While Hort's commitment to producing the shortest possible text wasn't new (Lachmann had tried before him, but was ignored), he was able to popularize his agenda due to a combination of timing and position. The Revision Committee (for the RV of 1882) was already disposed to embrace his views, and his domination of the Committee and subsequent publication gave his text the promotional kick it needed.
Although successful, Hort's theory was soon abandoned, because it was obviously wrong in so many places.
The Shorter Reading
Hort's true agenda is obvious in hindsight, because he set out to create the shortest possible text from the early manuscripts, and he did just that. It was no real secret that Hort elevated Griesbach's 'Canon',
(1) 'Prefer the Shorter Reading.'
to Universal Status and prime authority, giving this rule the power to override all other rules, arguments, and evidence.
Codex Vaticanus 1209
Hort's next main 'Canon' was
(2) 'Prefer the Readings of Codex Vaticanus (B).',
an invention of his own, and hardly less ludicrous than Tischendorf's fawning adoration of and preference for Codex Sinaiticus (א) only a decade or so before him. But Hort 's bias was more acceptable, because he himself made it secondary to his first 'Canon' (above), showing his crafty restraint and ability to learn from the political mistakes of his predecessor.
Having recognized the difficulty of selling the abberant readings of Codex Sinaiticus (partly because it had already been overdone by Tischendorf), Hort opted to make Vaticanus the centerpiece in his theory.
When B and א agree
But a lucky accident enabled Hort to formulate a third 'Canon', namely
(3) 'Prefer the reading where B and א agree, even against all others.'
Since the two were so similar in their text, due in no small part from their being manufactured in the same scriptorium, and probably from the same set of master-copies, these two continually reproduced the same omissions, regardless of their individual aberrations. It was a no-brainer for Hort to insist on the importance of all readings (mostly omissions) in which the two 4th century Uncials agreed. They were after all, two of the oldest existing manuscripts at that time. And Hort insisted that all such agreements came from a common even earlier ancestor, and so were the best candidates for the original text, which he called the "Neutral text".
One more rule will suffice to reproduce the entire text chosen by Hort.
(4) 'When the Western Text omits, prefer the Western Reading.'
This was not a logical or necessary conclusion from the evidence normally preferred by Hort. (As we will see later, a vast amount of evidence contradicts most of Hort's theory. )
Had Hort just opted for the agreements of B and א, he would have reproduced 90% of his favorite readings, namely all the omissions of these two manuscripts. But when he noticed the handful of further omissions by the Western text, he just had to have them for his own text. So in these specific cases, he reversed his own rules, rejecting the text of B and א in favor of the text of Codex Bezae (D, 5th cent.) and a handful of Old Latin witnesses (5th-6th cent). This is the real reason behind (1) 'Prefer the Shorter Reading.' It enabled Hort to adopt readings from the Western text, where it suited him.
In order to sell this idea, Hort had to argue that the text of Codex D was much earlier than its established 5th century date. Hort argued that it was in fact a 2nd century text, so that he could explain why it omitted passages found in his own favorite manuscripts B and א, which included them. Hort's argument was the the Western text was as old as the 2nd century, and that these passages were added to the ancestor of B and א after the Western text was formed.
All of this however, was just to secure a place for the omissions of the Western text. In all other readings (for instance where the Western included passages omitted by B and א), Hort rejected the Western text as secondary, corrupt, and later than the 'Neutral' ( B/א 's ancestor). Thus again Hort displayed a double-standard when it came to other text-types he himself recognised and legitimized.
Hort's Genealogical 'Stemma'
After all the gymnastics and hand-waving, here is the final 'stemma' of textual transmission according to Hort, by which he 'slew the Textus Receptus'. It must be realised however, that most of the chart is artificial, and has been abandoned by textual critics following after Hort.
Hort allegedly used "genealogy" or rather the 'genealogical argument' to slay the Textus Receptus according to Colwell. But Colwell also notes that Hort never actually applied Genealogical methods to real manuscripts. He only used the idea to construct a generalized 'stemma' for his theory. As the Alands have noted, Hort never examined any manuscripts at all. He actually just used the printed collations and critical texts previously published by others. In fact Hort's text is essentially the text of Lachman, re-published with notes and some embellishments.
|Click to Enlarge, and Backspace to continue|
For all of Hort's clever discussion about textual criticism and Scribal Habits, He never properly gives any discussion of the problem of homoeoteleuton when reviewing omissions. Yet homoeoteleuton was one of the most common scribal errors, and all old Uncial manuscripts are rife with homoeoteleuton errors.
To suppose that the near-ancestor of B and א was free of homoeoteleuton errors is absurd, especially given the fact that at least 1/3 of all omissions by B and א have strong and clear homoeoteleuton features.
Hort avoided any proper discussion of homoeoteleuton because it would have exposed that over half of his selections were not likely original at all, but simple homoeoteleuton errors.