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Monday, 8 January 2007

The Ineffable Name

Lately I've been poring over computer images of ancient New Testament manuscripts in a study of Nomina Sacra (NS)--the use of abbreviated spellings for certain words that spans the 14 centuries of copying the Greek Scriptures in manuscript. The lists of such words vary by scribe and manuscript, but every list includes the proper and other nouns directly related to the Triune Diety (which are typically spelled out, but capitalized, in English translation). Indeed, it is almost a wonder we even know how to spell some of these words, they were so routinely abbreviated.

It is a shame, in this reviewer's opinion, that printed editions of the Greek text have discarded this convention and nearly always print out the Divine Names in full, thus obscuring an important element in the transmission of the Inspired Text. For instance, no discussion of the authenticity of the inclusion of "G-d" in 1 Timothy 3:16 is anywhere near complete without an excursion into the topic of NS.

Now, a longtime reader of this blog will note that I have departed from my usual practice and used the English equivalent of NS in this post. I do this not because of any theolgical revolution on my part, but only to illustrate the practice. I can still spell out words like godhood, godly, ungodly, godlike, and even God-lover, gods, and godess--as is the scribal practice of the Greek Scriptures. In fact, one such example will show the King James Version to use paraphrase in a very important passage, the opening words of 2 Timothy 3:16.

The KJV reads that all scripture is "given by inspiration of G-d." "Divinely
inspired" would actually be the most literal translation; "given by inspiration
of G-d" is a paraphrase. There are no corresponding Greek words for 'given' or 'G-d', and the Greek word 'theopneustos' is spelled out in the manuscripts.

I refer the reader back to the conclusion stated in my post of 11/14/2005.

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