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More from William Norton - Larry Kelsey - 01-26-2004

Shlama Akhay,

This is from section VIII of William Norton's introduction entitled---

THE RESULT OF TRUSTING CHIEFLY TO CERTAIN FAULTY GREEK COPIES, AND SLIGHTING THE PESHITO-SYRIAC.

The Greek copies, from having been less carefully written than those of the Peshito, abound with various readings, some of which make the meaning of important passages uncertain. The result is, that the infallible teaching of those parts of Scripture is said to be destroyed.
Dr. Philip Schaff, who was President of the American committee which took part in preparing the Revised English Version of 1881, says in his Companion to it, 1883, that, as "most of the variations" of the Greek text "date from early transcription in the first two centuries, an infallible text is impossible." (p. 420.) He says this, as one who believes that the Scriptures were given to be an "Infallible Guide in all matters of Christian faith and duty."
(p. 494.)
Dr. Scrivener suggests, that in the 2094 Greek manuscripts now known, the variations may amount to more than 100,000. Comparatively few of them affect the meaning of Scripture on points of great importance. But a sufficient number of them do so, to afford those who undermine the authority of Scripture, some seeming reason for saying that if Divine guidance made it infallible at first, it has ceased to be so now. The aim of Biblical critics has been, as Dr. Scrivener says, "to bring back the Greek text to the condition in which it stood in the sacred autographs, by separating the pure gold of God's word, from the dross which has mingled with it through the accretion of so many centuries." (Introduction, 1883, p. 5.)
Dr. Scrivener admits, that notwithstanding the greatness of past efforts, difficulties still "defy all our skill and industry to detect and estimate aright
." (P. 520.) All these difficulties arise, either from wilful alterations, or from the want of exact copying , especially in the second century. Hence the extreme value of copies of the Peshito, which are proved to have been made with the greatest care and exactness from the first. This proof exists in the marvellous agreement of all early copies, wheresoever and by whomsoever made.
As Dr. Schaff says, to restore infallibility to the Greek text, in doubtful places, by means of Greek copies, seems to be "IMPOSSIBLE." The only hope of knowing, in such places, what is true, and what is false, seems to arise from the exactness of the Peshito copies. Even the penmanship of some specimens of these, as given by Professor Adler, is of great exactness and beauty; and the Rev. D. T. Stoddard, an American missionary at Ooroomiah {do you like that spelling akhi Paul <!-- sBig Grin --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/happy.gif" alt="Big Grin" title="Happy" /><!-- sBig Grin --> ), in Persia, says of the Nestorian copies, "They are sometimes very beautifully written, and the best type can never exceed, and perhaps not even rival them in elegance." (Grammar of Modern Syriac, p. 21.) This is no slight proof of the care with which they have been written.
Dr. Scrivener says, "The Peshito-Syriac has not yet received that critical care on the part of editors which its antiquity and importance so urgently demand," and "with such full means of information within our reach, it will not be to our credit if a good critical edition of the Peshito be much longer unattempted. (pp. 317-8.) But though a good critical edition is much to be desired, there is far greater need of readiness on the part of Biblical critics, to give to the Peshito the attention due to it, and the influence which it ought to exercise. No great changes are to be expected from a new critical
edition, though such an edition is so much to be desired.
The Rev. G. H. Gwilliam, M. A., of Oxford University, will, it is to be hoped, be enabled to complete his new critical edition of the Gospels of the Peshito, "based on a number of copies of very great antiquity, and high critical value." (Studia Biblica, 1885, pp. 153-4.) He has kindly told us in advance, that in this new edition, "A certain number of corrections will be made, but that these, for the most part, will be in comparatively unimportant points of grammar and orthography." (Same, p. 161.)
Most critics of the Greek text have been too indifferent to the testimony of religious bodies, in reference to Greek manuscripts. They have trusted too much to copies which have no known support from the approval of any such societies. The result is, that instead of establishing a Greek text upon a sound historical basis, they have given us the result of theories, of speculations founded on probabilities, and on a comparison of copies which, as Dr. Scrivener says, "are perpetually at variance with each other," and "scarcely ever in unison." (Introd., p. 523.) These copies have been unreasonably supposed to be of supreme authority, because the substance on which they are written has survived that of other copies more in use, and has brought them down from times when Greek manuscripts, instead of being pure, were full of the errors, both of those, and of preceding centuries.
The lamentable result is, that by the latest Greek text, Drs. Westcott and Hort seem to have done more harm than any earlier Greek editors, by the selection of wrong readings, and by corrupting still more a text which they profess to improve. The statement of Dean Burgon may, with apparent reason, be regarded as lamentably true, that this text is "the most depraved which has ever appeared in print." (Revision Revised, 1883, p. xxx.)

Shlama w'Burkate, Larry Kelsey