Q&A: How do the paleo Hebrew characters “饟彺饟倽饟寭饟兙饟伓饟墣” depict the phrase “In the beginning”?

First of all, hats off to TCP/IP, HTML and whatever else is responsible for being able to present such characters (and in the correct right-to-left order) in an online question.

These characters are not Paleo-Hebrew, though, but (six of the) Egyptian hieroglyphs that inspired the invention鈥攕ome time in the 1800s BCE鈥攐f what would become the Canaanite alphabet, that served Hebrew and other Canaanite languages for well over a thousand years. From right to left, they represent the Canaanite letters beit (house), resh (head), aleph (tamed bull, i.e., ox), shin (tooth), yod (forearm/hand), and tav (tally mark).

Together, they spell the work bereshit, meaning 鈥榠n the beginning鈥.

But accurately drawing all these characters is way too laborious, so in very quick order they were simplified, so that by the time the Hebrew Bible actually began to be put in writing (some time during the monarchical period in Judea, i.e. the 800s, or possibly before), that word looked as follows:

Which, as the ancient Greeks would write it, in their version of those letters, a few centuries later:

韦 螜 危 螒 巍 螔

鈥 or rather (after their switch from right-to-left to left-to-right writing)篓


or, as the Romans would write it:


So, you see, it hasn鈥檛 changed all that much, in well over three thousand years.

Which is extraordinary, when you think about it.


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