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

In Part 1 of this topic posted earlier this week, I reviewed several pages of entries in the first part of the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, one of the primary documents in the mysterious set of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers which have kindly been made available through the Joseph Smith Papers Project website. I explore possible prior sources for the entries made by W.W. Phelps (Warren Parrish helps out with a few entries also), and found that they were overwhelmingly related to the text of the Book of Abraham, contrary to claims that some people have made. Some entries also showed connections to the previously existing text in the Doctrine and Covenants and to a couple of other sources. There was also evidence that the Doctrine and Covenants text came first, such as the constraint Phelps perceived in the order of some characters, showing that, as Joseph Smith had said, the Alphabet was “to” the Book of Abraham (as in based upon or corresponding to it) rather than “for” creation of the Book of Abraham. The entries we considered were from the first part, fifth degree. There are four other sections with pretty much the same characters and related definitions in the first through fourth degrees in the first part, followed by new characters in the second part. The second part begins in the middle of Phelps’ unfinished volume, starting with the fifth degree and moving section by section down to the first degree, with many blank pages following each section of the highly incomplete and soon abandoned work.

Today we look at different characters from the second half of the book in the section for the fifth degree, second part, and consider possible sources for these entries.  We begin with page 23 (23rd page that has text — the blank pages aren’t counted in the numbering system on the JSP website and in their related volume on the Book of Abraham).

Page 23:

“Alkebeth” is defined as “ministers of God, high priests, kings,” verbiage directly related to the Book of Abraham. In Abr. 2:6, God speaks a making Abraham a minister to bear his name; Abraham seeks to be a High Priest in Abr. 1:2, and kings and kingship is another common element in Abr. 1.

“Baethka” follows, defined as “Adam or the first man, or first king,” with clear ties to Abr. 1:3: “the first man, who is Adam, or first father.”

The first two characters used here for these two entries are found in W.W. Phelps May 1835 letter on “the pure language,” which is not only the apparent source for 6 of the characters in the Egyptian Alphabets (where they are used in exactly the same order as in Phelps’ letter) and the GAEL, but also the first place where we see the lined column format that dominates the KEP, being used in the three Egyptian Alphabets, the GAEL, and in the three Book of Abraham manuscripts with characters in the margins. The influence of Phelps and the “pure language” project runs strong in the KEP. Phelps’ letter is shown in my post, “The Pure Language Project.”

“Beth” is next, defined as “The place appointed of God for the residence of Adam; Adam ondi= Ahman a fruit garden made to be fruitful, by blessing or promise; great valley or plain given by promise, fitted with fruit trees and precious flowers, made for the healing of Man. Good to the task pleasing to the eye; sweet and  ​deligh[t]ful​ to the smell; place of happiness— purity, holiness, and rest: even Zomar— Zion.” As in the first part, “beth” is associated with a place, resonating with the Hebrew meaning of “house” for the Hebrew letter “beth,” reflecting some knowledge of Hebrew. Had Hebrew study begun? If so, this could be December 1835 or early 1836. But this could also be due to basic familiarity with the scriptures. Here a “residence” is mentioned, as in Abraham 1:1, but the scene of a garden for Adam clearly points to the Garden of Eden scene, which could suggest that Phelps may have been looking at Abraham 5:8 where the Garden of Eden is mentioned. “Zion” is not mentioned in our current Book of Abraham, but may have been in the more extensive text that some evidence suggests was drafted by Joseph Smith but never published before his death, and is now lost to us. Zion, of course, occurs heavily in other scriptures, including the Doctrine and Covenants and also the Book of Moses, as is Moses 7:19: “And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.” That sentence relates to concepts in this definition of “beth”: of a place of residence (a city), a place of “holiness” and “even … Zion.” The Book of Moses must be considered as a likely prior source for part of this definition. “Zomar” as Zion is a mystery, though Val Sederholm sees potential links to the ancient Near East in this word. Interesting, but, of course, speculative. Meanwhile, the association of beauty, happiness/joy, and Zion is found elsewhere in the scriptures, of course, such as Ps. 48:2.

“Bethku” comes next, “a place of residence for man; appointed of God: made to be more fruitful, by blessing; as More perfect place of happiness given by promise,” again with overtones of “beth” and related content from Abraham 1:1 and Abraham 5.

“Kahtu=aim” is defined as “Another Kingdom governed by different laws, composed of subjects who receive their place at a future period, and governed by those who are under the directions of another; a kingdom whose subject differ one from another ​in glory​; who come not into the pres behold not the face of of God.” Here I show some deleted text, “who come not into the pres[ence of God]” since it suggests the author was thinking of seeing the face of God and entering into his presence as related concepts, which may point us to Doctrine and Covenants 84:23-24: ““Moses … sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God. But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord … swore that they should not enter into his rest.” This passage was used for a different character on page 5 of the GAEL, as discussed in Part 1.

“Tish Zi hoe oop sater” follows: “The glory of the celestial Kingdom: The connection of attributes; many parts perfected, and compounded into one Having been united; being united that which will be united, one glory above all other glories, as the the [sun?] excels the Moon in light, this glory excels being filled: with the same glory equaility.” William Schryver made the point years ago that several passages in the GAEL clearly draw upon Doctrine and Covenants 76, where we read of the celestial kingdom with glory like that of the sun (vs. 70), whereas those in the lesser telestial kingdom “are bodies terrestrial and not bodies celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun” (vs. 78, cf. vs. 92, 96). The issue of “one glory,” “being united,” and “compounded into one” may be hinted at in vv. 95-96: “And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion. And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one.” But the 1834 revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 105:4 may be a source here, warning that Saints “are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom.” As for being “compounded in one,” here 2 Nephi 2:11 may be at play: “all things must needs be a compound in one.” The word “compound” occurs twice in the Book of Mormon and only once in the Old Testament, referring to an “ointment compound” in Exo. 30:25. 

Page 24:

“Jah=ho=e=oop” leads this page: “An ambassador: one delgated with Kingly power; one authorized to ex[e]cute judgement for the King; a swift messenger one whose power cannot be escaped; one next to supreme.” Let’s consider it with the following term, “Jah-ni hah.”

“Jah-ni hah” is said to be “one delegated from the highest sons [?] acting in or b[e]ing clothed with the power of an other; one from sent from the Celestial Kingdom.” Here we have a reference to the Celestial Kingdom in Doctrine and Covenants 76 and perhaps the concept of messengers from there ministering to lower kingdoms. Here the delegated messenger sent from the Celestial Kingdom is  “clothed with … power,” just as in Doctrine and Covenants 45:44 where Christ when He comes again will be “clothed with power and great glory.”

The definition of “Jah-ni hah” is slightly different on page 27 of the GAEL (fourth degree, second part), invoking the “swift messenger” theme immediately above:

Jah ni hah= one that with delegated and redeeming power, and second in authoraty; being a swift messenger going before, and having redeeming power, as second in authority: and stand next to on or on the right hand of power.

Is the authorized messenger “Jah ni hah” derived from the name John, as in John the Baptist, the messenger who went before Christ?

As for “swift messengers,” this may draw upon Isaiah 18:2, “Go, ye swift messengers.” Malachi 3:1 has a divine messenger come suddenly, rather than swiftly, but may also be related.

“Jah-oh-eh” is “The earth under the governing ​powers​ of oliblish, Enish go on dosh, and Kae-e van rash, which are the grand key or in other words, the governing power, which governs the fifteen fixed stars (twelve [2 words illegible])​ that governs the earth, sun, & moon, (which have their power in​ one,) with the other twelve moving planets of this system. Oliblish=Enish go on dosh, and Kaii , en rash, are the three grand central stars which powers that govern all the other creations, which have been sought out by the most aged of all the fathers, since the begining of the creation, by means of the urim and Thummim: The names of the other twelve of the fixed stars are: Kolob, Limdi, Ziss, Vurel, Venisti, Waine, Wagah=ox=oan, oansli, Keble Shineflis, flis, ots. The Egyptian names, of the fifteen moving planets are: Oan isis, Flos-isis, flo’ese: Abbesele, Ele ash, Sabble, Slundlo, ear roam, Crash ma kraw, obbles isim, Izinsbah. missel [cont. on p. 25] Nah me,sile ohee oop Zah, Zaol.”

That’s a mouthful. My favorite is “Crash ma kraw,” but “Nah me, sile” cheers me as well, if pronounced “Not me, silly.” And it’s just a matter of time before some rock band takes on the name “Slundlo” or better yet, “Slundlo ear roam.” But there may be something other than random nonsense syllables going on here. Both Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes have seen merit in the association of “Jah-oh-eh” with the earth (see key quotes in a FAIRMormon article), as occurs in the explanation of Fig. 1 in Facs. 2 of the Book of Abraham. And Kolob, the most famous cosmological name from the Book of Abraham text and Facs. 2, often known better to critics of the Church than to its members, may also have significant merit as a name for a great star from the ancient Near East (ibid.). Further, Val Sederholm finds potential Egyptological connections in the name “Enish go on dosh” which occurs in the explanation for Facs. 2. All of which brings us to the obvious connection to the Book of Abraham: some of these names or forms of them occur in the explanations for Facs. 2, namely Kolob, Jah-oh-eh, Enish-go-on-dosh, Kae-e-vanrash, Kli-flos-is-es, and Oliblish (said by some to be derived from Oliver Cowdery’s name, with the GAEL’s “Waine” also allegedly derived by W.W. Phelps’ middle name of Wines). 

So did Joseph get his ideas about cosmology from the GAEL, or was his translation and commentary on the Facsimiles one of the sources for the GAEL? It was on Oct. 1, 1835, apparently before the GAEL was underway, when Joseph said that that during his translation, the system of astronomy had been unfolded to him (Joseph Smith History, Oct. 1, 1835, in “History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838],” Joseph Smith Papers website). That would be consistent with Facsimile 2 and Abraham 3 having been already revealed when the GAEL was composed. Of course, we are still left with the vexing issue of just how Phelps came up with Wagah=ox=oan (wagans + ox?) and my favorite Crash Ma Kraw (Crash McCraw may be destined to be the lead starship pilot in my next science fiction novel — such blatant plagiarism, I know!). One guess is that Shineflis is a combination of Joseph’s surprising Shinehah for the sun (see the great Pearl of Great Price Central article on this issue) and Flos-isis or flo’ese in the GAEL. But who knows?

Page 25:

Everything on this page deals with names of heavenly bodies, related to the cosmology from the Book of Abraham in Abraham 3 and Facs. 2.

Char. 2.38, “Flo=ees” is first, meaning, “The moon, the earth and the sun in their annual revolutions.” This related to “Kli-flos-is-es” (discussed below) from Facs. 2. Note that Facs. 2, Fig. 5 refers to the moon, earth, and sun and their “annual revolutions.”

Char. 2.39, “Flos isis,” the next word, means “The highest degree of light, because its component parts are light. The gover[n]ing principle of light Because God has said Let this be the centre for light, and let there be bounds that it may not pass. He hath set a cloud round about in the heavens, and the light of the grand govering of 15​ fixed stars centre there; and from there its is drawn, by the heavenly bodies according to their portions; according to the decrees that God hath set, as the bounds of the ocean, that it should not pass over as a flood, so God has set the bounds of light lest it pass over and consume the planets.”

There is an interesting relationship with Doctrine and Covenants 88 (seemingly a favorite source for the GAEL) in a passage talking about the divine roles of light and its power in governing God’s creation and in affecting heavenly bodies:

7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things….

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God….

 90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

Considering the occurrence of “bounds” in this GAEL definition and the relationship to Doctrine and Covenants 88, one further parallel is worth knowing about.

Facsimile 2, Fig. 5 refers to the moon, earth, and sun and their “annual revolutions,” while Abraham 3:6 speaks of “set time” of rotating heavenly bodies, namely, the earth, the moon (the lesser light), and the sun (the greater light). “Set time” does not occur in the GAEL. But look at Doctrine and Covenants 121:30-31:

30 And also, if there be bounds set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land [earth], or to the sun, moon, or stars

31 All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their glories, laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Doctrine and Covenants 121 dates to March 20, 1839, after the 1835 translation work for the Book of Abraham, and appears to draw upon the unusual “set time” language from Abraham 3:6. But it could not have been a source for the Book of Abraham, so why mention it? Some argue that the translation of Abraham 3 and the work on Facsimile 2 came later, around 1842, but John Gee and others have argued that most of the book was probably translated in 1835 (at least a first draft, and probably without the later insertion of Hebrew words gleaned in 1836 Hebrew study). The relationship between Abraham 3:6 and Doctrine and Covenants 121:30-31 suggest that Abraham 3:6 was translated before 1839, and thus probably in 1835 since there was very little done with the Book of Abraham between 1836 and 1842. And this strengthens the case that the Nauvoo dating for Abraham 3-5 given by Robin Jensen and Brian Hauglid in JSPRT4 (the JSP Project publication on the Book of Abraham) is wrong. Rather than 1842, it may well have been prepared in 1835, as Gee and others have argued.


Next is Char. 2.40, “Kli flosises” which “signifies Kolob in its motion, which is swifter than the rest of the twelve ​fixed stars; going before, being first in motion, being delegated to have power over others. to regulate others in their time, for example. one cubit of times signifies three​ days therefore that which is appointed to run ​three​ days, runs one cubit according to the measure of time in cubits a cubit of motion is increased or lessened according to the sign of the degrees.” The relationship between a cubit and time is a well-known and curious aspect of Facs. 2, where the explanation for Fig. 1 includes, “Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit.” The GAEL’s description of Kolob as “first in motion” resonates with its “first” status in the explanation of Facs. 2, as does its role in regulating or governing other celestial bodies.

Finally we have “Veh Kli flos-isis” which “signifies less power than the forth fixt governing star, but greater power than the sixth governing fixt star, in consequ[e]nce of its slowness of motion.” The relationship between its order or prominence and its speed fits the seemingly geocentric cosmological model used by Abraham to convey teachings about God and the premortal existence to Pharaoh in Abraham 3 (esp. vv. 3-4).

Page 26:

Here we have one entry in the handwriting of Warren Parrish: “Kolob signifies the first creation nearer to the celestial, or the residence of Lord, first in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time, the measurement according according to celestial time which signifies, one day to a cubit which day is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this Eearth or Jah=oh=eh.” This is very similar to content from the previous page, clearly related to Abraham 3 and Facs. 2, but here we also have the specific information that a day for Kolob is equal to a thousand years on earth, as described in Abr. 3:4 and in the comments on Facs. 2. We also have this exact phrase from Facs. 2’s comments: “First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time.”

That’s the end of this section of the GAEL. Every entry has a relationship to the existing Book of Abraham translation, though there is also significant evidence for borrowing from the Doctrine and Covenants, with perhaps a touch from other scriptures such as the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moses, and the Psalms.

The other degrees for the “second part” tend to have similar words and definitions, but a few interesting things crop up occasionally that were not covered in the 5th degree, including a number of characters that only occur in lower degrees in the second part. Some examples:

Page 27, 2nd part, 4th degree:

Char. 2.4, “Alkabeth,” said to be “angels in an unalterable and immortal State; men after they are raised from the dead, and translated unalterable state.” The character here is another from Phelps “pure language” letter, like an “L” followed with a squiggle like a small “u.” There are many potential sources for this in the LDS scriptures, which abound in references to angels and the resurrection.

Char. 2.9, “Baeth,” “The name of all mankind, man or men.” Not sure about this.

Char. 2.14, “Baethku,” “The fifth high priest from Adam.” The patriarchs following Adam are discussed in Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, vv. 40-55. Perhaps that’s the key relationship.

Char. 2.19, “Bethko,” “Man’s first residence and a more fruitful garden= a larger place of happiness— a greater happiness.” This again deals with the theme of residence and a place of greater happiness from Abraham 1 as well as the Garden of Eden in Abraham 5.

Char. 2.24, “Kahtu ain trieth,” “an other Kingdom. govrned by different laws. a second king. or governed by another, or second person not having been exalted.” The theme of different kingdoms and their respective laws is an important one in the Doctrine & Covenants. See Doctrine and Covenants 88:21-25, 35-37, 78, in which vs. 36, for example, states that “all kingdoms have a law given.” Those verses discuss the respective laws of the kingdoms revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 76.

Char. 2.29, “Zipzi Iata vek,” “I saw five women.” Not aware of a source. (I trust it’s not a veiled reference to polygamy!)

Char. 2.34, “Io=ho=hah oop zipzi,” “The title or dignity of one who is appointed to wait on the Queen; one who is held in repute; trusty honorable; who can be intrusted; a tittle or dignity conferred upon women: a sign among the Egyptians that is used for influence or power: a sign made use of for one to escape his enemies; to excite commisseration; being had in honor thereby effecting an escape.” The Queen could be a reference to Katumin in the two Katumin-related documents. “Honorable women” are mentioned in Acts 13:50 and 17:12. Three noble, virtuous women of royal descent were sacrificed by an evil priest in Abraham 1:11. As for escaping enemies, this concept is mentioned several times in the scriptures, such as Doctrine and Covenants 38:31, “that ye might escape the power of the enemy” and 54:3, “if your brethren desire to escape their enemies”;  see also 10:5. Abr. 1 involves Abraham’s escape and deliverance from enemies.

Char. 2.37, “Jah-oh-eh,” “The earth and power of athation [?] it has with the third fixed star, which is called Kai=e ven-raoh.” Here we have a cosmological definition with a form of a name associated with Facs. 2.

Page 31, 2nd part, 3rd degree:

Char. 2.2, “Aleph,” defined as “In the begining with God, the son, or first born.” This may refer to Abr. 3 and its teachings on the premortal existence, but also related to Doctrine & Covenants 93, where we read that Christ was “in the beginning, before the world was” (v. 7). Then he states that “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn” (v. 23) and later, “Man was also in the beginning with God (v. 29). Section 93, revealed May 6, 1833, is the perfect candidate source for this definition.

Char. 2.7, “Alkobeth,” “Ministers not ordained of God Sinful,” employs another non-Egyptian character from the early Phelps letter on the “pure language,” this time one of the Masonic ciphers (this charater is like a square missing the top stroke, or a block U). Errant teachings “nor ordained of God” by other ministers are mentioned in Doctrine & Covenants 45:15,18, a potential inflluence for this definition.

Char. 2.12, “Baethki,” “The third patriarch: or right of the first born,” draws upon themes of patriarchs and first born rights in Abraham 1.

Char. 2.17, “Bethkee,” “a place that has been e[n]larged that has been a place of residence; that has been a more fruitful garden. has been a larger place of happiness; hav[in]g had greater happiness,” is similar to other “beth”-related terms involving a place of greater happiness and seeking a new residence, per Abraham 1:1-3.

Char. 2.22, “Ebethkeeaimtriethe,” “a place beyond this earth a future place of existence, a place of residenden beyond this earth; the cecelestiale world; the heavenly bodies; the earth in its most sanctified state as it shall be= eternity.” This draws upon the theme of the Celestial Kingdom in Doctrine & Covenants 76, but also points to Doctrine & Covenants 77:1 with “earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state.

Char. 2.27, “Hahdees=,” appearing to draw from the Greek Hades again, is “Another kingdom of wickedness, under another, under the government of one who is an enemy to God over which he has not so much power as the first, being less entensive— in its duration.” This again seems to refer to Satan and his doom in Doctrine & Covenants 76.

Char. 2.32, “Ho=hah=oop=” is “An intercessor; interce one who ​has been​ appointed to intercede for another; invocation.” This may refer to the intercession of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 8:26-34, Hebrews 7:25, Romans 11:12, 2 Nephi 2:9-10, and Mosiah 14:12 and 15:8) or to Jesus the “the mediator of the new covenant” in Doctrine and Covenants 76:69 (cf. 2 Nephi 2:27-28).


Page 32, 2nd part, 2nd degree:

Char. 2.40, “Kliflosisis,” though already treated above for the 5th degree, is here defined somewhat differently as “time from the beginging of Creation to the flood:— or from fixed per[i]od to another fixed period: a messenger having performed certain acts, having been delegated with supreme power for a fixed period of time: hereditary, coming down from father to Son: right of authority from eight days old: according to the law of priesthood.”

That’s a curious addition, the “right of authority from eight days old.” This seems to draw upon Doctrine and Covenants 84:28, which speaks of John the Baptist (a messenger) who was ordained at the age of eight days:

28 For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power.

Page 33, 2nd part, 1st degree:

Char. 2.1, “Ahme=os=,” “God without begining or end.” In the Book of Moses, the phrase “without beginning of days or end of years” occurs twice, referring to God (Moses 1:3 and 6:67). It also occurs in a favorite source for the GAEL, Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants (v. 17), but with respect to the priesthood, like Heb. 7:3 and Alma 13:7-9. Doctrine & Covenants 78:16 speaks of “the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.” The existing LDS scriptures in 1835 are the most likely source for this definition, perhaps with the Doctrine and Covenants being most favored.

Char. 2.6, “Alkibeth,” “minister of God under or the less,” refers to ministers and a ministry, as in Abr. 2:6-11, and the theme of delegation or authority, also built into Abr. 1 and 2 and much of the Doctrine & Covenants. This character, by the way, like our capital L, is one of the characters from Phelps’ “pure language” letter before he ever saw Egyptian papyri.

Char. 2.11, “Baethkee,” “The first next from Adam, one one ordained under him, a patriarch or the right of the first born.” Adam, his posterity, patriarchs, and the right of the first born are important elements in the Book of Abraham. But the concept of an ancient patriarchal priesthood with descendants on Adam ordained under him is also found in an April 1835 revelation, now our Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, vv. 40-55. The “Egyptian” character used here is another non-Egyptian character from Phelps’ pre-papyri “pure language” letter.

Char. 2.21, “Bethku=ain-tri=eth,” “The whole earth, or the largest place, the greatest enjoyment an earth the garden of the earth.” Relates to the “residence” concepts of Abraham 1 but also the garden of Eden in Abraham 5.

Char. 2.26, Dah tu Hah dees,” “another Kingdom; the least kingdom, or kingdom without glory; the whole kingdom and dom[a]in of darkness, with all its degrees and parts. governed by him who is an enemy to God.” The references to kingdoms, glory, and degrees are found in Doctrine & Covenants 76, as is a mention of Satan and the sons of perdition (vv. 32-38). But an especially relevant fit seems to be, once again, Doctrine & Covenants 88, where vs. 24 states, “he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.” “Hah dees” may be derived from the Greek word “Hades.”

Char. 2.31, “Gahmel,” apparently taken from the Hebrew letter “gimel,” means “Landscape; a place or country: The face of the country; beautiful scituated; an country under a promantory= a promising situation for man.” Seeking a better “place” is the theme at the beginning of Abr. 1. “Situated” is rare in the scriptures but is found in Abr. 2:18, “situated in the plains of Moreh.”


The Book of Abraham translation, from Abraham 1 up through Abraham 5 and also Facs. 2, appears to be the primary source for passages in the GAEL. Doctrine & Covenants Sections 76, 84 and 88 appear to be additional prominent sources for the GAEL, with occasional influence from other sections such as Section 93, the Book of Mormon, the Bible (although the Garden of Eden story can be ascribed to that as well, of course), and perhaps the Book of Moses.  Like those sources, the Book of Abraham most likely was already in existence when it was tapped to help create entries in the GAEL. That’s why the order of some characters mattered to Phelps, an issue to consider along with several other factors previously discussed.

One can debate why W.W. Phelps was using the Book of Abraham translation,  some Doctrine and Covenants verses, and other existing sources to create entries in the GAEL and why he was using characters that often were not even Egyptian characters for his “Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language” (unless “Egyptian” is just code for the ancient “pure language”). But whatever that purpose was, we need to understand that it was incomplete and that he, with the help of Warren Parrish and perhaps others, was trying at least for a while to add more in order to move that project forward. Taking Book of Abraham text or other revealed text and relating it to concepts and connecting it to “Egyptian” characters (from the papyri, other sources, or just concocted) was part of this project.

Understanding what the GAEL is and what its sources were helps us better understand one of the most critical and misunderstood aspects of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: the Book of Abraham manuscripts with some Egyptian and some concocted “Egyptian” characters in the margins. The designation at the top of the “twin manuscripts” connects them to the “fifth degree, second part,” the incomplete section examined above, a section which completely lacks any entries for the characters adorning the controversial twin Book of Abraham manuscripts in the margins. The most plausible theory for the meaning of those documents is not that they represent a “window” into Joseph Smith’s live dictation of Abraham 1 and 2 in November 1835 or later, as some voices inappropriately allege. The related text was most likely already translated, and the textual evidence from those manuscripts shows that the scribes were working with an existing text, copying from it for what should now be a fairly obvious purpose. Rather than showing the creation of new scripture taking place, these manuscripts give us a window into a frustrated and confused attempt, perhaps right before the whole KEP project was abandoned, in order to associate more “Egyptian” characters with concepts in an already revealed text and in order to create new entries in the GAEL.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

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

  1. Very interesting, Jeff! It’s more clear with every post that the BofA translation preceded the creation of the GAEL. The projects may have progressed together and in stages, but the BofA clearly came first. Dan Vogel apparently knows more about the BofA than any other critic, and he recognizes that the BofA is not derived from the GAEL and the GAEL has “nothing to do” with the translation of the BofA. Yet, the GAEL is full of BofA references, indicting that the BofA came first. Hopefully the JSPP editors aren’t too far entrenched in their ideas to change their minds.

    Also, it’s also interesting that Joseph’s diary says: “This after noon labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with brsr. O. Cowdery and W. W. Phelps: The system of astronomy was unfolded.”
    Parrish wasn’t present for this, yet many of the GAEL astronomy entries are his. Seems they recorded what was unfolded, and the information was later transferred and organized in the EA and GAEL. So, again, the EA and GAEL were not what Joseph dictated that day; and, the fact that Phelps used information known not to be from the papyri, etc. indicates that the GAEL wasn’t intended to translate the BofA, as you’ve pointed out.

    A December 1835 entry says “…exhibited, & explained the Egytian records to them, and many things concerning the dealings of God, with the ancients especially the system of astronomy as taught by Abraham, which is contained upon these manuscripts;“

    I’m sure that wasn’t just reading from the uninspiring GAEL.

    I’ve pictured them with a partial BofA translation completed (and which Joseph would be very protective of, after the loss of the Book of Lehi, etc. and since others had invested and would later claim the “antiquities,” etc) and, while helping with Phelps’ EA project, they shuffle through papyri fragments, etc. They seek revelation on what else they have (e.g. the hypocephalus), and the system of astronomy is unfolded, perhaps through Joseph and the U&T. They would almost certainly record the revelation. Then Phelps worked it into the EA and GAEL with the help of OC, etc. and Parrish, who wasn’t there for the unfolding.

    And, as Gee and Hauglid point out in “Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant,” the astronomy doesn’t have to match our thinking.

    1. Joe, I would be curious to hear any feedback on my comments below. I think Jeff provided some great info and I think it supports my theory about Joseph (or scribes, working from Joseph’s partial translations of the papyri) comparing Egyptian mythology with its gospel roots.

  2. Excellent points, Joe. really appreciate the insights and contributions OK if I quote you on the handwriting issues that occurred in later manuscripts?

    There's much we can learn from textual analysis of these manuscripts. It's a shame some of that valuable information is not noted in the recent JSP publication, though it's great that an earlier JSP volume made some of those significant observations regarding the twin manuscripts, giving some basic reasons why this was probably not a case of Joseph Smith dictating newly created scripture, but copying from an existing manuscript. It's a shame that the later volume didn't cite that or consider that carefully deveoped view.

  3. Great research, Jeff!

    Now, more than one source tells us that Joseph translated the epitaphs of the mummies. As I have pointed out, he got the info about them right.

    This means he translated both the Book of Abraham and also part of the funerary papyri.

    Now, notice that in the GAEL the commentary is made to be generic. Even Abraham is broken down into generic terms.

    This is part of the reason why I believe that either Joseph or his scribes was trying to compare the Egyptian mythology with its true gospel roots. Remember, the Book of Abraham tells us the Egyptian practices stemmed from the true gospel.

    By expressing most of the content in generic terms, they could examine how the ideas in the Book of Abraham relate to the ideas in Egyptian mythology.

    We see these ideas side by side. For instance, “under the sun” is where Egyptians believed the afterlife was. In that same entry is listed the gospel idea of “going down to hell” and specifically mentions going down in the lineage of Onitas/Osiris(?) which essentially is what Egyptians believed happened when they died.

    Can you think of any other explanation for why those concepts would be listed together in that entry? And the concepts listed together in other entries?

    For instance, the nile is a great valley. But the garden of Eden is never called a valley. So, why is the description of a great valley combined with descriptions we would associate with the Garden of Eden? Osiris was the source of plant life. That’s why his skin is green. That’s not me saying that, it’s Robert Ritner.

    Even something simple like associating the word “sweet” with “smell” (a recurring theme in the papyri) might not seem like much, but when we find that pretty much every entry in the GAEL has something which corresponds with content in the papyri, we have to ask if it merits investigation.

    For those who want more evidence:

  4. A quick example: “Zomar” equated with “Zion.” Why not just say “Zion?” Clearly he is comparing Zion with something else. It looks like a parallel is being made between two things, as my theory predicts.

  5. Yes, Jeff feel free :), you make much more sense than I do. I was just reviewing to try to clarify for Brent, and I noticed that what I thought were page numbers were actually verses for the Times and Seasons. You probably knew that Phelps's Abr. 1:1-3 was originally only Abr. 1:1.

    Ryan, thanks for the information. I'm easily distracted and want to focus on Richards for a bit, I'll take a look at your stuff ASAP. : )

  6. Wow, Jeff's resorted to quoting the ravings of JOE PEACEMAN, of all people. Things really are as bad as they say in the bloggernacle.

  7. Hey Jeff, sat down again to clarify for Brent and I knew "Z" could easily be read as J, G or L, but couldn't picture a Z being mistaken for an Eg. I did a quick search of the BofM Printers manuscript for Zeniff etc. and noticed on pg 129, right side, four lines down, if the upper loop on Zeniff were a bit lower, or the e higher, etc. someone could mistake the loop in Z for a lower case e and could read egeniff.

    So, maybe there is a way to get egeptah out of Zeptah. But, it's pretty clear that it's Zeptah and then Egyptes in the extant Kirtland manuscripts, and it's clearly Zip in the GAEL. So, this adds to evidence of another source.

    It does seem that Richards was copying from BA2 (WWP/WP) or something similar when he gets to "Haran my brother died, but Terah, my father, yet liveed in the land of Ur, of the Chaldees. And I it came to pass that I, Abram, took Sarai to wife, <​and Nahor my Brother took Milcah to wife​> who was <​were​> the daughter of Haran."

    It could be that the original also had "the daughter of Haran" dropped, but??? It's so odd that they dropped that in all 3 but looks like Richards may have glanced back at "to wife" and missed "and Nahor…"

    I'll see if Brent is still reading tomorrow, then I have a busy week….thanks for all you do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.