An Ancient Hebrew Inscription Supports the Traditional Spelling of “Jerusalem”

Jan. 17 2019

Last fall, archaeologists discovered a column with a Hebrew inscription, dating from the 1st century CE, reading “Hananiah son of Dodalos of Jerusalem.” Most interesting to philologists was the fact that the Hebrew word for the city was spelled with the letter yud before the final mem, reflecting the modern orthography and pronunciation: Y’rushalayim. This spelling is found in the later books of the Bible, such as Chronicles and Esther, whereas the earlier books omit the yud, suggesting the pronunciation Y’rushalem. As Robert Cargill explains, the inscription is the oldest extant example of the newer spelling:

What is interesting is that the Masoretes, the early-medieval Jewish scribes who added the vowels and cantillation marks to the Hebrew Bible to standardize pronunciation and to make it easier to read, [placed the vowels in] the shortened spellings of Jerusalem (the instances without the extra yud) so that they would be pronounced as if the yud were present. That is to say, the Masoretes were convinced that Jerusalem was always pronounced in antiquity the way it was pronounced in their time—and the way it is pronounced today in Israel—as Y’rushalayim, not as Y’rushalem. The only problem was that there was no archaeological evidence to prove this pronunciation . . . until now!

With the discovery of the Jerusalem column, we have our earliest archaeological evidence that Jerusalem was spelled, and therefore indeed pronounced, with the second yud, not as Y’rushalem, but as Y’rushalayim, during the Second Temple period. . . . The column is archaeological corroboration not only of the later biblical spellings, but also of the masoretic assumptions from a millennium later. It is also further confirmation of prevailing scholarly theories concerning the history of the Hebrew language, spelling, and the orthographic inertia that pervades scribal convention.

And all this from just one tiny letter—a little yud—a letter that the King James Version of Matthew 5:18 transliterates as the common word we still use today for something written quickly: “jot.”

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Archaeology, Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Masoretes

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan