Hebrew… written in Greek characters

March 19, 2008

HT: Randall Buth on Evang Text Crit blog

There is an interesting article on the University of Vienna site regarding a recent archaeological find.

Archaeologists from the Institute of Prehistory and Early History of the University of Vienna have found an amulet inscribed with a Jewish prayer in a Roman child’s grave dating back to the 3rd century CE at a burial ground in the Austrian town of Halbturn. The 2.2-centimeter-long gold scroll represents the earliest sign of Jewish inhabitants in present-day Austria.

The inscription, which though written in Greek letters, is really only a direct transliteration of the Hebrew text of the Shema (Dt 6:4)

The inscription on the amulet is a Jewish prayer
ΣΥΜΑ ΙΣΤΡΑΗΛ ΑΔΩNΕ ΕΛΩΗ ΑΔΩN Α
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.

(I’m not sure what the tau is doing as the third letter of the second word! Any ideas? Perhaps just a misspelling? The ETC post has some interesting discussion of the spelling of several words, but the only comment on ΙΣΤΡΑΗΛ is that it is a common spelling in Latin MSS—nothing specific re the tau.)

The gold amulet looks like this:

A large, hi-res jpg file can be downloaded.