After my post yesterday about the 1707 publication by John Mill of his edition of the Greek New Testament, in which he identified some 30,000 places where the manuscripts known in his day differed from one another, my plan was to talk about Greek editions available now, over three centuries later. But it occurred to me that some readers might be interested in the controversy that was stirred by Mill’s rather alarming publication. So that’s what this post will be. Again, this is from my book Misquoting Jesus.
The impact of Mill’s publication was immediately felt, although he himself did not live to see the drama play out. He died just two weeks after his massive publication, the victim of stroke. His untimely death (said by one observer to have been brought on by “drinking too much coffee”!) did not prevent detractors from coming to the fore, however. The most scathing attack came three years after Mill’s publication, in a learned volume by a controversialist named Daniel Whitby, who in 1710 published a set of notes on the interpretation of the New Testament to which he added an appendix of 100 pages examining, in great detail, the variants cited by Mill in his apparatus. Whitby was a conservative Protestant theologian, whose basic view was that even though God certainly would not prevent errors from creeping into scribal copies of the New Testament, at the same time he would never allow the text to be corrupted (i.e., altered) to the point where it could not adequately achieve its divine aim and purpose. And so, he laments “I GRIEVE therefore and am vexed that I have found so much in Mill’s Prolegomena which seems quite plainly to render the standard of faith insecure, or at best to give others too good a handle for doubting.”
Whitby goes on to …
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