More Light From The Western Text -- By: E. S. Buchanan

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 073:291 (Jul 1916)
Article: More Light From The Western Text
Author: E. S. Buchanan


More Light From The Western Text

E. S. Buchanan

In the year 382 St. Jerome, at the age of thirty-six, took the responsibility of settling the text of the Gospels. He did this under compulsion from his superior, the Bishop of Rome. His dedicatory Preface tells us how he acted under orders from his “High Priest” (summus sacerdos), as he calls Bishop Damasus. “Nouum opus facere me cogis ex ueteri” (“You force me to make a new work out of an old one”) are his opening words. The new work appeared in the incredibly short time of one year after the order for it had been issued, and appeared in the form of Gospel text known to us as the Vulgate. St. Jerome took the Alexandrian Greek text as his standard, and introduced to the world in a Latin dress the new readings of Origen and his followers that commended themselves to himself and to his patron and overseer, Bishop Damasus, and had already been endorsed by the ecclesiastical rulers of Alexandria.

St. Jerome utterly rejected all Latin MSS. and all Syriac MSS. and all other versions, although he knew of their existence, for in his Preface he speaks of the Scripture as being before his time “translated into the tongues of many nations (multarum gentium linguis scriptura ante translata). Bishop Wordsworth has told us that in 382 a.d. St. Jerome was hoping to succeed Damasus as Bishop of Rome, and that his

edition of the Vulgate was made to secure the favor of Damasus and his own election to the High Priesthood on his patron’s death. In one of his private letters (Ep. ad Asellam, 45) St. Jerome, writing from Ostia after leaving Rome in disgust, tells his friend of the cruel disappointment of his hopes: Omnium pæne iudicio dignus summo sacerdotio decrnebar. Beatæ memoriæ: damasus meus sermo erat. Dicebar sanctus, dicebar humilis et disertus (“I was picked out by nearly every one as worthy of the High Priesthood. Damasus of blessed memory was my word for it. I was called holy, I was called humble and learned”). It is interesting to know these circumstances of the production of the Vulgate, the red-hot haste in which it was produced, and the character, assumptions, and aspirations of the two men responsible for its production. It is impossible on any authority whatever to accept such an edition of the Gospels as representing the Apostles’ Autographs. Yet it is a fact that the Revised Version makes our Bible text conform to the Vulgate in hundreds of readings where there was disagreement before.

Dr. Hort naïvely remarks in his “Introduction” (p. 152): “By a curious and apparently unnoticed coincidence, the text of the Codex Alexandrinus in several books agrees with the L...

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