web analytics
July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



The Oldest Hebrew Script and Language


The Qeiyafa Ostracon and the Gezer Calendar

The Qeiyafa Ostracon and the Gezer Calendar

http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/the-oldest-hebrew-script-and-language/

In a recent Biblical Archaeology Review article,* epigraphy scholar Christopher Rollston asks a seemingly straightforward question: What is the oldest Hebrew inscription? His examination requires him to address the fundamental questions of epigraphy. Is a text written in Hebrew script necessarily in the Hebrew language? And was the Hebrew language originally written in an alphabet that predates Hebrew script? Christopher Rollston examined four contenders for the oldest Hebrew inscription – the Qeiyafa Ostracon, Gezer Calendar, Tel Zayit Abecedary and Izbet Zayit Abecedary – to explore the interplay between early Hebrew script and language.

In his study, Christopher Rollston distinguishes between purely Hebrew script and other visually similar alphabets while examining relationships between alphabets and languages. Not only can a single language be written in various scripts, but a single script can be used for dozens of languages. English shares the Latin script with most Western languages; finding Latin letters does not necessarily mean that a text is English.

Old Hebrew script derived directly from Phoenician, and Christopher Rollston contends that Old Hebrew script did not split off from its Phoenician predecessor until the ninth century B.C.E. The Hebrew language existed well before then; the oldest extant Hebrew language texts are recorded in Phoenician script. Identifying the oldest combination of Hebrew script and language is hindered by a diverse set of complications including the poor condition of texts, the existence of cognates, regional variation, partial language preservation, limited number of artifacts and myriad other difficulties.

The Qeiyafa Ostracon and Gezer Calendar are the best known contenders that Christopher Rollston examines. The five-line Qeiyafa Ostracon** has garnered a great deal of attention since its 2008 excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the fortified tenth century B.C.E. Judahite city located on the border of Judah and Philistia. The faded text on the Qeiyafa Ostracon has challenged potential translators; what is known is that its variations and left-to-right orientation signal a pre-Hebrew script deriving from Early Alphabetic rather than Phoenician writing. Most scholars agree with Christopher Rollston about the type of script, but he suggests that the language may not be Hebrew. The lexemes, or word roots, could come from one of several Semitic languages. This interpretation of the Qeiyafa Ostracon raises a new set of questions. Could the Qeiyafa Ostracon be from a non-Judahite site? Or could another language have been the lingua franca of the period? More simply, could the text have been imported from elsewhere, or written by a foreigner? The Qeiyafa Ostracon is a significant puzzle piece in the development of Hebrew writing, but there are still too many unanswered questions for the Qeiyafa Ostracon to be considered the oldest Hebrew inscription.

The Gezer Calendar is a small limestone tablet listing seasonal agricultural activities in seven lines of uneven letters. Scholarly opinions on the Gezer Calendar have shifted over the past century of scholarship. In 1943, William Foxwell Albright stated that “the Gezer Calendar is written in perfect classical Hebrew.” More recent scholarship questioned the idea that the Gezer calendar has distinctively Hebrew script or language. Christopher Rollston contends “there is no lexeme or linguistic feature in the Gezer Calendar that can be considered distinctively Hebrew” and Joseph Naveh says that “No specifically Hebrew characters can be distinguished.” Christopher Rollston concludes that the Gezer Calendar is written in Phoenician rather than Hebrew script, though the late tenth or early ninth century B.C.E. includes elements described by Frank Cross as “the first rudimentary innovations that will mark the emergent Hebrew script.”

Rollston continues his analyses on some other contenders for the oldest Hebrew inscription. He finds the Tel Zayit Abecedary to be fully Phoenician script, despite the excavation epigrapher claiming that the abecedary indicates the transition between the scripts. Finally, the oldest contender, the Izbet Sartah Abecedary, which dates to roughly 1200 B.C.E., predates the development of any Hebrew script, and appears to be written in Early Alphabetic script, which is not closely related to Old Hebrew script. While some scholars have presented these and other Iron Age I inscriptions as Hebrew script, Rollston suggests that we have to look to a slightly later period to find the first Hebrew language recorded in a purely Hebrew script.

 

* “What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription” from the May/June 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review

About the Author: Bible History Daily is a publication of the Biblical Archaeology Society.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

Please use the Facebook Tab below to leave your comment:

One Response to “The Oldest Hebrew Script and Language”

  1. Mark Frederick Westergreen says:

    Interesting!

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Hamas terrorists often misfire their rockets that explode in Gaza civilians areas.
‘Hamas Fired from UN School Area and Prevented Evacuation’ Says IDF
Latest News Stories
Eastern Jerusalem  Arabs clash with Israeli police.

Friday, the end of Ramadan, will show whether the Palestinian Authority wants to renew the intifada.

IDC APC covered with letters of support from children of Israel.

If you get the pun, let me know.

Hamas terrorists often misfire their rockets that explode in Gaza civilians areas.

Hamas committed two war crimes at once – firing from the area of the school and preventing civilians to evacuate.

Egyptian soldiers shot and killed a suicide bomber and blew up a vehicle loaded with Grad missiles, its military reported Wednesday. The suicide bomber was wearing a vest loaded with explosives while approaching the Kerem Shalom crossing. The truck with missiles and launchers was on the Egyptian side of border near Gaza. Since the fall […]

The number of rockets and missiles fired on Israel is decreasing, but the war is far from over.

Israel threatened to go disproportional on Gaza, if the FAA ban on US flights to Israel wasn’t rescinded.

Two people were injured in a mortar strike in the Eshkol region. One was hurt seriously, and the other was lightly injured. They were taken to Soroka hospital for treatment.

Hamas rockets exploded in the area, and there was heavy combat going on. UNRWA admits rockets hidden in their other schools have “gone missing.”

Chairman Avner Shalev: Countries must combat “expressions of anti-Semitism”

Israeli leaders say London has special responsibility to stand by Israel at this hour of need; Hammond: Israel right to defend self.

Finance, Economy ministries team up to support Israeli businesses struggling under weight of non-stop rocket fire.

New president to take office this evening; was elected June 10 following bitter campaign

Mrs. Beck took personal interest and was hands-on, sharing with her children, grandchildren, and others the wonderful values that she stood for.

Overnight clash leads dozens of Islamic heroes to surrender; many brought to Shin Bet for debriefing

Jewish communities from around the world have stepped up to support children from southern Israel who have lived their entire lives under the threat of missile attacks from Hamas freedom fighters in Gaza. (To quote the late comedian George Carlin: If firefighters fight fire, and crime fighters fight crime… what do freedom fighters fight? But […]

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

More Articles from Bible History Daily
The Qeiyafa Ostracon and the Gezer Calendar

Epigraphy scholar Christopher Rollston examined four contenders for the oldest Hebrew inscription – the Qeiyafa Ostracon, Gezer Calendar, Tel Zayit Abecedary and Izbet Zayit Abecedary – to explore the interplay between early Hebrew script and language.

The 12th boundary stone from Tel Gezer, discovered over a decade before this latest find. The bilingual boundary stone features Greek and Hebrew text with personal and geographical titles.

Archaeologists working at the Biblical site of Tel Gezer discovered a boundary stone inscribed with both Greek and Hebrew text dating to the period of conflict between the Seleucids and the Maccabees.

Discovered in a Roman-era excavation near the city of Silves, Portugal by archaeologists from the German Friedrich Schiller University Jena, the discovery predates the previous oldest evidence of Jews in Iberia by nearly a century.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/archaeology-news/the-oldest-hebrew-script-and-language/2012/06/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: