Although the Israelites hated the Phoenicians, they were indebted to them for the written language for their Bible.



Tuesday, 8/19/14

In today’s reading Ezekiel inveighed against the principle Phoenician port of Tyre. The Old Testament had nothing good to say about the Phoenicians, but the Bible is indebted to Phoenicia for the language in which their Bible was written.

I heard this story which dates back to 1200 B.C. . It gives great credit to the Phoenicians. As the world’s leading traders they had frequent need for the copper ore they found in the Sinai desert. The mine operator there had constant need for reliable book keeping to keep track of tonnage and of days of labor; and the only writing he knew how to handle was the cumbersome Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Then, he was struck by the realization that every spoken word is a compound of separate sounds. For instance, the word for a gate, which was bab, was actually made up of three sounds: buh, ai, and buh.   

Our genius decided on altering a pair of hieroglyphics. He took the hieroglyphic for a house, which was two side-by-side boxes, like a minimal two room house. He turned the boxes on end to make B. Then, he took the hieroglyphic for a goat with its horns sticking up. It was called Alpha. Our man turned it upside down to stand on its horns. That’s how he made the letter  A  

Going on from his alpha, beta, he altered hieroglyphic figures to make the Delta which had been the picture for the Nile’s delta. He used another hieroglyphic for the “ee” sound, and so on.

 The Hebrew lettering for its Bible, and the Greek letters for its Classics were all derived from that clever Phoenician’s innovation, which he called his alphabet. 

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