Monday, February 18, 2013

The Book of Abraham and the Facsimile Image-Part VI – The Lion Couch

Continuing with the posts regarding the papyri of the Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith translated, and which have come under numerous attacks from Egyptologists and others, the following is included in our showing the facts of the matter as opposed to many other people's beliefs and misguided criticisms.
As an example, while some claim that the Lion Couch upon which Abraham is laying in Facsimile 1 is a typical funerary scene with several extant papyri showing the same basic scene with the same characters in the same positions, this it not correct. In fact, in examining the evidence of the numerous scenes on papyri and also temple and tomb paintings in ancient Egypt (some of which have been displayed in these posts), we find that the “Lion Couch Scene” in Facsimile 1 is unique in several ways.
Here are at least twelve (15) differences that are shown in the Abraham Facsimile 1 that are not found on any other Egyptian funery or similar vignette:
1. No other funery vignette has the unfamiliar writing that frames the scene on either side, and the stage-like foundation of elements found on the Abraham Facsimile 1;
2. No other funery scene has a priest other than that of the jackal-headed god Anubis performing an activity with the image on the couch;
3. No other funery scene shows the resurrection, procreation or embalming scene without the presence of Isis and Nephthys and other dignitaries, including Anubis;
4. The figure of Abraham on the couch has both arms raised, as if in prayer. In all other such scenes, the person’s arms are lowered, or wrapped, or within a casket;
5. No other funery scene has hatched lines designed as Expanse or Firmament;
6. No other funery scene shows the common Egyptian religious and secular images of the lotus and offering table;
7. No other funery scene has twelve gates or pillars of heaven or anything like them;
8. The clothing on the figure of Abraham is unique. No other funery vignette scene shows the reclining figure on the couch so dressed. Others are either naked or fully invested as mummies, though one can be found wearing a loincloth;
9. No other funery scene shows the reclined figure wearing anklets or slippers;
10. No other funery scene has a crocodile under the priest’s feet (in this case, representing the idolatrous god of Pharoah—the crocodile of Egypt, or possibly Sobrek, at one time venerated in Mesopotamia);
11. No other funery scene shows a bird flying over the couch with the priest in the position shown in the Abraham Facsimile 1 vignette;
12. No other funery scene shows the bird’s wings in the position of the Abraham Facsimile 1 vignette;
13. Other funery scenes show the august figures of the gods standing by in solemn religious dignity, kneeling in mourning, standing guard, or raising hands in praise or magical passes, which Facsimile 1 does not have;
14. Other funery scenes show the figure on the table in a tranquil position (both legs lowered), wrapped as mummies, or in a casket. In Facsimile 1, Abraham is in a position of action;
15. 3. No other funery scene has the reclining figure, the priest and the couch out of line with one another (the priest is actually standing between Abraham’s legs and the couch to the left of the scene);
Note the priest’s body between Abraham’s legs and the table he is supposed to be laying upon. Also note the lettering on either side of the vignette as mentioned above
As Hugh Nibley pointed out regarding these differences, “It is true that individual sign and figure can be matched rather easily somewhere else, just as every word on this page can be found in almost any English book, but it is the combination of perfectly ordinary signs that makes extraordinary compositions and we may well repeat the words of Professor Nagel: ‘It would be easy to find numerous parallels to each of these figures, but that would not mean much... for the combination here is different’.”
For an Egyptian document to be considered unique from the others, it does not have to be spectacularly different, though Facsimile 1 certainly is, it can actually resemble scores of others in almost every particular yet still have a message to convey that is quite different from the others” (Nibley - A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price, Oct. 1968).
It should also be noted that the vignette shows a reclining, or helpless victim on the couch beneath the standing presence of the dagger-wielding priest, while at the same time having raised arms in the act of prayer, showing both aspects of the story taking place—being fastened upon the altar while seeking God’s aid (Abraham 1:15). Thus it is important to make clear that Abraham in this scene has both hands before him for that not only makes this particular lion-couch scene unique, but it also gives the whole drama of the situation.
In fact, if you were to turn the image so Abraham’s feet pointed downward, you would have the Egyptian determinative for prayer. That is, Samuel A.B. Mercer, The Handbook of Egyptian Hieroglyphics, (p 150), shows this image to mean “worship.” And according to E.A. Wallis Budge (An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Vol 2, p 825) the hands above the head in prayer means “to pray with pure heart,” and Sir Alan Gardiner (Egyptian Grammar, p 23), claims it means “praise, supplicate.”
In John Baines, Atlas of Ancient Egypt, 1980, p. 169 we see a late Roman depiction of a lion couch scene, but again, it's clearly a mummy. It has no pillars of heaven or a crocodile under it either. There are two figures on either end of the couch as well, hardly the combination in Facsimile 1. On p. 118 of the same text, the lid of the anthropoid coffin of Espamai, with a lion couch on it. But again there are 5 figures either kneeling or standing by. There are 4 canopic jars under the couch, but no pillars of heaven or crocodile. Also the figure on the couch does not show his leg raised nor either of his hands or arms. This is not like Facsimile 1. The lion couch in "The Mastaba of Mereruka", part 1, in the Sakkarah expedition, 1938, is nothing like Facsimile 1. The lion couch scene in Raymond Faulkner's Egyptian Book of the Dead is clearly a mummy, with only a hawk in it, no other figures by either end of the couch, no crocodile, no clothed praying figure. This is nothing like Facsimile 1 either. (plate 17 in the magnificent illustrated book of his edited by Eva Von Dassow). And plate 33 has Anubis bending over a mummy, not a living figure.
(See the next post, “The Book of Abraham and the Facsimile Image-Part VI – Ur of the Chaldees,” for more information on Abraham’s home and his nearly being sacrificed to Elkenah)

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