Born as a Polemic Against Protestants

“New Testament textual criticism was born as a polemic against Protestants, intended to show that they couldn’t really trust the Bible!”

~Dan Wallace as qtd. in, Comment 8


Rome’s Attack Predated the Enlightenment

Jerusalem Blade:

Where, in the post-Reformation centuries, does heterodoxy originate? With the relinquishing of the doctrine of the Bible’s inspiration by God, and then in a cascading loss of faith in biblical infallibility / inerrancy, or, on the other hand, with a rationalistic approach to textual studies, or from other factors, and possibly a combination of these and many others? Or, as you surmise, it primarily comes from the fountainhead of Enlightenment philosophy?

Rome did indeed seek to undermine the Reformation’s dependence on the Scripture alone, and through them by faith alone in Christ alone. They sought to execute this work of undermining by bringing forth variants from other manuscripts in the Vatican library that the Reformers eschewed as being unreliable, and also by seeking to attack their Hebrew Scriptures over the issue of the vowel points. For the Catholics their Tradition was above the Bible, and the church had – they said – given birth to the Bible. The Reformer’s view of the authority of God’s word in the Bible was a lethal attack on the very foundations of Rome.

I think Rome’s attack on the texts predated the full bloom of the Enlightenment by perhaps a little less than a century. Richard Simon (1638-1712), a Catholic scholar, is considered by Metzger as perhaps the father of textual criticism – highly critical of the Bible (OT & New) in the vein of Metzger. But then John Mill (1645-1708) brought Enlightenment / rationalistic thought to bear upon the Bible, and he is considered one of the very first textual critics in the modern sense of the term. So yes, the spirit of the age – the philosophy of the Enlightenment – in which reason was held to be the primary source and legitimacy for authority, was the immediate genesis of the heterodoxy that would come to fruition in the church in centuries to follow.

This development of textual criticism according to rationalistic principles – as opposed to the faith principles of the Reformers – would naturally result in views antagonistic to the Reformation churches’ stand on divine inspiration and God’s providential preservation of the Scriptures.

Source and read more:, Comment 6

KJV and a Step of Faith

Jerusalem Blade:

We King James advocates (I do not say King James Only, please note, for my view is clearly more nuanced) build upon the excellent work of the MT / Byz while going a step further — which step, I must say, the Byz folks (such as Dr. Robinson) do not accept as valid — a step of faith in God’s providential preservation.

So while the Byzantine text is far superior to the CT or ET, it is still — per its own advocates — provisional. In other words, the Byz advocates do not yet have a complete and settled Bible to give us, and it is likely they will not before the Lord returns. While it is far better than the CT & ET, it does not satisfy those of us who are taking the Lord at His word when He promised to preserve His Scripture (Ps 12:6, 7; Isa 59:21), and every word that we must live by (Mt 4:4), “according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3).

Source:, Comment 3

Led Back to the Protestant Bible

Harvard text critic, E. F. Hills:

Has the text of the New Testament, like those of other ancient books, been damaged during its voyage over the seas of time? Ought the same methods of textual criticism to be applied to it that are applied to the texts of other ancient books? These are questions which the following pages will endeavor to answer. An earnest effort will be made to convince the Christian reader that this is a matter to which he must attend. For in the realm of New Testament textual criticism as well as in other fields the presuppositions of modern thought are hostile to the historic Christian faith and will destroy it if their fatal operation is not checked. If faithful Christians, therefore, would defend their sacred religion against this danger, they must forsake the foundations of unbelieving thought and build upon their faith, a faith that rests entirely on the solid rock of holy Scripture. And when they do this in the sphere of New Testament textual criticism, they will find themselves led back step by step (perhaps, at first, against their wills) to the text of the Protestant Reformation, namely, that form of New Testament text which underlies the King James Version and the other early Protestant translations.

(The King James Version Defended, page 1)​

Source:, Comment 1

The Only Certainty is that it is NOT the Traditional Text

Jakob Van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, “The Last Certainty of New Testament Textual Criticism:”

Among all uncertainties of this 20th century, we, however, can point to one great, lasting certainty in the modern textual criticism — a certainty that serves as starting point and keeps stimulating much conscientious work and constant research. One can even say that the modern textual criticism of the New Testament is based on the one fundamental conviction that the true text of the New Testament is at least not found in the great majority of the manuscripts. The text which the Greek church has read for more than 1000 years, and which the churches of the Reformation have followed for centuries in their Bible translations, is now with certainty regarded as defective and deficient: a text to be rejected. This negative certainty has grown in the 18th century since Mill, Bentley, Wettstein, Semler, and Griesbach. It has found expression in text‑editions of the 19th century. From the close of that century until now, it has become visible for the Bible‑reading community: in 1881 the Revised Version in England no longer followed the current Greek text and in the 20th century the same applies for new translations in other countries. The churches are becoming aware that the text of centuries is replaced by the text of yesterday: the Nestle text.

This rejection of the traditional text, that is the text preserved and handed down in the churches, is hardly written or thought about any more in the 20th century: it is a fait accompli. To hear the arguments for this rejection one must go back to the 19th century, back to the archives. Our century is accustomed to the disregard of the text that is indicated with names such as: Byzantine, Antiochene, Koine, Syrian, or Ecclesiastical. Already for more than 100 years the certainty that this type of text is inferior has been taken for granted. Yet certainty about a better, superior text‑type has failed to come during this long time. The heritage of the 19th century criticism was a solitary certainty — the certainty of the inferiority of this “traditional text”. And it remains to be seen whether the 20th century will have a new, second certainty to offer as a heritage of its own.​

Source:, Comment 1 (Jerusalem Blade)

Forever Irrecoverable

Quotes from Jerusalem Blade showing the end to which higher criticism has brought scholars:

“The ultimate text, if ever there was one that deserves to be so called, is for ever irrecoverable” (F.C. Conybeare, History of New Testament Criticism, 1910, p. 129)

“In spite of the claims of Westcott and Hort and of van Soden, we do not know the original form of the gospels, and it is quite likely that we never shall” (Kirsopp Lake, Family 13, The Ferrar Group, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1941, p. vii).

“…it is generally recognized that the original text of the Bible cannot be recovered” (R.M. Grant. “The Bible of Theophilus of Antioch,” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 66, 1947, p. 173).

“The textual history that the Westcott-Hort text represents is no longer tenable in the light of newer discoveries and fuller textual analysis. In the effort to construct a congruent history, our failure suggests that we have lost the way, that we have reached a dead end, and that only a new and different insight will enable us to break through (Kenneth Clark, “Today’s Problems,” New Testament Manuscript Studies, edited by Parvis and Wikgren, 1950, p. 161).

“…the optimism of the earlier editors has given way to that skepticisim which inclines towards regarding ‘the original text’ as an unattainable mirage” (G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles, 1953, p. 9).

“In general, the whole thing is limited to probability judgments; the original text of the New Testament, according to its nature, must remain a hypothesis” (H Greeven, Der Urtext des Neuen Testaments, 1960, p. 20, cited in Edward Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 67.

“… so far, the twentieth century has been a period characterized by general pessimism about the possibility of recovering the original text by objective criteria” (H.H. Oliver, 1962, p. 308; cited in Eldon Epp, “Decision Points in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1993, p. 25).

“The primary goal of New Testament textual study remains the recovery of what the New Testament writers wrote. We have already suggested that to achieve this goal is well nigh impossible. Therefore, we must be content with what Reinhold Niebuhr and others have called, in other contexts, an ‘impossible possibility’ ” (R.M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, 1963, p. 51).

“…every textual critic knows that this similarity of text indicates, rather, that we have made little progress in textual theory since Westcott-Hort; that we simply do not know how to make a definitive determination as to what the best text is; that we do not have a clear picture of the transmission and alternation of the text in the first few centuries; and accordingly, that the Westcott-Hort kind of text has maintained its dominant position largely by default” (Eldon J. Epp, “The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 43, 1974, pp. 390-391).

“We face a crisis over methodology in NT textual criticism. … Von Soden and B.H. Streeter and a host of others announced and defended their theories of the NT text, but none has stood the tests of criticism or of time. … [F]ollowing Westcott-Hort but beginning particularly with C.H. Turner (1923ff.), M.-J. Langrange (1935), G.D. Kilpatrick (1943ff.), A.F.J. Klijn (1949), and J.K. Elliot (1972ff.), a new crisis of the criteria became prominent and is very much with us today: a duel between external and internal criteria and the widespread uncertainty as to precisely what kind of compromise ought to or can be worked out between them. The temporary ‘cease-fire’ that most—but certainly not all—textual critics have agreed upon is called a ‘moderate’ or ‘reasoned’ eclecticism … the literature of the past two or three decades is replete with controversy over the eclectic method, or at least is abundant with evidence of the frustration that accompanies its use…” (Eldon Epp, “Decision Points in New Testament Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, 1993, pp. 39-41).

“…we no longer think of Westcott-Hort’s ‘Neutral’ text as neutral; we no longer think of their ‘Western’ text as Western or as uniting the textual elements they selected; and, of course, we no longer think so simplistically or so confidently about recovering ‘the New Testament in the Original Greek.’…We remain largely in the dark as to how we might reconstruct the textual history that has left in its wake—in the form of MSS and fragments—numerous pieces of a puzzle that we seem incapable of fitting together. Westcott-Hort, von Soden, and others had sweeping theories (which we have largely rejected) to undergird their critical texts, but we seem now to have no such theories and no plausible sketches of the early history of the text that are widely accepted. What progress, then, have we made? Are we more advanced than our predecessors when, after showing their theories to be unacceptable, we offer no such theories at all to vindicate our accepted text?” (Eldon J. Epp, “A Continuing Interlude in NT Textual Criticism,” Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, (Eerdman’s, 1993), pp. 114, 115).​

Source:, Comment 1

The Quality of Modern Evangelical Scholarship

Quotes from Jerusalem Blade showing the negative fruits of higher criticism on belief in the Bible:

“A growing vanguard of young graduates of evangelical colleges who hold doctorates from non-evangelical divinity centers now question or disown inerrancy and the doctrine is held less consistently by evangelical faculties. … Some retain the term and reassure supportive constituencies but nonetheless stretch the term’s meaning” (Carl F.H. Henry, “Conflict over Biblical Inerrancy,” Christianity Today, May 7, 1976).

“Most people outside the evangelical community itself are totally unaware of the profound changes that have occurred within evangelicalism during the last several years – in the movement’s understanding of the inspiration and authority of Scripture … evangelical theologians have begun looking at the Bible with a scrutiny reflecting their widespread acceptance of the principles of historical and literary criticism … The position affirming that Scripture is inerrant or infallible in its teaching on matters of faith and conduct but not necessarily in all its assertions concerning history and the cosmos is gradually becoming ascendant among the most highly respected evangelical theologians. … One might even suggest that the new generation of evangelicals is closer to Bonhoeffer, Barth and Brunner than to Hodge and Warfield on the inspiration and authority of Scripture” (Richard Quebedeaux, “The Evangelical: New Trends and Tensions,” Christianity and Crisis, Sept. 20, 1976, pp. 197-202).

“I must regretfully conclude that the term evangelical has been so debased that it has lost its usefulness. … Forty years ago the term evangelical represented those who were theologically orthodox and who held to a biblical inerrancy as one of the distinctives. … Within a decade or so neoevangelicalism…was being assaulted from within by increasing skepticism with regard to biblical infallibility or inerrancy” (Harold Lindsell, The Bible in the Balance, 1979, p. 319).

“Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut” (Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 1983, p. 44).

“My main concern is with those who profess to believe that the Bible is the Word of God and yet by, what I can only call, surreptitious and devious means, deny it. This is, surprisingly enough, a position that is taken widely in the evangelical world. Almost all of the literature which is produced in the evangelical world today falls into this category. In the October, 1985 issue of Christianity Today, (the very popular and probably most influential voice of evangelicals in America), a symposium on Bible criticism was featured. The articles were written by scholars from several evangelical seminaries. Not one of the participants in that symposium in Christianity Today was prepared to reject higher criticism. All came to its defense. It became evident that all the scholars from the leading seminaries in this country held to a form of higher criticism. 
 These men claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. At the same time they adopt higher critical methods in the explanation of the Scriptures. This has become so common in evangelical circles that it is almost impossible to find an evangelical professor in the theological schools of our land and abroad who still holds uncompromisingly to the doctrine of the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures. The insidious danger is that higher criticism is promoted by those who claim to believe in infallible inspiration.” Herman C. Hanko, The Battle for the Bible, 1993, p. 3).​

Source:, Comment 1