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similar result exhibited itself in the oldest manuscripts containing the Latin versions from the Greek. They are of such a description, so faithful — we may almost say servile - in their adherence to the letter of the original, that, in very many cases, it may be discovered, with absolute certainty, what reading existed in the copy which the translator used. To the surprise of every one, it was found that the more ancient the manuscripts containing these translations, the more closely did they agree with the text of the Alexandrine codex in those places in which it varied from the Elzevir standard. Nor was this all. In the early ages of the Church, translations of the sacred writings had been made not only into Latin,- the language in which they would be accessible to the Christians of Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Northern Africa, — but also into Coptic and its branches for the benefit of the Egyptian, and Syrian for that of the Oriental converts.* These translations, for the most part, supported the ancient authorities. The same was the case with the early Greek Fathers. The quotations of Clement of Alexandria and of Origen were found to tell on the same side with the early Greek and Latin manuscripts, and with the ancient versions into Syrian and Coptic. Struck by all these concurring circumstances, Mill conceived that a passage in St. Augustine offered a clue to the recovery not only of the primitive Greek Text, but of the earliest Latin Version, established, as he imagined probable, by public authority within the very first century. Augustine f, after speaking of the benefit which may be derived by a student of the Scriptures from consulting various translations, adds the words · In ipsis autem interpreta* tionibus Itala cæteris præferatur: nam est verborum tenacior
cum perspicuitate sententiæ.' This expression Mill regarded as establishing the existence of a definite version into Latin, known in the time of Augustine by the name of the Italian • Version,' and characterised by its extreme adherence to the letter of the original, which was limited only by a due regard for perspicuity. He supposed that it was the Version publicly used in the Roman Church previously to the time of Jerome, by whose new translation, which is the basis of the modern
* The Syrian version was made in the second, the Coptic in the third century. These, and the Gothic version of Ulphilas, made in the fourth, appear to be the only versions made in early times direct from the Greek, and, consequently, the only genuine representatives of Greek codices. To cite versions which are either translations from the Vulgate, or from Greek manuscripts altered to agree with the Vulgate, is simple loss of time and paper to the verbal critic.
† De Doctrinâ Christianâ, ii. cap. 15.
Obstacles to Mill's original Design.
gradually s manuscriptom the You answer
in the itical Latin etus Itala text constitutes of codices tiers, and
Vulgate, it had been gradually superseded, — but that it still existed in those ancient Latin manuscripts which might be found to contain a translation different from the Vulgate of Jerome, and at the same time possessing characteristics answering to the description of Augustine. These might be further recognised by their agreement with the citations of Scripture found in the writings of the Latin Fathers antecedent to the time of Jerome, - Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary of Poictiers, and the Latin Irenæus. Supposing a number of codices collected answering to these tests, the text constituted by their comparison would be the - Vetus Itala' version; and the combination of this critical Latin text with the oldest Greek MSS. (checked in their turn by the quotations of Clement and Origen) would allow of the constitution, on rigidly critical principles, of a text differing, by a scarcely appreciable amount, from that which was recognised in the age of those who had themselves conversed with the Apostles.
To the execution of the idea of Dr. Mill, however, there existed some insuperable obstacles. In the first place, the Alexandrine codex, although of immensely superior antiquity to the manuscripts on which the 'Received Text' rested, stood alone in its opposition to them in many instances, Beza's codex (besides that it contains nothing but the four Gospels and the Acts) occasionally differing quite as much from the Alexandrine readings, which were supported by Clement and Origen, as it did from the Elzevir standard. In some places, too, the Alexandrine has suffered from the ravages of time; so that in these there appeared to be no means of completing the text consistently with the principles laid down. Moreover, there was felt to be an obvious inconvenience in making the Greek text as it were subordinate to that of the Latin versions. Almost immediately after the passage above quoted from Augustine, which inspired Mill with the hopes of recovering the Vetus Itala,' there follows another which seemed decisively to discourage his proceeding with his design under existing circumstances.* He gave up, therefore, the prosecution of the object which he had pointed out, and contented himself with reprinting the · Received * Text,' and exhibiting in the margin the variations from it which the older manuscripts, versions, and Fathers furnished.
This proceeding was not one calculated to break the shock which the publication of his book occasioned to all but the
• Labros autem Novi Testamenti, si quid in Latinis varietatibus titabat, Græcis cedere oportere non dubium est, et maxime qui apud ecclesias doctiores et diligentiores reperiantur.
learned. By a mental process not unlike the one which generated the doctrine of Transubstantiation, that influence of the Holy Spirit * which had pervaded the first teachers of our religion, and which still breathes in their written remains, had come to be popularly regarded as of a kind to furnish security to those remains against corruption by the hands of transcribers during their transmission through successive ages. Accordingly, when an edition appeared, exhibiting in the margin more than 30,000. variations from the standard text, great excitement was produced. The Roman Catholics rejoiced at what they considered a confirmation of their strongest position, — the alleged necessity of an oral tradition, supernaturally transmitted through the hands of the Church, to explain and interpret the doubtful passages of Holy Scripture. Enemies of revealed religion, under any shape whatever, were delighted at the discovery of what they represented as a thorough corruption of the authentic documents of Christianity. In our days, when the experience of a century has shown the real utility of these - then unwelcome – phenomena, and when the collation of additional manuscripts has augmented their number to more than 200,000, it is difficult to conceive the consternation and perplexity which was occasioned when their existence first became known to the public, or to measure the evil which might have resulted had there not been living at that time, in the possession of a station and a reputation which enabled him to stem the tide of timid superstition, the greatest scholar that England has ever produced — Richard Bentley, master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In a short letter, published under the name of Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, he showed the value, in the hands of those who understood the matter, of such collations as Mill's margin exhibited; and that, instead of weakening the authority of the sacred text, they, in fact, furnished the means of ascertaining it in its most genuine form. He himself had entertained a design somewhat similar to that of Mill, but based upon a much surer foundation. This (in a letter to Archbishop Wake, dated April 15. 1716,) he explains so lucidly, that it is impossible to abridge the communication without omitting some material point, and we therefore give it in extenso:
• MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE, — 'Tis not only your • Grace's station and general character, but the particular know
* The profound remark of Coleridge relative to the Sacrament of the Eucharist is applicable to the true idea of Inspiration. It is a thing sui generis, which one extreme party evaporates into a metaphor, and the other condenses into an idol.
Bentley's Letter to Archbishop Wake.
greatnet them bot Feethinking: en from severassity, and us that
* ledge I have of you, which encourages me to give you a long • letter about those unfashionable topics, Religion and Learning.
Your Grace knows, as well as any, what an alarm has been * made of late years with the vast heap of Various Lections found . in MSS. of the Greek Testament. The Papists have made a
great use of them against the Protestants, and the Atheists · against them both. This was one of Collins's topics in his
Discourse on Freethinking, which I took off in my short • answer; and I have heard since, from several hands, that that • short view I gave of the causes, and necessity, and use of • Various Lections, made several good men more easy in that * matter than they were before. But since that time I have
fallen into a course of studies that led me to peruse many of the
oldest MSS. of the Greek Testament and of the Latin, too, of • St. Jerome, of which there are several in England a full thou
sand years old; the result of which has been that I find I am • able (what some thought impossible) to give an edition of the • Greek Testament exactly as it was in the best exemplars at the time of the Council of Nice; so that there shall not be twenty words, nor even particles, difference; and this shall
carry its own demonstration in every verse, which I affirm • cannot be so done of any other ancient book, Greek or Latin;
so that that book, which, by the present management, is thought the most uncertain, shall have a testimony of certainty above all other books whatever, and an end be put at once to. • all Various Lections now or hereafter.
• I'll give your Grace the progress which brought me, by • degrees, into the present view and scheme that I have of a new • edition. Upon some points of curiosity, I collated one or two
of St. Paul's Epistles, with the Alexandrian MS., the oldest • and best now in the world.* I was surprised to find several • transpositions of words, that Mill and the other collators took
no notice of: but I soon found their way was to mark nothing .but change of words; the collocation and order they entirely neglected; and yet, at first sight, I discerned what a new force and beauty this new order (I found in the MS.) added to the * sentence. This encouraged me to collate the whole book over • to a letter, with my own hands. There is another MS. at • Parist, of the same age and character with this; but meeting
* The Vatican Codex had not at this time been examined.
† This is the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (Reg. Par. No. 9.). Its real character was detected by Allix, a French Protestant minister, who took refuge in England on the revocation of the Edict of Nantz. Burnet made him a prebendary of Salisbury, and the University of
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