Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Two Kinds of Originals: Abraham's Original, and the "Original" that Joseph Smith Had

There are two kinds of originals to the Book of Abraham:

(1) The original book that Abraham wrote.

(2) The original that was in the hands of Joseph Smith.

Factually, they are not the same thing.

Abraham wrote a book in ancient times.  This is not a piece of fiction.  This book was written by his own hand, as Joseph Smith claimed.  Contrary, however, to Joseph Smith's assumptions, Joseph Smith never had a copy of this, or the original of this in his possession.  It disappeared in ancient times.

So, when I say there is no "missing papyrus," I am NOT saying that there never was an original that Abraham wrote in his own hand.  What I am saying is, that particular book was never physically available in modern times.  It was lost to antiquity, or was hidden up, as were all the copies of it.  One or the other.

Joseph Smith had a papyrus that he worked with, which was instrumental in the translation of the Book of Abraham.  This papyrus is not the same as the book that Abraham wrote in ancient times.  Nevertheless, it is the Book of Abraham because of the way people used it anciently.  The characters in it were used to represent things in the Book of Abraham.  Therefore, there is no "missing papyrus" in the sense that the papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Abraham is available.  The "original" that Joseph Smith had, is available.  The "original" book that Abraham wrote in ancient times is not available, and never was in modern times.

This is why, when I say I am against the missing papyrus theory, what I really mean is, I am against the idea that there is some papyrus that we don't have that Joseph Smith had.  I am not saying that Abraham did not write a book in ancient times in his own hand.

My Theory of an Ancient and Open System compared to William Schryver's Theory of a Modern and Open System

A number of times, I have made comparisons of my theory to other theories to show similarities, and how various principles from other theories exist in mine, and that my theory is not as strange and new as some people think.  For example, I have described how principles in my theory harmonize with the Iconotropy theory from William Hamblin, which is essentially identical in principle to Kevin Barney's Semitic Adaptation theory, except Hamblin's theory of iconotropy is more general, while Barney is more specific in saying that Semitic Adaptation probably was done by a Jew, or Jewish redactor of the Book of Abraham.  I say the iconotropy was done by a cult or sect of Egyptian priests that were involved with the Greco-Roman Syncretism and Iconotropy phenomena that are present in the Greek Magical Papyri.  The principles in this are all the same as the ones in the Greek Magical Papyri, with the kind of iconotropic things that are happening in them.

Anyhow, I have decided to compare my theory yet again to another theory, to show the similarity to William Schryver's theory, to try to emphasize to readers my point that Brother Schryver was on the right track, but that he simply applied the principles and facts that he had discovered in the wrong way, namely, trying to assign responsibility for these phenomena in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers to a modern invention of Mormons in the 19th Century.

I have been criticized recently because the implications of my theory are that the ancients implemented an open system, where hieroglyphs could be used to literally represent a concept that they were connected to thematically, or to represent things that share that theme.  This would mean re-use of any existing symbolism in any document for practically any purpose, just so long as the use of the characters are rational, and just as long as you explain what you are doing.  This would make Egyptian characters into variables like in Algebra or computer programming, and would imply that the Egyptians were the people using them this way.  Yes, indeed.  People are OK with Brother Schryver suggesting that 19th century Mormons could do this.  People are OK with Brother Hamblin saying that the ancients could do this in general.  People are OK with Brother Barney saying an Egyptian or Jewish Redactor of the Book of Abraham could do this:  use characters/hieroglyphs/pictures abstractly and assign meanings to them that were different than their mundane/regular usage.  This is not a new concept, and it is not crazy.  I am actually saying that the characters actually have core meanings that thematically attach them to the things people were using them for.  In other words, they are logical containers for the value assignments, even though they are used abstractly like a variable.  Why is this suggestion so hard to understand?  Please, read this over again if you don't understand it.  It is really simple to understand.  I have quoted this statement from Nibley before:

The man on the throne [Facsimile 2, Fig. 7] is Min, the oldest incarnation of the Father, Creator, King, Most High God . . . Notice that the image does not depict God, but is a representation; the artist, like the mathematician, can use ANYTHING HE PLEASES to represent anything else AS LONG AS HE EXPLAINS IT. (One Eternal Round, p. 304, capitalization added for emphasis.  Italics in original.)

The implications of Nibley's statement when applied to the KEP is clear.  An explanation is necessary for an abstract symbol to make any sense.  But apologists that reject the KEP would want this principle to apply to only the pictures in the Facsimiles.  The pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham are all that certain people want to defend.  If we are to limit it to the Facsimiles only, that would be a double-standard. The KEP and Sensen characters deserve to have this statement from our dear Brother Nibley applied to them as much as anything Egyptian.

I have been criticized because I say that Egyptian characters could be used that way, when people are used to having Egyptian be mechanical, with reproducible results.  Nobody, especially me, ever denied that on a regular, mundane level, Egyptian is this way.

But, the whole point is that results in the system that I am arguing for are indeed not reproducible without a key outside of the document.  In fact, the whole reason that they can be used this way is because of a key or legend outside the document.  Of course it is not reproducible without a key, because it is abstract.  That is the system.  The key or legend is the document that defines the parameters of the usage of the document outside of the document itself.  It is the thing that gives it shape.  The rules are defined in the mappings.  This is precisely the ancient intent, for it to be abstract, and for a key to be provided with explanations.  This ancient key was provided in some document that contained both repurposed Sensen characters, as well as the text and concepts from the Book of Abraham.  In other words, the ancient Book of Abraham document recycled characters from the Hor Papyrus to be used decoratively and acted as a key for those recycled decorations.

Many apologists were open to William Schryver's explanations, and touted them as revolutionary and game-changing.  Schryver's theory makes the KEP into a modern thing that is a system that does precisely this type of thing too.  It is suggesting an open system of abstractions that are assigned meanings.  It makes the characters in the KEP into a cipher.  My conclusions are similar, as you can see.  It is indeed a type of cipher, if you want to call it that.  However, the difference is that my theory makes this something that happened in ancient times.  An Ancient Egyptian or Egyptians was/were responsible.  The ancients invented it, not a guy in modern times.  This Egyptian person, or Egyptian persons, actually knew the core meaning of Hieroglyphs and hieratics.

So, to summarize, when what I am proposing is that an ancient person created a cipher in ancient times with a key after the same type as William Schryver says that William W. Phelps created.  I am saying that the rediscovery of this ancient cipher and key is found in the KEP translated by Joseph Smith.

I am finding more and more that each LDS author/theorist on the Book of Abraham has a piece of the truth, but lacks key vision of where to go with that truth, if they do not make an assumption of the ancientness of the KEP translations of the Sensen Papyrus their core foundation.  William Schryver is one of them.  He came so close.  But the fact that the KEP is a translation of the ancient intent of the people that did this is what made Brother Schryver miss the mark.  It was an ancient person doing this.  But this ancient person actually knew what he was doing with the languages he was doing his art project with.

This ancient cipher with its key/legend was never meant to be used according to the mechanical Egyptian intent of this document.  This is not using the Sensen papyrus as a mechanical device that produces some result that is reproducible by just having the document itself on its own.   This is not even the regular Egyptian religion, but a local cult of people that transformed all sorts of things in to all kinds of things that they never were in the first place.  That's what Syncretism is: a hodge podge of things that were transformed into things different from what they were in the beginning.  That's what the Greco-Roman Syncretists were doing.  They were not practicing Egyptian religion.  They were doing something of their own invention.  This is entirely about transformation.  The Egyptians were artists, not mechanics, smart enough to make things into things that were transformable.  That's what makes it an art process and a piece of art.  That's what makes it unconventional.  That's what makes it what it is.  Because it is open.  The whole point of my research is to say that this is the usage of the papyrus that yields the results we've been looking for.

And it doesn't matter what other results could result from an open system.  It's the intent of the person that used it for certain things that he used it for that matters, not what other people would use it for.  That's why the KEP is the important thing, because it is precisely because of the abstract nature of the system that you need a legend or need a mapping.  It is precisely because it is an ancient cipher along the same order of what William Schryver was trying to say that a modern person created that it would need a key or legend, except in ancient times.

This thing could never bring consistent results without a key or legend, because it was not meant to bring consistent results on its own.  Abstractions cannot bring anything on their own.  The legend or mapping or key is required for consistent results, because they nail down the abstractions to their actual usage.  That's why Joseph Smith translated the contents of the KEP.  It's the KEP that confines things to a certain scope to see how abstractions mean what they are assigned, and how the abstractions are logical containers for that which is assigned to them.  And by reverse-engineering that, we can see the logic if we want to.

The KEP was never about mechanical, Egyptological Egyptian and never claimed to be.

Brother Schryver said that William W. Phelps or someone like that was creating a system that was hidden and secret, only available for a chosen few, or indeed for one person only.  I say it wasn't a modern person, but an ancient person that is doing this.  And indeed, it would have been something that was a hidden meaning, that could not be seen by the eyes of the uninitiated, but rather than being in a modern setting, this happened in an ancient setting.  By having the cipher key, or a legend, then this type of usage of the document is clear and testable.  By testing the translations/explanations in the key, it can be seen that even though the characters are used abstractly, they are indeed logical containers for the usage in the key.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pictographic Representationalism in both Egyptian Art and in Textual Hieroglyphics: No Distinction between "Textual" Characters and "Art". Pictures Large and Small.

The link above presents is an interesting analogy for what I am trying to say, when I say that pictures tell stories.  Here, in this article, Google uses vector space mathematics and other advanced technologies to automatically translate what is going on in a picture into words in the English language.  In the article, we see a picture of people in a marketplace, selling fruits and vegetables.  Google's automatic caption describes precisely what they are doing.  Similarly, Joseph Smith's explanations of pictures in facsimiles and hieroglyphs in text are the same exact thing.  But all of the explanations are different than the "mundane" or Egyptological or "mechanical" translation of the hieroglyphs.  This all has to do with the ability to use things that are more abstract to represent other things and concepts associated with them.  So, if a theme is evident in a certain hieroglyph that represents a concept, and that theme is evident in something from Joseph Smith's explanations that is represented by a hieroglyph in one of the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, then, indeed, a certain hieroglyph was a valid "container" for the "value" assigned to it.  And the same is so with the little pictures from the Sensen Papyrus that are usually only thought of as "textual" characters.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers provide explanations for some of those.

And so, as I have stated over and over there is obviously one way to translate things, which could be called a "mundane" or "regular" way, which is a predictable, mechanical way to translate something.  And then there are things that are art forms that intentionally use things differently, that assign meanings to pictures in more creative ways.  It is these other creative ways that are at the heart of everything on this blog.

As some scholars have written:

Egyptian hieroglyphic was at base a pictographic system.  All of its signs represented some object in the ancient Egyptian world, whether natural, man-made or conceptual.  As such, they occasionally reflected historical changes in the objects they depicted:  for example, in the form of weapons such as daggers and axes.  As elements of a writing system, however, hieroglyphs incorporated several degrees of abstraction from this underlying reality.

Each sign could be used as a logogram [a sign representing a word or phrase] or ideogram [a sign representing an idea of a thing] for individual words or concepts:  for instance, the picture of a dagger, for "dagger," or that of a man falling, for the notion "to fall."  Many hieroglyphs could also be employed as phonograms [sound-symbols] to represent sounds of the language rather than (or in addition to) words or concepts.  This latter function made it possible to write words or concepts that would otherwise be difficult to depict ideographically.  As phonograms, hieroglyphs represented one to three consonants; in common with later Semitic scripts such as Arabic and Hebrew, Egyptian writing reflected the consonantal skeleton of a word, ignoring the vowels.  Triconsonantal [otherwise called triliteral, or three-consonantal] phonograms [or sound-symbols] were largely associated with single lexical items and their derivations, and as such were essentially logographic.  Those representing one or two consonants, however, were used to write, not only words associated with the hieroglyphic object, but also unrelated words containing the same one or two consonants.  Thus, the picture of a tree branch was used not only as the ideogram for ht "wood" but also in writing words such as nht "successful" and htht "throughout."

The uniliteral [one-or-uni-consonantal] signs were the most frequent of all hieroglyphs, amounting to an "alphabet" of Egyptian's twenty-four consonants.  Nonetheless, Egyptian hieroglyphic never made the transition to a single alphabetic system.  In the standard orthography of the Middle Kingdom (early second millennium BC), most words were written with one to six signs, biliteral [two-or-bi-consonantal] or triliteral [three-or-tri-consonantal] phonograms usually being "complemented" by uniliteral signs, and were often marked at the end by an ideogram serving as "determinative" to specify the conceptual class of the word:  for example, the sequence n + BRANCH + h + t + MAN BRANDISHING A STICK for nht "successful, victorious."   (The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Neil Asher Silberman, Alexander A. Baue, p. 403, emphasis added)

So as you can see, the pictographic/pictorial nature of hieroglyphs is absolutely clear here.  Though many of them were used as phonograms or textual characters, the basis of their pictographic nature is still crystal clear.  An Egyptologist, Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, wrote:

How can we be sure that a symbolic meaning, identified by us, held significance for the ancient Egyptians?  The Egyptologist Berry Kemp . . . remarks:  "If we suppose for a moment, that we could make direct contact with the ancient builders and ask them if this [interpretation] is correct, we might obtain a yes or no answer.  But we might also find them answering:  'We hadn't thought of that before, but its true none the less. . . .'"  Thanks to fluidity of Egyptian theology, which allowed and encouraged free association of ideas the Egyptians could well have answered in the manner Kemp suggests.  The scope for misinterpretation, therefore, in ancient times as well as the present can be considerable  . . . Symbols can in any case seem almost to have lives of their own.  Their meanings may change over time, and it does not always follow that the symbolic significance of a given element in one composition will be identical in another work of earlier or later date.  Symbols in Egyptian art may also exhibit different meanings in different contexts in the same period of time . . . [I]n certain cases where context does not render a clear choice we may wonder what the specific significance of such a symbol might be--or if there could be some kind of generic symbolism meant to embrace any or all of these possible ideas.  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.  This is not to say that Egyptian symbolism is either inchoate or inconsistent, simply that a flexible approach must be maintained in attempting to understand its workings. (Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, pp. 11-13, bold emphasis added)

This ambiguity is precisely what I am talking about when I speak of abstractions in other blog posts.  I mean to say that there are literal meanings for what a hieroglyph is a picture of, and then there are a range of meanings that it can also represent, especially if it is being used pictographically, or in some other context that is not precisely the regular way that it is just "read" as text.  For example, the same author went on to say:

Symbolism of form may be expressed at "primary" and "secondary" levels of association . . . In primary, or direct, association the form of an object suggests concepts ideas, or identities with which the object is directly related.  So in many works, an object associated with a specific deity thus suggests that god or goddess--or by extension, a concept connected with that deity . . . (ibid., pp. 16-17, bold emphasis added)

At the primary level, the symbolism is direct and objects are shown in the forms they are meant to represent.  Thus, the djed pillar, an ancient symbol associated with the god Osiris and sometimes said to represent the backbone of the god, symbolized both the deity and the concept of support and duration . . . (ibid., p. 30, bold emphasis added)

So, if I say that the concept of creation is a secondary intent evident from the hieroglyph for the god Khnum in Book of Abraham Facsimile #2, because Khnum is connected with the concept of creation, (just like Osiris is connected with the concept of support and duration), then it makes perfect sense that an ancient Egyptian would use the hieroglyph of Khnum to represent something else connected with the concept of creation:  Kolob.  Do you see where I am going with this?  And this is not alien to Egyptology at all.  This is a PhD Egyptologist that is writing in these quotes.  Furthermore, remember how I pointed out that the rope coil hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the Egyptian lotus hieroglyph, and both represent Abraham?  Remember how I pointed out how the Baboons representing Kli-Flos-Is-Es or Thoth have a visual affinity to the foot hieroglyph, which is the uniliteral letter B in the Egyptian Alphabet?  And remember how I pointed out how the Khnum hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the heiroglyph for "woman," (B1 on Gardiner's sign list), which the Kirtland Egyptian Papers say represents Kolob?  Indeed, this phenomenon is thoroughly Egyptological.  The same Dr. Wilkinson writes:

Secondary symbolic association occurs where significant forms are represented indirectly in Egyptian art.  Here forms are used which suggest the shape of something else which has symbolic meaning.  this level of association is especially common in amulets such as the cowrie shell--which was used as a symbol of sexuality, because it resembled the female genitalia--or the clenched hand, which was also a symbol of the female principle or of sexual union.  In a similar manner, amulets depicting a bunch of grapes are known to be symbolic of the heart and thus life itself because of their similarity in shape (as well as their color and the blood-like juice of the grape). (ibid., p. 31, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson admits that even though Champollion demonstrated the phonetic nature of the Egyptian written language, later on, they have come to recognize just how symbolic and representational the hieroglyphs still are in various contexts:

. . . [T]he hieroglyphic signs seen and copied by explorers and travelers were believed to be purely symbolic in nature--a mysterious picture writing containing the mystical or spiritual secrets of a forgotten age--and even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century many eminently learned men attempted to see the most absurd symbolic meanings in the ancient signs.  Not until Jean Francois Champollion and his immediate successors finally demonstrated the true nature of the Egyptian script in the early nineteenth century did its all-important phonetic aspect become clear enough that the actual meanings of the inscriptions could begin to be recovered.  Yet ironically enough . . . it is only with the understanding gained in the era of modern Egyptology that we have come to realize that the Egyptians frequently did use their hieroglyphic signs symbolically in certain contexts--and especially in the construction of their works of art.  (ibid., p. 148, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson shows how the characters themselves, even textual hieroglyphic characters took on a life of their own in the minds of the Egyptians.  They were magical to them.  And there was no distinction in their minds between the nature of art work in large scale representations on whole panels in tombs, in three-dimensional art in sculpture, or the characters in a text.  The SAME EXACT PRINCIPLES were at work in ALL OF THE CHARACTERS, and all of the pictures:

In short the hieroglyphic signs were themselves powers with which to be reckoned.  In fact, the Egyptians' hieroglyphs far transcended a simple system of communication and were regarded as symbolic entities which could function magically not only within written texts but also in many aspects of what we, today consider artistic representations.  It was not coincidental, therefore that the Egyptains used the same word to refer to both their hieroglyphic writing and the drawing of their artworks, and it was often the same scribe who produced both.  The noted historian of Egyptian art Cyril Aldred stressed this fact when he wrote that ". . . once a scribe had learnt to draw the full range of . . . [hieroglyphic] signs with requisite skill he had become ipso facto an artist, since the composition of his pictures is the assemblage of a number of ideographs with some interaction between them."   This is just as true of three-dimensional works of art as it is of paintings and drawings.  As Champollion realized some one hundred and seventy years ago, a statue is often "in reality . . . only a single glyph, a veritable character of written script."  This use of the hieroglyphic signs in Egyptian paintings and sculptures is sometimes merely the result of the artist following the familiar and accepted forms of the written script, and may have no special significance attached to it.  In other cases, however, "embedded" hieroglyphs may convey a specific idea or message and the individual hieroglyphic elements of these representations must be recognized and "read" like the signs of an inscription, if their intended meaning is to be grasped.  The hieroglyphic signs may appear overtly in a work of art, at what we might call a primary level of depiction, or they may be included more subtly, at a secondary level.  (ibid., p. 151, bold emphasis added)

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, bold emphasis added)

As we see, even the largest representations were supposed to be READ.  Indeed, pictures tell a story.  So, as I said before, the representations in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham had their explanations provided.  And the KEP is the same exact phenomenon for the characters from the Sensen Papyrus text that were JUST AS MAGICAL, IN THE MINDS OF THE EGYPTIANS AS THE CHARACTERS IN THE PICTURES.  They were JUST AS PICTOGRAPHIC.  Dr. Wilkinson goes on:

At the secondary level of depiction, objects or people may spell out a symbolic message by being represented so as to suggest the form of hieroglyphic signs . . . Egyptian paintings and sculptures may thus contain, or even be wholly composed of, hieroglyphic forms, and the interaction between writing and pictorial representation was one of major symbolic importance.  In fact the hieroglyphic signs form the very basis of Egyptian iconography, which was concerned with the function of making specific symbolic statements through pictorial rather than written means.  The embedded or "encoded" hieroglyphic forms also frequently interact to some degree with the texts or inscriptions with which they are associated . . .  (ibid., p. 152, bold emphasis added)

Hieroglyphics were encoded in the pictures, just like in Facsimile 1, where the figure of Osiris/Abraham is a hieroglyphic for the idea of "to pray."  As I said in many blog posts, the whole Sensen papyrus was utilized as symbolic representations outside of the context of the Egyptological text that it translates to.  Each individual character was used symbolically on its own in this other context.  As I said, these characters were representational of themes.  They did not constitute a text in this context:

In other cases, the interaction is merely a thematic one with the embedded hieroglyphic form being connected with the associated text in only a very general way.  For example, a number of vignettes in the New Kingdom funerary papyri depict the deceased standing before the hieroglyph hut signifying "mansion," sometimes with the sign for "great" added to the picture it indicate "great mansion"--an epithet used of the tomb chapel.  Here, the written hieroglyph, made large, functions as part of the representation (in case, the tomb) which illustrates the theme of the text with which it appears  . . . [T]he pictorial nature of the script was also exploited in a number of ways in hieroglyphic inscriptions.  Because hieroglyphics may be written left to right or right to left, for example, individual signs may be turned to face each other by drawing one of them in the opposite direction to the rest of the writing in instances where this arrangement would suggest some kind of interaction between the two figures, or be symbolically significant in some other way.  A hieroglyphic text may thus be overlaid with representational information, just as representations may be given hieroglyphic meaning.  As the German Egyptologist Wolfgang Schenkel has shown in some cases, such interactions are truly "displays of pure virtuosity"--a fact which is no less true of the Egyptian's use of their hieroglyphs in representational contexts.  Because of the particularly flexible nature of the hieroglyphic system of writing, the symbolic use of hieroglyphs in representational works of art may occur in a number of ways.  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.  The hieroglyphic writing of most words was usually accomplished by the use of signs of both types of value, combining a phonetic spelling of the word with a pictorial "determinative" indicating the kind of thing being represented.  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, bold and underline emphasis added)

It is interesting that Wilkinson is saying that the reed symbol, which is the letter I (Uniliteral) in the Egyptian alphabet, could also pictographically signify a reed.  That is precisely what I have been saying here over and over again in this blog.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers/Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar documents use the reed symbol pictographically to represent something associated with a reed, the Land of Reeds, which was Karduniash/Chalsidohiash, the land of the Chaldees.  The ancient name of the place was Kiengi, meaning land of reeds.  Everything I have ever said in this blog is 100% consistent with these quotes from this Egyptologist.  It is not strange at all from an Egyptological point of view that these characters in the text were being used in a representational context, just like the characters in the pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham were being used.  These characters were magical to the Egyptians.  They could accomplish magical transformations with them into works of art that are mind-boggling.  So it is not me that is out of touch with Egyptology when I have suggest these things.  It is my detractors.  Everything that I have said is 100% consistent with known Egyptological principles for both pictures and text characters, because there is no distinction between them.  They are all pictures, and they are all textual, regardless of size.  The same principles are used from the smallest to the largest.  The Sensen papyrus IS the Book of Abraham, because of pictographic/thematic representationalism.  Not that it contains the text of the Book of Abraham, but it contains pictures that were used with the Book of Abraham.

Monday, December 8, 2014

David Bokovoy Interview on Radio West

A poster on the LDS Freedom Forum brought this to my attention.

Above is the link to the interview.  I've said it before.  I respect Brother Bokovoy.  I do not believe in claims of a pseudepigraphic nature of the Book of Abraham.  I believe the Book of Abraham is a literal translation of an ancient document written on papyrus by Abraham by his own hand.

The Sensen Papyrus is not that.  The original Book of Abraham Papyrus disappeared in ancient times.  The Sensen Papyrus is another papyrus that Joseph Smith had in his hands, that other people used as Abrahamic material.

So I only agree with Brother Bokovoy on the fact that there is no missing papyrus.  That means that Joseph Smith never had the papyrus that Abraham wrote.  That actual, literal papyrus was lost anciently or hidden up.  I do not agree with the rest of Brother Bokovoy's positions.

His statement that the Facsimiles are "reinterpretations" of "prophetic midrash" is interesting.  Because he is saying that the Egyptian characters are reinterpretations.  This concept of reinterpretation or reappropriation is iconotropy, as I and many other LDS researchers have mentioned.  However, in saying it is prophetic midrash, Bokovoy is again making this into pseudepigrapha, the idea that Abraham never wrote this book himself.  Contrary to Bokovoy, they are reinterpretations, but ancient ones.  And in the process of translating the Secondary Intent of the Sensen Papyrus, Joseph Smith recovered the text of the literal, ancient Book of Abraham, authored by Abraham, a literal, ancient person.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Academia not Right at All Costs: Questioning a Core Assumption in Egyptology that a Textual Hieroglyphic can ONLY be Text

As Hugh Nibley writes:

The man on the throne [Facsimile 2, Fig. 5] is Min, the oldest incarnation of the Father, Creator, King, Most High God.  He was brought to Egypt by the first immigrants, Naqadah I and II.  Notice that the image does not depict God, but is a representation; the artist, like the mathematician, can use ANYTHING HE PLEASES to represent anything else AS LONG AS HE EXPLAINS IT. (One Eternal Round, p. 304, capitalization and bold and underlining added for emphasis.  Italics in original.)

Remember that Mathematicians in Algebra and other Math sciences use variables and representations for concepts and numerics.  That is the type of representations he is referring to.  Remember that I have time and time again related the hieroglyphics and hieratics in the Sensen Papyrus to variables and things like them, or that in other words, this is the way they were used in derivative documents.

The KEP does provide the explanation for how the person/people that used the Sensen Papyrus in this manner of Secondary Intent did it, and if one takes Nibley's statement at face value, it says that it could be done.  I continue to be mystified why people that are against this have such a mental block on this thing.

But, perhaps they will respond, "Dear Brother, obviously you are taking Nibley out of context.  Obviously Nibley didn't mean this in the context of the KEP because he rejected the KEP as containing valid translations."  Well, then, Nibley wasn't following his own rules if that was the case.  He isn't in mortality to respond.  But I say it would be the case.  Remember:

Special pleading is a form of fallacious argument that involves an attempt to cite something as an exception to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exception. (

It is a dogmatic double-standard for someone to allow this rule to be applied to all other hieroglyphs, but not to textual hieroglyphs used in the KEP as symbolic pictographs.  The Egyptians could do whatever they wanted with their signs and symbols.  Questioning some dogmatic claims in science is not new for Mormons.  Mormons are never against science as a process.  Mormons are never against good science when it puts out good results.  However, Mormons are against the establishment science claims in a number of areas, which we have faith will eventually be overturned in the normal course of events, as science corrects itself.  Science is self-corrective over time.  One of these things that Mormons push back against is the idea of steel in the Book of Mormon where science has declared it did not exist, or horses, or this or that.  Mormon apologists are simply not scientific, even though they certainly try to be.  Because faith sometimes trumps current science in the minds of Mormons.  Mormons like to be science-friendly when possible, but sometimes there are things that are so central to our religion, that we cannot bend without sacrificing our souls and our identity.  We have to stand our ground.  So, in this, Mormons must use critical thinking and skepticism about some scientific claims.  This does not mean that we do this lightly.

So, in order for my claims to exist for my theory, I must, of a necessity, be a SKEPTIC of the claim that alphabetical (uniliteral [or single consonantal], biliteral [or double-consonantal], triliteral [or tri-consonantal] and determinative [or context-augmenting]) hieroglyphs, when in a text, can ONLY be elements of a text, and can NEVER be something else in a derivative composition.  These signs can be anything an Egyptian wanted them to be, if they repurpose them in some other composition.  And furthermore, I must bolster my claim by trying to push back against the claim that it can never be so.  To say that they can never be used any other way, is a dogmatic statement, that ignores the very nature of hieroglyphs when used in an "art" context, rather than a "text" context.  Egyptologists would have us believe that Egyptians are so creative and do all kinds of creative things with their hieroglyphs in "art."  But the same creativity can never be manifest in a text, and similar types of usages can never be manifest in a text with alphabetical hieroglyphs.  To these Egyptologists, text, or linguistic usage of hieroglyphs, can be nothing other than text, or the characters in a linguistic usage.  However, as one commenter put it:

Egyptians took advantage of the artistic nature of writing, with examples scattered throughout all branches of Egyptian art. This, then, raises the question: did art, in turn, influence language? Once again, the hieroglyphic script is key.  All hieroglyphs, be them artistic or simply linguistic, can be shown to have an effect on the reading and interpretation of written language. A scribe “required not only linguistic competence but also an understanding of the world of signs and symbols traced in the text”  if he was to convey a specific intended message to his readers and bridge the gap between art and language.  Due to its pictographic nature, hieroglyphic script had the intriguing ability to visually convey nuances of meaning in a way foreign to most alphabetic writing. . . .
The meaning of entire passages of text can be restricted or reshaped because of features that could only be described as artistic. Unlike pieces of art that, while meaningful, had a primary purpose other than to convey linguistic information . . ., text was intended to be read. The artistic features that affect meaning were used to the advantage of the writers.
The relationship between written language and artwork can now be summarized: language had an influence on artistic traditions, and artistic factors were used to alter the meaning of writing.  (

So what I am suggesting is that the usage of the text elements in the Sensen papyrus in a pictographic or ideographic manner is to do that very thing, to bridge the gap between art and language.  The text elements become pictures and art.  They started out that way, after all, when each hieroglyph was nothing but a picture.  It is easy enough for Egyptologists to see something like the following, as described by the same commenter:

This statue is clearly composed of three primary parts: the pharaoh as a child, a large falcon representing Re, and a sculpted sedge plant.  Less obvious is the fact these three sections of the statue represent phonograms, which combine to read “Ramesses”: a visual pun on the name of the king.  (

As the commenter states, this is the Rebus principle, the usage of pictures to represent words, many times as puns.  But in this case, it was a statue, a thing of art, that was being used to represent phonograms.  I am stating somewhat of the reverse of the Rebus principle.  I am stating that something usually thought of as a text character, or literary character, would be used according to its pictographic origin, and an original linguistic context would be ignored.  In other words, the Egyptian character that is a letter B is a picture of a foot.  I am saying that rather than being a B, it can actually be used as a picture of a foot still and can represent things that share the theme of feet.  Why is this so anathema?  But this is precisely what is happening in the KEP.  Alphabetic/linguistic characters are being used as pictures, and then those pictures are repurposed for use as representing things that they can rationally represent, that have something to do with the core meaning of what that character is a picture of.  Why is this such a foreign suggestion, and why is it so anathema?  It should not be, when so many other possibilities in Egyptian character usage abound, at least, when Egyptologists can see that they are being used as art.  I am saying that the alphabetic characters (both hieroglyphic and hieratic) are also used as art, and the same principles evident in the symbols usually thought of as art are also evident in the text.  Why not?

Well, the bias against it is at the very core of Egyptology, and this bias has bled into LDS academia, which is why nobody will take the KEP seriously as a translation of ancient material.  Yet, LDS academics should be considering the KEP to be basically a new rosetta stone, as it were, to guide them in their thinking.  These people are doing everything they can do at all costs to deny that the KEP is what it clearly shows:  a translation key.  That it shows translations of alphabetic/linguistic characters and treats them as if they were artwork like in the facsimiles.  It takes each one on its own terms and treats it as a picture, rather than being a part of a text.

This bias exists in Egyptology, because of the dismissal of academia of the original way people were trying to decipher the Egyptian language.  A good treatment of the history of its decipherment is in this article:

To summarize, before the time of Thomas Young and Jean-Fran├žois Champollion, who were instrumental in the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone, people assumed that the characters were all pictographic/symbolic, as we read in that article:

Prior to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, scholars trying to read hieroglyphics made several errors. There was the misguided belief that the hieroglyphics were symbolic and secret while in reality hieroglyphics were a form of everyday writing (Sandison). They also believed that hieroglyphic writing was nothing more than primitive picture writing and that decipherment relied on a translation of the pictorial images. In truth, the late hieroglyphic script is phonetic. Just like the letters of the English alphabet, the characters represent distinct sounds . . .
Once scholars had the Rosetta Stone at their disposal, they were able to translate the Greek inscriptions. If the other two scripts recorded the same text, then the stone could be used to crack the hieroglyphs . . .
In 1814 the first breakthrough came with an English physicist named Thomas Young . . . Like many scholars before him, Young had been convinced that the script was picture writing . . .
Young compared the letters for the name Ptolemy with the other hieroglyphs and succeeded in assigning phonetic values to many of the symbols . . . By comparing hieroglyphic and demotic writing, he discovered that demotic words were not always written using the alphabet . . . As soon as he seemed to be on the right track, he suddenly stopped. He had lost interest in hieroglyphics . . .
Credit for the complete translation has been given to the French scholar Jean-Fran├žois Champollion . . . who is now known as the "Father of the Decipherment of Hieroglyphics" . . .  By deciphering the name Rameses, Champollion realized that all of the hieroglyphs were phonetic. 

So, the problem, as we see, is not that Champollion and Young are wrong.  They are absolutely right, and so are the Egyptologists that follow in their footsteps, about the fact that Egyptian text reads this way.  The problem, however, is in these other types of usages identified by the other commentator of the other article quoted above:  "Other artists took advantage of this ability of hieroglyphs, creating texts that could be read either vertically or horizontally with a different meaning in each direction."  In other words Secondary or Tertiary intent in documents can exist in this way described, or even in other ways that the commenter in that article didn't even imagine.

The assumption that my colleagues who are other LDS apologists are rejecting is that one of the systems that can be used in this type of Secondary Intent is precisely a symbolic picture-writing type of system that was rejected by Champollion and Young, which was the type of system that other people before them had believed in.  And so, here, in this blog, I am proposing exactly that, that such a system actually still exists along side the regular Egyptological system that was discovered by Young and Champollion, and does not replace it.

I say that there is a picture-writing system that exists where the pictures are used as abstractions, as I have described in multiple other postings in this blog.  The original author didn't do this, but people after the fact came along and repurposed the symbols in a new system.  It is a system where core meanings are evident in a character, but the character is used to mean something other than its core meaning, that is still associated with that meaning.  In this way, the character becomes an abstraction.  And for context, we are reliant on a key, like a legend in a map.  A legend in a map gives you context for symbols.  That is what the KEP is.  It contains mappings or descriptions or explanations for symbols.  That is what the explanations in the facsimiles are too.  Explanations for symbols that are otherwise abstract.  Why do my colleagues reject this, when this is precisely what the KEP is demanding?  Well, it is because the tradition started by Young and Champollion is so sure of its position, that it dogmatically says that no such thing can be so.  But some Egyptologists already know that such a thing CAN be so.  What we need are skeptics of that dogmatism that are willing to push back against it, that are willing to let the evidence in the KEP speak, rather than imposing understandings foreign to the KEP on the KEP.  The KEP evidence must stand on its own terms, not on someone else's understanding foreign to it.  For example, people should stop trying to make it into a modern cipher, and then declare victory, when that is simply not true, because the evidence is just so overwhelmingly in the other direction.  LDS apologists should stop trying to swim against the current of evidence.  They should embrace the evidence and then make their conclusions from it.

It is absurd that a system that has picture-writing at is core should not use its symbols as pictures as one of the options of their usage, even if they are found in a text.

In summary, I have evidence that the problem here is not Egyptology so much, but Egyptologists (especially LDS ones) that are denying the known facts of their own discipline, that prevent them from adequately assessing the facts of the matter.  In fact, what is going on in the KEP is very consistent with known principles of Egyptology.  I show it here in another blog post:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Abstract Meanings: Another way of saying Root or Core Meanings, or Etymological/Associated meanings

Nibley writes:
The central figure of most hypocephali has four rams' heads on one neck.  Herodotus was intrigued by the representation of Amun with the head of a ram . . . First of all, he makes clear that the Egyptians did not for a moment "think that is the way he really was." (One Eternal Round, p. 260)
Then he says a few pages later:
Herodotus was right.  These things are purely symbolic and should never be viewed literally; they are as abstract as mathematical symbols. (ibid., p. 264).
Michael Rhodes, in his translation of Facsimile #2, wrote:

I now turn to the illustrations on the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus and compare Joseph Smith's explanations of them with an interpretation based on modern Egyptology. First of all, let me say that the interpretation of illustrations is one of the most difficult parts of understanding Egyptian texts. Egyptians did not include illustrations merely for decoration; they were always used to supplement and clarify the text. However, determining their correct meaning can, for us, be a formidable undertaking. A given symbol can have many different meanings, and trying to decide which one the author of the text was trying to convey is at times nearly impossible. For example, the wedjat-eye found above and to the left of the seated hawk figure in section 3 can represent healing, light, totality, protection, glory, and even riches! (
This is why, I am saying that Joseph Smith provided the interpretive key as the context helper to some of the pictures in the facsimiles, and some of the characters in the text, and this was a reconstitution of a document that we do not have.  This document was a derivative document between the Book of Abraham material and repurposed Sensen characters.  Furthermore, Nibley wrote:
The man on the throne [Facsimile 2, Fig. 7] is Min, the oldest incarnation of the Father, Creator, King, Most High God.  He was brought to Egypt by the first immigrants, Naqadah I and II.  Notice that the image does not depict God, but is a representation; the artist, like the mathematician, can use anything he pleases to represent anything else as long as he explains it. (ibid, p. 304.)
It is the explanation that is the context-helper, and it is absolutely critical, whether or not there is an underlying ancient document or not.  Whatever the case, the context-helper, whether a revealed document in English, or something that existed anciently that is not extent, is that which gives context to the symbols it is paired with.  Kerry Shirts, a former Mormon apologist, noted the following from Hugh Nibley:
The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus begins with I am Djabty... This word, Djabty may be the richest word in the entire Egyptian language. It has over 200 meanings and they are all related! It can mean the provider as Rhodes translates it. It can also be the Hebrew word Tebah which means box, or ark. It can be the boat (ark) of Noah, and also the ark of the covenant. And finally the temple itself is called the tebah which embraced the holy city and even the universe. The Egyptians gave the name Djebah to Esna, Dendera, Edfu, and all sorts of temples as well as some cities in which they were found. Thebes itself is Djebah. The roots are the same. The oldest city in Greece and the oldest city in Egypt are the same name. Thebes is called the primal place of the first life and the necropolis of the first divinity was Thebes.The Greek one is the original, with the first mention being in the Iliad in the fourth book.  (
One of the core or root meanings of Djabty is box or ark, even though it has many meanings associated with these, based on them.  Another writer puts this type of thing in some Egyptian words and characters this way:
There are also complete texts that demonstrate this unexpectedly humorous aspect of Egyptian culture. One example is a hymn to Sobek, the crocodile god, from the Temple of Esna. The inscription is composed of a long series of crocodile hieroglyphs. This would not be possible in a system of writing with a one-to-one correspondence of ideogram to meaning, where a picture of a crocodile would represent only a crocodile. In Egyptian writing, a pictograph of a crocodile could be read to mean “divine”, “time”, “one who seizes” and a number of other terms, often conceptually related. (
The basic or root idea is crocodile, but it can be read to mean these other things.  The abstraction of a picture of a crocodile can be used to represent other things.  This is what I am saying when I say that a picture of a reed can be used to represent the Place of Reeds, which is the Land of the Chaldees, because the ancient name of the place in Sumerian is Kiengi, or Land of Reeds.  So a picture, while a basic thing like a reed, can be used to represent this other thing based on it.  Because those two things share this root thing, or fundamental attribute.  Do you see my point?  In Hebrew and related languages, there are three-consonant roots.  Various words are based on these roots.  For example, Keleb in Hebrew means dog.  But the word Klub means basket.  Yet, they are both KLB, and share the same root.

It is in Facsimile 2, Figure 5, where the hieroglyph of the wedjat-eye is used to represent the "Grand key-words" of the priesthood, and the "sign of the Holy Ghost."  In conventional Egyptian, it is the moon, and so forth and so on.  Of this symbol, Nibley writes that it "has an almost inexhaustible number of meanings.  It holds the 'key' to everything . . .  [T]he wedjat-eye seems to have numerous identities.  In particular, it stands for the one thing that concerns the Egyptian most--the restoration of that which has passed away . . . It stands for the miracle of restoration." (One Eternal Round, pp. 314-315).  Yet, at is core, it is an eye, and stands for the moon, which waxes and wanes, yet is always restored when it cycles back to the Full Moon.  And therefore, the moon is "restored" and so, it stands for this core idea of restoration.  And so, it should not be surprising that Egyptians would use these things in the manner that I am suggesting, that they would apply other meanings to abstract symbols that fit the "likeness" or the "pattern" of the core or root meaning of an idea.  After all, Nibley said these symbols are as abstract as mathematical symbols.  This is why I say, their usage is not unlike variables, where just having a symbol that is abstract does not clue one in to its intended meaning without context-helpers.

So, for example, if you have an Egyptian hieroglphic, it has an Egyptian reading, and that reading in Egyptian has root words that it is derived from.  It also has words that it is associated with that can give it extension of meaning.  The same is so with a Hebrew word that the Egyptian word translates to.  That Hebrew word is derived from roots.  That is its Etymology.  And it is also associated with other words, that makes its roots and associations a rather broad group of data.

It's pretty absurd for Anti-Mormons to make claims that the Prophet Joseph didn't translate this stuff correctly when what made something correct is for the applied meaning to conform or fit in or have a likeness to the core criteria of a symbol, instead of insisting that it must be that core or literal meaning.  And all of the Prophet Joseph's translations do just that.  They apply meanings that conform to the likeness or pattern or criteria of the core meaning, but they make assertions to tie that stuff down to what specifically is intended, like a key.  And that key is what ties down the meaning to whatever extension of meaning it is associated with, that can be a derivative, a root, or an association to either the Egyptian word, a Hebrew translation of that Egyptian word, or even some other Middle Eastern language it is associated with.

The main problem that most people have, I think, is not accepting the above with regard to Egyptian "pictures."  It is easy for people to accept that a picture is a picture, and that it is a symbolic thing.  What I think is a new concept is trying to get Mormon believers to accept that characters that most people thing as a part of a "text" can also be used in this same manner, with a meaning applied to them as if they are a picture.  That is what the Ancient Egyptians were also doing with the symbols in these papyri.  Joseph Smith demonstrated this in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers where he would isolate each character from the "text" and use it just like the individual pictures in the Facsimiles.  The point is that the system between the KEP and the Facsimilies is the same.

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Detail on Sensen Characters as Section Markers of Book of Abraham Text

Anti-Mormons would have us believe that Joseph Smith thought that he was translating the actual text of the Book of Abraham from this papyrus, entirely from these characters.  Joseph Smith never claimed that, as you will see from careful analysis.  The text of the Book of Abraham was a separate revelation from the things that he was translating here.  The GAEL is separate revelatory activity entirely from the main text of the Book of Abraham.

As I discussed in other parts of this blog, I mentioned how the characters in the Sensen Papyrus were used or appropriated by Ancient Egyptians to represent various themes in that also appear in the text of the Book of Abraham.  In the English Book of Abraham manuscripts, the characters lifted from the Sensen text mark sections of the English text containing the themes that they represent.  So used this way, they become section markers, that are like section headings not unlike the chapter headings in the scriptures.  And they were used this way in a derivative composition.  In other words, its no different from us numbering an outline with Roman Numerals

Other people have come close to noticing that these were markers of some sort before.  Brother Kerry Muhlestein came close when he stated that "the Egyptian figures could merely serve as fanciful and archaic bullet points." ("Thoughts on the Book of Abraham," No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, p. 229).  Similarly, Brother Brian Hauglid came very close when he wrote:

It could also be possible these Egyptian characters [i.e. the Egyptian characters copied in the original Book of Abraham Manuscripts from the Sensen papyrus] were used as markers for copying . . . This would explain why the 1835 manuscripts so closely correspond to each other in terms of both the character and the amount of text between the characters.  Suffice it to say, the Egyptian characters in the margins of the 1835 Abraham manuscripts still present a real challenge of interpretation for the researcher, and it will likely take more time, testing, and patience to edge closer to a more complete understanding of their presence. (ibid., p. 255).

But these are section markers to the Book of Abraham text when put side-by-side to the English text.  In this way, they are analogous to our chapter headings in our scriptures.  Because they are subject headings or markers of the sections of text that they mark when lined up with the text like they are in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts.  This is how they were used in an ancient document that we do not have, which Joseph Smith was trying to reconstitute.  This is what made them useful to the ancients for the Book of Abraham.  For Joseph Smith, they are also cues to the content of the text for the Book of Abraham, and were useful as revelatory device to get revelation on full text represented in the English language as we have it, much like our chapter headings in our scriptures contain information about the content of a chapter.

In other words, the Book of Breathings characters were adapted to a different purpose by other people than its original author intended in a derivative composition.  But they are just regular Egyptian characters.  There is nothing special about them.  They are found in all kinds of other documents.  The mistake is to not realize that the Hor Breathing papyrus text is not carried into these characters when they are speparated out from the Hor Breathing text and put in a separate list of characters.  In this case, they become arbitrary characters in a lsit, separate from the Hor text.  This is what I call a "Secondary Intent."  Because the original author of the Book of Breathings did not use the symbols that way.  Other Egyptians later on did this.  Imagine if you will, an outline with Roman Numerals and letters for the numbering system in an outline. Well, our alphabet is the Latin Alphabet, because our words are written in the Latin Alphabet.  Well, the Book of Breathings is composed of Egyptian characters that are also letters of an alphabet.  Well, since it was used as an outline or section headers, that is exactly what we have here.  The Book of Breathings contains "letters" that represent part of an "Egyptian Alphabet," and these letters were used as markers in the outline for the section headers.  This is why Joseph Smith called his translation of it the Egyptian Alphabet.

This is just like how Kevin Barney says that the symbols in the Facsimiles were ADAPTED for use to the Book of Abraham.  He was actually arguing something very similar to what I am saying. (See Brother Barney's work here:  Brother Barney was arguing for the symbols/pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham to be used pictographically, and for them to be adapted for use outside the context they were originally used, in a derivative composition.  It has always been clear to everybody that the symbols in the facsimiles are pictographic, because they are used in pictures.  Repeatedly, we are told, this or that picture "is made to represent" such and such.  The same type of usage is apparent with these other symbols and their explanations in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the KEP.  It is a new proposition I think for people to think of characters that appear to be only text to actually be used as if they are little pictures, pictographically.  It is, as if, each character in the "text" becomes a little picture or facsimile on its own.

In fact, the very principles at work here to use the symbols in this way are essentially almost the same as those that Brother Barney points out in his article in Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant.  He was applying these principles to ONLY the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham.  I apply them to every symbol in the Sensen Papyrus, not just those in the facsimiles.  So for those of you that are already familiar with Brother Barney's work, what I am reverse-engineering and doing here in this blog should not be foreign concepts to you.  If you really think about it, if we can apply those principles to the characters in the facsimiles, why should we stop there?  Why not apply them to other characters that Joseph Smith seemed to translate?  (Again, for reference see Brother Barney's work here: and see further discussion on my blog about this here:

Therefore, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is not a revelation on the original Egyptian content of the Sensen document.  It is a revelation on the secondary intent of the symbols from an ancient document we do not have, which is different from the way the original author of the document intended.

This principle of syncretism and adaptation is well-known among scholars in the traditions of the so-called magical papyri of Egypt from the Greco-Roman Period, precisely the period that the Hor Sensen Papyrus is known to have come from.  So it is not surprising that Egyptian Syncretist Magician-Priests of that era who were well-versed in the story contained in the Book of Abraham would have transformed in their own minds through ritual in their religious practices the Book of Breathings for use with the Story of the Book of Abraham.  And their religious practices have been called "magic."  But it isn't really magical.  For example, in one publication in an article written by a scholar of the magical papyri, we read that certain of these magicians were magically and ritualistically transforming their books mentally into the "Books of Moses:"

So far, then, the picture presented by the religion of the papyri is essentially that of the usual syncretism as we know it during the age of dying antiquity . . . The attention of the sorcerers is naturally centered on the two gods of light, Helios and Selene.  The former is identified with Apollo, with Mithras, with Ra-Horus, with Yahweh and his chief archangel Michael, the latter with Artemis, with Hectate, with Isis.  In the bewildering crowd of divine beings which appear on every page and in every column of the magical papyri it would seem almost impossible to constitute any order or system.  Yet, if one reads and rereads them, certain principles seem to stand out . . .

We can easily recognize here the admixture of Hebrew, Persian, and Egyptian elements . . .

Many years ago I called attention to a confusion in British Museum papyrus 46 . . . which seemed to prove that the original was compiled from loose scraps without much regard for their connection (or lack of connection), and that the 'Ring of Hermes' found its way into this theft-charm simply because in this, too, Hermes was invoked!  The cosmogony mentioned appears twice, with only slight variations, in the same papyrus, the first time under the title Monas, or Eighth Book of Moses, the second time as Moses's Holy Apocryphal (or Secret?) Book, called the Eighth or Holy book.  There is also mention of the same alleged author's book named Key, and the closing line of the papyrus promises further excerpts from a Tenth Book . . .  Sometimes we read also variations of the holy names, professedly found by the scribe in a different copy, and once, at least, an interpretative scholion has found its way into the text.  We are thus justified in assuming that our collections were formed from a large number of independent documents, and that the magicians adopted and adapted for their use whatever appealed to them as suiting their aims; in doing this they disregarded the original purposes of the various pieces.  So they may have taken over, bodily, hymns and prayers of mystic tales told by some of the many secret cult communities and conventicles which flourished elsewhere during the later periods.  The papyri may thus really contain pieces of actual cult ritual . . .  (Ernst Riess, The Classical Weekly, Monday, January 28, 1935, pp. 105-111)

Now, to be perfectly clear, there was no real power of magic here.  This is all about ritual.  It is all about belief in magically transforming or alchemically altering something into something else.  It was all in their minds.  But, the important thing is, it was all about a real system of interpretation in their minds, involving the disregarding of the original purposes of the material.  It was all about whatever they sought to do to use or transform the already existing symbology for something else.

April 2016 edit:  Now, to be absolutely clear here, to answer certain recent criticisms of this article, I need to be clearer and articulate with precision what is going on, because of quibbling about my use of this source.  Some have quibbled about my use of this in support of the idea of iconotropy in Egyptian Hieroglyphs.  Well, in the original version of this article, I was not taking this out of context, because it is in support in a general way of the phenomenon I am talking about, but it is not specific to iconotropy (or adaptation or substitution) in hieroglyphs.  Now, before I get into this in detail, firstly, I direct you to another article:

The quotation from Riess above is indeed in support in a general way, the following idea:  Syncretists were indeed cobbling together pre-existing material and were re-interpreting their texts "magically," in a transformative way, mentally, the pre-existing material in a different context.  It didn't matter what the original context was.  The new context, for some of these Syncretists, could be whatever they wanted it to be.  That was the point.  That the system of interpretation was fluid.  In the case of the quotation above, the Syncretist magicians were re-interpreting the re-purposed documents as SPELLS, where previously they may have been unrelated to spells, or could have been anything.  I didn't say that this was specifically in support of iconotropy, but rather, a transformation from the original context of the original material into something entirely unrelated to its previous context.  THIS is the point I was making, and it is generally supportive of the idea of a mental transformation of something that was previously in one context into another. So no, I did not misread that. The whole texts themselves were transformed into a magical device in this context, a context that it may have not previously had. This is akin to reading something into something else kabbalistically in the Hebrew scriptures where the author did not intend what the cabbalist has "extracted" from the words. Rather, the kabbalist imposed this on the text. So, in this way, this quote is indeed generally supportive of this type of phenomenon.  It is not necessarily in reference to the specific phenomenon of iconotropy, which is a more specific case of this same, yet more generalized phenomenon that the quotation IS supportive of.

So, the proposal here, going beyond the idea in that quote above, is that Joseph Smith's purpose was not to recover the text of the Sensen papyrus, or the Egyptological intent of it.  It was to recover the intent of the syncretist magician-priests that transformed these characters into pictographs, in order to be markers or symbols that represented themes in the story of Abraham that they knew.

An example of cobbling several different documents into one, is that the Facsimile #2 is the Hypocephalus of Sheshonq, and the Facsimiles #1 and #3 are from the Sensen papyrus of Hor.  The two documents had two separate owners.  Thus you can see, the Book of Abraham documents as we have them follow this same pattern, disregarding their original purposes, but repurposing them to be part of the Book of Abraham.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"A Critical Analysis of the Book of Abraham in Light of Extra-Canonical Jewish Writings" by Rabbi Nissim Wernick

This is a link to a document called A Critical Analysis of the Book of Abraham in Light of Extra-Canonical Jewish Writings - by Rabbi Nissim Wernick.

This is a good paper.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Helpful Graphics/Illustrations

Every once in a while, I come across graphics/illustrations that people put together that I find helpful.  Even though some of them are created by critics, they are still helpful to make certain points, and I see no reason to re-create something that someone else has already created.

The following graphics that were part of a document put out by some person, apparently a critic, calling himself "TruthSeeeker2013."  But they are useful.

Here is a current URL to the document to show the source:

The document by Mr. Truth Seeker basically re-hashes the same-old-same-old as Charles M. Larson's By His Own Hand on Papyrus.  I recommend Larson's book to know the facts of the matter about the papyri and the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar documents and so forth.  It does a better job in its presentation of actual basic facts, which is a lot more than could be said for the standard apologetic materials coming from the John Gees of the world that try to evade the basic facts.  But I do not recommend By His Own Hand on Papyrus for its ultimate conclusions.  Larson's book was reviewed by an LDS Egyptologist (Steven E. Thompson) who has not partaken from the standard apologetic of the missing papyrus theory, and he agrees that Larson's presentation in the book gives us some good basic facts.  We don't need to side with Larson on his conclusions, that Joseph could not translate and that our only good option is to abandon Mormonism and go join creedal Christianity.  That is an absurd claim.

Similarly as for the document by the anonymous "Truth Seeker," I do not recommend it either for its conclusions.  I only recommend it for its presentations of certain basic facts that we must embrace.  Again, as I have said over and over on this blog.  Just because we come to the same conclusions about certain basic facts of a matter that critics come to, our interpretations of the ultimate significance of these facts are not shared at all.  Even the Church's own statement on the Book of Abraham that was put up only a few months ago now accepts some of the facts as they are, but I do not agree with the idea that only the catalyst or revelation theories are options.  It is true that the Church's statement opened the door to theories other than the missing papyrus theory.  But it basically said that it is not very worthwhile to try to vindicate Joseph Smith's translations of the Egyptian material.  I have voiced my disappointment in the Church's statement before that theories like mine were not taken into account in the preparation of the statement.  Also, as I said before, to some degree, I lay that responsibility at the feet of apologists who had the power to help get the word out about lesser-known theories, and who knew about lesser-known theories, but who would not.

Anyhow, to summarize, as I have said before, to present graphics/illustrations that have been created by others for use in their documents doesn't mean that I agree with the ultimate conclusions of their claims or anything like that.  It only means that the illustrations were good.  Illustrations like these save me time to have to create things like this, and I have no issues with recycling good illustrations.

Here is a graphic showing the various copies of the Egyptian Alphabet:

Here are the various Book of Abraham Manuscripts with the Sensen characters in the margins:

Here are images of the 11 Rediscovered Papyri fragments:

Here is an illustration showing evidence for other missing papyri or sections of papyri:

A reasonable Egyptological restoration of Facsimile #1:

Joseph Smith's Facsimile #2 restoration with missing sections that were filled in highlighted in red:

A reasonable comparative restoration of Facsimile #2 from other hypocephali:

Here is an illustration that shows the portions of other papyri that Joseph Smith used to reconstruct Facsimile #2 (mostly from sections of the Sensen Papyrus):

Sensen Characters on BOA Manuscripts:

Here is another illustration where the Sensen characters copied on the BOA Manuscripts are matched up with the ones on the papyrus:

Characters from Egyptian Alphabet matched with characters from the columns surrounding Facsimile #1:

Abraham 1:1 matched with Reed Character that is Chalsidonhiash:

Another Illustration showing the reed symbol translated:

While the following illustration is related to the ones above, it is not from the same document, and probably not created by the same person, but still helpful:


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Critics Making Joseph Smith an Offender for a Word even though he used his Best Light at the Time

It really bugs me when critics say, "Oh Joseph Smith said that the Book of Breathings was penned by Abraham's own hand."  Or, "Joseph Smith said Freemasonry came down from the time of Solomon's Temple when Freemasonic scholars now know better."  They get side-tracked from the real issue at hand, because some of the nuances of the facts were unknown to Joseph Smith, when he took things too literally.  Even though the things that really matter all check out, just nevermind, because he made mistakes, because they are intent on finding something that they can find fault with no matter what.  You would think that people would actually care about the fact that things that actually matter do actually check out.

Question:  Did Joseph Smith produce a modern-day English representation of the ancient Book of Abraham, thereby transmitting to the modern world the actual content of an ancient document?  The answer is yes.

Question:  Did Joseph Smith sense something Abrahamic about the Book of Breathings, and has it turned out to be so?  The answer is yes.

Question:  Did Joseph Smith sense authentically ancient temple ritual fragments in Freemasonry?  The answer is yes.

Question:  Did they turn out to be authentically ancient temple ritual fragments?  The answer is yes.

Question:  Did Joseph Smith understand the nuances of what he was dealing with when it came to the Book of Breathings?  The answer is no.  He took it too literally that he thought he was dealing with the actual ancient papyrus penned by Abraham himself.

Question:  Was Joseph Smith wrong when he conflated the Book of Breathings with the original papyrus that Abraham wrote that was never in his (Joseph's) hands, which was lost to antiquity?  About unimportant factual issues, yes.

Question:  Does it really matter to the end result that Joseph Smith conflated the Book of Breathings with Abraham's original papyrus?  No, not to the end result.

Question:  Isn't it true that the Egyptians (especially those of the magical papyri tradition) ritualistically considered other documents as proxy for certain documents?  Yes.

Question:  Isn't it true that the Book of Breathings is a good proxy for Abraham's original manuscript for a variety of reasons, especially because of the principles that are manifest in the magical papyri tradition?  Yes.

Question:  Did Joseph Smith understand the nuances of what he was dealing with in Freemasonry when more modern scholarship has shown that the modern organization did not have a pedigree that actually came from Solomon's Temple as alleged in traditional Freemasonic Myth?  No.  He took it too literally.  And so did Brigham Young.  But the actual pedigree of the various elements that came to exist in Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism do indeed come from lines that stem from ancient temple worship.

Question:  Why is it that critics make Joseph Smith an offender for a word and an offender for being to literal when all that ought to matter is the results?  Or in other words, shouldn't what he got RIGHT be what actually matters, when he had enough of what he needed to fulfill his work?   Answer:  That is their problem obviously, and they will mourn for the choice of rejecting him over it eventually.  The stone of Joseph Smith's dealings with the Holy Ghost is a stone of stumbling to the foolish while the same stone is the foundation stone to the wise.

This type of reasoning of the critics is very similar to the fallacy of presentism.  The idea that because we know better some things in our time, that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young should have known what we know now.  Its like saying that Brigham Young should have known better when it comes to racism.  It is silly when you really think about it.  What we really ought to do is to recognize the miracles that the Lord accomplished through these prophets.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What is Said to be Impossible is Most Likely a Mystery to be Solved by Enough Work and Data

I found this article interesting.  I will quote a little bit from it:

There's news this week of an "impossible" triple star system recently discovered by astronomers. One that "defies known physics." Needless to say, there's no need to abandon physics quite yet.

It all comes from a new paper being published in MNRAS titled "KIC 2856960: the impossible triple star." Despite the overly-hyped title, it is interesting work. It's based upon data gathered from the Kepler satellite . . .

What the team found was that the more they looked at the data for KIC 2856960, the more confusing things got. At first glance it looks like a triple star system, but when they tested candidate orbits, none of them seemed to fit. Several of them kind of fit, but there was always some unexplained fluctuation in the data. So the team tried other models, and found a 4-star system that basically worked, but it required the orbits one binary system to be in exact resonance with the other, which seems highly unlikely.

In other words, the Kepler data is inconclusive. It could be a strange 4-star system, or it could be a triple-star system with something else buried in the data. We can't be certain at this point. This does not make KIC 2856960 an "impossible" system. There's no evidence that it is defying known physics, just that the data is odd and we don't understand it.

And that in itself makes it interesting. It is clear that this system is not a simple, boring triple system. It's a mystery at the moment, but it's a mystery that could be solved with more work and more data. And that makes it a mission possible. (

Similarly, I would like to apply this same type of logic here.   What is actually going on in the Sensen Papyrus to actually be something Abrahamic like Joseph Smith claimed it was is not "impossible."  It just needs the right amount of work and enough data to demonstrate what it is.  What is needed is people with the right attitudes and enough patience to see things through.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Phelph's "Pure Language" Sample and its Relationship to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers




The credit for the above images goes to William Schryver.  He provided them to show the similarities between the characters in the Letter of W. W. Phelps to his wife, and the characters in the KEP/Egyptian Alphabet.

Chris Smith talks about it here:

And Here:

This is related to this document:

A SAMPLE of pure language
given by Joseph the Seer as copied by Br Johnson
Question What is the name of God in pure Language
Answer Awman.
Q The meaning of the pure word Aman
A It is the being which made all things in all its parts.
Q What is the name of the Son of God.
A The Son Awman.
Q What is the Son Awman.
A It is the greatest of all the parts of Awman which is the godhead the first born.
Q What is man.
A This signifies Sons Awman. the human family the children of men the greatest parts of Awman Sons the Son Awman
Q What are Angels called in pure language.
A Awman Angls men
Q What are the meaning of these words.
A Awman’s Ministering servants Sanctified who are sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awmen the greatest part of Awman Son. Sons Awmen Son Awmen Awman

Anyway, Phelps translations of the characters are clearly based on Joseph Smith's revelation on the "parts of God."  Brigham Young also gave an account of this revelation which is found in the Journal of Discourses.