(2) What is on the papyrus? A whole bunch of pictures. These pictures are all nice illustrations for the Book of Abraham. There are things that link these pictures to concepts in the Book of Abraham. Even things typically thought of as "text" on there are just small illustrations, because all Egyptian hieroglyphics are just pictures.
(3) Joseph Smith, following the practice of the ancients, gave interpretations to these pictures (both the big ones on the Facsimiles), and the small ones (the ones thought of usually to represent text), which was different from their original intent. The usage of pictures that are symbols outside of their original intent, in a new way, is called Iconotropy, or Adaptation. And so, the point of the papyrus was not to be of use to translate the text of the Book of Abraham, nor was there an expectation that the papyrus would contain the text itself. But the point is that one must understand that these symbols were re-used by ancient Egyptians for the story in the Book of Abraham in ancient times. The text of the Book of Abraham, or any papyrus that may have contained it is not this papyrus. This papyrus contains symbols/pictures that were used with the book of Abraham, to illustrate it, from the large symbols to the small ones. Therefore, what we are trying to discover is how these symbols were used in this manner. There is no expectation on any level that this papyrus contains the text of the Book of Abraham.
The usual disconnect here in people's minds against the idea that these little pictures in text could be re-used in a different way, as pictures instead of text, is the following. It must be recognized that it is a bias that prevents people from rightly considering what is going on in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and causes them to dismiss out of hand the way the symbols are used in it. This bias is rooted in the way our brains are trained to interpret these symbols. As Professor Orly Goldwasser of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem describes it:
During the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age the Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite alphabet [i.e. the earliest versions of the alphabet] show two main phases—iconic and linear . . .
These oldest alphabets are relatively small lists of symbols that were selected from among the hundreds of Egyptian heiroglyphic symbols used in the Egyptian system of writing.And she describes the Egyptian writing as "little images that make up the hieroglyphic script system . . ." However, she says that:
The icons that are used as tokens of the Egyptian script system differ clearly from pictorial images, even if at first glance they look like mere repetitive miniatures of the same kind of [larger] pictorial images.And this is because the images "would have been processed, i.e., 'read,' mainly in the 'letter box' and not in other areas of the brain that are consecrated to picture processing. These results strongly
suggest a separate discussion of iconicity in script and in picture."
(From the Iconic to the Linear- The Egyptian Scribes of Lachish and the Modification of the EArly Alphabet in the Bronze Age, https://www.academia.edu/30713970/_From_Iconic_to_Linear_The_Egyptian_Scribes_of_Lachish_and_the_Modification_of_the_Early_Alphabet_in_the_Late_Bronze_Age._In_Alphabets_Texts_and_Artefacts_in_the_Ancient_Near_East_Studies_presented_to_Benjamin_Sass_eds._I._Finkelstein_C._Robin_and_T._Römer._Paris_Van_Dieren_2016)
The so-called "letter box" described by Goldwasser is a special area of the brain that processes messages represented either by regular script or by picture-writing, which is a different area of the brain that processes pictures.
And so, because of the tendency to recognize these symbols only as script, in this part of the brain, there exists this bias which causes a a blockage in people's minds for seeing the system in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers for what it is. However, in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, the Egyptian symbols are being used not as script like usual, but once again as pictures. And so, for individuals to properly judge the system presented in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, they need to do so on its own terms, rather than imposing their own bias on it. And this means that it must be studied in such a way that we must let its own internal evidences provide the definitions of the rules for the system that it uses for its own symbology, rather than letting our own preconceived biases impose things on it that are alien to it. This is only fair that it ought to be judged on its own terms, and not by outside expectations on how the symbols in it ought to be used. Because, if the system in it is unique, but still ancient, then it ought to be allowed to tell its own story.
The origin of the Alphabet itself is an instance in history where a different and unfamiliar system of using symbols and rules for their usage emerged as a new invention by ancient people. This is a model for how the system originated that exists in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. The oldest alphabets were mentioned in the above quotations from Professor Goldwasser. Our Alphabet is the Latin. The original Semitic alphabet from whence the Hebrew, Greek and Latin Alphabets originate is called Proto-Sinaitic or the Proto-Alphabet by scholars. This is a short list of Egyptian hieroglyphics that was selected to represent single-consonant sounds, used in a new way that they were never used before. There is evidence that this list was originally selected because they constituted a list of symbols used for constellations in the Lunar Zodiac. This was a new invention, a new way to use this set of symbols. Yet the symbols were still little pictures and entirely new rules were applied to their usage. It was later that they became "linear," where they became more abstract, and were no longer so iconic. Or in other words, as they became more abstract, the pictures that they represented became less obvious.
What was Joseph Smith doing with the Egyptian symbols from the Sensen Papyrus as they appear in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers? His own words describe it. The claim was made by Joseph Smith that he was "continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." (Joseph Smith History, 1838–1856, vol. B-1, 597. See josephsmithpapers.org.) He didn't make the claim that this was the "text" of the Book of Abraham. He made the claim that each symbol he was reproducing was an "alphabet." Since he claimed that he was doing it "as practiced by the ancients," he was making the claim that it was an ancient system that he was reproducing. Since the system has rules different from what we are used to, then we need to test them for ancient precedents and find their ancient context instead of judging them and dismissing them solely on the basis that the rules for them do not match the regular Egyptian system that Egyptology has rediscovered. It is no more fair to dismiss the system in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers on this basis than it would be to dismiss the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet and its rules, which are a different, yet ancient, way of using Egyptian symbols than the regular way we are used to.
Since the Kirtland Egyptian Papers claim that the symbols in the Sensen Papyrus were being used as an "Alphabet" instead of their regular Egyptian usage, it stands to reason that a new alphabet was invented by the ancient Egyptians in the Greco-Roman period from the list of symbols in the Sensen Papyrus, yet part of the rules for this "alphabet" were that the symbols could be used pictographically. It can be expected that since they called it an Alphabet, that some things in it or about it were pattered after other alphabets. Just like the original Proto-Sinaitic alphabet, it re-used already-existing Egyptian symbols, but in a new way, with new rules. If so, it can be expected that this particular "alphabet" could be used in the creative ways other alphabets are (i.e. in letter and word puzzles). And that is precisely what we find in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. They are used as little pictures, but also, letter and word puzzles exist there. Just because it is different doesn't mean that it isn't ancient. This is just like how the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet is a different way to use little Egyptian pictures, but it is still very ancient. Word and letter puzzles were very common among the ancient Egyptians.