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Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Essay

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Updated: Jul 6th, 2021

Egyptians believed in the afterlife with absolute certainty, becoming almost a central doctrine to their religion. Every believer lived their life and each day with the vigor and belief in the renewal in the afterlife. However, they also believed that it is not just the soul that was resurrected in the afterlife, but the physical corruptible body as well. These aspects were inherently connected, and the physical body required preservation and care in the real world to ensure eternal life. Therefore, Egyptians placed great value on life and the physical body which extended to their post-death traditions such as mummification. The afterlife was portrayed as a heavenly extension of the earthly life in which the body, soul, heart, and various human forms are meant to exist with the gods. The perception of heaven was similar to that of other ancient and modern religions, where individuals have all their physical and spiritual desires fulfilled, and they can live in eternal satisfaction and glory, similar to deities. (Budge, 1895).

Similar to Christians, the Egyptians believed in a Supreme Being known as the “nouti” which they believed to be strong and divine. It is also known that Egyptians were polytheistic. Egyptians believed that at death, a person is judged by deities to determine the worthiness of their soul. It is a critical and ending part of the journey in the afterlife when the individual would arrive at the Hall of Maat and the purity of their soul is judged before entering the Kingdom of Osiris. Persons would have to list their sins while addressing some forms of holy judges and then their heart was balanced on scales against the feather of Maat. If they failed, their soul would be destroyed by the goddess Ammit (Taylor, 2010).

Christians have similar approaches to the afterlife and judgment. First, Christians strongly believe in the value of life as well as a reflection of earthly actions on the purity of the soul. Different denominations address the afterlife journey from various perspectives. Although there is no direct description of the process, most believe that human souls are judged by God to determine whether one spends the afterlife in Heaven or Hell. So, unlike the Egyptians, if a soul is not worthy, it does not get destroyed but is rather subjected to eternal damnation. Divine judgment has existed in religion since the earliest recorded beliefs of human civilization, including Ancient Egypt and extending to modern Christianity. Although the processes, criteria, and interpretations of judgment may differ, the fundamental principle remains similar as to pass judgment of a person’s actions while alive to determine their outcome in the afterlife. It can be argued that divine judgment is central to the existence of religion since it helps to guide people and set certain moral codes that individuals will follow to escape damnation. Therefore, it is both a method of guidance and control over believers.

References

Budge, W. E. A. (1895). . Web.

Taylor, J. H. (2010). Journey through the afterlife: Ancient Egyptian book of the dead. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead." July 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ancient-egyptian-book-of-the-dead/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead'. 6 July.

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