Griesbach, Johann Jakob
Griesbach, Johann Jakob, an eminent German Protestant theologian, was born at Butzbach, in Hesse Darmstadt, Jan. 4, 1745. He received his early education at Frankfort-on- the-Main, where his father was pastor, and afterwards visited successively the universities of Tubingen, Halle, and Leipzig, where he studied theology under the leaders of the different schools. He staid longest at Tubingen, where the old dogmatic system and method were still prevalent; but, having gone to Halle, Semler's teachings exerted a lasting influence on his mind, and led the way, to his subsequent career. He became a tutor in the university in 1771, but, before entering on his duties, he made a journey through part of Germany and Holland, and visited London, Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris. Critical examination of the text of the Bible was then much in favor, and young Griesbach followed the current in the line in which he was soon to surpass all competitors, both in the opinion of posterity, and even in that of his contemporaries. However unimportant such critical researches may appear, on account of their mechanical minuteness, in view of the higher interests of religion and of science, we must remember that they were then not only useful, but necessary, even apart from their immediate and manifest object. On his return Griesbach settled at Halle, where he became professor in 1773; in 1775 he removed to Jena in the same capacity, and afterwards remained permanently attached to that university. His services were fully appreciated, and rewarded with honors and appointments even of a civic nature; thus he was appointed to represent the state and the university at the diet and on other public occasions. He died March 24 1812.
Griesbach's name is inseparably connected with the criticism of the text of the N.T., so much so, indeed, a to throw all his works on other subjects entirely in the shade, and to form an epoch in that special department. In order to form a just estimate of his services it is necessary to be thoroughly acquainted with the state of this science at the time. SEE CRITICISM, BIBLICAL. Griesbach's studies in regard to the text were first directed to the collecting and appreciation of various readings. This field had often been gone ore before, and it was thought that much less would be discovered in it than was found afterwards by paying greater attention to the quotations of the Greek fathers, and to some versions heretofore but little noticed such as the Philoxenian, the Armenian, and the Gothic Next he attempted to establish, on the basis of the ideas of Bengel and Semler, a history of the ancient text as a necessary basis for every improvement of it On this history, all the details of which have not however, proved correct, but have given a great impulse to researches, Griesbach founded a new theory of criticism, the rules of which were to regulate the choice and value of the various readings in individual passages, and which was based essentially on a combination of historical facts and logical principles. Finally, Griesbach undertook the task on which his reputation chiefly rests, viz. the publication of a critically amended edition of the text of the New Testament. Till then, among nearly 360 editions, there had been but two forms of text, both originating in the 16th century, when criticism was yet in its infancy. They were the so-called Textus receptus, which the Lutheran Church considered as unimpeachable; and the Complutensian, which circulated among the Roman Catholics. Bengel alone had dared to depart somewhat from the former, and that only by introducing a few readings of the latter. Griesbach's innovation excited great alarm among the partisans of the existing texts. Joachim Hartmann, professor at Rostock, attacked him in a pamphlet in 1775; but this, as well as other similar attacks, were answered by the preface of Griesbach's second edition. His editions of the N.T. ape)eared in the following order:
1. Libri N.T. historici (Halle, 1774, pt. i, ii), containing the first three gospels arranged synoptically. To this belongs as vol. ii (1775), the first edition of the Epistles and of Revelation, and to the latter, again as vol. i, a second (non-synoptical) edition of the historical books. The synopsis was afterwards reprinted, sometimes separately.
2. The principal edition (Halle, and London, 1796, 1806, 2 pts. 8vo), very complete, and with important prolegomena.
3. A costly edition (Leipz. 4 vols. small 4to, or small folio, 1803-1807, in copper types; 4th and 5th pocket editions, Leipzig, 1805, 1825), like the preceding, but with the principal variations only. A new edition of the principal critical work of Griesbach was commenced in 1827 by David Schulz, but the first part only has appeared. The text of Griesbach has not remained intact in all these editions. It has often been used or referred to by others, and its peculiar readings, at least, are always introduced in the new critical editions. The other critical works of Griesbach are, De codici-bus evv. origenianis (1771): — Curae in historiam textus epp. paul. (1777): — Symbolae criticae ad supplendas et corrigendas varias N.T. lectiones (pt. i, 1785; ii, 1793): Commentarius criticus in textum Gr. N.T. (1794 sq.). Little need be said of his other works. They are mostly academical essays on exegesis, history, and dogmatics, and were published by Gabler in 2 parts (Kleinere Schriften, 1825). Some of them, however, possess yet a certain interest, as serving to show the progress made by science under the influence of theologians, conservative at heart, but advancing nevertheless more or less with the times. Such was Griesbach, who may, perhaps, not unjustly be called a middle-party man, in view of his Theopneustie (1784), his Christologie d. Hebraerbriefs (1791), and especially of his Anleitunff z. Studium d. popularen Dogmatik (1779, 1789, several ed.), a work considered at first as retrograde and inconsequent by the so-called friends of progress, His Vorlesungen u. Hermeneutik d. N.T. , printed after his death (in 1815), belongs to the so-called school of grammatico-historical interpretation which . prevailed during the author's life, and is such a work as would naturally be expected from a pupil of Semler and Ernesti. "The peculiar principle of Griesbach's system consists in a division of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament into three classes, each of which is considered as an independent witness for the various readings of the manuscripts which it comprises. He thus contemplates the existence of three distinct species of texts, which, with respect to their relationship or affinity, are called by Bengel ,families,' and by Semler, Griesbach, and Michaelis 'recensions' or 'codices,' namely:
1. The 'Alexandrian' recension or codex, comprehending manuscripts which, in peculiar readings, agree with the citations found in the early Greek-Egyptian fathers, particularly Origen and Clemens of Alexandria.
2. The 'Western' recension, which is identified with the citations of the Latin fathers, especially Cyprian and Tertullian, and was used by the Christians of Carthage, Rome, and the west of Europe.
3. The 'Byzantine' or Asiatic recension, comprising numerous manuscripts which were used especially in the see of Constantinople and the adjacent Oriental provinces, and have furnished the received text, called the Greek Vulgate. Each of these recensions has characteristics peculiar to itself, yet no individual manuscript exhibits any recension in a pure state, but is assigned to the Alexandrian or Western class, as the peculiar reading of each of those classes preponderate. Though Griesbach considers departures from the received Greek Vulgate as various readings, he does not allow the existence of any standard text as a criterion for determining which are genuine or spurious readings, his object being to show, not the character of particular deviations from any individual recension, but the general coincidence of manuscripts with one recension or codex more than with another. The authorized text does not regulate, but is regulated 1)v his critical opinion of its comparative value; and the immense number of various readings form a floating medium in which the genuine text is considered to be in all instances discoverable. However, although he professes to determine the value of readings by the number of classes by which they are supported, he constantly displays a very decided preference for the Alexandrian class, which he places far above the two others in the rank of authority, a few manuscripts of this recension being supposed to outweigh a multitude of such as belong to the Byzantine recension, which he regards as certainly the most untrustworthy of all (Prol. lxxii). The reason assigned by Griesbach for this decision is the fact that the Greek transcripts of this class contain a remarkably large number of suspected readings, owing to the very great liberties taken by learned copyists in making successive alterations; and finding the coincidence of the numerous scriptural quotations of Origen Of Alexandria with the celebrated Greek manuscript of the New Testament from that city to be very striking, he thence concludes that the passages now extant in this father's writings, of the commencement of the 3d century, discover the earliest, and therefore the purest text of which we have any knowledge to be that of the Alexandrian manuscripts. His ultimate choice of readings is consequently determined by the testimony of Origen, in confirmation of which he often adduces much collateral evidence from the primitive fathers and versions; and of the readings thus proved to be genuine is formed his corrected text of the New Testament. Against the complicated hypothesis on which Griesbach has based his system of recensions many very important Objections were urged by learned Biblical critics of Germany (as by Hartmann, mentioned above), and in England, especially by archbishop Lawrence and Dr. Frederick Nolan. The primary fact enforced by Griesbach, that the Alexandrian readings which are supported by the quotations of Origen possess the highest authority of all, is disputed by professor Matthiae, of Moscow, in his critical edition of the New Testament, and with greater confidence by professor Martin Scholz, of Bonn, in the prolegomena to his very learned and elaborate edition, founded on a system wholly at variance with that of Griesbach. The Alexandrian manuscripts are acknowledged by Scholz to be more ancient, but he asserts them to be more corrupt than any others, and contends that in Alexandria the alterations of the text principally originated. He divides all the manuscripts, not, as Griesbach, into three, but into two classes, the Byzantine and the Alexandrian, in which latter he includes the Western; and he gives a decided superiority to the authority of the Byzantine recensions, which, in opposition to Griesbach, he strenuously maintains to be directly derived from the autographs of the evangelists and apostles themselves. The work by archbishop Lawrence on this subject is entitled Remarks upon the Systematical Classification of Manuscripts adopted by Dr. Griesbach (1814, 8vo). The learned author states that he considers Griesbach to be what bishop Marsh denominated him, 'the most consummate critic that ever undertook an edition of the New Testament;' but in the course of his critical strictures on the origin and execution of his plan of appreciating manuscripts, he employs the severest terms of censure, observing that Griesbach's mode of investigation is unsatisfactory, his classification fallacious, and his statement of the number of readings inaccurate; that no such classification of the manuscripts of the New Testament is possible the existence of three distinct species of texts being a fact only synthetically presumed, and not capable of any analytical demonstration; so that the student finds he is treading, not on solid ground, but on a critical quicksand.' Griesbach was long and severely attacked by Trinitarian writers as an opposer of the doctrine of Christ's divinity, chiefly in consequence of his having rejected from his text the celebrated passage respecting the three that bare witness (1Jo 5:7), and also for inserting ὁς for Θεός in 1Ti 3:16, and Κυρίου for Θεοῦ in Ac 20:28. In consequence of these and other points in his critical works, the commendation and patronage of the Unitarians were bestowed upon him; but in the preface to his treatise on the apostolical writings, he makes the following solemn declaration: ' Ut iniquas suspiciones omnes, quantum in me est, amoliar, et hominibus malevolis calumniandi an-sam praeripiam, publice profiteor, atque Deum testor, neutiquam me de veritate istius dogmatis dubitare; and to this may be added a statement from his Prolegomena, namely, that 'nulla emendatio a recentioribus editoribus tentata ullam Scripturae Sacrae doctrinam immutat, aut evertit,' though ' paucae sensum senten-tiarum afficiunt.' The laborious and minutely learned work by the Rev. Dr. Nolan, entitled An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament, published in 1815, is chiefly occupied in presenting evidence to subvert the critical system of Griesbach, and to establish the position since taken by professor Scholz and others, that the Byzantine, and not the Alexandrian, codices are the most worthy of reliance. 'Griesbach's theory,' says Dr. Nolan, ' is one of the most elaborate of those that have unsettled the foundation on which rests the entire canon. His corrected text can be received only as a proof of the general corruption of the sacred Scriptures, and of the faithlessness of tilde traditionary testimony by which it is supported, since he states that the two principal classes of text, the Alexandrian and the Western, have been interpolated in every part; that the authorized Greek version exhibits 150,000 various readings, and has remained 1400 years in its present state of corruption; that there appears, therefore, to be no reservation by which the doctrinal integrity of the sacred Scriptures can be saved; for if, in the apostolic and primitive ages, corruption was prevalent, whatever be the text gathered out of the immense number of various readings, it may be as well any other as that originally delivered by the inspired writers.' Griesbach indeed declares, in his Symbolae Criticae, that the manuscripts of the Alexandrian and Western recensions, on which his system is founded, were grossly corrupted in the age succeeding that of the apostles; that those which he held in the highest esteem were corrupted in every page by marginal scholia and interpretations of the fathers, and contained innumerable and very serious errors ('innumeros gravissimosque errores'), He further states in the same treatise that no reliance can be placed on the printed editions of the works of Origen, on the fidelity of his different transcribers, on the accuracy of his quotations, or, finally, on the copies of the Scriptures from which he quoted; so that, as observed by Dr. Nolan, we have only to take his own account of the state in which he finds the best part of his materials to discover the extreme insecurity of the fabric which he has raised on such a foundation. 'His innovations,' continues the same learned divine, 'are formidable in number and nature; his corrections proscribe three important passages (already named) affecting the doctrinal integrity of the inspired text; for a proof once established of its partial corruption in important matters must involve its character for general fidelity; and the deservedly high character and singular merit of this learned edition must heighten apprehension and alarm at the attempts thus made to undermine the authority of the received text, for the scrupulous accuracy of its execution must always command respect.'" See Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, v, 389; Enqlish Cyclopedia, s.v.; Hoefer, Nouvelle Biographie Generale, 22:25; Kothe, Griesbach's Lebensbeschreibung (Jena, 1812); Seller, Hermeneutics, p. 340 sq.; Horne, Introduction to the Scriptures, vol. ii.