Abbreviations in P46

In addition to the numerous examples of abbreviations of sacred words, known as nomina sacra (see Nomina Sacra in P46), there are a few examples of other types of additional abbreviation. In the example above, the horizontal stroke above omega stands in place of the final letter (the nu of παντῶν). This type of abbreviation, using a stroke to represent the final nu, occurs mostly at the end of a line in this codex. However, the practice of using a stroke to represent the final letter(s) of a word is very common in non-literary papyri, as is the practice of raising the last written letter of a word to indicate an abbreviation (see the example of ϲτιχ for ϲτίχοι, in Stichometric Notes in P46).

Different Types of Abbreviation

Below are some examples of the different forms of abbreviation found in various papyri. Examples 1 and 2 are known as suspensions, because the final letter(s) of the word are left out, and the abbreviation is indicated by raising the last remaining letter or adding a stroke over the final letter. Suspensions are common in non-literary texts, where speed of writing was valued over readability. Example 3, which is a nomen sacrum taken from P46, is known as a contraction; here, the entire word has been contracted by removing letters from within the word. The role of nomina sacra was not to save time when copying the text, but rather to distinguish the contracted word as a holy word.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 1: μη   for μητρόϲ

Example 2: ιουλ θεω for Ἰουλίου Θέωνοϲ

Example 3: θυ for θεοῦ

Notice that in the two suspension-style abbreviations, the case of nouns and adjectives must be inferred, since the final letters of the word are lost. In a contraction (e.g. a nomen sacrum) the final letter remains and thus indicates the grammatical case of the noun.

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