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July 23, 2010

Hort: Western Text

Excerpt from: F.J.A. Hort, Introduction, Ch.II, Section, A. §170-176, pp. 120fwd (London, 1892)

Page Index

The Western Text: - Hort:
    §170 - Its Inferior Character
    §171 - Byzantine Support Irrelevant, all West. readings the same
    §172 - Diverse Support is not mixture, all West. readings early
    §173 - Looseness: paraphrase, West. interpolations in TR
    §174 - Insertion/Variation: particles, grammatical forms
    §175 - Assimilation, Harmonization, Divergence
    §176 - Wild Paraphrase Common in 2nd Century

Chapter II:

Section II. Characteristics of the Chief Ancient Texts

A. § 170-176. Western Characteristics

Explanation of terms:

Syrian Text = the Byzantine Text-type, i.e. the Majority text.
Neutral Text = the text of א/B preferred by Hort.

Western Text: Inferior Character

§170.  On all accounts the Western text claims our attention first. The earliest readings which can be fixed chronologically belong to it As far as we can judge from extant evidence, it was the most widely spread text of Ante-Nicene times; and sooner or later every version directly or indirectly felt its influence. But any prepossessions in its favour that might be created by this imposing early ascendancy are for the most part soon dissipated by continuous study of its internal character.

The eccentric Whiston's translation of the Gospels and Acts from the Codex Bezae , and of the Pauline Epistles from the Codex Claromantanus, and Bornemann's edition of the Acts, in which the Codex Bezae was taken as the standard authority, are probably the only attempts which have ever been made in modern times to set up an exclusively or even predominantly Western Greek text as the purest reproduction of what the apostles wrote.

This all but universal rejection is doubtless partly owing to the persistent influence of a whimsical theory of the last century, which, ignoring all Non-Latin Western documentary evidence except the handful of extant bilingual uncials, maintained that the Western Greek text owed its peculiarities to [back-]translation from the Latin; partly to an imperfect apprehension of the antiquity and extension of the Western text as revealed by patristic quotations and by versions.

Yet, even with the aid of a true perception of the facts of Ante-Nicene textual history, it would have been strange if this text as a whole had found much favour.

A few scattered Western readings have long been approved by good textual critics on transcriptional and to a great extent insufficient grounds; and in Tischendorf's last [8th] edition their number has been augmented, owing to the misinterpreted accession of the Sinai MS [א] to the attesting documents. To one small and peculiar class of Western readings, exclusively omissions, we shall ourselves have to call attention as having exceptional claims to adoption.

But when the Western readings are confronted with their ancient rivals in order to obtain a broad comparative view of the two [sic!] texts, few scholars could long hesitate to pronounce the Western not merely to be the less pure text, but also to owe its differences in a great measure to a perilous confusion between transcription and reproduction, and even between the preservation of a record and its supposed improvement; and the distrust thus generated is only increased by further acquaintance.

Syrian [Byzantine] Support Irrelevant:
All Western Readings are the Same

§171.  What has been here said is equally true whether we confine ourselves to Western readings having only a Western attestation or include with them those Western readings which, having been adopted into the Syrian text, have a combination of Western and Syrian attestation.

When once the historical relations of the texts have been ascertained, it would be arbitrary to refuse the evidence of the latter class in studying the general character of Western readings apart from attestation, for the accident of their appropriation by the Syrian text when the other Western readings were neglected can have no bearing on the antecedent relations of the whole class to the apostolic originals.

But as a matter of fact the general conclusions would be the same in either case: throughout both classes of Western readings there is no diversity of salient characteristics.

Diverse Minority Readings are not "Mixture",
All Western Readings are Early (pre 200 A.D.)

§172.  To what extent the earliest MSS of the distinctively Western ancestry already contained distinctive Western readings, cannot now be known. However they may have differed from the apostolic autographs, there was at all events no little subsequent and homogeneously progressive change.

It is not uncommon to find one, two, or three of the most independent and most authentically Western documents in agreement with the best representatives of Non-Western Pre-Syrian texts against the bulk of Western authorities under circumstances which render it highly difficult to account for the concurrence by mixture: and in such cases these detached documents must attest a state of the Western text when some of its characteristic corruptions had not yet arisen, and others had.

On the other hand it is probable that even the relatively latest Western readings found in distinct provinces of Western documents, for instance in different languages, were already in existence at a very early date of Church history, it may be before the end of the second century.

Looseness: Paraphrase, Parallelism, Interpolation
Western Interpolations in Acts found in TR

§ 173.  The chief and most constant characteristic of the Western readings is a love of paraphrase. Words, clauses, and even whole sentences were changed, omitted, and inserted with astonishing freedom, wherever it seemed that the meaning could be brought out with greater force and definiteness. They often exhibit a certain rapid vigour and fluency which can hardly be called a rebellion against the calm and reticent strength of the apostolic speech, for it is deeply influenced by it, but which, not less than a tamer spirit of textual correction is apt to ignore pregnancy and balance of sense, and especially those meanings which are conveyed by exceptional choice or collocation of words.

An extreme form of the paraphrastic tendency is shown in the interpolation of phrases extending by some kind of parallelism the language of the true text; as και της νυμφης after εις υπαντησιν του νυμφιου in Matt. 25:1; γεννωνται και γεννωσιν between οι υιοι του αιωνος τουτου and γαμουσιν και γαμισκονται in Luke 20:34; and εκ της σαρκος αυτου και εκ των οστεων αυτου after μελη εσμεν του σωματος αυτου in Eph. 5:30.

Another equally important characteristic is a disposition to enrich the text at the cost of its purity by alterations or additions taken from traditional and perhaps from apocryphal or other nonbiblical sources; as Συ ει ο υιος μου ο αγαπητος, εν σοι ευδοκησα (originating of course in Ps. 2:7) given as the words spoken from heaven at the Baptism in Luke 3:22; and a long interpolation (printed in the Appendix) beginning υμεις δε ζητειτε after Matt. 20:28.

The two famous interpolations in John 5 and Jn. 7:53-8:11, which belong to this class, will need special notice in another place.

Under the present head also should perhaps be placed some of the many curious Western interpolations in Acts, a certain number of which, having been taken up capriciously by the Syrian text, are still current as part of the Received text: but these again will require separate mention.

Insertion/Variation: pronouns, objects,
conjunctions, grammatical forms

§174.  Besides these two marked characteristics, the Western readings exhibit the ordinary tendencies of scribes whose changes are not limited to wholly or partially mechanical corruptions. We shall accordingly find these tendencies, some of them virtually incipient forms of paraphrase, in other texts of the New Testament: but in the Western text their action has been more powerful than elsewhere.

As illustrations may be mentioned the insertion and multiplication of genitive pronouns, but occasionally their suppression where they appeared cumbrous; the insertion of objects, genitive, dative, or accusative, after verbs used absolutely; the insertion of conjunctions in sentences which had none, but occasionally their excision where their force was not perceived and the form of the sentence or context seemed to commend abruptness.

Free interchange of conjunctions; free interchange of the formulae introductory to spoken words; free interchange of participle and finite verb with two finite verbs connected by a conjunction; substitution of compound verbs for simple as a rule, but conversely where the compound verb of the true text was difficult or unusual; and substitution of aorists for imperfects as a rule, but with a few examples of the converse, in which either a misunderstanding of the context or an outbreak of untimely vigour has introduced the imperfect.

A bolder form of correction is the insertion of a negative particle, as in Matt. 21:32 (ου being favoured, it is true, by the preceding του), Luke 11:48, and Rom. 4:19; or its omission, as in Rom. 5:14; Gal. 2:5,8.

Assimilation, Harmonization, Divergence

§175.  Another impulse of scribes abundantly exemplified in Western readings is the fondness for assimilation. In its most obvious form it is merely local, abolishing diversities of diction where the same subject matter recurs as part of two or more neighbouring clauses or verses, or correcting apparent defects of symmetry. But its most dangerous work is `harmonistic' corruption, that is, the partial or total obliteration of differences in passages otherwise more or less resembling each other.

Sometimes the assimilation is between single sentences that happen to have some matter in common; more usually however between parallel passages of greater length, such especially as have in some sense a common origin. To this head belong not only quotations from the Old Testament, but parts of Ephesians and Colossians, and again of Jude and 2 Peter, and, above all, the parallel records in the first three Gospels, and to a certain extent in all four.

It is difficult to exaggerate the injury thus inflicted upon the resources for a right understanding of the Gospel history by the destruction of many of the most characteristic and instructive touches contributed by the several narratives, whether in the form of things otherwise said, or of additional things said, or of things left unsaid.

A sense of the havoc wrought by harmonistic corruption in the Old Latin texts, in their origin Western texts, has been already mentioned as one of the primary motives alleged by Jerome for his revision; and though his effort had only a limited success, the Vulgate contrasts favourably with prior Latin texts of the Gospels in this respect.

It should be observed that the harmonistic changes in the Western as in all other texts were irregular and unsystematic. Nor is it rare to find Western changes proceeding in an opposite direction; that is, to find paraphrastic or other impulses followed in the text of one Gospel in unconsciousness or disregard of the creation of new differences from the language of a parallel narrative.

Wild Paraphrase Common in 2nd Century

§176.  It must not be supposed that the liberties taken by the authors of the Western readings, though far exceeding what we find appearing for the first time in other texts of the New Testament, are unknown in other literature transmitted under not unlike circumstances. Several books of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament exist in two forms of text, of which one is evidently an amplified and interpolated modification of the other.

Analogous phenomena in various manners and degrees occur in the texts of some of the earliest post-apostolic Christian writings, as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas; and even the interpolations of the Ignatian Epistles are to a certain extent of the same kind.

In the Christian `apocryphal' or legendary literature, some of which, in its elements if not in its present shape, is undoubtedly as old as the 2nd century, much of the extraordinary diversity in different MSS can only be explained by a hardly credible laxity of idea and practice in the transmission of texts.

Some at least of the writings here mentioned, if not all of them, had a large popular currency: and it is probably to similar conditions of use and multiplication, prevailing during the time of the slow process by which the books of the New Testament at last came to be placed on the same footing as those of the Old, that we must look for a natural explanation of the characteristics of their Western texts.

In surveying a long succession of Western readings by the side of others, we seem to be in the presence of a vigorous and popular ecclesiastical life, little scrupulous as to the letter of venerated writings, or as to their permanent function in the future, in comparison with supposed fitness for immediate and obvious edification.

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