Of the first Greek Editions, in which the Text of the three witnesses in heaven is read, and of those in which this Text is not inserted.
Before I come to speak of the Greek Manuscripts which serve to defend the truth of the passage of St. John, I think it will not be amiss to make some observations upon the first Greek Editions of the New Testament with relation to this famous Text.
The Latin Bibles were the first that were printed, about the middle of the 15th Century; the little use which was then made of the Greek Tongue in reading the holy Scripture, was without doubt the the cause, why they made no haste to print it in that language. It was not till the beginning of the 16th Century, that Cardinal Ximenes having form’d the great and noble design of printing a Bible in several languages, collected with immense care and charge all the Manuscripts he could find for this purpose, and committed the examination to several learned men, who were employ’d in that Edition. That of the New Testament was finished, not as Mr. Simon has said through mistake in 1515, but in 1514. the 10th day of January, as ’tis set down in the very Edition, which was made at Complutum.
The passage of St. John is in this Greek Edition, which is the first that was made, and which was made from Manuscripts; but it did not appear in the world ’till some years after, by reason of several accidents, which interven’d at that time, and are nothing to our subject.
During this delay of the publication of the Polygon Bible of Ximenes, known by the name of the Complutensean, from Complutum, the place where it was printed, Erasmus having got together four or five Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, put out an Edition at Basil in 1516. The passage of St. John’s Epistle was not in this Edition.
In the year 1518, the Greek New Testament was printed at Venice; in which also they have not put the passage of St. John; this is the Edition that goes under the name of Aldus.
That of Erasmus in 1516 was reprinted in 1519 without any alteration; at least with respect to this passage.
He publish’d a third in 1522 in which this Text was restored.
Robert Stephens having gather’d together from the the Library of King Francis the First, and divers other places, several Greek Manuscripts, put out in 1546. a very fine Edition of the New Testament with the passage of St. John’s Epistle, such as we have it in the common Editions; he put out a second in 1549 from this first.
By this exact account of the first Greek Editions of the New Testament, we see those which were made from Manuscripts which had the Text of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the Epistle of St. John; and those where it was wanting.
As both had been taken from Manuscripts all those which have since been sent abroad, were copied from these first Editions.
I know but three which have follow’d that of Aldus, and the two first of Erasmus in what regards the omission of this passage in dispute; that of Haguenan in 1521 that of Strasburg in 1524. and that of Simon Colinaeus at Paris in 1534 all the rest of the same age, and since that time have regularly follow’d the former, which read the passage of Sr. John: there’s not a translation even to the German Version of the New Testament made by the Socinians, and printed at Racovia in 1630 which has not preserv’d this passage.
The small vogue which the Edition of Aldus, and that of Erajmusin 1516 had in this respect, is an evident mark of the disapprobation of the Christian World. They look’d upon ’em as Editions defective in this point, which did not deserve to have any regard paid to ’em, nor that any advantage should be drawn thence against the other Editions, in which the Text of the witnesses in heaven were found. Yet those who believe the Text supposititious pretend this to be of force against its being authentick; but its not difficult to shew ’em that they are under a mistake. Mr. Simon himself, that Mr. Simon who has rais’d the standard so high against this Sacred Text, shall speak for me, and supply me with the arguments I shall use. Let us hear him explain himself upon the subject of these Editions. I don’t believe, says he, that either that of Strasbourg in 1524 or that of Simon Colinæus at Paris in 1534. were taken from Manuscripts. Wolfius,who published that of Strasbourg, says nothing of it in his Preface; he there witnesses, on the contrary, that he only reprinted in new characters and in a new form what had already been printed. Simon Colinæus has put no Preface before his Greek Edition, which makes me believe that he adjusted it according to his own sense from the foregoing Editions. All the pretended authority of these Editions cannot be more expressly made void, and the proof which men, either of little understanding, or great prejudice, would draw thence against the Text of the holy Apostle. Mr. Simon sends us back to the Manuscripts; they alone hold the place of the Original in the Editions; and those which want this support are but Copies, of no authority in themselves. Thus he brings us back, as at one step, to the first Editions, which were copied by Wolfius, and Simon Colinæus; let us then go back with him so far as to them.
Being thus come to the first Edition of Erasmus in 1516 and that of Aldus in 1518 our business will be to see from what Manuscripts they were both made. As to that of Aldus, we know nothing at all about it; and though I do not doubt but that he had some Manuscripts from which he printed the Epistle of St. John without the Text of the witnesses in heaven, nevertheless as we do not know whether he had several such, and whether what he had was of any esteem or no, his Edition can be of no great weight in what concerns the omission of this Text.
The case is not the same with the Edition of Erasmus; he informs us that he had four or five Manuscripts, but whether they were very ancient or no, is not known; there’s but one, which he says a friend of his sent him an extract of from Rome, that is known to be ancient.
Let us now compare these Manuscripts in which the passage of St. John is found to be wanting, with the other from which the Editions, of Complutum, that of Erasmus in 1522. and that of Robert Stephens in 1546. which have all this Verse, were made. I here touch upon what regards these Manuscripts only by the by, and so far as the way of comparison requires; I shall have occasion presently to speak of ’em more at large. We know that Cardinal Ximenes had abundance of Manuscripts, and the best that he could find; and that these Manuscripts were put into the hands of able men, who examin’d ’em with care: Nothing like this can be said in favour of the Edition of Aldus; and as to that of Erasmus, there were but few, and it cannot enter into competition with the three Editions of Complutum, of Erasmus himself in 1522, and R. Stephen’s in 1546 either with regard to the number of Manuscripts taken all together, since they all agree in having this Text; or with regard to their antiquity, of which Stephens says, speaking of those from which he made his Edition, that they were of the most venerable antiquity; codices nactus aliquot ipse vetustatis specie pene adorandos.
Here again let us hear Mr. Simon:
We must judge of the readings of the Manuscripts according to the the rules of Criticism, and see, with Hilary the Deacon,which of these Copies are supported by reason, history, and authority: the Greek where these three things shall meet, will be the most ancient and the most correct; whether it be found in old Manuscripts, or in printed Books.
The Editions of Complutum, of Erasmus, and Stephens have visibly these three advantages above those of 1516 and 1518 which have not the Text of St. John; the reason taken from the end and design of the Epistle, as well as the connexion of this verse with the following, favours the Text of the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in one only divine essence. The history of the quotations of this passage is entirely for its being genuine; and the authority of the Authors who have quoted it is equally venerable for their antiquity, and their great name in the Church. Can any thing like this be produc’d in favour of the Editions, in which this passage is omitted? Let those Editions then pass for nothing so far as concerns the omission of this Text.
The same arguments will also serve for the Syriac Version, which they say is the only one of the Oriental Versions, that was taken from the Greek: if it is true, as they pretend, that it was made from the Greek, and that the Manuscripts from which it was made had not this Text, it was a defect and an omission, since it appears from the proofs drawn from ecclesiastical Authors, more ancient than the Syriac Version, that it was in the Italick, and with it fell under the eyes of the whole Church: and if it was not wanting in the Manuscripts, ’tis an omission which must be laid to the account of the Syriac Version. I should even believe this last rather than the former. In short, if the want of this verse in that Version was a necessary consequence that it was not in the Greek, the same consequence must have place in all the other passages, which are wanting to this Version; now as the number of these passages is not small, it would follow that they were not in the Greek Copies, when that Version was made, which yet is very false. Mr.Simon tells us, that the other Oriental Versions, the Arabick, the Coptics the Persian, were made from the Syriac: now as there is not one of these Versions which does not want some passage, it would follow that the same defects would be in the Syriac; but the contrary is clearly seen by comparing these Versions with that, which serv’d ’em in some sort for an original. ‘Tis not then a good reason to say that the Text of the 7th verse was not in the Greek Manuscripts, because it is not in the Syriac Version.