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More on Hurtado's Blog Posting

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  • Mike Grondin
    ... After I had written here about Larry Hurtado s blog posting on the above graffito, something occurred to me. As I commented on LH s blog: Surely it s no
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 3, 2012
      >    ISOpsHphA ('of equal value/number')
      >    KURIOS  W  ('lord', '800')
      >    PISTIS     W  ('faith',
      '800')(cf: 'PISTIS SOPHIA' in NH library)
      After I had written here about Larry Hurtado's blog posting on the above graffito,
      something occurred to me. As I commented on LH's blog:
      "Surely it's no accident that 800 is also the value of XC?"
      My wording wasn't the best; what I should have said is "it's not a coincidence",
      by which I meant that the graffito-inscriber must have been aware of that.
      At any rate, Hurtado answered as follows:
      > It’s all in the eye of the beholder! But, more significantly, the numerical value of the
      > “nomina sacra” forms is not fixed, for the final letter depends on the case of the noun
      > in any given instance. The only form that remains fixed is the “IH” form (the first two
      > letters) of “Iesous”, which = 18. I’ve written on this in an article published some time
      > ago: Larry W. Hurtado, “The Origin of the Nomina Sacra: A Proposal,” Journal of
      > Biblical Literature 117, no. 4 (1998): 655-73.
      Unfortunately, this response is unsatisfactory, but first let me say that I have
      read Hurtado's article and also his 2006 book Early Christian Artifacts, in
      which chapter three ('The Nomina Sacra') draws upon it. The one lesson
      that can be drawn from his response above is that it now becomes clear why
      he pays no attention to the numeric value of any of the nomina sacra other
      than IH. I consider this a mistake, however. It is true, of course, that when
      IH was used in a manuscript, it would retain that form no matter in what
      grammatical construction it occurred, whereas if the scribe were using IS
      (or IHS), the form would differ depending on the grammatical construction,
      because the last letter would vary (being sometimes IY, for example). That's
      because the endings of nouns varied in Greek depending on the construction.
      Having said that, however, it's simply not true that "it's all in the eye of the
      beholder". The value of 'XC' is 800, period. And the value of 'XY' is 1000,
      period. And since the normal representation of a Greek noun (outside of its
      usage) is the nominative form, it's quite misleading to say that "the numerical
      value of the nomina sacra forms is not fixed".
      To which may be added the following reasoning (decisive, IMO): the graffito-
      writer associates the value 800 with the nominative forms 'pistis' and 'kyrios',
      even though the form of those nouns would be different in non-nominative contexts.
      This gives us warrant to assume that the writer would also have considered the value
      of the nominative form XC (i.e., XS) as the predominant value of that noun.
      Mike Grondin
    • Mike Grondin
      Here are two further (and last) comment-rejoinders between myself and Prof. Hurtado on his blog. The first was my initial response to LH s answer quoted
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 4, 2012
        Here are two further (and last) comment-rejoinders between myself and Prof.
        Hurtado on his blog. The first was my initial response to LH's answer quoted
        yesterday, in which he asserted that the value of most nomina sacra weren't
        "fixed" because the value differed based on their form in context:
        > With all due respect, Professor, I’m disappointed with your response. The value of XC
        > was 800, and the value of XY was 1000. The beholder’s eye doesn’t change that. And
        > since the nominative form of a noun would surely be the form brought to mind if one
        > was just thinking of the noun outside of a context, it seems reasonable to assume that
        > the value of the nominative form would be the value most likely to be associated with a
        > noun. Thus, the clear implication of the graffito (as far as I’m concerned) is that the two
        > inscribed words are associated with ‘Christ’ by virtue of having the same value.
        > Hmm. Possible. But why then didn’t the graffito include ref to XC? So you’re entitled to
        > think what you wish, but it is quite normal for scholars to demand more than an assertion.
        > No offence.
        Shortly after posting this first comment, the "decisive piece of reasoning"
        occurred to me, and since it wasn't possible to delete or amend the first
        comment, I had to send in another:
        > I think the decisive piece of reasoning about the graffito and the nominum sacrum XC
        > is that the graffito-writer gives the value (800) of the nominative forms ‘pistis’ (‘faith’)
        > and ‘kyrios’ (‘Lord’), even though the form of these nouns would have differed in non-
        > nominative contexts. This gives us warrant to believe that had the graffito-writer
        > considered the nomina sacra for ‘Christ’, the value of the nominative form (800) would
        > have been uppermost in his/her mind. I believe it was.

        > Your suggestion is well taken, but it is important to note that the number 8 had a

        > special significance in early Christianity, and also multiplications of 8 such as 800.

        > The number represented for them Jesus’ resurrection (on the 8th day/1st day),

        > and more widely then eschatological salvation. So, e.g., we have early Christian

        > refs to Iesous as the perfect name because it = 888.

        Couldn't have said it better myself. Wait, I did say it myself! I wonder if LH
        noticed that the value 888 is for the nominative form of IHSOUS? That is to
        say, the form of the name IHSOUS would differ depending on grammatical
        context, just as the nomina sacra IS and IHS would, but that doesn't alter the
        fact that the predominant (and thus "fixed") numerical value associated with
        the name would be that of the nominative form.
        As to the question "why didn't the graffito include ref[erence] to XC?", my
        guess is that the graffito was a "teaser-ad". Those "in the know" (Christians)
        could chuckle to themselves that non-Christians wouldn't have a clue what
        it was about, thus would have no reason to get rid of it. So it would be let
        stand as an ad for Christianity, hidden in plain sight. Pretty clever. Yes, this
        is just speculation, but I do not find it at all plausible that the grafitto-writer
        was unacquainted with the value of XC, and so, if it is not there (unless it
        was scraped off?), there must have been a reason for it.
        Mike Grondin
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