Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Revealing an Ancient Secret in The Vatican Code

Well, actually the real name of the source is the "Codex Vaticanus". It is the complete Bible in Greek, and dates to the early fourth century. Wow. It is among the oldest documents in existence - yes, we have many texts which are older in the sense that they were written much longer ago, but those texts are preserved as copies, most often made by monks in monasteries. Sure, you can buy copies of Julius Caesar or Euclid in the original printed a few years ago. But this particular copy of the Bible is actually over 1600 years old!

I now have, thanks to the assistance of a good friend, a "typographical facsimile" of one of the most important parts. It is one of the handful of quotes from the Bible which most people know completely by heart. Even more curiously, it actually does reveal a major secret: a secret of communication. Much better than the telephone, or radio, or the ethernet - better than Morse Code, or ASCII, or even any human language (in itself) - because it tells us how to communicate with God!

Oh, good - I thought you would guess - I mean the "Our Father" also known as "the Lord's Prayer". You can find the English for it in St. Matthew's Gospel, 6:9-13. OK, that you know the English, now take a look at the ancient form in the Vatican Code:

Here is my transliteration, so you can try sounding out the words - first, without spaces. Note that I wrote the omega as ô (long O) and the eta as ê (long e).

epigês tonartonê
And now, with spaces where the words are, and broken into phrases corresponding to the English. (Note, this is not quite the same as the usual Greek version, if you are trying to compare them.)
Pater êmôn
o en tois ouranois
agielthêtô to onoma sou
elthetô ê basileia sou
genêthêtô to thelêma sou
ôs en ouranô kai epi gês
ton arton êmôn ton epiousion dos êmin sêmeron
kai aphes êmin ta opheilêmata êmôn
ôs kai êmeis aphêkamen tois opheiletais êmôn
kai mê eisenegkês êmas eis peirasmo
alla rusai êmas apo tou ponêrou
This facsimile is replicated from a very amazing book called The Lord's Prayer in 250 Languages where it is number LXXX of the CCL versions. I had a particular reason for showing you this facsimile: because here you can see how hard it was to learn how to read! Notice: there were no spaces between words! No punctuation either! Words were sometimes broken onto two lines, though they did not write a hyphen. They even had something akin to our "contractions" (you know, don't you?) which you can see at the end of the first line, where there is a line above the "omega", standing for a "nu" which was omitted. and though this version used what we call the "small" omega, there were no small letters - everything was what we call "upper case" or "capitals"! Those of you who are familiar with Greek letters will note that the capital sigma, usually written as S is here written as "C". (Hence the "s" sound of "c" in some words - but that detail would take to long to explore now.) Also, no accents, no "breathing" marks - they knew where those had to come. (after all, this is not a lesson in ancient Greek!)

So there you have it. An important secret, right out of the Vatican archives (well, almost!) Communication with God, as taught by God Himself! Now available with spaces for easier reading. So then next time you say this wonderful prayer, you can be grateful for a whole lot more, including the spaces between words.

Maybe it would be a good time to say it now?


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