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Addresses on the Revised Version of Holy Scripture

Deissmann for his illustrations


The

first, which is still in progress, and has not, I think, yet received a translator, is the singularly accurate, and in parts corrective, edition of Winer's "Grammar" by Prof. Schmiedel. The portion on the article is generally recognized as of great value and importance.

The second work is the now well-translated "Bible Studies" of Dr. Deissmann of Heidelberg {109}. This remarkable work, of which the full title is "Contributions, chiefly from Papyri and Inscriptions, to the History of the Language, the Literature, and the Religion of Hellenistic Judaism, and Primitive Christianity," contains not only a clear estimate of the nature of New Testament Greek, but also a large and instructive vocabulary of about 160 words and expressions in the New Testament, most of which receive in varying degrees illustration from the Papyri, and other approximately contemporary sources. It must be noted, however, that the writer himself specifies that his investigations "have been, in part, arranged on a plan which is polemical {110a}." This avowal must, to some extent, affect our full acceptance of all the results arrived at in this striking and laborious work.

The third work is a "Grammar of New Testament Greek" by the well-known and distinguished scholar, Dr. Blass, and is deserving of the fullest attention from every earnest student of the Greek Testament. It has been excellently translated by Mr. St. John Thackeray, of

the Education Department {110b}. It is really hardly possible to speak too highly of this helpful and valuable work. Its value consists in this--that it has been written, on the one hand, by an accomplished classical scholar, and, on the other hand, by one who is thoroughly acquainted with the investigations of the last fifteen years. As his Introduction clearly shows, he fully accepts the estimate that is now generally entertained of the Greek of the New Testament, viz. that it is no isolated production, as regards language, that had no historic relation to the Greek of the past or of the future. It was not, to any great extent, derived from the Greek _translations_ of the Old Testament--often, as Dr. Blass says, slavishly literal--nor from the literary language of the time, but was the spoken Greek of the age to which it belonged, modified by the position and education of the speaker, and also to some extent, though by no means to any large extent, by the Semitic element which, from time to time, discloses itself in the language of the inspired writers. This last-written epithet, which I wittingly introduce, must not be lost sight of by the Christian student.

Dr. Blass quite admits that the language of the Greek Testament may be rightly treated in connexion with the discoveries in Egypt furnished by the Papyri; but he has also properly maintained elsewhere {111} that the books of the New Testament form a special group _to be primarily explained by itself_. Greatly as we are indebted to Dr. Deissmann for his illustrations, especially in regard of vocabulary, we must read with serious caution, and watch all attempts to make Inscriptions or Papyri do the work of an interpretation of the inner meaning of God's Holy Word which belongs to another realm, and to the self-explanations which are vouchsafed to us in the reverent study of the Book--not of Humanity (as Deissmann speaks of the New Testament) {112} but of--Life.

I have now probably dealt sufficiently with the second of the three questions which I have put forward for our consideration. I have stated the general substance of the knowledge which has been permitted to come to us since the revision was completed. I now pass onward to the third and most difficult question equitably to answer, "To what extent does this newly-acquired knowledge affect the correctness and fidelity of the revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament?" It is easy enough to speak of "ignorance" on the part of the Revisers, especially after what I have specified in the answer to the question on which we have just been meditating; but the real and practical question is this, "If the Revisers had all this knowledge when they were engaged on their work, would it have materially affected their revision?"


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