Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Look at Mormon’s Use of Egyptian Writing – Part I

Another response to a recent article suggested that since we do not now the original writing languages of the Nephites, i.e., Reformed Egyptian, that it is meaningless to try quoting what the original intent of the words used in the scriptural record really meant. While that may sound accurate at first blush, the fact is, we do know two things about this: 1) The original Hebrew thinking, writing and speaking of the Nephbites, and 2) Something about Egyptian.
    It should be understood that hieroglyphics, or any series of symbols, that convey an overall meaning cannot include changeable parts to that overall meaning. The examples the reader suggested were all standard meaning phrases, i.e., “many days” “many times” “this course” “back upon the surface” “we were driven forth” “crossing a great sea” etc. However, the issue of the original articles was not generic—it was direction-specific. That is, “from the east sea to the west sea” would not be a generic term. “from the sea to the sea” would be generic, but once you add direction “north, south, east or west” you have to change parts of a symbol so one symbol cannot include all possibilities.
    As an example, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, north and south have two distinctly different glyphs:
Left: North;          Right: South

Take for example sailing on the Nile River. The Egyptians used two entirely different symbols for sailing north or sailing south. Thus, they used two different symbols for north and south. This is because the Nile runs north and south—the Nile flows from the south to the north, or from upriver (Upper Egypt and the head) to the downriver (Lower Egypt and the delta or mouth), ending at the Mediterranean. Thus traveling south to north (downriver) was easy, especially when adding rowing oars. However, traveling north to south (upriver) was more difficult fighting the current with oars. But on the Nile, the wind blows mostly from the north to the south, so by adding a sail, you could move upriver on the Nile with comparative ease. Thus, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics used a picture of a boat with its sails down to signify traveling south, because to travel north, they used the current and oars. A picture of a boat with its sails up signify traveling south.
    As for east and west glyphs:

Left: East;             Right: West 

When understanding the Egyptians, and therefore, their hieroglyphics and writing, we need to keep in mind that the Nile was the center of living to the Egyptians, and it flowed almost due north, running north and south, and its banks for a short, narrow distance, called the Black Land, was rich, black fertile soil blessed by the water and agriculture.
    To the early Egyptians, there was no east and west to speak of—they knew the direction, and had gods overseeing those areas; however, not very far from the Nile was the Eastern Desert to the east and Red Sea, and the Western Desert to the west, and mountains to the south, isolating their land into a 4,000-mile-long narrow strip of area occupied along the Nile. Thus, while Egypt was located in the middle of a desert, along the Nile it was fruitful.
Left: Ship's Mast: Means to stand vertical, erect or upright; Right: Ship's Sail: Means Wind, air, Breath, Sailors, Puff, Flood (of Nile)

While we do not know how Reformed Egyptian was used, and it may have had thoughts as opposed to words or even letters, it still would have had to be altered for specific differences, like writing:
    “They sailed from the east” or  “They sailed from the west”
    “They traveled to the north” or “They traveled to the south”
    “They sailed” or “They traveled” could be one symbol in each case, but the specific direction would have been altered, added to, changed, etc. That is, north, east,  south, and west had to be added and would not be part of an overall “canned” or “standard” glyph.
    Using the reader’s example, he said "­­_____" could mean “on this course.” However, to be directional specific, it would have to be something like "____∑" which might mean “on this West course” but "____∞" would mean “on this North course,” or "____«" would mean “on this same course,” etc. When you go from general to specific, there has to be a change. In the case of Alma 22:32 “from the east to the west sea,” might be something like this if:
    "Ø" meant “West Sea” (O for West; / for sea) 
    "©" meant “to and from”
    "≠" meant “East Sea” (= for East; / for sea)
    So instead of writing "≠©Ø" Mormon wrote: "=©Ø"
    That would be elliptical writing by “today’s nomenclature, but in Mormon’s day, it would simply be saving engraving effort and time because it was unnecessary since “East Sea” had already been introduced in his overall “paragraphic” insertion.
    As the reader wrote: “Since each character represents a complete thought there is no need for elliptical thinking” and that would be true in standard glyph writing, since one is not showing anything specific, like a direction. However, once you add direction-specific meaning, or any other specific meaning, you change the concept.
    As an example, in one of the sample drawings, he used a glyph to mean “in this crossing we were driven forth by mighty winds
    But let’s say that Mormon’s original concept was that he was telling his future reader that “this course was westward”—he would have had to include a symbol meaning “west.”
    “As they headed westward they were driven forth by mighty winds,” then a moment later, added, “…mighty winds drove them forward toward the west.
    That would have required a change or an addition to the glyph—an extra stroke or two on the metal plates. But let’s say he didn’t want to repeat the final “toward the west” because he had already said that in the overall statement, so he used “elliptical thinking,” that is, he simply didn’t include it because he already had stated to the west.
    Again, once you add specific language to a glyph, you change the generic thought to one that is directional specific, which is what Alma 22:32 was.
    Thus, the statement: “which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west,” would have had to have the “east” and “west” added or altered. Which should also mean that either or both could be changed or even left out.
    Therefore, “on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” would have had specific words added or altered, i.e., Bountiful, Desolation, East, West; and the word “sea” could have been added or deleted, since the word “mountain” “desert” “canyon” or whatever land description could be inserted.
    In fact, this entire verse had at least 14 words that had to be added, changed, altered, etc., depending on what was needed, and we could probably add “line” “journey” “water” “neck of land” as well:
    “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

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