Monday, June 10, 2013

Recovering the Missing Hieroglyphs on the Right Panels of LDS Book of Abraham Facsimile 2

The nearly blank panels numbering from top down: 12, 13, 14, 15, as found on the right side of Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, have for too long remained unrestored and thus unread. Joseph Smith leaves their interpretation to futurity: "12. Figures 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21 will be given in the own due time of the Lord." (For LDS Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, see:

Reuben Hedlock's woodcut facsimile of the original hypocephalus, as reflected in the extant printer's plate for the Times and Seasons periodical (1842), adds hieratic characters, taken from the Book of Breathings as filler, to the blank spaces of the right panels and the right-side of the rim, and to a smaller degree, to a blank patch in the left panels. Such mixing of hieratic with the few extant hieroglyphic traces on those "blank spaces" precludes a ready reading. 

Why are there blank spaces on the right side? A piece of the original hypocephalus has been torn away; other writing has, in part, been rubbed off. Here an undated pen-and-ink copy of the hypocephalus showing a few remaining hieroglyphs and traces of others, becomes essential, for these few are enough to match up with what appears on other hypocephali. Hugh Nibley calls the pen-and-ink copy, which is housed in the Church's historical archives, the Church Historian's copy.

The key to reconstructing the text of these four panels lies in the traces of the noun phrase md.t=f (his word) in figure 15 (that is, right-hand panel 4), followed by the determinative sign of a seated god or seated man. Because that same noun phrase, in the company of a specific prayer for divine aid, is also found in the side panels of at least three other hypocephali (Hesikheb = BM 37908 = BS.8445f, panel 2 only; Wien AS 253 a/1, on right side, panels 1, and part of 2 and of 3 only, panel 4, nearly all torn away; Leiden AMS 62, on left side), we can confidently move forward. The task will not be difficult if there remain a few extant traces to show the way, though wording and spelling on the several hypocephali may vary.

Panel 1 (fig. 12) is the logical place to start, as we work our way down to md.t=f. Panel 1, reading from right to left, shows, on the left, traces of what I take to be two flowering reeds and a short mid-level horizontal stroke ending at left in a small knob. I reconstruct the second, leftmost reed from traces of two vertical strokes that nearly touch, the right stroke being a bit longer than the left. Though the signs find no match in the corresponding panel of BM 37908, Wien AS 253 a/1, or Leiden AMS 62, working from what I see on the top panel of yet another hypocephalus (Ashmolean Museum 1982.1095): 

j nTr pfy '3

I transcribe the reeds and the horizontal stroke on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus as y and '3 (great) respectively, and thus as belonging to a partly erased pfy '3. The demonstrative pronoun pf(y), with its superfluous y tagged on, as is common in late texts, means "that"; '3 means "great" or "greatest": "O that great(est) god." We can leave such descriptive flourishes out when translating: no need to state the obvious about each god being the greatest of all. . . What we are left with, then, is simply the invocation of "that particular god" shown in figure 1 (Kolob; the Transcendent, Universal Amun) of the hypocephalus.

Moving to Panel 2 (fig. 13), both Hedlock and the Church Historian's copy show many traces (except at very right), including traces of the sail, or hieroglyph for air, as also found on our three presumably parallel hypocephali, where we read 'nx m T3w (the one who lives on air, that is, by breathing air). It is not easy to read the traces on the left half of Panel 2 on either the Hedlock or the Church Historian's copy. Still, the first few dots, or right descending oblique strokes, as the Hedlock cut particularly makes clear, outline the hieroglyph of the owl, which writes the preposition m (in, from, out of). 

Moving to the left, at center panel we note two low oblique strokes descending to the right and a low dot, or stroke. Here are the owl's tail feathers and--as the other hypocephali suggest--traces of the following sign). On Hedlock, just a glance takes in head and horns, back, tail, and feet of the owl. There follows a high horizontal stroke from which hang two small, leftward facing hooks conjoined to parallel diagonals descending to the left. These last match the right-hand portion of the sail hieroglyph on Wien AS 253 a/2. But what about the bold curving stroke just to the left? To a keen eye, there is no difficulty in assigning it to the left side of the very same sail. While these traces, at first blush, appear to be too extensive for a single hieroglyphic sign, that indeed is what we have.

The parallel hypocephali next show jw (or jw.t) m mw (who travels through water; Michael Tilgner, who says jw m mw occurs nowhere else, reads the signs as prj m nwn, who emerges from Nun, i.e., the cosmic Waters). Does Facsimile 2 also reflect the verbal phrase? Other traces immediately follow on the left, near the edge of the panel. The Hedlock is the clearest. At top we see two small right descending strokes: the hieroglyph of walking legs, which signifies jw (to travel). (Hedlock shows the strokes coming together at an apex: the reading is clear.) A small slightly oblique stroke at mid-level, also descending to right, and a low dot probably are to be read, respectfully, as a short vertical stroke that "fills in" the hieroglyphic constellation of walking or traveling and as a -t (a perhaps superfluous grammatical marker following the verb).

Panel 3 (fig. 14) yields only a long blank that ends in the hieroglyph of the sun (the god, Re), followed by j + w. A comparison of other known instances of the w-sign on the hypocephalus helps to confirm the reading. The signs reading j + w have two possible outcomes: they might either spell jw, a declarative particle marking the beginning of new sentences or even sections of discourse, or they might represent an alternative spelling for the preposition r (to or toward)Re also appears on Panel 3 of Wien AS 253 a/1 and BM 37908, and in both cases the name is followed by the preposition r (in its more common spelling).

We return now to the partially preserved noun phrase that provides the key for reading the whole. Panel 4 (fig. 15), at center and left, yields a determinative sign of a man with hand over mouth, followed by three marks of plurality and, underneath the last, the horned viper (the masculine possessive suffix -f = his). There is one more sign at the edge of the panel: the determinative of the seated god.

These last remnants on Panel 4 find a match in the beautifully written Leiden hypocephalus (Leiden AMS 62), where the same word is found written in full: staff + hand + bread loaf (the letter -t), followed by that man with his hand to his mouth, and then the horned viper. And an even closer match in spelling appears on BM 37908. (Wien AS 253 a/2, though also a match, has an abbreviated spelling.) And what is the word? Again, it's md.t, the word for word or words (earlier Egyptian has mdw). And, following the rest of the line in Leiden et alia, we know whose word it is: Osiris' word. 

Words must not be thought of, however, as an ordinary plural form, that is, one for which a singular form perforce exists. Plurality is built into the lexically frozen mdw (or mdw(.w)) or, later, md.t, or md(.w)t), whether specifically written with the determinative of plurality or not. It is the very notion of speech which requires plurality, whether specifically so marked or not: mdw=f, or md.t=f signifies not only his words but also his speech or his petition, a matter, necessarily, of many words (see the Woerterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache, Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar, and Antonio Loprieno's Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction [Cambridge, 1995]). 

Nibley and Rhodes (One Eternal Round, 230ff) helpfully provide full discussion of Leiden AMS 62, though without reference to the fragmentary final line in the Abraham hypocephalus. The remaining hieroglyphs in panel four, however, had already been noted by several students. Dee Jay Nelson, although not formally trained in Egyptian, gives the phrase as mdw=f, "his words," in his Joseph Smith's Eye of Ra: a preliminary survey and first translation of facsimile no. 2 in the Book of Abraham (1968), 4, 28. Nelson also correctly reads the final sign at the end of the panel, just after mdw= or md.t=f, as a seated man, but gives no further interpretation for it. Nelson, in a hand-drawn copy of the hypocephalus (p. 4), for these right-hand panels, also tries to transcribe several traces: Panel 1: to the left of center, two reeds (which wrongly face rightwards); Panel 3: left of center, circle at top with vertical line underneath (he does not include a dot in the middle of the circle or the translation of sun or Re), followed by a reed (again, wrongly facing rightwards); Panel 4 center to left, he gives as mdw=f, followed by the seated man. In Rhodes, "Seventeen Years Later," we find the phrase cautiously transcribed as =f, "his;" Professor John Gee has also read these few signs as mdw=f. 
A few, then, have at least begun to guess correctly about what was originally written on the right panels of Facsimile 2. . . The restoration of the text is not philologically demanding, and it is surprising, given the evidence of the like documents, that no one thus far has read the traces--yet traces are tricky.

The entire petition, beginning at the top left hand panel in the Leiden hypocephalus, and as Leiden has it, reads:

O noble god (or, O Shepsi--a solar god), 
who lives on air. 
Come through (or on, or over, or out of) the water. 

Re shall enter (i.e., go down) to hear his word (or his words, speech, or call). 

Come to the Osiris Tayat, etc.

Is this not, with a slight variation in the first phrase, the very text that was once found, before erasures, on the Abraham hypocephalus? 

Again, what we see on Facsimile 2, fig. 13 (= Panel 3), is the name of Re, followed by the flowering reed (j) and then what appears to be a w. That's the end of the panel, but the succeeding panel (fig. 14) is blank until we come to the broken md.t=f, followed by the sign of a seated god. At very least we can posit that the blank space of Panel 4 includes a sentence about coming to hear Osiris: r sDm md.t=f ("to hear his word"); at most, we would hope to find in panels 3 or 4 the name of the invoked god (Re) and a verb of motion: 'q (enter), jw (walk toward), or the like.

That the seated god should immediately follow the noun phrase md.t=f (his petition) shows something is missing. The possessive pronoun his must somehow relate to that out-of-place hieroglyph--it must then represent Osiris as petitioner--yet no clear syntactical element connects it with the preceding noun phrase. Comparison to the Leiden hypocephalus resolves the matter. After md.t=f, Leiden begins a new sentence: mj n Wsjr (Come to Osiris), followed by the name of the deceased, that is, Osiris Tanetirt. We are so to understand the stand-alone sign on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus: Come to the Osiris Shoshenq! Come and rescue him! That is the theme of the right-hand panels of Facsimile 2.

A single sign suffices to prompt a legomenon. Scribes may abbreviate things as they will; the formula would have remained clear to any Theban priest. There are various ways to write the name Osiris, and the seated god here suffices. The meaning of the sign is clear: it represents Osiris and his call. And who is his help? It is the sun god, who descends at night to rescue him from the tomb. In other texts a drowning, floating Osiris calls out, and Thoth, the heavenly messenger, comes. The Metternich Stela (Spell 5) states: "Cause Thoth to come to me at my voice (xrw=j)" (see Val H. Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808 and Its Cultural and Religious Setting [Leiden, 2006], 100). The Leiden text is very specific: Re answers the call by coming through the waters and literally entering into ('q) the tomb.

Let's recap. Does the correct reading of a new word in the Joseph Smith hypocephalus make any difference? And could yet more words now missing from our hypocephalus be identified by comparing our document against others? For one, the single word md.t clinches the case for the Joseph Smith hypocephalus belonging, like Leiden, to that class which represent prayers. And perhaps the best translation for md.t is, after all, prayer. (For the two classes of hypocephali, prayers and answers, see One Eternal Round, 230ff.)

The inscription on the right side of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus thus matches, with some differences of spelling, the left side of Leiden and also the right sides of both Wien AS 253 a/2 (though partly erased) and BM 37908. (There is one sign on Wien difficult to read: just before Re we see something like a crest over a bird's head: could these traces spell 'q?)

The placement of the traces on Facsimile 2 lines up neatly with hieroglyphs found on BM 37908, and attention to such matters of mise-en-page unlocks the reading. The text of BM 37908 reads:

j nTr pf '3
'nx m T3w 
jw/m mw

'q r'/"nTr"-sign + r sDm md.t=f

O god (or greatest god), 
who lives off air, 
and travels in water (or comes on the water): 

May Re descend in order to hear Osiris' prayer!

How is the petition to be understood? The first part, the invocation proper, at once refers to both Re and Osiris, or, to be specific, the petition invokes the figure found at the center of the hypocephalus, the transcendent Amun-Re, Amun-Re/Osiris, or even Shu-Amun. Amun (the hidden one) stands "preeminent among deities, and combines in a single figure all the characteristics of the creator and sustainer of the world," including both Re, the god who empowers the solar globe, and Shu, god of the air, or rather, "of the space between earth and sky and of the light that fills that space," which again recalls figure 4 of Facsimile 2 (E. Hornung, The One and the Many: Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, 274-5, 283).

Complicated? The whole matter works itself out as mystery, paradox, and an opposition in all things. Re and Osiris make up the complete cycle of the sun god through sky and netherworld--air and water--while Amun-Re describes his hidden yet transcendent nature. The demonstrative pronoun pfy may mark a distancing of sorts (that, not this). David Klotz's comments on a Hibis Temple hymn also shed light on the theme of breathing in our prayer: "Amun enables birth [resuscitation, rebirth] by 'providing the breath of life,' which is precisely the role of the 'Ba of Shu.' In this sense, it is through Amun's manifestation of pneuma (= Ba of Shu) that the Royal Ka [the power to rule] is passed from generation to generation," or from Horus to Horus (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 36). Water, and the successful navigation of waters, also bespeaks renewal and rebirth.

We now consider the second portion of the petition, which is the pronouncement of the blessing; for the supreme though paradoxical god once invoked, blessing now follows. The blessing reads: "May Re enter to hear his prayer." Here is something wonderful. Just as the invocation mingles the nature of Re and Osiris, sky and watery netherworld, at once within water and rising from water, at once awaiting saving air and carrying that air into the darkness; so the subsequent blessing separates the two gods just long enough to describe the moment of rescue prior to resurrection. As Hugh Nibley, commenting on the Leiden hypocephalus, etc., points out, it is the prayer of Abraham on his lion couch, of Osiris on his.

Has the text of the right hand panel of Facsimile 2 been recovered? Yes! The result, in standard computer transcription--and in just 15 words--reads: 

j nTr pfy 'A 
'nx m TAw 
jw m mw: 

'q r' jw [or, r] sDm md.t=f. 

[Mj n] Wsjr. 

What do the words mean? As set forth above, the officiator, calling upon that special, particular, transcendent god, who lives by breathing, who negotiates the waters, pleads from the depths: 

May Re descend to hear Osiris' words! 
Come to Shoshenq, who is dead! 

The Psalmist so pleads:

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. 
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
(Psalm 130:1-2). 

Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. 
(Psalm 71:20). 

The prayer on the hypocephalus has a biblical ring!

Hugh Nibley, who anticipates so many things, also anticipated this new reading; in One Eternal Round we find two pages of translation and commentary (230-1) on this very petition in its Leiden version! (Note the positive comments on reconstructing all missing portions of Facsimile 2 on the basis of other hypocephali, ps. 325-6.)

We now turn to the left-hand panels, where the prayer for rescue blossoms into resurrection (and, again, in a mere 15 or 16 words, 
depending on whether we take zp-tpj to be a sole word):

j nTr Sps m zp tpj
nb p.t, tA, dA.t, mw, [Dw.w]: 

s'nx bA wsjr SS[n]q

O noble god in the First Time, 
lord of heaven, earth, duat, waters, [and mountains]:

s'nx the b3 of Osiris Sheshonq. 

The reading "noble god," nTr Sps, is that of Professor Robert Ritner; "waters and mountains," instead of "his great waters," as Michael Rhodes reads, derives from formulaic parallels that always include "mountains," as I noted in 2010, and as has also been noted by both Robert Ritner and John Gee. The reading s'nx, the causative form of the verb 'nx, (to cause to live), was, as I thought, my sole contribution to reading the lowest panel; I now see Professor Ritner also suggests the same reading (or, alternatively, mj, "give"). (For Ritner's readings see his Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri [published, 2012], 222, and 222 notes 36 and 37.) Here's a bit more. Given the space available on Hedlock, and since this is the wording to be found on Hypocephalus Cairo CG 9448 (which Ritner takes as being very close to our own document), I further suggest that "mountains" be followed by "djet" (D.t, eternity, that is, r D.t, forever). My own reconstruction, then, would read: 

O noble god at the moment of creation--
Lord of heaven, earth, netherworld, waters, mountains, even forever--

Enliven the Ba of Osiris Sheshonq! (Cause the Ba of Osiris to attain to Eternal Life.)

To the attentive reader, the balanced prayers on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus bear striking resemblance to the poetic, and very Egyptian, language describing the four theophanies of the Book of Abraham. Hugh Nibley's ear was ever attentive to the echoes and cadences that obtain between the story of Abraham's rescue from the altar and the theme of prayer and divine response, as found on 48 hypocephali and in the Book of the Dead (One Eternal Round, 224ff., 233). 

Abraham rejoices:

Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; 
now I have found thee; 

Thou didst send thine angel to deliver me. . . 
and I will do well to hearken unto thy voice [r sDm md.t=k]
 (Abraham 2:12-3). 

The found God of Abraham (a leading theme in New Kingdom piety texts) reveals himself as the Lord of heaven, earth, sea, fire, wind, and the mountains:

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 fire to be my chariot; 
I say to the mountains--Depart hence
(Abraham 2:7). 

And in answer to Abraham's pleas from the altar or lion couch (pictured on Fac. 2, fig. 15), he responds: 

Behold, I lifted up my voice [xrw; mdw] unto the Lord my God, 
and the Lord hearkened and heard [sDm]. . . 
and the angel of his presence stood by me, 
and immediately unloosed my bands [mummy wrappings = Abraham as Osiris]. . . 

Abraham, Abraham, 
behold, my name is Jehovah, 
and I have heard [sDm] thee, 
and have come down [mj; 'q] to deliver thee [nHm, deliver ~ nHm.t, nHb, the lotus, as symbol of Abraham's deliverance]
(Abraham 1:16). 

The descent only mirrors that of primordial times (m zp tpy)

I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences [Eg. Akh = 3x = spirits of light]
(Abraham 3:21). 

No wonder the Prophet Joseph places the hypocephalus immediately after Facsimile 1: its panels describe the very same rescue as that depicted in the scene representing Osiris' lion-couch bier, which is, at once, Abraham's altar.

It is not a difficult matter to picture the Book of Abraham written in hieroglyphs on an Egyptian papyrus; the hypocephalus alone has things covered.


Images consulted: New and startlingly clear images of the Church Historian's copy of Facsimile 2 (along with the other so-called Kirtland Egyptian Papers) were made in 2009, and are housed in the Church History Library. I was given permission to examine this sole image at the library. [Note: The Joseph Smith Papers Web site now features the same.] The Reuben Hedlock print of Facsimile 2, taken from his original woodcut, appears in all editions of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. A larger print, which reflects the size of the original hypocephalus, may be found in the Times and Seasons, March 1842. The hypocephalus has been lost; both the Church Historian's copy and Hedlock show some things not found on the other copy.  

According to the catalogue for the "Treasures of the Collection: Presidents of the Church" exhibit at the Church History Library (April 2013), Reuben Hedlock first prepared woodcuts of the three facsimiles of the Book of Abraham for its publication in the Times and Seasons, 1842; from these woodcuts, printing plates were then made. "All three of the Hedlock woodcuts were subsequently reproduced and have been used since the 1981 printing of the Pearl of Great Price." The lead printing plates have been exhibited at least twice in the Church History Library.

The Joseph Smith (or Abraham) Hypocephalus:

For other hypocephali, I also give the following links: 

Leiden AMS 62, Hypocephalus of Tanetirt at Leiden's Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Wien AS 253 a/1, Hypocephalus of Aset-weret at Vienna's Kunsthistoriches Museum
Note: Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, list the same hypocephalus as AS 253 a/2 

BM EA 37908, Hypocephalus of Herikheb at the British Museum

Ashmolean 1982.1095, Hypocephalus of Tasheritenkhonsu at the Ashmolean Museum

Revision of work published in October 2010

I cull the foregoing remarks about the right panels from a longer article that examines the entire text found on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus ("Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: A New Reading," published and copyrighted on 5 October 2010). I extracted the piece on the right panels from the longer article, added a paragraph or two, and reworked some of its sentences, so that the explanations of both hieroglyphs and traces of hieroglyphs on the panels might be understood and assessed more directly. 

After appreciatively reviewing Professor Robert Ritner's suggested transcriptions of the hypocephalus, I have made one correction in my reading of the left-hand panel invocation: "O noble god," now reading Sps (noble) instead of sDr (Robert Ritner, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, "Hypocephalus of Sheshonq," 215-226 (published 2011; 2nd ed., 2013). For discussion of the significance of the new reading, see my post of 20 April 2012, "Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: The August God and the 'Noble and Great Ones." I was surprised to see Professor Ritner's book, though I had read a prior article of his on the other Joseph Smith papyri, the Book of Breathings. 

All translations of the right-hand panels are my own and depend upon the work of no other person, except as clearly stated here. 
It is Hugh Nibley who first emphasized the Leiden hypocephalus as fundamental to our understanding of Facsimile 2. There have been and yet will be other attempts at interpretation of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus; the privilege belongs to everyone. 

Professor Robert Ritner, whose book on the Joseph Smith Papyri came out in 2011, does not attempt a reconstruction of these right-hand panels, and certainly not one based on similar hypocephali. "The traces are too inexact for secure translation, and the following bits are only suggestions" (p. 223):

(1) [. . .] y n 
(2) [. . .] n rd.wy . . .
(3) [. . .] R' i
(4) [. . .].w=f

(1) . . .
(2) [. . .] on the feet . . .
(3) [. . .] Re. O
(4) [. . .] his (divine) [words(?)]."

Ritner's suggestions confirm several of my own. 

Panel 1: For the two reeds, we both see y; the following horizontal, which I read as '3, can just as easily be taken for an n. 

Panel 2 represents the only significant difference in transcription. 

Panel 3: We both duly note the sign for R', followed by the reed, j. 

Panel 4: "The signs indicate a plural number of entities determined by a man-with-hand-to-mouth and the sign for god" (223 note 4). 

The Due Time of the Lord

Only the living Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the right, in the due time of the Lord, to interpret, in the fullest sense of the word, the writings and representations found on the hypocephalus and, by so doing, complete the Prophet Joseph Smith's Explanation of Facsimile 2. 

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