639. Jot and Tittle

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Matthew 5:18. One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
See also Luke 16:17.
There may be allusion here to the great care taken by the copyists of the law to secure accuracy even to the smallest letters, or curves or points of letters. ‘lima, “jot,” refers to the yodh,י , the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; κεραία, “tittle,” is an apex or little horn, and refers to the horn-like points which are seen on Hebrew letters, for example, ב, ד, ח, ה, ו, It is worthy of remark that the yodh has one of these points, and the meaning of the text may be, “Not even a yodh, nor the point of a yodh.” The text under consideration is sometimes cited to prove that, in the time of Christ, copies of the law were written in the “square character.”
Sometimes curved extensions resembling horns are attached to the letters by the copyists for ornamentation. Prof. Hackett found in one of the synagogues at Safet a scribe engaged in making a copy of the law. He says: “A more elegant Hebrew manuscript, a more perfect specimen of the calligraphic art, I never saw than that executed by this Jewish amanuensis. No printed page could surpass it in the beauty, symmetry, and distinctness with which the characters were drawn. One peculiarity that struck me at once, as I cast my eye over the parchment, was the horn-like appearance attached to some of the letters. I had seen the same mark before this in Hebrew manuscripts, but never where it was so prominent as here. The sign in question, as connected with the Hebrew letter Lamedh [ל] in particular, had almost the appearance of an intentional imitation of a ram’s head” (Illustrations of Scripture, p. 225).
Dr. Ginsburg, in Kitto’s Cyclopedia, s. v., Jot and Tittle, expresses the opinion that the “tittle” refers to certain small ornaments which the Talmudists were accustomed to place upon the tops of letters. They attached great importance to these ornaments, though they formed no special part of the letters.