Tuesday, October 09, 2018

2,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Contains Rare Spelling of Jerusalem

Several sources today reported on an inscription dated to the Second Temple period that contained the word “Jerusalem,” but I couldn’t find an actual transcription of the three short lines. I offer my amateur attempt here and accept any correction in the comments. The inscription is pictured here and I took this image from Biblical Archaeology.

חנניה בר

Hananiah son of




from Jerusalem

All the hubbub here is over the spelling of Jerusalem with the ending לים -lym, which is rare in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Jer 26:18: וִירוּשָׁלַיִם and a few other places [Esther 2:6, 2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 32: 9, and 2 Chronicles 25:1]), even though the Qere received and preserved by the Masoretes usually (always?) included a hireq vowel to insure it would be pronounced -ayim even without the yod in the Kethib: יְרוּשָׁלִַם (e.g. Isa 3:8).

Thus what is of some interest here is that those rare spellings of Jerusalem with yod in MT are confirmed in the record at least as far back as the late second temple period and the pronunciation of the Qere, perhaps, is supported by this inscription as well. Other than that, this inscription is unremarkable on this point.

I’m more interested in the apparent Greek name, Dodalos, aren’t you? And what is the actual function of br “son” in this inscription? Anyways, I’ll let others speak to these matters.


  1. Well, it might be a rare spelling in the MT Hebrew; but it certainly isn't rare in DSS manuscripts, where it is (I believe) the preferred spelling.

    A question would be: what inscriptions do we have before the 2nd Temple Period *don't* spell Jerusalem with the ending לים?

    It is nice that they're still finding things like this though. What else is buried under the layers of soil? :)

  2. Doing a quick search, ירושלים occurs 52 times in the Dead Sea Scrolls. ירושלם occurs 34 times.

    Here are the ירושלים occurrences:

    1QpHab 9:4; 12:7; 1QM 1:3; 3:11; 7:4; 12:13, 17; 1Q14 f8_10:3, 6; f11:1, 3; 1Q16 f9_10:1-2; 3Q4 f1:1, 3; 3Q5 f4:1; 4Q161 f5_6:9, 13; 4Q162 2:7, 10; 4Q163 f4_7ii:1; f23ii:11, 15; 4Q165 f1_2:2; 4Q168 f1:1; 4Q169 f3_4i:2, 10-11; 4Q175 1:30; 4Q176 f1_2i:3, 5; f8_11:2-3; 4Q177 f12_13i:10; 4Q179 f1i:8; f2:9; 4Q180 f5_6:4; 4Q200 f7ii:1; 4Q216 4:10; 4Q217 f2:4; 4Q266 f5i:12; 4Q267 f5ii:5; 4Q313 f1:1; 4Q371 f1a_b:5; 4Q372 f1:8; 4Q379 f22ii:15; 4Q380 f1i:2, 6; 4Q383 fC:3; 4Q385a f6:4; f18ia_b:3; f18ii:5; 4Q385c fD:2; 4Q387 f2iii:6; 4Q388a f7ii:6; 4Q391 f62ii:1; 4Q394 f3_7ii:16-17, 19; f8iv:10-11; 4Q396 f1_2ii:11-f1_2iii:1; 4Q397 f3:3; f6_13:3-4; 4Q398 f11_13:2; 4Q434 f2:6; 4Q448 1:10; 4Q462 f1:19; 4Q491 f16:4; 4Q504 f1_2Riv:3; 4Q522 f9ii:4, 8; f22_26:2, 4; 6Q13 f1:6; 11Q13 f7:3; PAM43685 f49:2


    1. Thanks for this.

      I find it interesting that this spelling occurs in an Aramaic inscription, given that in BA the spelling ירושלם always occurs (at least in Leningrad). (CAL doesn't seem to have an entry for the place, only the adjectives ירושלמי and ירושלמאה.)

    2. It is also ירושלם consistently in the Targums, and אורשלם in the Peshitta (both OT and NT).

    3. Thanks for this data on the DSS. There appears to be a preference for the spelling with yod, but it's more balanced than I thought it would be. Earlier and Later Aramaic texts appear to spell the place name without yod.

      The last piece of evidence we need is to find Jerusalem in more inscriptions to see how it is spelled there. I haven't had a chance to look at this yet.

    4. The cited DSS all appear to be non-biblical texts, so I checked the Biblical scrolls and got 64 hits.

      1QIsaa 2:7, 11; 3:12; 8:8; 9:24-26; 10:17; 22:17; 28:29; 29:9-10; 30:1, 15, 29; 31:11; 32:29; 33:8; 35:7; 38:4-5; 43:5, 15, 24; 50:11, 17, 19; 51:24; 52:29-53:1; 53:24, 29; 54:11; 4Q51 f61ii+63_64a_b+:15, 25; f80_83:11-12; f102i:6; f116:5; f117_118:1; f143:3; f147_148:6; f164_165:3; 4Q53 f7ii_11:10; 4Q57 f13:11; 4Q59 f1:1, 4; 4Q78 f18_20:1; 4Q80 f18:1-2; 4Q82 f31bR+38_40a:4; 4Q107 f2i:10; 4Q111 2:5; 6Q6 1:6; 11Q5 fCii:5; fEii:16; 3:9, 11; 4:4; 5:2; 14:9; 15:5

      I think the biggest surprise is that ירושלים is clearly the preferred spelling in the Isaiah Scroll with 34 hits, the traditional spelling is used 16 times.

      Total Hits / Hits per 1000 words

      1QIsaa 34 1.33

      4Q51 10 0.70

      11Q5 9 1.83

      4Q80 2 1.86

      4Q59 2 1.64

      4Q82 1 0.19

      4Q111 1 2.40

      6Q6 1 8.33

      4Q107 1 2.15

      4Q57 1 0.26

      4Q78 1 0.40

      4Q53 1 0.82

    5. Thanks, Mike. Very helpful and interesting. Do you have a way to search inscriptions?

  3. I never had really stopped to consider this spelling, when I was looking the biggest surprise for me is that it is the preferred spelling in the Great Isaiah Scroll i.e. ירושלים appears 34 times, but ירושלם appears only 16 times. I am the results of a search for ירושלים. Note, in the biblical scrolls ירושלם is still the preferred spelling, appearing 135 times compared to the ירושלים spelling that appears only 64 times. In the non-biblical scrolls the ירושלים spelling is the preferred spelling appearing 52 times compared to the ירושלם that appear only 34 times.

  4. Jim Davila confirms this newly found inscription is the oldest one with the plene spelling of ירושלים. There are a couple of earlier inscriptions that confirm the traditional spelling without yod. See his short post here: https://paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2018/10/new-inscription-mentioning-jerusalem.html.

  5. Still waiting on the Dodolos and Bar comments...

    1. Ben, I don't have all the data on bar at hand, but this article had a nice section on whether the inscription is Aramaic or Hebrew and addressed some of the problem with evidence: https://www.timesofisrael.com/earliest-known-stone-carving-of-hebrew-word-jerusalem-found-near-city-entrance/.

      Let me know what you think.

    2. From the article: "The more difficult question, said Yuditsky, is what is Aramaic and what is Hebrew during this era? They are sister languages and many Jerusalemites would have spoken both fluently, and even used them interchangeably."

      I'm starting to think along similar lines: While it's possible that we have an Aramaic inscription with an unusual spelling of "Jerusalem," or that we have a Hebrew inscription with a somewhat unusual occurrence of בר, we may have an instance of two languages (or three, if you count the Greek, but that's pretty equivocal) flowing seamlessly together.

  6. I'm inclined to think the inscription is in Aramaic--it appears that the letters at least are Second Temple Aramaic, although I can understand why a modern person would think of them as Hebrew. But regarding the plene spelling of יְרוּשָׁלִַם, isn't that in the dual form?

    1. Or a pseudo-dual form. (I think I got that term from Blau's Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew.)

      By the way, Hebrew and Aramaic paleography is a weak point for me - do you have any resources you'd recommend off the top of your head?

  7. Dodalos (if that is the correct reading) does not appear in Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I, Palestine 330 BCE - 200 CE (2002), so it could be considered a rare Jewish name.