The Armenian Alphabet

Hayeren - The Armenian Alphabet

Language and alphabet are essential for the survival of a nation's history and customs. Its identity and uniqueness. In the 4th century this was recognized by the royal court and the church.

The Armenian Alphabet was invented by Mesrob Mashdotz in 405 AD. The original purpose was to translate the Bible. The alphabet is composed as a prayer, beginning with A as Astvats (God) and ending with K' as K'ristos (Christ). The original alphabet had only 36 letters. Later, three more characters were added.

Mesrob Mashdotz was born in the village of Hatzegatz in the province of Daron some time in the late 4th century. His father, Vartan, sent him to learn Greek literature when he was a child. He became a monk He loved God. With his students he traveled to far away provinces converting people to Christianity. During his travels he recognized the necessity of an alphabet to translate the Bible so that people will be able to read and understand it.

Mashdotz went to his spiritual father, Catholicos Sahag. They called a special council of priests to see what might be done to develop an alphabet for Armenia , since they would need to read and learn in their own tongue. Even Vramshabouh, the King of Armenia, was asked to help. A new set of letters had to be found.

With the blessings of the King and Catholicos Sahag, Mashdotz sent his pupils on a mission; some were to learn Syriac in Edessan schools while others were sent to Samosata to learn Greek. These were the two languages in which Armenians of the time learned about God. These were the alphabets used in worship and in Bible reading.

Mashdotz withdrew from the world and prayed day and night for help from God. It seemed an impossible task to devise an alphabet out of absolutely nothing, to create written letters for the beautiful sounds of his beloved tongue. Only God could create! Saint Mesrob, who had given his entire life to the service of his people and was praying now for God's help to make it just a little bit easier. They came to him in a vision. In it he saw a hand writing the letters on a rock.

Mashdotz found a Greek scribe, Roupanos, who was able to draw all the letters with the right curves and lines. He gathered his pupils together at once to translate the Holy Scriptures into the new written Armenian. They began with the proverbs of Solomon. Not surprisingly, the first words written in the brand new Armenian letters were, as tradition tells us, "that men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight.

The gospel was being read, written, taught in Armenian! Though the people of this land had been visited by the great Illuminator, Gregory, less than a hundred years before, they had not yet taken the faith into their hearts. And how could they have! How could they have made their own a faith that was articulated in the sounds and letters of other lands? Now they were beginning to worship, read Scripture, and learn all the profound concepts of their faith for the first time.

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