« PreviousContinue »
by men of great learning and sagacity, which, to say the least, merit very attentive consideration. See particularly John i. !. vi. 4, and Romans ix. 5.' and a reference is made to Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. c. 10. Here is a manifest qualification of the preceeding remark. Whatsoever ambiguity then may be supposed to exist in the idea of a general rule which is universal in 'its application, it is certain that the Authors of the New Version only mean, by so expressing themselves, a rule which is in most cases to be observed, but which may in some be violated ; and, by way of distinctly pointing out the nature of their exception, they refer to John i. 1. vi. 4, and Romans ix. 5. The second reference indeed is not very important; but the first and third relate to theological conjectures, inimical to the doctrine of Christ's Divinity. The first consists in the substitution of Θεs for Θεος in the clause και Θεος ην ο Λογοσ, and the second in reading cv å for w in the passage i ww T's TOUTWV 80s, so as by this transposition to render its sense, " of whom was God, who is over all ;” necessarily precluding the interpretation usually affixed to these words. What then is their distinction? The general rule, which in no case admits theological conjecture, how ingeniously and plausible soever it be, ought not, it seems, to stand in the way of any unauthorized emendations of the sacred text fvaourable to the Unitarian hypothesis : but do they mean to extend the same indulgent exception to Trinitarian criticism ? Or do they conceive, that it is only the judgment of the Trinitarian critic which is likely to be biassed by individual opinion?
But, in corroboration of what they advance, they refer the reader to Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. c. x. In this chapter, which is entitled “Conjectural Emendations of the Greek Testament." and upon which their whole reasoning, one might suppose, was founded, it is singular that Michaelis reprobates, in the strongest terms, all theological conjecture whatsoever, and that for this obvious reason ; because “a Theologian whose business it is to form his whole system of faith and manners from the Bible, cannot with propriety assume previously any system of theology, by which he may regulate the sacred text ; but must adopt that text which is confirmed by original documents, and thence deduce his theological system.* Nor is this all. In direct opposition to the sentiments of those who quote him, and in the beginning of that very chapter to which they refer, he thus unequivocally expresses himself : 6 It must be evident to every man, that the New Testament would be a very uncertain rule of life and manners, and indeed WHOLLY UNFIT TO BE USED AS A STANDARD OF RELIGION, if it were allowable, as in the practice of several Socinians, to apply critical conjecture in order to establish the tenets of our own party. For instance ; if, in order to free ourselves from a superstitious doctrine, on the supposition that the divinity of Christ is ungrounded, we were at liberty to change, without any authority, 805 mu į Aogos, John i. 1, into fex nu Ayos, and ó WV ETI TAVSW @sos, Rom. ix. 5, into á ó ETI TANTWV 805, the Bible would become so very uncertain, that every man might believe or disbelieve, as best suited his own principles.”+
* Introduction, p. 18, 19.
Could these writers have possibly read the preceding passage when they made their appeal to the authority of Michaelis? If they had, they must surely have perceived that Michaelis is directly against them ; and that the very conjectural emendations, originally proposed by the Socinian theorists Crell and Schlichting, which they particularly notice as suggested by men of great learning and sagacity, and as meriting, to say the least, very attentive consideration, he directly censures in the most pointed terms, and expressly brings forward to illustrate the
* Michaelis, vol. ii. p. 413.
+ Michaelis, vol. ï. p. 387.
position, that theological conjecture is never admissible. If, conscious of opposing an established maxim, which ought in no instance to be violated, they wished to shelter themselves from the storm of critical reproof, the gabardine of Michaelis was most unfortunately selected indeed as a place of refuge.
To the passage which I have just quoted, from the first section of the chapter referred to,I willadd one or two more from the last section of the same chapter, in order to place the opinion of Michaelis in a still clearer point of view. 6. The only plausible argument which an advocate for theological conjecture might use, not so much indeed to convince himself of the justice of his cause, as to perplex his opponents, is the following; namely, that the New Testament has been so corrupted by the ruling party, which calls itself Orthodox, that the genuine doctrine of Christ and his Apostles is no longer to be found in it. But there is not the least room for a suspicion of this kind, as we have so great a number of manuscripts, versions, and ecclesiastical writings, in which the New Testament is quoted, of every age and every country. And in proof of his assertion, among other things, he remarks, that “the passages which afforded the most perplexity to the members of the ruling Church are still extant in manuscripts, versions, and editions of the New Testament ; whereas the spurious passage, 1. John v. 7. though the Orthodox seem to think it of the most importance, has never had the good fortune to find admittance into any Greek manuscript, or ancient version.” If the compilers of this Introduction, who not only in the instance before me, but in almost every page, refer to the writings of Michaelis, will not admit the validity of the argument in the preceding extracts, they may perhaps feel the force of the following powerful appeal to Unitarian consistency : “ As critical
* Michaelis, vol. ii. p. 418.
conjectures," observes the same author, have been principally made by those, who, in the language of the Church, are termed Heretics, I will invent one or two examples of the same kind in the name of the Orthodox, and ask those of the opposite party, whether they would admit them as lawful conjectures. For instance, suppose I should alter ori ο Πατηρ με μειζων με εςι, John xiv. 18. to ότι ο πατηρ με εςι, or ότι ο Πατηρ με ζων μεν εςιν, in order to be freed from a text that implies an inequality between the Father and the Son : or if I should read 1 John v. 20. in the following manner, šros ο υιος εςιν ο αληθινος, Θέος, in order to show more distinctly the divinity of Christ; I think the Heterodox would ex. claim, He is either extremely ignorant, or, by having recourse to such miserable artifices, acknowledges the badness of his cause. But the Heterodox, as well as the Orthodox, must appear before the impartial tribunal of criticism, where there is no respect to persons, and where it is not allowed for one party to take greater liberties than the other."*
As it is impossible to expose their reasoning more strongly than the Critic himself has done, to whom they appeal for support, and that even in the very chapter which they quote, I shall add nothing more upon the subject, but leave them to enjoy, as they can, the testimony of Michaelis.
Authenticity of the two first Chapters of
In the remarks which I propose to make upon this New Version, it is not my intention to raise the shield of theological warfare against those " critics and commentators of the highest reputation" as they are termed,* that is, against the redoubted champions of Unitarianism, from whose works the Authors profess to have principally collected their notes from the illustration of difficult and doubtful pages ; but to confine my observations as much as possible to critical questions : and, as they do not presume to hold it up as a faultless translation, but merely as an improved version, still, no doubt, susceptible of far greater improvement, which they will rejoice to see undertaken and accomplished by abler hands ;”?+ I shall not drag into view every little error and inaccuracy which the severity of criticism may discover, but consider those only which are most offensive and most prominent.
* Michaelis, vol. i. p. 415.
“If this Version,” they remark, “posseses any merit, it is that of being translated from the most correct text of the original which has hitherto been published.”I Yet, notwithstanding this and other similar assertions, “the inquisitive, liberal, and judicious reader,” whose approbation they seem assured of conciliating, scarcely opens the Gospel of St. Matthew before he finds three pages together printed in italics, an intimation, he is told, that the passages themselves are all of doubtful authority ; and, when. he gets to St Luke's, almost seven more of the same description. The reasons assigned for the propriety of this rejection may possibly satisfy the inquisitive, liberal, and judicious of their own communion, whose minds may be prepared by a previous intimacy with the writings of Priestley and his coadjutors, but will never, I am persuaded, convince the inquisitive, liberal, and judicious, if such can be admitted to exist, of any other communion.
Being repeatedly informed that this Version is adapted to the "admirable” text of Griesbach, as given in the
* Introduction, p. 4. + Introduction, p. 30.
Ibid. p. 8.