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With this edition of John Mill, commences, says Michaelis, the age of manhood in sacred criticisin.
Bishop Fell was so sensible that much remained to be accomplished in order to obtain a genuine text, that he determined to promote a new edition. And as he conceived that such a work would require many years, he wished to engage a scholar whose age might render it probable that he would live to complete it. He selected Dr. John Mill, then fellow of Queen's College in Oxford, afterwards principal of Edmund Hall. The preparation of the materials and the printing of the work employed not less than thirty years. It was published at Oxford in 1707; only fourteen days before Dr. Mill died. Yo alterations were made in the text. The collection of various readings in this edition was much larger than in any preceding, amounting in all to thirty thousand. Besides, what was totally wanting in other editions, there was a copions collection of quotations from the New Testament, in the writings of the Greek fathers. The extracts which Bishop Fell had made from the Coptic and the Gothic versions were revised and augmented; and the various readings of the Vulgate and of the oriental versions were selected from the London Polyglott. The variations in the early printed editions were also noted.
We ought not to be surprised, if, for a work of such magnitude, any one man should not be thoroughly qualified. The oriental versions Mill did not understand sufficiently to collate them; and, therefore, he was under the necessity of depending upon the Latin translations of them in the London Polyglott. His extracts from the oriental versions, consequently, are said to be very erroneous. Perhaps, too, while other editors omitted things of importance, Mill was too accurate in regard to trifies, so that he admitted among his various readings some readings that were plainly errata in manuscripts which he collated. Still, in a work which was intended to be a capital work, like Mill's Greek Testament, it is better to have too much than too little.
His edition was accompanied with copious Prolegomena of 168 folio pages, containing a description of his manuscripts and his opinion of their value. The Prole
gomena are still valuable, notwithstanding the improved state of Biblical criticism.
His vast collection of various readings drew upon him the attacks of many writers, both in England and in Germany. In the view of many persons, the text in daily use had come to be considered as perfect, so that great aların was excited for the safety of the New Testament; and not only the clergy in general, but even professors in the Universities who had no knowledge of Biblical criticism, considered the work of Mill as of evil tendency, and as inimical to the Christian religion. Dr. Whitby wrote an elaborate work against Mill's edition, in which he asserted that in all places which are of any importance the reading of the common text may be defended. His work shows a want of acquaintance with the subject of manuscripts and of sacred criticism. Bengel, however, who was universally celebrated as a man of uncommon piety, gave the work of Mill his sanction, and greatly helped forward an acknowledgment of its merit.
The edition of Dr. Edward Wells, published at Oxford in separate portions, and at different times between the years 1709 and 1719, deserves to be next mentioned, as being the first which presented an amended text; preceding editors having only collected materials. This edition was accompanied with the common English version, corrected according to the Greek reading preferred by the editor.
In 1734, John Albert Bengel, professor at Tübingen, Suabia, published an edition of the Greek Testament. He became a critic, in consequence of conscientious scruples. While a student at the University, he determined to form his principles of theology from the New Testament, and not from the Academical lectures. But finding so great a number of various readings, he fell into despondency. The influence which this uneasiness had upon his mode of study was very beneficial in its results. Seeking for the genuine reading in a conscientious manner, he was of course industrious in searching out materials of information, and careful in examining evidences. His state of mind was well adapted to his object of pursuit. He considered it an offence against the Deity, if through his own fault he introduced a false reading into the text. Bengel's judgment was cool and sound. One
of the principles on which he proceeded had been adopted by Mill, and is now universally acknowledged ; namely, that harsh and difficult readings are to be preferred before those which are smooth and flowing. He is said, however, to have maintained a sentiment, which certainly, to say the least, would be of very doubtful application ; namely, that in certain cases, a kind of inward and spiritual grace might enable a person to distinguish the genuine reading of the sacred text from that which proceeded merely from human hands.
This editor did not simply reprint the text of a former edition, but he really improved the text as far as he was able. His diffidence and caution prevented him from inserting in the text any reading that had not already appeared in some printed edition, even though he believed it to be the genuine reading; thus avoiding the reproach of having published a new Bible. In the Apocalypse, however, he departed from this rule; because this book had been printed from so few manuscripts, and in one passage had been printed by Erasmus from no manuscript whatever. In the other books of the New Testament, he placed under the text the readings which he thought the most worthy of notice, and classed them according to their value by means of Greek numerals. His critical apparatus was chiefly taken from Mill's Greek Testament, to which he added extracts from above twenty Greek manuscripts, and from several of the ancient Latin versions; also, for the first time, some extracts from the Armenian version.
Bengel had much influence in removing those susicions which had been entertained of sacred criticism, and in rendering the study of it more general, especially in Germany.
We next mention the edition of John James Wetstein. This distinguished critic is said to have performed more than all his predecessors put together, and to have laid the foundation on which later editors together have built. In his twentieth year, while a student at Basle, he published a treatise, De variis Lectionibus Novi Testamenti. After having finished his studies, he visited the principal libraries of France and England, in search of Greek manuscripts. The fruits of his researches, containing observations on Greek manuscripts and on quotations of the
Greek fathers and on ancient versions, he published A. D. 1730, in his Prolegomena. His edition was not published until A. D. 1751 and 1752; it was published at Amsterdam, in two volumes folio. It is divided into four parts, which are arranged in correspondence with the usual contents of Greek manuscripts, viz., the first, containing the Gospels; the second, the Epistles of Paul; the third, the Acts of the Apostles, with the Catholic Epistles; the fourth, the Apocalypse. Each of these four parts is ac.. companied with Prolegomena, describing the Greek manuscripts which are quoted in each part.
Wetstein was the first who gave extracts from the Philoxenian Syriac version. To collate this, he took a journey to England. As he could have the use of the manuscript only fourteen days, it is not surprising that his extracts are incomplete, or sometimes erroneous. Many Greek manuscripts which had been imperfectly collated, he collated anew, or proeured fresh extracts from his literary friends. Besides, he procured extracts from a great number which, before his time, had never been collated. Though he made no critical conjectures of his own, nor inserted in the text those which had been made by others, yet he did not neglect to quote the critical conjectures of others, and to place them in an appropriate part of the work.
His critical rules are represented as just; and as remarkably agreeing with those of his eminent predecessors, Mill and Bengel. His collection of various readings far surpasses theirs; he also corrected their mistakes, though in respect to various readings from manuscripts which he had no opportunity of examining himself, he frequently copied literally from Mill.
In collating his manuscripts, there is reason to think he was somewhat deficient as to accuracy; and as he was not friendly to the Latin version, his quotations from the Vulgate are incomplete.
Wetstein was suspected of entertaining Socinian princi. ples. But as a critic, he is allowed to have been honest. For in the principal passages of the New Testament, relative to the divinity of Christ, in which no various reading had been quoted by former critics, Wetstein has likewise produced none, though many opponents of that doctrine have endeavored to help their cause by critical
conjecture. At one time, it was his intention to establish a text formed on the authority of the most ancient and most valuable manuscripts; but considering that he might subject himself to the charge of endeavoring mainly to propagate his own religious opinions, he was persuaded to make no alterations whatever. His text therefore was that of the common edition, under the title Novum Testamentum Græcum editionis recepta. The alterations which he intended to make, he pointed out parily in the text itself by a mark denoting a proposed omission, and partly in the space between the text and the various readings, where he noted those readings which he preferred to the common text. The number of these proposed alterations is very moderate, and they are always supported by good authority. A reading which rests upon conjecture he has never preferred to that of the common text, without the evidence of a manuscript.
In 1776 and in 1784, Dr. Harwood published his edition at London. This edition is of little value. The editor entirely neglected a large part of the critical apparatus which had been collected; and being strongly attached to the Socinian scheme, he admitted or rejected a variety of readings according as they favored or opposed this scheme.
The edition by Matthæi was published at Riga, in twelve octavo volumes, between the years 1782 and 1788. He was a professor, first at Moscow, and afterwards at Wittenberg. While at Moscow, he became acquainted with numerous manuscripts, and conceived the plan of a new edition. His manuscripts, from which he drew bis edition, were all brought from Constantinople, and be. longed to one class, or family. He did not avail himself of Wetstein's, or even of Mill's edition; his only collection of various readings was that of Bishop Fell. As he thus applied only a part of the materials which had been collected, his edition is of inferior value. It has its use, however, in furnishing additional materials.
Another edition, by Professor Alter, published in 1786 and 1787, is also of use merely as furnishing additional materials.
Among critical editors of the New Tesiament, the names of Professors Birch and Adler, Moldenhawer and Tychsen, hold a distinguished place. Under the patron