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opinion of the any, minute criticit not more delicate
limited i succession of repear 1707, the
d and stihich the helt for its une ze vir probably
the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, so that even the unlearned reader, accustomed only to the common English version, will at once see that discrimination between the several authorities is a matter of extreme delicacy, but not more delicate than necessary previous to any minute criticism of the writings.
But his opinion of the difficulty of the task will not be diminished when he learns the multitude of the phenomena which the verbal critic has to take into account. The Greek text of the New Testament was first printed from a single manuscript, with occasional references to two others, by the celebrated Erasmus *; and down to the year 1707, the additional authorities of which a succession of editors had availed themselves, were limited to seventeen. For nearly a century the Elzevir edition of 1624 was regarded as the ne plus ultra of a correct text. That edition, of which the editor is to this day unknown, enjoyed and still among all but professed scholars enjoys a reputation, to which the whole history of literature can scarcely produce a parallel either for its magnitude or its baselessness. The well deserved credit of the Elzevir press no doubt contributed something to this at the outset, but probably the real reason which produced it is to be found in the fact that the edition of 1624 was, however critically worthless, a compromise between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, to which the disputants on each side were willing to appeal. The one regarded the Complutensian edition, published at Alcala, in Spain, under the auspices of Cardinal Ximenes, as the standard printed text t; the other held by the text of Robert Estienne (Stephens). But in the third edition of Stephens a considerable step had been made towards a compromise of critical exactness in favour of theological convenience: and it is by an arbitrary union of this text with that of Beza, that what has since gone by the name of the 'Received Text' was produced. The reprint in the year 1633, announces itself in the preface of the anonymous editor by the words, •Textum ' ergo habes nunc ab omnibus receptum, - an expression which, although originally intended to describe the edition as one to
* In the year 1516. The revision was conducted on no general principle; but Mr. Alford has no right, that we are aware of, to call it 'tampering' with the MSS.
† Printed in the year 1514, but not published till 1522.
| Printed in the year 1550. It is based upon the 5th edition of Erasmus (1535); but in the Apocalypse follows the Complutensian. In its turn it formed the basis of the editions, ten in number, published by Beza between the years 1565 and 1618.
1851. Variations of ancient MSS. from the Received Text.' 5
Ulicatidrine man been partie Polyglotantiquity, both of
which theologians of all parties were contented to appeal*, insensibly came to be accepted as a testimony to the critical value of the text.
But, in the year 1707, a complete revolution was produced by the publication of the edition of the learned Dr. Mill. The famous Alexandrine manuscript - by very far the most ancient at that time known — had been partially brought within the cogni. zance of the learned world by the Polyglott of the celebrated Brian Walton. This inestimable treasure of antiquity, which contains (with some lacune) the whole of the Greek text both of the Old and New Testaments, was a present of Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, to King Charles the First. It is supposed to have been written not later than the end of the fifth century; a date six or seven hundred years earlier than any of the authorities upon which the text of the Elzevir edition rested. Another volume of even a more remarkable character, containing the four Gospels and the Book of Acts, had also excited much attention. This was the singular. Codex Bezæ, so called from the donor, Beza, who gave it to the University of Cambridge, in the year 1581. He describes it in his letter as of venerable antiquity, and as having been discovered in the Monastery of St. Irenæus at Lyons, about twenty years before. The age of this book is a matter of much dispute; some considering its antiquity to rival, or even exceed, that of the Alexandrine; others bringing it down as low as the eighth century. Tischendorf, the last editor of the New Testament who professes to have carefully examined it, assigns it to the middle of the sixth ; in our opinion a century at least too early. Both these manuscripts, but especially the latter, were found to present very great variations f from the “Textus ab omnibus receptus.' A
* The convenience of controversialists gave rise to another arrangement, extremely prejudicial to the sound understanding of the sacred volume, namely, the division into verses. The elder Stephens first of all introduced this into his fourth edition (1551). He made it “inter equitandum’on a journey from Paris to Lyons, and placed the numbers only in the margin. But in the English version, printed at Geneva in 1557, the actual text was broken up into the fragmen. tary shape now commonly in use.
† We must remind the lay reader, that we use the terms 'great' and small,' with reference to the question of the accurate constitution of the sacred text, not to the importance of the doctrine which may be elicited from this or that reading. In point of fact, the doctrines of the English Church would not be affected even if the worst readings of the worst MS. were in every case to be purposely adopted.
similar result exhibited itself in the oldest manuscripts containing the Latin versions from the Greek. They are of such a description, so faithful - we may almost say servile — in their adherence to the letter of the original, that, in very many cases, it may be discovered, with absolute certainty, what reading existed in the copy which the translator used. To the surprise of every one, it was found that the more ancient the manuscripts containing these translations, the more closely did they agree with the text of the Alexandrine codex in those places in which it varied from the Elzevir standard. Nor was this all. In the early ages of the Church, translations of the sacred writings had been made not only into Latin, — the language in which they would be accessible to the Christians of Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Northern Africa, — but also into Coptic and its branches for the benefit of the Egyptian, and Syrian for that of the Oriental converts.* These translations, for the most part, supported the ancient authorities. The same was the case with the early Greek Fathers. The quotations of Clement of Alexandria and of Origen were found to tell on the same side with the early Greek and Latin manuscripts, and with the ancient versions into Syrian and Coptic. Struck by all these concurring circumstances, Mill conceived that a passage in St. Augustine offered a clue to the recovery not only of the primitive Greek Text, but of the earliest Latin Version, established, as he imagined probable, by public authority within the very first century. Augustine f, after speaking of the benefit which may be derived by a student of the Scriptures from consulting various translations, adds the words • In ipsis autem interpreta* tionibus Itala cæteris præferatur: nam est verborum tenacior
cum perspicuitate sententiæ.' This expression Mill regarded as establishing the existence of a definite version into Latin, known in the time of Augustine by the name of the Italian - Version,' and characterised by its extreme adherence to the letter of the original, which was limited only by a due regard for perspicuity. He supposed that it was the Version publicly used in the Roman Church previously to the time of Jerome, by whose new translation, which is the basis of the modern
* The Syrian version was made in the second, the Coptic in the third century. These, and the Gothic version of Ulphilas, made in the fourth, appear to be the only versions made in early times direct from the Greek, and, consequently, the only genuine representatives of Greek codices. To cite versions which are either translations from the Vulgate, or from Greek manuscripts altered to agree with the Vulgate, is simple loss of time and paper to the verbal critic.
† De Doctrinâ Christianâ, ii. cap. 15.
Obstacles to Mill's original Design.
Vulgate, it had been gradually superseded, but that it still existed in those ancient Latin manuscripts which might be found to contain a translation different from the Vulgate of Jerome, and at the same time possessing characteristics answering to the description of Augustine. These might be further recognised by their agreement with the citations of Scripture found in the writings of the Latin Fathers antecedent to the time of Jerome, -- Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary of Poictiers, and the Latin Irenæus. Supposing a number of codices collected answering to these tests, the text constituted by their comparison would be the “Vetus Itala' version; and the combination of this critical Latin text with the oldest Greek MSS. (checked in their turn by the quotations of Clement and Origen) would allow of the constitution, on rigidly critical principles, of a text differing, by a scarcely appreciable amount, from that which was recognised in the age of those who had themselves conversed with the Apostles.
To the execution of the idea of Dr. Mill, however, there existed some insuperable obstacles. In the first place, the Alexandrine codex, although of immensely superior antiquity to the manuscripts on which the · Received Text' rested, stood alone in its opposition to them in many instances, Beza's codex (besides that it contains nothing but the four Gospels and the Acts) occasionally differing quite as much from the Alexandrine readings, which were supported by Clement and Origen, as it did from the Elzevir standard. In some places, too, the Alexandrine has suffered from the ravages of time; so that in these there appeared to be no means of completing the text consistently with the principles laid down. Moreover, there was felt to be an obvious inconvenience in making the Greek text as it were subordinate to that of the Latin versions. Almost immediately after the passage above quoted from Augustine, which inspired Mill with the hopes of recovering the • Vetus Itala,' there follows another which seemed decisively to discourage his proceeding with his design under existing circumstances.* He gave up, therefore, the prosecution of the object which he had pointed out, and contented himself with reprinting the • Received
Text,' and exhibiting in the margin the variations from it which the older manuscripts, versions, and Fathers furnished.
This proceeding was not one calculated to break the shock which the publication of his book occasioned to all but the
* Libros autem Novi Testamenti, si quid in Latinis varietatibus titubat, Græcis cedere oportere non dubium est, et maxime qui apud ecclesias doctiores et diligentiores reperiantur.
learned. By a mental process not unlike the one which generated the doctrine of Transubstantiation, that influence of the Holy Spirit * which had pervaded the first teachers of our religion, and which still breathes in their written remains, had come to be popularly regarded as of a kind to furnish security to those remains against corruption by the hands of transcribers during their transmission through successive ages. Accordingly, when an edition appeared, exhibiting in the margin more than 30,000. variations from the standard text, great excitement was produced. The Roman Catholics rejoiced at what they considered a confirmation of their strongest position, — the alleged necessity of an oral tradition, supernaturally transmitted through the hands of the Church, to explain and interpret the doubtful passages of Holy Scripture. Enemies of revealed religion, under any shape whatever, were delighted at the discovery of what they represented as a thorough corruption of the authentic documents of Christianity. In our days, when the experience of a century has shown the real utility of these - then unwelcome - phenomena, and when the collation of additional manuscripts has augmented their number to more than 200,000, it is difficult to conceive the consternation and perplexity which was occasioned when their existence first became known to the public, or to measure the evil which might have resulted had there not been living at that time, in the possession of a station and a reputation which enabled him to stem the tide of timid superstition, the greatest scholar that England has ever produced — Richard Bentley, master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In a short letter, published under the name of Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, he showed the value, in the hands of those who understood the matter, of such collations as Mill's margin exhibited; and that, instead of weakening the authority of the sacred text, they, in fact, furnished the means of ascertaining it in its most genuine form. He himself had entertained a design somewhat similar to that of Mill, but based upon a much surer foundation. This (in a letter to Archbishop Wake, dated April 15. 1716,) he explains so lucidly, that it is impossible to abridge the communication without omitting some material point, and we therefore give it in extenso: —
· MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE, — 'Tis not only your • Grace's station and general character, but the particular know
* The profound remark of Coleridge relative to the Sacrament of the Eucharist is applicable to the true idea of Inspiration. It is a thing sui generis, which one extreme party evaporates into a metaphor, and the other condenses into an idol.