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


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus