Question: Could Joseph Smith translate Egyptian?

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Question: Could Joseph Smith translate Egyptian?

At that time, nobody could translate Egyptian . The only way Joseph could translate would be through revelation.

Many students of the Book of Abraham have asked if Joseph Smith could have had access to means that he might learn Egyptian and translate the Book of Abraham and/or if he ever claimed to be able to translate Egyptian mechanically. Joseph couldn't translate Egyptian. At that time, hardly anyone in the United States could translate Egyptian. Jean-Francois Champollion would only recently (relatively speaking) be completing his transliteration of the Rosetta Stone. Joseph was able to receive the text of the Book of Abraham in the same manner that he did for the Book of Mormon, by revelation.

Some critics believe that Joseph claimed he knew Egyptian.

Some critics believe that Joseph claimed to know Egyptian because of an 1844 publication entitled Appeal to the Freemen of the State of Vermont, the "Brave Green Mountain Boys," and Honest Men that was purportedly written by him and in which an appeal to the GAEL is made to provide a translation for an Egyptian-sounding phrase. However, this publication has been demonstrated to have been ghostwritten by W.W. Phelps acting as Joseph Smith.[1] Additionally, it would have been written after all the translation of the Book of Abraham was complete.

Notes

  1. Samuel M. Brown, "The Translator and the Ghost Writer: Joseph Smith and W.W. Phelps," Journal of Mormon History Vol. 34, No. 1 (Winter 2008): 26-62.