R. E Storer.

New Testament : suggestions for reformation of Greek text from the self-conferred papal dictatorship and blind obstructiveness of mediaeval monkish copyists : on principles of logical criticism .. online

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Online LibraryR. E StorerNew Testament : suggestions for reformation of Greek text from the self-conferred papal dictatorship and blind obstructiveness of mediaeval monkish copyists : on principles of logical criticism .. → online text (page 1 of 10)
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Ipcofeddoc Ibencs Cacciudton BlesanDer, D.2>., 1LX.2).














The Letters iwcfix&l are for reference. The most usual mistril'cs

then are from

A. Lilfeness of letters in Greek, A, D, L, JM, N, S, and V>, E, P,

and G, T, and Tli, 0, Ph, &c., and of words.

B. Substitution by copyist of known word or naeaning for


C. Omission of word from likeness to adjoining one.

D: Correption of an illegible or unintelligil)le phrase by taking
any part of it that seems to give some meaning, and
throwing out rest, also correption of words, copied from
IMS. abbreviations. Mark of abbreviation being omitted.

E. Confusion of Avords or sentences from their non-distinction

in old MSS., and where a space is blurred out, completion
of the blank by guess, conditioned to same length.

F. Disordination of words or lines — and need of change to

justify other change — also other perversions, from lazhiess,
ignorance, arrogance, prejudice, fraud, &c.


Peefaces are oftener presented tliaii wanted, but this Work
needs one, for self-jnstification, if not otherwise : for it deals with
the most vital of books — with the Book — the New Testament,
on a principle wholly new: or rather perhaps its practice is
new, though the principle is an old standard one ; seldom
openly disavowed, but hitherto, in this instance, practically
ignored. — That principle is the preference of reason to tradition
in questions of the text.

"Newtonus Bentlcio, utpote Theologo, operam in Terentii
ludicris serio occupatam exprobravit. Quo probrum intenderet,
potuit addere, ilium criticotaton Theologorum vires ad fabulas
divertisse, cum S.S. propria ejus provincia, per tot secula manum
emendatricem, lacera adeo ac mutila, imploraret, &c., &c."

This was my preface to a few alterations in the Greek Text,
annexed to my edition, printed, but never published, of tlie self-
communion of M. A. Antoninus : a work, in my judgment, tran-
scending all others left to us in Greek or Latin prose, and, on
which, from that conviction of its worth, I had bestowed my
utmost means to restore it from its deplorable corruption.

On reflection, I continue that preface in English rather than
Latin. For this generation seems to me less learned and more
cursory, prepropere correptiva, than the last. They must be
humoured or they will hardly be gained over. The preliminary


effort of screwing themselves up to the old Latin standard, like
the Dutchman's mile run to his ditch leap, woidd exhaust them
before they got to their proposed task.

And this illustration, trivial as it may seem, suggests another
]'eason for my change to tlie vulgar tongue. IVIucli of our
scholarship is now done 'pcr saltum. We skip much of what we
used to dwell upon, and we leap and run much. True, " he who
runs may read," but he seldom does. Our Christianity under
our actual teachers, grows more and more muscular. It
is so called, and is proud of the calling. And to this self-styled
Christian sect, which we might call Musclemau, but for the
Mahometan equivocation — though Mahomet would scout them
for lack of spirituality — to them a Latin preface is a mere
pedantic imposture — a thing

For our dusty shelves,

Not for our spriglitly selves.

Their ambition, indeed, will take its high flights, — acrobatic,
but none other. Academicus, in their short slang is a cad ; and
looking to their most studied bookish compositions, we might
expect, on the principle of " prize for practice," that the highest
honours of the university would be awarded to the most
cunningly devised, or, in the phrase of Yorkshire, the gainest
betting book. Indeed to them, bookmaker means that and
nothing else. But discussion here is useless. So is the question
cui 1)0)10. How can any such attainment, even the highest, help
you in life ? Must it not rather hinder you ? Say you're a
thorough athlete — can throw your vital energy Avell through
your muscles. AVliat then ? To be a true man you must throw
it through mind. But I waive all such enquiry, for this mania, like
others, is better left to blaze itseK out. And though it were
otherwise, yet to what purpose can wisdom herself lift up her
voice, when her professed teachers, and even preachers, her own
acknowledged, or at least reputed, wisest ones, renounce her old
standard — leave the mental for the muscular side. What hope
where the extinguishers catch fire ? Only then a word or two


of warning from a man of wide and varied worldly experience,
no bookworm. It is clear that athletics cannot occupy the
mind. Even steady handicraft, which opens much more of
mental scope, fails to do this fully. But the mind must occupy
itself somehow. Will must find work. Of this the obvious and
free, the boundless and fruitful, and hitherto usual field .for the
young mind is learning. That being ignored, what else have we ?
Pleasure — but, beside its cost — non cuivis Corinthmii, — Pleasure
soon palls and so becomes wearisomeness- — worse than pain.
Handwork then — but that belongs elsewhere. Gambling — aye, too
truly ! for greed in the disguise of amusement is the siren of sirens :
And the many bones of her former votaries scattered on lier
shore deter not the throng of new ones. The net is spread in
sight of the bird, but not vainly. Mercury was the heathen god
of the gymnast, the gambler, the trickster, but he Avas also the
harbinger to the likeliest abode of the two latter; to Hell. Such
a smart leader is, now-a-days, at Newmarket and elsewhere, the
one best liked; but I would rather take the ]\Iinerva of the
old schools for my boy's guide.

However, as she is out of fashion, I have so far conformed as
to leave Latin for English in my preface. But I must return
from my digression to my main subject — the text of the New

My first notes on it were jotted down abroad, in countries and
circumstances that gave no means of exact or scholar-like work :
hence then* slightness and scantiness.

In a later long voyage and further busy peregrinations, I
resumed my revisal, and found that with correction grew the
need of it. My much required more. I was thus led to wider
views, and to the conclusion, that, for a text so vitally momentous
and withal so corrupt, a thorough reform was needed. The
result is this essay toward restoration.

The subject, as I undertake it, is threefold. I have to con-
sider : — 1. The actual state of the Greek text. 2. How others
have dealt with it. 3. How I may improve upon them.


The state of the text suggests much grave question. For an
idea of its difficulty we have only to examine any old Greek
MS. or graven slab. A few here and there have been in more
conservative keeping, and so come out better, but with none such
am I now concerned: and besides in MSS. as in women, the
fairest are often the faidtiest : cosmetics, too, disguise the lines of
Truth. But take a normal early sample ; though none of very
early date is now extant ; not more than one MS., I believe, if
any, prior to onr 9th century. Try, for a ready instance, a
scriptural one too, the Codex Alexanclrinus, now lying open in
an ante-room of the British Museum: submit it to twenty
Cambridge or Oxford scholars — all adepts in honours. Few old
MSS. are so clearly A^aitten as this, yet at a glance on the
blurred, worn, faded, discharactered, and often effaced text, most
of them would at once confess their hopelessness. They could
not pretend to read a line of it: as well offer it tliem sealed.
Nor would a closer inspection lessen their distrust. A con-
tinuous line of letters, without stops, or intervals between words ;
frequent and often puzzling abbreviations — such, beside the
defacements above noted, are the first superficial conditions of
the problem. These difficulties, no doubt, can be overcome,
more or less, and the j\IS. presented in fair readable form by
the earnestness of sound scholarship : but for such a task the
best critics must, in most cases, screw up their powers to the
highest pitch : and even then the chances are that not one in
twenty would render one page alike.

Such is the best result of learned application. But take the actual
Usual work — that of ordinary copyists — mostly mediaeval monks
for there were then few other penmen — AMiat could they make of
such a task ? None of them knew Greek critically — few even as
well as a schoolljoy of a middle form with us. Set then such a
monk to copy such a MS. ; and any one who has undergone the
vexatious blunders even of printers, Avorking comparatively in
noonday light instead (jf midnight darkness, may conceive how
the transcript woidtl come out. However he gets through.


There is the MS., with all the authority l^elonging to that solemn
designation — for there seems to be a prevalent, though unde-
clared notion, of some mysterious sanctity in MSS., — that they
are all, as we say of gentlemen, reckoned on one level — a tout
Seigneur tout honneur — accordingly the MS. is consigned to its
shelf, otium cum dignitate, there to sleep among its fellows until
wanted to he transcribed — whether for penalty or sale — or, like
scrubwork on shipboard, to employ idle hands. But as copies
are repeated, errors of course are multiplied — till we get an
appalling aggregate in the last cojtj of a series stretching througli
many centuries. This process of textual transformation may be
more or less perversive. Sometimes it strays beyond recognition :
so that the truth can hardly be more discerned through it than
in the last version of the three black crows, or of the painter's
pupils who, by copies from each other, converted his Achilles
into an ass's head. "We are all sometimes puzzled to read our
own late writing. How much more a faulty monkish IMS. ?

I have dealt hitherto with old Greek MSS. ; but to bring the
question nearer home, let us take a late law deed of the first or
second George's tune. Set some one to copy it ; not a law clerk,
for he Avould know its terms and technicalities lieforehand ; but
any fairly educated layman. He would miswrite words, and
mistake or slur over meanings, more or less. But for one blunder
by him we might expect tw^enty by the Greek copyist. For
where all the data are against the fairness of the MS. and the
sufficiency of the transcrilier, what hope is there of his tran-
script ? Jacob recognized his coat of many colours, but the
Bond-street tailor would hardly recognize his own, though again
become patrician, through the many patches bungled upon it l)v
a dozen successive Irish proprietors ; and many an autlior lias
fared yet worse from the hands of a score transcribers.

But, it may be asked, if a manuscript series, in its devolution
from remote times, is so liable, stage after stage, to be surfeited
with corruption, how is it not wholly vitiated and transub-
stauced ? T answer, it would be so, but for a partially counter-


acting cause. Now and then a reviser, or yet more, a reformer,
of a better stamp arises. He clears off some botches and
blemishes, and so far restores the text. This was done for many
classical MSS. by learned Byzantine or other Greeks before the
16th century. But the task was too heavy and withal too high
for the men and times. Criticism was then too far short of its
later culmination. They could remove a few thorns only out of
thousands in the flesh. They might rectify here and there, but
not redintegrate. And for Scripture they never reached even
that low rate of correction. Strong, though perhaps unavowed,
influences were against them. I have already noted the super-
stitious feeling under which so many Editors regard their MSS.
and "forebooks" as their trust-deeds ; as sanctions committed to
them which it would be forgery, or at least falsification, to alter.
We may be sure how this spirit towards even the profane, would
be quickened, inflamed, intensified, toward the sacred writers.
If, in the former, people bound themselves to take on trust 'the
liandicraft of the hireling (whose chief care was to hurry his MS.
through so many more sheets for the sake of so many more pence
daily), as the mental "mere and proper effusion" of the poet or
philosopher, how must they hold to and revere the latter ? They
would clothe, as it were, the reprobate Gospel text with white
I'obes. There was the Book, the vessel of faith, the cup, the
altar, the Bible — how presented, or by what human hands, it
mattered not. To them it was God's own chosen instrument for
sanctification, and to add or lessen in it one iota was sheer sacri-
lege. Tlu'- superstitious tales about the inspired concordance of
the septuagint hindered its correction in times past ; at present a
like mistaken prejudice hinders that of the Gospel, and with so
mucli worse consequence as the vulgate of the Gospel is likelier
than other ancient writings to be corru])t, and tliis for various

For the New Testament was not, like the Greek classics,
passed successively, on the revival of learning, through many
fine sieves of criticism. This would clear off much alien rubbish;


but to the then learned Greeks, and even to many later scholars
the new creed was foolishness, they disdained to dwell on it.
There was thence less check on the multiplication of errors from
hand to hand by ignorant, though faithful, transcribers. The
presumed sanctity, too, of the text, like charity, covered all its
sins. Toucli not, in St. Paul's x^hrase, would be the orthodox
injunction ; one alike flattering to the pride of priesthood, the
credulity of the ignorant, the hireling's haste, and the laziness of
the fleshly-minded : but worst of all, the civil sanction was called
in aid of the sacerdotal one, and gave its whole strength and sub-
stance to that keen spiritual edge. These conjoined powers
possessed themselves with the spirit of Pilate's phrase, " What
was written was written." God's Word, they presumed, was
committed to their keeping, and they meant to hold it stiffly and
transmit it as they took it. To this conclusion many would
come, for conscience's sake, as zealots ; others for fear and quiet's
sake, as conservatives ; and not a few as self-seekers, whether in-
fidels, sceptics, or believers — maintaining, however, with all their
strength, heart, and soul what maintained them — for, sirs, by
this craft we live, and therefore, great is Diana of the Ephesians.
They regarded the Greek text as a man regards his charter.
They held to it, for it held them to their estate, and they would
not have it touched for alteration or even question.

There is or may be much good in Church Estalilishments, but
not without evils, and this a main one. An able surpliced critic,
if ambitious, as most able men are, is dazzled by the vision of
the mitre. He sets himself to establish, not the abstract truth,
but his own concrete orthodoxy. His conclusions are of course
foregone. He must withstand all change, even the most minute,
as a banksman would the trickling in of waters. This to him is
a peremptory condition, not perhaps for the Church's safety, but
for his own advancement within her pale. For he loves the
Gospel with a reverent, but the Church — a wealthy one above
all — with an ardent love. He has faith in all orthodox things,
but zeal for his establishment. The others may be visionary,



but liere he is on a strong and safe, a positive ground, a sure
earthly pedestal ; whence his faith may wing herself with advan-
tage, if need he, toward her higher heaven. By it and from it
he feels himself what is called a warm man : and that warmth of
creature comforts in the Cliurch very readily propagates itself
into a corresponding warmth of Christian assm-ance and com-
placency in the creed.

He, like the lark, may rise but never roam,
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home.

Against such a prepossession, what are Eeason, Evidence, and
Common Sense ? A hired advocate in a legal case has to address
a "lairly-fair" judge or jury. He also must therefore put on
some shew of fairness. He must not overstate his protestations.
His general denial tells more from his partial admissions ; and
so the lawyer's professions are not wholly unreserved ; hut the
Churchman's are. He pleads, as it were, for the Pope, and to
the Pope, on the tenets of Popery. He commits himself to a set
or stereotyped standard — ^jurare in verba magistri. He cannot
waive some points and hold others. His profession of faith
binds him to the whole faggot as a stake, and as a whole he
must and does undertake it.

The wealth of the Church is thus a bulwark against all
Eeformation, whether from within or without ; not only of its
creed, but also of its proper code, the ^a^lgate Bible text. A poor
Church, some one says, is a pure one. That does not follow : but
it is less unlikely to be pure, in itself and its belongings;
teachings and texts among them. As things are, we Eeformers
may have to acquiesce in the priest's answer to one who told
him of his blunder. So you say, but I like our old mumpsimus
better than yournewsumpsimus. These mumpsimi are wise in their
generation, and powerful, too : with the stupendous triple power
of superstition, visinertice, and self-interest: working for them in
Church, State, Society, and Education; for of course what is
true of the Church, is true likewise, mainly at least, of her
nurseries — the Almcc Matres, the Universities with their


annexed schools. For these, however, we see somethmg like
the dawn of a better day. Welcome, whenever; we say with
Milton. For unhappily in these Academic groves, the stubborn
old Patriarchal standards, pondere fixa suo, albeit rotten to the
core, insist yet on their supremacy: and by their overshadowing
sway, their negation of light and warmth, and therein, reverently
be it spoken, of God withal, they stifle and stunt all freedom of
growth, all the yearning instinct of young life.

Nunc altoe frondes, et rami matris opacant,
Crescentique adimunt fcetus, uruntque ferentem.

If, further, we look for textual Eeform from without the
Church pale, rather than within it, I fear we shall be dis-
appointed. As the assenters will not, so the dissenters cannot,
undertake it. For this kind of Scriptural learning seems to be
little encouraged among our by-sects. Why, it would be lono- to
state. Their principles, indeed, lead them in many cases, to
distrust or even despise, human learning. The more so, as they
are conscious that this weapon is more powerful in their adver-
sary's hands than in their own. But so, they give him hea\y odds,
and belie, I think, somewhat, their reputation for shrewdness and
worldly wisdom. What if they should find themselves super-
seded, more or less, by some new sect — say Gospellers — who
should take their stand on Christ's simple Gospel ground, and
set up for their standard the true text of His special teachings,
so far as free learning can restore it. For such a sect there is, I
believe, a fair promise and ample field now open. For myself,
whatever else my shortcomings, sectarian bias is not one of them.
I am at least free to regard the one oracle ratlier than its many
interpreters. For my life has been, mainly, American. In my
boyhood at a great English public school, religion with us all
was merely conventional. In ten years' experience I never knew
a boy, nor was there I believe, then and there ever one who really
felt or cared for it. Negative, or at best passive, it had no more
of Christ than of Confucius : nothing indeed of either, nor of any
other soul creed. At the University some better influences


awaited us — or those of us — the few, who were open to them : but
afterwards, in London, the great mud tide of worldliness closed
over us, and shut out the light of heaven. The mischief was not
so much in profession of infidelity as in presumption of ortho-
doxy. AVe were of course true sons, though sleepy ones, of that
kind but somewiiat dozy mother the Church of England. Our
spirit was never stirred by any question, and so it slumbered.

But in America wherever one got any foothold. What is your
Church — your communion ? was one of the first questions asked,
and oftenest repeated. I soon found that I must answer this for
the sake of respectability, if nothing more, and thus I was
brought to consideration. I need not state my convictions there-
upon, but only, as the occasion suggests, that I reached them, or
they me, from honest and earnest research, and not from any
alien, or formal, or foregone conclusions. The absence of a
National Church is here an advantage, one that I never saw
noted. It drives a man to take his ground — to choose among
creeds, and often, more or less, to compare and study them. It
precludes him from the empty pretext of conformity — as of
course — to the Establishment. He cannot cover his ungodliness
and protect himself from disparagement, by that very ready and
accommodating cloak.

But to resume, I am aware that my alterations are some-
times startling: that my method is not over scrupulous — but,
so the Mumpsini will say, sweeping, summary, even subversive —
that my work in short is radical. But the corruption is ra-
dical too, or at least general. That is my only apology ; for
I need no other. Qui dissimulat non sanat morbum. Leni-
tives and palliatives are vain where the surgical knife and
fire are needed. Truth implies thoroughness ; but to deal
merely with particles and omit the weightier matters of the
meaning — to raise questions of ac and et, which the Dunciad so
justly derides, is to make criticism contemptible. Yet such, so
far as I have read, is the spirit and method of Connnentators in
treating this text. But I know little of them, nothing at all of


the latest Germans — those Philistines, to whom our Enolish
Theologians, like the Israelites of old, must go to get their
critical tools sharpened. But even they, with their more disin-
terested fairness and fearlessness, are much too deferential to
MSS., or rather to transcribers, if I may judge them in the main
from special instances. I remember indeed a j^hrase of Luther,
indicative not of caution, but rather of irreverence, in one of his
countrymen. " He paws the Scripture," said Luther, " he routs
in it like a sow in a sack of beans." But the other extreme is
the usual one. Another question is that of discriminative
criticism. Whether tlie New Testament should be reduced for
trial to the same standards as Greek texts generally ? Clearly
not — for there are several classical standards, and they all difier
from those of the Evangelists — which indeed are rather styles,
each unlike the others. Phrases therefore and forms alien
from the Classics may be retained in the Gospels, but with this
reserve — that, to omit Hebraisms which are under their own or-
dinance — some barbarisms found there, such as " 'tis " for " eis,"
may be attributed to the transcriber, who was very likely illi-
terate, rather than to the Author — who, from the sure evidence
of style in the three first Gospels, was clearly not so. Another
reason urged for deference to the Vulgate is more questionable.
We must approach it, some say, with reverence. And if it be
the true Gospel, assuredly we should: but that is tlie disputed
point. Show me an Evangelist's autograph and I shall be more
than ready to revere it: but this or that copy from perhaps a
hundred forecopies, and swarming with all their blunders^
is quite another thing, Why should it be authoritative until
authenticated ? Why more so than any other copy of any other
work? and this although it is not only a mere copy, but
withal a translation. That I believe is not now disputed : and
though such a consideration cannot reasonably impair our
reverence for the Gospel as a whole — since it still, thoucdi a
translation, conveys in the main each author's teacliings — yet
in regard to this or that word or passage, even a thorout^h


believer wlio would have acquiesced faithfully in the original
Divine utterance, though he could not understand it, may often
well contest the human translation as doubtful, or reject it as

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Online LibraryR. E StorerNew Testament : suggestions for reformation of Greek text from the self-conferred papal dictatorship and blind obstructiveness of mediaeval monkish copyists : on principles of logical criticism .. → online text (page 1 of 10)