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

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


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy