frequented localities, while thousands remained uncopied ; and from many of the valleys known to contain inscriptions not a single one was possessed.

Nevertheless, in spite of these formidable discouragements, Professor Beer, of Leipsic, undertook the study of the inscriptions, with the view, if possible, of making out the alphabet in which they were written, and ascertaining their meaning. He first addressed himself to the task in 1833, not long after the publication of the copies taken by Rev. Mr. Gray, as already mentioned, and probably incited to it by the considerable accession of materials thus made. His first attempts, however, proved entirely abortive and the matter was given up. He returned to it again, however, in the winter of 183839, perhaps led, as Dr. Robinson suggests (Bib. Res., I. p. 553) by the report made of his visit to Sinai, and by the residence of Dr. Robinson's companion (Dr. Eli Smith) for a time in Leipsic. At length, "after several months of the most

, persevering and painful application, he succeeded in making out the alphabet, and in reading all the inscriptions which had been copied with any good degree of accuracy.” In 1840 he published what he calls a “Century” of these inscriptions transcribed in Hebrew letters. The number deciphered somewhat exceeded what this name would denote, being actually 148. These were accompanied with fac-similes of the inscriptions and prefaced with some introductory discussions.

The style and tenor of the inscriptions was found to be almost universally identical. They uniformly read thus:-“The salutation of So and So, son of So and So," or "Remember So and So, son of So and So.” To this was occasionally added one or two other words, mostly a title or a term indicative of occupation, as “poet,” “priest," "scholar," “emir," “ knight,”

“ and another word of very frequent occurrence which Beer understood to mean “pilgrim.”

Prof. Beer does not detail the process by which he reached his results. But their accuracy admits of the most ample and satisfactory verification.

1. Among the inscriptions explained by Beer was one which he recognized as bilingual, and fortunately it is among those which are in the best state of preservation. Three different

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copies of it had also been taken by different hands, by Gray, Lord Prudhoe and Coutelle, one of the French savants who accompanied Napoleon on his expedition into Egypt. The natire inscription is immediately followed by one in Greek, the whole inclosed in lines which partly surround them and seem to indicate that they belong together. Judging from the style of letter, which is not cut but dotted out with a pointed instrument, the two inscriptions appear to be by the same hand. Beer was not able to read the whole either of the native inscription or of the Greek, but he deciphered enough of both to show their substantial identity. And it may be added that the labors of subsequent scholars have resulted in completely unriddling them both, and establishing their identity from beginning to end more fully than Beer himself suspected, and this by means of his own alphabet.

2. This gathers confirmation from other inscriptions upon these same rocks in the neighborhood of Sinai. In addition to the inscriptions in the old unknown character, with which we are now concerned, there are others in Latin, Greek, and Arabic. These are almost invariably of like tenor with the old inscriptions as deciphered by Prof. Beer's alphabet. The Greek inscriptions for example contain the word yhell followed by the name of the writer, and that of his father, i.e., Let So and So, son of So and So, be remembered. The verbal form is different from that yielded by Prof. Beer's alphabetthe Greek has a subjunctive aorist passive, while ne finds a passive participle, but the sense in such a connection is substantially the same. The general style of the old native inscriptions, as thus deciphered, is therefore the same that is perpetuated in those more recent.

3. The proper names which Prof. Beer discovers in these old inscriptions, in many cases reappear in Greek inscriptions in the region, showing that they are such as were in actual use among those who cut their names in these places. They are also plainly Semitic in their character, and susceptible of explanation from Semitic roots, and are further almost invariably such as can be pointed out from other sources as actually borne by persons of Arab stock.

4. The alphabet which he finds, though distinct from the cther Semitic alphabets, and having peculiar forms and features of its own, is nevertheless analogous to them and stands in a close relation to them.

5. What is perhaps the crowning test of all is that this alphabet has been perpetually gaining fresh confirmation from further investigation and research. It not only explains those inscriptions on which it was based and to which it was originally applied; but it is equally successful in rendering intelligible other inscriptions, which were not then copied. Some of these are bilingual, where the test is decisive ; some are of an entirely different description, varying widely in their contents, and found in other places. It has even given the first satisfactory explanation of the legends upon coins found in European cabinets, which no one had previously been able to decipher, and whose origin and character could not be conjectured.

In determining the age of these inscriptions Beer starts with the unquestionable fact that they must be older than the sixth century of the Christian era, when they were already seen and described by Cosmas. And they must be considerably older than his time, as their real authors and true character were then unknown.

Numerous crosses are found with the Greek and Latin inscriptions, indicating that these were beyond question the work of Christian pilgrims who visited these hallowed localities to deepen their impression of the power and grace of God, who

, revealed himself on Sinai and who wrought such miracles in the desert in the days of Moses. And this is confirmed by such additions as the Alpha and the Omega, or such ejaculations appended or prefixed as “Jesus Christ have mercy,” or

Help, Lord.” In a very few instances crosses of the ordinary form are connected with inscriptions in the original antique character. A much more frequent appendage is a figure resembling the Roman capital letter Y either erect or lying upon its side. This, which is evidently not a letter and forms no part of the legend proper, but stands sometimes at the beginning and sometimes at the end of the same inscription as found in different places, was thought by Beer to be a cross of a form peculiar to this region. Though no examples of it are found elsewhere, he suggests that forked crosses of this shape may have been used in this quarter for the execution of criminals, and may hence have been adopted when the Gospel first penetrated into these parts, as the symbol of the Christian faith. If so, however, this unusual form of the cross could not have been continued long after the time of Constantine, upon whose imperial standards and public edifices and coins the cross was emblazoned in its ordinary shape, which thus became fixed throughout Christendom. This he accepts, therefore, as an indication that the inscriptions in question cannot be later than the fourth century after Christ. This, too, was a period noted for pilgrimages to sacred places. Christians in vast numbers flocked to the Holy Land to see the spots rendered memorable by the Scriptures. And Helena, mother of Constantine, it is well known, visited Mount Sinai and erected a sanctuary there. The immediate authors of the inscriptions in the old and strange character Beer supposed to be Nabateans--citizens of that wealthy, flourishing, and cultivated kingdom, which in the early centuries of the Christian era had its capital at Petra, and has left its imperishable monument in the magnificent ruins of that totally desolated city. Their language would naturally be, as that of these inscriptions was, Aramean, with a large infusion of Arabic words and forms. And Beer ventured the prediction, which has since been verified, that if ever any inscriptions were found at Petra, they would be in the same character as that of the inscriptions at Mount Sinai.

The ingenuity displayed in deciphering these strange characters, notwithstanding the seemingly insurmountable difficul. ties which beset the task, is scarcely surpassed by any of the surprising achievements of palæography in modern times. The ulterior results flowing from the unriddling of the Egyptian hieroglyphics or the Persian and Assyrian cuneiform character, are more important. They bring to light the history of buried empires and open attractive fields of inquiry, the end of which cannot yet be conjectured. But the bald inscriptions on the rocks of Sinai, with tedious uniformity yield mere names of persons utterly unknown, and about whom no one cares, who, in an idle hour while resting on their journey through the desert, scribbled on the rocks, as modern

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travellers do who visit famous places : and this constitutes their sole claim to an immortal remembrance. Niebuhr, who himself took copies of some of these inscriptions, was so impressed by all their surroundings with their utter valuelessness, even in advance of any accurate knowledge of their contents, that he advised scholars not to waste their time in the attempt to decipher them. They are not after all, as we shall see presently, so wholly unimportant as might appear at first sight. But whatever their intrinsic insignificance, and however the actual reading of these inscriptions may dispel the romantic interest derived from the imagination that they may have been coeval with the days of Moses, this should not hinder us from confessing the marvellous ability and skill displayed in deciphering these strange and unknown characters.

The alphabetic key wrought out by Prof. Beer has been universally accepted ever since by competent scholars as the true one, with perhaps the addition of a single letter which he failed to recognize. One of the most acute and able of his successors in this line of investigation, who dissented earnestly from some of his conclusions, bears his testimony that he has found no occasion to modify his alphabet in even the slightest particular.

Prof. Beer's conclusions respecting the anthors and the date of these inscriptions were so intrinsically probable and tallied 50 well with known facts, that they too were generally admitted, and for some years formed the received theory on the subject. His argument that if these visitors to the places hallowed from the days of Moses were not Jews, they must have been Christians, seemed so plausible, that it was mostly regarded as conclusive. And yet this, as it now appears, was the weak point in the hypothesis. Beer's tractate was reviewed immediately on its appearance by Prof. Credner in the Heidelberg Jahrbücher, and this among other points contested. It was not until nine years after, however, in 1849, that the subject was once more taken up and subjected to a thorough and elaborate discussion—this time by Dr. Friedrich Tuch, well-known as the author of a valuable though rationalistic commentary on the book of Genesis. He brought an immense amount of learning, both philological and archæologi

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