This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice ( Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.

Skeptics claim the correct interpretation for Figure 3 is: “The sun god Ra, with a hawk’s head, seated in his boat. In the field the two symbolical figuring, according to M. de Rouge, the fixed points of an astronomical period.” (The Rocky Mountain Saints…, Thomas Stenhouse)

Astronomical Period – M. de Rouge was talking about the two boats in Facsimile 2; the boat in this Figure 3 and the boat on the opposite side of the Facsimile in Figure 4. Ammon-Ra in Figure 2 is flanked on either side by these two boats. The entire Facsimile symbolizes a cycle of time: the period between these two boats, like numbers on a clock’s face. The soul of the deceased for whom the Facsimile was written cycles from boat to boat like arms moving on a clock. What is the “astronomical period” between the two boats? Well, Joseph Smith said in his translation of Figure 4: “One thousand, answering to the measuring of time, answering to the measuring of the time of [Figure 2]” in “the firmament in heaven.” So, Joseph Smith got it right according to skeptics’ own source! Figure 3 is a point in the astronomical cycle to rebirth. I guess this is why skeptics don’t usually talk about correct interpretations for Facsimile 2: Joseph Smith got the whole thing right.

Figure 2 Amon-Re stands squeezed liminally between these two boats. These are the solar barques of the morning and evenings. When Egyptologists talk about Amen striding from west to east, this is the sun boat carrying its journey over time, symbolic of the king’s journey in the afterlife. The king journeyed to rebirth as the solar boat journeys across the sky in the sunrise. Compare the twin birds and twin sheep in the fresco of Jesus with the twin birds and twin baboons in Facsimile 2: “According to a well-documented iconographic tradition when two celestial boats are shown with their prows opposing each other, they represent the evening and morning barques of the sun god. Within this scheme the evening boat (msk.tjt) moves from west to east, whereas the morning or day barque (manD.t) sails from east to west. Obviously, the two boats correspond to two different periods: evening/night and morning/day.” (The encounter between the sun and the moon on hypocephali, Gyula Priskin – Birmingham Egyptology Journal)

This relationship of Amon-Re and these two boats can be seen in the early Christian fresco “The Good Shepherd” of Jesus Christ. It shows Jesus in the center of a circular ring, with two sheep flanking him on either side in the same positions as the two baboons in Figure 1. In other early Christian depictions of the Good Shepherd, “the sun, moon, and seven stars are above him,” and symbols of “Noah’s ark” and Jonah in the fish–which were treated as symbols of Christ’s resurrection.

The birds on either side of Jesus in that early Christian fresco match the position of the two birds in our hypocephalus–which are based on the solar morning and evening barques which intersect at the cross at the center. Most early Christian artworks also included a tree on either side of Jesus–the birds resting on trees rather than boats. Why do the boats of our hypocephalus Facsimile 2 get replaced with trees? Illustrations of the Greek phoenix bird with its 1,000 year life cycle shows rays of the sun resurrecting the fiery phoenix between two trees. These are the tree of life and the tree of good and evil. In Egyptian theology, the trees come in the afterlife and bring eternal life. In the phoenix illustrations, it is a palm tree on this right-hand side, which represents a very long period of time.

At the temple of Amonophis III in Thebes, a scenes shows the palm branch as a symbol of “millions of years” in much the same way as Figure 1 does. The palm branch provides extended years on a celestial reckoning, provided by Amen-Re, just as Joseph Smith translated. The palm branch itself in Egypt was a symbol for “time” and “season.” In the Book of the Dead, a god “holds the palm-branch which symbolizes time, year, renewal, fresh vegetation,” and in his other hand holds the Eye of Horus.

Consider when Jesus entered in Jerusalem he was presented by the people with palm branches, associating him with the sun. That’s why it is celebrated as “Palm Sunday.” “The Palm Sunday processes in the New Testament Bible, actually exemplified the solar character of Jesus, when he rides into Jerusalem on the back of an Ass. One of the earliest Egyptian personifications of the Divine Sun of God was ‘Aiu’, who was the Ass-Headed god. He is a form of Amen-Ra’… The palm branch, according to Professor Gerald Massey, is a process of time, which has two equal sides, as represented by the palm branch. This is symbolized by the equality of the day with the night at the equinox. Jesus riding on the back of the Ass to the scene of his crucifixion, is the figure of the Divine Sun of God, moving toward the equinox, as symbolized by the palm branches at ‘Passover,’ where he will be crucified on the ‘Cross of the Afrikan Equator and Ecliptic.’ The Ass was further identified with Set, or Satan, the Father of all evil, whose symbol was the Ass in an Egyptian hymn to Amen-Ra.’… which represented his Supremacy over Satan, symbolic of him riding on the back of the Ass.” (The Genesis of the Bible, Shaka Saye Bambata Dolo)

This last point, Jehovah’s victory, is what Abraham saw in vision. This is part of the palm branch symbolism, as “Horus fought his battle against Sett with a branch of a palm.” The palm branches in Jerusalem were therefore a direct acknowledgement that Jesus was Jehovah, and that that he was the great Mediator who provided men the means to be exalted. The boat in Figure 3 thus correlates with the palm branch held on the right side of Amon-Re in Figure 1 and represents the eternal time cycle of exaltation.

Crossing Of Natural Man vs. Spiritual – The Book of Mormon talks about the two trees of the Garden of Eden as a matter of human nature vs. spiritual nature. That is the issue at hand. We read that the “natural man” which results from the tree of good and evil is an enemy to God, and we can become a saint by yielding to the Holy Spirit and using the atonement of Christ. When the time of earth’s probation are spent and the millennium arrives, we will be judged and then remain in a permanent place. Adam’s fall by the tree of good and evil results in “the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein,” which is “eternal death,” unless we choose “eternal life” through redemption from the “great Mediator of all men.” If we choose eternal life through the merits and atonement of Jesus Christ, then our spiritual nature receives exaltation at the final judgement. This intersection of natural man and spiritual redemption, which Alma calls being “born again,” brings us to the symbol of the cross. The two birds roost on the tops of the two trees like the phoenix bird does–the morning and evening gods. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus declared that the “least of all seeds” grows up into trees so that the “birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” It is possible that this reference to birds in the trees symbolize immortality and eternal life that naturally comes and rests upon those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ, as the Horus bird came to bring salvation to the figure on the lion couch in Facsimile 1, and the angel of the Lord came to Abraham upon the Sed festival altar.

How Did Joseph Smith Know How To Fill It In?

This region of the hypocephalus was almost completely missing when Joseph Smith looked at it:

The original March 15, 1842 translation of the hypocephalus by Joseph Smith included a hand-drawn sketch of the hypocephalus with certain parts hatched in pencil, obviously indicating that these portions of the papyrus were missing. Almost the entire Figure 3 is missing. Yet somehow the final Facsimile 2 illustration published soon after included the Ra boat that we see today–which is a correct fill-in of what is supposed to go there.

How did Joseph Smith know what to fill in here?

Indisputable Proof Joseph Smith Was Inspired – Let’s play devil’s advocate and consider possible explanations for how Joseph Smith filled it in correctly if he wasn’t inspired:

  • Joseph Smith saw other hypocephalus examples and copied from them? – There were no other known hypocephali at this time and Joseph Smith had nothing to go on. Even if he did, he probably would have drawn in the Ra boat as one of these other examples–sitting directly on the boat rather than a chair, sitting next to someone else, and with a scarab beetle alongside. But instead, Joseph Smith apparently copied the Ra boat from Fragment IV of the Joseph Smith papyri, from the Book of the Dead. He drew something quite different from other hypocephali examples (though it is actually the same character Ra doing the same thing). Joseph Smith obviously did not reference another hypocephalus.
  • This part of the papyrus wasn’t actually missing? – Well, maybe Joseph Smith scribbled out this part of the vignette even though it wasn’t actually missing from the papyrus? I don’t know why he would do that. But this still can’t be the case because we also have other parts that were scribbled out that were then filled-in with content that does conflict with what’s supposed to be there. The text around the ring at the scribbled parts was filled in with hieroglyphs that don’t belong there and don’t even face the correct direction. The Figure 1 character in the center where it’s scribbled out was filled in with two heads, as shown in Figure 2, rather than the proper four heads (though Joseph Smith was correct to identify this Figure 1 with the same character as Figure 2.) So everywhere it’s scribbled out it got filled in improperly except this one place? That doesn’t make sense.
  • Lucky guess? – Maybe he saw the boat on the other side and guessed that it was supposed to be symmetrical with another boat. Quite a guess, but if that were so why didn’t he point the brow of the ship toward the center like Figure 4? How did he know to correctly point it facing outward? How did he know Ra was supposed to be sitting on the ship rather than standing as in Figure 4? Instead of copying Figure 4 he filled it in with something else which happens to be the exact symbolism that’s supposed to be there.

There are also the hieroglyphs next to Ra’s head that are missing from the original papyrus. The E shape with the long stem next to his head is a set of wings. The hieroglyphs to the left of that say “divine ship.” These hieroglyphs do not appear in the Fragment IV source or in the hand-drawn sketch of the hypocephalus. So where did Joseph Smith get it from? How did he know these hieroglyphs were talking about a boat? If this part of the papyrus for some reason wasn’t actually missing and these hieroglyphs were there for him to copy, why did he copy the boat from a totally different source?

The Boat Of Ra – As I said, Figure 3 appears to be copied from Fragment IV from the Ta-sherit-min Book of the Dead scroll, considering the similarity. The boat appeared in a small corner deep within a completely different scroll. It looks quite different than the solar boat in other hypocephali examples I’ve seen, yet interestingly the symbolism is quite the same. It shows up at lines 129-137. According to Wikipedia, this part of the Book of the Dead is about: “Journeys in the Duat and on the Barque of Ra.” It reads: “O you door-keepers who guard your portals… May you guide [the deceased], may you open the portals for him, may the earth open its caverns to him, may you make him triumphant over his enemies.” Spell 130 makes “the disparate parts of the deceased’s being into an effective akh with an eternal ba. 130–136 (including 136A and 136B) all illustrate the journey of the deceased in the solar barque, and could be illustrated with the same vignette, perhaps indicating some repetition.” Spell 134 is about “making a spirit worthy,” and it reads: “To be spoken over a falcon standing with the White Crown on his head; Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nepthys being drawn in ochre on a new bowl placed in the sacred barque, together with an image of this spirit (ba) whom you wish to be made worthy, it being anointed with oil. Offer to them incense on the fire and roasted ducks, and worship Ra. It means that he for whom this is done will voyage and be with Ra every day in every place he desires to travel, and it means that the enemies of Ra will be driven off in very deed. A matter a million times true.”

How did Joseph Smith know that this boat symbolized a cycle of repetition? How did he know it was the same boat of Ra? The ochre bowl in the sacred barque can be seen in Ra’s right hand in Joseph Smith’s illustration, yet this is missing from the Fragment IV source. How did he know how to fill it in?

In the proper hypocephalus Ra boat for this register, the deceased experienced a “cycle” where he “boards the morning barque, that is on the day of psDn.tjwit [union] starts to move in unison with the rising sun.” That makes sense, as Ra is the sun god. The deceased is usually illustrated sitting in the boat together with Ra on this journey of sunrise. Typically, in a hypocephalus the rising sun is further “depicted right next to the boat in the form of the scarab beneath Nut” in this register. Nut was the god representing the firmament of heaven and the scarab represented resurrection.

The Book of the Dead accompanies the illustration Joseph Smith used with this spell “protecting the boat of Ra” on behalf of the deceased who identifies with Osiris: “O thou that cleavest the water as thou comest forth from the stream and dost sit upon the place in thy boat, sit thou upon thy place in thy boat as thou goest forth to thy station of yesterday, and do join the Osiris, the overseer of the palace, the chancellor-in-chief, Nu, triumphant, the perfect Khu, unto thy mariners, and let thy strength be his strength… if thou doest pass by those who are overturned in death then verily do thou make the Osiris, Nu, triumphant, the perfect soul, to stand up upon his feet, and may thy strength by his strength.” (Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead…, E. A. Wallis Budge, Epiphanius Wilson)

Reference To Facsimile 1 – Typically, above this boat is another smaller boat. “On the other side of Amen are two barks, one drawn above the other; on the middle of the upper boat is perched the soul (ba) of the deceased, the name of Isis being inscribed on one side of it and the name of Nephthys on the other, in allusion to the deceased as an Osiris, bewailed and protected by the two divine sisters. At one end of the lower boat squats the hawk headed Ra; at the opposite end is written the word ba, “soul” (of the deceased); between them is a scarabacus coming towards Ra: that is, the soul of the deceased in the form of a scarabacus, of the god Khepera, approaches the Sun to become one with him and with the universe.” (Religion of the ancient Egyptians, Alfred Wiedemann)

Scholars say these two boats represent the same thing–sunrise or unification with the sun: “In the top register of depictions we see two images on the right. The upper one shows a boat in which Isis and Nephthys surround a falcon on a pedestal, a scene that corresponds to the rising of the sun in the east. The two goddesses are known from the New Kingdom onward to assist the birth of the sun god on the eastern horizon. The same message is repeated in the lower scene, where a goddess, a scarab, and a baboon are on board the boat. One of the glosses in chapter 17 of the Book of Going Forth by Day identifies Khepri (the scarab) in his boat as Re himself, while the baboon is mentioned in connection with Isis and Nephthys, so a direct link with the top boat can be established, and the two scenes on the right are really parallel images alluding to the cosmic event of sunrise.” (The encounter between the sun and the moon on hypocephali, Gyula Priskin – Birmingham Egyptology Journal)

Well, missing from Facsimile 2 is the scarab and baboon. And the upper boat. Was there originally two boats? I doubt it. The right-hand lines of hieroglyphs in Figure 12 appear higher up in Joseph Smith’s original sketch, and a large blank space at the top of Figure 3’s register leave little room for two boats. The scribbled out area is simply not big enough for the boats that we see in other hypocephali. We do see a c-shaped mark at the top of this scribbled out area. Is that the left side of the upper boat? I doubt it. The top-left corner of the boat is not c-shaped like this. But the left-side of the akh that we see in Joseph Smith’s final fill-in is. So it could be that two boats originally showed up here, but it’s doubtful.

But in any case, Isis and Nephthys typically surround the lion-couch of multiple Facsimile 1 examples in the same way they surround the falcon on the pedestal in this typical hypocephalus register. Isn’t that quite a coincidence? The deceased, either lying flat on the floor or on a lion couch, is often flanked by two figures in an addoring pose–much like the baboons on either side of Figure 1 in Facsimile 2. The temple of Edfu shows Isis and her sister Nephthys conferring the royal Egyptian crown on the king. This same symmetry is also found at the Opet temple at Karnak, where Isis and Nephthys flank the king who is lying on a lion couch with a bird overhead. But this time, the king is kicking upward from the lion altar, much like we see in Facsimile 1. They are not conferring a crown, but conferring life. Isis and Nephthys always confer life and royal authority. Nephthys represented death and Isis life. Here it is a crown of eternal light.

So here we typically get a variation of the entire Facsimile 1 vignette, and the implication is that the second boat scene–which does show up here in Facismile 2–is a “parallel image” to this “alluding to the cosmic event of sunrise.” This further solidifies my theory that Facsimile 2 is an auxiliary to Facsimile 1; it is meant to be read and studied in conjunction to it, and it tells the same story of redemption and exaltation. Abraham was saved from the ritual sacrifice in the Facsimile 1, and this alludes to Christ’s sacrifice for sin to redeem all of us from the fall. And here in Figure 3 of Facsimile 1 this ritual sacrifice is brought in as a parallel image to a much wider scope: the path to exaltation. The presence of both wedjat eyes suggests restoration of the lost eye has already happened and full resurrection has occurred, also representing the sun and moon come together (perfectly appropriate for this register, how did Joseph Smith know?). Full holiness.

Consider Joseph Smith’s full translation for Figure 3: “Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.”

Clothed With Authority – On the bottom of both the boat in typical hypocephali for this register and the boat Joseph Smith copied from the Book of the Dead illustration we see stars lining the ground. Wilhelm Müller and Sir James Scott explained how authority related to other stars in this solar boat figure: “…in a ship (which has perhaps replaced an earlier doubleraft) the sun sails over the sky, conceived as a blue river or lake which Is a continuation of the sea and of the Nile. At the prow of this solar ship we frequently find a curious detail, sometimes represented as a carpet or mat on which the god is seated… The deity may either be the only occupant of the boat, which moves by itself or is paddled by him; or he may be accompanied by many prominent gods, especially the nine gods of the Hellopolltan ennead and the personifications of wisdom, etc… The Book of the Gates reverts to an ancient idea by explaining that the never-vanishing stars (I. e. again the elect souls) become the rowers of the sun by day. Then the sun may rest in the cabin as a disk in which the god himself may be enthroned.”(Egyptian Mythology)

In Joseph Smith’s illustration there are 15 of these stars, and they apparently are the “fifteen governing stars” mentioned in Figure 5 which are governed by the sun. Joseph Smith interpreted Figure 3 as God “clothed with power and authority,” remember–power which we learned in Figure 2 was “pertaining to other planets.”

In Facsimile 2, we see Re sitting rather than rowing, so we can assume the stars are indeed involved, pulling the ship. They hold the “key of power” as well, like he explained. So, it turns out Joseph Smith was correct referencing “Seth, Noah, Melchizedek” as persons involved in this figure, “prominent gods,” because “the Priesthood was revealed” to them as well. They are “never-vanishing stars… the elect souls,” which are also called “noble and great ones” in the Book of Abraham. The child/son divine relationship implied in Figure 2 thus holds implications here in Figure 3 as well: the forefather patriarchs tow us on our journey to exaltation. As we become more like them we too can end up like them exalted, as Abraham gained the same covenant promise as his forefathers: “From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth; Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”(D&C 107:42-43)

The Apocalypse of Abraham clarifies that the stars lay “beneath” Abraham and represent people, in an exchange with God that references the primordial choosing of Jehovah (as we also see in the Book of Abraham): “And the Eternal Mighty One said to me: “Abraham, Abraham!” And I said: “Here am I.” [And He said:] “Consider from above the stars which are beneath thee, and number, them [for me], and make known [to me] their number.” And I said: “When can I? For I am but a man [of dust and ashes]. And he said to me: “As the number of the stars and their power, (so will) I make thy seed a nation and a people, set apart for me in my heritage with Azezel.”(The Apocalypse of Abraham, George Herbert Box)

Throne On A Boat – Most solar scenes show Re sitting right on the boat, perhaps on a carpet or mat, while this shows him sitting on a chair rather than perched on the brow. In the context of a libation offering and lotus blossom, which we see drawn in Figure 2, this is the throne of the heavenly Field of Rushes which the deceased hopes to inherit: “Hail thou Horus, Easter Horus and Ba, Horakhty great Neter, I offer to you incense; Thou Neter who ferries over upon two boats of the sky to Re, Horus Great Horizon-Neter, I shall receive my throne in the Field of Rushes, descending to the Field of Offerings when my earthly majesty transforms into the Tuat [afterlife]; Horus, who sails with the Pharaoh in the boat of Re, Bestow the power of controlling the vast Horizons.”(Michael Ford)

Scepter Of Authority – This portrays God sending Hor’s sacrificial libations to the Tuat afterlife to defeat Seth, the devil. In his hand he holds the “scepter of authority,” according to Plutarch. This is awas scepter, the symbol of authority.” It is the same scepter that figures 1 and 2 hold, though they don’t look the same in this particular rendering. Somehow, Joseph Smith knew they were all the same scepter.

Crown Of Eternal Light – The circle above Horus’ head is the sun disk of “eternal light.” Joseph Smith correctly calls this “a crown of eternal light upon his head.” Exactly correct. How did Joseph Smith know this? The circles above the heads of the baboons in Figure 1 look the same, but Joseph Smith correctly identified them with the moon. How did he know? Gerald Massey explained: “The crown of Horus was the crown of life that was the gift of his father… the eternal diadem that was conferred on those who had attained the mount of glory.”

The word hypocephalus itself means “that which is below the head.” It was a circular papyrus with this diagram drawn on it, placed under the head of the mummy to remind them of what they needed to know to gain exaltation in the afterlife. It’s circular shape and bright white-yellow color suggested the crown of eternal life they would receive.

In this Book of the Dead, the deceased at the barque of Ra says: “A path is made for me at the head of the Sacred Bark, and I am lifted up as the sun disk; I am bright in its sunshine… let me pass, for I am a mighty one, Lord of the mighty ones; I am a noble of the Lord of Righteousness, whom Wadjet made. My protection is the protection of Re.”(Book of the Dead)

Keywords Of Priesthood – The wedjat eye, which we see on both sides above this figure’s head, was a symbol of his power of resurrection, correctly associated by Joseph Smith to the keywords of the priesthood. In the Book of the Dead chapter 137, which covers the hypocephalus themes, the “basic elements that appear in BD 137A and the related spells of torches are also present and can be gathered here as keywords: Eye of Horus, fire, light, night, overthrowing enemy, offerings, gates, and gatekeepers.” Keywords had to be given by the deceased Egyptian at each gate to gain admittance to be reborn. The wedjat Eye of Horus here was one of many important ritualistic elements that had to be in place for the deceased to pass along the path of the sun. Joseph Smith was totally correct.

It’s amazing how each of Joseph Smith’s “translations” for the registers in the hypocephalus were correct. What’s really special about Figure 3 is that he did it flying blind–he didn’t even know what was there; he had to fill it in. It is an important artistic representation of God’s redemptive gift and our path to exaltation.

Categories: Apologetics