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[N.T. CRITICISM
BIBLE


primarily a Greek church. The second stage must be the comparison of these results and the attempt to reconstruct from them a Greek text from which they all arose.

Bibliography.—The literature of textual criticism of the New Testament is so great that only a few of the more important modern books can be mentioned here: H. von Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments (i. 1902–1907); E. Nestle, Einführung in das griechische Neue Testament (Göttingen, 1909); F. G. Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London, 1901); C. R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testament (Leipzig, 1900–1902), and Die griech. Handschr. des N.T. (Leipzig, 1908); Westcott and Hort, Introduction (vol. ii. of their New Testament in Greek, Cambridge, 1882). The history of criticism is dealt with in all the above-mentioned books, and also in F. H. Scrivener, Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (London, 1894). For other points especially important (besides books mentioned in the preceding section) see F. Blass, Acta Apostolorum (Göttingen, 1895; and an editio minor, with a valuable preface, Leipzig, 1896); Rendel Harris, Four Lectures on the Western Text (Cambridge, 1894); F. Chase, The Syro-Latin Text (London, 1895); W. Bousset, Textkritische Studien (Leipzig, 1894); B. Weiss, Der Codex D in der Apostelgeschichte (Leipzig, 1897); A. Pott, Der abendländische Text d. Apostelgeschichte (Leipzig, 1900); G. Salmon, Some Thoughts on Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London, 1897); Schmidtke, Die Evangelien eines alien Unzialcodex (Leipzig, 1903).  (K. L.) 

4. Higher Criticism.

The New Testament is a series of early Christian writings which the Church came to regard as canonical, i.e. they were placed in the same category as the Old Testament, the writings which the Christian had inherited from the Jewish Church. Just as the ancient Scriptures were considered to be the Word of God, so that what they contained was necessarily the true and inspired doctrine, so also the New Testament was available for proving the Church’s dogma. The assured canonicity of the whole New Testament resulted in its use by the medieval theologians, the Schoolmen, as a storehouse of proof-texts. Thus the New Testament seemed to exist in order to prove the Church’s conclusions, not to tell its own tale.

The Novum Instrumentum published by Erasmus in 1516 (see above, Textual Criticism) contained more than the mere Editio Princeps of the Greek text: Erasmus accompanied it with a Latin rendering of his own, in which Erasmus.he aimed at giving the meaning of the Greek without blindly following the conventional phraseology of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only form in which the New Testament had been current in western Europe for centuries. This rendering of Erasmus, together with his annotations and prefaces to the several books, make his editions the first great monument of modern Biblical study. Medieval Bibles contain short prefaces by St Jerome and others. The stereotyped information supplied in these prefaces was drawn from various sources: Erasmus distinguishes, e.g., between the direct statements in the Acts and the inferences which may be drawn from incidental allusions in the Pauline Epistles, or from the statements of ancient non-canonical writers.[1] This discrimination of sources is the starting-point of scientific criticism.

The early champions of Church reform in the beginning of the 16th century found in the Bible their most trustworthy weapon. The picture of Apostolical Christianity found in the New Testament offered indeed a glaring The Reformers.contrast to the papal system of the later middle ages. Moreover, some of the “authorities” used by the Schoolmen had been discovered by the New Learning of the Renaissance to be no authorities at all, such as the writings falsely attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. When, therefore, the breach came, and the struggle between reformers and conservatives within the undivided Church was transformed into a struggle between Protestants and Romanists, it was inevitable that the authority which in the previous centuries had been ascribed to the Church should be transferred by the Reformed Churches to the Bible. “The Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants”[2] did really express the watchword of the anti-Romanist parties, especially towards the close of the acuter struggle. At the beginning of the movement the New Testament itself had been freely criticized. Luther, like his countrymen of to-day, judged the contents of the New Testament by the light of his leading convictions; and in his German translation, which occupies the same place in Germany as the Authorized Version of 1611 does in English-speaking lands, he even placed four of the books (Hebrews, James, Jude, Apocalypse) in an appendix at the end, with prefaces explanatory of this drastic act of criticism. But though we may trace a real affiliation between the principles of Luther and modern German critical study—notably in the doctrines of the Gospel within the Gospel and of the residual Essence of Christianity—Luther’s discriminations were in the 17th century ignored in practice.

From cover to cover the whole New Testament was regarded at the beginning of the 18th century by almost all Protestants as the infallible revelation of the true religion. The doctrines of Christianity, and in many communities Influence of textual criticism.the customs of the Church, were held to be inferences from the inspired text of the Scriptures. The first serious blow to this view came from the study of textual criticism. The editions of Mill (1707) and of Wetstein (1751) proved once for all that variations in the text, many of them serious, had existed from the earliest times. It was evident, therefore, that the true authority of the New Testament could not be that of a legal code which is definite in all its parts. More important still was the growing perception of the general uniformity of nature, which had forced itself with increasing insistence upon men’s minds as the study of the natural sciences progressed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The miracles of the New Testament, which had formerly been received as bulwarks of Christianity, now appeared as difficulties needing explanation. Furthermore, the prevailing philosophies of the 18th century tended to demand that a real divine revelation should be one which expressed itself in a form convincing to the reason of the average plain man, whatever his predispositions might be; it was obvious that the New Testament did not wholly conform to this standard.

But if the New Testament be not itself the direct divine revelation in the sense of the 18th century, the question still remains, how we are to picture the true history of the rise of Christianity, and what its true meaning is. Rationalists. This is the question which has occupied the theologians of the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps the most significant event from which to date the modern period is the publication by Lessing in 1774–1777 of the “Wolfenbüttel Fragments,” i.e. H. S. Reimarus’ posthumous attack on Christianity, a work which showed that the mere study of the New Testament is not enough to compel belief in an unwilling reader. Lessing’s publication also helped to demonstrate the weakness of the older rationalist position, a position which really belongs to the 18th century, though its best-remembered exponent, Dr H. E. G. Paulus, only died in 1851. The characteristic of the rationalists was the attempt to explain away the New Testament miracles as coincidences or naturally occurring events, while at the same time they held as tenaciously as possible to the accuracy of the letter of the New Testament narratives. The opposite swing Strauss.of the pendulum appears in D. F. Strauss: in his Leben Jesu (1833) he abandons the shifts and expedients by which the rationalists eliminated the miraculous from the Gospel stories, but he abandons also their historical character. According to Strauss the fulfilments of prophecy in the New Testament arise from the Christians’ belief that the Christian Messiah must have fulfilled the predictions of the prophets, and the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament either originate in the same way or are purely mythical embodiments of Christian doctrines.

  1. E.g. from the preface to the Acts: “Dionysius, bishop of the Corinthians, a very ancient writer, quoted by Eusebius, writes that Peter and Paul obtained the crown of martyrdom by the command of Nero on the same day.” And again: “Some industrious critics have added (to the narrative of Acts) that Paul was acquitted at his first trial by Nero .... This conjecture they make from the 2nd Ep. to Timothy....”
  2. The phrase is Chillingworth’s (1637), who may be described as a Broad High-churchman.