Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 12:59:04 CDT

  • Next message: Dean Snyder: "Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?"

    James Kass wrote at 7:57 AM on Wednesday, May 26, 2004:
    >If palaeo-Hebrew and square Hebrew are the same script, then
    >it couldn't be said that the Jews abandoned the palaeo-Hebrew
    >script after the exile. Yet, this is what available references say
    >did happen. (By available, I mean to me. Additional citations
    >would be welcome.)

    The word "script" is not used in most palaeographical literature (in
    fact, in none that I can think of) in the same way it is used in encoding
    contexts. Palaeographers, as also almost all non-encoders, use the word
    "script" very loosely to encompass both minor variations in palaeography
    and major ones.

    Here's a modern example for, yes, Fraktur ;-)

    "Unter den Nazis wurde die Verwendung der Schriften politisiert. Zunächst
    wurde die Fraktur als "deutsche" Schrift gegenüber der "nichtarischen"
    Antiqua bevorzugt."


    Such employment of the term "script" should not be used in making
    encoding decisions.

    [It's very hard not to use the word "script" in its non-technical sense
    in palaeographical discussions - it can become tedious to keep using
    words like "hand", "diascript", etc., or keep quoting "script". And so, I
    too use "script" often myself in a non-encoding sense, trusting the
    context will make the intended meaning clear.]

    >Negative proofs are kind of hard. I've been unable to find
    >anything which states that the ancient Jews considered
    >Phoenician and Hebrew to be the same script. If it were
    >easily found, I'd've found it already. In fairness, I've also
    >tried to find anything documenting that the ancient Jews
    >specifically considered Phoenician and Hebrew to be
    >separate scripts. Maybe it was such a "no-brainer" (either
    >way) for them that they never recorded their thoughts on
    >the subject. Or, maybe nothing survived. Or, maybe
    >nothing's been brought to light yet.
    >Or, maybe somebody knows better?

    The evidence for this of which I am aware includes the contemporaneous
    use of both diascripts in ancient Judah, some of which evidence I have
    mentioned in previous emails (See, in particular, the one in response to
    Peter Constable at 3:06 pm yesterday.)

    In addition, I might add the continued use of Palaeo-Hebrew by the
    dialectically close Samaritan neighbors of the Jews to write their Bible
    and their literature, even to this day. The neighboring Jews also wrote
    manuscripts, coins, inscriptions, and jar labels in the same Palaeo-
    Hebrew script used by the Samaritans.

    Also, not apropos to ancient Jews, but ... someone mentioned much earlier
    in these threads even seeing a business sign in modern Israel that is
    written in Palaeo-Hebrew.

    >Religious scribes had very strict rules. The Word was supposed
    >to be copied *very* faithfully. Yet, older DSS appear seem to
    >have been in palaeo- and newer DSS in Hebrew.
    >Did the scribes think they were faithfully copying older scrolls
    >when they "abandoned palaeo-Hebrew script" and made newer
    >scrolls in Hebrew?


    >Did they make the newer scrolls because they'd
    >abandoned the older script and no-one other than scholars could
    >*read* the older scrolls? Did the very strict rules begin some
    >time after the older script was abandoned? Does anyone know?

    The reasons given for the switch from Palaeo-Hebrew to Jewish Hebrew are
    manifold and sometimes controversial.

    For certain we know that:

    1) Jews exiled in Babylonia adopted both the Aramaic language and Aramaic
    "script", the lingua et scriptio franca of the Babylonian empire. (This
    adopted Aramaic "script", also an offshoot of the Canaanite script
    closely related to Palaeo-Hebrew, is now known as Jewish Hebrew script.
    See my earlier attachment, Selected West Semitic Scripts, to get some
    idea how close these diascripts are.)

    2) Even major portions of some of the later books of the Jewish Bible,
    Daniel and Ezra, were authored, not in Hebrew, but in Aramaic, and
    presumably using the Aramaic script. (The earliest few extant manuscripts
    of these texts, dated to a few hundred years after their authorship,
    employ the same Jewish Hebrew script for both the Hebrew and Aramaic
    portions of the texts.)

    3) After the exile, Jews began an "official" program of translating or
    paraphrasing their entire Bible into Aramaic, the Targums, still using
    the Jewish Hebrew script.

    3) There are Dead Sea biblical scrolls written in both Palaeo-Hebrew and
    Jewish Hebrew.

    For what it's worth, I believe the newer script became dominant primarily
    based on the example and influence of Daniel and Ezra, portions of whose
    works in the Bible are written in Aramaic language and, presumably, script.


    Dean A. Snyder

    Assistant Research Scholar
    Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
    Computer Science Department
    Whiting School of Engineering
    218C New Engineering Building
    3400 North Charles Street
    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

    office: 410 516-6850
    cell: 717 817-4897

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