Monday, April 22, 2013

Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part III

Continuing with the questions or comments received after our ten-part series regarding the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith papyri:
Comment #8: “I’m confused. Is the Book of the Dead the same as the Book of Abraham? If not, what exactly is the Book of the Dead and its connection to the Joseph Smith papyri you wrote about?” Arcadia.
Response: I apologize for not being more clear. The characters on the Abraham papyri that Joseph Smith translated are considered a portion of the Book of Breathings, an Egyptian religious text buried with mummies that instructed the dead on how to successfully reach the afterlife. The Book of Breathings is really a smaller edition so to speak of the Book of the Dead, which contains all sorts of ancient spells and chants, etc., to assist the dead in gaining acceptance and entrance into the afterlife or Underworld.
Actually, The Book of the Dead is not really a book, but a group of different magical spells written down in various ways by the ancient Egyptians, called a book by modern Egyptologists. Since everyone in ancient Egypt wanted to safely reach the afterlife, which they believed was an actual place, they felt that magical spells would assist them in getting there. Wealthy Egyptians hired scribes to write down all their personal favorite spells on papyrus sheets, and once prepared the collection was packed carefully away with their other grave goods to be placed in their tomb someday. For those Egyptians who didn’t have a lot of money, they could buy a ready-made version that included several of the most popular spells. There was a space left on the papyrus for the person’s name, as necessity so the Ba and Ka could find their way home each night to the person’s tomb.
The Book of the Dead also includes legends about Osiris, Isis and Ra (by the way, Ra is not pronounced Rah like in the movies, but is pronounced Ray and preferably spelled Re); the doctrine of Eternal Life; Egypt’s ideas of God, the numerous gods of the book, geographical and mythological places in the book, funeral ceremonies, etc., and about 37 plates, or vignettes. In addition, there is the Papyrus of Ani, found at Thebes, and is 78 feet long and a little over a foot wide, and contains a number of chapters of the Book of the Dead.
Comment #9: “It was my understanding that the lion couch shown in Facsimile 1 was always used for funeral activity, that is, mummification, wrapping, and laid within the casket. It seems to me that Abraham calling it an altar is inaccurate” Wyatt O.
Response: Actually, there are numerous lion-couch scenes in ancient Egyptian vignettes that are not connected at all to a funery event. As an example, the scenes in the Grand Temple of Philae which, on three of the four shown, mummies exist, but on one of them clearly the man is nude and clearly moving, and Anubis is not included in the scene. The point is, while Egyptologists like to claim a continuity of images and scenes, they vary considerably.
Top Images: Grand Temple of Philae in Upper Egypt; Center Left: Funery scene with no lion couch; Center Right: Funery scene with Anubis, but no couch at all; Bottom Left: Funery scene with no couch, and instead of Anubis, it is the god-hawk mask; Bottom Center: Funery scene with Anubis and no couch; Bottom Right: Funery Scene with Anubis and no couch
In addition, Eric Hornung has many lion couch scenes in his book The Valley of the Kings, and there are numerous others in Budge's two volumes of "Osiris.” One such scene shows a mummy, with five other “gods” or priests around it, and nothing under the couch. Another shows an ithyphallic figure on the couch, with two birds hovering over him, and other types of creatures under the couch. In fact, in checking numerous lion couch scenes, none of them have the combination of figures shown in Facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham: some have no birds, others have one bird, but typically hovering over the figure, and some have two birds; some have a feathered snake, another a vulture, some birds have crowns on their heads, some birds sit on an elaborate big structure around the lion couch, and some even have three birds. But none have crocodiles, clothed figures on the couch, nor the shendet (apron body cloth), nor the anklets, no pillars of heaven, no knife, and none have the unique combination of figures as in Facsimile 1; some have moving figures on the couch, one in a kneeling position, etc., etc., etc.
In short, the Abraham vignette is not an ordinary funery scene as the critic Egyptologists claim—their comments are far afield when it comes to describing or interpreting the Facsimile 1 they were shown.
Comment #10: “What do you have to say about Dr. Mercer’s contemptuous remark that there was nothing in your fac #1 to remind him of Abraham?” Wenzel.
Response: A simple answer to this is that critics, like Dr. Samuel  A. B. Mercer, or Dr. James H. Breasted of the University of Chicago, or Theodule Deveria of the Louvre, to name a few, for some reason seem to think the scenes depicted like in Facsimile 1 are pictures (like a photograph or a painting). However, as we have shown here, they are not pictures, but symbolic diagrams. Facsimile 1, like other similar symbolic depictions, is describing ritual events—real ancient Egyptian ritual events. An Egyptologist can look at Facsimile and say there is “nothing to remind him of Abraham,” and he would be correct since the drawing is symbolically used to illustrate events in Abraham's life, and not necessarily supposed to be a picture of Abraham himself.
This image is a picture of Abraham and Pharaoh, not a depiction of something in Abraham’s life. There is a big difference between the two and Facsimile 1 is a depiction of an event, not a picture of something that would have included the participants
The scenes recorded and the episodes recounted are strictly ritual. The facsimiles illustrate the most significant events in Abraham's Egyptian career—his confrontation with Pharoah as a rival claimant for God's priesthood power and the supreme authority on earth. The Book of Mormon is a discourse on divine authority, which is also the theme of the 3 facsimiles. The explanations of the facsimiles makes it perfectly clear that they are meant as diagrammatic or formulaic aids to an understanding of the subject of priesthood on earth.
For instance, we read that some figures "signify" others are "made to represent", "answers to", etc. Critics need to begin understanding the nature of the facsimiles, as well as the facsimile themselves. It is rather silly to claim that Joseph Smith drew these all wrong. Joseph Smith didn't draw them, and they are symbols, not exact representations. Yet the Egyptologists continue to get it all wrong since they “noted that portions of Facsimile 1 appeared to be incorrect, based on comparison with other similar Egyptian vignettes,” which is where the problem lies. The depiction or symbolism of the Facsimile 1 is not meant to be “like other depictions,” nor, as they claim, “the god Anubus, bending over the mummy, was shown with a human and strangely un-Egyptian head, instead of a jackal's head usual to the scene.”
There are two problems with this statement: 1) As has been shown in several Egyptian scenes, Anubis is not always the person involved in such a scene, and 2) as has been shown in other Egyptian scenes, the bald-headed Sem priest looks just like the drawing in Facsimile 1. It is not difficult for a critic to say anything he likes; however, when it is clearly shown to be wrong, it is not worth the constant effort to disclaim or refute.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could plug into you and download your knowledge into my brain!