LDS approaches to the KEP (Kirtland Egyptian Papers) have been more varied. The first significant scholarly study of the matter, by John A. Tvedtnes and Richley Crapo, appeared in a series of articles under the auspices of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology from 1968 to 1970. Their theory was that the Sensen Papyrus may have represented a mnemonic device to bring to mind a longer oral tradition — a tradition that corresponded to the narrative of the Book of Abraham as we know it. This theory was grounded in two observations. First, the hieratic symbols copied into the left margin of the KEPA documents were complete morphemes, as opposed to the inappropriate breaks one would expect of someone who could not read Egyptian. Second, in every case the meaning of the hieratic word in the margin shows up in some relevant way in the much longer English text corresponding to the hieratic word. Of course, lots of other words and concepts are present as well, but the meaning of the hieratic word in each case is present in the English text.Some people may think that I am among the "small minority of LDS commenters on the KEP seeks to defend the supposed revelatory character of these documents, viewing them through the lenses of kabbalism or extreme symbolism. It has few adherents."
While a fascinating study, the Tvedtnes and Crapo mnemonic device theory never really caught on. Hugh Nibley was intrigued by this possibility at first, but then decided to go in a different direction. Nibley authored a seminal, lengthy study of the KEP in BYU Studies entitled "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers." He did not attempt to defend the KEP as revelatory documents (other than the English portions of the KEPA). Rather, he took the view that the KEP represent either a preliminary "studying it out" stage in the process, or a (failed) attempt to reverse engineer the English translation so as to decipher the Egyptian language. In other words, the English text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation as opposed to a purely mechanical process. While Joseph was involved in the KEP project, a theme of Nibley's piece is to portray the efforts of Phelps, Cowdery, and Parrish as largely independent of Joseph. Nibley's take has become the dominant LDS view, and has been echoed more recently in several publications by John Gee.
A small minority of LDS commenters on the KEP seeks to defend the supposed revelatory character of these documents, viewing them through the lenses of kabbalism or extreme symbolism. It has few adherents. (http://pt.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/Joseph_Smith_Papyri/Kirtland_Egyptian_Papers)
Let me explain why this is not the case. I am not trying to say that there is extreme symbolism going on. And definitely not kabbalism. Rather, I am saying that symbolism exists that ties a symbol to something outside of it (i.e. external context dependence). That is not extreme. Extreme symbolism would be to say that there is a bunch of information packed into something or compressed into some small space, and that this information can be "mechanically" or "methodically" extracted. My theory says that external dependencies (external assignments or mappings) are required for a symbol to be meaningful, otherwise it is abstract. That is not extreme. That is just an observation from evidence that is available, that can be seen, both in the Facsimile explanations and in the KEP explanations for characters. Characters are not meaningful without external explanations.
In other words, I am in agreement with the statement from FAIR that:
"In other words, the English text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation as opposed to a purely mechanical process."
But this is because the Book of Abraham text was unavaliable to Joseph Smith. The only thing available to him were these abstract characters that could act as cues once the correct context of them were revealed under inspiration for the Book of Abraham usage. And so, because an abstraction is all there would be without the external dependency, there would be no reason that this would be a functional mnemonic.
So, the meaningful ties between the external information and the symbol that was chosen to decorate it can be shown, between abstractions and externally dependent context assignments. That is not an extreme position.
The nature of these characters defies the idea that there was something mechanical and reproducible going on without a seer stone. An external dependency is a primary requirement. In fact, so much so, they are entirely meaningless (abstract) without that external dependency, just like a variable in algebra is abstract and meaningless without being in a problem to take on a value, giving context.
I've had people try to tie what I am doing to what Tvedtnes and Crapo were doing. What I'm trying to say is that any similarities are superficial, and what is actually going on is more subtle. In the meat of what is going on things are entirely different than what Tvedtnes and Crapo thought. Some people may say that a mnemonic device and something akin to an acrostic or other constrained writing experiment is pretty much the same thing. I'm saying, no.
Trying to link my work to Tvednes' and Crapo's mnemonic idea is the association fallacy (one of the red-herring fallacies):
Premise A is a BIn other words, for example, that's like saying that all dogs are mammals, so therefore, a cow, which is also a mammal, is a dog. So because dog is a mammal, and cow is a mammal, therefore a cow is a dog.
Premise A is also a C
Conclusion Therefore, all Bs are Cs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_fallacy)
Tvedtnes and Crapo are correct when they wrote the following:
The scribes of ancient Egypt were quite fond of word-games; this was a natural development for the land which Jean Capart chose to dub the “pays du symbolisme.”7 J. J. Clère has shown that the Egyptians composed not only crosswords, but acrostics as well.8 Etienne Drioton, the renowned Belgian Egyptologist and Catholic priest, in his “La Cryptographie Egyptienne,” gives several examples of Egyptian cryptograms (symbols — ornamental and otherwise — which convey dual meanings). These may consist of one or more symbols composing but a single word, or of entire sentences which have dual meanings. The latter most often display their dual meanings through homophones,9 to which we have had recourse in our Hor Sensen Papyrus investigations. (http://ancientamerica.org/library/media/HTML/hay1gflq/THE%20USE%20OF%20MNEMONIC%20DEVICES%20IN%20ORAL%20TRADITIONS.htm?n=0)In footnote 7 of the document quoted above, Tvednes and Crapo have this:
7. Jean Capart, “Au pays du symbolisme,” in Chronique d’Egypte, No. 63 (janvier 1957), pp. 219-241. (Brussels: Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth.)In footnote 8, they have this:
8. J. J. Clère, “Acrostiches et Mots Croisés des Anciens Egyptiens,” in Chronique d’Egypte, No. 25 (janvier 1938), pp. 35-58.Nevertheless, while some constrained writing experiments and some types of acrostics are mnemonic in nature, others are not. Some things are just artistic and creative, and are not for the purpose of memory recall at all, just like not all mammals are dogs.
Now, here is the core problem with the Mnemonic Device Theory. In trying to line up characters to text, Tvednes and Crapo primarily ignored the contents of what the Kirtland Egyptian Papers were saying. They were not trying to analyze and reverse-engineer what the KEP says about the matches that the KEP gives detail about, the way I am.
Rather, Tvednes and Crapo would try to invent their own matches, rather than documenting the properties and attributes of the already existing matches. They would look at the meaning of a character like "this" and then try to see if there was some kind of mention of "this" in the text. If there was mention of "this" in the text, then that must mean that we have a match. That is bad logic. FAIRMormon noted that "mnemonic device theory never really caught on." And my contention is that it is precisely because there was some superficial thing that Tvedtnes and Crapo would grab on to in the meaning of a hieroglyph, and see if there was some superficial word there in the text that would match. In other words, the matches were unconvincing, because, while they may have believed that there was relevance, people were unconvinced, because objectively, the matches were very superficial, and did not explain what was going on in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. In other words, it is a fact that if an Egyptian character was placed next to a section of text in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts, that demonstrates the potential that a match exists in something between that character and the text, but it doesn't detail what that match precisely is, or what principle that match was based on. To actually demonstrate a good match, you must go to the parts of the KEP where the matches are detailed and explained, which is not that part that Tvedtnes and Crapo were working with. You must use the Grammar and Alphabet sections. And then you must analyze what that is saying about the match, and extract the principles and underlying reasoning, the same as why you would analyze what the Facsimile #2 explanation says about a hieroglyph in Facsimile #2 to see about why it is a match. And many apologists are saying, including LDS Egyptologists, that Khnum-Ra is a match with Kolob because of the shared theme of creation between them. That is a thematic match, but Khnum-Ra is an abstraction. It is not literally Kolob, but shares a meaningful tie with it. That is precisely the kind of matches I'm talking about between the characters selected for the outside context assigned to them. There is nothing inherent Khnum-Ra that makes it Kolob. There is only an external assignment made to it by way of the explanation, because the thematic tie makes it a suitable match. It's not like the Egyptians in general knew the symbol of Khnum-Ra ought to translate to be the star Kolob in every instance, because it shouldn't. This was exernal-contextually dependent.
Furthermore, the general meaning of a hieroglyph by itself is seldom the reason for a match. Rather, sometimes complex hieroglyphs are split up into components and the components are where the match resides, rather than in the hieroglyph itself:
For example, the match with the Uniliteral N character which is a water ripple, had nothing to do with the meaning of "water ripple," but rather, has to do with the visual components when the hieratic version of the character is "dissected" in two, and one can see two component hieroglyphs:
And so, in the case of the water ripple hieratic, these scribes literally "invented" the fact that the eye and the flat earth hieroglyph could be "dissected" from the hieratic water ripple. This is not a usual "principle" of Egyptological Egyptian, but is rather an invention of the people that invented this other system. And the only way to discover this fact is to analyze what the KEP had to say about the character. Blindly trying to match up a section of text to the meaning of a character the way Tvedtnes and Crapo were doing does not tease out these nuances. So, there is a methodological problem in their work.
So, more often, the only time the general meaning of the hieroglyph is helpful is when the heiroglyph is simple, like a reed character that is a straight vertical line in some cases:
So, the methodology in this blog instead tries to tease out the primary principles and patterns underlying the matches in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers Alphabet and Grammar sections, rather than just finding superficial matches in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts. This blog gives EXPLANATIONS about WHY things were documented and chosen to match, rather than just trying to arbitrarily try to match something together. And furthermore, the principles are identified behind HOW the match was made. In other words, the EVIDENCE for the WHYs and the HOWs are documented. And the evidence shows that it is NOT for memory recall, but rather, the characters were chosen for creative decorations of something that shares a thematic or meaningful tie. Not just because something has a superficial word like "the" in it. In other words, Tvedtnes and Crapo were looking for obvious, literal connections, without any underlying principle that is generally manifest to tie it all together. As Charles M. Larson observed:
. . . Tvedtnes and Crapo proposed that the hieratic Egyptian words appearing on the Sensen papyrus stood for "core concepts" that could be found within the English text next to which they appeared. For instance . . . the first Egyptian symbol shown represents the word "the" or "this." Verse 11 Abraham I, shown next to it begins, "Now this priest had offered . . ." The two Mormon scholars felt that they had shown a parallel between the two works because the definite article "this" appeared in both. (By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, p. 117)Let's read about Klaus Baer's critique of Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory, according to Larson:
When Jay Todd . . . asked Klaus Baer his opinion of the theory, Dr. Baer replied that the English-to-Egyptian comparisons listed in the study "were related by no visible principle." There was really no consistent procedure employed at all, no governing rules of application that would make the proposed method useful as a genuine memory device by anyone; rather, all associations were random, haphazard and chaotic, showing evidence of a forced association. Furthermore, some of the "core concepts" were tied to the specific names of the deceased (Hor) and one of his parents (Tikhebyt), meaning that only this particular "breathing permit" -- and no other -- was capable of carrying any intended code. Each time a Book of Breathings text was prepared over the centuries, different names would have been written in making any transmission of "code" based on names impossible. (ibid. pp. 118-119).While it is true that Klaus Baer later apologized for his remarks that were quoted by Larson here (as documented by John Gee), his initial remarks stand as what I believe is his objective, original thoughts on the matter were, unencumbered by any other external forces or pressures (i.e. without the subsequent pressure from LDS people for a retraction or apology for he sake of what one might call "political correctness"). And no, I'm not siding with Anti-Mormons on much of anything. I have equal opportunity acceptance or rejection of information from wherever it comes. Where I place my loyalties is absolutely clear.
For further reading on specifics of the Mnemonic Device Theory, where the actual lineup of characters to text are given, I refer you to Kerry Shirts' site where he has transcribed Tvednes' and Crapo's papers:
As an example of where I'm coming from Crapo and Tvedtnes have this, as shown in Kerry Shirts' transcription:
1. "iw" meaning "they shall, to be (plural)"This is the first character grouping that Tvedtnes tries to match up with the Book of Abraham. This is where the Sensen Papyrus says that "They shall tow Osiris through this great pool of Khonsu." As you can see, these are the first two characters, the I and the W. As I have shown in other places on this blog, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the KEP matched up the initial I character (reed) with Land of the Chaldees, and the initial W character (rope coil) with Abraham. Tvedtnes and Crapo ignored these correlations, and instead grouped them together here (as one word, which they are in regular Egyptian), when the KEP/Alphabet had them separated out as two characters, and gave them interpretations based on the pictographic meanings of the two characters, when separated out from their Egyptological context.
So Tvedtnes and Crapo were wrong about how they were interpreting the nature of these characters.
So, as you will be able to see, my theory suffers from none of these problems that are evident in Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory. I say that what the Egyptians were doing wasn't for memory-recall usage in the first place as mnemonics are, but was done for purely artistic motives, which were ultimately inspired by religious sensibilities. Not only was it NOT for mnemonics, but the actual connections are so entirely dependent on outside information or an outside key, that the papyrus used in this way is useless without them, because the characters are used as abstractions. It doesn't matter that characters from the names of the deceased were employed here, because certain specific items in this case were peculiar and particular to this papyrus. In other words, while it is true that there was a specific creative, artistic writing experiment was done for this particular papyrus, there was a more general practice of artistically employing Books of Breathings to be used in these types of writing experiments to tie this class of papyrus to Abraham. So, as I have stated in other posts, there was nothing that would have stopped Joseph Smith from being able to use any copy of the Book of Breathings for the Book of Abraham. While there were specific differences in each papyrus, an ancient interpreter was dynamic enough in his interpretations to creatively employ many different hieroglyphs in many creative ways to tie any Sensen document to another document or story.
Furthermore, my theory doesn't suffer from these problems because I have identified the general principles that are used and how it is all tied together. The patterns that are observed here in my theory is that these ties are ICONOTROPIC, the same way as the rest of the ties between symbols in the Facsimiles and their explanations. Or to put it another way, a symbolic association is made between an abstraction and a concrete, literal thing, with which it shares a conceptual link of some sort. And furthermore, this link is not evident without the external dependency like a key of sorts. Therefore, Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory fails on the grounds that they did not identify the underlying principles, and were too hasty to find superficial, forced connections. And they made an assumption about the nature of the thing, that it was mnemonic in nature, when the more subtle evidence at hand doesn't support that conclusion. In other words, their theory was assertion-based, where they would try to assert and force a superficial connection, rather than being based on analysis of available evidence in already-identified connections. The Grammar and Alphabet sections of the KEP already provided the connections. Tvedtnes and Crapo tried to line up characters to text in the Book of Abraham text manuscript and tried to force connections there. That was the wrong approach.