Lately, while doing research into the different readings of the number of the beast, and sifting through what I've found on the net relating to the
old manuscripts in question— I was made aware of a few interesting things relating to early Christianity and Koine Greek in particular. For
instance, when numbers are written within Greek NT documents, they are rendered as letters (with given numerical values, i.e. Gr. «Isopsephy» the
counterpart of Heb. «Gematria») with streaks above them. But when I dug further, I found that the early Christian scribes and copyists used these
streaks above far more letters than just numbers. That was when I discovered the Latin term «Nomina Sacra» or «Names Sacred» (or rather «Sacred
Names»). Apparently the early scribes often abbreviated certain names and nouns relating to the divine, like in the icon from Hagia Sophia above,
where Gr. «ΙΣ» and «ΧΣ» replace Gr. «Ἰησοῦς Χριστός» i.e. «Jesus Christ.» According to
Wikipedia— A nomen sacrum consists of two or more letters from the original word spanned by
The rule seems to be to use at least the first and last letters in the name (confer with the concept of «the first and the last» and «the Alpha and
the Omega»)— and they would typically reflect the given kasus and numerus. For instance «God» or Gr. nom. «Theos» would read Gr. «ΘΣ» in
nominative, but «ΘΥ» in genitive, as in Gr. «Theou.» The below picture shows text from the opening chapter of the Gospel of John, as rendered in
the Codex Vaticanus (early 4th century LXX+NT). The letters «ΙΥ» (iota-upsilon) and «ΘΥ» (theta-upsilon)— with overlines— is used to
abbreviate «Jesus» and «God» respectively, here, both in genitive forms, as in Gr. «Ἰησοῦ» (Gr. gen. «Iesou» «Jesus'») and θεοῦ
(Gr. gen. «Theou» «God's»):
And here is the pic which first kindled this brief study of mine into Greek letter codes in NT Greek documents, the p115:
At first glimpse I didn't straight away understand why the text included these overlines, let alone the concept of «nomina sacra», but my curiosity
was ignited, and after doing the actual reading of the overlined texts, it became quite clear that we were talking about yet another oddity— even
compared to the odd world of nomina sacra itself: In p115, basically a fragment from Revelation, where the number of the beast is written as 616—
there is one such «nomen sacrum» just above where 616 is written, and the word abbreviated is Gr. «Anthropou» (abbreviated «ANOY») which means
«a man's». This particular abbreviation is only used in papyri with a more generous use of these abbreviations, such as the p47, p66, p75, so back
when p115 was complete, it was most likely a document demonstrating abundant use of such abbreviations or «nomina sacra.»
Here you can see a list of these «nomina sacra» from the first few centuries' Greek NT documents:
Normally these shorthand abbreviations reflect some sort of divine reverence, much like how the Tetragrammaton in the OT would be replaced by LORD or
Adonai or similar, only in abbreviated form, though some such manuscripts seem to be more generous with these contractions, and belong more in the
category of ligatures
like how medieval monks would substitute certain frequently occurring prepositions and syllables like using a simple
«&» instead of Lat. «et»
and «@» instead of Lat. «ad»
and so on, there are quite a few in use still today. The NT Greek copyists
working in the first few centuries AD also used many such ligatures. I suspect many of you are familiar with the Chi-Rho:
This is X (chi) with a P (rho) superimposed. In Greek X and P are the first two letters in Gr. Χριστός («Christos»). A similar such ligature
is found in the early third century NT Greek manuscript called Papyrus 75, abbreviated p75, or referred to as Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV. In Luke 14:27 the
word «Stauros» or «Cross» is replaced with a «Tau-Rho»— a Staurogram — see en.wikipedia.org...
for more such
ligatures and symbols:
Pics from Wikipedia. Red letters added by me.
Nomina sacra => en.wikipedia.org...
Codex Vaticanus => en.wikipedia.org...
Ligatures => en.wikipedia.org...
Chi-Rho => en.wikipedia.org...
Papyrus 75 => en.wikipedia.org...
Christian symbolism => en.wikipedia.org...
edit on 21-8-2015 by Utnapisjtim because: syntax, misc + ETA + corr.