From  the  book  “THE  REVISION REVISED”

by John  William  Burgon


WE  PICK  IT  UP  ON  PAGE  257  - Keith Hunt

VIII. It is not until we reach p. 94, that these learned men favour us with a single actual appeal to Scripture. At p. 90, Dr. Hort,—who has hitherto been skirmishing over the ground, and leaving us to wonder what in the world it can be that he is driving at,—announces a chapter on the 'Besults of Genealogical evidence proper;' and proposes to ‘determine the Genealogical relations of the chief ancient Texts.’ Impatient for argument, (at page 92,) we read as follows:—

“The fundamental Text of late extant Greek MSS. generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiochian or Graecoo-Syrian Text of the second half of the fourth century.”

We request, in passing, that the foregoing statement may be carefully noted.   

The Traditional Greek Text of the New Testament,—the Textus Receptus, in short,—is, according to Dr. Hort, 'beyond all question' the 'Text of the second half of the fourth century’ We shall gratefully avail ourselves of his candid admission, by and by.

Having thus assumed a ‘dominant Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian text of the second half of the IVth century’ Dr. H. attempts, by an analysis of what he is pleased to call ‘conflate Readings’ to prove the ‘posteriority of "Syrian" to "Western" and other "Neutral" readings’ . . . Strange method of procedure! seeing that, of those second and third classes of readings, we have not as yet so much as heard the names. Let us however without more delay be shown those specimens of 'Conflation' which, in Dr. Hort's judgment, supply 'the clearest evidence' (p. 94) that ‘Syrian’ are posterior alike to 'Western' and to ‘Neutral readings.’ Of these, after 30 years of laborious research, Dr. Westcott and he flatter themselves that they have succeeded in detecting eight.

IX. Now because, on the one hand, it would be unreasonable to fill up the space at our disposal with details which none but professed students will care to read;—and because, on the other, we cannot afford to pass by anything in these pages which pretends to be of the nature of proof;—we have consigned our account of Dr. Hort's 8 instances of Conflation (which prove to be less than 7) to the foot of the page.1

And, after an attentive survey of the Textual phenomena connected with these 7 specimens, we are constrained to assert that the interpretation put upon them by Drs. West-cott and Hort, is purely arbitrary: a baseless imagination,—a dream and nothing more.   Something has been attempted analogous to the familiar fallacy, in Divinity, of building a false and hitherto unheard-of doctrine on a few isolated places of Scripture, divorced from their context. The actual facts of the case shall be submitted to the judgment of learned and unlearned Headers alike: and we promise beforehand to abide by the unprejudiced verdict of either:—

Foot of the page

1 They are as follows:—

[1st] S. Mark (vi 33) relates that on a certain occasion the multitude, when they beheld our Saviour and His Disciples departing in order to cross over unto the other side of the lake, ran on foot thither,—(a) 'and outwent them—(B) and came together unto Him' (i,e. on His stepping out of the boat: not, as Dr. Hort strangely imagines [p. 99], on His emerging from the scene of His  ‘retirement’ in ‘some sequestered nook’).

Now here, a substitutes [Greek] [sic] for [Greek].— + B with the Coptic and the Vulg. omit clause (B).—D omits clause (a), but substitutes ‘there’ [Greek]  for ‘unto Him’ in clause (B),—exhibits therefore a fabricated text.—The Syriac condenses the two clauses thus:—‘got there before Him’:—l, A[triangle really] 69, and 4 or 5 of the old Latin copies, read diversely from all the rest and from one another. The present is, in fact, one of those many places in S. Mark's Gospel where all is contradiction in those depraved witnesses which Lachmann made it his business to bring into fashion. Of Confusion there is plenty. ‘Conflation’—as the Reader sees—there is none.

[2nd] In S. Mark viii. 26, our Saviour (after restoring sight to the blind man of Bethsaida) is related to have said,—(a) 'Neither enter into the village’—(B) ‘nor tell it to any owe—(y) in the village’: (And let it be noted that the trustworthiness of this way of exhibiting the text is vouched for by A C N A[triangle] and 12 other uncials: by the whole body of the cursives: by the Peschito and Harklensian, the Gothic, Armenian, and Ethiopic Versions: and by the only Father who quotes the place—Victor of Antioch.*)

But it is found that the ‘two false witnesses’ (+ B) omit clauses (B) and (y), retaining only clause (a). One of these two however (+), aware that under such circumstances [Greek] is intolerable,! substitutes [Greek]. As for D and the Vulg., they substitute and paraphrase, importing from Matt. ix. 6 (or Mk. ii. 11), ‘Depart unto thine house.’ D proceeds,—‘and tell it to no one [Greek, from Matth. viii. 4,] in the village.’ Six copies of the old Latin (b f ffa g-1-2 1), with the Vulgate, exhibit the following paraphrase of the entire place:—‘Depart unto thine house, and if thou enterest into the village, tell it to no one.’ The same reading exactly is found in Evan. 13-69-346: 28, 61, 473, and i, (except that 28, 61, 346 exhibit 'say nothing [from Mk. i. 44] to no one.') All six however add at the end,—'not even in the village.' Evan. 124 and a stand alone in exhibiting,—'Depart unto thine house; and enter not into the village; neither tell it to any one,'—to which 124 [not a]. adds,—‘in the village.’ . . . Why all this contradiction and confusion is now to be called ‘Conflation,’—and what 'clear evidence' is to be elicited therefrom that 'Syrian' are posterior alike to ‘Western’ and to ‘neutral’ readings,— passes our powers of comprehension.

We shall be content to hasten forward when we have further informed our Readers that while Lachmann and Tregelles abide by the Received Text in this place; Tischendorf, alone of Editors, adopts the reading of + (Greek): while Westcott and Hort, alone of Editors,


* Cramer's Cat. p. 345, lines 3 and 8.

! Dr. Hort, on the contrary, (only because he finds it in B,) considers [Greek] ‘simple and vigorous’ as well as ‘unique’ and ‘peculiar’ (p. 100).


adopt the reading of B (Greek)—so ending the sentence. What else however but calamitous is it to find that Westcott and Hort have persuaded their fellow Revisers to adopt the same mutilated exhibition of the Sacred Text? The consequence is, that henceforth,— instead of ‘Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town,’— we are invited to read, ‘Do not even enter into the village.’

[3rd] In S. Mk. ix. 38,—S. John, speaking of one who cast out devils in Christ's Name, says—(a) ‘who followeth not us, and we forbad him—(B) because followeth not us

Here, +  B c L A [triangle shape] the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic, omit clause (a), retaining (B). D with the old Latin and the Vulg. omit clause (B), but retain (a).—Both clauses are found in A N with 11 other uncials and the whole body of the cursives, besides the Gothic, and the only Father who quotes the place,—Basil [ii. 252].—Why should the pretence be set up that there has been ‘Conflation’ here? Two Omissions do not make one Conflation……..


Dr. Hort has detected four instances in S. Mark's Gospel, only three in S. Luke's—seven in all—where Codices B + and D happen to concur in making an omission at the same place, but not of the same words. We shall probably be best understood if we produce an instance of the thing spoken of: and no fairer example can be imagined than the last of the eight, of which Dr. Hort says,—'This simple instance needs no explanation' (p.104). Instead of [Greek]—(which is the reading of every known copy of the Gospels except five,)— +  B C L exhibit only [Greek]: D, only [Greek].  (To speak quite accurately, + B C L omit [Greek] and are followed by Westcott and Hort: D omits [Greek] and is followed by Tischendorf. Bachmann declines to follow either. Truegelles doubts).

Now, upon this (and the six other instances, which however prove to be a vast deal less apt for their purpose than the present), these learned men have gratuitously built up the following extravagant and astonishing theory:—

They assume,—(they do not attempt to prove: in fact they never prove anything:)—(1) That [Greek]—and [Greek]—are respectively fragments of two independent Primitive Texts, which they arbitrarily designate as ' Western' and 'Neutral,' respectively:—(2) That the latter of the two, [only however because it is vouched for by B and another,] must needs exhibit what the Evangelist actually wrote: [though why it must, these learned men forget to explain:]—(3) That in the middle of the IIIrd and of the IVth century the two Texts referred to were with design and by authority welded together, and became (what the same irresponsible Critics are pleased to call) the 'Syrian text.'—(4) That [Greek] being thus shown [?] to be ‘a Syrian Conflation,’ may be rejected at once. (Notes, p. 73.)

X. But we demur to this weak imagination, (which only by courtesy can be called 'a Theory') on every ground, and are constrained to remonstrate with our would-be Guides at every step. They assume everything. They prove nothing. And the facts of the case lend them no favour at all. For first,—We only find[Greek] standing alone, in two documents of the IVth century, in two of the Vth, and in one of the VIIIth: while, for [Greek] standing alone, the only Greek voucher producible is a notoriously corrupt copy of the Vlth century. True, that here a few copies of the old Latin side with D: but then a few copies also side with the traditional Text: and Jerome is found to have adjudicated between their rival claims in favour of the latter. The probabilities of the case are in fact simply overwhelming; for, since D omits 1552 words out of 19,941 (i.e. about one word in 13), why may not [Greek] be two of the words it omits,—in which case there has been no 'Conflation'?

Nay, look into the matter a little more closely:—(for surely, before we put up with this queer illusion, it is our duty to look it very steadily in the face:)—and note, that in this last chapter of S. Luke's Gospel, which consists of 837 words, no less than 121 are omitted by cod. D. To state the case differently,—D is observed to leave out one word in seven in the very chapter of Luke which supplies the instance of ‘Conflation’ under review. What possible significance therefore can be supposed to attach to its omission of the clause [Greek]? And since, mutatis mutandis, the same remarks apply to the 6 remaining cases,—(for one, viz. the [7th], is clearly an oversight,)—will any Reader of ordinary fairness and intelligence be surprised to hear that we reject the assumed 'Conflation' unconditionally, as a silly dream? It is founded entirely upon the omission of 21 (or at most 42) words out of a total of 31,587 from Codd. B + D……..

“Theory” - which was to rest absolutely upon nothing. It bursts, like a very thin bubble: floats away like a film of gossamer, and disappears from sight.

But further, as a matter of fact, at least five out of the eight instances cited,—viz. the [1st], [2nd], [5th], [6th], [7th], —fail to exhibit the alleged phenomena: conspicuously ought never to have been adduced…….


But if this be 'the clearest Evidence' (p. 94) producible for ‘the Theory of Conflation’—then, the less said about the ‘Theory’ the better for the credit of its distinguished Inventors. How any rational Textual Theory is to be constructed out of the foregoing Omissions, we fail to divine. But indeed the whole matter is demonstrably a weak imagination, - dream, and nothing more.

XI. In the meantime, Drs. Westcott and Hort, instead of realizing the insecurity of the ground under their feet, proceed gravely to build upon it, and to treat their hypothetical assumptions as well-ascertained facts. They imagine that they have already been led by 'independent Evidence' to regard 'the longer readings as conflate each from the two earlier readings:'—whereas, up to p. 105 (where the statement occurs), they have really failed to produce a single particle of evidence, direct or indirect, for their opinion. 'We have found reason to believe' the Readings of + B L, (say they,) 'to be the original Readings.'—But why, if this is the case, have they kept their 'finding' so entirely to themselves?— No reason whatever have they assigned for their belief. The Reader is presently assured (p. 106) that 'it is certain' that the Readings exhibited by the traditional Text in the eight •supposed cases of 'Conflation' are all posterior in date to the fragmentary readings exhibited by B and D. But, once more, What is the ground of this 'certainty'?—Presently (viz. in p. 107), theR meets with the further assurance that 

'the proved actual use of [shorter] documents in the conflate Readings renders their use elsewhere a vera causa in the Newtonian sense.'

But, once more,— Where and what is the ‘proof’ referred to? May a plain man, sincerely in search of Truth,—after wasting many precious hours over these barren pages—be permitted to declare that he resents such solemn trifling? (He craves to be forgiven if he avows that 'Pickwickian' —not 'Newtonian'—was the epithet which solicited him, when he had to transcribe for the Printer the passage which immediately precedes.)

XII. Next come 8 pages (pp. 107-15) headed—“Posteriority of ‘Syrian’ to ‘Western’ and other (neutral and ‘Alexandrian’) Readings, shown by Ante-Nicene Patristic evidence.”

In which however we are really 'shown' nothing of the sort.   Bold Assertions abound, (as usual with this respected writer,) but Proof he never attempts any. Not a particle of ‘Evidence’ is adduced.—Next come 5 pages headed,—'Posteriority of Syrian to Western, Alexandrian, and other (neutral) Readings, shown by Internal evidence of Syrian readings' (p. 115).

But again we are ‘shown’ absolutely nothing: although we are treated to the assurance that we have been shown many wonders. Thus, 'the Syrian conflate Readings have shown the Syrian text to be posterior to at least two ancient forms still extant' (p. 115): which is the very thing they have signally failed to do.   Next,

“Patristic evidence has shown that these two ancient Texts, and also a third, must have already existed early in the third century, and suggested very strong grounds for believing that in the middle of the century the Syrian Text had not yet been formed.”

Whereas no single appeal has been made to the evidence supplied by one single ancient Father!—

“Another step is gained by a close examination of all Readings distinctively Syrian.”—(Ibid.)

And yet we are never told which the 'Readings distinctively Syrian' are,—although they are henceforth referred to in every page. Neither are we instructed how to recognize them when we see them; which is unfortunate, since 'it follows,'—(though we entirely fail to see from what)—“hat all distinctively Syrian Readings may be set aside at once as certainly originating after the middle of the third century.” (p. 117) . . . Let us hear a little more on the subject :—

“The same Facts”—(though Dr. Hort has not hitherto favoured us with any)—“lead to another conclusion of equal or even greater importance respecting non-distinctive Syrian Readings... Since the Syrian Text is only a modified eclectic combination of earlier Texts independently attested,”—

(for it is in this confident style that these eminent Scholars handle the problem they undertook to solve, but as yet have failed even to touch),—

“existing documents descended from it can attest nothing but itself.”—(p. 118.)

Presently, we are informed that “it follows from what has been said above,”—(though how it follows, we fail to see,)— “that all Readings in which the Pre-Syrian texts concur, must he accepted at once as the Apostolic Readings:” and that “all distinctively Syrian Readings must he at once rejected”— (p. 119.)

Trenchant decrees of this kind at last arrest attention. It becomes apparent that we have to do with a Writer who has discovered a summary way of dealing with the Text of Scripture, and who is prepared to impart his secret to any who care to accept—without questioning—his views. We look back to see where this accession of confidence began, and are reminded that at p. 108 Dr. Hort announced that for convenience he should henceforth speak of certain ‘groups of documents’ by the conventional names ‘Western’—‘Pre-Syrian’—‘Alexandrian’—and so forth. Accordingly, ever since, (sometimes eight or ten times in the course of a single page,1) we have encountered this arbitrary terminology: have been required to accept it as the expression of ascertained facts in Textual Science. Not till we find ourselves floundering in the deep mire, do we become fully aware of the absurdity of our position. Then at last, (and high time too!), we insist on knowing what on earth our Guide is about, and whither he is proposing to lead us ? . . . . More considerate to our Readers than he has been to us, we propose before going any further, (instead of mystifying the subject as Dr. Hort has done,) to state in a few plain words what the present Theory, divested of pedantry and circumlocution, proves to be; and what is Dr. Hort's actual contention.


1. E.g. pp 115, 116, 117, 118, and etc.


XIII. The one great Fact, which especially troubles him and his joint Editor,1—(as well it may)—is The Traditional Greek Text of the New Testament Scriptures. Call this Text Erasmian or Complutensian,—the Text of Stephens, or of Beza, or of the Elzevirs,—call it the ‘Received’ or the Traditional Greek Text, or whatever other name you please; —the fact remains, that a Text has come down to us which is attested by a general consensus of ancient Copies, ancient Fathers, ancient Versions. This, at all events, is a point on which, (happily,) there exists entire conformity of opinion between Dr. Hort and ourselves. Our Readers cannot have yet forgotten his virtual admission that,—Beyond all question the Textus Receptus is the dominant Greco-Syrian Text of A.D. 350 to A.D. 400. 2

Obtained from a variety of sources, this Text proves to be essentially the same in all. That it requires Revision in respect of many of its lesser details, is undeniable: but it is at least as certain that it is an excellent Text as it stands, and that the use of it will never lead critical students of Scripture seriously astray,—which is what no one will venture to predicate concerning any single Critical Edition of the N. T. which has been published since the days of Griesbach, by the disciples of Griesbach's school.

XIV. In marked contrast to the Text we speak of,—(which is identical with the Text of every extant Lectionary of the Greek Church, and may therefore reasonably claim to be spoken of as the Traditional Text,)—is that contained in 


1 Referred to below, p. 296.

2 See above, pages 257 (bottom) and 258 (top).


a little handful of documents of which the most famous are codices B +, and the Coptic Version (as far as it is known), on the one hand,—cod. D and the old Latin copies, on the other. To magnify the merits of these, as helps and guides, and to ignore their many patent and scandalous defects and blemishes:—per fas et nefas to vindicate their paramount authority wherever it is in any way possible to do so; and when that is clearly impossible, then to treat their errors as the ancient Egyptians treated their cats, dogs, monkeys, and other vermin,—namely, to embalm them, and pay them Divine honours:—such for the last 50 years has been the practice of the dominant school of Textual Criticism among ourselves. The natural and even necessary correlative of this, has been the disparagement of the merits of the commonly Received Text: which has come to be spoken of, (we know not why,) as contemptuously, almost as bitterly, as if it had been at last ascertained to be untrustworthy in every respect: a thing undeserving alike of a place and of a name among the monuments of the Past. Even to have ‘used the Received Text as a basis for correction’ (p. 184) is stigmatized by Dr. Hort as one 'great cause' why Griesbach went astray.

XV. Drs. Westcott and Hort have in fact outstripped their predecessors in this singular race. Their absolute contempt for the Traditional Text,—their superstitious veneration for a few ancient documents; (which documents however they freely confess are not more ancient than the 'Traditional Text' which they despise;)—knows no bounds. But the thing just now to be attended to is the argumentative process whereby they seek to justify their preference.—Lachmann avowedly took his stand on a very few of the oldest known documents: and though Tregelles slightly enlarged the area of his predecessor's observations, his method was practically identical with that of Lachmann,—Tischendorf, appealing to every known authority, invariably shows himself regardless of the evidence he has himself accumulated. Where certain of the uncials are,—there his verdict is sure also to be .... Anything more unscientific, more unphilosophical, more transparently foolish than such a method, can scarcely be conceived: but it has prevailed for 50 years, and is now at last more hotly than ever advocated by Drs. Westcott and Hort. Only, (to their credit be it recorded,) they have had the sense to perceive that it must needs be recommended by arguments of some sort, or else it will inevitably fall to pieces the first fine day any one is found to charge it, with the necessary knowledge of the subject, and with sufficient resoluteness of purpose, to make him a formidable foe.

XVI. Their expedient has been as follows. Aware that the Received or Traditional Greek Text (to quote their own words,) “is virtually identical with that used by Chrysostom and other Antiochian Fathers in the latter part of the IVth century:” and fully alive to the fact that it. “must therefore have been represented by Manuscripts as old as any which are now surviving” (Text, p. 547),—they have invented an extraordinary Hypothesis in order to account for its existence:—

They assume that the writings of Origen 'establish the prior existence of at least three types of Text:'—the most clearly marked of which, they call the ‘Western:’—another, less prominent, they designate as (‘Alexandrian:’—the third holds (they say) a middle or 'Neutral' position. (That all this is mere moonshine,—a day-dream and no more,—we shall insist, until some proofs have been produced that the respected Authors are moving amid material forms,—not discoursing with the creations of their own brain.)  “The priority of two at least of these three Texts just noticed to the Syrian Text” they are confident has been established by the eight ‘conflate’ Syrian Readings which they flatter themselves they have already resolved into their ‘Western’ and ‘Neutral’ elements (Text, p. 547). This, however, is a part of the subject on which we venture to hope that our Readers by this time have formed a tolerably clear opinion for themselves. The ground has been cleared of the flimsy superstructure which these Critics have been 30 years in raising, ever since we blew away (pp. 258-65) the airy foundation on which it rested.

At the end of some confident yet singularly hazy statements concerning the characteristics of ‘Western’ (pp. 120-6), of ‘Neutral’ (126-30), and of' ‘Alexandrian’ Readings (130-2), Dr. Hort favours us with the assurance that—

“The Syrian Text, to which the order of time now brings us,' 4 is the chief monument of a new period of textual history.”— (p. 132.)

“Now, the three great lines were brought together, and made to contribute to the formation of a new Text different from all.”—(p. 133.)

Let it only be carefully remembered that it is of something virtually identical with the Textus Receptus that we are just now reading an imaginary history, and it is presumed that the most careless will be made attentive.

“The Syrian Text must in fact be the result of a ‘Recension’… performed deliberately by Editors, and not merely by Scribes.”—(Ibid.)

But why ‘must’ it? Instead of ‘must in fact,’ we are disposed to read ‘may—in fiction.’ The learned Critic can but mean that, on comparing the Text of Fathers of the IVth century with the Text of cod. B, it becomes to himself self-evident that one of the two has been fabricated. Granted. Then,—Why should not the solitary Codex be the offending party? For what imaginable reason should cod. B,—which comes to us without a character, and which, when tried by the test of primitive Antiquity, stands convicted of ‘univarsa vitiositas,’ (to use Teschendorf's expression) ;—why (we ask) should codex B be upheld ‘contra mundum’? . . . Dr. Hort proceeds—(still speaking of 'the [imaginary] Syrian Text'),—

“It was probably initiated by the distracting and inconvenient currency of at least three conflicting Texts in the same region”—(p. 133.)

Well but,—Would it not have been more methodical if ‘the currency of at least three conflicting Texts in the same region’ had been first demonstrated? Or, at least, shown to be a thing probable? Till this 'distracting' phenomenon has been to some extent proved to have any existence in fact, what possible  ‘probability’ can be claimed for the history of a ‘Recension’—which very Recension, up to this point, has not been proved to have ever taken place at ail?

“Each Text may perhaps have found a Patron in some leading personage or see, and thus have seemed to call for a conciliation of rival claims.”— (p. 134.)

Why yes, to be sure,— ‘each Text [if it existed] may perhaps [or perhaps may not] have found a Patron in some leading personage [as Dr. Hort or Dr. Scrivener in our own days]:’ but then, be it remembered, this will only have been possible, —(a) If the Recension ever took place: and—(b) If it was conducted after the extraordinary fashion which prevailed in the Jerusalem Chamber from 1870 to 1881: for which we have the unimpeachable testimony of an eye-witness;1 confirmed by the Chairman of the Revisionist body,—by whom in fact it was deliberately invented.2

But then, since not a shadow of proof is forthcoming that any such Recension as Dr. Hort imagines aver took place at all,—what else but a purely gratuitous exercise of


1 See above, pp. 37 to 38.

2 Ibid. p. 39.


the imaginative faculty is it, that Dr. Hort should proceed further to invent the method which might, or could, or would, or should have been pursued, if it had taken place?

Having however in this way (1) Assumed a ‘Syrian Recension’—(2) Invented the cause of it,—and (3) Dreamed the process by which it was carried into execution,—the Critic hastens, more suo, to characterize the historical result in the following terms:—

The qualities which the Authors of the Syrian text seem to have most desired to impress on it are lucidity and completeness. They were evidently anxious to remove all stumbling-blocks out of the way of the ordinary reader, so far as this could be done without recourse to violent measures. They were apparently equally desirous that he should have the benefit of instructive matter contained in all the existing Texts, provided it did not confuse the context or introduce seeming contradictions. New Omissions accordingly are rare, and where they occur are usually found to contribute to apparent simplicity. New Interpolations, on the other hand, are abundant, most of them being due to harmonistic or other assimilation, fortunately capricious and incomplete. Both in matter and in diction the Syrian Text is conspicuously a full Text. It delights in Pronouns, Conjunctions, and Expletives and supplied links of all kinds, as well as in more considerable Additions. As distinguished from the hold vigour of the ‘Western’ scribes, and the refined scholarship of the ‘Alexandrians,’ the spirit of its own corrections is at once sensible and feeble. Entirely blameless, on either literary or religious grounds, as regards vulgarized or unworthy diction, yet showing no marks of either Critical or Spiritual insight, it presents the New Testament in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force; more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation than for repeated and diligent study.”—(pp. 134-5.)

XVII. We forbear to offer any remarks on this. We should be thought uncivil were we to declare our own candid estimate of ‘the critical and spiritual’ perception of the man who could permit himself so to write. We prefer to proceed with our sketch of the Theory, (of the Dream rather,) which is intended to account for the existence of the Traditional Text of the N.T. only venturing again to submit that surely it would have been, high time to discuss the characteristics which ‘the Authors of the Syrian Text’ impressed upon their work, when it had been first established—or at least rendered probable—that the supposed Operators and that the assumed Operation have any existence except in the fertile brain of this distinguished and highly imaginative writer.

XVIII. Now, the first consideration which strikes us as fatal to Dr. Hort's unsupported conjecture concerning the date of the Text he calls 'Syrian' or 'Antiochian’ is the fact that what he so designates bears a most inconvenient resemblance to the Peschito or ancient Syriac Version; which, like the old Latin, is (by consent of the Critics) generally assigned to the second century of our era. ‘It is at any rate no stretch of imagination’ (according to Bp. Ellicott,) ‘to suppose that portions of it might have been in the hands of S. John’ [p. 26.] Accordingly, these Editors assure us that—

“the only way of explaining the whole body of facts is to suppose that the Syriac, like the Latin Version, underwent Revision long after its origin; and that our ordinary Syriac MSS. represent not the primitive but the altered  Syriac  Text” (p. 136.)

“A Revision of the old Syriac Version appears to have taken place in the IVth century, or sooner; and doubtless in some connexion with the Syrian Revision of the Greek Text, the readings being to a very great extent coincident”—(Text, 552.)

“Till recently, the Peschito has been known only in the form which it finally received by an evidently authoritative Revision,”—a Syriac ‘Vulgate’ answering to the Latin ‘Vulgate’—(p. 84.)

“Historical antecedents render it tolerably certain that the locality of such an authoritative Revision”—(which Revision however, be it observed, still rests wholly on unsupported conjecture)—“would be either Edessa or Nisibis”—(p. 136.)

In the meantime, the abominably corrupt document known as ‘Cureton's Syriac,' is, by another bold hypothesis, assumed to be the only surviving specimen of the unrevised version, and is henceforth invariably designated by these authors as 'the old Syriac;' and referred to, as 'syr. vt.,'—(in imitation of the Latin 'vetus'): the venerable Peschito being referred to as the ‘Vulgate Syriac,’— ‘syr. vg.’

“When therefore we find large and peculiar coincidences between the revised Syriac Text and the Text of the Antiochian Fathers of the latter part of the IVth century”-—[of which coincidences, (be it remarked in passing,) the obvious explanation is, that the Texts referred to are faithful traditional representations of the inspired autographs;]— “and strong indications that the Revision was deliberate and in some way authoritative in both cases,— it becomes natural to suppose that the two operations had some historical connexion.”—(pp. 136-7.)

XIX. But how does it happen—(let the question be asked without offence)—that a man of good abilities, bred in a University which is supposed to cultivate especially the Science of exact reasoning, should habitually allow himself in such slipshod writing as this? The very fact of a 'Revision' of the Syriac has all to be proved; and until it has been demonstrated, cannot of course be reasoned upon as a fact. Instead of demonstration, we find ourselves invited (1) —'To suppose' that such a Revision took place: and (2)—‘To suppose’ that all our existing Manuscripts represent it. But (as we have said) not a shadow of reason is produced why we should be so complaisant as 'to suppose' either the one thing or the other. In the meantime, the accomplished Critic hastens to assure us that there exist ‘strong indications’— (why are we not shown them?)—that the Revision he speaks of was ‘deliberate, and in some way authoritative.’

Out of this grows a 'natural supposition' that "two [purely imaginary] operations," "had some historical connection” Already therefore has the shadow thickened into a substance. "The Revised Syriac Text" has by this time come to be spoken of as an admitted fact. The process whereby it came into being is even assumed to have been “deliberate and authoritative.” These Editors henceforth style the Peschito the ‘Syriac Vulgate’—as confidently as Jerome's Revision of the old Latin is styled the ‘Latin Vulgate’ They even assure us that 'Cureton's Syriac' “renders the comparatively late and ‘revised’ character of the Syriac Vulgate a matter of certainty” (p. 84). The very city in which the latter underwent Revision, can, it seems, be fixed with 'tolerable certainty' (p. 136).... Can Dr. Hort be serious?


At the end of a series of conjectures, (the foundation of which is the hypothesis of an Antiochian Recension of the Greek,) the learned writer announces that—“The textual elements of each principal document having been thus ascertained it now becomes possible to determine the Genealogy of a much larger number of individual readings than before” (Text, p. 552).—We read and marvel.

So then, in brief, the Theory of Drs. Westcott And Hort is this:—

that, somewhere between A.D. 250 and A.D. 350….

(1) The growing diversity and confusion of Greek Texts led to an authoritative Revision at Antioch:—which (2) was then taken as a standard for a similar authoritative Revision of the Syriac text:—and (3) was itself at a later time subjected to a second authoritative Revision '—this final process' having been 'apparently completed by [A.D.] 350 or thereabouts.'—(p. 137.)

XX. Now, instead of insisting that this entire Theory is made up of a series of purely gratuitous assumptions,— destitute alike of attestation and of probability: and that, as a mere effort of the imagination, it is entitled to no manner of consideration or respect at our hands:—instead of dealing thus with what precedes, we propose to be most kind and accommodating to Dr. Hort. We proceed to accept his Theory in its entirety. We will, with the Reader's permission, assume that all he tells us is historically true: is an authentic narrative of what actually did take place. We shall in the end invite the same Reader to recognize the inevitable consequences of our admission: to which we shall inexorably pin the learned Editors—bind them hand and foot;—of course reserving to ourselves the right of disallowing for ourselves as much of the matter as we please.

Somewhere between A.D. 250 and 350 therefore,—(‘it is impossible to say with confidence’ [p. 137] what was the actual date, but these Editors evidently incline to the latter half of the 3rd century, i.e. circa A.D. 275);—we are to believe that the Ecclesiastical heads of the four great Patriarchates of Eastern Christendom,—Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople,—had become so troubled at witnessing the prevalence of depraved copies of Holy Scripture in their respective churches, that they resolved by common consent on achieving an authoritative Revision which should henceforth become the standard Text of all the Patriarchates of the East. The same sentiment of distress (by the hypothesis) penetrated into Syria proper; and the Bishops of Edessa or Nisibis, (‘great centres of life and culture to the Churches whose language was Syriac’ [p. 136,]) lent themselves so effectually to the project, that a single fragmentary document is, at the present day, the only vestige remaining of the Text which before had been universally prevalent in the Syriac-speaking Churches of antiquity. “The almost total extinction of Old Syriac MSS., contrasted with the great number of extant Vulgate Syriac MSS.,”—(for it is thus that Dr. Hort habitually exhibits evidence!),—is to be attributed, it seems, to the power and influence of the Authors of the imaginary Syriac Revision. [ibid.] Bp. Ellicott, by the way (an unexceptionable witness), characterizes Cureton's Syxiac as “singular and sometimes rather wild.” “The text, of a very composite nature; sometimes inclining to the shortness and simplicity of the Vatican manuscript, but more commonly presenting the same paraphrastic character of text as the Codex Bezae” [p. 42.] (It is, in fact, an utterly depraved and fabricated document.)

We venture to remark in passing that Textual matters must have everywhere reached a very alarming pass indeed to render intelligible the resort to so extraordinary a step as a representative Conference of the 'leading Personages or Sees' (p. 134) of Eastern Christendom. The inference is at least inevitable, that men in high place at that time deemed themselves competent to grapple with the problem. Enough was familiarly known about the character and the sources of these corrupt Texts to make it certain that they would be recognizable when produced; and that, when condemned by authority, they would no longer be propagated, and in the end would cease to molest the Church. Thus much, at all events, is legitimately to be inferred from the hypothesis.

XXI. Behold then from every principal Diocese of ancient Christendom, and in the Church's palmiest days, the most famous of the ante-Nicene Fathers repair to Antioch. They go up by authority; and are attended by skilled Ecclesiastics of the highest theological attainment. Bearers are they perforce of a vast number of Copies of the Scriptures: and (by the hypothesis) the latest possible dates of any of these Copies must range between A.D. 250 and 350.

But the Delegates of so many ancient Sees will have been supremely careful, before starting on so important and solemn an errand, to make diligent search for the oldest Copies anywhere discoverable: and when they reach the scene of their deliberations, we may be certain that they are able to appeal to not a few codices written within a hundred years of the date of the inspired Autographs themselves. Copies of the Scriptures authenticated as having belonged to the most famous of their predecessors,—and held by them in high repute for the presumed purity of their Texts—will have been freely produced: while, in select receptacles, will have been stowed away—for purposes of comparison and avoidance— specimens of those dreaded Texts whose existence has been the sole cause why (by the hypothesis) this extraordinary concourse of learned Ecclesiastics has taken place.

After solemnly invoking the Divine blessing, these men address themselves assiduously to their task; and (by the hypothesis) they proceed to condemn every codex which exhibits a ‘strictly Western’ or a strictly ‘Alexandrian’ or a 'strictly Neutral’ type. In plain English, if codices B, +, and D had been before them, they would have unceremoniously rejected all three; but then, (by the hypothesis) neither of the two first-named had yet come into being: while 200 years at least must roll out before Cod. D would see the light. In the meantime, the immediate ancestors of B + and D will perforce have come under judicial scrutiny; and, (by the hypothesis,) they will have been scornfully rejected by the general consent of the Judges.

XXII. Pass an interval—(are we to suppose of fifty years )—and the work referred to is 'subjected to a second authoritative Revision.' Again, therefore, behold the piety and learning of the four great Patriarchates of the East, formally represented at Antioch! The Church is now in her palmiest days. Some of her greatest men belong to the period of which we are speaking. Eusebius (A.D. 308-340) is in his glory. One whole generation has come and gone since the last Textual Conference was held, at Antioch.

Yet is no inclination manifested to reverse the decrees of the earlier Conference. This second Recension of the Text of Scripture does but ‘carry out more completely the purposes of the first;' and 'the final process was apparently completed by A.D. 350' (p. 137).—So far the Cambridge Professor.

XXIII. But the one important fact implied by this august deliberation concerning the Text of Scripture has been conveniently passed over by Dr. Hort in profound silence. We take leave to repair his omission by inviting the Reader's particular attention to it.

We request him to note that, by the hypothesis, there will have been submitted to the scrutiny of these many ancient Ecclesiastics not a few codices of exactly the same type as codices B and +: especially as codex B. We are able even to specify with precision certain features which the codices in question will have all concurred in exhibiting.   


1. From S. Mark's Gospel, those depraved copies will have omitted the last Twelve Verses (xvi. 9-20).

2. From S. Luke's Gospel the same corrupt copies will have omitted our Saviour's Agony in the Garden (xxii. 43,44).

3. His Prayer on behalf of His murderers (xxiii. 34), will have also been away.

4. The Inscription on the Cross, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (xxiii. 38), will have been partly, misrepresented,— partly, away.

5. And there will have been no account discoverable of S. Peter's visit to the Sepulchre (xxiv. 12).

6. Absent will have been also the record of our Lord's Ascension into Heaven (ibid. 51).

7. Also, from S. John's Gospel, the codices in question will have omitted the incident of the troubling of the pool of Bethesda (v. 3, 4).

Now, we request that it may be clearly noted that, according to Dr. Hort, against every copy of the Gospels so maimed and mutilated, (i.e. against every copy of the Gospels of the same type as codices B and +,)—the many illustrious Bishops who, (still according to Dr. Hort,) assembled at Antioch, first in A.D. 250 and then in A.D. 350,—by common consent set a mark of condemnation. We are assured that those famous men,—those Fathers of the Church,—were emphatic in their sanction, instead, of codices of the type of Cod. A,—in which all these seven omitted passages (and many hundreds besides) are duly found in their proper places.

When, therefore, at the end of a thousand and half a thousand years, Dr. Hort (guided by his inner consciousness, and depending on an intellectual illumination of which he is able to give no intelligible account) proposes to reverse the deliberate sentence of Antiquity,—his position strikes us as bordering on the ludicrous. Concerning the seven places above referred to, which the assembled Fathers pronounce to be genuine Scripture, and declare to be worthy of all acceptation,—Dr. Hort expresses himself in terms which—could they have been heard at Antioch—must, it is thought, have brought down upon his head tokens of displeasure which might have even proved inconvenient. But let the respected gentleman by all means be allowed to speak for himself.—

(1) The last Twelve Verses of S. Mark (he would have been heard to say) are a ‘very early interpolation’ ‘Its authorship and precise date must remain unknown’ ‘It manifestly cannot claim any Apostolic authority’  ‘It is doubtless founded on some tradition of the Apostolic age’— (Notes, pp. 46 and 51.)

(2) The Agony in the garden (he would have told them) is ‘an early Western interpolation’ and ‘can only be a fragment from traditions, written or oral’—

‘rescued from oblivion by the scribes of the second century’—(pp. 66-7.)

(3) The prayer of our Lord for His murderers (Dr. Hort would have said),—'I cannot doubt comes from an extraneous source” It is ‘a Western interpolation’—(p.68.)

(4) To the Inscription on the Cross, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew [S. Luke xxiii. 38], he would not have allowed so much as a hearing.

(5) The spuriousness of the narrative of S. Peter's Visit to the Sepulchre [S. Luke xxiv. 12] (the same Ante-Nicene Fathers would have learned) he regards as a ‘moral certainty’ He would have assured them that it is ‘a Western non-interpolation’—(p. 71.)

(6) They would have learned that, in the account of the same Critic, S. Luke xxiv. 51 is another spurious addition to the inspired Text: another ‘Western non-interpolation’ Dr. Hort would have tried to persuade them that our Lord's Ascension into Heaven ‘was evidently inserted from an assumption that a separation from the disciples at the close of a Gospel must be the Ascension,’ (Notes, p. 73). . . . (What the Ante-Nicene Fathers would have thought of their teacher we forbear to conjecture.)—(p. 71.)

(7) The troubling of the pool of Bethesda [S. John v. 3, 4] is not even allowed a bracketed place in Dr. Hort's Text. How the accomplished Critic would have set about persuading the Ante-Nicene Fathers that they were in error for holding it to be genuine Scripture, it is hard to imagine.

XXIV. It is plain therefore that Dr. Hort is in direct antagonism with the collective mind of Patristic Antiquity.

Why, when it suits him, he should appeal to the same Ancients for support, we fail to understand. “If Baal be God, then follow him.” Dr. Hort has his codex B and his codex + to guide him. He informs us (p. 276) that “the fullest consideration does but increase the conviction that the preeminent relative purity” of those two codices “is approximately absolute,—a true approximate reproduction of the Text of the Autographs.” On the other hand, he has discovered that the Received Text is virtually the production of the Fathers of the Nicene Age (A.D. 250-A.D. 350),—exhibits a Text fabricated throughout by the united efforts of those well-intentioned but thoroughly misguided men. What is it to him, henceforth, how Athanasius, or Didymus, or Cyril exhibits a place?

Yes, we repeat it,—Dr. Hort is in direct antagonism with the Fathers of the IIIrd and the IVth Century. His own fantastic hypothesis of a ‘Syrian Text’—the solemn expression of the collective wisdom and deliberate judgment of the Fathers of the Nicene Age (A.D. 250-A.D. 350),—is the best answer which can by possibility be invented to his own pages,—is, in our account, the one sufficient and conclusive refutation of his own Text.





Keith Hunt