Saturday, September 11, 2021

GA 34: The Manuscript with (Almost) Everything

             GA 34 doesn’t usually get much attention these days, even though in past generations it was seen by giants of the field of textual criticism such as Wettstein, Scholz, Tischendorf, and Gregory.  Its Gospels-text is generally considered normal and unremarkable.  It was produced in the 900s, possibly as one of the first manuscripts made on Mount Athos at the Stavronikita Monastery.  Currently it resides at the National Library of France, as Coislin Grec. 195.

            Its text is a very good example of the Byzantine Gospels-text that was circulated in the Middle Ages (while not being a member of f 35).  Physically, the manuscript is in good condition.  It has almost all the supplements to the Gospels-text that one could expect – there are even several pages of extra comments between Matthew and Mark, and between Mark and Luke.  There are beautiful full-page portraits of each evangelist, Eusebian canon-tables, Section-numbers alongside the text, Chapter-headings (titloi) and numbers written in crimson, and a commentary in the margins drawn from the writings of such patristic giants as Irenaeus, Origen, Apolinarius, Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Titus of Bostra (the main commentator in Luke), Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, Hesychius of Jerusalem, and others (including, in Mark, Victor of Antioch).  A few pages from Michael Psellos’ Homilien precede the Gospels-text.

            The copyist’s script is very legible.  Toward the end of the Gospel of John, the Gospels-text has been reinforced on some pages by a copyist whose script was not so good, but this should not distract from the generally excellent condition of the manuscript.

            GA 34 includes Mark 16:9-20, but does not include John 7:53-8:11.  In Matthew 16, it has 16:2 up to αυτοις and then (on the same line) begins 16:4.  It includes Luke 22:42-44, Jesus’ prayer from the cross in Luke 23:34, and “who is in heaven” in John 3:13.

            Greek numerals and various symbols written above the line within the Gospels-text correspond to Greek numerals designating sections of text in the catena.  In at least one instance (in the text at Mt. 10:17, and in the corresponding commentary), a comet-mark is used, like the comet-mark that occasionally appears in the Zelada Gospels (GA 2812).

            On some pages, (secondary) comments are written beyond their usual area on the page; this happens especially in Matthew 13, 24-25:13, the opening verses of Luke, Luke 3:1-22, Luke 8 (one page), Luke 10, Luke 12:48-13:17, Luke 20, John 1:48-2:12, John 10:22-42, and John 20:11-23.  At Luke 24:27 the main commentary for Luke concludes; on the next page the commentary-material (from some other source?) is very full and has been crammed onto the pages to the end of Luke (and a little beyond).

            There tends to be more Gospels-text per page in Matthew, and especially in Mark and Luke, than there is in John.   

            Here are some interesting readings of GA 34, as well as some example of corrections which appear (often in the side-margin in uncial letters). 


3:7 – αυτοις is in upper margin.

5:9 – θυ is missing at a page-break.

5:19 – τη is missing at a page-break.

5:22 – supports εικη.

5:24 – does not have εκει after αφες.

7:19 – does not have ουν before δενδρον.

9:4 – has ιδων instead of ειδως.

9:13 – includes εις μετανοιαν.

9:19 – does not have γε after μη.

9:30 – has εαυτοις in the side-margin, not in the text.

9:35 – does not have εν τω λαω.

9:36 – correction with overdots – εσκυλμενοι.

10:41 – The sentence inexplicably ends on one page with δικαιου although it continues with ληψεται on the next page.

12:25 – αυτης instead of εαυτης.

12:49 – has μαθητας added in the margin.

14:22 – does not have ο Ιησους.

14:22- does not have αυτου.

15:8 – does not have και τοις χειλεσι με τιμα in the main text; a secondary hand has added it in the side-margin.

16:2-3 – has 16:2 up to αυτοις and then (on the same line) begins 16:4.

17:4 – δε is added above the line.

17:14 – ειπεν αυτοις was initially skipped; the words are added in the side-margin.  There is a break in the line between Ιωαννου and του βαπτιστου.

17:20 – γαρ is added above the line.

18:34 – εαυτω is added at the end of the verse.

18:35 – On this page the commentary is sparse; there is no commentary to the side of the text.  

19:4 – there is a space between ποιησας and απ’ αρχης; there was an erasure here.

19:7 – There is no commentary to the side of the text.  

19:13 – και προσευηται is added in the margin.

20:3 – does not have εν τη αγορα.

22:29 – δε is added above the line.

22:43 – some sort of erasure has been made, but with no loss of text.

23:23 – δε is added above the line above ταυτα.

25:13 – does not have εν η υιος του ανθρωπου ερχεται.

25:22 – has ιδε αλλα δυο εκερδησα in the text (without ταλαντα), but an abbreviation ταντ is added above the line.

26:25 – δε is added above the line.

26:53 – a gap appears between λεγεωνας and αγγελον; probably there was an erasure here.

26:62 – does not have αυτω.

27:23 – has λεγοντες added in the side-margin.

28:2 – there is a blank space (cause:  erasure) after θυρας.

28:3 – has ως instead of ωσει at the end of a page.



2:17 – does not have εις μετανοιαν.

2:21 – has ρακκους instead of ρακους.

4:34 – has μετρηθησεται instead of αντιμετρηθησεται.

5:11 – has μεγάλη added in the margin.

5:20 – has και ην παρα τὴν θάλασσαν added in the side-margin.

7:10 – has εντολην added above the line.

8:34 – has ελθειν instead of ακολουθειν.

9:42 – has τουτων instead of των.

10:25 – does not have γαρ at a page-break.

10:29 – has η αγρους written in the side-margin.

10:29 – does not have the second ενεκεν.

13:1 – has των twice at a page-break.

15:7 – has στασιατων instead of συστασιατων.

15:19 – has αυτου in the side-margin.



1:19 – has σοι in the side-margin.

1:32 – has ο ΘΣ in the side-margin.

2:15 – has εις τον ουνον in the side-margin.

2:27 – has τους γονεις in the side-margin.

4:1 – has different word-order:  ΙΣ δε ΠΝΣ αγιου πληρης.

4:4 – has γεγραπται οτι in the side-margin.

4:9 – has εντευθεν in the side-margin.

5:33 – has οι (before των Φαρισαίων) in the side-margin.

5:37 – has ρη in the text; has ΖΕΙ in the side margin, and has ΣΣΕΙ above the line.

6:10 – has ωσ η αλλη in the side-margin.

7:8 – has τασσόμενος in the side-margin.

8:40 – has ᾡ in the side-margin.

10:22 – has εστιν in the side-margin.

10:23 – has ειπε in the side-margin.

12:41 – has Κε in the side-margin.

14:9 – has σοι instead of συ.

16:8 – has εαυτ- in the margin; an erasure is in the text where apparently ταυτων had been initially written.

17:28 – has ημέραις Λωτ in the side-margin.

17:31 – has αυτου in the side-margin.

17:34 – has word-order εσονται δυο.

17:35 – does not have verse 36.

18:7 – has των εκλεκτων αυτου in the side-margin.

18:8 – has αρα in the side-margin.

19:36 – does not have αυτων.

20:28 – does not have ὁ αδελφος αυτου.

23:7 – has εν ταυταις τοις ημεραις in the side-margin.

23:50 – has a cross-shape made of dots before verse 50.



4:46 – does not have ὁ Ις.

7:40 – has ουτός εστιν αληθως ὁ προφητης αλλοι ελεγον in the side-margin; this is the result of a parableptic mistake by the copyist.

11:52 – has τα διεσκορπισμενα in the side-margin.

13:22 – has ουν after εβλεπτον at the beginning of the verse.


Page-views of GA 34 can be downloaded from the Gallica website, and the entire manuscript has been indexed at CSNTM.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Lecture 24: Conjectural Emendation

Lecture 24 

 The ongoing series of lectures "Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism" continues with Lecture 24, at , about conjectural emendations.  I had a stroke on June 14, and you may notice in this video that I am speaking more slowly than before.  Also for some reason I repeatedly didn't say "chi" correctly.  Oh well; hopefully improvement will continue.  I covered some of the passages mentioned in this lecture back in 2017 (in the "Cracks in the Text posts, part 1 and part 2).  Here is a transcript of the video!

Welcome to the twenty-fourth lecture in the series, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism.  Let’s begin with prayer.

Heavenly Father,

          Thank You for giving Your people the fruit of Your Spirit.  Influence us to long to be more loving, modeling your love.  Make us more joyful as we remember Your promises to us.  Make us peaceful, in light of the peace you have provided.  Make us patient, kind, and good, seeking to conform to the image of your Son.  Make us gentle, seeking to represent Your kingdom in every circumstance.  And give us self-control, that all our actions may be guided by our awareness of Your presence. Through Your Son Christ our Lord, Amen.

          Today we are investigating one of the most controversial areas in the field of New Testament textual criticism:  the creation and adoption of conjectural  emendations.  A conjectural emendation is a reading that is not directly supported by any witnesses.  Conjectural emendations are driven by the premise that on some rare occasions, the reading that accounts for all other readings is a reading that is not extant.

          Even in the earliest days of the printed text of the Greek New Testament, some conjectural emendations were proposed:   in James 4:2, Erasmus did not think that it was plausible that the readers of James’ letter would kill, so he introduced the idea that James originally wrote that his letters’ recipients were envious.  Erasmus’ conjecture influenced some future translations, including Martin Luther’s translation, and the 1557 Geneva Translation.

          By the late 1700s, so many conjectural emendations had been proposed that a printer named William Bowyer collected them in a book in 1772 that was over 600 pages long, titled Critical Conjectures and Observations on the New Testament.  Many of the conjectures were apologetically driven and resolved historical questions rather than textual ones, and many others implied a magical stupidity on the part of copyists. 

          But in 1881, when Westcott and Hort printed their Greek New Testament, they were willing to grant the possibility that 60 passages in the New Testament contain a primitive corruption, where only by conjecture could the original reading be recovered.  Other scholars have seriously argued for the adoption of non-extant readings in a few other places.

          We’re not going to look into each and every one of those 60 passages today, but we will look into some of them, especially the ones that have affected some English translations.         

Mark 15:25 – One of the earliest conjectural emendations is from Ammonius of Alexandria, from the 200s, whose proposal was passed along by Eusebius of Caesarea and others.  Ammonius suggested a conjectural emendation that could harmonize Mark’s statement (in Mark 15:25) that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, and John’s statement (in John 19:14) that Jesus was being sentenced by Pilate at the sixth hour.  Rather than imagine that different methods of hour-reckoning are involved, Ammonius proposed that the text of John 19:14 contains an ancient error, and that the Greek numeral Γ,  which stands for “3,” was misread as if it was the obsolete letter digamma, which stands for “6”).   Some copyists apparently thought that this idea must be correct, and wrote the Greek equivalent of “sixth” in Mark 15:25; a few others (including the copyists of Codex L and Codex Δ) wrote the equivalent of “third” in John 19:14.  

 John 1:13 – Another early church writer, Tertullian, proposed that the extant reading of John 1:13 is not the original reading.  In chapter 19 of his composition On the Flesh of Christ, he insisted that the reading that is found in our New Testaments is the result of heretical tampering, and that the verse initially referred specifically to Christ.  Not only Tertullian but also Irenaeus and the author of the little-known Epistula Apostolorum appear to cite John 1:13  with a singular subject rather than a plural one.          

John 7:52 – No reading that is supported exclusively by papyri has been adopted in place of readings that were already extant.  But a reading of Papyrus 66 comes very close to doing so.   William Bowyer’s 1772 book included a theory that had been expressed by Dr. Henry Owen about John 7:52:  Owen had written, “The Greek text, I apprehend, is not perfectly right:  and our English Version has carried it still farther from the true meaning.  Is it possible the Jews could say, “that out of Galilee hath arisen no prophet;” when several (no less perhaps than six) of their own prophets were natives of that country?  . . . I conclude, that what they really said, and what the reading ought to be, was … That the prophet is not to arise out of Galilee:  from whence they supposed Jesus to have sprung.”   

            The key component of Owen’s proposal was vindicated by the discovery of Papyrus 66, which has the Greek equivalent of “the” before the word “prophet” – just what Owen thought was the original reading. 

Some commentators have considered it implausible that John would report, in John 19:29, that the soldiers at the crucifixion would offer to Jesus a sponge filled with sour wine upon a stick of hyssop.  In 1572, Joachim Camerarius the Elder proposed that originally John had written about  a javelin, or spear, and that after this had been expressed by the words ὑσσῷ προπεριθέντες, scribes mangled the text so as to produce the reference to hyssop.  This conjecture, which was modified by Beza, was adopted by the scholars who made the New English Bible New Testament in 1961.

In Acts 7:46, textual critics have to choose between the reading of most manuscripts, which is the statement that David asked to be allowed to find a dwelling-place for the God of Jacob, and the statement that David asked to be allowed to find a dwelling-place for the house of Jacob (which is the reading in the Nestle-Aland compilation). 

            The second reading is more difficult, because it seems to say that David asked to build a house for a house.  Even when the second “house” is understood to refer to the nation descended from Jacob, the problem does not go away, since the temple was for God, not for the people, who were not looking for a new place to reside in the days of David.  In 1881, Hort proposed that “οἴκω can hardly be genuine,” but instead of accepting the Byzantine reading, he conjectured that neither reading is original, and that the original text was τω Κυριω (“the Lord”), which was contracted, and then inattentive copyists misread it as ΤΩ ΟΙΚΩ.         

In Acts 16:12, Bruce Metzger was overruled by the other editors of the United Bible Societies’ Committee, and an imaginary reading was adopted into the UBS compilation:  πρώτης was adopted, instead of πρώτης της μερίδος, so as to mean that Philippi was a “first city” of the district of Macedonia.  Metzger insisted that the extant text was capable of being translated as “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.”   

● Acts 20:28 – Bruce Metzger dedicated two full pages of his Textual Commentary to consider the variants in Acts 20:28.  Did the original text refer to “the church of God,” or to “the church of the Lord,” or to “the church of the Lord and God”?  The contest between “God” and “Lord” amounts to the difference of a single letter:  if we set  aside the Byzantine reading, once the sacred names are contracted, it’s a contest between ΘΥ, and ΚΥ.    If the contest is decided in favor of ΘΥ, then a second question arises:  did Luke report that Paul stated that God purchased the church with His own blood? 

           Many apologists have used this verse to demonstrate Paul’s advocacy of the divinity of Christ.  Hort, however, expressed echoed the suspicion of an earlier scholar, Georg Christian Knapp, that at the end of the verse, after the words “through His own blood”, there was originally the word υἱοῦ (“Son”).      

            The Contemporary English Version, advertised as “an accurate and faithful translation of the original manuscripts,” seems to adopt this conjecture.  It has the word “Son” in its text of Acts 20:28b:  “Be like shepherds to God’s church.  It is the flock that he bought with the blood of his own Son.” 

The Greek evidence is in agreement about how First Corinthians 6:5 ends.  But the Peshitta disagrees.  The reading in the Peshitta implies that its Greek base-text included the phrase καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ (“and a brother”). 

           The first part of Paul’s statement in this verse is something to the effect of, “Is there not even one person among you – just one! – who shall be able to judge between” – and that’s where the difficulty appears.  The Greek text just mentions one brother, whereas the idea of judgment between two parties seems to demand that more than one brother should be mentioned. 

            Although the Textus Receptus has the equivalent of between his brother” – which is clearly singular – the KJV’s translators concluded the verse with “between his brethren” (which is clearly plural).  The CSB, the NIV, and the NASB likewise render the text as if the verse ends with a plural word rather than a singular one.  All such treatments of the text make the problem all the obvious:  the first part of the sentence, in Greek, anticipates two brothers, while the second part of the sentence mentions only one.          

            In light of such strong internal evidence, Michael Holmes, the compiler of the SBLGNT, recommended the adoption of a conjectural emendation at this point, so that καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ (“and the brother”) appears at the very end of the verse. 

             A fairly recent development in textual criticism is the tendency to regard First Corinthians 14:34-35 as non-original even though the words are in every manuscript of First Corinthians.  In a few copies they appear after verse 40.  The usual form of this conjecture is that the words began as a marginal note and were gradually adopted into the text.  

          Gordon Fee advocated this view in his commentary on First Corinthians and it has grown in popularity since then, especially among interpreters who favor an egalitarian view on the question of gender roles in the church.  One of the interesting aspects of this  issue is the impact of the double-dots, or distigme, that appear in the margin of Codex Vaticanus to signify a variation between the text of that manuscript and the text in another document.

 ● A much older scholarly debate has orbited the phrase “Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia” in Galatians 4:25.  This sentence is included the Nestle-Aland compilation; however, it has been proposed that the entire phrase originated as a marginal note.  This conjecture goes back at least to the early 1700s, with Richard Bentley.  More recently, Stephen Carlson has argued in favor of the same idea. 

In Hebrews 11:37, as the sufferings endured by spiritual heroes are listed, one of those things is not like the others:  they are all somewhat unusual experiences, except for “they were tempted.”  Some textual critics have suspected that the word ἐπειράσθησαν originated when a copyist committed dittography – writing twice what should be written once; in this case, the preceding word the means “they were sawn in two” – and that subsequent copyists changed it into something meaningful.  Others have thought that this relatively common term replaced one that was less common – perhaps another word that meant “they were pierced,” or “they were sold”. 

            Presently the Nestle-Aland compilation, deviating from the 25th edition, simply does not include ἐπειράσθησαν  in the text, following Papyrus 46.  But Papyrus 13  appears to support the inclusion of ἐπειράσθησαν and it has a very impressive array of allies.  I would advise readers to not get used to the current form of this verse in the critical text, for it seems to be merely a place-holder that might be blown away by the appearance of new evidence or slightly different analysis.    

● First Peter 3:19 – The most popular conjectural emendation of all time was favored by the textual expert J. Rendel Harris, who encountered a very brief form of it in William Bowyer’s book.  The extant text of First Peter 3:19 says, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.”  Verse 18 refers to Christ, and nobody else is introduced into the text, so verse 19 has been understood to mean that during the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection, He visited the realm of the dead, and visited the spirits of those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah, prior to the great flood – and delivered a message to them. 

            However, Harris, proposed that the original text was different.  He thought that Peter had in mind a scene that is related in the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch. In this text, Enoch is depicted delivering a message of condemnation to the fallen spirits who corrupted human beings so thoroughly that the great flood was introduced as the means of amputating the moral infection they had induced.

            Harris proposed that the opening words of the original text of 3:19 were ἐν ᾧ καὶ Ἐνώχ (“in which also Enoch”), assigning the subsequent action not to Christ, but to Enoch.   There are two ways in which the name “Enoch” could have fallen out of the sentence.              

          1.  If the original text were simply Ἐνώχ (without ἐν ᾧ καὶ), then, in majuscule script, the chi was susceptible to being misread as an abbreviation for the word και (“and”) [a kai-compendium].  A copyist could easily decide to write the whole word instead of the abbreviation, and thus Enoch’s name would become ἐν ᾧ καὶ.

            2.  Or, if the original text were ἐν ᾧ καὶ Ἐνώχ, a copyist could read the chi as an abbreviation for και [again, a kai-compendium], and assume that the scribe who made his exemplar had inadvertently repeated three words. Attempting a correction, he would remove “Ἐνώχ.”

            Against the charge that the introduction of Enoch’s name “disturbs the otherwise smooth context,” the answer is that a reference to Enoch is not out of place, inasmuch as Enoch’s story sets the stage for the story of Noah and his family, whose deliverance through water Peter frames as a pattern of salvation.

            If this conjectural emendation were adopted, it would have at least a little doctrinal impact, by diminishing the Biblical basis for the phrase “He descended into hell” found in the Apostles’ Creed. 

Finally, in First Peter 3:10, we encounter an imaginary Greek reading that has been adopted into the text of the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.  Rejecting the assortment of contending variant offered by the Greek manuscripts, the editors have preferred the reading that is implied by a reading for which the external support is only extant in Coptic and Syriac.  However, the judgment of the scholars who gave up on the extant Greek readings may have been premature.

 The text is sufficiently clear with the reading, “will be found,” while it is also puzzling enough to provoke attempts at simplification.

         Only two of these conjectural emendations are mentioned in the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament; the 27th edition was the last one to list include conjectural emendations in its textual apparatus.   

          Some readers may be taken aback by the idea that some of the inspired words in the Word of God can only be reconstructed in the imaginations of scholars.  A realistic pushback against the idea of adopting any conjectural emendation is the question, “Does it really seem feasible that every scribe in every transmission-stream got it wrong?”  If scholars reject singular readings simply because they are singular, then non-existent readings should be even more disqualified, as a point of consistency.  It also seems very inconsistent to criticize advocates of poorly attested readings only to turn around and advocate readings with zero external support.

              It has been said by some very influential textual critics that New Testament textual criticism is both an art and a science.  But it should be all science, and not art, because it is an enterprise of reconstruction, not construction.  Its methods may validly be creative and inventive, and even intuitive, but not its product.  Conjectural emendation is the only aspect of textual criticism that potentially involves the researcher’s artistic or creative skill. 

            In my view, no conjectural emendation should ever be placed in a compilation of the text of the Greek New Testament.  At the same time, the task of proposing conjectural emendations as possible readings which account for their rivals serves a valuable purpose:  to demonstrate the heavy weight of the internal evidence in favor of such readings in the event that they are discovered in an actual Greek manuscript. 

            Thank you.           




Saturday, July 10, 2021

Scrivener: Principles of Comparative Criticism (Part 5)


F. H. A. Scrivener
   Those who have followed me through this prolonged investigation (which I knew not how to abridge without sacrificing perspicuity to conciseness) will readily anticipate my reply to Dr. Tregelles’ “statement of his case,” comprehended in the following emphatic words:  “It is claimed that the united testimony of versions, fathers, and the oldest MSS should be preferred to that of the mass of modern copies; and farther, that the character of the few ancient MSS which agree with versions and fathers, must be such (from that very circumstance) as to make their general evidence the more trustworthy” (p. 141).  Unquestionably, I rejoin, your claim is reasonable, it is irresistible.  If you show us all, or nearly all, the uncials you prize so deservedly, maintaining a variation from the common text which is recommended by all the best versions and most ancient Fathers, depend upon it we will not urge against such overwhelming testimony the mere number of the cursive copies, be they ever so unanimous on the other side.

But are we not discussing a purely abstract proposition?  Do we ever find the “united” testimony of the ancients drawing us one way, that of the juniors another?  I will not assert that such instances may not occur, though at this moment I can hardly remember one.  It is enough to say that principles broad as those laid down by Tregelles must be designed to meet the rule, not the exception.  In the seven texts we have been reviewing, in the sixty-five that remain on his list, in the yet more numerous cases he tells us he has passed over, the uncial MSS are not unequally divided; or where there is a preponderance, it is not often in our adversary’s favor.  The elder authorities being thus at variance, common sense seems to dictate an appeal to those later authorities, respecting which one thing is clear, that they were not copied immediately from the uncials still extant.  Such later codices thus become the representatives of others that have perished, as old, and (to borrow Davidson’s suggestion, p. viii) not improbably more old than any now remaining.  These views appear so reasonable and sober, that they have approved themselves to the judgment even of Dr. Tregelles: for he does not by any means disdain the aid of the few cursive copies (e. g. 1. 33. 69. etc.) which “preserve an ancient text,” whereby of course is implied one coinciding with his preconceived opinion of what an ancient text ought to be.

[1 – Dean Alford had constructed the text of his first volume of the Greek Testament (1st edition) on nearly the same plan as Tregelles would, and thoroughly was he dissatisfied with the result.  “The adoption of that test,” he writes with admirable frankness, “was, I do not hesitate to confess, a great mistake.  It proceeded on altogether too high an estimate of the most ancient existing MSS, and too low an one of the importance of internal evidence.” (N. T. Vol. II. Proleg. p. 58.)]


      Perhaps I shall be expected to say a few words respecting the scheme devised by Bentley for settling the sacred text on a firmer basis, since both Tregelles and his precursor Lachmann (N. T. Proleg. Vol. I. p. xxx) have sheltered their practice of recurring exclusively to the most ancient extant documents beneath the shadow of that great name.  We shall all agree on one point, that no authority, however imposing, can supply the place of argument in enquiries of this kind; nor do I scruple to confess that were I disposed to swear allegiance to any earthly teacher, it would be to that illustrious scholar, whose learning and genius shed a bright ray across the darkness of his evil generation.  It is painful to say of the most highly gifted man that ever devoted himself to the study of Biblical criticism, that his leading principle was taken up hastily and on precarious grounds.  Yet if the fact be so, why need we hesitate to avow it?  

Bentley’s theory, as most of my readers will remember, was built on the idea, that the oldest MSS of the Greek original and of Jerome’s Latin version, resemble each other so marvelously, even in the very order of the words, that by means of this agreement he could restore the text as it stood in the fourth century, “so that there shall not be twenty words, or even particles, difference!”  “By taking two thousand errors out of the Pope’s [Clementine] Vulgate, and as many out of the Protestant Pope Stephens’s [1550], I can set out an edition of each in columns, without using any book under nine hundred years old, that shall so exactly agree word for word, and, what at first amazed me, order for order, that no two tallies, nor two indentures, can agree better.”  Thus wrote Bentley to Archbishop Wake in 1716; the tone of his “Proposals,” in 1720, after considerable progress had been made in the work of collation, is not materially less confident.

Yet to those who have calmly examined the subject, the wonder is not the closeness of agreement between the Greek and Latin Codices, but that a man of so vast erudition and ability should have imagined that he perceived it, to any thing approaching the extent the lowest sense of his words demands.  Accordingly when his collations came to be examined, and compared, and weighed, keen indeed must have been the disappointment of our English Aristarchus.  With characteristic fearlessness he had been at no trouble to select his materials (at least I trace no indication of such choice in his surviving papers), and thus the truth would burst upon him all the sooner, that the theory on which he had staked a noble reputation, in the face of watchful enemies, must either be abandoned or extensively modified.  We can well ‘understand the struggle which silently agitated that proud spirit.  Had the subject of his labors been Terence or Milton, it would be easy to conjecture the course he would have adopted: if MSS refused to support his system, they must have been forced to yield to it.  

But Bentley, with all his faults of temper, was an honest and a pious man; he dared not make the text of Holy Scripture the victim of his sportive ingenuity; and so, soon after the year 1721, we come to hear less and less of his projected Greek Testament.  Though he lived till 1742, it does not appear that he ever made serious progress in arranging the stores collected by himself and his coadjutors.  As I have turned over his papers in the Library of Trinity College, with a heart saddened by the spectacle of so much labor lost, I could not persuade myself that the wretched dissensions which embittered his declining days had, of themselves, power enough over Bentley’s mind to break off in the midst a work that he had once regarded as his best passport to undying fame.


From the facts we have been discussing I feel entitled to draw two or three practical inferences.

(a).  That the true readings of the Greek New Testament cannot safely be derived from any one set of authorities, whether MSS, versions, or Fathers, but ought to be the result of a patient comparison and careful estimate of the evidence given by them all.

(b).  That where there is a real agreement between all the documents prior to the tenth century, the testimony of later MSS, though not to be rejected unheard, is to be regarded with much suspicion, and, unless supported by strong internal evidence,1 can hardly be adopted.

(c).  That in the far more numerous cases where the most ancient documents are at variance with each other, the later or cursive copies are of great importance, as the surviving representatives of other codices, very probably as early, possibly even earlier, than any now extant.2

I do not lay down these propositions as any new discovery of my own, but as being (even the second of them) the principles on which all reasonable defenders of the Textus Receptus have upheld its GENERAL INTEGRITY.


[1 – If I have hitherto said nothing on the important head of internal evidence, it is from no wish to disparage its temperate and legitimate use.  Yet how difficult it is to hinder its degenerating, even in skillful hands, into vague and arbitrary conjecture!]


[2 – Even Mr. Green, from whom I fear I differ widely on some of the topics discussed in this chapter, does not shrink from saying, “In a review of authorities special regard will reasonably be paid to antiquity; but this must not be over-strained into a summary neglect of more recent witnesses, as offering nothing worthy of notice,” finally adding, “The critic should not suffer himself to be encumbered by prepossessions or assumptions, nor bind himself to the routine of a mechanical method of procedure.  If he allows himself to be thus warped and trammelled, instead of ever maintaining the free employment of a watchful, calm, and unfettered mind, he abandons his duty and mars his work” (Course of Developed Criticism, Introduction, p. x.).]


IV. I have a good hope that the foregoing investigation of the laws of Comparative Criticism will have convinced an impartial reader, that the cursive or junior copies of the Greek New Testament have, in their proper place and due subordination, a real and appreciable influence in questions relating to doubtful readings.  If I have succeeded thus far, it results that the time and pains I have bestowed on studying them have not been wasted: the collations I have accumulated cannot fail to be of some service to the Biblical critic, even though he may think I have a little exaggerated their value and importance.  I am not so sanguine as to the degree of popular acceptance my views may obtain, nor (without affecting absolute indifference on the subject) am I by any means so anxious on this head.  I have always thought that the researches and labors of the scholar – of the theological scholar above all others – are their own highest and purest reward.1  Let me plead guilty to having read with sensations akin to scorn, the manuscript note appended by Caesar de Missy (a person who might have known better) to the copy of Hearne’s scarce edition of the Codex Laudianus (published in 1715), now preserved in the British Museum.  To Hearne’s miserable list of just forty-one subscribers to his book, De Missy subjoins the sarcastic comment “Après cela, Docteur, va pâlir sur la Bible!”  Yet why should he not have grown pale in the study of God’s Word?  Why not have handed down to happier times a treasure of sacred learning which the princes and prelates of George the First’s reign (that nadir-point of public virtue and intellectual cultivation in England) were too slothful to appreciate, too negligent even to despise?  The pursuits of Scriptural criticism are so quiet, so laborious, that they can have few charms for the votary of fame, or the courtier of preferment: they always have been, perhaps they always must be, the choice employment mainly of those, who, feeling conscious (it may be) of having but one talent committed to their keeping, ‘seek nothing so earnestly as TO USE THAT ONE TALENT WELL.



[1 – I should have wished to add some noble sentiments of Dr. Dobbin (Codex Montfortianus, Preface, p. xx.) on this point, but that I trust they are known to my readers, as they well deserve to be.]


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Scrivener: Principles of Comparative Criticism: Part 4

[continued from Part 3]

     How is this divergency of the Peshito version from the text of Codex B explained by Tregelles?  He feels of course the pressure of the argument against him, and meets it, if not successfully, with even more than his wonted boldness. The translation degenerates in his hands into “the version commonly printed as the Peshito” (p. 170).  Now let us mark the precise nature of the demand here made on our faith by Dr. Tregelles.  He would persuade us that the whole Eastern Church, distracted as it has been and split into hostile sections for the space of 1400 years, Orthodox and Jacobite, Nestorian and Maronite alike, those that could agree about nothing else, have laid aside their bitter jealousies in order to substitute in their monastic libraries and liturgical services another and a spurious version in the room of the Peshito, that sole surviving monument of the first ages of the Gospel in Syria!  Nay more, that this wretched forgery has deceived Orientalists profound as Michaelis and Lowth, has passed without suspicion through the ordeal of searching criticism, to which every branch of sacred literature has been subjected during the last half-century!  We will require solid reasons indeed before we surrender ourselves to an hypothesis as novel as it appears violently improbable.

And what is the foundation on which our opponent rests his startling conjecture?  The reader is aware that besides the Peshito, several other Syriac versions, some grounded upon it, and therefore implying its previous existence and popularity (e.g. the Philoxenian, executed A.D. 508, and Cardinal Wiseman’s Karkaphensian), others seemingly independent of it (e.g. Adler’s Jerusalem Syriac, and a palimpsest fragment lately discovered by Tischendorf) have been more or less applied to the criticism of the New Testament.  About the year 1847 Canon Cureton, in his most fruitful researches among the MSS purchased for the British Museum from the Nitrian monasteries, met with extensive fragments of the Gospels, which Tregelles has collated, and found to contain “altogether ancient readings,” and thus to be “an important witness to the ancient text” (p. 161).  As this MS, assigned to the fifth century, is still unpublished, we can only say at present that it affords us “AN HITHERTO UNKNOWN VERSION;” certainly not “the version commonly printed as the Peshito” with mere various readings.1  [1 – As this sheet is going to press (July 1858) Dr. Cureton’s “ Remains of a Very Antient Recension of the Four Gospels in Syriac, Hitherto Unknown in Europe,” has at length appeared. The Syriac text had been printed in 1848, but was doubtless withheld by the learned editor in the hope of finding leisure to write Prolegomena more full, and possibly containing more definite conclusions, than those with which he has favored us.  It would ill become me to express a hasty judgment respecting theories on which so eminent a scholar has bestowed thought and time and much labor. He will naturally expect Biblical critics to hesitate before they implicitly admit, for instance, the persuasion which he hardly likes to embody in words, that we have in these precious Syriac fragments, at least to a great extent (Preface, p. xciii), the very Hebrew original of St. Matthew’s Gospel, so long supposed to have been lost, that even its existence has been questioned.  But topics like this are sure to be warmly debated by abler pens than mine; I will confine myself to those points that concern my argument, the relation these fragments bear to the Peshito.  And here I would say in all humble deference (for my knowledge of Syriac, though of long standing, is not extensive) that my own hurried comparison of the Curetonian and Peshito texts would have led me to take them so far for quite separate versions.  Even Dr. Tregelles, who, through the editor’s kindness, has been enabled to use the text for years, and whose bias is very strong, can only venture to say “the differences are great; and yet it happens not infrequently that such coincidences of words and renderings are found (and that too, at times, through a great part of a passage) as to show that they can hardly be wholly independent” (Tregelles, Horne’s Introd. p. 268).  To the same effect also Dr. Cureton speaks:  “It seems to be scarcely possible that the Syriac text published by Widmanstad, which, throughout these pages, I have called the Peshito, could be altogether a different version from this.  It would take up too much space to institute here a comparison of passages to establish this fact, which, indeed, any one may easily do for himself” (Preface, p. lxx).  I heartily wish that Dr. Cureton had fully investigated the subject; he might have removed the difficulties at least of those who love truth, and are ready to embrace it wherever they shall find it.  As it is, we can but say with Tregelles, “Such a point as this can only be properly investigated after the publication of this version shall have given sufficient time to scholars to pursue a thorough investigation” (Tregelles, ubi supra).  In the meanwhile neither he nor I are at liberty to assume the truth of that hypothesis which may happen to harmonize best with our preconceived opinions.]

     To this version has been given the appellation of the Curetonian Syriac, and long may it bear that honored name: but for regarding it as the true Peshito, in the room of that commonly so known, I perceive at present no cause whatever except the strong exigency of Dr. Tregelles’ case.

     Yet has not the Peshito Syriac been suspected by previous writers of exhibiting a corrupt or modernized text?  Undoubtedly the reconciliation of the Maronites with the see of Rome, and the channels through which its earlier editions were conveyed to us, induced certain critics to hazard a conjecture that this version, like the Armenian, had been tampered with, in order to bring it into closer conformity with the Latin Vulgate.  This, however, is a change in precisely the opposite direction to that which Tregelles’ hypothesis demands:  his complaint against the Peshito is not its accordance with the Latin, but its consent with Codex A and the junior MSS against it.

I vouch not for the correctness of this surmise as regards the Armenian; its injustice towards the Peshito is demonstrated by the evidence of that old MS Rich 7157 in the British Museum, of the eighth century, a period long anterior to that when a “fœdus cum Syris” was possible on the part of the admirers of the Vulgate.  This precious document has been collated throughout by Tregelles; together with several others of high antiquity in the Museum, it has been carefully examined by Dr. Cureton, by Mr. Ellis, and two German scholars (Bloomfield, Preface to N. T., ninth edition, p. viii, note).  The reports of all concur to the same effect: these venerable MSS exhibit a text, singularly resembling that of the printed editions; which last were consequently drawn from purer and more ancient sources than, reasoning from the analogy of the Greek text, the warmest advocates of the Peshito had been led to anticipate.


(6). We have little to say about citations from the Fathers.  That the Latin ecclesiastical writers should accord with the Latin versions is nothing strange; perhaps some of them could not read, none of them used familiarly the Greek original.  As witnesses for the readings of the Italic or Vulgate they are of course valuable: unless in the very rare instances where they expressly appeal to the Greek, their influence upon it is but indirect and precarious.  As regards the Greek Fathers I am bound to state, that no branch of Biblical criticism has been so utterly neglected as the application of their citations to the discussion of various readings; indeed I know almost nothing that has been seriously attempted with respect to it, except Griesbach’s examination of the quotations of Origen in his Symbolae Criticae.  The whole question, however, is so replete with difficulties, that Bishop Fell (N. T. Oxon. 1675) thought the bare allusion to them sufficient to absolve him from entering upon it at all.  The ancient Fathers were better theologians than critics; they often quoted loosely, often from memory; what they actually wrote has been found peculiarly liable to change on the part of copyists.  Their testimony therefore can be implicitly trusted, even as to the MSS which lay before them, only in the comparatively few places where the course of their argument, or the current of their exposition, renders it manifest what reading they support. At present we have many intimations in our critical editions that this or that ecclesiastical author countenances a variation from the Textus Receptus, but few cases, very few indeed, are recorded in which they agree with it: the latter point being confessedly no less essential to our accurate acquaintance with the state of the evidence than the former.

     Any enlarged discussion on this head of our argument must at any rate be postponed till we possess more reliable information on the facts it involves.  Most thankful should I be to any student who has leisure and disposition to enter upon this wide yet almost unoccupied field. Meantime I am constrained to admit that many examples have been established by Griesbach and his successors, wherein Origen agrees with Codices BL against Codex A and the received text, one or both.  I will not dissemble, I strive not to evade, the force of such early testimony where it is unambiguous and express: let such readings be received with “peculiar attention,” let them never be rejected without grave and sufficient reason. Yet the support given to B or L by Origen is very far from being uniform or “habitual.”  While I can well understand the importance of his confirmation where he countenances the readings they exhibit, I fail altogether in apprehending what service he can do them, where he is either silent or positively hostile.1


[1 – e.g. Origen sides with the received text or with A against B, Matthew 21:29 cited by Tregelles (p. 107), and in the course of the next few chapters in 25:17; 25:19; 26:48; 26:53; 27:3; 27:11; 27:54 bis; 28:15; 28:18.  I could multiply references lectoris ad fastidium.  It may tend to show the precariousness of patristic testimony if I add that in five of the above-named passages Origen’s authority may be cited on both sides.]



Monday, June 28, 2021

Scrivener: Principles of Comparative Criticism - Part 3


F. H. A Scrivener
F. H. A. Scrivener

I am unfeignedly anxious to present to the reader a clear and even forcible statement of the principles of textual criticism maintained in Dr. Tregelles’ “Account of the Printed Text of the Greek Testament.”  I assure him I do not criticize his book unread,1 or reject his theory without patient examination.  [1 – “Let me request anyone who may wish to understand the principles of textual criticism which I believe to be true, to read what I have stated,” etc. (Tregelles, Addenda, p. 2). A moderate request certainly, but I should hope it was hardly needed.]

 I presume he would wish it to be enunciated in such terms as the following:

The genuine text of the Greek New Testament must be sought exclusively from the most ancient authorities, especially from the earliest uncial copies of the Greek.  The paramount weight and importance of the last arises not from the accidental circumstance of their age, but from their agreement with the other independent and most ancient authorities still extant, viz. the oldest versions and citations by the fathers of the first four centuries.


To which proposition must be appended this corollary as a direct and necessary consequence:

“The mass of recent documents [i.e. those written in cursive characters from the tenth century downwards] possess no determining voice, in a question as to what we should receive as genuine readings. We are able to take the few documents whose evidence is proved to be trustworthy, and safely discard from present consideration the eighty-nine ninetieths, or whatever else the numerical proportion may be” (Tregelles, p. 138).

In the ordinary concerns of social life, one would form no favorable estimate of the impartiality of a judge (and such surely is the real position of a critical editor) who deemed it safe to discard unheard eighty-nine witnesses out of ninety that are tendered to him, unless indeed it were perfectly certain that the eighty-nine had no means of information, except what they derived from the ninetieth.  On that supposition, but on that supposition alone, could the judge’s reputation for wisdom or fairness be upheld.  That mere numbers should decide a question of sacred criticism never ought to have been asserted by any one; never has been asserted by a respectable scholar.  Tischendorf himself (Proleg. p. xii) cannot condemn such a dogma more emphatically than the upholders of the general integrity of the Elzevir text.  

But I must say that the counter-proposition, that numbers have “no determining voice,” is to my mind just as unreasonable, and rather more startling.  I agree with Dr. Davidson (p. 333) in holding it to be “an obvious and natural rule” that the reading of the majority is so far preferable. Not that a bare majority shall always prevail, but that numerical preponderance, especially where it is marked and constant, is an important element in the investigation of the genuine readings of Holy Scripture.  For on what grounds shall we justify ourselves in putting this consideration wholly aside?  Is the judge convinced to a moral certainty that the evidence of the eighty-nine is drawn exclusively from that of the ninetieth?  It has never I think been affirmed by any one (Dr. Tregelles would not be sorry to affirm it, if he could with truth) that the mass of cursive documents are corrupt copies of the uncials still extant: the fact has scarcely been suspected in a single instance, and certainly never proved.  I will again avail myself of Davidson’s words, not only because they admirably express my meaning, but because his general bias is not quite in favor of the views I am advocating.  Ceteris paribus," he observes, “the reading of an ancient copy is more likely to be authentic than that of a modern one.  But the reading of a more modern copy may be more ancient than the reading of an ancient one.  A modern copy itself may have been derived not from an extant one more ancient, but from one still more ancient no longer in existence.  And this was probably the case in not a few instances” (p. 101).  

No one can carefully examine the readings of cursive documents, as represented in any tolerable collation, without perceiving the high probability that Davidson’s account of them is true.  But it is not essential to our argument that the fact of their being derived from ancient sources now lost should be established, though internal evidence points strongly to their being so derived: it is enough that such an origin is possible, to make it at once unreasonable and unjust to shut them out from a “determining voice” (of course jointly with others) on questions of doubtful reading.  I confess that Tregelles is only following his premises to their legitimate conclusion in manfully declaring his purpose in this respect; but we are bound to scrutinize with the utmost jealousy and distrust a principle which involves consequences so extensive, and he must forgive me if I add, so “perilous.”

It is agreed then on all hands that the antiquity of a document is only a presumption, a primâ facie ground for expectation, that it will prove of great critical importance.  “The oldest MSS,” writes Dr. Davidson again, “bear traces of revision by arbitrary and injudicious critics.  Good readings make good manuscripts” (p. 101).  “It ought to be needless for me to have to repeat again and again,” insists Dr. Tregelles, whose reviewers I suppose were δυσμαθέστεροι, “that the testimony of very ancient MSS is proved to be good on grounds of evidence (not mere assertion); and that the distinction is not between the ancient MSS on the one hand, and all other witnesses on the other – but between the united evidence of the most ancient documents – MSS, versions, and early citations – together with that of the few more recent copies that accord with them, on the one hand, and the mass of modern MSS on the other” (Tregelles, Addenda, p. 2).

Very well:  this immeasurable superiority claimed for the early uncials over all later authorities (so that the former shall be everything in criticism, the latter absolutely nothing) rests not on an axiom intuitively true; it has to be proved by an induction of scattered facts; and we are bound to watch the process of proof with the greater care, from our previous knowledge that when once established it will inevitably lead us to conclusions which seem hardly consistent with even dealing towards a whole legion of honest and reputable witnesses.

Now Dr. Tregelles produces no less than SEVENTY-TWO passages from various parts of the New Testament (pp. 133-147), as a kind of sample of some two or three thousand which he reckons to exist there, wherein “the more valuable ancient versions (or some of them) agree in a particular reading, or in which such a reading has distinct patristic testimony, and the mass of MSS stand in opposition to such a lection, [while] there are certain copies which habitually uphold the older reading” (Tregelles, p. 148).  Of course I cannot follow him step by step through this long and labored catalogue; an adequate specimen taken without unfair selection will amply suffice to show my opponent’s drift and purpose.  I will therefore transcribe all the places he cites from the Gospel of St. Mark (they amount to seven), making choice of that Gospel partly for its shortness, partly because I wish, in justice to Dr. Tregelles, to discuss in preference those texts which remain unmutilated in the four uncial codices of the first class (see above, vide supra, p. vi.); in the following list they all are complete, except C in Mark 13:14 alone.  As Tregelles “for the sake of brevity” has laid before us these passages “without any attempt to state the balance of evidence” (p. 148), l have ventured to supply within brackets an omission which I cannot help considering a little unfortunate.

(l).  Mark 3:29.  Common text, αἰωνίου κρίσεως.  Vulg. has, however, ‘reus erit æterni delicti;’ so too the Old Latin [a. b. c. e. ff2. g1. l. Tregelles N. T., 1857], the Memphitic, Gothic, Armenian; and this is the reading of Cyprian [bis, Treg. N. T.], Augustine, and Athanasius. Corresponding with this BLΔ, 33 (and one other MS [28; add 2pe]), read αἰωνίου ἀμαρτήματος, and C* (ut videtur), D, 69 (and two others [13. 346]), have αἰωνίου ἀμαρτίας, a perfectly cognate reading.” (p. 141).

[But κρίσεως is found in AC** (whose primitive reading seems quite doubtful) EFGHKMSUVΓ1 being all the other uncials that contain the passage.  Of the cursive copies, all go with the received text, except the six named above, and three which have κολάσεως.  The Peshito Syriac reads [Syriac word] judicii; thus also the Harclean Syriac of the 7th century, the Ethiopic (“in condemnatione”), the Codex Brixianus f of the Italic (or Old Latin), the Codex Toletanus of the Vulgate, and any Fathers not named by Tregelles, many of whom must have cited this remarkable passage.]


[1 – Of the uncials cited for these texts B (Tregelles’ favorite) is least accurately known.  ACDLΔ have been edited in full; EFGHKMSUVΓ have been so repeatedly collated (recently by Tischendorf or Tregelles or both) that when they are not cited as supporting variations so marked as those under discussion, their testimony even sub silentio in behalf of the received text may be fully relied upon.  In these seven texts, however, they are expressly cited by Tischendorf’s seventh edition for the readings here ascribed to them.]


(2).  “Mark 4:12.  τὰ ἁμαρτήματα of the common text is omitted by Origen twice; by one MS of the Old Latin [two b. i. in Treg. N. T.], the Memphitic, and Armenian, with BCL, 1 (and some other MSS)” [i.e. “22. 118. 209. 251. 340* al.”   Scholz:  τὰ ἁμαρτήματα Theophyl. and eight MSS].

[τὰ ἁμαρτήματα is read in ADEFGHKMSUVΔ (hiat. Γ), all cursives not named above, Syriac both Peshito and Harclean, Ethiopic, Gothic, Vulgate, all Italic MSS except two].


(3).  “Mark 4:24. τοῖς ἀκούουσιν omitted by the Old Latin, Vulgate, Memphitic, Eth, with BCDLΔ, and some other copies.” [credentibus f Gothic, Treg. N. T.].

[Tischendorf, even in his seventh edition, adds G (Harl. 5684), but on reference to the MS, I find he is wrong.  Griesbach adds “item 13. 69 semel,” yet 69 in this verse reads τοῖς ἀκούουσιν, as do AEFGHKMSUV (hiat. Γ), all other cursive MSS, both Syrr.].


(4).  “Mark 10:21.  ἄρας τὸν σταυρὸν omitted by the Old Latin in most copies [b. c. f. ff2. g1,2 k. l. Treg. N. T.], Vulgate, Memphitic [by Schwartze], (so too Clem. Alex. and Hil.), with BCDΔ.” [L is here defective, and so for the first time deserts its allies: add to the list Scholz’s 406].

[ἄρας τὸν σταυρὸν is read in AEFHKMSUVXΓ, the whole mass of cursive copies, the Harclean Syriac, Wilkins’ Memphitic and the Gothic.  The words are placed before δευρο in G 1. 13. 69. 118. 124 and four other cursives; in Peshito Syr., Eth., Armenian, the Vercelli MS. a. of the Old Latin, and Irenaeus].


(5).  “Mark 12:4.  λιθοβολήσαντες omitted by Old Latin, Vulgate, Memphitic, [Theb., Treg. N. T.], Armenian, with BDLΔ, 1, 33 and four other copies.” [i.e. 28. 91. 118. 299.]

[But λιθοβολήσαντες is found in ACEFGHKMSUVXΓ, all other cursive copies, both Syrr,, Gothic, Eth.].


(6).  “Mark 12:23.  ὅταν ἀναστῶσιν om. some copies of Old Latin [b (ut vid.). (c). (k) Treg. N. T.], Memphitic, Syr, [i.e. Peshito; Treg. N. T. adds Theb. Eth.] with BCDLΔ, 33.

[ὅταν ἀναστῶσιν is read in AEFGHKMSUVXΓ, all cursives but one (13. 69. 346 alio ordine), Vulgate, a. ff. g2. i. of Old Latin, Harclean Syriac, Gothic, Armenian].


(7).  “Mark 13:14.  τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφὴτου om. most copies of Old Latin [a. ff. g1. only in Treg. N. T., where he adds Theb.], Vulgate, Memphitic, Armenian, also Augustine expressly, with BDL.” [Scholz adds “nec attingunt Victor et Theophylact.”]

[The words are read in AEFGHKMSUVXΓΔ, all cursives (with some variation in my y and eight others), both Syriac, Eth, c. k. of Old Latin].


I do not think the reader will desire more than these specimens, transcribed as they are consecutively from Dr. Tregelles’ list without the possibility of undue selection.  I fully believe him that they may be increased twenty-fold.  It is time to offer a few remarks on the facts that have been alleged by each of us.  Meanwhile I must beg that the design of my learned opponent in producing his examples be carefully borne in mind.  He does not so much aim at showing that the readings of Codex B and its adherents are preferable to those of the received text (though this he implies throughout), as at demonstrating that the united testimonies of early uncials, primitive versions, and ecclesiastical authors of the first four centuries form together such a mass of evidence as will overhear the voice of the vast majority of witnesses of all ages and countries.

 We may grant that his favorite documents are entitled to great weight in the process of critical investigation, and this I admit fully and without reserve: we might even prefer many of their readings to those of the received text, which on the whole I am not quite disposed to do: and yet we must demur as firmly as ever to the claim of paramount and exclusive authority he sets up for them.  With these preliminary observations I pass on to an analysis of the state of evidence in the passages Dr. Tregelles has brought to our notice.


(1). First then it is obvious that the uncial documents, even the earliest of them, are much divided in every place he has cited. I hardly know why the Alexandrine MS. (A) has come to be considered a little younger than the Codex Vaticanus (B); we have free access to and minute knowledge of the one; through the jealousy of the Papal librarians our acquaintance with the other is still very imperfect1[1 – Since writing the above I have examined Cardinal Mai’s long-expected edition of the Vaticanus (5 Tom. Roman 1857) – the text of which was ten years passing through the press (1828-38), and was then kept back from publication till within the last few months.  I regret that I cannot even now modify my statement of the precariousness of our knowledge of this great document.  I must needs add my voice to the loud chorus of disappointment this work has called forth throughout Europe.  It is impossible to study Vercellono’s letter to the reader, prefixed to the first volume, without seeing the strange incompetency both of Mai and of himself, for the task they had undertaken.  In fact, Vercellone’s frank admission of the great Cardinal’s inaccuracy would be amusing if it were not most vexatious.  Finding his sheets full of errors and misrepresentations of the Codex Vaticanus (some of them inserted from printed books!), Mai tries to get rid of them as well as he can, sometimes by canceling a few leaves, sometimes by manual corrections made in each copy; while he reserves the mass for a table of errata, to be placed at the end of each volume.  In this unpromising state was the work found by Vercellone after Mai’s death in 1854, when, anxious to celebrate the Cardinal’s memory “novâ usque gloriâ atque splendidiore coronâ” (Tom. I. p. iii), he drew up the tables of errata projected by his predecessor, and at length submitted this deplorable performance to the judgment of Biblical scholars.  His lists of errata are obviously most imperfect; as regards orthography he only professes to give us “selectiora,” for Mai, it seems, did not care much about such points; at any rate it was not worth while to delay publication on their account: and so “reliqua quae supererunt eruditis castiganda permittimus; immo ut summâ ακριβεια castigentur optamus” (ib. p. xiii).  Add to all this that the lacunae throughout the MS are supplied from later sources; that even accidental omissions and errors of the pen are corrected in the text, though noted in the margin; that the breathings, accents, and ι subscriptum are accommodated to the modern fashion, and that a slight Preface of a few pages by Mai supplies the place of the full Prolegomena once promised and so urgently required.] 

  much doubt hangs over many of its readings; it seems barely certain whether its accents and breathings are prima or secunda manu.2  [2 – On this point however Vercellone’s testimony should be heard. After correcting Birch’s statement that the breathings and accents are prima manu, he adds, “etenim amanuensis ille, qui cunctas totius codicis litteras, vetustate pallescentes, atramento satis venuste, servata vetere forma, renovavit, idem accentus etiam spiritusque imposuit, qui nulli fuerant a prima manu; ut illae codicis particulae ostendunt, quas certis de causis (id est vel quia repetitas in codice vel ab eo improbatas) non attigit.  Rei hujus veritatem codicis spectatores ipsi per se deprehendent.” (Cod. Vatican. Tom. V. p. 499.)  I presume it is for this reason that while the facsimile of one column, Mark 1:1-9, prefixed to Tom. V. of Mai’s edition, contains no breathings or accents, they are represented in the splendid plate of the three columns of the first surviving page (commencing Gen. 46:28 πολιν) prefixed to Tom. I.]

We will adopt however the usual opinion about them: no competent critic places A later than the fifth, or B earlier than the fourth century.3 [3 – I find no traces in Mai’s Codex Vaticanus of the absurd opinion once imputed to him, that this MS dates as far back as the second century; Vercellone acquiesces in the date usually assigned to it, that of the fourth or early in the fifth century, but refers to Hug for the proof.]

  Now in each of these seven places A sides with the Elzevir text against B.  Is it an argument in favor of B that its readings are ancient?  The same plea might be entered for those of A.  And their divergencies, it will be noted, are not merely accidental exceptions to a general coincidence, but perpetual, almost systematic.  While I confess freely the great importance of B, I see not why its testimony ought, in the nature of things, to be received in preference to that of A.  I cannot frame a reason why the one should be listened to more deferentially than the other.

 (2).  In the next rank, yet decidedly below A or B, stand the palimpsest fragment C (Codex Ephraemi) and the Codex Beza or D. This latter is generally considered much the least weighty of the four great MSS of the Gospels (see for instance Alford, N.T. Proleg. on D.): and that not so much on account of its later date (perhaps about the middle of the sixth century), as from the violent corrections and strange interpolations wherewith it abounds.

“Its singularly corrupt text,” observes Davidson, “in connection with its great antiquity, is a curious problem, which cannot easily be solved.” (p. 288)4  [4 – Dr. Tregelles, indeed, in partial reference to Codex D, is good enough to say, “Some people rest much on some one incorrect reading of a MS, and then express a great deal of wonder that such a MS could be highly valued by critics. The exposure of such excessive ignorance as this might be well dealt with by one who knows Greek MSS as well as Mr. Scrivener” (p. 137 note). Thus appealed to, I will reply, that, putting aside the case of mere errors of the scribe, I do think that the admitted corruptions and deliberate interpolations which we all recognize in the Codex Bezae have a natural tendency to detract from the credibility of its testimony in more doubtful cases.]

Now in the seven passages under consideration, C accords with B in four cases, with A once; once its reading is doubtful, once its text has perished. Codex D agrees with B five times, much resembles it once, and once sides with A.  Thus these documents of the second class favor B rather than A, C however less decidedly than D.

 (3).  When we descend to uncials of the third rank, from the eighth century downwards, the case is entirely reversed. One of them indeed (L of the eighth or ninth century) edited by Tischendorf (Monumenta Sacr. Ined. pp. 57-399) is here and elsewhere constantly with B: Δ also (Codex Sangallensis of the ninth century) supports B five times, A only twice1[1 – Observe, however, that “The text of St. Mark’s selection of the passages in St Mark’s Gospel is that which especially gives this MS a claim to be distinguished from the mass of the later uncial copies.”  (Introductory Notice to Tregelles’ N. T. , 1857, p. iv);  which intimates that our selection of the passages in St. Mark’s Gospel is peculiarly favorable to Dr. Tregelles, so far as Δ is concerned.] while all the rest extant (EFGHKMSU and X where it is unmutilated) unanimously support A.  Some of these are as ancient as L, several quite as valuable as Δ.

(4). On coming down from uncial to cursive MSS the preponderance is enormous. Dr. Tregelles does not object to the rough estimate of ninety to one; and those few copies which often maintain the readings of BL are by no means steadfast in their allegiance.  Yet even here the resemblance to A or B or to each other is but general. The materials accumulated in the present volume and elsewhere show isolated readings of the most recent codices, even of those which approach nearest to the Elzevir edition, for which no ancient authority can be produced except the Codex Vaticanus.  No one who has at all studied the cursive MSS can fail to be struck with the individual character impressed on almost every one of them.  It is rare that we can find grounds for saying of one manuscript that it is a transcript of some other now remaining.  The fancy which was once taken up, that there existed a standard Constantinopolitan text, to which all copies written within the limits of that Patriarchate were conformed, has been “swept away at once and for ever” (Tregelles, p. 180) by a closer examination of the copies themselves.  Surely then it ill becomes us absolutely to reject as unworthy of serious discussion, the evidence of witnesses (whose mutual variations vouch for their independence and integrity) because their tendency on the whole is to uphold the authority of one out of the two most ancient documents against the other.


(5).  One of the arguments on which Dr. Tregelles lays most stress is the accordance of the oldest versions with Codex B rather than with A.  So far as the Latin versions are concerned the passages he has alleged must be admitted to prove the correctness of his assertion.  The Vulgate agrees with A but twice, with B five times. The Old Latin translations (for the term Italic, it seems, is obsolete), though in six instances some of them countenance A, give a clear majority for B.  I do not like to speak of the Coptic or Armenian translations, as I am totally ignorant of the languages wherein they are written: Tregelles, I perceive, labors under the same disadvantage (p. 171), and will be as reluctant as I am to dogmatize about matters on which we are both disqualified from pronouncing a trustworthy opinion.  Certainly these versions incline powerfully to the Latin, if we may rely on the common representation of them, and one of the editors of the Armenian (Zohrab) denies the correctness of the suspicion revived by Tischendorf, “Ætate multo seriori [than its origin in the fourth or fifth century] armenos codices passim ad latinam versionem correctos esse, virorum doctorum opinio fert” (Proleg. p. lxxviii).

It is time to turn to the Queen of the primitive versions, the graceful and perspicuous Peshito Syriac.  Here, at any rate, there is no ambiguity as to the preference bestowed on Codex A: it is supported by the Syriac in six cases out of the seven.  Nor is this the result of mere accident in the Gospel of St. Mark; no one who has studied its readings will question that a like proportion is steadily maintained throughout the New Testament.  Here then is a venerable translation, assigned by eminent scholars to the first century of our era [Now, in 2021, usually assigned to the late 300s – JSJ], undoubtedly not later than the second, which habitually upholds the readings of one of the two oldest uncial copies, of the later uncials, and of the vast majority in cursive characters.  Our conclusion shall now be drawn, mutatis mutandis, in the words of Tregelles, when he sums up the results of his induction of the seventy-two passages I have so often alluded to.  “Here then is a sample of very many passages, in which, by the testimony of the most ancient version, that such a reading was current in very early times, the fact is proved indubitably; so that even if no existing MS supported such readings, they would possess a strong claim on our attention; and such facts might have made us doubt, whether the old translators were not in possession of better copies than those that have been transmitted to us.  Such facts so proved might lead to the inquiry, whether there are not some MSS which accord with these ancient readings; and when examination shows that such copies actually exist (nay that they are the many in contrast to the few), it may be regarded as a demonstrated point that such MSS deserve peculiar attention” (Tregelles, p. 147) . . . . But here I pause; it is enough that I claim for Codex A and its numerous companions “peculiar attention” by reason of their striking conformity with the Peshito Syriac.  I ask not, I have no right to ask, that Codex B and its scanty roll of allies, strengthened as they are by the Latin, perhaps by other versions, should be overlooked in forming an estimate of the merits of conflicting readings. I am content to lay myself open to the poet's humorous reproof,

Νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός.