[b-hebrew] Samaritan script/proto-hebrew

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Tue Mar 22 20:36:04 EST 2005

Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 22/03/2005 20:23, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

> >No it's not.  It's irresponsible to lump together two different
> >scripts. ...
> >
> Precisely. But by what criterion is your "Jewish" different from modern
> Hebrew?

Actually, it seems now that Jewish is a class of scripts that 
includes the Modern Hebrew script variety.  But if I use a table of 
Hasmonean script as a guide, I could point out that the Bet has 
no lower right leg, the Dalet has horns and no upper right leg, the 
He has the lower left leg attached to the upper right corner, the 
Zayin has no horizontal line, the Kaf has horns, the Samekh is 
not closed in its lower feet, and the Pe has no clear upper left 
angle corner.  Besides that,  the slant, size, and proportions of 
some of the letters are unclear, but just these make it very hard 
to recognize the letters for the Modern Hebrew reader.

> >... its counterpart at that time which
> >is more appropriate to label as "Hebrew."
> >
> And therefore it is inappropriate and irresponsible to call this archaic
> script "Hebrew", unless you are claiming as some do that it is the same
> script as modern Hebrew (and therefore necessarily the same as your
> "Aramaic" and "Jewish").

I said that in speaking of the centuries BCE, one would probably
not call any script Hebrew but the Paleo-Hebrew one, because to
do otherwise would be confusing.  Hebrew has many meanings,
which include modern script, ancient script, and language, as well
as cultural and ethnic tones.  So usually, there would be some 
kind of additional remark to identify it.  But this is not necessary.  
In an introduction to ME Writing Systems, Daniels writes, "The 
Hebrew language came to be, and still is, written in a form of 
Aramaic square script (the earlier Hebrew script being maintained 
only by the Samaritans)" (p. 485 of the above book).  A table of 
the Jewish scripts is titled "Old Hebrew and Jewish scripts".  But
a table of the Aramaic-derived scripts in the earlier section, has a
column labeled "Hebrew square script" that differentiates it 
from "Palmyrene script", "Nabatean script," and "Ancient Arabic
script."  So the latter seems to be a reference to the Hebrew
language, but it all really depends on context.

> He or she will not read "Hebrew" unqualified in Daniels and Bright, as
> you quote, but always "linear Hebrew" or "palaeo-Hebrew", so clearly
> distinguished from the modern Hebrew script. And D&B seem to 
> consider this "linear Hebrew" a variety of Phoenician script, rather 
> than a separate script; but the later Hebrew or Jewish script to be a
> variety or "form" of the Aramaic script, which is not called a variety of
> Phoenician but a separate script.

The only place where they will not read "Hebrew" unqualified is 
probably in reference to the Aramaic script, simply to avoid
confusion between the Aramaic and the Hebrew lines of
development.  See the above quote.

Yitzhak Sapir

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