The first scholar who really included lectionaries—apart from the other manuscripts—for his critical edition of the Greek New Testament was the English critic from Oxford, John Mill (in 1707), who had worked 30 years on its preparation. Lectionaries (Eclogadia), as is well known, is the name given to the manuscripts which contain the Gospel or Apostolic passages which are read during the liturgical year. Western scholars usually refer to them as “lectionaries” (from the Latin word lectio = reading), while in the East (apart from using the imported Western terms “lectionaries” and “ευαγγελιστάρια”[evangelistaria]) the Byzantine term εκλογάδια (eklogadia) is also used. Eight lectionaries from the Gospels and two from the Apostolic readings are counted among the manuscripts upon which John Mill based his edition. Later follow the editions of J. A. Bengel (1734), J. Wettstein (1751), J. Griesbach (1774 – 1811) and C. F. Matthaei (1782-1788) during the 18th and 19th centuries. F. Scrivener provides interesting information and a description of a large number of lectionaries in his book, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (1883).
In mid 19th century when critical editions started to replace the Byzantine Text which has been dominant up to that time, no use of lectionaries is found. The fact that K. Tischendorf (1894) did not use any lectionaries in his editions is paradoxical since he had discovered many lectionaries among the other manuscripts that he had discovered in various libraries and monasteries. Westcott and Hort (1881), the two English editors, also made little use of them. The fact that the German scholar Hermann von Soden, whose research focused on the Byzantine text of the New Testament, did not take the Byzantine lectionaries into consideration in his famous four-volume edition “Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte’’ (1902-1913) was regarded as an “inexplicable riddle”.
However, at about the same time (early 20th century) C. R. Gregory showed an impressive and suggestive knowledge of the lectionaries, as well as a positive evaluation of them. Although he did not proceed to publish a New Testament edition, he expressed his favourable attitude toward the use of lectionaries both in the preface he wrote on Tischendorf’s 8th edition of Critica Major (1894) and in the three-volume work Textκritik des Νeuen Testaments (1900 – 1909) where he counts and describes 1,599 lectionaries. Hence, the scholarly community for the first time acquired positive, responsible information about the Byzantine lectionaries. Nevertheless, during the same time E. Nestle, who since 1898 had initiated the well-known critical editions Novum Testamentum Graece did not take the contribution of the lectionaries into consideration during the preparation of the text (today the continuation of his work circulates as the 27th edition, well known as Nestle-Aland, while the 28th edition is also now being prepared, even in an electronic format).
This was the climate in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s New Testament edition emerged, based entirely on Byzantine lectionaries. One can look up the history of this edition in one of the New Testament’s Greek Introductions. With great brevity we would like to note the following.