The Revision Revised – Preface

Chris Thomas The Revision Revised Leave a Comment

PREFACE. The ensuing three Articles from the “Quarterly Review,”—(wrung out of me by the publication [May 17th, 1881] of the “Revision” of our “Authorized Version of the New Testament,”)—appear in their present form in compliance with an amount of continuous solicitation that they should be separately published, which it would have been alike unreasonable and ungracious to disregard. I was not prepared for it. It has caused me—as letter after letter has reached my hands—mixed feelings; has revived all my original disinclination and regret. For, gratified as I cannot but feel by the reception my labours have met with,—(and only the Author of my being knows what an amount of antecedent toil is represented by the ensuing pages,)—I yet deplore more heartily than I am able to express, the injustice done to the cause of Truth by handling the subject in this fragmentary way, and by exhibiting the evidence for what is most certainly true, in such a very incomplete form. A systematic Treatise is the indispensable condition for securing cordial assent to the view for which I mainly contend. The cogency of the argument lies entirely in the cumulative character of the proof. It requires to be demonstrated by induction from a large collection of particular instances, as well as by the complex exhibition of many converging lines of evidence, that the testimony of one small group of documents, or rather, of one particular manuscript,—(namely the Vatican Codex B, which, for some unexplained reason, it is just now the fashion to regard with superstitious deference,)—is the reverse of trustworthy.
Nothing in fact but a considerable Treatise will ever effectually break the yoke of that iron tyranny to which the excellent Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol and his colleagues have recently bowed their necks; and are now for imposing on all English-speaking men. In brief, if I were not, on the one hand, thoroughly convinced of the strength of my position,—(and I know it to be absolutely impregnable);—yet more, if on the other hand, I did not cherish entire confidence in the practical good sense and fairness of the English mind;—I could not have brought myself to come before the public in the unsystematic way which alone is possible in the pages of a Review. I must have waited, at all hazards, till I had finished “my Book.”
But then, delay would have been fatal. I saw plainly that unless a sharp blow was delivered immediately, the Citadel would be in the enemy’s hands. I knew also that it was just possible to condense into 60 or 70 closely-printed pages what must _logically_ prove fatal to the “Revision.” So I set to work; and during the long summer days of 1881 (June to September) the foremost of these three Articles was elaborated. When the October number of “the Quarterly” appeared, I comforted myself with the secret consciousness that enough was by this time on record, even had my life been suddenly brought to a close, to secure the ultimate rejection of the “Revision” of 1881. I knew that the “New Greek Text,” (and therefore the “New English Version”), had received its death-blow. It might for a few years drag out a maimed existence; eagerly defended by some,—timidly pleaded for by others. But such efforts could be of no avail. Its days were already numbered. The effect of more and yet more learned investigation,—of more elaborate and more extended inquiry,—_must_ be to convince mankind more and yet more thoroughly that the principles on which it had been constructed were radically unsound. In the end, when partisanship had cooled down, and passion had evaporated, and prejudice had ceased to find an auditory, the “Revision” of 1881 must come to be universally regarded as—what it most certainly is,—_the most astonishing, as well as the most calamitous literary blunder of the Age_.
I. I pointed out that “the NEW GREEK TEXT,”—which, in defiance of their instructions,(1) the Revisionists of “the Authorized English Version” had been so ill-advised as to spend ten years in elaborating,—was a wholly untrustworthy performance: was full of the gravest errors from beginning to end: had been constructed throughout on an entirely mistaken Theory. Availing myself of the published confession of one of the Revisionists,(2) I explained the nature of the calamity which had befallen the Revision. I traced the mischief home to its true authors,—Drs. Westcott and Hort; a copy of whose unpublished Text of the N. T. (the most vicious in existence) had been confidentially, and under pledges of the strictest secrecy, placed in the hands of every member of the revising Body.(3) I called attention to the fact that, unacquainted with the difficult and delicate science of Textual Criticism, the Revisionists had, in an evil hour, surrendered themselves to Dr. Hort’s guidance: had preferred his counsels to those of Prebendary Scrivener, (an infinitely more trustworthy guide): and that the work before the public was the piteous—but _inevitable_—result. All this I explained in the October number of the “Quarterly Review” for 1881.(4)
II. In thus demonstrating the worthlessness of the “New Greek Text” of the Revisionists, I considered that I had destroyed the key of their position. And so perforce I had: for if the underlying Greek Text be mistaken, what else but incorrect must the English Translation be? But on examining the so-called “Revision of the Authorized Version,” I speedily made the further discovery that the Revised English would have been in itself intolerable, even had the Greek been let alone. In the first place, to my surprise and annoyance, it proved to be a _New Translation_ (rather than a Revision of the Old) which had been attempted. Painfully apparent were the tokens which met me on every side that the Revisionists had been supremely eager not so much to correct none but “plain and clear errors,”—as to introduce as many changes into the English of the New Testament Scriptures as they conveniently could.(5) A skittish impatience of the admirable work before them, and a strange inability to appreciate its manifold excellences:—a singular imagination on the part of the promiscuous Company which met in the Jerusalem Chamber that they were competent to improve the Authorized Version in every part, and an unaccountable forgetfulness that the fundamental condition under which the task of Revision had been by themselves undertaken, was that they should abstain from all but “_necessary_” changes:—_this_ proved to be only part of the offence which the Revisionists had committed. It was found that they had erred through _defective Scholarship_ to an extent, and with a frequency, which to me is simply inexplicable. I accordingly made it my business to demonstrate all this in a second Article which appeared in the next (the January) number of the “Quarterly Review,” and was entitled “THE NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION.”(6)
III. Thereupon, a pretence was set up in many quarters, (_but only by the Revisionists and their friends_,) that all my labour hitherto had been thrown away, because I had omitted to disprove the principles on which this “New Greek Text” is founded. I flattered myself indeed that quite enough had been said to make it logically certain that the underlying “Textual Theory” _must be_ worthless. But I was not suffered to cherish this conviction in quiet. It was again and again cast in my teeth that I had not yet grappled with Drs. Westcott and Hort’s “arguments.” “Instead of condemning _their Text_, why do you not disprove _their Theory_?” It was tauntingly insinuated that I knew better than to cross swords with the two Cambridge Professors. This reduced me to the necessity of either leaving it to be inferred from my silence that I had found Drs. Westcott and Hort’s “arguments” unanswerable; or else of coming forward with their book in my hand, and demonstrating that in their solemn pages an attentive reader finds himself encountered by nothing but a series of unsupported assumptions: that their (so called) “Theory” is in reality nothing else but a weak effort of the Imagination: that the tissue which these accomplished scholars have been thirty years in elaborating, proves on inspection to be as flimsy and as worthless as any spider’s web.
I made it my business in consequence to expose, somewhat in detail, (in a third Article, which appeared in the “Quarterly Review” for April 1882), the absolute absurdity,—(I use the word advisedly)—of “WESTCOTT AND HORT’S NEW TEXTUAL THEORY;”(7) and I now respectfully commend those 130 pages to the attention of candid and unprejudiced readers. It were idle to expect to convince any others. We have it on good authority (Dr. Westcott’s) that “he who has long pondered over a train of Reasoning, _becomes unable to detect its weak points_.”(8) A yet stranger phenomenon is, that those who have once committed themselves to an erroneous Theory, seem to be incapable of opening their eyes to the untrustworthiness of the fabric they have erected, even when it comes down in their sight, like a child’s house built with playing-cards,—and presents to every eye but their own the appearance of a shapeless ruin.
§ 1. Two full years have elapsed since the first of these Essays was published; and my Criticism—for the best of reasons—remains to this hour unanswered. The public has been assured indeed, (in the course of some hysterical remarks by Canon Farrar(9)), that “the ‘Quarterly Reviewer’ can be refuted as fully as he desires as soon as any scholar has the leisure to answer him.” The “Quarterly Reviewer” can afford to wait,—if the Revisers can. But they are reminded that it is no answer to one who has demolished their master’s “Theory,” for the pupils to keep on reproducing fragments of it; and by their mistakes and exaggerations, to make both themselves and him, ridiculous.
§ 2. Thus, a writer in the “Church Quarterly” for January 1882, (whose knowledge of the subject is entirely derived from what Dr. Hort has taught him,)—being evidently much exercised by the first of my three Articles in the “Quarterly Review,”—gravely informs the public that “it is useless to parade such an array of venerable witnesses,” (meaning the enumerations of Fathers of the IIIrd, IVth, and Vth centuries which are given below, at pp. 42-4: 80-1: 84: 133: 212-3: 359-60: 421: 423: 486-90:)—“_for they have absolutely nothing to say which deserves a moment’s hearing_.”(10)—What a pity it is, (while he was about it), that the learned gentleman did not go on to explain that the moon is made of green cheese!
§ 3. Dr. Sanday,(11) in a kindred spirit, delivers it as his opinion, that “the one thing” I lack “is a grasp on the central condition of the problem:”—that I do “not seem to have the faintest glimmering of the principle of ‘Genealogy:’ ”—that I am “all at sea:”—that my “heaviest batteries are discharged at random:”—and a great deal more to the same effect. The learned Professor is quite welcome to think such things of me, if he pleases. Οὐ φροντὶς Ἱπποκλείδῃ.
§ 4. At the end of a year, a Reviewer of quite a different calibre made his appearance in the January number (1883) of the “Church Quarterly:” in return for whose not very encouraging estimate of my labours, I gladly record my conviction that if he will seriously apply his powerful and accurate mind to the department of Textual Criticism, he will probably produce a work which will help materially to establish the study in which he takes such an intelligent interest, on a scientific basis. But then, he is invited to accept the friendly assurance that the indispensable condition of success in this department is, that a man should give to the subject, (which is a very intricate one and abounds in unexplored problems), his undivided attention for an extended period. I trust there is nothing unreasonable in the suggestion that one who has not done this, should be very circumspect when he sits in judgment on a neighbour of his who, for very many years past, has given to Textual Criticism the whole of his time;—has freely sacrificed health, ease, relaxation, even necessary rest, to this one object;—has made it his one business to acquire such an independent mastery of the subject as shall qualify him to do battle successfully for the imperilled letter of GOD’S Word. My friend however thinks differently. He says of me,— “In his first Article there was something amusing in the simplicity with which ‘Lloyd’s Greek Testament’ (which is only a convenient little Oxford edition of the ordinary kind) was put forth as the final standard of appeal. It recalled to our recollection Bentley’s sarcasm upon the text of Stephanus, which ‘your learned Whitbyus’ takes for the sacred original in every syllable.” (P. 354.)
§ 5. On referring to the passage where my “simplicity” has afforded amusement to a friend whose brilliant conversation is always a delight to _me_, I read as follows,— “It is discovered that in the 111 (out of 320) pages of a copy of Lloyd’s Greek Testament, in which alone these five manuscripts are collectively available for comparison in the Gospels,—the serious deflections of A from the _Textus Receptus_ amount in all to only 842: whereas in C they amount to 1798: in B, to 2370: in א, to 3392: in D, to 4697. The readings _peculiar to_ A within the same limits are 133: those peculiar to C are 170. But those of B amount to 197: while א exhibits 443: and the readings peculiar to D (within the same limits), are no fewer than 1829…. We submit that these facts are not altogether calculated to inspire confidence in codices B א C D.”(12)
§ 6. But how (let me ask) does it appear from this, that I have “put forth Lloyd’s Greek Testament as the _final standard of Appeal_”? True, that, in order to exhibit clearly their respective divergences, I have referred five famous codices (A B א C D)—certain of which are found to have turned the brain of Critics of the new school—_to one and the same familiar exhibition of the commonly received Text of the New Testament_: but by so doing I have not by any means assumed _the Textual purity_ of that common standard. In other words I have not made it “_the final standard of Appeal_.” _All_ Critics,—wherever found,—at all times, have collated with the commonly received Text: but only as the most convenient _standard of Comparison_; not, surely, as the absolute _standard of Excellence_. The result of the experiment already referred to,—(and, I beg to say, it was an exceedingly laborious experiment,)—has been, to demonstrate that the five Manuscripts in question stand apart from one another in the following proportions:— 842 (A) : 1798 (C) : 2370 (B) : 3392 (א) : 4697 (D). But would not the same result have been obtained if the “five old uncials” had been _referred to any other common standard which can be named_? In the meantime, what else is the inevitable inference from this phenomenon but that four out of the five _must_ be—while all the five _may_ be—outrageously depraved documents? instead of being fit to be made our exclusive guides to the Truth of Scripture,—as Critics of the school of Tischendorf and Tregelles would have us believe that they are?
§ 7. I cited a book which is in the hands of every schoolboy, (Lloyd’s “Greek Testament,”) _only_ in order to facilitate reference, and to make sure that my statements would be at once understood by the least learned person who could be supposed to have access to the “Quarterly.” I presumed every scholar to be aware that Bp. Lloyd (1827) professes to reproduce Mill’s text; and that Mill (1707) reproduces the text of Stephens;(13) and that Stephens (1550) exhibits with sufficient accuracy the Traditional text,—which is confessedly at least 1530 years old.(14) Now, if a tolerable approximation to the text of A.D. 350 may _not_ be accepted as _a standard of Comparison_,—will the writer in the “Church Quarterly” be so obliging as to inform us _which_ exhibition of the sacred Text _may_?
§ 8. A pamphlet by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol,(15) which appeared in April 1882, remains to be considered. Written expressly in defence of the Revisers and their New Greek Text, this composition displays a slenderness of acquaintance with the subject now under discussion, for which I was little prepared. Inasmuch however as it is the production of the Chairman of the Revisionist body, and professes to be a reply to my first two Articles, I have bestowed upon it an elaborate and particular rejoinder extending to an hundred-and-fifty pages.(16) I shall in consequence be very brief concerning it in this place.
§ 9. The respected writer does nothing else but reproduce Westcott and Hort’s theory _in Westcott and Hort’s words_. He contributes nothing of his own. The singular infelicity which attended his complaint that the “Quarterly Reviewer” “censures their [Westcott and Hort’s] Text,” but, “has not attempted _a serious examination of the arguments which they allege in its support_,” I have sufficiently dwelt upon elsewhere.(17) The rest of the Bishop’s contention may be summed up in two propositions:—The first, (I.) That if the Revisionists are wrong in their “New Greek Text,” then (not only Westcott and Hort, but) Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles must be wrong also,—a statement which I hold to be incontrovertible.—The Bishop’s other position is also undeniable: viz. (II.) That in order to pass an equitable judgment on ancient documents, they are to be carefully studied, closely compared, and tested by a more scientific process than rough comparison with the _Textus Receptus_.(18)… Thus, on both heads, I find myself entirely at one with Bp. Ellicott.
§ 10. And yet,—as the last 150 pages of the present volume show,—I have the misfortune to be at issue with the learned writer on almost every particular which he proposes for discussion. Thus,
§ 11. At page 64 of his pamphlet, he fastens resolutely upon the famous problem whether “GOD” (Θεός), or “who” (ὅς), is to be read in 1 Timothy iii. 16. I had upheld the former reading in eight pages. He contends for the latter, with something like acrimony, in twelve.(19) I have been at the pains, in consequence, to write a “DISSERTATION” of seventy-six pages on this important subject,(20)—the preparation of which (may I be allowed to record the circumstance in passing?) occupied me closely for six months,(21) and taxed me severely. Thus, the only point which Bishop Ellicott has condescended to discuss argumentatively with me, will be found to enjoy full half of my letter to him in reply. The “Dissertation” referred to, I submit with humble confidence to the judgment of educated Englishmen. It requires no learning to understand the case. And I have particularly to request that those who will be at the pains to look into this question, will remember,—(1) That the place of Scripture discussed (viz. 1 Tim. iii. 16) was deliberately selected for a trial of strength by the Bishop: (I should not have chosen it myself):—(2) That on the issue of the contention which he has thus himself invited, we have respectively staked our critical reputation. The discussion exhibits very fairly our two methods,—his and mine; and “is of great importance as an example,” “illustrating in a striking manner” our respective positions,—as the Bishop himself has been careful to remind his readers.(22)
§ 12. One merely desirous of taking a general survey of this question, is invited to read from page 485 to 496 of the present volume. To understand the case thoroughly, he must submit to the labour of beginning at p. 424 and reading down to p. 501.
§ 13. A thoughtful person who has been at the pains to do this, will be apt on laying down the book to ask,—“But is it not very remarkable that so many as five of the ancient Versions should favour the reading ‘which,’ (μυστήριον; ὃ ἐφανερώθη,) instead of ‘GOD’ (Θεός)”?—“Yes, it is very remarkable,” I answer. “For though the Old Latin and the two Egyptian Versions are constantly observed to conspire in error, they rarely find allies in the Peschito and the Æthiopic. On the other hand, you are to remember that besides VERSIONS, the FATHERS have to be inquired after: while more important than either is the testimony of the COPIES. Now, the combined witness to ‘GOD’ (Θεός),—so multitudinous, so respectable, so varied, so unequivocal,—of the Copies and of the Fathers (in addition to three of the Versions) is simply overwhelming. It becomes undeniable that Θεός is by far the best supported reading of the present place.”
§ 14. When, however, such an one as Tischendorf or Tregelles,—Hort or Ellicott,—would put me down by reminding me that half-a-dozen of the oldest Versions are against me,—“_That_ argument” (I reply) “is not allowable on _your_ lips. For if the united testimony of _five_ of the Versions really be, in your account, decisive,—Why do you deny the genuineness of the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel, _which are recognized by every one of the Versions_? Those Verses are besides attested _by every known Copy_, except two of bad character: _by a mighty chorus of Fathers_: _by the unfaltering Tradition of the Church universal_. First remove from S. Mark xvi. 20, your brand of suspicion, and then come back to me in order that we may discuss together how 1 Tim. iii. 16 is to be read. And yet, when you come back, it must not be to plead in favour of ‘who’ (ὅσ), in place of ‘GOD’ (Θεός). For _not_ ‘who’ (ὅς), remember, but ‘which’ (ὅ) is the reading advocated by those five earliest Versions.” … In other words,—the reading of 1 Tim. iii. 16, which the Revisers have adopted, enjoys, (as I have shown from page 428 to page 501), _the feeblest attestation of any_; besides being condemned by internal considerations and the universal Tradition of the Eastern Church.
§ 15. I pass on, after modestly asking,—Is it too much to hope, (I covet no other guerdon for my labour!) that we shall hear no more about substituting “who” for “GOD” in 1 Tim. iii. 16? We may not go on disputing for ever: and surely, until men are able to produce some more cogent evidence than has yet come to light in support of “the mystery of godliness, _who_” (τὸ τῆς εὐσβείας μυστήριον: ὅς),—all sincere inquirers after Truth are bound to accept _that_ reading which has been demonstrated to be by far the best attested. Enough however on this head.
§ 16. It was said just now that I cordially concur with Bp. Ellicott in the second of his two propositions,—viz. That “no equitable judgment can be passed on ancient documents until they are carefully studied, and closely compared with each other, and tested by a more scientific process than rough comparison with” the _Textus Receptus_. I wish to add a few words on this subject: the rather, because what I am about to say will be found as applicable to my Reviewer in the “Church Quarterly” as to the Bishop. Both have misapprehended this matter, and in exactly the same way. Where such accomplished Scholars have erred, what wonder if ordinary readers should find themselves all a-field?
§ 17. In Textual Criticism then, “rough comparison” can seldom, if ever, be of any real use. On the other hand, the exact _Collation_ of documents whether ancient or modern with the received Text, is the necessary foundation of all scientific Criticism. I employ that Text,—(as Mill, Bentley, Wetstein; Griesbach, Matthæi, Scholz; Tischendorf, Tregelles, Scrivener, employed it before me,)—not as a criterion of _Excellence_, but as a standard of _Comparison_. All this will be found fully explained below, from page 383 to page 391. Whenever I would judge of _the authenticity_ of any particular reading, I insist on bringing it, wherever found,—whether in Justin Martyr and Irenæus, on the one hand; or in Stephens and Elzevir, on the other;—to the test of _Catholic Antiquity_. If that witness is consentient, or very nearly so, whether for or against any given reading, I hold it to be decisive. To no other system of arbitration will I submit myself. I decline to recognise any other criterion of Truth.
§ 18. What compels me to repeat this so often, is the impatient self-sufficiency of these last days, which is for breaking away from the old restraints; and for erecting the individual conscience into an authority from which there shall be no appeal. I know but too well how laborious is the scientific method which _I_ advocate. A long summer day disappears, while the student—with all his appliances about him—is resolutely threshing out some minute textual problem. Another, and yet another bright day vanishes. Comes Saturday evening at last, and a page of illegible manuscript is all that he has to show for a week’s heavy toil. _Quousque tandem?_ And yet, it is the indispensable condition of progress in an unexplored region, that a few should thus labour, until a path has been cut through the forest,—a road laid down,—huts built,—a _modus vivendi_ established. In this department of sacred Science, men have been going on too long inventing their facts, and delivering themselves of oracular decrees, on the sole responsibility of their own inner consciousness. There is great convenience in such a method certainly,—a charming simplicity which is in a high degree attractive to flesh and blood. It dispenses with proof. It furnishes no evidence. It asserts when it ought to argue.(23) It reiterates when it is called upon to explain.(24) “I am sir Oracle.” … This,—which I venture to style the _unscientific_ method,—reached its culminating point when Professors Westcott and Hort recently put forth their Recension of the Greek Text. Their work is indeed quite a psychological curiosity. Incomprehensible to me is it how two able men of disciplined understandings can have seriously put forth the volume which they call “INTRODUCTION—APPENDIX.” It is the very _Reductio ad absurdum_ of the uncritical method of the last fifty years. And it is especially in opposition to this new method of theirs that I so strenuously insist that _the consentient voice of Catholic Antiquity_ is to be diligently inquired after and submissively listened to; for that _this_, in the end, will prove our _only_ safe guide.
§ 19. Let this be a sufficient reply to my Reviewer in the “Church Quarterly”—who, I observe, notes, as a fundamental defect in my Articles, “the want of a consistent working Theory, such as would enable us to weigh, as well as count, the suffrages of MSS., Versions, and Fathers.”(25) He is reminded that it was no part of my business to propound a “Theory.” My _method_ I have explained often and fully enough. My business was to prove that the theory of Drs. Westcott and Hort,—which (as Bp. Ellicott’s pamphlet proves) has been mainly adopted by the Revisionists,—is not only a worthless, but an utterly absurd one. And I have proved it. The method I persistently advocate in every case of a supposed doubtful Reading, (I say it for the last time, and request that I may be no more misrepresented,) is, that _an appeal shall be unreservedly made to Catholic Antiquity_; and that the combined verdict of Manuscripts, Versions, Fathers, shall be regarded as decisive.
§ 20. I find myself, in the mean time, met by the scoffs, jeers, misrepresentations of the disciples of this new School; who, instead of producing historical facts and intelligible arguments, appeal to the decrees of their teachers,—which _I_ disallow, and which _they_ are unable to substantiate. They delight in announcing that Textual Criticism made “_a fresh departure_” with the edition of Drs. Westcott and Hort: that the work of those scholars “_marks an era_,” and is spoken of in Germany as “_epoch-making_.” My own belief is, that the Edition in question, if it be epoch-making at all, marks _that_ epoch at which the current of critical thought, reversing its wayward course, began once more to flow in its ancient healthy channel. “Cloud-land” having been duly sighted on the 14th September 1881,(26) “a fresh departure” was insisted upon by public opinion,—and a deliberate return was made,—to _terra firma_, and _terra cognita_, and common sense. So far from “its paramount claim to the respect of future generations,” being “the restitution of a more ancient and a purer Text,”—I venture to predict that the edition of the two Cambridge Professors will be hereafter remembered as indicating the furthest point ever reached by the self-evolved imaginations of English disciples of the school of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles. The recoil promises to be complete. English good sense is ever observed to prevail in the long run; although for a few years a foreign fashion may acquire the ascendant, and beguile a few unstable wits.
§ 21. It only remains to state that in republishing these Essays I have availed myself of the opportunity to make several corrections and additions; as well as here and there to expand what before had been too briefly delivered. My learned friend and kind neighbour, the Rev. R. Cowley Powles, has ably helped me to correct the sheets. Much valuable assistance has been zealously rendered me throughout by my nephew, the Rev. William F. Rose, Vicar of Worle, Somersetshire. But the unwearied patience and consummate skill of my Secretary (M. W.) passes praise. Every syllable of the present volume has been transcribed by her for the press; and to her I am indebted for two of my Indices.—The obligations under which many learned men, both at home and abroad, have laid me, will be found faithfully acknowledged, in the proper place, at the foot of the page. I am sincerely grateful to them all.
§ 22. It will be readily believed that I have been sorely tempted to recast the whole and to strengthen my position in every part: but then, the work would have no longer been,—“Three Articles reprinted from the Quarterly Review.” Earnestly have I desired, for many years past, to produce a systematic Treatise on this great subject. My aspiration all along has been, and still is, in place of the absolute Empiricism which has hitherto prevailed in Textual inquiry to exhibit the logical outlines of what, I am persuaded, is destined to become a truly delightful Science. But I more than long,—I fairly _ache_ to have done with Controversy, and to be free to devote myself to the work of Interpretation. My apology for bestowing so large a portion of my time on Textual Criticism, is David’s when he was reproached by his brethren for appearing on the field of battle,—“Is there not a cause?”
§ 23. For,—let it clearly be noted,—it is no longer the case that critical doubts concerning the sacred Text are confined to critical Editions of the Greek. So long as scholars were content to ventilate their crotchets in a little arena of their own,—however mistaken they might be, and even though they changed their opinions once in every ten years,—no great harm was likely to come of it. Students of the Greek Testament were sure to have their attention called to the subject,—which must always be in the highest degree desirable; and it was to be expected that in this, as in every other department of learning, the progress of Inquiry would result in gradual accessions of certain Knowledge. After many years it might be found practicable to put forth by authority a carefully considered Revision of the commonly received Greek Text.
§ 24. But instead of all this, a Revision of the _English Authorised Version_ having been sanctioned by the Convocation of the Southern Province in 1871, the opportunity was eagerly snatched at by two irresponsible scholars of the University of Cambridge for obtaining the general sanction of the Revising body, and thus indirectly of Convocation, for a private venture of their own,—their own privately devised Revision of the _Greek Text_. On that Greek Text of theirs, (which I hold to be the most depraved which has ever appeared in print), with some slight modifications, our Authorised English Version has been silently revised: silently, I say, for in the margin of the English no record is preserved of the underlying Textual changes which have been introduced by the Revisionists. On the contrary. Use has been made of that margin to insinuate suspicion and distrust in countless particulars as to the authenticity of the Text which has been suffered to remain unaltered. In the meantime, the country has been flooded with two editions of the New Greek Text; and thus the door has been set wide open for universal mistrust of the Truth of Scripture to enter.
§ 25. Even schoolboys, it seems, are to have these crude views thrust upon them. Witness the “Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools,” edited by Dean Perowne,—who informs us at the outset that “_the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press_ have not thought it desirable to reprint the text in common use.” A consensus of Drs. Tischendorf and Tregelles,—who confessedly employed _the self-same mistaken major premiss_ in remodelling the Sacred Text,—seems, in a general way, to represent those Syndics’ notion of Textual purity. By this means every most serious deformity in the edition of Drs. Westcott and Hort, becomes promoted to honour, and is being thrust on the unsuspecting youth of England as the genuine utterance of the HOLY GHOST. Would it not have been the fairer, the more faithful as well as the more judicious course,—seeing that in respect of this abstruse and important question _adhuc sub judice lis est_,—to wait patiently awhile? Certainly not to snatch an opportunity “while men slept,” and in this way indirectly to prejudge the solemn issue! Not by such methods is the cause of GOD’S Truth on earth to be promoted. Even this however is not all. Bishop Lightfoot has been informed that “the Bible Society has permitted its Translators to adopt the Text of the Revised Version _where it commends itself to their judgment_.”(27) In other words, persons wholly unacquainted with the dangers which beset this delicate and difficult problem are invited to determine, by the light of Nature and on the “_solvere ambulando_” principle, what _is_ inspired Scripture, what _not_: and as a necessary consequence are encouraged to disseminate in heathen lands Readings which, a few years hence,—(so at least I venture to predict,)—will be universally recognized as worthless.
§ 26. If all this does not constitute a valid reason for descending into the arena of controversy, it would in my judgment be impossible to indicate an occasion when the Christian soldier _is_ called upon to do so:—the rather, because certain of those who, from their rank and station in the Church, ought to be the champions of the Truth, are at this time found to be among its most vigorous assailants.
§ 27. Let me,—(and with this I conclude),—in giving the present Volume to the world, be allowed to request that it may be accepted as a sample of how Deans employ their time,—the use they make of their opportunities. Nowhere but under the shadow of a Cathedral, (or in a College,) can such laborious endeavours as the present _pro Ecclesiâ_ DEI be successfully prosecuted.
J. W. B.

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