I have been busy on the ancient scripts trail, while studying the Tanakh aka Old Testament and the New Testament. Thanks to the Coronavirus, well not really!
The oldest ‘known’ ancient script ( i.e. backed by ancient artefacts discovered by archaeologists ), which was used by the Hebrews is Paleo-Hebrew *(PH for short) aka the Phoenician* script. Due to the availability of it’s alphabet in Unicodeⁿ, I was able to modify some system files to incorporate it in my operating system. This script was in use from 1000 B.C. to 500 B.C.ⁱⁱ
Another script that was even more ancient and, was the precursor of PH, was the Proto-Sinaitic** (PS for short) script. Unfortunately it is available only as a user font as of now and we cannot use it across the internet. This script was used, from Canaan to Sinai, during the period: 1900 B.C. to 1500 B.C.ⁱⁱ, i.e. from the time of Abraham’s exploits to Joshua’s reign. PS was also the precursor of the ancient Greek script, which led later to the development of Koine Greek.
The relevance of getting to know these ancient scripts lies in the fact that we can ground ourself in the historical basis of the Scripture. Further, we can make out that far from being nonchalant in communication, people in ancient times were constantly trying to better the writing scripts and preserve their history, for later generations.
Let’s kick off by using the PH, PS scripts for Genesis 1:1, ( in Hebrew — בראישת א.א ) , please keep in mind that all these scripts were written in a right to left style.
Latin: In the beginning, God made the Heavens, and the Earth.
Hebrew: בראשית, ברא אלהים, את השמים, ואת הארץ
PH: 𐤁𐤓𐤀𐤉𐤔𐤕, 𐤁𐤓𐤀 𐤀𐤋𐤄𐤉𐤌 𐤀𐤕 𐤄𐤔𐤌𐤉𐤌, 𐤅𐤀𐤕 𐤄𐤀𐤓𐤑
As seen in the image above, the Paleo-Hebrew (PH) script had evolved from the Proto-Sinaitic (PS) one and this is brought about by the images of the PH script, which is the basis of the PH text. *The PH images and text alphabet chart is available in the resources link section at the end of this post.
Consider the first word in Genesis 1:1⁰: B’reishit or נראשית, it means ‘At first’ or as translated in English ‘In the beginning’. The key alphabet here is ‘ר’ or Resh, in Hebrew. Resh means the head, and since it was/is considered the prominent part of the body it also means authority and being first. Now the PS script clearly brings out the ‘head’ part with their pictographical alphabet Ra’š, that of a human head.
Digging deeper we find the Hebrew alphabet chain starts at א, or aleph, this is a variation of an ox head pictograph which was used in the PS script. The ancients regarded power to be represented by an ox head. I am assuming that this is because most of them were agriculturalists and knew the importance of cattle. Aleph thus represents strength and leadership, even in the current Hebrew alphabet system. The PH script comes close to representing Aleph as an ox head 𐤀 , but the PS script takes the cake with the image of its first alphabet, below:
Moving on to Koine Greek we have Christ Himself describing Himself as the Alpha Α and Omega Ω, in the New Testament. Alpha starts the Koine Greek alphabet chain and Omega is the last alphabet in the chain. Thus Christ is the Absolute Power as both the Head and the End of All Creation. This will be the subject of another post delving into how the PS script morphed on to the Phoenician aka PH script and then created the ancient Greek writing system. Koine Greek and the modern Greek script are the children of the PS script.
I could go an and on but this post will almost certainly turn into a thick novel, so its time to conclude by saying that if you find the PS, PH and Phoenician scripts mention confusing, don’t blame me. It all happened at the tower of Babel, and we are all just wading in the aftermath. I would also like to point out that this is no way an exhaustive description of ancient Biblical scripts, interested readers may delve deeper by using resources mentioned below just to start on this trail.
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Sinaitic_script Please remember that PS is the abbreviation for Proto-Sinaitic script. The font is by Kris J. Udd, copyright information of his fonts is available online.
ⁱⁱTime periods are approximate, as are the timelines of the Biblical patriarchs.
⁰https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/1-1.htm Note: I did not use the nikkud marks because these were not used in ancient Hebrew scripts. Nikkuds are vowel marks, and vowel pronunciations were left to the reader, who were quite aware of the consonant-vowel word play.