What is a jot and a tittle? Matthew 5:17-18

In the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus said, 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Matthew 5:17 - 20

ESV - 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Clarify Share Report Asked March 08 2022 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Jeanette Bent said about Matt 5:18"...one jot (iota) or one tittle''. The smallest letter refers to the smallest Hebrew letter (Yod) and the smallest stroke of a letter to a serif (a hook or projection on a Hebrew letter).

Matthew 5:18 in the NET BIBLE says: "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter1 will pass from the law until everything takes place."
NET notes
1 tn Grk “Not one iota or one serif.”
sn The smallest letter refers to the smallest Hebrew letter (yod) and the stroke of a letter to a serif (a hook or projection on a Hebrew letter).

"A tittle or superscript dot is a small distinguishing mark, such as a diacritic in the form of a dot on a lowercase i or j." --Wikipedia
(Diacritics are marks placed above or below (or sometimes next to) a letter in a word to indicate a particular pronunciation—in regard to accent, tone, or stress—as well as meaning, especially when a homograph exists without the marked letter or letters. For example, pâte refers to clay whereas pate refers to the head, and résumé or resumé is used for a work history versus resume, which means "to begin again.")

"Well, Jesus is saying not one jot or tittle shall pass from it; every bit of it will be fulfilled. I am not abrogating or annulling one whit of it, and anyone who teaches anyone else to disobey the smallest command in the Bible will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. Nothing ever changes in the Bible, nothing." gty.org

March 12 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
Jots and tittles refer to small diacritical markings that are part of the written Hebrew language and its pronunciation. (Diacritics are marks placed above or below, or sometimes next to, a letter in a word to indicate a particular pronunciation—in regard to accent, tone, or stress—as well as meaning. They are not so common in English, but are found in many other languages.)

Such markings might be considered as insignificant in comparison to the actual letters and words of texts in which they appear, but Jesus was making the point that even the smallest such marks found in the words of the written Law given by God to Israel through Moses in Exodus through Deuteronomy would remain in effect as long as the world lasts. And, as He said in the passage cited in the question, He had not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it, and to do so on behalf of all humanity in a way that only He could.

March 09 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini John Appelt
In the statement of Matthew 5:17-18 (and Luke 16:17), Jesus clearly stated that the Law and the Prophets would be completely fulfilled. 

To emphasize this, He referred to Hebrew letters. First, He mentioned the smallest letter which is translated “jot,” “iota,” and “tiny pen stroke.” The Greek word is “iota” which corresponds with the Hebrew “jod” also the smallest letter. Even this tiniest of letters is essential in making the Scriptures complete.

Second, Jesus mentioned a part of a letter, which in different versions is “tittle,” “least stroke of a pen,” “dot,” “smallest detail,” and “pronunciation mark.” It is usually thought of as the little projections or strokes of the letter, as on the top or bottom of it. Others believe they are critical marks, above, below, or within the letters for guiding in pronunciation.

But it may be something different. People who have looked at old manuscripts have noticed letters that have on the top of them marks looking like insect antennas. They do not affect the meaning of the word or provide a key to pronunciation. The Greek word used by Matthew is “keraia” “little horn,” a form of “keras” meaning “horn.” Interestingly, in modern Greek “keraia” is used for antenna, as an insect or the electronic type.

In Hebrew these flourishes are called “kether” (plural “ketarim”) and in Aramaic “tag” (plural “taggin”), both meaning “crown.” In Aramaic, Matthew 5:18 has “Taag.” Certain letters scattered in the manuscripts had these miniature spikes, as many as seven. Six letters have only one “tag” which are beth, daleth, kaph, heth, yod, and he. Seven letters have three of these “taggin.” They are shin, ayin, teth, nun, zayin, gimel, and tsadde. 

Ancient Hebrew manuscripts had marginal notes on every page called the “Massorah.” These provided instructions to guide the scribes (Hebrew “soferim”) to transcribe it correctly. Scribes checked their work by counting letters, words, and paragraphs. If a letter or special mark was missing, the scroll was considered invalid and was destroyed. They considered the Massorah as a fence that locked in all words and letters, so not one would be lost. 

Additionally, the crowned letters, some 1,960 of them, were counted. Scribes would know how many of each letter with the number of little crowns were in each book. For example, in the Pentateuch, aleph with one crown appears twice, and alephs with seven crowns are found seven times. 

The Massorah insured the Scriptures were well guarded from errors. When the printing press was invented, the printed Scriptures did not include the marginal notes or the crowns. However, from 1880-1905, Christian David Ginsburg published a 4-volume work, “Massorah,” in which he compiled these marginal notes from many different manuscripts. 

Christ affirmed He would not abolish the Law and the Prophets, which is the whole Old Testament, but fulfill them. While Jewish teachers diminished the Law by their “traditions,” Jesus taught the true sense of the Law and the Prophets. His words will endure, every jot and tittle, Matthew 24:35.

February 08 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Justin Hale
These are each great answers here and worth reading on exactly what the phrase 'jot and tittle' refers to specifically when Jesus mentions them as 'equally important' to the entire Torah.

What might make this stand out more is to see them as Christ did as 'personifications' of the holy word of GOD, captured upon material scrolls, yes, but more importantly existing in an 'indestructible' form as 'angels of GOD.'

Even the 'littlest' angel, (that is, smallest in 'capacity' or 'function'), is vitally important to the word of GOD. A funny modern parallel might be the little character 'Yoda' from Star wars, (whose name is likely taken from the Hebrew 'yod' or Greek 'iota' found in the verses in Matthew 5 you cited for your question).

While this story is not 'Christian,' (and is probably even loosely based on a 'good versus evil' tale from Persian Zoroastrianism), 'Yoda' illustrates an interesting point about how even the 'smallest' characters can play a very important role in a narrative. Without anyone to 'guide,' Yoda probably wouldn't get very far by himself facing down the 'dark side.' Yet, without his guidance, none of the 'bigger' characters would either. 

To our Lord, the word of GOD is 'interactive' and protected or embodied by real 'messengers' expressing various aspects of the glory and attributes of GOD. They were, (and are), a 'team' that fit together perfectly like a puzzle or mosaic. If anyone is 'missing,' it all falls apart. 

"The angels...Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:13-14). 

The angels are constantly 'ministering' to us in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is saying that this 'team' isn't breaking apart now that the New Covenant is arriving. Not even the 'smallest' team member will be retiring. They will be 'transferred' to a new task while continuing to fulfill the old one, since the new task is a 'continuation' and 'consummation' of that original task. 

Even the 'yoda' of angels isn't going to get left behind.

February 08 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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