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July 25, 2010

Burgon: 'Syrian' Text

Excerpt from: Dean John Burgon, Revision Revised, (London, 1883)

Page Index

The 'Syrian' Text-type: Dean John Burgon

    ¶15 Textus Receptus - Hort's theory of origin
    ¶16 Hort's Dream - "Syrian Recension" summarized
    ¶17 Hort's 'History' - conjured story of the origin of the TR
    ¶18 'Syriac Revision' - unwanted evidence swept away
    ¶19 Revision establishes Genealogy - no proof needed

Hort's Recension Theory at Face Value:
    ¶20 Official Standarization - by bishops, c. 250-350 A.D.
    ¶21 A Great Council - in Antioch, MSS like א, B, D rejected
    ¶22 Second Revision - 50-100 yrs later...
    ¶23 The Textual Variants - key readings noted
    ¶24 The W/H Text - openly opposes all Early Fathers (250-350 A.D.)
    ¶25 Hort vs. Fathers - 'conflation', revision vs. preservation
    ¶26-27 Revival of Error - rejection of TR as Critical 'Recension'
    ¶28-30 The 'Revision' - purpose and work of the 'Revisors'
    ¶31-32 Early Fathers - unexplained
    ¶33-35 Recension Theory - too good to be true
    ¶36-38 Remaining Facts - alternate explanation

XV. The Origin of the Textus Receptus

Hort's Theory

XV. Drs. Westcott & Hort have in fact outstripped their predecessors in this singular race: Their absolute contempt for the Traditional Text, — their superstitious veneration for a few ancient documents ; (which documents however they freely confess are not more ancient than the Traditional Text, which they despise) — knows no bounds. But the thing just now to be attended to is the argumentative process whereby they seek to justify their preference.

Lachmann avowedly took his stand on a very few of the oldest known documents: and though Tregelles slightly enlarged the area of his predecessor's observations, his method was practically identical with that of Lachmann. — Tischendorf, appealing to every known authority, invariably shows himself regardless of the evidence he has himself accumulated. Where certain of the uncials are, — there his verdict is sure also to be ... . Anything more unscientific, more unphilosophical, more transparently foolish than such a method, can scarcely be conceived : but it has prevailed for 50 years, and is now at last more hotly than ever advocated by Drs. Westcott & Hort.

Only, (to their credit be it recorded,) they have had the sense to perceive that it must needs be recommended by Arguments of some sort, or else it will inevitably fall to pieces the first fine day any one is found to charge it, with the necessary knowledge of the subject, and with sufficient resoluteness of purpose, to make him a formidable foe.

XVI. The Dream of a 'Syrian Recension'

XVI. Their expedient has been as follows. — Aware that the Received or Traditional Greek Text (to quote their own words) "is virtually identical with that used by Chrysostom and other Antiochian Fathers in the latter part of the 4th century:" and fully alive to the fact that it "must therefore have been represented by Manuscripts as old as any which are now surviving" (Text, p. 547), — they have invented an extraordinary Hypothesis in order to accoimt for its existence :

They assume that the writings of Origen "establish the prior existence of at least three types of Text:" — the most clearly marked of which, they call the 'Western' — another, less prominent, they designate as 'Alexandrian' — the third holds (they say) a middle or 'Neutral' position. (That all this is mere moonshine, — a day-dream and no more, — we shall insist, until some proofs have been produced that the respected Authors are moving amid material forms, — not discoursing with the creations of their own brain.) "The priority of two at least of these three Texts just noticed to the 'Syrian Text'" they are confident has been established by the eight 'conflate Syrian Readings which they flatter themselves they have already resolved into their 'Western' and 'Neutral' elements (Text, p. 547).

This, however, is a part of the subject on which we venture to hope that our Readers by this time have formed a tolerably clear opinion for themselves. The ground has been cleared of the flimsy superstructure which these Critics have been 30 years in raising, ever since we blew away (pp. 258-65) the airy foundation on which it rested.

At the end of some confident yet singularly hazy statements concerning the characteristics of 'Western' (pp. 120-6), of 'Neutral' (126-30), and 'Alexandrian' Readings (130-2), Dr. Hort favours us with the assurance that,

"The 'Syrian Text', to which the order of time now brings us, is the chief monument of a new period of textual history." (p. 132.)... "Now, the three great lines were brought together, and made to contribute to the formation of a new Text different from all." (p. 133.)

Let it only be carefully remembered that it is of something virtually identical with the Textus Receptus that we are just now reading an imaginary history, and it is presumed that the most careless will be made attentive:

"The 'Syrian Text' must in fact be the result of a "Recension" . . . performed deliberately by Editors, and not merely by Scribes."— (Ibid.)

But why 'must' it? Instead of "must in fact", we are disposed to read "may — in fiction". The learned Critic can but mean that, on comparing the Text of Fathers of the 4th century with the Text of codex B, it becomes to himself self-evident that one of the two has been fabricated. Granted.

Then, — Why should not the solitary codex B be the offending party? For what imaginable reason should codex B, — which comes to us without a character, and which, when tried by the test of primitive Antiquity, stands convicted of 'universa vitiositas' (to use Tischendorfs expression) ; — why (we ask) should codex B be upheld 'contra mundum'? . . . Dr. Hort proceeds — (still speaking of the [imaginary] 'Syrian Text'),

"It was probably initiated by the distracting and inconvenient currency of at least three conflicting Texts in the same region." (p. 133.)

Well but, — Would it not have been more methodical if 'the currency of at least three conflicting Texts in the same region' had been first demonstrated? or, at least, shown to be a thing probable? Till this 'distracting' phenomenon has been to some extent proved to have any existence in fact, what possible 'probability' can be claimed for the history of a "Recension", — which very Recension, up to this point, has not been shown to have ever taken place at all?

"Each Text may perhaps have found a Patron in some leading personage or see, and thus have seemed to call for a conciliation of rival claims." (p. 134.)

Why yes, to be sure,..

"each Text [if it existed] may perhaps [or perhaps not] have found a Patron in some leading personage [such as Dr. Hort or Dr. Scrivener in our own days] : '

but then, be it remembered, this will only have been possible,

(a) If the Recension ever took place : and —

(b) If it was conducted after the extraordinary fashion which prevailed in the Jerusalem Chamber from 1870 to 1881: [i.e., The RV Committee] for which we have the unimpeachable testimony of an eye-witness; (see pp.37-38) confirmed by the Chairman of the Revisionist body, — by whom in fact it was deliberately invented (p.39).

But then, since not a shadow of proof is forthcoming that any such Recension as Dr. Hort imagines ever took place at all, — what else but a purely gratuitous exercise of the imaginative faculty is it, that Dr. Hort should proceed further to invent the method which might, or could, or would, or should have been pursued, if it had taken place?

Having however in this way

(1) Assumed a "Syrian Recension"
  (2) Invented the cause of it, — and
  (3) Dreamed the process by which it was carried into execution,

— the Critic hastens to characterize the historical result in the following terms :

"The qualities which the Authors of the 'Syrian Text' seem to have most desired to impress on it are lucidity and completeness. They were evidently anxious to remove all stumbling-blocks out of the way of the ordinary reader, so far as this could be done without recourse to violent measures.

They were apparently equally desirous that he should have the benefit of instructive matter contained in all the existing Texts, provided it did not confuse the context or introduce seeming contradictions.

New Omissions accordingly are rare, and where they occur are usually found to contribute to apparent simplicity. New Interpolations, on the other hand, are abundant, most of them being due to harmonistic or other assimilation, fortunately capricious and incomplete.

Both in matter and in diction the 'Syrian Text' is conspicuously a full Text. It delights in Pronouns, Conjunctions, and Expletives and supplied links of all kinds, as well as in more considerable Additions.

As distinguished from the bold vigour of the 'Western' scribes, and the refined scholarship of the Alexandrians, the spirit of its own corrections is at once sensible and feeble.

Entirely blameless, on either literary or religious grounds, as regards vulgarized or unworthy diction, yet shewing no marks of either Critical or Spiritual insight, it presents the NT in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force; more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation than for repeated and dilligent study."

(Hort, Intro pp. 134-5)

XVII. Proposed Origin of the TR

XVII. We forbear to offer any remarks on this. We should be thought uncivil were we to declare our own candid estimate of 'the critical and spiritual' perception of the man who could permit himself so to write.

We prefer to proceed with our sketch of the Theory, (of the Dream rather,) which is intended to account for the existence of the Traditional Text of the N.T. : only venturing again to submit that surely it would have been high time to discuss the characteristics which 'the Authors of the 'Syrian Text'' impressed upon their work, when it had been first established — or at least rendered probable — that the supposed Operators and that the assumed Operation have any existence except in the fertile brain of this distinguished and highly imaginative writer.

XVIII. Syriac Revision?

XVIII. Now, the first consideration which strikes us as fatal to Dr. Hort's unsupported conjecture concerning the date of the Text he calls "Syrian" or "Antiochian", is the fact that what he so designates bears a most inconvenient resemblance to the Peschito or ancient Syriac Version; which, like the Old Latin, is (by consent of the Critics) generally assigned to the 2nd century of our era.

According to Bishop Ellicott,

"It is at any rate no stretch of imagination to suppose that portions of it might have been in the hands of Saint John." [p. 26.]

Accordingly, these Editors assure us that —

"the only way of explaining the whole body of facts is to suppose that the Syriac, like the Latin Version, underwent Revision long after its origin ; and that our ordinary Syriac MSS. represent not the primitive but the altered Syriac Text." — (p. 136.)

"A Revision of the old Syriac Version appears to have taken place in the 4th century, or sooner; and doubtless in some connexion with the Syrian Revision of the Greek Text, the readings being to a very great extent coincident.' — (Text, 552.)

"Till recently, the Peschito has been knovm only in the form which it finally received by an evidently authoritative Revision, — a 'Syriac Vulgate' answering to the Latin Vulgate." — (p. 84.)

"Historical antecedents render it tolerably certain that the locality of such an authoritative Revision' — [which Revision however, be it observed, still rests wholly on unsupported conjecture] — ' would be either Edessa or Nisibis.' — (p. 136.)

In the meantime, the abominably corrupt document known as 'Cureton's Syriac' is, by another bold hypothesis, assumed to be the only surviving specimen of the unrevised Version, and is henceforth invariably designated by these authors as "the Old Syriac" and referred to, as "Syr vt." — (in imitation of the Latin 'vetus') : the venerable Peschito being referred to as the "Vulgate Syriac", — "Syr vg.".

'When therefore we find large and peculiar ooincidenees between the revised Syriac Text and the Text of the Antiochian Fathers of the latter part of the 4th century,' — [of which coincidences, (be it remarked in passing,) the obvious explanation is, that the Texts referred to are faithful traditional representations of the inspired autographs;] —'and strong indications that the Revision was deliberate and in some way authoritative in both cases, — it becomes natural to suppose that the two operations had some historical connexion." — (pp. 136-7.)

XIX. Conjectured Recension determines MS Genealogy

XIX. But how does it happen — (let the question be asked without offence) — that a man of good abilities, bred in a University which is supposed to cultivate especially the Science of exact reasoning, should habitually allow himself in such slipshod writing as this? The very fact of a "Revision" of the Syriac waits to be proved ; and until it has been demonstrated, cannot of course be reasoned upon as a fact.

Instead of demonstration, we find ourselves invited:

(1) To 'suppose' that such a Revision took place : and
 (2) To 'suppose' that all our existing MSS represent it.

But (as we have said) not a shadow of reason is produced why we should be so complaisant as 'to suppose' either the one thing or the other. In the meantime, the accomplished Critic hastens to assure us that there exist "strong indications" — (why are we not shown them ?) — that the Revision he speaks of was "deliberate, and in some way authoritative."

Out of this grows a 'natural supposition' that "two [purely imaginary] operations," "had some historical connexion," Already therefore has the shadow thickened into a substance.

"The Revised Syriac Text" has by this time come to be spoken of as an admitted fact. The process whereby it came into being is even assumed to have been "deliberate and authoritative". These Editors henceforth style the Peschito the "Syriac Vulgate" — as confidently as Jerome's Revision of the old Latin is styled the 'Latin Vulgate.'

They even assure us that "Cureton's Syriac" 'renders the comparatively late and "revised" character of the Syriac Vulgate a matter of certainty' (p. 84). The very city in which the latter underwent Revision, can, it seems, be fixed with "tolerable certainty" (p. 136). . . . Can Dr. Hort be serious ?

At the end of a series of conjectures, (the foundation of which is the hypothesis of an Antiochian Recension of the Greek,) the learned writer announces that,

"The textual elements of each principal document having been thus ascertained, it now becomes possible to determine the Genealogy of a much larger number of individual readings than before" (Text, p. 552).

— We read and marvel.

So then, in brief, the Theory of Drs. Westcott & Hort is this : — that, somewhere between A.p. 250 and a.d. 350,

(1) The growing diversity and confusion of Greek Texts led to an authoritative Revision at Antioch : — which
  (2) was then taken as a standard for a similar authoritative Bevision of the Syriac text : — and
  (3) was itself at a later time subjected to a second authoritative Revision' — this "final process" having been "apparently completed by 360 [A.D.] or thereabouts." — (p. 137.)

XX. Official Standarization by Bishops (c.250-350 A.D.)

XX. Now, instead of insisting that this entire Theory is made up of a series of purely gratuitous assumptions, — destitute alike of attestation and of probability : and that, as a mere effort of the Imagination, it is entitled to no manner of consideration or respect at our hands: — instead of dealing thus with what precedes, we propose to be most kind and accommodating to Dr. Hort. We proceed to accept his Theory in its entirety. We will, with the Reader's permission, assume that all he tells us is historically true: is an authentic narrative of what actually did take place. We shall in the end invite the same Reader to recognize the inevitable consequences of our admission: to which we shall inexorably pin the learned Editors — bind them hand and foot; — of course reserving to ourselves the right of disallowing for ourselves as much of the matter as we please.

The Theory

Somewhere between a.d. 250 and 350 therefore, — ('it is impossible to say with confidence' [p. 137] what was the actual date , but these Editors evidently incline to the latter half of the 3rd century, i.e. circa A.D. 275); — we are to believe that the Ecclesiastical heads of the four great Patriarchates of Eastern Christendom, — Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople, — had become so troubled at witnessing the prevalence of depraved copies of Holy Scripture in their respective churches, that they resolved by common consent on achieving an authoritative Revision which should henceforth become the standard Text of all the Patriarchates of the East.

The same sentiment of distress — (by the hypothesis) penetrated into Syria proper; and the Bishops of Edessa or Nisibis, ('great centres of life and culture to the Churches whose language was Syriac,' [p. 136,]) lent themselves so effectually to the project, that a single fragmentary document is, at the present day, the only vestige remaining of the Text which before had been universally prevalent in the Syriac-speaking Churches of antiquity.

"The almost total extinction of Old Syriac MSS, contrasted with the great number of extant Vulgate Syriac MSS." — (for it is thus that Dr. Hort habitually exhibits evidence!), — is to be attributed, it seems, to the power and influence of the Authors of the imaginary Syriac Revision, [ibid.]

Bishop Ellicott, by the way (an unexceptionable witness), characterizes Cureton's Syriac as "singular and sometimes rather wild."... "The text, of a very composite nature; sometimes inclining to the shortness and simplicity of the Vatican manuscript, but more commonly presenting the same paraphrastic character of text as the Codex Bezae" [p. 42.] (Bezae is, in fact, an utterly depraved and fabricated document.)

We venture to remark in passing that Textual matters must have everywhere reached a very alarming pass indeed to render intelligible the resort to so extraordinary a step as a representative Conference of the "leading Personages or Sees" (p. 134) of Eastern Christendom. The inference is at least inevitable, that men in high place at that time deemed themselves competent to grapple with the problem. Enough was familiarly known about the character and the sources of these corrupt Texts to make it certain that they would be recognizable when produced; and that, when condemned by authority, they would no longer be propagated, and in the end would cease to molest the Church. Thus much, at all events, is legitimately to be inferred from the hypothesis.

XXI. A Great Council in Antioch?

XXI. Behold then from every principal Diocese of ancient Christendom, and in the Church's palmiest days, the most famous of the ante-Nicene Fathers repair to Antioch. They go up by authority, and are attended by skilled Ecclesiastics of the highest theological attainment. Bearers are they perforce of a vast number of Copies of the Scriptures : and (by the hypothesis) the latest possible dates of any of these Copies must range between 250-350 A.D.

But the Delegates of so many ancient Sees will have been supremely careful, before starting on so important and solemn an errand, to make diligent search for the oldest Copies anywhere discoverable : and when they reach the scene of their deliberations, we may be certain that they are able to appeal to not a few codices written within a hundred years of the date of the inspired Autographs themselves.

Copies of the Scriptures authenticated as having belonged to the most famous of their predecessors, — and held by them in high repute for the presumed purity of their Texts — will have been freely produced: while, in select receptacles, will have been stowed away — for purposes of comparison and avoidance — specimens of those dreaded Texts whose existence has been the sole cause why (by the hypothesis) this extraordinary concourse of learned Ecclesiastics has taken place.

After solemnly invoking the Divine blessing, tliese men address themselves assiduously to their task; and (by the hypothesis) they proceed to condemn every codex which exhibits a ' strictly 'Western',' or a ' strictly 'Alexandrian',' or a * strictly 'Neutral' ' type.

In plain English, if codices B, א, D had been before them, they would have unceremoniously rejected all three ; but then, (by the hypothesis) neither of the two first-named had yet come into being: while 200 years at least must roll out before Codex D would see the light. In the meantime, the immediate ancestors of B, א, D will perforce have come under judicial scrutiny; and, (by the hypothesis,) they will have been scornfully rejected by the general consent of the Judges.

XXII. The Second Revision (c. 300-350 A.D.)

XXII. Pass an interval — (are we to suppose of fifty years ?) — and the work referred to is "subjected to a second authoritative Revision". Again therefore, behold the piety and learning of the four great Patriarchates of the East, formally represented at Antioch! The Church is now in her palmiest days. Some of her greatest men belong to the period of which we are speaking. Eusebius (a.d. 308-340) is in his glory. One whole generation has come and gone since the last Textual Conference was held, at Antioch.

Yet no inclination is manifested to reverse the decrees of the earlier Conference. This Second Recension of the Text of Scripture just "carries out more completely the purposes of the first" and 'the final process was apparently completed by A.D. 350" (p. 137). — So far the Cambridge Professor [Hort].

XXIII. The Second Revision (c. 300-350 A.D.)

XXIII. But the one important fact implied by this august deliberation concerning the Text of Scripture has been conveniently passed over by Dr. Hort in profound silence. We take leave to repair his omission by inviting the Header's particular attention to it.

We request him to note that, by the hypothesis, there will have been submitted to the scrutiny of these many ancient Ecclesiastics not a few codices of exactly the same type as codices א/B: especially as codex B. We are able even to specify with precision certain features which the codices in question will have all concurred in exhibiting. Thus,

Omissions in Rejected MSS

(1) From S. Mark's Gospel, those depraved copies will have omitted the last Twelve Verses (Mk. 16:9-20).

(2) From S. Luke's Gospel the same corrupt copies will have omitted our Saviour's Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:43-44).

(3) His Prayer on behalf of His murderers (Luke 23:34), will have also been away.

(4) The Inscription on the Cross, in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (Luke 23:38), will have been partly, misrepresented, — partly, away.

(5) And there will have been no account discoverable of S. Peter's visit to the Sepulchre! (Luke 24:12).

(6) Absent will have been also the record of our Lord's Ascension into Heaven {Luke 24:51).

(7) Also, from S. John's Gospel, the codices in question will have omitted the incident of the troubling of the POOL OF Bethesda (John 5:3-4).

Now, we request that it may be clearly noted that, according to Dr. Hort, against every copy of the Gospels so maimed and mutilated, (i.e. against every copy of the Gospels of the same type as codices א/B) — the many illustrious Bishops who, (still according to Dr. Hort,) assembled at Antioch, first in 250 A.D. and then in 350 A.D., — by common consent set a mark of condemnation.

We are assured that those famous men, — those Fathers of the Church, — were emphatic in their approval instead, of codices of the type of Codex A, — in which all these seven omitted passages (and many hundreds besides) are duly found in their proper places.

When, therefore, at the end of a thousand and half a thousand years (c. 1880), Dr. Hort (guided by his inner consciousness, and depending on an intellectual illumination of which he is able to give no intelligible account) proposes to reverse the deliberate sentence of Antiquity, — his position strikes us as bordering on the ludicrous.

Concerning the seven places above referred to, which the assembled Fathers pronounce to be genuine Scripture, and declare to be worthy of all acceptation, — Dr. Hort expresses himself in terms which — could they have been heard at Antioch — must, it is thought, have brought down upon his head tokens of displeasure which might have proved inconvenient. But let the respected gentleman by all means be allowed to speak for himself :

Hort's Judgement on the 7 Readings

(1) The last 12 verses of S. Mark are a "very early interpolation. ...Its authorship and precise date must remain unknown. ...It manifestly cannot claim any Apostolic authority. ...It is doubtless founded on some tradition of the Apostolic age." (Notes, pp. 46 and 51.)

(2) The Agony in the garden is "an early 'Western' interpolation" and "can only be a fragment from traditions, written or oral", — "rescued from oblivion by the scribes of the 2nd century." — (pp. 66-7.)

(3) The prayer of our Lord for His murderers, "I cannot doubt comes from an extraneous source." It is "a 'Western' interpolation." — (p.68.)

(4) To The Inscription on the Cross, in Greek, Latin, AND Hebrew [S. Luke 23:38], he would not have allowed so much as a hearing.

(5) The spuriousness of the narrative of S. Peter's Visit TO the Sepulchre [S. Luke 24:12] (the same Ante-Nicene Fathers would have learned) he regards as a "moral certainty." He would have assured them that it is "a 'Western' non-in- terpolation." — (p. 71.)

(6) They would have learned that, in the account of the same Critic, S. Luke 24:51 is another spurious addition to the inspired Text: another "'Western' non-interpolation." Dr. Hort would have tried to persuade them that OUR Lord's Ascension into Heaven "was evidently inserted from an assumption that a separation from the disciples at the close of a Gospel must be the Ascension" (Notes, p. 73). . . . (What the Ante-Nicene Fathers would have thought of their teacher we forbear to conjecture.) — (p. 71.)

(7) The troubling of the pool of Bethesda [S. John 5:3-4] is not even allowed a bracketed place in Dr. Hort's Text. How the accomplished Critic would have set about persuading the Ante-Nicene Fathers that they were in error for holding it to be genuine Scripture, it is hard to imagine.

XXIV. Hort Opposes all the Early Fathers

XXIV. It is plain therefore that Dr. Hort is in direct antagonism with the collective mind of Patristic Antiquity.

Why, when it suits him, he should appeal to the same Ancients for support, — we fail to understand. "If Baal be God, then follow him!" Dr. Hort has his codex B and his codex א to guide him.

He informs us (p. 276) that

"the fullest consideration does but increase the conviction that the pre-eminent relative purity of those two codices is approximately absolute, — a true approximate reproduction of the Text of the Autographs."

On the other hand, he has discovered that the Received Text is virtually the production of the Fathers of the Nicene Age (a.d. 250-a.d. 350), and exhibits a Text fabricated throughout by the united efforts of those well- intentioned but thoroughly misguided men.

What is it to him, henceforth, how Athanasius, or Didymus, or Cyril exhibits a place?

Yes, we repeat it, — Dr. Hort is in direct antagonism with the Fathers of the 3rd and the 4th Century. His own fantastic hypothesis of a ''Syrian Text', — the solemn expression of the collective wisdom and deliberate judgment of the Fathers of the Nicene Age (a.d. 250-a.d. 350), — is the best answer which can by possibility be invented to his own pages, — is, in our account, the one sufficient and conclusive refutation of his own Text.

Thus, his prolix and perverse discussion of S. Mark 16:9-20 (viz. from p. 28 to p. 51 of his Notes), — which, carefully analysed, is found merely to amount to "Thank you for showing us our mistake; but we mean to stick to our Mumpsimus!" — those many inferences as well from what the Fathers do not say, as from what they do; — are all effectually disposed of by his own theory of a 'Syrian Text'. A mighty array of forgotten Bishops, Fathers, Doctors of the Nicene period, come back and calmly assure the accomplished Professor that the evidence on which he relies is but an insignificant fraction of the evidence which was before themselves when they delivered their judgment. They would say,

"Had you known but the thousandth part of what we knew familiarly, you would have spared yourself this exposure. You seem to have forgotten that Eusebius was one of the chief persons in our assembly; that Cyril of Jerusalem and Athanasius, Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as his namesake of Nyssa, — were all living when we held our Textual Conference, and some of them, though young men, were even parties to our decree."

. . . Now, as an argumentum ad hominem, this, be it observed, is decisive and admits of no rejoinder.

XXV. Hort vs. Early Fathers (cont.)

XXV. How then about those 'Syrian Conflations' concerning which a few pages back we heard so much, and for which Dr. Hort considers the august tribunal of which we are now speaking to be responsible? He is convinced that the (so-called) 'Syrian Text' (which he regards as the product of their deliberations), is 'an eclectic text combining Headings from the three principal Texts' (p. 145) : which Readings in consequence he calls 'conflate'. How then is it to be supposed that these 'Conflations' arose ?The answer is obvious.

As 'Conflations', they have no existence, — save in the fertile brain of Dr. Hort. Could the ante-Nicene fathers who never met at Antioch have been interrogated by him concerning this matter, — (let the Hibernian supposition be allowed for argument sake !)— they would perforce have made answer, —

"You quite mistake the purpose for which we came together, learned sir! You are evidently thinking of your Jerusalem Chamber and of the unheard-of method devised by your Bishop 1 for ascertaining the Truth of Scripture. Well may the resuscitation of so many forgotten blunders have occupied you and your colleagues for as long a period as was expended on the Siege of Troy!

Our business was not to invent readings whether by "Conflation" or otherwise, but only to distinguish between spurious Texts and genuine, — families of fabricated MSS., and those which we knew to be trustworthy, — mutilated and unmutilated Copies.

Every one of what you are pleased to call 'Conflate Readings', learned sir, we found — just as you find them — in 99 out of 100 of our copies: and we gave them our deliberate approval, and left them standing in the Text in consequence. We believed them to be, — we are confident that they are, — the very words of the Evangelists and Apostles of the Lord : the ipsisdma verba of the Spirit : 'the true sayings of the Holy Ghost'." 2

1. [see Revision Revised, pp. 37 to 39 : also p. 273 above]

2. [See Revision Revised, p. 38, note 2]

All this however by the way. The essential thing to be borne in mind is that, according to Dr. Hort, — on two distinct occasions between A.D. 250 and 350 — the whole Eastern Church, meeting by representation in her palmiest days, deliberately put forth that Traditional Text of the N.T. with which we at this day are chiefly familiar. That this is indeed his view of the matter, there can at least be no doubt.

Hort says:

"An authoritative Revision at Antioch .... was itself subjected to a second authoritative Revision carrying out more completely the purposes of the first." ..."At what date between a.d. 250 and 350 the first process took place, it is impossible to say with confidence."..."The final process was apparently completed by a.d. 350 or thereabouts." — (p. 137.) ... "The fundamental text of late extant Greek MSS. generally is beyond all question identical with the dominant Antiocbian or Greeco-'Syrian Text' of the second half of the 4th century.' — (p. 92.)

- Hort, Introd.

Be it so. It follows that the Text exhibited by such codices as B and א was deliberately condemned by the assembled piety, learning, and judgment of the four great Patriarchates of Eastern Christendom. At a period when there existed nothing more modern than Codices B and א, — nothing so modern as A and C, — all specimens of the former class were rejected: while such codices as bore a general resemblance to codex A were by common consent pointed out as deserving of confidence and recommended for repeated Transcription.

XXVI-XXVII. Late Revival of Error, Rejection of TR

XXVI. Jump ahead 1,500 years, and the Reader is invited to note attentively what has come to pass. Time has made a clean sweep, it may be, of every Greek codex belonging to either of the two dates above indicated. Every tradition belonging to the period has also long since utterly perished.

When lo, in 1831 A.D., under the auspices of Dr. Lachmann, 'a new departure' is made. Up springs what may be called the new German school of Textual Criticism,— of which the fundamental principle is a superstitious deference to the decrees of codex B. The heresy prevails for fifty years (1831- 81) and obtains many adherents. The practical result is, that its chief promoters make it their business to throw discredit on the result of the two great Antiochian Revisions already spoken of!

The (so-called) ' 'Syrian Text' ' — although assumed by Drs. Westcott & Hort to be the product of the combined wisdom, piety, and learning of the great Patriarchates of the East from 250 to 350 A.D., is:

"a 'Recension' in the proper sense of the word; a work of attempted Criticism, performed deliberately by Editors and not merely by Scribes.' (p. 133)

...This 'Syrian Text', Doctors Westcott and Hort denounce as:

"showing no marks of either critical or spiritual insight." ... "It presents the New Testament in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force; more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation than for repeated and diligent study." — (p. 135.)

XXVII. We are content to leave this matter to the Reader's judgment. For ourselves, we make no secret of the grotesqueness of the contrast thus, for the second time, presented to the imagination. On that side, by the hypothesis, sit the greatest Doctors of primitive Christendom, assembled in solemn conclave. Every most illustrious name is there.

By ingeniously drawing a purely arbitrary hard- and-fast line at the year 350 A.D., and so anticipating many a 'floruit' by something between 5 and 25 years, Dr. Hort's intention is plain: but the expedient will not serve his turn.

Quite content are we with the names secured to us within the proposed limits of time. On that side then, we behold congregated choice representatives of the wisdom, the piety, the learning of the Eastern Church, from 250 to 350 A.D. — On this side sits — Dr. Hort! . . . An interval of 1532 years separates these two parties.

XXVIII-XXX. The Purpose and Work of the 'Revisors'

XXVIII. And first, — How may the former assemblage be supposed to have been occupying themselves? The object with which those distinguished personages came together was the loftiest, the purest, the holiest imaginable : viz. to purge out from the sacred Text the many corruptions by which, in their judgments, it had become depraved during the 250 (or at the utmost 300) years which have elapsed since it first came into existence ; to detect the counterfeit and to eliminate the spurious. Not unaware by any means are they of the carelessness of Scribes, nor yet of the corruptions which have been brought in through the officiousness of critical 'Correctors' of the Text. To what has resulted from the misdirected piety of the Orthodox, they are every bit as fully alive as to what has crept in through the malignity of Heretical Teachers. Moreover, while the memory survives in- all its freshness of the depravations which the inspired Text has experienced from these and other similar corrupting influences, the means abound and are at hand of testing every suspected place of Scripture. Well, and next, — How have these holy men prospered in their holy enterprise ?

XXIX. According to Dr. Hort, by a strange fatality,- most unaccountable and truly disastrous proclivity to error, — these illustrious Fathers of the Church have been at every instant substituting the spurious for the genuine, — a fabricated Text in place of the Evangelical Verity. Miserable men!

In the Gospels alone they:

have interpolated about 3100 words :
have omitted about 700:
have substituted about 1000:
have transposed about 2200 :
have altered about 1200 1
(in number, case, mood, tense, person, etc.)

This done, they have amused themselves with the give-and-take process of mutual accommodation which we are taught to call 'Conflation': In plain terms, they have been manufacturing Scripture. The Text, as it comes forth from their hands,

(a) "Shews no marks of either critical or spiritual insight."

(b) "Presents the New Testament in a form smooth and attractive, but appreciably impoverished in sense and force ;"

(c) "Is more fitted for cursory perusal or recitation, than for repealed and diligent study."

Moreover, the mischief has proved infectious, — has spread. In Syria also, at Edessa or Nisibis, — (for it is as well to be circumstantial in such matters,) — the self-same iniquity is about to be perpetrated; of which the Peschito will be the abiding monument : one solitary witness only to the pure Text being suffered to escape. Cureton's fragmentary Syriac will alone remain to exhibit to mankind the outlines of primitive Truth. (The reader is reminded of the character already given of the document in question at the summit of page 279. Its extravagance can only be fully appreciated by one who will be at the pains to read it steadily through.)

XXX. And pray, (we ask,) — Who says all this? Who is it who gravely puts forth all this egregious nonsense? ... It is Dr. Hort, (we answer,) at pp. 134-5 of the volume now under review. In fact, according to him, those primitive Fathers have been the great falsifiers of Scripture ; have proved the worst enemies of the pure Word of God ; have shamefully betrayed their sacred trust ; have done the diametrical reverse of what (by the hypothesis) they came together for the sole purpose of doing. They have depraved and corrupted that sacred Text which it was their aim, their duty, and their professed object to purge from its errors. And (by the hypothesis) Dr. Hort, at the end of 1532 years, — aided by codex B and his own self-evolved powers of divination, — has found them out, and now holds them up to the contempt and scorn of the British public.

1. To speak with entire accuracy, Drs. Westcott & Hort require us to believe that the Authors of the [imaginary] Syrian Revisions of a.d. 250 and A.D. 350, interpolated the genuine Text of the Gospels, with between 2877 (B) and 3455 (א) spurious words; mutilated the genuine Text in respect of between 536 (B) and 839 (א) words : — substituted for as many genuine words, between 935 (B) and 1114 (א) uninspired words : — licentiously transposed between 2098 (B) and 2299 (א): — and in respect of number, case, mood, tense, person, &c., altered without authority between 1132 (B) and 1265 (א) words.

XXXI-XXXII. Early Fathers Unexplained

XXXI. In the meantime the illustrious Professor invites us to believe that the mistaken textual judgment pronoimced at Antioch in a.d. 350 had an immediate effect on the Text of Scripture throughout the world. We are requested to sup- pose that it resulted in the instantaneous extinction of codices the like of B, א, wherever found; and caused codices of the A type to spring up like mushrooms in their place, and that, in every library of ancient Christendom.

We are further required to assume that this extraordinary substitution of new evidence for old — the false for the true — fully explains why Irenaeus and Hippolytus, Athanasius and Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil and Ephraem, Epiphanius and Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Isidore of Pelusium, Nilus and Nonnus, Proclus and Severianus, the two Cyrils and Theodoret — one and all — show themselves strangers to the text of b and א. . . . We read and marvel.

XXXII For, (it is time to enquire,) — Does not the learned Professor see that, by thus getting rid of the testimony of the whole body of the Fathers, he leaves the Science which he is so good as to patronize in a most destitute condition, — besides placing himself in a most inconvenient state of isolation?

If clear and consentient Patristic testimony to the Text of Scripture is not to be deemed forcible witness to its Truth, — whither shall a man betake himself for constraining Evidence ?

Dr. Hort has already set aside the Traditional Text as a thing of no manner of importance. The venerable Syriac Version he has also insisted on reducing very nearly to the level of the despised cursives. As for the copies of the old Latin, they had confessedly become so untrustworthy, at the time of which he speaks, that a modest Revision of the Text they embody, (the ' Vulgate ' namely,) became at last a measure of necessity.

What remains to him therefore? Can he seriously suppose that the world will put up with the 'idiosyncrasy' of a living Doctor — his 'personal instincts' (p. xi.) — his 'personal discernment' (p. 65), — his 'instinctive processes of Criticism' (p. 66), — his 'individual mind', — in preference to articulate voices coming to us across the gulf of Time from every part of ancient Christendom ?

How — with the faintest chance of success — does Dr. Hort propose to remedy the absence of External Testimony? If mankind can afford to do without either consent of Copies or of Fathers, why does mankind any longer adhere to the ancient methods of proof? Why do Critics of every school still accumulate references to MSS, explore the ancient Versions, and ransack the Patristic writings in search of neglected citations of Scripture? That the ancients were indifferent Textual Critics, is true enough.

The mischief done by Origen in this department, — through his fondness for a branch of Learning in which his remarks show that he was all unskilled, — is not to be told. But then, these men lived within a very few hundred years of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ : and when they witness to the reading of their own copies, their testimony on the point, to say the least, is worthy of our most respectful attention. Dated codices, in fact are they, to all intents and purposes, as often as they bear clear witness to the Text of Scripture: — a fact, (we take leave to throw out the remark in passing,) which has not yet nearly attracted the degree of attention which it deserves.

XXXIII-XXXV. A Theory Too Good to be True

XXXIII. For ourselves, having said so much on this subject, it is fair that we should add, — We devoutly wish that Dr. Hort's hypothesis of an authoritative and deliberate Recension of the Text of the New Testament achieved at Antioch first, about A.D. 250, and next, about a.d. 350, were indeed an historical fact.

We desire no firmer basis on which to rest our confidence in the Traditional Text of Scripture than the deliberate verdict of Antiquity, — the ascertained sanction of the collective Church, in the Nicene age. The Latin 'Vulgate' [a.d. 385] is the work of a single man — Jerome. The Syriac 'Vulgate' [a.d. 616] was also the work of a single man — Thomas of Harkel. But this Greek * Vulgate ' was (by the hypothesis) the product of the Church Catholic, [a.d. 250- A.D. 350,] in her corporate capacity. Not only should we hail such a monument of the collective piety and learning of the Church in her best days with unmingled reverence and joy, were it introduced to our notice; but we should insist that no important deviation from such a 'Textus Receptus' as that would deserve to be listened to.

In other words, if Dr. Hort's theory about the origin of the TR has any foundation at all in fact, it is 'all up' with Dr. Hort. He is absolutely nowhere. He has most ingeniously placed himself on the horns of a fatal dilemma.

For, — (let it be carefully noted,) — the entire discussion becomes, in this way, brought (so to speak) within the compass of a nutshell. To state the case briefly, — We are invited to make our election between the Fathers of the Church, A.D. 250 and a.d. 350, — and Dr. Hort, A.D. 1881. The issue is really reduced to that The general question of the Text of Scripture being the matter at stake; (not any particular passage, remember, but the Text of Scripture as a whole;) — and the conflicting parties being but two; — Which are we to believe ? the consentient Voice of Antiquity, — or the solitary modern Professor? Shall we accept the august Testimony of the whole body of the Fathers? or shall we prefer to be guided by the self-evolved imaginations of one who confessedly has nothing to offer but conjecture?

The question before us is reduced to that single issue. But in fact the alternative admits of being yet more concisely stated. We are invited to make our election between fact and — fiction . . . All this, of course, on the supposition that there is any truth at all in Dr. Hort's 'New Textual Theory'.

No Evidence of Recension

XXXIV. Apart however from the gross intrinsic improbability of the supposed Recension, — the utter absence of one particle of evidence, traditional or otherwise, that it ever did take place, must be held to be fatal to the hypothesis that it did.

It is simply incredible that an incident of such magnitude and interest would leave no trace of itself in history. As a conjecture — (and it only professes to be a conjecture) — Dr. Hort's notion of how the Text of the Fathers of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, — which, as he truly remarks, is in the main identical with our own Received Text, — came into being, must be unconditionally abandoned. In the words of a learned living Prelate, — "the supposition" on which Drs. Westcott & Hort have staked their critical reputation, "is a manifest absurdity". 1

XXXV. We have been so full on the subject of this imaginary 'Antiochian' or 'Syrian Text',' not (the reader may be sure) without sufficient reason. Scant satisfaction truly is there in scattering to the winds an airy tissue which its ingenious authors have been industriously weaving for 30 years. But it is clear that with this hypothesis of a 'Syrian' text, — the immediate source and actual prototype of the commonly received Text of the N. T., — stands or falls their entire Textual theory. Reject it, and the entire fabric is observed to collapse, and subside into a shapeless rain. And with it, of necessity, goes the 'New Greek Text,' — and therefore the 'Revised Version' (1882) of our Revisionists, which in the main has been founded on it.

1. Quoted by Canon Cook, Revised Version Considered, — p. 202.

XXXVI-XXXVIII. The Remaining Facts

XXXVI. In the meantime the phenomena upon which this phantom has been based, remain unchanged; and fairly interpreted, will be found to conduct us to the diametrically opposite result to that which has been arrived at by Drs. Westcott & Hort. We fully admit the truth of his statements: With perfect truth has Hort remarked on

...the practical "identity of the Text, more especially in the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, in all the known cursive MSS., except a few" (p. 143). ..."Before the close of the 4th century a Greek Text not materially differing from the almost universal Text of the 9th century, was dominant at Antioch.'— (p. 142.)

— and why not of the 6th? of the 7th? of the 8th? or again of the 10th? of the 11th? of the 12th?

And why not throughout the whole of Eastern Christendom ? Why this continual mention of 'Antioch,' — this perpetual introduction of the epithet 'Syrian'? Neither designation applies to Irenaeus or to Hippolytus, — to Athanasius or to Didymus, — to Gregory of Nazianzus or to his namesake of Nyssa, — to Basil or to Epiphanius, — to Nonnus or to Macarius, — to Proclus or to Theodorus Mops., — to the earlier or to the later Cyril. — In brief,

"The fundamental text of the late extant Greek MSS. generally is, beyond all question, identical with [what Dr. Hort chooses to call] the dominant Antiochian or Graeco-'Syrian Text' of the second half of the 4th century. . . . The Antiochian [and Other] Fathers, and the bulk of extant MSS. written from about 3 or 4, to 10 or 11 centuries later, must have had, in the greater number of extant variations, a common original either contemporary with, or older than, our oldest extant MSS." (p. 92.)

XXXVII. So far then, happily, we are entirely agreed. The only question is, — How is this resemblance to be accounted for? Not, we answer, — not, certainly, by putting forward so violent and improbable — so irrational a conjecture as that, first, about a.d. 250, — and then again about ad. 350, — an authoritative standard Text was fabricated at Antioch; of which all other known MSS. (except a very little handful) are nothing else but transcripts:

But rather, by loyally recognizing, in the practical identity of the Text exhibited by 99 out of 100 of our extant MSS., the probable general fidelity of those many transcripts to the inspired exemplars themselves from which remotely they are confessedly descended. And surely, if it be allowable to assume (with Dr. Hort) that for 1532 years, (viz. from a.d. 350 to A.D. 1882) the Antiochian standard has been faithfully retained and transmitted, — it will be impossible to assign any valid reason why the inspircid Original itself, the Apostolic standard, should not have been as faithfully transmitted and retained from the Apostolic age to the Antiochian,1 — i.e. throughout an interval of less than 250 years, or one-sixth of the period.

XXXVIII. Here, it will obviously occur to enquire, — But what has been Drs. Westcott & Hort's motive for inventing such an improbable hypothesis ? and why is Dr. Hort so strenuous in maintaining it? We reply by reminding the Reader of certain remarks which we made at the outset. (above p.269:)...

"- the fact remains, that Text has come down to us which is attested by a general consensus of ancient coppies, ancient fathers and ancient versions. Readers cannot have forgotten the virtual admission of Hort himself that,

'beyond all question the Textus Receptus is the dominant Graeco-Syrian Text of 350-400 A.D.' 2

1. i.e., say from 90 A.D. to 250-350.

2. see pp. 257-8.

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