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Great Number of Various Readings.-Inferences.-Propriety of editing a Correct Text.-Griesbach.-Newcome.-The present Version.-Conclusion.
THE number of various readings collected by Dr. Mill is computed at thirty thousand. And it is reasonable to believe that since the publication of his celebrated edition, a hundred thousand at least have been added to the list, by the indefatigable industry of those learned critics who have succeeded to his labours, and by the great extension of the field of their operations in consequence of the additional number of manuscripts and versions which have been since discovered and collated.
These various readings, though very numerous, do not in any degree affect the general credit and integrity of the text: the general uniformity of which, in so many copies, scattered through almost all countries in the known world, and in so great a variety of languages, is truly astonishing, and demonstrates both the veneration in which the Scriptures were held, and the great care which was taken in transcribing them. Of the hundred and fifty thousand various readings which have been discovered by the sagacity and diligence of collators, not one tenth, nor one hundredth part, make any perceptible, or at least any material variation in the sense. This will appear credible if we consider that every, the minutest, deviation from the Received Text has been carefully noted, so that the insertion or omission of an article, the substitution of a word for its equivalent, the transposition of a word or two in a sentence, and even variations in orthography, have been added to the catalogue of various readings.
In those variations, which in some measure affect the sense, the true reading often shines forth with a lustre of evidence which is perfectly satisfactory to the judicious inquirer. In other cases, where the true reading cannot be exactly ascertained, it is of little or no consequence which of the readings is adopted, v. g. whether we read Paul the servant, or Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ, Philem. ver. 1. Also, where the various readings are of considerable importance, consisting, for example, in the omission or addition of sentences or paragraphs, the authenticity of the rest of the book remains wholly unaffected, whatever decision may be passed upon the passages in question. Thus the genuineness of the gospel of John continues unimpeached, whatever may become of the account of the pool of Bethesda, or, of the narrative of the woman taken in adultery.
The various readings which affect the doctrines of christianity are
very few: yet some of these are of great importance; viz. Acts xx. 28; 1 Tim. iii. 16; 1 John v. 7. Of those passages which can be justly regarded as wilful interpolations, the number is very small indeed : and of these the last-mentioned text, 1 John v. 7, is by far the most notorious, and most universally acknowledged, and reprobated.
Upon the whole we may remark, that the number and antiquity of the manuscripts which contain the whole or different parts of the New Testament, the variety of ancient versions, and the multitude of quotations from these sacred books in the early christian writers from the second century downwards, constitute a body of evidence in favour of the genuineness and authenticity of the Christian Scriptures far beyond that of any other book of equal antiquity.
Nevertheless, the immense number of various readings in the text of the New Testament, many of which cannot be satisfactorily settled by the most unwearied assiduity or the acutest sagacity of critical investigation, demonstrates that no superstitious regard is due to the mere language of the Received Text, which, like the works of other ancient authors, is open to rational and liberal criticism. Ignorant and injudicious persons are sometimes apprehensive that men's regard to the christian religion will be impaired, and their veneration for the Scriptures diminished, if the infallibility of the Received Text is called in question. But intelligent and well-informed readers are apprised, that the great practical truths of the christian religion do not rest upon verbal niceties, but consist in obvious conclusions from notorious and well-established facts. The apostolic summary of the christian faith is, "that God will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men in that he hath raised him from the dead." This doctrine beams forth with unclouded splendour from every page of the New Testament, whatever becomes of the correctness and accuracy of the Received Text. And whether greater respect be shown to the writers of the Christian Scriptures and to their works by adopting as infallible the imperfect editions of Erasmus and Stephens, of Beza and Elzevir, than by endeavouring to approximate as nearly as possible to the apostolic originals by a sober and judicious use of the ample materials which the labours of the learned have supplied for the purpose of rational criticism, let candour and good sense determine. In some few instances the alteration of the Received Text is indispensably requisite, in order to correct the erroneous impression conveyed by a false reading: and in all cases a change is desirable where the proposed alteration is supported by competent evidence. If it be justly regarded as an useful and an honourable office to publish a correct edition of the works of a classical author, it cannot surely be reckoned less important, or less honourable, to exhibit the text of the sacred writings in a form as nearly as possible approaching to the original standard.
Upon these principles Professor Griesbach undertook, and notwithstanding the loud clamours and malignant opposition of many, he persevered in, and completed, his great work of publishing a corrected Text of the New Testament, with the various readings and authorities subjoined, for which he is entitled to the warmest thanks of the whole Christian world. Upon the same principles the late Dr. Newcome, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, printed what he medestly calls An Attempt toward revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures, in which he professes generally to follow the text of Griesbach: the publication was, however, deferred till after the decease of that venerable and learned prelate, in deference, as it has been rumoured, to the opinions of some persons high in authority and rank, who were fearful of disturbing vulgar prejudices. It is upon the same principles that the present Improved Version offers itself to the public, with the additional advantage of the corrections and improvements of Dr. Griesbach's Second Edition. To prevent, however, undue expectations, it is proper to state that the alterations of the text in the learned Professor's second edition are comparatively very few; much fewer, as he observes, than he had himself expected from the great additional treasure of critical materials with which he was supplied. But he adds, that the experience of twenty years had only confirmed him in his adherence to those rules of criticism by which his judgement had been originally guided: and that the best authorities which had occurred to him since the publication of his first edition had confirmed the testimony of those witnesses upon which he had from the beginning chiefly relied.
To conclude, The editors of the present work offer it to the public as exhibiting to the English reader a text not indeed absolutely perfect, but approaching as nearly to the apostolical and evangelical originals as the present state of sacred criticism will admit: neither do they hold it up as a faultless translation, but merely as an Improved Version, still no doubt susceptible of far greater improvement, which they will rejoice to see undertaken and accomplished by abler hands. In the mean time, having to the best of their ability completed their professed design, they commend this volume, which is the result of their labours, to the candour of their readers and to the blessing of Almighty God:
ΟΤΙ ΕΞ ΑΥΤΟΥ, ΚΑΙ ΔΙ' ΑΥΤΟΥ, ΚΑΙ ΕΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΤΑ ΠΑΝΤΑ, ΑΥΤΩ Η ΔΟΞΑ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΥΣ ΑΙΩΝΑΣ. ΑΜΗΝ.
TO THE FOURTH EDITION.
THE Editors of the fourth Edition of the Improved Version of the New Testament think it expedient to announce to their readers the following variations from the preceding Editions.
In the first place, they have carefully compared the text of this edition with the text of Griesbach's second edition, and have endeavoured so to reform the version as to bring it to a complete coincidence with Griesbach's text, that is, with the most accurate text of the sacred writings which has yet been published. The variations, however, though numerous, are generally verbal, and seldom affect the sense of the passage. The readings of the received text are inserted in the inner margin. The inner margin also contains the words of Archbishop Newcome's Version when they differ from the text of the Improved Version; except in a few instances, in which it has been more convenient to insert the Primate's translation in the explanatory notes. This margin likewise exhibits a literal translation of the Greek original when the idiom has appeared to require a substitute in the text: also, occasionally, synonymous expressions and verbal illustrations which occur in the Primate's margin and finally, the renderings of Mr. Wakefield, Mr. Cappe, Mr. Simpson, and other critics, which some may perhaps prefer, though not admitted into the text.
It has been judged advisable to separate verbal criticisms from the explanatory notes, which are placed together at the bottom of the page.
The words which Griesbach regarded as very doubtful, or. perhaps spurious, but which he did not choose upon his own authority to reject from the text, are included in brackets. Readings which that learned critic judges to be probably genuine, but which he did not think fit to introduce into his text, are inserted in the inner margin with an appropriate indication of their value.
Errors in the preceding editions the Editors have corrected as far as they have occurred to their notice. But to those objections, and they are numerous, which have been alleged against the Improved Version, but which in fact apply to some supposed inaccuracies or inelegancies of the Primate's translation, little
attention has been paid. It was the design of the Editors to give not their own, but the Primate's version to the public, corrected only, or at least principally, in those passages in which it was apprehended that the learned prelate's translation might lead to a misconception of the meaning of the sacred writers. In these cases they have carefully set down in the margin the words of the Primate; and where it was thought needful they have assigned their reasons for the translation which they have preferred. In so great a number of instances some errors may have occurred from inadvertence, but it is hoped that they are neither numerous nor important: they are at least involuntary. As to the rest, they willingly leave the vindication of the Primate's version to his own curious and learned notes.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FOURTH EDITION.
A few notes have been added upon texts which had not been before explained, or which appeared to require further explanation. For some of these the Editors are indebted to the manuscript remarks of the late reverend and learned John Simpson of Bath, to whom the biblical student is so much indebted for his Essays upon the language of the Scriptures, which remarks were kindly communicated by his son John Simpson, Esq. of Rearsby, and are distinguished in the notes by the initial and final letters of Mr. Simpson's name.
The Editors regret the umbrage which has been taken at the title of "an Improved Version," which has been prefixed to this publication. If indeed the translation had been their own, the title might justly have been censured as savouring of an unbecoming vanity. But as more than nine-tenths of the translation is the work of the late learned and pious Archbishop Newcome, and as by far the greater part of the variations, where they occur, have been selected from other learned and approved critics, they see no impropriety in recommending this version, as in their estimation a considerable improvement upon the public version by King James's translators.
To conclude: The Editors hope that the errors which upon a revisal of the work have escaped their notice and correction, will not be visited by the learned and the candid with undue severity; and in its present form they willingly leave the Improved Version to the judgement of the serious, the liberal, and the inquisitive reader.
London, December 16, 1816.