The practice of using the letters of the alphabet to begin successive lines or stanzas of a verse composition is found already in the Hebrew Old Testament. Quite a few Psalms (9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145) are composed using an alphabetical format. Psalm 119 is the longest (176 verses) and most elaborate of these, with each letter of the alphabet used to begin eight verses in succession. A section of Proverbs (31:10-31), the opening verses of Nahum, and the first four chapters of Lamentations are also abecedarian compositions. The abecedary appears in the Greco-Roman poetic tradition where we discover examples of such compositions used in the cult of the dead, in oracles, and in...
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