HAVING distributed the Greek manuscripts into three Classes, the next object of inquiry is to ascertain the particular class, in favor of which, the clearest and most conclusive evidence can be adduced, that it preserves the genuine text of Scripture. The main difficulty in such an undertaking is, I believe, overcome in referring these texts to the different regions in which they were edited. As we acknowledge no authority, but the testimony and tradition of the Church, in determining the authenticity and purity of the Scripture Canon; that text must be entitled to the preference, which has been preserved in a region, where the tradition has continued unbroken since the times of the evangelical writers. It is this circumstance which adds so much weight to the testimony of the Latin Church, as it preserved its faith unimpaired, during the period of forty years when the Greek Church resigned itself to the errors of Arius. In addition to the joint testimony of those Churches, various direct and collateral lights arise on this subject, to determine our choice in the different classes, among which we are to make our election. From possessing a knowledge of the different persons by whom these texts were revised, we derive considerable support in choosing a particular class, or in selecting a peculiar reading. A comparative view of the classes of the Greek, or even of the Latin translation, regarded either relatively or apart, will frequently enable us to determine, by the principles of just criticism, the genuine Scripture text from the corrupted.
On the most casual application of these principles to the different classes of text, they directly mark out the Byzantine edition, as that which is entitled to a preference over the Egyptian and Palestine. In the region occupied by that text, the apostolical writings were deposited; and they were here combined in a code by the immediate successors of the apostles. Here St. Paul, and his companion St. Luke, published the principal part of the Canon. From hence the great apostle addressed his Epistle to the Church at Rome, and hither he directed his Epistles to the Churches of Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica, which were situated in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Hither St. John returned from banishment: here he remained until the times of Trajan, exercising the functions of an Ordinary; and here, having completed the sacred Canon by composing his Gospel and Apocalypse, he collected the writings of the other Evangelists, which he combined in a code and sanctioned with the apostolical authority. And here every facility was afforded Linus, the first Bishop of Rome, and Timothy, the first Bishop of Ephesus, from their connection with St. Paul, St. Luke, and St. John, to form perfect copies of the New Testament Canon, which had been partly collected by the last surviving apostle.
The peculiar text which exists in this region is not merely supported by the consideration of the place in which it is found: it is also supported by the concurring testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches. It is that text which we adopted immediately from the Greeks, on forming our printed editions and vernacular versions. And it is that which is exclusively used by the only learned branch of the Greek Church which now exists, and which is established in Russia. It is also the text which is supported by the concurring testimony of the old Italic version, contained in the Brescia manuscript; which is obviously free from the innovations of St. Eusebius of Verceli, of St. Jerome, and Cassiodorus. Consequently, it is the only text of the three editions which challenges the general testimony of the Eastern Church, and the unadulterated testimony of the Western, in favor of its integrity.
The particular manner in which the Western Church delivers its testimony, in confirmation of that of the Greek Church, seems almost decisive in evincing the permanence and purity of the text of Byzantium. The Brescia manuscript, which contains this testimony, possesses a text which, as composed of the old Italic version, must be antedated to the year 393, when the new version was made by St. Jerome. It thus constitutes a standing proof that the Byzantine text, with which it agrees, has preserved its integrity for upwards of 1400 years; during which period it was exposed to the greatest hazard of being corrupted. This proof, it may be presumed, affords no trifling earnest that it has not been corrupted during the comparatively inconsiderable period of two hundred and ninety years, which intervene between this time and the publication of the inspired writings. For while 290 years bear no proportion to 1400, the chances of such a corruption must diminish in proportion as we ascend to the time of the apostles. The first copyists must necessarily have observed a degree of carefulness in making their transcripts proportionable to their reverence for the originals, which they took as their models: from the autographs of the apostles, or their immediate transcripts, there could be no inducement to depart, even in a letter. It is, however; not merely probable that the originals were preserved for this inconsiderable period; but that they were preserved with a degree of religious veneration. And if they were preserved in any place, it must have been in the region contiguous to Constantinople, where they were originally deposited. To this region, of course, we must naturally look for the genuine text Scripture.
It is indeed true, that those Churches, which were the witnesses and keepers of Holy Writ, vary in their testimony; and that the Greek original, as well as the Latin translation, have undergone some alteration: as appears from the classes into which they are respectively divided. But, as they do not vary from each other in above one essential point, but generally conspire in their testimony, the translation following the varieties of the original; as we can also follow up these varieties to their source, and can trace them to the alterations made by Hesychius and Eusebius in the Greek, and to the correspondent corrections made by St. Eusebius and St. Jerome in the Latin, the fidelity of the witnesses still remains unimpaired, and the unadulterated testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches still lies on the side of the text of Lucianus.
These deductions will receive additional confirmation, and every objection to which they are exposed will be easily solved, by investigating apart the respective testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches. In the course of this investigation, it shall be my object to meet those objections which may be urged against the Byzantine text from the character of Eusebius and Jerome, who have avowed a predilection for the Palestine.
I. The first argument which may be advanced in favor of the uncorrupted testimony of the Eastern Church is deducible from the extraordinary coincidence observed to exist between the manuscripts of the Byzantine edition. Though the copies of this edition, which constitutes the Greek Vulgate of the present age, and which seemingly constituted that. of the age of St. Jerome, are considerably more numerous than those of the other editions, they possess the most extraordinary uniformity in their peculiar readings. Had they existed in a state of progressive deterioration it is obvious that at the end of seventeen, centuries, they must have presented a very different appearance. The extraordinary uniformity which pervades the copies of this edition involves much more than a presumptive proof, that they have retained their fidelity to the common source from which they have unquestionably descended.
But that this source must be remote, is a fact, which is equally deducible from the consideration of the number of the copies which we possess of the Byzantine edition. The text, of this edition apparently possesses no intrinsic merit, that could entitle it to supersede the Palestine text, which was recommended by the united authority of Eusebius and the Emperor Constantine. And yet it has undoubtedly superseded the latter at Constantinople, where the Palestine text was first published under every advantage, arising from the authority. of the persons by whom it was edited. Nay, it has superseded it so effectually, that scarcely a copy of Eusebius’s text is to be found in this region where Eusebius’s edition was originally published. Nor is this all, but the Byzantine text must have thus superseded the Palestine text within a short space of the death of Eusebius. This is apparent not only from the existence of the former text in the Alexandrian manuscript, which was written within at least forty years of that period, but from the coincidence of this text with the Brescia manuscript, which contains the old Italic translation which prevailed until the age of St. Jerome. Now, when we consider the invincible pertinacity with which, the churches persevered in adhering to the common or vulgar text, it seems impossible to account for so great and so sudden a revolution as thus occurred at Constantinople, otherwise than by supposing that the attachment to tradition prevailed over the influence of authority; and that the edition of Eusebius thus gave place to the text of Lucianus, having superseded it, but for that limited period in which it was sustained by the royal authority. This assumption, which is confirmed in an extraordinary manner by the demand made by the Emperor Constans to St. Athanasius, to furnish a new edition on the death of Eusebius, is finally proved by the immense number of manuscripts possessing the Byzantine text which have been brought from Constantinople. Had not that change taken place, which it would be my object to evince, and at a period thus early, it is impossible to conceive how it could have taken place so effectually as to extinguish the edition of Eusebius where it was originally published; or, so peculiarly, as to reinstate the text of Lucianus.
Whatever force be allowed to these conclusions, it must be at least admitted, that, as the testimony of the Brescia manuscript enables us to trace the tradition of the Byzantine text to a period as remote as the year 393; that of the Alexandrian manuscript enables us to trace it to a period not less remote than the year 367. The pedigree of this extraordinary manuscript, which is referred to the latter period; has been traced with a degree of accuracy which is unparalleled in the history of manuscripts. An immemorial tradition prevailed in the church from whence it was brought, that it was written not long subsequently to the Council of Nice, by a religious woman named Thecla. A religious person of this name certainly existed at this period, to whom some of the Epistles of Gregory Nazianzen are addressed, and the characters of the manuscript are of that delicate form, which evinces that it was written by the hand of a female. Nay, more than this, the tradition of the church respecting this manuscript, which there is no just ground for impeaching, is confirmed in an extraordinary manner by the internal evidence of the text, as it possesses every characteristic mark which might be expected to exist in a manuscript written at that early period. I shall merely specify a few of the internal marks from which the learned editor concludes that it was written between the middle and close of the fourth century. It possesses the Gospels divided by the sections of Eusebius, which were introduced in the former period; it retains the Pauline Epistles, without those divisions, which were invented in the latter period; and it contains, as a part of the authorized text, the Epistles of St. Clement, which about the same period were prohibited from being read in the Church by the Council of Laodicea. For plenary information on this subject the reader must apply to the admirable Preface of the learned Dr. Woide, by whom it was published. From such internal evidence, joined with the external testimony of the Church, has the age of this celebrated manuscript been determined; and as it contains the Byzantine text, in the Gospels it necessarily proves the antiquity of that text to be as remote as the year three hundred and sixty-seven, when the Epistles of St. Clement were formally separated from the Canonical Scripture.
The space of time which intervenes between this ancient period, and that in which the sacred writings were published, is not so immeasurable as to preclude the possibility of proving that the tradition, which supports the Byzantine text, though suspended for a short period, was preserved uncorrupted. In the entire course of this period, there was but one interval in which it could be interrupted, during the forty years in which the Church was under the dominion of the Arians. But over this period the testimony of St. Jerome, who lived at the time, directly carries us, as he declares that the text which prevailed at Byzantium was that which had been revised by Lucianus, who perished in the persecution of Dioclesian and Maximian. The traditionary chain is thus easily connected. We know that in Constantine’s age Eusebius’s text was published at Constantinople; we know that Lucianus’s Septuagint differed from it, and that in St. Jerome’s age it prevailed in the same region. There is consequently no alternative, but to admit, that the tradition which was interrupted in the former period, was renewed in the latter.
Now as the Scripture Canon was not published until the beginning of the second century, and as Lucianus most probably completed his revisal before the year 284, when the Dioclesian era commenced, the Byzantine text, if it has undergone any alteration, must have been corrupted in the course of this period. It will be readily granted, for reasons already specified, that this alteration could not have taken place in the earlier part of this term. The last possibility which the question admits, consequently is, that it was corrupted in the latter part of it, when the text was revised by the hand of Lucianus.
But against this possibility we have the strongest security in the character of. that learned and pious martyr. To his skill in revising the sacred text the most honorable testimony is borne by the most unimpeachable witnesses, Eusebius and Jerome. These best judges of antiquity have expressed themselves on this subject in terms of the most unqualified approbation. One slight, yet important circumstance, which the latter critic has left on record clearly evinces the scrupulous fidelity with which Lucianus discharged this sacred trust. The text which he published was that of the vulgar Greek, or common edition, which loudly proclaims that his intention was to preserve the inspired text in the state in which he found it; though, in pursuing this course he acted in direct opposition to the authority of Origen, who set him a different example. Let us now take this circumstance into account, together with the critical reputation of Lucianus: let us consider that the place and period in which he made his revisal was the region where the inspired writings were deposited, and within a short distance of the period when they were published: let us then revert to the possibilities which have been already calculated, that the immediate transcripts of the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists could have been corrupted in little more than one hundred years, while the Byzantine text has confessedly retained its integrity for full eleven hundred. We may thence form a just estimate of the conclusiveness of that evidence which still exists in attestation of the purity of the text of Lucianus.
In fine, a very short process enables us to prove that the tradition which supports the authority of this text has continued unbroken since the age of the apostles. The coincidence of the Vulgar Greek of our present editions with the old Italic translation, enables us to carry up the tradition to the times of St. Jerome. The testimony of this learned father enables us to extend the proof beyond this period, to the times of Lucianus, in whose age the Byzantine text equally constituted the Vulgate or common edition. And the character of Lucianus, and the course which he pursued in revising the sacred text, connects this proof with the times of the inspired writers, who could alone impress that authority upon one text, which, by bringing it. into general use, rendered it, from the primitive ages down to the present day, the Greek Vulgate.
The mode of proof which thus establishes the authority of the Byzantine text, is not more decisive, from being positively than exclusively true. When applied to the Egyptian and Palestine texts, it is so far from establishing an immemorial uninterrupted tradition in their favor, that it completely limits their pretensions to a definite period.
The manuscripts containing both these texts are comparatively few, having been generally superceded by the Byzantine edition. We scarcely posses a second copy of the Egyptian text; and should almost doubt its existence if it were not attested by St. Jerome, and if his testimony were not confirmed by the coincidence of the Sahidic version with the Latin translation of St. Eusebius, and by the agreement of both with the Cambridge manuscript, and the manuscripts collated by Thomas Heraclensis. The manuscripts containing the Palestine text are more numerous; but, according to the confession of M. Griesbach, they bear no proportion to those of the Byzantine edition. And they fall infinitely short of the number which might be expected to exist, when we consider the favorable circumstances under which the Palestine text was edited by Eusebius, and republished with manifest improvements, by Euthalius, at Alexandria. There is thus no presumption in favor of their antiquity, arising from the number or general dispersion of the copies.
The place from whence these manuscripts are derived, detracts not a little from their authority. They are ascribed by M. Griesbach to the Alexandrian region, and there is little reason to question his authority on this subject. Here the Egyptian text was published by Hesychius, and hence brought into the West by St. Eusebius, of Verceli; and here the Palestine text was republished by Euthalius, who corrected his edition by Eusebius’s copies; which were preserved at Caesarea. Now, taking the question on these grounds, there is little room for a competition between the Byzantine and Palestine editions. The country in which the one arose was that in which the apostolical originals were deposited; that in which the other was transplanted was the soil in which the Arian heresy first arose and principally flourished. When we take this circumstance into account, together with the peculiar opinions of Eusebius, by whom the Palestine text was revised and published, who lies under a suspicion of being tainted with Arianism, it seems to leave very little authority to a text which is particularly calculated to support the peculiar errors of Arius.
But the authority of these texts is not merely weakened by this circumstance, that the traditionary evidence which may be urged in their favor is broken by the distance of Egypt and Palestine from Byzantium, where the originals of the inspired writers were deposited, and by the positive extinction of both texts in the region where they were published. When we carry up our inquiries higher we find unquestionable evidence of two breaches in the chain of tradition; either of which would destroy the credit of the text which hung on it for support.
In the first place, the edition of Hesychius was positively superseded in Egypt by that of Euthalius. And of the extensive influence of the edition of the latter, we have a standing evidence, in the prevalence of the Euthalian sections, which very generally exist in the Greek manuscripts. In fact, so little calculated was the Egyptian text to retain its ground against the powerful influence of the Palestine, under the double publication of Eusebius and Euthalius, that the former was soon extinguished by the latter, in the region which may be termed its native soil. And so effectual has been its extirpation, that unless a few manuscripts had been imported into the West, we should retain no memorials of this text, but those which remain in the translations made in the Thebais, previously to the publication of Euthalius’s edition. Very different was the fate of the Byzantine text. Though it gave place to the Palestine text, in the times of Constantine; the testimony of St. Jerome puts it out of dispute, that it must have been reinstated in a short period after the death of the elder Eusebius.
In the next place, the traditionary evidence in favor of the Palestine text is broken by the intervention of an edition prepared by St. Athanasius, under the auspices of the Emperor Constans. It is a remarkable fact that the application for this edition was made in the very year of the death of Eusebius, who paid the debt of nature about the same time as the younger Constantine. An application of this kind, made at this remarkable period, if it does not convey some tacit censure against the text of Eusebius, clearly implies that some difference existed between his edition and the revisal of St. Athanasius. This supposition is not a little confirmed by the known enmity which subsisted between Eusebius and St. Athanasius; and by the peculiar opinions of the Emperor, which leaned in a contrary direction to those of the Bishop of Caesarea, whose principles were unquestionably warped towards Arianism. But one consideration seems to put the matter out of dispute: had not Eusebius’s edition labored under some imputation, the demand of the Emperor might have been supplied, and that edition, which had been published but a few years before, might have been multiplied to any given extent, by transcribing one of Eusebius’s copies. Now it is important to observe, that while the undertaking of St. Athanasius makes this breach in the tradition of the Palestine edition it serves to fill up the only breach which exists in that of the text of Byzantium: as his revisal succeeded the Palestine text, and partially restored the text of Byzantium. It has been already observed respecting the celebrated Alexandrian manuscript, that it was written in Egypt previously to they ear 367. It remains to be observed, that as St. Athanasius returned to Alexandria from banishment in the year 338, on the death of the elder Constantine; and had revised the text of Scripture, in the year 340, under the Emperor Constans, and his brother the younger Constantine; he continued, with the intermission of a few months, to govern the Alexandrian church from the year 367 to the year 373, under the Emperor Valens. It is of small importance to my present object to calculate the chances, whether this celebrated manuscript contains St. Athanasius’s revisal of the sacred text; of which it must be however remembered, that it was written, not merely in the last mentioned period, but in the Patriarchate of Alexandria. But as it cannot be reasonably denied that his revisal was within the reach of the copyist, who has executed the task of transcription in a manner which is expensive and accurate; it must be observed, that Thecla has left unquestionable evidence in the manuscript itself of having been biased by the influence of the Patriarch; as she has inserted, in the book of Psalms, the epistle of St. Athanasius, addressed to Marcellinus. I profess myself at a loss to divine by what means the inference which follows from those facts can be evaded; or how the conclusion is to be disproved, that this manuscript approximates to the revisal of St. Athanasius. Assuming this point as manifest, it directly throws the testimony of the Patriarch. on the side of the Byzantine text; as this text is adopted in the Gospels of the Alexandrian manuscript; which clearly constitute the principal part of the better half of: the Canonical Scriptures: Much might be advanced in favor of this hypothesis, from the history of St. Athanasius; who, if he possessed no suspicion of foul play, felt no motives of. personal dislike in rejecting the text of Eusebius, might have been influenced in choosing that of Lucianus for the basis of his text, as his edition was to be published at Constantinople. For thus, as two editions had been published in that region, he furnished the different parties which divided the Byzantine church, with, an edition suited to their respective partialities. Much might be advanced to support it, from the known prudence and moderation of that great man, who ever followed conciliatory measures, and who must have seen the inexpediency and danger of venturing, in the infected state of the Eastern Church, to undertake at once the total suppression of Eusebius’s edition: While this account affords a consistent and probable solution of the only difficulty which embarrasses the history of a manuscript which varies from all that are known, in having a different text in the Gospels and the Acts and Epistles: the manuscript itself contains an irrefragable proof, that within that short period of the death of Eusebius in which it was written, the Palestine text had begun to be again replaced by the Byzantine.
When we advance a step higher in scrutinizing the traditionary evidence which supports the authority of the Egyptian and Palestine texts, the apparent force which it appears to possess directly yields when it is submitted to the touch. In establishing the claims of these texts to an immemorial tradition, it is rather fatal to their pretensions that we should happen to know the time of their origin. The period in which the Egyptian text was published cannot be antedated to the age of Hesychius; as that in which the Palestine was published cannot be antedated to the age of Eusebius. That both these editors made some innovations in their respective texts, can scarcely admit of a doubt. This is an inference which necessarily follows from the. consideration of their having published a text, which differed from the vulgar Greek, or common edition. It is in fact expressly recorded that Eusebius published that text of the Old Testament which had been corrected by Origen; and that Hesychius admitted into his text of the New Testament numerous interpolations. From such an imputation the text of Lucianus is obviously free, as he merely republished the vulgar edition. The antiquity of his text consequently loses itself in immemorial tradition; while that of his rivals is bounded by the age of their respective revisals. And this assertion, as I shall soon take occasion to prove, is equally applicable to the Italic version, which corresponds with the Byzantine Greek, and is contained in the Brescia manuscript. It must be obvious, of course, that the former circumstance as fully confirms the claims of Lucianus’s text to an origin ascending to the apostolical age, as it detracts from the pretensions of Hesychius and Eusebius’s texts to an immemorial tradition. True it is that St. Jerome seems to pass an indiscriminate censure on the editions of Hesychius and Lucianus. But, granting him to have possessed that impartial judgment on this subject, which is necessary to give weight to his sentence; yet when we come to compare St. Jerome with himself; when we come to estimate how much of his censure is directed against the vulgar edition of the Old Testament, which Lucianus republished; and when we ascertain the standard by which he judged of the imaginary corruptions of the New Testament, which the same learned person revised; we shall directly discern that his opinion does not in the least affect the question under discussion.
From a view of this subject, as well from the positive testimony which supports the Greek Vulgate, as that which invalidates the pretensions of the Egyptian and Palestine editions, we may summarily conclude, that the genuine text of the New Testament, if it is at all preserved in the three editions which have descended to our times, can be only conceived to exist in that of Byzantium.
II. On reviewing the testimony which the Western Church, when examined apart, bears to. the integrity of the text of Scripture, it affords the fullest confirmation to that borne by the separate testimony of the Eastern. On the weight and importance of the latter of these witnesses, I have already offered a remark, deduced from the circumstance of the Western Church having retained the faith uncorrupted, while the oriental Church was infected with the Arian opinions. A minute examination of this evidence will very clearly evince that it rests on the side of the Byzantine text, instead of the Egyptian or Palestine.
The first argument, which may be urged from hence, in support of the integrity of the Greek Vulgate, is deducible from the text of the Brescia manuscript. Of the author of this version we know nothing; though it is remarkable for its extraordinary fidelity to the original Greek. We are, on the other hand, perfectly acquainted with the framers of the text of the Vulgate and Verceli manuscript. which correspond with the Palestine and Egyptian editions. Now, such is the result which would precisely take place, had the fore-cited text derived its authority from the silent admission of the church, deduced from the primitive ages; while the latter were expressly acknowledged as recent translations from the time of their first publication. It is obvious, of course, that if the testimony of the Latin church, derived from immemorial tradition, be preserved in any of those versions, it must exclusively exist in the Brescia manuscript. And as this manuscript accords with the Vulgar Greek, it clearly proves that the immemorial testimony of the Western Church is on the side of this text, which we have already seen is similarly supported by the testimony of the Eastern.
Nay, more than this, it maybe shown that the bare undertaking of St. Eusebius Vercellensis to revise the Old Italic version not only subverts the authority of his own text, but that of Hesychius and Eusebius’s edition and consequently, negatively supports the authority of the text of Lucianus.
That the original version of the Latin Church had retained its integrity uncorrupted until the times of Pope Julius and St. Eusebius of Verceli is evident: from the external testimony of Hilary; from the circumstances in which the Western Church was placed; and from the internal evidence of the version in question. It is Hilary’s express declaration that many of the copies of this version retained their purity untainted, even to his own times, having been preserved not merely by the integrity of the earliest ages, but by their very inability to pervert or correct the primitive translation. And this declaration is completely confirmed by the history of the Eastern and Western Churches, neither of which were sufficiently instructed in the languages spoken by both to undertake a revisal. But what renders this fact of importance is, that however the copies of the Latin version vary among themselves, they preserve a conformity to some edition of the Greek original. The first considerable variety in these copies must be of coarse dated from the first revisal of the text by St. Eusebius of Verceli, since before him there was not a person sufficiently informed to undertake the correction of the Italic translation.
Now it is clearly implied in the circumstance of St. Eusebius’s undertaking to correct the current translation, that this translation must have differed from the ordinary Greek text, and from his own corrected Latin version: otherwise his attempt must have been without an object from the first, and without effect at the conclusion. As he undertook his revisal at the command of Pope Julius, who came to the Pontificate in the year 337; the ordinary Greek text was obviously contained in the edition of Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived, after this period, until the year 340. It is, of course, manifest that the received test of Eusebius did not correspond with the Latin version in Pope Julius’s age; and is consequently destitute of the primitive testimony of the Latin Church, as contained in the authorized Latin version.
It is equally clear that the original Latin version did not agree with the text of Hesychius. As St. Eusebius has unquestionably adhered to the edition of the latter, in revising the Latin translation; his undertaking to correct the one by the other necessarily implies that a difference at first subsisted between them. It is consequently clear that the text of Hesychius is equally destitute of the primitive testimony of the Latin Church, as the text of Eusebius of Caesarea. And as the corrected version of St. Eusebius when the proposed alterations were made, must have differed from the original translation which remained uncorrected; it is apparent that the Corrected Version also must have equally lacked the testimony of the primitive Western translation.
As St. Jerome’s revisal was not yet made, the question now rests with that version of the Old Italic translation, which corresponds with the Byzantine Greek, and which consequently must have been identical with the primitive version.
But here it may be objected that St. Eusebius’s undertaking to correct the translation by the original equally proves that the former differed from Lucianus’s text, as we have seen it differed from the text of Eusebius Caesariensis. But if this objection is not rendered null by this positive fact, that there is a third version, different from the revisals of St. Eusebius and St. Jerome, and confessedly more ancient than that of the latter; and that, while it is apparently uncorrected, it literally corresponds with the Byzantine Greek; it would admit of the following obvious solution. St. Eusebius undertook his revisal of the Latin version, not merely when the Received Text of the Greek was contained in Eusebius’s edition, but when this edition had, by the royal mandate, superseded the Byzantine text at Constantinople. It might not, therefore, have been safe for Pope Julius to authorize a version which was not merely different from the Received Text of the Greeks, but coincident with the edition which it had superseded. And this change took place after that greatest persecution of the Church, which occurred under Dioclesian and Maximian: in which the sacred Scriptures were sought with more care and destroyed with more fury than in any preceding persecution. It was therefore possible, considering the degraded state of the Church, and the disastrous situation of the bishop of Verceli, that a correct copy of Lucianus’s edition was not within the reach of Eusebius Vercellenis. It is probable that, in his choice of Hesychius’s edition, in correcting the Latin version, he was influenced not merely by inclination, but necessity. It is certain that, in the state of the Greek Church, there existed a sufficient cause to deter him from following the copies of the authorized edition. That Church vas then under the dominion of the Arian’s, who were not merely suspected in that age of corrupting, the scriptures, but who absolutely expunged a remarkable text which St. Eusebius inserted in his revisal, and otherwise corrupted his version In fact, when all these circumstances are taken into account, the history of the Latin version, which is otherwise involved in inextricable confusion, directly ceases to be perplexed, and all the incidents detailed in it naturally arrange themselves in a clear and consistent order.
The destruction of the Byzantine edition under Dioclesian, made way for the edition of Eusebius at Constantinople, and rendered a new supply of copies of the Latin version necessary to the Western Churches. As the first intercourse cultivated by the Eastern and Western Churches, which introduced the latter to a knowledge of the Greek, was during the apostasy of the former to the Arian heresy, the first endeavor to supply this defect produced a comparison between this version and the original, as it existed in the authorized text of Eusebius Caesariensis, which excited suspicions of the fidelity of the translation. This discovery must of course have awakened the vigilance of the Western Church, which during this period preserved its orthodoxy: and P. Julius, who then occupied the papal chair, was consequently induced to employ St. Eusebius to revise the authorized version. The domination, however, of the Arian heresy at this period, prevented St. Eusebius from correcting the translation by the received text of the Greek Church, which had been published by Eusebius of Caesarea and as he could not readily obtain a copy of Lucianus’s text, and as he obtained one of Hesychius’s with ease, he consequently followed the text of the latter in forming his version.
The influence of this emendation of the Latin version is directly perceptible in the greater number of the copies of the Italic translation, as they chiefly conform to the revisal of St. Eusebius, which now formed the authorized text of the Western Churches. So general was this influence, that probably on account of it we retain but one specimen of the antecedent translation, which is contained in the Brescia manuscript, for which we are most probably indebted to Philastrius Brixiensis. This conjecture will be doubtless admitted when the age and character of this text are taken into account, together with the consideration of the place in which it is found, and of the learning and authority of Philastrius, who was bishop of Brescia. Whatever opinion be formed on this subject, it is apparent that the Latin Church lost all confidence in the ancient version, on the publication of an amended text by Eusebius Vercellensis. The influence of his edition is directly apparent in the works of St. Hilary, who was the friend and companion of the bishop of Verceli; and who has quoted from his edition in the whole of his theological writings. The quotations of Tertullian and Cyprian, which differ from this version, and yet accord with the Greek, contain a sufficient proof that they used a different translation.
From the publication of St. Eusebius’s revisal, we are to date the origin of the varieties which were soon introduced into the Western version. The Latin Church now possessed, in the primitive and the corrected edition, two translations; and these soon generated a multitude of others through various unskillful attempts to accommodate the old translation to the new, and frequently to adapt it to the Greek original. Of the manuscripts of this kind we possess a specimen in the Codex Veronensis, which has been published by M. Blanchini. It is manifestly formed on the basis of St. Eusebius’s version, but has been revised and corrected throughout by the original text of Hesychius.
Such was the state in which, at the distance of half a century, the Latin version was found by St. Jerome, who describes it as containing nearly as many different texts as different copies. It was merely a matter of accident, that he was brought up with a dislike for the vulgar edition of the Greek, and with a predilection for the corrected text of Eusebius; having imbibed an early partiality for this edition through Gregory of Nazianzum. And as it was natural, so it is unquestionable, that he took it as the standard by which he judged of the merit of other texts, without suspecting that he was measuring by a line of which he had not ascertained the positive dimensions. The result is that he was hence led to underrate the edition of Lucianus, not less than that of Hesychius, and consequently to allow neither their due weight when he was revising the text of the Latin translation. Still, however uninclined to feel or profess an open partiality to the edition of Eusebius Caesarensis, whose text had been certainly revised by the orthodox in the same age, among whom we cannot include the celebrated bishop of Caesarea; his specific object was to adhere to no particular text, but to follow the ancient copies of the original. Under this view he also, not less than St. Eusebius, overlooked the copies of Lucianus’s edition as modern. For the Greek Vulgate having been partly destroyed under Dioclesian, and superseded under Constantine, it was not again restored until the reign of Theodosius, when it quietly reinstated itself on the extinction of the party which supported the Corrected Text of Eusebius.
Under these circumstances the celebrated Latin Vulgate was composed, which the Roman Church has now adopted as its authorized version. Notwithstanding the high reputation of St. Jerome aided by the authority of. P. Damasus, it was but slowly adopted by the Western Churches, which still persevered in retaining the primitive version. As St. Jerome’s reputation in Greek literature was however deservedly great, considerable use was made of his corrected text, in bringing the old Italic version to a closer affinity with the original. The influence of the Vulgate on that version is consequently perceptible, to a greater or lesser degree, in all the more modern copies. Even the Brescia and Verceli manuscripts have not wholly escaped alteration, though they have been corrected in such a manner as to preserve the original readings. The Corbeian manuscript, which has been published with them, has been however more systematically corrected by St. Jerome’s text. Of the four manuscripts, which constitute the Evangeliarium Quadruplex of M. Blanchini, which, it is curious to observe, contains specimens of the principal varieties of the old Italic translation, the Verona manuscript is alone free from the influence of the Vulgate of Jerome.
In this confused and unsettled state the Western version continued for more than a century until the times of Cassiodorus. Of the effectual method which he took to settle the authorized version, by wholly superseding the old translation and establishing the Vulgate of Jerome, I have already expressed myself at large on a former occasion. With what success his efforts were crowned may be collected from the general prevalence of this text which he rendered the authorized version. So universally has it obtained, that if some copies of the old Italic had not been preserved as relics, or on account of the beautiful manner in which they were executed, we should probably possess no specimens of this version, but those which accord with the corrected text of St. Jerome.
This brief sketch of the history of the Latin version, to which it is necessary to attend in order to appreciate the testimony borne by the Latin Church to the integrity of the sacred text, is completely confirmed by the internal evidence of the version itself. And this evidence, when heard fully out, ends in establishing the following important conclusions: That the purest specimen of the old Italic translation is that which is preserved in the Brescia manuscript; that consequently, as the Byzantine text which accords with it must be that from which this translation was originally made, that text, of course, must be of the most remote antiquity, as the Italic version was incontestably made in the earliest ages of the Church.
In order to substantiate these points, I shall begin with the investigation of the text of the Vulgate; as in constituting the last version of the Latin Church, it necessarily inherits the peculiarities of those versions by which it was preceded. As St. Jerome has spoken of the state of the Latin text as it existed in his times, with fulness and precision and, as it is implied in the principles of the scheme which it is my object to establish, that the three classes of that text, including his own version, exist even at the present day as he has described them: it ought to follow that what he has delivered on the subject of these texts which were before him should agree with the copies which we retain. If therefore it will be found, on experiment, that what he had delivered on the subject of the Latin translation, is literally verified in that translation as it remains at this day; the result will surely constitute as decisive a confirmation as can be required of the solidity of the foundation on which my whole system is built. On separating St. Jerome’s new translation from the two versions which remain, there will be then little difficulty in proving, that the Brescia manuscript contains the text, out of which the other versions were formed.
The general description which St. Jerome gives of the Latin copies existing in his times represents them as having the Gospels interpolated from each other. The edition which principally prevailed in St. Jerome’s age was that of Eusebius Vercellensis. We consequently find, that the Verceli manuscript accurately accords with this description, and exhibits those interpolations in its text.
This censure St. Jerome has indiscriminately applied to the copies which existed in his age, while he speaks of the editions of Lucianus, as well as Hesychius. We infallibly know the standard by which he condemned them, as we possess in his own Vulgate the pure text, pruned from these redundancies. But on collating the Brescia manuscript with the Vulgate, we find the latter attributes readings to one Evangelist, which the Brescia manuscript ascribes to two. So far it verifies St. Jerome’s account of the different copies of the Latin version, which I suppose to have existed in his era.
In referring to the very copies before him, St. Jerome cites different passages which belonged to different texts. He has thus quoted Matt. xi. 23 as differently read in his different manuscripts. The one reading which he specifies is, however, found in the Verceli, and the other in the Brescia manuscript. The text of both is thus almost identified with that of the very copies which he collated.
In citing this peculiar passage, he adopts the reading of the Verceli manuscript; and merely refers to the Brescia manuscript, as his “other exemplar”. But he evidently took the received text of the age as the basis of his revisal; and that text existed in St. Eusebius’ edition. The Verceli and Brescia manuscripts, of consequence, must not only agree with his Latin copies, but the former contained the received text, the latter the superseded edition of St. Jerome’s age; which is precisely conformable to what is assumed as true in the whole of the present system.
In speaking of the general mass of text, as dispersed in the different copies, which existed in his age, he declares that there were nearly as many texts as manuscripts; yet he admits that some of them corresponded with the Greek. It is a remarkable fact with respect to the Verceli and Brescia manuscript, that while they differ from each other more than from the Vulgate, they respectively accord with the Greek. We of course discover the Latin text preserved in these manuscripts in the state in which it existed in the days of St. Jerome.
It is thus, I trust, apparent, that St. Jerome’s account of the Latin translation in his own age is fully verified in the copies which exist at this day. It now remains that we put the above system to the last test and examine how far the account which he has given of his mode of correcting the ancient version may be exemplified in the same manuscripts, which, as we have seek accord with the copies that he apparently used. The Verceli manuscript, I have already observed, as it constituted the received text, was taken as the basis of his revisal. On putting it through the process observed by St. Jerome, if the above system be true, it should confirm the account which he has given of his method, by furnishing similar readings to those which his corrections produced.
In making this experiment, I shall confine my attention principally to the first ten chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Here, if anywhere, we may expect to find the author’s principles accurately applied. This portion of Scripture, as including the Sermon on the Mount, is obviously among the most remarkable and important parts of the Canon, and as such undoubtedly labored by St. Jerome with the greatest care. And as it occurred at an early period of his revisal, before the fatigue attendant on so long and laborious an undertaking had induced the author to relax from his original design; it thus promises to furnish a juster specimen of his mode of correcting, than any that may be selected, from his work.
In correcting the ancient translation, St. Jerome treated with disregard the editions of Hesychius and Lucianus, as conceiving the Gospels in these editions interpolated from each other. I have already stated that his notions of the genuine text must be sought in his own version. But on estimating the Cambridge and Moscow manuscripts, which contain the text of Hesychius and Lucianus, by the standard of the Vulgate, they answer St. Jerome’s description, and appear to be interpolated as he has described them.
In passing over these editions St. Jerome declares that it was his intention to follow the ancient copies in forming his version. When we except the editions which he rejected, by “the ancient copies” he must have meant those which contained Eusebius’s edition, and the Vulgar Greek, both of which were ancient in St. Jerome’s estimation, particularly when compared with the recent text of the orthodox revisers. On comparing St. Jerome’s Latin copies with Eusebius’s Canons, they exhibit a redundancy in some places, and a deficiency in others. But on removing the superfluous passages according to Eusebius’s text, the corrected text agrees with the text of the Vulgate. And when a coincidence between the Vulgar Greek and Latin copies discovered a deficiency in Eusebius’s text, the version of St. Jerome, as corrected by the ancient copies, corresponds with the text of the former. In both instances Eusebius’s edition and the Greek Vulgate must have represented St. Jerome’s ancient copies.
In forming verbal corrections St. Jerome declares that his method was to collate the copies of the old translation together, and when they agreed with each other and with the original Greek to leave the version in the state in which he found it. We consequently find that when the Brescia and Verceli texts agree with the Greek, there exists a correspondent agreement between them and the Vulgate. In a few instances St. Jerome has deviated from this plan, but they are exceptions which strengthen the general rule, as he deemed it necessary to apologize for them in his commentary. The Brescia and the Verceli texts, as they verify his account, must of course preserve the Latin version as it was found in St. Jerome’s copies.
On collating those copies together, if they were found to differ from each other, St. Jerome’s plan was to collate them with the old copies of the Greek, and thence to determine which of them agreed with the original. If one of his Latin copies agreed with Eusebius’s text, he consequently adopted the reading. But if neither agreed with it, he of course translated the original and inserted the correction in his amended version. Now, on supposing that the Brescia and Verceli texts represent St. Jerome’s Latin copies, and that the latter was the basis of his version, we find St. Jerome’s readings accounted for on comparing those manuscripts with Eusebius’s edition. The Verceli and Brescia texts, in the first place disagree, where the former, which was St. Jerome’s basis, differs from the Vulgate. In the next place where the Brescia or Verceli text corresponds with the Greek, we find its reading inserted in the text of the Vulgate. In the last place, where those texts do not correspond, in which case both St. Jerome’s basis and his “other copy” must have differed from the original, we there find that the Vulgate not only differs from both, but accords with the Greek of Eusebius, It must be of course evident that the Brescia and Verceli manuscripts must preserve the Latin text in the state in which it existed in the best manuscripts from which St. Jerome formed the Vulgate.
This method of correcting the Latin version seems liable but to the one objection which it is my main object to establish; that the text of Eusebius, by which St. Jerome in some places modeled his translation, possessed not authority equal to that of the Old Italic version. And we consequently find that this very objection was made to the Greek text by Hilary the Deacon, and to St. Jerome by Helvidius, who accused him of following copies that had been corrupted. And that this objection was made with effect, is apparent from the Old Version having still maintained its ground in the Latin Church even against the authority of St. Jerome, and from the difficulty which attended its final suppression under Cassiodorus. But this testimony of the Latin Church against the new version is not merely negative, but may be thrown on the side of the Byzantine Greek and of the Primitive Version. Hilary, indeed, in objecting to the Greek copies supports a reading which probably existed only in the Received Text as revised by St. Eusebius of Verceli, and thus merely supports the credit of that translation. But Helvidius supports a reading which is found in the Brescia and Byzantine text, against one which is found in the Palestine text and the Vulgate of Jerome. He consequently not only supports the authority of the Greek Vulgate while he detracts from that of the Latin, but by his appeal to Latin copies he proves that the Vulgar Greek was exclusively supported by the authority of the original Latin translation.
As St. Jerome is thus deserted by the testimony of the early Latin Church, his own testimony is inadequate to support the authority of the new Vulgate against that of the old, or primitive version. His declaration that he purposed following the old copies has been taken in a positive, not relative sense; his words instead of being interpreted with reference to the rectified copies which prevailed in his times have been understood of the copies of Pierius and Origen, to which he appeals occasionally. They have been however strained beyond what they will bear, for no general declaration ought to be taken in the strictness of the letter. As he was professedly a reader of Adamantius and of Pierius, whom he calls the younger Origen, he might have found the readings of their copies in their commentaries without inspecting their manuscripts. Had he possessed copies of the kind, he was not a person likely to suppress the fact, or introduce them to the acquaintance of his readers under the loose and indefinite title of “ancient copies.” Nor is his shyness to speak explicitly on this subject to be reconciled with his minute description of the text of Lucianus and Hesychius, and of the canons of Eusebius of Caesarea. But what must lay the question at rest is the confession of St. Jerome himself, who not only declares that he possessed copies of Origen’s Commentaries which had been. transcribed by Pamphilus, but expressly admits that Origen’s library had fallen into decay and had been partially restored on vellum by Acacius and Euzoius. As Origen’s library consisted of volumes written on the papyrus, such a library having been alone suited to the finances of a man who lived in poverty, and was supplied with the means of publishing his works by the munificence of his friend and patron Ambrose; it would have been rather a hazardous attempt in St. Jerome to boast of possessing his original copies. The authority of Origen’s Commentaries became a sufficient voucher to St. Jerome for the readings Origen’s copies; in this manner they are occasionally cited by him, while he generally conforms to the text of Eusebius.
St. Jerome’s authority is therefore inadequate to support the credit of the Vulgate against the authority of the ancient Latin translation. His version, as founded on a preference for Eusebius’s text, was built on an accidental partiality, and on the same foundation rests the standard by which he condemned the text of Lucianus. His translation is besides destitute of the authority of the ancient Latin Church, which continued to retain the primitive version. But as far as was consistent with St. Jerome’s plan, his testimony may be cited in support of this version, and of the text of Lucianus. He admitted the authority of the former in correcting the Received Text of his times, and in following the edition of Eusebius Caesariensis he adhered to a text that approximates very closely to the Byzantine edition. The event is, that the Vulgate of St. Jerome approaches much nearer to the primitive version of the Western Church, than the Received Text of his age as revised by the hand of St. Eusebius of Verceli.
We have now brought the determination of the question to the consideration of the two versions which preceded the Vulgate, and which exist in the Brescia and Verceli manuscripts. But a choice between these texts may, I trust, be decided with little comparative difficulty.
Considering the question, as resting between these two texts, it must be admitted, that one forms the basis of the other. They possess that extraordinary conformity, which can be only accounted for by such an assumption. We however know the author of the Verceli text; while we are ignorant of that of the Brescia manuscript. Regarding the question as confined to the consideration of these two, St. Eusebius in forming the Verceli text, must have necessarily taken as his basis the Brescia translation. Now this conclusion is fully confirmed on considering the mode in which St. Eusebius necessarily proceeded in forming his revisal. On going through the process which he obviously must have followed, we may produce a text which literally corresponds with the Verceli manuscript. On decomposing the version which he produced, we discover in its elements the text of the Brescia manuscripts.
We cannot be mistaken in the version of St. Eusebius, as the Verceli manuscript, though clearly not the author’s autograph, has been preserved at his church in Piedmont, it is beyond all reasonable ground of doubt a copy of the edition which he revised; and we discover strong and indelible marks of this version having been the Received Text from the times of P. Julius, in the works of subsequent writers. We can be as little mistaken in the Greek text by which he formed his revisal; its literal coincidence with the Cambridge manuscript proves it to have been the edition of Hesychius; and this supposition is confirmed by the fact of the author’s exile in Egypt, where the text of Hesychius prevailed. Now on assuming that the Brescia text formed St. Eusebius’s basis, which was to be corrected by the Greek of the Cambridge manuscript; every difference in the Verceli MS, which was formed by correcting the one from the other, may be explained and accounted for. This assumption may be established by a brief exemplification.
- When St. Eusebius’s basis and his Greek copy agreed, there was no room for a correction; we consequently find that when the Brescia and Cambridge manuscripts agree there is a correspondent agreement in the Verceli manuscript.
When the basis and Greek disagree, there ought to be an agreement between the Greek and the revisal; consequently, on collating the Brescia and Cambridge manuscripts and translating the Greek text in passages where it differs from the Latin, we produce the text of the Verceli manuscript.
In both cases, therefore, when the basis and original agreed or disagreed, to the consideration of which the question is necessarily limited, the result is precisely that which would have occurred had the Brescia manuscript formed the primitive text which St. Eusebius corrected by the text of Hesychius.
As the testimony of St. Eusebius’s version thus clearly supports the antiquity, in evincing the priority, of the Brescia text, it appears to me, that, when it is taken into account with other texts of the same edition, they annihilate the authority of Hesychius’s text; and thus undermining the very foundation on which they are mutually built, necessarily destroy their common credit; and by consequence establish the exclusive authority of the text of the Brescia manuscript.
The most remarkable of the copies of the old Italic version, which conform to the edition of St. Eusebius Vercellensis, are those contained in the Verona and Cambridge manuscripts. While they preserve a verbal coincidence in many places, and a general conformity to the text of Hesychius, they exhibit a diversity between themselves in numberless readings. From those peculiarities we may make several deductions, which will serve to establish the foregoing assumption. If in accounting for the conformity of the text of those manuscripts to the Greek, we suppose them severally made from the text of Hesychius, their conformity to his edition and their diversities among themselves, may be explained, but their verbal coincidences are wholly inexplicable. To account for the last peculiarity, we must conceive them formed on the basis of some common translation. And taking this circumstance into account, every peculiarity in their respective texts admits of an easy explanation. As their coincidence in the first case is explained, by conceiving them formed on the basis of some antecedent version; and their conformity in the second by conceiving them corrected by some common Greek text, their diversities in the third are explained by conceiving them corrected by different hands.
Now, as the coincidences of the Verceli, Verona, and Cambridge MSS. are common to the Brescia MS. their joint testimony, so far, proves, that this manuscript contains the original version, on which they have been severally formed. And conformably to this notion, we find, that frequently where those manuscripts differ from each other, and one of them conforms to Hesychius’s text; the other coincides with the Brescia manuscript. It is wholly inconceivable that this result could take pace if the text of this manuscript were not nearly identical with the primitive version, which formed the basis of these corrected translations.
While the mutual coincidence of those manuscripts thus confirms the authority of the Brescia text, their mutual dissent from it seems to destroy the credit of the Greek text by which they have been revised, and by consequence to undermine their common authority. For, as the coincidence of all texts, not less in the translation than the original, proves them to have a common basis; the diversity of the manuscripts before us proves, that the Greek text by which they have been corrected, has been recast since the Latin Version was originally made, which furnished their common basis. Were not this the case, they would as uniformly coincide with the former as with the latter. Of consequence, the version which conforms to a text, that has been thus new-modeled, must be of very recent authority.
Thus tracing this labyrinth through all its windings, and pursuing the Latin version through all its changes, we ultimately arrive at the primitive Western Version. There now exists but one test by which it remains to be tried, the relative merit of the translation. And submitting it to this last assay, it appears to contain within itself a sufficient proof of its integrity.
The uniformity of the text declares that it is an original composition, and by consequence the basis of those different texts which bear it a general affinity. The archetype by which it was formed is one, being that particular class of text which exists in the Greek Vulgate; and it conforms to this model in all its parts, while the other versions possess inequalities which have originated in attempts to improve upon it, as the primitive translation.
A minute investigation of those inequalities constantly enables us to distinguish the original version from the derivative. While it retains the common marks by which they evince their affinity to the Greek, in retaining the Greek idiom it is free from peculiar solecisms which they have evidently acquired in undergoing a revisals. In the choice of terms it constantly exhibits that unfaithfulness to the original, which is unavoidable in a first attempt to transfuse the sense of one language into another; while they possess many niceties which are the product of a second effort to approximate the copy still more closely to its model. And in the arrangement of the words, it preserves the tenor of the sense unembarrassed, while they exhibit those breaches in the sense, and encumbrances of the structure, which betray the hand of a corrector. Under every trial therefore, it bears internal evidence of having been the pure, unsophisticated version, which had been used from the apostolical age by the Western Churches.
Having thus ascertained the testimony of the Western Church, as contained in the Primitive Version, we may now leave the coincident testimony of the Greek and Latin Church, to speak for the integrity of the Received Text, which has furnished the model of our Authorized Version. The short specimen which I have already given of their extraordinary coincidence, even in passages where they mutually vary from other texts and translations, will sufficiently evince the integrity of the text which is contained in the Greek Vulgate.
In determining our choice between the three classes of text which have descended to our times, little more is now necessary, than to state the comparative instability of the grounds on which those critics have built, who have made a. different election, and expressed a different partiality.
The scheme of Dr. Bentley is manifestly defective. For though it is founded on the mutual testimony of the Greek and Latin translation, it is unsupported by that of the Western Church for the first three hundred years, and by that of the Eastern Church for the last thirteen hundred. For the Latin Vulgate, on which his scheme is principally founded, was not received in the West for the former period; and the Greek Vulgate, which differs from it, has been received in the East for the latter. His Corrected Text must of course have rested on the authority of St. Jerome and Eusebius. But their authority, though unquestionably great, and confirmed in all important points by the general testimony of tradition, is not of consideration to the Catholic Church which, in being the witness and keeper of Holy Writ, acknowledges no paramount or individual authority in transmitting from age to age the rule of faith and manners.
The scheme of M. Matthaei, though unexceptionable, where that of Dr. Bentley is defective, is likewise defective in rejecting the testimony of the Western Church, and exclusively building on that of the Eastern. It has consequently no more than presumptive evidence to urge in its support for the first seven centuries; since which the generality of those manuscripts were written in which the testimony of the latter Church is transmitted. This evidence is undoubtedly of the highest kind, as it is improbable in the extreme that the Eastern Church could have corrupted the sacred text in the earliest and purest ages, and have preserved it uncorrupt in the dark and barbarous ages. As some manuscripts however exist, which are of greater antiquity than those which contain the Greek Vulgate, and which differ from it, while they agree with the Latin translation, their testimony leaves it a doubt, whether length of time, supported by uniformity of consent, ought not to decide against superiority of numbers. Such, it is obvious, was the opinion of Dr. Bentley, the reasonableness of whose scheme was founded on such a presumption, and it seems to render the merit of M. Matthaei’s system at best but equivocal.
The great merit of M. Griesbach’s scheme consists in the singular skill with which he covered the feeble points which were left exposed by his predecessors. His professed object was to establish the antiquity of the Alexandrian text, by the united testimony of Clement and Origen; and to strengthen it by an alliance with the Western text, in order to form a counterpoise to the immense superiority in numbers on the part of the Byzantine edition. Both the pillars are unsound on which this system is rested. The individual testimony of Origen, proves nothing; as his readings are inconstant, they no more prove the antiquity of the Alexandrian text, than they do that of the Byzantine. The unity of testimony between him and Clement, is not more conclusive; it no more proves that these early fathers quoted from one text, than it proves that Origen quoted from his preceptor. Their agreement with the Alexandrian text is fully as indecisive; it no more proves that they used that text, than it proves that Eusebius corrected it by their writings. The alliance between the Alexandrian and Western editions is equally beside the purpose; it no more proves that they contain the genuine text of Scripture, than it proves that Eusebius’s text was brought from Palestine to Alexandria, and thence transported into the West, by the revisers of the Latin Version.
In fine, the proofs of M. Griesbach conclude not more strongly in favor of his own system, than of that which I have ventured to propose. While the latter is thus far supported by his authority, it is equally supported by that of Dr. Bentley, and M. Matthaei; as it builds, with the one, on the united testimony of the Greek and Latin Church; and, with the other, on the general testimony of the Greek manuscripts. But it differs from both, in confirming the testimony of the Greek Vulgate by the coincidence of the primitive Latin Version. And thus it secures that object effectually, which M. Griesbach but imperfectly attained; as it has the testimony of numbers in the Greek Vulgate, of antiquity in the Latin Version, and of consent in both taken together. And this evidence it possesses, not as the testimony of private men or particular churches, but as that of the two great Churches in the Eastern and Western world, which were not merely witnesses and keepers of Holy Writ, but the depositories of the evangelical writings.