Do you notice anything in common with these two pictures? Do you want to know why? One is supposedly only a portion of text, and one is said to be an actual picture. Yet, did you know that the first one on the left is this in hieroglyphic?:
Isn't that a picture? It looks like one to me. Yet both critics and apologists on both sides insist that this picture that I just showed you is only an element of text, and can only be text, under all conditions. Yet it looks like a picture of a seated woman. It is a picture of a seated woman. It walks like a duck. It is a duck. An Egyptologist, Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, agrees:
. . . Symbols in Egyptian art may also exhibit different meanings in different contexts in the same period of time . . . 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. (Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, pp. 11-13)
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)
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 . . . 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)Interestingly, the reed symbol itself as a pictograph in a word/letter game takes on particular importance in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, where it is used to represent the "Land of Reeds," which was the Land of the Chaldees, or Southern Babylonia, known as Kien-gi anciently. The character was taken from the Sensen Papyrus text. Please read Dr. Wilkinson's information again carefully, and then refer to it again, when someone says that little pictures in text cannot be used as pictures.
Here is the pictograph of the seated woman mentioned above in the "text." Yes, is true that it is text. Nobody is disputing that:
Yet here it is in one of the multiple instances from the Kirtland Egyptian Papers where it is paired with the name Kolob, unmistakably:
The second picture at the top of this article that has the same exact shape is a side portion of a mirror-image picture in the middle of one of these:
Is it meaningful to you that they both are Kolob? I say that it ought to be meaningful to you, because it is key.
The reverse is also true. Did you know that the "pictures" in this sculpture spell out the name Ramses in Egyptian, the name of the guy depicted in the sculpture? Look it up. This is accepted 100% by ALL Egyptoligists. These are text. Did you know that? Somewhere along the line, both Mormon Apologists that are styled as experts, and critics that are styled as experts, forgot these types of facts. Somewhere along the line, everybody forgot this stuff. Yet, it is in the proper framing of a mystery that things are no longer a mystery, and that a mystery is solved, and becomes comprehensible. It is always in the proper framing that human beings can start to see things in a correct light.
Joseph Smith clearly showed that both of the first two pictures in this article are Kolob, but some claim that it was only W. W. Phelphs that claimed that the first one was Kolob, and say it doesn't translate. Did you notice a pattern though? Did you see a visual similarity? I did. And I also noticed that both are pictures. But I also noticed that the sculpture of Ramses spelled his name. That fact didn't stop them from being pictures. One picture of Kolob is taken from a thing full of pictures that apologists have no problem accepting as translations of pictures, and the other is taken from something people are insisting is only a column of text, in every condition, in every case, where there can be no exceptions, they claim. Yet it is a picture, just like the second one. And it is translated as a picture, just like the second one. Go figure. The same type of translation in one case is accepted by Apologists who are experts, and the other one is dismissed as mere text, blamed on W. W. Phelps and they say that it is gobbldygook, incomprehensible, by apologists who claim to be experts. Do you see what happened? I do. Study it. Study it. Pay attention to it, because this is the problem. It is a problem of framing. It is a problem of paradigm.
Do you think that is a wise position from those who claim to be experts on both sides? I don't think it is wise. I question it. I hope you will too. You ought to. We have Mormon apologists saying that only some pictures can be pictures, and that Joseph Smith can only translate pictures that are pictures. They all claim that he could not translate pictures that are also letters, that he called an "alphabet." Yet, the rebus in the Ramses statue showed you an Egyptologically correct and accepted principle that is true for ALL Egyptian pictures, big and small. Pay attention to it. Internalize it.
Did Joseph Smith really translate the letters or even the pictures the letters are pictures of? Or did he translate an intent the letters were used for? It is the latter, actually. But it all boils down to the fact that they were pictures, all of them. The same is so with the letters of our alphabet.
Our letter A in the Latin Alphabet is not ONLY a letter originally. It is the Egyptian ox head (Gardiner's sign list, F1). Look at the very first entry on this page:
It is a little picture, with an ancient context, an ancient background, that needs elucidation for how it was used and why. It is not just used to spell things out. It is also used in things to give structure and decoration.
The translation activity in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is the same type of translation activity that Hugh Nibley and other Egyptologists defend in the Facsimiles and their explanations. They are interpretations of pictures instead of being a translation of a text. In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, each symbol extracted from the Sensen Papyrus is treated as a small picture or symbol, and iconotropically, an Abrahamic or otherwise gospel centered context is imposed on it, different from an original Egyptological context. Yet, each interpretation is still consistent with the Egyptological meaning of each symbol, in the same way that the same is true with each translation in the Explanations for the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham.
And so, as you can see, like our alphabet and the alphabets our letters were derived from, there is quite a lot more to how the Egyptian Symbols in the Sensen Papyrus were used anciently. These pictures are symbols used like letters of an alphabet, but not to spell things out. Alphabets are also used to give structure and decoration and enumeration to a composition.
An analogy: Think of a milk jug. The papyrus and its symbols are like the jug. The external content used to associate with this papyrus is like the milk. A milk jug is associated with milk by virtue of what is put in it. The jug is not the milk. Yet the jug is associated with milk, and says "milk" on it. But if I put water in it or juice, it doesn't change the fact that it was once a jug for milk. I can even put gasoline in it later, after I use it for juice. Once upon a time, this was used for milk. None of this changes it as a container. It never stopped being just a container. But it is still a jug of gasoline in the end, if you never empty that out. Its actual identity becomes closely associated with what it contains, which is what was external to it. To create this association, you merely fill it up with something. The liquid that was external to it, now fills it. It may say milk on it, because that is what it was used for at first. But now, the content that was external to it, but later filled it, is gasoline. It is now a gasoline container. It became that, because you used it that way.
Now, I have content or data, or milk, the thing you put in the jug: Bob, Fred and Chuck want to run some races, a 5K, a marathon, and a sprint. (This is like the story of the Book of Abraham, or the raw content of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.)
Now, if I want to do an outline, I have a mere structure (a type/structure, a shape of a jug):
It has no meaning (it is arbitrary/empty), an empty jug shape, until I put something in it (milk/data/content) from my content above:
I. Participants for Races
A. 5K race
Do you see what I did, when I made an end product, a derivative composition? It is a unified structure, an end product, between the structure of the empty outline (the "type" in Functional Programming in Computer Science) and the content (the information/data)? Did you see how they are enumerated and marked out and given structure by arbitrary Roman numerals and arbitrary letters?
So, Sensen papyrus symbols are not meaningful in this context. They are used as structure, a meaningless structure in itself, like the outline, and I fill in Book of Abraham related information in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, structured by the type, the structure arranged with the Egyptian symbols. The Egyptian symbols are like the Roman Numerals that have no identity or meaning of themselves. The letter A only became associated to Bob above by virtue of its being placed next to it in the outline. The derivative composition is my full outline.
It is an Egyptian Alphabet in the Sensen Papyrus, because it became a thing, a useful, arbitrary sign list of Arbitrary things not unlike our own Roman numerals and our own letters that give structure to make unstructured information more useful and understandable. The Arbitrary structure by these arbitrary things are not the identifier, the essence. For Joseph Smith to translate the content of the text of the Book of Abraham from an empty structure is to reproduce the content of our finished outline above merely from this:
That is silly. That's not what he did. What he did was to start out with nothing but structure, and fill it in with content. Why is this valid? Because ancient people did it too with these same symbols. They filled in Abrahamic and gospel-related content with these same symbols in a structure. The end result becomes a derivative composition, because it is a union of the two. The template (the jug) is mapped/unified with the contents of the jug, because it fills it. Therefore, the derivative composition, the end product, derived from both the template and the data, the jug and the contents, become the full production, the end result, the sum total of the unification of the two. Without the contents, the container has no identity or essence. The jug is arbitrary. It is just a jug. The stuff in the jug is the identity-giver to the full production. If you only have the structure, you can say, gee, that's a great looking structure, but it isn't useful to me until I fill it in with information.
Joseph Smith in October 1835 began "translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." What does that mean?
How do you translate the English Alphabet if it is structured into something useful? Ask yourself that question. Can you translate the letter A directly into something? No. So, if you translate an alphabet, what you are really doing is making something useful out of it, by giving it context and content, and in some cases, it may be to elucidate its ancient usages. It is precisely what I did with the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet on this very blog, a set of repurposed Egyptian symbols that were used to represent each constellation on the Lunar Zodiac:
Or you can see the same document on my Alphabet Origins blog:
Here is the chart of Lunar Mansions (Constellations) from Asia with the alphabet structures that I have prepared for analysis:
Here are the Chinese comparisons with the Chinese versions of the Lunar Zodiac Constellations:
Here are the Egyptian Hieratic comparisons:
I "translated" the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet, giving it context on how it was used, and what it was used for in the beginning, before it was just used as an acrophonic, uni-literal (uni-consonaltal) alphabet/abjad. Joseph Smith "translated" the Sensen Papyrus, giving the symbols context in one of the ways it was used in antiquity, as a structured way to give other derivative compilations structure and decoration. He was NOT translating it as if the Egyptian Symbols in it themselves were content. The symbols from that papyrus are structure, in the way he was using them, NOT content. And the Book of Abraham manuscripts show a derivative between the Sensen papyrus symbols that give structure, and an English representation of ancient content that they enumerated when they gave it structure. The same is so in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. There are the symbols that are structure, and the assignments of content to those symbols. It is a derivative composition, an English representation of something ancient between symbols that give it structure, and content. And its nice when there are deliberate, meaningful connections between the symbols used for structure and the content. There are, and that is what I refer to as the word/letter games, when people were making poetic or literary or artistic compositions in ancient times between the structure and the content.
This is why this is Kolob on the left side from the Sensen Papyrus text, and why the one on the left from Facsimile #2 figure 1 is also Kolob. Do you notice the visual affinity? That is a picture-letter-puzzle game between the hypocephalus (Facsimile #2) and the Sensen Papyrus text/pictures, which is ancient and deliberate, an ancient literary game going on that Joseph Smith didn't make up. Rather Hor, the priest, probably did this:
Yet one is the hieratic Egyptian determinative for "woman" (i.e. usually a text hieroglyphic, used to give context) from the Sensen papyrus columns and one is part of the hieroglyphic for the god Khnum-Ra, the god of creation, as I showed you at the beginning. Yet there are thematic connections between them:
The whole papyrus and KEP is full of this stuff, yet there are no ears to hear.
This is my final explanation for what is on this blog. I am now retiring from Book of Abraham Apologetics. Now future scholars are prepared to take this to the next level where I left off. When someone takes this seriously is when we can make headway. Those that ignored me and are indifferent to me merely because my specialty is computer science and not Egyptology need to take a second look at the need for eyes from multiple disciplines to get to the bottom of this stuff, because eyes only from Egyptology were inadequate. Sorry.
We have organizations in the Mormon Apologetics Establishment full of Medical Doctors and other people who have credentials that are commenting on things far outside of their specialties that they are trained in. It never seems to bother those around them that listen to them. Yes I am trained in something too, but those of you that are indifferent to me ignore that, because I'm not a part of your clique. It didn't seem to matter that William Schryver, who deserves respect, was also a trained Software Engineer. He also did work on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. Yet, he was respected. Good for you all that gave him the respect he deserved. Good for you for those of you that didn't ignore or were not indifferent to his work. His work is foundational to mine by the way. He just didn't look at things as having an ancient context, but did recognize them as code-tables. Kudos to you William. You got it half right.
Senior Software Engineer