For years, Egyptian artist and teacher Hoda Abdelaziz trotted her students around museums and art galleries. She pointed out strange stone markings and discussed their country’s history. But student curiosity encouraged her to delve deeper. She learned the language of hieroglyphics—and devised a way to remind new generations of their rich ancient Egyptian heritage.
Language studies are worthwhile—not only for school. The Bible is God’s primary means to communicate with humans. Imagine if Christians studied Bible languages like this art teacher did hieroglyphics!
The study of hieroglyphics, the formal writing system of ancient Egypt, has been limited largely to formal advanced educations. The aged system combines multiple writing systems, including pictographic (using pictures) and alphabetic elements.
The word hieroglyphics (or hieroglyph) comes from two Greek words that together mean “sacred writings.”
Hieroglyphics can refer to any form of picture writing. Most people think of ancient Egypt when they hear the term. But Aztec, Chinese, and Mayan writings also contain hieroglyphic elements.
On field trips, much of what Abdelaziz’s students saw contained hieroglyphics. Abdelaziz explained how this ancient writing form had been forgotten and then rediscovered by archaeologists.
“I found huge interest from the students,” Abdelaziz says. “It gave me the push to work on a curriculum that can be taught to students in school.”
She spent months learning hieroglyphics. Then over the course of five years, Abdelaziz produced a curriculum for learning the ancient language. Her program offers classroom instruction as well as field trips to museums and archaeological sites.
“Ancient Egyptians spent 5,000 years using it and preserving it. But after many occupations and changes, Egyptians seem to have forgotten their language,” Abdelaziz says.
Ahmed Ibrahim is one of Abdelaziz’s hieroglyphics students. He says, “I know that it is a difficult language, but I would like to learn it because it is the language of my ancestors from the time of the Pharaohs.”
“I am calling for us to remember our Egyptian identity, to know our language, not wait for anyone to translate it for us. . . . to understand what has been recorded on the walls of their country,” says Abdelaziz.
Hieroglyph or hieroglyphics?
Which is correct? Experts disagree. Some sources refer to individual symbols as hieroglyphs but call the entire form hieroglyphics. Some people use hieroglyphs as a noun and hieroglyphics as an adjective.
Hieroglyphics probably sounds closer to the original Greek word, pronounced high ruh GLIH fix. But if considering the two base parts of the Greek word (hiero and glypho), “hieroglyph” sounds closer.
Best solution? Choose one and be consistent.
Why? Being a student of words and of “the Word” (John 1:1) is beneficial for many things, including “training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Language study is valuable for every Christian’s education.