unitarian Bible-snippers - Evanson, Belsham, Priestley - and the "Improved Version" - Matthew 28:19

Steven Avery

Recently discussed on the AFF forum, in the context of Matthew 28:19.

Apostolic Friends Forum
Gospels of Matthew without Trinitarian ending
the unitarian Bible snipping game

[TC-Alternate-list] Matthew 28:19 - Unitarian "Improved Version" and Edward Evanson
Steven Avery - Sept. 26, 2010

Hi Folks,

On one of the forums we were recently discussing the Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare "textual criticism" attack on the verse Matthew 28:19, which was followed by a number of later references.

Matthew 28:19
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

An argument for exclusion based on zero manuscripts, Greek, Latin or Syriac. Largely based on a mixed Eusebius usage, despite the simple fact that numerous earlier church writers (i.e. earlier than Eusebius) have the verse in today's manner. Interestingly, this rather absurd textual argument has become quite popular on the Internet.

For context, checking the history, the Unitarian "Improved Version" had mentioned such attacks a century earlier than Conybeare.

The New Testament: in an improved version, upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new translation (1808)
Thomas Belsham et al
Some have called in question the genuineness of this verse, but perhaps without sufficient authority.

A number of writers (including Edward Nares, Thomas Rennell, Charles Daubeny, Richard Laurence, John Bevans) pointed out the unbelief in scripture of the Unitarians, with even leaders like Belsham doubting the authenticity of the first chapters of Luke and Matthew. This was beyond the normal textual criticism attempts on verses like 1 Timothy 3:16 and the heavenly witnesses and the Pericope Adultera and the resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark.

This is one of the books that exposed the faulty argumentation to try to (snip) the Bible..

Remarks on the version of the New Testament edited by the Unitarians, with the title of "An improved version upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new translation with a corrected text and notes critical and explanatory. London 1808": being a dispassionate appeal to Christians of various denominations on some of the first and most generally received doctrines of the Bible (1814)
Edward Nares
the Editors (of the Improved Version) ....informs us that some have called in question its genuineness, (and I remember
that Mr Evanson has done so) but they add, without sufficient authority

This ebionite aspect is also quite nicely discussed in the review of Nares and in the next review in the magazine of the book by Thomas Rennell ("a student in divinity").

The Antijacobin review and true churchman's magazine, Issues 159-162 (1811)
Nares on the Version of the New Testament - (review, likely by William Hales)

Returning to Matthew 28:19, outside the "Improved Version" we only have one early name mentioned, Edward Evanson, and not much detail. Evanson's Bible work was considered as almost an adjunct to the Unitarian Newcombe-Belsham attempts and he was also associated with Joseph Priestley (who declared his ebionite views directly).

Edward Evanson (21 April 1731 – 25 September 1805) was a controversial English clergyman.
.... Evanson rejected most of the books of the New Testament as forgeries, and of the four gospels he accepted only the Gospel of Luke.

per Encyclopaedia Britannica:, (1888 and later editions)

This popular branch of Unitarianism (Priestley, Belsham, Evanson) seems to have been particularly Bible correctors and (snippers) and unbelievers .. we should be cautious in necessarily painting too broad a brush.

In terms of Bible-snipping .. later the ideas became more respectable in scholastic circles (with the majority of scholars being unbelievers) if given the heading of "textual criticism" and "higher criticism".

Steven Avery

Grantley blundered on the ebionite snipping of Edward Evanson in the Timothy Brown edition:.

John Pye Smith - review of Timothy Brown (using Edward Evanson ebionite absurd canon) edition - misstating the books!

And Grantley avoids mentioning the attempts to mangle the Bible to have fewer books and to remove sections.

And never mentions the opposition to the virgin birth (which is one connection to the Bible snipping).

BCEME p. 254
Newton’s denial of the authenticity of the comma was noted by radicals like Joseph Priestley.567
567 Priestley 1785, 37–38.

[Priestley, Joseph]. A Familiar Illustration of Certain Passages of Scripture Relating to the Power of Man to Do the Will of God, Original Sin, Election and Reprobation, The Divinity of Christ, and Atonement for Sin by the Death of Christ. By a Lover of the Gospel. London: Johnson, 1785.

Priestley on Newton (1795)
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