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Textual Criticism
of the New Testament
Schaff's Quotes 1
The history of the Bible is to a large extent a history of revealed religion and of the Christian
Church. Its estimate and neglect mark the degrees of temperature in the thermometer of
piety and virtue. The Church of God, the Book of God, and the Day of God are a sacred trinity
on earth, the chief pillars of Christian society and national prosperity. Without them Europe
and America would soon relapse into heathenism and barbarism. The Bible occupies a
conspicuous isolation among books, and is more indispensable to the moral welfare of
mankind than all the libraries of genius and learn-ing. It is not a book simply, but an
institution, an all-pervading and perennial force in the Church ; it is the voice of the living God
; it is the message of Christ, whose divine-human nature it reflects; it is the chief agency of
the Holy Spirit in illuminating, converting, warning, and cheering men. It rules from the pulpit,
it presides at the family altar, it touches human life at every point from the cradle to the grave,
and guides the soul on its lonely journey to the unseen world. It has moulded the languages,
laws, habits, and home-life of the nations of Europe, and inspired the noblest works of
literature and art. The Bible retains with advancing age the dew and freshness of youth, and
readapts itself in ever improving versions to every age in every civilized land. It is now more
extensively studied than ever before, and it will be the standard-bearer of true progress in all
time to come. The Bible was originally intended for all the people that could hear and read,
and was multiplied in the early centuries by translations into the Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Latin,
Gothic, and other languages, as the demand arose.

But during the Middle Ages the ruling hierarchy, fearing abuse and loss of power, withheld
the book from the people, except the lessons and texts in the public service. Vernacular
versions were discouraged or even forbidden. The result was the spread of ignorance and
superstition. The Reformers of the sixteenth century kindled an incredible enthusiasm for the
word of the living God. They first fully appreciated its universal destination, and, with the aid
of the art of printing andthe general education of the people, this destination is carried out
more and more. Even in Rome, since 1870, the book may be freely sold and bought and
preached in spite of papal denunciations of Bible Societies. The Reformers declared the
Scriptures to be the supreme and infallible rule of the Christian faith and life, which must
guide the individual and the Church at large. They went to the fountainhead of truth, and
removed the obstructions which prevent a direct access of the believer to the word of God
and the grace of Christ. They reconquered the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free,
and more martyrs died for the cause of evangelical freedom in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries than for the Christian faith in the first three centuries.

The Christians of the present age are as near to Christ as the Christians of the first
generation. He stands in the centre, and all his disciples in the cir cumference. He does not
recede as the ages advance, but has promised his unbroken presence to his people to the
end of the world, even where only two or three are assembled in his name. In the Gospels
he speaks to us now as he spoke to the Twelve, and in the Acts and Epistles his inspired
apostles teach  us the same truths with the same authority and force as they did on the day
of Pentecost. This unspeakable privilege of direct communion with Christ and his Word can
never be wrested from the Christian people.

To the Reformation we owe the best translations of the Bible ; not mechanical transfers, but
fresh reproductions made under the influence of a secondary inspiration. The sixteenth
century was an age of the republication of the gospel. Foremost among the popular model
versions are the German, the Dutch, and the English. They have gained such a hold on the
people that it is difficult to replace them by any new one, however superior it may be in
accuracy.

The English race has never been entirely without the Bible since the time when Augustine,
with his thirty Benedictine monks from Koine, landed at the Isle of Thanet and preached the
Gospel to King Ethelbert (597). And the different versions mark the different epochs of the
English language and literature. Csedmon s Metrical Paraphrase (680), the Durham Book
(parts of the Gospels), the Venerable Bede s Version of John (735), and several Psalters,
represent the Anglo-Saxon ; the Version of Wiclif and his followers (1380), the Norman-
English ; the several versions of the sixteenth century, the modern English; and the
Authorized Version of 1611 still occupies the first place among the English classics, though
many of its words and phrases are antiquated.

But the Anglo-Saxon versions covered only portions of the Scriptures, and never attained a
popular circulation. Wiclif and the Lollards were condemned by the Roman Church, and his
version, which was derived from the Latin Vulgate, passed out of sight. England was slow in
adopting the new light of the Reformation in the sixteenth century ; but, once reformed, she
took the lead in zeal for the Bible. One effort after another was made to Anglicize it. William
Tyndale, one of the captains in “ the noble army of martyrs” opened the new Bible era under
much persecution (1525), and was followed by Miles Coverdale (1535), Thomas Matthew
(alias John Rogers, the martyr, 1537), Richard Taverner (1539), the authors of the Great
Bible (1540, with a preface by Archbishop Cranmer; hence often called Cranmer s Bible), the
Genevan Bible (1560), the Bishops Bible (1568 and 1572), and King James s Version
(1611).