An Interactive Textual Commentary on Acts

The critical apparatus as a gateway to the sources

Shortly after the ECM of Acts appeared in print in 2017, the INTF made the text and apparatus available online in the NT Transcripts section of the NTVMR <>. If you enter a verse from Acts under “Quick Lookup,” you will see the ECM apparatus for this verse in the frame below. Let's take Acts 3:13 as an example.

(Click on this image to access the live page)


If you click on the number of any of the cited Greek manuscripts, the transcription of the relevant verse will appear in the frame to the right. If you want to see a photograph of the page containing this verse, click on the “Manuscript Workspace” link above the verse transcription and the photograph will appear in a separate window together with a full transcription of the page.

Three links above the apparatus offer more materials. “Cit” will take you to the patristic citations for the selected verse, “VL” to line-by-line transcriptions of the Latin manuscripts selected for the Acts Vetus Latina project, and “Conjectures” to the conjectures for the verse as stored in the Amsterdam database.

These features demonstrate the passways we are cultivating to transform the critical apparatus from a meager list of variants and witnesses into a gateway to the sources. Later this year, we will integrate line-by-line transcriptions of the Sahidic manuscripts, and sooner or later the Syriac and the Ethiopic will follow.

In addition, the transcriptions of all Greek manuscripts included in the ECM of Acts, which comprises the main portion of the textual apparatus, are made available to the user.


The textual commentary as a documentation of work on the text

In the left margin of the online apparatus there are two symbols: a blue balloon and a circle with an arrow. Clicking on the balloon will take you to the Textual Commentary section of the NTVMR Forum. Each commentary printed in the Studies volume of ECM Acts was reproduced here. The arrow symbol is linked to the coherence diagrams for the relevant passage in the Genealogical Queries interface.

A primary objective of the ECM is a reconstruction of the initial text of the manuscript tradition, which is not preserved as such in any of the extant copies. We apply the methodology of reasoned eclecticism to reconstruct the initial text. The textual commentary published in the Studies volume of ECM Acts documents this work. It discusses each passage where the reconstruction of the initial text differs from NA28/UBS5, and, secondly, where the decision was left open and the guiding line of the edition is split. Moreover, comments are given if the editors’ assessment needs additional explanation to supplement the guidelines laid down in the commentary introduction. 

Reasoned eclecticism is based on pondering internal and external criteria. Ideally, the objective is to identify the variant that best explains the other(s) and, if applicable, that also accounts for relationships between secondary variants. In effect, the discussion will always be about reasons why one form of text is or is not likely to have been changed into another form. That means that the application of internal criteria is successful if transcriptional probability emerges for a textual flow—to use the CBGM term—from one to another variant. Therefore, the discussion of internal criteria is indicated by TP, if that part of the discussion is clearly separated from the other part, GC or genealogical coherence. What TP is for the internal criteria, GC is for the external criteria. Where there are variants, the genealogy of their witnesses will reflect the direction of textual flow, whether we are able to explain the relationships or not. The latter is often due to contamination and/or missing links. (Most of the manuscript tradition from the first millennium is lost.)

The commentary on Acts 3:13/8 is brief. A mouse click on the blue balloon to the left of the apparatus will open the commentary in a separate window. There is just one sentence summarizing a complex picture offered by the Genealogical Queries site for the passage in question:

GC suggests multiple emergence of c from a, while the attestation of a is perfectly coherent and includes a sufficiently broad range of A-related witnesses. 

A click on the blue arrow icon beside the apparatus takes us to the relevant lists and diagrams in Genealogical Queries.

Apparatus: One entry for each included witness. Exception: if the evidence is ambiguous, the witness is listed with a question mark for the respective alternatives (cf. 2344 b/c).


Local Stemmaa derives immediately from the initial text (*), c and d from a. A share of the a attestation (a2) does not fit this picture. For this share and for b, the source appears questionable.

Coherence at Variant Passages shows interrelations between witnesses in different attestations. To understand what it displays we have to turn to the next frame.



Coherence in Attestations shows the textual flow diagram for a selected variant. By default this is a. If you go to c, you see a diagram showing poor genealogical coherence. Many witnesses not connected to each other have their closest relatives in the a attestation. Note how all the nodes in the c attestation with close relatives in a are connected to these relatives in Coherence at Variant Passages by arrows pointing from a to c.

The point I want to make here is that the commentary notes on GC require the reader to consult the Genealogical Queries site to get the full picture. It is now easier to do this because Genealogical Queries is an integrated part of the online ECM.

The commentary notes focus on the essential and are often very brief, in many cases reduced to the token “R1” or “R2.” This is possible because the guidelines and rules for assessing variants and their attestations are explained in the Online Commentary Introduction (and related publications cited there). The introduction is accessible via a link that appears above each online commentary.


The textual commentary as a platform for scholarly discourse on the text

Any expert user of the NTVMR may reply briefly (there are “Like” and “Dislike” icons) or at length to an existing commentary. If someone publishes a reply, subscribers of the commentary section of the NTVMR forum will be notified. 

Any registered expert user of the NTVMR may additionally register as a commentator, obtaining the right to open a new commentary thread on any passage of the online apparatus where there is no comment so far. To register as a commentator, send an email to <>

What is the Kurzgefasste Liste?



One of the on-going projects the INTF is responsible for is the Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des neuen Testaments, commonly called the Liste.


The Liste is a brief catalogue of all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. Although J.J. Wettstein was the first to create a systematic list of Greek manuscripts in 1751–52, the current system is credited to Caspar René Gregory. In his 1908 work, Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Gregory separated manuscripts into four categories: papyri, majuscules, minuscules, and lectionaries. He also resolved other problems from older lists such as registering one number multiple times to refer to more than one manuscript.


Following Gregory, the primary individuals who have kept the Liste up to date are: Ernst von Dobschütz, Georg Maldfeld, Bruce M. Metzger, and Kurt Aland, who then passed the Liste on to the INTF. Until Aland began working on the Liste in the 1950s, most of the publications after Gregory were updates and new additions to the Liste. In 1963, Aland published a comprehensive catalogue of Greek New Testament manuscripts, which was revised and published in 1994.


Image: Klaus Junack's personal copy of the 1963 Liste, in which he wrote changes to contribute to the 1994 edition.  

For each manuscript in the Liste, a very basic profile is offered including information such as:

  • a Gregory-Aland number
  • the New Testament contents
  • the manuscript’s date
  • the material the manuscript is written on
  • the number of pages
  • the number of columns per page
  • the number of lines of text per page
  • the physical dimensions of the manuscript
  • its current location along with an identification number at its current location


At the INTF, Aland amassed the world’s largest collection of Greek New Testament manuscripts on microfilm. This collection not only enabled manuscript details to be verified for the Liste but also provided the basis for other research projects at the INTF as well as for visiting researchers.


Since Aland, care of the Liste has remained a priority for the INTF. Currently, Holger Strutwolf and the staff at the INTF have kept the Liste in an up-to-date format online in the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NT.VMR):


An effort has been underway for years to digitize the INTF microfilms and upload them online on the NT.VMR so anyone can access them. Since these microfilms are black and white, one of the INTF’s current goals is to completely update the NT.VMR by uploading as many new digital images as possible online as well as to provide transcriptions. For example, images and a transcription of what is probably the world’s best known biblical manuscript, Codex Sinaiticus, can be seen here.


Presently, we are working intensively to update the Liste, a project supported by the Hermann Kunst Foundation and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). It is hoped that this endeavor will greatly benefit researchers around the world by providing access to state-of-the-art images and encouraging further scholarly collaboration.


Basic Criteria for Adding a Manuscript to the Liste


How does a manuscript get added to the Liste? Although there are some exceptions, there are a few basic criteria when deciding if a manuscript should be added to the Liste: it must contain a portion of the New Testament and it must be written in Greek. Although a variety of ancient manuscripts could fit these two fundamental criteria, certain types of manuscripts are not normally included in the Liste, such as patristic writings or documentary papyri.


Within the Liste, a few types of manuscripts are identified such as commentary manuscripts (e.g. 186). In addition, some categories of manuscripts are no longer included. For example, after Aland began working on the Liste, he discontinued adding amulets and ostraca to the Liste. Recently, there has been discussion about including them once again (see especially Brice C. Jones, New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity [Bloomsbury: London, 2016]).


Further, a manuscript can have either a continuous text (that is, a sequential text such as Matthew chapter 1, chapter 2, and so on) or a non-continuous text (that is, a text that does not proceed in a literary sequence, but could have a passage of Mark, followed by a passage from Matthew, followed by a passage from John). The latter is commonly found in lectionaries, which are liturgical manuscripts that have daily readings for the church. In addition, other liturgical manuscripts like prayer books are included.


Assigning Numbers to Manuscripts


In an attempt to standardize and classify the manuscripts, each manuscript is assigned a unique number—a Gregory-Aland number—so it can be easily identified. These numbers fall into one of four categories.


The first category has to do with the material the manuscript is written on. If written on papyrus, the manuscript is identified by “P” followed by a number (for example, P52).


The next two categories are based on the script of the manuscript: manuscripts written in majuscule are assigned numbers beginning with “0” (for example, 032) and minuscule manuscripts are just assigned a regular number (for example, 1).


The fourth category has to do with the function of the manuscript, namely liturgical; these manuscripts are catalogued beginning with “l” followed by a number (for example, l358).


This system is, however, not perfect. It is not always clear-cut how a manuscript should be classified—or if it should be included in the Liste at all. For example, 056—listed as a majuscule with a commentary text—has a majuscule biblical text but the commentary is in minuscule. There are also ongoing debates about the dates of certain manuscripts, and these are sometimes changed in the Liste based on current research. Codex Bezae (D 05), for example, was dated to the 6th century in Aland’s 1963 Liste but changed to 5th century in the 1994 edition of the Liste.


Here is a flow chart highlighting the basic principles of the Liste, but keep in mind there are exceptions as to which manuscripts are included and how they are numbered.



In another post, we will explore the number of manuscripts recorded in the Liste.


A New INTF Blog Begins

The INTF has set up a new blog! Although we have featured blogs on our site before (as "Personal Blogs"), our newly implemented Liferay portlet called "Blog" aims to create a centralized portal for offering regular updates on the happenings of the institute and its projects as well as other things that are related (at least tangentially) to New Testament textual criticism.


Just to offer one tidbit before our next post, in case you were unaware, there is a paleography database (compiled by Marie-Luise Lakmann) that may be useful for those of you who are transcribing Greek manuscripts: To get started, click on "Suche" on the left-hand column.

Viimeisimmät bloggaajat Viimeisimmät bloggaajat

Klaus Wachtel
Viestejä: 1
Tähdet: 1
Päiväys: 14.9.2018
Greg Paulson
Viestejä: 2
Tähdet: 4
Päiväys: 18.8.2018