IN the companion volume to this, the Traditional Text, that is, the Text of the Gospels which is the resultant of all the evidence faithfully and exhaustively presented and estimated according to the best procedure of the courts of law, has been traced back to the earliest ages in the existence of those sacred writings. We have shewn, that on the one hand, amidst the unprecedented advantages afforded by modern conditions of life for collecting all the evidence bearing upon the subject, the Traditional Text must be found, not in a mere transcript, but in a laborious revision of the Received Text; and that on the other hand it must, as far as we can judge, differ but slightly from the Text now generally in vogue, which has been generally received during the last two and a half centuries.
The strength of the position of the Traditional Text lies in its being logically deducible and to be deduced from all the varied evidence which the case supplies, when it has been sifted, proved, passed, weighed, compared, compounded, and contrasted with dissentient testimony. The contrast is indeed great in almost all instances upon which controversy has gathered. On one side the vast mass of authorities is assembled: on the other stands a small group. Not inconsiderable is the advantage possessed by that group, as regards numerous students who do not look beneath the surface, in the general witness in their favour borne by the two oldest MSS. of the Gospels in existence. That advantage however shrinks into nothing under the light of rigid examination. The claim for the Text in them made at the Semiarian period was rejected when Semiarianism in all its phases fell into permanent disfavour. And the argument advanced by Dr. Hort that the Traditional Text was a new Text formed by successive recensions has been refuted upon examination of the verdict of the Fathers in the first four centuries, and of the early Syriac and Latin Versions. Besides all this, those two manuscripts have been traced to a local source in the library of Caesarea. And on the other hand a Catholic origin of the Traditional Text found on later vellum manuscripts has been discovered in the manuscripts of papyrus which existed all over the Roman Empire, unless it was in Asia, and were to some degree in use even as late as the ninth century before and during the employment of vellum in the Caesarean school, and in localities where it was used in imitation of the mode of writing books which was brought well-nigh to perfection in that city.
It is evident that the turning-point of the controversy between ourselves and the Neologian school must lie in the centuries before St. Chrysostom. If, as Dr. Hort maintains, the Traditional Text not only gained supremacy at that era but did not exist in the early ages, then our contention is vain. That Text can be Traditional only if it goes back without break or intermission to the original autographs, because if through break or intermission it ceased or failed to exist, it loses the essential feature of genuine tradition. On the other hand, if it is proved to reach back in unbroken line to the time of the Evangelists, or to a period as near to them as surviving testimony can prove, then Dr. Hort's theory of a Syrian' text formed by recension or otherwise just as evidently falls to the ground. Following mainly upon the lines drawn by Dean Burgon, though in a divergence of my own devising, I claim to have proved Dr. Hort to have been conspicuously wrong, and our maintenance of the Traditional Text in unbroken succession to be eminently right. The school opposed to us must disprove our arguments, not by discrediting the testimony of the Fathers to whom all Textual Critics have appealed including Dr. Hort, but by demonstrating if they can that the Traditional Text is not recognized by them, or they must yield eventually to us .
In this volume, the other half of the subject will be discussed. Instead of exploring the genuine Text, we shall treat of the corruptions of it, and shall track error in its ten thousand forms to a few sources or heads. The origination of the pure Text in the inspired writings of the Evangelists will thus be vindicated anew by the evident paternity of deflections from it discoverable in the natural defects or iniquities of men. Corruption will the more slim itself in true colours: --
Quinquaginta atris immanis hiatibus hydra :
and it will not so readily be mistaken for genuineness, when the real history is unfolded, and the mistakes are accounted for. It seems clear that corruption arose in the very earliest age. As soon as the Gospel was preached, the incapacity of human nature for preserving accuracy until long years of intimate acquaintance have bred familiarity must have asserted itself in constant distortion more or less of the sacred stories, as they were told and retold amongst Christians one to another whether in writing or in oral transmission. Mistakes would inevitably arise from the universal tendency to mix error with truth which Virgil has so powerfully depicted in his description of Fame': --
Tam ficti pravique tenax, quam nuntia veri .
And as soon as inaccuracy had done its baleful work, a spirit of infidelity and of hostility either to the essentials or the details of the new religion must have impelled such as were either imperfect Christians, or no Christians at all, to corrupt the sacred stories.
Thus it appears that errors crept in at the very first commencement of the life of the Church. This is a matter so interesting and so important in the history of corruption, that I must venture to place it again before our readers.
Why was Galilee chosen before Judea and Jerusalem as the chief scene of our Lord's Life and Ministry, at least as regards the time spent there? Partly, no doubt, because the Galileans were more likely than the other inhabitants of Palestine to receive Him. But there was as I venture to think also another very special reason.
Galilee of the nations' or the Gentiles,' not only had a mixed population and a provincial dialect , but lay contiguous to the rest of Palestine on the one side, and on others to two districts in which Greek was largely spoken, namely, Decapolis and the parts of Tyre and Sidon, and also to the large country of Syria. Our Lord laid foundations for a natural growth in these parts of the Christian religion after His death almost independent as it seems of the centre of the Church at Jerusalem. Hence His crossings of the lake, His miracles on the other side, His retirement in that little understood episode in His life when He shrank from persecution , and remained secretly in the parts of Tyre and Sidon, about the coasts of Decapolis, on the shores of the lake, and in the towns of Caesarea Philippi, where the traces of His footsteps are even now indicated by tradition. His success amongst these outlying populations is proved by the unique assemblage of the crowds of 5000 and 4000 men besides women and children. What wonder then if the Church sprang up at Damascus, and suddenly as if without notice displayed such strength as to draw persecution upon it! In the same way the Words of life appear to have passed throughout Syria over congenial soil, and Antioch became the haven whence the first great missionaries went out for the conversion of the world. Such were not only St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Barnabas, but also as is not unreasonable to infer many of that assemblage of Christians at Rome whom St. Paul enumerates to our surprise in the last chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. Many no doubt were friends whom the Apostle of the Gentiles had met in Greece and elsewhere: but there are reasons to shew that some at least of them, such as Andronicus and Junias or Junia and Herodion, may probably have passed along the stream of commerce that flowed between Antioch and Rome*1*, and that this interconnexion between the queen city of the empire and the emporium of the East may in great measure account for the number of names well known to the apostle, and for the then flourishing condition of the Church which they adorned.
It has been shewn in our first volume that, as is well known to all students of Textual Criticism, the chief amount of corruption is to be found in what is termed the Western Text; and that the corruption of the West is so closely akin to the corruption which is found in Syriac remains, that practically they are included under one head of classification. What is the reason of this phenomenon? It is evidently derived from the close commercial alliance which subsisted between Syria and Italy. That is to say, the corruption produced in Syria made its way over into Italy, and there in many instances gathered fresh contributions. For there is reason to suppose, that it first arose in Syria.
We have seen how the Church grew of itself there without regular teaching from Jerusalem in the first beginnings, or any regular supervision exercised by the Apostles. In fact, as far as the Syrian believers in Christ at first consisted of Gentiles, they must perforce have been regarded as being outside of the covenant of promise. Yet there must have been many who revered the stories told about our Lord, and felt extreme interest and delight in them. The story of King Abgar illustrates the history: but amongst those who actually heard our Lord preach there must have been very many, probably a majority, who were uneducated. They would easily learn from the Jews, because the Aramaic dialects spoken by Hebrews and Syrians did not greatly differ the one from the other. What difference there was, would not so much hinder the spread of the stories, as tend to introduce alien forms of speech and synonymous words, and so to hinder absolute accuracy from being maintained. Much time must necessarily have elapsed, before such familiarity with the genuine accounts of our Lord's sayings and doings grew up, as would prevent mistakes being made and disseminated in telling or in writing.
The Gospels were certainly not written till some thirty years after the Ascension. More careful examination seems to place them later rather than earlier. For myself, I should suggest that the three first were not published long before the year 70 A.D. at the earliest; and that St. Matthew's Gospel was written at Pella during the siege of Jerusalem amidst Greek surroundings, and in face of the necessity caused by new conditions of life that Greek should become the ecclesiastical language. The Gospels would thus be the authorized versions in their entirety of the stories constituting the Life of our Lord; and corruption must have come into existence, before the antidote was found in complete documents accepted and commissioned by the authorities in the Church.
I must again remark with much emphasis that the foregoing suggestions are offered to account for what may now be regarded as a fact, viz., the connexion between the Western Text, as it is called, and Syriac remains in regard to corruption in the text of the Gospels and of the Acts of the Apostles. If that corruption arose at the very first spread of Christianity, before the record of our Lord's Life had assumed permanent shape in the Four Gospels, all is easy. Such corruption, inasmuch as it beset the oral and written stories which were afterwards incorporated in the Gospels, would creep into the authorized narrations, and would vitiate them till it was ultimately cast out towards the end of the fourth and in the succeeding centuries. Starting from the very beginning, and gaining additions in the several ways described in this volume by Dean Burgon, it would possess such vigour as to impress itself on Low-Latin manuscripts and even on parts of the better Latin ones, perhaps on Tatian's Diatessaron, on the Curetonian and Lewis manuscripts of the fifth century, on the Codex Bezae of the sixth; also on the Vatican and the Sinaitic of the fourth, on the Dublin Palimpsest of St. Matthew of the sixth, on the Codex Regius or L of the eighth, on the St. Gall MS. of the ninth in St. Mark, on the Codex Zacynthius of the eighth in St. Luke, and a few others. We on our side admit that the corruption is old even though the manuscripts enshrining it do not date very far back, and cannot always prove their ancestry. And it is in this admission that I venture to think there is an opening for a meeting of opinions which have been hitherto opposed.
In the following treatise, the causes of corruption are divided into (I) such as proceeded from Accident, and (II) those which were Intentional. Under the former class we find (1) those which were involved in pure Accident, or (2) in what is termed Homoeoteleuton where lines or sentences ended with the same word or the same syllable, or (3) such as arose in writing from Uncial letters, or (4) in the confusion of vowels and diphthongs which is called Itacism, or (5) in Liturgical Influence. The remaining instances may be conveniently classed as Intentional, not because in all cases there was a settled determination to alter the text, for such if any was often of the faintest character, but because some sort of design was to a greater or less degree embedded in most of them. Such causes were (1) Harmonistic Influence, (2) Assimilation, (3) Attraction; such instances too in their main character were (4) Omissions, (5) Transpositions, (6) Substitutions, (7) Additions, (8) Glosses, (9) Corruption by Heretics, (10) Corruption by Orthodox.
This dissection of the mass of corruption, or as perhaps it may be better termed, this classification made by Dean Burgon of the numerous causes which are found to have been at work from time to time, appears to me to be most interesting to the inquirer into the hidden history of the Text of the Gospels, because by revealing the influences which have been at work it sheds light upon the entire controversy, and often enables the student to see clearly how and why certain passages around which dispute has gathered are really corrupt. Indeed, the vast and mysterious ogre called corruption assumes shape and form under the acute penetration and the deft handling of the Dean, whose great knowledge of the subject and orderly treatment of puzzling details is still more commended by his interesting style of writing. As far as has been possible, I have let him in the sequel, except for such clerical corrections as were required from time to time and have been much fewer than his facile pen would have made, speak entirely for himself.