"I cracked the Shulem cryptogram ... !"


Facsimile No. 3

Facsimile No. 3 from the Book of Abraham printed from a woodcut by Ruben Hedlock - the original vignette is lost. Note especially Figure 5. The above facsimile was derived from the last vignette in the same Egyptian funerary text from which Book of Abraham Facsimile No. 1 was derived  – a Book of Breathings available to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Figure 5 represents the soul conducted before the throne of Osiris (Figure 1). The soul in this case, is that of Osiris Hor, the deceased owner of the funerary scroll. Hor is justified before the throne of Osiris. The figure is reinterpreted by the Prophet Joseph Smith to represent "Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand".


Label above the left hand of Maat

Characters above the hand of Figure 5 converted to hieroglyphic Egyptian, thanks to Michael Rhodes (Hor Book of Breathing, pg. 24). Note the divine throne and princely falcon symbols directly above the lowered left hand of Maat (in front of Hor, the deceased, Figure 5). The names of the father (Osiris) and son (Horus) Egyptian deities appear on both sides of the goddess of truth (Maat). The characters above the hand of Hor (Figure 5) directly translate "Osiris Hor, the justified forever."


Hieratic Egyptian characters above the hand of Osiris Hor

Hieratic Egyptian characters above the hand of Figure 5. Compare these copied symbols with their hieroglyphic counterparts. It took a scholar, trained in ancient Egyptian, to transpose the copied hieratic symbols into Egyptian hieroglyphs (picture symbols) that made sense. The advantage of seeing the equivalent hieroglyphs, is that they are more easily identified. Once identified, the characters can be interpreted in other languages, such as Hebrew.

Joseph Smith's esoteric, multilingual "Egyptians" (the Ah-meh-strah-ans) thought they could see meanings (and in some cases deliberately assigned meanings) beyond the standard meanings of Egyptian texts and art. The Ptolemaic Ah-meh-strah-ans were apparently the custodians of a version of the ancient Sepher Avram (Book of Abram), which they apparently supplemented with Egyptian funerary art, and text. They may have tried to provide a meaningful Egyptian replacement for at least one lost illustration which had featured "hieroglyphics". See Abraham 1:12, 14.

1842 Intro to Book of Abraham

Joseph Smith's original introduction to the Book of Abraham published in the March 1, 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons newspaper.

Everything Joseph Smith learned about Ah-meh-strah-an symbols and methods of interpretation, he learned by revelation. The Prophet did not have an earthly, academic means of interpreting Egyptian characters. To the Prophet, the scripture "purporting to be the writings of Abraham ... called THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM" was a work of "present revelation" (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, 1842, March 1, pg. 704, and September 1, pg. 902). His earlier, revelatory translation of another ancient document, a document which he did not hold in his hands, comes to mind. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants section 7) Similarly, the Prophet Joseph received the text of the Sepher Avram, in English, by revelation.

Guided by higher intelligence, Joseph went to work correlating, in Ah-meh-strah-an fashion, the revealed scripture, with Egyptian funerary art and texts that came into his hands at Kirtland Ohio. The Book of Abraham correlates with the Hor Book of Breathings, and the Shishaq (Sheshanq) Book of the Dead. Neither of these funerary works contain the Abram scripture's written source.

Joseph Smith tells us that the Egyptian portions of the Book of Abraham were "A TRANSLATION Of some ancient Records [plural] that have fallen into our hands, from the Catecombs [Catacombs] of Egypt ..." This does not mean that the main text of the Book of Abram (his name while in Egypt), which was "written by his own hand, upon papyrus", existed in any obvious, written form on the papyrus scrolls that Joseph Smith held.

It was Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith's less informed assistant, who made the claim that writings of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt were had on the papyrus rolls. (Messenger and Advocate, "Egyptian Mummies - Ancient Records", December 1835, pp. 233-237) We now know that the ancient papyrus records that Brother Cowdery described, contain the kind of funerary texts that one expects to find with Egyptian mummies.


The following email (later edited) was sent by Ed Goble to colleagues on 9/25/2019 at 1:06 AM:


I cracked the Shulem cryptogram for figure 5 facsimile 3! 

"Osiris Hor, the justified forever"

Wsir Hr p3 m3-hrw r d.t

p3 = duck flying = Gardiner's G40, "the" or "fly"

m3-hrw = Gardiner's H6, feather of truth, m3 + Gardiner's P8, ship oar, hrw = justified 

r/er = Gardiner's D21, mouth

d = Gardiner's I10, cobra/snake

t = Gardiner's X1, small loaf of bread, t=bread

Gardiner's N16 = flat land/earth determinative for dt/eternity

Strongs Hebrew 6310 peh - mouth

Strongs Hebrew 5175 nahash - a serpent

Strongs Hebrew 3899. lechem -  bread

Strongs Hebrew 776 erets - earth

reverse engineered Hebrew from the hieroglyphics, jammed together:






Strongs 6438. pinnah = chief, pinnacle, chieftain

erets/merets = pun on two words:

Strongs 8334 sharath =servant, waiter

Strongs 4453. meltsar = waiter / servant

Strongs 5647. Abad/Obed= to cultivate the ground, servant, husbandman

=Shulem (Shlechem), the principal waiter/servant


Complementing Ed Goble's Discovery

LDS Scholar Ed Goble's transtextual "Shulem" interpretation focuses on the last four symbols in front of Figure 5, Book of Abraham Facsimile No. 3. These four symbols follow immediately after the hieratic Egyptian characters which read, "Osiris Hor the justified". Converted from hieratic script to pictorial hieroglyphs, the four symbols more clearly depict (in descending order) a mouth (mouth, r), a serpent (cobra, d), a small bread loaf (small bread loaf, t), and the symbol for a flat, fertile land with seeds beneath the soil (land, earth).

In solving the Shulam cryptogram, Ed keeps these four symbols in the same order in which they appear in the Egyptian text. Ed treats the Egyptian symbols as an esoteric word game, and applies the following uniform approach to revealing hidden meaning:

First Ed identifies an equivalent Hebrew word for each of the four symbols. He then puts the separate Hebrew words together in a seemingly meaningless string. After that, he repartitions the string, having perceived new meanings in new parts based on what each part sounds like in Hebrew.

Ed will agree that this is not the only possible way to find transtextual meaning in Egyptian symbols, but Ed's approach is remarkably fruitful in the case of Figure 5, Facsimile No. 3.

There is another "translation" of the Figure 5 symbols, which demonstrates a wider range of interpretive options. These are general options that Joseph Smith's "Egyptians" (Ah-meh-strah-ans) could have resorted to in revealing meanings beyond the obvious intent of Egyptian texts.

Label above the left hand of Maat

Hieroglyphic equivalents of characters above the hand of Figure 5 are subject to various interpretive options.

One option recognizes that the symbols can be rearranged. There is precedence for this in Joseph Smith's "translation" of the opening line from the Amenhotep papyrus. Examples are discussed in "Princess of On".

Take for instance the temple flag symbol (symbol for divine, god, Gardiner's R8), which designates divinity (a god). This symbol is included with the symbols representing Osiris. This symbol can be removed without changing the phonetic spelling of Osiris ("Wsir", spelled with the throne (Gardiner's Q1) + eye (Gardiner's D4) symbol). We will use the flag symbol later - at the very end of the transtextual "translation".

The temple flag appears with the top most characters in the first column, above the falcon (Gardiner's G5). These upper symbols are all above the hand of Figure 5. Include the falcon with the symbols above it, and we get the title of the deceased "Wsir Hr", or "Osiris Hor":

Rearranging these symbols, and reading them right to left like Hebrew, we get:

falcon, Hr eye symbolthrone, Ws = Wsir Hr = Osiris Hor (symbol of divinity, "god" removed to be used elsewhere)

[represents] is implied

small bread loaf, tfeather, Shu = Shu-lehem (לחם) Shulem

Osiris Hor is the actual Egyptian name of the figure representing "Shulem" in Joseph Smith's Ah-meh-strah-an styled reinterpretation. The Prophet's explanation to Figure 5: "Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand", is true in a direct sense. The character named Osiris Hor represents Shulem.

The name "Shulem" is revealed by making use of another interpretive option: putting together symbols representing sounds, the combination of which simulates a word, or name. In this case the Egyptian "Shu" (feather, Shu, Gardiner's H6) + the Hebrew word for bread (small bread loaf, t), "lehem" (לחם) simulates "Shulem". This was noted in "Abraham in Egypt and the Papyrus Solar Ferry", Note [4], "JOSEPH SMITH LEARNS TO THINK LIKE AN AH-MEH-STRAH-AN", Fig. 5.

The name "Shulem" could be a form of "Shaulam" (שאולם).

The feather sign comes from the Egyptian symbols that read "justified" in the line "Osiris Hor, the justified ..." Do you see a parallelism at work in the Egyptian symbols representing justification (feather, Shuoar, hrw)? The feather is to the lighter medium (air), as the oar is to the denser medium (water), possibly connoting: “As above, so below – justified.”

Associating the feather and oar symbols with other symbols, we may come to see other meanings:

Take for example the goddess of truth (Maat), represented by the Shu feather (feather, Shu), holding the hand of the Hebrew servant Shu-lehem trusted to bring bread (small bread loaf, t) to the king. We will shortly consider a parallel theme in the oar like tilling tool combined with the fertile earth symbol.

Note also the theme of the Shu feather, bread, and western land (typical of the afterlife, Sheol, tied to the word "shaal" (שאל), as in Shaulam) in the characters just to the left of Maat, above her right arm, in Facsimile No. 3:

Label to the left of Maat

Characters associated with Figure 4 read, "Maat, Lady of the western hill-country [land of the afterlife, equivalent to Hebrew Sheol (שאול), "place of inquiry", suggesting "shaal" (שאל), "ask", as in Shaulam, the head waiter whose name could mean asked of them]". Joseph Smith's "Egyptians" (Ah-meh-strah-ans) could have read the following, in the characters above: "Shu-lehem (Shaulam) son of (Gardiner's H8) a maid (Gardiner's B1) who brought water (Gardiner's N42), and bread when asked (שאל, play on words with Sheol, the netherworld, western land, Gardiner's R14)". Like the name Osiris Hor, the name Shulem (Shaulam) can be seen on both sides of the goddess of truth.


mouth, rcobra, d = sar (שר) = prince, chief of

Here we make use of another interpretive option: We allow the cobra symbol to represent the "ssss" sound of the first letter (ש) spelling the Hebrew word for fiery serpent, "saraph" (שרף). The last letter in the spelling of "saraph" is the symbol "pey" (ף), which means "mouth". It just so happens that the Egyptian mouth symbol, placed after the saraph, makes an "r" (ר) sound. Thus, the two symbols together can be deemed to imitate the Hebrew word "sar" (שר), meaning "prince", or "chief"; as in "sar ha-mashqim", "chief of the butlers" (Genesis 40:2). But instead of "the butlers", we have chief of

symbol for divine, godland, earthoar, hrwduck flying, the= ha (ה) + mashot (משוט) + ha-arets (הארץ) + ayv (יו) ha-mesharetayv (המשרתיו) = the waiters of him (the king). (1 Kings 10:5, 2 Chronicles 9:4) See also Tehilah 103:21; 104:4.

Here the duck, with its wings spread out in flight (Gardiner's G40), is taken to be equivalent to a Hebrew letter hey (ה). The letter hey attached at the beginning of a noun typically designates "the". In fact, the letter hey was long ago represented by a man (not a duck) with his arms spread out heavenward (Hey).

Next, the Hebrew word for "oar" (oar, hrw), "mashot" (משוט) is combined with "the land" (land, earth), "ha-arets" (הארץ); and made plural, and third person (masculine) possessive with the letters yud vav added at the end. The temple banner symbol in hieratic script (hieratic temple banner symbol, Moeller 547) is a look-alike for the Hebrew yud vav (יו). This demonstrates a look-alike interpretive option that Ah-meh-strah-ans could have perceived in Ptolemaic times - the time period of Joseph Smith's Egyptian papyri.

שוט, the root of the word "mashot" (oar), means to push forth, lash, whip, go about, go through, to and fro. (Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon, 7751, 7752, pp. 1001 -1002) The symbol of the oar combined with the fertile land, brings to mind moving back and forth, working the land. From symbolic implications alone one may think to replace "mashot + ha-arets" (oar + the land) with "mesharet" (servant). The Hebrew root of the noun "mesharet" (minister, waiter, servant) is the verb "sharat" (i.e. to minister, serve) noted by Ed Goble.

Put altogether, the symbols above the hand of Figure 5 can be seen to mean, "Osiris Hor [represents] Shulem, a chief of his [the king's] waiters (servants)":

      שאולם שר המשרתיו    falcon, Hr eye symbolthrone, Ws

This is remarkably close to Joseph Smith's "Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand."

The fertile land symbol (land, earth), bread (small bread loaf, t), and mouth (mouth, r) agree with the essential service theme of slaves and trusted servants bringing healthy food to the king.

"Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field." (Ecclesiastes 5:9)

And what shall the ultimate reward of the faithful servants and slaves be? Proverbs 17:2, 29:21, Galatians 4:7. Philipians 2:5-9 tell us.  Thus the Facsimile No. 3 endowment scene, added to the Book of Abraham from the Hor Book of Breathings, is a scene depicting the progress of the soul.

It may be significant that above the raised arm of Osiris Hor the justified (Figure 5, whose head is anointed with a cone of aromatic grease, having a lotus blossom through it; who is fully clothed, and wearing an apron) are the following symbols:

mouth, r

cobra, d

In Hebrew these symbols may be seen as pey + nahash = "mouth of a serpent", indicating the name Pinehas (Phinehas), the African/Hebrew priest, the grandson of Aharon (Aaron), who was endowed with an "everlasting priesthood". Thus the symbols may also be interpreted to read "Osiris Hor the justified, as Phinehas the Priest, he shall forever eat the good of the land". (Joshua 24:33)

Appropriately, the ancient Hebrew spelling of "Priesthood" is represented by the adapted Egyptian symbols representing: the palm of the hand, a man with upraised arms, the serpent (or else sprouting seed), and ending with a man with upraised arms: Kehunah - Priesthood. These symbols spell out the feminine word "Kehunah" (כהנה). (Exodus 40:15, Abraham 2:11)

Replace the palm of the hand with the full hand (forearm) extended, and replace the sprouting seed (representing "Continue, Heir, Son") with the sign of the tent peg, veil supporting hook, or nail, (Exodus 26:31-33, Hebrews 10:19-20; 6:17-20, Psalm 110:4, Ezra 9:5-9, Isaiah 22:22-25) and the Hebrew word for Priesthood becomes the sacred name of the Eternal. So that in fully taking upon oneself the Holy Priesthood, one fully takes upon oneself the sacred name. This is somewhat similar to the Egyptian priest Hor, in his Book of Breathings, receiving the name of the resurrected god Osiris. (Isaiah 26:19; 56:4-5)

We see that the last Egyptian symbols above the hand of Figure 5, which Ed Goble chose to focus on in his transtextual interpretation, collectively mean "forever". The determinative symbol for eternity that goes along with the Egyptian word for eternity, "d.t", is a symbol of the earth (land, earth, Gardiner's N16). This may be a key to understanding why Joseph Smith's esoteric Egyptians, the Ah-meh-strah-ans, who worshipped the Hebrew God (Isaiah 19:21-22), connected the sacred name of the Eternal to the earth in her cycles. (Facsimile 2, Fig. 1, TETRAGRAMMATEarth in her four quartersN and EARTH)


Esoteric Egyptian in the Margins of the Book of Abraham

Joseph Smith’s Book of the Dead Hypocephalus

Esoteric Egyptian in Facsimile No. 2

Princess of On


Ahmehstrahan Counting and Gematria

Ahmehstrahan 1000


Vincent Coon  כּוּן וִינְסֶנט Copyright 2019


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