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chief element regarded the age and authority of this Codex, had not abated some critics, as Mons. Martin of Utrecht, were inclined to attribute to it an antiquity as high as the 11th century: others again, as Dr. Marsh, considered it not prior to the 16th ; while many, with Dr. Clarke, assigned it to the 14th, but regarded it however as a transcript of little valuethe work of a bold and unscrupulous scribe.
It will be seen that while itself the subject of such a variety of opinions, the Codex could not throw much light on the controversy of “the three witnesses ;" it was, however, by no means creditable to the learned men of this country, that a volume cited by most European critics should have its origin wrapped in obscurity, and its value unascertained. True ; circumstances might have placed its external history beyond the reach of recovery, but manuscripts, like other things, have been taught to tell their own story; the lines of origin and age are impressed on volumes as well as men, and a careful comparison of these with one another would be sure to be followed by the same results in this country as have attended the labours of the Benedictines elsewhere.
To such a task, in fact, has Dr. Dobbin addressed himself, and, though we are slow to assent to all his conclusions, we give him ample credit for the spirit with which he has undertaken, and the success with which he has executed his work.
The plan of examination followed by our author, was determined in some measure by that which Dr. Barret adopted in 1808 with the same Codex. That learned doctor-familiarly known as Jacky Barret, of simple and economical reputation - commenced a collation of the Codex Monfortianus with the printed text of Wetstein, wbich he probably regarded as the best sample of the textus receptus, or established reading among Protestants.
With this text he carefully collated that of the Dublin MS. throughout the Pauline and Catholic Epistles, as well as the Apocalypse. We know not at what conclusion of practical value the learned doctor's labors enabled him to arrive other than this, that the Book of the Apocalypse as it stands in the Codex Montfortianus, bears undoubied marks of being transcribed from a Leicester MS. not older than the 13th century. Dr. Dobbin, however, besides completing the collation, begun by Dr. Barret, with the text of Wetstein, has extended his researches into a new and liitherto unexplored region. Struck by a remarkable similarity said to exist between
the Montfortian Codex and those of Oxford, marked respectively by Wetstein as 56, 58, 39, our author has subjected the texts and characters of those MSS. to a critical comparison with one. another, and from data, of whose amplitude and variety the volume before us gives sufficient proofs, has arrived at the conclusion that the Montfort MS. is in two of the Gospels (Luke and John) a transcript from the Aew College MS. Wetstein, 58), while in the Acts and Epistles it copies the Lincoln College W/S. (Wetstein, 39) with some differences, inserting for example, 1 John, v. 7, which the Lincoln exemplar does not contain.
“We have thus at last, however," observes the author, p. 56,“ reached the point at which we have been aiming in this more recent part of our introduction, namely, that of proving how Erasmus, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, rested the verse exclusively upon the testimony of this one MS. In the middle of the nineteenth century, that verse rests upou no broader basis still: for although modern research has discovered four other Greek codices containing it, it is found in them under such circumstances of marginal position, transcription from printed texts or variety of reading, as disqualifies them from giving any evidence on the question at all. “But," he continues, “ while we thus narrow the ground
” of our conviction to the testimony of this single MS., we disclaim any intention thereby to prejudice the mind of the reader, in favor of a particular conclusion. We, for the nonce, ignore the testimony of all the existing Greek copies against the verse, in order to test the merits of this affirmative witness in its favor, because BY THIS SINGLE TESTIMONY, THE VERSE MUST STAND OR FALL. Let the student then carefully examine the whole of the citations from the Acts in which the Dublin Codex, and that of Lincoln College, Oxford, agree, their numbers, their variety, their peculiarity, and he cannot fail to land in the conelusion, we have thus far arrived at, that the Montfort Codex is a transcript with arbitrary and fanciful variations, of the Oxford.” To facilitate bis arrival at that conclusion, the author subjoins a list of remarkable coincidences between the Lincoln and Montfort MSS., in cases where both these diller froin the vulgate; after which he continues p. 61. “Of these readings in the Acts, we may be allowed to siy, that involving as they do, faults of grammar, orthography,
and signification, they can only be traced to a servile transcription of the Codex Lincolniensis, where they are to be found. But this conformity is not confined to the Acts, but runs through the Epistles ; 80 that, the inference respecting the relation of the two MSS. to each other, can by no possibility of reasoning be reduced to conjecture, but rises to absolute demonstration. With a resemblance, then, between the two documents so full and pervading, so curious and minute, we should expect to find the classical text of 1 John v. 7, in the parent MS.; but it is wanting in the Lincoln College Codex : -therefore its presence in the Montfort Codex is an arbitrary and unauthorised interpolation.” Farther on, the author absolves the alleged interpolator from the charge of wilful fraud. “The passage was written," he observes, “ before the Erasmian controversy began; and it may be acconnted for on the same principle as many other variations from his original which mark this transcript. Its introduction was purely self-suggested, originating in no polemical purpose, and leaves our confidence in the good faith of the transcriber unshaken. · Let a moderate share of Greek scholarship be combined with a higli veneration for the Latin Vulgate, and a desire to complete what is evidently a tentative text throughout-one designed for private edification and not for sale, and this supposition meets all the phenomena of the case : the existence of the reading in our Codex is accounted for, and the fair faine of the author is untarnished.”
From these extracts the reader will be enabled to judge at what results Dr. Dobbin has arrived in consequence of the laborious collation he has undertaken. The Montfort Codex - famed in a controversy of 300 years standing is no more than a servile transcript from an Oxford MS. of the 10th century. Having received the controverted verse, I. John v. 7, in opposition to the authority of its prototype, it is of no weight as a testimony in favour of the genuineness of that verse, and as this last (or rather only) voucher for the integrity of the disputed passage disappears, that passage must be surrendered as a fiction, or human gloss, engrafted on the Inspired Word-a gloss too whose stealthy advances from margin into brackets, from brackets into the text itself,* can be traced through all its stages, till the “prima mali labes"
See Introduction, p. 45, where much undue stress, it appears to us, is laid on the particle Sicut, in the St. Gall MS.
rests on an unfortunate Irishman, St. Gall, or at least on one of his Helvetic fraternity.
Should these conclusions of the learned author be true, we should yet, like him, be free from all apprehensions as to their effects on the substantial integrity of the Divine Oracles, as on the belief of the sacred dogma of the Trinity—to confirm or illus. trate which the passage in question has often been adduced. Indeed, as Catholics, we feel on this head an assurance, we had almost said an independence, as to particular passages, which can never fall to the lot of those whose only and entire rule of Faith are the Scriptures as they stand to-day set forth in the authorized version, or may stand to-morrow shorn by criticism of their most cherished passages and contracted to narrower dimensions.
We feel, like the learned author, a hallowed "satisfaction, as biblical students, in every accumulation of evidence” which tends to throw light on the sacred volume, and “leave no room,” as regards it, " for the exercise of doubt:" but for this very reason we are compelled to pause a little, and to call for an "absolute proof” of interpolation before we reject as spurious what we had long regarded as inspired, and what, besides the names of Mill, Fell
, Bengel and others,can reckon in its defence the authority of nearly all our present editions of the Bible, Greek, Latin, or Vernacular, Protestant, Oriental, or Roman Catholic. We think that Dr. Dobbin's work, deserving all the praise that is due to eminent scholarship, and laborious investigation, yet fails of displacing these authorities. It does not, we think, establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, the fact of the Montfortian Coder having been transcribed in the passage at issue, or indeed in any part at all, from the Lincoln manuscript, No. 39. Having disposed too summarily, of the evidences of Greek MSS., adduced or adducible in the support of the contested verse,* and narrowed them unjustly to this single MS., it sets aside the authority of this one itself, on a charge of interpolation, not clearly sustained ; and then, ignoring a large portion of the indirect, or Latin, evidences admissible
Among these, besides the Montfort Codex and the Complutensian exemplars (unju-tly set aside by Dr. Clarke), we may reckon a Venetian Greek MS. described by Cardinal Wiseman (Two Letters &c. Rome 1825), the Greek models used by Bruccioli in his critical edition of the New Testament in 1532, the greater number of those consulted by Luke of Bruges and Robert Stephens for their respective editions &c. Calvin and Beza also, if we are rightly informed, attest that the majority of Greek MSS. in their day contained the verse in question.
in the case, it "lands” the reader on conclusions against which criticism may demur, and in which orthodoxy will find no comfort. We shall illustrate our meaning, by a few references to the book itself. From the collation of the Montfort MS. with the Lincoln, or alleged prototype, in the Acts, (pp. 139--146,) it appears that the former differs from the latter in full 414 readings, while if the differences of orthography and collocation of words, between the two MSS. be taken into account, the total sum of discrepancies which they exhibit, one from another, in the short book of the Acts, will amount to a much greater number.
Now, making every allowance for the carelessness or ignorance of the scribe, we are inclined to lo discrepancies, (in a book whose least kindred copies should exhibit no discrepancy) as at least no great proof of transcription. In fact a comparison with the printed text of Wetstein the remotest possible of standards from the Montfortian-exhibits little more than twice this number(884) of discrepancies. It is true indeed remarkable coincidences erist between the Montfortian and the Lincoln Codex, whole clauses appearing in both, which are wanting in the Vulgate and in most other editions of the Bible. This coincidence in extraordinary and unusual readings seems to be the strongest argument in favour of Dr. Dobbin's views as to the parentage of our MS. but it proves the relationship of kindred only, not of lineal descent. In other words, to account for such affinity of readings it were sufficient to suppose the two Codices copied at different times and each with its own share of blunders, from a common Manuscript earlier than both, or from two different MSS. kindred to one another and transcribed from a common exemplar still earlier. This hypothesis would at once account for the coincidences that exist and would seem suggested by and more reconcilable with the (414) discrepancies we have noticed above. It was in fact the hypothesis adopted by the late Dr. Barrett, as regards a different part of the same volume. That accomplished scholar observed existing between the Montfort Apocalypse and that of the Leicester MS. coincidences not less numerous nor less remarkable than those exhibited by Dr. Dobbin in the Acts. His conclusion is "unde in Apocalypsi statuendum est Montfertianum and Leicestriensem ex eodem Codice nobis nunc ignoto, exscriptos fuisse et ejusdem exemplaris atoppapous esse."