Images de page

he published his first edition in 1546; a second in 1549; and a third in 1551; to which his son added another in 1569.

Theodore Beza, the celebrated scholar of Calvin, prepared, about the middle of the sixteenth century, a fourth principal edition of the New Testament. He availed himself of all preceding editions ; likewise of MS. materials in the Stephens' family; and moreover, by the favour of Queen Elizabeth, he obtained the benefit of a fine collection of MSS. treasured in England. Thus was his work valuable as containing the advantages of all MSS. hitherto discovered in Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Britain. His first edition was published at Geneva in 1555, from the press of Henry Stephens, and was repeated in 1576. A third appeared in 1582, a fourth in 1589, and a fifth in 1598. Numerous impressions of Beza's text, occasionally altered by that of Robert Stephens's own third edition of 1551, came out after the year 1624, from the offices of those eminent Dutch publishers the Elzevirs and the Wetsteins; and were most favourably received on account of their typographical beauty and convenience, as also of the Latin versions annexed, chiefly that of Arias Montanus. By such means did these gentlemen contrive to give no ordinary measure of credence to an opinion which had been very confidently put forth by themselves, that theirs was the generally received text. All this, however, was insufficient to discourage several learned Englishmen from commencing a deeper research in New Testament criticism, which in the course of time shewed Beza's editions to be less and less satisfactory. Our new laborious critics were, first Brian Walton, then Dr. John Fell, and afterwards John Mill. Walton, who was the leading editor of the London Polyglott, published in 1657 the fifth volume of this great work, which contains the Greek text of the New Testament after Stephens's third edition, with the various readings of the famous Alexandrian manuscript. Fell sent forth a new edition of the Greek Testament in 1675, in which he not only availed himself of all preceding criticisms, but gave the results of collations of very many additional MSS. then newly discovered in England, Ireland, France and Italy; together with the various readings of the Coptic and Gothic versions. Still more extensive and meritorious was the thirty years' labour of his scholar John Mill, who collated over again nearly all the MSS. then known in England, and got collated for him on the continent a very considerable number of others, some of which had never yet been consulted. He was also the first to discover

settled principles for this department of criticism, and to make use of them with advantage. His Greek Testament was printed at Oxford in 1707, (the last year of Bengel's studentship at the University,) and another edition of it at Amsterdam, in 1710. This latter was superintended by Ludolph Küster, a German, born in 1670, at Blumberg, in the earldom of Lippe; was enriched with additional collations from Paris manuscripts; and was reprinted at Leipsic in 1723.

The firm of Wetstein and Smith at Amsterdam, wishing not to be outdone by their English rivals, had printed, in 1711, a new and carefully corrected copy of the Elzevir edition, which was meant to have some recommendation of novelty from the various readings it contained of a Vienna MS. together with the fortythree critical canons of Gerard von Mastricht. But these new canons of Greek Testament criticism, which Bengel, in 1713, had become acquainted with at Heidelberg, were far from satisfactory to his inquiring mind: indeed the manifest weakness of many of them would naturally but serve to call forth his abilities to aim at finding something better for his own satisfaction. He was further induced to attempt this by considering that his great grandfather by his mother's side, Dr. Matthew Haffenreffer, was one of the few Germans who had ever prepared any substantial editions of the Greek Testament. He had sent from the press of Theodore Werlin of Tübingen, in 1618, a handsome edition in quarto, with the Latin version of Erasmus annexed, and with the benefit of some Greek MSS. to which, however, he gives no distinct references.



It has been already mentioned that Bengel, during the years of his studentship, became intensely interested about the various readings of the New Testament. As it is not surprising that, with the inadequate means he possessed for clearing up such difficulties, before the publication of Mill, he should have found here a labour to which no young student was equal, so he was obliged to allay his doubts with the Christian believer's axiom, that the providence of God must certainly have guarded His Fountain of revealed wisdom from all such corruptions of human error, or human wickedness, as would withhold from us any of the essential truths of our common faith. The time, however, arrived, when he had no longer to believe, but was enabled to see, that this was the case. Having officially to go through the whole Greek Testament every two years with his pupils, he was led to inspect a great variety of its editions, especially as those which many of the pupils brought with them from home did not exactly agree together. Thus originated in his very lectures the first stirring of inquiries which brought him to critical collations and amassings, and these his indefatigable private diligence soon multiplied very considerably; for even in the year 1721, he could observe, as we have already seen in one of his letters to Reuss, that the various readings were much fewer than might have been expected, and that not one of them was of any such moment as to shake in the least degree the fundamental articles of evangelical faith.

Hitherto his critical and exegetical remarks had made up but one miscellany, though it now far exceeded what he wanted for his pupils. This treasure, especially the exegetical parts of it, having been noticed with very great satisfaction by his friends, they strongly urged and encouraged him to go on and complete it for publication and more general use. Thus he continued with unwearied industry to augment, arrange, and correct his exegesis, and to gather about him, more and more availably, the criticisms of predecessors in the same pursuit. But these he found less and less to be depended on; as he soon saw that to obtain a pure original text demanded, though not a discovery of any manuscripts of the apostolic, yet a collation of the oldest and most valuable ones which the world contains. And he reasonably expected that many such of great value might still be found in several European libraries which critics had less explored, as in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia, &c. He, therefore, first made private applications wherever he could have access, or thought it likely to procure assistance. Nor were these exertions unavailing; for his materials now so accumulated, that as early as April, 1725, he was prepared to promise a critical edition of the Greek Testament; which he did in the tract entitled Prodromus Novi Testamenti Græci rectè cautèque adornandi,"

* Among these persons were Christopher Zeller, prelate of Lorch; Christ. Matth. Pfaff, chancellor of the University of Tübingen; and his foreign correspondents, Whitby, Le Clerc, Bajer, and Reineccius, who all sent him repeated exhortations to proceed.

annexed* to his Chrysostom on the Priesthood. Herein he states that he had resolved to publish under the title of GNOMON, an exegetical commentary upon the New Testament; and besides this, to prepare upon it a critical work in which special use would be made of the labours and suggestions of Walton, Fell, and Mill; (whose bulky publications, not having been reduced to any popular form, were then but little known in Germany ;) also of the most recent works of Gerard von Mastricht of Holland ; of the German critics, L. Küster and J. C. Wolf; and of Bengel's own collations of manuscripts, newly discovered. He announced his design here to reprint carefully in the Greek text, whatever, as belonging to it, had been most approved of and confirmed by preceding editors; and to insert in its margin such of the most interesting lections as had been hitherto confined to manuscripts. Moreover, as Stephens's references, with his divisions of the chapters into verses, betrayed too much haste, and were very unsatisfactory, especially in the Epistles of St. Paul, he intended to use his best endeavours for supplying something better of the kind. Likewise instead of Gerard von Mastricht's forty-three canons, he purposed to give a single canon of his own, which should be perfectly simple, consisting of four words only, and admitting of general application. He added, that he had not lightly undertaken a work of such difficulty and liableness to misconception and detraction ; but that, having been first impelled that way by official emergencies, he was persuaded at length by friends to prepare for publication what, after ten years' painful suspense, had served to set his own mind at rest. Finally, though he had materials, he trusted, already sufficient for real usefulness to the public, yet feeling it his duty to give the work as much ripeness and perfection as he could command, especially as having undertaken it for the honour and glory of Christ our Saviour, he was induced to request that those who had the means and facilities, would promote his access to additional materials, exegetical or critical, by at least informing him where such rare materials might be found. If any should scruple to risk these literary treasures from their depositories, he begged leave to remind them, that though it is not usual to expose such valuables to hazard, especially out of public libraries, they are equally liable to be damaged or destroyed by fire or water though locked up at home;

* This tract is also found in the Appendix to his “ Apparatus Criticus," 2d edition, p. 625, &c.

whereas, they may be preserved uninjured, while travelling abroad under the eye of God, for whose honour and glory they should be sent forth, &c.

Copies of the “ Prodromus" became circulated with his Chrysostom, throngh many a city and country ; nevertheless he got several hundred others printed apart, and distributed wherever they were likely to answer his purpose. Various friends were active in circulating them, but especially Weissensee, who here most kindly availed himself of his extensive connexions abroad. But at many a door the knock was given in vain, especially at the Theological seminaries of Upper Suabia; the answer was, either, “we have nothing at all of the kind;" or, we have no access to the libraries.” Even from Halle no other encouragement was returned, except a hint which led to the discovery of a valuable collection of ancient MSS.* But such disappointments only enhanced the helps which arrived from other quarters, and which were as follows:

P.J. Crophius obtained him the use of seven Strasburg MSS., more or less perfect. The seventh supplied important emendations for the text of the Apocalypse.

Zachary Conrad von Uffenbach, a member of the Senate of Frankfort, furnished him with four Greek MSS. of different books of the New Testament, and two MSS. of the ancient Latin version.

J. C. Iselin and J. L. Frey, of Bâsle, engaged in collating for him three Greek MSS. of their university library.

Matthias Marthius, the Lutheran pastor at Presburg, procured him, of the ecclesiastical council there, the loan of a beautiful vellum MS. of the four Gospels, which had once belonged to Prince Alexius II. Comnenus, (Emperor of the East, A. D. 1180.)

George Bernard Bülfinger, M. A., who was at that time in the service of the Russian government (afterwards a President of Consistory in Germany,) having obtained permission of the Archbishop of Novogorod, and from the Synod of Moscow, employed, under his own superintendence, Fr. Ch. Gross, to collate a Muscovy MS. of the Greek Testament, containing many a lection quite peculiar.

Christian Weiss, of Leipsic, sent an accurate collation of seven Latin MSS., which all belonged to the library of that city. The ducal library at Stuttgart, and the imperial city library at

* See below, in his correspondence upon literary subjects.

« PrécédentContinuer »