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

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



[IT has been already shewn in the First Volume that the Art of Transcription on vellum did not reach perfection till after the lapse of many centuries in the life of the Church. Even in the minute elements of writing much uncertainty prevailed during a great number of successive ages. It by no means followed that, if a scribe possessed a correct auricular knowledge of the Text, he would therefore exhibit it correctly on parchment. Copies were largely disfigured with misspelt words. And vowels especially were interchanged; accordingly, such change became in many instances the cause of corruption, and is known in Textual Criticism under the name Itacism.']

§ I.

It may seem to a casual reader that in what follows undue attention is being paid to minute particulars. But it constantly happens, -- and this is a sufficient answer to the supposed objection, -- that, from exceedingly minute and seemingly trivial mistakes, there result sometimes considerable and indeed serious misrepresentations of the Spirit's meaning. New incidents: -- unheard-of statements: -- facts as yet unknown to readers of Scripture: -- perversions of our Lord's Divine sayings: -- such phenomena are observed to follow upon the omission of the article, -- the insertion of an expletive, -- the change of a single letter. Thus palin, thrust in where it has no business, makes it appear that our Saviour promised to return the ass on which He- rode in triumph into Jerusalem . By writing o for o, many critics have transferred some words from the lips of Christ to those of His Evangelist, and made Him say what He never could have dreamed of saying . By subjoining s to a word in a place which it has no right to fill, the harmony of the heavenly choir has been marred effectually, and a sentence produced which defies translation . By omitting to and Kurie, the repenting malefactor is made to say, Jesus! remember me, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom .'

Speaking of our Saviour's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which took place the day after' they made Him a supper,' and Lazarus which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead,' sat at the table with Him' (St. John xii.1, 2), St. John says that the multitude which had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised Him from the dead bare testimony' (St. John xii.17). The meaning of this is best understood by a reference to St. Luke xix.37, 38, where it is explained that it was the sight of so many acts of Divine Power, the chiefest of all being the raising of Lazarus, which moved the crowds to yield the memorable testimony recorded by St. Luke in ver.38, -- by St. John in ver.13 . But Tischendorf and Lachmann, who on the authority of D and four later uncials read hoti instead of hote, import into the Gospel quite another meaning. According to their way of exhibiting the text, St. John is made to say that the multitude which was with Jesus, testified that He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead': which is not only an entirely different statement, but also the introduction of a highly improbable circumstance. That many copies of the Old Latin (not of the Vulgate) recognize On, besides the Peshitto and the two Egyptian versions, is not denied. This is in fact only one more proof of the insufficiency of such collective testimony. 'AB with the rest of the uncials and, what is of more importance, the whole body of the cursive, exhibit hote, -- which, as every one must see, is certainly what St. John wrote in this place. Tischendorf's assertion that the prolixity of the expression ephonesen ek tou mnemei'ou kai` e'geiren auto`n ek nekron is inconsistent with o'te , -- may surprise, but will never convince any one who is even moderately acquainted with St. John's peculiar manner.

The same mistake -- of o'ti for o'te -- is met with at ver.41 of the same chapter. These things said Isaiah because he saw His glory' (St. John xii.41). And why not when he saw His glory'? which is what the Evangelist wrote according to the strongest attestation. True, that eleven manuscripts (beginning with 'ABL) and the Egyptian versions exhibit o'ti: also Nonnus, who lived in the Thebaid (A.D.410): but all other MSS., the Latin, Peshitto, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and one Egyptian version: -- Origen , -- Eusebius in four places , -- Basil , -- Gregory of Nyssa twice , -- Didymus three times , -- Chrysostom twice , -- Severianus of Gabala ; -- these twelve Versions and Fathers constitute a body of ancient evidence which is overwhelming. Cyril three times reads hoti , three times hote ,and once enika , which proves at least how he understood the place.

§ 2.

[A suggestive example of the corruption introduced by a petty Itacism may be found in Rev. i.5, where the beautiful expression which has found its way into so many tender passages relating to Christian devotion, Who hath washed us from our sins in His own blood' (A.V.), is replaced in many critical editions (R.V.) by, Who hath loosed us from our sins by His blood.' In early times a purist scribe, who had a dislike of anything that savoured of provincial retention of Aeolian or Dorian pronunciations, wrote from unconscious bias u for ou, transcribing lusanti for lousanti (unless he were not Greek scholar enough to understand the difference): and he was followed by others, especially such as, whether from their own prejudices or owing to sympathy with the scruples of other people, but at all events under the influence of a slavish literalism, hesitated about a passage as to which they did not rise to the spiritual height of the precious meaning really conveyed therein. Accordingly the three uncials, which of those that give the Apocalypse date nearest to the period of corruption, adopt u, followed by nine cursives, the Harkleian Syriac, and the Armenian versions. On the other side, two uncials -- viz. B^2 of the eighth century and P of the ninth -- the Vulgate, Bohairic, and Ethiopic, write lousanti; and -- what is most important -- all the other cursives except the handful just mentioned, so far as examination has yet gone, form a barrier which forbids intrusion.

An instance where an error from an Itacism has crept into the Textus Receptus may be seen in St. Luke xvi.25. Some scribes needlessly changed hode into hode, misinterpreting the letter which served often for both the long and the short o, and thereby cast out some illustrative meaning, since Abraham meant to lay stress upon the enjoyment in his bosom' of comfort by Lazarus. The unanimity of the uncials, a majority of the cursives, the witness of the versions, that of the Fathers quote the place being uncertain, are sufficient to prove that hode is the genuine word.

Again, in St. John xiii.25, ou'tos has dropped out of many copies and so out of the Received Text because by an Itacism it was written houtos in many manuscripts. Therefore ekeinos houtos was thought to be a clear mistake, and the weaker word was accordingly omitted. No doubt Latins and others who did not understand Greek well considered also that ou'tos was redundant, and this was the cause of its being omitted in the Vulgate. But really ou'tos, being sufficiently authenticated , is exactly in consonance with Greek usage and St. John's style , and adds considerably to the graphic character of the sacred narrative. St. John was reclining (anakeimenos) on his left arm over the bosom of the robe (en to ko'lpo ) of the Saviour. When St. Peter beckoned to him he turned his head for the moment and sank (epipeson, not anapeson which has the testimony only of B and about twenty-five uncials, ' and C being divided against themselves) on the breast of the Lord, being still in the general posture in which he was (ou'tos ), and asked Him in a whisper LORD, who is it?'

Another case of confusion between o and o may be seen in St. Luke xv.24, 32, where apololo's has gained so strong a hold that it is found in the Received Text for apololo's, which last being the better attested appears to be the right reading . But the instance which requires the most attention is katha'rizon in St. Mark vii.19, and all the more because in The Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark, the alteration into katha'rizon is advocated as being no part of the Divine discourse, but the Evangelist's inspired comment on the Saviour's words :' Such a question must be decided strictly by the testimony, not upon internal evidence -- which in fact is in this case absolutely decisive neither way, for people must not be led by the attractive view opened by kathari'zon, and katha'rizon bears a very intelligible meaning. When we find that the uncial evidence is divided, there being eight against the change (PhSKMUVGP), and eleven for it ('ABEFGHLSXD); -- that not much is advanced by the versions, though the Peshitto, the Lewis Codex, the Harkleian (?), the Gothic, the Old Latin . the Vulgate, favour katha'rizon; -- nor by the Fathers: -- since Aphraates , Augustine (?) , and Novatian are contradicted by Origen , Theophylact , and Gregory Thaumaturgus . we discover that we have not so far made much way towards a satisfactory conclusion. The only decided element of judgement, so far as present enquiries have reached, since suspicion is always aroused by the conjunction of 'AB, is supplied by the cursives which with a large majority witness to the received reading. It is not therefore safe to alter it till a much larger examination of existing evidence is made than is now possible. If difficulty is felt in the meaning given by katha'rizon, -- and that there is such difficulty cannot candidly be denied, -- this is balanced by the grammatical difficulty introduced by kathari'zon, which would be made to agree in the same clause with a verb separated from it by thirty-five parenthetic words, including two interrogations and the closing sentence. Those people who form their judgement from the Revised Version should bear in mind that the Revisers, in order to make intelligible sense, were obliged to introduce three fresh English words that have nothing to correspond to them in the Greek; being a repetition of what the mind of the reader would hardly bear in memory. Let any reader who doubts this leave out the words in italics and try the effect for himself. The fact is that to make this reading satisfactory, another alteration is required. Kathari'zon pa'nta ta` bro'mata ought either to be transferred to the 20th verse or to the beginning of the 18th. Then all would be clear enough, though destitute of a balance of authority: as it is now proposed to read, the passage would have absolutely no parallel in the simple and transparent sentences of St. Mark. We must therefore be guided by the balance of evidence, and that is turned by the cursive testimony.]

§ 3.

Another minute but interesting indication of the accuracy and fidelity with which the cursive copies were made, is supplied by the constancy with which they witness to the preposition en (not the numeral e`n) in St. Mark iv.8. Our Lord says that the seed which fell into the good ground' yielded by (en) thirty, and by (en) sixty, and by (en) an hundred.' Tischendorf notes that besides all the uncials which are furnished with accents and breathings (viz. EFGHKMUVP) nearly 100 cursives' exhibit en here and in ver.20. But this is to misrepresent the case. All the cursives may be declared to exhibit en, e.g. all Matthaei's and all Scrivener's. I have myself with this object examined a large number of Evangelia, and found en in all. The Basle MS. from which Erasmus derived his text exhibits en, -- though he printed e`n out of respect for the Vulgate. The Complutensian having e`n, the reading of the Textus Receptus follows in consequence: but the Traditional reading has been shewn to be en, -- which is doubtless intended by EN in Cod. A.

Codd. 'CA (two ever licentious and D similarly so throughout St. Mark) substitute for the preposition en the preposition eis, -- (a sufficient proof to me that they understand EN to represent en, not e`n): and are followed by Tischendorf, Tregelles, and the Revisers. As for the chartered libertine B (and its servile henchman L), for the first en (but not for the second and third) it substitutes the preposition EIC: while, in ver.20, it retains the first en, but omits the other two. In all these vagaries Cod. B is followed by Westcott and Hort .

§ 4.

St. Paul in his Epistle to Titus [ii.5] directs that young women shall be keepers at home,' oikourou`s. So, (with five exceptions,) every known Codex , including the corrected ' and D, -- HKLP; besides 17, 37, 47. So also Clemens Alex. (A.D.180), -- Theodore of Mopsuestia , -- Basil , -- Chrysostom , -- Theodoret , -- Damascene . So again the Old Latin (domum custodientes ), -- the Vulgate (domus curam habentes ), -- and Jerome (habentes domus diligentiam ): and so the Peshitto and the Harkleian versions, -- besides the Bohairic. There evidently can be no doubt whatever about such a reading so supported. To be oikourou`s was held to be a woman's chiefest praise : kalliston ergon gune oikouros, writes Clemens Alex. ; assigning to the wife oikouria as her proper province . On the contrary, gadding about from house to house' is what the Apostle, writing to Timothy , expressly condemns. But of course the decisive consideration is not the support derived from internal evidence; but the plain fact that antiquity, variety, respectability, numbers, continuity of attestation, are all in favour of the Traditional reading.

Notwithstanding this, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, because they find oikourgous in '*ACD*F-G, are for thrusting that barbarous and scarcely intelligible' word, if it be not even a non-existent , into Titus ii.5. The Revised Version in consequence exhibits workers at home,' -- which Dr. Field may well call an unnecessary and most tasteless innovation.' But it is insufficiently attested as well, besides being a plain perversion of the Apostle's teaching. [And the error must have arisen from carelessness and ignorance, probably in the West where Greek was not properly understood.]

So again, in the cry of the demoniacs, ti' emin kai` soi', Iesou, huie tou Theou (St. Matt. viii.29) the name Iesou is omitted by B'.

The reason is plain the instant an ancient MS. is
inspected: -- KAICOIIUUIETOUThU: -- the recurrence of the same letters caused too great a strain to scribes, and the omission of two of them was the result of ordinary human infirmity.

Indeed, to this same source are to be attributed an extraordinary number of so-called various readings'; but which in reality, as has already been shewn, are nothing else but a collection of mistakes, -- the surviving tokens that anciently, as now, copying clerks left out words; whether misled by the fatal proximity of a like ending, or by the speedy recurrence of the like letters, or by some other phenomenon with which most men's acquaintance with books have long since made them familiar.

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