Palfrey's New Testament

John Gorham Palfrey, The New Testament in the common Version, conformed to Griesbach's Standard Greek Text. Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1828. Third edition, 1830.

Palfrey, a Unitarian, published this version anonymously. It is a revision of the King James version in accordance with Griesbach 1805. This is perhaps the earliest example of a scholar's attempt to fully inform the public at large of the results of the new textual criticism pioneered by Griesbach.

PREFACE (1830)

The editor of the following pages, being engaged in a course of expository lectures on the New Testament, found an inconvenience in such interruptions of his comments as were necessary to correct the text and punctuation of the Common Version. He was thus led to think of providing a few copies, which, without other deviations from that version, should represent the amendments of Professor Griesbach's edition of the Greek original. The design of printing but a small number of copies, to put into the hands of his hearers, he was subsequently advised to abandon. The work having accordingly come before the public, it is proper to premise some explanations, from which persons unacquainted with sacred criticism may judge of the object had in view.

The edition of the Greek Testament, selected as the standard of the translation made in the reign of James I. and now in common use, was that of Theodore Beza. What the claims of that text to the character of correctness are, may be judged from a brief sketch of the history of its formation.

It was almost a century after the invention of printing, before the Greek Testament was issued from the press. In 1502 was undertaken, under the patronage of Cardinal Ximenes, the publication of an edition of the sacred writings, comprehending the Greek and Hebrew text, with three of the principal versions; a work which, from the place where it was executed,—Alcala in Spain, the ancient Complutum,—took the name of the Complutensian Polyglot. Though the printing was finished in 1514, the papal license for the publication was not obtained till eight years afterwards. Meanwhile, Erasmus, being at Basle in Switzerland in 1516, employed in publishing the works of Jerome, was induced by his printer to devote his leisure to an edition of the New Testament, to be prepared with such means as that city and its neighbourhood afforded.

The texts of the Complutensian Polyglot and of Erasmus formed the basis of subsequent editions. The manuscripts from which the former was prepared are lost, and what was their number or their value cannot now be certainly known. The edition, however, furnishes the strongest reasons for believing them to have been few and modern. Erasmus appears from his own testimony to have had the use of only four manuscripts, and these incomplete, with some hasty gleanings from others by himself or by his friends. The manuscripts on which he relied are also well known, and are universally acknowledged to be modern, and of very inferior authority. In the infancy of the science of textual criticism, both editions were unavoidably prepared without any sufficient acquaintance with the rules which should govern such a work. The integrity of the Complutensian editors labours under strong suspicion. To anticipate the Complutensian, the edition of Erasmus was hurried through the press; despatched, as he himself says, rather than edited, præcipitatum verius quam editum. In several instances, he departed from all his authorities, and in one, supplied a chasm of six verses by his own translation from the Latin. His copy, after leaving his hands, was mutilated by the correctors of the press, and typographical errors occurred, which were not corrected in subsequent editions. In these editions, some alterations were introduced from the Complutensian, among which was the admission of the famous text, 1 John v. 7.

In 1546, a third edition, which is to he considered as in some respect independent, was prepared by Robert Stephens of Paris, by a collation of the Erasmian and Complutensian editions with fifteen manuscripts in the king's library. It was subsequently twice revised, and, in the form which it last assumed, is little more than a reprint of the fifth edition of Erasmus, except in the Apocalypse, where it adopts many readings of the Complutensian. Of the manuscripts professed to have been used, two cannot now be traced. Most of the remaining thirteen contained only a part of the New Testament; they were not examined by the editor, but by his son, eighteen years old; and, on a more careful search, many of their most remarkable readings appear to have been overlooked, and others misrepresented, in the printed work. In the margin of this edition were first introduced the figures denoting the division into verses; a division hastily made by Robert Stephens during a journey from Lyons to Paris, to facilitate reference in a Concordance which he was about to publish.

The edition of Beza, which assumed its permanent shape in 1598, differed little from that of Stephens. Though he possessed two valuable manuscripts, and consulted two ancient versions besides the Vulgate, he made little use of either. Indeed, his Greek text often differing from his Latin translation, the former cannot be regarded as containing the readings which even his own judgment approved.

From the texts of Stephens and Beza was prepared an anonymous edition, which, in 1624 was issued from the office of the Elzevirs at Leyden. Recommended by nothing else than the beauty and supposed accuracy of the typographical execution, this text—essentially the same with the imperfect compilation of Erasmus, and only differing from that in variations introduced on the inferior authority of Beza, Stephens, and the Catholic editors of the Complutensian, with a very few other readings of unknown origin—immediately took a rank which it has since retained under the name of the Received Edition.

In the year 1707, Dr. John Mill published at Oxford his splendid work, the fruit of thirty laborious years. In marginal notes, attached to the text of Stephens, this edition exhibited various readings, to the amount of thirty thousand, collected from Greek manuscripts, from ancient versions, and from quotations found in the writings of the early fathers of the church. It was followed in 1734 by an edition by John Albert Bengel of Tubingen, containing a valuable additional collection of various readings from similar sources, appended to a text, exclusively compiled, except in the Apocalypse, from preceding printed editions. These important publications were eclipsed by the great work of John James Wetstein, published at Amsterdam, in 1751-2, in two volumes folio. It is said to comprise a hundred thousand various readings, and more than a million references. The text is that of the received edition, readings regarded by the editor as of better authority being distinguished as such in the margin.

In 1775, Dr. John James Griesbach published his first edition of the New Testament, exhibiting in notes the most important of the various readings contained in the works of Wetstein and of other critics since his time, and introducing into the text such amendments of the received edition as were considered to be established by conclusive evidence. A second edition, revised and greatly enriched, appeared in 1796-1806, the store of means for emendation of the text having meanwhile received valuable contributions from the researches of Matthäi, Alter, Birch, and other distinguished biblical philologists. The work in its present state is the result of more than thirty years' devoted study. The materials for it—drawn from nearly four hundred Greek manuscripts, besides large collations from ancient versions and citations of the early fathers—amounted to not less than a hundred and thirty thousand various readings; the critical rules, applied in deciding between conflicting authorities, have been generally approved, and the impartiality of the editor may be considered beyond question, the principal alterations which he has introduced being unfavourable to his own distinctly avowed theological opinions. Considering the great delicacy of this work, the all but unanimous favourable testimony which has been rendered to it by learned men, of whatever denomination, is a result which it would have been extravagant to anticipate.

The manual edition of Griesbach, published at Leipsic in 1805, is to be regarded, in the few places where it differs from the critical edition, as recording the editor's most mature judgments, the critical edition having been almost all printed at an earlier period, though the second volume did not appear till 1806. The editor of this volume has accordingly followed the Greek text of the manual edition. He will be understood not to have attempted any such work as that of a revised translation of the New Testament. He has exactly reprinted the Common Version, except in places where the Greek text, from which that version was made, is now understood to have been faulty. In other words, he has aimed to present the Common Version precisely such as it would have been, if the translators could have had access to the standard text of Griesbach, instead of the adulterated text of Beza. In the translations which he has introduced to correspond to the amended Greek, it has been his careful endeavour to imitate the style of the received version, and no one has been admitted without study and consideration. He ventures to hope, that in a use like that for which it was projected, the work may be of some advantage to his brethren in the ministry. A just reverence for Scripture will influence all Christians to desire to see the documents of their faith in a form as little as possible altered from that in which they came from their authors' hands; and if the restorations here presented appear to be not of the greatest consequence, they will but afford the more gratifying assurance of the substantial integrity of those records, which, preserved in so great a variety of copies, bear, in the purest and the most corrupt form, so striking a general likeness.