1902 Encyclopedia > Bible > Transmission and Diffusion of the Bible in the Printed Form

(Part 13)


Transmission and Diffusion of the Bible in the Printed Form

Printed Hebrew Bibles

Though the Latin Bible was the first book printed, the original text was for some time neglected. The Jews of Italy led the way with several editions of parts of the Old Testament, commencing with the Psalter of 1475. The beautiful edition of Soncino (1488) was the first complete Hebrew Bible, and was soon followed by the edition of Brescia, used by Luther (1494). At length Christians interested themselves in the work. The Antwerp printer, Daniel Bomberg, established a Hebrew press in Venice, from which he sent forth a series of Bibles and other books. The famous Rabbinical Bible of 1517, edited by Felix Pretensis, a converted Jew, is known as the first Bomberg Bible, and is especially valuable for the text of the Targums, which it prints in parallel columns with the Hebrew. The second Rabbinical Bible of Bomberg was edited by R. Jacob Chayin (who also became a Christian), and contains the first printed edition of the Massora, with a text carefully corrected in accordance with Massoretic precepts. This edition at once attained a great reputation. It was several times reprinted, and most subsequent editions are directly or indirectly dependent on it. The only early edition which rivals its fame is the Complutensian Polyglott, published at Alcala in 1517, at the expense of Cardinal Ximenes. The Hebrew of this polyglot exhibits a peculiar text, independent of the Italian editions. Later editions of the Hebrew Bible present little or no advance on the early prints ; and most recent editions are decidedly inferior. Of Hebrew Bibles, with various readings from MS. authority, the best known are Kennicott’s (Oxford, 1776, 1780) and De Rossi’s (Parma, 1784 –1798). The latter collection is by far the best, but neither has done much for improvement of the text. In fact the difference between really good MSS. are generally very minute ; and where the current text is corrupt it is not from MSS., but from the versions, or from conjecture, that help must be sought. On the other hand, a more accurate editions of the Massoretic text is certainly wanted. But such an edition must pay special regard to vowel points and accents, which Kennicott and De Rossi neglect, and must consult MSS. of the Massora as well as of the text. The most valuable editions which notes variations not affecting the consonantal text is the Mantuan Bible of 1742, 1744, with the notes of Norzi (R. Jedidiah Solomon of Norcia). The best recent texts are S. Baer’s Leipsic [Leipzig] editions of Genesis (1869), Psalms (1861), and Isaiah (1872). Among easily accessible editions of the whole Old Testaments, those of Jablonsky (Berlin, 1699) and J.H. Michaelis (Halle, 1720) have the best reputation.

Printed Text of New Testament

The Greek New Testament was first printed in the Complutensian Polyglott (1514), but a delay in the publication enabled Froben of Basel to preoccupy the market with an edition hastily prepared by Erasmus from very recent codices. In subsequent editions a good many changes were made, partly after the Complutensian text, and in the third edition (1522) the spurious passage, 1 John v.7, appeared for the first time. But it was still a recent and therefore an unsatisfactory text that was represented, and this radical defect was not corrected by the editors who followed Erasmus, though some of them, and notably Th. Possessed, and to some extend used, better MSS. than Erasmus consulted. Their beauty and convenience, rather than the merit of their text, procured a great currency for the editions of Robert Stephens (O mirificam editions, 1546, 1549 ; royal edition, 1550) and his text of 1550, or the Elzevir text of 1624, which, though mainly based on Beza, is very nearly identical with the other, came to be regarded as the "received text," which subsequent editors were long afraid to change. But materials for a better were gradually accumulated by Walton materials for a better text were gradually accumulated by Walton in the London Polyglott (1657), Curcellaeus (1658), Fell (1675), and above all by John Mill in his great edition of 1707. These labours were viewed with much jealousy by the hyper-orthodox ; and even as late as 1751, Wetstein, after long and most valuable studies, could find a publisher only on consideration that his amendments on the received editions should not stand in the text. Some important steps, however, were taken in the interval between Mill and Wetstein. Bentley sketched in 1720 the plan of an edition which should restore the text of the 4th century ; and Bengel in 1734 actually published an amended text, though readings which had not been given in any previous edition were admitted only in the Apocalypse. Bengel was the first who classed MSS. under families , as Asiatic and African respectively. The next great critical editor after Bengal and Wetstein was J.J. Griesbach, whose chief edition appeared 1796, 1806. Griesbach gave an exaggerated importance to the doctrine of families of MSS.; and his edition was constructed on the principle of adhering to the received text, unless the reasons to the contrary were irresistible ; but his industry and critical skill give him a very high place among editors. Griesbach was followed by the Roman Catholic Scholz, whose labours were more pretentious than valuable ; and at length the great critic Lachmann (1842, 1850) threw aside all traditional respect for the received text, and sought to restore the text of the 4th century by the aid of a very small number of select MSS., together with the Latin versions as given in the oldest copies, and the citations of the earliest fathers. The idea was fruitful, though the material employed was too scanty. Since Lachmann published his edition our knowledge of the most ancient authorities has been greatly increased. New MSS. have been added, notably Tischendorf’s Aleph [Heb.]; and the MSS. formerly known have been edited or collated with much greater accuracy. The most distinguished labourers in this work were Tishendorf and Tregelles. In addition to numerous editions and collations of ancient copies, Tischendorf put forth a series of critical editions, of which the eighth (Leipsic [Leipzig], 1865–1872) contains the completest critical commentary yet published. The great edition of Tregelles (1857 –72) rests exclusively on the most ancient authority, resembling Lachmann’s work in conception, though using much more copious materials. This edition, as well as Tishendorf’s VIII., lacks prolegomena, both editors having been struck down by paralysis before their work was complete.

Recent Versions

The recent versions, subsequent to the invention of printing and the revived study of the original tongues, demand a word in conclusion. New Latin versions naturally accompanied many of the early editions of the original text. Thus Erasmus gave many corrections of the Vulgate in his Greek Testament, the Complutensian gives an interlinear version of the (LXXX., the Genoa Polyglott Psalter of 1516 gives renderings both of the Hebrew and of the Chaldee. Even such works as these, designed as they were for scholars , gave offence from their appearance of undermining the authority of the Vulgate; and it was the Reformation, in its revolt against mere human authority, that first demanded open circulation of vernacular versions from the original tongues. From the time of Luther’s version (New Testament, 1522 ; complete Bible, 1534)we may distinguish four classes of versions.

1st, Versions adopted by Protestant countries our churches. Such are Luther’s Bible in Gemany ; the Dutch Bible of the Commission of the Synod of Dort, 1637 ; the English Authorized Version of 1611; the Genevan French Bible, formed by successive revisions of Olivetan’s version of 1535; the Danish of 1550, based on Luther, revised in 1607, 1647 ; the Swedish, 1541. Most of these national Bibles were preceded by earlier Protestant versions, which they supersede. See especially ENGLISH BIBLE. Revisions of the national versions have of late years been undertaken in Norway, Holland, and Germany, as well as in England.

2nd, Versions which never held any other place than that of private contributions to Biblical exegesis. Such are—among older works—the Latin Old Testament of Junius and Tremellius, and the New Testament of Beza. These versions belong to the history of exegesis.

3rd, Missionary versions.

4th, Roman Catholic versions. The Council of Trent declared the Vulgate version authentic, and forbade interpretations of Scripture not in conformity with the consent of the fathers. Vernacular versions subject to these restrictions were published as the antidote to Protestant Bibles. Such are the Rhemish and Douay versions in English. Other Roman Catholic versions owe their origin to evangelical tendencies within the church. Jansenism, in particular, produced the French version of De Sacy (Mons, 1667), and otherwise stimulated the study of Scripture.

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