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It is important to point out that William Schryver committed himself to this notion that the entire KEP can be understood via a proper understanding of the two pages called the "Egyptian Counting" document. He claims there has been "no explanation" proposed for this document, and so he goes to great lengths to "explain" it for us. I've been told that the critics have never provided an explanation, therefore Schryver's is the first. However, the explanation for this document is found in the document itself; the critics just never felt the need to argue otherwise..
The Egyptian Counting document was intended to be... (drum roll)... an Egyptian Counting document.
The best way to approach this is by allowing the document to define itself. There is no need to complicate it further with superfluous brain-storms.
To those familiar with these documents, it is quite obvious what this particular document was intended to be. But Schryver claims it is something else entirely; a cipher key which he asserts to supports his thesis that these men were engaged in an enciphering project, and not literal translations. Will is privileged in that he has been granted access to images of the documents, and he shares a few of them in his presentation. However his commentary accompanying the images is riddled with errors and baseless assumptions that are essential to his conclusion.
First and foremost,
William tells us that when the text refers to Egyptian, it doesn't really mean to be referring to the Egyptian language (despite the fact that the "EL" in the acronym GAEL refers to "Egyptian Language," as the first page identifies itself). But his only evidence for this is the fact that none of the characters are genuine Egyptian characters. This is what we call a circular argument. He begins with the premise that these men would only believe real Egyptian characters were really Egyptian, and so he proceeds to argue in a circle that since these were not really Egyptian, then they never believed they were. So it is important that Schryver establish the premise that these men never really believed these Egyptian characters were Egyptian. Unfortunately, he never even tries to establish this. Instead, he asserts that it is true and leaves it at that.
According to William, this wasn't a "translation" at all, despite the fact that the document claims to contain Egyptian characters along with an English "explanation." William tells his audience that we should dispense with this description and call the English explanation a "substitute value." Presumably because that makes it sound more like a cipher.
He then says that these men would not have called a cipher a cipher, but instead they would have called it a "translation." This is how he accounts for the word "translation" being used, by claiming these men used it to mean the exact opposite ("Decipher" is synonymous with translate, but "encipher," as Will proposes was their purpose, is the opposite). So the argument here seeks to turn this document on its head by making it say the exact opposite of what it is.
So in this short two page document, William manages to rid himself of three crucial pieces of evidence with no justification. His argument's underlying premise requires that Egyptian must not really mean Egyptian, translation really means the opposite of translation, and explanation really refers to a cipher-like "substitute value." Without all three of these assumptions, his entire argument collapses. So the million dollar question is simple. Does William justify these assumptions with evidence? The answer is no.
But let's delve deeper into this so we can see further why Will's proposed explanation is not reasonable, and contrary to his repeated claim, has no explanatory power.
The document contains the numbers 1-79 represented by mysterious characters along with their English names. To me - and I speak with experience teaching languages - this document has all the symptoms of a translated numbering system from one language to another. Something similar to this can be found in just about any Grammar book on any language. That this is what they were trying to do is further demonstrated by the manner in which these English explanations were represented.
For example, why would a couple of characters be said to mean "Twice ten and two is twenty-two"? If it were merely a cipher as William asserts, then we'd begin with a coherent English concept and encrypt it into a symbol. We wouldn't begin with a symbol and extract from it redundant or ambiguous English phrases. In this case, there would be no reason to represent the number 22 with a phrase of seven words. One would simply say "twenty-two" or more to the point, "22," But Joseph Smith felt the need to spell out the literal translation.
Moreover, the way in which these men rendered these Egyptian numbers in English tells us everything we need to know about what they thought they were doing, because this looks just like a typical 'word for word" translation from one language to another. A perfect example of this can be demonstrated in basic translations of Portuguese numbers. For instance, the number nineteen is represented in the Portuguese language as "dezenove." Literally translated it says "ten (dez) and (e) nine (nove)." This is very similar to the literal translation that appears in the Egyptian document, "Twice ten and two is twenty-two". So there should be no question that this was intended to be an Egyptian numbering system translated for English readers. I've taught this to literally hundreds of students, so when I read the Egyptian Counting document this jumped out at me and I knew exactly what this was trying to say.
Will asserts, with no evidence, that none of these men really believed the symbols they used had any relationship to genuine Egyptian. This is easily refuted, and as I explained to Will and his defenders a year ago, many of the characters used to represent the Egyptian numbers can be found on the Anthon Transcript, which is a document containing characters that were derived from the "Gold Plates" written in "Reformed Egyptian." Here are a sample of the characters found on the Egyptian Counting document, alongside the Anthon transcript:
Obviously, many of these characters preexisted this project, and it is worth noting that several Masonic cipher symbols bear strong resemblance to a number of the characters found in the Anthon transcript. So despite the fact that many of these symbols derive from the "reformed Egyptian," William asserts that there is absolutely no reason to believe these men thought these characters had anything to do with the Egyptian language. I mean the fact that they called them Egyptian, and the fact that some of them were clearly present on a document containing "reformed" Egyptian, makes this a dubious claim.
Further evidence against Will's assertion can be found in Joseph Smith's explanations of Facsimile #2, which appear in the GAEL and are to some extent, dependent on the Egyptian Counting document. You see, Will does a good job of showing flashy images and complicating a rather simple document, but what he never does is test the proposed english explanations with other examples in which these Egyptian numbers were used. This is because he rejects out of hand the obvious fact that this was believed to be a literal translation from Egyptian to English.
The Egyptian number one is called "eh" in the Egyptian Counting document. Phrases pulled from the GAEL reveal that this same "eh" is used to denote the meaning of one, first or beginning. The same is true for the Egyptian number "veh" which means five. The former LDS apologist Paul Osborne, provided an online article explaining how these words consistently correspond to their assigned translations.
But the real coffin nail here is the fact that Facsimile #2 was worked on in the GAEL, and the translation produced is now canonized alongside the Book of Abraham.
From Joseph Smith's explanation of Figure 1:
Notice that Joseph Smith mentions "Jah-oh-eh" and explains what it meant to the Egyptian people. This term is found in the GAEL with an accompanying symbol. This proves three points that effectively dismiss Schryver's thesis:
1. The Facsimile explanations produced by Joseph Smith, not W.W. Phelps, use a word derived from the GAEL. There is nothing in LDS history or canon to suggest the source for the Facsimile explanations was W.W. Phelps. The Facsimile explanations also refer to GAEL terms, "Kolob" and "Floees," along with their corresponding definitions. The latter appearing in Cowdery's Alphabet document, but not in Phelps's.
2. This word along with the corresponding definition establishes the critical argument regarding the meaning and purpose of the Egyptian Counting document. There is no evidence of enciphering. It was clearly used to decipher, to demonstrate a literal translation.
3. This word was understood to have been used, not by the "Ancients" (as William asserts blindly) but more specifically, the "Egyptians."
And yet William argues, without a shred of evidence of support, that those involved with this project never believed they were dealing with anything that had to do with the Egyptians or the Egyptian language. Will's thesis relies on a rejection of all three points listed and proved above.
So why in the world are they publishing something William claims was being enciphered?
The entire point to enciphering is to encrypt data. To keep it hidden. But Joseph Smith freely demonstrated these documents and their translations to whomever wanted to view them. Continued...