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Oct 16, 2010

Michaelis: the Latin NT

Excerpt for Review: Michaelis, Introduction to the NT, , Vol II. P.I. Eng. (Lond.1802)

Page Index

Michaelis: On the Latin Versions
    Section 27: Critical Use of the Latin Versions
    Section 28: Correction by Jerome (Vulgate)
    Section 29: Fate of Vulgate after Jerome
    Section 30: Protestant and Catholic Views


Ancient Versions of the NT

Critical use of the Latin version.

In respect to the value and critical application of the Latin version, or versions, to the discovery of genuine readings in the Greek text, the opinions of the learned have been not only divided, but even diametrically opposite.

Some have passed the highest encomiums on the purity of the text in the Greek-Latin manuscripts, and have supposed that the discovery of the genuine Itala, which it is vain to expect, as the hope is sounded on a mistaken name, would be of the highest importance, in a critical inquiry into the New Testament.

It was the opinion of the late Bengel, that the coincidence of the Latin version with the Codex Alexandrinus, was in every instance the strongest argument in favour of the authenticity of a reading: but he meant not the Itala alone, and ascribed the same value to the Vulgate, as published by Jerome.

Its high antiquity, and the praises of Augustine, though these relate merely to its literal exactness, have been the chief causes of its great authority.

Now this literal exactness is often carried so far as to produce mistakes against the rules of grammar; but whether the manuscripts, in which these are observed, are to be referred to the Itala, or whether this was written in better Latin, is a point which we are unable to determine. If the above-mentioned opinion, to which I subscribed in the first edition of this work, be true, the Latin version must have great influence in deciding on the authenticity of the Greek readings.

But other critics are of an opposite opinion, and they suppose that the Greek text has been corrupted in numberless examples from the Latin : in which case the coincidence of the Greek and Latin textf would rather weaken, than support the evidence in favour of a reading.

These were the sentiments entertained by Wetstein, and his arguments appeared so plausible, that in the second edition of this Introduction I became a convert to his dodrine. But at present I am convinced that the charge is ungrounded, or at least more severe, than is warranted by fact, and it is more probable that the Latin translation in the Greek-Latin manuscripts has been altered from the Greek, than the Greek from the Latin.

The alterations, that may have taken place in the Greek, might rather be attributed to the Syriac. See below, chap. viii. sect. 3.

In the old Latin versions, those namely which existed before the time of Jerome, or have been added in the Greek-Latin manuscripts since that period, is a very great number of excellent readings, that are confirmed not only by the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts, but by other ancient versions, especially the Syriac and the Coptic.

But we cannot therefore conclude that they are universally genuine, for examplesf might be given of important readings, in which one Latin version contradicts the other ; and whoever compares the Evangeliarium of Blanchini, will see with his own eyes the truth of Jeromes assertion,

si Latinis exemplaribus fides est adhibenda respondeant, quibus? tot enim sunt exemplaria paene, quot codices.

In collating the Syriac with ancient Latin versions, I found one half in favour of the Syriac, the other half against the Syriac reading.

As it cannot be denied that the oldest Latin versions are of very high antiquity, not withstanding some of their readings are false, their principal use in the criticism of the New Testament is, that they lead us to a discovery of the readings of the very ancient Greek manuscripts, that existed prior to the date of any that are now extant. Though we are left in doubt, where their testimony is different, yet, where their evidence agrees, the decision is of great authority.

Bengel, who observed the want of uniformity in the Latin text, has recommended an attention to the number, goodness, and antiquity of the manuscripts, as the surest means of discovering the genuine reading. This advice would be very applicable, if there had never existed more than a single Latin version, but in a variety of different translations, that which is genuine in the one, may be spurious in the other ; and since in every work, the true text is that which came from the hand of the author, there may be different readings in different versions, yet all of them authentic.

Were it possible to distinguish the Itala, a term used by Augustine alone, and by him in only a single instance, from the other Latin translations, though no extract is on record which might lead to the discovery, it would be still a matter of great doubt, whether it would deserve the preference in determining the authenticity of a reading.

The praises bestowed on it by Augustine, as being more literally exact than the versions that were common in Africa, afford no proof that it was taken from a more accurate Greek manuscript, than other translations.

Even had it been affirmed by the pious father, yet, as he was ignorant of Greek, and a total stranger to learning in general, his opinion on that subject would have been of little weight. But admitting that the discovery of the Itala would reward the pains employed in the search, where is it to be sought?

If it is one of the five manuscripts published by Blanchini, how is it to be distinguished? Or shall we conclude that the Itala is that, from which the Latin fathers have borrowed their quotations ? Now these quotations disagree among themselves, and could not theresore have been taken from the same version : but setting this circumstance aside, it is a very arbitrary inference, that the Latin fathers, in different parts of the Roman empire, have constantly recurred to the version commended by a writer of Africa, in preference to those in use in their respective churches.

Nay, Augustine himself, though he commended the Itala, might have quoted from the version that was usual in his own country, in the same manner, as German divines, though they preferred a later translation, would still quote the Bible from that of Luther.

It were to be wished, that the various readings of the old Latin manuscripts were carefully collected, and annexed, on a more extensive plan, to such editions as those of Mill & Wetstein: but they should be arranged in such a manner, as to prevent their being confounded with those collected from Greek manuscripts. By the editions of Sabatier &samp; Blanchini, the task is rendered much easier than before, but these alone are not sufficient, and the work would be imperfect without a collection of manuscripts.

These must not be quoted in a vague manner Codices Latini, still less must the word Itala be used, but the different manuscripts must be carefully distinguished from each other, by their respective titles, Latina Vercellensis, Latina Veronensis, &c.

The foregoing wish, which I expressed in a former edition, Prosessor Griesbach has already begun to put in execution.


Correction by Jerome

The great consusion which prevailed in the copies of the Old Latin version, induced Pope Damasus to employ Jerome in correcting it ; and among all the Latin fathers, before and after his time, it seems that none was better qualified for the task. Jerome finished this useful work about the year 384 A.D. (NT), and he says himself, at the end of his Catalogus de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, 'Novum Testamentum Grecae fidei reddidi.'

Fabricius Stapulensis, and others, have understood this only of the Gospels, because he says, in the preface to the Gospels, haec prefens praefatiuncula pollicetur tantum quatuor Evangelia, codicum Grcecorum emendata collatione.

But Simon, in the 7th chapter of his Hist. Crit. des Vers. very juslly observes, that Jerome,in his letter to Marcellus, complains of those persons who preferred the old version to the new, and that he is there speaking of the epistles of St. Paul ; and further, that the Vulgate, after the time of Jerome, was manisestly different from the old version, in all the books of the New Testament ; whence we may naturally conclude, that the correction was not confined to the 4 Gospels.

He partly expunged the spurious readings, and partly corrected the translations, which appeared to be erroneous ; but it must be confessed, that, with the best intention, he has sometimes altered for the worse. He constantly appeals to the Greek original, as the touchstone, by which the version must be tried : but he acknowledges himself, that he attempted not to amend all the errors, but only those of the greatest importance, and hence we may explain the reason why his commentary sometimes differs from his version. We shall find in the sequel, that the present Vulgate of the church of Rome agrees not entirely with Jerome's version : and perhaps this may be the reason why it sometimes disagrees with that father's commentary.

The two learned Benedictine monks, Martianay & Pouget, published the genuine version of Jerome, from a very beautiful manuscript at Paris, in 1693, under the title Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi divina bibliotheca hactenus inedita, and prefixed to it their excellent Prolegomena, to which, and to Simon, chap. 7 — 12 I refer my readers for a more full account of it, and of the present Vulgate, than the nature of this work permits.


Fate of the Vulgate after Jerome

The new edition of the Vulgate by Jerome,superseded not the old and uncorrected version, for the labour of the learned father was regarded by many as a blameable innovation, the old version was still permitted by the Church of Rome, and when Leander Bishop of Seville inquired of the Pope which of the two deserved the preference, he received for answer, sedef Apostolica, cui prccsideo, utraque tranllatione utitur.

This was carried so far, that the Anglo-saxon version was taken from the Old Latin, not from the corrected Vulgate of Jerome.

In the course of time the versions were intermixed with each other, a consusion of which Cassiodorus was the principal cause, who ordered them to be written together in parallel columns, that the old version might be corrected by the Vulgate : and though Alcuin by command of Charlemagne provided more accurate copies,1 it fell again into such confusion, and was so disfigured by innumerable mistakes of the copyists, that the manuscripts of the middle age materially differ from the first editions that appeared in print.

1. See Wetstein's Prolegomena, p. 84. The words of Theganus in du Chesne Scriptores Francici, Tom. II. p. 277. are worthy of notice, because it appears from them, that the Latin version was collated not only with the Greek, but with the Syriac.

' Dominuf imperator nihil aliud coepit agere, nisi in orationibuf et eleemonsynif vacare, et librof corrigere. Nam quatiior evangelia Christi in ultimo anno ante obituf sui diem cum Gr;ecif et fyrif optime correxerat.'

In the page of Wetstein's Prolegomena, which follows that above-quoted, an account is given of other alterations, that were made in the Vulgate during the middle- ages; but I omit them at present, because they are of little importance in Sacred Criticism.

The mixed text of the middle ages is found in a higher or lower degree, in all the manuscripts of the Vulgate, that were written during that period. The most celebrated is that preserved in the Library of the Monastery of St. Emeram in Ratisbon, written in the year 870, by the order and the expense of Charles the Bald, in golden letters, bound in gold, and set with pearls and precious slones.

This manuscript belonged to the Abbey of St. Denys, but it was brought to Germany by Arnulphus, and deposited where it is found at present. It contains only the 4 Gospels, the text of which deviates in a high degree from the present Vulgate, and appears to be a confused mixture, though no doubt can be made that all possible pains were bestowed on it.

A description of this manuscript, with extracts of its variations (that is various readings of the present Vulgate, and remnants of the old version) has been given by Coloman fanstl, Librarian of the Monastery, in a treatise published in 1786 with the following title. Diisertatio inaureum et pervetustum ff. evangeliorum codicem Mf. monaslerii f. Emerami, Ratisboncs.

Robert Stephens was the first who attempted to remedy this confusion, by publishing the Latin New Testament from ancient manuscripts in 1543 and 1545.

Though this edition was rejected and prohibited by the Papists, on account of errors with which they charged the editor, it was used by John Hentenius, who derived from it very great advantage, and having collated several other manuscripts, publislied in 1547 a new and more correct edition under the inspection of the Divines of Louvain. These again, after having corrected the printed text partly from Latin manuscripts, partly from the original itself, published at Louvain in 1573 an edition of the Bible, that is much superior to the preceding.

This was done in consequence of an order of the council of Trent, that council being desirous to have the readings of the Vulgate examined and ascertained. But the labour of the Divines of Louvain received not the entire approbation of the Pope, and [pope]Sixtus the 5th forbad the printing of various readings in the Vulgate, an order which the members of the Church of Rome evade, by collecting readings to the ancient version.

The same Pope commanded a new inspection of the Vulgate to be made in Rome, the result of which was a new edition that was finished in 1588, but not made public before 1590, after it had undergone a careful revisal. Sixtus V pronounced it, with the clause, apostolica nobif a domino tradita austoritate, to be the authentic Vulgate, that was the object of inquiry in the council of Trent, which he styles ' perpetuo valituram constitutionem.'

But his succesors were of a different opinion, and Clement VIII. published another authentic Vulgate, that differs more than any other edition from that of Sixtus V. and mostly resembles that of Louvain.

But in order to preserve the infallibility of the sovereign pontiff, it was pretended that all this was done in consequence of an order given by Sixtus V with a view of correcting the errors of the press, that he had discovered in his edition. Yet it still remains a flaw in the Papal character, of which Protestants have taken advantage in a manner that sensibly assests the Church of Rome ; especially James in his Bellum papale, five concordia discors sixti V. et Clementis VIII Londini 1600, and in his Treatise on the Corruption of Scripture, &c. 161 1.

But perhaps the Pope has been treated unjustly, for every legislative power, whether temporal or spiritual, may declare a law in perpetuum valitura, that is, a law that shall remain in force, till repealed by the power that made it. Moses has applied to his laws the same or similar expressions for instance [Hebrew Quotation], yet the law of Moses was transitory, and abolished by Christ.

As Simon has given a full account of these editions in the 11th chapter, I refer my readers to his critical history, and at the same time request them to compare Baumgarten's Description of remarkable books Vol. III. p. 17 — 34.


Views of Protestants and Catholics (p. 128 fwd)

In what manner the Vulgate if regarded by Papists and Protestants.

The Church of Rome, and the Protestant Church, consider this Vulgate in a very different light [respectively]. By some it is extolled too highly, by others unjustly depreciated, who speak with contempt of an ancient and excellent version, upon the emendations and editions of which so great care and pains have been bestowed. sew have preserved a proper medium.

The Church of Rome is obliged to treat this version with the utmosh veneration, since the council of Trent in the sixth session declared the same to be authentic, and to be used whenever the Bible is publicly read, and in all disputations, sermons, and expositions.

The words are somewhat ambiguous, and in the Latin are as follows:

insuper eadem sacrosansta synoduf consideranf, non parum utilitatifaccedere posse ecclesi^ Dei, si ex omnibuf latinif editionibuf, qua? circumseruntur sacrorum librorum, qu^nam pro authentica habenda lit, innotescat, slatuit et declarat ut hiec ipsa vetuf et vulgata editio, qu^ longo tot seculorum usu in ecclelia probata est, in publicif led:ionibuf, disputationibuf, prfedicationibuf, et expositionibui pro authentica habeatur, et ut nemo illam rejicere quovif prftextu audeat vel preesumat.

Hence several bigotted Divines of that Church, conclude that the Vulgate if absolutely free from error, and that no one is at liberty to vary from it in a translation or exposition. But the more sensible part is of a different opinion, and interpret the words in a moderate sense. According to their explanation, " authentic" signifies not "infallible," but "legal," and the Council has not declared this version to be authentic in all cases, but only in public readings, disputations, sermons, and expositions, that is, no other version shall be read in the church and as the Council observed in it no errors, which might lead to other doctrines of faith, that doctrine is pronounced to be proved, which can be proved from the Vulgate, and no one is permitted to deliver from the pulpit an exposition, that is not found in this version.

The wordf being thus explained, the council of Trent did no more than every church has a right to do, with respect to a translation that contains no errors of faith; and the Church of Rome is the more to be justified, as it has given the preference to a version of the highest antiquity.

However, I confess that there is an ambiguity not only in the word authentica, but also in the word publicis, whether it is to be taken with lestionibus alone, or whether it equally belongs to disputationibus, praedicationibus, and expositionibus.

Whoever is engaged in controversy with the Romish clergy, should acquaint himself thoroughly with the Vulgate, and diligently investigate the real sense of its phrases, as the surest means of discoVering the truth, and confuting his opponents. In arguing, for instance, whether marriage be a sacrament, he must carefully examine, in what sense sacramentum is used in the Vulgate. But inquiries of this nature demand more application, more knowledge of Latin and of Christian antiquity, and a more intimate acquaintance with the fathers, than superficial readers imagine.

Highly as the Vulgate is extolled by the church of Rome, it has been depreciated beyond measure at the beginning of the 16th century by several learned Protestants, whose example was [also] followed by men of inferior abilities.

At the restoration of learning, when the faculty of writing elegant Latin was the highest accomplishment of a scholar, the Vulgate was regarded with contempt as not written with classic purity. And after the Greek manuscripts were discovered, their readings were preferred to those of the Latin, because the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Latin was only a version: but it was not considered that these Greek manuscripts were modern in comparison of those originals from which the Latin was taken : nor was it known at that time, that the more ancient the Greek manuscripts and the other versions were, the closer was their agreement with the Vulgate.

This has been clearly evinced by Simon, who made it a particular object of his attention in his Hist. Crit. du Texte et des Versions du N.T. and has pointed out the real merits of the Latin version.

Our ablest critics, such as Mill & Bengel, have been induced by this treatise to abandon the opinion of their predecessors, and have ascribed to the Vulgate a value perhaps greater than it deserves.

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