Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry

By Frank Moore Cross Jr.; David Noel Freedman | Go to book overview

POSTSCRIPTUM

The original plan of research was simple. In a first study we would examine the inscriptional evidence available from the early periods for the Northwest Semitic languages to determine orthographic practices and patterns, and chart evolutionary developments. Sequence dating and absolute dates would be established by epigraphic analysis of features of the inscriptions other than their orthographic usage.

In a second study we would take the conclusions of the first and apply them to selected biblical texts, to see what could be gained, by rigorous orthographic analysis, in the way of interpretation, elucidation, and clarification of difficult passages, especially in fixed poetic contexts. The earliest Israelite poetry was the immediate target, and the presumption was that embedded in the preserved text of the Hebrew Bible there would be evidence of older orthographic practice surviving despite the scribal revisions in subsequent stages of manuscript transmission, some perhaps as early as the earliest form of Hebrew orthography. This so-called Phoenician spelling of the tenth century B.C. and earlier was marked by strict consonantism in notation, that is, without vowel letters in either the final or medial position. In addition, one of the old poems was preserved in two variant texts, 2 Samuel 22=Psalm 18, and, we hoped, would reflect evidence of both written and oral transmission and perhaps even dialectical differences.

Two dissertations emerged from these studies. Both were completed essentially in the academic year 1947-48 (although the second was not submitted until 1949-50), and served their primary purpose in partially satisfying degree requirements. The first, Early Hebrew Orthography: The Epigraphic Evidence, was published in revised form in the American Oriental Series, no. 36, in 1952. In it we set down the basic styles governing spelling practices in the Northwest Semitic inscriptions from the twelfth-eleventh centuries B.C. until the time of the Exile of Judah (early sixth century) and traced the modifications and adaptations of the primary systems of Linear Phoenician after its borrowing into Aramaic and other writing systems, notably

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