Did Burgon use the TR as a Standard for Excellence?

Jerusalem Blade at the Puritan Board explains:

This is more nuanced than the Rev. shows, for here is the view of Mr. Burgon:

§ 6. But how (let me ask) does it appear from this, that I have “put forth Lloyd’s Greek [TR] Testament as the final standard of Appeal”? True, that, in order to exhibit clearly their respective divergences, I have referred five famous codices (a b א c d)—certain of which are found to have turned the brain of Critics of the new school—to one and the same familiar exhibition of the commonly received Text of the New Testament: but by so doing I have not by any means assumed the Textual purity of that common standard. In other words I have not made it “the final standard of Appeal.” All Critics,—wherever found,—at all times, have collated with the commonly received Text: but only as the most convenient standard of Comparison; not, surely, as the absolute standard of Excellence. The result of the experiment already referred to,—(and, I beg to say, it was an exceedingly laborious experiment,)—has been, to demonstrate that the five Manuscripts in question stand apart from one another in the following proportions:—

842 (a) : 1798 (c) : 2370 (b) : 3392 (א) : 4697 (d).

But would not the same result have been obtained if the “five old uncials” had been referred to any other common standard which can be named? In the meantime, what else is the inevitable inference from this phenomenon but that four out of the five must be—while all the five may be—outrageously depraved documents? instead of being fit to be made our exclusive guides to the Truth of Scripture,—as Critics of the school of Tischendorf and Tregelles would have us believe that they are? (pp xviii, xix)​

Burgon, on p xxv, gives another instance of how the “common version” (the AV) was used as a standard by all critics:

I employ that Text,—(as Mill, Bentley, Wetstein; Griesbach, Matthæi, Scholz; Tischendorf, Tregelles, Scrivener, employed it before me,)—not as a criterion of Excellence, but as a standard of Comparison.​

Burgon makes it clear, in the quote just above the last one, he does “not, surely, [think of it] as the absolute standard of Excellence.” [All italics in these quotes Burgon’s, unless otherwise noted.] On p 384 he states, “a standard of comparison, is not therefore of necessity a standard of excellence.” Note, please, the nuances: the Traditional Text (as he calls it) is not the “absolute standard of Excellence”, nor, because it is used as a standard of comparison is it “of necessity” a standard of excellence.

On pages 387 and 388, answering Bishop Ellicott’s misconceptions of his view, Burgon says,

I mistake the Received Text, (you imply,) for the Divine Original, the Sacred Autographs,—and erect it into “a standard from which there shall be no appeal,”—“a tradition which it is little else but sacrilege to impugn.” That is how you state my case and condition: hopelessly confusing the standard of Comparison with the standard of Excellence.

By this time, however, enough has been said to convince any fair person that you are without warrant in your present contention. Let any candid scholar cast an impartial eye over the preceding three hundred and fifty pages,—open the volume where he will, and read steadily on to the end of any textual discussion,—and then say whether, on the contrary, my criticism does not invariably rest on the principle that the Truth of Scripture is to be sought in that form of the Sacred Text which has the fullest, the widest, and the most varied attestation. Do I not invariably make the consentient voice of Antiquity my standard? If I do not,—if, on the contrary, I have ever once appealed to the “Received Text,” and made it my standard,—why do you not prove the truth of your allegation by adducing in evidence that one particular instance? instead of bringing against me a charge which is utterly without foundation, and which can have no other effect but to impose upon the ignorant; to mislead the unwary; and to prejudice the great Textual question which hopelessly divides you and me?… I trust that at least you will not again confound the standard of Comparison with the standard of Truth.​

As is generally understood, Burgon finds some small faults with the English Authorized Version (and even with the Greek underlying it). He is more a Majority or Byzantine Text man. Still, he considered it possessed of “manifold excellences” (p xiii).

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/review-of-burgons-revision-revised.94168/page-2, Comment 36


A Torpedo in the Hold: Roman Catholic Involvement in the Text-Critical Industry

Jerusalem Blade from the Puritan Board:

Now we get to a different aspect of the matter. One that is not often brought into the discussion. E.R., to answer you directly, No, I do not charge or insinuate “non-KJV users with Roman Catholic tendencies”! However—and it’s a big “however”—many Reformed folks may simply be unaware of Roman Catholic involvement in the text-critical industry.

For instance, it does not inspire confidence in Reformed persons that the publishers of the Critical Text, the United Bible Societies, unabashedly serve the Vatican and the Pope, of whom UBS General Secretary Michael Perreau said,

“Pope Francis embodies several ‘first ever’ aspects: he’s the first Jesuit pope, the first Latin American pope, and the first to choose St Francis of Assisi as the patron of his papacy. He combines modesty, not least in his lifestyle, with fervent engagement for the poor, and traditional Catholic theology with courageous advocacy for human rights.

“He is a man of the universal church with an ecumenical spirit and he is a pastor, who knows the reality of ‘simple’ people. The new Pope is a truly biblical person whose faith and actions are deeply rooted in the Bible and inspired by the Word of God.”

“As a long-time friend of the Bible Societies Pope Francis knows that our raison d’être is the call to collaborate in the incarnation of our Christian faith,” says Mr Perreau. “We assure Pope Francis of our renewed availability to serve the Catholic Church in her endeavours to make the Word of God the centre of new evangelisation.”


And further, the Nestle-Aland Greek NT 27th Ed. page 45 clearly states that,

The text shared by these two editions was adopted internationally by Bible Societies, and following an agreement between the Vatican and the United Bible Societies it has served as the basis for new translations and for revisions made under their supervision. This marks a significant step with regard to interconfessional relationships. It should naturally be understood that this text is a working text (in the sense of the century-long Nestle tradition): it is not to be considered as definitive, but as a stimulus to further efforts toward defining and verifying the text of the New Testament. For many reasons, however, the present edition has not been deemed an appropriate occasion for introducing textual changes. [Emphasis added]​

Source document:

Nestle-Aland Greek NT 27th Ed[​IMG] by Steve R., on Flickr

What amazes me is that good Reformed souls can fall for the Roman assault on Sola Scriptura through their prize MSS (the “Queen of the Uncials” Vaticanus is called), which is the main exemplar and basis of the Greek Critical Text, throwing into disarray the defense of the Reformation. Is it not evident? The textual conflicts among the Reformed—indeed, the entire Protestant camp—derive from the Catholic assault against Sola Scriptura via the variant-laden manuscripts they have for a long while, to this very day, promoted as the superior “neutral” text, or the superior eclectic text. Their agenda? Furthering “interconfessional relationships… under their [the Vatican’s] supervision”. What am I saying? That, in large measure, Rome has defeated the Reformation’s stand. The loss of the Reformation’s Bibles in lieu of the plethora of Critical Text Bibles—which foment the discord and confusion we see here even in this very thread—has weakened the faith in a sure and reliable word of God.

I’m not making this stuff up. If the UBS-Papal union and collaboration does not convince you, I don’t know what will. Yes, some good and scholarly men (and women) believe the CT the superior text despite the Roman connection; well and good. It remains that Rome’s agenda has succeeded: the doctrine of Sola Scriptura as the Reformation’s foundation has been destroyed. We are in disarray.

Oh, it may seem we are thriving, and individual churches (and individual souls) may seem to be so, for the time, but the Reformation ship has taken a torpedo in the hold, and the leak cannot be mended.

Some may decry what has happened, and call for folks to return to the Reformation’s textual standard, but the hole is too big. The lifeboats of local churches remain. May God our Shepherd (to change metaphors) guide us to Celestial City, using skilled and godly pastors who with wisdom take His direction.

I believe, as an amillennial proponent, that the eschaton draws near, with the preliminary judgments, catastrophes, and apostatizing, and then the global turning against the saints before His return. How long? I do not know.

This is why I hold up the Reformation Bibles: a sure word of God is our strength, and the standard of the Spirit of the LORD when the enemy comes in like a flood (Isa 59:19-21).

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/so-many-kjv-arguments.94744/, Comment 10

Revelation 22:19 and the “Book of Life”

Jerusalem Blade on the Puritan Board:

Here are some thoughts with respect to Dr. Jan Krans’ critique of Dr. Holland’s defense of Rev 22:19, among other things.

Dr. Krans does seem to be an astute textual critic, although it seems he is an academician and not a church man. I have been able to find no connection between him and any church, and an inquiry to a friend showed nothing to that effect either.

In the critical article you linked to Krans made it clear that he is no friend of the doctrine of divine preservation, and he says, “Let me state from the start that the entire enterprise of trying to defend the Greek Textus Receptus is pointless. . . The defence of the sixteenth-century text can only be inspired by an—unfortunate—theological a priori, not by the historical facts.”

This view goes against your own confession (the 1689), which says at 1.8,

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic…”.​

This is virtually identical to the WCF at 1.8. The framers of our confessions operated on the presupposition that what God had inspired He would preserve, and they based this on Scripture, not human reasoning. For all I know Krans is not a believer.

I have tried to contact Dr. Holland to see if he would respond to Krans, but it may be he is agèd now, or even gone to be with the Lord. I had contacted him some 10 or 12 years ago, and he responded then. As with Jakob van Bruggen, he seems to have dropped out of sight.

Further, I would consider Krans an academic elitist, from his saying, “As his [Holland’s] Th.D. is from ‘Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary’, it can probably not be considered academic. I will therefore refrain from using the title ‘Dr.’ which he himself consistently uses.”

We have seen what many supposed Hebrew and Greek “experts” think to do to the church’s Bible (as well disagreeing among themselves), and some of us will have none of it, instead gathering materials to help understand the original languages so as to not be under “the tyranny of experts” (to quote J. Gresham Machen’s pertinent phrase). The experts and scholars all too often have been enemies of the faith, and we do well to learn to live without them. The rare Hebrew or Greek scholar who supports the faith and its Scriptures is a treasure, and we do have a few of them, by the providence of God.

At any rate, in the absence of a rebuttal by Dr. Holland, I am of a mind to hold his particular defense of Rev 22:19 with suspended judgment. It can be defended otherwise!

Regarding Erasmus’ manuscripts, and later editors and their editions using them, Dr. F.H.A. Scrivener writes,

“He [Erasmus] had seen the Complutensian Polyglott in 1522, shortly after the publication of his third edition, and had now the good sense to avail himself of its aid in the improvement of the text, especially in the Apocalypse, wherein he amended from it at least ninety readings” [in preparation for his 4th Edition]. – A Plain Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the NT, 4th Ed, Vol II, p 186.​

John Gill said in his commentary:

God shall take away his part out of the book of life; by which is meant eternal election, which is the meaning of the phrase throughout this book, in which whoever are written shall certainly be saved. The worshippers of the beast, or the antichristian party, who are chiefly regarded here, are not written in it, Revelation 13:8 wherefore taking away the part of such, is only taking away that which they seemed to have; see Luke 8:18. “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have” and the sense is, that such shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, and will be the portion of all that are not written in the book of life, Revelation 20:15. The Alexandrian copy, one of Stephens’s, and the Complutensian edition, read, “the tree of life”.​

Gill stated that “one of Stephen’s” reads tree of life. In other words, other manuscripts that Stephens employed contained “the book of life” in Revelation 22:19, and there were at least 16 manuscripts employed by Stephanus. (source)

Steven Avery’s research on this verse has shown that church writer references that support the reading “book of life” are:

Ambrose (c 390 AD)
Bachiarius (c 420)
Andreas of Cappadocia (c 500)
Primasius of Adrumentum (552 AD) – Commentary on Revelation
Speculum treatise (mss c. 8th century, many consider as Augustine 427 AD origin)
Haymo of Halberstadt (9th century) – Commentary on Revelation
Pseudo-Augustine (1160)

Among the ancient Bible versions that also support “book of life” are the following:

Bohairic Coptic
Old Latin line
Latin Vulgate (some read “book” and others have “tree”) auferet Deus partem ejus de libro vitæ, et de civitate sancta,

Latin Manuscripts

Codex Fuldensis (~ A.D. 545)
Codex Karolinus (9th century);
Codex Ulmensis (9th century);
Codex Uallicellanus (9th century);
corrector of Codex Parisinus (9th century)
Codex Oxoniensis (12th to 13th century)
Codex Sarisburiensis (thirteenth century)

(Avery source)

Regarding using manuscript evidence from languages and versions other than the Greek, consider these quotes (from another thread),

[Holland saying to James White re Luke 2:22] …as for “secondary language(s)” not being “relevant,” I am afraid that modern textual scholars would not agree with your statement. Kurt Aland wrote:

“The transmission of the New Testament textual tradition is characterized by an extremely impressive degree of tenacity. Once a reading occurs it will persist with obstinacy. It is precisely the overwhelming mass of the New Testament textual tradition, assuming the hugainousa didaskalia of New Testament textual criticism (we trust the reader will not be offended by this application of 1 Tim. 1:10), which provides an assurance of certainty in establishing the original text. Even apart from the lectionaries (cf. p. 163), there is still the evidence of approximately 3,200 manuscripts of the New Testament text, not to mention the early versions and the patristic quotations–we can be certain that among these there is still a group of witnesses which preserves the original form of the text, despite the pervasive authority of ecclesiastical tradition and the prestige of the later text.” (The Text of the New Testament, p. 291-292)

Please note that Aland believes the “tenacity” of a reading can be found not only in the evidence of the Greek manuscripts, but also among the “early versions and the patristic quotations.” He states that we can be CERTAIN that, “among these there is still a group of witness which preserves the original form of the text. . .” Therefore, early versions are to be used and considered evidence in the science of textual criticism.

Dr. Alexander Souter noted:

“The second (source of the NT text) is translations made from this original Greek, especially if directly made from it, and not through the medium of another language, which is itself a direct translation from the original Greek. If such a translation was carefully made, and has survived in the precise form and text in which the translator himself issued it, what we possess in it is tantamount to the Greek copy in front of the translators when he made his translation.” (The Text And Canon Of The New Testament, p.10.)

Since the Old Latin manuscripts are almost unanimous in their reading “of her” and since the Latin Vulgate likewise possesses the reading “ejus” (of her), it is highly likely that there was an early Greek text with this reading which we no longer possess, at least according to the logic of textual criticism as just expressed by Souter. I do not believe that there is any reason to continue with additional citations which agree with this point. However the same may be found in the writings of Metzger, Geisler and Nix, Jack Finegan, and others.

In the first and later letters Holland questions White as to why he made the allegation that in Luke 2:22 Beza made a “conjectural emendation” as Beza knew of the early Latin readings, and this would show it was rather a well-informed textual decision.​

[End Holland]

All this to show, Joshua, that attestations from “secondary languages” and versions (other than the Greek) are legitimate in discerning how God “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages” our Bible texts.

We have seen above from Scrivener’s testimony that Erasmus had access to other MSS which he used to correct his later editions (eliminating the charge he got a bad reading from the Vulgate), and also John Gill’s testimony that Stephanus had a number of MSS with the book reading, and it was also in Beza’s edition. So the AV translators had a number of Greek MSS with the reading, as well as other language versions descended from ancient sources, such as the Waldenses.

I’m sorry to go on so long like this, but the attack on Holland and Rev 22:19 by Krans warranted some defense. I still hold Holland’s book a classic in the field, highly recommending it, and will simply suspend judgment on his stand re Rev 22:19, finding support for it elsewhere.

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/recommendations-to-understand-the-kjv-love.94678/, Comment 26

Have the Scriptures Been Totally Corrupted?

Turretin says no:

“IV. The question does not concern the irregular writing of words or the punctuation or the various readings (which all acknowledge do often occur); or whether the copies which we have so agree with the originals as to vary from them not even in a little point or letter. Rather the question is whether they so differ as to make the genuine corrupt and to hinder us from receiving the original text as a rule of faith and practice.

V. The question is not as to the particular corruption of some manuscripts or as to the errors which have crept into the books of particular editions through the negligence of copyists or printers. All acknowledge the existence of many such small corruptions. The question is whether there are universal corruptions and errors so diffused through all the copies (both manuscript and edited) as that they cannot be restored and corrected by any collation of various copies, or of Scripture itself and of parallel passages. Are there real and true, and not merely apparent, contradictions? We deny the former.

VI. The reasons are: (1) The Scriptures are inspired of God (theopneustos, 2 Tim. 3:16). The word of God cannot lie (Ps. 19:8, 9; Heb. 6:18); cannot pass away and be destroyed (Mt. 5:18); shall endure forever (1 Pet. 1:25); and is truth itself (Jn. 17:17). For how could such things be predicated of it, if it contained dangerous contradictions, and if God suffered either the sacred writers to err and to slip in memory, or incurable blemishes to creep into it?”

Turretin, Institutes, 1:71

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/recommendations-to-understand-the-kjv-love.94678/, Comment 21

A Polemic Against Protestants

Leading CT textual critic, Dan Wallace accepts that, “New Testament textual criticism was born as a polemic against Protestants, intended to show that they couldn’t really trust the Bible!” He also admits that the Divines based their doctrine of perfect preservation on the TR,

The response by Protestants was swift, though perhaps not particularly well thought out. In 1646, the first doctrinal statement about God preserving his text was formulated as part of the Westminster Confession. The problem is that what the Westminster divines were thinking of when they penned that confession was the TR. By virtually ignoring the variants, they set themselves up for more abuse.

The liberal writer, McCabe writing in 1897 agrees that the Westminster divines had assumes providential preservation of all the words by sneering,

Until the seventeenth century divines had assumed that Providence had miraculously guarded its inspired books. From this torpid belief they were at length roused by the controversies on the date and origin of the vowel points of the Hebrew text between the Buxtorfs and Morinus and Cappell, and by the discovery of a vast number of variations in the manuscripts and printed books of Scripture Kennicott s Hebrew Bible, published from 1776 to 1790, gave 200,000 variations. Thus a door was opened to a certain reverent kind of criticism.

It was about another century before Rome refined a weapon to combat Sola Scriptura at the hands of Romanist priest, Richard Simon (1638-1712) through “Textual Criticism.” Baird tells us, “Simon sharpened historical criticism into a weapon that could be used in the attack on Protestantism’s most fundamental error: the doctrine of Sola Scriptura .” Indeed, Simon himself explains plainly his purpose,

the great changes that have taken place in the manuscripts of the Bible – as we have shown in the first book of this work – since the first originals were lost, completely destroy the principle of the Protestants…if tradition is not joined to scripture, there is hardly anything in religion that one can confidently affirm.

Source: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/skepticism-and-doubt-toward-the-bible.52046/, Comment 8

Skepticism and Doubt Toward the Bible

I have seen it said here at PB recently that “99%” of orthodox Biblical scholars from properly accredited universities or colleges favor the CT or eclectic-type Greek texts (or, to put it negatively, texts which are not TR), and that may be the case, though I think the stat quoted is arbitrary and not scientifically adduced. But for argument’s sake let’s go with it anyway.

Two years after the exodus from Egypt (Numbers 1:1), of the 603,550 males over 20 (Numbers 1:45, 46), but a tiny fraction of these adults entered into the promised land, for the mass of the people of Israel, Moses declared, hearkened to those 10 men who spied out the land and spoke not by faith but by human reason, telling the people it was madness to go against the mighty inhabitants dwelling in the land the LORD had promised them. Including grown women, we likely have 1 to 1½ million people. So there were only two (I’m omitting Moses, Aaron, and Miriam here) out of that number who exercised faith? That would be about 99.9999% – the vast majority – who did not proceed by faith, and were not approved of God. I bring this up only to show that following the majority does not always bear good fruit.

I will proceed to give some quotes about the quality of modern evangelical scholarship – which I think the Reformed would be adequately represented by – as concerns 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).​

And what is the impact on textual studies and text critics (not to mention now the trickle-down to the “laity”)? This is a sampling of text critics in the 20th century:

“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).​

Jakob Van Bruggen scrutinized these developments in his analysis of the failure of 20th century textual criticism, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, in the first section, “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.​

We have seen that the 20th century did not produce any certainties of worth in its textual enterprises, but only growing skepticism and doubt, which, though bravely resisted by many in both pulpit and pew, insidiously permeates almost all who interest themselves in textual matters, for if the experts are doubting and skeptical, what can the regular believers do?

To answer that rhetorical question: first, we can dump the false certainties and uncertainties of the rationalistic text enterprise, and proceed by faith, for our Bible is a supernatural book and it is not to be ascertained by mere natural man’s methods.

So what if “99%” of scholars in seminaries today prefer the fruit of the German higher criticism’s methods, and disdain the “tiny fringe minority” who hold that God did actually promise to preserve His Book for His people, and did also perform what He promised? With Caleb and Joshua we stand, though all Israel be ready to stone us!

For those interested in pursuing this from a believing point of view, a list of topics may be seen here, and especially these threads:




Finally, I will let Harvard text critic, E. F. Hills, have a say:

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)​

Perhaps it was Dr. Ted Letis who coined the phrase, the “post-critical” era of textual studies. Seeing the utter bankruptcy of the discipline to date, it is time to move on in faith, as – I say it again – did Caleb and Joshua.

[I owe David Cloud and his books, The Bible Version Question/Answer Database, and Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions, for some of the quotes shown here. Cloud is a valuable scholar and researcher in textual matters, notwithstanding his IFB orientation.]

Source: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/skepticism-and-doubt-toward-the-bible.52046/, Comment 1

Pickering on 1 Timothy 3:16

With respect to 1 Timothy 3:16, a classic presentation of evidences (distinguished from a presuppositional defense based on Scripture) was made by Wilbur Pickering in his The Identity of the New Testament Text:

I see no way of accounting for a 95% (or 90%) domination [of the Majority or Byzantine Text] unless that text goes back to the Autographs. Hort saw the problem and invented a revision. Sturz seems not to have seen the problem. He demonstrates that the “Byzantine text-type” is early and independent of the “Western” and “Alexandrian text-types,” and like von Soden, wishes to treat them as three equal witnesses.[42] But if the three “text-types” were equal, how ever could the so-called “Byzantine” gain a 90-95% preponderance?

The argument from statistical probability enters here with a vengeance. Not only do the extant MSS present us with one text form enjoying a 95% majority, but the remaining 5% do not represent a single competing text form. The minority MSS disagree as much (or more) among themselves as they do with the majority. For any two of them to agree so closely as do P75 and B is an oddity. We are not judging, therefore, between two text forms, one representing 95% of the MSS and the other 5%. Rather, we have to judge between 95% and a fraction of 1% (comparing the Majority Text with the P75,B text form for example). Or to take a specific case, in 1 Tim. 3:16 some 600 Greek MSS (besides the Lectionaries) read “God” while only seven read something else. Of those seven, three have private readings and four agree in reading “who.”[43] So we have to judge between 99% and 0.6%, “God” versus “who.” It is hard to imagine any possible set of circumstances in the transmissional history sufficient to produce the cataclysmic overthrow in statistical probability required by the claim that “who” is the original reading.

It really does seem that those scholars who reject the Majority Text are faced with a serious problem. How is it to be explained if it does not reflect the Original? Hort’s notion of a Lucianic revision has been abandoned by most scholars because of the total lack of historical evidence. The eclecticists are not even trying.​

Source: https://puritanboard.com/threads/reformers-on-providential-preservation.94008/, Comment 24