Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"The Precritical Period: The Origin and Dominance of the Textus Receptus"

"The Precritical Period: The Origin and Dominance of the Textus Receptus" Metzger & Ehrman, pp. 137-164


Metzger & Ehrman start by discussing the early printing of the Bible. p. 137 "Quite appropriately, the first major product of Gutenberg's press was a magnificent edition of the Bible. The text was Jerome's Latin Vulgate, and the volume was published at Mayence (Mainz) between 1450 and 1456." The printing of Bibles continued to flourish, but Greek text was more difficult to print, without a New Testament until 1514. Printing was difficult due to the decisions of printers to create fonts reproducing the cursive manuscript styles of the day, which included a very wide variety of different connections between letters. This required a very large set of type. But that was not the only reason for a delay. p. 138 "The principal cause that retarded publication of the Greek text of the new Testament was doubtless the prestige of Jerome's Latin Vulgate.

pp. 138-139 "At length, however, in 1514, the first printed Greek New Testament came from the press, as part of a polyglot Bible. Planned in 1502 by the cardinal primate of Spain, Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros (1436-1517), this magnificent edition of the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin texts was printed at the university town of Alcala (called 'Comlutum' in Latin). Known as the Complutensian Polyglot, the project was under the editorial care of several scholars, of whom Diego Lopez de Zuniga (Stunica) is perhaps the best known." It is unclear precisely what manuscript evidence was used for the Greek text.

p. 142 "Though the Complutensian text was the first Greek New Testament to be printed, the first Greek New Testament to be published (ii.e., put on the market) was the edition prepared by the famous Dutch scholar and humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536)." Apparently Erasmus was under some time pressure to produce a Greek New Testament quickly. As a result, he gathered the manuscripts which he could as quickly as possible. p. 143 "Since Erasmus could not find a manuscript that contained the entire Greek Testament, he utilized several for various parts of the New Testament. For most of the text he relied on two rather inferior manuscripts from a monastic library at Basle, one of the Gospels and one of the Acts and Epistles, both dating from about the twelfth century." As an example of the scholarly care which haste can create, Metzger and Ehrman give the following account of the way Revelation moved to the printer. p. 145 "Unfortunately this manuscript lacked the final leaf, which contained the last six verses of the book. Instead of delaying the publication of his edition while trying to locate another copy of Revelation in Greek, Erasmus (perhaps at the urging of the printer) depended on the Latin Vulgate and translated the missing verses into Greek. As would be expected from such a procedure, here and there in Erasmus' self-made Greek text are readings that have never been found in any knwon Greek manuscript of these verses - but that are still perpetuated today in printings of the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament." Erasmus' edition of the Greek New Testament did go through quite a few different editions and was improved over the years.

Erasmus was not alone, though. p. 150 "Stephanus' fourth edition (1551), which contains two Latin versions (the Vulgate and that of Erasmus) printed on either side of the Greek text, is noteworthy because in it for the first time the text was divided into numbered verses." p. 151 "Theodore de Beze (Beza, 1519-1605), the friend and successor of Calvin at Geneva and an eminent classical and biblical scholar, published no fewer than nine editions of the Greek Testament between 1565 and 1604, and a tenth edition appeared posthumously in 1611."

From the time of Stephanus' 1550 Greek New Testament to the 18th century collection and collation of variant readings became a popular pastime among New Testament scholars. Ranging from a simple notation and footnote of what variants existed to a very systematic apparatus suggesting the validity of different readings, different scholars gathered significant manuscript evidence, rather than simply accepting or rejecting readings without making explanation. p. 159 "In 1725, while teaching at the Lutheran preparatory school for ministerial candidates at Denkendorf, [Johann Albrecht] Bengel published an elaborate essay as a 'forerunner' to his projected edition of the New Testament. Here, he laid down sound critical principles. He recognized that the witnesses to the text must not be counted but weighed, that is, classified in 'companies, families, tribes, nations.' He was accordingly the first to distinguish two great groups, or 'nations,' of manuscripts: the Asiatic, which originated from Constantinople and its environs and included the manuscripts of more recent date, and the African, which he subdivided into two tribes, represented by Codex Alexandrinus and the Old Latin." This evaluation of variant readings and manuscript weight has continued to exercise influence in scholarship to the current time.

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