(B.T. Vols. 13, 14 [28 sections].)
Believing that it may be of service to examine the just published result of the ten years’ labour bestowed by the Committee of Revision on the New Testament, I proceed to give a review of their more noteworthy changes from first to last. In this way the reader will have in the simplest and fullest way the evidence of their work for good or for ill before his own eyes, so as to preclude (as much as possible) any representation of its character otherwise than it really is. The close of the survey will afford a more just and fitting occasion to offer an opinion as to its value as a whole. It is but natural to us all to be either carried away by a hasty conclusion based on what pleases us at a first glance and a general impression, or to be unfairly repelled by corrections which, however well-grounded or wisely applied, shock the prejudices of our ignorance. Nevertheless none can well overlook the fact that the revisers have studiously sought to preserve the dignified simplicity of the Authorised Version, as they have assuredly purged it from an immense number of inaccuracies, known more or less to the Christian scholars who have studied our Bible during the last two centuries and a half. Indeed it was the impulse given to Biblical research by the mass of materials brought to light or considerably better known within the hundred years just passed which forced on this revision, notwithstanding the rather strong obstacles offered through the enormous circulation of the Authorised Version by the chief Bible and other Societies and by the public or private printers, who would obviously dread the probable depreciation of their vast stocks, etc. Apart from such influences, every sober and godly believer desires to have revealed truth in the purest form.
But there are two principal sources of difficulty: one of the original text; the other of translation. Of the two the harder to settle is the question of the Greek text; and the answer to this, though not the avowed object of the revisers, was necessarily their first and urgent duty to meet before the task of rendering could be carried on. Although able critics have for a century sought to edit the Greek Testament on documentary evidence of Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and early citations, none as yet has succeeded in commanding more than partial confidence; neither Griesbach nor Scholz, neither Lachmann, nor Tischendorf, nor Tregelles; neither Meyer in his Critical Commentary, nor Alford or Wordsworth. Hence it has been a necessity, for any careful and conscientious scholar who would really know the sources, to compare several of these editions, and search into the grounds on which their differences depend, so as to have anything like a correct and enlarged view of the text, and to judge fairly of the claims of conflicting readings. But few of the revisers themselves entered on their grave and responsible task with adequate and special knowledge of that which was essential to the right execution of their undertaking; and though no doubt their long and unremitting occupation with the subject has helped most of them to a much better understanding than they possessed at first, yet it is certain that, in order to do such a work well, mature spiritual judgment, with continual dependence on the Lord, is just as essential as a sound and thorough familiarity with the ancient witnesses of all kinds. For it could not but be that in so mixed a Committee the few adepts, who were at home in all the external matters of debate and possessed of superior learning and ability in these questions, would have an easy and habitual preponderance over the less intelligent majority, especially after these had exposed to those their own shortcomings at an early day. But N.T. critics however skilled and competent, might be men of strong bias and committed to a mistaken or narrow school of recension, which would be sure to tell unfavourably on the revision, unless there were of equal power and knowledge to stand for larger views with no less firmness and decision. How far one or other of these alternatives may apply to the working of the Revisers is known to wise men among themselves: the fruit of their labours is before us, and we would now without further preface look into the details, which may disclose enough to outsiders.