What makes the number fifty so special for Old Testament writers is that it begins a new cycle of a “week of weeks.” Pentecost – written with the letter nun (נ) as a numeral – had to occur after counting out the waving of holy sheaves, and on the night of the 49th day it was customary in the time of Christ for religious Jews to read the Torah and “betroth” themselves as a nation to the Lord by reverencing His Law.
We write 50 with the tens column offset TO THE LEFT, with subsequent powers of ten pushing the ones column off TO THE RIGHT. In contrast, the Hebrew numerals for the numbers from 10 to 90 start with the letter Yod, the tenth letter of the 22. The letter Yod is written ABOVE the line of the text that all other letters occupy. Let me try a comparison that may help bridge this conceptual gap — to shift or more precisely, as we’ll be seeing later, turning sideways our own fundamental paradigm with a rotation of our notion of “up.”
The MicroSoft notepad program offers a word wrap feature that sets the column width to the window size. If the user has a smaller window open for composing and saving the text, it will deregulate the line-display when the same file is opened in a larger window.
The concept of wrapping (understood as one component of today’s technological conveniences, the Graphic User Interface, or GUI) can be useful for looking at what the Jerescope does with Hebrew texts because both work with two dimensions.
Having this shared background, that’s restricted to the use only of up-or-down and left-or-right, oddly enough permits us to follow logical operations in that language that are not easily grasped in ours. The word “wrap” refers us to external events occurring outside the text. In this case where computer word-processing took over the entire professional infrastructure of writing, ‘wrap’ is understood to describe the motion of the cursor in imitation of the typewriter’s carriage-return, moving the drum both upwards by a preset line space, and all the way to the beginning of new writing-room at the left of the page.
The fundamental text of a written language is its alphabet, and we may profitably take some similar logical steps to those just demonstrated as I next present a first look “through the Jerescope.”
So, what’s up with the alphabet? That’s not an idle question, is it? When it’s not an abstract set or a storehouse of symbols the alphabet is not (yet) in two dimensions but only in one, in a string. It has however a set order. So its “set” (its seder) while not necessarily a dimension like modern science customarily attributes to time and space, is a feature of elemental importance and that particular order is what we should be examining. Archeologists made a very big deal of someone’s recently discovering an alphabet chiseled in an ancient middle eastern rock.
As the decades of well-nigh a century of mechanical, and then electric typewriting followed the centuries of type-setting, but then were suddenly transmuted from a precursor into the cursor on tens of millions, then hundreds of millions of GUI monitors in a few short and tumultuous dot-com years, let us consider what the alphabet became, as prehistory became history.
Time was changed. Not in itself of course, to be strictly objective – but I think time was part of the setting and certainly a big part of the course of study I propose for the Jerescope.
The letters in ancient times were used by Hebrews to record distinctive language elements that we, today, treat so differently that even the scientific terms of our linguistics are somewhat misleading. An English letter represents a “phoneme” that in analysis is as often as not, a vowel sound. This is not true of the Hebrew, and neither is it the case that each letter stands for a unique sound.
The shapes of the mouth and positions of the tongue are listed in order as they affect the passage and restriction of the breath and voice. For example, the Aleph, letter #1, is “voiced” whereas the Heh, #5, is “unvoiced,” being therefore in terms of our language, not a vowel. Reading Hebrew is hard for us to learn for this and other reasons.
The Jerescope depends on the fact that the Hebrew alphabet has a ‘lower’ and an ‘upper’ half, and that the first half and the next were divided between K (Kaph, #11 in order but denoting the cardinal #30) and L (Lamed, #12 or 40.) Whoever and however they constructed the alphabet, its middle formed a perfect, un-designated gap between a prior 11 letters, finished off by a step-up from Yod (10) to Kaph, whose very frequent use as a preposition with Yod signifies an explanatory looking-back with the sense of “because.” At this transitional mid-point as well, Kaph holds the first place in the word KaL (or KoL) meaning “all” and so fittingly sets up a sequel – seeing that the NEXT 11 letters are led by Lamed. The Hebrew word La, means “for,” or “to,” words that in our tongue point to the future.
The gap from K to L is the very core concept of the Jerescope
What Einstein struggled with, what his successors have triumphantly elaborated that fascinates the world is how time and space are bound. The visual representations of a dimpled grid are insufficient, we all know, to convey the niceties of rocket science; but the so-called continuum keeps from our grasp its secrets of order within the manifestly discontinuous cosmos, and ancient Hebrews were by no means primitive in their apprehension of things celestial.
I will try not only to convince my readers of this point but to show why we owe to the Hebrew people a far higher regard during the coming phase of time. If their “mind” as a chosen race gives us a way to come better to grips with culture itself as an object of study, and is at once a key to open the transition from the darkness of prehistory to a lit path through the corridors of time, then I contend that will be a comfortable companion going forward. No one can reasonably doubt that we all face a huge transition, from history to post-history.
And that is why we should take advantage of the way our Bibles show us there is a grammar: we need a better paradigm for “the times” and it will become accessible! I write this in faith.
Sounds spelled by some, but not all letters from Yod, #10, and upwards (afterwards) will serve to modify word-roots by prefix or suffix, and for this reason I believe it is true to state that the ancient Hebrew alphabet was composed as a grammar. The use of other signs in addition to the basic 22 letters came much later, and are very helpful to us who are unfamiliar with their ancient grammatical customs, for learning the vowel pronunciations.
Now let me return to the question, “what’s up?” because the earliest passages of the Bible clearly reference the same logical use of Prophet Jeremiah’s GUI as the grammatical operations of the Hebrew alphabet do. The space on the written page, whether it is wrapped in a scroll, marked with a stylus on a tablet or with ink on a leaf of a bound book, has now got two dimensions, where the line of letters is across and the progression of lines is down. So what’s up is either “before,” as having been written previously, or (watch this, now!) 10 or 12! Yod and Lamed are written above the line, but in different ways. Yod is a stroke taken from the top of the space that all the letters occupy, and that stops well short of the bottom. It is suspended (just as the tens’ column for us is offset to the right) whereas the Lamed is extended obviously well above the line.
There are, however, many, many other places “up” in the Hebrew Bible, and not only those implicitly shown by Yods and Lameds – and it is these that hold much grander significance. I can even think that Paul’s instruction to Timothy – a Greek – to study to become a workman worthy to be approved, rightly dividing the word of truth, had reference to the carpenter’s need of a plumb-line to build things square. Among the earliest of the “divisions” of the Bible is at Genesis 1:27 that readers of the King James are familiar with as “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” (Hebrew word order is observed.)
The upright, here, is not a letter but the space between B’Tselmo and B’Tselem the word for “image.” The relationship in meaning between an image and a silhouette or shadow makes perfect sense, just as perfectly as the fact that you cannot see yourself in a mirror unless you stand in front of it. The perfection of God’s word, however, is not mere human poetics to a high degree. This “literary device” that, here as the male and female sexes are shown to be co-equally created in the image and in the likeness of God, is found to be employed in the description of day and night, in the earth and the heavens, and in Paul’s list of his successfully meeting any & all challenges to his apostolate in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. It even characterizes Jesus’s special birth-status in John 1:9-14.
If I were to keep to Western literary tradition I would call this device a Chiasm, after the idea that the Greek letter Chi, in its similar appearance to the Roman numeral X can represent a reversal of terms in the order of a word-string, A-B-B-A, but this cannot, as I will show, do justice to the fact that the Hebrew Scripture is quite emphatically making reference to the right angle at the center of a circle. The justification for this has become more and more convincing as I have put my hypothesis to the test of inductive reasoning and it doesn’t budge my conviction, for some to think I am imposing my own idiosyncratic paradigm on the truer, traditional exegetical methods.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come,” the phrase used by Luke in writing Acts Chapter 2, has in the Hebrew world-view a familiar cyclical reference, that is inherent in a view of the meaning of their life that – like the day and night, the seasons – followed a rhythm that the Law of Moses was intended to circumscribe, and to center upon the manifestation of God’s presence in their midst.