« ZurückWeiter »
ginning in assemblies for public worship ;* so that they became universally known among Christians, and therefore it was absolutely impossible to substitute, at any period, forged writings; unless we can conceive, that men of different nations, sentiments, and languages, and often exceedingly hostile to each other, should all agree in one forgery. Indeed, the impossibility of forgery, arises from the nature of the case. Would the churches of Rome and Corinth, for example, have acknowledged the epistles addressed to them as the genuine works of Paul, if their contents were not in harmony with his preaching; or would the inhabitants of Palestine have received the gospels, if they had not had sufficient evidence that Jesus Christ had appeared among them, and performed the miracles ascribed to him. It has been observed, t that the evidence of our Lord's history does not rest exclusively even upon this testimony. Christianity had been propagated beyond Judæa, before any of the evangelists had written, upon the testimony of thousands, who had been witnesses to the great facts which they have recorded; so that the writing of these gospels is not the cause but the effect of Christianity; nor could they have been received as authentic history, of the subject of which so many in that age were competent judges, if the facts they recorded were not known to them to be true.
The arguments which establish the genuineness and authenticity of the books of the New Testament, are no less satisfactory, in proving the substantial integrity of the text. In writings so highly valued, so generally read, and existing in so many distant places in manuscripts and versions, it is hard to conceive that material variations could ever have been generally introduced. If the text had been corrupted by negligence or design in one country, its falsifications would have been detected by the copies of another. Let it be remembered that it is only the substantial integrity that is maintained, the absolute identity of the most approved manuscripts, with the autograph of the original authors, is an untenable position. In fact the Bible has been left by Providence to the care of fallible men; it is now allowed that no one perfect copy of either old and New Testament is
* Justin Martyr, who wrote in 140, seventy or eighty years after some, and less, probably, after others of the gospels were published, giving in his first Apology to the Emperor, on account of the Christian worship, has this remarkable passage. “The memoirs of the apostles,” which in another place he calls the gospels, “ or the writings of the propbets, are read according as the time allows, and when the reader has ended, the president makes a discourse exhorting to the imitation of things so excellent.”
+ By Dr. Priestley, Notes on the Bible, vol. iji. p. 7.
extant, and that the text must be collected from a critical examination of all.
When the unlearned hear of 30,000 various readings, as collected by Dr. Mills, and 150,000, which Griesbach's critical edition of the New Testament is said to contain, it is natural that they should feel an alarm ; it ought therefore to be made as generally known, that the result
is the very reverse of what they apprehended, and that this minute examination of manuscripts, versions, and quotations from the Fathers, has established the substantial integrity of the Chris, tian Scriptures. Of this mass of readings, which at first sight appears so formidable, not one hundredth part makes any material alteration in the sense; they consist almost wholly of palpable errors in transcribing, and grammatical and verbal differences; most of which cannot be represented in any translation, and even in the original are only felt by those who are conversant in style. Of the passages rejected as spurious, even by Griesbach, who is the most unfriendly to the received text, as found in our common Greek testaments, few affect, and that in a very remote degree, any point of doctrine or morals. The most remarkable omissions, are the twelve concluding verses of Mark's gospel, which Griesbach however retains; the history of the woman taken in adultery, which he thinks ought, probably, to be rejected; and the three heavenly witnesses in St. John's Epistle, which with most critics he maintains to be an interpolation. He also decides against the received reading of Acts xx. 28.; and speaks, but with more hesitation, against 1 Tim. iii. 16. I reserve a more minute statement for a note ;* but even
* The story of the woman taken in adultery is found in all the Latin manuscripts, but does not appear in the Vatican and some other Greek ones of note, nor in the Gothic and Syriac versions; it is rejected by Origen, and is not noticed by Chrysostom; Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Hammond, Leclerk, and Griesbach decide against it; but Michaelis maintains its authenticity. The first who mentions it is Tatian, who flourished in 160. Dr. Mill thinks that it was marked with an obelisk, that it might not be read out in public, and that it was in consequence dropt by transcribers.
Of Acts xx. 28. there are no less than six various readings : 1. Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased, &c. 2.
of Christ; old Syriac, but in no Greek manuscript.
of the Lord; preferred by Griesbach and Welstein, 4.
of the Lord and God; Complutensien Polyglott, Sclavonic. 5.
of the God and Lord. 6.
of the Lord God. Upon the whole the external evidence preponderates in favour of the received text, which is found in the Vatican manuscript and the vulgate, as well as in most of the fathers, beginning with Ignatius; and the expression is in unison with St. Paul's style, occurring no less than eleven times in his epistles, whereas the church of the Lord is a phrase unknown to the New Testament; it is however frequent in the Septuagint, from which it may have found its way into the Alexandrine ma. Duscript.
The passage in Timothy hąs three variations, 80s, Os, O; and those who
granting that these three texts must be surrendered, the candid will allow that the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation of the Son of God, are found in other passages, the genuineness of which has never been doubted. It has indeed been justly observed, * " that when the eyes of the understanding are opened, and the soul made acquainted
know that the first is in Uncial manuscripts contracted to OE will see at once how easily one reading might be substituted for the other, and from the present state of the Alexandrine, it is now impossible to ascertain which it read; but (see Dr. Berriman's discourses) there seems no ground for doubting that it supports the received text, which is found at least in a hundred manuscripts. The Vulgate read quod, answering to the o of the Clermont manuscript. But in fact, a reference to the context will shew that the dispute is not material, for Paul is evidently speaking not of the dogmas but of the author of Christianity, as seems unquestionable, from the terms “manifest in the flesh, seen of angels, received up into glory;" the only difference, therefore, if we substitute the pronoun, is that we must go back for an antecedent to the contested word 80s, which we shall find in the genitive case in the preceding verse,
The testimony of the three heavenly witnesses is celebrated for the many learned discussions wbich it has occasioned, from the days of Erasmus to our own; and the controversy has been of great service, as it has contributed, probably, more than any other circumstance to the improvement of Biblical criticism. Mr. Butler in his Horæ Biblicæ gives a condensed statement of the evidence on both sides; but the most complete view of the case may be seen in Horne's Introduction to the Scriptures. It was omitted by Erasmus, in his first edition of the Greek Testament, but he promised to insert it in a future one, if the passage could be shewn bim in a manuscript, and, as he says, to avoid calumny he introduced it into his third. A single authentic manuscript in which it occurs, was produced, codex Montfortji, which is now in the library of Dublin, for which a higher date is not claimed than the thirteenth century. It appeared, however, also in the Complutensien Bible, but the manuscripts which were used for that work are lost; it is not found in any of the ancient versions except the Vulgate, and only in some manuscripts of that; nor is it quoted by any of the Greek Fathers even when appealing to the preceding and succeeding verses; it is therefore rejected by the most approved critics. However, Mr. Nolan and Dr. Hales bave endeavoured to re-establish its credit; and Bishops Middleton and Burges argue strongly in its favour. It is found in the liturgies of the Greek and Latin Church, and is cited by the Latin fathers. But, in my opinion, the internal evidence, at least, justifies our suspending our judgment; for the omission vitiates the grammatical structure of the original, and leaves the sense imperfect ; for as Ernesti, Institutio Interpretis Novum Testamenti, observes, a comparison is introduced in the ninth verse, between the testimony of men and the tes. timony of God, in which the apostle must refer to these beavenly witnesses. The Unitarians exult in its rejection, as if the doctrine of the Trinity must be rejected with it; and indeed incautious Trinitarians have led them to this boasting by their exaggerating its inportance. All candid persons, however, will allow that more decisive texts, as the baptismal form, and St. Paul's benediction, may be brought forward; indeed it seems only indirectly to support this dogma, for it seems to have been the apostle's design to urge the unity, not of the nature, but of the testimony of the three persons of the ever blessed Trinity, to the leading truth of the gift of eternal life through the Son of God. It may however be useful in this place to observe, as Griesbach is opposed to this and other readings favourable to the Trininitarian hypothesis, that he had himself no Unitarian bias. “There are," he says, “so many arguments for the true Deity of Christ, that ot' how it can be called in question, the divine authority of Scripture being granted, and just rules of interpretation acknowledged. The exordium of St. John's gospel in particular, is so perspicuous, and above
all exception, that it never can be overturned by the daring attacks of interpreters and critics."
Newton's Cardiphonia, vol. ii. p. 10,
with, and attentive to, its own state and wants, he that runs may read the divinity of the Saviour, not in a few detached texts of a dubious import, and liable to be twisted and tortured by the arts of criticism ; but as interwoven in the very frame and texture of the Bible, and written in it as with a sunbeam.”
The more copies are multiplied, and the more numerous the transcripts and translations from the originals, the more likely it is that the true reading should be ascertained. Thus the most correct classical writings now extant, are those of which we have the greater number of manuscripts ; and the most corrupt are those that have come down to us in a single one, as Velleius Paterculus, in Latin, and Hesychius in Greek. In such cases it is evident that conjectural emendation is the only resource. As might be supposed, the manuscripts of the New Testament are far more numerous than those of any other work; three hundred and ninety-four are all that are certainly known to have been collected, but many more are still remaining in libraries ; a critical description of four hundred and sixtynine may be examined in Bishop Marsh's translation of Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament.* By far
* The more remarkable are (A.) the Alexandrine, so called because presented in 1628, to Charles 1. by Cyrillus Lucaris, who had been patriarch of Alexandria, where the manuscript was found, now preserved in the British Museum.
It consists of four folio volumes, and, excepting a few chasms, contains the whole Bible. A fac simile of the New Testament was edited 1786, by Dr. Woide, and one of the Psalms 1812, by Mr. Baber, who bas engaged to publish the whole. Dr. Woide refers it to the middle or end of the fourth century. (B) The Vatican manuscript, which also contains the whole Bible in one volume, the beginning and end of which are mutilated, contests the palm of antiquity with the Alexandrine, To these we may add, (C) the Ephrem manuscript of the whole Bible, a rescript. (D) the Cambridge or Beza manuscript, so called, because presented by that Reformer, 1511, to the University; a Greek and Latin manuscript of the Gospels and Acts referred by many to the fifth century, and supposed by Michaelis to be the most ancient known. The Latin version is the old Italic. A fac simile of it was edited 1793, by Dr. Kipling. (D) Codex Claromontanus, a Greek and Latin manuscript of St. Paul's Epistles, now in the Royal Library at Paris. This was used by Beza in preparing his new text; together with his own, of which Mill supposed, but er. roneously, that it was the second part. The Laudian manuscript of the Acts, in Greek and Latin, presented by the Archbishop to the Bodleian, probably of the seventh century. The text, with a specimen of the original characters, was printed by Hearne, 1715. (G) the Codex Bornerianus, a Greek and Latin manuscript of Paul's epistles, without that to the Hebrews, referred by Griesbach to the ninth or tenth century. Matthew's Gospel, a rescript, found in Dublin College Library, published by Dr. Barrett. The Cotton manuscript in the British Museum, a precious fragment of the gospels, in silver letters on a faded purple ground, it is one of the oldest (if not the oldest,) manuscripts extant. Codex Cyprius, or Colbertinus, a copy of the gospels from Cyprus, collated by Schotz, 1820. Heidelberg, assigned by him to the eighth century; charged by Welstein with latinizing, but it is thought without sufficient evidence. Codex St. Germanensis Paul's Epistles, Greek and Latin, seventh ceptury. C. Augiensis, the same, now at Trinity College, Cambridge, eighth century. C. Harleianus, a most splendid evangelistarium, or
the greater part have only the four Gospels, because these were most frequently read in the churches; others contain the Acts and the Catholic Epistles; some the Acts and St. Paul's Epistles; and very few have the Apocalypse. They are written on vellum, or on paper, the former are considered the most ancient; those on cotton paper are later than the ninth century, and those on linen than the twelfth. Those written in capital or uncial letters, are earlier than those in small, which are said to have been generally adopted towards the 'close of the tenth century. The absence of accents is regarded as a mark of antiquity. The text of some which had been obliterated, when parchment rose to an enormous price, to substitute more approved works, has been recovered by extraordinary industry, and these are called Codices Rescripti; two of them, a whole Bible, Codex Ephrem and Matthew's Gospel, at Dublin, are reckoned to be of the highest antiquity.*
We know not how long the autograph copies were preserved, but they must bave perished at an early period, for there were various readings in the first century which could hardly have existed, if the originals could have been consulted. Some therefore are previous to any manuscripts now extant, none of which, at the utmost can be traced higher than the fourth century, and consequently the versions, prior to that period having been translated from manuscripts which have long perished, have a high critical value. In conclusion, I observe that their general uniformity demonstrates both the veneration in which the Scriptures have been held, and the care that was taken in transcribing them, and affords us an additional and most convincing proof that they exist at present in all essential points, the same as when they came from the hands of their authors. Various expedients have been devised, to determine the authentic readings from the spurious, and to fix the character of manuscripts. The most ingenious and important of these expedients, is the classification suggested by Bengel and Semler, which has been reduced to practice by Griesbach. A project had been conceived by Bentley,t to collection of lessons from the Gospels, written in 995, not koown to Griesbachi. The Vatican, Alexandrine in the Acts and Epistles, Ephrem and Stephens's eighth, B. A. C. L. belong to Griesbach's Alexandrine recension. D. D. E. F. G. that is the Greek and Latin manuscripts, to his western and A. G. Matt. V. H. B. i. e. the Alexandrine in the Gospels, the Harleian and Moscow manuscripts to the third. All these manuscripts are uncial.
* Thus Irenæus reads agatew for the palacemi, in Gal. iii. 19. And Clement of Alexandria, who died early in the third century, read for svduropesyou, Exdvodnevov, (2 Cor. v. 3.) a reading considered by Griesbach as inferior to the received one.
+ Bentley's Letters, 1807. p. 287.