« Prev Appendix II. Conflation and the So-called Neutral… Next »



SOME of the most courteous of our critics, in reviewing the companion volume to this, have expressed regret that we have not grappled more closely than we have done with Dr. Hort’s theory. I have already expressed our reasons. Our object has been to describe and establish what we conceive to be the true principles of Sacred Textual Science. We are concerned only in a secondary degree with opposing principles. Where they have come in our way, we have endeavoured to remove them. But it has not entered within our design to pursue them into their fastnesses and domiciles. Nevertheless, in compliance with a request which is both proper and candid, I will do what I can to examine with all the equity that I can command an essential part of Dr. Hort’s system, which appears to exercise great influence with his followers.

§ 1.


Dr. Hort’s theory of ‘Conflation’ may be discovered on pp. 93-107. The want of an index to his Introduction, notwithstanding his ample ‘Contents,’ makes it difficult to collect illustrations of his meaning from the rest of his treatise. Nevertheless, the effect of Conflation appears to 267be well described in his words on p. 133:—‘Now however the three great lines were brought together, and made to contribute to a text different from all.’ In other words, by means of a combination of the Western, Alexandrian, and ‘Neutral’ Texts—‘the great lines of transmission . . . to all appearance exclusively divergent,’—the ‘Syrian’ text was constructed in a form different from any one and all of the other three. Not that all these three were made to contribute on every occasion. We find (p. 93) Conflation, or Conflate Readings, introduced as proving the posteriority of Syrian to Western . . . and other . . . readings.’ And in the analysis of eight passages, which is added, only in one case (St. Mark viii. 26) are more than two elements represented, and in that the third class consists of ‘different conflations’ of the first and second620620    Dr. Hort has represented Neutral readings by α, Western by β, as far as I can understand, ‘other’ by γ, and ‘Syrian’ (= Traditional) by δ. But he nowhere gives an example of γ..

Perhaps I may present Dr. Hort’s theory under the form of a diagram:—

Our theory is the converse in main features to this. We utterly repudiate the term Syrian’ as being a most inadequate and untrue title for the Text adopted and maintained by the Catholic Church with all her intelligence and learning, during nearly fifteen centuries according to Dr. Hort’s admission: and we claim from the evidence that the Traditional Text of the Gospels, under the true name, is that which came fresh from the pens of the Evangelists; and that all variations from it, however they have been entitled, are nothing else than corrupt forms of 268the original readings. Our diagram in rough presentation will therefore assume this character:—

It should be added, that w, x, y, z, &c., denote forms of corruption. We do not recognize the ‘Neutral’ at all, believing it to be a Caesarean combination or recension, made from previous texts or readings of a corrupt character.

The question is, which is the true theory, Dr. Hort’s or ours?

The general points that strike us with reference to Dr. Flores theory are:—

(1) That it is very vague and indeterminate in nature. Given three things, of which X includes what is in Y and Z, upon the face of the theory either X may have arisen by synthesis from Y and Z, or X and Z may owe their origin by analysis to X.

(2) Upon examination it is found that Dr. Hort’s arguments for the posteriority of D are mainly of an internal character, and are loose and imaginative, depending largely upon personal or literary predilections.

(3) That it is exceedingly improbable that the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries, which in a most able period had been occupied with discussions on verbal accuracy, should have made the gross mistake of adopting (what was then) a modern concoction from the original 269text of the Gospels, which had been written less than three or four centuries before; and that their error should have been acknowledged as truth, and perpetuated by the ages that succeeded them down to the present time.

But we must draw nearer to Dr. Hort’s argument.

He founds it upon a detailed examination of eight passages, viz. St. Mark vi. 33; viii. 26; ix. 38; ix. 49; St. Luke ix. 10; xi. 54; xii. 18; xxiv. 53.

1. Remark that eight is a round and divisible number. Did the author decide upon it with a view of presenting two specimens from each Gospel? To be sure, he gives four from the first two, and four from the two last, only that he confines the batches severally to St. Mark and St. Luke. Did the strong style of St. Matthew, with distinct meaning in every word, yield no suitable example for treatment? Could no passage be found in St. John’s Gospel, where not without parallel, but to a remarkable degree, extreme simplicity of language, even expressed in alternative clauses, clothes soaring thought and philosophical acuteness? True, that he quotes St. John v. 37 as an instance of Conflation by the Codex Bezae which is anything but an embodiment of the Traditional or ‘Syrian’ Text, and xiii. 24 which is similarly irrelevant. Neither of these instances therefore fill up the gap, and are accordingly not included in the selected eight. What can we infer from this presentment, but that Conflation’ is probably not of frequent occurrence as has been imagined, but may indeed be—to admit for a moment its existence—nothing more than an occasional incident? For surely, if specimens in St. Matthew and St. John had abounded to his hand, and accordingly Conflation’ had been largely employed throughout the Gospels, Dr. Hort would not have exercised so restricted, and yet so round a choice.

2. But we must advance a step further. Dean Burgon as we have seen has calculated the differences between 270B and the Received Text at 7,578, and those which divide א and the Received Text as reaching 8,972. He divided these totals respectively under 2,877 and 3,455 omissions, 536 and 839 additions, 2,098 and 2,299 transpositions, and 2,067 and 2,379 substitutions and modifications combined. Of these classes, it is evident that Conflation has nothing to do with Additions or Transpositions. Nor indeed with Substitutions, although one of Dr. Hort’s instances appears to prove that it has. Conflation is the combination of two (or more) different expressions into one. If therefore both expressions occur in one of the elements, the Conflation has been made beforehand, and a substitution then occurs instead of a conflation. So in St. Luke xii. 18, B, &c., read τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου, which Dr. Hort621621    Introduction, p. 103. considers to be made by Conflation into τά γενήματά μου καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου, because τά γενήματά μου is found in Western documents. The logic is strange, but as Dr. Hort has claimed it, we must perhaps allow him to have intended to include with this strange incongruity some though not many Substitutions in his class of instances, only that we should like to know definitely what substitutions were to be. comprised in this class. For I shrewdly suspect that there were actually none. Omissions are now left to us, of which the greater specimens can hardly have been produced by Conflation. How, for instance, could you get the last Twelve Verses of St. Mark’s Gospel, or the Pericope de Adultera, or St. Luke xxii. 43-44, or any of the rest of the forty-five whole verses in the Gospels upon which a slur is cast by the Neologian school? Consequently, the area of Conflation is greatly reduced. And I venture to think, that supposing for a moment the theory to be sound, it could not account for any large number of variations, but would at the best only be a sign or symptom found every 271now and then of the derivation attributed to the Received Text.

3. But we must go on towards the heart of the question. And first to examine Dr. Hort’s eight instances. Unfortunately, the early patristic evidence on these verses is scanty. We have little evidence of a direct character to light up the dark sea of conjecture.

(1) St. Mark (vi. 33) relates that on a certain occasion the multitude, when they beheld our Saviour and his disciples on their way in a ship crossing to the other side of the lake, ran together (συνέδραμον) from all their cities to the point which He was making for (ἐκεῖ), and arrived there before the Lord and His followers (προῆλθον αὐτούς), and on His approach came in a body to Him (συνῆλθον πρὸς αὐτ͙ν). And on disembarking (καὶ ἐξελθών, i.e. ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου, ver. 32), &c. It should be observed, that it was only the Apostles who knew that His ultimate object was a ‘desert place’ (ver. 31, 30): the indiscriminate multitude could only discern the bay or cape towards which the boat was going: and up to what I have described as the disembarkation (ver. 34), nothing has been said of His movements, except that He was in the boat upon the lake. The account is pictorial. We see the little craft toiling on the lake, the people on the shores running all in one direction, and on their reaching the heights above the place of landing watching His approach, and then descending together to Him to the point where He is going to land. There is nothing weak or superfluous in the description. Though condensed (what would a modern history have made of it?), it is all natural and in due place.

Now for Dr. Hort. He observes that one clause (καὶ προῆλθον αὐτούς) is attested by Bא and their followers; another (καὶ συνῆλθον αὐτοῦ, or ἦλθον αὐτοῦ, which is very different from the ‘Syrian’ συνῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν) by some Western documents; and he argues that the entire form 272in the Received Text, καὶ προῆλθον αὐτούς, καὶ συνῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν, was formed by Conflation from the other two. I cannot help observing that it is a suspicious mark, that even in the case of the most favoured of his chosen examples he is obliged to take such a liberty with one of his elements of Conflation as virtually to doctor it in order to bring it strictly to the prescribed pattern. When we come to his arguments he candidly admits, that ‘it is evident that either δ (the Received Text) is conflate from α (Bא) and β (Western), or α and β are independent simplifications of δ’; and that ‘there is nothing in the sense of δ that would tempt to alteration,’ and that ‘accidental’ omission of one or other clause would ‘be easy.’ But he argues with an ingenuity that denotes a bad cause that the difference between αὐτοῦ and πρὸς αὐτόν is really in his favour, chiefly because αὐτοῦ would very likely if it had previously existed been changed into πρὸς αὐτόν—which no one can doubt; and that ‘συνῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν is certainly otiose after συνέδραμον ἐκεῖ,’ which shews that he did not understand the whole meaning of the passage. His argument upon what he terms ‘Intrinsic Probability’ leads to a similar inference. For simply ἐξελθών cannot mean that He “came out” of His retirement in some sequestered nook to meet them,’ such a nook being not mentioned by St. Mark, whereas πλοῖον is; nor can ἐκεῖ denote the desert region.’ Indeed the position of that region or nook was known before it was reached solely to our Lord and His Apostles: the multitude was guided only by what they saw, or at least by vague surmise.

Accordingly, Dr. Hort’s conclusion must be reversed. ‘The balance of Internal Evidence of Readings, alike from Transcriptional and from Intrinsic Probability, is decidedly’ not ‘in favour of δ from α and β,’ but ‘of α and β from δ.’ The reading of the Traditional Text is the superior both as regards the meaning, and as to the probability of its 273pre-existence. The derivation of the two others from that is explained by that besetting fault of transcribers which is termed Omission. Above all, the Traditional reading is proved by a largely over-balancing weight of evidence.

(2) ‘To examine other passages equally in detail would occupy too much space.’ So says Dr. Hort: but we must examine points that require attention.

St. Mark viii. 26. After curing the blind man outside Bethsaida, our Lord in that remarkable period of His career directed him, according to the Traditional reading, (α) neither to enter into that place, μηδὲ εἰς τὴν κώμην εἰσέλθῃς, nor (α) to tell what had happened to any inhabitant of Bethsaida (μηδὲ εἴπῃς τινὶ ἐν τῇ κώμῃ). Either some one who did not understand the Greek, or some matter-of-fact and officious scholar, or both, thought or maintained that τινὶ ἐν τῇ κώμῃ must mean some one who was at the moment actually in the place. So the second clause got to be omitted from the text of Bא, who are followed only by one cursive and a half (the first reading of 1 being afterwards corrected), and the Bohairic version, and the Lewis MS. The Traditional reading is attested by ACNΣ and thirteen other Uncials, all Cursives except eight, of which six with Φ read a consolidation of both clauses, by several versions, and by Theophylact (i. 210) who is the only Father that quotes the place. This evidence ought amply to ensure the genuineness of this reading.

But what says Dr. Hort? ‘Here a is simple and vigorous, and it is unique in the New Testament: the peculiar Μηδὲ has the terse force of many sayings as given by St. Mark, but the softening into Μή by א* shews that it might trouble scribes.’ It is surely not necessary to controvert this. It may be said however that a is bald as well as simple, and that the very difficulty in β makes it probable that that clause was not invented. To take τινὶ ἐν τῇ κώμῃ Hebraistically for τινὶ τῶν ἐν τῇ κώμῃ like the 274τις ἐν ὑμῖν ig.av of St. James v. 19622622    Cp. St. Luke xviii. 2, 3. Τις is used with ἐξ, St. Luke xi. 15, xxiv. 24; St. John vi. 64, vii. 25, ix. 16, xi. 37, 46; Acts xi. 20, xiii. 1, &c., need not trouble scholars, I think. Otherwise they can follow Meyer, according to Winer’s Grammar (II. 511), and translate the second μηδέ nor even. At all events, this is a poor pillar to support a great theory.

(3) St. Mark ix. 38. ‘Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, (β) who doth not follow us, and we forbad him (α) because he followeth not us.’

Here the authority for α is אBCLΔ, four Cursives, f, Bohairic, Peshitto, Ethiopic, and the Lewis MS. For β there are D, two Cursives, all the Old Latin but f and the Vulgate. For the Traditional Text, i.e. the whole passage, ΑΦΣΝ + eleven Uncials, all the Cursives but six, the Harkleian (yet obelizes α) and Gothic versions, Basil (ii. 252), Victor of Antioch (Cramer, Cat. i. 365), Theophylact (i. 219): and Augustine quotes separately both omissions (α ix. 533, and β III. ii. 153). No other Fathers, so far as I can find, quote the passage.

Dr. Hort appears to advance no special arguments on his side, relying apparently upon the obvious repetition. In the first part of the verse, St. John describes the case of the man: in the second he reports for our Lord’s judgement the grounds of the prohibition which the Apostles gave him. Is it so certain that the original text of the passage contained only the description, and omitted the reason of the prohibition as it was given to the non-follower of our Lord? To me it seems that the simplicity of St. Mark’s style is best preserved by the inclusion of both. The Apostles did not curtly forbid the man: they treated him with reasonableness, and in the same spirit St. John reported to his Master all that occurred. Besides this, the evidence on the Traditional side is too strong to admit of it not being the genuine reading.


(4) St. Mark ix. 49. ‘For (α) every one shall be salted with fire, (β) and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.’ The authorities are—

α. אBLΔ, fifteen Cursives, some MSS. of the Bohairic, some of the Armenian, and the Lewis.

β. D, six copies of the Old Latin, three MSS. of the Vulgate. Chromatius of Aquileia (Galland. viii. 338).

Trad. Text. ΑCΦΣΝ and twelve more Uncials, all Cursives except fifteen, two Old Latin, Vulgate, Peshitto, Harkleian, some MSS. of Ethiopic and Armenian, Gothic, Victor of Antioch (Cramer’s Cat. i. 368), Theophylact (i. 221).

This evidence must surely be conclusive of the genuineness of the Traditional reading. But now for Dr. Hort.

‘A reminiscence of Lev. vii. 13 . . . has created β out of α.’ But why should not the reminiscence have been our Lord’s? The passage appears like a quotation, or an adaptation, of some authoritative saying. He positively advances no other argument than the one just quoted, beyond stating two points in which the alteration might be easily effected.

(5) St. Luke ix. 10. ‘He took (His Apostles) and withdrew privately

α. Into a city called Bethsaida (εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Β.).

β. Into a desert place (εἰς τόπον ἔρημον), or Into a desert place called Bethsaida, or of Bethsaida.’

Trad. Text. Into a desert place belonging to a city called Bethsaida.’

The evidence for these readings respectively is—

α. BLXΞ, with one correction of א (Ca), one Cursive, the Bohairic and Sahidic. D reads κώμην.

β. The first and later readings (Cb) of four Cursives?, Curetonian, some variant Old Latin (β2), Peshitto also variant (β3).


Trad. Text. A (with ἔρημον τόπον) C + twelve Uncials, all Cursives except three or five, Harkleian, Lewis (omits ἔρημον), Ethiopic, Armenian, Gothic, with Theophylact (i. 332).

Remark the curious character of α and β. In Dr. Hort’s Neutral Text, which he maintains to have been the original text of the Gospels, our Lord is represented here as having withdrawn in private (κατ᾽ ἰδίαν, which the Revisers shirking the difficulty translate inaccurately ‘apart’) into the city called Bethsaida. How could there have been privacy of life in a city in those days? In fact, κατ᾽ ἰδίαν necessitates the adoption of τόπον ἔρημον, as to which the Peshitto (β3) is in substantial agreement with the Traditional Text. Bethsaida is represented as the capital of a district, which included, at sufficient distance from the city, a desert or retired spot. The group arranged under β is so weakly supported, and is evidently such a group of fragments, that it can come into no sort of competition with the Traditional reading. Dr. Hort confines himself to shewing how the process he advocates might have arisen, not that it did actually arise. Indeed, this position can only be held by assuming the conclusion to be established that it did so arise.

(6) St. Luke xi. 54. ‘The Scribes and Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently and to provoke Him to speak of many things (ἐνεδρεύοντες θηρεῦσαι),

α. Laying wait for Him to catch something out of His mouth.

β. Seeking to get some opportunity (ἀφορμήν τινα) for finding out how to accuse Him (ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορῆσαι); or, for accusing Him (ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ).

Trad. Text. Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something (ζητοῦντες θηρεῦσαί τι) out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him.’


The evidence is—

α. אBL, Bohairic, Ethiopic, Cyril Alex. (Mai, Nov. Pp. Bibliotheca, ii. 87, iii. 249, not accurately).

β. D, Old Latin except f, Curetonian.

Trad. Text. AC + twelve Uncials, all Cursives (except five which omit ζητοῦντες), Peshitto, Lewis (with omission), Vulgate, Harkleian, Theophylact (i. 363).

As to genuineness, the evidence is decisive. The reading α is Alexandrian, adopted by B-א, and is bad Greek into the bargain, ἐνεδρεύοντες θηρεῦσαι being very rough, and being probably due to incompetent acquaintance with the Greek language. If α was the original, it is hard to see how β could have come from it. That the figurative language of α was replaced in β by a simply descriptive paraphrase, as Dr. Hort suggests, seems scarcely probable. On the other hand, the derivation of either α or β from the Traditional Text is much easier. A scribe would without difficulty pass over one of the participles lying contiguously with no connecting conjunction, and having a kind of Homoeoteleuton. And as to β, the distinguishing ἀφορμήν τινα would be a very natural gloss, requiring for completeness of the phrase the accompanying λαβεῖν. This is surely a more probable solution of the question of the mutual relationship of the readings than the laboured account of Dr. Hort, which is too long to be produced here.

(7) St. Luke xii. 18. ‘I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all

α. My corn and my goods.

β. My crops (τὰ γενήματά μου). My fruits (τοὺς καρπούς μου).

Trad. Text. My crops (τὰ γενήματά μου) and my goods.’

This is a faulty instance, because it is simply a substitution, as Dr. Hort admitted, in α of the more comprehensive word γενήματά for σῖτον, and a simple omission of καὶ τὰ ἀγαθὰ μου in β. And the admission of it into the selected 278eight shews the difficulty that Dr. Hort must have experienced in choosing his examples. The evidence is—

α. BTLX and a correction of א(ac), eight Cursives, Peshitto, Bohairic, Sahidic, Armenian, Ethiopic.

β. א*D, three Cursives, b ff i q, Curetonian and Lewis, St. Ambrose (i. 573).

Trad. Text. AQ + thirteen Uncials. All Cursives except twelve, f, Vulgate, Harkleian, Cyril Alex. (Mai, ii. 294-5) bis, Theophylact (i. 370), Peter Chrysologus (Migne 52, 490-1) bis.

No more need be said: substitutions and omissions are too common to require justification.

(8) St. Luke xxiv. 53. ‘They were continually in the temple

α. Blessing God (εὐλογοῦντες).

β. Praising God (αἰνοῦντες).

Trad. Text. Praising and blessing God.’

The evidence is—

α. אBC*L, Bohairic, Palestinian, Lewis.

β. D, seven Old Latin.

Trad. Text. AC2 + twelve Uncials, all Cursives, c f q, Vulgate, Peshitto, Harkleian, Armenian, Ethiopic, Theophylact (i. 497).

Dr. Hort adds no remarks. He seems to have thought, that because he had got an instance which outwardly met all the requirements laid down, therefore it would prove the conclusion it was intended to prove. Now it is evidently an instance of the omission of either of two words from the complete account by different witnesses. The Evangelist employed both words in order to emphasize the gratitude of the Apostles. The words are not tautological. Αἶνος is the set praise of God, drawn out in more or less length, properly as offered in addresses to Him623623    Thus ἔπαινος is used for a public encomium, or panegyric.. Εὐλογία includes all speaking well of ,Him, especially when uttered before 279other men. Thus the two expressions describe in combination the life of gratitude exhibited unceasingly by the expectant and the infant Church. Continually in the temple they praised Him in devotion, and told the people of His glorious works.

4. Such are the eight weak pillars upon which Dr. Hort built his theory which was to account for the existence of his Neutral Text, and the relation of it towards other Texts or classes of readings. If his eight picked examples can be thus demolished, then surely the theory of Conflation must be utterly unsound. Or if in the opinion of some of my readers my contention goes too far, then at any rate they must admit that it is far from being firm; if it does not actually reel and totter. The opposite theory of omission appears to be much more easy and natural.

But the curious phenomenon that Dr. Hort has rested his case upon so small an induction as is supplied by only eight examples—if they are not in fact only seven—has not yet received due explanation. Why, he ought to have referred to twenty-five or thirty at least. If Conflation is so common, he might have produced a large number of references without working out more than was enough for illustration as patterns. This question must be investigated further. And I do not know how to carry out such an investigation better, than to examine some instances which come naturally to hand from the earlier parts of each Gospel.

It must be borne in mind, that for Conflation two differently-attested phrases or words must be produced which are found in combination in some passage of the Traditional Text. If there is only one which is omitted, it is clear that there can be no Conflation because there must be at least two elements to conflate: accordingly our instances must be cases, not of single omission, but of double or alternative omission. If again there is no Western reading, 280it is not a Conflation in Dr. Hort’s sense. And finally, if the remaining reading is not a ‘Neutral’ one, it is not to Dr. Hort’s liking. I do not say that my instances will conform with these conditions. Indeed, after making a list of all the omissions in the Gospels, except those which are of too petty a character such as leaving out a pronoun, and having searched the list with all the care that I can command, I do not think that such instances can be found. Nevertheless, I shall take eight, starting from the beginning of St. Matthew, and choosing the most salient examples, being such also that, if Dr. Hort’s theory be sound, they ought to conform to his requirements. Similarly, there will come then four from either of St. Mark and St. Luke, and eight from St. John. This course of proceeding will extend operations from the eight which form Dr. Hort’s total to thirty-two.

A. In St. Matthew we have (1) i. 25, αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον and τὸν Υἱόν; (2) v. 22, εἰκῆ and τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ; (3) ix. 13, εἰς μετάνοιαν; (4) x. 3, Λεββαῖος and Θαδδαῖος; (5) xii. 22, τυφλὸν καὶ and κωφόν; (6) xv. 5, τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ and (ἢ) τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ; (7) xviii. 35, ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν and τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν ; and (8) xxvi. 3, οἱ πρεσβύτεροι (καὶ) οἱ Γραμματεῖς. I have had some difficulty in making up the number. Of those selected as well as I could, seven are cases of single omission or of one pure omission apiece, though their structure presents a possibility of two members for Conflation; whilst the Western clement comes in sparsely or appears in favour of both the omission and the retention; and, thirdly, in some cases, as in (2) and (3), the support is not only Western, but universal. Consequently, all but (4) are excluded. Of (4) Dr. Hort remarks, (Notes on Select Readings, p. 11) that it is ‘a case of Conflation of the true and the chief Western Texts,’ and accordingly it does not come within the charmed circle.

B. From St. Mark we get, (1) i. 1, Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ, and Ἰησοῦ 281Χριστοῦ; (2) i. 2, ἔμπροσθέν σου and πρὸ προσώπου σου (cp. ix. 38); (3) iii. 15, θεραπεύειν τὰς νόσοις (καὶ) and ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια; (4) xiii. 33, ἀγρυπνεῖτε and (καὶ) προσεύχεσθε. All these instances turn out to be cases of the omission of only one of the parallel expressions. The omission in the first is due mainly to Origen (see Traditional Text, Appendix IV): in the three last there is Western evidence on both sides.

C. St. Luke yields us, (1) ii. 5, γυναικί and μεμνηστευμένῃ; (2) iv. 4, ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι Θεοῦ or ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ; (3) viii. 54, ἐκβαλὼν ἔξω πάντας (καὶ), or κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς; xi. 4, (ἀλλὰ) ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ, or μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν. In all these cases, examination discloses that they are examples of pure omission of only one of the alternatives. The only evidence against this is the solitary rejection of μεμνηστευμένῃ by the Lewis Codex.

D. We now come to St. John. See (1) iii. 15, μὴ ἀπόληται, or ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον; (2) iv. 14, οὐ μὴ διψήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα or τὸ ὕδωρ ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ γενήσεται ἐν αὐτῳ̂ πηγὴ ὕδατος, κ.τ.λ.; (3) iv. 42, ὁ Χριστός, or ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου; (4) iv. 51, καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν and λέγοντες; (5) v. 16, καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἀποκτει̂ναι and ἐδίωκον αὐτόν; (6) vi. 51, ἣν ἐγὼ δώσω, or ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω; (7) ix. 1, 25, καὶ εἶπεν or ἀπεκρίθη; (8) xiii. 31, 32, εἰ ὁ Θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ, and καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ. All these instances turn out to be single omissions:—a fact which is the more remarkable, because St. John’s style so readily lends itself to parallel or antithetical expressions involving the same result in meaning, that we should expect conflations to shew themselves constantly if the Traditional Text had so coalesced.

How surprising a result:—almost too surprising. Does it not immensely strengthen my contention that Dr. Hort took wrongly Conflation for the reverse process? That in the earliest ages, when the Church did not include in her ranks so much learning as it has possessed ever since, the wear and tear of time, aided by unfaith and carelessness, 282made itself felt in many an instance of destructiveness which involved a temporary chipping of the Sacred Text all through the Holy Gospels? And, in fact, that Conflation at least as an extensive process, if not altogether, did not really exist.

§ 2.


Here we are brought face to face with the question respecting the Neutral Text. What in fact is it, and does it deserve the name which Dr. Hort and his followers have attempted to confer permanently upon it? What is the relation that it bears to other so-called Texts?

So much has been already advanced upon this subject in the companion volume and in the present, that great conciseness is here both possible and expedient. But it may be useful to bring the sum or substance of those discussions into one focus.

1. The so-called Neutral Text, as any reader of Dr. Hort’s Introduction will see, is the text of B and א and their small following. That following is made up of Z in St. Matthew, Δ in St. Mark, the fragmentary Ξ in St. Luke, with frequent agreement with them of D, and of the eighth century L; with occasional support from some of the group of Cursives, consisting of 1, 33, 118, 131, 157, 205, 209, and from the Ferrar group, or now and then from some others, as well as from the Latin k, and the Egyptian or other versions. This perhaps appears to be a larger number than our readers may have supposed, but rarely are more than ten MSS. found together, and generally speaking less, and often much less than that. To all general intents and purposes, the Neutral Text is the text of B–א.

2. Following facts and avoiding speculation, the Neutral Text appears hardly in history except at the Semiarian 283period. It was almost disowned ever after: and there is no certainty—nothing more than inference which we hold, and claim to have proved, to be imaginary and delusive,—that, except as represented in the corruption which it gathered out of the chaos of the earliest times, it made any appearance.

3. Thus, as a matter of history acknowledged by Dr. Hort, it was mainly superseded before the end of the century of its emergence by the Traditional Text, which, except in the tenets of a school of critics in the nineteenth century, has reigned supreme ever since.

4. That it was not the original text of the Gospels, as maintained by Dr. Hort, I claim to have established from an examination of the quotations from the Gospels made by the Fathers. It has been proved that not only in number, but still more conclusively in quality, the Traditional Text enjoyed a great superiority of attestation over all the kinds of corruption advocated by some critics which I have just now mentioned624624    An attempt in the Guardian has been made in a review full of errors to weaken the effect of my list by an examination of an unique set of details. A correction both of the reviewer’s figures in one instance and of .my own may be found above, pp. 144-153. There is no virtue in an exact proportion of 3:2, or of 6:1. A great majority will ultimately be found on our side.. This conclusion is strengthened by the verdict of the early versions.

5. The inferiority of the ‘Neutral Text’ is demonstrated by the overwhelming weight of evidence which is marshalled against it on passages under dispute. This glaring contrast is increased by the disagreement among themselves of the supporters of that Text, or class of readings. As to antiquity, number, variety, weight, and continuity, that Text falls hopelessly behind: and by internal evidence also the texts of B and א, and still more the eccentric text of the Western D, are proved to be manifestly inferior.

6. It has been shewn also by evidence, direct as well as 284inferential, that B and א issued nearly together from the library or school of Caesarea. The fact of their being the oldest MSS. of the New Testament in existence, which has naturally misled people and caused them to be credited with extraordinary value, has been referred, as being mainly due, to their having been written on vellum according to the fashion introduced in that school, instead of the ordinary papyrus. The fact of such preservation is really to their discredit, instead of resounding to their honour, because if they had enjoyed general approval, they would probably have perished creditably many centuries ago in the constant use for which they were intended.

Such are the main points in the indictment and in the history of the Neutral Text, or rather—to speak with more appropriate accuracy, avoiding the danger of drawing with too definite a form and too deep a shade—of the class of readings represented by B and א. It is interesting to trace further, though very summarily, the connexion between this class of readings and the corruptions of the Original Text which existed previously to the early middle of the fourth century. Such brief tracing will lead us to a view of some causes of the development of Dr. Hort’s theory.

The analysis of Corruption supplied as to the various kinds of it by Dean Burgon has taught us how they severally arose. This is fresh in the mind of readers, and I will not spoil it by repetition. But the studies of textual critics have led them to combine all kinds of corruption chiefly under the two heads of the Western or Syrio-Low-Latin class, and in a less prominent province of the Alexandrian. Dr. Hort’s Neutral is really a combination of those two, with all the accuracy that these phenomena admit. But of course, if the Neutral were indeed the original Text, it would not do for it to be too closely connected with one of such bad reputation as the Western, 285which must be kept in the distance at all hazards. Therefore he represented it—all unconsciously no doubt and with the best intention—as one of the sources of the Traditional, or as he called it the ‘Syrian’ Text. Hence this imputed connexion between the Western and the Traditional Text became the essential part of his framework of Conflation, which could not exist without it. For any permanent purpose, all this handiwork was in vain. To say no more, D, which is the chief representative of the Western Text, is too constant a supporter of the peculiar readings of B and א not to prove its near relationship to them. The ‘Neutral’ Text derives the chief part of its support from Western sources. It is useless for Dr. Hort to disown his leading constituents. And on the other hand, the Syrio-Low-Latin Text is too alien to the Traditional to be the chief element in any process, Conflate or other, out of which it could have been constructed. The occasional support of some of the Old Latin MSS. is nothing to the point in such a. proof. They are so fitful and uncertain, that some of them may witness to almost anything. If Dr. Hort’s theory of Conflation had been sounder, there would have been no lack of examples.

Naturam expellas furca: tamen usque recurret.

He was tempted to the impossible task of driving water uphill. Therefore I claim, not only to have refuted Dr. Hort, whose theory is proved to be even more baseless than I ever imagined, but by excavating more deeply than he did, to have discovered the cause of his error.

No: the true theory is, that the Traditional Text—not in superhuman perfection, though under some superhuman Guidance—is the embodiment of the original Text of the New Testament. In the earliest times, just as false doctrines were widely spread, so corrupt readings prevailed in many places. Later on, when Christianity was better 286understood, and the Church reckoned amongst the learned and holy of her members the finest natures and intellects of the world, and many clever men of inferior character endeavoured to vitiate Doctrine and lower Christian life, evil rose to the surface, and was in due time after a severe struggle removed by the sound and faithful of the day. So heresy was rampant for a while, and was then replaced by true and well-grounded belief. With great ability and with wise discretion, the Deposit whether of Faith or Word was verified and established. General Councils decided in those days upon the Faith, and the Creed when accepted and approved by the universal voice was enacted for good and bequeathed to future ages. So it was both as to the Canon and the Words of Holy Scripture, only that all was done quietly. As to the latter, hardly a footfall was heard. But none the less, corruption after short-lived prominence sank into deep and still deeper obscurity, whilst the teaching of fifteen centuries placed the true Text upon a firm and lasting basis.

And so I venture to hold, now that the question has been raised, both the learned and the well-informed will come gradually to see, that no other course respecting the Words of the New Testament is so strongly justified by the evidence, none so sound and large-minded, none so reasonable in every way, none so consonant with intelligent faith, none so productive of guidance and comfort and hope, as to maintain against all the assaults of corruption


« Prev Appendix II. Conflation and the So-called Neutral… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection