From: Brian E. Wilson (
Date: Fri Aug 08 1997 - 02:27:05 EDT

In English we can write the number "two" either as a word - TWO - or as
a cipher - 2. In many Greek papyri of parts of the New Testament, very
roughly half of the numbers are written as words, and the other half as
ciphers. Thus a lone Alpha with a superscript line is the cipher for
the number one, and a lone Beta with superscript line is the cipher for
the number two, used in roughly half of the instances of the numbers
one and two, whereas elsewhere the numbers are written as the words
EIJ and DUO, and so on.

I am interested in finding out whether this is a characteristic of
Christian writing in Greek. Does anyone know, please, whether
manuscripts of Classical Greek literature use ciphers for numbers? Where
can I read about this (apart from ploughing through facsimiles of

Also, does anyone know how the Greek ciphers for larger numbers are
worked out?! Maybe mathematics and B-Greek have something in common
after all?!


Brian E. Wilson

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