p. 225 ff.), Happel (Der Ps. Nah, Würzb. 1900) to discover further traces, has not been successful. [Cf. Gray in Expositor, 1898, p. 207 ff.; Driver, in the Century Bible, Nahum, p. 26.]—Bickell, Ztschr f. Kath. Theol., 1882, p. 319 ff., had already deduced from the versions the alphabetical character of Ecclus 5113-30, with the omission of the ו-verse and with פ at the end. His conjectures have been brilliantly confirmed by the discovery of the Hebrew original, although the order from ג to ל is partly disturbed or obscured. If ו before צ is deleted, ten letters are in their right positions, and seven can be restored to their places with certainty. Cf. N. Schlögl, ZDMG. 53, 669 ff.; C. Taylor in the appendix to Schechter and Taylor, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, Cambr. 1899, p. lxxvi ff., and in the Journ. of Philol., xxx (1906), p. 95 ff.; JQR. 1905, p. 238 ff.; Löhr, ZAW. 1905, p. 183 ff.; I. Lévy, REJ. 1907, p. 62 ff.
The sequence of the three softest labial, palatal, and dental sounds ב, ג, ד, and of the three liquids ל, מ, נ, indicates an attempt at classification. At the same time other considerations also appear to have had influence. Thus it is certainly not accidental, that two letters, representing a hand (Yôd, Kaph), as also two (if Qôph = back of the head) which represent the head, and in general several forms denoting objects naturally connected (Mêm and Nûn, ʿAyĭn and Pê), stand next to one another.
[5i] The order, names, and numerical values of the letters have passed over from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, in whose alphabet the letters Α to Υ are borrowed from the Old Semitic. So also the Old Italic alphabets as well as the Roman, and consequently all alphabets derived either from this or from the Greek, are directly or indirectly dependent on the Phoenician.
[5k] 3. a. In default of special arithmetical figures, the consonants were used also as numerical signs; cf. G. Gundermann, Die Zahlzeichen, Giessen, 1899, p. 6 f., and Lidzbarski, Ephemeris, i. 106 ff. The earliest traces of this usage are, however, first found on the Maccabean coins (see above, §2d, end). These numerical letters were afterwards commonly employed, e.g. for marking the numbers of chapters and verses in the editions of the Bible. The units are denoted by א–ט, the tens by י–צ, 100–400 by ק–ת, the numbers from 500–900 by ת (=400), with the addition of the remaining hundreds, e.g. תק 500. In compound numbers the greater precedes (on the right), thus יא 11, קכא 121. But 15 is expressed by טו 9+6, not יה (which is a form of the divine name, being the first two consonants of יהוה). For a similar reason טז is also mostly written for 16, instead of יו, which in compound proper names, like יוֹאֵל, also represents the name of God, יהוה.
The thousands are sometimes denoted by the units with two dots placed above, e.g. אׄׄ 1000.
[5l] b. The reckoning of the years in Jewish writings (generally ליצירה after the creation) follows either the full chronology (לִפְרָט גָּדוֹל or לפ׳ ג׳), with the addition of the thousands, or the abridged chronology (לפ׳ קָטוֹן), in which they are omitted. In the dates of the first thousand years after Christ, the Christian era is obtained by the addition of 240, in the second thousand years by the addition of 1240 (i.e. if the date falls between Jan. 1 and the Jewish new year; otherwise add 1239), the thousands of the Creation era being omitted.
[5m] 4. Abbreviations of words are not found in the text of the O.T., but they occur on coins, and their use is extremely frequent amongst the later Jews.
- See note 3 on p. 29.
- On the rise of this custom (יה having been originally used and afterwards הי), cf. Nestle in ZAW. 1884, p. 250, where a trace of this method of writing occurring as early as Origen is noted.
- Cf. Jo. Buxtorf, De abbreviaturis Hebr., Basel, 1613, &c.; Pietro Perreau.