A Review of “Our Authorized Bible Vindicated,” by B. G. Wilkinson

19/30

Section II: On the Bible MSS in General

On Catholic influence.—So much is said by the author about the “pure Greek text of Erasmus,” about the mutilating and corrupting of other texts, and especially about Romanizing and Modernizing influences being manifest in the MSS used and the translation made by the Revisers of the King James Version of the Bible, that it is necessary to give some attention to Greek MSS in general before dealing with the scriptures cited by the author to prove his contention. He stakes all on the pureness and integrity of Erasmus’ Greek Testament, endeavoring to show that Greek MSS came down uncorrupted through the centuries from the apostles by way of Syria, Constantinople, and the Waldenses, into the hands of Erasmus, while another stream of mutilated and corrupted MSS came down via Rome and the papacy. RABV 43.1

Without in any sense desiring to depreciate the work of Erasmus in the part he acted in bringing out in available form the Greek text of the New Testament scriptures, nor the influence this work had on the Reformation and the circulation of the Bible among the common people, nevertheless the author’s handling of the whole question of texts and versions makes it necessary to bring out many facts which he ignores. Without desiring, either, to discredit the work of Catholic scholars on the texts and versions, it is necessary also, in view of the author’s contentions, to state the following facts bearing upon the Catholic setting of Erasmus and his work: RABV 43.2

1. Erasmus himself was a Catholic. RABV 43.3

2. His own Bible was the Catholic Vulgate, both before and after he issued his Greek Testament, and he printed the Vulgate along with his Greek Testament in the second edition. RABV 43.4

3. He dedicated his Greek Testament to Pope Leo X, and printed the latter’s letter of approval in his second edition. RABV 43.5

4. Erasmus’ Greek Text was not the first one printed, though it was first to go into circulation. RABV 44.1

5. The first Greek text was printed by Cardinal Ximenes in 1514, two years before Erasmus’ first edition came out in 1516, but was not generally circulated till 1522, owing to the death of the Cardinal in 1517. RABV 44.2

6. Erasmus knew of Cardinal Ximenes’ Greek text, known as the Complutensian, was in correspondence with the Cardinal’s chief editor Stunica, and used the Complutensian to make over 100 corrections in his own fourth edition. RABV 44.3

7. Cardinal Ximenes had a number of scholars at work on his edition of the Bible in the original as early as 1502, while Erasmus worked alone on his text for publication for less than a year, and according to his own testimony, did the work hastily, to aid his employer in outstripping the Ximenes’ edition in circulation. RABV 44.4

The facts recited here will be found in authoritative quotations that follow pertaining to the Received Text. They are presented here for the purpose of showing that if Catholic editorship by Erasmus, his use of the Catholic Vulgate, his use of the Catholic Complutensian text of Cardinal Ximenes in correcting the mother-edition of the Received Text, his dedication of the whole work to Pope Leo, and his printing the Pope’s imprimatur in his second edition, could result in “a pure Greek text,” as the author affirms and repeats, what can be said of the work of 25 English scholars and 12 American scholars on the Revised Version over a period of ten years when not a soul of them was a Catholic, when no change was made in the text without a two-thirds vote, and when they worked under the pledge that “no article of faith, no moral precept, will be disturbed, no sectarian views will be introduced?” 2 RABV 44.5

On Erasmus’ use of MSS.—Again, the author has much to say in defense of the meager MSS used by Erasmus. He seriously overstates himself when, admitting that Erasmus “used only a few,” he exclaims, “What matters? ... If the few Erasmus used were typical... did he not, with all the problems before him, arrive at practically the same result which only could be arrived at today by a fair and comprehensive investigation?” (Page 54) That is, was not the textual work of Catholic Erasmus working single-handed in the sixteenth century, with a small number of MSS available, as accurate and reliable as that of 37 of the best Protestant scholars in England and America, working for ten years with 4000 MSS available to check and compare? Again let the facts on the MSS speak for themselves: RABV 45.1

1. Erasmus actually used only six or possible seven was with the most liberal count. RABV 45.2

2. These are all still at Basle, except that for Revelation, a mutilated copy he had to borrow. RABV 45.3

3. None of these date back farther than the twelfth century, are described by scholars as “neither ancient nor valuable,” are not listed among the major MSS by any authority, and are not found in any of the great libraries or museums of Europe or America. RABV 45.4

4. In the book of Revelation, Erasmus supplied all the last six verses, and words or phrases in 21 other Places in that book, either by translation from the Catholic Vulgate or by his own words—and this besides supplying words elsewhere in the New Testament from memory or from notes he had taken in his travel. RABV 45.5

5.Erasmus was honest enough to record his procedure in his own words as follows: “some words I found in ours (the vulgate) which were lacking in the Greek, so these we added from the Latin.” He also saws his first edition was “precipitated, not edited.” RABV 45.6

6. In later editions, Erasmus made interpolation of one verse in Acts from a MSS margin, and one in 1 John from a Dublin MS, both of which have since been proved spurious. RABV 46.1

7. In the fourth and mother-edition of the Received Text, Erasmus made over 100 corrections from the Catholic Complutensian edition which he had not seen when his earlier editions were brought out. RABV 46.2

None of these facts are here cited for the purpose of discrediting the work of Erasmus, which in spite of its defects played a remarkable part in the Reformation and in the circulation of the Scriptures. But these facts are all sustained by authoritative quotations that follow, and are cited here to show the fallacy of the author’s unreasonable contention that the New Testament of Erasmus was “a pure Greek text,” inherited through a direct line from the Apostles, and gave us the Authorized version as the only safe and reliable translation for our present use. The providence of God in safeguarding the inspired word through the centuries is not at all in question. But when Luther’s conversion to righteousness by faith came through reading for himself a Catholic Bible in a Catholic convent while himself yet a Catholic, it is preposterous to try to make it appear, as the author so strenuously does try, that the resistance to false teaching and the resulting persecution of the Waldenses and millions of other Christians by Rome, was a matter of Greek texts and translations and versions. Everyone knows it was chiefly a matter of interpretation and perversion of truth as it is found abundantly in any of the great outstanding versions of the Holy Scriptures. RABV 46.3

On MSS in general.—The following quotation on dealing with MSS in general is taken from some rather extended notes accompanying the Greek text of the New Testament resulting from the critical work of Westcott and Hort, who spent the better part of twenty-five years in the collation and the editing of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. RABV 46.4

Great bulk of words unquestioned.—“This brief account of the text of the New Testament would be incomplete without a word of caution against a natural misunderstanding. Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost invariably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed. Much too of the variation which it is necessary to record has only an antiquarian interest except in so far as it supplies evidence as to the history of textual transmission, or as to the characteristics of some document or group of documents.”—” The New Testament in Original Greek,” by Westcott and Hort, reprint of 1889, pp. 564, 565. RABV 47.1

Not more than one in a thousand questioned.—“The whole area of variation between readings that have ever been admitted, or are likely to be ever admitted, into any printed texts is comparatively small; and a large part of it is due merely to differences between the early uncritical editions and the texts formed within the last half-century with the help of the priceless documentary evidence brought to light in recent times. A small fraction of the gross residue of disputed words alone remains after the application of the improved methods of criticism won from the experience of nearly two centuries of investigation and discussion. If comparative trivialties, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.”—Idem. RABV 47.2

Textual uncertainty at a minimum.—“Nor must it be forgotten how strong an assurance of incorruptness in the unvarying parts of the text of the New Testament is supplied indirectly by many of the variations which do exist, inasmuch as they carry us back by the convergence of independent lines of transmission to a concord of testimonies from the highest antiquity; or again what unusually ample resources of evidence the New Testament possesses for the reduction of the area of textual uncertainty to a minimum. The apparent case and simplicity with which many ancient texts are edited might be thought, on a hasty view, to imply that the New Testament cannot be restored with equal security. But this case and simplicity is in fact the mark of evidence too scanty to be tested; whereas in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.” Idem. Testament resulting from the critical work of Westcott and Hort, who spent the better part of twenty-five years in the collation and the editing of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. RABV 47.3

Great bulk of words unquestioned.—“This brief account of the text of the New Testament would be incomplete without a word of caution against a natural misunderstanding. Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost invariably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed. Much too of the variation which it is necessary to record has only an antiquarian interest except in so far as it supplies evidence as to the history of textual transmission, or as to the characteristics of some document or group of documents.”—” The New Testament in Original Greek,” by Westcott and Hort, reprint of 1889, pp. 564, 565. RABV 48.1

Not more than one in a thousand questioned.—“The whole area of variation between readings that have ever been admitted, or are likely to be ever admitted, into any printed texts is comparatively small; and a large part of it is due merely to differences between the early uncritical editions and the texts formed within the last half-century with the help of the priceless documentary evidence brought to light in recent times. A small fraction of the gross residue of disputed words alone remains after the application of the improved methods of criticism won from the experience of nearly two centuries of investigation and discussion. If comparative trivialties, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.”—Idem. RABV 48.2

Textual uncertainty at a minimum.—“Nor must it be forgotten how strong an assurance of incorruptness in the unvarying parts of the text of the New Testament is supplied indirectly by many of the variations which do exist, inasmuch as they carry us back by the convergence of independent lines of transmission to a concord of testimonies from the highest antiquity; or again what unusually ample resources of evidence the New Testament possesses for the reduction of the area of textual uncertainty to a minimum. The apparent ease and simplicity with which many ancient texts are edited might be thought, on a hasty view, to imply that the New Testament cannot be restored with equal security. But this ease and simplicity is in fact the mark of evidence too scanty to be tested; whereas in the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests the text of the New Testament stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.” Idem. RABV 48.3

It will of course be recognized that this quotation has to do with the original Greek text of the New Testament, and not with the translation of that text. Many changes have been made for the better by the revisers in the translation of the Greek text where the text is the same as was used by the translators of the [original illegible]. RABV 49.1