SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VII. CAUSES OF CORRUPTION CHIEFLY INTENTIONAL.

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

CHAPTER VII. CAUSES OF CORRUPTION CHIEFLY INTENTIONAL.

I. HARMONISTIC INFLUENCE.

[IT must not be imagined that all the causes of the depravation of the text of Holy Scripture were instinctive, and that mistakes arose solely because scribes were overcome by personal infirmity, or were unconsciously the victims of surrounding circumstances. There was often more design and method in their error. They, or those who directed them, wished sometimes to correct and improve the copy or copies before them. And indeed occasionally they desired to make the Holy Scriptures witness to their own peculiar belief. Or they had their ideas of taste, and did not scruple to alter passages to suit what they fancied was their enlightened judgement.

Thus we can trace a tendency to bring the Four Records into one harmonious narrative, or at least to excise or vary statements in one Gospel which appeared to conflict with parallel statements in another. Or else, some Evangelical Diatessaron, or Harmony, or combined narrative now forgotten, exercised an influence over them, and whether consciously or not, -- since it is difficult always to keep designed and unintentional mistakes apart, and we must not be supposed to aim at scientific exactness in the arrangement adopted in this analysis, -- induced them to adopt alterations of the pure Text.

We now advance to some instances which will severally and conjointly explain themselves.]

§ 1.

Nothing can be more exquisitely precise than St. John's way of describing an incident to which St. Mark (xvi.9) only refers; viz. our Lord's appearance to Mary Magdalene, -- the first of His appearances after His Resurrection. The reason is discoverable for every word the Evangelist uses: -- its form and collocation. Both St. Luke (xxiv.3) and previously St. Mark (xvi.5) expressly stated that the women who visited the Sepulchre on the first Easter morning, after they had entered in' (eiselthousai), saw the Angels. St John explains that at that time Mary was not with them. She had separated herself from their company; -- had gone in quest of Simon Peter and the other disciple.' When the women, their visit ended, had in turn departed from the Sepulchre, she was left in the garden alone. Mary was standing [with her face] towards the sepulchre weeping, -- outside .'

All this, singular to relate, was completely misunderstood by the critics of the two first centuries. Not only did they identify the incident recorded in St. John xx.12 with St. Mark xv.5 and St. Luke xxiv.3, 4, from which, as we have seen, the first-named Evangelist is careful to distinguish it; -- not only did they further identify both places with St. Matt. xxviii.2, 3 , from which they are clearly separate; -- but they considered themselves at liberty to tamper with the inspired text in order to bring it into harmony with their own convictions. Some of them accordingly altered pro`s to` mnemeion into pro`s to mnemei'o (which is just as ambiguous in Greek as at the sepulchre' in English ), and e'xo they boldly erased. It is thus that Codex A exhibits the text. But in fact this depravation must have begun at a very remote period and prevailed to an extraordinary extent: for it disfigures the best copies of the Old Latin, (the Syriac being doubtful): a memorable circumstance truly, and in a high degree suggestive. Codex B, to be sure, reads heistekei pros to mnemeio exo klaiousa, -- merely transposing (with many other authorities) the last two words. But then Codex B substitutes elthousai for for eiselthousai in St. Mark xvi.5, in order that the second Evangelist may not seem to contradict St. Matt. xxviii.2, 3. So that, according to this view of the matter, the Angelic appearance was outside the sepulchre . Codex ', on the contrary, is thorough. Not content with omitting e'xo, -- (as in the next verse it leaves out du'o, in order to prevent St. John xx.12 from seeming to contradict St. Matt. xxviii.2, 3, and St. Mark xvi.5), -- it stands alone in reading EN to mnemeio. (C and D are lost here.) When will men learn that these old uncials' are ignes fatui, -- not beacon lights; and admit that the texts which they exhibit are not only inconsistent but corrupt?

There is no reason for distrusting the received reading of the present place in any particular. True, that most of the uncials and many of the cursives read pros to mnemeio: but so did neither Chrysostom nor Cyril read the place. And if the Evangelist himself had so written, is it credible that a majority of the copies would have forsaken the easier and more obvious, in order to exhibit the less usual and even slightly difficult expression? Many, by writing pros to mnemeio, betray themselves; for they retain a sure token that the accusative ought to end the sentence. I am not concerned however just now to discuss these matters of detail. I am only bent on illustrating how fatal to the purity of the Text of the Gospels has been the desire of critics, who did not understand those divine compositions, to bring them into enforced agreement with one another. The sectional system of Eusebius, I suspect, is not so much the cause as the consequence of the ancient and inveterate misapprehensions which prevailed in respect of the history of the Resurrection. It is time however to proceed.

§ 2.

Those writers who overlook the corruptions which the text has actually experienced through a mistaken solicitude on the part of ancient critics to reconcile what seemed to them the conflicting statements of different Evangelists, are frequently observed to attribute to this kind of officiousness expressions which are unquestionably portions of the genuine text. Thus, there is a general consensus amongst critics of the destructive school to omit the words kai tines sun autais from St. Luke xxiv.1. Their only plea is the testimony of 'BCL and certain of the Latin copies, -- a conjunction of authorities which, when they stand alone, we have already observed to bear invariably false witness. Indeed, before we proceed to examine the evidence, we discover that those four words of St. Luke are even required in this place. For St. Matthew (xxvii.61), and St. Mark after him (xv.47), had distinctly specified two women as witnesses of how and where our Lord's body was laid. Now they were the same women apparently who prepared the spices and ointment and hastened therewith at break of day to the sepulchre. Had we therefore only St. Matthew's. Gospel we should have assumed that the ointment-bearers,' for so the ancients called them, were but two (St. Matt. xxviii.1). That they were at least three, even St. Mark shews by adding to their number Salome (xvi.1). But in fact their company consisted of more than four; as St. Luke explains when he states that it was the same little band of holy women who had accompanied our Saviour out of Galilee (xxiii.55, cf. viii.2). In anticipation therefore of what he will have to relate in ver.10, he says in ver.1, and certain with them.'

But how, I shall be asked, would you explain the omission of these words which to yourself seem necessary? And after insisting that one is never bound to explain how the text of any particular passage came to be corrupted, I answer, that these words were originally ejected from the text in order to bring St. Luke's statement into harmony with that of the first Evangelist, who mentions none but Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses. The proof is that four of the same Latin copies which are for the omission of kai tines sun autais are observed to begin St. Luke xxiii.55 as follows, -- katakolouthe'sasai de` DUO gunaikes. The same fabricated reading is found in D. It exists also in the Codex which Eusebius employed when he wrote his Demonstratio Evangelica. Instead therefore of wearying the reader with the evidence, which is simply overwhelming, for letting the text alone, I shall content myself with inviting him to notice that the tables have been unexpectedly turned on our opponents. There is indeed found to have been a corruption of the text hereabouts, and of the words just now under discussion; but it belongs to an exceedingly remote age; and happily the record of it survives at this day only in 'BCDL and certain of the Old Latin copies. Calamitous however it is, that what the Church has long since deliberately refused to part with should, at the end of so many centuries, by Lachmann and Tregelles and Tischendorf, by Alford and Westcott and Hort, be resolutely thrust out of place; and indeed excluded from the Sacred Text by a majority of the Revisers.

[A very interesting instance of such Harmonistic Influence may be found in the substitution of wine' (oinon) for vinegar (oxos), respecting which the details are given in the second Appendix to the Traditional Text.]

[Observe yet another instance of harmonizing propensities in the Ancient Church.]

In St. Luke's Gospel iv.1-13, no less than six copies of the Old Latin versions (b c f g^1 l q) besides Ambrose (Com. St. Luke, 1340), are observed to transpose the second and third temptations; introducing verses 9-12 between verses 4 and 5; in order to make the history of the Temptation as given by St. Luke correspond with the account given by St. Matthew.

The scribe of the Vercelli Codex (a) was about to do the same thing; but he checked himself when he had got as far as the pinnacle of the temple,' -- which he seems to have thought as good a scene for the third temptation as a high mountain,' and so left it.

§ 3.

A favourite, and certainly a plausible, method of accounting for the presence of unauthorized matter in MSS. is to suggest that, in the first instance, it probably existed only in the shape of a marginal gloss, which through the inadvertence of the scribes, in process of time, found its way into the sacred text. That in this way some depravations of Scripture may possibly have arisen, would hardly I presume be doubted. But I suspect that the hypothesis is generally a wholly mistaken one; having been imported into this subject-matter (like many other notions which are quite out of place here), from the region of the Classics, -- where (as we know) the phenomenon is even common. Especially is this hypothesis resorted to (I believe) in order to explain those instances of assimilation which are so frequently to be met with in Codd. B and '.

Another favourite way of accounting for instances of assimilation, is by taking for granted that the scribe was thinking of the parallel or the cognate place. And certainly (as before) there is no denying that just as the familiar language of a parallel place in another Gospel presents itself unbidden to the memory of a reader, so may it have struck a copyist also with sufficient vividness to persuade him to write, not the words which he saw before him, but the words which he remembered. All this is certainly possible.

But I strongly incline to the suspicion that this is not by any means .the right way to explain the phenomena under discussion. I am of opinion that such depravations of the text were in the first instance intentional. I do not mean that they were introduced with any sinister motive. My meaning is that [there was a desire to remove obscurities, or to reconcile incongruous passages, or generally to improve the style of the authors, and thus to add to the merits of the sacred writings, instead of detracting from them. Such a mode of dealing with the holy deposit evinced no doubt a failure in the part of those who adopted it to understand the nature of the trust committed to the Church, just as similar action at the present day does in the case of such as load the New Testament with various readings,' and illustrate it as they imagine with what are really insinuations of doubt, in the way that they prepare an edition of the classics for the purpose of enlarging and sharpening the minds of youthful students. There was intention, and the intention was good: but it was none the less productive of corruption.]

I suspect that if we ever obtain access to a specimen of those connected Gospel narratives called Diatessarons, which are known to have existed anciently in the Church, we shall be furnished with a clue to a problem which at present is shrouded in obscurity, -- and concerning the solution of which, with such instruments of criticism as we at present possess, we can do little else but conjecture. I allude to those many occasions on which the oldest documents extant, in narrating some incident which really presents no special difficulty, are observed to diverge into hopeless variety of expression. An example of the thing referred to will best explain my meaning. Take then the incident of our Lord's paying tribute, -- set down in St. Matt. xvii.25, 26.

The received text exhibits, -- And when he [Peter] had entered ( o'te eiselthen) into the house, Jesus was beforehand with him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do earthly kings take toll or tribute? of their sons or of strangers?' Here, for o'te eiselthen, Codex B (but no other uncial) substitutes elthonta: Codex ' (but no other) eiselthonta Codex D (but no other) eiselthonti: Codex C (but no other) ote elthon: while a fifth lost copy certainly contained eiselthonton; and a sixth, elthonton auton. A very fair specimen this, be it remarked in passing, of the concordia discors which prevails in the most ancient uncial copies . How is all this discrepancy to be accounted for?

The Evangelist proceeds, -- Peter saith unto Him (Le'gei auto o Pe'tros), Of strangers.' These four words C retains, but continues -- Now when he had said, Of strangers' (Eipontos de autou, apo ton allotrion); -- which unauthorized clause, all but the word autou, is found also in ', but in no other uncial. On the other hand, for Le'gei auto o Pe'tros, ' (alone of uncials) substitutes Ho de ephe: and B (also alone of uncials) substitutes Eipontos de, -- and then proceeds exactly like the received text: while D merely omits o Pe'tros. Again I ask, -- How is all this discrepancy to be explained ?

As already hinted, I suspect that it was occasioned in the first instance by the prevalence of harmonized Gospel narratives. In no more loyal way can I account for the perplexing phenomenon already described, which is of perpetual recurrence in such documents as Codexes B'D, Cureton's Syriac, and copies of the Old Latin version. It is well known that at a very remote period some eminent persons occupied themselves in constructing such exhibitions of the Evangelical history: and further, that these productions enjoyed great favour, and were in general use. As for their contents, -- the notion we form to ourselves of a Diatessaron, is that it aspired to be a weaving of the fourfold Gospel into one continuous narrative: and we suspect that in accomplishing this object, the writer was by no means scrupulous about retaining the precise words of the inspired original. He held himself at liberty, on the contrary, (a) to omit what seemed to himself superfluous clauses: (b) to introduce new incidents: (c) to supply picturesque details: (d) to give a new turn to the expression: (e) to vary the construction at pleasure: (f) even slightly to paraphrase. Compiled after some such fashion as I have been describing, at a time too when the preciousness of the inspired documents seems to have been but imperfectly apprehended, -- the works I speak of, recommended by their graphic interest, and sanctioned by a mighty name, must have imposed upon ordinary readers. Incautious owners of Codexes must have transferred without scruple certain unauthorized readings to the margins of their own copies. A calamitous partiality for the fabricated document may have prevailed with some for whom copies were executed. Above all, it is to be inferred that licentious and rash Editors of Scripture, -- among whom Origen may be regarded as a prime offender, -- must have deliberately introduced into their recensions many an unauthorized gloss, and so given it an extended circulation.

Not that we would imply that permanent mischief has resulted to the Deposit from the vagaries of individuals in the earliest age. The Divine Author of Scripture hath abundantly provided for the safety of His Word written. In the multitude of copies, -- in Lectionaries, -- in Versions, -- in citations by the Fathers, a sufficient safeguard against error hath been erected. But then, of these multitudinous sources of protection we must not be slow to avail ourselves impartially. The prejudice which would erect Codexes B and ' into an authority for the text of the New Testament from which there shall be no appeal: -- the superstitious reverence which has grown up for one little cluster of authorities, to the disparagement of all other evidence wheresoever found; this, which is for ever landing critics in results which are simply irrational and untenable, must be unconditionally abandoned, if any real progress is to be made in this department of inquiry. But when this has been done, men will begin to open their eyes to the fact that the little handful of documents recently so much in favour, are, on the contrary, the only surviving witnesses to corruptions of the Text which the Church in her corporate capacity has long since deliberately rejected. But to proceed.

[From the Diatessaron of Tatian and similar attempts to harmonize the Gospels, corruption of a serious nature has ensued in some well-known places, such as the transference of the piercing of the Lord's side from St. John xix.34 to St. Matt. xxvii.49 , and the omission of the words and of an honeycomb' (kai apo tou melissiou keriou ).]

Hence also, in Cureton's Syriac , the patch-work supplement to St. Matt. xxi.9: viz.: -- polloi de (St. Mark xi.8) exelthon eis upa'ntesin autu. kai` (St. John xii.13) e'rxanto . . . chai'rontes ainein to`n Theo`n . . . peri` pason hon eidon (St. Luke xix.37). This self-evident fabrication, if it be not a part of the original Aramaic of St. Matthew,' remarks Dr. Cureton, would appear to have been supplied from the parallel passages of Luke and John conjointly.' How is it that even a sense of humour did not preserve that eminent scholar from hazarding the conjecture, that such a self-evident deflection of his corrupt Syriac Codex from the course all but universally pursued is a recovery of one more genuine utterance of the Holy Ghost?

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy