Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nomina Sacra and Mary

Josh McManaway asked us a question on his blog:

  • In his book The Earliest Christian Artifacts, Larry Hurtado mentions on pg. 97 that other than the four divine nomina sacra, others began to be used in the Byzantine period. One of these NS was for ΜΗΤΗΡ (Mother, specifically in reference to Mary). I'm wondering if there's some way I could find the earliest manuscript known that uses the NS for Mary. Anyone know? (I'm looking your way, Evangelical Textual Criticism!)

You can answer in the comments

12 Comments:

Dirk Jongkind said...

I would assume that the earliest attestation is found in some magical text. When it comes to Biblical manuscripts the following pre-byzantine MSS can be cited:
1) Vaticanus (a couple of times only), early IVth c. (?). This is according to Traube, 4 times in the section p. 675 - 1244.
2) Rahlfs 2012 (P.Leipzig 39), Psalms, post AD 338
3) good old Sinaiticus, IVth c.

orthodox said...

Was it definitely used on manuscripts? There is something similar used on icons but I thought it was MR, not NS. Why NS?

Jacob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dirk Jongkind said...

I took the question to mean: What are the earliest instances of the contracted form (nomen sacrum) of μητηρ?

Though the origin of this nomen sacrum is most likely the reference to Mary, its subsequent application becomes much wider. It may well be that from the time of our earliest evidence on, we are already in this wider stage. How long the 'pure stage' lasted is impossible to say (anything from a few weeks to a couple of centuries).

Also, some manuscripts (read: scribes) will have had a better grasp of the original referential aspect than others. This means that within the same period (say the IVth - Vth c.) you may be able to find a 'pure' usage in one MS and a more indifferent approach in the next.

maurice a robinson said...

Certainly during the period of the early papyri MHTHR in its various forms was always written in pleno; this from an examination of Comfort and Barrett at every extant occurrence of MHTHR.

Yet it remains peculiar that , at least in some of these same early papyri (e.g., P45, P66), there was no objection to the nom. sac. for PATHR in its various forms, even when used in a purely secular manner.

Peter M. Head said...

Dirk said:
"Vaticanus ... 4 times in the section p. 675 - 1244."

That narrows things down then!

Peter M. Head said...

For Mark in Sinaiticus:
MHTHR: three letter NS generally (MHR): e.g. 3.31 ('his mother'), 32 ('your mother'), 33 ('my mother'), 34 ('behold my mother ...'), 35 ('... and mother'); 5.40 (the mother of the child); 7.10 (2x 'your mother'), 11, 12; 10.7 ('leave ... his mother')
Written out in full: 6.24 (re Herodias), 28 (gives the head of John the Baptist to her mother); MHTERA: in list of commands (10.19, 'honour your father and your mother' - father is NS, but mother is not), 29: in list; [10.30: absent from Sinaiticus original text]; 15.40 ('Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses').

Peter M. Head said...

MAR said:
"it remains peculiar that, at least in some of these same early papyri (e.g., P45, P66), there was no objection to the nom. sac. for PATHR in its various forms, even when used in a purely secular manner."

It is not full consistent is it, since not only is the NS used for father 'in a secular manner' (e.g. in P66 at 8.44 even for the devil: 'he is a liar and the father of lies'); but at times the term is written out in full even when used of God the Father (e.g. in P66 14.13: 'that the Father may be glorified in the Son').

Peter M. Head said...

In P66 at 8.44 (as generally), that is a three letter NS: PHR.

Peter M. Head said...

Dirk said:
"the origin of this nomen sacrum is most likely the reference to Mary".

Dirk, what makes you think this is likely?

Dirk Jongkind said...

'Most likely' because of a lack of viable alternatives.
I assume here that the nomen sacrum for μητηρ is, like the others, a Christian phenomenon, and that therefore the explanation must be found within that context.

However, as soon as someone can come up with a reasonable alternative, I am happy to tone it down to 'probably' or even 'possibly'.

Josh McManaway said...

What resources does one use in order to find this information?