‘Phoenician’ letters really denote the original picture. The identity of the objects may perhaps be due simply to the choice of the commonest things (animals, implements, limbs) in both systems.
The derivation of the Semitic alphabet from the signs of the Zodiac and their names, first attempted by Seyffarth in 1834, has been revived by Winckler, who refers twelve fundamental sounds to the Babylonian Zodiac. Hommel connects the original alphabet with the moon and its phases, and certain constellations; cf. Lidzbarski, Ephemeris, i. 269 ff., and in complete agreement with him, Benzinger, Hebr. Archäologie2, p. 173 ff. This theory is by no means convincing.
(c) From the hieroglyphic system of writing discovered in 1894 by A. J. Evans in inscriptions in Crete (esp. at Cnossus) and elsewhere. According to Kluge (1897) and others, this represents the ‘Mycenaean script’ used about 3000–1000 B.C., and according to Fries (‘Die neuesten Forschungen über d. Urspr. des phöniz. Alph.’ in ZDPV. xxii. 118 ff.) really supplies the original forms of the Phoenician alphabet as brought to Palestine by the Philistines about 1100 B.C., but ‘the Phoenician-Canaanite-Hebrews gave to the Mycenaean signs names derived from the earlier cuneiform signs’. The hypothesis of Fries is thus connected With that of Delitzsch. But although the derivation of the Phoenician forms from ‘Mycenaean’ types appears in some cases very plausible, in others there are grave difficulties, and moreover the date, 1100 B.C., assigned for the introduction of the alphabet is clearly too late. [See Evans, Scripta Minoa, Oxf. 1909, p. 80 ff.]
(d) From a system, derived from Asia Minor, closely related to the Cypriote syllabary (Praetorius, Der Urspr. des kanaan. Alphabets, Berlin, 1906). On this theory the Canaanites transformed the syllabic into an apparently alphabetic writing. In reality, however, they merely retained a single sign for the various syllables, so that e.g. ק is not really q, but qa, qe, qi, &c. Of the five Cypriote vowels also they retained only the star (in Cypriote = a) simplified into an ʾālef (see alphabetical table) to express the vowels at the beginning of syllables, and i and u as Yod and Waw. Praetorius claims to explain about half the twenty-two Canaanite letters in this way, but there are various objections to his ingenious hypothesis.
[5h] 2. As to the order of the letters, we possess early evidence in the alphabetic poems: ψ 9 (א–כ, cf. ψ 101 ל, and vv.12–17 ק–ת; cf. Gray in the Expositor, 1906, p. 233 ff., and Rosenthal, ZAW. 1896, p. 40, who shows that ψ 93.15.17 כ, ל, נ, exactly fit in between ח, ט, י, and that ψ 101.3.5 therefore has the reverse order ל, ך, י); also ψψ 25 and 34 (both without a separate ו-verse and with פ repeated at the end); 37, 111, 112, 119 (in which every eight verses begin with the same letter, each strophe, as discovered by D. H. Müller of Vienna, containing the eight leading words of ψ 198 ff., tôrā, ʿedûth, &c.); La 1–4 (in 2–4 פ before ע, in chap. 3 every three verses with the same initial, see Löhr, ZAW. 1904, p. 1 ff., in chap. 3 at any rate as many verses as letters in the alphabet); Pr 241.3.5, 2410–31 (in the LXX with פ before ע); also in Na 12–10 Pastor Frohnmeyer of Württemberg (ob. 1880) detected traces of an alphabetic arrangement, but the attempt of Gunkel, Bickell, Arnold (ZAW. 1901,
- On the supposed connexion of this artificial arrangement with magical formulae (‘the order of the letters was believed to have a sort of magic power’) cf. Löhr, ZAW. 1905, p. 173 ff., and Klagelieder2, Gött. 1907, p. vii ff.
- On this superfluous פ cf. Grimme, Euphemistic liturgical appendices, Lpz. 1901, p. 8 ff., and Nestle, ZAW. 1903, p. 340 f., who considers it an appendage to the Greek alphabet.
- [Perhaps also originally in Ps 34.] פ before ע is probably due to a magic alphabet, see above, n. 1. According to Böhmer, ZAW. 1908, p. 53 ff., the combinations אב, גד, הו, &c., were used in magical texts; עס was excluded, but by a rearrangement we get סף and עץ.