Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Hebrew and Egyptian

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

“Archaeological evidence shows that the only people known to have developed written languages in America were the Olmecs and Mayans whose written languages have no resemblance to Hebrew or Egyptian hieroglyphs. Additionally, professional linguists and Egyptologists do not consider the Anthon Transcript document to contain any legitimate ancient writing. Klaus Baer, Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, called the characters of the transcript nothing but "doodlings.”

The problem with dealing in such an area is that if you do not know a language that uses hieroglyphics or symbols, it is hard to imagine that it means anything. As an example, take a look at the following and determine which are legitimate languages and which ones are just “doodlings.”
In this particular case, all are actual languages: Line 1—Early Chinese; 2—Egyptian; 3—Phoenician; 4—Egyptian; 5—Meoitic; 6—Sanskrit. The point is, that unless you know these symbols or hieroglyphics, they do not appear to have any meaning or that they could as well be “doodlings” as real. Here are four more ancient languages that are less known to the linguist—or are they real?

An interesting display that might cause most linguists some problems. The first language is Klingon—a completely made up language of the 20th century, but one that can be spoken and has all the ingredients of a real language. Line 2 is Rongo Rongo, a language found on Easter Island that has never been deciphered, yet early islanders claim they came from Peru anciently and this is the language they brought with them. Line 3 is Hieratic, a form of abbreviated Egyptian hieroglyphic, and Line 4 is completely made up though it uses so-called authentic Egyptian symbols (mostly found in tattoos).

The above is meant to suggest that if a person, no matter how brilliant a linguist, does not know the characters, the alphabet, the meaning, etc., such symbols would definitely appear as mere “doodlings.” This, in fact, was the problem with Egyptian hieroglyphics until the Rosetta Stone was found and interpreted which gave linguists the ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Nephi says that he wrote his record after the language of his father, and that this was called reformed Egyptian (1 Nephi 1:2). We have no understanding why Lehi knew Reformed Eqyptian, but the fact that the entire Book of Mormon record was written in it is well documented from Nephi to Moroni (Mormon 9:32).

Unlike English and many other western languages, Hebrew is very compact. A typical English sentence of fifteen words will often translate into seven to ten Hebrew words. As an example, 2 Nephi 5:20 through 2 Nephi 11:3 takes fifteen pages to write in English while a Hebrew translation is so compact, it covers only two pages. We do not know what size the characters were that Nephi and other prophets engraved on the plates, but obviously they rejected Hebrew because it took up too much space (Mormon 9:33). This means that reformed Egyptian must have been a language remarkable for its ability to convey a lot of information in a few symbols or characters. It's compactness can be seen by the fact that, unlike Hebrew which had its base in alphabetical letters, reformed Egyptian was made up of characters, many individual symbols capable of expressing complete thoughts.

Since this language was difficult to convey meaning (3 Nephi 5:18), why was it used? The first, and most obvious answer, as stated above, was that it allowed more writing space on the small plates. But another, and perhaps more important reason, might lie in the fact that the Lord's intent for the Nephite record was to be written in a language which would be a dead tongue and script—a language that no man could translate in 1830 without divine aid. Joseph Smith said that no man knows the language of the gold plates, and Mormon wrote:

“But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language, therefore, he hath prepared a means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34).

Obviously, then, no linguist, Egyptologist, or expert in dead languages, would be able to read the reformed Egyptian on the Anthon characters and would, therefore, out of his sectarian nature, claim it was a fake, fraud, or just plain “doodlings.” But to the Lord, who created all languages, reformed Egyptian is a language known to him and was made known to Joseph Smith when he translated the plates.


  1. I have some symbols I would love to see if you ever seen?

  2. Imagine future linguists trying to decypher emojis and their sometimes multiple meanings.