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IX. TESTIMONIES FOUNDED ON KNOWLEDGE AND ESTEEM OF THE PESHITO-SYRIAC.
Bishop WALTON, 1657, had some degree, but only some degree, of reliance on Syrian testimony respecting the Peshito. He said that “much is to be yielded to the general tradition of the Eastern Churches, because no clear evidence is adduced in opposition to it, and it is sustained by internal evidence in the Peshito, which proves its great antiquity; for 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Rev. are not extant in the old issue.” The real Syrian tradition is, that it was made not only in the time of the Apostles, but by the care of Apostles ; as that tradition is related by Jesudad. But as related by Bishop Walton, “The constant and uninterrupted tradition is, that the Peshito was made in the time of the Apostles, either by some of their disciples, or by Apostolic men.” Even this version of it, implies that the disciples, or the companions, of the Apostles, would, in the time of the Apostles, submit to them what they wrote, for their correction, that it might have, as the writings of Luke and Mark have, Apostolic authority. Bishop Walton admits, that if “it were made by any of the Apostles, it would have an authority which is Divine, and equal to that of the other sacred books," and he says that therefore "he would not readily admit that it was made by any one of the Apostles.” He says also, that “
no one up to that time had affirmed its Divine authority ;” and yet this is the very authority which the Syrians seem to say it has. (See Chap. V., especially the words of Jesudad, and of the Indian Christians.)
The Syrians have a tradition that the Peshito was made chiefly by MARK. Bishop Walton thinks this incorrect, because “many parts of the N. T. were written after his death, which Jerome and others say took place in the eighth year of Nero," that is, in 62. (Prol. xiii. 16.)
The great utility of the Peshito, in the view of Bishop Walton, is, that Syriac was the language spoken by Christ and his Apostles, and that the meaning of many expressions which occur in the Greek N. T., can scarcely be discovered, except from the Syriac. (Prol. xiii. 19.)
JACOB MARTINI was Professor of Theology in the University of Wittenberg, and wrote a preface to the N. T. Peshito-Syriac, in which he said, “It is a version, but of all, it is the first and most ancient. . . It is a version, but made either by one of the Evangelists, or at least, of those who ... had the Apostles themselves present, whom they could consult and hear, respecting many of the more obscure places. To this only, therefore, when some obscurity or difficulty occurs in Greek copies, can we safely go. This only, when doubt arises respecting the meaning or translation of any passage, can be consulted with safety and freedom from
error. By this only, the Greek Text is truly illustrated, and rightly understood.” (See Gutbier's Preface to his Syriac N. T., 1663, p. 26.)
J. D. MICHAELIS, in his Introduction to the N. T., 1787, chap. vii., sec. 4., says, “The Syriac Testament has been my constant study.” In sec. 8., he says, “The Peshito is the very best translation of the Greek Testament that I have ever read. . . Of all the Syriac authors with which I am acquainted, not excepting Ephræm and Bar Hebræus, its language is the most elegant and pure. It has no marks of the stiffness of a translation, but is written with the ease and fluency of an original.' “ What is not to be regarded as a blemish, it differs frequently from the modern modes of explanation; but I know of no version that is so free from error, and none that I consult with so much confidence in cases of difficulty and doubt. I have never met with a single instance where the Greek is so interpreted, as to betray a weakness and ignorance in the translator; and though in many other translations the original is rendered in so extraordinary a manner as almost to excite a smile, the Syriac version must be ever read with profound veneration.” “The affinity of the Syriac to the dialect of Palestine is so great, as to justify, in some respects, the assertion that the Syriac translator has recorded the actions and speeches of Christ in the very language in which he spoke." "The Syriac New Testament is written in the same language [as that of Christ], but in a different dialect, in the purest Mesopotamian.
The question is, whether the contents of the Peshito are inconsistent with what the Syrians state to be a known fact ; namely, that it was made in the time of the Apostles, and by the care of the Apostles. J. D. Michaelis did not give the above testimony with view to answer that question ; yet, what he says, shows that he found the Peshito to be as accurate as it would be, if made under Apostolic care. He had found no version so free from error.' He found that this must ever be read with profound veneration. And owing to some unexplained cause, when he had “difficulty and doubt as to the Greek., he could with “much confidence consult” the Peshito.
The Rev. JEREMIAH JONES said, « The Primitive Christians are proper judges, to determine what book is Canonical, and what is not.” (On the Canon, vol. i. p. 43.) “The Greek copies, and the Syriac ones, were both esteemed the Word of God, though in different languages.” (p. 103.)
Professor WICHELHAUS, 1830, dwells much on the worth of the Peshito. He calls it, “ The most ancient witness, a version most accurate, untouched and untarnished, ever transcribed and preserved by the Syrians with the greatest care. (p. 236.) He did not see why, with some few exceptions, it should not be “ most like to the autographs of the Apostles.” (p. 264.) He said, as Dr.
G. Ridley had done, “The Peshito is older and better than all the ancient Latin versions.” (p. 77.) The Common English Version is from a Greek text much like the Peshito. Wichelhaus remarks, that the ancient Syriac version represents the Received Greek Text.” (p. 268.) This is a point of deep interest to all to whom the Common English Version is dear.
He asserts that, with certain exceptions, the Peshito “is to be esteemed to be amongst the best and firmest aids for the right construction of the [Greek] text.” (p. 270.)
The Rev. EZRA STILES, D.D., President of Yale College, in the United States of America, said, in an Inaugural Oration, “In Syriac, THE GREATER PART of the New Testament (I believe) was ORIGINALLY WRITTEN, and not merely translated, IN THE APOSTOLIC
The Syriac Testament, therefore, is of high authority; nay, with me, of THE SAME AUTHORITY AS THE GREEK.” (Appendix to Dr. Murdock’s English Translation of the Peshito, New York, 1851, p. 499.)
Dr. JAMES MURDOCK, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, at New Haven, Connecticut, U. S., America, and Author of an English Translation of the Peshito, 1851, says that Dr. Ezra Stiles was not the only person who believed that “the books of the greater part of the New Testament WERE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN in Syriac.” He thinks that the Peshito “ may be something more than a mere translation; that it may have nearly, or quite equal authority with the Greek.” (P. 500.)
DEAN JOHN W. BÚRGON, B.D., was the author of three articles in the Quarterly Review, which, he says, were
wrung out of me by the publication on May 17th, 1881, of the Revision of our Authorised Version of the New Testament.” In compliance with much solicitation, he published them separately in 1883, under the title of “The Revision Revised.” (Pref. p. ix.) He felt conscious, after the publication of his first article in October, 1881, that enough was even then on record, “ to secure the ultimate rejection of the Revision of 1881," and that “in the end, it must be universally regarded as-what it most certainly is—the most astonishing, as well as the most calamitous literary blunder of the age.” (Pref. pp. x.-xi.) He knew that "
by demonstrating the worthlessness of the new Greek text of the Revisionists,” he had proved that “the English translation of it must be incorrect.” He soon found that “ the Revised English, would have been in itself intolerable, even had the Greek been let alone.” (p. xii.)
Dean Burgon says, “I am able to prove that this Revision of the Sacred Text is untrustworthy from beginning to end.” (p. v.) “The systematic depravation of the underlying Greek, is nothing but a poisoning of the River of Life at its sacred source. Our Revisers, (with the best and purest intentions, no doubt), stand convicted of having DELIBERATELY REJECTED
THE WORDS OF
INSPIRATION in every page, and of having substituted for them fabricated readings, which the church has long since refused to acknowledge, or else has rejected with abhorrence, and which only survive at this time in a little handful of documents of the most depraved type. ... The Revisers have, in fact, been the dupes of an ingenious Theorist. . . . If any complain that I have sometimes hit my opponents rather hard, I take leave to point out, that
when THE WORDS OF INSPIRATION ARE SERIOUSLY IMPERILLED, AS NOW THEY ARE, it is scarcely possible for one who is determined effectually to preserve the Deposit in its integrity, to hit either too straight, or too hard.” (pp. vi.-viii.) “I traced the mischief” (done by the New Greek Text of the Revisers)“ home to its true authors,-Drs. Westcott and Hort, a copy of whose unpublished text of the [Greek] N. T., the most vicious in existence, had been confidentially, and under pledges of the strictest secrecy, placed in the hands of every member of the revising Body.' (p. xi.)
In answer to Dean Burgon, it was insinuated that he could not disprove the theory of Drs. Westcott and Hort. This, he says, compelled him to demonstrate that “in their solemn pages,” there is only
a series of unsupported assumptions ; a tissue as flimsy and as worthless as any spider's web.” (p. xiv.)
Dean Burgon says that the Greek Text, which is commonly called THE RECEIVED GREEK TEXT,” is confessedly, at least 1530 years old.” (p. xx.) Dr. Hort admits (see his ,Intro. to Gk. T., p. 92), that “The fundamental text of late extant Greek manuscripts generally,” that is, of copies which have had the approval of Christian bodies, on which bodies we have to rely, as on wellinformed and credible witnesses to the truth; he says that the text of their “ manuscripts generally, is, beyond all question, identical with the dominant Greco-Syrian text of the second half of the fourth century;" that is, with the text approved by both Greeks and Syrians, from A.D. 350 to 400. Of this text the Peshito is one member. This is the text which Dean Burgon says is 1530 years old.
But the theory or conjecture which it has pleased Drs. Westcott and Hort to adopt, is, that the original Greek text was VERY DIFFERENT FROM THIS, and is contained in a few copies of the fourth, or next following centuries, which are not known to have been approved by any large bodies free from serious error. To account for the fact that the text of these
few copies was generall rejected by Greeks and Syrians, Drs. Westcott and Hort gamble with conjecture. They cannot find history to quote, and therefore invent fictions. Their chief fiction is, that “a new text” was formed, “ different from all ” preceding texts, of which there had grown up three; and that this new text was “a work of attempted criticism, performed deliberately by editors,” (Intro. to
Gk. T., p. 133); that there was an authoritative revision of Greek texts at Antioch, which revision was then taken as a standard for a similar authoritative revision of the [Peshito] Syriac text; that the Greek text was itself at a later time subjected to a second authoritative revision ; but that the Vulgate [Peshito] Syriac did not undergo any corresponding second revision." (Intro. to Gk. T.,
The invention of what is unsaid in history, under pretence of proving the facts of history, and with respect to infallible truth, is as rash as it is wrong. But the use made of this invention of revisions which never took place, is more rash still, for it is assumed that the best text of Greek and Syriac copies was rejected by the Revisers in both cases; that the purer texts were abandoned, and the more corrupt adopted throughout both Greek and Syrian bodies in all following ages. Drs. Westcott and Hort conjecture that the leading Christians in those bodies were so weak, or so wicked, that they preferred acceptability” to “purity of text,” and were so capricious,"
" that their new interpolations,” their forged additions, were abundant." (pp. 134-5.), On the ground of this slanderous assumption, they please to decide, that any reading which is “ distinctly Syrian, is to be rejected at once," (p. 163); and that the whole line of Greek and Syriac manuscripts in which this alleged “ new text is found, is to be rejected also. What evil influence can possibly have so possessed and blinded minds trained to reason rightly, that they can say what is so unreasonable ?
On this subject Dean Burgon says :—“We are invited to make our election between FACT and FICTION.” (p. 293.) If there had been such a revision, "we should insist that no important deviation from such a Textus Receptus as that, would deserve to be listened to. In other words, if Dr. Hort's theory about the origin of the Textus Receptus have any foundation at all in fact, it is all up' with Dr. Hort. He is absolutely nowhere.” (p. 293.) But no such authoritative revision is recorded as having ever occurred. effort of the imagination,” says Dean Burgon, “it is entitled to no manner of consideration or respect at our hands.” (p. 277.) But if it had occurred, then, according to Dr. Hort's theory, we should behold on one side the “ choice representatives of the wisdom, the piety, the learning of the Eastern Church, from A.D. 250 to A.D. 350. On this side sits Dr. Hort. An interval of 1532 years separates these two parties." (P. 288.) According to Dr. Hort, by a strange fatality,-a most unaccountable and truly disastrous proclivity to error,—these illustrious fathers of the church have been at every instant substituting the spurious for the genuine, -a fabricated text in place of the Evangelical verity. Miserable men !" (p. 289.) “The self-same iniquity (was) perpetrated,” Dr. Hort ·
) supposes, in the case of the Peshito, as in the case of the Greek text. “One solitary witness” to the true text, “Cureton's frag
" As a mere