This page serves as a central page for a number of items related to Unicode in the context of biblical studies (usually specifically focused on New Testament studies). Most of this material is also directly relevant to any use of classical Greek in a Unicode context, though this page doesn’t attempt to address all the issues raised in that area. There are also a few notes on Unicode Hebrew.

On this page:

On a different page (opens a new window):


What a Biblical Scholar/Student Should Know about Unicode

This is a paper that I presented to a Ph.D. seminar to introduce doctoral students to Unicode in the context of biblical studies. I have since revised and expanded the initial paper. It is linked here in pdf format and contains some clarifications provided by Peter Kirk for which I am grateful. The current version (as of 1/11/06) is titled “What a Biblical Scholar Should Know about Unicode” (v. 1.1) and is expanded to include OT studies and biblical Hebrew. There is also a new appendix regarding Unicode input in Word (the same material that is included below).

Shortcut Links

The following links are mentioned in the paper just above as part of the recommended tools for doing Unicode on Windows. They are listed here to make them easily accessible. See the paper for details. (Unicode fonts listed below.)
Tavultesoft Keyman (Keyman is no longer free [t one time it was, at least for educational use], but it is inexpensive–and worth it) 
Classical Greek keyboard by Manuel Lopez 
(see keyboard template for this keyboard below)
Other polytonic Greek keyboards for Keyman are also available (though I recommend the one above)
Unicode Greek NT text (Word .doc file, zipped)*
Unicode Greek LXX text (Word .doc file, zipped)*
*Change the Normal style definition to whatever Unicode font you intend to use; you may also then need to select all the text in the document, apply the normal style, and then perhaps even manually select the correct font. Once it is displayed correctly, then save the file.

Biblical Language Fonts and Unicode

Here is an excerpt from a paper that I presented at SBL, Nov. 2001 on the use of technology in teaching Greek. The excerpt contains all the material relevant to Unicode.

Other Links Related to Unicode (Polytonic Greek and Hebrew)

Unicode (official info)

General & Windows (XP, Vista, Win7)

Macintosh (updated Ap 2008)

  • Word Processors that do Unicode on a Mac
    • A significant, Unicode-savvy Mac word processor that certainly sounds like it’s worth exploring is Mellel. I’ve dabbled with the demo and it looks interesting. As of 2009 it is still the only way I know to do right-to-left Unicode Hebrew text.
    • The newest release of MS Office/Word 2008 handles Unicode quite nicely–at least for Greek, but still not for right-to-left languages like Hebrew.
    • Other Mac word processors that do Unicode include: UlyssesNisus Writer ExpressAbiWord (open source, cross platform, but last version was 2005…!), Adobe InDesign (page layout),OpenOffice,NeoOffice (Mac-native version of OpenOffice); and Apple’s fairly new Pages (part of the iWork suite). (I’ve not used all of these, so this is not a recommendation, merely a list to check for yourself.)

  • Unicode Keyboards for Mac
    • Greek KoineRD is a keylayout file that follows the TLG beta code system. (Get the keyboard layout file and the associated icon file for this keyboard in this zipped file.) I wrote it to facilitate similar Unicode Greek text entry on both Mac and Windows. (I use the Classical Greek keyboard for Keyman [Lopez] on Windows and so I designed the Mac keyboard to be as close to this as possible so I don’t have to remember two different systems for entering Greek text.) To install: copy both files in the zip archive above (Greek KoineRD.keyloyout and Greek KoineRD.icns) to the folder: ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/ then log out and back in, open System Preferences (Apple menu), then…
    • In Leopard (10.5), open the International Preferences pane
    • In Snow Leopard (10.6. open the Language and Text pane
    • In either of these, on the Input Menu tab, check the Greek KoineRD listing.
    • Also check “Show Input menu in menu bar” in the bottom right of the same dialog, then “Greek KoineRD” should appear as a menu item in the Input menu–the American flag icon in the main menu bar at the top right of your screen. More info and documentation is available here.
    • GkUnicode keyboard (Nick Nicholas) a keyboard created with Eulenberg’s tool (see below).
    • Ukelele, a Unicode keyboard generator for Mac that has a very simple “click and drag” interface. The manual is a bit sparse, but once you get the drift of how the program functions, you can figure out the more complicated parts (e.g., multiple dead keys) without too much trouble. Much easier for non-programmers than Eulenberg’s web tool (see below). I created the Polytonic Greek keyboard above in one afternoon after giving up on the web tool after several weeks.


Unicode Fonts for Polytonic Greek

This is not a complete list, just a few of the better ones that are free; for others, see the link above.

  • Gentium (v. 1.01, Sept. 2003) by Victor Gaultney
    This is by far my favorite such font for printed text. It has won awards in both the bukva:raz! International Type Design competition sponsored by ATypI [Association Typographique Internationale] and inthe Type Directors’ Club TDC2 2003 type design competition.) There is an interesting interview with the designer on the LISA site; also reproduced on SIL’s site. The font is also now available inGNU/Linux format, and is also available under an OpenSource license (SIL Open Font License) that permits modification and redistribution. (Note that the new font, Gentium Basic, does not include Greek.)
  • The SBL Greek font has now been released (spring 2009) and is well done.
  • Cardo by David Perry (also includes Hebrew), v. 1.04 is now available as of April 2011. The glyphs are a bit rougher than Gentium or Minion, but the advantage of having Hebrew as well make it a good choice for biblical studies–and the Hebrew glyphs are very nice.
  • Minion Pro is a very nice professional font which includes polytonic Greek and has italic, bold, and bold italic faces as well. It comes with Adobe Acrobat Reader v. 7. It is not installed in the fonts folder, but it can be found in one of the subfolders with Acrobat (..Acrobat\Resources\Fonts\ I think). It is a simple matter to copy it to the regular fonts folder…
  • Galatia SIL
  • Galilee Unicode Gk differs from other Greek font offerings in that it is intended and optimized for legibility in reading on CRT screens and for video projection rather than for printed materials. It is not an ornate or polished text font. (This is the font that I created quite a few years ago to facilitate my own teaching. It is now obsolete with the prevalence of good LCD screens which display even serif fonts very well–but it was not always that way!)
  • Now the newest versions of Times New Roman have full polytonic Greek support.
  • For Mac OS X: In addition to the above fonts, you also have Lucida Grande which is the Macintosh default system font for Unicode, and it includes Polytonic Greek.
  • There are several other fonts available. Among some of the better ones I’ve seen are: KadmosU, BosporosU, New Athena Unicode, and Porson (be sure to get the Unicode version of the last one since there is also a legacy Greek font by this name). Also Palatino Linotype comes with some MS products (Publisher, I think, and perhaps others).

Unicode Polytonic Greek Text Test

Here is a quick test that you can use to determine if you have a polytonic Greek font installed and working correctly.

Do you have Unicode? If the following line displays the Greek alphabet and is followed by accented Greek text with no square boxes or question marks, you apparently have an appropriate Unicode font for polytonic Greek installed and working correctly. It should match the graphic version on the line below the text (though likely at a different size, and it may be a different font).

>> αβγδεζηθικλμνξοπρσςτυφχψω, Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος <<

graphic version:

If you see only the alphabet displayed correctly, you may have a monotonic Greek Unicode font, but that is not what you need for biblical studies. You also need a polytonic Greek font. (This text is coded to use the Gentium font as the first choice, but most of the fonts listed above are alternates in the css style sheet; your browser should substitute another appropriate Unicode font if you do not have one of these installed.)

Another Unicode test page with lots of polytonic Greek font info (from TLG)

Hebrew and Unicode

This site does not major on using Hebrew in a Unicode context (I’m a NT prof!), but a few items are worth mentioning. Unicode fonts available with Hebrew support adequate for biblical studies include Cardo by David Perry and the Ezra SIL Unicode. Recently released is the SBL Hebrew font. The newest versions of Tahoma and Times New Roman may be useable for some purposes (though they are not complete). Both Perry and SIL also have keyboards available that work with Tavultesoft’s Keyman (see above). David Perry’s keyboard is not fully functional under Windows XP (e.g., I cannot get it to produce a final tsadi), so at present the SIL keyboard is the better choice; it’s well done and quite simple to learn. (Either keyboard will work with any Unicode font that supports the Hebrew ranges.) If you install the Hebrew/right-to-left support in Windows you will also get a number of additional Hebrew fonts.

Hebrew Unicode text (should display correctly with Cardo, Ezra SIL, Tahoma, or Times New Roman fonts):

אבגדהוזטיכלמנסעפצקרשת ךםןףץ בּגּדּכּפּתּ בַ בָ בֶ בִ בֵ בֻ

 Keyboard Templates

The following documents are handy reference charts for the key assignments on the two Unicode Keyman keyboards that I use to enter Greek and Hebrew text. There are differing preferences in how to organize such charts, so my preference may not be yours. These are arranged in a vertical list with Hebrew or Greek character on the left and the (English) key to type on the right. (They have not been “approved” by the authors of either keyboard, so don’t blame them if something doesn’t work right!)

  • Classical Greek (Manuel Lopez’s keyboard) chart (.pdf format)–will also work fairly well for my own keyboards (either the newest version, “Koine GreekRD” or the original “Polytonic Greek Keyboard,” see above) so long as you remember to enter the diacritics before the vowels (in Mac-fashion). Updated 1/11/06.
  • SIL Unicode Hebrew keyboard chart (.pdf format)

There are some system-based idiosyncrasies that can complicate entry of Hebrew accents, so “your mileage may vary.” I have no idea what causes this. (On three different systems I get different results, or no results, or same results with different keystrokes, for etnahta [U+0591] and munah [U+05A3] [and for the other accent and cantillation marks; only metheg  [U+05BD] works consistently].)

Unicode Input in Word

[Jan. ’06] pdf version of this section (shows actual characters referenced here)

I’ve learned some tricks about accessing some Unicode characters, esp. those in the “Supplemental Plane” (i.e., numbered higher than the BMP) in MS Word. (For regular Greek text, use Keyman; see above.) If you know the Unicode (hexadecimal) value of a character, you can use the ALT+X keyboard shortcut to enter the character directly in your document.

  • Type the Unicode (hexadecimal) value of the character. (You can also use the U+ format.) Of course you have to know the hex value for the glyph you want! Some of the more important ones for NT studies are listed below.
  • Press ALT+X.
  • Word replaces the string to the left of the insertion point with the character you specified.

(You can also use ALT+X to display the Unicode character code for a particular character. Place the insertion point to the right of the character, and then press ALT+X. The character is replaced by its character code. Press ALT+X again to switch back to the character.)

You apparently need to switch to a font that contains the glyph that you want first (though I think this differs a bit between Word XP/2002 and Word 2003). **In the following examples, use the Cardo font** (the only font I know that has all these glyphs).

E.g., the NT textual criticism symbols do not appear in the Insert Symbol dialog. These were added to the 4.1 version of the Unicode standard (spring 2005), so apparently Word doesn’t recognize them directly. Some are Supplemental Plane characters (others may be new additions to the BMP?). Most of these are in the Supplemental Punctuation range (2E00 +). To insert the Nestle-Aland text crit. symbols, type any of the following followed by Alt-X:

2E00 2E01 2E02 2E03 2E04 2E05 2E06 2E07 2E08 2E09 2E0A 2E0B 2E0C 2E0D

For some other text crit symbols from the MSS (not used in NA):

2E0E 2E13 2E14 2E15 2E16 2E17

And others apparently in the Kanji range (these are not tech. intended for text. crit use, but the only way to get a double square bracket, etc, seems to be here):

3008 3009 300A 300B 300C 300D 300E 300F 3016 3017 301A 301B

Other symbols are as follows (in different ranges):
Majority Text symbol , 1D510
Papyrus symbol, 1D513
Septuagint, Greek Old Testament, 1D516
Lectionary symbol, 1D459
(These are part of the Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols range, 1D400 +. Other text crit. symbols using Gothic/Fraktur letters for “Egyptian text,” etc. are in the same range.) The Majority Text symbol is explicitly identified as such in the Unicode code charts. Most other Fraktur letters are not identified by their text-critical values (but 1D516, “Septuagint, Greek Old Testament” is), but only as “Mathematical Fraktur Capital B/G/K,” etc.).

A handy utility program that display *all* the Unicode characters in Unicode 4.1 (including those that neither Word nor WinXP will show you in their input dialogs) is BabelMap (be sure to get the newest version).