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.


Friday, June 25, 2021

Scrivener: Principles of Comparative Criticism - Part 2

[This is a continuation of what F.H.A. Scrivener wrote about different approaches to New Testament textual criticism in 1858.]

        The reputation of Tischendorf is so firmly grounded on his editions of the famous Codices Ephraemi and Claromontanus, on his Monumenta Sacra Inedita and other learned works, that his opinion on the great questions of sacred criticism cannot fail to be regarded with considerable interest.  In his 1849 manual edition of the New Testament his practice must be regarded on the whole as adverse to me.  His list of authorities in the Gospels is limited to the uncial MSS, and to a few of the cursive whose variations from the common standard text are most conspicuous (e.g. 1, 13, 33, 69, 102, 131).  Occasionally indeed he estimates (very roughly of course) the number of later copies supposed to countenance a reading of his uncials, yet I nowhere perceive that he gives much weight to such testimony in the arrangement of his text.  The edition of 1849, however, must be considered as quite superseded by another (which, reckoning several [editions] little known in England, Tischendorf calls his seventh), now issuing in parts from the Leipsic Press.

This, the latest fruits of his persevering toil, is far more comprehensive in plan and (experto credite) more accurate in execution than its predecessor.  In compiling it he has freely availed himself of the labors of others in this field of Biblical research, has cited the cursive MSS as much perhaps as is expedient in a volume intended for general use, and in exercising his judgment on the materials he has brought together, has produced a text (as Dr. Wordsworth has observed before me) much more closely resembling the Textus Receptus than that he had formed before.1  [1 – Thus, for example, Tischendorf’s 7th edition, in St. Matthew alone, returns to the received readings he had rejected in 1849 in no less than 187 passages.  The instances in which he abided by the common text in 1849, but subsequently deserts it, are 56 in St. Matthew’s Gospel, but about nine-tenths of them consist of Alexandrine forms (e. g. εἶδαν, εἶπαν, ἦλθαν, etc.) which he now prefers to the common ones.]  I cannot help believing this gradual and (as it would appear) almost unconscious approximation to the views I am advocating, into which more exact study and larger experience have led so eminent a scholar, to be no slight assurance that those views are founded in reasonableness and truth.2  [2 – It has been said indeed (in Journal of Philology, Vol. IV, March 1858, p. 107) that “the impression that Tischendorf is now beginning to entertain some respect for the textus receptus is quite unfounded.  Many of his present readings accidentally coincide with the ‘received’ readings, but that is all.  It is not that he prefers the bulk of late evidence to the weight of early evidence: but that he makes the worst or at least very bad evidence, if supported by a canon of probability, outweigh the best evidence standing alone.”  On a point of this kind there is nothing like coming to the test of facts. 

I select the third chapter of St. Matthew partly for its brevity. partly because the loss of cod. A (the first-rate authority which most resembles the later text) in this chapter, will so far assist the learned reviewer’s case.  Exclusive of his constant use of ν εφελευσικον and οὑτως (v. 15), Tischendorf in his edition of 1849 departs from the textus receptus 13 times; in his seventh edition he returns to it seven times out of the thirteen.  Now one of these seven instances I think favorable to the reviewer:  certainly there is considerable, perhaps even preponderating evidence (for versions can be relied on in such a. variation) for adding ποτάμῳ to Ἰορδάνη in v. 6; Tischendorf now rejects it, as if it were borrowed from Mark 1:5.  The other six passages seem fatal to the notion that internal evidence, not diplomatic authority, is the operating cause which is bringing Tischendorf’s text so much nearer what we believe to be the true one.  These passages are v. 2 και restored before λέγων; v. 7 αυτου restored after βάπτισμα; v. 14 Ἰωάννης restored, v. 15 προς αυτον of the common text replaces αυτω; v. 16 και βαπτισθεις replaces βαπτισθεις δε; v. 16 και is restored before ἐρχόμενον.  In each of these texts Tischendorf in 1849 rejected the common reading on the slender testimony of a single uncial, B, countenanced by one or more of the Egyptian and Latin versions or Fathers, and by a very few cursive MSS, sometimes by none at all!  Surely it is because he has seen the insufficiency of such evidence, that he has judiciously retraced his steps, rather than from “an increasing tendency to set private canons above the authority of manuscripts, versions, and Fathers.”]

    Yet even in the Prolegomena to his edition of 1849 (no critical Introduction to his 7th edition has yet appeared) I find little from which I should withhold my assent. “Textus” he observes “petendus est unicè ex antiquis testibus, et potissimum quidem e graecis codicibus, sed interpretationum patrumque testimoniis minimè neglectis” (Proleg. p. XII).  The drift of this self-evident proposition appears from the next sentence:  “Itaque omnis textûs nostri confirmatio ab ipsis testibus proficisci debebat, non a receptâ quam dicunt editione.”  Very true: I for one see nothing in the history or sources of the received text to entitle it, of itself, to peculiar deference.  I esteem it so far as it represents the readings best supported by documentary evidence, and no further.  If in my judgment the Elzevir text approaches nearer on the whole to the sacred autographs than that formed by Tischendorf, it is only because I believe that it is better attested to by the very witnesses to whom Tischendorf himself appeals:  the MSS, the versions, the Primitive Fathers.  I enquire not whether this general purity (for it is but general) arises from chance, or editorial skill, or (as some have piously thought) from Providential arrangement; I am content to deal with it as a fact.  Perhaps Dean Alford’s plan is preferable (N. T. Proleg. p. 69, Vol. 1. 1st edition), who, in difficult cases, where testimony seems evenly balanced, would give “the benefit of the doubt” to the Textus Receptus; but the practical difference between the two principles will be found, I imagine, very slight indeed.

     And now recurs the question, what we shall understand by “antiqui testes” in the case of Greek Manuscripts? In the first rank Tischendorf justly places those dating from the fourth to the ninth century, and among them, to the oldest he attributes the highest authority.  “Haec auctoritas ut magnoperè augetur si interpretationum ac patrum accedunt testimonia, ita non superatur dissensione plurimorum vel etiam omnium codicum recentiorum, i.e. eorum qui a decimo saeculo usque ad decimum sextum exarati sunt” (p. XII).  If this canon is to extend only to cases wherein the most ancient witnesses in competent numbers unanimously support a variation from the common text, I do not conceive that any judicious critic would object to its temperate application, though he may reasonably suspect that where the earliest available evidence is thus overwhelming, a portion of the later manuscripts will always be found to accord with it. What we do resist is a scheme, which, however guardedly proposed, shall exclude the cursive MSS from all real influence in determining the sacred text.  This is Dr. Tregelles’ avowed principle; that it is not Tischendorf’s (however much he may have once seemed to countenance it by his practice) plainly appears from his own distinct assertions:  “codices post octavum vel nonum saeculum scriptos negligendos aut parvi aestimandos non esse . . . . . . recentiorum codicum lectiones quas easdem antiquissimi interpretes ac patres testimonio suo confirment, antiquitatis commendatione minimè destitutas esse” (Proleg. p. XIII).  On this ground he praises the design of Reich, “praestantissimis codicibus minusculis denuo examinandis,” declaring of it “ea perquam utilia fore arbitror et ad historiam et ad emendationem textus (p. XXXIII, not).

To be continued, God willing . . . 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Scrivener: On the Principles of Comparative Criticism, Part 1 (1858)

      The following is an extract from F.H.A. Scrivenener's 1858/59 "Contributions to the Criticism of the Greek New Testament," which appeared as the Introduction to an Edition of the Codex Augiensis and 50 Other Manuscripts.  Only a few years later, Scrivener's work was eclipsed by the publication of Codex Sinaiticus, but there is much in his observations that remains relevant to the field of NTTC to this day.

     I have added a few notes for the sake of clarifying the meaning of some obscure words and references, and inserted his footnotes adjacent to his main comments, but for the most part Scrivener's comments are unchanged from the form in which they initially appeared.


The term “Comparative Criticism” has been happily applied to that delicate and important process of investigation whereby we seek to trace the relative value and mutual connection of the authorities upon which the Greek Text of the New Testament is based, whether they be manuscripts of the original, early versions, or citations by the Christian Fathers.  Our accurate acquaintance with these authorities is very limited, much that we know about them being due to the exertions of scholars yet living.  Yet we are sufficiently aware of the extent of the subject,1 and the minute and perplexing inquiries which beset the Biblical student at every step, not to seize with hearty welcome any clue that may promise to guide us through a labyrinth thus dark and doubtful.  To this natural feeling, far more than to any external evidence or internal probability of the theories themselves, I would ascribe the favor extended to the schemes of recension promulgated by Griesbach and his imitators in the last generation.  Men wished such compendious methods of settling the sacred text to be true, and as demonstrated truths they accordingly accepted them.  These systems, bold, ingenious, imposing, but utterly groundless, I have elsewhere discussed at length (Collation of the Holy Gospels, Introd. Chap. 1); it were needless to revert to them, for I believe that no one at the present day seriously entertains any one of them.  

[1 – I can hardly estimate the number of copies containing the Gospels alone (including Evangelistaria) to be much under a thousand, nineteen-twentieths of which are for critical purposes as good as uncollated.]  

     As Griesbach’s scheme and its subsequent modifications were gradually abandoned by critics, a more simple, but (I am persuaded) a no less mistaken theory grew up in its place, which, under the seemly profession of recurring to ancient authorities alone for the remodeling of the text, deliberately refuses so much as to hearken to the testimony of the vast majority of documents that freely offer themselves to the researches of patient industry.  This certainly appears a short and easy road to Scriptural science, but, like some other short routes, it may prove the longest in the end: yet it is recommended to us by names I cannot mention without deference and respect.  The countenance which Dr. Davidson lends to this principle is neither unreserved, nor supported by arguments he can well deem conclusive.  

     Tischendorf practically adopted it in his earlier works, but even then made concessions amounting to nearly all a discreet adversary would be disposed to claim: in Dr. Tregelles, however, it finds an advocate learned, able, uncompromising.1  [1 – I refer to Dr. Davidson’s “Treatise on Biblical Criticism,” Vol. II. 1852; Tischendorf’s Prolegomena to his manual Greek Testament, Lips. 1849; and Tregelles’ “Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament,” 1854.  These three works I shall cite throughout the present chapter, simply by the page affixed to their authors’ names.]     In my endeavor to refute what I conceive to be erroneous in his views on this subject, I trust I shall not be betrayed into one expression that may give him pain.  I honor the devotion and singleness of purpose he has brought to bear on these divine pursuits; I am sure that his edition of the New Testament by reason of the large accession it will make to our existing store of critical materials, and of its great accuracy so far as it has yet been tested, will possess, when completed,2 what he modestly hopes for it:  “distinctive value to the Biblical student.”  I am not the less earnest in hailing the fruits of his long and persevering toil, because I fear that, as a clergyman of the English Church, I differ from him on matters of even more consideration than systems of Comparative Criticism.


[2 – At present (July 1858) but one part of this laborious Work has issued from the press, for the use of Subscribers only.  It contains the Gospels of St Matthew and St. Mark.]





     For Dr. Davidson a short notice will suffice. In his chapter (an excellent one on the whole) entitled “General Observations on MSS,” he tells us that “The first thing is to collate the oldest thoroughly and accurately, publishing the text in facsimile or otherwise, so that they need not be re-examined.  All the rest, or the great mass of juniors, may be dispensed with.  They are scarcely needed, because the uncials are numerous.  At present they do nothing but hinder the advancement of critical science, by drawing off to them time and attention which might be better devoted to older documents.” (Davidson, p. 328, etc.)  He then states (I am not concerned to say how truly) that Scholz, from attempting too much, accomplished little, and adds, “Critics have discovered a better way than Scholz’s diffuse perfunctory method.”  No profound discovery surely; that it is better to do a little well than much carelessly is an axiom tolerably familiar to most of us. Yet why must what is done well be of necessity but little? 

     Dr. Davidson’s judgment, with regard to the order in which the work should be executed, must be assented to by every reasonable person.  Of course there is a presumption beforehand that the older MSS written in uncial characters will prove of more weight than comparatively modern copies in cursive letters: the rule of common sense is to examine first what promises the most richly to reward our pains. Yet has not this been done?

     Which of the uncial codices of the Greek Testament not previously published in full, has escaped the unwearied zeal of Tischendorf on the continent, of Tregelles at home?  I really know of none, except those printed in my present and former volume, and four Evangelistaria in England (Barocc. 202, Canonici Graeci, 85 and 92 in the Bodleian, and Wheeler 3 at Lincoln College), and perhaps a few abroad.  Now respecting Evangelistaria and Lectionaries, Dr. Davidson holds that “till the ancient codices are collated and applied, it were better not to meddle with them.  They must have been oftener copied, and therefore are more liable to errors of transcription.”  I may question alike his fact, his inference and his conclusion on this point, yet at any rate we have here a reason, satisfactory to himself, why the whole process of collation should not be suspended till a few Evangelistaria shall be examined, hardly any of which date higher than the tenth century.

     But the mass of juniors, he tells us, are scarcely needed, “because the uncials are numerous.”  On a first perusal I was fairly at a loss to account for such a statement from so well-informed a source.  At length I came to recollect that “numerous,” like some others, is only a relative term, conveying to different minds widely different ideas.  One person will think it a “long distance” from London to Lancashire; another uses the same expression when speaking of the space between this earth and 61 Cygni, some sixty-three billions [i.e., trillions - JSJ] of miles.  We shall therefore best see Dr. Davidson’s meaning when we come to simple numbers.   

     In the Apocalypse the uncial MSS are three:  one of first-rate consequence, complete and well-known (A), another very ancient and well-known, but a mere heap of fragments (C), and the third of late date, hastily collated, and now virtually inaccessible (B).  These, I conceive, are not so “numerous” as to tempt us to dispense with further information, when we fortunately have it within our reach.  In the case of the Acts and Epistles matters are not much better. In the Acts, three MSS are very old (ABC); the last of them is a fragment: two incomplete (DE) exceedingly precious, but not so early; one (Fa) a fragment containing just seven verses; one (I) of 42 verses; two (GH) imperfect copies of the ninth century; in all nine.  

     In the Catholic Epistles we find four entire MSS, one fragment.  The list for the Pauline Epistles is nominally thirteen; from which deduct E a mere transcript of D, make allowance for the intimate connection subsisting between F and G, and reckon several as mere fragments, three of but a few passages (FaIL): not one of the thirteen is complete.

     Dr. Davidson will probably tell us that he used the term “numerous” with reference to the uncial MSS of the Gospels; if so the fact should be stated, lest we be induced to throw aside the cursive copies of other parts of the New Testament as if they might be “dispensed with.”  Yet I really know not that his case is materially strengthened even in the Gospels. True, the list of uncials is formidable enough at a rapid glance.  Tischendorf’s catalogue (N. T. 7th edition, 1856) extends to thirty-two.  Let us briefly analyze its contents.

     In the first place we notice ten which consist of only a few leaves, some of but a few verses (FaJNOR1TWY1ΘΛ): they are beyond all price as specimens of the state of the text at periods varying from the sixth to the tenth century, yet I doubt whether all put together contain as much matter as St. Luke’s Gospel.  PQZ exhibit larger fragments, Z indeed a considerable portion of the single Gospel of St. Matthew: these three may contain about as much as the sum of the other ten.  The Nitrian palimpsest R consists of fragments of St Luke on 45 leaves; the two Bodleian MSS Γ and Λ are considerable, and between them contain about as much matter as one complete copy (see Tischendorf, Anecdota Sacra et Profana, pp. 4-6).  Then we must in fairness deduct six, which, being not earlier and some of them decidedly later than the tenth century (GHMSUX), are entitled to no more weight than many “junior copies" of the same age.  This observation applies, though with diminished force to five (FKVΓΔ) ascribed to the ninth, and even to three (ELΛ) of about the eighth century.  There will then remain but the four primary authorities ABCD, of which B alone is complete, A and C being seriously mutilated. I cannot imagine that many will judge this apparatus criticus so comprehensive, as to render further investigation superfluous.

     Notwithstanding the sentiments on which I have commented, it would be wrong to regard Dr. Davidson as a willing advocate for the suppression of all manuscript evidence not written in uncial letters.  I shall presently have occasion to confirm my own argument by statements of his respecting the importance of the cursive or later codices, quite as full as anything I could hope to say.  The fact is that Davidson, himself no mean example of the dignity of intellectual toil, despairs of a thorough collation of all existing materials from the languid students of our age.  “It is sufficient for one man to collate well several important documents, whether they be versions, MSS, or patristic citations.  It exhausts his patience and energy.” (Davidson, p. 105).  So discouraging a representation of energy and patience exhausted by a few slight efforts cannot, must not, be true of the younger school of Biblical critics in our two great Universities; I will leave Dr. Dobbin, the editor of the Codex Montfortianus, to speak for that of Dublin.  These men will not surely much longer suffer the manuscript treasures of their public libraries to lie neglected or unapplied. The very repulsiveness of this task, at its first aspect, is to the earnest student only one reason the more for prosecuting it with ever-growing interest;

Et non sentitur SEDULITATE labor.


To be continued in PART TWO

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Palladius and Mark 16:19

Palladius of Ratiaria:  ever hear of him?  Probably not:  his name does not appear among the Latin Church Fathers cited in the 4th edition of the UBS Greek New Testament.  There was a man named Palladius who preached the gospel in Ireland in the early 400s, before Saint Patrick – but Palladius of Ratiaria, in about the same period (late 300s-early 400s) was in a far different region, where Bulgaria is today.

Before the Council of Aquileia in 381, Palladius had served as bishop, but at that council Palladius and Secundianus, another Arian bishop, were removed from office by the other bishops at the council.  Their chief theological opponent was the famous Ambrose of Milan. 

In an early fifth-century manuscript kept at the National Library of France – Manuscript Latin 8907 – several early theological works are preserved, including Hilary of Poitier’s De Trinitate, Contra Auxentium, and De Synodis, and the first two books of Ambrose of Milan’s De Fide.  Also in MS Lat. 8907 is a record of the proceedings of the Council of Aquileia.  Remarkably, this manuscript, produced in the early 400s, preserves writings and records of events from the 300s.

In part of the margin of MS Lat. 8907, there is what has been titled the Dissertation of Maximinus Against Ambrose, or “Arian Scholia on the Council of Aquileia,” which mostly constitutes a critique of the proceedings of the Council of Aquileia from an Arian point of view.  The modern-day author William A. Sumruld describes the second part of the Arian scholia like this:

            “The second major block [of scholia] is separated from the first by a gap of twenty-four pages.  It begins with two extracts from Ambrose’s De Fide, each followed by a reply ascribed to someone called Palladius, probably Palladius of Ratiara (condemned at the council).  The second reply of Palladius is followed by an Arian account of the council’s proceedings, still addressing Ambrose directly in a tone of protest and ending with an appeal for a new hearing before the Senate at Rome.  It portrays Palladius and Secundianus as confessors of the faith faced with a false bishop, Ambrose, and a band of ignorant conspirators.” (p. 154, Augustine and the Arians, © 1994 Associated University Presses Inc.) 

The material from Maximinus (and his sources, including Palladius) in the margin of Latin MS 8907 thus forms an interesting witness to Arian theology in the first half of the 400s.  Roger Gryson edited this material in 1980, with a French translation, in Scolies Ariennes sur le Concile D’Aquilée – Introduction, Texte Latin, Traduction et Notes, replacing an earlier (1899) edition of Maximinus’ dissertation against Ambrose by Friedrich Kauffmann

There are plenty of appeals to the New Testament embedded in the portions of the margin of MS Latin 8907 attributed to Palladius.  Some New Testament passages that are utilized in one way or another include:

        In Matthew:  27:54.
        In Mark:  10:17-18, 16:19.

        In Luke:  1:33.

        In John:  1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 8:35, 9:36-37, 10:11, 10:36, 11:42, 14:28, 17:3, 18:37.

        In Acts:  1:11.

        In Romans:  1:20, 1:25, 5:10, 8:31-32, 8:34, 16:27.

        In I Corinthians:  1:13, 1:24, 2:6-8, 8:6, 15:3. 

        In II Corinthians:  1:3.

        In Ephesians:  1:17, 3:14-15, 4:6.

        In Philippians:  3:2.

        In Colossians:  1:15-17, 3:1.

        In I Thessalonians:  1:9-10.

        In I Timothy:  1:17, 6:15, 6:16.

        In Titus:  3:10-11. 

Let’s take a closer look at Palladius’ utilization of Mark 16:19.  In the margin of 347r of Latin MS 8907 (on pages 316-318 of Gryson’s transcription), before the focus shifts to Acts 1:11, we find: 

Tres etiam consessores, cum Spiritus Sanctus de unius eiusdemque sui domini predicauerit sede per Dauid dicens [or dicentem]: Dixit Dominus domino meo:  Sede a dextris meis, sed et euangelista Marcus solum Ihesum Cristum ascendisse in caelum et ad dexteram Dei rettulerit sedere, dicens:  Et dominis quidem Ihesus, postquam locutus est, receptus est in caelos et sedet ad dexteram Dei.

Gryson translated this as:

<< Trois qui siègent ensemble >> également, alors que l’Esprit-Saint a parlé clairement d’un unique siège, celui de son seigneur, en disant par la bouche de David : << Le Seigneur a dit a mon seigneur: Siège à ma droite >>, et que l’évangéliste Marc rapporte que seul Jésus-Christ est monté au ciel et siège à la droite de Dieu : << Et le seigneur Jésus, après qu’il eut parlé, a été accueilli dans les cieux et siège à la droite de Dieu. >>

I am not fluent in French but I think that in English this yields something like:

”Three who sit together:  And while the Holy Spirit spoke clearly of a single seat, that of his lord, speaking by the mouth of David. “The Lord said to my lord:  Sit at my right.”   And the evangelist Mark relates that only Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God:  “And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken, was received into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God.””

Whatever improvements might be made in this English rendering, this is a clear citation of Mark 16:19.  I suggest that Palladius’ existence, and his utilization of Mark 16:19, should be acknowledged in the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament, and in the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece

(With essential assistance from Jil De La Tourette and Grbh Guillaume)