Bible Review 8:6, December 1992
Frank Moore Cross—An Interview

Part III: How the Alphabet Democratized Civilization

Our previous two issues have featured a wide-ranging interview with the world-renowned scholar Frank Moore Cross, the recently retired Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University. The first installment (see “Frank Moore Cross— An Interview,” BR 08:04) focused on the origins of the ancient Israelites, especially on Cross’s view that an important component of the Israelites came from Midian (in what is today northwest Saudi Arabia and southern Jordan) and on the ways Cross “excavates” the biblical text to uncover a historical core.

In the second part of the interview (see “Frank Moore Cross— An Interview,” BR 08:05) Cross discussed the development of Israelite religion and the eventual emergence of ancient Israel as a 12-tribe league. He spoke, among many other matters, of how early mythological images such as the warrior god who marches to war on behalf of his people came to be transmuted into a concept of a God who reveals by word.

The pages that follow contain the third and final portion of this interview; in it Cross describes one of civilization’s most profound innovations—the alphabet—and, in particular, its effects on ancient Israelite thought.

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