Archaeologists have discovered the earliest full inscription of the name Jerusalem dating from the first century BC. Typically most inscriptions use the abbreviated form of Jerusalem “Yerushalem or Shalem” instead of its full name “Yerushalayim.”
The shortened versions of Jerusalem are clearly the most popular spellings. Even the Bible prefers abbreviated forms over the full name. Jerusalem is mentioned 660 times in the Old Testament, but only five are the full spelling including 2 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 32:9, 2 Chronicles 25:1, Esther 2:6, 1 Chronicles 3:5 and Jeremiah 26:18:
18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah; and he spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus the Lord of hosts has said,
“Zion will be plowed as a field,
And Jerusalem will become ruins,
And the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.”’
The inscription discovered during a road construction project was found carved on the foundation support for a column of a Roman building in a village on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem. It reads “Hannaniah son of Dodalos of Jerusalem.”
The building was located in what was then known as a Potter’s village. They suspect that Hannaniah was a potter who manufactured pots that he sold to the Roman soldiers and Jews living in the area. The inscription was found on what was probably his residence constructed near the main manufacturing area in the village.
The village was on a main road into Jerusalem and would also have been an ideal location to sell pots to people visiting Jerusalem during the major feasts, such as Passover and Sukkot. Yes it would have been a tourist trap.
The only other full name of Jerusalem discovered from the second temple period (516 BC to 70 Ad) is on a coin that celebrated the Jewish revolt against the Romans (66 – 70 AD).
Solomon’s temple is considered the first temple period. The Babylonians destroyed this temple in 586 BC when they hauled the Jews into captivity (2 Kings 24 – 25). The second temple period starts when Ezra rebuilt the temple fter the Persians allowed the Jews to returned to the Promised land in 516 BC (Ezra 6).
This second temple underwent a major renovation by King Herod and it was this renovated temple that Jesus visited. The Romans destroyed this temple in 70 AD during the Jewish rebellion and it has not been rebuilt, though plans are underway for a possible construction of a third temple.
The earliest reference to Jerusalem is found in connection with a mysterious person called Melchizedek, mentioned in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 14:18-20). In this passage Melchizedek is referred to as the King of Salem, the original name of Jerusalem.
This indicated that in Abraham’s day, the city was not only gaining importance politically, but as well spiritually. When Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, the patriarch was acknowledging Melchizedek’s spiritual superiority who is referred to as Priest of the Most High God (El Elyon).
In turn, Melchizedek provided food and water to Abraham and thanked God for helping Abraham in a battle.
This story tells us at this point in history, God had already stamped His ownership on Jerusalem.
However, when Israel took the Promised Land, the city, perched between two ravines that provided a natural defense, was controlled by the Jebusites and was called the city of Jebus (Judges 19:10). It would not become Israel’s capital until David conquered the city (2 Samuel 5:6-10).
But its original name Salem (which means peace) continued to be used long after the city became Israel’s capital as we see a reference to David’s tabernacle sitting in Salem (Psalm 76:1-2).
As well, in one of his Psalms King David referred to the unique position that Melchizedek had in the Kingdom of God when Israel’s greatest king described Melchizedek’s priesthood as eternal:
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4 NASV)
In this passage, David described Melchizedek as a type of the Messiah or Christ and this theme is continued by the writer of Hebrews who described Jesus as being a part of the order of Melchizedek:
20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20 NASV)
The word order (Greek ‘taxin’) refers to a fixed succession indicating that Melchizedek’s priesthood originated with God and continued to Christ. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that not only was Melchizedek’s priesthood older than the Aaronic Priesthood, but it was also more important (Hebrews 7:1-10).
Based on the description of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:3 as having no father or mother and having no beginning or end some believe Melchizedek was actually the pre-incarnate Christ.