09 January 2016, 14:45
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Eternal Alphabet: Kh (xē) -Խ (խէ)

In Armenian, a Christian is also called “khachapasht” that means “someone who worships cross”. The numerical value of Խ is 40. This number is repeatedly used in the Bible: the flood lasted forty days and nights; the Israelites wondered for forty years until they reached the Promised Land; the Christ fasted forty days and forty nights in wilderness; forty days after death, He ascended into heaven…

Since ancient times, this number was often used as symbolic and stood for a term of trials, solitude, fasting. Probably, this is why letter Խ was matched with number 40. The cross is also associated with trials: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34), “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Perhaps today, 16 centuries after creation of the Armenian alphabet, the Christian symbolism of the letters seems somewhat incredible. But we must not forget that Mesrop Mashtots was not only a talented scientist, but also a very religious man, monk, preacher, author of spiritual hymns. Koryun, the author of the “Life of Mashtots”, writes: “And, in obedience to the dictates (of faith), he joined the ranks of carriers of the Cross of Christ and soon joined the realm of the hermits”.


Letters of Iranian and Syrian scripts, and even Armenian letter Ի [i] have been considered as probable prototypes of letter Խ. Special attention should be paid to the hypothesis of the Russian researcher Mouravyev, according to which Խ was derived from letter Ք[q]. If this assertion is right, it might have a symbolic implication, since Ք is the first letter of the name Քրիստոս ([Qristos] – Christ) and Խ is the first letter of the word Խաչ ([khach] – cross). In the languages of Christian nations, the cross is inseparably connected with the image of Christ. For instance, according to one of the versions, the Russian word “крест” [krest] comes from the name of Christ borrowed from German languages (Christ, Krist). 

See more at Aram Khachaturians "Armenian Alphabet. History and Symbolism" book

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