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AND ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
"Now, certainly it cannot rationally be conceived, that the apostles should be ignorant of that assistance by which they were enabled to indite these records; if then they were assured of that assistance of the Holy Spirit, which they challenged, then must the gospel, which they both preached and indited, be received as the word of God and Christ, the mind of Christ, the gospel of God and Christ, the mystery of God the Father, and of Christ, the commandment and the testimony of God, which is the thing I am concerned to make good; and then it highly must concern all persons, to be mindful of the commandments of the apostles of our Lord and Saviour, 2 Pet. iii. 2. If they had no such assurance of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they did grossly impose upon the world, in thus pretending that they preached the gospel by the assistance of the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven. If they were not assured that in those writings, they delivered only those doctrines which God required all men to believe, those precepts he required them to do, they must be very confident in daring to make this the preface to some of their epistles, Paul an apostle, according to the will and the commandment of God, 1 Cor. i. l. 2 Cor. i. 1. Eph. i. 1. Col. i. 1. 2 Tim. i. I. and saying, with so much assurance, If any be a prophet, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of God, 1 Cor. xiv. 37. and much more, in declaring to all Christians thus-We are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us; by this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, 1 John iv. 6. For this seems equal to what their Master himself said in the like words, Why do you not believe me?. He that is of God, heareth the words of God; you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God, John viii. 46. 47. Yea, they must be false witnesses of God, by styling human writings the word, the gospel, the command, the testimony, the mind, the mystery of God and Christ; and by requiring others to receive it not as the word of man, but as the word of God, even that word by which they must be judged at the last day, Rom. ii. 16. which again runs as high as those words of Christ, The word that I have spoken, shall judge him that believes it not, at the last day, John xii. 48.
"2dly. They who, when they indited these writings, were assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth indited these records by Divine assistance; for the things God spake to his servants the prophets, are styled the things which I commanded, ev πveuplati pov, by my Spirit, Zach. i. 6. but the apostles were thus assisted; this they in terms, or by just consequence, assert. For St. Peter says of them all, in general, that they preached the gospel by the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, 1 Pet. i. 12. And is not this as much as he said of the prophets of the Old Testament, when he declares they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost? 2 Pet. i. 1. St. Paul asserts, in the same general expression, that those great things belonging to the gospel which neither eye had seen, nor ear had heard, nor heart was able to conceive; God had revealed to them by the Spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 10. that they had received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they might know the things which were freely given to Christians of God; and that these things they taught, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, ver. 12, 13. In which place the very design of the apostle is to prove, against the Greek philosophers, how unreasonable it was to reject the gospel, because it came not in the way of demonstration to human reason, but by way of revelation from God; and so required faith, as of necessity it must do, since it contained such things concerning the design of Christ's salutary passion, his resurrection, ascension, and a future judgment at the general resurrection, which no natural man could know by the utmost improvement of his human reason; and such discoveries of the counsel of God, concerning man's justification, which depended upon his good pleasure; which was known only to that Holy Spirit which searcheth all things, even the deep things of God. It is this Spirit, says he, that we have received, and by this Spirit hath God revealed these things unto us, and we accordingly do teach them to the world, not in the words which human wisd om teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing the revelations made to us by the Spirit, with the revelations made to the prophets in the Old Testament, by the same Spirit; and finding that the revelations made to us do far exceed what was discovered to them; for, what the eye of those prophets had not seen in vision, or their ear heard in dreams; nor can the heart of man conceive, without a revelation, even these things hath God revealed to us by his Spirit. Thus did
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS,
they speak the word of God in demonstration of the Spirit: whence he declares, that if any man despise their testimony or instructions, he despised not man only, but God also, who had given them his Spirit, 1 Thess. iv. 8. they being not sufficient for this work of themselves, but their sufficiency was of God; who, by this ministra tion of the Spirit, had made them able ministers of the New Testament, 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6. And thus, says he, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, (and who illuminated the prophets by shining upon their imagination and their understanding) hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. iv. 5. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, he declares, that the mystery of Christ was made known to him by immediate revelation, and not to him only, but to the rest of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament; for God, says he, hath made known this revelation to us, the apostles and prophets, by the Spirit, Eph. iii. 3, 5. And hence he speaks to the Corinthians in this language, If any man be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of God, 1 Cor. xiv. 37. Here then the argument runs thus:
"They who had a like assistance to that of the prophets under the Old Testament, must write by the direction of the Holy Ghost, for holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; and the scriptures they indited were of Divine inspiration; and their words are cited in the New Testament, as spoken by the Holy Ghost. But the apostles had a like assistance; for, in the words now cited, they style themselves apostles and prophets: they challenge a like illumination, or shining of God upon their hearts, a like revelation of their gospel by the Holy Spirit; and they pretend to teach it to others, in words taught them by the Holy Ghost. In all which sayings, they must be guilty of a false testimony concerning God, and must impose upon the church of Christ, if no such assistance of the Holy Ghost was imparted to them.
"3dly. These sacred records, which were indited to be a standing rule of faith to Christians throughout all ages of the world, the gospel contained in these Scriptures being made known to all nations for the obedience of faith, Rom. vi. 26. they must in all things propounded in them, to our faith, contain a divine testimony, or a revelation of the will of God. For as human faith depends upon the testimony of man; so divine faith is that, which depends upon the testimony of God. And as obedience to men consists in doing the will of men, so our obedience to God consists in conformity to the will of God. Again, If we must all be judged by this law of liberty, Jam. ii. 12. if Christ at the last day will judge the secrets of men's hearts, according to the gospel of St. Paul, Rom. ii. 16. If he will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance of all that obey not his gospel, then must this gospel, and this law of liberty, be a rule of faith until Christ's second coming; for, upon that account alone, can men be bound under this dreadful penalty, to yield obedience to it, and be judged by it.”
The whole of Dr. Whitby's important General Preface, from which the above is extracted, is well worth the attention of the Reader.
§ II. Of VARIOUS READINGS in the Scriptures, and the sources whence they sprung. Before I proceed to give an account of the principal Manuscripts, Ancient Versions, and Ecclesiastical Writers, frequently referred to in this Work; it may be necessary to say a little on the Various Readings of the Old and New Testaments in general, and the manner in which they originated; as several of my Readers may not have had the opportunity of acquainting themselves with that branch of Biblical Criticism, in which this subject is particularly discussed.
By a Various Reading, I mean a word existing either in the Ancient Versions, or in Ancient MSS. or in both, different from the word in the commonly received and printed Text, whether of the Old or the New Testament. The sources whence these are derived, are those ancient Versions and MSS. the chief of which are enumerated and described in the following lists.
But it may be asked, of what authority are these Versions and Manuscripts? And why appeal to them from and sometimes against the commonly received text?
Into the discussion of this question, I cannot minutely enter; it is not the province of a Commentator.
AND ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
But lest it should be supposed that I wished to elude it, I would simply observe, 1. That before the invention of Printing, the whole of the Sacred Writings, both of the Old and New Testaments, must have existed either in MS. or by Oral Tradition. 2. If they existed originally by Oral Tradition, they must have been, at one time or other, reduced from that into a MS. or written form. 3. As these records were considered of general importance, being a revelation from God to man, concerning his salvation; Manuscripts would be multiplied, as the people increased, who professed to believe that these writings were divinely inspired. 4. Wherever the Jews were dispersed, they carried copies of the Law and the Prophets with them; and the Christians did the same with the Gospels, Epistles, &c. And as these copies were formed by skilful or unskilful hands, so they would be less or more accurate in reference to the originals, from which they were taken. 5. If a MS. which had been carelessly copied, became the source whence others were taken, they could not be expected to express a better text than was found in that from which they were copied. 6. When such a MS. was collated with others more carefully copied, various readings, or differences between such MSS. would necessarily appear. 7. As some of these readings would appear irreconcileable or contradictory, subsequent scribes would alter or amend from conjecture, where they could not have access to the original MSS. and this would give birth to another class of various readings. 8. When, after the invention of Printing, the Sacred Writings were multiplied by means of the press, the copy, thus prepared, must be one of those MSS. or one containing a collation of various MSS. and the printed edition must, of course, give the text of one only MS. or a text formed from the various readings of several. 9. As, at the epoch of the invention of printing, great ignorance prevailed both in literature and religion, it was not likely that the best helps, even had they been at hand, would have been critically used; and therefore, those primitive editions must necessaarily have been, in many respects, imperfect; and these imperfections could only be removed in subsequent editions, by a careful collation of the most ancient, most authentic, and most correctly written MSS. 10. As such MSS. exist in different places, widely remote from each other, in various parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa'; it must be a work of considerable time to find them out, collate and extract their various readings; communicate them to the public in separate editions, or in critical dissertations; and much time must necessarily elapse before the public would feel the necessity of having one authentic edition of the original texts formed from such separate editions and critical dissertations. 11, All VERSIONS, or translations of the Scriptures into the language of the different nations which had received the word of God as the rule of their faith and practice, must have been made, previously to the invention of printing, from a MS. or MSS. such as the translator had at hand: therefore, such Versions could be no more than a faithful translation of such MS. or MSS. 12. As the MSS. differ among themselves, from the reasons assigned above, so that different MSS. would exhibit different readings in certain cases, though the text in the main was the same in all; so the VERSIONS must differ among themselves, according to the particular MSS. from which they were taken. Hence both the MSS. and the Versions would necessarily contain various readings; and these readings must be important and valuable, in proportion to their agreement with the autograph from which they were all originally derived: and, upon the whole, the most ancient and carefully written MS. might be considered as containing the purest text. 13. All the Versions of all countries differ, less or more, among themselves; which is a proof that they were formed from different MSS, and that those Versions exhibited the readings which were contained in those MSS. 14. And it may be added, that the most ancient Versions were likely to contain the purest text, because made from the most ancient MSS. which, we may fairly presume, were the most accurate copies of the original; as, in that case, the stream could not be rendered turbid, by a long and circuitous flow from the fountain. This the Reader may conceive to have been the origin of various readings, both in the Manuscripts, and ancient Versions, previously to the invention of Printing. Most copies of the Hebrew Bible have been taken from the same MSS. as the subsequent editions have ge nerally copied the preceding ones, with very little alteration in any thing that could be considered essential to the text. The first editions of the Greek Testament, viz. the Complutensian and the first of Erasmus, were taken from different MSS.; but these sources were in general not the most pure and correct, as the text formed
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS
from them sufficiently proves: and hence, most succeeding editors have found it necessary to make a variety of alterations and amendments in the editions which they have published from such MSS. as they had the oppor tunity of collating. Hence very few of these editions agree perfectly among themselves; consequently, the necessity of forming one general and authentic edition, from a careful, judicious, and conscientious collation of all the ancient MSS. and Versions known to exist. Preparations for such an edition of the HEBREW BIBLE have been made by Kennicott, and De Rossi. For the SEPTUAGINT, by Wechel (i. e. in the edition printed by him) Lambert Bos, Dr. Holmes, and his present Continuators at Oxford. For the GREEK TESTAMENT, by Robert Stephens, Bp. Fell, Dr. Mill, Bengel, Wetstein, Birch, Alter, Matthaï, and Griesbach. We there fore possess, at present, materials, from which nearly immaculate editions of the Sacred Writings may be formed; so that the Hebrew and Greek Originals, and indeed, all Versions faithfully deduced from them, may appear in all their simplicity, energy, and splendour. It is to these materials, as they exist in the above collections, that I am indebted for the various readings of Hebrew and Greek MSS. supported by the ancient Versions, which I have introduced in these Notes.
Notwithstanding all the helps which the various MSS. and ancient Versions afford for the illustration of the sacred text; the Reader must not imagine that in those MSS. and Versions which do contain the whole of the sacred text, there is any essential defect in matters that relate to the faith and practice, and consequently to the salvation, of the Christian:-There is no such MS. there is no such Version. So, has the Divine Providence ordered it, that although a number of mistakes have been committed by careless copyists, as well as by careless printers, not one essential truth of God has been injured or supprest. In this respect, all is perfect: and the way of the Most High is made so plain, even in the poorest copies, that the wayfaring man though a fool, utterly destitute of deep learning and critical abilities, need not err therein.
All the OMISSIONS of the ancient Manuscripts put together, would not countenance the omission of one essential doctrine of the gospel, relative to faith or morals: and all the ADDITIONS countenanced by the whole mass of MSS. already collated, do not introduce a single point essential either to faith or manners, beyond what may be found in the most imperfect editions, from the Complutensian Editors down to the Elzevirs. And though for the beauty, emphasis and critical perfection of the letter of the New Testament, a new edition of the Greek Testament, formed on such a plan as that of Professor Griesbach, is greatly to be desired; yet from such a one Infidelity can expect no help; false doctrine, no support; and even true Religion no accession to its excellence; though a few beams may be thus added to its lustre.
The multitude of various readings, found in MSS. should no more weaken any man's faith in the Divine word, than the multitude of typographical errors found in printed editions of the Scriptures. Nor indeed can it be otherwise, unless God were to interpose, and miraculously prevent every Scribe from making a false letter, and every Compositor from mistaking a word in the text he was copying. It is enough that God absolutely preserves the whole truth, in such a way as is consistent with his moral government of the world. The preservation of the jots and the tittles in every Transcriber's copy, and in every Printer's form, by a miraculous act of Almighty power, is not to be expected; and is not necessary to the accomplishment of the purposes of Providence and Grace.
On this subject the intelligent Reader will be pleased with the opinion of that very eminent critic Dr. Bentley: Speaking in referrence to those who were needlessly alarmed at the multitude of various readings collected by Dr. Mill, and said to amount to 30,000, he says, "Not frighted with the present 30,000 various readings, 1, for my own part, and as I believe many others, would not lament if out of the old MSS. yet untouched, 10,000 more were faithfully collected: some of which, without question, would render the text more - beautiful, just and exact, though of no consequence to the MAIN of Religion: nay perhaps wholly synonymous in the view of common readers; and quite insensible in any modern Version." Philaleuth. Lipsiens. p. 90.
After such a testimony as this, from one of the greatest scholars and critics of his age, it is hoped that no minor person will hazard a contrary assertion; and that prejudices against the collation of MSS. and collec
AND ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
tions of various readings, will not be entertained by the honest and well-meaning: as such may see at once, both the propriety and necessity of such measures.
In the MSS. of the Greek Testament, Critics have noticed several which have an affinity to each other. This affinity has been denominated familia, family, by Bengel; Recensio Revision, by Griesbach; and Edition, by Michaelis. These editions depend on the diversity of time and place; and are divided by Griesbach into three: 1. The WESTERN Edition or that formerly used where the Latin language was spoken; with this agree the old Itala, the Vulgate, and the quotations found in the Latin Fathers.
2. The ALEXANDRINE, or Egyptian Edition;-with this agree the quotations found in the works of Origen ; and the Coptic Version.
3. The Byzantine, or EASTERN Edition;—that in general use at Constantinople, after this city had become the capital of the Eastern empire. The greater number of the many MSS. written by the monks on Mount Athos are evidently of this edition. To this edition may be referred the quotations found in St. Chrysostom, St. Theophylact, Bishop of Bulgaria, and the Slavonic or Russian Version. The readings of this edition, are those which are generally found in the printed text of the Greek Testament. All these Recensiones, or Editions, belong to ages prior to the eighth century, according to Griesbach.
To these Michaelis adds a fourth, called,
4. The EDESSENE Edition, which comprehends those MSS. from which the Peshito or old Syriac Version was made, though no MS. of this edition now remains. The Philoxenian Syriac Version, was corrected from MSS. found in the library at Alexandria. Any reading supported by the authority of these different editions, possesses the highest degree of probability; and may be, in general, fairly taken for the word written by the inspired Penman. This is a general rule, to which there will be found very few exceptions.
The propriety of this classification is questioned in a very able pamphlet just published, by Dr. Richard Laurence, intituled Remarks on the Systematical Classification of MSS. adopted by Griesbach, in his Edition of the -Greek Testament. 8vo. Oxford, 1814. To this pamphlet I must refer the critical reader.
I shall now proceed to give an account of the most ancient Manuscripts and Versions which have been collated for the four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles.
§ III. Account of Manuscripts in Uncial Characters, referred to by the letters ABCD, &c. in this Work. A. The Codex Alexandrinus, now in the British Museum, sent in 1628, from Cyril Lucaris, Patriarch of Constantinople, by Sir Thomas Roe, as a present to Charles I. It is one of the most reputable MSS. known to exist; and is stated to have been written so early as the fourth century; though others assign it a much later date, and bring so low as the seventh. Besides the New Testament, it contains the Septuagint Version of the Old, formerly edited by Dr. Grabe. A fac simile of the New Testament part has been published by Dr. Woide: London, 1786, fol. And lately a fac simile of the Psalms, by the Rev. H. H. Baber, of the British Museum, fol. 1812, who is now preparing the Pentateuch for the Press.
It is worthy of remark that this MS. follows in the Gospels the Byzantine edition: in the Epistles of St. Paul, the Alexandrine: and in the Acts and Catholic Epistles, the Western edition. With this MS. the Syriac, Coptic and Æthiopic Versions have a remarkable coincidence.
B. The Codex Vaticanus, No. 1209, containing the Greek Version of the Septuagint, which was published at Rome by Cardinal Caraffa, fol. 1587. The second volume of this MS. contains the New Testament. It is a most ancient and valuable MS. and is supposed to be older than the Codex Alexandrinus; and to have been written some time in the fourth century, and before the time of St. Jerome: others refer it to the fifth or sixth century. It is now in the royal library at Paris. There is a remarkable agreement between this MS. and the Codices D. and L. and it is supposed as a whole, to be the most correct MS. we have. Michaelis prefers it greatly to the Codex Alexandrinus.