In the mind-blowing diversity of the CR script, several signs or strings stand out. They caught my eye either because they “sparkle” with dots or because their context allowed me to guess their meaning. In both cases, I presume the signs or strings of signs stand for divine names or sacred objects or places. The special treatment they got, the special meaning they have and an urge to classify coming from the depth of my biologist self made me gather them in this post under the name of Divine Designators. I could have used the Nomina sacra (sacred names) phrase, used by scholars for the shortened notation of certain words in Christian manuscripts. But I don’t want to misuse terms, at least not when I know what they mean. I have my concerns of identifying the CR special signs as nomina sacra because they do not follow the graphics of a nomen sacrum (do not have a cross-bar) and probably cover slightly different meanings than the fifteen nomina sacra. I coined this Divine Designators phrase for the sole purpose of naming the “special words” from the CR.
When the 72 legendary creators of the Septuagint, the first Greek rendition of the Old Testament, faced the problem of including the most sacred name of God into their translation they preferred to transform it into Kyrios (Lord) or Theos (God).
Traduttore, traditore you may say, but the alteration was justified by their reverence to the divine name. They had to save it from being wrongfully used by those who might not know or follow the Jewish tradition which says that the personal name of God is not to be spoken, unless special circumstances.
The law abiding people of Israel knew that the four letters, the Tetragrammaton,
standing for the personal name of God are not to be pronounced according to their phonetic value: YHWH, which supposedly stand for YaHWeH. Instead, the devout reader will say aloud Adonai, which means master or lord.
All Christian Churches , except for Jehova’s Witnesses, restrain from using the secret name of God to this day.
Most High, omnipotent, good Lord,
All praise, glory, honour, and blessing are yours.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
And no man is worthy to
pronounce your name.
(“Canticle of the Sun” by St. Francis of Assisi – from The Encyclopedia of Magic and Witchcraft, by Susan Greenwood)
Kyrios and Theos are very frequent words both in the Greek Old Testament, which is a translation, and in the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek. At some point, scribes started writing Kyrios and Theos in a contracted form with an overstrike, creating the first nomina sacra
Who, when, where and why started this custom is not clear yet. (Larry Hurtado – The Earliest Christian Artifacts).
Somewhere along the first centuries of Christianity, this model of contraction inspired the scribes to shorten the most frequent holy names, a practice that became general. The original nomina sacra were in Greek but corresponding abbreviated forms were created for the Latin texts too.
It is an ongoing debate whether these shortened words had a special pious meaning or were used for practical reasons: to create visual anchors for the less proficient readers or to save time and space when writing easily recognizable terms, frequently used by Christians. (see Larry Hurtado – The Earliest Christian Artifacts).
Paleographers identified 15 such words, with their declensions:
The Tetragrammaton is not part of the list, because it was not included in religious manuscripts, at least, not usually. (Eric Francke -The Tetragrammaton and The Christian Scriptures). The refrain from using it and the uncertainty on how it should be voiced (which is real and not definitively elucidated) fed the popular belief that it has a tremendous power and explains why it appears in magical texts. This, and the legend according to which Solomon, the archetype of the wise and powerful magus, controlled the armies of demons and angels with the help of a star-shaped ring, engraved with the Tetragrammaton.
Actually, this belief was embraced by philosophical movements too. For the Kabbalists and those inspired by them, the four letters contain all the Sefirot (the ten attributes of the eternal creator) and are the origin of all things created. “The Masters of the Name”, those who knew the combinations of the letters that represent the divine manifestations of the Sefirot, could work miracles.Mainstream religions may be shy about using the secret name of God and the Tetragrammaton but the Codex from Rohonc is quite different.
The powerful Tetragrammaton appears in the sun,
a match to the popular portrayal of King David in Books of Hours and Psalters.
But the Tetragrammaton appears in the text as well
And not only once. In several variants, probably due to scribal sloppiness, it turns up over 100 times in the entire manuscript, 17 times in the first 100 pages.
This is peculiar (unless you are a Jehova’s Witness), but the next Designator is the equivalent of the ubiquitous Christogram.
IHC XC – is an alternative of the Nomen Sacrum of Jesus Christ in the form adopted by Western denominations.
I should explain how I identified it.
Maybe everyone recognizes the scene above at the first glance. I didn’t. I had to break it into elements: three kings, a city in the distance, three human figures sheltered under a roof, one of them smaller. And a big star above. Aha! When it dawned on me, I tried the same way to see what text would fit in the box. “The birth of Jesus Christ” was my best guess. (In retrospect, it wasn’t the brightest one, “Adoration of the Magi” would have been more accurate.) I tried it out in several languages (with a little help from Google translate), hoping to find a good equivalent for the first string of signs, the ones on the right. I didn’t. Than I had another Aha! moment. In most of the languages I sampled, the word order can be the same (Hungarian is the exception), hence the last signs could mean Jesus Christ.
A similar string, very likely to stand for “Resurrection oh Jesus Christ” is in the picture from page 59 Left
Let’s take a look at the two strings
Top Birth of Jesus Christ, bottom Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’d say it supports my theory.
For a long time I read it IC XC, as typical for Eastern Christianity
The crossed hook with the c attached was somehow suggestive. This little diagram is not as much about how the writer made up the sign as it is about how I decomposed it.
This implies that the small, appended c stands for the –s ending.
is also a sign with an appended c?
This is supported by the fact that the sign exists on itself in the manuscript:
Which made me take into account the possibility that
In Western manuscripts both forms, IHS and IHC, were used. They stand for I E sou S.
The letter H (eta) was pronounced [ɛ] in Ancient Greek and is pronounced [i] since medieval times. Accordingly, in Eastern Christianity, the name is written Iisus and pronounced with a long I [i:].
The Cyrillic alphabet was created in the 10th century, derived from the Ancient Greek script from which took over the letter H-eta with the value [i]. In time, the shape changed into И. In Cyrillic script, this Christogram is I И C.
And this is how I think the CR cryptographer came up with his personal version of the Christogram:
If my conjecture is right, than “N” stands for I (like in York), the small appended “c” stands for the –s ending, and the “I” could be either [e], if the creator of the script was a classicist, a short [i] if he had links with Eastern Christianity, or an H if he took the letters at face value.
This brief explanation can hardly convey the major shift it caused in my approach of the CR. For over a year I searched for correspondences of the drawings strictly with Greek and Slavonic manuscripts and icons. When I accepted this possibility, I expanded my search to Western manuscripts, and it was quite a productive opening. It also shows just how little I knew about religion. 😦
Here it seems to identify one of the table companions as Jesus.
The string is very frequent in the manuscript. All my statistics are for the first 100 pages.
I did not count the [N] and is not in the table, since I consider it one of the “ordinary” signs, when on itself.
The third combination from left is mainly used to mark the pages from 31 to 49 – probably the Passion pages (32 of 36 occurrences).
The singular appearance of
is probably a scribal mistake.
I was baffled by the high frequency of
though, which I would have considered a “special” sign, part of the string. I have no explanation for its use as a single character.
These were the two Divine Designators I am sure about.
The next one is a puzzling string, which, I have doubts about its place among the Divine Designators.
It would suggest that it is XC written in reverse.
I have problems with it because inside the text is independent or separated from
by several other signs. It shows up 62 times, but mainly on pages from 39 to 54 (the pages around the drawings above). Maybe it identifies the other character, Herodes or Pilates.
Another tricky string is
which is quite frequent in the text but appears only in two images
and slightly modified here
I don’t know its meaning.
Then, there are the sparkling signs. The most abundant one is
The dots suggest radiance, as in this drawing with Christ in glory.
The sign appears 169 times, sometimes in the combination
Could it be the substitute for Kyrios and the string above means Lord Christ?
The following one is really intriguing:
It clearly got the special treatment but what outstanding name or word is in the New Testament formed by repeating parts. I was considering for a while Albanian as the possible language of CR and thought that it might signify nënë – mother. I could not corroborate this though, and later I found that the triangle stands for [i] or [y]. So, is it sisi, mimi, nini? It appears 30 times only in the first 100 pages.
Had I studied only the first 100 pages, I wouldn’t have found this variant (10 occurrences), one of them mixed up.
The signs with 0 occurrences appear only in the pages from 100 to 248.
And a singular firefly on page 49 :-).
While the ones on the first column might be simply pictograms standing for candles, as in this drawing
it is anybody’s guess what the rest stand for.