Thursday, March 11, 2021

Cardinal Bellarmine, Trent’s Major Apologist, on Important Variants

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I’ve been doing some reading on the Council of Trent and its aftermath the last few weeks and would like to share some interesting finds. First, some context. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was an important Roman Catholic theologian and a major apologist for Trent. More than a few leading Protestant polemicists recognized Bellarmine as their main target. As Cardinal Dulles explains:

When recalled by superiors to teach at the Roman College, Bellarmine produced his magnum opus, the Disputationes de Controversiis Fidei Catholicae adversus huius temporis haereticos, published in three large folios in 1586, 1588, and 1593. Although never translated as a whole into vernacular languages, this work remained for centuries the standard Catholic response to the Reformation.

Bellarmine
Dulles wrote that in 1994. Happily, there is now an effort to translate Bellarmine’s opus into English and put it online. It is well worth reading, not least because Bellarmine represents his positions so clearly and succinctly. He is also not afraid to criticize excesses on his own side of the debate.

One of the debates at the time was which version of the Bible was “authentic” and thus authoritative (see here). Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? The Protestants, of course, affirmed the original languages of Hebrew and Greek over against the Latin. Trent asserted the “authenticity” of the Latin, and said no one “dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.” (The role of Greek and Hebrew went unmentioned but the council did call—with varying success—for new editions of them.) It is Trent’s position that Bellarmine defends.

In the course of doing so, he comments on an argument, made by some Catholics, that the Greek New Testament had been so corrupted that the (purer) Vulgate has supreme authority. On this point, Bellarmine demurs, writing that 

there can be no doubt but that the Apostolic edition [Greek] is of supreme authority unless it be clear it has been corrupted. On this matter I judge one should think as we said above about the Hebrew editions, namely that the Greek codices are not generally corrupted; however the sources are not so very pure that necessarily whatever differs from them should be corrected, as Calvin, Major, Chemnitz, and the rest of the heretics of this age falsely think.

Disputationes (source)
He goes on to give some examples of where he thinks the Greek has been corrupted, before adding this concluding section on several variants that still get a lot of press today:

Finally it is clear that in many Greek codices there are missing many parts of the true Scripture, as the story of the adulteress John ch.8. The last chapter of Mark, the very beautiful testimony to the Trinity, I John, and others that we discussed above. It is also clear that certain things are found in all the Greek codices that are not parts of divine Scripture, as in Matthew ch.6 is added to the Lord’s prayer, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever.” That these words are not in the text but were added by the Greeks can be understood from two things.

First from the fact that Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine expound the Lord’s prayer and yet make no mention of these words, although all the Greeks know them well. Second from the fact that the Greeks in their liturgy recite these words indeed, but they are not continuous with the Lord’s prayer.

It’s probably no coincidence that the Reformed Scholastic Francis Turretin (1623–1687), writing a generation after Bellarmine, mentions all three of these “missing parts” in his discussion of “authenticity.” In each case, he finds the contested passage “in all the Greek copies” of his day (Institutes, vol. 1, Q.XI.X). This serves as proof, for him, against any notion that the Greek copies must cede authenticity to the Vulgate because of textual corruption.

One last observation about Bellarmine’s discussion. I notice a similarity, mutatis mutandis, between Trent’s view of the Vulgate and some present-day Protestant defenses of the TR. Both believe that usage has a key role in confirming authority. For Trent, the Vulgate’s authority is confirmed “by the lengthened usage of so many years.” For TR proponents, the TR’s authority is confirmed by the usage of such great theologians (the Reformers). Neither view convinces me, but it remains instructive to see how Bellarmine argues for his case.

16 comments

  1. > Finally it is clear that in many Greek codices there are missing many
    > parts of the true Scripture, as the story of the adulteress John ch.8.
    > The last chapter of Mark, the very beautiful testimony to the Trinity,
    > I John, and others that we discussed above.

    In the 16th century, how many Greek witnesses were available that were missing the last chapter of Mark? Does this mean Belarmine was making his arguments mostly from the Codex Vaticanus.

    It also is interesting that he argues about textual differences that weren't in the Greek Text editions the Protestants were using.

    These combined to me to make his arguments less convincing for those of the period he is writing to, but then I guess that's par for the course in the 16th century on both sides.

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    1. Good question. Erasmus, Cajetan and Melchior Cano had expressed some doubts on the Mark ending, or noted it missing in some Greek mss. However that seems to based mostly on the Eusebius-Jerome comments. Bellarmine did work with Vaticanus, so that could have been a major influence. Still, the comment is surprising.

      Some of Bellarmine's most interesting comments are on Mark in Latin. (I am using another site.)

      St Robert Bellarmine: Chapter Seven: On the Greek Edition of the New Testament
      https://sensusfidelium.us/apologetics/robert-bellarmines-controversies-of-the-christian-faith-volume-1-on-the-word-of-god/st-robert-bellarmine-chapter-seven-on-the-greek-edition-of-the-new-testament/

      "Now that the book of Mark was written in Latin by Mark himself at Rome, and then was by the same turned into Greek at Aquileia, is taught by Adrianus Finus in Scourge of the Jews bk.6 ch.80 and bk.8 ch.62, and by Petrus Antonius Beuther who followed Finus in his notes 8 and 9 on Sacred Scripture. In the life also of St. Peter which holds first place in the Pontifical of Damasus, it is sufficiently openly indicated that Mark’s Gospel was initially written by him in Latin."

      Rarely have I seen a good study of the question of Mark writing in Latin (or two editions, or a Graeco-Latin dialect) despite the fact that this has been shared by solid scholars. The textual critics appear to have a blind-spot of Greek Onlyism :).

      Steven Avery

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    2. I suspect that's a non-starter if you have Markian priority for the Synoptic Problem.:).

      Seriously, bar to prove Mark was first written in Latin would be pretty high no matter what your position on the Synoptic Problem is. The verbal coherence between Matthew, Mark and Luke makes it unlikely that any of them were composed in anything other than Greek.

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    3. Hi Bob,

      No, I definitely do not ascribe to Markan priority for myriad reasons.

      And the astute Ben C. Smith gave some new dependency reasons that point against Markan priority.

      BCHF
      Presumptions of reader knowledge in Mark
      Ben C. Smith - Feb, 2020
      http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3818

      And since Ben is posting on a skeptic site, I expanded it a bit from an evangelical perspective here, and include the Galilee resurrection appearance question, that indicates Mark depending on the publication of Matthew (and possibly John).

      PureBibleForum
      Mark's dependence on Luke - the end of Markan priority - plus support for the traditional ending
      http://purebibleforum.com/index.php?threads/marks-dependence-on-luke-the-end-of-markan-priority-plus-support-for-the-traditional-ending.1308/

      And I think you are overstating the issue of "verbal coherence". When we have scholars who say there are many linguistic indications of our Greek Gospel of Mark being translation Greek, either from Aramaic or Latin. And remember, some theories are of Mark putting forth two editions, as above:

      "then was by the same turned into Greek at Aquileia"

      Bellarmine also has a second spot:

      St Robert Bellarmine: Chapter Fifteen: On Vernacular Editions
      https://sensusfidelium.us/apologetics/robert-bellarmines-controversies-of-the-christian-faith-volume-1-on-the-word-of-god/st-robert-bellarmine-chapter-fifteen-on-vernacular-editions/

      "For there are those who reckon that Mark’s Gospel, as we also advised above, was written at Rome in Latin by Mark himself, and was afterwards by him translated into Greek, about which see Damasus in his Life of Blessed Peter, Adrianus Finus Scourge against the Jews bk.6 ch.80 and bk.8 ch.63, and Peter Antonius Beuter note 90 on Sacred Scripture."

      Please note that there is just as much an imperative to "prove Mark was first written in Greek" than in Latin.

      Markan priority has entangled many textual critics, along with the Greek-Onlyism myopia :).

      Steven Avery
      Dutchess County, NY, USA

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    4. AVERY:
      Rarely have I seen a good study of the question of Mark writing in Latin (or two editions, or a Graeco-Latin dialect) despite the fact that this has been shared by solid scholars. The textual critics appear to have a blind-spot of Greek Onlyism :)

      Maestroh:
      You couldn't even get through the first post without an attack on people. There's not much need to study something that there's absolutely no evidence is true. You would do well to thoroughly acquaint yourself with the entire Hermeneia series, which will provide you both with excellent source material AND a substantial bibliography. For example, Collins's commentary on Mark has a 56=page introductory bibliography followed by a 125-page introduction before the first word regarding the commentary even appears. That doesn't require anyone to accept her conclusions, but the entire series is well done.

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    5. AVERY:
      No, I definitely do not ascribe to Markan priority for myriad reasons.

      ME:
      Not one of which involves actually reading it in Greek alongside the other gospels.
      AVERY:
      And the astute Ben C. Smith gave some new dependency reasons that point against Markan priority.

      ME:
      Yes, and entire works have argued FOR Markan priority, too.


      AVERY:
      And I think you are overstating the issue of "verbal coherence".

      ME: Yes, but you've never read the three synoptics side-by-side IN GREEK, either.

      AVERY:
      When we have scholars who say there are many linguistic indications of our Greek Gospel of Mark being translation Greek, either from Aramaic or Latin. And remember, some theories are of Mark putting forth two editions, as above:

      ME:
      None of this really affects this issue at all. Saying "someone said this" really doesn't matter.

      AVERY:
      Please note that there is just as much an imperative to "prove Mark was first written in Greek" than in Latin.

      ME:
      No, your OPINION expressed here is at variance with facts.
      AVERY:
      Markan priority has entangled many textual critics, along with the Greek-Onlyism myopia :).

      ME:
      Again, with the opinions and attacks but not really anything to offer in consideration

      Simply answer this "yes" or "no" question - have you EVER read the Synnoptics side-by-side in Greek?

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    6. Bill,
      While certainly not defending Steven’s assertions,I have read the synoptic Gospels in Greek side by side and still don’t accept Markan priority. I also believe that this puts me in the majority historically speaking, if one can see past the 19th century. So, I don’t see the relevance of this question.
      Tim

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    7. Tim,

      I have zero problem with someone who is not Markan priority (just so we’re clear).

      But HE brought it up and fired off the insults of scholars who have studied it and came to what they deemed the best conclusion.

      I’m not in any way flippantly dismissing your view on the Synoptics as he did the rest of us who, you know, have actually read them.

      That was the point. Many fine people I know hold (usually) to Mathhean priority.

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    8. Jan Krans-Plaisier reports that Hoskier (on whose work everyone depends when trying to discredit Sinaiticus and Vaticanus by appealing to 3,000 differences between them in the Gospels) was also interested in whether Mark's Gospel was written in Greek or Latin. According to a letter dated 25 March 1928 (Jan's summary:) "Hoskier consults a famous medium to have a spirit settle an important question of New Testament textual research. Luckily for Markan scholarship, Mrs Curran gave the correct answer ['Patience Worth, when asked the question by me, says Mark's Gospel was not first written in Latin']." [Krans, Jan. “Hoskier in the Spiritual World.” In The Future of New Testament Textual Scholarship, edited by Garrick V. Allen, 69–77. WUNT 417. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019, pp. 76–77].

      This was a year before Hoskier published his work on Revelation that included "spirit communication" as part of his text-critical evidence for a variant at Rev. 21:4 (details in the article cited above).

      Note for clarity: this comment is about Hoskier, not about everyone who ever asked whether Mark was originally written in Latin.

      In all fairness, Jan writes (p. 77): "It would be absurd to judge Hoskier's scholarly work in general based on this instance of bad judgment, or, worse, on the perceived lack of Christian quality of his beliefs. Such ad hominem arguments are best left to those who do not know better."

      And I agree. But if doctrinal purity is held as the standard used to dismiss the work of some scholars by the same people who use to Hoskier's work to discredit codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, Hoskier's beliefs and practices should matter—to them.

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    9. Christians are to be lovers of truth, and therefore truth must be accepted—regardless of the source. And as far as I'm concerned, Hoskier (and others) can collate, tabulate, and speculate 'til the cows come home. Albeit, I believe it's warranted if a Christian takes exception to a man like Hoskier editing, revising and/or reconstructing the Greek NT (especially for Church use). It would be similar to Hoskier preaching and teaching the Bible,—when he is neither a believer, nor called to do so.

      And we have historical examples to learn from here, i.e., the Samaritan Pent., the "LXX", Marcion, etc.. (All of which failed to hit the mark.)

      So...unless we are to believe that there's no longer any rightful custodian(s) of the Bible, perhaps we have a glaring blind spot that needs to be addressed here.




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  2. I really enjoyed this article. I’m currently thinking through similar issues in regards to the LXX (apologies to Peter Williams for the anachronism). Those who take a LXX priority approach against the Hebrew text make similar arguments.

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  3. Back to Bellarmine.
    In his tractate "De editione latina vulgata, quo senso a Concilio Tridentino definitum sit, pro authentica habeatur", Bellarmine said that the Hebrew and Greek texts "non minus sunt authentica quam vulgata latina editio, imo magis, cum illae sunt fontes, ista rivus". His answer to the question whether the Council's declaration on authenticity gives the Vulgate precedence to the Hebrew and Greek texts is: "Respondeo, hebraeam et graecam, cum sint ipsi fontes, per se esse authenticas, neque egere Concilii approbatione; latinam, quia est versio, approbatione indiguisse". (Le Bachelet, "Bellarmin et la Bible Sixto-Clementine", Paris, 1911, pp. 114-115.)
    The text of Bellarmine is on the 'net' in the editio princeps of the "Apographum" (https://books.google.nl/books?id=TgBTAAAAcAAJ), pp. 11-12.
    For a translation in French, see volume 1 of "Sainte bible de Vence" 5th ed., Paris, 1827, pp. 163-164 (https://archive.org/details/saintebibledeven01pariuoft/page/162/mode/2up).
    Bellarmine is aware that *all* texts (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) have suffered from corruption, more or less.

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    1. Thanks for that, Teunis, and for getting us back on topic. Are you aware of any place where Bellarmine, or others of his period, do reject the Vulgate in favor of the Greek or Hebrew? I noticed in reading Bellarmine that the Vulgate seems to always come out clean, so to speak, in the places where his opponents raise a question about it.

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    2. From Bellarmine's work and from documents of the congregations and committees, who prepared the editions of the Sixtina and Clementina, it is clear that the concordance of the original text with (part of) the Latin mss is very important for the determination of the editorial text of the Vulgate. Currently I am busy with the documents of said congregations. When I see that an equivalent reading of the Greek text (of the NT) is chosen with no or scarce support of Latin mss, I will tell.
      I think, the variant unit "book/tree of life" in Revelation 22,19 is nice example of the influence of the Greek Textus Receptus on the text of Sixtina and Clementina. The mss tradition of the Vulgate is divided. Part of the mss, largely the most recent, read "book". The editorial text of both Wordsworth-White and Weber(-Gryson) has ""tree", contrary to the earlier editions of the Vulgate with "book".
      It is well known that in his NT, Erasmus translated the last verses of Revelation from the text of the Vulgate of his days into Greek, so in his Greek NT is "the book of life". Thus, the Greek Textus Receptus did not inspire the committees of Sixtina and Clementina to record "tree of life" in their text. They (but Erasmus too) could have knowledge of the variant unit book/tree, because in the marginal text-critical apparatuses published in about 1500 by Amerbach and Leontorius in editions of the biblical text with the Glossa Ordinaria and Hugo Carrensis' Postilla is: "alias ligno" as a variant to "libro". This unit is also in the apparatus of some copies of Castellanus' Vulgate, 1511 and later. For these early apparatuses, see chapter 10 of Houghton-Montoro's "At One Remove", 2020 (https://www.gorgiaspress.com/at-one-remove).

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  4. Darren M.Pollack goes into this comparative Greek-Vulgate dynamic (utilizing Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics)

    Early Stuart Polemical Hermeneutics: Andrew Willet’s 1611 Hexapla on Romans (2017)
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Ly1BDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA60

    Roman Catholic and Protestant exegetes held many beliefs about the textual basis of Scripture in common, with their dispute over the more authentic textual tradition boiling down to a disagreement over the level of corruption of the later Greek manuscripts.25 Each side acknowledged that the New Testament was originally penned in Greek and conceded that an error-free Greek original would, were there an extant copy, be the optimal basis for theological debate.26 Both recognized the value of text-critical tools, though Roman Catholics believed that Jerome had already applied these sufficiently in establishing the Vulgate text in the fourth century.27 Roman Catholics and Protestants alike recognized some(minimal) degree of error in their own favored text tradition. While Martin
    concedes scattered flaws in the current Vulgate text, he adds that these have already been identified by the theologians at Trent so that they may be “throughly mended.” Willet, similarly, admits that there are imperfections in the textus receptus Greek, though he maintains its priority by adding that “for one
    scape in the Greeke, it is an easie matter to shew twentie in the Latine.”28 Willet also demonstrates an awareness that Stephanus does not always represent the best Greek manuscripts. p. 59

    ========================

    Peter, good question. And I have not seen Bellarmine take the Greek NT over the Latin Vulgate. Whitaker does review a dozen NT spots where Bellarmine defends the Vulgate. (Peter likely knows this discussion, and I am not checking OT.)

    A Disputation on Holy Scripture: Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton,
    William Whitaker
    https://books.google.com/books?id=WK7yPBiP1GcC&pg=PA193
    CHAPTER XII.
    OF CORRUPTIONS IN THE LATIN EDITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

    Keep in mind though that the Latin Vulgate does not have radical excisions (Pericope Adulerae, Mark ending) nor does it have many hard errors, as you see in the Westcott-Hort recension texts. One comes to mind, the geographical location of the Gerasenes, (Gerasa), the swine marathon, but I have not seen that come up in the debates of the era.

    One other point. The Reformation Bible editions, from the Received Text, were already built on Greek and Latin sources (and early church writers and faith-consistent textual analysis and with Syriac availability.) So their editions were already appropriately eclectic, while the Vulgate defenders were more stuck in Latin-Onlyism, although they could claim that Jerome had done the proper Greek vetting.

    Steven Avery
    Dutchess County, NY

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  5. gjwolfswinkel9/26/2021 11:30 pm

    "For Trent, the Vulgate’s authority is confirmed “by the lengthened usage of so many years.” For TR proponents, the TR’s authority is confirmed by the usage of such great theologians (the Reformers)."

    If I remember correctly, an argument similar to this was also employed by Knust and Wasserman in To Cast The First Stone, about the pericope adulterae: it's probably not authentic to the Gospel of John, but canonized by centuries of usage and piety. Would you agree it's the same kind of argument? And if so, do you agree with the way Knust and Wasserman used it?

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