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LDS BOOK OF ABRAHAM
©Robert F. Smith
August 13, 2014 version 8
Proofs are demonstrations within fixed systems
Douglas R. Hofstadter
A BRIEF ASSESSMENT OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
©Robert F. Smith
August 13, 2014 version 8
The only way to prove the Book of Mormon and the writings of Abraham false is
to find contradictions with the milieu of the ancient world from which they claim
to have arisen.
Richard L. Bushman
Aside from those matters of history and literature well-known and available to the
inquiring mind in the early 19
century, there are a number of compelling empirical
reasons for considering the LDS Book of Abraham to be an ancient document somehow
transmitted down through time to Joseph Smith. Scansion of disinterested scholarly
opinion on a selection of related biblical and Egyptological matters helps to provide a
realistic assessment and test of claims internal to the Book of Abraham, and to allay
many of the partisan concerns which have been expressed over the years.
There are in my opinion, several sound empirical reasons for considering the LDS
Book of Abraham as a translation of an ancient document, whether as a
pseudepigraphon from late antiquity, or as an authentic document transmitted and
redacted by the Jewish community from as early as the Middle Bronze Age. In making a
fair assessment of such a book, it is helpful (1) to temporarily bracket faith
considerations, and (2) to study scholarly opinion from third parties not caught up in the
heat of sectarian debate. With such an approach, considerable progress can be made.
What follows is a very brief treatment of some of the scholarly data and information
which I think merit attention.
1. Legendary Parallels: It is worthwhile to take note first that various sorts of
non-biblical Abrahamic legends which comport with what we find in the LDS Book of
Abraham are to be found swirling around within the Jewish community in late antiquity
during the same period as the Joseph Smith Papyri.
In one noteworthy doctoral
dissertation, extraordinary Jewish parallels of this sort with the Book of Abraham were
Richard L. Bushman, “Taking Mormonism Seriously,” Dialogue, 1/2 (1966):82.
There is a huge authoritative assemblage of this sort in John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, and John
Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, Studies in the Book of Abraham 1 (Provo: FARMS/
ISPART, 2001), and the late Hugh Nibley dealt with those remarkable legends at great length as well:
Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2
ed., Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 14 (FARMS/ Deseret Book, 2000);
Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, CWHN 18 (FARMS/Deseret Book, 2009).
examined by a Jewish rabbi.
No valid explanation for such extraordinary parallels
supposedly originating in the early 19
century has been forthcoming.
2. Jews in Egypt: When Baby Jesus went down to Egypt, there was already a huge
Jewish population living there (Matthew 2:13-15). In light of the prime importance of
Egypt as the central hub of intellectual activity in Hellenistic and Roman times, it is
helpful to recognize the significance of those large Jewish settlements within Egypt:
One must take account of the two Jewish temples built in Upper and Lower Egypt (each
of which lasted for centuries),
and of the Old Greek (LXX) translation of the Hebrew
Bible made in Egypt by Jewish scholars in the 3
century B.C. This was accompanied
both in Egypt and elsewhere by a rich development and assemblage of Jewish
intertestamental literature, various Aramaic targums (midrashic translations of the Bible),
the Talmudic aggada (legends), and much else from Arabic tradition. The Persian Qiṣaṣ
al-Anbiyāʼ, for example, contains parallels summarized by Larry E. Morris, including
an account of Abraham being seated next to a king. . . . the idolatry of Abraham’s
fathers, Abraham’s special knowledge, the celestial mysteries revealed to Abraham, the
rejection of Abraham’s message by the people of Ur of Chaldea, Abraham’s
Nissim Wernick, “A Critical Analysis of the Book of Abraham in the Light of Extra-Canonical
Jewish Writings,” doctoral dissertation (BYU, Aug 1968), available online at https://web.archive.org/
John M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE –
117 CE) (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark/ U. C. Press, 1996), 19-230 (Part One: Egypt); Louis H. Feldman, Jew and
Gentile in the Ancient World: Attitudes and Interactions from Alexander to Justinian (Princeton Univ.
Press, 1993), 51-69, 77-109, 418-439; L. H. Feldman, J. L. Kugel, and L. H. Schiffman, eds., Outside the
Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, 3 vols. (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2013);
Joseph M. Modrzejewski, The Jews of Egypt: From Rameses II to Emperor Hadrian (Phila.: Jewish
Publication Society, 1995); S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the World
as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Genizah, 6 vols. (Berkeley: U. C Press, 1967-1993); E. R.
Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 13 vols. (Pantheon, 1953); V. A. Tcherikover,
et al., eds., Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, 3 vols. (Hebrew Univ., Magnes Press/ Harvard Univ. Press,
1957-1964), including many Jewish papyri and inscriptions from Egypt.
Gideon Bohak, “’Joseph and Asenath’ and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis,” doctoral
dissertation (Princeton Univ., 1994); Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, 3, 1-3 §§62-73; XIV, 8, 1
§§131-133; XX, 10, 3 §§235-237; Jewish War, I, 1, 1 §§31-33; I, 9, 4 §190; VII, 10, 2-3 §§420-436; Bezalel
Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony (Berkeley: U. C. Press,
1968); E. Bleiberg, Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt: A Family Archive from the Nile Valley (Brooklyn: The
Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2002); W. Kaiser, et al, “Stadt und Tempel von Elephantine: 25./ 26./
27. Grabungsbericht,” MDAIK 55 (1999):63-236; P. Grelot, "La reconstruction du temple juif
d'Éléphantine," Orientalia 36 (1967):173-177.
relationship with his father, human sacriﬁce in Abraham’s day, and Abraham’s
deliverance by angels.
The response by detractors has typically included knee-jerk dismissal as
or the suggestion that such parallels could have been discovered by
Joseph Smith in books available to him,
perhaps in his local public library
difficulty being that most of that traditional, legendary corpus was not available in
Joseph Smith=s time, not even to the greatest scholars of his day. While it is true that
some limited information was readily available in the works of Josephus,
editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
etc., the vast extent of it certainly was not.
Morris, review of R. Ritner, “The Breathing Permit of Hôr,” FARMS Review, 16/2 (2004):369,
citing Bradley Cook, “The Book of Abraham and the Islamic Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʼ (Tales of the Prophets)
Extant Literature,” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 127–146.
Douglas F. Salmon, "Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation,
Coincidence, or Collective Unconscious?" Dialogue 33/2 (Summer 2000):154
Cf. Wesley Walters, “Joseph Smith Among the Egyptians: An Examination of the Source of
Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 16/1 (Winter 1973):30
(n 2),39 (n 58).
Robert Paul, “Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library,” BYU Studies 22/3
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, I, 7, 2 '158 (quoting Berossus); VIII, 2 ''167-168.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1
eds. (Edinburgh: C. Macfarquhar/ A. Constable,
3. Vignettes and Syncretism: Were Egyptian scenes such as we find in Book of
Abraham facsimile 1 used by Semites? Yes, such as shown by this lion couch scene
(immediately above) carved on a funerary stela from the first half of the 5th century B.C.,
but with an Aramaic dedication just above the two offering registers and just below the
lion Couch: AAnkhohapi son of Takhabes, excellent (one) of Osiris the god.@
Were scenes such as we find in facsimile 3 used with explicitly Semitic content
and even with a female sitting on the throne of Osiris in male regalia? Yes, there are
many examples of this: A restored 19th Dynasty relief/stela (below) in which the
goddess Knt (= Qudshu-Asherah-Isis) stands on a lion en face between Min (= Ptah &
El) on the left, and Reshef (= Nergal-Melcarth) on the right, just above a register
(reminiscent of LDS Book of Abraham facsimile 3) in which her sister ˁAnath (=
Nephthys) sits on a throne with the crown of Osiris receiving her worshipers and
wielding weapons of war.
B. Porten & A. Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, IV: Ostraca &
Assorted Inscriptions (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 257 B the word for Agod@ here being Aramaic
ʼelohaʼ (Hebrew seen accompanying the illustration here is from the Israeli publication of it).
British Museum Relief 646, in E. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, 2 vols. (London: Methuen/
Chicago: Open Court, 1904/ reprint N.Y.: Dover, 1967/1969), II:276; J. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near East in
Pictures (Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), 473; J. Gray, The Canaanites (Thames & Hudson, 1964), plate 20;
discussed by W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (London: Athlone Press, 1968),
121-122,145-146; D. B. Redford in D. Silverman, ed., Ancient Egypt (London: Duncan Baird, 1997), 52.
Do lion couch scenes such as we find in facsimile 1 show up in association with
the name “Abraham”? Yes, although the context is apparently one associated with
Jewish magic. Among Greek and Demotic magical papyri from Egypt, for example, we
find Papyri Leiden I 384 and 383, both of which mention “Abraham,” and one of which
(384) features a lion couch scene (with a female upon the bier), immediately beneath
which we find a fragmentary Greek text which refers to “Abraham, who is upon”
something, and in which a conjuring formula says that one should write these “words
together with this picture [the lion couch vignette] on a new papyrus,”
something that scribes regularly did, even if not always expertly.
There is nothing novel about Egyptian magicians importing Semitic names and
phrases into their own magical spells. That phenomenon had been going on for
thousands of years,
and Robert Ritner (who wrote his dissertation on Egyptian magic)
even supports the notion that such Egyptian use of Semitic spells goes back at least to
the Old Kingdom (Pyramid Texts).
Indeed, Egyptian magical rites are not only a part
of the Old Testament (Exodus 7:9-12), but the Egyptians themselves made much of it in
some of their best literature.
And then there are the Execration Texts which employ
vodu rites which were used since time immemorial to destroy the enemies of Egypt.
In the Greek magical papyri from Egypt (including the London and Leiden Papyri)
the context is "Alexandrian Judaism” which “has supplied a number of names of
See the illustration of this in John Gee " Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts (Research and
Perspectives)," Ensign, 22/7 (July 1992):60-62, online at http://www.lds.org/ensign/1992/07/research-
and-perspectives-abraham-in-ancient-egyptian-texts?lang=eng#footnote7-92907_000_027 ; Janet H.
Johnson, “The Demotic Magical Spells of Leiden I 384,” Oudheidkundige mededelingen uit het
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden e Leiden, 56 (1975):29-64; cf. Janet H. Johnson, “Louvre E3229: A Demotic
Magical Text,” Enchoria, 7 (1977):55-102; Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation,
including the Demotic Spells, 2 vols., 2
ed. (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992); Maarten J. Raven, Egyptian
Magic: The Quest for Thoth's Book of Secrets (AUC Press, 2012).
Hans Wolfgang Helck, Die Beziehungen Ägyptens zu Vorderasien im. 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v.
Chr., 2nd ed., Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 5 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1971), has Egyptian magical
spells translated from older Canaanite spells (Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, 8, n. 25, and
O'Callaghan, Orientalia, 21:37-46).
Ritner, “Foreword,” to Richard C. Steiner, Early Northwest Semitic Serpent Spells in the
Pyramid Texts, Harvard Semitic Studies 61 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011).
Westcar Papyrus in Aylward M. Blackman, The Story of King Kheops and the Magicians
(Reading: J. V. Books, 1988); M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I:215-222, III:125-151.
Execration Texts (Ächtungstexte), discussed in Kerry Muhlestein, “Execration Ritual,” in UCLA
Encyclopedia of Egyptology, eds. Willeke Wendrich and Jacco Dieleman, online at http://
Hellenistic form to the demotic magician.”
Hans Dieter Betz has likewise taken notice
of this Jewish phenomenon:
Questions similar to those appropriate to study of Greek religion
must be raised in view of the material (divine names as well as entire
passages) that comes from some form of Judaism. Jewish magic was
famous in antiquity, and more sources have come to light in recent years;
but the origin and nature of the sections representing Jewish magic in the
Greek magical papyri is far from clear. Did this material actually originate
with Jewish magicians? How did it get into the hands of the magicians
who wrote the Greek magical papyri? What kind of transformation took
place in the material itself? If the texts in question come from Judaism,
what type of Judaism do they represent?
Over and above that, John Gee has recently found a Coptic text which contains a
story of Abraham about to be put to death by a king, but is delivered by an angel. Later
in that account, Abraham teaches the king and royal court astronomy (only the latter
feature well-known to us from Josephus).
4. Pagan Iconography: The Jews of late antiquity had a strong proclivity to use
pagan art and symbolism, as the extraordinarily detailed study by Erwin Goodenough
Jews had borrowed a vocabulary of pagan symbols which they mingled with their
own symbols of menorah, shofar, and the rest in such a way as to make it seem
inevitable that the pagan symbols were as meaningful for the Jews who used
them as were the Jewish ones. The Phenomenon was not local, for it appeared
with amazing uniformity in almost every place from Rome to Mesopotamia where
Jewish remains were found at all. It was not a phenomenon of a few paganized
Jews or a small sect, for these symbols appear not only in wide geographical
distribution, but on almost all official Jewish structures, such as synagogues and
catacombs. Since many of the symbols appear also on amulets with Jewish or
human names, amulets which seem for the most part made for Jewish use, there
Griffith & Thompson, eds., The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1904/ reprint Dover, 1974), Preface.
Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, including the Demotic Spells, 2
ed., 2 vols.
(Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992), xlv.
Gee, “Book of Abraham, I Presume”; Gee, “An Egyptian View of Abraham,” in Bountiful
Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown, ed. Andrew C. Skinner, D. Morgan Davis, and Carl W. Griffin
(Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2011), 155–
is strong suggestion that the forms had operative power and were not mere
decoration. The conclusion is thus beyond debate that this vocabulary of forms
was an integral part of the Judaism of the Roman world, . . .
5. Chiasmus: Another feature of the Book of Abraham is the systematic chiastic
form exhibited by it (see the Appendix). While not conclusive evidence, the verbal
echoes arranged in skeletal chiastic fashion constitute yet another argument in favor of
the authenticity of the book. Yehuda T. Radday believed that medium- to large-scale
(pericope and book-length) chiasmus was evidence for the original composition with
while on a smaller scale Raymond E. Brown felt that the argument from
chiastic form Atips the scales in favor of the authenticity@ of the text so arranged.
Mitchell Dahood likewise argued from the evidence of basic parallelism in favor of unity
Indeed, moreso than any other culture of the ancient world, Egypt
emphasized bilateral symmetry (mirror imagery) in monumental art, architecture,
inscriptions, and literature
: A rhetorical form commonly known as chiasmus.
R. B. Parkinson finds that the entire Middle Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe not only has
“a symmetrical pattern of Egypt-Retjenu-Egypt” (ABA), but that its five parts are
“reinforced with many ironic verbal echoes and contrasts, which combine to heighten
the difference between the real with the substitute life, his true and substitute
thus presenting a resultant “symmetrical pattern” in which “passages and
incidents echo one another” with “tightly structured” “internal symmetry,”
the duel between Sinuhe and the redoubtable Asiatic warrior is “structurally the central
Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, V:vii.
Radday, “On Chiasmus in Biblical Narrative,” Beth Mikra, 15/20-21 (1964):48-72 (in Hebrew).
So for the late Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, Anchor Bible 3 (Doubleday, 1991), 904-905, composition
“by a single hand.”
Brown, Gospel According to John, II, Anchor Bible 29A (NY: Doubleday, 1970), II:725.
Dahood, with T. Penar, Psalms III, Anchor Bible 17A (NY: Doubleday, 1970), III:276,336; cf. L.
R. Fisher, ed., Ras Shamra Parallels, 3 vols. (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969-1981), I:II.
Matthiew-Olderogge, “The Chiasm in Egyptian Poetry,” Publications de la Société
Égyptologique à l’Université de l’Etât de Leningrad, I (1929):1-3; E. Iversen, “The Canonical Traditon,” in
J. Harris, ed., The Legacy of Egypt, 2
ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 71-72; A. R. David, Religious
Ritual at Abydos (c. 1300 B.C.), (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1973/1981), 108, 116-117, and passim; cf. E.
Kielland, Geometry in Egyptian Art (Sacred Science Institute, 2006), 2,8-9, and passim; J. W. Welch, ed.,
Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1981/ reprint FARMS
Research Press, 1998/ 1999), 287-291 (Index of Egyptian Chiasms).
Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems, 1940-1640 BC (Oxford Univ.
Press, 1997), 23; cf. John L. Foster, Thought Couplets in the Tale of Sinuhe (Frankfurt am Main: Peter
Parkinson, Tale of Sinuhe, 11.
incident of the Tale, and the turning-point of the plot.”
It can, therefore, be arranged
chiastically as follows.
A Flight from Egypt (R1-B34) – 57 lines
B Conversation between Sinuhe & Amunenshi about King (B34-92) – 58 lines
C The Duel between Sinuhe & powerful Warrior (B92-177) – 85 lines
B’ Correspondence between Sinuhe & King (B178-243) – 65 lines
A’ Return to Egypt (B244-311) – 67 lines
In fact, as Joseph Kaster has noted, ancient Egyptian poetry featured an explicit
e.g., from the Pyramid of Unas (Dynasty V)
Utterance Text line/row
215 §143a You are born, O Horus 215
[you are conceived, O Seth,..]
b If this one has no mutilation
and if that one has no injury–
then you will have no injury
and you will have no mutilation.
144a You are born, O Horus
b You are conceived, O Seth 216
And on Coffin Text VII,157c, which Antonio Loprieno terms a “focalized ‘balanced
: ink pw s(i), stt pw wi tz phr I am really it, and it is really me, and vice-versa
Another example is from a Ramesside Hymn to Amun-Re on the Votive Stela of
Nebre at Deir el-Medina (Berlin Museum 20377), 148B:6-12,
sЗwy tn r.f Beware ye of him!
whm św n šri šrit Declare him to son and daughter,
n ˁЗy šriw To the great and small,
śddy św n dЗmw (sp sn) Herald him to generations, (twice)
n dЗmw nty bw ḫpr.śn To generations not yet born;
śddy św n rmw ḥr mty Herald him to fishes in the deep,
n Зpdw m tЗ pt To birds in the sky,
whm św n ḫm św [n] rḫ św Declare him to fool and wise,
sЗwy tn r.f Beware ye of him!
Parkinson, Tale of Sinuhe, 23.
Kaster, Wings of the Falcon (Holt, 1968), 86 n. 30.
Waldemar Golénischeff , “Parallelisme symétrique en ancien égyptien,” in S. R. K. Glanville
ed., Studies Presented toF. Ll. Griffith (Oxford, 1932), 96 n. 2; here following the translation of Raymond
Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969/1998).
A. Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), 109.
Note, as a typical example of combined art and inscription, the following wooden
stele of the Priest Harsiese (Oriental Institute),
showing him offering to Reʽ-Horakhty
on the left and Atum on the right (from 10
centuries BC). It demonstrates quite
well the chiastic arrangement of both art and writing, as so commonly in ancient Egypt.
H. Grapow, ZÄS, 79 (1954):19-21, translated and cited in M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian
Literature, II:106-107; J. Assmann Ägyptische Hymnen und Gebete 2
ed. (Fribourg/ Göttingen, 1999);
abccba; imperative mood, cited in Assmann Search for God in Ancient Egypt (Cornell Univ. Press, 2001),
225-226; I have indexed many other examples in J. Welch, Chiasmus in Antiquity, 287-291.
Published in Bible Review, 8/6 (Dec 1992):20, online at http://members.bib-arch.org/image.
The LDS Book of Abraham consists of five major chiasms (1:1 to 4:2; see the
Appendix), following which a catechetical and iterative Creation narrative follows (with a
slightly different poetic structure),
and a chiastic, "redactional bridge" at 5:4 takes us
into a very different Eden narrative (Tom Wright considers the Genesis Creation and
Eden Narratives “a temple story”
). Even though they are frequently part of much
grander chiasms, a number of smaller chiasms are evident in the Book of Abraham,
3:22-23 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences
that were organized before the world was;
and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones
and God saw these souls that they were good,
and he stood in the midst of them,
and he said: These I will make my rulers;
for he stood among those that were spirits,
and he saw that they were good;
and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them;
thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
6. Structure of Hypocephali: This chiastic or concentric tendency extends even to
the document which seems central to the Book of Abraham, the Hypocephalus of
Sheshaq (facsimile 2). In fact, the description of a round drawing with similar significance
shows up in the Apocalypse of Abraham,
along with a series of theological concepts
and phrases also found in the Book of Abraham, e.g.,
a) as for facsimile 2:6, Apocalypse of Abraham 18 includes four gods beneath the
throne (cf. description in chapters 12, 21 - 22),
the very same gods found in
John A. Kselman, “The Recovery of Poetic Fragments from the Pentateuchal Priestly Source,”
Journal Biblical Literature, 97 (1978):161-173, esp. 164n15.
N. T. Wright, “N.T. Wright and Pete Enns: What Do You Mean by Literal?” BioLogos
Foundation Video, August 2010, online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxQpFosrTUk .
Julie Smith, “A Note on Chiasmus in Abraham 3:22-23,” Interpreter, 8 (2014):187-190.
Hugh W. Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round, CWHN 19 (Provo: FARMS/SLC:
Deseret Book, 2010), 354-355; the Codex Sylvester is illuminated with color drawings to accompany the
text of the Apocalypse of Abraham (http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2010
Apocalypse_of_ Abraham.pdf ), which describes “pictures” of the world & cosmos (chapters 21-23); see
R. Rubinkiewicz= translation in James Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (NY:
Doubleday, 1983), I:695, 698-700.
Nibley, AThe Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham@ (92pp transcript, ca. 1980), 10.
b) ApocAbr 12:10 has words nearly identical to the Egyptian in facsimile 2:9-10,
which also parallels the ritual Demotic words in Setne Khamwas I:3:12-13.
The same applies to the Testament of Abraham, which (as Hugh Nibley pointed out) is
likely based on the Judgment Scene in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and in Setne
The concentric, inverse parallels in the two hemispheres of facsimile 2 (sagely
pointed out by Theodule Devéria,
and repeated by Varga and Veteto) include 25;
37; 46; and 2223, which will become clear as the parallels are considered in turn,
below. In each instance, the caesurae () indicate that the parallel is found both upon the
hypocephalus itself (Egyptological),
as well as in Joseph=s explanations B for each
numbered register or representation. Statistically, such separate correspondence is quite
unlikely via simple coincidence. Moreover, these parallels demonstrate the iconotropic
or iconographic unity of the hypocephalus.
7. Iconotropy: It is not true that hypocephali are found only in late Egyptian times
B although most do typically appear after Dynasty XXI. In fact, as early as the Middle
Kingdom (contemporary with Abraham), hypocephali began as charms or amulets made
of Aa decorated resinous cake inscribed with spells@ and placed “under the head@ of the
We need to focus instead on the standard Egyptological translation and
M. Rhodes, AThe Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture,@ FARMS Review, 4/1
See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, III (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press,
Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2
ed., 27-28, citing George Nicklesburg, Jr., ed., Studies in the
Testament of Abraham (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976), 32, in turn citing the important doctoral
dissertation of Francis Schmidt (Strasbourg, 1971) on the Egyptian sources of the Testament of
T. Devéria in Rémy & Brenchley, Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City, II (London: W. Jeffs/ J. E.
Taylor, 1861), 542 n = Devéria, AFragments de manuscrits funéraires égyptiens,@ Bibliothèque
Égyptologique, IV:197 n. 1.
Claudia Veteto, AOn the Hypocephalus of the Book of Abraham,@ SEHA Newsletter, 101.32
(May 1, 1967):5, on Athe lower half being an inversion of the upper half@ B citing E. Varga, “Les travaux
préliminaires de la monographie sur les hypocéphales,” Acta Orientalia, 12/1-3 (1961):235-247; cf.
Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle,” BYU Studies, 19/1 (Fall 1978):62 n. 100 (Sextus Empiricus,
Pros physikous, I, 37; Homer, Odyssey, 11, 298-304); the same phenomenon may be seen in
Michelangelo=s Last Judgment (Sistine Chapel), with Christ at center, the saved on his right, the damned
on the left, the whole bisected in halves (William E. Wallace, AThe Genius of Michelangelo,@ lecture 26,
online at http://www.each12.com/ttc/%20assets/excerpts/ 7130_26.asp ).
S. Ikram & A. Dodson, The Mummy in Ancient Egypt (Thames & Hudson, 1998), 144-145,
artistic interpretation of Book of Abraham facsimile 2 (and other hypocephali) available
to us, since they may have been used as part of the transmission of the Book of
Abraham by the Jewish community in Egypt.
The Book of Abraham facsimiles contain artistic and iconotropic material which
(as with all Egyptian art and iconography) can be Aread@ all by themselves,
or are to
be Aread@ right along with the accompanying Egyptian words.
As the eminent
Egyptologist James P. Allen has said:
The Egyptians did not distinguish hieroglyphic writing from other
representations of reality, such as statues or scenes in relief. Both were a tjt,
Asymbol,@ rather than an accurate representation of reality. Hieroglyphic signs
were often carved with the same detail as other pictorial elements of a scene.
Conversely, statues or relief representations were themselves a kind of
hieroglyph, a phenomenon most often illustrated in the animal-headed Egyptian
gods—as, for instance, in the beetle-headed human form representing Ḫprj, Athe
Developing One@ (a form of the sun-god).
He has also stated that paintings, vignettes, and inscriptions depicting the gods
Aare nothing more than large-scale ideograms.@
All are to be Aread,@ which is what we
should do, in order to bring powerful clarity to the discussion of the Abraham facsimiles.
citing the Middle Kingdom Theban tomb of Wah.
R. H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and
Sculpture (N.Y.: Thames & Hudson, 1992); O. Goldwasser, From Icon to Metaphor: Studies in the
Semiotics of the Hieroglyphs, OBO 142 (Fribourg: Universitätsverlag/Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1995); cf. Arlene Wolinski, AEgyptian Ceremonial Masks: A Re-Examination of the Priest and
His Role,@ lecture delivered April 12, 1989, at the California Museum of Ancient Art (CMAA), Barnsdall
Park, Los Angeles, California, arguing that ancient Egyptian sculpture and two-dimensional art (tomb
paintings, temple reliefs, etc.) often depict priests & priestesses wearing ceremonial masks, as in the
ABaptism of Pharaoh@ scene with priests of falcon-headed Horus and ibis-headed Thot pouring ˁankh-life
signs over the Pharaoh B probably representing an actual purification ritual (Alan Gardiner, ABaptism of
Pharaoh,@ Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 36 [Dec 1950]:3-12).
Klaus Baer, BYU Education Week lecture, Aug 22, 1974; Jan Assmann, "Semiosis and
Interpretation in Ancient Egyptian Ritual," in Shlomo Biderman and Ben-Ami Scharfstein, eds.,
Interpretation in Religion (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 92.
Allen, AEgyptian Language and Writing,@ in D. Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols.
(NY: Doubleday, 1992), IV:190.
Allen, Middle Egyptian (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), 44; cf. Kevin L. Barney, AThe Facsimiles
and Semitic Adaptation of Egyptian Sources,@ in Gee & Hauglid, eds., Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant,
Studies in the Book of Abraham 3 (Provo: FARMS, 2005), 107-130, re Jewish reinterpretation of Egyptian
iconography (esp. with hypocephali), which is available online at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/
publications/books/ ?bookid=40&chapid=168 .
8. Facsimile 2:1: The figure at the center of the Hypocephalus, represents the
quadruple-headed, seated ram-god, Khnum-ʼAmun-Reˁ,
whose four heads, though
presented in dual profile for artistic reasons (as restored to this damaged section from
facsimile 2:2), are meant to face to the four cardinal points,
also holding ˁnḫ, wś,
and dd scepters to the four directions – the three scepters representing, according to E.
Winter, (1) Alife & immortality,@ (2) Apower & dominion,@ and (3) Astability & endurance,@
and altogether the four pillars of heaven.
In fac 2:1, Khnum-ʼAmun-Reˁ is of course the god seated there on the primeval
hillock of the first creation rising from a watery chaos
; there on the hypocephalus, as
well as here on the huge 4th century B.C. Metternich Stele (a cippus of Horus), above,
S. A. B. Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1 (1913):23, citing A. E. Weigall in Petrie, Abydos, I (London:
Gilbert & Rivingston, 1902); cf. de Horrack, PSBA, VI:128, cited in Harris, Legacy of Egypt, 267.
A. Gardiner, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 36:4,7-9,11-12; O. Keel, Jahwe-Visionen und
Siegelkunst (Stuttgart: KBW, 1977), 222-223,328-337; cf. Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:23.
Cf. J. G. Griffiths= review of Winter in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 56:228-230.
E. A. W. Budge, Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum (London: British
Museum/Longmans & Co., 1895/ reprint N.Y.: Dover, Publ., 1967/Gramercy, 1995), cix, 357 n. 2; cf. C. J.
Bleeker, Egyptian Festivals (Leiden, 1967), 116.
Cf. J. A. Wilson in J. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3
ed., with Supplement
(Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), 3-8; E. A. E. Reymond, Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple
(Manchester Univ. Press, 1969), 9 (n. 4),50,210.
C. E. Sander-Hansen, Texte der Metternichstele (Copenhagen, 1956); W. Golénischeff, Die
Metternichstele (Leipzig, 1877).
this god is adored by baboon representatives of Athe four primal pairs of gods of
Right next to the center, at facsimile 2:10-11, we find in Egyptian a virtual ordinal
number Afirst,@ as part of an Egyptian phrase there: sp tpy AFirst occasion (Creation).@
This partially comports with Joseph=s explanation for facsimile 2:11, but also with his
identification of facsimile 2:1, “the first creation.”
Joseph identified this central register (facsimile 2:1) as AKolob, signifying the first
creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.@ But who or what is Kolob?
According to Book of Abraham 3:2-3, Kolob is a Agreat one,@ a Astar@ Anearest to the
throne of God@; 3:9 says that Kolob governs all planets of the same order as Earth, while
3:16 says that AKolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam [Hebrew Astars@] that@
Abraham saw Abecause it is nearest unto@ God.
Note that Anear(est)@ occurs with or defines Kolob five times, and Anigh@ twice in
the Book of Abraham. This is significant since Kolob is likely from the proto-Semitic root
qlb /qrb Anear; heart; center,@ which is cognate with Egyptian qb,
and which fits the
status of what could as easily have been spelled *Qolob, which appears in the common
Hebrew qutl-form at Qumran (qwrb Amidst@; 11QMelch 1:10 = Psalm 82:1), but is used
elsewhere in the Bible as a name of God B the theophoric Hebrew epithet, Qarob
AThe-Near-One@ (Psalm 119:151 152 Qedem AThe-Primeval-One@; cf. Psalms 69:19,
74:12, 145:18; Arabic Qarib is cognate).
Indeed, the name H_nmw (Khnum/Khnemu) appeared in use by the 5th & 6th
century B.C. Jewish military colony at Elephantine in Upper Egypt as Ḥnb,
Greek forms elsewhere as Xnoumis, Xnoubis, Xnoubi, Knoufis, Knef B which are all
phonemically similar to Kolob (-l- can interchange with -r- or -n- in both Egyptian and
Coptic)! In ancient Egyptian, Khnum meant AThe Joiner Together,@
and this makes sense in light of Khnum’s mythological creation of men
from clay on a potter=s wheel in Egyptian tradition.
Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:23; Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), xcix.
A. Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian, 32, cites Afroasiatic A*ḳrb/ḳlb; Eg. qb >interior= (see Akk.
All cited in M. Dahood, Psalms, 3 vols., Anchor Bible 16,17,17A (NY: Doubleday, 1965-1970).
R. J. Williams, AEgypt and Israel,@ in J. R. Harris, ed., Legacy of Egypt, 2
ed., 261 n. 1.
J. Kaster, Wings of the Falco, 108, 206 n. 17.
E. Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), cix.
9. Facsimile 2:2, and 2:5: Represents ʼAmmon-Reˁ,
and Hathor, both in parallel
and opposite one another, each as the Sun. Joseph explains 5 as the Sun,
and both 2
& 5 apparently as fixed stars (not Awandering stars@ = planets) which exercise governing
Joseph says in facsimile 2:5 that the Sun receives Aits light from Kolob through
the medium of Kae-e-van-rash,@ the Agrand Key,@ or Agoverning power, which governs
fifteen other@ stars. To judge by similar wording in facsimile 2:3, this seems to imply
priesthood power. Whether it must also be understood in modern terms of string theory
or other avant garde notions of astrophysics is unclear, but we can surmise that
Kae-e-van-rash is most likely proto-Hebrew *ke-ʼeban-raʼš Athe very-keystone@ (cf.
Mark 12:10 = Psalm 118:22 Acts 4:11; Zechariah 4:7),
which is the Lord, YHWH
himself. What better source of power? Especially since a Arock@ or Astone@ also
represents priesthood power elsewhere (Matthew 16:17-19, 21:42; 1 Peter 2:4-9).
If all this talk of pagan gods seems somehow out of place, keep in mind that
people in the ancient Near East regularly considered the gods of other nations to be
different forms of their own gods.
Throughout the ancient Near East, for example, the
winged sun-disk was the standard icon representing the head of pantheon, including ʼEl
/ YHWH, who is depicted in both Bible and Book of Mormon as Athe Sun of
Righteousness@ who Aarises with healing in his wings@ (Malachi 4:2; 2 Nephi 25:13; 3
Nephi 25:2 B in the latter ASun@ is misspelled in most printed editions).
disks or winged scarabs were also the royal symbol of the kingdom of Judah under King
and are found on many Judahite seals and bullae.
T. Devéria, Bibliothèque Égyptologique, 4:198.
R. E. Witt, Isis in the Graeco-Roman World (London: Thames & Hudson/ N.Y.: Cornell Univ.
Press, 1971), 147 n. 21; Kaster, Wings of the Falcon, 85 (n. 24), 94 (n. 22); C. J. Bleeker, Hathor and Thoth
(Leiden: Brill, 1973), 66, 73, 159.
With emphatic prefix, kaph veritatis, as in Obadiah 11 keʼaḥad Aone!@; Nehemiah 7:2 ke=iš
ʼemet Aa faithful man!@ B L. Koehler & W. Baumgartner, eds., Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros
(Leiden: Brill/ Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951/1953), 27 (5); cf. F. Geers, "The Treatment of Emphatics in
Akkadian," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 4/2 (1945):65-67. The Canaanite shift from -a- to -o- doesn=t
take place until centuries after Abraham (S. Moscati, Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the
Semitic Languages, 1
ed. [Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1964], 62, *raʼš).
W. F. Albright & C. S. Mann, Matthew, Anchor Bible 26 (NY: Doubleday, 1971), 265-266.
C. H. Gordon in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., Macropaedia, 12:917-920.
Y. Yadin in J. A. Sanders, ed., Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century (Doubleday,
W. F. Albright, Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim, III: The Iron Age (New Haven: American Schools
of Oriental Research, 1943), 31-32, 73-75, plate 29:8, 10.
10. Facsimile 2:3 (as restored) and 2:7: Each features a seated falcon-god, the
former being Ḫpry-Rˁ, and the latter falcon-wing-backed Min-ʼAmun-Reˁ.
The two wdt-eyes (Sun and Moon
) in facsimile 2:3 are inversely paralleled by
two other wdt-eyes opposite: One being presented to Min by a bird-serpent Nḥb-k
in 2:7, and the other in the head of the female standing behind the Cow-goddess,
Hathor B the same female holds an ˁnḫ-sign in her right hand, and this may correspond
with the ˁnḫ held in the right hand of Khopry-Reˁ in facsimile 2:3. The flagellum held
above Min=s shoulder in facsimile 2:7, which is associated with Asovereignty and
dominion@ (though usually with the crook
), is an Aemblem of rule,@
and may parallel
the wś-scepter (Apower & dominion@) in the left hand of Khopry-Reˁ in facsimile 2:3. In
any case, the Wdt-eye, Athe full, healed and intact eye@ of Horus or of Reˁ, is Athe
symbol of divine life which can overcome death,@
i.e., certainly could be interpreted as
a priesthood function.
Joseph=s explanations here each have God enthroned and Arevealing@ Agrand
Key-words of the Priesthood.@ AHoly@ appears in each explanation, though in separate
contexts, and AAbraham@ is also mentioned in each. Abraham is especially important in
2:7 where he is sitting on the throne of God receiving Athe sign of the Holy Ghost . . . in
the form of a dove.@ This not only demonstrates Joseph=s understanding that such
symbols have more than one meaning, but also that the Nḥb-kw bird-serpent (dove)
is correctly understood as the Holy Ghost, i.e., Miriam Lichtheim saw Nehebkau
(Nḥbkw) as Aa divinity in serpent form who is in the retinue of Re and serves as a
guardian,@ in her comments on Pyramid Utterance 263.
However, in translating the
term Nḥb-kw.f, she rendered it as A(man) of standing; (lit.) one whose kas are
harnessed@ (from the First Interregnum Stela of Ity, 3).
Whatever the meaning of
Naples Stela 4, in A. S. Yahuda, Language of the Pentateuch (Oxford Univ. Press, 1933), 62 n.
3, and Appendix A, p. 4.
E. Budge, Book of the Dead: The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, 1
ed., 3 vols. (London:
Kegan Paul & Co., 1897/1898), II:248,356; III:630.
Budge, Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani (1895/1967), 332.
Bleeker, Hathor and Thoth, 125, citing Kristensen, Het leven uit de dood (1949), 26-27; cf. A.
Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3
ed. (Oxford, 1957), '266:1; Urkunden, V, 37, 13 = H. Grapow, Religiöse
Urkunden; Ausgewahlte Texte des Totenbuchs (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1915- ), part V of G. Steindorff, ed.,
Urkunden des ägyptischen Alterums (Leipzig, 1903- ).
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3 vols. (U. C. Press, 1973,1976,1980), I:34-35 n. 2.
Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I:89 n. 1.
combined terms like Nḥbw-kw
(cf. Pyramid Utterance 517; Coffin Texts, II, 49 , II,
51-54 [85-88], and VI, 133k, 392h), it is a nˁw-serpent B a taker away of power and a
bestower of powers, with authority from the Great Ennead of Atum, i.e., the Divine
Council, or is seen as seven uraei exalted and identified with the Bull of the
Tribunal-Ennead (see Faulkner on Coffin Texts 85-88 [II, 51-54]).
Is this not a good
analogy with the Holy Ghost? To clinch it, note that the -k element of Nḥb-k in
facsimile 2:7, has been translated variously as Aghost, phantom@ (Edfu, IV, 266, 7;
Shipwrecked Sailor, 114), Aspirit, soul; essence; personality; fortune; fate; will (of king);
kingship; goodwill; genius; guardian spirit; power; double@
(Pyramid Text 587), and
Ahyper-physical vital force.@
Mercer defined the wś-scepter in the left hand of ʼAmun-Reˁ in facsimile 2:3 as
Athe royal sceptre which gave dominion over heaven and earth,@
synonymous with Aauthority.@ Budge said that it meant Apower.@
Gardiner saw it as
Adivine power, dominion,@
both Faulkner and Scamuzzi as Adominion,@
while J. G. Griffiths defined the wś as meaning Apower, might.@
which clearly match Joseph=s identification of it as Aclothed with power and authority.@
See A. Shorter, AThe God Nehebkau,@ JEA, 21 (1935):41 on Nḥb-kw; and Revue
d=égyptologie, 10:14 n. 3.
Cf. Shorter, JEA, 21 (1935):46B47.
J. A. Wilson, Culture of Ancient Egypt (Chicago, 1957), 86,299 n. 27; J. Zandee, Death as an
Enemy (Leiden: Brill, 1960), 184; Late Egyptian Stories, 68, 19; Gardiner, JEA, 36:7 n. 2; L. Greven, Ka in
Theologie und Königskult des alten Reiches (J. J. Augustin, 1952), reviewed by R. Faulkner, JEA, 41:141;
W. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 1
ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins,1940), 130; Albright,
Vocalization of the Egyptian Syllabic Orthography (New Haven: AOS, 1934), 26, 61, and XVII.C, citing ZÄS,
48:152-159; 54:56-64; and JEA, 5:64.
S. Morenz, Egyptian Religion (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1992), 170.
Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:23.
Budge, The Mummy, 2
ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1925/ reprint N.Y.: Biblo & Tannen, 1964
/Collier-Macmillan, 1972/N.Y.: Causeway, 1974), 221.
Gardiner, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 36:7,12 n. 1.
R. Faulkner, Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, rev. ed. (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1985),
178,184, for Book of the Dead illustration and text: Alife and dominion@; E. Scamuzzi, Egyptian Art in the
Egyptian Museum of Turin (NY: Abrams, 1965), plate XXXIII.
H. Brunner, Archiv für Orientforschung, 23 (1970):119-120.
J. Griffiths, JEA, 56:229-230, on E. Winter, Untersuchungen zu den aegyptischen Tempelreliefs
der griechisch-roemischen Zeit (Vienna, 1968).
11. Facsimile 2:4 and 6: We have here, respectively, Sokar in a celestial boat
the four sons of Horus. The former is cross-identified with Horus and represents the sky,
heavens, or firmament,
while the latter represent his four sons (who carry Sokar=s
Budge stated unequivocally that these four gods Awere supposed to preside over
the four quarters of the world, and subsequently were acknowledged to be the gods of
the cardinal points,@
and he continued to say this: AEach god ruled over one quarter of
the world,@ Athe gods of the four quarters of the earth,@
Athe four [quarters of the
or the gods of the four Aquarters of heaven.@
Mercer only grudgingly
although Gardiner minced no words in saying that they Apresided over
the four quarters of the globe.@
Joseph was clearly correct in his identification of facsimile 2:4 as Hebrew rāqîyaˁ
(= Raukeeyang in Sephardic transliteration), Afirmament, heaven@ (Genesis 1:6-8), and of
2:6 as Athis earth in its four quarters.@
Since we understand the hypocephalus structure to consist of upper and lower
hemispheres, the heavenly and the terrestrial,
they thus represent here a personified
Mercer in Spalding, Joseph Smith as a Translator (SLC: The Arrow Press, Nov 1912), 31;
Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:23.
R. Anthes, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 18:171, cited by H. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 1
ed. (SLC: Deseret Book, 1981); 2
ed., Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 14 (FARMS/ Deseret Book, 2000),
174; Lesko, Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways (U. C. Press, 1972), 6; cf. Pyramid Texts 138, 620bc.
Bleeker, Egyptian Festivals, 81.
Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), ci; cf. Budge, The Mummy, 1
Budge, Book of the Dead: Papyrus of Ani (London/NY, 1913/1916/NY: University Books,
1960), 192,130-131; cf. Haim B. Rosén, "Some Thoughts on the System of Designation of the Cardinal
Points in Ancient Semitic Languages," in Alan S. Kaye, ed., Semitic Studies in Honor of Wolf Leslau On the
Occasion of His Eighty-Fifth Birthday, November 14th, 1991, 2 vols. (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1991),
Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), 339, on spell 83:4; cf. pp. 278-279.
Budge, Gods of the Egyptian, 2 vols. (London: Methuen/ Chicago: Open Court, 1904/ reprint
N.Y.: Dover, 1967/1969), I:210; cf. Pyramid Text 1777; Wilson in Pritchard, ed., ANET, 3
ed., 8 n. 6,
citing Sethe, Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1908-1922/ Hamburg,
1960-1962), II, ''1456-1457.
Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:19,24; cf. Gardiner, JEA, 36:9, citing Otto, Kees, Sethe, and Pyramid
Gardiner, JEA, 36:12 (cf. p. 11 n. 2).
Devéria, Bibliothèque Égyptologique, 4:197 n. 1; cf. C. Veteto in BYU SEHA Newsletter, 101.32
(May 1, 1967), 5, citing E. Varga on the same phenomenon.
merism meaning Athe Universe,@ or the Atotality of the gods,@
which is found in various
ancient Near Eastern genres: Creation narrative, hymnal, royal kingship, and treaty
documents. This personified merism is really part of the basic god-list motif common to
Akkadian, Hittite, Ugaritic, and Hebrew texts,
and which is substituted for in some
texts by A1,000 gods.@
The motif is, of course, symbolic, i.e., the whole universe is
pictured watching and bearing formal witness (a key item in the lawsuit or Rîb-pattern
). Moreover, the basic chiasm also appears in Hebrews 8:1-6 9:24-28.
12. Facsimile 2:22-23: Bleeker has shown that the religious significance of light
includes the Egyptian ḫw as a glorious being as well as a word for Alight.@
the very words for divinity and salvation are usually words for Alight,@
and the same
roots can be applied to words like ḫḫ Astars,@ and ḫt Aeye of god.@ These appear to
be idle observations only until we note that Joseph=s identification of registers 22 and 23
as Hebrew kôkābîm Astars@ (ko-kau-beam in Sephardic transliteration here and at
3:13,16), which receive and transmit light of some discrete sort, include the ASun@ itself
as a Astar@ (not only in modern astronomy, but in ancient Mesopotamia, with Akkadian
kakkabu Astar@ = ASun@
), each baboon wearing a sun-disk with crescent moon.
Cf. C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965), 491, Glossary
#2427; L. R. Fisher, AAbraham and His Priest KIng,@ Journal of Biblical Literature, 81:267, cited by F. Brent
Knutson, ALiterary Parallels Between the Texts of Le Palais Royal d=Ugarit IV and the Hebrew Bible,@
doctoral dissertation (Claremont Graduate School, 1970), 8 (n. 3),11,13.
Knutson, dissertation, 6-10,104,108,118-121,197-198, citing Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near
Eastern Texts, 3
ed., 205-206; J. W. Whedbee, AWisdom in Isaiah,@ doctoral dissertation (Yale Grad.
School, 1968), 28; and E. Von Waldow, ADer Traditionsgeschichtliche Hintergrund der prophetischen
Gerichtsreden,@ ZAW 85:15-16.
Knutson, dissertation, 8.
Knutson, dissertation, 13.
G. W. Buchanan, To the Hebrews, Anchor Bible 36 (Doubleday, 1972), 146, citing J. T.
C. J. Bleeker, “The Religious Significance of Light,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society
of Columbia University, 5 (1973):33.
Bleeker, JANES, 5:23-25.
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, K, 47, citing CT, 23, 36:51-52; cf. H. Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical
Companion for Biblical Hebrew (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2009), 156-157.
13. Stars as Divine Stations: A Astar@ as a residence or Astation@ occupied by a god
is also correctly employed by Joseph.
The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, 51:10, says
that the elect of God Awill be like angels, and made equal to the stars.@
According to Jaroslav erný, the Egyptians saw the stars as divine beings. The
Stars were divided into two parallel groups:
Circumpolar-stars@ ˁw, AGreat-ones, Circumpolar-stars@ (Pyramid Texts 405a, 733, 782,
1123, 2051; Coffin Text I, 271),
both being identical with Hebrew kôkbê-ʼĒl, AStars of
God, Circumpolar-stars@ (Isaiah 14:13 2 Nephi 24:13), symbolizing Aeternity,@
identical with Athe Mount of Council@ or AMt. Ṣaphon,@ and referring to the Supreme
Council of God and to his throne (Psalms 48:3, 148:3; cf. the Agreat one@ in Enuma Elish
V:1, and in Abraham 3:3). Some carp at Joseph=s Sephardic Jewish transliteration
Hah-ko-kau-beam for biblical hakôkābîm, Athe stars,@ but this simply stems from
ignorance of Hebrew.
In any case, the notion that stars and planets were gods was a
very ancient one,
even if a variety of ancient theological explanations might be given
to that belief B leading to variant decisions anciently on where to place a king=s
mortuary temple, to face either the rising sun or the circumpolar stars.
14. Gnolaum: Margaret Barker puts the holy of holies of the temple outside of
time, in A>eternity=, olam, a word implying continuous or indefinite existence.@
the Book of Abraham correctly terms in Sephardic style Hebrew gnolaum Aeternal,@ i.e.,
without beginning and without end (Abraham 3:18), very much like the eternal
Melchizedek Priesthood (Hebrews 7:3).
Pyramid Texts 251,531,882; CAD, K, 46, 1; Enuma Elish V:1, 12; L=Exaltation d=Ishtar,
III:57-60; Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 1
ed. (SLC: Deseret Book, 1975), 84-85; Tawil,
Akkadian Lexical Companion, 157, citing Job 38:7, and Amos 5:26.
2 Baruch in J. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, I:638.
erný, Ancient Egyptian Religion (London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1952/ reprint
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979), 51.
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 21 (1935):5 n. 2.
Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, 232 n. 69.
Cf. Homans-AWebb,@ Improvement Era, 16 (1913):1087; Mercer, Utah Survey, I/1:24, who
indicates his contempt via quotation marks.
G. de Santillana & H. von Dechend, Hamlet=s Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time
(Boston: Gambit, 1969/ reprint Boston: Godine, 1977), 177.
I. E. S. Edwards, AMeydum,@ in K. Bard, ed., Encyclopedia of the Archeology of Ancient Egypt
(London: Routledge, 1999), 527.
Margaret Barker, Temple Mysticism (London: SPCK, 2011), 45.
Hebrew ˁÔlam; Aramaic ˁâl(a)mâ (*ˁawlam, the augmentative original?)
Hebrew ˁOlam AThe-Eternal@ = Phoenician ˁUlom = Oulomos of Mochus) "the name of
a Phoenician old god, 'the ancient one' literally."
ʼEl-ˁolam “Eternal El” is used, for
example, among early Canaanite divine names.
Compare also gibˁot ˁolam
Aeverlasting hills@ (Habakkuk 3:6); bet-ˁolam Ahouse of eternity@ (Ecclesiastes 1:4,10,
2:16, 3:14, 12:3,5,7), which appears in Egyptian transliteration as bt-ˁrm in the
conquest list of Pharaoh Shishak I (Bubastite Portal 3:36)
; pitḥe-ˁolam Agates of
eternity@ (Psalm 24:7,9); AGod has set eternity
in their heart@ (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NJB
note b). Note that Egyptian nb dt (or nb nḥḥ) ALord of eternity@ = Ptah (ANET 4-6) =
Canaanite d ˁôlami ALord of Eternity@; Amarna cuneiform -ilam, -olam.
Hebrew halîkôt ˁôlam Aancient orbits,@ or pathways taken by deities as they make their
and not to be confused with Ḥălāqōt “Perdition” (Ps 73:18).
15. Shagreel (Shag-reel): Book of Abraham 1:9, god of Shagreel, Athe sun@ B
Sephardic style transliteration of hypothetical Hebrew *Šaˁarey-=El "Gates-of-El" =
Babylonian Bab-ili AGate of God@ as the name for Babylon
(cf. Psalm 118:20 "gate of
the LORD" hašaˁar laYHWH; cf. Genesis 28:17, Job 38:17, Isaiah 38:10, Psalms 9:13,
The same as Mandaean/Gnostic ˁAlma; but ˁolam is transliterated once as gelam in LXX
Greek (Hatch & Redpath, Concordance to the Septuagint [1897-1906], 235b).
F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Harvard Univ. Press, 1997), 24-35; Cross,
From Epic to Canon (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1998), 77, 82; D. N. Freedman defines ˁOlam as Athe
Eternal@ at Deuteronomy 33:27 (Freedman, AThe Poetic Structure of the Framework of Deuteronomy
33,@ in G. Rendsburg, et al., eds., The Bible World [KTAV, 1980], reprinted in Freedman, Divine
Commitment and Human Obligation, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997], II:95); cf. J. Bright, A
History of Israel, 3
ed. (Westminster Press, 1981), 100.
W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, 104 and n. 21, citing F. M. Cross in Harvard
Theological Review, 55 (1962):236-244; cf. J. A. Thompson, AThe Root ˁ-l-m in Semitic Languages and
Some Proposed New Translations in Ugaritic and Hebrew,@ in R. Fischer, ed., A Tribute to Arthur Vööbus:
Studies in Early Christian Literature and Its Environment, Primarily in the Syrian East (Chicago: Lutheran
School of Theology, 1977), 159-166; E. Jenni, ADas Wort ˁolam im Alten Testament,@ ZAW, 64
(1952):197-248; 65 (1953):1-35.
John Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 192-193.
In this instance Northrop Frye interprets olam as Amystery, obscurity,@ based on the context
(Frye, The Great Code [Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981/1982], 124).
Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 16-20.
Francis I. Andersen, Habakkuk, Anchor Bible 25 (Doubleday, 2001), 292, citing Albright, AThe
Psalm of Habakkuk,@ in H. H. Rowley, ed., Studies in Old Testament Prophecy: Presented to Prof.
Theodore H. Robinson (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950), 14 n. t.
Dahood, Psalms, II:306, re Abaddon in Psalm 88:12.
Stephanie Dalley, Myths of Mesopotamia (Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), 263 n.38.
100:4, 107:18, 118:19, Proverbs 14:19, Jeremiah 7:2, Odes of Solomon 22:12, Wisdom of
Solomon 16:13; Matthew 16:18; II Nephi 4:32 gates of Hell/ Death/ Hades/ Še=ol;
Moabite šˁryh = šaˁrê-ha AHer gates@ (Mesha Stele 2); Egyptian syllabic ša-ˁa-ra Agate@
as in Papyrus Amherst 4,3. The guttural -- is reflected by earlier Ugaritic tr, and
confirmed in Arabic tura) grn Athreshing-floor,@ and bt Ahouse.@
reference here may be to the divine name Šgr, a minor god in some Ugaritic texts (Baal
Cycle, tablet 5 [KTU 1.5], III:16-17, and CAT 1.148.31).
Compare the typical Egyptian
temple as Athe doors of heaven.@
The powerful solar symbolism of Hebrew and
Canaanite ʼEl makes the connection with the Sun quite normal, as we have seen above.
16. Kolob: Abraham 3:9-10, 16, and fac 2:1 say that Kolob, the greatest of the stars
(Hebrew Hakokaubeam), signifies "the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the
residence of God," that Kolob is "[f]irst in government," and "the last pertaining to the
measurement of time," which means "one day to a cubit" (= thousand years in Earth
time) in "celestial time," which, according to facsimile 2:2, 4, is the same time-reckoning
as at Oliblish and at God's throne/ residence. Three realms: Where or what are they?
Where would one celestial day pass while a thousand years passed here on Earth?
What principle would allow time to be so relatively slow there and so fast here, or
vice-versa? Does physics (astrophysics) know of such a phenomenon? What of the
time-dilation principle of Einsteinian mechanics at very high speeds?
time measured in cubits in the ancient Near East?
This metaphorical ratio of one to a thousand can be found in Psalm 84:10, "How
much better is one day in your Court, than a thousand in the Cemetery!"
Psalm 90:4, "For a thousand years just pass before your eyes like yesterday, like a watch
in the night."
So too in a love song from the Egyptian Papyrus Hunefer, 500:1, "Better
L. R. Fisher, Ras Shamra Parallels, I, p. 381 #605, and p. 158 #137.
Simon Parker, Ugaritic Narrative Poetry (SBL/Scholars Press, 1997), 145, n. 164.
E. F. Wente, AEgyptian Religion,@ in D. Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols.
(Doubleday, 1992), II:409.
See Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation .
Mitchell Dahood, Psalms, II:321, for this translation; cf. Psalm 45:6; and Alma 40:8, "All is as
one day with God, and time only is measured unto man."
Dahood, Psalms, II:278.
indeed is one day in your arms . . . than a hundred thousand [anywhere] on Earth."
Or in the Egyptian notion that "Eternity is in his sight as a day."
Time measurement differentials have been dealt with separately in my lengthy
section on astronomy in my Book of Abraham Commentary (forthcoming), but several
points must be mentioned here: The image of the throne of God from which the waters
flow (Psalm 46:5, Ezekiel 47, Joel 4:18), or set in the midst of the waters (Ezekiel 28:2;
Ugaritic Text 51:IV:21-22), conjures up the well-known motif of Jerusalem as the
omphalos or navel of the world (Judges 9:37, Ezekiel 5:5, 38:12, i.e., the Temple), but also
brings in the old suggestion that Kolob was the navel of the universe.
The ratio of
1,000 to 1 may be dealt with as metaphor (Psalm 84:10, 90:4, Job 9:3, 33:23, etc.; cf.
Papyrus Harris 500, 1), and the Egyptian word for A1,000" can also be used to mean
Amyriad; herd.@ Furthermore, one may also account for that time differential via the
Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction of time in Einsteinian mechanics (the Special Theory of
Relativity, perhaps allied with the Aristotelian and Stoic concept of Zeus Ouranios [=
Jupiter summus exsuperantissimus]) at the edge of the known universe with the quasars,
or in the midst of our own Milky Way Galaxy and within its super-massive Black Hole.
Egyptian Aastronomy@ B if one may speak of such a thing! B has little to offer, and our
attention ought to be directed to the use of the cubit as an astronomical measure in
If, as Abraham 3:1 and facsimile 3 suggest (and Josephus explicitly says
Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians, what sort of principles would he have
taught them along these lines? Since Abraham came from Mesopotamia, and since it is
generally agreed that astronomy was most highly developed there and not in Egypt,
it makes sense to evaluate the Book of Abraham in light of Mesopotamian knowledge.
"Songs of the City of Memphis," translated by R. O. Faulkner in Simpson, ed., The Literature
of Ancient Egypt (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1972), 298.
Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3
ed., p. 64, Exercise VI.a.10; cf. Yahuda, Language of the
Pentateuch, 269-270, notes 1 & 3, on the Hebrew and Egyptian cognates for "eternity."
J. E. Hickman, Improvement Era, 19 (1916):593-595.
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, A, part II, 74, i, j, ammatum A2 Acubit; 2 of arc.@
Josephus, Antiquities, I, 7, 2 '158 (quoting Berossus); VIII, 2 ''167-168.
O. Neugebauer, JNES, IV:8, 11-13, 25; Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, 2
(Brown Univ. Press, 1957/ reprint N.Y.: Dover, 1969/ Brown Univ. Press, 1970), 80-144; cf. H. Saggs,
Mesopotamien (Kindler, 1966), 661-671. This applied as well to mathematical sophistication in Old
Babylonia and the lack thereof in Egypt (J. Høyrup, Lengths [Springer, 2002], 405).
Certainly the notion of celestial hierarchies set forth in Abraham 3:8-9 is well-suited to
One of the principles apparently employed by Abraham at Book of Abraham 3:6
(Aset time@) was the Old Babylonian concept of adānu, adannu "set time, appointed
time, period" (ATRA-ḪASIS W, 5; DT 42), for which the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary
discerns two basic applications:
(1) "moment in time at end of period," and
(2) "a period of time of predetermined length or characterized by a sequence of events,"
often being used for seasons, cycles, and astronomical periods.
Another concept of prime importance here (Book of Abraham facsimile 2:1 Aone
day to a cubit@) is the Mesopotamian "cubit": Sumerian KÙŠ and Akkadian ammatum
mean "2 of arc; 49.5 - 55 cm (linear cubit)."
Hebrew ʼammah and Egyptian mḥ
(Coptic mah) are the cognate terms which refer only to earth-bound cubit measures. In
a cuneiform text from ancient Boghazköy, Anatolia, however, we read "when the day has
'turned' two cubits."
Indeed, Marvin A. Powell has noted how the Sumero-Akkadian
cubit was used Ain the calculation of celestial distances@ as late as the Seleucid period.
He adds that, during the 1st millennium B.C., the Sumero-Akkadian 1/30 cubit measure
(šu-si, ubanu Afinger@ @ about 1b cm) represented 1/5 of the apparent diameter of the
sun, corresponding to 5' arc,@ and he presented the following data for clarification (see
his Table V):
O. Neugebauer, Exact Sciences in Antiquity, 2
ed., 99-100, citing a Cassite period text
dealing with 8 celestial spheres: "How far is one god (i.e. star) beyond the other god?"
a-da-nu, UD.BA, CAD "A" I:97-101, citing Bab. 6, 99:9; cf. J. Black, et al., eds., A Concise
Dictionary of Akkadian (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000), 4.
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, "A" I:74 (i), citing F. X. Kubler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst in
Babel, II:547ff., and Thureau-Dangin, Revue d'Assyríologie et d'Archéologie Orientale, 28:23ff.
UD-MU EGIR-pa 2 AM-MA-TI wa-a-zi, CAD "A" I:74 (j), citing Kammenhuber, Hippologica
Hethitica, 270-271: 56 i 49, 92 iii 4, and 100 iv 18.
Powell, Reallexikon der Assyriologie, VII:458, citing JCS, 21 (1969), 201:17-20, adding
variously: ANoteworthy is the antiquity and stability of the linkage between the square of the nindan-rod
('I.2h) and the area system as the basis of plane geometrical calculation.@ Moreover, Ain the Akkad-Ur III
period, . . length measures were defined to relate systematically to area, volume, capacity, and perhaps
to weight (M. A. Powell, Archiv für Orientforschung 31 :46),@ i.e., systems were well-integrated.
Powell in RLA, VII:458,461 (Table V), continuing the discussion of celestial distance measures
manatur 144 cubits (122 cubits) 720 sun diameters (12 x 60) 25,920 še 360 (12 x 60) 4,320 šu-si fingers (12 x 360)
ammatu Acubit, sun cubit@ 5 sun diameters 180 še 2 30' arc 30 fingers
ubanu Afinger@ 5/30 sun diameter 6 še 5' arc 1 finger
In addition, time could be measured in length units so that A12 geodesic beru (=
360 UŠ)” could be equated Awith 1 solar ~ sidereal day,@ a system of time measurement
dating back to at least the Middle Bronze Age (contemporary with Abraham). This
method apparently entailed early recognition of the isometric relationship of 12 months
of 360 days with 12 beru of 360 UŠ. Thus, when on the road, travelers could see that
when on Aa march of 1 beru@ (1800 nindan Arods@), the sun would also move a distance
of 1 beru ~ 30. Indeed, the measures of 1, 3, 6, and 12 beru correspond to 30, 90,
180, and 360.
A Seleucid text from Uruk (RA 10, 216-218, AO 6476) provides the
1 talent = 12 danna/ beru on Earth (ina qaqqari) = 648,000 danna/ beru in Heaven (ina šamê)
This is the very sort of difference which we encounter in Abraham facsimile 2:1. Such
issues must be dealt with, rather than systematically ignored, even if some such
observations may only be commentary and clarification to this register. In this case,
however, the impact should be startling. For, how could Joseph Smith accurately portray
an ancient civilization in such detail?
17. Olishem: The Plain of Olishem (Book of Abraham 1:10), in Egyptian controlled
area of NW Syria, one finds an Akkadian place-name, Ulisum, in inscriptions of kings
Rim Sin and Naram Sin (ca. 2250 B.C.),
perhaps the same (suggested by John Gee) as
the 12th Dynasty Egyptian Execration Texts= wšmm, which has usually been taken to
represent cuneiform Urušalimum (Jerusalem).
Powell, RLA, VII:467.
Powell, RLA, VII:468, and Table VIII.
J. M. Lundquist, "Was Abraham at Ebla?" in R. L. Millet & K. P. Jackson, eds., Studies in
Scripture, 7 vols. (SLC: Randall, 1985), II:233-235; P. Y. Hoskisson, AWhere Was Ur of the Chaldees?@ in H.
D. Peterson & C. D. Tate, eds., Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God (BYU Religious Studies Center,
1989), 136, n. 44; John Gee, FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 4 (1992):115, n. 64; Daniel
Peterson, Ensign 24/1 (Jan 1994):17-18, citing I. J. Gelb & B. Kienast, Die altakkadischen
Königs-inschriften des dritten Jahrtausends v. Christentums (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1990), 255-256; cf.
AInscription of Naram-Sin, the Campaign Against Armanu and Ebla,@ in William W. Hallo and K. Lawson
Younger Jr., eds., The Context of Scripture, vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World
(Boston: Brill, 2003), 245. The line reads, AFrom the bank of the Euphrates until Ulisum.@ See also Gee,
AAbracadabra, Isaac and Jacob,@ FARMS Review, 7/1 (1995):26B27.
Execration Texts E27-28.
18. Shaumau: Singular shaumau Ato be high; heavens@ raukeeyang (fac 1:12) =
Hebrew šamma, šama (Ps 68:5 archaic singular), Aheight,@ Ugaritic tm (UT 68:4),
which was taken over as a loan-word into Aramaic as šimme), Akkadian šamû, šamê,
šm= (Akkadian simmelat šamami Athe stairway of heaven@),
and Arabic sama=.
In Book of Abraham 3:13, Athe sun@ B Shinehah could certainly be
Egyptian for the Asun,@ since it apparently incorporates Egyptian šn(w), the name for the
solar Acircuit,@ and for the old Acartouche@ B Aemblem of sun=s orbit, which symbolizes
+ Egyptian nḥḥ Aeternity, forever@ (with solar determinative ), Coptic eneh
Aeternity,@ šaeneh Aforever@; or Egyptian ḥḥ, Coptic hah Amillion, large number,@ which
may be related. Used also as a convenient code-word for Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835 D&C
82:12, 117:8, etc.; nḥḥ is Adynamic eternity,@ to be differentiated from dt Astatic
20. Egyptus: Egyptus (KEP variants Egyptes; Zeptah, Zep-tah), AEgypt@ (BofA
1:23,25), can be compared with Babylonian syllabic cuneiform Ḫikuptaḥ AEgypt@
from the Egyptian name for Memphis, the old capital of Egypt,
Ḥwt-k-Ptaḥ, "House-of-the-Spirit-of-Ptah" (i.e., the Temple of Ptah) "Egypt/
Aegyptus/ Egyptus" (E-gy-pt; Coptic ekepta), and Greek Aigyptos in Homer, as both
Dahood, Psalms I, Anchor Bible 16 (NY: Doubleday, 1965); A. van Selms, Ugarit-Forschungen,
W. Lambert & A. Millard, ATRA-ḪASIS (Oxford, 1969), III, iii, 8, etc.; E. Reiner, Linguistic
Analysis of Akkadian (Hague, 1966), 27; Journal of Semitic Studies, 7 (1962):174; Tawil, Akkadian Lexical
Companion, 263, 407-410.
See the explanation of Christopher Smith, AThe Inspired Fictionalization of the 1835 United
Firm Revelations,@ Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies, 1/1 (Apr 2011):22, 24, and n. 31.
Budge, Book of the Dead (1913), II:381-382 = (Univ. Books, 1960), 259; Budge, The Mummy,
ed., 264; Budge, Hieroglyphic Dictionary (London: John Murray, 1920/reprint Dover, 1978), 743-744
(šnw Aendless time, eternity@; šnt nt pt Acircuit of heaven@; šnw n. t Acircuit of the earth@); Nibley long
ago noted this use of the šn-sign (private communication).
James P. Allen, AThe Celestial Realm,@ in D. Silverman, ed., Ancient Egypt (London: Duncan
Baird, 1997), 131; J. Cooper first pointed this out to me during his Middle Egyptian class at the
Claremont Colleges in 1968-1969 (it had been taught to him by Klaus Baer).
Termed arṣ Aland@ at Baal Cycle, tablet 3, VI:16 (CAT 1.3).
Nile River and country,
and in Appollodorus (Bibliotheca, 2:1:4-5), as the eponymous
son of Belus & Anchinoe, who first conquers Egypt. Variant Zeptah is clearly Egyptian
St-Ptḥ, "Daughter-of-Ptah" (the -t- in Zt/St is silent),
as is Astarte the "Daughter
of Ptah" in the Late Egyptian Hieratic story of "Astarte and the Sea,"
(and which may
be later reflected in the name of the Babylonian or Jewish Sibyl Sambethe / Sambathis,
the daughter or daughter-in-law of Noah, who also came to Egypt after the Flood).
For vocalization of the -ptah element in Zeptah / Egyptus, compare Coptic ekepta,
Ptah, and Greek Phtha.
She is the equivalent of Hathor (Egyptian "House-of-Horus
[Sky]"), and also the daughter of Ptah.
Hathor is the same constellation as Virgo,
which is the first month of the Inundation season (on the Palermo Stone, each king is
accompanied by his mother's name and by the measured height of the inundation in
). For, "when this woman discovered the land it was under water"
(Abraham 1:24). Hathor is the Eye and Mother of Reˁ, the first king of Egypt (1:25; Book
of the Divine Cow), that first king being otherwise known as AHermes Triplex@ in the
Corpus Hermeticum, i.e., the first king of Egypt after the Flood
Lexikon der Ägyptologie, I:77, IV:25-26; Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction
(Oxford Univ. Press/Clarendon Press, 1961), 1-2; cf. Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), 490; M.
Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus...Seventeen Years Later,” RHO-94 (Provo: FARMS, 1994), 5.
Egyptian S( t)-ptḥ in Middle Kingdom (H. Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen, 3 vols.
(Glückstadt, 1935), I.288.22); cf. Phoenician transcription as sptḥ, and Neo-Babylonian transcription
si-ip-ta-ḫu (Vittmann, Göttinger Miszellen 70:65), cited in Y. Muchiki, Egyptian Proper Names and
Loanwords in North-West Semitic, SBL dissertation series 173 (Atlanta: SBL, 1999), 29.
"Astarte and Yam" in the Papyrus Amherst (where she is šrit-Ptḥ) in Pritchard, ed., ANET, 3rd
ed., 17-18; Gardiner, Late-Egyptian Stories (Brussels, 1932), 76-81; Gardiner, "The Astarte Papyrus," in
Studies Presented to F. Ll. Griffith (Oxford, 1932), 74-85; Lexikon der Ägyptologie, I:500-510. Albright
showed how Astarte is the same as Atargatis-Cybele, Qudshu, Baalat, Juno, Virgo, etc., in his Yahweh
and the Gods of Canaan, chapter 3; see also C. H. Gordon in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed.,
Macropaedia 24:91-127; and A. R. Durham, AZeptah-Egyptus,@ Sept 1958 (Durham in Ross T.
Christensen, ed., Papers of the Fifteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, 12-16).
H. C. Youtie, "Sambathis," Harvard Theological Review, 37:213-217; cf. Charlesworth, Old
Testament Pseudepigrapha, I:318, citing Rosenstiehl & Heinz, "De Sibtu, la reine de Mari, à Sambethe,"
Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuse, 52 (1972):13-15; Sibylline Oracles, Prologue:33; I:289,
III:809,823-827 (J. Charlesworth, OTP, I:317-318, 327, 341, 380; R.H. Charles, Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912-1913) II:392-393), from
the oldest and most certainly Jewish section of the Sibylline Oracles.
Budge, Book of the Dead (1895/1967), 490; Mercer, Pyramid Texts, 4 vols. (Longmans, Green
& Co., 1952), IV:204.
Lexikon der Ägyptologie, IV:32, citing H. S. Smith, A Visit to Ancient Egypt (Warminster,
1974), p. 11 and n. 44.
Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, 28, 62-64.
F. Yates, Giordano Bruno, 48-49, citing L. Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental
21. Elkenah: (KEP variant Elkkener; 1:6-7, 13, 17, 20, Fac. 1:3-5) god of, priest of,
and altar of Elkenah. This is clearly the same as Hebrew =Elqana (1 Samuel 1:1), which is
the short form of the archaic Hebrew formula =El >Elyon qone šamayim wa=areṣ "Most
High God...The Lord God Creator of Heaven & Earth" (Genesis 14:19,22, Exodus 20:11, 2
Chronicles 2:11-12, Isaiah 42:5, Judith 13:18(23-24); 1QapGen 22:16 "The Most High
God, Lord of Heaven and Earth", 3 Maccabees 2:3, 2 Enoch 24 - 30, Mosiah 4:2, 13:19,
15:4, Alma 18:28, 3 Nephi 9:15 (Exodus 20:11, Acts 4:24, John 1:3), Acts 14:15, 17:24,
Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11, 10:6, 1Q22 I (Words of Moses), and which goes back to
Canaanite El-kunirša, =El-qone-=erṣi on a Hittite tablet (El-ku-ni-ir-ša pronounced
; late Hittite Elkoners = Canaanite qone =arṣ "[El]
Creator of the Earth."
Applying his "Abraham-David" covenant typology, the late F.
M. Cross, saw the J-source "as a propaganda work of the [Davidic & Solomonic] empire,"
reworked from more archaic material,
and noted the use of this Late Bronze Age
epithet of ʼEl to legitimize "the national cult of David and Solomon." For it is Canaanite
Melchizedek, King of Salem / Jerusalem, who blesses Abram in the name of "El Creator
of the Earth."
Timely also for Lehi and the Book of Mormon is the ca. 700 B.C.
ostracon found in Jerusalem with [ʼl] qn ʼrṣ "[El] Creator of the Earth."
22. Pharaoh: (Book of Abraham 1:6, 8, 13, 17, 20, facsimile 1:4, 7, 3:4), variously
1:6,8 "Pharaoh, the king of Egypt"; 1:13,17 "Pharaoh, king of Egypt"; 1:20, "Pharaoh
signifies king by royal blood"; fac 3:4 "Pharaoh, King of Egypt." Stephen E. Thompson
finds such usage "anachronistic," both because it is used as a proper name, and because
it "is not attested as a title for the ruler of Egypt until 1504 B.C.," even though it "was
probably used as such earlier in the Eighteenth Dynasty."
However, it has long been
the practice, even among the foremost Egyptologists, to refer to Egyptian rulers in just
this “anachronistic” way.
W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, 46,107; R.J. Clifford, CBQ, 33:222.
A. Goetze in Pritchard, ed., ANET, 3rd ed., 519.
Cross, From Epic to Canon, 40.
Cross, From Epic to Canon, 41.
Cross, From Epic to Canon, 87 n. 8, citing N. Avigad, Israel Exploration Journal, 22 (1972):195
pl. 42B; Patrick Miller, AEl, The Creator of the Earth,@ BASOR, 239 (Summer 1980):43-46, noting the
archaic, set form of the expression in Genesis 14:19; cf. Aramaic and Neo-Punic l qn rṣ.
S. Thompson in Dialogue, 28/1:154-155; B. Porten in Biblical Archeologist, 44 (Winter
Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (Oxford Univ. Press, 1961).
In the real world, the Book of Abraham is right on point, as we see in the
following examples: the Aramaic letter from King ʼAdon of ˁEqron (found at Saqqarah,
Egypt), ca. 604 B.C., "to the Lord of Kings, the Pharaoh" (the address on the outside is in
Demotic Egyptian); the title appears in Assyrian cuneiform accounts as Pirʼu, the king of
Mus.ru /Mus.ri "Pharaoh, the King of Egypt" (Sargon II of Assyria, in the reign of King
Hezekiah of Judah; cf. Isaiah 19:23)
; and in Josephus, Antiquities, VIII,6,2; Origen (245
A.D), "King Pharaoh." As noted by the late Jaroslav erný, the term APharaoh@ appears
without the name of the king in early biblical usage, and only later (in historical accounts
from 950 B.C.) does it appear combined with the actual name of individual kings of
Egypt, such as Shishak I.
The Book of Abraham follows the same early biblical pattern
without the name of an actual king of Egypt, as we should expect if it were authentic,
because it employs the title the way we might expect Jews in Egypt to have employed it
as they faithfully copied and transmitted the Book of Abraham down to Greco-Roman
times. It if is faulted as anachronistic in this respect, then so must the Bible be
charged with the very same anachronism.
The term is actually derived from Egyptian Pr-ˁ "Pharaoh (literally Great-House,
Dynasty)," as are Hebrew peraˁ "leader, commander," and Arabic fariˁun "prince, head
23. Intrusive Four Rivers: Textual criticism can provide some powerful insights as
well. Scholars have long believed, for example, that Genesis 2:11-14 (which does not
appear in the Book of Abraham text at 5:10) is a late insertion into the original Garden of
Eden narrative (Genesis 2:4b - 3:24). Supporting this claim is the analysis by Walsh of the
multistructural, dramatic chiastic biblical Garden of Eden story in seven scenes, centering
on the fourth act (Genesis 3:6-8), as ABCDCBA, which likewise finds Genesis 2:11-14 to
be intrusive and not part of the chiasm.
Since Joseph Smith=s Book of Abraham also
excludes these verses, that is in itself indicative of the archaic and authentic nature of
the Book of Abraham text. Naturally later texts will be edited and redacted in such a way
as to introduce glosses and other changes, and we see this in the later Book of Moses,
as well as in the Massoretic Hebrew and Greek Septuagint texts of the Bible. An example
from the Book of Mormon is the lack of use of the anachronistic biblical term ATower of
J. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 286a; K. Kitchen, JANES, 5:227; Kitchen, Ancient
Orient and Old Testament, 82-84.
J. erný, ALanguage and Writing,@ in J. R. Harris, ed., The Legacy of Egypt, 2
1971), 200, citing the names of Pharaohs Shishak, Hophra, and Necho.
Walsh, JBL, 96:169-177.
Babel.@ Instead, one finds merely a reference to the AGreat Tower@ incident (Ether 1:3; cf.
Omni 22, Mosiah 28:17).
This also helps to clarify why it is silly to accuse Joseph Smith of a seeming
obsessive-compulsive need to create new scripture. Even if that were true, why would
each new translation or treatment of Creation and the Garden be so different from the
previous one? Wouldn=t that risk the clear danger of discontinuity and even of
intertextual chaos and the suggestion of fraud which that might carry? However, within
the ancient Near East nothing could be more natural than for traditions to be expressed
in a variety of ways and texts over time. It would be entirely unnatural for them to agree
in hidebound fashion. Especially since these are figurative and symbolic accounts of
fundamental, essential truths in a ritualistic setting.
24. Taking the Measure of Joseph: Samuel A. B. Mercer long ago made two
mutually contradictory claims about Joseph Smith=s translation of the Book of Abraham:
(1) On the one hand, he said that Ait is not permissible to say that Joseph may
have made mistakes like any other translator.@
Yet, why should we not fully expect
the same proviso to apply here to the Book of Abraham as to the Book of Mormon
translation, i.e., the mistakes of men are not to be attributed to God (Title Page of the
Book of Mormon, and 3 Nephi 8:2)?! As long as the receptor of theoretically infallible
revelation be fallible, the resultant message can hardly be infallible and inerrant.
Indeed, there must always be distortions or Amistakes@ in human transmission of
whatever textus receptus.
(2) On the other hand, as Mercer more cogently put it in nearly the same breath:
AWe must judge Joseph Smith on the basis of his claims and of his translations and
interpretations in the form in which he left them to the world,@
but no riders
demanding infallibility can be attached B that is the fallacy known as Athe call to
Joseph=s Ascore@ on his overall ability to translate or interpret Egyptian is
John Kselman, JBL 97:164 n.15; Shea, Origins 5:9-38; B. Porten, HUCA 38:95; N. Habel
Literary Criticism of the Old Testament (Phila.: Fortress, 1971), 69-70; S. McEvenue, Narrative Style of the
Priestly Writer, AnBib 50 (Rome: PBI, 1971), 49-50, 81,114; K. Westerman, Genesis Accounts of Creation
(Fortress, 1964), 14ff.; Kempf, JTTL 7/4:33-53; D. Freedman, Unity of the Hebrew Bible (Ann Arbor: Univ.
of Michigan Press, 1991), 93.
Mercer in Utah Survey, I/1:6.
Mercer in Utah Survey, I/1:6.
Note the comments (attributed to Joseph Smith) of Oct 29, 1842, in Roberts, ed., HC, V:181.
thus a straightforward statistical matter and must be carefully computed. Mercer=s
simple-minded bluntness on this score is admirable.
Limitations in our own knowledge ought, in any case, make us very cautious in
too readily finding fault with anyone=s translations, or vice-versa, finding too easy a
justification B as religious polemicists and apologists so often do. Mere opinion cannot
carry the weight it is frequently assigned. As the late John A. Wilson observed,
Egyptologists Acan only scrape the surface meaning.@
The mechanics of translation ought to be better and more widely understood by
those claiming to do it,
and, as the late Klaus Baer pointed out, ancient Egyptian art
(sculpture and drawing) consists of conceptualized symbols and patterns to be closely
associated with writing and to be read rather than simply looked at,
i.e., the written
label is merely one aspect.
In other words, translation, explanation, and
interpretation cannot truly be differentiated. Nor can one pretend to decide whether
God or Joseph Smith set limits upon the extent of Atranslation,@ nor for what purpose.
One can only justifiably describe the correctness or falsity of given explanations
(hopefully with citations).
25. Conclusion: Although I am not sure what he meant by use of the proverbial
“we,” one partisan in this debate has blogged that Awe know what these Egyptian
symbols meant to the Egyptians,@ and that Athe critical model explains everything
perfectly well. All the evidence fits nicely. There is no need to entertain wild hypothetical
>possibilities= just because they are technically possible. That isn't how scholarship works.
That's strictly apologetics.@ Might one think that he “doth protest too much”? Would
that he would accept the standard Egyptological interpretation of these issues – an
interpretation which I have presented herein.
Still, the call for good scholarship from all sides in this debate is entirely
appropriate. Would that we saw more of it.
Wilson, Thousands of Years, 177; on the question of translation in general, see E. A. Nida &
C. R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation (Leiden: Brill, 1969).
Cf. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 1
Baer, BYU Education Week Lecture, Aug 22, 1974.
Pace Gee, AA Method for Studying the Facsimiles,@ FARMS Review, 19/1 (2007):347-353.
APPENDIX: ABRAHAMIC CHIASMS
which is central to the full Abrahamic chiasm from Genesis 12 – 22.
A Abram=s age (17:1a)
B The LORD appears to Abram (1b)
C God=s first speech (1cB2)
D Abram falls on his face (3)
E God=s second speech (emphasizing Anames/ kings/nations@) (4B8)
F God=s third & most important speech (emphasizing Athe covenant@ --
E= God=s fourth speech (emphasizing Anames/kings/ nations@) (15B16)
D= Abraham falls on his face (17B18)
C= God=s fifth speech (19B21)
B= The LORD goes up from Abram (22B23)
A= Abraham=s age (24B25)
A Short opening (22:1)
B Elohim speaks (2)
C Actions performed in silence by Abraham (3-6)
D Dialogue (7-8)
C’ Actions performed in silence by Abraham (9-10)
B’ YHWH speaks (11-12)
A’ Long & solemn conclusion (13-19)
Brad McCoy, AChiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical
Literature,@ Chafer Theological Seminary Journal, 9/2 (Fall 2003):28-29, online at http://www.onthewing
.org/user/ BS_Chiasmus%20-%20McCoy.pdf, adapted from Yehuda Radday, AChiasmus in Hebrew
Biblical Narrative,@ in Welch, ed., Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structure, Analysis, Exegesis, 105.
Radday, Beit Mikra 15/20-21:66-67, citing Jacob, Erste Buch der Tora, ad loc.; ABCDXEEDBCA
(with inclusio of 12:1 ∥22:2); cf. I. Kikawada & A. Quinn, Before Abraham Was (Nashville, 1985), 96; D.
Southerland, “The Organization of the Abraham Promise Narratives,” ZAW 95 (1983):337-343;
Radday, in Welch, ed., Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structure, Analysis, Exegesis, 108.
Book of Abraham 1:1 – 2:4
1:1 land of the Chaldeans
obtain another place of residence
beginning of time
1:5 righteousness...holy commandments
gods of the heathen
1:6 Pharaoh, king of Egypt
1:10 Potiphar=s Hill
1:12 laid violence upon me
that they might slay me
1:13,14 (five) gods
1:15 my voice...the Lord
visions of the Almighty,
the Angel of his Presence
1:16 his voice...JEHOVAH
1:17 (five) gods
lifted up his hand
to take away thy life
1:20 Potiphar=s Hill
gods of the land
Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood
1:28 beginning of creation
2:1 land of Ur, of the Chaldees
2:2 I, Abraham
2:3(4) Aget thee out of thy country,@
2:4 land of Ur, of the Chaldees
Abraham 1:31 – 3:2
1:31 the stars
2:1 land of Ur, of the Chaldees
2:2 I, Abraham
Sarai to wife
2:3(4) “get thee out of thy country,”
2:4 land of Ur, of the Chaldees
Sarai, my wife
2:5 the famine abated
tarried in Haran
continued in Haran
2:6 prayed unto the Lord
the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me:
I will give unto thy seed
2:7 Lord thy God
I know the end from the beginning;
therefore my hand shall be over thee
2:9 make of thee a great nation
2:10 as many as receive this Gospel
shall rise up and bless thee,
as their father;
2:11 And I will bless them that bless thee,
and curse them that curse thee;
2:13 rise up...
2:15 Lot.., and all our substance
souls that we had won
2:16 Therefore, eternity was our covering
and our rock and our salvation,
2:17 the Lord
2:18 the Lord
2:19 the Lord appeared unto me.., and said unto me:
Unto thy seed will I give
2:20 called...upon...the Lord
2:21 journeyed, going on still towards the south;
continuation of a famine
to go down into Egypt, to sojourn there
the famine became very grievous
2:22 Sarai, thy wife
2:25 Sarai, my wife
3:1 I, Abraham
in Ur of the Chaldees
3:2 the stars
3:1 I, Abraham
3:2 the stars
nearest unto the throne of God;
near unto it
near unto me,..the Lord thy God:..set
to govern all those which belong to the same order
as that upon which thou standest
3:4 Kolob was after the manner of the Lord,
according to its times
a day unto the Lord
one thousand years
according to the time appointed
unto that whereon thou standest
3:5 lesser light
rule the day, even the night
earth upon which thou standest
reckoning of its time
3:6 times of reckoning
earth upon which thou standest
rule the day,..rule the night
3:7 lesser light
reckoning of the time of the earth
upon which thou standest
3:8 reckoning of time shall be longer still
3:9 reckoning of the time
nigh unto Kolob
Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time
set nigh unto the throne of God
to govern all those planets which belong to the same order
as that upon which thou standest
3:10 the stars
near unto the throne of God
3:11 I, Abraham,
Abraham 3:11-20, 3:19 - 4:2
3:11 I, Abraham, talked with the Lord,
face to face, as one man talketh with another
works which his hands had made
3:12 (and his hand was stretched out),
things which his hands had made
I could not see the end thereof
all the great lights
3:14 I will multiply thee,
and thy seed after thee,
like unto these;
3:16 Kolob is the greatest of all
3:17 moon be above the earth
planet or a star
3:18 greater star
no end...gnolalum, or “eternal”
3:19 there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other
I am the Lord thy God
3:20 God sent his angel
hands of the priest of Elkenah (cf. 1:7,15, Fac. 1)
3:21 works which my hands have made
came down in the beginning
3:22 organized...before the world was
3:23 these I will make my rulers
thou was chosen before thou wast born
3:24 one...like unto God
3:26 they who keep their first estate
they who keep not their first estate
shall not have glory
those who keep their first estate
they who keep their second estate
shall have glory
added upon their heads
3:27 one...like unto the Son of Man
I will send the first
4:1 went down at the beginning
4:2 the Spirit of the Gods
Word count: 8,899
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