Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry Xmas

This is a verse from the Bible in James Bay Cree, published in 2001 by the Canadian Bible Society. It says "Then Simon Peter answered, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (of God who lives, the son.)" Matthew 16:16

The ninth word from the beginning is X for Christ. The Chi sign X is used for the name of Christ in this New Testament published in 2001. In Unicode it is U+166D : CANADIAN SYLLABICS CHI SIGN.

There is another way to write "Christ" in Cree. Here is a verse of Silent Night in Western Cree. At the beginning of the fourth line Christ’s name is written phonetically. However, ‘r’ is not a Cree sound and the syllabic used for ‘r’ shows that this is a non-Cree word. The double consonants are also foreign to Cree, so the name of Christ is identifiable as a foreign word in Cree when spelled out phonetically.

The use of the Greek letter chi for Christ has a long history. The first shorthand for Christ seems to have been ΧΡΣ P46. This site explains that the Nomina Sacra were used not as abbreviations but to set apart holy words in text.

Two kinds of shorthand were used from the third century up until the 16th century in Greek manuscripts. First, the nomina sacra, where a closed set of frequently occuring siginificant names were abbreviated to create a logographic entity. Second, there were ligatures which shortened or combined two or three letters, especially grammatical endings, later even including the accent in the ligature.

Χριστος has been represented by Χρς, or Χς, and by ΧΡ in art and other representation. I have not found the ΧΡ in manuscripts and would not expect it since the manuscript form always includes the grammatical ending.

A quick glance at some facsimiles of Greek manuscripts* shows that the words ιησους, χριστος, θεος, ανθρωπος, πατερ, ματερ, πνευμα and some other words were represented by their initial and final one or two letters which represent the grammatical ending. This could be ς,υ,ν,οι, ι &c.

For this reason, I am assuming that the transition from Χς to Χ happened with the beginning of the use of the vernacular languages in Europe, when the ending was no longer relevant. There would be no reason to retain the last letter and X alone came to represent Christ. There is also no reason to see a sign of disrespect in the transition from Χς to Χ. And so Xmas first appeared in English texts in the 16th century.

Χ retained the meaning of Christ for those who knew Greek but possibly also in some form of British shorthand at least up until the last century. It occurs in the Cree writing system devised by James Evans in 1841 and now called Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, pictured at the beginning of this post. It is recognized that Evans drew on his knowledge of early British shorthand for the Cree syllabary. However, he must also have studied Greek so either way he would be familiar with the chi X symbol.

* Barbour, Ruth. Greek Literary Hands. 1981. Clarendon Press. Oxford.

I have previously posted on the use of the Greek chi symbol here and Greek Literary Hands here.


Further information on the Chi sign X and its first use in English are at the folloing links.

This is a general hodgepodge of information but one site claims that Wycliffe used the sign X for Christ. It should be possble to check that out.


Blogger Hiperpoliglota said...


Im Eugenio from Brazil.I have just created my blog here and of course i have been going through some blogs to find out those i can add to my favorities.I want to add you since i have such a great liking to languages history,lexical matters etc.
Go there and lets exchange knowledge!

hugs from Brasil


9:05 AM  
Anonymous Niall said...

and what of the Chi-Rho??

That is a more accepted shortening that simply X, certainly in the catholic faith.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...

Definitely the Chi-Rho symbol is a very recognizable Christ symbol. It occurs in early Chirstian art and manuscripts. Maybe next Christmas I will read up on its history. Thanks for the idea!

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

Ooh Tar...I thought I was gonna get shouted at!


Cheers again.


7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1。那混合物是更缓慢的 ... 但是 Lexus 的即将到来混合版本 ' 将是比气体气体更快的唯一的版本如好地有多马力。不要自夸速度,但是我被吸引轮流开送行为 90,是警察给我一次休息。
... 只是通过在城市乘公交车往返我储蓄过来 $ 5000/yr 与我的以前的汽车,吉普车切诺基相比。超过 5 年,会是 $ 更不用说会进一步增强我的储蓄的最近的比率远足的 20K。这样除非你是在你的父母的地产上吸的一个浪费的儿子,你的声明是一束公牛。

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3. 45 (90 r/t)
45mpg 天是 2 我的车上> 8 加>>比。那每天是 6 >仑的一笔>蓄, 120 月, 1440 每年者 5040 (根 3.5 元/) ... 加上它发表 1/10th CO2。多愚蠢是它不要骑一个,去算进今天和年龄。
4.缺少了解 ... 是真的,实际上我个人这样那样喜欢它我可能享受所有鼓励;税,合伙用车,免费停车米, prius 业主之间的秘密的信号,等等;这样自私地说那我真地在那里在享受在所有气体汽车业主上的所有权那没有一个想法多少我这辆汽车有的嬉戏。我 junked 我的 SL,郊区对我的 Prius ... 你应该也。

11:45 AM  

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