“One Jot or One Tittle”

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For 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 (Matthew 5:17-18).

In every aspect of His life on earth, Jesus placed a tremendous emphasis on the Scriptures. From an early age He was a serious student of them (Luke 2:40-52), and throughout His ministry He appealed to them for answers to people’s questions (Matthew 19:3-9,16-22; 22:29-33; Luke 18:31-33). He used the Scriptures when He preached in the synagogues (Luke 4:14-21), when He taught His disciples (Luke 24:25-46), and when He rebuked those in error (Matthew 21:12-17; 15:1-9; 26:54). He leaned on the Scriptures when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), when He was arrested in the garden (Mark 14:48-49), and when He died on the cross (Matthew 27:39-43). If Jesus—the One with all authority (Matthew 28:18), placed such great emphasis on the Scriptures in His life, should we not do the same?

When talking about the Scriptures, little things are important. Jesus declared that neither a jot (the smallest letter in the Hebrew Scripture) nor a tittle (slight stroke of the pen) would pass from the law until all was fulfilled. These tiny marks are often all that differentiates one Hebrew letter from another. If a jot were omitted from a Hebrew word, this could change the word “house” to “daughter”. If a tittle were wrongly placed, it could spell the difference between “praise” and “wound” or “protect” and “destroy”. Jesus gave heaven’s guarantee that the Word had been and would continue to be safeguarded from corruption until its purpose had been served. Jesus also shows us here that heaven pays attention to detail when it comes to the Scriptures.

As we read God’s Word, we need to pay attention to these details. For example, when Jesus dealt with the Sadducees about the resurrection, He pointed out God’s words to Moses: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matthew 22:32; cf. Exodus 3:6). Jesus argued that, because God spoke of the patriarchs after they had died in the present tense, the obvious conclusion is that they must still be living somewhere. We can conclude from Jesus’ argument that we should pay attention to the tenses of verbs used in the Scriptures (see also Romans 4:17-22).

It can also make a difference whether a noun is singular or plural: “To Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16; cf. Genesis 22:18). Paul affirmed here that God used the singular “seed” instead of the plural “seeds” because the reference was to Christ. When Jesus said to Peter, “On this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18), do you think it is significant that Jesus said “church” instead of “churches”?

When we read and study God’s Word, we must use the utmost care to “rightly divide” it (2 Timothy 2:15), realizing that the details matter. No uninspired literature could ever boast a depth more profound than that which we find in the Bible. If heaven has seen fit to preserve the smallest jots and tittles, we ought to take every word seriously and seek to understand how they would instruct us and how we should make application to our lives.