Printed Editions | top
Since the earliest days that differences between N.T. manuscripts began to be observed,
critics of the text have been divisible into two main classes according to the aim that they set before themselves in dealing with
The one class is concerned to produce unity.
An eclectic method is employed in order to preserve all that is felt to be best in the multiplicity of texts.
The other class aims at discovering, at all costs, the text that is the nearest possible to the original.
'The almost universal tendency of transcribers to make their text as full as possible, and to eschew omissions' (Hort), is reflected in some early editors, but not in all.
The two methods are distinguished in an instructive passage of Eusebius, On the Discrepance of the Gospels, quoted by Hort: [The New Testament in Greek, 1896, Appendix, p.31.]
'For at this point [i.e. at xvi.8, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ] the end of the Gospel according to Mark is determined in nearly all the copies of the Gospel according to Mark; whereas what follows, being but scantily current, in some but not in all copies, will be redundant [i.e. as such should be discarded], and especially if it should contain a contradiction to the testimony of the other evangelists...
[That is the view of one class of critic.]
While another, not daring to reject anything whatever that is in any way current in the Scripture of the Gospels, will say that the reading is double, as in many other cases, and that each [reading] must be received; on the ground that this finds no more acceptance than that, nor that than this, with faithful and discreet persons.'
The inclusive tendency, which is on a par with the harmonizing of
commentators, is here sharply contrasted with what we think of as the critical method, the latter of which was chiefly
characteristic of Alexandria, though there are manuscripts outside Alexandria which express a spirit of keen criticism.
What were considered to be interpolations were carefully noted (both in pagan and Christian writings), and often obelized, or bracketed and dotted for deletion.
The only course, however, open to an editor or commentator who desired as pure a text as possible was to employ the earliest manuscripts he could find.
This was doubtless what was done by the scholars Origen and Jerome, who fill so important a place in the history of the text.
The latter claims to have used ancient Greek codices rather than the emended ones containing the revisions attributed to Hesychius and Lucian.
[Whether these attributions are correct, which Jerome makes in his Epistula ad Damasum, is very doubtful; cf. Sir F. G. Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible, pp.183, 209.]
This, however, was not the bent of mind of the Christian world in general.
The opposite tendency, which Eusebius evidently preferred, was followed by Lucian, who deliberately enriched his text with material drawn from manuscripts of the main types that existed in his day.
His revision was the earliest form of what became the standard text represented by the mass of manuscripts that have come down to us, and in conformity with which nearly all Greek manuscripts have, to a greater or less extent, been corrected.
It was a text 'smooth and readable in structure, and competently exact for all practical purposes' (Warfield).
And it continued to be the text of Christendom, untouched by critical hands, till the Renaissance.
In 1514 was undertaken the first printed edition of the New Testament, that of Stunica in Cardinal Ximenes's Complutensian (Alca'la) Polyglot. But it was eight years before it saw the light.
In the meantime Erasmus, at Basle, prepared an edition in great haste to
outstrip the other, and published it in 1516.
The humanist worked ad maiorem Erasmi gloriam.
He admitted himself that it was precipitatum verius quam editum.
He used late medieval manuscripts of the Byzantine text, its rival - when it appeared seven or eight years later - being based on earlier manuscripts of the same text.
Other editions followed, which were little more than reprints of these, especially of the Erasmian.
In 1550 appeared the magnificent edition of Stephanus, printed in Paris,
which was almost entirely Erasmian.
And an unsatisfactory revision of this, in five successive editions, by the reformer Beza was printed in the beautiful Elzevir 24mo editions issued at Leyden in 1624, 1633, &c.
In that of 1633 it was stated that it contained 'the text now received by all'; and so the Stephanus-Elzevir text came to be known as the Textus Receptus, the Received Text, and is cited by the Greek symbol ς (= st for Stephanus).
And reprints of the Stephanus or the Elzevir are the traditional text of the New Testament.
No Greek text intended to reproduce exactly that, which underlay our AV., has ever been printed.
Beza's fifth and last text, of 1598, was more likely than any other to be in
the translators' hands, but they sometimes departed from it in retaining language inherited from Tyndale and his successors, which
had been founded on the text of other Greek editions.
They also adopted some readings, which Beza had mentioned in his notes, and others, perhaps, on independent grounds. (The RV in 1881 was translated from a text produced by a compromise between 'the text presumed to underlie the Authorized Version' and the text of Westcott and Hort.)
An impetus seems to have been given to the critical study of the text by the
presentation to King Charles I of the codex Alexandrinus (A) in 1628.
Nevertheless for two centuries no attempt was made to produce an edition independent of the Textus Receptus, and based upon the best manuscripts, because the material for it was as yet almost non-existent.
One edition after another appeared in which the editors tried to revise the T.R. with the help of the manuscripts that were coming to light.
This stage of textual criticism lasted from 1657 to 1831, the chief editions being those of Walton's Polyglot (1657), Fell (1695), Mill (1707), Wells (1709-19), all English scholars; and then a succession of German ones: Bengel (1734), Wetstein (1751, 1752), Griesbach (1775-1827), Matthaei (1782-8), and Scholtz (1830-6).
The most important of these were those of Bengel and Griesbach, the latter being helped by suggestions of Semler, and by the need of reinforcing his position in 1811 against theories of Hug.
But in 1831 Lachmann began to work upon scientific principles laid down
more than a century before by the genius of Bentley, whose intention of producing an edition had not found fulfilment.
He constructed a text directly from ancient documents without regard to printed editions, and issued better editions in 1842-50.
He was immediately followed by Tischendorf (1840-72), whose eighth edition, published in parts in 1864 and 1872, is still the chief storehouse of variant readings, with which G. W. Homer's apparatus criticus to his Coptic editions may be compared.
The last important edition before that of Westcott and Hort was that of Tregelles, in parts from 1857 to 1879.
The advance in the science of criticism was made possible by the continuous
discovery of fresh material, which led to the recognition that manuscripts were to be classified according to the type of text
which they contained.
Bentley saw that they could be divided broadly into an earlier and a later class, viz., as we can now call them, pre-Byzantine and Byzantine.
Bengel accepted this division, calling them African and Asiatic.
But he went farther and perceived that the earlier was not homogeneous, and he divided it into two families represented by codex A and the Old Latin.
He recognized also that his 'African' on the whole was of more value than his 'Asiatic'.
Griesbach anticipated modern results with great acuteness by naming the latter class Constantinopolitan, and the two families of the former Alexandrian and Western.
Not only so, but he was the first to perceive with any clearness that different families were, in some cases, represented in different parts of the same manuscript; and he even dimly detected the hardest part of the problem - the mixture of texts of different types in the texts of manuscripts.
The Alexandrian and Western he held to have been types at least as early as the third century, and the Constantinopolitan not earlier than the fourth or fifth.
From the work of Hug it became clearer that the Western text had a wide and early currency; and he thought that it was a corrupt text universally current in the second century, of which the existing manuscripts (except D) represented three revisions.
Tregelles helped to substantiate scientifically the fact that Griesbach's Alexandrian and Western texts were earlier than, and superior to, the Constantinopolitan.
Thus the increase of material, and a growing insight into true methods, prepared the way for the work of Westcott and Hort, which must be studied next.
Internal Evidence | Genealogical Evidence | Mixture | True or False readings | Application of Principals | top
The principles on which their edition is constructed are set forth by Hort in an Introduction and Appendix, which form the second volume of their The New Testament in the Original Greek (Cambridge and London,
1882); and those principles were summarized at the end of both the larger and smaller editions of their text.
A second and corrected impression of the former appeared in December 1881, and the latter (a reprint of the former) in 1887.
The principles are of permanent validity; and scholarship owes a heavy debt to the two great
Cambridge men for their clear grasp and formulation of them.
But since science never stands still, their application of them has undergone some modification in the last forty years by further study and the discovery of fresh material.
The first thing to be done is to recognize the different kinds of evidence available for
determining a given reading.
The most rudimentary form of criticism, when variant readings present themselves, is to
adopt the one that seems to be the most probable.
But even this cannot be done without weighing two kinds of probability - intrinsic and transcriptional.
The reader may consider the context, the grammar, the style of the author and his manner in
other passages; and may decide, with regard to a given reading, either by itself or in comparison with other readings, what he
thinks that the author meant to say.
The trained reader will be more likely to arrive at the truth than the untrained.
But an author does not always express himself in the best way pos?sible; and what the reader imagines he must have said may sometimes be an improvement, but textually a corruption, of his actual words.
And it may all too frequently happen that a reader does not fully understand the mind or the circumstances or the purposes of the author, so that he may corrupt without improving his words.
This is a safer, because a less subjective, basis of criticism.
There are certain causes of corruption, mentioned on p. 374, which seem generally to operate in manual transcription of any kind. What Hort calls 'observed proclivities of average copyists' allow of generalizations on which transcriptional probability can be based.
And the greater the experience of the trained reader in these sources of corruption, the more safely will he deal with this class of probability.
But proclivities are awkward things to judge.
It is extremely difficult for the most highly trained reader to determine which of various impulses may have acted upon a scribe.
That which actually did, may not have been the one, which the reader might think the strongest.
On the other hand, the reading which appeals to him as intrinsically the best may be only that which the scribe felt to be an improvement, and was therefore, in fact, a corruption.
But in practice the two kinds of probability are not often in antagonism, because an ancient scribe was seldom able to make an 'improvement' which to the literary and historical sense of the trained student in modern times appears really better than the original.
Transcriptional probability is chiefly of value when the trained student can feel the superiority of a given reading, and yet has reasons for thinking that an ancient scribe would probably prefer a variant. In such cases, which are of frequent occurrence, the mutual aid of the two kinds of probability can be of the utmost help in connexion with other methods of criticism.
But when they coincide, and no likely cause can be assigned for the existence of a variant, then other methods must be sought to arrive at a decision.
An important part of the weighing of evidence is to consider whether a witness is normally
credible and trustworthy; and the inquiry into the character and antecedents of a document offers a safer criterion than the mere
balancing of probabilities, because it deals more with objective fact, and less with personal surmise.
One fact about a manuscript that can be determined with approximate accuracy is its date.
Sometimes a scribe actually dated it; sometimes the date is fixed within more or less narrow limits by external facts or records; more often the century, at least, to which it belongs is learned from the palaeographical details of the manuscript itself.
It is far from being a final criterion, because a late manuscript may have been copied immediately from an early one; but broadly speaking, the later a manuscript the greater the number of corruptions it is likely to have inherited.
The date, however, can be only a general guide, and by itself is useless in determining which is the better of two variants.
Here begins the first serious labour of the textual critic.
He must not be content with deciding upon reading after reading, as they occur, on the lines of Probability.
He must do so for the entire document in such a way that he becomes acquainted with its character as a whole, intimately enough to be able to gauge its relative value as compared with that of other documents that he has similarly studied.
There is only a certain proportion of its variants on which he can, at first reading, decide from Internal Evidence.
There will be many others that have left him in doubt; but on studying them again, he finds that his valuation of the manuscript as a whole helps to turn the scale in several places.
If he has come to feel that the manuscript as a whole is good, he will be predisposed to prefer its readings in many instances where the Internal Evidence was not clear enough for a decision.
That is an important factor in Westcott and Hort's system.
And yet no single document is free from errors.
The student may feel certain that Internal Evidence sometimes condemns a reading in a 'good' document; but where his two lines of evidence are in conflict, nothing but personal caprice can lead him to follow either, if he does not possess a further criterion.
Documents are never good or bad absolutely, but only comparatively, each having its obvious slips of scribes or translators.
A good text was sometimes very badly transcribed, and vice versa.
But there are further difficulties.
A document containing more books than one may have been copied from more exemplars than one, which may have been of various degrees of excellence.
Or - the most perplexing of all - a document may contain a mixed text, i.e. its text may be the result of an irregular combination of two or more texts belonging to different lines of transmission.
So that the words 'good' and 'bad' cannot be applied to the document as a whole, but only to this or that element which has come to it from entire lines of textual ancestry.
Lastly, the Internal Evidence of Documents decreases in utility when, with the increase of the number of documents, several of them appear on general grounds to be 'good', and yet are in disagreement with each other, in which case the student is again reduced to the uncertainties of personal judgement.
Hort places this last, after the next type of evidence, because it would naturally ocme last
in the order of discovery.
But logically it must be placed at this point in the evolving of safe critical method.
If the general value of one document can be gauged in relation to others by an examination of all its readings in the light of probability, it must be possible similarly to gauge the general value of a given group of documents in relation to other groups.
This has two advantages over the internal evidence of a single document:
(1) If a document has a mixed text, i.e. contains elements derived from different ancestries, it can be ascertained which elements have descended to every member of the group that is being studied, and which have not.
And thus the various mixed elements in a document can be studied separately as though a different document were being studied in each case, because every reading (accident apart) goes back to a previous document from which it is derived.
(2) A very small group can be found 'good', while a very large one may be 'bad'.
The counting of documents can play no part at all in textual criticism.
All documents that contain a reading have inherited that reading from a common ancestor.
'Community of reading', as Hort says, 'implies community of origin.'
But it should be observed that community in a true reading may imply only the common descent from the autograph.
'The only kind of consent between documents that shows community of origin [sc. short of the autograph] is community in error' (Burkitt).
And so we are led to the best and surest kind of evidence that critics have learnt to use.
To gauge rightly the value of a group in relation to other groups, it is necessary to know
the genealogical relationship of all documents to each other.
If of ten documents containing the same work nine coincide in a reading, while the tenth has a variant, the subjective weighing of probability between group and group is far from adequate.
For the nine might all have been copies of the same document, in which case the choice would not be between nine and one, but between two single documents.
Or the nine might all have been copied from the tenth, and their variations be nothing but corruptions, and as far as those ten are concerned the reading of the tenth is to be preferred.
But the former case affords the better opportunity for the critic, because the two single documents point back to a common source, i.e. a point nearer to the autograph.
Or, once more, the nine might be found to fall into two sets, five descended from one lost ancestor and four from another; and in that case the five and the four and the one resolve themselves into three single documents, and the process of tracing back would continue.
Let us suppose that there are three groups α, β, and γ; and that, in a large
number of cases in which we are confronted by triple variants, the documents in the three groups are found normally or frequently
arrayed together in support of them respectively.
This teaches us that for a large proportion of their text the documents in each group have a common ancestor.
Or it may happen that in a large number of other cases one of these groups is divided against itself, and each division of it must have had its own ancestor.
Where there has been no mixture the ancestor from which the whole group has inherited a reading stands nearer to die autograph than the ancestor from which a division has inherited its reading.
Again, let us suppose that x1 and x2 are copies of x, and that y1 and y2 are copies of y.
Where there has been no mixture, the x's can side against the y's;
x1 or x2 can go over to the y's;
and y1 or y2 can go over to the x's;
but neither x1y1 nor x2y2 can side together against the other two:
these are cross-combinations due to mixture.
This greatly increases the complexity of the task.
From a variety of causes readings were introduced into manuscripts not from their proper line of descent but from one or more other lines.
In this case there is no homogeneous text that can be traced back to an ancestor but, as has been said, to different elements in a document, each element representing, as it were, a separate document whose ancestor must be traced.
One result is that the ancestor of the larger or more complex group cannot necessarily be assumed to stand nearer to the autograph than the ancestor of the smaller, because readings, which had previously only a narrow distribution, may have been given, in comparatively late times, a wide extension by favourable circumstances.
The first step, then, is obviously to recognize mixture when we meet it.
This is done most easily in the case of 'conflate' readings, i.e. where two variants are combined into one whole, forming a third reading.
It is far more likely that the third is a combination of the other two than that the other two are independent simplifications of the third.
If, then, we note a considerable number of conflate readings, and find practically the same groups of documents supporting the two shorter readings and the connate reading respectively, we learn that the third group is certainly tainted with mixture, while the other two contain at least portions of two ancient texts which were eventually mixed together.
The groups are seldom quite constant, though there is generally a nucleus of documents within them that is.
But we feel certain that the documents, say in a group a which habitually supports conflates, witness to a later and less pure text than those from which they are habitually absent, say β and γ.
But mixture does not always reveal itself in conflation.
Two variants might frequently occur which could not possibly be combined into one.
One of the two, say the reading of group β, is simply taken over into the documents that habitually favour conflates (group α).
But since these are known, the real evidence for the two readings in the case of mixture remains as before.
On the other hand, in so far as its readings are not due to mixture, the ancestor of group a was a manuscript in the same line of transmission as the ancestor of group β, and becomes an additional witness for the β reading.
We now know the way in which the existing documents reveal their ancestry.
But it remains to be seen how far this enables us to distinguish true from false readings.
First, it is obvious that if a manuscript A is extant we can disregard all its descendants.
Apart from mixture, all readings in which they differ from A are wrong, except in the rare cases where a scribe may have hit upon the true reading by pure accident when A is wrong.
If a manuscript B with a different text has no descendants, and A has a dozen, a reading in the latter must not be reckoned as having a probability of 13 to 1: it is simply A against B.
If A is lost, its descendants still have only the weight of one document against B ;
but we must use their evidence in such a way that we can detect the errors which have been introduced into them since A, before we compare them with B - that is to say, we must reconstruct A from them.
In practice, however, we do not start from classified manuscripts;
we have to discover which belong to the same families by an examination of their common readings, and thus reconstruct the ancestors of the various groups, which may disclose themselves.
The following genealogical tree is given by Hort as an illustration (Introd., p. 54):
0 is a manuscript descended from the
and the use of this tree, therefore, will take us no nearer to the autograph than 0.
If, from another set of manuscripts, we could reconstruct another ancestor P, then 0 and P would point back to their common ancestor Q, nearer to the autograph.
But when we have worked back with all the available evidence to the earliest ancestors we can, and have not yet reached the autograph, it is clear that genealogical evidence can help us no farther.
And yet the period between the autograph and the earliest traceable ancestor was that in which it was most easy for corruptions to appear, because the books had not begun to be considered sacred.
That is the position in which we are left with regard to every book of the New Testament.
The number and complexity of the Gospel codices take us farther back than those of any other book;
but in the last resort we are obliged to be content with subjective considerations, and fall back on the internal evidence of documents and groups.
But it is important to understand why complexity can be a help and not a
In Hort's imaginary tree, in all cases in which (say) the γ group agrees with that of the δε groups against the αβ groups, the αβ readings can be rejected (except in the cases of mixture or accidental coincidence), because, while a corruption can have occurred in an intermediate ancestor of αβ, it is possible for γ and δε to coincide only by having received the reading through Χ and Υ from Ο.
And there is nothing (except mixture or accident) to make αβ agree with the autograph against Ο.
The same is true when any one of α, β, γ, δ, ε stands against the others, or when (by mutual mixture among descendants of Χ antecedent to α, β, γ) any two of α, β, γ stand against the others.
The consent of Υ with any part of the descendants of Χ leads back through Ο to the autograph.
The same must be true, therefore, in the last generation, when any one of the five lesser sets is divided against itself.
But lastly, if mixture comes in from another line of descent than that of Ο, quite
different conclusions may be reached.
If, say, γ sides with δε against αβ, it may be that γ and Υ have both been affected by mixture, so that the reading of αβ may be that of Χ and of Ο.
Or αβ may have received a mixture from a text independent of Ο, and this rival to Ο may have preserved the true reading of the autograph.
But these suppositions need be entertained only when the reading in question is actually found in fairly numerous manuscripts, or when there is other good ground for supposing that mixture from without exists.
Such are the principles underlying the work of Westcott and Hort.
Their Introduction elaborates them, but this may serve as a summary of their main argument.
Their application of them to the then known documents must now be sketched.
(Cf. E. C. Colwell, J.B.L. liv, 1935, pp.211-21.]
An overwhelming proportion of the readings common to the great mass of Greek manuscripts - cursives
and late uncials' - is identical with those of Chrysostom's quotations, of his fellow pupil Theodorus, and their teacher Diodorus.
The first named spent the last ten years of his life first at Constantinople as bishop and then wandering as an exile; the second was at Mopsuestia; and the third at Tarsus; but all three belonged to, and worked at, Antioch.
Thus the fundamental text of late Greek manuscripts generally is that which was dominant in the second half of the fourth century, which Hort calls 'Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian'.
The varying degrees of corruption of our better manuscripts cannot be understood unless it is realized that this 'Syrian' text was either contemporary with, or earlier than, the oldest manuscripts that have come down to us, and that every one of them, with the exception of B and early papyri, has been to some extent affected by it.
All the non-Syrian texts to be found in our manuscripts are older than the Syrian.
To prove this Hort examined:
(1) eight conflate readings;
(2) ante-Nicene patristic quotations;
(3) the internal evidence of Syrian readings.
(1) In each case two short readings are found in two different groups of documents, and they are conflated in a third.
And in each case the ancestors from which the two former groups were descended were older than that of the third group.
He names them 'Neutral and Alexandrian', 'Western', and 'Syrian' respectively.
(2) On patristic writings he sums up by saying, 'Before the middle of the third century, at the very earliest, we have no historical signs of the existence of readings, conflate or other, that are marked as distinctively Syrian by the want of attestation from groups which have preserved the other ancient forms of text'.
(3) The authors of the Syrian text selected or combined, with many alterations of their own, the readings of at least three earlier forms of text, an Alexandrian, a Western, and a third.
The net result is that a reading that is distinctively Syrian is worthless.
And in the case of any other reading the ancestor of the Syrian text has the value of only one manuscript siding with the group that contains that reading.
Hort wrote before enough material was available for a just appreciation of the nature of the
text to which was given this name, which came down from Griesbach.
He holds it in lower esteem than that which it has gained in recent times.
He admits that 'it is not uncommon to find one, two, or three of the most independent and most authentically Western documents' attesting 'a state of the Western text when some of its characteristic corruptions had not yet arisen, and others had'.
But this means that in some cases they must attest the earliest known readings, and probably more often than he was willing to admit.
Of characteristic corruptions he names three:
(a) Readings due to a love of paraphrase,
(b) Non-biblical alterations and additions,
(c) Assimilations, e.g. between parallel passages of the Old Testament, of Ephesians and Colossians, of Jude and 2 Peter, and above all of the first three Gospels.
So he concludes that, 'whatever be the merits of individual Western readings, the Western texts generally are due to a corruption of the apostolic texts'.
He recognizes their merit, however, in a small number of passages, all (except Matt.xxvii.49) in the last three chapters of Luke, where he believes interpolation to have taken place in all non-Western texts, but not in the Western.
He names these 'Western non-interpolations', though modern scholars would say that this class is not homogeneous and that a simpler term would be 'Western omissions'.
The trend of modern criticism is to recognize a larger number of passages in which the Western text has escaped interpolation where all other texts have suffered and at the same time to recognize, more than Hort did, the possibility of doctrinal modifications upon the text especially by 'Western' scribes.
It is not unnatural that a purer text should have been preserved at Alexandria with its exact
Readings which are pre-Syrian and non-Western find the great bulk of their support in writers connected with Egypt, especially Alexandria and neighbouring places in north Egypt.
But not there only; early non-Western readings were preserved in various degrees of purity in regions remote from Alexandria.
Hort held, therefore, that it was misleading to use the term 'Alexandrian' for all such readings.
It must be applied to those that are normally supported by distinctively Alexandrian authorities.
'The more startling characteristics of Western corruption are almost wholly absent from the Alexandrian readings...
The changes made have usually more to do with language than matter, and are marked by an effort after correctness of phrase.
They are evidently the work of careful and leisurely hands, and not seldom display a delicate philological tact which unavoidably lends them at first sight a deceptive appearance of originality.'
Thus the Alexandrian text, from Hort's point of view, was mostly the result of Alexandrian corrections.
There are, then, readings which are pre-Syrian, but neither Western nor Alexandrian.
They may be seen, for example, when documents normally Western attest non-Western readings in opposition to other Western manuscripts, in cases where mixture seems to be improbable.
Such documents attest a state of the text when it had been only partially Westernized, and presuppose an earlier text which was not Western at all.
And they can be seen most instructively when both the Western and Alexandrian texts err, 'especially when they severally exhibit independent modes of easing an apparent difficulty in the text antecedent to both'.
No manuscript, version, or patristic writer preserves this text in its original purity; it can be arrived at only by a delicate comparison of pre-Syrian groups.
But the nearest approach to it is to be found in B (except in the Pauline epistles and Apoc.), and next to it, but a long way after, comes א.
Of other manuscripts, which again come a long way after א, it may be said in general that those which have most Alexandrian readings usually have also most neutral readings.
Modern criticism has only confirmed the fact that B contains a purer text than any other
known manuscript, and that Westcott and Hort's edition contained a purer text than any that preceded it.
But their argument with regard to a neutral text has been called in question, and it is usual now to put B and א at the head of the Alexandrian text, not apart as 'neutral'.
More recent editors have, indeed, reached not dis-similar results by other methods.
And these methods must now be studied.
Like all scientific results, those reached by Westcott and Hort were a
stepping-stone to more.
Their solid contribution was the safe foundation which they laid in the principle that manuscripts are to be judged not by their age, nor the numbers in which they support a given reading, but by the type of text which they exhibit, which enables them to be grouped genealogically.
Salmon [Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the N.T., 1897, p.5], though he criticized their work, said that it could be called epoch-making quite as correctly as that of Darwin.
And to a large extent the grouping, which they mapped out, holds good today.
But since their time several discoveries have been made, and experts have been continuously at work, with the result that their conclusions are undergoing certain modifications.
Their first chief conclusion, which may be said to be permanently
established, was that the text, generally speaking, of later manuscripts, which superseded all earlier texts, was the result of a
revision which was officially, and became universally, approved.
No manuscript containing the actual text of the revision survives (unless it is 77, as Mrs. Lake's work suggests [Family II and the Codex Alexandrinus, 1936; cf. B. H. Streeter, J.T.S. xxxviii, 1937, pp.225-9.]), but in a slightly modified form it became authoritative throughout the Byzantine Empire from the ninth century.
Hence the name 'Byzantine', akin to Griesbach's, is preferable to the name 'Syrian', which Hort uses (which might be thought to have something to do with 'Syriac'), or 'Antiochian' as it is sometimes called.
But it no doubt emanated from Antioch, since it was used, as has been said, by Chrysostom, who worked there for nearly twenty years, and by no writer before his date.
In 398 he became Patriarch of Constantinople, where the text was speedily adopted.
The revision was possibly made about 300 by Lucian of Antioch, who was martyred there in 312.
His authorship is supported by two statements of Jerome:
1. In his preface to his Vulgate Chronicles: 'Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint extol the authority of Hesychius; Constantinople to Antioch approves the manuscripts containing the text of Lucian the martyr; between these, the provinces of Palestine read the codices edited by Origen, which Eusebius and Pamphilus published.
The whole world is thus divided between a threefold variety.'
2. In his preface to his Vulgate Gospels he speaks of the multitude of differences in Latin manuscripts, which must be corrected from the fountainhead of the Greek; but he will have nothing to do with the versions attributed to Lucian and Hesychius, of which he speaks very slightingly.
But it must be noted that he may be referring only to the Greek Old and not to the New Testament at all.
From the modern point of view the revision had deplorable results.
Once an approved text had been issued, corrections were gradually made in earlier manuscripts to bring them into conformity with it; and of their descendants, the Greek manuscripts that we possess, not one (except probably B) escaped the infection, except the earlier papyri.
The revision was felt to be necessary because two centuries of corruption had
produced a bewildering variety of texts.
But when the unrevised elements in our manuscripts are examined, the texts are found to belong severally to certain areas.
In the two centuries during which the books were only gradually becoming recognized as inspired, the manuscripts were subject to all the ordinary mistakes and corruptions of scribes, most of whom were not trained copyists but poor and often ignorant amateurs.
As soon as there were numerous copies of a book in circulation in the same area, one copy would constantly be corrected by another, and thus within that area a general standard of text would be preserved.
But what we have to consider is that it is unlikely that the errors in the first copy of the Gospel of John, for example, which reached Rome would be the same as those in the first copy which came to Alexandria; and as each of these would become the parent of most other copies used in those respective cities, there would, from the very beginning, be some difference between the local texts of Rome and Alexandria. ...
In this way local texts would inevitably develop, not only in the greater, but also in the smaller centres of Christianity.
But along with a growing veneration for the text as that of inspired Scripture, there would come a tendency, whenever a new copy of the Gospels for official use in the public services was wanted, to lay more and more stress on the importance of having an accurate text.
This would naturally result in the smaller churches obtaining new copies from the greater metropolitan sees, since these would be thought likely to possess a pure text.
From these any copies in private hands in the smaller churches would be corrected.
Thus the local texts of smaller churches would tend to become assimilated to those of the greater centres in their immediate neighbourhood
[Streeter [The Four Gospels, 1926, pp.35 f.]].
When we look for local texts we find three, at any rate, represented in the
Coptic, Syriac, and Latin versions, which would be needed for missionary work in the areas where those languages were respectively
spoken, i.e. in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, and in Italy, Gaul, and Africa.
And they would be translated, for the most part, from Greek manuscripts which had developed each its different type of text in its own area.
The descendants of those manuscripts may have suffered, in different ways and degrees, mixture and assimilation to the Byzantine standard; but we may antecedently expect to find, by genealogical methods, types of text which may be called Alexandrian, Eastern, and Westerp.
The earliest Father whose writings afford any evidence of the text current in Alexandria is
The text of his quotations is rather a puzzle when compared with that of Alexandrian manuscripts.
P. M. Barnard shows that it is strongly coloured by 'Western' elements. [Texts and Studies, v. 5, Cambridge, 1899.]
But he had travelled in south Italy, as well as in Syria and Palestine, before he went to Alexandria.
And Streeter (op. cit., pp. 57 f.) suggests that he took with him thither a Western text, and that becoming familiar with an Alexandrian text which he heard read in church, he used Alexandrian readings when he quoted from his memory of what he heard, but Western readings when he used his own manuscripts brought from Italy.
Further, that his pupils may have noted some of his Western readings, which thus became perpetuated in the Alexandrian text.
But this does not explain all the phenomena.
There are also readings which he may have brought from the East, and which point to pre-Origenian types of which little is known.
Origen is the first biblical scholar who is known to have interested himself in textual
But while his work on the LXX is well known, there is no clear evidence that he revised the text of the New Testament.
And yet he was not a man who would be likely to accept the popular text without critical caution.
The oldest papyri suggest that the B type of text was known in Egypt before his day
[But L. Cerfaux would challenge this.
He thinks that there is no trace of the B-א type of text in Alexandria to be found in second-century papyri or Gnostic authors (Ephemerides Theolagicae Lovanienses, xv, 1938, pp.674-82)]
and he cannot be considered the source of it.
But if he used there (and at Caesarea) a type of text which compromised between the short, austere B-text and the more popular and 'gossipy' D type of text, his choice no doubt influenced many scribes who resorted later to the library of Pamphilus. [Cf. Lagrange, Revue Biblique, iv, 1895, pp.501-24.]
However much older than Origen the B-א type is, there is an increasing agreement among scholars that it cannot be placed on quite so high a pedestal as Westcott and Hort placed their 'Neutral' text, a transcendent text raised above local corruptions whether Western or Alexandrian.
Salmon complained that the name is 'question-begging' [Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the N.T., p.49.]; founded on the quality of the text, it presupposes the final establishment of their theory.
The strongest evidence for it comes, on their own showing, from Alexandria.
But our conceptions of what they called Western have been altered by the discovery of the Sinaitic Syriac, and by the higher value which modern study places on the ancient versions, of which the Old Syriac and the Old Latin are older than our oldest manuscripts.
Alexandrian scholars were on a higher level of education and training than any others, but might be 'for that reason the more exposed to the danger of treating the text of the Gospels by the same a priori methods as their heathen teachers and contemporaries treated the text of Homer'. [C. H. Turner, Theology, ix, 1924, p.222 and J.T.S. xxviii, 1926-7, pp.145-58]
When readings which can reasonably be regarded as 'Western' corruptions in all parts of the world have been discarded, there remain readings in the local texts of Europe and Africa on the one hand, and the East on the other, including those of early Egyptian papyri, which may, more frequently than Westcott and Hort imagined, be truer to the original than the Alexandrian.
Hort thought it possible that the group that he called distinctively 'Alexandrian'
represented the 'Hesychian' revision.
Bousset, on the other hand, [Texts u. Untersuch. xi, 1894, 4. 92.) suggested that B, the writing of which can have been only a few years after the revision, represented it.
But the occasional Western, as against distinctively Alexandrian, readings in B render this doubtful.
Whether it was the work of Hesychius or not, the text is on the lines of Origen's, but with a more ruthless pruning away of every trace of 'Western corruption'.
That is to say, it is the early text of Alexandria refined in the crucible of Alexandrian scholarship, but not infected with the 'Alexandrianisms' found in the later local text.
The manuscripts of this later text suffered not only from the infiltration of 'Western', i.e.
unrevised, elements, but from grammatical and stylistic 'improvements', such as would be natural in the home of classical
Even א is not quite exempt, but they are more frequent in C 33 Θ Δ (Mk.]Ψ (Mk.), and most frequently of all in L; they are found also in the quotations of Alexandrian writers, especially Cyril, and in the bohairic version.
It was to a text of this type that Hort confined the name 'Alexandrian', a 'partially degenerate form of the B text', as though the degeneracy in this direction constituted the Alexandrianism.
It is truer to say that the later Alexandrian text is a degenerate form of the earlier.
It is throughout a local text, as Salmon long ago insisted.
Finally, while 'Lucian's' recension, at the end of the third century, adhered more closely to the Alexandrian than to the Western text, the manuscripts of the later Alexandrian text suffered, on the whole, more than the Western from 'corrections' to bring them into conformity with the Byzantine standard.
In view, however, of the occasional support for readings hitherto considered 'Byzantine' given by P46, dogmatism on this point would be out of place.
The stream of 'unrevised' readings that inundated Europe and Carthage flowed also eastward
into the districts of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine, of which Edessa, Antioch, and Caesarea were the chief centres.
It is antecedently probable that in those areas a type of local text would grow up.
In Hort's day, as has been said, there were known the Curetonian Syriac, some members of the Ferrar group, and some other cursives of a similar character to the latter.
These contained some non-Byzantine readings, which he had not evidence enough to place as a distinct type.
The only course open to him, therefore, was to group all these with D (which was thought to be the most typical Western manuscript) and the Old Latin under the name Western.
But since then there was discovered in 1892 the Sinaitic Syriac, which began to lead scholars to question the grouping, because, in re-enforcing the non-Alexandrian non-Western elements in the Curetonian, it made it clear that the Old Syriac, though on the whole it was nearer to D and the Old Latin than to the Alexandrian text, was distinct enough from them to be reckoned as a third type of text earlier than the Byzantine revision.
In the first half of the third century the separate Gospels were translated from Greek
manuscripts into Syriac.
The translation received a considerable Western element from the Diatessaron (see pp. 444-7), but the importance of Syr.sin consists mainly in the fact that it contains a large number of readings that are neither Western nor Alexandrian, but belong to an independent Eastern text.
The version as it left the translator's hands, we may assume, was a fairly faithful representation of the text used at Antioch about AD200 though both manuscripts were written probably c. AD400-50.
The colophon of Syr.sin definitely states it to be a copy of the Evangelion da-Mepharreshe.
It is true that there were something like two centuries between the original translation and our manuscript, during which time it was possible for corrections to be made to conform it to Greek manuscripts; but there are, in fact, very few cases in which this seems to have been done.
It almost always represents the text either of the original translator or of the Diatessaron.
The Curetonian MS., which is shown by the palaeographical details to be only a little later than the Sin., is less trustworthy as evidence for the Eastern text [Contrast M. J. Lagrange, Critique textuelle, pp.213-18.], because it not only contains Diatessaron readings, but also shows signs of revision from a Greek manuscript (Burkitt, Evang. da-Meph. ii. 215-19.], which contained some, at least, of the more common additions to the Western text.
The translation contained in Syr.sin 'bears all the marks of freedom and idiomatic vernacular rendering which everywhere (and nowhere more clearly than in Syriac) distinguish earlier translations from later'. [Turner, J.T.S. xi, 1909-10, p.202.]
And the Acts of Judas Thomas (which Burkitt showed to have been written in Syriac), which cannot be dated later than the end of the third century, uses not the Diatessaron or the Peshitta, but the gospel text found in Syr.sin and Syr.cur If, then, the translation was made in the third century from Greek manuscripts, it must probably have been made in Edessa.
Now the Christianity of Edessa previously to this was probably open to the suspicion of being unorthodox, the only two Edessene teachers known to us in that period, Tatian and Bardesanes, having been - at least in Greek or Latin estimation - unorthodox.
And in the seventh century the orthodox in Edessa were known as Palutians, which implies that those who were not Palutians were not considered orthodox.
Moreover, Palut of Edessa, according to the Doctrine of Addai, went to receive consecration within Roman territory from Serapion, Bishop of Antioch.
It may be concluded, therefore, that Palut introduced orthodox Christianity into Edessa.
From that Burkitt (op. cit.) goes on to conjecture that he superseded the gospel of Tatian's Diatessaron by the four separate Gospels obtained at Antioch.
But Turner notes indica?tions which point to Palestine rather than to Antioch.
On the one hand the Greek forms of Jewish proper names and place-names are given their correct Aramaic spelling; and on the other 'in at least two places, "Bethabara" for "Bethany" beyond Jordan in Jn.i.28, and "Girgashites" for "Gera-senes" in Mk.v.1, the Old Syriac agrees with Origen in readings which are the direct reflexion, through pious researches or local patriotism, of the growing cult for the holy places of Palestine' (Turner).
The former alone might have been the work of an Edessene scholar; the latter alone might show that the Old Syriac was later than Origen.
But the combination of the two strongly suggests that the translator was a Palestinian, or at least lived in Syria.
But there were variations in the Eastern type of text no less than in the Western.
The evidence for the existence of a 'Caesarean' clan has already been discussed, though it now seems that this clan had its origins in Egypt, while it may have been popularized later at Caesarea.
[Cf. A. F. J. Klijn, A Survey of the Researches into the Western Text of the Gospels and Acts, 1950, pp.110-46.]
In Europe west of the Adriatic, and in Africa, there is little evidence of the critical
spirit, which seeks to preserve the purity, or improve the style, of the text.
Consequently the popular corruptions - paraphrase, interpolation, and assimilation - are seen in their most pronounced form.
The interpolations are often striking, sometimes long, and occasionally inserted awkwardly in positions that would not appear to be the most natural.
But manuscripts of different kinds, and belonging to different localities, agree in their positions, and very largely in their wording.
Burkitt, accordingly, concludes that they go back to a single interpolated codex. [Two Lectures on the Gospels, 1901, pp. 23 f.]
The latest suggestion is that of J. H. Ropes, The Beginnings of Christianity, vol.iii, 'The Text of the Acts'.
In his Preface he gives the upshot of it as follows: 'the preparation of the "Western" text, which took place early in the second century, perhaps at Antioch, was incidental to the work of forming the collection of Christian writings for general Church use which ultimately, somewhat enlarged, became the New Testament; in a word, that the "Western" text was the text of the primitive "canon" (if the word may be pardoned in referring to so early a date), and was expressly created for that purpose.'
The suggestion, as he says, is one worthy of further discussion.
The possibility must also be borne in mind that the 'Western' text arose at the time when Christians started the habit (before pagans [C. H. Roberts, J.T.S. xl, 1939, p. 256.]) of using codices rather than rolls for their books.
The codex-form made for ease of reference and for assimilation. In fact, the 'primitive canon' may well have appeared in an early codex capable of holding Gospels and Acts (at least) in one portable object.
The Western text has been regarded successively from different points of view.
In 1891 Rendel Harris [A Study of Codex Bezae, Camb. Text and Studies, ii.1] held that in the Acts, where the text is most striking and characteristic, there had been a reaction in the Greek text from the primitive Latin translations, and occasionally from the Syriac.
The Greek, therefore, was not a true standard of the Western text; and many of its glosses were due to Montanist and Marcionite influence.
Although the theory of Latin reaction suggested in this pioneer work has failed to establish itself, except in the case of a very few readings, the work succeeded in putting the text of the codex in a truer light than when it was considered the standard for the Western text. In 1893 and 1895
F. H. Chase maintained a parallel view [The
Old Syriac Element in the Text of Codex Bezae, 1893, and The Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, 1895.] that the phenomena of the Greek might be explained by Syriac rather than by Latin influence.
But this has not obtained more acceptance than the other or, except in the Bulletins of the Bezan Club, received the attention that it deserved, owing perhaps to the dearth of Syriac scholars among New Testament critics.
For the handling of his subject Dr. Chase chose the text of the Acts, because the peculiarities of the Western text are more strongly marked there than elsewhere.
The Acts became the special study of Professor Ramsay, who pointed out the archaeological accuracy of some of the glosses in D, and suggested that they were the work of an early redactor who lived in Asia Minor.
In 1894 they were credited with being the work of St. Luke himself, the theory being revived by Fr. Blass that St. Luke published two editions of the Acts. He extended this theory later to the Third Gospel. [The Philology of the Gospels, London, 1898.]
He thought that St. Luke wrote
(1) the 'Neutral' text of the Gospel for Theophilus;
(2) the edition of the Acts containing the longer, 'Western', text, which was written and circulated at Rome;
(3) the shorter, 'Neutral', text of the Acts, which he sent to Theophilus;
(4)for the Roman Church the whole work by sending them the 'Western' text of the Gospel.
Such scholars as Salmon, Nestle, and (for the Acts) Zahn received the theory favourably.
And it has the merit of having instilled the idea that some of the Western variants and 'interpolations' maybe original.
But it does not adequately explain many of the variants in the Third Gospel and Acts, and it leaves the Western text in other than Lucan writings with no explanation at all; furthermore, on close examination, it is clear that the same writer could not have written both recensions, even of Acts.
[C. S. C. Williams, Alterations to the text of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, p.54.]
Roman Christians, who were, in the first two centuries, mostly non-Latin in origin, spoke
(This must not preclude the question whether there were Latin-speaking Christians in Italy, e.g. at Pompeii.) Marcion, Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus all wrote in Greek.
On the other hand the Christians of Carthage spoke Latin from the time that they received Christianity.
At the beginning of the third century Tertullian was already writing there in the vernacular; and how long before that time Latin was needed for missionary purposes we do not know.
At Rome Latin began to be used for theological purposes during the third century, though there was no writer of note till Novatian, who was contemporary with Cyprian.
It is natural, therefore, that with the dying-out of Greek as the spoken language the Western type of text should not be preserved in many Greek manuscripts.
We possess only two that are of any value for the Gospels, the Freer MS. (W) and codex Bezae (D), the remaining authorities being manuscripts of the Old Latin version, and the quotations of Latin Fathers.
The evidence of W is important - a manuscript unknown to Hort - because it shows that the African text (that of Cyprian's quotations, with which k is very closely similar) had a Greek origin, and that many of its idiosyncrasies were not merely corruptions current in Latin, or paraphrases of a better Greek text.
C. H. Turner [J.T.S. ii, 1901, 600-10.] holds that the primitive Latin version seems to have been made in a place where the spelling of Semitic names was familiar (though if Jewish Christians worked on the translation, they might have done so in the West as well as the East); and that even the Latin of Cyprian shows secondary elements, an earlier stage being probably traceable in Nemesianus of Thubunae.
When Latin began to be used by Christian writers in Rome, and, generally, west of the
Adriatic, the African text gradually underwent textual and linguistic alterations, so that a type emerged which is known as
For this b is the norm, the nearest to which is ff2.
The others cited on p.378 show different degrees of fidelity to the type, but all of them are nearer to b than they are to each other.
In the middle of the group stands the Greek MS. D, the text of which is closely related to that used by Irenaeus [Sanday and Turner, Nov. Test. S. Irenaei, Oxford, 1923.], and, on the whole, nearer to the European than to the African.
The oldest, but not the most typical, member of the European group is a, which possibly represents a transitional stage in its formation, since its text is intermediate between k and b; in Mark, which is the best testing-ground of texts, it is farthest removed from b.
While the word 'Western' is rightly geographical as regards the extant authorities, the place
of origin of the European text may, after all, be Asia Minor.
The evidence which Streeter adduces for this is as follows:
The Epistula Apostolorum is thought by its editor, Carl Schmidt (Texte u. Untersuch. 1919), to be of Ephesian origin;
and it has some points of agreement with the Western text, the most striking of which is that in ch. 2 the name Judas Zeiotes is given in the list of apostles in Matt. x. 3, a curious combination which occurs, instead of Thaddaeus = Lebbaeus, in a b h q, &c.
In ch.3 the wording seems to imply the reading in Jn.i.13 which asserts the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, ὅς ... ἐγεννήθη for οἵ ... ἐγεννήθησαν, which occurs in b, three quotations of Irenaeus, two of Tertullian, and was known to Ambrose, Augustine, and probably Justin.
Possibly the text of the Epistula also included the longer conclusion of Mark, which is found in D and in all O.L. manuscripts except the African k, and in the text used by Irenaeus and Tatian.
To these agreements between a (probably) Ephesian document and the European O.L. must be added the personal links between Asia Minor and the West. Tatian was Justin's pupil, and Justin was converted in Ephesus.
And not only was Irenaeus in Smyrna as a boy, but the connexion maintained between Asia Minor and Gaul, which is shown in the Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons to the Churches of Asia, was probably due to the intercourse, no doubt for trading purposes, between the cities of lonia and the Greek-speaking communities of the Rhone valley, who had originally been colonists from lonia.
That would bring the Ephesian text to the Rhone valley.
And the relation of Irenaeus to D and the O.L. 'suggests the possibility that the earliest Latin translation used in Gaul was derived, not from the Greek text used in Rome, but from that used in the Rhone valley.
This translation might have spread thence into Gallia Cisalpina, the consanguineous district of N. Italy.
[Streeter, op. cit., pp.70 ff.]
Yet a third type of Old Latin was
distinguished by Hort and by most scholars after him for a time.
Augustine, who speaks of 'codices Afros' (Retr. i.21. 3), says also, 'In ipsis autem interpretationibus Itala ceteris praeferatur; nam est verborum tenacior cum perspicuitate sententiae.' (De Doctr. Christ, ii.22.]
This was understood to mean that he praised an Italian type as superior to all others.
And it was thought that a revision of the European O.L. must have been made in northern Italy early in the fourth century.
But Bentley had previously disbelieved in the existence of an Italian revision, and Burkitt laid the ghost.
In 'The Old Latin and the Itala' (Texts and Studies, iv.3, 1896; contrast Lagrange, Critique textuelle, pp.257 f.] he maintained that Augustine's Itala interpretatio was simply the Vulgate. Augustine deprecated Jerome's great changes in the Old Testament, but he was warm in his praise of his translation of the Gospels.
All his life, when he depended on his memory, he reverted to the Old Latin; but when he quoted with care from a written text of the Gospels it was from the Vulgate, as, for example, in the De Consensu Evangelistarum (c. AD 400); and in the Ada de Felice (404), a report of a trial for heresy, he quoted a long passage from the Gospels, and another from the Acts, the latter in pure Old Latin, the former in pure Vulgate.
Some scholars [See B. M. Metzger in Parvis and Wikgren, op. cit., p.53.] have tried
to emend Augustine's words, putting Aquila or ilia for Itala.
On the former view Aquila's version of the Old Testament was 'in mind.
The great scholar Jerome (Sophronius
Eusebius Hieronymus) was commissioned by Pope Damasus in 381 to produce a revision, in view of the manifold corruptions of the
He took the Gospels in hand first, and published them, with an open letter to Damasus, in 383; and then followed a very cursory revision of the New Testament.
The Gospels were critically edited by Wordsworth and White in 1889-95, and their text was printed in a pocket edition in 1911.
They considered that the type of O.L. which Jerome used as his basis was such as was found in cod. Brixianus (f ), representing the 'Italian' revision of the European Latin, in which the manuscript had been largely corrected in conformity with Greek manuscripts of a Byzantine type.
But it is probable that f should not be reckoned as an O.L. manuscript at all.
Burkitt thinks that it received its text from a manuscript containing both Vulgate and Byzantine elements, and conjectures a Gothic-Latin manuscript of which the Latin side was largely Vulgate and the Gothic largely Byzantine
[J.T.S. i, 1900, p.129, cf. K. Lake, The Text of the New Testament, 6th ed., 1928, pp.29 ff., according to whom f and q, sometimes wrongly called 'Italic', represent probably not a separate version but a modification of the general European type, probably due to the influence of the Vulgate and (for f ) of the Gothic version.]
- a view which has gained further support from the phenomena of a more recently discovered Gothic-Latin manuscript, which the same writer describes. [J.T.S. xi, 1909-10, pp.611 ff.]
He suggests, in the former article, that Jerome's manuscript was more like b.
Souter, on the other hand, showed [Op. cit. , pp.583 ff.] that, for Luke at least, his Latin text was more akin to that of a, and thought it possible that his manuscript may have been made up of assorted texts, differing in different Gospels.
But whatever may have been the Latin
text that he revised, the Greek text in accordance with which he revised it was more important.
In the last eight chapters of Luke, a large part of John, and the Catholic epistles, his text is almost entirely Byzantine, while in the remainder of the Gospels there is rather more Alexandrian mixture.
The large Byzantine element may have been due to the fact that he had just returned from Constantinople, where he had sat at the feet of Gregory of Nazianzus.
But on the death of Damasus, at the end of 384, he went to Palestine, where Pamphilus, in the manuscripts of his library at Caesarea, kept alive, as has been said, the tradition of Origen, for whom Jerome, at this time, had a great admiration.
This perhaps accounts for the fact that, in his revision of the Acts and in his commentary on Matthew, his text makes a much nearer approach to that of א.
The remainder of the New Testament he revised with much less thoroughness, so that the text of the epistles might almost rather be called Old Latin than Vulgate.
No sooner had he done his work, and
copies began to multiply, than the old story of corruption was repeated; Old Latin manuscripts were 'corrected' from the Vulgate,
and Vulgate manuscripts were 'corrupted' by the introduction of Old Latin readings.
No manuscript with a perfectly pure Hieronymian text survives, but by a critical use of a large number of them Wordsworth and White arrive at a close approximation to it.
Its text is of comparatively little use as evidence for ancient readings, but for practical purposes it is a very much 'better' text than the O.L. in so far as it was purged of a great number of the paraphrases, glosses, and interpolations of the Western text.
For a knowledge of the Greek text of
the Gospels lying behind the O.L. there is at present very little material.
From a critical study of Marcion (as quoted by his opponents) and Justin it has been thought that their text was akin to the African.
But what would really determine the Roman texts of the Gospels in the latter half of the second century would be the original text of Tatian's Diatessaron.
Tatian was the first successful missionary in Mesopotamia, in the district of which Edessa was the literary centre.
He went there about AD 172 after working at Rome.
He seems to have died in the East a few years later, so that his work must have been published by 180.
He combined the Four Gospels into a harmony, which implies not only the existence of the separate Four, but their canonical distinction from all others.
It seems strange that such Christians of Mesopotamia as there were before Tatian's arrival should have had no New Testament at all till he came; but so it was.
And they naturally became deeply attached to that form of the Gospel which had helped to build up their faith; so that it remained in popular use, and was read in churches (as is implied in the Doctrine of Addai, 36) until about 430, when it was superseded by the separate Peshitta Gospels.
The text of the harmony would naturally be that which Tatian knew at Rome, and thus for two and a half centuries a Western type of text was current in the East.
The influence of the Diatessaron has been exaggerated by some writers, especially von Soden and Vogels, but there is no doubt that it explains a great number of Western readings in the Eastern text.
The sources of our present knowledge
of the Diatessaron? apart from the Greek fragment found at Dura (C. H. Kraeling, Studies and Documents, iii, 1935] and the Gospel quotations in
Aphraates (Aphrahat), Ephraem in his genuine works, Marutha, and other Syriac writers - are:
1. Ephraem's Commentary on the Diatessaron, which is not extant in Syriac, but survives in an Armenian translation.
[The translator, according to F. C. Conybeare (J. T.S. xxv, 1924, pp.232-45), did not give Ephraem's quotations in an immediate rendering of his Syriac, but used another, lost, Armenian version of the Gospels (whether a Harmony or the separate Four is uncertain), the text of which was made from the 'Syriac base' of the Armenian Vulgate.
Many Armenian scholars now deny the existence of this 'Syriac base'.]
The Armenian work was rendered into Latin by Moesinger (1876), and Ephraem's quotations in it into English by J. Armitage Robinson (see below).
2. An Arabic translation of the Diatessaron from the Syriac made in the first half of the eleventh century, edited and rendered into Latin by Ciasca (1888) and into English by Dr. Hamlyn Hill in his Earliest Life of Christ (1894).
(The latter contains as Append. X the rendering of Ephraem's quotations by J. Armitage Robinson.)
It was rendered into French by A. S. Marmadji in 1935 with some refreshing but misplaced attempts at humour.
Unfortunately the Syriac from which the Arabic was translated had been revised throughout in conformity with the Peshitta, and so, while giving us the Syriac mosaic, is of very little help for determining the original text.
[Cf. A.J. B. Higgins, J.T.S. xlv, 1944, pp.187-99.]
3. A Latin translation found in codex Fuldensis of the Vulgate. [Edited by E. Ranke, 1868.]
It was prepared for, and corrected by, Victor of Capua in 546, whose annotations and signature (with the blot he made in signing his name) are still to be seen in the manuscript.
For the purpose of determining the text of the Diatessaron this is of no more use than the Arabic, since the Latin employed is pure Vulgate, the purest, in fact, known, next to that of codex Amiatinus.
4. Medieval Dutch translations of the Latin, especially the Liege MS. (c. 1300). [Edited by D. Plooij, C. A. Phillips, and others, 1929-38.]
There is another transla?tion in a manuscript at Stuttgart which adheres more closely to the Vulgate than the former.
5. Late Armenian Fathers, and English, Italian, and Persian Harmonies and the Manichean writings extant in Coptic.
[F. P. Essabalian, Le Diatessaron de Tatien, 1937; V. Todesco, A. Vaccari, and M. Vattasso, Studi e Testi, Ixxxi, 1937; M. Goates, The Pepysian Gospel Harmony, 1922; G. Messina, Biblica, xi, 1942, pp. 268-305, and Diatessaron Persians, 1951 ; H. J. Polotsky, Manichdische Handschriften, 1934; and C. R. C. AIlberry, A Manichean Psalm-Book, Pt. ii, 1938.]
These five sources fall into two
parts, the Arabic mostly following the order of the mosaic in Ephraem, and the Liege that of Fuld., but the Western part exhibits
marked differences from the Eastern.
The arrangement in F and L is rougher and cruder, and suggests that the smoother and more natural order of the Eastern part may have been the result of revision and correction.
This leads Burkitt to conjecture that 'the agreement of F and L bears witness to a pre-Syriac form of the Harmony, something that Tatian left behind him before he returned to his native Mesopotamia [J.T.S. xxv, 1923-4, p.116.]; that this was a Latin, not a Greek, harmony; and that when Tatian prepared a Syriac edition of it, he revised and rearranged it from his Greek manuscripts of the separate Gospels.
If this is right there never was a Greek Diatessaron.
By an examination of the few passages of Fuld., which are not Vulgate, Burkitt concludes that the ancestor of Fuld. (i.e. the manuscript which Victor found) was a Latin Harmony with a 'European' text like that of b and ff2.
If so, it might, being Old Latin, be as early as 400 or 300, i.e. its history can be pushed back to an age comparable with that of Ephraem and the rest of the Syriac evidence.
And this Latin Harmony may not have been the work of Tatian at all.
Eusebius (H.E.iv.29) speaks of Tatian as the leader of an heretical sect who 'put together somehow or other a sort of composition and collection of the Gospels'; 'this he named the Dia-tessaron, which is current among some even till now'.
Eusebius does not appear to have seen the work, or known much about it, but was no doubt referring to the popular Syriac work current in the East.
(The Syriac translator of Eusebius shortly afterwards showed that he knew it well.)
But part of Burkitt's conjecture is that originally it was not intended to be a substitute for the separate Gospels, but was made at the time when Greek was beginning to give way to Latin as the spoken language of Christians in the West; it was 'a Latin epitome for Latin Christians who as yet had nothing but the Greek original' of the Gospels.
Its usefulness must have been short, because within thirty years, or perhaps less, all four Gospels were available in Latin.
This theory would explain the absence of any references to the work in the literature of the Christian West, and the rarity of surviving copies.
The Latin Diatessaron may have influenced the text of the Gospels in the earliest days of the European Latin, 'when the Latin Gospels current in Roman Africa were being accepted and adapted for Roman and Italian use'; but it did not do so to anything like the extent that the Syriac Diatessaron influenced the Old Syriac Gospels.
To the ordinary methods of textual
criticism one further consideration may be added, which is coming increasingly into recognition, where it is available,
particularly in the Gospels, as a valuable ally.
One of the commonest forms of corruption, as has been said, is assimilation, due mainly to the tendency of scribes to write in one Gospel what they remembered in another; but occasionally it seems to have been deliberate, from a wish to smooth down differences.
And the advancing study of the Synoptic Problem has provided a criterion other than that of the manuscripts, and yet not subjective.
The new method, starting from the
results of Synoptic criticism - not necessarily final or infallible results, but, nevertheless, results reached from the
examination of a totally different set of phenomena and of 'prima facie validity in their own sphere - gives us a sort of
objective test which reduces the danger of the individual's subjective preferences to a minimum.
One accepts, that is to say, a reading, not because it is the reading of B or of D, but because it conforms, say, to Marcan usage, or because it removes a difficulty in the way of the conclusion (reached on an independent line of argument) that Matthew and Luke tapped their Marcan source without collusion with one another.
In particular, the appeal to the vera causa of contamination of the text of one Gospel by the intrusion of matter from a parallel text in another (and especially a more familiar) Gospel, will often suggest the prima facie rejection of the reading of one group of authorities in favour of that of another group, without any absolute regard to their constituent members.
[C. H. Turner, op. cit., p. 224. See his articles on Marcan usage, J.T.S. xxv, xxvi, xxvii, xxviii, xxix, 1924-8.]
It remains to summarize some of the
more important work done in this field since Westcott and Hort. Without discussing the new and confusing nomenclature for all
manuscripts adopted by H. von Soden (Die Schriften des Neuen
Testaments in ihrer alteslen erreichbaren Textgestalt..., 1902-13.], one may point to his three
divi?sions of textual types:
(1) 'H', Hesychian (roughly speaking, 'Alexandrian'): B א Ath Did. Cyr. and Coptic versions; W (in part) C ΨZ L Δ 33 892 579 1241.
(2) 'I' (Jerusalem, i.e. roughly Western and Caesarean): D Θ 565 28 fam.1 fam.13 Lat. Syr.
(3) 'K-' (Koine or Byzantine): W (in part) S V 461 655 661 476 E F G H Syr.pesh and the mass of late manuscripts.
H. von Soden was criticized for assuming that he could recover the 'H-I-K' type of text older than our recensions; for his over-estimate of the influence of Tatian upon harmonizing scribes of the separate Gospels; and for associating D in close conjunction with manuscripts of the Θ type.
B. H. Streeter (The Four Gospels,
1924; sec his chart, p.108.] saw that the most pressing problem was to split up the 'Western' text
In his theory of local texts, he advocated five divisions, not counting the 'Byzantine', under the headings Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, Italy and Gaul, Carthage for Gospel manuscripts.
This theory may serve as a 'working hypothesis' provided that it is not allowed to obscure certain points.
His table of local texts has, under the category of primary authority, manuscripts of very different values.
The text of the Koridethi MS., Θ, is not of the same value as Vaticanus, B, though the former is put as a primary authority for Caesarea (Streeter wrote before P45 was discovered) while the latter is the primary authority for Alexandria.
If all five local texts were quite independent one of another, a majority of the primary authorities in favour of a particular reading would carry weight against the minority whenever internal evidence left one in doubt.
But it is a questionable assumption to suppose that any 'primary' authorities arose independently: for example, five independent copies of Mark did not float down from the clouds to the five localities mentioned to serve as archetypes of the 'families'.
Again, since Streeter wrote it has become clearer that the 'Caesarean' family or clan arose in Egypt (and was carried to Caesarea) probably as a compromise or series of compromises between a text resembling the Alexandrian and one resembling the Western; also that Western manuscripts existed in Egypt, to judge from the papyri.
It is also clear that early papyri make us revise our opinion of what we once dismissed as 'late Byzantine' readings.
Again, with Streeter's chart in mind it is fatally easy to oversimplify the problem and to suppose that a scribe invariably adopted the same procedure with all parts of the text that he was copying; to suppose, for instance, that the scribe of the Chester Beatty papyri invariably took an Alexandrian text and based his compromise on it, inserting the less extravagant Western readings of other manuscripts known to him into it.
Such may have been his (or his textual ancestor's) procedure when he copied the Epistle to the Hebrews, because it was accepted in Alexandria (and Syria) long before it was accepted in the West.
But when he copied the Epistle to the Romans he may well have taken as his base for Rom.v.17- xv.33 (i.1-v.16 being lost) a Western text, perhaps of a pre-Marcionite character, if Dr. T. W. Manson is correct [Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxxi, 1948, pp.224-40 and C. S. C. Williams, Ex. T. Ixi, 1950, pp.125 f.]; this was akin not only to D F G but also to the Marcionite text which was derived from it.
Whereas the Marcionite text omit?ted xv, P46 naturally placed the doxology at the end of xv, where the Western text ended.
But the scribe of P46 allowed a few non-Western readings into these chapters and drew on an Alexandrian manuscript for xvi, which he added after the doxology.
In fact a textual critic has to take into account not only the intrinsic merit of a manuscript or of a group of manuscripts but also the history, so far as it is known, of the canon of Scripture and of the inclusion in that canon of any part of the New Testament with which he is concerned.
He may have to allow for the possibility that the difference between the Alexandrian and Western readings is due to two copies of the original having been made and sent to different Churches by the author; for instance, Paul may have sent Rom.i-xv to Rome and then sent a copy, including Rom. xvi, to Asia, as Manson has suggested.
The failure of Blass to establish his theory of two recensions of Luke and of Acts going back to St. Luke should not deter one from applying a similar hypothesis to other New Testament evidence.
F. C. Burkitt's distrust of the
evidence for the 'Caesarean' text appeared in his review (J. T.S. xxvi, 1924-5, pp. 285.] of Streeter's The Four Gospels.
He preferred to group under an 'Eastern' family Θ 565 fam.1 fam.13 and the Old Syriac, as opposed to the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine families.
Burkitt had become known early in the century (Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, ii, 1904.] when he showed that Syr.sin and Syr.cur represent the Old Syriac 'separated Gospels' and that Syr.pesh was no longer to be considered the ancient Syriac text as Cureton had thought but that it was due to Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa, AD411-35, who used it, he said, to displace the Diatessaron.
Burkitt favoured those readings which are supported by Syr.sin and by k rather than those of the Alexandrian text, his advice being, 'Let us come up out of the land of Egypt'.
Recently Burkitt's views have been challenged by A. Voobus [Contributions of the Baltic University, lix, 1947 and Ixiv, 1948.] and M. Black. [Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxi, 1950-1, pp. 203-10.]
Just as the Diatessaron was not altogether displaced by the Peshitta, so the Peshitta had not altogether displaced old Syriac versions used even by Rabbula himself.
M. J. Lagrange crowned many years' work on textual criticism for the Revue Biblique with his Critique textuelle, (Critique textuelle, II. La Critique rationelle, 1935.] in which the following divisions are implied:
|1.||For the Gospels|
B א WLk.i-viii.30 C Ψ L Δ 33 892 579 1241 Cop. P1 P5 P22 P4 0161 0109.
D 0171 (Lat.vet Syr.vet).
- which Lagrange recognized as having been born in Egypt.
A Ωא ΠE F G H.
B א C A Ψ 81 33 G I5 1175 104 459 326 1261 P45 P8 0165.
D E P38 P48 P29.
093 S P L H, &c.
Lagrange considered also the textual evidence for the rest of the New Testament.
J. H. Ropes [The Beginnings of Christianity, iii, ed. F. J. F. Jackson and K. Lake, 1926.] printed the text of codex Vaticanus side by side with that of codex Bezae or other Western evidence.
In his introduction and notes he favoured the Alexandrian text but allowed that the Western text sometimes preserves the original.
A. C. Clark [The Acts of the Apostles, 1933.] favoured Western readings, which he
culled from all possible sources.
The Alexandrian text was accounted for as being shorter owing to the omission of stichoi from the Western.
(Contrast Dom C. Butler, Downside Review, 1933, and Sir F. G. Kenyon, The Western Text in the Gospels and Acts, pp. 17 ft.]
The modern study of textual criticism
enables us to realize more clearly than was possible for Hort the width of the gulf fixed between the autograph and the three
earliest types of text that we can trace.
When research has brought us back to the Alexandrian, Eastern, and Western texts in the purest forms obtainable, we cannot, by genealogical methods, go behind them.
There does not survive any manuscript which contains a 'neutral' text, independent of, and superior to, the three, though the earliest Alexandrian, as has been said, is probably the purest of them.
But the agreement, say, of the Old Syriac with the Old Latin of A, in a case in which neither has been affected by the Western influence of the Diatessaron, points back to a common origin for the reading which must be far older than the oldest
Alexandrian evidence of any kind that we possess.
No early intercourse is known between Africa and Mesopotamia, so that a common origin is, in all probability, the autograph.
Or if there were an agreement between Aphraates and the Sahidic which was known not to be due to Western mixture through the Diatessaron or other cause, it would have a strong claim to consideration, even if it were supported by no known manuscript.
The giving to versions and Fathers a more rightful weight in the scale is one of the chief lines along which modern study has moved from Westcott and Hort's position.
In the great bulk of the readings in which the three local texts agree, it is reasonable to be pretty confident that they represent the autograph.
When their reading, in spite of their agreement, appears to be intrinsically impossible or extremely improbable - in other words, when internal evidence of readings is in ultimate conflict with genealogical evidence - the former holds its own against the latter, and it is concluded that a corruption has occurred earlier than all our extant witnesses, a 'primitive corruption' as Hort called it; and room is then left for conjectural emendation.
There are such cases, but they are very few.
When the readings of all the , three local texts in their earliest and purest forms differ, we are obliged (except in the special cases of assimilation mentioned by Turner, above), to fall back on subjective considerations.
Internal evidence must be the last court of appeal.
Textual criticism has done its utmost when it has eliminated the whole of the vast mass of errors that can be detected by means that are not subjective.
And, finally, there must always remain some instances in which external data cannot help, and subjective criticism is at fault; there is no apparent reason for preferring any one of the two or three variants that present themselves.
The principles sketched in this chapter take us,
in theory, less far towards the original than Hort's.
But modern students, by methods in some respects differing from his, have recognized the great value of the early Alexandrian text represented by B.
By pinning his faith to it as almost wholly 'neutral', he obtained an exceedingly good text, but discovery and scientific study are improving it, and will continue to improve it for a long time to come.
J. M. Bover,
Novi Testamenti Biblia Graeca et Latina, 1943, Prolegomena.
F. C. Burkitt,
Texts and Studies, iv. 3, 1896.
-- art. 'Text and Versions', Encylopaedia Biblica, iv, 1907.
-- Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, ii, 1904.
A. C. Clark,
The Primitive Text of the Gospels and Acts, 1914.
--The Acts of the Apostles, 1933.
C. R. Gregory,
Tischendorf's Novum Testamentum Graece, 8th ed., iii, Prolegomena, 1884; or Textkritik des Neuen Testaments, 1900-2.
P. E. Kahle,
The Cairo Geniza, Schweich Lectures, 1941, pp.117-228.
Sir F. G. Kenyon,
Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, and ed., 1926.
-- Recent Developments in the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible, Schweich Lectures, 1933.
-- The Text of the Greek Bible, 1937.
-- Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 4th ed., 1933.
A. F. J. Klijn,
A Survey of the Researches into the Western Text of the Gospels and Acts, 1949.
M. J. Lagrange,
Introduction a I'etude du Nouveau Testament: deuxieme partie: critique textuelle, II. La Critique rationelle, 1935.
Texts and Studies, vii.3, 1902.
-- The Text of the New Testament, 6th ed., 1928.
K. Lake, R. P. Blake, and S. New,
Harvard Theological Review, xxi. 4,1928, pp.208-404.
K. Lake and S. New,
Six Collations of New Testament Manuscripts, 1932.
Novum Testamentum Graece et Latino, 1935, Prolegomena.
B. M. Metzger,
Journal of Biblical Literature, Ixiv, 1945, pp.457-89. [See especially pp. 483-9 for 'future tasks and problems'; cf. Ropes, op. cit., pp. ccciii?cccvi.]
-- Ex. T. Ii, 1952, pp.309-11.
M. M. Parvis and A. P. Wikgren,
New Testament Manuscript Studies, 1950.
A. T. Robertson,
Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 1925.
J. H. Ropes,
The Text of the Acts of the Apostles (F. J. F. Jackson and K. Lake, Beginnings of Christianity, III, The Text, 1926).
The Text and Canon of the New Testament, 1930.
B. H. Streeter,
The Four Gospels, 1924.
An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, trans. B. V. Miller, 1937.
B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort,
The New Testament in Greek, II, Introduc?tion, 1896.
H. Wheeler Robinson (editor),
Ancient and English Versions of the Bible, 1940.