The Genuineness of 1 John 5.7 by David Martin 2.4

In Comma Johanneum, David Martin by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Of Robert Stephen’s Manuscripts

WE have seen in the foregoing Chapter the extreme perplexity in which Mr. Simon arid Mr. Emlyn are found with reference to the Manuscripts of Complutum and Erasmus; they could not extricate themselves but by denying that the passage of St. John was in any of these Manuscripts. The difficulty is considerably augmented by the Manuscripts of Robert Stephens: but here again ’tis the same refuge; they have no other; they must deny that the Text of St. John was in these Manuscripts: but yet Robert Stephens saw it there, and took it thence to place it in his Editions. The Editions speak the passage to be there! What have they to say to all this? They must rack their brains, and amass a heap of trifles, which serve to no other purpose than to perplex the matter; I shall dispatch ’em in this Treatise, and keep close to what is called the trunk of the tree, and leave Mr. Emlyn to catch at the branches.

To this end, I shall say but two words upon the number of Manuscript Copies in general, which Robert Stephens had.  They pretend that he had but fifteen of this kind, and he says in his Preface that he had sixteen. I compar’d, says he, very exactly my Edition of the New Testament with sixteen very old written Copies: the Complutensian Copy which he speaks of afterward was a printed Book, which consequently cannot be comprehended in the number of sixteen, which Stephens does not call by the general name of Manuscripts, but by the particular name of written Copies; cum vetustissimis sedecim SCRIPTIS.

Beza had in his hands the Manuscripts of his great friend Robert Stephens, when he went upon the Version and Notes of the New Testament, and he says in the Preface to his Editions of 1582 and 1589. that he had seventeen Copies of Robert Stephens; because he reckon’d in this number the Complutensian Copy which Stephens had made use of.

In the year 1598. he put out his last Edition of the same Book, and setting down as in the foregoing, the Copies he had in hand, he puts down nineteen, namely, seventeen of Stephens’s, and two others: one was the old Manuscript he had from Lyons, which contain’d the Gospels and the Acts, which he presented to the University of Cambridge, where it now is; and the other, which contain’d the Epistles of St. Paul, was that which he call’d the Copy of Clermont, which is at present in the French King’s Library.

Mr. Emlyn has gone so far as to deny that Beza saw and read these Manuscripts, and by a turn of imagination altogether new, has said that what Beza has so oft set down in his Annotations, speaking of Robert Stephens’ Manuscripts, vidimus, legimus, in Roberti nostri Codicibus invenimus, &c meant no more, than that he had seen in Robert Stephens Edition in 1550 the Greek numeral Letters, by which that learned Man had express’d each of his Manuscripts in the margin of that Edition. He has perceiv’d by my answer that he had made his Readers smile, who could not avoid being merry upon the occasion; he has not return’d to it again, and has handsomly given up that ingenious thought.

Beza however has not been absolutely discharg’d for this. Mr. Emlyn no longer disputes his having had these Manuscripts in his hands, since Beza says it, and Robert Stephens has said it also in the Advertisement put at the end of Beza’s Edition of the New Testament in 1556. But he accuses him of not having clearly enough express’d himself in what he has said of these Manuscripts upon the Text of the witnesses in heaven; as if he had there intended artifice, and had left with design some obscurity in the Notes, which particularly requir’d, by reason of the nicety and importance of the subject, that he should not leave there the least shadow of obscurity. ‘Tis with this Mr. Emlyn there finds fault, and by this he thinks to take from us the testimony of this venerable divine and learned Critick, as if Beza had not actually found this excellent passage of St. John’s Epistle in Stephen’s Manuscripts.

To know whether this reproach is well grounded, we need but copy here the two annotations which Beza has made upon this Text: This passage, says he, There are three in heaven, &c. clearly explains what the Apostle had said of six witnesses, three in heaven, and three in earth; yet neither the Syriac Translator, nor the old Latin, nor Gregory Nazianzen, nor Athanasius, nor Didymus, nor Chrysostom, nor Hilary, nor Augustin, nor Bede read it; i. e. they have not quoted it; but St. Jerom read it, and Erasmus found it in a Manuscript of England, ’tis also in the Complutensian Edition, and in some ancient Manuscripts of Robert Stephens. What is there wanting to this? Why, what is wanting, says Mr. Emlyn, is that Beza should have express’d the Manuscripts of Stephens, in which he says this passage was, and not say in general and confusedly ’tis in some Manuscripts of Stephens. ‘Tis then the word some which seems to him to contain an obscurity and not to be plac’d there without design. Could I expect pardon from a discreet and understanding Reader, if he saw me running after so pitiful a trifle, and amusing myself with collecting Jesting from this very work of Beza abundance of instances of this very sort of annotations, in plerisque, or in nonnullis exemplaribus, &c? I endeavour to make a more prudent use of my Readers time and attention.

Well, say they, but he has observ’d in the following annotation, upon these words of the same verse, εν τω ουρανω in heaven, in how many Copies they were wanting; and why has he not done the same in the preceding Note? Why? Because it was of no great importance to tell us how many Manuscripts among Stephens’s had this Text. I wish for Mr. Emlyn’s sake he had done it; but will any one venture to affirm after all this, that a Critick so hard to be satisfy’d as he, would not yet find something to say? We must not, says St. Athanafius, expect from an Author that he should express himself as we would, or as we think we should; ’tis enough that what he says may be easily understood. This rule flows from good sense; and there’s no Author, either ancient or modern, but what stands in need of the same justice.

Let us continue to make the extract of Beza’s Notes; coming to these words of the Text εν τω ουρανω in heaven, he says, these words are wanting in seven ancient Manuscripts: and these seven are those which Robert Stephens had mark’d in the margin by their numeral Letters. I had said, that this distinction of seven Manuscripts which wanted these words from those which Beza, saying of this verse that it was in some, had just mention’d, is an evident proof, first, that Stephens had more than seven Manuscripts of St. John’s Epistle; and secondly, that he must necessarily have had several, two only, if they will, in which the verse was entire; since Stephens and Beza restrain’d those, in which the words εν τω ουρανω were wanting, to seven. A reasoning so clear and natural ought not to be subject to dispute; yet Mr. Emlyn has not fail’d to call it in question. He denies the Manuscripts Beza speaks of in these two annotations to be different; and the reason he gives is drawn from the most refin’d criticism. If these seven Manuscripts, says he; were not the same with those of which Beza., (speaking of the verse, that it was read in St. Jerom, in Erasmus, and in the Complutensian) said that it was also read in nonnullis Stephani, in some of Stephens’; he should have said in the following Note, deest in septem aliis vetustis Codicibus, ’tis wanting in seven OTHERS; not having then said seven others, but only seven, this, says he, does not distinguish these Manuscripts from the rest, but leaves room to judge that they are the same. What pity ’tis; I will not say to answer these things, the meanest Grammarian will do it for me, but that I cannot avoid transcribing ’em from Mr. Emlyn’s writings into mine!

Robert Stephens, as I have elsewhere observ’d, had already made two Greek Editions of the New Testament before that of 1550 upon which Beza made his annotations. This last was in every respect like the two former, and differ’d from them only in the largeness of the characters, and the form of the volume; this being in folio, with large margins, and the two former in 16o, and consequently with very small margins. The Manuscripts of the last of these three Editions were the same as of the first and second; Stephens says it in express terms, cum iifdem contulimus, &c. Now the verse of the witnesses in heaven was inserted entire in the two former. This learned man acted in this according to what prudence and the rules of strict Criticism requir’d, and what all prudent and able Editors have done in like cases; which is to have regarded the two words which were wanting in seven Manuscripts as a mere omission, because he found ’em in the rest, in the Complutensian, in Erasmus, and in the Latin Versions; and because also the nature of the opposition which is seen in the words of the following verse, εν τη γη, in earth, with these foregoing, εν τω ουρανω, in heaven, evidently enough shew that the words, in heaven, must be join’d with the witnesses which are nam’d in the 7th verse. If Stephens had only kept to these two Editions, and had not with the exactness of an honest man and a learned Critick put out this third, in which, as I may say, he gives an exact account of the Manuscripts from which he had made his two former; what would they have said, who upon occasion of this great exactness in setting down in the margin the various readings he had found among all his Manuscripts pretend that this Text was not in any? If the case be so, we cannot avoid looking upon Stephens as an egregious Impostor for having given us as a Text of the Apostle St. John, an entire verse forg’d by himself, or others like him: Mr. Emlyn finds that I am too severe in drawing consequences which reflect upon the honour of Stephens in making him pass for a profligate forger of supposititious passages; but would one imagine whence this indulgence should proceed? he fansy’d that I spoke of a pretended negligence of this learned Printer in correcting an error of the press, with regard to the obelus which ends at the word ουρανω, whereas, says he, it should not have ended till the middle of the 8th verse, and after the words, εν τη γη, in earth. What a pleasant notion was this? Either Robert Stephena’ said I, had the Manuscripts in which the Text of St. John was found, which he inserted into four Editions, one after another, or he had not: If he had, all’s over, and our cause is gain’d: If he had not, Stephens was an impostor, an infamous fellow’, who deserv’d the utmost contempt: Mr. Emlyn will place better at another time his soft speeches, and his regard for the memory of Stephens.

I had spoke in advantagious terms of the sincerity and exactness of this learned man, in giving nothing a place in his Edition of the sacred Scripture, which was not in the Manuscripts: and I had confirm’d this by the testimony of Beza, and Hentenius, Prosessor in Divinity at Louvain; but for my part, says Mr. Emlyn, I do not rely so much as Mr.Martin, upon the integrity and exactness of Stephens. And why not? Because, says he, Dr. Mill has obscrv’d, that Stephens had omitted above seven hundred various readings betwixt his Edition and that of Complutum. Is it then to want either integrity or exactness not to fill an Edition with all the various readings that are found in the Manuscripts? Truly, Stephens would have made a fine work of it, if he had fill’d his margin with a thousand variations of no significancy: he chose, like a skilful man as he was, those which appear’d to him the most considerable.

These sort of Criticisms concerning the nature of the variations which are met with in the ancient Manuscripts, have nothing common with the addition of a Text which was not in any; for the question here is only concerning that. I come back then to this, that if Stephens did not find in his ancient Manuscripts the passage which speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, he was guilty of forgery, for having inserted it in his Editions, compar’d, as he says, with his Manuscripts. France, which assuredly did not love him, tho’ they could not but esteem him, receiv’d his first Editions, made at Paris, with the applauses they deserv’d: and it was not, ’till since a party has been form’d as by concert against the genuineness of the passage of St. John, that an attempt has been made to sapp the foundation of these Editions, by attacking the Manuscripts from which they were made. Let us now pass to the obelus which in the third Edition was set before the words εν τω ουρανω, and which has given occasion to a malicious Criticism against this passage.

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