Wetstein, John Jacob
testament greek readings edition
WETSTEIN, JOHN JACOB (1693-1754), New Testament critic, was born at Basel, March 5, 1693. His father, John Rudolph Wetstein, was pastor of St Leonard's in that city, and belonged to a learned family with wide ramifications. John Jacob studied the classics, Hebrew, and mathematics under distinguished professors, amongst whom was one of the Buxtorfs. Theology he studied under Samuel Werenfels, an influential anticipator of modern scientific theology and exegesis. While still a student he began to direct his attention to the special pursuit of his life - the text of the Greek New Testament. A relative, John Wetstein, who was the university librarian, gave him permission to examine and collate the principal MSS. of the New Testament in the library, and lie copied the various readings which they contained into his copy of Gerard of Maestricht's edition of the Greek text. In 1713 in his public examination he defended a dissertation entitled De Variis Eon: Testamenti Lectionibus, and sought to show that variety of readings did not detract from the authority of Sacred Scripture. Wetstein paid great attention also to Syriac and Talmudic Hebrew. In the spring of 1714 he undertook a learned tour, which led him to Paris and England, the great object of his inquiry everywhere being manuscripts of the New Testament. In Paris he examined the Codex Ephraemi, and on arriving in England in August 1715 the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Besot with many others. Early the next year he made the acquaintance of Bentley at Cambridge, who took great interest in his textual inquiries. The great scholar induced him to return to Paris to collate for him more carefully the Codex Ephraemi, Bentley having then in view a critical edition of the New Testament. In July 1717 Wetstein returned to Basel to take the office of a curate at large in his native city, a post which he held for three years, at the expiration of which he exchanged it to become his father's assistant in the parish of St Leonard's. At the same time he pursued his favourite study, and lectured also in the university on New Testament exegesis. It was then that he formed the resolution to prepare a critical edition of the Greek New Testament. He had in the meantime broken with Bentley, whose famous Proposals appeared in 1720. Wetstein was not permitted, however, to pursue his purpose without molestation. • The rumour got abroad that his projected text would take the Socinian side in the case of such passages as 1 Timothy iii. 16, and in other ways he gave occasion for the suspicion of heresy.
At length in 1729 the charge of projecting an edition of the Greek Testament savouring of Socinianism was formally laid against him. The end of the long and unedifying trial was his dismissal, May 13, 1730, from his office of curate of St Leonard's. He then removed from Basel to Amsterdam, where a relative, John Henry Wetstein, had an important printing and publishing business, from whose office excellent editions of the classics were issued, and also Gerard of Maestricht's edition of the Greek Testament. Previous to his removal from Basel Wetstein had commenced printing in this office an edition of the Greek Testament, which was suddenly stopped for some unknown reason. At his trial the first sheets of this edition were brought into court against him, though the new readings which had been adopted in his text were simply those which are now universally accepted. As soon as he reached Amsterdam he published anonymously the Prolegomena, which he bad proposed should accompany his Greek Testament, and which was republished by him, with additions, as part of his great work, 1751. The next year (1731) the Remonstrants offered him the chair of philosophy in their college at Amsterdam, vacated by the illness of John Le Clerc, on condition that he should clear himself of the suspicion of heresy. He thereupon returned to Basel, and procured a reversal (March 22, 1732) of the previous decision, and readmission to all his clerical offices. But, on his becoming a candidate for the Hebrew chair at Basel, his orthodox opponents procured his defeat and his retirement to Amsterdam. Here the Remonstrants permitted him to hold lectures in their college, which led, however, to renewed opposition on the part of the Calvinistic party. At length, after much painful contention, he was allowed to instruct the Remonstrant students in philosophy and Hebrew on certain somewhat humiliating conditions. For the rest of his life he continued professor in the Remonstrant college, declining in 1744 the Greek chair at Basel. In 1746 he once more visited England, and collated Syriac MSS. for his great work. At last this appeared in 1751-52, in two folio volumes, under the title _Armor?, Testamentum GMCUM, Editionis Receptix CUM Lectionibus Variantibus Codicum MSS., &c. He did not venture to put new readings in the body of his page, but consigned those of them which he recommended to a place between the text and the full list of various readings. Beneath the latter he gave a commentary, consisting principally of a mass of invaluable illustrations and parallels drawn from classical and rabbinical literature, which has formed a storehouse for all later commentators. In his Prolegomena he gave an admirable methodical account of the MSS., the versions, and the readings of the fathers, as well as the troubled story of the difficulties with which be had had to contend in the prosecution of the work of his life. He did not long survive the completion of this work. He died at Amsterdam, March 9, 1754.
Wetstein's New Testament has never been republished entire. The London printer Bowyer published, in 1763, a text in which he introduced the readings recommended by Wetstein ; Semler republished the Prolegomena and appendix,1764 ; A. Lotzc commenced a new edition of the work, but the Prolegomena only appeared (Rotterdam, 1831), and this "castigated." It is generally allowed that "Wetstein rendered invaluable service to textual criticism by his collection of various readings and his methodical account of the MSS. and other sources, and that his work was rendered less valuable through his prejudice against the Latin version and the principle of grouping MSS. in families which had been recommended by Bentley and Bengel.