Turning now to Joseph Smith, we can see that what he described and explained in the Pearl of Great Price matches the Egyptian traditions and the Saturn myths.
Joseph’s explanation of Kolob as “First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time,” fits Saturn’s ancient role perfectly. It was perceived as the primary governing power in the heavens. Everything else appeared to move or revolve around it. While it appeared to fully rotate once daily, it also remained in a fixed heavenly station. Additionally, it was the timepiece par excellence. In the role of Kronos (Cronus), Saturn’s appearance was commensurate with the beginning of time. That is, the ancients had no way of telling time or differentiating night from day until they could see Saturn and its rotating crescent. Thus, its early appearance in the ‘creation’ was said to mark the beginning of time or timekeeping.
What is more exciting is that a reading of Abraham, chapter 3, from the standpoint of Talbott’s polar configuration of planets reveals what was, undoubtedly, the fundamental meaning of the Lord’s explanation to that ancient prophet. He used Semitic words such as ‘kolob’ and ‘ha-kokab-im’ because that is the language Abraham spoke. He described the original planetary configuration that existed before the Flood because it served to teach Abraham the core truth behind traditional beliefs and practices, as well as provide a teaching tool for spiritual truths, which he expounded later in that same chapter.
In fact, to someone well versed in the arrangement of the Polar Configuration, it becomes apparent that this is what God revealed to Abraham — the ancient order of the heavens that existed before the Great Flood. The closer one looks, the more apparent this becomes. One must ‘force fit’ the present arrangement of the planets and stars, as so many LDS scholars have attempted to do, in that described in this revelation. On the other hand, given what we know about the polar arrangement, it accommodates the description remarkably well.
In verse 2, we learn that Abraham saw “very great” stars near the throne of God. To the ancient mind, Saturn was perceived as the throne of god, if not god himself. The other planets in the arrangement, Venus, Mars and the 7 small moons that were seen to orbit Saturn, were called stars. They were the “governing ones” that dominated Earth’s ancient heavens. The name Kolob may well apply, in this account, to Saturn itself because it is referred to as the “one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.” Saturn was the apparent ‘anchor’ or ‘governor’ of all the heavenly host in antiquity, including the Earth.
The issue of night and day was very different under those ancient skies, dominated by Saturn. The light that ruled the day was the same light that ruled the night, though each was given a different name in most cultures. Janus, (ya-an-us) depicted in the Joseph Smith papyri as the two-headed god, represented the day and night duality of the same orb — one face for day, one for night. Significantly, it is this figure that the prophet identified as Kolob, the very orb that we’ve identified as Saturn.
In the period of time we would call day, Saturn was very subdued in appearance, washed out, if you will, by the brightness of sunlight. However, when the sun set, it grew brighter until, at the time of day we would call midnight, it was at its brightest. So when the Lord relates to Abraham that “the planet which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning,” he is only reiterating what he already declared in verse 3, except that this time he calls this orb a “planet” instead of “star.” He was simply being more accurate in his description.
Indeed, the Lord’s description to Abraham of one planet standing above another until one comes to Kolob answers to the illustration drawn by Joseph Smith, and published by Philo Dibble, of the Earth’s antediluvian state, much better than it answers to the present arrangement of planets moving in distant orbits. (See Part 4 for this illustration.)
So we see that what was revealed to Abraham was quite different from what most Latter-day Saints believe, yet it serves to further substantiate this author’s thesis that the Polar Configuration, as Talbott explains it, was the actual state of the heavens in antiquity, and that understanding that fact illuminates the scriptures as nothing else.
The word Kolob is a construct of the Egyptian religion, based on the ancient heavens and not a present physical reality. What God revealed to Abraham was actually the order of the planets during the earliest epoch in our solar system, the Patriarchal Age, the time before the Flood known to Egyptians as Tep Zepi, or Golden Age, when our world and the heavens above it were vastly different than they are today. Both Abraham and Joseph Smith used Egyptian terms to describe the images they saw — Abraham saw it in vision, Joseph saw it on the papyri.
It should be gratifying to Latter-day Saints that modern research into Egyptian traditions, myth and legend has given credibility to the teachings and writings of this dispensation’s founding prophet and aided us tremendously in our efforts to comprehend scripture.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2008