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Robert F. Smith
June 2017

Chiastic or concentric structures may be regarded as yet another form of Markan

repetition or duality, but we hardly have here the predominant, recurring motif of the
figure in Marks carpet. Chiasm is also often argued to be the predominant organizing
principle of virtually every ancient corpus of literature. What are we to make of this
current critical zeal for chiasm? Is it as ubiquitous in ancient literature and therefore as
important as some claim? Note that these concentric patterns are geometrical in form
and are typically explicated by means of a diagram or chart. They are thus set forth only
by modern critics and as strikingly visual or architectural patterns.... I suspect that an
ancient would not recognize a chiasm if he saw one diagrammed on the wall, but he
might recognize it if he heard it performed orally. If so, what would he hear? Chiasms, I
suspect, were for the ancient experiences of the ear rather than of the eye. If chiasm, in
Mark at least, is yet another narrative strategy of duality, then we may want to inquire
as to the pragmatic and rhetorical functions of such repetitive arrangements at the level
of discourse and not just at the level of story. Modern critics have tended to define
chiasm more in terms of story content and less in terms of narrative strategy or
discourse. If attention can be shifted from neat diagrams and architectural symmetry,
visually apprehended, to the progressive, temporal encounter that every hearer and
reader of the Gospel experiences, then we may better understand not what chiastic
structures are visually but how they function temporally.
Robert Fowler1

Robert M. Fowler, Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark
(Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 1996), 151-152.

Chiasmus in Ancient Egyptian
in the Caractors Transcript
Robert F. Smith
This was a book written in the language of the Egyptians on golden plates.2
Gordon B. Hinckley

Jack Welch=s work on chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, and in a wide array of other
literature,3 led to the stunning (and surprising) conclusion of two researchers in 2001 (working
fully independently of one another) that the horizontal, so-called AAnthon Transcript@4 currently
in the possession of the Community of Christ (RLDS Church) is clearly to be arranged in at least
two separate chiasms based completely on an internal analysis of the ACaractors.@5 Of course,
since the Book of Mormon exhibits many tightly woven or structured chiasms, it should be no
real surprise to discover that the Caractors Transcript itself is similarly structured. However,
this is a very interesting development, and may even have major implications for any serious
attempt to translate the transcript (see the accompanying plates). Without the initial work of
Jack Welch, however, none of that would have taken place.

Another matter entails the proper way in which the characters are arranged, i.e., the
individual Egyptian cursive characters face right and are to be read from right to left (according

David Ransom interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, Compass, ABC-TV, November 9, 1997,
transcript online at .
J. Welch, ed., Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Heidelberg: Gerstenberg,
1981/ reprinted Provo: FARMS/ Research Press, 1999).
First published in The Prophet, December 21, 1844, in New York City, with the claim that it was
a copy of the characters Martin Harris showed to Professor Anthon.

C. Wade Brown, The First Page of the Golden Plates (Plymouth, Calif.: author /Orem: Granite Publ., 2001); Blair B. Bryant, AThe >Caractors Transcript=,@ online
at (Laurel, MD: author 2001).

to Joseph Smith), and so must be read as Egyptian cursive writing in general 6 from right to left
and must therefore be arranged the way Wade Brown and Blair Bryant have arranged them,
i.e., the opposite format from that expected of a chiasm displayed in English.

Were such chiasms created by Egyptian scribes? Yes, of course, and we have numerous
examples many of them wonderfully symmetrical monumental inscriptions, 7 such as the
Opening the Mouth Ritual sequence in the Chapel of Amenirdis I at Medinet Habu,8 or on
illustrated papyri, such as plates 33 & 34 in the Papyrus of Any.9 An abstract of Mariam Ayads
analysis is wonderfully on point:

Recent work on the funerary chapel of Amenirdis I at Medinet Habu has proved her selections
from the Opening of the Mouth ritual to be deliberately chosen and meticulously laid out on the
walls of her funerary chapel such that the texts, which were inscribed in retrograde, commence
at the doorway to the chapel and culminate on the innermost wall of the corridor surrounding
her cella. This interpretation of the layout of OM scenes suggests that the scenes inscribed on
opposite walls run parallel to each other and should thus be read concurrently rather than
sequentially. While this theory differs from more conventional interpretations of the division of
the ritual, it accounts for the scenes' layout, their retrograde direction of writing/ reading, and
relates the scenes' textual content to their physical location on the walls of the chapel. A new
system for numbering the various scenes of the Opening of the Mouth arose from this particular
analysis of Amenirdis's texts. The new numbers incorporate the scenes' physical location on the
monument on which they occur.10

Egyptologists William C. Hayes and Richard A. Parker (both now deceased) made some very
specific and positive comments on the Egypticity of the Anthon Transcript to LDS scholars Stanley B.
Kimball and Richard L. Bushman, respectively.

See my index of Egyptian chiasmus in J. W. Welch, ed., Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures,
Analyses, Exegesis (Heidelberg: Gerstenberg, 1981/ reprinted Provo: FARMS Research Press, 1999), 287-
Mariam Ayad, The Selection and Layout of the Opening of the Mouth Scenes in the Chapel of
Amenirdis I at Medinet Habu, JARCE, 41 (2004):113-133; Ayad, Towards a Better Understanding of the
Opening of the Mouth Ritual, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists,
Grenoble, 6-12 September 2004, OLA 150 (Leuven: Peeters, 2007):109-116. John Gee called my
attention to Ayads articles.
M. Hirmer, K. Lange, and E. Otto, Egypt (1968), 395; E. Budge, Book of the Dead, 2nd ed.
(1909/1956), 502ff.; cf. Papyrus Mut-hotep, sheet 5, in E. Naville, Todtenbuch, II:428-429.
Online at .

However, the most convincing instances of chiasmus in Egyptian are examples, such as the
following, consisting of 12 lines within a 12th Dynasty Hymn to Osiris on the front of the Stela of
Sobk-iry (Louvre C 30). The first six lines begin with words which are then repeated in reverse
in the following six lines in classic chiastic (ABCDEFFEDCBA) fashion:

qm Whose awe Atum set in the heart of men, gods, spirits, and dead,
rdi Whom rulership was given in On;
Great of presence in Djedu (Busiris),
nb Lord of fear in Two-Mounds;
Great of terror in Rostau,
nb Lord of awe in Hnes.
nb Lord of power in Tenent,
Great of love upon earth;
nb Lord of fame in the palace,
Great of glory in Abydos;
rdi Whom triumph was given before the assembled Nine Gods,
qm For whom slaughter was made in Herwer=s great hall.11

Another comes from an 11th Dynasty biographical inscription (British Museum 614, lines 3-6)
from the Theban tomb of the Treasurer Tjetji:12

it t pn hr st-r.f While this land was under his charge (command)

ntt-r bw Southward to Elephantine, and
pt-r T-wr Tn Northward to Thinis of the Thinite Nome,
t wi m bk.f n dt.f While I was his liegeman (personal servant) . . .

Another example is from a Ramesside Hymn to Amun-Re on the Votive Stela of Nebre at Deir
el-Medina (Berlin Museum 20377), 148B:6-12,

swy tn r.f Beware ye of him!

whm w n ri rit Declare him to son and daughter,
n y riw To the great and small,
ddy w n dmw (sp sn) Herald him to generations, (twice)
n dmw nty bw pr.n To generations not yet born;
ddy w n rmw r mty Herald him to fishes in the deep,
n pdw m t pt To birds in the sky,
whm w n m w [n] r w Declare him to fool and wise,
swy tn r.f Beware ye of him!13

11 H. Grapow, ZS, 79 (1954):20-21, translated and cited in Miriam Lichtheim, AEL, I:202-203.

A. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed., 138, citing Journal of Egyptian Archeology, 17:55.

Not infrequently, glyptic art and inscription combine in wonderfully beautiful chiasms (bilateral
symmetry), as on this painted wooden stele of the Priest Harsiese (Oriental Institute), showing
him offering to Re-Horakhty and to Atum (10th 8th centuries BC),14

H. Grapow, ZS, 79 (1954):19-21, translated and cited in M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian
Literature, II:106-107; J. Assmann gyptische Hymnen und Gebete 2nd ed. (Fribourg/ Gttingen, 1999);
abccba; imperative mood, cited in Assmann Search for God in Ancient Egypt (Cornell Univ. Press, 2001),

Published in Bible Review, 8/6 (Dec 1992):20, online at http://members.bib-
&UserID=3509& .

A different sort of example is from a Hymn to Re which comes from the door-jamb of the
Tomb of King Haremhab of Dynasty 18 (British Museum 552, VIII, plate 27),15

iw n.k Itrty m ksw The Two Rows (gods of Upper & Lower Eg) come to thee bowing, n.k i()w n wbn.k They give thee praise at thy rising,
stn.n.k t m imw w.k Thou hast made dazzling the land thru the splendor of thy body,
ntry.ti m Sm imy pt Being divine as the Power which is in heaven,
ntr mn Beneficient god,
nsw (n) King of eternity,
nb sp Lord of light,
q ddwt Prince of brightness,
ry nst.f m Msktt Who is on his seat in the Night-Bark,
w m Mndt Great in his appearances in the Day-Bark,
wn ntry Divine stripling,
iww (n) Heir of eternity,
wtt sw Who begot his (own) self,
ms sw ds.f And bare his own self.
dw tw Psdt (t) The Great Ennead adores thee,
hnw n.k Psdt ndst The Little Ennead makes jubilation to thee, tw m irw.k nfr They adore thee in thy beautiful forms.

The following chiastic formula is found on top this Dynasty 11 or 12 Offering Table of Lady
Khety, from Lisht, as laid out by James Allen.16 Such a layout is typical of offering tables.

Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed., 291-292.
James P. Allen, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs
(Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), 1.6, citing Gustave Jquier and Joseph-tienne Gautier, Mmoire sur les
fouilles de Licht (Cairo: IFAO, 1902), 54, fig. 53; A B, C D.

A A royal offering to Osiris, Lord of Busiris, the great god, Lord of Abydos, [that he may give]
an invocation-offering consisting of bread and beer, oxen, fowl, bread, clothing, and alabaster
to the spirit of Waret-Khety-Seneb, venerated Lady (tp di nsw Wsir nb Ddw ntr nb bdw
prt-rw m t m nqt kw pdw t mnt s n k n Wrt-hty-snb nbt im)

B A royal offering to Anubis, who is upon His Mountain, he who is in (his) mummy-wrappings,
Lord of the Sacred Land, that he may give water, beer, incense, and oil to the spirit of Waret-
Khety-Seneb, justified (tp di nsw Inpw tpy-dw.f imy-wt nb t dsr di.f mw nqt sntr mrt n k n
Wrt-hty-snb mt-rw)

C Venerated by the great god, Lord of Heaven, Waret-Khety-Seneb (imt ntr nb pt Wrt-

D Venerated by the King, Waret-Khety-Seneb (imt r nsw Wrt- hty-snb)

It will be noted that the verb di.f that he may give does double-duty in B for A, and that the
parallels are complementary in each of the chiastic (symmetrically mirrored) lines, A B, C D.

Narrative Chiasmus

The Tale of Sinuhe is the most important piece of literature from Middle Kingdom Egypt, and it
is both poetic and chiastic. The overall ABA structure of it (Egypt-Retjenu-Egypt) has, of course,
been recognized as a symmetrical pattern by Richard Parkinson,17 but his detailed analysis
goes much further than that: Parkinson shows how passages and incidents echo one another
in the tightly structured internal symmetry of the poem,18 in which the duel between
Sinuhe and the redoubtable Asiatic warrior is structurally the central incident of the Tale, and
the turning-point of the plot.19 This largely coheres with the chiastic five-part structure of the

17 Parkinson, Tale of Sinuhe, 23.

18 Parkinson, Tale of Sinuhe, 11.

19 Parkinson, Tale of Sinuhe, 23.

The Tale of Sinuhe

I Flight from Egypt (R1-B34) 57 lines

a R6 death of King Amenemhat I Sehetepibre
b R6 royal pyramid His Horizon
c R9 Great Portal
d B30 Amunenshi
II Conversation between Sinuhe & Amunenshi about King (B34-92) 58 lines
e B52 his strong-arm
e B63 his arrowhis bow
III The Duel between Sinuhe & powerful warrior (B92-177) 85 lines
d B100 ruler of Retjenu
e B105 my strong-arm, my bow
f B111-112 he planned to rob me, and thought to plunder my cattle
e B127 my bowmy arrows
d B143 Amunenshi
f B144-45 plundered his cattle. What he planned to do to me,
I did to him (reversal)
IV Correspondence between Sinuhe & King (B178-243) 65 lines
V Return to Egypt (B244-311) 67 lines
c B285 Great Portal
b B300 pyramid built for Sinuhe
a B310 death of Sinuhe


The original document is about 8" x 3.25" and is in the Temple Archives of the Community of
Christ (RLDS Church), Independence, MO. It was obtained by the RLDS Church from the David
Whitmer estate in 1903. Whitmer was already in possession of it in 1884, wrote about it in
1887,20 and he stated that he obtained it and the Printers MS of the Book of Mormon from his
brother-in-law Oliver Cowdery (d. 1850). This view of the Caractors Transcript (AT) is available
online at www.utlm .org/images/anthontranscript.jpg , and at Blair Bryant and Wade Brown have
separately analyzed this horizontal Caractors Transcript as containing two major chiasms, along
with some smaller chiasms (at least in the view of Blair Bryant). Please note that, based on the
chiastic analysis, the difference in size of the first four lines of ACaractors@ and the final three
lines is not at all arbitrary. These are purposeful groupings, and the copyist did not complete

I have in my possession the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the handwriting of
Oliver Cowdery and others, also the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from
one of the golden plates, which paper Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon, of New York, for him to
read the words of a book that is sealed: but the learned professor, although a great linguist could not
read the language of the Nephites, David Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 11, online at .

the final group B apparently because he ran out of space. See an analysis of these Caractors
at SEHA_Newsletter_122-2.PDF .21

These and other seemingly extraneous matters (certainly extraneous to a discussion of

literary patterns and style) have had to be inserted in this discussion in order to demonstrate
beyond cavil that many of these matters are part of much larger systems which cannot be
treated atomistically.

Caractors Transcript Chiasms

The very evident discrete phrasing (forced in each instance by the chiastic analysis) may
be very important in considering how to go about deciphering the ACaractors Transcript.@
Immediately below, I provide a copy of Wade Brown=s arrangement of the first major chiasm
from the Anthon Transcript.22 Of course, it is possible to arrange the chiastic lines a bit
differently than Brown, e.g., combining lines 2 & 3, 4 & 5, 7 & 8, and 9 & 10, but the basic
structure and discrete, parallel phrasing is still obvious. Moreover, the very small circles at the
close of double-lines 1, 9, and 10, may have been inserted by the engraver of the plates in order
to signal the beginning, middle, and end of this chiasm (such punctuation is known in Egyptian
papyri). After all, the plates were apparently inscribed with a continuous text. How else would
one know how to parse the lines? In and of itself the chiastic structure could prove useful in
deciphering the Transcript since it may provide discrete syntactic and repetitive limits to
individual phrases in the text. As Adolf Erman said of the ever more abbreviated style of
hieratic Egyptian:

We have to take a group of signs as a whole, . . . * * If we reflect that the writing

underwent this complete degeneration at the same time as the orthography also
degenerated . . , we shall be able to imagine the peculiar character of many
handwritings of later time.23

See also Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Robin Scott Jensen, The
Caractors Document: New Light on an Early Transcription of the Book of Mormon Characters,
Mormon Historical Studies, 14/1 (Spring 2013):131-152, online at
content/uploads/2013/08/The-%E2%80%9CCaractors%E2%80%9D-Document.pdf .
C. W. Brown, First Page of the Golden Plates, 80a.

Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt (Macmillan, 1894), 342.

This is the sort of abbreviated or short-hand Egyptian which was described as
tachygraphie by Champollion in his 1824 Prcis.24 Is it possible, as William C. Hayes suggested
to Stanley Kimball on Monday, February 6, 1956, that the AAnthon Transcript@ begins with a
date formula, as found at the beginning of so many inscriptions and papyri, e.g., the Canopus
Decree and Rosetta Stone? Egyptologist Hayes (then with the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
made notes of his proposed transcription of the first Egyptian hieratic characters of that
formula as t sp 6, bd 4, t, sw, which would mean ARegnal year 6, month 4, of the
Inundation, day ?.@25 He there and then provided those notes to Stanley B. Kimball, a graduate
student at Columbia University, and Kimball eventually sent a copy of those notes (along with
his journal entry for that day) to FARMS.

Of course today Hayes first characters would be transcribed as sbt, or rnpt-sbt

(rather than t sp) A(year of) counting.@26 However, whether in fact Hayes= suggested
transcription (and implied translation) of these first characters is credible or correct is another
matter, dependent on a coherent translation of the entire Transcript.

George Mendenhall once applied mathematical and grammatical standards to the

decipherment of unknown languages. Today, however, computer technology can be used to do
this. There is a new MIT program which can automatically translate Ugaritic.27 This is being
extended by Regina Barzilay and Benjamin Snyder to machine learning and statistics see their
paper delivered at the 48th annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in
July 2010, in Uppsala, Sweden.28 The program apparently requires that there be some related

Jean-Francois Champollion, Prcis du systme hiroglyphique, I:18, 20, 354-355, abrviations
d=higlyphiques, and hiratique, vritable tachygraphie, or simple tachygraphie des hiroglyphes.

Hayes provided Kimball with notes on the hieratic along with a hieroglyphic transcription
(copy in possession of the author, along with the Sunday, Feb 5, 1956, personal journal entry of Stanley
B. Kimball, then a graduate student at Columbia University).

James P. Allen, Middle Egyptian, 104.

computers-lost-languages-translate-bible-hebrew/ , Tim Hornyak, A>Lost= Languages to be Resurrected
by Computers?@ National Geographic Daily News, July 19, 2010.
R. Barzilay, B. Snyder, and Kevin Knight, A Statistical Model for Lost Language Decipherment,
Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 10481057,
Uppsala, Sweden, 11-16 July 2010. online at .

language available to act as a kind of ARosetta Stone.@ In the case of Ugaritic, that was Hebrew.
In the case of the Caractors Transcript we have several alternatives for testing: Egyptian,
Hebrew, or a melding of the two, not to mention statistical analysis of word and phrase
patterns in the English Book of Mormon.

Professional Egyptologists such as William C. Hayes and Richard A. Parker (both now
deceased) have provided very positive remarks about the nature of the horizontal Caractors
Transcript, and each regarded it as written in ancient Egyptian characters.29

There is even an Egyptian hieratic character for mr-mn which Frederick G. Williams said
he got from Joseph Smith and which meant Mormon. It has since been published,30 and may
be authentic.

On the following page, I present the first chiasm which Wade Brown derived from the four lines
of large Caractors. Note the small circles31 at the close of double-lines 1, 9, and 10 (beginning,

On February 6, 1956, W. C. Hayes provided written notes and comments to Stanley B. Kimball,
telling Kimball that it resembled hieratic (Kimball was then a doctoral candidate at Columbia University).
Hayes wrote a letter to Paul M. Hanson of the RLDS Church later that year (June 8, 1956) saying that the
Caractors Transcript could conceivably have been an inaccurate copy of an Egyptian account or
something of the sort written in hieratic script. With some imagination the beginning of the inscription
could be taken as a date, and many of the other groups look like hieratic numerals quoted in Hanson,
The Transcript from the Plates of the Book of Mormon, Saints Herald, 103 (Nov 12, 1956):6 (Hanson
included negative comments on the Transcript from John A. Wilson and Alan H. Gardiner). Later, while a
visiting scholar at Brown University, Richard Bushman spoke with R. A. Parker about the Anthon
Transcript B Parker commenting that it appeared to be a copy of a real document in Egyptian script, but
possibly in an unknown language such as Meroitic (Indeed, Hugh Nibley thought many names in the
Book of Mormon not only sounded like Meroitic, but that the writing on the Caractors Transcript itself
looked Amost like Meroitic@ B Since Cumorah, CWHN VII:170-171). In a letter to Marvin W. Cowan,
March 22, 1966, R. A. Parker stated that the signs purportedly from the Book of Mormon . . . could well
be the latest form of the written language demotic characters.

Benjamin Urrutia, The Name Connection, New Era, 13/6 (June 1983):39, citing Nancy C.
Williams, After One Hundred Years (Independence, Missouri: Zions Printing and Publishing Co., 1951),
plate between pages 102103.
Quite similar to the small, red verse-point circles in Papyrus Sallier II (see Parkinson, Cracking
Codes, color plate 8).

middle, and close), which are probably punctuation. Repeated characters are indicated in red
by Brown.


From C. Wade Brown, First Page of the Golden Plates (Orem: Granite Publ., 2001), 80a.

On the following page I display Wade Brown=s second chiasm (Chiasm B) from the
Caractors Transcript, composed only of the three lines of small characters. Each stich or phrase
of Chiasm B is indicated by a short horizontal line (probably punctuation, like the red or black
dot or small-circle Averse points@ used sometimes in Egyptian poetry and wisdom literature, and
in Coptic, as punctuation for each colon or stich).32 Brown then observed that certain
characters and groups of characters repeat. So he presented them with separate coloration
(see his original colorplates), and arranged them chiastically. Thus, the first five phrases (six if
we perceive a second short horizontal line in phrase 3) would probably have been paralleled at
the end of this chiasm had the copier not stopped copying the characters in the horizontal
Caractors Transcript. Not only does such phrasing tell us something about the intention of the
original author or editor, but it could also be used by any potential translator in determining the
basic, discrete units of meaning the syntax of the sentences or phrases, as well as the
meanings of the chiastic parallels.

That this chiasm is incomplete, and that the copier was unaware of the underlying
chiastic structure is a powerful indicator of authenticity of the original from which it was
copied. Furthermore, the size of the ACaractors@ in the separate groups of lines on the AT
correspond precisely with these two separate chiasms one more indicator of authenticity.

Richard Parkinson thinks that verse-points may have originated as recitation-aids for
liturgical texts.33 Whatever the origin, that sort of punctuation can be invaluable in translating
a text in an unknown language.

Richard Parkinson, Cracking Codes: The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment, color plate 8 The
Teaching of King Amenemhet (Ramesside copy of Papyrus Sallier II with red dots marking ends of verses,
and rubrics marking opening lines of stanzas), pages 147-148 #64 Hymn to Thoth (Dyn. 18 stuccoed
wood writing board, front, with red verse-points at end of metric lines); Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar,
3rd ed., 323, red verse points in Wisdom of Ptahhotep (Dyn. 18 copy); cf. R. Parkinson, Reading Egyptian
Poetry: Among Other Histories (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 183 (fig. 7.4 verse points on 18th Dyn. P. Moscow
4657, Sinuhe)-184, 194-195, 197-198, Cf. the punctuation in love poems and school texts in M.
Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, II:110-11 (Papyrus Anastasi II.6.5-7), 168-175 and n. 10 (Papyrus
Lansing, Papyrus BM 9994, 20th Dyn.), 185 n. 1, 188 n. 1 (Papyrus Chester Beatty I); Maxims of
Ptahhotep, Papyrus BM 10509, Dyn 5 in Dyn 18 copy (cf. Dyn 12 copy on Papyrus Prisse); Papyrus
Anastasi III, BM 10246, hieratic of Dyn 19.

Parkinson, Reading Egyptian Poetry: Among Other Histories, 160, citing his Poetry and Culture
in Middle Kingdom Egypt: A Dark Side to Perfection (Continuum, 2002), 114-117.


From C. Wade Brown, First Page of the Golden Plates (Orem: Granite Publ., 2001), 80b.