Greek Handwriting 1

These “Greek Handwriting” posts are about letter forms and ligatures found in Greek manuscripts.

Something common in Greek New Testament manuscripts (it is apparently not common in other types of literature) are the nomina sacra. These nomina sacra are contracted forms, two letters for words like Χριστος and Ιησου, with longer forms for ανθρωπος and ουρανος. Some words are contracted more often than others, and some arose after others as well. These contracted forms normally have a horizontal line written directly above the letters. For a very good discussion of the nomina sacra, see Hurtado’s The Earliest Christian Artifacts. See also the brief discussion in Metzger’s Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, pp. 36-37.

The following is from Romans 1:1 of manuscript 676, a 13th century minuscule. Note the last four letters, underlined in red. There are two nomina sacra here, ιησου and χριστου. As is characteristic on the nomina sacra, there is a horizontal line above each. Click on the image for a better picture.

The text shown reads: Παυλος δουλος ιησου χριστου. Image courtesy of CSNTM. View the full image here.


Chuck Grantham (3/3/2008 13:08 PM)

It might be useful to point out that nomina sacra aren’t reproduced in the Greek texts most readily available to many. The UBS and Nestle Aland handbooks don’t reproduce them, neither do the freeware bible software texts. Barrett and Comfort’s "Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts" does, and Reuben Swanson’s "New Testament Greek Manuscripts" series does. Swanson’s in fact typically has a page dedicated to nomina sacra forms, as the manuscripts he quotes are often from the dark ages or medieval, when the list of nomina sacra forms had expanded.

Interesting books, but not for the Greek challenged or faint of heart. Swanson in particular has rows of Greek text and manuscript notations.

Eric (3/3/2008 13:24 PM)

That’s a good point. I’ll have to make a note of that in a future post. Of course, my collations include notes on all nomina sacra :).

ARMONIA (1/9/2009 9:12 AM)

We need to convert Greek Handwriting to text.