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the Bubject itself; one which, it may also be remembered, lias been deemed by many worthy of the main labour of a laborious life, from our countrymen, Mill and Kennicott, down to the recently departed Lachmann and Scholz.
The present work is, in a manner, a novelty; not that the matters therein comprised are themselves new; they have been severally treated in books of various title and object, with more or less fulness* and in a manner more or less satisfactory; but they are here disengaged from extraneous association, and brought together as parts of that subject under which they properly range themselves. We should mention that it is the production of an English Nonconformist, already known more especially by his Introduction to the New Testament, and is dedicated to the Bishop of St. David's. The two volumes are assigned to the Old Testament and the New respectively. We shall confine our notice mainly to the latter; for the two portions correspond in arrangement and, mutatis mutandis, in matter, and a conception of one will thus, to a certain extent, embrace the other.
After a preliminary chapter, containing a sketch of the origin and distinctive features of the language of the New Testament, the author enters on the history of the text itself till the middle of the third century, as far as patristic sources afford the scattered materials. This includes a specification and examination of the charges of falsification made by the Fathers, during that period, against various heretics. That the latter were to some extent guilty, is clear enough; the author's opinion seems to be, that they were more guilty than successful in mischief.
'In whatever way the falsifications of the New Testament test on the part of the earliest heretics be viewed, the departure from the true reading that flowed from the source in question into MSS. generally, must have been inconsiderable. Some wilful corruptions made by Marcion did certainly getinto various copies, but they never obtained an extensive footing. The orthodox church was awake to the importance of preserving their holy writings from the contamination of heretical hands, and prevented any material falsification. The heretics were comparatively few, and did not possess sufficient influence, even had they been so disposed, to corrupt the records extensively. The catholic Christians, scattered as they were through many lands, opposed a barrier to radical alterations.'
The continuation of the history of the text leads to a detail of the different schemes for the classification of MSS. devised by modern critics as preliminary to their operations; those, namely, of Griesbach, Hug, Eichorn, Michaelis, Nolan, Scholz, Rinck, and Tischendorf. This detail might, perhaps, perplex and dishearten such as have not attained a fair grasp of the subject; we will, therefore, make a few remarks which may serve to clear and cheer the prospect.
If a person were studying the New Testament with some attention to various readings, but without any knowledge of the history and character of their documentary evidence beyond the bare circumstance of certain letters and numbers being conventionally used to designate different MSS., he would hardly fail to observe that, on occurrence of two readings, one of which was more accordant with ordinary grammatical construction, or exhibited greater propriety and ease of expression than its rival, the citations of authorities for the former class of readings would show a continual recurrence of letters and numbers; a recurrence serving ultimately to mark off, by a common feature, a certain section from the entire mass of documents. By this simple and unbiassed process alone, a twofold division of the whole might be nearly, if not definitely made, notwithstanding peculiar features possessed by one or two individuals; in fact, that main separation would be well-nigh made out, which other considerations, internal and external, conspire to establish.
Now, the readings of the opposite complexion to those which have been just specified, might have been produced by an exposure of the text, in certain quarters, to circumstances unfavourable to purity of style; that is, they might possibly be, in respect of mere language, readings of deterioration. A knowledge, however, of the actual history and circumstances of the body of documents which exhibit them, forbids this supposition; it follows, then, that this distinctive aspect of the section first marked off is the result of meddlings, or, in other words, consists in readings of officious improvement. This section has been and may still be named the Alexandrine class; the other is the Byzantine or Constantinopolitan.
The internal characteristic just described is one main fact which affects the Alexandrine class; there is another, which is external, namely, that of existing documents it happens to possess several that are unquestionably the oldest, and, indeed, a majority of that portion of the whole which may be distinctively termed ancient. A recognition of these two facts, and of the way in which they respectively bear upon the other class, is, we are convinced, the only ground of sound, criticism of the text, as far as MSS. are concerned. But the uncritical error of critics who have recognised classes, has been to allow the influence of a kind of partizanship, and to act, sometimes avowedly, on a sweeping prepossession of an absolute superiority of one class above the other; and this has been one cause, at least, why no text has hitherto been formed that has obtained an assent, as a whole, answerable to the labour and learning expended upon it. The truth is, that each has its stronger and weaker points of evidence; and, towards the settlement of a text, they must be allowed to exercise a mutual action, regulated by a knowledge of their respective circumstances and character.
The practical results of this principle will be mainly these. Alexandrine evidence must suffer some abatement wherever the complexion of a rival reading, or other sufficient considerations, indicate officious tampering; here careful regard must be had to that which is offered by the other class. But, with this exception, profound attention is due to Alexandrine testimony, as of prime importance in mere virtue of the antiquity of its documents, which will, from time to time, claim a consideration that cannot reasonably be refused. Again, the Byzantine class of documents, by its later range of date, must, as a whole, have suffered in a greater degree those corruptions in particular, which are the inevitable effect of mere lapse of time, so long as transcription is carried on. It is in vain to put forward a bare array of a majority of copies as countervailing or remedying this undeniable circumstance; the process must be of a different kind—a process grounded on the important consideration, that the existence of such blemishes involves no impeachment of the quality of the substratum, the text to which they have attached themselves, and consisting in an effort to discern that basis, by an exercise of the watchful eye and discriminative faculty of the true critic. The issue will be the procurement of an independent witness, whose presence will sometimes render necessary a decision upon opposing evidence, but will not unfrequently tend to the assurance which is furnished by concurring deponents.
The corruptions which must be fostered by a prolonged multiplication of copies, may be thus classed; first, accretions of marginal and interlineary matter, chiefly glossarial; secondly, usurpations by the same matter of the place of the genuine words of the text; and, thirdly, assimilations. These last were probably not intentional, but, like the others, had their origin in the margin. As might be expected, they occur chiefly on the Gospels, but'they are also discernible elsewhere. From the nature of the thing it is clear that, with individual exceptions, the older copies will, in this respect, have an advantage over the more recent; but the most ancient that we possess cannot be untainted with these evils, the incipient existence of which may be traced in the second century. The possibility also of an occasional impress of liturgical and controversial influences, in their time, must not be forgotten.
But, after all, notwithstanding the adoption of a scheme, however sound, and of critical rules, however well framed, there will still be a constant call for the independent work of a clear head and a cool judgment. We have said nothing of the mischief arising from the mere blunders of copyists, nor of those general methods of procedure which, with the exception of conjecture, are common to the criticism of the New Testament, and of other ancient writings.
The recognition of classes is quite a distinct thing from the once prevalent belief in recensions, formally executed at different times and places; an idea for which there is not evidence sufficient to authorize its reception as an element of criticism. Equally unsupported by sufficient proof is the kindred notion, that different forms of the text were specially upheld as authentic in different regions of the Church.
The plan of dividing MSS. into ancient and recent, without the recognition of classes, is tempting by its simplicity, and would, if admissible, simplify the work of the critic. The case assumed is that of a single stream proceeding from an inaccessible souree, in which case we must simply endeavour to ascend as high as we can. But there may be several derived streams; and it is further possible that one which allows a nearer approach to the head than its neighbour, may, from the accidents of its previous course, afford a less pure draught than its rival.
We return to Dr. Davidson. The next portion of the volume consists of an elaborate account of all the ancient versions of the New Testament, their history, their value, and their critical treatment in the hands of modern editors; more especially of the two which are most important, the Latin in its various phases, and the old Syriac or Peshito. This department is interesting independently of its connexion with textual criticism; and the English reader who is desirous of full and satisfactory information on this point, may at once turn to that which is here supplied; and the same may be said of the corresponding part of the first volume. The author ultimately observes that, as Bentley saw, those which are really important for the criticism of the text, are only five—the Latin, Peshito, Egyptian, Ethiopic, and Gothic; adding a warning, that in no case is the text yet in a state to be used with perfect confidence. This is especially the case with the Syriac, which is awaiting the application of our recently acquired store of materials to the production of a purer text.
There then follows an account of all the MSS. in the uncial character, including the history, condition, probable age, and family features of each, and also of the principal cursive ones. The following passage is extracted from the description of the Codex Vaticanus (B):—
'The antiquity of the MS. is very great. For determining it a number of points must be brought together, such as the near affinity of the character to that in the Herculaneum rolls; the twofold retouching of the letters; the continuous sequence of words without any separation or interpunction; the accents added by a later hand with other ink; the form of the MS. approaching to the more ancient rolls, aDd the number of columns adapted to it; the height, breadth, and intervals of those columns resembling; very much the rolls of Herculaneum. These particulars carry up the codex to an age beyond any other biblical MS. known to exist. Other indications of its antiquity are found in the additions to the subscriptions put by a second hand, which were still prior to those of Euthalius; the absence of the Ajumohian sections, which came into general use at the close of die fourth century; the twofold division into sections in the Acta and catholic epistles, the second itself differing from that of Euthalius; the singular distribution of the Pauline epistles into sections, as if they were but one book; the position of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which had been shifted from its place after the Galatiau epistle quite recently, and put after the Thessalonian epistles, where it usually was in the time of Athanasius; and the emission of the words iv 'Edt«re» from the text at the commencement of the Epistle to the Ephesians, though there are subjoined a prima manu in the margin, agreeably to the assertion of Basil, that those words were wanting in ancient MSS. Relying upon such marks, Hug assigns the MS. to the first half of the fourth century—an opinion in which Teschendorf coincides. Blanchini had formerly referred it to the fifth century, and Montfaucon to the fifth or sixth.'
In the next place, there are given a list of Greek ecclesiastical writers down to the fourteenth century, with statements of their value in criticism, and an alphabetical catalogue of the Latins. Of their usefulness on the whole for this particular purpose, a moderate estimate is made. Indeed, before the writings of an author can be safely applied in this way, it must be shown that his method of citation was habitually exact; whereas the contrary is the case with many, even with a literal expounder like Chrysostom. There are not a few cases, however, where the real ancient testimony is the patristic.
Both volumes close with a chapter exhibiting a critical examination of selected passages, the respective lists being:— Ps. xxv. cxlv. xvi. 10; 1 Sam. xvii. 12—31, and 55—58; vi. 19; Ps. xxii. 17; Judg. xviii. 30; 2 Chron. xxii. 2; Gen. i. ii.; Zech. xii. 10; Gen. iv. 8; Josh. xxi. 35; Lam. ii. 16,17; iii. 46—48; iv. 16, 17; 2 Sam. xv. 7; Prov. xviii. 22; Isa. lviii. 10; Exod. xv. 2—17, and Deut. v. 6—21; Ps. xxviii. 8; Isa. liii. 8; xix. 18, and 1 Tim. iii. 16; I John v. 7; Matt. vi. 13; xix. 17; xxi. 28—31; xxvii. 35, 36; Luke xxii. 43, 44; Acts viii. 37; xx. 28. From the latter list the following passages are excluded, because the writer has fully discussed them in his * Introduction:' Mark xvi. 9—20; John v. 3, 4; vii. 53; viii. 11. The two following specimens have been selected simply because their brevity admitted of extraction:—
'Judges xviii. 30.
* This verse stands thus in the English version: "And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son