Martin Johnson – May 4, 2023
This is a most important book in the field of Biblical studies, and consequently has attracted a lot of controversy. What Douglas Petrovich has accomplished is to demonstrate in a most compelling way that a selection of texts found during the past century or so in Ancient Egyptian sites are actually written in Hebrew. This is a breakthrough on the level of the Rosetta Stone, the decipherment of Cretan Linear B, or the Mayan Codex – which were all carvings or texts that defied decipherment until someone worked out the original languages in use. The book is written in a very academic style, and packed with detail, including discussions of the differing opinions on every one of the 300 or so glyphs or letters that are in question, across a total of 16 inscriptions. One text is written in Middle Egyptian (identifying the presence of Hebrew people, and possibly referring to Bethel). The other 15 contain “Proto-Consonantal” script, which Petrovich and others argue has been derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics. If so, this becomes the most ancient alphabet currently known. He identifies a number of names found in the Hebrew bible, Asenath (wife of Joseph, Genesis 41:45 etc.), Ahisimach (Exodus 31:36 etc.), El (meaning “God”), and perhaps most contentiously, Moses. He supplies the information to help us work out that barely more than a quarter of the letters he has identified have universal agreement, but in only 13% of cases is he making an identification not yet agreed by other experts in the field, which seems quite modest to me. He supplies drawing of every text, and photographs for several of them too, to help you understand the issues and difficulties (e.g. which way does the writing run?). Readers who have some basic Hebrew will find this helps, but the results of his analysis overall are most compelling. I am not entirely comfortable with his chronology (relying on Edmund Thiele, dismissing Rohl Bimson and the “New Chronology”, for example). Neither am I convinced by some of the new names he adopts for the Hebrew letters (about half of them). These are trivial issues against the overall importance of showing both that Hebrew-speaking people were present in Egypt (and often not exactly enjoying their lives there), exactly as the Bible has always said, and also that a form of Hebrew was in use around 3,800 years ago which is virtually identical to the Hebrew of the Bible, and legible to modern eyes. This is quite astonishing, as it means that Hebrew is by far the most ancient language that has remained in use one way or another throughout that time, with very little change, and still using a 22-letter basic alphabet. The contrast with English is quite extreme, and our alphabet, which has gained and lost a large number of letters even within the past 1,000 years!
L Turner – May 4, 2023
This book appears to be an accumulation of a lifetime of work by Dr. Petrovich. He is careful, methodical, and scholarly in his work. For me, it is not a fast read–but one to be digested. He has done an excellent job in sharing his research in this book. I appreciate Him documenting his research, which helps me in my research of studying the meanings of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet–which I have been working on for 5 years. He has provided some recent understanding of Hebrew and the Alphabet letters (including their meaning) based on Archeological finds.
I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in the study of Hebrew.
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