English Standard Version Matthew 5:18

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

American Standard Version

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.

Does this verse give any hint that Jesus spoke Aramaic or Greek?

  • Do you mean whether Jesus was speaking Aramaic or Greek for the verse quoted? Whether he spoke them in general? Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 20:47
  • Both and either.
    – user35953
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


Not much can be deduced from this verse about the original spoken language of the NT. It says much more about the OT Hebrew (and possibly Aramaic) idiom of the first century Jewish culture. The two words involved as simply:

  • ἰῶτα - iota (A. V. jot), the Hebrew letter, yodh י, the smallest of them all; hence equivalent to the minutest part: Matthew 5:18. (Cf. Iota.) THAYER. [This is the only instance in the NT.]
  • κεραία - (WH κέρεα (see their Appendix, p. 151)), κεραιας, ἡ (κέρας), a little horn; extremity, apex, point; used by the Greek grammarians of the accents and diacritical points. In Matthew 5:18 ((where see Wetstein; cf. also Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, 1:537f)); Luke 16:17 of the little lines, or projections, by which the Hebrew letters in other respects similar differ from each other, as cheth ח and he ה, daleth ד and resh ר, beth ב and kaph כ (A. V. tittle); the meaning is, 'not even the minutest part of the law shall perish.' ((Aeschylus, Thucydides, others.)) THAYER

Both words are distinctly Greek in origin but as used here very strong Hebrew overtones. Thus, the comment of Jesus was equally understood by both Greek, Hebrews and Aramaic speakers. [This is part of the genius of Jesus' preaching.]

  • Nice Edersheim reference! An incredible work of literature that is far too under-appreciated today. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 5:16

Jot | Iota (ἰῶτα) | Yod (י) is the smallest letter of the Alef-Beyt. In the Tanakh, the word 'Yod' (יד) is literally a Hand of YHVH in [Ezekiel 37:1] "The Hand of YHVH" ( יַד יְהֹוָֽה ) came upon him. In context to Matthew 5:18, Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth is making a deeper metaphor in stating God's Hand (Yod) will not pass away from the law. The Greek mistransliteration ' ἰῶτα ' (iota) loses the meaning.

'Tittle' (Stroke) refers to Latin (titulus) mistranslated from the Greek ' κεραία ' (keraia) from the Hebrew term 'Kera' ( כְרָעַ֨ ) - meaning the 'leg' a letter stands on. To Greeks, the 'Kera' meant a horn instead of leg, so scholars assume Yeshua meant the 'heel' stroke of a Dalet (ד​). - Tittle is not referring to a 'dot' or 'dagesh', because the niqqud used by Masoretes was not applied to Hebrew manuscripts before 70AD. Which means Yeshua (Jesus) did not refer to niqqud.

  • As worded, this answer assumes that Jesus was speaking in Aramaic or Hebrew and that he didn't originally say it in Greek. That is, it's saying "if Jesus had spoken in Aramaic, this is what he would have meant". But whether he spoke Greek or Aramaic is exactly what the original question is asking. So while it's interesting and very likely correct, it doesn't directly answer the question. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 14:53

I doubt it can tell us what language was spoken on the occasion.

The concept works as written in Greek with reference to "iota" and "keraia". It also works in Hebrew with reference to "yod" and "kera", and it works in Aramaic provided the audience is familiar with the Hebrew in their scriptures. (Since He's referring to the Torah I think it's safe to say they are)

But it is a nice argument that Jesus was sufficiently literate to be familiar with the Hebrew scriptures (or the Septuagint if you like), and that He expected a degree of literacy from his audience as well. If their only familiarity with the Tanakh was oral targums, they would not have known what a jot and a tittle were.

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