THE plenary concession that the Byzantine text has preserved its integrity for fourteen hundred years, leaves the unwarrantable assumption that it was corrupted in the earliest ages entitled to very little respect. Were we destitute of proof on this subject, the bare probabilities of the case would be decisive of the point at issue; the task of proving the corruption of the Greek Vulgate would at least devolve on those by whom the charge was urged. The avowed advocate of the Palestine text was fully aware how necessary it was to the establishment of his theory that he should succeed in substantiating this charge against it. Having limited the corruption of the vulgar text to a period in which it is impossible it could have remained undiscovered had it more than a visionary existence, he believed the task was only to be attempted in order to be achieved. His promises on this subject stand recorded by his own hand, what he has offered us in place of a performance stands attested by the same voucher. His acknowledged incompetence to substantiate his point, consequently renders the defence of the Greek Vulgate complete, since this text, which is amply supported by positive proofs, is wholly unaffected by positive exceptions.
But the matter at issue must not be suffered to rest on these grounds. However defective the advocates of the Alexandrian text have found their materials in proving the corruption of the Byzantine, we find no such deficiency in returning the compliment on the Egyptian and Palestine. The corruptions of these tests, if I am not altogether deceived, may be clearly demonstrated and traced to the very source from whence they have originated. In prosecuting this object the testimony of Origen may be wholly disposed of, and his evidence, which has been hitherto used to support the Palestine text, may be effectually employed to destroy its credit. If this object be attainable, as I conceive it is, it will annihilate the pretensions of the Palestine text which, we have already seen, is destitute of positive support from those who have affected to uphold it.
From what has been already adduced on the history of the inspired text and the connected testimony of tradition, it is apparent that the received or vulgar text, as preserved by the orthodox, could not have undergone any considerable change from the apostolical age to the times of Origen. Some verbal errors probably arose in particular copies from the negligence of transcribers, but the testimony of this ancient father places it beyond all doubt, that at the period when he lived the general integrity of the text had remained uncorrupted. His silence on this subject might be construed into a proof somewhat stronger than presumptive, the nice attention which he bestowed on the Septuagint, readers it next to impossible that any corruption of the New Testament could have escaped his observation, if it really existed. He speaks, it is true, of a difference existing in the copies of his times. But this opinion he offers merely as a conjecture, grounding it on the diversity observable in the accounts which the different Evangelists give of the game incident, and it occurs in a work which is of very little authority, as written while Origen’s opinions were far from settled or deserving of any attention. His opinion must be taken from a different part of his writings, and in his last and greatest work he explicitly states that he knew of no persons but the followers of Marcion and Valentinus, who had corrupted the Scriptures. As this is the latest opinion which he has delivered on this subject, it must be taken as his definitive sentence.
To some period subsequent to the era of Origen, we must consequently fix the first change which took place in the received text of Scripture. And of such a change we have an explicit account, in the statement which is transmitted of the editions published by Hesychius and Lucianus, against which a charge has been preferred by St. Jerome, that they were interpolated, at least in the Gospels.
Whatever may have been the alterations which Lucianus and Hesychius introduced into the sacred writings, they must be clearly attributed to the influence of Origen’s writings. Previously to his times, the inspired text had undergone no alteration, and they revised it not many years subsequent to the publication of his Hexapla. As he had labored to supersede the authorized version of the Old Testament, he contributed to weaken the authority of the received text of the New. In the course of his Commentaries he cited the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion on the former part of the Canon, he appealed to the authority of Valentinus and Heracleon on the latter.
While he thus raised the credit of those revisals, which had been made by the heretics, he detracted from the authority of that text which had been received by the orthodox. Some difficulties which he found himself unable to solve in the Evangelists, he undertook to remove by expressing his doubts of the integrity of the text. In some instances he ventured to impeach the reading of the New Testament on the testimony of the Old, and to convict the copies of one Gospel on the evidence of another, thus giving loose to his fancy and indulging in many wild conjectures, he considerably impaired the credit of the vulgar or common edition, as well in the New as in the Old Testament.
The object at which Lucianus and Hesychius aimed, in the different revisals which they published of Scripture, was obviously to remove the objections to which the received text was exposed by the critical labors of Origen. On this task, however, they entered with very different views, the attention of Lucianus having been principally directed to the Old Testament, while that of Hesychius was chiefly employed on the New.
The terms in which the text of Lucianus is mentioned, as being identical with the vulgar edition, very clearly evince that the received text was republished by this learned father with little alteration. As he is principally mentioned as a reviser of the version of the Old Testament, and as Origen’s critical labors particularly affected that part of the sacred canon, it is more than probable that his emendations were confined to it alone. At the early period in which he wrote the Septuagint only lay under the imputation of being corrupted, and no possible reason can be assigned which could induce him to tamper with the New Testament. He must be clearly acquitted of the charge of yielding undue submission to the authority of Origen, as he rejected the corrected text of the Septuagint inserted in the Hexapla, and republished the common edition. Setting aside the authority of Origen there seems to be no conceivable cause by which Lucianus could have been swayed in corrupting the text. Nor can he be convicted on this head by the testimony of St. Jerome, who declares that his text was interpolated. As it appears, on the testimony of this ancient father, that Lucianus’s text prevailed at Byzantium in the age when he wrote, where it has demonstrably prevailed to the present day; we have only to compare the Byzantine text with the Latin version of St. Jerome, in order to discover the passages against which his censure is chiefly directed. There is thus little difficulty in vindicating Lucianus from the charge of corrupting the Scriptures, and little more in tracing the error under which St. Jerome labored to the source from whence it arose. A slight inspection of the passages in which the Byzantine text differs from the Latin vulgate will convince any unprejudiced person that they are such as the orthodox must have been led, by their principles, to exclude from a place in the authorized edition, had they been corrections of Lucianus. They include some passages which were favorite texts employed by the Arians in supporting their opinions against the Catholics, it is of course inconceivable that in the age subsequent to that in which Lucianus published his edition, the Catholics would have allowed them to retain their place in the text, unless they undoubtedly believed them authentic. They include some other passages relating to the mystic doctrines of revelation, which the prejudices of the age prevented the orthodox from divulging to those who were not regularly initiated in their sacred mysteries. If it is conceived that such passages could have been invented by Lucianus, which is a notion that is exposed to many obvious objections, considerable difficulties must still attend the supposition that they would be admitted into the canonical text of Scripture, particularly in an age when reproach must have been brought on the only party whom they could serve, by adversaries who were as able as they were willing to expose an attempt of that nature.
The charge urged by St. Jerome against Lucianus’s text is therefore entitled to little attention and additional reasons compel us to set it aside, which result from the facility of accounting for the error under which he labored. In fact, the mistake of St. Jerome must be imputed to that cause which has been already pointed out, his having judged of Lucianus’s text by the standard of Eusebius’s edition. His objection must of course fall to the ground if it can be shown that the text of Eusebius was defective, as omitting those passages which were retained in Lucianus’s edition. For St. Jerome having been unconscious of the deficiency of one text, imagined the integrity of the other was redundant.
Under this view of the subject, the various readings of the sacred text are ultimately traced to the editions of Hesychius and Eusebius; the one, according to St. Jerome’s express declaration, having interpolated the inspired writings, the other, according to his implied testimony, having pruned them of some imaginary superfluities. To the influence of Origen, we must again look for the source of these varieties, of a totally opposite character, which were thus introduced into the text of Scripture.
Of Hesychius we know nothing more than that he was a bishop of Egypt, who perished in the persecution in which Lucianus was martyred. But this little seems to identify him as a disciple of Origen. In the controversy respecting the Apocalypse and Millennium which had been maintained by Dionysius and Nepos, who governed the sees of Alexandria and Egypt, about sixty years previously to the meeting of the Council of Nice, some curiosity was excited respecting the allegorical sense of Scripture, which Origen had supported, and relative to the nature of the body, its organization and enjoyments, in that state which is to succeed the resurrection. The peculiar opinions of Origen had spread so widely after this period in Egypt, that when a council was convened at Alexandria by Theophilus, in which those opinions were condemned as heretical, Dioscorus, bishop of Hermopolis, with the Egyptian monks, were professed converts to Origen’s notions. Under these circumstances, the churches of Egypt were gradually prepared for the reception of a revised text, accommodated to the principles of Origen’s criticism.
We have only to compare the account which Origen has given of the method in which he proceeded to correct the Old Testament, and of the fancied corruptions which he conceived had crept into the New, with the internal evidence of the Egyptian text, in order to discover that Hesychius, by whom this edition was published, had merely undertaken to realize the plan which had been suggested by Origen for its improvement. In correcting the Old Testament, Origen had compared the different copies of the Greek version, and had admitted the authority of the versions made by the heretics, and in insinuating the corruptions of the New, he corrected the statement of one Evangelist by the accounts of the other, and appealed to the testimony of the Gospels compiled by the heretics. We scarcely discover a peculiarity in the Egyptian text which may not be directly accounted for by conceiving the reviser actuated by the ambition of giving that perfection to the text of the New Testament, which Origen, following similar principles, had given, to the text of the Old.
With respect to the works by which Hesychius was assisted in entering on this undertaking, we know that he was possessed of a Harmony and several apocryphal works which had been used by Origen in compiling his Commentaries. Ammonius, who preceded Origen in the government of the school of Alexandria, had constructed a work of the former kind, in which he disposed the coincident passages of the different Evangelists in parallel columns, and it appears, from the writings of Clement and Origen, that “the Gospel of the Hebrews,” “the Acts of Paul,” and “the Preaching of Peter,” were well known to the disciples of that school. With respect to the authority which was ascribed to these works, it is certain that Origen did not absolutely reject the last, though he did not receive it as a canonical work. A very slight degree of attention bestowed on the Egyptian text, as preserved in the Cambridge or Verceli manuscript, must convince any person that it has suffered from the influence of these different works. As the Gospels of that edition have been. corrected by each other; the deficiencies of one being frequently supplied from the fulness of another; it is evident the text must have been corrected by some reviser who made good use of a Harmony . And several extraordinary passages admitted into the Gospels and Acts, one of which we are enabled to trace to “the Preaching of Peter,” very sufficiently evince that the apocryphal writings were allowed some weight in compiling that edition.
But the Commentaries of Origen afforded still greater assistance to the editor of the Egyptian text; as in them he frequently found his different authorities combined in a narrow compass, and a comment added by Origen, whose sentence on this subject was taken as oracular. That these works have had some influence on the Egyptian and Palestine texts is a point which appears to me to be capable of demonstration. Of the passages consisting of quotations from the Old Testament introduced into the New, in which the Greek Vulgate differs from the Egyptian and Palestine editions, the most remarkable are Matt. xv. 8, xxvii. 35, Luc. iii. 5, iv. 18, as in these texts the reading of the latter editions is apparently supported by the express testimony of Origen’s commentary. But comparison of the comment with the documents which were before Origen very clearly evinces that in forming this idea, the revisers of the Egyptian and Palestine texts were deceived. In Matt. xv. 8, an ignorance of the Hebrew led them into an error with respect to the meaning of Origen, as Origen’s testimony, when properly understood, not only discovers the source of the various reading in the Egyptian edition, but confirms the peculiar reading of the Byzantine. The same observation may be likewise extended to Luc. iii. 5. A repetition of the same word in Origen’s comment on this passage, led to an ambiguity, which a reference to the Hebrew would have directly cleared up; but the reviser not having possessed even learning sufficient to collate the Greek with the original, undertook to determine Origen’s meaning by his context; in choosing between the two words which were set before him, he unfortunately fixed on the wrong one, and has thus left his error subject to an immediate detection on confronting the testimony of the Greek version with the Hebrew original. In omitting Mat. xxvii. 35 the reviser of the Egyptian edition has laid himself equally open to detection. The allegation of this passage from the Psalms, by St. Matthew, introduced an apparent contradiction between the Evangelist’s text and quotation, which was first pointed out by Ammonius’s Harmony; the obliteration of the disputed passage removed the contradiction, though it did not solve the difficulty, for which indeed Origen appears to have found no remedy, as he passes it over in silence. The expedient which answered the immediate exigency of the revisers was consequently adopted, and the passage omitted accordingly. But the partial quotation of the words of the disputed passage, and the general reference to its sense by Origen, clearly prove that it existed in his copy; his testimony of course as fully confirms the integrity of the Byzantine text, as it reveals the source of the corruption of the Egyptian. In the abridgment of the prophecy, cited in Luc. iv. 18, we discover a still stronger proof of the corruption of the Egyptian text, and of the integrity of the Byzantine. While the disputed passage is indispensably necessary to the fidelity of the Evangelist’s narrative; a slight verbal difference between it and the original Hebrew, which was first revealed in the Hexapla; clearly discovers the grounds of offence which occasioned its suppression in the Egyptian text, and points out the authority on which the Vulgar Greek was corrected. In Mat. v. 4, 5, to which we may add Mat. xxiii 14, we plainly discover the source of the various reading of the Egyptian text in the comment of Origen, for while an inconstancy in the testimony of that early father fully confirms the reading of the Byzantine text in the former case, a variation in the Greek manuscripts in the latter, clearly proves that they have been altered in accommodation to the comment of Origen. When to these considerations we add that of the general conformity of the Egyptian text to the peculiar readings of Origen, they afford us ample grounds for concluding that this edition has been systematically corrupted from his writings. So far is this conformity from evincing the antiquity of the Egyptian text, that it deprives it, when considered separately, or merely in conjunction with Origen, of any the least authority in determining the genuine text of Scripture.
Eusebius of Caesarea, who published the next edition of the sacred writings, undertook the revisal of the Greek text with different views and under different auspices. Commanding the same advantages which had been possessed by his predecessor, he was directed in using them by very different principles. While he was no less biased in favor of Origen, than Hesychius, he possessed greater facilities of consulting his commentaries, a complete set of Origen’s works having been deposited in the library of Caesarea. He possessed also, in the edition of Hesychius, a text in which many of the peculiar readings of Origen, his master and preceptor in criticism, had been adopted. And in the Harmony of Ammonius and the text of Lucianus he possessed a standard by which the superfluities of the Egyptian edition might be discovered with ease and removed without labor.
Of these different helps towards revising the sacred text, Eusebius fully availed himself in publishing the Palestine text, to the use which has been made of them we may indeed attribute most of the peculiarities discoverable in that edition. Of the Harmony of Ammonius, it is unquestionable he made considerable use in ascertaining the passages introduced into the Egyptian edition, thus much may be clearly collected from the testimony of St. Jerome, who proposes the Eusebian canons as a standard by which the interpolations of Hesychius might be determined. From the text of Hesychius it is probable Eusebius derived most of the peculiar readings of Origen, which he adopted in his edition, having here found them incorporated in the sacred text, while the testimony of Origin became sufficient authority for him to retain them as genuine. But the edition published in Palestine by the elder Eusebius, had its peculiar readings. The most important of them have been already specified, and some account has been given of the causes which occasioned their suppression in the Palestine edition. Of these passages, in which the Vulgar Greek and Corrected Edition differ, not a few are found in the text of Eusebius. A critical examination into the source of these various readings of the Palestine edition will, I trust, end in the further confirmation of the same conclusion which it has been hitherto my object to establish.
The most remarkable of those passages in which the Palestine and Byzantine texts differ are Matt. xix. 17, Luke. xi. 2, 4, 13. It will not appear extraordinary that the former edition should agree in these passages with the peculiar readings of Origen, when it is remembered that it was revised by Eusebius, the admirer and apologist of the father of sacred criticism. But it is particularly deserving of remark that the Palestine text, in coinciding in these passages with Origen, also corresponds with the peculiar readings of Valentinus and Marcion. When we take into account the nature and tendency of that tract, in which the extraordinary readings of those passages are preserved, that it inculcates heterodox notions and quotes other apocryphal texts, there will not be much reason to doubt that the alteration of the text in those places must be ultimately referred to those heretics whom Origen, in his riper judgment, has accused of corrupting the text.
The peculiar doctrines of the Marcionites are summed up in a narrow compass by St. Irenaeus and St. Epiphanius. They agreed with the followers of Cerdo in acknowledging two principles; one of these they called the good God, conceiving him to have his residence above the heavens; and the other they termed the just God, considering him the author of the works of the Creation. The former they considered inscrutable, and wholly unknown, until the advent of Christ, who first revealed him to the world; the latter they supposed the God, who had revealed himself to the Jews, who had delivered the Law by Moses, and had spoken by the Prophets. Between these personages they conceived that there was some opposition of will and nature; the one presiding over the immaterial spiritual world; the other over the material visible creation. Christ, as the Son and legate of the good God, came to abolish the power and dominion of the Creator. He was not however made in the flesh, but appeared merely in the likeness of man; the object of his appearance on earth having been to abolish the Law and the Prophets; to save the souls, not the bodies of men; for the Marcionites agreed with the Nicolaitans and other Gnostics in denying the resurrection. In order to justify these notions, the founder of the sect had framed antitheses between the Law and the Gospel, in which he endeavored to show that the one was contrary to the other.
These opinions, which had been broached by Marcion near the times of Hyginus, bishop of Rome, until those of Pope Damasus, had maintained their ground against the opposition of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Rhodon, Origen, and Epiphanius, and had produced the different sects of Lucianists, Tatianists, and Apelleians. The Valentinians were a kindred sect which sprang from that common source of heresy, the school of Simon Magus, agreeing in their fundamental tenets with the Marcionites, though they differed essentially from them in their notions of celibacy, which, they held in no high estimation. Of the important light in which they were held we may form some idea. from the Rule of Faith and the description of heresy which are given by Origen, both of which are framed expressly with a view to the Valentinian and Marcionite notions.
One great object of that indefatigable writer was to oppose the growth of these heresies, and we clearly discover the source of that unfortunate bias which his theological opinions took in the influence which this controversy had upon his mind. As the heretics had depressed the Creator, representing him as inferior to Christ, he was driven into the opposite extreme and in asserting the transcendent glory of God, too incautiously depreciated the Son’s co-equality with the Father. Though he very successfully combated the fundamental errors of his opponents, their reasonings, particularly when seconded by the speculations of Plato, seem to have had so far an influence upon his sentiments as to induce him to embrace some very extraordinary notions relative to the constitution of Christ’s body, and that of the human frame after the resurrection. Some of these notions he adopted from Tatian, by whose peculiar opinions he confesses himself to have been once influenced, and from whom he obviously imbibed that extraordinary attachment to a state of celibacy, which he professed in numberless places.
As the founders of those different sects had tampered with the text of Scripture, and the Marcionite heresy had extended itself through the Egyptian, Palestine, and Italic dioceses, it cannot be deemed extraordinary that the particular texts which prevailed in these regions should have insensibly undergone some changes, from the influence of the editions revised by the heretics. In some instances the genuine text had been wholly superseded by the spurious editions. In one diocese of the Oriental Church, the Diatessaron of Tatian had been generally received to the exclusion of the vulgar edition. As it has been customary with the disputants, who were engaged in defending the orthodox and the heretical side of the question, to reason from the concessions and to quote from the Scriptures acknowledged by their adversaries, the distinctions between the pure text and the corrupted revisal were at length wholly confounded in their writings. In a country where there was little stability of religious opinion, and where great liberties had been taken with the sacred text, little confidence could be reposed in any edition. The works of approved writers furnished the only standard by which they could be tried, but they now afforded but a fallacious criterion, as containing quotations which were drawn from various equivocal sources. A difference between these quotations and the sacred text become a sufficient evidence of the corruption of the latter, and the next object was to amend the text by accommodating it to the quotation.
On the most cursory view of those passages in which the Egyptian and Palestine texts differ from the Greek Vulgate it must be evident that the Marcionite and Valentinian controversies must have had considerable influence on the former editions. Having already laid those passages before the reader, I shall now proceed to point out the particular manner in which the peculiar readings of the aforementioned texts have apparently originated.
At the head of those passages stands Mat. xix. 17, with which we. may join Luc. xviii. 19, which constituted a principal text of the Marcionites, as relating to their fundamental tenet respecting the nature of the Deity. An examination into the peculiar opinions of those heretics leaves us very little room to doubt that the various reading of the texts before us originated with them, and that they acquired that authority in Origen’s works, which obtained them a place in the Egyptian and Palestine edition. The same observation nearly may be extended to Luc. ii 38, the peculiar reading of this text having originated with the Origenists, who endeavored to strengthen the argument deduced from the genealogy in favor of our Lord’s incarnation, by deducing the line of descent at least nominally through Joseph. Nor is the case materially different with respect to Luc. xi 13, relative to the gift of the Spirit; Origen having originally adopted this text as it was understood by the Marcionites, furnished, by his different explanations of it, the various readings of the Egyptian and Palestine editions. In Luc. xxii 43-44, we discover the influence of the same heretics’ notions, and with this text we may join Col. i 14 as relating to the same subject; in these examples a degree of coincidence between the Marcionite and Origenian tenets led to the adoption of the various reading of the texts of Egypt and Palestine. The causes were of an opposite character which produced the various readings of 1 John iv 3. Origen’s endeavor to avoid the peculiar errors of the Valentinians respecting the person of Christ having produced that exposition from whence his followers have corrupted the reading of the vulgar edition.
The various readings of Luc. xi 2, 4 are of the same character, as relating to the fundamental tenets of Marcion relative to the abode of his Good God above the heavens, and to his special providence as extending to the affairs of this lower world. The reading of the heretic’s Gospel having been admitted into the Commentary of Origen, thence made its way into the Palestine text; the opinion of that early critic having been clearly in favor of the notion, that the vulgar text of St. Luke was interpolated in those places in which it differed from Marcion’s Gospel, and agreed with the text of St. Matthew. Together with the above passages, which relate to the Lord’s prayer, we may join that containing the doxology, Matt. vi 13, as connected with the same subject. The Marcionites, however, have nothing to answer for on the score of canceling this verse, as they rejected the entire Gospel in which it occurs. The deviation of the Palestine text from the Byzantine is however easily accounted for, having originated from a misconception of Origen’s testimony, which was conceived to negative a passage which it merely passed over.
Of the texts next in importance to those which have been specified, John i 27 relates to the preexistence of Christ, and Luc. ix 55 to the cause of his advent. The Arian tendency of the reviser of the Palestine text, and the Origenian tendency of the reviser of the Egyptian, respectively occasioned the suppression of both passages. To some vague notions which the heretics held respecting the object of our Lord’s descent into hell we probably owe the suppression of Mark vi 11, which may be joined with the preceding texts as not unconnected with them in subject.
Of the remaining passages in which the Greek Vulgate differs from the Egyptian and Palestine texts, John v 3-4 refers to the angelical hierarchy. These verses were probably omitted on this account by the Origenists, who were professed enemies of the Valentinians, as these heretics perverted the doctrine relative to that order of beings to many superstitious purposes. The causes which occasioned the suppression of Matt. xx 23 are much more apparent; the influence of the Marcionite tenets on Origen’s Commentaries, having obviously furnished the revisers of the Egyptian and Palestine texts with sufficient authority for omitting this remarkable passage.
In a word, there exists not a peculiarity in the tenets of those heretics, or in the texts which they followed, which has not left some deep mark impressed on the editions of the sacred text which were published in Egypt and Palestine. To form antitheses between the Law and the Gospel had been a leading object with Marcion, in order to illustrate the beneficent character of the first principle and the severe character of the second, in his religious system. Many of the corrections of the Egyptian and Palestine texts have consequently originated in attempts to destroy the force of those antitheses in the sacred text which had been pointed by Marcion. Some have arisen in endeavors to amend his gross perversions, or his foul aspersions of the Law, and some in attempts to correct his false notions relative to the nature and attributes of God, the person of Christ, and the character of the legal dispensation. In this manner it is not uncommon to find the peculiar phrases of Marcion’s text, and the very order of his language, retained in the Egyptian and Palestine texts, though the passages adopted from his Gospel and Apostolicum are given a totally different application from that which they possess in his writings. Through various channels those readings might have crept into the edition of Eusebius. The scripture text of Tatian, which most probably conformed in many respects to the Gospel and Apostolicum of Marcion; the text of Hesychius, which was compiled from various apocryphal works; and the Commentaries of Origen, which abounded in quotations drawn from heretical revisals of Scripture, opened a prolific source from which they directly passed into the Palestine edition. The facilities of correcting this text from Origen’s writings, and the blind reverence in which that ancient father was held in the school of Caesarea, seem to have rendered the corruption of this text unavoidable. Short annotations or scholia had been inserted by Origen in the margin of his copies of Scripture, and the number of these had been considerably augmented by Eusebius, most probably by extracts taken from Origen’s Commentaries. A comparison between the text and comment constantly pointed out variations in the reading, and Origen’s authority having been definitive on subjects of sacred criticism, the inspired text was amended by the comment. Had we no other proof of this assertion, than the feasibility of the matter, and the internal evidence of the Greek manuscripts, we might thence assume the truth of the fact, without much danger of erring. But this point is placed beyond conjecture by the most unquestionable documents. In some manuscripts containing the Palestine text it is recorded that they were transcribed from copies, the originals of which had been “corrected by Eusebius.” In the celebrated Codex Marchalianus the whole process observed in correcting the text is openly avowed. The reviser there candidly states, that, “having procured the explanatory Tomes of Origen, he accurately investigated the sense in which he explained every word as far as was possible, and corrected every thing ambiguous according to his notion.” After this explicit acknowledgment, it seems unnecessary any further to prolong this discussion. A text which bears internal marks of having passed through this process, which has been convicted on the clearest evidence of having been corrected from Origen, cannot be entitled to the smallest attention. And as it has been thus corrupted from the same source with the Egyptian text, the joint testimony of such witnesses cannot be entitled to the smallest respect when opposed in consent to the Byzantine edition.
When the testimony of the Egyptian and Palestine texts is set aside, the number of various readings, which exist in these editions, or their descendants, necessarily lose their weight when cited against the Greek Vulgate. In the declining credit of these editions of the original, that of the Versions and Fathers which accord with them must be necessarily implicated. We thus no longer require a clue to guide us through the labyrinth of those readings, however various or numerous. The testimony of the derivative witnesses, whether existing in quotation or translation, directly resolves itself into that of the principals, which contain the different editions of the original Greek, published in Egypt and Palestine. That the different versions which are quoted against the Received Text agree with those editions, rather than the Greek Vulgate, is merely owing to the circumstance of their having been made in the countries where those editions were received. And that certain of the Christian Fathers conspire in testimony with those Versions, is merely owing to the circumstance of their having written at a time when those editions were authorized. The matter before us thus reverts into the original channel, and the credit of the Egyptian and Palestine texts being undermined, the only various readings for which it is necessary to render an account are those of the Byzantine edition. But from the allegation of friends, not less than the concession of enemies, it appears that they are neither important nor numerous, falling infinitely short of what might be expected when due allowances are made for the errors which are inseparable from the task of transcription, for the immense period during which the sacred text has been transmitted, and the multitude of manuscripts which have been collated with the most minute and scrupulous industry.
Here, consequently, this discussion might be brought to a close, were it not expedient to anticipate some objections which may be urged against the conclusion, which it has been hitherto my object to establish. Of the texts of the Greek Vulgate, which have been vindicated as genuine, Act. xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16, 1 Joh. v. 7 have been exposed to formidable objections. The Palestine edition in its reading of those passages has obtained a strenuous advocate in M. Griesbach. Having already laid the various readings of that edition before the reader, and specified some objections deduced from the internal evidence which preclude our considering them genuine, I shall now proceed, in the first place, to state the testimony on which their authenticity is supported, and then to offer some of the objections by which it appears to be invalidated.
- Of Manuscripts, ten only are cited in favor of kuvrioj in Acts xx 28; not half that number in favor of o]j in 1 Tim. iii 16; all that are extant and known, with the exception of two, in favor of the reading of M. Griesbach’s corrected edition [in 1 John 5:7].
- Of Versions, the Sahidic, Coptic, Armenian, and margin of the later Syriac, support kuvrioj in Act. xx. 28; the same versions, with the Ethiopic and Erpenian Arabic, support o]j in 1 Tim. iii. 16: and all that are extant, except the Latin Vulgate and Armenian, the corrected reading of 1 Joh. v. 7.
- Of the Fathers who have been cited in favor of the Palestine text, the following is a brief statement. (1.) On Act. xx 28. St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Didymus, S. Chrysostom, and Theophylact; S. Jerome, Lucifer, and Augustine; Theodorus Studites, Maximus, Antonius, Ibas, Sedulius, and Alcimus; the Apostolical Constitutions, the Council of Nice, and the second Council of Carthage; a catena quoting Ammonius, and a manuscript containing the Epistles of S. Athanasius. (2.) On 1 Tim. iii. 16 Cyril Alexandrinus, S. Jerome, Theodorus Mopsuestenus, Epiphanius, Gelasius Cyzicenus, and, on his authority, Macarius of Jerusalem. (3.) On I Joh. v. 7 it has been deemed sufficient to state that the fathers are wholly silent respecting it in the Trinitarian controversy, while some of them even quote the subjoined verse, and strain that doctrine from it by an allegorical interpretation, which is plainly asserted in the contested passage.
Such is the external testimony which is offered in favor of those verses as they are inserted in the Corrected Text. And yet, however formidable it may appear, it seems exposed to no less formidable objections.
In reply to the testimony of Manuscripts quoted on this subject, it seems sufficient to state that they are collectively descended from the edition of Eusebius, and are consequently disqualified from appearing in evidence on account of his peculiar opinions. With respect to the few manuscripts which support the reading of Acts xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16. they particularly approximate to his edition, as containing the Palestine text, and are consequently on that account not entitled to the least degree of credit.
The same observation may be made in reply to the testimony of Versions which has been adduced in evidence on this subject. None of them can lay claim to a degree of antiquity prior to the fourth century. In that age the principal of the ancient versions were made, chiefly under the auspices of Constantine the Great, who employed Eusebius to revise the text of Scripture. The only probability consequently is, that they were accommodated to the Palestine edition, and the principal versions cited on the present question bear internal evidence of the fact, as they coincide with the Palestine text and are divided by Eusebius’s sections. Such is particularly the case with the Sahidic and Coptic, the later Syriac and Latin translations. They cannot, of course, be allowed any separate voice from the Palestine text in deciding the matter at issue.
This consideration seems to leave very little weight to the authority of the Fathers, who are adduced in evidence on this subject. With a few exceptions, which are of no account, they also succeeded the age of Eusebius; in referring cursorily to those verses they may be conceived to have quoted from his edition, as containing the received text of the age in which they flourished. I here except, as preceding his time, S. Ignatius, S. Irenaeus, and the compilers of the Apostolical Constitutions, who have been quoted in support of Act. xx. 28, but their testimony is not entitled to the smallest respect, as derived to us through the most suspicious channels. The first and last of these witnesses are quoted from editions which have been notoriously corrupted, as it is conceived, by the Arians, and we consequently find that the genuine works of Ignatius read with the Byzantine Text instead of the Palestine. And with regard to St. Irenaeus’s evidence, it is quoted merely from a translation which has been made by some barbarous writer who, in rendering the scriptural quotation’s of his original, has followed the Latin version which agrees with St. Irenaeus in possessing the Palestine reading.
We might give up the remaining authorities without any detriment to our cause. With respect to the evidence of St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Cyril of Alexandria, it is most unfairly wrested in support of the Corrected Text, as it is decidedly in favor of the Received Text, where it is fully and explicitly delivered. As to that of Eusebius, a word need not be advanced to invalidate its credit. With respect to Didymus, Jerome, Lucifer, Augustine, and Sedulius, it was as natural that they should quote the received text of their times, or follow the original Greek, as that we should follow our authorized version in preference to the Greek of Erasmus, or any of the translations of the early reformers. A few words would serve in reply to the authority of the Councils cited on this subject; that of Nice has been however most falsely and imperfectly reported, and that of Carthage, as reported in Greek, supports the received text, while in Latin it supports the corrected. If, after these observations, the testimony of the remaining writers cited on this subject be alleged, throwing Ammonius and Macarius into the same scale, as entitled to equal respect, from the questionable shape in which they approach us, we think the advocates of the Corrected Text, who must receive this testimony subject to the mistakes of the original authors and the errors of subsequent transcribers, fully entitled to the benefit of their authority. We have thus only to deplore the peculiar state of those who are reduced to the desperate situation of sustaining a cause which rests on so unsolid a foundation.
In reply to the argument which is deduced in favor of the corrected reading of 1 John v. 7 from the silence of the fathers, who have neglected to appeal to this text in the Trinitarian controversy, it may be, in the first place, observed that no such controversy existed.
In the first age of the Church the subjects debated by the Catholics and heretics turned upon the divinity and the humanity of Christ; on the doctrine of the Trinity there was no room for maintaining a contest. Not only the heretics, but the sects from which they sprang, would to a man have subscribed to the letter of this text, as they admitted the existence of “three” powers, or principles, in the “one” Divinity. Such was the doctrine of the two great sects into which they may be divided, consisting of Gnostics and Ebionites, for such was the doctrine of the Jews and Magians from whom those sects respectively descended; and such, consequently, is the doctrine which is expressly ascribed to Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Ebion, Valentinus, Marcion, and their followers.
To the Gnostics the Sabellians succeeded, whose opinions had been previously held by Noetus, and subsequently maintained by Paul of Samosata.
But I yet remain to be informed how this text could have been opposed to the errors of those heretics. As they followed the Ebionites, and 1 Joh. v. 7 had been quoted by the Evangelist as a concession of those heretics, this text, in the strictness of the letter, decided rather in their favor, than in that of the orthodox.
Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus his disciple are referred to the Sabellian school. The contests maintained with them seem to lie most within the range of the disputed text, and to have assumed most the appearance of a Trinitarian controversy. But a very slight acquaintance with the subject of this controversy will clearly evince, that this text was wholly unsuitable to the purpose of those who were engaged in sustaining it. Eusebius and Marcellus, by whom it was carried on, were professedly agreed on the existence of “three” persons or subsistences in the Divine Nature; one of which they likewise believed to be “the Word,” or Logos, and asserted to be “one” with God; it is consequently inconceivable that the text should be quoted to settle any point which was contested between them. The whole stress of the controversy rested on the force of the term Son, as opposed to the term “Word,” or Logos; for the latter being equivocal, afforded the heretics an opportunity of explaining away its force, so as to confound the persons, after the error of Sabellius, while the former, as implying its correlative Father, effectually refuted this error, by establishing a personal diversity between the subsistences; since it involved an absurdity to consider a Father the same as his Son, or represent him as begetting himself. As the text before us uses the term “Word” instead of Son, it must be directly apparent that it was wholly unqualified to settle the point at issue; it can be therefore no matter of surprise that no appeal. is made to it in the whole of the controversy. Eusebius and Marcellus had, however, other reasons for declining to cite its authority. As the ardor of controversy drove them into extremes, the one leaning towards the error of Arius, and the other towards that of Sabellius, the text in dispute, as containing the orthodox doctrine, must have been as unsuitable to the purpose of the one as of the other; the term e]n making as much against Eusebius, who divided the substance, as the term trei/j against Marcellus, who confounded the persons. From this circumstance we are consequently enabled to account for more than their silence; for thus we clearly discover the cause which induced the one to expunge this text from his edition, and the other to acquiesce in its suppression.
We may pass over the opinions of Theodotus and Artemon, as well as over those of Montanus and the Encratites. The controversies with the former never extended to the consideration of the Trinity, or were conducted on the same principles as against the Sabellians; the notions of the latter on the subject of that doctrine were perfectly orthodox. In these contests, of course, we must look in vain for a Trinitarian controversy, or for a suitable occasion to cite the verse in question.
To the Sabellians the Arians may be opposed, as falling into the opposite extreme; the former confounding the Persons, as the latter divided the substance. But the contests maintained with these heretics, as not extended beyond the consideration of the second Person, did not assume the form of a Trinitarian controversy. The whole of the matter in debate the Catholics conceived capable of being decided by a few texts, some of which had the high authority of our Lord, and on such they rested the whole weight of the contest. As they were accused by their opponents of falling into the opposite extreme of the Sabellians, the contested passage must have been wholly unsuitable to their purpose, as embarrassing the question with greater difficulties than those which they undertook to remove. It is therefore little wonderful that they did not appeal to it in their contests with these heretics.
The same reasons which prevented the orthodox from citing this passage in their contests with the Arians, prevented them from citing it in their disputes with the Macedonians. In the latter case there was no question agitated respecting the second Person of the Trinity, as in the former no question respecting the third. In neither, of course, did the contests maintained with those heretics assume the form of a Trinitarian controversy, or admit of support from the contested passage.
We may subjoin the followers of Nestorius and Eutyches to those of Macedonius. But neither of the former sects denied the doctrine of the Trinity; their disputes with the Catholics being properly confined to the question whether the Son possessed one subsistence or two persons, instead of two subsistences and one person. In these controversies, of course, there was no greater necessity for an appeal to the disputed passage, than in any of the preceding.
After the period which produced these controversies, all enquiry must be fruitless which is directed in search of a Trinitarian controversy. That with the Pelagians engaged the attention of the Church for a long time subsequent to this period, and agitated the eastern and western world. But it was of a different character from those which preceded. The disputants, having at length agreed on the existence of the third person, now began to dispute on his mode of operation, a discussion which, consequently, admitted of no appeal to the text of the heavenly witnesses.
It will, however, be doubtless objected, that although the controversies maintained by the Church, as not embracing the doctrine of the Trinity, did not admit of reference to 1 John v 7, yet, as turning on the divinity and the humanity of Christ, they necessarily suggested the expediency of an appeal to Acts xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16. But this objection will have little force when it is remembered that the passage was not considered decisive, as not using the term Christ, and that the heretics who excepted against the doctrine inculcated in those texts, rejected also that part of the canon in which they are contained. Of the heretics who took the lead in this controversy, the Ebionites wholly renounced the authority of St. Paul, and the Gnostics, Marcionites, Valentinians, and their followers, corrupted or rejected the Acts and Epistles to Timothy. The orthodox were consequently reduced to the necessity of deducing their scriptural proof from that part of the canon on the authority of which they and their adversaries were mutually agreed, and were thus prevented from making those frequent appeals to the verses in dispute which the controversy may be conceived to have suggested.
It is thus apparent from the state of the early controversies maintained by the Catholics that there was no point contested which rendered an appeal to the text of the heavenly witnesses absolutely necessary. It may be now shown, from the distinctions introduced in those controversies, that the orthodox were so far from having any inducement to appeal to this text, that they had every reason to avoid an allusion to it, as it apparently favored the tenets of their opponents.
From the brief sketch which has been given of the progress of controversy in the primitive church, it must be apparent that the Sabellian controversy presented the most suitable occasion for an appeal to the contested passage. The peculiar tenets of the different sects which may be classed under this name had originated with the Jews, and had been adopted from them in the Egyptian Gospel from whence they descended to Noetus, Praxeas, Sabellius, and their followers. Under Paul of Samosata, they attained that influence in the Syriac Church which occasioned the meeting of the Council of Antioch. In the following century they were revived by Marcellus, Photinus, and Apollinarius, and were expressly condemned by the Council of Sirmium, which was convened against the Photinians.
Of the tenets of these different sects we have an explicit account not only in the writings of those polemics who opposed their errors, but in the confessions of faith which were drawn up by the councils that were summoned against them. But in whatever form Sabellianism presents itself, we are compelled to acknowledge that it absolutely derives support from the text of the heavenly witnesses. These heretics, adhering to the very letter of the text, asserted that the “Word” and “Spirit” were in God, as the reason and soul are in man; a stronger testimony in their favor than that of the heavenly witnesses could not be easily fabricated. It seems to be therefore just as reasonable to expect that the Catholics would appeal to this text, in vindicating the doctrine of the Trinity against those heretics, as that they would cite the Shema of the Jews, for the same purpose; “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” This is so palpably the case that in the council of Antioch the word o`moousion was wholly rejected, though in this term the whole strength of the Catholics’ cause was rested, and in that of Sirmium it was passed over in silence; the heretics having carried their notions of the doctrine of one substance, which is asserted in the disputed verse, to such an extent, that they confounded the persons, in establishing their favorite tenet.
It may be however objected that as this text must have been challenged by the heretics, some reference must have been made to it by the orthodox, in replying to the arguments of their opponents. It is much to be regretted that we retain no more of the controversies of those heretics, than their orthodox adversaries were able to refute; yet scanty as the accounts of those controversies are we discover sufficient in the remains of them to warrant us in asserting that the disputed text was claimed by the heretics. The controversy maintained by Tertullian against Praxeas, and by Epiphanius against the Sabellians, supply the only places in which we might expect that some allusion would be made to the disputed passage, for the reply of Eusebius to Marcellus must be set out of the question for reasons which were formerly specified. In the works of Tertullian and Epiphanius we consequently find manifest traces of the disputed text, which very sufficiently declare that it was not only appealed to in the controversy, but challenged on the side of the heretics.
If we now consider the period during which the Sabellian controversy prevailed, we shall easily perceive that the negative argument adduced against 1 Joh. v. 7 derives its entire strength from an inattention to the true state of that controversy, and the period for which it prevailed. The first effectual opposition which was made against that heresy was in the council of Antioch, about sixty years previously to the council of Nice. From this period it silently gathered strength from the opposition of Arianism, until it was formally condemned in the middle of the fourth century by the council of Sirmium. The last effectual blow was struck against those rival sects in the second general council, convened at the close of the same age in Constantinople. But for a long period after this time they continued to infest the Oriental Church, until they broke out in the middle of the fifth century in the heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches.
Let us therefore advert to the history of the sacred text for the whole of this period, and view it comparatively with the state of religious controversy. Let us remember that in the earlier part of the term the canon was revised by Eusebius, the avowed adversary of the Sabellians, with the most unlimited powers to render it conducive to the promotion of what he believed [was] the ecclesiastical doctrine. Let us recollect that at the latter part of the term the Vulgar Text was again restored by the Catholics, whose prejudices were not less violently opposed to the Sabellian errors than their avowed enemies, the Arians; and that the disputed text was still conceived to be on the side of the heterodox. Let us hence consider the peculiar tendency of Eusebius’s religious opinions, and the versatility of principle which he exhibited in the Council of Nice on the subject of the doctrine inculcated in the disputed passage. Let us keep in view the confession of St. Epiphanius, who flourished when the Greek Vulgate was restored; that in the sacred text, as revised by the orthodox, some remarkable passages were omitted, of which the orthodox were apprehensive. Let us further consider that this charge is brought home to the Epistle which contains the disputed verse, if not to the passage in question, by Socrates, who declares that the former was mutilated by those who wished to sever the humanity of Christ from his Divinity. Let us next remember the confession of St. Chrysostom, under whom the vulgar Greek, which had been restored under Nectarius, was fully reinstated at Constantinople, that the disputed text was most likely to be included among the omitted passages. Let us finally call to mind how closely the Nestorian and the Eutychian heresy followed after those times; and that the former was not affected by the disputed passage, while the latter was to all appearances established by its authority. When we consider all these circumstances, which must have severally contributed to render the orthodox cautious in making the most remote allusion to a text which militated against them, and which was at best of suspicious authority, as removed from the authorized edition; so far shall we be from requiring express allegations of it in every controversy which was agitated during the period of nearly two centuries, in which the doctrine of the Trinity was canvassed, and which was gradually settled by the first four general councils, that we shall be at a loss to discover in what shape it could have been produced by the Catholics, had it even retained its place in the authorized edition, from which it was removed in the earlier part of the term.
When these considerations are duly estimated, the declining strength of the negative argument against 1 Joh. v. 7 may be easily disposed of. It has been often objected that the context of the evangelist, both preceding and following the disputed verse has been quoted, while the disputed verse is wholly omitted; and that the doctrine of the Trinity has been proved by an allegorical interpretation of verse 8 which is expressly asserted in verse 7. The former assertion is principally founded on the testimony of an anonymous writer in St. Cyprian and P. Leo the great; the latter on the testimony of St. Augustine and Facundus Hermionensis. But these objections admit of a very simple solution.
However paradoxical the assertion may in the first instance appear, it is notwithstanding the fact, that a stronger argument was deducible from the testimony of the earthly witnesses in favor of the Catholic doctrine, than from that of the heavenly witnesses. The point on which the orthodox and heterodox divided was the diversity of the Persons; on the unity of the substance there was no difference of opinion between the Catholics on the one side, and the Sabellians, the Apollinarists, and the Eutychians, on the other. The whole of the distinctions on which the orthodox founded their proofs of the former point were lacking in the disputed verse, but those on which the heterodox founded their proofs of the latter were forcibly marked in the same passage. The Sabellians contended that the Father, and his Word, and Spirit, were one Person, while the Catholics maintained that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, must be three Persons. And the Apollinarists and Eutychians held that the three which bore record in heaven were one substance, the humanity of Christ being absorbed in his Divinity; while the Catholics, asserting the existence of two natures in the same Divine Person, believed that Christ was of one substance with God in the former, but of a like substance with Man in the latter. We thus easily discover the causes which induced the orthodox to rest their cause on the testimony of the earthly witnesses instead of the heavenly. The specific mention of “the blood” in verse 8 not only designated Christ as a separate Person from the Father, against the Sabellians; but as a Person, in whom the human nature was united with the divine, without any confusion of substance, against the Eutychians. Under this view, the preference shown by the orthodox to the text of the earthly witnesses, over that of the heavenly, needs no palliation from the circumstance of the one text being unquestioned and the other of doubtful authority, in the age when those points were debated.
From the negative testimony of Pseudo-Cyprian, St. Augustine, P. Leo, and Facundus Hermionensis, we can consequently deduce nothing more, than that the text of the heavenly witnesses was absent from the current copies of the vulgate of St. Jerome, which was in general use when they wrote; and that it best answered the purpose of those writers to pass it over in silence. St. Augustine’s testimony is thus easily disposed of; he wrote while the heresy of Apollinarius prevailed, and with a peculiar respect for the corrected translation of St. Jerome in which the disputed verse was omitted. The testimony of P. Leo and Facundus presents still fewer difficulties, as it is adduced from their controversy with the Eutychians, it is not entitled to the smallest respect. The disputed text embarrassed their cause with difficulties which they were unable to solve; it is therefore unreasonable to expect in their works anything in the shape of an appeal to its authority. In fact, it must be apparent to the most superficial observer, that Facundus has absolutely labored to destroy its authority by depriving it of the support of St. Cyprian. But with so much skill has he effected his purpose, that in retaining the phrase “in earth,” in order to strengthen the verse which he has quoted, he has evinced, beyond the possibility of dispute, that the phrase “in heaven,” with its context, was extant in the text which was before him.
This consideration will enable us to appreciate the testimony of the anonymous writer in St. Cyprian, and to give some account of the origin of that work which is written on the baptism of heretics. And when we consider that the controversy on this subject was soon terminated; and that some works were ascribed to St. Cyprian, by the Macedonians, for the purpose of supporting points of controversy like that before us; we may at least admit the possibility that this anonymous tract might have been fabricated for the express purpose of exhibiting the context of St. John without the disputed passage. This passage was thus deprived, at a stroke, of the testimony of St. Cyprian and of the text which existed in his times; and this, as we have seen, in the peculiar case of P. Leo and Facundus, was no inconsiderable object with the polemics who engaged in those days. Until at least some better account is given of this anonymous tract, we need not regard with much apprehension any appeal to its testimony on the subject at present contested.
Nor do the objections which have been adduced against the testimony of Eucherius, from the diversity of the copies which contain that writer’s works, and which sometimes omit the contested passage, at all affect the point in dispute. Eucherius preceded the era which produced the Eutychian controversy; and in quoting the disputed text he furnished an authority in favor of that heresy. As the removal of an obnoxious passage from his works was merely an accommodation of his quotations to the sacred tent, as corrected by the Greek, it is only wonderful that the text of the heavenly witnesses should have retained its place in any copy of his writings. For the testimony of Cerealis fully evinces that this text has disappeared from some tracts in which it was originally inserted.
The variations of the disputed passage, as read in the modern Latin Vulgate, present no greater difficulty. In some copies it is wholly omitted, in some it is annexed in the margin, though in most it is inserted in the text. But that it has been thus added, as a gloss on the eighth verse, is an assumption which may be very easily refuted. In the first place it was a custom unknown to the primitive church to allude to the mystery of the Trinity, unless in oblique terms, before those who had not been initiated in the Christian covenant. In the next place, the seventh verse is really no explanatory gloss of the eighth, unless we suppose it framed by the heretics. From the times of Tertullian and Cyprian, in whose interpretations the disputed verse is supposed to have originated, to those of Fulgentius and Eugenius, in whose times it was confessedly incorporated in the sacred canon, an orthodox exposition of the doctrine extracted from the eighth verse, could have been only expressed in the terms the “Father and the Son,” instead of “the Father and the Word,” &c. By the latter reading, of course, the supposition that the seventh verse is a marginal gloss on the eighth, is so completely overthrown, that it furnishes a very decisive confirmation of the contrary assumption, that the disputed verse was originally suppressed, not gradually introduced, into the Latin translation.
In fact, as the explanation offered by the impugners of the text of the heavenly witnesses, to account for the varieties in this translation, thus wholly fails of its end, a very satisfactory solution of the difficulty which thus arises may be suggested in the consideration that St. Jerome put forth two editions of the Catholic Epistles, in one of which the contested verse was omitted, though it was retained in the other. And this conjecture may be maintained on the strength of many corroborating circumstances. It is indisputable that two editions of some books of Scripture had been not only published by that early father; but that one edition had been in some instances dedicated to Eustochium, to whom the Catholic Epistles are inscribed in the Prologue. Now as St. Jerome likewise undertook the revisal of the Italic translation, at the request of P. Damasus, we have thus authority for believing that two editions had been published of the part of Scripture in question. And admitting this to have been the case, every difficulty in the matter before us admits of the clearest solution, Agreeably to the prejudices of the age in which the Latin Vulgate was published, St. Jerome inserted the contested verse in the text which was designed for private use, omitting it in that which was intended far general circulation. And in thus acting he adhered to the peculiar plan which he had prescribed to himself in revising the Latin translation, having omitted the disputed verse in the authorized version, on the authority of the Greek, from whence it had been removed by Eusebius, but having availed himself of the variations of the Latin translation, in choosing that reading of the disputed verse which was calculated to support the ecclesiastical doctrine of one substance, as understood by the initiated in the Christian mysteries.
On summing up the arguments which have been urged against the text of the heavenly witnesses, I cannot therefore discover any thing which materially affects the authenticity of this verse, either in the omissions of the Greek manuscripts or the silence of the Greek fathers, in the variations of the Latin version or the allegorical explanations of the Latin polemics. The objections hence raised against that text are perfectly consistent with that strong evidence in its favor, which is deducible from the internal evidence and the external testimony of the African Church, which testimony remains to be disposed of before we can consider it spurious. Nor is there any objection to which the text of the Vulgar Greek is exposed, in other respects, which at all detracts from its credit.
It has been stated against I Joh. v. 7, 8. as read in the Greek Vulgate, that the objection raised to the grammatical structure of the Palestine text, is removed but a step back by the insertion of I Joh. v, 7, as the same false concord occurs in the context [in] I Joh. v. 8. as read in the Byzantine edition; trei/j oi` marturou/ntej being there made to agree with to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr. But this objection has been made without any attention to the force of the figure attraction. The only difficulty which embarrasses the construction lies is furnishing the first adjectives trei/j oi` marturou/ntej with substantives; which is effectually done, by the insertion of o` path,r( o` lo,goj, in the disputed passage. The subsequent trei/j oi` marturou/ntej are thence attracted to the foregoing adjectives, instead of being governed by the subsequent to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr, in the strictest consistency with the style of St. John and the genius of the Greek language.
It has been further objected to the Byzantine text; that evkklhsi,an tou/ Qeou Act. xx. 28 has been substituted for evkklhsi,an tou/ kuri,ou, in order to accommodate the phrase to the style of St. Paul; and that parallel examples to o]j evfanerw,qh [in] 1 Tim. iii. 16. used in the definitive sense of “he who was manifested,” occur in Mar, iv. 25, Luc. viii. 18, Rom. viii. 32. But the former observation appears to me to remove one difficulty by the happy expedient of creating a greater; for thus a double inconsistency is substantiated—against the Apostle in the first instance, and against the Evangelist in the second, which is no less happily conceived to be corrected by the blunder of a transcriber. And the latter observation unfortunately finds not the least support from the adduced examples, as they are essentially different from the passages which they are taken to illustrate.
It has been further urged against the Greek Vulgate that Liberatus states the vulgar reading of I Tim. iii. 16. to be a correction of the heretic Macedonius; and that I John v. 7. could not have existed in the sacred text in the age of the Alogi, since these heretics rejected the Gospel of St. John as militating against their peculiar opinions, yet have not objected to the Epistles of the Evangelist, which are equally opposed to their tenets when the disputed verse forms a part of his context. But when the principles of Liberatus are taken into account, together with the obscurity and contradictoriness of his testimony, it will not be deemed worthy of implicit credence. We may however grant that it has every foundation in truth, without effecting in the least the integrity of the Greek Vulgate. When it is remembered that the reading which Macedonius is said to have corrected is found in a verse which Eusebius had previously corrupted, we may admit that the alteration was made in some copies, and yet maintain that the integrity of the sacred text was restored, not impaired, by the last emendation. But the possibility of thus altering a few copies will be still infinitely remote from accounting for the general corruption of the Greek Vulgate, and until this object is attained the present objection must wholly fail of its intention. As to that which has been advanced from the consideration of the Alogi, who have not objected to St. John’s Epistle, it seems to have been urged from a partial view of St. Epiphanius’s account of those heretics. As far as I can collect from his words, he has implicitly declared that they objected not less to the Epistles written by St. John, than to his Gospel. And had not this been the case, the objection might be easily set aside, as it equally proves, that the first verses of the Epistle must have been also absent from the Apostle’s text, as they are even more strongly opposed to the peculiar tenets of the Alogi. As this is a position which will be hardly sustained by any objector, I apprehend that the present objection in proving so much, really proves nothing.
A few words will now cover the Greek Vulgate. from every objection which has been raised to its verbal integrity. It has been an old objection urged against the Apocalypse and Epistle to the Hebrews, that neither of those canonical books corresponds with the style of the author, with whose name they are inscribed; the one possessing an elevation of language which is not discoverable in the works of St. Paul, the other abounding in solecisms which are not discoverable in the other writings of St. John the Evangelist. But when due allowances are made for the latitude in which the term style was used by the ancients; and when the peculiar subjects of the books under review are taken into account, this objection, which at best is founded on a very fallacious criterion, admits of a very easy solution. As the term style, in the original acceptation, was applied not merely to the peculiar mode of expression in which a writer delivers himself, but jointly to the diction and sentiment, an elevation in the latter which arises out of the subject, has afforded the chief ground to the objection. In the retrospect which the one Apostle takes of the primitive state of the Church, and in the prospect which the other gives into its future fortune, objects seized the imagination which were essentially different from those which engrossed the attention, when they described the acts of our Lord, or inculcated his doctrines. Adapting their language to their matter, they adopt a different elevation of manner in treating different subjects, and have thus furnished the objector with grounds to urge his exceptions. With greater plausibility have they been urged against the Apocalypse, than the Epistle to the Hebrews. By a nice attention to the texture of the phrase, many expressions have been discovered in the latter, which are characteristic of the manner adopted by St. Paul in his other Epistles. And though some expressions in the Apocalypse appear to be less reconcilable to the style of St. John, yet when it is considered that they are Hebrew idioms which are particularly suited to the prophetical style which is adopted by St. John, we have no great allowance to make for the difference of the Evangelist’s subject, in order to meet every objection which has been made to these passages.
Thus weighing every objection which has been stated against the Greek Vulgate, there appears to be none urged which can at all affect its integrity as a perfect rule of faith and manners. In regarding the constitution of the primitive church, and the care taken to disperse the commonest documents relative to ecclesiastical polity, it is impossible even to conceive how the inspired text could have been corrupted in the first ages of Christianity. In the age of St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, who followed in the next succession after the Apostles, the authenticity of the sacred canon was investigated with the utmost care; and in the age of Origen, who succeeded at no great interval of time, it was still considered free from corruption. To the period intervening between his times and those of St. Chrysostom, whatever alterations were made in the text must be referred, as at the latter period the vulgar text, which has been since used in the Church, was confessedly adopted. In this period, which extends to little more than an hundred and fifty years, we are accordingly informed that those editions of the Greek were published to which we can trace every variety in the sacred text, whether existing in the original or in translations. Of these editions, however, two only are entitled to any consideration; that of Palestine, which prevails in the writings of Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril, and Isidore, and is, found in the Vatican manuscript; and that of Byzantium, which prevails in the writing of Chrysostom, Gregory Nyssene, Nazianzene, &c. and is found in the great body of Greek manuscripts. The weight of evidence which supports both editions has been already laid in detail before the reader. In almost all points of importance they mutually afford each other confirmation; and where this coincidence fails the testimony of the oldest witnesses, contained in the primitive Italic and Syriac versions, is generally found on the side of the Greek Vulgate, the testimony of those witnesses being further confirmed by that of the primitive fathers. The variations in the testimony of later texts, versions, and writers, is besides easily traced to the influence of the Marcionite and Valentinian heresies, which, as merely affecting a text essentially different from the Vulgar Greek, leaves the evidence arising in favor of this text from the immemorial tradition of the Church, unaffected by any objection.
In the single instance of the text of the heavenly witnesses a difficulty arises, as it cannot be denied that this verse has been wholly lost in the Greek Vulgate. But I cannot admit that the integrity of the sacred text is at all affected by this consideration. Were the Greek Church the only witness of its integrity, or guardian of its purity, the objection would be of vital importance. But in deciding the present question, the African Church is entitled to a voice not less than the Byzantine, and on its testimony we receive the disputed passage. In fact, as the proper witnesses of the inspired Word are the Greek and Latin Churches, they are adequate witnesses of its integrity. The general corruption of the text received in these Churches in the vast tract of country which extends from Armenia to Africa was utterly impossible. A comparative view of their testimony enables us to determine the genuine text in every point of the smallest importance. And after the progressive labor of ages, in which every thing that could invalidate their evidence from the testimony of dissenting witnesses has been accumulated, nothing has been advanced by which it is materially affected. To the mind which is not operated on by these considerations, nothing further need be advanced in the shape of the argument.