Biographies of Textual Critics

Note: This section includes biographies only of critics who worked after the invention of printing. Editors such as Alcuin who worked during the manuscript era will be covered in the appropriate place in the history of their editions. Also, this list includes only dead critics, on the principle that living critics might still do something to enhance (or, indeed, damage) their reputations.

Contents: Kurt Aland * Johann Albrecht Bengel * Richard Bentley * John W. Burgon * José Maria Bover * Angela Burdett Coutts * Francis Crawford Burkitt * A. C. Clark * Desiderius Erasmus * Robert Estienne (Stephanus) * Arthur L. Farstad * John Fell * Margaret Dunlop Gibson: see under Agnes Smith Lewis * Johann Froben * W. W. Greg * Caspar René Gregory * Bernard Pyne Grenfell * Johann Jakob Griesbach * J. Rendel Harris * Fenton John Anthony Hort * A. E. Housman * Arthur Surridge Hunt: see under Bernard Pyne Grenfell * (Sir) Frederic Kenyon * Karl Lachmann * Agnes Smith Lewis * Angelo Mai * Carlo M. Martini * Bruce M. Metzger * Eberhard Nestle * Erwin Nestle * Henri Quentin * F. H. A. Scrivener * Johann Salomo Semler * Stephanus: see Robert Estienne * Burnett Hillman Streeter * Constantine von Tischendorf * Samuel Prideaux Tregelles * Hermann Freiherr von Soden * Brooke Foss Westcott * Johann Jakob Wettstein * Francisco Ximénes de Cisneros *

Kurt Aland

1915-1994. Born in Berlin, and died in Münster/Westphalia. Perhaps the preeminent critic of the Twentieth Century; certainly one would be hard-pressed to name a critic with a greater list of achievements. It is harder to see whether Aland actually affected the practice of textual criticism.

Aland's publications are too numerous to list; we can only mention the works most accessible to students. Aland managed the apparatus of the Nestle-Aland editions starting with the twenty-first edition, and created the new and much more comprehensive format used for the twenty-sixth edition. He also produced the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, which is now the most comprehensive Gospel synopsis in existence. He maintained the list of manuscripts after the death of Von Dobschütz and Eltester, and eventually released the Kurzgefasste Liste der Griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments. With his second wife Barbara, he wrote one of the standard introductions to New Testament textual criticism. He established the "Thousand Readings in a Thousand Minuscules" project which eventually resulted in the volumes of Text und Textwert der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments.

Perhaps even more notable, Aland founded the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster. This is the only college in the world devoted solely to NT textual studies. (Though one might wish it cast a slightly wider net, examining other textual traditions as well.)

Finally, Aland was one of the five editors responsible for the United Bible Societies text, the most widely-used New Testament text of the present period.

For all this, it is surprising to note how little influence Aland had on textual theory. Eldon Epp wrote two articles on "the Twentieth Century Interlude in Textual Criticism," and while Aland answered by pointing out a great deal of activity, very much of it work he himself had inspired or guided, he was unable to answer Epp's point that there had been no real methodological progress. Despite Aland, our textual theory remains a matter of groping -- of "Reasoned Eclecticism" (in which every textual critic does what is right in his own eyes) and arguments about the "Cæsareasn" text. This is a time during which everyone uses the UBS text though no one entirely accepts it.

Aland described his own theory as the "local-genealogical method." As described, this would seem to be an application of the rule "that reading is best which best explains the others": Aland creates a stemma of the readings in a particular variant, trying to determine which one is the source of all the others. In practice, however, Aland clearly preferred a strongly Alexandrian text. This means that his description must be modified: He constructed a genealogy under the influence of the knowledge of text-types and the history of the text. Now this, in theory, is probably the most correct method possible. But it only works if the history of the text is accurately known. Aland did not study this matter in any detail -- he acknowledged only the Alexandrian and Byzantine texts, and had a Hort-like dislike of the Byzantine text. With these restrictions on his method, it's hardly surprising that few textual critics have adopted it.

Johann Albrecht Bengel

1687-1752. Born in Winnenden, Württemberg, Germany, and later Abbot of Alpirsach in that principality. His 1734 edition has been called the first Protestant attempt "to treat the exegesis of the New Testament critically" -- a reference primarily to his Gnomon (1742), but also to his New Testament. What the latter actually was was a minimally revised edition of the Textus Receptus which had critically chosen readings in the margin. In practice, therefore, Bengel's importance rests not on his text, nor on his collations, which Scrivener notes are rather poor, but on the introduction to his text, his marginalia, and the articles which explained them. Beginning in 1725, Bengel discussed textual families (distinguishing the Asiatic text, which is our Byzantine text, and the African text, which is everything else). He also outlined critical principles, including the highly significant "prefer the harder reading." These modern principles caused Bengel to propose more changes to the Textus Receptus than any other edition before Lachmann's. (Bengel was the first to note how probable variants were, ranging from α for a certain reading on down to ε.) This, unfortunately, led to charges the the editor was perverting the scriptures (not for the last time!).

Richard Bentley

1662-1742. Classical and New Testament critic, and a master of many fields (portions of his correspondence with Sir Isaac Newton are preserved). His father died when he was thirteen, and his maternal grandfather sent him to Oxford. He earned his B.A. in 1680. Soon after, he became tutor to the son of the future Bishop of Worcester, and was able to browse the father's notable library, which allowed him to study many of the subjects previously closed to him. In the 1690s he served as one of William III's chaplains and also was keeper of the Royal Libraries. Appointed Master of Trinity College (Cambridge) in 1699/1700, he had already been interested in textual criticism (both sacred and secular) for some years. In the secular field, he edited Horace and Terence, discovered that Homer had used the digamma (Ϝ), exposed the Epistles of Phaleris as forgeries, and generally improved the tools available to practitioners in the field -- although he also ignited controversies which twice caused him to be removed from his duties at Trinity; he was accused (with justice) of despotism and arrogance. And even A. E. Housman (who by New Testament standards was himself over-fond of emendation) admitted that Bentley would often resort to emendation when none was needed -- even while admitting that Bentley's suggestions, when emendation was needed, were far better than others before him. (Housman, in his "Introductory Lecture" as a professor, called Bentley the greatest scholar England -- perhaps all Europe -- had ever produced. And Housman then proceeded to savage Bentley for his heavily edited edition of Paradise Lost which eliminated much that Milton actually wrote. The Milton edition is a clear example of both Bentley's vision and of his defects.)

In 1720 Bentley published a prospectus for a New Testament edition, including the final chapter of the Apocalypse as a sample, which included an outline of critical principles. In this he argued that a text based on early manuscripts would differ from the Textus Receptus in two thousand instances, and similarly from the Clementine Vulgate in two thousand instances. In fact Bentley did little with the manuscripts available to him; his critical apparatus was disorganized and the notes and collations he left are no better. (His personal life was much the same; he was constantly involved in scholarly and personal controversies; he was an intriguer and seemingly misappropriated university funds. He was lampooned in Pope's Dunciad -- happily for Bentley, in book IV, which was not published until after Bentley's death. Swift also disliked and condemned him, although most of the criticisms are unfair. Bentley was a bad administrator but a fine scholar.) Still, he recognized that the Textus Receptus would need significant alteration to agree with the best manuscripts; he is thus a forerunner of Lachmann. Bentley's critical rules, too, were radical; some still have significance today. Sadly, Bentley never completed his edition; he involved himself in many projects, and perhaps did not originally realize the amount of work needed to prepare an edition; in any case, his New Testament finally languished, and the money raised to pay for it had to be returned to the subscribers after his death.

José Maria Bover

1877-1954. One of a number of Jesuits who were noteworthy critics in the early twentieth century. Bover, a Spaniard, published in Spanish and Latin; his earliest works of note (which began to appear in 1925) were primarily arguments for an eclectic approach to text-types (as opposed to Hort's support of the neutral text); he also analyzed a few recently-discovered manuscripts. He is most remembered today, however, for his edition of the Greek New Testament, which was based largely on his principles -- it does not follow any text-type closely, and appears to show some influence from von Soden (on whose apparatus Bover's own apparatus is largely based).
In examining the relatively small number of readings where Bover actually discussed his opinions, I am struck by how often he seemed to prefer readings on doctrinal rather than textual grounds. I find that Bruce M. Metzger also expressed this opinion in discussion textual criticism by Spaniards. The sample is very small, but it might be something to be aware of.

Angela Burdett Coutts

1814-1906. Not a textual critic (as far as I know), but a collector of great significance, so it might be helpful to have her bio. Daughter of Francis Burdett and Sophia Coutts, she inherited a banking fortune from her maternal grandfather, making her perhaps the richest woman in Britain other than the queen. Charles Dickens, who met her in 1839 and soon became a friend, dedicated Martin Chuzzlewit to her, and she was present at the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. A major philanthropist, in 1871 she was made a baroness -- supposedly the first woman to be made a baroness in her own right. The main reason she is remembered, however, was her library. She inherited a Shakespeare First Folio from her father, and later bought another; she also acquired many Biblical manuscripts, mostly in 1870-1872. At age 66, she married her assistant, an American named William Bartlett, who was just 29. He inherited her library at her death, but didn't do much with it, and when he died, the library was dispersed, enriching several libraries. Among the manuscripts which she acquired were 223 532 533 534 535 536 537 538 539 540 541 542 543 544 545 546 1518.

John William Burgon

1813-1888. British conservative critic and Dean of Chichester. An intemperate defender of the Byzantine text and the Textus Receptus, remembered primarily for such polemic works as The Revision Revised and The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. Although most of the manuals speak only of the the uncompromising tone and reactionary zeal of his writings, Burgon was in fact an enterprising and careful student of manuscripts; his work in this area deserves to be remembered.
Burgon also earned a very minor measure of fame for his poetry, in particular the poem "Petra," which includes the famous lines
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as Time.
(A line usually read as metaphorical, but Burgon was the type to believe in the literal truth of Genesis. So, to him, the world was 6000 years old and Petra about half that age.)

Francis Crawford Burkitt

Usually cited as F. C. Burkitt. John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 1617, has this to say of his work outside textual criticism: "son of Crawford Burkitt, was b[orn] in London, Sept. 3, 1864, and educated at Harrow ad Trin[ity] Coll[ege], Cambridge (B.A. 1886, M.A. 1889). In 1905, though a layman, he was appointed Norrisian Prof[essor] of Divinity at Cambridge. He has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 1904, and is the author of various works on Biblical Criticism and Early Church History. He contributed two tr[anslations] (12, 194) to the Eng[lish] Hym[nal], 1906. As a textual critic, his greatest importance lies in his work on the Old Syriac.

A(lbert) C. Clark

Classical and New Testament scholar. LIke many textual "freethinkers," Clark came to NT criticism from work on classical texts -- in this case, the orations of Cicero, on which he became the world's greatest authority. When he turned to the New Testament, he turned to the text of Acts, and tried diligently to stand criticism on his head. He noted, correctly, individual manuscripts tend to lose rather than gain text. He generalized this to mean that the canons of criticism lectio brevior praeferenda is false. This position is defensible, and to some extent the answers to Clark talked past his points. But when Clark attempted to reconstruct the text of Acts based on these principles, he perhaps went too far, developing a general preference for the "Western" text regardless of other criteria. Few of Clark's results have been accepted, even though there are probably useful cautions in his writings.

Desiderius Erasmus

1469?-1536. Humanist; editor of the first published Greek New Testament. The (obviously illegitimate) son of a priest, Erasmus had a clerical education and became a monk, but later was granted a release from his vows. Very much a humourist, works such as In Praise of Folly poked fun at the problems in the church. He kept this within limits, however; Erasmus was not a Protestant, and did not rebel against the Catholic Church as Luther did.

It is unfortunate for him that copyright did not exist in his time; In Praise of Folly is said to have gone through 39 editions in his lifetime, and it is said that in some years he authored more than one-tenth of all books sold. Had he earned royalties, he would have been rich. As it was, he eventually left England (e.g.) because he couldn't make a living.

Erasmus is, of course, the editor of the Textus Receptus, as well as the author of assorted religious and secular writings. His critical skills are often held in contempt -- and it is certainly true that the Textus Receptus is a poor monument indeed, with a text mostly Byzantine but with enough peculiar readings to make it a bad representative of the type. The early editions also contained a number of typographical errors that was simply astonishing. Still, Erasmus did about as well as could have been expected in his time; all the materials known to him (except the Vulgate and 1eap) were Byzantine. Erasmus did exercise a certain amount of critical judgement, and -- odd as it sounds -- where he departs from the Byzantine text, it is more often than not in the direction of the early manuscripts.

Erasmus had one other positive influence on Biblical publishing, if not on the Biblical text: At a time when many books had no system of page references, and even those that had something were usually foliated rather than paginated (a less useful system of reference, since a folio contained more text than a single page), he insisted on page numbers.

Robert Estienne (Stephanus)

1503-1559. French (later Genevan) publisher. Stephanus was not a textual critic as such, but his several editions of the Greek New Testament offered noteworthy innovations. His most important work was his third edition (1550). Textually it is just another Textus Receptus, but in the margin it includes the readings of over a dozen manuscripts plus the Complutensian Polyglot -- symbolized by Greek numbers; the manuscripts are believed to have included the uncials Dea, Le and the minuscules 4e, 5, 6, 7e, 8 (probably), 9 (possibly), 38 (possibly), 82, 120, 398, 2298; also certain seemingly lost manuscripts, e.g. Tischendorf's 8a/10p, 3r. The citations were neither complete nor particularly accurate, but they were at least specific; the manuscripts are cited individually. His fourth edition of 1551, published after he went to Geneva and became a Protestant, is also noteworthy, as it pioneered our modern system of verses.

Like most names associated with the Textus Receptus, such as Froben and Desiderius Erasmus, the Stephanus family tends to be held in low esteem today. This is unfair. Henri Estienne, who founded the business, became a printer when he married Guyonne Viart, the widow of a printer named Jean Higman. McMurtrie, p. 328, notes that he actually counted one of John Calvin's theological teachers among his editors. Henri died in 1520, and his widow went on to marry Simon de Colines (talk about inspiring a lot of printers!). Henri's second son Robert is "the" Estienne/Stephanus. So determined was he to set a high standard for scholarship that he and his wife (herself an excellent classical scholar) actually used Latin as the language of their home. Stephanus's importance was not confined to publishing a Greek Bible. He published many scholarly works, including a Vulgate edition and multiple editions of the Hebrew Bible. He also produced the noteworthy Thesaurus linhuae latinae (first of several editions in 1531), plus Latin/French dictionaries. The publishing house's Greek, Latin, and Hebrew dictionaries would quickly became standard. Supposedly he actually offered rewards to anyone who could find errors in his proof sheets (which he hung outside his shop to let people examine them; McMurtrie, p. 330).

They also produced beautifully-typeset books. Unlike the cramped, unreadable editions of Froben, a Stephanus book in Latin was incredibly handsome, often using type based on the designs of the gifted Claude Garamond. Looking at samples of their works, it is hard to tell them from modern printing except the for the use of the old form of s ( ∫, the one that looks like an f). Indeed, their beautiful litagures and initial caps are something modern printers might want to think about reviving -- the books really are works of art. Too bad their Greek works used the hideous sorts of fonts that the Aldine press had pioneered (for more on this, see again the article on Books and Bookmaking).

For much of his life, Stephanus had the patronage of François I of France; his migration to Geneva (1550) was a side effect of that monarch's death in 1547. François I, incidentally, collected all of Stephanus's Greek works; from this would eventually grow the first copyright library.

Although Robert was the most noteworthy member of the Estienne family, his brothers and the members of the next generation were of some note (though they had little influence on textual criticism). Robert's older brother François was a bookseller, though not a very important publisher; he died in 1553. Charles (c. 1504-1564), the youngest brother, was a famous in his day for his scholarship and teaching; he published a noteworthy edition of Cicero in 1555, as well as assembling ancient materials on subjects such as medicine and agriculture. He took over Robert's printing office in 1555, but went bankrupt in 1561 and ended his life in prison.

Robert's son Henri (Henri II, 1528-1598) continued his father's business in Geneva, and though his productions did not gain the fame of his father's, he produced an important Greek dictionary and various works of classical authors. He too ended up in trouble with the authorities and left Geneva in 1578, apparently never settling down after that (McMurtrie, p. 332). Another son, Robert (II) took over the printing office of Charles and died in 1571, though the firm was nearly bankrupt by then. A third son, François (1537-1582), was also a printer, in both Geneva and Paris; apparently he and his descendents kept the Stephanus imprint alive into the seventeenth century.

Arthur L. Farstad

1935-1998. American conservative critic and Majority Text advocate. Editor, with Zane C. Hodges, of The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. One-time president of the Majority Text Society. Active in the translation of the New King James Version.

John Fell

1625-1686. Classical and New Testament critic. Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, (Anglican) Bishop of Oxford, and one of the most important figures in the history of the Oxford University Press. Fell acquired better type and equipment for the press, internalized the financing (bearing some of the responsibility himself), and set up a regular schedule for the publication of classical authors. He was also vital in re-establishing Oxford after the Restoration of 1660; the Civil War and the strict rules of the Cromwell era had thrown the University (which had been a key center for the deposed Charles I) into chaos. He was also a notable scholar, having earned his M.A. at the age of 18. He supposedly preached his sermons in blank verse.

Fell's contributions to New Testament criticism are not as great, but still notable; he edited an edition of Cyprian, and also published a New Testament in 1675. This volume did not have a noteworthy text (differing only very slightly from the Elzevir 1633 edition of the Textus Receptus), but it has, for the time, an unusually full apparatus (though most of the materials cited were available elsewhere). It also had an introduction discussing the practice of textual criticism.

Somewhat later, Fell encouraged the work of John Mill, though Fell's death meant that Mill had to find other support for the publication of his work. Thus it is truly sad that Fell should be best remembered for Thomas Brown(e)'s doggerel adaption of Martial which begins "I do not love (thee/you), Doctor Fell."

Supposedly this incident arose when Brown's college was about to expel him. Fell declared that he would allow Brown to stay if he could translate, off the top of his head, Martial's lines
Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
Hoc tantum possum dicere, None amo te.

Brown came up with his quip in response -- but, amazingly, was not expelled, and even wrote a non-insulting epitath for Fell.

Johann Froben

1460-1527. Known among New Testament scholars only as the publisher who pushed Erasmus into publishing the Textus Receptus, and then published it in too much haste, the modern view of Froben as as excessively ambitious publisher is probably unfair. For starters, Erasmus's New Testament was affordable, as the Complutensian Polyglot never was. But it wasn't Froben's first Bible. In the 1490s, he had published the first small-format Latin Bible. And it wasn't any worse than any other Bible of the era (although it wasn't any better, either). He was not a scholar, but he encouraged scholars, and he deserves a lot of credit for his attempts to make available inexpensive, portable Biblical references. He also produced better-looking books than many scholars (at least in Latin; his Greek faces were not attractive).
In addition to hiring Erasmus to edit a New Testament, he also encouraged Erasmus to edit various patristic works -- Ambrose, Cyprian, Jerome, Tertullian.
Even his advertising sometimes did some good. Froben was not the first printer to put in marginal references to divide chapters into smaller sections (usually A to D or A to G); other printers had done it for years, and indeed, the idea went back centuries (although it had been an idea rather than the sections being marked). But Froben didn't just put in the marginal letters; he boldly announced them -- and by so doing, pushed other printers to do the same. Our modern system of verses goes back to Stephanus, but it was Froben who made the general idea popular.

W. W. Greg

1875-1959. Best known today as an editor of early printed works such as Shakespeare, and best known as the chief exponent of Copy Text editing. He did, however, apparently have some interest in older texts -- UCLA University Research Library MS. 170/331, a copy of Stephen Langton's Interpretiones Hebraicorum Nominum from the thirteenth century (i.e. written within a century of Langton's composition), was owned by Greg in the 1920s.

Caspar René Gregory

1846-1915†. American/German student of manuscripts. His first great accomplishment was his preparation of the prolegomena to Tischendorf's eighth edition (1884-1894). In 1908 he published his great catalog of manuscripts, Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, providing for the first time a comprehensive and (usually) orderly arrangement of the materials known to critics. Like his predecessor Tischendorf, Gregory sought out and made available large numbers of manuscripts, though he did not edit an edition. As a critic Gregory was not particularly original; he generally accepted the theories of Westcott and Hort. Although of American ancestry, he adopted Germany as his homeland, and volunteered on the German side in World War I. He was accepted despite his age, and killed in battle in 1915.

Bernard Pyne Grenfell

1870-1926. As an Oxford student, he had been planning to study economics when the publication of the newly-found copy of Aristotle's Constitution of Athens turned him to papyriology. He was chosen in 1895 to work with David George Hogarth on an exploration of the Fayum. Hogarth soon left to pursue excavations in Mesopotamia instead, and Grenfell was joined by a young friend, Arthur Surridge Hunt (died 1934). The two worked together for most of the next thirty years, with most of the interruptions being forced (e.g. Hunt served in the First World War, and Grenfell was often ill in his later years). They were not really Bible scholars, being interested in everything they turned up, but their many discoveries, including the famous Oxyrhynchus Papyri, had a great deal of effect on Biblical criticism. Their attention was drawn to Oxyrhynchus because it was known that it had had many churches and monasteries in the Roman period. They decided to investigate, and their idea paid off in a very big way.
Their work at Oxyrhynchus continued only until 1906/1907; Grenfell became ill the following season, and an Italian team took over the work there.
It is interesting to note that A. E. Housman corresponded with Hunt about their findings, and some parts of their reconstructions of texts were strongly influenced by Housman's suggestions.

Johann Jakob Griesbach

1745-1812. German critic, who exercised great influence in many Biblical disciplines. He studied at Tübingen, Halle (where he studied under J. Semler), and Leipzig, becoming a professor at Jena in 1775. He is considered responsible for synoptic studies, first using the term "synoptic" in his Commentarius Criticus in 1811.

But if Griesbach's influence on synoptic studies was great, his influence on textual criticism is perhaps even more fundamental. Although it was Semler who introduced Griesbach to the theory of text-types, Griesbach is largely responsible for the modern view of types. It was Griesbach who popularized the names Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Western. He also paid particular attention to matters not previously studied in depth -- e.g. patristic quotations and the Armenian version.

Griesbach published a list of fifteen critical canons, which he exercised with much greater skill than most of those who followed him (e.g. while he accepted the rule that we should prefer the shorter reading, he hedged it around with many useful warnings -- not just those about scribal errors, author's style, and nonsense readings, but also warning of the dangers of omission of non-essential words such as prepositions). It is probably fair to say that while most modern critics accept most of Griesbach's rules, they do not apply them with nearly as much skill. (The standard example of Griesbach's skill is that he deduced the Vaticanus text of the Lord's Prayer in Luke 11:2-4 working only from the handful of minuscules and uncials known to him.)

Griesbach published several editions of the New Testament text (1775-1777, 1796-1806, 1803-1807). Textually, these did not differ greatly from the Textus Receptus, because Griesbach made it a policy only to print readings already printed by some other editor -- but his extensive margin noted many other good readings, and (more to the point) he used a system to note where these readings were as good as or better than those in the text. This was a fundamental forerunner of the {A}, {B}, {C}, {D} notations found in the United Bible Societies Editions. It is safe to say that all more recent critical editions have been influenced by the work of Griesbach.

J(ames) Rendel Harris

1852-1941. British critic and paleographer. Born in Plymouth, England, into a dissenting family, he was a Quaker most of his adult life. A graduate of Cambridge, where he had studied mathematics before turning to textual criticism, he taught at several universities before becoming curator of manuscripts at the John Rylands library (1918-1925). He never produced an edition, but authored some useful general works (e.g. New Testament Autographs, 1882) and many journal articles; he also collated such important manuscripts as 892.
His was an eventful life. During World War I, he made a trip to Egypt, and his boat was sunk on both his trip there and the trip back; although he survived both times, his friend J. H. Moulton, the famed grammarian, died of exposure following the second sinking. Harris was also involved in the translation of the Twentieth Century New Testament. Textually, he tended to favor the "Western" text.

Fenton John Anthony Hort

1828-1892. British critic and professor at Cambridge. Arguably the greatest textual critic of his age. Best known for the New Testament edition which he edited with Brooke Foss Westcott. What made this edition so important, however, was not its text (though it has been the model for all editions since) but its Introduction [and] Appendix, which was entirely the work of Hort. In it, Hort outlined his theory of text-types (which was adapted from Griesbach and his predecessors). In the process, Hort is considered to have destroyed all claims that the Byzantine Majority text is early. This is perhaps the most important effect of Hort's work; nearly every Greek text edited since his time has been "Hortian." (For discussion of his arguments, see the article on the Byzantine Priority position.)

Hort was also a member of the committee which prepared the English Revised Version, and most of that edition's departures from the Byzantine Text were made on the advice of Hort. (The committee's policy was reportedly to hear the arguments of Hort and Scrivener and then vote on which reading to adopt.)

Those interested in arguments about creationism might be interested to learn that Hort was a polymath who, as a young man, studied the sciences; in 1860, he wrote to a friend that "the book which has most engaged me is Darwin."

A(lfred) E(dward) Housman

1859-1936. British poet and critic, best known to the public for his poetry. (Only two books of his poetry -- A Shropshire Lad, 1896, and Last Poems, 1922 -- appeared in his lifetime, but among recent poets they are second only to Kipling in their folk/popular sense and second to none in their straightforward lyricism; this is probably the source of his popularity.) Housman was, however, a textual critic of note, publishing an edition of Marcus Manilius (1903-1930) and various essays which are at once highly influential and, for the most part, readable. A recent study of his work declares, "[F]ew can doubt that this provocative scholar, whose primary sphere of excellence was the textual criticism of classical Latin poetry, deserves a place on the all-time podium for British practitioners in the field" (David Butterfield and Christopher Stray, editors, A. E. Housman, Classical Scholar, p. vii). It is perhaps characteristic of Housman (a recluse who is believed by many to have been a homosexual -- after a man he loved abandoned him, some have claimed that his annual trips to France were for sexual adventures) that he chose to work on Manilius, an obscure author (of a five-volume poetic work, "Astronomica") whose works held little personal appeal to him -- he did not care for science. But he did not limit his work to Manilius; he also published an important edition of Lucan as well as working on the text of Juvenal, and he published more than forty reviews and papers on Greek subjects, and more than one hundred on Latin.

The son of a lawyer who was a drunk and financially dishonest, Housman lost his mother on the day he turned twelve, became a deist at age thirteen, and turned atheist at age twenty-one. When he died, he had himself cremated -- still a very rare thing at the time. His ashes were buried in Shropshire, even though his only real connection with that county was the fact that he had used it in his book title.

It is fascinating to note that Housman flunked out of Oxford in 1881 (he had become fascinated with textual criticism, and gave too much attention to that and too little to regular classes), earned a low-class degree a year later, and went to work in the patent office. He gradually learned enough to earn his way into scholarly circles. Hard to imagine that happening today (I should know!). He spent ten years in the patent office (where he was said to have been the worst clerk in the office), devoting his spare time to studying and publishing scholarly articles (hard to believe an unqualified author could publish today, either). His first articles were published in 1888. After five years of brilliant work, he finally earned an academic appointment in 1892, as professor of Latin at University College, London. He would change schools in his career, but he continued his academic work until he died.

Despite his atheism, his devotion to scholarship was near-absolute -- e.g. he had no interest in money, even refusing to take royalties on reprints of A Shropshire Lad (when first published, in fact, he almost decided not to put his name on the book). He was also such a perfectionist that he reportedly refused to have a major lecture published because he could not verify one reference in it.

It should be noted that Housman's chief interest was in actual editing; the manuscripts themselves held little if any fascination for him. He rarely if ever did his own collating, relying instead on the labors of others (Butterfield & Stray, p. 47; p. 145 quotes him as saying, "I do not intend to collate the MSS myself, nor do I urge any other scholar to that undertaking, unless he thinks he can find nothing better to do." This obviously raises the question, if good scholars will not collate manuscripts, does he want the task left to incompetents?). And he did not always properly note the writings of correctors of manuscripts.

He is also, as far as I know, the only person ever to engage in pre-emptive textual criticism on his own funeral ceremony. His funeral hymn had a line "Through time and place to roam," and sniped, "The printer will already have altered place to space." Nor did he restrict his tongue-lashings to those who could defend themselves: "The 'sauce aux huîtres' which we had last night with the cod was not oyster sauce but Hollandaise into which an oyster or two had been dropped, combining no better than the Duke of Clarence with the Malmsey" (referring to the brother of King Edward IV who, upon being convicted of treason, supposedly was drowned in a barrel of malmsey wine).

Housman never engaged in New Testament criticism; his beliefs would probably have caused him to avoid it even had he been invited to do so. His essays on criticism are, however, widely quoted, both for their common sense and their (sometimes sarcastic) cleverness; he once said that one of his books sold out only because the public had heard that it was scurrilous. He once attacked the scholarly work of a member of the committee that granted him his professorship -- and who later was in position to review Housman's publications. (Housman, e.g., wondered if the other had "any news from the sick bed of our beloved sovereign Queen Anne?" -- seemingly implying that the other was two centuries behind the time.) And he wrote viciously to a potential publisher because that publisher had rejected A Shropshire Lad many years earlier. Trust me, if you want to get published, you don't tell publishers how stupid they are. But Housman held grudges that were too strong for far too long). Despite his brilliance, one must resist the temptation to hold him in too high an esteem; his warnings against over-reliance on particular critical principles are valid, but his warnings, e.g., against the cult of the "best manuscript" should not cause us to esteem all manuscripts equally (the warnings are correct, particularly in classical criticism, but they are easily misunderstood and exaggerated). In addition, he was perfectly willing to resort to personal insult in scholarly argument -- e.g. he wrote of Elias Stroeber, who published an edition of Manilius, that "[his] mind, though that is no name to call it by, was one which turned as unswervingly to the false... as the needle to the pole," and wrote of Stroeber's edition that it "saw the light in... Strasbourg, a city still famous for its geese," later adding that "Stroeber never reminds one of a rational animal" (from his preface to Manilius). Even when someone complimented him by writing that he was the first scholar of Europe, he shot back "It is not true, and if it were --- would not know it." Even when praising another writer, he was likely to devote the larger portion of his words to pointing out defects in the work; I do not think I have ever encountered another writer who expressed more bitterness in his works. Indeed, even his suggestions to his brother Laurence, whom he trusted enough to make him his literary executor, were exclusively negative.

He once went so far as to create a fake critical apparatus to insult the work of his colleague Robinson Ellis:
At, preor, ultores in me mala carmina facta
  Ellisio tradant emaculada dei.

      2 commaculanda al.

asking that the gods take curses off of him (Housman) and inflict them upon Ellis for cleansing (the reading of the text) or for contaminating (the marginal reading). Clever, yes; civilized, hardly.

He apparently considered textual criticism to be something that most people were too inferior to be competent in, and snarled, "Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary, and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders, and brains, not pudding, in your head" (full text quoted below). A man can be a genius and still be harsh and unforgiving -- but what are the odds that someone who writes the above will truly understand the scribes who gave him his raw materials? It is also worth remembering that Housman's work on Manilius involved a degree of conjectural emendation which most New Testament critics would consider unacceptable; even fellow classical scholars suggest he went too far at times ("In at least some... places it is hard to avoid the suspicion that Housman was primarily concerned to show his fertility in conjecture" so E. Courtney on p. 36 of Butterfield & Stray, although S. P. Oakley on p. 77 of the same book says that his conjectures were "never shallow and are often true"). He also saw things in terms that were too black and white (he seems to have thought choosing the wrong reading as a moral failing!) and Courtney even accuses him of using his editions to magnify himself and his skills. Similarly, R. G. M. Nisbet writes, "The cult of Housman was so pervasive that for a long time it was difficult to resist, especially as his aggressive style of argument inhibited rational discussion" (Butterfield & Stray, p. 45); on p. 46, Nisbet further suggests that there are problems with Housman's stemma of the manuscripts of Juvenal -- a devastating critique for an author devoted to Lachmann's methods. Nor did Housman like the author he edited; he sniped that Manilius "[wrote] on astronomy and astrology without knowing either." On the other hand, Nisbet grants Housman's brilliance; "he was at his best when things were difficult" (Butterfield & Stray, p. 49). My feeling is that he would have been a brilliant advisor to the editor of a critical edition (if he had been willing to collaborate, which I rather doubt), but that as the overall editor, he had his limitations.

Interestingly, although Housman believed firmly in stemmatic criticism, he recognized that some traditions were not well-suited to this sort of work; in Lucan, he declared, "The five manuscripts on which we chiefly depend, ZPGUV, cannot be divided and united into families or even classes" -- they were more like factions that shifted, forcing a critical method more like that used in New Testament criticism. He also reminded us of the importance of understanding the literary aspects of textual editing, studying Latin meters and poetic style and bringing these skills to his textual criticism -- something that was very helpful to him in his quest to reconstruct the text.

Some other Housman quotes:

Quotes which have some relevance to textual criticism but which also give some insight into Housman's personality are these from "The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism":

(Sir) Frederic Kenyon

1863-1952. Frederic Kenyon was, perhaps, less of a textual critic than a publisher of ancient texts, although his book Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts is one of the clearest expositions of textual criticism ever published, and it has the major advantage of covering the Hebrew Bible and LXX as well as the New Testament. He began his career as a classical scholar, joining the staff of the British Museum in 1889. Within months, the Museum received a great many papyri recovered by E. Wallis Budge, and the direction of Kenyon's career was set. His work was instrumental in identifying one of the papyri as a copy of Aristotle's previously lost work on the Constitution of Athens; he published the papyrus in 1891. His Paleography of Greek Papyri followed in 1899.

Karl Lachmann

1793-1851. German philologist and critic. Trained in classical studies, Lachmann enunciated the principle that agreement in error implies identity of origin. Lachmann used this principle to create a stemma for the manuscripts of Lucretius; his resulting edition is considered a landmark of classical textual criticism.

From Lucretius, Lachmann turned his attention to the New Testament, publishing the first edition of the NT to be completely free of the influence of the Textus Receptus (1831; second edition 1842-1850). This was, obviously, a great milestone in the history of the New Testament text, and arguably the most important single event in New Testament textual criticism. It should be noted, however, that Lachmann's edition was far from perfect. He undertook to publish "the" text of the fourth century -- an entity which demonstrably never existed, and in any case it is not the original text. Nor did Lachmann use his critical methods on the New Testament manuscripts; he simply took a handful of early witnesses and adopted the reading of the majority. The resultant text was certainly better than the Textus Receptus, but it was neither consistent nor particularly close to modern editions.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible sums up Lachmann's six textual criteria as follows:

It will be observed that these are canons of external evidence, to a large extent anticipating Streeter's theory of local texts. They go far to explain the peculiarities of Lachmann's edition.

In addition to his works on classical and biblical texts, Lachmann did a great deal of work on early German writings. In some instances, his edition remains the standard critical text. (This fact seems not to get much attention in the annals of textual criticism.)

In 1892, in the Journal of Philology, A. E. Housman wrote of Lachmann,

In the year 1816 Karl Lachmann published at Leipzig the first scientific recension of Propertius. As for the textual criticism of his predecessors it resembled nothing so much as the condition of mankind before the advent of Prometheus: ἔφυρον εἰκῆ πάντα... To the conjectural emendation of the text the critics of the 17th and 18th centuries rendered immortal services; two of them at least, Heinsius and Schrader, achieved in this province far more than Lachmann: but toward the formation of a critical apparatus they did nothing but amass a chaos of material and leave it to be set in order by this young man of twenty-three.

Agnes Smith Lewis (and Margaret Dunlop Gibson)

fl. 1900. Scottish twin sisters who lost their mother before they were a year old, both women were widowed soon after marriage, and spent the rest of their lives hunting manuscripts and other scholarly prizes. Their most important find was surely the Sinai Old Syriac palimpsest, which they discovered in 1892. But they also brought back to England a number of Hebrew documents from the Cairo Geniza -- among them the first fragment of the Hebrew version of Ben Sirach, which was identified by Solomon Schechter (later famous for his work on the Damascus Document, which also first surfaced in the Geniza).

Angelo Mai

1782-1854. Italian Cardinal, briefly a Jesuit, and manuscript scholar. His career is, sadly, one noteworthy for failures as well as successes. He worked on manuscripts in the Ambrosian Library, and later in the Vatican Library. He unearthed and published texts of quite a few Latin classics, including works of Cicero and Plautus. But he was a devoted user of chemicals to read palimpsests, and did a great deal of damage to some of them. For example, he discovered the only surviving text of Claudius Ptolemy's manuscript on the Meteoroscope -- and tried his chemicals, and still couldn't read it, and messed it us so much that it was not until 2023 that it was deciphered using multi-spectral imaging and high-powered software. He also published an edition of B that was so bad as to be almost worse than useless -- and, because he was working on it, he limited Tischendorf's access to it so Tischendorf couldn't publish it perfectly either.

Carlo M. Martini

1927-2012. Italian Cardinal, and one of the strongest liberal voices in the Roman Catholic church around the beginning of the twenty-first century. Generally known more for his political positions (he vigorously called on the Catholic church to modernize its institutions), he was one of the five editors of the United Bible Societies text.

Bruce M. Metzger

1913-2007. American scholar, who graduated with a Bachelor's from Lebanon Valley college in 1935, then added a theology degree from Princeton Seminary in 1938. Ordained into the Presbyterian Church in 1939, he earned his doctorate in classics from Princeton in 1942. His most remembered contribution will probably be his part on the five-man committee which prepared the United Bible Societies text. In addition to his work in editing the text, he prepared the supplementary volume.
Beginning students may well also encounter his introduction to textual criticism or his book on the New Testament versions. He also published a large number of books not related to textual criticism.
He was not, in most regards, a pioneer; his textual views were very largely "Hortian." But his activity and longevity did much to make textual criticism accessible to a slightly broader public.

Eberhard Nestle

1851-1913. German scholar, father of Erwin Nestle. He published an influential handbook of criticism, as well as a number of scholarly articles. But he is primarily remembered for his edition of the New Testament text -- this despite the fact that he can hardly be said to have "edited" an edition. His work was entirely mechanical (comparing the editions of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf, and a third, originally that of Weymouth, later that of Weiss); today, it could have been edited by a computer. (For details, see the article on the The Nestle Text.) But this accomplishment, trivial as it seems on its face, was to have important results: As Gregory observed, the British and Foreign Bible Society was somehow convinced to adopt the Nestle text in place of the Textus Receptus. This would have a fundamental effect on translations into many modern languages, and also make make texts based on ancient manuscripts more respectable.

Erwin Nestle

1883-1972. German scholar, son of Eberhard Nestle. Noteworthy primarily for taking and updating his father's "Nestle Edition." Erwin Nestle deserves the credit for supplying the Nestle text with a full critical apparatus (beginning with the thirteenth edition); although the witnesses cited have been increased in the more recent Nestle-Aland editions, the variants noted are still almost without exception those listed by Erwin Nestle.

Henri Quentin

1872-1935. Usually referred to with his honorific, so "Dom Henri Quentin." A French Benedictine, he succeeded Aiden Gasquet as chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Vulgate, which was the Catholic group appointed by Pope Pius X and his successors to create a critical edition of the Vulgate, with apparatus (an Old Testament equivalent of the Wordsworth-White New Testament, but with the authority of the Vatican behind it). Although Gasquet had been the nominal head, Quentin had practical charge of the work from the beginning, and from 1914, Quentin became head of the special abbey in charge of the revision. It was for this purpose that Quentin developed the so-called Rule of Iron. Although Quentin allowed others to collate the manuscripts and gather the critical data, the final textual decisions were all his, and reflect his methods. When he died Pierre Salmon became head of the Vulgate commission. The Vulgate project was far from complete when Quentin died; his influence is present mostly in the Pentateuch.

F(rederick) H(enry) A(mbrose) Scrivener

1813-1891. British writer and manuscript editor. A contemporary of scholars such as Westcott and Hort, Scrivener did not share their views. Usually portrayed as a supported of the Majority Text, Scrivener's opinions (as revealed by his great work A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth edition revised by Edward Miller, 1894) are in fact much more nuanced. As opposed to scholars such as Burgon who always preferred the Majority Text, Scrivener revered the older manuscripts and generally would not accept a reading which did not have early support. Still, all things being equal, he preferred the Majority reading. As a member of the committee which prepared the English Revised Version, Scrivener was the chief spokesman for the Byzantine text, and the normal policy was for readings to be decided by the committee after Scrivener and Hort stated the case for each.

Scrivener never compiled a text, but he was, after Tischendorf, perhaps the greatest publisher of manuscripts of any age. Since Tischendorf did not see fit to update Scholz's manuscript catalog, Scrivener numbered new manuscripts as he became aware of them. This system conflicted with the "old Gregory" numbering, and has been abandoned since the publication of the "new Gregory" system -- but is still occasionally met with in publication such as Hoskier's collation of 700 (Scrivener's 604) and the same author's apparatus of the Apocalypse.

Johann Salomo Semler

1725-1791. German critic and rationalist. Semler did not publish an edition (though he produced an edition of Wettstein's Prolegomena, with some additional material, in 1764), and he did not set forth new principles. His work was more theoretical, as he was a student of text-types. Starting with the "African" and "Asian" groups of Bengel, Semler offered three text-types, "Eastern" (the Byzantine text, which he associated -- as have many since -- with Lucian), "Western" (as found primarily in the Latin versions), and "Alexandrian" (as found in Origen and the Coptic and Ethiopic versions). Thus Semler is the original source of the Griesbach/Hort theory of "Western," "Alexandrian," and "Byzantine" types. It was Semler who brought the word "recensions" into the context of New Testament criticism (unfortunately bringing a new, non-classical meaning to the word; in classical criticism, a recension is the result of deliberate critical work).

Since Semler's text-critical work was so significant, it is sad to have to note that he could be fooled in other fields. According to John Buckingham, Chasing the Molecule, he was persuaded to purchase an alchemical product called Luftsalz, or atmospheric salt. The claim was that this material, if kept warm and moist, spontaneously generated gold. Initial tests seemed to validate this claim: The vessels containing the glop (it apparently was a mix of sodium sulphate, magnesium sulphate, and urine) yielded small amounts of gold every few days. But eventually the vessels started yielding pinchbeck (an alloy of copper and zinc which resembled gold). It seems Semler's servant had been putting gold in the flasks to keep the old professor happy, and eventually his wife had decided to save some cash. Semler apparently never figured out the fake on his own.

Burnett Hillman Streeter

1874–1937. Best known for his book The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. This was both an exposition of the four-source theory of the Synoptic Gospels and an examination of the text of the gospels, most notable for its description of the "Cæsarean" text. The portion on gospel sources has stood up well and is still entirely valid. The latter is much more dubious; although Streeter produced a logically consistent definition, it was methodologically weak, and since textual critics seem to have an allergy to learning what rigour means, they have neither produced rigorous tests of the "Cæsarean" text nor reached agreement about what it is. Streeter never really witnessed the debate which he caused; he was killed in a plane crash in the Alps in 1937.

Constantine von Tischendorf

1815-1874. In full, Lobegott Friedrich Constantin von Tischendorf. A full biography is simply impossible in the space I'm willing to grant (and I don't have the materials anyway). Although called a German, nearly all his active work was done before Germany was united; he spent his entire career at the University of Leipzig, though of course he spent much of his professional life travelling to places such as Mount Sinai. He was born in the town of Lengenfeld in what was then Saxony, the son of a physician. A top-ranked student at the Plauten Gymnasium, he was early exposed to Greek and Latin (though the way they taught it caused Tishchendorf to pronounce Greek with a sort of Hochdeutsch accent which later caused him some trouble with Easterners whose pronunciation differed significantly). One of his teachers was Johann Winer, the famous Greek grammarian. His fascination -- inspired by an article by Lachmann, though the two had very bad relations once Tischendorf stared publishing -- was with manuscripts; they were the reason for his globetrotting expeditions, and most of his time at home was devoted to publishing his finds. Immediately upon graduating from Leipzig University, while teaching at a Leipzig school under the direction of his future father-in-law, he started work on his first New Testament edition. His work was successful enough to earn him an appointment at Leipzig University. He also became engaged at this time -- but that didn't stop him from making his first major expedition; in 1840, he set out for Paris. This first expedition lasted five years, and had as its chief result his edition of Codex Ephraemi -- his first great achievement. It was some three years later that he set out for the east, eventually visiting many monasteries in Egypt. Near the end of the trip, he ended up at Mount Sinai, where he made his most famous discovery, the Codex Sinaiticus. We should not forget, though, that he found dozens of other manuscripts, publishing most of the uncials. He also provided the best information on Codex Vaticanus available to that time. (It should be added that his relations with the Papacy were fine; Pope Gregory XVI even made him a knight of the order of the North Star. He was denied access only to B, and that seems to have been entirely the fault of Cardinal Mai.)
Tischendorf published editions of many different ancient works, such at the LXX (four editions, 1850-1869) and the Vulgate, but these frankly were of little interest. (Some were of such slight value that even Gregory, who admired Tischendorf and continued his work, thought Tischendorf should not have put his name on them.) His major work consisted of his eight editions of the New Testament (the first published in 1840) -- though in fact the first seven of these were not really critical editions, any more than were his LXX and vulgate texts; rather, they were collections of manuscript data. And Gregory describes the fourth edition as the first with a significant apparatus and text. The seventh (1859) had a worse text though a fuller apparatus. Thus it was not until his eighth edition (1865-1872) that Tischendorf finally put his lifetime of experience to work. It is sad to note that it was not really a particularly insightful edition, being based on no theory of the text and with biases toward certain manuscripts. (For details, see the relevant entry in the article on Critical Editions.) As it was working its way through the press, in 1869, he was awarded the "von" of German nobility. By the time it was completed (or, rather, completed except for the prologue, which was vitally necessary and which he did not manage to produce), Tischendorf was rather a sick man; he suffered a stroke in 1873 and died at the end of 1874, leaving almost no useful papers behind, leaving it to Gregory to create the introduction as best he could.
Much has been written about Tischendorf's efforts to get the monks of Sinai to part with Sinaiticus. I personally don't consider him to be at fault in that case; while the monks of Sinai were pretty definitely cheated, their agreement was with the Russian government, not Tischendorf. But this does not mean that his record is clear. There are far too many manuscripts which he broke up -- Λ is the most famous example, but there are at least five manuscripts -- 1205, 1206, 1209, 1220, 1238 -- which are mostly at Sinai but one leaf of which somehow ended up in St. Petersburg. Draw your own conclusions about how they came to be broken up.

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles

1813-1875. British scholar and editor. Almost entirely self-taught, Tregelles was the British Tischendorf. He did not discover as many manuscripts, and he published only one edition, but he too spent much of his life gathering data; he and Tischendorf not infrequently compared collations. At the end of his life, Tregelles prepared his single edition of the text, based exclusively on the oldest manuscripts. The resultant text is generally similar to Tischendorf's, but -- due to its more limited critical apparatus -- does not receive much attention today. This is rather unfortunate; having worked over his text to some extent, I would have to say that he was a most sensitive and intelligent critic; one wishes he could have worked with all the matericals now known. But he had no real access to Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus was Tischendorf's find, and manuscripts such as 1739 and the Koridethi Codex and the papyri were still unknown; Tregelles had few materials at his disposal. In this sense it might honestly be said that Tregelles's greatest contribution lay in encouraging the work of Westcott and Hort.
Tregelles had an interesting biography: "s[on] of a Quaker, he was b[orn] at Wodehouse Place, Falmouth, Cornwall, Jan. 20 (sometimes dated Jan. 30), 1813, and educated at the Falmouth Grammar School. From 1838 to 1844, he was employed in the Neath Abbey Iron Works. In 1836 he became a private tutor at Falmouth.... [His work on the New Testament] was hindered by his two attacks of paralysis (1861 and 1870); and the Prolegomena had to be added by Dr. Hort and A. W. Streane in 1879. He was one of the Revisers of the New Testament [i.e. those who created the English Revised Version], but ill-health prevented him from taking an active part in the work. He d[ied] at Plymouth, April 24, 1875" (John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 1184).
Those who think of textual critics as being un-pious would be well advised to look at Tregelles's career. Not only was he a scholar, he also wrote hymns (there is a list in Julian). They were not particularly popular, and few are used outside the Plymouth Brethern. But a scholar who writes pieces with titles such as "Holy Savior, We Adore Thee," "Thou God of Grace, Our Father," "Thy Name We Bless, Lord Jesus," and "'Tis Sweet, O God, Thy Praise to Sing" can hardly be called uninterested in religion!

Hermann Freiherr von Soden


Brooke Foss Westcott

1825-1901. One of the great scholars of nineteenth century England. He studied both mathematics and classics at Trinity College, Cambridge (though, curiously, his mathematical training does not seem to have influenced his textual studies at all, or at least he did not manage to convey them to his colleague Fenton John Anthony Hort, who uses statistics very poorly in his introduction to the Westcott and Hort edition). Westcott became a fellow of Trinity in 1849, was ordained in 1851, and became an assistant master at Harrow in 1852. He reportedly was not a good classroom teacher (and this is reflected to some extent in his voluminous writings, which -- though intelligent and insightful -- are not particularly enjoyable reading). In 1870 he became Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and set out to reform the teaching methods and qualifications for a theology degree. Canon of Westminster from 1883, he became Bishop of Durham in 1890, and in that role was instrumental in dealing with the labour problems of the Durham coal miners -- so much so that even the Methodists among them attended his sermons. He was an active minister all his life, preaching his last sermon at the Durham Miner's Gala just a week before his death.

Despite his extraordinary accomplishments, however, Westcott is remembered in textual circles for at most two things: his part in the preparation of the English Revised Version, and (first and foremost) his collaboration with Hort to produce their New Testament. The theory behind this edition, it is generally agreed, was Hort's, and it was Hort who explained it in the Introduction, but Westcott was not a passive collaborator, as is shown by the various readings where the two scholars disagreed. What Westcott might have accomplished as a textual scholar without his multi-decade collaboration with Hort can hardly be determined at this time.

There is a recent biography: Graham A. Patrick, The Miner's Bishop: Brooke Foss Westcott, first edition published by OSL in 2002, second edition by Epworth Press 2004. Patrick says that his work is not a critical biography, but it is the only serious study to date. There was, to be sure, a volume Life and Letters of Brooke Fosse Westcott published in 1903 by Westcott's son -- but if you've ever read one of those Victorian life-and-letters volumes, they aren't really biographies, just anthologies.

Johann Jakob Wettstein

1693-1754. A major collector of variants. According to Weiss, he wanted to publish an edition based only on early manuscripts, but was forced to print the Textus Receptus instead because his printer refused to publish a critically edited text. Still, his collection of variants was used by many after him, and he collated a few materials since lost (such as some now lost portions of Fe). Wettstein was born in Basel of a distinguished family, the son of a pastor. He went to university in Basel at age thirteen; while still in college, he worked on collating the earliest major document in Basel, Ee/08, and then went abroad to study other manuscripts; one of those he met on his travels was Richard Bentley.
One of the great events in his life was reportedly a textual discovery about the Codex Alexandrinus's reading of 1 Tim. 3:16. He realized that the text there, which appeared to read ΘC ΕΦΑΝΕΡΩΘΗ (the reading of the Byzantine text and the published editions), originally read OC ΕΦΑΝΕΡΩΘΗ (so ℵ* A* C* F G 33 365 1175). This showed him just how important textual criticism could be. It also led, eventually, to charges of heresy, which his stubbornness and tendency to irritate people. He was eventually forced from his pulpit, leaving Basel to work with cousins in Amsterdam. It was there that he was able to publish his edition. The introduction was printed in 1730; the book itself in 1751-1752. Its main significance isn't its text (which is just another Textus Receptus) but the apparatus, which not only includes more and better manuscripts than had been published before, but also a good deal of patristic evidence, though this was often of more use for linguistic than textual analysis.

Francisco Ximénes de Cisneros

1437-1517. Spanish Cardinal and Archbishop of Toledo. The driving force behind the Complutensian Polyglot, though he was not directly involved in editing the work and did not live to see it published (the work was complete at the time of his death, but Papal authorization was not forthcoming for another three years).

It may seem ironic to produce such a long entry about a man who had so little to do with actual textual criticism, but probably no man involved in critical activity had more secular influence (and I include even the Popes who commissioned the official printed editions of the Vulgate). And, to understand Ximenes requires us to know about his secular activities. He was a great patron of learning (he founded the university of Alcala), and early in his career, before his promotion, was confessor to Queen Isabella of Castille (so p. 205 of Charles E. Chapman, A History of Spain, Macmillan, 1918; I use the 1965 Free Press edition). After her death, he helped rule Castile, and he was long an advisor to King Ferdinand of Aragon. But he also persecuted heretics, and his determination and that of the Inquisition effectively snuffed out the revival of learning he has encouraged. (You'd think that a man who had himself spent six years in prison because of a cleric's accusations would have had better sense.) He also ruined the settlement between the Christians and Moors of conquered Granada. The phrase "wise fool" might have been invented for him.

Those looking to find him in secular histories probably should not look under Ximénes, even though this seems to be the standard name in New Testament textbooks. Of the histories I am using, the oldest (Chapman) files him under "Ximenes", but Rhea Marsh Smith, Spain: A Modern History, University of Michigan Press, 1965) gives his name as Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, indexed under Cisneros. This is also the usage of J. H. Elliot, Imperial Spain: 1469-1716 (Penguin, 1963; I use the 1990 edition).

In the long run, Ximenes probably did Spain much harm due to his intolerance: "The Catholic Kings made their triumphal entry into Granada in January 1492... but they did not respect their promise of tolerance and humanity to the Moors. In 1499 the [new Christian] bishop succumbed to the influence of... Cisneros... who demanded a more aggressive policy in the conversion of the Moors.... [T]he zeal of the archbishop caused him to try to extirpate both the writings and the 'paganism' of the Moors. The Inquisition was extended to Granada and many Moslems, under harsh compulsion, were superficially converted to Christianity" (Smith, p. 108). Elliot, p. 52, says of his behavior, "The principal advocate of a more forceful policy was Archbishop Cisneros of Toledo, who came to Granada with Ferdinand and Isabella in 1499. With the blinding unawareness of the zealot, he... launched out on a policy of forcible conversion and mass baptism. His activities soon yielded predictable result: The Moors became nominal Christians in their thousands, and in November 1499, an ill-considered rising broke out.... The aftermath of the edict was to be unsatisfactory to the Christians and barely tolerable to the Moors. Convinced that the agreements of 1491-2 had been perfidiously broken, they clung with all the fervour of resentment to their traditional rites and customs." Ximenes, according to Chapman, p. 205, used the rebellion as an excuse to completely set aside the treaty promising toleration; the Moslems ended up either leaving Spain or converting. It was long before these nominally Christian "Moriscos" became true Spanish citizens. Yet he would go on to extend the Inquisition to Africa and the Americas, though in a less extreme form (Chapman, p. 223).

Ximenes in fact became head of the Inquisition in Castile in 1507 (Smith, p. 125). The result was a major revolt and the expulsion of the Moors in 1502. The Jews had also been expelled around this time. Those two acts certainly left Spain culturally much weaker, and probably contributed to the decline in its vitality over the next several centuries.

Ximenes also seems to have tried for a land grab in North Africa without properly considering the consequences (Smith, p. 118; Elliot, p. 53). The Spanish managed to maintain a few footholds, but not enough to exert any actual control over the African Moslems; it could be argued that this particular act encouraged the establishment of the Barbary States. A second attempt to gain control of Algiers in 1516 was no more successful (Smeith, p. 139).

The University of Alcala (Complutum) was Ximenes's other major contribution to learning; he founded it in 1508. Smith, p. 129, says that it was endowed with 22 professorships in ancient languages, rhetoric, and philosophy. Elliot, p. 105, says that "Cisneros, if not himself strictly a humanist, at least grasped the urgent need to harness the new humanistic studies to the service of religion." But the older schools of Castile and Aragon apparently opposed the new curriculum; Spanish intellectual contributions to the counter-reformation would be relatively slight. And Ximenes did nothing to bring education to the Spanish population as a whole, which remained highly ignorant; even the educated classes often preferred to go abroad for education (Smith, p. 129).

Ximenes also set out to reform the Spanish clergy; many who had lived in luxury ended up leaving their monasteries -- some even choosing to turn Muslim rather than submit to his rules (Chapman, pp. 216-217). As with so much that he did, this was surely a mixed blessing: The clergy was purer, and less of a drain on the rest of society -- but it was probably also stupider, since the most intelligent clerics were also the less ascetic ones.

Ximenes's contributions to Spanish politics extended beyond the religious sphere (to the extent that anything in Spanish politics extended beyond the religious sphere). The children of Ferdinand and Isabella were a son, Juan, who died in 1497 without issue, and several daughters, Catherine (the first wife of Henry VIII of England), Juana, and Isabella. When Isabella the mother died in 1504, Juana was heir to the throne of Castile -- but her grip on reality was slight; she came to be called "Juana La Loca," or " Joanna the Mad." (In recent years, some scholars have questioned whether she was really insane; possibly she was shoved aside to avoid having a second ruling queen in Castile. But it doesn't really matter whether she was of sound mind or not; what matters is, she was treated as incapable of handling Castile's affairs.) There was a scramble to take control of the reins of Castile, which ended giving power to Juana's husband Philip (of the Habsburg dynasty) -- but he himself died in 1506 (though he and Juana had already had four children, including the future ruler of half of Europe, Charles V, and his brother Ferdinand, who founded what became the line of Austrian Habsburgs). A regency council was formed, headed by Ximenes, though it fairly soon gave most of the power to Ferdinand (Elliott, p. 139. Chapman, p. 208, says that this was what gave Ximenes the freedom to engage in his North African escapades). When Ferdinand of Aragon himself died, Ximenes again became temporary regent of Castile until Charles V could take charge (Elliott, p. 142; Smith, p. 138 notes that Ferdinand did not properly have the right to name Ximenes regent, but no one really argued).

When Charles V finally came to Spain to take charge, Ximenes offered to meet with him and give him advice. Charles in his reply told him to retire to his diocese (Chapman, p. 209). It hardly mattered; Ximenes reputedly died the day the letter reached him, possibly without learning its contents (Elliott, p. 144). Charles had already employ many of Ferdinand's former officials, to Ximenes's distress, since he considered them corrupt (Elliott, p. 143). But Ximenes was probably too unpopular to be allowed a voice; his rule had been considered quite high-handed.

Chapman, p. 227, calles Ximenes "by far the most important" Spaniard of his time other than the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella. Ximenes's actions did succeed in keeping Spain Catholic; the Protestant Reformation had less influence there than in any other country in western Europe (Elliott, p.212). Whether it was worth the cost was another question.

It should be remembered that though Ximenes commissioned the Complutensian Polyglot, he did not edit it. The only editor we tend to hear about today is Stunica (Diego Lopez de Zuniga), who had the controversy with Erasmus about 1 John 5:7-8. Several of the other scholars involved were, however, at least as noteworthy (and less insistent on being boneheadedly wrong). Smith, p. 131, says that Antonio de Nebrija "had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Scriptures, linguistics, and science and translated a number of the classic authors." Hernán Nuñez de Toledo (died 1553) is described as a "famous Greek scholar." Thus Ximenes did bring in some strong minds, though one suspects they were also quite conventional religiously.