Why Jesus' Name is Written as "IHS"
The Monograms of the Holy Name of Jesus
In the Early Church
In the time of the very early Church (to 690 AD), if anyone wished to write out the name of Jesus Christ, it would have looked like the spelling below (written in Greek Letters)
The Greek letters for Jesus are iota-eta-sigma-omnicron-upsilon-sigma. These Greek letters translate into the English letters as iota ("I") eta ("H") sigma (“S”) omnicron (“O”) upsilon (“U”) and sigma (“S”), IHSOUS. Here sigma is rendered with it’s Latin form "S". The Greek letter sigma can also be rendered with the letter (“C”), giving the translation as IHCOUC.
Scribes in this time period were accustomed to indicating an abbreviation or a contraction by a tittle. Although there were various ways of indicating the omission of some letters, the most common way was by means of a bar over the resulting abbreviation. Therefore, abbreviations of the name of Jesus IH for Ihsous or “I H S” for IHsouS , or even IC for IhouC all would be written with a line or bar over the letters.
The abbreviations for the name of Jesus, I H S and I H C and others appear side by side for several centuries until a letter was written by Amalarius (A.D. 827) to Archbishop Jonas asking whether the Name of Jesus should be written I H C or I H S. The Archbishop answered that it should be written with the Latin form of “S”, thus “I H S ” was to be used.
In the parts of Europe where the influence of the Greeks was not felt, the Carolingian script went over into the Gothic and the monogram of Jesus was written
This form was generally used during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Also in this time period, it became customary to substitute the letters ‘y’ or ‘j’ for the letter i. It became quite common for the Italians to use the letter ‘y’ to write: ymago, ydolatria, ytalia, ysrahel, yronia, ypocrises, and so on. For this reason you will sometimes see the monogram written as “J H S” or “y h s” on some pictures or statues from this period of history.
In the East
The monogram IC XC is more common among Eastern Christians. It is composed of the first and last letters of Jesus' Name in Greek (iota and sigma) with the first and last letters of Christos, the Greek word for Christ (chi and sigma, respectively). The sigmas are both rendered in "C" form, resulting in "IC XC". A Byzantine mosaic dated about the end of the thirteenth century bears the contraction IC XC. This monogram is commonly written on ikons of Christ near His halo to identify Him, and in the phrase "IC XC NIKA", meaning "Jesus Christ Conquers".
Have You Seen Jesus' Name?
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