Verbum 9 Tip 9al: Guide section: Textual variants: Apparatuses

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In Hebrew and Greek editions of the hebrew bible and the nt, an extensive set of footnotes listing variant readings and the ancient sources (manuscripts, translations, versions, commentaries [see commentary], quotations, lectionaries [see lectionary], and church fathers) in which the variants occur. Most critical editions include only some of the variant readings, while a few others list every variant within a text. Although modern translations do not have a critical apparatus, those that are committee translations are based on serious attention to the critical apparatuses of the critical editions. They offer footnotes that indicate the most crucial variants and include abbreviated information on the type of variant (addition, omission, etc.). See critical text.[1]


4.3.1.a Using the Critical Apparatus

As you begin to develop your skills in New Testament textual criticism, you will want to own a critical edition of the Greek New Testament. While there will be good reasons to work directly from images of one or more Greek manuscripts, a critical edition provides you with the Greek text that the editors have chosen as well as an apparatus outlining alternative readings found in other textual witnesses. The most widely used critical editions are the NA28 and the UBS5, though the SBLGNT, THGNT, and the majority-text editions are also useful.

It is best to work from the Greek when exploring the textual variation of the New Testament. However, if you do not know Greek or if your grasp is rusty, you can start with your English Bible and study the footnotes that refer to the readings of other ancient witnesses. All of the important variation units should be provided in the footnotes of a good English Bible. After pinpointing places where variation occurs, you can then use various helps such as commentaries to investigate the textual situation.

As has been discussed elsewhere, the main difference between the NA28 and the UBS5 is that the NA lists more variation units in its apparatus, whereas the UBS tends to list only those that will affect translation decisions, assigning a grade of certainty to each textual decision made by the committee. We will use the NA28 in most of the following discussions, though much of what we will cover applies to the use of other critical apparatuses as well.

Besides its Greek text, the NA28 provides a number of useful tools. You will want to page through the front and back parts of the GNT to see everything that is available. For now, we will focus on the critical apparatus at the bottom of every page.115 Because scholars pack a lot of manuscript names and details into the apparatus, they employ a system of sigla (symbols) and abbreviations to make the data concise. Some of the most common ones are as follows:116

Table 4.6: Common Sigla and Abbreviations in the Critical Apparatus



The single word following the siglum is omitted by the witnesses cited.


⸋ ⸌


The words or sentences between the two sigla are omitted by the witnesses cited.



The word following the siglum is replaced with one or more words by the witnesses cited.


⸂ ⸃


The words between the two sigla are replaced with other words by the witnesses cited. The replacement can include some of the same words.



At this position, one or more words have been inserted by the witnesses cited.


⸉ ⸊


The words between the two sigla are transposed (same words, but in a different order) by the witnesses cited.


txt (“text”)


The witnesses cited after this word contain the reading printed above in the text.




If the reading in a manuscript has been corrected by a later scribe, an asterisk next to the ID of the manuscript indicates the reading of the first hand (the original scribe).




Written superscript next to a witness, “c” indicates that this is the reading of a correction made by the original scribe or, more likely, by a later scribe.


vid (“as it appears”)


Written superscript next to a witness, this abbreviation for “ut videtur” indicates that the reading in the manuscript is not clearly legible, so it cannot be cited with complete confidence.


The apparatus of the NA presents the variant readings first, each with its supporting evidence (i.e., which manuscripts contain each variant).117 Some variation units have only one alternative reading, but for others there will be multiple variants, separated by a broken vertical line.118 Next, the NA lists the variant that the editorial committee has decided to print in the text, along with its supporting manuscript evidence. Occasionally, only the evidence for an alternative reading is provided.

4.3.1.b Metzger’s Textual Commentary

As mentioned earlier, an invaluable tool for understanding the process that the editorial committee of the UBS Greek New Testament went through is Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. The second edition, designed as a companion to the UBS4, provides a complete explanation of each textual decision made by the editorial committee. Entries where the evidence clearly favors a particular variant are brief, whereas several paragraphs may be devoted to more difficult variants. In some places the committee did not reach complete agreement, and the reasoning of both sides is provided. The commentary is not exhaustive, but it is a valuable tool for translators and exegetes.

A related resource is A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament, an adaptation of Metzger’s Textual Commentary written by Roger L. Omanson. This resource is designed as a further assistance for translators who do not have formal training in textual criticism and presents the information in a less technical manner. The guide also includes an introduction to nt textual criticism.[2]


Prerequisite reading: see Apparatuses Guide above

Resources included: see Apparatuses Guide above


The contents of the Textual variants: apparatuses section parallels that of the Apparatuses Guide section:

P18-1 Contents

The textual variants guide - apparatuses section shows:

  • Resource name

There is no preview as there is in the Apparatuses guide

Interactions on data


Visual cue

Data element



Blue text




Adds another block of data to the content of the guide.

Resource title

Mouse over

Opens a popup preview of the resource text starting at the applicable text.


Opens the resource to the start of the applicable text.

Right click

Opens the Context Menu.

Drag and drop

Opens the resource to the start of the applicable text at the location selected by the user.


A search against the temporary collection type:Bible-apparatus for the {Milestone <Mark 1:1-11>} will replicate the results:

P18-2 Search

Supplemental materials

One could consider the Apparatuses Guide section to be a supplement to this. However, they show the same information, differing only in the preview function.

[1] W. Randolph Tate, Handbook for Biblical Interpretation: An Essential Guide to Methods, Terms, and Concepts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 92–93.

NA28 Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th edition. 2012.

UBS5 United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. 5th edition. 2014.

SBLGNT The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. 2011.

THGNT The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. 2017.

NA28 Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th edition. 2012.

UBS5 United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. 5th edition. 2014.

NA Nestle-Aland

UBS United Bible Societies

NA28 Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th edition. 2012.

NA28 Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th edition. 2012.

GNT Greek New Testament

115 In a digital edition of the NA28, you can typically access the information from the apparatus by hovering over or clicking on the relevant parts of the Greek text. For information on digital editions, see

116 The following list is a brief adaptation of pages 54*–88* in the NA28. Refer to those pages for more details.

NA Nestle-Aland

117 The UBS uses the opposite order, listing evidence for the editors’ chosen reading first, followed by evidence for the alternatives.

118 Variants are separated by slash lines in the UBS.

NA Nestle-Aland

UBS United Bible Societies

UBS4 United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament. 4th edition. 1998.

119 Roger L. Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).

nt New Testament

[2] Amy Anderson and Wendy Widder, Textual Criticism of the Bible, ed. Douglas Mangum, Revised Edition, vol. 1, Lexham Methods Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 149–152.

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