Ancient Egyptian consciousness of God’s moral law

By Roger Marshall*

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law [of Moses] do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them” (Rom. 2: 14-15, NIV)

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14, KJV)

“…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9: 27, KJV)

The ancient Egyptians were very conscious of the fact that all men are sinners in need of salvation, a salvation that would prevent them from being condemned as sinners to eternal damnation/destruction when they face the judgement of God/the gods in the afterlife. However, they also believed that they could trick their divine judges into accepting them into paradise by employing certain magic formulas whereby they would be able to successfully deny their sins thus saving themselves from eternal damnation. These magic formulas were contained in the “Book of Coming Forth by Day”, or the “Book of Emerging Forth into the Light” more commonly known simply as the “Book of the Dead”. The mortuary spells, magic texts, and accompanying illustrations called vignettes were written on sheets of papyrus, the walls of tombs and coffins. They were placed with the dead in order to help them pass through the dangers of the underworld (spirit realm) and attain an afterlife of bliss in the “Field of Peace” which was also known as the Field of Offerings, Field of Reeds, or Blessed Fields.

 

This detail scene, from the Papyrus of Hunefer (c. 1275 BCE), shows the scribe Hunefer’s heart being weighed on the scale of Maat against the feather of truth, by the jackal-headed Anubis. The ibis-headed Thoth, scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart equals exactly the weight of the feather, Hunefer is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten by the waiting chimeric devouring creature Ammit composed of the deadly crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus. Vignettes such as these were a common illustration in Egyptian books of the dead.

 

 

Following are the “negative confessions” from the Papyrus of Ani/The Declaration of Innocence from the Book of the Dead (dated 1240 BC) which was translated by E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934) an English Egyptologist, Orientalist, and philologist who worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East. When compared with the teachings of the ancient Scriptures which comprise the Holy Bible it shows that the ancient Egyptians knew exactly what sin was though ultimately they sought to deny that they were guilty.

  1. Hail, Usekh-nemmt, who comest forth from Anu, I have not committed sin.

(Confession # 1 shows that the ancient Egyptians knew and believed that there is such a thing as sin which is the violation of God’s moral law. The Bible says: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law [of God]: for sin is the transgression of the law [of God]”, 1 John 3: 4)

  1. Hail, Hept-khet, who comest forth from Kher-aha, I have not committed robbery with violence (Confessions #2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9,15,39,40 & 41 shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that stealing is a sin. The Bible says: “You must not steal”, Exodus 20: 15. While Ephesians 4: 28 says: “Let the thief no longer steal, but ratherlet him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” )
  2. Hail, Fenti, who comest forth from Khemenu, I have not stolen.
  3. Hail, Am-khaibit, who comest forth from Qernet, I have not slain men and women (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that murder is a sin. The Bible says: “You must not murder”, Ex. 20: 13. While 1 John 3: 15 says: “Anyone who hates a brother or sisteris a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”)
  4. Hail, Neha-her, who comest forth from Rasta, I have not stolen grain.
  5. Hail, Ruruti, who comest forth from heaven, I have not purloined offerings.
  6. Hail, Arfi-em-khet, who comest forth from Suat, I have not stolen the property of God.
  7. Hail, Neba, who comest and goest, I have not uttered lies (Confessions 8, 14 & 16 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that lying is a sin. The Bible in Exodus 20: 16 says: “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” While Ephesians 4: 25 says: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfullyto your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” and Colossians 3: 9 says: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”)
  8. Hail, Set-qesu, who comest forth from Hensu, I have not carried away food.
  9. Hail, Utu-nesert, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have not uttered curses (Confessions 10 & 37 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that cursing is a sin. The Message Bible says in Ex. 20: 7 says: “No using the name ofGod, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.” While Ephesians 4: 29 (ISV) says: “Let no filthy talk be heard from your mouths, but only what is good for building up people and meeting the need of the moment. This way you will administer grace to those who hear you.”)
  10. Hail, Qerrti, who comest forth from Amentet, I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men. (Confessions 10, 18 & 19 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that adultery like homosexuality is a sin. The Bible in Exodus 20: 14 says: “You shall not commit adultery.” While Jesus in Matthew 5: 27 said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Leviticus 18: 22 says: “You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman: it is abomination.” While 1 Corinthians 6: 9 says: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality”).
  11. Hail, Her-f-ha-f, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have made none to weep (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that insulting and oppressing others is a sin. The Bible in Proverbs 11: 12 says: “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” While Proverbs 14: 31 says: “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”)
  12. Hail, Basti, who comest forth from Bast, I have not eaten the heart (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that cannibalism is a sin. The Bible closely associates descent into cannibalism with the final stages of judgment from God on his people because of their sins thus marking it as a loathsome and evil practice.)
  13. Hail, Ta-retiu, who comest forth from the night, I have not attacked any man (Confessions 13 & 22 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that aggravated assault of others is a sin. The Bible in Exodus 21: 15 says: “Anyone who attackstheir father or mother is to be put to death.”).
  14. Hail, Unem-snef, who comest forth from the execution chamber, I am not a man of deceit.
  15. Hail, Unem-besek, who comest forth from Mabit, I have not stolen cultivated land.
  16. Hail, Neb-Maat, who comest forth from Maati, I have not been an eavesdropper (Confessions 15 & 29 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that meddling in the affairs of others is a sin. The Bible in 1 Peter 4: 15 says: “If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs.”)
  17. Hail, Tenemiu, who comest forth from Bast, I have not slandered [any man].
  18. Hail, Sertiu, who comest forth from Anu, I have not been angry without just cause. (Confessions 17 & 23 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that unjust anger is a sin. Jesus in Matthew 5: 22 says: “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (NLT). While James 1: 20 says: “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”, NLT)
  19. Hail, Tutu, who comest forth from Ati, I have not debauched the wife of any man.
  20. Hail, Uamenti, who comest forth from the Khebt chamber, I have not debauched the wife of [any] man.
  21. Hail, Maa-antuf, who comest forth from Per-Menu, I have not polluted myself. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that sin is likened to pollution. The Bible in Ezekiel 14: 11 says: “In this way, the people of Israel will learn not to stray from me, polluting themselves with sin. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!”)
  22. Hail, Her-uru, who comest forth from Nehatu, I have terrorized none.
  23. Hail, Khemiu, who comest forth from Kaui, I have not transgressed [the law]. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that sin is transgression of God’s law. The Bible says in 1 John 3: 4 says : “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”, KJV)
  24. Hail, Shet-kheru, who comest forth from Urit, I have not been wroth.
  25. Hail, Nekhenu, who comest forth from Heqat, I have not shut my ears to the words of truth. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that refusing the truth is a sin. The Bible in 2 Timothy 4: 3-4 says: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”, NIV)
  26. Hail, Kenemti, who comest forth from Kenmet, I have not blasphemed. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that blasphemy is a sin. The Bible in Matthew 12: 31 says: “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (NIV).
  27. Hail, An-hetep-f, who comest forth from Sau, I am not a man of violence. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that violence is a sin. The Bible in Genesis 6: 11 says “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence”, KJV)
  28. Hail, Sera-kheru, who comest forth from Unaset, I have not been a stirrer up of strife. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that stirring up strife among people is a sin. The Bible in Proverbs 6: 16-19 says: “There are six things theLord  In fact, he hates seven things. The Lord hates proud eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that kill those who aren’t guilty. He also hates hearts that make evil plans and feet that are quick to do evil. He hates any witness who pours out lies and anyone who stirs up conflict in the community” NIRV)
  29. Hail, Neb-heru, who comest forth from Netchfet, I have not acted with undue haste. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that hastiness which is often an outworking of anger is a sin. The Bible in Ecclesiastes says: “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools”, KJB)
  30. Hail, Sekhriu, who comest forth from Uten, I have not pried into matters.
  31. Hail, Neb-abui, who comest forth from Sauti, I have not multiplied my words in speaking. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that using the tongue unwisely is a sin. The Bible speaks of this sin in the book of Job 35: 16 which says: “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” NIV).
  32. Hail, Nefer-Tem, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have wronged none, I have done no evil. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that doing wrong to others and giving into evil is a sin. The Bible in Romans 12: 17-21 says: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” KJV)
  33. Hail, Tem-Sepu, who comest forth from Tetu, I have not worked witchcraft against the king. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that witchcraft/sorcery/divination is a sin. The Bible strongly condemns witchcraft equating it with rebellion against God. As it says in 1 Samuel 15: 23 “For rebellionis as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
  34. Hail, Ari-em-ab-f, who comest forth from Tebu, I have never stopped [the flow of] water. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that selfishness is a sin. The Bible says: “A generous person will be enriched, and the one who provides water for others will himself be satisfied”, Proverbs 11:25 NET Bible)
  35. Hail, Ahi, who comest forth from Nu, I have never raised my voice. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that lack of self-control is a sin. The Bible says the following about this sin.

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Proverbs 29:22 “An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.”

Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Proverbs 17:19 “Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.”)

  1. Hail, Uatch-rekhit, who comest forth from Sau, I have not cursed God.
  2. Hail, Neheb-ka, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not acted with arrogance. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that pride is a sin. The Bible says: “He [God] has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble”, Proverbs 3:34; “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”; James 4: 6; ““God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble”, 1 Peter 5: 5).
  3. Hail, Neheb-nefert, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
  4. Hail, Tcheser-tep, who comest forth from the shrine, I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.
  5. Hail, An-af, who comest forth from Maati, I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
  6. Hail, Hetch-abhu, who comest forth from Ta-she, I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that, as the Bible says: “Whoever kills an animal must make restitution”, Leviticus 24: 21)

From the Papyrus of Nu

From the Book of the Dead
Translated by E.A. Wallis Budge
Brit. Mus. No. 10477, Sheet 22
[THE FOLLOWING] WORDS SHALL BE SAID BY THE STEWARD OF THE KEEPER OF THE SEAL, NU, WHOSE WORD IS TRUTH, WHEN HE COMETH FORTH TO THE HALL OF MAATI, SO THAT HE MAY BE SEPARATED FROM EVERY SIN WHICH HE HATH COMMITTED, AND MAY BEHOLD THE FACES OF THE GODS.

 

  1. The Osiris Nu, whose word is truth, saith: Homage to thee, O great God, Lord of Maati! I have come unto thee, O my Lord, and I have brought myself hither that I may behold thy beauties. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the Forty-two Gods who live with thee in this Hall of Maati, who live by keeping ward over sinners, and who feed upon their blood on the day when the consciences of men are reckoned up in the presence of the god Un-Nefer. In truth thy name is Rehti-Merti-Nebti-Maati. In truth I have come unto thee, I have brought Maati (Truth) to thee. I have done away sin for thee.

 

  1. I have not committed sins against men. (This confession shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that committing offences against fellow human being is a sin. The Bible also speaks about sin against men. Genesis 42: 22 says “Reuben replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.’” (NIV)

1 Samuel 2: 25 says: “If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” (NIV)

1 Samuel 19: 4 says: “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good:” (KJV)

  1. I have not opposed my family and kinsfolk. (This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that family feuds is a sin. The Bible warns against this sin. 1 John 3: 12 says: “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
  2. I have not acted fraudulently in the Seat of Truth.

Like Confessions #8, 14 & 16 in the Papyrus of Ani this negative confession again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that lying is a sin.

 

  1. I have not known men who were of no account [i.e. worthless; good-for-nothing persons]. This shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that keeping bad company is a sin. The Bible in warning against this sin says: “Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1, God’s Word Translation)
  2. I have not wrought evil.

Like Confession #33 in the Papyrus of Ani this negative confession again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that doing wrong to others and giving into evil is a sin. The Bible says in Romans 12: 21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

  1. I have not made it to be the first [consideration daily that unnecessary] work should be done for me.
  2. I have not brought forward my name for dignities.
  3. I have not [attempted] to direct servants. [1]
  4. [I have not belittled God].

Like Confessions #27 & 37 in the Papyrus of Ani this negative confession again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that blasphemy is a sin.

  1. I have not defrauded the humble man of his property.

Like Confessions #2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9,15,39,40 & 41 in the Papyrus of Ani this negative confession along with 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 & 30 again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that stealing is a sin.

  1. I have not done what the gods abominate. The Bible says: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6: 16-19)
  2. I have not vilified a slave to his master.

Like Confessions #29 in the Papyrus of Ani this negative confession again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that stirring up strife among people is a sin.

  1. I have not inflicted pain.

Confessions 14, 15 & 16 show that the ancient Egyptians knew that unkindness to others is a sin. The Bible in Ephesians 4: 31-32 says: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

  1. I have not caused anyone to go hungry. The Bible in condemning this sin says: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2: 15-16, NIV)
  2. I have not made any man to weep.
  3. I have not committed murder.

This negative confession along with #18 again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that murder is a sin.

  1. I have not given the order for murder to be committed.
  2. I have not caused calamities to befall men and women.
  3. I have not plundered the offerings in the temples.
  4. I have not defrauded the gods of their cake-offerings.
  5. I have not carried off the fenkhu cakes [offered to] the Spirits.
  6. I have not committed fornication.

This negative confession shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that sex before marriage is a sin. The Bible in warning against this sin gives the following admonitions:

  • “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6: 18, KJV).
  • “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5: 3, KJV)
  • “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4: 3)
  1. I have not masturbated [in the sanctuaries of the god of my city]. This again shows that the ancient Egyptians knew that sexual perversion is a sin. The Bible says: “Therefore consider the members [sex organs]of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3: 5)

“…each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:4)

  1. I have not diminished from the bushel.
  2. I have not filched [land from my neighbour’s estate and] added it to my own acre.
  3. I have not encroached upon the fields [of others].
  4. I have not added to the weights of the scales.
  5. I have not depressed the pointer of the balance.
  6. I have not carried away the milk from the mouths of children. Confessions # 25-30 again show that the ancient Egyptians knew that stealing is a sin.
  7. I have not driven the cattle away from their pastures.
  8. I have not snared the geese in the goose-pens of the gods.
  9. I have not caught fish with bait made of the bodies of the same kind of fish.
  10. I have not stopped water when it should flow.
  11. I have not made a cutting in a canal of running water.
  12. I have not violated the times [of offering] the chosen meat offerings.
  13. I have not driven away the cattle on the estates of the gods.
  14. I have not turned back the god at his appearances.

 

  1. I am pure. I am pure. I am pure. My pure offerings are the pure offerings of that great Benu which dwelleth in Hensu. For behold, I am the nose of Neb-nefu (the lord of the air), who giveth sustenance unto all mankind, on the day of the filling of the Utchat in Anu, in the second month of the season Pert, on the last of the month, [in the presence of the Lord of this earth]. I have seen the filling of the Utchat in Anu, therefore let not calamity befall me in this land, or in this Hall of Maati, because I know the names of the gods who are therein, [and who are the followers of the Great God].

Despite the common ground on which the Bible and the ancient Egyptians stand in declaring for the most part what sin is, the stark contrast to the negative confessions of the ancient Egyptians is that the Bible says that ALL HAVE SINNED and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23). In other words no one on earth past or present can ever say that they have not committed any one of these sins delineated by the ancient Egyptians. To which the Bible says: “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them” (James 2: 10).

Yet again it says: “…the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God” (Romans 3: 19).

Thus the Bible further says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth [Maat] is not in us” (1 John 1: 8)

So while the ancient Egyptians sought to proclaim their innocence in their over 42 negative confessions, the ancient Scriptures of the Holy Bible proclaims that we are really guilty.

If we take an honest look at ourselves and our fellowman we full well know that we have all sinned in one way or the other. It isn’t that I have not committed sin rather it is that I HAVE COMMITTED SIN!

The solution to the sin problem isn’t to deny our sins in negative confessions (as the ancient Egyptians did) rather it is to admit our sins in POSITIVE confessions. As the Bible again says: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28: 13, NIV).

And again it says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9)

The Bible further says that God in His justice and righteousness cannot let sin go unpunished. That’s why death exists. As the Scripture proclaims: “…the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6: 23a, NIV). However, in His great love for and mercy towards mankind God took upon Himself the punishment for our sins in the person of Jesus Christ that we might be forgiven on account of His substitutionary death.  As the Bible says: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5: 19-21, NLT) and again “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3: 18a, NIV). Further still the Bible proclaims “He [Christ Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2: 2, NIV).

Now that’s grace, mercy and Maat (TRUTH)!!

Conclusion

Since the ancient Egyptians believed in sin, and since what they identified to be sin is for the most part identical to what the Bible teaches about sin and its consequences; why do most modern day Afrocentrists reject the Bible? Could it be that they don’t want to hear the Bible’s message that all men are sinners in need of a Saviour? If so are they really seekers after truth (Maat)?

You be the judge.

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbados based Christian apologetics organisation.

©2016

 

 

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