Friday, March 06, 2015

Greek Lectionaries: An Introduction

I was getting together a handout for a seminar on Monday on the topic of Greek Lectionary manuscripts of the New Testament. But it is an area in which I readily confess my ignorance (and usually don’t even get to in courses I have taught), so I thought I would offer it here for correction and suggestions. Most of the material is from Osburn (2012), with a bit of Jordan (2009). Suggestions of helpful reading (and an ideal online manuscript) would be especially welcome.

Greek Lectionaries: an introduction

Around 40% of all NT manuscripts (over 2,400 listed) (mostly minuscule, with a few earlier majuscule manuscripts of a lectionary type). Relatively neglected – e.g. no critical edition (often commented on, from Westcott & Hort through to Osburn & Karavidopoulos).[1] Generally close to Byzantine text: ‘lectionaries have text-critical value primarily for the later history of the NT textual tradition’ (Osburn, 108).

Different types of lectionary (eklogadion):
Mostly (over two-thirds): euaggelion or euaggelistarion (separate gospel manuscripts become known as tetraeuaggelion)
Others (a quarter): apostolos or praxapostolos (lessons from Acts and epistles: la)
Others: apostoloeuangelion (readings from Gospels, Acts and Epistles; #75: l+a)

Complete Lectionary system has two parts: synaxarion – follows ecclesiastical calendar, from Easter Sunday to Holy Saturday (moving with the date of Easter); and the menologion – follows the civil calendar, from Sept 1 to Aug 31. See Scrivener, Introduction, 80-89 for a plan (or Gregory, Textkritik, 344-386). [Plans can be added to cont. text mss, e.g. 892, BL Add 33277]

Easter to Pentecost – readings from John and Acts
Pentecost to Holy Cross day – 16 weeks – readings from Matthew supplemented from Mark; Romans, 1 & 2 Cor, texts from Eph and Hebrews.
Holy Cross day to Lent – readings from Luke (and some Mark)
Lent – Sat & Sun readings from Mark, John, Hebrews; weekday readings OT
Holy Week – numerous longer readings (Gospels, Romans, 1 Corinthians)
After Holy Week – eleven resurrection readings from Sunday morning.

developed in the tenth century by Symeon Metaphrastes (Høgel)
Includes readings for special occasions and celebrations of lives of saints etc., incorporating hagiographical, homiletical and biblical material (with differences for local practice).

On date of origin of system and lectionary text:
Metzger: ‘the lectionary system current today in the Orthodox church had its origin sometime during the fourth century’ (1972, 495-6) [evidence from Chrysostom that he comments on the lesson for the day, e.g. Hom. 7 ad Antioch; Hom. 63.47 in Act)
Aland: none of the pre-eighth century lectionary manuscripts have the later system (e.g. l1604 (IV), l1043 (V), l1276 (VI), l1347 (VI), l1354 (VI) etc.); reading notes added to continuous text manuscripts (arche, telos) only from the eighth century onwards. Junack: general lectionary system comes from late seventh or early eighth century (same time as Byzantine calendar; hence also Byzantine text)
For earlier systems (e.g. Jerusalem based readings) need to compare Syriac, CPA, Armenian and other versional evidence. And the earlier majuscule lectionary manuscripts (mentioned earlier), as well as patristic practice.
History of Study (Jordan, Osburn, Karavidopoulos)
Mill (1707) used 8 gospel lectionaries and 1 apostolos
Wettstein (1751f) – 24 euaggelion, 4 apostolos
Matthaei (1782-1788) – 57 euaggelion, 20 apostolos
Scholz (1830-1836) – 178 euaggelion, 58 apostolos
Not much role/use in Tischendorf, Westcott & Hort, von Soden (deliberately not)
Gregory (1900-1909): counts and describes 1,599 lectionaries
1904/1912: V./B. Antoniades, h9 kainh\ diaqh/kh e0gkri/sei th=j Mega/lhj tou= Xristou=  0Ekklhsi/aj (Constantinople: Ek tou Patriarchikou Typographeiou [Patriarchal Press], 1904, 1912 [corrected]; Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 1993 reprint): first continuous comprehensive Greek text of NT in Orthodox world; continuous text based on text of 116 lectionaries (Contantinople, Mount Athos, Athens, Jerusalem); aimed for ‘the best reconstruction of the most ancient text of ecclesiastical tradition and, more specifically, of the Church of Constantinople’. (Karavidopoulos)
Chicago Lectionary Project under Ernest C. Colwell - 1930s-60s (Wikgren)
NA/UBS: Generally cited together: Byz. Lect. or singly by the letter l in italics and their number. But: ‘Nothing approaching a systematic presentation of lectionary readings occurs in any currently printed Greek Testament.’ (Osburn, 100).

Approaching a Lectionary Manuscript
Euaggelion - organized into separate readings, with the day set for each passage written at the start of the periscope or in the upper margin. Sometimes with an indication of which liturgical service is meant.
l339 = British Library, Egerton 2163: good example of complete lectionary (syn. & men.), Byz text (
Liste       le = e9bdoma/dej – contains readings for each day of the week (except in Lent, when there are only Sat/Sun readings)
                    lesk = e9bdoma/dej/sabbatokuriakai/ - contains readings for each day between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, Sat/Sun readings to Palm Sunday and daily readings in Holy Week until Holy Saturday.
                    lsk = sabbatokuriakai/ - contains readings for Sat/Sundays only
                    lsel = contains readings for selected days
                    lK = kuriakai/ - contains readings for Sundays


C.R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testamentes (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1900-09).
C. Höeg & G. Zuntz, ‘Remarks on the Prophetologion’ in Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake (ed R.P. Casey, S. Lake & A.K. Lake; London: Christophers, 1937), 189-226.
C. Høgel, Symeon Metaphrastes. Rewriting and Canonization (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2002).
C.R.D. Jordan, ‘The  Textual Tradition of the Gospel of John in Greek Gospel Lectionaries from the Middle Byzantine Period (8th-11th Century)’ (PhD; Birmingham, 2009).
K. Junack, ‘Zu den griechischen Lektionaren und ihrer Überlieferung der katholischen Briefe’ Die alten Übersetzungen des Neuen Testaments, die Kirchenväterzitate und Lektionaire (ed. K. Aland; ANTF 5; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1972), 498-591.
I.D. Karavidopoulos, ‘The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s 1904 New Testament Edition and Future Perspectives’ Sacra Scriptura X (2012), 7-14.
B.M. Metzger, ‘Greek Lectionaries and a Critical Edition of the Greek New Testament’ in Die alten Übersetzungen des Neuen Testaments, die Kirchenväterzitate und Lektionaire (ed. K. Aland; ANTF 5; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1972), 479-497.
C. Osburn, ‘The Greek Lectionaries of the New Testament’ in Ehrman, B.D. & Holmes, M.W. (edd.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis. Second Edition (NTTSD 42; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2012), 93-113.
D. Patras, ‘The Gospel Lectionary in the Byzantine Church’ StVladThQ 41 (1997), 113-140.
D. W. Riddle, ‘The Use of Lectionaries in Critical Editions and Studies of the New Testament Text’ in Prolegomena to the Study of the Lectionary text of the Gospels. Studies in the Lectionary Text of the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, ed. E. C. Colwell and D. W. Riddle (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1933), 67-77.
F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the use of Biblical Students (London: George Bell & Sons, 1894; 4th edition ed. E. Miller)
B. F. Westcott and F. J. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek. Introduction and Appendix (London: MacMillan and Co., 1881).
A. P. Wikgren, ‘Chicago Studies in the Greek Lectionary of the New Testament’ in Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey (ed J.N. Birdsall & R.W. Thomson; Freiburg: Herder, 1963), 96-121.

[1] Westcott & Hort, Introduction, 76-77: ‘an almost unexplored region of textual history...’; Osburn, 93: ‘seriously neglected in the search for the earliest forms of the NT text’.


  1. Replies
    1. Add to bibliography this important entry:

      Allen P. Wikgren, “Chicago Studies in the Greek Lectionary of the New Testament,” in J. Neville Birdsall and Robert W. Thomson, eds., Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey (Freiburg: Herder, 1963), 96-121.

  2. Peter,

    Two main types of Greek lectionary mss. were utilized and collated for the (Ecumenical Patriarchal GNT) or Antoniades GNT pub. 1904/12' rev. They were described in his intro. as follows:

    "“Their text is not uniform. Two types are discernable, not so clearly in the less complete Gospel lectionaries, but more clearly in the more complete, and especially in the daily lessons from the first three evangelists. The one type is related to the ordinary Byzantine copies, the other, though showing this relation, has in addition certain variants and highly significant readings not entirely unattested elsewhere, but indicating distinct derivation. The distinction of the two types, and their derivation from different copies, is also indicated by the fact that the Gospel lectionaries which furnish non-Byzantine variants repeat the same pericopes with different readings, precisely those of the Byzantine type, in the feast and menologion lessons. According to the lectionaries testimony of sixty or more MSS of the fuller Gospel lectionaries which were collated for us in Athens and Jerusalem, or elsewhere for other purposes and were accessible to us, both of these types belong to the Church of Constantinople and were in public and official use, at least from the ninth century to the sixteenth. Yet each type was preserved so carefully and distinctly that, notwithstanding the length of period, only a few copies and they only in a few respects, show any variation or mutual contamination of type; and, most important of all, when one has studied a few copies of one type he has little to learn from the remaining copies of that type.
    This established continuity for at least eight centuries in one and the same diocese and the preservation practically intact of two types of gospel text is, in our opinion, most simply explained on the assumption that both types were even earlier in public and official use, possessing the authority of antiquity and authenticity. The type more nearly approaching the Byzantine appears to be the same as the Antiochan, or Syrian recension disseminated in the Church of Constantinople in the time of the holy Chrysostom and since. The other type, most probably, is the same as the type originally in use of that Church, and being the first in use, is found in that part of the daily lessons which is indisputably earlier, while the Byzantine being introduced later and employed to a limited extent, is found in the later component and in the slightly augmented lessons of the Menologion.”

    CSPMT has further found that these two types correspond to the 2 following continuous text MS groups of Byzantine mss. (Exceptions exist in the few family Π and f13 lectionary mss. that have been recognized). Within the Apostolos (Acts & Epistles) mss. two types these textual groups also correspond to their Gospel text-types.

    1. Majority Type - This (non-Kappa) Byzantine group of lectionary mss. is comparable to Von Soden's (Group φb) or Omanson and McReynolds Group 7 from their CPM thesis and found at:

    This majority group of Greek lectionary mss were first recognized as such through the collations of Dr. Paul Schubert in the CPL (Chicago Lectionary Project) in its textual relationship to Von Soden Byzantine Group φb with some similarity to f1424. Antoniades found this grouping as the less highly Byzantine type of lectionary mss. It also provided the textual basis for the Antoniades Greek NT. This type has a dominant unique PA form CSPMT terms μ8.

    2. β or Byzantine (Kappa) type - These are comparable to the Kr/fam. 35 continuous text-type with an μ7 PA as usually found in their continuous text counter-parts Kr or fam. 35. This minority Kr lectionary type was most frequently copied utilized in service during the later-Byzantine Empire (post-1261-1453) period of lectionary production. Several β-type lectionary mss. were collated by Antoniades as well and represented the (Kappa) or more highly Byzantine type of lectionary ms.

    Hope this little helps Peter.

    Paul Anderson

  3. Peter,

    If I could suggest a prime example of the (Majority) Byzantine Gospel (Euaggelion) lectionary type as mentioned in group no. 1 see L339 (BL-Egerton 2163) for your examination. It is an (le) type with daily readings through the entire Paschal cycle. It contains both the Syaxarion and Menologion.

    For comparable type in group no. 2 as mentioned the Byzantine (Kappa) Minority type, there is L118 at Florence (Laurentian Library, Med. Pat. 243) which would serve as a model example this lectionary ms. type.

    I could also offer similar examples on the Apostolos side in L809 (Sinai-Gr. 286) and on the Kr (Kappa) Byzantine type - L1159 (M. Lavra).

    Paul Anderson

  4. At the NT Textual Criticism group on Facebook, group-members can access the Files and download "The Basic Lectionary," covering, well, the basic form of the Byzantine lectionary.

  5. A misunderstanding of Greek lectionary tradition comes from years of neglect or bias regarding the Byzantine text-types of the lectionary mss. Even Colwell noted this during the CLP (Chicago Lectionary Project). There are also interesting details available from CSPMT on the current Greek lectionary editions in regular use for liturgy in the Greek Orthodox Churches today.

    Paul Anderson

  6. Thanks everyone, that has all been helpful

  7. Cf. also this helpful resource:
    (from TW)

  8. I have up-dated the main text here.

  9. Further additions to the bibliography:

    Ernest Cadman Colwell, "Is There a Lectionary Text of the Gospels?" HTR 25:1 (Jan., 1932), 73-84;

    C. C.Tarelli, "The Byzantine Text and the Lectionaries," JTS 43 (1942): 181-83;

    Allen P. Wikgren, "The Lectionary Text of the Pericope John 8 : 1-11," JBL 53 (1934), 188-198.

    G, Zuntz, "The Byzantine Text and the Lectionaries: A Comment on Mr. Tarelli's Note," JTS 43 (1942): 183-184.

  10. Maurice, did you publish the lecture you gave on the centenary of the publication of the Antoniades edition?

    1. No, that lecture was an extemporaneous convocation presentation. So no publication, no notes, no audio or video. The content, however, was a general summary of what can be obtained from various other published sources.

  11. And thanks for the suggestions

  12. This just in (July 2020) - Intro to Lectionaries video (18 minutes) -