The question whether the Greek alphabet is an invention of the Hellenes, or it is a modified import of the Phoenician alphabet, has long been debated by linguists, scholars and historians alike.
The web site, writingsystems.com, states that “although Greek has traditionally been considered to be the mother of alphabets, the first to represent vowels as well as consonants, scholars are now divided on whether Greek was in fact the ancestor of all others or whether some [letters] came from Phoenician in other ways.”
In addition, in the book, The World of the Bible, the author, Roberta Harris, writes that “to the Greeks also belongs the credit for the invention of the vowel system… when the Greeks founded colonies in Italy, the alphabet was taken up by the peoples there… and has come down to us via the Romans…”
This article is based on extensive (but, by no means exhaustive) research that the author has done on the subject, in an attempt to show that ancient, as well as recent evidence, point to a favorable conclusion that the alphabet is indeed a Hellenic invention, albeit its final form, as we know it today, is the result of refinement and iterations of Hellenic writing systems through millennia of usage in the Aegean basin and the Levant.
The alleged Phoenician “invasion”
Several ancient Greek writers credit various Hellenes as the inventors of the alphabet, i.e. Prometheus, Palamedes, Linus and others, with the exception of Herodotus, who in his History he mentions the following: “Then those Phoenicians who had come with Cadmus, of whom were the Gephyrians, had lived in many other places, and imported in this land different teachings to the Greeks, and in addition letters (“grammata”), which, in my opinion, where unknown to the Greeks, initially those [letters] that they and all Phoenicians used; however, as time went by they [Phoenicians] changed their language and the type [shape] of the letters.” (Book V, 58)
This vexed passage is the heart of a long lasting and continuing debate regarding the origin of the Greek alphabet, since it has been taken at “gospel value” by many to mean that the Greeks “borrowed”, at least some, of their letters from the Phoenicians. However, there is an increasing number of scholars and researchers, who argue with validity, that the Herodotus passage has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, if not taken out of context.
Referring to the Greek original text (quoted in the parentheses below), let us analyze the passage to extract its meaning the way Herodotus, most likely, meant it to read.
First, we notice that Herodotus makes a very important and significant disclaimer in this paragraph: he tells us that what he writes is a “personal opinion” (“os emoi dokeei”), not a widely accepted fact or a definitive statement.
Prior to this, Herodotus also makes a more general disclaimer that “his opinion” was formed not by facts, research or scientific knowledge, but rather it was based on “taking information from others” (“anapynthanomenos”).
“If we look closely in what Herodotus himself says [in his History],” writes Mary Lefkowitz in her book Not Out Of Africa, “he makes it clear that he is putting forward his own interpretations and conjectures about what he saw and was told by native informants.” (p. 62)
This is not an uncommon practice for Herodotus. To wit, Professor Perez Zagorin in his book, Thucydides: An Introduction for the Common Reader, writes that Herodotus
“in dealing with sources of information, his attitude was neither consistently critical nor generally credulous, but somewhere in between… To his readers he declares that it is his duty to report all that is said, but not obliged to believe it… His work is full of the most varied facts, speeches, stories and digressions for whose truth it is impossible to vouch… Very likely [Thucydides] placed Herodotus among the class of writers who, he said, take little trouble in the search for the truth and readily…accept whatever comes first hand.” (p.16)
This is not to say that Herodotus is not a great historian, or that his writings are not important. On the contrary, his History is a remarkable book based on events that he encountered, but also on stories and folklore that he heard. Regarding his passage about the Greek alphabet he failed to establish a clear distinction between facts and generalizations and, in contrast to Thucydides, the historical evidence (“tekmerion”) in his narrative is missing, rendering his conjecture false.
To be fair, despite his controversial account, Herodotus actually makes it clear that the Greeks already had letters of their own, at the time of the Phoenicians' arrival to Greece and is careful to point out that the Phoenicians introduced only a few letters (“eisegagon oliga”) that where hitherto unknown to the Greeks (“ouk eonta prin Ellesi”). Surely, the most important and by far the most critical statement that Herodotus makes in his passage is the one confirming that in time the Phoenicians “changed their language and the type (or shape) of their letters” (“ama ti foni metevallon kai ton rythmon ton grammaton”). In other words, the Phoenicians assimilated and eventually spoke Greek and wrote in Greek letters!
However, what is considered the “bone of contention” in this entire debate is Herodotus’s subsequent paragraph. It reads in (translation) as follows: “At that period, most of the Greeks living around the [Aegean] region were Ionians, who were taught these letters by the Phoenicians, and adopted them with few alterations for their own use, and using them they were saying, that the right thing to do was to call them Phoenician, since the Phoenicians brought them to Greece.”
This passage is indeed both paradoxical and suspicious, because if we accept the notion that the Ionian Greeks “adopted and used some” Phoenician letters (“metarythmisantes sfeon oliga ehreonto”), this would be a striking contradiction to the former paragraph’s strong and assertive statement that the Phoenicians where the adopters, not the Greeks! Is Herodotus confused and using “bifurcated logic” here, or is something else happening? Let’s examine the possibilities.
As difficult as it is to translate a passage from ancient Greek without altering its meaning, keep in mind that the ancient Greek writings can (and will) take an entirely different meaning by repositioning a comma, or by observing the proper gender, or even by inserting a word that the author has omitted.
Consider the following famous Delphic oracle, given by Pythia to an ancient Greek soldier leaving for war: “Thou shall go and thou shall return not thou shall die in war” (“Exeis afexeis ou en polemo thnexeis”). As an exercise to the reader, notice how the meaning of the sentence changes completely, first by placing the comma before the word “not” and then after it!
Furthermore, consider the word “Egypt” (Aigyptos); its feminine form (e Aigyptos) refers to the country Egypt, but its male form (o Aigyptos) refers to the mythical hero Egyptus, a forefather of the Greeks, not connected with Egypt.
Fascinating indeed, but after all, this is the beauty and power of the Greek language and also its mystique and challenge to the user, as well as the translator! Hence, modern translators and interpreters, who do not have either the analytical skills or good command of the language, not only make erroneous translations and interpretations, but unfortunately, these errors perpetuate and eventually amplify the problem.
With this in mind, let us reintroduce the later mentioned Herodotus paragraph, by inserting a key word (in brackets, bellow) that Herodotus may have omitted as redundant (“autonoete”): “At that period, most of the Greeks living around the region were Ionians, who were taught these [Greek] letters by the Phoenicians and adopted them…”
The suggestion that Herodotus meant “Greek letters” is consistent with what he told us in his first passage, i.e. that the Phoenicians had adopted the Greek letters (and language) and abandoned their own. Furthermore, it is important to note that he mentions the Phoenicians as “importers” of these letters rather than “inventors”, while his subsequent statement that the Ionians called the letters Phoenician (“Phoenekeia keklesthai”) is consistent with the ancient Greeks’ tendency to attach exotic origins to home-grown products, even if that practice had an unintentional long-term negative impact on their creativity and intellectual capital. This practice continues even today, inasmuch we attach “origins” to certain common items, such as French fries, Danish rolls, Canadian bacon, Venetian blinds, etc, even though it is highly unlikely that these products where actually “invented” in the named localities.
If this explanation is not sufficient to persuade the skeptics, advocates of the belief that the alphabet was indeed a Greek invention, have expressed the opinion that the second paragraph may have not been written by Herodotus altogether, but it may have been inserted at a later date by someone with the intention to reduce the importance of Herodotus original passage.
Could this be so? Well, we know that through the ages, ancient Greek writings have been altered and edited, for various reasons and some more significantly than others, by various scribes and copiers of the original texts.
Herodotus History may have also been a victim of a later-day Hellenized zealot scribe, who in an attempt to minimize Hellenic cultural hegemony and inventiveness he targeted the crown jewel of all Greek accomplishments, their alphabet!
Could Herodotus been “altered”?
It would be historically unjust and unfair to claim that in a multicultural region where Greece is located, there were not intercultural interactions, influences and possibly adoptions of customs, thoughts and rituals.
The Greeks traveled throughout the Mediterranean Sea (and beyond) and came into contact with various peoples and cultures, and had an open mind and a voracious thirst for knowledge and new ideas.
Having said this, it is also safe to say that the Greeks invented what has been credited to them, and their contributions to philosophy, philology, mathematics, history, democracy, architecture and the arts, are well documented and do not need apologists.
The ancient Greek culture was “home-grown” and unique, and its accomplishments were the result of this uniqueness. However, since ancient times, other cultures studied and copied (or usurped) ancient Greek thoughts and ideas, in an attempt to lift their own ethnic group culturally, spiritually and socially.
The blatantly flawed “Afrocentric Theory” that was developed in modern times to satisfy nationalistic and multicultural tendencies, was an attempt to defraud and deceive academics, scholars and simple folks by erroneously claiming that Greek thought and civilization was “stolen” from Egypt (i.e. Africa).
Fortunately, this theory was ingeniously dispelled and totally discredited by Professor Mary Lefkowitz’s scholarly, courageous and widely accepted book, Not Out Of Africa.
Similarly, the “Phoenician Theory” about the origins of the Greek alphabet, was developed at a time when, “as the British scholar Dr. S.G. Remproke says, the Phoenicians were given an intermediary role that is not based on any historical information, in other words, a role of the transporter of wisdom from the chosen people of Israel to the uncivilized nations, and specifically the Greeks. This, of course, could be forgiven, since this was established around the end of the Medieval Ages, when religious fanaticism and backwardness had reached such a point that Iphigenia was presented as the daughter of Ieptha; Deukalion as Noah… Orpheus (Musaeus) as Moses and other similar distortions.” (Davlos, pp. 13741-13750, January 2000)
During the last three centuries BCE, the Egyptians and the Jews, primarily those living in Alexandria during the Hellenistic times, tried very hard (and at times succeeded) to assert their own ideas and cultural beliefs through the written works of the Alexandrian Greeks, who for millennia lived, worked and flourished in Egypt and continued to exert the Hellenic influence to other cultures through their language, philosophy, science, religion and the arts.
Alexandria was the most cultural city of the Mediterranean, and “within a century after Alexandria was built [by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE]… it had become the center not only of Hellenism but also of Judaism… the finest teachers, philosophers, and scientists flourishing within its walls”, writes Theodore Vrettos in his book, Alexandria, City of the Western Mind.
In her book, Not Out of Africa, Dr. Marry Lefkowitz writes:
“The Jews shared the Egyptians’ patronizing attitude towards the dominant Greek culture. Jewish historians were determined to show that although the Jewish people were now subject to Greeks, they not only understood Greek culture… but these writers sought to show that Greek religion and philosophy had been inspired by Hebrew ideas… But an even more definitive assertion of the derivative nature of Greek culture was made by an Alexandrian Jew called Aristobulus in the second century BCE. Aristobulus did not hesitate to invent information, or to report information invented by others… He said that Greek philosophers Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato knew and studied the books of Moses… Of course, no scholar today would take seriously that claim… [but] by the first century CE some people believed [it, and]… the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria and the Jewish historian Josephus both speak of Moses' influence on Plato… Later, church fathers like Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE) and Eusebius (260-340 CE), took a decisively more hostile line… accusing the Greeks of theft and plagiarism… The determination of both Jews and Christians to assert the priority of Hebrew culture over the Greeks, helps to explain why the Egyptians where eager to point out… that, the famous Greeks were inspired by Egyptian learning. It was a way of asserting the importance of their culture, especially in a time when they had little or no political power… But the fate of Jewish ethnic historians like Aristobulus offer a warning to modern day advocates of Greek cultural dependency. How many people have ever heard of Aristobulus? And, more importantly, who believes him?” (pp 85-86)
It is well documented, that scribes and book editors published “revised” ancient Greek writings and books in a form that, implicitly or explicitly, attempted to favor a specific ethnicity for nationalistic, religious or other subjective reasons.
Professor Richard E. Rubenstein writes in his book, Aristotle’s Children, that the Catholic Church allowed universities to teach Aristotle’s philosophy and science, provided that his books “had been examined and purged of all suspicion of error.” (p. 173)
In other words, Aristotle’s books would be analyzed, interpreted and “corrected” (read, “changed”) to fit the specific needs, teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church!
Even the New Testament, the most revered book for billions of Christians, was not immune to considerable changes by various scribes.
Professor Bart D. Ehram in his book, Misquoting Jesus, writes that “… [in] thousands of places… the manuscripts of the New Testament came to be changed by scribes… [with] additions of sizable length… there are lots of significant changes (and lots more insignificant ones) in our surviving manuscripts of the New Testament” (pp. 68-69)
What, then, could have prevented the alteration of Herodotus’ History, by racially or nationalistically motivated scribes and book copiers, in an effort to elevate ethnic pride, by asserting that a non-Greek culture had inspired and was responsible for the origins of the Greek alphabet?
Unfortunately, we do not have the original Herodotus manuscript to compare and offer a definitive and conclusive proof to this theory, but why should we passively accept the negating rather than the assertive statement of his account about the Greek alphabet?
After all, in the absence of conclusive evidence for a claim that the Greeks themselves had arrived from the East – the Greeks always regarded themselves as “indigenous” (“autochthones”) -- the Levantines and their advocates were determined to show that at the very least the Greek alphabet was an eastern import, and had Sinaitic-Phoenician-Semitic roots!
The subsequent topics further examine this claim and present documented historical facts, as well as recent archeological findings that dispel a derivative theory, and raise claim to support the theory that the Greek alphabet (at some shape, form and factor) not only was invented and used by the Hellenes before Phoenician times, but eventually this alphabet made its way to the Levant, to be used first by the Philistines and subsequently by the Phoenicians and the Semitic peoples of that region.
Was Minoan Crete the birthplace of the alphabet?
Long before the excavation of Knossos in Crete by Sir Arthur Evans, scholars believed and taught that Greek writing began around the time of Homer, at 800 BCE.
The excavating work of Sir Arthur Evans in Crete, unveiled the Minoan writing scripts, known today as Linear A and Linear B.
Michael Ventris, an English architect, deciphered Linear B writing and proved, beyond any doubt, that the Minoans of the second millennium BCE were speaking and writing in Greek. The Aegean of that time was indeed Hellenic. In fact, as it turns out, the Linear scripts use many symbols that resemble letters of the Greek alphabet.
Recent work that has been done on the decipherment of an even earlier Cretan script found on the Phaistos Disk, especially by Dr. Steven R. Fischer, proved that the disk writing is also Greek (contrary to hitherto various theories that the disk script was of Northern Semitic, Hittite, Egyptian, or other origins) thus extending the Hellenic connection of the Minoans into the third millennium BCE.
Dr. Fischer in his book, Glyphbraker, presents a meticulous and scholarly account of his decipherment of the Phaistos Disk that was based on the glyph correspondences between the Phaistos Disk and symbols of Linears A and B. His work has been endorsed by The National Geographic, and is by far the most credible and realistic decipherment of the Phaistos Disk to date.
In his book, Dr. Fischer concludes that
“the Minoan language of ancient Crete is the oldest documented language not only of Europe but also of the entire Indo-European language family… it was a Hellenic tongue, sister to Mycenaean Greek [Minoan Greek]… the Phaistos Disk indicates a preference for the written word in ancient Crete (it also suggests widespread literacy)… [and] the Hellenes were the first in the Aegean, indeed in Europe, to use writing…” (pp. 119-120)
The Minoans spoke and wrote in Greek, at least 1300 years prior to the appearance of the Phoenicians! Some may argue that the Phaistos Disk is “written” in pictorial script (glyphs) and it is syllabic, not alphabetic. This is true. However, the relation of the Phaistos Disk to the syllabic Linear A and B scripts is stunningly similar, thus proving the continuity and evolution of these writing scripts. Furthermore, the similarity of the Minoan writing symbols to the Phoenician scripts (i.e. Proto-Sinaitic, ca. 1700 BCE; and Phoenician ca. 700 BCE), which are also syllabic and not alphabetic, suggest a relative connection that should not, and must not, be taken lightly or go unnoticed.
Hence, the question at hand is, did the birth and early evolution of the Greek alphabet begin in the East (Phoenicia) or the West (Crete)?
The ancient historian Diodorus of Sicily mentions in his writings that Dosiades, a writer of epigrams, told him that the letters were invented by the Cretans (“Dosiades de en Kriti phisin evrethinai auta [grammata].) (Becker, E., Diodorus, II 783.14)
Furthermore, according to the On-Line Encyclopedia Britannica, the late Sir Arthur Evans, the brilliant archaeologist and scholar who dedicated most of his life excavating, deciphering and documenting the advanced civilization of the Minoans, argued ingeniously that “the alphabet was taken over from Crete by the Cherethites (Kereti=Cretans) and Palestu (Philistines=Pelasgoi) who established for themselves settlements on the coast of Palestine. From them it passed to the Phoenicians, who were their neighbors, if not their kinsfolk.”
This is a statement and scientific observation of great importance, and has far reaching implications in the quest to identify not only the origins of the alphabet, but the origins of civilization in the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately, Evans’ theory of the origin of the alphabet laid dormant (and frankly, in my opinion, purposely ignored) until recent archaeological findings in Israel regarding the Philistines, a race that, until recently, we only knew from Old Testament references, have shed new light on the migrations, settlements and cultures of the people in the Mediterranean basin, and has stirred renewed interest in the relation between the Levantines (Middle Easterners) and the Minoan Greeks.
Will, finally, Evans be exonerated and his theories be proven right? Well, we are now almost certain that, despite previous theories that the Minoans migrated from the Levant, recent scientific and archeological findings are proving that it was the other way around!
As we understand and analyze these new findings, not through the prism of narrow nationalistic, ethnic or political interests, but in true and responsible scholarship, old misconceptions will tumble and the truth will prevail.
The Philistines: Savage warriors or peaceful innovators?
The Philistines was an immigrant culture and appears to settle in Palestine around 1200 BCE, establishing important cities like Ashrod, Ekron, Ashkelon, Gath and Gaza that constituted the Philistine Pentapolis (Five Cities).
The Philistines were known to the Egyptians as “Palestu” and also as the “Sea Peoples” and their migration to the Levant from their homeland might have been due to famine, outside invaders or devastating earthquakes and natural disasters.
Moshe and Trude Dothan, professors of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have spent over 30 years excavating, analyzing, reconstructing and painstakingly recording the Philistine civilization, hence we now have a good, albeit still incomplete, understanding and appreciation of the contributions and the positive impact of their highly advanced culture in this area.
Historical and scientific evidence show unequivocally that the Philistines “were composed of Greek-speaking tribes” and recent archeological evidence point-out that they most certainly came from Crete (Caphtor). It is interesting to note that the biblical Cherethites were Cretans (Cherethites=Kereti=Cretans) and they became King David's personal and professional military force (1 Sam. 30:14).
The Cherethites are linked to the Philistines by Ezekiel, “I stretch out my hand against the Philistines, cut off the Cherethites, and destroy the rest of the seacoast” (Ez. 25:15-17). Zephaniah also mentions four of the five Philistine cities in his prophecies against Philistia, “For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashrod’s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted” (Zep. 2:4-7). Zephaniah further affirms that the Canaanites and Philistines were kinfolks from Crete: “Ah, inhabitants of the seacoast, you nation of the Cherethites! The word of the Lord is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines…” (Zephaniah 2:5-11)
The link and relation of the Philistines/Canaanites to Cretans is further strengthened by the fact that the Philistinean city of Gaza was also known as Minoa, the same name given to several trade stations that started from Crete. Joseph Yahuda, in his book, Hebrew is Greek, associates the name “Philistines” with that of “Pelasgoi”, early inhabitants of Crete (Pelasgoi => Pelaskoi (g turns dialectally into k) => Pelastoi (k turns dialectally into t) => Palestoi (e and a interchange) => Palestu => Philistines.) (p. 3).
Although the Old Testament portrays the Philistines as “godless violent warriors, dull-witted and uncouth barbarians”, the Dothans, through their excavations and scholarly work, have revealed a culture and civilization just the opposite -- questioning whether the Biblical authors were vilifying their more cultured enemies, because of ethnic hostilities.
The archeological discoveries revealed that the Philistines were accomplished architects, sophisticated urban planners, highly artistic potters (using Mycenaean/Minoan decorative motifs), weavers, skilled iron-workers and advanced technologists. In short, the Philistines were a culture that profoundly affected and influenced other cultures around them. A civilized race, indeed, that used Aegean-style hearths in their buildings, practiced Aegean-cultic religion and cremated and buried their dead in Minoan/Mycenaean-style, rock-cut chamber tombs.
Gerhard Herm in his book, The Phoenicians, writes that
the Philistines had not only had close contact with the Achaeans (i.e. Hellenes) but in fact stemmed directly from them. Goliath, who challenged David wearing Mycenaean armour, could have been a descendant of Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus… Thus, here in the Gaza strip the last act of a drama was played out which had begun in Crete…. (p. 56)
Until recently, scientists and scholars were unsure whether or not the early Philistines had a writing system. But, is it possible that an advanced culture like the Philistines, with established trade, religion and social structure could not write, while less advanced cultures around them allegedly did?
The Dothans in their book, People of the Sea: The Search for the Philistines, show a tablet that they excavated in Israel, dated around 1100 BCE, with early Philistine writing, that is related to the Minoan Linear scripts. Although not many examples of this writing have been found as yet to establish the definitive link and to aid the decipherment of this script, scholars are now almost certain that the Philistines used linear writing to record events.
In early 2007, in an article that appeared in The Israel Exploration Journal, distinguished Harvard professors Lawrence E. Stager and Frank Moore Cross commenting on several Philistine inscriptions found in the ancient city of Ashkelon in Israel, wrote that the inscriptions "reveal, for the first time, convincing evidence that the early Philistines of Ashkelon were able to read and write in a non-Semitic language, as yet undeciphered… perhaps it is not too bold to propose that the inscription is written in a form of Cypro-Minoan script utilized and modified by the Philistines — in short, that we are dealing with the Old Philistine script." Cross further states that the script had some characteristics of Linear A, the writing system used in the Aegean from 1650 B.C. to 1450 B.C. This undeciphered script was supplanted by another, Linear B, which was identified with the Minoan civilization of Crete and was finally decoded in the mid-20th century.
Hence, these Cretan migrants brought with them not only the Minoan Greek language, but also the linear script, the early Hellenic syllabic alphabet that planted the seed for the evolution of a regional rooted alphabet.
To wit, excavations at Tel Miqne in Israel in 1996 unearthed a Philistine dedication inscription of the seventh century BCE, written in a script dubbed by scholars “Phoenician-Canaanite”, in the absence of a more precise alternative nomenclature.
This tablet of Ekron, as it is commonly known today, is written in none other than a “Philistine” (i.e. Cretan) script that most likely evolved from the Minoan linear scripts, and was eventually adopted by both the Canaanites and the Phoenicians “their neighbors [and] their kinfolk”, according to Evans.
Furthermore, Aaron Demsky in an article published in Biblical Archeology suggests that the inscription of the tablet of Ekron names one of the Philistine kings as “Akys” (Greek: Acheos = Hellene), and his patron deity as “Ptnyh” (Greek: Potnia = Divine Lady => Great Goddess of the Aegean.), further confirming the Hellenic origin and lineage of the Philistines, their language and their writing (pp. 53-58.)
Sr. Arthur Evans may have finally been proven right! The letters of the so-called “Phoenician” alphabet were first used by the Philistines and had Minoan Hellenic roots!
Further Evidence and Conclusion
I have been and continue to be intrigued by the many theories presented in Joseph Yahuda’s book, Hebrew is Greek, where, through extensive linguistic research, the author builds a strong case that the language of the ancient Hebrews, who were known as Khabiru and Hepiru respectively in the Syrian and Egyptian annals, “was continental Greek” and that “the Greek and Hebrew alphabets bear a striking resemblance to one another, in the order of letters, their names shape and pronunciation.” (p. 19)
Yahuda further states in his book that “it is Greek that anciently – long before the Trojan War – started altering into Hebrew, and not Hebrew into Greek.” (p. 633)
The same author convincingly asserts in his book that “when the Hellenic affinity of the Phoenicians had long been forgotten, it was assumed that the identity of the Greek with the Phoenician alphabet was simply a matter of borrowing.” (p. 8)
These are powerful statements, based on thirty years of painstaking and meticulous scholarly research, by Joseph Yahuda, the results of which were compiled in the above mentioned book, a monumental work of about 700 pages.
The results of this research may be viewed as controversial and thought-provoking, yet they are well documented, compelling and scholarly, hence they cannot be waived-off, dismissed or ignored. This book diverges from narrow nationalistic motives and through science it casts doubt to the hitherto widely accepted theory that the Hebrew alphabet and language - as well as the Phoenician - are of Semitic origin!
Nor we can ignore the fact that as far back as the third millennium BCE, the Middle East was colonized by Minoan Philistines, and that the Phoenicians were related to the Philistines, and they all spoke Greek dialects and wrote using Greek characters.
In fact, the ancient historian Cornelius Tacitus (56-117 CE), in his book, The Histories, writes this: “Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete… Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighboring tribe, the Ideaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name.” Could this obvious etymological similarity be a mere coincidence? Furthermore, could it go unnoticed?
I submit that as archeology unearths more evidence, old theories will be revised and the new findings will eventually reveal the facts and truth. I also submit that the early Hellenic influence goes beyond the Aegean and Mediterranean basins. As Joseph Yahuda writes in his book, “four thousand years ago the whole of the Middle East was overrun, colonized and controlled by Greeks and allied tribes.” (p. 7)
Consequently, the languages and the writing systems that people of these regions used were developed and originated in the Aegean basin and mainland Greece and made their way to the Levant (and not the other way around) through these settlers.
The Greek alphabet is a product of this human migration and cultural evolution and was developed, in full circle, among people that shared a common Hellenic lineage, heritage and culture. The Greek alphabet, indeed, has Hellenic roots!
The debate on this and several related issues may not stop, and it should not, albeit debates of this sort must be based on historical and scientific facts and, as Dr. Dianne Ravitch of NYU said, “history must be based on evidence, openly arrived at and openly argued, not myth, ideology or opinion.”
Demsky, Aaron, Biblical Archeology Review (NY, 1998)
Dothan, Moshe and Trude, People of the Sea: The Search for the Philistines (Macmillan, New York, 1992)
Ehram, Bart D., Misquoting Jesus (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2005)
Fischer, Steven R., Glyphbraker (Copernicus, New York, 1997)
Friedman, Richard E., Who wrote the Bible? (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1997)
Greenberg, Gary, Myths of the Bible (Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville, IL, 2002)
Harris, Roberta L., The World of the Bible (Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1995)
Herm, Gerhard, The Phoenicians: The Purple Empire of the Ancient World (William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1975)
Hopper, R.J., The Early Greeks (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1976)
Kalopoulos, Michael, The Great Lie (Xlibris, USA, 2003)
Lefkowitz, Mary, Not Out Of Africa (Basic Books, New York, 1996)
Rubenstein, Richard, Aristotle’s Children (Harcourt, Orlando, FL, 2003)
Vrettos, Theodore, Alexandria, City of the Western Mind (The Free Press, New York, 2001)
Yahuda, Joseph, Hebrew is Greek (Becket Publications, Oxford, 1982)
Zagorin, Perez, Thucydides: An Introduction for the Common Reader (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2005)