Ancient Testimony To The Early Corruption Of The Gospels -- By: E. S. Buchanan

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 073:290 (Apr 1916)
Article: Ancient Testimony To The Early Corruption Of The Gospels
Author: E. S. Buchanan


Ancient Testimony To The Early Corruption Of The Gospels

E. S. Buchanan

The history of our Gospel text in common use and acceptance can be traced clearly as far back as the year 382 a.d., when St. Jerome fixed it at the request of his patron, Damasus, Bishop of Rome. St. Jerome’s work has a preface which gives us in the matter of Gospel revision some highly important testimony.

The Testimony of St. Jerome is part of a letter addressed to his patron, and begins: —

“You compel me to make a new work out of an old one. I am to pick out those readings that agree with the Greek truth. It is a pious duty; but dangerous and presumptuous. In judging I shall be judged by all. Learned and unlearned alike will call me a ‘falsifier’ and ‘sacrilegious ‘for daring to amplify or alter or correct what is found in their old books. Against this outcry two things console me: first, thou, who art the High Priest, orderest it to be done; and, secondly, the truth has no variations — a fact which their very clamor against me goes to prove. If Latin MSS. are to be trusted, let them tell me which they are; for there are almost as many differing copies as there are codices. But if the truth is to be recovered from this diversity, then why not go tack to the original Greek?

And St. Jerome proceeds to tell us how he had taken over his new chapter divisions from Alexandria, but he does not state — what honesty demanded he should have done — that he had adopted his new standard Greek text from Alexandria also. His preface to Bishop Damasus ends with these words: —

Oplo ut in Christo ualeas et memineris mei, Papa beatissime” (“I desire that in Christ thou mayst be well, and that thou mayst remember me, O Most Blessed Father”).

St. Jerome’s work was done by command, and done too hastily to be final. It is true that he stopped the process of MS. corruption from proceeding any further; but his work and that of his Bishop did not remove from the text past corruptions, but only preserved them, and, as it were, consecrated them. That such corruptions already existed and had been accumulating since the death of the Apostles, is proved not only by St. Jerome’s statement of the chaotic condition of all Latin texts (and why, pray, not of all Greek texts?); but also by the testimony of many documents that have come down to us, and a part of this testimony we shall now exhibit.

In the New Testament. (1) St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, warns them against accepting as his any forged letter that declared the Day of the Lord was at hand (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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