The Sanctified Names Nomina Sacra in Other Christian Manuscripts

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The Sanctified Names: Nomina Sacra in Other Christian Manuscripts

Updated on February 17, 2018

B A Johnson


Jesus (IY) the dear of God (OY) – Bathroom 1 | Reference

What are Nomina Sacra?

Nomina Sacra (Latin for „Consecrated Names“) are Greek abbreviations of sure speech and names in betimes Christian manuscripts. They are a alone boast to Christian writings, specially Christian scriptural texts both from the Old and New Will, and are one of various key methods of distinguishing a Christian textbook of the Old Will from a Jewish schoolbook. Although the use and regularity of Nomina Sacra varies from ms to ms, typically they are formed from the offset and close missive of the tidings, a rehearse known as “abbreviation by condensation.” E.g., Theos (God) – ΘεOC + – is ofttimes truncated – ΘC. Customarily a horizontal job is worn crosswise the top of the two or ternary missive abbreviations.

Why did betimes Christians use Nomina Sacra?

Thither is no scholarly consensus as to why Christians highly-developed this organisation of abbreviations. Approximately deliver postulated that these abbreviations were merely a way of preservation meter and spa. This does not seem to be the cause nevertheless, as many Christian manuscripts are scripted with generous demarcation spacing and tolerant margins which prove no exploit to maintain infinite. Moreover, the Nomina Sacra do not accompany the like patterns of abbreviations establish in early, non-Christian workings of the meter. Abbreviations of important names and titles, such as those institute on Roman coins, were not ordinarily contractions, but kinda “suspensions” – abbreviation by composition just the get-go few letters of the tidings – this is unfeigned for abbreviations in plebeian “documentary texts” also such as contracts, ledgers, etcetera. In plant of lit abbreviations are rarified and far from systematized unless it is the practise of departure the conclusion few letters off a promptly identifiable watchword that ends a job and draft a horizontal occupation ended the blank to banknote the absence. Piece the use of the horizontal demarcation is undoubtedly a divided normal in layman and Christian abbreviations, the similarity ends thither. Row selected for abbreviation, conventions that regulate when to contract, and the way in which the abbreviations are scripted disagree entirely. Still, when we field the speech well-nigh ordinarily shortened as Nomina Sacra we amplification impertinent penetration into the potential reasons for this Christian scribal formula.

What Quarrel and Names Were Scripted as Nomina Sacra?

The verbiage designated to be well-nigh regularly brief is mayhap the near interesting and enlightening boast of the Nomina Sacra. As mentioned ahead, abbreviations in literary texts were rare; yet they do come, specially in manuscripts for personal indication and survey kinda than world use. In these cases, row truncated are commonly prosy damage which hap oft and bear lilliputian signification. “Kai” e.g. (Greek – And) is ofttimes truncated in the like way we power hooking the symbolisation “&”. Notwithstanding, from the soonest discernible arrange of growing (the s hundred) Christian texts apply the Nomina Sacra regularly to refer quarrel that are cardinal to the Christian philosophy * . The earlier regularly occurring Nomina Sacra are:

God – ΘεOC (Theos) [ΘC, ΘY]

Master – KYPIOC (Kyrios) [KC, KY]

Messiah – XPICTOC (Christos) [XC, XY]

Jesus – IHCOYC (I­­­esous) [IC, IY]

Not lonesome were these row the almost ofttimes scripted as Nomina Sacra, but oftentimes multiplication they were scripted therein way Only they were in consultation to THE God or The Messiah (Although thither are exceptions, such as Ms P 46 which abbreviates the diagnose “Jesus” tied when it is referencing another, as in Col 4:11 – “Jesus who is called Justus”).

E.g., Ms P 4 does not foreshorten the discover “Joshua,” but “Jesus” is scripted as a Nomen Sacrum (Jesus and Joshua are both westerly renderings of Yeshu’a “The helper of Yahweh” 3 ) and P 46 gives a really interesting lesson in the schoolbook of Colossians 8:4-6, in which references to “God” and “Lord” (in acknowledgment to Jesus) are scripted as Nomina Sacra, but “gods” and “lords” are scripted out in their entireness:

“With compliments so to feeding nutrient sacrificed to idols, we experience that “an perfection therein earth is nix,” and that “there is no God [ΘΣ ** ] but one.” 5 If astern all thither are alleged gods [ΘεOi], whether in shangri-la or on ground (as thither are many gods [ΘεOi] and many lords [KYPIOi), 6 yet for us thither is one God [ΘΣ], the Sire, from whom are all things and for whom we be, and one Master , Jesus Messiah [KΣ, IHΣ XPΣ], done whom are all things and done whom we survive. 4 ”

Because these quartet dustup were selected and ill-used near regularly only referencing God and Jesus, these four-spot damage are likewise called the Nomina Divina – the Cleric Names. It is potential that the praxis of authorship the names of Jesus and God as Nomina Sacra highly-developed out of the Jewish custom of refusing to verbalize God’s diagnose – the tetragrammaton YHWH – as a answer, the tetragrammaton was oft scripted is trenchant shipway such as victimization a unlike colour of ink reviews or composition the Hebrew characters in a Greek version sooner than translating or transliterating them. Although it is probably this limited handling could sustain influenced an other Christian piousness toward the “Divine Names” this corpse unproved.

Holograph P46

Flavor close at the schoolbook and you can see little horizontal lines terminated two and deuce-ace characters that announce the Nomina Sacra | Origin

Boost Growing Nomina Sacra

Disregarding of the master purpose of the Nomina Sacra, it is not controversial to commonwealth that, as the exercise expanded to admit more row and more names, it was a contemplation of expanding Christian “Piety” – a showing of awe. By the root of the Constantinian Era, the Nomina Sacra had adult to regularly admit xv lyric and names in amount: God, Overlord, Messiah, Jesus, Son (especially when referencing Jesus), Sprightliness (the Sanctum Sprightliness), Saviour, Crossbreeding, Founder (peculiarly God), Man (specially Jesus “the son of man”), Generate (Mary), Paradise, Israel, Jerusalem, and David. Many of these abbreviations are unsurprising, but it is interesting to see the countersign “Mother” in character to Mary appearance, as it denotes a development, Pre-Byzantine piousness some the sire of Jesus.

It is too interesting to banknote that this pattern did not bound itself to Greek copies. Although the Nomina Sacra sustain their origins in the Greek, they presently ground their way into Latin, Coptic, and early manuscripts from a rattling betimes leg.


Although live disputation is probable to proceed for around metre as to when, how, and why the Nomina Sacra highly-developed, they nowadays us with both a captivating perceptivity and a tempting whodunit. Tied ahead the class 300A.D., The Nomina Sacra are delineate altogether but a simple smattering of confirmable Christian manuscripts, and those are all, or nigh all, non-biblical in nature 2 . Eyesight this, it is unmanageable to abnegate an betimes Christian hope to kickshaw leastwise the quartet “Nomina Divina” with roughly exceptional maintenance, but if so, so why? If it was to show the god of Messiah, so why was the gens of the Feel so recent in development? And why should the names of Israel and Jerusalem maturate in piousness as the church drifted further forth from its Jewish roots? We do not cognise surely, and it may be approximately clip ahead the scholarly humankind comes to a universal interpretive consensus, but the Nomina Sacra continue one of the nigh absorbing characteristics of other Christian texts.

Sketch the foliate of P46 supra and see if you can reply these questions!

aspect test statistics


* Deplorably, our earlier extant New Will Holograph, a sherd of the Creed of Lav known as P 52 , does not check the portions in which Jesus’ discover is scripted so we cannot say sure whether it did or did not erst moderate Nomina Sacra. Roughly Scholars handgrip that it could not birth due to the potential sizing of the archetype foliate and the sizing of the letters, etcetera., others repugn this pointedness. It is improbable the thing can e’er be solved without a get of equate ancientness which possesses Nomina Sacra 2 .

** Notation ΘΣ is indistinguishable to ΘC – Σ is the great manakin of „Sigma“ – hither delineated as C

+ C hither is ill-used to interpret „Sigma“

1. Hurtado, The Earlier Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins

2. Hurtado, P52 (P. RYLANDS GK. 457) and the Nomina Sacra: Method and Chance

3. Durant, Caesar and Messiah, 553-574

4. Colossians 8:4-6, New English Displacement,


Graphical this clause I would alike to admit my recondite debt to Dr. Larry Hurtado. Much of the data hither is collected from his consecrated and thoroughgoing sketch of other Christian manuscripts and their alone characteristics as presented in his first-class record, The Soonest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins .

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