Re: Orthography rather than scripture

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 24 1999 - 06:02:20 EDT

Maurice sent this query to me yesterday regarding how numeral 7 was
represented in uncial MSS. I've brought fewer reference resources with me
to Carolina this summer and can't find the answer in net resources thus
far, so I am doing as Maurice suggested, posting it on to the list; the
query is more interesting than my response, I'm sorry to say.

At 4:02 PM +0100 5/23/99, Maurice A. O'Sullivan wrote:
>My query arises from Ac 19:14 but has more to do with orthography, so I beg
>your indulgence..
>In the second edition of his " To Advance the Gospel", Joseph Fitzmyers has
>an article ti8tled:
>"A Certain Sceva, a Jew, a Chief Priest ( Ac. 16:14 )."
>In his preliminary remarks, Fitzmyers raises the issue of how many sons
>Sceva had.
>Was it seven as in the RSV -- following the Alexandrian text --:
>" Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva ......."?
>Or was the number not specified, as in all but one of the "Western text" mss?
>The latter, he surmises is " almost certainly because of AMFOTERWN in
>19:16", --- a word which normally means 'both' but has been translated
>'all' in the RSV due to an editorial comment by Metzger about it having
>this meaning in sub-standard Greek.
>Then, in a footnote, Fitzmyer notes:
>"In the first century Greek 'Beta' { here the reader sees a Greek font
>lower case 'beta' [= 2 ] looked very much like { here the reader sees what
>looks very like a Greek font 'final sigma' } [= 7 ] ".
>It was only when I checked with Smyth ( s. 347, 348 ) that I realized that
>the "alphabetic" system of representing numbers had come early enough for
>the Digamma to be taken = 7 -- thus abiding by Phoenician alphabetical order.
>According to Smyth, the alphabetical/numeral system " apparently invented
>in the fifth B.C, became dominant in the Hellenistic period, and has lasted
>till now". He notes also that later Digamma was replaced by that sign very
>similar to 'final sigma' because it was an abbreviation of 'sigma-tau' =
>So that is what underlies Fitzmyer's note about confusing 'Beta' and 'stigma'.
>Now, for my question: as long as mss were in majuscule there was no need
>for a 'final sigma' form -- but once minuscule and cursive scripts because
>common, with the 'final sigma' form appearing, how did they manage to
>maintain 'stigma' = 7 "until now"?
>P.S If you think this query -- and your answer, of course <g> -- warrants
>posting to the list, please feel free to do so.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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