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nician character to be of later date, we have still in the Grecian alphabet (which is known to have been derived from the Phænician) the most conclusive evidence of its very early origin'. But in this instance also, repeated investigations, with reference to Homer, have sufficiently proved that writing was not known in his age, and was not brought, even into occasional use, until as late as the time of Solon,-a conclusion which derives additional
[Jahn, in his Biblical Archæology (8 85), ascribes the communication of a knowledge of letters, through all the East and West, first to the Phænician merchants, and the colonies of that commercial nation, and subsequently to Egyptian emigrants. He also mentions the early observations, made upon the heavenly bodies, at Babylon, which, according to Epigenes, had been written down upon baked tiles, and he concludes, that as letters were unquestionably invented for the purposes of commercial intercourse, they must have been known for astronomical observations long before they were brought into general use.
The evidence of a common origin for alphabetical letters is traced by Jahn to the resemblance, which exists among the alphabets of different nations; and in the case of the Hebrews, he considers that the Patriarchs received their alphabet from the Phænicians, or, which is the same thing, from the Canaanites ; and he states, that he has reason to suppose, from the expression used in Gen. xxiii. 20, that a 'bill of sale' was given to Abraham by the sons of Heth : but the passage in Genesis here referred to merely expresses, that the field and the cave were made sure unto Abraham, for a possession, and a reference is properly made in the margin of our common translation to Ruth iv. 7, where the ancient Hebrew manner of making a bargain sure is thus described :—“This was the manner in former time, in Israel, concerning redeeming, and concerning changing, for to confirm all things ; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour; and this was a testimony to Israel!” The purchase effected by Boaz was made sure by drawing off the shoe before the elders and people of Israel, without any allusion to writing; and it was at a much later period, in the time of Jeremiah, that any written documents were mentioned as evidences for the purchase of property. (See Jeremiah xxxii. 11, 12, and Jahn's Biblical Archæology, $ 85, 86, translated by Upham, Andover, U. S., 1839.)]
support from the rude and almost oriental character of the earliest Greek inscriptions, although even these must be referred without exception to a still later date. The tradi: tions of immigrations into Hellas under a Cecrops, a Danaus, or a Cadmus, are utterly destitute of any foundation in history, and in more recent times have been regarded as they deserve; they have no pretended colony to support them, and are not even referred to any precise date, for the number 1500 [B.C.] for [the date of] Cadmus is a mere chronological stop-gap, or, if we may be allowed the expression, a kind of historical elephant' introduced to fill up the vacancy. In the case which we are considering, the tradition can only be regarded as containing the admission that writing was derived from the East (kédem), -a fact sufficiently attested by palæography.
The earliest date which can be assigned to Semitic writing scarcely reaches to the tenth century before Christ, and even this is not sufficiently accredited; but all beyond that period is the region of conjecture, and it is as easy to add a thousand years as one, where we have absolutely no grounds to go upon, and where everything depends on the extent to which we carry our credulity. Few have gone higher than Moses, because it was readily seen that Abraham was hardly likely to have brought writing with him from Babylon, inasmuch as a wandering shepherd may easily dispense with the art, and as during the 400 years spent in Egypt no records appear to have been preserved.
It would, however, be only consistent to assume an earlier use of writing among the Israelites than that which is commonly supposed, and this may be assumed for the
1 [Probably alluding to the Hindoo theory of the earth resting on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, &c.]
following reasons : because a work in prose, like the Pentateuch, could only have been produced in a strictly literary age; because we uniformly find that the art of writing never arrives at immediate perfection, but requires a considerable interval from the date of its first introduction to the commencement of a national literature; because Moses must have had recourse to many older sources, and particularly Chaldæan authorities,- thus we find that - Bertholdt actually speaks of the Ante-Mosaic records ;—and because the Pentateuch expressly cites “the book of the wars of Jehovah!,”—a citation, we may observe, which appears to have been an unfortunate slip of the narrator, inasmuch as these wars relate entirely to Palestine, and could have been no other than those under Joshua, the Judges, and the Kings?. Sack3, indeed, and Kelle4 go so far as to suppose that the patriarchal history was written by Joseph, and that interpolations have been introduced at some later date. Eichhorn admits that prose can only be the tardy fruit of longcontinued practice in the art of writing, and yet supposes that this art was adopted at once by Moses, and that the Phænicio-Egyptian character must have been that which he employed, because he well perceived that a Semitic nation could have made no use of hieroglyphics, nor even
1 “ Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord (Jehovah), What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon.”-Numb. xxi. 14.
2 Compare the following passages :-1 Sam. xviii. 17; “And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife : only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord's battles.”—And 1 Sam. xxv. 28 : “I pray thee therefore forgive the trespass of thine handmaid : for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord.”-Also see Ammon, Develop.Christ. i.121.
3 In his Apology for Christianity.
of the pure Egyptian alphabet, in which, from the different genius of the language, many essential elements must have been wanting. The happy conjecture, or rather perhaps discovery, which had even then been made by Caylus and Büttner, that the demotic? or popular characters on the mummy-bandages betray a Phænician origin, has received a remarkable confirmation from the researches of more recent times; and the student of palæography might almost undertake to produce the original type of every letter in the enchorial or ordinary alphabet from ancient Phænician inscriptions; nay, what is still more remarkable, those corresponding hieroglyphics, which have now been determined with certainty, are found in many cases to preserve the original figure from which the Phænician form was derived. Daleth has still the semblance of a door; Teth, of a serpent; Jod, the fingers of the hand; Caph, the hollow of the hand, or the hand itself; Mem, the wavy appearance of water; Wav appears as a hook; Pe, as a mouth with teeth ; and Lamed, curiously enough, is a lion, from the Coptic laboi (which, however, is the Semitic labio ).
[Three kinds of writing were in use among the ancient Egyptians,
3. The Demotic, or popular, still more simplified to adapt it for public documents and ordinary purposes, and called also Enchorial or 'native,' by Greek writers.]
2 [Phænician characters, and those of the Hebrew nation, were in use until the last century before Christ, and are described by Ewald, as antique, but stiff and heavy, angular and uneven, without proportion and beauty ; they were retained by the Phænicians later than by the Jews, and they are still said to be preserved by the Samaritans.
Besides these Phænician characters, there was also a Babylonish or Assyrian mode of writing, which became, by frequent use, much rounder, more regular, more ductile and beautiful; and as the Aramæan language and literature extended themselves into Judæa, after the Babylonish
It would, therefore, appear that we are not justified in assuming an independent invention of writing in Egypt, but merely a change in the form of the characters, assimilating them more closely to their well-known originals,-a kind, as it were, of ornamental variety of the more ancient and ruder letters. When this alphabet was first introduced, we are still unable to determine, as the most competent judges are generally the most ready to adınit; there are, however, some passages in Plato which seem to intimate that it
captivity, the powerful influence of the Assyrian characters was felt among the Jews, and must have occasioned a renewal and modification of the ancient characters, in the last century before Christ, and in the first century after Christ. Soon after, however, during the increase of Jewish superstition and the worship of the letters, the ancient characters became consecrated in all copies of the Old Testament, and immutable, as they have been preserved through all centuries, without essential alterations, to the present time!'
Ewald traces the origin of letters to picture characters, and he confirms nearly all the derivations of letters here mentioned by Von Bohlen: the Hebrew Daleth of the Old Testament (7), Ewald describes as only half of the original figure of a door, which the word properly means, the present form having arisen from the endeavour to write more rapidly. An abridged representation of the Daleth is shown in the ancient Hebrew alphabet, and in the Greek (A) delta, but the complete character should be of a long quadrilateral form.
In the letter Teth (), which means serpent, the ancient figure has been faithfully preserved.
The most primitive form of the Jod, which means hand, was the ancient Hebrew, Phoenician, and Samaritan figure, with three strokes ; it was shortened in the Ethiopic P, and still more so in the Greek I, and the new Hebrew character (") is only a still shorter crooked stroke.
In the Caph () ), or hollowed hand, the figure can still be recognized.
The four other letters here referred to are not so easily traced ; in the Lamed (7), Ewald connects the name with that of an ox-goad, to which there is a correspondence in a Phænician figure. Mem (water) is thus represented, ; Wav (a hook) ); and Pe (a mouth) 9, to which last letter some Phænician and Palmyrene characters may be found to correspond.-See. Ewald’s Heb. Gram. $ 139, translated by Nicholson.]