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perfection in the transcripts made, unless the copyists were also inspired;-as given by inspiration the whole was of God, the words were His as completely as were the two tables of stone 6 written by the finger of God.” But just as a copyist might err in transcribing the letters and words of the decalogue which God had thus written, so might he with respect to any other portion of Scripture; and it must not be looked at as want of reverence for the word of God, or want of belief in its verbal inspiration in the fullest sense, for this fact to be fully admitted.
2. Various readings are thus found in the copies of the Holy Scriptures as well as in other writings. Various readings are in their origin to works in MS. just what mistakes of the press are in printed books. They are the differences existing between different copies; the places in which the words or phrases vary, or are found in a different order, or in which one copy contains more or less than another.
Every one who has had any connection with the operations of printing, must be practically conscious of the sources of various readings. If a page of MS. were put into the hands of a compositor, he would almost undoubtedly make some errors in setting it up in type. In some places he might read the copy wrongly, in others might omit, in others might repeat some of the words before him, and there would probably be several errors in punctuation and orthography. The page of letter-press would on these accounts require a good deal of revision to make it accurately represent the page of MS. which had been sent to the printing office.
But if the page set up in type instead of being corrected were at once worked off with all its errors, and the copies so printed were put into the hands of fresh compositors, then new variations would undoubtedly arise. Some of the compositors might notice unquestionable mistakes and try to rectify them; in doing this they would not improbably depart yet farther from the original MS., and each one perhaps in a different way:-they would also be subject to the same causes of error as was the first compositor, and this too in a still greater degree from their having something more defective to work upon. Let the same operation go on a few times more, and we should have copies of the page, the general texture remaining the same, but with variations in particular parts,--some of them probably very considerable.
Now if the MS. page originally used had been lost, so that it could not be applied for the revision of the incorrect copies, the only way would be to take the copies such as they are, and by examining them amongst themselves to restore if possible the original readings. To this end the page as set up by the first compositor would be the most helpful, and would undoubtedly be nearest to the MS.; it would therefore be important to trace the genealogy of these printed copies. If the MS. copy had been put into the hands of more than one compositor, the page as set up by each of these would be a separate and important witness: the united testimony of such pages would lead one to something like a certainty as to the original reading.
This may serve to illustrate the causes and character of (various readings, and the mode of critically dealing with them.
All the various readings to the New Testament must be ascribed either to inadvertence or design; very few however can be attributed to this latter cause: except, indeed, such as may have sprung from an attempt at correction: but probably not one such attempts excepted) which can come under consideration with regard to the Apocalypse.
Various readings arising from inadvertence all belong to one class in general;—the transcriber having departed from his copy. Sometimes this was occasioned by the eye mistaking a word or phrase,-by similar words in appearance and sound being interchanged,
(e.g. ομοίως & ο μισώ, Rev. 2. 15,-μέλλει & έμελλον, 3. 2,-ούτος & ούτως, 3. 5,-οράσει σμαραγδίνω & όρασις σμαραγδίνων, 4. 3, &c.) by expressions being substituted for others which were synonymous or were so regarded by the copyist,–
(e.g. the interchange of κοινωνός & συγκοινωνός, Rev. 1. 9,-πρώτος & πρωτότοκος, 1. 17,-Έφεσίνης & εν Εφέσω, 2. 1,-φάσκοντας είναι αποστόλους & λέγοντας εαυτούς αποστόλους, 2. 2,-δυνατοι & ισχυροί, 6. 15, &c.) by omissions di' quocoté evrov, i. e. when two words or sentences end alike, the eye passing on to the second termination, and thus omitting a word or phrase altogether;
(e.g. του θανάτου omitted because of the following αυτού, Rev. 13. 12, – the words omitted from του θηρίου tο του θηρίου, 13. 15,-from όνομα to ővoua in the common text, 14. 1;—the omission of ver. 4 of ch.5, &c.) by a similar mistake from words or phrases commencing with the same letters -
(e.g. the omission of the words from kaì édőon to kai ėdóôn, Rev. 13. 7;—the omission of toù yápov in 19, 9, &c.)
Sometimes the copyist made too much use of his mind and memory, so that he inserted words in a passage where they did not belong, owing to their being found elsewhere in a similar connection;
(e.g. the insertion of o πλανών την οικουμένην όλην after Σατανάς in Rev. 20. 2, out of 12.9,--diotopos after poupala in 19. 15, out of 1. 16, -rais êv’Agla after ¢kkinolais in 1. 11, out of 1. 4, &c.) sometimes a copyist inserted an explanatory word or phrase, expressive of the thought which the copy before him conveyed to his own mind;--this led to the substitution of easy readings for those which were more difficult.
Hence such readings as κεκοπίακας και ου κέκμηκας, Rev. 2. 3,-την λέγουσαν, 2. 20,-ή καταβαίνει, 3. 12,-ουδενός, 3. 17,-λέγουσα, 4. 1, –ομοία, 4. 3,-είδον τους inserted 4. 4,-είχον or έχον, 4. 8,-ημάς & βασιλεύσομεν, 5. 10.
Scholia which had been written in the margin of a copy sometimes were partially blended by a transcriber with the text; this has caused several erroneons readings, some of which are extraordinary and hardly credible.
Hence ζωντι εις τους αιώνας των αιώνων added to the end of Rev. 5.14,και ο άγγελος ειστήκει in 11. 1,-ενώπιον του θρόνου του θεού, 14. 5, &c.the following may be taken as instances of strange readings arising from scholia, 2 Cor. 8.4, δέξασθαι ημάς εν πολλοίς των αντιγράφων ούτως εύρηται kaì oủ kadòs nazioapev, so in the Codex Corsendoncensis; see Alter's Gr. Test. vol. 2. p. 594,-of a similar kind is Heb. 7. 3, ev Q őri kai . του αβρααμ προετιμήθη. θεωρείτε κ. τ. λ. in the Complutensian text.
In the most ancient MSS. the interchange of vowels and diphthongs is very frequent, such as e and ai, n and el, o and w, n and ., v and n, av and an, el and ı, ov and v. Some of these interchanges are of frequent occurrence, some are comparatively rare; they are, however, the source of many important variations.
Hence has arisen confusion between fyelpe & yelpai, Rev. 11. 1;and many other variations of the same kind; most of which, however, make no possible sense.
Abbreviations have also led to mistakes ; IC, KC, C, XC, YC, have been thus written for one another, or for other words which they resembled in appearance.
Additions were often made, such as Kúpios before or Xploròs after 'Inpows: and short phrases of common occurrence were very often interchanged with equally common synonyms.
The order of words was very frequently changed, of which instances may be seen among the various readings on almost every page. The termination of a word was often assimilated to that which precedes or follows it.
The ear of a transcriber has sometimes misled him, for we find words or clauses substituted for one another which have nothing in common except sound.
(e.g. in Rev. 22. 14, μακάριοι οι πλύνοντες τας στολάς αυτών is the reading of the best authorities; in most copies this is changed into jak. οι ποιoύντες τας εντολάς αυτού, a reading which resembles the other in nothing but sound.)
In estimating the difficulty which a transcriber must have had to encounter, we must bear in mind the fact that ancient writing consisted of undivided capitals ; thus a far greater labour of the eye and the attention was needful in producing a correct copy. The undivided words were much more difficult to read, and an unskilful copyist often made such blunders, as to render passages of his transcript wholly void of meaning. The following three lines from the Codex Ephræmi will manifest the comparative difficulty of reading the undivided uncial writing.
It will be observed that nu is omitted at the beginning of the third line, probably on account of the TH which had immediately preceded.
3. The book of Revelation presents, as to its external history and its transmission, some features distinct from the rest of the New Testament. The number of copies which have come down to us, is far fewer than those of any other of the books. This may be accounted for in various ways: it was, probably, written at a later period than any other book of the New Testament, (for no objection can, I believe, be really brought against the testimony of Irenæus *), and thus the other portions of the Christian Scriptures were in use and circulation, most of them for forty, and some of them for fifty years previously.
It is very clear that this book was received and used both in the east and west, and was recognised both as to inspiration and apostolic authorship, for more than a century after it was written; and yet at a later period some objected, especially in the east, to admit its divine authority. The grounds of this objection were most trifling in themselves,--they were not based upon any appeal to facts or testimonies, and they directly contradicted what had been previously laid down by competent witnesses ;-I mean witnesses who were competent to state what they knew to be the truth, (e. g. Justin Martyr and Irenæus).
In consequence of this book having been for a time comparatively disregarded, transcripts became of course less numerous ; and although, before any very long time had elapsed, its authenticity and authority were owned by all who called themselves Christians, yet, from mistaken ideas as to the mysteriousness of its contents, &c. it was not commonly used like the rest of Holy Scripture in public assemblies.
Transcripts of the various parts of the New Testament were made just as there might exist demand; thus the copies of the four Gospels are very numerous, from their having been used both in public and private, but especially the former. Copies of the Epistles of St. Paul have also come down to us in considerable number ; of the Acts of the Apostles and Catholic Epistles there are far fewer copies; but even these are numerous when compared with those of the Revelation.
It seems, indeed, surprising that a book which God has so emphatically pressed upon the attention of those who believe in the name of His Son, should have been for so long a period treated with comparative neglect ; as if, although acknowledged to be of divine authority, it was not to be used and honoured as being indeed the word of God.
The copies being thus comparatively few, those which are ancient are peculiarly rare; indeed, for more than a century after the printing of the Greek text no ancient copy of this book was known in the western part of Europe. Thus the history of the unprinted text of the Apocalypse presents to us much fewer facts than that of the other parts of the New Testament; and the scarcity of copies, instead of being favourable to the text being in a tolerably correct condition, was just the contrary; transcribers made more errors in their copies, and these were the less noticed from the book being read so little in public. The commentaries of Andreas and Arethas, which were written in the margin of some MSS., occasioned errors, from passages in the margin having often been confounded with the text.
* «Ουδέ γάρ προ πολλού χρόνου έωράθη, αλλά σχεδόν επί της ημετέρας γενεάς, προς τα τέλει της Δομετιανού αρχής.”-. e. A. D. 96.
Thus at the time when printing was employed to multiply and perpetuate books, there were hinderances in the way of a correct text of the Revelation being diffused in this manner, which did not apply in the same degree to the rest of the New Testament.
4. The first printed edition of the book of Revelation, as well as of the rest of the New Testament in Greek, was that contained in the Polyglott Bible which was edited and printed at the expense, and under the auspices of Cardinal Ximenes. This Polyglott Bible was printed at Alcala, in Spain; and it is from the Latin name of that town, (Complutum), that the work has been ordinarily called the Complutensian Polyglott.
The portion of the work which contains the New Testament,* was edited by Ælius Antonius Nebrissensis, Demetrius Cretensis, Ferdinandus Pitianus, and Lopez de Stunica; the last mentioned being apparently the most learned of the whole.
The volume which contains the New Testament in Greek and Latin appears, from the subscription at the end of the Revelation, to have been completed January 10, 1514.
The actual publication of the work did not, however, take place for some years; hinderances appear to have been thrown in the way previous to the death of Cardinal Ximenes, and it was not until March 22, 1520, that Pope Leo the Tenth gave his formal sanction to the publication taking place. The Pope speaks of the Cardinal having died without obtaining his permission for the publication, and he mentions this as a necessary preliminary; it is not, however, probable that he would have made any objection, for the work was dedicated in the prologue to himself, and he was thanked for having furnished MSS. from the library of the Vatican to aid in its execution : and further, when Erasmus's Greek and Latin New Testament was published, Pope Leo had shown, by a letter expressive of his approbation, how much he esteemed such a work. In this, as well as in most other things, he manifested how desirous he was to be esteemed a patron and promoter both of the arts and of literature : into the questions of the circulation of the word of God, whether in the original languages or in translations, and what the effects of their circulation might be, he does not seem to have inquired.
* Nouum testamentum grece & latine in academia complutensi, nouiter impressum.