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The Negative Confessions in Book of the Dead

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EUH 2011: Ancient European Civilizations

DeVaughn Sparks: Early European Civilizations Mini Paper

Deadline: Sunday, September 24, 2017 11:59 PM

“The Negative Confessions” in Book of the Dead

        The Book of the Dead to the Egyptians was a funerary text. An ancient Egyptian funerary text was a collection of religious documents that were used in ancient Egypt, usually to help the spirit of the people mentioned to make it to the afterlife, which they called the Duat, safely. The Negative confessions in the Book of the Dead are a part of their tradition where they recite its text swearing they had not committed any sin within the text. Egyptians used this as a moral absolute that must be met to make it through the afterlife as they must have led a good life to successfully pass the Gods’ judgement. This was flawed as the writing implies that the deceased could pass through the afterlife without being entirely pure or pure at all.

        These confessions are called negative because it only affirms what the person who is reciting the text has not done and does not address any sins that the speaker has done that does not fall within those 42 sins. “Tem-Sepu from Tetu - I haven't worked witchcraft against the Pharaoh.” and “Hept-khet from Kher-aha - I haven't committed robbery with violence.”  (“Book Of The Dead”, accessed September 23, 2017. are prime examples. In the first statement, the speaker would have sworn to not have worked witchcraft against the Pharaoh; it says nothing about committing witchcraft against any other person. In the second statement, the speaker would have sworn to have not committed robbery with violence but the statement says nothing of committing robbery without violence. By avoiding any inconvenient truths that were not listed in the Negative Confessions it seems that the deceased could enter the afterlife even if their life had not been entirely pure thus making the system flawed as the speaker would not have necessarily led a good life.

        In conclusion, this proves that the confessions were flawed in holding up a moral standard as the deceased could enter the afterlife without having led a good life by not mentioning any troublesome truths that were not listed. Those Egyptians that meet the criteria were justifying themselves to the Gods by saying what they had not done and not what they had done. They were not actually confessing their sins.




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