December 18, 2011
David Elkington Again on the Jordan Codices
Somehow my blog completely erased my post. It’s 1:30 am and I’m not going to repeat it all. Long story short: Elkington was on Coast to Coast am for two hours tonight. I called in and was the last caller they took before the show ended. I challenged Elkington on his explanation of the Codices’ script (see here). He told me I would be disagreeing with the world’s leading experts and to go back to my textbooks. I got a little bit of a rebuttal out before they ran out of time. I’m sure the show will be up on the show’s archives and on YouTube within a few days.
ETA: As Joel has mentioned on his blog, David Elkington quickly updated his Facebook page with the following:
Following his Coast to Coast broadcast, David Elkington did not have the chance to finish addressing the final questioner due to time constraints. He would just like to clarify that the questioner was correct in one point: paleo-Hebrew was initially not a square script. In the 800 years before Christ, Hebrew was a language very much in development coming as it did from an obscure proto-language called Western Sinaitic. However, by the 1st century BC the Hasmonean form of paleo-Hebrew had indeed been made to fit in with the uniform requirements with the Hebrew of the day, thus it was reasonably square. David would like to send his best wishes to the questioner and his thanks for raising this important point.
I appreciate David’s kindness, but this is completely false. The script had not been made to fit with any “uniform requirements with the Hebrew of the day.” “Square script” and “paleo-Hebrew” are two separate categories. Those categories are meant to distinguish one from the other. To say the script had changed enough to qualify as a square script would be to say it was no longer paleo-Hebrew. If David means that the letters appear squarish enough in shape to be called a “square script” then he simply has no idea what the categories actually mean.
Every other one of his statements is also false. I have never once seen the phrase “Western Sinaitic” used in reference to a script. Google it. All that pops up are regional designations. There is a script called proto-Sinaitic, and it is a script developed in the Sinai that is an early alphabetic script, but it is not a “proto-language.” Proto-Sinaitic dates to the second millennium BCE, though, not 800 years before Christ. While the Hebrew script itself changes quite a bit in the first millennium BCE (see this book
, for instance), the square script was a borrowing, not an internal development. Paleo-Hebrew is also a retroversion of proto-Semitic. It is not more ancient than the square script. It is an attempt to archaize the script, or make it appear really ancient. The paleo-Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (which is where he gets the term “Hasmonean”) has absolutely nothing to do with the script on the codices. Several analyses have shown the script on the codices is a stylizing of a mishmash of different and often chronologically disparate ancient scripts. That this was done in modernity is not only evidenced by the unquestionable relationships to modern texts and iconography (see here
), but also by the fact that the scribe reverses the directions of the letters and even uses several different stroke patterns to execute the same letters (see here
ETA: You can find the entire show last night here. My call begins at the 1:57:15 mark: