Monday, October 21, 2019

Clear Precedent of Egyptian Substitution Cipher

I intend to find out if there is a substitution cipher in the KEP with the precedent of the Tomb of Khnumhotep II from 1900 BC.


Here we have a substitution cipher key put together by Egyptologists where the items on the left are given as equivalents for the ones on the right.

"The most ancient text with elements of cryptography was found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian grandee Khnumhotep II, the hereditary prince and nomarch of Menat-Khufu, who lived almost 4,000 years ago. Somewhere around 1900 BC The clerk of Khnumhotep described the life of his master in his tomb. Among the hieroglyphs, he used several unusual characters that hide the direct meaning of the text. This encryption method is actually a substitution cipher, when elements of the source text are replaced by other elements according to certain rules." (

"In one particular section of the inscription, written in hieroglyphics, a master scribe replaced the usual hieroglyphic symbols with new, seemingly nonsensical ones. This act rendered important passages of Khnumhotep's inscription unintelligible except to those who knew what substitution the scribe had made. This is an example of encoding in which an “idea” is substituted for another “idea,” and the use of a key needed for interpretation. We do not really know why the substitution was performed, but one can surmise that it was a protective mechanism." (

It remains my conviction that there is a substitution cipher in the KEP, and what is called "Grammar" in the term "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" has nothing to with Grammar of the Egyptian language in general, but instead refers to what these quotations above refer to, where something like a "protective mechanism" was used that was done "according to certain rules."  In other words, rules in this case refer to rules of cryptography, not rules of sentence structure of conventional Egyptian language the way Anti-Mormon critics interpret it.  Grammar, in this case, refers more to something along the lines of rules of decipherment, or rules of art interpretation (language arts, such as constrained writing).

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Response to a Critical Article on the Book of Abraham

I read through a lot of the Kelan article. My reaction to this is the same as my reaction always has been to works such as By His Own Hand on Papyrus by Charles Larson, or Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri by Robert Ritner, or even the CES Letter. We can congratulate the authors for their attention to a lot of detail where they try to bombard us with so much technical detail about how things are supposedly "false", that as the author Kelan said, to quote, you have to "come up for air" sometimes. The importance of evidence is not lost on the authors of these materials. And sometimes they are very right about technical details. But it is not the rightness of technical details that is all that impressive. It is whether they have focused so much on technical details that they are lost on things that really matter. that is where they fail. Because for some reason, they assume that all parties that are on the Church's side are agreed on all details, just because something is put out as authoritative by the Church, that is in fact ghost written by flawed apologists. I am in fact not in agreement on all the details and claims made in the Church's apologetic production, just because I am a member of the Church. In fact, I am agreed on a great number of facts and details put out by the critics. And by that, I mean, the fact is, it doesn't matter so much that a critic can be right to a great degree by bombarding us with a bunch of stuff that is true. That is not very impressive to me, because I actually agree with the great majority of facts that the critics are presenting. It is their interpretation of what those facts mean that is the issue with me. And so, by that, I mean that a lot of things are both true at the same time. For example, it is both true that Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State contains items that resemble contents of the Book of Abraham, but it is also true that it is an authentic fact that Abraham also actually knew these things. But the same type of things exist for the Book of Mormon too about many things that Joseph Smith knew from his environment, that primed him for it. For example, the theories about the moundbuilders that they were the Lost Ten Tribes from Joseph smith's environment. Just because this stuff was in his environment did not stop the facts in the Book of Mormon from being true. So, the truth can actually be surprising sometimes that two things can be true at the same time. The critics bombard us with this stuff and then feed us the assumption that there is only one possibility, that Joseph Smith copied stuff from his environment. Even if he did, it doesn't mean that what he produced is not true. In fact, I embrace the fact that sometimes things from the environment are there in fact for the very purpose of priming him to receive revelations, and that people in his environment also were receivers of revelation and inspiration to make sure that those very things would be there for the prophet to be primed at the time he needed to be. Secondly, the other common claim from the critic is that, just because it is technically true that Joseph Smith didn't get technical things right about the identification of the papyri that he was dealing with, that therefore was in fact no ancient source that once contained the information that he produced. Those things are not indicative that there was no ancient source that Joseph Smith reproduced. In fact, what I am saying is that revelation many times does not actually resemble the parody of it that the critics would have us believe. For example, just because Joseph Smith had certain assumptions about his sources doesn't invalidate the end product that he produced as being a reproduction of authentically ancient material. It is the end product that ought to be put under the microscope, not Joseph Smith's assumptions about it, which in fact may be outright wrong, or incomplete. In this case, Joseph Smith's assumptions about the Hor Papyrus as being an autograph of Abraham is not technically correct. That is a fact. Joseph Smith did not understand technical details about it. Today we do, and both the critics and the apologists know this very well. We know very well that the Papyrus does not contain the Book of Abraham. What Joseph Smith was NOT wrong about was that there is an association between the symbols and the content of the Book of Abraham, and that that relationship is ancient. THIS is what my research shows. In other words, with modern research, we come to know in sharp focus HOW the Hor Papyrus has a linkage to the Book of Abraham, and that it does not CONTAIN the contents of the message of the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith assumed too much about the identity of the papyrus. In other words the Holy Ghost used Joseph Smith, regardless of Joseph Smith's partially true or partially false assumptions about the identity of the thing he was working with. In other words, Joseph Smith knew things only partially, but the Holy Ghost used him anyway. And the Holy Ghost knew things fully. Therefore, Joseph Smith is still a vessel of receiving information from the Holy Ghost notwithstanding his failings or partial understandings, and notwithstanding what was in Joseph Smith's environment. Therefore, as Church members, we still have enough evidence to indicate that we ought to to be grateful to Joseph Smith, that he is a conduit, notwithstanding he is human and fallible and not omniscient. And we ought to be grateful that the Holy Ghost still used him as a conduit anyway. And furthermore, we ought to be grateful that the Holy Ghost is the entity that is omniscient that worked with Joseph Smith as a tool. We ought to be grateful that there is an element in the equation that is indeed omniscient, in spite of the limitations of the conduit. Therefore, as Church Members, we ought to also be grateful to ALL researchers (including the critics) for bringing further facts to light about the matter. Because, as Church members, we aren't necessarily as interested in apologetics and being bamboozled by apologists when they make false or incorrect claims, and we are not even necessarily interested in Church sponsored claims when they are not entirely correct coming from apologists that are commissioned by the Church to produce something. We are interested in all truth, regardless from whence it comes. Therefore, we ought to be grateful to the critics when they bring truth to light, but we intend to circumscribe all truth into one great combination of truth. Therefore, we ought to be willing to recognize by the Holy Ghost when truth comes from critics, or from apologists, or from whatever source. Therefore, I am not interested in defending things even in the Church essay when the Church essay presents facts that aren't precisely correct. Ultimately, I am interested in coming to an understanding of truth as a whole. And if Joseph Smith only knew the truth partially, then I am undisturbed when facts come to light that show more of the truth. But that doesn't invalidate the parts of the truth, or even partial truths that Joseph Smith did in fact know. Therefore, I say, I am as grateful for the facts presented in Kellan's article as I am from the By His Own hand on Papyrus book, or Ritner's book. I am just not impressed by Kellan's interpretations of those facts, and I say, none of those facts invalidate my research the least bit. In other words, I am still asserting and am unswayed from the conclusion that the Hor Papyrus has a role where it is related to the Book of Abraham symbolically by the relational things of its ancient usage of its symbols, but it does not CONTAIN the text. And therefore, the contents are reproduced from a non-extant ancient source. The Holy Ghost knew this, but Joseph Smith didn't have to know these details to complete his work. And I am undisturbed by the fact that Joseph Smith didn't have to know all things or all technical facts of a matter to actually have performed his work, and the fact that we can come to know facts that Joseph Smith did not know is a testimony that the Holy Ghost continues to reveal important facts and does things incrementally according to our needs. Apologists need to strive to have their interpretations of things actually harmonize with known facts, rather than making stuff up or outright lying or misrepresenting facts the way they do sometimes, because when they do that, they do damage to the cause. And this can be especially damaging when the Church relies on the "expertise" of apologists like that. I for one strive to have interpretations that harmonize with the evidence. Thanks.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Fundamental Principles of Joseph Smith's Egyptian

I feel that I am wrapping up my research on this subject, and I wish to leave my blog and paper up for future researchers to profit by, should they choose to take it seriously.  And I want to document a few things as I come to a close in this research, so this will serve as sort of a summary of the most important points.

The fundamental principles of Joseph Smith's Egyptian are these:

Joseph Smith said he was translating an "Alphabet" to the Book of Abraham "as practiced by the ancients."  The Hor Papyrus was conceptually treated as an ancient abecedary by Joseph Smith.  An abecedary is a chart of letters of an alphabet.  Therefore, the context here is that an ancient person or persons used this papyrus as a chart of letters/symbols for use as an alphabet.  Therefore, in this ancient context, we should pay attention to how the ancients used ancient abecedaries.  Therefore, the notion that the Hor Papyrus content (i.e., what letters the papyrus spell out/the running text of it) is not the proper context, at least as far as the Book of Abraham is concered.  Besides what the papyrus spelled out as a running text in its own right, there was a secondary usage for certain people.  Certain ancient people viewed the characters of the Hor papyrus as an "alphabet" from which they could recycle characters as arbitrary symbols for arbitrary usages, just as any "alphabet."

Ancient Egyptian priests and scribes created a literary game in the general family of Scrabble or Crosswords or Hangman, where the characters of the Hor papyrus were like game pieces from Scrabble, like how each letter in Scrabble is its own game piece.  This had nothing to do with the content (i.e. the running text) of the Hor papyrus, only using its "letters" so to speak, as pieces or entities in a literary game.  The religious content in the game happened to be the content of the ancient Jewish Book of Abraham, from an entirely separate source, distinct from the Hor Papyrus content.  It was a game of pun-matching, between a "letter" and a "section" of content.  And the priests and scribes had some kind of fascination with Jewish Patriarchs.

(1) The hieroglyphics (and hieratics [i.e. "cursive" versions of hieroglyphics] as well) that Joseph Smith employed in his Egyptian are not containers of information at all.  There is no information in them to translate.  They are decorative artwork chosen to go along with content.  If you can understand this point, you can understand why these symbols do not "translate to" the content.  They merely accompany the content.  They are recycled symbols from other documents.
(2) The information in the content in Joseph Smith's translations does not come from the papyri that he had in his hands.  The source of that content is from non-extant, ancient documents.
(3) The linkages between the content that Joseph Smith produced and the symbols that were chosen and paired with them are ancient Egyptian puns of various types.  In other words, every pair formed by symbol and content in English constitutes a pun of some kind.  These puns can be seen by reverse-engineering the Egyptian meaning of the symbol and comparing that with the English content paired with it, and then the puns become apparent.
(4) Ancient people produced the content, and created the puns that link that content with the symbols Joseph Smith used by assigning each symbol with the text that accompanies it.  The extant evidence that the content is ancient in Joseph Smith's productions are the puns themselves, since the Egyptian originals for the content are not available.
(5) Its not that the hieroglyphics employed did not say what they say in the form they are found in the original Hor Book of Breathings papyrus and the Book of the Dead papyri.  Its that some ancient person used these sources for lists of characters to recycle as markers and decorations in the Book of Abraham papyrus (the no-longer-extant ancient papyrus that had Abraham's book written in it in an ancient language, not to be confused with the Hor Book of Breathings papyrus or the Book of the Dead papyri).  Joseph Smith never had physical access to the papyrus actually containing Abraham's text.
(6) Because of the juxtaposition of the characters to sections of content, they take on the function of being symbolic of the sections and content by virtue of the principle of assignment, the same way a symbol in an algebra program becomes symbolic of an assigned numeric value, or the way a symbol in a legend for a map is symbolic of the meaning given in the legend.  Why?  It was a literary and religious game played by Egyptian priests not unlike games in the family of modern Scrabble or crosswords, to match a symbol to content by virtue of some attribute of the symbol creating an association.  Some kind of pun in each case created by the juxtaposition was the reason and justification.  The juxtaposing of the characters therefore makes the characters take on the nature of what they stand for in a given context, because of the interconnection of the content to symbol by virtue of the pun in the game.  But they are otherwise abstract.  Therefore, in "translating" a character, Joseph Smith was actually producing a key or legend to the characters through revelatory means, but it was a game played by the ancients that he reproduced.  He wasn't extracting content from the characters.  This is why he said he was laboring to produce an "ALPHABET TO" the Book of Abraham.  The so-called "alphabet," the list of otherwise abstract characters associated and juxtaposed, are not things that contain the content.  They just map to the content, and are dependent on content for context.  Each character listed from the Hor papyrus is like a game piece, so to speak, each piece with a letter on them, like in the modern-day game of Scrabble.  It is the same as what is called dependency injection in computer science, where values are injected into a somewhat abstract structure.  This was what they were doing in the game.  And Joseph Smith reproduced this structure of juxtaposition of content to symbol.

If you can internalize and become very familiar with these fundamental principles, you can begin to understand where I am coming from in every article on my blog.  This is why Anti-Church critics and some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are wrong when they try to say that Joseph Smith attempted to translate the content from the available symbols in his documents.  Because these things form artistic pairs with the missing content that he produced.  The symbols do not contain the content.  The miracle here is that Joseph Smith successfully produced English renderings of ancient content that is not extant in its original Egyptian or ancient form.  Whether he did this through visionary or revelatory means doesn't matter much.  So, far from being an evidence of fraud that Joseph Smith could not translate, the pairings between symbols and content actually stand as ancient evidence of the reality of this work, when the ancient puns between them are elucidated.

Question:  What are we to think of Hauglid's and Jensen's new position on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, reflected in their new publication that is a part of the official Joseph Smith Papers publications?

Answer:  I have always maintained that the characters from the Hor papyrus are supposed to be juxtaposed to the English content, and that Joseph Smith recognized that they are connected, even before Hauglid changed his position to agree with critics.  I have always maintained that the evidence is what it is.  It is clear that Joseph Smith was laboring with these very characters to "produce" content as maintained by Hauglid and Jensen.

But Hauglid's and Jensen's interpretation of what this means has been colored by the bias of Metcalfe and Vogel.  This interpretation they attach to this is not warranted given the other evidence presented on this blog.

What was it?  It wasn't a translation so much as it was a production that reproduced the juxtaposition by revelation.  There was no content in the characters to be extracted.  It was a reconstruction of a structure, and the content was provided by pure revelatory means.  The revelation was simply one of matching abstract symbols to a section of revealed content.  What was the underlying system that justified this?  An ancient religious-based crossword-puzzle-type of game, an ancient game in the spirit of modern Scrabble, and the "letters" in the game were the "alphabet," or list of characters from the Hor papyrus.  It had nothing to do with the content, of the Hor papyrus, only its "letters."  It was an ancient game in the family of Scrabble, where we have "game pieces," as it were, each with a letter on it, and these game pieces are manipulated, pulled apart into its imaginary constituent pieces, and so forth and so on.

And why were the symbols used this way?  In the rules of the literary game, it was the same type of justification where an arbitrary symbol is chosen to mean a certain thing in a legend for a map.  The symbols in the map usually have some desired attribute or form that makes it suitable to accompany a piece of content.  The content was not meant to be stored somehow in the symbol, any more than X literally means then number two in every algebra problem it was every used in.  But X can be a suitable symbol for the number two in an algebra problem.  Similarly, a name of a variable that is a label for a memory location in a computer can be suitable way to look up the value held in the memory location.

So, the symbols were selected arbitrarily using arbitrary rules, much like the rules for a crossword puzzle or a hangman game.  Somebody had to make up the rules of the game.  The game was used by the ancients to arbitrarily select symbols to go along with some given part of revealed content.  Why did they do this?  They loved literary games like acrostics and other types of number and word games often used in poetry.

Like Hauglid, I believe Joseph Smith never had a papyrus with the content from the Book of Abraham.  Therefore, I am not a believer in the classic Missing Papyrus theory that suggests that Joseph Smith had a papyrus we no longer have.

I maintain that that original papyrus with the actual Abrahamic content was lost in antiquity, but that it was intimately connected with the symbols on the Hor papyrus because somebody in the Ptolemaic era made its characters into a game something like Abrahamic scrabble, as it were.  In other words, the scribe of the Hor papyrus also had access to, or was the scribe of, the papyrus that contained the original content of the Book of Abraham.  This was Hor himself, the owner of the papyrus, or his scribe probably.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lion Symbol Associated with Killing and Knives

Richard Graves writes:

The . . . woman is the Lion-goddess Cyrene, or Hepatu the Hittite, or Anatha of Syra, or Hera the Lion-goddess of Mycenae, and her partner is the sacred king, who is due to die under the midsummer sign of Leo, emblemized by a knife in the Egyptian Zodiac.  Like Thesus or Heracles, he wears a lion mask and skin, and is animated by the spirit of the dead lion, his predecessor, which appear to be a bee . . . (The Greek Myths: Complete Edition, p. 280)
It is interesting to note that in the Book of Abraham, Abraham himself is laying on a Lion Couch, ready to be sacrificed by a false priest, who holds a knife, in a scene that some Egyptologists insist is only an embalming scene, but which the Book of Abraham insists can also be a sacrificial scene.

In one of my articles, I note how the name Abraham is also connected to the word Deseret, and bees, and other insects related to bees:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Facsimile 2 Figure 11 Article Two: Ancient Egyptian Number Puzzles

Prior to this article, we presented the first theory on the numbers in Facsimile 2, Figure 11, which was an attempt to primarily link up the Egyptian uniliteral (single-consonantal) letters to the Hebrew and Greek number system.  This one is a separate theory from that.  This follows some of the other theories on this blog regarding Egyptian word games like puns, etc.  The Egyptians also had a system of numbers that was based on number-word puzzles.
As Georges Ifrah, an important scholar on numbers has observed:

Egyptian carvers, especially in the later periods, indulged in all sorts of puns and learned word-games, most notably in the inscriptions on the temples of Edfu and Dendara.  Some of these word-games involve the names of the numbers . . . (The Universal History of Numbers, p. 176).

Then, on that page and the following, Ifrah shows how he has created a table based on the work of P. Barguet, H. W. Fairmain, J. C. Goyon and C. de Wit, of the inscriptions from the walls of the temples of Edfu and Dendara (Dendera).  We will review here the information in this table and comment on them, to extract the principles in each entry in the table.

But first, we will quote something else that we had quoted in a previous article.  Professor Scott B. Noegel, Chair, Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington tell writes:

("On Puns and Divination: Egyptian Dream Exegesis from a Comparative Perspective,"  Here is Gardiner’s sign list, I12, used to represent the Uraeus (Greek), or Iaret, the Cobra:

As we see, the Egyptian word  w’t.w means Uraeus (Cobra), but was associated by pun with the word wa’,(w’.w) meaning the number one.  So, it is quite possible that Cobra/Uraeus was used symbol for the number one by way of this pun.  Other evidence for this is from the Rosetta Stone, where not only the uraeus is associated with the number one through a pun, but also the hieroglyph for the picture of the harpoon, another symbol for one:

In the 198 BC Rosetta Stone of Ptolemy V Epiphanes, the harpoon hieroglyph is used only once, in line 8: "crowns, 10...with uraeus on their fronts, on one every among them."—("on each among them"). (
As Ifrah mentions in his table on pages 176-177 of the book Universal History of Numbers, the harpoon symbol is this:

It is Gardiner’s sign list T20, stands for the number one, through the principle of homophony, or identical-sounding words, because both the number one, and the harpoon, are pronounced wa’.  This means that the harpoon now becomes a suitable symbol for the number one, and can be swapped out or substituted for the conventional symbol for one.

Above is the Egyptian sun symbol, which is Gardiner’s sign list N5, also stands for the number one, according to Ifrah, because there is only one sun.  The singularity and uniqueness of this fact, makes it a suitable symbol for the number.

All of these are variants of the moon hieroglyph, numbered N9, N10, N11, N12 in Gardiner's sign list.  As Ifrah writes, these stand for the number one, similar to the sun symbols, according to Ifrah, because there is only one moon.  Again, it is because of the singularity and uniqueness of this fact.

According to Ifrah, the symbol above for the fraction 1/30 (one thirtieth) is used to mean the number one in the phrase “one day” or “the first day.”  And so, this is because of the fact that there are 30 days in a month for the Egyptians.  And so, for a phrase where the context is about days, the usage makes sense.

Ifrah says that the “Jubilaeum” above, or Gardiner’s sign list W4 is a determinative for hb, or Heb, meaning “feast,”or the “feast of the first of the year,” the Heb Sed, known as the “feast of the tail.”  The W4 hieroglyph is a combination of two other hieroglyphs.  The first is W3, the alabaster basin:

This is also pronounced hb for the festival.  The next piece is O22, a booth supported by a pole:

W4, the Jubilaeum, stands for the number 4.  Ifrah says there is no known explanation as to why.  However, there may be a clue in the ritual race of the festival.  As we noted before, it means the “feast of the tail.”  In the race the Pharaoh would wear a kilt with a bull’s tail attached to the back of it.  And he would run this ritual race alongside of the Apis bull four times as the ruler of upper Egypt and four times as the ruler of lower Egypt.  Therefore, this numerology is probably as a result of this fact about the race.  Therefore, the principle here is probably an attribute of the race/ritual was drawn upon as why these symbols symbolized the number.

The above, which is Gardiner’s N14 is the hieroglyph for star, has 5 points, so it stands for the number 5.  In this case, Ifrah says it is “self-evident” why this is the number 5.  The principle here is that a visual attribute of the symbol is the key to the number it represents, in this case, the number of points.

The human head, which is Gardiner’s D1, stands for the number 7, because, according to Ifrah, it has seven orifices:  “two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, mouth.”  So, the principle here is that an attribute of the symbol (in this case the number of orifices) is used as the key to which number it represents, much like in the case of the 5 pointed star.

Above is the Ibis (Gardiners G25), was the symbol for the god Thoth, who was the principal god of Hermopolis, known in the Egyptian language as Khmnw or Khemenu, which means “city of eight.”  The number 8 is khemen.  So the principle here is an association between the symbol for the god and the name of the city.  It is an attribute of the mythology of the symbol that ties it to the city.

This looks like two hooks, and stands for the number 8.  In hieratic, the number 8 looks like this:

This is numbered as Moeller 621.  As for the hieroglyph that looks like two hooks, it is evident, as Ifrah writes, that it is a “curious ‘re-formation’ in hieroglyphics of the hieratic numeral 8.”  In other words, they created this hieroglyphic from the form of the hieratic numeral.  The principle here, is that the hieroglyph as a visual similarity or affinity or association with the hieratic numeral.  This is an idea is pretty similar to the definition of to a visual pun.

Above is Gardiner’s sign list N8, which stands for the sun and its rays.  It means “shining” or “to shine.”  This is pronounced psd, just as the number 9 is pronounced psd.  The principle here again is homophony between the word to shine and the name of the number.

Above are Gardiner’s sign list numbers U1 and U2, are the sickle or scythe.  Here are some of the forms of the hieratic number nine:

This is numbered as Moeller 622.  As Ifrah writes, it is “Based on the fact that in hieratic, the numeral 9 and the sign for scythe were identical.”  As in the case of the number 8, here it is visual similarity or affinity between signs that is the key.  Once again, this is like a visual pun.

Above is Gardiner’s sign list G5, which is pronounced hrw or “Horus.”  This stands for the number 10.  This is because, as Ifrah says, “the falcon-god Horus was the first to be added to the original nine deities of Heliopolis, and thus represents 10.”  It is tied to an attribute of the mythology of the gods of Heliopolis, as the use of the Ibis as a number is tied to the mythology of Hermopolis.

Different combinations of symbols such as two harpoons can mathematically equal the number two.  Or the combination of a sun and moon can mean the number two.  Or the combination of three harpoons can mean the number three.  And so on and so forth.

The point of all this is that we can see that this type of punnish number/word/symbol game is in line with the same type of creativity or mental games found in Ptolemaic hieroglyphics of the Greco-Roman era.  We can expect the system used in Facsimile #2, figure 11 to use some type of system like this.  Future articles may attempt to ascertain what the exact system or method is in use in Facsimile #2 for these numbers.  The purpose of this current article was only to establish a mental framework for this thing, and to demonstrate that indeed, not only are the typical numbers in Egyptian the only symbols used for numbers.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Greco-Roman Egyptian Alpha-Numerals Theory, or the “Ahmestrahan” Numerals

The Greco-Roman Egyptian Alpha-Numerals Theory, or the “Ahmestrahan” Numerals

I will be presenting two separate theories on Egyptian “Alpha-Numerals.”  This article is the first one.  This article is inspired by the statement in Facsimile #2 of the Book of Abraham, Figure 11, which states, “If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be. Amen.”  Yet, if one looks at the symbols pointed to, they are not conventional Egyptian numeric characters, but they are actually conventional Egyptian Alpha-characters.  This means that they are the characters typically representing “text” in the Egyptian language.  But this is not unexpected with regard to the Book of Abraham, because the rest of the characters thought of as “text,” both in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, as well as in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that present character translations, are not the conventional Egyptian translations of said characters.

Here is a link to a companion piece to this article by one of my partners, Vincent Coon, that contains his opinions and research on this matter:

Anyhow, this first article in the series is a presentation of how late Egyptians could have associated their uni-literal (single-consonantal) characters with the Greek-Hebrew-Semitic Alpha-Numeric system.  It doesn’t really answer very well with evidence  the question of which system of representation would have been used for Bi-literal, Tri-literal and Determinative characters, but does make a suggestion.  So, we start out with the Book of Abraham Facsimile #2, the Hypocephalus of Sheshonq, Figure 11.

The following is the original form of the hieroglyphs in the Hypocephalus in figure 11.  In the original, they go from right to left:

Here is the copy that was in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, which gives us a separate view of what Joseph Smith's scribes originally saw before them, but there is no essential difference:

Here are the characters flipped so they go left to right:

Here are the characters transformed into regularized hieroglyphs, along with a transcription into the way they are read in Egyptian, as shown by Hugh Nibley in One Eternal Round:

(Hugh Nibley, One Eternal Round, p. 327)

These particular hieroglyphics, the way they are “read” in Egyptian, translate to, “O God of the sleeping ones from the time . . . “  They are part of a larger message continued on in the other panels, in totality, saying, “O God of the sleeping ones from the time of the creation.  O Mighty God, Lord of Heaven and Earth, of the hereafter, and of his great waters, may the soul of Osiris Shishaq live.”

Yet, as we noted above, Joseph Smith commented on this, saying, “If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be. Amen.”

What are we to make of this?  Well, it is the same exact problem as elsewhere in the explanations for the Facsimiles, as well as in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  The way Joseph Smith translated this is not to “read” them, but as with the rest of the symbols, he gave interpretations to characters that were treated singly as single pictographs, rather than concentrating on what they “say” in Egyptian.  It is quite true that they can be read conventionally, but that was not what he was doing here.

Referring to  Figure 4 of the Hypocephalus, Facsimile #2, Joseph Smith says “Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time.”  There was no text in figure 4 to read.  This is a statement about the picture itself, and the picture itself was said to be a numerical character in Egyptian.  This is the figure of the god Sokar on the boat, extending out his wings.  And this says that it answers to the Hebrew word raqia (another way to transliterate “raukeeyang,” which does indeed mean the expanse of the heaven in the Hebrew language.  The action of Sokar’s extending his wings would seem to be symbolic of the idea of expanding, or expanse.  While some Egyptologists endeavor to deny the fact, LDS apologists have successfully and reasonably defended the fact that Sokar in this context, in his ship as shown, is indeed symbolic of the number 1000.  But remember, this is entirely an interpretation based on the picture.  There is no text here in the figure to interpret.

We have the same exact issue above with figure 11.  Each hieroglyph in figure 11 is a separate little picture, when separated out singly.  And each one needs to be interpreted separately, on its own merits, to figure out which number it represents, the same as how Sokar on the boat was a figure representing a number.  What the text “says” here has nothing to do with the little pictures themselves, and we must segregate these two concepts in order to come to a proper understanding to what is going on.  We must come to know that the pictures themselves can be representational on their own, in an entirely separate scope, from what they “spell out.”  So, the first step, then, is to separate out each hieroglyph, and analyze them, even though combinations of these hieroglyphs may actually compose a larger number, much like how 1 and 0 can compose the number ten, although whatever system is at work here for these to be interpreted as numbers is not immediately obvious.  But it isn’t strange that Egyptian symbols that are used to write out text could have been used as numbers.  Precedents are the fact that both the Hebrew and Greek alphabets were used for numbers.  Similarly, our own alphabet, named the Latin alphabet, was used by the Romans for their numerals.  We didn’t get our own numbers that we use now until the middle ages from the Arabs.  How many times have you seen in the credits of a movie the year the movie was made in Roman numerals, composed of letters from the Latin Alphabet, the very alphabet we use?  The letter I is the number 1.  The letter V is the number five.  The letter X is the number ten.  The letter L is 50.  The letter C is 100.  And the letter M is 1000.  And so, in the case of Roman Numerals, the letters are not used to spell out anything.  They are used in a separate context as numbers.  There is nothing alien about this concept whatsoever, and it is a phenomenon that is very well-attested historically.  There is nothing crazy about Joseph Smith’s assertion that symbols from the “Egyptian Alphabet” could be used numerically.  We just somehow must figure out which system is being used in these characters for numeric representationalism.  The best way to do this is to not limit ourselves to one system, but to make more than one suggestion, and over time, the best system may win out, with enough research.  But for now, we make multiple suggestions.

As I have shown in other articles on this blog, the whole Alphabet itself is derived from a set of Egyptian Hieroglyphics ( 30 symbols) originally repurposed  to represent constellations of the Lunar Zodiac (a set of 30 constellations representing lunar stations or “mansions” that overlap the regular 12 constellations of the Zodiac  on the ecliptic.  I have identified these constellations and matched them up one by one with each proto-letter of the earliest alphabet called the Proto-Sinaitic by some scholars.  So the whole regular Alphabet as we know it is actually “reformed Egyptian,” from a certain point of view.  But this set of characters was later modified by the Phoenicians and adopted by the Greeks.
As Georges Ifrah, a very important French scholar on numbers, has pointed out, however, there is actually a myth that the Phoenicians used their letters as numbers:

It has long been asserted that, long before the Jews and the Greeks, the Phoenicians first assigned numerical values to their alphabetic signs and thus created the first alphabetic numerals in history.
However, this assumption rests on no evidence at all.  No race has yet been discovered of the use of such a system by the Phoenicians, nor by their cultural heirs, the Aramaeans . . .
The numeral notations used during the first millennium BCE by the various northwestern Semitic peoples . . . are very similar to each other, and manifestly derive from a common source . . . (The Universal History of Numbers, p. 227).

Ifrah then goes on to show the evidence of a separate system of Semitic numbering that was used among them that was NOT alphabetic at all, up until the JEWS adopted the system of the GREEKS for Alpha-Numerals much later on.  In other words, it was the GREEKS that invented the use of alpha-characters as numbers, not the Phoenicians, or Semites like the Jews.  As Ifrah shows from page 232 to page 239, the Hebrews didn’t adopt the Greek system of Alpha-numerals until Late Hebrew at the start of the COMMON ERA.  Before the Common Era, all the archaeological evidence shows that other systems of numerals were among them.  This presents a huge problem for those that adhere to the theory of the cabalists that try to derive meaning from the very ancient Hebrew text of the Torah by way of Gematria (the symbolic use of numbers as symbols in the Hebrew scriptures).  In other words, those trying to read Gematria into the Hebrew Bible are actually reading their own later system into it, searching for meaning in it.  It is true that the later Hebrews in the time of the Book of Revelation used the conventional alpha-numbers of the day.  That much is true.  Nevertheless, the the Alpha-numeral system was not in use by those who wrote the Hebrew Bible AT ALL, and any attempt to read this into it is either iconotropic, or flawed!  As Ifrah writes:

. . . [I]n Palestine Hebrew letters were only just beginning to be used as numerals at the start of the Common Era.
This is confirmed by the discovery, in the same caves at Qumran, of several economic documents belonging to the Essene sect and dating from the first century BCE.  One of them, a brass cylinder-scroll . . ., uses number-signs that are quite different from Hebrew alphabetic numerals.
Further confirmation is provided by the many papyri from the firth century BCE left by the Jewish military colony at Elephantine (near Aswan and the first cataract of the Nile).  These consiste of deeds of sale, marriage contracts, wills and loan agreements, and they use numerals that are identical to those of the Essene scroll . . .  (pp. 234-235)

And Ifrah goes on and on with more and more archaeological evidence.  He shows a table of the accounting system of the Kings of Israel on p. 237 from the archaeological evidence, and the numerals are actually just Egyptian hieratic number symbols!   The earliest evidence for use of alpha-numerals among the Jews is the coins from the first Jewish Revoilt in 66-73 CE (see Ifrah, p. 233).

So, Ifrah destroys the myth of Alpha-numerals among the Semites up until the Common Era.  But with Egyptian numerics, we aren’t even really talking about a system of Jews or Semites, even those in the Greco-Roman era.

However, since we are dealing with literate Egyptians (the “Ahmestrahans” of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers) of the Greco-Roman era that dealt with all the number systems and languages of the day.  None of this presents a problem for our current theory, that groups of Egyptians in the Greco-Roman era adopted the number-system of the Greeks for their own “letters.”  The only problem would arise if someone supposes that these Egyptians got said system from the Jews.  It was the Jews, as we saw here, that later got their particular system from the Greeks.

There are two systems of Greek Alpha-Numerals.  The oldest is the Greek system from the Sixth century BCE, the numbering system that was used in the Iliad and the Odyssey.  This is, according to Ifrah, “a simple substitution of letters for numbers, not a proper alphabetic number system . . .” (See Ifrah, p. 214):

Alpha =1
Beta = 2
Gamma = 3
Delta = 4
Epsilon = 5
Zeta = 6
Eta = 7
Theta = 8
Iota = 9
Kappa = 10
Lamda = 11
Mu = 12
Nu = 13
Xi = 14
Omicron = 15
Pi = 16
Rho = 17
Sigma = 18
Tau = 19
Upsilon = 20
Phi = 21
Chi = 22
Psi = 23
Omega = 24

It was later in the Greco-Roman era where the Greeks started to use a system that was a true alpha-number system that was more elaborate.  The earliest evidence of this could be a “Greek papyrus from Elephantine” which has a “marriage contract that states that it was drawn up in the seventh year of the reign of Alexander IV (323-311 BCE), that is to say in 317-316 BCE . . .” (Ifrah, p. 233). This more “true” alpha-numbering system differs from the previous and goes like this:

Alpha = 1
Beta = 2
Gamma = 3
Delta = 4
Epsilon = 5
Digamma = 6
Zeta = 7
Eta = 8
Theta = 9
Iota = 10
Kappa = 20
Lambda = 30
Mu = 40
Nu = 50
Ksi = 60
Omicron = 70
Pi = 80
Koppa = 90
Rho = 100
Sigma = 200
Tau = 300
Upsilon = 400
Phi = 500
Chi = 600
Psi = 700
Omega = 800
San (Sampi) = 900

This more elaborate and advanced system was the system that was adopted by the Jews, spoken of earlier.  As you can see, only the first five numbers are the same as those from the previous system of the Greeks.
Now, what about the “Egyptian Alphabet”?  How can this work for the Egyptians?  Well, part of the problem with that has to do with how to match up the Egyptian hieroglyphics with Greek/Semitic letters.  The Egyptians have symbols that represent one, two and three consonants (uniliterals, biliterals and triliterals respectively), and others that represent context, called determinatives or determiners.

Now, as you can see, for the uniliterals (single consonantals), it is easy enough to try to line them up with the numeric values of letters from the other alphabets that they seem to correspond to.  The numeric values in this case would seem to be consistent and constant in both the Semitic and Greek alphabets.  These in general follow the “North Semitic” order, which is a fairly consistent ordering scheme for many alphabets.  It may be that the north semitic ordering was created for numerics to begin with.  Because the other significant ordering system is called the “South Semitic,” yet even in this scheme, the number values of the letters in these alphabets following it are consistent with their North Semitic counterparts.

So, for uniliteral Egyptian characters, it may be that the numeric scheme is straight-forward in this way, that we can expect that they are simply numerically equivalent to their Semitic counterparts.  As we have shown elsewhere, the people that were concerned with these types of numbers anyway in the Hypocephalus would have been the Egyptians of the Greco-Roman period.  As the research of Dr. Rozen Bailleul-LeSuer shows in his article Between Heaven and Earth:  Birds in Ancient Egypt, there is evidence that the alphabet of Egyptian uniliterals “followed, with some variations, that of the South Semitic alphabet, which originated in the Arabian Peninsula. By comparison, he deduced that the latter was apparently the older.  Note that the alphabetical order used in modern Egyptological publications was established by scholars in the nineteenth century and does not follow that of the original Egyptian alphabet.”  ( Also, it is significant that Dr. Bailleul-LeSuer wrote:

The text about which Smith and Tait came to such conclusions, namely, papyrus (hereafter P.) Saqqara 27 (fourth–third century bc), is a school text consisting of two alphabetical lists with bird names. In the first list (lines 2–7), “various birds are said to be ‘upon’ various trees or plants” with which they are paired. In each pair, the bird and plant names always begin with the same letter. For example, in line 2, the first phrase of the list reads as follows: [r] p3 hb ḥr p3hbyn “the ibis (was) upon the ebony-tree,” in which the word hb “ibis” is paired with hbyn “ebony-tree,” both beginning with the letter h. In the second list (lines 9–14), “various birds are said to ‘go away’ to various places.” In line 10, for instance, one finds the sentence šm n⸗f bnw r Bb[l] “the Benu-bird went off to Baby[lon]” in which, according to the same pattern, the word bnw “heron” is paired with Bb[l] “Baby[lon],” both names beginning with the letter b.

As you can see, these are precisely the general types of alphabetical word-game pairings that I have been speaking about the whole time in this blog, as are used in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, where Egyptian hieroglyphics are artfully paired with things in creative ways.  Nobody would say that the Egyptian letter that corresponds to hb “translates” as ebony tree, yet here, the alphabetical Egyptian uniliteral letter is paried with Ebony tree in a pun, a word game!

P. Saqqara 27 is in fact one of the few papyri, ranging from the Late Period to Roman times, to include letter names or words listed in alphabetical order and thanks to which the sequence of letters in the Egyptian alphabet can be established, at least partially.  In some of these papyri, such as P. Berlin 8278 and its fragments, letter names could also be placed at the beginning of a line as a way of classifying different sections of the text by using letters instead of numbers.

Again, as I have noted at other times in this blog, I am specifically claiming that Egyptian letters from the Sensen Papyrus were artfully used to decorate text in the Book of Abraham as a marker system, or something akin to letters that enumerate sections of text, and that the selection of those is because they have a meaningful or artful connection to the text that they enumerate, similar to the word-game pairings above.  I’m calling on individuals to recognize that this is what we find in the Kirtland Egyptian papers is precisely these types of meaningful pairings and enumerations.  That is the whole point of this blog.

However, for the purposes of the current article, I am bringing all this up to show the evidence from Dr. Bailleul-LeSuer’s article that shows that in the Greco-Roman era, the Egyptians had the South Semitic ordering for their uniliteral characters, and therefore, this shows that they had the same concepts for these characters as the other nations had for their own alphabets.  Therefore, it is not a stretch to posit that these characters had the same number-assignments as those they correspond to in the South Semitic alphabet.  Therefore, we can expect that the uniliteral Egyptian letters above do indeed have the numeric values that we have identified above, because to these Egyptians, they were directly equivalent to the South Semitic list.  Whether it started out this way for the Uniliteral hieroglyphs in the Old Kingdom before the development of the Semitic Alphabets is entirely a different question, a question that we are not really concerned with in the current scope of this article.  The reason is that we are trying to ascertain what number scheme the Egyptians of the Greco-Roman era were applying to these characters.  The quotation above shows that, most likely, the South Semitic alphabets came first before the South Semitic ordering of the Egyptian uniliterals.  Therefore, we can expect that this is a form of iconotropic imposition of a foreign scheme on the Egyptian “alphabet,” which was imported into Egypt.  It is, nevertheless the scheme we are concerned with here, because it is the relevant one to the time period of the Egyptians that had imposed iconotropically an Abrahamic context on the Joseph Smith Papyri.  Therefore, for these reasons, I am comfortable applying these values from the Hebrew and Greek alphabetical-numeric schemes to the uniliterals above.  So this resolves only the first part of the problem.  One objection could be raised that the following uniliteral Egyptian letter is actually the conventional Egyptian number for 1000:

However, there may be a certain context that it is 1000, and some other number in an alphabetical-numeric scheme.  For example the Hebrew letter Aleph is the number 1 usually, but in a year context, it is the number 1000.  Therefore, I don’t see this type of thing as a valid criticism.
Now, with all this background above in mind, as for the Facsimile #2 of the Book of Abraham, Figure 11, here are the hieroglyphs in question are separated out, with numbers assigned to them as far as can be done, with the Greek system in mind:

  Gardiner M17, Moeller 282, the Reed symbol, or the Egyptian uniliteral letter I, corresponding to the Hebrew Yod and Greek Iota.  In both the Greek and Hebrew alphabetical-numeric scheme, it is the number 10.

 Gardiner A2, Moeller 35,man with hand in mouth.  This is a determinative in indicating eating, drinking, speaking, thinking, etc.  This doesn’t match with a Greek numeral, as it isn’t a uniliteral, so something else may be going on.

Gardiner Z3, Moeller 563, three strokes, indicating plurality in general.  In the regular Egyptian number system, the number 1 is the straight line.  This may be indicative that this can stand for the number the number 3.

Gardiner G17, Moeller 196 This is a picture of an owl, and is the uniliteral letter M.  This corresponds to the Hebrew Mem and the Greek Mu.  These letters both stand for the number 40.
Gardiner R8 , Moeller 547 Egyptian Triliteral character NTR, meaning “god.”  This is a picture of a flag.  This doesn’t match up with a Greek letter, since it is a tri-literal.
Gardiner A40 , Moeller 45 -  This is a seated god.  Same thing as above.  It is a determinative, so it doesn’t match with a Greek letter.

Gardiner O34 , Moeller 366  – door bolt - This is the uniliteral character pronounced S or Z, corresponding to the Hebrew Zayin and the Greek letter Zeta.  These both are equal to the number 7.

Gardiner A54 Moeller (not present in list) – This is a recumbent mummy on couch, meaning “sleeping” or “death.”  This is the triliteral character SDR.  Once again, this doesn’t match with a Greek letter.

Gardiner Q3 , Moeller 388  – stool - This is the uniliteral character P, corresponding to the Hebrew peh and the Greek pi.  These are both the number 80.

Gardiner O50 , Moeller (not present in list) – Threshing floor, meaning “time,” or “occasion.” This is the biliteral character SP, so it doesn’t match with a Greek letter.

You will notice that I have only assigned numerical values to the uniliterals above so far.  However, now comes a more complex problem before us for the bi-literal and tri-literal (two- and three- consonantal) characters and the determinatives which have no specific vocalization.  How do we handle those?  What type of meaningful theory ought to be applied to those?  This part of the theory will have more risk to failure, because we had a clear precedent for them the way we do with the uniliterals.

One thing is clear.  All Egyptian words can be spelled out with uniliterals, and wouldn’t change what they are.  Biliterals and Triliterals are clearly just a convenience, when it boils down to it.  This is likely an indication that a biliteral or a Triliteral would be simply something that can be swapped in for two uniliterals.   A numeric value for such a thing would be a sum of the values of the two uniliterals that make up its sound, and therefore is a shortcut, just like when it is a shortcut for spelling out multiple consonantal sounds.  Therefore, the character SP above according to the Hebrew/Greek numbering scheme would simply be an expression for 200+80=280, where S=200 and P= 80.  NTR would be 500+300+100=900.  While it is true that in the Greek system, the letter Sampi is 900, the letter doesn’t exist in the Hebrew.  The letter SDR would be 200+4+100=214.  While some letters have the same values as others because they add up to be the same, this just means that there are multiple ways to express the same value.

The last difficulty, however, is the determinatives.  On their own, these usually have no phonetic value, but just are an indicator of the type of idea at hand.  They are context-giving indicators.  The simplest context for the determinative above of the man putting his hand on or in his mouth is simply to eat or food.  WNM is the ancient Egyptian word for food, and therefore, this would be 6+50+40=96.

Keep in mind that these are just quick, off-the-cuff non-researched guesses for the biliterals, triliterals and determinatives.  My partner Vincent Coon may have a better suggestion for these, or for the mathematics involved.

So, unless there is something more elaborate at work here, with custom assignments for bilateral or trilateral letters, the scheme seems pretty straight-forward.

So, as you can see, this seems to be no more complex than just doing the math if you don’t have the value of a letter memorized.

Even if these deductions are flawed at some level, there is nothing crazy about Joseph Smith’s suggestion that alphabetical letters can stand for numbers.