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Palestinian Hieratic

The fourth presentation at BYU’s Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies conference on 31 August 2012 was on “Writing in 7th Century BC Levant,” by Stefan Wimmer of the University of Munich.  It was entitled “Palestinian Hieratic.”  He examined an interesting phenomena in Hebrew inscriptions, the use of Egyptian hieratic (cursive hieroglyphic) signs.

Basically Hebrew scribes used Egyptian signs for various numerals, weights and measures.  The changes in the form of these signs parallel similar chronological changes in the form of Egyptian hieratic characters, which indicates continued contact of some sort between Egyptian and Hebrew scribes, probably over several centuries.  (If there had been a single scribal transmission with no ongoing contact, the changes in the Hebrew forms of hieratic signs would not parallel contemporary changes in Egyptian hieratic forms.)  No other Semitic language used Egyptian hieratic signs except Hebrew (with one possible Moabite example.)

There are a couple of hundred examples of such texts, the majority dating from the late seventh century, and geographically mainly from Jerusalem southward.  The phenomena ends after the Babylonian captivity.  (In other words, Palestinian hieratic is most common in precisely the time and location of Lehi and Nephi, and only exists in Hebrew.)

Stefan Wimmer, Palastinisches Hieratisch.  Die Zahl und Sonderzeichen in der althebraishen Schrift (Wiesbaden: Harraossowitz, 2008).

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