Page images
PDF
EPUB

and the various revisions by Griesbach, Scholz, and others this course of study brought before me very vividly the remarkable difference which exists between the condition of the common text of the book of Revelation and that of the rest of the New Testament: for whether we take Griesbach's or Scholz's text, (my examination was at the time pretty much confined to these), we find more corrections given as resting on critical data in this one book than we do in all the epistles of St. Paul taken together. This raised two thoughts in my mind, first, —what were the actual authorities on which the Greek text of this book was edited, and whether they really differed thus widely from the rest of the New Testament; and, second, when I was satisfied with the need that existed of using critical data for the correction of the text, I was impressed with the desirableness of giving the mere English reader the results of such revision, either by publishing a list of passages in which the reading in our authorised version ought to be emended, or else by publishing the English version of the book with the passages so corrected.

My desire to bring the results of critical labour before the mere English reader, arose from feeling how important it is for those who lue the word of God to have it set before them as

orrectly as possible; and this will be especially seen to be the case when the fact is borne in mind (see § II. 5) that in several places the ordinary Greek text of the Revelation (and consequently of our version) rests upon no MS. authority whatever.

3. In carefully examining the authorities of MSS. and versions as given by Griesbach, I found however that in not a few cases I differed in judgment as to the readings to be preferred both from him and from Scholz; they both appeared to me to retain the readings of the common text in several passages, in which the evidence seemed to me very decisive against them; there were also other points on which I found that my judgment could not accord with either of these critics.

Hence it became needful to form a basis for the English translation which I contemplated; to this end I prepared a Greek text of this book, forming it according to the critical principles which I believe to be the most accurate. (see S IV. 2). This led me to a careful examination of the authorities cited by Griesbach and Scholz; and thus I found that in many cases so few of these were given, and in other cases they were stated with so little accuracy and precision, that it required a very careful revision (see § IV. 1) before I could use them satisfactorily.

After I had arranged the authorities and again revised the Greek text, I made the English translation; in which I did not seek to depart from the authorised version, except in cases in which this was necessary either on account of variation in the Greek text, or else because of something which was obviously capable of improvement.

4. It would have been unsuitable to have published the English translation alone; for as it contained many variations from any critical text with which I was then acquainted, it was obviously incumbent on me to give that text together with the version; neither could the text itself have been properly given without a statement of the authorities on which it rests; hence the various readings became a needful accompaniment. (On the revision of collations and the formation of the Greek text, see ŞIV. 1, 2). It has also been necessary to go into some critical detail by way of introduction.

5. I do not think that it is needful in this place to enter into any disquisition on the divine origin and authority of the book ; I am writing for Christians, for those who through grace have believed in the name of the Son of God, and who believing have life through His name, and not as addressing those who wish to cavil and question as to the authority of Scripture.

I am perfectly aware that many feel a dread of any criticism being applied to the text of Scripture, regarding it as too sacred to be touched; now I wish most distinctly to state that because I reverence Scripture as being the word of God, I believe it to be of importance to bring every aid in our power to bear upon its text, in order that we may as accurately as possible read it in the very words in which it was given by the Holy Ghost.

I avow my full belief in the absolute, plenary inspiration of { Scripture, 2 Tim. 3. 16. I believe the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments to be verbally the word of God, as absolutely as were the ten commandments written by the finger of God on the two tables of stone: and because I thus fully believe in its verbal inspiration, I judge that it is not labour ill bestowed to endeavour to search into the evidence which is obtainable as to what those words are, and to exhibit the results of such investigation. I trust that this may suffice to hinder charges being brought of want of reverence for the book designed to make wise unto salvation; although I freely own that I have much more

reverence for the more ancient copies, and for the text which they contain, than I have for those which are in common use.

Many have regarded attempts at critical revision of the text of the New Testament, as being connected not only with a want of reverence for the word of God, but also in a certain measure with unsoundness of doctrine as to the Godhead of Christ and other fundamental points. Such charges have no necessary connection with critical revision of the text, or with the results of such revisions, let the conductors of them be whoever they may. Bengel who led the way in such critical revision was free from every suspicion of being opposed to orthodox belief: Wetstein, a laborious collector of critical materials, can hardly be said to have formed a critical text, as he only noted in the margin such readings as he preferred; it is most true that his sentiments were decidedly Arian, and that his heterodoxy shows itself in his Prolegomena and notes. Griesbach was probably tainted with the rationalism of modern Germany to a considerable degree, but it would be very difficult to prove that his neology has influenced him in his critical text. Scholz, as being a Roman Catholic Professor at Bonn, may be supposed simply to adhere to the doctrines of that church. It is probable that most of the modern German editors are more or less imbued with rationalism; but still however incapable we may regard them of forming a true judgment of any subject connected with the word of God, it would be difficult to show that, in their choice of readings, they have rejected or adopted any except on critical grounds, whether sufficient or not.

If there were then any reason for connecting Biblical criticism with unsoundness of doctrine, it could only have arisen from persons who held such views having also paid attention to this subject. But this, instead of leading those who hold orthodox sentiments to avoid the subject, ought to induce them to take it up themselves, in order that they might not be under the necessity of receiving critical texts from doubtful hands.

It is perfectly true that passages may have been rested on, and used in argument for the support of the most important doctrines,--such as the Trinity, and the person of Christ,which may on examination be found to rest on very slight critical authority; but this does not affect the doctrines themselves,—nay they may be said to stand by this means on a more sure basis of Scripture testimony, when everything which was insecure in itself has been taken away: sound criticism rightly applied will be a safeguard to the text of the word of God against the encroachments of ignorance and heterodoxy. A disputant may be found to uphold true doctrine by misquoted Scripture; in every such case it will be well to open the Bible, quote the passage fairly, and let the doctrine itself rest for support upon the passages which really apply:—just so with regard to any doctrinal statements in which the readings are doubtful: let criticism in a Christian spirit and in true subjection to God's authority come in, let the passages be fairly read, and let testimonies to true doctrine be taken up from that which will bear the test of full examination. It is proper, however, to remark that very few passages will receive any doctrinal alteration, so that the reader need not suppose these observations to have all an extensive application. Honest criticism will never touch one atom of orthodox or evangelical truth; it may exhibit the text of the word of God with more exactness, but the doctrines will be found the same, unchanged and unshaken. It is indeed a cause for thankfulness that God has preserved the Scripture unto us in such substantial integrity: it has been subjected to many casualties, it has passed through the hands of

many copyists, but in doctrine and precept it is unchanged. I believe that it may most truly be said that the most faulty copy presents to us the doctrines and the duties of Christianity devoid of any material alteration. Of course the more exactly we know the very words of Scripture as originally inspired by the Holy Ghost, the more exactly have we the declaration of His mind set before us.

Men who are possessed of human learning and intellectual power may exercise their own minds on subjects of criticism; but those who through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

possess the knowledge of God, are alone able to look to Him for the blessed guidance of the Holy Ghost, who can give ability in forming an accurate judgment on evidence connected with the criticism of the sacred text.

Ungodly men may make an evil use of the word of God, and of the most blessed truths which it contains; this ought not to hinder Christians from using it aright; and just so do I deem should be our judgment with regard to Biblical criticism; if this has been misused by impugners of orthodoxy and truth, it only shows that we who fully acknowledge the Godhead and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of God's grace

in His name, and the Personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost, ought to take good heed that we use this weapon aright, lest it should be supposed to belong to unhallowed hands.

The object of textual criticism is of quite sufficient importance to interest Christians; namely the statement of the evidence as to the true reading of the text of Scripture; and it might have been almost expected that they would have regarded it as a subject peculiarly their own.

It will be necessary to give some account of the critical details which relate to the book of Revelation, in order to make the basis of the present work fully intelligible. These details are given at some length in order that they may afford the needful information to those who are not familiar with the subject,* and also because in a more condensed form it would be difficult to be really perspicuous.

II. STATE OF THE GREEK TEXT OF THE

BOOK OF REVELATION.

1. Ancient writings, whether sacred or profane, have been transmitted to us by means of transcribers. The autographs of such works have long ago been lost. Hence various casualties may affect the state of the text and the readings, which never could have arisen had the works remained in existence in the handwriting of the authors. Copies which had been made from the originals were used as the exemplars from which others were again taken, and so the work of transcription continued during the successive centuries which preceded the invention of printing. Thus there are many works of great and undoubted antiquity of which there does not exist a single really very ancient MS. This does not affect the antiquity of the book, however much it may the state of the text.

The Inspired writings of the Old and New Testaments have been transmitted to us just in the same manner as other books; they have been liable to the same casualties in transcription, and the correctness of copies made has depended upon the diligence and accuracy of the transcriber. The fact of their having been

given by inspiration of God,” has not and could not ensure

* On the subject of Biblical riticism in general I may mention, “Lectures on Biblical Criticism. By Samuel Davidson, LL.D. Edinburgh, 1839.” I know of no volume in English which gives so much information on the subject, and with as much correctness. Of course I do not vouch for every fact or every conclusion.

« PreviousContinue »