(Originally emailed on December 24, 2015)
Merry Xmas, everyone!
Xmas? not Christmas? OK, Merry Christmas. I wanted to send a little gift this morning thanking you for your interest in my upcoming blog about the textual history of the New Testament.
So, where does “Xmas” come from and does it mean that people are leaving Christ out of Christmas? The answer can be found in the NT Manuscripts. When the scribes copied the text they often made use of abreviations we call Nomina Sacra (Sacred Names). These abreviations are for certain names and words like Jesus, Christ, God, Mother, Father, David, and a few more [more on these in the blog to come]. For example, the name Jesus would use the first and last letter, JS with a line drawn above the letters. Some Nomina Sacra use more letters, but all Nomina Sacra remove letters from the middle. Here is what it looks like in Greek:
Here is a picture of Nomina Sacra in a manuscript. The three Nomina Sacra here are “Jesus Christ Son” (the next line has “of God”). This is from manuscript 669, and here we have the beginning of the Gospel according to Mark (full manuscript page can be viewed at csntm.com http://www.csntm.com/manuscript/View/GA_669)
OK, then. So, what does this have to do with “Xmas”? Well let’s look at the word Christmas which is Christ + mass. As you see above, “Christ” comes from the Greek “Xristos” and the “Ch” is from the Greek letter X (chi), so that you could write “Xristmas”. Then if you abbreviate according to the Nomina Sacra tradition and remove the “rist” you end up with “Xmas”!
Now you can see that Christ is NOT removed from Christmas when you write Xmas, only abreviated as the Sacred Name which it is!
And now I want to wish you a