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Section Four
Shlama Akhay,

Here is Section IV of Norton's book entitled "How we may know whether books which are said to be the Word of God, are so or not."

Three things need to be proved to make it certain that any book which we have now, contains, "not the word of men, but the Word of God," (1 Thes. ii. 13.) First, proof by miracles that God spoke by the alleged writer, (see John iii. 2; x. 38; Heb. ii. 3, 4.) Secondly, proof by the hand-writing of the alleged author, or other means, that the original copy of the book was declared by him to be "the Word of God." Paul gave this token by his hand-writing, in every epistle (2 Thes. iii. 17, 18.) Thirdly, proof that the book which we have now is the same book which he delivered, and has been copied and handed down to us without alteration. The first and second proofs could only be known to those of the first centuries. The hand-writing of the apostles, which proved the divine authority of early copies, soon perished. What we need now is clear and credible testimony that copies, which were in public and private religious use in the early centuries, when their descent from the originals could be traced, and their likeness to them proved, were by most, or universally, believed to be true copies of the books which contained, not the words of men, but "the words" of God. We need also proof that these copies of the first ages were in the following centuries, so exactly copied, that we are assured that the copies we have now, are exact copies of them. It is evident that if copies whose Apostolic descent was firmly believed and well attested in the first ages, have in the following ages, been copied in different places far apart; that, then, if the existing copies of these separate lines of descent agree, it is the most decisive proof possible that they must all have been most carefully made through the ages, or they could not possibly agree thus now. Proof of exact copying is essential to our knowledge of what the Apostles wrote. For as, when a witness lies, no one can tell when he is speaking truth; so, when the copy of a book which contained at first the words of God, is proved to be untrue in many places, no one can rely on it as proof of what is true, or what is false, in doubtful readings. Copies proved to be of true descent, and to have been exactly copied from the first, are the only copies fit to be trusted as witnesses on disputed readings; especially because the question at issue is, "What words are, or are not, the infallible words of God?" The exact copying of the Peshito-Syriac text is one of the things which gives it such great weight.
Part 2 of Section IV-'How we may know whether books which are said to be the Word of God, are so or not.'

P. D. Huet, Bishop of Avranches, in France, a scholar of high repute, and chief editor of the Delphin classics, said, with respect to the means of deciding whether a work is really what it is said to be, "That every book is genuine which was esteemed genuine by those who lived nearest to the time when it was written, and by the ages succeeding in a continued series"; and that "this is an axiom which cannot be disputed by those who will allow any thing at all to be certain in history." (See Jeremiah Jone's work on the Canon, 1798, vol. 1, p. 43). Mr. Jones' remarks on this axiom, that in the case of Christian books this kind of evidence may be stronger than in the case of other books; that the esteem in which the books from the first were held, the use made of them by religious assemblies, and the translations made from them very early into other languages, may concur to make an imposture in their case "almost impossible;" (pp. 43, 44.)
Justin the Martyr, in his second defence of the Christians, written 150 years after the birth of Christ, said that they were an "innumerable multitude," and that every Sunday they met together, and read the "Gospels written by the Apostles" (see his Greek Apology.) Justin describes himself as being "of Palestine," and as writing his address on behalf of those who dwelt there. (See the beginning.) Mr. Jeremiah Jones remarks that as the language of Palestine was Syriac, the Gospels which were said by Justin to have been read every Sunday, must have been in Syriac. He says, "This argument I look upon as conclusive," in proof that the Gospels then existed in "the Syriac language" (Vol. I., p. 97). No other Gospels but those of the Peshito, are proved by other evidence to have been in general use by those speaking Syriac. The one Gospel used by the Nazareans, cannot possibly be meant by Justin when he speaks of the records made by the Apostles, which are called "the Gospels" (Paris edition, 1552, p. 162).
Proof that the Peshito existed in the time of Justin the Martyr, and also that it had existed from before the time when the latest Apostolic books were written, seems to be given by the fact that it does not contain these books. If they had been then written, they could not have been then excluded from fellowship with the other divine writings without giving the false impression that they were not of the same divine authority. But there is proof that those five other books were not kept separate from the Peshito, because they were themselves denied to be of Apostolic authority, but only because the Syriac copies of them were denied to be of the same authority as the other Syriac books in the dialect of Edessa. The difference made between those five Syriac books and the Peshito, was because the five had only some uninspired translator. It therefore implies belief that the Peshito had been made by persons who were more than mere human translators, such as he was who made the Edessene transcript of the other books; it implies that the Peshito was made either by persons who themselves wrote what God directed them to write, or by others whose work had their oversight and approval. For if all the New Covenant books had been written in the Edessene dialect by uninspired translators, there is no known reason why they should have been kept so separate; and why the Peshito alone should have been treated with such superior reverence, and with such faith in its very words, as sacred, that it would have been deemed a sin to alter any of them. In this view Mr. Jeremiah Jones concurs. He says that "it seems most probable" that the reason why the five books are not in the [Peshito-]Syriac copies, is because they were not written when the Syriac Version was made; for had they been written then, those so useful Epistles would have been translated, for the same reason as the others. This was the argument which, among others, convinced Tremellius (see the preface to his Syriac N. T.) and the learned Bishop Walton (see the Prolegomena to his Polyglot), that this version was made in the Apostle's time" (Jones, vol. iii., p. 175).
Part 3 of Section IV of Norton's book entitled "How we may know whether books which are said to be the Word of God, are so or not."

Canon Westcott of Cambridge University, says in his work on the Canon of the N. T. (that is, on what books are really part of God's Word,) 1875, that to justify the acceptance of any book as infallible, we need evidence similar to that which Bishop Huet says is a sure proof that a book is what it is said to be. Dr. Westcott says at p. 12, "It is impossible to insist too often or too earnestly on this, that it is to the Church, as a witness, and keeper of holy writ, that we must look both for the formation and the proof of the Canon. The written rule of Christendom must rest finally on the general confession of the Church, and not on the independent opinions of its members......The chief value of private testimony lies in the fact that it is a natural expression of the current opinion of the time." He applies this rule to the Greek Testament, by showing that its several books were received at an early date, and prized in the following centuries, as divine, by the mass of those Greek Christians, who were not gross corrupters of the truth. He appeals to "common usage," p. 12; to the mention of these books as "received by Churches," p. 13, and to proofs of "a belief widely spread throughout the Christian body," as affording decisive evidence that these books are genuine and Apostolic (p. 14).
Dr. Westcott admits that evidence very much like this exists also with respect to the Peshito-Syriac books. He says, "The Peshito Version is assigned almost universally to the most remote Christian antiquity. The Syriac Christians of Malabar even now claim for it the right to be considered as an Eastern original of the New Testament, and.......their tradition is not, to a certain extent, destitute of all plausibility," "It was in the Aramaean vernacular language of the Jews of Palestine that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written, if we believe the unanimous testimony of the fathers; and it is not unnatural to look to the Peshito as likely to contain some traces of its first form," (p. 233.) "The dialect of the Peshito, even as it stands now, represents, in part at least, that form of Aramaic which was current in Palestine." (p. 234.) "Edessa is signalised in early church history by many remarkable facts. It was called the 'holy' and the 'blessed' city: its inhabitants were said to have been brought over by Thaddeus in a marvelous manner to the Christian faith; and 'from that time forth,' Eusebius adds, 'the whole people of Edessa have continued to be devoted to the name of Christ.' " "Tradition fixes on Edessa as the place whence the Peshito took its rise. Gregory Bar Hebreus, one of the most learned and accurate of Syrian writers,.......assumes the Apostolic origin of the New Testament Peshito as certain......He speaks of this as a known and acknowledged fact." (pp. 235-6.)
Dr. Westcott says also "This version was universally received by the different sects into which the Syrian Church was divided [after] the fourth century, and so has continued current even to the present time. All the Syrian Christians whether belonging to the Nestorian, Jacobite, or Roman communion, conspire to hold the Peshito AUTHORITATIVE, and to use it in their public services......The Peshito became in the East the fixed and unalterable RULE OF SCRIPTURE." (p. 239.) "The respect in which the Peshito was held, was further shown by the fact that it was taken as the basis of other versions in the East. An Arabic and a Persian version were made from it." (p. 240.)
Dr. Westcott has linked the Peshito with the Latin Vulgate in a passage which, if freed from reference to the Latin version, to avoid any discussion respecting it, says of the Peshito, "Its voice is one to which we cannot refuse to listen. It gives the testimony of Churches, and not of individuals. It is sanctioned by public use, and not only supported by private criticism. Combined with the original Greek [and the Old Latin], it represents the New Testament Scriptures as they were read throughout the whole of Christendom towards the close of the second century.........It furnishes a proof of the authority of the books which it contains, widespread, continuous, reaching to the utmost verge of our historic records. Its real weight is even greater than this; for when history first speaks of it, it speaks as of that which was recognised as a heritage from an earlier period, which cannot have been long after the days of the Apostles." (p. 263.)
Part 4 of Section IV entitled 'How we may know whether books which are said to be the Word of God, are so or not."

Dr. Westcott gives at p. 241, the following information from Dr. William Wright, Professor of Arabic in Cambridge University, one of the best informed persons on this subject. He says, "Of the Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum, the earliest of the N. T. which is dated, is A. D. 768." It does not contain the five books last written. "An earlier copy of the 5th or 6th century gives the same books in a different order......The earliest manuscript in which the disputed Epistles occur is dated A. D. 823."
Dr. Westcott gives, under letter D, in his appendix, "The chief catalogues of the Books of the Bible during the first eight centuries." Sixteen out of thirty-two of them are those of the Eastern Churches. No. IV., by Chrysostom, cent. IV., has only "three catholic Epistles," James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. He omits the five books absent from the Peshito. No. VII. is a list by Hebedjesu, about 1318 A. D., from Asseman's Bibliotheca, Vol. iii. Hebedjesu omits the five books above mentioned. He says, "Matthew wrote in Hebrew in Palestine." He describes the three Epistles, that of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John, as "The three letters which have, written in them, writing by the Apostles in every copy and language, namely, those of James, Peter, and John; and which are called catholic." The statement that these three Epistles were issued by the Apostles in various languages, and authenticated in all of them by the handwriting of the Apostles, is of special importance. In No. XVIII., the list of Leontius, about A. D. 590, seven letters are called catholic, i.e., universal, namely, that of James, 1 and 2 of Peter, 1, 2 and 3 of John, and that of Jude, and the reason given for this name is, "Because they were not written for one nation, as those of Paul were; but universally for all nations;" he means probably for the Hebrew Christians dispersed throughout all nations. The above lists all represent the Eastern Churches.
The Churches which have used the Peshito-Syriac text have borne witness as uniformly to its "Apostolic origin" and authority, as the Churches which have used the Greek text have declared its Divine authority. Too little attention has been given to this admitted fact; and besides this, many modern critics who have treated the Greek text as the only text which has testimony to its Apostolic authority, have rejected the general testimony of those very Churches which have used the Greek text. These critics have slighted the readings best approved by the mass and long line of those assemblies; and have adopted as chief guides two copies which have no record whatever of having been generally approved by those Churches; they have also done this in spite of internal evidence in these two Greek copies, that they have been carelessly written. Special attention needs to be given to these facts. Even Canon Westcott, who insists so strongly, in his work on the Canon, p. 12, that we must depend for proof of what "the written Rule of Christendom" is, on the "general confession" of Christian bodies, has adopted in connection with Dr. Hort, and with view to settle the Greek text upon a sure basis, "a system" which, as Dr. Scrivener says, (Introduction, p. 537), is itself "entirely destitute of historical foundation."
Quote:Apostolic origin
Has no meaning to me whatsoever. This is part of the reason why I believe we should concentrate on textual studies, not sectarian dogmatic declarations.
Shlama Akhi Rob,

If the Scriptures don't have Apostolic authority due to their Apostolic origin, then all we have are a bunch of books written on a whim by whoever sounds the most reliable at the time. But if we have books that are written by the Apostles who saw Yeshua in the flesh, heard every word he said, saw the signs, wonders, miracles, and were present during his death, burial, resurrection / ascension, then we have some very reliable writings indeed. So expressions like 'Apostolic authority' and 'Apostolic origin' should not intimidate anybody.

Shlama w'Burkate, Larry Kelsey
Part 5 of Section 4

Canon Westcott and Dr. Hort have made and followed conjectures equally "destitute of historical foundation," with respect to the Peshito-Syriac text. One of these conjectures relates to some fragments of an old Syriac translation of the Gospels, discovered by the late Dr. W. Cureton, and published by him in 1858. Nothing is known about it, except that it was brought from Egypt to Britain. I have not been able to get a copy, and know it chiefly by a review of it published in 1859, by Prof. Christian Hermansen, of Copenhagen. This is not the place to discuss the peculiarities of that translation. It is sufficient to quote a few words from Mr. Hermansen. He says that the Peshito and this translation "greatly differ" and in "various ways," p. 7; and that there is "a wonderful agreement between this translation and the Cambridge manuscript called D," (p. 21), of which copy Dr. Scrivener, an able judge, says, "It may be said without extravagance, that no set of scriptural records affords a text less probable in itself, or less sustained by any rational principles of external evidence, than that of codex D, of the Latin codices, and (so far as it accords with them) of Cureton's Syriac. (Introduction to N. T. 1883, p. 510.) Dr. Roberts, of Aberdeen, seems to be justified in saying of Dr. Cureton's fragments, "Never, probably, was there in the whole history of critical publications, such a notable example of self-delusion as that under which Dr. Cureton has laboured in this undertaking;" (Dr. R., on the Original Language of Matthew, p. 131); that is, the undertaking to prove that these fragments "more nearly represent the exact words of Matthew himself than any copy yet discovered," (p. 122). And yet Dr. Westcott and Dr. Hort assume that this "Curetonian version of the Gospels" is the first form of the Peshito. Canon Westcott calls it the "Old Syriac," (on Canon, p. 233, note 6.) He says, "It appears to have been afterwards corrected," but "in the absence of an adequate supply of critical materials, it is impossible to construct the history of these recensions in the Syriac," (p. 234.) Notwithstanding these conjectured recensions, he speaks of "the present corrupt state of the text" (p. 240.) One is startled, pained, and almost appalled, by finding that a scholar so highly esteemed as Canon Westcott is, can so violate his own rules; by finding that he not only rejects the admitted testimony of "Churches" to the "Apostolic authority" of the Peshito as it now exists, but even invents and follows mere fictions, and these of a kind fitted and seemingly intended to destroy its reputation. Can it be that this amazing inconsistency and impropriety is in some degree due to a fact which Canon Westcott mentions in one of his notes, when speaking of the Peshito? The note is this (in his work on the Canon, p. 238,) "In reference to the phraseology of the Peshito, it is worthy of remark that Episcopus is preserved in one place only, Acts xx. 28. Elsewhere it is kashisho (presbyter) except in 1 Pet. ii. 25." The Peshito has there "care-taker." Dr. Westcott's note directs special attention to the fact that the Peshito has omitted in most places the word, which, by being adopted as the name of the prelates who rule the Church of England, gives them some show, and but a deceptive show, of scriptural origin. It cannot be forgotten that Dr. Westcott has stated that the omission of the word bishop from passages in the Peshito, is a fact "worthy of remark."
Drs. Westcott and Hort published in 1881, six years after Dr. Westcott's fourth edition of his work on the Canon, dated 1875, a long and mysteriously made Introduction to a new Greek text, full of strange changes. Both editors are responsible for the principles, arguments, and conclusions set forth in this Introduction, but it was "written by Dr. Hort" (Int. p. 18.) The following suggestions made by them are founded wholly on imagination, without one word of proof. "The popular Peshito version, till recently, has been known only in the form it finally received by an evidently authoritative revision........An Old Syriac must have existed as well as an Old Latin. Within the last few years the surmise has been verified. An imperfect Old Syriac copy of the Gospels, assigned to the fifth century, was found by Cureton among MSS. brought to the British Museum from Egypt in 1842, and was published by him in 1858." This is assumed by the writers to be the Peshito "in its original form," and is said to "render the comparatively late and revised character" of the Peshito, "a matter of certainty" (p. 84.) Upon this dream of the imagination, continued references are made to the Peshito as "not coming up to the requirements of criticism," etc. (pp. 84, 92, 136, 156, 158-9.) Sadly often have "false witnesses risen up." But it must be deemed an alarming proof of the diseased state of biblical criticism, if we find even leading men indulging, not only in wild fancies, but even in false accusations against the most truthful of witnesses. The late Dean Burgon in his work, "The Revision Revised, 1883," pp. 273-8, said in reference to these conjectures, "Not a shadow of truth is forthcoming that any such Recension as Dr. Hort imagines, ever took place at all." He has, "1stly, assumed a 'Syrian Recension'; 2ndly, invented the cause of it; and 3rdly, dreamed the process by which it was carried into execution." After reminding Dr. Hort that Bishop Ellicott has said that, "It is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that portions of the Peshito might have been in the hands of the Apostle John," the Dean said, "The abominably corrupt document known as 'Cureton's Syriac,' is by another bold hypothesis, assumed to be the only surviving specimen of the unrevised version, and is thenceforth invariably designated by these authors as the Old Syriac." "Not a shadow of reason is produced why we should suppose, 1st, that such a Revision took place, and 2ndly, that all our existing manuscripts represent it." "These editors even assure us that 'Cureton's Syriac' renders the comparatively late and 'revised' character of the Syriac Vulgate," i.e., the Peshito "a matter of certainty. The very city in which it underwent revision, can, it seems, be fixed with 'tolerable certainty.' Can Dr. Hort be serious?"

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