Ancient Hebrew

Book: “Mysteries of the Alphabet”

The following chart is from page 53 of the book “Mysteries of the Alphabet”

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The columns across the top read as follows *they may be hard to read in the picture):

1) Paleo-Phoenician 2) Moabitic 3) Hebraic Ostracea (4th century BCE) 4) Paleo Aramaic 5) Papyri in late Aramaic 6) Palmyrian Aramaic 7) Monumental Nabatean/Aramaic 8) Printed Square Hebrew

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The following is an exact quote from the above book, pages 54-53.

According to the author Marc-Alain Ouaknin, Modern Hebrew writing is based on
paleo-Hebraic via Aramaic. The Aramaeans were nomadic Semitic tribes who
lived in the Syrian desert and traded throughout the Near East. If it was
the Phoenicians who caused the alphabet to spread beyond the confines of the
Near East thanks to their international overseas trading contracts, it was the
Aramaeans who spread the alphabet through the Near East thanks to their
extensive travel and the movements of their caravans.

The Aramaeans created small nation-states around Damascus, Hamat, and Aleppo,
where they fell under Assyrian then under Persian domination, while retaining
their privileged status as traders and spreaders of culture.

When the Hebrews were deported to Babylonia after the destruction of the
First Temple, in 586 B.C.E., they adopted Aramaic writing, which was squarer
than their own Hebraic script. When they returned to the land of Israel,
seventy years later, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, they brought
this “new” writing back with them. in fact, the Talmud actually
calls it ktav-ashuri or Assyrian writing.

Modern Hebrew writing is called “square script” and is derived from
Aramaic. It became the official script for daily use and for the
transcription of sacred texts. The Dead Sea scrolls, for instance, were
written in that script.

However, for private use, there is a different script, the cursive script,
which in numerous points is actually derived from paleo Hebrew, the twin sister
of paleo-Phoencian.

The following is from pages 42 et seq. of the same book.

Proto-Sinaitic consists of pictograms, the explanation of which is the main
them of this book.

The transformation of proto-Sinaitic into proto-Hebraic (which has been
confused with proto-Phoenician, a synonym for proto-Canaanite) is the result of
several complex factors, one of which is particularly important. The discovery
of monotheism, and the relevation and the giving of the law on mount Sinai,
introduced a new and important psychological element that may have produced a
profound cultural change.

The second of the Ten Commandments states: “… Thou shalt not make unto
thee any graven images …”. This prohibition on the image forced the
Semites, who still wrote their language in a pictographic writing, to rid
themselves of images. The birth of the modern alphabet created from
abstract characters is linked to the revelation and the giving of the
law. … “To make the jump from the hieroglyphic to the consonant,
from polytheism to monotheism, a frontier had to be crossed.

The following is from pages 89 et seq. of the same book

The basic thesis of this book is to show that the alphabet that we know today
in our Western languages is derived from an alphabet that was created more than
3,500 years ago and which is known as proto-Sinaitic. This writing is
considered to be the first alphabetic script, although it consists solely of
consonants. It was discovered by Sir Flinders Petrie in 1905 and dates
from the sixteenth-fifteenth century B.C.E. Petrie first found this
writing engraved on a little sandstone sphinx….

A little information about the author: Marc-Alain Ouaknin

The book was written between 1993 and 1906 [in French], the result of many
years of research conducted through the Aleph Center (Jewish Research and Study
Center, Paris) and more recently through the Bar-Ilan University.
The author acknowledges his father and mentor, the great Rabbi Jacques Ouaknin.

Gensenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon

The following chart is from Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament

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Evolution and Morphing of Hebrew Letters
– A transformation of the letters

I have taken the liberty of copying these graphics to my site, just in case they ever disappear from the original site. They are too good to lose.
They come from part of the course material for “History of the Alphabets” taught by Prof. Robert Fradkin at University of Maryland.
Animations created Charlie Seljos.

The following are animated images. If you did not see the animation,
press CNTL-F5 to completely refresh your web-browser/page, and the animations should run again

Phoenician to Hebrew

Phoenician to Greek

Phoenician to Arabic

Greek to Cyrillic

The following are animated images. If you did not see the animation,
press CNTL-F5 to completely refresh your web-browser/page, and the animations should run again

Evolution of Proto-Sinaitic glyphs to Phoenician

Evolution of Latin Character Set

Evolution of Cuneiform

External Links on Ancient Hebrew

The following sites are not necessarily endorsed.

The Shrink of the Book – Israel Museum – Contains the Isaiah scroll found in the “Dead Sea Scrolls”
– The Origins and Emergence of West Semitic Alphabetic Scripts – Professor James
Harris and Dann W. Hone (Brigham Young Univ)