I must attempt to put a stop to one common illustration that is supposed to characterize the nature of majuscule Greek mss. NT majuscule mss were written in a majuscule script in which there were no upper and lower case letters as we have in English, and there were no spaces between the words (see the diagram below). The common characterization is, GODISNOWHERE in which the words could be divided into, GOD IS NOW HERE, or GOD IS NOWHERE. This is supposed to give a sense of how NT majuscule mss could be ambiguous in meaning. There are at lease two serious problems with this characterization, however.

Sinaiticus Portion

1. The representation is a fallacious comparison between English and NT majuscule Greek texts. English is not written without spaces between the words. However, the earliest Greek majuscule mss were in fact written this way because this is the way these persons wrote their language. It was just as easy for a Greek reader to read his language as it is for English readers to read our language. So, the confusion of an English expression without spaces between the words does not represent any supposed comparable confusion on the part of a Greek reader of the time. No doubt, there were ambiguities in Greek writings just as there are in any language. But, an improperly formed English expression is not an accurate characterization of a properly formed Greek majuscule text. It is simply unreasonable to think that because someone else’s native language is difficult for the non-native speaker to read, that a native speaker would have the same level of difficulty in reading it. What may be difficult for the modern English reader was not a problem for a 1st century Greek reader, else there would be no explanation why these mss with this kind of writing proliferated. If it was so difficult for Greek readers to read, why did they use them in the first place? They used them because that was just the way they wrote, just like our words are separated with spaces because that’s just the way we write.

2. There are no NT Greek majuscule mss in which we find an expression out of context. No doubt there are some fragments that contain few words or single expressions, but these are not representative of a NT Greek text. The difficulty in reading some fragments is precisely because there is no context in which to place them. If the English expression above were put into a context comparable to the contexts of NT books, the ambiguity would be removed. A single out-of-context, improperly formed English expression is not an accurate characterization of a properly formed Greek majuscule text in its context. This is especially true since there would be no statement in the Greek NT that would actually claim that God is nowhere. Nevertheless, no representation using an improperly formed English expression is an accurate characterization of a properly formed Greek majuscule text in its own context.

About Tom Howe

Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages at Southern Evangelical Seminary
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