April 10, 2010

Crossing "T"s and Dotting "I"s...Jots and Tittles

I was watching my son play a word game on the computer while I was studying for school this morning. He was learning about idioms.

I was never that good with rhetorical devices, parts of speech, grammar and the like. I will begin to need to relearn or refresh my abilities in these areas as I move forward in my Theological Studies major in Seminary/School. The study of languages like Greek and Hebrew require it. I find it absolutely amazing that my oldest son Seth will be going through this for the first time in parallel with me. The Lord has seen fit to allow me to work together with my son as a team to learn this stuff again. I couldn't have picked a more important study buddy. My son. We will learn this stuff and will use the Bible as the basis for the learning not some modern revisionist tripe.

Nothing, no matter how simplistic escapes God's attention when it comes to His chosen and His word, even grammar and punctuation. Many including myself use to look at things like grammar and punctuation with disdain. I viewed them as insignificant. I no longer see it this way. I scrutinize everything when I read the Scriptures. Our Lord did not consider anything in the Bible insignificant including the punctuation and denotations and stated as much. In the case of the Bible everything is critical.

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." ~Matthew 5:18

It is important to note one particular instance that will never allow you to look a comma, metaphor, proper noun or conjunction the same way again. The seemingly insignificant parts of a sentence that convey a magnitude of truth infinitely beyond their humble appearance.

Background Knowledge:

The "Jot" is the Hebrew word "Yodh". It is also the smallest letter. It's english equivalent is the letter "Y" as in Yahweh or in Hebrew YHVH since there were no vowel's used in ancient Hebrew. The word "jot" is a transliteration of "iota" which is the 9th letter of the Greek alphabet. "Iota" is the nearest Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "yodh".

The "tittle" is the decorative spur or point on the upper edge of the "yod". If you can imagine a tiny letter with a nearly visible decorative mark. These are also called "cantillation".

The actual name of GOD, "YHWH", is spelled similarly to a form of the Hebrew verb, "to be". Most scholars believe YHWH is related to a root word meaning "to be present" or "to exist" and probably meant either "He creates or causes" or simply "I AM", meaning that God did not depend on anyone or anything for His existence. This comes from Exodus 3:13-14, where Moses asks God what His name is, and God says "I AM WHO I AM."

The difference between verb tenses in a Hebrew is a single spur or point in a Hebrew letter that could designate the difference between a dead and non-divine man claiming to be a god and a omnipresent and eternal God man in the form of Jesus. Jesus referred to Himself as "I AM" in the Gospel of John seven times in the "I AM" statements. In particular He says:

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!" ~John 8:58

He did Not say "I was". He said "I AM" in the present tense. How Jesus said this IS His claim to diety. He uses it as a personal pronoun in present tense. Had this been written in Hebrew (instead of Greek) in the New Testament like it had in the Old Testament the difference between the statement "I AM" and "I was" would have been a single cantillation or tittle.

One of the reasons why not a jot or tittle "will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled". Jesus was very specific. There was no room for error either in His divine statements or his exact fulfilling of prophecy. That little marking or yodh could make that much difference.

We are basically talking about what in the english language looks like an apostrophe with a hook but serves the function of changing tenses. In the case of Jesus' claim of deity it makes all the difference in this world...and the next.


Anonymous said...

Great article Andy. Just think the Lord gave us language that we might be able to read and understand His revelation to us. Studying Greek and Hebrew is one of God's greatest gifts. Be blessed my brother and be diligent in your studies.


Andy Pierson said...

Your encouragement is always helpful in my walk Ron. It helps be know that I am staying on the straight a narrow path of righteousness and not veering side to side out of control. Staying in righteousness tells me that I am not negating the grace the Lord has given me. BTW, Congratulations on being a grandpappy again.

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