The Tools of an Israelite Scribe: A Semantic Study of the Terms Signifying the Tools and Materials of Writing in Biblical Hebrew
University of Texas, 2015 - 424 pages
This dissertation examines the technology of writing as it existed in ancient Israel. Specifically, the study focuses on a set of Biblical Hebrew terms that designated writing surfaces and writing instruments, while synthesizing the semantic data of the Bible with the archeological and art-historical evidence for writing in Israel. Chapter 1 reviews the scholarship that exists on the technology of writing in ancient Israel. Additionally, this chapter discusses the methodology that this study utilizes, that is, comparative Semitics, archeology (including discussion of relevant finds from the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean world), and lexical semantics. Chapters 2-5 contain the analysis of the writing-related terms found in the Hebrew Bible. Each chapter evaluates a number of these lexemes from a literarylinguistic and archeological/art-historical perspective. Chapter 2 analyzes terms denoting reeds, marshes, and manufacturable papyrus material. Chapter 3 considers words referring to stone and plaster surfaces used for writing. Chapter 4 examines a non-homogenous group of terms designating animal skins, scrolls, tablets, ostraca, and uncommon materials used as writing surfaces. Chapter 5 examines lexemes specifying writing instruments as well as accessories of the scribal kit. Chapter 6 discusses Israel's writing technology in light of the writing practices of Mesopotamia and Egypt. I argue in this chapter that Israel's most common form of writing (i.e., writing on ostraca and papyrus with ink) is a technology that Israel borrowed from Egypt. This claim is supported by the fact that the Hebrew terms designating papyrus, ink, and other writing materials are loanwords from Egyptian. Chapter 7 reiterates the main argument of this dissertation: that ancient Israel's writing practices are essentially Egyptian in nature. Additionally, this chapter comments briefly on the areas in need of further research on the technology of writing in ancient Israel.
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