Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts, Part II

Philippians 1:1-2 in Codex Sinaiticus

Here is a good example of what I had to say in my last post about the lack of punctuation in Ancient Greek, including the absence of spaces between words. The image is from Codex Sinaiticus, Philippians 1:1-2.

Here is the same text with spaces added between the words:


Notice in addition to the lack of punctuation and spacing, the regular use of abbreviations for the words God (ΘΕΟΥ = ΘΥ), Lord (ΚΥΡΙΟΥ = ΚΥ), Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥ = ΙΥ), and Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ = ΧΥ). In Codex Sinaiticus as in all of the early manuscripts, such abbreviations are marked by a macron (¯) over the letters. I was not able to do that when I typed out the version with the spaces above. By including both the first and last letters in the abbreviation, the CASE of the words in question is clear (Genitive in this context for all of them), so even the abbreviations present minimal difficulty for a reasonably fluent reader of Hellenistic Greek.

To see the earlier discussion, go here:

On January 6, 2013 I added a third post on the topic of punctuation:

Important! [Added Jan. 19, 2015]

While the earliest manuscripts of the biblical texts did not contain punctuation, it is usually clear to a competent reader of Ancient Greek where the punctuation belongs.

It is a serious mistake to assume that the absence of punctuation in those manuscripts means a person who does not read Greek is free to choose where to put the punctuation in an English translation. To make decisions about where the punctuation belongs it is necessary to read Ancient Greek very well. Many options that would seem to be available in an English text are ruled out by the structure of the Greek text.

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