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Home Book of Abraham Special Section "Shinehah" in Abraham 3:13 - The Sun? Yes, the Sun - Egyptian Correlations

"Shinehah" in Abraham 3:13 - The Sun? Yes, the Sun - Egyptian Correlations

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Abraham 3:13 - Shinehah - the Sun: Joseph Smith Shines Through on This One Also

Research by Kerry A. Shirts

I have been reviewing much material on the various figures in the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham (hereafter cited as BofA) this year. I recently received an idea I would like to comment on and test. I was told by a critic of the Book of Abraham:

"Mormon researchers look at what Joseph Smith said and then attempt to reconstruct any conceivable link that may exist to the Egyptian\Christian religion or culture. To me, this can easily result in faulty scholarship."

Now in the case of the BofA we have something interesting. Joseph Smith in the BofA claimed that Abraham taught that to the ancient Egyptian culture, "Shinehah ... is the sun." (BofA 3:13). This is simply a straighforward idea presented without explanation or cultural backgrounds, political expediency, or religious bias. It is stated as a fact. Now in order to see if this is accurate, would we see if there are Egyptian ideas that fit Shinehah and any connections with the sun as it is claimed to have been? Yet our critic above would fault this type of thinking. How else though could we go about it? The other side of the question is, O.K. wiseguy, is there such a thing as Shinehah, or is this Joe Smith's vivid imagination as Brodie claimed with all scriptures Joseph Smith was involved in? How do we test if it is his mere imagination? Historic fact? Ancient Egyptian idea? The answer is so obvious, that is is only the desperate conviction of those bound and determined to keep in the old grooves that no matter what, Joseph Smith must not be allowed to have anything correct in the BofA. We of course, *must* see if it is ancient Egyptian, since *that is the claim, and we test what is claimed for correctness or faultiness.* It is simply breathtaking that critics *still* do not understand this.

I would turn the question on the critics, asking, before I start my investigation, is there anything in Joseph Smith's day that matches Shinehah as an ancient Egyptian idea concerning the sun in the literature? If not in Smith's day, pray tell where would they have us look, realizing that according to the only source we have, this is presented as a genuine ancient Egyptian idea? They would be willing to look *anywhere* except in ancient Egyptian culture, since if it is found there and it does fit, then obviously Joseph Smith was right and true in calling our attention to it. Of course, this is something not even to be imagined by critics, but we Mormons have a nasty habit of delving into history seriously anyway and seeing if Shinehah is real, if it is really Egyptian, and is really the ancient Egyptian concept associated with the sun itself. I mean Joseph Smith gives it all to us here! This is precise and exact, from the detailed name, to what it represents. He couldn't have given us a better target. We have recently seen that again a critic has approached the BofA claiming that no non-LDS Egyptologist has found anything fitting in the BofA, that it is all wrong. I would ask this:

Have EGYPTOLOGISTS discussed "Shinehah" yet? Have any Mormon CRITICS bothered with it yet?

I was once lambasted (by Capt. Angst, so no real big deal here) for claiming Smith was correct with the Four Sons of Horus representing the four quarters of the world, I having been told that, obviously Smith was correct on this, but he got nothing else correct. (Interesting he conceded a point at least! Something even a professional Egyptologist, Stephen Thompson wouldn't even do!) Nothing else correct indeed! Have they analyzed *everything* else yet? I haven't seen any sort of discussion whatsoever concerning Shinehah, yet it is precise and exact, no fudging here at all. So are the non-LDS Egyptologists looking into it? If not, then let us not have unsupported claims that the BofA has been proven false on *all* scores. Until *all* things are looked into, the judgment is rash at best. None of the Egyptologists of the 1912 investigation into the BofA ever mentioned Shinehah.1 H. Michael Marquardt would have us believe that "The Book of Abraham... was obviously taken from the King James Version of Genesis."2 Yet nowhere does he mention Shinehah. I would be very interested in seeing where in Genesis Shinehah is mentioned at all and what it is. Of course he doesn't talk about it because he can't or rather won't because it obviously has *no* Biblical parallels whatsoever. Charles Larson nowhere mentions Shinehah in his recent newly touted book by Anti-Mormon critics.3 And the very latest attempt is deafeningly silent on Shinehah as well, namely that of Stephen Thompson who likewise claims nothing of Joseph Smith's interpretations matches anything Egyptian.4 It's also interesting that Thompson also ignores Kolob, but that is for another research paper to come forth later this year. Now to get on with something exciting about Shinehah, What is it? And of course, as is my wont to do, I will use the best of the non-LDS Egyptologists, so as to not have the silly claim that what I write is simply bias paid Mormons trying desperately to support Joseph Smith because they have to as some sort of churchy status quo or something or other.

There has been a most interesting discussion in the last few decades in the Egyptologists notes concerning the idea of time and eternity, and how they were presented in ancient Egyptian culture and religion. Right in the thick of this is, of course, the best clock man has had for millenia, the sun and what it does. We can note here as a reference that Shinehah can be logically broken into two elements, namely, "Shine" - "hah". Also remembering that the vowels in Egyptian are conventions, not laws of grammatical or spelling correctness by any means,5 so that without vowels at all Shinehah = Shnhh, or "shn" and "hh" a *very interesting* Egyptian arrangement as we shall see!

To the Egyptians "sheni" [shn of SHINE-hah!] means to "encircle" from which "shnw" - circuit, cartouche is arrived at. The oldest form of the cartouche was round and was retained for later times as the symbol for infinity. As Sir Alan Gardiner further notes, " seems not unlikely that the idea was to represent the king as ruler of all that which is encircled by the sun."6 Carol Andrews notes that the "heh" [hh of Shine - HAH] means "literally infinity."7 She further noted that the "Shen" [shn of SHINE-hah] "symbolically represented everything the sun encircled..., i.e. the universe. This became the cartouche ring that the king's names were written in so that "pictorially, pharoah set his name on the whole universe and symbolically extended his control over it."8

Interestingly, the Egyptian "heh" element [the HAH in Shine-hah - remember the vowels are mere conventions] stood for a number of ideas, among them millions, or else a great number, eternity, as a verb "heh" means to go around, to search continually. It's common occurrence is in the term "nhh", eternity - that which never stops going on.9 The Egyptian "hh n sp" = "many times, or often."10 "Heh" was an Egyptian "God of years" who was symbolic of eternity and a squatting figure of the god was used as the hieroglyph for the numeral 1,000,000.11 This god is shown on the alabaster cup of Tutankhamun "holding in either hand the palm branch as a sign for 'rnp.t' meaning 'year.'"12 So we see this god, certainly a measurement of time, also holding the palm branch signifying a year, and also associated with the "encircling" sun, which, to us, in our orbit around it, equals a year. It is not exclusively one concept or idea to the loss or disuse of other functions that this symbol is involved with, but the sun is definitely associated with "heh." Heh is often seen wearing the solar disc on his head.13 The amulet of the Shen "is intended to represent the sun's orbit, and it became the symbol of an undefined period of time, i.e., eternity."14 The "tcheta-neheh" mean illimitable time in the future according to one rendition of nhh.15 In the grave of one P3djjmnmjpt we see the formula "nbb-nhh hn' dt" meaning Forever and ever, i.e., eternity.16 In a Hymn to Amon we read that "Thebes removeth the two ends of everlasting and of eternity." Gardiner, commenting on this thought notes that "dt" and "nhh" are near identical in meaning. They represent the two limits of time.17 The common formula found in the cartouches of the Kings is "dt r nhh" which means forever and ever.18 So we are tied directly into the sun as the symbol for the Shen ring, more on this marvelous ring later, as well as a timekeeper. Joseph Smith knew whereof he spoke. That this is an obviously correct association is also seen in the hieroglyph for neheh, which is the two twisted pieces of flax, and the sun in between them or to the side.19 We also note that the other hieroglyph associated with "heh" is the solar hawk inside the emblem of the sun, and the horizon symbol on which the sun rises and sets.20 Depending on what other hieroglyphs are written with it, it can mean forever, eternity, heaven, an indefinite period of time, or hundreds of thousands of years, even one million, one hundred thousand million, ten millions of millions, and even ten million hundreds thousand millions of years.21 The Boat of millions of years was identified as the boat of the sun in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.22

An excellent example of the other functions that "heh" has in Egyption thought is indicated by Gertie Englund. She notes that at Heliopolis (the city of the sun no less), the teachings of the potential duality of male and female were heavily investigated by the Egyptian priests. This process of dualisation disrupted inertness and brought in polarization, life generating activity. "The two poles are passive/static and the active/dynamic or to put it in Egyptian terms Dt and nhh."23 Interestingly, Shu is equated with "nhh" while his twin sister Tefnut is the "Dt."24 Even more interesting is that the sun God Re is also equated with "nhh... the day is nhh."25 The entire idea of "nhh" is a life-generating active energy so that the world endures.26 Which of course, *is* the sun's function. Re, the sun god, "the representative of nhh."27 Re is frequently seen with the sun disc on his head.28 In the Naukratisstele we see that the goal was to become like the sun god Re, eternal-like (ewiglich), the Egyptian hieroglyph being the heh element.29 We find more of the same idea in the Horus-Temple of Edfu, where in the inner column hall, the king is addressed: "His Majesty is raised on his throne. The beginning of eternity (nhh) is assigned to him."30 Moreover, we see that Gerhard Fecht noted that the element "hh" is interpreted out of the Egyptian Determinative (Sign list A4, A30)and may actually come from the word "Rnpt" meaning "year."31 This is interesting since, for us on earth, one year of our lives is based on revolutions around the sun, again showing the connection of "hh" with the sun.

The King's ring was like the cartouche, a carefully executed hieroglyph enscribed as a double stringed or roped circle without beginning or end.32 This ring was the "Shen" inside the early coffins.33 Jecquier saw in the Shen Ring a symbol of eternal life for the people, as well as a symbol for eternity itself.34 The symbol for this in nature is of course, the orbit of the sun, which also is symbolic of the King's universal dominion.35 Hans Bonnet said as much in his work, namely that since the root of the word for the ring he wore, the "shen" ring, with the root "snj" which means "orbits" [umkreisen], the king was gladly identified with the sun and ruled over all that it orbits, "a hint at the world-reign of the Pharaoh."36 Westendorf saw the element "nhh" within the oval of the Shen Ring, as representative of eternity, as compared to the "Dt" as eternity expressed.37 Barta explaining further the tie in with the King's reign and the sun notes that this relevant time cycle would find its spatial expression in its daily repetitive ecliptic then, so that the fate of the king is put down in parallel with that of the sungod, that also appears again and again.38 In other words, the King's Shen ring symbolically associated with the sun and all it encircles shows the king, with the sun, ruling the world, especially as the sun rises, again and again! The symbolism is perfect, and is certainly understood in the Book of Abraham, since Abraham has a rivalry with Pharoah over who rules the world, and associates the word "Shinehah" with the sun.

"The Konigsring (King's ring) must be understood as the expression of a cyclic term."39 Hence the reason that "nhh" and "hh" can mean millions, or hundreds of thousands, etc., as the various cyclical times are needed to make the illustration work. We have already seen that the Kingsring is also associated with "rnpt" which means "year." This is a very good correlation with the sun in its relationship of our earth.

The intellectual abstract term of the infinite now finds its visible expression in the Empire and accessible suncycle; because the symbol of the track of the sun is like the shen Ring, without start and without end and remains untouched as a nature constant immune from temporal changes.40 Barta also notes that the Stele of "Hntj-htj-wr" with its rounded top is another confirmation of associating the Shen ring with the sun cycles. The stele was associated with the heavens and the sun cycle especially, following Westendorf's analysis.41 So this is not just a flimsy and wishful tie in of the Shen Ring with the sun, which is good news for the Book of Abraham as Shn [whether Shen or Shine as in Shine - hah] is associated with the sun also. So we have seen that Shine - hah, in ancient Egyptian parlance, has very good chances indeed! Both elements have to do with the idea of time, as well as identification with the sun, which is exactly what we would hope for if we have authenticity in the Book of Abraham, and we are not at all disappointed as that is exactly what we find, Shinehah is associated with the sun.


1. The Reverend Franklin S. Spaulding, "Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator," reprinted by Utah Lighthouse Ministry under the title, "Why Egyptologists Reject the Book of Abraham", (no date). Cf. Samuel A. B. Mercer, "Joseph Smith as an Interpreter and Translator of Egyptian," reprinted by the same, wherein he also ignored entirely what was said in the text of the BofA.

2. H. Michael Marquardt, "The Book of Abraham Papyrus Found", Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1975, p. 35.

3. Charles M. Larson, "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus" Institute for Religious Research," reprint, 1992.

4. Stephen Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," in "Dialogue," Spring 1995.

5. Karl-Theodor Zauzich, "Hieroglyphen Ohne Geheimnis", translated by Ann Macy Roth, (Hieroglyphs Without Mystery), Univ. of Texas Press, 1992, pp. 6f, "Nowhere among all the hieroglyphs is there a single sign that represents the sound of a vowel. Egyptian writing is thus a purely consonantal system...For everyday conversation, Egyptologists have adopted a simple, though rather drastic, rule to make the jumble of consonants pronounceable: they insert an "e" between each consonant." Cf. W.V. Davies, "Reading the Past: Egyptian Hieroglyphs", Univ. of California Press, 5th impression, 1993, p. 30. Also, Hilary Wilson, "Understanding Hieroglyphs," Passport Books, 1995, p. 30; Also Sir Alan Gardiner, "Egyptian Grammar," Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 3rd revised ed., 1994, 27f.

6. Sir Alan Gardiner, "Ibid.", p. 74.

7. Carol Andrews, "Amulets of Ancient Egypt," British Museum Press, 1994, p. 88f.

8. "Ibid.", pp. 76f. Cf. W.V. Davies, "Ibid.", p. 44, "The Egyptian name for the cartouche was Snw (Shenu) that which encircles. It is thought that the cartouche symbolised the fact that the bearer of the name ruled over everything that the sun encircles."

9. Gardiner, "Ibid.," p. 191 for million(s) "which is also used for many."

10. Gardiner, "Ibid.", p. 79.

11. Hilary Wilson, "Ibid.", p. 186.

12. Zauzich, "Ibid.", p. 67.

13. Margaret Bunson, "The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt," Facts on File, 1991, p. 86 for illustration.

14. E.A.W. Budge, "Egyptian Magic," Wings Books, 1991, p. 61. See his "The Egyptian Book of the Dead", Dover, 1967, p. 253, "shen (emblematic of the sun's circuit)."

15. E.A.W. Budge, "Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection", 2 vols., Dover editions, 1973, vol. 1, p. 370.

16. Jan Assman, "Der Konig als Sonnenpriester", Verlag J.J. Augstin, 1970, p. 22.

17. Sir Alan Gardiner, "Hymns to Amon from a Leiden Papyrus", in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache , 1905, p. 18, footnote 2.

18. Gardiner, "Ibid.", p. 18, footnote 2.

19. E.A.W. Budge, "A Hieroglyphic Vocabulary to the Book of the Dead", Dover, 1991, p. 214.

20. E.A.W. Budge, "An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary", 2 vols., Dover, 1978, vol. 1, p. 507, second column on the top. Cf. Budge, "An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Reading Book," Dover, 1993, p. 487f.

21. Budge, "Ibid.", p. 507, 1st column. See Budge, "Legends of the Egyptian Gods", Dover, 1994, p. 27; S.A.B. Mercer, "Egyptian Hieroglyphs," Hippocrene Books, 1993, p. 177, 3rd column.

22. Budge, "Egyptian Book of the Dead:Papyri of Ani", p. 188. Cf. Winfried Barta, "Das Schulbuch Kemit", in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1978, p. p for the expression "m-3wt-dt r-nhh..." From the length of eternity into eternity. See also Gerhard Fecht, "Schicksalsgottinen und Konig in der Lehre eines Mannes fir seinen Sohn," in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1978, p. 17 for million = hhw.

23. Gertie Englund, "Gods as a Frame of Reference", in "The Religion of the Ancient Egyptians: Cognitive Structures and Popular Expressions", Proceedings of Symposia in Uppsala and Bergen, 1987 and 1988, Uppsala, 1989, p. 11.

24. "Ibid", p. 12. Cf. Raymond Faulkner's translation of the "Coffin Texts", 3 vols., Aris & Phillips, Ltd., 1978, vol. 2, Spell 769, p. 300 - "You shall divide them as Shu..." for this idea in action of Shu taking action, and being dynamic and energizing, as nhh is.

25. "Ibid.", p. 12.

26. "Ibid.", p. 18.

27. "Ibid.", p. 16.

28. "Ibid.", p. 17 for illustration.

29. Adolf Erman & Ulrich Wilcken, "Die Naukratisstele", in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1900, p. 132.

30. Siegfried Schott, "Falke, Geier, und Ibis als Kronungsboten," in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1968, p. 60. Cf. Walter Wreszinski, "Das Buch vom Durchwandeln der Ewigkeit nach einer Stele im Vatikan," "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1908, p. 117 - "You unite with the man of eternity, if he rises on the day, and with the man of infinity, if he enters the night."

31. Gerhard Fecht, "Schicksalsgottinen und Konig,", in above, note 22, p. 33.

32. Winfried Barta, "Der Konigsring als Symbol zyklischer Wiederkehr", in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprache," 1970, p. 5. Cf. the various illustrations, p. 6.

33. "Ibid.", p. 5.

34. "Ibid.", p. 12.

35. "Ibid.", p. 12.

36. Hans Bonnet, "Reallexikon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte", Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1952, p. 389.

37. Barta, "Ibid.", p. 12, note 68.

38. Barta, "Ibid.", p. 13.

39. Barta, "Ibid.", p. 14.

40. Barta, "Ibid.", p. 14.

41. Barta, "Ibid.", p. 14.

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