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Oct 16, 2010

Griesbach's TC Canons

Excerpt for Review: J.J. Griesbach, Greek NT, 2nd Ed. (Halle, 1796), xlat: Alford, Greek NT, (London, 1849)

Page Index

Griesbach's TC Cannons: - xlat. H. Alford (1849)

English Translation: - & Alford's 1849 Notes
    Rule 01:
    Rule 02:
    Rule 03:
    Rule 04:
    Rule 05:
    Rule 06:
    Rule 07:
    Rule 08:
    Rule 09:
    Rule 10:
    Rule 11:
    Rule 12:
    Rule 13:
    Rule 14:
    Rule 15:

Original Latin Text: - Griesbach's 1796 text

More Articles:

Griesbach - Michaelis

Griesbach's Fifteen Rules

In the Introduction to his 2nd edition of the Greek New Testament (Halle, 1796) Griesbach set forth the following list of critical rules, by which the intrinsic probabilities may be weighed for various readings of the manuscripts. Rules for the prior evaluation of documentary evidence, such as the ones formulated by Bengel, are implicit in Griesbach's theory of the manuscript tradition, and so they are not taken up here. What follows is a translation of Griesbach's Latin as it was reprinted by Alford in the Introduction of his Greek Testament (London, 1849. Moody reprint, page 81).

Source: M. Marlowe,

Griesbach's Rule 1

"Prefer the Shorter Reading."

1. The shorter reading is to be preferred over the more verbose, if not wholly lacking the support of old and weighty witnesses.

For scribes were much more prone to add than to omit. They hardly ever leave out anything on purpose, but they added much. It is true indeed that some things fell out by accident; but likewise not a few things, allowed in by the scribes through errors of the eye, ear, memory, imagination, and judgment, have been added to the text.

The shorter reading is especially preferable, (even if by the support of the witnesses it may be second best), -

(a) if at the same time it is harder, more obscure, ambiguous, involves an ellipsis, reflects Hebrew idiom, or is ungrammatical;

(b) if the same thing is read expressed with different phrases in different manuscripts;

(c) if the order of words is inconsistent and unstable;

(d) at the beginning of a section;

(e) if the fuller reading gives the impression of incorporating a definition or interpretation, or verbally conforms to parallel passages, or seems to have come in from lectionaries.

But on the contrary we should set the fuller reading before the shorter, (unless the latter is seen in many notable witnesses), -

(a) if a "similarity of ending" might have provided an opportunity for an omission;

(b) if that which was omitted could to the scribe have seemed obscure, harsh, superfluous, unusual, paradoxical, offensive to pious ears, erroneous, or opposed to parallel passages;

(c) if that which is absent could be absent without harm to the sense or structure of the words, as for example prepositions which may be called incidental, especially brief ones, and so forth, the lack of which would not easily be noticed by a scribe in reading again what he had written;

(d) if the shorter reading is by nature less characteristic of the style or outlook of the author;

(e) if it wholly lacks sense;

(f) if it is probable that it has crept in from parallel passages or from the lectionaries.

Observational Notes:

(1) Griesbach's original formulation here of "Prefer the shorter reading" is far more complex and full of exceptions than people suspect.

James Royse in his discussion of this canon cautions:

"I would certainly accept Silva's reminder that Griesbach's formulation of the lectio brevior potior principle is far from a simple preference for the shorter reading, and that its correct application requires a sensitivity to the many exceptions and conditions that Griesbach notes."

- J. Royse,
Scribal habits in early Greek New Testament papyri,
vol 36 NT Tools & Studies, (Brill, 2008), p. 735 fwd

K. Aland also admits the problem of applying this rule, in his own modified Rule 11:

11. The venerable maxim lectio brevior lectio potior ("the shorter reading is the more probable reading") is certainly right in many instances. But here again the principle cannot be applied mechanically.

K. Aland,
Text of the NT, p. 275 fwd

H. Greenlee gives a good sense of the real scope of this rule, and limits its application to deliberate changes:

(b) The shorter reading is generally preferable if an intentional change has been made. The reason is that scribes at times made intentional additions to clarify a passage, but rarely made an intentional omission...

(c) The longer reading is often preferable if an unintentional change has been made. The reason is that scribes were more likely to omit a word or a phrase accidentally than to add accidentally.

H. Greenlee,
Introduction, p.112

2. The more difficult and more obscure reading is preferable to that in which everything is so plain and free of problems that every scribe is easily able to understand it. Because of their obscurity and difficulty chiefly unlearned scribes were vexed by those readings-- (a) the sense of which cannot be easily perceived without a thorough acquaintance with Greek idiom, Hebraisms, history, archeology, and so forth; (b) in which the thought is obstructed by various kinds of difficulties entering in, e.g., by reason of the diction, or the connection of the dependent members of a discourse being loose, or the sinews of an argument, being far extended from the beginning to the conclusion of its thesis, seeming to be cut.

3. The harsher reading is preferable to that which instead flows pleasantly and smoothly in style. A harsher reading is one that involves an ellipsis, reflects Hebrew idiom, is ungrammatical, repugnant to customary Greek usage, or offensive to the ears.

4. The more unusual reading is preferable to that which constitutes nothing unusual. Therefore rare words, or those at least in meaning, rare usages, phrases and verbal constuctions less in use than the trite ones, should be preferred over the more common. Surely the scribes seized eagerly on the more customary instead of the more exquisite, and for the latter they were accustomed to substitute definitions and explanations (especially if such were already provided in the margin or in parallel passages).

5. Expressions less emphatic, unless the context and goal of the author demand emphasis, approach closer to the genuine text than discrepant readings in which there is, or appears to be, a greater vigor. For polished scribes, like commentators, love and seek out emphases.

6. The reading that, in comparison with others, produces a sense fitted to the support of piety (especially monastic) is suspect.

7. Preferable to others is the reading for which the meaning is apparently quite false, but which in fact, after thorough examination, is discovered to be true.

8. Among many readings in one place, that reading is rightly considered suspect that manifestly gives the dogmas of the orthodox better than the others. When even today many unreasonable books, I would not say all, are scratched out by monks and other men devoted to the Catholic party, it is not credible that any convenient readings of the manuscripts from which everyone copied would be neglected which seemed either to confirm splendidly some Catholic dogma or forcefully to destroy a heresy. For we know that nearly all readings, even those manifestly false, were defended on the condition that they were agreeable to the orthodox, and then from the beginning of the third century these were tenaciously protected and diligently propagated, while other readings in the same place, which gave no protection to ecclesiastical dogmas, were rashly attributed to treacherous heretics.

9. With scribes there may be a tendency to repeat words and sentences in different places having identical terminations, either repeating what they had lately written or anticipating what was soon to be written, the eyes running ahead of the pen. Readings arising from such easily explained tricks of symmetry are of no value.

10. Others to be led into error by similar enticements are those scribes who, before they begin to write a sentence had already read the whole, or who while writing look with a flitting eye into the original set before them, and often wrongly take a syllable or word from the preceding or following writing, thus producing new readings. If it happens that two neighbouring words begin with the same syllable or letter, an occurance by no means rare, then it may be that the first is simply ommitted or the second is accidentally passed over, of which the former is especially likely. One can scarcely avoid mental errors such as these, any little book of few words to be copied giving trouble, unless one applies the whole mind to the business; but few scribes seem to have done it. Readings therefore which have flowed from this source of errors, even though ancient and so afterwards spread among very many manuscripts, are rightly rejected, especially if manuscripts otherwise related are found to be pure of these contagious blemishes.

11. Among many in the same place, that reading is preferable which falls midway between the others, that is, the one which in a manner of speaking holds together the threads so that, if this one is admitted as the primitive one, it easily appears on what account, or rather, by what descent of errors, all the other readings have sprung forth from it.

12. Readings may be rejected which appear to incorporate a definition or an interpretation, alterations of which kind the discriminating critical sense will detect with no trouble

13. Readings brought into the text from commentaries of the Fathers or ancient marginal annotations are to be rejected, when the great majority of critics explain them thus. ("He proceeds at some length to caution against the promiscuous assumption of such corruptions in the earlier codices and versions from such sources." - Alford)

14. We reject readings appearing first in lectionaries, which were added most often to the beginning of the portions to be read in the church service, or sometimes at the end or even in the middle for the sake of contextual clarity, and which were to be added in a public reading of the series, [the portions of which were] so divided or transposed that, separated from that which preceeds or follows, there seemed hardly enough for them to be rightly understood. ("Similar cautions are here added against assuming this too promiscuously." - Alford)

15. Readings brought into the Greek manuscripts from the Latin versions are condemned. ("Cautions are here also inserted against the practice of the earlier critics, who if they found in the graeco-latin MSS. or even in those of high antiquity and value, a solitary reading agreeing with the Latin, hastily condemned that codex as latinizing." - Alford)

Latin Text

Griesbach's Original Text

1. Brevior lectio, nisi testium vetustorum et gravium auctoritate penitus destituatur, praeferenda est verbosiori. Librarii enim multo proniores ad addendum fuerunt, quam ad omittendum. Consulto vix unquam praetermiserunt quicquam, addiderunt quam plurima: casu vero nonnulla quidem exciderunt, sed haud pauca etiam oculorum, aurium, memoriae, phantasiae ac judicii errore a scribis admisso, adjecta sunt textui. In primis vero brevior lectio, etiamsi testium auctoritate inferior sit altera, praeferenda est-- (a) si simul durior, obscurior, ambigua, elliptica, hebraizans aut soloeca est, (b) si eadem res variis phrasibus in diversis codicibus expressa legitur; (c) si vocabulorum ordo inconstans est et instabilis; (d) in pericoparum initiis; (e) si plenior lectio glossam seu interpretamentum sapit, vel parallelis locis ad verbum consonat, vel e lectionariis immigrasse videtur.

Contra vero pleniorem lectionem breviori (nisi hanc multi et insignes tueantur testes) anteponimus-- (a) si omissioni occasionem praebere potuerit homoeoteleuton; (b) si id quod omissum est, librariis videri potuit obscurum, durum, superfluum, insolens, paradoxum, pias aures offendens, erroneum, aut locis parallelis repugnans; (c) si ea quae absunt, salvo sensu salvaque verborum structura abesse poterant, e quo genere sunt propositiones, quod vocant, incidentes, praesertim breviores, et alia, quorum defectum librarius relegens quae scripserat haud facile animadvertebat; (d) si brevior lectio ingenio, stylo aut scopo auctoris minus conveniens est. (e) si sensu prorsus caret; (f) si e locis parallelis aut e lectionariis eam irrepsisse probabile est.

2. Difficilior et obscurior lectio anteponenda est ei, in qua omnia tam plana sunt et extricata, ut librarius quisque facile intelligere ea potuerit. Obscuritate vero et difficultate sua eae potissimum indoctos librarios vexarunt lectiones-- (a) quarum sensus absque penitiore graecismi, hebraismi, historiae, archaeologiae, &c. cognitione perspici non facile poterant, (b) quibus admissis vel sententia, varii generis difficultatibus obstructa, verbis inesse, vel aptus membrorum orationis nexus dissolvi, vel argumentorum ab auctore ad confirmandam suam thesin prolatorum nervus incidi videbatur.

3. Durior lectio praeferatur ei, qua posita, oratio suaviter leniterque fluit. Durior autem est lectio elliptica, hebraizans, soloeca, a loquendi usu graecis consueto adhorrens aut verborum sono aures offendens.

4. Insolentior lectio potior est ea, qua nil insoliti continetur. Vocabula ergo rariora, aut hac saltem significatione, quae eo de quo quaeritur loco admittenda esset, rarius usurpata, phrasesque ac verborum constructiones usu minus tritae, praeferantur vulgatioribus. Pro exquisitioribus enim librarii usitatiora cupide arripere, et in illorum locum glossemata et interpretamenta (praesertim si margo aut loca parallela talia suppeditarent) substituere soliti sunt.

5. Locutiones minus emphaticae, nisi contextus et auctoris scopus emphasin postulent, propius ad genuinam scripturam accedunt, quam discrepantes ab ipsis lectiones quibus major vis inest aut inesse videtur. Erudituli enim librarii, ut commentatores, emphases amabant ac captabant.

6. Lectio, prae aliis sensum pietati (praesertim monasticae) alendae aptum fundens, suspecta est.

7. Praeferatur aliis lectio cui sensus subest apparenter quidem falsus, qui vero re penitus examinata verus esse deprehenditur.

8. Inter plures unius loci lectiones ea pro suspecta merito habetur, quae orthodoxorum dogmatibus manifeste prae caeteris faciet. Cum enim codices hodie superstites plerique, ne dicam omnes, exarati sint a monachis aliisque hominibus catholicorum partibus addictis, credibile non est, hos lectionem in codice, quem quisque exscriberet, obviam neglexisse ullam, qua catholicorum dogma aliquod luculenter confirmari aut haeresis fortiter jugulari posse videretur. Scimus enim, lectiones quascunque, etiam manifesto falsas, dummodo orthodoxorum placitis patrocinarentur, inde a tertii saeculi initiis mordicus defensas seduloque propagatas, caeteras autem ejusdem loci lectiones, quae dogmati ecclesiastico nil praesidii afferrent haereticorum perfidae attributas temere fuisse.

9. Cum scribae proclives sint ad iterandas alieno loco vocabulorum et sententiarum terminationes easdem, quas modo scripsissent aut mox scribendas esse, praecurrentibus calamum oculis, praeviderent, lectiones ex ejusmodi rhythmi fallacia facillime explicandae, nullius sunt pretti.

10. Hisce ad peccandum illecebris similes sunt aliae. Librarii, qui sententiam, antequam scribere eam inciperent, totam jam perlegissent, vel dum scriberent fugitivo oculo exemplum sibi propositum inspicerent, saepe ex antecedentibus vel consequentibus literam, syllabam aut vocabulum perperam arripuerunt, novasque sic lectiones procuderunt. Si v.c. duo vocabula vicina ab eadem syllaba vel litera inciperent, accidit haud raro, ut vel prius plane omitteretur, vel posteriori temere tribueretur, quod priori esset peculiare. Ejusmodi hallucinationes vix vitabit, qui libello paullo verbosiori exscribendo operam dat, nisi toto animo in hoc negotium incumbat: id quod pauci librarii fecisse videntur. Lectiones ergo, quae ex hoc errorum fonte promanarunt, quantumvis vetustae ac consequenter in complures libros transfusae sint, recte rejiciuntur, praesertim si codices caeteroqui cognati ab hujus labis contagio puri deprehendantur.

11. E pluribus ejusdem loci lectionibus ea praestat, quae velut media inter caeteras interjacet; hoc est ea, quae reliquarum omnium quasi stamina ita continet, ut, hac tanquam primitiva admissa, facile appareat, quanam ratione, seu potius quonam erroris genere, ex ipsa caeterae omnes propullularint.

12. Repudiantur lectiones glossam seu interpretamentum redolentes, cujus generis interpolationes nullo negotio emunctioris naris criticus subolfaciet.

13. Rejiciendas esse lectiones, e Patrum commentariis aut scholiis vetustis in textum invectas, magno consensu critici docent....

14. Respuimus lectiones ortas primum in lectionariis, quae saepissime in anagnosmatum initiis ac interdum in clausulis etiam atque in medio contextu claritatis causa addunt, quod ex orationis serie supplendum esset, resecantque vel immutant, quod, sejunctum ab antecedentibus aut consequentibus, vix satis recte intelligi posse videretur....

15. Damnandae sunt lectiones e latina versione in graecos libros invectae....

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