See list of lectionaries on Wikipedia and compare list of NT uncials.

Why, for example, isn't Codex Bezae (05) categorized as a lectionary since it's restricted to the Gospels and Acts, or Codex Laudianus (08) with just Acts?

Do the lectionaries use some (later?) system of divisions or organized/scheduled liturgical readings?

  • Great question, looking forward to learning something new from this one.
    – Steve can help
    Dec 7, 2021 at 20:27
  • This question may be closed because it does not ask about a specific Bible passage. However, let me suggest that the main difference is simple - a lectionary is a specific set of Bible readings for specific days in the liturgical calendar. The normal Bible MSS is just a copy of some part of the Bible text without indicating what is to be read on any specific day.
    – Dottard
    Dec 7, 2021 at 20:50
  • Aha, thanks for the explanation. I couldn't find anywhere on StackExchange better than here to ask the question, however I understand it is kind of iffy for the topic of hermeneutics. Dec 10, 2021 at 5:32
  • It's a general guideline, but the scope does cover other areas within the academic domain of hermeneutics - I'd suggest this is a fairly concise, answerable question in the right domain
    – Steve can help
    Dec 13, 2021 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


Good question, but somewhat difficult to answer.

NT manuscripts are organized mostly by material and usage. They basically fall into these categories:

  • Papyri (copied between ca. 150 - 700). Very few have entire books. Most are just fragments.
  • Uncials (From ca. 300s - 700). These typically have more than one book. But what sets them apart is the material they are written on (usually animal skins, or sometimes high-quality vellum) Like the Papyri, they are written in all caps.
  • Minuscules. Later on (ca. 700 on) they changed the script to lower case to be able to fit more words on a page.
  • Lectionaries These are different. The previous three categories are scriptio continua (one chunk of scripture following after another). Lectionaries are pericopes (cut out to be preached on). And they are arranged according to the church year. Don't bother asking what church year, since there is no agreement on a set church year system. Furthermore, they are divided into two subcategories: Menologion (minor festivals and midweek services) and Synaxarion (gathering rites for Sunday worship). They are typically written in a minuscule hand (lowercase). But there are fancier ones that exist that are uncials (all caps). It has been theorized that these pericopes trace an ancient textual stream. But, after studying this since the 1950's (esp. Colwell at the U. of Chicago), there still is no proof of this, since the form of text we have handed down to us is predominantly of one of the Byzantine streams of text.

Ok, if you're with me so far, let me muddy the waters a little more. They call them Lectionaries because they were read publicly (in from of church from the lecturn). And they have pericopes (set readings "cut out" to be focused on for a given Sunday. The irony, though, is that a number of the major uncials (and even papyri, like P66) also have paratextual markings (outer margin notations) that seem to indicate peripocal demarkations (beginning and ending of a preaching text). For example, Payne asserts that the diple (two-dot markings) in the paratext of Vaticanus are examples of textual variations. More likely, as Kloha asserts, they are markings for pericopes.

Summary: To answer your question, even though Bezae has paratextual features that strongly suggest demarcations for use in public reading, it does not qualify as a lectionary. For lectionaries follow a church year pattern and are not continual text.

For further reading, I suggest...


Lectionaries are collections of New Testament readings appointed for use during liturgical services. During each service there was (is still in some traditions) a Gospel reading from the Evangelion, and a reading from the Apostolos, which may be either an Epistle or a reading from Acts (but not Revelation). You will see these referred to as "Gospels" and "Apostles" in the list you linked.

The oldest manuscripts (again as shown in the article you linked) only date to the 9th century, but based on the writings of Church Fathers we believe the tradition dates back at least to the 4th century. Prior to that, the readings were chosen on a more ad hoc basis. The New Testament canon developed as a guide for which writings in circulation local churches should consider to be safe to choose from.

The development of the eastern lectionary is described at a high level in this article. The earliest form had readings just for Saturday and Sunday, with readings added for each day's Liturgy by around the 9th century.

The homilies on Scripture we have from Church Fathers are to a large extent sermons they gave for one or more readings that day out of the Lectionary. That certainly was the case for someone like John Chrysostom.

There is such a proliferation of lectionaries because until the printing press put books in reach of ordinary people, Scripture was heard rather than read and it was primarily heard during Church services.

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