Hallelu-YaH - all honor to YaHUaHNL versie

The Script that went Ahead

How YaHUaH prepared the way for the Gospel in Greece and Rome already at the time when Isra’el diverted from Him
Part III.

André H. Roosma
11 August 2015

In Part I of this article, I told the story of our (Latin) script; how its origin can be found in the old West-Semitic (a.k.a. Canaanite or Sinaitic) script Moses used when he wrote the Torah.1 I expressed my awe and wonder about the observation that God had the Greeks and then the Romans adopt it, with some minor modifications, at the time when the northern Israelites and the Jews went into exile, respectively. And that this script and the far-stretching Roman empire greatly facilitated the spread of the written Gospel and the other New Testament as well as First Testament writings...

Here a sequel to Part II of the discussion of the various letters from the aleph-bet as Moses used it and how they were adopted into the Greek and Latin worlds. And then I will finish this three-part article with some concluding remarks.

The development of the letter signs (continued)

The letters of the old script of Isra’el (top row in each picture) were at the basis of our (Latin) letters (bottom, left), and of the Imperial Aramaic of the sixth to fifth century BC, from which the Hebrew square script letters (bottom right) were adopted.

old pe - P

The next symbol of the old Semitic script from the time of the Patriarchs and Mosheh (top, left and middle show two variants) was a picture of an opening between two pieces of tent canvas. The symbol represented any opening and the notion of airflow (note that the primary opening of the human body - the ’aph - is not the mouth but the nose; de mouth - peh - is literally the opening to express awe, worship and joy).
In early Paleo-Hebrew (top, right) this symbol got changed a bit by the way it was written by hand as one stroke. The Greeks simplified and straightened an older form a little to form their pi Π; the Romans changed the shape considerably to P.
The Aramaeans changed the symbol somewhat and created a separate final version. This looks much like the Latin P (mirrored, of course), but which way this influence went is hard to establish.

old tsade

The tsade of the old Semitic script was a depiction of a plant like grain, reed or papyrus. Via the way these plants grow (straight up, without bents or dividing into branches), it also symbolized being or growing upright. Via the papyrus it also symbolized pressing or squeezing out water.
In early Paleo-Hebrew this symbol changed little. It inspired the Greeks at first in their Ϡ or ϡ - sampi, which was later discarded, however. The Romans did not adopt it.
In Aramaic and the Hebrew square script, the symbol got changed such that the image of straight-up growth with a single stem got lost.

old qoph - Q

The next symbol of the old Semitic script is the qoph, depicting a rising sun, representing notions as: to rise, to revolve, light. In the course of time it just got turned 90 degrees.
The Greeks adopted it rather straightforwardly in their Ϙ, calling it qoppa, but discarded it later. The Romans adopted it as the letter Q.
In Aramaic, the letter shape changed little and remained almost as recognizable as our Latin Q (mirrored).

old resh - R

The next symbol of the old Semitic script depicted a man’s head; all kinds of local versions are known varying to local custom. It signified a head person, i.e. any high official or God. In Paleo-Hebrew it got simplified considerably to a triangle with a leg on the right side; beyond recognition, that is.
The Greeks adopted this later variant while rounding off the triangle: Ρ, calling it rho. The Romans copied this but added an extra line to differentiate it from the P: R.
In Aramaic, the letter shape got further simplified from the Paleo-Hebrew (compare our small r, mirrored!).

old shin - S

One of the most mysterious letters in the old Semitic script was the shin or shad. It is not known yet for certain what its various representations depicted. Possibly, it is a later confluence of two symbols, one of which represented motherly breasts, another perhaps a pair of bull’s horns. Often, it signifies any well and the notion of bulging or having something come forth.
The Greeks adopted one of the original symbols rather straightforwardly, as the Σ, calling it sigma. The Romans altered the orientation of the lower half to create the S.
In Aramaic the letter shape got changed a little. Somewhere in history, it became used for the sin as well.

old tav - T

The old letter tav depicted a wooden cross. It symbolized the completion of anything, any complex construction, and also an underwriting. In Paleo-Hebrew it got turned 45 degrees to make it easier to write.
The Greeks adopted the original letter as their tau: Τ, from which the Latin T emerged quite naturally.
In Aramaic, the letter shape got changed beyond recognition. This is a great pity as the Jews had probably recognized the cross of Yeshu‘ah earlier when they had kept the old script, as I showed in the article ‘His Name is Jesus / Yeshu‘ah’.
In full agreement with its meaning, the tav originally was the last letter of the West-Semitic ’aleph-bet. That it is no longer so in the Latin alphabet was only because the Romans added some letters only later (the U, V, W and Y as second derivatives, next to the F, from the wav, the X because the S had taken its place, and the Z from the zayin as it was added only later because it was deemed unnecessary at first, something even Shakespeare still agreed with: “Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!” from: King Lear).

As we see, often our Latin letters resemble the old Semitic characters often better than the Hebrew square script letters derived from Imperial Aramaic of the sixth to fifth century BC. A similar statement can be made for the brother of the Latin script, the Cyrillic script as used a.o. in Russia.

Concluding notes

In this three-part article I have illustrated how the Roman world adopted the Latin script from the script of the Biblical patriarchs that Moses once used to write the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. This Latin script (with its twin brother, the Cyrillic script) became the script that was instrumental in the world-wide spread of the glorious Gospel of Yeshu‘ah, the Anointed One, in the last 20 centuries.
All of the research behind it is based on the Bible and some facts we know from archeology and sound historical records.
In the great context of God’s ways throughout world history, I find it truly awesome and amazing how He brought the script I believe He may well have given to Abraham,2 to the Western world (entire Europe, including Russia), such that roughly three quarters of a millennium later the Gospel of Yeshu‘ah, the Anointed One, could be spread much easier. The observation that the spread of the script took place particularly in periods when the people of Isra’el left YaHUaH, their God, makes it all the more remarkable. I do see a connection here with those words of the apostle Paul (Romans 11:7-11):

“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hard­ened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever.” So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”

At the time when real Life and Shalom seeped away from Yeru-shalem (note how Yeshu‘ah wept over this city, that had become renowned for killing God’s prophets - Luke 19:41-44; cf. also Rev.11:8 for the nicknames God uses to describe the present Jerusalem), God was already preparing a new part of humanity, new people to carry His message of Love, Grace and of true Life further – on to the entire world.

And it didn’t stop two millenia ago! Even in the last few centuries, there were quite some countries and peoples whose languages had never been put to script, where missionaries from the West were the very first to study the language and encode it in this script with such a remarkable background. They did this, to teach the amazing Gospel to these people and to give them the opportunity to read and study the Bible for them­selves...

As noted in the introduction, the people of Isra’el already were called to be a priesthood to the nations and make YaHUaH known all over the world, but after Solomon, they generally refused to do so. The apostle Paul noted that in the first century, often the Jews even hindered the preaching of the Gospel to other people (1 Thes.2:14-16; cf. Acts 17:13; 13:50; 14:19; 17:5; 18:12; 21:27-31). Compare also the parables Yeshu‘ah told about the rebelling servants and the servant who hid the treasure entrusted to him, and their later fate (Luke 19:11-27; Mat.21:32-45 - note that the chief priests and the Pharisees - the founding fathers of modern rabbinic Judaism - recognized He was talking about them here; and Mat.25:14-31).

When we study the timeline of Christian missions over the past 20 centuries in detail, we see that there were periods of acceleration and periods when the spread of the Gospel did not go so fast. But during all the ages, there was progress. The community of followers of Yeshu‘ah never got silenced. And everywhere the Gospel went, a script that descended from the script of the Biblical Patriarchs, went with it,3 and enabled the written communication and spreading of that great Gospel message of God YaHUaH and His amazing Grace and Love, and the Life He wants to give us. Let us give Him the honor and glory He deserves for His mighty ways throughout world history!

Hallelu YaH !


1 For more about this script, see: André H. Roosma, ‘The Written Language of Abraham, Moses and David – A study of the pictographic roots and basic notions in the underlying fabric of the earliest Biblical script.pdf document, Hallelu-YaH Draft Research Report, 1st English version: 18 April 2011 (1st Dutch original: January 2011).
2 All the earliest finds of this script have been found in places that Abraham has visited (from the north of Syria to Egypt); all later traces are found in places where the descendants of Isra’el were at that particular time (Egypt around 1800-1600 BC, Israel 1500-1100; and after that the descendant Paleo-Hebrew script, with closely related sister scripts in particular in areas under strong influence of Isra’el at the time of David).
3 The Encyclopedia of Christian Education (George Thomas Kurian, Mark Lamport, Eds.; Vol.3, p. 380) notes: “The missionary activity of the early Middle Ages especially emphasized literacy, if for no other reason than that literacy promoted reading the Bible. In some cases, whole alphabets or writing systems were devised by Christian missionaries, deeply influencing language and literacy patterns still visible today in the linguistic framework of Europe.” It continues with an exposé about Latin as a prime language of the church for many centuries.
Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems & languages notes about Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa and a member of the Bantu/Nguni family of languages: “A system for writing Xhosa using the Latin alphabet was devised by Christian missionaries during the early 19th century.”
In Biblical Translations of Early Missionaries in East and Central Africa. I. Translations into Swahili, (Asian and African Studies, 15, 2006, 1, p.80-89), the author, Viera Pawliková-Vilhanová, states: “In the process of the formation and development of African literatures in the Latin script started by the activities of the Christian missions, Swahili literature as well as some other literatures in African languages with long written traditions, such as Hausa or Fula occupy a specific place. In virtually all regions of sub-Saharan Africa outside the reach of Islam, Africans were introduced to written literature through Christian propaganda, the very first books in their own African language were produced to advance the Christian cause.”
Even Great Britain was introduced to the Latin script via Christian missionaries. As the Wikipedia page on the Old English Latin alphabet says: “Old English was first written in runes (futhorc) but shifted to a (minuscule) half-uncial script of the Latin alphabet introduced by Irish Christian missionaries from around the 9th century.” And even the earlier futhorc runes script had its roots in Etruscan, and so: in the old script of the Bible!


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