Friday, April 20, 2012

Kolob in Color (An Egyptologist Looks at LDS Book of Abraham Facsimile 2)

"In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes?"

"The sun is but a morning star"

The color of Kolob--Kolob in Color 
(as seen through the lens of the parti-color hypocephalus Turin 2333)

The central figure on Facsimile 2, the round hypocephalus, represents Kolob, "the first creation," as Abraham, looking through bright gems, Urim and Thummim, saw in a vision of the stars. The Egyptians discovered the same ram-headed figure, at world's morn, burning white as dawn on the green fields of the Delta. They named him Ba-neb-djedit, that is, the ba-Ram, or ba-spirit, the Lord of Djedit. Mendes being how the Greeks heard the name Ba-neb-djedit, we also call the ram Lord of Mendes, or the Mendesian Ram.

In the multi-millennial Egyptian religious tradition, high, kingly gods accumulated attributes formerly belonging to various other divinities, divinities that often belonged to deeply ancient local traditions and ritual settings. The high god Amun, adding to his name majesty and honor, appropriated the symbolism and rites of the Mendesian ram (as Osiris had done before him). (See Donald B. Redford, City of The Ram-Man: The Story of Ancient Mendes, 2010; Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson, eds., The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, "Mendes," 181.) 

"A universal purview," says Professor Donald 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" (City of the Ram-Man, 134). His being flows "unrestricted in the universe": "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, quoting from the Mendes Stela). As the four-faced 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). The Ram of Mendes likewise becomes the manifestation "of the union of dynamic solar power (Re) with latent fertility (Osiris)": Red and Green. With the Mendesian Ram now also becoming "the embodiment of national existence, Amun-re," we end up with "a primordial deity of unequaled antiquity and immanence" (Ibid., 135-6). It all seems too much--the snowball effect--but we must remember that an unquenchable aspiration to become was for Egyptians the only way out of the predicament of the static. (The verb to note is xpr, to (repeatedly) come into being, to manifest, to become, to transcend.)

David Klotz simply struggles for the best way to render the name of this same supernal Ram in his "transcendent, invisible, and ineffable" manifestation as the Creator, whom the Egyptians call variously "Amun with four ram-heads upon one neck" or "Amun within the Iris" or "Amun with ten names": the Cosmic Deity, the Cosmic Shu-Amun, the Transcendent Amun (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 183 [2006]). "Ten names" only hints at the unfathomable fountains of the creative transcendence; for, for the Egyptians the number 10 (medj) is the deep (medjw) number: "deep answers to deep" (see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction). 

How would Abraham have seen the Ram? Readers of Hugh Nibley's and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round will know that the book, though carefully distinguishing the Egyptian view of things from the gospel plan, does not neglect the Mendesian Ram in its treatment of Abraham's Kolob. As for Redford and Klotz, their books appeared within the last six years, long after Brother Nibley's public lectures on Facsimile 2 (1990: see Lecture 10) and the writing of One Eternal Round, and thus are not only the latest studies about the Mendesian Ram and of its place on the hypocephalus, but also serve as a means of testing Nibley's conclusions. 

David Klotz describes the round hypocephalus (a symbol of the veiling and encircling Iris) as a striking image--in small compass--of the forces that both call the cosmos into being and ensure its continuance. The hypocephalus is a book of life. Although the Hibis hymns to Amun-Re and secret priestly books, like Papyrus Salt 825, do convey a like message, the hypocephalus holds in its compass the iconography of a thousand words.

For Abraham, whose gaze is ever skyward, the source of living power pulsating throughout the cosmos is a star, even a star "nearest to the throne of God" (Abraham 3:2; Doctrine and Covenants 88). God, who grants Abraham a view of the star, also reveals its name: "These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob" (Abraham 3:3). The name of the great one matches the hieroglyphic label for the central figure of the Abraham hypocephalus: rn nj nTr pf '3 (the name of this great god). And people say Joseph Smith had no gift of translation! 

The round picture, by means of symbolic representation, opens to the Egyptian mind a glimpse into a hidden reality. The ram of Mendes appears on the hypocephalus (and in certain other texts) as having four heads added on one neck (Hypocephalus Turin 2333 shows two heads). Yet says Erik Hornung: "No thinking Egyptian would have imagined that the true form of hidden Amun was a man with a ram's head," much less four such heads. The heads represent the four manifest powers, energies, spirits--what the Egyptians, in the New Kingdom, call the four ba's--of the Cosmic Deity. 

The idea of a multiplicity of manifest powers pulsating from one source--like the four rivers bursting from Eden--recalls Joseph Smith's statements about stars first "receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob," "the first creation," and then transmitting that light or "power" to other stars. Revolutions means turnings or phases or facets, and on the various hypocephali four ram faces gaze out, each in their moment, at the dawn of creation (see Explanation for Facsimile 2, nos. 1 and 5; note also Abraham 5:10: Eden's rivers are not left out of the picture--here is the garden spot of Mendes). One Egyptian word for revolutions is Dnb, a word which comes from the same root as Kolob (Afroasiatic, qrb, qlb, Eg. q3b, all "interior" or "interior part" = Akkadian qerbumDnb, to turn, cf. Arabic qlb, to turn around; see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction, 29-32; see also Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round). "The revolutions of Kolob" suggests a play on the words Dnb and qlb.

For the Ancient Egyptians words that sound alike resound with redoubled power. Such words map creation and discover its hidden fountains. Not only do the words for ba-ram and ba-spirit combine semiotic forces, ba also signifies the living stars. Another word for ram, zr or zjw, evokes sjw, the common word for star (Val Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808, 155). The scribes thus use the hieroglyph of the ram to write the stars. Rams and stars bespeak Life fruitful in multiplicity. Life teems or it is no Life. Such names and their accompanying images become "signs in a metalanguage," even "hieroglyphs," that both hide and reveal (Erik Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, 124). Everything painted on Facsimile 2, though merely sketched in black ink (was there color also?), manifests sign, metalanguage, cryptogram. Such "writings" "cannot be revealed to the world," only to the "thinking Egyptian." For reflective Joseph the hieroglyphs masked like rams represent great, governing stars. The Mendesian ram, in manifest power, mirrors the rising sun, but certainly represents something more than simply the Sun god, Re. The same holds true for any god: "The true form is 'hidden' and 'mysterious'"; "none can encompass the full richness of his nature" (Hornung, Conceptions of God, 124-25). Jan Assmann says Re himself "ist immer mehr"--always more--than just the visible Sun.

There is nothing static about the Egyptian Sun anyhow. Re, descending from above and masked like a ram, unites with mummified Osiris, ruler of the netherworld. "Re is celestial, puissant, energetic; Osiris, chthonic, static, dead" (Sederholm, Papyrus 10808, 171). Re-Osiris lives.

The encircling Iris that is Abraham Facsimile 2 hides, in its lower panel, a cryptogram, or encoded name: Lotus Leaf-Lion-Ram (Sarpot--M3wj--Srj). Does the tripartite name describe the Kolob Ram? There are various keys for decoding the name. Read acrophonically, that is, by isolating the first letters of each word, then combining these letters into a new word--s-m-s--the cryptogram yields: 1) the Eldest (the Originator or Creator, or "first creation"); 2) the One who continually brings about birth or creation. 

Who is the Eldest? The Kirtland Egyptian papers call Kolob the Eldest of the stars; in the Coffin Texts (VII 491h) Horus Smsw, Horus the Eldest, takes his place in the middle (Hr-jb, "over the heart of") of both the northern and the southern stars. Horus the Eldest, thus placed, "could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye." Coffin Texts VII 491h (Spell 1143) reads: "Horus the Elder is in the middle of the stars of the upper region and of the opposing lower region," a cosmic schema matching that of the two halves of the hypocephalus. R.O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts III, Spell 1143, translates: "Horus the Elder is in the middle of the upper stars and opposite the lower ones." That is the last line of a spell that opens with the One who separates the Two Combatants (the Two Worlds), who stills the 600 storms on the Cosmic Lake, and then passes by all the gods, Shu, Nu, Atum, Re, and the Old One, to take his rightful place in the cosmic scheme. In Coffin Texts 938 we read: "I have circumambulated the Great Throne"; "none second to me" (trans. Faulkner). Joseph Smith does not err in giving us Kolob the Eldest, the Star at the heart (Kolob) of the great Cosmic Plan, near to the Throne of God, and thus dividing, judging, or separating, the worlds above and below.

Book of the Dead Chapter 162, which describes the hypocephalus, expresses the meeting of Re and Osiris as a grand mystery veiled in secret names, the same secret names: "Truly he [Re] is the Ba of the Great Corpse [Osiris] at rest in Heliopolis. Lotus-Lion-Ram is his name. 3x-xpr-j3w is also his name" (see Ibid., 149; for these cryptograms see Marie-Louise Ryhiner, "A propos de les trigrammes pantheistes," RdE (29) 1977, 125-37; Sederholm, 10808, 146 n 6, 146, 149, 162 n 78; 168-9; for Horus Smsw, Bernard Mathieu, "Les enfants d'Horus, theologie et astronomie," ENIM 1 (2008), 7-14). 

On certain other hypocephali three further mysterious symbols of transfiguration are found just beside Lotus-Lion-Ram, symbols which I read as yet another known, though rare, cryptogram, a sort of combination of the two just cited: zr-3x-xpr (logographically: the Ram, or Ba becomes a glorious Akh; acrophonically: z/s3x, to be made glorious, become an Akh-spirit, or "glorified being"; see Sederholm, 10808, 169). Such tripartite cryptograms, as signs or numbers "in a metalanguage," name the unspeakable moment of renewal in the 1) netherworld, as also on 2) earth, and in 3) heaven. They name the eternal moment that is Kolob.

The fresh lotus leaf, "standing out of the water and in the water"--as Peter describes the earth at creation--signals renewing blossom. Sunburst follows. The lion (m3wj), stronger than death, names renewal (m3w). And the ram, owing to its productive nature, becomes the image of fruitfulness, a fruitful transformation into many shapes--and thus also newness of life--what the Egyptians call xprw

Because the cryptogram, when read acrophonically, makes up a palindrome (and indeed it often appears accompanied by the tag Tz-pHr, "and vice-versa" = "repeat the round"), we cannot help but read it as sign of back-and-forth, and thus, continual and even eternal rebirth and renewal: The Lotus (in eternal round) renews (sm3j) the Ram; the Ram renews the Lotus. First and Last intertwine, interchange for the Eldest Star that lights all other stars. The secret name thus rounds the world as much as does the mysterious hypocephalus itself. So Kolob stands: "First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time." Pharaoh also reigns "First in government" in Egypt: "I am the Pharaoh Lion-ram; Ram-lion-lotus is my name" (Griffith and Thompson, Demotic Magical Papyrus, 22f.; Col. I 12). 

The palindrome qua palindrome (as indeed the circling hypocephalus qua circle) logically describes the sun "in its revolution," which re-volution perforce unfolds as the key to the earthly "measurement of time" (see Explanation, Facsimile 2). The tripartite names bespeak dawn, splendor, sunset. The Egyptian verb pHr often registers the circular movement of the sun, for the verb describes a circuit, if not exact circle. The expression Tz-pHr duly activates the palindrome, and note how the Western idea of the palindrome is strictly linear--a row of letters--while the Egyptian palindrome, taking flight from the realm of word play into the depths of space and time, clearly is both linear and circular and all-encompassing "in its revolution?" 

And just what should the periodicity of the Lotus revolution be? The Explanation for Facsimile 2 reads: "First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptian Jah-oh-eh [another tripartite name]." A cubit is a linear measure; one day describes a circle (as the hieroglyph for day--or even the hypocephalus itself--shows. The hieroglyph shows the solar sphere). The Prophet's explanation, though unresolved, is less puzzling than the description of solar movement given in the Egyptians' own words: "The sun makes a bee line as it spins," a sentence that contrasts, or balances, two verbs: m3' (move in line) and pXr (circle about). 

Much could also be said about Egyptian cubit rods and the inscriptions found on them. So encyclopaedic is the map of the Egyptian universe sketched on these rods that curator Nora Scott considers them to be more almanac than measuring tool. And almanac remains the descriptive term for these inscribed votive rods. After all, the rods bear a map of the counties of Egypt and list, in hierarchical order, the gods who preside over each of them. 

Like the hypocephalus, the inscribed rods order and reflect, in symbolic fashion, the entire Egyptian "encyclopaedia"--the whole length of the land. So why be surprised when Joseph Smith speaks of cubits in his explanation of the hypocephalus? Each gadget or device complements the other; though one is line, the other, circle. And should we be surprised to learn about the cryptic numbers newly deciphered on a votive cubit rod dating from the reign of Shoshenq? that the cubit rods belong to the temple cult? or that the new decipherment pushes back by hundreds of years the use of such cryptic numbers in hieroglyphic writing? The Joseph Smith hypocephalus also bears the name Shoshenq (Figure 8: "writings" belonging to "the holy temple of God"). (The article to read is Gyula Priskin, "Cryptic Numerals on Cubit Rods," GM 192, 2003, 61-66.) On certain royal cubit rods, Nora Scott reads these words: "This is a communication for those who enter daily(?) into Mendes. . . As Khnum [a ram god] lives, as the sun goes down and that which is in heaven arises" (Nora Scott, "Egyptian Cubit Rods," Metropolitan Museum Bulletin; "enter Mendes" = "introduced or initiated into Mendes"). 

The cryptogram keeps life's secret. Hugh Nibley often references Salt Papyrus 825, a book of ceremonies reenacting the union of Re (srp.t, "lotus leaf" ~ sr p.t? "prince of heaven"?) and Osiris (wsjr ~ zr, "ram" or sr, "prince"). The book, clothed in like cryptograms and describing the same doctrine of the Ram, decrees swift death to whomsoever divulges the matter outside the foursquare ritual center known as the House of Life. The cryptographic signature of life on the hypocephalus thus stamps that document as also belonging to the Temple of God and to its secret protocols. Facsimile 2, line 8, which not only lies exactly above our cryptogram but also records the all-powerful ritual prayer that brings about the resurrection of Osirian corpse as living ba, "Contains," says Joseph Smith, "writings that cannot be revealed to the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God" (Explanation, Facsimile 2). In that House the manifest proceeds from the hidden. The union of Re and Osiris, or Lotus-Lion-Ram, as the radiant Cosmic Deity, the Transcendent Amun, or, even, the Amun hidden within the Iris--hidden in blinding light and cryptic pupil--produces the fourfold energy that extends to the farthest regions of day, reaches the edges of the existent.

The Egyptians call the manifest energy and power of the Transcendent Amun the ba (or ba-spirit), really four ba-spirits rolled into one. Several extant texts name each of the four ba's of the Mendesian Ram--and, here, color meets number (the evidence is collated in A. Egbert's, In Quest of Meaning, 163-65).
 An invocation of each of the four ba's, in vivid color and followed by a description of the quadrifrons ram, can be found on the statue base of Neswosret in Stockholm's Medelhavet Museum: And what blessings does Neswosret, as a faithful priesthood holder, pray for? Prosperity--the gift of the Nile--and a good burial (which for the Egyptians affords life more abundant). He then says a remarkable thing: "Let not the gates of hell prevail against me" (ohne das ich an den Toren [der Unterwelt] behindert werde) (Max Burchardt, ZAS 1910, 111-155). The patriarch Neswosret would feel at home with Abraham (cf. For that matter, the Jewish historian and priest Eupolemos (2nd century B.C.) goes so far as to report that a delegation from Mendes traveled to Jerusalem to help build Solomon's Temple (Redford, City of the Ram-Man).

The following names, colors, signs, and numbers occur variously: the red ba, the green ba, the ba of Shu, the ba of Khepri, the ba of Shepsi (or the "august ba"), the white ba, and the bright ba. Such are the designations "assigned to Re, Osiris, Shu [manifest as the bright atmosphere], and Khepri [Re at rising]" (164), but the list changes ever, the colors run. We also find the August ba of Re, the Green (Blue?) Ba of Shu, the red ba of Geb, the bright ba of Osiris (ba Sps nj r', b3 w3D nj Sw, b3 dSr nj gb, b3 b3q nj wsjr [b3q ~ Semitic brq? = "lightening"; "transcendent"; brilliant?], 163).

The contrast of green and red makes up a topos in Egyptian literature and speaks to freshness versus corruption and prosperity versus bad luck. Both colors run in tandem: "certain [amuletic] drawings of the [wedjat-eye, must therefore] take a drop of red ink at the corner of the eye. Just enough red can bring good luck and strengthen the green; too much, and it becomes a consuming fire, out of control and making 'the green one red.' " (Sederholm, 10808, 197; cf. 196ff.). Danger finds resolution, refreshment in green: "A repeated formula [of blood sacrifice] in the Coffin Texts (IV 316c; 328i; V257g) reads:

nb dSr.w
w3D nm.wt

Lord of bloods,
Refresher of altars.

The [chiastic] linking of dSr and w3D is especially powerful here, because w3D fits so well the imagery of the shedding of fresh, bright blood. Both the god and the blood is 'Refresher of altars' " (Ibid., 197 n. 37). The nmj altar 
(a pun on nbis in fact the very altar upon which the priest of Pharaoh attempted Abraham's life; in a nice reversal the mysteries of the green stars were "revealed from God to Abraham, as he [in his turn] offered sacrifice upon an altar" (Joseph Smith, Explanation of Facsimile 2, Oliblish). Green stars? Refresher of altars? Consider how a lotus stand appears to contrast at the head of the blood-stained altar in Facsimile 1. And what about the same stand shown gracing the star Oliblish (another Mendesian ram) on Facsimile 2? The plumes crowning the star burst into HD-white, as if the white (or sky-blue) flower from the green lotus stalk. Oliblish in color. 

Leaf, stalk, flower--they spring up everywhere: Abraham's hypocephalus comes drenched in the lotus. In the case of Oliblish, besides a sign of greening--lotus stand and sprinklers--the water lily likely designates that star's governing power over all it surveys. It is a shared dominion. There can be no conflict of power or interest amid the harmony of the spheres. The lotus sweetly marks delegated power "by politeness of the king": "Stands next to Kolob"; "the next grand governing creation"; "holding the keys of power also" (Joseph Smith, Explanation of Facsimile 2, no. 2: What the figure holds, says Nibley, is the wepwawet, the "opener of paths" jackal standard). Such a reading well accords with Hugh Nibley's summary of the lotus symbolism, "The All-purpose Lotus" (Abraham in Egypt). And doubtless Brother Nibley would also see the lotus as a sign of the cycle, the revolution: Oliblish, the walking-staff wanderer, opener of paths, dusty pioneer, comes at last to the refreshment of the lotus. One Eternal Round bespeaks anapausis, refrigerium: the rest of the Lord.

Professor Egbert labors to put order into the lists and explain their development: which color fits which ba or god? and when and why? and which list makes for canon? But in Egypt definition resists a reining in or a tidying up. Both the red ba and the green can refer to just Re or to Re and Osiris, respectively--and so on. Again, are Nile red and green really red and green? or are they rellow and gruen? Is the sun of Egypt red or yellow? Does green color a blue sky? or the freshness of renewed growth? 

Hypocephalus Turin 2333 sports both red and green paint: Kolob is red, his attendant stars, green baboons (with red faces). Hovering above their arms of praise, come the four fresh offerings of lotus flowers and flowering papyrus stalks--two a-piece and blending into the sky. The colorful burdens befit morning and the refreshing flood. Things come round: by morning, by season, in turn. The Prophet's ideas about the hypocephalus mapping four directions and also reckoning celestial revolutions forcibly come to mind. For the Prophet, morning in Kolob blossoms once but a thousand of our own years; and, according to the lists of values for late period hieroglyphs, all such stalks and flowers, their ordinary, dictionary reading turned to subtle connotation, can also be read x3 (F. Daumas, ed., Valeurs phonetiques des signes hieroglyphiques d'epoch greco-romaine). That last word, which itself traditionally takes the sign of a lotus stalk in leaf, signifies "a thousand." One thousand--the anticipation and the renewal of Kolob--comes in green paint.

"Anointing makes 'green,' " says Hugh Nibley; green nurtures, strengthens, bestows magical powers from above (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 122f. [2nd ed., 198ff.], citing Budge, Book of Opening the Mouth, 1:232, 234). Elsewhere in the Egyptian record, Amenhotep II, depicted as if a child, suckles a cow "smattered with green markings that look for all the world like stars" (Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808, 165; Patrick Houlihan, Animal World, 104, plate XIX). In light of Turin 233 we again note the lotuses gracing Oliblish and the solar bark in upper panels 2 and 3 of the Abraham hypocephalus. And without a green sun, could the earth herself be greened? Hugh Nibley has much to say about "the correspondences between green plants and green stones, and the use of green faience 'in the rites of the newborn sun' " (Val Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808, 166 n. 90, quoting Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 122f.; lotuses: One Eternal Round, 285). It was shortly after rising "that the red carnelian eye (the sun low on the horizon) turned into the green faience eye. . . the greening of the landscape after the redness of dawn" (Nibley, Message, 122f.; cf. red Kolob rising as green Oliblish). The amulet of the w3D, gracing the neck, bespeaks a thousand years "as a symbol of verdure and eternal youth" (Ibid., citing BD 159, in Barguet, Livre des Morts, 226 and n. 1). The newborn sun sprouts like a papyrus stalk (w3D)--the quintessence of all that is fresh and green; it sets, elderly, in bloods (dSrw).

The first settlers of Mendes, the Delta home of the Ram who became both Re and Osiris, 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). (Any reader of Rhodes's and Nibley's One Eternal Round will recall the symbolism of green gems in the story of the hypocephalus.) 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). What they discovered was the First Creation of the First Dawn--in the form of a ram (Hdj.t dawn, white). 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). White not only bespeaks dawn but also suggests the fulness of light locked in the iris. The Transcendent Hidden Amun hides in the ineffable glory of the iris of his wedjat-eye, an image expressed by Egyptians in the shape and iconography of the hypocephalus (see David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168-9). Does the hypocephalus, then, shine a crystalline white or green; or is its glory that of the rainbow?

Contrast colors Kolob. We recall again the bracing red and cold green that yet appear on a hypocephalus housed in Turin's Egyptian museum: red circles encompassing red circles, red Kolob and red disks of the sun, green apes, red-faced. (Art Pollard posts a good photograph on Flikr. Art's an old college chum, by the way.) Now, though, I hear Hugh Nibley pointedly reminding me that the hypocephalus presents anything but artistic merit--the work shows no skill--and this is a needful reminder lest we lose sight of the grand idea which Kolob represents. The hypocephalus meets interpretation as a figural sweep of Idea.

Yet any hypocephalus, dightly painted or not, comes a-splash in color. It's a child's play. Plants and animals of every possible form, lions, bulls, ewes, rams (white of horn), hawks, jackals, snakes, populate these disks. Like the wilds in the visions of Job or the chambers of seasons in the Old Kingdom sun temple of Niuserre, the hypocephalus teems with life. Wings fold and spread everywhere, and, in Egypt, the wings of hawks find description as brilliant, parti-color mirrors--a stained glass. Consider the lilies. The lotus (presented by the Lady of the green, gem-like wedjat-eye to the red cow) blossoms in blue or white. We find reds and greens shot through with light, split with blinding HDj, and yet for all their translucence, there is no washing out: green grows greener, red turns to blood.

Although the Hathor cow on Turin 2333 displays no color, by nature--and by solar nature--red she must be. (Hathor embodies the divine feminine, both mother and companion and eye of Re.) Indeed I read red everywhere in the name Joseph Smith gives the cow. Enish-go-on-dosh blends jns.t-red with dSr.t-red (or dosh-red), as befits both Hathor cow and Solar Eye:

The Exalted Scarlet Solar Eye/
even the Beautiful One (or Beautiful Eye)
in its Redness (or in its quality as the Red Eye)
jns.t q3.t/
'n.t dS(r) = Anis-qo-on-dosh = The Red Eye-Exalted-the Beautiful (Eye)-the Red One

For such a reading of elaborated Enish-go-on-dosh, which recalls red Mars as Hor-dosh (the Red Horus), we put as inspiration and evidence a name for the Female Sun found in an obscure version of Book of the Dead Chapter 148.  Chapter 148 lists the names of the seven solar Hathor cows. The Egyptians typically endow their gods with many symbolic names: Seven becomes the number or name of fullness; for the seven names in fact make up a single elaborated name. One version of the list yields:

She great of love, red of hair;/
oh foremost one residing in the mansion of the red one, beautiful rudder of the southern sky,/
she who is united with life, she of the red cloth.
(John C. Darnell, The Enigmatic Books of the Solar-Osirian Unity: Cryptographic Compositions in the Tombs of Tutankamun, Ramesses VI, and Ramesses IX, dissertation, 105; 
cf. also the translation of the chapter in Raymond O. Faulkner, The Book of the Dead, p. 142, and esp. the various names found in BM 10471. The plate is on p. 147).

The phrase Hnm.t-'nx jnsj.t (she is united with life, even she, the red one) plays on the words 'nx/'nsh (life) and jnsj.t (the lady of scarlet, or "she of the red linen cloth"). (Hathor often flows from the brush in a wine red dress.) To unite with life here signifies to unite with the sun on the red horizon, or "mansion of the red one" (the hw.t dshrw: dosh). Red (jnsj) thus answers to life ('nx). T
he color word jnsj comes originally from a bright red (scarlet) linen called jnsj. Because the Woerterbuch (I, 100.14) also defines the feminine noun jnsj.t as a name of the (feminine) Eye of Horus, we can draw a like correlation between the feminine forms jnsj.t and 'nx.t as names for the Female Solar Eye in our Enish-go-on-dosh. That is to say, if the Enish in Enish-go does not reflect jnsj.t, it reflects 'nx.t just as well: "The Exalted (q3j) Living Eye ('nx.t)." (cf. Woerterbuch I, 100; on scarlet and other Egyptian colors, see also Bernard Mathieu, "Les couleurs dans les Textes des Pyramides").

These names--brim though they be with mirrorings and metonymy--do not blend with our own idea of beauty, until we recognize that the solar red is anything but a red barn. No. Its red is a resplendent tide that flames like a ruby. Here is a precious "living stone," as well as "living Eye," a translucent diadem among stars (see 1 Peter 2:4-5). (The chapter to read on the tie linking hypocephalus and rubies, sapphires, and emeralds is Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, "The Jewel of Discernment," One Eternal Round, Chapter 10, 423-462.)

The Egyptians pack much poetry into cryptonyms (hidden names), and I favor the idea of the elements enish and dosh as radiating both life ('nx.tanesh) and redness, both beauty and the (red) borders (or border stones = the dS.w). After all, the epithet "red (or yellow) of hair" (lit. "red of that curled round" = dSr.t shnj) clearly plays on the idea of the "red circuit" or "red eternal round" of the sun (circuit, Sn.t). Redness, Beauty, Life, the Eye of Horus: all is one--and one eternal round. The exalted female sun, the Eye, as she navigates from the southern borders to the north, is both vibrantly and gloriously beautiful--both sun by day and flaming Arcturus by night.

The piercing jewel set in Hathor's crown shows the rubied sun itself, ensconced between the rounded borders (or bows) of her two horns (cf. Joseph Smith--History 1:35: the Urim and Thummim set in two rims of a bow). And the correlation of Eye and Stone (and Crown) comes to perfection in the hypocephalus design: If the "hypocephalus itself," as Nibley says, is "a giant eye" (318), then it is also a fiery solar stone. The object, like a round sea of glass and fire, like crystal, can therefore serve its purpose "to spark a flame under the head of a radiant spirit" (Book of the Dead Chapter 162; see also Doctrine and Covenants 130 and Doctrine and Covenants 88:11 = the two eyes, which capture both the visible and also the intellectual light). "And I, Abraham," as we are taught many times over in One Eternal Round, "had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees [And I, Abraham, had the hypocephalus: it is not given to us this Urim and Thummim, but we do have Abraham's hypocephalus and Abraham's matchless stars!]; And I saw the stars, that they were very great" (Abraham 3:1-2). . .

And would not each of the great stars take shape in its own color?

How do the Egyptian paint the cosmos? Basic color words were separated into four principal (or "abstract") colors: red, green, white, black (Wolfgang Schenkel, "Die Farben in aegyptischer Kunst und Sprache," ZAS 88 (1963), 131-47). What is the semiotic significance beyond the semantic? That is: How do these basic words encompass, color the Egyptian outlook? Professor Schenkel advises us to divide the four into two sets. The Abstract Idea underlies the brush strokes of the world. White and Black signify contrast, the spectrum of brightness. Red and Green are the warm and the cold tones that paint the world across a broad spectrum of perceived color: "the yellows, oranges, and reds of such distinctly painted objects as natron, flamingos, desert walls and floor, and myrrh;" the green baboons and the lily and the sea (Sederholm, Papyrus 10808, 190). Such a manner of ordering color words, and, clearly, of ordering color itself, covers the entire field of light. 

What you would then expect is: the red ba, the green ba, the white ba, and the black. Of these, black alone has slipped away.

This is exactly what must happen. The black ba--black energy, black light--can never be. Black swirls shapeless--thus colorless--before being comes into being, before the splendor, before the ba. The white ba, for this reason, sometimes finds continuance with the so-called bright ba. Rather than bearing naturally contrasting names like the red ba and the green, these last two ba's often take a divine name, such as the ba of Shu--Shu in streaming atmospheric brightness--and the ba of sunburst Khepri. It is not so much as matter of euphemism but of a necessary replacement.
The four color words, with the colors, tones, contrasts, elements, or features they describe, thus together make up the Ram of Mendes (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168). These words in color, as perfect registers for the four-headed Ram, are directional, temporal, divinized (as Re, Osiris, Shu, Khepri), and elemental: minerals, metals, members of the body, fire (Re), air (Shu), earth (Geb), water (Osiris). In other words, color and its linguistic and semiotic signature make up a sine qua non of the Egyptian story of creation, a story, says Joseph Smith, of "majesty and power" in which stars "roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:45, 47). Creation happens in color, and by color--and color continues. The Egyptian verb xpr, to come into being, to change shape, to reach transformation of being, is a coloring verb.

Light, the Egyptians well knew, is Color, as is Life. But we do not find in Egypt the Newtonian notion of white light being composed of a blending of the colors. No. These colors or elements of color make up a parti-color iris, the symbol which the round of the hypocephalus presents to view, according to David Klotz. Three extant hypocephali "identify this mysterious figure" of the Transcendent Amun, or Cosmic Shu-Amun, as follows: I am the iris within the wedjat-eye, jnk p3 DfD m-Hnw wD3.t (Adoration of the Ram, 183).

"Thus, the supreme deity with whom the deceased wished to identify with was the four-ram-headed deity, the 'iris of the wedjat,' or the deity within the flames"--as if "circling flames of fire" (Adoration of the Ram, 183; Doctrine and Covenants 137:2: Vision of the Celestial Kingdom). "Circling flames of fire" indeed: The one "whose body is that of a human, with four ram heads [is] covered with millions upon millions of eyes and 777 ears" (Edfu text quoted in Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168). Neither is black ever completely out of the picture; for it is as iris-cum-pupil that the round cosmic map finally comes into focus. Formerly DfD was translated pupil; though translation remains elusive, iris-cum-pupil better fits the evidence. Re, say the books, hides in his pupil. It is true--but he hides at the very moment of revelation; he hides in the glorious sunburst of his own parti-color brilliance. He manifests but apparently: "It is Re who transforms himself [xpr jrw=f or twt=f] into Four Faces in order to take shape from within Nun [the dark, inchoate waters]" (Edfu III 35, 4-5 = Sederholm, Papyrus 10808, 128; cf. Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round, 'The Iris,' 332-3). Four is the key to order, arrangement, cosmos. Dawn comes clothed in wonder. From out the waters of Nun, from chaos, from the night and its rushing waters, there comes the cascade of light in color, the iris sunburst.

An even greater miracle unfolds to the faithful: Of "those relating to the (solar) iris," these are they who "through proper solar worship while on earth. . . could hope to finally join the solar iris, and to in fact go further and behold the perfection (m33 nfrw), the true form (irw m3') that is hidden within" (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 182). "I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire" (Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 137:2). "If you could hie to Kolob," you would pass into Heaven through a Star.

"In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes?" (Blake). "The sun is but a morning star" (Thoreau). 

Beyond, we are assured, fan out "a plurality of skies" (Erik Hornung, Books of the Afterlife, 12).

Copyright 2012 by Val H. Sederholm

"I came down in the beginning": The Djebaty-Title and Book of Abraham Facsimile 2

I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen (Abraham 3:21).

I am Atum, when I was alone in Nun [the encircling waters], (but) I am Re when he appeared at the moment when he began to govern that which he created (Book of the Dead, chapter 17, quoted in Francoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche, Gods and Men in Egypt, 49).

I am struck by how forcefully the Lord repeats the words I and all in Abraham 3:21, a repetition recalling the mysterious expression hen kai pan (One and All) that figures so largely in historical understanding of the Divine in Egypt. Professor Erik Hornung's revolutionary work on Egyptian conceptions of deity bears the title: The One and the Many. (Perhaps it should be titled, The One and the All.) 

The phrase hen kai pan describes the Eternal Round of the ourobouros, the serpent devouring its own tail, an ancient Egyptian motif--even as it also recalls the round of the hypocephalus. Note the emphasis on the idea of the all-encompassing circle in verse 21, the circle of intelligences and of Divine intelligence: The Book of Abraham certainly earns its hermetic designation. Or consider how the Book of Abraham, while introducing a stunned 19th century readership to the notion of a plurality of gods and of divine intelligences, at once insists on remaining fundamentally--Abrahamically--monotheistic. Hen kai pan. (See Jan Assmann's Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism; Nibley and Rhodes also discuss the ourobouros in One Eternal Round.)

"I came down in the beginning"--the words accord with the teachings of both the Book of the Dead and the round hypocephalus. The hypocephalus depicts and describes coming and going between the worlds, as we shall see.

On the rim of the hypocephalus we find the words: jnk Db3.ty m Hw.t bnbn m jwnw q3 3x zp 2 (I am the Djebaty--the one of the Djeba--in the House of the Benben in Heliopolis, On High, On High; Glorious; Glorious). The first lesson in reading Facsimile 2 centers around that one title: Djebaty. Hugh Nibley, who calls it "perhaps the most significant word on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus," pauses long over that significant word until the lesson is learned, the lesson of many meanings, many shades of meaning.

Djebaty bespeaks mystery: Djebat "is the name of a place or a building," a "dwelling of the gods, Palace, Chapel," as also box or chest. Djebaty (lit. the one of the Djebat) is the relational (nisba) form ending in -y, and, says Conrad Leemans, signals "both a divine person and a personified object." Djebat, continues Nibley: "is also the name of the ancient city of Edfu to which the hypocephali properly belong, according to Speleers." Indeed the hypocephali "invoke and represent the Sun of Edfu, considered from of old 'the most perfect form of cosmic energy'" (Hugh Nibley, "The Three Facsimilies from the Book of Abraham," 1980, citing Louis Speleers, Catalogue des intailles et empreintes orientales des Musees Royaux de Art et de Histoire, Supplement, Bruxelles, 1943; Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 335 [and section headings: 'Between Heaven and Earth,' 335-340, and 'The Ceremonial Complex,' 340-341], quoting Conrad Leemans, "Hypocephale egyptien du Musee Royal Neerlandais d'Antiquites a Leide," in Actes du sixieme Congres Internationale des Orientalistes, 1885, 125-26, italics added).

To the many possible readings of Db3.ty, several of which point to the nature and roles of the cosmic deity, I add still another. Because Db3 (Djeba), at Edfu, can also refer to the reed that springs from the primeval mound, we could also translate Db3.ty as "the one of the primeval reed," that is, "the one of the primeval resting place." All this suggests the descent of the Creator at the beginning: "I came down in the beginning." The Edfu cosmology, in fact, yields two words (nbi.t, Db3) for the reed "upon which the first Falcon deity might perch" (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 106). And such sacred writings, it should be remembered, are indeed "to be found in the temple of God," being literally engraven on the walls of Edfu Temple.

But what has a reed perch to do with the House of the Benben in Heliopolis?

I was alone together with Nun in inertness,
I not having found a place to sit or to stand.
Heliopolis not having been founded so I might be there,
The Papyrus Stalk (w3D) not having been bound so I might sit upon it.
(Great Amun Hymn cited in Adoration of the Ram, 106)

W3D, by the way, appears in the central panel of another hypocephalus where four baboons offer what appear to be two lotuses and two papyrus stalks to a two-headed ram in the freshness of morning. The same panel on that very same hypocephalus (Turin 2333), yet bright with reds and greens, also features a heron or two on a perch! The heron, my favorite bird, is the bennu-bird, and naturally also suggests the Benben-house of Heliopolis. The perching heron signifies the seasonal flood: it rests on a perch while the flood inundates the land below. "Perhaps in a sense," says Professor Stephen Quirke, "the benu means the shining [Eg. wbn] of the sun at the water, on the first moment of creation." "The benu presides over the flood," over the creation of the world (The Cult of Ra: Sun Worship in Ancient Egypt, 29). Should we consider for a moment the designation in the sense of the "one of the reed perch," we thus find the Shining at the Water, the Presiding Power who descends in glory to unlock and set in motion the cascade of teeming creation.

Returning to Turin 2333, we first find, on the far-left side of the panel, what apparently is the heron on its traditional three-pointed perch; then, just to the right, the heron again (this time clearly) on a much larger perch, a three-pronged spear topped by a r3-sign; finally, on the opposite end, we find another three-pronged sign topped by a spear point, a sign of the East. These symbols signal time and place and action. Together, perching birds and sprouts and flowers tell one unfolding story of creation.

In the Great Amun Hymn the foundation of Heliopolis and the up-springing of the Perch go together. Egyptologists explain Heliopolis as being, primarily, a place in the heavens, even the Celestial Heliopolis (Dietrich Raue, Heliopolis und das Haus des Re, 1999). Perhaps Heliopolis spans heaven and earth, like a bridge. It thus becomes a middle place, a landing--suspended like Babel's Tower--between the worlds. The House of the Benben, as the place of the benben-stone, a pillar, is, in fact, also the place of the perch. No wonder the god is described on the hypocephalus rim as doubly lofty, even exalted (q3j), as well as doubly glorious. The descending god, alighting on his Reed or Pillar or Stalk, brightens the new creation, the first creation, with a shock of light. Descent is sunrise! Again, the hieroglyph of the heron on a perch not only denotes the inundation (imHw; b'H; also nTr), it also connotes a veritable flood of light. (So also is the Pearl of Great Price "a veritable flood of light.") Doubly exalted, doubly glorious Kolob bathes the worlds in cascading apportionment.

The Djeba at Edfu can in fact be any "solid element," however seeming fine: "In certain cases," we are told, "the name of the solid element that appeared at the beginning served as a support and justification for the sacred etymology that explained the name of the temple or its city: thus Edfu, Djeba, which derived from the name of the 'floater' (djeba) that drifted on the waters there" (Francoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche, Gods and Men in Egypt, 51; cf. what Nibley says about the Latin word fundamentum). The floater described here is a reed floater, a touch of element at odds with chaotic swirl. At Esna, the place of resting becomes "a platform of land (set) in the midst of the initial waters, that I might lean [rest] on it!" (Ibid, 51). The Djeba is, then, any place, however tenuous seeming, upon which the Creator descends to begin to govern that which he created. The later temple at Edfu (or Djeba) thus also becomes the place of universal governance, the "temple of the world" ("Egypt is the temple of the world").

Djeba also signifies the bright harpoon of Horus, a most sacred object, that bespeaks both possession and victory. (No surprise, then, to spy Horus with his spear on the lower half of Turin 2333, and elsewhere.) "Descent, in Afroasiatic semantics, connotes 'battle': it is the swift descent upon an enemy, with ringing battle-cry. And the descent (or attack) stirs the hidden, passive depths into action" (Val Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808 and Its Cultural and Religious Setting, 78).

Db3.ty, which famously denotes Osiris in his coffin, box, or shrine (all Djeba), at the nadir of all things, may therefore at once signify, in a "coincidence of opposites," "the one of the lofty reed perch" or "he who pertains to the reed perch." The United-Ba of Re and Osiris, who takes the form of the Ram of Mendes, linked as he is to the Cosmic Amun, becomes the "ultimate, transcendent deity, residing simultaneously in heaven and earth" (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168). "The key theological concern of later Egyptian religion [is] the solar-Osirian opposition. The opposition, the balancing of the poles of the universe, also holds the key to the workings of life in all three of its manifest (or hidden) realms: heaven, earth (or temple) and Netherworld. Re and Osiris meet, in a moment of awful suspense, in order to reconcile life's contrarieties and ensure its continual renewal. In response to the mighty shout of joy that follows in the wake of the sun, the cold, hidden world of death stirs inwardly into blossom" (Papyrus British Museum 10808, 77).

The reed marks both place and moment of descent; it marks the holy moment of investiture, of inhabitation, of enlivening, even an at-one-ment of worlds above and below (see Papyrus British Museum 10808, 66). "I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences (Eg. 3x.w)": I came down to earth, to the primeval hill, to the First Creation, as Tatenen, as Shepsi, as Amun, the Cosmic Creative god. And--I came down, as Re, to hear the words of Osiris. At Hibis the Mendesian Ram, our Kolob ram, bears the epithet sDm-wrj, the Great Listener (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 170; "to hear the words of Osiris": on the right-hand panel of Facsimile 2, as now reconstructed, Re descends to hear Osiris' petition). The Mendesian Ram thus also belongs to the theme of "personal piety" in New Kingdom Egypt and later; the fourfaced Ram is the Listener who hears and answers prayers.

Tatenen? Shepsi? David Klotz (Adoration of the Ram, 78, 100-101) reminds us that the hieroglyphic sign for Sps (noble) or Shepsi (the Noble one), in its Late Period form, may also be read as Tnn (distinguished) or t3-Tnn (Tatenen, the creator associated with the primeval mound, as "distinguished earth"). And if it may so be read, it must be so read: so the rule in Egyptian. (The two high feathers of the noble on this sign link it also, to be sure, with figure 2, Oliblish.) A prayer beginning with the invocation "O netjer Shepsi (Tatanen) in the Zep Tepi" (O Noble God in the First Time--the pregnant moment of Descent) resounds with the mythological and ritual depths of Hermopolitan cosmology; for it is in Hermopolis that Shepsi names the creative solar god, later also associated with the Cosmic Amun. (One Eternal Round treats the symbolism of Tatenen's crown as worn by Oliblish.)

The hypocephalus enfolds a book of prayer. And prayer sets the entire cosmic circle into motion--brings it into reach of hands--then Osiris finds rescue in his ultimate extremity. In the most sacred panel of all--the Prophet Joseph refuses to interpret it--prayer bids resurrection: "May the ba of Osiris live." The ordinance, says Joseph, "cannot be revealed to the world"; the panel of hieroglyphs, which we so facilely render into our own idiom by appealing to a lexicon, nevertheless "contains writings" beyond our ability to unpack (Explanation no. 8). The Prophet's language calls to mind John 21:25, the final doctrine of the apostle about how darkness comprehendeth not the light: "I suppose that even the world [ton kosmon] itself could not contain the books that should be written." Here is the ultimate outcome of there being no room in the inn.

Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 contains the world itself--the All--in its circle. Yet the panels and rim hold but seeming wisps of text. Who shall unravel them into that coherent whole imaged by the hypocephalus itself? Given the packed synthetic grammar as also the broadly allusive quality of these writings, writings which bind the secret cosmogonic fullness of one ancient religious center to another in crisp one liners, only a fool would claim competency. The very simplicity of the signs and the ease of dictionary translation become a double barrier that fences the kernel of meaning from view. Such matters ultimately require a divine touch and a seeric insight, a Zaphnath-Paaneah, Joseph.

And the Prophet Joseph both confirms our hopes, even as he holds forth yet more to come. Abraham's book opens with the blazing descent as divine rescue from the sacrifical altar--Abraham's petition has been heard. The petition, as Abraham gradually comes to realize, but echoes those of other worlds in which intelligences carefully sought, in repeated and earnest petition, ever greater light and knowledge. Thus, in the final chapter of his little book, Abraham's creation account beautifully and properly (re-)opens with the bright descent from world to world to world: "I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences." Then, Abraham narrates: "And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell" (3:24).

One wonders whether Zaphnath-Paaneah might not signify: db3 nTr p3 'anx, the one who the god, the Living One, clothes (with office, honor, endowment, dignities). The god, the Living One, could refer to Osiris or even to the king himself. I do not believe anyone has suggested such an interpretation of the name, but it works. After all Hebrew Zp matches perfectly Eg. Db. Db' signifies ring or seal: the seal of God, the Living One. I like the reading: Pharaoh calls Joseph "the one clothed with honor of office by the god, the Living One."

An Egyptologist Looks at Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: The August God and the "noble and great ones"

I have recently looked at Professor Robert K. Ritner's attempt to translate Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham (The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, "Hypocephalus of Sheshonq," 215-226). Among other useful observations, Professor Ritner reads the sign found in figure 12 not as sDr.w (asleep) but Sps (noble). Upon reexamination of the sign, I concur. Close comparison of the Church Historian's copy and of Hedlock against other hypocephali, which often speak of the "noble god," shows that the upper half of the Sps sign had been partially rubbed away or torn. So much for my wonderful ideas in an earlier post ("Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: A New Reading") about Kolob as the god asleep in the zp tpj. "Twixt wake and sleep," Kolob stands awake.

Getting things wrong is what it's all about--what learning is all about. We should be profoundly grateful for any new knowledge about Facsimile 2 of the sacred Book of Abraham, and, in this case, the new reading of the sign has enormous significance.

Sps instead of sDr? I had wondered about the same thing, yet strongly resisted the idea. In place of j nTr Spsj m zp tpj (O noble god in the first time), I had read--concurring with earlier translations and in light of my wonderful theory--j nTr sDr m zp tpj (O god sleeping in the first time). Besides, the -s that confirms the reading Sps had either been partly erased or is not clear from the original copy of the hypocephalus: Sps + s = Sps. So thanks to Dr. Ritner!

We must consider m zp tpj (in the first moment), in this case, to mean the same as hrw pn nj msw.t=f (this day of his birth ~ sunrise ~ in the first moment), as found on another hypocephalus. In other words, the appeal to a "princely, exalted, lordly, noble, high-ranking god (manifest) in the First Moment" is an appeal to the most exalted entity among the "noble and great ones," one whose descending brightness and brilliance fill the entire universe with light and life. He is thus also lord of heaven, earth, netherworld, waters, mountains, etc, with power to enliven the Osirian Ba. According to the Prophet Joseph, Figure 1 (Kolob) signifies "the first creation" and is also "First in government." If nTr Spsj speaks of a princely, or principal, governing god, then m zp tpj, "in the first time," matches "the first creation."

How nicely everything matches up. The third chapter of Abraham records the vision of Kolob and the stars--thus matching Facsimile 2--and Abraham 3:22 goes on to speak of the "noble and great ones" at the morn of creation (m zp tpj). Should we then be surprised to find on Facsimile 2 a pairing of the same words: "great" and "noble"? On the left-hand panel we read both j nTr Spsj (O noble god; Leiden AMS 62: O noble ba-spirit) and nTr a3 (great god) on the right: j nTr pf a3 (O this great god). How closely "noble" and "great" belong together in these texts is made clear by the wording of the left-hand panels on Leiden AMS 62. The prayer found thereon matches that of Facsimile 2, with one exception. The prayer begins: j nTr pf Spsj instead of a3. Abraham, we are told, stood among those who qualified as both Sps and a3--and so does his restored book of scripture stand among the records of antiquity.

To find "noble and great" as yoke-fellows not on the hypocephali alone but also in Abraham chapter 3 is what Hugh Nibley would call a "direct hit" for the Book of Abraham. The translation of Abraham 3:22 thus partakes of "the specific and the peculiar" (another phrase from Nibley), which means not only specific to the culture and language but peculiar to a specific kind of document and to a specific theme. (The principal theme of Abraham 3 is the nature of greatness and rank.)

And since we are talking about the hypocephalus, a specific document, or collection of documents, let us also remember how Joseph Smith, in his last doctrinal discourse, June 16, 1844, spoke specifically about translating Abraham Chapter 3 from " the papyrus now in my house." The translation "noble and great" derives from both the hieroglyphic and hieratic writings found directly on papyri in Joseph's keeping (Andrew E. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (eds), The Words of Joseph Smith, 380). The panels on Facsimile 2 make the matter clear.

I note of late a faddish skepticism about the Book of Abraham. I meet such intellectual posing, such prompt dismissal, with wonder.