Which Version? by Philip Mauro_Chapter 6/7

VI. The Procedure of the Revision Committee

Some of our readers will perhaps be asking how it was possible that the learned men who composed the Revision Committee could have allowed the great mass of testimony which sustains the authenticity of the Received Text to be set aside upon the sole authority of two Codices so dubious as the two we have been discussing. The explanation is that the Revisionists  did not consider these matters at all. They were not supposed to undertake the refashioning of the Greek Text-for that lay entirely outside their instructions-and they had therefore no occasion to go into the many intricate matters involved in the weighing of the evidence for and against the Received Text.

Neither was it their province to decide upon the soundness of the principle of following ancient Mss. only; and the account of their proceedings (published by Dr. Newth, one of the Revisers) makes it quite plain that they did not have before them, or give any consideration to, the weighty matters of fact, affecting the character of those two “ancient witnesses,” which we are now putting before our readers.

It is therefore to be noted (and it is an important point) that in regard to the underlying Greek Text of the R.V. and the principles that controlled its formation, no appeal can properly be made to the scholarship of the Committee, however great it might be.

In view of all the facts it seems clear that, not until after the Committee had disbanded, and their work had come under the scrutiny of able scholars and faithful men, were they themselves aware that they had seemingly given their official sanction to the substitution of the “New Greek Text” of Westcott and Hort for the Textus Receptus. The Westcott and Hort Text had not yet been published, and hence had never been subjected to scrutiny  and criticism; nor had the principles upon which it was constructed been investigated.  Only after it was too late were the facts realized, even by the Revisers themselves.

The mischief has thus been traced back to those two scholars, and to a Text that had not yet seen the light of day and been subjected to the scrutiny of other scholars. And we now know that not until after the R.V. of the New Testament had been published was it known that the  Westcott and Hort Text had been quietly imposed upon the Revisers, and that it was conformed to the two old Codices, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

Dean Burgon was one of the first to call attention to the fact that the most radical departures in the R.V. were not new translations of the Received Text, but were departures that arose from changes in the Greek Text itself. No announcement of this important fact had been made by the Committee; and indeed there was seemingly a disposition to throw a veil over this part of the proceedings in Committee. “But,” says Dean Burgon, “I traced the mischief home to its cue authors-Dr. Westcott and Hort-a copy of whose unpublished text, the most vicious in existence, had been confidentially and under pledges of the strictest secrecy, placed in the hands of every member of the revising body.”

Dean Burgon thereupon proceeded to publish some of these facts in a series of articles which appeared in the Quarterly Review in 1883; and subsequent events have amply proved the correctness of his anticipations at that time, namely that the effect of careful investigations would eventually convince all competent judges that the principles on which the “New Greek Text” was constructed were “radically unsound;” and that “the Revision of 1881 must come to be universally regarded as-what it most certainly is- The most astonishing, as well as the most calamitous, literary blunder of the age.”

Dean Burgon had undertaken the examination of the R.V. upon the supposition that that work was what its name implies, and what its authors had been charged to produce, namely, a “Revision of the Authorized Version” But, as he puts it, “we speedily found that an entirely different problem awaited us. We made the distressing discovery that the underlying Greek Text had been completely refashioned throughout.”

This is the more serious because no one, upon reading the preface to the R. V. would find any hint at such a thing. But, thanks to the thorough investigations of scholars of the first rank (some of whom are quoted in this volume) it is now possible for all who are interested in this great and solemn question, to satisfy themselves that Drs. Westcott and Hort have indeed, as Dean Burgon said, ” succeeded in producing a Text vastly more remote from the inspired autographs of the evangelists and apostles of our Lord, than any which has appeared since the invention of printing.”

“A revision of the English Authorized Version (Not, be it observed, a revision of the Greek Text having been sanctioned by the Convention of the Southern Province in 1871, the opportunity was eagerly grasped by two irresponsible scholars of the University of Cambridge (meaning Dr. Westcott and Hort) for obtaining the general sanction of the Revision body, and thus indirectly of the Convocation itself, for a private venture of their own– their privately devised Revision of the Greek Text.

On that Greek Text of theirs (which I hold to be the most depraved that has ever appeared in print) with some slight modifications, our English Authorized Version has been silently revised: silently, I say, for in the margin of the English no record is preserved of the underlying Textual changes introduced by the Revisionists. On the contrary, use has been made of that margin to insinuate suspicion and distrust, in countless particulars as to the authenticity of parts of the Text which have been suffered to remain unaltered.”

An account of the mode of procedure of the Revision Committee, whereby they settled the final reading of the English Text has been published by one of the members (Dr. Newth); and as detailed by him it is certainly not calculated to inspire us with confidence in the results thereby arrived at.

This was the mode: A passage being under consideration, the Chairman asks, “Are any Textual changes proposed?” If a change be proposed then “the evidence for and against is briefly stated.” This is done by “two members of the Company-Dr. Scrivener and Dr. Hort.” And if those two members disagree “The vote of the Company is taken, and the proposed Reading accepted or rejected. The Text being thus settled, the Chairman asks for proposals on the Rendering” (i.e., the Translation).

Thus it appears that there was no attempt whatever on the part of the Revisionists to examine the evidence bearing upon the many disputed readings. They only listened to the views of two of their number (one of whom as we have seen, was fatally obsessed by a vicious theory) and thereupon, in summary fashion, they “settled” the Text by a majority vote. Can we possibly have any confidence in a Text that was “settled” by such a slap-dash method?

Sir Edmund Beckett in his book, Should the Revised Be Authorized? (p.42) aptly remarks concerning the above that, if Dr. Newth’s description “of the process whereby the Revisionists ‘settled’ the Greek alterations is not a kind of joke, it is quite enough to ‘settle’ this Revised Greek Testament in a very different sense.”

Canon Cook ( R. V. of the First Three Gospels Considered ) says concerning the above explanation by Dr. Newth, “Such a proceeding appeared to me so strange that I fully expected the account would be corrected, or that some explanation would be given which might remove the very unpleasant impression.” But not so. On the contrary, the Chairman himself (Bishop Ellicott) is authority for the fact that Dr. Newth’s account of the method whereby the Greek Text was “settled” is quite correct.

Sir Edmund Beckett has, we think, put the matter very well when he said that Dr. Newth’s account of the way the Committee on Revision “settled” the Greek Text “Is quite enough to ‘settle’ the Revised Version in a very different sense.” For in the production of the “New Greek Text” the Revisers have departed from the Textus Receptus nearly 36,000 times.

The question of every proposed change should have been made a matter of careful investigation, and should have been reached according to the weight of the evidence, for and against. But from the published account of the proceedings, vouched for by the Chairman (Bishop ]Ellicott) as correct, we understand that in no case was there any examination of the question, or weighing of the evidence by the Committee.

Upon this state of things Bishop Wordsworth remarks. “The question arises whether the Church of England, which sanctioned a revision of her Authorized Version under the express condition (which she most wisely imposed) that  no changes should be made in it except such as were absolute necessary, could consistently accept a Version in which 36,000 changes have been made, not a fiftieth of which can be shown to be needed or even desirable.’

VII. Specific Examples of Textual Corruption

Enough has been said, we think to impeach successfully the credibility of the two “ancient witnesses” whose testimony was so largely relied upon in constructing a Greek Text for the R.V. We will therefore proceed now to refer to some conspicuous instances wherein passages or clauses have been either corrupted or brought under unjust suspicion through their evidence, which is largely of a negative character. And this will throw further light upon the character of those witnesses; for an effectual way of discrediting their testimony is to produce actual instances of the mischief that has been done by accepting it.

The Last Twelve Verses of Mark

in his “unanswered and unanswerable” work on this famous passage (published some years before the R.V. appeared, so that the Revisers were duly informed regarding it) Dean Burgon wrote as follows:

“The consentient witness of the manuscripts is even extraordinary. With the exception of the two uncial manuscripts which have just been named (Vatican and Sinaitic)  there is not one Codex in existence, uncial or cursive (and we are acquainted with at least eighteen other uncials and about six hundred cursives of this Gospel,) which leaves out the last twelve verses of St. Mark. The omission of these twelve verses, I repeat, in itself destroys our confidence in Codex B (Vaticanus) and Codex Sinaiticus…… Nothing whatever which has hitherto come before us lends the slightest countenance to the modern dream that St. Mark’s Gospel, as it left the hands of the inspired author, ended abruptly at verse 8…… The notion is an invention, a pure imagination of the critics, ever since the days Of Griesbach.”

The fact that the Revisers have discredited a passage so important as the ending of Mark’s Gospel  is enough in itself to arouse suspicion as to their entire work, and to create a feeling of uncertainty as to their fitness for the great task entrusted to them. For the evidence in favor of the authenticity of that passage is simply overwhelming.

The Angelic Message (Luke 2:14)

As another typical instance of the sort of changes that the Revisionists have attempted to introduce through the unsound methods they pursued, we take the words of the angelic message, “And on earth peace, good will towards men” (Lu. 2:14). For this the Revisionists, upon the authority of the little handful of corrupt MSS. to which they superstitiously bowed, have substituted the uncouth and preposterous phrase, “Peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”

Now we should suppose that every one acquainted with the language of Scripture, and possessed of spiritual discernment to even a moderate extent, would unhesitatingly say that such a phrase could never have been part of the true Word of God. But, going back to the evidence, it is found that, with the exception of four Codices of bad repute (two of which have been corrected as to this very passage  in loco) every existing copy of the Gospels (amounting to many hundreds) has the reading of the Received Text; and this reading has the support of five ancient Versions, and of quotations from more than a score of “fathers.” It is a case where, upon the evidence, there is no room for the smallest doubt. And this is a fair example of how the case stands with nearly all the changes of the Greek Text.

The Lord’s Agony in the Garden and His Prayer for His Murderers

As further examples of the havoc which the system adopted by the Revisers has wrought, we would refer to Luke 22:43, 44, and Luke 23:34. These passages, with many others (some of them very important) the Revisers have enclosed in brackets in order to indicate the “moral certainty” they entertained that the words in question are spurious. The first of the above mentioned passages describes the Lord’s agony and bloody sweat in the garden, and the other is the vitally important prayer of Christ on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We have a special comment on this last passage below.

Now the state of the evidence, as in the last preceding instance, is such as to establish beyond all doubt that both these passages are genuine Scripture.

To Save That Which Was Lost

As another example out of many we take the precious words of the Lord Jesus, “The Son of man is come to save that which was lost,”  which are expunged by the Revisionists from Matthew 18:11, although they are attested by every known uncial except three (the usual three of bad character), by every known cursive except three, by numerous Versions, by the lectionaries of many churches, wad by a large number of fathers. In a word, the evidence overwhelmingly establishes the genuiness of the passage.

Peter Walking on the Sea

In Matthew 14:30 the A.V. says that when Peter “saw the wind boisterous he was afraid.” The R.V. strikes out the word “boisterous,” which, however, is a word of capital importance here. The only warrant for this meddlesome change, which spoils the sense of the passage, is that Tischendorf (alone of all the editors) rejects the word. And the Revisers have made matters worse by putting in the margin the utterly misleading statement “many ancient authorities add strong.” The reader would certainly understand from this that the majority of the authorities, especially the “ancient” ones, omitted the word. But the truth of the matter is that the Mss. which omit the word are but two; and of them Sir E. Beckett says, “and those two manuscripts appear also to be rather distinguished for blunders than for excellence.” Here we have a most unjustifiable alteration, coupled with an utterly misleading statement of the facts behind it.

The Mystery of Godliness

Another example of vicious and wholly unwarranted tampering with an important passage, is furnished by the alteration in I Timothy 3:16, whereby the words, “God was manifest in the flesh,” are changed to “he who was manifested in the flesh.” How this change strikes at the foundation truth of the Deity of our Lord is apparent at a glance.

As to the evidence in this case, Dean Burgon says that the reading adopted by the Revisers “is not to be found in more than two copies of S. Paul’s Epistles, is not certainly supported by a single Version, and is not clearly advocated by a single Father.”  In a word, the evidence is overwhelmingly against it. Dean Burgon, in his truly crushing reply to Bishop Ellicott, the chairman of the Revision Committee, has triumphantly vindicated the authenticity of the Received Text in its reading of this vitally important passage.

From that reply we extract the following:

“Behold then the provision which the Author of Scripture has made for the effectual conservation in its integrity of this portion of His written Word! Upwards of 1800 years have run their course since the Holy Ghost, by His servant Paul, rehearsed ‘the Mystery of Godliness,’ declar- ing this to be the great foundation fact, namely, that ‘God was manifest in the flesh.’  And lo! out of 254 copies of St. Paul’s Epistles, no less than 252 are discovered to have preserved that expression.

The copies whereof we speak were procured in every part of Christendom, being derived in every instance from copies older than themselves; which again were transcripts of copies older still They have since found their way, without design or contrivance, into the libraries of every country in Europe, where they have been jealously guarded.”

Such an agreement between hundreds of witnesses, remote from one another, establishes the true reading beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt, particularly in view of the fact that the mistake of substituting “who” for “God” is easily accounted for by the resemblance in original unical Mss. between the conventional symbol for “God” and the relative pronoun “who”.

We submit, as a proper and just conclusion from these facts, that men who, in view of the evidence before them, would cast out of the Scripture at this vital point, the word “God”, and replace it by “he who,” have thereby demonstrated their unfitness for the work of revising the Greek Text of the N.T.

The Omission of Mark 6:11

The Revisionists have discarded as spurious the words of Christ: “Verily I say unto you it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city (Mk. 6: 1 1). “

Referring to this mutilation, Dean Burgon, in a letter addressed to the chairman of the Revision Committee, commented as follows:

“How serious the consequences have been they only know who have been at pains to examine your work with close attention. Not only have you on countless occasions thrust out words, clauses, and entire sentences of genuine Scripture, but you have been careful that no trace should survive of the fatal injury you have inflicted. I wonder you were not afraid. Can I be wrong in deeming such a proceeding to be in a high degree sinful? Has not the Spirit pronounced a tremendous doom (Rev. 22:19) against those who do such things? Were you not afraid for instance to leave out (from Mk. 6:11) those solemn words of our Savior, ‘Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.? Have you studied Mark’s Gospel to so little purpose as not to know that the six uncials on which you rely are the depositories of an abominably corrupt recension of the second Gospel?”

“Bless Them that Curse You” (Matt. 5:44)

In the same letter, referring to the omission of Matthew 5:44, Dean Burgon said:

“But you have committed a yet more deplorable blunder when-without leaving behind you either note or comment of any sort-you obliterated from Matthew 5:44 the solemn words which I proceed to underline:-‘Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which  despitefully use you and  persecute you.’ You relied almost exclusively on those two false witnesses, of which you are so superstitiously fond (Vatican and Sinai MSS.), regardless of the testimony of almost all the other copies, of almost all the versions, and of a host of primitive fathers, half of whom lived and died before our two oldest manuscripts came into being.”

“Father Forgive Them”

We have already quoted Dr. Hort’s remark concerning the infinitely precious words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” words so divinely gracious that they are self-authenticating, but of which Dr. Hort said he could not doubt that they “came from an extraneous source.” Here is Dean Burgon’s comment:

“These twelve precious words Dr. Westcott and Hort enclose within double brackets in token of the ‘moral certainty’ they entertain that the words are spurious; and yet these words are found in every known uncial and in every known cursive copy except four besides being found in every ancient version. What amount (we ask the question with sincere simplicity), what amount of evidence is calculated to inspire undoubted confidence in any existing reading, if not such a concurrence of authorities as this?

“As to the patristic evidence to this passage-we find our Savior’s prayer attested by upwards of forty ancient fathers (of the second to the eighth centuries)…… How could our revisionists dare to insinuate doubts into wavering hearts and unlearned heads where (as here) they were bound to know there exists no doubt at all?”

“And Am Known of Mine”

John 10:14 reads thus in the A.V., “I am the Good Shepherd, and know My Sheep, and am known of Mine.”

For the last clause the R.V. substitutes “and Mine own know Me.” In view of the next succeeding words, “As the Father knoweth me even so know I the Father,” this change destroys the exquisite diversity of expression of the original, which implies that whereas the knowledge which subsists between the Father and the Son is mutually identical, the knowledge the creature has of the Creator is of a very different sort; and it puts the creature’s knowledge of the Creator on the same level as the Father’s knowledge of the Son, and the Son’s knowledge of the Father. Speaking of this regrettable change Dean Burgon says:

“The refinement in question has been faithfully retained all down the ages by every copy in existence, except the Vatican and the Sinaitic, and two others of equally bad character. Does anyone in his sober senses suppose that, if St. John had written ‘Mine own know Me,’ 996 manuscripts out of a thousand at the end of 1800 years would be found to exhibit ‘I am known of Mine’?”

Dr. Malan sums up in the following words his examination of the first chapter of Matthew as it appears in the R.V.-“The Re visers have made 60 changes in that chapter. Of these one is good, and one is admissible. All the rest (58) appear ill-judged or unnecessary.”

Canon Cook’s verdict on the Revisers’ Text of the first three Gospels is as follows: “It is not too much to say that in nine passages out of ten-nay, to go further-in every passage of vital importance as regards the integrity of Holy Scripture, the veracity of the sacred writers, and the records of our Lord’s sayings, nearly all ancient versions, and with very few exceptions, all ancient fathers, support the readings rejected by the Revisers.”

Sir Edmund Beckett (in his work already quoted) has this to say about the “critical maxims” the Revisers are supposed to have followed in reaching their results:

“it would take a great many critical maxims to convince me that the apostles wrote what can only be fairly translated into nonsense; which they sometimes did, if the Revisers’ new readings are all right; and moreover their adoption of them makes one suspicious about many other readings which cannot be brought under that test.”

Many other examples might be given of changes in the Greek Text made in deference to the two ancient Codices (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) and against the overwhelmingly preponderating testimony of Greek Mss. Versions and Fathers, changes which inflict manifest injury upon the Holy Scriptures. But the foregoing are amply sufficient to warrant the conclusion that the “New Greek Text” underlying the R.V. (which is virtually that of Westcott and Hort) is vastly inferior to that of the A.V., and specifically that the witnesses whose testimony controlled the construction of the former are utterly untrustworthy.

Back to Chapter 1__Next to Chapter 8/9