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THE number of various readings collected by Dr. Mill is computed at thirty thousand. And it is reasonable to believe that since the publication of his celebrated edition, a hundred thousand at least have been added to the list, by the indefatigable industry of those learned critics who have succeeded to his labours, and by the great extention of the field of their operations, in consequence of the additional number of manuscripts and versions, which have been since discovered and collated.

These various readings, though very numerous, do not in any degree affect the general credit and integrity of the text: the general uniformity of which, in so many copies, scattered through almost all countries in the known world, and in so great a variety of languages, is truly astonishing, and demonstrates both the veneration in which the Scriptures were held, and the great care which was taken in transcribing them. Of the hundred and thirty thousand various readings which have been discovered by the sagacity and diligence of collators, not one tenth, nor one hundredth part, make any perceptible, or at least any material variation in the sense. This will appear credible if we consider that every, the minutest deviation, from the Received Text has been carefully noted, so that the insertion or omission of an article, the substitution of a word for its equivalent, the transposition of a word or two in a sentence, and even variations in orthography, have been added to the catalogue of various readings.

In those variations, which in some measure affect the sense, the true reading often shines forth with a lustre of evidence which is perfectly satisfactory to the judicious inquirer. In other cases, where the true reading cannot be exactly ascertained, it is of little or no consequence which of the readings is adopted, e. g. whether we read "Paul the servant," or "Paul the prisoner" of Jesus Christ, Philem. ver. 1. Also, where the various readings are of considerable importance, consisting, for example, in the omission or addition of sentences or paragraphs, the authenticity of the rest of the book remains wholly unaffected, whatever decision may be passed upon the passages in question. Thus the genuineness of the gospel of John continues unimpeached, whatever may become of the account of the pool of Bethesda, or of the narrative of the woman taken in adultery.

The various readings which affect the doctrines of christianity are very few: yet some of these are of great importance; viz. Acts xx. 28; 1 Tim. iii. 16; 1 John v. 7. Of those passages which can be justly regarded as wilful interpolations, the number is very small indeed: and of these, the last-mentioned text, 1 John v. 7. is by far the most notorious, and most universally acknowledged and reprobated.

Upon the whole, we may remark, that the number and antiquity of the manuscripts which contain the whole or different parts of the New Testament, the variety of ancient versions, and the multitude of quotations from these sacred books in the early christian writers, from the second century downwards, constitute a body of evidence in favour of the genuineness and authenticity of the Christian Scriptures, far beyond that of any other book of equal antiquity.

Nevertheless, the immense number of various readings in the text of the New Testament, many of which cannot be satisfactorily settled by the most unwearied assiduity or the acutest sagacity of critical investigation, demonstrates, that no superstitious regard is due to the mere language of the Received Text, which, like the works of other ancient authors, is open to rational and liberal criticism. Ignorant and injudicious persons are sometimes apprehensive that men's regard to the christian religion will be impaired, and their veneration for the Scriptures diminished, if the infallibility of the Received Text is called in question. But intelligent and well-informed readers are apprised, that the great practical truths of the christian religion do not rest upon verbal niceties, but consist in obvious conclusions from notorious and wellestablished facts. The apostolic summary of the christian faith is, "that God will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men in that he hath raised him from the dead." This doctrine beams forth with unclouded splendour from every page of the New Testament, whatever becomes of the correctness and accuracy of the Received Text. And whether greater respect be shewn to the writers of the Christian Scriptures and to their works, by adopting, as infallible, the imperfect edi. tions of Erasmus and Stephens, of Beza and Elzevir, than by endeavouring to approximate as nearly as possible to the apostolic originals, by a sober and judicious use of the ample materials, which the labours of the learned have supplied for the purpose of rational criticism, let candour and good sense determine. In some few instances the alteration of the Received Text is indispensably requisite, in order to correct the erroneous impression conveyed by a false reading and in all cases a change is desirable, where the proposed alteration is supported by competent evidence. If it be justly regarded as a useful and an hon


ourable office to publish a correct edition of the works of a classical author, it cannot surely be reckoned less important, or less honourable, to exhibit the text of the sacred writings in a form as nearly as possible approaching to the original standard.

Upon these principles Professor Griesbach undertook, and notwithstanding the loud clamours and malignant opposition of many, he persevered in, and completed, his great work of publishing a corrected Text of the New Testament, with the various readings and authorities subjoined, for which he is entitled to the warmest thanks of the whole Christian world. Upon the same principles, the late Dr. Newcome, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, printed, what he modestly calls, "An Attempt toward revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures," in which he professes generally to follow the text of Griesbach: the publication of which was, however, deferred till after the decease of that venerable and learned prelate, in deference, as it has been rumoured, to the opinions of some persons high in authority and rank, who were fearful of disturbing vulgar prejudices. It is upon the same principles that the present Improved Version offers itself to the public, with the additional advantage of the corrections and improvements of Dr. Griesbach's Second Edition. To prevent, however, undue expectations, it is proper to state, that the alterations of the text in the learned Professor's second edition are comparatively very few; much fewer, as he observes, than he had himself expected, from the great additional treasure of critical materials with which he was supplied. But he adds, that the experience of twenty years had only confirmed him in his adherence to those rules of criticism, by which his judgement had been originally guided: and that the best authorities which had occurred to him, since the publication of his first edition, had confirmed the testimony of those witnesses upon which he had from the beginning chiefly relied.

To conclude, The editors of the present work offer it to the public as exhibiting to the English reader a text not indeed absolutely perfect, but approaching as nearly to the apostolical and evangelical originals, as the present state of sacred criticism will admit neither do they hold it up as a faultless translation, but merely as an Improved Version, still no doubt susceptible of far greater improvement, which they will rejoice to see undertaken and accomplished by abler hands. In the mean time, having to the best of their ability completed their professed design, they commend this volume, which is the result of their labours, to the candour of their readers and to the blessing of Almighty God:



Dr. Lardner's Plan of the Times and Places of writing the Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Supplement

to The Credibility, &c. vol. i. page iv.

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A Table of St. Paul's Epistles in the Order of Time; with the Places whère, and the Times when, they were written. From Lardner's Supplement to The Credibility, &c.

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A Table of the Seven Catholic Epistles, and the Revelation; with the Places where, and the Times when, they were written. From Lardner's Supplement to The Credibility, &c. vol. iii. page iv.

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A Scheme of the Times, Places, and Occasions of writing the Gospels. Subjoined to page 114 of Dr. Henry Owen's Observations on the Four Gospels. London. T. Payne.

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Dr. Townson's Opinion concerning the Evangelists. From his Discourses on the Four Gospels. 4to. Oxford. 1778.

THAT St. Matthew was the first writer of a Gospel; that he composed it early for the instruction of the Jewish people, and published it in Judea; and that he was not only anterior to St. Mark and St. Luke, but wrote several years before either of them. Pages 23. 101.

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