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the translator, than in any other book. His business is not to embellish, and not even to give his own explanation of passages, but to put his reader in possession of the plain word of God. He must not sacrifice correctness to beauty; he must not aim at what he thinks the spirit of the passage, while he neglects the letter; because, in so doing, he may have missed its true meaning; he may have mistaken the nature of the allusion, and then he entails his own mistake upon posterity. But if he translates accurately, tho the passage may be obscure to himself and to his readers, yet perhaps the information, brought home by some traveller who has observed the custom of eastern nations, or the discovery of some book of antiquity, may throw light upon it, and enable us to perceive beauties which were before concealed, and which would have remained in darkness, had the translator taken the liberty which translators of other books are permitted to take with impunity.
Making then due allowance for these several circumstances, which binder us from perceiving many of the excellences of Scripture, we are still constrained to acknowledge that there is no book that can stand à comparison with the Bible--none, which labors under such great disadvantages to the developement of its peculiar beauties of composition, and which yet rises far above them all, exhibiting those specimens in every style of writing and of thinking, which are above all imitation and praise.
From the Introduction to the Improved Version of the New Testament by a Society in England.
MEANS OF IMPROVING THE RECEIVED TEXT.-ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS.-VATICAN, ALEXANDRINE, CAMBRIDGE,
The books of the New Testament, having been more highly valued, more generally circulated, more attentively studied, more accurately transcribed, and more frequently cited, than the works of any other ancient
author, the Text is consequently less corrupted, and the means of correcting and restoring it are far more abundant, than of any other work of equal antiquity.
1. The first and best source of materials for improving the Text is the collation of Ancient Manuscripts. The early editors of the New Testament possessed but few manuscripts; and those of inferior value. Those of the Complutensian editors are destroyed, but they were not numerous, nor of great account. Erasmus consulted only five or six; and R. Stevens fifteen. Beza indeed possessed two of the most ancient and valuable manuscripts now extant, the Cambridge and the Clermont; but he made very little use of them. So that the Received Text rests upon the authority of no more than twenty or thirty manuscripts, most of which are of little note.
But since the Received Text was completed by the Elzevir edition of 1624, upwards of Three Hundred Manuscripts, either of the whole or of different parts of the New Testament, have been collated by learned men, with much care, industry, and skill. Of these manuscripts some are of far greater antiquity and authority, than any of those upon which the Received Text is foun ded; Beza's manuscripts only excepted. From these manuscripts a vast number of various readings have been extracted, by the assistance of which the Received Text has been greatly improved.
Ancient manuscripts are found to consist of three distinct classes, or editions; the copies of each edition agreeing, in the main, in the readings peculiar to it. The first is the Alexandrine edition, which agrees with the citations of Clement and Origen in the second and third century. To this edition belong the Vatican, Ephrem, and some other valuable manuscripts; also the Coptic, Ethiopic, and other ancient versions. The second is the Western edition. It agrees with the citations
of Tertullian and Cyprian, with the Vatican copy of the Gospel of Matthew, also with the Sahidic and old Italian versions, and was in use in Africa and Italy, and in the western provinces of the Roman empire. The third is the edition of Constantinople, and is supported by the Alexandrine and many other manuscripts : it agrees with the citations of the ecclesiastical writers in Greece and Asia Minor in the fourth and fifth centuries, and it is the edition which most nearly coincides with the modern Received Text.*
Ancient manuscripts are commonly written upon parchment. The most ancient are written in what are called uncial or square capital letters. In some copies the ink has been effaced, and the works of some later author have been written upon the same parchment: but the form of the original letters still remains distinguishable even under the more modern writing. Very few manuscripts contain the whole New Testament; and the most ancient are often mutilated and imperfect, and usually contain many corrections: but whether these corrections are improvements or otherwise, cannot easily be ascertained.
Those manuscripts which are most ancient, and of the highest reputation, are,
1. The VATICAN manuscript, which was formerly preserved at Rome in the Vatican Library, but is now moved to the imperial Library at Paris. The earliest date assigned to this manuscript is the third century; the latest is the fifth or sixth. It is written in large úncial letters, and originally contained the whole of the Old and New Testament. Some of the last leaves are wanting. The ink in some places is faded, and the letters have been retouched by a skilful and faithful hand. The various readings of this manuscript were published at the latter end of the last century, after a very careful
collation by Professor Birch of Copenhagen; and form an inestimable addition to the treasure of sacred criticism.
2. The ALEXANDRINE Manuscript was presented by Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, and afterwards of Constantinople, to Charles the First, king of England, and is now deposited in the British Museum. A fac-simile of this manuscript was published by Dr. Woide, A. D. 1786. It was probably written in Egypt: it consists of four volumes, containing both the Old Testament and the New, in the large uncial character. Dr. Woide conjectures that it was written in the latter end of the fourth century; but some critics bring it down as low as the sixth.
3. The CAMBRIDGE manuscript, OF CODEX BEZE, contains the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. It is written very fair, and in the large uncial letters. This manuscript yields in antiquity to none but the Vatican, and is supposed to have been used as a public copy for reading in the church. Theodore Beza made some use of it for his edition of the New Testament, and afterwards gave it to the University of Cambridge, where it is now deposited in the public library. A splendid fac-simile of this manuscript was published A. D. 1796, under the auspices of the University, by Dr. Kipling.
4. The CLERMONT Manuscript contains the Epistles of Paul; the Epistle to the Hebrews is written by a later hand. This manuscript also belonged to Beza, who professed to have received it from Clermont in Beauvaisis, and who made use of it in his edition of the Greek Testament. It is now deposited in the Imperial Library at Paris. It was long supposed to be a second volume of the Cambridge manuscript, but this is discovered to be a mistake. It is written in the large uncial letters; and is assigned by critics to the seventh century.
5. The EPHREM manuscript is in the Imperial Library at Paris. It was written upon vellum in large and elegant characters, the ink of which was effaced with great care to make room for the works of Ephrem the Syrian, a writer of some note in the sixth century. The original characters are, however, in many places legible under the writing of Ephrem's Works. This, which Griesbach calls a most ancient and excellent manuscript, lay for many years unnoticed, and was first discovered by Dr. Allix in the beginning of the eighteenth century; since which time it has been repeatedly and accurately examined by the learned, and particularly by Wetstein. The Ephrem manuscript is of high antiquity, at least of the seventh century, and probably much earlier. It originally contained the whole Old and New Testament, but many leaves are lost; the rest are tacked together in great disorder, and many passages are totally illegible.
Besides these, about twenty other manuscripts, in arge letters, of different portions of the New Testanent, have been collated, and some hundreds in small characters, many of which are in high estimation. But those described above are of the highest antiquity and repute, and are the only manuscripts explicitly referred to in the Notes of this Edition.*
Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. chap. viii. sec. 6; Griesbach's Smybola Criticæ, vol. 1.
The following is a copy of a letter dictated by Salmon Dutton, Esq. of Cavendish, since deceased, to Rev. Hosea Ballou, of Boston, which was written verbatim from his own lips. It is now published in the Christian Repository according to his request. The Reply was taken from the Universalist Magazine, in which both these pieces first appeared.
Cavendish, May 7, 1824. These are to inform you of the present situation of my