Gregory-Aland Numbering System for the Greek New Testament Manuscripts

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The Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament is a work by Caspar René Gregory from 1908. After thirty years of work, he published a new catalog system for the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. It is still used today in the form expanded by Kurt Aland as numbering after Gregory-Aland.

Caspar René Gregory published another cataloging system in 1908 in Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, which is the system still in use today. Gregory divided the manuscripts into four groupings: papyri, uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries. This division is partially arbitrary. The first grouping is based on the physical material (papyrus) used in the manuscripts. The second two divisions are based on script: uncial and minuscule. The last grouping is based on content: lectionary. Most of the papyrus manuscripts and the lectionaries before the year 1000 are written in uncial script. There is some consistency in that the majority of the papyri are very early because parchment began to replace papyrus in the 4th century (although the latest papyri date to the 8th century). Similarly, the majority of the uncials date to before the 11th century and the majority of the minuscules to after.

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Gregory assigned the papyri a prefix of P, often written in blackletter script (n), with a superscript numeral. The Uncials were given a prefix of the number 0, and the established letters for the major manuscripts were retained for redundancy (e.g., Codex Claromontanus is assigned both 06 and D). The minuscules were given plain numbers, and the lectionaries were prefixed with l often written in script (). Kurt Aland continued Gregory’s cataloging work through the 1950s and beyond. In 1963, Kurt Aland expanded Gregory’s work, and the Gregory-Aland (GA) numbers became the industry standard for referencing Greek New Testament manuscripts. Because of this, the numbering system is often referred to as “Gregory-Aland numbers.” The most recent manuscripts added to each grouping are (131, 0323, 2928, and  2463. Due to the cataloging heritage and because some manuscripts which were initially numbered separately were discovered to be from the same codex, there is some redundancy in the list (i.e., the Magdalen papyrus has both the numbers of 64 and (67).

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The majority of New Testament textual criticism deals with Greek manuscripts because scholars believe the original books of the New Testament were written in Greek. The text of the New Testament is also found both translated in manuscripts of many different languages (called versions) and quoted in manuscripts of the writings of the Church Fathers. In the critical apparatus of the Novum Testamentum Graece, a series of abbreviations and prefixes designate different language versions (it for Old Latin, lowercase letters for individual Old Latin manuscripts, vg for Vulgate, lat for Latin, sys for Sinaitic Palimpsest, syc for Curetonian Gospels, syp for the Peshitta, co for Coptic, ac for Akhmimic, bo for Bohairic, sa for Sahidic, arm for Armenian, geo for Georgian, got for Gothic, aeth for Ethiopic, and slav for Old Church Slavonic).

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Motivation

In his introduction on pages 1 to 31, he explains the motivation for creating this list. Desiderius Erasmus had already made a list of various manuscripts when compiling his Novum Instrumentum omne in 1516. Over time, more and more manuscripts became available and a uniform designation was necessary. Brian Walton and Johann Jakob Wettstein used capital letters in Latin. Konstantin von Tischendorf referred to the Codex Sinaiticus with the Hebrew letter א. Correspondingly, some other manuscripts were designated with consecutive Hebrew letters. At the time, these letters were not available in all printing works and therefore cause difficulties when used in printing works for research and teaching.

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In addition, in the previous catalogs a distinction was made according to the content of the manuscripts and individual documents were listed several times in different lists. The Leicester manuscript (minuscule 69) can be found in the Gospels under 69, but in Acts under 31, in the Pauline letters as 37 and in Revelation under 14. The 69, on the other hand, in Acts denotes a manuscript in Wolfenbüttel (minuscule 429), in the Pauline letters a manuscript in Vienna (minuscule 421) and for the Revelation a manuscript in Rome (minuscule 628). The Sodens system used Greek letters. With the Soden system, those 4 lists disappeared, but were replaced by 20 to 30 new ones.

Gregory decided to create a new uniform catalog that should simplify the work. To this end, he wrote to numerous scholars of international standing and name on textual criticism and asked for their approval, cooperation and suggestions. On pages 10 to 13 those 35 experts from Germany and 61 scholars from 15 other countries are listed. He changed some of his own ideas in favor of the majority. Broad approval came not only from the textual criticism, but also from the camp of the other New Testament scholars and from the users of the scientific text editions.

Dutch Philosopher and NT Textual Scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam

Classification

With the new classification, each manuscript is only assigned to one of the following 4 lists:

  1. Large fonts (Uncials)
  2. Papyri
  3. Booklets (lowercase)
  4. Reading books (lessonaries)

At the time of publication, 161 large fonts were known to Gregory. For the first 45 he took over the sigla that had been in use for a long time, consisting mainly of Latin and Greek capital letters. Examples are א as a designation for the Codex Sinaiticus, A for the Codex Alexandrinus or p for the Codex Boernerianus. He left the corresponding numbers blank. Starting with number 046 (for the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 2066) he designated the large fonts with bold Arabic sans serif numerals. To distinguish them from the minuscules, the numbers always start with a zero. In mid-2012, 322 large fonts were known.

Gregory suggests using a to mark the papyri in Fraktur, followed by a superscript sequential number. Alternatively, a peculiar, striking P or the syllable Pap can be used. In 1908 only 14 papyri were known, but it was foreseeable that their number would increase considerably.

The small letters are numbered consecutively with normal numbers. In line with the previous tradition of being able to draw conclusions about the content from the designation, some of the numbers are extended by lowercase letters in superscript. The four letters eapr are available. The appropriate assignment is e – Gospel , a – Acts of the Apostles , p – Pauline letters and r – Revelation (Latin revelatio). So labeled 131 p the letters of Paul in minuscule manuscript 131, which is currently in the Vatican library. The assignment of the letters was not easy because an o for Revelation is only evident in German, in English an a for Apocalypse and Acts would have led to confusion. A Greek π, on the other hand, stands for both Acts and Paul. As a supplement, a c can be used for the Catholic letters. Gregory lists 2292 of these manuscripts, by mid-2012 2911 minuscules were cataloged. 

The reading books or lectionaries are designated with the code  and a consecutive number. Likewise, superscript Latin letters can be used to indicate the content. If nothing is noted, the gospels are included. A ℓ + a indicates readings from the Acts of the Apostles, while ℓ a only has readings from the Acts of the Apostles. The latter applies to Lectionary 23, for example. Gregory lists 1540 reading books, the Institute for New Testament Text Research in Münster had cataloged 2453 lectionaries by mid-2012.

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Distribution

The catalog is used and continued to this day. In 1973, an unchanged photomechanical reprint of the original 1908 edition was made in the GDR by the Central Antiquariat of the German Democratic Republic from the copy in the Leipzig University Library. The printing was done by the Nationale Druckhaus VOB National, 1055 Berlin. Gregory’s system continues to this day in the Institute for New Testament Text Research. Newly added manuscripts are assigned an internationally valid number.

Absolute Distribution

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Distribution as a Percentage of all the
Manuscripts for Each Century

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