Ahmad Al-Jallad Profile picture
Sep 9, 2018 17 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
#Crucifixion in #Safaitic and #Jesus: Crucifixion was a common method of capital punishment in the Roman Empire; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus mentions the crucifixion of thousands. Yet this terrible punishment is so far mentioned only twice in Safaitic.
Both of these texts are enigmatic and have lead to creative, yet ultimately unsupported, theories about the historical event to which they refer. HaNS 660 was written by a man named Marṭ ben Yaśkor, who states: wa-ṣoleba ḥabīb-oh ‘and his beloved was crucified’.
In the 2nd (AbJ), a man called śāhem dates his return from the desert to the year ṣlb h-yh[]dy ʾbkr. I haven’t vocalized this text because that depends entirely on our interpretation. A Jordanian scholar named Sabri Abbadi suggested that it refers to the crucifixion of Christ.
According to him, hyh[]dy ʾbkr means ‘the Jewish man who is the eldest son of his family was crucified'. Since the Safaitic inscriptions minimally stretch from the 2nd c. BCE to the 3rd c. CE, some of their writers must have lived at the same time as Christ.
So while chronologically plausible, does the philology work out? ṣlb h-yhdy does indeed mean ‘the year the Jew was crucified’ but this does not explain the final word ʾbkr. Abbadi’s understanding of it as an adjective meaning ‘eldest’ does not work grammatically.
ʾbkr is in fact a rather common name in the region, attested even in Greek, e.g. from Ghōr Aṣ-Ṣāfī as Αβχορος. This is likely the name of the crucified man, who was Jewish. The nomads did not have a fixed calendar; they dated their inscriptions to events of local significance.
The nomads of the Ḥarrah interacted with the Jews and there are several references to the Hasmonean dynasty of Judea as well, with a number of inscriptions dated to sanata ʾāl yahūd ‘the year of the Jews’. Some may have even been Jewish, such as Yosef in IBS 330.
KRS 37 preserves an example of good relations between the 2 ppls: ‘O Allāt, grant a safe reunion with his family [and] may the Jews be secure; and he returned with camels to the Ḥarrah to pasture’ hā-llāt qeblāl ʾaslam ʾahl-oh salām le-yahūd wa-ragaʿa be-ʾebel raʿāy le-ḥarrat
Perhaps ʾabkor was a well-known Judaean and news of his crucifixion spread among the nomads, notable enough for the dating of one’s inscription. It is impossible to know if the ḥabīb ‘beloved’ of HaNS 660 above was ʾAbkor. Bandits were often the victim of crucifixion.
While banditry is not often mentioned in Safaitic, the author of ShNGA 1, Ḥamlat ben Sālem, proudly calls himself ʾal-leṣṭ ‘the bandit’. The ‘beloved’ of HaNS 660 could have simply been a bandit companion of the author, who was captured and crucified by the Romans.
So does Jesus occur in the Safaitic inscriptions? So far no clear examples of Christianity have been attested. Prayers to a god named Yṯʿlead Winnett (1941) to suggest that this name was a rendition of yešūʿ. But Safaitic ṯ (=(th)in) was never used to render Hebrew/Aramaic š.
More problematic was the fact that yṯʿ was invoked beside other gods, so if it did refer to Jesus, it was certainly not in a Christian context. Since 1941, this term has appeared in Greek transcription and we now know its pronunciation was Yayṯaʿ, ironically 'he who saves'.
There are no examples of ysʿ = yasūʿ but the personal name ʿsy, with no reference to Christ or Christianity, is attested. Could this be the form ʿīsā, which in Safaitic would be ʿīsay? After all, the Muslim Arabic term for Christ remains a puzzle.
[AbJ] ʿAbbādī [Abbadi], S. Jesus? in an Ancient North Arabian Inscription: An analytical study. Unpublished article on academia.edu. See ju-jo.academia.edu/SabriAbbadi. n.d..

[HaNS] Ḥarāḥšah [Harahsheh], R.M.A. Nuqūš ṣafāʾīyah ǧadīdah min al-bādīyah al-urdunīyah al-šimālīyyah al-šarqīyah — dirāsah muqāranah wa-taḥlīl. Unpublished doctoral thesis submitted at the University of Baghdad, August 2001. 2001.
[ISB] Oxtoby, W.G. Some Inscriptions of the Safaitic Bedouin. (American Oriental Series, 50). New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1968. Pages: 92 Plates: XVI
[ShNGA] Al-Šudayfāt Y.M. Naqš ṣafawiyy min ǧabal ʿanāzah fī šamāl šarq al-urdunn, "iʿādah qirāʾah wa-taḥlīl ". Maǧallat muʾtah li-l-buḥūṯ wa-ʾl-dirāsāt (silsilat al-ʿulūm al-insāniyyah wa-ʾl-iǧtimāʿiyyah) 18:3, 2003: 213-229.
1ce again, pls. excuse typos, tweeting in haste :)

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More from @Safaitic

Oct 6, 2018
"Life is worthless", write Diomedes the Lyrist and Abchoros the barber in a Greek inscription found far out in the desert of eastern Jordan (at Jathum). The two went out into the desert with a Roman military unit, stationed at a place called Σιο(α) Αβγαρ 'the cairn of Abgar'.
Coming from the bright lights of the Decapolis, the Basalt desert must have seemed like the end of the world. This text comes to mind as I complete edits on 2 pprs on new Greek-Safaitic inscriptions from Jordan. Teaser: we have a small new example of Old Arabic in Greek letters!
The editio princeps of the cited inscription can be found here: A Greek Inscription at Jathum in Transjordan. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 132 (Dec., 1953), pp. 34-41 (8 pages). Here is Mowry's translation of the entire text.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
< Part 1 – the Fals, of Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols> Let us begin with the more obscure deities. The idol called al-Fals was associated with the well-known N. Arabian tribe of Ṭayyiʾ. Their territory was located near 2 mountains, Agaʾ and Salmā.
According to al-Kalbi, al-Fals was a red rock in the shape of a man located on the black mountain of Agaʾ. Its sanctuary offered immunity to men and beasts. What do we learn about Al-Fals from the epigraphic record? answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi…
Tribespeople of Ṭayyiʾ left few inscriptions. Only one text in Safaitic was clearly composed by a man of Ṭayyiʾ. BS 767 is by a man named Wāʾil son of Wammām, who calls himself haṭ-ṭāʾiyy ‘the Tayyite’. The text does not contain an invocation to a deity.
Read 19 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
<Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols-Introduction>: Hisham ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab antiquarian born in Kufa (737–819 CE), interested in folklore re: the ancient Arabs, genealogies, and pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Pic: Nabataea.net
His work kitāb al-Aṣnām ‘the book of idols’ is one of the earliest Islamic-period sources on pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Relying on folklore and quotations from poetry, Ibn Al-Kalbi lists the gods of the ancient Arabs and associated rites.
While some of these gods, such as Allāt, are known from the Qur’ān and other ancient sources, others are far more obscure, such as Yaʾbūb and Nuhm. You can read the English translation of this book here: answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi/
Read 6 tweets
Oct 1, 2018
On the topic of inscriptions of mourning, I've reached the S's and here is one of the saddest Safaitic inscriptions I know. It is by a man mourning the senseless murder of his brother by Nabataeans while he was working as a hired man, pasturing the animals of two great tribes.
I translate the text as follows:
'he grieved for his brother Nūr whom the Nabataeans killed while pasturing the livestock of ʿwḏ and Ḍf so, O Allat of Mʿmn and goddess of Deṯan and Gaddoʿawīḏ and Gaddoḍayf...
...may he have vengeance against him who has committed this act, and he was continuously distraught with a broken heart for his brother, his beloved forever'. The Old Arabic reads as follows:
Read 4 tweets
Sep 30, 2018
#Safaitic dictionary edit updates. At the N's, and this text it worth tweeting: Author of MAHB 2 states: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-naganna 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)'. #Safaitic naganna <ngn> is the equivalent of #Levantine inžann...
The sense is of course to be Jinn possessed. There is no direct evidence for a belief in #Jinn among the pre-Islamic nomads, but this word could suggests that insanity was associated with being possessed by the supernatural creatures. There's more: related to this lemma is ...
the word <ʾtgnn> =ʾatgannana, is attested in an identical context: BS 880: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-ʾatgannana 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)', this one similar to Classical Arabic taǧannana, same meaning.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 27, 2018
Hikma History asks whether there is historical evidence for #Mecca in the 6th CE or earlier. A fantastic question. Outside historical sources don't seem to mention the town. @iandavidmorris examines this material masterfully in this blog: iandavidmorris.com/mecca-before-i…
But what about pre-Islamic Arabian sources? Do they give evidence for Mecca as a pilgrimage center? Most pre-Islamic texts from central Arabia are short, undated inscriptions containing personal names and enigmatic phrases. No toponyms are attested in these and therefore,..
They are not very useful for answering our question. The long and detailed texts from Ancient Yemen, however, do not mention any place called Mecca. Although numerous pilgrimage sites are attested, they all seem to be located in South Arabia.
Read 11 tweets

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