From the book “THE REVISION REVISED”
by Dean John William BURGON
Burgon continued his shedding of Hort’s [and Westcott] Textual Theory #2
Dark italicized lettering is mine, and all black bold is mine - Keith Hunt
XXVI. Pass fifteen hundred years, and the Reader is invited to note attentively what has come to pass. Time has made a clean sweep, it may be, of every Greek codex belonging to either of the two dates above indicated. Every tradition belonging to the period has also long since utterly perished.
When lo, in A.D. 1831, under the auspices of Dr. Lachmann, 'a new departure' is made. Up springs what may be called the new German school of Textual Criticism,-—of which the fundamental principle is a superstitious deference to the decrees of cod. B. The heresy prevails for fifty years (1831-81) and obtains many adherents. The practical result is, that its chief promoters make it their business to throw discredit on the result of the two great Antiochian Revisions already spoken of. The (so-called) 'Syrian Text'—although assumed by Drs. Westcott and Hort to be the product of the combined wisdom, piety, and learning of the great Patriarchates of the East from A.D. 250 to A.D. 350; “a ‘Recension’ in the proper sense of the word; a work of attempted Criticism, performed deliberately by Editors and not merely by Scribes” (p. 133) :—this ‘Syrian Text’ Doctors Westcott and Hort denounce as ‘showing no marks of either critical or spiritual insight:’—
It 'presents' (say they) “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.”—(p. 135.)
XXVII. We are content to leave this matter to the Reader's judgment. For ourselves, we make no secret of the grotesqueness of the contrast thus, for the second time, presented to the imagination. On that side, by the hypothesis, sit the greatest Doctors of primitive Christendom, assembled in solemn conclave. Every most illustrious name is there. By ingeniously drawing a purely arbitrary hard-and-fast line at the year A.D. 350, and so anticipating many a 'floruit' by something between five and five-and-twenty years, Dr. Hort's intention is plain: but the expedient will not serve his turn. Quite content are we with the names secured to us within the proposed limits of time. On that side then, we behold congregated choice representatives of the wisdom, the piety, the learning of the Eastern Church, from A.D. 250 to A.D. 350.—On this side sits— Dr. Hort! ... An interval of 1532 years separates these two parties.
XXVIII. And first,—How may the former assemblage be supposed to have been occupying themselves? The object with which those distinguished personages came together was the loftiest, the purest, the holiest imaginable: viz. to purge out from the sacred Text the many corruptions by which, in their judgments, it had become depraved during the 250 (or at the utmost 300) years which have elapsed since it first came into existence; to detect the counterfeit and to eliminate the spurious. Not unaware by any means are they of the carelessness of Scribes, nor yet of the corruptions which have been brought in through the officiousness of critical ‘Correctors’ of the Text. To what has resulted from the misdirected piety of the Orthodox, they are every bit as fully alive as to what has crept in through the malignity of Heretical Teachers. Moreover, while the memory survives in all its freshness of the depravations which the inspired Text has experienced from these and other similar corrupting influences, the means abound and are at hand of testing every suspected place of Scripture. Well, and next,—How have these holy men prospered in their holy enterprise?
XXIX. According to Dr. Hort, by a strange fatality,—a most unaccountable and truly disastrous proclivity to error, —these illustrious Fathers of the Church have been at every instant substituting the spurious for the genuine,—a fabricated Text in place of the Evangelical Verity. Miserable men!
In the Gospels alone they have interpolated about 3100 words: have omitted about 700: have substituted about 1000; have transposed about 2200: have altered (in respect of number, case, mood, tense, person, &c.) about 1200.1 This done, they have amused themselves with the give-and-take process of mutual accommodation which we are taught to call 'Conflation:' in plain terms, they have been manufacturing Scripture. The Text, as it comes forth from their hands,—
(a) "Shows no marks of either critical or spiritual insight:"—
(b) " Presents the New Testament in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force:"—
(c) "Is more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation, than for repeated and diligent study"
Moreover, the mischief has proved infectious,—has spread. In Syria also, at Edessa or Nisibis,—(for it is as well to be circumstantial in such matters,)—the self-same iniquity is about to be perpetrated; of which the Peschito will be the abiding monument: one solitary witness only to the pure Text being suffered to escape. Cureton's fragmentary Syriac will
1 To speak with entire accuracy, Drs. Westcott and Hort require us to believe that the Authors of the [imaginary] Syrian Revisions of A.D. 250 and A.D. 350, interpolated the genuine Text of the Gospels, with between 2877 (b) and 3455 (K) spurious words; mutilated the genuine Text in respect of between 536 (b) and 839 (+ ) words:—-substituted for as many genuine words, between 935 (b) and 1114 (+) uninspired words licentiously transposed between 2098 (b) and 2299 (+);—and in respect of number, case, mood, tense, person, &c., altered without authority between 1132 (b) and 1265 (+) words.
alone remain to exhibit to mankind the outlines of primitive Truth. (The reader is reminded of the character already given of the document in question at the summit of page 279. Its extravagance can only be fully appreciated by one who will be at the pains to read it steadily through.)
XXX. And pray, (we ask,)— Who says all this? Who is it who gravely puts forth all this egregious nonsense? It is Dr. Hort, (we answer,) at pp. 134-5 of the volume now under review. In fact, according to him, those primitive Fathers have been the great falsifiers of Scripture; have proved the worst enemies of the pure Word of God; have shamefully betrayed their sacred trust; have done the diametrical reverse of what (by the hypothesis) they came together for the sole purpose of doing. They have depraved and corrupted that sacred Text which it was their aim, their duty, and their professed object to purge from its errors. And (by the hypothesis) Dr. Hort, at the end of 1532 years,—aided by codex b and his own self-evolved powers of divination,—has found them out, and now holds them up to the contempt and scorn of the British public.
XXXI. In the meantime the illustrious Professor invites us to believe that the mistaken textual judgment pronounced at Antioch in A.D. 350 had an immediate effect on the Text of Scripture throughout the world. We are requested to suppose that it resulted in the instantaneous extinction of codices the like of B and +, wherever found; and caused codices of the A type to spring up like mushrooms in their place, and that, in every library of ancient Christendom. We are further required to assume that this extraordinary substitution of new evidence for old—the false for the true—fully explains why Irenseus and Hippolytus, Athanasius and Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil and Ephraem, Epipha-nius and Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Isidore of Pelusium, Mlus and Nbnnus, Proclus and Severianus, the two Cyrils and Theodoret—one and all—show themselves strangers to the text of b and +. . . . We read and marvel.
XXXIL For, (it is time to enquire,)—Does not the learned Professor see that, by thus getting rid of the testimony of the whole body of the Fathers, he leaves the Science which he is so good as to patronize in a most destitute condition,—besides placing himself in a most inconvenient state of isolation? If clear and consentient Patristic testimony to the Text of Scripture is not to be deemed forcible witness to its Truth,— whither shall a man betake himself for constraining Evidence? Dr. Hort has already set aside the Traditional Text as a thing of no manner of importance. The venerable Syriac Version he has also insisted on reducing very nearly to the level of the despised cursives. As for the copies of the old Latin, they had confessedly become so untrustworthy, at the time of which he speaks, that a modest Revision of the Text they embody, (the 'Vulgate' namely,) became at last a measure of necessity. What remains to him therefore? Can he seriously suppose that the world will put up with the ‘idiosyncrasy’ of a living Doctor—his 'personal instincts' (p. xi.)— his ' personal discernment' (p. 65),—his' instinctive processes of Criticism' (p. 66),—his ‘individual mind,’—in preference to articulate voices coming to us across the gulf of Time from every part of ancient Christendom? How—with the faintest chance of success—does Dr. Hort propose to remedy the absence of External Testimony? If mankind can afford to do without either consent of Copies or of Fathers, why does mankind any longer adhere to the ancient methods of proof? Why do Critics of every school still accumulate references to MSS., explore the ancient Versions, and ransack the Patristic writings in search of neglected citations of Scripture? That the ancients were indifferent Textual Critics, is true enough. The mischief done by Origen in this department,—through his fondness for a branch of Learning in which his remarks show that he was all unskilled,—is not to be told. But then, these men lived within a very few hundred years of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ: and when they witness to the reading of their own copies, their testimony on the point, to say the least, is worthy of our most respectful attention. Dated codices, in fact are they, to all intents and purposes, as often as they bear clear witness to the Text of Scripture: —a fact, (we take leave to throw out the remark in passing,) which has not yet nearly attracted the degree of attention which it deserves.
XXXIII. For ourselves, having said so much on this subject, it is fair that we should add,—We devoutly wish that Dr. Hort's hypothesis of an authoritative and deliberate Recension of the Text of the New Testament achieved at Antioch first, about A.D. 250, and next, about A.D. 350, were indeed an historical fact. We desire no firmer basis on which to rest our confidence in the Traditional Text of Scripture than the deliberate verdict of Antiquity,—the ascertained sanction of the collective Church, in the Nicene age. The Latin 'Vulgate' [A.D. 385] is the work of a single man—Jerome. The Syriac 'Vulgate' [A.D. 616] was also the work of a single man—Thomas of Harkel. But this Greek 'Vulgate' was (by the hypothesis) the product of the Church Catholic, [A.D. 250-A.D. 350,] in her corporate capacity. Not only should we hail such a monument of the collective piety and learning of the Church in her best days with unmingled reverence and joy, were it introduced to our notice; but we should insist that no important deviation from such a 'Textus Beceptus' as that would deserve to be listened to. In other words, if Dr. Hort's theory about the origin of the Textus Receptus have any foundation at all in fact, it is 'all up' with Dr. Hort. He is absolutely nowhere. He has most ingeniously placed himself on the horns of a fatal dilemma.
For,—(let it be carefully noted,)—the entire discussion becomes, in this way, brought (so to speak) within the compass of a nutshell. To state the case briefly,—We are invited to make our election between the Fathers of the Church, A.D. 250 and A.D. 350,—and Dr. Hort, A.D. 1881. The issue is really reduced to that. The general question of the TEXT OF SCRIPTURE being the matter at stake; (not any particular passage, remember, but the Text of Scripture as a whole;)—and the conflicting parties being but two;—Which are we to believe? the consentient Voice of Antiquity,—or the solitary modern Professor?
Shall we accept the august Testimony of the whole body of the Fathers? or shall we prefer to be guided by the self-evolved imaginations of one who confessedly has nothing to offer but conjecture? The question before us is reduced to that single issue. But in fact the alternative admits of being yet more concisely stated. We are invited to make our election between fact and—fiction …. All this, of course, on the supposition that there is any truth at all in Dr. Hort's ‘New Textual Theory.’
XXXIV. Apart however from the gross intrinsic improbability of the supposed Recension,—the utter absence of one particle of evidence, traditional or otherwise, that it ever did take place, must be held to be fatal to the hypothesis that it did. It is simply incredible that an incident of such magnitude and interest would leave no trace of itself in history. As a conjecture—(and it only professes to be a conjecture)—Dr. Hort's notion of how the Text of the Fathers of the 3d, 4th, and 5th centuries,-—which, as he truly remarks, is in the main identical with our own Received Text, —came into being, must be unconditionally abandoned. In the words of a learned living Prelate,—"the supposition" on which Drs. Westcott and Hort have staked their critical reputation, "is a manifest absurdity"l
XXXV. We have been so full on the subject of this imaginary 'Antiochia ' or ‘Syrian text’ not (the reader may be sure) without sufficient reason.
Scant satisfaction truly is there in scattering to the winds an airy tissue which its ingenious authors have been industriously weaving for 30 years.
But it is clear that with this hypothesis of a 'Syrian' text,—the immediate source and actual prototype of their entire Textual theory. Reject it, and the entire fabric is observed to collapse, and subside into a shapeless ruin. And with it, of necessity, goes the ‘New Greek Text’—and therefore the 'New English Version' of our Revisionists, which in the main has been founded on it.
XXXVI. In the meantime the phenomena upon which this phantom has been based, remain unchanged; and fairly interpreted, will be found to conduct us to the diametrically opposite result to that which has been arrived at by Drs. Westcott and Hort With perfect truth has the latter remarked on the practical ‘identity of the Text, more especially in the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, in all the known cursive MSS., except a few’ (p. 143). We fully admit the truth of his statement that—
‘Before the close of the 4th century, a Greek Text not materially differing from the almost universal Text of the 9h,’—[and
1 Quoted fey Canon Cook, Revised Version Considered,—p. 202.
why not of the 6th? of the 7th? of the 8th? or again of the 10th? of the 11th? of the 12th?]—' century, was dominant at Antioch.'—(p. 142.)
And why not throughout the whole of Eastern Christendom? Why this continual mention of 'Antioch,'—this perpetual introduction of the epithet 'Syrian'? Neither designation applies to Irenaeus or to Hippolytus,—to Athanasius or to Didymus,—to Gregory of Nazianzus or to his namesake of Nyssa,—to Basil or to Epiphanius,—to Nonnus or to Macarius,—to Proclus or to Theodorus Mops.,—to the earlier or to the later Cyril.—In brief:
The fundamental text of the late extant Greek MSS. generally is, beyond all question, identical with [what Dr. Hort chooses to call] the dominant Antiochian or Graeco-Syrian text of the second half of the 4th century. . . The Antiochian [and other] Fathers, and the bulk of extant MSS. written from about three or four, to ten or eleven centuries later, must have had, in the greater number of extant variations, a common original either contemporary with, or older than, our oldest extant' MSS:—(p. 92.)
XXXVII. So far then, happily, we are entirely agreed. The only question is,—How is this resemblance to be accounted for? Not, we answer,—not, certainly, by putting forward so violent and improbable—so irrational a conjecture as that, first, about A.D. 250,—and then again about A.D. 350,— an authoritative standard Text was fabricated at Antioch; of which all other known MSS. (except a very little handful) are nothing else but transcripts:—but rather, by loyally recognizing, in the practical identity of the Text exhibited by 99 out of 100 of our extant MSS., the probable general fidelity of those many transcripts to the inspired exemplars themselves from which remotely they are confessedly descended. And surely, if it be allowable to assume (with Dr. Hort) that for 1532 years, (viz. from A.D. 350 to A.D. 1882) the Antiochian standard has been faithfully retained and transmitted,—it will be impossible to assign any valid reason why the inspired Original itself, the Apostolic standard, should not have been as faithfully transmitted and retained from the Apostolic age to the Antiochian,1—i.e. throughout an interval of less than 250 years, or one-sixth of the period.
XXXVIII. Here, it will obviously occur to enquire,—But what has been Drs. Westcott and Hort's motive for inventing such an improbable hypothesis? and why is Dr. Hort so strenuous in maintaining it? ..... We reply by reminding the Reader of certain remarks which we made at the outset.3 The Traditional Text of the N. T. is a phenomenon which sorely exercises Critics of the new school. To depreciate it, is easy: to deny its critical authority, is easier still: to cast ridicule on the circumstances under which Erasmus produced his first (very faulty) edition of it (1516), is easiest of all. But to ignore the ‘Traditional Text’ is impossible. Equally impossible is it to overlook its practical identity with the Text of Chrysostom, who lived and taught at Antioch till A.D. 398, when he became Abp. of Constantinople. Now this is a very awkward circumstance, and must in some way be got over; for it transports us, at a bound, from the stifling atmosphere of Basle and Alcala,—from Erasmus and Stunica, Stephens and Beza and the Elzevirs,—to Antioch and Constantinople in the latter part of the 4th century. What is to be done?
XXXIX. Drs. Westcott and Hort assume that this 'Antiochian text’—found in the later cursives and the Fathers of the latter half of the 4th century—must be an artificial, an arbitrarily invented standard; a text fabricated between
1 i.e. say from A.D. 90 to A.D. 250-350.
2 See above, p. 269.
A.D. 250 and A.D. 350. And if they may but be so fortunate as to persuade the world to adopt their hypothesis, then all will be easy; for they will have reduced the supposed 'consent of Fathers' to the reproduction of one and the same single 'primary documentary witness:' 1—and 'it is hardly necessary to point out the total change in the bearing of the evidence by the introduction of the factor of Genealogy' (p. 43) at this particular juncture. Upset the hypothesis on the other hand, and all is reversed in a moment. Every attesting Father is perceived to be a dated MS. and an independent authority'; and the combined evidence of several of these becomes simply unmanageable. In like manner, "the approximate consent of the cursives" (see the foot-note), is perceived to be equivalent not to "A PRIMARY DOCUMENTARY WITNESS,"—not to "ONE ANTIOCHIAN original,"—but to be tantamount to the articulate speech of many witnesses of high character, coming to us from every quarter of primitive Christendom.
XL. But—(the further enquiry is sure to be made) — In favour of which document, or set of documents, have all these fantastic efforts been made to disparage the commonly received standards of excellence? The ordinary English Reader may require to be reminded that, prior to the 4th century, our Textual helps are few, fragmentary, and—to speak plainly—insufficient. As for sacred Codices of that date, we possess not one. Of our two primitive Versions,
1 ‘f,’ says Dr. Hort,' an editor were for any purpose to make it his aim to restore as completely as possible the New Testament of Antioch in aA.D. 350, he could not help taking the approximate consent of the cursives as equivalent to a primary documentary witness. And he would not be the less justified in so doing for being unable to say precisely by what historical agencies the ONE ANTIOCHIAN ORIGINAL—[note the fallacy!]—' was multipled into the cursive hosts of the later ages.'—Pp. 143-4.
‘the Syriac and the old Latin’ the second is grossly corrupt; owing (says Dr. Hort) 'to a perilous confusion between transcription and reproduction;' 'the preservation of a record and its supposed improvement' (p. 121). 'Further acquaintance with it only increases our distrust' (ibid.). In plainer English, 'the earliest readings which can be fixed chronologically' (p. 120) belong to a Version which is licentious and corrupt to an incredible extent. And though 'there is no reason to doubt that the Peschito [or ancient Syriac] is at least as old as the Latin Version' (p. 84), yet (according to Dr. Hort) it is 'impossible'—(he is nowhere so good as to explain to us wherein this supposed 'impossibility' consists),—to regard 'the present form of the Version as a true representation of the original Syriac text.' The date of it (according to him) may be as late as A.D. 350. Anyhow, we are assured (but only by Dr. Hort) that important 'evidence for the Greek text is hardly to be looked for from this source' (p. 85).—The Fathers of the 3rd century who have left behind them considerable remains in Greek are but two,-—Clemens Alex, and Origen: and there are considerations attending the citations of either, which greatly detract from their value.
XLI. The question therefore recurs with redoubled emphasis,—In favour of which document, or set of documents, does Dr. Hort disparage the more considerable portion of that early evidence,—so much of it, namely, as belongs to the 4th century,—on which the Church has been hitherto accustomed confidently to rely? He asserts that,—
“Almost all Greek Fathers after Eusebius have texts so deeply affected by mixture ‘that’ they 'cannot at most count for more than so many secondary Greek uncial MSS., inferior in most cases to the better sort of secondary uncial MSS. now existing.”—(p. 202.)
And thus, at a stroke, behold, “almost all Greek Fathers after Fusebius” — (who died A.D. 340)—are disposed of! Washed overboard! Put clean out of sight! Athanasius and Didymus—the 2 Basils and the 2 Gregories—the 2 Cyrils and the 2 Theodores — Epiphanius and Macarius and Ephraem—Chrysostom and Severianus and Proclus—Nilus and Ebnnus—Isidore of Pelusium and Theodoret: not to mention at least as many more who have left scanty, yet most precious, remains behind them:—all these are pronounced inferior in authority to as many 9th- or 10th-century copies! . . . We commend, in passing, the foregoing dictum of these accomplished Editors to the critical judgment of all candid and intelligent Readers. Not as dated manuscripts, therefore, at least equal in Antiquity to the oldest which we now possess:—not as the authentic utterances of famous Doctors and Fathers of the Church, (instead of being the work of unknown and irresponsible Scribes):—not as sure witnesses of what was accounted Scripture in a known region, by a famous personage, at a well-ascertained period, (instead of coming to us, as our codices universally do, without a history and without a character):—in no such light are we henceforth to regard Patristic citations of Scripture:—but only 'as so many secondary MSS., inferior to the letter sort of secondary uncials now existing.'
XLII. That the Testimony of the Fathers, in the lump, must perforce in some such way either be ignored or else flouted, if the Text of Drs. Westcott and Hort is to stand,— we were perfectly well aware. It is simply fatal to them: and they know it. But we were hardly prepared for such a demonstration as this. Let it all pass however. The question we propose is only the following,—If the Text 'used by great Antiochian theologians not long after the middle of the 4th century' (p. 146) is undeserving of our confidence:— if we are to believe that a systematic depravation of Scripture was universally going on till about the end of the 3rd century; and if at that time, an authoritative and deliberate recension of it—conducted on utterly erroneous principles - took place at Antioch, and resulted in the vicious ' traditional Constantinopolitan' (p. 143), or (as Dr. Hort prefers to call it) the ‘eclectic Syrian Text:’—What remains to us? Are we henceforth to rely on our own 'inner consciousness' for illumination? Or is it seriously expected that for the restoration of the inspired verity we shall be content to surrender ourselves blindfold to the ipse dixit of an unknown and irresponsible nineteenth-century guide? If neither of these courses is expected of us, will these Editors be so good as to give us the names of the documents on which, in their judgment, we may rely?
XLIIL We are not suffered to remain long in a state of suspense. The assurance awaits us (at p. 150), that the Vatican codex,
“B—is found to hold a unique position. Its text is throughout Pre-Syrian, perhaps purely Pre-Syrian….From distinctively Western readings it seems to be all but entirely free….We have not been able to recognize as Alexandrian any readings of B in any book of the New Testament.....So that….neither of the early streams of innovation has touched it to any appreciable extent.”—(p. 150.)
“The text of the Sinaitic codex (+)” also “seems to be entirely, or all but entirely, Pre-Syrian. A very large part of the text is in like manner free from Western or Alexandrian elements.”—(p. 151.)
“Every other known Greek manuscript has either a mixed or a Syrian text.”—(p. 151.)
Thus then, at last, at the end of exactly 150 weary pages, the secret comes out! The one point which the respected Editors are found to have been all along driving at:—the one aim of those many hazy disquisitions of theirs about ‘Intrinsic and Transcriptional Probability’—‘Genealogical evidence, simple and divergent’—and ‘the study of Groups:’ —the one reason of all their vague terminology,—and of their baseless theory of ‘Conflation’—and of their disparagement of the Fathers:—the one raison d'etre of their fiction of a 'Syrian' and a 'Pre-Syrian' and a 'Neutral' text:— the secret of it all comes out at last! A delightful, a truly Newtonian simplicity characterizes the final announcement. All is summed up in the curt formula—Codex B!
Behold then the altar at which Copies, Fathers, Versions, are all to be ruthlessly sacrificed:—the tribunal from which there shall be absolutely no appeal:—the Oracle which is to silence every doubt, resolve every riddle, smooth away every difficulty. All has been stated, where the name has been pronounced of—codex B. … To codex B all the Greek Fathers after Eusebius must give way. Even Patristic evidence of the ante-Nicene period 'requires critical sifting' (p. 202),—must be distrusted, may be denied (pp. 202-5), —if it shall be found to contradict Cod. B! ‘B very far exceeds all other documents in neutrality of Text.’—(p. 171.)
XLIV. ‘At a long interval after b, but hardly a less interval before all other MSS., stands +’ [Sinaiticus] (p. 171).—Such is the sum of the matter! .... A coarser,—a clumsier,—a more unscientific,—a more stupid expedient for settling the true Text of Scripture was surely never invented! ……”Textual Criticism made easy” might very well have been the title of the little volume now under review; of which at last it is discovered that the general Infallibility of Codex B is the fundamental principal…….
BURGON GOES ON PAGE AFTER PAGE TO FURTHER ANSWER AND TRASH THE TEXTUAL THEORY OF WESTCOTT AND HORT - Keith Hunt