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From Coffin Texts Spell 78 (1.7)

(419 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text follows Coffin Texts Spell 76 after a few lines (Spell 77) that describe the birth of Shu through the combined metaphors of masturbation and spitting. The major theme in Spell 78 is the identification of this event with the evolution of Time in its two aspects: the permanent pattern of existence, identified with Tefnut; and the eternal repetition of life, identified with Shu. From Coffin Texts Spell 78 (1.7) Shu as the atmosphere ( CT II 19a-b) I am t…

Book of the Dead 175 (1.18)

(2,361 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Through a series of dialogues between divine speakers, this famous theological treatise details the corruption of the original creation with the introduction of death and concomitant anxiety regarding an afterlife, as well as apocalyptic pronouncements of the world’s ultimate dissolution and recreation. A final section relates an ontological myth describing the origin of ritual, deiti…

Book of the Dead 112 (1.20)

(593 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The primary manuscript (18th Dynasty) appears in Naville (1886: pl. cxxiv), with translations in Barguet (1967:148–150), Allen (1974:91) and Faulkner1 (1985:108–109). A vignette depicts the seated gods Horus, Imsety and Hapy. Book of the Dead 112 (1.20) Subject: Lev 11:7–8; Deut 14:3, 8; Isa 65:2–5; 66:3, 17 SPELL FOR KNOWING THE SOULS OF PE. It is NN who shall say: “O marsh dwellers, those among the marsh dwellers, Mendesian women, tho…

From Papyrus Leiden I 350 (1.16)

(2,247 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary While the cosmogonies of Heliopolis and Memphis were concerned with the material source and the means of creation, respectively, that of Thebes was devoted to its ultimate cause, the creator himself, conceptualized in the god Amun. Among the many texts of New Kingdom and later date describing the role of Amun in the creation, the most extensive is that preserved on a papyrus from the …

Coffin Text 157 (1.19)

(635 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This spell for “Knowing the Souls of Pe” (with its descendant Book of the Dead 112) provides a theological explanation for the Egyptian pork taboo, a prohibition never uniformly accepted (Darby et al. 1977:171–209; Miller 1990). The conclusion to the companion Coffin Text spell 158 is instructive: “Not to be said while eating pork.” No less interesting is the medical aspect of spell 1…

From the “Book of Nut” (1.1)

(1,472 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text consists of a series of captions accompanying the image of the goddess Nut stretched out as a representation of the sky, held off the earth by the atmosphere (Shu). Originally perhaps of Middle Kingdom composition, it appears on ceilings of the cenotaph of Seti I (Dynasty 19, ca. 1291–1279 bce) at Abydos and the tomb of Ramesses IV (Dynasty 20, ca. 1163–1156 bce) at Thebes; the texts were also copied, with exegesis, in two Demotic papyri…

From Pyramid Texts Spell 527 (1.3)

(294 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The Pyramid Texts were inscribed on the walls of the substructures of royal pyramids at the end of the Old Kingdom, with the same purpose as their descendants, the Coffin Texts. This spell begins by describing the material derivation of the first two elements of the world — the atmospheres above and below the earth (Shu and Tefnut) — from the single source of all matter (Atum), as a “mythological precedent” for the daily rebirth of the deceased king. From Pyrami…

From A Ramesside Stela (1.13)

(441 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary In the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts, the creative role of Ptah is clearly secondary to that of Atum, the material source of creation. In the New Kingdom, however, it evolved into a full cosmogony in its own right, combining the intellectual principle of Ptah with the material role of Ta-tenen (“Rising Land”), the deified Primeval Hill representing the first instance of created matter. …

From Coffin Texts Spell 75 (1.5)

(1,667 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Spells 75–81 of the Coffin Texts, which identify the deceased as a manifestation (ba) of the first element of the world (Shu), are a major source for the evolutionary view of creation promulgated in Heliopolis. In at least two mss (S1C and S2C), these seven spells were treated as a single text, with the title “Spell of the ba of Shu and evolution into Shu” (CT I 314a). Spell 75, one of the most frequently copied of all Coffin Texts, describes the …

From Coffin Texts Spell 1130 (1.17)

(1,306 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Egyptian cosmogonies were concerned primarily with explaining the origin of the world and its elements. The creation of human beings was considered part of this process, and as such was not given special attention in and of itself: if noted at all, it is usually explained by a simple “etymological” metaphor, which derives people (rmṯ) from the “tears” (rmyt) of the creator’s eye. By …

From Pyramid Texts Spell 600 (1.4)

(435 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The beginning of this spell, another “mythological precedent,” combines three images of the first moments of creation. The first lines invokes the divine source of all matter (Atum) in his evolution as the sun (“Scarab”) and the world-space within the primeval waters. This is followed by references to the “etymological” origin of Shu and Tefnut and to the source of their life force. From Pyramid Texts Spell 600 (1.4) Atum as the First Things (Pyr. 1652…

From the “Memphite Theology” (1.15)

(1,859 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Perhaps the most famous of all Egyptian creation accounts is preserved on a worn slab of black granite, created for erection in the temple of Ptah at Memphis during the reign of the Nubian pharaoh Shabaqo and now in the British Museum (BM 498). As its dedicatory text records, the stone was purportedly inscribed in order to preserve a much older document, probably on papyrus or leather; lacunae deliberately incorporated in th…

From the Berlin “Hymn to Ptah” (1.14)

(1,056 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Although much of what we know about Egyptian cosmogony derives from funerary compositions such as the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, and Book of the Dead, informative reflections of these creation accounts are also preserved in hymns designed for use in daily temple rituals. One such hymn to Ptah, preserved on a papyrus from the reign of Ramesses IX now in Berlin (pBerl. 3048), is an im…

From Coffin Texts Spell 76 (1.6)

(952 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text continues the tale of Shu’s birth by describing how the structure of the world-space and its contents derive from the initial creation of the atmosphere. It also contains one of the first references to the four negative qualities of the primordial waters, later developed by the theologians of Hermopolis into a cosmogony of four divine couples, the Ogdoad. From Coffin Texts Spell 76 (1.6) Subject: Deut 30:4; Isa 44:2, 24; 49:5; Job 31:5; Gen 1:2; 2 Sa…

From Coffin Texts Spell 647 (1.12)

(1,287 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The conceptual link between the creator’s fiat and its material realization in the forces and elements of the world was conceptualized by the theologians of Memphis in the creative role of their god Ptah. The earliest exposition of this theology appears in Spell 647 of the Coffin Texts. Attested in only one copy, it is a long spell identifying the deceased with all aspects of the Memphite god. The excerpts below concern Ptah’s role in the creation. From Coffin…

From Papyrus Bremner-Rhind (1.9)

(1,260 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The papyrus from which this text is taken (pBM 10188) is a collection of theological treatises and magic spells against the dangers of the Netherworld (represented in sum by the demon Apophis), compiled from various sources at the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period. This selection, originally composed perhaps as early as the Ramesside Period, describes the evolution of multiplicity fro…

From Coffin Texts Spell 80 (1.8)

(2,101 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Following a short reprise of Spell 76 (Spell 79), this text continues the temporal theme first sounded in Spell 78 and expands it through the additional concepts of Life, identified with Shu, and the natural Order of the universe, associated with Tefnut. As part of its exposition, the spell concentrates on the notion of the One (Atum) evolving into the multiplicity of life. This inclu…

Coffin Texts Spell 261 (1.11)

(882 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary While the Heliopolitan accounts of creation concentrate primarily on the material origins of the world, they also acknowledge the role played by magic, the divine force that translated the creator’s will into reality.1 In Egyptian thought, magic has two components: conceptualization (“Perception”), which takes place in the heart; and Annunciation, the creative expression of a thought through the medium of the spoke…

From Coffin Texts Spell 714 (1.2)

(417 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text is part of a series inscribed on coffins of the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom, designed to aid the deceased’s spirit in its daily journey from the Netherworld of the tomb to the world of the living. This particular spell, in which the deceased is identified with the primordial source of all matter as it first existed within the primeval waters, has so far been found only on one coffin. From Coffin Texts Spell 714 (1.2) Subject: Gen 1:6–7 Th…

From Coffin Texts Spell 335 = Book of the Dead Spell 17 (1.10)

(1,629 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This spell, the most frequently copied of all major Egyptian funerary texts, equates the deceased’s passage from the tomb to daylight with the sun’s journey from night to day, a theme summarized in its title. It originated in the Coffin Texts and was subsequently incorporated in their New Kingdom descendant, the so-called Book of the Dead, which was known by the same title. Almost fro…