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Christian era-which contain quotations from the New Testament.1 The value of the Fathers as a help in determining the exact text of Scripture is a good deal impaired by the fact that, not having the advantage of a Concordance, or of our divisions into chapters and verses, they frequently quote from memory and not with strict accuracy. This is of less moment, however, when the object is not so much to ascertain the precise language of Scripture as to prove the existence and general reception of the books of the New Testament at an early period in the history of the Church. (2) Ancient Versions or Translations, some of which (for example the Syriac and Old Latin) were made within a century after the time of the apostles.*
6. English Versions.-The first English Version was completed by John Wycliff in 1383. It was, however, only the translation of a translation (the Latin Vulgate
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1 In this respect, as well as in the matter of MSS., the New Testament books occupy a much better position than most of the ancient classics.
2 The first Concordance was produced by Antonius of Padua, followed by Cardinal Hugo, in the thirteenth century. To the latter was also due the division of the Bible into the existing chapters; but the division into verses was the work of Robert Stephens, the celebrated editor and printer of the New Testament.
For information regarding the Church Fathers whose citations are referred to in subsequent chapters, see Appendix A, pp. 193-202. The citations themselves may be found in Charteris' Canonicity, or in Westcott's History of the New Testament Canon.
These, also, afford valuable evidence as to the canonicity of particular books-some of them having been current as early as the second century, and being still preserved in ancient MSS. dating, in some cases, from the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. As regards readings, their testimony is often uncertain owing to the want of exact correspondence between their language and that of the original; but where the translation is of a literal character, as it is, for example, in the case of the Old Latin Versións, the language of the original in a disputed passage may be inferred with a near approach to certainty. Even the errors of the translator sometimes indicate quite plainly what words he had before him in the Greek; while, in a question of the omission or insertion of a clause, an ordinary version speaks as plainly as a MS. in the original.
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of St. Jerome). The first English translation from the Greek was finished by William Tyndale in 1525, and put in print the following year at Worms. This was followed by Miles Coverdale's translation of the whole Bible in 1535, the Great Bible, usually called Cranmer's (for use in Churches), in 1539, the Geneva Bible in 1557, the Bishops' Bible in 1568, and King James's Bible (the Authorised Version) in 1611. The most recent and reliable results of Biblical criticism are embodied in the Revised Version of 1881, which has in this respect, as in regard to accuracy of translation, an unquestionable superiority over the Authorised Version, the latter having been made at a time when the science was still in its infancy, and before any of the three chief MSS. above mentioned were available for reference. Possibly the next generation may see further improvements, as the result of a closer examination of MSS., Versions, and other ancient writings, as well as through an enhanced appreciation of the language of the New Testament, in the light of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and other Hellenistic literature; 1 but, after all, any points in which our English Bible is capable of improvement are infinitesimal compared with the general trustworthiness of its contents. Of its imperfections as a translation it may be said, with scarcely less truth than of obscurities in the original, that "like the spots upon the surface of the sun, they neither mar the symmetry nor impair the glory of the great Source of our Life and Light which is imaged in them."
1.Especially writings of a colloquial character such as are found on the papyri which have recently come to light.
1. Name and Nature.-At the head of the New Testa ment stand the four Gospels. This position has been fitly assigned to them, because, although by no means the earliest written of the New Testament Books, they contain a record of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ which forms the corner-stone of the whole fabricChristianity being essentially a historical religion, basing its doctrines not on fancy but on fact. The name gospel, which is the Saxon equivalent for a word in the original meaning "good tidings," was first of all applied to Christ's preaching (Matt. iv. 23; Mark i. 15), and to that of the apostles (1 Cor. ix. 16). In course of time it came to be applied also to the books containing a record of the great facts and truths which formed the substance of that preaching. One of the earliest writers to use the word in this sense is Justin, Martyr, who wrote about the middle of the second century.1 He frequently refers to Memoirs composed by the apostles and their companions,
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1 Basilides (125 A.D.), quoted by Hippolytus, cites John i. 9 as "said in the Gospels," but some think, without much reason, that the words are to be referred to one of Basilides' school merely. Another instance has been found in the Apology of Aristides, dating probably from the early part of the second century, which mentions "the sacred writing which among them (the Christians) is called Gospel" (literally " evangelic"), and also in the Didaché, which seems even older.
which, as he tells us, were called "Gospels"; and he informs us that they were read along with the writings of the prophets at the meetings for Christian worship on the Lord's Day.
2. Authenticity.—That the Memoirs to which Justin refers are the same as the Gospels which we now possess may be inferred from the circumstance that almost all the facts concerning Christ's life which he mentions in about 200 scattered passages of his writings are found in one or other of the four Gospels, while in all the express quotations-seven in number-which he makes from the Memoirs the words quoted are also to be found in our Gospels. This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that about twenty years later (170 A.D.) a disciple of Justin named Tatian, a well-informed and far-travelled man, drew up in the Syriac language a sort of harmony of the four Gospels (called Diatessaron), which had a very large circulation in the East. An Arabic translation of this work and a Syriac commentary on it have recently been discovered, from which it is evident that the four Gospels on which Tatian's work was founded were identical with ours. In the Muratorian Fragment, also, there is a list of New Testament books, which most critics assign to about 170 A.D., where the Gospels of Luke and John are mentioned as third and fourth, the other two being apparently mentioned in a part of the MS. now lost. If further corroboration be needed, we have it in the universally-admitted fact that fifteen years later (185 A.D.) the four Gospels which we possess were circulated in all parts of Christendom-Europe, Asia, and Africa-in thousands of copies for the use of innumerable Christians who heard them read at their weekly meetings for worship.
For these reasons it seems to admit of no doubt that Justin Martyr's Gospels were the same as ours; and it is
easy to trace them back through a series of still earlier writers to the testimony of the apostles. We know that Marcion the Gnostic1 (140 A.D.) built his system largely on the Gospel of Luke, of which he published a mutilated edition known as Marcion's Luke. In contrast with Marcion, Tertullian places Valentinus, another Gnostic (140-160 A.D.), as one who used the canon in its entirety. A prominent witness is Papias (Bishop of Hierapolis), who wrote an Exposition of the Oracles of Our Lord about 135 A.D., when he was an old man. Among other things which he had gathered from personal intercourse with friends of the apostles and with two disciples of the Lord (one "the Elder John "), he tells us the circumstances under which Matthew wrote his Oracles and Mark his Oracles of the Lord.2 Still earlier, we find many quotations more or less exact from our Gospels in the latelydiscovered Didaché, or "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" (dating from the end of the first or the early part of the second century), in the language of Basilides (125 A.D.), who wrote twenty-four books on "the Gospel," and in the extant writings of Ignatius, 110-115 A.D., and Polycarp (a disciple of the Apostle John, who wrote about the same time), of Hermas and "Barnabas " (early in the second century), and of Clement of Rome (95-96 A.D.).3
1 The Gnostics (who derived their name from a Greek word meaning knowledge) claimed a deeper insight into the mysteries of religion than was possessed by the ordinary believer. But they always professed to be indebted for this knowledge to their fuller comprehension of the meaning of Scripture. Hence the frequency of their appeals to the New Testament writings. For the earliest distinct traces in the Christian Church of the tendencies which afterwards developed into Gnosticism, see pp. 119, 120 and 180-182.
2 Cf. pp. 26, 195.
3 The extant Christian writings of the first century (other than the New Testament) are extremely meagre, while the writings of the second century till near its close are mainly defences of Christianity (Apologies) addressed to unbelievers, with fewer quotations from the New Testament than if they had been intended for members of the Church. But the substance, and even the language, of our Gospels is woven into the earliest Christian writings that have come down to us.
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