Exerpted from: The New Testament in the Original Greek, 1881 (revised & expanded 1896) Appendix: Notes on Selected Readings, pg 82 forward, with modern commentary added
Dr. F.J.A. Hort is seen as the virtual 'father' of the Revised Version (RV) of 1886 (and many of the popular critical Greek texts and 'modern versions' since that time). Hort's critical Greek edition of the NT was not the first nor last, but did manage to focus in one work most of the liberal text-critical trends of the 19th century.
Hort's work made its rounds in academic circles just after Darwin's Origin of Species, and the writings of Carl Marx, and was taken up alongside those writings in the enthusiasm of that age for the new 'sciences' and philosophies.
This is not to say that Hort's work was uncreative. In a real sense, it was a new synthesis of all the previous hypotheses and notions, and it galvanized them into a fairly unified vision of a textual history and a unique explanation of the known textual variants.
Hort's theory also resulted in the most radical text of its time, mercilessly expunging thousands of well-known and cherished words, phrases, half and whole verses, and even complete 12-verse sections of Scripture from the New Testament.
One such passage that fell under Hort's knife was the Pericope de Adultera, John 7:53-8:11. For the first time in 400 years, a printed bible (the RV) cast doubt upon the passage, and Hort's Greek text removed the verses completely, to an appendix.
However, Hort was not the first to remove it from his critical Greek text: Lachmann had expunged it from his own Greek text (1842), and Tregelles (1875) followed suit, at least in opinion. Hort was undoubtably holding to the course of his chosen predecessors here.
It obviously wasn't all Hort's doing: trouble had been brewing for nearly a hundred years, as some of the oldest manuscripts then known lacked the verses. Nearly fifty years previously, Samuel Davidson (1848) had released his Introduction to the NT. He had collected in a 14 page opus the evidence and opinion up to that time, which left the passage in a very unfavourable light.
Although these men were two of the most knowledgable textual scholars of their day, Scrivener was too conciliatory and Burgon too bombastic to win much support among academics. The academics were actively hunting for reasons to jettison Christianity as the superstition of yesteryear, and had no interest in conservative views about the bible.
Hort presented a relatively long exposition of his case against the Pericope de Adultera, taking up seven whole pages of small type in his Notes on Selected Readings (pgs 82-88). Yet for comparison, Hort spent 24 pages on the Ending of Mark (pg 28-51), the only other significant variant of this magnitude.
Hort evidently gave Mark's Ending priority, expecting to win his case against the Pericope de Adultera by lack of defenders. Nonetheless Hort got a battle. Too many people in all parts of Christendom cherished the verses.
One reason for the special attention given to both John 8:1-11 and the Ending of Mark, is that the credibility of (Biblical) Textual Criticism rather plainly hangs upon the final evaluation of these two passages. If the passages were found to be inappropriate additions to the NT, then the 'science' would have justified its own existance and value.
On the other hand, were the passages genuine, textual criticism would seem a rather unimportant backwater in historical research. Without significant cases like this, the whole enterprise would seem an incredible waste of time and energy. From the modern perspective, Hort and other textual critics had a stake in the outcome, and therefore a potential conflict of interest can be perceived as well.
Hort crafted his case so carefully, that little has been added in the 100 years since by those who take Hort's position. And this is in spite of the great strides in analysis and the new discoveries of the 20th century. Modern textual critics such as B. Metzger (1971) offer little more than a terse summary of what Hort had already recited in 1896, supplimented by a few new collations.
It is in the spirit of fairness and historical accuracy, that we will present Hort's original words on the subject of the Pericope de Adultera, with modern notes for the 21st century reader.
Nazaroo, Oct 13, 2006
I. NOTES ON SELECT READINGS
... (Notes on the Pericope de Adultera, pg 82 & forward) ...
Evidence for John 7:53-811 (pg 82) a
vii 52 1 egeiretai.] + (vii 53-viii 11)
〈 kai eporeuqhsan ...amartane. 〉 Western and (with verbal modifications) late Constantinopolitan (Gr. Lat. [Syr.] [Eg.] Aeth.: [cf. Arm.]) ; incl. D Const. Ap.ii 24 'Nicon' (see below) (Euthym. with a reservation) Amb Aug Hier. Pelag. ii 17 and later Latin Fathers. On lectionaries see below.
Early Fathers etc. (pg 82-83)
Amb. 2 Ep. i 25 speaks of semper quidem decantata quaestio et celebris absolutio mulieris.
Aug. 3 Conj. adult. ii 6 shews knowledge of the difference of text by saying "Some of little faith, I suppose from a fear lest their wives should gain impunity in sin, removed from their MSS the Lord's act of indulgence to the adulteress". He also notices the ridicule directed by some 'sacrilegious pagans' against Christ's writing on the ground (Faust. xxii 25); and one of his quotations from his contemporary the Manichean Faustus includes a reference to Christ's 'absolution' of in injustitia et in adulterio deprehensam mulierem (xxxiii 1).
According to Hier. 4 l.c. "in the Gospel according to John many MSS, both Greek and Latin, contain an account of an adulterous woman" &c.: at the close he implies that the narrative belonged to Scripture.
A Nicon 5 who wrote a Greek tract On the impious religion of the vile Armenians (printed by Cotelier Patr. Apost. on Const. Ap. l.c.), and has been with little probability identified with the Armenian Nicon of Cent. X, accuses the Armenians of rejecting Luke xxii 43 f. and this Section, as being "injurious for most persons to listen to": like much else in the tract, this can only be an attempt to find matter of reproach against a detested church in the difference of its national traditions from Constantinopolitan usage.
The Synopsis Script. Sac. 6 wrongly ascribed to Ath., a work of uncertain date printed from a single MS, has near this place (c. 50) the words entauqa ta peri thV kathgorhqeishV epi moixeia: but they can only be an interpolation; for (1) they betray insertion, made carelessly, by standing after the substance of viii 12-20, not of vii 50-52; and (2) entauqa suits only a note written at first in the margin, while the author of the Synopsis habitually marks the succession of incidents by the use of eita.
Euthymius Zygadenus 7 (Cent. XII) comments on the Section as 'not destitute of use'; but in an apologetic tone, stating that "the accurate copies" either omit or obelise it, and that it appears to be an interpolation (pareggrapta kai prosqhkh), as is shown by the absence of any notice of it by Chrys.
The Versions (translations) (pg 82-83)
The evidence of syr.hr 8 is here in effect that of a Greek Constantinopolitan lectionary (see p. 42). It has vii 53-viii 2, instead of viii 12, after after vii 23-52 as the close of the Whitsunday lesson, doubtless following a Greek example: the variations of the Greek lectionaries as to the beginnings and endings of lections are as yet imperfectly known. In the Menology of syr.hr viii 1,3-13 is the lection for St. Pelagia's day, as in many Greek lectionaries (see below).
The Section is found in some Syriac MSS, some Memphitic MSS (not the two best and some others: Lightfoot in Scrivener Introd. 2 331 ff.; cf. E.B. Pusey Cat. Bodl. Arab. ii 564 f.), and some Armenian MSS; but it is evidently a late insertion in all these versions. 9
a. We have added headings and paragraphs to Hort's original work: In the early editions the print was very small and compressed into columns, making it difficult to read and identify the beginning and ends of sections. These headings have no effect on Hort's argument - they are for convenience only. One might suspect that Hort was being painfully obscurantist in the original printing, but the true reason was most likely to keep printing costs low and the size of the volumes small.
1. Readers can be excused if they find Hort's opening summary of the evidence incomprehensible. It is stuffed with shortforms, acronyms and text-critical jargon, including Hort's own loaded terms. And it is so densely compacted, that it takes a magician to unravel it. (One already familiar with the evidence, - who has no need to read Hort.)
One of the reasons Hort's list of evidence in favour of the verses is so small is that he has actually listed part of the evidence in another section. There, he interprets the evidence in favour of his insertion theory instead. We will examine that later.
Hort immediately classifies the passage as 'Western'. By this he literally means only in the Latin tradition, not the Greek, in spite of its presence in the majority of Greek manuscripts from all parts of the Empire. His begrudging acknowledgement of its Greek presence is a backhanded slap. He calls the Greek tradition here late 'Constantinopolitan': he has coined his own term. He implies the spread of the text into the Greek began in one Eastern city, late in the 4th century.
The city of Byzantium was the commercial center of the Eastern Greek provinces, and was renamed 'Constantinople' after Emperor Constantine made it the new capital of the Empire in 326 A.D. According to Hort then, the passage originated in the Latin tradition, and was first brought into the Eastern Greek text from Rome in the 'late' 4th century via Constantinople. From there, it only slowly gained dominance sometime between the 5th and 7th centuries in the Greek lines of transmission.
Its easy to see why Hort's theory of an imposed Latin insertion was popular among extreme anti-Papal Protestants. Yet the full evidence concerning the history of the verses cannot really be dismissed so simply. The passage is actually found to have been popular all over the Empire at least before 400 A.D.
And its apparent origin appears to be in the Far East according to Eusebius, not the West. The first explicit notice of the passage is given by Papias around 120 A.D. in the middle of Turkey. As Hort himself notes further on:
"[Eusebius] closes his account of the work of Papias (Cent. II) with the words "And he has likewise set forth another narrative (istorian) concerning a woman who was maliciously accused before the Lord touching many sins (epi pollaiV amartiaiV diablhqeishV epi tou kuriou), which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews". (ibid, pg 83)
Hort had no doubts over the identity of our passage here, and few others do either. The only real questions remaining concern the reliability of both early fathers as to some curious details in this report.
Papias is independantly confirmed as "a hearer of John and companion to Polycarp" by Irenaeus. He apparently lived from about 60-135 A.D. Eusebius calls him 'bishop of Hierapolis' (the modern town of Pamukkale, in Turkey near Colossae) but little else is known. Although Eusebius scorns him as "a man of small mental capacity", this is apparently because Eusebius himself interpreted the Gospels allegorically, while Papias believed in their literal truth.
(Amb. = St. Ambrose 340-397 A.D., Bishop of Milan in 374)
Hort dismisses the testimony of Ambrose with two words, and a wholly inadequate exerpt of unreferenced Latin. If the previous densely compacted paragraph has not discouraged the mere Englishman, this roadblock places him at a dead end. Thankfully, Hodges has shown more consideration to his own readers by providing a context, an adequately translated quotation, and a proper reference:
"That the passage created sensitivity in very early times is manifest from the comments by Ambrose (ca.397):
"At the same time also the Gospel which has been covered, could produce extraordinary anxiety in the inexperienced, in which you have noticed an adulteress presented to Christ and also dismissed without condemnation … How indeed could Christ err? It is not right that this should come into our mind."
(Ambrose, Apologia David altera 1.1,3, found in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 32:S. Ambrosii Opera, Part 2, ed. Carolus Schenkl [Vindobonae: F.Tempsky, 1887], pp. 359-360)
"But obviously it did come into some minds, as Ambrose’s cautionary remarks make perfectly plain. In this light it is strange indeed that modern criticism has been reluctant to acknowledge that a perfectly obvious motive existed in antiquity which could tempt toward the excision of a passage viewed by some as scandalous." - (Z.C. Hodges, The Woman Taken in Adultery (Jn 7:53-8:11): The Text, Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct-Dec 1979 pp. 318-332)
(Aug. = St. Augustine 354-430 A.D.,converted 386 A.D.)
Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo from 396-430 A.D. The work cited here, De Coniugiis Adulteris ii 6 ("Adulterous Marriages"), is indeed an important witness to the textual situation.
Here Dr. Hort grants four times the space for Augustine as he does for the other two early fathers, Ambrose and Jerome. This is not because he is sympathetic to Augustine's explanations of why the passage was removed (see his comments further below). Hort uses Augustine merely to confirm that MSS omitted the verses.
This allows Hort to minimize Jerome's witness (who emphasizes that many ancient MSS contained the passage). He now follows with Jerome, making Jerome's testimony appear redundant.
In fact Ambrose represents an earlier generation than Augustine. Augustine actually came to Christ under Ambrose, who was already a Bishop by then. Ambrose's testimony has the far greater antiquity and value. According to Burgon, who laboured extensively on the early fathers, Ambrose's testimony is a full quarter-century earlier. (see Burgon, Pericope de Adultera, 1886)
In spite of the seeming attention Hort gives to Augustine, this single lonely reference hardly does justice to the copious evidence of this early father. As others had noted nearly a decade earlier, Augustine discussed the verses at least 18 times in his extant writings alone:
"Ambrose at Milan (374) quotes it at least nine times, as well as Augustine in North Africa (396) about twice as often. It is quoted besides by Pacian in the north of Spain (370), by Faustus the African (400), by Rufins at Aquileia (400), by Chrysologus at Ravenna (433), and by Sedulius, a Scot (434). The unknown authors of two famous treatises written at the same period largely quote this portion of the narrative. It is referred to by Victorius of Victorinus (457), by Vigilius of Tapsus (484) in North Africa, by Gelasius, Bishop of Rome (492), by Cassiodorus of Southern Italy,by Gregory the Great, and by other Fathers of the Western Church."
(Burgon, The Pericope de Adultera, 1886. All these references can also be found in more detail in Causes of Corruption in the Traditional Text, by Burgon and Miller.)
To do justice to this large block of evidence would require a volume in itself. Even an adequate summary of the data would encompass a bulky chapter. Unfortunately we haven't the space for that here.
4. (Hier. = St. Jerome 340-420 A.D., converted 360 A.D.)
Jerome is quite clearly one of the most important early fathers to comment on the verses. About 380 A.D. Jerome went to Constantinople to study under the Greek Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus. In 382 he went back to Rome for a council held by Pope Damasus. Jerome did so well as council secretary that Damasus kept him on as his own secretary.
At the Pope's request he revised the Latin Gospels, using the original Greek MSS, and the Latin psalter. Later he retranslated the OT from Greek and Hebrew MSS. The result of his 30 years of work is the Latin Bible (Vulgate), which is still in use.
To (Pope) Damascus:
"You urge me to revise the old Latin, and judge between the copies of the Scriptures scattered throughout the world: and where they differ, you wish me to decide which one agrees with the original Greek. The labour is one of love, but also perilous and bold: for in judging others' work, I must be content to be judged by all. ...Is there a single man, learned or unlearned, who, when he reads what doesn't suit his mindset, won't make a violent outburst, calling me a 'forger' and 'profane', for having the gall to change anything or make corrections to the ancient books?
"But there are two consolations that help me bear the notoriety: In the first place, you the supreme bishop have given the order. And secondly, even according to our opponents, readings differing from the ancient copies can't be right.
"For if we hold to the Latin, its up to our opponents to tell us which to follow, for there are almost as many text-forms as there are copies! And on the other hand, if we try to determine the truth by comparing them, why not just go back to the original Greek and fix the mistakes made by sloppy translators, blundering editors and the changes of half-asleep copyists?
"I'm not discussing the Old Testament...I am now speaking of the New Testament. This was undoubtedly composed in Greek, with the exception of Matthew the Apostle, who was the first to put in writing the Gospel of Christ, and who gave his work in Hebrew from Judaea (Palestine).
"We must confess that as we now have the N.T. in our language (Latin), it is marked by discrepancies, and now that the stream has diverged in different directions we must go back to the fountainhead.
"I avoid those manuscripts connected to the names of Lucian and Hesychius, the 'authority' of which is perversely claimed by a handful of quarrelous persons. It is obvious that these writers were unable to change anything in the Old Testament after the work of the Seventy; and it was also useless for them to 'correct' the New, since Scripture translations already existing in many languages show that their additions are false.
"Therefore in this short Preface, I promise simply the four Gospels, in the following order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, as corrected by comparison to the Greek copies. Only ancient manuscripts have been used. But to avoid any great divergences from the Latin which we are accustomed to read, I have used my pen with some restraint, and while I have corrected only such passages as seemed to convey a different meaning, I have allowed the rest to remain as they are. "(St. Jerome, Preface to the Latin Gospels, 383 A.D.)
Jerome's Preface gives us several key pieces of information:
(1) The Old Latin MSS had many diverse texts and readings.
(2) Jerome relied only upon the Greek for correcting the text.
(3) Jerome spurned the work of previous editors, specifically Lucian.
(4) Jerome used only ancient manuscripts for corrections.
(5) Jerome only corrected where he found significant differences in meaning.
To these factors, we add two more,
(6) Jerome included the passage in his Latin translation, defending its authenticity without hesitation,
(7) and specifically says it was present in "many MSS, both Greek and Latin". (cf. Hort above)
This appears to leave a rather large difficulty concerning Jerome's evidence. For we can either accept Jerome's basic version of events, or we must suspect him of some kind of fraud, however pious in intent.
As secretary to the Pope, Jerome cannot possibly have been unfamiliar with the 50 'Great Bibles' made by order of Constantine a mere 35 years earlier, and sent to every major church in his Empire. Yet Jerome clearly spurned the editorial choices of such manuscripts, if Codex B and Aleph are anything to go by.
These two surviving manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, would have looked virtually 'brand new' to Jerome. They would have been made with techniques 'modern' in his time and would have had at most 30 years of gentle church use. Thus Jerome could not have mistaken such contemporary copies for 'ancient manuscripts'.
And indeed he didn't: Jerome published a text that is apparently somewhere in the middle between the Western, Alexandrian and Byzantine extremes. He hardly favoured the Byzantine text-type or the Alexandrian. And whatever manuscripts Jerome used, ancient in his time, they were not the ancestors of B and Aleph.
But it isn't even the rejection of the Alexandrian text by Jerome that really matters here. Its the astounding fact that the Pope actually ordered and embraced Jerome's text and the entire Latin church seems to have followed suit. And more importantly, its the corollary: the ecclesiastical authorities deliberately rejected the Alexandrian text-type, in spite of its 'official' imposition by Constantine and Eusebius only a few decades before.
Of course there was initial criticism and resistance to Jerome's text, but this was relatively short-lived, and confined to his revision of the Old Testament. Even with 'official sanction' for the new text however, Jerome's Vulgate didn't really dominate until the 7th century: Only in the 6th century did Pope Gregory the Great declare it equal to the Old Latin, and it was only by the 12th century that it finally took over almost everywhere.
But all this only makes the problem of the Pericope de Adultera more acute: At first we are sorely tempted to blame Jerome and Pope Damascus themselves for its actual insertion. It is 'absent' in the Greek text of Constantine (340 A.D.), but present in the Latin of Jerome (380 A.D.). Hort tells us,
"When the whole evidence is taken together, it becomes clear that the Section first came into St John's Gospel as an insertion in a comparatively late Western text,..." (Notes, pg 88).
Ignoring Hort's vagueness about just exactly when the passage was inserted into the Latin, the theory faces severe obstacles:
Most importantly, the Old Latin had it before Jerome: The passage is copiously attested in the Old Latin, quite independantly of Jerome. It was in popular use by many of Jerome's contemporaries before he'd even started translating the Gospels.
That is the real significance of the evidence of older fathers like Ambrose. It can't have been added later under Jerome's influence. He simply assented to what he'd already found. He was obviously telling the truth about finding it "in many Latin MSS".
And the only people hanging onto the Old Latin were those who rejected Jerome: Why would they embrace what would then be the most outrageous addition of all, and yet stubbornly reject all his relatively minor changes?
But if the adoption of Jerome's Latin was so tediously slow in the West, he must have had even less, in fact almost no influence at all upon the Greek transmission.
And now we come face to face with just how much Dr. Hort has actually inverted the plain sense of the facts. The simple truth is, Jerome was not translating the Latin into Greek, but Greek into Latin, and only accepting or correcting the Latin when it was supported by the Greek.
The flow of influence is wholly in the other direction: First Jerome went to study Greek under the Bishop of Constantinople, then he took the Greek (Byzantine) text back with him and corrected the Latin.
Without overwhelming contrary evidence, the only sensible course is to take Jerome at his word again, and acknowledge that the dominant and approved Greek text of the East also had the verses. Jerome had found in the East "many Greek MSS also" containing the story of the adulteress.
And he brought his knowledge of the ancient Byzantine texts with him to restore the Latin. There is no evidence of any attempt to influence the Greeks, and Jerome made no new edition of the Greek text.
5. Remarkably, Hort grants more space to this virtually unknown 10th century father than he gives even to St. Augustine. But not to honour him: Hort lays three strikes against him in rapid succession: (1) His actual identity is put in grave doubt. (2) His knowledge and witness is reduced to 'Constantinopolitan' in its scope. (3) He is dismissed as a bigot, motivated by envy or hatred of neighbouring Armenian traditions.
Unfortunately, this is all just conjecture, and is hardly justified by the text itself. The problematic testimony of yet another early father, this time Greek, imposes inconveniently on Hort's portrayal of the textual history. But there is no evidence of any unique 'Constantinopolitan' text or tradition. His attempt at containment is a failure. The Greek manuscripts come from all over the Byzantine Empire.
6. Whether or not the only surviving copy of the Synopsis Script. Sac. was based upon a text with or without the passage, its early correction in the copyist's exemplar (if it was corrected) remains prima face evidence for the existance of the passage as well as its absence in some early traditions.
Unfortunately, no entry in advanced scholarly lexicons that embraces Hort's theories about the meaning or usage of entauqa versus eita in the margins of manuscripts will be found. BAG doesn't know what Hort is talking about, and Thayer doesn't bother.
7. Hort now wishes us to take the word of an unknown 12th century father seriously, against all earlier evidence. Imagine if one were to try this against the beloved Codex Vaticanus. But Hort has here shot himself in the foot. For this Euthymius completely discredits himself as any kind of 'expert':
He says that the absence of any notice of the passage in Chrysostom's commentaries is evidence of its interpolation. Yet the proposition is absurd on two counts:
(1) Chrysostom wrote after the passage was known to exist in both the Greek and Latin streams of transmission.
(2) Chrysostom only commented on the passages which were commonly read in public during the Lectionary services.
The passage cannot have been 'interpolated' after Chrysostom's time.
8. The Harclean Syriac (Syrh ) is now demoted to the status of a "Constantinopolitan lectionary". The only thing is, there is no such thing as a 'Constantinopolitan lectionary'. All the Greek lectionaries have the same basic format and content, showing 80%+ agreement among themselves for the actual text. And again, they range from all over the Eastern Empire.
The real problem with Syrh is that the lectionary tradition is much older and far more widespread than the picture Hort wishes to paint, and so is the presence of John 8:1-11 within this tradition.
9. Now Hort trots out the opinion of Bishop Lightfoot via Scrivener, to push the position that the 'best' Syriac versions are those that omit the passage. What is remarkable here is that during the Committee meetings for the Revised Version, Hort went against Scrivener's seasoned expert opinion in nearly every single alteration to the Greek text that was made. Now ironically, the only 'evidence' Hort conjures for his own position is a remark from Scrivener "about what Lightfoot thought".
Even when 'quoting' his opponents however, Hort was really quoting his friends. For Lightfoot was in fact a founding member of Hort's 'cabal', and co-conspirator to dethrone the Textus Receptus (Traditional Text):
Jan.-Mar.1853 - Westcott and Hort agree upon plan of a joint revision of the text of the Greek Testament. sible." (Life, Vol.I, p.250).
June 1853 - Mr. Daniel Macmillan suggests to Hort that he should take part in an interesting and comprehensive 'New Testament Scheme.' Hort was to edit the text in conjunction with Mr. Westcott; the latter was to be responsible for a commentary, and Lightfoot was to contribute a N.T. Grammar and Lexicon. (Life, Vol.I, pp.240,241).
1860 May 1st - Hort to Lightfoot: "If you make a decided conviction of the absolute infallibility of the N.T. practically a sine qua non for co-operation, I fear I could not join you, even if you were willing to forget your fears about the origin of the Gospels." (Life, Vol. I, p.420).
May 4th - Hort to Lightfoot: "I am also glad that you take the same provisional ground as to infallibility that I do." (Life, Vol.I, p.424).
May 5th - Westcott to Hort: "at present I find the presumption in favour of the absolute truth - I reject the word infallibility - of Holy Scripture overwhelming." (Life, Vol.I, p.207).
May 18th - Hort to Lightfoot: "It sounds an arrogant thing to say, but there are very many cases in which I would not admit the competence of any one to judge a decision of mine on a textual matter, who was only an amateur, and had not some considerable experience in forming a text." (Life, Vol.I, p.425).
1861 Apr. 12th - Hort to Westcott: "Also - but this may be cowardice - I have a sort of craving that our text should be cast upon the world before we deal with matters likely to brand us with suspicion. I mean, a text, issued by men already known for what will undoubtedly be treated as dangerous heresy, will have great difficulties in finding its way to regions which it might otherwise hope to reach, and whence it would not be easily banished by subsequent alarms." (Life, Vol.I, p.445).
1870 Westcott and Hort print tentative edition of their Greek N.T. for private distribution only. (This they later circulated under pledge of secrecy within the company of N.T. revisers, of which they were members).
May 29th - Westcott to Hort: "though I think that Convocation is not competent to initiate such a measure, yet I feel that as 'we three' are together it would be wrong not to 'make the best of it' as Lightfoot says. Indeed, there is a very fair prospect of good work, though neither with this body nor with any body likely to be formed now could a complete textual revision be possible. There is some hope that alternative readings might find a place in the margin." (Life, Vol.I, p.390).
June 4th - Westcott to Lightfoot: "Ought we not to have a conference before the first meeting for Revision? There are many points on which it is important that we should agreed. The rules though liberal are vague, and the interpretation of them will depend upon decided action at first." (Life, Vol.I, p.391).
July 7th - Hort: "Dr. Westcott and myself have for above seventeen years been preparing a Greek text of the New Testament. It has been in the press for some years, and we hope to have it out early next year." (Life, Vol.II, p.137).
Aug. - Hort to Lightfoot: "It is, I think, difficult to measure the weight of acceptance won beforehand for the Revision by the single fact of our welcoming an Unitarian, if only the Company perseveres in its present serious and faithful spirit." (Life, Vol.II, p.140). (Dr. G. Vance Smith, a Unitarian scholar, was a member of the Revision Committee. At Westcott's suggestion, a celebration of Holy Communion was held on June 22nd before the first meeting of the N.T. Revision Company. Dr. Smith communicated but said afterwards that he did not join in reciting the Nicene Creed and did not compromise his principles as a Unitarian. The storm of public indignation which followed almost wrecked the Revision at the outset. At length however Dr. Smith remained on the Committee).
Hort, A.F., Life and Letters of Fenton J.A. Hort, MacMillan and Co., London, 1896, vols. I,II.
Westcott, A., Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, MacMillan and Co., London, 1903, vols. I,II.
Scrivener's devastating critique of Hort's (and Dr. Cureton's) attempts to elevate the 'Curetonian Syriac' to a higher status than the Peshitto is worth reading. In passing, Scrivener also gives a discussion of the Syriac versions that is outstanding, and which still recommends itself to researchers today. He was one of the few experts to devote an adequate amount of space to this important topic:
Scrivener (1894) on Syriac Versions
Hort (predictably) however entirely ignores Scrivener's whole chapter on the Syriac, and instead points his readers to pg 331f. of Scrivener's volume 2. Hort attempts to embarrass Scrivener for one of his statements there.
This section (Scrivener, Intro. pg 331-334) discusses Matthew 21:28-31. Here Scrivener shows Lachmann (1848) has incorrectly applied Bengel's Canon, "Prefer the harder reading", by introducing an absurdity into the text and making the wrong son obediant to his father.
"...critical conjecture, as usual, is his (Lachmann's) panacea. Conjecture, however, is justly held inadmissable by Tregelles, whose mode of interpretation is a curiosity in its (own) way. (see Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text, p 107). I entertain sincere veneration for the character and services of Dr. Tregelles, but it is only right to assert at once that what stands in his (own, i.e., Tregelles') text is impossible Greek.
... Why then prefer nonsense, for the mere purpose of carrying out Bengel's canon to the extremity? (Tregelle's text) is sanctioned by no critical authority whatsoever. (italics, Scrivener)
Codex B indeed has usteroV (which is here followed by Westcott and Hort), Codex 4 (has) deuteroV, Codd. 13, 69, 124, 346 (Abbott's family 13), and 238, 262, 556, 604, perhaps others, esxatoV, one or other of which is in the Jerusalem Syriac and Bohairic, the Ethiopic (2 mss.), the Armenian and 2 chief Arabic versions; but all of these authorities (with tol. of the Vulgate secunda manu (second hand), as also Isidore, the Pseudo-Athanasius, and John Damascus), transpose the order of the two sons in vv. 29-30, so that the result produces just the same sense as in the Recieved (traditional text).
The suggestion that the clauses were transferred in order to reconcile (either reading) with the context may be met by the counter-statement that either reading itself was just as likely to be substituted to suit the inversion of clauses. Against such inversion (which we do not pretend to recommend, though Westcott and Hort adopt it) Origen is an early witness, so that Codex B and its allies are no doubt wrong.
...The indefensible part of Tregelles' arrangement is that... the only true supporters of his general view are Codex D aisxatoV (i.e, esxatoV), the Old Latin copies a b e ff 1.2 g1 h, l, the best codices of the Vulgate ( am.fuld.for.san.tol.harl.*), the Anglo-Saxon version, and Augustine, though not the Clementine edition of the Vulgate.
...On no true principles can codex D and its Latin allies avail against such a mass of opposing proof, whereof Codd. C, Phi, Sigma, L, X lead the van. Even the Curetonian Syriac, which so often favours Codex D and the Old Latin, is with the Textus Receptus here. "
(Scrivener, Intro.Vol. 2, pg 332f)
It is undoubtably this last sentence that Hort wants to draw our attention to. Hort implies that similarly, neither can the evidence of codex D and the Old Latin, Syriac etc. "avail against the mass of opposing proof, whereof B, , Cvid Theta, Psi, L, X etc. lead the van" in the case of the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11).
But Hort's parallel is completely invalid. The Pericope de Adultera can neither be a 'harmonization' to a parallel text, an 'emendation' to a 'hard' reading, an accidental scribal 'error', or even a marginal gloss accidentally incorporated into the text. It stands alone among the tens of thousands of textual variants, like an elephant in the sunset, or a beached whale, with the only remotely similar case being the ending of Mark.
No ordinary 'canons' of textual criticism can adequately handle the Pericope de Adultera. It must be dealt with on its own evidence alone.
Had Scrivener noted this lame inference, he would have laughed Hort to scorn. Meanwhile, Scrivener's devastating expose of Lachmann, Tregelles, and Hort must remain in place. Each of these 'professional' textual critics clearly made muddled gaffs in their reconstruction of Matthew, and the traditional reading is again left standing after the smoke has cleared.