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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics About the Alphabet

Origins of Writing

By Jeff A. Benner

Egyptian Pictographs
(Fig. 2)
Sumerian Pictographs
(Fig. 3)
Semitic Pictographs
(Fig. 4)

The Egyptians (Figure 2), Sumerians (Figure 3), and Semites (Figure 4) originally wrote with a pictographic (meaning picture writing) form of writing. Some believe that the Sumerians were the originator of writing, while others attribute it to the Egyptians. Both the Sumerians and Egyptians came into existence after the flood of Noah.

Pre-flood Pictograph
(Fig. 5)

Did writing originate after the flood? Pre-flood pictographic writings (figure 5) have been found in Mesopotamia (Henry H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 24th) 44-5.) implying a pre-Sumerian and pre-Egyptian origin of writing.

The first record of writing in the Bible is found in Genesis 4.15;

"Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him."

The Hebrew word for "mark" is אות (ote) and is also the Hebrew word for a "letter" and God may have written a "letter" on Cain.

Some linguists attribute the development of the first true alphabet to the Phonecians. But some scholars believe that the phonecians actually adopted the alphabet from a prior Semitic culture (John Philip Cohane, The Key (New York: Crown, 1969). The actual origin of the alphabet can not be proven.

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