The following is taken from Waltz's Online Encyclopedia with appreciation, and additional formatting:
Merk - Critical Greek/Latin New TestamentEditor. Text and apparatus edited by Augustinus Merk, S.J.
Date of Publication. The first edition, Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine, appeared in 1933. The tenth edition, issued nearly four decades after the editor's death, was published in 1984. Overall, however, the changes in the edition, in both text and apparatus, have been minimal.
The Text. Merk's Greek text is a fairly typical mid-Twentieth-Century production, an eclectic edition which however leans strongly toward the Alexandrian text. The Latin text, as one would expect of a Jesuit, is the Clementine Vulgate.
The Apparatus. The significance of Merk lies not in its text but in its apparatus -- by far the fullest of the hand editions, and accompanied by a serviceable critical apparatus of the Vulgate (a noteworthy improvement, in this regard, over the otherwise fairly similar edition of Bover).
Merk's apparatus is largely that of von Soden, translated into Gregory numbers and slightly updated. Merk includes nearly all the variants in von Soden's first two apparatus, and a significant number of those in the third. In addition to the manuscripts cited by von Soden, Merk cites several manuscripts discovered since von Soden's time (papyri up to P52, including the Beatty papyri; uncials up to 0207; minuscules up to 2430, although all but four minuscules and three lectionaries are taken from von Soden). Merk also cites certain versions and fathers, particularly from the east, not cited in von Soden.
But this strength is also a weakness. Merk's apparatus incorporates all the errors of von Soden (inaccurate collations and unclear citations), and adds errors of its own: inaccurate translation of von Soden's apparatus, plus a very high number of errors of the press and the like. Merk does not even provide an accurate list of fathers cited in the edition -- e.g. the Beatus of Liébana is cited under the symbol "Be," but the list of Fathers implies that he would be cited as "Beatus." The Venerable Bede, although cited relatively often (as Beda), is not even included in the list of Fathers! The list of such errors could easily be extended (a somewhat more accurate list of fathers cited in Merk is found in the article on the Fathers).
Thus the student is advised to take great care with the Merk. As a list of variants, no portable edition even comes close. Every student should have it. But knowing how far to trust it is another question. The following table shows a test of the Merk apparatus, based on the readings found in the apparatus of UBS4 in three books (Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians). The first column lists the manuscript, the second the number of readings for which it can be cited, the third the number of places where Merk's apparatus disagrees with the UBS apparatus, and the fourth the percentage of readings where they disagree.
| Percent Disagreement|
|1175||51||4||8% (but see below)|
We should add one caveat, however: Merk does not list where manuscripts such as P46, C, and 1175 have lacunae -- in the case of 1175, he cites the manuscript explicitly for certain readings where it does not exist! In addition, it is often impossible to tell the readings of the manuscripts in the bottom parts of his apparatus, as they are cited as part of al or rel pl. Thus the table cites 256 for 59 readings instead of the 63 citations for the Old Uncials because there are four readings where it is simply impossible to know which reading Merk thinks 256 supports.
Still, we see that overall the Merk apparatus is almost absolutely accurate for the Old Uncials (though it sometimes fails to note the distinction between first and later hands). Minuscules vary in reliability, though there are only three -- 263, 330, and 436 (all members of I a3, which seems to have been a very problematic group) -- where Merk's apparatus is so bad as to be of no use at all. The conclusion is that students should test the apparatus for any given minuscule before trusting it.
The Merk apparatus, adapted as it is from Von Soden, takes getting used to. The apparatus always cites the reading of the text as a lemma, then cites variant(s) from it. Normally witnesses will be cited for only one of the two readings; all uncited witnesses are assumed to support the other reading. To know which witnesses are cited for a particular reading, however, requires constant reference to Merk's list of groups (given in the introduction), as witnesses are cited by position within the groups, and often in a shorthand notation -- e.g. 1s means "1 and the witness immediately following" -- which in the Gospels is 1582; 1ss would mean "1 and the two witnesses immediately following" (1582 and 2193).
Note that "1s" is not the same as "1s."
1s means "1 and all manuscripts which follow to the end of the group." So where 1s means 1 1582, 1s means 1 1582 2193 (keep in mind, however, that if the subgroup is large, not all manuscripts of the group may be intended).
1r has yet another meaning: from 1 to the end of the major group -- in this case, from 1 to 131.
All this is not as bad as it sounds, but the student is probably well-advised to practice it a few times!
Other symbols in Merk's apparatus include
>, indicating an omission;
|, indicating a part of a versional tradition (or the Greek side of a diglot where the Latin disagrees);
"rel" for "all remaining witnesses," etc. Many of the remaining symbols are obvious (e.g. ~ for a change in word order), but the student should be sure to check Merk's introduction in detail, and never assume a symbol means what you think it means!
The example below may make things a little clearer. We begin with the table of witnesess -- in this case for Paul.
|H||P46 BSCA 1739 424c 1908 33 PY 104 326 1175 81 1852(R) HIM(1 2CHb) 048 062(G) 081(2 C) 082(E) 088(1C) 0142 P10·13·15·16·40 ||
D(E)G(F) 917 1836 1898 181 88 915 1912 |
|Ca2||623 5 1827 1838 467 1873 927 489 2143 ||
|Ca3||920 1835 1845 919 226 547 241 1 460 337 177 1738 321 319 69 462 794 330 999 1319 2127 256 263 38 1311 436 1837 255 642 218 ||
|Cb1||206 429 1831 1758 242 1891 522 2 635 941 1099 ||
|Cb2||440 216 323 2298 1872 1149 491 823 35 336 43 ||
|Cc1||1518 1611 1108 2138 1245 2005 ||
|Cc2||257 383 913 378 1610 506 203 221 639 1867 876 385 2147 ||
(14) otan gar eqnh ta mh nomon econta fusei ta tou nomou poiwsin, outoi nomon mh econtes eautois eisin nomos
In the apparatus we have
14 gar] de G| ar Wr| -- i.e. for gar, the reading of Merk's text,
the Greek side of G (but not the Latin), the Armenian,
and part of Origen read de.
All other witnesses support Merk's text.
poiwsin B SA-1908 104-1852 Ds 467 1319-38 436 43 Cl Wr ] poih rel -- i.e. poiwsin is supported by B, S (= א),
the witnesses from A to 1908 (=A, 1739, 6, possibly 424**, and 1908),
the witnesses from 104 to 1852 (=104, 326, 1175, 81, 1852),
by D and all other witnesses to the end of its group (=D G 917 1836 1898 181 88 915 1912, with perhaps one or two omitted),
by 467, by the witnesses from 1319 to 38 (=1319 2127 256 263 38),
by 436, by 43,
by Clement, and by Origen.
The alternative reading poih is supported by all other witnesses -- i.e.
by the uncited witnesses in the H group (in this case, P Y),
by the entire Ca2 group except 467,
by the uncited witnesses of Ca3 (=920, 1835, etc.),
by all witnesses of the Cb groups except 43, and
by all remaining witnesses from 1518 on down to L at the end.
outoi] oi toioutoi G d t vg Wr| -- i.e.
for outoi G (and its Latin side g), the old latins d t, the vulgate, and part of Origen read oi toioutoi.
Again, all other witnesses support Merk's text.