Reverence or Relevance? A Sociolinguistic Study of Paleo-Hebrew Script

Title: Reverence or Relevance? A Sociolinguistic Study of Paleo-Hebrew Script Communities in the Second Temple Period

This paper considers the Paleo-Hebrew inscriptions from Second Temple Judea and Samaria in light of their history and geographical location, analyzes their sociolinguistic typology, evaluates the current perspectives on this topic, and identifies the communities that used Paleo-Hebrew during the Second Temple period. Most previous scholarship on this topic focuses on paleography within specific periods and the conclusions have been limited to functionalism within ancient Judean and Samaritan societies. The prevailing view claims that Paleo-Hebrew script was mostly unknown, and some scribes and rulers artificially revived it for nationalistic or sacred purposes.

This study examines the available epigraphic evidence from a historical and geographical perspective and compares this data with other known examples from sociolinguistic studies (historic and modern). A broader approach brings new insights into the typology of Paleo-Hebrew and how scholars can reconstruct the history of Hebrew considering many other known cases where multiple scripts were used for the same language.

The paper then concludes with a case for categorizing Paleo-Hebrew script as in transition with Aramaic script during the Persian period and as a temple script preserved primarily by the priesthoods of Jerusalem and Mount Gerizim during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This topic sheds new light on the linguistic situation and history of Ezra-Nehemiah as well as the socio-cultural backgrounds of the intertestamental period and the New Testament.

6 thoughts on “Reverence or Relevance? A Sociolinguistic Study of Paleo-Hebrew Script”

  1. Fausey
    This sounds very intriguing and I only chose to give it four stars instead of five because its topic stands at the periphery of the focus of our sessions. It would better fit a section on Second Temple Judaism rather than one drawing on the ANE.


Leave a Comment