Last Updated:

Aug 4, 2010

Lias on the PA

Excerpt from: Lias, Principles of Biblical Criticism, (London, 1893)

Page Index

Chapt IX. NT Criticism: Introduction -Lias
Manuscripts, Witnesses:
    Uncials - Oldest Manuscripts
    Cursives - Lectionaries, Early Fathers
    Critical Texts - Erasmus to Tregelles
    Westcott & Hort - controversial text
    Early Corruption - evidence & causes of error
    Canons of TC - rules for selecting variants
    Applying TC - examples of selected variants
    Pericope Adultera - John: 7:53-8:11 (brief)
    Bloody Sweat - Luke: 22:43-44, Bentley's quote

Ch. IX: Principles of NT Textual Criticism

The principles of NT textual criticism at present accepted were the result of much patient labour, extending over a long period. The best way of understanding them is to trace their gradual historical development. Even now it cannot be affirmed that we have arrived at absolute certainty in regard even to the principles themselves, much less in regard to their application. Indeed, as far as their application is concerned, it is impossible to hope ever to arrive at exact conclusions. The utmost that can be done, in this as in other sciences, is to discover the nearest practical approximation to the facts.

In the criticism of the NT we have to deal with a different set of circumstances to those which confront us in the case of the Old Testament. There the Versions are of far greater antiquity than the MSS., and the weight of the MSS. simply depends upon the fact that they are the representatives of a tradition very much older than themselves. It may be remarked in passing that it is curious to find it generally admitted that tradition has succeeded in preserving the best text of the Old Testament, when modern criticism attaches so little value to tradition relating to the historical fact of the age and composition of the books which compose it. But this by the way. Tradition has been respected by the scribes of the Old Testament ; and, as we have seen, many competent critics believe the text of MSS. which were written between thirteen and fourteen hundred years at least after the books themselves were compiled, to be purer than that of a version not three hundred years subsequent to the completion of the Canon.

But in the case of the NT we have MSS. almost, or quite, as ancient as the most important versions. The best MSS. we possess date from the fourth century. No version is supposed to have been earlier than the latter end, or, as some hold, the middle of the 2nd. And we have evidence, which will be given hereafter, that textual corruption preceded the earliest version of the NT which has come down to us.

NT Manuscripts


The date of the principal versions of the NT has been already discussed in dealing with the Old. 1 We will therefore proceed to mention the principal MSS. And here, as we are dealing with principles rather than details, we will confine our attention to the five which bear the highest reputation.

Of these, the most valuable have for some time been supposed to be:
the Codex Sinaiticus, usually denoted by (א), and
the Codex Vaticanus, usually known as (B). After these come the
Codex Alexandrinus (A),
the Codex Ephraemi (C), and
the Codex Bezae (D).

Of these, א was discovered by Tischendorf in 1844 and 1859. 2 It contains the whole of the NT, beside a considerable portion of the LXX. translation of the Old. It contains also the Epistle of Barnabas entire, and a considerable portion of the Shepherd of Hermas. It is now at St. Petersburg. Its date is supposed to be about the middle of the 4th century.

B is in the Vatican Library. How it got there we have no information. It contains the NT with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles, a part of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse. It is also supposed to belong to the middle of the 4th century. It corresponds very closely in its main features to א. This has given rise to a supposition that both of them were among the fifty MSS. of the New Testament which Eusebius was directed by Constantine to procure for the Churches in his newly-built capital of Constantinople. 3 The fact that א and B differ in some important particulars in no way detracts from the possibility that this was the case. For it is obviously quite impossible that these copies could all have been made by the same hand, or even in the same place, or from the same exemplar.

A is in the British Museum. It was the gift of the unfortunate Cyrillus Lucaris, once patriarch of Alexandria and afterwards translated to Constantinople, to our own equally unfortunate Charles I. It contains the NT except the first twenty-four chapters of St. Matthew, two leaves of St. John's Gospel, and three leaves of 2 Corinthians. It also contains the LXX. Version, and a large part of the First and of the so-called Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. It is supposed to be of the 5th century.

C contains about three-fifths of the NT, but leaves are missing from nearly every quire. It is in the National Library, in Paris, and is of about the same date as A.

D is in the University Library at Cambridge, and has been supposed to be of the 6th century. It contains the Gospels and the Acts, though not in a complete state. Its Greek text is defective, and appears to have been in many instances supplied from a Latin version, and it contains many singular interpolations, from whence derived no one has any idea. 4

These MSS. are all what are called uncial, that is to say, they are written in Greek capital letters. Beside these five principal uncials there are catalogued 102 others, containing various portions of the Scriptures.

1. Above, p. 16.

2. He found the first portion of it which he discovered in a waste paper basket containing materials for lighting fires !

3. Eusebius, Vit. Const., iv. 36, 37.

4. One relates to our Lord having seen a man working on the Sabbath day, and having said to him, "Man, if thou knowest what thou doest, blessed art thou ; but thou knowest not, cursed art thou and a transgressor of the law." Mr. Rendel Harris has recently published an interesting monograph on this MS.

NT Witnesses (cont.)

Cursives, Lectionaries, Early Fathers

There are also about 3,000 cursives, or MSS. written in the ordinary Greek character to which we are accustomed, and for the most part of later date than the uncials. Some uncials, however, belong to the tenth cent my, and some cursives were written as early as the ninth.

There are also more than 400 lectionaries, or books of lessons and other extracts from Scripture appointed to be read in Churches. A further source of information are the quotations of Scripture to be found in the writings of the Fathers. These are copious enough for us to be enabled to restore the whole, or nearly the whole, of the NT from them, should it have happened to have been lost. But at present this source of information has not been adequately consulted, and it is vitiated by one serious defect, namely, that the quotations have frequently been assimilated to the copies of the NT existing at the time when the writings of the Father in question were transcribed. 5 Moreover, not only are the copies of the Fathers usually of much later date than the best MSS. of the NT, but the Fathers frequently quoted the Scriptures from memory. Therefore their express statements in regard to a reading are the only ones which, as a rtile, can be relied on with any degree of safety. A great deal of solid work, however, has been done in this direction, as a glance at Tischendorf's NT will shew.

5. Sometimes this is quite clear, because the Commentary is obviously on another reading than that given in the text commented on. This appears to have been the case, for instance, with Chrysostom, in 2 Cor. x. 12. See my note in loc.

Critical Texts

Cursives, Lectionaries, Early Fathers

Our next point will be to explain how these materials have been utilized. The best way to do this will be by means of a brief history of the progress of modern critical research. Of modem editions of the NT the first is the celebrated Complutensian Edition, prepared at Alcala, in Spain, under the direction of Cardinal Ximenes, and published for the most part between the years 1514 and 1522. We have no specific information concerning the MS. authority on which it relied, but we may be sure that it was of late origin, and that the Vulgate was unduly venerated as being the Textus Receptus of the Latin Church.

While this edition was in course of preparation, Erasmus , whose attention had been turned in the direction of Scripture studies, issued an edition of his own in 1516. 6 Five editions of this work appeared during his life-time, the fourth of which, published in 1527, was revised by the aid of the Complutensian, which by that time had been pubhshed. He used only four MSS., and the best of these he seems to have regarded with suspicion, on account of its deviation from the others, which contained a text of a late type. He retranslated some few passages from the Latin where his MSS. were deficient, and the edition known as the Textus Receptus (see below) has followed him in this. It is worthy of note that he did not insert the passage relating to the Three Witnesses (1 John 5:7) till his 3rd edition. The Aldine Edition, which followed that of Erasmus after a short interval, is practically a reprint of his.

Then Stephens followed with the first attempt at anything like a critical edition of the New Testament. 7 He issued four editions between 1546 and 1551, of which the third, published at Paris in 1550, makes use of the Codex Bezae and fourteen other MSS. But though he gives the results of his collation, his text follows those of the Complutensian and Erasmus .

Beza followed with five editions between 1556 and 1598. But in his text there is no evidence of independent research, though where his theological predilections come into play he ventures sometimes on a variation of reading.

The Elzevir s, Bp. Walton (the author of the famous Polyglot), and Mill , issued editions between 1624 and 1707, but the basis of them was the text of Stephens, which, as followed in the Elzevir Edition, is described in it as "Text us ah omnibus Receptus" whence the name by which it is now generally known.

Bengel: It was from the appearance of his work in 1734-5 that modern textual criticism must be held to be dated. He first suggested the idea of families of MSS., or, in other words, the dependence of the later MSS. upon some more ancient exemplar, from which the later MSS. had derived their special characteristics. 8 He did little to apply his theory to the increasing number of MSS. which had by his time been collected. But the conception that MSS. were not to be counted but weighed, began from his time to find acceptance, and its truth is now universally acknowledged.

Wetstein (1751) followed with a more careful summary of results appended in the margin, but the Textus Receptus still continued to be the accepted text.

Griesbach , who published his editions between 1774 and 1806, was the first who dared to print a text of his own. He advances on the lines of Bengel , and divides the families of MSS. into three — Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Western. 9

Scholz follows in (1830) , the results of whose labours are marred by want of critical judgment. 10

Lachmann (1842-50) is remarkable for a new departure. He contends that the superior antiquity of the uncials makes them far more trustworthy than any number of MSS. of later date. He also attaches considerable importance to the readings in the Vetus Latina and Vulgate. 11

Tischendorf follows on the same lines. But his eighth edition is a great event in the history of NT criticism, with its copious Apparatus Oriiicus, on which each reader can use his own judgment, and the collation of the invaluable MS. א, the discovery of which between 1844 and 1859 has been already mentioned. It is true that Dr. Scrivener regards Tischendorf as "lacking in stability of judgment." 12 But nevertheless the above-mentioned edition will always remain a marvel of critical research. The immense labour involved, the extraordinary accuracy of the details, and the patient investigation by which the conclusions are reached, will render his name for ever famous in the history of the study of the NT. 13 It should be added that Tischendorf acknowledges four families of MSS., the Alexandrian, the Latin, the Byzantine, and the Asiatic. But these he places in pairs — "non tam quattuor singula quam duo paria."

Tregelles followed with an edition in 1844 and subsequent years, which he has compiled from the uncials only. Such an edition has no doubt a great value for the scholar, but it cannot of course compare with the wealth of resources which has been collected for us by the diligence and activity of Tischendorf, 14

6. "In his haste to be the first editor, Erasmus allowed himself to be guilty of strange carelessness, but neither he nor any other scholar then living could have produced a materially better text without enormous labour, the need of which was not yet apparent."— Introduction to Westcott & Hort 's text, p. 11.

7. He is usually called Stephens, but he was in reality a French printer, and his name was Estienne.

8. Mill , however, who had collected and examined a great many MSS., had already remarked on the correspondences of the Latin evidence with the text of the Codex Alexandrinus. Bentley, too, previously to Bengel , had desired to restore the text of the NT upon the principle of Latin and Greek consent. See Westcott and Hort, Introduction, p. 180. Bengel had roughly divided the MSS. into Asiatic and African, and had sub-divided the latter into Alexandrian (represented by A) and Old Latin. The Old Latin Version, it will be remembered, is supposed to have originated in Africa.

9. Griesbach 's ability as a critic is highly esteemed by Westcott & Hort , and his main historical principles are accepted by them. But in the applieation of those principles, his results are regarded by them as seriously impaired (1) by the comparatively slender amount of information at his disposal, (2) by his supposition that all Alexandrian MSS. were of the same type, (.3) by his taking the Textus Receptus as the basis for cx^rrection of other texts.

10. Tischendorf, in his Preface to his eighth edition, complains of the "levity and sloth" which Scholz has displayed in the use of his authorities.

11. Up to the time of Lachmann , no critic dared to take any text but that of the Textus Receptus as a basis for criticism, and even now any other course has been fiercely denounced by some. But the short history which has been given above will serve to shew that the Textus Receptus has not only no authority superior to any other text, but rather perhaps the contrary. It was the proclamation of this fact, and the resolution displayed in acting on it, which makes the work of Lachmann a revolution in the principles of NT textual criticism. But Lachmann (see Westcott & Hort 's Introduction, p. 13) used too few documents, employed them in too "artificially rigid" a manner, and did not possess full information of the actual text of the MSS. he professed to follow.

12. Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, p. 258. If this accusation is based upon the fact that Tischendorf's views were considerably modified by the discovery of א, he might very fairly reply, "Is there not a cause?"

13. It may give some idea of the vast amount of research involved in the preparation of this edition if it is stated that the reading of every MS. at present catalogued, of every Version, and of a vast number of Fathers, is placed at the foot of the page.

14. This account is based upon Scrivener 's Introduction, Tischendorf's Prolegomena to his eighth edition, and a very useful work by the Rev. C. E. Hammond, called Outlines of Textual Criticism Applied to the NT.

Critical Texts

Westcott & Hort

The recent work of Westcott & Hort demands a new paragraph. It is a work perhaps of less vast research than that of Tischendorf, the facts collected by whom are utilized. 15 But it is nevertheless a work of profound and varied learning, and it is in many ways a new departure. The facts have been once more subjected to rigid analysis, and new and most interesting conclusions are based upon them. Its principal characteristic is the extraordinary diligence with which the vast store of materials collected by others has been analysed and classified afresh, and the skill with which new and important results are attained by a masterly handling of the details.

A brief statement of the conclusions at which the authors have arrived is necessary for those who desire to understand the present position of NT criticism. In an Introduction, in which the minutest acquaintance with the wide range of facts involved is combined with a very unusual power of generalization. Professor Hort 16 examines the phenomena anew.

He accepts the conclusion that the MSS are to be divided into the three families mentioned by Griesbach, but he contends that the facts point to an authoritative revision of the Syrian text "between a.d. 250 and 350, possibly made or promoted by Lucianus of Antioch in the latter part of the third century." 17 This text, though later and less pure than those preserved in such uncials as א and B, eventually prevailed over them, owing to the confusions which disturbed the East and to the adoption of the revised Syrian text at Constantinople. It is understood that these conclusions have met with the unqualified acceptance of Bishop Westcott. 18

It was not likely that such conclusions as these would be received without protest. Not only did they depreciate the value of the Textus Receptus, to which scholars of the more conservative type are still very strongly attached ; not only did they seem to attribute an undue weight to the readings of א and B — but they went so far as to infer from an examination of the phenomena the occurrence of a historical event of which we have no historical evidence whatever. Their principles were therefore energetically attacked in some quarters. 19

Dr. Scrivener "doubts the stability of the imposing structure" raised by the editors. 20 He complains that "no historical evidence" has been adduced in support of their "speculative conjecture," and yet it is regarded as "indubitably true" by those who have proclaimed it. 21

No doubt the phenomena of the Hebrew text, based upon the well-known principle of the "survival of the fittest," supplies a strong argument in favour of the general accuracy of the Textus Receptus. Nevertheless it cannot be regarded as scientifically impossible that historical facts may be discovered by the analytical method.

Such an event as the discovery not only of the planet Neptune, but of its size and actual position in the heavens, by Professors Adams and Leveitier, and that solely by analytical investigations based on the perturbations of Uranus, would prevent any well-instructed person from taking up such a position as this.

But of course, on the other hand, it must be admitted that observation has not as yet verified the theory of the revision of the Syrian text at the end of the 3rd century, and that until observation has so verified it, we are not entitled to look upon it as incontrovertibly established. We must therefore be content to regard the theories of scholars as successive approximations to a truth which, like a mathematical series extending to infinity, it is beyond our power exactly to estimate.

15. This they freely admit. "The indefatigable labours [of Tischendorf and Tregelles] in the discovery and exhibition of fresh evidence, aided by similar researches on the part of others, provide all who come after them with invaluable resources not available half a century before."— Introduction, p. 14,

16. The irreparable loss of such a scholar as Dr. Hort , which has befallen us while these pages were passing through the press, is lamented by all.

17. Introduction, p. 1.37.

18. By the acknowledgment of a Pre-Syrian and purer text, previous to the supposed Lucianic revision, the number of families of texts has been raised to four. N and B, according to their view, are representatives of this Pre-Syrian text, a fact attested by the absence from their pages of distinctive Syrian readings {Introduction, V-'i^^).

19. As for instance in the Quarterly Review of April 1882, in an article written by the late Dean Burgon ; by Canon Cook in his Revised Version of the First Three Gospels; by the Rev. S. C. Malan, a well-known Syriac scholar; and by Mr. McClellan. Bu the "Golden Canon" of the latter, which he thinks "must be invested with supremacy," savours too much of the a priori method.

20. P. 531.

21. P. 534.

Early Corruption

Causes of Error

The difficulty of ascertaining the true text is enormously increased by the extremely early date at which various readings commenced. One would have thought that the utmost care would have been taken to preserve the autographs of the various writers. It is surprising, but none the less true, that no attempt whatever appears to have been made to do anything of the kind.

So far was this from being the case, that, as we shall see hereafter, it has been suggested as explanatory of the state of the text of Mark 16 that the last leaf of the original MS. was torn off, and its contents conjecturally replaced.

Jerome frequently mentions variations in the copies which he consulted. And we find proof that such variations were in existence as early as the 2nd century. Thus Irenaeus, speaking of the number of the beast in the Apocalypse, speaks of the most accurate and ancient copies of that work, and mentions that some have altered the number 666 into 616. 22 Tertullian 23 accused the heretics of his day with corrupting the text of the Scriptures, So did a writer of the second or beginning of the 3rd century, quoted by Eusebius. 24 And the Latin Version used by Tertullian differs in some particulars from the Greek text used by Clement of Alexandria at the same time. The well-known passage in Origen's Commentary on John 1:28 will also occur to many, where he refers to the reading "Bethany" instead of "Bethabara," the former of which he found in the great majority of MSS.

One result of all the investigations which have been mentioned has been the classification of the causes of various readings, and the formulating of certain rules, or canons, to aid us in determining which of two or more such readings is to be preferred. The causes of various readings may be divided into unintentional and intentional.

The first (unintentional) includes:

(1) errors of sight,

(2) of hearing (for then as often now in the case of printing, the MS. to be copied was read by one person to another who wrote at his dictation), 25 and

(3) errors of memory.

The second (intentional) embraces:

(1) the incorporation of marginal notes or glosses into the text,

(2) what are known as conflate readings, that is, the combining two readings into one,

(3) the alteration of one passage so as to correspond with another (a practice extremely common in the Gospels, as an examination of Alford's or Tischendorf's apparatus criticus will shew),

(4) alterations to clear up a supposed difficulty,

(5) alterations on account of unusual style or spelUng,

(6) alterations for dogmatic purposes, and

(7) insertions from the liturgies, and especially of words necessarily supplied in selections for public reading. 26 Sometimes the scribe undertook on his own responsibility to improve the text.

22. Adv. Haer., v. 30.

23. De Praescr. Haer. xvii. xxxix.

24. Hist. Eccl., V. 28. He points out that their copies contained the most divergent texts ; that of Asclepiodotus differing from that of Theodotus, that of Hermophilus from that of Apollonius. This last is accused of issuing inconsistent texts of his own.

25. Mistakes of this sort are said to be due to itacism.

26. As, for instance, we find in many Prayer Books "God" substituted for "He" in the last sentence at the beginning of Morning and Evening Prayer. Instances of all thes3 will be found in Mr, Hammond's volume akeady mentioned.

Canons of TC

Rules for Determining Text

The canons of criticism generally accepted are the following :

First, in regard to External Evidence, we have two rules considered as essential —

1. The agreement of the earliest MSS. with the earliest versions and quotations in the earliest Fathers, may be regarded as decisive in favour of a reading.

2. As we have already seen, the character^ not the number, of the MSS. containing a reading constitutes the criterion by which the evidence is to be decided.

This involves a question not merely of the antiquity of MSS., but of the family to which they belong.* The comparative weight of the above-mentioned canons naturally differs for different sorts of errors. Thus, for instance, errors due to itacism might crop up in any direction, at any time.

Of canons relating to Internal Evidence we have the following :

1. The shorter reading is usually preferable to the longer. See the case of "conflate" readings mentioned above. This rule, however, is obviously by no means an universal one.

2. A difficult reading is prima facie preferable to an easier one — the probability being in favour of the copyist having altered the text because he failed to understand it.

3. The reading is to be preferred which explains a multitude of variations — such variations often existing to a great extent in certain passages.

4. What appear to have been intentional corrections are doubtful.

Other rules which are given by Tischendorf and Westcott & Hort have already been classed above under the causes of various readings.

For instances of the application of the above rules the student is referred to the works on the criticism of the NT which have been mentioned above. One or two various readings which are doctrinally important will, however, be briefly discussed.

• See above, p. 165.

Key Passages

Applications of Textual Criticism

1st John 5:7

The first is the celebrated passage relating to the Three Witnesses (1 John 5:7). It cannot be too strongly impressed on all readers of the Scriptures that this passage forms no part of Holy Scripture, and has of necessity been omitted from the Revised Version. As we have already seen, it was not until his third edition that Erasmus introduced it into his text — very properly, no doubt, in the then condition of critical science, but only on the authority of a single MS. No Greek MS. previous to the 15th century contains it. No Greek Father quotes it, even when discussing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 30 It is found only in some copies of the Latin Versions. The words contained in the passage may be traced as far back as Tertullian and Cyprian, both Latin Fathers of an early date. But they do not cite them from Scripture, though the passage is found entire in the works of Priscillian, who died in a.d. 385, and in a profession of faith presented by Eugenius, Bishop of Carthage, to Hunneric, King of the Vandals, in the fifth century. Thus there is no evidence worth considering in favour of the passage in question being an integral portion of the Word of God.

30. Ambrose, a Latin Father, in his treatise De Sancto Spiritu, comments carefully on 1 John 5:8, but betrays not the slightest sign of acquaintance with v. 7.

Acts 20:28

We next come to Acts 20:28, in which we have the alternative readings Θεον, Κυριον, and Χριστον, and three other "conflate " readings, combining Θεον, Κυριον. The conflate readings are ill supported, and are in themselves suspicious. They may therefore be dismissed, as may also Χριστον, which is found in no MS. There remain therefore the readings Θεον, Κυριον. In favour of Θεον we have 5^ and B, whose agreement on most important points has already been mentioned. In favour of Κυριον we have A, C, D, and E. The Vulgate is in favour of Θεον.. The copies of the Peshito in the British Museum examined by Dr. Wright have Θεον (Aloho), whereas the Nestorian MSS. are in favour of Χριστον.

Of the Fathers, we have Chrysostom, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius, and Ibas among the Greeks, and Ambrose among the Latins, in favour of Θεον ; and Irenaeus and the Apostolical Constitutions among the Greeks, and Jerome and Augustine, as well as Lucifer of Cagliari, contemporary with Athanasius, among the Latins, in favour of Κυριον . Beside this we have the express assertion of Athanasius himself that nowhere in Holy Writ do we find the Blood of God mentioned without His Flesh.

This is an admirable instance of the difficulty which sometimes attends the determination of the true text. For here the authority of MSS. and Versions is, on the whole, in favour of Θεου . The Patristic evidence points the other way.

Not only have we the express testimony of Athanasius, to which great importance must be attached, but the testimony of Irenaeus, a father of the second century, though it has only come down to us in a version made early in the third, is also of great weight, as is also that of the Apostolical Constitutions, which, to whatever date we may assign them, are clearly Ante-Nicene. If we ask whether the text was likely to be falsified for doctrinal reasons, there is equal probability on either side. The Nestorians were as likely to alter Θεου into Κυριου as the Eutychians were to take the opposite course. But it is unquestionable that Θεου is antecedently the less probable reading.

Yet it is not surprising that while Tischendorf and Tregelles prefer Κυριου . Westcott & Hort , in virtue of the high authority they are inclined to attach to N and B, have adopted Θεου into their text. 31

31. Professor Hort thinks it possible that υιον has dropped out of some early copy . The similarity of termination makes this possible, especially in uncial MSS., and as Professor Hort says, this would remove all difficulty. The words would then read, "which God hath purchased with the Blood of His own Son." But of course, though it may be suggested as an extremely probable solution of the difficulty, no conjectural emendation of this kind can be actually introduced into the text.

1 Tim. 3:16

The next case is 1 Tim. 3:16. Here the question is between Θεος, ος, ο — between "God manifest in the flesh," or "Who" (or "which") was manifest in the flesh," or "in flesh." The question between ος, ο ("Who" or "which") may be easily dismissed. Not only is the MS. evidence slight, but the probability that ος would be altered into ο for grammatical reasons (the word in apposition to it being the neuter) is overwhelming. There remain therefore Θεος, ος . For the former we have the vast majority of MSS., uncial and cursive (it should be mentioned that the passage is missing in B), no important versions, and Didymus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Theodoret, in the fourth and fifth centuries.

For ος we have א , C, G, 33 and three cursives. A has the mark in it which distinguishes from ο, but it is supposed (as well as the signs of contraction above, converting ος into Θεος ), by most persons who have examined it, to have been placed there by a later hand. All the Latin Fathers support ος , together with the Latin translation of Origen, as well as Epiphanius, Theodore of Mopsuestia in the fourth, and Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth century. D and the Vulgate read o, and this (see above) tends to support ος . The Old Latin and the Peshito favour the relative. It has also been remarked that many Fathers are silent on the subject, who would unquestionably have adduced this passage as a conclusive proof of the Divinity of Christ had they known of its existence. There is one corroboration of the reading ος which does not seem to have occurred to the critics. It is that the term μυστηριον is elsewhere applied to Christ (Col. 1:27, 28).

33. This statement, however, has been questioned.

The two next passages to which we shall refer have no doctrinal bearing. But they are important as being passages of considerable length. The first is the closing words of St. Mark's Gospel (Mk. 16:9-20), the other is the story of the woman taken in adultery (St. John 7:53 — 8:11).

Mark's Ending Mk. 16:9-20

In regard to the first of these, it is contained in all the MSS. which have come down to us (save those which will be presently mentioned), in all the Lectionaries, in the Vetus Latina (with the exception mentioned below), the Vulgate and Peshito Syriac Versions, and in a large nnmber of Fathers, beginning with Justin Martyr.

On the other hand א omits it altogether. B omits it, but leaves a blank space as though something were wanting. 34 The writing, too, in א is spread out, as though to conceal the omission. L gives two endings to the Gospel, the one the ending known to us, the other an ending clearly apocryphal. Ψ gives the shorter ending as the genuine one, and then adds the other.

The copy of the Vetus Latina known as k gives the shorter ending in place of the usual one.

Eusebius says that in his day it was absent from some copies. Dean Burgon has replied with some force to the argument which is drawn from the supposed dissimilarity of style between the passage in question and the rest of the Gospel, and he has practically disposed of the supposed testimony of Gregory of Nyssa, Severus, and Hesychius.

Still, it must be admitted that the passage looks remarkably like an addition by another hand, though of course the Gospel could not have concluded with the words βουντο γαρ ; and it must also be admitted that the passage in question is unquestionably of very great antiquity.

It is suggested that the last leaf of a very early copy of the Gospel was torn off, and its place supplied from the other Gospels by a scribe of very early date indeed. The probability of such a solution must be left to the reader's own discretion.

34. A most interesting fact, however, has here been brought to light by Tischendorf. The particular portion of the MSS. in which the passage in question should be found was, in his opinion, written in both א and B by the same person. Thus the testimony of these two important MSS. is reduced to a single testimony.

Dr. Salmon (Introduction, chap. 9) gives forcible reasons for the supposition that the scribe of this portion of א and B found the passage in his MS. or MSS. and deliberately cancelled it. Was this under the influence of Eusebius himself, by whose orders, as we have seen, the whole work was carried out, and who doubted the genuineness of the passage? It should be added that Irenaeus, no mean authority, as we have seen, and whose testimony derives additional force from his having been born in Asia Minor, and having resided for years at Lyons, not only quotes the last verse but one of this Gospel as it stands in our version (Adv. Haer. iii. 10), but quotes it as St. Mark's. We should add that he is citing the Four Gospels consecutively in proof of his assertions, and that it is at the conclusion of this part of his argument that he makes his celebrated assertion that the Gospels could be neither less nor more than four. Thus it is impossible to contend that he had any doubt of the passage, and cited it unguardedly. And the context forbids any suspicion of interpolation.

The Pericope de Adultera

John 7:53-8:11

Evidence Against Authenticity

As regards this other passage the best uncials, א B (A and C happen to be deficient here), are unquestionably against it. Several others of less authority mark it as doubtful. Sixty cursives omit it, and about as many mark it as doubtful. Eleven of these place it at the end of the Gospel. Four only add a portion of it there. One places it after Jn. 7:36, and four insert it in the Gospel of St. Luke. Many copies of the Vetus Latina omit it. So do the best Syriac Versions.

It is apparently unknown to Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Cyril of Alexandria. It breaks the thread of the narrative ; it contains great variations in reading ; and its style presents many marks of difference from the usual style of the Apostle.

Evidence for Authenticity

On the other hand, D, F, G, and other uncials of less authority, contain it. It is found without any indication that the passage is doubtful in the vast majority of cursives. It is found in some copies of the Vetus Latina, as also in the Vulgate. It is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions. 35 St. Jerome states that he found it in many copies, and St. Augustine supports it. It is probably a fragment of some narrative no longer extant, which has been added to the text of St. John's Gospel in very early times because there were strong grounds for believing it to be a genuine portion of the biography of Christ.

35. Book 2, sec. 4. The Apostolical Constitutions appears to be a compilation of various dates. But the passage in question, by its tone on penitential discipline, appears to have been of decidedly early date, and the citation was certainly not interpolated. Thus we have a witness at least as early as the middle of the third century. But it is not stated in which Gospel, or in what part of that Gospel, the words are found.

The Bloody Sweat

Luke 22:43-44

One other important passage may be mentioned, which is bracketed by Westcott & Hort , and by them considered as probably spurious. It is the account of the Bloody Sweat of Christ, and of the appearance of the Angel to strengthen Him, which is found in Luke 22:43,44. It has very strong documentary and patristic evidence in its favour, including that of Justin Martyr (circ. 150), 36 and all the best versions contain it. But the student of Scripture should at least know that its authenticity has been called in question.

Two points may be mentioned in conclusion. The first is, that though Westcott & Hort permit what they call the intrinsic and transcriptional probability of readings to be regarded as evidence, they regard "conjectural emendation" of passages as occupying a very "inconsiderable place" in the textual criticism of the NT. 37 If there be any similarity between the two cases, it should surely make us a little doubtful of hypothetical considerations when applied to the Old. The other is the very slight doctrinal or practical significance of most of the disputed readings.

We cannot conclude this branch of our subject better than in the well-known words of Bentley:

" Make your thirty thousand (various readings into) as many more, if numbers of copies can ever reach that sum : all the better to a knowing and serious reader, who is thereby more richly furnished to select what he sees genuine. But even put them into the hands of a knave or a fool, he shall not extinguish the light of any one chapter, nor so disguise the truth of Christianity but that every feature of it shall be still the same."

36. Dial, with Trypho, chap. 103. The passage is a remarkable one for many reasons. First of all the passage is cited from the "memoirs" of the "Apostles and those who followed them." Next, it occurs in such a connection as to preclude any possibility of the text having been altered in later days. For not only is Justin's mode of mentioning the Gospels peculiar to himself, but he uses the passage to support an argument in favour of the prophetic character of Ps. 22.

37. Introduction, p. 72, "Yet in cases such as the variations between ημων and υμων, εχομεν and εχωμεν, due almost entirely to the ear, we may fairly be guided chiefly by the context."

Return to Top

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional Valid CSS!

This page powered by: