Variants But Not Universal Corruption

Turretin, Institutes, pp 108, 111:

Although various corruptions might have crept into the Hebrew manuscripts through the carelessness of transcribers and the waste of time, they do not cease to be a canon of faith and practice. For besides being in things of small importance and not pertaining to faith and practice (as Bellarmine himself confesses and which, moreover, he holds do not affect the integrity of the Scriptures), they are not universal in all the manuscripts; or they are not such as cannot easily be corrected from a collation of the Scriptures and the various manuscripts.

A corruption differs from a variant reading. We acknowledge that many variant readings occur both in the Old and New Testaments arising from a comparison of different manuscripts, but we deny corruption (at least corruption that is universal).

Source:, Comment #43 (Logan)

Jerusalem Blade adds the following comments by Turretin to round out his meaning:

“It is one thing to speak of the attempts of the heretics to corrupt some manuscripts (which we readily allow). They gave rise to the complaints of the fathers . . . It is quite a different thing to speak of their success or of entire universal corruption. This we deny, both on account of the providence of God, who would not permit them to carry out their intention, and on account of the diligence of the orthodox fathers, who having in their possession various manuscripts preserved them free from corruptions.” pp111, 112.

Jerusalem Blade also quotes the following from Turretin’s Tenth Question: The Purity of the Sources:

“Have the original texts of the Old and New Testaments come down to us pure and uncorrupted? We affirm against the papists.” p 106

“. . . By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs . . . We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” [emphasis added] p 106

Re corruptions: “they are not such as cannot easily be corrected from a collation of the Scriptures and the various manuscripts” p 109.

Re variants, p 114: “The various readings which occur do not destroy the authenticity of the Scriptures because they may be easily distinguished and determined, partly by the connection of the passage [I think he means the context -SMR] and partly by a collation with better manuscripts.”

p 115: There is no truth in the assertion that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are said to be mutilated; nor can the arguments used by our opponents prove it. Not in the history of the adulteress (Jn. 8:1-11), for although it is lacking in the Syriac version, it is found in all the Greek manuscripts. Not in 1 Jn. 5:7, for although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it, as Sixtus Senenis acknowledges: “they have been the words of never-doubted truth, and contained in all the Greek copies from the very times of the apostles” (Bibliotheca sancta [1575], 2:298). Not Mk. 16 which may have been wanting in several copies in the time of Jerome (as he asserts); but now it occurs in all, even in the Syriac version, and is clearly necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ.”

Source:, Comment #50


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