Chapter IV

The History of Criticism


f THE history of the earlier periods of the text of the J- New Testament is naturally enough a history of progressive corruption. The multiplication of copies was the chief concern of an ever-increasing body of readers; and though we early hear complaints of corruption, as well we might from the rapidity with which corruption seems to have grown, and from the grossness of the corruptions which found their way particularly into the Gospels, we hear of little serious effort to secure a correct text. Nevertheless, the earliest fathers show themselves in some sense guardians of the text, and ready to distinguish between the common and the best and oldest copies. The autographs of the sacred writings disappeared exceedingly early, and an Irenseus and an Origen were already without appeal to aught but the more accurate copies. Already by their time the current type of text had long been that which fs now known as the Western, and which attained early in the second century the position and circulation of a virtual textus receptus, and retained this position for about two centuries. A purer and more carefully guarded text was, nevertheless, throughout this whole period in use in various places, apparently most commonly at Alexandria, where also in one line of its transmission it suffered before the middle of the third century sufficient deflection from the absolute standard to give rise to another strongly marked type of text—that which is now called the Alexandrian. Tradition has not handed down to us account of any very early attempts to provide a standard edition. Although Jerome tells us that Origen in Palestine, Lucian at Antioch, and Hesychius in Egypt, each revised the text of the New Testament, as well as that of the Greek Old Testament, it is not clear how much dependence can be placed on this statement, which is not free from difficulties. The scribes give us occasional notes which betray a belief in the existence of something like a standard copy in the library of "the holy martyr Pamphilus " at Csesarea, conformity with which was the norm of correctness; but of this we know nothing but this fact. Nevertheless, the more unmistakable evidence of the textual remains that have come down to us prove that at least one set revision of the text was made in Syria, and probably at Antioch, at about the time that would fall in with the period of Lucian's activity. The object of this revision,—the earliest attempt to issue a critical edition of the New Testament text of which we can be sure, and of which we possess documentary knowledge,—seems to have been to furnish for the use of the Syrian churches a sounder substitute for the very corrupt Western text which had for so long held the ground. The revision was well done for the purpose in view and for the times. It is an honour to the scholarship and good judgment of the school of Antioch, and presents characteristics quite in keeping with the exegetical reputation of that school. It was impossible at that time and under the ruling views of criticism to form a sound text; but these scholars succeeded in substituting'in popular use for the exceedingly corrupt textus receptus then current, a text free from all the gross corruptions that disfigured it, smooth and readable in structure, and competently exact for all practical purposes.

The Christian world, which has been the heir of their labours for a millennium and a half, owes a debt of thanks to a superintending Providence for the good work done thus in a corner, and probably with only a local intent. For the scholars of Antioch were, in God's grace, doing a greater work than they knew. Soon the persecutions of the dying heathenism broke out with redoubled fury, and everywhere the Christian books were sought and destroyed. Then came Constantine and the Christian empire, established with its seat on the Bosphorus. Antioch besame ecclesiastically the mother of Constantinople, and the revised text of Antioch the ecclesiastical text of the centre of the world. The preparation of the magnificent copies of Scripture ordered by Constantino for the churches of Constantinople was intrusted to Eusebius of Csesarea, whose affiliations were with Antioch; and everywhere the Syrian text began to make its way. The separation of the Eastern and Western Empires was followed by the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches, with the effect of confining the use of Greek to narrower limits, and giving increased

power to the Constantinople tradition wherever the Greek Scriptures were used. Though some serious alterations were suffered by it in the process of time, it was, thus, the Constantinopolitan text that became the text of the Greek world, and with the revival of Greek letters in the West, under the teaching of Byzantine refugees, of the whole world. How the process of substitution took place it is not necessary to trace. Sometimes it was, no doubt, by direct importation of copies from the capital. At others it was by the correction of copies of other types by Syrian models, which secured that their descendants should be Syrian. Thus, Codex E of Paul is largely Syrian, although it is a copy of the purely Western D; and thus, too, probably, is it to be explained that Codex A in the other Gospels is Syrian, while in Mark it remains mostly pre-Syrian. The great popularity of the Antiochian exegetes and of the homilies of such orators as Chrysostom carried with it a preference for their text. What effect on this process the edition of Euthalius had, in the last half of the fifth century, which was rather a handy edition than a purified text, it is impossible to determine. At all events, traces of other texts became rarer and rarer as time passed; although mixed texts were exceedingly abundant at first, even these gradually gave way; and throughout the middle ages and down to the invention of printing the Syrian text reigned everywhere, as indisputably the received text of the Church universal, as the Western text had been from the second to the fourth century. The passing of a text through the printing press has no tendency to revise it. The first printed Greek Testament was that included in the "Complutensian Polyglot," and is dated 1514. But as its issue was delayed, the first published Greek Testament was Erasmus' first edition, published by Froben, at Bale, in 1516. Hurried through the press at breakneck speed, in the eflort to forestall the "Complutensian Polyglot," it was taken from late and almost contemporary manuscripts, and mirrored the state of the received text of the time. It bore, indeed, sundry printer's boasts on its title-page j but its editor felt free to say in private that it was "precipitatum verius quam editum." The "Complutensian" itself, when it did appear (1520), proved to have been made, as was natural, from older manuscripts of the same type. And thus the printed text of the New Testament simply continued the history of the written text, and, leaving its character unchanged, gave it only a new mode of reproduction.

The normal history that is worked out by the printed text of any work which has previously been propagated for a long time in manuscript is something like this :—The first edition is taken from the manuscripts nearest at hand; then some one edition gains such circulation and acceptance, usually from its convenience or beauty, as to become the standard, and thus also the received text; and then efforts are made critically to restore the text to its original purity. Just this history has been wrought out by the New Testament text. The editions immediately succeeding those of Erasmus differed little in detail, and nothing in type, from the text he published; but the magniticence of Stephens' editio regia (1550), and the convenience and beauty of the small Elzevirs, especially those of 1624 and 1633, enabled these editions to determine the standard text, the one for English and the other for continental readers. Reverence for the Word of God, perversely but not unnaturally exercised, erected the standard or received text into the norm of a true text; and although preparations for critical editions began very early, and were seriously undertaken by the editors of Walton's "Polyglot" (1657), yet many years passed away before the hardening bondage to the received text could be shaken, and it was not until 1831 that it was entirely broken by the issue of Lachmann's first edition.

The history of the editions from 1657, therefore, falls into two periods; the one containing the editions which were striving to be rid of the bondage to the received text (from 1657 to 1831), and the other those which have been framed in conscious emancipation from it (from 1831 until our own day). During the former period, the task men set before them was to correct the received text, as far as the evidence absolutely compelled correction. During the latter, the task has been to form the best attainable text from the concurrence of the best evidence. The chief editions of the former period were those of the Walton "Polyglot," 1657; John Fell, 1695; John Mill, 1707; Wells, 1709-19; Bentley's proposed edition, 1720; Bengel, 1734; Wetstein, 1751-2; Griesbach, 1775—1807; Matthsei, 1782-88; and Scholz, 1830-36. The chief editions of the later period have been those of Lachmann, 1831, and especially 1842-50; Tischendorf, 1840-72, especially his eighth critical edition, published in parts from 1864 to 1872; Tregelles, in parts from 1857 to 1879; and Westcott and Hort, 1881. In one way or another the sequence of these editions marks a continuous advance, although in special points an eddy now and then sets backwards. For instance, Wetstein, Matthsei, Scholz, all mark a retrograde movement in principles of criticism and in the text actually set forth; but each an advance in the collection of materials for framing the text. It will be desirable, therefore, to present the history of criticism briefly under four heads, including :—

1. The collection of the documentary evidence for the text.

2. The classification of this ever-increasing material.

3. The formulation of critical rules for the application of the evidence in reconstructing the text.

4. The actual formation of the text.

1. The work of collecting the material, heralded by Stephens and Beza, was commenced in earnest by Walton's "Polyglot" (1657). The great names in this work include those of Archbishop Usher, Bishop Fell, Mill (who already could appeal to his thirty thousand various readings), Bentley, and those in his employment, Wetstein (who marks an advance on Mill, chiefly in accuracy and completeness, comparable to Mill's advance on his predecessors), Matthaei, Birch, Alter, Griesbach, Scholz, Tischendorf (whose editions of MSS. exceeded in number all that had been put

forth before him), Tregelles, and Scrivener, with whom may be also named Dean Burgon. Until Tischendorf's labours were undertaken, a satisfactory edition of the New Testament was impossible, if for no other reason than insufficient knowledge of the testimony. Now, practically all the uncials, and a large body of the minuscules are accurately known, and have been included in the digests. N was not published until 1862; no satisfactory edition of B existed until 1868; 0, Q, D, D,, N, P, E, Z, L, H, E.,, P,, 2, have all been issued since 1843. 2 was not discovered until 1879, and Wg and * not until 1881. The versions are not even yet critically edited. But we have at last attained the position of having evidence enough before us to render the sketching of the history of the text possible, and to certify us that new discoveries will only enlighten dark places, and not overturn the whole fabric.

2. It was inevitable that in the first youth of textual criticism all documents should be treated as practically of equal value. We cannot blame Erasmus that he set aside the only good MS. he had because it differed so much from the others. Nor is it difficult to see why the collations of Stephens and other early editors rather ornamented their margins than emended their texts. By Mill's time (1707), however, enough material was collected for some signs of classification to be dimly seen. Bentley (1662—1742) profited by his hints, and perceived the great division line that runs between tho old and the late codices—i.e. (speaking generally), between the pre-Syrian and the Syrian. John Albrecht Bengel (1687—1752) was the first, however, to do a great work in this department of investigation. His acuteness perceived the advantages of a genealogical classification, and his diligence worked out the main outlines of the true distribution. Like Bentley, he drew a broad line of demarcation between the ancient and more modern copies, which he classed under the names of the African and Asiatic families. And, then, he made the new step of dividing in a more or less firm manner the African family itself into two sub-tribes, represented respectively by A (the only purely Greek uncial at that time in use), and the Old Latin version. He held the African class to be the more valuable, and it was a critical rule with him that no reading of the Asiatic class was likely to be genuine unless supported by some African document. Semler (1764) followed, and handed down Bengel's classification to the even greater Griesbach (1745—1812). Griesbach (1775 + ) divided all documents into three classes, which he called respectively—

(1) The Alexandrian, represented (in the Gospels) by B (except in Matthew, where he deemed it Western), C, L, 1, 33, 69, Memphitic, etc.;

(2) The Western, represented by the Gneco-Latin codices, the Old Latin, etc.; and

(3) The Constantinopolitan, represented by A, E, F, G, H, S, and the minuscules as a class, etc.

He perceived that a somewhat different distribution was needed for the other parts of the New Testament (thus, A elsewhere rose to the height of Class 1); and also that a number of texts occupied intermediate positions. Classes 1 and 2 he held to present texts at least as old as the third century; Class 3 one not older than the fourth or fifth. A misunderstanding of the meaning of the phenomena of mixed texts (shared in part by Griesbach himself) did much to prevent this theory from receiving the acceptance it deserved, though it obtained the hearty adherence of some of the best scholars of the day. Hug's (1808) vagaries, who sought to prove historically that three texts represented respectively by B C L, E R minuscules, and A K M, were alike set revisions of one corrupt text represented by D and the Old Latin, which was universally current in the second century, still further blinded men to the value of these classifications. Hug, however, recognised the three classes of Griesbach (though trying unsuccessfully to add a fourth to them), and brought out the important new fact of the early broad currency of the Western text. And his publication had the good effect of bringing Griesbach once more before the public (1811), to redemonstrate the main outlines of his classification, and reiterate his mature conviction that on the study of "recensions," as on a hinge, all criticism of the text must turn. The peculiarities of Nolan and Scholz succeeded, however, in throwing an undeserved discredit on such studies, until it became common to assert that no divisions could be traced among the documents, of any practical utility in criticism, except the broad one that separates the ancient and modern copies into classes corresponding to Bengel's African and Asiatic, and Griesbach's Alexandrian-Western and Constantinopolitan. Tregelles (1813-75), by his method of comparative criticism, redemonstrated this distribution, and put it upon an invincible basis of observed fact. Nevertheless it has been everywhere practically acknowledged—by writers as widely separated as Tregelles and Scrivener—that the farther facts of affiliation brought out by Griesbach, although not available for criticism, yet rest on a basis of truth, and further that the documents that class with B are greatly better than those that class with D. At this point Dr. Hort's investigations (1881) have entered the field, with the result of justifying Griesbach's general conclusions, and so adding to and elucidating them as to develop a usable system of textual criticism by a genealogical method. The outlines of his conclusions have been already explained under the caption "Genealogical Method" above.

3. The continued efforts of a succession of scholars to revise the text of the New Testament necessarily issued in a critical practice, and a critical practice is capable of being formulated in critical rules. Wo can mention only the leaders in this work. It was Bentley (1720) who first laid down the great principle that the whole text is to be formed, apart from the influence of any edition, on evidence; a principle which, obvious as it is, only succeeded in conquering universal adoption through Lachmann's example (1831). It was due to Bengel (1734) that transcriptional probability received early recognition, and one of its great generalisations was formulated by him in words that have become classic: "proclivi scriptioni prsestat ardua," which, beyond doubt, he meant in a transcriptional sense. After him its principles have been developed by many critics, especially by Griesbach; and more latterly they have been carefully re-stated by Tischendorf, Bishop Ellicott, and Dr. Hort. Intrinsic evidence has never lacked its often too earnest advocates; some have pushed it to the verge of subjecting the whole text to re-writing according to the personal idiosyncrasies of the editor, and many have been willing to give it occasionally overweening powers. Its true character as mainly negative, and its true uses, have been lately admirably elucidated by Dr. Hort. Since Tregelles (1854,1856, 1860) the suffrages of scholars have been given to the doctrine that the documentary evidence is decisive if at all capable of sure interpretation, so only that both varieties of internal evidence of readings are not arrayed against it, or, at least, that intrinsic evidence is not unalterably in opposition. The tendency has also been ever more and more pronounced, since Tregelles developed the method of comparative criticism, to rely on the ancient evidence, and to count its witness decisive whenever its testimony is undivided or nearly so. But not until Dr. Hort's "Introduction" appeared (1881) was a sufficiently safe procedure indicated for all those cases where ancient evidence is itself divided. Dr. Hort's main canons of criticism are as follows: (1) Knowledge of documents should precede final judgment on readings; and (2) All trustworthy restoration of corrupted texts is founded on a study of their history. By the former he means to assert the necessity of attending to a carefully weighed external evidence before we decide on readings, and to exclude thereby crude appeals to internal evidence alone. By the latter he means to emphasize the necessity of understanding the genealogical affiliations of documents before they are appealed to as witnesses, and to exclude thereby crudely allowing each document equal weight, no matter what its relation to the autograph may be, as well as allowing each document weight according not to its purity, but to the chances of reproduction that have preserved many or few of its kindred.

4. No satisfactory text could be formed so long as editors set before them the task of emending the received text, instead of drawing from the best evidence the best attainable text. Not until Lachmann, therefore, who put forth in 1831 the first text framed entirely on evidence, can we expect to find more than efforts towards a good text. Nevertheless much that was done before Lachmann deserves our notice and admiration. The Greek Testament of Simon Colinseus (1534) may be considered the earliest attempt to prepare what may be called a critical text by emending the received text on MS. authority. Edward Wells published so early as 1709-19 a text emended from the Elzevir type in some two hundred and ten readings, the most of which have been commended by later critics. And Richard Bentley in 1720 proposed to set forth an edition founded on ancient authority only, which, had he completed it, would have antedated the step of Lachmann by a century. Walton, Fell, Mill, Bengel (except in nineteen readings in the Apocalypse), and Wetstein, did not venture to introduce new readings into the printed text, but confined their suggested improvements to the margin and notes. Uriesbach (1775—1807) made a great advance, and by the acuteness of his criticism and the soundness of his judgment did all that could be done at his day and with his material for reforming the text. No text of the earlier period can be compared with his, and his accomplishment -with his insufficient material constitutes no less than a wonder of critical skill. But not only did even he seek to emend the received text, but the insufficiency of the material at that time within reach of critics would alone have rendered the formation of a satisfactory text impossible. The retrograde movement of Matthsei and Schol^, who returned to the received text, was suddenly reversed by the bold step of Lachmann (1831) in casting off its influence altogether, and giving the world for the first time a text founded everywhere on evidence. Lachmann's actual text was, however, not yet satisfactory; both because of the still continuing insufficiency of evidence, and because he did not set himself to form the true and autographic text, but only an early text, current in the fourth century, which should serve as the basis for further criticism. The use which has sometimes been made of Lachmann's text, therefore, as if it might be accepted as the earliest attainable text, is thoroughly mistaken. Wo cannot go further back than the texts of Tischendorf and Tregelles for examples of what criticism has attained, as the original text of the New Testament. Tischendorf's text fluctuated considerably in the various editions which he put forth, but it is unfair to judge his results now by any but his great and final eighth edition, the text of which was completed just before his death. The comparative values of the three great modern texts—the eighth edition of Tischendorf (1864—1872), the one great edition of Tregelles (1857—1879), and the recently issued edition of Westcott and Hort (1881, and reissued 1885)—need hardly be discussed here. It is enough to set down plainly the fact that these three editions indicate the high-water mark of modern criticism, and to point out that they agree in their settlement of the greater part of the text. Where they differ, we may decide now with one, now with the other, most frequently with the latest: and in these comparatively few passages future criticism may find her especial task.


Page 37, line 2. This statement is misleading. The Arabs appear to have brought cotton paper to the Western world about the eighth century. The oldest dated Arabic MSS. on cotton paper come from the ninth century, e.g., the Leiden Gharibn 1-Hadlth from 866. The earliest examples in European languages come from the countries which were most closely in contact with the Arabs, e.g., Sicily (1102, 1145, and the like). The oldest dated Greek MS., on cotton paper, is the Vienna Codex, dated 1095; next we have a Euchologium (No. 973 of Gardthausen's Catalogus Codd Grcecorum Sinaiticorum"), dated 1153; and by the middle of the thirteenth century they are somewhat numerous. The Lectionary referred to in the text is No. 191 of the lists (Scrivener, III., p. 292). An Asceticum (No. 468 of Gardthausen's Catalogus, just quoted), on cotton paper, is written in uncials of the tenth or eleventh century.

Page 67, line 12. The age of the European Latin may be more accurately set from Prof. Sanday's investigations. He shows that it was certainly used by Novatian (fi. 251), and hints that it may be older than Tertullian (see Stvdia Biblica, p. 245).

Page 70, last line. This exception may probably be deleted.