BY an analysis of the texts of different manuscripts, we may be enabled to distribute them into different classes according to the coincidences of their peculiar readings. But we are thus afforded no means of determining which of those various readings existed in the sacred text, as dictated by the inspired writers. The difficulty which originates from hence naturally suggested the expediency of an appeal to the writings of the early divines, and to the versions of the primitive ages, in order to ascertain upon their authority, the probable state of the text at an early period. For this purpose a choice has been made of Origen, and an affinity traced between his quotations and the readings of a peculiar class of manuscripts; which readings, as confirmed by the concurrence of the eastern and western versions, were supposed to possess sufficient evidence in this united testimony, of their having formed a part of the original text of Scripture.
The objections to this method of investigating the genuine text of Scripture, have been stated at large in the last section. It was then my object to trace the coincidences on which this mode of classification is founded to a comparatively recent source; and to refer them to the first edition of the sacred text revised by Eusebius and published under the auspices of the Emperor Constantine.
The peculiar objections lying against an appeal to the testimony of Origen were then generally specified. Nor can an appeal be admitted to that of any of the Christian fathers, unless on particular occasions, where they deliver an explicit testimony and expressly refer to the text of Scripture. Their collective testimony. though highly calculated to establish the doctrinal integrity of the sacred text, is wholly inadequate to determine its literal purity. This is an assumption from which no one will find it secure to dissent who is acquainted with their general mode of quotation. But if any person is still skeptical on this point, let him review the state of the text as preserved in their quotations as it has been extracted from their works by Dr. Mills and is inserted in his elaborate Prolegomena. And if he yet fails of conviction let him examine the peculiar readings of Origen and Chrysostom, whom of all the ancients are most entitled to attention, as their testimony has been collected by M. Matthaei in the notes of his Greek Testament. The fact is, they were so constantly exercised in the Scriptures, which they had nearly committed to memory, that they quote not by reference, but from recollection. However scrupulously, of course, they adhere to the sense of the text, they frequently desert its letter. As they constantly quote by accommodation and in explanation, as they frequently complete their expositions by connecting different parts of Scripture which do not succeed in the order of the context; they necessarily deviate from its exact phraseology. These and other justifiable liberties which they have taken with the sacred text, as having been occupied in explaining its sense, not in preserving its readings, consequently render their testimony, unless in very peculiar passages, of little further use, than, as I have already stated, to establish its doctrinal integrity.
Deprived of the testimony of the primitive divines, our last appeal lies to the early translations. But few of these are of sufficient authority to entitle them to any attention in deciding the matter at issue. With the exception of the old Italic version, they are destitute of the external evidence which arises from the testimony of those early divines who might have appealed to them in their theological writings. Nor are the probabilities of the case much in favor of their antiquity. The Macedonian conquests had rendered the original language of the New Testament so general throughout the east, that the absolute necessity of a Syriac and Coptic version was not immediately experienced in the countries where those languages were spoken. And if we except those versions, there are none which can support any pretensions to a remote antiquity. The Ethiopic possesses the fairest claims, but if we must admit it to have been more than corrected from the Greek, it must have been made at a comparatively recent period, as appears from the time at which Christianity was established in Ethiopia. With respect to the Syriac and Coptic, which have those strong presumptions against their antiquity, that have been already suggested; the antiquity of the latter is confessedly worse than suspicious, as it is accommodated with the sections and canons of Eusebius. The pretensions of the Syriac are scarcely less equivocal. As it is composed in different styles, and was thus possibly made at different periods, the probabilities are that the more ancient part of the version was retouched when the translation was completed. The bare probability of this circumstance, corroborated by the lack of positive evidence in favor of the antiquity of this version, destroys its authority as a testimony to which we may appeal in determining the genuine text of Scripture.
The little satisfaction which is to be derived on this subject from the Syriac and Coptic versions, has entitled the Sahidic to a proportionable degree of respect. In support of the remote antiquity of this version, which is written in that peculiar dialect of the Coptic which is spoken in Upper Egypt, a work has been cited, in which it is principally preserved; and which, as supposed to be written by the heretic Valentinus, who flourished in the second century, necessarily supports its pretensions to at least an equal antiquity .
To the species of evidence on which this work is thus recommended to us as ancient, I have much to object. The foundation on which the conclusion in favor of its antiquity is built, is in the first place weakened if not destroyed, by the doubtfulness of the fact that any work of the kind has been really ascribed by Tertullian to Valentinus. And this objection is considerably strengthened by the further consideration that many works under similar titles have been ascribed to his disciples. The circumstance of this work being written in Sahidic, which was the vulgar language of the Thebais, seems to conclude not a little against the origin which it is ascribed, in being referred to Valentinus. This heretic, who was a person of no ordinary qualifications, could not be ignorant of Greek, which was in his age the learned language of Egypt, as he adopted most of his peculiar tenets from the mythology of Hesiod and the philosophy of Plato. It is in the last degree improbable that Tertullian could have understood him had he written in any other language; and wholly inconceivable that he should omit all mention of so extraordinary a circumstance as his. having read Valentinus in his vernacular tongue. Admitting all that can be claimed for this work, that it was really composed by the early heretic to whom it is ascribed, it is thus only probable that it is but a translation from the Greek and of course, for any thing we can decide, one of a very recent period. In this form it is as probable as the contrary, that it incorporates in its text a version of the New Testament which has been made in the fourth century instead of the second. The fact, however, is that the internal evidence of the work before us seems very sufficient to refute the notion of its having been written by the heretic Valentinus, if we are to believe the testimony of Tertullian, on whose authority it is assigned to him. The passages of scripture introduced into this work are often misquoted in order to favor the Gnostic tenets, but we are assured that those contained in the works of Valentinus were faithfully cited, though perversely interpreted to support his heretical doctrines. We must therefore conclude, not merely from the external evidence, which is at best equivocal, but from the internal, which seems to establish all that I labor to prove, that the work imputed to Valentinus has been ascribed to him on inconclusive grounds.
The Sahidic version quoted in the book of Wisdom, may consequently, for any thing which this argument concludes, be as well ascribed to the fourth century as to the second. And many weighty reasons may be, I conceive, urged to prove that the former was the period which produced this translation; several learned and pious persons having been at that time exiled in the Thebais, who could have found no better mode of employing their leisure than in procuring the Scriptures to be translated for the purpose of enabling them to diffuse Christianity more generally among the natives, with whose vulgar tongue they were unacquainted. And this supposition is not a little strengthened by the consideration that they were apparently the persons who brought into Europe the Cambridge, and other manuscripts of the same description, which resemble the oldest manuscripts of the Sahidic version, not merely in their form, as attended with a translation, but in their peculiar readings and the character in which they are written. The general prevalence of the Greek language, I again repeat, renders it highly improbable that this version should be ascribed to a much higher period. And the version itself, as abounding with Greek terms, contains a demonstrative proof of the fact by proving the general prevalence of that language in the Thebais. It was the former circumstance which seemingly determined the inspired writers in the choice which they made of that language as the medium through which the sacred canon was to be published. To this circumstance we are to attribute the republication of the Jewish Scriptures in Greek under the Ptolemies; and we consequently find, in the apostolical age, that the Greek translation had nearly superseded the oriental original.
The matter under discussion is thus reduced within a narrow compass. Deprived of the assistance of the primitive divines, and of the oriental versions, in ascertaining the original text of Scripture, our last dependence is rested on the old Italic translation. Here, however, it may be as securely as naturally placed. The Scripture was not less committed to the keeping of the Latin than of the Greek church, as the witnesses of its authenticity, and the guardians of its purity; and the knowledge of the languages spoken by those churches, was nearly commensurate with the Roman and Macedonian conquests. The former church possessed a translation, which, as generally quoted by the Latin fathers previously to the council of Nice, was consequently, made previously to any alterations which the original might have undergone under Constantine. This translation has been celebrated for its literal fidelity, and we have this security of its having long continued unaltered, that the Latins were not sufficiently instructed in the language of the original, to undertake the correction of the translation. So very rare was the humble qualification of reading Greek, that we have every reason to believe, it was possessed by few of the Latins, Tertullian excepted, until the age of Constantine; when the councils convened against the Arians, opened that intercourse between the eastern and western churches, which familiarized the latter with the original language of the sacred canon. After that period, Hilary, Lucifer, and Eusebius of Verceli arose, who are represented as possessed of learning sufficient to revise the old Italic translation.. St. Jerome was of a later period, who undertook that thorough revision of the text which has produced the present Vulgate: yet even in the same age, St. Augustine appears to have been but moderately versed in the Greek language.
In proceeding to estimate the testimony which the Latin translation bears to the state of the Greek text, it is necessary to premise, that this translation exhibits three varieties-As corrected by St. Jerome at the desire of Pope Damasus, and presented in the Vulgate; as corrected by Eusebius of Verceli, at the desire of Pope Julius, and preserved in the codex Vercellensis; and as existing previously to the corrections of both, and preserved as I conceive, in the Codex Brixianus. The first of these three editions of the Italic translation is too well known to need any description; both the last are contained in beautiful manuscripts, preserved at Verceli, and at Brescia, in Italy. The curious and expensive manner in which at least the latter of these manuscripts is executed, as written on purple vellum in silver characters, would of itself contain no inconclusive proof of its great antiquity; such having been the form in which the most esteemed works were executed in the times of Eusebius, Chrysostom, and Jerome. The former is ascribed, by immemorial tradition, to Eusebius Vercellensis, the friend of Pope Julius and St. Athanasius, and, as supposed to have been written with his own hand, is deposited among the relics, which are preserved with a degree of superstitious reverence, in the author’s church at Verceli in Piedmont. By these three editions of the translation, we might naturally expect to acquire some insight into the varieties of the original. And this expectation is fully justified on experiment. The latter, not less than the former, is capable of being distributed into three kinds; each of which possesses an extraordinary coincidence with one of a correspondent kind, in the translation. In a word, the Greek manuscripts are capable of being divided into three principal classes, one of which agrees with the Italic translation contained in the Brescia manuscript; another with that contained in the Verceli manuscript; and a third with that contained in the Vulgate.
In ascertaining the particular Greek manuscripts which, as possessing this coincidence with the Latin, may be taken as the exemplars of each class, we have few difficulties to encounter. The affinity existing between the Vatican manuscript and the Vulgate is so striking, as to have induced Dr. Bentley, and M. Wetstein to class them together. And I proceed to offer some proof, that the affinity of the Harleian and Moscow manuscript, with the Brescia manuscript; and that of the Codex Cantabrigiensis with the Verceli manuscript, is not less striking and extraordinary. So that the Harleian and Moscow manuscript, the Cambridge manuscript, and the Vatican manuscript, (as respectively coinciding with the Brescia manuscript, the Verceli manuscript, and the Vulgate) may be taken as exemplars of the three principal classes into which the Greek manuscripts may be distributed. The subjoined specimen, taken from the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, will furnish a tolerably just idea of the nature and closeness of this coincidence. I shall prefix the readings of the Received Text, and authorized English version, in order to evince their coincidence with that text, to which the preference appears to be due, on account of its conformity to the Italic translation contained in the Brescia manuscript.
(There follows three pages of comparative readings in Greek and in Latin. These show the Greek of the Cantabrigiensis, the Vatican, and the Moscow manuscripts consistently corresponding with Latin of the Verceli, the Vulgate and the Brescia manuscripts, and all of these compared with the standard of the Received Text and the Authorized Translation.)
This short specimen will sufficiently evince the affinity which the Greek and Latin manuscripts bear to each other, throughout the different classes, into which they may be divided. It will also illustrate the dissimilarity which those classes exhibit among themselves, in either language, regarded separately. In order to evince the affinity which in other respects they possess among themselves, it will be necessary to view a connected portion of the sacred text, in the original and the translation. For this purpose I shall subjoin the opening of the same chapter from whence the fore cited various readings have been extracted, including that part of the Sermon on the Mount which contains the beatitudes.
(Then follows three pages showing side by side Mathew 5:1-12 in both the Greek and the corresponding Latin translation in all three classifications. Class I being the Codex Cantabrigiensis and the Codex Verceli; Class II being Codex Vatican and the Vulgate; and Class III being Codex Moscow and Codex Brescia.)
A few general observations will suffice on the subject of those different classes of manuscripts in the Greek and Latin, as preliminary to further deductions. That the manuscripts in both languages possess the same text, though evidently of different classes, must be evident on the most casual inspection; they respectively possess that identity in the choice of terms and arrangement of the language, which is irreconcilable with the notion of their having descended from different archetypes. And though these classes, in either language; vary among themselves, yet, as the translation follows the varieties of the original, the Greek and Latin consequently afford each other mutual confirmation. The different classes of text in the Greek and Latin translation, as thus coinciding, may be regarded as the conspiring testimony, of those Churches which were appointed the witnesses and keepers of Holy Writ, to the existence of three species of text in the original and the translation.
On this conclusion we may however found another deduction relative to the antiquity of this testimony. As the existence of a translation necessarily implies the priority of the original from which it was formed; this testimony may be directly referred to the close of the fourth century. The Vulgate must be clearly referred to that period, as it was then formed by St. Jerome, in its bare existence of course the correspondent antiquity of the Greek text with which it agrees, is directly established. This version is, however, obviously less ancient than that of the Verceli or Brescia manuscript; as they are of the old Italic translation, while it properly constitutes the new. In the existence of the ancient version, the antiquity of the original texts with which it corresponds is consequently established. The three classes of text which correspond with the Vulgate and Old Italic Version, trust be consequently referred to a period not less remote than the close of the fourth century.
In attaining the testimony of the Greek and Latin Churches, at a period thus ancient, we have acquired some solid ground to proceed upon. But this testimony is of still greater importance, as it affords a foundation on which we may rest the testimony of St. Jerome, who flourished at that period. To his authority the highest respect is due, not merely on account of his having then lived, and formed one of the versions of the Latin church, but his great reputation in biblical criticism. His testimony, while it confirms the foregoing deductions, made from the internal evidence of the Greek and Latin manuscripts, affords a clue which will guide us through this obscure and intricate subject. He bears witness to the existence of three editions of the sacred text, in his own age, which he refers to Egypt, Palestine, and Constantinople. This testimony is the rather deserving of attention, as it confirms, in an extraordinary manner, the previous assumption relative to the existence of three classes of text: and, as on the same broad distinction of the country where they are found, the Greek manuscripts have been distinguished, by modern critics into three different classes, two of which are referred to Egypt and Constantinople. The result of the investigation to which this view of the subject leads, will, I trust, end in deductions not less important than certain. It will, I am fond enough to hope, prove beyond all reasonable ground of objection, that the three classes of text, which are discoverable in the Greek manuscripts, are nearly identical with the three editions, which existed in the age of St. Jerome: with which they are identified by their coincidence with the Latin translation, which existed in the age of that Christian father.
Of Class I.
That the Cambridge manuscript, which is the exemplar of the First Class, contains the text which St. Jerome refers to Egypt, and ascribes to Hesychius, seems to be sufficiently established by the following considerations 1. It is next to certain, that this manuscript was originally imported from Egypt into the west of Europe. It not only conforms in the style of its characters to the form of the Egyptian letters, but in its orthography to the Egyptian mode of pronunciation. It also possesses the lessons of the Egyptian church noted in its margin. In proof of which those passages may be specified, which occur in St. John, relative to our Lord’s interview with the Samaritan woman, and his walking on the sea; which were appointed to be read in the Egyptian church at the period when the Nile was retiring from its channel. We consequently find both places distinguished by that mark, which declares them to have been lessons read at that period. And agreeably to this representation, we find this manuscript referred to Egypt, by the generality of critics who have undertaken its description. As it was thus authoritatively read in the church, it evidently furnishes a specimen of the text which from a remote period prevailed in Egypt.
2. The same conclusion is confirmed, in an extraordinary degree by the coincidence of this manuscript with the vulgar translation of the Egyptians. Of the different species of text which modern critics discover in the Greek manuscripts, that of the Cambridge manuscript is observed to coincide, to a degree surpassing all expectation, not only with the common Coptic translation, but particularly the Sahidic version. As Greek was manifestly the current language of Egypt, and manuscripts in that language were as obviously prevalent in Egypt; we must conceive that the vulgar translations of this country were accommodated to the generality of those manuscripts with which the natives were acquainted. The conformity of the Codex Cantabrigiensis to those versions consequently proves, that .this manuscript contains the text, which in St. Jerome’s age, when the Sahidic version was apparently formed, was generally prevalent in Egypt.
3. In the extraordinary coincidence of the Cambridge manuscript with the old Italic version preserved in the manuscript of Verceli, we have a further proof, which establishes the same conclusion. This version was corrected by St. Eusebius of Verceli, who was exiled in the Thebais, where the Sahidic dialect is spoken, during the period that the Christian church was under the dominion of the Arians. The active life of St. Eusebius will scarcely admit of our conceiving, that he performed this task, at any other period, than during the time of his exile. And the attachment of those heretics whom he unremittingly opposed, to the edition of Eusebius, most probably induced him to yield to a natural bias in favor of the church which admitted him into its communion, and thus led him to follow the Received Text of Egypt, as revised by Hesychius. The affinity between the Verceli and Cambridge manuscripts, thus furnishes an additional proof, that the latter is of Hesychius’s edition, which, from St. Jerome’s account, must in St. Eusebius’s age have continued in Egypt; as it remained to the age of St. Jerome. It is indeed inconceivable, that St. Eusebius, in forming his translation, would have followed any text, which was of an equivocal character, or in less repute than that of Hesychius: his version consequently adds another and convincing testimony, to prove, that the Cambridge manuscript contains the text which in his age was current in Egypt.
4. We possess a collation of the manuscripts of Egypt, made in the year 616, which establishes the same conclusion, almost beyond controversion, At that period Thomas of Heraclea, who revised the Syriac version, published under the auspices of Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabug, collated that translation with some Greek manuscripts, which he found in a monastery in Egypt, and has noted their various readings in the margin of his edition. So extraordinary is the coincidence of these readings, with the peculiar readings of the Cambridge manuscript, that some critics have been induced to believe it was the identical copy used in the collation. This notion is however refuted, by the internal evidence of the manuscript compared with the readings in question. From the conformity of those readings to the Cambridge manuscript, not merely in texts which are common to it with other manuscripts, but in texts peculiar to itself, we must infer its conformity to the text, which even to a late period was current in Egypt.
Now as it is absurd to conceive that the peculiar readings alluded to in the last three instances can have proceeded from the one manuscript named in the first; or that they have been corrupted from each other: as St. Jerome has ascribed a peculiar text to Hesychius, which is no where to be found, unless it can be identified in some one of the aforementioned sources: and as in speaking of this text, he delivers himself in terms, which accurately agree with the text of the Cambridge manuscript: we must from these premises infer, that the text of this manuscript is virtually the same with that which St. Jerome refers to Egypt and ascribes to Hesychius.
Of Class II.
That the Vatican manuscript, which forms the exemplar of the Second Class, contains the text which St. Jerome refers to Palestine and ascribes to Eusebius seems to be clearly established by the following circumstances
1. This manuscript possesses a striking coincidence in its peculiar readings with another manuscript, which is preserved in the Vatican library, where it is marked Urbin 2, and which we are enabled by the internal evidence of its margin to refer directly to Palestine and to identify with the edition of Eusebius. At the end of the Gospels it contains a notice specifying that it had been transcribed and collated with ancient copies in Jerusalem, which were deposited in the holy mountain. As the text is thus directly allied to the text of Palestine, it is identified with the edition of Eusebius in having his Canons prefixed to it and his sections and references accurately noted in its margin. The affinity of the celebrated Vatican manuscript, thus traced through this manuscript to the oldest copies of Jerusalem, furnishes of course a sufficient warrant for our referring its text to the edition of Eusebius, which was published in Palestine.
2. This deduction receives a direct confirmation from the vulgar translations which were current in the same country from an early period. The striking affinity of the Urbino-Vatican manuscript to the three translations extant in the Syriac is expressly asserted by Prof. Birch, by whom that manuscript was twice carefully collated. That existing between the celebrated Vatican manuscript and the Jerusalem-Syriac is even more striking; and it is observed to extend to the Philoxenian version likewise, and by the intervention of the Vulgate may be ultimately traced to the old Syriac or Peshito. On its affinity to the Philoxenian and Jerusalem versions, I rather insist, as the former is divided into sections and has the Eusebian canons and sections carefully inserted in some of the oldest copies; and as the latter was apparently made in the fourth century when the edition of Eusebius was published in Palestine. As it is more than merely probable that the vulgar translation was formed from the current edition of the country; the affinity which the Vatican manuscript possesses to that translation contains a very convincing proof that it possesses the text of Eusebius and of Palestine.
3. The striking coincidence of the Greek of the Vatican manuscript with the Latin of the Vulgate leads to the establishment of the same conclusion. This version received the corrections of St. Jerome during his abode in Palestine; it is thus only probable that the Greek copies after which he modeled it were those which, from being current in Palestine, were used in the monastery into which he had retired: but these he assures us were of the edition of Eusebius. For this edition he had imbibed an early partiality, through Gregory of Nazianzum, who first put the Scriptures into his hands, who had been educated at Caesarea in Palestine with Euzoius, who had been at considerable pains with Acacius to restore the decayed library of Pamphilus and Eusebius in that city. With this library St. Jerome was certainly acquainted, having found the Gospel of the Hebrews in it, which he afterwards turned into Latin. He has besides avowed his predilection for Eusebius’s edition in revising that part of the Scripture Canon which contains the Old Testament; having expressly followed Origen’s revisal of the Septuagint which, as he informs us, was incorporated in the edition published by Eusebius. And he has clearly evinced his acquaintance with the same edition in revising that part of the Canon which contains the New Testament by adopting Eusebius’s sections in dividing the text of the Vulgate, and prefixing his canons to that version together with the epistle addressed to Carpianus. These considerations added to the known respect which St. Jerome possessed for Eusebius’s critical talents fully warrant our adding the testimony of the Vulgate to that of the Syriac version, as proving that the Vatican manuscript, which harmonizes with those translations, contains the text which in St. Jerome’s age was current in Palestine.
4. We possess in the present instance, not less than the preceding, a collation of texts expressly made with the edition of Eusebius, about the year 458, which decisively establishes the same conclusion. Euthalius, who at that period divided the Acts and Catholic Epistles into sections, as Eusebius had divided the Gospels, expressly collated his edition with correct copies of Eusebius’s edition preserved in the library of Caesarea in Palestine. Of the peculiar readings of this edition an accurate list has been published from a collation of manuscripts preserved in Italy. But so extraordinary is the affinity which they possess to the readings of the Vatican manuscripts, that some critics have not scrupled to assert that this manuscript has been interpolated with the peculiar readings of Euthalius’s copies. The coincidences existing between them admit of a more simple and certain solution by considering Eusebius’s text, to which they are respectively allied, as the common source of the resemblance. The affinity between Euthalius’s readings and the Vatican manuscript consequently forms an additional proof that the latter contains the text of Eusebius, as it was preserved in Euthalius’s age, in the library of Caesarea in Palestine.
Now as it is wholly inconceivable, that the coincidences observable between those different texts, translations and copies can be the effect of accident, or of intentional alteration, as St. Jerome has ascribed a peculiar text to Palestine, which can be found no where, if it is not identified in the manuscripts and translations of that country, and as the text of the Vatican manuscript, in the opinion of no ordinary judge, is of that kind which renders it particularly worthy of Eusebius: we may hence certainly conclude that the manuscript, in which all these characteristic marks are combined, contains the text which St. Jerome traces to Palestine, and ascribes to Eusebius.
Of Class III
That the Moscow and Harleian manuscripts, which form the exemplars of the Third Class, contain the text which St. Jerome attributes to Lucianus and refers to Constantinople is sufficiently established by the following considerations.
1. It is no where disputed that those manuscripts contain the text which uniformly exists in the manuscripts brought from Constantinople. These manuscripts, which far exceed in number those containing the Egyptian and Palestine text, contain the Vulgar Greek which constitutes the Received Text, and exists in our printed editions. Such, however, were the characteristic marks of the Byzantine edition in the age of St. Jerome: in that age, a Lucianus, (as the copies of the edition revised by that learned person were termed) contained the Greek Vulgate and possessed the text which was current at Constantinople. As the priority of the text of our printed editions to that age is evinced by the coincidence which it possesses with the old Italic version; the circumstance of this text being still the Greek Vulgate, and still found at Constantinople, very decidedly proves, that it is identical with that which St. Jerome ascribes to the same region, and assigns to Lucianus.
2. The text of the manuscripts which contain the Byzantine edition, is observed to differ materially from the oriental versions; which involves an argument, though one it must be confessed, that is merely negative, which corroborates the same conclusion. The whole of the texts in St. Jerome’s age were reducible to three. Two of them are referred to Egypt and Palestine, and are easily identified by their coincidence with the vulgar translations which still exist in these regions. The third is assigned to Constantinople, where no language but Greek was vernacular. Consequently, as this text differs from those versions, and cannot of course be ascribed to Egypt or Palestine; we are left no alternative but to ascribe it to Constantinople, which directly identifies it with the text revised by Lucianus.
3. The striking coincidence observed to exist between the text of the Moscow and Harleian manuscripts, and that of the Brescia manuscript, contains a further proof of the same conclusion. There seems to be no alternative left us, but to conclude, that the latter contains a version which had been made from the text revised by Lucianus, or that it has been corrected by the Byzantine text, since the time of St. Jerome. The latter is a supposition, however, which must be clearly set out of the case. The orthographical peculiarities of the text of this manuscript prove it at least antecedent to the age of Cassiodorus [i.e. the sixth century]. It possesses the errors which existed in the copies that preceded his times, and which he undertook to remove from the text of Scripture, and it differs in its peculiar readings from the Vulgate, which, from the same age, wholly superseded the old Italic translation. The strongest negative argument may be urged from the circumstance of its thus differing from the Latin translation, that it is totally free from alteration. But as strong a positive argument may be urged from its coinciding with the Byzantine text, that it is equally free from antecedent correction. If we must admit that the text of this manuscript has undergone alterations, it must be granted, that it is as much a new translation as the Vulgate; as it differs as much from that translation as the Byzantine text from the Palestine. Nor is it to be disputed that it possesses that literal closeness to the original Greek, which we are assured, was characteristic of the old Italic translation. This character of literal fidelity seems to place out of dispute the possibility of its having been corrected since the age of the elder Eusebius. In the period intervening between his times and those of St. Jerome, the western world seems not to have possessed a person who was capable of forming such a translation. It is unnecessary to except here those learned persons who have peen specified on a former occasion; as they were attached to a different text from that contained in the common edition. If the text of the Brescia manuscript has been altered, it must have been consequently corrected previously to the age of Eusebius.
And as it was manifestly formed by the Byzantine text, it consequently evinces the priority of that text to the Palestine, which was formed by Eusebius. As it thus proves, that at this early period, this text existed, which prevails at Constantinople; it clearly identifies it with that which is referred by St. Jerome to the same place and period, and ascribed by him to Lucianus.
4. This deduction is further confirmed by the positive testimony of St. Epiphanius. In reasoning on a particular passage of Scripture, he distinguishes two species of text; one of which was rectified and the other left unrectified, by the orthodox: and he represents the copies of the former, as those which omitted the passage in question.
Of the two species of text which were published at Constantinople, by Lucianus and Eusebius, that revised by the latter certainly retained the passage for it is expressly referred to in his canons, and is retained in the Vulgate, which was formed after the text of his revisal. The edition of Eusebius consequently differed from the corrected copies of the orthodox, published in the days of St. Jerome and St. Epiphanius. But this passage is lacking in the Alexandrian manuscript, as well as in the Latin translation, which accords with it, and which is preserved in the Brescia manuscript. The text of these manuscripts is thus clearly identified with that which had received the corrections of the orthodox revisers; and as they possess the Byzantine text, their joint testimony consequently proves the antiquity of that text to be as remote as the time of St. Epiphanius [ ], and of consequence evinces its identity with that text, which St. Jerome, who lived in the same age, assigns to Constantinople and ascribes to Lucianus.
Now, as the text preserved in the Harleian and Moscow manuscripts is that which exists in the manuscripts, which are brought from Constantinople; as it differs from the text of the Oriental translations, and therefore cannot be assigned to Egypt or Palestine; as it harmonizes with the text of the Latin translation preserved in the Brescia MS., which preceded the times of Cassiodorus and Jerome; and as it corresponds with the state of the Byzantine text, as described in the writings of St. Epiphanius; we may from these premises summarily conclude, that it is identical with the text which St. Jerome attributes to Lucianus, and assigns to Constantinople.
If the proofs which have been thus adduced at length are not deemed adequate to evince the identity of the different classes of text which are still preserved in the Cambridge, Vatican, and Moscow manuscripts, with those which formerly existed in the editions of Egypt, Palestine, and Constantinople; it is difficult even to conceive what mode of proof will be deemed adequate to that purpose. In every instance where that coincidence, which is alone calculated to prove such an identity, could be expected, it has been sought and found to exist. It has been traced in the manuscripts and vulgar translations prevalent in those countries; and in the collations of texts and occasional versions which were made from those manuscripts and translations. And as this mode of proof is most full, so it appears to be most satisfactory. That the different texts of St. Jerome’s age, and of the present times, should amount exactly to three, must surely convey no slight presumption in favor of their identity. But when, through the medium of the old Italic version, (which corresponded with some of the copies of the former period, and which corresponds with those of the present,) those extremes, however remote, are directly connected; the mode of proof which evinces the identity of the text which existed at both periods, must be allowed to carry the force of demonstration.
Independently even of the labored proof by which I have endeavored to establish this conclusion, nothing appears to be more probable, than that we should possess copies of the different texts, which existed in the age of St. Jerome. The manner in which all manuscripts that have descended to us have been preserved, would of itself render this point more than probable. It is however a matter, not merely of probability, but of fact, that at least one copy and one version has been preserved for that period; for the vulgate and Alexandrian manuscript are both assigned to the era of Jerome. Even the latest of those manuscripts which contain the exemplars of our different classes of text is not ascribed to a period less remote than the eighth century, for this is the date assigned to the Moscow manuscript, which contains the Byzantine text; the Vatican manuscript, which contains the Palestine text, lays claim to much greater antiquity. As those manuscripts have thus certainly existed for ten centuries, it is not to be disputed that those from which they were copied might have existed for the remaining four, which intervene to the times of St. Jerome. And if this reasoning evince the permanence of the Byzantine text, it must, by parity of reasoning, evince that of the Palestine and the Egyptian.
When we weigh this probability against the only possibility which the question appears to admit, the result must clearly evince the exclusive stability of the grounds on which we have proceeded, in arriving at the present conclusion. If it is denied that those three texts have descended to us from the times of St. Jerome; it must be granted that one or more of them has been formed since the age of that father. But taking up the question, as reduced to this alternative, can there be a shadow of doubt that the latter is a supposition, not merely less probable in itself, but involved in difficulties which are wholly inexplicable? For what supposition can be more irreconcilable to probability, than that which implies, that the Latin translation, after having undergone such a change, should ultimately acquire the characteristic peculiarities of the different versions which existed in the age. of St. Jerome? I will not insist at present on this circumstance, that some of these characteristic marks consist in a resemblance to the oriental versions; which implies, that those who created it in the Greek possessed an acquaintance with the eastern languages, which certainty was not possessed by the most learned of the Christian fathers. But the bare fact, that one of those versions which is contained in the Brescia manuscript agrees both with the Greek and Latin copies of St. Jerome’s age, in omitting of least two remarkable passages, which are nevertheless still found in the Greek and Latin Vulgate which have generally, if not exclusively, prevailed from that time to the present day, seems to place beyond all reasonable doubt, that this version claims an alliance to the text of the former period, instead of the latter. Nor is it to be disputed that we still retain two of the texts which in St. Jerome’s age existed in the Greek Septuagint; however it may be denied that we possess those, which at the same period existed in the Greek Testament. For the Vatican manuscript possesses the text which Eusebius published from Origen; as unquestionably appears from its coincidence with the remains of the Hexapla, and the Vulgate of Jerome. And the Alexandrian manuscript, as possessing a different version, must preserve the revisal of Hesychius or Lucianus; most probably that of the former, as it was originally brought from Alexandria. From this matter of fact, we may surely conclude, that as the copies of the New Testament were infinitely more numerous than those of the Old, the three classes of text which are preserved in the former are not less ancient than those which are preserved in the latter, and consequently must be referred to the age of St. Jerome.
In the course of the above reasoning I have considered St. Jerome’s testimony, on the existence of these classes of text, as extending to the New Testament, though it is strictly applicable to the Septuagint. Whether his declaration; may be taken in this latitude, or not, is of little importance to the foregoing conclusions; as all that I have endeavored to prove has been established, independent of his testimony. The reader will easily perceive that the existence of three classes of text in St. Jerome’s age has been proved from the coincidence of the Greek with the Latin translations which existed in the age of that father; and the identity of those classes with the three editions which I conceive to be his, has been proved from the affinity which they possess to the oriental translations. But even independent of this circumstance, a sufficient warrant may be found, in his own authority, for taking his testimony in the more enlarged sense, and applying it to the Old and New Testament. It was obviously not his intention to limit his declaration to the latter; that he speaks only of it is manifestly to be imputed to his having been exclusively engaged on the subject of the Septuagint. Of consequence, when he speaks of the New Testament, he explicitly admits that it was revised by Hesychius and Lucianus. That it had been revised by Eusebius is not to be denied; and St. Jerome has professed himself acquainted with his edition. While this learned father has likewise made a similar declaration, with respect to the editions of Hesychius and Lucianus; he clearly intimates that they were in use in his days, and expressly declares, that they had their respective admirers. Now, it is obvious, that the same causes which recommended any part of these different editions in any particular church must have tended to recommend the remainder. St. Jerome has, however, informed us, respecting the Septuagint, that the different editions of it as revised by Hesychius, Lucianus, and Eusebius, prevailed not merely in particular churches, but in different regions; we must of course form a similar conclusion respecting the New Testament which had equally undergone their revisal. As the whole bible was received in all churches, and different countries adopted different editions; nothing can be more improbable, than that their copies of it could have been composed of a mixed text; or that the region which adopted one part of the Canon from Hesychius, would take another from Lucianus. We are indeed informed by St. Jerome, that the pertinacity with which the different churches adhered to the ancient and received text, was almost invincible; and in his Preface to the Latin Vulgate, he has declared, that the effects of this laudable prejudice against innovation were really experienced with respect to the editions of Hesychius and Lucianus: though the copies edited by these learned persons had every thing to contend with, from the rivalry of later editions, which had been published by Eusebius, Athanasius, and other orthodox revisers. This declaration of St. Jerome, and the reflection which he deemed necessary to cast on the editions of Hesychius and Lucianus, contain a sufficient proof, that the copies of those editions were generally prevalent in his age. In fact, a minute examination of the text of the Vulgate, which he published, enables us to determine, that in forming that translation he made use of versions formed from the editions of Lucianus and Hesychius. The proof of this last point I shall hereafter give in detail, as it contains the strongest confirmation of the main conclusion, which it is my object to establish, that the three classes of text, which exist in the present age, existed in the age of St. Jerome. The bare prevalence of those editions till the latter period, involves a proof, that they could have only obtained in Egypt, in Palestine, and Constantinople; since, solely and respectively, over those regions extended the influence of Hesychius, Eusebius, and Lucianus.
I shall now beg leave to assume, as proved, that the three classes of text which exists in the Cambridge, Vatican, and Moscow manuscripts, are identical with the three editions of Hesychius, Eusebius, and Lucianus, which existed in the age of St. Jerome. Other diversities are indeed apparent in the Greek manuscripts, but they do not seem to be sufficiently important or marked, to form the grounds of a separate classification. A peculiar order of manuscripts is thus observed to exist, which differ very materially from the preceding, as they agree with each other in possessing many interpolations from the writings of later commentators. But as they are consequently of partial authority, and are evidently formed on the basis of the Byzantine text, they may be directly referred to the third class, and ranked under the edition revised by Lucianus.
The same observation may be likewise extended to several manuscripts of a different character: some of which are observed to partake of the peculiarities of a different class from that to which they principally conform. We thus frequently discover the influence of the Palestine text upon the Byzantine; which, doubtless is to be attributed to the publication of Eusebius’s edition at Byzantium, under the auspices of the first Christian Emperor. It is certain that the orthodox, little satisfied with this edition, republished a revisal on the death of Eusebius and Constantine. In this manner St. Athanasius and St. Basil retouched some copies, of which, by an extraordinary chance, we seem to possess specimens in the celebrated Alexandrian and Vatican manuscripts. But these copies rather contained revisals of the edition which preceded their times, than constituted new editions of the text of Scripture. If published by their respective authors, they appear not to have passed into general use. The text of St. Basil never received the royal authority, and was therefore probably dispersed among a limited number of readers, and confined to a particular region. The revisal of St. Athanasius received that sanction, having been expressly prepared at the command of the Emperor Constans; but its authority expired with the influence of its author, on the death of that prince and his brother, the younger Constantine. The revisals of both these learned persons maybe therefore directly referred to the editions of Palestine and Constantinople, out of which they arose, and into which they subsequently merged: and as they are contained in the Vatican and Alexandrian manuscripts, which are respectively allied to those texts, we may consider them as little more than a repetition of the different editions which had been previously published by Eusebius and Lucianus.
The whole of the Greek manuscripts maybe consequently reduced to three classes, which are identical with the editions of Egypt, Palestine, and Constantinople, as revised by Hesychius, Eusebius, and Lucianus. And the adequacy of this distribution may be established, with little comparative difficulty. As modern critics, after a careful analysis are enabled to reduce all manuscripts to three classes, and distribute the Cambridge, Vatican, and Moscow manuscripts in separate classes: hence, as these manuscripts are likewise the exemplars of the different texts in the present scheme of classification, this scheme must necessarily embrace every variety, and mark every characteristic distinction which modern diligence has discovered in the manuscripts of the Greek Testament.
Hence also it becomes possible to reduce every manuscript to its proper class in the new scheme, on knowing the class in which it was placed in the old mode of classification. As the Western, Alexandrian, and Byzantine texts in the former method, respectively coincide with the Egyptian, Palestine, and Byzantine text in the latter; we have only to substitute the term Egyptian for Western, and Palestine for Alexandrian, in order to ascertain the particular text of any manuscript which is to be referred to a peculiar class or edition. The artifice of this substitution admits of this simple solution; the Egyptian text was imported by Eusebius of Verceli into the West, and the Palestine text republished by Euthalius at Alexandria, the Byzantine text having retained the place in which it was originally published by Lucianus. In a word, a manuscript which harmonizes with the Codex Cantabrigiensis must be referred to the first class, and will contain the text of Egypt. One which harmonizes with the Vatican manuscript must be referred to the second class, and will contain the text of Palestine. And one which harmonizes with the Moscow manuscript must be referred to the third class, and will contain the text of Constantinople.
It must be now evident almost at a, glance, that the present scheme corresponds with the different methods of those who leave undertaken the classification of the Greek manuscripts, and that it derives no inconsiderable support from their respective systems.
In the first place it accords with the plan of Dr. Bentley, whose object was to confront the oldest copies of the Latin Vulgate, and of the original Greek, in order to determine the state of the text in the age of St. Jerome. And, conformably to his plan, it ranks the Vulgate and Vatican manuscript in the same class; which constituted the basis of Dr. Bentley’s projected edition. But it proceeds on a more comprehensive view of the subject, and confronts two other classes of the original Greek with correspondent classes of the Latin translation. And thus it leads not only to a more adequate method of classification, but to the discovery of a more ancient text, by means of the priority of the old Italic version to the new or Vulgate of Jerome.
It in the next place falls in with the respective schemes of M. Griesbach and M. Matthaei, and derives support from their different systems. It adopts the three classes of the former, with a slight variation merely in the name of the classes, deviating from that learned critic’s scheme in this respect on very sufficient authority. And in ascertaining the genuine text, it attaches the same authority to the old Italic translation, which the same learned person has ascribed to that version. It agrees with the scheme of the latter critic, in giving the preference to the Greek Vulgate or Byzantine text over the Palestine and the Egyptian: but it supports the authority of this text on firmer grounds than the concurrence of the Greek manuscripts. Hence, while it differs from the scheme of M. Matthaei, in building on the old Italic version; it differs from that of M. Griesbach, in distinguishing the copies of this translation, which are free from the influence of the Vulgate, from those which have been corrected since the times of St. Eusebius of Verceli, of St. Jerome, and Cassiodorus. And it affords a more satisfactory mode of disposing of the multitude of various readings, than that suggested by the latter, who refers them to the intentional or accidental corruptions of transcribers; or that of the former, who ascribes them to the correction of the original Greek by the Latin translation, as it traces them to the influence of the text which was published by Eusebius, at the command of Constantine.
As a system, therefore, that which I venture to propose may rest its pretensions to a preference over other methods, on the concessions of those why have suggested different modes of classification. Independent of its internal consistency, and the historical grounds on which it is exclusively built, its comprehensiveness may, I hope, entitle it to a precedence, as it embraces the different systems to which it is opposed, and reconciles their respective inconsistencies.