Friday, October 7, 2016

Observations on Kerry Muhlestein's Interpreter Article (Volume 22, 2016): "Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri"

I applaud Kerry Muhlestein for being a faithful Mormon, a believer that is willing to defend the Book of Abraham.  All Book of Abraham scholars that are faithful Mormons ought to be congratulated for this.  I also congratulate Muhlestein in recognizing the vailidity of personal revelation as part of the epistemology for how one knows that the Book of Abraham is true, and for Mormons, the primary reason.  Yes, we have been accused for having that as our trump card to be able to dismiss other evidences, but that is not true.  Actually, it is true that as Mormons, our biases based on personal testimony lead us to know in our subjective selves that the Book of Abraham is in fact true and historical.  That doesn't mean that any evidence needs to be dismissed if it is truly taken into account properly, and has a proper explanation for it.  That doesn't mean that we will side with the critics in our ultimate conclusion about the historicity and truth of the text.  It only means that we must take all evidence into account and explain it as best as we know how.

Forensic Facts Matter, not old 19th Century Journal Entries and Newspaper reports

The difference between different types of apologists, however, as I have observed in other posts on this blog, has to do with the types of apologists that actually explain evidences in a Mormon faithful interpretive framework, versus Mormon apologists that EXPLAIN AWAY the forensic evidences in favor of some other fairy-tale worldview, or who give too much weight to evidences that are not forensic, but instead are documentary accounts that are either late reminiscences, or are given by people that have not forensically been able to establish the facts of what evidences there are, but who rather use hyperbole, exagerration, or who just plain don't get the facts straight in some other way.  While some apologists strive to be the former type of apologists (like for example Brian Hauglid), unfortunately, Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee continually seek to deliberately be the latter type of apologists, who evade evidence continually, and uphold discredited worldviews, and give Mormon Apologetics a black eye.  Until they choose to repent of this type of behavior, we will continue to have the problems that we have between apologists and critics with regard to fundamental disagreements about the nature of the forensic evidence before us.  Rather, I seek (as I think Brian Hauglid does), to have conversations with critics and come to a consensus among all scholars, critics and apologists alike, to come to a fundamental agreement on FORENSIC FACTS.  Interpretations of facts will always differ, as they must.  I have continually argued and called for such things, and called out Muhlestein and Gee for this kind of behavior, and asked them to stop.  Here are some samplings of these types of articles:

Muhlestein writes:
Combs sold most of the collection to a man who put them in the St. Louis Museum. For a long time, it was thought the entire collection was at the St. Louis Museum. As it turns out, at least two mummies and the two long papyri rolls (one described as the long roll, one as the short, though it still seems to be quite lengthy) were taken there . . . (emphasis added).
I have recently completed an extensive article which examines the eyewitnesses who saw the papyri and heard something about what Joseph Smith was translating from. This study concludes that the majority of people who saw the papyri and heard something about the source of the Book of Abraham did not specify whether that source was on the scrolls or the fragments, but about a dozen did. Based on the testimony of these eyewitness accounts, our only real historical evidence, it is clear that if the translations did indeed come from the papyri (an idea that is possible but not sure and to which we will return below), the long roll was the source of the Book of Abraham. While we cannot yet say what the source of the Book of Abraham is, we can say what it is not: according to the eyewitness accounts, it is not the text adjacent to Facsimile One. It is too early yet to tell how this evidence and argument will be received by the academic community.  (emphasis added).
Once again, Muhlestein, in his article, refers us to the same old reports from the 19th century that seem to allege that there was a papyrus that does not meet the description of the one that is before us, and he relies yet again on these things to try to establish that there was a Missing Papyrus, true to form, following Gee in this thing again.  While it is true that Muhlestein notes other possibilities, the Missing Papyrus theory still seems to be his favorite (else why argue so devotedly to the prospect of 19th century documentation), yet according to forensic evidence, it is not plausible.  An extremely remote possibility, yes, but not a plausible option.  Again, Kerry, go have a talk with John Sorenson about old 19th Century reports about Book of Mormon Geography and their reliability.  Then compare that with the situation where you are trying to use those types of evidences instead of forensic evidence of the papyri and the KEP that the critic Egyptologists actually pay attention to, and then come back to the discussion.

Muhlestein is correct that the Sensen Papyrus is not the source of the text of the Book of Abraham, but then he fails to ask the follow-up question:  is there ANOTHER ANCIENT reason that the Sensen symbols decorate the English text in the Book of Abraham manuscripts?  And so, if there is an ancient relationship, what is it?  This is the issue explored on this blog.  Everybody knows that the Sensen characters do not CONTAIN the text of the Book of Abraham.  That is plain to all.  What then is the relationship?  Well he could have known if he cared to pay attention to the research of other faithful LDS people working on this problem.

Muhlestein makes mention of William Schryver's theory on what the KEP is, but doesn't bother to mention other LDS people's work on the issue or the other possibilities that others have come up with.

The Battle of the PhD's Again

Since Muhlestein and company may apparently feel that it is below them to give any time of day to some guy on a blog that who only cares about evidence is their own problem.  I can't tell whether Muhlestein pays attention to this blog, but nevertheless, I gave a rebuke to Egyptologists who won't pay attention to their peers who are also Egyptologists, who disagree with Gee and Mulestein on the forensic evidence.  Whether Mulestein is responding to my rebuke or not, he did say this in his article, in yet another logically-fallacious appeal to the authority or supremacy (however you want to see it) of the LDS Egyptologists over Non-LDS ones:
Some have noted that many LDS Egyptologists put forth what appear to be convincing arguments but some readers later come to perceive that their credibility or authority is somewhat doubtful because non LDS Egyptologists who have written about the subject have disagreed with their point of view. It seems to have gone unnoticed that the vast majority of Egyptologists have said nothing at all about this matter. A very small minority has taken any kind of position regarding the Joseph Smith papyri controversy. Of those who have, it is certainly not their primary research concern, so they have typically put very little time into investigating these issues and the associated details. Thus it is important to note that LDS Egyptologists have spent more time studying the Egyptological issues associated with the Book of Abraham than any non-LDS Egyptologists, though this does not necessarily mean they are correct about everything they write. It is even more important to note that all scholars who say something about this topic are heavily influenced by their original point of view. Understanding the different points of view of these sources of authority is an important part of the epistemological process — the process of learning about the historiography of the study of the Book of Abraham. 
I recently found that FAIRMormon has also jumped on this type of bandwagon:

And yet again I say, Kerry, you ought to talk to Robert Ritner, who has spent a ton of time on this issue, who has authored a book on the issue, and who is highly respected by Brian Hauglid.  Once again, you are just simply making an appeal to authority, nothing more, nothing less, but this time, its an invented strategy of how to show the LDS scholars have supremecy over the non-LDS ones.  And all he can say is, that Ritner and those like him have not spent as much time on the issue.  Well, sorry, but Ed Ashment and Steven Thompson and Brent Metcalfe have spent decades on it, much longer than Muhlstien for sure,  when Muhlstien is a newcomer to the issue, having only received his PhD from UCLA only very relatively recently, in 2003, from the available reports.  Of course, many apologists look at the fact that Brent Metcalfe has no credentials to speak of and dismiss him out of hand, but Brian Hauglid has the good sense to pay attention to him and have interaction.

And how long has Mulestien been a fully-engaged apologist for the Book of Abraham? Certainly not as long as Ed Ashment has been a critic of it.  So, it boils down to, "well these critics aren't full-time critics on the issue, but Mulestien and Gee are full time apologists on it, so that means that they are better."  I doubt they are actually spending every waking hour on Book of Abraham apologetics issues.

While Book of Abraham Apologetics is important, until everyone gets fundamental facts straight and stops this "we are better than you because..." rhetoric, we will never get anywhere.

The KEP and Related Translation Project Pre-Dated the Acquisition of the Papyri

Kerry brings up the point that some of the KEP and the Adamic Language translation projects pre-date the aquisition of the papyri.  Fair enough, but that isn't evidence that the KEP is not indeed directly related to the Book of Abraham project once the acquisition was made.  Kerry tries to distance the KEP from the Book of Abraham again by noting all the times that there is a direct correspondence between the KEP.  Once again, he deliberately underestimates the correspondences and the direct translations of Sensen symbols lifted directly from the papyrus  But then, he would have known that if he had paid attention to the research of others that he doesn't value.

Once Again, Still Defending the Facsimile Explanation Translations ONLY, but Not the Translations in the KEP

Muhlstien writes:

The question that Spaulding, Deveria, and many others today have asked is about how Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles compares to those of ancient Egyptians. The question is more complex than it initially appears, and many have opted for simple answers instead of investigating the complexities. Here we will not be able to go in depth into these issues, but we can at least highlight some of the questions to be considered.
Even though it is obvious to ask whether or not Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles match those of Egyptologists, it is not necessarily the right question to ask; we do not know if Joseph Smith was trying to tell us what ancient Egyptians would have thought of these drawings. What if Abraham’s descendants took Egyptian cultural elements and applied their own meanings to them?
We know this happened in other cases. For example, Jesus himself did this when he gave the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which clearly draws from the Egyptian tale of Setne-Kamwas. The Apocalypse of Abraham and Testament of Abraham are two more examples of Semitic adaptations of Egyptian religious traditions. Therefore, maybe we should not be looking at what Egyptians thought the facsimiles meant at all but rather at how ancient Jews would have interpreted them . . .
Or perhaps Joseph Smith was providing an interpretation that a small group of Egyptian priests who were familiar with Abraham would have seen in this vignette. 
We know that from about the same time and place as when and where the Joseph Smith Papyri were created, there were priests very familiar with Abraham, who used him in their own religious texts and rituals. 
So here, to Muhestein's credit, he notes that Iconotropy is the most likely explanation for what is happening here, where someone applied their own meanings to the drawings.  While Abraham's descendants are one of the candidates who would have done this, what if Egyptians themselves who were syncretists who valued the stories of the Jewish Patriarchs were the ones that did it?  And again, to Muhestein's credit, he notes that it indeed could have been a small group of Egyptians that were aware of Abraham that did it.

The scholars like Muhlstien continue to defend the Facsimiles Explanations primarily with this principle, rightly, which continues to be the best and most plausible and well-established one.

Yet Muhlstien and the rest of the scholars like him continue to not realize or recognize the fact that textual hieroglyphics are still hieroglyphics.  In spite of the fact that they constitute "text," they are still fundamentally little pictures just like the big illustrations, the translations of which Muhlstien is willing to defend.  Why is Muhlstien still unaware, or unwilling, to defend the LITTLE PICTURES with the same principle:  adapting them to other meanings by the ancients?  Why doesn't Muhlstien notice that the little pictures also have the same types of adaptations for their definitions in the KEP, as the big pictures in the Facsimiles Explanations?  So this is my biggest criticism, pretty much as it always has been.  They are willing to defend the Facsimiles Explanations with this principle, but unwilling to extend the explanations to the little pictures in the text, which in their narrow-minded way, can only see as text.  And, they pay no attention to this criticism, so they continue to wallow in the hole that they are in with regard to this thing.  The same exact principle that explains the big pictures also explains every single problem in the KEP, and with the use of symbols from the Sensen Papyrus in it.  But they don't care, and they aren't paying attention.  If they would see it in this light, they would not have to keep applying nonsensical explanations to the matter like trying to say that the Sensen text doesn't belong with Facsimile 1, which it plainly does.  If the Sensen text are viewed as individual illustrations that were transformed to different meanings than they were used for in the context of a text, then all of the problems go away.

The exact same problem exists with regard to the text in Facsimile #3.  As Muhlstien writes
There is a key difference with Facsimile Three compared to the other two: the explanations for Facsimile Three label some of the hieroglyphs above the heads of the figures differently than the way I would translate them as an Egyptologist. As an LDS Egyptologist, it seems to me that the most likely explanation for this is that Joseph Smith was teaching either how ancient Jews or a small set of ancient Egyptians would have interpreted the drawings or how we should interpret them, after which he then assumed that the glyphs would translate that way. Again, Joseph Smith did not claim to be able to read hieroglyphs. This particular issue has not yet received much scholarly attention.
What about a way some Jews or a small set of Egyptians would have re-assigned little pictures in text with meanings that are not the original meanings?  Once again, the same exact solution is the answer.

Ryan Larsen's Recent Book of Abraham Articles: A Secret Combination to kill Abraham, and the Handwriting of Abraham

A fellow researcher on the Book of Abraham, my friend Ryan Larsen, has recently put up a couple of articles which are both very interesting:

In this one, Ryan suggests that perhaps the priest of Pharoah/Elkenah, or the person that did the sacrifices on the Lion Couch may have been not only the priest of Pharaoh, but also the Vizier of Egypt, the person in power that basically ran the government in behalf of Pharaoh.  This is essentially the station occupied by Joseph who was sold into Egypt when he became Pharoah's right-hand man.  These types of suggestions are plausible to me.  Because this may explain how such a person could travel far and wide to do what he pleases, as Ryan says.

Next, Ryan goes off into an interesting theory from there about the idea that the Priest of Elkenah being a person that was part of a conspiracy that didn't necessarily represent the laws of the land of Egypt or the laws of the land of Chaldea, but perhaps was some other group that was doing their own will.  In essence, it seems that Ryan is suggesting that a secret combination took it upon themselves to destroy whoever they pleased and do it in the guise of a religious practice of human sacrifice (but that perhaps this type of sacrifice was not necessarily according to the laws of the land or sanctioned by the government).  And so, in persecuting those of the true religion, or at least those who had loyalty to the monotheistic "Living" God (whether they knew correct doctrine about this Living God or not), they would sacrifice those upon the altar because they were perhaps intolerant of their religious beliefs.  As the Book of Abraham tells us, three young women were slain on that altar at once, who were the daughters of some person of the royal bloodline of Egypt, or at least the royal bloodline from Ham.  Ryan speculates that the word Elkenah, rather than being a word known to all, may have been a secret code-word or some other type of secret term among those of this combination.

Anyway, Ryan's suggestion is interesting because, by the time Abraham gets to Egypt, Pharaoh welcomes him at first.  If Pharaoh were in on the plan to have him killed, as the priest of Elkenah was, why did Pharoah welcome him to Egypt later?  Did he not know his identity, that he was the same man that the priest tried to sacrifice?  Perhaps he didn't, because maybe he wasn't in on it.

So, in summary, the suggestion that Ryan is making is an interesting one, that just because this priest of Pharaoh was some sort of government official or religious official that represented Pharaoh, that doesn't mean that he necessarily had the sanction of Pharaoh or the government of Egypt to do what he was doing in Chaldea, but rather, it may have been according to his own will, or the will of some secret group that he represented.  As Ryan points out, it is possible that it was the priest's own "custom" to do what he was doing, not necessarily a custom sanctioned by government.

As most who have read the Book of Abraham know, the name of the person whose daughters were slain by this priest was named Onitah.  Ryan suggests that this may have been one of the Pharaohs, and then makes some suggestions about who that may be.  In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, this man's name is given as "Onitas" sometimes.

All of these seem to be plausible theories.

Next, Ryan makes some plausible observations that cast doubt on the idea that Joseph Smith was suggesting that Abraham's actual handwriting was on the papyrus.  He also makes some good suggestions that cast doubt on the idea that Joseph Smith was suggesting that the Sensen Papyrus was written by Abraham.  He focuses in on the fact that a "signature" could just mean a symbol, and is not necessarily someone's actual written "John Hancock" of their own name.  In the KEP, it identifies the "rope coil" or Egyptian hieratic letter W which looks like a comma as the symbol in the Sensen Papyrus that Joseph Smith identified as the symbol standing for Abraham's name.  So whatever Joseph Smith actually said about it, it was this symbol that he was pointing to when he said it.

Now, whether or not we put stock in Ryan's suggestion, or suggest that Joseph Smith didn't really know what was going on with every detail, I think we need to keep an open mind.  To me, it doesn't bother me much if Joseph Smith didn't know all the details of what the Sensen Papyrus actually was.  To me, it is enough to know that he got information that pointed to the fact that the Sensen Papyrus was part of the puzzle to re-hydrating illustrations and information for a version of the Book of Abraham in modern-day speech.  It is enough for me to know that the Sensen Papyrus was associated with Abraham anciently, and that the symbols in it were appropriated for use in an Abrahamic context.  Whether Joseph Smith actually knew with precision these details that modern research has shown is less important to me.  Anti-Mormons on the other hand, make Joseph an offender for whatever he did or didn't know, no matter what he did or said, when he did the best with what he comprehended and knew, and he did it with honesty and integrity.

The possibility that Ryan points out highlights the fact that we need to entertain multiple possibilities in our minds at once regarding the details, and that it is possible that Joseph Smith didn't think that the Sensen Papyrus was actually authored by Abraham.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mike Ash's Problematic Explanation for the Usage of Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the Kinderhook Plates Episode

For this blog post, I am referring to the article below published in Meridian Magazine by Mike Ash, a prominent Apologist for FAIRMormon, and this post is a response to Ash's article:

Here is the web archive version of Ash's article:

Here, Mike Ash refers to a presentation at the FAIRMormon Conference a few years ago which was presented by Don Bradley:

Don Bradley, “‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates,” at

Here is the web archive version of Bradley's talk:

There are quite a number of problems with Ash's article here.  He says that  "LDS historian Don Bradley shared some much-needed light on the issue".

And what is this light shed by Bradley on the usage of the KEP/GAEL?  That "There is little doubt that the 'translation' of this single character (“portion”) came from the GAEL which was used as an academic lexicon."  And what is Ash's description of the process?  Ash tells us, based on Bradley's theory, that "Joseph apparently turned to his copy of the GAEL (the 'Egyptian Alphabet') in order to make an academic (non-revelatory) comparison to the Kinderhook Plates . . . Trying to find a matching lexicon-type character in the GAEL would have been as easy as turning to the second page of definitions assigned to characters."

Yet, Ash says "In the papers of that volume Joseph and his associates copied many of the characters from the Joseph Smith Papyri (the impetus for the Book of Abraham translation) and then attempted to connect those characters to the translation of the Book of Abraham. These characters were dissected into individual shapes, lines, and dots—each representing different characters. We have very little information as to what Joseph was doing and why, and the KEP and GAEL are still an enigma to modern scholars."

So, removing this entirely from the issue of the Kinderhook plates for a moment, on the one hand Ash tells us that the GAEL is an enigma to modern scholars.  On the other hand, he tells us that he has evidence that Joseph Smith used it as an "academic lexicon"?  Where then is the enigma?  Critics of the church have known for a very long time that Joseph Smith set up the GAEL as a "lexicon."  But the critics have also known that it was definitely not just "academic" to Joseph Smith, but that Joseph Smith thought of it as revelatory.  While critics believe it is a false translation, they still knew from the beginning that Joseph Smith himself believed it to be revelatory.  It is only LDS apologists since the beginning of time that have insisted that the GAEL is not a lexicon, but an enigma.  And it is also LDS apologists that have maintained that the GAEL is not revelatory.  And I'm not saying that critics are right about everything, but they are right about certain things, sometimes where Mormon Apologists have it wrong, and sometimes the claims of critics ought to be taken seriously, especially when a critic is a specialist or PhD in a certain area.  It's not that we should heed or agree with their ultimate conclusions about the core truthfulness of Mormonism.  But sometimes their observations of certain facts are spot on, in cases when apologists would rather evade or deny a fundamental fact.  Both the claims of critics and the claims of apologists ought to be held up to scrutiny.  While apologists ought to be applauded for their intentions and for the good they do, they need to be held to a high standard of scrutiny.  And so, we ought to take very seriously the fact that Joseph Smith not only thought of the GAEL as a lexicon, but that he also thought it was revelatory.  And this is why work is being done by some like me to demonstrate that it was not only a lexicon, but that it was indeed revelatory.

Yet Ash insists that a translation that Joseph may have attempted to do was "academic" in nature, and not "prophetic" or "revelatory"?  This follows the LDS apologetic establishment stance or ideology that the GAEL cannot be revelatory.  And this was Bradley's reason in the first place for making the claim at the FAIR Conference that it was merely "academic," because he wanted to cater to that ideology.  It is only because he catered to that ideology that his paper was presented at FAIRMormon.

While it is true that the word "academic" is being used by Ash in the sense that an academic person would be using a regular lexicon for help in translating, it seems to me that he also is using it to implicitly say that there was nothing revelatory at work.

Why is this insistence that it was only "academic"?  Because the Kinderhook plates are obviously frauds.  Yet, Ash and Bradley are willing to bring the Kirtland Egyptian Papers into this, which many scholars insist are not translations, but Ash and Bradley are willing to say that Joseph Smith was willing to treat as a lexicon of an ancient language.  Why then, is Bradley's take on the episode not precisely evidence of what Joseph Smith thought of the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar sections of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers?

What evidence is there that Joseph Smith here was not using the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar as it was intended to be used?  And what evidence is it that it is not precisely a *revealed* lexicon of the Joseph Smith Papyri?  There isn't any, only the machinations of LDS apologists that insist it isn't revealed.

Well, interestingly, the scholars on all said have said that Joseph Smith either couldn't or didn't translate the Joseph Smith Papyri.  Egyptologists on both sides say the same type of thing.  On the LDS side, they say that he didn't, but rather there is a missing papyrus.  On the side of the critics, they say that he couldn't.  And scholars on all sides say that that the Book of Abraham translation in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts, and the translations in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar are not correct translations.

Yet here, it is manifest by BOTH Ash and Bradley that Joseph Smith viewed the GAEL as a lexicon suited for consultation for translation.

Yes, Hugh Nibley said that the Sensen Papyrus in the Joseph Smith Papyrus is not the source of the Book of Abraham.  This is true, because it does not translate into the Book of Abraham in the conventional way.

This is because, for the GAEL, the best explanation of this is that Joseph Smith was transmitting to us a *non-conventional*, yet *ancient* usage of the Papyri that differs from the regular old "Egyptian" (i.e. regular Egyptological) usage that Hugh Nibley showed, where it translates into an Egyptian Endowment.  In other words, ancient Egyptians were doing something different with the Joseph Smith Papyri than scholars are used to, and Joseph Smith transmitted this *separate system* to us.  And the GAEL is the transmission of this *ancient system of usage* into modern day speech.

And so, Ash contradicts himself when he says that Joseph Smith was merely trying to do an academic translation, when he trusted in the GAEL as something that was suitable for consultation as a lexicon for the purposes of translation, yet it was an "enigma."  Joseph Smith held the information in the GAEL as if it was revealed information.  That is the ONLY reason he consulted it.  The implication of that is that it is indeed revealed information.  And needs to be treated as such.  If only Mormon Apologists would treat it as such, and do research toward that end.  And so, to pass this off as merely something where Joseph was attempting an academic translation is nonsense.  Rather, what is revealed in the KEP/GAEL is indeed revealed, and is indeed a separate, ancient system.  And Joseph Smith simply made a mistake when he tried to use it to help get himself started when trying to translate the Kinderhook plates.  However, Joseph Smith's mistake was not in his translation of the GAEL, which is indeed a transmission of ancient information.  His mistake was an attempt at translation of the Kinderhook plates at all, which he abandoned because indeed, it was simply a mistake.  And its best for us to simply say it was a mistake.  A bigger mistake than that made by Joseph Smith, though would be for us to continue to insist that Joseph Smith's work on the GAEL as non-revelatory.

And so, there is no mystery about what the GAEL is, if we take Joseph Smith's actions here as a guide as to what our thinking toward it ought to be, and simply let it be what it always had been to Joseph Smith and the early Mormons of his day:   a revealed lexicon, not just an academic one.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New Foundational Articles on Blog

I have posted new foundational articles explaining my theory step by step in an attempt to lead a reader all the way through the logic to understand the foundation of the theory on my blog.  I have realized that the context behind the theory is something that is necessary to explain step by step in this manner, or those entirely unacquainted may not comprehend it.  So, now, here they are.  See the links on the top or on the side.  Thanks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Clarifications on the Idea of Secondary Intent for the Sensen Papyrus as an Abecedarium

From the beginning of this blog, I have used phrases like Secondary Intent for the Sensen Papyrus, Ancient Context, and Ancient Interpreters and so forth.  My point was never to say that something was encoded IN the papyrus.  Nobody ever intentionally created a second level of understanding IN the papyrus itself for anything, or so it seems.

I have always stated, like in my previous post, that it is the way this papyrus was used by people that employed its symbols that was the important thing, and that this was an ancient practice transmitted by Joseph Smith, knowledge from ancient times transmitted to us by him.  He and his scribes didn't make it up, and it is not a modern thing, contrary to theories like that from William Schryver and John Gee, that put all responsibility on W. W. Phelps and others.

If there was ever any Secondary Intent FOR the Papyrus, or rather another purpose the papyrus was used FOR, it may have been the idea of a custom Alphabet, to begin with (i.e. a sign list, rather than text with a "message").  Again, please read this carefully:  this is NOT built IN to the papyrus.  This is something people were using it FOR, which may be alien to the original idea the papyrus was designed for.  This is something that people started doing with it a long time after it was written.

In certain parts of this blog, I have stated how the word Sensen itself was associated with the idea of an Alphabet.  The word Sensen is the idea of two bulls coming together and becoming one.  Sensen was the day when both the Sun and the Moon were seen in the sky during the day, the two bulls in the sky.  And so, furthermore, how this applies to alphabets is this.  The oldest Alphabets/Abjads and Zodiacs started with a bull (Aleph as an Ox or Aries the Ram) and end with a bull (Tav as a mark indicating ownership of cattle, or the cross mark indicating the Ecliptic crossing the Celestial Equator at the time of the Spring Equinox in Taurus the bull in the early time period of the Earliest Zodiacs/Constellation Lists/Calendars).  Some Zodiacs were Lunar calendars, and some were Solar.  In the case of the Sensen, the god Khonsu in the text is prominent, and he was the moon.  There may have been an association with the Lunar Zodiac.  And so, Zodiacs were a series of symbols or characters in the sky going in a circle, and the two bulls meet one another, where the series of symbols begin and end.  This is why Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  The two bulls are where it begins and ends.  In Egypt, the god Khonsu was the god of the sign lists, the god of the Lunar Zodiac (Constellation-based Calendar), the god of the two bulls.  This goes back to the earliest time periods of the earliest Alphabets and Abjads having been created as Zodiacs and Calendars, and certain lists of characters being used as Abecedaria (documents where people would practice writing ancient alphabets to learn them).  And so, from its creation, it is possible, that Ancient Egyptians used the writing of a document like the Sensen as an Abecederium.  And by this, I mean that not only do its characters "say" something (the Egyptian Endowment as Nibley showed), but they are ALSO a convenient grouping or list of Egyptian characters that people would use to practice writing out their ABC's in ancient times in Egyptian, because it was a relatively short document.

And so, by calling it Sensen, it is possible that they were cluing people in on this usage of it.  It is true that it does indeed "translate" the way Hugh Nibley and other Egyptologists showed us it does.  But if it had a second type of usage, it was this:  a custom abecedarium employed in a derivative document.  And so, since it became used as a sign list (i.e. one of the "orderings" for the Egyptian Alphabet, or one of the ways that Egyptian characters are listed together, its characters became useful for other things.

If you haven't understood my reasoning for going into studies about ancient Alphabets like the Proto-Sinaitic, which was a Semitic Adaptation of Egyptian characters in a different context than the characters started out with, this is a summary of my reasoning for it.  If you have not understood previously why I was fixated on trying to demonstrate that the Proto-Sinaitic was invented as a Zodiac or Calendar originally, this was my reasoning.  Because the tradition of Alphabets is the tradition behind the Sensen.  This is why Joseph Smith called it the Egyptian Alphabet.

And so, employing these characters as symbols for use in codes was one of them that they came to be used for in the Alexandria area in Greco-Roman times.  And so, I am not saying that a code is built into the characters of this papyrus.  I'm saying that these symbols in this papyrus became useful to people to employ as symbols for use in codes that have nothing to do with the original idea for this papyrus.  In order to assign specific meanings to them, they had to create documents where special meanings were applied to these symbols that are not the general meanings of them, but were for specific usages in specific codes.  One of these codes where they applied specific meanings for these characters was in a religious context for the story of Abraham.  It was some people in Alexandria that appear to have done this, because they knew the story of Abraham somehow.

So no, this is not the original document that contained the Book of Abraham that came down from the pen of Abraham.  This is a thing that contains symbols that somebody ended up using to represent his story, and this was used this way in some missing ancient document from ancient times.  It is in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that Joseph Smith and his scribes were demonstrating the usage of the Sensen Papyrus characters in a code for Abraham, a reconstitution of this ancient information.  It's not that they generally translate this way.  It's that some ancient person from Alexandria or someplace like that used them this way.  And through reverse engineering, we can show that these translations are actually encodings, not regular Egyptian translations.  Nevertheless, they do have associations with the regular meanings of the Egyptian characters, and they were selected for use in these encodings deliberately.

People get so disappointed that the Sensen Papyrus either doesn't translate literally to the Book of Abraham, or that they don't find a code IN the Book of Breathings FOR the Book of Abraham.  Both of those things are the wrong things to be looking for in the first place.  The Sensen Papyus merely provides the symbols that were used for codes that were external to the Sensen Papyrus in other documents to begin with, a missing, derived document or documents.  And the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is a document that manifests the definitions for one of those codes.  Nevertheless, meaningful associations can be found between the definitions in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the regular Egyptian meanings of the symbols.

What is the difference between proposed "missing" documents and a Missing Papyrus proposed by regular Mormon Apologists?  A big one.  I say we have in the Church all the essential papyri that Joseph Smith had in his hands.  Mormon Apologists try to invent a missing papyrus that Joseph Smith never had.  When I say there are missing documents, I mean to say that back in ancient times, some document or documentss existed that no longer exist, but that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers manifest some of the information in these, information restored into modern speech.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Some Clarifications and Vocabulary for Cryptography and Another Attempt to Communicate how the Kirtland Egyptian Papers Work

Over time, I have tried to figure out how to communicate how my theory works in various ways, because the theory is multi-faceted.  I have tried to show the various aspects to how things work with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and describe those differing aspects.  Some people may think I am repeating myself sometimes.  Perhaps, but, if I say things enough in different ways, maybe people will understand, because this subject is a difficult one for people to comprehend

So, what I mean by multi-faceted is the same thing physicists mean when they say that light is both a wave and a particle at the same time.  The thing itself is more complex than trying to reduce it to one description.  The two things are intertwined in the whole.  You cant separate the two, yet you can only describe the two aspects separately.  And so, while I say that the usage of these characters from the Sensen papyrus in the Book of Abraham manuscripts is like section markers, from another point of view, the usage is like a code.  I even used language calling it a word or letter puzzle, and a sign list that was used pictographically, where its characters were used independently of itself in other compositions pictographically.  This means that each character was separated out from other characters, and used in other compositions.  And by that I mean, compositions external to the Sensen Papyrus, like the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the Facsimile Explanations, but that some of these compositions were ancient, not just modern ones from Joseph Smith.  The ones from Joseph Smith represent things transmitted to us in modern times that transmit the ancient intent from ancient times.

These things are not contradictory, nor are they mutually exclusive.  They are all part of a complete understanding of this thing, and there are even other aspects to this that are not contradictory either.  Such as saying that these are like variables, or like abstract symbols with concrete meaning assignments.  All of these descriptions are true, because they all describe various aspects of the whole.

So, as I said in various blog posts previous to this, from one point of view, the characters in the Book of Abraham text are section markers.  On the other hand, from another point of view, there seems to be a "code" involved, which in modern cryptological jargon, is not the same as a "cipher."  So, it is now necessary to get technical in my usage of these terms:
Some terminology: code (a word or phrase is replaced with a word, number, or symbol, e. g. codeword),cipher (each letter in a phrase is replaced by another letter, or number, or symbol), plaintext (themessage), ciphertext (the encrypted message) . . .
(, "THE CODE BOOK: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography," by Simon Singh, Freshman Seminar, Winter 2006, February 28, 2006, pp. 3-4)
So, what we are talking about here is not a a "cipher," in this sense, where letters or symbols are replaced by other letters or symbols.  What we are talking about here is word-based.  So, ideas in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are described or explanations for characters are given.  And so, these symbols are given meanings with words.  Similarly:
Cryptography takes two forms: "codes" and "ciphers". The distinction between codes and ciphers is commonly misunderstood. A "code" is essentially a secret language invented to conceal the meaning of a message. 
Codewords and codenumbers are referred to collectively as "codegroups". The words they represent are referred to as "plaintext" or, more infrequently, "cleartext", "plaincode", "placode", or "plaindata".  Codes are unsurprisingly defined by "codebooks", which are dictionaries of codegroups listed with their corresponding plaintext . . . 
In contrast to a code, a "cipher" conceals a plaintext message by replacing or scrambling its letters. This process is known as "enciphering" and results in a "ciphertext" message. Converting a ciphertext message back to a plaintext message is known as "deciphering". 
(, "A Codes & Ciphers Primer," v1.0.5 / 01 jun 15 / greg goebel)
So, in the case of the Kirtland Egyptain Papers, instead of codewords, symbols are used to represent groups of words.  And so, therefore, using this jargon described in these quotes, what we have is plaintext and plaindata being represented by Egyptian symbols, or assigned to them, much like a codeword is assigned to a meaning in a code.  Therefore, this is not a cipher, but is a code, so to speak.  And so, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are a codebook, because it contains the key to the code.  And so, from one point of view, this is why characters in the KEP have associations with the meanings attributed to them, such as the reed symbol being used to represent Land of the Chaldees, which is the land of reeds.  The association between character and meaning/value assignment is clear.  But it isn't literal.  While it is true that the reed symbol has a good tie to Land of the Chaldees or Kiengi (land of reeds) by virtue of the reed as a symbol, a theme they both have in common, there is more to it.  And that is that it is a deliberate code.  Abstractions are being used for literal or concrete ideas, which are assigned to them.  And without a codebook, the symbol itself is too abstract for the thing it is meant to represent.  And by this, I mean, the codebook ties it down to precision to what it is meant to represent.  Again, the author of the Sensen Papyrus didn't hide this meaning in it.  This is a usage of these characters separate from their original intent.  And so, like a cryptographic hash, it is only one way.  Meaning, with the codebook, you know the intended meaning.  Without codebook the characters become pretty useless.   The symbols by themselves don't give you enough.  To know the intended meaning you need the key or codebook.  So, the group of documents called the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, from that point of view, could be called a "codebook."

Historically, people have also used the term "cipher" to describe a "codebook" or "dictionary."

So, what we are describing is a dictionary for the "system" or "code" used with Sensen Papyrus characters that is evident in the Kirtland Egyptian Paprs.  This is not to be confused with the regular Egyptian usage (i.e. Egyptological Egyptian) of hieroglyphic and hieratic characters.  This is a separate system defined by the evidence in the "code book" which describes their usage in this system.

And so, in some codes, other code words in a language are used as symbols to represent a "plain text" piece of data.  In this case, Egyptian characters are being used to represent them instead of code-words.

In summary, as I pointed out in other blog posts, this is similar to William Schryver's theory, with the exception that I am saying that Ancient people in Alexandria may have been doing it, not people in the nineteenth century, the way Schryver was saying.  So Joseph Smith was transmitting to us an ancient code system from Egypt that was separate from the regular Egyptian usage of characters.  Joseph Smith and his scribes did not make this system up.

This article referenced above shows how recently scholars have deciphered the documents from the Oculars, a secret society that seems to have been based off of Masonry from the 18th and 19th Centuries.  I am suggesting that cult groups or secret societies may have existed in Ancient Egypt, perhaps in the Alexandria area, that were obsessed with codes as well.  And Joseph Smith transmitted their ancient usage of Egyptian characters to us in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  It therefore could be called a translation of an "Ancient Cipher," or of an "Ancient Codebook."

Now, the problem with many people is that they assume that I'm saying that somehow the Sensen Papyrus is the thing that "contains" the message.  No.  The Sensen Papyrus is merely the thing that provides the list of symbols that are drawn upon for the creation of things that are external to it for the use of this code.  It's like the Papal Code used by Catholics.  They would give people a bunch of symbols for a message, and the symbols meant nothing for the receiver of the message unless he had a key or a "code book" to understand the message.  There was nothing inherent in the symbols that suggests that some symbol ought to be interpreted as "Pope" or "Priest."

In the case of the Sensen papyrus symbols used in this system, there were clever associations between assignments to the symbols and the meanings assigned in a "code book."  this is not the case in some "codes" where substitutions have been made.  Sometimes the symbols or code words people use in various codes have nothing to do with the things that they are made to represent.

It is true that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is a collection of documents, some bound and some unbound.  Contrary to John Gee, I insist that they all belong in one whole, and are not to be separated.  And so, when I say they constitute one "code book," then I literally mean that, because they make one whole.  They describe one particular system of using the Egyptian characters for a code.  This is not to be confused with the regular Egyptian written language.

Some people may be confused that I am saying Egyptology is incomplete or that there is more to be found.  Well, in its own sphere, Egypology is complete, but this is a separate field really, that has to do with a lot of things outside Egyptology, but that also sort-of overlaps with certain portions of the Egyptology field.  And science is always self-corrective and needing to be tweaked when new information is known.  So, what I mean to say is, that it is unsurprising that Egyptology would not previously know about a code like this.  That does't make it deficient.  It make it something that is progressive like any other branch of knowledge.