« PreviousContinue »
effect with all convenient dispatch. To this Committee it appeared on many accounts more eligible to adopt as the basis of their Work a known and approved translation already existing, than to make a new and original Version. And Mr. Wakefield's being unattainable, they fixed their choice upon the excellent Translation of the late most reverend Dr. William Newcome, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, a worthy successor of the venerable and learned Archbishop Usher. And to this choice they were induced not only by the general accuracy, simplicity, and fidelity of the Primate's Translation, but principally because he professes to have followed the text of Griesbach's edition, which, having been formed from a careful col. lation of many manuscripts and versions, exhibits a text by far the most correct of any which have been published since the revival of learning in the fifteenth century.
Having selected Archbishop Newcome's Translation as their basis, it became an object with the Committee to guard as much as possible against giving their Improved Version a motley appearance by departing unnecessarily from the Primate's text. To this end they as-sumed it as a principle, that no alteration should be made in the Primate's Translation but where it appeared to be necessary to the correction of error or inaccuracy in the text, the language, the construction, or the sense. And so closely have they adhered to this rule, that, in some instances, they have rather chosen to place what appeared to them the more eligible translation, at the foot of the page, than to alter the Primate's text where some judicious readers might think it unnecessary. In justice to the Archbishop, they have placed the words of his Translation at the bottom of the page wherever they have deviated from it in the Improved Version; and where it was thought necessary a short note has been subjoined, as, signing the reasons for the alteration, which, to the candid and disa cerning, they flatter themselves will generally appear satisfactory, Also, in every instance in which either the Primate's Version or their own differs from the Received Text, they have placed the words of the Received Text at the foot of the page : and in all important cases they have cited the authorities by which the variation is supported.
The Committee have also added Notes for the illustration of difficult and doubtful passages, which are chiefly collected from critics and commentators of the highest reputation. They cannot flatter themselves with the expectation that these Notes will be equally acceptable to all readers : but they hope that they will be of use to the inquisitive, the liberal, and the judicious. These notes, having swelled to a greater number and magnitude than was originally expected, have considerably increased both the labour of the Coma mittee, and the expense of the Work;—but, it is hoped, not without a due equivalent.
Two very correct and highly finished Maps have been added to this Version ; one of Palestine, and the other of the countries bordering upon the Mediterranean, which were the principal scenes of the journeys and the labours of the first Missionaries of the christian faith.
The encouragement which this Work has received from the sub. scriptions which have been raised to defray the expense of carrying it through the press has far exceeded the most sanguine expectations. The exemplary liberality and the active zeal of some generous individuals would well deserve to be entered upon record.
But they seek not honour from their fellow-creatures. The consciousness of their own pious and benevolent views and feelings, and the hope that whatever they have contributed to this important object may be a sacrifice of grateful odour to that Being who is witness to all that passes within the temple of the heart, are to them of far greater value than human applause. The great liberality of the subscriptions has enabled the Society to print two editions with Notes, one in royal octavo, and the other in royal duodecimo, and a third, a small pocket edition without Notes for popular use.
The design of the Committee, and indeed of the Society, in the publication of this Improved Version, is to supply the English reader with a more correct text of the New Testament than has yet appeared in the English language, and to give him an opportunity of comparing it with the text in common use. Also, by divesting the sacred volume of the technical phrases of a systematic theology which has no foundation in the Scriptures themselves, to render the New Testament more generally intelligible, or at least to preclude many sources of error: and, by the assistance of the Notes, to enable the judi. cious and attentive reader to understand scripture phraseology, and to form a just idea of true and uncorrupted christianity, which is a doctrine worthy of all acceptation, able to make us wise to everlasting life.
In this Version verbal criticism has not been attended to in the degree that some might wish and expect. It has not, however, been wholly neglected : but, in general, the judgement of the learned Primate has been adopted in difficulties of this nature; the design of the Committee not being to exhibit a version critically correct in every minute particular, but generally perspicuous and intelligible. Their professed object was an improved, not a perfect Version. But, though they cannot expect to satisfy the fastidious critic, they are not without hope that their labours may be acceptable to serious and inquisitive christians, and particularly to those by whom their trust was delegated, and to the numerous and liberal Subscribers by whom the work has been encouraged. And this, next to the approbation of conscience and of Heaven, is the only reward to which they aspire.
Canon of the New Testament.—Distinction between the Disputed and
the Undisputed Books. The Canon of the New Testament is a collection of books written by the apostles, or by men who were companions of the apostles, and who wrote under their inspection.
These books are called the Canon from a Greek word which signi. fies a rule, because to a christian they constitute the only proper and sufficient rule of faith and practice.
These books are also called The Scriptures, or The Writings, because these Writings are held by christians in the highest estimation. They are the scriptures of the New Testament, or more properly speaking of the New Covenant, because they contain a complete account of the christian dispensation, which is described as a covenant by which Almighty God engages to bestow eternal life upon the penitent and virtuous believer in Christ. For this reason the christian scriptures, and particularly the books which contain the history of Jesus Christ, are called the Gospel, or Good news, a literal translation of the word evayyedov, as these sacred writings contain the best tidings which could be communicated to mankind.
The Canon of scripture is either the Received Canon or the True.
The Received Canon comprehends the whole of that collection of books which is contained in the New Testament, and which are generally received by christians as of apostolical authority. The True Canon consists of those books only the genuineness of which is established upon satisfactory evidence.
When, or by whom, the received canon was formed is not certainly known. It has been commonly believed that it was fixed by the coun. cil of Laodicea, A.D. 364, but this is certainly a mistake. The first catalogue of canonical books which is now extant was drawn up by Origen A.D. 210. It leaves out the Epistles of James and Jude*.
* The uncertainty of the time when the present canon of the New Testament was formed, and the total absence of all authority in the selection of them, easily account not only for the diversity which appears to have taken place in the books selected by different writers, but likewise for the additions and interpolations which are found in some of the canonical books, and particularly in the gospels. The innumerable quotations which Justin Martyr makes from the evangelists, without how. ever once mentioning their names, but always citing the memoirs of the apostles, is a plain proof that no canon was then authoritatively established. Tatian's Diates. saron A.D. 172, is the first intimation that four was the canonical number of the gospels. Irenæus, A.D. 178, assigns some fanciful reasons why the number of gospels can be neither more nor less than four. And such appears to have been the influence of this learned father's arguments or authority, that from his time the num. ber of canonical gospels appears to have been undisputed.
ll is generally understood that the gospel of Matthew was written in Palestine, that of Mark at Rome, the gospel of Luke in Achaia, and that of John at Ephesus. Also that the evangelists did not write in concert with each other, but that they availed themselves of documents which were already in circulation. Hence it follows that many of the early belieters would possess only one gospel. And it cannot be doubted that many who could not afford, or who had no opportunity to procure all the gospels, might very innocently and with the very best intentions endea. vour to enrich their own copy, whether of Matthew, Mark or Luke, from the documents then in circulation, some of which were authentic and others not. Nor would they in this selection always exercise a sound discretion. They would probably be particularly partial to those documents which by exalting the person of Christ would diminish in their estimation the disgrace of the cross, and alleviate the scandal which arose from their being disciples of a crucified Jew.
The genuineness and authority of every book in the New Testament rest
their own specific evidence. No person, nor any body of men, has any right authoritatively to determine concerning any book that it is canonical and of apostolical authority. Every sincere and diligent inquirer has a right to judge for himself, after due exa. mination, what he is to receive as the rule of his faith and practice. The learned Jeremiah Jones on the Canon, and Dr. Lardner's laborious work upon the Credibility of the Gospel History contain the most accurate and copious information upon this subject.
The most important distinction of the books of the New Testament is that mentioned by Eusebius bishop of Cesarea in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History. He distinguishes them into the books which were universally acknowledged, ouoroyoujeva, and those which though generally received were by some disputed, artinsyoueva.
The books universally acknowledged are, the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Paul, the first Epistle of Peter, and the first Epistle of John. " These only,” says Dr. Lard. ner*, “should be of the highest authority, from which doctrines of religion may be proved.”
The disputed books, artideyqueva, are the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of John, the Epistle of Jude, and the Revelation. “These," says Dr. Lardner, 6 should be allowed to be publicly read in christian assemblies, for the edification of the people, but not be alleged as affording alone sufficient proof of any doctrinet.”
Hence the prefatory chapters of Matthew and Luke, which were forged very early, (for they are alluded to by Marcion who wrote before Justin, and are treated by him with the most contemptuous ridicule, see Tert. de Carn. Chr. Sect. 2), might nevertheless be regarded by a great body of Gentile believers as genuine and true ; and as very valuable additions to their own copies of Matthew or Luke. And these being very generally received before the canon was formed, would of course be admitted into it as portions of the genuine gospels. Other passages occur in the gospels which are supposed to have been admitted in a similar way. See Matt. xvii. 24,27; xix. 10,12; xxvii. 19; xxviii. 11, 15. Mark xvi. 9, 20. Luke xxii. 43, 44; xxiii. 39, 44. John viji. 3, 1).
* Lardner's Supplement, vol. i. p. 29. ch. ii. $ 4. + Lardner, ibid. p. 30.
These distinctions prove the great pains which were taken by the primitive christians in forming the Canon, and their solicitude not to admit book into the code of the New Testament of the genuineness of which they had not the clearest evidence. It is a distince tion of great importance to all who desire to appreciate rightly the value and authority of the several books which compose the received Canon.
Brief Account of the Received Text.-Editions of the Greek Testa
ment by Cardinal Ximenes, by Erasmus, Robert Stephens, Beza, and Elzevir.
If this Version of the Christian Scriptures possesses any merit, it is that of being translated from the most correct Text of the Original which has hitherto been published.
A text perfectly correct, that is, which shall in every particular ex. actly correspond with the autograph of the apostles and evangelists, is not to be expected. We must content ourselves with approximating as nearly as possible to the original. The utility of this is too obvious to need either proof or illustration.
The Received Text of the New Testament is that which is in gene. ral use.
The degree of credit which is due to the accuracy of the Received Text will appear from the following brief detail of facts.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek : perhaps with the exception of the Gospel of Matthew, and the Epistle to the He. brews, of which books, however, the earliest copies extant are in the Greek language.
Previously to the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Greek copies were grown into disuse : the priests used an imperfect Latin translation in the public offices of religion, and all translations into the vulgar tongue for the use of the common people were prohibited or discouraged.
In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Cardinal Ximenes printed at Alcala in Spain a magnificent edition of the whole Bible in several languages. In this edition was contained a copy of the New Testament in Greek, which was made from a collation of various manuscripts which were then thought to be of great authority, but which are now known to have been of little value. This edition, which is commonly called the Complutensian Polyglot, from Complutum the Roman name for Alcala, was not licensed for publication till A. D. 1522, though it had been printed many years before. The manuscripts from which it was