« Prev Preface Next »


THE reception given by the learned world to the First Volume of this work, as expressed hitherto in smaller reviews and notices, has on the whole been decidedly far from discouraging. All have had some word of encomium on our efforts. Many have accorded praise and signified their agreement, sometimes with unquestionable ability. Some have pronounced adverse opinions with considerable candour and courtesy. Others in opposing have employed arguments so weak and even irrelevant to the real question at issue, as to suggest that there is not after all so much as I anticipated to advance against our case. Longer examinations of this important matter are doubtless impending, with all the interest attaching to them and the judgements involved: but I beg now to offer my acknowledgements for all the words of encouragement that have been uttered.

Something however must be said in reply to an attack made in the Guardian newspaper on May 20, because it represents in the main the position occupied by some members of an existing School. I do not linger over an offhand stricture upon my ‘adhesion to the extravagant claim of a second-century origin for the Peshitto,’ because I am vicontent with the companionship of some of the very first Syriac scholars, and with the teaching given in an unanswered article in the Church Quarterly Review for April, 1895. Nor except in passing do I remark upon a fanciful censure of my account of the use of papyrus in MSS. before the tenth century—as to which the reviewer is evidently not versed in information recently collected, and described for example in Sir E. Maunde Thompson’s Greek and Latin Palaeography, or in Mr. F. G. Kenyon’s Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, and in an article in the just mentioned Review which appeared in October, 1894. These observations and a large number of inaccuracies shew that he was at the least not posted up to date. But what will be thought, when attention is drawn to the fact that in a question whether a singular set of quotations from the early Fathers refer to a passage in St. Matthew or the parallel one in St. Luke, the peculiar characteristic of St. Matthew—‘them that persecute you’—is put out of sight, and both passages (taking the lengthened reading of St. Matthew) are represented as having equally only four clauses? And again, when quotations going on to the succeeding verse in St. Matthew (v. 45) are stated dogmatically to have been wrongly referred by me to that Evangelist? But as to the details of this point in dispute, I beg to refer our readers to pp. 144-153 of the present volume. The reviewer appears also to be entirely unacquainted with the history of the phrase μονογενὴς Θεός. in St. John i. 18, which, as may be read on pp. 215-218, was introduced by heretics and harmonized with viiArian tenets, and was rejected on the other side. That some orthodox churchmen fell into the trap, and like those who in these days are not aware of the pedigree and use of the phrase, employed it even for good purposes, is only an instance of a strange phenomenon. We must not be led only by first impressions as to what is to be taken for the genuine words of the Gospels. Even if phrases or passages make for orthodoxy, to accept them if condemned by evidence and history is to alight upon the quicksands of conjecture.

A curious instance of a fate like this has been supplied by a critic in the Athenaeum, who, when contrasting Dean Burgon’s style of writing with mine to my discredit, quotes a passage of some length as the Dean’s which was really written by me. Surely the principle upheld by our opponents, that much more importance than we allow should be attributed to the ‘Internal evidence of Readings and Documents,’ might have saved him from error upon a piece of composition which characteristically proclaimed its own origin. At all events, after this undesigned support, I am the less inclined to retire from our vantage ground.

But it is gratifying on all accounts to say now, that such interpolations as in the companion volume I was obliged frequently to supply in order to fill up gaps in the several MSS. and in integral portions of the treatise, which through their very frequency would have there made square brackets unpleasant to our readers, are not required so often in this part of the work. Accordingly, except in instances of pure editing or in simple bringing up viiito date, my own additions or insertions have been so marked off. It will doubtless afford great satisfaction to others as well as the admirers of the Dean to know what was really his own writing: and though some of the MSS., especially towards the end of the volume, were not left as he would have prepared them for the press if his life had been prolonged, yet much of the book will afford, on what he regarded as the chief study of his life, excellent examples of his style, so vigorously fresh and so happy in idiomatic and lucid expression.

But the Introduction, and Appendix II on ‘Conflation’ and the ‘Neutral Text,’ have been necessarily contributed by me. I am anxious to invite attention particularly to the latter essay, because it has been composed upon request, and also because—unless it contains some extraordinary mistake—it exhibits to a degree which has amazed me the baselessness of Dr. Hort’s theory.

The manner in which the Dean prepared piecemeal for his book, and the large number of fragments in which he left his materials, as has been detailed in the Preface to the former volume, have necessarily produced an amount of repetition which I deplore. To have avoided it entirely, some of the MSS. must have been rewritten. But in one instance I discovered when it was too late that after searching for, and finding with difficulty and treating, an example which had not been supplied, I had forestalled a subsequent examination of the same passage from his abler hand. However I hope that in nearly all, if not all cases, each treatment involves some new contribution to the question ixdiscussed; and that our readers will kindly make allowance for the perplexity which such an assemblage of separate papers could not but entail.

My thanks are again due to the Rev. G. H. Gwilliam, B.D., Fellow of Hertford College, for much advice and suggestion, which he is so capable of giving, and for his valuable care in looking through all the first proofs of this volume; to ‘M. W.,’ Dean Burgon’s indefatigable secretary, who in a pure labour of love copied out the text of the MSS. before and after his death; also to the zealous printers at the Clarendon Press, for help in unravelling intricacies still remaining in them.

This treatise is now commended to the fair and candid consideration of readers and reviewers. The latter body of men should remember that there was perhaps never a time when reviewers were themselves reviewed by many intelligent readers more than they are at present. I cannot hope that all that we have advanced will be finally adopted, though my opinion is unfaltering as resting in my belief upon the Rock; still less do I imagine that errors may not be discovered in our work. But I trust that under Divine Blessing some not unimportant contribution has been made towards the establishment upon sound principles of the reverent criticism of the Text of the New Testament. And I am sure that, as to the Dean’s part in it, this trust will be ultimately justified.



Sept. 2, 1896.

« Prev Preface Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection