What
made these men heroes was that they alone were able to beat the game, turn the tables, slay their
cruel hosts on their own duelling-grounds and usually marry the queen or princess. The most
famous of such heroes by far was Hercules, the wandering champion and benefactor of the
oppressed whose culminating adventure takes us right into Egypt and the cruel sacrificial
altar-beds of Busiris. After ridding Libya of the vile king Antaeus and restoring fertility to the
land, Hercules proceeded to the neighboring Kingdom of Egypt, ruled at that time by Antaeus's
brother Busiris, and suffering from a terrible drought. "The cruel altars of Busiris" were
proverbial among the ancient who credited that monarch with the invention of a fiendishly
ingenious bedstead on which he would sacrifice noble visitors whom he entertained at his court.
It worked with everyone but Hercules who after being bound on the altar broke his bands both by
supernatural aid and supernatural strength and slew the high-priest while the king pleaded for his
life. The event is vividly recalled by paintings on the famous Busiris Hydras among the oldest
and most impressive of painted Greek vases.
So we have the wandering ancestor-heroes of the Greeks wandering through the world as a benefactor of the race as "the famine waxed strong in the land being offered as a substitute for Pharaoh on a specially prepared altar-bed, only to escape at the last moment while the officiating priest supplied the necessary substitute. The Egyptian comedy and the Jewish stories of Sodom with their praying victims on the altar come well over a thousand years apart, but the gap is impressively bridged by the Busiris legend of Minoan-Mycenaean provenance. From the same milieu come many other stories of Procrustes bed-altars, and it is significant that the other name of Procrustes, Damastes, means exactly the same as Sodom--the Forcer, the Violator.
The contribution of modern scholarship to the subject has been the gathering and comparing of materials to form a definite ritual pattern--the "Patternism" that has become central to comparative studies since its propagation from the "Cambridge School" in the 1930's. Myth reflects ritual and ritual is reality. The finding of the names of Horus and Osiris together in a royal tomb of the First Dynasty has suddenly set scholars to wondering whether this highly mythological pair supposedly representing a conflict of two religions, might not have been real people after all. Once seen only through the dim and fanciful mists of poetic imagination, ancient and modern, the characters of Homer and Aeschylus now emerge as both individuals and types.
The putting of things on a ritual basis not only justifies us in assuming the actual performance
of the episodes described, but explains why in the stories the same things seem to happen over
and over again. Why for example must Abraham go through the same routine with Pharaoh and
Abimelech regarding Sarah; why must he repeat his own sacrificial trial with his son Isaac? Why
must Isaac go through the same long rigamaroll with Abimelech that his father did? Why must
Hagar and Ishmael suffer mortal jeopardy, be rescued by an angel at the last moment, and be
promised on the spot the blessings of royal progeny exactly as Sarah and Isaac were? Why is
Egypt specifically brought into the picture in everyone of these episodes? Renan thought that he
had proven once and far all that Jesus was a mythical figure because he did the very things that
attributed to earlier religious and legendary figures. But the repetition of the characteristic motifs
long associated sometimes with solar, sometimes with vegetation, and almost always with
corination rights is the best index of authenticity.
The Book of Abraham has with uncanny skill anticipated the trends of modern scholarship; note what strong emphasis is placed on the ritual nature of everything that happens in the story of Abraham's sacrifice and the Explanation of the Facsimile. What is happening to Abraham is no unique experience. Others have been sacrificed on the same altar by the same priests. The leit-motif of the Egyptian episode in the Book of Abraham is Pharaoh's claim to priesthood and kingship. While this is also the main theme in the Jewish legends we are prone to overlook the fact that it dominates the Bible story also. In Genesis 26 for example, everything that happens between Isaac and Abimelech is explained in terms of rivalry between Abimelech and Abraham; it is on1y when the argument is settled in favor of Abraham that the waters flow, the fields bear, and the herds and the populus increase. In the many accounts it is always Abraham who after many trials is proven to be the "holder of his vessel (ochema container); over the whole inhabited world."
FACSIMILE NO. 2
In both accounts the purpose of the journey is to give Abraham instructions in
cosmology--how the universe is constructed; he is to be shown the whole thing, heaven and earth
and all living things on the face of the earth. In both Abraham is shown the heavenly court of
judgment in which scholars have been quick to detect obvious dependence on the Egyptian
"Psychostasy" scenes from the Book of the Dead. In Apocalypse XVIII Abraham sees "beneath
the throne, four fiery, living beings...one was like a lion, one like a man, one like an ox, and one
like an angel." These are the four Canopic figures that appear before the throne of Judgment in
the Joseph Smith Papyri No. IV, as well as beneath the altar-bed in Facsimile No. 1 (Figs. 5, 6, 7,
8), and as Fig. 6 in Facsimile No. 2, correctly explained in this context as representing "this earth
in its four quarters." To find these four old friends at home in the Apocalypse of Abraham is an
undeniable link between the Book of Abraham and the Book of the Dead.
In the Book of Abraham also we are told that the plan of the cosmos, represented by Facsimile
No. 2, was "revealed from God to Abraham as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had
built unto the Lord" (Fac. 2, Fig. 2).
The situation meets us also in Genesis 15, obscured by a thick smoke-screen of censorship, but
nevertheless containing all the very peculiar elements of the story their proper prospective,
There is the challenge and threat (Genesis 15:6, 8); the preparation for sacrifice (Gen. 5:9) with
special attention to "a turtle and a dove," which unlike the other offerings were not severed into
but kept intact (Gen. 15:9-10). The heifer, goat and ram, all Zodiacal signs and all three years
old are also common "canopic" figures, especially conspicuous on hypocephali (Fac. 2, Fig. 6).
Then comes the fire, terror of death, passing out, covenant, and view of the world in that order.
About the time the sun set, "an ekstasis fell upon Abraham," as the septuagent puts it,
(Gen. 15:12) "and behold a great dark fear fell upon him." In the intimate presence of death
Abraham, is assured, as in the other writings, that he is not going to die this time: "...and he said
to Abraham...15. Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, thou shalt be buried in a good old age"
(Gen. 15:15). So then "the sun went towards its setting; there was a flame, and behold there was
a smoking furnace and torches of fire..." (Gen. 15:17). Let us stop right there to recall that
Abraham nearly met death on the altar as the torches were cast into the vast sacrificial bonfire
prepared for him in "the furnace of Ur of the Chaldees" and that even at the moment of his
deliver from the altar (the identical situation in Abr. 1: 15-20), "that day God made his covenant
with Abraham, saying: I will give thee this land," which is then described and unfolded to
Abraham's view with all the geographic precision of a map. Covenant and hypocephalus here go
together, for it was the express purpose of the latter, as the Egyptians saw it, to assure deliverance
from the destroyer and resurrection to the person lying helpless on the altar under the blackness
of death, and to provide a pattern of the cosmos.
Abraham's angelic guide promises him, in the Apocalypse (XII), a view of "the fulness of the
whole world and its circle," and in the process of the journey showed him "the firmaments...the
creation foreshadowed in this expanse... the times (aeons) prepared...the earth and its fruits, and
all that move upon it...the power of its men...and their dispensations..." (XXI). He was shown all
this in a picture, a graphic presentation in which he sees "men and women and children, half of
them on the right side and half of them on the left side of the picture." the angel explains as he
points, that "these which are on the left side are...some for judgment and restoration, and others
for vengeance and destruction...But these on the right side of the picture...I have ordained to be
born of thee and to be called My people." (XXII). "And I looked and say: lo, the picture swayed
and...on its left side, a heathen people...pillaged those who were on the right side..." (XXVII).
Scholars were quick to notice that this depiction of the cosmic circle and the divided world
within it is exactly what meets us in the description of the famous Shield of Achilles from the
18th Book of the Iliad, which we must now consider. Indeed, Justin Martyr called attention to
the parallel, with the explanation that Homer got the idea from Moses while he was visiting
Egypt. The 18th Book of Iliad has long been recognized as a separate and independent work in
itself. Its imagery seems to come right out of the world of the Abraham Apocrypha, and the
shield is not the only tie between the two. Consider the situation in which the shield is delivered.
The scene opens with a great mourning. Thetis is mourning not for Patroclus, but for her own
son; it is the sure death of Achilles which harrows the soul. She waits and clasps his head like
the mourning Isis when he comes to ask for her aid, and laments him as already dead (lines 70ff).
He tells her that God in heaven has heard his prayer (79), but since the death of Patrocus he can
live no longer unless he makes sacrifice of Hector to atone for his friend and double (90ff); for
this resolve his mother declares that his doom is sealed, he is already as good as dead--to which
proposition he agrees: "Well then, let me die right now, since I was not able to rescue my slain
companion" (98f). He agrees further with his mother that he will never live to return home
again--the whole episode harps on Achilles own death, which he dreads even as Abraham does in
the Testament (115ff). But before his own ritual demise he himself must offer a human sacrifice
to vindicate the spirit of Patroclus; he must slay Hector: the substitute motif again. But before he
can do that Thetis must go up to heaven and fetch down to him a special panoply (134ff). And
all this time Achilles lies flat and refuses to get up while his mother mourns for him. At once we
think of the messenger bird in the Egyptian drama of the lion-couch, and of the mourning of
mother Isis. But after she departs another woman, "swift Iris the messenger" (angel is the word)
comes from heaven and orders him to arise: "Get up now, don't lie there any longer!" (178).
Arising, he is transfigured as "from the head of Achilles flame mounted to heaven" (214); the
Opposing host was paralyzed with fear "when they saw the terrible (unextinguishable) fire
blazing above the head of the great-hearted son of Peleus (225f).
This calls up the image of Abraham arising from the altar of Nimrod or Pharaoh unharmed by
the unquenchable fire that consumes the terrified spectators, soldier! and priests. Next comes an
ominous account of a grim and unwelcome sun set recalling Abraham's situation on the
mountain, as "all night long the Achaeans made moan and lamentation." For Patroclus to be
sure, but it is Achilles' death that the poet has in mind as the hero himself mourns violently
(316ff), and promises to sacrifice 12 Trojans at his pyre (336). It was a night of unrelieved
gloom, "a horror of great darkness," with the impending death of Achilles the main theme
(354ff). Meanwhile Thetis goes to heaven, to the "imperishable starry" abode of Hephaestus,
(the Egyptians called the northern stars the Imperishable Ones). At this point there is a flashback
to an earlier time when we are told that Hephaestus receives Thetis with honor because she had
comforted him when he was cast down from heaven long before through the (394ff)
machinations of a goddess who had no compassion.
This deserves mention here because the Book of Abraham is preceded in the Pearl of Great Price by the Book of Enoch in which these traditions are recounted.
The first thing Hephaestus created (poiei) for Thetis (and the Greeks in Egypt identified Hephaestus with Chnum, the Creator), was the great shield which ancient and modern scholars compare with God's plan of the universe as shown to Moses and Abraham. The common elements to which they point are
1) it was large and impressive,
2) completely covered with designs,
3) it was circular (oryx),
4) contained curious and recondite symbols (482: daidala hoila iduieisi prapidessin);
5) it represented the earth,
6) a1so the heavenly bodies--the Sun, Moon and the constellations. The constellations named incidentally are not those of the familiar star catalogue of Hellenistic and Babylonian provenance but the complete list of specifically Egyptian constellations.
7) The main part of the great circle was divided into two halves, the one depicting the civilized world at peace, the other at war;
8) in the city at peace we see a real Greek drama in progress, as two men argue about the blood-price of a Mn slain, while the people stand by taking sides like the members of a proper Greek chorus. The judges are a council of elders "sitting upon shining (polished) stones in a sacred circle, holding the scepters of far-heard heralds in their hands--which takes us into the sacred complexes of the Megolithic.
9) the next picture is a world at war, with all the attendant horrors of that way of life (510ff).
Then back to the peaceful scene again, with emphasis on agricultural and fertility year-rites in a
happy and well-governed kingdom (541ff) taking us back to the ring-dances of the threshing
floors of Crete and the Orient (590ff). Then a final mention of the rim, representing the mighty
river Oceanus, the celestial waters of the Egyptian Nun, surrounding it all. When the shield was
finished Thetis brought the armor down from heaven, coming "like a falcon" to the relief of her
son (616). So the messenger-bird is a falcon after all; we don't seem to be able to escape the
The comparison of the Greek and the Jewish accounts keeps us looking towards Egypt, and it is surprising that Dr. Schmidt, who insists on associating the Abraham Literature with pictures from the Book of the Dead, did not notice the Egyptian version of the cosmic drawing. It is perhaps because the hypocephali are comparatively rare documents and not properly included in the Book of the Dead that he overlooked them. A comparison of the 100-odd available hypocephali soon shows that though there is the greatest variety of detail among them certain salient features are never Lacking, to wit,
1) they are round,
2) they have a conspicuous rim bearing inscriptions,
3) the main circle in the center, is always divided into two equal or nearly equal opposing parts, usually upside-down to each other and sometimes facing each other,
4) the one representing the orbs of light in the upper heavens, the other "the lower regions" (Cf.
Test. Abr. XXI). More of this later, but here it is to be noted that in those hypocephali in which
the designs are reduced to a bare minimum this theme of the two antithetical halves is the last to
be retained as if it was the ultimate meaning or' the thing.
This points to the great age of the pattens here conveyed, for the confrontations of two worlds, the world at peace and the world at war, is the theme of those famous archaic palettes dating from Predynastic times in Egypt (3150 B.C.), as has been interpreted by S. Schott. Though the
hypocephali come from a late period, the theme is thus a perennial one; the palettes are indeed
large and shaped like shields, admonishing us to attribute no late origin to the cosmic chart
shown to Abraham or to the shield of Achilles. The palettes, according to Schott "show an
attempt of speculative wisdom to explain this world as an interplay (Wechselspiel) of Joy and
Strife," it is "an allegory on the Way of the world," and "in this setting the figure of kingship in
human form first appeared," in mesopotamia as well as in Egypt. other cosmic charts resembling
hypocephali in meaning as well as design, are not uncommon in old Egyptian, Babylonian,
Jewish books. Indeed, the general idea of such a divided circle seems to be world-wide. One of
them is a conscious adaptation of the celestial hypocephali to the sacred geography of Egypt.
Such circular maps from the lids of sarcophagi and the ceilings of temples intelligible celestial
and geographical names and symbols employing the main characteristics of the (celestial)
hypocephali in the division and the decoration of the circles. The rounded tops of many funerary
stelae, some of great age, are adorned with the same motifs as the hypocephali and earth-maps,
giving further vindication of the real age of the hypocephalus motif.
According to J. T. Milik, "the oldest Jewish document attributed to Enoch" is the
Astronomical Book of Enoch from Qumran (Enastr). Milik believes that the author of Gen. 5:23
by putting Enoch's age at 365 years, "implies, in guarded terms, the existence of astronomical
works circulating under the name of Enoch." in Abraham's time Egypt was the sole possessor
according to O. Neugebauer, of the calendar of 365 days, "the only intelligent calendar ever
devised by humans." We are also told by Eupolemos (158 B.C.) that Abraham "initiated the
priests of Heliopolis in astrology and in other sciences, revealing to them that the invention of
these (sciences) goes back to Enoch... not the Egyptians. The Greeks claim that Atlas invented
astrology, but Atlas is none other than Enoch..." Enoch received his instruction of those things,
as Milik rightly interprets the texts, "from the angels of God."
We mention Enoch here because in the newly discovered and oldest known Enoch texts, from
Qumran, we are told how Enoch after going to heaven and being instructed by the angels "came
back on to the earth amongst the sons of men and he witnessed against all of them...and he
described all", including "the sky and the paths of its hosts and the months...so that the [just?] do
not go astray... " Accordingly we find the Enoch texts illustrated by early maps of the cosmos,
including the habitable world, and the starry heavens beyond with various regions of both duly
designated--"the great darkness," "the pillars of the heavens," "the limits of the heavens," all in
great circles among which are sometimes groups of stars and maps of the Near East; one very
good map shows the whole region from Italy to the Persian Gulf in the center of the big circle. It
was "As a redivivus on leave from his sojourn in Paradise, that the patriarch Enoch draws up in
writing his scientific and religious teachings..." according to Milik, which makes him Abraham's
predecessor in the chart drawing business. And as Abraham followed Enoch so Moses according
to the Pearl of Great Price follows Abraham. For Moses also when on a mountain he despaired
of his life under the blows of the Adversary and being at the point of death "lifted his eyes unto
heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost...and calling upon the name of God he beheld his glory
again (Mos. 1:24-25).
But it doesn't stop there. having been carried back to heaven by the Dove = Holy Ghost, he is
given a view of the cosmos: "And...as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and
beheld the earth, yea even all of it... discerning it by the Spirit of God. And he beheld also the
inhabitants thereof... And he beheld many lands, and...there were inhabitants on the face
thereof... And the Lord God said unto Moses...The heavens they are many...but they are
numbered unto me, for they are mine...And now Moses my son, I will speak unto thee
concerning this earth upon which thou standest, and thou shalt write the things which I shall
speak." (Mos. 1:27). Thus the Moses scenario repeats the Enoch story and the Abraham story,
and Facsimile No. 2 is a perfect illustration to go with all of then. Let us remember, incidentally,
that this Book of Moses was written in 1830, long before anyone heard of the Joseph Smith
Papyri or the Book of Abraham, to say nothing of the Apocalypse and Testament of Abraham.
The Zohar tells us that when Abraham in his wanderings reached the exact center of the
inhabited world, always the scientist, "he tried to weigh and estimate it but could get no result:
.all the answers were completely,neutral;" whatever he was doing, "from this he concluded that
the whole world had been planted out in all directions from that point in the middle," so that "all
the powers in charge of the other quarters of the earth issued from there." This suggests the maps
found in ancient and medieval Jewish writings such as the Sefer Yetzirah and the Berayta and the
Enoch maps which "evoke the rhythms of the cosmos," as Sed puts it. In the much older
Qumran texts, Enoch's "picture of the world is remarkably similar to that in the Babylonian map
compiled some time after the 9th century B.C.," and deals with "real , not mythological
geography" (Milik). Origen the first and greatest of Christian theologians, reports that stars,
times and seasons were set forth in "many books attributed (called) to (of) Enoch, the contents of
which are secret and arcane." Milik points out that "only very few copies of the Astronomical
book in circulation," most likely because the writings were very secret--another score for the
Pearl of Great Price: "Write the things which I shall speak... and they shall be had again among
the children of men--among as many as shall believe...Show them not unto any except them that
believe." (Mos. 1:40-42)
Before considering the realities of a hypocephalus we must present the opinions of the learned on the subject. Most instructive it is to compare their comments on Joseph Smith's interpretations with their own independent readings of the hypocephali; for while they ridicule him with a single voice, their conclusions when Smith is out of sight and mind are almost exactly the same as his. The earliest critics was one of the best, Th. Deveria, who protested that the God in Fig. 1 is "always represented with 4 ram's heads instead of 2, so that it is certain that the head has been altered," being "evidently a poor copy of a double-headed human somewhere." His sharp eye failed to notice what was right before him, that the head in question is identical with that on the figure immediately above, i.e., Fig. 2, S. Birch (1855): "The inscription is so badly engraved that it is not possible to make out its meaning, and Smith's interpretation throws no light on it." A.E. Sayce (1912): It is just "an ordinary hypocephalus..." (Lythgoe) (1912) "Why, that is a sad joke. The representation is the most common of all in Egyptian papyri, it is the view of the 'Sungod in his boat...the chief god of a polytheistic people..." S.A.B. mercer (1912): "By comparing it (Fac. 2)...with any elementary book of Egyptian language and religion, and especially by comparing the notes on No. 2 with the explanation of the above named plate on p.49 of the work of Petrie...this (Weigall's explanation of a hypocephalus) becomes unquestionably evident" [Note: He is referring to 3 bronze hypocephali with totally different figures and illegible inscriptions. Von Bissing (1912): Joseph Smith "has misrepresented the signification of every one figure..." He "probably used Athanasius Kirscher." New York Times (1912): "The things that puzzled the inspired Mormon translator were no puzzle at all to Or. Lithgoe, They were simply snatches of a hymn to the Sun-god inserted on every flat disk that was put...under the head of the ordinary mummy." E.W.A. Budge (1912): Fac. Ho. 2 "was taken from the late Dr. Birch's papers." [Note: The Hedlock engraving was made in 1838, before the late Dr. Birch was born]. Banks (1913): The hypocephali are only "stock hieroglyphics, used by embalmers for almost all entombments." George Barton (1913): "It is a grotesque idea that, if Abraham had originated the disc...the Egyptians would have used it so widely...They despised the Asiatics." Era (1913): "A poor copy of the most common hypocephali... which are found in the greatest abundance. They are covered with stock pictures and with hieroglyphs containing selections of a hymn to the Sungod." S. Martin (1920): "The world has accepted the challenge [of Fac. No. 2]. Here is the full translation by Prof. Alf. Wiedemann of Bonn University..." [i.e, of another hypocephalus!] G. R. Hughes (1959): "The 'hieroglyphic' inscriptions... are just faked marks such as a modern cartoonist or illustrator makes when he wants to give the impression of a hieroglyphic text...The three drawings look like very poor copies of genuine Egyptian originals of very common Egyptian funeral motifs...Needless to say, they cannot be read by anyone even though he be skilled in the ancient Egyptian writing and language..." Eric Young (1968).
"The text is too badly copied to attempt a translation, but would consist of short invocations,
addressed to various gods to obtain protection for the dead man. "
These typical samplings justify the summing up by J. M. SjodahI of the 1912 campaign waged
by the Rev. Franklin S. Spalding: "There is practical unanimity...But none of them offers an
interpretation of the inscriptions. This is all the more remarkable because they all agree that the
object is very familiar to Egyptian scholars." It was made familiar by a series of important
studies published in 1883-4 under the guidance of Prof. Samuel S. Birch of Oxford. Long
interesting in Hypocephali, he brought together all known hypocephali and students working on
then at that time. Since then no intensive work has been done an the subject, which means that
the following opinions are the still best we have to go by.
S. Birch in 1855 translated inscriptions on the famous Florence Hypocephalus: "I am...the
Great One in the Gates [Empyreal regions]. I am he who proceeds'from the Eye...I come from
Pennu [Heliopolis] I proceed eternally from the gates..." "The bifront figure [cf. Fac. No. 2, Fig.
2] resembles that of the planet Osiris, or Jupiter; the boat that of the constellation Argo; the deity
one of the decans; and the scarab one of the Egyptian constellations."
He mentions the Hypocephalus of "the Mormon Joseph Smith," declaring "the inscription is
so badly engraved that it is not possible to make out its meaning, and Smith's interpretations
throw no light on it." In the ships on the Hypocephali he sees , "Diurnal or annual passage of the
Sun. Two boats... Sun and Moon....it appears to be of a nature referring to a creation by fire,
and is a different text of Ch. 163 as given in a papyrus of Tau (Salt 955 B.M.)."
In 1884 Birch detected in a Hypocephalus "...a female, probably Heaven, fallen to earth, over
a scarabaeus, the cosmogenic creation of the world...the whole perhaps intended to represent the
genesis of Helios or Sun." He reads an inscription "O soul, turning back light, transformed as
the two eyes..." For the most part he simply repeats his remarks of 30 years before and declares
frankly that "The esoteric meaning of these scenes is unknown." but the themes of transmission
of power and light from one heavenly body to another and of eternal generation passage and
progression are dominant and have remained so with other interpreters. Thus Birch reads the rim
of a British Museum Hypocephalus, "I am Aton who is in the secret place...the one who comes
forth from the eye, the one in its pupil; I have come from the place of the great one of Heliopolis,
I have come from the place of eternity." These are the stock themes of the mysteries: "The
Illuminator of the world is his name...Oh great God living in heaven, his power is he prevails
living he gives all life, stability and health."
The most instructive of all the contributors of 1884 was P. J. de Horrack of Paris: "The scenes
portrayed in these disks relate in all their details, to the resurrection and the renewed birth after
death...symbolized by the course of the Sun, the living image of divine generation. (Cf. Fac. No.
2, Fig. 3): "...a type of Amon, the generating principle...All these different symbols simply
represent on the one side the female, and on the other the male element, to express the idea of
eternal generative power..." The lower part of the circle "represents the lower or dark
hemisphere" from which the Sun emerged "to mark the beginning of time." The Lotus lady (Fig.
5) is "another symbol of renewed birth." The Eye "conveys the idea of the renewal of a period,
like the full moon, the solstice, the equinoxes, and it designates here the accomplishment
of the period of resurrection, always assimilated with the daily and annual revival of the Sun. "
The circle is divided "to represent the two celestial hemispheres. All the details refer to the
resurrection or rebirth after death, symbolized here especially by the course of the Sun, the living
image of divine generation. The human cycle is thus continually compared to that of the Solar
star, the various phases being personified by divine types." For the central figure de Horrack
cites Th. Oeveria: It is identified with Re, representing "the idea of the Father and the Son.."
Ship and scarab (Fig. 4) stand for "the procreation of the new Osiris...these things refer
especialIy to the reconstitution of material being." In 1897 P. 1e P. Renouf described the central
figure in the Nash Hypocephalus as "The four-headed god of many names'...lighting up heaven
and earth with his rays...to give life to the universe...One side is the underworld, the other side
has the round inscription: "An offering of the King for Osiris..."
Thus Budge read an inscription from the Lady Meux Hypocephalus: "May the god, who himself is hidden, and whose form is concealed, who shines upon the world in his forms of existence, and in the underworld, grant that my soul may live forever!" In 1943 L. Speleers wrote a special work on the Hypocephali, which present, he says, "a very complicated question." The Hypocephali are rare objects "which have not been the object of serious study since 1883."
According to Speleers they invoke and represent the Sun of Edfu, considered from of old "the
most perfect for of cosmic energy...even before the Old Kingdom he was incarnated in Atum of
Heliopolis, who was supplanted by Re in the Pyramid Age, only to be dethroned by Amon-Re of
Thebes and then by Aton-Re of Amarna in the New Kingdom. But it is always the same story
and always the same Re, who makes the daily journey both diurnal and nocturnal...while Atum,
Harakhte, Khepre are merely accidental farms" of him. The standard Hypocephalus, Speleers
finds, is divided into two equal parts; the theme of all of them is "Creationism," indeed the only
known examples of creationism, i.e., of a spiritual creation preceding the physical one, is found
on a Hypocephalus [E6319]. He finds this strange, since the doctrine of creationism is very
ancient, while the Hypocephali are of late idea.
Of all the eminent scholars asked by S.A.B. Mercer and F.S. Spalding in 1912 to comment on Fac. No. 2, not one mentioned the important fact that an authoritative study of the subject had already been made almost 30 years before, with definite conclusions. And same of the scholars involved in the 1912 projects had actually participated in that of 1883-4. Why did they not simply dismiss Smith by referring the public to the work already done at the highest level? "lt is strange," wrote J. M. Sjodahl in 1913, "that the scholars who examined this illustration did not discover how closely they follow, in their interpretation, the explanation offered by the Prophet Joseph." Was it really so strange? It is hard to believe that they all missed the point.
While Egyptologists never tire of pointing out that the difficulty of reading Egyptian religion
texts lies not in the words or sentences but in the real meaning of the religious context behind them,
known only to the Egyptian scribe and not always to him, all the critics of the Joseph Smith
Explanations have rushed to pontificate about the arcane religious meaning of the pictures
in the Abraham Facsimiles while not one of them in 140 years offered to translate the much
easier texts. The reason for the surprising confidence and consistency of the experts in their
interpretation of this most baffling of documents is not far to see. For the Egyptians themselves
have supplied the clue to it in Chapter 162 of the Book of the Dead which bears the title
"Chapter for causing heat to be under the head of a glorified one," and on the rim of some
Hypocephali we are told `that the object itself is a hry-tp, the exact Egyptian equivalent of the
word that Champollion invented, "hypo-cephalus", and that its purpose is to heat the head. Let
us glance at this interesting document column by column:
1) Address to God, as the great parent, filling the immensity of space with light.
2) Then as the Lord of Passages, transitions, transformations-- endless progression;
3) Then the lion-couch motif: "Mighty to come to those who call upon him; succoring one __ extremis," "Come to my aid! " cries the deceased,
4) "I call upon thy name."
5) Then follow the secret names by which the person identifies himself to the god, with the petition,
6) Send a flame to the head of Re in the holy Dat of Heliopolis, that he may revive: He identifies with thee--do not ignore him! This takes us into the Abatton and the person on the couch praying for deliverance from death: "Come to Osiris (or to l~.) that he may truly live.
7) Cause a flame beneath his head: He is the Ba belonging to the great corpse in Heliopolis (Osiris on the l.c.). Shine down that he be magnified and receive the name of N. Come to receive him as one of your own.
9) Then foIlow instructions for making a drawing of a Cow and making a book on a mat (?) under the head; "The flame will surround it--great protection is the Cow's Eye for her son Re as he rests: (Abraham mounted up from the altar surrounded by flame)
10) His throne is surrounded by a flaming host (cf. the Seraphim of the Bible, and Abraham's view of God on his throne when he has the cosmic chart explained to him). He will be a god in the 1and of the gods. He will not be turned back at any gate (initiation motif). This formula is tested and proven.
11) Oh Amon who is above, turn thy face to thy son: heal him.
12) This is a most secret book: let no man or woman see it; an abomination should this book
become known. It is called "The Book of the Most Hidden Room of the Temple. The End. "
The flame around the head and the flaming hosts both evoke Abraham's experience: Upon his
deliverance from the altar, we are told, his head was surrounded by a fire which terrified all
beholders; proceeding directly from the sacrificial scene to the heavens he next beheld the fiery
hosts on high.
As to the inscriptions on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus, what do they say? Beginning at the
top of the rim and reading to the left it says, "O obaat.y... in the Temple of the Ben-ben in
Heliopolis..." And there we stop, for Ob3.t is a word of many possible meanings and is perhaps
the most significant word on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus. It is the name of a place or a
building and can be the "Adorned Facade" [db3' means adorn], or "Belonging to the Palace." It
enters into mythology as "dwelling of the gods, Palace, Chapel; for it can also be an ark or a chest
or box. There is such a Ob3.t also in the other world, according to H. Kees. Sethe calls it a Holy
of Holies; E. van Berman renders it as cella. Another meaning of db3' is payment [verb daba'
meaning to repay, require, settle a debt, even bribe, etc., (de Wit)], making the Db3ty a place of
settling scores, of retribution, where the serpent (the Adversary) is pierced (de Wit). lt is also the
name of the ancient city of Edfu to which the Hypocephali properly belong, according to
Speleers. Specifically it is the name of a temple built by Ptolemy III in Heliopolis.
On or Helipolis was the most important cult-center of Egypt; there sat Atum and the Great
Council (Bonnet), specifically mentioned in B.D. 162. It became the center of the Solar cult in
the 01d Kingdom but the idea of the great assembly in the presence of the Father of All was even
older (Bonnet). The Assembly is usually called the Ennead by translators, i.e., the Nine; but
"such an Ennead did not always consist of 9 gods," and often expressed the idea of an infinite
hosts (De Velde). the great Corporation was born in the beginning in ON, where the King was
Father Atum. (Anthes). Everything about ON was Cosmic--the Pillar, the Ox, the Phoenix-bird,
etc., (Bonnet, Grapow). At all times royal and priestly authority took its life from that place,
"where the tradition of Kingship and the Order of the Cosmos were anchored..." (Anthes). It is
the Heliopolitan that fuses both Osiris and Re into a single system from the earliest times. The
King and his Council at ON are the council in heaven at the beginning of the world (Anthes).
They represent, says a Pyramid Text (PT 486), those gods who did not rebel and were not
punished in the preexistence J. Capart quotes Naville, "The Book of the Dead at least in its main
parts was born at Heliopolis," a very special place of very specific knowledge and ordinances.
The Holy of Holies at ON was the goal of every mortal, who formally asks for admission there
"because he is one of the Oldest (Elders) who are privileged to see the Eye of the Sungod, which
effects the complete restoration of the Wdat-eye," i.e., the resurrection of the individual (Sethe).
By whatever names, the God-king sits at Heliopolis: "He is the Great One who is in ON, being
called Tanen...He leadeth mankind...He completed himself as Atum...One is Amon, concealing
himself from men..." etc. (Gardiner). It is the king "for whom the souls of On assemble, in order
that he might be fashioned and act as King of eternity, as the enduring Horus of everlasting..."
The name of Heliopolis, the ON of the Bible, appears no less than 3 times on the rim of the
Joseph Smith Hypocephalus, making it unique among hypocephali.
The symbol of the Holy place is twice drawn in a special way, as a spear between I two
columns. The same ideogram is found on a few other hypocephali, e.g., Br. Mus. No. 8445a,
where it occurs only once. :t is the spear of Horus of Heliopolis with which he overcame the
Adversary, the Serpent, when he took the wle; 1'1rs. Reymond suggests that it represents "the
magical power which was created by the Earth-god at the beginning of the world." (Reymond).
Other sacred shrines are denoted by the same symbols, according to Spiegelberg (Spiegelberg).
The initiate in the temple recited: "I know how the great spear of ON came to be. How the Great
Bald One came to he the Great Seer of Heliopolis." (Spiegelberg'!) For from the earliest times
On was the seat of the Great Seer or Greatest of Seers, whose title was written with the
determinative of two stones side by side. As to the two columns flanking the spear, the Jews,
according to W. Kornfeld, were quite aware that the two famous pillars, Boaz and Jachin and
strength and capital righteousness, that stood at the entrance to the Temple of Solomon (2 Chron.
3:17), "belonged to the solar cult of On" (W. Kornfeld).
Need we remind the reader that the Egyptian On ' lwn, always had a special significance for
the Jews? It was "from the earliest times, the terminus of the great caravan road between Syria
and Egypt...densely populated with inhabitants of many nationalities" (Budge). the Jews always
recognized it as the seat of priestly and kingly authority. Our ancestor Joseph married the
daughter of the High Priest of ON, and Josephus says that "the Impure one of Avaris chose
Moses to lead them when he was priest of Heliopolis" (Montet). When Sheshonq iii sacked the
temple at Jerusalem in the time of Solomon he transferred all its holy implements to use in the
Temple of OH. It is a strange coincidence that the owner of the Abraham Hypocephalus was one
Sheshonq (Fac. No. 2, Fig. 8). --was he one of the family? In 150 B.C. refugees from Jerusalem
under the leadership of Onias got permission both from the Elders of Jerusalem and the Pharaoh
to build a scale-model of the Jerusalem Temple at ON! (Jos. Ant. XIII,3).
This Temple, designed to represent "a New Jerusalem in Egypt" (Capart), was discovered by
Petrie at Tell e-Yahudiyeh (Peet).
Thus at first glance our Fac. Ho. 2 takes us to the one center on earth in which the pattern of the cosmos was studied and modeled, the heavenly scheme of things for men and gods alike being faithfully reflected on earth. It was likewise the one place held in reverence by both Israel and Egypt, where the patriarchal rulers of both nations assumed their sacred trust by marriage.
But to continue with the inscriptions on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus. The rim says: "I am
DJebb't(Y) [It can also mean one who pays a price, blocks the way, or one who is on the Float--in
many texts one goes to heaven by crossing the waters on such floats] in the temple of the
Ben-ben in Heliopolis, most exalted, most glorious, the copulating bull, who has no equal. Thou
great God, in the House of the Ben-ben in Heliopolis..." the rest is filled in with hieratic
characters borrowed from the Book of Breathings until the end of the circular inscriptions which
can be read with the aid of other (e.g., the Lady Meux) hypocephali to read [as Atum in the
temple] along with this god in Heliopolis" (hna ntr pf m iwn). Heliopolis is written this time in
the more usual way, as the squat ben-stone with the protruding pole or banner.
Figs. ll to 8 are numbered in reverse order, as are 12 to 15 and 16 to 17. They denote separate
figures, so that the numbers were meant only to identify them, not necessarily to give their order.
Thus it is perfectly clear that the editor assumed the top of the circle to be where it really belongs;
but he does not number the inscriptions from top to bottom, though it is a1so clear that he is
assuming that the figures in the top section of the circle are actually in the proper top-to-bottom
order. They are numbered purely for identification.
Fig. 11. O god, sleeplng in the time
Fig. 10. of the beginning. Great God, Lord of heaven and earth,
Fig. 9. and below the earth and of the waters * * ' [destroyed and
filled with hieratic symboIs]
Fig. 8. Grant (imi) that the Ba of Osiris Sheshonq live.
This is the prayer of the man on the lion-couch, and indeed the 6th pictogram from the right in Fig. 11 shows a man lying on a lion-couch.
Figs. 12 to 15: Largely destroyed and replaced by hieratic symbols from another document.[The little breathing permit?]
Fig. 17. For some reason this passage is, as Michael Rhodes points out, quite garbled, even moreso in other Hypocephali, suggesting that they were all from the same shop. First there is the word h3t - shrine, enclosure, tomb. Then thy ' violation, defilement, desecration. Then it is repeated with a strong negative nn thy - absolutely no trespassing.
Fig. 16. nn then again: "is not to be disturbed (desecrated, etc., Wb V:319) this B3, along with (hnc) its Lord (owner) in the Duat forever."
Fig. 21. Behold thou are ever (iw wnn.k)
Fig.. 20. as this gqd of thine (m ntr pk)
Fig. 19. in (of) Busiris.
Note that the Busiris is the one place in Egypt where human sacrifice was made, as discussed
above. This section is read with the aid of other Hypocephali.
And now for a few words on Hypocephali in general. In a monogram on the subject in 1943 L.
Speleers observed that the Hypocephali present "a very complicated question. The Hypocephali
are rare objects, which have not been the object of serious study since 1883." Shortly before,
Arthur Weigall, an expert on mumnies, could speak of "an ordinary Hypocephalus" while noting
that there were in all only "some 30 specimens in the various museums,"--Iike an ordinary
unicorn--and regretting that differences among these items rendered comparison of little help in
their decipherment. Because they contain no royal names, S. Birch found it impossible "ta fix the
date precisely," though they all seem to come from the late period. The one royal name, in fact,
is that on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus--Shishaq; from that one Egyptologist found proof that
the Hypocephalus could not have been from Abraham's time, since Shishaq lived much later, at
the end of the 10th century B.C. But, that would date the Smith Hypocephalus long before the
time of any of the others, all of which are suppose to belong in the 26th to 30th Dynasties. Yet
the Joseph Smith papyri were found in a grave at least 400 years later than that amid the burials
of a priestly family of the time of Hadrian. Yet one member of that family in whose grave the
Joseph Smith's Book of Breathings was probably found, was laid to rest in 62 A.D.--75 years
before Hadrian. What are we to make of these conflicting dates?
Beside his significant observation that "the esoteric meaning of these scenes is unknown," he
contributed the idea that the doctrine and practice expressed by them is "not a pure Egyptian
idea, but one borrowed from another mythology;" the various divine epithets or "mystical names
only occur in the latest rituals of the Persian or Ptolemaic epoch, and appear to have been
borrowed from some other religions" (Iablichus VII,4). Indeed the religion of Heliopolis so
emphatically announced in the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus seems to have been the property of
an exclusive society and priesthood, for it was never popular with the common people of Egypt
but was reserved for the ruling line (Drioten-Vandier). It was the primal doctrine on which the
kingship rested: "The King is a Heliopolitan," says a Pyramid fext, "his mother is a Heliopolitan,
his Father is a Heliopolitan, he himself is the Heliopolitan; as was born in Heliopolis as Re..."
Celestial and terrestriaI maps resembling the Hypocephali had a strong appeal in certain
certain Jewish circles. In particular, the scheme set forth in the Sefer Yesirah had a wide
influence. Though it has been traced, along with most of the older Apocalyptic writings, back to
the lst or 2C B.C., "according to Hebrew sources the S. Yesirah was diligently studied in the
6 Century B.C., in the period in which Pythagoras (and Lehi) lived." There is a story that when
Jeremiah was studying the S. Yesirah a voice from heaven warned him against going too far, "for
so the world goes astray in the generation of Enoch. " (Mordell ). If there is one thing the Jewish
tradition has in common with the Egyptian it is the insistence on keeping such teachings most
secret, strictly confining them to those who are authorized to know (c.f. Mo. 1:40-42). Hence,
"despite all efforts of a large number of scholars of repute for more than a thousand years,"
accarding to Mordelf, "the Sefer Yesirah remains a sealed book...There is no book in the Jewish
literature that is so difficult to understand. " Comparative research only deepens the mystery;'for
as M. Lambert the renowned Babylonian scholar observes, the book is not Chaldean, nor is it a
work of philosophy or mysticism--that being the usual explanation of any difficulty confronting
the establishment. Neither is it concerned with ethics or even religion, as E. Epstein sees it, nor
does it talk of heaven or hell. What makes it all the more baffling, according to that authority, is
that "the S. Yetsirah knows nothing of the fantastic inventions of Gnosticism and mysticism," the
unfailing refuge of critics (Epstein). What does it resemble, then? Epstein tells us: "It
astonishingly resembles the Clementine Books"--those writings of the earliest Christian sectaries
which also astonishly resemble the Manual of Discipline of the Sectaries of Qumran. What is
more we find the closest points of resemblance in a passage describing the Cosmic order as
depicted in our own Facsimile No. 2. "The true God is One, who sits (enthroned) in the most
exalted form, with a double Heart, above and below, and from him as from a central point there
pours forth (bryousa) the living and immaterial energy (asomaton dynamin), and everything
belonging to the stars and the governing principles of the heavens (syn namois ouranou), of air,
water, earth, fire (the elements) and whatever else exists; he shows us the boundless existence
(ousia) to its heights and to its unlimited depths, its immeasurable breadth, three boundless
[spheres] extending forth from him the principles of life and intelligence in the universe (physis).
Now this which proceedeth forth from him to fill the immensity of space must necessarily be a
Heart, that being the proper symbol or analog (schema) of him who, wherever he himself may
actually be, is always the center of infinite space, and at the same time its boundary--both
delimiting and defining it. From him, therefore, all distances and dimensions are measured,
taking their nature from an unlimited background. From which point some take their direction
upward, some into the depths below, this one to the right, that one to the left, this before, that
behind. 'He, looking upon them all, as having equal numerical value wherever they are, matching
space with time structures (completes) the universe equally in six directions, he being stationary,
while conceiving all, having the future universe before him in a plan (eikon, chart, drawing),
from beginning to end. For all the six dimensions meet in him, and from him they all project in
endless extension." (Clem. Homil. XVII, 9 (PG II, 392-3). Such a passage might well have been
taken from the Coffin Texts or the Zohar, where by scientific measurements Abraham
determines "that the whole world had been planted out in all directions from a point in the middle
(LL 78a) It is quite significant just such if "other which the later Doctor`s of the Jews and of
the Church sternly condemned, while admitting that they were considered Orthodox in an earlier
day. Thus while "the mind of the Jew turned more and more away from prying into the secrets of
the hereafter, leaving the subject to a few mystics who maintained the ancient lore...with the
Church the question of salvation and doom grew ever more momentous.' (K. Kohler). When
Martianus Capella describes the Council in Heaven, we seem to be on familiar ground, and are
not too surprised when he takes his picture back to Egyptian astronomy. Conventional Judism
and Christianity renounced all such teachings for the strict rationalism and spiritual abstractions
of Alexandrian philosophy. They taught like Maimonides, the greatest of Jewish Medieval
philosophers, that "the universe was made out of nothing pure and absolute.. . by God's free will
and not out of any substance. We cannot allow that time existed before then, because that would
mean that something existed before the existence of this present world, and this is precisely what
we want to avoid." (Maimonides).
Another early Jewish cosomological work supplied with charts resembling Facsimile No. 2 is
the recentIy published Berayta. Piankoff compares it with Egyptian works on the subject, a
resemblance of which the ancient authors of the Berayta were themselves aware (A. Piankoff).
We are told that "the mystic cosmology" of the Berayta "goes back to the Apocryphal writings of
the lst and 2nd enturies. " They are older than that, however, "not mere exegetical comentaries,
but the survival of the most archaic circles of Jewish esoteric teaching" which teachings were
finally thrown out of the Christian teaching by the Doctors of Alexandria, beginning with Origen
(N. Sed). The Berayta itself claimed to be derived from an earlier Sefer Ratiel, or Book of
Divine Secrets, which Adam received from the Angel Raziel. It is mentioned in the Zohar, and is
the basic manual of esoteric science in the Middle Ages and the forerunner of the S. Yesiarah,
according to J. G. Fevrie.
The Hypocephalus as a "Gadget":--What offends the Doctors of theology in all this is the
constant concern with a crassly physical universe, coarse, heavy, corruptible matter having noting
to do with the spiritual nature of religion. And indeed, there is something about the
Hypocephalus that suggests scientific gadgetry. To mention a few such things, there is the idea
of transmitting warmth from a distance source to another place in space, a transferring of energy
described in the Papyrus of Tent Amon: "We have here a physical more than a mystical
explanation," writes Piankoff, "of sunrise and sunset." The use of a Hypocephalus as a cushion
"to preserved the spark while awaiting the resurrection" is an idea as physical if not as naive, as
that of mummification (de Rouge). A scene from one of the shrines of Tutankhamen shows
certain figures "receiving a flow of fire from a star placed above the head of a figure in front.
The four stars to the right are bound together by a flow of fire," there is an enigmatic inscription
and then more figures and "before the face of each figure is a disk with three Iines, representing
fire which enters the brows of the figures under each disk, walking legs, and a star." (Piankoff,
Tut). The picture of the figure on the lion-couch whose head is connected by three lines to the
Sun high above it is a common one (T. G. Allen, B.D. Pl.xciv). "The dead Osiris, and with him
every dead person is recreated by the rays of the Sun" (S. Morenz), but more particularly the
Egyptian has a guiding star: "May the dead live like the stars in their courses (times)" (H.
Grapow). It is the precision of a zeroing-in from one distant source of energy to one particular
point on earth--that suggests modern devices--a laser at once springs to mind, or the Egyptian
idea of "transmission of divine power from heaven to earth as by a lightning-rod" (Floret). Or
one thinks of the mirror of a reflecting telescope, gathering and focusing the light of a distant star
at one particular point, an idea reenforced by the use of mirrors as teaching devices and as means
of relaying sunlight into Egyptian temples, etc., (Thausing), which in turn reminds us of those
many circular metal mirrors of the ancients adorned with cosmic symbols (Cabrol Lecelrcq). A
late Egyptian bronze mirror shows a worshiping woman holding up another mirror (and why not,
since mirrors multiply mirrors?) to receive the image of "Mut the Lady of the Heavens"
(Thausing). According to the Hermetic Books of the Egyptian mysteries: "The earth 1ies in
the middle of the Cosmos like a man flat on his back looking up to heaven at the Father in whom
he sees his own transformations (Hoepfner Is. p. 156). This is the arrangement implemented in
the Tomb of Constantine as described by Eusebius, and of his daughter (which still survives) and
of Diocletion, in which the deceased lies in the center of a circle surrounded by twelve sources of
power looking up into a Cosmic dome. When Diocletion arranged such a power-plant in 313
A.D., he brought monumental statues from the temples of 18th Dynasty Egypt to guard the
gates--logistic performance which should silence all doubts regarding Egyptian influence.
The most prominent aspect and never-failing feature of the Hypocephali is the broad rim
around the outside, making the whole represent the iris and apple of the eye. "The object itself
represents the eye of Shu or Horus... the middle represents the retina of the eye, and the narrow
concentric ring... the iris." (Birch) "I am Amon who is in the secret place," says a typical
rim-inscription, "...the one who comes forth from the Eye, the one in its Pupil; I have come from
the place of the great one in On, I have come from the place of eternity." It is the Eye that
bridges the gulf--Arab romances tell how the eye goes from a no more mysterious than what
really happens between the heat of a star and the seeing on an earthling. In the Pyramid Texts, R.
Anthes points out, the Eye of Horus is never the Sun (as one might expect), but a "Heavenly
Eye, which necessarily requires belief in an overwatching and solicitous, punishing and
protecting God in Heaven, the Most High God who is already present in the Old Kingdom
teachings" (Anthes). "He whose Ba is in the pupil of the Eye, mysterious Lion who is in the
Mnw, Lord of the Universe, Prince of the society of the Gods, Creator of all things, he is the
shining One, Lord of Eternity...passing through the heavens in his bark of millions of years."
(ibid). It is not the Sun, which only gives an idea of such a thing, in its light and life-giving
qualities and in its eternal round: The Eye "conveys the idea of the renewal of a period, like the
full moon, the solstice, the equinoxes, and it designates here the accomplishment of the
period of resurrection, always assimilated with the daily and annual revival of the Sun." (De
Horrack). W. Barta has studied is recently: "The Pupil of the Eye because it corresponds to
the heavenly eye-center above, according to the Hermetic writing--"Kore Kosmou"--the Apple of
the World's Eye, in which the Neoplationists saw the primal Creator-god represented with a ram's
head and goat's Horns (like Figs. 1 and 2 in Facsimile No. 2). "The Horus Eye is the symbol of
the begotten life that every renews itself, visible in the solar ball." (Barta). Other figures on the
Hypocephalus are related if not identified with the Eye. Thus Plutarch tells us that the fighting
Bull (whose figure appears on the Rim of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus) was raised at
Heliopolis, and had to be black because "the Egyptians call black "the Apple of the Eye, and
compare it with the Heart (Kolob, Fig. 1, see below)," the center of everything in man.
The Apple of the Eye is specifically associated with Abraham when the Midrash Rabba reports that the four kings of the earth coming to attack Abraham were "attacking the Eyeball of the World, which was Abraham itself...It was he that sanctified the name of the Holy One in the fiery furnace." (Mid.R.42:3:i, 333). At least three ideas from the book of Abraham are combined here.
1) We recall that the four idolatrous gods to whom Abraham was sacrificed in Facsimile No. 1 are specifically designated in Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 6 as "Represent(ing) the earth in its four quarters."
2) The association of the Eye with Abraham in the fiery furnace recalls both the function of the Hypocephalus-eye to provide a flame for the head, but reminds us that when Abraham was delivered from the Altar fire surrounded his head and terrified the king and his host.
3) The passage describing the latter event compares the phenomenon to the fiery hosts
surrounding God on his throne---which Abraham beheld when he was lifted up from the altar.
Far-fetched as such interpretations may seem, they were carried over into the early Christian faith as we have seen in the highly respected Clementine books, where the relationship of the human body to the cosmos (the ancient doctrine of Microcosm - Macrocosm) is explained in terms of the seven openings in the head by which man nay receive stimuli--signals--from the outside world which put him consciously in tune with the universe outside, "just as the planets put heaven and earth in communication." Specifically, and surprisingly, the right eye picks up messages from Saturn and the left eye from Jupiter. (Mordell). In the charts of the Jewish mystics delineating the universal order, the Cosmos was understood as "the world plus time--the year plus the human body, each of these being composed of three fundamental substances." (A. Epstein). For the Mandaeans "...the light of the stars is borrowed from the sun...every star has a bilura ('a slender chain or cord') connecting it with the Sun, so that it... is visible on earth...Stars and moon...are lighted by the other from the radiancy of the sun." (Drower). So we add fluorescence to our strange pheonomena. In a romantic vein a modern scientist has written: "Man is a message from a star, garbled in transition...the first of him crossed 93,000,000 miles of space in the almost-no-time of sunlight. Around that initial spark other sparks gathered.. shaping the glow of the human spirit" (John Lear). For Amenophis IV Ikhnaton this would seem a bit too naive. For him "...the glowing disk was merely...a visibIe emanation of the deity behind it, who dispersed heat and life to all living through its medium. The disk was, so to speak, the window in heaven through which the unknown God, 'Lord of the Disk,' shed a portion of his radiance on the world." (H. R. Hall)
If all this sounds too "physical" for the spiritual-minded, we are reminded by the Egyptologist
van der Leeuw that "only when the human suffering of the Savior-god has a cosmic background
does salvation seem sufficiently assured." (Van der Leeuw). De Rouge pointed out that the
Hypocephalus conveys to the most spiritual of doctrines, proclaiming by its structure and
inscriptions the two great principles of the One God and life after death, as it served "to preserve
the spark while awaiting the resurrection. " Interestingly, the Hypocephalus has the same
purpose as the Book of Breathings that was found with it to keep the body in touch with its
heavenly life-source, "fhat his soul may rise to heaven, that his body may shine in the stars of
Orion..." And so the Book of Breathings itself is sometimes found carefully folded and placed
right under the head of the deceased exactly like a Hypocephalus. (de Horrack).
The generalizations of those who have studied the Hypocephali, following the lead of B.d. 162, do not vary widely. A typical inscription such as, "O great God living in heaven, his power is that he prevails in life, he gives all life, stability and health." (1884, 8445) plainly marks the way. Thus the rim-inscription of the Lady Meux Hypoc.: "I have come forth from the eye of Horus...from the House of the Great Old Man (the Ancient of Days) in Heliopolis [the same passage on the rim of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus], Sect. 1. "May the god, who himself is hidden, and whose form is concealed, who shines upon the world in his forms of existence, and in the underworld, grant that my soul may live forever!" (Budge). "The scenes portrayed in these disks," wrote de Horrack, "relate in all their details, to the resurrection and the renewed birth after death...symbolized by the course of the Sun, the living image of divine generation." (1884). The idea is everywhere in the sacrophagi of tile Persian and Ptolemaic periods, as Maspero observed (1914), but even much earlier Breasted detects "a surprising predominance of the celestial hereafter..." (Breasted), going right back to the Coffin Texts and the Pyramid rexts. "These gods," says a repeated formula in the tomb of King Tutankhamen, "the rays of Re penetrate their bodies...then he calls to their souls..." (Piankoff). What the Hypocephali invoke, according to Speleers is "the most perfect form of cosmic energy," represented in the late period by the Sun of Edfu, but "incarnated in Atum of Heliopolis" even before the Old Kingdom, so that the idea is always the same, even though that source was called Re after the Pyramid Asge, then Amon-Re in the Theban period, and Aton-Re at El-Amarna in the New Kingdom; but all these names, "...Atum, Harakhte, Kheprer, are merely accidental forms" of the ultimate source. (Speleers, 1943). If the Hypocephalus "had the mystic power to preserve the needful warmth of life to Osiris," (A. Miedemann), it did so only by receiving it from the primal source.
One feature of the Hypocephali must be strongly emphasized, and that is the great freedom of composition enjoyed in the arranging of the strictly canonical figures. No two Hypocephali are just alike, and between some there is little resemblance save in the shape, so that it is the height of folly to try to reconstruct a damaged Hypocephalus by holding it to the design of some other Hypocephalus, as critics of the book of Abraham have done. But the individual figures in the drawings all come from the same catalogue, which makes their selection significant as we descend from highly detailed Hypocephali to those with only half-dozen or less figures on them. That declension tells us clearly which figures have the highest priority--which are preserved to the end when almost everything else has been dropped. What is always preserved is
1) the circular shape with
2) the broad inscribed rim,
3) the division into halves or opposing parts, with
4) the figures facing each other in opposition.
5) the Hathor Cow,
6) the two-faced Amon figure,
7) the Apes.
First of all, all Hypocephali are round. The D-bb-ti title appearing on the rim refers in one
Hypocephalus at least (E 6319) to a round temple built by Ptolemy III at Heliopolis (Speleers); is
also the surname of Osiris (1.c.). In many situations, but especially in the Hypocephali, "the
human cycle is thus continually compared to Ulat of the solar star..." both moving in endless
cycles (de Horrack). We have often noted how closely the decorations of the Temple of Opet are
tied to our Facsimiles 1 and 3, whose scenes they reproduce, with the round cosmic design of
Facsimile No. 2 occupying the room squarely between them by which one passes from the one
scene to the other--from the altar-bed to the throne. This design exemplifies the great circle of
the universe, with the ruling God always exactly in the middle (Rec. Trav. 3:79). In the same
way Pharaoh's finger ring represented the constant ever-recurring cycular aspect of nature, both
on earth and in heaven (Gl. Barta). The King is~the "intermediary between heaven and earth,"
moving in the shnnt itn, the ever-circling course of the Sun. (Barta). The same idea is expressed
in the royal cartouche, Shenen showing that Pharaoh rules over all that upon which the Sun
shines as it takes its rounds (Gardiner). The raot shn, made eternal by the form shenen, means a
round, suggesting to conditioned ears "Shinehah, which is the Sun." (Abr.3:13), described to
Abraham as an intermediary body like Shnn.t itn, "circling orb" above the that element certainly
suggests the ever-recurring formula ,_hh-hnc dt = jt, in which hh means eternal, especially in the
sense of an eternaI going around, a pursuit or search that never catches up with its objective, in
other words Shine-hah strongly suggests Alma 7:20 "Therefore... his course is one eternal
round" (Endowment). In the same way the round charts that go with the S. Yeirah and the
Berayta "evoke the rhythms of the cosmos." (N. Sed). It was by taking scientific measurements,
according to the Zohar, that Abraham determined the location of the temple, concluding on the
basis of his observations "that the whole world had been pIanted out in all directions from that
point in the middle..." (Zohar LL 78a).
The next most conspicuous thing about the Hypocephalus design is its division into opposing
parts. It is not a perfect balance, however, for the central circle is usually divided into three
distinct panels, representing three levels of existence. (The Egyptian rule of three levels of
family life-- Gardiner). There is no conflict here. Thus in the S. Yesirah the Cosmos had
two parts, the temporal and the substantial, "the world plus time--the year plus the human body,
each of these being composed of three fundamental substances." (A. Epstein).
The duality of all appearances meets us constantly in Egypt, especially in the economy of the kingship with its two kingdoms, two crowns, two queens, its two thrones, two tombs, two palaces, etc., for one king. The dyadic nature of the Egyptian universe was indicated by the Classical writers by drawing a fat Theta, a circle with a line through the middle, the archaic Greek symbol for a thousand (Euseb., Proclus, Clem., Alex., Lydus). "The calendric symbolism...of Gem-Aten, was to impress with the yearly cycle of the seasons, months, and days in a duality of rituals at sunrise and sunset." (Badawy). Already in the Pyramid texts. "The Dat is before all else a lower region in the cosmos, in close contact with earth," (PT 1014, Speleers), it is the "Lower heaven," the nocturnal heaven, the night sky. In the Pyramid Texts the Duat was not under the earth, as modern students are inevitably prone to think, "but was a region situated outside of our heaven and our earth. It is "another world,'' dark like a dark planet ( Faspero ). There was both an upper and lower Duat (S. Hassan). " ' Underworld ' . . . is not to be understood as underground," writes S. Hassan, "...but actually below the planet on which we live [Cf. Abr.3, "the earth upon which thou standest" repeated 7 times!] and surrounded by, and floating in the Nwn, the Primeval Ocean. It is the underworld to which Wwn.t forms the sky, just as it was the sky of our world" (Hassan). In the next world the King~"will neither sleep by night nor wake by day, for him time ceases to exist." (Hassan). There is really no Egyptian description of heaven, writes Frankfort, because "there was no land of the dead to be described. The dead lived in the great cosmic circuit of sun and stars...while they maintained at the same time some connection with their tomb, and through it with life upon the earth. But their lasting happiness lay beyond the earth and the tomb." (Frankfort). All of which is clearly expressed in the Hypocephalus. idea. The lower part of the cosmic circle "represents the lower or dark hemisphere," from which the Sun emerges "to mark the beginning of time." (de Horrack) From pictures familiar to all of a great Sky-goddess over-arching a supine male deity lying on the earth the inevitable dichotomy of male and female is both symbol and reality. On a Hypocephalus also "represents the celestial and eternal generation of the Sun, by the goddess Nut [the Mother] or heaven, leaning over the scarabeus, the masculine principle of generation. " (de Horrack, Bibl.Eg. 17:158). "All these different symbols," de Horrack concluded, "simply represent on the one side the female and on the other the male element, to express the idea of eternaI generative power." (de Horrack). If creation is the theme, there can be none without both these eIements.
That the lower part of the Hypocephalus represents the womb (the Hathor Cow), the maternal
(Fig. 5), the chthorrian (Fig. 6 with Explanation), the generative (Fig. 7 with Explanation)
"Underworld" aspects of things, is not only clear from its reverse mirror-image position, but also
from the solemn inscriptions, Figs. 16 and 17. Just as the Win-Amon crown of two shining
feathers touches the very top of the circle and in more than one Hypocephalus passes over it (it
seems almost deliberate), so the very lowest space in the circle is occupied by words declaring
that this space must be left in absolute quiet, with no trespass or disturbance of any kind either of
the place or of its possessor in the Duat forever--it is the place of ultimate repose, the end of
entropy. At the top Amnon-Re the Creator and Begotten of all strides forth boldly with the staff
of Wep-waet, the Opener of the Ways, "going forth continually from the Gates," as a
Hypocephalus inscription says, the embodiment of all that is dynamic in the universe. How
awesomely solemn and still by contrast are the words, in reverse, of dire admonition at the other
extreme, that bring all things to a halt!
The divine plan, according to the Zohar deals both with the creation and destruction of worlds
(I. Meyer). Cf. Mos. 1:35...there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my
power...38. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another
come...] As in the plan shown to Abraham in the Testament and in the Shield of Achilles, we see
in the Zohar two societies in confrontation--what is better known than the sheep on the right and
the goats on the left?--"they who are pure and true," opposing "they who are not found pure in
this world...and their Souls know the part they will play in this world before they come to it..."
(I. Meyer, cf. Abr. 3:22ff). The whole cosmic circle must be divided into "good against evil, and
evil against good... good testing evil, and evil testing good..." (Mordell). The Talmud tells of the
dream of Rabbi Joseph, who upon awakening from a coma-like sleep declared: "I have seen a
world upside-down, where the top was the bottom and the bottom was top." And R. Hisda says
that the writing on the Holy Tablets of the Law was so designed that it could be read in either
direction, "from the front to the back" or vice versa. (Tal.) It is in order to recall that Moses
taken up as was Abraham on a high mountain where he too was confronted with a frightening
flame, and there received tablets bearing holy characters inscribed on them by the finger of God,
containing the whole of a lesser knowledge. Finally, the Egyptologist J. Bennett, draws a very
obvious conclusion when he notes that the shen-loop "indicates the sun's circuit, and the
deceased's future journey. Thus the idea expressed on the mummy case...may be summed up in
the words of the Christian creed, 'He descended into hell. The third day he rose from the dead.
He ascended to Heaven." (J. Bennett).
Much has been written about the prehistoric connections between Italy and Africa (J. Harrison,
L. Forbenius, etc.), and the ancients~bound Lybia inseparably with the early history both of Italy
and Egypt, as we have seen in the case of Antaeus and Busiris.. That is why early students of the
Hypocephali were justified in evoking the image of the Roman janus to help explain what they
saw. The first thing to note is that Janus is prehistoric, he is the primal god and ancestor of the
Romans as Amon-Re was of the Egyptians. His distinguishing mark is his ram's horns, also the
mark of Amon in both Figs. 1 and 2 of Facsimile No. 2. Why a ram? asked Gardiner, and found
no answer: "it was puzzling,"' he writes, "for such eccentricities there must be a profound
reason." (Gardiner). But what is it? Janus shows us that the idea was not limited to Egypt, and
Alexander the Great, feigning or claiming to be the Son of Amnon, was known to all the ancient
and Medieval East as Dhul-qarnein, the Lord of the Two Horns, specifically Ram's Horns
(Hogarth). This title, according to Budge, was borrowed by Alexander from the official
designation of the Egyptian "Prophet of Amnon the Two-horned," referring to Horus-Re as well
(Budge). The fact that the same ram's horns are worn by three different Figures in our
Facsimiles--Figs. 1 and 2, in Facsimile Ho. 1 and Fig. 1 in Facsimile No. 3 (on the
atef-crown)--shows that its function was valid in different contexts; we cannot limit it to one god
or situation, though the basic office it represents is always the same: creative power at its peak.
The Ram is completely at home in the Lion-couch drama. "The great secre+ of the ritual is
precisely the confusion of a single being of Osiris and of Re in the appearance of a mummy
wrapped in ram skin," which represents "the moment of the resurrection," precisely the moment
indicated in our Facsimile No. 1 (Derchain). While in the Duat, Re is covered with a shroud and
wears the crown of the King of the Dead, Osiris; but at dawn he sheds the shroud and
takes the form of a Ram, "symbol of unlimited vitality, of the Sun at the Zenith (Speleers ). For
the Jews the ram stood for Resurrection, for it was a ram that appeared miraculously at the
moment of Isaac's deliverance from death on the altar, in answer to the prayers of Abraham.
Thus we have the Ram's-horn pictures in Facsimile No. 2 wearing the insignia of Amon, but also
identified with Re and Osiris. As de Horrack saw it, "It is Amon, the supreme god of Thebes,
identified with Ra, the Sun, under the name of Amon-Ra. As such he receives all the
qualifications attributed to the two deities." (de Horrack) before all else, the "Holy Ram's Head"
is the mark and insignium of Amon-Ra (:l. Spiegelberg). Wainwright insisted, however, that the
ram in the Hypocephali is not Amun but Khnum, the Creator god, who sits at his potter's wheel
with his ram's head crowned with magnificent spreading horns as he makes man from potters
clay. (Wainwright). No problem; the reader should know by now that it is, as E. Hornung has
pointed out, precisely at the highest level that the gods can be as easily identified and
interchanged with each other. And Amon-Re is nothing if not the highest god.
The equivalent in Roman is the prehistoric Janus who resembles him closely in every respect
as W. Otto sums up his study of Janus "He was before all especial God of beginnings in every
sense, the creator of the universe, the oldest of the Gods, The Father Of All." (W. Otto, 1191).
He holds says Ovid, the vasti custodia mundi--the dominion of the universe, as he sits at the
Winter Solstice where all things begin anew. In short, he is a ringer for Fig. 1 in Facsimile No. 2,
not only in his powers and offices as indicated in Joseph Smith's Explanation but in his
appearance as well. As Fig. 1 sits in the midst of the cosmic circle "nearest to the celestial, or
residence of God," so Janus is "the Ram in the midst of the sky, and since that is as it were the
vertex of the universe, the Ram comes first of all in order, appearing as the head of the universe
and the beginning of light" (RHR 1892, p. 1) For Aries was the sign that led out in the year over
which Janus, the Ram-horned one, presided. "So," concludes Walter Otto in his study of Janus,
"we find him without Janus turning out to be the God of all beginnings in the most ancient
formulas and cultic observances" of the Romans (1176). St. Augustine calls him "the power of
all beginnings" (CD VI 13).
His was the gift to all of life at the beginning of the new age, signified by the exchange among all the Romans of the New Year's gift of heavy old-fashioned copper coin, big and round, with the two-headed portrait of Janus on one side and the Janus-ship on the other--the dominant features of the Hypocephali. According to O. Huth in his book on Janus, his original mark was a circle divided in two, which was also the year-rune of the ancient Scandinavians, usually found with the drawing of ships; it Was also the earliest Greek symbol for a thousand. (Huth). Along with the big round Janus-coins, the year-gift of the strena, went his round year-cakes, signifying the same thing (Huth, p. 92) But most important is the division of the circle in two, to represent "the primal polarity of the year," the god's face is two faces looking in opposite directions standing for life and death (Huth 35), suggesting the double-headed Akr or Rwti of the Egyptians (clear back to the Pyramid Texts!) denoting (as they are sometimes labelled). Yesterday and Tomorrow. He has two faces, says Ovid, to represent the two worlds--exactly like our Hypocephali (Ov. Fast. I, 125). In Egypt, as S. Morenz observed, "the phenomena of Chaos have a double face: they are both matter and energy" expressed in the coming forth of light
(Eg. Rel. 185). In the eloquent words of Budge, "At the dawn of primeval time was Atum, the
prince of light, who made all men to live...the terrible one of the Double Divine Face; the divine
aged one, the divine form who dwelleth in the forms of the gods." (Budge). The two heads stand
for past and present, "I am what is known; I am He who k.nows" (Speleers). The element of
conflict as well is expressed by the opposing faces, and Horus and Seth are sometimes depicted
by a Janus-headed figure (Horning) which are Macrobius and Scipio describing, the Egyptian or
the Roman Super-God "Ram-Headed he sits in the midst of heaven...the vertex of the universe
first and foremost among all, appearing as head of the universe at the coming-forth of light in his
glory." (Macrob., Somn., Scipio 1,21 (23/25).
As the god of the New Year Janus contains the fortunes of the whole year; his twelve altars
take him around the whole course of the Year as the Sun. Indeed Preller maintained that the
original Janus was the Sun in his heavenly course. When P. le P. Renouf was among the first to
study the Hypocephali he was quick to compare the Egyptian imagery to the Latin; matching 8.D.
"I am he who closes and he who opens, and I am but one...He who closeth his name is Tmu; he
who openeth is Uenen," with Ovid I, 129f., where Janus is called both Clusius, the Closer, and
Patulcius, the Opener. (P. Renouf). It is significant that his name of Tmu is cognate with Hebrew
and Arabic Tamim, denoting a perfect or complete circle for Janus is also that. As he holds the
Key to open and shut, he is the janitor, the Kleidouchos whose key is the authority to admit to
heaven or release from hell. Whether the object held by Fig. 1 in Facsimile No. 2 was originally
drawn as it is shown or should be like the was-scepter borne by the Fig. in the ship (Fig. 3), either
implement will pass both in form and function as the Virga Janalis, the staff or key with which
Janus opened all locks (Huth). It was the magic staff which Arnob. says opens even the gates
of the womb--A thing of considerable significance in folk-lore. The archaic statue of Janus held
both scepter and key (1183) and Plutark called his dwelling, the Janiculum, "The Key to Rome"
(1189). He shared this implement with his spouse Carna, the Lady of the Underworld, "who
together with Janus was reverenced as a sort of female counterpart to him," (1184)--the reverse
image of our Facsimile No. 2.
As keeper of the Gates of Hell and the keys that open and shut them, Janus is preeminently a
god of Passage, supervising the "rites of passage" from one state of existence to another. He
presides over the orcus mundi, the orfice through which all must pass to lower or higher worlds.
After much discussion and debate it has been generally agreed among scholars that the original
idea was that of passage through and over water with bridges sharing an importance with gates
and roads, all representing the Sun in his eternal passage from one position and aspect in the
heavens to another. (J. H. Waszink). S. Birch saw thie Gate to be the principal symbolism of the
Hypocephali as he read the inscriptions of the god sitting in the center, "dwelling in the Empyreal
Gateway, giving life...Prevailing over the gods of the Gate by his power..." Hence, . "I am he
who closeth and he who openeth, and I am but One...a scene of strife arose among the gods when
I gave the command." (Renouf). The very old litanies of Sokar bring the various Janus images
together on the Egyptian side, as we see Sokar going forth at the new age carried in procession in
his ceremonial boat of Millions Of Years, he of the many faces, Lord of the Atef-crown with
its great ram-horns; hailed as the Creator who now governs the world in its revolutions (Budge).
At all times the Egyptians favored the image of the two-faced Gate keeper; thus in the Pyramid
Text 483f the Earth speaks: "The Gate of Akr is opened." Akr being a lion with one body and
two heads facing in opposite directions. He keeps the Gates of Hell (Sethe).
The most conspicuous object in the Sokar rites was his divine ship. It will be recalled that one side of the round Janus year-coin bore his double-faced image while on the other side was the "Janus Ship." (Lact. PL 6:188).
One legend was that Janus as King of Rome in'the beginning saved Jove when he fled from
Crete by ship in a tine of disaster (I.c.)--recalling the emigrations from Crete c. 1600 B.C..
Another story explaining the ship was the Janus received the wandering Saturn who came by ship
as the Culture-hero of the difference, since Joseph Smith is quite correct in seeing Fig. 1 and 2
and different aspects of the same ruling power. The one who sits in the middle of the circle must
be Janus, and originally he had only two heads, though as in Egypt he was later endowed with
four. Janus quadrifrons succeeded Janus birfrons or Janus geminus, though his temple stood at
the same post the Janus Gate of Rome, and his significance changed not a whit (Melanges,
v.28:256). Quadrifrons expressed his universal rule in which he faced in all directions,
but as in the case of the altar-beds and thrones, the object was shown double only because
quadruple drawings was awkward and messy--the third dimension was willingly taken for
There is nothing contradictory about having two heads and four heads to express the same
idea. When Deveria insisted that Fig. 1 in Facsimile No. 2 was a mistake, it was because all the
Hypocephali discovered up to that time ' showed only four-headed figures in the center; but later
the same seated figure appeared with only two. "Janus is represented as two-faced," said
Elacrobius, "as the Janitar of the upper and the lower regions; four-faced as embracing the
expanse (climata) of the universe in his majesty. (Macrob. 1186).
Sometimes he has: two faces and sometimes four (St. Aug. CD VII,4)...called both Double (Twin) Janus, and interpreted as the 4 parts of the mundus." Likewise the Creator of all as Ptah of Edfu the Primal Father, wore the horns and had two, not four faces, (M. Stolk), the two horns indicating his "energie fecondatrice" (REC. TRAV. 6:32). Yet as Khnum he is described in an inscription from Esna: "All that existed was raised up by him, because his shape is that of a living bull or of a ram, a ram with majestic upper body of four gods unified. A four-headed ram, called living souls (or rams)...He is shining like the Sun, bright like the Moon...mysterious, unknowable," etc. (L. Kakosy). As the Great Begetter, the Ram is "he with 4 faces on one neck," with 777 ears and millions of eyes--but he could hardly have been drawn with such. (Schott).
What clearer demonstration of the equal appropriateness of the two or four heads, depending on
the context, than the appearance of the same Amon-Re on other Hypocephali having in one panel
two heads, in another four, and in others one?
The first students of the Hypocephali recognized right off that (in the words of de Horrack)
"The centre of the second compartment is occupied by a quadruple ram-headed deity, Mum-Ra,
representing (according to Champollion) the Spirit of the 4 elements, the Soul of the Material
World (according to Deveria), the Spirit of the 4 Winds or 4 Cardinal Points" (De Horrack).
Throughout the Old World and the New the standard ritual design denoting the earth is a circle
divided into four quarters. So with the Egyptians, the four ubiquitous Djed-columns are the four
corners of heaven; the same idea is represented in tombs and coffins as the circle of ihe universe
within which the body reposed (H. Gauthier). The Djed-pillars of Egypt were popular in
Palestinian and Phoenician temple architecture, they were the pillars of the cosmos, and
Albriciht has suggested that the entrance pylons of temples all over the Near East were heavenly
lights, giant candelabras (Kornfeld). The pillars of the Temple were the "Egyptian symbols of
permanence for the reckoning of the Equinoxes," and "Since the Temple was orientated in a
West-East direction, the Sun at the Equinoxes must rise between the pillars..." (Kornfeld)
As it was Janus who built the first femples for the first holy ordinances, according to Roman
tradition (1185), he is the symbol of royal wisdom, that looks (with its two faces) to the past and
the future, having learned from Saturn the Gnosis of things to come and things past (1187). A
significant thing about the Roman cult is that it was never part of the popular folk-lore, "Janus
meant very little to the popular religion," says Otto (1184). Surprisingly he was not derived from
the Greeks and has no ties to them; its royal wisdom is astronomical, dealing with the cycle of
the heavens. "Some say it is the sky, that is the revolving heavens, and the Janus's name comes
from eundo, because the universe is ceaselesslyy revolving, and that it came out of him in the
beginning and will return to him..." (Macrob. Sat. 1, 9, ll). Janus, says Herodian, is the
beginning and the ending of the eniautos, the circle of the year (1187). "Some think he embraces
all of time" says Lydus, Men. IV, 2, 1188). Ovid calls his oldest shrine a Temple where stood his
image with faces looking to the East and the West and with fingers denoting the number 365
Plin. NH 34:33). This image was attributed to Huma himself, "and proclaimed
not the civil but the astronomical year." (1181). The number 365, regardless of its date, shows
clear Egyptian affinity, since the Egyptians alone devised the calendar of 365 days.
Lydus also notes that the Babylonians and Egyptians alike represent the god of beginnings by a
Janus-faced and hom-crown deity. (Hopf.). And recent studies have confirmed that a two-headed
horned god "represented the constant struggle between Life and Death," dramatized in both parts
of the world by ritual dueling (Moortgat). Jequier finds that "the simiIitude between the 4
personifications of Amon as Hh, Kk, Nw, and Nwt, and the four words used in the first verses of
Genesis to designate chaos is so evident that it has been recognized for a long time, and the
Heliopolitan inspiration of the Biblical narrative can hardly be disputed" (Jequier). Also he sees
"a singular parallelism" between the names of the 4 Apes that adorn mosi Hyeocephali and the
same 4 names for Chaos in Genesis: Tohu and Bohu, Nun and Hehou." He finds the Hb.
khoshek corresponding exactly to the Egyptian idea of Keiw, and the Ruach Elohim to the
Egyptian Shw dominating inert matter. "It is hard to believe in reading these lines," he writes,
"that the Elohist author was not drawing from a Hermopolitan source." (Jecquier). This is worth
mentioning because of the frequent attacks formerly on Joseph Smith on the grounds that
there can be no possible connection between the Egyptian and the Hebrew teachings, which were
absolute opposites in all things and worlds apart. Since then the tradition of Israel and Egypt
have grown steadily together as more has been learned about each.
In the Egyptian rites and the Old Testament, as also on our Hypocephalus, we find the strange
conjunction of Nut and Ra, both of which are the supreme symbol of reproductive power. On
Facsimile No. 2 the Bull in the Rim is specifically designated as the "Great Procreating Bull
without equal" (k3 nk nn shny.f), and is matched with the great mother Cow Fig. 5 on the other
hand the supreme ruling figures of the Upper and more glorious region are both crowned with
Ram's horns, and the mystery of the lamb meets us in the three cryptograms betlind Fig. 6. G.
SantilIana would find the declinsion of Bull to Ram in the precession of the equinoxes, which in
the days of Abraham moved the Sun from the constellation of Taurus into that of Aries, to
remain there for the next 2000 years..
On the Dies Agonaes, the days of the great contest and sacrifice, i.e., at the beginning of the
Roman Games, the.King would sacrifice a Ram (Varro, 1183). The games originated when
Hercules, the wandering benefactor of the race, was challenged to a duel by the Giant King Cacus
whom he slew at the Ara Maxima, the great first altar ta marry the queen Acca Larentia, and
become the father and founder of the Roman people. This routine was repeated in Africa with
King Antaeus and in Egypt with his brother Busiris, which contest as we have seen is the same
dramatic confrontation as that between Abraham and Pharaoh. The Janus cycle marked the
beginning and ending of the saeculum, the hundred year cycle representing the ideal human
life span; the word is from setlom, meaning a seeding or sowing (St.Weinstock).
Is it not a coincidence that Abraham was promised that he would be the father of great nation,
that his seed should be as the stars of the heaven, that all the nations of the earth should be
blessed in it exactly on the day that he became 100 years old. (Gen. 18xx 22:) And the same
promise shou~d be given exactly at the moment in which he was delivered from the altar? And
again at the moment when Sarah in answer to his prayer was delivered from the hands of Pharaoh? And again when Isaac was miraculously rescued from the altar? And again to Ishmael
as a Son of Abraham at the moment the angel delivered him from death? And to his mother
Hagar at the same time! The reward is given even at the moment in which the test is passed--"for
now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son..." (Gen. 22:12) At the
moment in which Moses overcomes the power of the Adversary a voice declares him victorand King, qualified to rule the people "as if thou wert God," and to deliver my people from
bondage... " (Moses 1:25-26). So in Facsimile No. 3 we find Abraham delivered from the trial
and danger of Facsimile No. 1 seated on the throne and wearing the Rams-Horn Crown. The
Ram which he was instructed to Offer"in the place of Isaac" (Gen. 22: ) stood for his own
infinite progeny according to Jewish tradition.
Nothing expresses better the idea of Fig. 1 as nne "lighting up heaven and earth with his rays...to give life to the universe," etc., (Renouf) than the interpretation which Joseph Smith gives to the word Kolob by which he designates the figure. One one in the center is Re and Atum (G. Foucart)--it is Ammon of Thebes identified with Re, representing "the Father and the Son," (Oeveria). The commonest title for it is Amon, the Hidden One, whose dwelling place can never be known to man, "the Invisible One", though he takes the form of the Creator Atum, and is also the dead King who "sits on the throne of the Hidden One." (G. Foucart). "I was begotten of the members and created in the heart of the Great God," says the Coffin Text (75, 1,314ff). "He made me in his glory...he whose name the gods know not, he whom mankind fallow...he made me in his own heart; he made me in his glory" (344). "l am he who is in the Circle... when he made me there was jubilation in his secrets, because he gave me his glory," (356). On the H. Meux Hypocephalus the central figure is described in the inscription: "O, hiding his body, concealing his shape, illuminating the world with his transformations in the abyss, he who grants life to the spirit forever! (Birch).
This comes very close to the Hebrew melekh ha-colam, usually rendered "the King forever,"
but more properly to be read as "King of the Universe" according to E. J. Uiesenberg, connoting
both time and space (ib. 149). He is "The most compIete and highest of all divine
manifestations...called the archtypal or celestial man (Adam Kadmon,)" he being a microcosm
containing all things in himself; his essential quality is Intelligence, without which he could not
comprehend himself (A. Frank). H. Brugsch finds the basic idea in Egyptian religion also, "the
conception of the world as the body of God, consisting of 9 parts...i.e., the Great Ennead"
(Holmberg in the Luynes Pap.). The power operates at the interface between matter and energy
(Substance and Potential), and as "the boundary between the creation of worlds and the becoming of worlds remains open, the life and order of the world is imparted to primal matter by
the Light of the Sun," (Morenz,1984). The idea of the Hypocephalus as a preserver and
transmitter of light and heat between the worlds finds expression in the ancient Christian Combat
of Adam, where we are told when Adam parted company with the Deitv, he lit a lamp and
prayed that the fire would stay in the lamp until the hour when the bodies were again joined
together." Like Abraham's God who "dwells in the midst of them all..." Abr. 3:21), the Egyptian
Shu designating the Image of Re, who sits in the midst of the Eye which is the seat of his Father,"
is Shown sitting in the midst of the Solar disk (Bonnet, 686).
In the Book of Abraham these ideas are best expressed by the word Kolob, the cosmic
governing power to which Figs. 1 and 2 are most closely related, Prof. L. C. Zucker suggested
that Joseph Smith's "Kolob...may be a variant of Kokob," (Zucker), he being apparently unaware
of the Arabic word qalb, "Heart" which does not have an equivalent root in Hebrew. To follow
qlb, v. to alter, chanoe, invert, turn upside down, turn over and over go flip-flop.
n. "Heart", hence intellect or intellience.
adj. genuine or pure in respect of origin or lineage, 'holding a middle place among his people.'
"A certain bright star (Alpha Scorpio) in the 18th mansion of the Moon...
"There are also 3 simiIar appellations of other stars, esp. Regulus, called qalb al-asad, the heart
of the Lion.
An ancient saying among the Arabs: izza tala' al-Qalb .ja-a 'shita ka-l-Ka1b "When the
Heart-star rises winter comes like the Dog-star" - A pun on the words qalb, heart, and Kalb, Dog.
Arabic KLB is pronounced like Qalb and also denotes "the Constellation of Canis Maj. and its
principal star Sirius," Also Canis Minor and its principal star Procyon. Also the star in the
head of Hercules.
It is quite clear that the idea of a dominant super star was common, also that in time there
arose inevitable disagreement among the experts as to which star it might be. Amid all the KLB
names the overwhelming preference goes to the big boys: Antares is Qlb and Sirius for.KIb, of
course, for everyone knows that Sirius is the Dog-star, and K1b in al Semitic languages is the
word for dog. For the Egyptians the Heart-star par excellence was Canopus, the next brightest
star to Sirius, which they designated by drawing a heart as the bob on a cosmic plumb-line. G. E.
de Santillana has followed this up:
"...the determinative sign for 'heart' often figures as the plumb line coming from a well-known
astronomical surveying device. the merkhet [Lit. the "infarmer,"] that which causes to know!.
Evidently 'heart' is same thing very specific, as it were the 'center of gravity.' And this may lead
in quite another direction. The Arabs preserved a name far Canopus--besides caliino the star
Kalb at-teiman ('heart of the south'):
Suhail el wetn, 'Canopus Ponderosus, the heavy-weighting Canopus," i.e., "Canopus was the
weight at the end of the plumb-line...(p. 73) by means of which this depth [of the
universe] was measured." (p.271) Of all the stars it alone was taken for static, exempted from
the Precession" (p. 269, rJ. 16). Hence it is "the primordial star. 'presented under the form of an
Egg that contained all the things that were to be born...caIled 'l'etoile immobile'. -lt is near the
Great Cloud which marks the South Pole of the ecliptic, and is NOT to be sought in the North."
The Arabic wazn means "scales" rather than heavy, and this suggests the ape who sits atop the
centerpost of a balance, and holds the plumb-line making sure that it is upright. This is the figure
that also tells time for the Egyptians. Measuring the hours of water clocks. All of which
suggests the presence at the center of all Hypocephali of the two apes that face each other in a
sense of perfect balance. Are they Canopus symbols?
For the Egyptians "the heart is the organ that directs the body...the function of all the senses originates in the heart, which represents the totality of life and the manifestation of life, the essence of every personality" (de Buck). It is Re "whose intelligent heart created all things, who follows one eternal course according to the laws which he has established for all time," G. Hagel, who quotes the passages finds "this mention of 'the intelligent heart' most strange" (Nagel), but it makes good sense! and is found elsewhere in the ancient world, as in the Mahavairochana,' "the Great Sun Buddha," "the Personification of the heart and light of the Universe..." (Jos. Campbell). In the Babylonian Ennilma a Enish the star Nibiru corresponds closely to Kolob (7:126ff). "I was begotten of the members and created in the HEART of the Great God...He made me in his own heart...I am he who is in the Circle" says a C.T. (I,314ff). "Since the most sacred place of the ancestors 1ies in the middle point of the earth, corresponding to the heart in man," according to Hermest. Trismegistus, is represents a spiritual force (Hermes, p.395). Synesius an important, man who lived in Africa, says the Egyptians have a holy mountain on the top of which is a royal booth (skene), where the wisest men of Egypt sit in order of wisdom, in a circle ring, "as if encircling the King as first and foremost as if he were the Heart..." PG 66:1220). This hill is crowned by another hill on which the King sits invisible, as the power of divinity (1.c.)
According to Jewish tradition, Abraham studied magnetism and the "wheels (cycles) of nature,
and the Heart which is the center of the Universe (Spictgel, Zohar III,141). The S. Yesirah says
that above Time is the Sphere galgal, and above the body is the heart." (A. Epstein). And the
Cabbala teaches that "the Celestial Dragon is the center of the universe, the heart is the center of
man, and, finally, the revolutions of the Zodiac constitute the basis of the years." (A. Franck).
"The heart is the Central point of the World Organism," according to the Zohar (III, 141), around
which all things revolve in an pternal return (II,213). The Microcosm is the structure of heaven
and earth as reproduced in the human body and spirit: "Man contains in himself the equivalent
of Sun, Moon, stars, air, mountains, trees, animals, etc., and the cumulation of all activity is in
the Heart, at the center of all." (BHM V,xii,57-59). Finally in the Christian Clementine writings,
God is the ' Heart of the Universe from which all dimensions radiate into infinity (A. Epstein.).
Everyone of the "Explanations" given to Facsimile No. 2 has specific reference to the "Kolob"
concept which lies at the heart of Hebrew and Egyptian Cosmology.
This is not the place for a detailed study of each of the figures in Facsimile No. 2, but some
main points should not be passed by without notice. First of all, there is among the Joseph Smith
papers a pen-and-ink sketch of Fac. No. 2, plainly made from an overlay, since the proportions
are all correct. It is claimed that this shows us the condition of the document when Reuben
Hedlock made his copy of it (the one we use today) in which all the missing parts of the original
have been faked. This is not so; comparison of the Hedlock version with other Hypocephali
shows that when he made his copy the thing was not so badly damaged as it appears in the pen
drawing. The scepter, for example, is entirely missing in the ink sketch but it is correctly
presented by Hedlock as an angular version of the W3S-sceptre and the OJAM-sceptre held by
the central figures on other Hypocephali. Above the sceptre in the Hedlock engraving there is an
Egyptian inscription, entirely missing from the other drawing, but obviously not supplied by the
Mormons, since it is the correct Egyptian formula found in the same place on other hypocephali:
"This Great God." The ink sketch has one of the snakes missing, while the engraving has both
snakes, which is correct.
Figure 3 is missing entirely in the ink sketch. The present figure, it is claimed, was supplied
by borrowing the ship-vignette from this Joseph Smith Book of the Dead Manuscript.
But if this was faked, it was done with inspired accuracy, for if we look at other hypocephali, we
find in the same position the same ship drawn in the same proportions. Though the ship and its
occupants as depicted in various Hypocephali shows considerable variety, with scarabs
predominating, there are some important dacuments in which this segment of the circle is exactly
like that in the Hedlock reproduction. Some Hypocephali favor apes, others scarabs, as the ships
passengers, but all contain the seated figure with pendant hawk's beak and a mane-like wig,
sitting in a ship which strangely is NOT facing the other ship [though that is the normal
solar-motif of the two ships], holding in his hand the w3s sceptre, a solar disk above his head,
and a large wd3t-eye before him. What more could you ask? Note that our copyist has also
sneaked in some writing behind the back of the seated figure, which is NOT found in the Book of
the Dead vignette from which he is supposed to have lifted it, and the characters are quite
relevant: "The Ship of the God." The wdSt Eye above the inscription is supplanted by an ape in
some Hypocephali, but the Eye and the Ape have the same purpose there beside the Sun, for each
is fully qualified to represent the Moon.
Almost a third of the inscription on the rim is missing in the sketch, filled in with hieratic
characters borrowed from other Joseph Smith papyri. About half of Figs. 12 to 15 are also
missing and replaced in the same way. On the left side the small blank spot on the rim is easily
filled by reference
As symbolizing the outstretched heavens the wings are particularly the attribute of Nut the Sky-goddess (Piankbff, Shrines). Her body is the sky, adorned with stars (JunkPr); "Thy mother Nut spreads herself over thee in her name of Mystery of the Heavens" (Chron.d'Eg.36). This woman whose outspread wings shield the dead in countless coffins, has the same name as that of the ship in Fig. 4: "The One with a Thousand Souls" (Bonnet 537), being so called because the stars are her children (Kees, GG). A Pyramid Text says, "Nut receives the gods to herself and lets them sink [a nautical term is used] as 'One with a Thousand souls (Kha-ba-s), lest they depart from thee as stars; so may NH not be removed from thee in his name of the Distant One (the Sky). She has counted her children in her name of Lady of Heliopolis." (Kees, Lesebuch,
24; PT 784-5). The stete of one Nebipusenwasret ends: "Ye shall be as an Imperishable Star, a
star that is in the Khabas," concerning which Biackman comments, that "Kh3-b3-s must mean
'thousand is her soul(s)' and refer ta the countless stars appearing by nlght in the body of Nut"
(Blackman). Let us recall that Abraham was told to Count the Stars, and compare their number
to that of his own children (Gen. ); also that we see him, according to Fac. No. 3, "reasoning
on the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court" Facsimile No. 3, Fig. 1. Reasoning and
counting of the same word in the famous funeral stele of a great princess, a daughter of
Psamnetichus II, which reads, "Behold ye Khabasu of HeIionolis...the God is born...one who can
tal:e the helm. Osiris A. (the Princess) will beckon (calculate, reason, w3dj) with you concerning
the secret which is in the Great Hall (w3st, of the palace) of the gods; and will take along Osiris
in his Ship of a Thousand, even with the two heads, so that by it he can mount to heaven and to
the counter-heaven." (Snader-Hansen ). This is our Figure No. 4. According to the
Woerterbuch (IIT,230),Khabasu means (1) the expanse of the starry heavens as observed from
Heliopoolis; (2) the stars are those that provide the reckoning of Time at the New Year:. (3) their
name is written with the ideogram of a Ship, (4) the word means literally "a thousand 1000,
spirit, soul, -her or its," (5) the thousand in this case refers specificalIy to 'the colIectivity of the
starry hosts' Faulkner's Dictionary renders khabas as "the starry sky"; Budge's Dictionary p. 530
as "a star or luminary", H. Brugsch (G!b.III,1068) as temple lamps and as a verb signifying
gathering or collectivity, also (III,1967) as a light or lamp to represent (6) the stars at the New
All of which is in keeping with the Abraham tradition. It was A. Piankoff who abserved that
the outstretched Egyptian wings signify the same as the Hebrew ra4iCa (which Joseph Smith
renders phonetically as Raukeeang ) . Abraham was asked not only to count the stars as a
metaphorical measure of his progeny, but he meets us in Gen. 15:5 as an observer (habbet) and
Counter (sephor) of the stars. Granted that "the space-bark has nothing literal about it, and all its
fixtures are symbolic," (Jecquier), it is none the less' significant that, Joseph Smith says all the
things about it that the Woerterbuch does, to wit, (1) that is "answers to the Hebrew word
raukeeang [did he get that from Prafessor Piankoff?] signifying (Not depicting!) expanse, or the
firmament of the heavens." (2) are "answering to the measurement of time," (3) that the symbol
for it is a shi?, (4) that it is "also a numerical figure, in Egyptian, signifying one thousand;" (5)
"answers to...the firmament of the heavens"3 (6) time being measured in terms of cycles and
Both the Princess and the Prophet. do their star-reckoning as one who mounts the
throne--"takes the he~m"--in the Great. Hall of the Royal Court at Heliopolis, the proper place
for such mysteries.
Fig. 5 takes us to the dark reverse-world and the great cow. De Horrack surmised well: The
lower part of the hypocephalus is the nocturnal sky "where the Sun marks the Beginning of
fime." There the Cow with the Solar disk between her horns is "the celestial mother by whom
the Sun is reborn...the Wd3t-eye is always assimilated to the annual and daily renewal of the Sun;
"this is what the Goddess Wd3t indicates as she holds out the Lotus of rebirth, standing before
the Cow." (De Horrack). In the Joseph Smith version she stands behind it. At Opet Hathor was
the Cow who bore Horus as the reborn Osiris, and also brought forth Amon-Ra of Thebes, in
which double capacity she is called "the Sun of Two Worlds" (Rochnmonteix). The
hypocephalus idea enters in when we read that the Apis Bull of the Year Cycle was barn of a cow
fertilized "by a celestial beam" (Aelian). Since all these things are figurative, we need not be
disturbed that the rising of the Sun out of the Duat, the lower half of our circle, the primal waters,
is quite a different religious concept from the Nut-doctrine, of his heavenly birth, according to O.
Lange, who finds the duality of the heavens to be the central idea of the Egyptian cosmology.
Contrary to what we might suppose, he points out, the Sun does not come forth from the womb of the waters "the Sun's cosmos is deep in the midst of inaccessible boundaries of heaven"
(H.O. Lange). We have at Heliopolis, the Sun Center, represented by the Bull, ''the Sun above
the earth and below it, giving the idea of a perpetual succession which guaranteed that birth will
follow death, a continuing creation" (Jecquier). Rut "the various images of the King's
hereafter--whether he joins the circumpolar stars, or the Sun in his boat, or becomes Osiris--all
express the same transcendental rite, his participation in the perennial movements of nature."
(Frankfort). And all are clearly represented on our Facsimile No. 2. The famous 17th Chapter of
the Book of the Dead explains our Fig. No. 5: "That is the image of the Eye of Re (in the head
of the standing lady), who is born every morning daily (the lotus). But the heavenly Cow is the
Wd3.t Eye," it is the Lady in two different capacities. (H. Grapow).
But the most interesting and arresting thing about Fig. 5 is the explanation of the strange number 15. The Cow is "said by the Egyptians to be the Sun (see above), and to borrow its light from Kolob through...the governing power which governs 15 other planets or stars." The governing power, called enish-go-on-dosh [Eg. q3i-wn- is not a heavenly body but a principle of
Kae-Van-rash] energy and control called "A governing power," "a medium," "a grand key",
operating in a complicated system of inter-related bodies. The crouching bird in Fig. 4 is
Chonsu, who from the earliest times represented the passage of heavenly bodies from one place
to another, his name meaning "he who traverses" (Jecquier, p.172). Sometimes he is represented
by a two-headed bull--the symbol of passage as with Janus or Amon or Akr or Rwti, which is a
conspicuous figure on the pretl. and famous Pal. of Nar, "Khonsu is nothing other than a
personification of the mystery of the other world in whole or in part," wrote Jecquier in a special
study he finds "an excellent illustration of Khons" in the Book of Gates, where we see "a long
horizontal bar, with a bull's head at either end, supported by eight mummiform personages and
supporting seven other genies, accompanied at either extremity by a small bull turning its back;
the towing-rope of the soIar ship enters the mouth of one of the bull's heads and exits by the
mouth of the other, so that the bar may be viewed as a very reduced image of the corridor (or
orbit) through which the god passes during the night" (Jecqueir). lt does indeed suggest the idea
of light being conveyed to a series of 15 celestial bodies. The 15 figures have the word "Bearers"
written above them, suggesting that they are transmitters of power and light as they pass along
the rope. The Book of the Dead has much to say about. the cords or lines of force along which
spirits travel from the earth to the polar stars or from Orion back to earth.] The rope begins with
the God in his boat, the same as Fig. 3, Fac. No. 2. Along the sides of the boat are 15 dots, 3 of
which seem to be supplied as an afterthought. This could be dismissed as mere coincidence
where it not that the Chonsu boat, Fig. 4 has 15 very distinct dots along its side also. The
doctrine represented by the l5 figures was a very secret one according to Jecqueir. Since only
one exemplar of the thing has ever been discovered. It is further in order to note that Khonsu in
his lunar capacity sits on the fifteenth step, enthroned as the Wdat Eye, representing the full
moon at the climax of the 30-day month (Lantone).
The oldest Egyptian coronation rites included the famous circumambulation of the wall of the
King, which "signifies his dominion over all the world." As he ran the course, the King would
knock on each of the 15 doors, which opened to him; the names of the doors go back to
prehistoric times, to King Narmer. Why fifteen? Kees asks: "The number fifteen cannot be
derived from any holy number of the Egyptians," and yet it presents "a surprising analogy to the
actual fifteen gates in the great wall of the Zoser complex at Sakkarah," the wall and its 15 gates
being desioned by the great Imnoptep himself, with the "Festivals of the Heavens" of Heliopolis
in mind, following the older patter of the White Wall of the Thinite Palace of Memphis. Then
there was a wall built for Amenophis II, for his royaI circumambulation at his Sed Festival,
marking the inauguration of a New Age for the world; it also had 15 gates. Why? The cosmic
significance of the otherwise baffling number, as steps or phases in the completion of a circle or
transition is very close in the Book of Abraham. The fifteen stations between the two heads of
the two-headed bull have the same significance as the two heads of the lion Akr, "a
personfication of the gates of the earth, those through which the Sun must pass, evening and
morning," as often set forth in the Pyramid Texts (Jecquier, p.173). As to the fifteen dots
on the Sokar bark, at the entrance of the 15-stage passage there is a small Sokar or Khons-ship,
clearly marked by being mounted on a standard, for the procession and labelled "his Sokar-ship"
(p.173). The point seems to be that the light of the Sun is shared by "fifteen other fixed planets
or stars" and passed from one to the other as the Sun's light is passed between the Earth
and the Moon, "Floe-ese".
Fig. 6 was the first one on which the Mormons were able to reply to their critics. Freiherr von Bissing had said that Joseph Smith had interpreted "not one single figure" correctly. The Prophet had written that the four Canopic figures represented idols of certain local gods or regions of Canaan (Fac. Ho.1, Figs. 4-7). and also that Fig. 6 ''represents the earth in its four quarters." (Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 6). He was right on both counts, if one was to take the great Budge seriously. Of the same figures on the Lady Meux Hypocephalus he wrote, "These jars under the protection of Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Serqet, and represented the south, north, east and west respectively." (Budge). At the same time they are idols "dedicated to the 4 genii of the underworld... who represented the 4 cardinal points," (Budge) the very words used by Smith.
Of course the reply was that anybody could see that, even Joseph Smith. The three enigmatic
figures standing behind the Canopics in Fig. 6, are a leaf, an ape, and a ram, are "an anaglyph for
the name of...Amon as one who makes his eternal round in the "Empyreal Region" (Birch).
No. 7 is the most problematical and mysterious of all the vignettes, and the one which
surprisingly takes us straight to Abraham. The first thing to notice about it is that it is not
supposed to be a picture, but a highly abstract piece of notation. We are told that it "represents
God sitting upon his throne..." But we are also told that Fig. 3, a very different image, "is made
to represent" "the same thing--"God, sitting upon his throne". Which is it to be? Plainly the two
different figures are to represent the same God in different capacities. In this particular case the
one on the throne is "revealing, through the heavens, the grand Key-Words [of the Priesthood: as
it represents] also, the sign of the Ho1y Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove." The whole
composition is one of sions and symbols, very abstract. Now let us recall how in the Testament
and Apocalypse of Abraham the Patriarch was carried up from the place of sacrifice by a dove,
and there saw God on his throne, and was given a tour of the cosmos along with a special map, a
round chart. with two main divisions, etc., which must have looked like our Hypocephalus,
which he brought it back to earth with him for the instruction of his children. Moses is taken on a
like tour, which indeed is now found to be a part of stock therile in Apocalyptic literature, but he
is taken not by a dove but., "being filled with the Holy Ghost...calling upon the name of God," is
carried up to behold God in his glory and is given a panoramic view of the universe: "...as the
voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld, the earth, even all of it," as well as the
starry heavens (Mos. 1:25ff) etc. In Fig. 7 we are shown "the Holy Ghost...in the form of a dove"
presenting or receiving from the one on the throne, another symbol here standing for "the grand
Key-Words Of the Priesthood, as they are revealed "through the heavens". It was through
the heavens, specifically by the Cosmic chart, that Abraham was enlightened at his ascension in
the Abraham Apocrypha.
ln the many hypocephali on which this composition appears, the figure on the throne is always
the same, and the object held up between the two is always the Wd3.t Eye, while the Figure here
called a dove takes a surprising variety (see below) of forms. Why must the figure on the throne
also have wings as he always does? There may be a hint in the beginning of the Pistis Sophia,
which claims to be the Book that Enoch hid up, and which came to us from Egypt, where we
are told that the First Mystery "that comes before all other mysteries is the representation of the
Father in the form of a Dove. A mystery indeed!
The wdat-Eye is something far more familiar. Does it "represent the grand Key-words of the
Priesthood?" Gardiner has an interesting sanction on this object in his Grammar. It is called
wd3t "tile sound eye" because it is supposed to represent the complete restoration of the Eye of
Horus as well as the body of Osiris after his sacrificial death. But in this world one sixty-fourth
part of the eye is missing--until that is supplied the great secret of how to give life remains
beyond our grasp. As it stands, the eye is the key to the measurement of all things and hence to
all knowledge. The parts of the eye, regularly employed in connection with the hekat-measure",
indicate its prehistoric use in measuring grain, a vital operation in the Osiris cult. It also "stood
in the closest relationship to the divisor of the official year in "Rechnungsjahr of 360 days", time,
space and mass all being embraced by a single system (H. Brugsch, AZ 27:19). In the Pyramid
Texts as Grapow points out, every gift and endowment is identified with the Horus Eye, and the
making of the whole, the perfect wd3t-Eye the Supreme gift. In some instances it is not Horus
but the dead Osiris who receives the Eye, when it is the earnest of the resurrection, the restoration
of the body, the ultimate triumph over death (Grapow). We do not know what is behind this
great mystery, according to Grapow, but he suggests that it relates to the Moon, which, like all
that dwindles and perishes, must receive renewal through the Eye. That he thinks, is perhaps a
secondary derivation, though it justifies the reconstruction of Fig. 3 in our Facsimile, where the
Wd3t-Eye is shown opposite the Solar disk as the Moon. The presentation of the Wd3t-Eye (,zo
clearly indicated in our Fig. 3), is the ultimate endowment, according to Ebeling, and is given
along with "the procreating seed...which is received along with the solemn Opening of the Eye...
The divine child can now see. The final act of the New Creation is consummated." (Ebeling).
The Wd3t as a grain measure.is thus taken back to the mystery of the seed by which life is
seasonaly renewed. (Ebeling).
Plutarch, who knew a great deal about the Egyptians, reports that the Wd3t eye of Osiris
represented consummate knowledge, Dronoian, while his scepter, a symbol of procreation
showed the power to beget or create, sustain and preserve life. (De Iside 51): The sceptre in
question is the whip that the enthroned figure in Fig. 7 holds upraised, the nehaha, which always
has that double significance (Endowment). In the margin of an article in which M. de Horrack
described the figure as "a hawk-bodied god, is a form of Amon the generator; the whip held in
the position of consecration as the symbol of male generation," and states that the joining of the
male and female principle in the hypocephali represented "eternal procreation," Dr. Mercer ,
Joseph Smith's severest critic, wrote three outraged exclamation points (Horrack). But de
Horrack was right, though Mercer need not apologize, since as late as 1956 an eminent professor
of Egyptology did not recognize "the creature at the left," who "holds out a fan (sic) or an
offering to a seated deity" (Hughes). The unlimited life-giving power of the Wd3t-Eye, "the
Key-words of the Priesthood," is conveyed in a comment by E. Drioton: "Within the pupil
[remember that the hypocephalus itself is a pupiI] is the complete personage: the ensemble
shows the embryo (of the Sun in the process of taking form in the interior of an Egg, the Ego of
Hermopolis, which is the embryo of the Sun surrounded by the Oodoad, each male with his
female counterpart." (E. Drioton).
The oddest figure in all the facsimiles is certainly that which Smith boldly designated as "the
sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham. in the form of a dove." At this point eager criticism is
silenced by the fact that. this particular figure appears in the various Hypocephali in a wide
variety of forms. Usually it is a serpent standing on two legs, but sometimes it is an ape (Walter
Nash Pap.), sometimes a snake with a hawk's head (Leyden Hypoceph.) ,sometimes a snake with
a sheep's head (B.M.No. 8445),. sometimes, an ape with a hawk's head and lion's mane like our
Fig.. 3. (Abydos Tomb G50B). Why can this particular picture be almost anything? Were the
Egyptians baffled by it? Birch saw on the famous Florentine hypocephalus "a seated
hawk-bodied God with the whip. the god in the pupil or of the mystical eyes. adorned by
an ithyphallic hawk-headed ape, holding to him an eye by both hands" (Birch). Lefebure
compares this scene with others showing "a walking snake who offers the fruit to the ithyphallic
man...it is the serpent offering the fruit of the tree of life or the tree of knowledge to Adam."
(Lefebure). The key of knowledge and life, the secret of the resurrection, the key to the measure
of all things, of science itself. the knowledge of "every gift and endowment," the consummation
of every good thing--what comes nearer to "the great Key-Words of the Priesthood?"
The relegating of Figs. 8 to 20 to the realm of top-secret or forbidden things is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the hypocephali, which bear such formulas as, "O Amon of Amons who is in heaven on high, turn thy face to thy Son...This book is the greatest of secrets, do not let anyone see it: It is a crime ta know it; whoever makes a copy of it must hide it.," etc. Concealing messages and numbers, especially numbers, by cryptograms is part of the game.
As S. Aorell points out, "the holy number of the god in question lies hidden in the sum of the numerical values of the letters used. The holy numbers of the gods are connected with the order of the days of the week..." (S. AgreIl). Figs. 8 through 11 "ought not to be revealed at the present time." No. 8 "cannot be revealed unto the world," apparently at any time, "but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God." What does it say? Granting that all Egyptian religious writing is a cryptogram which no one to this day really understands, what line 8 says is "grant (imi) life unto the Ba of the Osiris Sheshak." There is no commoner formula in Egyptian than line 8, but what does it mean? This section tells us that the Most High God is to endow a certain individual (who happens to bear the name of the King who brought the holy implements if not ordinances of Solomon's Temple to Heliopolis) with life. But what do those words mean--to endow the Ba of a certain Osiris So-and So with ankh? It is the greatest gift and blessing that can be bestowed on any one; and such a blessing the Latter-day Saints believe is only to be found in the Temple of God. Note that the numbering of lines 8 through 11 is in reverse, from bottom to top, though on the corresponding panel on the other side, nos. 12 to 15 are numbered from top to bottom. This indicates that the numbers are used simply for convenience in identifying the various characters and that no special significance is to be attached to them.
Figs. 11 and possibIy the rest of the panel is said to contain numbers and so we read them: "O,
Great God sleeping picture of man on lion-couch! in..." At this point we expect to be told that he
is sleeping in the Duat or in the Temple or in Heliopolis, etc. But instead we are told that he is
sleeping or has slept in the Sp tpy. The term as used in funerary literature,
according to Grapow, means "First place, first in time or first in mathematical order." The
present expression, Sp tpy, means "First time, also in the sense of Primal Beginning; also first in
quality as well as quantity." (Grapow) Many hypocephali are covered with symbolic numbers.
Everyone will recognize the cosmic No. 4 of Fig. 6; the great circle of Opet bears the inscription,
"Four Times" (spy fdw) meaning that the divinity is the active principle of creation...the hidden
force that precedes the Creation which established the harmony of the laws of the universe." It is
the principle called "The Great Apet, who has given birth to all the gods, who rules in the
heavens, and who governs (or controls) the universe" (Rochemonteix). This is what the rest of
the inscription (lines 10 - 8) refers to: "...even the great God of heaven, earth, under the earth
and the great waters (above the earth) specifically naming the four regions of God's dominion,
the "four times" of the Temple of Opet."
On the opposite panel, Nos. 12 to 15, only the last words in each line are preserved and only
the last one in 1ine 15 is clear and has ta do with the Council of the Gods. The two panels
flanking Fig. I are perhaps the most important in our hypocephalus because they are unique;
corresponding sections of other hypocephali we have seen all differ among themselves, no two
telling the same story. Hence it would appear that these two panels contain a special message of
this particular doctrine. As to the withholding of the numbers, the Anchnesneferirbre Stele tells
us that Osiris has concealed himself behind the number.
Figs. 22 and 23 are identified only in the Explanation to Fig. 5, and it is interesting that the two
apes bear the same emblems on their head as does the Cow. The Solar-disk between the cusps of
the horned Moon representing East and West the moon on the first and last day of its visibility.
The Apes with upraised hands are said to represent heavenly bodies receiving light from Kolob,
and that is exactly how the Egyptians, interpreted the gesture. In hundreds of drawings we see
the cynocephalus Apes on the [unreadable] that [unreadable] the [unreadable] facing the sun and
holding up their hands, as if in an act of praise to receive its first warming rays after the cold
desert night. In the astronomical chart in the Temple of the Ramesseum, the Ape in the center of
the circle sits on the Djed-column, "the one immovable point in the heavens," B. Stricker
observes. "with Pharaoh offering to the gods of the Egyptian months on either side"--a
correlation of time and space. It is also the Ape who sits atop the supporting column of Egyptian
scales holding the pILunb-line with its heart-shaped (Kolob) bob to make sure that the balance is
perfect. It is also the Ape who sits on Egyptian water clocks to tell the precise hours of the day
and night. The Apes in Facsimile No. 2 are said to represent the principle of borrowed light and
energy and an immediate dependence on Kolob, the Great center of things. Both their upraised
hands receiving life and light and their double headdresses showing the sun-moon dependency
illustrate the point. Note how "the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun in their annual revolutions "
along with the "governing power which governs 15 other fixed planets or stars are all
inter-dependent." "Fixed planets" is, of course, a contradiction of terms until we realized that the
whole thing is stated relatively: with relationship to their many moons, Jupiter and Saturn are
indeed fixed; it is with relationship to the Sun that they are planets, and this is the principle
which is applied throughout the Explanations.
And what about the exotic names? They came to Joseph Smith either by revelation or invention, and present an interesting challenge. Let us guess at a few.
1) Shagre-el is both the Sun and Sirius with the ancients. It means Shagre is God. Shagre is the Arabic designation of serious or whatever other object is the brightest in the sky at a given time. We discussed this matter sone years ago (depending, of course, entirely on Lanes' Dictionary), since then inscriptions from Ras Shamra have established the existence and importance of the God Shagre in Ugaritic.
2) Shinehah--another name for the Sun. Note how free-and-easy Joseph Smith is in identifying this and that sign with the Sun. He is only following the Egyptian way. Shinehah certainly suggests the Egyptian sheni. 'encircle' from which shnw, 'circuit,' 'cartouche;' the oldest form of the cartouche which contained the name of the King was round, and was retained in later times as the symbol for infinity. To quote Gardiner, "The Egyptians called the cartouche shnw, from a verb-stem shemi 'encircle', and it seems not unlikely that the idea was to represent the King as ruler of all 'that which is ericircled by the sun', a frequently expressed notion. " (Gardiner, p. 74). The second element of the name suggests the common hh= heh (vowel uncertain), meaning "a great number," "a million, eternity". As a verb heh means to go around. to search continually. Its common occurrence is in the ten nhh, "eternitv"--that which never stops going on (Endowment). It may be significant that nehah appears twice as a designation of the Sun in the Pyramid Texts (#5 I1,302-314), and in an epithet for the sun meaning to determine [time] or to flee [on its course] (Wb.I1,313); nhh can also mean 'star' (II,313). Thus we may play with the idea that Sheni-heh could very well be Shinehah, "the eternal encircling one," whose "course is one eternal round."
3. Olea is the Moon. Since the most important sound-shift in Egyptian takes place between 1, r and a, the one being read for the other in almost any operation, the Egvptian word for Moon, which, however pronounced could with the greatest of ease, if not inevitably, slip into olea. Egyptian dictionaries dually note the undoubted relationship between the Egyptian word for moon and the Hebrew ya recah, which is even closer to olea. A good guess to say the least.
4. The Hebrew words kokob and Raukeeyang have already been treated. Joseph Smith's spelling is also notable, since it is a rather good attempt to render the Shephardic sounds phonetically. This must be kept in mind when reading these strange names--the people at Kirtland had their own special way of indicating the sounds. Kokob is the common Semitic word for star, but of uncommon origin; its original meaning is usually taken to have been "to glisten, be lustrous, bright," though it also has the root meaning "to be dispersed," and refer to the source of something--a well or a spring. In Arabic it signifies "a star, an asterism, a constellation." All of which reminds us not to be too critical of Joseph Smith's use of the words star, planet, revolution (for orbit), etc.
5. Is it "this earth" or "the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh." (Fig. l)? We prefer the latter since the Egyptian c3h is very close to it, and is the archaic name for the Moon in the Pyramid texts, written with the disk between the horns, as in
Figs. 22 and 23. Grapow relates it to the Hebrew yareakh, the original measurer of time for man. On the other hand, in the latest time the Coptic designates the planet earth as opposed to the inhabited earth as ja-i-e. The three elements of Jah-oh-eh as divided up by Joseph Smith suggest the parallel Egyptian construction ta-w-heh,"eternal dwelling place", in which ta-w-heh is not the planet earth but the inhabited world "as opposed to deserts"-Gardiner). Fig. 2 "called by the Egyptians Oliblish," strides forth with the Wp-wawet staff that opens every way:' "holding the key of power also," for the was-scepter held by Fig. I is also the key to every door (Above -). Since star names do not often have visible root meanings but maybe very ancient borrowings we need not strive to find a noun or verb to match Oliblish, but granted the ellusive quality of the Egyptian liquid sounds one might suggest cbesh, "the name of a star" (unidentified, Wb. I,179), or even Khabas, "the collective designation of the starry heavens." (Wb.l~I,230)
7. With Enish-go-on-Dosh we have etymological salad-bar to choose from: a) En-ish, cnet, a ring, the smallest circle of time, (1, 188) '3n.s, 3n.sw, etc., eternal return, turning in its course c3nd.w the brilliance of the Sun (Wb. 207).
b) go-on, Eg. gwn, a puzzling but not uncomnon word, referring to the most ancient annals and to engravings.
c) -dosh Eg. d3sh, to divide up into par~ts (V,487); the same as tash, to bound, to set
limits, any boundary or marking off (V,235).
Each of these places the emphasis on the idea of marking off cycles of time or areas of space, as does the Explanation.
8. Kae-e-vanrash. Here we can play with
a) qay, Pf.pt . kay-y, a comman first element in proper names,
meaning high or exalted.
b) wn, to open, a common word, with the determinative of a door plus
a man holding a stick, showing his control of the door;.
wn, is also the basic root for "to be or exist".
c) r , prep, in order to, for the purpose of, Lat. ad.
d) ash, to call upon another, call out.
ash, many, a multitude, a great many.
Put this together and you can get something suggesting the Kleidouchos or keeper of the keys, the opener or guardian of the doors in the mysteries, and read, "The Exalted One who opens at the call." Or possibly "The Exalted One who becomes as (wn.m r) who is continually turning into a multitude." The last recalls the meaning of Atum, as he who contains the multitude in himseIf (Anthes). Cf. "Atum, meaning many."
9. Floeese, suggesting Egyptian Faw - glory, splendor, and `/ys, primal time, primordial in nature, hence. ls Floeese "the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun in their annual revolutions" or is it just the moon? It is not clear, but
10. Kli-flosises, is supposed to be related to it, with the added element #li. Grapow is good enough to equate the Egyptian Kri - with the Hebrew keleh, meaning a chamber or chapel, suggesting the heaven divided up onto houses or topoi, like the Zodiac. We are told that it means the same as ha-ko-kau-beam,
Nos. 22 and 23, which are stars.
FACSIMILE NO. 3 - ABRAHAM AT COURT
"As [a type of] the Messiah, and as a parallel to Moses, according to a recent study by S. Cavalletti, "Abraham is both priest and king...Abraham like the Messiah sits at the right hand of God, he is a counselor of God, and as such the Defender or Advocate of Israel. In Tanhuma it is said to Abraham: When thou wert anointed Grace was pured llpon thy lips." (S. Cavalletti, Studi e Fati., 35:253, Abr. 3: ). Abraham's claim to kingship is implicit in his name; both Abram and Abraham "are variants of the same royal title Abrama, or i\biramu, occurring in cuneiform tablets from the 19th and 17th centuries B.C.." meaning "'the God Ram [the Most High God] is (My) Father," or..."the Father is Exalted.' "Father of Many Nations' is, however, borne out by the Arabic raham = multitude,' The divine name Ram occurs in various proper names, and its plural (Job 21122) is used to describe heavenly beings..." (Graves-Patai, HM, p. 165; W. F. Albright). Abraham was recognized as a king even among men, and the Rabbis said the Ephron was made chief of the Hittites "so that Abraham might not have to have dealings with a man of low rank." (Ginsberg I,289). But his real kingship was shown not in the emblems of royalty, but his constant concern for all other persons and creatures; he felt that somehow he was responsible if others lacked and suffered; he was the kingly person, the princely man, who would never stoop to a base or unkind act though he had constantly to deal with men like the King of Sodom who thought only to advance their own power and gain (Gen. )
In the legends, the relationship between Abraham and the Cosmocrator "Nimrod" is from beginning to end one of rivalry for the kingship and priesthood. Nimrod. whose possession of the garment of the priesthood by a rouse. has all creatures convinced all creatures that he is the rightful ruler of the world, is mortally afraid that Abraham will take all his power and dominion from him. Before the birth of Abraham the king's astrologers foretold the coming of one whose right it would..be to rule, and to prevent such a catastrophe the king ordered a slaughter of all the new-born babes. At their first meeting face to face the boy Abraham, taken to court by his father, places his hand on the throne of Nimrod which at that moment is shaken to its foundations by an earthquake which throws all the courtiers off their feet. The only way that Nimrod can get rid of his budding rival in the end is to burn him up; but forthwith "the furnace was transformed into a royal pleasance, and the angels sat therein with Abraham." (Gint. I,201). It was one of those royal bowers, those little Edens, in which the Kings of the East were displayed in the New Year's Rites as Lords of creation (B. Beer, p. 17, 113; A. Moortgat, Tamnuz pp. ). The King seeing this,' acknowledges the supremacy of Abraham's God and offers to submit to him. More than once Abraham is humiliated by a King for the sake of Sarah, only to be vindicated as the true spouse of the queen when the rival monarch suffers humiliation--illness and impotence--in turn. It was as the substitite for the King that Abraham was placed upon an exalted Bema (altar) in the Plain of Sava (Olishems), while all the people hailed him as mock king of the WorId; but Abraham refused the honor in an address calling upon them to acknowledge his God as the only true king (Midrs. Rab.; F. Weber, System, p.257: Ber. Rab. c. 43.44). At the command of Nimrod 365 Kings brought wood to burn Abraham (Gorion II,96f; Ps. Philo, VI,t3). But when Abraham not only survived the flames but sat among them as a king in his royal bower, Nimrod's princess and wise men assured him that Abraham was the real thing (Beer, 18). As he emerged from the flames which had destroyed those who prepared them, the 365 kings fell down at the feet of Abraham; they cut cedars as they had before, but this time not for an altar but far a throne (Gorion II,97). Accordino to R.F. Eleazer, it was Nimrod himself who instructed all his court to do obeisance to Abraham as to a king. "When he was brought forth from the fire of the Kasdim, all the Kings bowed down at the soles of the feet of Abraham our Father. And they cut cedars and made a Bemah far him and set him on the top of it; and they brought their sons and submitted them to his law and said, 'Teach us thy ways in certainty." (Midr., in BHM I,41). .
Another account: "Then they brought their children for him to teach from his throne, and
Abraham looked in the heavens and said: 'Praise God whom Sun, Moon, and Stars and Planets
all serve!' And the kings departed, recognizing Abraham's God." (Maase Abr., in BHM V,40).
["The king, the princes. and all the people, who had been witnesses of the wonders done for
Abraham, came to him, and prostrated themselves before him." (Ginz. I,203). "And all the kings
stood and converted themselves and entered under the wing of the Shekhinah and upon them
appeared the nables of the people gathered to the God of Abraham" (BHM 1,41)].
So there is ample confirmation of the idea of Abraham sitting on a throne bearing all the
insignia of kingship, and even discoursing on the principles of astronomy before all the court.
But at the court of Pharaoh? In the oldest versions of the story the hero's arch-rival, Nimrod, always turns up as Pharaoh. The existence of such traditions is a serious mark against the critics of Joseph Smith, who have shirked the most elementary tasks in settling the matter of the Book of Abraham once for all. For Joseph Smith has named persons and places, and introduced into his tale a wealth of bizarre details and explanations which should not be too hard for any conscientious student to check up on. Not one of his learned critics have ever mentioned that there is indeed a substantial body of Jewish tradition, unpopular with the rabbis and scholars of Normative Judaism, and barely mentioned by them until after the mid-19th century, telling how Abraham in his youth was once the victim of an attempted sacrifice an a peculiar altar, was rescued at the last moment by an angel in answer to his prayers for deliverance. with the overthrow of the altar and the demise of the priest, and how he thereafter sat upon the royal throne and taught the king's court. The sequence of events is an Egyptian motif as well: the man is delivered from the lion-couch to mount the throne is the hero of the Sed Festival, the main event in the corporate life of the nation (Era 1969, Aug.?). And in between the altar and the throne-room at the Temple of Opet, is the round picture of the cosmos. That, too, is proper to the Abraham sequence, if we recall that when Abraham's spirit departed from the grim and terrifying scene of the altar sacrifices (Gen. 11, the LXX calls it a condition of "ekstasls"), he was carried up to heaven by a dove and shown just such a circular chart of the universe before returning to earth with his message and his document.
Facsimile No. 3 is another vignette from the Book of the Dead, like Facsimile No. 1. only far
commoner. This formal tableau occurs hundreds of times, not only on the funerary papyri but in
far earlier times on those stone steles that stood before the tombs of nobles and commoners alike
to identify the grave and solicit the reverent attention of the passer-by. Often these slabs,
rounded on the top, are adorned with the out-spread wings and some of the other symbols
appearing on the hypocephali, thus establishing a connection between the motifs of FacsimiIe
No. 2 and Facsimile No. 3, in very early times. The great abundance of pictures of the Facsimile
No. 3 variety calls for the widest possible comparative study. In a case like this the student's first
obligation is to compare, as widely and as carefully as possible. And this is where the critics of
the Book of Abraham all break down. Recalling or pointing to two or three other vignettes
resembling Facsimile No. 3, they dismiss it as a perfectly commonplace and familiar object,
unanimously rejecting Joseph Smith's interpretations as the purest nonsense. True, when they
risk stating their own opinions about these all too familiar objects, they differ widely among
themselves. This does not mean that they are in a state of hopeless confusion, but it does mean
that these familiar drawings are capable of a number of different interpretations, all of them
defensible and many of them, though conflicting, correct.
Thus Facsimile No. 3 has been interpreted by experts as 1) a .judgment scene, 2) and offering
scene, and 3) a presentation scene. It can be any one of these or all three at once, all three being
common in the numerous funerary documents in which the deceased being presented before the
august presence on the throne, brings a proper gift or offering, as he stands trembling before
the one who is to judge or reward him--indeed his admission to the Presence is in itself a
judgment. (Abraham in Egypt). Our particular exemplar, however, lacks the distinctive
properties of the familiar judgment-scene or "Psychostasy"--the scales, the Ape, the recording
Thoth, the threatening monster Amentit, etc.,--as it also lacks the indispensable fixtures of
offering-scenes, the heaped-up tables of fruit, flowers, and flesh-offering. it is plainly a
presentation or salutation scene.
Such presentation scenes are found in great numbers at every period of Egyptian history and,
what is even more important, in great variety, no two such scenes being exactly alike. This has
prompted a native Egyptian scholar--in a doctoral dissertation for the University of Munich
(1974), to make careful comparisons~ of more than 100 examples of this type of composition.
The title of his work is instructive: "Representations of the rulino King and Members of His
Family in Private Tombs of the XVIIIth Dynasty." The setting in every case is the coort of
Pharaoh, but the hero each time is not Pharaoh but the deceased, the owner of the relief or the
papyrus. The pictures are fortunately accompanied by inscriptions which tell us what ls going
on. From them we learn that these are not funerary scenes at all, though found in graves, but
pictures comemorating the most note worthy event in the lifetime of the deceased--his
presentatfon at court, human bliss, honor and glory, being measured by proximity of any mortal
to the person of the Pharaoh. So if we ask, viewing Facsimile No. 3,
1) is Joseph Smith's Explanation of the thing at all plausible--could such a thing
have happened? The answer is emphaticalIy "Yes".
2) Is there any reason for thinking that such a thing could have happened to Abraham? There is.
3) Are there any indications that it could have happened in this peculiar
way--do we have descriptions of what actuaIIy went on at the court of Pharaoh?
Again the answer is definitely affirmative. To be more specific it will be
necessary to take up these three points in order:
1) Such things as the scenario set forth in the Explanation to Facsimile No. 3 could happen,
we know, because they did happen. Was such regal splendor as that here bestowed on Abraham
open to mere talent! It was indeed. The biographies of such great men as Imhotep and his later
counterpart Amenhotep Son of Hapu are enough to show that. They were commoners, both of
them, living some 1500 years apart, yet each achieving a renown equal to or surpassing that of
Pharaoh himself. "As long as he lived, and no matter what he did," writes D. Wildung in his
study of these two men, "no king of Egypt was able to ascend to the realm of the gods. Two
mortals did. " (Wildung, 28) How? Other Egyptians achieved a fame approaching theirs, but
they were always remembered as the very top achievers. Their greatness and glory depended
entirely on what they did for others: their religious writings and offices, their practical genius as
inventors of useful devices and administrators of consummate skill in dealing with people, their
all-embracing humanity as friends and benefactors of all their fellow-men, their modest, kindly
and ever good-humored deportment, their contributions to the arts and sciences, great
innovations in architecture, engineering, literature and philosophy, were all made possible by that
one mysterious quality of intelligence in which they were supreme. After their deaths they were
venerated in temples dedicated to them, to which for thousands of years pilgrims have repaired
for the blessings of healing and especially for posterity. All of which puts them in the same
category as the super-man, Abraham. "To be united with Amenotep and Imhotep in the after
life" (Wilduno, 105), even as the pious Jew or Christian longs to be clasped to the bosom of
Abraham. They are depicted through the centuries clothed with the garments and insignia of
various gods, but always with their own faces. This is important because of the obvious
insignia--of divinity of the figures in Facsimile No. 3. Thus the Greeks in Egypt identified
lmhotep in his healing capacity with their own Aesulapius, as a builder with Daedalus, as a
Scribe with Thoth or Hermes; and Imhotep and Amenhotep, though living ages apart, were
shown fused into a single person, something like the identifying of the various prophets and
patriarchs of Israel with the "Enoch Figure" and with each other. Right down to the 19th
century pilgrims would come to Imhotep's shrine atSakarreh, where he built the magnificent
Temple complex 4500 years ago, for the healing of their bodies and especially for the promise of
having children, for Imhotep like Abraham was the great patron of the family. To suit Moslem
and Christian faith, however, the designation of the shrine was changed from the Tomb of
Imhotep, pagan, to the Prison of Joseph--it could not be the Tomb of Joseph, since he was buried
in Canaan, but the next best thing is the jail in which he was buried for years. And so for 1500
years Imhotep has been identified with Joseph, Abraham's own great-grandson, whose own
biography shows us that the honars bestowed on great commoners in Egypt were not withheld
from supremely deserving foreigners who showed the same capacity and zeal in the service of
Egypt; one of the greatest merits of Imhotep like Joseph, was saving the land from a seven-years'
One of the most edifying chapters in the intelIectual history of the race is the story, told mostly
by the Greeks, of how the Pharaohs of Egypt would welcome great mental and spiritual gifts
wherever they found them. They were the greatest of all patrons of learning. While scholars like
T. Hopfner and O. Neugebuer never tire of pointing out that it is wrong to credit the Egyptians
with the great scientific discoveries which were really made by the Greeks... they have yet to
explain why the Greeks themselves though frantically concerned to claim credit for themselves
where credit was due (Aristotle's megalopsychos), with a single voice persist in crediting the
Egyptians with teaching them everything, and why it was only on Egyptian soil that Greek
science really flourished. The Jewish doctors reversed the charoes and attributed the great
wisdom of the Egyptians to their Hebrew teachers, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, thereby
admitting at the very least that the Egyptians did possess superior knowledge. The nature of that
knowledge we shall consider later. The point here is the manner in which Pharaoh took in
illustrious foreigners and showed them every sign of reverence.
This can be illustrated by the classic instance of Pharaoh and Pythagoras. The great King
Amasis was delighted when Pythagoras visited him, and gave him letters of introduction to the
priestly schools up the Nile. But though the great man was more than welcome at court, the holy
men of the schools were slow and reluctant to comply with the king's express wishes, until the
real quality of their guest became apparent--then they took him to their bosom (p.114). "All real
scholars make an effort to visit Egypt," wrote Chaeremon, though they did not find it easy going
there; for the Egyptian sages were secretive, comtemplative, withdrawn, and alamingly
intelligent, as well as austere and upright in their living. (114). In Hellenistic Greek times things
had sadly deteriorated. and yet even then, or especially the, Alexandria was the scientific capital
of the world. That the wisdom and knowledge of the Egyptians was no romantic Greek invention
of later times is amply attested by the Wisdom Literature of the Egyptians, that goes back to very
early times, and closely matches that of Mesopotamia, and especially of Israel (Erman). The
enlightened monarchs all over the world in Hellenistic times vied in bringing to their courts the
greatest possible accumulation of book and brains available-- that was considered the glory of a
dynasty even in preference to military conquest. ln this they were carrying on a very old
Egyptian tradition, as we see in the story of the Pharaoh in the Westcar Papyrus and other very
early stories. The necessities of government at all time constraint any ruler who is not a fool to
obtain the counsel of the wisest and ablest men he can find-- it is a matter of survival as much as
power and prestige, and the long-lived greatness of Egypt was attributed by the Egyptians
themselves to the great men who counselled with the King as well as the King himself--Imhotep,
born in the 2nd Dynasty (!) is enough to prove the point, and Joseph was his true successor.
The oldest non-Jewish report on Abraham, that of Eumolpus (Eupolemus) 155 B.C., has him living in Heliopolis. Why? asks Wacholder. Answer: Because Helipolis was the imDortant point of contact with IsraeI--Potiphar was the priest of Heliopolis (Gen. 41:50), and the Father of Aesentah, the wife of Joseph and Father of our own Ephraim; Manetho reports that Osarsiph, who was Moses, was a native of Heliopolis (C. Apionem, 1,250), and the later Jews concluded that Abraham as the super-intellectual who knew all the answers, must have been the founder of HeliopoIis. no less (Wacholder). "According to Pseudo-Eumolpus, Abraham lived in Heliopolis (Facsimile No. 2 would virtually require this) where he instructed the Egyptians in the discoveries made by Enoch and by himself." (p.116). The Jews often flattered themselves that Abraham taught the Egyptians everything they knew, especially about astronomy. But his purpose in going to Egypt was to learn as well as to teach. It was necessary for his mission, according to the Zohar, that he go to Egypt, both to gain experience of the world and of certain lower stages of initiation, and to "distinguish himself and raise himself to higher eminence,." both of knowledge and influence (Zohar p. 115 Bk.) Legends do not grow out of nothing, and classical writers who were neither Jew nor Christian mention him, and his name appears in popular charms and incantations quite independent of either people of Egypt. Some of the greatest Pharaohs fancied themselves very much in the role of teachers, instructing their people from the throne, delivering lectures on morals, science, and the principles of government and economics. etc., to attentive audiences including not only courtiers and their wives but servants, the high and the low, foreign visitors as well as Egyptians. The courts of the great nobles throughout to please the Pharaoh followed his example, and invited "the great intellectuals and their best students" from all over the world to bring thither the delights of learning and the prestige and- glory that went with such centers of learning from the most ancient times. (p.1 17). Should we be surprised, then, to find Abraham "reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy in the King's court?" (Facsimile No. 3, Fig. l). The state of mind of both Pharaoh and Abraham is perfectly conveyed in the opening statement of the Book of Abraham in which the great man introduces himself as one "desiring also to he one who possessed great knowledge...and to possess a greater knowledge...and desiring to receive instructions..." etc. (Abr. 1:2). That he learned much from the Egyptians, which he sought then to convey to his own posterity is very apparent when he gives us the Egyptian unit of "measurement of this earth" (Facsimile No. 2, Fig. l), or the Egyptian designation of various stars and their influence or "a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand" [which it actually does], or a name given by the Egyptians to "one of the governing bodies, said by the Egyptians to be the Sun," or when he interprets for us Egyptian drawings which would make little sense to his descendants in other lands (Abr. 1:12, 14); in short, he wants us to know what the Egyptians taught about things.
3) Teaching, yes, but from the King's own throne? This takes us to our third point--if men not
of royal birth could be honored as Abraham is in Facsimile No. 3. and if Abraham himself could
well have been one of such men, still, how did they go about it? What really went on at the court
of Pharaoh? On this subject we are surprisingly well informed, for the number of illustrated
accounts of mostly autobiographies of individuals being honored at the palace is very great. But
first the question of the Throne. In the Hebrew legends Abraham ends up sitting on a throne
while all the court at the King's bidding do him reverence. And in the oldest versions of the story
that King is none other than Pharaoh.
But what about the Egyptian practice? One title borne by important people from the earliest times designated the individual as a "Repat," specifically as "Repat on the Throne of Geb." Any person whom the king chose to represent him in a special capacity, especially that of ambassador, was endowed with the King's own authority by being ritually seated upon the throne and adorned with the royal insignia, which were also the insignia of divinity, since the King was also a representative of higher power. According to the Egyptian way of thinking this not only qualified the individual as the King's personal representative but identified him with the King himself. (134). This high honor although originally limited to the King's immediate son and successor, Geb being the representative of the principle of patriarchal succession, was extended with the expanding empire to include other princes and officials as well, and before long even commoners such as Imhotep and the famous Rekhmire, who as Vfzier was given "a participation in the divine privileges of the King" (p.135a); it was also extended to foreigners, such as Abraham's great-grandson, who shared Pharaohs rega: splendor to such a degree that no one could tell when he rode forth with the King, whether the people were cheering the Pharaoh or Joseph (135a)
The Book of Abraham explains the regality and propriety of the whole thing by one telling
phrase--"by the politeness of the King." (Facsimile No. 3, fig. l). That covers everything, since
whatever Pharaoh pleased to do, whatever honors he chose to grant to whomever he pleased, by
virtue of his being the fountainhead of all law and the universal order of things, could never be
anything but proper and legal. If it seems stretching things a bit to have the honored person sit on
the throne while Pharaoh stands, it is worth nothing that in the many tableaw( gathered and
compared by Radwan, the one situation in which the person sitting on the seat of honor does not
have to be the King is when the person being so honored is the King's teacher in the act of giving
instruction, as Abraham is in Facsimile Ho. 3 (p.128). Let us recall in the Hebrew tradition how
the King ordered his nobles to set up the throne far Abraham and to bring all their children to
him there to be taught, and how he began his discourse on the subject of astronomy. It was from
the Orient that Plato got the idea of the Philosopher King (W. Jaeger), who thankfully if
not humbly, takes instruction from the inspired teacher, an image embodied in the relationship of
many a great ruler to his chief advisor, a classic instance being that of Alexander the Great, the
Son of Ammon and successor to the Pharaoh (we are thinking of the Nectanebos legends of the
Pseudo-allisthenes) receiving instruction in all the sciences and not the least in the science of
government from the great Aristotle (Arist. Rhetorica). In recognition of his wisdom along, the
same Alexander good-naturedly submitted outspoken rudeness of a Diogenes--for a King can and
should learn from any man who is really wise. Or from any woman, as the nymph Egeria,
instructed the divine Numa, the first priest-king of Rome from her oracle in Praeneste. So let us
not protest as some have, that the situation in Facsimile No. 3 is utterly unrealistic--it is not, save
to modern bureaucrats and power-seekers. But we can understand it much better if we consider more
closely what family life was like at the palace, a subject which has recently come in for some
What the newest researchers bring out is the unexpected air of informality and fun that
prevailed in the royal household of Egypt. It was precisely because the king was absolute in his
high calling that he could afford to relax and be natural without forfeiting any of the aura of
divinity surrounding his person; a display of human qualities could only endear him to his
subjects. After the austere and even morose grandeur of the great rulers of the Middle Kingdom, the laid-back domesticity of Amenopohis IV led to abuses of the principle,
culminating in the lavishly theatrical pIayboy atmosphere of the Ptolemid and Roman courts, so
beautifully caught by Shakespeare. But Ikhenaten or Tutankhamen, no matter how playful and
merry they seem as they disport themselves in the family circle, never lose that awesome dignity
which holds them aloof from common mortals. The vivid scenes of the palace life of the young
Tutankhamen, "apparently have nothing to do with funerary themes," though found in the tomb,
according to K. Bosse-Griffith's study (1973), which shows that while students have often
commented on the charming informality of these "domestic scenes," the events depicted are
none-the-less of a peculiar persistently ritualistic nature. (p.138). Specifically, "it seems likely
that all 'intimate' scenes of the King and Queen are representations of happenings during the
coronation. " ( p. 7 38 ) . A study by Robert Hari confirms this; though all seems to be
fun-and-games, "...scenes of the intimate domestic life of the royal family show them renewing
the coronation rites in private. with the Queen functioning as the high priest." (p.139). For
various members of the-family and court dressed un for different roles on different nights or
days. From the most ancient times masking and mummying have been part of court-life, far the
simple reason that the strict protocol and unvarying routine of royalty in which the activities of
every minute of the day and night were rigidly prescribed, could lead to infinite boredom,
relieved by nothing so much as dressing up, masking and exchanging roles, thus removing
monarch and family for a relaxed and happy hour away from the fierce light that beats around a
throne. Kings always did it (Tenting).
The immense appeal of the Story of Sinuhe, which goes back to the best times in the Egyptian experience, is the combination of lively-fun and strict propriety in the doings of the royal household. The family all shriek with delight when Sinuhe is recognized as their old friend, and all behave exactly as they would have twenty years before--apparently nobody grows old. Commenting on the scene, S. Purdy notes that what we have in the royal family at home is "a return to an order of eternal joy and youth. The court is a foretaste of heaven" (p.140). That this is no literary fantasy he finds in certain works of art which present "a parallel ta the scene of intercession at the court in Sinuhe," living "evidence of popular participation in an association of the being of the king with a hope of the after-life..." (140). It was the coronation-game that set the tone of noraml royal behavior, and it was at the coronation that the powers of heaven and earth came together, for the royal court was the earthly image of the heavenly.
Tableaux of the type of our Facsimile No. 3 are among the commonest representations in Egyptian as well as Mesopotamian art, depicting the perennial ceremonial order of heaven and earth. The scenes vary greatly in detail, no two being just alike, and there are accompanying inscriptions to tell us what is going on. Viewing some of these reception scenes, Gardiner pointed out that "somewhat similar representations...belong to a wholly different set of ceremonies" (p.123). That is, if we think we know what one scene is about, it does not follow that we understand other scenes that look like it. What Radwan has examined is drawings and carvings that reproduce real events in the lives of private individuals; and yet ruling Pharaoh appears in the flesh along with various members of his family in all of these party-scenes. This at once suggests the situation, as Joseph Smith has explained it, in Facsimile No. 3. We have besides Pharaoh his son, a servant, a slave--every level of society is represented; it is a typical group for such an event. These numerous pictures, Radwan notes, are like photographs taken to preserve for posterity that moment in a man's life when he reached the highest state of bliss and exaltation attainable to mortals, the ineffable glory of standing in the presence of Majesty and being recognized by him. At the same time, "diligent scribe; make a permanent record of the events of the celebration" to go with the pictures. (124). The purpose of these audiences with Pharaoh was to honor the tomb owner for services to the state. and when we see Pharaoh in the presence of the court bestowing high honors on an official whose skillful management has increased the content of the royal oraneries. we at once think of Joseph in Egypt (p.124).
Surprising as it may appear, the atmosphere is not one of overpowering majesty as at a high
school graduation, but of cheerful intimacy: "Intimate contact with the King." Isn't it overdoing
things, then, to have Abraham dressed up as Osiris, the God of the dead? Not at all. It was the
normal costume of earthly majesty that was later borrowed for the Osiris cult (Gardiner), and
those same august trappings of kingship that were next taken over by ordinary individuals,
commoners, in their own funerarv rites. The theme of the Abraham story is that Abraham was
recognized as the worshiper of the true God and the holder of the true kingship and priesthood.
The Osirian attire of Fig. 1 not only symbolizes those things in an abstract manner:. we are told
in the Explanation that Abraham actually assumed their majestic attire expressly by "the
politeness of the King." It was pure symbol, if you will, because the whole thing was ritual; but
for the ancients ritual was reality. For the Egyptians the flail and crook held by the man on the
throne are purely symbolic, but he actually held them, and they do symbolize .just what the
Explanation says they do--"justice and judgment." They are the shepherds crook and the
cattle-man's flail that both guide. prod, correct and protect the flocks and herds. (The Man on
the throne is wearing the Atef-crown, "the white two-feathered supreme crown of heavenly
authority," as one recent study describes it (p.155): or, in the words of an ancient inscription,
"His white crown parted the heavens and joined the sisterhood of the stars. It is the leader of the
Gods...who commands the Great Council [in heaven], and whom the Lesser Council loves."
(p.155). How could it be better described than as "a crown...representing the Priesthood, as
emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven," (Facsimile No. 3, Fig. 1) ? It fits the scene
perfectly, whether mythological or historical.
A great deal has been written about the most enigmatic and appealing of all Egyptian symbols,
the Lotus (Fig. 3), without any finaI agreement having been reached, though certain symbolic
ideas, i.e., resurrection and purity, are obvious. The latest studies find the most important
attributes of the Lotus to be something one would not expect. It has to do especially with
welcoming and controlling immigrants coming to Egypt. (p.158). Somehow the Lotus must "uphold the dominion of the King," and it is the flower that at certain periods anyone coming to a
party given by the King had to bring as a gift to the palace where he in return received a Lotus as
a gift from the King! (159). Radwan, noting the prominence of Lotuses in the reception scenes of
the 18th Dynasty, concludes that the important thing "is the fact that the meeting of a person with
Pharaoh or his reception by him took place with flowers" (p.160). But flowers of special heraldic
significance; upon the lotus before the throne in many scenes, the four canopic figures which
Joseph Smith (Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 6) designates as "the earth in its four regions" are seen
standing on the Lotus to represent all the expanse of the earth that lies under Pharaoh's sway.
What better symbol for "Abraham in Egypt" than the formal Lotus? (p. 160).
In the masking and mummying that have always been the favorite form of relaxation for those too closely confined by the formality and protocol of court life, members of the royal family would dress up as different characters in a play, both mortal and divine; for example, e.g., the queen would appear as Hathor or Nofru or Nut or as a high priest, or as Wr.t hk3w, the Lady of the Crown who played a special role at coronations, or just as herself (p.139f). Complete disguise conceals sex as well as other things--the source of endless fun and scandal on the ancient and modern stage--but with the Egyptians the thing had a special meaning. The queen taking the part of the high priest at the coronation was no more shocking to them than queens wearing artificial beards, or designating then~selves in their inscriptions by the masculine gender. More surprising was the custom attested from the earliest times, of the King's appearing dressed up as the goddess Hathor, while the successor to the throne assumed the aspect of Maat, the female embodiment of legitimation (p.143, 146-149). Those two ladies may never be missing from a coronation scene, no matter who else might be absent, for from the one comes the authority to rule and from the other the legitimate transfer of power: Indeed, the figures of Maat (Fig. 4) and Horus (the Crown Prince) actually fuse "to show that she is the bearer of the kingship" (p.153). In an important coronation scene of the great King Amenophis III we see the Hathor-figure sbnding behind the throne, exactly as in Fig. 2, and she is labelled not with her own name but with the coronation cartouche of the King himself, to the perplexity of the scholar who published the scene--Why, he wonders, is the Lady Hathor most clearly and indisputably designated as the person of the King? (p.153). The son of Amenophis II carried the thing much farther. and insisted on having himself portrayed as the other goddess, (our Ficl. 4). "As an extension of Maat," showing that "by his feminine body of many forms (he) honors his god, the womb of the universe." (p.154). Even a stout Roman, the Emperor GalIienus, converted to the Egyptian mysteries, assumed the rule of Egypt by having himself depicted on coins and elsewhere, as the Goddess Hathor, a thing "that strikes the modern mind as ridiculous," wrote the historian "but seemed quite normal to the Egyptians. (154).
These two could not be absent at an assumption of power, since it was the Nbty, the Two Ladies, fmm whom the King received his office. Hathor was Isis, whose name simply means throne, leading to never-ending speculation as to just how literally such things were to be taken; while Maat was the double of Wrr.t, the Great Lady, the Crown itself--again, was she the crown? This swapping of the sexes back and forth is found among our own ancestors of not so long ago as the couvade, the purpose of which was to give both father and mother equal claim on the heirs.
Perhaps the neatest bull's eye that the Prophet Joseph makes in the Explanatians, is in designating Figure 5 in FacsimiIe No. 3 as "Shulem, one of King(s principal waiters." Wherever did he get that idea? Nobody ever heard of Shulem, who is never mentioned anywhere else, before or after, in our story. Indeed. it seems that nothing in Smith's interpretation of this Facsimile is as the normal candid observer would see it. The figure standing in the center of the picture with upraised hands should be Abraham discoursing on astronomy, while the man on the throne should certainly be Pharaoh, and the two ladies (which any three-year old would point out to you as females without a moment's hesitation) might be Pharaoh's wife and daughter--or perhaps Figure 4 could even be Sarah, introducing her husband to the King, while Abraham's colored servant, Eleaser, stands behind him. Almost anything is more reasonable than what Joseph Smith has given us! But if we consult the court scenes on other biographical or autobiographical records, we soon learn that the man standing in the center of the picture is almost always the owner of the stele, what is more that he is usually some personal servant or palace officer attendant on Pharaoh. From the collection of H. R. Hall we go down the list of "Chief of Bowmen...Fan-bearer, King's Messenger, Treasury Guard, King's Chief Charioteer, Pharaoh's Chief Boatman, Warden of the Harim, the Queen's Chief Cook," etc., etc. They were simply servants. but to serve in the most menial capacity in close personal and intimate attendance on the King has ever been considered an appointment devoutly to be wished for. Some of the officials. e.g., the King's Chief Charioteer, bore good Canaanite names, and so does "Shulem, one of the King's Principal Waiters" (p.161). How naturally he fits into the picture! This is his show and this is his document. It seems to recall the time when he was introduced by the Pharaoh to an illustrious fellow- countrymen whom the King was honoring as a great and famous visiting teacher. Why do we depend on Shulem for our information? M. Gemoll gives us a clue for he notes that the best way for Abraham to have preserved his record after he had moved back to Palestine, would be to leave it reposing safely in an Egyptian tomb. The Joseph Smith Papyri were found preserved in the vaults of a priestly family of Thebes among many documents dating from different times. "I will not say who these people were," wrote the Prophet of their ancient owners, though he denied that the mummies were those of Biblical characters, and identified one princess by the perfectly good Egyptian name of Ka-tu-men, as having lived a thousand years after Abraham. No one has explained more fully or, in view of much modern research more accurately than Joseph Smith the manner in which ancient records were transmitted through many hands, with~much editing, abridging, re-copying, commentating, deletion and addition; and hon some were deliberately sealed and hidden away "to come forth in their purity." Joseph had constantly to restrain the enthusiasm of his followers in Kirtland in leaping to romantic and quite unjustified conclusions regarding the papyri--as LDS students still do. But he himself never goes out of bound. As far-fetched as his Explanations once appeared, and still do appear to those not bothering to look beyond the superficial aspect of things, they can at the very least be held up at plausible to those who are inclined to search farther.
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