Demotic was the later and more cursive of two Egyptian scripts. Both demotic and the earlier hieratic were written with brush and ink. Both evolved from hieroglyphic writing, which used “pictographs” to record the Egyptian language. For the most part, hieroglyphic writing was carved on stone surfaces of the walls of temples, tombs, and stele, and was painted on the plaster walls of tombs. When the Egyptians wished to write on papyrus or on stone flakes and pottery sherds, they used a cursive form of hieroglyphic writing called hieratic. Hieratic has the same relation to hieroglyphic writing as our handwriting has to the printed page. Demotic came into use about 650 B.C. and was used for business documents, letters, stories and petitions. All three methods—hieroglyphics, and hieratic and demotic cursive—were used side by side for several centuries in Egypt, dying out in the fourth century A.D. In the third century A.D. the same Egyptian language was written in a fourth way, using Greek letters. This Coptic phase lasted until the 16th century A.D.


Charles F. Nims and Richard C. Steiner, “A Paganized Version of Psalm 20:2–6 from the Aramaic Text in Demotic Script,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 103:1 (1983), pp. 261–274.


Since their article was published, Steiner has corrected this number from seven to eight.


This sentence is an improved reading, made since publication of the original article.


The dictation copy was probably for a priest who wanted to recite the prayer in Aramaic but who did not know Aramaic, so he needed a transliteration in demotic script much as some American Jews today who do not know Hebrew need a transliteration in Latin letters to recite a Hebrew prayer. The Egyptianized Aramean priest was probably continuing a tradition of reciting prayers in Aramaic despite his ignorance of that language. Aramaic was probably dying out in Egypt at this time.


The Aramean moon god.