Some Sources for the Kirtland Egyptian Paper’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, Part One

One of the vital issues in Book of Abraham debates is the role of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, including the large and mysterious work, the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL). It is in the handwriting of W.W. Phelps (and a touch of Warren Parrish in some later entries). Some claim it was used to create at least part of the Book of Abraham. Others (myself included) view it as a derivative from an existing text — not just the Book of Abraham, for the overlap in content is not extensive, but also possibly from some from other sources such as the Doctrine and Covenants. Some of the characters also come from sources other than the papyri, including some strange characters Phelps discussed in a letter written before Joseph ever saw the papyri that came to Kirtland.

For the related content in both the GAEL and the Book of Abraham translation, which came first? Some critics and some LDS professors suggest that the GAEL was used to create at least part of the Book of Abraham, such as Abraham 1:1-3. Those claims, as explored in my recent post on a problem in recent book by Terryl Givens and Brian Hauglid, The Pearl of Greatest Price, tend to be based on the assumption that similar content means derivation from the GAEL. But closer examination of multiple clues suggests it is just the opposite: it is more plausible that the related passages were based on derivation from the existing Book of Abraham translation.

Recognizing possible source material for the GAEL may help us better understand its purpose, its meaning, and its origins, which in turn may help us better understand what the Book of Abraham is or is not. So let’s look at some of its content and see what we can learn.

I’ll refer to the GAEL page numbers that follow those of the GAEL on the Joseph Smith Papers website and their printed volume, The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, eds. Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018), hereafter JSPRT4. That means blank pages (and there are many since it was highly incomplete) aren’t counted.

I’ll look at the pages in the first section of the GAEL (“5th degree,” first part) and make comments.  Other entries will be considered in a second post later on.

Page 1:

Page 1, like page 15, discusses some strange ideas about the grammar of Egyptian. Phelps discusses multiple degrees, perhaps drawn from his knowledge of Masonry (he was previously editor of an anti-Masonic newspaper) and the possible connection one might see on Facs, 2 with its sign of the compass and square in the lower right. Page 1 also introduces us to Phelps’ column format, similar to the format he had in a May 1835 letter discussing the “pure language” and six strange characters, some of which are Masonic ciphers. These characters, strangely, show up in the Egyptian Alphabets and in his GAEL, though they, like many of the “Egyptian” characters in the KEP, are not Egyptian, or at least not from the papyri Joseph had as far as I know.

On page 1, as on page 15 and elsewhere, Phelps uses the terms “signification” (an unusual word in his day) and the phrase “parts of speech” (also not common in his day), which may indicate some reliance on a Hebrew book that Oliver Cowdery may have brought back to Kirtland in late November 1835, as discussed in my article at the Interpreter on the gaps in JSPRT4 (search for “parts of speech”). The book is Hyman Hurwitz, The Etymology and Syntax, in Continuation of, The Elements of the Hebrew Language, (London: John Taylor, 1831), available at Google Books. See also the 1835 2nd edition at Phelps describes 5 elements among the “parts of speech,” but verbs are strangely omitted, perhaps reflecting Hurwitz’ teaching that Hebrew verbs derive from nouns and that nouns should take precedence among the parts of speech. This, we might look to Hurwitz and Hebrew study as a potential influence on the GAEL.

Page 1 and page 2 also introduce us to the notion lines added above or below characters, a concept perhaps inspired by Phelps’ familiarity with Hebrew and its points, including the uncommon rafe, a line above some letters.

Peripheral observation: The first character discusses, character 5.27 in the JSP volume, is said to be “in the fifth degree” and, interestingly, includes the simple structure of the “sign” of the fifth degree, second part, that the twin Book of Abraham manuscripts provide at the top of the first page as if it were a header or note. That sign, a vertical line with a short dash extending from the midpoint to the right, does not occur by itself in the GAEL, nor do the other characters on the twin manuscripts. But a related structure in this first character said to be in the fifth degree strengthens the case that the sign is related to the GAEL, and that the header of those twin manuscripts are telling us that their purpose was to continue what Phelps had begun with Abraham 1:1-3 in his Book of Abraham manuscript, namely, to associate key words or concepts from an existing Book of Abraham translation with some Egyptian characters (or concocted Egyptian in some cases, with the concocted characters tending to incorporate that sign in some way), as I have previously discussed. See “More on the Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: Recent Explorations Based on Comments at Interpreter.”

Page 2:

Here we encounter the character said to be “beth,” defined as a place of happiness, etc. This is much like the Hebrew letter beth which can mean “house.”

Then comes what seems to he a Greek letter, character 1.14, “iota,” though the transcript here has “iata,” but elsewhere this is more clearly “iota.” Phelps connects its meaning to “see, saw” and elsewhere is said to mean “eye.” Is it a coincidence that the Greek letter for our “I” means “eye”? Perhaps. In my article on the gaps in JSPRT4, I also observe a possible relationship between Hebrew texts and the symbol for iota. Then we have character 1.18, “Zub zool-aan,” dealing with concepts such as the first born, or the first man, or fathers. Then comes characters related again to “iota,” “beth,” and “Zub zool-aan.”

Next up is character 2.16, “bethka,” the “greatest place of happiness,” with a note that it should have occurred between “iota” and “Zub zool-aan,” a clear indication that something other than alphabetic order is driving the structure of this text. What could that be? We’ll see in a moment, but for now, note that “bethka,” like “beth,” can relate to the concept of a better place that Abraham sought in Abr. 1:1-2, as he speaks of the need to “obtain another place of residence” (vs. 1). This is followed immediately by his statement about seeking “greater happiness” (vs. 2). This definition of “bethka” clearly relates to Abraham 1:1-2.

Finally we have character 5.28 defined as “Abraham, a father of many nations, a prince of peace,” etc., obviously related to Abraham 1:2. 

It is well known that the characters shown here and on related pages are tied to Abraham 1:1-2, where Abraham speaks of his place of residence (like beth), that he “saw” a need to change, sought the blessings of the fathers, wanted to be a prince of peace, etc. So the words here on page 2 of the GAEL are clearly related to that passage of the Book of Abraham. But what’s this about the need to change the order and put “bethka” between two other specific characters in a non-alphabetic order? That seems to have been overlooked in the past. As discussed here in my post of July 18, 2019, “Kirtland’s Rosetta Stone? The Importance of Word Order in the “Egyptian” of the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language,” reader “Joe Peaceman” provides a plausible answer. He notes that in the sequence of words into which “bethka” needs to be inserted, the intended word order links them to the order of related text of Abraham 1:1-2. Below is part of Abraham 1:1-2, where we have GAEL-related phrases, in order, with their relationship to words in the GAEL in brackets:

1 … at the residence of my fathers [1. “Beth” – described as a place or residence]

I, Abraham, saw [2. “Iota” – see, saw, seeing, or having seen]

that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence;   [3. “Bethka” fits here, referring to a better place that he sought, combined with the following phrase that refers to “greater happiness”]

2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, [4. “Zub zool— oan”— which can mean “father or fathers”]

Phelps cared about the order and felt a need to insert “bethka” throughout his document in a place that would make it line up with something. Line up with what? The existing Book of Abraham text for Abraham 1:1-2. We also know from a patriarchal blessing that Oliver gave around Sept. 1835, probably well before the GAEL was created, that Abraham 1:1-3 had already been translated and was well known to Oliver who paraphrases it in the blessing.  See Oliver Cowdery, “Patriarchal Blessings,” 1:8-9, cited in “Priesthood Restoration” at the Joseph Smith Papers website.

So already on page 2 we see important evidence that Phelps felt constrained in terms of word order by an existing text, clearly the related Book of Abraham translation. This is one of several important pieces of evidence that help us solve the chicken-and-egg problem for the Book of Abraham and the GAEL. The Book of Abraham translation was most likely one of the sources for part of the GAEL rather than its fruit.

Page 3:

At the top we have a character called “Kiah brah oam” with language again closely related to Abraham 1:1-2: “Coming down from the beginning— right by birth— and also by blessing, and by promise— promises made; a father of many nations; a prince of peace; one who keeps the commandment of God; a patriarch; a rightful heir; a high priest.” Again, the Book of Abraham is a likely source.

Shortly thereafter is character 1.1, “Ah lish” said to be “The first Being— supreme intillegence; supreme power; supreme glory= supreme Justice; supreme mercy without begining of life or end of life comprehending all things, seeing all things: the invisible and eter[n]al godhead.” This language relates to Abr. 3:19, where God explains that he is eternal and the greatest intelligence of all. But this also echoes language involving “comprehend” in Doctrine & Covenants 88, such as “he comprehended all things” (v. 6). The “first Being” in this definition may also resonate with Doctrine & Covenants 88:5’s “Firstborn” to describe Christ. The five uses of “supreme” referring to God also seem to echo the only occurrence of “the Supreme Being” in the Doctrine and Covenants in Section 107:4 from April 1835 (this also occurs in the Book of Mormon in Alma 11:22).

Then several “Phah”-related names follow that may be related to the concept of Pharaoh, the first king of Egypt as described in Abraham 1:25-27.  Thus “Phah eh” can mean “The first man, or Adam coming from Adam. Kigs [Kings] or right over Patriarchal right by appointment.” Abr. 1:4 speaks of “for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God.” A “patriarchal” reign is described in Abr. 1: 25-26 and patriarchs are mentioned in Abr. 1:31. The language here is richly related to the words and themes of Abraham 1.

The next two entries, “Phaah” and “Phah ho e oop” relate to reigning with great “dominion,”  again suggestive of Pharaoh in Abr. 1. But the “king who has universal dominion, over all the earth” for the second name may also reflect the use of “dominion” in Doctrine and Covenants 76, such as in vs. 114 and 119, referring to the endless and supreme dominion of God.

The last entry on page 3 is for “Ho oop hah” said to mean “Queen Kah tou mun, Royal female lineage or descent.” Katumin is the name of a princess given in one of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, the “Valuable Discovery” document and in a “Notebook of Copied Characters” document. In the few lines in those documents, she is said to be the daughter of Onitas, a king of Egypt. But apart from the name, this entry may also relate closely to Abraham 1:11, which tells us that an evil “priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue….”

At this point, a primary source for the definition in this entry seems to be a toss up between the Book of Abraham and two other documents in the KEP, but the balance quickly shifts as we read the rest of the definition at the top of the next page.

Page 4:

The definition for “Ho oop hah” continues with some phrases right out of the Book of Abraham, tellig us that the royal female lineage is from “her [by] whom Egypt was discovered while it was under water, who was the daughter of Ham.— a lineage with whom a record of the fathers was intrusted by the tradition of Ham and accordding to the tradition of their elders; by whom also the tradition of the art of embalming in was kept.” I don’t know a likely source for the reference to the art of embalming, but Abraham 1:21-31 gives many other related details, speaking of the discovery of the land of Egypt by a woman, the daughter of Ham, who discovered it while it was under water (Abr. 1:23-24), and speaks of the ancient records that have come into Abraham’s hands (Abr. 1:28) and specifically of “the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs” (Abr. 1:31). Apart from the name “Queen Kah tou mun,” the definition of the word “Ho oop hah” overwhelmingly seems to derive the Abraham 1, it’s most likely source.

The next three entries continue similar themes from Abraham 1. There is “Zi,” describing someone who is virtuous and upright, like the daughters of Onitah. “Kah tou mun” follows, said to be “a lineage with whom a record of the fathers was intrusted by tradition of Ham,” clearly relevant to Abraham 1, esp. v. 31 with its “record of the fathers.” There is another mention of embalming there. Then comes “Zi oop hah,” “A young virgin unmarried woman,” like the daughters of Onitah.

“Ho-e-oop” follows, defined as “A prince of the royal blood a true desendant from Ham … inheritor of the Kingly blessings from under the hand of Noah, but not according to the priestly blessing, because of the trangrissions of Ham, which blessing fell upon Shem from under the hand of Noah.” This relates directly to the discussion in Abr. 1:26,27 of how Noah “cursed [Ham] as pertaining to the Priesthood” causing that his descendant, Pharaoh, was “of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah.”

By the way, based on Abraham 1:2-3’s discussion of the patriarchal rights that were passed down, I believe “right of Priesthood” must be understand as the right to preside over the priesthood and not whether or not one could hold it at all. Abraham 1:2-3 explains that Abraham sought

2 … the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; … I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers … even the right of the fistborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.

Ham, not being the firstborn, did not have the “right of the firstborn” or the right to administer over the priesthood and be the leader of the priesthood as a rightful heir.

Getting back to page 4, next up is a strange grammatical comment for character 1.10, “Zip Zi-is”: “the same of the fourth only increases or lessens five degrees.” This is the shortest statement for any of the 5 statements across the 5 degrees, but apparently means it’s the same as the long statement given in the 4th degree, page 10, where it is “Zip Zi” and said to mean “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 b[e]ing drawn above, it and signifies above, more, greater, more glorious, and when inserted under signifies beneath less smaller least.” The first woman who bore children appears to be a reference to Eve in Abraham 5. The “earth yielding fruit” relates to Abr. 4:11: “Let us prepare the earth to bring forth … the fruit tree yielding fruit.”

Next we get a definition for “Ha e oop hah”:”honor by birth, kingly power by the line of Pharoah. possession by birth one who riegns upon his throne universally— possessor of heaven and earth, and [now from the top of page 5] of the blessings of the earth.” This relates well to the discussion of the rights and kingship of Pharaoh in Abraham 1. The phrase “possessor of heaven and earth,” however, comes from the story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek in Genesis 14: 19, 22. That portion of the story and that phrase may have been on the missing, more extensive text from the Book of Abraham translation, but that is purely speculative at this point. Alternatively, Doctrine and Covenants 50:27 has related wording, “he is possessor of all things … both in heaven and on the earth.” The phrase “the blessings of the earth” is found in only one place in the scriptures, the end of Abraham 1:26 describing Noah’s limited blessings to Ham.

What we have covered so far shows the GAEL progressing steadily through Abraham 1, which appears to be the primary source for the concepts and phrases in the GAEL so far, and roughly proceeding in order.

Page 5:

There is a brief entry related to grammar and punctuation, followed by “Toan low ee tahee takee toues” which, as you probably guessed, is defined as “under the Sun: under heaven; downward; pointing downward going downward; stooping down going down into another place,= any 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.” Abr. 1 has the word “down” multiple times, but most clearly relevant is Abr. 1:3, which explains that the right of the priesthood “was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time.” But later sections of that chapter treat Onitah and the lineage of the kings of Egypt, taking us toward the end of Abraham 1. Onitas is the name of the king, Katumin’s father, in the brief Katumin-related text mentioned above in the KEP, so that name could be derived from that document, though it is also written initially as Onitah and then changed to Onitas.

Now we encounter some concepts we’ve already seen. “Iota” for “See, saw, seeing,” wtc. Then “Iota toues Zip Zis” dealing once again with the discovery of Egypt while underwater by a daughter who settled it with her sons, per Abr. 1:24. We then have an odd entry that is hard to place: “Su-e-eh-ni” meaning “The same as the first.” The Book of Abraham has abundant discussion of things that are first, but exactly what Phelps meant is unclear.

The last entry on page 5 is “Hoeoophahphaheh,” which continues some solid Book of Abraham 1 themes involving patriarchs, government, authority, etc.: “Patriarchal government; or authority; a land governed according to the pattern or order given to the patriarchs or fathers; rules and laws ​of a goverment​ administered by the direction of Heaven or God. a people living under the laws of the gospel: or that law by which they may be sanctified and see the face of God.” Several of these concepts in Abr. 1 have already been discussed above. The mention of the attempt to imitate the “order” of government of the patriarchs looks like a reference to Abr. 1:26, which states that Pharaoh sought “earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations.” But what is the source for the final phrase, “that law by which they may be sanctified and see the face of God”? This appears to come from Doctrine and Covenants 84:23, in the context of discussing the priesthood, its transmission from patriarch to patriarch anciently, and the Gospel: “Moses … sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.”  So this passage in the GAEL, like several others, appears to draw upon the Book of Abraham but also some of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Doctrine and Covenants 84 also speaks of the Gospel and administration: “teaching that the this greater priesthood administereth the gospel” (v. 19), and Moses’ goal of having a people under the laws of the Gospel is implicit in this section. Further, in the scripture, the closest wording to the GAEL’s “the laws of the Gospel” is “the law of the Gospel” in that occurs several times in the pre-Nov. 1835 portions of the Doctrine and Covenants, including  84:78, 88:78, and 104:18.

Page 6:

We continue with more of the definition of “Hoeoophahphaheh” (eerily similar to “phooey”): “A priestly government; a government administered by the authority of the priesthood up or under the patriarchal: it some times means any priestly governments whether by the dierection of heaven or by the tradition of the heaven.” Government and authority of the priesthood have already been noted as themes in Abraham 1. The “direction of heaven” both here and at the end of page 5 may echo Doctrine and Covenants 78:16, “given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.” “Direction” is used to describe priesthood administration also in Doctrine and Covenants 78:16 and elsewhere in that volume.

“Zub Zoal eh” follows with a definition again involving the ancient patriarchs discussed in Abraham 1 and the blessings they gave, concepts all previously discussed above: “In the days of the first patrarch of patriarchs In the reign of Adam; in the days of the first patriarchs; in the days of Nooh; in the blessings of Noah; in the blessings of the children of Noah; in the first blessings of men; in the first blessings of the church.” This passage, of course, is strongly related to Abraham 1.

Next is “Zab eh” which is defined as “Having been within= in the earth= in the sea; in any thing; b[e]ing applied to any condition or situation, to express one thing or principle or being in another.       Zub a road or a highway; leading up or to: the time for going up to the altar to worship: going up before the Lord. bing caught up, going to be caught up, having been caught up.” The issue of travel combined with an altar to worship God is a theme in Abraham 2:

16 Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation, as we journeyed from Haran by the way of Jershon, to come to the land of Canaan.

17 Now I, Abraham, built an altar in the land of Jershon, and made an offering unto the Lord, and prayed that the famine might be turned away from my father’s house, that they might not perish.

18 And then we passed from Jershon through the land unto the place of Sechem; it was situated in the plains of Moreh, and we had already come into the borders of the land of the Canaanites, and I offered sacrifice there in the plains of Moreh, and called on the Lord devoutly, because we had already come into the land of this idolatrous nation.

19 And the Lord appeared unto me in answer to my prayers, and said unto me: Unto thy seed will I give this bland.

20 And I, Abraham, arose from the place of the altar which I had built unto the Lord, and removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched my tent there, Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east; and there I built another altar unto the Lord, and called again upon the name of the Lord.

21 And I, Abraham, journeyed….

Earlier in the definition, that which is “within the earth” may point to Doctrine and Covenants 88:77,78, a passage that is related to the last word on page 5 that we just discussed above (based on use of “law of the Gospel”):

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass….”

Last on this page is “Zab zoal”:  “From the beinng [beginning] of the creation until now; pointing out or designating at the present time; having foreordained, or decreed or having before seen; For instance: Abraham haveing been chosen before was sent by commandment into the Land of Canaan: Having preached the gospel unto the heathen, was fore warned of God to go down into Ah=meh= strah, or Egypt, and preach the gospel unto the Ah meh strah ans.” This also ties to the account iin Abraham 2, where we learn that Abraham had been preaching the Gospel while in Haran because fon his journey to Canaan, he brought along with him “the souls that we had won in Haran” (Abr. 2:15), a beautiful touch not found in the Genesis account. The name “Ah meh strah ans” may be derived from a similar term in Josephus.

Page 7

This section of the GAEL, the “5th degree” (first part), closes with the word “Zool,” said to mean “from any or some fixed period of time back to the beginning of creation showing the chronology of the patriarchs the right of the priesthood, and the lneage through whom it shall be continu[e]d by promise, begining at Abraham signifying the promises made to Abraham saying through thy fruits, or the seed of thy loins, shall the gospel shall be preached, unto all the seed meaning from Noah, and unto all the kindreds of the earth.” This is strongly related to the Book of Abraham. In Abr. 1:28, Abraham states that he will “delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation.” An extremely close relationship to this GAEL definition. Other elements also tie to the Book of Abraham, such as the promises to Abraham’s posterity and the “right of priesthood.”

Thus ends the first section of the GAEL for the 5th degree, first part. Similar words and definitions are in the other degrees of the first part. Later we will look at the 5th degree, second part, and some other issues not already covered here.

The claim has been repeatedly made that the GAEL is largely based on translation of the Katumin-related documents, but apart from the name Katumin (spelled differently), the definitions here overwhelmingly connect to existing, published revelation that Joseph gave, primarily from the Book of Abraham and then from the Doctrine and Covenants. The related Doctrine and Covenants material clearly existed before the GAEL was created, and the Book of Abraham translation most likely existed also.

The GAEL is far too incomplete to have been of any use in creating the Book of Abraham. Rather, there is evidence that it was largely derived from bits and pieces of the existing translation of the Book of Abraham, and also from a few existing revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. A touch of the Bible, a bit of Hebrew knowledge (e.g., the name “beth” and its meaning of “house”), and perhaps Josephus for the name “Ah meh strah ans” and a few other sources may have influenced W.W. Phelps in this work, and there is a minor connection to a couple of brief passages about Katumin elsewhere in the KEP (primarily for the names of Katumin and her father, Onitas).

The characters Phelps is using have been discussed here before and show influences from several sources other than Egyptian papyri, such as Masonic ciphers, ancient Greek alphabets, etc.

A few conclusions so far: Whatever the purpose of the GAEL is, its failure to exclusively use Egyptian characters from the papyri tells us that it was for something other than translating the papyri (perhaps creating a guide to a hypothetical “pure language”?). It appears to have drawn heavily from existing revelation in the Book of Abraham but also from the Doctrine and Covenants, a point that will become more clear in the next installment, again suggesting that its purpose or scope was not solely tied to the Book of Abraham.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

17 thoughts on “Some Sources for the Kirtland Egyptian Paper’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, Part One

  1. “We also know from a patriarchal blessing that Oliver gave around Sept. 1835, probably well before the GAEL was created, that Abraham 1:1-3 had already been translated and was well known to Oliver who paraphrases it in the blessing.”

    This is a rather large assumption based on nothing other than belief. It could just as easily be argued that the phraseology was being bandied about between Joseph and others and, as a result, ended up in the “translation” he was working on at the time.

    In fact, the same could be said of your entire argument. Vogel and others don’t claim that the GAEL was completely created, then used as a translation tool. Instead, they postulate that it was used as a sort of sounding board to explore concepts and ideas. It’s no surprise, then, to find similar text in both locations. It makes sense that concepts explored in the GAEL appear in the BoA, but not all find a home in the translation text. This is a similar process to the workshopping he did with his family before producing the BoM, only these sessions were recorded by scribes.

  2. I'm not sure why you claim this evidence is based on nothing more than belief. Specific language is used in a patriarchal blessing, where scripture is often quoted, and that specific language is found in the first part of the Book of Abraham, whose translation began in July. It weighs strongly in favor of that language having already been produced as BOA text before September 1835 in a setting where Oliver isn't likely to be just tossing around exploratory phrases he's heard, but quoting from sacred records when appropriate. When the GAEL is worked in later in the fall, winter, or perhaps early 1836, and it uses the same language, it is at least pretty obvious prima facie hint that it is drawing upon the prior language already present in the translation.

    To think that there was no translation done already in July seems like a stretch. Abraham 1:1-3 would seem like what we might expect in the first couple of hours of translation work.

    The evidence which you claim does not exist apart from mere belief also includes Joseph's explanation that the Alphabet was prepared "to" the Book of Abraham, not "for" its production, language that points to using an existing resource to create a guide or companion based on it. The evidence also includes the importance of order in the GAEL, where Phelps is following the order of concepts in the BOA translation when he recognizes the need to change the order of "Bethka" to come right after "Iota." That makes the most sense if he is using the BOA to guide his work. It existed first. Then came the GAEL.

    I'm OK with disagreeing with the application of evidence, but I am weary of the overused tactic of claiming there is NO evidence, not a scrap, when you really should say you don't like the evidence or its interpretation.

    1. “I'm OK with disagreeing with the application of evidence, but I am weary of the overused tactic of claiming there is NO evidence, not a scrap, when you really should say you don't like the evidence or its interpretation.”

      The “evidence” you have provided can easily be interpreted in different ways. I’m merely pointing to a flaw in your reasoning based on your assumption that the BoA text was produced before, and used as a reference for, the GAEL. The problem with your evidence is that it just as readily explains why the GAEL came first, or rather, concurrently.

      “Specific language is used in a patriarchal blessing, where scripture is often quoted, and that specific language is found in the first part of the Book of Abraham.”

      So the words had to have been revealed by Joseph and written down for Oliver to use them? Maybe Joseph liked Oliver’s turn of phrase and decided to use it. This is not evidence that one came as a result of the other-it’s merely an observation that the same or similar phrases appear in both places.

  3. "This is a similar process to the workshopping he did with his family before producing the BoM, only these sessions were recorded by scribes." That process was not recorded nor observed nor ever mentioned nor apparently even heard of by the many scribes, the witnesses of the plates and those closest to the production of the Book of Mormon, for which we have extensive evidence from witnesses along with abundant textual evidence. There is no evidence to support the notion that a prior manuscript was produced by any sort of workshopping process. Joseph simply dictated hour after hour without notes, without a manuscript, much less a "workshopped" one, in what struck people as a truly miraculous process and gave us something completely beyond his abilities. He didn't do workshopping for the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, or other revelations, though he made heavy edits to some of his writings in the Doctrine and Covenants.

    The puzzling, unsubstantiated late report from Lucy Mack Smith about her son telling many amusing stories about the details of ancient life in the Americas such as their clothing and so forth raises serious questions about its reliability. The issues are discussed in "Joseph the Amusing Teller of Tall Tales: Lucy Mack Smith's Puzzling Statement in Perspective."

    1. “That process was not recorded nor observed nor ever mentioned nor apparently even heard of by the many scribes, the witnesses of the plates and those closest to the production of the Book of Mormon.”

      Because the process took place in the 4 years prior to the BoM being “translated,” behind closed doors in the Smith family home. Lucy is considered a “witness of the plates” and was “close to the production of the Book of Mormon,” and she provides us with insight into the process—one of the few with the ability to do so.

      Attempting to discredit Lucy’s account because it doesn’t fit your narrative smacks a bit of desperation.

    2. “There is no evidence to support the notion that a prior manuscript was produced by any sort of workshopping process.”

      I never claimed there was a manuscript. In fact I pointed to the difference being that the BoA “sessions were recorded by scribes,” thus producing a manuscript. To me evidence for no BoM manuscript is Joseph’s fear that he would be unable to reproduce the 116 pages verbatim, and thus shown to be a fraud.

  4. Jeff, great post again! I've been thinking along the same lines but paused on Zip :), etc.

    This is a related followup to my comments on your 12/26 post, since your anonymous followers are spinning to other things…:)

    I noticed the EAGAEL use Zip-tou, etc. instead of Egytus (as a reference to the founding royal matriarch who discovered Egypt). Also, JSP editors mention that the WR manuscript may be reliant upon an earlier manuscript and I came across a Metcalfe speculative article on Egyptus, etc.

    As always, feel free to point out flaws or develop. The details are new to me, e.g.: Richards inserted page numbers that don’t align with any extant manuscript. pg 1 ends exactly where WWP’s text ends (as if someone entrusted a page and, after copying for the GAEL project, he sought help and they created the twins, starting on pg 2), etc.

    RICHARDS’ emendations (deciphering script not on the extant manuscripts) may provide further evidence that the extant BofA materials are ultimately derived from a common missing manuscript(s) as the History indicates.

    It appears that Phelps’ EA/GAEL, and the WWP/WP manuscript, the Twins, and Richards’ BofA manuscript were created by copying (verbally and otherwise, as you’ve shown) a now missing original, and, when there were questions, Richards may have consulted available sources.

    Focusing on the MORPHING of “Zeptah” to “Egyptus”:

    19th Century handwriting samples (Phelps and OC) indicate that leading “H” could be mistaken for an “A” as in “Adam” and “Z” could easily be confused with G, J, Z, and so on.

    W. Richards’ Book of Abraham manuscript shows clear signs of struggling with certain script, specifically Ham and unfamiliar names: Zibnah/Libnah ( I like to think Libnah is correct, since that god would be associated with the white direction and Libnah means white, but could be other way around) , and Zeptah (evidently the original name of the woman who discovered Egypt, and clearly her mother’s name).

    In WWP/WP and the Twin Manuscripts the name of the woman who discovered Egypt is clearly “Egyptes.” The name of the mother is clearly Zeptah/Zep-Tah…However, when Richards first encounters the presumed mother’s name, he records it as Jeptah, or Geptah (per Metcalfe), or Zeptah (per JSP) and, apparently, after reviewing the name of the daughter, he changes the mother’s name to “Egyptus”. And, Richards appears to have originally seen “Egeptahs” as the name of the “woman” who discovered Egypt. The clarity of these names in the 3 extant manuscripts (twin and WWP/WP) shows that he was not copying from the 3 extant manuscripts.

    In addition, the GAEL clearly modifies names such Abraham, etc. and generalizes them into concepts. Forms of “Egyptus” are conspicuously absent from the EA and GAEL. The author of the EA and GAEL apparently sees “Zeptah,” or a tail making “Zeptahs,” etc. as the name of both the mother, and the woman who discovered Egypt underwater. Fn? That only Phelps saw Zeptah in both cases (while others are variations of Zeptah, Egeptah, or Egyptes) and he read a “Z,” rather than “E” in the original manuscript indicates that the EA/GAEL may draw from WWP’s own hurried writing dating back to the early July manuscripts created from Joseph’s dictation.

    Since WWP saw Ham’s (clearly Ham, not Adam) daughter “Zeptah” as mother and woman, and clearly used Zeptah to create the GAEL’s Zip toues (tus, etc.) and if WP or FGW (the twin manuscript reader) deciphered Zeptah and Egyptes and clearly recorded those in the twin manuscripts; and since WR saw Geptah and Egeptahs as the daughter AND then changed both to Egyptus; it follows that the creators of the twin manuscripts were not looking at the GAEL and WR was not looking at WP or FGW or the GAEL. All 3 were looking at a sometimes illegible common preceding source no longer extant.

    fn Proper Egyptian would be ZePtah or SePtah. I wouldn't expect Joseph, Phelps, etc. to understand that, but the author of the BofA probably did.

  5. "something completely beyond his abilities"

    Jeff you have been repeatedly corrected on your abuse of language here. When you admit that JS was able to REPEATEDLY produce (BoM, DC, BoA, Bible retranslations, Zelph, Lectures On Faith, etc) something you FEEL is extra-human, then it is deceitful of you to say "beyond his abilities", for you concede that JS had the repeatable ability to access something extra-human. Just because you feel the end product is extra-human, does not mean "beyond his abilities".

  6. SUMMARY and off to other things.

    Looks like we’re on to something scary, so some might need to look the other way 😊;).

    As Jeff, Dan, etc. have pointed out, Critics found many of their anti-BofA arguments on the false idea that Joseph dictated the GAEL and used that to create the miraculously ancient BofA, and thus the BofA is a product of the GAEL and Egyptian and other characters in the margins. Apparently JS did all of this after memorizing Thomas Dick, Proclus, etc. etc. (the vast frontier library that Jeff speaks of), and then, while shuffling through the GAEL he invented (to find the meaning of Zeptah, Egyptus (oops, forgot her), and so on, JS works this into the miracle of the BofA….yay!

    The most informed of Critics support this argument with claims that the GAEL has nothing or little to do with the BofA or its translation, but that the GAEL is actually derived from the Valuable Document and etc.

    Problem is, the EA and GAEL show a reliance on the BofA, not the other way around.
    See previous comments, blogs, etc. for sources 🙂 and, if anyone can see holes in the logic of Keptah being from an early July BofA source, don't be afraid to share.
    Can't have anons stressing ; )

    And, as Jeff points out, we see references to the BofA and BofJ in other early sources.

  7. "the vast frontier library that Jeff speaks of" Refreshing to see you admit that only Jeff thinks a library was necessary.

    Dowsing rods always find water, especially if you "interpret" the data correctly.

  8. Joe – "anti-BofA arguments on the false idea that Joseph dictated the GAEL and used that to create the miraculously ancient BofA"

    No actually, the LDS Church says it is possible artifacts (such as the GAEL) were part of the study it out in mind portion of the "translation" process. Given your "critics" agree with the LDS church that Joseph Smith did not have expert knowledge typically assumed with the word "translate", it does not sound like your "critics" are anti anything. In fact, Jeff defines anti-Mormon as someone that tells Mormon what they believe, which would make you anti-Mormon.

  9. Anon- I can neither confirm nor deny leading anyone astray, but I agree that the Church wisely takes a neutral stance. 🙂
    How you define what you do is up to you : ), I think you’re being critical.

    I noticed some typos etc. in my comment, and wrote some a question, and want to ask EVERYONE,

    Our friend Dan now feels the GAEL was dependent on Abr. 1:1-3 and that the rest of the EA and GAEL have almost nothing to do with the translation of the BofA. It's apparent that most hate groups (and other critics) claim that Joseph fabricated the EA and GAEL first, and then "translated" the BofA from them.

    The authors of the EA and GAEL felt the name of the woman who discovered Egypt started with “Z,” and that Zip tou-es was most likely generalized from, and clearly related to, Zeptah (as Ahbroam was generalized from Abraham, etc.). The “Z” in “Zip” is clearly printed in block capitals for the EA and GAEL.

    It’s also apparent that Parrish and Williams recorded the name of the woman who discovered Egypt as “Egyptes,” and her parent (fn1) is obviously Zeptah/Zep-tah.

    Richards clearly has difficulty reading leading H, Z, and possibly L. He sees “Libnah” rather than “Zibnah;” “Adam,” rather than contextually obvious “Ham;” Geptah (or Jeptah, or Zeptah per the JSP) rather than Zeptah; and Egyptes is Egeptah, and so on.

    Simplified QUESTION—would any of you agree that: SINCE the GAEL letter leading Zip-tou is clear block-capital “Z,” THEN it follows that the Kirtland era manuscripts 1a, 1b, and 2, were not derived from the GAEL; AND, since Richards saw (fn2) Geptah, Egeptah, Adam, Libnah, etc. (when the context of related script in the Kirtland manuscripts didn’t indicate G, E, A, L, etc.) then it follows that Richards wasn’t solely relying on BA manuscripts 1a, 1b, or 2 or the GAEL, and there was therefore another manuscript?

    Also, given other details— e.g. Richards (or someone with similar handwriting), apparently added page numbers which align to a missing manuscript wherein page 1 ended where Phelps handwriting ends in BA 2 —would any of you agree that this missing manuscript predates BA 2?

    Why, or why not?

    Thanks to all 🙂 Happy New Year!!♥😊🐣 🐇

  10. ooops, left out the fn's

    fn1: unlikely, but the parent is possibly male, since Ham could be father by adoption, as Noah was “Father” to the righteous pharaoh, and also since ZePtah is more frequently a male name, meaning son of Ptah in Egyptian, and, since Ham is later equated with Ptah, could indicate late Ptolemaic redaction.

    fn2: it's apparent that these are difficulties in reading, rather than hearing.

    Point is, that the evidence indicates WP, FGW, WWP, and later WR, were all looking at a common early 1835 manuscript AND NOT the Twins OR the WWP/WP manuscript, which would be the most logical source for our current BofA if it were the earliest.

    The record says:

    Around July 1-3 “After [Chandler’s] exhibition Joseph the Seer saw these records and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records which gave an account…much of which was written by Joseph of Egypt…”

    July 3-6 or 6-8? After purchasing the papyri, Joseph sat down with two scribes and “…commenced the translation…”
    It’s reasonable to conclude that something was recorded by the two scribes, and that this happened before work on the EA and GAEL began, here >>

    July 19-31 The history records that BofA translation was ongoing (header) and they were creating or translating (through a method later called “research”) “…an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” So, as you know, by mid July they already had a partial “Book of Abraham” and they’re creating and arranging the EA and GAEL “to” it.

    So, chicken or egg ?

    The simplest solution is that a partial "Book of Abraham" was translated in July and it went well beyond Abr, 1:1-3. We can see this in the EA and GAEL, thus, we can’t honestly conclude that the BofA came later, and all others first.

  11. some notes from COMPARATIVE analysis in case they help anyone :):

    WR …was seeing in WWP/WP thus in original) shows freedom to edit for redundancy or etc.?; punctuation varies from WP; adds “also” before to be where WWP crossed something out and wrote to be (looks like skipped also or? And went into one, and went back); adds a few “to be” etc. to even out flow?; adds and desiring to receive instructions and to keep…I became a rightful heir..continues evening flow so no longer what Abraham wants but it was conferred upon him etc. ; NOTE a “P2” has been entered here in lighter perhaps different handwriting (but initial check looks closest to WR P, but a bit shorter to fit and perhaps an extra swirl?) This is where WWp ends on his, but it is not the end of the page (thus indicating that someone looking at an original page that ended here and which Phelps had copied the entire 1st page?; also, just after Prist of Elkenah was also the priesst of Pharaoh.” theres a P3 added, looks like WR P. None of the extant pages ends here (but WP ends altar built in the land; and FGW ends much later (so longer paper?) after antoher zibnah and etc. (bedstead discussion ending in King of Egypt) note: JSP editors say WR could be based on another missing? manuscript); writes “Libnah” in fac 1 on back of pg 2 (thus could be before getting to the Zibnahs or added after); Libnah right after not written over but odd L?; pg 4 missing with first ham, then next Libnah on pg 5 started as? and written over, may have been J, g or (other 3 all look like Z, so perhaps 1st original sparked no inquiries?, but why write over?); OF INTEREST original said angel of lord stood by his “feet” in all–this might be real life but not Fac. 1, changed to agree with fac. 1? (so fac 1 obviously not inspiration for original text, fac. 1 inspired WR change?); next Zibnah, pg6, written over from Z, G, maybe J, etc. but appears to have flat top..z?; WR reads Elkenah (WP apparently never does; FG reads/hears Elkkener first 2 times, and then sees hears Elk-keenah (iso, that WR spells like FGW and not WP, may indicate that FGW took a turn reading at that point and read as FGW did, Jeff points this out a couple of times (they could be switching due to WP? Respiratory illness) and says “…there’s no reason to deny the evidence for an existing manuscript being used and the evidence that this was not a document of newly translated scripture. That’s a key..” see notes below). ; WP’s “loins of Ham could possibly be mistaken for Adam But it’s a stretch every time and, when WR gets it right (just before Zeptah to Egyptus, WWP/WP looks pretty much the same as the others; NOTE that they may have paid special attention to these “signifies statements for GAEL? “which Pharaoh signifies King by royal blood”; clear difference between E Egypt and Z Zeptah in WP…..; after “who afterwards settled has thus from Adam crossed out and Ham; Ham is pretty clear in WP, Egyptes (or Egypt?) is damaged, if like that in !842 may have prompted a search, but E doesn’t look like Z; in WWP/WP Egyptus is very clear, Ham clear enough to not be read as Adam

    Luv y'all, sorry over my word and time limit 🙂

    I simplified the question for clarity, but wish to clarify for those who might not know the documents as well as Brent: EA JS uses block capital Z. The first case of “Zi” is also block capital and would not be mistaken for an E. Second “Zi” leans towards cursive, but still clearly a Z. Next has a loop on the bottom, but is still clearly Z, and so on. When used to describe the woman who discovered Egypt, the “E” in “Egypt” is close to the “Z” for Zip and the two would not be confused.
    SIMPLIFIED: the logic still stands—it’s true, as Metcalfe says ““…Egyptian alphabet and grammar project anticipates Zeptah.” and NOT Egyptes. Egyptes, then, is not derived from the GAEL. Nor is the GAEL illegible respecting “Zip.” The triple manuscripts thus, are not derived from the GAEL.
    Also, an analysis of the triple manuscripts shows that Richards’ manuscript is NOT derived from them.
    Hopefully Brent will have time to share insights :).

    “The Curious Textual History of “Egyptus” the Wife of Ham”
    Brent Lee Metcalfe
    “…Egyptian alphabet and grammar project anticipates Zeptah. …Forms of “Zep” and “tah” crop up in several suggestive contexts….elsewhere “Zip Zi” entails “under or beneath, second in right or in authority or government…“Iota tou – es Zip – Zip” signifies “the land of Egypt first seen under ‹water›” …“The woman sought to settle her sons in that land. she being the daughter of Ham”…“coming down in lineage by royal descent, in a line by onitas… on of the royal familees of the Kings the of Egypt” (GAEL, 5); each of these phrases… phrases and accompanying interpretations are variations on themes found in Abraham 1:20b–27.”

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