Thursday, May 12, 2016

Figures 19-21, Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: A New Reading

The Church Historian's copy of Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 (the hypocephalus) often brings things into greater clarity and that is certainly the case with the hieroglyphs found in the panels numbered figures 21, 20, and 19..

Michael Rhodes transcribes and translates: jw wnn=k m nTr pf Dd.wj, "You shall ever be as that God, the Busirian" (Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 345). There is nothing wrong with the translation, except the reading pf [that], which, while something like a pf on Hedlock's woodcut of Facsimile 2, does not match what is found on the Church Historian's copy. Yet there are as many ways to translate Egyptian, seemingly, as there are scholars and personalities--and where no modern student can ever be completely definitive, there is little need to quibble. Still, I believe it possible to open casement windows onto ever broader views of the Egyptian universe. 

A second try yields jw wnn=k m nTr b3 Dd.t: "You shall forever be even as that god who is the Ba of Mendes" (more typically written as b3 nb Dd.t or as the I'm taking the lower signs found on the Church Historian's copy of fig. 20 to be traces of the head of a horned animal (two protuberances rise from the "head"); two downward curving lines may well be traces of the animal's neck or lower body. On similar panels on hypocephali more than one hieroglyph writes ba: reclining rams, ram's heads, and ba-birds all appear, and together make up the eight ba's of the greatest god. Comparing what appears on other hypocephali shows a match between the traces on the Church Historian copy and the hieroglyph of a ram's head, Gardiner sign-list F8 (Edinburgh hypocephalus, Cairo SR 10691, etc.).

While Rhodes is correct in reading the "Busirian," that is, the "one of Busiris" (the ancient place (bw) of Osiris in the Delta), it would be just as correct to read in the hieroglyphs the "Mendesian," the "one of Mendes," the Delta home of the Ram who became both Re and Osiris. The earliest settlers of Mendes called the place 'Anepat (Place of Greenness), for "Green pastures and meadows stretched to the west and south" (Donald B. Redford, City of the Ram-Man: The Story of Ancient Mendes [Princeton, 2010], 2). 'Anepat was later also called Djedet, after the place of burial near the shrine of the Ram. 

Any reader of Nibley's and Rhodes's One Eternal Round will recall the importance of the color green and the symbolism of green gems in the story of the hypocephalus. The color of the Mendesian ram itself was white, and, according to the third century BC Mendes Stela, the local inhabitants first discovered the white ram in the verdant western meadows at the First Time (see D. Redford, City of the Ram-Man). The contrast of brilliant greens and whites strikes the imagination, these also being "the canonical colors of the Egyptian temple" (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment). Green is famously the color of Osiris, while white not only registers dawn (Eg. HD and HD.t) but also suggests that totality of universal color and ineffable beauty locked in the iris and thus in the pupil-and-iris imagery of the Transcendent Hidden Amun who hides in his wedjat-eye, imagery best expressed by the shape and symbolism of the hypocephalus (see Daniel Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168-169).

The same hieroglyphs were used interchangeably for both Mendes and Busiris in later Egyptian--and meaningfully so! The Ashmolean hypocephalus of Tashenhapy (Ashmolean 88), on the panel just below the central four-headed ram (Kolob), gives us the label "Osiris nb Dd.t." And, here, given the name of Osiris, we must read "Lord of Busiris," although, given the fourfold ram, we must also keep Mendes well in sight. Busiris is the place, but Mendes is the place too. In fact, D + d + t--so it appears on the Church Historian's copy--properly spells Mendes. The Egyptians call the place Pr-b3-nb-Dd.t (House of the Ba [or Ram], Lord of Djedet). So we open the window a little further. 

Busiris is indeed the place, "but," as the Prophet Joseph would say, "in this case, in relation to this subject the Egyptians meant it [the hieroglyph] to signify," or point to, Mendes and its Ram or Ba (one word in Egyptian: ba). Such interlocking associations bespeak mystery and, indeed, "the concept of the four-headed ram, the four divine essences united in one, is perhaps the most recondite of the doctrines centering on Ba-neb-djed [the Lord of Mendes]," and "is certainly already present in the late New Kingdom" (Daniel Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 223). The Mendesian Ram, with his four faces, is the United Ba of Re and Osiris, the very being pictured in the center of all hypocephali (see Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round, 261; Daniel Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 98ff., 168-9).

And it's just possible to open the window a bit more, for, as the Hedlock plate shows, the hieroglyphs even more specifically point to Heliopolis, a place name found repeatedly on Facsimile 2: D + d + t + the determinative sign of land: "Name der Nekropolis von Heliopolis" (Woerterbuch V, 630, 10). What the correspondence in naming signifies is best expressed by Professor Donald Redford: "As protector of his people in death the [Mendesian] Ram becomes in truth the Lord of the Abiding Place, Neb Djedet. . . There were Abiding Places [Dd.t] also at 'Pillar City' [Heliopolis]. . . and at 'Aneza [Busiris], the Pasturage, one day's journey to the southwest. All three cities enjoyed the link of name derived from the same [Egyptian and West Semitic] root and indicative of similar function; but it was with 'Aneza that 'Anepat [Mendes] had the closest association" (D. Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 29). The "Abiding Place" is the Axis Mundi, the Pillar and Tree and Backbone of the world. It is the Place of Permanence, the Enduring Come Time or Tide. And it is noteworthy that the tree may be planted in more than one locale.

The Mendesian Ram thus naturally also becomes the Heliopolitan Ba and the Osiris of Busiris: he is the United Ba (b3 dmD), the Secret Ba, or Ram (b3 St3w), even the Transcendent Amun-Re (and Re-Osiris) in the form of a four-headed Ram. In the Coffin Texts (VI 404) the United Ba of Mendes takes the form of two fledglings, imagery that recalls Facsimile 2, figure 4: ship-with-fledgling. (And fledgling is the label often accompanying that figure.) What appears on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus, panels 19-21, thus thematically matches that found in the same panels on other hypocephali: the theme of the fullness of the ba's of the Ba of Ba's, the Ram of Rams. Interestingly, both figures 1 and 2 on Facsimile 2 carry the legend name of that (greatest) god, an ambiguous label that nonetheless places focus on the transcendent importance of the Name of the greatest god of all gods. The lazy, at such an impasse, will stretch for the latest encyclopedia on Egyptology with its standard lists of gods (as also found in primary school textbooks). But it takes more effort than consultation of handbooks to "hie to Kolob." Klotz struggles for the best way to render the divine name: the Cosmic Deity, the Cosmic Shu-Amun, the Transcendent Amun (Adoration of the Ram, 183).

"A universal purview," says Professor Redford, "attaches itself to the Ram of Mendes. He becomes the Father of the Gods, the Ram of Rams, the King of the Gods, the Manifestation (bai) of every god, the Heir of Tatenen (the primordial earth-god), the Unique God with overwhelming awfulness" (Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 134). His being is "unrestricted in the universe" (Ibid). He is earth, water, heat, air: "Besides his essence as the earth, he is also water 'who comes as the inundation that he may bring life to the Two Lands.' As the Living One of Re he becomes the source of living heat 'that brightens heaven and earth with his rays'; as the air 'he is breath for all people' " (Ibid). As the quadripartite Ram, he is "identified as the great creator, the 'Complete One' ('Itm)," or Atum, even " 'He Who Rises on the Horizon with Four Faces' " (Ibid., 135). Professor Redford concludes by setting forth the Ram of Mendes as the manifestation "of the union of dynamic solar power (Re) with latent fertility (Osiris);" by further noting "the addition of the embodiment of national existence, Amun-re [as state god]," we end up, he says, with "a primordial deity of unequaled antiquity and immanence" (Ibid., 135-6). 

In light of all that antiquity and immanence, dynamism and transcendence, what a surprise to read the assurance on the Book of Abraham hypocephalus: "You shall forever be as that Ram: the Ba of Mendes." That's a blessing reserved for kings in time and eternity.

In the second theophany of the Book of Abraham (2:6-13), the God of the Universe, and of the universal elements, reveals his Name as follows:

"I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains--Depart hence--and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly. My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning.

And I will make of thee a great nation. . . and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood). . . shall all the families of the earth be blessed." 

When we receive the Covenant, we are numbered among that seed and that Priesthood.

If the theme of the Book of Abraham is the patriarchal line of Priesthood authority, should we be surprised to learn that the four-headed ram on the hypocephalus is the symbol par excellence of patriarchy? In the Coffin Texts the Creator tells Pharaoh (a name comprehending both the first king and every individual king thereafter): "I changed myself into the Ram Lord of Djedet [Mendes], I copulated with thy noble mother in order to procreate thy physical being" (Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 133, who cites KRI II, 263:5-11; Urk IV, 224:17). The Mendesian Ram, enduring image of fruitfulness and potency, thus begets every king of Egypt. And, according to the Mendes Stela, the four faces represent the Ba's of Re, Osiris, Shu, Geb, and "these happen to be the male progenitors of the Heliopolitan cosmogony (Re-Atum begat Shu, Shu begat [we're being very biblical here] Geb, Geb begat Osiris)" (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 99). All this recalls David Klotz's further observation that the god is not only heavenly and transcendent, but also composed of the four elements of the earth, even "mineralized." These four elements match the symbolism of the four sons of Horus depicted on the lower panel of the hypocephalus, which four the Prophet Joseph associates with "the earth in its four quarters" (Fac. 2, fig. 6, explanation). Thus we see on the hypocephali the four sons of Horus, the four faces of the Transcendent Amun-Re, the two-faced Amun-Shu, and the 8 ba's.

Hugh Nibley has much to say both about these sons of Horus and about the odd way in which figure 1 is depicted as sitting directly on the earth (One Eternal Round, 241, 299ff.). Taking a cue from a 19th century student of the hypocephalus, Theodule Deveria (1831-1871), who called our figure 1, "the spirit of the four elements," Nibley reminds us that the canopic figures (the four sons) represent "the bringing together of the elements of the earth" (OER, 299). They also recall the Jewish tradition about the creation of Adam out of the four basic elements taken from the corners of the world: fire, air, earth, water (One Eternal Round, 301). So too, Klotz, citing yet another 19th century student, Heinrich Karl Brugsch (1827-1894), tells how the four heads of the ram not only signal the patriarchal line of descent for the god-kings, Egypt's earliest dynasts, but also represent fire (Re), wind (Shu), earth (Geb), and water (Osiris) (Adoration, 99). 

The line of descent comes down from heaven to earth, from Re to Osiris, the father of Horus, who is the earthly Pharaoh in all his generations. The Royal Right of Priesthood, says Abraham, "came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me (Abraham 1:3). How strange that a turn of a page or two away from this peculiar statement, we meet the Egyptian hypocephalus with its quadrifrons Ram.

Passing strange--but stranger still, we recognize that if Hugh Nibley hadn't come along, we would yet be sitting in our chariots--like Candace's eunuch--and saying as we gape at the facsimiles, "How can I (understand), expect some man should guide me?" (Acts 8). And yet we disdain, that Brother Nibley should "come up, and sit with (us)." 

And it's marvelous how Nibley sees a connection to all these things not only in Jewish tradition but in Greek myth. The Greeks know a Pharaoh Busiris with a powerful brother (a double or twin) named Antaeus, "who could not be separated from the earth" from whence he drew his strength (One Eternal Round, 241). The Antaeus theme evokes the Dd-pillar of Osiris, the Abiding Place, while Busiris naturally recalls the wording on our hypocephalus--but what about Mendes? The Great Amun Hymn from Hibis Temple (col. 26) describes the four-headed ram of Mendes as being composed of the four divinities of Anpet or 'Anepat, the first name of Mendes (Adoration, 110ff.). In light of Antaeus being the brother of Busiris, the phonological correspondence of 'Anepat and Antaeus may be significant.

The line of patriarchal authority does not end with Osiris. Osiris is the father of Horus, who embodies all future kings. A new morning--a "first creation" to quote Joseph Smith--is always at hand: "The association with the Mendesian Ram (= Re-Osiris) also connects the four-headed deity with the newly reborn solar deity in the morning," that is, "He Who Rises on the Horizon with Four Faces" (Adoration, 168; see also One Eternal Round, 261). 

Note how the central figure on the hypocephalus holds to no single correspondence: the ram suggests a multiplicity and fluidity of roles, even as he signifies various moments in time and makes manifests in a variety of related places on earth and in the heavenly firmament. The Four-faced Amun Ram holds to the center of all things, the Place of Permanence, the peg upon which all things hang, yet we can never pin him down. The Egyptian vision of reality is a broad vision. The ability to hold the center, while shifting from earth to heaven or from ceremonial center to center, in one eternal round, perhaps explains why Egypt endured, even as other ritual and political centers collapsed. In Egypt we find both Circle and Square: the solar and vertical 3 and the terrestrial or spatial 4 of the hypocephalus.

It's not just sunrise that we're talking about here. "The sun," says Thoreau, "is but a morning star"--and here we confront the super sun of all suns, the star of stars, or Ba of ba's. This is Kolob; or to use the Egyptian phrase: "that Lord Re of all other Re's (r' pw nb r'.w nb = Heinrich Brugsch, Thesaurus inscriptionum aegyptiaerum [Leipzig, 1883], 1:78f.). 

Forget cosmology. We scan the skies for Kolob and make our declarations and denunciations. Forget the idea of a special Mormon cosmology; the Egyptian casements open onto a multiverse. 

Abraham understood the Egyptian savants; and the Egyptians understood Abraham. We are invited to take a glimpse, but all we sophisticates can say in response is "weird," "bizarre," "typical 19th century speculation," "a peculiar, though derivative, Mormon cosmology," "embarrassing," "Copernican(!)," "failed scripture," "irretrievably lost." If the Prophet had turned the key and opened the leaf just one inch-chink of bandwidth more--and he said flatly that he had no "right" to do so "at the present time"--our eyes would have been sealed forever. Because he did not, in "due time" we may all yet adjust to the Light.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Must We Have All Those Bizarre, Bizarre Names in Book of Abraham Facsimile 2? Or, What is the Cultural Setting of the Book of Abraham Translation?

We encounter Kolob, Oliblish, Enish-go-on-dosh and we wonder Do these names contain a great mystery? do they represent a new Mormon cosmology? Are we to ponder these names in order to grasp hidden truths? or by their study are we to establish the truth claims of the Prophet?

Why does the Prophet Joseph Smith leave us with such odd Egyptian names (as he insists) in the Explanation of Facsimile 2? They stand as a trace of the seeric journey: Brother Joseph has ventured into the world of Abraham--Abraham in Egypt--and these oddly framed, or transcribed, names so signify. Were these names read? or glimpsed? or heard? There is that which is heard with spiritual ears, even as there is that which is seen by spiritual eyes (President Russell M. Nelson, "The Price of Priesthood Power," Conference Report, April 2016).

Hugh Nibley speaks of the interdependence of the purpose and the significance of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. The inspired explanations (or "translations)," the vignettes as a whole, the elements of iconography, the hieroglyphs, and even the names Hebrew and Egyptian, all signify something or other of import, and all have their own purpose, for all contribute to the Message of Scripture and to the discovery of worlds long lost to view.

What do the odd names add to Scripture? just a sense of mystery? Are they then intended merely to mystify? The purpose of these names rather is to signify, or to point to, the lost or forlorn worlds now open to Brother Joseph in his quest to restore Scripture to the world. Once open, once that key to the past has been turned by the one who holds all keys pertaining to the dispensation of the fulness of times, then we also may venture.

Joseph Smith's contemporaries saw the discovery of Egypt, Akkad, Sumer, the Hittites, the Shang dynasty, and more. Cultures come to light and codes cracked with lightening speed, their writings have now unfolded to view. Since Cumorah; Since Thebes; Since Abraham. The Prophet Joseph Smith turned the key of discovery; he unlocked the "treasures in the sand"--and these funny names and startling explanations so signify. It is their appearance as Trace; their role as Signifiers that most matters. The names trace the transcendent journey into the past--and into the worlds without number. Do we ever venture there? or even There?

Along with the great find of Scripture, the Seer has brought us some souvenirs from the past, and we are invited to make of them what we will or can. The names do not replace, they do not void, the on-going science of egyptology or of Semitics. No. To the contrary, they serve as remainders or reminders pointing us to a more diligent consideration of a past about to be revealed. "The due time of the Lord" is at hand: No wonder the Prophet invites all "to find out these numbers": these figures, these hieroglyphs, these messages (see Explanation to Facsimile 2). And today we not only have the past recovered, we have better instruments for the study of that past than Brother Joseph's contemporaries could have even guessed at. We don't need a Urim and Thummim to come to understanding of the wonderful multiplicity. Our Ancient History is one of "charm'd magic casements" opening on an inviting dreamscape--and there's nothing "forlorn" about it. It's as fresh as an undiscovered country can possibly be.

Will we still fuss over the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, a one week endeavor of Brother Joseph and his companions, when we could be cracking the ten volumes of the Egyptian Woerterbuch, one of the truest contributions to philology ever made? Or don't we care about treasures? The bizarre names pointing to peoples and ideas now recovered will stand as bright testimony against us, if we do not study that past, now so freely at our disposal, using whatever Heaven-kissed tools are available to us. Can we, then, go beyond what the Prophet gave us? Why not? The names not only show us where the Prophet Joseph has been; they point us toward where we are to go. Should we simply marvel over the oddity of the names, or should we rather take up the lexicon of Ancient Egypt or some of the histories and books and articles available today--and take up our own journey, our own quest, into the world of the ancient patriarchs and prophets?

It's a test of intellectual curiosity.

The choice is ours: we can mull over the oddness, over the bizarre; we can fuss about the piecemeal nothingness known about Egypt in Joseph Smith's day; we can walk to and fro talking of Horapollo; we can blow smoke (puffing in rhetorical curlicues) about how Brother Phelps's or Brother Cowdery's or Brother Joseph's ideas capture (or don't capture) the culture or fit (or don't fit) the "context" or intellectual setting of the age--or we can go to work and read a book or two germane to the topic. We can be startled and bemused and rhetorically profound, or we can study the past for ourselves. To learn the hieroglyphs? Take up a book or even the Woerterbuch--it's not so difficult as you may think it to be--and it's even more fun than you can imagine. . . Only one of these choices is the intelligent choice--the other leads to repetitive blather. Talk of Athanasius Kircher is dead and without a future. Forget the 19th century setting--let's go to Egypt.

In that quest there must perforce be road marks, signposts--this all comes to us from far away--from very far away. . . We hear of Jershon, Onitah, Elkenah. Must or can we render back into Egyptian names or phrases like Oliblish or Kae-e-vanrash? Given the lack of hieroglyphs and the vagaries of perception and of transcription, how would we even start the task?

The name Kolob ("which is near" to the Throne of God; or "heart star") is simple enough, but then we have more familiarity with the Semitic languages. Whenever I hear the Swahili welcome, karibu!, I draw nigh to Kolob. The latest studies of the figure we call Kolob have much to teach us--and the Prophet yet points the way. Be up-to-date. Egyptology does not leave Joseph Smith in the dust. And maybe it's enough to stick to the Semitic signposts in the facsimiles and to hie to Kolob.

But the Egyptian names? At best, we can show some parallels and some possibilities. For instance, Enish-go-on-dosh forcibly recalls several names of attested stellar and planetary bodies, and some preliminary explanations of the truly Egyptian sounding name may be proffered based on these parallels. We may detect clues to unfold the true meaning of the names so prophetically proffered, clues that would broaden our picture of Abraham's world--but let's not lose sight of their semiotic purpose, just as they stand--and in all their ambiguity--which is to convey a trace of the past. They are thus meant to shock: Know all who enter here that you enter an unknown land. It is not only the land of Hor-dosh-dawy but also of Enish-go-on-dosh. Open your eyes and ears to learn--for here is the setting of Holy Scripture.

Brother Joseph makes it clear these names are Egyptian. That being so, it seems best to take the simplest approach possible, even when the names baffle any reader, no matter how deep the training in philology. Consider (through a glass, darkly) Oliblish, figure 2 on Facsimile 2. The purpose of the facsimile is to open to our view something of "the system of astronomy as understood by the ancients." Hugh Nibley, venturing, shows us that the figure, ram-faced and Janus-like, is crowned with the Shu feathers, Shu being a form of Amun-Re, and accordingly signifies atmospheric air and light, elements of creation and being (Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 286, 322).

Shu personifies the power of light moving, in its brilliance, through the atmosphere or expanse of space. And Amun, or Amun-Shu, is thus the entity known as the Ba of Shu, described in one hymn as the second in command (or the second manifestation of the divine), just as the Prophet Joseph has it. And note, too, the blurring of identity, or fluidity of representation, expressed in the word twt, both the second person singular pronoun and the word for image:

[Yo]u are Amun [twt n jmn: You are Amun and Image of Amun],
You are Shu [or Image of Shu],
you are the highest of gods,
you are 'Sacred of Manifestations' as the four winds of heaven,
so (you) are called, when they come forth from the mouth of his majesty.

The Ba of Shu, who bends the winds, who traverses heaven daily. . .
unto the limit of the heavenly circuit [rim of hypocephalus, etc.]
(Hymn to the Ba's of Amun, David Klotz, Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 59-60).

In other words, we meet in the figure a form or manifestation of Shu: what the Egyptians call the Ba of Shu. What is the ba? That's a deep and resonant question and has everything to do with the Egyptian hypocephalus--but another question is: What does the Ba of Shu look like? Because ba also signifies "ram" (as well as "star"), the Ba of Shu is quite properly ram-faced. If we then choose to see or hear or read ram-faced star Oliblish as the Ba of Shu, are we far from the mark? The four-faced ram on the hypocephalus that Abraham names Kolob is, after all, the fourfold Ba of Re, the Ba of Shu, the Ba of Osiris, and the Ba of Geb.

Things Egyptian get complicated in a hurry. Need we even try to parse the odd name? We don't hear what Brother Joseph heard, after all. We can venture and all in fun. Oli, says Hugh Nibley in his Abraham in Egypt, answers well to Egyptian wr or wrj (great; cf. also '3j = great). Thus, says he, Olimlah in Facsimile 3 may signify Wr(jw)-Jmn-R' (Great is Amun-Ra). Now we don't have the hieroglyphs for Olimlah, so we can't dogmatize--but what could be more straightforward and economical than Olimlah as Wr-jmn-r', Great is Amun-Ra?

So assured, we can continue by reading Oliblish as Great is the Ba of Shu, or Great are the ba's of Shu. Consider the consonants (for the vowels as written could stand for just about anything): /l/ or /r/; /b/ or /bl/ (the /l/ could represent the glottal stop and perhaps represents the best Brother Joseph could do with the Egyptian aleph, which, after all, was, in the earliest stages of the language, a liquid /r/; /sh/. We expect Shu, and we can find Shu in the final consonant: no great shakes, yet a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Oli-great (is); b or bl/bli--the ba (or ba's) of sh-Shu. That seems clear enough: but what of the second /l/ in the bl or bli? Might the word be b3.w (ba's): Great are the ba's of Shu? The liquid semi-consonant, w, would explain the sequence bl (b3.w).

It is also altogether possible to see in -lish not three distinct Egyptian phonemes, but one, for the Egyptian grapheme we commonly associate with phoneme /sh/ (the shin) may well mask more than one phoneme; on the other hand, it may represent a phoneme something different than we suppose. For instance, it may mask a lateral fricative, like the phoneme represented in Welsh by ll. Our -lish might be an ll. As far as that goes, the Hebrew grapheme shin itself apparently masks an additional phoneme, perhaps (also) the lateral fricative. Whether lateral fricative or not, a rough transliteration, made for the ear, not the eye, might not be readily identifiable. We have to work at it, puzzle things out. In short, lish could represent Egyptian shin, however that might have been pronounced.

Oliblish as wrj-b3-Shw/wrj-b3.w-Shw = Oli-b-Shw = Oli-b-lish or Oli-bli-sh (Great is the Ba of Shu) is phonologically sound.

It would be misguided, at any rate, to expect these transcriptions to much resemble the (quite artificial and various) methods of transcribing Ancient Egyptian in use today. These last have seen much refinement and diversity, and strong debate over Egyptian phonology continues. We're all just guessing--and in no case does the guessing today rely on something heard. And to be sure, the transcription of Egyptian names into Akkadian or other other Semitic languages--or into Greek--but little answers to our standard transcriptions. The distance between the hieroglyphs and Coptic also often startles. In other words, there's little we can make of bli, if we insist on bli answering to the sounds we know in our own languages or to the sounds we think we know about Egyptian.

Consider the Coptic word for grape, eloole: that's not what we see in the hieroglyphs. Or is it? We transcribe the hieroglyphs as j3rry.t. Try pronouncing that transcription--then pronounce the Coptic word as directed in the grammars (glottal stops and all: elo'ole'). Next note how other systems of spelling (or dialects) show at least divergent spellings, and perhaps also divergent pronunciations, though that last claim is not so well established. Here are the Coptic spellings for yararit or yarari (if correct--and where do we put the stops?): eloole, aloli, alali, elale.

We know the etymology of Kolob to be sound in both Semitic and Egyptian. So wouldn't it be premature to dismiss Olimlah or Oliblish as outlandish? Imagine the laughter, if the Pearl of Great Price had given us Eloole or Aloli? Imagine the ridicule on Web sites everywhere (sites ever replete with the "latest" quotations from the exploded Budge), if it had been Joseph Smith rather than Egyptian scribes who gave us this spectacular Saturn: Hor-ko-pi-ranef-siu-yaminty-jo-pi. Pardon my own odd "transcriptions," yet note well that the hyphens were used in writing the names for all the heavenly bodies four decades after Joseph Smith published the Book of Abraham. Will we yet mock Enish-go-on-dosh after encountering among the Egyptian stars the name Dosh-iati-imi-hawt-ins (Whose two eyes are red, who dwells in the House of Scarlet)? Dosh-iati-imi-hawt-ins, besides star, is also one of the four sons of Horus, the very sons who face the Hathor Cow, or Female Sun (Rait), Enish-go-on-dosh on the lower half of the hypocephalus--just below (or in) the House of Scarlet, i.e., the Akhet or horizon.

As for that last question: the mockery never ends, for "fools mock"; but Isaiah also assures us that "kings shall shut their mouths. . . for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider" (Isaiah 52:15).

Some things are more clear than others. With Oliblish, we are left to puzzle things out--that is, if we like puzzles. If Great is the Ba of Shu (or Great are the Ba's of Shu) matches the iconography, the cosmology, the seeric Explanation, and even the consonantal traces suggested by the Prophet--we might be on the right track. Oliblish as Great is the Ba of Shu is the most economic reading imaginable. It shows simplicity--as any translation must. Is it sound philology? It is, though sound philology in the absence of the hieroglyphs remains a delicate matter. Consider Zaphnath paaneah, the Egyptian name of Joseph, Abraham's great-grandson. The most common explanation(s) of the name--a name transcribed into Hebrew from Egyptian--is indeed sound, and, at once, delicate, tentative. Finally--and whether our reading is the correct one or not--it frankly reminds us (and this is where it's good philology) that we mistake greatly by looking for cosmic mystery, for a Mormon cosmology--these funny names are but traces, road signs, pointers to names once known to the Ancient Egyptian priests and pharaohs. There is depth--and we can now study something of that depth in published books.

The Egyptians pondered the cosmos and conceived of many things--yet the naming, whatever Oliblish, or whatever the Ba of Shu may mean, or however deep conceptually the ba-doctrine--is a rather simple convention. That is to say, whether Oliblish signifies Great is the Ba of Shu, or something related thereto, there's no mystic idea associated with the reading--it's just Egyptian. Beyond phonology and its conventions, we have a trace of the past--and that's the primary purpose and significance of the names in the Explanation of Facsimile 2.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mosiah 11 and the Elegant and Spacious Building

Let's be clear. The "great and spacious," or "large and spacious," building of Lehi's visionary dream, elite-thronged, is no mere echo-chamber, a bland and barren cityscape and a formless hollow, as we so often assume it to be. No. Inspired Mosiah, contributing thoughtfully to Scripture's additive record, calls the phenomenon the "elegant and spacious" building, chamber after charmed chamber. And he admonishes us that they are "many" and "of all manner." 

And whether it be in leaning out windows, "in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers" (as in Lehi's dream), or in resting cozily upon podiums or consoles in the attitude of "lying and vain words," the chilling effect upon "the joy of the saints" is the same. 

The Holy Ghost carries Mosiah's added admonition to our hearts: the mockers mocked, the haters hated, and the bloggers, seated all around us, and among us, and perhaps even over us--in their various degrees--multiplied "vain words" composed so very promptly and keyed so very, very often with the ever-wagging and oh-so-omniscient "finger of scorn"--"but we heeded them not."

Mosiah's King Noah and the Prayer of Shalmaneser I

As noted in former posts about the grain sheum and the metal ziff, the ornamentation of royal palaces, and the Ancient Near Eastern thematic constellation of building, planting vines, and marriage, the Assyrian evidence speaks directly to Mosiah's King Noah and his splendors. 

In yet another example, "the prayer of Shalmaneser I during the dedication of the Ehursagkurkurra" Temple forcibly recalls what Mosiah says of King Noah, of "his wives and concubines," of his priesthood, and "all their wives and concubines," of his golden throne and dais, and his palaces, temples, and towers: 
"When the Lord Assur enters into that house and his lofty dais sets up happily--My dazzling work, that house, may he see and rejoice. May he accept my supplications. May he hear my prayer. May a destiny for the well-being of my priesthood, and of my priestly progeny, and abundance during my reign from his honored mouth until far off days, greatly be declared" (A. K. Grayson, Assyrian Royal Inscriptions I, 536, cited in Jeremy Daniel Smoak, "Building Houses and Planting Vineyards" [UCLA dissertation, 2007], 53 n 119). 

Mosiah 11:8 "And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper;
And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.
10 And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.
11 And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people."

For the still young Noah, who cherished "riotous living," the planting of a new priestly lineage, "new ones," a new cultural elite, including high priests seated snootily "above all the other" priests, and thus constituting a complete break from the dour past of his stern and overzealous father, the long-lived Zeniff, who was forever "causing" his people "to spin, and toil, and work, and work," was essential to the unfolding of his more happy reign.

4 "And all this did he take to support himself, and his wives and his concubines; and also his priests, and their wives and their concubines; thus he had changed the affairs of the kingdom.
For he put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead, such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts.
Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity."

The ancien regime was "put down," while non-elites were turned into mere props--yet weight-bearing--to be moved about; for Noah's smooth social engineering was as impressive as were any of his towers. These few ironic verses, with their carefully chosen words, give a sense of both the gravitational density and the airy loftiness that prevailed in the changed "affairs of the kingdom" and which found its fullest expression in the rhetorically resounding halls of Noah's "elegant and spacious buildings." 

And lest we forget, the "great and spacious" building of Lehi's visionary dream, elite-thronged, is no mere echo-chamber, a bland and barren cityscape and a formless hollow, as we so often assume it to be. No. Inspired Mosiah, contributing thoughtfully to Scripture's additive record, calls the phenomenon the "elegant and spacious" building, chamber after charmed chamber. And he admonishes us that they are "many" and "of all manner." 

And whether it be in leaning out windows, "in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers" (as in Lehi's dream), or in resting cozily upon podiums or consoles in the attitude of "lying and vain words," the chilling effect upon "the joy of the saints" is the same. The Holy Ghost carries Mosiah's added admonition to our hearts: the mockers mocked, the haters hated, and the bloggers, seated all around us, and among us, and perhaps even over us--in their various degrees--multiplied "vain words" keyed so very promptly and so very, very often with the ever-wagging and oh-so-omniscient "finger of scorn"--"but we heeded them not."

"That Great City Jacobugath": King Jacob's "Wine Vat-and-Press" (3 Nephi 7 and 9)

When a would-be Book of Mormon king sought to found a rival nation in the land Northward, the first official act of his reign, after being granted the royal name Jacob, was to plant a new capital bearing the name Jacobugath or Jacob Ugath = Jacob-wa-Gath, Jacob-and-Wine Press, Jacob-cum-Wine Press. Joseph R. and Norrene V. Solonimer first suggested the reading "Jacob with winepress" in I Know Thee by Name: Hebrew Roots of Lehi-ite Non-Biblical Names in the Book of Mormon (1995), but early Latter-day Saint readers, back in the 19th century, were already correctly commenting on the meaning of Gath. The online Book of Mormon Onomasticon also concurs with Jacob-and-Gath, but prankingly calls Gath a place name of "unknown meaning." Gath as Wine Press is a common and widespread place name in the Ancient Near East. (The spelling Jacob Ugath appears in the Printer's Manuscript, see Book of Mormon Onomasticon.) 

Because yeqeb/v also signifies Wine Press (or Wine Vat) in Hebrew, Yacov wa gath makes for a very nice play on words. On the other hand, the peculiar wording in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon: "king of Jacob," may well signify "king of the Wine Vat," or the "Wine Vat King" (3 Nephi 9:9). Technically, yeqev is the wine vat; gath, the press, even the yeqev-wa-gath: Jacob-u-gath. If yeqev refers to the lower excavated trough for the wine, then I also see a likeness to the foundation, by excavation, of a great city. The people of the Wine Trough King are described as being the most wicked of any people on the earth: it's a place of revelry, a Merrymount in the ancient land Northward. Compare the biblical place names: yikvei ha-melek, the Wine Vats of the King (Zechariah 14:10); "the winepress of Zeeb" (Judges 7:25).

The action of planting both city and vine follows the typical ceremony marking the foundation of a new reign, as duly noted in the unusual wording of the 1830 edition, which speaks of "the people of the king of Jacob," that is, the people of the New Jacob in remembrance of the Ancestral Jacob (3 Nephi 9:9). They "did gather themselves together, and did place at their head a man whom they did call Jacob; And they did call him their king" (3 Nephi 7:9-10). Nephite King Noah, who inaugurated a system vastly different from that of his soldierly and upright father Zeniff, likewise planted vineyards and dug presses (Mosiah 11; 22:10).

Cursing promptly follows the plantation: "That great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of the king of Jacob have I caused to be burned with fire," a fate which matches the eschatological doom of the vineyard in Jacob's Allegory of the Olive Tree. The destruction of Jacobugath in the Meridian of Time also fully portends the burning of the wicked at the end of the world. 

Jeremy Daniel Smoak's UCLA dissertation (2007), "Building Houses and Planting Vineyards: The Early Inner-Biblical Discourse on an Ancient Israelite Wartime Curse"--and note the curse--has much to add to our discussion of viticulture as Realia. The elite, even royal, nature of vines and wines may be found in both Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. For instance: "Vineyards and wine played an important role in different king's articulation of their power and prestige in Assyrian propaganda." Scenes decorating Sennacherib's palace thus "are particularly rich in their use of vineyards" (see pages 40-41). The royal theme again appears in Ecclesiastes 2:4-7, which describes nothing less than the establishment of a prestige business center, a world capital; indeed a "blessing" of "long life, agricultural fertility, and progeny"--planting and building and permanence--may have formed part of a public ceremony in the dedication of buildings (50ff.). 

The boasting of Ecclesiastes finds its match in King Noah's viticulture and lavish building spree, it is true: "I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth fruit;" but Nephi's cursory, and easily passed over, remarks on Jacobugath and King Jacob are no less telling. And Smoak's insistence on the powerful thematic combination of "houses, vineyards, and wives" in the Bible and beyond finds its match in Mosiah 11:13-15, though the building really begins in verse 8: "And it came to pass that he caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom; and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom. . . and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines [and] he planted vineyards round about in the land; and he built wine-presses, and made wine in abundance." Here is not just a retelling of the Bible, of Ahab or of the Preacher's vanities, the compressed literary wonder which is Mosiah's Noah is a stand alone.

And is viticulture possible in Ancient America? "North America has the widest variety of wild grapes in the world, with around 20 native species that are found nowhere else in the world (Schott Sheu, "Grapes," citing C.T. Kennedy, "Grapes," The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Oxford University Press, 2003). The fine wine-making potential of these native American grapes is now well-known. "The Opata of northern Mexico made a red wine of native grapes; grapes were known in the Gulf Coast area and also among the Maya of Yucatan," John L. Sorenson, Mormon's Codex, 107, with sources given. Alejandro C. Martinez Muriel even "found seeds of Vitis vinifera, the wine grape known in Europe," in a Late Pre-Classic site "beside the Grijalva River in Chiapas," ibid., 107-108. Ancient Mexico was simply lousy with grapes. 

In the words of the inimitable Evan S. Connell: Vinland. Vinland.


Grapes and Wine in the New World:

Scott Sheu:

For the delicious wine-making potential of some of the North American species, see:


Joseph R. and Norrene V. Solonimer, I Know Thee by Name: Hebrew Roots of Lehi-ite Non-Biblical Names in the Book of Mormon (1995), has several thoughtful etymologies. For a pretentious and dismissive targeting of the book, which does have its faults, see John Tvedtnes, "What's in a Name? A Look at the Book of Mormon Onomasticon," FARMS Review of Books 8/2, 1996, 34-42.