Friday, September 21, 2018

Tregelles’s Mustard Seed

In his delightful book American Greek Testaments: A Critical Bibliography of the Greek New Testament as Published in America, Isaac Hall has this to say about the importance of S. P. Tregelles:
The University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge have issued many a work of which the English nation is justly proud, and for which the Christian world is grateful; but since the noble edition of Mill, no work of either press has done more to bring back from Germany to England her former pre-eminence in New Testament critical study [than WH’s]. In the greatest contribution to that end hitherto, not to say the greatest work of this nature in England for a century and a half, the University Presses had scarcely any share. That was the work of Dr. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, accomplished in the face of the wealth and power that mostly clung to blind tradition; in toil almost single-handed, in privation, and later with the disadvantage of failing eyes, under far too much misappreciation, perverse opposition, and even obloquy — until his mustard seed had grown to a great herb in which the fowls of the air might build their nests. But had Tregelles lived to see the present day, no man would more heartily have rejoiced than he, to see this cap-stone put by Westcott and Hort upon his building. The present state of things in England bears testimony, indeed, to Tregelles’s labors, but it bears equal testimony to the numbers that, conspicuously or humbly, have entered into those labors. It belongs to all human progress that “one soweth and another reapeth;” and in this instance, surely, there is abundant cause that “ he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” (p. 58)


  1. Although Tregelles and Hort were friends (Hort wrote the Introduction to Tregelles' edition after the latter became debilitated), I doubt that Tregelles necessarily would have "heartily rejoiced" over WH's edition with its over-dependence on B and Aleph. Rather, he likely would have continued to promote his own "comparative criticism" position, placing a greater reliance on MS readings also supported by pre-4th century patristic testimony.

    In actuality, Tregelles' edition in terms of both theory and method was superior to both the vagaries of Tischendorf and the narrowed scope of WH. A pity that his edition did not garner the support it deserved.

    1. I believe the new THGNT is based on Tregelles' edition.

    2. "Loosely based" would be a better description, since there are differences in theory and method involved.

      I'll let Dirk Jongkind or Pete Williams comment on that matter.