Tips For Reading Greek New Testament Minuscule GA 676

Just in case you have the desire to do some reading in the Greek New Testament manuscript labeled GA 676, I have a few tips for you. You can find the images on the CSNTM website. All snippets below with one exception are found on image 234.

Tip 1: Watch Your Epsilons

Note the image above. This is text from Romans 1:1, ...μενος εις ευαγγελιον. Notice the epsilon in both μενος and εις, as well as the second epsilon in ευαγγελιον. They are all very skinny, and look much like an iota. Pay attention and don’t read the wrong letter!

Tip 2: Watch for Ligatures

You will notice a couple in the image above. Notice how the epsilon and upsilon of ευαγγελιον combine. Notice also the double gamma. You will find things like this frequently.

Ligatures, by their very nature, alter the size and shape of the letters contained in them. Note that the epsilon at the beginning of ευαγγελιον is of good size, while the second is very narrow. This is because the first is participating in a ligature.

And since we’re on the subject, how about this one?

Recognize it? That’s actually ὑπέρ.

Tip 3: Watch Your Mu Nu and Beta

This is a problem common generally with reading minuscules. The letters mu, nu, and beta are pretty similar in form. Here’s a word that happens to have all three, ελαβομεν:

Note that all of them are formed with a shape like an "u". To form a beta that is all you have to write. To form a nu or mu, the left-hand side generally needs a tail. To distinguish a mu from a nu, look for the stroke to continue down from the top right down and onto the next letter (unless there isn’t one...but there usually is). So, watch out for these letters. In close proximity to other letters they can be very easily confused and these rules may not always be followed, so be wary!

Tip 4: Look For Lection Markings

If you’ve never seen one of these before, then you clearly aren’t paying attention to the artwork on this site:

This is a symbol for the word αρχη, which means (in this case) "beginning", as in "begin your reading here". This manuscript is not a lectionary, but these markings were put in here for the reader to mark out sections for public reading in the church. This one is from the middle of Rom 1:7, right before χάρις ὑμῖν...

So how do they know when to stop? Well, they stop at a τέλος. Here’s one from a few pages later, followed immediately by an αρχη which starts another reading.

That’s It For Now

Well, that’s all for now folks. Time to go to bed. Have to get up tomorrow and go to work. Enjoy your evening.


Brett 2008-05-08 07:07:02

Keep an eye on mss I've not indexed yet. This is very helpful to me. Any insights will help me do a better job.

Any idea why the "u" was used for Beta? There doesn't even seem to be a resemblance. Then again, I am not familiar with Linear B, maybe the Beta-sound symbol looked like a "u" at that stage of Greek.

There are times when I am indexing a mss and I even know what word the scribe was writing, but still can't identify it clearly!!


Eric 2008-05-08 07:56:26

Well, you'll have a fun time indexing lectionaries. I've been working on indexes for several, and they're a lot more time consuming!

I'm not sure why the beta took that form in minuscule writing. As for a possible borrowing from Linear B, that seems very unlikely to me. Linear B writing would have died out probably a good 1500 years (or more) before our first minuscule biblical manuscripts showed up. Maybe we'll figure out where it came from as we keep looking at manuscripts...

Brett 2008-05-08 09:15:37

Yeah, I knew it was a stretch about Linear B. I've read some Classical Greek, but no Homeric Greek. I've never seen a Beta written like a U so I thought perhaps it related to the Linear B since it didn't use an alphabet, just symbols.... I think. I wonder if the ba/be/bi/bo/bu sounds had a U shaped symbol in common. Of course, the answer may lie outside of Greek. Are you aware of other letters besides digamma, san, and koppa that Greek dropped?

Eric 2008-05-08 10:25:57

I checked my Linear B charts and I didn't see anything that looked like a "U". I didn't see any symbol for a labial that was anywhere close. The symbols for Linear B are actually not as simple in form as most Greek or English letters.


I am not familiar with all of the letters that dropped out over time. You probably know more about that than I.