Re: "Jerusalems" of John 1:19

From: George Athas (
Date: Tue Mar 03 1998 - 16:50:27 EST

The Greek word for Jerusalem in the plural does in fact reflect the
Hebrew name for Jerusalem which happens to be a dual - yeruûalayim. (The
final -ayim part signifies the dual, whereas a straight -im ending is a
plural - ie more than 2).

There has been a lot of speculation over why the city is given a dual
name. The most common suggestion is that Jerusalem encompassed not only
the old city within the walls, but also an area outside as well.
However, this doesn't adequately explain why it occurs at such an early
stage when Jerusalem was only a small walled town, not an overflowing
district of the Hellenistic era. It's not an uncommon phenomenon to have
a place name that reflects a dual or plural in Hebrew (or other Semitic
languages). Some other examples of this are the towns Anathoth, Adarim,
Hazeroth, Hapharayim, Chesulloth, Shaalbim, Shaarayim (and that's just
glancing quickly at a map).

However, if the etymology of Jerusalem IS "City of peace", then the
-ayim ending cannot really be a dual because the -ayim ending would have
to be part of the singular word for peace - shalom, and not the dual
signifier. If, however, Jerusalem is a dual word, then it cannot mean
"City of Peace" at all, for the -ayim ending would only be the dual
signifier and not part of the word shalom. However, in the Hebrew OT,
when the vowel sings are taken away, Jerusalem is most commonly spelled
without a dual ending. In fact, the vowel signs very awkwardly impose
the dual upon the name "Jerusalem", which would otherwise not be there
in a purely consonantal text (the way it was written for centuries, well
into the Common Era). If Melchizedek of ÉALEM was from JeruÉALEM, then
this is perhaps a preservation of the name from a very early time when
Jerusalem was considered a singular word, not a dual word. Why it
eventually became dual is very hard to say.

Also, the Hebrew word for "Heaven" or "Sky" is also dual - ûamayim -
hence the plural usage in the Greek. This has generally been attributed
to the ancient notion of the sky being that which separated water below
and water above (Gen 1:7) ö in fact, the Hebrew word for water is mayim
- also dual and a consituent part of the word for "Heaven" - ûamayim.

Best to all!
George Athas
 PhD (Cand.), University of Sydney
 Tutor of Hebrew, Moore Theological College
Phone: 0414 839 964 ICQ#: 5866591

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