Earliest Known Alphabet Chart Deciphered

Limestone ostracon with Egyptian hieratic script dating to the 15th C. BCE, initially discovered in Luxor, Egypt. 3.54 in. high, 3.34 in. wide, 0.9 in. thick. Photo: Nigel Strudwick/Cambridge Theban Mission.

Limestone ostracon with Egyptian hieratic script dating to the 15th C. BCE, initially discovered in Luxor, Egypt. 3.54 in. high, 3.34 in. wide, 0.9 in. thick. Photo: Nigel Strudwick/Cambridge Theban Mission.

This is a fascinating discovery!

The latest issue of Archaeology magazine highlights the deciphering of the oldest known alphabet table. Egyptologist Ben Haring (University of Leiden) discovered a 15th C. BCE abecedary or abjad (a written alphabet table used by scribes to learn and practice letters similar to the alphabet charts above elementary school chalk boards) that predates the previous earliest known abecedaries by two centuries. The undeciphered ostracon was initially found in a tomb at Luxor by Nigel Strudwick and his team from the Cambridge Theban Mission.

The initial press release from Leiden can be read here.

To read more about the origins of the alphabet, see pgs. 18-21 in my book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE. Note especially note #5 for Chap. 1 on pgs. 269-70. I am also posting my chart from the top of page 20 here, so you can see the development of the alphabet.

The chart above demonstrates how the Phoenician alphabet provided the foundational shapes of the letters that would become the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and ultimately English alphabets. From pg. 20 of "The Cities that Built the Bible" by Robert R. Cargill (HarperOne). © 2016 Robert R. Cargill

The chart above demonstrates how the Phoenician alphabet provided the foundational shapes of the letters that would become the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and ultimately English alphabets. From pg. 20 of “The Cities that Built the Bible” by Robert R. Cargill (HarperOne). © 2016 Robert R. Cargill

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THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE is on sale today!

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.Today is the day. The long-awaited arrival of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE has come and the book is on sale today in fine bookstores everywhere.

PREORDERED BOOK DELIVERY
For those of you who preordered the book, your copy should arrive today.

READ A FREE PREVIEW
A free preview is available to read online here.

(RE-)TWEETING THE BOOK
You are welcome to tweet pictures of you with your copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE to @xkv8r and I’ll retweet them.

FREE VIRTUAL TOURS
You can also download the free Google Earth virtual tours of the cities discussed in the book as well as other ancient cites pertaining to the Bible at the book’s digital page. The virtual tours are absolutely free, whether you buy the book or not.

BOOK TOUR
I’ll be lecturing about the book, reading selections from it, and signing copies around the country over the next few months. My schedule of events is available at bobcargill.com.

THANK YOU
Again, thank you for buying the book. In it, I tell the story of how we got the Bible we have today by telling the stories of the cities that contributed directly and indirectly to its composition and canonization. And the stories of these cities are woven into stories of my sometimes humorous and sometimes highly emotional adventures in the Holy Land.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT CITIES
You can read what people are saying about CITIES at the book’s website.

DIGITAL MEDIA
You can find more select quotes from the book like those below at the media site or at the CITIES Pinterest site.

 

So pick up your copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE at a bookstore near you. And thank you again!

Robert Cargill to speak at Smithsonian tonight

I shall be lecturing on the “Cities of the Bible” for the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m. There will be a book signing to follow.

Speaker: Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., University of Iowa Dept. of Classics and Religious Studies
Lecture: “Cities of the Bible”
Location: S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington DC (Metro: Smithsonian – Mall exit) Enter in the copper domed kiosk on Jefferson Drive between the “Castle” and the Freer Gallery of Art.
Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Time: 6:45 pm
Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.Lecture Description:

From Athens to Jerusalem to Babylon, understanding the Bible means understanding the cities and cultures that produced it. The story of these centers—their history, their archaeology, their mysteries, and the people who inhabited and later excavated them—is also the story of the Bible itself.

Weaving together biblical archaeology, history, and personal experience, Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, shares a host of surprising facts. For example there is no archaeological evidence for the biblical Exodus or the existence of Jesus—and no authentic literary evidence from the first century outside of the Bible that mentions Jesus.

Cargill leads a fascinating tour through cities in the Holy Land and beyond, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qumran, Babylon, Athens, Alexandria, and Rome to reveal how their stories shed new light on the Bible. Cargill’s book The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne) is available for sale and signing.

If you are in the Washington, DC area, you can find ticket and lecture information here.

And be sure to preorder my book, The Cities that Built the Bible, today.

UPDATE: Apparently the event has sold out, but you can still contact (202) 633-3030 to get on the Wait List. Additional tickets may become available.

 

Read a chapter of “The Cities that Built the Bible” for free

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

My new book, The Cities that Built the Bible, won’t be released until March 15, 2016, but you can read an excerpt for free online today. In fact, you can read the complete text of Chapter 9: Qumran, including the end notes.

Click here to read part of the Introduction and Chapter 9: Qumran.

The book argues that we wouldn’t have the Bible we have today without these cities, which I explore in the book, and that a knowledge of the history and archaeology of these cities helps us better understand the text of the Bible.

Chapter 9 specifically looks at Khirbet Qumran, a city that is important because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls–a discovery that sent shock waves through the academic and religious communities. I’ll explain what impact this discovery had, and along the way, highlight the fascinating backstory including the multiple legends, outlandish stories, eccentric characters, and a first-person account of the unbelievable cybercrime legal saga surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So help yourself to a free excerpt of The Cities that Built the Bible. And remember that you can preorder the book today at citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

Why I Wrote ‘The Cities that Built the Bible’

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

On March 15, 2016, HarperCollins will be releasing my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible. You can read more about the book and preorder your copy today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

In a nutshell, I wrote the book because Nicole Kidman once asked me where the Bible came from, and I didn’t have a ready answer. So I spent the next decade researching the question. But instead of asking who wrote it, or how it became the holy word of God to believers, I wanted to demonstrate how various ancient political entities and international events–each represented by a particular city–contributed to the composition of the Bible.

I also wanted to look at the Israelite, Judahite, Jewish, and Christian responses to these events, as these reflections upon the successes and tragedies experienced by those who believed in the Hebrew God became some of the very texts preserved in the Bible.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.So join me as we travel through these ancient cities and we’ll explore their history, their archaeology, and how each of them drove the building of the Bible.

For both the religious and the non-religious, understanding the forces that shaped this most influential of books is possible on a guided tour through The Cities that Built the Bible.

Preorder today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

 

 

Preorder now: The Cities that Built the Bible

On March 15th, my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible will be released by HarperOne. Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

The book has a simple thesis: without the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome, we wouldn’t have the Bible as we have it today. I wrote this book in order to demonstrate the influence that certain cities in antiquity had over the composition and canonization of the Bible. Each city discussed in the book makes key contributions that produced the Bible we have today.

Now to be sure, I could have discussed a number of other cities like Corinth, Thessaloniki, Ephesus, Constantinople / Istanbul, İznik (Nicaea), etc. (and to be honest, I did originally, but had we left them in the manuscript, we’d be looking at an expensive 2-volume set), but these are the cities that made the largest contributions to the development of the Bible.

I’ve written this book so that everyone can read it, from specialist to newcomer; from those who know Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek to those who have only heard of those languages. I include a number of my own stories (like that time I, well, kind of entered into Lebanon illegally, or the time I got to visit the secret vault inside the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are stored) and experiences on archaeological excavations and other travels through the Holy Land. I deliberately included a ton of relevant Bible verses in an effort to demonstrate how the social setting and the archaeological discoveries from each of these cities influenced and relate directly to the Bible.

As I said earlier, The Cities that Built the Bible is on sale March 15, but you can preorder your copy today at the book’s website, http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com. It is my hope that the book will deepen your understanding of the biblical world, the history of the eastern Mediterranean, and will inspire you perhaps to travel to a few of these places. Once you’ve preordered your copy of The Cities that Built the Bible, visit the Media section of the website to read and download quotes from the book that you can share on your social media sites. And please link to http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com when you post them!

Enjoy the book! Tell your friends. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. And I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

Some questions about the recent news of the discovery of a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem

Given the recent news of the discovery of a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, I have a few questions pertaining to the details, the timing, and the relevance of the announcement.

The main question I’m asking is why now? Why issue a press release now? This seal was discovered in 2010 after wet sifting dirt from the Ophel Excavation in 2009. No one disputes Hezekiah’s historicity, especially given the extra-biblical corroboration in Sennacherib’s Annals. And there are previous known seal impressions with the name of Hezekiah on them. So why again? Why now?

Is it because it is Christmas?

Is it for political purposes to combat the annual (false) Palestinian claim that there is no evidence of a Jewish presence on the Temple mount?

Is it to draw a distinction between the Ophel Excavation (Dr. Mazar’s excavation) and the Temple Mount Sifting Project whose sifting facility it shares?

Does suggesting that this is the first seal impression of Hezekiah discovered in a “scientific excavation” imply that previous discoveries of Hezekiah bullae are not credible? Or, is it designed to suggest that they are, in fact, credible because a similar discovery has now been made in a controlled context?

Is suggesting that this is the first seal impression of Hezekiah discovered in a “scientific excavation” designed to counter those claiming that since the seal impression was discovered in an ancient garbage pit (which by nature means that the archaeological stratigraphy is compromised in antiquity), that we can’t trust the dating? If it bears the name of Hezekiah, that’s a pretty good indication of its date, even if the stratigraphy is compromised. (And is the claim of a garbage pit theorized to explain why 8th C. BCE remains are located beneath proposed 10th C. BCE remains? Dr. Mazar explains her thinking in the video, but many archaeologists are not convinced by her claims dating certain structures to the 10th C. BCE.)

The press release states,

“This bulla came to light, together with many pottery sherds and other finds such as figurines and seals, in Area A of the excavations (2009 season), supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus.”

I accept that the bulla is from where Dr. Mazar says it was discovered. I don’t think they mixed up the buckets with the Sifting Project. From what I can ascertain, the dirt from the 2009 Ophel Excavation garbage pit was sent to the Sifting Project’s wet sifting facility (which the Sifting Project claims they share), and in 2010 they discovered the bulla, in the dirt, from the sifting of the garbage pit. There is, or course, the obvious stratigraphical problem of digging in a garbage pit (see 4:15 onward), but that doesn’t mean we discount everything discovered in an ancient dump.

My question has to do with the timing of the new YouTube video and the new press release? Is it to promote the new reading of the Ahaz portion of the seal? If so, should we expect an article discussing the new reading?

And if that’s what this is about (the new reading of the inscription), then what do other epigraphers say about this reading? No “ben” in between Hezekiah and Ahaz? And does it really say Ahaz? Does it fit within the border of the seal?

And is this announcement–especially given the highly charged and controversial location of these two excavations–done for any political purpose?? This is the problem that many people have had with the Ophel and City of David excavations. I can only hope that the timing of this announcement isn’t for any modern political purpose.

 

These are my questions. I have no problem with the discovery. I have no reason to believe it is a forgery. I don’t have a problem with the new reading (but I’d like to know what others think). As far as I know, it’s a nice discovery of a seal of Hezekiah.

The problems is that the discovery is 5 years old, and that at the end of the day, this discovery tells us nothing new. The only real claim from Dr. Mazar is that this is the first Hezekiah bulla to be discovered “in a scientific context”.

My question is why recycle this discovery now? The discovery (from 5 years ago) doesn’t tell us anything new. So why now?

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