Friday, May 12, 2023

Bastet, The Book Of Abraham, And The Restoration Theory

Intuitively, you might feel like the Egyptian goddess Bastet (Bast) shouldn't have anything significant to do with the Book of Abraham. 

But, like a game of chess, you can't declare an outcome based on prior assumptions. Computer chess engines are showing us the importance of this principle. You have to wait until there's a mate demonstrable. Otherwise, you have to allow room for possibilities to play out. 

So, let's play this out. 

First, Figure 6 in Facsimile 3 more closely resembles the goddess Bastet than it resembles any other deity. 

I'm not saying it perfectly matches any particular image of Bastet, but if we consider how different the various depictions of Bastet are from each other, we see a range which is big enough to house Figure 6. But we see no such range with Anubis. If we simply look at the figure 6 image, without bringing any assumptions to the table, this figure should be identified as Bastet. Consider the front of the face. Consider the length of the ear sticking up. Consider the round, rather than flat head. And, again, consider the range that simply doesn't exist for Anubis. Anubis is very standardized. But Bastet has essential features, which Figure 6 is able to match. Although, admittedly, the body of Figure 6 is a bit androgynous.

Now, you might be thinking Figure 6 originally had a snout, like Anubis. I address that in an earlier blog post, here

Click Image To Enlarge

Okay, so what relevance could Bastet have to Abraham?

Well, contemporary with the time-range of the verifiable Joseph Smith Papyri, the Jewish temple of Onias was built. And it was put right in the worship center of Bastet. In fact, it was built on an old temple of Bastet. 

Yes, the Jewish temple was built right on top of a temple of Bastet which was no longer in active use. 

Within the city of Bubastis, where Bastet reigned supreme, we are talking about an actual temple to Bastet. That's where the Jewish temple was built. For the Jewish population which moved to the city because of the temple, Bastet was part of daily life. Images of Bastet abounded everywhere, and people had cats and mummified them

As Onias said to King Ptolemy: "Wherefore I beg you to permit me to cleanse this temple, which belongs to no one and is in ruins, and to build a temple to God the Most High in the likeness of that at Jerusalem."

He was talking about a temple of Bastet, which he transformed into a Jewish temple. 

The reply from Ptolemy and Cleopatra II: "We have read your petition asking that it be permitted you to cleanse the ruined temple in Leontopolis in the Nome of Heliopolis, called Bubastis-of-the-Fields. We wonder, therefore, whether it will be pleasing to God that a temple be built in a place so wild and full of sacred animals. But since you say that the prophet Isaiah foretold this long ago, we grant your request if this is to be in accordance with the Law, so that we may not seem to have sinned against God in any way."

Most of the Cleopatras were associated with (and even identified as) Isis. For example, see here. This may be a clue for interpreting Facsimile 3. Ptolemy VI came to the throne as a small child, and his mother, Cleopatra I, reigned in his behalf until her deathbed. The two of them could therefore be candidates for the King and Prince in Facsimile 3, then. This may also help explain the seemingly redundant "King Pharaoh," in Joseph Smith's explanation, because in Egypt a Pharaoh could be either male or female. As for why they would be relevant to Onias, he may have been paying homage to them, through adapting the figures. Also worth noting is that Lenaeus, a Syrian slave, was appointed as a special regent to Ptolemy VI. This slave might be a candidate for Figure 6, adapted through use of the image of Bastet (also a potential play on words, Lenaeus and Leontopolis). 

If you are not familiar with adaptation of images like this, Robert Ritner here discusses an example of the image of Isis being used to represent the Virgin Mary. Also of great interest is this piece from Blake Ostler and this piece from Kevin Barney. 

But, you may also ask, "doesn't the Facsimile have the name of Anubis written on it?" Actually, no. To quote Quinten Barney from his master's thesis: "Thus, the arms, the presence of determinatives, and absence of the glyph suggest that this column does not read 'Anubis' so easily."

In fact, the supposed name of Anubis actually resembles Arabic turned on its side. Which may or may not be significant, but is of interest. More on that, perhaps, in another post. 

A quote from the late Egyptologist Robert Ritner may also tie things together. Dr. Ritner came to believe that the extant vignette from the Hor Book of Breathings was quite special and was copied from a scene on a temple wall. 

Dr. Ritner discusses his theory here

Let's assume Dr. Ritner was correct. 

That would mean, in his words, "what we've got here is like a Kodak moment that's been taken of a now lost temple, and I think that makes this papyrus extremely valuable..." Ritner said he intended to announce this discovery at a future meeting with his colleagues, which evidently never happened due to his failing health.

Suppose, then, that these vignettes on the Hor roll came from the Jewish temple, as reliefs adapted for Jewish purposes. Then suppose that Hor had some of the writing changed to accommodate his own purposes. By the time Hor's roll came into Joseph Smith's hands, the vignette was likely spotted with small lacunae, so Joseph Smith appears to have had the extant writing collapsed/redacted together on the facsimile, in order to make it appear tidy in the facsimile columns. 

The portion of the writing which appeared on the temple wall, rather than being added by Hor, might be expected to have been more elaborate, hence the intricate details of the extant Falcon of the Standard glyph in place of the missing spelling of Isis. Joseph Smith may have been referring to the original in his explanation. The name Isis or Cleopatra, for instance, may have originally appeared but been lost like the other half of the Falcon on the Standard glyph. And, correspondingly, smooshed together in the facsimile. 

Now, how would these scenes have made their way to Hor in the first place? Well, Marc Coenen speculated, in Robert Ritner's book on the Joseph Smith Papyri, that Hor's family may have collected a variety of papyri and stored them in a family vault. To quote Coenen (p. 65, HC), "Given the impressive number of papyri preserved for this priestly family, one wonders if they might have a common provenance and originate from a family vault, which at some time during the early nineteenth century was discovered only to have its contents plundered and scattered all over the world." 

Some might wonder why Hor would want anything to do with Facsimile 1, which appears to call the Egyptian religion idolatrous? See my post on human sacrifice, to see how I deal with that issue. To that I would add that in Abraham's early life, Egypt may have been in the First Intermediate period, where different people claimed to be Pharaoh. The "idolatrous" pharaoh may play into that. Abraham does distinguish Onitah as being of a true lineage. But read the post and it will make more sense. I identify who I think historically Abraham may have been referring to. Read carefully. 

Now, I'm undoubtedly leaving some loose ends and unanswered questions, which can be dealt with as they arise. But for now, all of this leads me to a theory.

The Restoration Theory

1) Abraham wrote a history, on papyrus

2) Joseph of Egypt redacted that history, focusing on Abraham's experiences with Egypt

3) Joseph of Egypt gave the redacted history to Pharaoh, who kept it in his court, until it eventually went into storage

4) When Onias became friends with Ptolemy, and Ptolemy helped him build his temple and celebrated it, Ptolemy gave him, among other things, the roll which Joseph of Egypt had written which contained the teachings of Abraham

5) The beginning of Joseph's record contained a vignette depicting Abraham being sacrificed on an altar. However, since it was on the very outside of the roll, it had deteriorated over the centuries and was by then in tatters

6) Using the description of it in Abraham 1:12-14, which Joseph of Egypt had written in reference to his original vignette, Onias restored it, by adapting contemporary Egyptian symbols to represent the elements which Joseph of Egypt described on the roll, and Onias put it as a relief on the temple wall, as well as being an adapted relief honoring Ptolemy and showing appreciation for his help with the temple and the roll of Abraham (Facsimile 3). The figure of Abraham in Facsimile 3 may very well be symbolic of the teachings of Abraham which Pharaoh had allowed to stay in his court for a time.  

7) Copies of the vignettes made their way to Hor's family vault, along with a copy of the contents of Abraham's record (or, since Hor was powerful and well-connected, he may have even obtained the original)

8) Hor, when deciding what to be buried with, liked the vignettes and adapted them to his purposes. Hor wanted his Book of Breathings to be special, because it was probably the first ever "Book of Breathings made by Isis" and the depiction of Cleopatra as Isis would have been very special for a Book of Breathings made by Isis. 

9) Because they were related and derived from the same source, Hor bound together Abraham's record with the Book of Breathings, in the same linen (creating a "roll" - remember, Joseph Smith's eyewitness contemporaries wouldn't have known what constituted a "roll" and, like a newspaper "roll," they may have thought it was okay for a papyrus roll to have different parts, thinking what made it a roll was that the parts came wrapped together. Just as they would not have known what the word "long" means in "long roll," they also wouldn't have known what the second word, "roll," means in "long roll." 

10) Eventually, the roll came to Joseph Smith. Sometimes people would refer to it as one roll, other times as two rolls. But it was the record of Joseph and the teachings of Abraham. Joseph Smith penetrated through any changes Hor may have made, giving us, in Joseph Smith's own words, the interpretations of Onias (who likely had himself, rather than Hor, featured as Figure 5, and Joseph's mother may have confused the name Onias with King Onitah/Onitas as well as complications arising from Osiris being king and the Hor papyrus declaring that Hor is Osiris and thus king) 

The key connecting it all is that we have a depiction of Bastet on Facsimile 3, which can't be easily explained through conventional means, and remnants of an elaborate Falcon on the Standard which isn't "supposed" to be there

I am considering starting a podcast, where I will delve into details and incorporate elements of my previous theory, which can be found here

Feel free to leave thoughts and feedback in the comments.

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