Question: In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, why is each Egyptian character matched to an entire paragraph of English text?

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Question: In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, why is each Egyptian character matched to an entire paragraph of English text?

The KEP may have been an attempt to "reverse engineer" the Book of Abraham translation against the Egyptian papyri

Once the Book of Abraham translation was complete, a unique opportunity existed to use the completed translation in an attempt to match it against the Egyptian characters on the papyri and produce a correlation between English and Egyptian. The Church addresses this possibility on

Some evidence suggests that Joseph studied the characters on the Egyptian papyri and attempted to learn the Egyptian language. His history reports that, in July 1835, he was “continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arrangeing a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” This “grammar,” as it was called, consisted of columns of hieroglyphic characters followed by English translations recorded in a large notebook by Joseph’s scribe, William W. Phelps. Another manuscript, written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, has Egyptian characters followed by explanations.[1]

The reverse engineering hypothesis gains traction once we see that the translation of the Book of Abraham (as some have supposed are demonstrated by the characters in the margins of the translation manuscripts) and the characters in the GAEL:

Yet some have supposed that the Egyptian Alphabet was the tool used to create the translation. In order to assess whether this could be the case or not, I conducted research to test the assumption. First, I located all of the phrases in the Egyptian Alphabet that also appear in the Book of Abraham. I then compared the Egyptian characters next to those phrases to the Egyptian characters adjacent to the matching lines in the early Book of Abraham manuscripts. Of the twenty-one times I found text in the Egyptian Alphabet that matched text in the Book of Abraham, I found only one time that the corresponding Egyptian characters matched, four times when part of the characters matched, and sixteen times in which there was no match whatsoever. Clearly the Egyptian alphabet was not used to translate the papyri, nor is there any demonstrable relationship between the characters on the papyri and the text of the Book of Abraham. This is not surprising since the characters come from fragments of papyri that eyewitnesses noted were not the source of the Book of Abraham.[2]

Even further evidence of this is the presence of Hebrew in the GAEL. This is further explicated by Jeff Lindsay[3]


  1. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics (8 July 2014).
  2. Kerry Muhelstein, '"The Explanation Defying Book of Abraham" in A Reason For Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History (ed.) Laura Harris Hales (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016) 85.
  3. Jeff Lindsay, “A Precious Resource With Some Gaps” Interpreter: a Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 33-2 (2019) pp. 35-58 off-site