In BAR’s version of Superman’s original costume, pictured in “The Hebrew Origins of Superman,” in this issue, Superman the scribe wears the Hebrew letter samekh on his chest. But even people who know how to read modern Hebrew—as it is printed in Israel as well as in synagogue prayer books in this country—will not recognize this letter. That is because this particular samekh dates from the 10th century B.C. and, at that time, the letter samekh was written as it is pictured on Superman’s chest—in what scholars call paleo-Hebrew script.
The paleo-Hebrew alphabet differs radically from the modern Hebrew alphabet.
Until the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. the paleo-Hebrew script was the only alphabet used by the Israelites. After the Babylonian destruction, Judean leaders and the important people of the country were deported to Babylon. Fifty years later, Cyrus, King of Persia, who fell heir to the Babylonian empire, declared that the Judean exiles could return to their land and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. According to the Bible, 42,000 Judeans chose to return (Nehemiah 7:66).