Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oldest Hebrew Inscription?

Haaretz has released an article on the recent discovery of a Hebrew ostracon which may date to ca. 1000 BCE. It is not yet clear exactly what the text is about. Article and photo here.


  1. Just out of interest, what is the oldest Hebrew inscription meantime?

  2. Depends on what one calls Hebrew. In Feb 2007(?) in a lecture sponsored by the Hebrew Language Academy, Prof. Steiner presented some Northwest Semitic curse texts from 2400BCE, if memory serves me, written in Egyptian hieroglyphic.

  3. That lecture was considered something special because it was given in Hebrew and thus spanned over four millenia of a language in use and talking about itself. The "proto Canaanite/Hebrew" texts themselves were not as interesting as their existence. I don't remember the status of the Canaanite shift 'a' to 'o'. It seems to me that there was some ambiguous evidence on this.

  4. Before the inscription is deciphered, we should beware to jump to conclusions. It seems that it was written in the proto-Canaanite script, which is different from preexilic Hebrew. The earliest inscription in preexilic Hebrew is held to be the Gezer calender (10th century BC). Specimens with proto-Canaanite script are known as far back as the 18th century BC or even earlier, but what kind of people employed them is difficult to determine.

  5. Martin is right about the caution but the liberal element will still find excuse to challenge the literary integrity of the OT.

    The external evidence is of little or no consequence in their minds in their hypothetical reconstructions.

    It is of no consequence that the Greeks were writing in 3000 B.C., but to ascribe to the preexilic Hebrews and even Moses such a skill is unthinkable in their minds.