Monday, March 17, 2008

Deuteronomy 6.4 in Greek from 3c CE


3rd Century Shema in Greek from Austria, in gold:


See and

note large .jpg for viewing at the bottom of page.


  1. That's really cool. It seems counterintuitive that the whole thing would be transliterated, but that echad would be represented as a Greek numeral.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


    So is the ΑΔWNΕ a vocative?

  4. I would think that ΑΔΩΝΕ (ADWNE) has something to do with the phonetic equivalence between αι and ε by the 3rd century.

  5. Anonymous:

    The reason I ask re: the first ΑΔWNΕ being vocative is because the second one is simply ΑΔWN, and in Hebrew it would be the same word/spelling in both instances, yet here it is not.

    Sh'ma Yisroel Adonai (YHWH) Elohenu Adonai (YHWH) Echad

    The LXX is no help here, because it (Rahlfs) reads:

    Ακουε, Ισραηλ - κυριος ο θεος ημων, κυριος εις εστιν

  6. Is the spelling ICTPAHL (with the rho) common? -JohnQ

  7. I was mostly bothered by ΕΛΩΗ. To read it as an early ITA 'elohi' "my God" would produce a word that is never used in the Bible and that contradicts the plural source 'elohenu'. The other options are smixut 'God of' "elohe-", where the HTA would have its normal KOINH 'e' sound, and would create an interesting reading:
    "my Lord, the God of Lord [=the God "Lord"], is one (alpha)."
    Alternatively, the syllable 'nu' has dropped from 'elohenu'.

    The word ΑΔΩΝΕ shows that this has gone through at least one generation of Greek scribes. No one in the third century would write the sounds A+I as E. The choices would have been ΑΔΩΝΑΙ/ΑΔΟΝΑΙ and ΑΔΩΝΑΕΙ/ΑΔΩΝΑΕΙ. Diaeresis would not be available or needed for one who knew the correct pronunciation. However, as soon as ΑΔΩΝΑΙ was written, another Greek scribe could easily write ΑΔΩΝΕ, since both AI and E were pronounced the same since the third century BCE.

  8. ::"Is the spelling ICTPAHL (with the rho) common? -JohnQ"

    I wonder if ISTRAHL could come from an attempt to represent the Semitic "r." E.g., Spanish "r" is more similar to a "d" than an "r" to an Anglophone in some ways.

  9. Istrael is common in Latin mss.

    Could the lack of M on ΕΛΩΗ be through the weakening of the final mimation? The interchange of /n/ and /m/ as the final consonant in (especially) later Hebrew may suggest that the consonant was weakly pronounced in final position.

    The Upsilon in ΣΥΜΑ reminds me of the vowel in the OG rendition of Shechem (e.g. Gen. 34).

  10. Randall:

    But what explains the two different spellings - i.e., first ΑΔWNΕ, and then ΑΔWN?

    Why would the first Adonai become Adône, but the second remain Adôn?

  11. More thoughts:
    On ΕΛΩΗ and final nasals, the word 'elohenu' does not have a final nasal, so the 'ADAN/ADAM' phenomenon of mishnaic Hebrew shouldn't enter the picture.

    Knowing that this is second generation Greek (as shown on the spelling of ΑΔΩΝΕ) may help.

    The picture is excellent and shows that the 'n' and 'a' at the end did not fit a normal row height. Presumably a model text was used. When a scribe reaches the end of material a word is sometimes left undone. (E.g. the only "Yeshu" in the Land was on a bone box where the name "Yeshu" was written right up to the edge. On the other side of that box one finds 'Yeshua`, with `ayin, as always.) When I first saw the picture I looked for an 'i' after the ΑΔΩΝΑ at the end. There wasn't any. And there is no cross stroke on the final 'a'. I'm wondering if ΑΔΩΝΑ is short for ΑΔΩΝΑ[ΙΕΑΔ]
    That would explain the strange 'a'. It would not have been a numeral, but simply the end of the writing. So what is the difference between ΑΔΩΝΕ and ΑΔΩΝΑ. The latter was expected to continue, would have included an 'i' and would been read the same by a Greek, and the user would complete the saying in any case.

    The problem with this theory is that the last half-height line, centered, could have been written to include more letters. It appears to intend the half line to be the end. One solution would be to assume that this was a copy of another inscription that had ended prematurely with "ΑΔΩΝΑ". Since the workers are Greek, they did not feel the lack of finishing the last 'word'.

    On the other hand, the use of single Greek letters in holy Jewish settings was attested in the Temple. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, were written on some large collection bins in the temple precincts.

    Where do I stand? I think that the 'nu' in "elohenu" has fallen out through Greek scribal tradition and that the current text is based on a short exemplar whose original source would have had αδωναιεαδ. And I am certainly ready to change my opinion.

  12. Yes, Pete, on 'shva' becoming Υ-ψιλον in an OldGreek tradition.

    This probably reflects the same phonetic process that lead Christian 5th century Aramaic to write words like 'heaven' as "שומיה" ('shva' before a mem picking up 'rounding'). This is especially acute for Greeks who do not have a distinction between 'sh' and 's'. The Υ-ψιλον adds rounding and helps to color the 'Σ' in the direction of a 'sh' that they didn't have.

  13. Eric wrote:
    "That's really cool. It seems counterintuitive that the whole thing would be transliterated, but that echad would be represented as a Greek numeral."

    No more odd than using roman numerals to cite the verses in a scripture reference, as was common in the 19th century.

    I've been looking at several mss lately and seem to remember seeing B for 'twain' in Matthew 27:21 (it would be interesting to check Mark 12:29), so apparently Greeks were used to writing numerals where we would always spell out the number.

  14. Daniel-
    The problem is that a cipher for "1", regardless of the shape of the symbol, would not provide the phonetic material for a reader. Unless they already possessed the code of the second language. If the Greek text was used by someone who already knew that '1' in Hebrew was eHad, then it would work. That is different from using a number symbol within the same language, as your Matthew example.

  15. And an English reader would not know that the letter 'i' when written in triplicate is pronounced 'three' unless he was familiar with the numbering system of the source language.

    Latin was originally the language of educated Anglo-Saxons, and this is one of the last remnants of that system to finally be replaced.

  16. It appears that the reader didn't know the Hebrew alphabet, but had memorized the Hebrew pronounciation for Greek numbers, even as I read '3' as 'three' rather than 'tri' or 'thalatha'.

    Also, I read the second word on the amulet as ISIRAHL.

  17. What do you think about the claim that the article makes, i.e. 'This amulet shows that people of Jewish faith lived in what is today Austria since the Roman Empire.'

    Is this the only way to explain the evidence? Since it is on an amulet the Shema may perhaps also have been seen as an incantation formula, the use of which does not necessarily presuppose its intelligibility to the owner.

  18. P. J., do you have a source or other examples that you could direct me to for the statement you make about "Istrael" being common in Latin mss? It would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!