Books of Breathing

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The Books of Breathing are several late ancient Egyptian funerary texts, intended to enable deceased people to continue to exist in the afterlife. The earliest known copy dates to about 350 BC.[1] Other copies come from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egyptian history, as late as the second century AD.[2]

The books were originally named "The Letter for Breathing Which Isis Made for Her Brother Osiris", "The First Letter for Breathing", and "The Second Letter for Breathing". They appear in many varying copies, and scholars have often confused them with each other.[3] Their titles use the word "breathing" as a metaphorical term for all the aspects of life that the deceased hoped to experience again in the afterlife. The texts exhort various Egyptian gods to accept the deceased into their company.[4]

Egyptologists assert that some of the papyri that Joseph Smith claimed to use to translate the Book of Abraham are actually parts of the Books of Breathing. Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, who was appointed by the LDS church to learn Egyptian in order to defend the claim that Joseph Smith had found and translated a document from the hand of Abraham, gives a short description of the Book of Breathings:

For the Book of Breathings is before all else, as Bonnet observes, a composite, made up of "compilations and excerpts from older funerary sources and mortuary formulas." [H. Bonnet, Reallexikon der Egyptischen Religionsgeschichte (Berlin, 1952), p. 59.] From the Second Book of Breathings, hardly distinguishable from it, it blends off into such earlier writings as "The Book of Passing through the Eternities", the "Amduat", and the "Book of Gates", in which we recognize most of the ideas and even phrases of the "Sensen" Papyrus. [W. Wreszinski, "Das Buch vom Durchwandern der Ewigkeit," Aegyptische Zeitschrift (AZ) 45 (1908), pp. 111ff; Chassinat, "Le Livre second des Respirations," p. 315.]

See also


  1. Hornung 1999, pp. 23–25
  2. Smith 2009, pp. 462, 500, 521
  3. Smith 2009, pp. 462, 499, 514
  4. Smith 2009, pp. 466, 503, 517–518
  • Hornung, Erik (1999). The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife (in German). David Lorton (translator). Cornell University Press. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Nibley, Hugh (2005). The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: an Egyptian Endowment. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Nibley, Hugh. "What is 'The Book of Breathings'?". BYU Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, (Winter, 1971). BYU. pp. 153–187. Retrieved 2/10/2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Smith, Mark (2009). Traversing Eternity: Texts for the Afterlife from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-815464-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>