One of the modern trends of the "Hebrew Roots Movement" today is a fascination with what many call "Paleo-Hebrew", which is a term coined by Lew White, but the question remains, is there evidence that it is the most "ancient" of Hebrew and is it exclusively Hebrew? Lets investigate this.
There are several semitic scripts in Hebrew and Aramaic, there is Ancient Hebrew, D'fus and K'tav. In Aramaic we have Ashuri, Estrangela, Serta and Swadaya script. All of these scripts make up what is called "Yehudith" (meaning: The Language of the Jews). Both Hebrew and Aramaic are found within the Tanach, in all major codexes (Masoretic and Leningrad being the most used). On the flip side, what we believe to be the original New Testament manuscript (The Khabouris Codex) we also find Hebrew words in the Estrangela Aramaic Script.
One prime example, within the Khabouris Codex we have the word ܒܪܫܝܬ in John 1:1, which though in Estrangela Aramaic Script, it is actually a Hebrew word, that word is "Bereiishis (Beresheet in Sefardi dialect meaning "In the Beginning"). This provides to us in many ways a flow of continuity of language and scribal tradition considering we have a Hebrew text which contains Aramaic and an Aramaic text which contains Hebrew adds to the validity of Aramaic Primacy. But lets get back to the scripts.
The importance of Aramaic plays a huge part in us pinpointing the oldest Hebrew script, and soon you will see why. Below, we see a chart taken from the publication "The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet" by Rabbi Michael L Munk, published by Artscroll
The thing you will see interesting is that there is not mention of the "other" ancient hebrew script in the chart that we commonly see in the Hebrew Roots Movement. Within, zero Jewish publications do we find an ox head, or a little stick figure with it's hands raised or nails or any of these picto hebrew scripts represented. Why is this?
Because they are not Hebrew. We can validate one script as being used by Hebrew, but we can also exclude the "other ancient Hebrew" when we trace back it's script. The script below, is not Hebrew and was never used by by Jews nor was ever represented as a Hebrew script
The script represented above was actually a mixture of two different hieroglyphs one, Egyptian and one was also a spoken language of the people of Phoenicia. Neither of which were ever tied to the Hebrew language. So lets investigate the next Ancient Script. These scripts date around 300 years after Moses.
This next script we see above, even Artscroll says is Ancient Hebrew. All the scholars agree.....but this doesn't exactly mean it is the oldest...we will get to that point very soon. This script (seen above) is a later form of Phoenician script, which was a phonetic language. This script, though is also considered "Hebrew" was a borrowed form of Hebrew and not exclusively Hebrew. It would be like, if I wrote the word אֶמֶת and said "the word is emet" would my english script be the Hebrew to help you vocalize the word or would the D'fus script be the Hebrew script? The same is true with this Phoenician script shown above, it served as a place holder in many respects. Now, onto another ancient script
Above we have displayed the 4 letters of Aramaic script (from top to bottom: Ashuri, Estrangela, Serta, and Swadaya script). The top script may look very familiar. The top script is identical to Hebrew D'fus script. We see this script in many variations of Hebrew.
Now we need to learn the history of Aramaic. Aramaic is actually considered to be, by most scholars, as one of the oldest of languages in the world. Parts of Genesis even give us a clue of this. In Genesis 31:47 we see the words Yegar Sahadutha and even further back in Genesis 15:1 we have the word ba-mahaze, both are Aramaic. We also find Aramaic in dozens of places in the Tanach, as well as complete chapters in Daniel. The thing interesting is the script does not change, which shows a companionship between the two languages.
Here is a kicker, ancient hebrew script, is dated as being only 3,400 years old, the Aramaic Ashuri script is dated as being over 4,000 years old. Hebrew adopted the Aramaic Ashuri script during the time of the first temple period. So in all actuality the oldest script of Hebrew is the "modern script" we use today which is known as D'fus Hebrew but is actually Ashuri Aramaic script. (Below is a video I recently recorded on this subject).
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah from the Brutal Planet Radio Program