What do the Sigla in a New Testament Mean? Swanson Edition

Matthew 1:7-8, Swanson - Asaph or Asa

My last two articles1 were about decoding the critical apparatus in the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. Both of those use some cryptic symbols, called sigla, to indicate where witnesses (manuscripts) have different readings. I was also able to find an editor who arranged the texts in horizontal lines, making it much easier (for me)  to see how the witnesses are different (and similar). Reuben Swanson edited New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus, but unfortunately the series only goes up to Galatians (in 9 volumes)2. The series uses Codex Vaticanus as the base text, and compares it with other manuscripts. The reading I’m looking at is the name at the end of Matthew 1:7 and the beginning of verse 8.

7…and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah…. (Matthew 1:7-8 ESV)


Matthew 1:7-8, Codex Vaticanus

Matthew 1:7-8, Codex Vaticanus

Much of the information is the same as my last two articles, but I think you’ll agree it’s easier to understand how the witnesses differ by visualizing them side-by-side. The witnesses used in the apparatus are, for the most part, also used in the UBS and NA. There are a few symbols here I didn’t mention in my previous articles. Swanson reviewed, or collated, 71 witnesses:

Matthew 1:7-8, Swanson - Asaph or Asa
Matthew 1:7-8, Swanson – Asaph or Asa

The first line of each section is the reading from Codex Vaticanus, believed to have been written about A.D. 300-350. Vaticanus, also known as B and 03, contains all of the Old Testament, most of the Apocrypha and a large part of the New Testament (part of the Codex is missing). The end of the line includes all of the other witnesses to the same reading. The abbreviation uwt refers to United Bible Societies, Westcott and Hort, and Textus Receptus. The abbreviation rell is Latin for reliqui, or the rest of the manuscripts, the ones not explicitly listed as one of the other variants.

Lines two and three both reference Codex Sinaiticus, written about A.D. 325-375. Sinaiticus, also known as א and 01, contains about half of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, the entire New Testament and a few writings from the second century. א* refers to the original scribe, while אc refers to a later corrector.

Lines four through nine show one Uncial (Δ, Codex Sangallensis) and five minuscules (33, 579, 700, 788 and 1071).

The underlined words are ones that differ from Vaticanus, the empty spaces indicate the manuscript doesn’t have the word (or words) and the series of dots (….) show the text is lacunae (missing) due to damage in the manuscript.

The second section in the picture (the end of verse 7 and the start of verse 8) contains the name I’m interest in. As you can see from the witnesses at the end of the line, Vaticanus (B) and some manuscripts use the name Ἀσάφ (Asaph, a musician; 1 Chronicles 25:1), while other manuscripts use Ἀσά (Asa), a King of Judah; 1 Kings 15:8-9). Generally, the older manuscripts use Ἀσάφ (Asaph), while later manuscripts use Ἀσά (Asa).

For the sake of completeness, I’ve included the footnotes. The first section of footnotes uses the abbreviation lac. for lacunae (missing) due to damage in the manuscript. Matthew 1:5-8 is missing from a large number of manuscripts (most these manuscripts Swanson used do not have Matthew 1 at all), verses 7-9 from three manuscripts and 7-8 from two.

The last section on the page, “A”, lists variant readings that are each only one word long, and not proper names. The editor chose not to create parallel lines to save space. The format of these follows the UBS and NA apparatus, except for one item. Some variant readings have superscript numbers after them. These words appear more than once in a variant unit,  and the superscript number indicates which occurrence the variant reading applies to.

Since I’m a beginner at textual criticism, I find Swanson’s layout the easiest to understand. Being able to visualize the differences in the manuscripts makes understanding the need for textual criticism easier.



  1. What do the Sigla in a New Testament Apparatus Mean? UBS Edition, What do the Sigla in a New Testament Apparatus Mean? NA Edition
  2. Reuben Swanson passed away before completing the series.

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