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uscripts were four copies of the whole Greek Testament: for Greek manuscripts contain usually only parts of it. Indeed three of Erasmus's manuscripts, when put together made only one copy of the New Testament, the first containing only the Gospels, the second only the Acts and the Epistles, and the third only the book of Revelation. From these three manuscripts, constituting one copy of the whole, he printed his Greek Testament; but not from these manuscripts unaltered. Before he sent them to the press, he made many corrections; and these corrections were founded, partly on his fourth manuscript, partly on his manuscript of Theophylact, partly on the authority of the Vulgate, and partly on his own conjecture.
The value of this edition must depend, first on the value of its materials, and secondly on the mode of employing those materials. Now his manuscript of the Gospels, which is one of the three now preserved at Bale, is so modern a manuscript, that according to Wetstein, it was written in the fifteenth century, and therefore not long before it was used by Erasmus. The manuscript from which he printed the Acts and the Episdes, (another of the three now preserved at Bale) is likewise a modern manuscript, though according to Wetstein, who examined them both, it is older than the former.
The Greek manuscript of the Revelation, which was used by Erasmus, belonged at that time to Capnio: but all the efforts of the learned to discover where it is now preserved, have been hitherto fruidess. The character, which Erasmus himself has given of this manuscript, is so high in respect to its antiquity, as to make it almost coeval with the Apostles "themselves. "Tanta vetustatis" says Erasmus to Stunica, "ut apostolorum tetate scriptum videri possit." But this declaration must be construed with the same latitude, as the similar declaration of the Complutensian editors. For in this very manuscript the Greek text was accompanied with the commentary of Arethas: and Arethas, according to Fabricius, a name of great authority in the literary history of Greek writers, was subsequent to the apostolic age by no less a period, than nine hundred years.
The Greek documents, which Erasmus applied to the correction of the manuscripts, from which he printed his edition, were, his fourth manuscript, and his manuscript of Theophylact. His fourth manuscript, which is the third of the three preserved at Bale, is at least of respectable antiquity, for it was written in the tenth century, and, as it contains the whole New Testament, except the Revelation, it might have afforded him considerable service. But Erasmus made very little use of it, as he himself relates in his answer to Stunica, because he suspected, though it appears unjustly, that it contained readings derived from the Latin Vulgate. The chief source of his corrections therefore was the text and commentary of Theophylact. But Theophylact was the last of the Greek fathers: he lived at the end of the eleventh century: and his quotations from the Greek Testament are not to be compared, in deciding the authenticity of a reading, with the quotation of the early fathers. In the book of Revelation, Erasmus had no other Greek document, than the manuscript, from which he printed. He corrected therefore from conjecture, where that manuscript was inaccurate: and where it was defective, as especially at the end, where the six last verses were wanting, he supplied the defect by Greek of his own making from the Latin Vulgate.
If we may judge from the title-page, Erasmus had likewise at least occasional recourse to the writings of Origen, Chrysostom, and Cyril. But it is hardly possible that Erasmus should have derived many readings from their works, especially from the works of Origen and Cyril, in which the quotations from the Bible are indiscriminately scattered, and of which there was no edition at that time provided with those convenient indexes, which now enable a collector of various readings to turn in an instant to any passage of Scripture. In fact no edition of those fathers had then been printed in Greek; for the editions of Origen, Chrysostom, and Cyril, which were then in print, were only in a Latin translation.
But there is another source of sacred criticism, of which Erasmus made considerable use, though it is the last source, from which we should suppose that an editor would have drawn, who had objected to the use of a Greek manuscript on the ground of its readings being formed from the Latin Vulgate. One should hardly suppose, that the same editor would have had recourse to the Latin Vulgate, for assistance in the formation of his own text. Perhaps however he acted more from necessity than choice. When he published his Greek Testament, the Latin Vulgate had for ages been the oracle of the Church of Rome: antf to have published a New Testament, without shewing some regard* for this oracle, might have exposed him to more embarrassment, than all his learning could have removed.
Lastly, the time which was employed in the execution of this work, bore no proportion to the magnitude of the undertaking. The first application to Erasmus on this subject was made in a letter from Rhenanus bearing date the 17th of April 1515: and this application was repeated on the 30th of April. Now the edition itself, as appears from the subscription, was finished in the following February. Even therefore were it begun immediately on the second application, which from other circumstances there is reason to doubt, it could not have employed more than nine months, both in the preparation for it, and in the printing of it. And Erasmus had not merely Greek materials to arrange; he had to correct a Latin version, which he published in a parallel column with the Greek; he had also to furnish a considerable body of annotations. Nor must it be forgotten, that he was engaged at the same time in the publication of Jerom's works, which alone would have been sufficient to have occupied his whole attention. If it be asked, why Erasmus, under such circumstances, was so precipitate in the publication of the Greek Testament, the answer is, that in this respect Erasmus was not his own master. He had been engaged by Frobenius, a printer and bookseller at Bale, to publish a Greek Testament for a certain sum, and under certain conditions. And the profits of Frobenius, as a bookstller, depended at that time on expedition; they depended on his edition being finished, before the Complutensian, already printed, was delivered to the public
Such is the history of the first edition by Erasmus, of which it was necessary to give a minute description, as it is the basis of all the subsequent editions.
In three years from the publication of the first edition, Erasmus published a second: and as in the mean time he had an opportunity of consulting other Greek manuscripts, or of receiving extracts from his friends, he made numerous alterations in his second / edition, which, according to the account of Dr. Mill, amount at least to Jour hundred. And in 1522 he publisHed a third edition, in which was added the seventh verse in the fifth chapter of St. John's first Epistle, which he had not printed in his two former editions, because it was not contained in his Greek manuscripts.
These three editions were published by Erasmus before he had seen the Complutensian Greek Testament, which, though printed in 1514, remained, through the death of Cardinal Ximenes, more than eight years unpublished at Alcala. But when Erasmus published his fourth edition in 1527, he availed himself of the Complutensian, especially in the book of Revelation, where he had only one manuscript, and that a defective one. According to Dr. Mill's account, in the Prolegomena to his Greek Testament, Erasmus corrected his text of the Revelation in ninety places from the Complutensian edition, but in only twenty-six places in all the other books. The fifth and last edition by Erasmus was printed in 1535: