The Canon, Text, and Manuscripts of the New Testament

By Charles Fremont Sitterly

Appendix 2

Notes on Greek Alphabets


From the Table of Alphabets it will be observed :

1. That the complete number of letters in the capital columns of the Greek alphabet is twenty-seven, Fau or Digamma and San or Sampi and Koppa being found in the earlier writings, then gradually becoming obsolete in classic times, although throughout the period of Hellenistic and later Greek they still survived in the numerical system which required the full complement of twenty-seven letters. The need for this number arose from the fact that the alphabet was divided into three groups of nine letters each, the first doing duty for the units, the second for the tens, and the third for the hundreds. Thus a very simple system of notation for all numbers up to 999 was furnished, while at the same time three very important links in the development of Greek letters w T as preserved.

2. That the lineal descent of the first twenty-two Greek letters from the Semitic alphabet is best appreciated by comparing columns one and two, in the latter of which the Greek letters are written from right to left, as they are found in the first epoch of the written language.

3. That the Latin alphabet is even more restricted in its lineal dependence upon the Semitic than the Greek itself, all of its letters, if we accept the opinion of leading Latin authorities, that U, W, and Y, as well as F and V are finally traceable to waw, having descended from the original twenty-two of the Phoenicians. Moreover, in case we trace the Latin C to the Greek Sigma, and the Greek Sigma and Latin S to San or Sampi, and the Latin G to Gimel, as there appears reason to some for doing, there remains only the single Semitic letter Teth [the Greek Theta] which has not its living witness in the Latin alphabet of to-day.

Probably the main reason for this remarkable similarity between the Latin and Phoenician letters is the acknowledged fact that the chief Greek colonies in Italy, namely, those which became the foundation ot Roman civilization, were founded by the Eubœans or Chalcidians, who reflected in turn the Eastern or older forms of the Greek alphabet.