How does one detect Nomina Sacra in NA27 apparatus?

Thomas J. Kraus thomas-juergen.kraus at
Wed Feb 17 02:48:39 EST 1999

On Wed, 17 Feb, Steven Cox wrote:

> "There are no nomina sacra visible in P52; the line length perhaps implies
> the use of the abbreviation IN, but this is not certain (see discussion in
> the entry on P52). The substantial early papyri use the abbreviations at
> least intermittently"
> Question : if "intermittently" then how does one tell from NA27 apparatus if
> a given papyrus reading has Nomina Sacra in the text?
> (for example) if John 1:18 in P66 has MONOGENHSQS or MONOGENHSQEOS ?

Dear Steven,
even if your question might be somehow a topic not directly relevant for 
b-greek, I take the chance to provide some thoughts on it.
You touched a sore point of textual criticism. Unfortunately, 
NA27 (and GNT4) do not list the so-called nomina sacra as textual variants 
in its apparatus (if it did, it would be quite a volume). Nevertheless, 
the issue of the nomina sacra depicts that it is necessary to get involved 
in paleography and papyrology in order to judge from the manuscripts 
themselves and not primarily from transcripts or commentaries.
These abbreviated words may indicate, to bring in the field of the Greek 
language, which words (mainly nouns; but see P45=P.Vindob.G 31974 with 
Matthew 26:2 SRNAI for STAURWQHNAI) were regarded as fixed terms, which 
words were used so often that an abbreviation might have been a relief for 
a scribe, and which words (by using a stroke above the letters of the 
abbreviation) might have functioned as an eyecatching emphasis on a 
If you are interested in the field of nomina sacra, these may help:
Traube, L., Nomina Sacra. Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen 
Kürzung, Quellen und Untersuchungen zur lateinischen Philologie des 
Mittelalters 2, Munich 1907.
Paap, A.H.R.E., Nomina Sacra in the Greek Papyri of the First Five 
Centuries A.D.: the Sources and Some Deductions, Leiden 1959.

Be careful with deductions from the findings of nomina sacra: they are 
used irregularly and inconsistently. When you want to state that 
P52=P.Rylands Greek 457 originally contained a nomen sacrum, be aware that 
you are referring to the reconstructed possible text which is *not on the 
papyrus. And stichometry is not a reliable basis from which you could 
decide ultimatively whether a line on a fragment was, let´s say, 20 or 24 
letters long.
You mentioned John 1:18 in P66=P. Bodmer II: this papyrus-codex always 
uses QEOS and IHSOUS XRISTOS as nomina sacra, i.e. MONOGENHSQS is the 
adequate reading. To gind out more about specific readings in specific 
papyri (they have many more variae lect. as printed in NA27) see the 
comments and literature in:
Van Haelst, J., Catalogue des papyrus litteraires juifs et chretiens, 
Paris 1976.
Aland, K., Repertorium der griechischen christlichen Papyri I: Biblische 
Papyri: Altes Testament, Neues Testament, Varia, Apokryphen, PTS 18, 
Berlin-New York 1976.

In order not to become even more off-list as far as topic is concerned: if 
you need any further reference or hint (nomina sacra and their 
relation to the abbreviations in documentary papyri and the tetragrammaton 
in OT-manuscripts or Qumran scrolls), contact me directly.

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Kraus

Universitaet Regensburg
Kath.-theol. Fakultaet
Universitaetsstr. 31
D-93053 Regensburg

Tel. + 49 941 943 36 90
Fax. + 49 941 943 19 86
thomas-juergen.kraus at

More information about the B-Greek mailing list