Question: What are the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language?

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Question: What are the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language?

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers associate characters with passages of text

Among the early Book-of-Abraham-related-manuscripts that have survived from the days of Joseph Smith are a number of papers collectively referred to as the "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" (KEP). These pages were written while the Saints lived in Kirtland, Ohio, and were recorded in the general time frame that Joseph was translating the Book of Abraham. They are in the same handwriting of several of Joseph's scribes. Critics charge that the KEP represent Joseph's attempt to translate the hieroglyphics from those portions that are still extant, noting that Egyptologists tell us that the alleged "translations" do not accurately reflect the meanings of the hieroglyphics.

In some cases, several paragraphs of the English translation of the Book of Abraham are associated with Egyptian characters from the Joseph Smith papyri

In some instances, one Egyptian character seems to yield several sentences of English text. From what may be surmised from the "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" the surviving Egyptian papyri are claimed by critics to be the source for the Book of Abraham. Critics point out that Egyptologists agree that these papyri are part of a collection of Egyptian funerary documents known as the Book of Breathings and do not deal with Abraham.

For many years, the KEP were not well studied

A variety of possible explanations have been offered by LDS researchers over the years. The most recent approach postulates that the KEP represent an attempt by Joseph and his associates to create a way to encode revelations and other sensitive data in a form approximating "pure language." Research into this theory is ongoing. A number of the following paragraphs make use of conclusions made in a presentation by William Schryver.[1] Also presented here is another approach to the issue.

One conclusion made by some theorists is that the KEP do not lend support to the critical theory that the coherent words of the Book of Abraham were produced from a non-inspired analysis of the Egyptian materials before Joseph or his scribes. The text of the Book of Abraham was uttered by the Prophet and recorded by his scribes in much the same way that all of his revelatory translation projects were done. To the critic, this simply means that Joseph made up the coherent text and dictated it; to the believer, it means that Joseph received the text by revelation and dictated it, whether the actual text of the Book of Abraham existed on the papyri or not.

Other theorists take the position that the KEP do represent an inspired translation of the ideograms, but not of their Egyptological meanings. Rather, the non-standard meanings were assigned to them anciently by Jewish Egyptians in a non-standard system of Egyptian exegesis.


  1. For the initial presentation of this theory, see William Schryver, The Meaning and Purpose of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, August 2010 FAIR Conference.