Jump to content

Egyptian Grammar


soren

Recommended Posts

LDS apologists have explained the errors in Smithâ??s Egyptian Grammar in a way that I find interesting, and I wonder how defensible it is. It goes like this:

Smith wrote an Egyptian Grammar at the time he translated the Book of Abraham. In the Grammar are a large number of Egyptian symbols with totally wrong interpretations by Smith. This can be explained, however, on the supposition that Smith made the Grammar after translating the Book of Abraham. Unable to read the symbols, he looked at the translation he had been inspired to write and tried to deduce its relation to the Egyptian text. He got it all wrong, but that was due to his own human guesswork, which does not reflect on his prophetic undertaking.

This seems plausible, but I wonder how the evidence bears it out. Do the accounts of Smith and others contain any information to support or contradict this theory?

Link to comment

Well, for starters, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that "Smith" produced the documents now referred to as the "Egyptian Grammar." They were written by other people, and there is no evidence that Joseph Smith had any part in creating them.

I was trying to figure this part out as well......

Link to comment

Well, for starters, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that "Smith" produced the documents know referred to as the "Egyptian Grammar." They were written by other people, and there is no evidence that Joseph Smith had any part in creating them. The statement "Smith wrote an Egyptian Grammar" is categorically untrue.

(Edit: That's interesting--I wonder how my edit turned into a double post??)

Link to comment

Well, for starters, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that "Smith" produced the documents now referred to as the "Egyptian Grammar." They were written by other people, and there is no evidence that Joseph Smith had any part in creating them.

The Documentary History of the Church says, "The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." This seems at least to be some evidence.

Does this refer to some other document than the Egyptian Grammar? Are you suggesting Smith's work was lost? If not from Smith, where does the extant Egyptian Grammar come from?

Link to comment

Well, for starters, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that "Smith" produced the documents know referred to as the "Egyptian Grammar." They were written by other people, and there is no evidence that Joseph Smith had any part in creating them. The statement "Smith wrote an Egyptian Grammar" is categorically untrue.

You mean besides his journal entries where he says he worked on them? And the fact that one of the documents is in his own handwriting? And the rest are in the handwriting of his scribes? And the fact that he later quoted approvingly from them and used them in the preparation of the explanation of facsimile 2?

This can be explained, however, on the supposition that Smith made the Grammar after translating the Book of Abraham. Unable to read the symbols, he looked at the translation he had been inspired to write and tried to deduce its relation to the Egyptian text. He got it all wrong, but that was due to his own human guesswork, which does not reflect on his prophetic undertaking.

This seems plausible, but I wonder how the evidence bears it out. Do the accounts of Smith and others contain any information to support or contradict this theory?

One of the biggest problems is that the Book of Abraham does not seem to contain sufficient information for the production of the Alphabet and Grammar. Some of the symbols in the Grammar do not even appear on the papyri. Another problem is that the Grammar doesn't follow any kind of format we might expect from a reverse-engineering attempt. It looks very much like an inspired production. The issues surrounding this document are complicated, and I don't claim to have all the answers, but I don't think the reverse-engineering document sufficiently accounts for its characteristics.

-CK

Link to comment

And the fact that one of the documents is in his own handwriting?

I was unaware that any of these documents were in his handwriting. Can you provide evidence of that?

The Documentary History of the Church says, "The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." This seems at least to be some evidence.

OK, I'll admit to there being "some" evidence! :P

Does this refer to some other document than the Egyptian Grammar? Are you suggesting Smith's work was lost? If not from Smith, where does the extant Egyptian Grammar come from?

Well, those are some of the questions. There's nothing that says on it, "This is the 'Egyptian Grammer' that I, Joseph Smith, used in the translation of the Book of Abraham." What we have is documents written by other people, that are copies of the original translation of the Book of Abraham, with Egyptian characters added to them. Since they are copies of the original translation, it seems rather unlikely that they were used by Joseph to translate the Book of Abraham, unless by chance he had a time machine and could go ahead in time and use these later documents to make his earlier translation!

Link to comment

Repeating myself, Tvedtnes' mnemonic theory accounts for the EAG.

What is his theory?

Link to comment

The Documentary History of the Church says, "The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." This seems at least to be some evidence.

Does this refer to some other document than the Egyptian Grammar? Are you suggesting Smith's work was lost? If not from Smith, where does the extant Egyptian Grammar come from?

I was under the impression from the OP that you meant he wrote a book or a paper or something called "Egyptian Grammar"........

I honestly can't comment on the rest.....so I will leave your thread alone.

Link to comment

LDS apologists have explained the errors in Smithâ??s Egyptian Grammar in a way that I find interesting, and I wonder how defensible it is. It goes like this:

Smith wrote an Egyptian Grammar at the time he translated the Book of Abraham.

I've never heard an LDS scholar claim Smith actually wrote the grammar.

Link to comment

CK:

One of the biggest problems is that the Book of Abraham does not seem to contain sufficient information for the production of the Alphabet and Grammar. Some of the symbols in the Grammar do not even appear on the papyri.

A fact which would seem to dispute the notion that the production of the Book of Abraham and the production of the GAEL had any real connection to one another. That is, the GAEL doesnâ??t seem to have assisted Joseph Smith in his subsequent production of whatever portion of the â??translationâ? followed the production of the GAEL.*

Another problem is that the Grammar doesn't follow any kind of format we might expect from a reverse-engineering attempt.

Mmmm â?¦ what kind of â??formatâ? would you expect to find in a â??reverse-engineering attempt?â? And why? In other words, give us some background rationale for your explanation. It is interesting that (as noted below) much of the GAEL is making reference to ideas, words, concepts that form part of Abraham 1:1 â?? 3, which was translated prior to the production of the GAEL. So certainly the time line is right for a â??reverse-engineering attempt,â? if indeed thatâ??s what is going on.

It looks very much like an inspired production.

??? What is your rationale for this statement?

======================================================

* We know that at least some portion of the Book of Abraham was translated prior to the production of the GAEL â?? Abraham 1:1 â?? 3, if not more.

Link to comment

I've never heard an LDS scholar claim Smith actually wrote the grammar.

That may be. Perhaps the argument was hypothetical.

Link to comment

Stephen R. Gibson is one LDS apologist who makes the claim I am talking about. He writes:

It appears that after the Book of Abraham was completed, Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, and others tried to work out an Egyptian grammar and alphabet. In so doing, they attempted to match up the translated text of the Book of Abraham with the Egyptian characters on the papyri. The idea was apparently to use the Book of Abraham as a type of Rosetta Stone or sure translation (Nibley, Judging and Prejudging the Book of Abraham, p. 6; The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers). The experiment was doomed to failure, but it nonetheless indicated that: (1) they had very little knowledge of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, (2) they believed the text to be a true translation of papyri scrolls in their possession, and (3) there was no attempt to deceive others by claiming a knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics (see Hugh Nibley, Judging and Prejudging the Book of Abraham, p. 5 or Robert and Rose Mary Brown, They Lie in Wait to Deceive, pp. 238-40).

Here's the whole article:

http://www.lightplanet.com/response/answers/disproved.htm

Link to comment

That may be. Perhaps the argument was hypothetical.

I believe any attempt to separate Joseph Smith from the creation of the Grammar and Alphabet is misguided and unsupportable by the available evidence. The real questions of value are: what was the purpose of the GAEL? What was the motivation and method of its production? What is its relationship (if it has any) to the "translation" of the Book of Abraham?

Link to comment

I believe any attempt to separate Joseph Smith from the creation of the Grammar and Alphabet is misguided and unsupportable by the available evidence. The real questions of value are: what was the purpose of the GAEL? What was the motivation and method of its production? What is its relationship (if it has any) to the "translation" of the Book of Abraham?

I thought that would be obvious to someone of your genius :P Joseph, after completing the BoA was presented with the Kinderhook plates. After trying to translate them as he did the BoA and failing, he thought maybe it was a test from God to see if he had learned anything from translating the BoA. So he tries to reverse engineer an alphabet to apply to the Kinderhook plates and 2/3 of the way through creating the alphabet the Lord tells him to get on with something more important and quit wasting time on the fake plates, whereupon Joseph, steamed that he wasted so much time on fake plates, quit working on the plates and wouldn't tell anyone that he knew they were fake. <_<

-SlackTime

Link to comment

Stephen R. Gibson is one LDS apologist who makes the claim I am talking about. He writes:

It appears that after the Book of Abraham was completed, Joseph Smith, W. W. Phelps, and others tried to work out an Egyptian grammar and alphabet. In so doing, they attempted to match up the translated text of the Book of Abraham with the Egyptian characters on the papyri. The idea was apparently to use the Book of Abraham as a type of Rosetta Stone or sure translation (Nibley, Judging and Prejudging the Book of Abraham, p. 6; The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers). The experiment was doomed to failure, but it nonetheless indicated that: (1) they had very little knowledge of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, (2) they believed the text to be a true translation of papyri scrolls in their possession, and (3) there was no attempt to deceive others by claiming a knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics (see Hugh Nibley, Judging and Prejudging the Book of Abraham, p. 5 or Robert and Rose Mary Brown, They Lie in Wait to Deceive, pp. 238-40).

Here's the whole article:

http://www.lightplanet.com/response/answers/disproved.htm

I've never heard of this guy. It appears he has no formal education in any ancient discipline, so I would hesitate to call him an LDS scholar.

Link to comment

I've never heard of this guy. It appears he has no formal education in any ancient discipline, so I would hesitate to call him an LDS scholar.

To be fair to Soren, he never called this guy a scholar. He called him an apologist, which is clearly much more accurate.

Link to comment

I see.

That is right. I am asking about a claim about which I have heard. I raise the point because I have not found anything to substantiate one way or another the claim being made.

Link to comment

Will,

We know that at least some portion of the Book of Abraham was translated prior to the production of the GAEL â?? Abraham 1:1 â?? 3, if not more.

Actually, we don't know that. I believe the "end of August" was when you said these verses appeared in Cowdery's patriarchal blessing. According to Joseph's diary, the most intensive Alphabet and Grammar work we have a record of occurred in the last week or so of July.

I don't have time to respond to the rest of your post at the moment, and probably won't till Sunday. I'm running a 24-hour lock-in for my church's youth group tomorrow and Saturday. But if this thread is still alive when Sunday rolls around, I'll try to get back to you then.

Link to comment

Will,

Actually, we don't know that. I believe the "end of August" was when you said these verses appeared in Cowdery's patriarchal blessing. According to Joseph's diary, the most intensive Alphabet and Grammar work we have a record of occurred in the last week or so of July.

I'm somewhat puzzled about the exact time and circumstance of the dictation of Abraham 1:1-3. I find it odd that these verses are missing from the earliest Book of Abraham manuscripts, and don't yet know what to make of this.

I believe the patriarchal blessing using the same language as these verses was recorded in late September 1835, a few days before Joseph's journal records his working on the "system of astronomy" in the GAEL--whatever significance that has!

Don

Link to comment

I'm somewhat puzzled about the exact time and circumstance of the dictation of Abraham 1:1-3. I find it odd that these verses are missing from the earliest Book of Abraham manuscripts, and don't yet know what to make of this.

I believe the patriarchal blessing using the same language as these verses was recorded in late September 1835, a few days before Joseph's journal records his working on the "system of astronomy" in the GAEL--whatever significance that has!

Don

Don,

You will note that verses 1-3 in manuscript 1 are in the handwriting of W.W. Phelps and appear to have been orally dictated. In my opinion, this portion of manuscript 1 was produced much earlier than the rest of the manuscript. Manuscripts 2 and 3 then pick up at Abraham 1:4 in November, and the remainder of Manuscript 1 is copied from Manuscript 3 either in that month or in 1836.

It could be argued that Abraham 1:1-3 were translated on July 5, 1835. I have actually found some evidence that could be used to support that position. However, I am of the belief that what was translated on that date was part of the Egyptian Alphabet-- particularly the part about Katumin, but also probably the character Joseph identified as representing Abraham's name. I will make this argument in a forthcoming paper.

Will,

My comment on the Alphabet and Grammar not being formatted like we would expect a reverse-engineering attempt to be formatted was referring primarily to the system of degrees. In the loose-leaf Egyptian Alphabet manuscripts, even characters for which no translation is provided have been put into one of the "degree" categories. How does JS arrive at these classifications by means of reverse-engineering?

-CK

Link to comment

The "reverse engineering" explanation of the GAEL also falls short because it completely fails to account for the transliterations and non-Book of Abraham proper names of the GAEL. One simply can't derive "Toan, tou-ee tah es tou eh tou es" and other such transliterations from either the text of the Book of Abraham or a little squiggle on the papyrus. If not claiming to know these transliterations by revelation, how else could Joseph Smith have claimed to know them? Clearly, something more than merely comparing the Book of Abraham text to the characters would have been required.

Don

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...