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Aug 13, 2010

Robinson: Western Text

Excerpt from: J.A. Robinson, Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature, Ch. 19, Local Origin of the Primitive Western Text of the Acts., (London, 1893)

Page Index

Western Text of Acts: - Local Origin, J.A. Robinson
    The Western Text - its antiquity
    Non-African Origin - no support
    Montanist Centers - Carthage, Lyons, Rome (2nd cent.)
    Wisdom Motif - and glosses
    Pericope Adultera - the deletion of the PA, Hort

Local Origin of the Primitive
Western Text of the Acts.

(CHAPTER 19) p. 191 fwd.

And now we have at last succeeded in tracking the Western corruptions to their origin. At least we have gone so far with the matter as to say that we know to what cause (viz. systematic Latinization) to attribute the major part of the variants in the Acts of the Apostles: and although there is still much to be said with regard to the variants in the Western Gospels, I think we may safely attack the question of local origins, keeping our attention chiefly on the text of the Acts, and avoiding hasty generalisations with regard to the other parts of the New Testament. We have shewn, as we believe, if the canon hold that community of reading implies community of origin, that the Old Latin texts are all from one fountain ; however much they may have emended their Greek from their Latin, and translated and re-translated, they go back into a single root which we call the primitive Western bilingual. And this primitive bilingual must be very ancient.

A study of its interpolations in Luke and the Acts shewed it to be a Montanist text, probably known to the Martyrs of Carthage.

A study of the relations between D and the Sahidic version intimates that it passed through the hands of those persons who made the eclectic Egyptian copies and versions; this carries it back beyond the time of Origen, who may be responsible for Alexandrian textual eclecticism, and who in any case was probably one of the worst textual critics the New Testament has ever had.

The coincidences between D and Irenaeus take us again to a primitive translation that cannot be as late as the end of the 2nd century. And finally, an examination of the relics of Tatian's Harmony and of the Syriac versions shews reason for believing that the bilingual, at least as far as concerns the Gospels, is older than Tatian.

But the actual determination of the local origin of the Latin text has been a problem that has hitherto defied solution; we must not even assume that the same origin will be the birthplace of the Latin Gospels and of the Latin Acts of the Apostles, nor that all the Gospels were primitively translated by the same hand and in the same place.

Now, the right way to settle such a question does not consist in citing puzzling remarks of Augustine as to the relative merits of Italian and African texts, and the superior verbal fidelity of the African rendering: these criticisms only result from Augustine's observation of discrepancy between texts current in North Africa and texts current in Italy in his own day: they are not scientific.

It may be doubted whether Augustine or Jerome had the slightest idea as to where the New Testament was originally translated, or even that there was a single primitive translation. They merely saw a variety of types of Latin text around them, and they criticised them superficially and used them eclectically; Origen did much the same with the Greek texts in Alexandria.

1. It is pleasing to find that at this point my researches lead to the same conclusion as those of Besch. I am surprised at this, for in many points I suspect my results are fatal to some of his reasonings with regard to the noncanonical sources of the New Testament; but in the following points we seem to agree:

Besch, Agrapha pp. 350, 351, - "Es ist namlich der Cod. Gantahr., oder Yiebnehr dessen Archetypus, mit welchem fast sammtliche patristischen Gitate, vorab sammtliche lateinische zusammenhangen. Denn der Archetypus des God. D ist ohne Zweifel die Quelle der altlateinischen Versionen gewesen. Von diesen altlateinischen Versionen aber sind die lateinischen Autoren vor Hieronymus beherrscht, bo nament lich luvencus, Hilcuius, Augustinus Nun es ist aber ausser Zweifel, dass der Archetypus des Cod. D, welcher bis in das zweite Jahrhundert znriickzadatieren ist, auf die vornicaenischen Yater griechischer Zunge, vorab Clemens and Origenes, wie liberhaupt auf die Alexandriner, grossen Einfluss ausgettbt hat, dass er aber auch mit Tatian sich beriihrt, folglich bis in lustins Zeiten seine Spuren znrfiokTerfolgen lasst. Thatsachlich schrumpft also die grosste Zahl der griechisohen and lateinischen Parallelcitate beinahe auf einen einzigen Hauptzeagen zasammen, welcher in einem Archetypus des Cod. D zu erkennen ist."

Non-African Origin

One of the first suggestions to occur in such an enquiry as this is that we should test the various texts for Africanism. Indeed this is the only course open to those who undertake to prove that the primitive text is African. It is not enough for them to say, as they do, that Tertullian evidently knew of a translation of the New Testament: for the underlying assumption that this translation could only have been made shortly before Tertullian used it is not verifiable, and indeed it is probably far from the truth.

The search for individual Africanisms has not, however, been a very successful thing. Some persons deny altogether the existence of an African dialect distinct from the Vulgar- Latin. But such a position is hardly a tenable one : it is surely impossible that the Latin spoken in a Punic country should shew no variations of style or matter from the Latin spoken amongst the Celts or the Lombards.

The best investigation of the subject is that made by Sittl 1 who goes straight to the inscriptions for the peculiar forms of speech, and tests the literature by the inscriptions. But Sittl could find no satisfactory catalogue of Africanisms in the Old Latin texts, and while he admitted the substantial Africanism of some parts of the Latin Old Testament, and believed in the existence of a special version associated with Tertullian, he concluded that the so-called Italic version had its origin and home not in Africa but in Italy. He further conjectured that, if it had arisen in Rome, Augustine would have called it Romana and not Itala ; and suggested some smaller Italian city - say Naples - as the centre of emanation of Latin texts. But, as we have already intimated, Augustine was not likely to know anything in the world about the primitive habitat of texts, so that this suggestion of Sittl is valueless.

On the whole we must admit that no very definite conclusions have as yet been reached, and I propose to begin the examination de novo, not with the hope of resolving the whole of the ambiguities of the ancient Western textual history, but because it is only by trying patiently to solve a part of the problem by a new examination, that the way can be made for some one else to solve the remaining part.

1. Die lokalen Verschiedenheiten der lateinischen Sprache, (Erlangen, 1882).

A Montanist Text

Carthage, Lyons, Rome

Let us begin then with the Western text of the Acts of the Apostles, and confine our attention for the present to that. When we say that it is an early text, and that it is a Montanizing text and a Latinizing text, there is nothing decisive as to locality about either of these statements: but we cannot be far wrong in adding that this practically shuts us up, in seeking for the centre of textual distribution, to the three. cities, Rome, Lyons and Carthage: because all these Churches have a strong Latin element, and all of them Montanize, the order of intensity being probably Carthage, Lyons, Rome.

Each city furnishing one noted teacher at least, who was tinctured more or less completely with the Montanist ideas, viz.: Tertullian , Hennas, Irenaeus, the order of intensity being that of the names. 1 But before we can get any further, we must examine the data of the case more closely.

We must not assume that these Montanist glosses are coeval or collocal with the primitive bilingual; but we may begin by saying that their distribution textually is very wide, and they must, as a body of glosses, be very early. Here we part company from Dr. Salmon, who remarks that,

... he has "found reason, on investigating the history of Montanism, which clearly is combated in the Muratorian fragment, to think that it did not make its appearance in the West until a little after the year 200!" 2

1. We may limit the Montanism of Irenaeus to the earlier years of his life.

2. Salmon, Introd. to New Test., p. 62.

Montanist Glosses

Sophia, Wisdom Motif

If a single one of the group of Montanist glosses be traced in the text of Tertullian, and another in the text of Irenaeus, it would be enough to prove that the Montanist edition of the Acts was much earlier than the year 200, and what becomes then of the theory of 3rd-century Western Montanism?

The fact is that neither the history nor the character of Montanism is as yet properly understood; the eyes of even judicious critics having been dimmed through a long heredity of heresy-hunting. But, when we once realize the fundamental spiritual aims of Montanism (instead of merely treating it as an outward division of the Church), however much such aims may be liable to fanatical extravagance, a number of difficulties become clear to us in the history and discipline of the Church, to say nothing of the illumination thrown upon the text of the Codex Bezae.

Every verse of the Old Testament, or of the New, which treats of the descent of the spirit of prophecy is a hinge in the Montanist system.

If they read in the Old Testament that the Sophia enters into holy souls in all ages and makes them Mends of God and prophets, this magnificent statement is the reason why S. Priscilla says that Christ appeared to her in female form and imparted to her the Sophia, 3

The passage in the book of Wisdom is seen to be a key-text, and so, when the Montanist glossator comes to the statement in the Acts that the opposers could not resist the wisdom that was in Stephen, he felt constrained to add a few remarks about the Sophia, which, as an imparted principle, dwelt in Stephen.

We must also have a regard to Montanist proof-texts in the New Testament: for here one of the fundamental texts is John 16:8, "The Paraclete shall convince the world."

That is why the gloss in Acts 6:10 adds the words "since they were convinced by Him", meaning the Holy Spirit, and not Stephen ; "quoniam probatur illis ab illo."

So that a study of a system of glosses like these in the Acts furnishes us with what we may call the quintessence of the Montanist theology.

3. Of. Origen, Homil. in Jer. 14:6,

The Pericope Adulterae

A Montanist Deletion (Jn. 7:53-8:11)

No less light is thrown by the same study upon the difficult questions of textual criticism. Let us give a single illustration : the case of the famous interpolation (or omission) in John 7:53 - 8:11.

Dr. Hort thinks that,

"few in ancient times, there is reason to think, would have found the section a stumbling-block except Montanists and Novatians." 4

Evidently Dr. Hort did not think that Montanist tampering with the text amounted to much; we on the contrary have found reason to believe that it was a very far-reaching influence : and that in the present instance the Montanist Churches either did not receive this addition to the text, or else they are responsible for its omission ; but at the same time it can be shewn that they knew the passage perfectly well in the West ; for the Latin glossator of the Acts has borrowed a few words from the section in Acts 5:18,

και επορευθη εις εκαστος εις τα ιδια

I think it may be safely said that more than forty of the troublesome glosses in the Acts of the Apostles can be set down with a confidence that borders closely on certainty to the hand of the Latin Montanist referred to above.

And nothing can be more important for the acquiring of right views with regard to the genesis of New Testament readings than such a fact as this. For the attestation of such a group of readings is demonstrably capable of combination and can be replaced by a single factor; and the evidence of this single factor, when it stands by itself, is of the nature of a proved corruption.

The reader will be interested to work this point out for himself, and he will be surprised to find the power of this Montanised copy: he will find its influence in almost all Latin texts and fathers; he will trace it in Codex E, which is probably a direct descendant of Codex Bezae, and in a stray cursive or two; he will find it in the Sahidic and Ethiopic versions, shewing that it passed to Alexandria ; in the margin of the later Syriac, which represents a Greek MS. which Thomas of Heraclea consulted in Alexandria; and probably in the Syriac text itself, perhaps in both of its recensions, though this is a point which may require more examination.

It will not, however, be found in the Great Uncials, nor in the ordinary Greek texts and fathers. Wide as its scope is, this text and its descendants are not universal in their influence.

The lines on which it moves can be marked out, the areas over which it is current can be shaded in. And if this explanation be a correct one for the diffusion of the single group of readings referred to, then it is a vera causa for similar textual phenomena; and we say unhesitatingly that the occurrence of a given reading in Western texts and in the main body of the versions is no proof at all that the reading did not originate in Rome, or even Carthage, but rather is a suggestion to the contrary.

4. Hort, Introd. Notes on Select Readings, p. 86.

5. The origin of the gloss is confirmed by the words added a little lower down in the text; viz. εγερθεντες το πρωι, which is an adaptation of John 8:1. The man who made this addition not only knew the Gospel of John, but knew it in its (supposed) interpolated form. Moreover, it looks as though the interpolation was made from the Latin side. Thus our body of glosses furnishes important evidence for the antiquity of the doubtful section.

Those who are interested in this particular subject will find that the semi-Montanist Hermas knows the disputed section ; for in the fourth Mandate, Hermas discusses the problem of the woman who has been convicted of adultery, and the duties of the husband and wife are laid down by the Shepherd, who finally sums up his teaching by the words,

ου διδωμι αφορμην ινα αυτη η πραξις ουτως συντεληται,
αλλα εις το μηκετι αμαρτανειν το ημαρτηκοτα

The disputed section was therefore known in Rome and to Hermas.

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