From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 12 - July 1993
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org/
By Todde Salen, Sweden
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
There never existed one 'book of the dead' that was the same
throughout the history of ancient Egypt. The Book of the Dead
is a combination of various scriptures or a summary of the most common
writings found in graves and scriptures from more than 3000 years
of Ancient Egyptian civilization.
Ancient Egypt existed between 3500 B.C. and 500 B.C., a period that
can be divided into 26 dynasties(1).
Each dynasty represented a sub-civilization, during which the
society rose under a strong leader, continued its existence under
successors of that leader, then succumbed as the bureaucracy of this
type of civilization (1st Empire Civilization) slowly strangled it
to give room for a new, strong leader to form a new dynasty.
have decided that between 100 million and 200 million people could
have lived at the same time in the Nile Valley, based on the type
and amount of irrigation that was in use (much of which is used the
same way today). At the peaks of ancient Egyptian civilizations, it
could safely be assumed that more than 100 million of its inhabitants
lived along the Nile.
Varieties of 'the book'
The materials in the Book of the Dead contain rituals that
go back to times long before the ancient civilization of Egypt was
established some 5500 years ago. There are thousands of varieties
of the Egyptian Book of the Dead written on papyrus scrolls
in addition to various inscriptions on coffins or graves. They all
add to the contents of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Nowhere
does one find two versions of this book that are exactly the
same, although there are standardized versions of some chapters
One common denominator of this book is that all the versions
are guides for the deceased to find his way through the After World.
The common religion in ancient Egypt did not deal in reincarnation.
From our viewpoint, we could say that the normal citizen's religion
taught him some moral codes and, if he managed to follow those
rewarded him with a better life after death
Ancient Egyptian Commandments.
The normal human being had 42 commandments to follow - which makes
the Ten Commandments(2), look quite tame. When you died, you were
to meet the god Osiris. He and his 42 judges decided, based on your
answers, how you had lived according to the commandments, which
Do not be unfair towards your fellow man behind his back.
Do not suppress the oppressed.
Do not make falsifications.
Do not force labourers to work more than their share.
Do not be lazy.
Do not be an alcoholic.
Do not act immorally.
Do not third-party the servant to his master.
Do not cause another to starve.
Do not cause another grief.
Do not murder.
Do not take holy bread from the altar.
Do not give short measure.
Do not prevent an infant from getting its mother's milk.
Do not spread false rumours about anybody.
Do not catch birds belonging to the gods.
Do not prevent irrigation water reaching the fields
Do not steal meat designed for sacrifice to the gods.
Do not neglect to give food to the starving.
Do not neglect to give water to the thirsty.
Do not neglect to give clothes to the naked.
The moral teachings of the Book became more and more sophisticated
as time went by and civilization developed.
(1)Dynasty: A succession of rulers
from the same family or line; or, a family or group that maintains
power for several generations -The American Heritage Dictionary.
(2)Ten Commandments of the god 'Yahweh,'
according to the books of Moses Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy
Tue Jul 11 20:19:38 EDT 2006