Modern Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead once served as a guideline for the way in which ancient Egyptian people should plead their case in the afterlife in order to avoid being sent to the “bad place”. It was popular among society. People would read the book for guidance on how to convince their god that they were worthy of grace rather than punishment for any transgressions they may have committed. This book reflects the values of Egyptian society at the time by highlighting what would be considered grave transgressions. This is reflective of what was important in daily life. It is also is inadvertently reflective of what were probably very common transgressions among Egyptian society. Actions denied in the book were likely so common that they were believed to be what would first come to mind when deciding ones fate.

Additionally, the The Book of the Dead shows us what was considered just and unjust when it came to social interaction between and across classes in society at the time. A more modern book of the day created for society today would be reflective of such changes in human justice and social norms. For example, the original Book of the Dead has clear disparities in punishment for people from different classes of society. A double standard exists depending on who suffers the injustice and who is the perpetrator.

This concept closely contrasts with the Judeo Christian belief that god will ultimately refer to a Book of Life after you die to decide whether or not you are deserving of going to heaven in the end. It is said that he will look over transgressions committed that habe already been recorded in this book before he makes his decision. Unlike the Egyptian belief system, there is not an opportunity to reason with god. What is done, is done. Once your spirit has left your physical form, you are not believed to be able to actively change your fate. Any deeds that can be done in order to better your chances of going to heaven in the end must be completed during life on earth. Nonetheless, there are commonalities between these religious beliefs systems as they each developed over time. They each included an afterlife, and a final judgement period. Civilizations originating in the fertile crescent did not believe anything happened to you after you died. The Book of the Dead serves as further confirmation that this was not the case in ancient Egypt.

I have not spent more than thirty minutes on TikTok a day.

I have not declined a phone call I knew was important.

I have not drank out of the milk carton in the fridge.

I have not forgotten to flush.

I have not screenshotted, and sent a conversation I had over text message with someone to a friend for the sake of making fun of him or her.

I have not snoozed my alarm clock.

I have not left the light on when leaving a room.

I have not staged a social media post.

I have not texted my friends during church.

I have not dated my best friend’s crush.

The Fair Treatment of None

Since the ancient days of Mesopotamia under Hammurabi, racial discrimination has been an unfortunate precedent in society. The rule of Hammurabi, most distinctly known for its creation of a written legal code, portrayed how the status of wealth and race can directly affect the outcomes for an individual facing a judiciary. In most cases, these differences came in small ways such as paying a fine versus serving some manual labor. However, when these same ideologies are enacted upon major cases such as murder, robbery, or rape the differences can be uncanny. 

Many of the differences in the treatment of individuals based on their race and wealth seen in the Code of Hammurabi are clearly carried on to the present day. Modern America continues this bombardment of mistreatment in rather exponentially destructive ways.  A Washington Post article from 2017 published a statement from a study conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission (USCC) stating that, “Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer.” This number alone is simply outrageous, especially in the country that emphasizes its notion of freedom and the fair treatment of all. Also referenced in the article, a 2014 University of Michigan Law School study concluded that, “black offenders were 75 percent more likely to face a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence than a white offender who committed the same crime.” These numbers are simply preposterous and go completely unexplained in the claims of the “fair” judicial system that is supposed to consider each case equally and simply look at the facts of the crime. 

In comparison, the code of Hammurabi numbers 200 and 201 reciprocate this inequality. Code number 200 states, “If a man has knocked out the teeth of a man of the same rank, his own teeth shall be knocked out.” On the other hand, code number 201 states, “If he knocked out the teeth of a peasant, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver.” The clear and blatant discrepancy in the fair treatment of an individual based on social status or race is something that has been proven to be present since ancient times. No matter how much intervention takes place, throughout the past thousands of years nothing has been able to stop these unfortunate wrongdoings.  These ideas clearly caused the trend in data from the USSC report in 2017 that stated the rate in which whites are incarcerated is 450 inmates per 100,000 people compared to the astronomical 2,306 inmates per 100,000 people of blacks. A number that is over five times higher. The question arises of how to solve this seemingly imminent problem that has been ailing society since the 1700s BC. 

The answer is simple. When facing a criminal charge in the court of law a judge and jury should not be allowed to see the financial background of the individual. Also, the elimination of the bail system in the United States would allow for more equal treatment of those convicted in terms of punishment and preparation for the trial. Lastly, to incorporate more diverse judges and juries to allow for better representation of races and ethnic groups on both sides. Despite the fact that injustice has been a constant of the past thousands of years, with a small amount of effort, the stigmas and equality of the world can be changed forever.

Word Count: 572

MIDN Ben Werve – HH215

Is The Past That Far Removed?

In reading about the Egyptian Book of the Dead, I learned that things that have happened so long ago a not very removed from our current society. In ancient times it is evident that the way a person lived their life would dictate how they would live in the afterlife. Similar to how many view religion today, people should not sin because of the implications of the afterlife. Overall, even though the Egyptian Book of the Dead was written so long ago our society still has similar values.

            Some things that I learned about Egyptian life is that people’s lives revolved around the gods and natural resources. This can be concluded based on writings in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Some of the most prominent ones were, “I have not thought scorn of the god” and “I have not encroached upon the fields of others”. I believe that these are the most important two sayings in the writing. God and natural resources held such high power to the people back then and the still do today.

            Even though religion and proving to Osiris that someone lived a good life are very similar in today’s age there are also many differences. Some of things that would qualify you as a good person according to Osiris are, “I have not defrauded a poor man of his goods” and “I have not domineered over slaves”. The Egyptian Book of the Dead in my opinion really determines if someone will have a good afterlife if they lived a “good life” , to me, it means that they were happy and enjoyed their own life not necessarily were they a good person. In my interpretation of religion today, I believe that one of the main things that determine someone’s future is the way they affect people’s lives not necessarily the way that they lived their own. Even though this varies in some ways they both follow the same religions

            Essentially, I believe that today’s society’s religious values are very similar to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Today people are valued based on the way that they effect people around them. As long as someone is living happily and being a positive force in other peoples live they will be doing everything that they need to be doing in order to live a good afterlife.

            Some things have happened so long ago may seem so distant from our advanced society today but that may not always be the case. Often ties things from the past are very evident in the future and often follow similar or exact guidelines in the future. Oto s important to acknowledge the past to learn and adapt for the future.

My 21st Century Book of the Dead for the Naval Academy:

  1. I shall not juul
  2. I shall do well on my PRT
  3. I shall have a high order of merit
  4. I shall not drink underage
  5. I shall discipline my plebes
  6. I shall not lie, cheat or steal

Word Count: 510

Ryan Magnuson


Live the Rules to Live Forever

            One of the earliest complex societies created in the world belonged to the Egyptians. By 3100 BCE they developed a system of writing, a complex bureaucracy, record keeping, and much more. Egyptians were extremely religious and believed in an afterlife. They believed that when they died they appeared before a god named Osiris, and he would determine whether their soul went to a good place or bad. For the best chance of having a good afterlife, the Egyptians followed a list of things to prove to Osiris that they were deserving of this good place.

            This book is called the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This book consisted of many things for the Egyptians to follow in order to have a better chance of having a better afterlife. This book covers many ways to earn a happy afterlife, but there are three main ideas. First, it is imperative that the Egyptians were honest. The Book of the Dead listed several ways to not lie, for example, it stated “men should not cheat in measuring grain.” Second, the Egyptians stressed the importance of not causing harm to one another. The Book of the Dead shows this by listing multiple ways that a person should not hurt another. One stated “I have caused no man to suffer.” Lastly, the Egyptians stressed that it is imperative to take care of the nearby land, especially the Nile. The Nile is the only reason that Egypt is habitable, and by tampering with it could cause destruction to the Egyptian society. The Book of the Dead states, “I have not obstructed water when it should run.”

            When looking at our current society in The United States, it is easy to identify what we stand for: democracy and freedom. To understand what those two words mean to the United States’ society, I turned to the Bill of Rights and common laws in the United States. There are three main things that if you follow, you will be considered a good citizen of the United States. First, Americans value the first amendment. The first amendment grants United States citizens freedom of speech, religion, and much more. If you want to be considered a good citizen of the United States, do not take away a person’s first amendment. Second, Americans value due process. Due process is essentially that you are innocent until proven guilty, and you can take conflicts to court. To be considered a good citizen of the United States, do not deny people’s rights to due process. Lastly, it is imperative to Americans that we do not harm each other. If you want to be a good citizen, do not hurt another human being.

            After analyzing the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the Constitution of the United States, there are similarities and differences. The Book of the Dead and the Constitution both stress the importance of not causing harm to another human being. Also, they both say that it is not acceptable to steal or trespass. The differences come in when the Egyptians mention the importance of their land, and how it is unacceptable to obstruct it. Meanwhile the Constitution does not mention anything similar. The Constitution also states that the freedom of religion is allowed, meanwhile in Egypt, they all must follow the Book of the Dead to please Osiris, one of their gods.

My own Book of the Dead:

  1. You must chew with your mouth closed
  2. You must have watched every episode of Peaky Blinders
  3. You must not clap when the plane lands
  4. You must go to all the Navy lacrosse games
  5. You must call your mother every week.

Word Count: 559

Book of the Left on Read

The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian text that advises its readers on what to say when they face Osiris’s judgement.  Based on the Book of the Dead we can see that the Ancient Egyptians value fair and kind treatment from a master to a slave as well as between a patriarch and his family.  This can be seen with verses such as “I have not domineered over slaves” and “I have not oppressed (or wronged) [my] kinsfolk.” This sense of just treatment (insofar as there can be such a thing with slaves) shows that while Egyptian society is not equal, they do have a sense of everyone’s individual personhood, which implies some form of rights.  This is further backed up by the edicts against more classical crime This has to do with the many lines dealing with not stealing, defrauding, and killing. Examples of these lines include “I have slain no man,” “I have not cheated the pointer of the scales,” and “I have not taken away the milk from the mouths of babes.” While these are necessary for a society to not collapse in on itself, the fact that these are considered moral imperatives show that they are built into the Egyptian worldview.

Stealing and defrauding is applied both to men and gods, which suggests a very physical relationship between the Egyptian views of gods and creation:  “I have not filched the offerings in the temples. I have not purloined the cakes of the gods.” This grounds the Egyptians in the archaic view of offerings to the gods.  These crimes are not committed against man like the other ones, but rather they are an affront to the gods themselves. There is also a sentence about having “not known worthless men,” which suggests a strong emphasis on one’s reputation.  This importance of reputation is so strong that the Egyptian’s think one ought to appeal to the company they keep on judgement day.  

In comparison to our current values, we share many themes with the Egyptians like no stealing and killing.  However, we do not consider crimes against gods within our moral codes. Also, while we pay attention to reputation, we do not say that one’s reputation makes them bad or good.  We do not care about the treatment of slaves within our society because slavery is illegal.

A contemporary Book of the Dead would likely have clauses related to not presenting a false image of one’s self.  Such as, I have not tweeted angrily on Twitter, especially in topics that I am not knowledgeable about. As well as, I have not led an unhealthy lifestyle and blamed all of my problems on everything but myself.  Other clauses would have to do with maintaining good working and leisure habits. I have not wasted excess amounts of time in random, uninspired content from youtube, facebook, instagram, etc. I have not wasted my finances on faddish items that I forget in three days.  There would also be clauses to avoid becoming an overexaggerated Buzzfeed article. I have not emotionally manipulated or coerced others into broken relationships. I have kept my computers and mobile devices well protected from malicious actors on the internet. Finally, with the rise of mental health issues, care for others suffering would likely be addressed.  I have not neglected my friends when they are mentally suffering.

Word Count 559

Zachary Peterson

Book of the Dead

            In the Egyptian Book of the Dead we are given a glimpse into not only the religious values of the Ancient Egyptians but the daily cultural norms that formed their livelihood.  In this book Egyptians would quote entries from the book in order to persuade their god, Osiris to spare them from the harsh underworld.  In this very concept we can come to the conclusion that religion and the ideal of an afterlife where a motivating factor in the moral development of the ancient Egyptians.  In their culture they would have had to be very consistent in their faith according to this idea of pleading for their life.

            As we delve into the individual entries we can further examine the daily lives that the ancient Egyptians took course.  The first entry suggests that it is a very significant one states “I have not sinned against men.”  In this statement a lot can be understood about their culture and religion.  One being the idea of fairness and respect of the fellow man.  In this ideal we see parallels to most religions today of which have some variation of the golden rule.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  It’s very interesting that an ideal such as this persists even to this far back in history.

            Another entry encompassing the idea of this civilization as none barbaric was that which stated, “I have not committed acts of abomination.”  Acts such as adultery, murder, war crimes, and other heinous acts are all covered in this one line.  Many times ancient civilizations are considered very barbaric through media and other information sources.  As stated in this entry and recently re-stated by Dr. Jay Samons, many civilizations had enumerated laws, even for war!

            Many of the entries like today’s society truly value the idea of a Good Samaritan.  Some address allowing no man to starve, not lying about grain/crop, and even the well-being of infants.  Another recurring idea in the Book of the Dead is that of respecting offerings made to the gods.  Another point at which the importance of religion on a daily bases was a vital part of their society.  Some of the entries reference the “pure places” which can mean the places of worship and even the sacred parts of the Nile.  As we find out, the entire civilization is dependent up the river and being able to irrigate and live off the fertility of its banks.  We can understand that these pure/sacred places could mean the banks of the rivers and other agricultural landmarks which proved vital in the harsh dessert.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead offered a lot to learn about the very structure of ancient Egyptian culture and the values they up held.  In these values we see various parallels to that of modern day culture, from the importance of protecting resources to protecting the fellow man.  We can understand just how the people of this society thought and came to establish a way of life worth living.  In developing my own Book of the Dead, I would employ many similar entries such as.

  1. I have been active in our religion, not only practicing out of habit.
  2. I have worked to contribute society in a positive way.
  3. I have been fair to others and their property.
  4. I have taken care of my family and offered help to the less fortunate.
  5. I have mostly worked hard and not been lethargic in my work.

-Brandon Volontiya

Word Count: 579

Unequal Treatment Before the Law

The code of Hammurabi contains one of the earliest and most complete written law codes in human history. It includes provisions for marriage, business, theft, adultery, debt, and personal injury. It gives harsh punishments for the guilty party but also requires that the guilty party be proven guilty. The code gives different punishments for the same offense against people of different social classes. For instance, if a man destroys the eye of another free man, his own eye must be destroyed. However, if he destroys the eye of a peasant, he must only pay one mina of silver. Everyone was not equal before the law. 

Laws in the United States of America are written without distinctions between social class or race. But, the enforcement of laws is often dependent on the socioeconomic background of the accused party. For instance, “blacks are 3 to 4 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, even though they are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs. Worse still, blacks are roughly nine times more likely to be admitted into state prison for a drug offense.” (Brookings)

The United States Sentencing Commission found that blacks received sentences about 19.1 percent longer than White males who committed similar crimes and had other similar situations. Crimes involving drug use, violence, and sexual assault are treated differently by judges. The USSC put some measures in place in an effort to mitigate this inequality following The United States vs Booker

The evidence for the disproportionate incarceration of minorities, even with similar frequency of offenses as majority populations, is well established. The data shows that while the laws of the United States of America are written differently than the Code of Hammurabi, the enforcement of them is sometimes strikingly similar. It has been the challenge of governments to treat all parties equally before the law from the dawn of civilization to the present day. 

Non-discrimination laws can do some good in equalizing the treatment of all under the law, but the true change in the way the law is carried out will come as a reflection of a similar change in the way people see and treat each other on a day to day basis. Communities that can acknowledge legitimate differences between individuals and groups while avoiding stereotypes and bigotry will have greater success in treating all fairly under the law. 

Civilizations have struggled to treat those who are poor or different than the mainstream with the proper level of respect and protection in the courts. The Code of Hammurabi makes no effort to hide the way it distinguished between free men and peasants. In fact, it goes out of its way to make specific consideration of the victim or offender’s social status. On the other hand, The United States has the ideal that everyone should be treated equally by the government, regardless of social status, skin color, religion, etc. The United States has likely failed to live up to the ideal more often than it has succeeded in doing so, but it means something that the US even claims to value equality before the law in the first place. It represents progression from civilizations in the past. The United States is certainly better at treating its citizens equally than it was two hundred or one hundred years ago. The United States has a long way to go, but it is on the correct path. 

—Jon Dollahite 

Word Count: 536


Click to access United_States_v_Booker_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Drug offenders in American prisons: The critical distinction between stock and flow

Failed Legal System

Modern day society is not as far off from the world of ancient Mesopotamia then I originally thought. When I first thought of the pre-modern world I coincided it with being barbaric and unruly compared to the present day America I live in.  However, social and economic status still plays a very prevalent part in the American legal system like it did during ancient Mesopotamian period.  

The Code of Hammurabi is very precise in the way it describes how punishments should be given out to different social classes.  For example there is very harsh consequences for injuring a free man compared to a peasant at the time: “If a man has destroyed the eye of another free, his own eye shall be destroyed” compared to “If he has destroyed the eye of a peasant or broken a bone of the peasant, he shall pay one mina of silver.”  While our legal system is much different than taking an eye for an eye, we are much more similar to this divide in social class than we might think. A lot of the Turmoil that occurs in the United States is due to the divide between upper class and minorities. 

Brock Turner is an example of how many individuals of higher class are treated differently in court to some minorities.  This man raped an unconscious woman and only had to serve three months time for it. He was a white athlete attending Stanford University who came from a wealthy background and was described in his trial as “humble, hard-working, gracious, thoughtful, charming, an AP student, a talented swimmer who loved to cook.”  Somehow being only nineteen with a full life ahead of him was suddenly an excuse for raping someone. There is study published in Sociology of Sport Journal in 1997 that discovered “that even though athletes are more likely to be arrested for sexual assault than the general population, they are less likely to be convicted.” There are currently so many stories being shared of similar situations where individuals are getting away with rape becuase of their social status. 

While Brock Turner only received three months time, a man named Corey Batey is looking at at least fifteen to twenty-five years for raping a women. He is a black man who was playing football at Vanderbilt University.  Why is it that the legal system is allowing this to happen? Is the difference of the color of their skin really the only difference that will allow them to live very different lives for the same crime?

In order to realistically improve the system there needs to be a joint effort in making sure a limited amount of time must be served for every case no matter the gender, race, age, or economic class of the individual.  Brock turner served enough time for a misdemeanor when he committed three felonies. The United States courts are failing as a legal system when they allow this to happen. It is time to move past the primitive behavior that was once acceptable in the time of Ancient Mesopotamia.

-Ellie Canalichio

Word Count: 515


Code of Hammurabi

Code of Ethics: Egyptian Beliefs vs. Modern-Day Values

To the Egyptian’s god, Osiris, each Egyptian must be seen having committed no offenses covered in the Egyptian Book of the Dead during their time on earth before death. Otherwise, it would affect the opportunities they could have in the afterlife. The book did not just appeal to one social rank, but rather it applied to every class ranging from the laborers to the elites. This was, as the Ancient History Encyclopedia states, the afterlife was seen to be “a continuation of life on earth,” so their actions in their lifetime had effects on their afterlife. Their life in the present can serve to dictate or reflect the type of life they will have after death. The Egyptian Book of the Dead represents the standard set of values and beliefs that Egyptians had in terms of positive behavior. In a sense, it can be seen as a code of ethics or morals that everyone stood by in order to be considered a righteous person in the eyes of Osiris.

In modern society today, individuals do not live in accordance to a singular guidebook as the Egyptians did; however, we can still see similarities in how we universally follow a certain set of morals. It is known to be morally wrong to steal, cheat, or murder, but it is morally right to help others. Each of these points are reflected in the book. For example, it is explicitly stated that one can not “cause [a] man to suffer” or “[give] the order for any man to be slain,” nor can one allow a “man to go hungry.” For the Egyptians, while they must live a proper life without committing these offenses, it was imperative to also take care of others. In the modern age, individuals still try to live their best life without trying to affect others negatively as well. For example, those who feel a desire to give back to their communities may engage in various philanthropic activities, such as dontanting time or money to causes that they feel most invested in.

Additionally, a parallel can be drawn between the Egyptians to today in terms of how individuals still value religion. There are people today who are pious and live by their religious beliefs, which can be mirrored in the Egyptian Book of the Dead since Egyptians could not have “thought scorn of the god” or “stolen the offerings of the spirits.” On the other hand, due to modern conceptions, a stark difference between the two can be centered around the presence of extreme politicization, social media addiction, and drug abuse. We have been struck with a variety of epidemics surrounding opioids and the push for legalization of marijauana in the past decades. No presence of drug use or either substances were ever mentioned in the book being in part because of the differences in the way of life today.

For my own Book of the Dead, I would use these 5 statements as a testament to living a good life: I have not subtracted from the population, I have not stolen from my progenitors, I have not deceived any of my comrades, I have not consumed exuberant quantities of alcohol, and I have not suffered severe memory loss from an over consumption of narcotics.

—Waehung Ng

Word Count: 545
The Book of the Dead, Volume 11, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1911

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