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.