Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Historical Origins of the Word "Jew"
The Historical Tracing of the Word "Jew"
Authored by Benjamin H. Freedman
It is an incontestable fact that the word "Jew" did not come into existence until the year 1775. Prior to 1775 the word "Jew" did not exist in any language. The word "Jew" was introduced into the English for the first time in the 18th century when Sheridan used it in his play "The Rivals", II,i, "She shall have a skin like a mummy, and the beard of a Jew". Prior to this use of the word "Jew" in the English language by Sheridan in 1775 the word "Jew" had not become a word in the English language. Shakespeare never saw the word "Jew" as you will see. Shakespeare never used the word "Jew" in any of his works, the common general belief to the contrary notwithstanding. In his "Merchant of Venice", V.III.i.61, Shakespeare wrote as follows: "what is the reason? I am a Iewe; hath not a Iewe eyes?".
In the Latin St. Jerome 4th century Vulgate Edition of the New Testament Jesus is referred to by the Genitive Plural of "Iudaeus" in the Gospel of John reference to the inscription on the Cross, - "Iudaeorum". It was in the 4th century that St. Jerome translated into Latin the manuscripts of the New Testament from the original languages in which they were written. This translation by St. Jerome is referred to still today as the Vulgate Edition by the Roman Catholic Church authorities, who use it today.
Jesus is referred as a so-called "Jew" for the first time in the New Testament in the 18th century. Jesus is first referred to as a so-called "Jew" in the revised 18th century editions in the English language of the 14th century first translations of the New Testament into English. The history of the origin of the word "Jew" in the English language leaves no doubt that the 18th century "Jew" is the 18th century contracted and corrupted English word for the 4th century Latin "Iudaeus" found in St. Jerome's Vulgate Edition. Of that there is no longer doubt.
The Biblical Manuscript Evidence
The available manuscripts from the 4th century to the 18th century accurately trace the origin and give the complete history of the word "Jew" in the English language. In these manuscripts are to be found all the many earlier English equivalents extending through the 14 centuries from the 4th to the 18th century. From the Latin "Iudaeus" to the English "Jew" these English forms included successively: "Gyu", "Giu", "Iu", "Iuu", "Iuw", "Ieuu", "Ieuy", "Iwe", "Iow", "Iewe", "leue", "Iue", "Ive", "lew", and then finally in the 18th century, "Jew". The many earlier English equivalents for "Jews" through the 14 centuries are "Giwis", "Giws", "Gyues", "Gywes", "Giwes", "Geus", "Iuys", "Iows", "Iouis", "Iews", and then also finally in the 18th century, "Jews".
With the rapidly expanding use in England in the 18th century for the first time in history of the greatly improved printing presses unlimited quantities of the New Testament were printed. These revised 18th century editions of the earlier 14th century first translations into the English language were then widely distributed throughout England and the English speaking world among families who had never possessed a copy of the New Testament in any language. In these 18th century editions with revisions the word "Jew" appeared for the first time in any English translations. The word "Jew" as it was used in the 18th century editions has since continued in use in all elections of the New Testament in the English language. The use of the word "Jew" thus was stabilized.