Sept 1, 2010
Beza on the PA
Excerpt from: Tregelles, Printed Text, p. 34 (London, 1857)
Jack Finegan informs us of Beza's opinion of the PA, relayed through Tregelles:
"Beza did exercise some critical judgment with respect to some passages that were absent, or variously rendered, in some manuscripts. With respect to Jn. 8:1-12, for example, he wrote:
"As far as I am concerned, I do not conceal that I justly regard as suspected what the ancients with such consent either rejected or did not know of. Also such a variety in the reading causes me to doubt the fidelity of the whole of that narration."
It must be noted however, that Beza's reasons for rejecting the passage would not hold up in the light of current knowledge.
(1) He gives the opinion of "the ancients" (meaning early Christian writers) as who he would side with. Yet no early Father rejected these verses in any known writing to date. A dozen or more used the passage as Holy Scripture. Had Beza been familiar with the wide variety of patristic evidence, he would probably have stood on the side of the PA's authenticity.
Early Fathers - Click here for Patristic Evidence.
Also, in Beza's time the dubious value of the "argument from silence" of some early writers was not fully appreciated. Those writing church commentaries had no choice but to skip over the passage in silence, since it was skipped over in silence in public reading during Pentecost services.
(2) Beza also discusses "variety in the reading". But he cannot here mean numerical quantity of variants, as claimed much later by A. Plummer (Gosp.Acc.John, 1880, "80" variants, apparently misquoting the "60 variants" noted by Godet in 1865). In Beza's day hardly a dozen manuscripts had been properly collated.
Beza must here be referring to the unique version of the PA found in his own Codex Cantabrigiensis (D/"Bezae"), which differs greatly from the standard form found in the majority of MSS. Although the text of D is unusual, and ancient (4th cent?), it has substantially the same story. Which text is closer to the original is a debate we can postpone. Here we may simply note that Codex D is a bilingual Greek/Latin MS, and one side of the text may have influenced the other, in an effort at harmonization.
It seems reasonable to say that if Beza had access to more recent discovery, collation and analysis of both textual and patristic evidence, he may very well have upheld the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11.