Nomina sacra

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Two nomina sacra are highlighted, ΙΥ and ΘΥ, representing Jesus and God respectively, in this passage from John 1 in Codex Vaticanus (B), 4th century

Nomina sacra (singular: nomen sacrum) means "sacred names" in Latin, and can be used to refer to traditions of abbreviated writing of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in early Holy Scripture, used in Greek, Latin, and Coptic manuscripts. Bruce Metzger's book Manuscripts of the Greek Bible lists 15 such expressions from Greek papyri: the Greek counterparts of God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Son, Spirit, David, cross, Mother, Father, Israel, Savior, Man, Jerusalem, and Heaven. The nomen sacrum for mother did not appear until the 4th century AD,[1] but all other Nomina Sacra have been found in Greek manuscripts from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD. The contractions were indicated with overlines.

There has been a dispute about the nature of Nomina sacra, whether they represent a mere shorthand or these overlined words indeed bear a sacred meaning.[2]

IHS or JHS Christogram of western Christianity

Starting sometime in the 1st century AD (exact date unknown), the nomina sacra were sometimes shortened by contraction in Christian inscriptions, resulting in sequences of Greek letters such as IH (iota-eta), IC (iota-sigma), or IHC (iota-eta-sigma) for Jesus (Greek Iēsous), and XC (chi-sigma), XP (chi-ro) and XPC (chi-rho-sigma) for Christ (Greek χριστος/Christos). Here "C" represents the "lunate" form of Greek sigma; sigma could also be transcribed into the Latin alphabet by sound, giving IHS and XPS.[3]

This tradition is also observed in Old Nubian and Cyrillic manuscripts. See titlo.

List of Greek Nomina Sacra[edit]

English Meaning Greek Word Nominative (Subject) Genitive (Possessive)
God Θεός ΘΣ ΘΥ
Lord Κύριος ΚΣ ΚΥ
Jesus Ἰησοῦς ΙΣ ΙΥ
Christ/Messiah Χριστός ΧΣ ΧΥ
Son Υἱός ΥΣ ΥΥ
Spirit/Ghost Πνεῦμα ΠΝΑ ΠΝΣ
David Δαυὶδ ΔΑΔ
Cross Σταυρός ΣΤΣ ΣΤΥ
Mother Μήτηρ ΜΗΡ ΜΗΣ
God Bearer i.e. Mother of God Θεοτόκος ΘΚΣ ΘΚΥ
Father Πατήρ ΠΗΡ ΠΡΣ
Israel Ἰσραήλ ΙΗΛ
Savior Σωτήρ ΣΗΡ ΣΡΣ
Human being Ἄνθρωπος ΑΝΟΣ ΑΝΟΥ
Jerusalem Ἱερουσαλήμ ΙΛΗΜ
Heaven/Heavens Οὐρανός ΟΥΝΟΣ ΟΥΝΟΥ

New Testament Greek manuscripts containing Nomina Sacra (100 AD - 300 AD)[4][edit]

Greek manuscript Manuscript date Nomina Sacra used
\mathfrak{P}1 (P. Oxy. 2)
~250
ΙΥ ΙΣ ΧΥ ΥΥ ΚΥ ΠΝΣ
\mathfrak{P}4 (Suppl. Gr. 1120)
150–225
ΘΣ ΘΥ ΚΥ ΚΣ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΟΣ ΠΝΑ ΧΣ ΙΥ ΙΣ
\mathfrak{P}5 (P. Oxy. 208 + 1781)
~250
ΙΗΝ ΙΗΣ ΠΡ ΠΡΑ ΠΡΣ ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}9 (P. Oxy. 402)
~250
ΘΣ ΧΡΣ
\mathfrak{P}12 (P. Amherst. 3b)
~285
ΘΣ
\mathfrak{P}13 (P. Oxy. 657 + PSI 1292)
225–250
ΘΣ ΘΝ ΘΥ ΘΩ ΙΣ ΙΝ ΙΥ ΚΣ ΚΥ
\mathfrak{P}15 (P. Oxy. 1008)
200–300
ΚΩ ΚΥ ΧΥ ΑΝΩΝ ΑΝΩ ΠΝΑ ΘΝ ΚΜΟΥ
\mathfrak{P}16 (P. Oxy. 1009)
250–300
ΘΥ ΙΥ ΧΩ
\mathfrak{P}17 (P. Oxy. 1078)
~300
ΘΩ ΠΝΣ
\mathfrak{P}18 (P. Oxy. 1079)
250–300
ΙΗ ΧΡ ΘΩ
\mathfrak{P}20 (P. Oxy. 1171)
200–250
ΠΝΣ ΚΝ ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}22 (P. Oxy. 1228)
200–250
ΠΣ ΠΝΑ ΠΡΣ ΠΡΑ ΙΗΣ ΑΝΟΣ
\mathfrak{P}24 (P. Oxy. 1230)
~300
ΠΝΑ ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}27 (P. Oxy. 1395)
200–250
ΘΥ ΚΩ
\mathfrak{P}28 (P. Oxy. 1596)
255–300
ΙΣ ΙΝ
\mathfrak{P}29 (P. Oxy. 1597)
200–250
ΘΣ ΘΝ
\mathfrak{P}30 (P. Oxy. 1598)
200–250
ΚΥ ΚΝ ΘΩ ΙΗΥ
\mathfrak{P}32 (P. Rylands 5)
150–200
ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}35 (PSI 1)
~300
ΚΣ ΚΥ
\mathfrak{P}37 (P. Mich. Inv. 1570)
~260
ΚΕ ΙΗΣ ΠΝΑ ΙΗΣΥ
\mathfrak{P}38 (P. Mich. Inv. 1571)
~225
ΧΡΝ ΠΝΑ ΚΥ ΙΗΝ ΙΗΥ ΠΝΤΑ
\mathfrak{P}39 (P. Oxy. 1780)
200–300
ΠΗΡ ΠΡΑ ΙΗΣ
\mathfrak{P}40 (P. Heidelberg G. 645)
200–300
ΘΣ ΘΥ ΘΝ ΙΥ ΧΩ ΧΥ
\mathfrak{P}45 (P. Chester Beatty I)
~250
ΚΕ ΚΣ ΚΝ ΚΥ ΣΡΝΑΙ ΙΗ ΙΥ ΙΗΣ ΠΡ ΠΡΣ ΠΡΑ ΠΡΙ ΘΥ
ΘΝ ΘΩ ΘΣ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΣ ΠΝΑ ΥΝ ΥΕ ΥΣ ΥΩ ΣΡΝ ΧΡ
\mathfrak{P}46 (P. Chester Beatty II
+ P. Mich. Inv. 6238)
175–225
ΚΕ ΚΝ ΚΥ ΚΩ ΚΣ ΧΡΩ ΧΡΥ ΧΡΝ ΧΝ ΧΣ ΧΩ ΧΥ ΧΡΣ ΙΗΥ ΙΗΝ ΙΗΣ ΘΩ ΘΥ ΘΝ ΘΣ

ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΣ ΥΙΥ ΥΙΝ ΥΙΣ ΥΝ ΣΤΡΕΣ ΣΤΡΝ ΣΤΡΩ ΣΤΡΟΣ ΣΤΡΟΥ ΕΣΤΡΟΝ ΕΣΤΡΑΙ

ΕΣΤΑΝ ΣΤΟΥ ΑΙΜΑ ΑΝΟΥ ΑΝΟΝ ΑΝΟΣ ΑΝΩΝ ΑΝΟΙΣ ΠΡΙ ΠΗΡ ΠΡΑ ΠΡΣ ΙΥ

\mathfrak{P}47 (P. Chester Beatty III)
200–300
ΘΥ ΘΣ ΘΝ ΘΩ ΑΘΝ ΚΣ ΚΕ ΚΥ ΕΣΤΡΩ ΠΝΑ ΧΥ ΠΡΣ
\mathfrak{P}48 (PSI 1165)
200–300
ΥΣ
\mathfrak{P}49 (P. Yale 415 + 531)
200–300
ΚΩ ΘΥ ΘΣ ΙΥ ΠΝ ΧΣ ΧΥ ΧΩ
\mathfrak{P}50 (P. Yal 1543)
~300
ΙΛΗΜ ΠΝΑ ΑΝΟΣ ΘΣ ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}53 (P. Mich. inv. 6652)
~250
ΠΡΣ ΙΗΣ ΠΕΡ ΚΝ
\mathfrak{P}64 (Gr. 17)
~150
ΙΣ
\mathfrak{P}65 (PSI XIV 1373)
~250
ΧΥ ΘΣ
\mathfrak{P}66 (P. Bodmer II +
Inv. Nr. 4274/4298
150–200
ΚΣ ΚΥ ΚΕ ΘΣ ΘΝ ΘΥ ΘΩ ΙΣ ΙΝ ΙΥ ΧΣ ΧΝ ΧΝ ΥΣ ΥΝ ΥΩ ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΣ

ΠΗΡ ΠΡΑ ΠΡΣ ΠΡΙ ΠΕΡ ΠΡΕΣ ΑΝΟΣ ΑΝΟΝ ΑΝΟΥ ΑΝΩΝ ΑΝΩ ΑΝΟΙΣ ΑΝΟΥΣ

ΣΡΩ ΣΡΟΝ ΣΡΟΥ ΣΡΘΗ ΣΡΑΤΕ ΣΡΩΣΩ ΕΣΡΑΝ ΕΣΡΘΗ

\mathfrak{P}69 (P. Oxy. 2383)
~200
ΙΗΝ
\mathfrak{P}70 (P. Oxy. 2384 +
PSI Inv. CNR 419, 420)
250–300
ΥΝ ΙΣ ΠΗΡ
\mathfrak{P}72 (P. Bodmer VII and VIII)
200–300
ΙΥ ΙΗΥ ΙΗΝ ΧΡΥ ΧΡΝ ΧΡΣ ΧΡΩ ΘΥ ΘΣ ΘΝ ΘΩ ΠΡΣ ΠΑΡ ΠΤΡΑ ΠΡΙ ΠΝΣ

ΠΝΑ ΠΝΑΙ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΤΙ ΚΥ ΚΣ ΚΝ ΚΩ ΑΝΟΙ

\mathfrak{P}75 (P. Bodmer XIV and XV)
175–225
ΙΣ ΙΗΣ ΙΥ ΙΗΥ ΙΝ ΙΗΝ ΘΣ ΘΝ ΘΥ ΘΩ ΚΣ ΚΝ ΚΥ ΚΩ ΚΕ ΧΣ ΧΝ ΧΥ

ΠΝΑ ΠΝΣ ΠΝΙ ΠΝΟΣ ΠΝΤΑ ΠΝΑΣΙ ΠΝΑΤΩΝ ΠΡΣ ΠΗΡ ΠΡΑ ΠΡΙ ΠΡΟΣ ΠΡ

ΥΣ ΥΝ ΥΥ ΙΗΛ ΙΛΗΜ ΣΡΟΝ ΣΤΡΟΝ ΣΡΩΘΗΝΑΙ

ΑΝΟΣ ΑΝΟΝ ΑΝΟΥ ΑΝΟΙ ΑΝΩΝ ΑΝΩ ΑΝΟΥΣ ΑΝΟΙΣ ΑΝΕ

\mathfrak{P}78 (P. Oxy 2684)
250–300
ΚΝ ΙΗΝ ΙΗΝ ΧΡΝ
\mathfrak{P}90 (P. Oxy 3523)
150–200
ΙΗΣ
\mathfrak{P}91 (P. Mil. Vogl. Inv. 1224 + P. Macquarie Inv. 360)
~250
ΘΥ ΘΣ ΠΡΣ ΧΡΝ ΙΗΝ
\mathfrak{P}92 (P. Narmuthis 69.39a + 69.229a)
~300
ΧΡΩ ΚΥ ΘΥ
\mathfrak{P}100 (P. Oxy 4449)
~300
ΚΥ ΚΣ
\mathfrak{P}101 (P. Oxy 4401)
200–300
ΥΣ ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙ
\mathfrak{P}106 (P. Oxy 4445)
200–250
ΠΝΑ ΠΝΙ ΧΡΣ ΙΗΝ ΙΗΣ
\mathfrak{P}108 (P. Oxy 4447)
175–225
ΙΗΣ ΙΗΝ
\mathfrak{P}110 (P. Oxy. 4494)
~300
ΚΣ
\mathfrak{P}111 (P. Oxy 4495)
200–250
ΙΗΥ
\mathfrak{P}113 (P. Oxy. 4497)
200–250
ΠΝΙ
\mathfrak{P}114 (P. Oxy. 4498)
200–250
ΘΣ
\mathfrak{P}115 (P. Oxy. 4499)
225–275
ΙΗΛ ΑΥΤΟΥ ΠΡΣ ΘΩ ΘΥ ΑΝΩΝ ΠΝΑ ΟΥΝΟΥ ΟΥΝΟΝ ΚΥ ΘΝ ΑΝΟΥ ΟΥΝΩ
\mathfrak{P}121 (P. Oxy. 4805)
~250
ΙΣ ΜΗΙ
0162 (P. Oxy 847)
~300
ΙΗΣ ΙΣ ΠΡΣ
0171 (PSI 2.124)
~300
ΚΣ ΙΗΣ
0189 (P. Berlin 11765)
~200
ΑΝΟΣ ΠΝΑ ΚΥ ΚΩ ΙΛΗΜ ΘΩ ΙΣΗΛ
0220 (MS 113)
~300
ΚΝ ΙΥ ΙΝ ΧΥ ΘΥ

References[edit]

  1. ^ Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts - Philip Comfort and David Barett (1999) pp.34-35
  2. ^ Institute for Religious Research: The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, Appendix K: Nomina Sacra PDF (28.1 KiB)
  3. ^ David Trobisch, Die Endredaktion des Neuen Testaments, NTOA 31 (Goettingen 1996), 16-31
  4. ^ All Nomina Sacra and dates of manuscripts taken from Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts - Philip Comfort and David Barett (1999)

Further reading[edit]

  • Bruce M. Metzger. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible (1981).
  • Philip Comfort and David Barett. Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (1999).
  • A.H.R.E. Paap, Nomina Sacra in the Greek Papyri of the First Five Centuries, Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava VIII (Leiden 1959).
  • Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005, pp. 199–253.
  • Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins, Cambridge 2006, pp. 95–134.
  • Don C. Barker, "P.Lond.Lit. 207 and the origin of the nomina sacra: a tentative proposal", Studia Humaniora Tartuensia 8.A.2, 2007, 1–14.