Kolob and Khnumu
For the next couple of weeks we’re taking a look at Facsimile 2 from the Book of Abraham. In the summer of 1835 Joseph Smith told Michael Chandler, a traveling salesman, that he could interpret the papyri he was marketing through the eastern seaboard of the US.
As it turned out Smith’s interpretation of the papyri and hypocephalus (funerary disk) was ridiculed by Egyptologists who were able to show with definitive proof everything Smith said was a fraud. Chandler’s papyri were excerpts from Hor’s Book of Breathings and The Book of the Dead which were funerary instructions. The hypocephalus was a depiction of Egyptian gods and spells. The Church purchased his wares for $2,400 after Joseph told everyone the papyri were actually writings from the patriarch Abraham. In 1880 Smith’s translations were canonized in Mormon scripture and known today by members as the Book of Abraham.
Because the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs and hieratic writings weren’t readily available at the time, Smith’s story was bought hook, line and sinker by members of the Church. This latter-day prophetic interpretation of God provided an inroad for new heresies Smith could easily introduce into the canon of Mormon scripture.
There were a number of rituals in Ancient Egypt when it came to burying the dead. The more important the person was the more elaborate the burial. One item placed in coffins with the deceased was a hypocephalus (hypo – Greek for under and cephalus – Greek for head). It’s a disk made of plaster and linen placed under the head of the deceased and used as an aid for the deceased to find their way into the afterlife.
There are 23 pagan gods inscribed upon Joseph’s hypocephalus and these gods along with Smith’s prophecy about them will be our focus in the upcoming Mormon Dilemmas. You can find Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham between chapter two and three.
You’ll see Joseph’s interpretation in black font listed first and the true interpretation listed afterwards in red.
1. Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh.
Each head represented a different ba (the bleat of the animal). One was the Ba of Osiris (death, hereafter), the Ba of Geb (earth), the Ba of Shu (sky) and the Ba of Ra (life).
Khnumu was also known in several other depictions. Khnumu is the third aspect of Ra who was the god of rebirth, creation and the evening sun. He was mainly worshipped in Anuket and Satis, both cities sat alongside the Nile and were considered sacred sites. He was thought to be related to the god Min.
Khnumu was also depicted as crocodile headed man, a ram’s headed man at a potter’s wheel creating children, and also as a water-god while holding a jug with streams of flowing water pouring forth.
Because Joseph was missing the original section from the hycophelus it’s quite obvious he took a guess at what he thought it would’ve looked like and inserted this poor rendition of a two headed ram god.
A hypocephalus from the British Museum and one from the Louvre show this god in between a set of adoring baboons which is somewhat similar to what Smith’s hypocephalus shows. The baboons [fig. 22-23] have their own meaning which will be discussed later.
Additionally Jah-oh-eh sounds more Hebrew than Egyptian and contains no Egyptian etymological basis.