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cause of the great want of uniformity in estimating the claims of various readings, which Griesbach has observed in Mill, Bengel, and Wetstein. Indeed, as all the manuscripts, that could ever be found, must bear but a small proportion to the immense numbers, which were written, certainty could never have been attained, nor uniformity of opinion produced.

But against all these evils, provision was made by the systematical classification adopted by Griesbach. He perceived the want of a system, to be applied to the purposes of sacred criticism, which might not only be easily adapted to use, but, being built upon a sure foundation, should preserve the text from the dangers of perpetual fluctuation, should force our assent, and leave nothing to a partial decision.

From the express testimony of the ancient fathers, as well as from their quotations compared with the readings of manuscripts and versions, he says, he discovered, that, as early as the third century, there was a remarkable difference throughout between the manuscript copies of the New Testament; that even then there existed several recensions or editions of the sacred text, which were distinguished from each other by numerous important and characteristic readings; and that, in process of time, as their distinctive features disappeared, others succeeded to their place, far less different from those which characterize the manuscripts of a modern date.*

This discovery accordingly suggested to him the necessity or dividing all the authorities he possessed-manuscripts, versions, and fathers, into distinct and separate classes, which should correspond, as nearly as possible, to the several recen

* Vid. Curæ in Hist. textus Græci, Epist. Paul. sect. i. § 1.


The origin of the different recensions Griesbach explains, by supposing two manuscripts as nearly alike as possible, to be represented by the letters A and B. From B suppose copies were taken, denoted by c, d, e, f, &c. as far as z. If the transeriber of c committed ten mistakes, which would be a very moderate supposition indeed, these would not only be repeated in d, but increased by the addition of ten Mistakes would thus continue to accumulate, till in z, the text would be very different from that exhibited in A; and even more so, from that of the copies taken from A. When the text of became multiplied in the copies, a, ß, y, etc., if those intervening between B and z had been destroyed or lost, a, ß, y, &c. though differing perhaps but little from the copies immediately preceding, viz. x, y, z, would be found to contain a text, differing throughout, and in many important readings, from A; and therefore would be said, with propriety, to belong to a different recension or edition. Other recensions would be likely to be formed in a similar manner; and each would be distinguished by characteristic differences, arising from the different countries in which they were formed. Thus the origin of the several recensions of the sacred text may be accounted for, by the supposition only of what, in the natural course of things, would most probably occur. Ibid. sect. i. § 17.

sions of the ancient text. These witnesses then he considered as bearing direct testimony only to the readings of the recensions to which they respectively belonged. The claims of the various readings to be regarded as genuine, he decided solely, by the weight of authority which was due to the recensions themselves. And this authority depended upon their antiquity, and their general character for purity and integrity. However great then was the number of witnesses of the same class, which were adduced in support of a particular reading, they were entitled to but one voice. Manuscripts, to the number of not less than thirty, quoted by Wetstein, as independent authorities, upon the Epistles of Paul, being found by Griesbach to belong to the same class, were reduced to a single testimony. And, lastly, as the manuscripts which remain of the most ancient and pure recensions, are but few, in comparison with the large numbers which belong to the more modern, corrupt, and interpolated; the weight of one witness. was sometimes sufficient to counterbalance a hundred.

These, in brief, are the outlines of that critical system, which was adopted by Griesbach, in preparing the text of his edition of the Greek Testament, and which furnishes the rules by which the critic must be guided in estimating the weight of external evidence. The rules of internal evidence are drawn from a knowledge of the causes which operated to produce the various readings. From his intimate acquaintance with manuscripts, he discovered that transcribers had been more prone to add than to omit; that they had been disposed to explain obscure and difficult passages; that they disliked ellipses, hebraisms, solecisms, and harsh and unusual modes of expression. From a knowledge of these circumstances he deduced the rules, that cæteris paribus, the readings which are shorter, those, that are more difficult and obscure, the harsh, elliptic and hebraistic, are the preferable; with several other rules, for which reference must be had to the third section of his Prolegomena. Of all of them the sum is, that we must consider that reading as deserving the preference, which, being assumed as the genuine, will most satisfactorily explain the origin of the rest.

Such are the most important of the advantages, which have accrued to the cause of sacred criticism from the labors of Griesbach. That nothing remains to be done by the efforts of others, was not his opinion. The Syriac and Armenian Ibid. sect. i. § 7.

versions would afford more aid to the critic, if their texts were corrected by the readings of the best manuscript copies. Fragments only have been published of the Sahidic and Syriac of Jerusalem. Many Greek manuscripts, of no little value, have been but partially and negligently collated; and the Florence library alone is said to contain no less than a thousand, which have never been examined. But this is probably of far less importance than it might, at first view, appear. By means of the manuscripts which have been already collated, together with the versions and quotations of the fathers, the several classes of authorities have become so established, as to leave to the exertions of future critics but little prospect of a change.

From the survey we have now taken of the vast and valuable accessions, which have been made to the stock of critical materials, by the labors of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach; the advantages possessed by the modern critic for the emendation of the sacred text, it is obvious, must surpass, in an almost inestimable degree, the humble pretensions of the editors of the Received Text.

They copied, as we have seen, almost solely from the third edition of Stephens; a few variations of no authority being taken from Beza. Stephens closely followed the fifth edition of Erasmus; a very few places only, together with Apocalypse, being excepted, where he preferred the Complutensian edition. And Erasmus, who alone appears to have had any pretensions as a critical editor, being destitute of all aids for determining the genuine reading, prepared his text, as well as he could, from a very few modern manuscripts, by means of inaccurate editions of a few of the fathers, an interpolated vulgate, and his own conjecture.

But the labors of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach, in the collation of hundreds of manuscripts that have since been discovered, some of which have claims to as high an antiquity as the fifth century; together with the eastern versions, made in the earliest ages of christianity; and the quotations from the New Testament in the writings of the fathers, have furnished a collection of various readings, amounting probably to more than one hundred thousand, by means of which an editor of the Greek Testament is enabled, at the present day, to give to the world a text, alike freed from the errors, which have arisen from the unavoidable mistakes of transcription, or intentional corruptions.

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