Last Updated:

Aug 20, 2010

Hort's TC Canons

Excerpt from: Epp & Fee, Studies, (1993), p. 157-8, modifed from M.Marlowe, TC website

Page Index

Westcott & Hort: - TC Canons
    Hort's Canons - Epp & Fee.
    Hort's Canons - Improved version (Nazaroo)

Critical Rules of Westcott & Hort

The following summary of principles is taken from the compilation in Epp and Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism (1993, pages 157-8). References in parentheses are to sections of Hort's Introduction, from which the principles have been extracted.

1. Older readings are preferred. Older readings, manuscripts, or groups are to be preferred. ("The shorter the interval between the time of the autograph and the end of the period of transmission in question, the stronger the presumption that earlier date implies greater purity of text.") (2.59; cf. 2.5-6, 31)

2. Readings are judged by quality not # of Witnesses. Readings are approved or rejected by reason of the quality, and not the number, of their supporting witnesses. ("No available presumptions whatever as to text can be obtained from number alone, that is, from number not as yet interpreted by descent.") (2.44)

3. Conflate Readings are Late. A reading combining two simple, alternative readings is later than the two readings comprising the conflation, and manuscripts rarely or never supporting conflate reading are text antecedent to mixture and are of special value. (2.49-50).

4. The reading is to be preferred that makes the best sense. That is, that best conforms to the grammar and is most congruous with the purport of the rest of the sentence and of the larger context. (2.20)

5. The author's style is preferred. The reading is to be preferred that best conforms to the usual style of the author and to that author's material in other passages. (2.20)

6. The reading is to be preferred that most fitly explains the existence of the others. (2.22-23)

7. The deeper reading is preferred. The reading is less likely to be original that combines the appearance of an improvement in the sense with the absence of its reality; the scribal alteration will have an apparent excellence, while the original will have the highest real excellence. (2.27, 29)

8. The smoother reading is rejected. The reading is less likely to be original that shows a disposition to smooth away difficulties (another way of stating that the harder reading is preferable). (2.28)

9. Readings from the best source are preferred. Readings are to be preferred that are found in a manuscript that habitually contains superior readings as determined by intrinsic and transcriptional probability. Certainty is increased if such a better manuscript is found also to be an older manuscript (2.32-33) and if such a manuscript habitually contains reading that prove themselves antecedent to mixture and independent of external contamination by other, inferior texts (2.150-51). The same principles apply to groups of manuscripts (2.260-61).

Improved Version

(Courtesy of Nazaroo)

Epp & Fee's attempt can be further improved by proper organization under Hort's own headings, and using his own priorities:

I. External Evidence ('Textual')

1. Prefer the Older Readings. (1. above)

2. Evidence must be Interpreted by History. (x)

3. Attestation must be Interpreted by Genealogy. (2)

4. Prefer the Readings from the Best Source. (9)

II. Internal Evidence

A. Transcriptional Probability (Scribal Errors/'fixes'):

1. Reject the Smoother Reading. (8b)

2. Reject Harmonizations. (8a)

3. Reject Insertions/interpolations. (x)

4. Reject Conflate Readings. (3)

5. Prefer the Deeper Reading. (7)

B. Intrinsic Probability (Readings from Author):

1. Prefer Best Grammatical/Literary Reading. (4)

2. Prefer Author's Habitual Style/Material. (5)

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