Reformed Scholastics did not use Empirical Methodology

Rev. Matthew Winzer:

Reformed scholastic views of the text did not operate according to modern empirical methodology. 1 John 5:7 is regularly used as if it were the Achilles heel of the TR. Whatever one thinks of the text, its wholesale acceptance demonstrates that the reformed church believed in the preservation of the Word without requiring the type of inductive, evidential methodology which is the trademark of modern textual criticism. It did not matter that it was not found in the majority of Greek mss. or how old the mss. were. Their doctrine of preservation was not dependent on the number or age of the mss.

Source:, Comment 9


Providence and the Preservation of Scripture

Purely Presbyterian:

We have written previously on The Preservation of Scripture that God has kept his written word pure for the Church through all ages in the Hebrew and Greek faithful copies (apographa). We continue in this post by precisely explaining how he did so “by his singular care and providence.” First we will briefly discuss the nature of providence, then distinguish between general providence and special providence, and conclude with how this relates to the preservation of Scripture…

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Providence Proves The Sources Have Not Been Corrupted

“The providence of God proves that the sources have not been corrupted. 

V. The following arguments prove that the sources have not been corrupted. (1) The providence of God which could not permit books which it willed to be written by inspiration (theopneustois) for the salvation of men (and to continue unto the end of the world that they might draw from them waters of salvation) to become so corrupted as to render them unfit for this purpose. And since new revelations are not to be expected (after God has recorded in the Scriptures his entire will concerning the doctrine of salvation), what can be more derogatory to God (who has promised his constant presence with the church) than to assert that he has permitted the books containing this doctrine to become so corrupt that they cannot serve as a canon of faith? (2) The fidelity of the Christian church and unceasing labor in preserving the manuscripts; for since Christians have always labored with great zeal to keep this sacred deposit uncorrupted, it is not credible that they would either corrupt it themselves or suffer it to be corrupted by others. (3) The religion of the Jews who have bestowed upon the sacred manuscripts great care and labor amounting even to superstition. Hence Josephus says that after the lapse of ages no one has dared either to add to or take away from or alter the peculiar books of the Jews in any respect and that they think it an honor to die for the Scriptures (Against Apion 1*.42 [Loeb, 1:180-81]). Philo, in his book on the departure of the Israelites from Egypt (cited by Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 8.6.357c [ed. Gifford, 1903], 1:387) goes further, asserting that “even up to his time, through a space of more than two thousand years, not so much as a word had been changed in the law of the Hebrews and that any Jew would rather die a hundred times, than suffer the law to be altered in the least.” They carry their ridiculous superstition concerning the sacred manuscript to such a length that if a corrected book of the law fell on the ground, they proclaimed a fast and expressed their fears that the whole universe would return to its original chaos, so far were they from corrupting the manuscripts. (4) The carefulness of the Masoretes not only about verses and words, but also about single letters (which, together with all the variations of punctuation and writing, they not only counted, but also wrote down, so that no ground or even suspicion of corruption could arise). Arias Montanus employs this argument in the “Praefatio” to his Biblia sacra Hebraicey Chaldaice, Graece et Latine (1572), vol. I. (5) The multitude of copies; for as the manuscripts were scattered far and wide, how could they all be corrupted either by the carelessness Of librarians or the wickedness of enemies? Augustine says, “No prudent man can believe that the Jews however perverse and wicked could do it, in copies so numerous and so far and widely diffused” (CG 15.13* [FC 14:440; PL 41.452]). Vives said this ought to be the reply to those “who argue that the Hebrew manuscripts Of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New have been so falsified and corrupted as to make it impossible to draw the truth from these sources” (Saint Augustine, of the Citie of God with , comments of. . Vives (16201, pe 519).”

~Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol. 1, p. 107

Their Preservation and So Much More

“Proof is derived: (l) from the testimony of Christ—“it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Lk. 16:17; cf. Mt. 5:18). But if not even one tittle (or the smallest letter) could fail, how could several canonical books perish? Although Christ speaks directly of the doctrine of the law and not of its books, yet it can be applied analogically to them, so as to imply their preservation and so much the more”

~Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol. 1, p. 96

We Can Never Sufficiently Reprobate Our Ingratitude

“By oracles he means the covenant which God revealed first to Abraham and to his posterity, and afterwards sealed and unfolded by the law and the Prophets.

Now the oracles were committed to them, for the purpose of preserving them as long as it pleased the Lord to continue his glory among them, and then of publishing them during the time of their stewardship through the whole world: they were first depositories, and secondly dispensers. But if this benefit was to be so highly esteemed when the Lord favored one nation only with the revelation of his word, we can never sufficiently reprobate our ingratitude, who receive his word with so much negligence or with so much carelessness, not to say disdain.”

~John Calvin, Commentary on Romans, Ch. 3

The KJV Is An Independent TR Variety

Dr. Edward Hills, Believing Bible Study:

The King James Version a Variety of the Textus Receptus

The translators that produced the King James Version relied mainly, it seems, on the later editions of Beza’s Greek New Testament, especially his 4th edition (1588-9). But they also frequently consulted the editions of Erasmus and Stephanus and the Complutensian Polyglot. According to Scrivener (1884, Authorized Ed. of the Eng. Bible, p 60), out of the 252 passages in which these sources differ sufficiently to affect the English rendering, the King James agrees with Beza against Stephanus 113 times,, with Stephanus against Beza 59 times, and 80 times with Erasmus, or the Complutensian, or the Latin Vulgate against Beza and Stephanus. Hence the King James Version ought to be regarded not merely as a translation of the Textus Receptus but also as an independent variety of the Textus Receptus. . . (p 206)

. . . The texts of the several editions of the Textus Receptus were God-guided. They were set up under the leading of God’s special providence. Hence the differences between them were kept down to a minimum. But these disagreements were not eliminated altogether, for this would require not merely providential guidance but a miracle. In short, God chose to preserve the New Testament text providentially rather than miraculously, and this is why even the several editions of the Textus Receptus vary from each other slightly.

But what do we do in these few places in which the several editions of the Textus Receptus disagree with one another? Which text do we follow? The answer to this question is easy. We are guided by the common faith. Hence we favor that form of the Textus Receptus upon which more than any other God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of his approval, namely, the King James Version, or, more precisely, the Greek text underlying the King James Version. This text was published in 1881 by the Cambridge University Press under the editorship of Dr. Scrivener, and there have been eight reprints, the latest being in 1949. In 1976 also another edition of this text was published in London by the Trinitarian Bible Society. We ought to be grateful that in the providence of God the best form of the Textus Receptus is still available to believing Bible students. For the sake of completeness, however, it would be well to place in the margin the variant readings of Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevirs (p 209). [emphasis added]

Source:, Comment #50 (Jerusalem Blade)

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