Principles Of Textual Criticism -- By: Frederic Gardiner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 032:126 (Apr 1875)
Article: Principles Of Textual Criticism
Author: Frederic Gardiner

Principles Of Textual Criticism

Rev. Frederic Gardiner

From the earliest times there is found to have been a difference in the reading of the text of the New Testament. Quotations are made, by different Fathers of the same passage, slightly differing in language, and often under circumstances which forbid the explanation of loose citation; and, as soon as attention was directed to such matters, the earliest critics frequently mention differences of reading in different copies. The earliest versions, too, made as they were with scrupulous fidelity, show the same sort of variation. The most ancient manuscripts now extant are not perfectly agreed together, nor do any of them exactly accord with manuscripts themselves later, but perhaps copied from others of a still earlier date. Most of these variations, it is true, are of little consequence, often mere differences in spelling, or unimportant changes in the order of the words. There are other variations, however, of greater interest; and careful examination of the less important readings is the best training for the determination of the more important. It is, indeed, more than probable that some variations occurred in the very first transcription of the several books, or that, if the author himself prepared more than one copy, these did not

quite verbally agree. In such cases it is, of course, impossible to determine the true text; for both texts are equally true. Yet it is obvious that, as time rolled on, and copies were copied and re-copied again, the tendency, notwithstanding the utmost care, was to multiply errors, until, when the invention of printing came, the variations were many and sometimes considerable, and it became a matter of no small difficulty to decide among them.

The earliest printed edition of the whole Greek New Testament was in 1514, in the magnificent work of Cardinal Ximenes, known as the “Complutensian Polyglot.” It was prepared from inferior mss., and as it was not published until eight years later, when the ground was already occupied by the editions of Erasmus, it has never been of much importance, except in the book of the Apocalypse. Meantime the German publisher, Froben, anxious to anticipate its publication, prevailed upon Erasmus to undertake the editing of a New Testament in Greek. Erasmus was at the time fully occupied upon an edition of the works of Jerome and other literary labors, but succeeded in bringing out his first hasty edition in 1516, and his second, with more leisure and care, three years later. It was the work of a scholar of great learning and ability, but bore evident marks of a first essay upon untrodden ground. Four manuscripts were used in its preparation; but, unfortunate...

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