Reviews of

NTG Editio Critica Maior: Acts

In Annette HÜFFMEIER, Book of Acts, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Editio Critica Maior, Garrick V. Allen, Georg GÄBEL, Gerd MINK, Holger STRUTWOLF, Luke-Acts, Manuscript Studies, Manuscripts, Textual Criticism on July 31, 2019 at 6:30 pm


2019.7.8 | Holger Strutwolf, Georg Gäbel, Annette Hüffmeier, Gerd Mink, and Klaus Wachtel (eds). Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior. III Die Apostelgeschichte/Acts of the Apostles. 3 parts, 4 volumes. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2017.

Review by Garrick V. Allen, Dublin City University. 

The Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of Acts – the most comprehensive and intricate edition of Acts to date – is the second volume to appear in the ECM series after the Catholic Epistles (2013, 2nd ed). The ECM represents a generational, international, and collaborative project, the results of which are worthy of the gargantuan effort involved in producing the edition. ECM Acts stands at the pinnacle of textual scholarship.  Everyone in the field must take note, not least because the remaining fascicles of the New Testament will appear within the next decade or so.

Not only do the editors change their reconstruction of the initial text of Acts in 209 readings vis-à-vis Nestle-Aland28 (fifty-two outright changes and 157 instances of a “split guiding line,” where they have decided not to make a definite decision about the initial text), but their work has made available a significant new body data about the New Testament’s textual tradition. Changes to the reconstructed initial text will garner much interest, but they do not alone justify the effort and resources necessary to produce the edition; they are not the only worthy critical outcome of the project. What is more interesting is the access that the edition provides to the tradition by offering a more contingent textual tradition and the fullest apparatus to ever exist (1088 pages are devoted to the text of Acts and its apparatus). This information impinges not only on textual criticism, but also historical-critical exegesis, studies on intertextuality, and explorations of reception history. The quality and fullness of the edition offers new avenues of research and provides opportunities to rethink what the critical edition is and what it can do. Although the three-part, four-volume print edition (1682 pages in all, including substantive prefatory material) is a triumph of humanities scholarship and critical editing, the launch of a coterminous digital edition of  ECM Acts in 2017 is what has the possibility to fundamentally alter the functionalities and purpose of the critical edition, reconnecting an eclectic reconstructed text to the realia of the tradition, mainly in the form of digital images marked up with various forms of metadata (transcriptions, indices, underlying code, and links to other digital tools).

Part 1.1 (Text) of the print version of ECM Acts covers Acts 1–14. It begins with an introduction in both German and English, laying out the goals of the editions, describing the textual witnesses used to construct the text and apparatus, and mapping the complex structure and sigla of the edition’s components. The prolegomena concludes with a note by Klaus Wachtel on the text of the Acts and a list of textual changes from NA28. For users not familiar with the structure of the ECM editions as exemplified in the Catholic Epistles (CE) volume, the most useful section of this introduction will be the “structure and components of the edition” (pp. 24*–27*). The edition is comprised of three parts: (1) a primary guiding line of text; (2) an overview of the variants on a given line directly below the main line, and (3) the critical apparatus. The primary guiding line represents the editors’ best hypothesis of the form of the initial text (Ausgangstext). And, like the ECM CE, each word of a given verse is numbered with an even number (with odd numbers reserved for spaces between words in the initial text), allowing the editors to precisely delineate variation units and describe locations of deviation from the initial text. An overview of any readings in the tradition that differ from the main guiding text appear below the numbers for each guiding line, including the relevant number of the word(s) or space(s) in the guiding line, an italic lowercase letter that corresponds to the reading in the apparatus, and the text of the variant reading itself.

As a simple example of how the design of the edition works, consider Acts 3:23/30–31 (p. 93*). Here Peter states that “it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be uprooted from the people (λαοῦ).” The word λαοῦ, the last word of the verse in the main guiding line, is numbered 30. Immediately below λαοῦ is a single variant reading: b γενους (“peoples,” “nations”). And just below this are two further variants labelled 31, signifying that they appear after λαοῦ: b αυτης (“her”) and c αυτου (“his”). Thus far we know the initial text as the editors have constructed it and have a basic view of the simple forms of variation in the tradition on Acts 3:23/30-31. But if we want to see the sources of support for these readings, we must venture into the apparatus. Finding number 30 in the apparatus of Acts 3:23, we can see that the entirety of the Greek tradition supports the initial a reading λαοῦ, signified by an ellipsis showing that this reading has a negative apparatus. As is typically the case where the Greek evidence is not explicitly enumerated, principle patristic and versional material are detailed thereafter. Moving to the b reading, we see that the only support for γενους is a quotation in Eusebius (Eus), even though the equivalents in some parts of the Latin tradition could be translations of either λαουor γενους (signified with the siglum ⟷).

The process works similarly for the readings located in space 31. A positive apparatus shows the a reading as an omission with significant Greek support. Readings b (αυτης) and (αυτου) also have some support from Greek manuscripts, along with quotations and versional evidence. The structure and design the edition allows the reader to digest a large quantity of evidence in complex ways; the effort necessary to work through the many sigla and abbreviations is well worth the potential critical payoff for those dedicated to working with tradition in as comprehensive a way as is currently possible. Part 1.2 is a continuation of Part 1.1, containing the edition of Acts 15–28.

Supporting the edition is a volume entitled Supplementary Material/Begleitende Materialien (Part 2). It provides information useful for understanding and contextualising the data in the apparatus pertaining to Greek manuscripts, early quotations, and versions. Regarding the Greek manuscripts, Part 2 contains a list of manuscripts included in the apparatus of the edition, information on sigla related to the correctors of the fourth and fifth century pandect manuscripts (01 03 04), information on the manuscripts subsumed under the Byz abbreviation and particular Byzantine variants, lists of lacunae in the manuscripts cited, and a lengthy lists of orthographic errors. For the patristic citations, this Part contains every abbreviation used for every ancient author, lists the ancient works that have been used as sources of quotations, and links to the editions of these works in the notes (pp. 52–63). It also includes indices of quotations according to the versification of Acts and according to each patristic source (pp. 64-126). Section 4 deals with the versions, laying out the principles that guided the use of versional evidence in the apparatus, listing passages where full versional citations were used, and offering detailed information on the Latin, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic traditions. The volume concludes with a lengthy textual commentary for versional evidence marked with the ⟷ siglum in the apparatus, signifying instances where the versional evidence does clearly witness to one of many potential Greek readings (pp. 177–312).

ECM Acts also includes a volume of studies by the editorial team (Part 3), a feature missing from ECM CE. Articles in this section focus on problems related to and textual commentary on readings in the versions, patristic citations, and especially the Western text that arose during the editorial process. Three articles in particular are noteworthy for users of the ECM: a text-critical commentary on all readings that changed from NA28 or that have a split guideline by Klaus Wachtel (pp. 1–38), a substantial study by Georg Gäbel on the Western Text (pp. 83–136) that prefaces a number of studies on this phenomenon, and another article by Wachtel that argues against the concept of text types (pp. 137–148) in the context of the relationship between the Western and Byzantine texts. (An interactive version of Wachtel’s textual commentary is now available online). These studies reveal that the publication of the edition creates a significant new evidential basis for further research on the text of the New Testament and its history, and they are a first step in this direction.

Together the three Parts of ECM Acts represent a significant step forward in the editing of the New Testament that has the potential to directly impose upon many facets of critical scholarship. But more impressive, and likely more consequential, than the print edition is the development of a digital edition of ECM Acts ( All the data in the print edition is located on this site, but it is more fully integrated here with other databases, manuscript images, and transcriptions. Users can search for a text and click on the verse number, bringing up the full ECM apparatus. (This is currently true only for Acts, but the main text of NA28 is accessible for other New Testament works.) From there, transcriptions of the Greek manuscripts can be accessed with a simple click of the manuscript number, along with links to PDF files containing Latin and Coptic data and a database of patristic citations. Access to any conjectural emendations on specific verses are also accessible because the Amsterdam Database of New Testament Conjectural Emendation is fully integrated into the workspace. Other tools like the Kurzgefasste Liste and manuscript images are also accessible.

Although the design and aesthetics of the digital ECM requires further updating if it is compete with the cultural cachet and familiarity of print editions, the editors of ECM Acts have created an edition that is, at least in principle, easy to update, compatible with other relevant databases that inform textual scholarship, and re-connected to the materials that comprise the tradition (manuscript images and their transcriptions). I cannot overstate the enormity of the achievement that is ECM Acts and the ECM project more broadly, both in terms of editorial perspicacity and potential critical outcomes in New Testament interpretation and reception history. This edition represent the best of scholarship in the humanities in its careful presentation of complex data, the transparency of the editors’ critical choices, and their negotiation of the demands of both print and digital culture. It goes without saying that this new edition is important and necessary for textual critics and those who work more closely with Acts, but I also want to emphasise that the ECM will also impact upon other forms of critical scholarship, especially when textual decisions are contextualised in an open digital workspace where access to images of the manuscripts themselves are a click away. ECM Acts is transitional, straddling the boundary of print and digital editions. In addition to its intended uses, it will also stand as an artefact of the indelible changes to critical editing that are taking place in the age of digital media.

Garrick V. Allen
Dublin City University
garrick.allen [at]


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