The chart above shows the first letter of the alphabet, which became the Hebrew aleph, and how it changed over time. The earliest form appears, far left, in the shape of an ox head whose name began with the sound of the letter. Moving to the right, the aleph evolves, although even the Greek alpha and Latin A as we know them today preserve the earliest appearance.

Like the evolution of the shape of aleph, larger historical developments also demonstrate continuity even amidst change. Frank Moore Cross sees the example of aleph as an apt encapsulation of his academic outlook. “My own philosophy of history,” Cross says in the accompanying interview, “maintains that there are no severely radical innovations in human history. There must be continuity, or the novel will be unintelligible or unacceptable. New elements do emerge, but in continuity with the past.”