It should be remembered that these are not by any means selected examples. Neither Irenaeus nor Epiphanius are notorious for free quotation—Irenaeus indeed is rather the reverse. Probably a much more plentiful harvest of variations would have been obtained e.g. from Clement of Alexandria, from whose writings numerous instances of quotation following the sense only, of false ascription, of the blending of passages, of quotations from memory, are given in the treatise of Bp. Kaye [Endnote 56:1]. Dr. Westcott has recently collected [Endnote 56:2] the quotations from Chrysostom On the Priesthood, with the result that about one half present variations from the Apostolic texts, and some of these variations, which he gives at length, are certainly very much to the point.
I fear we shall have seemed to delay too long upon this first preliminary stage of the enquiry, but it is highly desirable that we should start with a good broad inductive basis to go upon. We have now an instrument in our hands by which to test the alleged quotations in the early writers; and, rough and approximate as that instrument must still be admitted to be, it is at least much better than none at all.
THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS.
To go at all thoroughly into all the questions that may be raised as to the date and character of the Christian writings in the early part of the second century would need a series of somewhat elaborate monographs, and, important as it is that the data should be fixed with the utmost attainable precision, the scaffolding thus raised would, in a work like the present, be out of proportion to the superstructure erected upon it. These are matters that must be decided by the authority of those who have made the provinces to which they belong a subject of special study: all we can do will be to test the value of the several authorities in passing.