Thursday, April 13, 2017

1854 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles

From Tregelles' Preface to his 1854 An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament.

A bit on the importance of knowing Biblical languages and the texts of the Bible in those languages:
THIS Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament is intended to give a correct statement of facts and principles, brought down to the present time, for the use of Christian biblical students.  
It is of great importance for such to be thoroughly and fundamentally instructed in subjects of criticism, for this is a department of biblical learning which can never be safely neglected; and if Holy Scripture is valued as being the revelation of God concerning his way of salvation through faith in the atonement of Christ, then whatever is needed for wisely maintaining its authority, even though at first sight it may seem only to bear on the subject indirectly, will be felt to be of real importance.  
Forms of antagonism to the authority of Scripture have indeed varied.  
There have been those who, with tortuous ingenuity, charged the inspired writers with deception and dishonesty, and who first devised the term "Bibliolatry," as a contemptuous designation for those who maintained that it was indeed given forth by the Holy Ghost: these opponents might well have been confuted by the contrast presented between what they were, and the uprightness and holiness inculcated by those writers of the Bible whom they despised.  
There have been argumentative sceptics, men who could ingeniously reason on the Zodiac of Denderah, and other ancient monuments, as if they disproved the facts of Scripture: God has seen fit that such men should be answered by continuous discoveries, such as that of Dr. Young, by which the hieroglyphics of Denderah were read, so that the supposed argument only showed the vain confidence of those who had alleged it.  
The Rationalistic theory has endeavoured to resolve all the Scripture narrations into honest but blind enthusiasm, and extreme credulity.  
The Mythic hypothesis has sought to nullify all real objective facts, and thus to leave the mind in a state of absolute Pyrrhonism, in certainty as to nothing, except in the rejection of the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and of all that testifies to Him as the Messiah.  
And yet more recently, Spiritualism has advanced its claims, borrowing much from preceding systems of doubt and negation, and taking its name and, in many points, its avowed principles, from those very Scriptures whose claims it will not admit. It would have a Christianity without Christ; it would bring man to God, but without blood of atonement; it would present man with divine teaching and guidance, while it denies the true divine teacher, the Holy Ghost, who, when He works on the heart, ever does it by glorifying Jesus; it would adopt ethics from revelation, without admitting that they have been revealed; and it would demand holiness, and that without the knowledge of God's love, from which alone it can spring, without the apprehension of those hopes by which it can be sustained, and without owning that power from above by which alone it can have a reality.  
Such have been successive, or in part rival and mutually antagonistic, rulers of the Olympus of scepticism and infidelity; systems which profess to be new, and which seek to establish this claim by recklessly rejecting the basis of all known and long-cherished truth.  
And even now, perhaps, that boasted cry of "progress," so often heard, without regard to holiness and truth, and which is reiterated by those who seek to conceal, even from themselves, their own superficial pretensions, and to hinder others from knowing their utter want of principle, may have raised up some yet newer claimant to dethrone preceding systems, in the vain thought of maintaining a triumphant rule.  
In one thing, and one only, have these forms of opposition been agreed: they have all of them re-echoed the serpent's first whisper of doubt and lying, "YEA, HATH GOD SAID?" 
It behoves those who value the revelation of God in his word, both for their own sakes and on account of others, to be really grounded in biblical study: that which is merely superficial will not suffice; it would only be enough to enable the sharpness of the edge of sceptical objections to be felt, causing, perhaps, serious injury, without giving the ability needed to turn the weapon aside: while, on the other hand, fundamental acquaintance with the subject may, through God s grace, enable us so to hold fast the Scripture as a revelation of objective truth, as to be a safeguard both to ourselves and to others.  
The truth of God is as a rock assailed by waves; each in succession may seem to overwhelm it, but the force of each is in measure spent on that which has preceded it, and modified by that which follows. Each wave may make wild havoc amongst the detached pebbles at its base, while the rock itself is unmoved and uninjured. It is as thus knowing our grounds of certainty, that we have to maintain the Scripture as God's revealed truth.  
Some have, indeed, looked at critical studies as though they were a comparatively unimportant part of biblical learning. This must have arisen from not seeing the connection between things which are essentially conjoined. These studies contain the elements of that which has to be used practically for the most important purposes. They are the basis on which the visible edifice must rest. The more we rightly regard Holy Scripture as the charter of that inheritance to which we look forward, and which we know as given at the price of the Saviour's blood, the more shall we be able to estimate the importance of TEXTUAL CRITICISM, by which we know, on grounds of ascertained certainty, the actual words and sentences of that charter in the true statement of its privileges, and in the terms in which the Holy Ghost gave it.  
S. P. T.
PLYMOUTH, April 25, 1854. 

I appreciate this preface and find the insight very valuable. But I caution the reader about the final sentence. Tregelles was working with a background in Presbyterian and Anglican Calvinism. The Sovereignty of God takes front position in his system. Derived from this notion of God's sovereignty is a Calvinistic rationalism which would allow him to make a claim that Scripture can only be established by reason. And that establishing Scripture through reason is prior to faith. In this way he makes faith the result of an act of the human intellect.