[b-hebrew] Jerusalem

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sun Jul 11 13:19:59 EDT 2010

From: George Athas <George.Athas at moore.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Jerusalem
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2010 15:48:05 +1000

> Hi Will.
> I appreciate your suggestion, but would need some firm textual data to
> acquiesce.

I agree that hard evidence is desired here, which I have so far been unable
to locate.  (Google has failed me here.)

Let's be clear on the nature of the evidence we're looking for: attestations
of the name of Jerusalem in Greek sources prior to the Septuagint.  It's
pretty clear that Greeks must have needed to refer to Jerusalem *somehow*
during and after Alexander's conquests.  As part of first the Ptolemaic empire
and then the Seleucid empire, it would seem highly likely that there should be
some written evidence of this name (only genuine Greek evidence need apply)
that should prove the matter one way or the other.  (Pre-Alexandrine
attestations would be even better, but probably much less likely to exist.)

> Josephus uses the form Ἱεροσόλυμα in his writings, so this seems
> to be the standard late form, also attested in the New Testament. The LXX
> uses Ἰερουσαλήμ, and we have a fair idea about when it was translated (3rd
> to 1st centuries BCE).

The crucial point I think between the LXX and Josephus is not that Josephus is
much later than the LXX, but the nature of the audience.  The LXX was written
*by* Jews *for* Jews, and of course the translators wanted to keep close the
words of Sacred Scripture.  Josephus, though certainly Jewish, was writing for
the wider Roman (in the imperial sense) audience, and he would naturally use
the more cosmopolitan form.

> So, I think you would need to propose either a
> geographical bias (Egypt preferred Ἰερουσαλήμ) or a double shift (from
> Ἱεροσόλυμα to Ἰερουσαλήμ and back again). This double shift seems quite odd
> in my opinion, but stranger things have happened. In either case, you’d need
> firm textual data from the early Hellenistic era to prove your hypothesis.

The use of Ἱεροσόλυμα vs Ἰερουσαλήμ shouldn't be regarded as a "shift" from
one to the other at all.  Both forms co-existed, deriving from a common
origin, but neither one deriving directly from the other.  Which one was
chosen may well have depended on the situation - I would imagine a
Greek-speaking gentile as natually using Ἱεροσόλυμα, as perhaps would an
Aramaic-speaking Palestinian Jew when speaking Greek, whereas a Greek-speaking
Jew of Alexandria might well use Ἰερουσαλήμ because that's the form used in
the Bible he was accustomed to.  So I would rather think the choice might be
more of a cultural bias than a geographical one, though there may have been a
secondary geographical preference, in that paradoxically the form that is
closer to the Hebrew might be preferred in the milieu of the Alexandrian
Greek-speaking Jewish population, where it was familiar from its frequent
occurrence in the *Greek* Bible.

Both forms could be used by early Christians.  Ἰερουσαλήμ would be familiar
from its occurrence in both the inherited Jewish scriptures and the new
Christian scriptures.  (I haven't made a systematic examination of the two
forms in the New Testament, but I notice that Ἰερουσαλήμ is used in contexts
that hark back to the Jewish scriptures, whereas Ἱεροσόλυμα is used in other
contexts.)  As the Christian community became increasingly more gentile, it
would naturally tend to use the more general form.

So, yes, firm textual data is needed to prove (or disprove) the hypothesis,
but I'd be surprised if this evidence doesn't exist (even if I can't find it).
Surely there has to be *some* Greek historical or legal document dating from
the early Hellenistic period that mentions Jerusalem.  (In the mean time, my
guess is still on Ἱεροσόλυμα as the name used by the early Hellenistic

William Parsons

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