Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why two different Greek words for Jerusalem?

Luke uses two different Greek words for Jerusalem. Luke uses the Greek word Ἰερουσαλήμ for Jerusalem 26 times while using the Greek word Ἱεροσόλυμα only 4 times. Matthew also uses two different Greek words for Jerusalem. Matthew uses the Greek word Ἱεροσόλυμα for Jerusalem 9 times while using the Greek word Ἰερουσαλήμ only once in Matt. 23:37. Mark likewise uses the Greek word Ἱεροσόλυμα for Jerusalem 9 times while using the Greek word Ἰερουσαλήμ only once in Mark 11:1.

The BDAG Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature has three comments relevant to this discussion: “No certain conclusions can be drawn concerning the use of two forms of the name”; “Just 9 times is the form found in Mt (the sole exception 23:37 is fr. a quot.),....”; and Ἰερουσαλήμ “(predom. in the LXX; . . . .)”

Ἰερουσαλήμ is the “transliterated Hebrew” form of Jerusalem, according to Rodney Decker, while Ἱεροσόλυμα represents the “Hellenized” form of Jerusalem. Luke, like the LXX, uses the
the “transliterated Hebrew” form of Jerusalem. Ἰερουσαλήμ, “transliterated Hebrew” form of Jerusalem, appears 38 times throughout Acts while Ἱεροσόλυμα, the “Hellenized” form of Jerusalem, appears 19 times throughout Acts.

On one occasion, both Matthew and Mark, in their treatment of the extended passion narrative, use the same Greek word for Jerusalem which Luke predominantly uses.

Luke uses the word Jerusalem 30 times in his gospel, 3 times more than either Matthew or Mark uses this word. This is understandable. A third striking theme of the book of Isaiah is the motif of the city. According to Motyer, “Four Isaianic strands are woven together in the use of the city motif in which Jerusalem, Zion, mount/mountain and city are broadly interchangeable terms: divine judgment, preservation and restoration, the security of Zion (14:32; 28:16) and the centrality of the city in the divine thought and plan (footnotes omitted)” [Motyer, 17-18].

For Luke, Jerusalem is and remains throughout Luke-Acts the center of the action. Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Jerusalem. The spread of the gospel is directed from Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit. When there is a dispute, the church in Antioch sends a delegation to Jerusalem for a resolution of the problem and decision as to the proper course of action. Throughout Luke-Acts, Jerusalem is the focal point and centrality of location to which Jesus and Paul return. Matthew and Mark have not adopted the motif of the city. Their Jesus instructs his disciples to wait for him in Galilee. The animal sacrificial system having been condemned by them and the city and temple having been destroyed by the Romans, Jerusalem was no longer significant for them.

This is a work in progress.

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