« Prev Chapter III. Accidental Causes of Corruption. II.… Next »




NO one who finds the syllable ΟΙ recurring six times over in about as many words,—e. g. καὶ ἐγένετο, ὡς ἀπῆλθον . . . ΟΙ ἄγγελΟΙ, καὶ ΟΙ ἄνθρωπΟΙ ΟΙ πΟΙμένες εἶπον,—is surprised to learn that MSS. of a certain type exhibit serious perturbation in that place. Accordingly, BLΞ: leave out the words καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι; and in that mutilated form the modern critical editors are contented to exhibit St. Luke ii. 15. One would have supposed that Tischendorf’s eyes would have been opened when he noticed that in his own Codex (א) one word more (οἱ) is dropped,—whereby nonsense is made of the passage (viz. of οἱ ἄγγελοι ποιμένες). Self-evident it is that a line with a ‘like ending’ has been omitted by the copyist of some very early codex of St. Luke’s Gospel; which either read,—

}or else{ ΟΙ ΑΓΓΕΛΟΙ

Another such place is found in St. John vi. 11. The 37 Evangelist certainly described the act of our Saviour on a famous occasion in the well-known words,—καὶ εὐχαριστήσας


τοις [μαθηταις,

οι δε μαθηται

τοις] ανακειμενοις.

The one sufficient proof that St. John did so write, being the testimony of the MSS. Moreover, we are expressly assured by St. Matthew (xiv. 19), St. Mark (vi. 41), and St. Luke (ix. 16), that our Saviour’s act was performed in this way. It is clear however that some scribe has suffered his eye to wander from τοις in l. 2 to τοις in l. 4,—whereby St. John is made to say that our Saviour himself distributed to the 5000. The blunder is a very ancient one; for it has crept into the Syriac, Bohairic, and Gothic versions, besides many copies of the. Old Latin; and has established itself in the Vulgate. Moreover some good Fathers (beginning with Origen) so quote the place. But such evidence is unavailing to support אABLΠ, the early reading of being also contradicted by the fourth hand in the seventh century against the great cloud of witnesses,—beginning with D and including twelve other uncials, beside the body of the cursives, the Ethiopic and two copies of the Old Latin, as well as Cyril Alex.

Indeed, there does not exist a source of error which has proved more fatal to the transcribers of MSS. than the proximity of identical, or nearly identical, combinations of letters. And because these are generally met with in the final syllables of words, the error referred to is familiarly known by a Greek name which denotes ‘likeness of ending’ (Homoeoteleuton). The eye of a scribe on reverting from his copy to the original before him is of necessity apt sometimes to alight on the same word, or what looks like the same word, a little lower down. 38The consequence is obvious. All that should have come in between gets omitted, or sometimes duplicated.

It is obvious, that however inconvenient it may prove to find oneself in this way defrauded of five, ten, twenty, perhaps thirty words, no very serious consequence for the most part ensues. Nevertheless, the result is often sheer nonsense. When this is the case, it is loyally admitted by all. A single example may stand for a hundred. [In St. John vi. 55, that most careless of careless transcripts, the Sinaitic א omits on a most sacred subject seven words, and the result hardly admits of being characterized. Let the reader judge for himself. The passage stands thus:—ἡ γὰρ σάρξ μου ἀληθῶς ἐστι βρῶσις, καὶ τὸ αἷμά μου ἀληθῶς ἐστιν πόσις The transcriber of א by a very easy mistake let his eye pass from one ἀληθῶς to another, and characteristically enough the various correctors allowed the error to remain till it was removed in the seventh century, though the error issued in nothing less than ‘My Flesh is drink indeed.’ Could that MS. have undergone the test of frequent use?]

But it requires very little familiarity with the subject to be aware that occasions must inevitably be even of frequent occurrence when the result is calamitous, and even perplexing, in the extreme. The writings of Apostles and Evangelists, the Discourses of our Divine Lord Himself, abound in short formulae; and the intervening matter on such occasions is constantly an integral sentence, which occasionally may be discovered from its context without evident injury to the general meaning of the place. Thus [ver. 14 in St. Matt. xxiii. was omitted in an early age, owing to the recurrence of οὐαὶ ὑμῖν at the beginning, by some copyists, and the error was repeated in the Old Latin versions. It passed to Egypt, as some of the Bohairic copies, the Sahidic, and Origen testify. The Vulgate is not quite consistent: and of course אBDLZ, 39a concord of bad witnesses especially in St. Matthew, follow suit, in company with the Armenian, the Lewis, and five or more cursives, enough to make the more emphatic the condemnation by the main body of them. Besides the verdict of the cursives, thirteen uncials (as against five) including Φ and Σ, the Peshitto, Harkleian, Ethiopic, Arabian, some MSS. of the Vulgate, with Origen (iii. 838 (only in Lat.)); Chrysostom (vii. 707 (bis); ix. 755); Opus Imperf. 185 (bis); 186 (bis); John Damascene (ii. 517); Theophylact (i. 124); Hilary (89; 725); Jerome (iv. 276; v. 52; vi. 138; vii. 185)].

Worst of all, it will sometimes of necessity happen that such an omission took place at an exceedingly remote period; (for there have been careless scribes in every age:) and in consequence the error is pretty sure to have propagated itself widely. It is observed to exist (suppose) in several of the known copies; and if,—as very often is the case,—it is discoverable in two or more of the ‘old uncials,’ all hope of its easy extirpation is at an end. Instead of being loyally recognized as a blunder,—which it clearly is,—it is forthwith charged upon the Apostle or Evangelist as the case may be. In other words, it is taken for granted that the clause in dispute can have had no place in the sacred autograph. It is henceforth treated as an unauthorized accretion to the text. Quite idle henceforth becomes the appeal to the ninety-nine copies out of a hundred which contain the missing words. I proceed to give an instance of my meaning.

Our Saviour, having declared (St. Matt. xix. 9) that whosoever putteth away his wife εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην, μοιχᾶται. Those five words are not found in Codd. אDLS, nor in several copies of the Old Latin nor in some copies of the Bohairic, and the Sahidic. Tischendorf and Tregelles accordingly reject them.


And yet it is perfectly certain that the words are genuine. Those thirty-one letters probably formed three lines in the oldest copies of all. Hence they are observed to exist in the Syriac (Peshitto, Harkleian and Jerusalem), the Vulgate, some copies of the Old Latin, the Armenian, and the Ethiopic, besides at least seventeen uncials (including ΒΦΣ), and the vast majority of the cursives. So that there can be no question of the genuineness of the clause.

A somewhat graver instance of omission resulting from precisely the same cause meets us a little further on in the same Gospel. The threefold recurrence of των in the expression ΤΝ ψιχίων ΤΝ πιπτόν ΤωΝ (St. Luke xvi. 20, has (naturally enough) resulted in the dropping of the words ψιχίων τῶν out of some copies. Unhappily the sense is not destroyed by the omission. We are not surprised therefore to discover that the words are wanting in—אBL: or to find that אBL are supported here by copies of the Old Latin, and (as usual) by the Egyptian versions, nor by Clemens Alex.4949    P. 232. and the author of the Dialogus5050    Ap. Orig. i. 827.. Jerome, on the other hand, condemns the Latin reading, and the Syriac Versions are observed to approve of Jerome’s verdict, as well as the Gothic. But what settles the question is the fact that every known Greek MS., except those three, witnesses against the omission: besides Ambrose5151    Ambrose i. 659, 1473, 1491:—places which shew how insecure would be an inference drawn from i. 543 and 665., Jerome5252    Hieron. v. 966; vi. 969., Eusebius5353    Ap. Mai ii. 516, 520. Alex., Gregory5454    i. 370. Naz., Asterius5555    P. 12., Basil5656    ii. 169., Ephraim5757    ii. 142. Syr., Chrysostom5858    i. 715, 720; ii. 662 (bis), 764; vii. 779., and Cyril5959    v2. 149 (luc. text, 524). of Alexandria. Perplexing it is notwithstanding to discover, and distressing to have to record, that all the recent Editors of the Gospels are more or less agreed in 41abolishing ‘the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.’

[The foregoing instances afford specimens of the influence of accidental causes upon the transmission from age to age of the Text of the Gospels. Before the sense of the exact expressions of the Written Word was impressed upon the mind of the Church,—when the Canon was not definitely acknowledged, and the halo of antiquity had not yet gathered round writings which had been recently composed,—severe accuracy was not to be expected. Errors would be sure to arise, especially from accident, and early ancestors would be certain to have a numerous progeny; besides that evil would increase, and slight deviations would give rise in the course of natural development to serious and perplexing corruptions.

In the next chapter, other kinds of accidental causes will come under consideration.]

« Prev Chapter III. Accidental Causes of Corruption. II.… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection