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Thus it appears, that the Received Text stands upon the authority of the unknown editor of the Elzevir edition, who copied the text of Robert Stephens, introducing a few variations from that of Beza. The edition of Beza was also taken from that of Robert Stephens, with a few trifling and sometimes even arbitrary alterations. But Robert Stephens's famous edition of A. D. 1550 is a close copy of the fifth edition of Erasmus, with some alterations in the book of Revelation from the Complutensian Polyglot, and the addition of a few various readings, collected by a youth of eighteen, from fifteen manuscripts of little value. And, finally, Erasmus's edition itself, which is the prototype of them all, was formed hastily and negligently from a few manuscripts of little authority, which accidentally came into his possession at Basle, where he was engaged by Froben in editing the works of Jerome, and where he had no further assistance, than what he could derive from the Vulgate Version, and from inaccurate editions of some of the early ecclesiastical writers.
From the few advantages which were possessed, and from the little care which was taken, by the early editors, it may justly be concluded, not only that the Received Text is not a perfect copy of the apostolic originals, but that it is still capable of very considerable improvement, by the same means, which are adopted by men of learning and sagacity, for correcting and restoring the text of other ancient writers*.
OF IMPROVING THE RECEIVED TEXT. ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS. VATICAN, ALEXANDRINE, CAMBRIDGE, CLERMONT, EPHREM.
THE books of the New Testament, having been more highly valued, more generally circulated, more attentively studied, more accurately transcribed, and more frequently cited, than the works of any other ancient author, the Text is consequently less corrupted, and the means of correcting and restoring it are far more abundant, than of any other work of equal antiquity.
1. The first and best source of materials for improving the Text is the collation of Ancient Manuscripts.
The early editors of the New Testament possessed but few manuscripts; and those of inferior value. Those of the Complutensian editors are destroyed, but they were not numerous, nor of great account. Erasmus consulted only five or six; and R. Stephens fifteen. Beza
* See Griesbach's Prolegomena, sec. 1.; Dr. Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. chap. xii. sec. 1.
indeed possessed two of the most ancient and valuable manuscripts now extant, the Cambridge and the Clermont; but he made very little use of them. So that the Received Text rests upon the authority of no more than twenty or thirty manuscripts, most of which are of little note.
But since the Received Text was completed by the Elzevir edition of 1624, upwards of Three Hundred Manuscripts, either of the whole or of different parts of the New Testament, have been collated by learned men, with much care, industry, and skill. Of these manuscripts some are of far greater antiquity and authority, than any of those upon which the Received Text is founded; Beza's manuscripts only excepted. From these manuscripts a vast number of various readings have been extracted, by the assistance of which the Received Text has been greatly improved.
Ancient manuscripts are found to consist of three distinct classes, or editions; the copies of each edition agreeing, in the main, in the readings peculiar to it. The first is the Alexandrine edition, which agrees with the citations of Clement and Origen in the second and third century. To this edition belong the Vatican, Ephrem, and some other valuable manuscripts; also the Coptic, Ethiopic, and other ancient ver. sions. The second is the Western edition. It agrees with the citations of Tertullian and Cyprian, with the Vatican copy of the Gospel of Matthew, also with the Sahidic and old Italian versions, and was in use in Africa and Italy, and in the western provinces of the Roman empire. The third is the edition of Constantinople, and is supported by the Alexandrine and many other manuscripts: it agrees with the citations of the ecclesiastical writers in Greece and Asia Minor in the fourth and fifth centuries, and it is the edition which most nearly coincides with the modern Received Text*.
Ancient manuscripts are commonly written upon parchment. The most ancient are written in what are called uncial or square capital letters. In some copies the ink has been effaced, and the works of some later author have been written upon the same parchment: but the form of the original letters still remains distinguishable even under the more modern writing. Very few manuscripts contain the whole New Testament; and the most ancient are often mutilated and imperfect, and usually contain many corrections: but whether these corrections are improvements or otherwise, cannot easily be ascertained.
Those manuscripts which are most ancient, and of the highest repu tation, are
1. The VATICAN manuscript, which was formerly preserved at Rome in the Vatican Library, but is now removed to the imperial Li• Griesbach Proleg. sec. iii. p. 72.
brary at Paris. The earliest date assigned to this manuscript is the third century; the latest is the fifth or sixth. It is written in large uncial letters, and originally contained the whole of the Old and New Testament. Some of the last leaves are wanting. The ink in some places is faded, and the letters have been retouched by a skilful and faithful hand. The various readings of this manuscript were published at the latter end of the last century, after a very careful collation by Professor Birch of Copenhagen; and form an inestimable addition to the treasure of sacred criticism.
2. The ALEXANDRINE Manuscript was presented by Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, and afterwards of Constantinople, to Charles the First, king of England, and is now deposited in the British Museum. A fac-simile of this manuscript was published by Dr. Woide, A. D. 1786. It was probably written in Egypt: it consists of four volumes, containing both the Old Testament and the New, in the large uncial character. Dr. Woide conjectures that it was written in the latter end of the fourth century; but some critics bring it down as low as the sixth.
3. The CAMBRIDGE manuscript, or CODEX BEZA, contains the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. It is written very fair, and in the large uncial letters. This manuscript yields in antiquity to none but the Vatican, and is supposed to have been used as a public copy for reading in the church. Theodore Beza made some use of it for his edition of the New Testament, and afterwards gave it to the University of Cambridge, where it is now deposited in the public library. A splendid fac-simile of this manuscript was published A. D. 1796, under the auspices of the University, by Dr. Kipling.
4. The CLERMONT Manuscript contains the Epistles of Paul; the Epistle to the Hebrews is written by a later hand. This manuscript also belonged to Beza, who professed to have received it from Clermont in Beauvaisis, and who made use of it in his edition of the Greek Testament. It is now deposited in the Imperial Library at Paris. It was long supposed to be a second volume of the Cambridge manuscript, but this is discovered to be a mistake. It is written in the large uncial letters; and is assigned by critics to the seventh century.
5. The EPHREM manuscript is in the Imperial Library at Paris. It was written upon vellum in large and elegant characters, the ink of which was effaced with great care to make room for the works of Ephrem the Syrian, a writer of some note in the sixth century. The original characters are, however, in many places legible under the writing of Ephrem's Works. This, which Griesbach calls a most ancient and excellent manuscript, lay for many years unnoticed, and was first discovered by Dr. Allix in the beginning of the eighteenth century;
since which time it has been repeatedly and accurately examined by the learned, and particularly by Wetstein. The Ephrem manuscript is of high antiquity, at least of the seventh century, and probably much earlier. It originally contained the whole Old and New Testament, but many leaves are lost; the rest are tacked together in great disorder, and many passages are totally illegible.
Besides these, about twenty other manuscripts, in large letters, of different portions of the New Testament, have been collated, and some hundreds in small characters, many of which are in high estimation. But those described above are of the highest antiquity and repute, and are the only manuscripts explicitly referred to in the Notes of this Edition*.
MEANS OF CORRECTING THE RECEIVED TEXT
2. THE Received Text is corrected by the assistance of the ancient Versions.
The christian religion having been rapidly propagated through all nations, the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists were soon translated into different languages, and many of these versions are still
Every new version became an additional security to the text. It is not to be imagined, whatever might be the inclinations of some individuals, or of particular churches, to corrupt the Scriptures, that all churches of all nations would agree in the same interpolations or omissions. Some of the countries where christianity was professed were beyond the limits of the Roman empire: and it is not to be believed that the christians of these countries would suffer their versions to be altered, to conform to the peculiarities of the church of Rome. The general agreement, therefore, of the ancient versions with the Greek copies which are now extant, forms a very strong presumption in favour of the genuineness of the books of the New Testament. Nevertheless, as the Received Text is not perfectly correct, the ancient versions are often of singular use in discovering the true reading of a doubtful passage. They are sometimes preferable even to manuscripts themselves; for some of these versions were made from manuscripts, which were more ancient and more correct than any which are now extant. They
⚫ Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. chap. viii. sec. 6; Griesbach's Symbolæ Criticæ, vol. 1.
are not all of equal value, some being of greater antiquity, and more correctly translated than others. Some indeed are not original versions, but are merely translations of preceding versions.
Of all the ancient versions, the Syriac is reckoned to be of the most remote antiquity and of the highest authority. There are two Syriac versions. The most ancient and valuable, called the Peshito, was brought into Europe A. D. 1552, and printed at Vienna at the expense of the Emperor Maximilian. It contains only those books which according to Eusebius were universally acknowledged; together with the Epistle of James and it is in general use among the Syrian christians of every sect. These are strong presumptive evidences of its
A later Syriac version, more literal, but less elegant, was made in the sixth century under the inspection of Philoxenus, bishop of Hierapolis, from whom it is called the Philoxenian Version. An edition of this was published at Oxford by Professor White, A. D. 1778.
Two very ancient versions of the New Testament, of high reputation, in the old Egyptian language, for the use of the christians who abounded in Egypt, are still extant. One is called the Coptic, the other, the Sahidic. The former is the dialect of the Lower, the latter of the Upper Egypt. The Sahidic version has never yet been published. Two valuable manuscripts of it are in the British Museum, from which some curious readings were extracted by the late Dr. Woide, who conjectures that this version was made in the second century. The Coptic version is still read in the churches of Lower Egypt, though it is not understood. It is accompanied with an Arabic translation which is more intelligible to the hearers.
The Ethiopic version is used in Abyssinia. It contains the whole of the New Testament, and is supposed to have been made in the fourth century. It agrees with the Alexandrine edition. This version was first published at Rome, A. D. 1548, by three Ethiopian editors. They had a very imperfect copy of the book of the Acts; the chasms of which, (that is, as they acknowledge, the greater part of the book,) they supplied by translating from the Greek and Latin into the Ethiopic. Similar liberties have probably been taken with other books, which greatly impairs the credit of the version; of which, if a genuine copy could be obtained, the authority would be very high. Mr. Bruce the celebrated traveller brought over a copy of the Old Testament, but he could not succeed in procuring the New*.
Many Arabic versions are extant, but it is believed that none of them is of greater antiquity than the seventh century. The Armenian version → Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. chap. vii. sec. 17.