Addresses on the Revised Version of Holy Scripture
by C. J. Ellicott
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Transcribed from the 1901 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge edition by David Price, email

Addresses on the Revised Version of Holy Scripture.






The following Addresses form the Charge to the Archdeaconry of Cirencester at the Visitation held at the close of October in the present year. The object of the Charge, as the opening words and the tenor of the whole will abundantly indicate, is seriously to suggest the question, whether the time has not now arrived for the more general use of the Revised Version at the lectern in the public service of the Church.


October, 1901.



As there now seem to be sufficient grounds for thinking that ere long the Revised Version of Holy Scripture will obtain a wider circulation and more general use than has hitherto been accorded to it, it seems desirable that the whole subject of the Revised Version, and its use in the public services of the Church, should at last be brought formally before the clergy and laity, not only of this province, but of the whole English Church.

Twenty years have passed away since the appearance of the Revised Version of the New Testament, and the presentation of it by the writer of these pages to the Convocation of Canterbury on May 17, 1881. Just four more years afterwards, viz. on April 30, 1885, the Revised Version of the Old Testament was laid before the same venerable body by the then Bishop of Winchester (Bp. Harold Browne), and, similarly to the Revised Version of the New Testament, was published simultaneously in this country and America. It was followed, after a somewhat long interval, by the Revised Version of the Apocrypha, which was laid before Convocation by the writer of these pages on February 12, 1896.

The revision of the Authorised Version has thus been in the hands of the English-speaking reader sixteen years, in the case of the Canonical Scriptures, and five years in the case of the Apocrypha—periods of time that can hardly be considered insufficient for deciding generally, whether, and to what extent, the Revised Version should be used in the public services of the Church.

I have thus thought it well, especially after the unanimous resolution of the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury, three years ago {6}, and the very recent resolution of the House of Laymen, to place before you the question of the use of the Revised Version in the public services of the Church, as the ultimate subject of this charge. I repeat, as the ultimate subject, for no sound opinion on the public use of this version can possibly be formed unless some general knowledge be acquired, not only of the circumstances which paved the way for the revision of the time-honoured version of 1611, but also of the manner in which the revision was finally carried out. We cannot properly deal with a question so momentous as that of introducing a revised version of God's Holy Word into the services of the Church, without knowing, at least in outline, the whole history of the version which we are proposing to introduce. This history then I must now place before you from its very commencement, so far as memory and a nearly life-long connexion with the subject enable me to speak.

The true, though remote fountain-head of revision, and, more particularly, of the revision of the New Testament, must be regarded as the grammar written by a young academic teacher, George Benedict Winer, as far back as 1822, bearing the title of a Grammar of the Language of the New Testament. It was a vigorous protest against the arbitrary, and indeed monstrous licence of interpretation which prevailed in commentaries on Holy Scripture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It met with at first the fate of all assaults on prevailing unscientific procedures, but its value and its truth were soon recognized. The volume passed through several successively improved editions, until in 1855 the sixth edition was reached, and issued with a new and interesting preface by the then distinguished and veteran writer. This edition formed the basis of the admirable and admirably supplemented translation of my lamented and highly esteemed friend Dr. Moulton, which was published in 1870, passed through a second edition six years afterwards, and has, since that time, continued to be a standard grammar, in an English dress, of the Greek Testament down to this day.

The claim that I have put forward for this remarkable book as the fountain-head of revision can easily be justified when we call to memory how very patently the volume, in one or another of its earlier editions, formed the grammatical basis of the commentaries of De Wette and Meyer, and, here in England, of the commentary of Alford, and of critical and grammatical commentaries on some of St. Paul's Epistles with which my own name was connected. It was to Winer that we were all indebted for that greater accuracy of interpretation of the Greek Testament which was recognized and welcomed by readers of the New Testament at the time I mention, and produced effects which had a considerable share in the gradual bringing about of important movements that almost naturally followed.

What came home to a large and increasing number of earnest and truth-seeking readers of the New Testament was this—that there were inaccuracies and errors in the current version of the Holy Scriptures, and especially of the New Testament, which plainly called for consideration and correction, and further brought home to very many of us that this could never be brought about except by an authoritative revision.

This general impression spread somewhat rapidly; and soon after the middle of the last century it began to take definite shape. The subject of the revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament found a place in the religious and other periodicals of the day {10a}, and as the time went on was the subject of numerous pamphlets, and was alluded to even in Convocation {10b} and Parliament {10c}. As yet however there had been no indication of the sort of revision that was desired by its numerous advocates, and fears were not unnaturally entertained as to the form that a revision might ultimately take. It was feared by many that any authoritative revision might seriously impair the acceptance and influence of the existing and deeply reverenced version of Holy Scripture, and, to use language which expressed apprehensions that were prevailing at the time, might seriously endanger the cause of sound religion in our Church and in our nation.

There was thus a real danger, unless some forward step was quickly and prudently taken, that the excitement might gradually evaporate, and the movement for revision might die out, as has often been the case in regard of the Prayer Book, into the old and wonted acquiescence of the past.

It was just at this critical time that an honoured and influential churchman, who was then the popular and successful secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Rev. Ernest Hawkins, afterwards Canon of Westminster, came forward and persuaded a few of us, who had the happiness of being his friends, to combine and publish a version of one of the books of the New Testament which might practically demonstrate to friends and to opponents what sort of a revision seemed desirable under existing circumstances. After it had been completed we described it "as a tentamen, a careful endeavour, claiming no finality, inviting, rather than desiring to exclude, other attempts of the same kind, calling the attention of the Church to the many and anxious questions involved in rendering the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular language, and offering some help towards the settlement of those questions {12}."

The portion of Scripture selected was the Gospel according to St. John. Those who undertook the revision were five in number:—Dr. Barrow, the then Principal of St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford; Dr. Moberly, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury; Rev. Henry Alford, afterwards Dean of Canterbury; Rev. W. G. Humphry, Vicar of St. Martin's in the Fields; and lastly, the writer of this charge. Mr. Ernest Hawkins, busy as he was, acted to a great extent as our secretary, superintended arrangements, and encouraged and assisted us in every possible manner. Our place of meeting was the library of our hospitable colleague Mr. Humphry. We worked in the greatest possible harmony, and happily and hopefully concluded our Revision of the Authorised Version of the Gospel of St. John in the month of March, 1857.

Our labours were introduced by a wise and attractive preface, written mainly by Dr. Moberly, in the lucid, reverent, and dignified language that marked everything that came from the pen of the late Bishop of Salisbury.

The effect produced by this tentamen was indisputably great. The work itself was of course widely criticized, but for the most part favourably {13}. The principles laid down in the preface were generally considered reasonable, and the possibilities of an authoritative revision distinctly increased. The work in fact became a kind of object lesson.

It showed plainly that there were errors in the Authorised Version that needed correction. It further showed that their removal and the introduction of improvements in regard of accuracy did not involve, either in quantity or quality, the changes that were generally apprehended. And lastly, it showed in its results that scholars of different habits of thought could combine in the execution of such a work without friction or difficulty.

In regard of the Greek text but little change was introduced. The basis of our translation was the third edition of Stephens, from which we only departed when the amount of external evidence in favour of a different reading was plainly overwhelming. As we ourselves state in the preface, "our object was to revise a version, not to frame a text." We should have obscured this one purpose if we had entered into textual criticism.

Such was the tentative version which prepared the way for authoritative revision.

More need not be said on this early effort. The version of the Gospel of St. John passed through three editions. The Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians appeared in 1858, and the first three of the remaining Epistles (Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians) in 1861. The third edition of the Revision of the Authorised Version of St. John was issued in 1863, with a preface in which the general estimate of the revision was discussed, and the probability indicated of some authoritative procedure in reference to the whole question. As our little band had now been reduced to four, and its general aim and object had been realized, we did not deem it necessary to proceed with a work which had certainly helped to remove most of the serious objections to authoritative revision. Our efforts were helped by many treatises on the subject which were then appearing from time to time, and, to a considerable extent, by the important work of Professor, afterwards Archbishop, Trench, entitled "On the Authorised Version of the New Testament in connexion with some recent proposals for its revision." This appeared in 1858. After the close of our tentative revision in 1863, the active friends (as they may be termed) of the movement did but little except, from time to time, confer with one another on the now yearly improving prospects of authoritative revision. In 1869 Dean Alford published a small handy revised version of the whole of the Greek Testament, and, a short time afterwards, I published a small volume on the "Revision of the English Version," in which I sought to show how large an amount of the fresh and vigorous translation of Tyndale was present in the Authorised Version, and how little of this would ever be likely to disappear in any authoritatively revised version of the future. Some estimate also was made of the amount of changes likely to be introduced in a sample portion of the Gospels. A few months later, a very valuable volume ("On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament") was published by Professor, afterwards Bishop, Lightfoot, which appeared most seasonably, just as the long-looked-for hope of a revision of the Authorised Version of God's Holy Word was about to be realized.

All now was ready for a definite and authoritative commencement. Of this, and of the later history of Revision, a brief account will be given in the succeeding Address.


We are now arrived at the time when what was simple tentative and preparatory passed into definite and authoritative realization.

The initial step was taken on February 10, 1870, in the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury. The Bishop of Oxford, seconded by the Bishop of Gloucester, proposed the subjoined resolution, which it may be desirable to give in the exact words in which it was presented to the House, as indicating the caution with which it was framed, and also the indirectly expressed hope (unfortunately not realized) of the concurrence of the Northern Convocation. The resolution was as follows:

"That a committee of both Houses be appointed, with power to confer with any committee that may be appointed by the Convocation of the Northern Province, to report upon the desirableness of a revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament, whether by marginal notes or otherwise, in those passages where plain and clear errors, whether in the Hebrew or Greek text originally adopted by the translators, or in the translations made from the same, shall on due investigation be found to exist."

In the course of the debate that followed the resolution was amended by the insertion of the words "Old and," so as to include both Testaments, and, so amended, was unanimously accepted by the Upper House, and at once sent down to the Lower House. After debate it was accepted by them, and, having been thus accepted by both Houses, formed the basis of all the arrangements, rules, and regulations which speedily followed.

Into all of these it is not necessary for me to enter except so far as plainly to demonstrate that the Convocation of Canterbury, on thus undertaking one of the greatest works ever attempted by Convocation during its long and eventful history, followed every course, adopted every expedient, and carefully took every precaution to bring the great work it was preparing to undertake to a worthy and a successful issue.

It may be well, then, here briefly to notice, that in accordance with the primary resolution which I have specified, a committee was appointed of eight members of the Upper House, and, in accordance with the regular rule, sixteen members of the Lower House, with power, as specified, to confer with the Convocation of York. The members of the Upper House were as follows: the Bishops of Winchester (Wilberforce), St. Davids (Thirlwall), Llandaff (Ollivant), Salisbury (Moberly), Ely (Harold Browne, afterwards of Winchester), Lincoln (Wordsworth; who soon after withdrew), Bath and Wells (Lord Arthur Hervey), and myself.

The members of the Lower House were the Prolocutor (Dr. Bickersteth, Dean of Lichfield), the Deans of Canterbury (Alford), Westminster (Stanley), and Lincoln (Jeremie); the Archdeacons of Bedford (Rose), Exeter (Freeman), and Rochester (Grant); Chancellor Massingberd; Canons Blakesley, How, Selwyn, Swainson, Woodgate; Dr. Jebb, Dr. Kay, and Mr. De Winton.

Before, however, this committee reported, at the next meeting of Convocation in May, and on May 3 and May 5, the following five resolutions, which have the whole authority of Convocation behind them, were accepted unanimously by the Upper House, and by large majorities in the Lower House:

"1. That it is desirable that a revision of the Authorised Version of the Holy Scriptures be undertaken.

2. That the revision be so conducted as to comprise both marginal renderings and such emendations as it may be found necessary to insert in the text of the Authorised Version.

3. That in the above resolutions we do not contemplate any new translation of the Bible, nor any alteration of the language, except where, in the judgement of the most competent scholars, such change is necessary.

4. That in such necessary changes, the style of the language employed in the existing version be closely followed.

5. That it is desirable that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong."

These are the fundamental rules of Convocation, as formally expressed by the Upper and Lower Houses of this venerable body. The second and third rules deserve our especial attention in reference to the amount of the emendations and alterations which have been introduced during the work of revision. This amount, it is now constantly said, is not only excessive, but in distinct contravention of the rules which were laid down by Convocation. A responsible and deeply respected writer, the late Bishop of Wakefield, only a few years ago plainly stated in a well-known periodical {21} that the revisers "largely exceeded their instructions, and did not adhere to the principles they were commissioned to follow." This is a very grave charge, but can it be substantiated? The second and third rules, taken together, refer change to consciously felt necessity on the part of "the most competent scholars," and these last-mentioned must surely be understood to be those who were deliberately chosen for the work. In the subsequently adopted rule of the committee of Convocation the criterion of this consciously felt necessity was to be faithfulness to the original. All then that can justly be said in reference to the Revisers is this,—not that they exceeded their instructions (a very serious charge), but that their estimate of what constituted faithfulness, and involved the necessity of change, was, from time to time, in the judgement of their critic, mistaken or exaggerated. Such language however as that used in reference to the changes made by the Revisers as "unnecessary and uninstructive alterations," and "irritating trivialities," was a somewhat harsh form of expressing the judgement arrived at.

But to proceed. On the presentation of the Report it was stated that the committee had not been able to confer with the Northern Convocation, as no committee had been appointed by them. It was commonly supposed that the Northern President (Abp. of York) was favourable to revision, but the two Houses, who at that time sat together, had taken a very different view {22}, as our President informed us that he had received a communication from the Convocation of York to the effect that—"The Authorised Version of the English Bible is accepted, not only by the Established Church, but also by the Dissenters and by the whole of the English-speaking people of the world, as their standard of faith; and that although blemishes existed in its text such as had, from time to time, been pointed out, yet they would deplore any recasting of its text. That Convocation accordingly did not think it necessary to appoint a committee to co-operate with the committee appointed by the Convocation of Canterbury, though favourable to the errors being rectified."

This obviously closed the question of co-operation with the Northern Convocation. We sincerely regretted the decision, as there were many able and learned men in the York Convocation whose co-operation we should have heartily welcomed. Delay, however, was now out of the question. The working out of the scheme therefore had now become the duty of the Convocation that had adopted, and in part formulated, the proposed revision.

The course of our proceedings was then as follows:

After the Report of the committee had been accepted by the Upper House, and communicated to the Lower House, the following resolution was unanimously adopted by the Upper House (May 3, 1870), and in due course sent down to the Lower House:

"That a committee be now appointed to consider and report to Convocation a scheme of revision on the principles laid down in the Report now adopted. That the Bishops of Winchester, St. Davids, Llandaff, Gloucester and Bristol, Ely, Salisbury, Lincoln, Bath and Wells, be members of the committee. That the committee be empowered to invite the co-operation of those whom they may judge fit from their biblical scholarship to aid them in their work."

This resolution was followed by a request from the Archbishop that as this was a committee of an exceptional character, being in fact an executive committee, the Lower House would not appoint, as in ordinary committees, twice the number of the members appointed by the Upper House, but simply an equal number. This request, though obviously a very reasonable request under the particular circumstances, was not acceded to without some debate and even remonstrance. This, however, was overcome and quieted by the conciliatory good sense and firmness of the Prolocutor; and, on the following day, the resolution was accepted by the Lower House, and the Prolocutor (Bickersteth) with the Deans of Canterbury (Alford) and Westminster (Stanley), the Archdeacon of Bedford (Rose), Canons Blakesley and Selwyn, Dr. Jebb and Dr. Kay, were appointed as members of what now may be called the Permanent Committee.

This Committee had to undertake the responsible duty of choosing experts, and, out of them and their own members, forming two Companies, the one for the revision of the Authorised Version of the Old Testament, the other for the revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament. Rules had to be drawn up, and a general scheme formed for the carrying out in detail of the whole of the proposed work. In this work it may be supposed that considerable difficulty would have been found in the choice of biblical scholars in addition to those already appointed by Convocation. This, however, did not prove to be the case. I was at that time acting as a kind of informal secretary, and by the friendly help of Dr. Moulton and Dr. Gotch of Bristol had secured the names of distinguished biblical scholars from the leading Christian bodies in England and in Scotland from whom choice would naturally have to be made. When we met together finally to choose, there was thus no lack of suitable names.

In regard of the many rules that had to be made for the orderly carrying out of the work I prepared, after careful conference with the Bishop of Winchester, a draft scheme which, so far as I remember, was in the sequel substantially adopted by what I have termed the Permanent Committee of Convocation. When, then, this Committee formally met on May 25, 1870, the names of those to whom we were empowered to apply were agreed upon, and invitations at once sent out. The members of the Committee had already been assigned to their special companies; viz. to the Old Testament Company, the Bishops of St. Davids, Llandaff, Ely, Lincoln (who soon after resigned), and Bath and Wells; and from the Lower House, Archdeacon Rose, Canon Selwyn, Dr. Jebb, and Dr. Kay: to the New Testament Company, the Bishops of Winchester, Gloucester and Bristol, and Salisbury; and from the Lower House, the Prolocutor, the Deans of Canterbury and Westminster, and Canon Blakesley.

Those invited to join the Old Testament were as follows:—Dr. W. L. Alexander, Professor Chenery, Canon Cook, Professor A. B. Davidson, Dr. B. Davies, Professor Fairbairn, Rev. F. Field, Dr. Gensburg, Dr. Gotch, Archdeacon Harrison, Professor Leathes, Professor McGill, Canon Payne Smith, Professor J. J. S. Perowne, Professor Plumptre, Canon Pusey, Dr. Wright (British Museum), Mr. W. A. Wright of Cambridge, the active and valuable secretary of the Company.

Of these Dr. Pusey and Canon Cook declined the invitation.

Those invited to join the New Testament Company were as follows:—Dr. Angus, Dr. David Brown, the Archbishop of Dublin (Trench), Dr. Eadie, Rev. F. J. A. Hort, Rev. W. G. Humphry, Canon Kennedy, Archdeacon Lee, Dr. Lightfoot, Professor Milligan, Professor Moulton, Dr. J. H. Newman, Professor Newth, Dr. A. Roberts, Rev. G. Vance Smith, Dr. Scott (Balliol College), Rev. F. H. Scrivener, the Bishop of St. Andrews (Wordsworth), Dr. Tregelles, Dr. Vaughan, Canon Westcott.

Of these Dr. J. H. Newman declined, and Dr. Tregelles, from feeble health and preoccupation on his great work, the critical edition of the New Testament, was unable to attend. It should be here mentioned that soon after the formation of the company, Rev. John Troutbeck, Minor Canon of Westminster, afterwards Doctor of Divinity, was appointed by the Company as their secretary. A more accurate, punctual, and indefatigable secretary it would have been impossible for us to have selected for the great and responsible work.

On the same day (May 25, 1870,) the rules for the carrying out of the revision, which, as I have mentioned, had been drawn up in draft were all duly considered by the committee and carried, and the way left clear and open for the commencement of the work. These rules (copies of which will be found in nearly all the prefaces to the Revised Version hitherto issued by the Universities) were only the necessary amplifications of the fundamental rules passed by the two Houses of Convocation which have been already specified.

The first of these subsidiary rules was as follows:—"To introduce as few alterations as possible in the text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness." This rule must be read in connexion with the first and third fundamental rules and the comments I have already made on those rules.

The second of the rules of the committee was as follows:—"To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorised and earlier English versions." This rule was carefully attended to in its reference to the Authorised Version. I do not however remember, in the revision of the version of the New Testament, that we often fell back on the renderings of the earlier English versions. They were always before us: but, in reference to other versions where there were differences of rendering, we frequently considered the renderings of the ancient versions, especially of the Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, and occasionally of the Gothic and Armenian. To these, however, the rule makes no allusion.

The third rule speaks for itself:—"Each Company to go twice over the portion to be revised, once provisionally, the second time finally, and on principles of voting as hereinafter is provided."

The fourth rule refers to the very important subject of the text, and is an amplification of the last part of the third fundamental rule. The rule of the committee is as follows:—"That the text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin." The subject of the text is continued in the fifth rule, which is as follows:—"To make or retain no change in the text on the second final revision by the Company except two-thirds of those present approve of the same, but on the first revision to decide by simple majorities."

The sixth rule is of importance, but in the New Testament Company (I do not know how it may have been in the Old Testament Company) was very rarely acted upon:—"In every case of proposed alteration that may have given rise to discussion, to defer the voting thereupon till the next meeting, whensoever the same shall be required by one-third of those present at the meeting, such intended vote to be announced in the notice for the next meeting." The only occasion on which I can remember this rule being called into action was a comparatively unimportant one. At the close of a long day's work we found ourselves differing on the renderings of "tomb" or "sepulchre" in one of the narratives of the Resurrection. This was easily and speedily settled the following morning.

The seventh rule was as follows:—"To revise the headings of chapters and pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation." This rule was very carefully attended to except as regards headings of chapters and pages. These were soon found to involve so much of indirect, if not even of direct interpretation, that both Companies agreed to leave this portion of the work to some committee of the two University Presses that they might afterwards think fit to appoint. Small as the work might seem to be if only confined to the simple revision of the existing headings, the time it would have taken up, if undertaken by the Companies, would certainly have been considerable. I revised, on my own account, the headings of the chapters in St. Matthew, and was surprised to find how much time was required to do accurately and consistently what might have seemed a very easy and inconsiderable work.

The eighth rule was of some importance, though, I think, very rarely acted upon: "To refer, on the part of each Company, when considered desirable, to divines, scholars, and literary men, whether at home or abroad, for their opinions." How far this was acted on by the Old Testament Company I do not know. In regard of the New Testament Company the only instance I can remember, when we availed ourselves of the rule, was in reference to our renderings of portions of the twenty-seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In this particular case we sent our sheets to the Admiralty, and asked the First Sea Lord (whom some of us knew) kindly to tell us if the expressions we had adopted were nautically correct. I believe this friendly and competent authority did not find anything amiss. It has sometimes been said that it would have been better, especially in reference to the New Testament, if this rule had been more frequently acted on, and if matters connected with English and alterations of rhythm had been brought before a few of our more distinguished literary men. It may be so; though I much doubt whether in matters of English the Greek would not always have proved the dominant arbiter. In matters of rhythm it is equally doubtful whether much could have been effected by appealing to the ears of others. At any rate we preferred trusting to our own, and adopted, as I shall afterwards mention, a mode of testing rhythmical cadence that could hardly have been improved upon.

The concluding rule was one of convenience and common sense: "That the work of each Company be communicated to the other, as it is completed, in order that there may be as little deviation from uniformity in language as possible."

All preliminaries were now settled. The invitations were issued, and, with the exceptions of Canon Cook, Dr. Pusey, and Dr. Newman, were readily accepted. Three or four names (Principal Douglas, Professor Geden, Dr. Weir, and, I think, Mr. Bensley), were shortly added to those already mentioned as invited to join the Old Testament Company, and, in less than a month after the meeting of the committee on May 25, both Companies had entered upon their responsible work. On June 22, 1870, both Companies, after a celebration of the Holy Communion, previously announced by Dean Stanley as intended to be administered by him in Westminster Abbey, in the Chapel of Henry VII, commenced the long-looked-for revision of the Authorised Version of God's Holy Word. The Old Testament Company commenced their work in the Chapter Library; the New Testament Company in the Jerusalem Chamber.

The number of the members in each Company was very nearly the same, viz. twenty-seven in the Old Testament Company, and, in nominal attendance, twenty-six in the New Testament Company. In the former Company, owing to the longer time found necessary for the work (fourteen years), there were more changes in the composition of the Company than in the case of the latter Company, which completed its work three years and a half before its sister Company. At the close of the work on the New Testament (1880), the numbers in each Company were twenty-six and twenty-five; but owing to various reasons, and especially the distance of many of the members from London, the number in actual and regular attendance was somewhat reduced as the years went onward. How it fared with the Old Testament Company I cannot precisely state. Bishop Harold Browne, after his accession to the See of Winchester, was only able to attend twice or three times after the year 1875. In that year Bishop Thirlwall died, and Bishop Ollivant ceased to attend, but remained a corresponding member till his death in 1882. Vacancies, I am informed, were filled up till October 1875, after which date no new members were added. The Company, however, worked to the very end with great devotion and assiduity. The revision occupied 794 days, and was completed in eighty-five sessions, the greater part of which were for ten days each, at about six hours a day.

I can speak a little more exactly in reference to the New Testament Company. The time was shorter, and the changes in the composition of the Company were fewer. At the end of the work a record was made out of the attendances of the individual members {35}, from which it was easy to arrive at the average attendance, which for the whole time was found to be as much as sixteen each day. The number of sessions was 101 of four days each, and one of three days, making a total of 407 days in all. More than 1,200 days were thus devoted to the work of the revision of the Authorised Versions of both Testaments. The first revision, in the case of the New Testament lasted about six years; the second, two years and a half. The remaining two years were spent in the consideration of various details and reserved questions, and especially the consideration of the suggestions, on our second revision, of the American Revisers, of whose work and connexion with the English Revisers it will now be convenient to speak.

* * * * *

The idea of a connexion with America in the great work of revision was nearly as early as the movements in Convocation of which an account has been given. It appears that, in the session of Convocation in July, 1870, it was moved in the Lower House by Lord Alwyne Compton (afterwards and now Bishop of Ely) that the committee of Convocation should be instructed to invite the co-operation of some American divines. This was at once agreed to by both Houses, and measures were taken to open communications with America. The correspondence was opened by the acting Chairman of the New Testament Company (the present writer) in a letter to Dr. Angus (dated July 20, 1870 {36}) who was about to visit the United States, empowering him to prepare the way for definite action on the part of American scholars and divines. This he did in a letter ("Historical Account," p. 31) sent round to American scholars, and especially by communication with Dr. Philip Schaff of the Bible House at New York, who, from the first, had taken the deepest interest in the movement. This active and enterprising scholar at once took up the matter, and operated so successfully that, as he himself tells us in his valuable and accurate "Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version" (New York, 1883), a committee of about thirty members was formally organized Dec. 7, 1871, and entered upon active work on Oct. 4, 1872, after the first revision of the Synoptical Gospels had been forwarded by the New Testament Company.

Our Old Testament Company was no less active and co-operative. As they tell us in the Preface prefixed to their revision, "the first revision of the several books of the Old Testament was submitted to the consideration of the American Revisers, and, except in the case of the Pentateuch (which had been twice gone through prior to co-operation) the English Company had the benefit of their criticisms and suggestions before they proceeded to the second revision. The second revision was in like manner forwarded to America, and the latest thoughts of the American Revisers were in the hands of the English Company at their final review." Both our English Companies bear hearty testimony to the value derived from the co-operation. In the case of the New Testament Company, the "care, vigilance, and accuracy" which marked the work of their American brethren is distinctly specified.

But little more need be said of the American Companies. They were soon fully organized, and, so far as can be judged by the results of their work, carefully and judiciously chosen. The Old Testament Company consisted of fifteen members, Dr. Green, Professor in Princeton, being Chairman: the New Testament Committee consisted of sixteen members, three of those who had at first accepted having been obliged, from ill-health and stress of local duties, to resign. Dr. Woolsey, Ex-President of Yale College, was Chairman, and Bishop Lee, of the Diocese of Delaware, one of the most faithful and valuable participators in the work, a member of the Company. Dr. Philip Schaff, Professor of Sacred Literature in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, was also a member, and was President of the whole undertaking, Dr. George Day of Yale College, a member of the Old Testament Company, being the general secretary. The two Companies met every month (except July and August) in two rooms in the Bible House, New York, but without any connexion with the Bible Society, which, as in England, could only circulate the Authorised Version.

The American Committee, Dr. Schaff tells us, included representatives of nine different denominations, viz. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists and, to the extent of one member, Lutherans, Unitarians, and Society of Friends. The Episcopal Church of America was applied to by Bishop Wilberforce with the request that they would take part in the revision: this was declined. The American Church however, as we have already shown, was not wholly unrepresented in the work. The whole Committee was obviously much more mixed than the English Committee; but it must not be forgotten that though the English Companies were chosen by Episcopalians, and Episcopalians, as was natural, greatly preponderated, nearly one-third of the two Companies were not members of the Church of England. If we assume that each Company consisted at any given time of twenty-five members, which, as we have seen, would be approximately correct, the non-Episcopal members will be found to have been not less than sixteen, viz. seven Presbyterians, four Independents or Congregationalists, two Baptists, two Wesleyans, and one Unitarian. Be this however as it may, it is certain that by the great blessing, we may humbly say, of God the Holy Ghost, the greatest possible harmony prevailed in the work both here and in America. Here, as is well known, this was the case; and in America, to quote one only out of many similar witnesses, one who was himself a reviser, and the only pastor in the Company (the Old Testament Company), thus gives his experience, "Never, even once, did the odium theologicum appear. Nothing was said at any time that required retraction or apology {41}."

This brief notice of our American brethren may close with one further comment. Their work began, like ours, with reliance on financial aid from the many who would be sure to be interested in such an important and long-desired work. Help in our case was at once readily proffered, but very soon was found not to be necessary, owing to our disposal of copyright to the Presses of the two Universities. With the American Revisers it was otherwise. During the whole twelve years all the necessary expenses of travelling, printing, room-rent, and other accessories were, as Dr. Schaff mentions, cheerfully contributed by liberal donors from among the friends of biblical revision. There remained, however, a grave difficulty. It was plainly impossible that such distinguished men as those who formed the two American Companies could simply act the part of friendly critics of what was sent over to them without being recognized as fellow revisers in the full sense of the words. How, however, formally to establish this parity of position was found to be very difficult, owing to our connexion with the Presses, who had trade rights which had properly to be guarded. The result was much friendly negotiation for several months, but without any definite adjustment {42a}. At last, by the wise and conciliatory action of the Presses an agreement was arrived at in August, 1877 {42b}, by which we on this side of the Atlantic were bound not only to send over the various stages of our work to our American brethren and carefully to consider all their suggestions, but also to sanction the publication in every copy of the revision of a list of all the important passages, in regard of text and renderings, upon which the English and American Revisers could not finally agree. The American Revisers on their part undertook not to publish any edition of their own for fourteen years.

The fourteen years have now passed away, but prior to the expiration of the time the long-needed marginal references were completed, and in September, 1898, were attached to the pages of all the larger English copies of the Revised Version of the Holy Scripture, with a short account of the sources from which they were derived, and of the circumstances of their delayed publication. As they were somewhat closely connected with the labours of two of the members of the New Testament Company, and had received the general approval of that Company, I had real pleasure in presenting to both Houses of Convocation on Feb. 10, 1899, the completed body of references, and, in them, the very last portion of every part of the work of the Company with which I had so long been connected.

The appearance of the references was very seasonable, as it enabled the Universities to acquire copyright for any of the editions with these references which they might publish, or cause to be published in America. The University Press of Oxford has, I know, acted on this right, but whether in conjunction with the Cambridge University Press or independently I am not able to say. The right at any rate remains, and in the sequel may be of greater importance in America than we may now suppose, as it may tend to discourage the spread of altered editions of the revision, which from time to time might be brought forward by irresponsible publishers {44}.

One subject still remains to be noticed in this portion of my address which cannot be passed over—the revision of the Apocrypha. This the English revisers were pledged to the University Presses to complete, before our connexion with them could be rightfully concluded. This revision, as we know, has been completed, though perhaps not in a manner that can be considered as completely satisfactory, owing to the want of a co-ordinating authority. The arrangement, of which a full and clear account will be found in the preface to the published volume, was briefly as follows. On March 21, 1879, as the New Testament Company was fast approaching the completion of its labours, it was agreed that the Company should be divided into three portions, each consisting of eight members, to which the names of the London, Westminster, and Cambridge Companies were to be respectively assigned. The portion of the work that each of the three Companies was to take was settled by lot. To the London Company, of which I was a member, the book of Ecclesiasticus was assigned; to the Westminster Company, the first book of Maccabees, and subsequently the books Tobit and Judith; and to the Cambridge Company, the second book of Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon.

On the completion of their work, the Old Testament Company assigned to a special committee chosen out of their number the remaining books of the Apocrypha, viz. 1 and 2 Esdras, the remainder of Esther, Baruch, Song of the Three Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of Manasses.

It was agreed that each Company and the above-named committee should go through their work twice, but without the two-thirds condition, and that each body should send its work when completed round to the rest. The times, however, at which the portions were completed were by no means, even approximately, the same. The London Company completed its work in May, 1883. The Westminster Company finished the first book of Maccabees in November, 1881, and the books of Tobit and Judith in October, 1882. The Cambridge Company completed its revision of the second book of Maccabees in December, 1889, and of the Book of Wisdom, which underwent three revisions, in November, 1891. The revision of the remaining books, undertaken by the Old Testament Company, does not seem to have been completed till even two or three years later. This interval of ten or twelve years involved in some of the books, especially in reference to Ecclesiasticus, the clear necessity for further revision. This compelled me, with the help of my valued friend Dr. Moulton, to go over the work of my former Company on my own responsibility, my coadjutors in the work having been either called away by death or too seriously ill to help me.

It was thus with some sense of relief that, on the request of those connected with the publication of the volume, I presented the Revised Version of the Apocrypha to the two Houses of Convocation on February 12, 1896.

The rise and progress of the desire for a revision of the Authorised Version of Holy Scripture has now been set forth as fully as the limits of these Addresses permit. What now remains to be specified is what may be called the internal history of this Revision, or, in other words, the nature and procedure of the work, with such concluding comments as the circumstances of the present may appear to suggest.


We now pass from what may be called the outward history of the Revision to the inward nature and character of the work of the Revisers, and may naturally divide that work into two portions—their labours as regards the original text, and their labours in regard of rendering and translation.

I. First, then, as regards the original text of the Old Testament.

Here the work of the Old Testament Company was very slight as compared with that of the New Testament Company. The latter Company had, almost in every other verse, to settle upon a text—often involving much that was doubtful and debatable—before they proceeded to the further work of translating. The Old Testament Company, on the contrary, had ready to hand a textus receptus which really deserved the title, and on which, in their preface, they write as follows: "The received, or, as it is commonly called, the Massoretic text of the Old Testament Scriptures has come down to us in manuscripts which are of no very great antiquity, and which all belong to the same family or recension. That other recensions were at one time in existence is probable from the variations in the Ancient Versions, the oldest of which, namely, the Greek or Septuagint, was made, at least in part, some two centuries before the Christian era. But as the date of knowledge on the subject is not at present such as to justify any attempt at an entire reconstruction of the text on the authority of the Versions, the Revisers have thought it most prudent to adopt the Massoretic text as the basis of their work, and to depart from it, as the Authorised Translators had done, only in exceptional cases."

That in this decision the Revisers had exercised the sound judgement which marks every part of their work cannot possibly be doubted by any competent reader. The Massoretic text has a long and interesting history. Its name is derived from a word, Massora (tradition), that reminds us of the accumulated traditions and criticisms relating to numerous passages of the text, and of the manner in which it was to be read, all which were finally committed to writing, and the ultimate result of which is the text of which we have been speaking. That the formation of the written Massora was a work of time seems a probable and reasonable supposition. A very competent writer {50} tells us that this formation may have extended from the sixth or seventh to the tenth or eleventh century. From the end of this Massoretic period onward the same writer tells us that the Massora became the great authority by which the text given in all the Jewish manuscripts was settled. All our manuscripts, in a word, are Massoretic. Any that were not so were not used, and allowed to perish, or, as it has been thought, were destroyed as not being in strict accordance with the recognized standards. Whether we have sustained any real critical loss by the disappearance of the rejected manuscripts it is impossible to say. The fact only remains that we have no manuscript of any portion of the Old Testament certainly known to be of a date prior to A.D. 916. The Massora, it may be mentioned, appears in two forms—the Massora parva and the Massora magna. The former contains the really valuable portion of the great work, viz., the variation technically named K'ri (read), and placed in the margin of the Hebrew Bibles. This was to be substituted for the corresponding portion in the text technically named C'thib (written), and was regarded by the Massoretes themselves as the true reading. The Massora magna contained the above, and other matter deemed to be of importance in reference to the interpretation of the text.

The Revisers inform us that they have generally, though not uniformly, rendered the C'thib in the text, and left the K'ri in the margin, with the introductory note, "Or, according to another reading," or, "Another reading is." When they adopted the K'ri in the text of their rendering, they placed the C'thib in the margin if it represented a variation of importance.

These things, and others specified in the preface, should be carefully attended to by the reader as enabling him to distinguish between the different characters of the alternative renderings as specified in the margin. Those due to the Massoretes, or, in other words, the K'ris, will naturally deserve attention from their antiquity. They are not, however, when estimated with reference to the whole of the sacred volume, very numerous. In the earliest printed bible they were 1,171 in number, but this is generally considered erroneous in excess, 900 being probably much nearer the true estimate.

We cannot leave the subject of the Hebrew text without some reference to the emendation of it suggested by the Ancient Versions. But little, I believe, of a systematic character has, as yet, been accomplished. The Revisers mention that they have been obliged, in some few cases of extreme difficulty, to depart from the Massoretic text and adopt a reading from the Ancient Versions. I regret to observe that it is stated by one of those connected with the forthcoming American revision of the Old Testament version that in nearly one hundred cases the marginal references to the Ancient Versions will be omitted. Reasons are given, but these could hardly have escaped the knowledge and observation of the learned men by whom the references were inserted. The Revisers also mention that where the Versions appeared to supply a very probable, though not so absolutely necessary, correction as displacement of the Massoretic text, they have still felt it proper to place the reading in the margin.

This recognition of the critical importance of the Ancient Versions by the Revisers, though obviously in only a limited number of cases, seems to indicate the great good that may be expected from a more complete and systematic use of these ancient authorities in reference to the current text of the Old Testament. At present the texts implied in them have, I believe, never yet been so closely analysed as to enable us to form any just estimate of their real critical value. They have been used by editors, as in the case of Houbigant, but only in a limited and partial manner. Lists, I believe, are accessible of all the more important readings suggested or implied by the Versions; but what is needed is far more than this. In the first place we require much more trustworthy texts of the Versions themselves than are at present at our disposal. In the case of the Septuagint we may very shortly look forward to a thoroughly revised text; and a similar remark may probably be made in reference to the Vulgate, but I am not aware that much has been done in the case of the Syriac {53}, and of other versions to which reference would have to be made in any great critical attempt, such as a revision of the textus receptus of the Old Testament.

If, however, a first need is trustworthy editions of the Versions, a second need appears to be a fuller knowledge of the Hebrew material, late in regard of antiquity though it may be, than was, at any rate, available till very recently. The new edition of the text of the Hebrew Bible by Dr. Ginsburg, with its learned and voluminous introduction, may, and probably does, supply this fuller knowledge; but as in regard of these matters I can speak only as a novice, I can only reproduce the statement commonly made by those who have a right to speak on such subjects, that the collation of the Hebrew manuscripts that we already possess has been far from complete. There appears to have been the feeling that they all lead up to the Massoretic text, and that any particular variations from it need not be treated over-seriously; and yet surely we must regard it as possible that some of these negligible variations might concur with, and by their concurrence add weight to, readings already rendered probable by the suggestive testimony of the Ancient Versions. It may be right for me to add that the whole question was raised in 1886 by Dr. Green and Dr. Schaff in a circular letter addressed to distinguished Hebrews in Germany and elsewhere. The answers are returned in German {55}, and are translated. They are most of them interesting, though not very encouraging. The best of them seems to be the answer of Professor Strack, of Berlin.

But here I must pause. The use made by the Revisers of these ancient documents has called out the foregoing comments, and has awakened the hope, which I now venture to express, that the critical use of the Versions may be expanded, and form a part of that systematic revision of the text of the Old Testament which will not improbably form part of the critical labours of the present century.

II. We may now turn to the New Testament, and to the revision of the textus receptus of the New Testament which our rules necessitated, and which formed a very important and, it may be added, a very anxious part of our revision.

And here, at the very outset, one general observation is absolutely necessary.

It is very commonly said, and I fear believed by many to be true, that the text adopted by the Revisers and afterwards published (in different forms) by the two University Presses, hardly differs at all from the afterwards published text of the two distinguished scholars and critics, one of whom was called from us a few years ago, and the other of whom has, to our great sorrow, only recently left us. I allude, of course, to the Greek Testament, now of world-wide reputation, of Westcott and Hort. What has been often asserted, and is still repeated, is this, that the text had been in print for some time before it was finally published, and was in the hands of the Revisers almost, if not quite, from the very first. It was this, so the statement runs, that they really worked upon, and this that they assimilated.

Now this I unhesitatingly declare, as I shall subsequently be able to prove, is contrary to the facts of the case. It is perfectly true that our two eminent colleagues gave, I believe, to each one of us, from time to time, little booklets of their text as it then stood in print, but which we were always warned were not considered by the editors themselves as final. These portions of their text were given to us, not to win us over to adopt it, but to enable us to see each proposed reading in its continuity. How these booklets were used by the members of the Company generally, I know not. I can only speak for myself; but I cannot suppress the conviction that I was acting unconsciously in the same manner as the great majority of the Company. I only used the booklets for occasional reference. In preparing the portion of the sacred volume on which we were to be engaged in the next session of the Company, I took due note of the readings as well as of the renderings, but I formed my judgement independently on the evidence supplied to me by the notes of the critical edition, whether that of Tischendorf or Tregelles, which I then was in the habit of using. This evidence was always fully stated to the Company, nearly always by Dr. Scrivener, and it was upon the discussion of this evidence, and not on the reading of any particular editor, on which the decision of the Company was ultimately formed. We paid in all cases great attention to the arguments of our two eminent colleagues and our experienced colleague, Dr. Scrivener; but each question of reading, as it arose, was settled by the votes of the Company. The resulting text, as afterwards published by the Oxford University Press, and edited by Archdeacon Palmer, was thus the direct work of the Company, and may be rightly designated, as it will be in these pages, as the Revisers' text.

It is of considerable importance that this should be borne in mind; for, in the angry vituperation which was directed against the Revisers' text, it was tacitly assumed that this text was practically identical with that of Westcott and Hort, and that the difficulties which are to be found in this latter text (and some there certainly are) are all to be found in the text of the Revisers. How very far such an assumption is from the true state of the case can easily be shown by a simple comparison of one text with the other. Let us take an example. I suppose there are very few who can entertain the slightest doubt that in Acts xii. 35, St. Luke tells us that Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem after their mission was over, and took with them (from Jerusalem) St. Mark. Now what is the reading of Westcott and Hort?—"to Jerusalem" with the Vatican Manuscript, and a fair amount of external support. We then turn at once to the Revisers' text and find that from ([Greek text]) is maintained, in spite of the clever arguments which, in this case, can be urged for an intrinsically improbable reading, and, most likely, were urged at the time, as I observe that the Revisers have allowed the "to" to appear in a margin.

I regret that I have never gone through the somewhat laborious process of minutely comparing the Revisers' text with the text of Westcott and Hort, but I cannot help thinking that the example I have chosen is a typical one, and does show the sort of relations between the two texts, when what a recent and competent writer (Dr. Salmon, of Trinity College, Dublin) considers to be the difficulties and anomalies and apparent perversities in the text of Westcott and Hort are compared with the decisions of the Revisers {59}. There are, I believe, only sixty-four passages in the whole revision, in which the text of the Revisers, when agreeing with the text of Westcott and Hort, has not also the support of Lachmann, or Tischendorf, or Tregelles.

I observe that the above-named writer expresses his satisfaction that the Revised Version has not superseded the Authorised Version in our Churches {60a}, and that things which were read at Rome in the second century may still be read in our own Churches in the nineteenth century. This, perhaps, is a strong way of expressing his aversion to the text of Westcott and Hort, but it is not perfectly clear that the Revisers' text has "so closely" followed the authority of these two eminent critics as to be open, on Dr. Salmon's part, to the same measure of aversion. Until more accurate evidence is forthcoming that the Revisers have shown in their text the same sort of studied disregard of Western variations as is plainly to be recognized in the text of Westcott and Hort, I can only fall back on my persuasion, as one who has put to the vote these critical questions very many times, that systematic neglect of Western authority cannot fairly be brought home to the Revisers. It is much to be regretted then, that in the very opening chapter of his interesting volume, Dr. Salmon roundly states that Westcott and Hort exercised a "predominating influence" on their colleagues in the revision on the question of various readings {60b}, and that "more than half of their brother members of the Committee had given no special attention to the subject." Now, assuming that the word "Committee" has been here accidentally used for the more usual term Company, I am forced to say that both statements are really incorrect. I was permitted by God's mercy to be present at every meeting of the Company except two, and I can distinctly say that I never observed any indication of this predominating influence. We knew well that our two eminent colleagues had devoted many years of their lives to the great work on which they were engaged; and we paid full deference to what they urged on each reading as it came before us, but in the end we decided for ourselves. For it must not be forgotten that we had an eminent colleague (absent only eight times from our 407 meetings) who took a very different view of the critical evidence to that of Westcott and Hort, and never failed very fully, and often very persuasively, to express it. I am of course alluding to my old friend Dr. Scrivener. It was often a kind of critical duel between Dr. Hort and Dr. Scrivener, in which everything that could be urged on either side was placed before the Company, and the Company enabled to decide on a full knowledge of the critical facts and reasonings in reference to the reading under consideration.

Now it is also not correct to say of the Company that finally decided the question, that more than half "had given no special attention to the subject." If this refers to the matter subsequently put forward by Dr. Hort in the introductory volume to Westcott and Hort's Greek Testament, to the clever and instructive genealogical method, and to the numberless applications of it that have given their Greek Testament the pre-eminence it deservedly holds—if this be the meaning of the Provost's estimate of the critical knowledge of the Company, I should not have taken any exception to the words. But if "the subject" refers to the general critical knowledge at the time when the Company came together, then I must gently protest against an estimate of the general critical capabilities of the Company that is, really and truly, incorrect. All but three or four are now resting with God, and among these twenty they were not few who had a good and full knowledge of the New Testament textual criticism of the generation that had just passed away. Among them were not only the three experts whom I have mentioned, but editors of portions of the New Testament such as Bishop Lightfoot and others, principals of large educational colleges both in England and Scotland, and scholars like Dean Scott, who were known to take great interest in questions of textual criticism. A few of these might almost be considered as definitely experts, but all taken together certainly made a very competent body to whose independent judgement the settlement of difficult critical questions could be safely committed.

And, as I venture to think, the text which has been constructed from their decisions, their resultant text as it might be called, will show that the Revisers' text is an independent text on which great reliance can be placed. It is the text which I always use myself in my general reading of the New Testament, and I deliberately regard it as one of the two best texts of the New Testament at present extant; the other being the cheap and convenient edition of Professor Nestle, bearing the title "Novum Testamentum Graece, cum apparatu critico ex editionibus et libris manu scriptis collecto. Stuttgart, 1898." This edition is issued by the Wurtemberg Bible Society, and will, as I hear, not improbably be adopted by our own Bible Society as their Greek Testament of the future.

The reason why I prefer these two texts for the general reading of the sacred volume is this, that they both have much in common with the text of Westcott and Hort, but are free from those peculiarities and, I fear I must add, perversities, which do here and there mark the text of that justly celebrated edition. To Doctors Westcott and Hort all faithful students of the New Testament owe a debt of lasting gratitude which it is impossible to overestimate. Still, in the introductory volume by Dr. Hort, assumptions have been made, and principles laid down, which in several places have plainly affected the text, and led to the maintenance of readings which, to many minds, it will seem really impossible to accept. An instance has been given above on page 58, and this is by no means a solitary instance.

Having now shown fairly, I hope, and clearly the thoroughly independent character of the text which I have called the Revisers' text, I will pass onward, and show the careful manner in which it was constructed, and the circumstances under which we have it in the continuous form in which it has been published by the Press of the University of Oxford.

To do this, it will be necessary to refer to the rule under which we were directed to carry out this portion of our responsible work. We had two things to do—to revise the Authorised Version, and also to revise under certain specified limitations the Greek text from which the Authorised Version was made; or, in other words, the fifth edition of Beza's Greek Testament, published in the year 1698. The rule under which this second portion of our work was to be performed was as follows: "That the text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and [let this be noted] that when the text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorised Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin." Such was the rule in regard of the text, and such was the instruction as to the mode of notifying any alterations that it might have been found necessary to make.

Let us deal first with the direction as to notifying the alterations. Now as it was soon found practically impossible to place all the alterations in a margin which would certainly be needed for alternative renderings, and for such matters as usually appear in a margin, we left the University Presses to publish, in such manner as they might think most convenient, the deviations from the Greek text presumed to underlie the Authorised Version. The Cambridge University Press entrusted to Dr. Scrivener the publication of the Received Text with the alterations of the Revisers placed at the foot of the page. The Oxford University Press adopted the more convenient method of letting the alterations form part of the continuous text (the readings they displaced being at the foot of the page), and entrusted the editing of the volume to Archdeacon Palmer (one of our Company) who, as we know, performed the duty with great care and accuracy. Hence the existence of what I term throughout this address as the Revisers' text.

We can now turn to the first part of the rule and describe in general terms the mode of our procedure. It differs very slightly from the mode described in the preface of the Revisers of the Old Testament. The verse on which we were engaged was read by the Chairman. The first question asked was, whether there was any difference of reading in the Greek text which required our consideration. If there was none, we proceeded with the second part of our work, the consideration of the rendering. If there was a reading in the Greek text that demanded our consideration it was at once discussed, and commonly in the following manner. Dr. Scrivener stated briefly the authorities, whether manuscripts, ancient versions, or patristic citations, of which details most of us were already aware. If the alteration was one for which the evidence was patently and decidedly preponderating, it was at once adopted, and the work went onward. If, however, it was a case where it was doubtful whether the evidence for the alteration was thus decidedly preponderating, then a discussion, often long, interesting, and instructive, followed. Dr. Hort, if present (and he was seldom absent; only forty-five times out of the 407 meetings) always took part, and finally the vote was taken, and the suggested alteration either adopted or rejected. If adopted, due note was taken by the secretary, and, if it was thought a case for a margin, the competing reading was therein specified. If there was a plain difficulty at coming to a decision, and the passage was one of real importance, the decision was not uncommonly postponed to a subsequent meeting, and notice duly given to all the members of the Company. And so the great work went on to the end of the first revision; the members of the Company acquiring more and more knowledge and experience, and their decisions becoming more and more judicial and trustworthy.

Few, I think, on reading this simple and truthful description, could fail to place some confidence in results thus patiently and laboriously arrived at. Few, I think, could forbear a smile when they call to mind the passionate vituperation which at first was lavished on the critical efforts of the Revisers of the text that bears the scarcely correct name of the textus ab omnibus receptus.

But what I have specified was only the first part of our responsible work. By the memoranda of agreement between the English Companies and the American Committee, it had to be communicated to the American Company of the Revisers of the Authorised Version of the New Testament, among whom were some whose names were well and honorably known in connexion with textual criticism. Our work, with the American criticisms and suggestions, had then to undergo the second revision. The greater part of the decisions relating to the text that were arrived at in the first revision were accepted as final; but many were reopened at the second revision, and the critical experience of the Company, necessarily improved as it had been by the first revision, finally tested by the two-thirds majority the reopened decisions which at the first revision had been carried by simple majorities. The results of this second revision were then, in accordance with the agreement, communicated to the American Company; but, in the sequel, as will be seen in the lists of the final differences between ourselves and the American Company, the critical differences were but few, and, so far as I can remember, of no serious importance.

The critical labours of the Revisers did not however terminate with the second revision. The cases were many where the evidence for the readings either adopted or retained in the text was only slightly stronger than that of readings which were in competition with it. Of this it was obviously necessary that some final intimation should be given to the reader, as the subsequent discovery of additional evidence might be held by a competent critic to invalidate the right of the adopted reading to hold its place in the text. This intimation could only be given by a final marginal note, for which, as we know, by the arrangement of the University Presses (see p. 66), our page was now available.

These notes were objected to by one of our critics as quite unprecedented additions; but it will be remembered that there are such notes in the margin of the Authorised Version, though of course few in number (thirty-five, according to Dr. Scrivener), textual criticism in 1611 being only in its infancy.

The necessity for the insertion of such notes was clearly shown in a pamphlet that appeared shortly after the publication of the Revised Version, and was written by two members of the Company. The three cases in which these notes appeared certainly to be required were thus stated by the two writers: "First, when the text which seemed to underlie the Authorised Version was condemned by a decided preponderance of evidence, but yet was ancient in its character, and belonged to an early line of transmission. Secondly, when there were such clear tokens of corruption in the reading on which the Authorised Version was based, or such a consent of authority against it, that no one could seriously argue for its retention, but it was not equally clear which of the other competing readings had the best claim to occupy the vacant place. In such a case there was not, in truth, decidedly preponderant evidence, except against the text of Beza, and some notice of this fact seemed to be required by critical equity. The third and last case was when the text which, as represented in the Authorised Version, was retained because the competing reading had not decidedly preponderant evidence (though the balance of evidence was in its favour), and so could not under the rule be admitted. In such a case again critical equity required a notice of the facts in the margin."

This quotation, I may remark in passing, is not only useful in explaining when and where marginal notes were demonstrably needed, but also in showing how carefully such questions were considered, and how conscientiously the rules were observed under which our work was to be carried out.

Such were the textual labours of the Company. They were based on, and were the results of, the critical knowledge that had been slowly acquired during the 115 years that separated the early suggestions of Bentley from the pioneer text of Lachmann in 1831; and, in another generation, had become expanded and matured in the later texts of Tischendorf, and still more so in the trustworthy and consistent text of our countryman Tregelles. The labours of these three editors were well known to the greater part of the Revisers and generally known to all; and it was on these labours, and on the critical methods adopted by these great editors, that our own text was principally formed. We of course owed much to the long labours of our two eminent colleagues, Dr. Westcott and Dr. Hort. Some of us know generally the principles on which they had based their yet unpublished text, and were to some extent aware of the manner in which they had grouped their critical authorities, and of the genealogical method, which, under their expansion of it, has secured for their text the widespread acceptance it has met with both at home and abroad.

Of these things some of us had a competent knowledge, but the majority had no special knowledge of the genealogical method. They did know the facts on which it was based—the ascertained trustworthiness of the ancient authorities as compared with the later uncial, and the cursive manuscripts, the general characteristics of these ancient authorities, the alliances that were to be traced between some of them, and the countries with which they were particularly connected. This the majority knew generally as a part of the largely increased knowledge which the preceding forty or fifty years, and the labours of Lachmann, Tischendorf, and (so far as he had then published) Tregelles, had placed at the disposal of students of the Greek Testament. It was on this general knowledge, and not on any portions of a partly printed text, that the decisions of the Company were based; these decisions, however, by the very nature of the case and the use of common authorities, were constantly in accordance with the texts of Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, and so with the subsequently printed text of Westcott and Hort.

Such a text, thus independently formed, and yet thus in harmony with the results of the most tested critical researches of our times, has surely great claims on our unreserved acceptance, and does justify us in strongly pleading that a version of such a text, if faithfully executed, should, for the very truth's sake, be publicly read in our Churches.

That the Revised Version has been faithfully executed, will I hope be shown fully and clearly in the succeeding chapter. For the present my care has been to show that the text of which it is a version, and which I have called the Revisers' Text because it underlies their revision, and, as such, has been published by the Oxford University Press, is in my judgement the best balanced text that has appeared in this country. I have mentioned with it (p. 63) the closely similar text of the well-known Professor Nestle, but as I have not gone through the laborious task of comparing the text, verse by verse, with that of the Revisers, I speak only in reference to our own country. I have compared the two texts in several crucial and important passages—such for example as St. John i. 18—and have found them identical. Bishop Westcott, I know, a short time before his lamented death, expressed to the Committee of the Bible Society his distinct approval of their adopting for future copies of the Society's Greek Testament Professor Nestle's text, as published by the Wurtemberg Bible Society.

I have now, I trust, fairly shown the independence of the Revisers' Text, and have, not without reason, complained of my friend Provost Salmon's estimate of its dependence on the text and earnestly exerted influence of Dr. Hort and Dr. Westcott. Of course, as I have shown, there is, and must be, much that is identical in the two texts; but, to fall back on statistics, there are, I believe, more than two hundred places in which the two texts differ, and in nearly all of them—if I may venture to express my own personal opinion—the reading of the Revisers' Text is critically to be preferred. Most of these two hundred places seem to be precisely places in which the principles adopted by Westcott and Hort need some corrective modifications. Greatly as I reverence the unwearied patience, the exhaustive research, and the critical sagacity of these two eminent, and now lamented, members of our former Company, I yet cannot resist the conviction that Dr. Salmon in his interesting Criticism of the Text of the New Testament has successfully indicated three or more particulars which must cause some arrest in our final judgement on the text of Westcott and Hort.

In the first case it cannot be denied that, in the introductory volume, Dr. Hort has shown too distinct a tendency to elevate probable hypotheses into the realm of established facts. Dr. Salmon specifies one, and that a very far-reaching instance, in which, in the debatable question whether there really was an authoritative revision of the so-called Syrian text at about A.D. 350, Dr. Hort speaks of this Syrian revision as a vera causa, as opposed to a hypothetical possibility. This tendency in a subject so complicated as that of textual criticism must be taken note of by the student, and must introduce some element of hesitation in the acceptance of confidently expressed decisions when the subject-matter may still be very plainly debatable.

In the second place, in the really important matter of the nomenclature of the ancient types of text which, since the days of Griesbach, and to some extent before him, have been recognized by all critical scholars, it does not seem possible to accept the titles of the fourfold division of these families of manuscripts which have been adopted by Westcott and Hort. Griesbach, as is well known, adopted the terms Western, Alexandrian, and Constantinopolitan, for which there is much to be said. Westcott and Hort recognize four groups. To the first and considerably the largest they give the title of Syrian, answering to some extent to the Constantinopolitan of Griesbach; to the second they continue the title of Western; to the third they give the title of Alexandrian, though of a numerically more restricted character than the Alexandrian of Griesbach; to the fourth, an exceedingly small group, apparently consisting of practically not more than two members, they give the title of Neutral, as being free alike from Syrian, Western, and Alexandrian characteristics. On this Neutral family or group Westcott and Hort lay the greatest critical stress, and in it they place the greatest reliance. Such is their distribution, and such the names they give to the families into which manuscripts are to be divided and grouped.

The objections to this arrangement and to this nomenclature are, as Dr. Salmon very clearly shows, both reasonable and serious. In the first place, the title Syrian, though Dr. Salmon allows it to pass, is very misleading, especially to the student. It is liable to be confounded with the term Syriac, with which it has not and is not intended to have any special connexion, and it fails to convey the amplitude of the family it designates. If it is to be retained at all, it must be with the prefix suggested by Dr. Schaff—the group being styled as the Graeco-Syrian. But this is of slight moment when compared with the serious objections to the term Neutral, as this term certainly tends in practice to give to two manuscripts or even, in some cases, to one of them (the Codex Vaticanus), a preponderating supremacy which cannot be properly conceded when authorities of a high character are found to be ranged on the other side. There are also other grave objections which are convincingly put forward by Dr. Salmon in the chapter he has devoted to the subject of the nomenclature of the two editors.

We shall be wise therefore if we cancel the term Neutral and use the term Older Alexandrian, as distinguished from the later Alexandrian, and so fall back on the threefold division of Alexandrian (earlier and later), Graeco-Syrian, and Western, though for this last-mentioned term a more expressive designation may perhaps hereafter be found.

The third drawback to the unqualified acceptance of the text of Westcott and Hort is their continuous and studied disregard of Western authorities; and this, notwithstanding that among these authorities are included the singular and not unfrequently suggestive Codex Bezae—of which Dr. Blass has lately made so remarkable a use—the Old Latin Version, the Graeco-Latin manuscripts, and, to some extent, the Old Syriac Version, all of them authorities to which the designation of Western is commonly applied. To this grave drawback Dr. Salmon has devoted a chapter to which the attention of the student may very profitably be directed. Here I cannot enter into details, but of this I am persuaded, that if there should be any fresh discovery of textual authorities, it is by no means unlikely that they may be of a Western character, and if so, that many decisions in the text of Westcott and Hort will have to be modified by some editor of the future. At any rate, taking the critical evidence as now we find it, we cannot but feel that Dr. Salmon has made out his case, and that in the edition of which now we are speaking there has been an undue, and even a contemptuous, disregard of Western authorities.

Here I must close this address, yet not without expressing the hope that I may have induced some of you, my Reverend Brethren, to look into these things for yourselves. Do not be deterred by the thought that to do so you must read widely and consult many authorities. This is really not necessary for the acquiring of an intelligent interest in the text of the Greek Testament. With a good edition (with appended critical authorities), whether that of Tischendorf or of Tregelles, and with guidance such as that which you will find in the compendious Companion to the Greek Testament of Dr. Schaff, you will be able to begin, and when you have seriously begun, you will not be, I am persuaded, very likely to leave off.


From the text we now turn to the renderings, and to the general principles that were followed, both in the Old and in the New Testament. The revision of the English text was in each case subject to the same general rule, viz. "To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorised Version consistently with faithfulness"; but, owing to the great difference between the two languages, the Hebrew and the Greek, the application of the rule was necessarily different, and the results not easily comparable the one with the other.

It will be best then to consider the renderings in the two Testaments separately, and to form the best estimate we can of their character and of their subordination to the general rule, with due regard to the widely different nature of the structure and grammatical principles of the two languages through which God has been pleased to reveal His truth to the children of men.

I. We begin then with the Revised Version of the Old Testament, and naturally turn for general guidance to the Preface of those who were engaged in the long, diversified, and responsible work. Their general principles as to departures from the Authorised Version would appear to be included in the following clearly-specified particulars. They departed from the Authorised Version (a) where they did not agree with it as to the meaning or construction of a word or sentence; (b) where it was necessary, for the sake of uniformity, to render such parallel passages as were identical in Hebrew by the same English words; (c) where the English of the Authorised Version was liable to be misunderstood by reason of its being archaic or obscure; (d) where the rendering of an earlier English version seemed preferable; and (e) where, by an apparently slight change, it was possible to bring out more fully the meaning of a passage of which the translation was substantially accurate.

These principles, which I have been careful to specify in the exact words of the Revisers, will appear to every impartial reader to be fully in harmony with the principle of faithfulness; and will be found—if an outsider may presume to make a passing comment—to have been carried out with pervasive consistency and uniformity.

The Revisers further notice certain particulars of which the general reader should take full note, so much of the random criticisms of the revised text (especially in the New Testament) having been due to a complete disregard in each case of the Preface, and of the reasons given for changes which long experience had shown to be both reasonable and necessary.

The first particular is the important question of the rendering of the word "JEHOVAH." Here the Revisers have thought it advisable to follow the usage of the Authorised Version, and not to insert the word uniformly in place of "LORD" or "GOD," which words when printed in small capitals represent the words substituted by Jewish custom for the ineffable Name according to the vowel points by which it is distinguished. To this usage the Revisers have steadily adhered with the exception of a very few passages in which the introduction of a proper name seemed to be required. In this grave matter, as we all probably know, the American Company has expressed its dissent from the decision of the English Company, and has adopted the proper name wherever it occurs in the Hebrew text for "the LORD" and "GOD." Most English readers will agree with our Revisers. It may indeed be said, now that we can read the American text continuously, that there certainly are many passages in which the proper name seems to come upon eye or ear with a serious and appropriate force; still the reverence with which we are accustomed to treat what the Revisers speak of as "the ineffable Name" will lead most of us to sacrifice the passages, where the blessed name may have an impressive force, to the reverential uniformity of our Authorised Version, and to the latent fear that frequent iteration might derogate from the solemnity with which we instinctively clothe the ever-blessed name of Almighty God.

The next particular relates to terms of natural history. Here changes have only been made where it was certain that the Authorised Version was incorrect, and highly probable that the word substituted was right. Where doubt existed, the text was left unchanged, but the alternative word was placed in the margin. In regard of other terms, of which the old rendering was certainly wrong, as in the case of the Hebrew term Asherah (probably the wooden symbol of a goddess), the Revisers have used the word, whether in the singular or plural, as a proper name. In the case of the Hebrew term "Sheol" (corresponding to the Greek term "Hades"), variously rendered in the Authorised Version by the words "grave," "pit," and "hell," the Revisers have adopted in the historical books the first or second words with a marginal note, "Heb. Sheol," but in the poetical books they have reversed this arrangement. The American Revisers, on the contrary, specify that in all cases where the word occurs in the Hebrew text they place it unchanged in the English text, and without any margin. The case is a difficult one, but the English arrangement is to be preferred, as the reader would not so plainly need a preliminary explanation.

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