Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Two Kinds of Originals: Abraham's Original, and the "Original" that Joseph Smith Had

There are two kinds of originals to the Book of Abraham:

(1) The original book that Abraham wrote.

(2) The original that was in the hands of Joseph Smith.

Factually, they are not the same thing.

Abraham wrote a book in ancient times.  This is not a piece of fiction.  This book was written by his own hand, as Joseph Smith claimed.  Contrary, however, to Joseph Smith's assumptions, Joseph Smith never had a copy of this, or the original of this in his possession.  It disappeared in ancient times.

So, when I say there is no "missing papyrus," I am NOT saying that there never was an original that Abraham wrote in his own hand.  What I am saying is, that particular book was never physically available in modern times.  It was lost to antiquity, or was hidden up, as were all the copies of it.  One or the other.

Joseph Smith had a papyrus that he worked with, which was instrumental in the translation of the Book of Abraham.  This papyrus is not the same as the book that Abraham wrote in ancient times.  Nevertheless, it is the Book of Abraham because of the way people used it anciently.  The characters in it were used to represent things in the Book of Abraham.  Therefore, there is no "missing papyrus" in the sense that the papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Abraham is available.  The "original" that Joseph Smith had, is available.  The "original" book that Abraham wrote in ancient times is not available, and never was in modern times.

This is why, when I say I am against the missing papyrus theory, what I really mean is, I am against the idea that there is some papyrus that we don't have that Joseph Smith had.  I am not saying that Abraham did not write a book in ancient times in his own hand.

My Theory of an Ancient and Open System compared to William Schryver's Theory of a Modern and Open System

A number of times, I have made comparisons of my theory to other theories to show similarities, and how various principles from other theories exist in mine, and that my theory is not as strange and new as some people think.  For example, I have described how principles in my theory harmonize with the Iconotropy theory from William Hamblin, which is essentially identical in principle to Kevin Barney's Semitic Adaptation theory, except Hamblin's theory of iconotropy is more general, while Barney is more specific in saying that Semitic Adaptation probably was done by a Jew, or Jewish redactor of the Book of Abraham.  I say the iconotropy was done by a cult or sect of Egyptian priests that were involved with the Greco-Roman Syncretism and Iconotropy phenomena that are present in the Greek Magical Papyri.  The principles in this are all the same as the ones in the Greek Magical Papyri, with the kind of iconotropic things that are happening in them.

Anyhow, I have decided to compare my theory yet again to another theory, to show the similarity to William Schryver's theory, to try to emphasize to readers my point that Brother Schryver was on the right track, but that he simply applied the principles and facts that he had discovered in the wrong way, namely, trying to assign responsibility for these phenomena in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers to a modern invention of Mormons in the 19th Century.

I have been criticized recently because the implications of my theory are that the ancients implemented an open system, where hieroglyphs could be used to literally represent a concept that they were connected to thematically, or to represent things that share that theme.  This would mean re-use of any existing symbolism in any document for practically any purpose, just so long as the use of the characters are rational, and just as long as you explain what you are doing.  This would make Egyptian characters into variables like in Algebra or computer programming, and would imply that the Egyptians were the people using them this way.  Yes, indeed.  People are OK with Brother Schryver suggesting that 19th century Mormons could do this.  People are OK with Brother Hamblin saying that the ancients could do this in general.  People are OK with Brother Barney saying an Egyptian or Jewish Redactor of the Book of Abraham could do this:  use characters/hieroglyphs/pictures abstractly and assign meanings to them that were different than their mundane/regular usage.  This is not a new concept, and it is not crazy.  I am actually saying that the characters actually have core meanings that thematically attach them to the things people were using them for.  In other words, they are logical containers for the value assignments, even though they are used abstractly like a variable.  Why is this suggestion so hard to understand?  Please, read this over again if you don't understand it.  It is really simple to understand.  I have quoted this statement from Nibley before:

The man on the throne [Facsimile 2, Fig. 7] is Min, the oldest incarnation of the Father, Creator, King, Most High God . . . 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 added for emphasis.  Italics in original.)

The implications of Nibley's statement when applied to the KEP is clear.  An explanation is necessary for an abstract symbol to make any sense.  But apologists that reject the KEP would want this principle to apply to only the pictures in the Facsimiles.  The pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham are all that certain people want to defend.  If we are to limit it to the Facsimiles only, that would be a double-standard. The KEP and Sensen characters deserve to have this statement from our dear Brother Nibley applied to them as much as anything Egyptian.

I have been criticized because I say that Egyptian characters could be used that way, when people are used to having Egyptian be mechanical, with reproducible results.  Nobody, especially me, ever denied that on a regular, mundane level, Egyptian is this way.

But, the whole point is that results in the system that I am arguing for are indeed not reproducible without a key outside of the document.  In fact, the whole reason that they can be used this way is because of a key or legend outside the document.  Of course it is not reproducible without a key, because it is abstract.  That is the system.  The key or legend is the document that defines the parameters of the usage of the document outside of the document itself.  It is the thing that gives it shape.  The rules are defined in the mappings.  This is precisely the ancient intent, for it to be abstract, and for a key to be provided with explanations.  This ancient key was provided in some document that contained both repurposed Sensen characters, as well as the text and concepts from the Book of Abraham.

Many apologists were open to William Schryver's explanations, and touted them as revolutionary and game-changing.  Schryver's theory makes the KEP into a modern thing that is a system that does precisely this type of thing too.  It is suggesting an open system of abstractions that are assigned meanings.  It makes the characters in the KEP into a cipher.  My conclusions are similar, as you can see.  It is indeed a type of cipher, if you want to call it that.  However, the difference is that my theory makes this something that happened in ancient times.  An Ancient Egyptian or Egyptians was/were responsible.  The ancients invented it, not a guy in modern times.  This Egyptian person, or Egyptian persons, actually knew the core meaning of Hieroglyphs and hieratics.

So, to summarize, when what I am proposing is that an ancient person created a cipher in ancient times with a key after the same type as William Schryver says that William W. Phelps created.  I am saying that the rediscovery of this ancient cipher and key is found in the KEP translated by Joseph Smith.

I am finding more and more that each LDS author/theorist on the Book of Abraham has a piece of the truth, but lacks key vision of where to go with that truth, if they do not make an assumption of the ancientness of the KEP translations of the Sensen Papyrus their core foundation.  William Schryver is one of them.  He came so close.  But the fact that the KEP is a translation of the ancient intent of the people that did this is what made Brother Schryver miss the mark.  It was an ancient person doing this.  But this ancient person actually knew what he was doing with the languages he was doing his art project with.

This ancient cipher with its key/legend was never meant to be used according to the mechanical Egyptian intent of this document.  This is not using the Sensen papyrus as a mechanical device that produces some result that is reproducible by just having the document itself on its own.   This is not even the regular Egyptian religion, but a local cult of people that transformed all sorts of things in to all kinds of things that they never were in the first place.  That's what Syncretism is: a hodge podge of things that were transformed into things different from what they were in the beginning.  That's what the Greco-Roman Syncretists were doing.  They were not practicing Egyptian religion.  They were doing something of their own invention.  This is entirely about transformation.  The Egyptians were artists, not mechanics, smart enough to make things into things that were transformable.  That's what makes it an art process and a piece of art.  That's what makes it unconventional.  That's what makes it what it is.  Because it is open.  The whole point of my research is to say that this is the usage of the papyrus that yields the results we've been looking for.

And it doesn't matter what other results could result from an open system.  It's the intent of the person that used it for certain things that he used it for that matters, not what other people would use it for.  That's why the KEP is the important thing, because it is precisely because of the abstract nature of the system that you need a legend or need a mapping.  It is precisely because it is an ancient cipher along the same order of what William Schryver was trying to say that a modern person created that it would need a key or legend, except in ancient times.

This thing could never bring consistent results without a key or legend, because it was not meant to bring consistent results on its own.  Abstractions cannot bring anything on their own.  The legend or mapping or key is required for consistent results, because they nail down the abstractions to their actual usage.  That's why Joseph Smith translated the contents of the KEP.  It's the KEP that confines things to a certain scope to see how abstractions mean what they are assigned, and how the abstractions are logical containers for that which is assigned to them.  And by reverse-engineering that, we can see the logic if we want to.

The KEP was never about mechanical, Egyptological Egyptian and never claimed to be.

Brother Schryver said that William W. Phelps or someone like that was creating a system that was hidden and secret, only available for a chosen few, or indeed for one person only.  I say it wasn't a modern person, but an ancient person that is doing this.  And indeed, it would have been something that was a hidden meaning, that could not be seen by the eyes of the uninitiated, but rather than being in a modern setting, this happened in an ancient setting.  By having the cipher key, or a legend, then this type of usage of the document is clear and testable.  By testing the translations/explanations in the key, it can be seen that even though the characters are used abstractly, they are indeed logical containers for the usage in the key.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pictographic Representationalism in both Egyptian Art and in Textual Hieroglyphics: No Distinction between "Textual" Characters and "Art". Pictures Large and Small.

The link above presents is an interesting analogy for what I am trying to say, when I say that pictures tell stories.  Here, in this article, Google uses vector space mathematics and other advanced technologies to automatically translate what is going on in a picture into words in the English language.  In the article, we see a picture of people in a marketplace, selling fruits and vegetables.  Google's automatic caption describes precisely what they are doing.  Similarly, Joseph Smith's explanations of pictures in facsimiles and hieroglyphs in text are the same exact thing.  But all of the explanations are different than the "mundane" or Egyptological or "mechanical" translation of the hieroglyphs.  This all has to do with the ability to use things that are more abstract to represent other things and concepts associated with them.  So, if a theme is evident in a certain hieroglyph that represents a concept, and that theme is evident in something from Joseph Smith's explanations that is represented by a hieroglyph in one of the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, then, indeed, a certain hieroglyph was a valid "container" for the "value" assigned to it.  And the same is so with the little pictures from the Sensen Papyrus that are usually only thought of as "textual" characters.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers provide explanations for some of those.

And so, as I have stated over and over there is obviously one way to translate things, which could be called a "mundane" or "regular" way, which is a predictable, mechanical way to translate something.  And then there are things that are art forms that intentionally use things differently, that assign meanings to pictures in more creative ways.  It is these other creative ways that are at the heart of everything on this blog.

As some scholars have written:

Egyptian hieroglyphic was at base a pictographic system.  All of its signs represented some object in the ancient Egyptian world, whether natural, man-made or conceptual.  As such, they occasionally reflected historical changes in the objects they depicted:  for example, in the form of weapons such as daggers and axes.  As elements of a writing system, however, hieroglyphs incorporated several degrees of abstraction from this underlying reality.

Each sign could be used as a logogram [a sign representing a word or phrase] or ideogram [a sign representing an idea of a thing] for individual words or concepts:  for instance, the picture of a dagger, for "dagger," or that of a man falling, for the notion "to fall."  Many hieroglyphs could also be employed as phonograms [sound-symbols] to represent sounds of the language rather than (or in addition to) words or concepts.  This latter function made it possible to write words or concepts that would otherwise be difficult to depict ideographically.  As phonograms, hieroglyphs represented one to three consonants; in common with later Semitic scripts such as Arabic and Hebrew, Egyptian writing reflected the consonantal skeleton of a word, ignoring the vowels.  Triconsonantal [otherwise called triliteral, or three-consonantal] phonograms [or sound-symbols] were largely associated with single lexical items and their derivations, and as such were essentially logographic.  Those representing one or two consonants, however, were used to write, not only words associated with the hieroglyphic object, but also unrelated words containing the same one or two consonants.  Thus, the picture of a tree branch was used not only as the ideogram for ht "wood" but also in writing words such as nht "successful" and htht "throughout."

The uniliteral [one-or-uni-consonantal] signs were the most frequent of all hieroglyphs, amounting to an "alphabet" of Egyptian's twenty-four consonants.  Nonetheless, Egyptian hieroglyphic never made the transition to a single alphabetic system.  In the standard orthography of the Middle Kingdom (early second millennium BC), most words were written with one to six signs, biliteral [two-or-bi-consonantal] or triliteral [three-or-tri-consonantal] phonograms usually being "complemented" by uniliteral signs, and were often marked at the end by an ideogram serving as "determinative" to specify the conceptual class of the word:  for example, the sequence n + BRANCH + h + t + MAN BRANDISHING A STICK for nht "successful, victorious."   (The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Neil Asher Silberman, Alexander A. Baue, p. 403, emphasis added)

So as you can see, the pictographic/pictorial nature of hieroglyphs is absolutely clear here.  Though many of them were used as phonograms or textual characters, the basis of their pictographic nature is still crystal clear.  An Egyptologist, Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, wrote:

How can we be sure that a symbolic meaning, identified by us, held significance for the ancient Egyptians?  The Egyptologist Berry Kemp . . . remarks:  "If we suppose for a moment, that we could make direct contact with the ancient builders and ask them if this [interpretation] is correct, we might obtain a yes or no answer.  But we might also find them answering:  'We hadn't thought of that before, but its true none the less. . . .'"  Thanks to fluidity of Egyptian theology, which allowed and encouraged free association of ideas the Egyptians could well have answered in the manner Kemp suggests.  The scope for misinterpretation, therefore, in ancient times as well as the present can be considerable  . . . Symbols can in any case seem almost to have lives of their own.  Their meanings may change over time, and it does not always follow that the symbolic significance of a given element in one composition will be identical in another work of earlier or later date.  Symbols in Egyptian art may also exhibit different meanings in different contexts in the same period of time . . . [I]n certain cases where context does not render a clear choice we may wonder what the specific significance of such a symbol might be--or if there could be some kind of generic symbolism meant to embrace any or all of these possible ideas.  The Egyptians themselves were certainly conscious of the ambiguity in their own symbolism and even seem to have encouraged it . . . [T]here is often a range of possible meanings for a given symbol.  While we may select a specific interpretation that seems to best fit the context, other symbolic associations may also be involved.  This is not to say that Egyptian symbolism is either inchoate or inconsistent, simply that a flexible approach must be maintained in attempting to understand its workings. (Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, pp. 11-13, bold emphasis added)

This ambiguity is precisely what I am talking about when I speak of abstractions in other blog posts.  I mean to say that there are literal meanings for what a hieroglyph is a picture of, and then there are a range of meanings that it can also represent, especially if it is being used pictographically, or in some other context that is not precisely the regular way that it is just "read" as text.  For example, the same author went on to say:

Symbolism of form may be expressed at "primary" and "secondary" levels of association . . . In primary, or direct, association the form of an object suggests concepts ideas, or identities with which the object is directly related.  So in many works, an object associated with a specific deity thus suggests that god or goddess--or by extension, a concept connected with that deity . . . (ibid., pp. 16-17, bold emphasis added)

At the primary level, the symbolism is direct and objects are shown in the forms they are meant to represent.  Thus, the djed pillar, an ancient symbol associated with the god Osiris and sometimes said to represent the backbone of the god, symbolized both the deity and the concept of support and duration . . . (ibid., p. 30, bold emphasis added)

So, if I say that the concept of creation is a secondary intent evident from the hieroglyph for the god Khnum in Book of Abraham Facsimile #2, because Khnum is connected with the concept of creation, (just like Osiris is connected with the concept of support and duration), then it makes perfect sense that an ancient Egyptian would use the hieroglyph of Khnum to represent something else connected with the concept of creation:  Kolob.  Do you see where I am going with this?  And this is not alien to Egyptology at all.  This is a PhD Egyptologist that is writing in these quotes.  Furthermore, remember how I pointed out that the rope coil hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the Egyptian lotus hieroglyph, and both represent Abraham?  Remember how I pointed out how the Baboons representing Kli-Flos-Is-Es or Thoth have a visual affinity to the foot hieroglyph, which is the uniliteral letter B in the Egyptian Alphabet?  And remember how I pointed out how the Khnum hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the heiroglyph for "woman," (B1 on Gardiner's sign list), which the Kirtland Egyptian Papers say represents Kolob?  Indeed, this phenomenon is thoroughly Egyptological.  The same Dr. Wilkinson writes:

Secondary symbolic association occurs where significant forms are represented indirectly in Egyptian art.  Here forms are used which suggest the shape of something else which has symbolic meaning.  this level of association is especially common in amulets such as the cowrie shell--which was used as a symbol of sexuality, because it resembled the female genitalia--or the clenched hand, which was also a symbol of the female principle or of sexual union.  In a similar manner, amulets depicting a bunch of grapes are known to be symbolic of the heart and thus life itself because of their similarity in shape (as well as their color and the blood-like juice of the grape). (ibid., p. 31, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson admits that even though Champollion demonstrated the phonetic nature of the Egyptian written language, later on, they have come to recognize just how symbolic and representational the hieroglyphs still are in various contexts:

. . . [T]he hieroglyphic signs seen and copied by explorers and travelers were believed to be purely symbolic in nature--a mysterious picture writing containing the mystical or spiritual secrets of a forgotten age--and even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century many eminently learned men attempted to see the most absurd symbolic meanings in the ancient signs.  Not until Jean Francois Champollion and his immediate successors finally demonstrated the true nature of the Egyptian script in the early nineteenth century did its all-important phonetic aspect become clear enough that the actual meanings of the inscriptions could begin to be recovered.  Yet ironically enough . . . it is only with the understanding gained in the era of modern Egyptology that we have come to realize that the Egyptians frequently did use their hieroglyphic signs symbolically in certain contexts--and especially in the construction of their works of art.  (ibid., p. 148, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson shows how the characters themselves, even textual hieroglyphic characters took on a life of their own in the minds of the Egyptians.  They were magical to them.  And there was no distinction in their minds between the nature of art work in large scale representations on whole panels in tombs, in three-dimensional art in sculpture, or the characters in a text.  The SAME EXACT PRINCIPLES were at work in ALL OF THE CHARACTERS, and all of the pictures:

In short the hieroglyphic signs were themselves powers with which to be reckoned.  In fact, the Egyptians' hieroglyphs far transcended a simple system of communication and were regarded as symbolic entities which could function magically not only within written texts but also in many aspects of what we, today consider artistic representations.  It was not coincidental, therefore that the Egyptains used the same word to refer to both their hieroglyphic writing and the drawing of their artworks, and it was often the same scribe who produced both.  The noted historian of Egyptian art Cyril Aldred stressed this fact when he wrote that ". . . once a scribe had learnt to draw the full range of . . . [hieroglyphic] signs with requisite skill he had become ipso facto an artist, since the composition of his pictures is the assemblage of a number of ideographs with some interaction between them."   This is just as true of three-dimensional works of art as it is of paintings and drawings.  As Champollion realized some one hundred and seventy years ago, a statue is often "in reality . . . only a single glyph, a veritable character of written script."  This use of the hieroglyphic signs in Egyptian paintings and sculptures is sometimes merely the result of the artist following the familiar and accepted forms of the written script, and may have no special significance attached to it.  In other cases, however, "embedded" hieroglyphs may convey a specific idea or message and the individual hieroglyphic elements of these representations must be recognized and "read" like the signs of an inscription, if their intended meaning is to be grasped.  The hieroglyphic signs may appear overtly in a work of art, at what we might call a primary level of depiction, or they may be included more subtly, at a secondary level.  (ibid., p. 151, bold emphasis added)

While Egyptian writing made use of all these different forms of expression in text and inscriptions, exactly the same communication principles were chosen when hieroglyphic forms were used in the construction of large-scale representations. (ibid., p. 157, bold emphasis added)

As we see, even the largest representations were supposed to be READ.  Indeed, pictures tell a story.  So, as I said before, the representations in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham had their explanations provided.  And the KEP is the same exact phenomenon for the characters from the Sensen Papyrus text that were JUST AS MAGICAL, IN THE MINDS OF THE EGYPTIANS AS THE CHARACTERS IN THE PICTURES.  They were JUST AS PICTOGRAPHIC.  Dr. Wilkinson goes on:

At the secondary level of depiction, objects or people may spell out a symbolic message by being represented so as to suggest the form of hieroglyphic signs . . . Egyptian paintings and sculptures may thus contain, or even be wholly composed of, hieroglyphic forms, and the interaction between writing and pictorial representation was one of major symbolic importance.  In fact the hieroglyphic signs form the very basis of Egyptian iconography, which was concerned with the function of making specific symbolic statements through pictorial rather than written means.  The embedded or "encoded" hieroglyphic forms also frequently interact to some degree with the texts or inscriptions with which they are associated . . .  (ibid., p. 152, bold emphasis added)

Hieroglyphics were encoded in the pictures, just like in Facsimile 1, where the figure of Osiris/Abraham is a hieroglyphic for the idea of "to pray."  As I said in many blog posts, the whole Sensen papyrus was utilized as symbolic representations outside of the context of the Egyptological text that it translates to.  Each individual character was used symbolically on its own in this other context.  As I said, these characters were representational of themes.  They did not constitute a text in this context:

In other cases, the interaction is merely a thematic one with the embedded hieroglyphic form being connected with the associated text in only a very general way.  For example, a number of vignettes in the New Kingdom funerary papyri depict the deceased standing before the hieroglyph hut signifying "mansion," sometimes with the sign for "great" added to the picture it indicate "great mansion"--an epithet used of the tomb chapel.  Here, the written hieroglyph, made large, functions as part of the representation (in case, the tomb) which illustrates the theme of the text with which it appears  . . . [T]he pictorial nature of the script was also exploited in a number of ways in hieroglyphic inscriptions.  Because hieroglyphics may be written left to right or right to left, for example, individual signs may be turned to face each other by drawing one of them in the opposite direction to the rest of the writing in instances where this arrangement would suggest some kind of interaction between the two figures, or be symbolically significant in some other way.  A hieroglyphic text may thus be overlaid with representational information, just as representations may be given hieroglyphic meaning.  As the German Egyptologist Wolfgang Schenkel has shown in some cases, such interactions are truly "displays of pure virtuosity"--a fact which is no less true of the Egyptian's use of their hieroglyphs in representational contexts.  Because of the particularly flexible nature of the hieroglyphic system of writing, the symbolic use of hieroglyphs in representational works of art may occur in a number of ways.  The hieroglyphic signs essentially carried information of two types--sounds which could be used to write words phonetically, and visual images which could be used to portray objects and ideas pictorially.  The hieroglyph which depicted a reed leaf, for example, could signify the sound of the Egyptian word for reed (i), which might be used to write other words which contained the sound, or it could be used pictorially to signify the reed itself.  The hieroglyphic writing of most words was usually accomplished by the use of signs of both types of value, combining a phonetic spelling of the word with a pictorial "determinative" indicating the kind of thing being represented.  But the phonetic and pictographic values of the signs could be utilized in different ways, both in writing words and in creation of two- and three- dimensional works of art . . . (ibid., p. 154-155, bold and underline emphasis added)

It is interesting that Wilkinson is saying that the reed symbol, which is the letter I (Uniliteral) in the Egyptian alphabet, could also pictographically signify a reed.  That is precisely what I have been saying here over and over again in this blog.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers/Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar documents use the reed symbol pictographically to represent something associated with a reed, the Land of Reeds, which was Karduniash/Chalsidohiash, the land of the Chaldees.  The ancient name of the place was Kiengi, meaning land of reeds.  Everything I have ever said in this blog is 100% consistent with these quotes from this Egyptologist.  It is not strange at all from an Egyptological point of view that these characters in the text were being used in a representational context, just like the characters in the pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham were being used.  These characters were magical to the Egyptians.  They could accomplish magical transformations with them into works of art that are mind-boggling.  So it is not me that is out of touch with Egyptology when I have suggest these things.  It is my detractors.  Everything that I have said is 100% consistent with known Egyptological principles for both pictures and text characters, because there is no distinction between them.  They are all pictures, and they are all textual, regardless of size.  The same principles are used from the smallest to the largest.  The Sensen papyrus IS the Book of Abraham, because of pictographic/thematic representationalism.  What I am suggesting in this blog is not at all out of line from what all of this evidence is showing.

Monday, December 8, 2014

David Bokovoy Interview on Radio West

A poster on the LDS Freedom Forum brought this to my attention.

Above is the link to the interview.  I've said it before.  I respect Brother Bokovoy.  I do not believe in claims of a pseudepigraphic nature of the Book of Abraham.  I believe the Book of Abraham is a literal translation of an ancient document written on papyrus by Abraham by his own hand.

The Sensen Papyrus is not that.  The original Book of Abraham Papyrus disappeared in ancient times.  The Sensen Papyrus is another papyrus that Joseph Smith had in his hands, that other people used as Abrahamic material.

So I only agree with Brother Bokovoy on the fact that there is no missing papyrus.  That means that Joseph Smith never had the papyrus that Abraham wrote.  That actual, literal papyrus was lost anciently or hidden up.  I do not agree with the rest of Brother Bokovoy's positions.

His statement that the Facsimiles are "reinterpretations" of "prophetic midrash" is interesting.  Because he is saying that the Egyptian characters are reinterpretations.  This concept of reinterpretation or reappropriation is iconotropy, as I and many other LDS researchers have mentioned.  However, in saying it is prophetic midrash, Bokovoy is again making this into pseudepigrapha, the idea that Abraham never wrote this book himself.  Contrary to Bokovoy, they are reinterpretations, but ancient ones.  And in the process of translating the Secondary Intent of the Sensen Papyrus, Joseph Smith recovered the text of the literal, ancient Book of Abraham, authored by Abraham, a literal, ancient person.

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-Fran├žois 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-Fran├žois 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: