[b-hebrew] New Inscription of Hebrew?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Nov 3 13:54:06 EST 2008

I can't help but disagree with you, at least partially.

First there is the mechanical question of getting a clear image of the
writing in question. Here's where relying on experts pays off, as sometimes
the image is not that clear without expert analysis.

On the other hand, once the mechanical aspect of the task is done, holding
back that clear image of the writing actually hinders the research, as more
eyes can sometimes catch clues that the expert misses. This not to say that
Hagai Misgav is not highly competent, I have no doubt that he is, but there
are also many others who are also highly competent who are thereby kept out
of the loop. Then there are self-taught amateurs, like myself, who know a
lot about ancient writing; I can read the Gezar Calendar, Mesha Stele and
others like that right off without resorting to transliterations: I see no
reason to withhold the image from us.

There have been many such announcements made of ancient writing, but with
rare exceptions, I never get a chance to see them.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Sat, Nov 1, 2008 at 11:51 AM, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:

> Dear Bryant,
> A few comments on what you wrote:
> a. One must distinguish between language and script. No one has ever
> claimed
> that there was a "proto-Canaanite language". "Proto-Canaanite" is the title
> given by epigraphers to the earliest known forms of the 22-letter alphabet
> which would eventually be used by the Hebrews, the Phoenicians, the
> Arameans
> and others. In a way it is a mis-nomer, since it seems to imply that it was
> used BEFORE the Canaanites, but this is not what is meant when modern
> epigraphers use it.
> b. From the actual evidence at hand, this form was used in Canaan and
> surrounding areas (including Sinai and even by Semites in Egypt) from about
> the 18th century until the 10th, but all of the inscriptions that we have
> are small and fragmentary. It seems to have been developed from Hieratic,
> which is basically a "watered-down" form of Egyptian Hierogliphs, much it
> the same way the the Ugaritic Cunieform alphabet was developed from
> Akkadian. This does NOT mean that the Canaanite language is derived from
> Egyptian, any more than the influence of the Greek alphabet on the
> development of Cyrillic means that Russian is derived from Greek.
> c. It is only from the 9th century that epigraphers can distinguish
> different styles being used by Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic, presumably
> after the relevant kingdoms had begun developing their own local scribal
> traditions.
> d. The fact that the Hebrews spoke a language that was closely related to
> Canaanite does not contadict anything that is stated in the Bible. And if
> they spoke a Canaanite-related language, it would have been only natural
> for
> them to have adopted the Canaanite alphabet. Remember, the first person who
> is actually mentioned as writing anything in the Bible is Moses.
> e. As far as publication of excavated material: major archaeological
> excavations are long-term projects, that can take years. A three to six
> week
> season of careful digging just barely scraches the surface of a major site.
> Most of the work on the materal found is done after the season, in the
> laboratory, and is a very time-consuming proccess, often hindered by the
> limited funding available for lab workers, expensive tests etc. It is only
> after several season's worth of material has been checked, can anything
> more
> than a preliminary report be compiled. In modern large-scale excavations, a
> first "final" report is usually published after about ten seasons. And even
> then, it is certainly possible that later finds will put earlier
> conclusions
> in a different perspective. So yes, archaelogists in Israel are expected to
> publish reports before being alowed to move on to the next dig, but in what
> I assume is a long-term project like Khirbet Qayafeh/Elah Fortress, it will
> take years for a "final" report to be published.
> f. In the meanwhile, archaelogists often do publish "semi-professional"
> papers and even books on aspects of their site that they think might be of
> interest to the public. And, in the short term, they allow (or invite) the
> press to publish the sort of rubbish that we've been seeing about this
> site.
> >From a purely scientific perspective, this is maybe even irresponsible
> (the
> "Goliath inscription" published by Aren Maeir at Tell es-Safi/Gath is a
> good
> example). But archaeologists are only human, they do have a need to
> interact
> with the intersted public, and the press do have a need to create
> headlines.
> g. So - in giving this ostracon to a professional epigrapher such as Hagai
> Misgav, the excavators did the right thing. In refusing to offer even a
> priliminary reading befor completing all of the relevant tests, Misgav did
> the right thing. I assure you that as soon as a reliable reading can be
> published, it will be. Until that time, anything that anyone says about the
> inscription is probably nonsense.
> Yigal Levin
> Yigal Levin

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