The substituting of shortened abbreviations
for special words
A conservative, bible believing
God's providence gave us the 27
book New Testament Canon, not the church. God, not men decided the canon. This providence
does not mean that church leaders were inspired in their selecting the canon,
only that God had his eye on the scriptures the whole time and brought about
His will to form the Bible we see today!
"Nomina Sacra": The substituting of shortened
abbreviations for special words
sacra" means: "sacred names"
actual form was like this: Instead of writing "Jesus" they
would write: "J-s", where the dash was above, rather than as we
have shown it in the middle.
was an abbreviation, not a substitution or replacement of one word for
sacra" was a Jewish practice that is witnessed in the dead sea
scrolls adopted by the Christians.
Sea Scroll (4Q175 or 4QTest) uses "Nomina sacra" and replaces
the name of God (tetragrammaton) YHWH for four stars "****".
The other DSS below (4Q174-4QFlorilegium) fully spells out the name of
full outline on Jewish
document is in Greek expect for Mosaic Hebrew (Paleo-Hebrew) where they
wrote the name of God YHWH in the extinct Hebrew alphabet.
documents (Like 4Q175) found at the same time would use four stars ****
as an early “nomina sacra” substitution.
substitution of Mosaic Hebrew for Greek in the name of God is probably
the very beginning point of “nomina sacra”.
sacra developed into the Christian era and became almost ridiculous
because they would create substitutional abbreviations for other “sacred”
things including: God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Saviour, Cross, Christ
Christians eventually abandoned the practice of nomina sacra altogether,
the Jews continue the practice by writing the word God in English as G-D
where a dash is substituted for the letter O.
course the ultimate substitution was provided by the Holy Spirit himself
in the 27 books of the New Testament that consistently substitute KURIOS
(Greek for “Lord”) for YHWH in all Old Testament quotations in the New
of Nomina Sacra abbreviations for special words:
(with reference to Mary)
external identifying characteristics of the witnesses to the text of the
Christian Bible-the types of abbreviation of the nomina sacra, use of the
codex, a common pattern of names for the individual books ("Gospel
according to . . . "; "General Epistle of. . . ";
"Epistle of Paul to . . ."), and a uniform name for the two
parts of the whole collection ("New Testament" and "Old
Testament")-all go back to the earliest stage of transmission. They
show the work of a single redactor who produced the canonical edition of
the New Testament as part of a total Christian scripture . (Lee Martin
McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Everett Ferguson,
Factors Leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon, p
David Trobisch proposed that a second-century editing process produced and
published the twenty-seven-book New Testament we have today, in the order:
Gospels; Acts and the Catholic Epistles; fourteen letters of Paul, with
Hebrews located between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy; and Revelation.
Evidence is found in the choice of authors to whom New Testament books are
ascribed, in editorial remarks in the New Testament writings themselves
(including in Acts, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, and John 21), in the widespread
use of the nomina sacra in early manuscripts of the New Testament, and in
the codex form. I mention Trobisch's proposal here, as I mentioned above
the consensus view that the New Testament canon was in place in the late
second century, only to ask how what we discover in Eusebius a century and
a half later might challenge or support such views. (Lee Martin McDonald,
James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Everett R. Kalin, The New
Testament Canon of Eusebius, p 389, 2002)
the individual gospels do not contain the names of their authors, it is
probable that the inscriptions naming them (for example, "According
to Mark") were attached as soon as people knew about more than one
gospel, or at latest when they were published together in a codex. T. C.
Skeat has suggested that Christians adopted the codex in order that they
could copy the four gospels together. The consistent system of
abbreviating certain words (nomina sacra, fifteen in total) in Christian
biblical codices points to the likelihood of recessions, i.e., editions of
the New Testament that aimed at a standardized text for Christian worship.
This may have happened in the second century, and at latest in the third
century. (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate;
Peter Balla, Evidence for an Early Christian Canon: Second and Third
Century, p 376, 2002)
has observed that when nomina sacra (sacred names that are abbreviated or
contracted in the ancient biblical manuscripts) appear in ancient
manuscripts, those manuscripts were considered sacred. The nomina sacra
included important names such as Jesus, Father, Son, Christ, Holy Spirit,
Savior, and such like. The fact that early Christian scribes contracted
special words from both the Old Testament and the New Testament suggests
that they viewed both collections as sacred in the same sense." (Lee
Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Lee Martin
McDonald, Identifying Scripture and Canon in the Early Church: The
Criteria Question, p 421, 2002)
use of nomina sacra was not limited to the writings which we
recognize as the New Testament. For example, in the Shepherd of Hermas
(included in Codex Sinaiticus), first leaf first column, I see three
occurrences- qeou (of God) abbreviated as QU in line 30, pneuma (spirit)
abbreviated as PNA in line 35, and anqrwpoV (man) abbreviated as ANOS in
line 38. (In the earliest manuscripts, S = s = V was written with the
appearance of our letter "C".) There are more occurrences in
each of the remaining columns." Jeff Smelser
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for
comments, input or corrections.
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