An Analysis of the Egyptian Book of the Dead

An analysis of the “Book of the Dead” and its implications for Egyptian concepts of sin and morality.

The ancient Egyptians were much concerned about their afterlife, and this concern is reflected in many inscriptions and texts found in their pyramids and coffins. The “Book of the Dead” served to outline the difficulties that awaited them after death and provided them with some practical information to help them along the way. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” and its purposes, the practice of magic, the moral and ethical beliefs that are reflected in its writings, a discussion of the importance of the Code of Ma’at, and ancient Egyptian concepts of the human soul. An examination of how various ancient Egyptian concepts of sin and morality are reflected in the Book of the Dead is followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.
According to S. G. F. Brandon (1970), It became the custom in ancient Egypt from about the 18th Dynasty (1580-1320 BC) to place in the tombs of the dead papyrus scrolls inscribed with texts. These texts were designed to help the dead to rise to life again and obtain a happy lot in the next world (305). The name Book of the Dead is a contemporary one that has been assigned by Egyptologists, beginning with Karl Richard Lepsius, a German Egyptologist who published the first collection of the texts in 1842. Brandon points out that the ancient Egyptian title was Chapters for Coming Forth by Day. This title was intended to describe what the Book of the Dead texts would do for the dead, according to Egyptian belief. Many of the texts can be traced to two earlier collections of funerary texts, the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts.