Snippet Text Collections

A blog reader recently asked about referencing what he labeled snippet text collections: volumes that present short selections of ancient works from a variety of sources. Examples of such works include volumes in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) series and the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. We rather like the label and appropriated it for the title to this post.

As seen in the figure below, ACCS volumes outline the biblical text and then offer brief comments (snippets) from various ancient authors under each outline heading.


Each comment begins with a topical heading in bold, then the name of its author. After the actual comment, the title of the work cited is given in English, with a reference included as appropriate. Each comment ends with a note reference that points to the lower right corner of the page. The note identifies the original source of the comment being quoted.

So, for example, the first comment given under Gal 1:6c–7a is given the topical heading Why Is It Not a Gospel? Augustine is identified as the author, followed by his comment. The source of the comment is identified as Epistle to the Galatians 4 (1b.1.6–9). Note number 7 closes the comment and points to the source of the quote: Patrologia Latina 35:2108.

Several additional matters deserve mention. The back matter includes an appendix in which the Latin title of Augustine’s work is given: Expositio in epistulam ad Galatas. Each volume also offers a complete bibliography offering full citations of all sources (in this case Expositio in epistulam ad Galatas in PL 35). Most important of all is what is not included for each snippet: the name of the translator. The general introduction to the series explains that some works are newly translated for the series, while in other cases the editors adopt and adapt preexisting translations. This is appropriate for the stated goal of the series, but it makes a difference with regard to who should use the series and how it should be cited.

In our view, scholars writing articles and books should not rely on the translations given in snippet works; they will be much better served producing their own translations from critical editions or quoting standard translations that their scholarly audience will recognize and accept. We say this not as criticism of snippet collections, since they are valuable resources when used as intended. Rather, we discourage scholars from attempting to take a shortcut and using snippet collections in a way that they were not intended.

We can imagine students writing term papers making good use of snippet text collections, if an instructor permits it. The balance of this post offers advice for how students might reference a quotation from a snippet collection.

Students are generally not familiar with the works being quoted or with the editions referenced in a snippet collection. Our advice is to keep things simple for students. They can list the ancient author and work as given in the snippet volume, then include all the other information about the ACCS volume that one would expect for any book. For example, a student might quote and then reference Marius Victoriunus on Eph 2:12 as follows:

Marius Victorinus writes, “The true way of Israel consists of living according to the Spirit.”4

4. Marius Victorinus, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.12, quoted in Mark J. Edwards, ed., Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, ACCS New Testament 8 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 129.

Subsequent citations to different authors in the same ACCS work should be shortened:

8. Theodoret, Epistle to the Galatians 5.13, quoted in Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 77.

If the student includes a bibliography, the entry should cite just the modern volume:

Edwards, Mark J., ed. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. ACCS New Testament 8. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

The guidelines modeled here should be easily applicable to other snippet text collections, but we welcome further questions if any of this remains unclear.

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