|Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 18, April 29 to May 5, 2007|
Dr. John H. Skilton, Th.B, Ph.D., was professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has written many articles and is the General Editor of Scripture and Confession: A book about Confessions Old and New (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973). This article is taken from The Infallible Word: a Symposium written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1946), pp. 141-195.
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. — The Westminster Confession of Faith, I. viii.
WE WILL never be able to attain the sacred writings as they gladdened the eyes of those who first saw them, and rejoiced the hearts of those who first heard them. If the external words of the original were inspired, it does not profit us. We are cut off from them forever. Interposed between us and them is the tradition of centuries and even millenniums.
These strange words are taken from a remarkably confused passage in an article written many years ago by Dr. C. A. Briggs. 1
Dr. Briggs further asserts in the same passage:
Doubtless by God's "singular care and Providence they [the Scriptures] have been kept pure in all ages, and are therefore authentical." (Conf. of Faith, I. viii.) Doubtless throughout the whole work of the authors "the Holy Spirit was present, causing His energies to flow into the spontaneous exercises of the writers' faculties, elevating and directing where need be, and everywhere securing the errorless expression in language of the thought designed by God" (Art. "Inspiration," PRES. REV. II. 231), but we cannot in the symbolical or historical use of the term call this providential care of His word or superintendence over its external production — Inspiration. 2
Conservative scholars, whatever their disagreements with Dr. Briggs may be, will readily grant that we cannot in the technical use of the term call God's providential care of his Word "inspiration." Their viewpoint in this matter is that which is reflected in the ‘Westminster Confession of Faith. According to the Confession, the canonical books were given by inspiration of God (I.ii). The Old Testament in the Hebrew and the New Testament in the Greek — the Scriptures in the languages in which they were given — were immediately inspired by God (I.viii). Quite distinct from the inspiration of the original manuscripts have been the care and providence whereby the Scriptures have been kept pure. It is by virtue of these two separate considerations — the immediate inspiration of the sacred writings in their original form and the singular divine care and providence — that the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek are to be regarded as authentical (I.viii). Indeed, far from confusing these two matters, conservative scholars would insist on making a very sharp distinction between them.
If then we do not call God's care and providence by the name of inspiration, must we grant that the centuries have cut us off forever from the words of the original and that there is now no profit for us if those words were inspired? We can grant no such things. We will grant that God's care and providence, singular though they have been, have not preserved for us any of the original manuscripts either of the Old Testament or of the New Testament. We will furthermore grant that God did not keep from error those who copied the Scriptures during the long period in which the sacred text was transmitted in copies written by hand. But we must maintain that the God who gave the Scriptures, who works all things after the counsel of his will, has exercised a remarkable care over his ‘Word, has preserved it in all ages in a state of essential purity, and has enabled it to accomplish the purpose for which he gave it. It is inconceivable that the sovereign God who was pleased to give his Word as a vital and necessary instrument in the salvation of his people would permit his Word to become completely marred in its transmission and unable to accomplish its ordained end. Rather, as surely as that he is God, we would expect to find him exercising a singular care in the preservation of his written revelation.
That God has preserved the Scriptures in such a condition of essential purity as we would expect is manifestly the case. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament has survived the millenniums in a substantially and remarkably pure form. Among the extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from the Christian era there is an extraordinary agreement. Kennicott in his edition of the Hebrew Bible with variant readings deals with consonantal variants in more than six hundred manuscripts. 3 Dr. Robert Dick Wilson has pointed out that there are about 284,000,000 letters in the manuscripts considered by Kennicott and that among these manuscripts there are about 900,000 variants, approximately 750,000 of which are the quite trivial variation of w and y. 4 There is, Dr. Wilson remarks, only about one variant for 316 letters and apart from the insignificant w and y variation only about one variant for 1580 letters. The variants for the most part are supported by only one or by only a few of the manuscripts. Dr. Wilson has elsewhere said that there are hardly any variant readings in these manuscripts with the support of more than one out of the 200 to 400 manuscripts in which each book is found, except in the full and defective writing of the vowels, a matter which has no bearing on either the pronunciation or the meaning of the text. 5
The agreement which exists among the extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament which date from the Christian era is a sign of the extraordinary care exercised in the transmission of the text by the Jews. It is true that the oldest of these witnesses are relatively late. Among the earliest are the Leningrad Manuscript of the Prophets, which has been dated A.D. 916, and a manuscript of the Pentateuch in the British Museum, which has been thought to date back to the ninth century or earlier. 6
It was the practice of the Jews to place worn manuscripts in a receptacle called the "Geniza" and to use newer copies, which had been made with incredible care. 7 In natural course the discarded manuscripts perished. 8 But though our extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament from the Christian era are rather late, the text which they contain can he traced to a considerably earlier time.
The text of our Hebrew Bible goes back, first of all, to the Masoretes, a succession of Jewish scholars, notably connected with a school at Tiberias, whose painstaking work on the text began about A.D. 600 or before. The Masoretes introduced into the text an intricate system of accent and vowel notations. Since the Hebrew alphabet was entirely consonantal and since in earlier times no full-fledged system of vowel notation had been employed in the manuscripts, readers had been required to supply vowels to the text. The Masoretes also provided notes on the text, notes of such abundance and detail that from them alone it is possible to a considerable extent to reconstruct the text. 9 They mentioned even what they regarded as unusual accents, vowel points, and spelling. They recorded a number of variant readings — on the average of about one to a page of a printed Hebrew Old Testament 10 — and they made reference to eighteen corrections attributed to the scribes before them. 11
But the Masoretes did not originate the Hebrew traditional text. 12 They received from their predecessors a text already traditional which they treated with great reverence. Their high regard for the text that had come down to them is evidenced by their placing in the margin readings which they believed to be correct and leaving the text itself unaltered.
The Masoretes were heirs of the text in use when the Talmud was written, a text which, as is clear from the Talmud itself, had previously been in a relatively fixed condition. The Aramaic versions or paraphrases (the Targums), the Syriac Peshitto version, the Latin Vulgate version of the Old Testament, and quotations of the Old Testament in the writings of Jerome and Origen, and the Hexapla of Origen, with its Hebrew text and Greek versions, bear witness, like the Talmud, to the existence of a Hebrew text for several centuries before the time of the Masoretes which closely resembled their text. Rabbi Akiba, who died about A.D. 132, had a high regard for exactness and fixity of text, and has been credited with inspiring measures toward the settling of the text in the early second century. 13 The view of P. de Lagarde that after A.D. 130 all manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible were closely fashioned after one archetype which had been decided on not long before that date has not been accepted by all; but it is at least the case that a type of text basically that of the Masoretes existed around A.D. 100 and that this text subsequently overcame whatever competitors it had. Biblical texts which have been discovered recently at Wady el-Muraba'at in southern Palestine, which have been dated in the second century A.D., are in notable agreement with the Masoretic text. 14 Kenyon thinks that since the end of the first century A.D. the text has not been altered in any material way. 15
Tracing the investigation still further back, Dr. Wilson maintains that citations of the Old Testament found in the New Testament, in the writings of Josephus and of Philo, and in the Zadokite Fragments bear witness to the existence of a text quite similar to the Masoretic from A.D. 40 to 100. 16
The state of the text of the Hebrew Bible about the time of Christ and somewhat earlier has been illumined in the last two decades by the discovery of a great many manuscripts in the area of the Dead Sea. A particularly significant scroll, containing the entire book of Isaiah, in all probability dates from 100 B.C. or earlier. Here is a Hebrew text of substantial length which is about a millennium older than the manuscripts dating from the Christian era mentioned above — and it gives striking support in the main to the Masoretic text. Another scroll, which contains portions of the Hebrew text of Isaiah and which dates from perhaps 50 B.C., gives even stronger support to the traditional text. A commentary on Habakkuk, dating probably from the first century B.C., contains a text closely akin to the Masoretic. Fragments of Leviticus, which go back at least to the second century B.C., provide a firm witness to the traditional text. Certain fragments among the scrolls, however, have some significant agreements with types of texts which diverge to some extent from the traditional or Masoretic, such as those of the Samaritan Pentateuch and of the Septuagint. Texts somewhat out of the main line of transmission can, of course, contribute to our knowledge of the history of transmission and when carefully studied and utilized may at times make important contributions to our knowledge of the nature of the original text itself.
Mention might also be made of an ancient manuscript of the Hebrew text which was discovered before the Dead Sea scrolls came to light and which gives support to the traditional text. This witness is the Nash Papyrus, which was written perhaps around 50 or 100 B.C. and which contains portions of the text of Exodus 20 and of Deuteronomy 6.
W. F. Albright has held it to be certain — and recent discoveries give support to his position — that the Hebrew text between c. 150 and c. 50 B.C. was already fixed and that the variations between it and our Hebrew Bibles today are rarely of significance. 17
Studies of the textual situation in the centuries just before Christ must take careful account of the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which was made up of a number of distinct translations of different books or sections made at different times. The Pentateuch, the oldest section of the Septuagint, dates back to about 250 B.C. Although agreeing in the main with our received Hebrew text, the Septuagint does contain differences worthy of study which are of importance to the textual critic. There is a danger in magnifying these differences and in drawing false inferences from their presence. When the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was made, the Hebrew text used was, of course, not marked with the vowel points which the Masoretes later placed in their text. And it is to be observed that the great majority of the variations between the Septuagint and the Masoretic text arise from the fact that the translators supplied different vowels to the consonantal text from those which the Masoretes employed. In numerous other instances the translators had before them the same text as that of the Masoretes, but mistook it, misunderstood it, or interpreted it differently. At times it is clear that the translators were not at all sure what the Hebrew text before them meant and it is quite possible that at some other times, when they did feel sure of the meaning of the text, they were mistaken. Furthermore on some occasions, they attempted to throw light on the original by the addition of material. Comparative Semitic philology has shown that numerous supposed variations in the Septuagint from the Masoretic text do not represent any difference at all in the basic text. 18
Dr. Green calls attention to the fact that Origen and Jerome place on translators or transcribers of the Septuagint the responsibility for the variations of the Septuagint from the Hebrew text known to them and do not entertain any belief that the Hebrew text had been altered. 19 Pfeiffer expresses the opinion that Origen was misled by reason of a virtual fixation of the Hebrew text which had occurred before his time and by reason of the notable agreement among the available Hebrew manuscripts. 20 But it is nevertheless important to observe that neither Origen nor Jerome nor any other early writer evidences any suspicion that a real revision or a fixation of the Hebrew text had occurred after the time of the Septuagint. Dr. Green does not deny the possibility that the Septuagint may have been made from a Hebrew text considerably, if not substantially, different from the text in use in Origen's day. He thinks it quite possible that there may have been some inferior manuscripts of the Old Testament in use, especially among Jews outside of Palestine; but he holds that, even if this were the case, it would not follow that no authoritative text then existed and that there were no standard copies from which the traditional text has descended. He states a truth quite important in this connection that "reverence for the Scriptures and regard for the purity of the sacred text did not first originate after the fall of Jerusalem." 21 Although conceding the possibility that the Septuagint was made from a text considerably different from the traditional text, he thinks that the differences between the Septuagint and the received Hebrew text are more satisfactorily explained if attributed to the translators. 22 The distinctive readings of the Septuagint at times prove superior to readings which have come down in the Masoretic text, and are naturally of importance for textual criticism, as has been mentioned; but they do not indicate that the Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint was basically superior to the traditional text or even radically different from it. Wilson holds that in the Septuagint and also in the citations found in Ecclesiasticus, the Book of Jubilees, and other writings, we can find evidence of the existence of a text substantially the same as our Masoretic text back as far as about 300 B.C. 23 He would trace the Hebrew text to a yet earlier date through the evidence which he believes is furnished by the Samaritan Pentateuch. 24
There is furthermore much in favor of the view that the Hebrew text was faithfully transmitted from the time of the collection of the canon in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The scribes undoubtedly watched carefully over the text. 25 The high regard in which the sacred books were held called for accuracy in copying. Dr. Green places in the period between Ezra and the Masoretes the counting of the letters, words, verses, and sections in all the books, the noting of the location of the middle letters and words of every book, and the marking of them at times by a letter of abnormal size. He remarks that the Talmud regards all this as old and as performed by the early scribes. He holds that some exacting rules designed to guard the text from error in transmission were formed and followed in this period. 26
We may be confident, according to Albright, that the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted with remarkable accuracy. 27 He maintains that the Masoretic text of the earlier books of the Bible can be followed back to the Babylonian Exile, when he believes they were edited. After the Exile, he holds, these fixed texts were taken back to Palestine. There the consonantal text was copied and transmitted with exceptional fidelity. 28
In the period from the writing of the earliest books to the collection of the canon, some scribal errors undoubtedly were made; 29 nevertheless a study of the text which has come down to us will bring forth much to support the belief that it has been preserved from the very beginning with exceptional accuracy and faithfulness. Some evidence to the contrary might be thought to be found in parallel passages, especially in variations of names and numbers. But many of the variations in these passages may not be due to scribal errors. For one reason or another, these passages may not originally have been identical. 30 We should also guard against erroneous conclusions drawn from the failure of the text at times to meet the reader's expectations as to structure and from its refusal to satisfy the requirements of some artificial theories. 31
Dr. Wilson in A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament mentions a number of considerations which clearly evidence the noteworthy reliability of the traditional text. He calls attention, for example, to some important instances of its demonstrable accuracy in difficult transmission. In its correct spelling of the names of numerous kings of foreign nations, the Hebrew text, as it has been transmitted, is almost unbelievably accurate. The spelling of the names of twenty-six or more foreign kings in our Hebrew text can be compared with the spelling on the monuments of the kings and in documents of their own times. In no case is the spelling in our Hebrew text demonstrably wrong; rather in practically every case it is demonstrably right. Likewise the names of many of the kings of Israel and Judah are found spelled in Assyrian contemporary documents agreeably to the fashion in which they are spelled in our Hebrew Bibles. Wilson observes that "in 143 cases of transliteration from Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Moabite into Hebrew and in 40 cases of the opposite, or 184 in all, the evidence shows that for 2300 to 3900 years the text of the proper names in the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted with the most minute accuracy. That the original scribes should have written them with such close conformity to correct philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship; further, that the Hebrew text should have been transmitted by copyists through so many centuries is a phenomenon unequalled in the history of literature." 32 He reasons further that since it can be shown that the text of other ancient documents has been reliably transmitted and that the text of the Old Testament has been accurately transmitted for the past 2,000 years, we may rightly suppose that the text of the Old Testament has been accurately transmitted from the very beginning. 33
On the basis of varied evidence Wilson concludes:
The proof that the copies of the original documents have been handed down with substantial 34 correctness for more than 2,000 years cannot be denied. That the copies in existence 2,000 years ago had been in like manner handed down from the originals is not merely possible, but, as we have shown, is rendered probable by the analogies of Babylonian documents now existing of which we have both originals and copies, thousands of years apart, and of scores of papyri which show when compared with our modern editions of the classics that only minor changes of the text have taken place in more than 2,000 years and especially by the scientific and demonstrable accuracy with which the proper spelling of the names of kings and of the numerous foreign terms embedded in the Hebrew text has been transmitted to us. 35
It does appear that we may rightfully say that the singular care and providence of God has kept the text of our Old Testament in an essentially and remarkably pure condition. We may agree with Green that no other work of ancient times has been transmitted as accurately as the Old Testament has been. 36 And we can be grateful that, along with our Hebrew texts, the care and providence of God have provided versions and other aids for the important and necessary work of textual criticism.
The text of the New Testament has also been preserved in a reliable form. There are vastly more manuscripts of the Greek New Testament than there are of the Hebrew Old Testament or of any other ancient work, and some of them were written not a great while after the time of the originals. We have about 5,000 manuscripts containing portions or the whole of the New Testament in Greek, whether of the continuous text or of selections for reading in church. The available papyrus manuscripts number about eighty. Although most of them are quite fragmentary, some of the Bodmer Papyri and the Chester Beatty Papyri, written in the third century or earlier, contain very large portions of the text. 37 The oldest of the papyrus manuscripts, a fragment of the Fourth Gospel, containing John 18:31-33, 37, 38, survives from the early second century. It was written perhaps within fifty years of the time when John composed his Gospel. 38 There are over 260 manuscripts written on vellum in large, separate letters called uncials. Two of the oldest and best known of these manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus, date back to the fourth century. 39 A large number of manuscripts — more than 2,700 — called cursives or minuscules, were written in a smaller, running style. They date from the ninth century to the sixteenth. There are also about 2,100 lectionaries, containing selections from the Greek New Testament for use in church services, and a number of ostraca and amulets. In addition to all these Greek witnesses, we have the testimony of manuscripts of the numerous ancient versions of the New Testament. 40 The manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate alone have been estimated as at least 8,000 in number. Furthermore, we have a vast number of citations of the New Testament in early church writers, many of which are in Greek. 41
The New Testament is preeminent among ancient transmitted works in the number and variety of the witnesses to its text and in the proximity in date of the earliest extant manuscripts to the time when its books were written. 42 By virtue of the abundance of material for the text of the Gospels, Streeter thinks that "the degree of security that, in its broad outlines, the text has been handed down to us in a reliable form is prima facie very high." 43 Surely if scholars justly feel that they have essentially the original text of classical works, which have comparatively few manuscript witnesses, may we not feel certain that in the vast and varied company of extant witnesses to the New Testament text (among which different early textual traditions are represented), the original text in practically every detail has been transmitted to us? Kenyon thinks that "it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities" and that "this can be said of no other ancient book in the world." 44
There are many variant readings in the extant manuscripts of the New Testament. Although these variants are very helpful in textual criticism, in enabling us to form judgments about relationships among documents and about the merit of different individual manuscripts, and of groups and families of manuscripts, the great majority of them are trivial. Dr. F. J. A. Hort, who with Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott published an excellent reconstruction of the original text of the Greek New Testament in 1881 and who prepared for their edition the most important treatise on textual criticism that has ever appeared, 45 says of our New Testament text in that treatise that "the proportion of words virtually accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great, not less, on a rough computation, than seven eighths of the whole. The remaining eighth therefore, formed in great part by changes of order and other comparative trivialities, constitutes the whole area of criticism." 46 Hort is of the opinion that "the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text." 47 Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield has said:
if we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must declare it to be marvellously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied, — a care which has doubtless grown out of true reverence for its holy words, — such has been the providence of God in preserving for His Church in each and every age a competently exact text of the Scriptures, that not only is the New Testament unrivalled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use, but also in the abundance of testimony which has come down to us for castigating its comparatively infrequent blemishes. 48
Warfield calls attention to Ezra Abbott's view that nineteen-twentieths of the variations in the New Testament text "have so little support that, although they are various readings, no one would think of them as rival readings; and nineteen-twentieths of the remainder are of so little importance that their adoption or rejection would cause no appreciable difference in the sense of the passages where they occur." 49 Warfield feels justified by the facts in saying that "the great mass of the New Testament. . . has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no, variation; and even in the most corrupt form in which it has ever appeared, to use the oft-quoted words of Richard Bentley, ‘the real text of the sacred writers is competently exact; . . . nor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost. . . choose as awkwardly as you will, choose the worst by design, out of the whole lump of readings.'" 50
The text of the New Testament, then, like that of the Old, has been preserved for us in a remarkably pure form. The traditional text of the Hebrew Bible has been guarded against error by copying of the most painstaking type and by scholarly work of a very high order, such as that of the Masoretes. Versions and other materials have come down to us which aid us in our effort to ascertain the original text. The text of the New Testament has survived in an extraordinary abundance and variety of witnesses, some of which are quite early. Kenyon feels justified in saying, "The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true Word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries." 51
If, then, the Scriptures have been singularly well preserved throughout the centuries or even throughout millenniums, if they have been kept pure in all ages, we must recognize that the singular care and providence of God have really been operative in their behalf. It seemed reasonable to us at the beginning of our study to suppose that the God who is sovereign over all and who works all things after the counsel of his will would preserve his Word in a state of essential purity. We have since observed that God's Word has been preserved throughout the ages in an essentially and remarkably pure form. It is incumbent on us to acknowledge that the praise for the preservation of the Scriptures belongs to God. We are not to attribute the preservation of the Scriptures in a pure form ultimately to circumstance or to the will of man. We are to attribute it ultimately to the design and the working of him whose kingdom ruleth over all.
To give the praise to God in the matter of the preservation of the Scriptures and to acknowledge that we are heirs of the working of a divine providence is of course not to deny that God has used circumstances and men in accomplishing his purpose. One way in which he has brought about his design has been through the regard he has caused his people to have for his Word. In the case of the Old Testament, as Dr. Green would counsel us, that regard early had a bearing upon the manner in which the Scriptures were transmitted. 52 As for the New Testament, Dr. Warfield has been heard saying that the care With which it has been copied has undoubtedly sprung from reverence for its words. And for the New Testament also that reverence was early in its rise. The inspired apostolic writings were not regarded by either their authors or by the church in the first century as unauthoritativè. Paul could write, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:37). Peter ranked the epistles of Paul with the other Scriptures (II Pet. 3:16). John solemnly writes, "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:18, 19). Such statements as these, along with the whole tenor of the New Testament writings, called forth reverence from believers in the earliest days of the church.
Although it is to be acknowledged that men have exercised care in the transmission of the Scriptures, it must not be forgotten that men have not exercised such care or displayed such skill as to preserve the Scriptures in all copies without variation. Despite the phenomenal care taken with the copying of the Masoretic text, Hebrew manuscripts of that text vary among themselves. Men make mistakes no matter how high their regard for the text which they are copying. In the case of the New Testament, variations may be attributable also in some measure to such special factors as untrained copyists in the early days, the wide geographical extent of the church, the unavailability or loss of the original manuscripts or of standard copies of them for comparison, attempts at harmonization, including Tatian's Diatessaron, and the survival in early times of authentic information not given in the Scriptures which men might be moved to record in the margins of their manuscripts as glosses and which copyists of those manuscripts might by a very natural misunderstanding include in the text of their new documents.
Dr. Ernest Cadman Colwell thinks that the Greek and Roman Churches did not take such extraordinary care of the text of the New Testament as the synagogue did of that of the Old because they did not ascribe to their Bible the exclusive religious authority which the Jews attributed to theirs. He thinks that the Christian Bible met with a rivalry for authority from hierarchy and creed, from clergy and dogma, which adversely affected men's zeal for the preservation of the exact text. 53 Of course, true creeds properly used and church order agreeable to the Scriptures should foster regard for the Bible and its text. But there can be no question that in the course of time the unique authority of the Bible has not everywhere been recognized, that in the Roman Catholic Church the Bible has not been given its rightful place, and that want of the proper regard for the Scriptures may at times, if not always, produce relative indifference to questions of text. When we commend the care that has been exercised by men in the transmission of the text of the Bible, we do not mean to imply that the care could not have been improved. If the care of men had been greater, the variant readings in our manuscripts would have been even fewer than they are. And when we commend the purity of the text of the Bible as transmitted to us, we are not claiming that any one manuscript offers us a full and unblemished text. Although all our witnesses are substantially correct, all are nevertheless, to varying degrees, imperfect or incorrect. We are required to make choices among the readings which they offer. It is our task to attempt to reconstruct from all the witnesses available to us the text essentially preserved in all, but perfectly and completely preserved in none. It is necessary for us, in God's providence, according to his appointment, to strive to ascertain the true, the original, text, to obtain by faithful study of all the pertinent materials available and by the application of correct principles, a text which is better than the best found in any manuscript. We must, in other words, engage in what is called textual criticism of the Bible. 54
Textual criticism, along with the study of grammar and lexicography, is to be placed in the category of lower criticism — a science which lays the foundations for literary, historical, exegetical, and theological study of the Scriptures and which is preparatory for what is called higher criticism. The latter concerns itself with such matters as the genuineness, integrity, and reliability of the Scriptures and need not be governed by a naturalistic bias, but can be employed by conservatives to the edification of the church. 55 In his "criticism" of a textual sort, the conservative scholar will be moved by his regard for the worth of the original text which he is attempting to reconstruct. He will engage in his textual studies not in spite of his view of the Bible, but because of it. Believing that every word of the original manuscripts was breathed by the Holy Spirit, the consistent Christian scholar will be eager to recover every word of those originals. Although recognizing that no doctrine rises or falls with a disputed reading and that most variations are relatively unimportant, the conservative will nevertheless realize that not one jot or tittle of the law of God is actually unimportant (Matt. 5:18) and that our Lord held that even with regard to a brief statement in the Old Testament the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34, 35). Accordingly the Christian scholar will strive to recover the exact form of words and phrases used in the original. Variations such as that between short and long "o," at Romans 5:1, will not seem to him of no consequence. He will be eager to ascertain whether Paul wrote "we have" or "let us have," ecomen or ecwmen. And, of course, he will be greatly concerned to know what view to adopt with regard to the larger variant readings. He will wish to know whether the Gospel of Mark should end at the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter or not, whether the so-called "heavenly witnesses" statement in I John 5:7, 8 appeared in the epistle in its original form, and whether the passage concerning the woman taken in adultery, found at the beginning of the eighth chapter of John in some manuscripts, belongs in the Scriptures or not. The conservative scholar, then, in his use of textual criticism will be moved by reverence for the written Word of God. He will not be seeking to tear the Scriptures apart after the fashion of some naturalistic critics, but will be endeavoring to ascertain what the infallible Scripture, which he regards as inviolable, actually is. And his reverence for the Scripture and his labors on the text will be used by God in the preservation and transmission of his Word.
Textual criticism, in God's providence, is the means provided for ascertaining the true text of the Bible. Its fruits cannot be obtained from any other tree. Most clearly it has been the design of God to require us to labor to know his Word in its original form. No valid appeal can be made to the doctrine of providence to escape the necessity for a thoroughgoing enlightened scientific criticism. God's special care and providence cannot be expected to guarantee that the type of text used most widely in the past and for the longest time is, in every respect, the best text. All types of text in use in the past were essentially pure: but God, of course, did not grant to men in former times who followed erroneous principles of criticism the fruits of the use of correct principles. And it would be utterly wrong for us to permit our textual criticism to be shackled by the mistakes of the past. It would be absurd for us to expect the past ages, which, whatever their virtues, certainly had manifest limitations, to place the best possible text in our hands and to make textual criticism relatively unnecessary for us.
It should be evident also that we cannot remove the necessity for textual criticism through an appeal to the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. The witness of the Holy Spirit to the Bible does not involve the direct communication of facts. As Dr. C. Wistar Hodge has said, the witness of the Holy Spirit to the Word "is not the mystical communication of a truth, nor the causing to emerge in consciousness of a blind and unfounded faith. Hence it does not witness to questions which are to be determined by exegetical and historical considerations." 56 We must look for such grounds for the acceptance or rejection of variant readings as God has provided and seek to glorify him by arriving at the truth in the manner which he has made available to us. By the grace of God we may recognize the validity of the claims of certain readings and may make right decisions, we may receive benefits from the working of the Holy Spirit in us, but we ought not to expect that the necessity for consecrated scientific investigation will be removed.
We will, furthermore, not find any infallible solution to textual problems in the deliverances of popes and church councils. The Scriptures do not confer on popes infallibility in determining textual questions, and they certainly do not promise to any men or councils inerrancy in decisions regarding the text. The Church of Rome has had some unenviable experiences with papal ventures in the sphere of textual criticism. Pope Sixtus V, in 1590, published an edition of the Latin Vulgate, with a revised text, which he sought to make authoritative. He prefaced his edition with a bull in which he declared:
In this our perpetually valid constitution. . . we resolve and declare from our certain knowledge and from the plenitude of apostolical authority that that Vulgate Latin edition of the sacred page of the Old and New Testament, which was received as authentic by the Council of Trent is without any doubt or controversy to be reckoned that very one which we now publish, corrected as best may be, and printed in the printing office of the Vatican, to be read in the universal republic of Christendom and in all the Churches of the Christian world, decreeing that it, approved as it is, first by the universal consent of the holy Church and of the holy fathers, then by the decree of the general Council of Trent, and now also by the apostolical authority delivered to us by the Lord, is to be received and held as true, legitimate, authentic, and undoubted in all public and private controversies, readings, preachings, and expositions. 57
Variant readings, according to Sixtus' proscription, were not to be printed in the margin in subsequent editions and the edition then issued was not to be modified. The major excommunication was to be visited upon violators and absolution was to be received from the pope alone. 58
Sixtus V died soon after the appearance of his edition of the Vulgate, and his authoritative edition came on evil days. As early as September 5, 1590, according to Dr. Steinmueller, the sale of Sixtus' Bible was forbidden and the available copies were destroyed. 59 Pope Gregory XIV, in 1591, appointed a commission to revise the Sistine Vulgate, and the principles supported by the revision committee were quite drastic. 60 The revision was completed on June 23, 1591, and in 1592, Clement VIII, who had become pope in that year, gave his approval to the work of Gregory's commission, and the newly revised text was published under the name of the late Sixtus V. This edition, which differed from the Sistine Vulgate in some few thousand readings, was supported by a bull, Cum sacrorum. Although it was admitted in the Preface that the new edition was not perfect, any changes in it or marginal insertions of variant readings were forbidden by the bull. The effect of this bull was to hinder for centuries the advance of textual criticism of the Vulgate in the Church of Rome. At long last in our day a critical edition of the Vulgate is being provided under church auspices. 61
It appears, then, that we cannot rightly expect providence to place the best possible text of the Scriptures in our hands, or the Holy Spirit to communicate to us information as to which readings are correct, or some ecclesiastical authority to settle infallibly for us questions of text. We must engage in consecrated scientific labor, the method of God's appointment for us.
In the exercise of the textual criticism necessary for us, we should seek to make use, as already indicated, of all the important materials available as witnesses to the text of the Bible. These include not only manuscripts in the original languages of Scripture, whether of the continuous text or of selected portions of it for use in church services, but also the ancient versions, paraphrases, and citations of the Scriptures. 62
Versions, of course, offer many a difficulty to the textual critic. There is a problem of textual criticism for the versions themselves. If we are to use them wisely in our effort to ascertain the original text of the Bible, we must first endeavor to determine what their own original texts were. In the case of the Latin Vulgate, for example, with its thousands of manuscripts, it can be seen that this task of criticism calls for considerable knowledge and sagacity. 63 A great amount of work yet needs to be done on the text of the Septuagint. 64
Once we have arrived at a competent reconstruction of the original text of a version, we must then seek to ascertain what was the Hebrew or Greek text from which it was made (if indeed it was not a secondary translation). Again we have a task of no little difficulty on our hands. One language is not always able to reflect accurately or unambiguously the expressions of another; translators for one cause or another may render the original inaccurately; translations vary in literalness among themselves and even within themselves; some translators take great liberties with the original. If we were to attempt to translate back into Hebrew or Greek some of the free "translations" of the Scriptures made in our times, we might arrive at a text astonishingly different from the original. Further, we ourselves may err in our interpretation of the translation and in our effort to reconstruct the text on which it was based. Unquestionably the difficulty we meet in our attempt to determine the text on which a version was based should encourage carefulness and restraint on our part.
However, despite such problems as we encounter in our use of versions and our consequent caution, we will find versions witnessing clearly at times to the text on which they were based and providing an important testimony to the existence of that text at the time and place of their emergence — a witness of exceptional value to the textual critic. In the case of the Old Testament, as we have seen, the Septuagint translation gives testimony to a Hebrew text in existence long before the time of the Masoretes; and important early witnesses to its own text are extant. The Chester Beatty Papyri of the Septuagint belong to the second to fourth centuries A.D. The John Rylands Library Papyrus Greek 458 and Papyrus Fuad 266, containing portions of Deuteronomy, probably go back to the mid-second century B.C. Other early manuscripts have been found in the area of the Dead Sea. In the case of the New Testament the first of the Syriac, Latin, and Egyptian versions were made as early as the latter part of the second century or the beginning of the third.
It is likewise important in textual criticism, as has been indicated, to consider the quotations of Scripture found in early writings. As with versions, a work of textual criticism has to be performed on the writings whose witness is being examined. Then we must inquire whether the writers quoted accurately or not. In early times, because of the difficulty and real inconvenience in locating passages in manuscripts and perhaps because manuscripts may not always have been readily available for consultation, there was a great temptation to quote from memory. If the citations are in some other language than that of the original, we have, again as with the versions, a retranslation problem on our hands. But the fruits of study of the early citations are very valuable. They help to date and localize certain readings. Of great interest to the student of the New Testament text are the citations found in the writings of Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Eusebius, and Chrysostom.
Once we have given requisite attention to the varied available witnesses to the sacred text, we must attempt to make an intelligent selection among the variant readings which they contain. Our choice should be made not in any haphazard fashion, but in accordance with carefully weighed principles. In determining our text we shall hardly be inclined to follow the method by which the texts of the earliest of the printed Greek New Testaments were formed. The first to be published was that of Erasmus. Froben, a publisher in Basel, Switzerland, who had probably learned of the effort being made in Spain to publish a Polyglot Bible (the Complutensian Polyglot), including a text of the Greek New Testament, urged Erasmus to prepare a Greek text of the New Testament for publication. The Complutensian New Testament had been printed by January 10, 1514; but failed to receive papal approval for its publication until March 22, 1520, and apparently was not actually published until about 1522. Erasmus came to Base! for the undertaking. He consulted only a few minuscule manuscripts, none of which contained the entire New Testament, and adopted in the main a text of inferior quality. He used only one manuscript of Revelation and that lacked the last six verses of the book. To supply this defect and to make up for other deficiencies he translated from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek, except for Revelation 22:20, where he made use of Laurentius Valla's translation. On March 1, 1516, less than a year after he had come to Basel for the undertaking, his Greek Testament was published. The first two editions of his Greek Testament did not contain the poorly attested passage, I John 5:7, 8; but he rashly promised to place this reading in his text if it could be found in any Greek manuscript. A manuscript of the sixteenth century containing this passage was produced, and Erasmus admitted the reading to his third edition in l522. 65 It was accepted in the Greek text received for centuries thereafter.
Other early editions of the Greek New Testament do not radically differ in merit of text from those of Erasmus. The second edition of the Elzevirs, publishers at Leiden, in 1633, contained in its preface the words, "Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum: in quo nihil immutatum aut corruptum damus." 66 From this statement, of course, the words familiar in the history of the textual criticism of the New Testament have come — the textus receptus or the "received text." 67 The text of the Elzevir edition of 1624 and the quite similar third edition published by Robert Estienne of Paris in 1550 dominated the text used for more than two hundred years, the former on the Continent, the latter in England. This inferior but long dominant type of text was based, as Souter says, "on Erasmus' last edition, the Complutensian Polyglot, and a handful of manuscripts — in fact, on something like a hundredth part of the Greek evidence now at our disposal, not to speak of versions and citations." 68 Kenyon grants slight critical value to the received text: The number of MSS. consulted for its production, in all the century from Erasmus to Elzevir, is very small; few of these were of early date, and they were but slightly used; in the main, the text rested upon a few late minuscule MSS. which happened to be accessible to the editors. It must be plain, therefore, that so far as human agency is concerned, the received text (which of course formed the basis of our Authorized Version...) has no commanding claims upon our acceptance, and, indeed, that it would be contrary to all the ordinary canons of textual criticism if it did not need considerable correction by the use of earlier and better authorities. 69
In the two centuries that followed the establishment of the "received text," much work was done in the study of the materials of textual criticism and some progress was made in the theory of criticism. Bengel, Semler, Griesbach and Scholz attempted the classification of authorities for the text into groups or families. A notable advance was made by Karl Lachmann (1793-1851) and a new period in the history of the textual criticism of the New Testament was introduced in 1831 with his publication of an edition of the New Testament in Greek which deserted the textus receptus and in which he offered a text which he had endeavored to form by critical selection. Constantin Tischendorf (1815-1874) edited and published the text of many ancient manuscripts, among them the highly meritorious fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, which he discovered at the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. In the eighth edition of his Greek New Testament, an edition with an admirably full critical apparatus, he gave much weight to readings found in this manuscript. In fact his eighth edition contains more than 3,000 modifications of his seventh edition, which was published before he discovered this codex. Influential, scholarly opposition to the received text was furnished in Great Britain by Samuel P. Tregelles (1813-75).
The greatest contribution to the textual criticism of the New Testament that has yet been made, however, is that of Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), and F. J. A. Hort (1828-92), whose edition of the New Testament has already been mentioned. The principles which they enunciated and followed (and which are to some extent set forth and interpreted below) have exercised a great influence since their day and some of their most important conclusions have received general acceptance. Their work has provided the basis for subsequent developments.
It may be asked whether conservatives can rightly join with scholars of other schools in the adoption of certain principles of criticism. Conservatives, of course, have an all-embracing life- and world-view, a Christian philosophy, which renders all their conceptions and activities distinctive. Liberals and radicals likewise have distinctive philosophies, and, whether they are aware of it or not, make basic assumptions which color all their thinking. But even unbelievers, by reason of creation in the image of God and by reason of common grace, are enabled to recognize facts and principles of benefit to all. Their prejudices will naturally color those facts and principles, their interpretations of them may be quite faulty; but they are enabled to obtain knowledge of a formal sort which the Christian may adapt and interpret to his own good and to the glory of God. In exegetical work, for example (and sound exegesis is important to textual criticism), the basic viewpoint of the interpreter will be very important; but the Christian exegete can derive benefit from the grammatical and historical studies of non-Christian scholars. He will indeed transmute all that he finds: but he will make use of much that others employ. He will be able to express a formal agreement in various matters with those of other schools of thought, with whom he is in a thoroughgoing, fundamental disagreement.
In considering principles of criticism, Hort deals first with what he regards as the most rudimentary form of criticism of variants — that which concerns itself with each instance of variation separately and independently of all others, which seeks to weigh the internal evidence for each reading and adopts immediately the reading which appears most probable. The textual critic asks which of the variant readings the author would have been most likely to write and also — the entirely distinct question — which of the variants scribes would have been most likely to introduce. In dealing with the first of these questions, with what the author would have been most likely to write (with what is technically called "intrinsic probability"), we must endeavor to put ourselves, so far as possible, in the author's place. We should make a careful study of the immediate and the broacher context, obtain a competent knowledge of our author's thought, style, times, the circumstances of composition, and whatever other matters may have a significant bearing on the question. In attempts to answer this first question, there can be no substitutes for enlightened exegetical precision and for what Warfield calls "a fine candour and an incorruptible mental honesty." 70 In dealing with the second of these questions, we ask which of the variant readings scribes would have been most likely to introduce — we attempt to determine what is technically called "transcriptional probability." We ask ourselves the question, "From which reading, if original, would the others have been most likely to have been derived by scribal error?" Much is known about the types of variation, unintentional and intentional, introduced by scribes, and the reasons why they introduced them, and on the basis of such knowledge it is possible to formulate some general rules that are, when applied judiciously, often helpful. 71
When both intrinsic probability and transcriptional probability concur, we may form a judgment of no little importance as to the merit of rival readings. If a conflict between the two exists, we may be able to resolve it on further study or the voice of intrinsic probability may be so strong as to be decisive. But obviously in cases in which we can come to no decision as between conflicting intrinsic and transcriptional probability and in other cases in which we can arrive at no clear judgment as to which variant is favored by internal evidence of readings, we must look elsewhere for help. And even if we did feel clear about the internal evidence of readings, it would be advisable for us to gather as much other evidence as is available to aid us in arriving at our final decision. Too large an element of the subjective is liable to enter into our judgments regarding intrinsic and transcriptional probability — and in our textual criticism we should attempt to reduce the area of the subjective as much as possible. Greater security is to be sought than that which attaches to single, isolated judgments. We take a step in advance of internal evidence of readings when we enter the field of external evidence. In this field we deal with the merit of documents, of groups of documents, of classes or families of documents, and with the history of the text of the New Testament.
It is obviously important to consider the merit of the documents which furnish our variants. Hort is right in holding that "knowledge of documents should precede final judgment upon readings." 72 We shall wish to know something about the date of a manuscript and about other matters of an external sort with reference to it; we shall wish to know the date of the text furnished by the manuscript; but, above all, we will wish to ascertain the merit of that text. We shall have to consider the internal evidence offered by the documents themselves as to the value of their text. The texts of two manuscripts may be evaluated relatively by a study of the merits of their rival readings. It is therefore possible to form a conception of the relative value of all our witnesses to the text of the New Testament by a study of the variants which they contain.
The information furnished us by a study of individual documents is very helpful. It may, for example, aid us in deciding cases in which the internal evidence of readings was not clear. But it by no means solves all our problems. If we were to find one particular document always right and all other documents invariably wrong when they disagree with it, we might satisfy ourselves with the adoption of the text of that document. But we find no such thing. The manuscript which contains the best text, the Codex Vaticanus, is not free from error. We may accord preeminent weight to its testimony among the manuscripts. To say that it favors a reading may, on the whole, be to state a presumption in favor of that reading; but it will not be to decide for that reading. When the best manuscripts favor the same reading, there will be a strong presumption in its favor, but when they favor different readings, decision will not be easy. Furthermore, some manuscripts vary in merit in different sections of the New Testament and within the sections themselves. Scribes did not always copy from one manuscript alone.
It will be helpful, as has been said, to ascertain the relative merit of individual manuscripts. We make progress when we do so. But still further progress is possible for us. We can attempt to isolate the various elements found within the documents. We can attempt to weigh the merits of groups of documents. Hort, it is true, for good reasons takes up the matter of internal evidence of groups of documents after he has dealt with classes or families of documents, with what he calls genealogical evidence; but he recognizes that in a sense it is intermediate between internal evidence of documents and genealogical evidence. Manuscripts group themselves in support of given readings. In so doing they bear witness, at least in general, to the readings of a common ancestor. Usually it is true that "community of reading implies community of origin." if all the manuscripts of the New Testament agree on a certain reading, the presumption is that the reading is traceable to an ancestor common to them all, and was found in the original text. If the manuscripts of the New Testament divide into two camps at a given point, we may assume that those on one side bear witness to a reading found in one ancestor and those on the other side to a reading found in another. We must inquire as to the relative merits of the various groups formed by our documents. In doing so, we shall of course be attempting to ascertain the merit of the common ancestors to which they bear witness. We will be desirous of learning the value of the readings contained in the groups formed by our manuscripts in each section of the New Testament. By investigating internal evidence of groups, we shall obtain helpful information, sometimes of very great importance. We shall be able to discern and evaluate different elements of our documents. 73
By considering the internal evidence of documents and of groups of documents, we have advanced beyond the internal evidence of readings. But there is yet an important, even a decisively important, step to take, a step which will make possible a large measure of assurance and objectivity in our solution of textual problems. The remaining step takes us to the heart of Hort's principles of criticism. In dealing with groups of manuscripts, although we have considered strictly internal evidences, we have been required to anticipate the genealogical method. Agreement in readings has been held generally to represent community of origin. Two manuscripts unite in readings — at least generally — because some common ancestor contained those readings. It will be observed that the New Testament documents form certain marked combinations of different merit. What is the reason, we may ask, for these combinations? The explanation is to be found in the genealogy of the manuscripts. Each manuscript has a certain place on the family tree of the New Testament text. It is rightly maintained, therefore, by Westcott and Hort that "all trustworthy restoration of corrupted texts is founded on the study of their history, that is, of the relations of descent or affinity which connect the several documents." 74 They maintain with good reason that "the importance of genealogy in textual criticism is at once shown by the considerations that no multiplication of copies, or of copies of copies, can give their joint testimony any higher authority than that of the single document from which they sprang, and that one early document may have left a single decendant, another a hundred or a thousand. Since then identical numerical relations among existing documents are compatible with the utmost dissimilarity in the numerical relations among their ancestors, and vice versa, no available presumptions whatever as to text can be obtained from number alone, that is, from number not as yet interpreted by descent." 75
It is possible, then, and indeed requisite, for us to arrange our New Testament witnesses in a genealogical scheme. On doing so, according to Westcott and Hort, we can distinguish four important classes or families, containing different types of text. One of the four types of text which they distinguished, which they called "Syrian" — the text found in the bulk of the manuscripts of the New Testament — they held, on very good grounds, to be the latest of the four and of inferior merit. They found no sure instances of the use of this type of text by any church writer before Chrysostom's time; they observed in the Syrian text manifest combinations of conflicting readings in earlier types of text; and found that the distinctive Syrian readings characteristically bore marks of inferiority and posteriority. They regarded the Syrian type of text as the result of a revision which took place in two stages and they placed its emergence at Antioch. They believed that the Syrian revisers drew upon all of the three earlier texts and not infrequently introduced modifications of their own making. The goal of the Syrian revisers was apparently clarity, smoothness, and fullness. They tended to include, unless inclusion seemed to produce conflict.
The other three types of text which Westcott and Hort distinguish may be evaluated by considering internal evidence of classes or families, by weighing the relative merits of their distinctive readings. They regard the text which they call "Neutral," notably found at Alexandria, as preeminent, as representing the pure textual line, and as free from conspicuous defects. A second type of pre-Syrian text, according to their view, is the "Alexandrian." Formed, apparently, they think, in Alexandria in the opening years of the third century or perhaps a long time before, it did not obtain a wide early distribution. It is marked by modifications designed to improve the language and style of the original, and at times engages in some paraphrase and what Hort calls "inventive interpolation."
The most widely distributed of the pre-Syrian texts, according to Westcott and Hort, was that which they call "Western." They believe that the "Western" text is marked by paraphrase, by alterations, additions, assimilation, and in general by striking freedom in dealing with the original text, but at times where it omits readings found elsewhere they would give it preference.
According, then, to the theory of Westcott and Hort, the true apostolic text in the second century was most securely established at Alexandria. But early in the second century the Western text strayed farther and farther from the original. At Alexandria, before the middle of the third century, changes were introduced into the apostolic text, changes not so serious as those introduced in the Western text. Not a great while after, it would seem, an effort was made at Antioch to correct the developing confusion in readings by a revision which united readings from the three main texts and by the introduction of further alterations. This Antiochian revision was itself later revised and became dominant. 76
It would follow from Westcott and Hort's theory of the history of the text that any reading found exclusively in the Syrian text may confidently be rejected. If there are two or more readings with pre-Syrian attestation, an effort must be made to determine to what specific types of text those readings belong. Since considered as wholes, the Western and Alexandrian texts are aberrant, Hort maintains, "where there are but two readings, the Non-Western approves itself to be more original than the Western, the Non-Alexandrian than the Alexandrian: where there are three readings, the neutral reading, if supported by such documents as stand most frequently on both the Non-Western and the Non-Alexandrian sides in the preceding cases, approves itself more original than either the Western or the Alexandrian." 77 Exceptions to these conclusions are to be observed in some readings, but in the main they hold.
In arriving at a final decision on readings Westcott and Hort do not wish to neglect any type of evidence, including internal evidence of readings. Hort writes:
The aim of sound textual criticism must always be to take account of every class of textual facts, and to assign to the evidence supplied by each class its proper use and rank. When once it is clearly understood that, by the very nature of textual transmission, all existing documents are more or less closely related to each other, and that these relations of descent and affinity have been the determining causes of nearly all their readings, the historical investigation of general and partial genealogy becomes the necessary starting-point of criticism. Genealogical results, taken in combination with the internal character of the chief ancient texts or of the texts of extant documentary groups, supply the presumptions, stronger or weaker as the case may be, which constitute the primary and often the virtually decisive evidence for one reading as against another. Before however the decision as to any variation is finally made, it is always prudent, and often necessary, to take into consideration the internal evidence specially affecting it, both intrinsic and transcriptional. If it points to a result different from that which the documentary evidence suggested, a second and closer inspection will Usually detect some hitherto overlooked characteristic of the best attested reading which might naturally lead to its alteration; while sometimes on the other hand reexamination brings to light an ambiguity in the attestation. No definite rule can be given in the comparatively few cases in which the apparent conflict remains, more especially where the documentary evidence is scanty on one side or obscure. The ultimate determination must evidently be here left to personal judgment on a comprehensive review of the whole evidence. But in a text so richly attested as that of the New Testament it is dangerous to reject a reading clearly commended by documentary evidence genealogically interpreted, though it is by no means always safe to reject the rival reading. 78
This rather long quotation will give a clear impression of the way in which Westcott and Hort would apply their theories to the actual practice of textual criticism. And surely the consistent application of such principles as they advocate will make a good measure of justifiable assurance possible in many of our decisions.
In some few cases recourse may be had to conjectural emendation to remove what would seem to be errors in the best text at which we can otherwise arrive. Some errors entered the stream of transmission at a very early date and are found or reflected in all our extant documents. Such conjectural corrections as are made should be able to claim strong support from intrinsic and transcriptional evidence. 79
The views of Westcott and Hort met with strong opposition from John William Burgon, dean of Chichester, and Edward Miller, Wykehamical prebendary of Chichester, who argued, on unsatisfactory grounds, for the received text. 80 Some modifications of their views of the pre-Syrian types of text have been suggested by later scholars in the light of new information, but the text which they considered best is highly esteemed today. The scope of this paper prohibits any extensive treatment of the developments in the textual criticism of the New Testament since their time. It should be remarked, however, that advances have been made in the discovery of manuscripts, the publication and study of texts, and that much attention has been given by scholars to the theory of textual criticism. Among manuscripts discovered or brought to the attention of the world of scholarship since Hort's day are the Sinaitic Manuscript of the Old Syriac Version, the Washington Manuscript of the Gospels, the Washington Manuscript of the Pauline Epistles, the Koredethi Codex, and the papyri manuscripts, among them the Chester Beatty and the Bodmer Papyri, which have previously been mentioned. Much attention has been given to the text, which Hort called Western; the question of its merit as compared with the Neutral text has been debated, and its claim to homogeneousness has been tested. Professor Kirsopp Lake has done much in the distinguishing of an important family, to which Canon B. H. Streeter, who has also made a valuable contribution to the study of the subject, gave the name "Caesarean." 81 Streeter has given a clear statement of his views on the text in The Four Gospels. He holds that at an early time distinctive texts were to be found in various localities, texts which later gave way to the Byzantine standard text (Hort's Syrian). He believes that the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus are representatives of the text of Alexandria. He would apply the term "Alexandrian" to that local text and drop the term "Neutral." He breaks up the Western family of Hort into an Eastern class and a Western class with subdivisions in each, with the Caesarean text forming a subdivision of the Eastern class. In some points of theory he is not in full agreement with Hort, as when he asserts that the "eclectic principle of deciding in each separate case on grounds of ‘internal probability' what appears to be the best reading is, in spite of its subjectivity, theoretically sounder than the almost slavish following of a single text which Hort preferred." 82 and when he maintains that "the authorities available for determining the text are more numerous and more independent of one another" than Hort realized and that "though on minor points of reading absolute certainty may often be unobtainable, a text of the Gospels can be reached, the freedom of which from serious modification or interpolation is guaranteed by the concurrence of different lines of ancient and independent evidence." 83 But despite his differences with Hort, Streeter believes that a critical text of the Gospels (though not of Acts) will be based in the main on his Alexandrian type of text as found in the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus, that the Alexandrian text (which is similar, of course, to Hort's Neutral) is the best of the local texts, and that the textus receptus is to be rejected. He acknowledges that "due weight must be given to Hort's principle that the authority of a MS., which in a majority of cases supports what is clearly the right reading, counts for more than that of others in cases where decision is more difficult," 84 and believes that the text of Westcott and Hort is satisfactory for most purposes.
Streeter's endorsement of an eclectic principle in textual criticism by no means stands alone in the period since Westcott and Hort. G. D. Kilpatrick for one has called for a "rigorous eclecticism." 85 Those who chose the basic text for the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament followed an eclectic method. 86 The Greek text which underlies the New English Bible: New Testament was likewise eclectically determined. 87 The employment of eclectic or "rational" criticism will naturally differ with different scholars, but fundamentally it would give more weight to what Westcott and Hort called "internal evidence of readings" than to external evidence. In its most extreme form it would ignore external evidence completely. 88
The eclectic method, although still vulnerable to such criticism as Westcott and Hort leveled against it, need not, when carefully employed, yield results radically different from those which Westcott and Hort themselves obtained. Thus Frederick C. Grant, a member of the revision committee which prepared the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament says:
... it is really extraordinary how often, with the fuller apparatus of variant readings at our disposal, and with the eclectic principle now more widely accepted, we have concurred in following Westcott and Hort. Not that we agreed in advance in favor of Hort — quite the contrary, there was no such unanimity; our agreement is really a tribute to Westcott-Hort, which is still the great classical edition of modern times." 89 Indeed the general reliability of much in the approach of Westcott and Hort has not been lacking in support and recognition since their time. 90
We have occupied ourselves in the main with illustrating principles of textual criticism in their application to the text of the New Testament. The same principles valid in the criticism of the New Testament text will be valid in the criticism of the text of any other ancient work, the Old Testament included. Of course, in the case of the Old Testament it is not very difficult to ascertain the text used by the Masoretes. A major problem, however, has to do with the extent to which the Septuagint is to be followed in the reconstruction of the original text. Dr. Green, would accept the reading of the Septuagint when it differs from the received Hebrew text only if the Hebrew text were subject to doubt on other grounds. 91
It should be apparent that with the aid of textual criticism we can obtain a text nearer to the original than that preserved in any one manuscript. In God's providence men may glorify him by textual studies and may aid in the preservation of his Word in a form of exceptional purity. Warfield expressed the conviction that in the Greek Testament of Westcott and Hort we have "substantially the autographic text" and that probably future criticism would not cast doubt on more than one word of it in a thousand. 92 Further advances in the field of textual criticism should, of course, be made whether one accepts Warfield's judgment completely or not; but we may take a considerable amount of satisfaction in the results that have already been achieved and in the promise which future studies offer. Warfield has rightly said: "If, then, we undertake the textual criticism of the New Testament under a sense of duty, we may bring it to a conclusion under the inspiration of hope. The autographic text of the New Testament is distinctly within the reach of criticism in so immensely the greater part of the volume, that we cannot despair of restoring to ourselves and the Church of God, His Book, word for word, as He gave it by inspiration to men." 93
In view of the reasonable assurance that we may have with regard to the reliability and purity of the text of the Scriptures at which we are able to arrive, the statement made by Dr. Briggs which was quoted at the beginning of this chapter seems strange indeed: "If the external words of the original were inspired, it does not profit us. We are cut off from them forever. Interposed between us and them is the tradition of centuries and even millenniums." God in his singular care and providence has manifestly caused his Word to triumph over the hazards of time. Even if further progress is possible for us in textual criticism, even if at present some very small proportion of the words of the original may yet have to be established, words which affect no doctrine of the Scriptures, we should neither ignore nor despise the results which, in the providence of God, have been achieved. It is a matter of first importance that words of preeminent value, words inspired by God, have survived the ages and can address themselves to us today as they did to men centuries or even millenniums ago.
1. C. A. Briggs, "Critical Theories of the Sacred Scriptures in Relation to their Inspiration," The Presbyterian Review, II (1881), 573f.
2. Ibid., p. 574.
3. B. Kennicott, Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum, cum variis lectionibus, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1776, 1780).
4. Robert Dick Wilson, "The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament," The Princeton Theological Review, XXVII (1929) See pp. 40f.
5. A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament (Chicago, ) , pp. 61f. Used by permission, Moody Press, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
6. Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, (4th ed. New York, 1940), p. 44.
7. Ibid., pp. 38f.
8. Ibid., pp. 42f.
9. William Henry Green, General Introduction to the Old Testament — The Text (New York, 1899), pp. 153, 165.
10. Wilson, op. cit., p. 62; Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York and London, 1941), pp. 93ff.
11. Pfeiffer, ibid., pp. 84f.; Green, op. cit., p. 151. Green remarks that "according to Buxtorf they are passages in which one might suppose from the connection that the writers meant to express themselves differently from the way in which they actually did; but in which the scribes adhere to the correct reading." In a footnote, he says: "The passages in question are Gen. xviii.22; Num. xi.15, xii.12; 1 Sam. iii.13; 2 Sam. xvi.12, xx.l; 1 Kings xii.l6; 2 Chron. x.l6; Jer. ii.11; Ezek. viii.17; Hos. iv.7; Hab. i.12; Zech. ii.12; Mal. i.13; Ps. cvi.20; Job vii.20, xxxii.3; Lam. iii.20. As specimens it is said that in Gen. xviii.22 they changed ‘The Lord stood yet before Abraham' to ‘Abraham stood yet before the Lord'; 2 Sam. xx.1, ‘Every man to his gods' (wyjla) to ‘Every man to his tents (wylja); Hos. iv.7, ‘They have changed my glory into shame' to ‘I will change their glory into shame.' All which looks like frivolous punning upon the text by ingenious alterations of its meaning, and casts no suspicion upon the correctness of the received text" (pp. 151f.)
12. Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 89.
13. Ibid., pp. 76ff.
14. Ibid., pp. 78f.; Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction, tr. Peter R. Ackroyd (New York and Evanston, ), p. 684; Edward J. Young in Robert Dick Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament (Chicago, ), p. 178; Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, 1962), pp. 16, 92f.
15. Op. cit., p. 35.
16. Op. cit., pp. 62f. Wilson maintains: "These citations show those who used them had our present text with but slight variations. The numerous citations in the Hebrew of the Zadokite Fragments are especially valuable as a confirmation of the Hebrew text of Amos and other books cited" (ibid.).
17. Op. cit., pp. 172f.
18. Wilson says: "The differences between the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Septuagint are often grossly exaggerated. The vast majority of them arise merely from a difference of pointing of the same consonantal text. The real variants arose from errors of sight such as those between r and d, k and b, y and w, or from errors of sound such as between gutturals, labials, palatals, sibilants, and dentals, or from different interpretations of abbreviations. There is a goodly number of transpositions, some dittographies, many additions or omissions, sometimes of significant consonants, but almost all in unimportant words and phrases. Most of the additions seem to have been for elucidation of the original" (op. cit., p. 63) . See also R. D. Wilson, "The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament," The Princeton Theological Review, XXVII (1929), 49-59; D. Winton Thomas, "The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament," in ed. H. H. Rowley, op. cit., pp. 242f."
19. Op. cit., pp. 172f.
20. Op. cit., p. 108.
21. Op. cit., p. 173.
22. Ibid., pp. 173f. Green says in this passage: "The same causes which lead to a modification of the text in transcription would be operative in a translation in an aggravated form. A freedom might be used in rendering the Scriptures into another language which would not be thought of in transcribing the original. A measure of discretion must be allowed in a translator for which a copyist has no occasion, and which would not be permissible in him. And in this first attempt at making a work of such magnitude intelligible to those of a different tongue,. no such rigorous rendering could be expected as would be demanded from a modern translator. The sacredness and authority of the original would not attach to an uninspired version. Accordingly, accurate precision was not aimed at so much as conveying the general sense, and in this the translators allowed themselves a large measure of liberty. When to this is added an imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, conjectural renderings or paraphrases of words and passages not understood, slips arising from want of care and the like, it is easy to understand how the general correctness of the Septuagint might consist with very considerable deviations from the original text." See Edward J. Young in Wilson, Scientific Investigation, pp. 180f. on the willingness of the Alexandrian Jews and the Samaritans, who did not adhere to a strict Judaism, to introduce minor modifications in the text. For a discussion of the Dead Sea manuscripts on Septuagint studies and on the transmission of the Hebrew text, see Patrick W. Skehan, "The Biblical Scrolls from Qumran and the Text of the Old Testament," The Biblical Archaeologist XXVIII (1965), 87-105.
23. Op. cit., p. 63.
24. Ibid., pp. 63f. Wilson holds that the Samaritan Pentateuch carries the evidence for our Pentateuchal text back to at least 400 B.C. The text of the Samaritan Pentateuch varies from the Masoretic text in about 6,000 instances. In 1900 of these variants the Samaritan text agrees with the Septuagint (Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 101; Green, op. cit., pp. 134f; and see Green, pp. 139ff. for a helpful treatment of the significance of the agreements of the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint) . A great many of the variants in the Samaritan text are quite unimportant and do not modify the meaning. The extant manuscripts have not been copied so carefully as those produced by the Jews and vary considerably among themselves. None of them has been shown to be earlier than the tenth century A.D. The Samaritans at Nablus have claimed that a roll of the Pentateuch in their possession dates back to the thirteenth year after the conquest of Canaan; but the roll has not been made available for proper study (Kenyon, op. cit., pp. 51f). Gesenius has maintained that with few exceptions the distinctive readings of the Samaritan text are intentional modifications. On the literature concerning the Samaritan Pentateuch, see Eissfeldt, op. cit., pp. 694f.
25. Green, op. cit., pp. 146f. On the work of the Sopherim, 400 B.C. to A.D. 200, in the transmission of a standard text, see Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, ), pp. 36, 54f.
26. Green, op. cit., pp. 146ff.
27. Op. cit., p. 25.
28. Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands (New York, ), pp. 133f. On the question of early recensions of the Old Testament see W. F. Albright, "New Light on Early Recensions of the Hebrew Bible," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 140 (1955), 27-33, and Frank Moore Cross, Jr., The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, 1959), pp. 124-45.
29. Green, op. cit., p. 144. Green maintains that "the veneration with which the sacred writings were regarded as the product of inspiration and invested with divine authority, has effectually operated in preserving them from destruction . . . and it doubtless led to special care in their transcription, though it is probable that the excessive scrupulosity of later times was not brought into requisition until actual experience of the existence of divergent copies had demonstrated its necessity."
30. Ibid., pp. 145f. Green thinks that some variations in duplicate passages may "be explained otherwise than as errors of transcription. Villages may be included in the lists which are not counted as cities in the enumeration; or cities which subsequently grew up in the districts described, may have been inserted to complete the lists without a corresponding change of the numbers. The differences occurring in the duplicate Psalms, such as Ps. xviii. compared with 2 Sam. xxii., may be in part attributable to the mistakes of copyists, but in the main they are better explained as the result of a revision by the author himself or by others, or as Ps. xiv. and liii., an adaptation to another occasion. The inference sometimes drawn from such passages of a lack of care in transcribing the sacred books during this period is wholly unwarranted." Green further says: "An improper use has been made of duplicate passages on the assumption that they must originally have been identical in every word and phrase, and that every deviation of one from the other is a textual error requiring correction. Thus Num. xxiv. 17b ‘shall smite through the corners of Moab and break down all the sons of tumult,' is repeated with variations in Jer. xlviii. 45b, ‘hath devoured the corner of Moab and the crown of the head of the sons of tumult'; but these variations are not errors of transcription. One inspired writer in adopting the language of another did not feel bound to repeat it verbatim, but in the confidence of his equal inspiration modified the form at pleasure to suit his immediate purpose. So the Psalms that occur more than once with some change in the expressions by no means warrant the conclusion that only one of them has been accurately preserved, or that neither has, and the true original must be elicited by a comparison and correction of both. Both copies are authentic; and their very discrepancies are proof of their careful preservation, and the conscientious pains both of the collectors of the Canon and of subsequent transcribers in retaining each in its integrity and keeping them from being assimilated to each other. Ps. liii. is not an erroneous copy of Ps. xiv., nor vice versa; but an adaptation of an earlier Psalm to a new situation. As Delitzsch correctly remarks, ‘a later poet, perhaps in the time of Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah, has given to David's Psalm a reference to the most recently experienced catastrophe of judgment.' Ps. xviii. and 2 Sam. xxii. are two different forms of the same Psalm, the former as it was sung in the sanctuary, the latter most probably as it was current in the mouths of the people when the Books of Samuel were written" (pp. 175f.).
31. Ibid., pp. 176f.
32. Op. cit., p. 71. For other evidences of the accurate transmission of the text see pp. 74-86.
33. Ibid., pp. 79-82.
34. Ibid., p. 84. Wilson explains that by "substantial" he means "that the text of the Old Testament and of the other documents have been changed only in respect to those accidental matters which necessarily accompany the transmission of all texts where originals have not been preserved anti which consequently exist merely in copies or copies of copies. Such changes may be called minor in that they do not seriously affect the doctrines of the documents nor the general impression and evident veracity of their statements as to geography, chronology, and other historical matters."
35. Ibid., p. 84. On the bearing of the Lachish ostraca on the general reliability of the Masoretic text, see D. Winton Thomas, op. cit., pp. 239f.; and for further evidence of the "essential accuracy" of that text see the Appendixes by Edward J. Young in Wilson, op. cit., pp. 164-84.
36. Op. cit., p. 181.
37. On the papyri and other Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, see Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (New York and London, 1964), pp. 31-67, 247-256, and Kurt Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschrif ten des Neuen Testaments: I (Berlin, 1963).
38. Kenyon, op. cit., p. 128.
39. Ibid., pp. 101f. Under the heading, Transmission from First to Fifteenth Century, Kenyon furnishes a helpful treatment of the dates of the uncial manuscripts. See also Metzger, op. cit., pp. 42-61.
40. See Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, (2nd ed.; London, 1912), p. 4. Used by permission of the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
41. Burgon's index gives the number of citations in Irenaeus as 1,819, in Clement of Alexandria as 2,406, in Origen as 17,922, in Tertullian as 7,258, in Hippolytus as 1,378, in Eusebius as 5,176. See Kenyon, ibid., p. 264.
42. See ibid., pp. 3ff., and Kenyon, Recent Developments in the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible (London, 1933), pp. 74ff. Hort says that "in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings" (The New Testament in the Original Greek, New York, 1881, Text Volume, p. 561).
43. Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Four Gospels, (4th imp., rev.; London, 1930), p. 33.
44. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, p. 23.
45. Alexander Souter calls their introduction "an achievement never surpassed in the scholarship of any country." The Text and Canon of the New Testament (New York, 1913), p. 103.
46. The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, 1882), Introduction, p. 2.
48. An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 7th ed. (London, 1907), pp. 12f.
49. Ibid., p. 14. See pp. 13f. on how the variants are reckoned.
50. Ibid., p. 14. Cf. the objection made by Edward F. Hills to this claim in John W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according to Mark (The Sovereign Grace Book Club, 1959), pp. 33-38.
51. Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, p. 23.
52. Green, op. cit., p. 144. On minor changes introduced by those somewhat out of line with strict Judaism, see Edward J. Young in Wilson, op. cit., pp. l80f.
53. Ernest Cadman Colwell, The Study of the Bible (Chicago, 1937), Pp. 47ff.
54. Green writes of textual criticism that "its function is to determine by a careful examination of all the evidence bearing upon the case the condition of the sacred text, the measure of its correspondence with or divergence from the exact language of the inspired penmen, and by means of all available helps to remove the errors which may have gained admission to it from whatever cause, and to restore the text to its pristine purity as it came from the hands of the original writers" (op. cit., p. 162).
55. See Robert Dick Wilson, The Lower Criticism of the Old Testament as a Preparation for the Higher Criticism (Princeton, 1901). See also Green, op. cit., pp. 160ff.
56. C. Wistar Hodge, "The Witness of the Holy Spirit to the Bible," The Princeton Theological Review, XI (1913), 71. Dr. Hodge also says: "The Witness of the Holy Spirit to the Bible, then, is not objective in the sense of being the mystical communication to the mind of a truth or proposition, nor is it a subjective inference from Christian experience. It is simply the saving work of the Holy Spirit on the heart removing the spiritual blindness produced by sin, so that the marks of God's hand in the Bible can be clearly seen and appreciated. . . . Those who are born of the Spirit have their minds and hearts enlightened so that they are enabled and persuaded to accept the objective testimony which God gives to the Bible, and to recognize immediately or behold intuitively the marks of God's hand in the Scripture" (pp. 63f.).
57. Green, op. cit., pp. 127f.
58. A Roman Catholic writer, John E. Steinmueller, in A Companion to Scripture Studies (New York, 1941), I, 192, says that this bull "today is commonly recognized as not having been properly and canonically promulgated."
60. See ibid., p. 193.
61. Publication began in 1926 with the appearance of the revised text of Genesis.
62. In the case of the Old Testament it is well to consider medieval quotations of manuscripts not extant now.
63. The Wordsworth-White critical edition of the New Testament text began appearing at Oxford in 1889, when the first part, the Gospel of Matthew, was published. An Editio Minor of the entire New Testament appeared in 1911.
64. For literature on the Septuagint and texts see Eissfeldt, op. cit., pp. 701ff.
65. Caspar René Gregory says of the manuscript brought to Erasmus' attention that "there is every reason to believe that this manuscript was written, with the words added, to compel Erasmus to add them, as he then did, ‘for his oath's sake,' like Herod, to his text" (Canon and Text of the New Testament, New York, 1907, p. 374).
66. These words have been translated, "Therefore thou hast the text now received by all: in which we give nothing altered or corrupt."
67. See Gregory, op. cit., p. 444.
68. Souter, op cit., pp. 96f.
69. Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, p. 272.
70. Op. cit., p. 85.
71. See ibid., pp. 93-108.
72. Hort, op. cit., Introduction, p. 31.
73. Ibid., pp. 61f. Hort says, "The value of Internal Evidence of Groups in cases of mixture depends, it will be seen, on the fact that by its very nature it enables us to deal separately with the different elements of a document of mixed ancestry." (p. 61)
74. Ibid., Text volume, p. 544.
76. See ibid., Introduction, pp. 145f., for Westcott and Hort's recapitulation of the history of the text.
77. Ibid., Text volume, p. 553.
78. Ibid., pp. 559f. See also the Introduction, pp. 62-66, for Hort's "Recapitulation of Methods in Relation to Each Other."
79. See ibid., pp. 66-72; A. T. Robertson, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (2nd edition, Garden City and New York, 1928), pp. 237-241; Warfield, op. cit., pp. 205-210; and for the Old Testament, Green, op. cit., p. 177. Warfield states two sensible rules for conjectural emendation:
"(1) Critical conjecture is not to be employed in settling the text of the New Testament until all the methods of criticism have been exhausted, and unless clear occasion for its use can be shown in each instance. (2) No conjecture can be accepted unless it perfectly fulfil all the requirements of the passage as they are interpreted by intrinsic evidence, and also perfectly fulfil all the requirements of transcriptional evidence in accounting for the actual reading, and if variants exist also for them (either directly or mediately through one of their number). The dangers of the process are so great that these rules are entirely reasonable, and indeed necessary. The only test of a successful conjecture is that it shall approve itself as inevitable. Lacking inevitableness, it remains doubtful" (p. 209).
Westcott and Hort think that "the history of the text of the New Testament shows the meeting-point of the extant lines of transmission to have been so near the autographs that complete freedom from primitive corruption would not be antecedently improbable. As far as we are able to judge, the purity of the best transmitted text does in all essential points receive satisfactory confirmation from internal evidence" (op. cit., Text volume, p. 560).
80. For criticisms of their arguments see Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, pp. 315-23; Warfield, Critical Reviews (New York, 1932), pp. 36f.; Metzger, op. cit., pp. 135f. For a recent defense of the Syrian or Byzantine text, see Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended! (Des Moines, 1956) and in John W. Burgon, op. cit., pp. 17-67.
81. On the Caesarean text of the Gospels, see Bruce M. Metzger, Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism (New Testament Tools and Studies, IV) (Grand Rapids, 1963), pp. 42-72.
82. Op. cit., p. 145.
83. Ibid., p. 148.
84. Ibid., p. 146.
85. See "Western Text and Original Text in the Gospels and Acts," The Journal of Theological Studies, XLIV (1943), 24-36, and "Western Text and Original Text in the Epistles," ibid., XLV (1944), 60-65.
86. See Frederick C. Grant, "The Greek Text of the New Testament," in An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (The International Council of Religious Education, ), pp. 37-43.
87. R. V. G. Tasker, The Greek New Testament (Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press, 1964), pp. vii ff.; The New English Bible: New Testament (Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. vii f.
88. On eclecticism and its advocates see Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 175-79.
89. Op. cit., p. 41.
90. See Vincent Taylor, The Text of the New Testament (2nd ed.; London, 1963), p. 54; Metzger, op. cit., pp. 135, 137, and Ernest Cadman Colwell, "Scribal Habits in Early Papyri: A Study in the Corruption of the Text," The Bible in Modern Scholarship, ed. J. Philip Hyatt (Nashville; New York, ), pp. 370ff. See also Colwell's critique of the genealogical method in "Genealogical Method: Its Achievements and its Limitations," Journal of Biblical Literature, LXVI (1947), 109-33. On the subject of the light shed by the papyri on the date and character of the Neutral type of text, see Calvin L. Porter, "Papyrus Bodmer XV (P 75) and the Text of Codex Vaticanus," Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXI (1962), 363-76, and Carlo M. Martini, Il problema della recensionalità del codice B alla luce del papiro Bodmer XIV ("Analecta Biblica," 26) (Rome, 1966).
91. Op. cit., p. 174. Dr. Green holds that "there is a general agreement among careful scholars that, while this version is to be highly esteemed for its antiquity, and the general testimony which it renders to the integrity of the existing text, and the aid which it furnishes in the rendering of obscure and doubtful passages, the Masoretic text is on the whole vastly superior to it, and should not be corrected by it, except where there are stringent reasons for so doing; and that in the great majority of cases where a divergence exists, the presumption is strongly in favor of the Hebrew and against the Septuagint. Neither the original character of the latter, nor the history of its preservation, nor the present state of its text entitles it to the precedence. Only in cases where there are independent reasons for suspecting the accuracy of the Hebrew, can emendations by the Septuagint be reasonably admitted." On the textual criticism of the Old Testament, see Archer, op. cit., pp. 47-58; Ernst Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, tr. Peter R. Ackroyd (Oxford, 1957); Eissfeldt, op. cit., pp. 669-721.
92. "The Greek Testament of Westcott and Hort," The Presbyterian Review, III (1882), 356.
93. An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, pp. 14f.
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