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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2011
  • First published in: 1961

CHAPTER IV - ON THE CITATIONS FROM THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT MADE BY EARLY ECCLESIASTICAL WRITERS

Summary

1. WE might at first sight be inclined to suppose that the numerous quotations from the New Testament contained in the remains of the Fathers of the Church and other Christian writers from the first century of our sera downwards, would be more useful even than the early versions, for enabling us to determine the character of the text of Scripture current in those primitive times, from which no manuscripts of the original have come down to us. Unquestionably the testimony afforded by these venerable writings will be free from some of the objections which so much diminish the value of translations for critical purposes (see above, p. 228); but not to insist on the fact that many important passages of the New Testament have not been cited at all in any very ancient work now extant, this species of evidence will be received with increasing distrust, the more familiar we become with its uncertain and precarious nature. Not only is this kind of testimony fragmentary and not (like that of versions) continuous, so that it often fails us where we should most wish for information: but the Fathers were better theologians than critics; they frequently quoted loosely or from memory, often no more of a passage than their immediate purpose required; what they actually wrote has been found peculiarly liable to change on the part of copyists and unskilful editors; they can therefore be implicitly trusted, even as to the manuscripts which lay before them, only in the comparatively few places wherein their own direct appeal to their codices, or the course of their argument, or the current of their exposition, renders it manifest what readings they approved.