Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Land of Jerusalem and the Land of Heliopolis (and the Book of Mormon)

I wish to affix a note to what attentive Latter-day Saints have already wonderfully said about the Book of Mormon phrase the land of Jerusalem, a phrase not found in the Bible (Jacob 2:31-2; Alma 7:10, etc.).


It was Hugh Nibley, "with eagle eye," who first discovered "land(s) of Jerusalem" in the Amarna Tablets, an Egyptian archive of official correspondence, in cuneiform writing, to and from the rulers of Canaan; now Gordon Thomasson again discovers "land" in a fragment from the Dead Sea. The Pseudo-Jeremiah scroll (4Q385, Fr.1, Col. 1), in speaking of Lehi's contemporaries taken captive in Jerusalem, shows as plain as day, and in plain Hebrew, that they were taken me-eretz yerushalaim ("from the land of Jerusalem"). Daniel Peterson, Matthew Roper, and William J. Hamblin all duly note how the Dead Sea Scrolls also speak of "the land of Damascus," whatever that "land of Damascus" is supposed to embrace.

The line from the Pseudo-Jeremiah scroll, me-eretz yerushalaim, remarkably matches a sentence found in Jacob 2:32: "this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem." And note the irony: the remnant of the wicked were taken from the land of Jerusalem; the righteous branch were led out. No wonder the Lord says "I will not suffer" the righteous branch to wallow in the moral filth of the wicked remnant.

Such findings establish that "land of such-and-such a city" is a proper Semitic phrase. Should the question arise whether Bethlehem and Jerusalem can belong, by any stretch of the imagination, to the same land of Jerusalem (Alma 7:10), attentive readers will recall how Bethlehem lies only 4.3496 miles from Jerusalem. The manger may have been even closer, say 4.249912 miles. . . Coast from the Utah State Capitol down to Liberty Park, and you've covered four miles. Pioneer Day paraders march, trot, wheel, caper, float a good mile more.


A parallel to the land of Jerusalem, which shows not only a linguistic but also a theological or cosmological likeness, appears in the "Erd"-Liste of the Egyptian onomasticon from Tebtynis. An onomasticon is a lexical list, or kind of encyclopedia made by the Egyptians themselves as a help in navigating their own universe.

In the list we find at least seven, and perhaps nine, lands, according to Professor Juergen Osing, which, properly speaking, are not lands at all, in any earthly sense of the word, but cities, temples, or otherworldly locales. Nothing approximates the temple-city of Jerusalem more than the Egyptian Heliopolis, a matter noted by many, even in antiquity--yet what uncommon surprise to see Heliopolis and its temples described as lands!

"The Land of Heliopolis" comes at the beginning of the list in the Tanis papyrus: t3 nj [jwnw], for Heliopolis, like Jerusalem, is the navel of the universe, the first land created. A second papyrus fragment begins with "the Land of the Great Temple" (t3 [nj?] hw.t '3.t), which signifies the same thing: Heliopolis, or the Temple with a capital T. A third list labels all the lands that fall within the compass of the House or Houses of Life, the Egyptian Temple as the construct of the universe itself (the holistic universal and, by necessity, also plural Heliopolis). And here we are specifically told that the Houses of Life consist of lands or plots of ground. The last idea calls to mind the plot made by the early brethren in Missouri showing the 24 designated "temples" planned for the Temple City of the New Jerusalem in Independence, Missouri.

Here are the plots of the House of Life Complex:

1. [t3] hw.t '3.t [Land of = Plot of] the Great Temple
2. t3 dw3.t Land of the Duat, or Netherworld (!)
3. t3 hw.t bnbn The Land of the Benben House (the very Center place of the Center Place--and the very theme found on the rim of our Book of Abraham Facsimile 2--what's going on here?),
and so on, including
7. t3 m3(?) qrj (or Old Coptic KHL), which the text identifies as jwnw, or Heliopolis, or which labels a shrine in Heliopolis. We again recall Facsimile 2, and the stars named Kli-flos-isis, for Hugh Nibley reads Kli- as chapel or shrine. The Egyptian qrj, to be pronounced, qlj, matches a transcription kli.

So what is the Land of the Benben Temple? It is both the center place on the earth and the whole storied cosmos itself. Jerusalem translates it well, as does Zion: all is Jerusalem and Jerusalem is all.

Telling are the words of 4 Ezra, chapter 14 (KJV Apocrypha), which give us yet another wide-ranging land of Jerusalem:

28: Hear these words, O Israel.
29: Our fathers at the beginning were strangers in Egypt, from whence they were delivered:
30: And received the law of life, which they kept not, which ye also have transgressed after them.
31: Then was the land, even the land of Sion, parted among you by lot: but your fathers, and ye yourselves, have done unrighteousness, and have not kept the ways which the Highest commanded you.

Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 100-2.
For Heliopolis and Jerusalem, see Nibley, One Eternal Round.
Daniel Peterson, Matthew Roper, William J. Hamblin, "On Alma 7:10 and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ," on Transcripts page of Neal A. Maxwell Institute Web page. 
Robert Eisenmann and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, 57-8, for 4Q385, cited in Peterson, et al.
Jurgen Osing, Hieratische Papyri aus Tebtunis I, vol. I, 146ff.

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