Re: [hebrew] Response to a Proposal to Encode Phoenician in Unicode

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed Jun 09 2004 - 21:19:26 CDT

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    Mark E. Shoulson wrote at 12:50 PM on Wednesday, June 9, 2004:

    >One thing that only recently occurred to me, regarding the quote from
    >Mishna Yadayim that distinguishes Paleo-Hebrew script from Square
    >Hebrew: While it is true that any font outside of the accepted ones
    >will render a Torah scroll unfit for ritual use, that isn't what's being
    >discussed here. The statement is that a scroll written in paleo-Hebrew
    >script does not qualify as a "sacred text" in the context of rendering
    >one's hands or certain foods impure (it's a long story; suffice to say
    >that by rabbinic decree, holy texts and hands that touched them were
    >considered ritually impure). A scroll in which all the letters have
    >been erased except for 85 of them is also unfit for ritual use (no
    >surprise there), but it does render the hands impure (Yadayim 3:5). So
    >while I couldn't read in the synagogue from a scroll written in Narkiss
    >Bold, near as I can tell it *would* fall into the category of ritual
    >impurity (if it was *written* on parchment, that is; not sure about

    My only point was that the problem presented by the use of Paleo-Hebrew
    scribal hands for Torah scrolls is not one of LEGIBILITY of the script
    but of its DESIRABILITY. That is, it wasn't that they could not read it,
    it was that they didn't want it. Now, as to the reasons why they didn't
    want, that's a different matter.

    And the question of the legibility of Paleo-Hebrew to a culture using
    Jewish Hebrew has been made an issue in the discussion about whether
    Phoenician/Paleo-Hebrew should be given a computer encoding separate from
    Jewish Hebrew, with one of my counter-arguments being that they were both
    legible in Herodian Judea (and probably also in Samaria).


    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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