Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of the present Edition to enable the English reader to correct for himself. Words and passages, which in our Authorized Version are wrongly read or inadequately rendered, are printed in italics in the text, the true reading or rendering being pointed out, in the margin below, in the same type as the rest of the text. Besides this, in cases where the principal ancient authorities differ about the reading of the text, the variation is stated in the margin.

6. Marginal notices are also appended in some cases where antiquated terms, or expressions generally misunderstood, are used in the Authorized Version.

7. The notes are mainly an adaptation and abridgment of those in my Edition of the Greek Testament. Additions are sometimes made to those notes, where further explanations, of a nature suitable to the English reader, seemed to be required.

8. The marginal references are adapted and abridged from those found in our ordinary English Bibles. I found, on examination, that many of these were either irrelevant or superfluous, and that sometimes passages the most important for elucidation were not adduced at all. It may be well to mention that the parallel places in the Gospels are not cited on the margin, being systematically given at the head of each paragraph in the notes.

9. It is necessary, at a time when there is so much unsettled opinion respecting the authority of Scripture, to state plainly in the outset, the belief of the Editor on that point, and the principles on which his work has been undertaken.

10. I regard the Canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to have been given by inspiration of Almighty God, and in this respect to differ from all other books in the world. I rest this my belief on the consent of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, and on evidence furnished by those books themselves'.

11. I find that it has pleased God to deliver His revelation of Himself to man, which is contained in those books, by the vehicles of human testimony, human speech, and human writing. All the phænomena necessarily incident to these human vehicles I consequently expect, and find, in our sacred books as we have them.

12. Their writers testified that which was true. The Spirit of Truth dwelt in them specially for this purpose. But He did not divest their testimony of its human character. Their peculiar styles and manners of writing were not taken away, nor their disposition to record peculiar facts, and to note different aspects of the truth. Each holy man set down that which he had seen or heard, or which he found in trustworthy

1 I have treated of this matter more formally and in detail further on, in Chap. I. § vi. of this Introduction. But I have considered it desirable besides, to publish a general statement in the preliminary account of this English edition.

record, or heard from competent witnesses; and in this remembrance or selection, he was guided specially by the Holy Spirit. But each man reported, and each man selected, according to his own personal characteristics of thought and feeling. Any one who can read the Gospel and Epistles of St. John, and doubt this, would seem to me to read to little purpose indeed.

13. A very important result of this may be thus stated. The two, three, or four, Gospel records of the same event are each of them separately true: written by men divinely guided into truth, and relating facts which happened, and as they happened. If we could now see the whole details of the event, we should also see that each narrative is true, and how it is true. But, not seeing the whole details of the event, and having only these two, three, or four, independent accounts, we must be prepared sometimes to find, that they appear to be discrepant the one from the other and we must not expect that we can reconcile such apparent discrepancies. It is a case where we must walk by faith, not by appearance. One day we may, and one day I firmly believe we shall, see the event with all its details as it happened, and shall be permitted to glorify God for the Truth of His holy Word in every particular; but that day is not yet come.

:

14. This is the belief, and these are the principles, on which I have recognized and dealt with what appear to me the undeniable apparent discrepancies in detail between some of the Gospel narratives. I have never attempted to force them into accordance. I shrink from doing so, and I see no end gained by doing so. On the other hand, I believe the confirmation of the faith, gained by the testimony which these discrepancies furnish to the absolute independence of the narratives, to be of infinitely more importance, than would be the most complete piecing together of them into one apparently harmonious whole.

15. Human speech was also a vehicle chosen by God for the transmission of the Revelation of Himself to man. Now all language is liable to be imperfectly understood. Few things can be expressed so clearly, but that some possibility occurs of an interpretation being given, other than was intended. And this defect of the instrument of thought has certainly not been removed in its employment by God Himself. Nay this very employment by Him has rather tended to increase the defect: the things which it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive, when set forth in human speech, are too deep and weighty for the instrument which should convey them, and the result is that the sayings of Holy Scripture are often extremely difficult to understand. "The unlearned and unstable," we are told, "wrest them to their own destruction:" and short of this, their sense is often misapprehended, and their true significance set aside, for want of intelligent study. We often hear Holy Scripture spoken of as if it were not only all true, which it is,-but all a 2

3]

so plain that there can be no question as to its meaning, which it as certainly is not. Coming as it does from God, its simplest saying has in it a depth which the human mind cannot fathom: and its apparently disjoined sentences have a connexion which it often surpasses even the practised eye to discover, or the most ripened and chastened judgment satisfactorily to pronounce upon.

16. The reader of this work will find this conviction lying at the root of all its endeavours to explain Scripture: that we are dealing not with mere human thoughts, whose significance we may exhaust and surpass, but with divine Truth, conveyed to us in human words-the treasure, in the earthen vessel. No amount of labour can be ill bestowed in searching into, and comparing, and meditating on, the import and the connexion of the words of Scripture. Nor are we to expect a time when our work may be regarded as done. As the ages of the world and of the Church pass onward, new lights will ever be thrown upon God's word, by passing events, by the toil of thought, by the discoveries of historical research and of scientific enquiry.

17. Nor has the Bible any reason to fear the utmost activity, and the furthest extension, of such pursuits. We have been, I am persuaded, too timid and anxious in this matter. Let research and enquiry be carried forward in every direction, and in a fearless spirit: and when their results are most completely established and firmly assured to us, then will it be most undeniably found, that Creation, Providence, and Revelation, are the work of the same God:-then will the plainest light be thrown on the meaning of Holy Scripture, in all points on which such research and enquiry bear.

18. We are too apt to forget that another vehicle in which God has transmitted to us His Revelation, is human writing. The conservation of the sacred books by His Providence ought to be taken into account, as well as their original composition. The general notion concerning the Bible, as regards this point, may perhaps be not unjustly described as being, that the sacred text has come down to us in one unquestioned form, and that form represented by the English Authorized Version. The fact of some variations existing here and there is perhaps known, but its import is at once nullified by some statement, that these variations make no possible difference in the sense: and there the matter is allowed to rest some even doubting the expediency of further inviting the English reader to its consideration.

19. But surely such a course is hardly that of those who are exhorted to be "not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." If it has pleased God, in the course of His providential care of His Word, that certain portions of it should be variously transmitted to us, can we, without blame, resolve to shut our eyes to this His will? And the case, as affecting English readers, is even stronger than this.

There is one

passage, commonly printed in all our Bibles, read in our churches as God's Word, which undeniably forms no portion of His Word at all, viz. 1 John v. 7: there are more, which rest upon far weaker evidence than do other forms of the Word, which ought long ago to have been substituted for them. Can we be held blameless, with the knowledge of these things before us, for not having set this matter right?

20. It has been my desire for many years, that I might contribute, however scantily and imperfectly, towards furnishing the English reader with some means of intelligently dealing with and appreciating these important facts respecting the text of the New Testament. My wish has at length taken shape in this Edition, the first part of which is now offered to the Public. I would wish it to be understood that I put it forth as an experiment, liable to be corrected and improved, if necessary, both in form and in detail. It was my original intention to give an amended version of the sacred text: and I still think that for the completeness and full usefulness of the work, such a version would be necessary. After all possible marginal corrections of inadequate renderings, there are many improvements in minute expression and arrangement, tending to clear up the meaning, which must necessarily be passed over where the Authorized Version is printed as the text.

21. It has been my endeavour, in the notes, to give as much information as I could respecting the general currents of opinion and interpretation, without burdening the reader with long catalogues of names. The introduction of some names has been unavoidable. The German Commentaries of Olshausen and Meyer, for instance, are so valuable, and so rich in original material, that I have often cited them. The latter of these writers, though unhappily not to be trusted where there is any room for the introduction of rationalistic opinions, is, in accurate interpretation of the words and constructions of the sacred text, by far the best of all commentators. Another work has been found very valuable : the Reden Jesu (Discourses of Jesus) of the late venerable Rudolf Stier. Stier was a Christian scholar of the orthodox Evangelical party, of a simple and fervid spirit,-apt sometimes to find fanciful allusions and connexions, but full of the power of spiritual discernment: and his great work above mentioned has certainly been among the most valuable of modern contributions to the understanding of our Lord's words.

22. The reader will find in my Commentary no sympathy whatever with the rationalistic school. Believing in the Eternal Godhead and Perfect Humanity of our Blessed Lord, and in the agency of the Almighty Spirit in Him, and through Him in His Apostles and servants, I regard His divine miracles as proofs of His mission, and of His authority over nature, as being the Creator of nature. The faith of the centurion (Luke vii. 8), so wonderful in him, is that of all Catholic Christians: that the powers of Nature serve the Son of God, as servants their master.

23. Widely different however from any expression of rationalistic opinion is the carrying out of the enquiry, sometimes forced on us, whether an incident related in the sacred narrative is intended to be miraculous, or not. Such an enquiry might for example naturally occur regarding the rising up of St. Paul after he was stoned at Lystra (Acts xiv. 19, 20). Such an enquiry, I have believed, is fairly open to us in the case of the narrative of the Star of the Wise Men. Was that a miraculous appearance from first to last, or was it some phænomenon in the ordinary course of the celestial revolutions, which the Magi were guided by God to interpret as they did? I have been led to incline to the latter view. I have no bias leading me that way: I should feel no difficulty whatever in receiving the whole as miraculous, did I think the sacred text required me to do so. Those who do think this, have much to favour their view. But let them concede to a Christian brother the right to enquire into the meaning of the sacred text itself, without binding him to a pre-conception of that meaning: and let them abstain from harsh judgment, where his enquiry has led him to a conclusion different from that to which they themselves have come.

24. In closing this preliminary chapter, I may venture to say, that I hope this work may be found useful to those readers for whom it has been specially designed. It is not in the proper sense of the word, a popular Edition of the New Testament. Some cultivation of mind by an ordinary liberal education will be required for its use: but certainly not more than is possessed by Christian women in the middle ranks of life, and by the majority of the mercantile classes. Should it be found to contribute in any degree towards the diffusion of an intelligent knowledge of the contents of God's Holy Word, I shall be more than rewarded for the labour bestowed on it.

« ElőzőTovább »