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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Johann Jakob Griesbach

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GRIESBACH, Johann Jakob (1745-1812), one of the most distinguished of the band of scholars to whom the modern science of New Testament textual criticism owes its origin, was born at Butzbach, a small town of Hesse-Darmstadt, where his father was pastor, on the 4th of January 1745. He received his school education at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and carried on his university studies ut Tubingen and Leipsic, but especially at Halle, where he became one of Semler s most ardent disciples. At the close of his undergraduate career, he undertook a literary tour which, apart from the advantages of stimulative contact with many of the most distinguished scholars of England, France, and Holland, as well as of his own country, was of great utility to him in providing him with materials for the great work of his subsequent life. On his return to Halle, he acted for some time as " privat-docent," but in 1773 was appointed to a professorial chair ; in 1775 he was translated to Jena, where the remainder of his life was spent in ever- increasing usefulness and honour, and where he died 24th March 1812.

Griesbach s critical edition of the New Testament first appeared

at Halle, in three volumes, in 1774-75. The first volume contained the first three gospels, synoptically arranged ; the second, the fourth gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. All the historical books were reprinted in one volume in 1777, the synoptical arrangement of the gospels having been abandoned as inconvenient. Of the second edition, very considerably enlarged and improved, the first volume appeared in 1796 and the second in 1806 (Halle and London). Of a third edition, edited by Schulz, only the first volume, containing the four gospels, has appeared (1827).

For the construction of his critical text Griesbach took as his
basis the Elzevir edition, from which ha departed only when valid

reasons seemed to require it. In all such cases he placed the Elzevir reading on the inner margin along with such other readings as he thought worthy of special consideration (these last, however, being printed in smaller type). To all the readings on this margin Jie attached special marks indicating the precise degree of probability in his opinion attaching to each. In weighing these probabilities he proceeded upon a particular theory which in its leading features he had derived from Bengel and Semler, dividing all the MSS. into three, great families or recensions the Alexandrian, the Western, and the Byzantine. The Alexandrian recension had (as the name implied) originated in Alexandria, and thence had spread over Egypt and the East ; it is characterized by a general tendency to tone down all Hebraisms, inelegancies, and inaccuracies. The Western on the other hand had retained the Hebraisms unimpaired, but had incorporated many glosses, as well as interpolations from parallel passages, with the purpose of making the text more intelligible (Grammaticum egit Alexandrinus censor, interpretem occidentalis). The Byzantine he regarded as much later, and as combining and ex aggerating the peculiarities of both the others. A reading that was supported by only one recension he considered as having only one witness in its favour ; those readings on the other hand which were supported by all the three recensions, or even by two of them, especially if these two were the Alexandrian and the Western, he unhesitatingly accepts as genuine. Only when each of the three re censions gives a different reading does he proceed to discuss the question on other grounds. See his Synibolcc critwce ad suppleii/las et corrigendas variarum Novi Tcstamcnti lectionum collectioncs : accedit multorum N. T. codicum Grcecorum descriptio et examtn, 2 vols. (Halle, 1785, 1793), and his Commentarius criticus in textum OrcecumN. T., which extends to the end of Mark, and discusses the more important various readings with great care and thoroughness (Jena, 1798-1811). Among the other works of Griesbach (which are comparatively unimportant, however) maybe mentioned his uni versity thesis Da codicibus quatuor cvangelistarum Origenianis (Halle, 1771) and a work upon systematic theology (Anleitung zur Kenntniss der popularen Doymatik, Jena, 1779). His Opuscula, con sisting chiefly of university " programs " and addresses, were edited

by Gabler, in 2 vols. (Jena, 1824).