Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Fundamental Principles of Joseph Smith's Egyptian

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

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

Joseph Smith said he was translating an "Alphabet" to the Book of Abraham "as practiced by the ancients."  The Hor Papyrus was conceptually treated as an ancient abecedary by Joseph Smith.  Or in other words, the list produced by Joseph Smith and his scribes in the GAEL or Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language functioned as an abecedary, a list of Egyptian pictures that can also function as a list of letters.  An abecedary is a chart of letters of an alphabet.  Scholars insist that the list of letters in the GAEL can only function as something that spells out a running text.  This is not the case with the GAEL.

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

Ancient Egyptian priests and scribes created a literary game in the general family of Scrabble or Crosswords or Hangman, where the characters of the Hor papyrus in their derived list in the GAEL were like game pieces from Scrabble, like how each letter in Scrabble is its own game piece.  This had nothing to do with the content (i.e. the running text) of the Hor papyrus, only using its "letters" so to speak, as pieces or entities in a literary game or literary poetic creation.  I say game only as an analogy, not that it was literally a game.  The religious content in the game happened to be scattered pieces of content of the ancient Jewish Book of Abraham, from an entirely separate source, distinct from the Hor Papyrus content.  It was a game of pun-matching, between a "letter" and a "section" of content.  And the priests and scribes had some kind of fascination with Jewish Patriarchs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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