Jerusalem, neuter plural

Joe A. Friberg JoeFriberg at
Thu Sep 9 17:27:55 EDT 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: John Ronning <ronning at>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>

> I would agree that the Greek ending by itself is not enough
> evidence to
> demonstrate a connection with the dual, but it is interesting to note
> that in Paul's
> letters he uses the "correct" (i.e. LXX) spelling (-salem), except in
> Galatians where
> he is specifically addressing Jewish Christians and he uses the plural
> ending - except
> that when he wants to distinguish the present Jerusalem from the
> Jerusalem above, he
> appropriately switches to the "singular" (4:25-26).  Likewise in Hebrews
> and
> Revelation where the heavenly Jerusalem is referred to, the "singular"
> is used.

Gal. does not give much evidence to go on: Paul uses Hierosolyma 3x when
discussing his relations with the church/apostles at Jerusalem, but reverts
to his usual Ierousalem in his regular expository style.  If Hierosolyma
actually meant 'two Jerusalems', might not we expect this word to occur
(somewhere) in the context of 4.25-26 where he contrasts the 'present
Jerusalem' with the 'Jerusalem above'?  In fact, this seems an ideal setting
to use this term: the singular reference would be clarified by the adverbs
NUN vs. ANW.

The real question in Gal. is why Paul uses Hierosolyma 3x in chs. 1-2, and
here think you may be onto something by suggesting Paul was writing to
"Jewish Christians," or I might say, 'Judaized Christians'.

As a working hypothesis, I suggest that Hierosolyma is an honorific, or
perhaps even euphemistic, manner of reference to Jerusalem, to be contrasted
w/ the older and plainer name Ierousalem.  Peter Kirk's note that
Hierosolyma may be related:
     "to a Greek popular etymology: HIERO = "Holy" and SOLUMA = ??",
is supportive of this notion.  This could be a development that some
speakers/writers chose to follow at times, and at other times chose to set
aside.  *I am not arguing that they always thought something like 'holy
city' when they spoke Hierosolyma, but that it may have held an added
special/respectful/postitive emotive connotation in daily usage.*  I cannot
at this point argue the case tightly, but there does seem to be trends--not
just free variation--with respect to how these alternatives are used.

The Gal. case would be an example where Paul chose to relate himself in a
respectful and respected manner to the church and apostles at Jerusalem.

Luke/Acts provides a more extended setting to test this in:
In Luke, Hierosolyma occurs only 4x, generally at turning points in the
2.22 time of purification: first ref. to Jer. in bk.
13.22 travel to Jer., in midst of travel section (but why not at
9.51??--perhaps only when the course became more direct)
19.22 at arrival to (near) Jerusalem
23.7 noting that Herod is in Jer.; last ref. before crucifixion
Perhaps the note of 'holy' or 'sanctifying' is brought out by these verses.

In Acts Hierosolyma occurs more frequently, still frequently at turning
1.4 Jer. is place to receive the H.S.
8.1 disciples scattered from Jer.; begin new section(?)
8.14,25 H.S. comes to Samaritans, and the apostles *from Jer.* are there
11.27 prophets *from Jer.* arrive in Antioch
13.13 John Mark (deserts and) returns to Jer. (??why used here??)
15.4 (var., which was the txt of NA25) at church and apostles in Jer.
16.4 message from Jer. council
[18.21, 19.1 Western txt--reject]
19.21 Paul to go to Jer. then to Rome; begin new section(?)
20.16 (var. txt of NA25, 26) Paul headed to Jer.
21.4, 21.15 ditto
21.17 Paul comes to Jer.
25.1 Festus arrives at Jer.
ch.25-26 intro by Festus, speech by Paul before Jewish accusers
28.17 to Jews at Rome

Clearly some of the above verses are turning/critical points at which Jer.
was somehow involved.  Here are the patterns I see so far: from 1.4 to 16.4,
Hierosolyma is used closely aligning with the source of authority in the
Jer. church, and the establishment of the H.S. in the church among all
peoples.  This process is funneled thru the apostles at Jer., establishing a
unified church.  The sequence from 19.21-21.17 establishes Paul's
peaceful/respectful intention of going to worship at Jer.; the speech before
Festus and the Jews is also respectful, as is in Rome (28.17).  These latter
passages align closesly w/ the Gal. chs.1-2 uses.

But it might well be questioned as to why Hierosolyma does not occur in many
other verses.  I would note the following:
a.Ierusalem is the usual form for Driect discourse (quoted material)
b.Hierosolyma occurs mostly in the Narrative (including indir. discourse)
where Lk is calling attention to the larger structure of events.
This pattern is particularly clear in chs.19-21.  Note exception to part a.
where there is particular call for euphemism/honorific reference.
a. Ierusalem is more frequent when *in* Jer.
b. Hierosolyma is used more often when *away from* Jer.
(This one may be particularly weak, but doesn't familiarity breed
Hierosolyma may be used as the first occasion of a sequence of references to

Finally, one more case of alternation between Ierusalem/Hierosolyma is in Mt
23.37, Mt's only time for Ierusalem.  Note that this is at the ed of ch. 23,
Mt's strongest chapter of condemnation/critique of the Jewish leaders.  This
would be an appropriate context to drop honorific/euphemistic reference and
be direct!  I would claim that this is the motivating factor for Mt's
alternation between Kingodm of Heaven (euphemism) and Kingdom of God

Well, this is formative, so I appreciate comments!

Joe Friberg

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