Glossary of Technical Terms

Bios (pl. bioi)
Sometimes a prologue to a Gospel text will contain traditional information about the life of the evangelist. The lives are attributed to an otherwise unknown Dorotheus of Tyre or to Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem in the first half of the seventh century.
Catena (pl. catenae)
Catenae are comments extracted from ecclesiastical writers. The comments are written into the margin with the author's name abbreviated and a system of symbols matching the marginal comment to the relevant place in the text.
After the fourth century biblical manuscripts begin to exhibit various systems of capitulation. The numbers appear in the margin next to the place in the column where the new section begins. Sometimes the new section will also be designated by the first letter of the first word being placed into the margin slightly and for the first letter to be enlarged. A table of chapters may appear before the book.
Colon (pl. cola)
Cola are single clauses after which a breath is taken. In order to facilitate reading, some manuscripts are written colometrically with one colon per line. A colon was considered to contain between nine and sixteen syllables. Several bilingual Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles have the text arranged colometrically.
A colophon is an inscription written by a scribe which usually appears at the end of a manuscript. Colophons include such information as the name of the scribe who copied the work, remarks about the making of the manuscript, prayers, and warnings against changing the text. (See examples in the discussion on scribes.)
Comma (pl. commata)
Commata are single phrases after which a breath is taken. A comma was considered to be less than eight syllables. (See Colon)
Scholia which are systematically developed in order to elucidate continuously the entire text, rather than random notes, is considered a commentary. The commentary is written in the margins and sometimes interspersed between sections of Scripture. (See Scholium)
The cursive style was used in Greek antiquity for writing non-literary, everyday documents, such as letters, accounts, receipts, petitions, deeds, and the like. Contractions and abbreviations for high-frequency words were common.
Glosses are brief explanations of difficult words or phrases written into the margins of manuscripts or between the lines. Glosses sometimes were accidentally copied into a new manuscript.
Hypotheses were brief introductions to books supplying the reader with information about the author, content of the book, and the circumstances of its composition.
Lectionary Note
A regular system of lessons from the Gospels and Epistles was developed for worship. In order to help the reader know where to begin and end, these places were marked in the margin or between the lines of text. Notes indicating what passages were to be read on which days were sometimes written in the margin with red ink. Then a list may appear at the end of the codex. Lectionary manuscripts were developed which tend to exhibit an early type of text.
During the ninth century a reform in handwriting occurred from which was developed a script of small letters in a running hand call minuscule. This cursive script became popular for the production of books.
Nomina Sacra
A system for contracting "sacred names" developed among Christian scribes during the first centuries of Christianity. Eventually there were fifteen such forms. Explanations for their origin range from a Christian attempt to follow the model of the Jewish Tetragrammaton (four Hebrew characters representing the name of God) to an imitation of contractions representing proper names, titles, names of months, numerals, and formulae which occur in pre-Christian ostraca (pottery sherds) and inscriptions.
A papyrus roll which bears writing on both sides is called an opisthograph. Usually only the inside of the roll, which had horizontal fibers, was used for writing.
Ornamentation is the endeavor to beautify a page or column. There are different methods, namely:
Pagination in papyri is infrequent and when it does occur it is often the work of an editor, perhaps a librarian. Consistent pagination began to occur in codices in the early third century. Many great codices of the fourth century have no pagination. When pagination is occurs, the numbers appear in the center of the upper margin or the top outside edge. Some scribes only numbered the even-numbered pages. Occasionally leaves, not pages, are numbered. Numeration is also used for the numbering of quires.
A palimpsest is a parchment manuscript which contained writing but has been scraped, washed off, smoothed and rewritten upon. Of the 250 uncial manuscripts of the New Testament known today, 52 are palimpsests. It is only through the use of modern technology, such as chemical reagents and ultraviolet light, that the obliterated writing is able to be read.
This is a dash drawn in the left margin under the line of the text which finishes a section. In some classical, dramatic texts it serves the purpose of marking a change in speaker.
The earliest manuscripts have little punctuation and it only occurs sporadically before the eighth century.
Scholium (pl. scholia)
Scholia are interpretative remarks of a teacher placed beside the text in order to instruct the reader.
Scriptio Continua






Most of the late manuscripts which have a system of capitulation also place a summary-heading in the margin which describes the contents of the chapter. Frequently a red ink is used.
Uncial is a formal style of handwriting, a "bookhand" which was characterized by deliberate and carefully executed letters, each one separated from the others. After the sixth century the style began to deteriorate and the letters appeared thick and clumsy. E. G. Turner classifies the literary hands of the first four centuries of the Common Era into three groups: Informal round hands; Formal round hands (Biblical Majuscule or Uncial; Coptic Uncial); Formal mixed hands.

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