Re: Accents in the originals?

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Thu Feb 18 1999 - 03:22:25 EST

On: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 07:34:58 -0500
Perry L. Stepp wrote:

>>>Did the original Greek manuscripts have accents, breathing marks,
>>>punctuation, and capital letters? Were they broken at all into paragraphs
>>>or anything?
>>The original Greek manuscripts were in capitals and had no punctuation,
>>accents or even word divisions. I went to the State Library in Sydney,
>>Australia and had a go at reading a facsimile of Vaticanus once.
>I've mentioned this before:
>According to a paper I heard David Balch deliver at the Southwest regional
>meeting of the SBL (in 1995?), there is evidence (inscriptions, I assume)
>that older (ca. 500 BC and older?) Greek did indeed have breaks between
>words/syllables, and some punctuation. These conventions "fell out" of the
>language during the last few centuries BC.
>Has anyone else heard or read this? I'd sure like to be able to read more
>about it.

We have had this discussion before on bgreek...a couple of things I've

First, we don't know what the originals had, since we don't have the

Second, I just went thru a section of P46 with my first year students a
couple of weeks ago (I'm at home and don't have the exact "page" number,
but its the end of 1Cor 7 thru beginning of ch 8). There are not only VERY
CLEAR breaks between "sentences" and "paragraphs", but unmistakable "rough
breathing marks" over the two uses of hEIS (= "one") in 8:4, 6 (as opposed
to the EIS = into, which has no markings); even first year Greek students
could see them. I think I've seen some "punctuation marks" in other
papyrii as well, but I can't remember where they are off the top of my
head. On this basis, I'd have to question David Balch's conclusion as
stated above by Perry (I've not read the paper, so I don't know exactly
what was said).

Finally, the really interesting question (are you listening Profs Holmes
and Ehrman; I'd really like to know what you guys think on this) is whether
these type of "marked-up" papyri lie closer to the autographs in form, or
do the columnar, unmarked Uncial mss like Vaticanus reflect the early
tradition (this may in fact be a better discussion for the TC forum than


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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