Some have made the charge as part of a straw man argument that my approach is identical or virtually identical to Athanasius Kircher's from the 1600's in the translation of Egyptian. This charge is false of course. And some even go so far as to blame W. W. Phelps or Joseph Smith for the same type of translations as Kircher's in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, calling those equally as nonsensical as Kircher's.
There are multiple levels here that must be untangled/decoupled. I will go from the agreed upon things, building certain concepts, and then I will go on to those thing that are not agreed upon yet, but I will show how my work qualifies on the level of reverse engineering, and how it is nothing like Kircher's approach. And I will then demonstrate how, because I am able to reverse-engineer the Kirtland Egyptian Papers the same way other LDS scholars are able to reverse-engineer the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, this means that this is evidence that Joseph Smith is responsible for not only the Facsimile Explanations, but also the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and that W. W. Phelps is not.
First of all, we will not deal with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers immediately. Because just as LDS missionaries build on common beliefs, I do have something in common with other LDS members that have interest in this field, and that is, I believe that Joseph Smith is responsible for the translations in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham. Therefore, at first, I will demonstrate exactly what I am talking about first with the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, and only after I have established that, I will speak of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. But all I will state here is that the exact system is used between the symbols in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the symbols in the Facsimiles for the Book of Abraham. Fortunately for us, we have common ground in the translations given in the Book of Abraham Facsimiles.
Jean-François Champollion used a methodology called reverse-engineering or code-breaking or decipherment. In essence, it is finding the underlying facts and bringing them forth, in order to identify the system at hand. And we model that system, or in other words, we describe it for the human mind. I will describe this, and how it is sometimes rooted in multiple sets of good data that are compared with each other, and pairings (interrelationships) are made manifest.
In the case of Champollion, it was on the Rosetta Stone, where two languages were presented, one known (Greek), and one unknown (Egyptian). But there was one other known set of data that even Kircher noticed, and that was the likelihood that Coptic Egyptian was a direct descendant, or perhaps a more modern dialect, of the older Egyptian languages.
And so, Champollion successfully used that which is known (i.e. Greek and Coptic) and was able to compare it with that which was unknown (i.e. the two types of unknown Egyptian script present on the stone). In his work, it became clear that there was an interrelationship between the two sets of data. Or in other words, one set of information was able to be paired with the other, in order to act as a key to unlock the information on the unknown side. But more than just unlocking the information, the system of how the information worked became manifest. This is because, it was logical, and became apparent, that the Greek on the Rosetta Stone contained the same message as the Egyptian.
Champollion knew which words in Greek matched up with the Coptic. And so, once he was able to make a good guess as to which Egyptian symbols matched up with a certain Greek word, then he was able to use the Coptic equivalent of the word to reproduce a likely Egyptian reading for certain Egyptian characters. Once he discovered Egyptian alphabetics when he had enough of the symbols figured out and their pronunciations through Coptic, he was further able to deduce even more in other documents and texts found on other stones. This is a process of reverse-engineering from multiple reliable data sets that could be paired up with each other.
For example, in the field of Computer Science, Jean-Marie Favre quotes E.J. Chikofsky and J.H. Cross in the following:
As pointed out by Chikofsky and Cross . . . , the term "reverse engineering" takes its root in the analysis of hardware systems such as microprocessors, where producing descriptive models from finished systems is a common practice. These authors define reverse engineering as following:
"Reverse engineering is the process of analysing a subject system, to (1) identify the system’s components and their interrelationships, and (2) create representations of the system in another form or at a higher level of abstraction." (As quoted in Foundations of Model (Driven) (Reverse) Engineering Models Episode I: Stories of The Fidus Papyrus and of The Solarus, by Jean-Marie Favre, ADELE Team, Laboratoire LSR-IMAG Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France, p. 24, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/117c/6b016de357fa1970731caf748bb21434a4bf.pdf)
To translate this back into English from jargon, and to relate it to other things in the world besides computer hardware, a "subject system" is set of data, a set of facts or truths, at hand. In other words, it is the information at hand, the facts about a certain thing being studied. It is raw information that is not necessarily understood yet. In the case of languages, this is the corpus of information currently being studied. If there are unknowns about it, we move from whatever knowns we do have to the unknowns by comparisons and finding these interrelationships between the knowns and the unknowns. We search for patterns in the information. And so, we are identifying the components and their interrelationships. We create representations of these things that are perhaps charts or maps or documentation to allow the human mind to model what is going on in the facts or data.
And so, we create models and descriptions of these components and their interrelationships, in order to make them understandable and comprehensible to the human mind, so that the human mind can see how things work together. Once we have these models and descriptions in place, we are able to make the information useful in some way. It is the same as any model in science. It is a description of a set of facts and principles that are derived from the analysis of raw information. This raw information is the facts before us in an area of study.
Champollion noticed pairings or interrelationships and patterns information. Champollion had created a mental map of them, because he was able to understand their interrelationships. It is convenient in Book of Mormon Geography studies to create an internal map, where someone like John Sorenson uses the data from the Book of Mormon text (all geographical references) and reverse-engineers the interrelationships between cities, landmarks and so forth, to create a mental map. Once he has this mental map in his head, he can then put it on paper. And he did so in the book Mormon's Map. He purported that this was the map that Mormon had in his head when he described the Book of Mormon lands. And he reverse-engineered it.
If a corporate spy is trying to find out what another company is doing with their products, they may do analysis on the product to reverse engineer it, when they have no prior knowledge of it. In World War II, the allies reverse engineered the Nazi "Enigma" machine, because poor operating procedures allowed leakage of information that allowed for the cryptanalysis of the codes from the machine. The leakage of information as a result of the poor procedures was enough to give the researchers the keys they needed to decrypt the information.
There is a reason that the eminent scholar named Brian Colless of Massey University calls his web site Cryptcracker. (http://cryptcracker.blogspot.com). It is because he cracks things that are unknown. He deciphers them. He is one of the scholars that is dealing with the of Proto-Sinaitic (the oldest Semitic alphabet), which is a set of Egyptian hieroglyphics that were repurposed to spell out words in a Semitic language. Colless is also working on the Canaanite Syllabary, a set of symbols also repurposed from Egyptian Hieroglyphics that the Cannanites used, part of which may be the Proto-Canaanite alphabet.
The process of how scholars figured out Proto-Sinaitic was also an exercise in reverse-engineering. Here is part of an account of its decipherment:
. . . the Proto-Sinaitic script was first observed in a 1905 archaeological expedition conducted at Serabit el-Khadim by Flinders Petrie. His wife, Hilda, noticed odd and crudely formed inscriptions in numerous locations at the site (ibid: 41): on boulders and rocks, on the stone walls within the ancient mines, and on the occasional small monuments. Although Flinders Petrie himself was never terribly adept at translating hieroglyphic inscriptions, he believed this odd and crude form of hieroglyphs represented an alphabetic script. He was basically correct. Subsequently Sir Alan Gardiner, one of the giants in the early days of Egyptian linguistics, substantiated Petrie’s theory and performed further work and refinement on the study of the script.
For example, among the odd inscriptions Gardiner found frequent mention of b-‘-l-t (Baalat), the Canaanite word for “mistress.” He was able to demonstrate this on a small stone sphinx bearing a bilingual inscription.
The red arrow points to the Egyptian inscription: Ht-Hr mry Hmt n mfkAt, “The Beloved of Hathor, mistress of the turquoise.” The blue arrow points to the Canaanite inscription, which in translation is close to the Egyptian and of the same theme: m’h( b ) b’l(t), “Beloved of the Mistress.” Hathor was the principal deity venerated at Serabit el-Khadim . . . (https://ancientneareast.org/2012/02/04/was-proto-sinaitic-the-origin-of-the-alphabet/)In this case, the Proto-Sinaitic alphabetic inscription was paired with the Egyptian inscription such that Gardiner could notice the interrelationship between the two, precisely in the almost identical pattern to the Rosetta Stone, in the sense that that which is known acted as a key to that which is unknown. This gave these scholars the initial key to go on to reverse-engineer the entire Proto-Sinaitic alphabet as it is known today, which has been demonstrated to be the root of all Semitic and other modern alphabets.
Accomplishments of Mormon Scholars in Reverse-Engineering of the relationship between the Facsimile Explanations of the Book of Abraham and the Images in the Facsimiles
It may seem strange to speak of the Facsimile Explanations paired with Egyptian Symbols from the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham in LDS Scripture as things that would need to be reverse-engineered. Aren't these already translations into English of the Egyptian? Yes and no. People will say to me, can't you make up your mind? Actually I can, because it is the truth that there are two dimensions here. Joseph Smith could translate, but his translation is not a literal Egyptological translation. Therefore, I say, yes and no. And these two dimensions are important facts, because they are both true. It is true that Joseph Smith's translations are actual translations. But it is also true that they are not literal Egyptological Egyptian Translations. What are the implications of this? A lot. We have a truth here with multiple nuances.
Eminent scholars of Egyptian such as Robert Ritner, the Egyptologist that was one of the teachers of John Gee say that Joseph Smith's translations of the Facsimiles are not correct. Have you wondered why? It is because they clearly do not match an Egyptological Egyptian translation of the Facsimiles. This is a very important issue. Because, if Joseph Smith actually did translate these things correctly, but an Egyptologist like Ritner says that he did not, Mormon scholars ought to take that extremely seriously. And Robert Ritner is actually correct, that an Egyptological translation of the Facsimiles does not yield the same information that is found in the Facsimile Explanations. Does that make me an Anti-Mormon that I am agreeing with Ritner in this thing? Absolutely not. What is a Mormon to do? Well, contrary to Ritner and fortunately for us Mormons, the issue doesn't stop where he thinks it ought to stop.
Well, fortunately for us Mormons, we have some very smart Egyptologists on our side of our own who have figured out through reverse-engineering (perhaps without realizing that they were doing reverse-engineering), that there is actually a relationship to be found between the Egyptological Egyptian translations and the English text. Joseph Smith didn't pull these translations out of the air.
So, then, there is actually a missing link here, between the Facsimile Explanation text and the Egyptian pictures in the Facsimiles without reverse-engineering to uncover the relationship. And these very smart people have done just that. How?
Remember, there are two sets of information/data available on both sides of the issue to us to solve this issue. We have the (1) English Text from Joseph Smith, and (2) we have the Egyptian Images with Egyptological Egyptian translations supplied to us by very competent scholars like Robert Ritner.
Now, let us look at this, an article that I wrote on this subject back in 2015, where I reviewed Kerry Shirts 2005 presentation about Joseph Smith as Egyptologist:
It might seems strange that I am pointing to something that Kerry Shirts, having become a critic of the Church, would not longer stand by. But Shirts, prior to his change of beliefs, actually listed a number of things in the Facsimiles that Mormon scholars had reverse-engineered. And Shirts, thinks somehow Ritner is correct, and his former beliefs are not at all. Shirts will one day need to reconsider this.
But, moving on, we have Facsimile #2, Figure 1:
It's true that this isn't the exact version from Facsimile #2, but it is the same figure, more complete, from a different hypocephalus. It shows the four-headed, mirror-image, seated God named Khnum-Ra, the Egyptian God of Creation. Therefore there is nothing Egyptological about this Kolob thing, at all. This is Egyptologically Khnum-Ra, NOT KOLOB. This Kolob thing has absolutely NOTHING to do with Egyptology, no matter how much Mormons may hope it would, as we are assured by Ritner. And Ritner would be technically correct in his assertion. Therefore, Mormons no longer need to be worried about Mormon Egyptologists against Non-Mormon ones, because the Non-Mormon ones are right.
However, our very intelligent scholars in the Church noticed that Joseph Smith said this:
However, our very intelligent scholars in the Church noticed that Joseph Smith said this:
Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.
Hmmm. If you are a Mormon, you should be able to notice what our other very intelligent scholars noticed, in their reverse-engineering of the relationship here. I have put it in bold and in italics above. And it is the absolute key here. There is a thematic play of words here. In other words, it is a word game, a punnish game between Kolob and Khnum-Ra that makes it so that the Egyptological symbol Khnum-Ra is a suitable symbol for the NON EGYPTOLOGICAL INFORMATION that was applied to the symbol by someone that knew the Egyptian Language in Ancient times. This person was playing a word/picture game between Khnum-Ra and Kolob. It's true that Kolob is not an Egyptological translation at all. But it is also true that a person in ancient times was playing a word/picture game with Egyptian symbols. And Kevin Barney noticed that this was Semitic Adaptation, or as others have called it, Iconotropy, where someone along the line ASSIGNED a NON-EGYPTOLOGICAL MEANING to a character. And our extremely intelligent scholars in the Church have revealed the missing link between Joseph Smith's English text and the Egyptological translation given to us by Ritner and other very competent Egyptologists.
And our extremely intelligent scholars in the Church have reverse-engineered what is going on behind the scenes between Joseph Smith's Egyptian and the Egyptological Egyptian. Try as they might though, Mormon scholars cannot make Joseph Smith's Egyptian into Egyptological Egyptian. It just cannot be done, because Ritner assures us that the two are not the same thing. And indeed, they are not. Yet, one represents the actual Egyptian language, and the other represents the thoughts of ancient people that repurposed the symbols!
Yet both are real, and both are true, but neither can be confused with the other. And in our minds, they must remain separate. Because the linkage between them is the interrelationship, the pairing, the PUN. Over and over again, the same thing is evident. Let's look at another example just to reinforce the point:
This is Facsimile #2, figure 2. What is this? It is the Egyptian Wepwawet, the opener, the janitor, the key-holder. Here is another version of him:
And of course, as Hugh Nibley shows, he is an Egyptian version of the god Janus, the Janitor, the key-holder:
Joseph Smith translated this as Oliblish, the grand key. Did you get it? It is the picture/word/pun game that is going on here. This is the missing link between Joseph Smith's Egyptian and the Egyptological Egyptian. The two cannot be confused. And this was reverse-engineered by both brother Rhodes and Brother Nibley, though they did not use that term, and they did not recognize it as a "game." They did not recognize the relationship between the two sets of information as a literary game played by the ancients. Yet they did prove it nevertheless. And it was two sets of information, two groups of data, and an interrelationship, a pairing. And an elucidated principle as the basis of the pairing: a literary pun game. And these things are pictures. And this was reverse-engineering done by Mormon Scholars that are our very intelligent people. This was Brother Nibley and Brother Rhodes that did this. And to Brother Barney that figured out this Semitic Adaptation principle or Iconotropy that is the mechanics or root principle behind these thematic puns, and how Joseph Smith's translations are adaptable because of the shared theme. The Facsimiles are full of this stuff.
But there is another important point. Where in the Facsimiles was Joseph Smith's Egyptian spelled out? Did you see anything there with the world "Kolob" spelled out in the Egyptian language? Nothing at all is there to justify, in conventional wisdom, to assert that information called "Kolob" and meaning specifically "First Creation" ought to be applied to the Khnum-Ra character. Well, this is because the Khnum-Ra character DOES NOT CONTAIN THIS INFORMATION. This was external information applied to the image that was in the mind of a person in ancient times, and probably was in a document in ancient times that is also lost. In other words, there was probably a document written in an ancient language with the equivalent information we now have in English in the Facsimile Explanations. This ancient missing document provided a Key, an External Dependency, to the Khnum-Ra character. And there is a principle of pairing between the two that justifies the interrelationship. The Facsimile Explanations are a modern-day RECONSTITUTION of this ancient information. This is what I mean when I say that the Explanation text is an external key to the Facsimile images. The images themselves do not contain the information applied to them. That information is only found externally to them. This is why Ritner insists that these are not correct translations, because the fact is, the information comes from a place external to the picture to begin with, and that is just the way it is. It is the pun between the picture and the explanation that justifies the linkage or the interrelationship. And in order to create this pun in ancient times, someone had to know the Egyptian language. And as Mormons, we trust in the Prophet Joseph Smith's ability to reconstitute this ancient information.
A Contrast between the Multiple Examples of Actual Reverse-Engineering that We Just Saw Above and Kirtcher's Nonsensical Approach
Now we get to the root of the matter here for why it is that Egyptologist Wallis Budge wrote this:
Many writers pretended to have found the key to the hieroglyphics, and many more professed, with a shameless impudence which is hard to understand in these days, to translate the contents of the texts into a modern tongue. Foremost among such pretenders must be mentioned Athanasius Kircher, who, in the 17th century, declared that he had found the key to the hieroglyphic inscriptions; the translations which he prints in his Oedipus Aegyptiacus are utter nonsense, but as they were put forth in a learned tongue many people at the time believed they were correct. (Budge, E. A. Wallis, Egyptian Language: Easy Lessons in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. p. 15.)The assertion has been made that Jean-François Champollion refuted the method or approach used in Kircher's so-called translations of Egyptian back in the 1600's. This is absolutely true. So, what information did Kirtcher have about the Egyptian characters that he was supposedly translating? Just a few tiny clues from ancient Greek sources for a few hieroglyphs. As for the rest of it, he was entirely guessing about what each symbol was a picture of, without any evidence whatsoever. He was literally divining out of thin air what each symbol ought to be. Then, he would look into ancient documentation as sources for esoteric mysteries, and almost randomly and speculatively apply such things to the hieroglyphs. Some of it was the Hermetic documents containing the supposed teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. Later these documents were shown to not be as ancient as Kircher believed they were, so they would not have been good source material anyway. And because of the reverse-engineering from the Rosetta Stone, Champollion did indeed refute Kircher. The only positive item one can really take away from Kircher is the fact that Kircher assumed correctly that Coptic descended from Ancient Egyptian.
Now, while it is true that Egyptologists like Ritner do not accept Joseph Smith's Explanations as revelatory, I must appeal for a moment to the fact that Mormons do accept them. There is a big difference for Mormons between Joseph Smith's Explanations for the Facsimile Images and Kircher's translations of Hieroglyphs. First, Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and Kircher was not. Joseph Smith produced the text in the Explanations by revelation, and almost all Mormons accept that. So, Mormons accept that the explanation for Kolob is authentically ancient that was applied by Iconotropy to the Khnum-Ra hieroglyph, and justified by the punnish/thematic linkage between the two. Since a prophet of God linked the two together, Mormons accept this as a good enough reason to assume that a logical interrelationship does exist. And intelligent Mormon scholars reverse-engineered it to manifest the linkage principle between the two. Therefore, for Mormons, it is clear that this is nothing like Kircher's explanation. And we have a mental model now for the principle involved for the interrelationships, which can be generalized to all of the images in the Facsimiles. This is nothing like Kirtcher. It is not similar in the least bit.
Now, About that Accusation that Ed Goble's REVERSE ENGINEERING of Sensen Characters and English Explanations Paired with them in the KEP is IDENTICAL to Kircher's Nonsense.
Now that we have in an exhaustive manner reviewed the principles of Reverse Engineering in Champollion, the Proto-Sinaitic Alphabet, the Nazi Enigma Machine, and Joseph Smith's Egyptian Translation in the Facsimiles, now how do you suppose this works with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and its content? Well, I will repeat myself yet again as I have throughout all the previous posts in this blog.
We have Egyptian characters lifted from the Sensen Papyrus that were put in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and we can look these up individually in Egyptian Dictionaries. So their Egyptological meaning as standalone characters, as well as their pronunciation as Egyptian Uniliteral, Biliteral, Triliteral or Determinative characters is not a mystery. Anybody with an Egyptian Dictionary and a knowledge of Gardiner's Sign List and Numbering System and Moeller's Hieratic Sign list and numbering system can look this stuff up. And if one has a table that converts between Gardiner's numbers and Moeller's numbers to look up the hieratic versions of the text hieroglyphics, all of this is such a no-brainer that even a kindergartener could do it if he spent a few hours learning. It is as easy as looking up a Hebrew word or a Greek word from the Hebrew or Greek Old or New Testament if one has a knowledge of Strong's Concordance and Numbering System. And of course, biblehub.com is immensely critical for this. So, for all intents and purposes, there really is no mystery to that part. The Egyptological side is well documented for which character is which in Michael Rhodes' and Robert Ritner's writings on the Sensen Papyrus. The Egyptologists have told us that all Egyptian text characters are also individual pictures. So these are individual pictures like the ones in the facsimiles when isolated from any other characters. So this is one side of our data set. Check.
Now we have for our other side of the data set the fact that these were paired with English words. Check.
Now if we go off the scholarly consensus that some LDS Scholars go by, and that ALL critical scholars go by, Joseph Smith was 100% responsible for the content of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. If this is correct, then we have the same exact arrangement that we find in the Facsimiles and their Explanations.
Now, if we reverse engineer each symbol in the KEP, which are isolated from all other characters from the Sensen Papyrus in that context, we see some interesting things. They are individual pictures in this context. What do we see? We see the predicted interrelation. The same exact pattern that Nibley and Rhodes found between the Facsimiles and their Explanations. It is the same exact kind of punnish/literary word/picture games between the Egyptological meanings of the characters in the KEP and their English explanations in the KEP. And it is consistent. What does this mean? Joseph Smith produced ancient information with this kind of interrelationship with Egyptian characters. It doesn't mean these are direct translations of Egyptian characters. The Egyptological meaning of these characters is already known, and is straight-forward, and can be looked up. What we see is that there is a PREDICTED INTERRELATION, the predicted linkage in the pairing that is always consistent, that follows this same pattern.
Sorry. This is nothing like Kirtcher. And it is the same Iconotropy/Adaptation as in the Facsimiles. And it is the same Pairings. And it is the same predicted punnish/word/picture game interrelation.