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The Genealogy of Christ and Other Problems Part 2

Two Manuscripts attributed to Epiphanius on the family of Christ compared.

The fourth century Church father, Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, wrote an account on the family of Christ that has important information. It contains backgrounds of His mother, Father, family last name, siblings, intermarriage and more. Although it is brief, containing only a few paragraphs, it is an important source of history. However, it is controversial, especially in light of the fact that the text that Epiphanius is quoted from, Adversus Hæreses, has many later editorial insertions. Another text, Quæstiones first written around the seventh century, contains portions of Epiphanius account, and follows closer to the original edition.

Comparing these texts in the Greek and Latin also allows one to graph how the concept of Christ’s family had evolved over the centuries.

This study is twofold:

  • locate the Greek and Latin texts, digitally capture them, and provide English translations

  • analyze the Latin parallel translation, and trace how the traditions had perpetuated

The actual analysis, comparison, and summary can be found at a separate article, The Genealogy of Christ and Other Problems Part 1

The two manuscripts compared are:

  • Quæstiones. Not much is known about this writing. Tradition asserts that it was by St. Anastassi Sinaitae who lived in the 7th century, but this cannot be confirmed. It was originally published around the 7th century — though the edition available today may not entirely reflect the original. It can be confirmed that it is a medieval work that quoted from a better copy of Epiphanius than what we have today.

  • Adversus Hæreses originally penned by the 4th century Church father Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis. The historic writing is properly known as the Panarion but the MPG version that is used here for the basis for whatever reason calls it Adversus Hæreses. It was originally written in the 4th century but this manuscript appears to have various interpolations and edits. The text has some portions that may be close to the fourth century, while others may be later, even up to the 8th century.

Enclosed is a text in the original Latin and Greek followed by an English translation along with critical notes by the author, Charles Sullivan.

Before reading please note:

  • It is important to include the Latin with its own parallel English translation. The Greek is not always straightforward and the Latin translator made some effort to clarify some difficult passages. It also demonstrates how the concept of Mary and Christ’s family had evolved from the time of the Greek Anastasii writer in the 7th century to the time of the Latin translator, which likely was in the 15th or later century.

  • The actual Latin and polytonic Greek have been typed in by myself. The Greek text input on this document outlines the problems, solutions and a disclaimer listed Notes on Ancient Greek Copy and this Website.

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1. The Quæstiones Text on the three Marys, Joseph, and Siblings of Christ

MPG Vol. 89. St. Anastasii Sinaitæ. Quæstiones CLIII. Col. 839ff

Greek with English Translation

Ἐπειδἠ δὲ πολλῶν Μαριῶν ἐν τοῖς Εὺαγγελίοις φέρεται μνήμη, τρεῖς εἶναι τὰς πάσας γινώσκειν ὀφειλομεν, ἂς Ἰωάννης συλλήβὀην ἠριθμησεν, εἰπών· « Ειστήκεισαν δὲ παρὰ τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἡ ὰδελφὴ τῇς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ, Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, καὶ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή. » Μαρίαν γὰρ τὴν Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσὴ μητέρα, παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις εὐαγγελισταῖς ὠνὸμασμένην τὴν Θεοτόκον εἶναι μεμαθήκαμεν. ῎Ωσπερ γὰρ τὴν οὶκονομίαν, καὶ τὸ ἐπισκιασθῆναι τὸν θεῖον τὸκον, καὶ μὴ φανερωθῆναι τοῖς μιαιφόνοις Ἰουδαίοις, ὡς ἄνδρα τῆς Παρθένου χρηματίσαι τὸν Ἰωσήφ· ἀναγέγραπται καὶ πατερα τοῦ Ἰησου· οὔτως καὶ Ἰωσὴ καὶ Ἰακώβου παίδων ὄντων τοῦ τέκτονος Ἰωσὲφ ἐκ προτετελευτηκυιας γυναικὸς, μήτρ ἡ Θεοτόκος προσηγορεύετό τε καὶ ὠνομάζετο· ταύτῃ τοι καὶ Βλασφημοῦντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι κατὰ τοῦ Κυρίου, ἔλεγον· « Οὺχ οὗτος ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός ; οὺχ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ λέγεται Μαρια, καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοι αὐτοῦ Ἰάκωβος, καὶ Ἰωσὴ, καὶ Σίμων καὶ Ἰούδας ; » Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ὁ μὲν Ἰωάννης τὴν παρὰ τὸν σταυρὸν ἑστῶσαν, οἷα δὴ μετὰ παῤῤησίας θεολογῶν, μητέρα τοῦ Κυριου προσηγόρευσεν· οἱ δὲ λοιποι τῶν εὐαγγελιστῶν, τὰ πολλὰ περὶ τὴν οὶκονομιαν ἀσχοληθεντες, οὶκονομικῶς αὐτην Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσὴ ἐπωνόμασαν· αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἧσαν οἱ πρῶτοι καὶ ἐπίσημοι παῖδες τοῦ Ἰωσέφ. Ἔστι δὲ αὐτὴν παρὰ τοῖς εὐαγγελισταῖς, καὶ ὲκ τοῦ ἑνὸς μόνου τῶν παίδων τοῦ Ἰωσὲφ ὀνομαζομένην εὑρεῖν Μαριαν τοῦ Ἰακώβου, καὶ Μαριαν τοῦ Ἰωσή. Ὁ δὲ Μάρκος Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ καὶ Ἰωσὴ μητέρα εἶπεν αὐτην, ἐπείπερ ἦν καὶ ἄλλος Ἰάκωβος τοῦ Ἀλφαίου ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα.

For indeed concerning all the Marions are brought to memory in the Gospels, we are obligated to have made known all three of these names, which John briefly counted, by saying “And they stood near the cross of Christ, His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary Cleopha, and Mary Magdalene.”(1)(John 19:25) The Greek here is ambiguous, and leaves the impression that there were four Mary’s. Mary the mother of Jesus, Jesus’ Aunt Mary, Mary Cleopha and Mary Magdalene. The Latin edition and simply reading the text eliminates the idea of four, Jesus’ Aunt Mary is Mary Cleopha. For the mother of James and Jose(2)James should rightly be translated as “Jacob” but English tradition of the Bible prefers James and to avoid confusion, I’ll leave it that way. This piece is taken directly from Matthew 27:56 “Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” (NASB) “Mary, the mother of James and Joseph” here does not directly link Holy Mary as the person, and St. Anastassi recognizes the ambiguity. The Latin does not reflect this as much. was Mary, we have come to understand according to those other evangelists that she is the one who is named the Theotikos.(3)Surprisingly this term is not listed in any Greek dictionary, though the parallel Latin translation leaves a big clue, Deiparam,Wikipedia may have the most relevant definition, Theotikos… “is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and some Protestants use the title Mother of God more often than Theotokos. The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human.

As the mystery of the incarnation(4)οὶκονομίαν In classical Greek this is not the definition but by the 7th century it became part of the religious vernacular with “mystery of the incarnation” being an acceptable understanding of this noun. and God-child had been kept secret, not being disclosed to the murderous Jews,(5)The Latin tended to tame St. Anastassi’s word here but the Greek is very racist. Not completely unusual for this time period. as(6) The particle hôs Joseph had bourn(7)I am taking this aor. inf. act. χρηματίσαι along with the acc. case τὸν Ἰωσήφ to mean that this is a special infinitive construct. “When the subject of the action expressed by the infinitive is expressed in Greek, it is normally in the accusative case unless it is the same person or thing as the subject of the finite verb”-Donald J. Mastronarde. Introduction to Attic Greek the title husband of the Virgin. It is written the father of Christ.

Even so Jose and James being sons of Joseph the Carpenter from a deceased(8) προτετελευτηκυιας perf part act fem acc sg. I don’t have an exact match from any Greek database but the root suggests end or discharge, likely death. wife, the mother who is the Theotikos was both called and named,(9)The Latin simplified this sentence to “Deipara appellata est” “The Deiparam was named,” and the Jews were blaspheming against against the Lord, they said, “Is this not the son of a carpenter? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James, Jose, Simon and Judas?”(10)Matthew 13:55

On this account while they stood near the cross John named the mother of the Lord even(11) οἷα usually does not translate well with “even”, and usually means “such as” etc. but for the sake of readable English I have taken the liberty. openly in the midst(12)I am assuming μετὰ here is being associated with παῤῤησίας which is fem. acc. pl. and θεολογῶν is agreeing in number with it. “In the midst” is not usually typical of μετὰ in the accusative case, but it is not out of its semantic ranger either. It just seems good in this particular situation. of the holy ones(13)θεολογῶν masc. Gen pl. Aristotle uses this term to mean mystics, though by the 7th century this may mean a highly technical Christian religious term. I do think that the possibility that it meant here the pagan learned person but afraid to take such a position unless I find some other literature that supports such a proposition. standing near the cross.

For the remainder of the evangelists,(14)The use of the term οἱ δὲ λοιποι τῶν εὐαγγελιστῶν “remainder of the evangelists” refers to James and Jose. The St. Anastassi writer coined this term to denote special status to them but to give no recognition that they are Mary’s children. these ones were engaged in the affairs of the household, they administratively designated her of James and Jose.

For these were the first and distinguished sons of Joseph. It is her by the evangelists, and [usually] only one of the children is she to be named from, that she is found Mary of James and Jose. For Mark called her the mother of James the Less and Jose, seeing that that another mentioned was James Alphaeus from the twelve.

Latin with English Translation

Cæterum cum in Evangeliis crebra mentio fiat de Mariis, nosse oportet tres hujus nominis fuisse, quas sanctus Joannes breviter his verbis enumeravit : « Stabant autem juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus Maria Cleophae, et Maria Magdalene. » Marima enim Jacobi, et Joseph matrem, quam evangelistæ memorant, non alium quam ipsam Deiparam esse arbitramur. Quemadmdoum enim, ut mysterium incarnationis et divinus partus occultaretur, neque scelestis Judæis patefieret, Josephus pro marito beatæ Virginis et pro patre Christi habitus est; sie mater Josephi et Jacobi, cum filii essent Josephi fabri ex defuncta uxore, Diepara appellata est, cujus occasione struxerunt Judæi contra Dominum hance columniam : « Nonne hic est fabri filius? Nonne mater ejus dicitur Maria, et fratres ejus Jacobus, Josephus, Simon et Judas? » Ideirco Joannes eam, quæ juxta crucem stetit, libere appellavit matrem Dominin. Alii vero evangelistæ, circa Domini œconomiam et dispensationem potissimum occupati, Mariam Jacobi et Joseph nominarunt : isti enim erant primi et illustres filii Josephi, tematsi apud evangelistas uno interdum duntaxat filio appellationem accipit, ita ut dicatur Maria Jacobi, et Maria Josephi. Marcus autem vocavit eam Jacobi minoris, et Josephi matrem, quia alius erat Jacobus Alphaei unus ex duodecim.

Besides, a number of times is made mention of the Marions that are in the Gospels, we made it necessary about these three names which St. John briefly counted in these words, “They were standing near the cross of Christ, His mother, and His mother’s sister–Mary Cleopha, and Mary Magdalene”. Mary is the mother of James and Jose, which is brought to remembrance by the evangelists, none other than which we bear witness to be the Deiparam herself.

As it was hidden in the mystery of the incarnation and the divine part, neither was it layed open to the impious Jews, as Joseph was given in marriage to the Blessed(15) Note how the term “Blessed Virgin” Is included in the Latin translation though it nowhere exists in the Greek. A later traditional Mariological terminology. Virgin and as the father of Christ.

The mother of Jose and Jacob at this time were sons of Joseph the carpenter from a deceased wife, from him she was named Deipara, on which occasion a plan was devised by the Jews against the Lord with this argument, “Is this not the son of a carpenter? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James, Jose, Simon and Judas?

On account of this John who stood near the cross, freely called her the mother of the Lord.

The rest of the evangelists were concerned about the household affairs of the Lord and the highest office, they gave Mary the name of James and Jose.

These were the first and distinguished sons of Joseph, and notwithstanding she usually receives the name of only one son, so Mary of James, and Mary of Jose was affirmed. And Mark called her the mother of James the Less and Jose, for another was James Alphaeus one of the twelve.

A few sentences down the same manuscript is where things begins to get really interesting. The St. Anastasii author begins to quote directly from Epiphanius himself. When one compares the St. Anastasii writing to that of the Against Heresie’s manuscript, important differences are found. One of the clues suggest that the St. Anastasii quotation is from an older Epiphanius manuscript than that of Against Heresie’s.

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2. The Quæstiones text on the Family and Surname of Christ

MPG Vol. 89. St. Anastasii Sinaitæ. Quæstiones CLIII. Col. 839ff

Greek with English Translation

Τοῦ ἀγίου Ἐπιφανίου ἐκ τῶν Παναριων.

Ὁ Ὶωσὲφ ἀδελφός ἦν τοῦ Κλωπᾶ· ἀμφότεροι γὰρ ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου τοῦ ἐπικλην Πάνθηρος γεννηθέντες. Ἔσχε δὲ ὁ Ἰωσὴφ γυναῖκα Σαλώμην ὲκ φυλῆς Ἰουδα, ὲξ ἧς ἐτέχθησαν αὐτῷ παῖδες ἕξ, τέσσαρες μὲν ἄῤῤενες, καὶ δύο θήλειαι. Καὶ ἧν πρωτότοκος Ἰάκωβος, ὁ ἐπικληθεις δίκαιος (εἶτα Ἰωσὴ καλούμενος), ἕπειτα Σιμεὼν, μεθ᾽ ὧν ὁ Ἰούδας, καὶ εἴθ᾽οὕτως ἡ Μαρία καὶ ἡ Σαλώμη. Ἡ δὲ Μαρία λαβοῦσα τὸν Κλωπᾶν ἄνδρα, ὡς ἀδελφὴ ἐχρημάτιζε τῆς Θεοτόκου Μαρίας. Ὅθεν φησὶν ὁ Ἰωάννης, « Είστήκεισαν δὲ παρὰ τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἡ μήτηρ αὺτοῦ, καὶ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τῆς μητέρος αὐτοῦ, Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Κλωπᾶ. »

From the Panarion of St. Epiphanius

Joseph was the brother of Cleopha. For these two were begotten from Jacob, surnamed Pantherus. For Joseph had a Solomaic wife from the tribe of Judah, six children were born from her for him, four males and two females.

And the firstborn was James, who was surnamed Righteous, (afterwards Jose being called this), then Simon, following these Judas, and last of all these, Mary and Salome.

Mary is taken by husband Cleopha and was given the title sister of the Theotokos Mary. For which reason John makes known, “They were standing near the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister Mary of Cleopha.”

Latin with English Translation

Ex Panario sancti Epiphanii.

Joseph frater erat Cleophæ ; uterque enim ex Jacobo, cui congnomentum erat Pantherus, prognatus est. Joseph uxorem habuit Salomen ex tribu Juda, ex qua sex liberos genuit, quatuor masculos, et duas femellas. Primogenitus erat Jacobus cognomine Justus ; deinde Joseph, postea Simon, post quem Judas, tandem Maria et Salome. Maria, ducto in matrimonium Cleopha, soror Deiparæ Mariæ appellata est. Unde ait sanctus Joannes : « Stabant juxta crucem Jesu, matre ejus, et soror matris ejus Maria Cleophæ. »

From the Panarion of St. Epiphanius

Joseph was the brother of Cleopha. The two were born from Jacob whose surname was Pantherus. Joseph had a Solomaic wife from the tribe of Judah and from her begat six, four males and two females.

The firstborn was James surnamed Righteous, then Jose, after this Simon, and behind him Judas, finally Mary and Salome.

Mary, given in marriage to Cleopha, was called the sister of the Deipera Mary. From this Holy John affirms, “They were standing near the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister Mary Cleopha”.

Now compare this to what is found in the Epiphanius Adversus Hæreses text:

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3. St. Epiphanius on the Surname and family of Christ

MPG Vol. 42. St. Epiphanius. Adversus Hæreses. Lib. III. Tom. II:LXXVIII. Col. 707ff

Greek with English Translation

Οὕτος μὲν γὰρ ὁ ᾽Ιωσὲφ ὰδελφὸς γίνεται τοῦ Κλωπᾶ, ἥν δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ Ἰακὼβ, ἐπίκλην δὲ Πάνθηρ καλουμένου. Ἀμφότεροι οὕτοι ἀπὸ τοῦ Πάνθερος ἐπίκλην γεννῶνται. Ἔσχε δὲ οὗτος ὁ Ἰωσὴφ τὴν μὲν πρώτην αὐτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Ἰούδα, καὶ κυῖσκει αὐτῷ αὔτη παϊδας τὸν ὰριθμὸν ἓξ, τέσσαρας μὲν ἄῤῤενας, θηλειας δὲ δύο· καθάπερ τὸ κατὰ Μάρκον καὶ κατὰ Ἰωάννην ἐσαφήνισαν. Ἔσχε μὲν οὖν πρωτότοκον τὸν Ἰακωβον τὸν ἐπικληθέντα ᾽Ωβλιαν, ἑρμηνευόμενον τεῖχος, καὶ δίκαιον ἐπικληθεντα, Ναζωραῖον δὲ ὄντα, ὅπερ ἑρμηνεύεται ἅγιος.

In this way Joseph is the brother of Cleopha, he was the son of Jacob, who was given the surname Pantherus. These two were born from the one surnamed Pantherus. In this way, Joseph had his first wife from the tribe of Judah and she bears for him a total of six children, four males and two females.

Just as they clearly explained (in) the Gospel according to Mark and according to John. The first is held to be James, the one who was called “Oblian”, interpreted the “Wall” and also called righteous and being a Nazarite which is to be interpreted as holy.

Latin with English Translation

Siquidem hic ipse Josephus Cleophæ frater, Jacobi filius cognomento Pantheris, fuit : ambo, inquam, illi Panthere patre nati sunt. Cæterum Josephus primam e tribu Judæ conjugem habuit, e qua sex liberos suscepit, mares quatuor, feminas duas : id quod Marci ac Joannis Evangelia declarant. Primus ex omni stirpe natus illi filius est Jacobus, cognomento Oblias ( quod murum, vel castellum interpretari licet ), qui et justus appellatus est, et Nazaræus fuit, quod vocabulum sanctum significat.

Since that this Joseph himself is the brother of Cleopha, a son of Jacob surnamed Pantherus. It was: two, it was said, were born from the father Pantherus. Besides what has been mentioned, Joseph had a first wife from the tribe of Judah, and from her begat six children, four males and two females.

Just as they declare in Mark and John. The first born son to all his family is James, surnamed Oblias (which one may attempt to interpret as Wall or Stronghold) and also called righteous and was a Nazarite, which proves the appellation “Holy”.

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4. The Lives of Mary and Joseph in the Epiphanius text

MPG Vol.42. St. Epiphanius. Adversus Hæreses. Lib. III. Tom. II:LXXVIII. Col. 709ff

The Epiphanius text contains a further expansion on the family of Christ that the St. Anastassi author(s) are either not aware of, or ignore. The Latin and Greek texts are supplied with only one English translation.

Η᾽. Τίκτει μὲν τοῦτον τὸν Ἰὰκωβον ἐγγύς που περὶ ἔτη γεγονὼς τεσσαράκοντα πλείω έλάσσω · μετ᾽αὐτὸν δὲ γίνεται παῖς Ἰωσῆ καλούμενος· εἶτα μετ᾽αὐτὸν Συμεών· ἔπειτα Ἰούδας· καὶ δύο θυγατέρες, ἡ Μαρία καὶ ἡ Σαλώμη καλουμένη. Καὶ τέθνηκεν αὐτοῦ ἡ γυνή· καὶ μετὰ ἔτη πολλὰ λαμβάνει τὴν Μαρίαν χῆρος, κατάγων ἡλικίαν περὶ που ὀγδοήκοντα ἐτῶν καὶ πρόσω ὁ ἀνήρ. Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα λαμβάνει τὴν Μαρίαν, ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ Εὐαγγελίῳ λέγει· Μνηστευθείσης γὰρ, φησὶ, τῆς Μαρίας. Καὶ οὐκ εἷπε, Γαμηθείσης. Καὶ πάλιν ἄλλοτε· Οὐκ ᾔδει αὐτήν.

VIII. Redeo ad Jacobum illum, quem Josephus annos plus minus natus XL genuit. Post hunc alius ei filius nascitur, cui Jose nomen fuit. Inde Symeon ac Judas ; filiæ veru duæ, Maria et Salome. Tum mortua uxore, multis post annis viduus Mariam duxit, cum octogesimum atque eo amplius annum attigisset. Mariam, inquam, id ætatis accepit, ut Evangelium narrat ; Cum esset, inquit, desponsata Maria. Non dicit, cum nupsisset. Item alio loco : non cognovit illam.

“Thus he brought fourth this James, I suppose having been born more or less in about the 40th year. After him a child named Jose is born. Next after him Simeon. Thereupon Judas. And two daughters who are named Mary and Salome. And then his wife died. Then after many years the widow takes Mary into marriage, estimating the age of life somewhere around 80 years and a man advanced (in age). At this time he takes Mary into marriage, as also it says in the Gospel, “for having been betrothed”, it says, “belonging to Mary”. And it does not say, “belonging in the state of marriage” And (it is) repeated again, “He did not know her”.”

For a general summary and observations of these translations please go to: The Genealogy of Christ and Other Problems Part 1

References   [ + ]

Notes on Ancient Greek Copy and this Website

This site attempts to digitize portions of original manuscripts in their original language. This is designed to help others in their independent study of the doctrine of tongues.

The input of any Greek text is agonizingly scrutinized for accuracy to the original but there are a few caveats:

  • Any Greek text provided on this site is provided as-is. Although hard work has been done, and an established system is in place to address problem areas, errors may still exist. If the user wishes to use this copy for academic or research purposes, it is always recommended to go the originals that the text is cited from.

  • The Migne Patrologia Graeca source copies are typically used as the base text. These are typically very poor quality reproductions. It is often very difficult to see what the proper diacritical markings are. Sometimes the text is blurry or hard to read and one has to fill in the blanks for the proper letter.

  • Often a better manuscript is used, and is noted either in the footnotes or in the header.

  • There is rarely any attempt on my part to correct whatever error may be contained in the original. Whatever they printed, this is what I followed.

If a reader does find an error please contact me with the details and I will make the proper corrections.

Ancient Fonts and Modern Browser Test

An exploration on best practices, and the @font css solution for displaying ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac on the internet.

With unicode fonts now being almost universally entrenched on personal computers, the problem of viewing ancient texts is becoming less and less a problem. It is becoming a choice of which font to choose.

Just a few years ago, websites with ancient texts in old foreign languages required the viewer to download specialized fonts. This always didn’t work and pushed away a larger audience.

The following are some of the solutions found from personal experience, and what other websites specializing in ancient texts are doing.

Polytonic Greek fonts

  • Palatino Linotype does an acceptable job of representing polytonic Greek. It comes standard on both Macs and Windows. It is not always consistent in size, or shape, nor does it reflect medieval Greek typography, which most Greek texts were popularly printed in. However, this one guarantees the best success in operating correctly on almost any medium.

  • Arial Unicode MS is good, but this has to be purchased.

  • My preference is Gentium. It is a well-developed and respected open-source font published by SIL International. For use on your personal computer or device, users have to download it, and install on their system. Gentium is available as a web-font.

  • The Ellepos website has a downloadable list of the most widely-used fonts for rendering polytonic Greek. This site also specializes in ancient Greek texts and uses Palatino Linotype as its base font. Palatino Linotype comes standard with Windows and almost any font in the Macintosh 10.4 OS or later has polytonic Greek built-in.

Hebrew Fonts

There is no problem typing or representing modern Hebrew with unicode fonts. There are a high number of choices and styles. Ancient Hebrew has niqudd which are diacritical marks including vowel points. Modern Hebrew doesn’t use it, except for training new, or young readers. Three fonts on the Microsoft system have been noted for good niquddoth: Narkisim, David, or FrankRuehl, but overall these typeface styles have modern, Yiddish, or a combination of these with some historic traits. These would be acceptable for Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, but to be closer to the Tiberian style, only third party solutions exist. Here is a list of fonts that are popular for Biblical Hebrew:

  • The first one is Cardo

  • The Ezra font family, is a very good one for rendering Biblical Hebrew.

  • SBL’s Hebrew font is another good one.

Syriac fonts

  • The latest Windows operating systems have come preconfigured with the Estrangelo Edessa font. Macintosh Computers must download the Syriac fonts first — even that does not guarantee complete success.

  • Beth Mardutho has a great library called Meltho fonts: The one I especially prefer from their great library of fonts is Serto Jerusalem. It has to be downloaded.

Convert into a @font

There is another way to address the problem of foreign fonts that does not require the user to have the font resident on their system. It forces the same look and font over multiple browsers and systems. It is called the @font-face.

It was a great concept three years ago, but it is now waning because it takes too long for a browser to generate. The potential reader has probably already left for another website by the time the browser is complete.

Some browsers require the complete font to be downloaded while others call just what is needed.

In those specialized situations where the specific look and feel is required, @font may be a solution. It is a way to embed a font into a website where the end-user does not have them on their personal computer. If coded right in the css file, the website looks first to see if the font is found on the local computer, if not, then it sends to the browser a special web-font.

This solution is cross-platform compatible and supports all modern browsers. One does not need to instruct or depend on the end-user to have the proper fonts installed on their system.

Here are some observations of the @font solution after after generating Gentium, Cardo, Ezra, SBL and Serto Jerusalem, into web-fonts.

  • Internet Explorer 7 and 8: the texts are clear and easy to read

  • Internet Explorer 6 has serious problems with Polytonic Greek. Since it is now only being used in 4.5% of browsers at this time, a workaround will not be pursued

  • Firefox on the Mac will not work with the Syriac font. They come out as squares with unicode numbers. This is a known problem with Firefox on the Mac. No solution has been produced so far. Since there are so few users, likely less than 1%, a solution will not be investigated.

  • Google Chrome works very well. The Syriac font especially is crisp and clear

  • Safari on the Mac displays the Syriac font very densely, appearing 2x bold. It is too hard to read.

  • both the Syriac and the Hebrew Fonts appear small when left at the default setting. 1.5em instead of 1.0em is better

  • Gentium is now available as a web-font, so the results should be the same as the standard edition.

  • Cardo generates OK: though there are some problems with the cholem.

  • Ezra will not generate properly into a web-font.

  • SBL will not allow their work be generated into a web-font (at least in 2010).

  • Beth Mardutho’s Serto Jerusalem converts easily into a web-font.

How to convert standard fonts into a web-font

There are a number of steps to doing this:

  • The best way to do this is to upload your font to font squirrel and follow all their standard suggestions. Once the font is generated, it will download the complete font generated file back to you.

  • Many font foundries frown on converting it into a web-font by a third party and it is important to get their permission first. They may reject such usage, as SBL has done, or give conditions. One owner permitted the use of their font but suggested that the css be formatted in such a way to first look for the original font on the user computer first and only use the @font-face as a last resort.

  • Put the new generated font in your first level of your web heirarchy.

  • Ignore the css provided by font squirrel. You can take some ideas from it but it is better to generate your own css file.

  • There are different web-font formats for each browser and also the burgeoning hand-held market. Font squirrel has generated these different formats.

A few other helpful technical notes along the way:

Always make sure the .css page is set to utf-8 encoding, otherwise the software program/website database will wipe out any utf-8 details. UTF encoding is important because it includes a much higher number of font instances than the traditional Latin encoding which most databases default to. Latin encoding does not have enough room to accommodate additional foreign subsets.

For that matter the database should have the collation set to utf-8 or else all the foreign fonts will display weird results or more likely will produce question marks ‘????’ where the foreign fonts were keyed in.

If you are having the ‘????’ font problem in WordPress, here is the actual msyql query to fix that (for those of you experienced enough in mysql to do this):

alter table `wp_posts` CONVERT TO CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci

This will help in properly saving foreign fonts in the body copy of WordPress. It may not work for other parts of the program such as headers, comments or the like. One may have to execute additional commands for this.