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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 furmise 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 proof 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 Bp. 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..., 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 ?”
These painful details are given for the double purpose of guarding the reader, 1st, against wroug conclusions as to the Peshito itself; and 2nály, against placing confidence, without due examination, in the conclusions of the most influential critics of the day. The habit of substituting mere conjecture for proof, is far too common with respect to the Peshito.
One illustration of the great importance of some of the questions which these editiors try to decide by the aid of conjecture, is worthy of special notice. In John i. 18, they have placed words, meaning that Christ is “the only begotten God.' They have placed these words in the main text. The Revisers of the English Version have not put these words in the chief place; but say in the margin,
Many very ancient authorities read, God only begotten. In two of the three creeds in the Prayer-book of the
Church of England the semi-Arian belief is avowed that the Word, the second person of the Godhead, was begotten by the first. In the Athanasian creed he is said to have been “begotten before the worlds." In the creed used in the communion service he is said to have been “ begotten before all worlds, very God of very God, begotten not made.” The Peshito has in John i. 18, “the only God,” without the word “begotten.” He who called himself “I am,'' declared that, like the Father, he, the Word, is self-existent (John viii. 58.) God tells us by Luke, that Jesus is called the Son of God, in respect of his manhood, not of his Deity (Luke i. 35.) But these eminent scholars, by following corrupt copies, have introduced the false teaching of the creeds, as to the derived and inferior Godhead of the Word, into the Book of God itself. This false reading not only ascribes to the Redeemer a double Sonship, one, that of his humanity, another, that of his divinity, of which Scripture says nothing ; but it provides a theme for the scoff of infidels; and builds a barrier which prevents the godly from asserting the absolute “oneness,” and the underived equality of the Deity of the Father and the Word.
BISHOP HERBERT MARSH, Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, in his “ Lectures on the Criticism of the Bible, 1828," maintained, as most persons do, that CONJECTURE must not be applied to the sacred writings,” (p. 26.) It is indeed selfevident that conjecture cannot possibly prove a book to be of Divine origin ; nor can possibly be a fit reason for believing that any words in it have such authority. We have to insist that evidence, not fictions, shall guide those who profess to teach us what words are those of God, that readings approved by the mass of the faithful both of earlier and of later centuries, shall have a full hearing; that mere foundling copies, without a history, full of copyist errors, and tainted with semi-Arian untruth, shall have a low place and little regard ; that copies exactly written, and well attested, as having descended from the very time of the Apostles, shall be treated with all the honour which is their due.
V.--THE BELIEF OF THOSE CHRISTIAN BODIES WHICH HAVE USED THE N. C. PESHITO-SYRIAC BOOKS.
The fact that the N. C. Peshito Books were never, for many centuries, combined with any Syriac translation of the five omitted books, though the omitted books were also believed to have had a divine origin in some other dialect, is, itself, a proof that the origin of the Peshito text was believed to be so much above any uninspired translation, that it would have been a sin to bind up any uninspired translation with the Peshito. Wichelhaus says, "In all copies of the Peshito version, those [five omitted] books are sought for in vain” (p. 221.) Yet “it is very well known that the Syrians did not reject those epistles (p. 63.)
There is an account of the use of Syriac books called “ The New Covenant” by the converts of Thaddeus, one of the seventy who were sent forth by Christ himself in His lifetime. Matthew says that the fame of Jesus “ went throughout all Syria” (Matt. iv, 24), and the following are not idle tales, but well authenticated historical facts. Abgar was the king of a small Syrian kingdom called Oschoene, which, as Gibbon says, “occupied the northern and most fertile part of Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Its capital, Edessa, was situated about twenty miles beyond the Euphrates." (Decline, chap. viii.) Eusebius says that he himself, translated into Greek from Syriac, for his history, the account then existing in the public records of that kingdom, of the manner in which the king and many of the citizens became true Christians. Abgar was afflicted with an incurable disease. He heard of the cures effected by Jesus. He sent a messenger to him asking that he would come and heal him. Jesus is said to have replied, that after his ascension to heaven, he would send one of his disciples to heal him, and to teach both him, and those with him, the way of life. Eusebius says that after the ascension of Jesus, the Apostle Thomas, by divine direction, sent thither Thaddeus one of the seventy. Thaddeus did great miracles. Abgar was healed by him, and many others.
Dr. Cureton found among the Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum a very old one, copied, he said, “ certainly not later than the beginning of the fifth century.” Its title is, “ The Teaching of Thaddeus the Apostle." It relates what Thaddeus did and said, and what results followed his teaching, down to the time of his death. The Syriac original, and a translation by Dr. Cureton, are before me; also the Syriac, and an English translation of another copy published by Dr. George Phillips, President of Queen's College, Cambridge. Thaddeus, whose first address to the citizens is recorded in this document, spoke in a manner which remarkably corresponds with such a divine mission. In the course of it he said, “ Though ye were not near at the time when the Anointed suffered, yet by the sun which was darkened, and ye saw [it], learn and understand how great a convulsion there was at the time of the crucifixion of him whose message has been spread abroad through all the earth, by the miracles which his disciples, my companions, are working in all the earth, and who, though Hebrews, who knew only the tongue of the Hebrews, in which they were born, behold! to-day are speaking in all tongues ; that those who are far off, as well as those who are near, may hear, and may believe, that this is he who confused the languages of the arrogant in this region of the ancients; that it is he who teaches by means of us to-day, trust in what is true and
real, by [us] the_lowly and uncultured, who are from Galilee of Palestine. For I also, whom yo see, am from Paneas, from the place where the river Jordan goes forth: and I was chosen, together with my companions, to be a bearer of tidings. And the seed of his word I sow in the ears of every man; and those who are willing to receive it, theirs will be a good reward of [their] profession : but against those who obey not, I shake off the dust of my feet, as he [Jesus] commanded me. Turn, therefore, my beloved, from evil ways and hateful deeds; and turn to him with a good and honest will, as he has turned to you in the compassion of his rich mercies. Flee, therefore, from things made and created, as I have said to you—from things which by name only are called gods, but are not gods in their nature; and draw near to him who, in his nature is God eternally and from everlasting. . . Because though he clothed himself in this body, he is God with his Father.” “Get that new mind which worships the Maker, and not the things made ; [the mind) in which is to be formed an image of what is true and real-of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit of holiness, when yo shall trust, and be immersed in the threefold glorious names. (See Cureton's Syriac copy, pp. 8, 9, 11.).
Thaddeus was probably not one of the twelve, though he is called an apostle, but one of the seventy sent forth by Christ to preach, with power to work miracles, in his life-time. The above extracts are given as a portrait of his ministry and teaching. He is the person to whose superintending care Syrian writers ascribe the formation of the Peshito; and as he worked miracles, whatever he sanctioned as part of God's teaching, had the same authority as that which the twelve said was from God. The above extracts tend to confirm belief in his fitness to make or obtain for his converts divinely attested copies of the sacred books so soon as they were written. It is vain to expect to trace all the means by which it was effected. It is enough for us to know that those who knew the result attest it to be, that the Peshito “ written by apostolic authority," (Wichelhaus, p. 153). Thaddeus may have died before many of the books contained in the Peshito were first written. But the Apostle John lived for some time after they were completed, and, whoever may have written some of these books in the Syriac of Edessa, it was possible for them to have been submitted to him for rectification and divine authority. It is stated by an early writer that some books were really submitted to John for this purpose. Photius, who is called Mr. Jer. Jones a “most accurate and judicious critic” (vol. i. 240), has given an extract from a very ancient book which states that the Apostle John, after he had been banished from Ephesus by Domitian, who died, A.D. 96, returned to Ephesus when Nerva succeeded him, “ took the several books which contained the history of our