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The text of the book of the Acts of the Apostles circulated in the early church in two quite distinct forms, commonly called the Alexandrian and the Western. The former, which has been traditionally regarded as the authentic text of Acts, is represented by 𝔓45 𝔓74 א A B C Ψ 33 81 104 326 and 1175. The other form is represented chiefly by D and the fragmentary papyri 𝔓, 𝔓, and 𝔓, by the readings marked with an asterisk or standing in the margin of the Harclean Syriac version (syr, syr), by the African Old Latin ms. h (a fifth or sixth century fragmentary palimpsest that preserves about 203 of the 1007 verses of Acts), and by the citations of Acts made by Cyprian and Augustine. These, which are the primary witnesses to the Western text in Acts, are sometimes joined by others that present mixed texts with a relatively high proportion of Western elements. Among such are the Armenian version of the commentary on Acts by Ephraem Syrus, the Old Georgian version of Acts, several mixed Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts, and a few Greek minuscule manuscripts that were included by von Soden in his I-group. More recent discoveries of witnesses with decided Western affiliations include a Palestinian Syriac fragment (syrmsK) from the Kastellion Monastery at Khirbet Mird, dating from the sixth century, and a Coptic manuscript (cop) written in the Middle Egyptian dialect and dated by its editor in the late fourth or early fifth century.
 The manuscript, which contains the text of Acts 1:1–15:3 and is now in the Glazier Collection in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, was described and edited in a preliminary fashion by the late Fr. T. C. Petersen in an article, “An Early Coptic Manuscript of Acts: An Unrevised Version of the Ancient so-called Western Text,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, xxvi (1964), pp. 225–241. For a critique of Petersen’s evaluation of the Coptic manuscript, see Ernst Haenchen and Peter Weigandt, “The Original Text of Acts?” New Testament Studies, xiv (1967–68), pp. 469–481, who date the manuscript in the fifth or sixth century. A definitive edition, with a German translation on facing pages, was published by Hans-Martin Schenke, Apostelgeschichte 1, 1–15, 3 im mittelägyptischen Dialekt des Koptischen (Codex Glazier) (Texte und Untersuchungen, 137; Berlin, 1991).
The two forms of text differ in character as well as length. The Western text is nearly one-tenth longer than the Alexandrian text and is generally more picturesque and circumstantial, whereas the shorter text is generally more colorless and in places more obscure (see also pp. 5*–6*).
 More precisely, it appears that in the text edited by Westcott and Hort (which is a typically Alexandrian type of text) the book of Acts has 18,401 words, whereas in the text established by A. C. Clark (which is a typically Western type of text) Acts has 19,983 words; that is, the latter text is about 8½% longer (the figures are those of F. G. Kenyon, The Western Text in the Gospels and Acts [= Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. xxiv; London, 1939], p. 26).
The relationship between the two forms of Acts has been the subject of much discussion; the chief theories that have been proposed are the following.
(1) Both forms of text proceed from the author, who produced two editions of his work. The first to make this suggestion appears to have been Jean Leclerc, who, however, later rejected his own hypothesis. In more modern times Bishop J. B. Lightfoot6 took a rather favorable view of this theory, and it was subsequently adopted and developed with much learning by the German professor of classics, Friedrich Blass. According to Blass, Luke, having made a rough draft of his history of the primitive church, perhaps on the back of some previous manuscript, desired to present a handsome copy of his work to his distinguished friend Theophilus. Not being rich enough to employ a professional scribe to make the copy, Luke had to make it himself; naturally, instead of slavishly following his first draft, he exercised the freedom that an author can lawfully take with a work of his own, in altering phraseology and deleting superfluities. From both forms of Acts, according to Blass, copies were made; the text current in most manuscripts represents the polished, second edition prepared for Theophilus, while copies were also made from the original (longer) draft, which Blass supposed was treasured and preserved in the Roman church.
Nothing in this theory is inherently unreasonable, and it attracted the support of a number of other scholars, including Theodor Zahn, Eberhard Nestle,9 J. M. Wilson, and M.-É. Boismard.11 Other scholars, however, found it difficult to understand the motives of the author in choosing to omit certain details found in the presumed earlier account; the gain in space is small and the loss in information and descriptiveness is sometimes great. Is it plausible that the author would have omitted a clause from the decrees of the Jerusalem council (15:20, 29), or have altered the language of the letter of Claudius Lysias (23:26–30) or Festus’s speech to Agrippa concerning Paul’s culpability (25:24–25)? Furthermore, sometimes the shorter form contradicts the longer form. For example, having described (in the first person plural) a break in the journey from Caesarea to Jerusalem at the house of Mnason (so the Western text of 21:16), the author would not be likely to alter it so as to suggest that Mnason lived in Jerusalem (as is implied in the shorter text).
It has also been pointed out that in many cases the text that Blass regarded as the earlier, unrevised form of Acts exhibits the clear characteristics of later additions. Thus, for example, in a devastating review of Blass’s edition, another classical scholar, T. E. Page, assembled numerous examples where the Western text heightens or exaggerates the emphasis of the passage, where it introduces religious formulae and substitutes for the simpler and natural names of Jesus fuller and more elaborate theological titles, and where it emphasizes words and actions as inspired by the Spirit.
For these and other reasons many scholars today are reluctant to adopt Blass’s theory of two editions of Acts.
(2) Contrary to the theory proposed by Blass, who thought that the shorter form of Acts was produced when Luke pruned the earlier, longer text of his book, other scholars have considered it much more probable that the Western text of Acts was produced by the expansion of an earlier form of the text. Several theories have been proposed that attribute the process of expansion essentially to Luke himself. One of these was put forward by the Irish polymath, George Salmon, who suggested that “Luke may have continued to reside at Rome after the expiration of Paul’s two years [of Roman imprisonment], and may there have given readings of his work; and explanatory statements which he then made were preserved in the West.” Although it is possible to point to examples of authors in antiquity who gave public readings of their literary works, it is difficult to imagine the historical circumstances that would account for the preservation in written form of the oral comments made by Luke.
(3) A much more elaborately argued case was made by Édouard Delebecque on the basis of his extensive analyses of stylistic features of the longer text of Acts. Delebecque agrees with Blass that this form of text displays the same characteristics as those found in Luke’s undisputed writings; he differs, however, in holding that the longer text is evidently secondary and a development of the shorter text. The relation of the two is explained by a series of hypotheses as follows. The earlier, shorter text was written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Subsequently, following his release from imprisonment, the apostle undertook further travels to Spain and also once again in the Aegean region, where he was eventually imprisoned again (at Ephesus). At this time, Paul dictated 2 Timothy to Luke. After Paul’s death in Ephesus, Luke revised and enlarged Acts, probably shortly after A.D. 67.
(4) In his Oxford D. Phil. thesis, W. A. Strange developed yet another theory to account for the two forms of the text of Acts. This theory begins by supposing that Luke left the manuscript of Acts unfinished at his death. This rough draft contained here and there annotations in the form of marginal and interlinear notes. After the middle of the second century, this annotated, author’s copy of Acts came into the hands of two editors who, working independently, produced the two textual traditions that we have today. The Western fullness of expression in Acts is the result of the editor’s wish to preserve the annotated and interlinear material that one might expect in an author’s working copy. On the other hand, the non-Western editor did not include the annotated material in his version. He did, however, attempt occasionally to clear up passages that were obscure or that might give potential support for mid-second-century Gnostic sects.
(5) Still other scholars have explained the distinctive form of the Western text as having arisen from interpolation. It is maintained that in the early ages of the church the text of the New Testament was not looked upon as sacred, and therefore scribes felt at liberty to modify the form as well as to incorporate from oral tradition all kinds of additional details. Thus the Western text, according to this explanation, represents a wild and uncontrolled growth of the text during the first and second centuries.
This view has been widely held by scholars of various backgrounds, such as Westcott and Hort, W. H. P. Hatch, and F. G. Kenyon.
 The New Testament in the Original Greek, [vol. ii, ] Introduction [and] Appendix (London, 1881; 2nd ed. 1896), pp. 120–126.
 The “Western” Text of the Gospels (Evanston, 1937).
 The Western Text in the Gospels and Acts, in Proceedings of the British Academy, xxiv (1939), pp. 287–315.
Still others have held that one of the rival texts is derived from the other, not merely by a haphazard accumulation of glosses added over the years by numerous scribes, but by a deliberate revision made early in the second century by someone who was not satisfied with the existing form of the book. The problem is to determine which form was primary and which was secondary. The following two theories give diametrically opposing answers to the problem.
(6) The view that in general the Alexandrian text preserves more accurately the work of the original author and that the Western text reflects the work of a reviser was set forth with great learning by James Hardy Ropes in his edition of the text of Acts and has been championed more recently by R. P. C. Hanson, who, however, instead of referring to a Western reviser, prefers to speak of a Western interpolator.
 The Text of Acts, being vol. iii of The Beginnings of Christianity, edited by E J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (London, 1926). Ropes describes the character of the Western text of Acts as follows: “The purpose of the ‘Western’ reviser, as shown by his work, was literary improvement and elaboration in accordance with his own taste, which was somewhat different from that of the author. He aimed at bettering the connexion, removing superficial inconsistency, filling slight gaps, and giving a more complete and continuous narrative. Where it was possible he liked to introduce points from parallel or similar passages, or to complete an Old Testament quotation. Especially congenial to his style were heightened emphasis and more abundant use of religious commonplaces. This effort after smoothness, fulness, and emphasis in his expansion has usually resulted in a weaker style, sometimes showing a sort of naïve superabundance in expressly stating what every reader could have understood without the reviser’s diluting supplement. Occasionally it relieves a genuine difficulty and is a real improvement … In his language he uses a vocabulary notably the same as that of the original author, but with a certain number of new words—about fifty. One trick of his style is the frequent introduction of τότε as a particle of transition …” (pp. ccxxxi f.).
 “The Provenance of the Interpolator in the ‘Western’ Text of Acts,” New Testament Studies, xii (1965–66), pp. 211–230. Hanson seeks to show that “it is likely that an interpolator was at work on the text of Acts some time between A.D. 120 and 150 approximately, in the city of Rome. He was a Christian of some wealth and education with no strong connexions with Judaism. His additions to and alterations of the text somehow became incorporated in the MS tradition which we call the ‘Western’ text and which originated somewhere about the middle of the second century” (p. 223).
An interesting hypothesis that Ropes threw out for further discussion is the suggestion that “the preparation of the ‘Western’ text, which took place early in the second century, perhaps at Antioch, was incidental to the work of forming a collection of Christian writings for general Church use which ultimately, somewhat enlarged, became the New Testament; in a word, the ‘Western’ text was the text of the primitive ‘canon’ (if the term may be pardoned in referring to so early a date), and was expressly created for that purpose.”
(7) The opposite point of view, namely that the Western text of Acts is primary and the Alexandrian is a deliberate modification of it, was championed by Albert C. Clark, Corpus Professor of Latin in the University of Oxford. In his earlier publications Clark explained the shortened form as being the result of a scribe’s accidentally missing here and there one or more lines of his exemplar. Since, however, accidental omissions would not account for the regular correspondence of the omissions with breaks in the sense, nor does the theory explain the numerous differences in wording where no omission is involved, in a subsequent publication Clark practically abandoned the theory of accidental omission and revived the theory of a deliberate editorial shortening of the Western text. The Alexandrian abbreviator, he thinks, excised passages throughout the book for a variety of reasons; in some cases we can deduce that he eliminated what he considered to be otiose, but in other cases the excisions, Clark admits, show a singular want of taste.
 The Primitive Text of the Gospels and Acts (Oxford, 1914). Clark had previously applied the theory of accidental omission of lines to the transmission of the manuscripts of Cicero’s letters.
In the preceding century Clark’s view of the Western text was anticipated by F. A. Bornemann, who regarded codex Bezae as preserving the original text of Acts and explained the shorter, common text as having arisen from the negligence or ignorance of copyists, who passed over many passages due to homoeoteleuton (Acta Apostolorum ab Sancto Luca conscripta ad Codicis Cantabrigiensis fidem recensuit [Grossenhain and London, 1848]). Clark, however, pointed out later (p. xxiv of his work cited in the following footnote) that several of Bornemann’s examples are somewhat forced, and that in the majority of omitted passages homoeoteleuton does not exist.
Still other theories of a linguistic sort have been proposed over the years to account for the unusual phenomena of codex Bezae.
(8) J. Rendel Hams revived the theory of Mill, Wettstein, Middleton, and other eighteenth century scholars that “the whole of the Greek text of Codex Bezae from the beginning of Matthew to the end of Acts is a re-adjustment of an earlier text to the Latin version.” The theory finds little or no support among present-day scholars.
(9) The view that codex Bezae embodies an appreciable amount of Semitic coloring has been examined and adopted in various forms by several scholars. Frederic Henry Chase sought to prove that the Bezan text of Acts is the result of assimilation of a Greek text to a Syriac text that antedated the Peshitta version. In the case of the Gospels, Julius Wellhausen frequently argued for the primitive nature of the readings in codex D. This point of view was discussed further by A. J. Wensinck in a study entitled, “The Semitisms of Codex Bezae and their Relation to the Non-Western Text of the Gospel of Saint Luke,”27 and particularly by Matthew Black in his volume An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, in which he gathers, classifies, and carefully evaluates a large amount of relevant material. According to Black, “The Bezan text in all the Synoptic Gospels, if less so in some respects in Mark, is more frequently stained with Aramaic constructions and idiom than the B א text.”29 A somewhat similar conclusion concerning the Western text of Acts was also reached by Max Wilcox in his monograph (originally a doctoral dissertation written under the guidance of Black) entitled The Semitisms of Acts.
Another hypothesis that seeks to account for Semitisms in codex Bezae was proposed by a specialist in the Semitic languages, C. C. Torrey. After having published several monographs on details of Aramaic coloring in the Gospels and the first half of the book of Acts, Torrey advanced the theory that the Gospels and Acts were translated from Greek into an Aramaic “Targum” towards the end of the first century, and that this “Targum,” being mistaken for the original Semitic text of these books, was very soon afterwards retranslated into Greek with constant reference to the existing Greek text. This retranslation, Torrey held, was the basis of the Western text in the Gospels and Acts.31
Although F. F. Bruce described Torrey’s hypothesis as “very plausible … [for] it seems to satisfy many of the linguistic phenomena better than any other,” most other scholars have rejected it as too complicated to be probable. Moreover, though such an hypothesis may account for certain linguistic phenomena, it offers no help in explaining how the Bezan text of Acts became nearly one-tenth longer than the Alexandrian text.
Dissatisfied with the methodology of those who adduce sporadic examples of Semitisms without controlling their results by a systematic examination of opposing linguistic phenomena, the present writer suggested to a student of his that he make a comprehensive study of all the distinctive features of the Greek of codex Bezae. James D. Yoder, having assembled a Concordance to the Distinctive Greek Text of Codex Bezae, collected and analyzed not only instances of Semitisms in Bezae, but also instances where that manuscript lacks Semitisms that are preserved in other Greek witnesses. Yoder’s conclusions are: “(1) When one takes into account not only the instances of Semitic phenomena in codex Bezae, but also the Bezan variants which abandon Semitisms found in other MSS, the net increase of Semitisms [in Bezae compared with other Greek witnesses] is sometimes inconsequential, while in other respects this MS actually reveals fewer Semitisms than [the number] found in the B א text; and (2) ofttimes the data are concentrated in limited areas of the text, thus detracting from the supposed homogeneity of the Bezan text.”
After surveying the chief theories that have been offered to explain the origin of the Western text, one is impressed by the wide diversity of hypotheses and the lack of any generally accepted explanation. A failing common to many of the theories is the attempt to account for the Western text by concentrating upon only one aspect of the problem. The complex phenomena, however, that characterize the Western text in relation to the Alexandrian text include, as Haenchen points out in a brief but incisive discussion,35 at least three kinds or levels of variant readings. There are, first, not only for Acts but for the Gospels and the Pauline corpus as well, a great number of minor variants that seek to clarify and explain the text and make it smooth. Occasionally pious phrases are introduced. This form of text, widely current in the early church and used by Marcion, Tatian, Irenaeus, and others, cannot be regarded as a “recension,” for it is not and never was a unity.
Secondly, there are variants of another kind, peculiar to the Western text of Acts. These include many additions, long and short, of a substantive nature that reveal the hand of a reviser. Working upon a copy of the “Western” text in the first sense, the reviser, who was obviously a meticulous and well-informed scholar, eliminated seams and gaps and added historical, biographical, and geographical details. Apparently the reviser did his work at an early date, before the text of Acts had come to be generally regarded as a sacred text that must be preserved inviolate.
Thirdly, there are still other variants which are not to be associated with the Western text as such, nor with its reviser, but which belong to a particular manuscript, namely codex Bezae. This witness, copied, according to Haenchen, about A.D. 500, exhibits a variety of scribal idiosyncrasies, some of which, though suggesting Aramaisms, are nothing more than errors of a scribe, or possibly two successive scribes. It follows, in the words of Haenchen’s conclusion, that “in none of the three cases does the ‘Western’ text of Acts preserve for us the ‘original’ text of that book; this is the lesson that we are gradually beginning to learn.”37
In a more recent discussion of the origin of the Western text of Acts, Barbara Aland traces the several stages in the development of this form (or of such forms) of text. In the second century copyists introduced interpolations, omissions, and alterations in the text of Acts that tended in the direction of the Western type of text. In the first half of the third (?) century a redactor revised a manuscript that contained a form of text that belonged to the first stage, and this resulted in a text embodying the well-known “Western” characteristics. At the third stage the redactor’s exemplar was copied by various persons who dealt with the text in a rather free manner.
By way of summing up at least some of the analyses of the Western text, one may conclude that it would be more appropriate to speak of Western texts, rather than of a Western text. At the same time, one can recognize a, so-to-speak, Western tendency that is shared by many such witnesses. In this sense, as Strange declares, “it is legitimate to refer to the Western text, as long as it is understood that what is meant is a broad stream of textual tradition, and a way of handling the text, rather than a coherent recension of the text, created at a specific time.” Understood in this way, Codex Bezae frequently offers the most original form of the Western text. At the same time, of course, D has a manuscript history of its own, and does not invariably preserve the earliest form of the Western text. To ascertain that stage one must also take into account the evidence of other witnesses, both versional and patristic. For such study we now have available the extensive collection of textual information presented in vol. ii, Apparat critique, of Boismard and Lamouille’s Le Texte Occidental de Actes des Apôtres.
Inasmuch as no hypothesis thus far proposed to explain the relation of the Western and the Alexandrian texts of Acts has gained anything like general assent, in its work of editing that book the United Bible Societies’ Committee proceeded in an eclectic fashion, judging that neither the Alexandrian nor the Western group of witnesses always preserves the original text, but that in order to attain the earliest text one must compare the two divergent traditions point by point and in each case select the reading that commends itself in the light of transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities.
In reviewing the work of the Committee on the book of Acts as a whole, one observes that more often than not the shorter, Alexandrian text was preferred. At the same time the Committee recognized that some of the information incorporated in certain Western expansions may well be factually accurate, though not deriving from the original author of Acts. In the following comments the present writer has attempted to set before the reader a more or less full report (with an English translation) of the several additions and other modifications that are attested by Western witnesses, whether Greek, Latin, Syriac, or Coptic. Since many of these have no corresponding apparatus in the text-volume, care was taken to supply an adequate conspectus of the evidence that supports the divergent reading(s).
 Who it was that was responsible for the additional information concerning the apostolic age or where it came from is entirely unknown. According to F. G. Kenyon, “What one would like to suppose (but for which there is no external evidence) is that one of St. Paul’s companions transcribed Luke’s book (perhaps after the author’s death), and inserted details of which he had personal knowledge, and made other alterations in accordance with his own taste in a matter on which he was entitled to regard himself as having authority equal to that of Luke” (The Text of the Greek Bible [London, 1937], pp. 235 f.).
Bruce Manning Metzger
United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994)
Acts of the Apostles Textual Introduction
THE ALEXANDRIAN TEXT
Primary Manuscripts (with substantial extant text): 𝔓45 B א
Primary Manuscripts Dated After 400: 𝔓74 A C (in part) Ψ 33 81 104 326 1739
Secondary Manuscripts (with smaller portions of text): 𝔓8 𝔓41 𝔓50 𝔓53 𝔓91 0189
THE WESTERN TEXT AND D-TEXT
Primary Manuscripts: D it
Secondary Manuscripts: 𝔓29(?) 𝔓38 𝔓48 𝔓112; also ith syrhmg syrh** Cyprian Augustine
The book of Acts existed in two distinct forms in the early church—the Alexandrian and the Western. The Alexandrian text is found in manuscripts such as 𝔓45 𝔓74 א A B C Ψ 0189 33. The Western text is found in a few third-century papyri (𝔓29 𝔓38 𝔓48), a fifth-century papyrus (𝔓112), the uncial 0171 (ca. 300), and Codex Bezae (D, fifth century). The Western text is also attested to by the African Old Latin manuscripts (including ith), marginal readings in the Harclean Syriac translation (noted as syrhmg or syrh**), and the writings of Cyprian and Augustine. The Western text, which is nearly one-tenth longer than the Alexandrian, is more colorful and filled with added circumstantial details. The Western text must be referred to loosely because it is a conglomerate of variant readings which are (1) generally non-Alexandrian, (2) found in early Western witnesses, (3) found in D, and (4) even found in witnesses that are not normally considered “Western”—i.e., Marcion, Tatian, and Irenaeus.
The leading witness of the Western text is Codex Bezae (D) of the fifth century. But this form of the Western text was not created by the scribe who produced Codex Bezae, even though he himself may have added his own enhancements. The creation of the text as later found in D could have happened prior to the third century. Aland and Aland state, “When and how the Greek exemplar of D originated is unknown (𝔓29, 𝔓38, 𝔓48, and 0171 of the third and fourth centuries show earlier or related forms), but the additions, omissions, and alterations of the text (especially in Luke and Acts) betray the touch of a significant theologian.… When D supports the early tradition the manuscript has a genuine significance, but it (as well as its precursors and followers) should be examined most carefully when it opposes the early tradition” (1987, 108). Metzger considered the early Western text to be the work of a reviser “who was obviously a meticulous and well-informed scholar, [who] eliminated seams and gaps and added historical, biographical, and geographical details. Apparently the reviser did his work at an early date, before the text of Acts had come to be generally regarded as a sacred text that must be preserved inviolate” (Introduction to Acts, TCGNT).
Theories abound as to which form of the text is the original one—or even if Luke wrote both (see Metzger’s excellent survey in TCGNT). The major scholarly consensus is that the Alexandrian text is primary and the Western secondary. J. H. Ropes (1926, ccxxii) considered the Western text to be “a paraphrastic rewriting of the original,” the “work of a single editor trying to improve the work on a large scale.” R. P. C. Hanson (1965, 215–224) characterized this reviser as an interpolator who made large insertions into an Alexandrian type text. Hanson hypothesized “that these interpolations were made in Rome between A.D. 120 and 150, at a time when the book of Acts was not yet regarded as sacrosanct and inspired.”
More often than not, the editors of the NU text considered the Alexandrian text, as the shorter text, to have preserved the original wording. My view is that in nearly every instance where the D-text stands alone (against other witnesses—especially the Alexandrian), it is a case of the Western scribe functioning as a reviser who enhanced the text with redactional fillers. This person (whom I often refer to as the “reviser” or “D-reviser” in the commentary notes) must have been a knowledgeable researcher, who had a penchant for adding historical, biographical, and geographical details (as noted by Metzger). More than anything, he was intent on filling in gaps in the narrative by adding circumstantial details. Furthermore, he shaped the text to favor the Gentiles over the Jews, to promote Paul’s apostolic mission, and to heighten the activity of the Holy Spirit in the work of the apostles.
Philip W. Comfort
New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)