[B-Greek] Greek numbers

Ben Crick ben.crick at argonet.co.uk
Wed Apr 5 15:16:09 EDT 2006

On Tue  4 Apr 2006 (13:17:16), dmooney at atmc.net wrote:
> I have recently bought a NT Greek book for 101 Students of the languge.
> I am still struggling with learning Greek although I learned German
> rather easily. But I did have a question the book did not address: Were
> Greek numbers spelled out or did they use merely symbols for greek
> numbers? I know in the MSS we have the numbers are spelled out but the
> church I attended when I was growing up claimed the numbers were
> represented by single letters or symbols in the original autographs and
> only later were switched over to spelled out words. If this is so did
> the LXX spell out Greek numbers or did they merely use symbols?

 Dear David,

 You will find stuff on this in the b-Greek archives. But here is a
 reply I originally submitted to another List:

 >> It is by no means certain that the alphabetical letters now assigned
 to the numbers 1-9, 10-90, 100-900, were so assigned since antiquity.
 For instance, in Greek, the obsolete letters Digamma and Qoppa and Sampi
 are used to represent 6, 90 and 900 because the Greek alphabet only
 has 24 letters, not the necessary 27. Digamma is also known as Stigma,
 because it looks like a ligature of Sigma and Tau.

     1 alpha        10 iota       100 rho
     2 beta         20 kappa      200 sigma
     3 gamma        30 lambda     300 tau
     4 delta        40 mu         400 upsilon
     5 epsilon      50 nu         500 phi
     6 [digamma]    60 xi         600 chi
     7 zeta         70 omicron    700 psi
     8 eta          80 pi         800 omega
     9 theta        90 [qoppa]    900 [sampi]

 Thus the favourite "Number of the Beast", 666, is Chi Xi Stigma in
 Greek numerals. If you think that is odd, try it in Hexadecimal, 29A.
 In Latin, we have the curiosity that 666 = DCLXVI, employing every
 Latin numerical-letter (except M) just once in reverse order of
 magnitude. 1666 MDCLXVI was the year of the Great Fire of London.

 A drawback with Greek numerals (and Roman) is that there is no
 symbol for Zero. This probably caused Dionysius Exiguus to miss out
 the year Zero between 1BC and 1AD. The above table only applies to
 Greek numerals after the 2nd century BC approx. Before that there
 was no agreed standard, because each independent Greek city-state
 used its own system and would not co-operate. There were the Attic
 System, the Ionian System, and the Milesian System from about the
 6th century BC. Modern Greece uses the Arabic decimal notation,
 except for chapter numbers in the Bible and other places where we
 would normally use Roman numerals.

 See O.A.W. Dilke, MATHEMATICS AND MEASUREMENT (London: British Museum
 Publications, 1987)<<

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF                                       ZFC Hf
 <ben.crick at NOSPAM.argonet.co.uk>
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