THE VATICAN CODEX
Among the numberless objects of interest to be seen in Rome, a very high place must be assigned to the Codex Vaticanus, probably the oldest vellum manuscript in existence, and the richest treasure of the great Vatican Library. This famous manuscript, which Biblical scholars designate by the letter B, contains the oldest copy of the Septuagint, and the first Greek version of the New Testament. In addition to the profound interest which its own intrinsic value has inspired, it has been invested with a halo of romance seldom associated with dry palæographical studies—on account of the unreasonable jealousy and capricious conduct of its guardians. For a long time it was altogether inaccessible for study to Biblical scholars, and few were allowed even to see it. These restrictions, however, have now happily to a considerable extent been removed; and provided with an order, easily obtained from the Vatican librarian, or from the Prefect of the sacred palaces, in reply to a polite note, any respectable person is permitted to inspect it.
The first feeling which one has in the Vatican Library is that of surprise. You might walk through the Great Hall and adjoining galleries without suspecting the place to be a library at all; for the bookcases that line the lower portion of the walls are closed with panelled doors, painted in arabesque on a ground of white and slate colour, and surrounded by gilded mouldings, and not a single book is visible. The vaulted ceiling of the rooms is glowing with gold and ultramarine; the walls are adorned with beautiful frescoes representing the different Councils of the Church; and magnificent tables of polished Oriental granite, and of various precious marbles, vases of porphyry, malachite, and alabaster, and priceless candelabra of Sevres china—the gifts of kings and emperors—occupy the spaces between the pillars and pilasters, and cast their rich shadows on the gleaming marble pavement. A vast variety of objects of rare beauty, artistic value, and antique interest arrest the attention, and would amply reward the study of weeks.
The nucleus of the present magnificent collection of books and manuscripts was formed in the Lateran Palace in the year 465 by Bishop Hilary; and, augmented by succeeding pontiffs, the accumulated stores were transferred in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V., the founder of Glasgow University, to the Vatican. What Nicholas began was completed by Sixtus IV. The library was classified according to subjects and writers, and Demetrius Lucensis, under the direction of Platina, made a catalogue of it which is still in existence. During this period Vatican MSS. were lent out to students, as attested by authentic registers containing the autographs of those who enjoyed the privilege. A little later the celebrated Vatican printing press was annexed to the library; and the office of correctors or readers for the accurate printing of ancient books which were wanting in the library was instituted. Pope Sixtus V. erected the present splendid edifice, and used every effort to increase the great collection. Several valuable accessions were made to it after this date, including the library of the Elector Palatine of Germany, the library of the Dukes of Urbino, the libraries of Christina, Queen of Sweden, of the Ottoboni, commenced by Pope Alexander VIII., and of the Marquis Capponi, and the MSS. taken from the convent of S. Basilio at Grotta Ferrata. Under Innocent XIII. in 1721 an attempt was made to prepare for the press a full catalogue of all the MSS. in every language. It was edited by Joseph Simon Assemani and Stephen Evodius, and three volumes were published. But the task was found too great for any one's strength, and was given up finally on account of the political disturbances of the time.
The library is a vast unexplored mine of wealth. Unknown literary treasures are contained in the closed cabinets. Among the thirty thousand manuscripts may be hid some of the ancient classical and early Christian treatises, which have been lost for ages, and whose recovery would excite the profoundest interest throughout the civilised world. A large number of these manuscripts had once belonged to the library of the famous Monastery of Bobbio, in the north of Italy, founded in the year 614 by the Irish St. Columbanus. The Irish and Scotch monks who inhabited this monastery were in the dark ages the most zealous collectors of manuscripts in Europe. At the close of the fifteenth century the convent was impoverished and deserted by its lawful occupants; and the Benedictine monks who succeeded them gave away their literary treasures partly to the Ambrosian Library at Milan and partly to the Vatican Library. Cardinal Angelo Mai, who discovered more lost works and transcribed more ancient manuscripts than any one else, found among these treasures in Milan and Rome several most interesting treatises that had long passed into utter oblivion.
But though permission is freely granted to duly accredited visitors who may be desirous of consulting manuscripts, the labour of searching among the huge bewildering piles would be overwhelming, and the thought of it would at once paralyse effort. There is no proper catalogue of the printed books; and the list of manuscripts is so deficient as to be altogether worthless. During six months, from November till June, the library is open for study every day, except Thursday and the numerous saints' days, whose recurrence can be easily ascertained beforehand so as to prevent disappointment. I cannot imagine a greater privilege to a student. It is the highest luxury of learning to explore the literary wealth of these princely apartments, that seem to have a climate of their own, like the great Basilica close at hand—the climate of eternal spring—and whose atmosphere breathes the associations of much that is grandest and most memorable in human history. To the charms of some of the noblest productions of human genius working by pen, or pencil, or chisel—adorning roof, and wall, and floor—and vanishing down the long vista in a bright perspective of beauty—Nature adds her crown of perfection. For nothing can exceed the loveliness of the views from the windows of the Papal gardens outside, with their gay flowery parterres, sparkling fountains, depths of shadowy glades and half-hidden sculptured forms of rarest beauty; and, beyond, a purple mountain range, summits old in story, closing up the enchanted vista through the ruddy stems and deep green foliage of tall stone-pines; the whole glowing in the brilliant sunshine and the exquisite violet transparency of the Roman sky. How delightful to spend whole days there and forget the commonplace present in converse with the master minds of the ages, and in dreams of the heroic past; the half-closed shutters and drawn curtains producing a cool and drowsy atmosphere, in delicious contrast with the broiling sun without! Learning, however, would be too apt to fall asleep, and be shorn of its strength on the Delilah lap of such splendid luxury.
A few of the most interesting books and manuscripts are now contained in two handsome cabinets placed in the centre of the Great Hall of the library. These cabinets have two cases, an outer and an inner one, and are carefully double-locked. The librarian opened them for me, and displayed their contents, which are usually seen only through a thick plate of protecting glass. In the one cabinet were a manuscript of the Latin poet Terence, of the fourth and fifth century; the celebrated palimpsest of Cicero de Republica, concealed under a version of St. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, the oldest Latin manuscript in existence; the famous Virgil of the fifth century, with the well-known portrait of Virgil; the Homilies of St. Gregory of Nazianzum; the folio Hebrew Bible, which was the only thing that Duke Frederico of Urbino reserved for himself of the spoil at the capture of Volterra in 1472, and for which the Jews in Venice offered its weight in gold; a sketch of the first three cantos of the Gerusalemme Liberata in the handwriting of Tasso; a copy of Dante in the handwriting of Boccaccio; and several of Petrarch's autograph sonnets. In the other cabinet is the great gem and glory of the Library—the Codex Vaticanus, in strange association with a number of the love-letters of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn, in French and English. This curious correspondence—which, after all that subsequently happened between the English monarch and the Papal Court, we are very much surprised to see in such a place—is in wonderful preservation. But though perfectly legible, the archaic form of the characters and the numerous abbreviations make it extremely difficult to decipher them. The tragic ending of this most inauspicious love-making invests with a deep pathos these faded yellow records of it that seem like the cold, gray ashes of a once glowing fire. In the same cabinet is seen another and altogether different production of this royal author—namely, the dedication copy of the "Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Luther," written in Latin by Henry VIII. in defence of the seven Roman Catholic Sacraments against Luther, and sent to Leo X., with the original presentation address and royal autograph. The book is a good thick octavo volume, printed in London, in clear type, on vellum, with a broad margin. Only two copies are in existence, one in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and the other in the Vatican. For this theological dissertation Henry VIII. received from the Pope the title of "Defender of the Faith," which has descended to the Protestant monarchs of England ever since, and is now inscribed on our coinage. Luther, several of whose manuscripts are in the Library, published a vigorous reply, in which he treated his royal opponent with scant ceremony. The author himself had no scruple in setting it aside when his personal passions were aroused. And Rome has put this inconsistent book beside the letters to Anne Boleyn, as it were in the pillory here for the condemnation of the world.
But deeply interesting as were these literary curiosities, I soon turned from them and became engrossed with the priceless manuscript of the Greek Scriptures. I had very little time to inspect it, for I was afraid to exhaust the patience of the librarian. In appearance the manuscript is a quarto volume bound in red morocco; each of the pages being about eleven inches long, and the same in breadth. This is the usual size of the greater number of ancient manuscripts, very few being in folio or octavo, and in this particular resembling printed books. Each page has three columns, containing seventeen or eighteen letters in a line. It is supposed that this arrangement of the writing was borrowed directly from the most primitive scrolls, whose leaves were joined together lengthwise, so that their contents always appeared in parallel columns, as we see in the papyrus rolls that have recently been discovered. This peculiarity in the two or three manuscripts which possess it, is regarded as a proof of their very high antiquity. The writing on almost every page is so clear and distinct that it can be read with the greatest ease.
What astonishes one most is the admirable preservation of this Codex, notwithstanding that it must be nearly sixteen hundred years old. It has quite a fresh and recent look; indeed many manuscripts not fifty years old look much more ancient. No one, looking at the faded handwriting of Tasso, Petrarch, and Henry VIII., beside it, would imagine that they were newer by upwards of twelve hundred years. This peculiarity it shares in common with the architectural remains of imperial Rome, which time has dealt so tenderly with that they appear far more recent than the picturesque ruins of our medieval castles and abbeys. This singular look of freshness in the Vatican manuscript is owing to three causes. In the first place, the vellum upon which it is written is exceedingly fine and close-grained in texture, and therefore has resisted the dust and discoloration of centuries, just as the thin and close-grained Roman brick has withstood the ravages of time. Every one is struck with the wonderful beauty of this vellum, composed of the delicate skins of very young calves. And this feature is a further proof of the high antiquity of the Codex, for the oldest manuscripts are invariably written on the thinnest and whitest vellum, while those of later ages are written on thick and rough parchment which speedily became discoloured. In the second place, we have reason to believe that the manuscript was for many ages almost hermetically sealed in some forgotten recess of the Lateran and Vatican Libraries, and thus unconsciously guarded from the attacks of time. In the third place, a careful scrutiny of the individual lines reveals the curious fact that the whole manuscript, six or seven centuries after it had been written, was gone over by a writer, who, finding the letters faint and yellow, had touched them up with a blacker and more permanent ink.
It is a strange circumstance that none of the facsimile representations of the pages of the manuscript that have been published give a correct idea of the original, with the exception of that of Dean Burgon in 1871. Not only do the number of lines in a given space in all the so-called facsimiles differ from that of the manuscript, but the general character of the letters is widely different. The importance of seeing the original, therefore, for purposes of study, is apparent. The uncial letters are very small and neat, upright and regular, and their breadth is nearly equal to their height. They are very like those in the manuscript rolls of Herculaneum. Originally the manuscript had no ornamental initial letters, marks of punctuation, or accents; a small interval of the breadth of a letter at the end of particular sections serving as a simple mode of punctuation. The number of such divisions into sections is very considerable,—one hundred and seventy occurring in St. Matthew; sixty-one in St. Mark; one hundred and fifty-two in St. Luke; and eighty in St. John,—and in this respect the Vatican Codex is unique. Where these divisions do not occur, the writing is continuous for several consecutive pages. Thus, while each of the beatitudes, each of the parables, and each of the series of generations in the genealogies of our Lord, are marked off into separate paragraphs by the small empty spaces referred to, there is no break in the text from the twenty-fourth verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew to the seventeenth verse of the twentieth chapter. So much has space been economised, that when the writer finished one book he began another at the top of the very next column; and throughout the manuscript there are very few breaks, and only one entire column left blank. This empty space is very significant; it occurs at the end of the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark's Gospel,—thus omitting altogether the last twelve verses with which we are familiar. That this was done purposely is evident, for it involved a departure from the writer's usual method of continuous writing. The blank column testifies that he knew of the existence of this gap at the end of the Gospel, but did not know of any thoroughly trustworthy material with which to fill it up. And acting upon this authority our Revisers have printed the passage that has been supplied as an appendix, and not as a portion of the original Gospel of St. Mark. The only attempt at ornamentation in the Vatican manuscript is found at the end of Lamentations, Ezekiel, St. John's Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, where "an arabesque column of crossed lines, with dots in the intersections at the edge," and surmounted by the well-known monogram of Christ, so frequent in the inscriptions of the Catacombs, composed of the letter P in a cruciform shape, has been delicately and skilfully executed by the pen of the scribe. Most of the books have also brief titles and subscriptions.
Such was the original state of the Codex, but the critic of the ninth or tenth century already referred to introduced a great many changes. Not only did he deepen the colour of the ink; he, as Dean Burgon tells us, also accentuated the words carefully throughout, marking all the initial vowels with their proper breathings. He also placed instead of the small initial letter of each book an illuminated capital six times the size of the original uncial, painted in bright red and blue colours which have still retained nearly all their old brilliancy. At the top of the column, whenever a new book commenced, he also placed a broad bar painted in green, with three little red crosses above it. Nor was this all; he exercised his critical judgment in revising the text, and marking his approval or disapproval by certain significant indications. "What he approved of he touched up anew with ink, and added the proper accents; what he condemned he left in the faded brown caligraphy of the original and without accentuation." In this way the Codex may be called a kind of palimpsest, in which we have some portions of the original manuscript, and the rest overlaid with the later revision. We must discriminate carefully between these two elements; for it is obvious that it is the oldest portion that is most interesting and suggestive.
The Codex consists of upwards of one thousand five hundred pages, of which two hundred and eighty-four are assigned to the New Testament. Originally it contained the whole Bible, and also the Apocrypha and the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians; which last was so much esteemed by the early Christians that it was regularly read in the churches, and bound up with the Scriptures—to which circumstance, indeed, we are indebted for its preservation to our own time. At present the greater part of Genesis and a part of the Psalms are missing from the old Testament; while, in the New Testament, the Epistle to Philemon, the three Pastoral Epistles, the latter part of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, in the original handwriting, are lost; their place having been supplied, it is said, in the fifteenth century, from a manuscript belonging to Cardinal Bessarion. From the evidence of its materials—arrangement and style of writing—the very high antiquity of this Codex may be inferred. It is generally supposed to have been written in the beginning of the fourth century. Vercellone, who edited Cardinal Mai's version of it, argues, from the remarkable correspondence of its text with that used by Cyril of Alexandria in his Commentary on St. John, that it must have been written at Alexandria, where there was a band of remarkably skilful caligraphists. He believes that it was one of the fifty manuscript copies of the Holy Scriptures which Eusebius, by order of the emperor Constantine the Great, got prepared in the year 332 for the use of the Christian Church in the newly-formed capital of Constantinople. And a circumstance that seems to corroborate this opinion is, that the Vatican Codex does not contain, as has already been mentioned, the last twelve verses of St. Mark's Gospel, a peculiarity which Eusebius says belongs to the best manuscripts of the Gospels. On this supposition, the Vatican Codex would be the very first edition of the Bible that had the seal of a sovereign authority.
But it may be of even older date than the time of Constantine, for its marginal references do not correspond with the Eusebian canons; and this fact would seem to imply that it belonged to the third century. Its only rival in point of antiquity is the famous Sinaitic Codex, known by the Hebrew letter [Hebrew: alef], discovered in a most romantic way by Tischendorf in the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. Tischendorf has pronounced a decided opinion, not only that this manuscript is of the same age as the Vatican one, but that the Vatican manuscript was written by one of the four writers who, he infers from internal evidence, must have been employed upon the Sinaitic Codex. This opinion, however, has been disputed by other scholars; and it seems improbable, for the Sinaitic Codex has four columns to the page, whereas the Vatican Codex has only three. Its uncial letters are also much larger and plainer than those of the Vatican manuscript; and it has the Ammonian sections and Eusebian canons written in all probability by the original hand.
There can be little doubt that the Vatican manuscript goes, if not farther, at least as far back in date as the Council of Nice, and is the oldest and most valuable of extant monuments of sacred antiquity. It may have been transcribed directly from some Egyptian papyrus, or through the medium of only one intervening prototype. Perhaps it was a single copy saved from the fate of many surrendered to be burned by the class of Christian renegades called traditores, who averted the martyr's death in the great Diocletian persecution by giving up the sacred books of their religion to their enemies. For this pagan emperor endeavoured not only to deprive the Christian Church of its teachers, like his predecessors, but also to destroy the sacred writings upon which the faith of the Church was founded, and whose character and claims were beginning at this time to be generally recognised. The Alexandrine Codex—which is placed first on the list of uncial manuscripts, and therefore distinguished by the letter A—belongs undoubtedly to a more recent time. It is said by tradition to have been written by a noble Egyptian martyr named Thecla about the beginning of the fifth century, and was sent as a present to Charles I. by Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, who brought it from Alexandria. It is now one of the greatest treasures of the British Museum. The voice of tradition is confirmed by internal evidence, for it has only two columns in a page, while capital letters of different sizes abound, and vermilion is frequently introduced—all marks of the period indicated.
How or when the Codex Vaticanus was brought to the Vatican Library is a matter that is altogether involved in obscurity. It probably formed part of the library in the Lateran Palace, which goes nearly as far back as the time of Constantine, and was transferred along with the other contents of that library to the Vatican in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V. We first hear of it distinctly in a letter written to Erasmus in 1533 by Sepulveda; although there is a somewhat obscure reference to it a few years earlier in the correspondence of the Papal librarian Bombasius with Erasmus. A Roman edition of the Septuagint portion based upon the Vatican MS. appeared in 1587. After that period to 1780 it was several times collated; among others, by Bartolocci, the Vatican librarian; by Bentley, who employed for the purpose the Abbate Mico and Rulotta; and by Birch of Copenhagen, who travelled under the auspices of the King of Denmark. Along with many of the best sculptures and most valuable art-treasures of the Vatican, the precious Codex was taken to Paris in 1810 by order of Napoleon Buonaparte, that unscrupulous robber of foreign palaces and churches for the aggrandisement of his own capital; and while there it was carefully examined by the celebrated critic, J.L. Hug, who was the first to determine, from the nature of its materials and its internal evidence, its very great antiquity. When it was restored, along with the other spoils of the great Roman Palace, it was sealed up by its jealous possessors, and could no longer be consulted for critical purposes. In 1843 Tischendorf could only see it for two days of three hours each. Tregelles, who went to Rome in 1845 for the special purpose of consulting the Codex, provided with a strongly-recommendatory letter of introduction from Cardinal Wiseman, was only permitted to see it, but not to transcribe any of its readings. His pockets, as he himself tells us, were searched, and his pen, ink, and paper taken away, before he was allowed to open it; and if he looked at a passage too long the manuscript was snatched rudely from his hands by the two prelates in watchful attendance. When Dean Alford, in 1861, made use of the manuscript for four days, his labours of collation were carried on in the face of much opposition from the librarian, who insisted that the order of Antonelli permitted him only to see the manuscript, but not to verify passages in it.
The reason alleged to the scholars of Europe for this childish jealousy was that the authorities of the Vatican were themselves preparing to publish a thorough collation, and they did not wish the glory of the achievement to pass away from Rome. Cardinal Mai began, indeed, to prepare an edition for publication in 1828; but it did not appear till 1857, three years after the cardinal's death, under the learned editorship of Vercellone. There was a rumour copied into the Edinburgh Review from Sir Charles Lyell's work on the United States, that the cardinal was prevented from publishing his work by Pope Gregory XVI., on account of its variations from the Vulgate, which had been solemnly sanctioned by the decrees of the Council of Trent and the Church's claims to infallibility. It was further asserted that he finally obtained permission to publish his edition on condition that he inserted within brackets the celebrated text 1 John v. 7, which was wanting in the manuscript. Whether this was true or not, it is certain that what the learned cardinal gave to the world was more an edition, a critical recension of the text, than a faithful transcript of the Vatican Codex. Although he had the MS. with him at his residence in the Palazzo Altieri—a circumstance which gave rise to the belief at the time that it had disappeared during the French occupation of Rome—he could only bestow upon the arduous task the scanty leisure available from more engrossing duties. The work was therefore so imperfectly done that the cardinal himself was reluctant to publish it; and the learned and honest Barnabite under whose editorial auspices it appeared was obliged to append a formidable list of errata, and to make a gentle apology in his preface for his friend's inaccuracies. But, with all its defects, the five quarto volumes of the cardinal's reprint has added largely to our critical knowledge of the Codex; and it derives a special interest from the circumstance that it was the first time the Greek Scriptures had ever been published in Rome.
Since then Tischendorf, during his second visit to the Eternal City, had an audience of Pope Pius IX., and offered to bring out at his own expense an edition of the Vatican Codex similar to that which he had prepared, under the auspices of the Russian emperor, of the Sinaitic Codex. This request the Pope refused, under the old pretext that he wished to publish such an edition himself. Tischendorf, however, was allowed to use the manuscript more freely than on the former occasion; though several times it was taken away from him, and his labours interrupted, because of alleged breaches of faith on his part. The result of this unusual privilege was that the great Textuary has issued by far the most accurate and satisfactory edition which we possess at present. Pius IX. carried out his intention of publishing a Roman edition in five volumes, printed by the famous press of the Propaganda. The New Testament instalment appeared under the editorship of Vercellone and Cozza in 1868; but Vercellone dying soon after, the subsequent volumes were prepared under less able supervision. The famous manuscript therefore labours under the disadvantage of uncertainty, there being no guarantee that any reading is really that of the original. And while the Alexandrine Codex has been reproduced by photography, and the Sinaitic Codex has been faithfully published, the exact palæography, or the genuine text as it stands, of the Vatican Codex is still a desideratum among scholars.
The total disappearance of all manuscripts previous to the Vatican Codex is a matter of surprise, for it has been calculated on sufficient evidence that many thousands of copies of the Gospels were circulated among Christians at the end of the second century. The loss may be attributed to the fact that the older manuscripts were written on less enduring materials. Previous to the second century the principal writing material was paper made of papyrus, a plant found at one time not only in Egypt, but also in the north of Palestine and various parts of southern Italy and Sicily, although now almost extirpated; and we have reason to believe, from one or two incidental notices in St. John's writings, that it was the material employed by the apostles themselves. This papyrus paper was of a very perishable nature, and manuscripts written on it, apart from the wear and tear of continual use, would succumb to the process of decay in a comparatively short period. We are indebted for the preservation of all the papyrus manuscripts that have come down to us from a remote antiquity to the fact of their having been kept in exceptionally favourable circumstances, as in the hermetically-sealed interiors of Egyptian tombs. Those exposed to the air have all disappeared ages ago. In the second century parchment was brought into common use as a writing material, and papyrus paper gradually fell into disuse. And with the change of material the shape of manuscripts was changed; the ancient form of the papyrus-roll giving place, in manuscripts written on parchment, to the form of books with leaves. How we should value the original rolls which contained the handwriting of the evangelists and apostles! With what profound interest should we gaze upon the signature and salutation of St. Paul affixed to the Epistles which he dictated to an amanuensis on account of his defective eyesight! How we should prize the apostolic autograph of the Epistle to the Galatians, of which the writer says, "Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand." What a thrill would pass through us at the sight of those two pastoral Epistles, at the close of which St. John says,—"I had many things to write, but I will not with pen and ink write unto thee"! Our legitimate veneration, however, would be apt to pass over into idolatrous superstition. We should worship such precious documents as the early Christians worshipped the relics of the saints. It was, therefore, a wise providential arrangement that such a temptation should have been taken out of the way. All the original manuscripts of the sacred writings disappeared, on account of the fragile character of their materials, probably in a few years after the death of the writers, no special care having been taken to preserve them; and, as Dr. Westcott has remarked, not a single authentic appeal is made to them in the religious disputes regarding the exact words of certain passages in the Gospels and Epistles in the writings of the second century.
But though the Vatican Codex is the oldest manuscript of the New Testament in existence, it does not follow from that circumstance that it is the most reliable. Widely different views of its critical value are entertained by scholars. By some it has been accepted as the most authoritative of all versions, while others have regarded it as one of the most corrupt and imperfect. Indeed the conjecture has been hazarded that the very circumstance of its continued preservation during so many centuries is a proof that it was an unreliable copy long laid aside, and therefore exempt from the wear and tear under which genuine copies of the same date have long ago perished. These extreme views, however, are unjust. While it is not free from many gross inaccuracies and faults, it presents upon the whole a very fair idea of the Greek Vulgate of the early Church, and is worthy of as much respect at least as any single document in existence. The chief peculiarity of the Codex is the large number of important omissions in it; so that, as Dr. Dobbin says, it presents an abbreviated text of the New Testament. A few of these omissions were wilfully made, while the large majority were no doubt caused by the carelessness of the writer in transcribing from the copy before him; for there are several instances of his having written the same words and clauses twice over. On the supposition of the MS. being one of the fifty prepared at Constantine's order, the extreme haste with which such a task would be executed would account for the multitude of clerical errors. Besides the last verses of the Gospel of St. Mark already alluded to, and no less than three hundred and sixty-four other omissions in the same Gospel of greater or less moment, the doxology at the end of the Lord's Prayer, in Matthew vi. 13, is wanting; as also the description of the agony of the Saviour and the help of the angel in Luke xxii. 43, 44; the important clause, "For he was before me," in John i. 27; the miraculous troubling of the water in the Pool of Bethesda in John v. 3, 4; the narrative of the adulterous woman in John vii. 53 to viii. 11; the question of Philip and the answer of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts viii. 37; the significant and affecting incidents in Paul's conversion mentioned in Acts ix. 5, 6; and the well-known disputed text of the Three witnesses in Heaven, in 1 John v. 7. These omitted passages, which, from internal evidence, apart from the external testimony of the largest number of critical documents, we must acknowledge to be genuine, are the most serious of the lacunæ, amounting altogether to the extraordinary number of two thousand four hundred and fifty-six. They give the document a very distinctive character; while even the less striking disappearances from the text, which can only be apprehended on a close collation, more or less affect the sense. German critics have stamped several of these omissions with their approbation, especially those referring to the supernatural, owing to their well-known repugnance to the miraculous element in Scripture.
There are other peculiarities of the Codex which greatly interested me; but the discussion of them would require me to go too much into critical details. I must mention, however, the occasional use in the manuscript of a Latinised orthography. The name of Silvanus, for instance, mentioned in 1 Peter v. 12, is rendered into the Latinised Greek Silbanou, instead of Silouanou, the common Greek form; and in 2 Peter iii. 10, instead of the last word of the verse, katakaêsetai, "shall be burned up," occurs the singular word eurethesetai,—which means, "shall be found." The Syriac and one Egyptian version have the reading "shall not be found"; and either the "not" was accidentally omitted when the Vatican Codex was copied from an earlier exemplar that had that reading, or the writer had some confused idea of the Latin word urerentur, "shall be burnt up," in his mind, and adopted the word eurethesetai from its resemblance to it—as a Latin root with a Greek inflection. Some curious examples of Latin forms and constructions might be given; and this circumstance has led to the hypothesis that the origin of the Vatican manuscript might, after all, have been Italian, and not Alexandrian as is commonly supposed. The Codex has also been accused of theological bias; for in John i. 18, "only begotten God" is substituted for "only begotten Son." This is considered by some to be a reference to the polemics of the fourth century regarding the Arian doctrines; although this supposition would make it of later date. The order of the books of the New Testament in the Codex is different from that with which we are familiar. The Catholic Epistles from James to Jude follow the Acts, according to the order of the ancient Greek Church; then come the Pauline Epistles; and the Epistle to the Hebrews comes in between the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians and First Timothy. Its sections, however, are numbered as if it had originally been placed between the Epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians; thus showing that this was the arrangement in the older document from which the Codex was copied. One of the Moscow manuscripts, it may be mentioned in connection with this novelty in location, places the Epistle to the Hebrews in a position as abnormal as in the Vatican manuscript—namely, before the Epistle to the Romans.
In the formation of the Received Text of our New Testament, the Vatican manuscript was not employed. The basis of the early printed editions—the Elzevir and those of Robert Stephens the celebrated Parisian printer—was the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, published in 1516, compiled with the aid of such manuscripts as he found at Basle, and the Complutensian Polyglot—so called after Complutum, the modern Alcala, in Spain, where it was printed in 1522, under the patronage of Cardinal Ximenes, whose text was said to have been formed from manuscripts sent from the Papal Library at Rome—the Vatican Codex certainly not being among the number, as abundantly appears from internal evidence. But though the Vatican manuscript was not employed in the construction of our Authorised Version, it has recently been used as the chief authority by the New Testament Revisers. Drs. Westcott and Hort have built up their Greek text with special deferential regard to it; and this exclusive devotion has been severely condemned by several critics, such as Dean Burgon, who regard it as an endeavour to balance a pyramid upon its apex. But apart from the contradictory views of such textuaries, there can be no doubt that the Vatican Codex has been of the greatest service in these later days in correcting the Authorised Version, and helping to restore the sacred text as nearly as possible to the purity of the original autographs. And it has added its most valuable testimony to that of the many other ancient manuscripts of the Sacred Writings in existence, that, notwithstanding unimportant variations of readings naturally caused by the great multiplication of copies, the sacred text from the time when it first appeared to the present has been preserved substantially uncorrupt; so that we have the same divine truth presented to us that was presented to the Christians of the ages immediately succeeding the time of the apostles.
With all these remarkable associations and points of interest connected with the Vatican manuscript, it is not to be wondered at that I should gaze upon it with a species of veneration. It transported me in imagination to a period when the canon of the New Testament was as yet in a state of flux. The evidence of the Muratorian fragment in the Ambrosian Library at Milan shows to us that the separate books of the New Testament had indeed been collected into one; and a belief in their Divine inspiration equally with the Old Testament Scriptures had begun to be entertained. But there was as yet no prevailing unanimity of opinion as to what books should be admitted into the Canon and what books should be excluded. No formal attempt had as yet been made to reconcile conflicting testimonies; or, if made, the recensions undertaken did not meet with general acceptance. Even a good many years afterwards, as late as at the Council of Laodicea in 361, doubts were still expressed as to the claims of the Apocalypse to canonicity. This book was not originally included in the Vatican Codex; for the manuscript copy of it bound up in the volume is of much later date, and in a different handwriting. And this hesitation regarding the full recognition of certain books, proves the great care that was exercised, and the deep sense of responsibility that was felt, in the collection of the other books. The formation of the sacred Canon was done gradually and imperceptibly; but the result to every thoughtful mind is more suggestive of the inspiration of that Spirit whose operation is like the wind that bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth - than if the process had been more formal and conspicuous.
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