Ελληνικά / Greek: Ancient Bible History (3)

**List: Greek Ministry

Holy Bible ( γραφαῖς ἁγίαις, Αγιας Γραφης )


AT the time of the first preaching of Christianity, the more civilised nations of the Roman empire
(however dissimilar their respective vernacular tongues) were united by the bond of a common language,
which to them was almost the only known medium of poetry, learning, and philosophy.   That language
was the Greek.   In certain countries, as in Greece itself, in Egypt, and, as some say, in Syria, it was
used in the common affairs of life; but everywhere it was the language of literature, and as such held
the same position that was occupied by Latin during the middle ages.   The conquests of Alexander
the Great had been the primary cause, under Providence, of the wide diffusion of this language; and
although the Grecian empire was afterwards supplanted by the Roman, yet the civilisation, the arts,
and the language of Greece long remained predominant.


   The ancient Greek language was divided into four principal dialects--the Attic, which was the
purest, the Ionic, the Doric, and the Æolic, spoken originally in those colonies on the coast of Asia
--distinguished from each other by varieties of orthography and pronunciation.   When, under
Philip of Macedon, the Grecian republics lost their freedom, and became more or less united under one
government, the various dialects were gradually amalgamated into one.   The language which thus
sprang from this intermixture of dialects differed materially from that of books, as preserved in the

writings of the early poets and philosophers.   It became current however wherever the Greek language
was spoken; it was even used by the later writers; and, on account of its wide diffusion, received the
name of κοινη` διάλεκτος, the common dialect.   The Septuagint version was written in this dialect, and
it was also selected by Divine Providence as the appropriate medium of communicating to man the new
covenant in Christ Jesus.
  It is characterised by the promiscuous employment of forms originally
peculiar to one dialect; Attic, Ionic, and Doric words are indiscriminately used, and often placed in
juxtaposition with words of foreign origin.   Planck has observed, that in the New Testament there
are, in the flexion of nouns, no traces of any of the ancient dialects except the Attic, but that in the
flexion of verbs there is more variety, the Attic furnishing most examples, and the Doric affording
others, while many of the forms are exclusively to be met with in the latter idiom.   The influence of
Hebrew characteristics is likewise to be traced in the New Testament, in several passages the phrase-
ology being Hebrew, while the words are Greek.   This is more especially observable in the frequent
use of a double substantive (arising from the paucity of adjectives in Hebrew), and in the use of the
words of God as indicative of the superlative degree.   The Greek alphabet is a modification of the
Phœnician, and it is to the adoption of this alphabet, which is but ill-adapted to express any sounds
except those of Shemitic origin, that many of the anomalies of the Greek language are to be attributed.


   There seems every reason to believe that the whole of the New Testament was originally com-
municated by the
Holy Spirit to the inspired penmen in the Greek language.   Some indeed have
asserted, that the Gospel according to St. Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews were originally
written in Hebrew, and at a subsequent period transferred into Greek; but the data on which this
opinion is founded are by no means conclusive.1   It is generally thought that the autographs of the
evangelists and apostles were not preserved beyond the commencement of the third century, even if
they remained in existence so long; but, prior to that period, many copies of the sacred writings had
been made and dispersed among the [NT] churches.
  The most ancient copies appear generally to
have been made on Egyptian papyrus
, a very perishable material, so that none of these have been trans-
mitted to us.   As early as the fourth century we find vellum in common use for writing; and, in the
eleventh century, paper made of cotton, wool, or linen, was adopted.   The oldest MSS. have
divisions of words, and no accents, and are all written in capital, or, as they were formerly called,
uncial letters.   The earliest MS. written in letters of the present cursive form bears the date 890, but
even after this period the old uncial characters were sometimes used on account of their beautiful

   Although the Scriptures were given in the first instance by the immediate inspiration of God, yet
no supernatural power was communicated to those who transcribed them.   The multiplication of copies
was [not] conducted on the same principle as that of other books which have been transmitted from ancient
times.   The MSS. of the New Testament are not, therefore, free from the errors of copyists; but as it
is not likely, or even possible, that copies executed by different persons, and from different exemplars,
should all contain precisely the same errors, it seems reasonable to believe that, by the careful comparison
of copies, one copy can be used to correct another, and the purity of the original text be thus in a
great measure restored.   An error in an ancient exemplar would be perpetuated in all copies and
versions made from it; and it is probably owing to tliis cause that a sort of family resemblance is to be
traced in copies, certain MSS. indicating, by peculiar or faulty readings, the age and country of the
exemplar to which they owe their origin.   This circumstance has led to the classification of MSS.

   1 Upon this point, however, the student may be usefully referred to a paper "On the Original Language of St.
Matthew’s Gospel,"
by Dr. S. P. Tregelles (London, Bagster and Sons, 1850), reprinted from the Journal of Sacred
Literature, No. 9, and in which the subject is discussed with much learning and ability.   The opinion of the
Hebrew original of St. Matthew’s Gospel was, as the author shows, universally entertained by the Christian Church
for the long term of fourteen hundred years subsequent to the close of the first century."

"Griesbach has divided all MSS. of the New Testament into the following classes, generally termed
families, editions, or recensions:--

  1. The Alexandrian recension, so called because it emanated from Alexandria: it is quoted by
    Clement of Alexandria, by Origen, Eusebius, and other Greek fathers.   The Coptic
    version agrees wholly with it, and the Ethiopic and Armenian versions coincide with it
    in part.
  2. The Western recension, used in countries where the Latin language was spoken, and with
    which the Latin versions coincide.   The Sahidic and Jerusalem Syriac versions also agree
    with it: Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, and other Latin fathers, quote it.
  3. The Constantinopolitan recension, to which the mass of modern MSS. and the Moscow codices
    of St. Paul’s epistles are referable.   Quotations from this recension appear in the works
    of the fathers who lived from the end of the fourth till the sixth century, in Greece,
    Asia Minor, and the neighbouring provinces.
      The Gothic and Sclavonic versions
    coincide with it.
   The classification of MSS. is, however, a very intricate subject, the classes being so blended that
it is difficult to separate them; and, besides, the discrepancies are so trifling, being chiefly of an
orthographical nature, that in many cases it is not easy to determine to which class a given MS. may
belong.   Hence various systems of classification have been proposed by different writers: some affirm
that there are four distinct classes, and others that there are only two.   According to the system of
Scholz, MSS. are divisible into the Alexandrian or African (including the first two classes of Griesbach),
and the Constantinopolitan or Asiatic.
   Individual MSS. are conventionally distinguished from each other by one of the letters of the
alphabet being affixed to each.   These marks do not point out the relative antiquity or value of the
MSS., but seem to have been applied in the first instance in a very arbitrary manner, and to have been
afterwards retained for the sake of convenience.
  The most ancient and valuable MSS. which have been
handed down to us are the following:--

  • CODEX A, sometimes called the Alexandrine MS., having in all probability been written at
    Alexandria, whence it was certainly brought.   It is commonly referred to the fifth
    century.   It contains the Old Testament in three volumes, and the New Testament in
    one volume: appended to the latter is the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,
    and a fragment of the Second
    .   This MS. was presented by Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch
    of Alexandria and afterwards of Constantinople, to Charles I. of England, in 1628, and
    it is now in the British Museum.   A facsimile edition of the New Testament was
    published at the expense of the University of Oxford in 1726, under the editorship of
    Dr. Woide: the Old Testament was afterwards edited by the Rev. H. H. Baber.
      [c.520 A.D.   Byzantine (Gospels); Alexandrian (Remainder)--RJS   obp]
  • CODEX B, generally termed the Vatican MS., because it belongs to that library, marked 1209.
    It is one of the most ancient MSS. extant, being ascribed to the middle of the fourth
    century.   It contains both the Old and New Testaments, but the book of Revelation has
    been added to it by a modern hand.   It wants the end of the Epistle to the Hebrews,
    and those to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.
      The Old Testament was printed from this
    MS. in 1587 by order of Sixtus V., and a translation of the New Testament has been
    given by Granville Penn.
      [c.340 A.D.--RJS]
       Another MS., also marked B, and therefore sometimes confounded with the preceding,
    is in the Vatican Library.   It is supposed to belong to the seventh century, and contains
    the Apocalypse, with the Homilies of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa: a facsimile of it is
    given in Bianchini’s Evangeliarium Quadruplex.   The text has been published by
      [CHM note: probably Codex B2.]
  • CODEX C, also called Codex Ephraemi, and sometimes Codex Regius, because preserved in the

    Royal Library of Paris.   This valuable MS., which originally contained the whole of the
    New Testament, and the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, was written in
    Egypt, about the sixth century, but was erased in the thirteenth century to make room for
    the works of Ephraem the Syrian, which were written over it.   By means of chemical
    applications, however, the original text has been in a great measure restored.   Wetstein
    succeeded in deciphering and collating it; and, in 1843, a splendid facsimile edition,
    with prolegomena, was published by Tischendorf.
      [c.450 A.D.   Alexandrian-- RJS   obp]

  • CODEX D, also known as Codex Cantabrigiensis or Bezæ, because presented in 1581 to the University
    of Cambridge by Beza.   It had for years previously lain neglected in the monastery of
    St. Irenæus at Lyons, whence Beza had procured it.   It contains the Gospels and Acts
    with a Latin version.   It belongs probably to the seventh century, but to what country
    is uncertain.   A beautiful facsimile edition was published by Dr. Kipling at Cambridge,
    in 1793.
      [c.550 A.D.   Western--RJS]
  • CODEX D, or Codex Claromontanus, probably marked D, because erroneously believed by Dr. Mill
    and other critics to form the second part of the preceding.   It is a Greek and Latin
    copy of St. Paul’s Epistles, and is called Codex Claromontanus because procured from
    Clermont in France by Beza.   It belongs either to the seventh or eighth century.   It
    is preserved in the Royal Library at Paris.   In the beginning of the eighteenth century,
    certain sheets were cut out of it by a thief, and sold in England, but they were restored
    to the library by Lord Oxford in 1729.
      [Codex Dp.   c.550 A.D.   Western--RJS   obp]
  • CODEX ZACYNTHIUS (Ξ), a palimpsest MS. discovered in Zante in 1820 by the late General
    Macaulay, contains a considerable portion of the Gospel by St. Luke.   It is in the
    Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society.   The Committee granted the use of
    it for collation and transcription to Dr. Tregelles, who says, "I do not know of any MS.
    of equal antiquity accompanied by a Catena; in many respects this most valuable
    palimpsest is worthy of special attention: it is remarkable that it had remained in this
    country for nearly forty years unread and unused."
      It is printed with the Alexandrian
    types lent by the Trustees of the British Museum
    , and published by Messrs. Bagster.
      [Similar to Codex B-- RJS   obp]
   Facsimiles of several other MSS. have been published, but the bare enumeration of all the MSS.
of the New Testament would be impossible within our limits.   The number of MSS. known to have
been collated in whole or in part amounts, according to Scholz, to 674.   By far the greater number of
these MSS. contain only the four Gospels, this portion of Scripture having been most constantly in
demand, because most frequently used in the public service of the church.   Ancient copies of the
entire New Testament are extremely rare.
  MSS. Lectionaria, which contain the detached portions of
the Testament appointed to be read in churches, are by no means uncommon.   Copies of the book of
Revelation are remarkably scarce: there are in fact but three ancient MSS. in which this book is to be
found, namely Codex A, one of the Codices marked B, and Codex C.   Of these, Codex C is the most
valuable, but it is unfortunately very defective, about nine chapters being missing; so that Codex B,
the text
of which has been lately published by Tischendorf, and Codex A (the Alexandrine MS.) are
the only ancient exemplars to which we are indebted for our acquaintance with the whole of the
New Testament in the original."
--The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only:
Gray color indicates some Critical Text.]

263 uncials and 2,937 minuscules exant.

The vast majority (98%) of extant Greek New Testament MSS. (numbering 5,400) support the Traditional Text (found in the Reformation Bibles). pp. 117-120, David W. Cloud.

pp. 183-185 and APPENDIX 1-B & 1-C, Robert J. Sargent.


   Six chapters of the Gospel of St. John were printed at Venice as early as 1504, by Aldus Manutius,
and the whole of that Gospel was printed at Tübingen in Suabia, the modern kingdom of Wurtemberg,
in 1512.   But these editions are interesting only as literary curiosities, for though they constituted
the first portion of the Greek Testament ever committed to the press, yet they exercised no influence
whatever on succeeding editions.
   The earliest printed edition of the entire New Testament is contained in the Complutensian

Polyglot, a work we have already mentioned in our account of the Hebrew Scriptures.   The MSS. used
for this impression were most probably, as it is stated in the prologue, furnished for the purpose by
Pope Leo X. from the Vatican Library.   There is abundant internal evidence to prove that these MSS.
were of no great antiquity, for the text agrees with MSS. written in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and
fifteenth centuries in all passages wherein they differ from ancient exemplars.

   The earliest published edition of the Greek Testament was that of Erasmus, which appeared at
Basle in 1516;
whereas the Complutensian text, although printed in 1514, was not published till 1520.
Erasmus prepared the text from four MSS., the most ancient of which belonged to the tenth century,
and contained all the New Testament except the Apocalypse.   His other three MSS. consisted of a copy
of the Gospels, written, according to Wetstein, in the fifteenth century; a copy of the Acts and Epistles
of rather earlier date, and a document containing the book of Revelation
, which he asserted was almost
apostolic in age: but as the text in this MS. was accompanied with the Commentary of Arethas, who
lived at least 900 years after the time of the apostles, its antiquity seems very doubtful.   It belonged
originally to Reuchlin, but after its publication by Erasmus it seems to have disappeared, and no one
knows what has become of it.   The other three MSS. used by Erasmus are still preserved at Basle.
In addition to these MSS., he seems to have possessed no other critical apparatus except the Latin
Vulgate, and a commentary of Theophylact containing part of the Greek text: but this Theophylact
was the last of the Greek fathers: he lived at the end of the eleventh century, and his testimony is
therefore of little weight as compared with that of the early fathers.   Erasmus professed, indeed, to
have consulted Origen, Chrysostom, and Cyril; but he could only have seen the Latin versions of their
writings, as no edition of their original texts had then been issued from the press.   He employed but
nine months and a half in the preparation and printing of his first edition
, although it comprised
copious annotations and a Latin version printed in parallel columns with the Greek.   Indications of
this undue haste are clearly perceptible in many places, and it is nearly certain that in several passages
where his MSS. were illegible, he supplied the defects by words of his own translation from the
Vulgate.   This is especially the case with the concluding six verses of the Book of Revelation, which
are well known to have been wanting in Reuchlin’s MS.
   The second edition of the Greek Testament was published by Erasmus three years after the first,
and, according to Mill, it contains no less than 400 corrections.   His third edition appeared in 1522,
and he then inserted the text 1 John 5:7, which he had [omitt]ed in his first two editions because it
was wanting in the MSS. he had originally employed.   This alteration was made on the authority of
a MS. now in Dublin.   The first English version from the Greek was made by Tyndale from this third
  A copy of the Complutensian text was not seen by Erasmus till after the year 1522, but his
fourth and fifth editions, which appeared in 1527 and 1535, contain many alterations made in con-
formity to it.   Dr. Mill states that in these editions there are ninety [change]s from the Complutensian
text in the book of Revelation, and twenty-six only in all the other books.   These editions are of
especial importance, as they form the basis of all subsequent editions, and contain, substantially, the
Greek text in general use at the present day.
   During the nineteen years which elapsed between the publication of the first and last editions of
Erasmus, nine or ten other New Testaments were printed; but they were all taken from one or other
of the editions of Erasmus
, except that by Colinæus, which was printed at Paris in 1534.   Colinæus
drew his text partly from those of Erasmus
, partly from the Complutensian, and partly from MSS.
which he collated for the purpose.   Three of these MSS. are preserved at Paris.   This edition is
particularly correct and valuable, but it met with undeserved neglect, and being shortly after its
appearance eclipsed by the more popular editions of Stephens, it had no share whatever in the for-
mation of the received text.
   The four editions of Robert Stephens (the step-son of Colinæus) appeared in 1546, 1549, 1550,
and 1551: his son published a fifth edition in 1569.   These editions are more celebrated for their
typographical neatness
than for their critical excellence: the text is drawn partly from Erasmus, and

partly from the Complutensian; and even the third, or folio, edition, which was alleged by Stephens
to have been formed on the authority of ancient MSS.
, was found, on subsequent examination, to be
little more than a mere reprint of Erasmus’s fifth edition, with marginal readings from about sixteen
MSS.   The verses into which the New Testament is divided were invented by Stephens, and first
appeared in his edition of 1551.

   The third edition of Stephens was reprinted by Beza, in 1565, with about fifty emendations.
It is rather surprising that Beza did not introduce farther improvements in the text, as he had the
advantage of possessing two valuable MSS., the Codex Bezæ and the Codex Claromontanus above
described, besides the Syriac version, then lately published with a very close Latin translation by
Tremellius: but Beza employed these critical materials almost exclusively in drawing up the polemical
disquisitions which he inserted in the notes of his editions.   Like Stephens, he was a native of France,
and a Protestant; and being persecuted on account of his religion, he fled to Geneva, where, between
the years 1565 and 1598, he published five editions of his Testament.
  All these editions are accom-
panied by the Latin Vulgate, and a Latin version executed by himself.   The best reprint of Beza’s
Greek text is generally considered to be the edition which appeared at Cambridge in 1642
, with the
notes of Joachim Camerarius.
   In 1624, the first of the celebrated Elzevir editions was published by the Elzevirs, printers at
Leyden.   The editor is unknown;
but it is evident he had little recourse to MS. authorities, the
text, like that of Beza, being founded on the third edition of Stephens.   This text, however, obtained
so much celebrity, that it became commonly known as the textus receptus; and for upwards of a
century it was (with few exceptions) reprinted in every successive edition of the New Testament.
Among the most noted of the editions formed from this text, may be mentioned those published by
Cureellæus, at Amsterdam, in 1658, 1675, 1685, and 1699
: these editions contain a collection of
parallel passages, and the greatest number of various readings to be found in any edition of the
New Testament prior to that in the sixth volume of Walton’s Polyglot.   Some of these readings are
said to be unfairly quoted, without authorities, in order to favour the Socinian heresy.
   The Greek text in Walton’s Polyglot is printed from the folio edition of Stephens.   Dr. Fell
published another edition, chiefly from the same text, at Oxford, in 1675;
he copied the numerous
readings of the Polyglot, to which he added collations from other sources."
--The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only:
Green color indicates Textus Receptus.]

   "In the meantime, it is a most satisfactory reflection, that all
that human learning has done, or can do, in the investigation of the sacred text, leads only to the
conviction that Divine Providence has so watched over the transmission of the divine word, that
the utmost variations of the [Byzantine] MSS. which contain it are, after all, of comparatively little or no impor-
tance: so that, to all intents and purposes, the most unlearned believer possesses, in the holy volume
whence he draws his springs of hope and consolation, as true a transcript of the revealed will of God,
as if it had been communicated to him personally and directly from heaven."
--The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only]

ANCIENT GREEK.--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only: Greek Character   n.d. John 1:1-14 unknown.]


   The first application of the art of printing to the multiplication of copies of the inspired text
may justly be said to form an era in the history of the Church.   Strong and bitter hostility was excited
among the enemies of the truth by the first appearance of the New Testament in a printed form.
At Cambridge, when first published by Erasmus, in 1516, it was absolutely proscribed, and the priests
endeavoured to dissuade
the students from the study of the Greek language; and Standish (afterwards
bishop of St. Asaph) is said on one occasion to have flung himself on his knees before the king and
queen, conjuring them, by all they accounted sacred, to go on as their ancestors had done, and put
down Erasmus.   Thomas Bilney, the martyr of 1531, was at that period a fellow of Trinity Hall.
His eyes had been opened to the perception of his state of sinfulness by nature, and he had sought in
vain for hope and consolation under the distress and anxiety of mind which his convictions had
engendered.   At the instigation of his ecclesiastical superiors, he had endeavoured to find relief in
watching, fastings, and other exercises; but he soon discovered that all attempts made in his own
strength towards the attainment of holiness of life, or purity of heart, invariably proved abortive.
When he heard of the publication of the Greek Testament by Erasmus, in parallel columns with the
, he resolved, at any risk, to possess himself of a copy.   He succeeded in obtaining one, and the
results of its perusal were manifested to all; among other tokens, by the powerful strain of his preach-
ing, which was used as the means of converting Hugh Latimer, Robert Barnes, and many other
individuals.   The effects of the study of this New Testament upon his own mind are best described in
the simple eloquence of his own words:--"But at the last," says he, "I heard speak of Jesus, even
then when the New Testament was first set forth by Erasmus.   Which, when I understood to be

eloquently done by him, being allured rather for the Latin than for the word of God--for at that time
I knew not what it meant--I bought it even by the providence of God, as I do now well understand
and perceive.   And at the first reading, as I well remember, I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul,
(O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in his first epistle to Timothy, and first chapter
--‘It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners, of whom I am the chief and principal.’
  This one sentence, through God’s instruction
and inward teaching, which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded
with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that immediately I felt a marvellous comfort
and quietness, insomuch that my bruised bones leapt for joy.   (Ps. 51:8.)   After this the Scripture
began to be more pleasant to me than the honey, or the honeycomb.   Wherein I learned that all my
travels, all my fasting and watching, all the redemption of masses and pardons, being done without
truth in Christ, who alone saveth his people from their sins; these, I say, I learned to be nothing else
but even, as Augustine saith, a hasty and swift running out of the right way; or else much like to
the vesture made of figleaves, wherewith Adam and Eve went about in vain to cover themselves, and
could never before obtain quietness and rest, till they believed on the promise of God, that ‘Christ the
seed of the woman should tread upon the serpent’s head.’
  Neither could I be relieved or eased of the
sharp stings and biting of my sins, before I was taught of God that lesson which Christ speaketh of
in the third chapter of John--‘Even as Moses exalted the serpent in the desert, so shall the Son of
man be exalted, that all which believe on him should not perish, but have life everlasting.’
  As soon
as I began to taste and savour of this heavenly lesson, which no man can teach, but only God, which
revealed the same unto Peter, I desired the Lord to increase my faith; and, at last, I desired nothing
more than that I, being so comforted by him, might be strengthened by his holy Spirit and grace from
above, that I might teach the wicked his ways, which are mercy and truth, and that the wicked might
be converted unto Him by me, who sometime was also wicked."
--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only]

**File: Greek: Ancient Critical Text History (3)--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only]

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