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Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers In English - J. B. Lightfoot, D. D., D.C. L., LL. D.

Our documents are as follows.

1. The Manuscript of the Greek Original (G), the famous Medicean MS at Florence, from which Voss published the editio princeps in 1646. It is incomplete at the end, and does not contain the Epistle to the Romans. If this MS had been, as Turrianus described it, ‘emendatissimus’, we should have had no further trouble about the text. But since this is far from being the case, the secondary authorities are of the highest moment in settling the readings.

2. Among these the Latin Version (L) holds the first place, as being an extremely literal rendering of the original. The history of this version is especially interesting to Englishhmen. It was discovered by Ussher in Englishh libraries in two MSS, one of which has been since lost, and was given to the world by him in 1644. It was certainly translated in England, probably by Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (c. A.D. 1250), or his immediate circle. It exhibits a much purer form of the next, being free from several corruptions and a few interpolations and omissions which disfigure the Greek. At the same time however it is clear, both from the contents of the collection and from other indications, that this version was translated from a Greek MS of the same type as the extant Greek MS; and therefore its value, as a check upon the reading of this MS, is limited. Whenever GL coincide, they must be regarded as one witness, not as two.

3. The Syriac Version (S) would therefore have been invaluable as an independent check, if we had possessed it entire, since it cannot have been made later than the fourth or fifth century, and would have exhibited the text much nearer to the fountain-head than either the Greek or the Latin. Unfortunately however only a few fragments (S1, S2, S3, S4) belonging to this version are preserved. But this defect is made up to a considerable extent in two ways. First. We have a rough Abridgment or Collection of Excerpts (Σ) from this Syriac Version for three epistles (Ephesians, Romans, Polycarp) together with a fragment of a fourth (Trallians), preserving whole sentences and even paragraphs in their original form or with only slight changes. Secondly. There is extant also an Armenian Version (A) of the whole, made from the Syriac (S). This last however has passed through so many vicissitudes, that it is often difficult to discern the original Greek reading underlying its tertiary text. It will thus be seen that AΣ have no independent authority, where S is otherwise known, and that SAΣ must be regarded as one witness, not as three.

4. There is likewise extant a fragment of a Coptic Version (C), in the Sahidic (Thebaic) dialect of the Egyptian language, comprising the first six chapters of the Epistle to the Smyrnæans, besides the end of the spurious Epistle to Hero. The date of this version is uncertain, though probably early; but the text appears to be quite independent of our other authorities, and it is therefore much to be regretted that so little is preserved.

5. Another and quite independent witness is the Greek Text of the Long Recension (g) of the Ignatian Epistles. This Long Recension consists of the seven genuine Epistles but interpolated throughout, together with six additional Epistles (Mary to Ignatius, Ignatius to Mary, to the Tarsians, to the Philippians, to the Antiochenes and to Hero). The Latin Version (l) of the Long Recension has no independent value, and is only important as assisting in determining the original form of this recension. The practice of treating it as an independent authority is altogether confusing. The text of the Long Recension, once launched into the world, had its own history, which should be kept quite distinct from that of the genuine Epistles of Ignatius. For the purpose of determining the text of the latter, we are only concerned with its original form.

The Long Recension was constructed by some unknown author, probably in the latter half of the fourth century, from the genuine Ignatian Epistles by interpolation, alteration, and omission. If therefore we can ascertain in any given passage the Greek text of the genuine epistles which this author had before him, we have traced the reading back to an earlier point in the stream than the direct Greek and Latin authorities, probably even than the Syriac Version. This however it is not always easy to do, by reason of the freedom and capriciousness of the changes. No rule of universal application can be laid down. But the interpolator is obviously much more given to change at some times than at others; and, where the fit is upon him, no stress can be laid on minor variations. On the other hand, where he adheres pretty closely to the text of the genuine Ignatius, as for instance through great parts of the Epistles to Polycarp and to the Romans, the readings of this recension deserve every consideration.

Thus it will be seen that though this witness is highly important, because it cannot be suspected of collusion with other witnesses, yet it must be subject to careful cross-examination, before the truth underlying its statements can be ascertained.

6. Besides manuscripts and versions, we have a fair number of Quotations, of which the value will vary according to their age and independence.

From the above statement it will be seen that, though each authority separately may be regarded as more or less unsatisfactory, yet, as they are very various in kind, they act as checks one upon another, the one frequently supplying just that element of certainty which is lacking to the other, so that the result is fairly adequate. Thus A will often give what g withholds, and conversely. Moreover it will appear from what has been said that a combination of the secondary and capricious authorities must often decide a reading against the direct and primary. For instance, the combination Ag is, as a rule, decisive in favour of a reading, as against the more direct witnesses GL, notwithstanding that A singly, or g singly, is liable to any amount of aberration, though in different directions.

The foregoing account applies to six out of the seven letters. The text of the Epistle to the Romans has had a distinct history and is represented by separate authorities of its own. This epistle was at an early date incorporated into the Antiochene Acts of Martyrdom of Ignatius, and thus dissociated from the other six. In its new connexion, it was disseminated and translated separately. It so happens that the Greek MSS which contain this epistle (the Colbertine,18 S. Sab., and 519 Sin.) are even less satisfactory than the Greek MS of the other six (the Medicean); but on the other hand we have more than compensation for this inferiority in the fact that the Acts of Martyrdom (with the incorporated epistle) were translated independently both into Syriac (Sm) and into Armenian (Am); and these two versions, which are extant, furnish two additional authorities for the text. Moreover the Metaphrast, who compiled his Acts of Ignatius from this and another Martyrology, has retained the Epistle to the Romans in his text, though in an abridged and altered form.

From this account it will be seen that the authorities for the Epistle to the Romans fall into three classes.

(1) Those authorities, which contain the epistle as part of the Martyrology. These are the Greek (G), the Latin (L), the Syriac (Sm), and the Armenian (Am), besides the Metaphrast (M). These authorities however are of different values. When the epistle was first incorporated in the Acts of Martyrdom, it still preserved a comparatively pure form. When it has arrived at the stage in which it appears in the extant Greek MS (G), it is very corrupt. In this last form, among other corruptions, it exhibits interpolations and alterations which have been introduced from the Long Recension (g). The MS used by the Metaphrast exhibited a text essentially the same as that of G.

(2) The independent Syriac Version (S) of which only a few fragments remain, but which is represented, as before, by the Syriac Abridgment (Σ) and the Armenian Version (A).

(3) The Long Recension (g), which in great parts of this epistle keeps close to the text of the original Ignatius.








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