From the book “THE REVISION REVISED”
by Dean John William BURGON
THE MOTIVE BEHIND WESTCOTT AND HORT
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.2 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 An-tioch 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 IVth 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 IVth 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 IVth 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 ‘If,’ 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 A.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 multiplied into the cursive hosts of the later ayes.'—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 IIIrd 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 IVth 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 Eusebius'— (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 Nonnus—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 IXth- or Xth-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 better 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 IVth 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 IIIrd 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.
One is reminded of an enigmatical epitaph on the floor of the Chapel of S. John's College, ‘Verbum non amplius—Fisher’! 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 +’ (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! But for the many foggy, or rather unreadable disquisitions with which the Introduction is encumbered, "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 principle.
Let us however hear these learned men out.
XLV. They begin by offering us a chapter on the 'General relations of B and + to other documents:' wherein we are assured that,—
“Two striking facts successively come out with especial clearness. Every group containing both + and B, is found …. to have an apparently more original Text than every opposed group containing neither; and every group containing B …. is found in a large preponderance of cases …. to have an apparently more original Text than every opposed group containing +.”— (p. 210.)
“Is found” I but pray,—By whom? And “apparently”! but pray,—To whom? and On what grounds of Evidence? For unless it be on certain grounds of Evidence, how can it be pretended that we have before us “two striking facts”?
Again, with what show of reason can it possibly be asserted that these "two striking facts” “come out with especial clearness”? So long as their very existence remains in nubibus,— has never been established, and is in fact emphatically denied? Expressions like the foregoing then only begin to be tolerable when it has been made plain that the Teacher has some solid foundation on which to build. Else, he occasions nothing but impatience and displeasure. Readers at first are simply annoyed at being trifled with: presently they grow restive: at last they become clamorous for demonstration, and will accept of nothing less. Let us go on however. We are still at p. 210:—
“We found + and B to stand alone in their almost complete immunity from distinctive Syriac readings .... and B to stand far above + in its apparent freedom from either Western or Alexandrian readings.”—(p. 210.)
But pray, gentlemen,— Where and when did 'we find' either of these two things? We have 'found' nothing of the sort hitherto. The Reviewer is disposed to reproduce the Duke of Wellington's courteous reply to the Prince Regent, when the latter claimed the arrangements which resulted in the victory of Waterloo:—“I have heard your Royal Highness say so” .... At the end of a few pages,
“Having found + B the constant element in groups of every size, distinguished by internal excellence of readings, we found no less excellence in the readings in which they concur without other attestations of Greek MSS., or even of Versions or Fathers.”—(p. 219.)
What! again? Why, we “have found” nothing as yet but Reiteration. Up to this point we have not been favoured with one particle of Evidence! ... In the meantime, the convictions of these accomplished Critics,—(but not, unfortunately, those of their Readers,)—are observed to strengthen as they proceed. On reaching p. 224, we are assured that,
“The independence [of B and +] can be carried back so far,”—(not a hint is given how,)—“that their concordant testimony may be treated as equivalent to that of a MS. older than + and B themselves by at least two centuries,—probably by a generation or two more.”
How that 'independence' was established, and how this ‘probability’ has been arrived at, we cannot even imagine. The point to be attended to however, is, that by the process indicated, some such early epoch as A.D. 100 has been reached. So that now we are not surprised to hear that,
“The respective ancestries of + and B must have diverged from a common parent extremely near the Apostolic autographs”—(p. 220. See top of p. 221.)
Or that,—“The close approach to the time of the autographs raises the presumption of purity to an unusual strength.”—(p. 224.)
And lo, before we turn the leaf, this 'presumption' is found to have ripened into certainty:—
“This general immunity from substantive error .... in the common original of + B, in conjunction with its very high antiquity, provides in a multitude of cases a safe criterion of genuineness, not to be distrusted except on very clear internal evidence. Accordingly …. it is our belief, (1) That Readings of + B should be accepted as the true Readings until strong internal evidence is found to the contrary; and (2), That no Readings of + B can be safely rejected absolutely.”—(p. 225.)
XLVI. And thus, by an unscrupulous use of the process of Reiteration, accompanied by a boundless exercise of the Imaginative faculty, we have reached the goal to which all that went before has been steadily tending: viz. the absolute supremacy of codices B and + above all other codices,—and, when they differ, then of codex B.
And yet, the 'immunity from substantive error' of a lost Codex of imaginary date and unknown history, cannot but be a pure imagination,—(a mistaken one, as we shall presently show,)—of these respected Critics: while their proposed practical inference from it,—(viz. to regard two remote and confessedly depraved Copies of that original, as ' a safe criterion of genuineness,')—this, at all events, is the reverse of logical. In the meantime, the presumed proximity of the Text of g and b to the Apostolic age is henceforth discoursed of as if it were no longer matter of conjecture:—
“The ancestries of both MSS. having started from a common source not much later than the Autographs,” &c.—(p. 247.)
"Near as the divergence of the respective ancestries of B and + must have been to the Autographs,” &c.—(p. 273.)
Until at last, we find it announced as a “moral certainty:”—
“It is morally certain that the ancestries of B and + diverged from a point near the Autographs, and never came into contact subsequently”—(Text, p. 556.)
After which, of course, we have no right to complain if we are assured that:—
“The fullest comparison does but increase the conviction that their pre-eminent relative purity is approximately absolute,—a true approximate reproduction of the Text of the Autographs.”— (p. 296.)
XLVIL But how does it happen—(we must needs repeat the enquiry, which however we make with unfeigned astonishment,)—How does it come to pass that a man of practised intellect, addressing persons as cultivated and perhaps as acute as himself, can handle a confessedly obscure problem like the present after this strangely incoherent, this foolish and wholly inconclusive fashion? One would have supposed that Dr. Hort's mathematical training would have made him an exact reasoner. But he writes as if he had no idea at all of the nature of demonstration, and of the process necessary in order to carry conviction home to a Reader's mind. Surely, (one tells oneself,) a minimum of 'pass' Logic would have effectually protected so accomplished a gentleman from making such a damaging exhibition of himself! For surely he must be aware that, as yet, he has produced not one particle of evidence that his opinion concerning B and + is well founded. And yet, how can he possibly overlook the circumstance that, unless he is able to demonstrate that those two codices, and especially the former of them, has ‘preserved not only a very ancient Text, but a very pure line of ancient Text’ also (p. 251), his entire work, (inasmuch as it reposes on that one assumption,) on being critically handled, crumbles to its base; or rather melts into thin air before the first puff of wind? He cannot, surely, require telling that those who look for Demonstration will refuse to put up with Rhetoric:—that, with no thoughtful person will Assertion pass for Argument:—nor mere Reiteration, however long persevered in, ever be mistaken for accumulated Proof.
"When I am taking a ride with Rouser,"—(quietly remarked Professor Saville to Bodley Coxe,)—"I observe that, if I ever demur to any of his views, Rouser's practice always is, to repeat the same thing over again in the same words,— only in a louder tone of voice" . . . The delicate rhetorical device thus indicated proves to be not peculiar to Professors of the University of Oxford; but to be familiarly recognized as an instrument of conviction by the learned men who dwell on the banks of the Cam. To be serious however.—Dr. Hort has evidently failed to see that nothing short of a careful induction of particular instances,—a system of laborious footnotes, or an 'Appendix' bristling with impregnable facts, —could sustain the portentous weight of his fundamental position, viz. that Codex B is so exceptionally pure a document as to deserve to be taken as a chief guide in determining the Truth of Scripture.
It is related of the illustrious architect, Sir Gilbert Scott, —when he had to rebuild the massive central tower of a southern Cathedral, and to rear up thereon a lofty spire of stone,—that he made preparations for the work which astonished the Dean and Chapter of the day. He caused the entire area to be excavated to what seemed a most unnecessary depth, and proceeded to lay a bed of concrete of fabulous solidity. The ‘wise master-builder’ was determined that his work should last for ever. Not so Drs. Westcott and Hort. They are either troubled with no similar anxieties, or else too clear-sighted to cherish any similar hope. They are evidently of opinion that a cloud or a quagmire will serve their turn every bit as well as granite or Portland-stone. Dr. Hort (as we have seen already, namely in p. 252,) considers that his individual 'strong preference' of one set of Readings above another, is sufficient to determine whether the Manuscript which contains those Readings is pure or the contrary. 'Formidable arrays of [hostile] Documentary evidence' he disregards and sets at defiance, when once his own 'fullest consideration of Internal Evidence' has 'pronounced certain Readings to be right' [p. 61].
The only indication we anywhere meet with of the actual ground of Dr. Hort's certainty, and reason of his preference, is contained in his claim that,—‘Every binary group [of MSS.] containing B is found to offer a large proportion of Readings, which, on the closest scrutiny, have the ring of genuineness: while it is difficult to find any Readings so attested which look suspicious after full consideration.’—(p. 227. Also vol. i. 557—where the dictum is repeated.)
XLVIII. And thus we have, at last, an honest confession of the ultimate principle which has determined the Text of the present edition of the N.T. 'The ring of genuineness.’ This it must be which was referred to when (instinctive processes of ‘Criticism’ were vaunted; and the candid avowal made that ‘the experience which is their foundation needs perpetual correction and recorrection.’1
We are ‘obliged’ (say these accomplished writers) ‘to come to the individual mind at last’2
And thus, behold, 'at last' we have reached the goal 1 . . . Individual idiosyncrasy,—not external Evidence:—Readings 'strongly preferred,'—not Readings strongly attested:—'personal discernment' (self! still self!) conscientiously exercising
1 Preface to the ‘limited and private issue’ of 1870, p. xviii.: reprinted
in the Introduction (1881), p. 66.
itself upon Codex B;—this is a true account of the Critical method pursued by these accomplished Scholars. They deliberately claim 'personal discernment' as 'the surest ground for confidence’1 Accordingly, they judge of Readings by their looks and by their sound. When, in their opinion, words ‘look suspicious’ words are to be rejected. If a word has ‘the ring of genuineness’—(i.e. if it seems to them to have it,)—they claim that the word shall pass unchallenged.
XLIX. But it must be obvious that such a method is wholly inadmissible. It practically dispenses with Critical aids altogether; substituting individual caprice for external guidance. It can lead to no tangible result: for Readings which 'look suspicious' to one expert, may easily not 'look' so to another. A man's ‘inner consciousness’ cannot possibly furnish trustworthy guidance in this subject matter. Justly does Bp. Ellicott ridicule 'the easy method of…..using a favourite Manuscript' combined with 'some supposed power of divining the Original Text;'2—unconscious apparently that he is thereby aiming a cruel blow at certain of his friends.
As for the proposed test of Truth,-—(the enquiry, namely, whether or no a reading has 'the ring of genuineness')—it is founded on a transparent mistake. The coarse operation alluded to may be described as a 'rough and ready' expedient practised by receivers of money in the way of self-defence, and only for their own protection, lest base metal should be palmed off upon them unawares. But Dr. Hort is proposing an analogous test for the exclusive satisfaction of him who utters the suspected article. We therefore disallow the proposal entirely: not, of course, because we suppose that so excellent and honourable a man as Dr. Hort
1 P. 65 (§ 84). In the Table of Contents (p. xi.), ‘Personal instincts’
are substituted for ‘Personal discernment’
2 The Revisers and the Greek Text,—p. 19.
would attempt to pass off as genuine what he suspects to be fabricated; but because we are fully convinced—(for reasons 'plenty as blackberries')—that through some natural defect, or constitutional inaptitude, he is not a competent judge. The man who finds ‘no marks of either Critical or Spiritual insight’ (p. 135) in the only Greek Text which was known to scholars till A.D. 1831,—(although he confesses that ‘the text of Chrysostom and other Syrian Fathers of the IVth century is substantially identical with it’1); and vaunts in preference ‘the bold vigour’ and ‘refined scholarship’ which is exclusively met with in certain depraved uncials of the same or later date:—the man who thinks it not unlikely that the incident of the piercing of our Savior’s side (Greek) was actually found in the genuine Text of S. Matt, xxvii, 49, as well as in S. John xix. 34:2—the man who is of opinion that the incident of the Woman taken in Adultery (filling 12 verses), ‘presents serious differences from the diction of S. John's Gospel,’— treats it as ‘an insertion in a comparatively late Western text’3 and declines to retain it even within brackets, on the ground that it ‘would fatally interrupt’ the course of the narrative if suffered to stand:—the man who can deliberately separate off from the end of S. Mark's Gospel, and print separately, S. Mark's last 12 verses, (on the plea that they 'manifestly cannot claim any apostolic authority; but are doubtless founded on some tradition of the Apostolic age;' 4)— yet who straightway proceeds to annex, as an alternative Conclusion (Greek), 'the wretched supplement derived from codex L:'5—the man (lastly) who, in defiance of 'solid reason and pure taste,' finds music in the 'utterly marred' 'rhythmical arrangement' of the Angels' Hymn on the night of the
1 Introduction,—p. xiii.
2 Notes, p. 22.
3 Notes, p. 88.
4 Notes,—p. 51.
5 Scrivener's Plain Introduction,—pp. 507-8.
4 Nativity:1—such an one is not entitled to a hearing when he talks about ‘the ring of genuineness’ He has already effectually put himself out of Court. He has convicted himself of a natural infirmity of judgment,—has given proof that he labours under a peculiar Critical inaptitude for this department of enquiry,—which renders his decrees nugatory, and his opinions worthless.
L. But apart from all this, the Reader's attention is invited to a little circumstance which Dr. Hort has unaccountably overlooked: but which, the instant it has been stated, is observed to cause his picturesque theory to melt away—like a snow-wreath in the sunshine.
On reflexion, it will be perceived that the most signal deformities of codices B + D L are instances of Omission. In the Gospels alone, B omits 2877 words.
How,—(we beg to enquire,)—How will you apply your proposed test to a Non-entity? How will you ascertain whether something which does not exist in the Text has 'the ring of genuineness' or not? There can be no 'ring of genuineness,' clearly, where there is nothing to ring with! Will any one pretend that the omission of the incident of the troubling of the pool has in it any 'ring of genuineness'?— or dare to assert that 'the ring of genuineness' is imparted to the history of our Saviour's Passion, by the omission, of His Agony in the Garden?—or that the narrative of His Crucifixion becomes more musical, when our Lord's Prayer for His murderers has been omitted?—or that (Greek) ('for they were afraid'), has 'the ring of genuineness' as the conclusion of the last chapter of the Gospel according to S.Mark?
But the strangest circumstance is behind. It is notorious
1 Scrivener's ‘Introduction,’ pp. 513-4.
that, on the contrary, Dr. Hort is frequently constrained to admit that the omitted words actually have ‘the ring of genuineness’ The words which he insists on thrusting out of the Text are often conspicuous for the very quality which (by the hypothesis) was the warrant for their exclusion. Of this, the Reader may convince himself by referring to the note at foot of the present page.1 In the meantime, the
1 In S. Matth. 1. 25,—the omission of ‘her first-born:’—in vi. 13, the omission of the Doxology;—in xii. 47, the omission of the whole verse;— in xvi. 2, 3, the omission of our Lord's memorable words concerning the signs of the weather:—in xvii. 21, the omission of the mysterious statement, 'But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting:'—in xviii. 11, the omission of the precious words ‘For the Son of man came to save that which was lost.’
In S. Mark xvi. 9-20, the omission of the ‘last Twelve Verses’—(‘the contents of which are not such as could have been invented by any scribe or editor of the Gospel,’—W. and H. p. 57). All admit that ( Greek) is an impossible ending.
In S. Luke vi. 1, the suppression of the unique (Greek); ('the very obscurity of the expression attesting strongly to its genuineness,'— Scrivener, p. 516, and so W. and H. p. 58):—ix. 54-56, the omitted rebuke to the ‘disciples James and John:’—in x. 41, 42, the omitted words concerning Martha and Mary;—in xxii. 43, 44, the omission of the Agony in the Garden,—(which nevertheless, 'it would be impossible to regard as a product of the inventiveness of scribes,'—W. and H. p. 67) :— in xxiii. 17, a memorable clause omitted:—in xxiii. 34, the omission of our Lord's prayer for His murderers,—(concerning which Westcott and Hort remark that 'few verses of the Gospels bear in themselves a surer witness to the truth of what they record than this'—p. 68):—in xxiii. 38, the statement that the Inscription on the Cross was ‘in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew:’—in xxiv. 12, the visit of S. Peter to the Sepulchre. Bishop Lightfoot remarks concerning S. Luke ix. 56: xxii. 43, 44: and xxiii. 34,—‘It seems impossible to believe that these incidents are other than authentic,’—(p. 28.)
In S. John iii. 13, the solemn clause 'which is in heaven:'—in v. 3, 4, the omitted incident of the troubling of the pool:—in vii. 53 to viii. 11, the narrative concerning the woman taken in adultery omitted,—concerning which Drs. W. and H. remark that 'the argument which has always told most in its favour in modern times is its own internal character. The story itself has justly seemed to vouch for its own substantial truth, and the words in which it is clothed to harmonize with those of other Gospel narratives’—(p. 87). Bishop Lightfoot remarks that ‘the narrative bears on its face the highest credentials of authentic history’—(p. 28).
matter discoursed of may be conveniently illustrated by a short apologue:—
Somewhere in the fens of Ely diocese, stood a crazy old church (dedicated to S. Bee, of course,) the bells of which— according to a learned Cambridge Doctor—were the most musical in the world. "I have listened to those bells," (he was accustomed to say,) "for 30 years. All other bells are cracked, harsh, out of tune. Commend me, for music, to the bells of S. Bee's! They alone have the ring of genuineness" .... Accordingly, he published a treatise on Campanology, founding his theory on the musical properties of the bells of S. Bee's.—At this juncture, provokingly enough, some one directed attention to the singular fact that S. Bee's is one of the few churches in that district without bells: a discovery which, it is needless to add, pressed inconveniently on the learned Doctor's theory.
LI. But enough of this. We really have at last, (be it observed,) reached the end of our enquiry. Nothing comes after Dr. Hort's extravagant and unsupported estimate of Codices B and +. On the contrary. Those two documents are caused to cast their sombre shadows a long way ahead, and to darken all our future. Dr. Hort takes leave of the subject with the announcement that, whatever uncertainty may attach to the evidence for particular readings,
“The general course of future Criticism must he shaped by the happy circumstance that the fourth century has bequeathed to us two MSS. [b and +], of which even the less incorrupt [+] must have been of exceptional purity among its contemporaries: and which rise into greater pre-eminence of character the better the early history of the Text becomes known.”—(p. 287.)
In other words, our guide assures us that in a dutiful submission to codices B and +,—(which, he naively remarks, "happen likewise to he the oldest extant Greek MSS of the New Testament” [p. 212],)—lies all our hope of future progress. (Just as if we should ever have heard of these two codices, had their contents come down to us written in the ordinary cursive character,—in a dated MS (suppose) of the XVth century!) . . . Moreover, Dr. Hort “must not hesitate to express” his own robust conviction,
“That no trustworthy improvement can be effected, except in accordance with the leading Principles of method which we have endeavoured to explain.”—(p. 285.)
LII. And this is the end of the matter. Behold our fate therefore:—(1) Codices b and +, with—(2) Drs. Westcott and Hort's Introduction and Notes on Select Headings in vindication of their contents! It is proposed to shut us up within those limits! ... An uneasy suspicion however secretly suggests itself that perhaps, as the years roll out, something may come to light which will effectually dispel every dream of the new School, and reduce even prejudice itself to silence. So Dr. Hort hastens to frown it down:—
“It would be an illusion to anticipate important changes of Text [i.e. of the Text advocated by Drs. Westcott and Hort] from any acquisition of new Evidence”—(p. 285.)
And yet, why the anticipation of important help from the acquisition of fresh documentary Evidence “would be an illusion”—does not appear. That the recovery of certain of the exegetical works of Origen,—better still, of Tatian's Diatessaron,—best of all, of a couple of MSS. of the date of Codices b and +; but not, (like those two corrupt documents) derived from one and the same depraved archetype;— That any such windfall, (and it will come, some of these days,) would infallibly disturb Drs. Westcott and Hort's equanimity, as well as scatter to the winds not a few of their most confident conclusions,—we are well aware. So indeed are they. Hence, what those Critics earnestly deprecate, we as earnestly desire. We are therefore by no means inclined to admit, that
“Greater possibilities of improvement lie in a more exact study of the relations between the documents that we already possess”—(Ibid.)
knowing well that 'the documents' referred to are chiefly, (if not solely,) Codices B and +: knowing also, that it is further meant, that in estimating other evidence, of whatever kind, the only thing to be enquired after is whether or no the attesting document is generally in agreement with codex B.
For, according to these writers,—tide what tide,—codex B is to be the standard: itself not absolutely requiring confirmation from any extraneous quarter. Dr. Hort asserts, (but it is, as usual, mere assertion,) that,
“Even when b stands quite alone, its readings must never be lightly rejected.”—(p. 557.)
And yet,— Why a reading found only in codex B should experience greater indulgence than another reading found only in codex A, we entirely fail to see.
On the other hand, “an unique criterion is supplied by the concord of the independent attestation of B and +.”—(Notes p. 46.)
But pray, how does that appear? Since B and + are derived from one and the same original—Why should not 'the concord' spoken of be rather ‘an unique criterion’ of the utter depravity of the archetype?
LIII To conclude. We have already listened to Dr. Hort long enough. And now, since confessedly, a chain is no stronger than it is at its weakest link; nor an edifice more secure than the basis whereon it stands ;—-we must be allowed to point out that we have been dealing throughout with a dream, pure and simple; from which it is high time that we should wake up, now that we have been plainly shown on what an unsubstantial foundation these Editors have been all along building. A child's house, several stories high, constructed out of playing-cards,—is no unapt image of the frail erection before us. We began by carefully lifting off the topmost story; and then, the next: but we might as well have saved ourselves the trouble. The basement-story has to be removed bodily, which must bring the whole edifice down with a rush. In reply to the fantastic tissue of unproved assertions which go before, we assert as follows:—
(1) The impurity of the Texts exhibited by Codices B and + is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact.1 These are two of the least trustworthy documents in existence. So far from allowing Dr. Hort's position that—'A Text formed' by “taking Codex B as the sole authority” “would be incomparably nearer the Truth than a Text similarly taken from any other Greek or other single document” (p. 251),—we venture to assert that it would be, on the contrary, by far the foulest Text that had ever seen the light: worse, that is to say, even than the Text of Drs. Westcott and Hort. And that is saying a great deal. In the brave and faithful words of Prebendary Scrivener (Introduction, p. 453),-deserve to become famous,—
“It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it was composed: that Irenaeus [A.D. 150], and the African Fathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used far inferior manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus.” And Codices B and + are, demonstrably, nothing else but specimens of the depraved class thus characterized.
1 To some extent, even the unlearned Reader may easily convince himself of this, by examining the rejected ‘alternative’ Readings in the margin of the ‘Revised Version.’ The ‘Many’ and the ‘Some ancient authorities,’ there spoken of, almost invariably include—sometimes denote—codd. B +, one or both of them. These constitute the merest fraction of the entire amount of corrupt readings exhibited by B +; but they will give English readers some notion of the problem just now under consideration.
Next—(2), We assert that, so manifest are the disfigurements jointly and exclusively exhibited by codices B and +,1
that instead of accepting these codices as two 'independent' Witnesses to the inspired Original, we are constrained to regard them as little more than a single reproduction of one and the same scandalously corrupt and (comparatively) late Copy. By consequence, we consider their joint and exclusive attestation of any particular reading, ‘an unique criterion’ of its worthlessness; a sufficient reason—not for adopting, but—for unceremoniously rejecting it.
Then—(3), As for the origin of these two curiosities, it can perforce only be divined from their contents. That they exhibit fabricated Texts is demonstrable. No amount of honest copying,—persevered in for any number of centuries, —could by possibility have resulted in two such documents. Separated from one another in actual date by 50, perhaps by 100 years,1 they must needs have branched off from a common corrupt ancestor, and straightway become exposed continuously to fresh depraving influences. The result is, that codex k+ (which evidently has gone through more adventures and fallen into worse company than his rival,) has been corrupted to a far graver extent than codex B, and is
1 The Reviewer speaks from actual inspection of both documents. They are essentially dissimilar. The learned Ceriani assured the Reviewer (in 1872) that whereas the Vatican Codex must certainly have been written in Italy,—the birthplace of the Sinaitic was [not Egypt, but] either Palestine or Syria. Thus, considerations of time and place effectually dispose of Tischendorf’s preposterous notion that the Scribe of Codex B wrote six leaves of +: an imagination which solely resulted from the anxiety of the Critic to secure for his own cod. + the same antiquity which is claimed for the vaunted cod. B.
This opinion of Dr. Tischendorf’s rests on the same fanciful basis as his notion that the last verse of S. John's Gospel in + was not written by the same hand which wrote the rest of the Gospel. There is no manner of difference: though of course it is possible that the scribe took a new pen, preliminary to writing that last verse, and executing the curious and delicate ornament which follows.…
even more untrustworthy. Thus, whereas (in the Gospels alone) B has 589 Readings quite peculiar to itself, affecting 858 words,— + has 1460 such Readings, affecting 2640 words.
One solid fact like the preceding, (let it be pointed out in passing,) is more helpful by far to one who would form a correct estimate of the value of a Codex, than any number of such 'reckless and unverified assertions,' not to say peremptory and baseless decrees, as abound in the highly imaginative pages of Drs. Westcott and Hort.
(4) Lastly,—We suspect that these two Manuscripts are indebted for their preservation, solely to their ascertained evil character; which has occasioned that the one eventually found its way, four centuries ago, to a forgotten shelf in the Vatican library: while the other, after exercising the ingenuity of several generations of critical Correctors, eventually (viz. in A.D. 18441) got deposited in the waste-paper basket of the Convent at the foot of Mount Sinai. Had B and + been copies of average purity, they must long since have shared the inevitable fate of books which are freely used and highly prized; namely, they would have fallen into decadence and disappeared from sight. But in the meantime, behold, their very Antiquity has come to be reckoned to their advantage; and (strange to relate) is even considered to constitute a sufficient reason why they should enjoy not merely extraordinary consideration, but the actual surrender of the critical judgment. Since 1831, Editors have vied with one another in the fulsomeness of the homage they have paid to these 'two false Witnesses,'—for such B and + are, as the concurrent testimony of Copies, Fathers and Versions abundantly proves. Even superstitious reverence has been claimed
1 Tischendorf’s narrative of the discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript ( “When were our Gospels written”), [1866,] p. 23.
for these two codices: and Drs. Westcott and Hort are so far in advance of their predecessors in the servility of their blind adulation, that they must be allowed to have easily won the race.
LIV. With this,—so far as the Greek Text under review is concerned,—we might, were we so minded, reasonably make an end. We undertook to show that Drs. Westcott and Hort, in the volumes before us, have built up an utterly worthless Textual fabric; and we consider that we have already sufficiently shown it. The Theory,—the Hypothesis rather, on which their Text is founded, we have demonstrated to be simply absurd. "Remove that hypothesis, and a heap of unsightly ruins is all that is left behind,—except indeed astonishment (not unmingled with concern) at the simplicity of its accomplished Authors.
Here then, we might leave off. But we are unwilling so to leave the matter. Large consideration is due to ordinary English Readers; who must perforce look on with utter perplexity—not to say distress—at the strange spectacle presented by that Text (which is in the main the Text of the Revised English Version) on the one hand,—and this Review of it, on the other:—
(1) "And pray, which of you am I to believe?"—will inevitably be, in homely English, the exclamation with which not a few will lay down the present number of the 'Quarterly: " I pretend to no learning. I am not prepared to argue the question with you. But surely, the oldest Manuscript must be the purest! It even stands to reason: does it not?—Then further, I admit that you seem to have the best of the argument so far; yet, since the three most famous Editors of modern times are against you, — Lachmann, Trägers, Tischendorf, —excuse me if I suspect that you must be in the wrong, after all.”
THE FACT IS WESTCOTT AND HORT HAD AN AGENDA; TO DEMOLISH AND CAST AWAY THE GREEK OF THE TEXTUS RECEIPTS - THE RECEIVED TEXT.
AS I’VE SAID BEFORE: DID WE NOT HAVE THE CORRECT GREEK NEW TESTAMENT UNTIL WESTCOTT AND HORT CAME ON THE SCENE, TO GIVE IT TO US IN 1881???