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Numerals, Nomina Sacra, and Canon Tables

Milesian Numerals Nomina Sacra Eusebian Canon Tables

Milesian Numerals

The Greek alphabet doubles as a numerical system. In Rev. 13:18, for example, the number ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ (six hundred sixty-six) appears in many manuscripts as χξϛ (666). (In some variants it also appears as χιϛ [616].)

Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν. ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν, καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ [χξϛ].
[This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is man’s number, and his number is 666. (Revelation 13:18 NET)]

These Greek alphabetic numerals, called Milesian numerals,* are most familiar in book titles (Πρὸς Κορινθίους α´, Πρὸς Κορινθίους β´, etc.). They also appear within manuscripts as page numbers and stichometric notes.

Numbers are usually differentiated from words by primes, though in manuscripts they may be differentiated by either primes or overbars, as in the preceding examples. (Overbars are used to also identify abbreviations and nomina sacra [see Nomina Sacra below].)

The alphabet, with the addition of three archaic letters, is assigned values as follows. (The Milesian numeral system resurrected stigma, koppa and sampi from older forms of the alphabet, since it requires 27 letters but the alphabet has only 24.)


note: Two forms of stigma, koppa, and sampi are encoded in Unicode: for numeric usage, stigma (Ϛϛ), modern koppa (Ϟϟ), and modern sampi (Ϡϡ); for alphabetic usage, digamma (Ϝϝ), archaic koppa (Ϙϙ), and archaic sampi (Ͳͳ). The reason for the different forms is that after alphabetic digamma, koppa, and sampi had dropped out of use, the glyphs for numeric stigma, koppa, and sampi continued to evolve with the rest of the alphabet; the archaic glyphs for alphabetic digamma, koppa, and sampi are preserved for representing ancient inscriptions. Stigma's change in name owes to the glyph's loss of its double-gamma 'F' shape.

Milesian Numbers in Robinson-Pierpont 2005§
ΙΒ χιλιάδες12 kilos (12 thousand)Rev 7:5-8
οἱ ΚΔ πρεσβύτεροιthe 24 eldersRev 4:4, 10; 5:8; 11:16
οἱ πρεσβύτεροι οἱ ΚΔthe 24 eldersRev 19:4
μῆνας ΜΒ42 monthsRev 11:2
ΡΜΔ χιλιάδες144 kilos (144 thousand)Rev 14:1, 3
ΡΜΔ πηχῶν144 cubitsRev 21:17
ΧΞϚ666Rev 13:18
ΑΧ1600Rev 14:20

note: The above numbers spelled out (and uninflected): twelve: δώδεκα; twenty-four: εἴκοσι τέσσαρες; forty-two: τεσσεράκοντα δύο; one hundred forty-four: ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες; six hundred sixty-six: ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ; one thousand six hundred: χίλιοι ἑξακόσιοι.

* Nicholas: There was more than one Ancient Greek scheme for numeration [e.g., acrophonic numerals].... The system which prevailed in Greek until the introduction of Arabic numerals was the Milesian system, introduced to Athens along with the Ionic alphabet from the city of Miletus in Ionia.1 TGL: The East Ionic alphabet was officially adopted by Athens in the archonship of Euclides (403-402 BC).2

Nicholas: The main such device in antiquity and the middle ages [for differentiating numbers from words] was the overbar.... The prime is now used in Greek to indicate that the string is a number.3 (Also Nicholas: The Milesian system only deals with numbers up to 999. Various tricks were e[m]ployed to get beyond that.... The only artifice which has survived—and that pretty much only because it is used in dates—is to use the left keraia in front of a Milesian number for thousands rather than units. So if βʹ is 2, ͵β is 2000, and ͵ββʹ is 2002.4)

Nicholas: It is possible ... to devise a case where the two [Q-shaped archaic koppa and Z-shaped modern koppa] would need to be differentiated in print: a Modern Greek epigraphy manual, using Milesian numerals for the pagination of its preface or for the numbering of the inscriptions it includes, would use the Q in the inscriptions itself, and the Z in any numbering.5

§ The Milesian numbers in Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform 2005 are variant readings in Revelation in the marginal apparatus. (Robinson, Pierpont: Some marginal variants – particularly in the Apocalypse – indicate Greek numerical forms.... In these rare instances, the majority of Greek manuscripts display the marginal numeric form.6)

Nomina Sacra

Similar in appearance to Milesian numbers, but not numeric, are nomina sacra (sacred names) abbreviations.

Nomina Sacra in Robinson-Pierpont 2005*
ΔΑΔDavidRev 3:7; 5:5; 22:16

There are fifteen standard nomina sacra, plus inflected forms and non-standard variants, common in manuscripts, including: θς for θεός (god); ις or ιης for Ἰησοῦς (Jesus; recognizable as the Christogram IHS); κς for κύριος (lord); and χς or χρς for χριστός (christ).7

* ΔΑΔ is the only nomen sacrum in RP05, and is a variant reading in the marginal apparatus in Revelation.

Kraus (B-Greek, 1999): NA27 (and GNT4) do[es] not list the so-called nomina sacra as textual variants in its apparatus (if it did, it would be quite a volume).8 Robinson, Pierpont: Trobisch ... suggests that a canonical edition should at least utilize the nomina sacra abbreviations representing the descriptive titles κύριος, θέος, and χριστός, as well as the abbreviation representing the proper name Ἰησοῦς.9

Eusebian Canon Tables

Milesian numbers also appear in the Eusebian Canon Tables:

11th century Greek manuscript of Canons Six-Nine
12th century Greek manuscript of Canon Two

In the third or fourth century, the four gospels were divided into sequentially numbered sections, each gospel starting from one (that is, from αʹ in the Greek manuscripts). In Nestle-Aland these numbers (converted to Arabic numerals) run down the inner margins: Matthew has 355 sections; Mark, 241; Luke, 342; and John, 232. The numbers are called Ammonian sections, named after Ammonius of Alexandria, who compiled a Harmony of the Gospels, c. 220 CE.

Beneath each marginal section number is a canon number. Inspired by Ammonius' Harmony of the Gospels, Eusebius (265-340 CE), the Bishop of Caesarea and author of the Ecclesiastical History, created a system of ten canons, or tables, (numbered I-X in Nestle-Aland; αʹ-ιʹ in the Greek manuscripts) to cross-reference by section number each parallel passage in the four gospels. (Though Ammonius was traditionally credited with innovating the section numbers and Eusebus the canons, it is now generally accepted that Eusebius innovated both.)

  • Canon One indexes the passages common to all four gospels
  • Canons Two through Four, the passages common to three gospels
  • Canons Five through Nine, the passages common to two gospels
  • Canon Ten, the passages unique to particular gospels (Canon Ten is actually four tables, one for each gospel)

For example:

Κανών αʹ
Κανών ηʹ
Κανών ιʹ

Although the section numbers in this example happen to correspond nearly one-to-one with modern verse numbers (which were innovated in the sixteenth century*), most(?) sections are multiple verses long. Some such as Luke sections 319 and 320 below are only half a verse.

Canon One (αʹ) above cross-references the following passages by section number in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:

  • 336: Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (Matthew 27:38 NET)
  • 215: And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:27 NET)
  • 317: Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. (Luke 23:32 NET)
  • 319: They crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (Luke 23:33b NET)
  • 198: There they crucified him along with two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle. (John 19:18 NET)

Canon Eight (ηʹ) cross-references the following in Luke and Mark:

  • 277: For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ (Luke 22:37 NET)
  • 216: [[OMITTED]] (Mark 15:28 NET)

Canon Ten (ιʹ) identifies the following as unique to Luke:

  • 320: [But Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’] (Luke 23:34a NET)

* Modern chapters were innovated in the a thirteenth century, and modern verse numbers in the sixteenth. The chapter divisions that are commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton's chapter divisions. The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan's verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.10

† Mark 15:28 is absent from certain manuscript traditions and so appears to have been copied from Luke. It reads: And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘He was counted with the lawless ones.’ In Luke it occurs in the Last Supper account; in Mark it occurs in the Crucifixion account. Metzger: The earliest and best witnesses of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text lack ver. 28.... There is no reason why, if the sentence were present originally, it should have been deleted. It is also significant that Mark very seldom expressly quotes the Old Testament.11


1. Nick Nicholas, Numerals, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 15 February 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), introduction.

2. TLG® Unicode Proposal (draft 8/13/02) (PDF), Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, University of California, Irvine, (accessed 15 February 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), Footnote 88, 118

3. Nick Nicholas, Numerals, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 14 February 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), 5. Keraia.

4. Nick Nicholas, Numerals, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 14 February 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), 6. Left Keraia.

5. Nick Nicholas, Numerals, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 16 April 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), 2. Koppa.

6. William G. Pierpont and Maurice A. Robinson, comps., preface to The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Texform 2005 (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing Company, 2005), available online at both: and, xviii.

7. Regents of the University of Michigan, Greek 1 - The Pauline Epistles (P46), Reading the Papyri, University of Michigan Papyrus Collection, (accessed 16 April 2007) (accessed 30 Sep 2018), Nomina Sacra in P46.

8. Thomas J. Kraus, How does one detect Nomina Sacra in NA27 apparatus?, 17 February 1999, B-Greek Mailing List Archives, (accessed 17 February 2007).

9. William G. Pierpont and Maurice A. Robinson, comps., preface to The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Texform 2005 (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishing Company, 2005), available online at both: and, xviii n. 29.

10. Got Questions Ministries, Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses?,, (accessed 30 Sep 2018).

11. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgellschaft / United Bible Socities, 1994), Mark 15.28.

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