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 Egyptian hypocephalus) often brings things into greater clarity--and that is certainly the case with the hieroglyphs found in the panels numbered 21, 20, and 19.

Michael Rhodes transcribes and translates: jw wnn=k m nTr pf Ddw.j, "You shall ever be as that God, the Busirian" (Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 345; Ddw.j = Wb. V, 630, 7). There is nothing wrong with the translation, but the reading pf [that], while something like a pf on Hedlock's woodcut of Facsimile 2, does not match what is found on the Church Historian's copy. 

Robert Ritner, Professor at Chicago's Oriental Institute, suggests: "(1) iw wnn=k (2) m nTr iwty(?) (3) xsf(?) D.t(?), "You are (2) even as the god who is not(?) (3) repelled(?) forever(?)," Robert Ritner, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri, 269-270; 269 n 29, for "a less likely interpretation" that "requires emendation: iw b3=k [n]nk=k, "You have your ba-spirit. . ." or iw wn n=k [b3=k], with the same meaning." He notes that "the signs for line 2 (end) and 3 are uncertain," 269.

The present writer sees: jw wnn=k m nTr b3 Dd.t (or, jw wnn=k m nTr [pf] b3 Dd.t): "You shall forever be even as that god who is the Ba of Mendes" (or, "you shall continue in existence forever in the form of [that] god, the Ba of Mendes"). The Ba of Mendes, while sometimes simply the b3 Dd.t, is more commonly known as the B3-nb-Dd.t, the Ba, Lord of Dd.t, but we also find b3 'np.t, the Ba (of) Anepat, or even Dd.t.j, the Mendesian. 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 trace the animal's neck or lower body. On similar hypocephalus panels more than one hieroglyph writes ba: reclining rams, ram's heads, and ba-birds can all work the trick, and brought together in various assortment make up the eight ba's of the greatest god. Comparing what appears on other hypocephali to the traces on the Church Historian copy reveals the traces to be the hieroglyph of a ram's head, Gardiner sign-list F8 (Edinburgh hypocephalus, Cairo SR 10691, etc.).

While Rhodes is not wrong in reading the "Busirian," that is, the "one of Busiris," it would be just as correct to read the hieroglyphs as written on the Historian's Copy, D-d-t (not D-d-w or D-d-w-j), as referring to the "Mendesian," the "one of Mendes," the Delta home of the Ram who became both Re and Osiris. The original spelling for the place names is: Dd.w (the Greek name for which is Busiris) and Dd.t (Gr. Mendes, from Pr-b3-nb-Dd.t, House of the Ba [or Ram], Lord of Djedet). Yet the spelling is often entirely confused by the New Kingdom, leaving the student to guess which place is meant (Wb. V, 630, 6). 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 called Djedet, after the place of burial near the shrine of the Ram. 

Hugh Nibley's and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round has much to say on the significance of green and 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 Donald 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).

Again, the same hieroglyphs were used interchangeably for both Mendes and Busiris by the New Kingdom--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 first read "Lord of Busiris," though, given the fourfold ram, we must also keep Mendes well in sight. Busiris is the place, but Mendes is the place too. A window to understanding starts to open.

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" Mendes and its Ram or Ba (one word in Egyptian: ba). After all, Osiris, here, simply replaces Ba in the formula, Ba/Osiris-nb-Dd.t. 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 (so Nibley and Rhodes, 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 the clearly penned hieroglyphs D-d-t in the Hedlock copy also point to Heliopolis, a place name found repeatedly, as jwnw (Pillar), on Facsimile 2. Consider 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 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, of the Enduring. And it is noteworthy that the tree may be planted in more than one locale.

The four-headed Mendesian Ram thus is not only linked with, he even becomes the Heliopolitan Ba and the Osiris of Busiris in the form of the United Ba (b3 dmD), the Secret Ba, or Ram (b3 St3w), even the Transcendent Amun-Re (so Klotz) and also Re-Osiris (so Klotz again). In the Coffin Texts (VI 404) the United Ba of Mendes takes the form of two fledglings, imagery that also 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 similar panels: the fullness of the number of the ba's of the Ba of Ba's, the Ram of Rams. And both figures 1 and 2 on Facsimile 2 carry the legend name of that (greatest) god, a label that despite its open-endedness 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. It's the blessing of "a universal purview," a blessing of cosmic fatherhood and kingship, of a limitless glory "unrestricted in the universe." And is that not "the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham" (Doctrine and Covenants 110)? Every page in the restored Book of Abraham speaks to that blessing.

In the second theophany of the Book of Abraham (2:6-13), the Creator of the Universe, and thus 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, with its supernal power to bless, 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, so 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" (One Eternal Round, 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 in a turn of a page or two away from this peculiar statement, we meet the Egyptian hypocephalus with its quadrifrons Ram. Another page or two, and we find Abraham's account of the Creation of that "first father." Here is no mere once-over of KJV Genesis.

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], except some man should guide me?" And yet we disdain that Brother Nibley should "come up, and sit with [us]." (See Acts 8).

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. Mendes and Busiris are the Osirian Twin Cities.

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 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? You must be kidding! 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 (qrb, "which is near" to the Throne of God; or "heart star") has long since been identified by Latter-day Saint students, but then we've had more familiarity with the Semitic languages. Whenever I hear the Swahili welcome, karibu! I draw nigh to Kolob. An ancient desert king of South Arabia bore the name Karib-ilu (Near unto God; Approaching God). And the latest studies of the figure we call Kolob have much to teach us about the both the cosmic and the patriarchal order, as understood by the Egyptians--and the Prophet's Explanation 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 to hie to Kolob--though q3b is also an Egyptian word (m-q3b, in the center of, middle of, heart of).

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 (Tosh-iat-hut-ins; Har-Tash-Tawy; Hor-ko-pi-ranef-siu-yaminty-jo-pi), and some preliminary yet etymologically and culturally sound explanations of this unusual name may be put forward based on these parallels. I see the name as referring to the Female Sun, the exalted (go) and beautiful (on) Red (dosh) Solar Eye (Enish, Dosh). And does not Brother Joseph connect Enish-go-on-dosh with both cow and sun? 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 is a deep and resonant question and has everything to do with the message of 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 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? By no means. 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. And Re, Shu, Geb, and Osiris show the generations of the patriarchal order, the foundation of rule and governance in Egypt and in the entire universe. According to Abraham's book Kolob is "First in government"--"the Grand Governing Star."

Things Egyptian get complicated in a hurry. Oliblish!? 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). Olimlah in Facsimile 3 may thus 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 by Brother Nibley, 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, the aleph, and it perhaps represents the best Brother Joseph could do with that stop, 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 quite different than we suppose. For instance, it may mask a lateral fricative, like the phoneme represented in Welsh by ll. Our -lish could be an ll. As far as that goes, the Hebrew grapheme shin 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'd have to work at it, puzzle things out. In short, lish could represent Egyptian shin, however that might have been pronounced.

I'm not convinced--yet 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) makes for a phonologically sound reading.

One thing is for sure: It would be misguided to expect these transcribed names and epithets in the Pearl of Great Price 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 may even vary from scholar to scholar, and strong debate over Egyptian phonology continues. We're all just guessing--for none of us has even heard a spoken word, nary a word, of any of the various dialects known to exist throughout the millennial sweep of Ancient Egyptian history. And to be sure, the transcription of Egyptian names into Akkadian or other Semitic languages--or into Greek--but little reflects our standard transcriptions. The distance between the hieroglyphs and Coptic, the latest form of the Egyptian language, 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 discern in the hieroglyphs.

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--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) in Coptic show at least divergent spellings, and perhaps also divergent pronunciations, though that last point is not so well established: j3rry.t (yararit or yarari?): 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 or Shagreel or Elkenah as outlandish? Imagine the laughter, if the Pearl of Great Price had given us Eloole or Aloli? (Aloli does something recall the much-mocked name element Oli-.) 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 scholars used hyphens in transcribing 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 Tosh (or 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 Enish-go-on-dosh, or in other words, the Hathor Cow, or Female Sun (Rait) on the lower half of the hypocephalus--and thus 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--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 (bizarre?) Egyptian name of Joseph, Abraham's great-grandson. The most common explanation of the name--a name transcribed into Hebrew from Egyptian--is indeed sound, and, at once, delicate, tentative. "Better" readings for that name are suggested all the time. Finally, and whether our reading for Oliblish 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 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 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.