« Prev Chapter XI. Causes of Corruption Chiefly… Next »




§ 1.

ONE of the most prolific sources of Corrupt Readings, is Transposition, or the arbitrary inversion of the order of the sacred words,—generally in the subordinate clauses of a sentence. The extent to which ‘this prevails in Codexes of the type of BאCD passes belief. It is not merely the occasional writing of ταῦτα πάντα for πάντα ταῦτα,—or ὁ λαὸς οὗτος for οὗτος ὁ λαός, to which allusion is now made: for if that were all, the phenomenon would admit of loyal explanation and excuse. But what I speak of is a systematic putting to wrong of the inspired words throughout the entire Codex; an operation which was evidently regarded in certain quarters as a lawful exercise of critical ingenuity,—perhaps was looked upon as an elegant expedient to be adopted for improving the style of the original without materially interfering with the sense.

Let me before going further lay before the reader a few specimens of Transposition.

Take for example St. Mark i. 5,—καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο πάντες,—is unreasonably turned into πάντες και ἐβαπτίζοντο; whereby the meaning of the Evangelical record becomes 158changed, for πάντες is now made to agree with Ἱεροσολυμῖται, and the Evangelist is represented as making the very strong assertion that all the people of Jerusalem came to St. John and were baptized. This is the private property of BDLΔ.

And sometimes I find short clauses added which I prefer to ascribe to the misplaced critical assiduity of ancient Critics. Confessedly spurious, these accretions to the genuine text often bear traces of pious intelligence, and occasionally of considerable ability. I do not suppose that they ‘crept in’ from the margin: but that they were inserted by men who entirely failed to realize the wrongness of what they did,—the mischievous consequences which might possibly ensue from their well-meant endeavours to improve the work of the Holy Ghost.

[Take again St. Mark ii. 3, in which the order in πρὸς αὐτὸν, παραλυτικὸν φέροντες,—is changed by אBL into φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικόν. A few words are needed to explain to those who have not carefully examined the passage the effect of this apparently slight alteration. Our Lord was in a house at Capernaum with a thick crowd of people around Him: there was no room even at the door. Whilst He was there teaching, a company of people come to Him (ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτὸν), four of the party carrying a paralytic on a bed. When they arrive at the house, a few of the company, enough to represent the whole, force their way in and reach Him: but on looking back they see that the rest are unable to bring the paralytic near to Him (προσέγγισαι αὐτῷ337337    προσέγγισαι is transitive here, like ἐγγίζω in Gen. xlviii. 10, 13: 2 Kings iv. 6: Isaiah xlvi. 13.). Upon which they all go out and uncover the roof, take up the sick man on his bed, and the rest of the familiar story unfolds itself. Some officious scribe wished to remove all antiquity arising from the separation of παραλυτικόν 159from αἰρόμενον which agrees with it, and transposed φέροντες to the verb it is attached to, thus clumsily excluding the exquisite hint, clear enough to those who can read between the lines, that in the ineffectual attempt to bring in the paralytic only some of the company reached our Lord’s Presence. Of course the scribe in question found followers in אBL.]

It will be seen therefore that some cases of transposition are of a kind which is without excuse and inadmissible. Such transposition consists in drawing back a word which occurs further on, but is thus introduced into a new context, and gives a new sense. It seems to be assumed that since the words are all there, so long as they be preserved, their exact collocation is of no moment. Transpositions of that kind, to speak plainly, are important only as affording conclusive proof that such copies as BאD preserve a text which has undergone a sort of critical treatment which is so obviously indefensible that the Codexes themselves, however interesting as monuments of a primitive age,—however valuable commercially and to be prized by learned and unlearned alike for their unique importance,—are yet to be prized chiefly as beacon-lights preserved by a watchful Providence to warn every voyaging bark against making shipwreck on a shore already strewn with wrecks338338    The following are the numbers of Transpositions supplied by B, א, and D in the Gospels:—2,098: א, 2,299: D, 3,471. See Revision Revised, pp. 12, 13..

Transposition may sometimes be as conveniently illustrated in English as in Greek. St. Luke relates (Acts ii. 45, 46) that the first believers sold their goods ‘and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily,’ &c. For this, Cod. D reads, ‘and parted them daily to all men as every man had need. And they continued in the temple.’


§ 2.

It is difficult to divine for what possible reason most of these transpositions were made. On countless occasions they do not in the least affect the sense. Often, they are incapable of being idiomatically represented, in English. Generally speaking, they are of no manner of importance, except as tokens of the licence which was claimed by disciples, as I suspect, of the Alexandrian school [or exercised unintentionally by careless or ignorant Western copyists]. But there arise occasions when we cannot afford to be so trifled with. An important change in the meaning of a sentence is sometimes effected by transposing its clauses; and on one occasion, as I venture to think, the prophetic intention of the Speaker is obscured in consequence. I allude to St. Luke xiii. 9, where under the figure of a barren fig-tree, our Lord hints at what is to befall the Jewish people, because in the fourth year of His Ministry it remained unfruitful. ‘Lo, these three years,’ (saith He to the dresser of His Vineyard), ‘come I seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’ ‘Spare it for this year also,’ (is the rejoinder), ‘and if it bear fruit,—well: but if not, next year thou shalt cut it down.’ But on the strength of אBLTw, some recent Critics would have us read,—‘And if it bear fruit next year,—well: but if not, thou shalt cut it down’:—which clearly would add a year to the season of the probation of the Jewish race. The limit assigned in the genuine text is the fourth year: in the corrupt text of אBLTw, two bad Cursives, and the two chief Egyptian versions, this period becomes extended to the fifth.

To reason about such transpositions of words, a wearisome proceeding at best, soon degenerates into the veriest trifling. Sometimes, the order of the words is really 161immaterial to the sense. Even when a different shade of meaning is the result of a different collocation, that will seem the better order to one man which seems not to be so to another. The best order of course is that which most accurately exhibits the Author’s precise shade of meaning: but of this the Author is probably the only competent judge. On our side, an appeal to actual evidence is obviously the only resource: since in no other way can we reasonably expect to ascertain what was the order of the words in the original document. And surely such an appeal can be attended with only one result: viz. the unconditional rejection of the peculiar and often varying order advocated by the very few Codexes,—a cordial acceptance of the order exhibited by every document in the world besides.

I will content myself with inviting attention to one or two samples of my meaning. It has been made a question whether St. Luke (xxiv. 7) wrote,—λέγων, Ὅτι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθῆναι as all the MSS. in the world but four, all the Versions, and all the available Fathers’339339    Marcion (Epiph. i. 317): Eusebius (Mai, iv. 266): Epiphanius (i. 348): Cyril (Mai, ii. 438): John Thess. (Gall. xiii. 188). evidence from A.D. 150 downwards attest: or whether he wrote,—λέγων τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὅτι δεῖ παραδοθῆναι, as אBCL,—and those four documents only—would have us believe? [The point which first strikes a scholar is that there is in this reading a familiar classicism which is alien to the style of the Gospels, and which may be a symptom of an attempt on the part of some early critic who was seeking to bring them into agreement with ancient Greek models.] But surely also it is even obvious that the correspondence of those four Codexes in such a particular as this must needs be the result of their having derived the reading from one and the same original. On the contrary, 162the agreement of all the rest in a trifling matter of detail like the present can be accounted for in only one way, viz., by presuming that they also have all been derived through various lines of descent from a single document: but that document the autograph of the Evangelist. [For the great number and variety of them necessitates their having been derived through various lines of descent. Indeed, they must have the notes of number, variety, as well as continuity, and weight also.]

§ 3.

On countless occasions doubtless, it is very difficult—perhaps impossible—to determine, apart from external evidence, which collocation of two or more words is the true one, whether e. g. ἔχει ζωήν for instance or ζωὴν ἔχει340340    St. John v. 26, in א.,—ἠγέρθη εὐθὲως or εὐθέως ἠγέρθη341341    St. Mark ii. 12, in D.,—χωλούς, τυφλούς—or τυφλούς, χωλούς342342    St. Luke xiv. 13, in אB.,—shall be preferred. The burden of proof rests evidently with innovators on Traditional use.

Obvious at the same time is it to foresee that if a man sits down before the Gospel with the deliberate intention of improving the style of the Evangelists by transposing their words on an average of seven (B), eight (א), or twelve (D) times in every page, he is safe to convict himself of folly in repeated instances, long before he has reached the end of his task. Thus, when the scribe of א, in place of ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ καὶ κρίσιν ποιεῖν343343    St. John v. 27., presents us with καὶ κρίσιν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ἐξουσίαν ποιεῖν, we hesitate not to say that he has written nonsense344344    ‘Nec aliter’ (says Tischendorf) ‘Tertull.’ (Prax. 21),—‘et judicium dedit illi facere in potestate.’ But this (begging the learned critic’s pardon) is quite a different thing.. And when BD instead of εἰσί τινες τῶν ὧδε ἑστηκότων exhibit εἰσί τινες ὧδε τῶν ἑστηκότων, we cannot but conclude that 163the credit of those two MSS. must be so far lowered in the eyes of every one who with true appreciation of the niceties of Greek scholarship observes what has been done.

[This characteristic of the old uncials is now commended to the attention of students, who will find in the folios of those documents plenty of instances for examination. Most of the cases of Transposition are petty enough, whilst some, as the specimens already presented to the reader indicate, constitute blots not favourable to the general reputation of the copies on which they are found. Indeed, they are so frequent that they have grown to be a very habit, and must have propagated themselves. For it is in this secondary character rather than in any first intention, so to speak, that Transpositions, together with Omissions and Substitutions and Additions, have become to some extent independent causes of corruption. Originally produced by other forces, they have acquired a power of extension in themselves.

It is hoped that the passages already quoted may be found sufficient to exhibit the character of the large class of instances in which the pure Text of the original Autographs has been corrupted by Transposition. That it has been so corrupted, is proved by the evidence which is generally overpowering in each case. There has clearly been much intentional perversion: carelessness also and ignorance of Greek combined with inveterate inaccuracy, characteristics especially of Western corruption as may be seen in Codex D and the Old Latin versions, must have had their due share in the evil work. The result has been found in constant slurs upon the sacred pages, lessening the beauty and often perverting the sense,—a source of sorrow to the keen scholar and reverent Christian, and reiterated indignity done in wantonness or heedlessness to the pure and easy flow of the Holy Books.]

« Prev Chapter XI. Causes of Corruption Chiefly… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |