Last Updated:

Aug 4, 2010

Gerrard on TC Canons

Excerpt from: G. Gerrard, Institutes of Biblical Criticism, (Cambridge, 1823)

Page Index

Textual Criticism Canons: Rules for variants - G. Gerrard (1823)
Categories of Readings: and sub-categories, examples
    (1) Genuine Readings - Judged as Certain: Rules, Examples
    (2) Probable Readings - Allowed as Corrections: Rules, Examples
    (3) Doubtful Readings - uncertain Rules & Examples
    (4) Spurious Readings - certainly false and rejected
Test Case:
    1st John 5:7-8 - organization of evidences

Gerrard: TC Canons

Rules of judging concerning various Readings.

768. From the several particular observations concerning the various readings of Scripture, which have been hitherto made, may be deduced such general principles as will serve for determining which are spurious, and which genuine.

769. The evidences by which various readings may be examined, are of two kinds, (1) External, and (2) internal; the former, arising from the authority of MSS. versions, and quotations ; the latter, from the nature of the languages, the sense and connexion, and the known occasions of false readings ; parallel places partake of the nature of both.
(Michaelis. Int. Led, § 16. Marsh's Michaelis, ch. 6. sect. 13.)

770. When the evidences of both kinds concur, in favour of a reading, there can be no doubt that it is the genuine reading ; and, therefore, we have full assurance of the genuineness of the great bulk of the Scriptures as contained in all the common editions.

771. When the evidence for and against a reading is divided, the determination must be made according to the circumstances of each particular case.

772. If the external evidence stands on the one side, and the internal on the other, the former ought, in general, to determine the question, for it is the most direct.

773. But, the internal evidence may, notwithstanding, be so strong, as to overbalance a great degree of external evidence ; particularly, where the reading supported by the latter is palpably false, or, were the introduction and prevalence of it can be easily accounted for, without supposing it genuine, as in copies plainly framed in conformity to the Masora [i.e., Hebrew OT].

774. Often, both the external and the internal evidence, is partly for one reading, and partly for another ; and they are divided with so great varieties of circumstances, that no rules of deciding, strictly universal, can be laid down.

775. But, if we distinguish various readings into four classes:

(1) certainly genuine
 (2) probable
 (3) dubious [uncertain] and
 (4) false ;

it may be possible to determine, with sufficient precision, the circumstances which entitle a reading to be placed in one or another of these classes.

(1) Certainly Genuine Readings

Rules and Examples

776. 1. There are readings certainly genuine ; and there are even different degrees of evidence, which may ascertain them to be such ; and all such ought to be adopted without hesitation.

777. Readings are certainly right, and that in the very highest sense at all consistent with the existence of any various reading, which are supported by several of the most ancient, or the majority of MSS. ; by all or most of the ancient versions ; by quotations ; by parallel places, if there be any, and by the sense ; though these readings be not found in the common editions, nor, perhaps, in any printed edition.

778. Readings are certainly right, which are supported by a few ancient MSS. in conjunction with the ancient versions, quotations, parallel places, and the sense ; though they be not found in most MSS. nor in the printed editions ; especially, when the rejection of them in these latter can be easily accounted for.

779. Readings in the Pentateuch, supported by the Samaritan copy, a few Hebrew MSS. the ancient versions, parallel places, and the sense, are certainly right, though they be not found in the generality of Hebrew MSS. nor in editions.

781. Ancient MSS. supported by some of the ancient versions, and the sense, render a reading certainly right, though it be not found in the more modern.

782. Ancient MSS. supported by parallel places and the sense, may show a reading to be certainly right.

783. The concurrence of the most ancient, or of a great number of MSS. along with countenance from the sense, is sufficient to shew a reading to be certainly right.

784. The concurrence of the ancient versions is sufficient to establish a reading as certainly right, when the sense, or a parallel place, shows both the propriety of that reading, and the corruption of what is found in the copies of the original.

785. In a text evidently corrupted, a parallel place may suggest a reading certainly genuine.

786. Readings certainly genuine, ought to be restored to the text of the printed editions, though hitherto admitted into none of them, that they may henceforth be rendered as correct as possible ; they ought, likewise, to be adopted in all versions of Scripture ; and till this be done, they ought to be followed in explaining it.

(2) Probably Genuine Readings

Rules and Examples

787. (2) There are various readings, probably genuine ; when the evidence preponderates, but is not absolute decisive, in their favour ; of which kind, as criticism is not always susceptible of certainty, are far the greatest part of various readings ; and the degrees of probability being infinite, according to the numberless minute alterations of circumstances, down from certainty to perfect doubtfulness, it is impossible to enumerate fully all the cases which fall under this head ; but the most general cases may be distinguished.

788. Of two readings, neither of which is unsuitable to the sense, either of which may have naturally arisen from the other, and both which are supported by MSS., versions and quotations ; the one will be more probable than the other, in proportion to the preponderance of the evidence which supports it ; and that preponderance admits a great variety of degrees.

789. Of two readings equally, or almost equally, supported by external evidence, that is probable, which best suits the sease, or the nature of the language, or which could not, so readily as the other, have been written by mistake.

790. The sense, and other internal evidences, may even render the reading of a few MSS. probable, in in opposition to that of the greater number, and of versions and quotations.

791. The Samaritan Pentateuch alone may render a reading in the books of Moses highly probable, if it be supported by the sense, connexion, or parallel places, in opposition to another found in MSS. and versions, but unsuitable to these internal circumstances.

792. One or a few ancient versions, may render a reading probable, when it is strongly supported by the sense, connexion, or parallel places, in opposition to one which suits not these, though found in other versions and in MSS.

793. The concurrence of all, or most of the ancient versions, in a reading not found in MSS. now extant, renders it probable, if it be agreeable to the sense, though not absolutely necessary to it.

794. Conjectural readings, strongly supported by the sense, the connexion, the nature of the language, or similar texts, may sometimes have probability ; especially, when it can be shown, that they would easily have given occasion to the present reading ; and, readings, first suggested merely by conjecture, have, in several cases, been afterwards found to be actually in MSS.

795. Probable readings may have so high a degree of evidence, as justly entitles them to be inserted into the text, in place of the Received readings much less probable. Such as have not considerably higher probability than the common ones, should only be put on the margin ; but, they, and all others, ought to be weighed with impartiality.

(3) Doubtful Readings

Rules and Examples

796. (3) Readings are dubious, when the evidence for, and against them, is so equally balanced, that it is difficult to determine which of them preponderates.

797. When MSS., versions, and other authorities, are equally, or almost equally, divided between readings which all suit the sense and connexion, it is difficult to determine which of them ought to be preferred.

798. The sense, and other internal evidences, may plead so strongly for one reading, and the authority of MSS. and versions so strongly for another, as to render it doubtful which ought to be preferred.

799. Both the external and the internal evidence may be so much divided between two readings, as to render it doubtful which of them demands the preference.

800. There are passages, especially in the Old Testament, where the paucity of independent MSS. or their discordance, the obscurity, or the variations, of the versions, or other defects of evidence for any one reading, render it very doubtful what is the genuine reading, and leave room for different conjectures.

801. No dubious reading should be taken into the text, in place of what is already there ; for, no alteration ought to be made in the received copies, without positive reason ; and, such dubious readings as are already in the text, should be marked as such, and the others put on the margin ; but, every person is at liberty to use his own judgment in choosing which he pleases.

(4) Spurious Readings

Rules and Examples

802. (4) There are readings which are wrong ; and of this kind, are far the greatest part of the variations from the received copies ; but, to it belong, likewise, several which have, by the injudiciousness, the inattention, or the prejudices of transcribers and editors, been admitted into these ; and such readings are either certainly wrong, — or, probably wrong.

803. All readings are certainly wrong, which stand in opposition to the several classes of readings certainly genuine ; of which, therefore, many examples have been already given ; but others may, without impropriety, be added ; particularly, such as have been very generally received, and yet bear plain marks of their being corruptions, as implying barbarism, inconsistency, or the like.

804. Readings which imply barbarism, solecism, or absurdity, may be pronounced certainly wrong, though we know of no reading, certainly right, to be substituted in their place.

805. All readings are probably wrong, which stand in opposition to such as are probably genuine ; and these, too, have been already exemplified in many instances.

806. Readings which imply considerable irregular- ity, or impropriety^ are probably false, though it be not clear what reading should be adopted instead of them.

807. Readings, certainly or very probably false, ought to be expunged from the editions of the Scriptures, and departed from in versions of them, however long and generally they have usurped a place there, as being manifest corruptions, which impair the purity of the sacred books.

Example: 1st John 5:7-8.

Evidence and Judgement

808. Among texts, the true reading of which is controverted, the most remarkable in several respects is 1st John 5:7-8. Where the words, are by some held to be genuine, and by others to be spurious ; and, all the kinds of evidence, both external and internal, having been urged on both sides, it is only by a fair comparison of them all, that it can be determined, in which of the four classes this reading out to be placed.

Mill, in loc. We t . ib. Bengel. ib. Griesb. ib. Simon, N. T. p. 1, 18. Marsh's Michaelis. Pappelbaum.

External Evidence

MSS Witnesses For the text: — It is supposed to be in 8 of Steph Vat. some seen by Simon, one mentioned by Erasmus, some by Cajetan, some by Valla, some by the Louvaine divines; it is in % the Dublin and Berlin MSS.
— Against it: It is not in any of Steph. nor in the Vat. nor in any seen by Simon. Erasmus says not that he saw one, nor has any person found it. Cajetan was misinformed, and Valla is misrepresented. The Louvaine divines mean Latin copies. The Dublin MS, is very modern ; and the Berlin MS. has been carefully collated by Pappelbaum, and proved to be almost a mere transcript from the Complutensian.

Versions: — For it. Vulg. ; in all Edit, and most MSB. ; all modern versions ; supposed to be in Ital. and Armen.
— Against it. Arab. Ethiop. Copt. Pers. Russ. Syr. in all MSS. and some Edit Armen. in ail ancient copies. Vulg. in many MSS. and the most ancient; in others, differently placed ; in Jerome's and Ital. Luther, in some editions. Zuingl. Bullmger. Eng. edit, till after 1556.

Quotations. - For it. (Greek.) Dissertation placed in Athanas. Lateran Council, as from some Greek copies of the 13th century. Calecas, 14th century. (Latin.) supposed in Tertull. and Cyprian, and Explan. fidei ; it is in the Preface to the Catholic Epistles, Victor Vitens. Vigilius Tapsens. Fulgentius; and is positively rejected by none.
— Against it. (Greek.) No Antenicene writer, nor Nicene Council ; no writer for above 700 years, though it might often have been for their purpose. (Latin.) No writer for above 800 years. Tertull. and Cypr. are misunderstood. The Preface to the Catholic Epistles is spurious and late ; all the others are too late The text could not be positively rejected, because it was not known.

Editions: — For it. Compl. Erasm. 3d. &c. Steph. Beza, and all the common ones derived from these.
— Against it. Erasm. 1st and 2. Alb. Haguenau Strasburg. Colingeus, and several derived from these. Griesb.

Internal Evidence

Connexion: — For it. The connexion is imperfect, as there would be only witnesses on earth ; it is referred to, v. 9. " the witness of God ;" it is a proof of v. 5, 6. and properly beings with on, v. 7. and not with aett, v. 8.
— Against it. The connexion requires it not ; three witnesses are sufficient, and the apostle says not that they are " on earth." V. 4, refers not to this, but to what follows, and the proof does begin with iri. The connexion will not bear it ; it disjoins v. 6. and v. 8. improperly ; and the same witness would be unfairly reckoned twice.

Occasion: — For it. The text has been omitted by the Arians or Gnostics, accidentally and easily; it could not be added from a gloss, because there is no such gloss in any Greek Ms.
— Against it. It was a mystical interpretation of v. 8. written on the margin of some Latin copies ; whence it was taken into the text, and translated into Greek ; it could not easily be omitted accidentally, far less so, generally.

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