The  New  Testament

                     I. Name;
                     II. Description;
                     III. Origin;
                     IV. Transmission of the Text;
                     V. Contents, History, and Doctrine.

                                               I. NAME

                     Testament come from testamentum, the word by which the Latin ecclesiastical
                     writers translated the Greek diatheke. With the profane authors this latter term
                     means always, one passage of Aristophanes perhaps excepted, the legal
                     disposition a man makes of his goods for after his death. However, at an early
                     date, the Alexandrian translators of the Scripture, known as the Septuagint,
                     employed the word as the equivalent of the Hebrew berith, which means a pact,
                     an alliance, more especially the alliance of Yahweh with Israel. In St. Paul (I
                     Cor., xi, 25) Jesus Christ uses the words "new testament" as meaning the
                     alliance established by Himself between God and the world, and this is called
                     "new" as opposed to that of which Moses was the mediator. Later on, the name
                     of testament was given to the collection of sacred texts containing the history
                     and the doctrine of the two alliances; here again and for the same reason we
                     meet the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. In this meaning the
                     expression Old Testament (he palaia diatheke) is found for the first time in Melito
                     of Sardis, towards the year 170. There are reasons for thinking that at this date
                     the corresponding word "testamentum" was already in use amongst the Latins.
                     In any case it was common in the time of Tertullian.

                                            II. DESCRIPTION

                     The New Testament, as usually received in the Christian Churches, is made up
                     of twenty-seven different books attributed to eight different authors, six of whom
                     are numbered among the Apostles (Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude)
                     and two among their immediate disciples (Mark, Luke). If we consider only the
                     contents and the literary form of these writings they may be divided into historical
                     books (Gospels and Acts), didactic books (Epistles), a prophetical book
                     (Apocalypse). Before the name of the New Testament had come into use the
                     writers of the latter half of the second century used to say "Gospel and Apostolic
                     writings" or simply "the Gospel and the Apostle", meaning the Apostle St. Paul.
                     The Gospels are subdivided into two groups, those which are commonly called
                     synoptic (Matthew, Mark, Luke), because their narratives are parallel, and the
                     fourth Gospel (that of St. John), which to a certain extent completes the first
                     three. They relate to the life and personal teaching of Jesus Christ. The Acts of
                     the Apostles, as is sufficiently indicated by the title, relates the preaching and
                     the labours of the Apostles. It narrates the foundation of the Churches of
                     Palestine and Syria only; in it mention is made of Peter, John, James, Paul, and
                     Barnabas; afterwards, the author devotes sixteen chapters out of the twenty-eight
                     to the missions of St. Paul to the Greco-Romans. There are thirteen Epistles of
                     St. Paul, and perhaps fourteen, if, with the Council of Trent, we consider him the
                     author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. They are, with the exception of this
                     last-mentioned, addressed to particular Churches (Rom.; I, II Cor.; Gal.; Ephes.;
                     Philip.; Colos.; I, II Thess.) or to individuals (I, II Tim.; Tit.; Philem.). The seven
                     Epistles that follow (James; I, II Peter; I, II, III John; Jude) are called "Catholic",
                     because most of them are addressed to the faithful in general. The Apocalypse
                     addressed to the seven Churches of Asia Minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus,
                     Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea) resembles in some ways a collective
                     letter. It contains a vision which St. John had at Patmos concerning the interior
                     state of the above-mentioned communities, the struggle of the Church with pagan
                     Rome, and the final destiny of the New Jerusalem.

                                              III. ORIGIN

                     The New Testament was not written all at once. The books that compose it
                     appeared one after another in the space of fifty years, i.e. in the second half of
                     the first century. Written in different and distant countries and addressed to
                     particular Churches, they took some time to spread throughout the whole of
                     Christendom, and a much longer time to become accepted. The unification of the
                     canon was not accomplished without much controversy (see CANON OF THE
                     HOLY SCRIPTURES). Still it can be said that from the third century, or perhaps
                     earlier, the existence of all the books that to-day form our New Testament was
                     everywhere known, although they were not all universally admitted, at least as
                     certainly canonical. However, uniformity existed in the West from the fourth
                     century. The East had to await the seventh century to see an end to all doubts
                     on the subject. In early times the questions of canonicity and authenticity were
                     not discussed separately and independently of each other, the latter being
                     readily brought forward as a reason for the former; but in the fourth century, the
                     canonicity was held, especially by St. Jerome, on account of ecclesiastical
                     prescription and, by the fact, the authenticity of the contested books became of
                     minor importance. We have to come down to the sixteenth century to hear the
                     question repeated, whether the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by St. Paul,
                     or the Epistles called Catholic were in reality composed by the Apostles whose
                     names they bear. Some Humanists, as Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan, revived
                     the objections mentioned by St. Jerome, and which are based on the style of
                     these writings. To this Luther added the inadmissibility of the doctrine, as
                     regards the Epistle of St. James. However, it was practically the Lutherans alone
                     who sought to diminish the traditional Canon, which the Council of Trent was to
                     define in 1546.

                     It was reserved to modern times, especially to our own days, to dispute and deny
                     the truth of the opinion received from the ancients concerning the origin of the
                     books of the New Testament. This doubt and the negation regarding the authors
                     had their primary cause in the religious incredulity of the eighteenth century.
                     These witnesses to the truth of a religion no longer believed were inconvenient, if
                     it was true that they had seen and heard what they related. Little time was
                     needed to find, in analyzing them, indications of a later origin. The conclusions of
                     the Tubingen school, which brought down to the second century, the
                     compositions of all the New Testament except four Epistles of St. Paul (Rom.;
                     Gal.; I, II Cor.), was very common thirty or forty years ago, in so-called critical
                     circles (see Dict. apolog. de la foi catholique, I, 771-6). When the crisis of
                     militant incredulity had passed, the problem of the New Testament began to be
                     examined more calmly, and especially more methodically. From the critical
                     studies of the past half century we may draw the following conclusion, which is
                     now in its general outlines admitted by all: It was a mistake to have attributed the
                     origin of Christian literature to a later date; these texts, on the whole, date back
                     to the second half of the first century; consequently they are the work of a
                     generation that counted a good number of direct witnesses of the life of Jesus
                     Christ. From stage to stage, from Strauss to Renan, from Renan to Reuss,
                     Weizsäcker, Holtzmann, J¨licher, Weiss, and from these to Zahn, Harnack,
                     criticism has just retraced its steps over the distance it had so inconsiderately
                     covered under the guidance of the Christian Baur. To-day it is admitted that the
                     first Gospels were written about the year 70. The Acts can hardly be said to be
                     later; Harnack even thinks they were composed nearer to the year 60 than to the
                     year 70. The Epistles of St. Paul remain beyond all dispute, except those to the
                     Ephesians and to the Hebrews, and the pastoral Epistles, about which doubts
                     still exist. In like manner there are many who contest the Catholic Epistles; but
                     even if the Second Epistle of Peter is delayed till towards the year 120 or 130,
                     the Epistle of St. James is put by several at the very beginning of Christian
                     literature, between the years 40 and 50, the earliest Epistles of St. Paul about 52
                     till 58.

                     At present the brunt of the battle rages around the writings called Johannine (the
                     fourth Gospel, the three Epistles of John, and the Apocalypse). Were these texts
                     written by the Apostle John, son of Zebedee, or by John the presbyter of
                     Ephesus whom Papias mentions? There is nothing to oblige us to endorse the
                     conclusions of radical criticisms on this subject. On the contrary, the strong
                     testimony of tradition attributes these writings to the Apostle St. John, nor is it
                     weakened at all by internal criteria, provided we do not lose sight of the character
                     of the fourth Gospel--called by Clement of Alexandria "a spiritual gospel", as
                     compared with the three others, which he styled "corporal". Theologically, we
                     must take into consideration some modern ecclesiastical documents (Decree,
                     "Lamentabili", prop. 17, 18, and the answer of the Roman Commission for
                     Biblical Questions, 29 May, 1907). These decisions uphold the Johannine and
                     Apostolic origin of the fourth Gospel. Whatever may be the issue of these
                     controversies, a Catholic will be, and that in virtue of his principles, in
                     exceptionally favourable circumstances for accepting the just exigencies of
                     criticism. If it be ever established that II Peter belongs to a kind of literature then
                     common, namely the pseudepigraph, its canonicity will not on that account be
                     compromised. Inspiration and authenticity are distinct and even separable, when
                     no dogmatic question is involved in their union.

                     The question of the origin of the New Testament includes yet another literary
                     problem, concerning the Gospels especially. Are these writings independent of
                     one another? If one of the Evangelists did utilize the work of his predecessors
                     how are we to suppose it happened? Was it Matthew who used Mark or vice
                     versa? After thirty years of constant study, the question has been answered only
                     by conjectures. Amongst these must be included the documentary theory itself,
                     even in the form in which it is now commonly admitted, that of the "two sources".
                     The starting-point of this theory, namely the priority of Mark and the use made of
                     him by Matthew and Luke, although it has become a dogma in criticism for
                     many, cannot be said to be more than a hypothesis. However disconcerting this
                     may be, it is none the less true. None of the proposed solutions has been
                     approved of by all scholars who are really competent in the matter, because all
                     these solutions, while answering some of the difficulties, leave almost as many
                     unanswered. If then we must be content with hypothesis, we ought at least to
                     prefer the most satisfactory. The analysis of the text seems to agree fairly well
                     with the hypothesis of two sources--Mark and Q. (i.e. Quelle, the non-Marcan
                     document); but a conservative critic will adopt it only in so far as it is not
                     incompatible with such data of tradition concerning the origin of the Gospels as
                     are certain or worthy of respect.

                     These data may be resumed a follows.

                          The Gospels are really the work of those to whom they have been always
                          attributed, although this attribution may perhaps be explained by a more
                          or less mediate authorship. Thus, the Apostle St. Matthew, having written
                          in Aramaic, did not himself put into Greek the canonical Gospel which has
                          come down to us under his name. However, the fact of his being
                          considered the author of this Gospel necessarily supposes that between
                          the original Aramaic and the Greek text there is, at least, a substantial
                          conformity. The original text of St. Matthew is certainly prior to the ruin of
                          Jerusalem, there are even reasons for dating it earlier than the Epistles of
                          St. Paul and consequently about the year 50. We know nothing definite of
                          the date of its being rendered into Greek.
                          Everything seems to indicate the date of the composition of St. Mark as
                          about the time of St. Peter's death, consequently between 60 and 70.
                          St. Luke tells us expressly that before him "many took in hand to set forth
                          in order" the Gospel. What then was the date of his own work? About the
                          year 70. It is to be remembered that we must not expect from the
                          ancients the precision of our modern chronology.
                          The Johannine writings belong to the end of the first century, from the year
                          90 to 100 (approximately); except perhaps the Apocalypse, which some
                          modern critics date from about the end of the reign of Nero, A.D. 68 (see
                          GOSPEL AND GOSPELS).

                                     IV. TRANSMISSION OF THE TEXT

                     No book of ancient times has come down to us exactly as it left the hands of its
                     author--all have been in some way altered. The material conditions under which a
                     book was spread before the invention of printing (1440), the little care of the
                     copyists, correctors, and glossators for the text, so different from the desire of
                     accuracy exhibited to-day, explain sufficiently the divergences we find between
                     various manuscripts of the same work. To these causes may be added, in regard
                     to the Scriptures, exegetical difficulties and dogmatical controversies. To exempt
                     the scared writings from ordinary conditions a very special providence would have
                     been necessary, and it has not been the will of God to exercise this providence.
                     More than 150,000 different readings have been found in the older witnesses to
                     the text of the New Testament--which in itself is a proof that Scriptures are not
                     the only, nor the principal, means of revelation. In the concrete order of the
                     present economy God had only to prevent any such alteration of the sacred texts
                     as would put the Church in the moral necessity of announcing with certainty as
                     the word of God what in reality was only a human utterance. Let us say,
                     however, from the start, that the substantial tenor of the sacred text has not been
                     altered, not withstanding the uncertainty which hangs over some more or less
                     long and more or less important historical or dogmatical passages.
                     Moreover--and this is very important--these alterations are not irremediable; we
                     can at least very often, by studying the variants of the texts, eliminate the
                     defective readings and thus re-establish the primitive text. This is the object of
                     textual criticism.

                     A. Brief History of the Textual Criticism

                     The ancients were aware of the variant readings in the text and in the versions of
                     the New Testament; Origen, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine particularly insisted
                     on this state of things. In every age and in diverse places efforts were made to
                     remedy the evil; in Africa, in the time of St. Cyprian (250); in the East by means
                     of the works of Origen (200-54); then by those of Lucian at Antioch and
                     Hesychius at Alexandria, in the beginning of the fourth century. Later on (383) St.
                     Jerome revised the Latin version with the aid of what he considered to be the best
                     copies of the Greek text. Between 400 and 450 Rabbula of Edessa did the same
                     thing for the Syriac version. In the thirteenth century the universities, the
                     Dominicans, and the Franciscans undertook to correct the Latin text. In the
                     fifteenth century printing lessened, although it did not completely suppress, the
                     diversity of readings, because it spread the same type of text, viz., that which the
                     Hellenists of the Renaissance got from the Byzantine scholars, who came in
                     numbers of Italy, Germany, and France, after the capture of Constantinople. This
                     text, after having been revised by Erasmus, Robert Estienne, and Théodore de
                     Bèze, finally, in 1633, became the Elzeverian edition, which was to bear the
                     name of the "received text". In remained the ne varietur text of the New
                     Testament for Protestants up to the nineteenth century. The British and Foreign
                     Bible Society continued to spread it until 1904. All the official Protestant versions
                     depended on this test of Byzantine origin up to the revision of the Authorized
                     Version of the Anglican Church, which took place in 1881.

                     The Catholics on their side followed the official edition of the Latin Vulgate (which
                     is in substance the revised version of St. Jerome), published in 1592 by order of
                     Clement VIII, and called on that account the Clementine Bible. Thus it can be
                     said that, during two centuries at least, the New Testament was read in the West
                     in two different forms. Which of the two was the more exact? According as the
                     ancient manuscripts of the text were discovered and edited, the critics remarked
                     and noted the differences these manuscripts presented, and also the divergences
                     between them and the commonly received Greek text as well as the Latin
                     Vulgate. The work of comparison and criticism that became urgent was begun,
                     and for almost two centuries has been conducted with diligence and method by
                     many scholars, amongst whom the following deserve a special mention: Mill
                     (1707), Bentley (1720), Bengel (1734), Wetstein (1751), Semler (1765),
                     Griesbach (1774), Hug (1809), Scholz (1830), both Catholics, Lachmann (1842),
                     Tregelles (1857), Tischendorf (1869), Westcott and Hort, Abbé Martin (1883), and
                     at present B. Weiss, H. Von Soden, R.C. Gregory.

                     B. Resources of Textual Criticism

                     Never was it as easy as it is in our own days to see, consult, and control the
                     most ancient documents concerning the New Testament. Gathered from almost
                     everywhere they are to be found in the libraries of our big cities (Rome, Paris,
                     London, Saint Petersburg, Cambridge, etc.), where they can be visited and
                     consulted by everyone. These documents are the manuscripts of the Greek text,
                     the old versions and the works of ecclesiastical or other writers who have cited
                     the New Testament. This collection of documents, daily increasing in number,
                     has been called the apparatus criticus. To facilitate the use of the codices of the
                     text and versions they have been classed and denominated by means of letters
                     of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets. Von Soden introduced another
                     notation, which essentially consists in the distribution of all the manuscripts into
                     three groups designated respectively by the three Greek letters d (i.e. diatheke,
                     the manuscripts containing the Gospels and something else as well), e (i.e.
                     euaggelia, the manuscripts containing the Gospels only), a (i.e. apostolos, the
                     manuscripts containing the Acts and the Epistles. In each series the
                     manuscripts are numbered according to their age.

                     (1) Manuscripts of the Text

                     More than 4000 have been already catalogued and partly studied, only the
                     minority of which contain the whole New Testament. Twenty of these texts are
                     prior to the eighth century, a dozen are of the sixth century, five of the fifth
                     century, and two of the fourth. On account of the number and antiquity of these
                     documents the text of the New Testament is better established than that of our
                     Greek and Latin classics, except Virgil, which, from a critical point of view, is
                     almost in the same conditions. The most celebrated of these manuscripts are:

                          B Vaticanus, d 1, Rome, fourth cent.;
                          Sinaiticus, d 2, Saint Petersburg, fourth cent.;
                          C Ephræmus rescriptus, d 3, Paris, fifth cent.;
                          A Alexandrinus, d 4, London, fifth cent.;
                          D Cantabrigiensis (or Codex Bezæ) d 5, Cambridge, sixth cent.;
                          D 2 Claromontanus, a 1026, Paris, sixth cent.;
                          Laurensis, d 6, Mount Athos, eighth-ninth cent.;
                          E Basilcensis, e 55, Bâle, eighth cent.

                     To these copies of the text on parchment a dozen fragments on papyrus, found
                     in Egypt, most of which go back to the fourth century, one even to the third
                     century, must be added.

                     (2) Ancient Versions

                     Several are derived from original texts prior to the most ancient Greek
                     manuscripts. These versions are, following the order of their age, Latin, Syriac,
                     Egyptian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Gothic, and Georgian. The first three, especially
                     the Latin and the Syriac, are of the greatest importance.

                          Latin version -- Up to about the end of the fourth century, it was diffused in
                          the West (Proconsular Africa, Rome, Northern Italy, and especially at
                          Milan, in Gaul, and in Spain) in slightly different forms. The best known of
                          these is that of St. Augustine called the "Itala", the sources of which go
                          as far back as the second century. In 383 St. Jerome revised the Italic
                          type after the Greek manuscripts, the best of which did not differ much
                          from the text represented by the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus. It was this
                          revision, altered here and there by readings from the primitive Latin version
                          and a few other more recent variants, that prevailed in the west from the
                          sixth century under the name of Vulgate.
                          Syriac Version -- Three primitive types are represented by the Diatessaron
                          of Tatian (second cent.), the palimpset of Sinai, called the Lewis codex
                          from the name of the lady who found it (third cent., perhaps from the end
                          of the second), and the Codex of Cureton (third cent.). The Syriac Version
                          of this primitive epoch that still survives contains only the Gospels. Later,
                          in the fifth century, it was revised after the Greek text. The most
                          widespread of these revisions, which became almost the official version, is
                          called the Pesittâ (Peshitto, simple, vulgate); the others are called
                          Philoxenian (sixth cent.), Heraclean (seventh cent.), and Syro-Palestinian
                          (sixth cent.).
                          Egyptian Version -- The best known type is that called Boharic (used in
                          the Delta from Alexandria to Memphis) and also Coptic from the generic
                          name Copt, which is a corruption of the Greek aiguptos Egyptian. It is the
                          version of Lower Egypt and dates from the fifth century. A greater interest
                          is attached to the version of Upper Egypt, called the Sahidic, or Theban,
                          which is a work of the third century, perhaps even of the second.
                          Unfortunately it is only incompletely known as yet.

                     These ancient versions will be considered precise and firm witnesses of the
                     Greek text of the first three centuries only when we have critical editions of them;
                     for they themselves are represented by copies that differ from one another. The
                     work has been undertaken and is already fairly advanced. The primitive Latin
                     version had been already reconstituted by the Benedictine D. Sabatier
                     ("Bibliorum Sacorum latinæ versiones antiquæ seu Vetus Italica", Reims, 1743,
                     3 vols.); the work has been taken up again and completed in the English
                     collection "Old-Latin Biblical Texts" (1883-1911), still in course of publication.
                     The critical edition of the Latin Vulgate published at Oxford by the Anglicans
                     Wordsworth and White, from 1889 to 1905, gives the Gospels and the Acts. In
                     1907 the Benedictines received from Pius X the commission to prepare a critical
                     edition of the Latin Bible of St. Jerome (Old and New Testament). The
                     "Diatessaron" of Tatian is known to us by the Arabic version edited by 1888 by
                     Mgr. Ciasea, and by the Armenian version of a commentary of St. Ephraem
                     (which is founded on the Syriac of Tatian) translated into Latin, in 1876, by the
                     Mechitarists Auchar and Moesinger. The publications of H. Von Soden have
                     contributed to make the work of Tatian better known. Mrs. A. S. Lewis has just
                     published a comparative edition of the Syriac palimpset of Sinai (1910); this had
                     been already done by F.C. Burkitt for the Cureton codex, in 1904. There exists
                     also a critical edition of the Peshitto by G. H. Gwilliam (1901). As regards the
                     Egyptian versions of the Gospels, the edition of G. Horner (1901-1911, 5 vols.)
                     has put them at the disposition of all those who read Coptic and Sahidic. The
                     English translation, that accompanies them, is meant for a wider circle of

                     (3) Citations of Ecclesiastical Authors

                     The text of the whole New Testament could be constituted by putting together all
                     the citations found in the Fathers. It would be particularly easy for the Gospels
                     and the important Epistles of St. Paul. From a purely critical point of view, the
                     text of the Fathers of the first three centuries is particularly important, especially
                     Irenæus, Justin, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, and later on
                     Ephraem, Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine. Here again a
                     preliminary step must be taken by the critic. Before pronouncing that a Father
                     read and quoted the New Testament in this or that way, we must first be sure
                     that the text as in its present form had not been harmonized with the reading
                     commonly received at the time and in the country where the Father's works were
                     edited (in print or in manuscripts). The editions of Berlin for the Greek Fathers
                     and of Vienna for the Latin Fathers, and especially the monographs on the
                     citations of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford Society for
                     Historical Theology, 1905), in St. Justin (Bousset, 1891), in Tertullian (Ronsch,
                     1871), in Clement of Alexandria (Barnard, 1899), in St. Cyprian (von Sodon,
                     1909), in Origen (Hautsch, 1909), in St. Ephraem (Burkett, 1901), in Marcion
                     (Zahn, 1890), are a valuable help in this work.

                     C. Method followed

                     (1) The different readings attested for the same word were first noted, then they
                     were classed according to their causes; involuntary variants: lapsus,
                     homoioteleuton, itacismus, scriptio continua; voluntary variants, harmonizing of
                     the texts, exegesis, dogmatical controversies, liturgical adaptations. This
                     however was only an accumulation of matter for critical discussion.

                     (2) At first, the process employed was that called individual examination. This
                     consists in examining each case by itself, and it nearly always had as result that
                     the reading found in most documents was considered the right one. In a few
                     cases only the greater antiquity of certain readings prevailed over numerical
                     superiority. Yet one witness might be right rather than a hundred others, who
                     often depend on common sources. Even the oldest text we have, if not itself the
                     original, may be corrupt, or derived from an unfaithful reproduction. To avoid as far
                     as possible these occasions of error, critics were not long before giving
                     preference to the quality rather than to the number of the documents. The
                     guarantees of the fidelity of a copy are known by the history of the intermediate
                     ones connecting it with the original, that is by its genealogy. The genealogical
                     process was brought into vogue especially by two great Cambridge scholars,
                     Westcott and Hort. By dividing the texts, versions, and Patristic citations into
                     families, they arrived at the following conclusions:

                     (a) The documents of the New Testament are grouped in three families that may
                     be called Alexandrian, Syrian, and Western. None of these is entirely free from

                          The text called Western, best represented by D, is the most altered
                          although it was widely spread in the second and third centuries, not only
                          in the West (primitive Latin Version, St. Irenæ St. Hippolitus, Tertullian,
                          St. Cyprian), but also in the East (primitive Syriac Version, Tatian, and
                          even Clement of Alexandria). However, we find in it a certain number of
                          original readings which it alone has preserved.
                          The Alexandrian text is the best, this was the received text in Egypt and,
                          to a certain extent, in Palestine. It is to be found, but adulterated in C (at
                          least as regards the Gospels). It is more pure in the Bohaïric Version and
                          in St. Cyril of Alexandria. The current Alexandrian text however is not
                          primitive. It appears to be a sub-type derived from an older and better
                          preserved text which we have almost pure in B and N. It is this text that
                          Westcott and Hort call neutral, because it has been kept, not absolutely,
                          but much more than all the others, free from the deforming influences
                          which have systematically created the different types of text. The neutral
                          text which is superior to all the others, although not perfect, is attested by
                          Origen. Before him we have no positive testimony, but historical analogies
                          and especially the data of internal criticism show that it must be primitive.
                          Between the Western text and the Alexandria text is the place of the
                          Syrian, which was that used at Antioch in Cappadocia and at
                          Constantinople in the time of St. John Chrysostom. It is the result of a
                          methodical "confluence" of the Western text with that received in Egypt
                          and Palestine towards the middle of the third century. The Syrian text
                          must have been edited between the years 250 and 350. This type has no
                          value for the reconstruction of the original text, as all the readings which
                          are peculiar to it are simply alterations. As regards the Gospels, the
                          Syrian text is found in A and E, F, G, H, K, and also in most of the
                          Peschitto manuscripts, Armenian Version, and especially in St. John
                          Chrysostom. The "received text" is the modern descendant of this Syrian

                     (b) The Latin Vulgate cannot be classed in any of these groups. It evidently
                     depends on an eclectic text. St. Jerome revised a western text with a neutral text
                     and another not yet determined. The whole was contaminated, before or after
                     him, by the Syrian text. What is certain is that his revision brought the Latin
                     version perceptibly nearer to the neutral text, that is to say to the best. As to the
                     received text which was compiled without any really scientific method, it should
                     be put completely aside. It differs in nearly 8000 places from the text found in the
                     Vaticanus, which is the best text known.

                     (c) We must not confound a received text with the traditional text. A received text
                     is a determined type of text used in some particular place, but never current in
                     the whole Church. The traditional text is that which has in its favour the constant
                     testimony of the entire Christian tradition. Considering the substance of the text,
                     it can be said that every Church has the traditional text, for no Church was ever
                     deprived of the substance of the Scripture (in as far as it preserved the integrity of
                     the Canon); but, as regards textual criticism of which the object is to recover the
                     ipsissima verba of the original, there is no text now existing which can be rightly
                     called "traditional". The original text is still to be established, and that is what the
                     editions called critical have been trying to effect for the last century.

                     (d) After more than a century's work are there still many doubtful readings?
                     According to Westcott and Hort seven-eighths of the text, that is 7000 verses out
                     of 8000, are to be considered definitely established. Still more, critical
                     discussions can even now solve most of the contested cases, so that no serious
                     doubts exist except concerning about one-sixtieth of the contents of the New
                     Testament. Perhaps even the number of passages of which the authenticity has
                     not yet had a sufficient critical demonstration does not exceed twelve, at least as
                     regards substantial alterations. We must not forget, however, that the Cambridge
                     critics do not include in this calculation certain longer passages considered by
                     them as not authentic, namely the end of St. Mark (xvi, 9-20) and the episode of
                     the adulteress (John, viii, 1-11).

                     (3) These conclusions of the editors of the Cambridge text have in general been
                     accepted by the majority of scholars. Those who have written since them, for the
                     past thirty years, B. Weiss, H. Von Soden, R. C. Gregory, have indeed proposed
                     different classifications; but in reality they scarcely differ in their conclusions.
                     Only in two points do they differ from Westcott and Hort. These latter have
                     according to them given too much importance to the text of the Vaticanus and
                     not enough to the text called Western. As regards the last-mentioned, modern
                     discoveries have made it better known and show that it is not to be overmuch

                                   V. CONTENTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

                     The New Testament is the principal and almost the only source of the early
                     history of Christianity in the first century. All the "Lives of Jesus Christ" have
                     been composed from the Gospels. The history of the Apostles, as narrated by
                     Renan, Farrar, Fouard, Weizsäcker, and Le Camus, is based on the Acts and
                     the Epistles. The "Theologies of the New Testament", of which so many have
                     been written during the nineteenth century, are a proof that we can with canonical
                     texts build up a compact and fairly complete doctrinal system. But what is the
                     worth of these narrations and syntheses? In what measure do they bring us in
                     contact with the actual facts? It is the question of the historical value of the New
                     Testament which today preoccupies higher criticism.

                     A. History

                     Everybody agrees that the first three Gospels reflect the beliefs regarding Jesus
                     Christ and his work current among Christians during the last quarter of the first
                     century, that is to say at a distance of forty or fifty years from the events. Few
                     ancient historians were in such favourable conditions. The biographies of the
                     Cæsars (Suetonius and Tacitus) were not in a better position to get exact
                     information. All are forced to admit, moreover, that in the Epistles of St. Paul we
                     come into immediate contact with the mind of the most influential propagator of
                     Christianity, and that a quarter of a century after the Ascension. The faith of the
                     Apostle represents the form of Christian thought most victorious and most
                     widespread in the Greco-Roman world. The writings of St. John introduce us to
                     the troubles of the Churches after the fall of the Synagogue and the first
                     encounter of Christianity with the violence of pagan Rome; his Gospel expresses,
                     to say the least, the Christian attitude of that period towards Christ. The Acts
                     inform us, at all events, what was thought in Syria and Palestine towards the
                     year 65 of the foundation of the Church; they lay before our eyes a traveller's
                     diary which allows us to follow St. Paul from day to day during the ten best years
                     of his missions.

                     Must our knowledge stop here? Do the earliest monuments of Christian literature
                     belong to the class of writings called "memoirs", and reveal only the impressions
                     and the judgments of their authors? Not a single critic (meaning those who are
                     esteemed as such) has yet ventured to underrate thus the historical worth of the
                     New Testament taken as a whole. The ancients did not even raise the question,
                     so evident did it seem to them that these texts narrated faithfully the history of
                     early Christianity. What aroused the distrust of modern critics was the fancied
                     discovery that these writings although sincere were none the less biased.
                     Composed, as was said, by believers and for believers or, at all events, in favour
                     of the Faith, they aim much more at rendering credible the life and teaching of
                     Jesus than at simply relating what He did and preached. And then they say
                     these texts contain irreconcilable contradictions which testify to uncertainty and
                     variety in the tradition taken up by them at different stages of its development.

                     (1) It is agreed that the authors of the New Testament were sincere. Were they
                     deceived? If so the writing of truthful history should, apparently, be given up
                     altogether. They were near the events: all eye-witnesses or depending
                     immediately on eye-witnesses. In their view the first condition to be allowed to
                     "testify" on Gospel history was to have seen the Lord, especially the risen Lord
                     (Acts, i, 21-22; 1 Cor., ix, 11; xi, 23; I John, i, 1-4; Luke, 1, 1-4). These
                     witnesses guarantee matters easy to observe and at the same time of supreme
                     importance to their readers. The latter must have controlled assertions claiming
                     to impose an obligation of faith and attended with considerable practical
                     consequences; all the more so as this control was easy, since the matters were
                     in question that had taken place in public and not "in a corner", as St. Paul says
                     (Acts, xxvi, 26; cf. ii, 22; iii, 13-14). Besides, what reasonable hope was there to
                     get books accepted which contained an altered form of the tradition familiar from
                     the teaching of the Churches for more than thirty years, and cherished with all
                     the affection that was borne to Jesus Christ in person? In this sentiment we must
                     seek the final reason for the tenacity of ecclesiastical traditions. Finally, these
                     texts control each other mutually. Written in different circumstances, with varying
                     preoccupations, why do the agree in substance? For history only knows one
                     Christ and one Gospel; and this history is based on the New Testament.
                     Objective reality alone accounts for this agreement.

                     It is true that these same texts present a multitude of differences in details, but
                     the variety and uncertainty to which that may give rise does not weaken the
                     stability of the whole from a historical point of view. Moreover, that this is
                     compatible with the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, see
                     INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE. The causes of these apparent contradictions have
                     been long since pointed out: viz., fragmentary narratives of the same events
                     abruptly put side by side; different perspectives of the same object according as
                     one takes a front or a side view; different expressions to mean the same thing;
                     adaptation, not alteration, of the subject-matter according to the circumstances a
                     feature brought into relief; documents or traditions not agreeing on all points, and
                     which nevertheless the sacred writer has related, without claiming to guarantee
                     them in everything or decide the question of their divergence, These are not
                     subtelties or subterfuges invented to excuse as far as possible our Evangelists.
                     Similar observations would be made about profane authors if there was anything
                     to be gained by doing so. Try for example to harmonize Tacitus with himself in
                     "Historiæ", V, iv, and V, ix. But Herodotus, Polybius, Tacitus, Livy did not narrate
                     the history of a God come to earth to make men submit their whole life to His
                     word. It is under the influence of naturalistic prejudice that some people easily,
                     and as it were a priori, are opposed to the testimony of the Biblical authors. Have
                     not modern discoveries come to show that St. Luke is a more exact historian
                     than Flavius Josephus? It is true that the authors of the New Testament were all
                     Christians, but to be truthful must we be indifferent towards the facts we relate?
                     Love does not necessarily make us blind or untruthful, on the contrary it can
                     allow us to penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of our subjects. In any
                     case, hate exposes the historian to a greater danger of partiality; and is it
                     possible to be without love or hate towards Christianity?

                     (2) These being the conditions, if the New Testament has handed on to us a
                     counterfeit of history, the falsification must have come about at an early date,
                     and be assignable neither to the insincerity nor the incompetence of its authors.
                     It is the early Christian tradition on which they depend that becomes suspected
                     in its vital sources, as if it had been formed under influences of religious instincts,
                     which irrevocably doomed it to be mythical, legendary, or, again, idealistic, as
                     the symbolists put it. What it transmitted to us was not so much the historical
                     figures of Christ (in the modern acceptation of the term) as His prophetic image.
                     The Jesus of the New Testament had become such as He might or ought to have
                     been imagined to be by one who saw in Him the Messias. It is, doubtless, from
                     the saying of Isaias, "Behold a virgin shall conceive", that the belief in the
                     supernatural conception of Jesus springs--a belief which is definitely formulated
                     in the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Such is the explanation current
                     amongst unbelievers of to-day, and amongst an ever-increasing number of liberal
                     Protestants. It is notoriously that of Harnack.

                     Avowedly or no, this way of explaining the formation of Gospel tradition has been
                     put forward principally to account for the supernatural element with which the
                     New Testament is permeated: the objectivity of this element is refused
                     recognition for reasons of a philosophical order, anterior to any criticism of the
                     text. The starting-point of this explanation is a merely speculative prejudice. To
                     the objection that the positions of Strauss became untenable the day that critics
                     began to admit that the New Testament was a work of the first century, and
                     therefore a witness closely following on the events, Harnack answers that twenty
                     years or even less suffice for the formation of legends. As regards the abstract
                     possibility of the formation of a legend that may be, but it still remain to be
                     proved that it is possible that a legend should be formed, still more, that it should
                     win acceptance, in the same concrete conditions as the Gospel narrative. How is
                     it that the apocrypha never succeeded in forcing their way into the might current
                     that bore the canonical writings to all the Churches, and got them accepted?
                     Why were the oldest known to us not composed till at least a century after the

                     Furthermore, if the Gospel narrative is really an exegetical creation based on the
                     Old Testament prophecies, how are we to explain its being what it is? There is
                     no reference in it to texts of which the Messianic nature is patent and accepted
                     by the Jewish schools. It is strange that the "legend" of the Magi come from the
                     East at the summons of a star to adore the infant Jesus should have left aside
                     completely the star of Jacob (Num., xxiv, 17) and the famous passage in Isaias,
                     lx, 6-8. On the other hand, texts are appealed to of which the Messianism is not
                     obvious, and which do not seem to have been commonly interpreted (then, at
                     least) by the Jews in the same way as by the Christians. This is exactly the
                     case with St. Matthew, ii, 15, 18, 23, and perhaps i, 23. The Evangelists
                     represent Jesus as the popular preacher, par excellence, the orator of the crowd
                     in town and country; they show Him to us whip in hand, and they out into His
                     mouth words more stinging still addressed to the Pharisees. According to St.
                     John (vii, 28, 37; xii, 44), He "cries out" even in the Temple. Can that trait in his
                     physiognomy be readily explained by Isaias, xlii, 2, who had foretold of the
                     servant of Yahweh: "He shall not cry nor have respect to person, neither shall his
                     voice be heard abroad"? Again, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb . . . and the
                     sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp" (Isaias, xi, 6-8) would have
                     afforded material for a charming idyl, but the Evangelists have left that realism to
                     the apocrypha and to the Millenarians. What passage of the Prophets or even of
                     the Jewish apocalypse, inspired the first generation of Christians with the
                     fundamental doctrine of the transitory character of the Law; and above all, with
                     the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple? Once one admits
                     the initial step in this theory, he is logically led to leave nothing standing in the
                     Gospel narrative, not even the crucifixion of Jesus, nor His existence itself.
                     Solomon Reinach actually pretends that the Passion story is merely a
                     commentary on Psalm xxi, while Arthur Drews denies the very existence of
                     Jesus Christ.

                     Another factor which contributed to the alleged distortion of the Gospel story was
                     the necessity imposed on primitive Christianity of altering, if it were to last, the
                     conception of the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus in person. On His lips, it is
                     said, the Gospel was merely a cry of "Sauve qui peut" addressed to the world
                     which He believed to be about to end. Such was also the persuasion of the first
                     Christian generation. But soon it was perceived that they had to do with a world
                     which was to last, and the teaching of the Master had to be adapted to the new
                     condition of things. This adaptation was not achieved without much violence,
                     done, unconsciously, it is true, to historical reality, for the need was felt of
                     deriving from the Gospel all the ecclesiastical institutions of a more recent date.
                     Such is the eschatological explanation propagated particularly by J. Weiss,
                     Schweitzer, Loisy; and favorably received by Pragmatists.

                     It is true that it was only later that the disciples understood the significance of
                     certain words and acts of the Master. But to try and explain all the Gospel story
                     was the retrospect of the second Christian generation is like trying to balance a
                     pyramid on its apex. Indeed the hypothesis, in its general application, implies a
                     state of mind hard to reconcile with the calmness and sincerity which is readily
                     admitted in the Evangelists and St. Paul. As for the starting-point of the theory,
                     namely, that Christ was the dupe of an illusion about the imminent destruction of
                     the world, it has no foundation in the text, even for one who regards Christ as a
                     mere man, except by distinguishing two kinds of discourses (and that on the
                     strength of the theory itself), those that are traced back to Jesus, and those that
                     have been attributed to Him afterwards. This is what is called a vicious circle.
                     Finally, it is false that the second Christian generation was prepossessed by the
                     idea of tracing, per fas et nefas, everything--institutions and doctrines--back to
                     Jesus in person. The first generation itself decided more than once questions of
                     the highest importance by referring not to Jesus but to the Holy Spirit and to the
                     authority of the Apostles. This was especially the case with the Apostolic
                     conference at Jerusalem (Acts, xv), in which it was to be decided in what
                     concrete observances the Gospel was to take the place of the Law. St. Paul
                     distinguishes expressly the doctrines or the institutions that he promulgates in
                     virtue of his Apostolic authority, from the teachings that tradition traced back to
                     Christ (I Cor., vii, 10, 12, 25).

                     Again it is to be presumed that if Christian tradition had been formed under the
                     alleged influence, and that, with such historical freedom, there would remain less
                     apparent contradictions. The trouble take by apologists to harmonize the texts of
                     the New Testament is well known. If the appellation "Son of God" points out a
                     new attitude of the Christian conscience towards Jesus Christ, why has it not
                     simply replaced that of "Son of Man"? The survival of the Gospels of this latter
                     expression, close by in the same texts with its equivalent (which alone showed
                     clearly the actual faith of the Church, could only be an encumbrance; nay more,
                     it remained as a telltale indication of the change that came--afterwards. It will be
                     said perhaps that the evolution of popular beliefs, coming about instinctively and
                     little by little, has nothing to do with the exigencies of a rational logic, and
                     therefore has not coherence. Granted, but it must not be forgotten that, on the
                     whole, the literature of the New Testament is a thoughtful, reasoned, and even
                     apologetic work. Our adversaries can all the less deny it this character, as,
                     according to them, the authors of the New Testament are "tendentious", that is
                     to say, inclined more than is right to give a bias to things so as to make them

                     B. Doctrines

                     They are: (1) specifically Christian; or (2) not specifically Christian.

                     Doctrines Not Specifically Christian

                     Christianity being the normal continuation of Judaism, the New Testament must
                     needs inherit from the Old Testament a certain number of religious doctrines
                     concerning God, His worship the original destinies of the world, and especially of
                     men, the moral law, spirits, etc. Although these beliefs are not specifically
                     Christian, the New Testament develops and perfects them.

                          The attributes of God, particularly His spirituality, His immensity, His
                          goodness, and above all His fatherhood are insisted on more fully.
                          The moral law is restored to its primitive perfection in what regards the
                          unity and perpetuity of marriage, respect for God's name, forgiveness of
                          injuries, and in general the duties towards one's neighbours; the guilt of
                          the simple desire of a thing forbidden by the Law is clearly set forth;
                          external works (prayer, almsgiving, fasting, sacrifice) really derive their
                          worth from the dispositions of the heart that accompany them.
                          The Messianic hope is purified from the temporal and material elements
                          with which it had become enveloped.
                          The retributions of the world to come and the resurrection of the body are
                          specified more clearly.

                     Specifically Christian Doctrines

                     Other doctrines, specifically Christian, are not added on to Judaism to develop,
                     but rather to supersede it. In reality, between the New and Old Testaments there
                     is a direct but not revolutionary succession as a superficial observer might be
                     inclined to believe; just as in living beings, the imperfect state of yesterday must
                     give way before the perfection of to-day although the one has normally prepared
                     the other. If the mystery of the Trinity and the spiritual character of the Messianic
                     Kingdom are ranked among the peculiarly Christian dogmas, it is because the
                     Old Testament was of itself insufficient to establish the doctrine of the New
                     Testament on this subject; and still more because, at the time of Jesus, the
                     opinions current among the Jews went decidedly in the opposite direction.

                          The Divine life common to the Three Persons (Father, Son and Holy
                          Ghost) in the Unity of one and the same Nature is the mystery of the
                          Trinity, obscurely typified or outlined in the Old Testament.
                          The Messias promised by the Prophets has come in the person of Jesus
                          of Nazareth, who was not only a man powerful in word and work, but the
                          true God Himself, the Word made man, born of a virgin, crucified under
                          Pontius Pilate, but risen from the dead and now exalted to the right hand
                          of His Father.
                          It was by an ignominious death on the Cross, and not by power and glory,
                          that Jesus Christ redeemed the world from sin, death, and the anger of
                          God; He is the Redeemer of all men (Gentiles as well as Jews) and He
                          united them to Himself all without distinction.
                          The Mosaic Law (rites and political theocracy) having been given only to
                          the Jewish people, and that for a time, must disappear, as the figure
                          before the reality. To these practices powerless in themselves Christ
                          substitutes rites really sanctifying, especially baptism, eucharist, and
                          penance. However the new economy is to such a degree a religion in spirit
                          and truth, that, absolutely speaking, man can be saved, in the absence of
                          all exterior means, by submitting himself fully to God by the faith and love
                          of the Redeemer.
                          Before Christ's coming, men had been treated by God as slaves or
                          children under age are treated, but with the Gospel begins a law of love
                          and liberty written first of all in the heart; this law does not consist merely
                          in the letter which forbids, commands, or condemns; it is also, and
                          chiefly, an interior grace which disposes the heart to do the will of God.
                          The Kingdom of God preached and established by Jesus Christ, though it
                          exists already visibly in the Church, will not be perfected until the end of
                          the world (of which no one knows the day or the hour), when He will come
                          Himself in power and majesty to render to each one according to his
                          works. In the meantime, the Church assisted by the Holy Spirit, governed
                          by the Apostles and their successors under the authority of Peter,
                          teaches and propagates the Gospel even to the ends of the earth.
                          Love of our neighbour is raised to the height of the love of God, because
                          the Gospel makes us see God and Christ in all men since they are, or
                          ought to be, His mystical members. When necessary, this love must be
                          carried as far as the sacrifice of self. Such is Christ's commandment.
                          Natural morality in the Gospel is raised to a higher sphere by the
                          counsels of perfection (poverty and chastity), which may be summed up
                          as the positive renouncement of the material goods of this life, in so far as
                          they hinder our being completely given up to the service of God.
                          Eternal life, which shall not be fully realized until after the resurrection of
                          the body, consists in the possession of God, seen face to faces, and of
                          Jesus Christ.

                     Such are the fundamental points of Christian dogma, as expressly taught in the
                     New Testament. They are not found collected together in any of the Canonical
                     books, but were written throughout a period extending from the middle of the first
                     century to the beginning of the second; and, consequently, the history of the way
                     in which they were expressed at different times can be reconstructed. These
                     texts never could, and were never meant to, dispense with the oral tradition which
                     preceded them. Without this perpetual commentary they would not always have
                     been understood and frequently would have been misunderstood.

                     ALFRED DURAND
                     Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV
                                    Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                  Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
                                 Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

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