|Bible Research > Textual Criticism > The Story of the Bible > 11|
It is not often that an important announcement in the field of textual criticism is first made in a popular work, but Sir Frederic Kenyon made such an announcement in 1936 in the first edition of The Story of the Bible. Two years previously he had edited the ten leaves of the Pauline codex (Papyrus 46) originally acquired as part of the Chester Beatty collection of biblical papyri; now he was able to report not only that the University of Michigan had acquired thirty leaves of the same codex but also that Chester Beatty himself had acquired a further forty-six.
But the story of manuscript discovery did not come to an end in 1936. In the 1946 printing of this book the note at the end of chapter 2 was added, drawing readers' attention to the Rylands fragment of the Greek Deuteronomy and to the Canaanite archives from Ugarit. And before Sir Frederic's death in 1952, in his ninetieth year, he was able to greet, and appreciate the significance of, the news of the discovery of Hebrew biblical texts at Qumran, a millennium older than he or anyone else had thought to be within the bounds of probability.
A new era in the textual study of the Old Testament began with the discovery, in 1896-97, of a mass of manuscript material in the genizah, or store-room, of a synagogue in Old Cairo. This room had been walled up and forgotten for centuries; it came to light when the synagogue was rebuilt. It contained around 200,000 manuscript fragments, most of which are now divided between Leningrad, London, Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester. The oldest of them go back before the ninth century A.D., and include some portions of the Hebrew Bible representing earlier stages in the Massoretic editing of the text than were previously attested, and exhibiting earlier systems of punctuation and vocalization than the system of Tiberias which ultimately prevailed. From five manuscripts in the genizah the major part of the Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus (The Wisdom of Ben Sira) was recovered; the complete work had survived in the Greek translation made by the author's grandson shortly after 132 B.C. Two non-biblical manuscripts in the genizah contained most of the text of a previously unknown treatise called the 'Zadokite Work' or the 'Damascus Document'; not until the discovery of the Qumran texts was it possible to establish its true context, for it proved to be a Document of the Qumran community.
The manuscript fragments discovered in eleven caves at or near Qumran, northwest of the Dead Sea, between 1947 and 1956, represent about 500 books, of which 100 are books of the Hebrew Bible. Every book of the Hebrew Bible, in fact, is represented apart from Esther. Most of these books have survived only in fragmentary form, but some are relatively complete: there is a virtually complete scroll of Isaiah from Cave 1, another copy of the same book from the same cave with the second half virtually intact; from Cave 4 there is a copy of Samuel of which parts of 47 columns out of an original 57 have been preserved, and from Cave 2 there are substantial portions of a Leviticus scroll and a Psalms scroll.
Converging lines of evidence point to a date before A.D. 70 for the Qumran texts. Some of the biblical manuscripts included among them are dated palaeographically in the first half of the second century B.C., and a few earlier still. This means that we now have Hebrew biblical manuscripts 1,000 years older than the oldest known to us before 1947. The question rises immediately: what is the quality of the text of the oldest manuscripts previously known in the light of these most recent discoveries? The answer is that (as we already had good reason to believe) the scribes who copied and recopied the Hebrew scriptures during the first thousand years of the Christian era carried out their work with the most scrupulous accuracy. Here and there the Qumran texts enable us to emend a copyist's error or supply a missing word, but in general they confirm the trustworthiness of the text exhibited in the earliest Massoretic manuscripts. When the first Qumran discoveries were made, the Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament was in the last stages of production, but there was time to include in the footnotes to Isaiah some references to the complete Isaiah scroll from Cave I. In his book The Dead Sea Scrolls (1955), pp. 304 ff., Dr. Millar Burrows tells us that he and his fellow-revisers adopted thirteen readings in which this scroll deviates from the traditional text, and that subsequent reflection convinced him that in some cases their decision was a mistake, and that they ought to have retained the Massoretic reading.
In addition to the straightforward biblical manuscripts, other Hebrew documents from Qumran convey much information about the biblical text. A number of commentaries, for example, reproduce portions of the biblical text before giving the interpretation, and the interpretation sometimes reflects the commentator's knowledge of variant readings. Thus, a commentary on Habakkuk, found in Cave 1, quotes part of Hab. 2:16 in the form 'Drink, yourself, and stagger' -- the reading of the Septuagint and Peshitta versions, adopted in the Revised Standard Version. But the interpretation of these words shows that the commentator was acquainted also with the reading 'Drink, yourself, and be uncircumcised', which appears in the Massoretic text and is adopted in the Authorized and Revised Versions.
The Qumran biblical manuscripts bear witness to at least three types of Hebrew text which were current in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era. One was the 'proto-Massoretic' text -- that is to say, the direct ancestor of the Massoretic text of later centuries. Another was the text on which the Greek Septuagint version was based; no samples of this text type in Hebrew were known until the discovery of the Qumran manuscripts. There are a number of places in the Old Testament where scholars had confidently emended the Massoretic Hebrew text on the basis of the Septuagint rendering and where their emendations have now been recognized in Hebrew texts from Qumran; one example is at the end of Deut. 32:8, where the reading 'sons of God', attested by the Septuagint in place of the Massoretic 'sons (children) of Israel', and accordingly adopted in the Revised Standard Version, has now been confirmed in a Hebrew text from Cave 4 at Qumran. A third text type, so far as the first five books of the Bible are concerned, is that hitherto known only from the Samaritan Bible. Some of the distinctive readings of the Samaritan Bible are designed to support Samaritan claims against the Jews, but others have no such sectarian tendency, and several of these latter have now been identified in Qumran manuscripts. Apart from the sectarian readings, the Samaritan Bible now appears to be based on a popular Palestinian edition of the Hebrew Pentateuch, used by Jews as well as by Samaritans.
Among the prophetical books of the Old Testament, the greatest divergence between the Massoretic and Septuagint texts is found in Jeremiah, which is considerably shorter in the Septuagint. Both the shorter and longer recensions are represented in Jeremiah manuscripts from Qumran. The Samuel manuscript already mentioned is of special textual interest; not only does it exhibit very much the type of Hebrew text which the Septuagint translator of Samuel must have used, but its text is in some respects closer to that which the author of Chronicles seems to have known than it is to the Massoretic edition.
Other biblical documents from Qumran exhibit a 'mixed' type of text or a type of text not otherwise identified; a comparative study of the various text types may help us to carry the history of the Old Testament text back some way earlier than the earliest Qumran manuscripts.
From other areas farther south along the western shore of the Dead Sea other manuscripts of Hebrew scripture have come to light in recent years -- more particularly from caves in the Murabba'at and Engedi regions which served as guerrilla outposts in the second Jewish revolt against Rome (A.D. 132-135). But the biblical manuscripts from these caves uniformly exhibit the proto-Massoretic text. This may confirm the theory that about A.D. 100, under the influence of Rabbi Akiba and his colleagues, one of the existing text types (the proto-Massoretic) was standardized for use among the Jews, and the circulation of other types was henceforth discontinued among them. A few biblical fragments of proto-Massoretic type have also been discovered recently in excavations at Masada, south-west of the Dead Sea, where the last band of insurgents in the first Jewish revolt against Rome held out until the stronghold was stormed in May, A.D. 73. These include fragments of the Psalms and Leviticus. In addition, fragments of four or five chapters of a scroll of Ecclesiasticus were found at Masada, and a large fragment of the book of Jubilees, both in Hebrew.
These and other books commonly assigned to the category of 'apocrypha and pseudepigrapha' are also represented among the manuscripts from Qumran. Other books in this category represented at Qumran are Tobit (In Aramaic and Hebrew) and I Enoch (in Aramaic).
Some Aramaic paraphrases or 'Targums' of Old Testament books were found at Qumran. Most interesting of these was a Targum of Job found in Cave 11. We have references in antiquity to the existence of such a Targum at the end of the pre-Christian and beginning of the Christian era. Fragments of a Leviticus Targum have been found in Cave 4. An Aramaic document from Cave 1, the so called 'Genesis Apocryphon', contains narratives of the patriarchs in an expanded form; scholars disagree on the question whether it is a proper Targum or not. It certainly contains targumic material.
It might have been thought that such conservative religionists as the men of Qumran or such uncompromising patriots as the fighters in the second revolt against Rome would have had no use for the Greek version of the Old Testament, but in fact Septuagint fragments have come to light both from the caves of Qumran and from the outposts of Bar-kokhba's unyielding guerrillas. From Cave 4 at Qumran come Septuagint fragments of two Leviticus manuscripts and one of Numbers; from Cave 7 come Septuagint fragments of Exodus and of the Epistle of Jeremiah (which frequently appears in editions of the Apocrypha as the last chapter of Baruch, though it is an independent composition). But the most important Greek biblical find in the Dead Sea region was made not at Qumran but in the Wadi Heber, near Engedi, where a number of documents from the period of the second revolt have been discovered. This is a fragmentary copy of a Greek version of the Minor Prophets, the text of which is similar to that used by Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century A.D.; it has been hailed as a missing link in the history of the Septuagint. These early manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament are a welcome addition to the two pre-Christian papyrus fragments of the Septuagint of Deuteronomy in Manchester and Cairo respectively, both of the second century B.C. and not surpassed in antiquity even by these recent discoveries.
The truth about the Samaritan manuscript mentioned in chapter 2, which according to a scribal note at the end was written by Aaron's great-grandson Abisha, was revealed in 1952. The Spanish Hebraist, F. Perez Castro, procured a photographic copy of the complete scroll, and found that while the last part of it (from Numbers 35 to the end of Deuteronomy) was quite old, dating perhaps from the eleventh century A.D., the remainder was a much later manuscript attached to the older part. There is reason to suppose that the greater part of the old manuscript was torn away from the hands of the priest who held it by a sudden gust of wind during an open-air service in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.
The complete text of an early Palestinian Targum of the Pentateuch was identified in a manuscript in the Vatican Library (Neofiti 1) in 1957. In addition to its importance for the history of the text and interpretation of the Old Testament, the Palestinian Aramaic in which this Targum is written brings us close to the form of Aramaic spoken by Jesus and the early disciples.
The standard critical text of the Hebrew Bible has for six decades been Rudolf Kittel's Biblia Hebraica, first published in 1905. The third edition (1937), edited by Paul Kahle, broke away from the practice of its predecessors, which was to use as the basic text that edited by Jacob ben Chayyim for a printed Hebrew Bible of 1524-25. Kahle used as his basic text that of a Leningrad codex of A.D. 1008, which is one of a group of manuscripts believed to represent the work of the Massoretic family of Ben Asher -- the family responsible for the final form of the vocalization of Tiberias. (Other Ben Asher manuscripts have been mentioned in chapter 2.) In 1958 the British and Foreign Bible Society published a new edition of the Hebrew Bible, edited by N. H. Snaith, which also departed from the Ben Chayyim text. Like Dr. Kahle, Dr. Snaith aimed at reproducing the Ben Asher text, but he based his edition on the first hand of Hebrew manuscripts of Spanish provenance in the British Museum, together with the first hand of the Shem Tob manuscript in the David Sassoon Library. Yet another critical edition is in process of production at the hand of scholars of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here the basic text is that exhibited by a codex of the early tenth century A.D., a most valuable witness to the Ben Asher text. This codex formerly belonged to a synagogue in Aleppo; it was damaged in 1948, but the greater part was rescued and it now belongs to the Hebrew University.
As regards the Septuagint, the large critical Cambridge edition referred to in chapter 2 has gone ahead but slowly. The first instalment of Vol. III (Esther, Judith, Tobit) appeared in 1940. Fortunately, another critical edition, published at Gottingen in 1939 and the following years, under the editorship of J. Ziegler, began with those books as yet unpublished in the Cambridge edition. All the prophetical books have now appeared in this Gottingen Septuagint, and a beginning has been made with the Wisdom books.
In editing the Septuagint, a question to be considered is whether or not there was one original Septuagint text which can be recovered by critical methods. Paul Kahle maintained that there was none, and that therefore the attempt to establish it was doomed to failure; in his view the Septuagint began as a number of competing private attempts to translate parts of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and the establishment of one standard Greek text followed a lengthy process of such attempts. The latest discoveries and studies show that his thesis, for all the scholarship with which it was sustained, was vastly exaggerated, if not completely mistaken.
An excellent edition of the principal Aramaic Targums of the Old Testament is A. Sperber's The Bible in Aramaic (4 volumes, 1959 and following years). As for the Latin Old Testament, the pre-Vulgate version is being critically edited by the Vetus Latina Commission of the Arch-Abbey of Beuron, Germany (1949 and following years), while a critical edition of the Vulgate is being produced by a community of the Benedictine Order (1926 and following years).
The study of New Testament textual criticism has been promoted during the last thirty years both by the discovery of manuscripts previously unknown and by the cataloguing, photographing and examination of manuscripts previously inaccessible to the majority of scholars. Special mention should be made of the work being carried on at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in the University of Munster, Westphalia, under the direction of Kurt Aland. In a paper read at the centenary meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in New York at the end of 1964, Professor Aland enumerated the material now available to New Testament textual critics as comprising 78 papyri, 224 uncials, about 2,650 cursives and about 2,000 lectionaries (all this representing an increase by some 900 manuscripts over thirty years). Of these the Munster Institute had then facsimiles (photocopy or microfilm) of 71 papyri, 208 uncials, 1,910 cursives and 1,320 lectionaries, and he hoped that in the following year it would be possible to procure 500 further manuscripts on microfilm. Professor Aland keeps the internationally recognized catalogue of New Testament manuscripts, in which each manuscript receives an appropriate number as it is discovered.
Of recent discoveries in New Testament manuscripts the most important are the Bodmer papyri. These are papyri acquired by the Bodmer Library, Geneva; the name of M. Martin Bodmer now rivals that of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty as a collector of biblical papyri. About 1956 the Bodmer Library acquired a papyrus codex of John's Gospel (Papyrus 66) which was written about A.D. 200. The first fourteen chapters are almost complete; the remaining seven survive in substantial fragments. Of comparable date in the same collection are Papyrus 75, containing the second half of Luke and the first half of John, and Papyrus 72, containing the Epistles of Peter and Jude. Much later is Papyrus 74 (sixth or seventh century), which contains Acts and the Catholic Epistles.
The number of Greek New Testament manuscripts going back to the early years of the third century or later years of the second century is thus increasing -- although nothing so far can compete in antiquity with the papyrus fragment of John 18 in the John Rylands Library, Manchester (Papyrus 52), which was written in the first half of the second century, less than fifty years after the original composition of the Fourth Gospel. With the increase in available manuscripts of such early date, fresh problems confront textual critics. The widely accepted classification of New Testament manuscripts and other authorities into 'families' or text types was based mainly on copies made in the fourth and later centuries. Attempts to classify the more recently discovered manuscripts of earlier date in terms of these text types are not always successful, and may even be misguided. Where, for example, a study of Papyrus 66 leads to the conclusion that this manuscript has five 'Western' readings and four 'Caesarean' readings and that, as compared with Codices Aleph and B, it is 'neutral in a non-pure way', textual scholars know what is meant; but it can only lead to confusion to try to define such early evidence by the standards of later witnesses. If possible, we should endeavour, on the basis of our witnesses to the text of the period A.D. 150-250, to ascertain what types of text were current in that period, to classify the phenomena of these witnesses and trace their pre-history. The lines of procedure are set out in a monograph by J. N. Birdsall on The Bodmer Papyrus of the Gospel of John (1960)
So far as the Pauline corpus is concerned, a notable contribution was made by G. Zuntz in the Schweich Lectures for 1946, The Text of the Epistles (published 1954) -- a worthy sequel to Sir Frederic Kenyon's Schweich Lectures for 1932 (Recent Developments in the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible, 1933). The task of the textual critic of the Pauline letters is to recover as far as possible the text of the original edition of the Corpus Paulinum; only rarely and indirectly is it possible to get behind this stage to the state of affairs in the first century, when Paul's epistles still existed separately or in small regional collections. On the basis of the earliest and best evidence, Professor Zuntz envisages the first editor of the Pauline corpus as copying at least ten Pauline epistles, together with Hebrews, into a codex from which copies were made for use in many parts of the Christian world. This work must have been accomplished early in the second century; from this point onwards all writers who refer to the Pauline writings knew them in the form of a corpus. Professor Zuntz concludes that the corpus was compiled and published at Alexandria in Egypt, since it shows signs of dependence on editorial methods characteristic of Alexandrian scholarship in the Hellenistic age, including the noting of variant readings.
The story of the Diatessaron has been carried forward from the point to which Sir Frederic Kenyon brought it in chapter 8. In September 1957 a considerable portion of the Syriac original of Ephrem's commentary on the Diatessaron was identified in a parchment manuscript belonging to Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. This Syriac text was edited and translated by Dom Louis Leloir, O.S.B., who had already published an edition and translation of the Armenian version in 1953-54. The edition and translation of Syriac appeared at Dublin in 1963 (Saint Ephrem: Commentaire de l'Evangile Concordant, Texte Syriaque. Manuscrit Chester Beatty 709). We are now presented with further evidence not only for the original text of Ephrem's commentary, but for the Syriac Diatessaron text which formed the basis of his commentary, and also incidentally for Ephrem's text of the Pauline epistles and therewith for the pre-Peshitta Syriac version of these epistles. Moreover, since the Armenian translator of Ephrem's commentary tended to conform his Gospel quotations at times to the Old Armenian version of the Gospels, a comparative study of the Syriac and Armenian texts of the commentary may supply further information about the early history of the Armenian Gospel text.
As for critical editions of the Greek New Testament, a second edition of A. Souter's Novum Testamentum Graece appeared in 1947, in which the critical apparatus was revised and brought up to date. In accordance with the policy of the Oxford University Press, however, the text remained (as in the first edition of 1910) the Greek text presumed to underlie the Revised Version of 1881 -- an artificial and unsatisfactory text. Much more satisfactory is the new edition of the British and Foreign Bible Society's Greek New Testament, prepared to mark the Society's 150th anniversary in 1954, but first published in 1958. This edition, replacing the Society's Greek Testament of 1904, which reproduced the 'resultant' text established by Eberhard Nestle in 1898, was produced by Erwin Nestle and G. D. Kilpatrick; its text is a revision of the 1904 text, and it is provided with a new, up-to-date and useful critical apparatus. Professor Kilpatrick has also produced for the British and Foreign Bible Society several parts of A Greek-English Diglot for the Use of Translators (1958 and following years), in which his principles and conclusions in the field of textual criticism receive free expression.
In 1964 the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses published an edition of the Greek New Testament, edited by R. V. G. Tasker, which sets forth the eclectic text underlying the New English Bible of 1961. An appendix of 35 pages contains valuable notes on those variant readings to which reference is made in the footnotes in the large 'Library Edition' of the New English Bible.
S. C. E. Legg's edition of the Greek text of Mark (1935), mentioned in chapter 7, presented a fuller critical apparatus than any previously published. It was followed in 1940 by a similar edition of Matthew. No further volumes of this 'New Tischendorf' have been published; a continuation of the scheme is being conducted as an international project, on different principles from those reflected in the first two instalments. Work is now in progress on Luke.
In Germany the Nestle text, published by the Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, has appeared in one edition after another. The 24th edition, edited by Erwin Nestle and K. Aland, appeared in 1960. The critical apparatus is kept up to date; the text is still substantially the original Nestle text of 1898, but a thorough revision is on the way for future editions.
From 1956 to 1966 an international committee, sponsored by the American Bible Society with the cooperation of the British and Foreign Bible Society, the National Bible Society of Scotland, the Netherlands Bible Society, and the Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, cooperated in the preparation of a new text and apparatus of the Greek New Testament. This edition (the editors of which are K. Aland, M. Black, B. M. Metzger and A. Wikgren) has been published in a handsome volume (May 1966); the select apparatus supplies, in a readily intelligible form, the textual evidence for about 1,440 variant readings throughout the New Testament. Although the material on which the new text is based includes very much that was not available to Westcott and Hort, it is noteworthy that the text is essentially of the same type as Westcott and Hort's text, although in a number of places the reading of the 'Received Text' has been preferred, being now supported by early evidence. It is planned to keep this text and apparatus up to date by successive revisions.
Before we leave the New Testament, a word must be added about something that is not strictly within the New Testament field, although it has been referred to in the earlier part of this work. The papyrus fragments containing 'Sayings of Jesus' in Greek, mentioned in chapter 9, are now known to have belonged to a much larger compilation, which has lately come to light intact in a Coptic translation. This Coptic translation is the 'Gospel of Thomas', included in the Nag Hammadi papyri, discovered about 1945 in Upper Egypt. These are thirteen leather-bound papyrus codices, containing 49 documents, mostly Coptic translations of Greek works dating from the fourth century A.D. or thereabout. Many of them are Gnostic treatises, and the 'Gospel of Thomas' itself has a Gnostic flavour. It is called the 'Gospel of Thomas' in its colophon, and it opens with the words:
"These are the secret sayings which Jesus the Living One spoke and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down. He said: Whosoever finds the interpretation of these sayings shall never taste death. Jesus said: Let not him who seeks cease until he finds. When he finds he will be troubled; when he is troubled he will marvel, and he will reign over the universe."
These last words plainly reproduce the same saying as that quoted in chapter 9; perhaps the Coptic version is based on a somewhat different Greek edition than that preserved in the Oxyrhynchus fragments, which belong to the second century. In all, the Gospel of Thomas contains about 114 sayings ascribed to Jesus. Of these about half bear a close resemblance to sayings preserved in the canonical Gospels. A useful and reliable English translation, with introductory chapters and notes, is given in The Secret Sayings of Jesus, by R. M. Grant, D. N. Freedman and W. R. Schoedel (1960).
Towards the end of Chapter 7, Sir Frederic Kenyon has explained why, despite its representing a far sounder text than the Authorized Version of 1611, the Revised Version of 1881-85 (with which may be bracketed the American Standard Version of 1901) was not generally accepted as a substitute for the Authorized. Because of its pedantic literalness it remains a useful handbook for students; for example, no other English version lends itself so well to the synoptic study of the first three Gospels, thanks to the precision with which, as far as possible, the same Greek words are consistently rendered by the same English equivalents. But for general purposes it has been left far behind by a number of subsequent translations, official and unofficial, individual and cooperative, especially of the New Testament.
The Twentieth Century New Testament (1902), a cooperative production based on Westcott and Hort's edition of the Greek, and R. F. Weymouth's New Testament in Modern Speech (1903), based on Weymouth's own 'resultant' Greek text, were scholarly and accurate versions. James Moffatt's New Testament: A New Translation (1913) was more colloquial; it was based on H. von Soden's Greek text. It was followed in 1924 by The Old Testament: A New Translation. Moffatt's translation held its own for many years as the chief of the 'modern speech' versions of the Bible. Its principal competitor was the American Translation by E. J. Goodspeed and others (New Testament, 1923; complete Bible, 1927). For the New Testament part of this version Dr. Goodspeed followed Westcott and Hort's text for the most part, deviating from it in half a dozen places where more recent investigation seemed to justify this course, and adopting (rather unwisely) a conjectural emendation in I Peter 3:19, according to which not Christ but Enoch went and preached to the spirits in prison (Moffatt accepted the same emendation).
During the last thirty years the number of new English versions of the Bible in part or in whole has greatly increased. Among private enterprises may be mentioned C. B. Williams's New Testament in the Language of the People (1937), marked by special (but sometimes misguided) attention to Greek tenses; The Book of Books, an anonymous version of the New Testament published by the United Society for Christian Literature (1938) to mark the quatercentenary of Henry VIII's injunction for the setting up of an English Bible for public use in every parish church in England; The Bible in Basic English (New Testament, 1940; complete Bible, 1949), a work which, despite its severely limited vocabulary, is an independent and critical rendering of the original text marked by the scholarship and insight of its translator, S. H. Hooke; The New Testament Letters, by J. W. C. Wand (1943); J. B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English (1958), which began with his Letters to Young Churches (1947), and has justly won widespread popularity as a vigorous and effective paraphrase of the original; E. V. Rieu's 'Penguin' translation of The Four Gospels (1952), followed by The Acts of the Apostles, by C. H. Rieu (1957); The Authentic New Testament, by H. J. Schonfield (1955); The Berkeley Version in Modern English, by G. Verkuyl and others (New Testament, 1945; complete Bible, 1959), and The Amplified Bible (New Testament, 1958; complete Bible, 1965).
Soon after the International Council of Religious Education (of the United States and Canada) acquired the copyright of the American Standard Version in 1928, a committee was set up to consider the further revision of this version, and recommended a thorough revision. The Council adopted the recommendation, and authorized the work of revision in 1937. The committee of thirty-two scholars entrusted with the revision worked in two sections (one for the Old Testament and one for the New). The first published fruit of its work was the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (1946). This was followed in 1952 by the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (incorporating some improvements in the text of the New Testament); the Revised Standard Version of the Apocrypha appeared in 1957. A new edition of the whole RSV in 1962 incorporated 85 minor changes in wording. The RSV is the latest version of the Bible in the great tradition which stems from Tyndale and includes the versions of 1611, 1881-85 and 1901. In the Old Testament the RSV has made a freer use of the evidence of ancient versions and even of conjectural emendation than its predecessors did; for some of its renderings Hebrew evidence became available for the first time among the Qumran manuscripts after its publication. Occasionally the translation reflects the light that has been thrown on some obscure Hebrew expressions by the texts from Ras Shamra, the ancient Ugarit. An example of this is the replacement of 'fields of offerings' in II Samuel 1:21 by 'upsurging of the deep', which (whether it be the proper rendering of the Hebrew or not) suits the context better. In the New Testament the RSV has been more deliberately eclectic in its choice of variant readings than its predecessors were; even so, it is striking how often the text which it adopts as its basis agrees with Westcott and Hort's. It has adopted one conjectural reading -- 'he who saved' in Jude 5, in place of 'the Lord, having saved' of AV, RV, and ASV (the original reading is more probably the 'difficult' one attested by Codices A and B and a number of other authorities, 'Jesus, having saved').
In Great Britain and Ireland it was decided not to undertake a revision of the Revised Version but to produce a completely new translation, breaking loose from the Tyndale tradition. A joint committee of the principal non-Roman Churches, of the two leading Bible Societies and the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, was appointed in 1947 to deal with the matter; it set up three panels of translators (one for each of the Testaments and one for the Apocrypha) and a fourth panel of literary advisors. Its policy, in the words of C. H. Dodd, director of the translation, has been to 'aim at a "timeless" English, avoiding equally both archaisms and transient modernisms'. The New Testament part of this New English Bible was published on March 14, 1961. It met with an unexpectedly favourable reception; within twelve months four million copies were bought. Some criticisms were voiced on theological grounds, others on grounds of English style; of the latter, the most serious were those expressed by T. S. Eliot in the (London) Sunday Telegraph of December 16, 1962, in which he said: 'So long as the New English Bible was used only for private reading, it would be merely a symptom of the decay of the English language in the middle of the twentieth century. But the more it is adopted for religious services, the more it will become an active agent of decadence.' To a large extent this judgment is based on a stylistic comparison of the New English Bible with the Authorized Version. But the translators were not so much concerned to make a contribution to English literature which would stop the rot in linguistic usage as to provide a faithful and intelligible rendering which should as far as possible produce in the twentieth-century reader an effect equivalent to that produced by the original on the first-century reader.
As for the textual principles of the new translation, the translators say, comparing their procedure with that of the Revisers of 1881: 'The problem of restoring a form of text as near as possible to the vanished autographs now appears less simple than it did to our predecessors. There is not at the present time any critical text which would command the same degree of general acceptance as the Revisers' text did in its day. Nor has the time come, in the judgement of competent scholars, to construct such a text, since new material constantly comes to light, and the debate continues. The present translators therefore could do no other than consider variant readings on their merits, and, having weighed the evidence for themselves, select for translation in each passage the reading which to the best of their judgement seemed most likely to represent what the author wrote.' The underlying text, in other words, is thoroughly eclectic. No conjectural emendations were admitted.
The Old Testament part of the New English Bible is not expected to appear before 1970, and no assessment of the translation as a whole can be made before then. The work of Bible revision and translation has proceeded apace at the same time among English-speaking Roman Catholics. In the United States a new version has been in course of production in recent years, under the sponsorship of the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. The New Testament, which appeared in 1941, represents a thorough-going revision of the Douay-Rheims-Challoner version previously in use, but the Old Testament (to be completed in four volumes) is an entirely new translation from the original. In Great Britain the version of R. A. Knox (New Testament, 1945; Old Testament, 1949; complete Bible, revised, 1955) is a highly individual piece of work, by a rare master of sophisticated style; it carries the authorization of the hierarchy of England and Wales and the Hierarchy of Scotland. Its great defect lies in its being a translation not of the original texts but of the Latin Vulgate (albeit with constant reference to the Hebrew and Greek). By 1964 the introduction to an edition of the New Testament for Roman Catholics could say: 'Catholics no longer make their translations from the Latin Vulgate.' This 1964 edition in another way marked a new advance in the history of the English Bible; it is the Catholic Edition of the RSV New Testament (RSVCE), which was followed in 1966 by the Catholic Edition of the RSV Bible. The Catholic Edition contains a small number of alterations in the RSV designed to make it acceptable to Roman Catholics; in addition, the books of the Apocrypha, instead of appearing as an appendix to the Old Testament, are interspersed among the Old Testament books in accordance with the tradition going back to the Septuagint and the Vulgate. That Protestants and Roman Catholics should share what is to all intents and purposes a common English Bible is a welcome development, which could scarcely have been envisaged twenty years ago. Still less would it have been possible to envisage the Catholic imprimatur being given to an edition of the Bible annotated by Protestants; but this happened in May 1966, when Cardinal Cushing gave his imprimatur to such an edition of the RSV: The Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha.
Catholic editions of the Bible with annotations include The Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures (1913 and following years), not yet complete, and La Bible de Jerusalem (first edition completed in 1956; revision in process). The latter edition, an excellent annotated translation by Dominican scholars of the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, calls for mention here because an English translation of it, The Jerusalem Bible, is due to be published before the end of 1966.
Something should be said of Jewish translations of the Old Testament. In 1917 the Jewish Publication Society of America published The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Text, a version preserving the arrangement of the Hebrew Bible, and owing a manifest debt in style and language to the Authorized and Revised Versions. It is now in process of supersession by A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Text, the work of a committee under the chairmanship of H. M. Orlinsky (a Jewish scholar who participated in the production of the RSV Old Testament). The first instalment of this new venture appeared in 1963 (The Torah: The Five Books of Moses). This version breaks loose from the 'King James' idiom and presents the sacred text in the language of today. In textual matters it is conservative; emendations based on the ancient versions are noted in the margin, but not admitted into the text.
A thoroughly ecumenical venture in Bible translation is The Anchor Bible, to be completed in thirty-eight volumes. Volume 1 (Genesis) appeared in 1964, and eight others have been published since then. In addition to translation, each volume includes introduction and commentary. The general editors are W. F. Albright and D. N. Freedman, and the enterprise as a whole represents the cooperation of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant scholars. The Jewish contribution is not restricted to the Old Testament; the volume on the Epistle to the Hebrews has been entrusted to a professor in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The day has probably passed away for good when one Bible version could serve all practical purposes -- for church use, scholarly study, and private reading -- as the version of 1611 was designed to do. But we may well be thankful that today we have such a variety of first-rate English translations to serve the different purposes for which the Bible is used, reproducing as closely as may be at this remove of time, place and language the message of the original documents, declaring the way of life for all mankind.
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