Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Abraham Rebus Theory: James Edward Homans' Theory from 1936 on the Name of Abraham Spelled Out in Facsimile #1

As you probably read in the previous post, Romolo Simonetti, a friend of mine, contacted me about a book entitled Joseph Smith as Translator.  Up until he brought it to my attention, I was unaware of the existence of this book.  Romolo sent me some scanned pages from it by email.  I purchased a copy on Amazon, and it came this week.  Romolo contacted me to find out what I thought of it.  And so, I am giving him credit for bringing it to my attention.  I wouldn't have been able to do this at all without his immense help in this matter.

Surprisingly enough, the book was copyrighted by Heber J. Grant who was President of the Church at the time.  It was published in 1936 by the Deseret News Press.  It was written by a person named "R. C. Webb," (Robert C. Webb), which is definitely a pseudonym.  Research seems to show that his real name was James Edward Homans, and that he was not even a Mormon.  He appears to have been some sort of Christian, perhaps Episcopalian.  Whatever the case, it seems that he had a positive opinion on the subject of the Book of Abraham.  Otherwise, he probably would have not written the things that he wrote, which seem to be almost Apologetic towards Mormonism and the Book of Abraham.  Some have charged that he was a hired gun for the Church, sort of an apologist for hire, who was not even a Mormon.  Whatever the case, Kevin Barney wrote about it here:

Anyhow, now let's get into the meat of the Abraham Rebus Theory.
Now, from my examination thus far of the text of Homans' book, he didn't refer to it as the word "rebus" as I am doing.  However, that is precisely what Homans was suggesting here:  that the characters/pictures in Facsimile #1 identified as "Abraham in Egypt" actually may spell out the name "Abraham."  And this is actually something the Egyptians did quite a lot.  And this literary device is known as a "rebus" among Egyptologists.  See here for some examples, both from Egypt as well as from our culture and our time:

As this picture from Wikipedia shows the typical example is this statue of the Pharoah Ramses II as a child:

The items, as Egyptian characters/pictograms, spell out the word Ra-mes-su, which is clearly the name Ramses.  As one commenter writes:
A famous Ancient Egyptian rebus statue of Ramses II consists of three hieroglyphic elements. A large falcon representing Horus the sun god – RA, who is standing behind a sitting child – MES, and the child is holding a sedge plant stalk in his left hand – SU. Remember we are not looking at these hieroglyphs from the perspective phonograms. These three items compose the rebus RA-MES-SU or as we prefer Ramesses. (
Anyhow, as is readily apparent, the rebus principle is a very common thing in Egyptian Iconography, as any Egyptologist can tell you.  Here is a scan of Facsimile #1, Figure 10:

Of course, in the explanation for Facsimile #1, it says simply "Abraham in Egypt," but makes no further claim about the meaning of the character.  But it seems clear that it is pointing to this group of characters, not just the person on the Lion Couch, as meaning "Abraham in Egypt."

Here is the same group of characters from the woodcut for the original Facsimile #1 as it appeared in the Times and Seasons, as it appears on the Joseph Smith Papers website, with the exception that I flipped it horizontally, so that it is mirror image so it appears as it should correctly:

And here is a scan taken from the Joseph Smith Papers web site of the same item, directly from the original Sensen papyrus:

So, with this image now, if there was ever any question about the original characters/pictograms we are dealing with, it is still clear that they are still clearly the same as in the woodcut and every other rendering.  Now, here is a scan from page 140 of Homans' book where he presents his analysis of the characters:

Now, Homans writes the following in the text on page 140:

Since we see here a group of separate objects--flowers, etc.--with the offering table, we may assume that the caption could be understood to imply that the meaning, "Abraham in Egypt," is derivable by combining sense properly expressed.  And, although it is not necessary to suppose that the man who first drew this picture intended to do more than to show the objects represented, the fact that each separate object has a definite Hieroglyphic significance, and that they may be combined to spell the indicated caption, or to make a close approach to the name, "Abraham," in Egyptian characters, must be another ground for a suspicion that real knowledge is behind the renderings given us.
Thus, taking these objects in succession, we find that the hieroglyphic value of the offering table is that of ab or ib.  The compressed oval to the right of this table suggests nothing more familiarly than the common picture of the human mouth, or lips, which has the phonetic value, r.  the cluster of flowers surmounting the table correspond to the combination chn (hard "h" and "n"), although, after the analogy of uses of other syllabics, we may take it for "h" alone.  Then, the "seed-pod" to the left of the table, while of indeterminate value in itself, closely suggests the familiar "owl," the equivalent of m, as it is often written and may be taken to indicate it.  Thus, as may be understood, any one familiar with the shapes and sound-values of Egyptian signs could have proposed the rendering, AB-R-H-M, as a possible combination, precisely as if several English letters had been disposed in any disorderly manner, and he had arranged them, so as to spell some intelligible word or name.  He evidences no more than his ability to read the written characters.  This ability, however, is very close to the matter which we have been attempting to discover, if possible, in all of our previous analysis.
So, now, this leaves us now to analyze Homans' contention more closely.  As is clear here, he is reliant in a few cases upon the principle that something strongly or quite closely appears like something else, so it can be taken for that thing, such as in the case where he says that the apparent "seed-pod" very much looks like the owl hieroglyph, which, in the Egyptian Alphabet, happens to be the letter M.

Is he justified in this, to suppose that because it closely appears like something, that it can be taken for that thing, or rather, that the ancients intentionally took it for that, or that it could be re-appropriated mentally, or substituted for it? The answer is yes.  Let me explain why.  Because in many other cases, I have encountered the same principle, which I call visual affinity:  that an assigned meaning to a character, or identification of a character, is sometimes dependent on its visual affinity to another character, or perhaps that somehow an association is made between characters because of visual affinity, and there is a mental substitution made.  Here is an example, where the character for Kolob "Khnum-Ra" in Facsimile #2 has a clear visual affinity to the character that was appropriated for it in the columns surrounding Facsimile #1.  See the following article on this:

And there are multiple other examples, some of which that are even directly connected to this current subject at hand, in the case of the lotus flower being used as a symbol for Abraham, because when it hangs, it has a visual affinity to the W character, which is the rope coil (which looks like a comma):

Anyway, the point is, on a number of levels, Homans' theory seems to check out.  Because he is correct about his interpretations, it seems to me.  Firstly, he interprets the offering table as ab or ib, which is the hieroglyphs numbered as R1 or R2 in Gardiner's sign list (i.e. there are two versions or variants):

Homan seems to have neglected to mention this.  But through a bit of deductive interpretation and detective work, we can reverse-engineer what he was thinking.  As we see here, above, the offering table itself is kh3t, or kh3wt, and is not pronouced ab or ib.  Rather, it is through the visual affinity principle yet again, that we actually get this pronunciation for this as ab or ib.  This is because the hieroglyph that is actually pronounced ab or ib happens to be the spear on a standard (flag staff or pole) hieroglyph:

As you can see, this is actually R15, and this is justified through its visual interchangeability/substitutability/affinity with R1.  Homans is correct when he says that the compressed oval is the r hieroglyph from the regular characters in the Egyptian Alphabet.  He is also correct that he chn is the bundle of flowers/lotus:

And he is also correct that this biliteral (two consonantal character) can just represent the letter H.  However, an even better bullseye than this is the character for ha, which also has visual affinity:

Next, he is also correct that the character he points out looks like the owl character, which is the common M uniliteral of the Egyptian Alphabet.

So, the result of my analysis on Homans' theory is that it is correct.  The character for figure 11 in Facsimile #1 is indeed a rebus for the name of Abraham.  Nevertheless, the question must be asked:  How is this so?  Was it intentional originally from the original person that drew the original to Facsimile #1?  No.  It is something that was concluded after the fact where someone reinterpreted this (i.e. recycled/adapted it in a different document) using the same types of principles that I have pointed out in the rest of this blog:  i.e. entirely through the principles of visual affinity (visual punning) and re-appropriation of symbols that didn't start out this way.  I say, once again, that this originated as coincidence, and later, the symbols in this picture were appropriated to be used for Abraham.  And the visual coincidence of these characters made them serviceable to be used as a rebus for the name of Abraham.  Therefore, these are decorations that were reused in the original ancient Book of Abraham manuscript, and they were lifted from the Hor papyrus.  They were used as puns, and reinterpreted from their original context.

Historically, people that read Homans' theory (and perhaps even Homans himself) probably thought that the original creator of this papyrus intentionally spelled out the name "Abraham" with these characters.  No.  Rather, they were re-appropriated after the fact like the rest of the symbols/symbology in the papyrus for this purpose.  And, interestingly, together, these symbols make a sort of "ligature" where they are tied together, and in order to come to this conclusion, someone basically has to "dissect" the symbols apart from each other, visually, which follows yet another principle that I discussed a while ago on this blog:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Library of Alexandria, and Alexandria in General, as the Logical Seat of Greco-Roman Syncretism in Egypt

If one enters tombs and catacombs and so forth in Alexandria from the Greco-Roman period, one is immediately struck by the mix of forms from all over the Mediterranean and Middle East.  Mixing and matching of favorite Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods is very common.  The Library of Alexandria was where every known book in the known world was gathered.

One would expect that an original to the Book of Abraham containing Abraham's own words in an ancient tongue would be found among the writings in the Library of Alexandria.  Furthermore, among all these writings, one would expect the Book of the Dead and the Book of Breathings or Fellowship to have been found there too.  It is in the Library of Alexandria where priests and scribes of many different traditions would have come together.  It is in this place where the writings of the Jews would have been known, not to mention the fact that so many Jews were in Egypt to begin with.  It is in this place where these priests would have had access to a rare book such as the Book of Abraham, where it could have been discovered by Egyptian Priests, who took an interest in its mysterious contents.

And since they had taken upon them this Syncretist notion of using Egyptian iconography for representationalism for things that had originated in other traditions, one would think it would have happened in a place where they had access to all the writings of the known world:  Alexandria.

I believe it was in Alexandria where the notion was born to use the symbols of the Sensen Papyrus to represent Abrahamic themes.  It is to Alexandrian Egyptians, it would seem, that we owe our debt for the mixing and merging of forms, and the association of the Sensen Papyrus symbols and those of the Hypocephalus with the text of the Book of Abraham.  Whether they were ethnic Egyptians is another question.  Ethnically, they could have been Egyptian, Jewish, or whatever.  They were Egyptians because they were in Egypt, possibly in Alexandria.  And they were perhaps, undoubtedly familiar with Gnostic traditions, both Pagan and Jewish, and the influences and ingredients behind Greek Magical Papyri tradition, if not entirely responsible for them.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Example of a Key from Coptic Cryptography that Demonstrates the Principles on this Blog

A paper appeared on by Hind Salah-Eldin, a Faculty Member at Cairo University in the Department of Egyptology.  The paper is entitled "A New Light on Coptic Cryptography."  The paper shows a picture of an ostracon, that demonstrates a system of cryptography, where certain Coptic letters are substituted for others.  For those that are unaware, Coptic is the late Egyptian language.  The ostracon is dated by being associated with a group of monks that lived in an area of Egypt at "the end of the sixth century and the beginning of the seventh century."  Salah-Eldin writes:

This ostracon is important for the study of the Coptic Cryptography because it contains a clear evidence for what we can call ‘A Key’ for the scribe rendered the original letter over its cryptographical equivalent. As far as I know, this ostraca is unique, for only about thirty published examples of Coptic cryptography texts have been recorded until now as had been mentioned above, and no one of them holds this ‘Key’ by this form, but further studies and publications in this field will reveal other texts like this ‘Key’ because this type of text served as an exercise by the writer to himself or to someone in order to memorize the alphabets in their Crypto-graphical form.

And here is the picture of the Key on the ostracon, showing the characters and their assigned values:

As you can see, though this is not the ancient Egyptian language, it is still an Egyptian language, and here is a key to a "cryptographic" system, where symbols in an alphabet are assigned to take the place of other characters in it.  This is very significant showing the ancientness of the concepts of assigning values to characters, and the requirement for this kind of a thing as a dependency in order to make any sense of something.  And it is significant that this is from Egypt, showing the possibility that this concept may have been passed down from more ancient times.

This is precisely the type of thing that I'm talking about that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) and the Explanations for the Facsimiles represent:  Keys that show meaning assignments.  I believe that the KEP and the Explanations are reconstructions of ancient keys that were had by ancient people, and that they contain real, ancient information that was not made up by Joseph Smith.  And the ancient versions of these documents are no longer extant.  That is why I say, the only actual, ancient Egyptian material that was ever in the hands of Joseph Smith was the Sensen Papyrus, the Hypocephalus, pieces of the Book of the Dead, and other materials.  He never had an Egyptian original for the Book of Abraham or the Book of Joseph.  He reconstructed an ancient KEY for the Sensen Papyrus, that demonstrates how the Sensen Papyrus was used with the story of the Book of Abraham.  The Sensen material never contained the text of the Book of Abraham.  Joseph Smith never had a papyrus that contained the text of the Book of Abraham.  It is true that Abraham wrote down that text in ancient times, but Joseph Smith never had that kind of document.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Iota Toues Zip-Zi: The Land of Egypt- Character Dissection and Joseph Smith's Restorations of Missing Characters in the Lacunae

An early observer knowledgeable about the state at the time of the papyrus of the Book of Abraham (the Hor Sensen Papyrus) named William S. West said in 1837:

These records were torn by being taken from the roll of embalming salve which contained them, and some parts entirely lost; but Smith is to translate the whole by divine inspiration, and that which is lost, like Nebuchadnezzar's dream, can be interpreted as well as that which is preserved." (H. Donl Peterson, The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism, p. 148).
Below, you can see this picture put together by Chris Smith that has characters from the Sensen Papyrus lined up with characters that were copies from the columns of the Book of Abraham manuscripts, in the order that they appear.  As you can see, several of them are inserted in order where the lacuna appears:

This is a famous so-called problem among Anti-Mormons that don't seem to think very deeply about this, but just find fault with Joseph Smith that the characters here don't seem to be Egyptological to them, or at least, the way they are used to.  And so, they make the nonsensical charge that the characters are just made up and have no basis in reality.  One of these sets of characters, as you will see, are ones that Joseph Smith restored below in several Book of Abraham manuscripts.  Here it is once again with these particular characters encircled in red that we will be examining in particular.  While the rest of them are important as well, we will not be directly examining them in this article.

Below, we have scans of sections of three separate manuscripts for the Book of Abraham with characters that Joseph Smith restored in question:




As you can see, in three separate instances here, the characters are the same that line up with the text for "The Land of Egypt...." and so forth.  Now, a portion of these characters is translated by Joseph Smith in the Egyptian Alphabet section like this:


This character is the same one that is the middle part of this ligature, marked in red:

As you can see, fully drawn and separated out, this part of the ligature has several components:

A kind of half circle or loop, a dot, and a line.  And they were placed together this way by Joseph Smith.  So, here are these three separate sections of these characters separated out from each other, or "dissected," as Joseph Smith describes it in other places:


So, he says this means "A woman, married or umarried"


Here, he says this means "a principle that is beneath, disgusting-not fit."  This is a character that looks like a smile or a crescent.


Here, he says this means, "the eye" as a noun, or "to see" as a verb.  Many people find fault with Joseph Smith saying that he didn't restore the Egyptian characters correctly, that is, that he didn't draw them in some perceived correct form like they usually appear in hieratic or hieroglyphic.  But the critics have forgotten that in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, the point is not really the form the characters appear in their hieratic or hieroglyphic forms.  But rather, were characters correctly restored and identified and translated.  In this case, the real concern ought not to be whether Joseph Smith assembled them together entirely correctly in their joined or "ligature" or combined state.  For this type of thing, where a character is a compound, I refer you to the following article:

Rather, the question that should be asked is this:  Are the components of the characters that are identified here from the Alphabet section of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that are the components real Egyptian characters, and do they really translate?  This is the question they always fail to ask.  We have already answered this question for some of these characters before.  For example, here is the article on the Iota character that looks like a dot:

Here is the articles containing the information on the Zip Zi character that looks like a dot  ("sign of the degrees"):

Now for this other symbol above, which is read Toan or Toues, and it is a crescent that goes downward:


Remember that in Facsimile #2, that which is underneath is what represents the Duat, the underworld.  And so, it is the bottom half of the hypocephalus, the bottom half of the circle:

All of the small pictures here are upside down, showing they are in the duat.  There seems to be a connection there with the notion of going downward.  In other parts of the Egyptain Alphabet parts of the KEP, it is translated:

"Sun: under heaven; downward; pointing downward, going downward; stooping down,  going down in<to> another place . . . going down into the grave— going down  into misery-even Hell; coming down in lineage by royal descent, in a line by Onitas one of the royal families of  the Kings the of Egypt."


"under the earth, anything that is beneath some other thing— under  water or water. also in some instances  Fish."


"exceeding  bad adultery: having descended below  some other principle"

So, as you can see, there is this idea of descending below, or being underwater, descending into hell, or genealogical descent from a certain line, as well as the idea of adultery or iniquity.  Hades in ancient times, or the Hebrew Sheol, was the underworld.

This is Gardiner's N41 and N42, which are variants of each other, and are hieroglyphs for a well with water:

In Egyptological Egyptian, these are pronounced hm, which is acrophonically derived from the word "woman" or "wife" which is hmt.  The word hm is also a word that represents the female reproductive organ, as we read:
The sign [that is a] well full of water (Gardiner's sign list N41) is used as a substitute for the female organ, and the sound value is hm. (The Ancient Egyptian Family: Kinship and Social Structure, By Troy D. Allen, p. 35)
So, as we saw, both descendency in genealogy and the notion of adultery are associations that clearly manifest how the female reproductive organ is associated with these ideas.  These ideas all answer to the Hebrew words tacht and  tachti.  Tacht is sometimes translated as "instead."  However, it also means “the bottom (as depressed)” or a “depression” or a “gap.”  The derived word, tachti, meaning the “lowermost” or “the depths” or figuratively “a pit” or “the womb.” (Strongs Exhaustive Concordance H8478, H8430, H8482).  It is the same idea, just like how Sheol (Hebrew), Hades (Greek) and Duat (Egyptian), being the underworld, are figuratively "the pit."  Perhaps tacht is related to the word duat or tuat, depending on how it is transliterated, since there seems to be some similarity in pronunciation to the Hebrew and Egyptian words.

In Mormonism, the same ideas are manifest in Doctrine and Covenants 128:12-13:
The ordinance of baptism by water, to be immersed therein in order to answer to the likeness of the dead, that one principle might accord with the other; to be immersed in the water and come forth out of the water is in the likeness of the resurrection of the dead in coming forth out of their graves; hence, this ordinance was instituted to form a relationship with the ordinance of baptism for the dead, being in likeness of the dead.  Consequently, the baptismal font was instituted as a similitude of the grave, and was commanded to be in a place underneath where the living are wont to assemble, to show forth the living and the dead, and that all things may have their likeness, and that they may accord one with another—that which is earthly conforming to that which is heavenly, as Paul hath declared . . .
The font is the Duat, the underworld, the pool of Khonsu, where the deceased is towed, as in the Sensen Papyrus, just as the Moon is the traveler across the sky in the night time.  Of course, baptism is to be "born again."
. . . by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified . . . (Moses 6:59-60)
As you can see, in summary, these symbols look like the bottom part of the Hypocephalus, or Facsimile #2, like a crescent or bottom of a circle.  It is interesting that in this symbol for "the Land of Egypt" which is Iota Toes Zip-Zi, we have two hieroglyphs that are both associated with women, which are both tied together in a ligature:  the "flat land" hieroglyph and the "well of water" hieroglyph, both testifying to the fact that there is a theme here that has to do with the symbolism of birth and death and the underworld and the womb, etc.  Baptism and the font share the same symbolism and themes.

And again, as we see, the point here was for Joseph Smith to recognize the component hieroglyphs in question that were being used pictographically here, not to restore them perfectly as ligatures in the exact perfect form they would have been found in.  But rather, he supplied the ones that were appropriate for the section of the Book of Abraham in question.  And once again, they are pictographic usages of real Egyptian characters, and they are abstractions with more literal assignments.  There must be external assignments or dependencies for these things to have any usefulness.  There must be something else to give external context.  That same principle has been shown over and over again in this blog.  Otherwise, they do nothing for us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Problems with the Mnemonic Device Theory of Tvedtnes and Crapo

The FAIRMormon Wiki summarizes Tvedtnes' and Crapo's attempt to explain the Book of Abraham and the Sensen Papyrus as a Mnemonic device this way:

LDS approaches to the KEP (Kirtland Egyptian Papers) have been more varied. The first significant scholarly study of the matter, by John A. Tvedtnes and Richley Crapo, appeared in a series of articles under the auspices of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology from 1968 to 1970. Their theory was that the Sensen Papyrus may have represented a mnemonic device to bring to mind a longer oral tradition — a tradition that corresponded to the narrative of the Book of Abraham as we know it. This theory was grounded in two observations. First, the hieratic symbols copied into the left margin of the KEPA documents were complete morphemes, as opposed to the inappropriate breaks one would expect of someone who could not read Egyptian. Second, in every case the meaning of the hieratic word in the margin shows up in some relevant way in the much longer English text corresponding to the hieratic word. Of course, lots of other words and concepts are present as well, but the meaning of the hieratic word in each case is present in the English text.
While a fascinating study, the Tvedtnes and Crapo mnemonic device theory never really caught on. Hugh Nibley was intrigued by this possibility at first, but then decided to go in a different direction. Nibley authored a seminal, lengthy study of the KEP in BYU Studies entitled "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers." He did not attempt to defend the KEP as revelatory documents (other than the English portions of the KEPA). Rather, he took the view that the KEP represent either a preliminary "studying it out" stage in the process, or a (failed) attempt to reverse engineer the English translation so as to decipher the Egyptian language. In other words, the English text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation as opposed to a purely mechanical process. While Joseph was involved in the KEP project, a theme of Nibley's piece is to portray the efforts of Phelps, Cowdery, and Parrish as largely independent of Joseph. Nibley's take has become the dominant LDS view, and has been echoed more recently in several publications by John Gee.
A small minority of LDS commenters on the KEP seeks to defend the supposed revelatory character of these documents, viewing them through the lenses of kabbalism or extreme symbolism. It has few adherents. (
Some people may think that I am among the "small minority of LDS commenters on the KEP seeks to defend the supposed revelatory character of these documents, viewing them through the lenses of kabbalism or extreme symbolism. It has few adherents."

Let me explain why this is not the case.  I am not trying to say that there is extreme symbolism going on.  And definitely not kabbalism.  Rather, I am saying that symbolism exists that ties a symbol to something outside of it (i.e. external context dependence).  That is not extreme.  Extreme symbolism would be to say that there is a bunch of information packed into something or compressed into some small space, and that this information can be "mechanically" or "methodically" extracted.  My theory says that external dependencies (external assignments or mappings) are required for a symbol to be meaningful, otherwise it is abstract.  That is not extreme.  That is just an observation from evidence that is available, that can be seen, both in the Facsimile explanations and in the KEP explanations for characters.  Characters are not meaningful without external explanations.

In other words, I am in agreement with the statement from FAIR, kind of expressing the view of the catalyst camp (whoever the author was of this part), that:

"In other words, the English text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation as opposed to a purely mechanical process."

But this is because the Book of Abraham text was unavaliable to Joseph Smith.  The only thing available to him were these abstract characters that could act as cues once the correct context of them were revealed under inspiration for the Book of Abraham usage.  And so, because an abstraction is all there would be without the external dependency, there would be no reason that this would be a functional mnemonic.

So, the meaningful ties between the external information and the symbol that was chosen to decorate it can be shown, between abstractions and externally dependent context assignments.  That is not an extreme position.

The nature of these characters defies the idea that there was something mechanical and reproducible going on without a seer stone.  An external dependency is a primary requirement.  In fact, so much so, they are entirely meaningless (abstract) without that external dependency, just like a variable in algebra is abstract and meaningless without being in a problem to take on a value, giving context.

I've had people try to tie what I am doing to what Tvedtnes and Crapo were doing.  What I'm trying to say is that any similarities are superficial, and what is actually going on is more subtle.  In the meat of what is going on things are entirely different than what Tvedtnes and Crapo thought.  Some people may say that a mnemonic device and something akin to an acrostic or other constrained writing experiment is pretty much the same thing.  I'm saying, no.

Trying to link my work to Tvednes' and Crapo's mnemonic idea is the association fallacy (one of the red-herring fallacies):
Premise A is a B
Premise A is also a C
Conclusion Therefore, all Bs are Cs (
In other words, for example, that's like saying that all dogs are mammals, so therefore, a cow, which is also a mammal, is a dog.  So because dog is a mammal, and cow is a mammal, therefore a cow is a dog.

Tvedtnes and Crapo are correct when they wrote the following:
The scribes of ancient Egypt were quite fond of word-games; this was a natural development for the land which Jean Capart chose to dub the “pays du symbolisme.”7 J. J. Clère has shown that the Egyptians com­posed not only crosswords, but acrostics as well.8 Etienne Drioton, the renowned Belgian Egyptologist and Catholic priest, in his “La Cryptographie Egyptienne,” gives several examples of Egyptian cryptograms (symbols — ornamental and otherwise — which convey dual meanings). These may consist of one or more symbols com­posing but a single word, or of entire sentences which have dual meanings. The latter most often display their dual meanings through homophones,9 to which we have had recourse in our Hor Sensen Papyrus investigations. (
In footnote 7 of the document quoted above, Tvednes and Crapo have this:
7. Jean Capart, “Au pays du symbolisme,” in Chronique d’Egypte, No. 63 (janvier 1957), pp. 219-241. (Brussels: Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth.)
In footnote 8, they have this:
8. J. J. Clère, “Acrostiches et Mots Croisés des Anciens Egyptiens,” in Chronique d’Egypte, No. 25 (janvier 1938), pp. 35-58.
Nevertheless, while some constrained writing experiments and some types of acrostics are mnemonic in nature, others are not.  Some things are just artistic and creative, and are not for the purpose of memory recall at all, just like not all mammals are dogs.

Now, here is the core problem with the Mnemonic Device Theory.  In trying to line up characters to text, Tvednes and Crapo primarily ignored the contents of what the Kirtland Egyptian Papers were saying.  They were not trying to analyze and reverse-engineer what the KEP says about the matches that the KEP gives detail about, the way I am.

Rather, Tvednes and Crapo would try to invent their own matches, rather than documenting the properties and attributes of the already existing matches.  They would look at the meaning of a character like "this" and then try to see if there was some kind of mention of "this" in the text.  If there was mention of "this" in the text, then that must mean that we have a match.  That is bad logic.  FAIRMormon noted that "mnemonic device theory never really caught on."  And my contention is that it is precisely because there was some superficial thing that Tvedtnes and Crapo would grab on to in the meaning of a hieroglyph, and see if there was some superficial word there in the text that would match.  In other words, the matches were unconvincing, because, while they may have believed that there was relevance, people were unconvinced, because objectively, the matches were very superficial, and did not explain what was going on in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  In other words, it is a fact that if an Egyptian character was placed next to a section of text in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts, that demonstrates the potential that a match exists in something between that character and the text, but it doesn't detail what that match precisely is, or what principle that match was based on.  To actually demonstrate a good match, you must go to the parts of the KEP where the matches are detailed and explained, which is not that part that Tvedtnes and Crapo were working with.  You must use the Grammar and Alphabet sections.  And then you must analyze what that is saying about the match, and extract the principles and underlying reasoning, the same as why you would analyze what the Facsimile #2 explanation says about a hieroglyph in Facsimile #2 to see about why it is a match.  And many apologists are saying, including LDS Egyptologists, that Khnum-Ra is a match with Kolob because of the shared theme of creation between them.  That is a thematic match, but Khnum-Ra is an abstraction.  It is not literally Kolob, but shares a meaningful tie with it.  That is precisely the kind of matches I'm talking about between the characters selected for the outside context assigned to them.  There is nothing inherent Khnum-Ra that makes it Kolob.  There is only an external assignment made to it by way of the explanation, because the thematic tie makes it a suitable match.  It's not like the Egyptians in general knew the symbol of Khnum-Ra ought to translate to be the star Kolob in every instance, because it shouldn't.  This was exernal-contextually dependent.

Furthermore, the general meaning of a hieroglyph by itself is seldom the reason for a match.  Rather, sometimes complex hieroglyphs are split up into components and the components are where the match resides, rather than in the hieroglyph itself:

For example, the match with the Uniliteral N character which is a water ripple, had nothing to do with the meaning of "water ripple," but rather, has to do with the visual components when the hieratic version of the character is "dissected" in two, and one can see two component hieroglyphs:

And so, in the case of the water ripple hieratic, these scribes literally "invented" the fact that the eye and the flat earth hieroglyph could be "dissected" from the hieratic water ripple.  This is not a usual "principle" of Egyptological Egyptian, but is rather an invention of the people that invented this other system.  And the only way to discover this fact is to analyze what the KEP had to say about the character.  Blindly trying to match up a section of text to the meaning of a character the way Tvedtnes and Crapo were doing does not tease out these nuances.  So, there is a methodological problem in their work.

So, more often, the only time the general meaning of the hieroglyph is helpful is when the heiroglyph is simple, like a reed character that is a straight vertical line in some cases:

So, the methodology in this blog instead tries to tease out the primary principles and patterns underlying the matches in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers Alphabet and Grammar sections, rather than just finding superficial matches in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts.  This blog gives EXPLANATIONS about WHY things were documented and chosen to match, rather than just trying to arbitrarily try to match something together.   And furthermore, the principles are identified behind HOW the match was made.  In other words, the EVIDENCE for the WHYs and the HOWs are documented.  And the evidence shows that it is NOT for memory recall, but rather, the characters were chosen for creative decorations of something that shares a thematic or meaningful tie.  Not just because something has a superficial word like "the" in it.  In other words, Tvedtnes and Crapo were looking for obvious, literal connections, without any underlying principle that is generally manifest to tie it all together.  As Charles M. Larson observed:
. . . Tvedtnes and Crapo proposed that the hieratic Egyptian words appearing on the Sensen papyrus stood for "core concepts" that could be found within the English text next to which they appeared.  For instance . . . the first Egyptian symbol shown represents the word "the" or "this."  Verse 11 Abraham I, shown next to it begins, "Now this priest had offered . . ."  The two Mormon scholars felt that they had shown a parallel between the two works because the definite article "this" appeared in both.  (By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, p. 117)
Let's read about Klaus Baer's critique of Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory, according to Larson:

When Jay Todd . . . asked Klaus Baer his opinion of the theory, Dr. Baer replied that the English-to-Egyptian comparisons listed in the study "were related by no visible principle."  There was really no consistent procedure employed at all, no governing rules of application that would make the proposed method useful as a genuine memory device by anyone;  rather, all associations were random, haphazard and chaotic, showing evidence of a forced association.  Furthermore, some of the "core concepts" were tied to the specific names of the deceased (Hor) and one of his parents (Tikhebyt), meaning that only this particular "breathing permit" -- and no other -- was capable of carrying any intended code.  Each time a Book of Breathings text was prepared over the centuries, different names would have been written in making any transmission of "code" based on names impossible.  (ibid. pp. 118-119).
While it is true that Klaus Baer later apologized for his remarks that were quoted by Larson here (as documented by John Gee), his initial remarks stand as what I believe is his objective, original thoughts on the matter were, unencumbered by any other external forces or pressures (i.e. without the subsequent pressure from LDS people for a retraction or apology for he sake of what one might call "political correctness").  And no, I'm not siding with Anti-Mormons on much of anything.  I have equal opportunity acceptance or rejection of information from wherever it comes.  Where I place my loyalties is absolutely clear.

For further reading on specifics of the Mnemonic Device Theory, where the actual lineup of characters to text are given, I refer you to Kerry Shirts' site where he has transcribed Tvednes' and Crapo's papers:

As an example of where I'm coming from Crapo and Tvedtnes have this, as shown in Kerry Shirts' transcription:

1. "iw" meaning "they shall, to be (plural)"
This is the first character grouping that Tvedtnes tries to match up with the Book of Abraham.  This is where the Sensen Papyrus says that "They shall tow Osiris through this great pool of Khonsu."  As you can see, these are the first two characters, the I and the W.  As I have shown in other places on this blog, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar in the KEP matched up the initial I character (reed) with Land of the Chaldees, and the initial W character (rope coil) with Abraham.  Tvedtnes and Crapo ignored these correlations, and instead grouped them together here (as one word, which they are in regular Egyptian), when the KEP/Alphabet had them separated out as two characters, and gave them interpretations based on the pictographic meanings of the two characters, when separated out from their Egyptological context.

So Tvedtnes and Crapo were wrong about how they were interpreting the nature of these characters.

So, as you will be able to see, my theory suffers from none of these problems that are evident in Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory.  I say that what the Egyptians were doing wasn't for memory-recall usage in the first place as mnemonics are, but was done for purely artistic motives, which were ultimately inspired by religious sensibilities.  Not only was it NOT for mnemonics, but the actual connections are so entirely dependent on outside information or an outside key, that the papyrus used in this way is useless without them, because the characters are used as abstractions.  It doesn't matter that characters from the names of the deceased were employed here, because certain specific items in this case were peculiar and particular to this papyrus.  In other words, while it is true that there was a specific creative, artistic writing experiment was done for this particular papyrus, there was a more general practice of artistically employing Books of Breathings to be used in these types of writing experiments to tie this class of papyrus to Abraham.   So, as I have stated in other posts, there was nothing that would have stopped Joseph Smith from being able to use any copy of the Book of Breathings for the Book of Abraham.  While there were specific differences in each papyrus, an ancient interpreter was dynamic enough in his interpretations to creatively employ many different hieroglyphs in many creative ways to tie any Sensen document to another document or story.

Furthermore, my theory doesn't suffer from these problems because I have identified the general principles that are used and how it is all tied together. The patterns that are observed here in my theory is that these ties are ICONOTROPIC, the same way as the rest of the ties between symbols in the Facsimiles and their explanations.  Or to put it another way, a symbolic association is made between an abstraction and a concrete, literal thing, with which it shares a conceptual link of some sort.  And furthermore, this link is not evident without the external dependency like a key of sorts.  Therefore, Tvedtnes' and Crapo's theory fails on the grounds that they did not identify the underlying principles, and were too hasty to find superficial, forced connections.  And they made an assumption about the nature of the thing, that it was mnemonic in nature, when the more subtle evidence at hand doesn't support that conclusion.  In other words, their theory was assertion-based, where they would try to assert and force a superficial connection, rather than being based on analysis of available evidence in already-identified connections.  The Grammar and Alphabet sections of the KEP already provided the connections.  Tvedtnes and Crapo tried to line up characters to text in the Book of Abraham text manuscript and tried to force connections there.  That was the wrong approach.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Answer to a Criticism from a Message Board

On the Mormon Discussions board, there is a criticism that I came across that I wish to answer.  The critic wrote:
Recently I discovered another issue which is interesting. We know that there were two scrolls connected to the old man mummy who was Hor. (Pharaoh himself according to contemporary descriptions.) They are a Book of Breathings (the Hor scroll and the generally accepted source of the Book of Abraham) parts of which are still in the possession of the Church and a Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead papyrus which was prepared for Hor is in the Louvre. These two scroll date to about 150 BCE.
The Louvre Hor Book of Dead is also badly damaged but its dimensions are about 58" long and 12-13 1/2" tall.
Somewhere between Lebolo removing Hor from his tomb in Egypt and Chandler selling the remaining artifact collection in Kirtland, the Hor Book of the Dead was separated from the mummy and made its way to the Louvre. It would be interesting to compare the two scrolls to see if they were created by the same scribe, but I digress.
In addition to the Hor scroll, the Joseph Smith collection contained another scroll, which he identified as the Book of Joseph. This is actually a Book of the Dead prepared for someone named Ta-sherit-Min which I presume was one of the female mummies; in any case it was not from Hor. The age of this scroll is somewhere after 500 BCE.
So in order for The Book of Abraham and The Book of Joseph to reach Joseph Smith one is required to believe the following:
1.Two complete, long, unknown works by Abraham and Joseph were kept in Egypt for around 2000 years.
2. Egyptian scribes would take common vignettes from Egyptian funerary documents and just slightly change them so they represented scenes from the Book of Abraham. Note that an Egyptian scribe would not have included a vignette of a sacrifice scene (someone holding a knife) as part of a funerary document because the Egyptians believed these scrolls had actual power and a knife wielding caricature would not be included as it would be a threat to the deceased. Maybe we have a Jewish scribe?
3. Two different scribes working hundreds of years apart took two different extremely rare Jewish texts and inscribed them in the middle portions of common burial documents for members of a different religion, in the case of the scroll with Facsimile #1 that scribe would been able to place the scroll unexamined by anyone else on the mummy because of note#2 above.
4.The two scrolls are buried hundreds of years apart on separate mummies neither of which had reason to have Jewish texts like these included as part of their funerary documents.
5. These two mummies make their way to Joseph Smith two thousand years later with the only known copies of these two texts.
6. Joseph Smith translates a portion of one scroll and promises volumes to come from the rest of both scrolls.
7. After Joseph Smith's death every single piece of text from both scrolls that contained either the Book of Abraham or the Book of Joseph was lost, in spite of the fact that the length of the scrolls required to contain those books would far exceed those portions in existence. None of the extant fragments or torn piece, of which there are dozens have anything to do with Abraham or Joseph.
In the end, we are not asked just to believe that we happen to be missing the entire portion of a one of a kind scroll that was buried with Hor which made its way to Joseph Smith and then was lost, we are asked to believe this happened twice, once with Hor and once with another mummy buried at a different time, perhaps hundreds of years apart. (
As you can see, all this convoluted stuff from regular LDS apologetics on the Book of Abraham fails on many levels that this person points out.  And if it were true that if that is what we were really left with, indeed we would have a problem.  But if one has an explanation like the one on this blog that starts out with the evidence we do have instead, then you only need two common funerary scrolls, a Book of Breathings and a Book of the Dead, and it didn't matter which mummy they came from, or what copy of these texts you ended up with.  What was important is that the ancients repurposed the common Book of Breathings as the illustrations that go with an ancient Book of Abraham, and that they also repurposed the common Book of the Dead as the Illustrations that go with a Book of Joseph, using the hieroglyphics in them pictographically as I have shown.  Ancient copies of the original TEXT of the Book of Joseph and the Book of Abraham never made it into the hands of Joseph Smith in the first place, and ANY OLD COPY of these common documents would do.  So there is no magic going on, and we know that these common texts ended up in the hands of Joseph Smith.  And there is no convoluted nonsense required.  These are the texts that were used and in the hands of the Prophet.  It is that simple.  So no, actually we are not asked to believe what the critic says we are asked to believe at all.  When one bases one's explanation on the forensic evidence before us, then there is nothing convoluted that needs to be invented to explain this stuff at all.  This is the power and beauty of having an explanation that actually builds on the evidence and that is favored by Occam's razor in the first place.  This is the power of a theory that actually uses evidence as its basis rather than making up things that have no evidentiary basis.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Criticism of the Zomarah Blog Post on Decoding the Book of Abraham

Here is a web archive copy of this article:

This post was pointed out to me by someone on a message board.
I don't recommend this post as being very correct, although it has some good points.
It points out that we should expect that in some of Joseph Smith's Egyptian, there would be internal consistency.  That is true.  Consistency can be demonstrated.

However, this author's other deductions are incorrect, that he can just "translate" something using the internal consistency that he can see in some of it.  The reason that this cannot be done is because of other principles that I have pointed out in this blog in other blog posts.  The abstract nature of the pictographs in the Sensen text and in the Facsimiles pictures are things that match up with their explanations.  In other words, there is consistency between the explanations and the symbols that are used to represent them.  But the problem is, the abstractions are ENTIRELY dependent on these outside things giving them context.  They have external dependencies, and so, in themselves, they are meaningless.

It's like the hash analogy in computer programming.  It is a one-way thing.  If you have information already that a hash is derived from, you can show that the hash fits with the item of information.  However, you cannot go the other way.  You cannot reconstruct information from a hash.

Another example:  A very pixelated and blurred picture can be derived from a high-res photograph, and can be reproduced from that photograph.  And it can be demonstrated through the same process that it can be reproduced from it.  Therefore, it can be shown that it belongs with it, or is tied to it.  Nevertheless, the high res photograph cannot be reproduced or reversed from the blurred/pixelated photograph, because data has been lost in the process.

Similarly, you cannot take these symbols as pictographs and reliably translate the rest of the Book of Abraham from them.  You must have that information revealed to you, although the symbols do indeed represent it.  Because just because you have symbols, that doesn't help you.  The symbols do not contain data, only fingerprints of data.

This is my fundamental criticism of this blog post on the Zomarah blog.  Patterns can be shown, but it cannot be translated the way he says.  Since context is dependent on external information, and we don't have further external information, we cannot duplicate what Joseph Smith was doing.  We can only test what he has already done.  It would require another seer to do the same type of thing that Joseph Smith was doing through revelation.

The Greek Magical Papyri Abrakas/Abraxas figure and a possible Symbolic Connection with Abraham and Osiris

I wanted to make note here that I believe that the Egyptian Priest-Syncretists of the Greek Magical Papyri tradition have some connection to the same system of the iconotropy manifested in characters in derived lists of things taken originally from the Sensen Papyrus.  In other words, the KEP contains a derived list of arbitrary characters that has nothing to do with the context from which it was derived.

I believe the people of the era transformed the already-existing symbols of the Sensen Papyrus into something that could be called a pictographic Book of Abraham.  It isn't literally the Book of Abraham.  It is a list of symbols that can stand for elements in it by iconotropic assignment

So, they may have chosen the figure of Osiris to represent Abraham.  And a strange coincidence with that fact is the occurrence of the name Abraxas in the Gnostic/Syncretist traditions of the Greco-Roman time period (the same time period of the Greek Magical Papyri and the Sensen Papyrus), a name that has a similarity or likeness to Abraham.  A variant of this name/word was Abrasax, which is kind of an anagram of the name.  Here is the Wikipedia article on the god Abraxas (and of course, the word was also used as a magical or key word in the Syncretist religion of these priests):

One source exists called Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis (edited by Charles Vallencey), a book with speculations on old Irish Astrology and other mysterious odds and ends.  Interestingly, as is pointed out in it, that the Aramaic version of the name is Abrakas.  This is how it has to be spelled in Hebrew/Aramaic letters in order to equal 365 through the numerological principle of Isopsephy (using the numerical equivalents of letters and adding them up) in that Alphabet.  This is because of the differences in letters and values between the Greek alphabet and the Hebrew/Aramaic alphebet.  The book makes the claim that the "Chaldeans" (i.e. Aramaeans) spelled it this way.

And in fact, in other sources such as the book Aramaic Incantation Texts from Nippur by James Alan Montgomery, on page 148, it backs up this claim, that the name Abraxas in Aramaic is indeed Abrakas.  In an incantation on that page it is translated as:
. . . in the name of Yahu-in-Yahu and the great Abbahu and the great Abrakas (Abraxas), the guardian of good spirits and destroyer of evil spirits.
 It is interesting to note that on page 151 of that same book, Montgomery notes that the name is also associated with the name Abbahu.  And it quotes another scholar saying that the deity's "proper name is IAO [i.e a form of the Tetragrammation or YHWH/Yahweh/Jehovah], but his epithets are Abraxas and Sabaoth . . ."  Sabaoth in Hebrew means "Hosts," which is why Yahweh Sabaoth is translated in our scriptures as "Lord of Hosts."  And it notes that the deity is usually accompanied by invocations saying "thou art our Father."  Certainly, that fact would be true for God, as well as for Abraham (both being "father" figures).  But it is natural that Abraham should be linked to a deity because, as the Wikipedia page says above that in the Greek Magical Papyri . . .
The patriarchs are sometimes addressed as deities; for which fact many instances may be adduced. In the group "Iakoubia, Iaosabaoth Adonai Abrasax," the first name seems to be composed of Jacob and Ya.
So, it is unsurprising that Osiris may have been a symbol used for Abraham, because of related facts like these, or related associations.  Perhaps Abraxas could be considered a plausible symbol for Abraham as well.  I believe that these people equated the Gnostic Abraxas (the name which also appears in the Greek Magical Papyri) with the Egyptian Osiris.  For example, as noted in one Greek Magical Papyri, the identification with Osiris is clear:
In text PGM V. 96-172, Abrasax is identified as part of the "true name which has been transmitted to the prophets of Israel" of the "Headless One, who created heaven and earth, who created night and day... Osoronnophris whom none has ever seen... awesome and invisible god with an empty spirit"; the name also includes Iaō and Adōnai. "Osoronnophris" represents Egyptian Wsir Wn-nfr, "Osiris the Perfect Being". Another identification with Osiris is made in PGM VII. 643-51: "you are not wine, but the guts of Osiris, the guts of... Ablanathanalba Akrammachamarei Eee, who has been stationed over necessity, Iakoub Ia Iaō Sabaōth Adōnai Abrasax." (, emphasis added.)
And so, it was only natural that they would look to Abraham as the Hebrew figure that answered to that name (Abrakas) as well, because of a pun or likeness in the name.

Remember that in the Sensen Papyrus, a symbol for Abraham is a rope coil (hieratic), or Egyptian letter W.  A reading for this character in Hebrew that derives from Egyptian, is the Hebrew word "Abrek."  This word is without a doubt connected to the name that John Gee pointed out that is found in the Greek Magical Papyri for Abraham:  Abracam or Abrakam, however you would like to spell it.  So, as you can see, some priests of this tradition spelled Abraham's name with a K sound.  See my article on this:

Now, if you remember, the Greek nominative ending is S.  For example, in Greek, Joseph is Josephus, Jacob (James) is Jacobus (Iacobus), and so forth and so on.  So now, if we have this name of "Abrek" and add a Greek nominative ending to it, it would be Abrekus, virtually identical to  Abrakas.  So it is very clear in my mind why they would have associated Abrakas/Abraxas with Abraham.  And then since Abraxas is a name applied to the high God in Gnosticism and in the Greek Magical Papyri, it is natural that this god would also be associated with Osiris.  So, it isn't very difficult to see the equation for the iconotropy/substitution:

Abraham = Abrek(us)/Abrakam = Abrakas or Abraxas = Osiris

As I pointed out above, like Osiris is linked with Jehovah, in that he is the dying god, Abraxas is also linked with Iao (Jehovah).  In the so-called "Abraxas Gems" or "Abraxas Stones," which are stone talismans with the figure of Abraxas engraved in them, he is depicted as having a rooster head with snakes coming out from below as his feet.  The same exact images were used for Iao in the same types of gemstones/talismans:


Muhlstien's Position on the Transformation of Egyptian Figures to Semitic Ones in the "Greek Magical Papyri"

Back in 2013, the Book of Abraham blog did a review of Kerry Muhlstien's article that noted that the Egyptian priests that wrote the so-called "Greek Magical Papyri" were transforming Egyptian figures into Semitic ones, like Osiris into Abraham and so forth and so on.  As I have said again and again in this blog, these are the priests that were into Syncretism, the Syncretists that I believe were responsible for the iconotropy in the Book of Abraham.  Again, the difference between Muhlstien's position and mine has to do with the fact that Muhlstien and other Book of Abraham scholars only believe that the FACSIMILES pictures were transformed in this way.  I say that all the figures, even the so-called text or alphabetic characters were transformed as well into little pictures and used pictographically.

Here is the review of Muhlstien's work on that blog:

And here is the link to Muhlstien's article:

Remember, there are actually several separate ancient contexts we are dealing with in these complex matters.  The first one is the ancient context of the Sensen Papyrus (and the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar which manifests translations of that papyrus).  That ancient context is from the Greco-Roman time period sometimes, because of the time period that these Egyptians of the Greek Magical Papyri tradition came from (which are the same people that interpreted our Sensen Papyrus this way).

The second is the Ancient Context manifest in the "Egyptian Counting" sections of the KEP where the linguistic analysis of these numerals and their vocalizations manifest this weird Himalayan/Indian geographic connection where the Indo-Iranian and Sino-Tibetan language families overlap (because the numerals are of the Indo-Arabic family, and the vocalizations are a mix of Indo-Iranian and Sino-Tibetan).  What are we to make of this?  Did the Egyptian Syncretist Priests of the Greek Magical Papyri tradition have dealings with ancient Gurus in the Himalayas because of Silk Road ties?

The third is the Ancient Context of the Book of Abraham, which actually goes back to the time of Abraham.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Egyptian N Uniliteral (Water Ripple) and Joseph Smith's "Iota Ni-Ta-Veh Ah Que": The Hieratic Repurposed as a Compound

As you can see, here is the Egyptian uniliteral character (single consonant) for the N sound.  It is the Water Ripple.  In the middle is the hieroglyphic version of it.  To the right are two versions of the hieratic (cursive) version.  In Gardiner's sign list, it is numbered as N35.  It may have the N sound by acrophony, because Nu in Egyptian is "Abyss" or "Watery One" (  The primeval waters of Nun are the waters of chaos or creation.  Nun was the god that was the personification of these waters (  There was also a female form of Nun named Nanuet (  One general word for water in Egyptian is "nwy," from whence the Greek word (as a corrupton) Neilos comes, and hence the word in English, the Nile. (  Nepthys was the goddess of Rivers. (  So, there are multiple things in Egyptian that explain why the N sound would be associated to the concept of water by acrophony.  But the most solid explanation is the connection with Nu and Nun.

Khnum-Ra, or Kolob, is closely related to Nun because the hieroglyph for Nun was placed right next to the Khnum character in the reconstruction of Figure 1 for Facsimile 2:

Kerry Shirts writes in that article:
This is the sign of the primeval ocean, "Nu." The three horizontal lines (Fig. A above) are the hieratic form of n n, transliterated as "Nun" or "Nu." The next part of the hieroglyph, part "B" is the determinative for q.r.t., representing half the sky, which, in Egyptian mythology is just below the "Nun", The final part of this hieroglyph (labeled "C") is the water emerging from the side of the half sky sign (following Harris).  How would Joseph Smith have known in the 1830's, years before the Rosetta Stone was even translated, that this hieroglyph was just the exact one associated with this figure of Chnum-Re? . . .
The q.r.t. in the hieroglyph of the Joseph Smith Hypo is the hollow, or cavern, which was thought to be the source of the Nile. We are told that "the Egyptians believed that the Nile rose in the First Cataract, in the Qerti, or Double Cavern..." . . .
. . . Chnum was the "Creator" god who arose from none other than the "Nun." And how do we know this central figure in the JS Hypo is Chnum? The one give away, identifying feature of the figure is his flat, curly rams horns, which Chnum was always associated with, he being the Ram God, Creator par excellence. And, it was the Nun that Chnum as well as the rest of the Ogdoad ("Council of the gods") arose . . .
And we read further that "The Nile was a river of creative the fount of Egypt's fertility, the (supposed) source of the Nile was linked to the ram-headed creator god Khnum, who was believed to have fashioned humankind from Nile mud on a potter's wheel."  We also now understand from Jan Assman that . . . "The potter's wheel is the instrument of the creator-God, that forms shapes from shapeless material." . . .
. . . Chnum was early on, we are informed, "regarded as the god of the Nile and of the annual Nile-flood."26 He was "the creative power which made and which sustains all things...identifying (ied) with Nu, the great primeval god of the watery abyss, and from being the local river-god of the Nile in the First Cataract, he became the god Hap-ur, the Nile of heaven."  All good things poured forth from this heavenly Nile from this "double cavern [Qerti - the JS Hypo hieroglyph] was, in fact, the 'couch of the Nile.'"
Here are some other Hieratic versions of this character:

As you can see, in some cursive versions of the N character, on the right hand side, there is either a curve, hook or dot.  Michael Rhodes identified it and which hieroglyph it was in his book on the Hor Sensen papyrus, in his translation of the columns.  Here is the placement of where it used to be in the column of the Sensen Papyrus (circled in red), but it appears to have flaked off:

But to see the hieratic version of it is possible in the Kirtland Egyptain Papers by carefully following the sequence of the same characters that were copied from these columns by Joseph Smith's scribes.

Here is Joseph Smith's version of the character.  As you can see he shows it visually as line with a dot under it toward the right side.  The reason he separates the dot from the line is because this character is repurposed visually as two separate characters in a compound, a line and a dot.  So in other words, to Joseph Smith, this was not one character, but two in a compound character, that are linked to one another in one idea:

Here is Joseph Smith's description of it next to the character (there are two other characters above and below it here:

Although someone didn't cross the T here in the description, it is not NiLaVeh, but elsewhere in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, it is clearly shown as NiTaVeh, like this:

As you can see, Joseph Smith identified this as "Iota Ni Ta Veh Ah Que" which he translates as "I see 25 persons."  In Joseph Smith's Egyptian Counting section of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, "Ni" means Two, "Ta" means Ten, and "Veh" means Five.  Thus, two times ten = 20, plus 5 = 25.  Therefore Ni-Ta-Veh is 25.  See the following article for my discussion on the number vocalizations in the Egyptian Counting section of the KEP, where I identify the vocalizations as having their origin in two separate language families (Indo-Iranian with Sino-Tibetan), making us have to question, why these types of vocalizations from these language families would have been used and associated with Egyptian, instead of classic Ancient Egyptian numerals (but facts are facts, and we go where the evidence leads):

While it is true that the hieroglyphic version of this character is the Water Ripple or uniliteral letter N, Joseph Smith was interpreting the Hieratic version differently, because he was interpreting it in light of being a compound character instead, which is the way some ancient interpreter repurposed it.  In the following article, I discuss compound Egyptian characters, and how Joseph Smith would visually break things up into component characters:

Elsewhere, I show that Joseph Smith identified the dot character component as Iota, meaning to see, or I see, or sight:

This is a version of the Egyptian Pupil of the Eye hieroglyph, which in ancient Egyptian is pronounced "Ir" or "Irt".  Other places, I have noted that Joseph Smith interpreted a straight horizontal line as what he called the "sign of the degrees."  It is basically the same character as the Egyptian hieroglyph for the number one, or tally mark:

As it says in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers about this character: "Zip Zi:  all women.  It took its origin from the earth yielding its fruit.  And from the first woman who bore children; and men were multiplied upon the earth, and is used in this degree as a numeral.  By being inserted above or below another character.  It increases by  by being drawn above, and signifies above, more, greater [or] more glorious.  And when inserted under, signifies beneath, less, smaller [or] least."

In other words, this is saying that the heiroglyph that this meaning is applied to is the EARTH yielding fruit.  In other words, the meaning of "woman," or "women," is a concrete or literal meaning applied to the abstract character for flat land yielding fruit.  Because the earth shares the fundamental criterion with a woman:  they both bring forth fruit.  Women produce children.  The earth produces or brings forth plants.  It is indeed the hieroglyph N16 and the variant form N17 as they are numbered in Gardiner's sign list:


Joseph Smith simply did not make this up, because he interpreted this hieroglyph correctly with a 100% bullseye.  And once again, you see that we see a relationship or association between an abstract, basic meaning of a hieroglyph, and a more literal meaning that was applied to it, that, as Joseph Smith said, "took its origin from" the other usage of the hieroglyph, because the two have something fundamental in common, or have a "likeness."

N16 or N17, as a component of the hieratic character for "water," that he called the "sign of the degrees," in the interpretive system in the KEP, when placed above a character, it would increase the amount of signification (i.e. the amount of items or persons referred to, or the degree of something referred to) by a certain number or amount.  When placed below a character, it reduces the amount of signification.  This does not match with the usage of the tally or number one hieroglyph in conventional Egyptian usage, but that is because this is a different system.  But still, this tally mark is the mark being used.  And that is key.  The tally mark is still fundamentally understood to be numeric in nature.  And that is the point, because it shows that the people using this system understood that nature.  Here is where the tick marks are used vertically to denote plurality, etc.:


In this case, above, in Gardiner's sign list, they are numbered as Z1, Z2, and Z3.  Other times they appear horizontally instead.  When in sets of two, they represent duality.

So, in summary, like other characters in the Egyptian alphabet that he visually interprets as compounds, Joseph Smith is visually breaking up this N character into components here.  When they are a character that is interpreted as a compound that has to be dissected or broken up, each character is on its own separate from the original context of the original character.  In other words, if this character is interpreted as two separate characters, then they have nothing to do with the original context of "water."  They now have two separate, new contexts.

From one point of view, this seems to translate into somewhat of a "sentence" of sorts, where Joseph Smith is saying it translates as "I see 25 persons," because the two characters were used in conjunction with each other.  In reality though, the characters themselves still do not translate into any meaningful kind of "text" on their own in any way.  So, the word "sentence" is wrong here.  Rather, these two characters can be used together as a sort of a unit.  Because it is still dependent on outside context-givers.  So, therefore, this does not make any of the characters that were repurposed in the Sensen Papyrus any kind of "text" in the conventional sense, in any way.  So it is important for the reader to understand that I'm not saying that the papyrus "contains" this text.  I'm saying that an outside interpreter could have imposed the idea that these two characters could be representative of an idea that can be expressed in English as a unit when they are used as a compound together.  But only because the external dependency said so.  There is nothing in the document that says that it ought to be so.

In the pictographic context, these characters are still too abstract to stand on their own in any meaningful sense, which is why, external context helpers are always required to make any sense of them for the context they are intended.  On their own, even if one were to try to force them together into a unit, without a declaration of any kind that says it ought to be so, these two characters only show that there is an "eye," or "sight" involved, and that some sort of numeration is intended by the character Zip-Zi or sign of the degrees.  Or, pictographically, without any other context, it could even be interpreted as "I saw land with grain," or "I saw a woman."  And so, who would be able to make sense of it unless someone told you something like "I see 25 persons" in a context helper or explanation?  It wouldn't be possible otherwise.  So, once again, as I have said elsewhere, the Sensen Papyrus in this usage doesn't "contain" text.  Things can be imposed or read into it from external contexts, but it doesn't "contain" this type of thing on its own.  And it is still fundamentally pictographic, even when it does have an external dependency.  So I'm not saying that the Sensen Papyrus contains any kind of text in this pictographic context for the Book of Abraham.  And hopefully nobody will minsinterpret what I'm saying.

The reason that Joseph Smith attached the number 25 to this particular character is because he states in the Grammar part of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that, in this system of usage, a character on its own, or "independent and arbitrary," is in the "fifth degree."  Or, in other words, he says, "that is, without a straight mark inserted above or below it."  In other words, it is associated with the number 5 by default.  And then, "by inserting a straight mark over it thus, it increases its significance by five degrees."  And so, by this numerology, our character we are currently dealing with, has a straight mark over the dot.  This means that it is associated with the number 25, because 5 x 5 = 25.  However, once again this interpretation is imposed on it outside the document, not that it has this interpretation within itself.

Here is more information on these points:

So, we see here a clear indication that the visual components of the hieratic character in this case were the important thing to the person that was the interpreter.  This person was essentially not using the underlying hieroglyphic, and only giving consideration to the component characters that he visualized from the hieratic character.  However, since he correctly understood the meanings of the components that he visualized in the hieratic character, this demonstrates that he was still quite conscious of Egyptian meanings of the characters.  This demonstrates that he was still deliberately interpreting these things this way, and he was not ignorant of the meaning of the characters.  He was not ignorant of the underlying hieroglyphic meaning, even though he was not using it.