From Bible Encyclopedia
(Luke 22:20), rather “New Covenant,” in contrast to the old covenant of works, which is superseded. “The covenant of grace is called new; it succeeds to the old broken covenant of works. It is ever fresh, flourishing, and excellent; and under the gospel it is dispensed in a more clear, spiritual, extensive, and powerful manner than of old” (Brown of Haddington). Hence is derived the name given to the latter portion of the Bible.
The New Testament was not printed so early as the Hebrew Bible and the Vulgate, because the influence of the papacy was unfavourable to the circulation of the original text. The whole of the New Testament (for different portions had been published before), was first printed in the Complutensian Polyglott 1514, though it was not published till 1517. Germany has the merit of having issued the first Greek Testament printed in 1516 at Basel, under the superintendence of Erasmus. These two editions were published independently of each other. They constitute the basis of the received text, and the source of all subsequent impressions. It is to be regretted that the best critical materials were not applied in their preparation; but we are to remember the state of sacred learning at the time, and the scanty sources of criticism accessible to the Biblical scholar. The editors, indeed, of the Complutensian Polyglott, in their preface, boast of their having made use of MSS. in the Vatican library, but they give no description of them; and the probability is that they were modern, because the Complutensian text so often opposes the testimony of the older and more valuable documents. The editors have been accused, not without reason, of having altered many places agreeably to the Vulgate. Indeed, it is almost certain, that they borrowed 1 John v. 7 from their favourite version. We know, too, from actual collation, that the codex Vaticanus, i.e. B, was not in the number of those used by the editors, a circumstance that casts suspicion on the boast that they had received very ancient and valuable codices from Rome. Erasmus again, used as the basis of his edition, four Greek MSS. not older than the 12th century, and two of them Latinising ones. In the Apocalypse he had one more ancient than any of those from which he edited the other parts of the Greek Testament. But he did not confine himself wholly to these materials in preparing the text; for he occasionally altered from the Vulgate, and from critical conjecture. In the year 1519 appeared his second edition, in 1522 the third, in 1527 the fourth, and in 1535 the fifth. The text was altered in all of these subsequent impressions. The passage, 1 John v. 7, was first admitted into the third edition, on the authority of the codex Montfortii, and is consequently wanting in the early editions of Luther's translation, which followed the second of Erasmus. In the last two editions, Erasmus made great use of the Complutensian Polyglott, especially in the book of Revelation. These are the two impressions whose influence has been very great in all subsequently published. Their text was repeated, with alterations by several editors whom it is unnecessary to mention. The third place among the early editors of the Greek Testament has been assigned to the celebrated Robert Stephens, whose first edition was printed at Paris 1546, l6mo, chiefly taken from the Complutensian, and usually designated the mirifica edition from the commencement of the preface. The second edition was published in 1549. In the third, 1550, in folio, called the regia or royal edition, he followed the 5th of Erasmus, with which he compared fifteen MSS. and the Complutensian Polyglott, marking the variations in the margin. In 1551 appeared another edition, accompanied by the Vulgate, and the translation of Erasmus, and re. markable as being the first into which the division of verses was introduced. The next person who contributed to the criticism of the Greek Testament was Theodore Beza, who had fled from France to Switzerland on account of his religion, where he became the disciple and successor of the famous Calvin. The text of his first edition, 1565, folio, was the same as that in the third of Stephens, altered in about fifty places, accompanied with the Vulgate, a Latin translation of his own, and exegetical remarks. In his second edition, 1582, he had the advantage of the Syriac version and two ancient MSS., viz. codd. Claromontanus and Cantabrigiensis. A third impression appeared in 1589, and a fourth in 1598. All of these differ from each other, and contributed more than any other editions to the settlement of a received text. The Elzevir editions contain partly the text of the third of Stephens and partly that of Beza. The first appeared at Leyden 1624. The editor's name is still unknown, and therefore the impression goes by the name of the printer. The second edition of 1633 proclaims its text to be the tcxtus receptus, which it afterwards became. Subsequently, three other editions issued from the same press. The editor does not appear to have consulted any Greek MSS., for his readings are to be found either in Beza or Stephens. This edition was soon reprinted and circulated through different countries with little variation. Thus was the common text, regarded though it be by many as almost inspired in all its words, prepared from very few materials, and these not the most ancient or valuable. Critical conjecture contributed its share to its formation; and arbitrary alterations, originating in the minds of the early editors or adopted from the corrupt Vulgate, were unscrupulously introduced. And yet a text so faulty and defective in accuracy as it must necessarily be from the circumstances of the times, and the conduct of the editors, continued for a long time to gather around it that sanctity which ignorance at first attached to it, and which even the learned had subsequently joined in not refusing. In progress of time, however, the want of a better and more correct edition was felt, when the critical apparatus had accumulated by the labours and researches of subsequent editors, and when they ventured at length to apply a reforming hand to the text that had long possessed so great authority. Brian Walton, celebrated as the editor of the London Polyglott, gave a more copioils collection of various readings than had before appeared. This was farther enlarged by John Fell, in his edition, published at Oxford, 1675, and reprinted by Gregory in 1703. Here it has been said that the infancy of the criticism of the Greek Testament ends, and the period of its manhood commences.