“Aren’t there more important topics to write about than this? What with the state of the world, and the state of the church, who wants to hear about jots and tittles?” Am I right to anticipate comments of this sort? Perhaps. However, I believe an important truth lies in Jesus’ words.
Mt 5:18 “Assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from The Law till all is fulfilled.” (The Law = The Torah, the Pentateuch, the 5 books of Moses.)
First of all, some words of explanation. JOT. The Greek text reads YOD. The Hebrew letter YOD is the smallest of all the letters, and looks somewhat like an apostrophe, or a comma. This is the reason why a person might say, “I don’t care one jot for what you’re saying!” Or the frequent remark, “Hang on, whilst I jot that down.” Some reporters’ notebooks are actually called JOTTERS. Jesus was referring to the smallest letter, saying not one would be missing.
The word TITTLE comes from early Latin “titlulus”, a small mark placed above a word. This isn’t much help. The Greek is “keraia” or “little horns”. But in Hebrew it is Ta’agim, “little crowns”. What are these? Most commentators copy each other and miss the point. They say the Hebrew letters DALETH and RESH look almost exactly alike except for a small “horn” on the top right of the letter DALETH. They imply Jesus said not one of these horns would be missing. But so great was the necessity for absolute accuracy that no scribe would mistake a RESH for a DALETH. It would be unthinkable.
The “little crowns” are in fact embellishments to Hebrew letters, and have no bearing at all on the meaning of the words. They were ornaments given to certain letters in the most ancient Hebrew script. Even these, according to our Lord, would not be found missing. (But they are missing from modern Hebrew Bibles!)
Dr. C. D. Ginsburg’s Massorah, volume 2, pages 680 – 701, show how these little ornaments were numerically safeguarded, for example, “ALEPH with one crown appears twice in the Pentateuch”, “There are seven ALEPHs in the Pentateuch with 7 crowns” etc. and the references are given. These must have been present in the Torah scroll of Jesus’ day, or He would never have mentioned them. They still appear on some of the earliest Hebrew texts, as shown by Ginsburg in his large folio edition.
1. Our Lord’s estimation of His Hebrew Torah should be copied by us. The value He placed on it should be the value we place on it.
2. Every part of the Torah will receive fulfilment. All the blood sacrifices were fulfilled and completed by our Lord’s death on the cross. Many other items remain to be fulfilled.
3. It is essential for Christians to read, study, and seek understanding from the Torah, and indeed, all the O.T., and not fall into the trap set by some who say we only need the N.T. today.