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of the Fathers of our Protestant Church; and to a well known scholar and divine, who was a shining ornament of the modern episcopal bench.
In this point it is convenient to consider the judgement that John, once Bishop of Rochester, was in, who thus wrote: "It is not unknown, but that many things have been more diligently discussed, and more clearly understanded, by the Wits of these latter days, as well concerning the Gospels, as other Scriptures, than in old time they were. The cause whereof is, for that to the old men the ice was not broken; or for that their age was not sufficient exquisitely to expend the whole main sea of the Scriptures, or else for that, in this large field of the Scriptures, a man may gather some ears untouched after the harvestmen, how diligent soever they were. For there be yet in the gospels very many dark places, which without all doubt to the posterity shall be made much more open. For why should we despair herein, seeing the gospel was delivered to this intent?— Who can doubt, but that such things as remain yet unknown in the Gospel shall be hereafter made open to the latter wits of our posterity, to their clear understanding?" Archbishop Parker, Pref. to his Bible; 1568. p. 5.
As the style of our Vulgar Translation is not only excellent in itself, but has taken possession of our ear and of our taste, to have endeavoured to vary from it, with no other design than that of giving something new instead of it, would have been to disgust the reader. Whenever it shall be thought proper to set forth the Holy Scriptures, for the public use of our Church, to better advantage than as they appear in the present English Translation, the expediency of which [" a necessary work," says the excellent prelate, p. lxix.] grows every day more and more evident, a Revision or Correction may perhaps be more advisable, than to attempt an entirely new one. For as to the style and language it admits but of little improvement; but, in respect of the sense and the accuracy of interpretation, the improvements of which it is capable are great and numberless."-Bishop Lowth's Isaiah, Pref. Diss. p. lxxii.
We are now conducted to a still more important investigation. Whether the preceding remarks on the Translation be well founded, or not, it becomes the judicious Christian to ask, What was the basis on which the translators rested? Had they before them a Text so cautiously and carefully ascertained, as to deserve admission, as an Authentic Copy of the writings which came from the hands of the holy prophets, apostles, and evangelists?
II. The question therefore is, whether that Scriptural Text, in which the Christian world has generally acquiesced for the last two centuries, and which is the basis of the English and of most other modern established versions, has just claims to be esteemed so perfect, as that all endeavours to render it more exact and faithful are superfluous, or at least are to be regarded only as critical niceties and learned amusements?
Whoever has transcribed a writing of moderate length, cannot but be aware of the difficulty, or rather the moral impossi
bility, of precluding omissions of words, or transpositions, or redundances, or other inadvertent mistakes. And if the original to be copied be worn with age or defaced by accident, if the ink be pale or faded, if the hand-writing be not familiar, or if the work be in a foreign language; the task is more difficult, and the chances of error are multiplied. Let the supposition be carried on. In a longer or shorter period of time, the original writing is lost. But various transcripts of it had been taken. Copies of copies, therefore, go on to be multiplied, in different countries, through a course of years and centuries, and by copyists of every qualification and disqualification, the learned, attentive, and conscientious, and the ignorant, mercenary, hasty, and blundering; moreover, motives of passion, party, and interest, pervert the integrity of some transcribers, and warp the judgement of more; so that in certain critical points and turning passages, where a very slight change of strokes would effect the purpose, their transcripts are made to speak a favourite language.
Let any man of plain sense say what should be done, in a case like this, and after the lapse of one or two thousand years, to produce a true copy of the authentic document. He would give such advice as the following: "Collect all the copies you can. Become versed in the forms of handwriting of different ages. Ascertain, of each individual copy, the date, country, and character of execution, that is, what marks it bears of accuracy, or of careless and hireling haste,-of strict fidelity, or of being garbled and interpolated,-what peculiarities it possesses, and whether its characteristic peculiarities are fairly attributable to design, or to circumstances above the knowledge and controul of the copyist. Classify your whole collection, according to the distinct channels of derivation through which each copy can be traced by legitimate evidence. Study the laws and operations of the mind: place yourself in the circumstances of each writer, and realize the influences to which he was exposed and the advantages which he enjoyed. Perhaps also, there may exist certain very ancient translations of this work: And are no other authors extant, of an antiquity equal to or far surpassing your best and oldest copies, who have quoted this writing? Neglect not to investigate these sources of information. Thus furnished, proceed to your task. Compare your documents. Note their differences. Examine the authorities for every different reading. Ascertain their manifest, or probable, causes. And decide, by those fair rules of moral evidence which approve themselves to the common sense of mankind. In this careful manner, go through the whole work and the result will be, if not an absolutely perfect copy of the oriVOL, V.
ginal, yet as nearly so as circumstances admit *; nor, when you have performed all this, with the requisite pains and fidelity, will it be reasonable to apprehend that any material error will remain."
Lastly, let it be supposed that this has been performed: but, after the lapse of fifty or a hundred years, more manuscript copies, and some of them very old, are brought to light; and certain ancient translations, whose existence was before unknown, are discovered. The art of making a just use of these materials is also considerably advanced. What follows, but that the whole process, to a certain point at least, must be repeated?
Now every part of this series of suppositions has been literally realized with respect to the Holy Scriptures, and other ancient writings. Within forty years after that august æra, the invention of printing, the presses established in the great cities of Germany and Italy had sent forth editions of the most admired of the Latin Classics, and some of the Christian Fathers. These first editions were, in general, printed from single manuscripts, or at best from the collation of a small number, and those neither very ancient nor correct, but such as came most readily to hand. Indeed the fountains of manuscript authority were but beginning to be opened; and even the birth of the Art of Criticism, in ascertaining the genuine text of ancient writings, cannot be dated earlier than the sixteenth century, nor its maturity before the middle, or rather the end, of the eighteenth. Fully acknowledging the valuable labours and great merits of the earlier editors during almost three hundred years, we must also admit that the texts of Homer, of the three tragedians, of Athenæus, of Cicero, of Virgil, of Horace, have not, till our own days, been brought to the probably perfect state in which the best and latest editions exhibit them. Some recent editors have, indeed, been too ready to admit alterations in the received text: but the evil has speedily wrought its own cure; and the temerity of rash innovators has been sultably chastised by critics of cooler judgement, and of equal or superior learning. Such, in the advanced state of literary criticism to which the world has arrived, cannot fail to be the issue; and this fact deserves the observation of the serious but unlearned Christian. He has no ground of anxiety for the inviolability of the Divine Word. Modern corruptions of the text or the translation, whether from mistake or design, cannot maintain
*One observation will shew how much the, correctness of a text de pends on the collation of MSS: the most perfect text we have, perhaps, of any classic, is that of Terence, which has been formed from a more extensive collation of MSS. than any other; the most inaccurate and im. perfect is that of Paterculus, or of Hesychius, each of which has been ormed on the authority of a single MS.
their ground. Their detection is ensured by the number, the divers sects and sentiments, and the rivalry, of scholars,+ critics, and divines. The danger is much greater, that ancient corrupt readings (which, in the long night of the middle ages, were easily admitted, and have now obtained a specious sanction from age and seeming authority) should clude the powers of critical discernment.
What, then, is the just statement of facts concerning the commonly-received Greek Text of the New Testament?
This question may be briefly and perspicuously answered. Erasmus had the honour of first giving to the world a printed edition of the Greek Testament, at Basil, from the press of Frobenius, 1516, in folio. It was executed with a most indecent haste. "Præcipitatum fuit," the editor himself acknowledged, “ verius quam editum." Hence this and the subsequent editions of Erasmus, 1519 and 1522, are deformed by egregious errors. He had the use of but very few MSS. and none of them of the highest order. It is a curious fact, that, for his first edition, he had only one MS. of the book of Revelation, and that mutilated in several places; Erasmus, therefore, filled up the chasms with his own translations from the Latin !-yet of this he has not admonished his readers.
At Alcala † near Madrid, in 1522, was published Cardinal Ximenes's celebrated Polyglott, the fourth volume of
*We say, of the New Testament only, for the sake of narrowing the field of disquisition. It is self-evident that the facts must be similar with regard to the Old Testament, only in a still higher degree. The earliest books of the O. T. have had to pass through fifteen centuries, and the latest through four centuries, of longer exposure to the same general causes of mistake from the eyes and hands of copyists. In addition to these, we have far greater reason to suspect designed alterations, than in any part of the New Testament. The conduct of the Jewish rabbis to our Lord and his primitive followers, is a sufficient demonstration that they felt no bonds of restraint from piety or conscience. During the first three centuries afterwards, scarcely any of the Christians understood Hebrew; so that they could be no check upon wilful alterations by the malignant and restless Jews, contrived to darken the evidences of Christianity from the O. T. and to cast a slur on the veracity of Christ and the apostles in their quotations from it. This important charge has been completely established by Dr, Kennicott, in his Dissertations on the State of the Hebrew Text, 2 vols. 8vo. passim; and in his folio Dissertatio Generalis, § 21-24, and 63-87. The mere English reader may find himself some specimens of these designed alterations, if he will compare many of the passages cited by the apostles out of the Prophets with the same passages as they stand in the Authorized Version of the O.T. See also Bishop Lowth's excellent account of the State of the Hebrew Text, in his Prel. Diss. to Isaiah, p. 56-64.
+ The Roman Complutum, whence the edition is called the Complu tensian,
which contained the Greek Testament. The printing of this princely work had been finished in 1517, and the N. T. in 1514. The text had been drawn from sources quite independent of those accessible to Erasmus; but, the editors having never thought of describing, or even specifying, what MSS. they collated, it is impossible now to determine whether they yet exist, or were among those destroyed by the rocketmaker in 1749. (See Ecl. Rev. vol. i. p. 854.)-If they are extant in any of the European libraries, it is more than probable that they are included in subsequent collations. The inquiry, therefore, after the MS. authorities of this edition, can only be answered by inferences from its internal evidence; and these furnish proofs that the sources were very modern.
Erasmus republished his Testament in 1527, and again in 1535, with some alterations from the edition of Alcala, principally in the book of Revelation.
The next who deserved the name of an editor of the Greek Testament, was the laborious and learned Robert Stephens. His first edition (Paris, 1546, 12mo.) differs from the Complutensian in 581 instances, exclusive of the Revelation. In those instances he adopts the readings of Erasmus, with few exceptions, among which are 37 from manuscript authority. He closely follows Erasmus, by far the worst guide, in the Revelation. The second ed. (Par. 1549, 12mo.) departs in 67 instances from the text of the first, but without assigning any reasons for the alterations. His third and most splendid edition (Par. 1550, folio,) differs from the two preceding ones in 284 places, and almost invariably follows Erasmus's fifth edition, 1535; except that in the Revelation he frequently prefers the Complutensian readings to the Erasmian.
Theodore Beza's editions are the next in critical chronology; and of them the best is that of 1582, Geneva, folio. His text differs from the third edition of R. Stephens in about 50 places. He possessed indeed some great advantages over all his predecessors: but his principles of criti cism were so systematically erroneous, as to lead him to the micst arbitrary and improper use of the means which he enjoyed. In his Notes he disapproved many readings, which still he permitted to continue in the text; while, in the alterations which he introduced, he was manifestly governed by more predilection, often rejecting the strongest authorities, and resting on the weakest, and sometimes following his own conjectures, without any authority at all.
In 1624, some unknown editor published at the press of the Elzevirs, Amsterdam, a small edition of the Greek Testament, being the text of R. Stephens, 1550, but altered in about a hundred places, partly by the adoption of Beza's readings, and partly by arbitrary substitutions of the editor's.