Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dean John Burgon on Westcott and Hort

"My one object has been to defeat the mischievous attempt which was made in 1881 to thrust upon this Church [the Anglican Church] and Realm [London and the whole British Commonwealth] a Revision of the Sacred Text, which--recommended though it be by eminent names--I am thoroughly convinced, and am able to prove, is untrustworthy from beginning to end." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. v].

"It is, however, the systematic depravation of the underlying Greek which does so grievously offend me: for this is nothing else but a poisoning of the River of Life at its sacred source. Our Revisers (with the best and purest intentions, no doubt,) stand convicted of having deliberately rejected the words of Inspiration in every page, and of having substituted for them fabricated Readings which the Church has long since refused to acknowledge, or else has rejected with abhorrence, and which only survive at this time in a little handful of documents of the most depraved type." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. vi-vii].

"If, therefore, any do complain that I have sometimes hit my opponents rather hard, I take leave to point out that `to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun'; `a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embracing'; a time for speaking smoothly, and a time for speaking sharply. And that when the Words of Inspiration are seriously imperiled, as now they are, it is scarcely possible for one who is determined effectually to preserve the Deposit in its integrity, to hit either too straight or too hard." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. vii-viii].

"In this department of sacred Science, men have been going on too long inventing their facts, and delivering themselves of oracular decrees, on the sole responsibility of their own inner consciousness. There is great convenience in such a method certainly,--a charming simplicity which is in a high degree attractive to flesh and blood. It dispenses with proof. It furnishes no evidence. [that is, Westcott and Hort's text and theory] It asserts when it ought to argue. It reiterates when it is called upon to explain. `I am sir Oracle.' . . . This,--which I venture to style the unscientific method,--reached its culminating point when Professors Westcott and Hort recently put forth their Recension of the Greek Text." "Their work is indeed quite a psychological curiosity. Incomprehensible to me is it how two able men of disciplined understandings can have seriously put forth the volume which they call `INTRODUCTION--APPENDIX.' It is the very Reductio ad absurdum of the uncritical method of the last fifty years. And it is especially in opposition to this new method of theirs that I so strenuously insist that the consentient voice of Catholic Antiquity is to be diligently inquired after and submissively listened to; for that this, in the end, will prove our only safe guide." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. xxv-xxvi].

"But instead of all this, a Revision of the English Authorized Version having been sanctioned by the Convocation of the Southern Province in 1871, the opportunity was eagerly snatched at by two irresponsible scholars of the University of Cambridge [He is talking about Westcott and Hort] for obtaining the general sanction of the Revising body, and thus indirectly of Convocation, for a private venture of their own,--their own privately devised Revision of the Greek Text. On that Greek Text of theirs, (which I hold to be the most depraved which has ever appeared in print), with some slight modifications, our Authorized English Version has been silently revised: silently, I say, for in the margin of the English no record is preserved of the underlying Textual changes which have been introduced by the Revisionists." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. xxx].

Between the first two (B and Aleph) there subsists an amount of sinister resemblance, which proves that they must have been derived at no very remote period from the same corrupt original. . . . It is in fact easier to find two consecutive verses in which these two MSS differ the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 12]

"Next to "D," the most untrustworthy codex is Aleph, which bears on its front a memorable note of the evil repute under which it has always laboured:--viz. it is found that at least ten revisers between the IVth and the XIIth centuries busied themselves with the task of correcting its many and extraordinary perversions of the truth of Scripture." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 13].

"We venture to assure him, without a particle of hesitation, that "Aleph," "B," "D" are three of the most scandalously corrupt copies extant:--exhibit the most shamefully mutilated texts which are anywhere to be met with:--have become, by whatever process (for their history is wholly unknown), the depositories of the largest amount of fabricated readings ancient blunders, and intentional perversions of Truth,--which are discoverable in any known copies of the Word of God." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 16].

"It has been the ruin of the present undertaking--as far as the Sacred Text is concerned--that the majority of the Revisionist body have been misled throughout by the oracular decrees and impetuous advocacy of Drs. Westcott and Hort, who, with the purest intentions and most laudable industry, have constructed a Text demonstrably more remote from the Evangelic verity than any which has ever yet seen the light." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 110]

"What are found in the margin are therefore `alternative readings'--in the opinion of these self-constituted representatives of the Church and of the Sects. It becomes evident that by this ill-advised proceeding, our Revisionists would convert every Englishman's copy of the New Testament into a one-sided Introduction to the Critical difficulties of the Greek Text; a labyrinth, out of which they have not been at the pains to supply him with a single hint as to how he may find his way. . . . What else must be the result of all this but general uncertainty, confusion, distress? A hazy mistrust of all Scripture has been insinuated into the hearts and minds of countless millions, who in this way have been forced to become doubters,--yea, doubters in the Truth of Revelation itself." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. 236-237]

"We deem this laborious method the only true method, in our present state of imperfect knowledge: the method, namely, of adopting that Reading which has the fullest, the widest, and the most varied attestation. Antiquity and Respectability of Witnesses, are thus secured. How men can persuade themselves that 19 Copies out of every 20 may be safely disregarded, if they be but written in minuscule characters,--we fail to understand. To ourselves it seems simply an irrational proceeding. . . . As for building up a Text, (as Drs. Westcott and Hort have done) with special superstitious deference to a single codex,--we deem it about as reasonable as would be the attempt to build up a pyramid from its apex; in the expectation that it would stand firm on its extremity, and remain horizontal for ever." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 342]

"Phantoms of the imagination [That's where they begin.] henceforth usurp the place of substantial forms. Interminable doubt,--wretched misbelief,--childish credulity,--judicial blindness,--are the inevitable sequel and penalty. The mind that has long allowed itself in a systematic trifling with Evidence, is observed to fall the easiest prey to Imposture. It has doubted what is demonstrably true: has rejected what is indubitably Divine. Henceforth, it is observed to mistake its own fantastic creations for historical facts; to believe things which rest on insufficient evidence, or on no evidence at all." [Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 350]

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