[B-Greek] Upper case characters

frjsilver at optonline.net frjsilver at optonline.net
Mon Mar 6 11:34:49 EST 2006

"Many thanks to old Cadmus, who made us his debtors,
by inventing one day the capital letters." 
(an old rhyme, according to Oscar Ogg) 

Dear Friends --

This is slightly off-topic, but an interesting tangent nonethless.  I hope you'll find these few facts interesting.

The predominant script of the oldest extant NT mss is usually called (a little inaccurately, I think) 'uncial', in which there is no distinction between what we now describe as upper- and lower-case letters.  Words were indeed written without spaces between them, and punctuation, as we know it, was in its inconsistent infancy.  Readers had to know grammar, syntax, public speaking, and a few other things in order to 'do it right'.  It comes as a surprise to many of us moderns that the ancients almost never read anything silently, quite possibly because anyone who could read almost always had an audience.

All of this was largely just as true of Latin as of Greek, and the office of 'Reader' was highly respected in the earliest Christian centuries, since few had mastered the art of literacy, and fewer still the art of writing, hence the high social/religious standing accorded the 'scribes' in the Gospel, although those men were writing Hebrew which even now has no capital letters, but had characteristics different from Greek and Latin writing.

Even today, liturgical Readers are highly valued in the orthodox churches.  The Reader has the only book, and his recitation of the scriptures has to be as perfect as possible, even in local languages.

You might enjoy reading more about the development of script here:


Peace and blessings to all.

Father James Silver

Monk James
Orthodox Church in America

----- Original Message -----
From: Don Doherty <ddoherty at powerup.com.au>
Date: Monday, March 6, 2006 5:41 am
Subject: [B-Greek] Upper case characters

> Dear list members, 
> I realise this may be somewhat off-topic, but I would like to know 
> if the earliest extant NT manuscripts, along with all other 
> ancient Greek manuscripts, used upper case characters only.  And 
> with no spaces between the words. 
> If so, when did the mix of upper and lower case characters begin 
> to be the norm? 
> If this really is off-topic, perhaps anyone kind enough to reply 
> might respond off-list to me at ddoherty at powerup.com.au 
> Thanks, 
> Don Doherty
> Alexandra Headland
> Australia
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