The need for this edition—the primary and for the time being the only one— stemmed from the lack of liturgical uniformity in the text of the Greek New Testament existing in the Orthodox Church during the years of the Turkish occupationin Greece.  This was due to the fact that some churches used handwritten Gospels and Apostlic texts (Apostoloi), while others used some of the printed editions from Venice which contained the pericopae that were to be read in the liturgical services. However, neither did the manuscripts always agree among themselves, nor did the printed editions always agree up to that time (1904).

For this reason, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the late 19th century (more specifically, in 1899) assigned a three-member committee consisting of two Metropolitans (Michael Kleovoulos of Sardis and Apostolos Christodoulou of Stavroupoli) as well as of Vasileios  Antoniades, professor at the Theological School of Chalki, with the task of collecting and studying the manuscripts of Constantinople and Mount Athos,and with the preparation of a Greek edition of the New Testament that would provide “the best reconstruction of the most ancient text of ecclesiastical tradition and, more specifically, of the Church of Constantinople”.

The numerous manuscripts and, in particular, their large number of their variants led the committee to be limited to only 116 manuscripts of Gospels and of Apostolic readings, out of which 45 were studied personally by B. Antoniades in both Constantinople and Mount Athos, while the rest he took into consideration by means of a collation that his co-workers had carried out in both Athens and Jerusalem. The chronological breadth of the manuscripts is wide since represented among them are texts read in the churches from the 9th to the 16th centuries, that is, for about eight centuries. However, most of the manuscripts that were used date from 10th to 14th centuries. The text of the New Testament that was prepared subsequent to the study and collation of the above manuscripts was published in 1904 and reprinted in 1912 with some corrections. This edition was printed at the Patriarchal printing facilities by using the appropriate printing and other machinery, as well as using typographical plates that were purchased from England, while the expenditure of printing under the Patriarchal care and pretention was undertaken by philhellenes and Hellenes manifesting their pious feelings to the Mother Church in this way”[2]. Gennadius, the Metropolitan of Heliopolis, noted in 1938 that, “It was an attempt made almost exclusively by the wise Professor Antoniades, although he did not have enough time available due to the numerous tasks stemming from his capacity as a professor, for a project demanding the contribution of numerous collaborators, a considerable length of time, and ample resources”[3]).

[2] Preface, The New Testament, Approved by the Great Church of Christ.

[3] Πῶς οἱ Ἀµερικανοί, Ορθόδοξία 13 (1938), 75.

The question arising now is the following: has the period of liturgical disuniformity ended definitively? Do we hear in the Divine Liturgy or in the sacraments (i.e. in the mysteries), or in the other rituals exactly the same text everywhere? We had the opportunity to point out some characteristic elements featuring the lack of uniformity among the editions of the New Testament available in Greece in the context of last year’s (2003) liturgical conference held in Prokopi, Euboia which was organised by the Committee for the Liturgical Renaissance under the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.

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