LEARN THIS TEXT, READ MANY ICONS: THE GREEK PANTOKRATOR

Today we will look at an early 13th century icon from the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai:

pantosinai

Our concern will be with the text in the open Gospels:

pantosinaiinsc1It is (you probably recognize it) the most common Greek text for icons of the Pantokrator — that is, of Jesus shown as “The Almighty.”

At the beginning is a Greek cross.  And it is followed by the unseparated words

ΕΓѠ ΕΙΜΙ — EGO EIMI —  “I Am….”

Of course whenever you see that “I am” beginning on a Pantokrator Gospel inscription, you know it is most likely to be the most frequently-used text for Greek Pantokrator icons.  Here it is in upper and lower case:

Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου· ὁ ἀκολουθῶν ἐμοὶ οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, ἀλλ’ ἕξει τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς

Ego eimi to phos tou kosmou ho akolouthon emoi ou me peripatese en te skotia, all[a] hexei to phos tes zoes

” I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Let’s take a look at the second line:

It reads:  ΤΟ ΦѠC ΤΟΥ ΚΟC[-ΜΟΥ]
TO PHOS TOU KOS[-MOU] (the –MOU) is in the next line):
“The Light of the World.”

Look at the ligature in the word TO (neuter form of “the”):  it puts the “T” atop the “O.”  And look also at the ligature following PHOS:  It is the word TOU, meaning “of the,” but it combines three letters:  T, O, and U, all joined from top to bottom to form the word pronounced as “too.”

We can see the variations used in writing by looking at the second use of TO PHOS in the inscription:

pantosinaiinsc1_5

The T is placed on top of the O to form the definite article TO (“the), and the Φ is placed atop the ω, followed to the right by C to form the word PHOS — “light.”

Let’s look at one more ligature, used twice on the right side of the page:

 

It joins T and H, forming the word TH (τη) —TE — pronounced “tay” in ancient Greek, “tee” in modern Greek.  By itself, it is the dative form of “the,” as in EΝ ΤΗ ΣΚΟΤΙΑ  — En te skotia — “in the darkness,” as in “shall not walk in [the] darkness.”

So you see, it takes only a little bit of study to read a great many inscriptions on Pantokrator icons, even one over seven centuries old, because they are so repetitive.

The Russians, however, use a different favorite inscription:

Прiиди́те ко мнѣ́ вси́ труждáющiися и обременéн­нiи, и áзъ упокóю вы́:

“Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  And of course they use other texts as well, but that one is the most popular.

 

 

 

 

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