Last Updated:

July 11, 2010

Lake: the Western Text

Excerpt from: Kirsopp Lake, Text of the NT, (Princeton, 1908)

Page Index

Chapt 6: - Kirsopp Lake on the Western Text
   (1) Character of the Western Text
   (2) Dating and development of Western Text
   (3) Unity vs. possible strata of Western Text

    Theories of Origin: the main alternatives
     Dr. Blass - Western Luke/Acts as original

    Theories of 'Late' Origin - Hort as starting-point
    (1) Dr. Harris - Latinisation
    (2) Dr. Chase - Syriacisation
    (3) Dr. Ramsey - Asiatic Revision
    (4) Dr. Resch - Hebrew Influence

Chapter 6

The Western Text

Although not perhaps universally received, the theory of Westcott & Hort is certainly the basis of most modern textual criticism. But the problem which especially exercises the minds of critics is the origin of the Western text. It is widely felt that until some probable theory can be reached, which will explain the curious phenomena found in that group of MSS, our views on the text of the NT as a whole, however probable, can only be tentative.

First of all, then, what is the attestation of the Western text? It is found in a widely spread family of MSS , almost all of them demonstrably containing an early text.

The chief members of this family are :

Codex D, Iren., the African Latin (k, e, Cyprian).

the European Latin (a, b, d, i, etc., IrenLat).

The Old Syriac (Syr, Syr, Aphraates, Ephraem) with its derivatives, the Arabic Tatian and the Armenian version.

These are the primary authorities, but they often receive support from authorities which contain as it were a residuum of Western readings, such especially as the marginal additions of the Harklean Syriac, the Ferrar group (Family 13), and the Sahidic version. There are also cases where the Western reading was adopted by the makers of the Syrian revision (Peshitto), and is found in the mass of manuscripts. In this way there is scarcely any MS extant, with the possible exception of B in the Gospels, which does not afford some support to some Western reading. But of course their support is merely interesting as throwing a light on the later history of the Western text, not on its origin.

Taking then the combination D, Old Lat, Old Syr, as the typical attestation for Western readings, there are three preliminary questions which must be discussed before it is possible to say anything satisfactory about the ultimate origin of the text : —

(1) What are the characteristic features of the text?

(2) What is the probable date at which we first find traces of it?

(3) Is it a distinct whole, or can we divide it into strata ?

Characteristic Features

(1) What are the characteristic features of the text?

Using the Neutral text as represented by W.H. for a standard of comparison, the main characteristics are addition, omission, and paraphrastic rendering.

A few examples will illustrate this : —


In Luke 9:55: The Western text, as repre- sented by (D) e Cypr. a, b, Syr-cur, and the late MSS which adopted it, reads —

ουκ οιδατε ποιου πνευματος εστε ο γαρ υοις του ανθρωπου ουκ ηλθεν απολεσαι αλλα σωσαι
'ye do not know what spirit ye are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy, but to save'

In Matt 20:28: the Western Text, (D, Φ e, a, b, al. Syrcur, hlmg) adds —

υμεις δε ζητειτε εκ μικρου αυξησαι και εκ μειζονος ελαττον ειναι εισερχομενοι δε και παρακληθεντες δειπνησαι μη ανακλινεσθε εις τους εξεχοντας τοπους μηποτε ενδοξοτερος σου επελθη και προσελθων ο δειπνοκλητωρ ειπη σοι ετι κατω χωρει και καταισχυνθηση εαν δε αναπεσης εις τον ηττονα τοπον και εισελθη σου ηττων ερει σοι ο δειπνοκλητωρ Συναγε ετι ανω, και εσται σοι τουτο χρησιμον.

- with some variants of an unimportant character among the authorities.


In Luke 22:19f, The Western text, as directly represented by D, a, and implied by the reading of b, e Syrcur, omits το υπερ υμων διδομενον...εκχυννομενον, thus making it appear that at the institution of the Eucharist the ποτηριον preceded the αρτος.

In Matt. 27:49: The Western texts, D. Lat are the real authorities which add weight to omission of αλλος δε λαβων λογχην ενυξεν αυτου την πλευραν, και εξηλθεν υδωρ και αιμα, which is found in what are usually the best MSS.


In Acts 16:12: The Western reading (D) for πρωτη is κεφαλη.

In Luke 23:53: D al. pauc. read επεθηκεν τω μνημειφ λιθον ον μογις εικοσι εκυλιον, which seems to be merely a wild paraphrase, in a Homeric spirit.1

Such then are, roughly speaking, the chief characteristics of the text. Some would perhaps add that there is a tendency to make one Gospel harmonise with another. This is perhaps true, but it is inadvisable to lay much stress on this point for the following reasons : —

(a) This tendency is not peculiar to Western texts. All types of MSS seem to be affected by it more or less, especially the later MSS.

(b) There is little room for doubt that the labours of the higher critics of the Gospels have shown that there is a common document lying behind at least much of the common tradition of the three Gospels. Therefore this is a vera causa which explains verbal agreements in the Synoptic Gospels, and renders the question of harmonisation of readings an excessively delicate one.

It is often probable, then, that The Western text harmonises, but it is scarcely fiur to assume this as a general characteristic.

1. Dr. Rendel Harris, in Codex Bezae, tried to show that it is actually due to a Latin version written in verse of the style of the Homeric centonists ; cf., too, his Homeric Centones.

Probable Date

(2) What is the probable date at which we first find traces of the text?

The answer to this question is a good example of the use of Patristic quotations and the date of versions. So far as Greek MSS go, we have only D of the 6th century with any pretensions to an early date, although it is true that sporadic readings of a Western type are found in K, and among later MSS there is the Ferrar group. But we have in Greek the quotations of Irenaeus 2 in the second century, and in Latin the Old Latin version, which we know to be older than S. Jerome, and which the quotations of Cyprian and TertuUian take back to tiie second century. And in taking back the Old Latin, these quotations also take back the Western text. For it is precisely these Fathers, esoecially Cyprian, who appear to have habitually used a Western text of the most pronounced character, and to have used no other. Therefore we can say with absolute certainty that the Latin version used in Africa in the second century was a purely Western text. And we have in Irenaeus evidence for the use in the Rhone valley, in the second century, of a Greek text with much the same markedly Western character as that which was perhaps copied in the same district in the sixth century and now survives as Codex Bezae at Cambridge.

2. Even when only extant in the Latin translation, Irenaeus is primarily Greek evidence.

Turning to the East, we find much the same things although the evidence is not so full. For there is an unbroken chain consisting of the Old Syriac MSS , the quotations of Aphraates and Ephraem, with the connect- ing link of the Armenian version of Ephraem's commen- tary, and Tatian's Diatessaron, which in the same way takes the Western text back to the 2nd century.

Can we do more? There is one generation left in which we can be fairly certain that our Gospels were used ; and one still earlier of which we cannot speak certainly. What is the evidence of these two genera- tions? The former is represented chiefly by Justin Martyr and Marcion.

The evidence of Marcion is only derived from the quotations of Tertullian and Epiphanius, while it is further discounted by the fact that it is known to have been a deliberately 'edited' text. At the same time, especially when Tertullian agrees with him, and there is no question of his own doctrine affecting the readings there is much weight in Marcion's evidence, which on the whole seems to point to the use of the Western text.

The same is true of Justin. There is certainly a considerable number of Western readings proved to have been read by him. But in his case matters are complicated by the question as to his quotations as a whole, namely, whether he may not have used another document as well as our Gospels, or else used a harmony, the existence of which is perhaps made probable on independent grounds by Tatian's text so far as we know it. It is a fact of some significance that thus the earliest Syriac shows us the Western text in the form of a harmony made by Tatian, and that the earliest Greek evidence is that of Tatian's old master, who is also under suspicion of having used a harmony. But exactly what conclusions ought to be made from this as to its bearing on the Western text is not clear.

Having thus found traces of the Western text in the age of Justin Martyr and Marcion, it only remains to examine the remnants of the subapostolic literature which we have. It is questionable whether this will ever be a very profitable task. For,

(a) there is a doubt in almost all places as to the source from which the quotation may be derived. We can never be quite sure that the quotations are from the Gospels which we now use.

(b) The text of the writers themselves is often corrupt, and fails just at the critical point. So that it is almost impossible to say that the subapostolic text is Western, while, at the same time, it is certainly more daring to say that it is not.

One early work must suffice for an example:

The quotations, apparent or real, in the Didache. — , There are three places in this very early book (perhaps even belonging to the first century), which may possibly be connected with a use of the Western text:

(a) In Didache 1,2 the text reads — παντα δε οσα εαν θελησης μη γινεσθαι σοι, και συ αλλω μη ποιει.

This may be a perversion of Matt. 7:12, due to the influence of the Jewish saying attributed to Hillel and found in Tobit 4:15 (ο συ μισεις, αλλω μη ποιει), and with variants in other Jewish books, or it may be due to the Western Text of Acts 15:20,29, where D, Iren., Cyprian read: και οσα μη θελετε εαυτοις γινεσθαι, ετερω μη ποιειν , or again it is possible that the Western reading is due to the use of the Didache. Different minds may consider these possibilities as possessing different values, but no one can say that any one of them is impossible.

(b) In Didache 1,3 the text ενλογειτε τους καταρωμενους υμιν, και προσευχεσθε υπερ των εχθρων υμων, νηστευετε δε υπερ των διωκοντων υμας, seems to be nearer S. Matthew in the Western form than to anything else, but it is not a clear instance, and how are we to explain the unique νηστευετε?

The idea of a kind of positive efficacy in fasting is found in the Western text of Mark 9:29, but no MS has anything of the kind in the Sermon on the Mount.

(c) In Didache 9 it is at least more probable than not that it refers to the Service of Holy Communion, and that the writer places the αρτος after the ποτηριον.

This at once reminds us of the Western text of Luke, which, as mentioned on p. 74 (above), similarly transposes the usual order.

But the actual details of the passage have nothing to point to one Gospel rather than another, and the wording of the prayers is more Johannine than Lucan.

Similar results seem to follow from an examination of all the rest of the literature of that date. It is at present impossible to affirm or deny the use of the Western text.

Therefore the result of this glance at the evidence for the existence of the Western text in various ages and places is this: that it is shown to have existed in the earliest times of which we have any certain knowledge, both in Syriac, Latin, and Greek speaking circles; in the East, in Africa, in Italy, and in Gaul.

Can we go further, and say that it was also found in the Nile valley ? Perhaps we can. For the quotations of Clement of Alexandria, as recently published in the Cambridge Texts and Studies by Mr. Barnard, seem to show that he also used a form of the Western text in Alexandria in the 2nd century.

This would suggest that the use of the Neutral text in Alexandria began at some date between Clement and Origen, — a theory which finds support in the view of the more modern Egyptologists, who date the Sahidic version, with its Western readings, earlier than the Bohairic, which is Neutral.

If this suggestion is true, we can say that the Western text is everywhere found wherever we have any evidence for the text of the 2nd century in Patristic quotations.

But in thus generalising we run the risk of begging the question when we talk of the 'Western text' having so extended a prevalence. Strictly speaking, all that we can say is that Western readings are found.

The Western readings in Latin sources are not the same in all cases as those in Syriac ones, and we have no right to construct an hypothetical original text, containing readings for which there is only the authority of one of these versions, unless we are prepared to show that the other has been corrected by a Neutral source.

Unity of the Western Text

This naturally leads us to the consideration of the last preliminary question :

(3) Is the Western text a dearly defined whole, or can we divide it up into groups or strata ?

The importance of this question is, that if the latter alternative be shown to be probable there is a presump- tion of considerable strength that we have to deal, at least in part, with successive layers of corruptions. And on the whole the existence of groups and strata is fairly clear.

It is not a point which has been fully worked out at present, but, as Mr. Burkitt has shown, the interpolations of the Western text do seem to fall into three main divisions : —

(a) Latin interpolations, greater.
  (b) Latin interpolations, lesser,
  (c) Syriac interpolations.

Of these, (a) comprises such passages as the Pericope Adulterae (PA), John 7:53-8:11, or the appearance of a light at the resurrection, Mark 16:3.

These are especially characteristic of the African Latin; many of them are also found in the European Latin; comparatively few would probably find a place in a critical reconstruction of the Old Syriac.

(b) The second class contains small additions, as that of και ο συνιων συνιετω in Mark 4:9. In character they are easily distinguishable from the greater interpolations. They are shorter, and almost always suggested by the context; they very rarely add a new fact, or tell a new story. The greater interpolations, on the other hand, are usually bold additions, some of them strikingly original and apparently primitive, which often seem to be due to some tradition external to the general current of the evangelical narrative.

As their character differs, so also does their attestation, for while the African Latin was seen to be the stronghold of the greater 'interpolations', the European Latin is the text which is especially characterised by the smaller ones. Moreover, in this case also the oldest Syriac text would seein to have omitted most of them.

(c) The Syriac interpolations are not in character unlike the ' greater ' interpolations of the African Latin. For their attestation we have to rely chiefly on the Sinaitic Syriac. A characteristic pair are the preservation of the tradition that Barabbas name was Jesus, and the addition in Luke 23: Woe to us, woe, etc. ..

The most useful list and statement of these three classes of interpolations will be found in Mr. Burkitt's Old Latin and the Itala (Texts and Studies, iv. 3).

We may perhaps put aside the smaller interpolations of the European Latin, a manifestly later form of the Latin text than that represented by the African version, though it is an interesting question whether the omission of the longer ones by the European is due to excision or to the prevalence at the beginning of a different type of text, which afterwards was contaminated by a set of small corruptions which did not affect the African.

But however that may be, we certainly have the two classes of greater Latin and Syriac interpolations.

At the same time it must be remembered that, as was shown in Chapter III., there is evidence for the theory that the Latin and Syriac versions once lived side by side, and the common text which they exhibit certainly does contain some of the most remarkable of Western readings, such, for instance, as the addition to John 3:6: 'For God is a Spirit.'

And if we turn to the question of omissions we find the same phenomenon. There are two distinct groups :

(a) Latin omissions.

(b) Syriac omissions.

(a) The Latin omissions are curiously distributed: there are no less than eight important omissions in Luke 24, (all of which omissions Westcott/Hort recognise as correct, and call 'non-interpolations'). But these do not stand absolutely alone, e,g, the omission in Matt. 27:49 stands on precisely the same evidence; for the testimony of the late MSS , and therefore of the Textus Receptus, does not affect the point materially.

Just as was the case with the interpolations, the evidence of the Syriac version is usually against the Latin omissions, though there is a residuum which is attested by both, which may be called Latin or Syriac indifferently.

(b) The Syriac omissions as represented by the Sinaitic Syriac are more numerous than the Latin, and more evenly distributed ; but, of course, owing to the lamentable loss of almost all early Syriac evidence, there is not the wealth of attestation which is available for Latin readings. A full list is found in the introduction to Mrs. Lewis's The Sinaitic Palimpsest retranscribed. Typical and interesting examples are the omission of Matt 12:9, Luke 23:11-12, John 14:10-11.

Thus we get both in omission and interpolation the same phenomena of a double line, Latin and Syriac, each having its own characteristic readings, with a residuum of important passages common to both.

On the whole, therefore, the answers to the three questions raised, as preliminary to the discussion of the problem of the origin of the Western text, are these:

(1) The characteristic features of the text are addition, omission, paraphrase.

(2) The text can be traced back to the earliest times of which we have knowledge, and in every part of Christendom, with the possible, but not probable, exception of Alexandria and the Nile Valley.

(3) We can trace at least two strata in the Western text, separated not by characteristics, but by attestation, one represented by the Latin texts, the other by the Syriac. There is a common residuum of readings which do not differ in internal characteristics from those which are peculiar to either branch.

Alternative Theories

The main question is, then, open for discussion. It is,

What is the origin of the text which presents these remarkable phenomena?

The theories which have been suggested may be divided into two groups:

(1) Those which assert the primitiveness of the Western text.

(2) Those which regard it as a series of corrupt accretions.

As to the first group. Before looking at that form of the theory which is most before the public at present, it will be well to notice the features of the Western text which have impressed critics with its primitiveness.

These are, first, some of the 'interpolations' in the Gospels, such as the Story of the man working on the Sabbath 1 and a somewhat greater number of the interpolations in the Acts, which seem to be of so striking a character that they can scarcely be false.

And secondly, the 'omissions', more particularly the Latin omissions (the Syriac omissions have not been long enough known), which it is said are incredible if the original text had not made the same omission.

So far as the omissions go, many scholars have agreed that intrinsic probability declares strongly in favour of the Western text, and Westcott/Hort's view, with later developments, will be found summarised on p. 85 (below).

But in its entirety the view that the Western is the most primitive form of the text has found few supporters. Bornemann, it is true, did make an effort to explain all other variants as corruptions of the Western text, but his views have never obtained many followers, and he may be safely disregarded.

1. Luke 6:4 (D, d add:) τη αυτη ημερα θεασαμενος τινα εργαζομενον τω σαββατω ειπεν αυτω, 'Ανθρωπε ει μεν οιδας τι ποιειν μακαριος ει ει δε μμ οιδας επικαταρατος και παραβατης ει τοθνομου.

Blass on Luke/Acts

Of recent years, however. Professor Blass has made an attempt to rehabilitate the Western text without giving up the Neutral. The Gospel of S. Luke and the Acts are the starting-point of his investigation. Indeed, his theory as a whole applies to those documents exclusively.

It is this. There are many places in the Lucan narratives where the intrinsic probability of either the Western or Neutral reading is convincing; where, in fact, it is inconceivable that any one having either reading before him would deliberately alter it to the other. Each reading has all the marks of originality.

The only possible theory, says Professor Blass, is that the author himself actually wrote both, or, in other words, that we possess a 1st and 2nd edition of the writings of S. Luke.

The details of this theory are interesting. The history of the Lucan writings, according to the learned critic, is as follows:

Luke wrote the first edition of his Gospel from Caesarea to Theophilus, who may have heen a Roman official somewhere in the neighbourhood. After writing this he went to Rome, and then wrote a second edition of the Gospel for the use of the local Church. This was the Western text of the Gospel, which Blass calls the Roman text. He also wrote at the same time for the Romans his first edition of the Acts, and afterwards made anotiber copy and sent it to Theophilus, which was the archetype of the Neutral text of Acts.

He suggests, then, the following arrangement for the Lucan books :

Gospel(1) To Theophilus from Caesarea (Neutral)
(2) For the Roman Church (Western)
Acts(3) For the Roman Church (Western)
(4) To Theophilus from Rome (Neutral)

This is an ingenious theory ; it is not a priori impossible; it has the weight of anything coming from so great a scholar as Blass. It is not possible in the limits of a small book either to do it justice, or to explain fully the case against it.

It must suffice to point out that the main reason why almost all scholars are inclined to reject it is that it does not recognise the fact that there are strata in the Western text.

This cannot be shown so clearly in the Acts as in the Gospel. But in the latter the case in favour of strata is overwhelming (vide p. 79 f.). Now, granted that there are strata, the deduction is this:

The two great authorities for the earliest text of a Western type are the African Latin and the Old Syriac.

The ordinary conclusion from this is that the Western text represents a series of accretions from some source which we cannot yet identify, and which is not a homogeneous whole. It would be argued that so far as the places where the Latin and Syriac disagree are concerned, we have in addition to the evidence for the Neutral text, as a homogeneous whole, the evidence that the earliest Western text (i.e. the common archetype of Latin and Syriac) agreed with the reading of the Neutrals.

The only way in which this argument could be invalidated would be by showing that the Western authority which agreed with the Neutral text had been corrected to a Neutral standard. But in the case of the Sinaitic Syriac and the African Latin all the evidence is against such a theory.

Failing this, it would be necessary to put into the 'second edition' only those places where the Western evidence is complete. But this is just what Blass has not done. He nas put down as belonging to the primitive Western text all the passages for which there is a shred of Western evidence.

Therefore it is felt that Blass's edition cannot be taken to represent the earliest form of the Western text even on his own theory.

The earliest form would be based on the concurrence of the Latin and Syriac. Undoubtedly it would contain many interesting variants, but it is doubtful whether these would be so many, or so different in character from those which would have to be acknowledged to be later accretions, as to justify his view, though it might justify the adoption of many Western readings in preference to Neutral ones.

Therefore, although Professor Blass's work is stimulating and useful in drawing attention to the early date and valuable character of Western readings, perhaps even their primitive originality, his theory of double editions does not commend itself for acceptance.

Theories of a 'Late' Western Text

Leaving, then, that class of theory which considers the Western text as primitive, we find several views set forward which seek to explain the phenomena on the assumption of a later date. The theories of this kind which hold the field at present are :

(1) Dr. Rendel Harris — Latinisation.

(2) Dr. Chase — Syriacisation.

(3) Dr. Ramsay — Revision by an Asiatic scribe.

(4) Dr. Resch — the Effect of other translations of the supposed Hebrew original.

Hort's View on Western Readings

But before looking at these theories, it is necessary to examine Westcott/Hort's treatment of the Western text; for, except in the case of Resch, their view is the starting-point of all the other suggestions. Stated roughly, their view is that the Western text can be explained, so far as 'interpolations' go, as a series of corruptions of the Neutral text, none of them authentic in the sense of belonging to the true text of the canonical writings, but some of them possibly preserving early and original traditions taken from some other source either written or oral. They do, however, accept the Latin omissions (the only ones known at the time) as authentic, on the ground of transcriptional probability. The words omitted they consider to be due to some element of corruption which attacked the Neutral text after the Western had split off; and as in the case of the Western interpolations, they reserve the possibility that the additions represent a true though not an evangelical tradition.

This position is the starting-point of the four theories which have to be discussed. They are, all of them, attempts to work out on these lines, but more definitely, the causes which have produced the Western variants.

R. Harris' Theory

(1) Dr. Rendel Harris. — In his study of Codex Bezae the Cambridge critic endeavours to show that many of the readings of this Western manuscript are due to easily recognisable causes. He tabulates them accordingly very completely, but it is impossible to do more than give a short summary of the chief results of these ingenious researches. He endeavours to show that most of the Western interpolations in the Acts are due to an early Montanist scribe.

For instance, he points to the numerous instances in which the Western reading refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — a doctrine on which the Montanists laid great stress, — such, for example, as the addition in Acts 15:29 to the injunctions to Gentile converts, ευ πραξατε φερομενοι εν τω αγιω πνευματι (Even if this be a misplaced gloss, the explanation of the glossator's point of view would be the same), or Acts 19:1, where the Western text adds θελοντος δε του Παυλου κατα την ιδιαν βουλην ποερεσθαι εις ιεροσολυμα ειπεν αυτω το πνευμα αγιον υποστρεφειν εις την Ασιαν . Here, of course, the purpose of the glossator is to explain S. Paul's change of plan, but Dr. Rendel Harris's point is that the method of the explanation is Montanistic.

Similarly, in Luke he traces many readings to the influence of Marcion. For instance, he points out that the Western text of Luke 9:54-55, which adds the words ως και Ηλιας εποιησεν και ειπον ουκ οιδατε ποιου πνευματος εστε, may be well compared with the fact that Marcion in his αντιθεσεις uses this incident of Elijah to support his theory that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God who sent His Son into the world.

He tries to show that these interpolations, or at least some of them, were made primarily in the Latin side of a supposed bilingual original.

For instance, the Bezan text of Acts 1:2 adds the gloss και εκελευσεν κηρυσσειν το ευαγγελιον = et praecepit praedicare evangelium. Probably this is an explanation of the word εντειλαμενος, which comes just before, and is trans- lated by 'praecepit'; in which case it is obvious that the glossator is working on a Latin text, taking his cue, as it were, from the 'praecepit,' repeating and explaining it. Had the gloss originated in the Greek, we should expect ενετειλατο; and had the Latin been a translation of εκελευσεν, we should have expected its almost invariable equivalent 'jussit.'

In this way Dr. Rendel Harris suggested that almost all the Western additions might be explained. And he has also endeavoured in a pamphlet on the Diatessaron of Tatian to throw a little further light on the Latin omissions or 'non-interpolations.' He draws attention to the presence both in Tatian and in the Curetonian of the passages omitted by the Latin authorities, and suggests that the explanation of the presence of the so-called non-interpolations is that there was a Pre-Tatianic harmony which included the words omitted, and that this affected all texts except the non-interpolating Latins. Of course. Dr. Rendel Harris was writing before the discovery of the Sinaitic Syriac Codex; and the light which that MS has thrown on the Syriac side of the Western text, and number of omissions to which it testifies, would probably make him reconsider this point It would be necessary to judge whether the Syriac omissions are similar in character to the Latin or not, and to consider whether it would be conceivable that there was yet another harmony to account for the Syriac omissions. The answer would scarcely be affirmative.

On the whole, probably Dr. Rendel Harris himself would not claim that his theory is a complete solution of the problem. But the value of a book to students is more often to be found in its suggestiveness than its completeness, and from this point of view few books are more valuable than Dr. Rendel Harris's. Apart from this, the permanent element in it is perhaps its demonstration of the multiplicity of strata in the Western text, and the emphasis laid on the influence of versions and harmonies.

Dr. Chase's Theory

(2) Dr. Chase: — Dr. Chase's theory is similar to that of Dr. Rendel Harris, in that he seeks a cause for the Western text in the influence of versions. But he considers the Syriac version rather than the Latin to be the originating cause. That is to say, that just as Dr. Rendel Harris traces the Western text to an original Graeco-Latin bilingual, so Dr. Chase traces it to an original Graeco-Syriac. And just as Dr. Rendel Harris traces his text to some centre of Latin Christianity, so Dr. Chase traces his to Antioch.

The arguments by which Dr. Chase supports his view are roughly these:

(1) In certain readings Syriac idioms seem to be reproduced, e,g, in Luke 9:16 the Bezan text is ευλογησεν επ' αυτους , which is said to be a literal translation of the ordinary Syriac construction.

(2) In other cases there are examples of forms of expression characteristic of Syriac, e, ff, in John 21:7 the Bezan text is λεγει...ο κυριος εστιν ημων , where the addition of ημων is accounted for by Dr. Chase, by the fact that such is the usual Syriac form of κυριος when used of Christ. [This might well be true of other languages; it is of English.]

(3) Sometimes two glosses in different MSS are apparently traceable to one original Syriac gloss, e,g. in Matt. 26:59 ff, D reads και ουχ ευρον το εξης και πολλο' προσηλθον ψευδομαρτυρες και ουχ ευρον το εξης , where in several Latin texts the 2nd εξης is represented by culpam or some cognate expression. Dr. Chase explains this as due to the influence of a Syriac word, which means both 'against' and also 'after'.

Probably what is generally felt about most of this kind of criticism is that it is a little too ingenious. It is easy to believe that the Syriac text has left many marks on the Greek, but not that this is a satisfactory explanation of all the Western readings.

The impartial observer is inclined to set Dr. Rendel Harris against Dr. Chase, and to consider that the theory of each is partially true and explains some readings, while neither entirely solves the whole problem.

Mention, however, should perhaps be made of that part of Dr. Chase's theory which, building on a review by Dr. Sanday, connects the Western text with Antioch. If the bond between the Old Latin and Old Syriac texts is close, we must look for the birthplace of the text in some district which was acquainted with both languages.

But Latin was spoken in official circles all over the world, while Syriac can scarcely have been well known in the West. Therefore we seem forced to suppose an Eastern origin for the Latin version ; and if so, Antioch is, on the whole, more probable than anywhere else, for the following reasons :

(1) It is known to have been the home of an early and vigorous Christianity.

(2) It was undoubtedly bilingual or multilingual.

(3) It was in close communication with the rest of the world.

(4) It was of considerable importance in the Roman world as a centre of government.

This is important, for there are some indications of superior knowledge of Roman administration and official language in the Western text, e.g. the knowledge shown in Luke that the proper title of Pontius Pilate was επιτροπος, not 'ηγεμων.

If however it be conceded that readings found in the Old Latin and Old Syriac have a greater claim to be considered the right readings than those which are only found in Neutral authorities, most of the arguments for an original connection between the Old Latin and Old Syriac are removed, though it remains probable that they influenced one another directly or indirectly at a later period.

Dr. Ramsey's Theory

(3) Professor Ramsay: — In his two important books on the Life and Work of S. Paul, The Church in the Roman Empire, and S. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, Professor Ramsay has made many suggestive remarks on the Western text in the Acts, tie inclines to the view that the Western readings are due to a very early glossator who had a particularly good knowledge of Oriental geography and customs.

Many of the examples adduced by Professor Ramsay are strikingly convincing when taken in connection with the archaeological information which he is able to supply.

For instance, no commentator had ever seen anything peculiar in the fact that the ordinary text (Acts 21:16) makes S. Paul go from Caesarea to Jerusalem in one stage. But Professor Ramsay is able to show that this is an impossibility, and at the same time to point to the Western text, which explains that S. Paul was accompanied by Mnason, with whom he stayed the night at a village on the road.

Thus he shows that the Western glossator had a knowledge of the conditions of travel in those regions so intimate as to notice a point which has escaped the notice of all other commentators. Such examples — and Professor Ramsay gives a great number of them — are very hard to resist. We feel that we must admit the accuracy and primitiveness of the Western text.

What we doubt is (1) whether Professor Ramsay is equally safe in confining the knowledge of the glossator to Oriental subjects.

Does not, for instance, the reference in Acts 28:16 to the στρατοπεδαρχης, whom Mommsen has identified with the 'Princeps peregrinorum' fall into the same category?

(2) Whether such good work is really that of a glossator.

Of course, Professor Blass hails these results as confirming his theory of two editions both equally primitive and original, and both written by the same author. It must be admitted that Professor Ramsay's arguments do seem to point to the Western text as at least as primitive as the ordinary type. But the arguments adduced when discussing Professor Blass's theory hold good.

Therefore what is needed is some theory which will uphold the primitiveness to which Professor Ramsay's theory points, and yet will avoid the difficulties to which Professor Blass's idea, that both types of text are due to the same author, has been seen to be liable.

Dr. Resch's Theory

(4) Professor Resch: — This German critic has published in two large books in the Texte und Untersuchungen series a theory of his own about the Synoptic problem.

So far as this theory concerns textual criticism it may be put shortly thus : There was, according to Professor Resch, an original Hebrew document which was the source of a great part of our present Gospels. This was extant in its primitive form after it had been used by the compilers of our Gospels ; and we can reconstruct it by a comparison of the ordinary texts of the present Gospels with each other, and also by the variant forms found in the early Fathers, and those in the Western texts, which he regards as often due to various translations of the Hebrew original which they knew.

There is no need to discuss this theory, which finds but few adherents in its entirety, but it is interesting from the point of view of the textual critic as a curious attempt to reconcile those phenomena which have made Blass regard the Western text as equally primitive with the ordinary type, and Drs. Chase and Rendel Harris attribute it largely to the influence of versions reacting on the Greek. It is also, perhaps, more important for drawing attention to the fact that the textual critic of the Gospels at all events, and probably also of the Acts, has to consider the questions raised by the higher criticism, and ask whether some of the phenomena which puzzle him may not be due to the disturbing influence of the sources used by the compiler of the documents.


Such are the chief theories which have recently been put before the public. None of them even claims to be final, but all must be studied by any one who wishes really to master the problems of textual criticism.

Perhaps the general result is to make it probable that Westcott/Hort (largely from lack of evidence) underestimated the possibility that a consensus of the Old Latin and Old Syriac may give us a really primitive text even when opposed to the great uncials ; but even if that were to be proved, and the text reconstructed on these lines, the problem is not fully solved.

We often have readings in which either variant is possible, and neither is decisively the better. What is to be said as to the origin of the readings which are rejected? That is the problem which has to be faced.

At present it has scarcely been touched, and it would be out of place to say anything at length on the point, but the present writer cannot help thinking that the solution of the origin of the Western interpolations, or Neutral interpolations, is connected somehow with the sources of the NT rather than with its text.

It is a remarkable fact that the prominent features of the Western text exist in the Gospels and Acts, which are based on documents of an earlier date, but are to a large extent wanting in the Epistles, which are free compositions unconnected with other writings.

It is therefore well to keep in mind the possibility that we have cases in the text of the Gospels and Acts of readings which are authentic in so far as they are part of the 'source-document', but unauthentic in the sense that the compiler did not use them, and which owe their presence in any text of the NT to the reaction of the sources on the text of the compilation.

It may also be well to say one more word to any one who proposes to study the Western problems. Begin with the Acts: - not because the material for criticism is greater, but in spite of the fact that it is less.

For the Western readings in the Acts are easier to judge, because they are bound from the nature of the book to deal more frequently with questions of geographical and archaeological detail which can be readily tested.

The Gospels, on the other hand, more usually supply Western readings which deal with sayings and facts which can only be judged by the criterion of a priori probability.

It is therefore the correct method to study the Western readings in Acts first of all, and to form some kind of judgment on them, and after this to turn to the Gospels and apply to them the conclusions derived from the study of the Acts.

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