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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : CHAPTER IV. ACCIDENTAL CAUSES OF CORRUPTION.

The Causes Of The Corruption Of The Traditional Text by John William Burgon



§ 1.

CORRUPT readings have occasionally resulted from the ancient practice of writing Scripture in the uncial character, without accents, punctuation, or indeed any division of the text. Especially are they found in places where there is something unusual in the structure of the sentence.

St. John iv.35-6 (leukai' eisi pro`s therismo'n e'de) has suffered in this way, -- owing to the unusual position of e'de. Certain of the scribes who imagined that e'de might belong to ver.36, rejected the kai as superfluous; though no Father is known to have been guilty of such a solecism. Others, aware that e'de can only belong to ver.35, were not unwilling to part with the copula at the beginning of ver.36. A few, considering both words of doubtful authority, retained neither . In this way it has come to pass that there are four ways of exhibiting this place: -- (a) pro`s therismon e'de. Kai ho therizon: -- (b) pro`s therismo'n Ede ho th.: -- (c) pro`s therismon e'de. Ho therizon: -- (d) pro`s therismo'n. Ho therizon, k.t.l..

The only point of importance however is the position of e'de: which is claimed for ver.35 by the great mass of the copies: as well as by Origen , Eusebius , Chrysostom , Cyril , the Vulgate, Jerome of course, and the Syriac. The Italic copies are hopelessly divided here : and Codd. 'BMP do not help us. But e'de is claimed for ver.36 by CDEL, 33, and by the Curetonian and Lewis (= kai e'de ho therizon): while Codex A is singular in beginning ver.36, e'de kai -- which shews that some early copyist, with the correct text before him, adopted a vicious punctuation. For there can be no manner of doubt that the commonly received text and the usual punctuation is the true one: as, on a careful review of the evidence, every unprejudiced reader will allow. But recent critics are for leaving out kai (with 'BCDL): while Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, Tregelles (marg.), are for putting the full stop after pro`s therismo'n and (with ACDL) making e'de begin the next sentence, -- which (as Alford finds out) is clearly inadmissible.

§ 2.

Sometimes this affects the translation. Thus, the Revisers propose in the parable of the prodigal And I perish here with hunger!' But why here?' Because I answer, whereas in the earliest copies of St. Luke the words stood thus, -- EGoDELIMoAPOLLUMAI, some careless scribe after writing EGoDE, reduplicated the three last letters (oDE): he mistook them for an independent word. Accordingly in the Codex Bezae, in R and U and about ten cursives, we encounter ego de ode. The inventive faculty having thus done its work it remained to superadd transposition,' as was done by 'BL. From ego de ode limo the sentence has now developed into ego de limo ode: which approves itself to Griesbach and Schultz, to Lachmann and Tischendorf and Tregelles, to Alford and Westcott and Hort, and to the Revisers. A very ancient blunder, certainly, ego de hode is: for it is found in the Latin and the Syriac translations. It must therefore date from the second century. But it is a blunder notwithstanding: a blunder against which 16 uncials and the whole body of the cursives bear emphatic witness . Having detected its origin, we have next to trace its progress.

The inventors of hode or other scribes quickly saw that this word requires a correlative in the earlier part of the sentence. Accordingly, the same primitive authorities which advocate here,' are observed also to advocate, above, in my Father's house.' No extant Greek copy is known to contain the bracketed words in the sentence [en to oiko tou patros mou: but such copies must have existed in the second century. The Peshitto, the Cureton and Lewis recognize the three words in question; as well as copies of the Latin with which Jerome , Augustine and Cassian were acquainted. The phrase in domo patris mei' has accordingly established itself in the Vulgate. But surely we of the Church of England who have been hitherto spared this second blunder, may reasonably (at the end of 1700 years) refuse to take the first downward step. Our Lord intended no contrast whatever between two localities -- but between two parties. The comfortable estate of the hired servants He set against the abject misery of the Son: not the house wherein the servants dwelt, and the spot where the poor prodigal was standing when he came to a better mind. -- These are many words; but I know not how to be briefer. And, -- what is worthy of discussion, if not the utterances of the Word made flesh?'

If hesitation to accept the foregoing verdict lingers in any quarter, it ought to be dispelled by a glance at the context in 'BL. What else but the instinct of a trained understanding is it to survey the neighbourhood of a place like the present? Accordingly, we discover that in ver.16, for gemisai ten koilian autou apo, 'BDLR present us with chortasthenai ek: and in ver.22, the prodigal, on very nearly the same authority ('BDUX), is made to say to his father, -- Poieson me hos e'na ton misthi'on sou:

Which certainly he did not say . Moreover, 'BLX and the Old Latin are for thrusting in tachu (D tacheos) after exene'nkate. Are not these one and all confessedly fabricated readings? the infelicitous attempts of some well-meaning critic to improve upon the inspired original?

From the fact that three words in St. John v.44 were in the oldest MSS. written thus, -- MONOUThUOU (i.e. mo'nou Theou ou), the middle word (theou) got omitted from some very early copies; whereby the sentence is made to run thus in English, -- And seek not the honour which cometh from the only One.' It is so that Origen , Eusebius , Didymus , besides the two best copies of the Old Latin, exhibit the place. As to Greek MSS., the error survives only in B at the present day, the preserver of an Alexandrian error.

§ 3.

St. Luke explains (Acts xxvii.14) that it was the typhonic wind called Euroclydon' which caused the ship in which St. Paul and he sailed past Crete to incur the harm and loss' so graphically described in the last chapter but one of the Acts. That wind is mentioned nowhere but in this one place. Its name however is sufficiently intelligible; being compounded of Euros, the south-east wind,' and kludon, a tempest:' a compound which happily survives intact in the Peshitto version. The Syriac translator, not knowing what the word meant, copied what he saw, -- the blast' (he says) of the tempest , which [blast] is called Tophonikos Euroklidon.' Not so the licentious scribes of the West. They insisted on extracting out of the actual Euroclydon,' the imaginary name Euro-aquilo,' which accordingly stands to this day in the Vulgate. (Not that Jerome himself so read the name of the wind, or he would hardly have explained Eurielion' or Euriclion' to mean commiscens, sive deorsum ducens .') Of this feat of theirs, Codexes ' and A (in which EUROKLUDoN has been perverted into EURAKULoN) are at this day the sole surviving Greek witnesses. Well may the evidence for Euro-aquilo' be scanty! The fabricated word collapses the instant it is examined. Nautical men point out that it is inconsistent in its construction with the principles on which the names of the intermediate or compound winds are framed:' --

Euornotus is so called as intervening immediately between Eurus and Notus, and as partaking, as was thought, of the qualities of both. The same holds true of Libonotus, as being interposed between Libs and Notus. Both these compound winds lie in the same quarter or quadrant of the circle with the winds of which they are composed, and no other wind intervenes. But Eurus and Aquilo are at 90° distance from one another; or according to some writers, at 105°; the former lying in the south-east quarter, and the latter in the north-east: and two winds, one of which is the East cardinal point, intervene, as Caecias and Subsolanus .'

Further, why should the wind be designated by an impossible Latin name? The ship was a ship of Alexandria' (ver.6). The sailors were Greeks. What business has Aquilo' here? Next, if the wind did bear the name of Euro-aquilo,' why is it introduced in this marked way (a'nemos tuphoniko`s, o kalou'menos) as if it were a kind of curiosity? Such a name would utterly miss the point, which is the violence of the wind as expressed in the term Euroclydon. But above all, if St. Luke wrote EURAK-, how has it come to pass that every copyist but three has written EUROK-? The testimony of B is memorable. The original scribe wrote EURAKUDoN : the secunda manus has corrected this into EURUKLUDoN, -- which is also the reading of Euthalius . The essential circumstance is, that not ULoN but UDoN has all along been the last half of the word in Codex B .

In St. John iv.15, on the authority of 'B, Tischendorf adopts die'rchesthai (in place of the uncompounded verb), assigning as his reason, that If St. John had written erchesthai, no one would ever have substituted die'rchesthai for it.' But to construct the text of Scripture on such considerations, is to build a lighthouse on a quicksand. I could have referred the learned Critic to plenty of places where the thing he speaks of as incredible has been done. The proof that St. John used the uncompounded verb is the fact that it is found in all the copies except our two untrustworthy friends. The explanation of DIerchomai is sufficiently accounted for by the final syllable (DE) of mede` which immediately precedes. Similarly but without the same excuse,

St. Mark x.16 eulogei has become kateulogei ('BC) ? | xii.17 thaaumasan | exethaumasan ('B) ? | xiv.40 bebaremenoi | katabebaremenoi (A'B)

It is impossible to doubt that kai (in modern critical editions of St. Luke xvii.37) is indebted for its existence to the same cause. In the phrase ekei sunachthesontai hoi aetoi it might have been predicted that the last syllable of ekei would some day be mistaken for the conjunction. And so it has actually come to pass. KAI oi aetoi is met with in many ancient authorities. But 'LB also transposed the clauses, and substituted episunachthesontai for sunachthe'sontai. The self-same casualty, viz. kai elicited out of the insertion of ekei and the transposition of the clauses, is discoverable among the Cursives at St. Matt. xxiv.28, -- the parallel place: where by the way the old uncials distinguish themselves by yet graver eccentricities . How can we as judicious critics ever think of disturbing the text of Scripture on evidence so precarious as this?

It is proposed that we should henceforth read St. Matt. xxii.23 as follows: -- On that day there came to Him Sadducecs saying that there is no Resurrection.' A new incident would be in this way introduced into the Gospel narrative: resulting from a novel reading of the passage. Instead of hoi le'gontes, we are invited to read le'gontes, on the authority of n 'BDMSZP and several of the Cursives, besides Origen, Methodius, Epiphanius. This is a respectable array. There is nevertheless a vast preponderance of numbers in favour of the usual reading, which is also found in the Old Latin copies and in the Vulgate. But surely the discovery that in the parallel Gospels it is --

oi'tines le'gousin ana'stasin me` einai (St. Mark xii.18) and oi antile'gontes ana'stasin me` einai (St. Luke xx.27)

may be considered as decisive in a case like the present. Sure I am that it will be so regarded by any one who has paid close attention to the method of the Evangelists. Add that the origin of the mistake is seen, the instant the words are inspected as they must have stood in an uncial copy:


and really nothing more requires to be said. The second OI was safe to be dropped in a collocation of letters like that. It might also have been anticipated, that there would be found copyists to be confused by the antecedent KAI. Accordingly the Peshitto, Lewis, and Curetonian render the place et dicentes;' shewing that they mistook KAI OI LEGONTES for a separate phrase.

§ 4.

The termination TO (in certain tenses of the verb), when followed by the neuter article, naturally leads to confusion; sometimes to uncertainty. In St. John v.4 for instance, where we read in our copies kai etarasse to hudor but so many MSS. read etarasseto, that it becomes a perplexing question which reading to follow. The sense in either case is excellent: the only difference being whether the Evangelist actually says that the Angel troubled' the water, or leaves it to be inferred from the circumstance that after the Angel had descended, straightway the water was troubled.'

The question becomes less difficult of decision when (as in St. Luke vii.21) we have to decide between two expressions echari'sato ble'pein (which is the reading of '*ABDEG and 11 other uncials) and echari'sato to ble'pein which is only supported by '^bELVA. The bulk of the Cursives faithfully maintain the former reading, and merge the article in the verb.

Akin to the foregoing are all those instances, -- and they are literally without number -- , where the proximity of a like ending has been the fruitful cause of error. Let me explain: for this is a matter which cannot be too thoroughly apprehended.

Such a collection of words as the following two instances exhibit will shew my meaning.

In the expression estheta lampra`n ane'pempsen (St. Luke xxiii.11), we are not surprised to find the first syllable of the verb (an) absorbed by the last syllable of the immediately preceding lampran. Accordingly, 'LR supported by one copy of the Old Latin and a single cursive MS. concur in displaying epempsen in this place.

The letters NAIKoNAIKAI in the expression (St. Luke xxiii.27) gunaikon ai` kai` were safe to produce confusion. The first of these three words could of course take care of itself. (Though D, with some of the Versions, make it into gunaikes.) Not so however what follows. ABCDLX and the Old Latin (except c) drop the kai: ' and C drop the ai. The truth rests with the fourteen remaining uncials and with the cursives.

Thus also the reading en ole te Galilaia (B) in St. Matt. iv.23, (adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort and the Revisers,) is due simply to the reduplication on the part of some inattentive scribe of the last two letters of the immediately preceding word, -- periegen. The received reading of the place is the correct one, -- kai` periegen o'len te Galilai'an o Iesous because the first five words are so exhibited in all the Copies except B'C; and those three MSS. are observed to differ as usual from one another, -- which ought to be deemed fatal to their evidence. Thus,

B reads kai periegen en o'le te Galilai'a.

' ?|? kai periegen ho i?s? en te Galilai'a.

C ?|? kai periegen ho i?s? en o'le te Galilai'a.

But -- (I shall be asked) -- what about the position of the Sacred Name? How comes it to pass that o Iesous, which comes after Galilai'an in almost every other known copy, should come after riegen ho in three of these venerable authorities (in D as well as in ' and C), and in the Latin, Peshitto, Lewis, and Harkleian? Tischendorf, Alford, Westcott and Hort and the Revisers at all events (who simply follow B in leaving out o Iesous altogether) will not ask me this question: but a thoughtful inquirer is sure to ask it.

The phrase (I reply) is derived by 'CD from the twin place in St. Matthew (ix.35) which in all the MSS. begins kai` perie;gen o i?s?. So familiar had this order of the words become, that the scribe of ', (a circumstance by the way of which Tischendorf takes no notice,) has even introduced the expression into St. Mark vi.6, -- the parallel place in the second Gospel, -- where o i?s? is clearly has no business. I enter into these minute details because only in this way is the subject before us to be thoroughly understood. This is another instance where the Old Uncials' shew their text to be corrupt; so for assurance in respect of accuracy of detail we must resort to the Cursive Copies.

§ 5.

The introduction of apo in the place of a'gioi made by the Revisers' into the Greek Text of 2 Peter i.27, -- derives its origin from the same prolific source. some very ancient scribe mistook the first four letters of agioi, for apo. It was but the mistaking of AGIO for APO. At the end of 1700 years, the only Copies which witness to this deformity are BP with four cursives, -- in opposition to 'AKL and the whole body of the cursives, the Vulgate and the Harkleian. Euthalius knew nothing of it . Obvious it was, next, for some one in perplexity, -- to introduce both readings (apo and a'gioi) into the text. Accordingly apo Theou a'gioi, is found in C, two cursives, and Didymus . Then, , another variant crops up, (viz. hupo for apo -- but only because hupo went immediately before); of which fresh blunder hupo Theou a'gioi) Theophylact is the sole patron . The consequence of all this might have been foreseen: it came to pass that from a few Codexes, both apo and agioi were left out, -- which accounts for the reading of certain copies of the Old Latin . Unaware how the blunder began, Tischendorf and his followers claim ,' ,' and ,' as proofs that ' is the right reading: and, by consequence, instead of holy men of God spake,' require us to read men spake from God,' which is wooden and vapid. Is it not clear that a reading attested by only BP and four cursive copies must stand self-condemned?

Another excellent specimen of this class of error is furnished by Heb. vii.1. Instead of Ho sunante'sas Abraa'm -- said of Melchizedek, -- 'ABD exhibit OC. The whole body of the copies, headed by CLP, are against them , -- besides Chrysostom , Theodoret , Damascene . It is needless to do more than state how this reading arose. The initial letter of sunante'sas has been reduplicated through careless transcription: OCCUN -- instead of OCUN -- . That is all. But the instructive feature of the case is that it is in the four oldest of the uncials that this palpable blunder is found.

§ 6.

I have reserved for the last a specimen which is second to none in suggestiveness. Whom will ye that I release unto you?' asked Pilate on a memorable occasion : and we all remember how his enquiry proceeds. But the discovery is made that, in an early age there existed copies of the Gospel which proceeded thus, -- Jesus [who is called ] Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?' Origen so quotes the place, but In many copies,' he proceeds, mention is not made that Barabbas was also called Jesus: and those copies may perhaps be right, -- else would the name of Jesus belong to one of the wicked, -- of which no instance occurs in any part of the Bible: nor is it fitting that the name of Jesus should like Judas have been borne by saint and sinner alike. I think,' Origen adds, something of this sort must have been an interpolation of the heretics .' From this we are clearly intended to infer that Jesus Barabbas' was the prevailing reading of St. Matt. xxvii.17 in the time of Origen, a circumstance which -- besides that a multitude of copies existed as well as those of Origen -- for the best of reasons, we take leave to pronounce incredible .

The sum of the matter is probably this: -- Some inattentive second century copyist [probably a Western Translator into Syriac who was an indifferent Greek scholar] mistook the final syllable of unto you' (UMIN) for the word Jesus' (I?N?): in other words, carelessly reduplicated the last two letters of UMIN, -- from which, strange to say, results the form of inquiry noticed at the outset. Origen caught sight of the extravagance, and condemned it though he fancied it to be prevalent, and the thing slept for 1500 years. Then about just fifty years ago Drs. Lachmann, Tischendorf and Tregelles began to construct that fabric of Textual Criticism' which has been the cause of the present treatise [though indeed Tischendorf does not adopt the suggestion of those few aberrant cursives which is supported by no surviving uncial, and in fact advocates the very origin of the mischief which has been just described]. But, as every one must see, such things as these are not readings' at all, nor even the work of the heretics;' but simply transcriptional mistakes. How Dr. Hort, admitting the blunder, yet pleads that this remarkable reading is attractive by the new and interesting fact which it seems to attest, and by the antithetic force which it seems to add to the question in ver.17,' [is more than we can understand. To us the expression seems most repulsive. No antithetic force' can outweigh our dislike to the idea that Barabbas was our Saviour'S namesake! We prefer Origen's account, though he mistook the cause, to that of the modern critic.]

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