Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
JOT.—This modern spelling of the Authorized Version, followed by Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885, which has discarded the 16th cent. ‘iote’ (in Tindale, Coverdale, Cranmer ‘iott’) of Rhemish, Bishops’, Authorized Version (1611), somewhat obscures the etymology of the word, which is simply a transliteration of the Greek term (ἸῶΤΑ = ‘i’). Wyclif’s translation and paraphrase (‘oon i, that is lest lettre’) was not adopted by any of the subsequent English versions. The Greek trisyllable being pronounced ‘jota’ (cf. Spanish ‘jota,’ German ‘jota,’ ‘jodt,’ ‘jott,’ ‘jot’), the reduction to the monosyllable ‘iote’ (pronounced ‘jote’) with its variants ‘ioyt,’ ‘ioit’ (Scots form: see J. Knox, Hist. Ref. 1572, Wks. 1846, i. 107; and Davidson, Commend. Vprichtnes, 152 (1573), in Satir. P. Ref. xl.) and ‘iott,’ was natural and normal. The German authorized version is still Luther’s paraphrase: ‘der kleinste Buchstabe’ for which Weizsäcker prefers the transliteration: ‘ein Jota,’ while the French versions also transliterate: ‘un (seul) iota.’
The proverbial phrase ἰῶτα ἒν ἣ μία κεραία (Matthew 5:18 only) derives its point from the fact that ἰῶτα in the Greek alphabet, like its equivalent letter and original yod in the Hebrew, is the smallest character. In fact, as Dr. Hastings notes (s.v. in DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ), the yod being more distinctively the smallest, provides an argument in favour of those who regard Aramaic as the language of Jesus.
After Tindale’s introduction of the word (1526), its meaning, derived from the passage above cited, was not so much ‘the least letter or written part of any writing,’ as in a more general application ‘the very least,’ ‘a whit,’ and was usually preceded by a negative expressed or implied. Thus: Bale (1538), God’s Promises, iii. in Dodsley O. Pl. i. 1: ‘I wyll not one iote, Lord, from thy wyll dyssent’; Shakspeare (1596), Merch. of Ven.: ‘This bond doth giue thee here no iot of bloud’; Spenser (1595), Sonnets, lvii.: ‘That wonder is how I should liue a iot.’
P. Henderson Aitken.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jot'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/j/jot.html. 1906-1918.