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

James White and the Received Text (Truelove)

Source and discussion: https://puritanboard.com/threads/james-white-the-received-text.92697/

See also: http://www.jeffriddle.net/2017/05/word-magazine-75-james-white-versus.html?m=1

Artifacts Do Not Necessarily Prove Theology

I came across the following quote while preparing a different post [emphasis mine]:

Epiphanius Bishop of Salamine in Cyprus (A.D. 310 – 403):

“I entered (saith Epiphanius ) into a certain Church to pray: I found there a linen cloth hanging in the Church door, painted, and having in it the image of Christ, as it were, or of some other Saint, (I remember not well whose image it was) therefore when I did see the image of a man hanging in the Church of Christ, contrary to the authority of the Scriptures, I did tear it, and gave counsel to the keepers of the Church, that they should wind a poor man that was dead in the said cloth, and to bury him.” -Letter to John Patriarch of Jerusalem

Source: https://mintdill.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/patristic-scholarship-on-images-of-christ-and-the-second-commandment/

This got me thinking about the discipline of archaeology and the assumptions we can jump to about ancient cultures. If we were to find someone’s remains wrapped in a cloth containing images of God, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that images of God must have been important and permitted in that society. Yet, the quote above proves that is not necessarily the case. This is something worth keeping in mind, especially as situations like this could also have bearing on the textual debate.

It’s Not An Argument Between Scholarship and Non-Scholarship

Theodore Letis, The Majority Text: Essays And Reviews In The Continuing Debate, from the essay, “In Reply to D.A. Carson’s ‘The King James Version Debate‘ ” :

La dispute“If D.A. Carson’s book illustrates nothing else it shows there are two schools of thought. Both schools interpret the data of NT textual criticism and modern translations differently, and both groups fill in the gaps in the data with assumptions which favor their given position. I hope some are beginning to see that this is not an argument between scholarship (the established school represented by Carson) and non-scholarship (the challenging school which has traditionally been treated as non-scholarly and completely uncritical). To the contrary, the best representatives of both schools display genuine scholarship. Why is it, then, that these two schools co-exist on this all-important issue of the very wording of the NT text? And is this a recent or a long-standing debate? It is these questions that we hope to broach—and answer—in this essay. . .”

Source: http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/86687-Text-Tradition-of-New-Testaments, Comment #14

Is Modern Textual Criticism Reliable?

HT: http://www.puritanboard.com/f63/modern-textual-criticism-reliable-75469/