A collation of resource notes on nomina sacra (sacred names)
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Nomina sacra: sacred names - resource notes
IHS or JHS Christogram of western Christianity:
Starting in the third century the nomina sacra were sometimes shortened by contraction in Christian inscriptions, resulting in sequences of Greek letters such as IH (iota-eta), IC (iota-sigma), or IHC (iota-eta-sigma) for Jesus (Greek Iesous), and XC (chi-sigma), XP (chi-ro) and XPC (chi-rho-sigma) for Christ (Greek Christos). Here "C" represents the medieval "lunate" form of Greek sigma; sigma could also be transcribed into the Latin alphabet by sound, giving IHS and XPS. See Christology Abbreviations for more. This tradition is also transferred into Cyrillic manuscripts. See WIKI for tabulated Nomina Sacra and dates of manuscripts taken from Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek manuscripts - Philip Comfort and David Barett (1999)
 Institute for Religious Research: The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, Appendix K: Nomina SacraPDF (28.1 KiB)See WIKI for tabulated Nomina Sacra and dates of manuscripts taken from Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek manuscripts - Philip Comfort and David Barett (1999)
Joshua and Jesus - the Marcellus of Ancyra Fragment 4
http://faculty.wlc.edu/thompson/fourth%2Dcentury/Marcellus%20Fragments/ The Greek word “Jesus” is used in the Old Testament to translate the (sacred) name Joshua, and in the New Testament for Jesus of Nazareth. Marcellus of Ancyra Fragment 4 Fragment number Klost. 1 -- Rettb. 1 -- Vinz. 4 Source Eusebius, Against Marcellus 1.2; GCS: Eusebius vol. 4 (3rd ed.), pp. 9-10. Modern edition M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997). Translator's Notes: The Greek word “Jesus” is used in the Old Testament to translate the name Joshua, and in the New Testament for Jesus of Nazareth. Marcellus declares the name Jesus to be the greatest name upon the earth. To prove this, he quotes the angel’s statement to Mary in Luke as well as a passage in Zechariah. The Old Testament hero Joshua was given the same name as the Savior because he was a type, i.e. one foreshadowing a future person, in this case Jesus who leads true believers into the heavenly Jerusalem.
http://www.bible.ca/b-canon-nomina-sacra.htm 1) They show the work of a single redactor who produced the canonical edition of the New Testament as part of a total Christian scripture. 2) T. C. Skeat has suggested that Christians adopted the codex in order that they could copy the four gospels together. The consistent system of abbreviating certain words (nomina sacra, fifteen in total) in Christian biblical codices points to the likelihood of recessions, i.e., editions of the New Testament that aimed at a standardized text for Christian worship. 3) Barton has observed that when nomina sacra appear in ancient manuscripts, those manuscripts were considered sacred. 4) The use of nomina sacra was not limited to the writings which we recognize as the New Testament. For example, in the Shepherd of Hermas (included in Codex Sinaiticus), first leaf first column, the three occurrences - God, spirit, man.
http://www.lib.umich.edu/pap/exhibits/reading/Paul/nominasacra.html ORIGINS of USE: The precise origins of the use of nomina sacra remain unclear, but their use is pervasive throughout New Testament writing, growing in scope over time to include more words, and the practice is even retained in the Latin and Coptic New Testament traditions. Because of its early date, P46 shows some of the earliest forms of nomina sacra, using certain three-letter abbreviations (XPC) rather than the two-letter forms (XC) which began to replace them in the fourth century. Christ = XPICTOC = XPC = CHI + RHO + "ETA" Good = XPNCTOC = = CHI + RHO + Jesus = INCOVC = INC (barred) three-letter abbreviations = XPC the two-letter abbreviation = XC
The Codex, the Nomina Sacra and the Staurogram’, in Text and Artifact in the Religions of Mediterranean Antiquity: Essays in Honour of ... www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/1842/648/2/P52_TB_article.pdf "The chi-rho device also appears in the margin of a hypomnema on Homer, Iliad, dated to the first century bce, the chi-rho here a sign for XPNCTOC (marking passages “useful” for excerpting). The tau-rho device appears on some coins of King Herod (37–4 bce), the taurho intended to identify them with the third year of his reign
Fabulating Jesus: Why Gnostic "Codes" Do Not Name the Historical Jesus "Jesus," considered as the proper name of an assumed-to-be historical person, does not appear in the Gnostic Coptic writings. The same applies for the term "Christ" understood as the Incarnation or Son of God celebrated in the theology of Saint Paul and Saint John. In my book "Not in His Image" I wrote: In the Coptic Gnostic material the names Jesus and Christ are never written in full, but indicated by code such as the letters IS with a bar over them. Scholars routinely fill in the blanks, JESUS from IS making IS into I(eseo)S, the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua. They do so with considerable poetic license, for there is no textual evidence to support the assumption that in Gnostic usage IS indicated a historical person named Ieseos, Jesus. IS could as well be translated in another way: I(asiu)S, giving the name Iasius, “the healer,” a title rather than a common name. But translators assume that IS indicates Jesus of the New Testament. In short, scholars do not allow us the chance to consider that IS might indicate anything else but a literal person whose identity is predetermined. Christ from XS (or XRS) The same applies for Christ. The code for Christ is XS or sometimes XRS, which could as well indicate Christos, or even Chrestos. In Coptic it looks like this: XC, with a bar over the letters. X is the Greek letter chi and C is the Coptic S. Scholars fill in XC so that it reads “Christ,” never “Christos,” even though “Christos” is more consistent with the final S. Where XC appears in the Apocryphon of John, for instance, scholars put the Greek Christos in parenthesis but translate the coded word as “Christ.” Doing so, they immediately equate XC with the well-known entity of Pauline and Johannine theology. Again, this is poetic license. Considering all the Gnostic material that argues against the Pauline-Johannine redeemer, this equation is extremely dubious.I claim that scribes were instructed to use the codes by whoever directed them and oversaw the transcriptions that come down to us in the NHC materials. Who commissioned these transcriptions from (presumed) lost Greek original texts into Coptic? No one knows. Why were the Greek-language writings translated into Coptic at all? No one knows. Did those who commanded the translations do so to preserve Gnostic ideas, or to refute them? No one knows.
We do know, however, that Coptic was a language invented (around 100 CE) to transcribe hieroglyphs at a time when few people remained in Egypt who could read them, and that subsequently Coptic became the official language of the Egyptian Christian monastic movement. Presumably, by the middle of the 4th century CE when the Nag Hammadi books were buried, Coptic was used mainly by Egyptian monks who had been converted to an early form of Christianity—the desert monastic movement. It is known that the leaders of these cenobite boot camps, such as Shenoute of Athribis, were rabid ideologues who openly advocated violent means to suppress and eradicate all that remained of non-Christian culture. From Not in His Image:
Just across the river from Dendera are the ruins of an early Coptic monastery, Tabennisi. At the time the codices were hidden in a cave around 345 C.E., the founder of the monastery, the cenobitic monk Pachomius, had just died. A generation later, the monastery came under the control of Shenoute of Athribis (348–466), the leading figure in the Coptic Christian church and a close ally of Cyril of Alexandria, the man who probably orchestrated the murder of Hypatia. To his dismay, Shenoute discovered that a small remnant of persecuted Gnostics had taken refuge in the Temple of Hathor. He wrote to Cyril that the heretics possessed “books full of abominations” that must surely be destroyed. Shenoute commanded the Gnostics to renounce their perverted beliefs and accept Cyril as their spiritual master. When the heretics resisted, Shenoute warned them in no uncertain terms: “I shall make you acknowledge the archbishop Cyril, or else the sword will wipe out most of you, and moreover those of you who are spared will go into exile.”
Yet it was men such as Shenoute who oversaw the transcription of Greek-language Gnostic writings into Coptic. Or was it? Could the scribes who copied—NOT authored—these lost documents have been closet heretics, friends or students of Gnostic holdouts like those who took refuge at Dendera, or native Egyptians faithful in some manner to the sacred pre-Christian traditions of their land? We simply don't know if the scribes of the NHC were Christian monks robotically following orders, or if they were a straggling remnant of students of the Egyptian Mysteries who, for some odd reason, chose to preserve jumbled notes from their instruction in the language of the Christianized conquerers.
If they were monks of the Coptic Christian Church, their assigned purpose in transcribing these materials would have been to Christianize or refute them. That is, I think, an obvious and reasonable hypothesis. If they were Gnostic diehards or sympathetic to such, they would have tried to preserve as much genuine Gnostic content as possible while shackled with the daunting task of hiding their intentions; thus resulting in the terrible mish-mash we find. This is also, I submit, a reasonable hypothesis. The incoherence of these materials, and the maddening mix of Christian and non-Christian elements, suggests to me that Coptic-speaking monks transcribed a hodge-podge of received materials that they could barely understand. The huge range of scribal errors and inconsistencies lend support to this view
Questioning the nomina sacra "christian" connection
Someone will argue and flatly state: In the entire span of these works the abbreviations XS, XRS, and IS all refer to the character understood by the authors as a historical person referred to as Jesus-the-Christ. Okay, let's take a step or two back and look at this claim. What it says is that scholars today agree on what the codes mean, but this is no assurance of what the codes meant to the people who originated them. I ask, Where in the writings of that time and setting do we find anything that explains who set up the nomina sacra and why? I would like to see that information in the textual sources of the 4th century CE, or earlier.
I don't know who established the scribal conventions found in the NHC. I presume it was not the scribes themselves, but whoever oversaw them. Would this have been the head honchos in the hierarchy of the Christian Coptic Church, men like Shenoute? Probably. In that case, are we to assume that the overseers insisted on the codes to specify allusion to Jesus Christ of the New Teatament? But if they were so adamant about that identification, why use codes? Why not be literal and totally straightforward in naming the intended person? Wouldn't such literalness be consistent with the attitude of the early Church Fathers regarding the historical value of their sacred narrative? If we assume that the overseers imposed the code, we are left wondering why they, who advocated the literal Jesus and elevated that human figure to a divine status, would have encoded His Name?
Bear in mind that examples of the nomina sacra other than IC and XRS occur in the Nag Hammadi books. The Apocalypse of Adam (V, 5) shows these nams in code or full spelling with the superlinear mark: Seth, Adam, Eve (Euha), Deucalion (a figure from Greek myth), Ham, Japeth and Shem (sons of Noah), Sakla (a name for the Demiurge), Abrasax, Sablo, Gamaliel (Gnostic magical deities), the word Pneuma (spirit in Greek), Phersalo and Sauel, the word Aeon, Michou, Michar and Mnesinous (Gnostic angelic spirits), and Yesseus Mazareus Yessedekeus (invocatory name for the "Spirit of the Living Waters"). The name Noah, by contrast, is not coded, and Adam is inconsistently coded.
Now, I don't think that any scholar would argue that these nomina sacra refer to historical persons known actually to have lived in the early Christian era. So why should XC and XRC by any different? If the scribal convention was such, where is the textual proof in the words of those who introduced that convention? Lacking such proof, the accepted view of modern scholars about the XC and XRC is mere speculation. And my speculation is as good as theirs.
I argue that the Coptic IC, Greek IS, can indicate I(asiu)S rather than I(eseo)S, the Greek spelling of Jesus. The whole issue hinges on sacramentalism, actual or symbolic enntheogenic ingestion. Many Gnostics practiced actual entheogenic ingestion, and came to identify the entheogen with Iasius, "the Healer," Jesus. The canonical fascists, bent on political conquest of the Empire, insisted on symbolic entheogenic ingestion, murdered both the original Nazarenes and their early Gnostic followers, and burned their writings. - Dan Russell: Shamanism, Patriarchy, and the Drug WarI for one do not accept the direct identification of Jesus/Iasius with an entheogenic sacrament, but many people now do. A growing number, so it appears. I argue rather that the codes XC and XRC, along with the other coded examples cited above, were applied to mythological source material from Pagan traditions. For the "canonical fascists" who had to treat heretical writings in order to oppose them, this material was highly ambiguous and had to be defused. Its original allusions had to be subverted. Adam, for instance, could be understood in the Gnostic sense as the "first human" or Anthropos, not a literal male ancestor; but thought police like Shenoute would have insisted on the single, literal interpretation. It would have been to their advantage to put this tricky material in question by encoding it, thereby, in a sense, asserting their sovereign right to declare what the code meant. A clever say of saying, "We have made this name into an object of our privileged knowledge, and you must ask us what it means."
But insistence on a literal identity for XC and XRC by the Church fathers did not, and does not, obviate the rich alternative allusions that long predate the patristic ruse—if such it was. I challenge any scholar today to tell me that Deucalion, the mythological name found in encoded form in the NHC, was an historical person, and nothing but that.
Did pagans perform the NHC translations, and inserted the codes?
[It is generally accepted that] ... Christian Coptic scribes, not pagans, transcribed the Nag Hammadi texts—although I must emphasize, once again, that the people who wrote down the codices did not author them, and probably did not in many places understand what they were translating. Others insists that the nomina sacra refer to "the character understood by the authors as a historical person referred to as Jesus-the-Christ." But, oops, we don't know who the authors of the NHC were, do we? And besides, it was not the authors of the lost originals who applied the codes, it was the translators. Wasn't it?
If this was the case, either the transcribing monks invented the nomina sacra themselves, or they were instructed to use them by their overseers. I go for the latter explanation, which leaves us baffled as to who so instructed them, and why, as I have already noted. We just don't know, period. Houston, we have a problem. But here it's more appropriate to say: Jerusalem, we have a problem. We are delving here into an operation run by "mission control" in Jerusalem, either symbolically or literally speaking.
Wrongly assuming that I claim that pagan conspirators inserted the codes, others have said, "there is no external attestation to this being the case anywhere at any time." True enough. And it is equally true, as far as I know, that there is "no external attestation" to support the opinion of modern scholars that XC and XRC refer expressly to the "historical person referred to as Jesus-the-Christ." If there is external attestation of this kind, let's see it. Then we would know who introduced the codes and why!
So, what's it all about, after all? This is not just a nit-picking argument about Coptic scribal conventions, it is a battle over narrative control. To insist that XC and XRC name the historical person Jesus, also regarded as the Son of God and divine savior of humanity, is to insist that such a person existed to be named: this is the real core of the argument. But I maintain that such an alleged historical person, attributed with a divine status or not, never did exist, and so the codes could not have named him. The codes could have been introduced by the Church Fathers to enforce the fabulation of that person, but not to prove his existence. The nomina sacra prove nothing, and are better read as ambivalent mythological allusions. The scholarly consensus that the codes name Jesus assumes there was a Jesus to name, but the overwhelming weight of textual and historical evidence and disinterested opinion on the history of Christinaity shows, first, the complete lack of any reliable contemporary report of Jesus's existence, and second, the ambiguous use of Christ, Christos, Chrestos and Chrestus in canonical writings well into the 5th century. Even Saint Paul, the indisputable founder of Christian salvationist ideology (which he hijacked from the Zaddikim and distorted to his own ends, or to the agenda of his Roman paylords), totally disregards the historical existence of the Savior.
To insist that the Coptic codes name an historical person is to affirm the existence of that person. For all I know, others may not even believe that Jesus existed historically, but may adopt the scholarly consensus that the codes were intended to name the key figure of Christianity whose fictional persona was still under construction in the 4th Century CE.
It is eminently clear to some of us that since the time of Renan and Schweitzer, the historical Jesus has been shown to be a fiction, an obvious fabulation and, even more so, a confabulation that arises from the blind collusion of many confused and often hateful people. It's up to each one of us to make up our own mind and decide where we stand in that collusion, or if we stand against it. There is no compromise on Jesus. Gnostic dissent is a radical option, not a reconciliatory stance.
In protesting the attribution of XS and XRC, I rely on my scholarship, such as it is, and I am also demonstrating Gnostic dissent. As a scholar, I refuse to support the confabulation of Jesus and collude in inventing the Savior. I take no part in the ongoing fabrication of the delusional image of Jesus. I reject all messiahs, but first and foremost that one. I am quite willing, on occasion, to take a lesson in scribal conventions from a serious person, but these matters go far deeper than such quibbles. I leave you with this question:
What is the point of getting involved with Gnostic writings, if we ignore the power of dissent from the savior program inherent to the Pagan Gnostic message, and merely use scholarship as a pretext to continue fabulating Jesus, the divine victim whose exalted doom so contaminates the world he came to save? ---- jll: 4 Sept 2007 Andalucia Fabulating Jesus: Why Gnostic "Codes" Do Not Name the Historical Jesus
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/rak/earlylxx/sbl2002.htm SBL Presentation, Toronto, 25 November 2002 NT Textual Criticism Section: Material Remains and Social History: Books, Scrolls, and Scribes in Formative Christianity and Judaism "Early Jewish and Christian Scriptural Artifacts: Continuities, Discontinuities, and Social Significance" -- by Robert A. Kraft QUESTIONSIt has become a widely held opinion in discussions of ancient Greek literature that two of the main criteria for distinguishing "Christian" from "Jewish" scriptural fragments are (1) mega-format -- Christians tended to use the newly developed codex technology while Jews used scrolls -- and (2) treatment of nomina sacra -- while Jews had special ways of representing the tetragrammaton, Christians developed an entire system for abbreviating special words and names. Martin Hengel's recently translated book on The Septuagint as Christian Scripture (Clark 2002; with a long prehistory), which probably will attain wide usage in such circles as ours, states this position succinctly: "Long before there was a 'New Testament,' the Christian LXX was distinguished by the use of the codex rather than the Jewish scroll. Further, the tetragrammaton, as a rule continued in use in Greek scrolls of Jewish provenance, but in the Christian codices it was replaced by ku/riov, which was now written , like xristo/v and other nomina sacra, for emphasis with only the initial and final letters and a line above (KS, XS, etc.). This distinction must reach back into the first century and thus makes it possible to distinguish between Jewish and Christian manuscripts practically from the very beginning" (41). My presentation attempts to call such conclusions, which have now become widespread assumptions, into question by reexamining the ancient evidence now available.
The idea that Christians popularized the use of the codex has a long history in modern scholarship, and is probably most closely argued in the essay on "The Birth of the Codex" by the late Colin H. Roberts (Proceedings of the British Academy 40  169-204), revised and supplemented by Theodore C. Skeat into a small monograph (The British Academy and Oxford University Press  1987). In discussing, and rejecting, various theories for why Christians so quickly adopted the codex format (cheaper, more compact, easier to use), Roberts and Skeat rather casually and without further discussion allude to the dilemma that I wish to explore more closely: "We would have expected the earliest Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, to be strongly prejudiced in favour of the roll by upbringing, education and environment" (53). That there was no appropriate first century CE codex environment for early Christians is simply assumed, and possible supporting evidence for the use of codices in Jewish contexts at that time is dismissed or ignored on the principle that "Jews used scrolls, Christians used codices" -- supported by the further assumption that only Christians used nomina sacra representations. Then they provide two alternate hypotheses to explain the virutally immediate adoption of the codex by Christians: (1) the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome where we know that the codex format was being experimented with for literature, was transported to Alexandria, and from there set a pattern for other early Christian writings [Roberts' original suggestion], and (2) the sayings of Jesus were transcribed on tablets (on the model of law codes in Jewish contexts in Jerusalem and/or Antioch) that came to constitute a proto-Gospel in codex form, and thence to be imitated from Antioch [Skeat's revision].
It should be noted that questions about Jewish scribal practices and bookmaking techniques are never thoroughly discussed. Indeed, it is assumed (1) that later rabbinic Jewish evidence about the use of scrolls and other media is immediately applicable to the first century Greek Jewish situation, and (2) that in the matter of literary production, as in some other areas, Christians were anxious to differentiate themselves from Jews. Note the following statements: "It may be further noted that, whether or not this was the intention, nomina sacra share the same characteristic with the codex of differentiating Christian from both Jewish and pagan books" (57). "The [Christian] missionaries to the Gentiles would have needed Greek manuscripts, initially perhaps only of the Septuagint, [which] ... cannot have made use of the Hebrew tetragram for the Name of God, and the necessity to find an alternative may have led to the invention of the nomina sacra" (59; what did Jewish Greek speakers use among Gentiles, we might ask?). "Jewish children, like Gentile children, started their education on tablets and continued to use them for memoranda. ... Tablets of the kinds just mentioned [for recording isolated rabbinic sayings of "Oral Law"], including tablets of papyrus, would have been in common use amongst the Jews there [in Antioch]" (59). "It could be argued that the Jews equally used tablets for recording the Oral Law, but in no case did this usage develop into the codex. ... The use of the roll in Judaism was so rooted in tradition and prescribed by the Law [sic!] that such a development would have been impossible. The Christians, however, would have had no such inhibitions, and to them the adoption of a form of book which like the nomina sacra would have differentiated them from both Jews and pagans, as already noted, might have constituted an additional attraction" (60). Ambiguous Evidence
The admixture of "social history" and "material remains" in such an argument is obvious. But does it make sense? To deny that Jews could or would have used codices under similar conditions is simply to beg the question. Indeed, even Roberts and Skeat admit to the existence of a Jewish codex of Genesis around the end of the second century (POxy 656 -- "in spite of the codex form we consider it to be of Jewish origin"  -- presumably because QEOS and KURIOS are written in full by the original hand?). But other codex fragments of Greek Jewish scriptures from the same period they automatically classify as "Christian," without discussion:
Christian Scribal Activities
Furthermore, Roberts and Skeat admit that "The Christian manuscripts of the second century, although not reaching a high standard of calligraphy, generally exhibit a competent style of writing which has been called 'reformed documentary' [quote from Roberts] and which is likely to be the work of experienced scribes, whether Christian or not. ... It is therefore a reasonable assumption that the scribes of the Christian texts received pay for their work" (46). Apart from what we can infer from the extant remnants, we know very little about Jewish or Christian scribal practices including training and "commercial" production of texts in these early centuries, but it is an area that deserves some reflection. Were there Jewish booksellers and professional copyists who would make copies for paying customers? Was Jewish literature available through the non-Jewish book trade? Would professional copyists attempt to emulate formatting features in their exemplars? To what extent might "educated" early Jewish followers of Jesus such as Paul have made their own copies of materials useful to them? At what point might (non-Jewish) Christian leaders employ their own copyists, and how would they be trained (and/or religiously oriented)? When did an independent and selfconsciously "Christian" booktrade develop, and how did it operate?
These questions are basic to treatments of textuality, transmission, technique, and technology in the world in which early Christianity developed, yet are seldom even imagined, much less discussed. Since we have a growing body of relevant evidence, both Jewish pre-Christian in date, on the one side, and certifiably "Christian" by the 2nd century CE, on the other, it is possible to attempt to investigate details regarding possible continuities, and discontinuities, between these chronological and community poles. The evidence is not very widely distributed geographically -- north-central Egypt (Fayyum, Oxyrhynchos) and the Judean caves bear most of the weight. Nevertheless, some of the scribal phenomena are suggestive.
Unambiguously Jewish Fragments:
Pre-Christian fragments of Greek Jewish scriptures
and related literature: Features of note:
All are from scrolls, mostly on papyrus but also on leather/parchment Most are from the Pentateuch [list of non-pentateuchal] The quality of writing is generally good to excellent Scroll formats vary, from large "deluxe" to medium size/quality In some examples, the writing seems oriented to the top horizontal of the writing space Almost all examples use spacing between phrases or sections or even words Some display marginal indications for sectioning (ekthesis, enlarged letters, marginal marks) Tetragrammaton appears in a variety of ways, including an "abbreviated" form (IAW), but not KURIOS No instances of numbers (spelled out or in "ciphers") are recorded.
General Observations: It seems safe to speak of the existence of professionally prepared copies of Greek Jewish scriptures, surviving from a few locations in Egypt and Judea. There are scribal features in many of these fragments that are not typical, although perhaps not unique, in contemporary non-Jewish literary texts (especially the use of spacing, sometimes in conjunction with marginal sectioning markers). The special four-lettered name of deity receives a variety of special treatments, suggesting that perhaps no single or even relatively restricted Jewish scribal convention had been developed for that feature. If these generalizations are correct, it would seem presumptuous to ascribe similar features in "early Christian" manuscripts (e.g. use of spacing, marginal section markup) to "documentry" influence, as has sometimes been done, or even to consider special treatment of names associated with deity to be original or special to Christians. Quite the contrary, I would argue that the presence of such features in manuscripts of Christian date and/or provenance indicates continuity in scribal practice, if not misidentification or confusion of "Christian" and "Jewish" products and procedures. It is doubtful that in general "Christians" dissociated themselves from their "Jewish" predecessors in the production of manuscripts, or at least of copies of Greek Jewish scriptures.
Christians did, it is clear, develop their own scribal conventions as time went on. Even if Jewish practice gave impetus to the compression and/or abbreviation of special names, Christian scribes gradually created much more extensive and detailed "systems," tending to de facto standardization of nomina sacra in later generations. Even though the practice of marking blocks of text and/or of spacing between some sub-units is evidenced in some early Christian materials, Christian scribes also seem to have tended to employ the "scriptio continua" (uninterrupted flow of letters) format more common in the surrounding literary worlds, sometimes in combination with blocked format. But "Christian" scribal practice did not originate de novo with the emergence of selfconscious followers of Jesus who did not consider themselves "Jewish." It seems to have inherited, probably in a gradual and natural transition (as with many other areas of early Christian development!), features that already existed in pre-Christian Jewish circles. And I can't help but wonder whether the preference for the codex format may not also be attributed to the same process.
Article 08: Nomina sacra used as indication of Greek numerals
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2007/2007-06-39.html Review of The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins - Larry W. Hurtado Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.06.39 Reviewed by Jonathan More, George Whitefield College "In attempting to explain the origin of the nomina sacra H. reminds the reader that the horizontal stroke above the nomina sacra was originally used to indicate Greek letters that were to be read as numerals"
Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: an introduction to Greek palaeography By Bruce Manning Metzger (Google Books) During the first centuries of the church, Christian scribes developed a system of contractions for certain sacred words. These "nomina sacra", as the Latin Paleographer Ludwig Traube called them , eventually came to include fifteeen such terms. Scholars differ in accounting for the origin and development of the system of Nomina Sacra. Traube: their (Jewish) origin is to be found in the need among Hellenistic Jews for devising a Greek equivalent for the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. Rudberg and Mason drew attention to the contractions that sometimes occur in pre-Christian ostraca and inscriptions in representing proper names, titles of rulers, names of months, numerals and certain formulae. Paap: the origins are with Jewish Christians, because "for them the Greek word for 'God' had exactly the same value as the tetragrammaton and for that reason was entitled to a distinction in its different forms." Schuyler Brown: The extention of usage came about because "christian scribes wishes to give graphic expression to the theologicval equation already present in the earliest apostolic preaching, in which XUPIOS, the name of the God of Israel, was used as a title for Jesus Christ.
Extracts from Nomina Sacra: Scribal Practice and Piety in Early Christianity by K. Solomon These extracts present further variations in opinion on the question of the origination of the nomina sacra .... Hurtado takes this argument a step further in stating, “There is no undisputably Jewish manuscript in which any of the nomina sacra are written.” (Hurtado, “The Origin of the Nomina Sacra”, p. 662). It should, however, be noted that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether an Old Testament manuscript written in Greek is Jewish or Christian in provenance. One of the main determinants for distinguishing Christian texts from Jewish texts has been the presence of the nomina sacra (e.g., “One of the main reasons we know that the Old Testament manuscripts are Christian manuscripts and not Jewish is the presence of nomina sacra in the text.” Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts, p. 202). It therefore becomes a circular argument to assign texts as “Christian” based upon the presence of the nomina sacra and then argue that no Jewish texts contain the nomina sacra. Tov lists six possible Jewish 3rd-4th century mss that contain the nomina sacra – Emanuel Tov, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 303-310. Roberts who supposes the use of NS originated among Christians at Jerusalem, designates them as "the embryonic creed of the first church" Tuckett, "we have to note the fact that the phenomenon of nomina sacra is attested across the widest range of Christian literature, both ‘canonical’ and non-‘ canonical’, as early as our extant sources allow us to see."  In a comparatively diverse culture like early Christianity, we find in the nomina sacra a remarkable consistency. Hurtado writes, "All this indicates a remarkable instance of standardization that contrasts with the wide diversity we have come to associate with the earliest centuries of Christianity."  What could have caused this level of standardization? Comfort writes, "The inclusion of certain titles and exclusion of others is significant, for it shows that there was some kind of universal recognition among Christian scribes as to which terms were to be written as a nomen sacrum and which ones were not. This points to an early standard or what could be called an early canon for acceptable and non-acceptable nomina sacra." Authors Conclusion .... Early Christian scribes demonstrated reverence for God through the practice of using special abbreviations for divine names. These abbreviations, with some variations, were universally employed and fairly standardized throughout the earliest Christian communities. Multiple theories have been put forth in an attempt to explain the origin of the nomina sacra, however, none of these theories explain the dispersion of this practice across all theological and geographical boundaries. Regardless of how or where the nomina sacra originated, a significant precedent would still be needed in order for all Christian scribes everywhere to begin employing this practice. This precedent would need to be early, prolific and authoritative. Paul and his group of coworkers are the most likely group to have set this precedent. By employing the use of nomina sacra in Trinitarian reverence for God, Paul and his fellow authors and scribes would have set a precedent for all later authors and scribes to follow.62
APOSTLES as ARCHONS - April De Conick The Fight for Authority and the Emergence of Gnosticism in the Tchacos Codex and Other Early Christian literature. p.259/260 RE: gJudas The epithet of this Archon [Athoth] is "excellent" ("Chrestos") identified by the standard abbreviation XC or XPC which is often confused with ("Christos") In the Apocryphon of John, Athoth is the first Power, "Excellence" (XPC).