Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hurtado and the Nomina Sacra

As I've most assuredly stolen a blog name from someone who is more well-versed in NT studies than I am, I feel obliged to write something about the subject.

I'm on my 2nd reading of Larry Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins and I'm really enjoying it. The chapter on the nomina sacra is by far my favorite. Hurtado says that the Christian nomina sacra with the supralinear stroke (a device used in Greek writing to indicate letters being read as numbers) came out of a desire for the word ιησους, or rather the abbreviation IH, to be read as the number 18 because it would correspond to the Hebrew חי (pronounced "Hi", which means life). This is known as "gematria", which is the practice of reading religious significance into the numerical values of letters in Holy texts and is generally associated with "ancient Jewish exegesis" (Hurtado, 114).

This is really intriguing to me! Has anyone else read the book? If you have, what are your thoughts on the origin of the Christian nomina sacra?

1 comment:

Bryan L said...

I read the book and found it to be fascinating. Previously I had read his Lord Jesus Christ and was blown away by it which made me want to read more from him, so I picked up this book.

One of the things he said that I thought was really interesting was the theory that the tau-rho was a staurogram, a visual representation of the crucifixion.

Also, how he points out how many early copies we have of the Gospel of Thomas vs some of the other Gospels or canonical writing (and not just in one local but spread out) was also interesting.

I'll probably have to read it again as well.

Bryan L