Monday, December 1, 2014

Academia not Right at All Costs: Questioning a Core Assumption in Egyptology that a Textual Hieroglyphic can ONLY be Text

As Hugh Nibley writes:

The man on the throne [Facsimile 2, Fig. 5] is Min, the oldest incarnation of the Father, Creator, King, Most High God.  He was brought to Egypt by the first immigrants, Naqadah I and II.  Notice that the image does not depict God, but is a representation; the artist, like the mathematician, can use ANYTHING HE PLEASES to represent anything else AS LONG AS HE EXPLAINS IT. (One Eternal Round, p. 304, capitalization and bold and underlining added for emphasis.  Italics in original.)

Remember that Mathematicians in Algebra and other Math sciences use variables and representations for concepts and numerics.  That is the type of representations he is referring to.  Remember that I have time and time again related the hieroglyphics and hieratics in the Sensen Papyrus to variables and things like them, or that in other words, this is the way they were used in derivative documents.

The KEP does provide the explanation for how the person/people that used the Sensen Papyrus in this manner of Secondary Intent did it, and if one takes Nibley's statement at face value, it says that it could be done.  I continue to be mystified why people that are against this have such a mental block on this thing.

But, perhaps they will respond, "Dear Brother, obviously you are taking Nibley out of context.  Obviously Nibley didn't mean this in the context of the KEP because he rejected the KEP as containing valid translations."  Well, then, Nibley wasn't following his own rules if that was the case.  He isn't in mortality to respond.  But I say it would be the case.  Remember:

Special pleading is a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception. (

It is a dogmatic double-standard for someone to allow this rule to be applied to all other hieroglyphs, but not to textual hieroglyphs used in the KEP as symbolic pictographs.  The Egyptians could do whatever they wanted with their signs and symbols.  Questioning some dogmatic claims in science is not new for Mormons.  Mormons are never against science as a process.  Mormons are never against good science when it puts out good results.  However, Mormons are against the establishment science claims in a number of areas, which we have faith will eventually be overturned in the normal course of events, as science corrects itself.  Science is self-corrective over time.  One of these things that Mormons push back against is the idea of steel in the Book of Mormon where science has declared it did not exist, or horses, or this or that.  Mormon apologists are simply not scientific, even though they certainly try to be.  Because faith sometimes trumps current science in the minds of Mormons.  Mormons like to be science-friendly when possible, but sometimes there are things that are so central to our religion, that we cannot bend without sacrificing our souls and our identity.  We have to stand our ground.  So, in this, Mormons must use critical thinking and skepticism about some scientific claims.  This does not mean that we do this lightly.

So, in order for my claims to exist for my theory, I must, of a necessity, be a SKEPTIC of the claim that alphabetical (uniliteral [or single consonantal], biliteral [or double-consonantal], triliteral [or tri-consonantal] and determinative [or context-augmenting]) hieroglyphs, when in a text, can ONLY be elements of a text, and can NEVER be something else in a derivative composition.  These signs can be anything an Egyptian wanted them to be, if they repurpose them in some other composition.  And furthermore, I must bolster my claim by trying to push back against the claim that it can never be so.  To say that they can never be used any other way, is a dogmatic statement, that ignores the very nature of hieroglyphs when used in an "art" context, rather than a "text" context.  Egyptologists would have us believe that Egyptians are so creative and do all kinds of creative things with their hieroglyphs in "art."  But the same creativity can never be manifest in a text, and similar types of usages can never be manifest in a text with alphabetical hieroglyphs.  To these Egyptologists, text, or linguistic usage of hieroglyphs, can be nothing other than text, or the characters in a linguistic usage.  However, as one commenter put it:

Egyptians took advantage of the artistic nature of writing, with examples scattered throughout all branches of Egyptian art. This, then, raises the question: did art, in turn, influence language? Once again, the hieroglyphic script is key.  All hieroglyphs, be them artistic or simply linguistic, can be shown to have an effect on the reading and interpretation of written language. A scribe “required not only linguistic competence but also an understanding of the world of signs and symbols traced in the text”  if he was to convey a specific intended message to his readers and bridge the gap between art and language.  Due to its pictographic nature, hieroglyphic script had the intriguing ability to visually convey nuances of meaning in a way foreign to most alphabetic writing. . . .
The meaning of entire passages of text can be restricted or reshaped because of features that could only be described as artistic. Unlike pieces of art that, while meaningful, had a primary purpose other than to convey linguistic information . . ., text was intended to be read. The artistic features that affect meaning were used to the advantage of the writers.
The relationship between written language and artwork can now be summarized: language had an influence on artistic traditions, and artistic factors were used to alter the meaning of writing.  (

So what I am suggesting is that the usage of the text elements in the Sensen papyrus in a pictographic or ideographic manner is to do that very thing, to bridge the gap between art and language.  The text elements become pictures and art.  They started out that way, after all, when each hieroglyph was nothing but a picture.  It is easy enough for Egyptologists to see something like the following, as described by the same commenter:

This statue is clearly composed of three primary parts: the pharaoh as a child, a large falcon representing Re, and a sculpted sedge plant.  Less obvious is the fact these three sections of the statue represent phonograms, which combine to read “Ramesses”: a visual pun on the name of the king.  (

As the commenter states, this is the Rebus principle, the usage of pictures to represent words, many times as puns.  But in this case, it was a statue, a thing of art, that was being used to represent phonograms.  I am stating somewhat of the reverse of the Rebus principle.  I am stating that something usually thought of as a text character, or literary character, would be used according to its pictographic origin, and an original linguistic context would be ignored.  In other words, the Egyptian character that is a letter B is a picture of a foot.  I am saying that rather than being a B, it can actually be used as a picture of a foot still and can represent things that share the theme of feet.  Why is this so anathema?  But this is precisely what is happening in the KEP.  Alphabetic/linguistic characters are being used as pictures, and then those pictures are repurposed for use as representing things that they can rationally represent, that have something to do with the core meaning of what that character is a picture of.  Why is this such a foreign suggestion, and why is it so anathema?  It should not be, when so many other possibilities in Egyptian character usage abound, at least, when Egyptologists can see that they are being used as art.  I am saying that the alphabetic characters (both hieroglyphic and hieratic) are also used as art, and the same principles evident in the symbols usually thought of as art are also evident in the text.  Why not?

Well, the bias against it is at the very core of Egyptology, and this bias has bled into LDS academia, which is why nobody will take the KEP seriously as a translation of ancient material.  Yet, LDS academics should be considering the KEP to be basically a new rosetta stone, as it were, to guide them in their thinking.  These people are doing everything they can do at all costs to deny that the KEP is what it clearly shows:  a translation key.  That it shows translations of alphabetic/linguistic characters and treats them as if they were artwork like in the facsimiles.  It takes each one on its own terms and treats it as a picture, rather than being a part of a text.

This bias exists in Egyptology, because of the dismissal of academia of the original way people were trying to decipher the Egyptian language.  A good treatment of the history of its decipherment is in this article:

To summarize, before the time of Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion, who were instrumental in the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone, people assumed that the characters were all pictographic/symbolic, as we read in that article:

Prior to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, scholars trying to read hieroglyphics made several errors. There was the misguided belief that the hieroglyphics were symbolic and secret while in reality hieroglyphics were a form of everyday writing (Sandison). They also believed that hieroglyphic writing was nothing more than primitive picture writing and that decipherment relied on a translation of the pictorial images. In truth, the late hieroglyphic script is phonetic. Just like the letters of the English alphabet, the characters represent distinct sounds . . .
Once scholars had the Rosetta Stone at their disposal, they were able to translate the Greek inscriptions. If the other two scripts recorded the same text, then the stone could be used to crack the hieroglyphs . . .
In 1814 the first breakthrough came with an English physicist named Thomas Young . . . Like many scholars before him, Young had been convinced that the script was picture writing . . .
Young compared the letters for the name Ptolemy with the other hieroglyphs and succeeded in assigning phonetic values to many of the symbols . . . By comparing hieroglyphic and demotic writing, he discovered that demotic words were not always written using the alphabet . . . As soon as he seemed to be on the right track, he suddenly stopped. He had lost interest in hieroglyphics . . .
Credit for the complete translation has been given to the French scholar Jean-François Champollion . . . who is now known as the "Father of the Decipherment of Hieroglyphics" . . .  By deciphering the name Rameses, Champollion realized that all of the hieroglyphs were phonetic. 

So, the problem, as we see, is not that Champollion and Young are wrong.  They are absolutely right, and so are the Egyptologists that follow in their footsteps, about the fact that Egyptian text reads this way.  The problem, however, is in these other types of usages identified by the other commentator of the other article quoted above:  "Other artists took advantage of this ability of hieroglyphs, creating texts that could be read either vertically or horizontally with a different meaning in each direction."  In other words Secondary or Tertiary intent in documents can exist in this way described, or even in other ways that the commenter in that article didn't even imagine.

The assumption that my colleagues who are other LDS apologists are rejecting is that one of the systems that can be used in this type of Secondary Intent is precisely a symbolic picture-writing type of system that was rejected by Champollion and Young, which was the type of system that other people before them had believed in.  And so, here, in this blog, I am proposing exactly that, that such a system actually still exists along side the regular Egyptological system that was discovered by Young and Champollion, and does not replace it.

I say that there is a picture-writing system that exists where the pictures are used as abstractions, as I have described in multiple other postings in this blog.  The original author didn't do this, but people after the fact came along and repurposed the symbols in a new system.  It is a system where core meanings are evident in a character, but the character is used to mean something other than its core meaning, that is still associated with that meaning.  In this way, the character becomes an abstraction.  And for context, we are reliant on a key, like a legend in a map.  A legend in a map gives you context for symbols.  That is what the KEP is.  It contains mappings or descriptions or explanations for symbols.  That is what the explanations in the facsimiles are too.  Explanations for symbols that are otherwise abstract.  Why do my colleagues reject this, when this is precisely what the KEP is demanding?  Well, it is because the tradition started by Young and Champollion is so sure of its position, that it dogmatically says that no such thing can be so.  But some Egyptologists already know that such a thing CAN be so.  What we need are skeptics of that dogmatism that are willing to push back against it, that are willing to let the evidence in the KEP speak, rather than imposing understandings foreign to the KEP on the KEP.  The KEP evidence must stand on its own terms, not on someone else's understanding foreign to it.  For example, people should stop trying to make it into a modern cipher, and then declare victory, when that is simply not true, because the evidence is just so overwhelmingly in the other direction.  LDS apologists should stop trying to swim against the current of evidence.  They should embrace the evidence and then make their conclusions from it.

It is absurd that a system that has picture-writing at is core should not use its symbols as pictures as one of the options of their usage, even if they are found in a text.

In summary, I have evidence that the problem here is not Egyptology so much, but Egyptologists (especially LDS ones) that are denying the known facts of their own discipline, that prevent them from adequately assessing the facts of the matter.  In fact, what is going on in the KEP is very consistent with known principles of Egyptology.  I show it here in another blog post: