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Reflections on the Development of Hebrew Letters

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Quote:
Originally posted by kwaw
As I said in a previous post, some of the symbolism is post lurianic, some earlier. As far as I know there are no pre-lurianic models of the ToL, at least not in the form we now know it. There are similar concepts, that may have inspired the development of the form, for example in the works Joachim da Fiori. The model of the 32 paths used in the SY certainly wasn't the ToL, IMHO internal evidence suggests to me that the SY refers to a concentric circular model. However that being said there is symbolism of the 'three pillars' in the zohar, and comments extending upon the 'coals in the flame' reference in the SY.

There is a "coals in the flame" citation in SY?

I agree, that the ToL-model of later times was not in the SY. The Zohar is given to late 13th century, so not very relevant. Letter-interpretation of course preceded the Lurianists, but specific attributions and reflections, which only could exist, when the letter has reached a specific form, surely should be given to a later time than the change of the letter-outfit.

Quote:
In terms of knowing about a three and four stroke shin, they did know about the four stroke. Both types of shin are engraved on the sides of the tefillim, and there is kabbalistic symbolism in relation to both forms, some of which I mentioned in a previous post. The fourth 'flame' is said to represent the revealing in the world to come of the divine essence 'hidden' in the coal of the three stroked shin of this world.

Aleph and Tau, the first and the last, symbolise the divine, hidden and revealed, eternal and unchanging and outside of time. Beit and Shin, the second and penultimate, the beginning and end of the transient and mutable within time.

Kwaw
Aleph and Tau as first and last letter of course had a real old letter-symbolism, for instance as Urim and Tunnim.
But that parts of letter symbolism are really old doesn't touch the problem to discriminate, which part of the letter symbolism theories developed at which time correlating to specific conditions.
Only by this something like the "true view" develops, which should have the condition to be not ideological determined.

As far I remember ... the tephillin are described somewhere in the Pentateuch, right?
Surely there is nothing noted, that it refers to the shin letter, but probably there is another reason for the form mentioned ... or forgotten. The text is at least from a time, when the idea "coal with 3 flames" would have been a little surprizing as the common letter shin looked rather different.
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Quote:
Originally posted by Huck
There is a "coals in the flame" citation in SY?
SY 1:7
Ten Sephiroth of nothingness
their end is in their beginning
and their beginning in their end
like a flame in a burning coal
for the master is singular
He has no second
And before one, what do you count?
[sy trans. Aryeh Kaplan]

From the Zohar:

"If one wishes to know the widsom of the holy unification, let him look at the flame rising from a burning coal or from a kindled lamp. The flame cannot rise unless it is unified with something physical."

QUOTE]Originally posted by Huck
I agree, that the ToL-model of later times was not in the SY. The Zohar is given to late 13th century, so not very relevant. ?[/QUOTE]

??? Not sure what is 'not very relevant' here'. The SY, the ToL, the Zohar? As we are are discussing the symbolism of the hebrew alphabet then I would have thought they are all relevant? Think we are at cross purposes here. Not relevant to the tarot maybe? SY, Zohar, Bahir, Raziel are all in time context for the origin of the tarot, but that is not what we are discussing [is it?]. Luria certainly not relevant to origins of tarot. But all relevant to the growth of the occult tarot, erroneously or otherwise.

QUOTE]Letter-interpretation of course preceded the Lurianists, but specific attributions and reflections, which only could exist, when the letter has reached a specific form, surely should be given to a later time than the change of the letter-outfit.?[/QUOTE]

What do you mean by 'change of letter outfit' that has 'raeached a spcific form?' Even given your disputable 800 AD date we have 4/5 hundred years for the beginning of the kabbalistic theosophic redactions and 6/7 hundred years before the beginning of the Tarot. The discussion from my point of view in any case is not to prove a correspondence between the letters and atu from origin, but merely a look at the symbolism of the letters and secondly how this may correspond to the iconography of the Atu. I make no claim as to their being originally connected at beginning of the Tarot, nonetheless the association was made at some point in the history of tarot and has continued and influenced the design and occult import ever since. Historical evidence suggests post Gebelin, I suspect earlier but that is not the discussion.

As for letter forms, Jewish tradition says the present form was established by Ezra in the 4th century bc, and the forms of the letters in the Qumran texts [circa 3rd-1st century bc] do not contradict that. Nonetheless variations, such as those of shin and tau [formerly a cross shape] were well known about in the middle ages and incorporated into kabalistic symbolism. The facts of the origins of the alphabetical script, which may or may not have been known about, do not detract from the symbolism. In fact the symbolism frequently incorporates details that reflect origins that in the middle age were largely unknown about, and thus testify to the antiquity of the symbolism..?



QUOTE]Aleph and Tau as first and last letter of course had a real old letter-symbolism, for instance as Urim and Tunnim.
But that parts of letter symbolism are really old doesn't touch the problem to discriminate, which part of the letter symbolism theories developed at which time correlating to specific conditions.
Only by this something like the "true view" develops, which should have the condition to be not ideological determined..?
[/QUOTE]

But the letter symbolism is ideologically determined, by judaic-christian theology, gnosticism, neo-platonism, stoic atomism, zuvanism and who knows how many other 'isms, known and unknown. How can you develop a 'true view' [whatever that is] of the symbolism without reference to the ideology, theology or philosophy that determines it? I don't understand your point or, whatever it maybe, its relevance to what I have posted.

QUOTE]As far I remember ... the tephillin are described somewhere in the Pentateuch, right?
Surely there is nothing noted, that it refers to the shin letter, but probably there is another reason for the form mentioned ... or forgotten. The text is at least from a time, when the idea "coal with 3 flames" would have been a little surprizing as the common letter shin looked rather different.
[/QUOTE]

No it wouldn't have looked different, I am talking about kabbalistic symbolism as developed or noted in texts between the 13th and 17th centuries [and earlier in terms of the attributions of the SY]. You are saying [or seem to be saying] the symbolism is irrelevant or wrong because the form of the letter in the ancient Phoneican script from which it derived is different from that on which the symbolism is based. This seems to me to be a totally erroneous and irrelevant argument.

Kwaw
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Quote:
Originally posted by Huck

couldn't detect anything at your links, which lets me think of a life-tree-modell or a coal with three flames either, it's not very symmetrical.
I'm not arguing about tree of life or flames or coals, all I'm responding to is your erroneous assertion that -

"The form from which you draw your associations seems to be reached in 800 AD. Whatever you say - that's late."

In fact shin exists in this form from 6th century b.c.e., and it is the common cursive form in writing in ink in the second-temple period (i.e. 5th century b.c.e. onward). All of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran scrolls) are written with this shin.

I have made a table to compare, with random shins taken from a random scroll from the 1st century BC (b.c.e. is normal, but BC is to emphasize the point) - the shin goes straight down the middle, so you don't get confused looking at all kinds of different shins -

http://www.angelfire.com/space/tarot/shincomp.html

Will you really say, that all these shins from the 1st century b.c.e., don't look like the square Hebrew shin?

This is not an argument btw. It is simply a fact that the square Hebrew, with the shin with three prongs, developed as the cursive Aramaic script from the 6th century b.c.e. The difficult and fun part is getting you to admit it.

Ross
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Indeed, by the late 8th century b.c.e., the Phoenician (W shin) and Aramaic (3 pronged cursive shin) letters "had already taken their own distinctive forms" -

"The major monumental inscriptions for the study of Hebrew epigraphy are: (a) the agricultural calendar from Gezer . . . dated to the 10th century BC (Dott, pp. 201-203). (b) The stele of Mesha, king of Moab (Moabite Stone). . . . c. 850 BC. The well cut letters already show a tendency to become cursive. This is further seen in the Siloam Inscription . . . dating from the reign of Hezekiah, c. 710 BC, and (d) the Tomb inscription of the Royal Steward from Siloam of about the same date . . . By this time Phoenician and Aramaic letters had taken their own distinctive forms".
Early Jewish scripts. (The discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls) have produced a wealth of material for the study of the formal and cursive Palaeo-Hebrew and early Jewish scripts from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD. The fall of the Persian empire and the displacement of the common Aramaic of the imperial court led to many local variations. 1. The Archaic or proto-Jewish script of Judah, c. 250-150 BC, as reflected in the Qumran MSS, shows a formal hand derived from the Persian Aramaic . . . 2. The Hasmonean period (c. 150-30 BC) saw the development of the formal, squarer and more angular hand . . . 3. The Herodian period . . . 4. The post-Herodian period (after 70 AD) is now well known from dated commercial and legal documents. . . . Study of early Hebrew writing, the scribes's habits and letter forms, is of especial value in considering how errors may or may not, have crept into the OT text."
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1611/name10.html

Ross
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Very fine example of 1st century shin -
http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/orion/p...man/exodus.jpg

In the top fragment the word "Asher" (RShA) ("which") can be seen in the second line, about middle; in the bottom fragment the word "Israel" (LARShI), with a beautiful shin, in the top line.

"The documents from Qumran use one symbol-set system,[2] but two different script systems: Paleo-Hebraic and Square Aramaic. Both script systems are written using the trilinear limit system, the structural foundation of the Phoenician/Hebraic writing systems. In the first article, the stele of Kilamu King of Yadi is used to describe the function of trilinear limit systems, introduce the Phoenician/Hebraic writing systems, and explain the alphabetic purpose of variant forms. The second article examines this same Phoenician/Hebraic alphabetic writing system as it is used in two fragments of Exodus found at Murabba'at. Both the Yadi stele and the Exodus fragments are executed in formal authoritative scripts systems; the third article discusses the Phoenician/Hebraic writing system and variant forms used in a secular document written in an informal, cursive Square Aramaic script."

http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/orion/p...Altman99.shtml
Rochelle Altman's essay is excellent, although technical.

A superb list of links to all things palaeographic concerning the NW Semitic languages (like Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic and Ugaritic) is
http://www.uni-mainz.de/~lehmann/link.html#epg

Ross
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ross G Caldwell
I'm not arguing about tree of life or flames or coals, all I'm responding to is your erroneous assertion that -

"The form from which you draw your associations seems to be reached in 800 AD. Whatever you say - that's late."

In fact shin exists in this form from 6th century b.c.e., and it is the common cursive form in writing in ink in the second-temple period (i.e. 5th century b.c.e. onward). All of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran scrolls) are written with this shin.

I have made a table to compare, with random shins taken from a random scroll from the 1st century BC (b.c.e. is normal, but BC is to emphasize the point) - the shin goes straight down the middle, so you don't get confused looking at all kinds of different shins -

http://www.angelfire.com/space/tarot/shincomp.html

Will you really say, that all these shins from the 1st century b.c.e., don't look like the square Hebrew shin?

This is not an argument btw. It is simply a fact that the square Hebrew, with the shin with three prongs, developed as the cursive Aramaic script from the 6th century b.c.e. The difficult and fun part is getting you to admit it.

Ross
Hi Ross,

I described the form, that you present on your page with various examples (thanks), with a "turned F" in my earlier posts.

A "coal with 3 flames" as iconographical imagination of the letter demands, that all 3 flames go back to the imagined coal. This is not given in the form of shin as "turned F", which the letter had in the Quumran texts, and if in seldom examples it differs, then probably cause of "hastened writing".

The "coal with 3 flames" is given in the later form, but not in the shape of the "turned F". I do not debate, that the "turned F" doesn't have similarities with the later form of shin (indeed I've mentioned the similarity myself in an earlier post), I debate, that this "turned F" doesn't fit with the imagination "coal with 3 flames".

Shin presents "fire" - that is told by the SY, written in the 1st - 5th century AD. I've seen a picture of Hebrew letters from 8th century AD, which allow the idea to compare it with a "coal with 3 flames", but I've not seen a picture before that date, which allows it.

I think, this is a relevant observation inside the question "letter symbolism" - not for the letter symbolism of 16th century AD, but for the time earlier than SY. My discussion with Kwaw started about the point, that "shin means tooth" - probably for the "master of the alphabet" how I literally called the inventor of the alphabet, who didn't care about any cabbalists, who lived 2000 years or more after his time, but about humble people which he taught to read and to write in an easy way.

I hope, this is understandable. When we research Tarot in 15th century, we are not allowed to mix it with imaginations, which were born in the heads of Crowley, Waite and company 400 years after that, and in the same way we are not allowed to
discuss "early alphabet" with mixings of the cabbalists, especially when it is clearly recognizable, that a specific letter idea was born later out of contemporary context.

Thanks for the opportunity to clearify that.
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Quote:
Originally posted by kwaw
SY 1:7
Ten Sephiroth of nothingness
their end is in their beginning
and their beginning in their end
like a flame in a burning coal
for the master is singular
He has no second
And before one, what do you count?
[sy trans. Aryeh Kaplan]
Thanks.

Do you see any note about the letter shin in this context? Why didn't the author of SY seize the opportunity to use "burning coal" in relation to the letter shin?

Quote:
From the Zohar:

"If one wishes to know the widsom of the holy unification, let him look at the flame rising from a burning coal or from a kindled lamp. The flame cannot rise unless it is unified with something physical."
Is shin mentioned?

Quote:
Originally posted by Huck
I agree, that the ToL-model of later times was not in the SY. The Zohar is given to late 13th century, so not very relevant. ?
??? Not sure what is 'not very relevant' here'. The SY, the ToL, the Zohar?

**** The Sohar is not especially relevant for questions "before 800 AD", what was talked of.

snip

QUOTE]Letter-interpretation of course preceded the Lurianists, but specific attributions and reflections, which only could exist, when the letter has reached a specific form, surely should be given to a later time than the change of the letter-outfit.?[/QUOTE]

What do you mean by 'change of letter outfit' that has 'raeached a spcific form?' Even given your disputable 800 AD date we have 4/5 hundred years for the beginning of the kabbalistic theosophic redactions and 6/7 hundred years before the beginning of the Tarot. The discussion from my point of view in any case is not to prove a correspondence between the letters and atu from origin, but merely a look at the symbolism of the letters and secondly how this may correspond to the iconography of the Atu. I make no claim as to their being originally connected at beginning of the Tarot, nonetheless the association was made at some point in the history of tarot and has continued and influenced the design and occult import ever since. Historical evidence suggests post Gebelin, I suspect earlier but that is not the discussion.

As for letter forms, Jewish tradition says the present form was established by Ezra in the 4th century bc, and the forms of the letters in the Qumran texts [circa 3rd-1st century bc] do not contradict that. Nonetheless variations, such as those of shin and tau [formerly a cross shape] were well known about in the middle ages and incorporated into kabalistic symbolism. The facts of the origins of the alphabetical script, which may or may not have been known about, do not detract from the symbolism. In fact the symbolism frequently incorporates details that reflect origins that in the middle age were largely unknown about, and thus testify to the antiquity of the symbolism..?

**** We have talked specifically about shin and the variations of its form, which can be proven by appearances in various transmitted texts.


QUOTE]Aleph and Tau as first and last letter of course had a real old letter-symbolism, for instance as Urim and Tunnim.
But that parts of letter symbolism are really old doesn't touch the problem to discriminate, which part of the letter symbolism theories developed at which time correlating to specific conditions.
Only by this something like the "true view" develops, which should have the condition to be not ideological determined..?
[/QUOTE]

But the letter symbolism is ideologically determined, by judaic-christian theology, gnosticism, neo-platonism, stoic atomism, zuvanism and who knows how many other 'isms, known and unknown. How can you develop a 'true view' [whatever that is] of the symbolism without reference to the ideology, theology or philosophy that determines it? I don't understand your point or, whatever it maybe, its relevance to what I have posted.

**** I talked about the view of the "master of the alphabet", a literaric expression of myself for the inventor of the alphabet and his specific problem to teach some humble persons reading and writing.
As far I remember you talked at the begin about shin in a global manner without specifying that you are talking about visions of shin of lurianic kabbalists of 16th or 17th century AD.

I added, that the master of the alphabet would smile about that or - at least - would be rather astonished, what could have happened to his innocent signs.

QUOTE]As far I remember ... the tephillin are described somewhere in the Pentateuch, right?
Surely there is nothing noted, that it refers to the shin letter, but probably there is another reason for the form mentioned ... or forgotten. The text is at least from a time, when the idea "coal with 3 flames" would have been a little surprizing as the common letter shin looked rather different.
[/QUOTE]

No it wouldn't have looked different, I am talking about kabbalistic symbolism as developed or noted in texts between the 13th and 17th centuries [and earlier in terms of the attributions of the SY]. You are saying [or seem to be saying] the symbolism is irrelevant or wrong because the form of the letter in the ancient Phoneican script from which it derived is different from that on which the symbolism is based. This seems to me to be a totally erroneous and irrelevant argument.

Kwaw [/B][/QUOTE]

Hm. What is your theme? The "letter shin" or the visions from lurianic cabbalists of 16th and 17th century about "their" letter shin?
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Quote:
Originally posted by Huck
Hi Ross,

I described the form, that you present on your page with various examples (thanks), with a "turned F" in my earlier posts.

A "coal with 3 flames" as iconographical imagination of the letter demands, that all 3 flames go back to the imagined coal. This is not given in the form of shin as "turned F", which the letter had in the Quumran texts, and if in seldom examples it differs, then probably cause of "hastened writing".

The "coal with 3 flames" is given in the later form, but not in the shape of the "turned F". I do not debate, that the "turned F" doesn't have similarities with the later form of shin (indeed I've mentioned the similarity myself in an earlier post), I debate, that this "turned F" doesn't fit with the imagination "coal with 3 flames".

Shin presents "fire" - that is told by the SY, written in the 1st - 5th century AD. I've seen a picture of Hebrew letters from 8th century AD, which allow the idea to compare it with a "coal with 3 flames", but I've not seen a picture before that date, which allows it.

I think, this is a relevant observation inside the question "letter symbolism" - not for the letter symbolism of 16th century AD, but for the time earlier than SY. My discussion with Kwaw started about the point, that "shin means tooth" - probably for the "master of the alphabet" how I literally called the inventor of the alphabet, who didn't care about any cabbalists, who lived 2000 years or more after his time, but about humble people which he taught to read and to write in an easy way.

I hope, this is understandable. When we research Tarot in 15th century, we are not allowed to mix it with imaginations, which were born in the heads of Crowley, Waite and company 400 years after that, and in the same way we are not allowed to
discuss "early alphabet" with mixings of the cabbalists, especially when it is clearly recognizable, that a specific letter idea was born later out of contemporary context.

Thanks for the opportunity to clearify that.
Hi Huck,

Before you seemed to be arguing that it was essential that the shin had *four* strokes before AD 800, and I wanted merely to show you this was wrong.

The idea of the coal - which I assume is the small horizontal stroke at the bottom of extremely precise versions of shin, adapted to the aesthetics of a given style of calligraphy - is different. Maybe Kwaw can argue it better, it isn't my concern.

Aryeh Kaplan doesn't mention the coal -

"for "fire," esh (aleph-shin). Kaplan explicates this last connection:

Fire is represented by the letter Shin. Shin is the dominant letter in the word Esh, meaning fire. It is joined with the Alef, representing air, because a fire cannot exist without air. The three heads of the Shin also suggest the flames of the fire. The hissing sound of this letter, furthermore, is like the hiss of a flame. The three heads of the Shin are separated, suggesting the general concept of separation [associated with Binah]. (p. 147)"

http://world.std.com/~muffin/alefbet1.htm

For him, it is the three heads and the hissing sound; of course fire hisses most when spurting from wood (Kwaw's "coal"), but Kaplan doesn't make that explicit. Does it matter whether there is a little horizontal bar at the bottom, thus making three heads, or whether there is one diagonal descending bar, and only two heads?

Bu my point concern is to point out that the shin from at least 800 BC can have three heads, not four; and that if it is "hastened writing", that changed it, that is indeed the very cause of the vast majority of changes in the alphabet anyway, every alphabet, all through history. I think the change from Phoenician to the cursive form is observed because of writing in ink instead of angular forms carved onto stone.

It IS NOT a few isolated examples. It simply is not. The shin on written documents looks like this in EVERY CASE at least from 500 BC. I won't even qualify my statement by saying that on some monumental inscriptions, the archaic Phoenician or Old Hebrew might show up; I'll bet you can't find any examples of the W shin after 600 BC, on monuments or in ink.

I have provided you with dozens of examples of what I am talking about; I could provide you with hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands more. Every shin written has THREE lines - your inverted F. It is not merely hastened writing - it is shin for the last 2500 years, including the time the Sefer Yetzirah was written.

I will gladly eat my words if you can show me that the common form of shin at the time the Sefer Yetzirah was written was in the Old Hebrew or Phoenician form. Can you show me even TWO documents that contain this form, written after 500 BC?

Can you show me ONE single instance of the W shaped shin, from 100 BC to AD 500?

Just one.

(I said it was fun :-)

Ross
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Even if we accept that the old Master of the Alphabet used shin because it looked like a tooth (w), and the word for tooth started with the sound "sh", how do we know that he didn't mean a tooth of flame?

Sometimes that phrase "teeth of the flames" is used. Teeth bite, like flames. It makes as much sense as "tongues of flame", except that tongues move like flames, while teeth don't flicker.

And how do we know what the old Master (or Mistress - probably a harsh school-mistress with a whip, like the figures of Grammar in the seven liberal arts) of the Alphabet meant? No writings from that time give the names of the letters, or their explanations.

In fact, all the explanations about what the Hebrew letters mean come from much later than the earliest alphabet. They are attempts to explain the inexplicable - why the letters are what they are. Do we know that the Phoenician alphabet had the same names as the Hebrew? We don't. Greek is no help here, because Sigma is not Shin.

Can we find an example of the letter shin being called "shin" when it was still in the W form? Probably not. There is not much literature in the alphabet from 1500 BCE. So as far as we know, the name of the letter is a tradition coming from the same time that it had the three-pronged form.

No doubt the Sefer Yetzirah knew perfectly well that Shin means "tooth". But this might not be the old Master of the Alphabet, but someone from 500 BCE, who already knew the three-pronged form. And a flame can have teeth too, and ASh does mean "fire." So whoever came up with the idea that this letter "sh" had to mean "tooth" could have meant a "tooth of flame."

If we talk of 1500 BCE alphabets, we have to talk of 1500 BCE texts. Which texts say the name of the letter is "Shin"?

Ross
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Come to think of it, that is a good question. What is the earliest list of names of the *letters*? (as opposed to just the letters themselves).

Ross
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