Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'if Jesus had given them rest' Heb 4.8 in P46


The use of the nomen sacrum IHS at Heb 4.8 suggests that P46 might be interpreting this verse in terms of "Jesus" rather than "Joshua" (an option discussed in the commentaries, e.g. Ellingworth). It seems that readers of P46 would have taken it this way (cf. earlier in Hebrews 2.9; 3.1; but also present as a three letter nomen sacrum throughout Romans, which immediately precedes Hebrews in P46), by way of contrast "Moses" is never contracted in P46. This view has the advantage of not needing to introduce a new subject for 4.8b.

I suppose the alternative is to think that the scribe of P46 was well acquainted with LXX MSS which already use nomina sacra for rendering IHSOUS = Joshua in OT texts. I'm not sure that can be documented for the period of P46.

Up-date: See here for a late second century papyrus codex of Joshua featuring three letter nomina sacra IHS for Joshua (right hand page, line twelve).


  1. It would seem that the first issue to be addressed is the question of contraction of Moses in any MS.

    If contraction of Moses in fact does not occur (and I am not aware of such among NT MSS, though I remain open to correction should any LXX MS have such), then it would seem that the LXX contraction of Ihsous = Joshua would remain the most likely reason for p46 utilizing the abbreviation, particularly in light of the numerous LXX quotations sprinkled throughout Hebrews.

  2. I think if I were persuaded that NS were being used for Joshua in LXX MSS in the late second century then I would not have bothered with the thought. But I'd need to look out for that.


  3. OK stupid. Why don't you ever look at the evidence before posting on the blog then?

  4. Oslo, Schoyen MS 2649 is a second century papyrus of Joshua (from Oxyrhynchus originally) (LXX 816), which has IHS with overlines. (acc. Rhalfs-Fraenkel, Verzeichnis, 272-273).

  5. That was me talking to / rebuking myself by the way (not me talking to Maurice).

  6. Sorry again: MS 2648 (see here for picture: http://www.schoyencollection.com/GreekNT.htm#2649)

  7. For the typology between Joshua and Jesus, seeing both persons in one, by the way, see Epistle of Barnabas 12:8-10. The typology is common among subsequent patristic authors. Justin, Dial. 120.3; Clement of Alexandria, Paed. 1.60.3; Origen, Hom. Exod. 11.3, etc.

  8. PMH: "That was me talking to / rebuking myself by the way (not me talking to Maurice)."

    Of course, otherwise I would have deleted the comment :-)

  9. Rick Bennett6/15/2010 5:24 pm

    On 'Moses' as a nomen sacrum, see P. Egerton 2, fr. 2, verso (image). Cf., Paap, 'Nomina Sacra', 113–14, where he makes reference to this occurrence, but oddly does not note it in the table for the papyrus (see 6–7). Roberts ('Manuscript, Society, and Belief,' 39), chalks this up as an "experimental phase in the history of the system… ."

  10. Rick, thanks for the example from Egerton 2, which I had not recalled.

    This of course is not a NT MS, but at least shows perhaps the one time (?) in which Moses was given a contracted form. But if this contraction was not adopted among the biblical MSS (LXX or NT), it still should not be presupposed therein in contrast to the more normal abbreviated forms of Joshua/Jesus which do occur (cf. also in this regard various MSS including the late-date p74 in Swanson at Ac 7:45)

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  12. The scribe followed the procedure of abbreviating Ihsous, regardless of to whom it referred. So did Christian scribes transcribing copies of Greek translations of the OT. You don't have to say that the scribe of P46 was influenced by the latter, just that he and they followed the same procedure.

    Do we now have to figure out who influenced the scribe of Schoyen MS 2649 to abbreviate Joshua? If not, then why suggest that the scribe of P46 had to be influenced by some prior use of that abbreviation in transcribing the OT?

    Similarly, in Heb 1:14, the scribe of P46 abbreviated pneumata. This doesn't mean that he interpreted it to refer to the Holy Spirit in that case.

    I suspect that there are plenty of other similar examples throughout P46.

    On the other hand, the scribe does not abbreviate uios when not used of Jesus in the few test cases I checked.

  13. Rowe: "On the other hand, the scribe does not abbreviate uios when not used of Jesus in the few test cases I checked."

    In most MSS, UIOS seems to be written plene far more than in abbreviated form.

  14. MR:
    "In most MSS, UIOS seems to be written plene far more than in abbreviated form."

    Can you elaborate? i.e. is it primarily because UIOS is such a common word, because it's so easy to confuse with QEOS, or because it's so short anyway? The contexts in which the plene constructions are most common should give some indication of the most correct answer.

  15. Peter's suggestion that the scribe of P46 had Jesus in mind than Joshua in copying IHS is possible.But it would be equally interesting to note such "change" in light of the evidence that in Hebrews the P46 scribe committed a lot of blunders when it comes to OT characters and other historical details. Note the following:
    1. Heb 7:1-2 - Samuel became a king! (MELCHISEDEK BASILEUS SALEM became MELCHISEDEK BASILEUS SAMOUEL);
    2. hEB 11:17 Isaac became the "offerer" instead of the "offering"
    3. the substitution of IWSEF with the pronominal AUTOU in Heb. 11.21 has distorted the story in Gen. 48.1-22. What the author of Hebrews purported to be a recounting of the story of Jacob’s benediction upon Manasseh and Ephraim (i.e. HEKASTON TWN HUIWN IWSEF EULOGESEN) has become the story of the blessing of the twelve patriarchs (Gen. 49) by this substitution.
    4.Similarly, the “corruptions” in Hebrews 11.45 are too radical to be simply downplayed as a careless scribal mistake. The omission of KATHGWNISANTO (conquered) and the changing of BASILEIAS (kingdoms) to BASILEIS (kings) have totally altered the meaning of the text. Instead of the heroes of faith in v.32 doing the subjugation of kingdoms and enforcement of righteousness, a new set of heroes (!) have been introduced by the alterations, i.e., OI DIA PISTEWS BASILEIS EIRGASANTO DIKAIOSUNEN (through faith, kings enforced righteousness).

    Edgar Ebojo

  16. Buck: "Can you elaborate?"

    Basically, while UIOS in its various singular forms (apparently never the plural) was regularly abbreviated in the earlier uncial tradition (cf. Swanson's data), once the handwriting changed into the minuscule form (obviously the bulk of existing MSS), the word generally ceased to be abbreviated.

    Why this happened, who knows? Certainly the word is the same length as QEOS, which is regularly abbreviated, so length has little to do with it. Perhaps scribes merely found it easier to write plene?

  17. It is notable that the scribe of P4 writes out “Ιησους” in full in the genealogy in Luke 3:29 where it designates “Joshua,” but uses the nomen sacrum consistently elsewhere in reference to Jesus.

  18. Sorry I am 13 years late to this discussion. The earliest manuscripts were less discriminating between sacred and profane uses. They often used nomina sacra regardless of the referent. It seems that the words themselves were considered sacred even when the referent was not. So there is no reason to conclude that the scribe of P46 thought that Her 4:8 refers to Jesus rather than Joshua. Richard Fellows.