In this article, I will provide a shotgun blast summary of the Confessional Text Position, as well as some further commentary which will help those trying to understand the position better. In this short article, I do not expect that I have articulated every nuance of the position perfectly, but I hope that I have communicated it clearly enough for people to understand it as a whole. My goal is the reader can at least see why I adhere to the Traditional Hebrew and Greek text and translations thereof.
In 15 Points
1. God has voluntarily condescended to man by way of speaking to man (Deus Dixit) and making covenants with him (Gen. 2:17; 3:15)
2. In the time of the people of God of old, He spoke by way of the prophets (Heb. 1:1)
3. In these last days, He has spoken to His people by His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1)
4. The way that God has spoken by Jesus Christ is in Scripture through the inspiration of Biblical writers by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is the Word of God, and in these last days, is the way that Christians hear the voice of their Shepherd by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 10:27). The Bible does not contain the Word of God, or become the Word of God, it is the Word of God.
5. The purpose of this speaking is to make man “wise unto salvation” and “furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:15;17; Rom. 1:16; 10:17)
6. Jesus promised that His Word would never fall away, as it is the means of accomplishing His covenant purpose (Mat. 5:18; 24:35)
7. Since God has promised that His words would not fall away, the words of Scripture have been kept pure in all ages, or in every generation (WCF 1.8; Mat. 5:18; 24:35) until the last day
8. Up until the 15th century with the invention of the printing press in Europe, books were hand copied. This hand copying resulted in thousands of manuscripts being circulated and used in churches for all matters of faith and practice. These manuscripts are generally uniform, except for a handful of manuscripts formerly known as the “Alexandrian Text Family”, which were not really copied or circulated. When Constantinople fell in 1453, just 14 years after the invention of the printing press in Europe, Greek Christians fled to Italy, bringing with them their Bibles and language.
9. The printing press was put to use in the creation of printed Bibles, in many different languages, specifically Greek and Latin
10. If it is true that the Bible has been kept pure, it was kept pure up to the 16th century. Thus, the manuscripts that were used in the first effort of creating printed text was the same text used by the people of God up to that point. Text-critics such as Theodore Beza would appeal to the “consent of the church” as a part of his textual methodology, which demonstrates that the reception of readings by the church were an integral part of the compilation of this text
11. The text produced over the course of a century during the Reformation period was universally accepted by the protestants, even to the point of other texts being rejected. It is historically documented that this is the “text received by all” (Received Text), which is abundantly made clear in the commentaries, confessions (see proof texts), translations, and theological works up until the 19th century.
12. This Greek text, along with the Masoretic Hebrew text, remained the main text for translation, commentary, theological works, etc. until the 19th century when Hort’s Greek text, based on Codex Vaticanus was adopted by many. At the time, many believed that Hort’s text was the true original, which caused many people to adopt readings from this text over and above the Received Text. This text was rejected by Erasmus and the Reformers, and has no surviving contemporary ancestor copies, meaning it was simply not copied or used by the church at large.
13. This Greek text was adopted based on Hort’s theory that Vaticanus was “earliest and best” and the text of modern Bibles all generally reflect this text form, even today. Due to the Papyri and the CBGM, Hort’s theory has been rejected by all in the scholarly community. Not to mention Hoskier’s devastating analysis of Codex B (Vaticanus).
14. Thus, the Confessional Text position adopts the Greek and Hebrew text, and translations thereof, that were “received by all” in the age of printed Bibles, and used universally by the orthodox for 300 years practically uncontested, except by Roman Catholics and other heretical groups (Anabaptists, Socinians, etc.).
15. The most popular of these translations, the Authorized Version (KJV), is still used by at least 55% of people who read their Bible daily as of 2014, and at least 6,200 churches. Additionally, Bibles made from these Greek and Hebrew texts into other languages remain widely popular across the world. Other English Bibles are based on this text, such as the MEV, NKJV, GNV, and KJ3, but they are relatively unused compared to the AV.
The adoption of the Greek Received Text and the Hebrew Masoretic text is one based on what God has done providentially in time. Many assert that the history of the New Testament can only be traced by extant manuscript copies, but those copies do not tell the whole story. The readings in the Bible are vindicated, not on the smattering of early surviving manuscripts, but rather by the people that have used those readings in history (John 10:27), which are preserved in the texts actually used by those people. Since we will never have all of the manuscripts due to war, fire, etc., it is impossible to verify genuine readings by the data available today, as there is no “Master Copy” to compare them against. That is why the current effort of text-criticism is pursuing a hypothetical Initial Text, which relies on constructing a text based on the first 1,000 years of manuscript transmission.
The product of this is called the Editio Critica Maior (ECM), and it will not be finished until 2030. The methodology used (CBGM) to construct this text has already introduced uncertainty to the editors of those making Greek texts as to whether or not they can even find the Initial Text, or if they will even find one Initial Text. That is to say, that from the time of Hort’s text in the 19th century, the modern effort of textual criticism has yet to produce a single stable text. The printed editions of the modern critical text contain a great wealth of textual data, but none of these are a stable text that will not change in the next ten years. That is to say, that translations built on these printed editions are merely a representation of what the editors think the best readings are, not necessarily what the best readings are in reality.
Rather than placing hope in the ability of scholars to prove this Initial Text to be original, Christians in the Confessional Text camp look back to the time when hand copied manuscripts were still being used in churches and circulated in the world. The first effort of “textual criticism” if you will, is unique because it is the only effort of textual criticism that took place when hand copied codices were still being used as a part of the church’s practice. That means that the quality and value of such codices could be validated by the “consent of the church”, because the church would have only adopted a text that was familiar to the one they had been using up to that point. This kind of perspective is not achievable to a modern audience. During the time of the first printed editions, the corruption of the Latin Vulgate was exposed, and the printed editions created during that time were in themselves a protest against the Vulgate and the Roman Catholic church, who had in their possession a corrupted translation of the Scriptures. It was during this time, and because of these printed texts, that Protestantism was born.
Any denomination claiming to be protestant has direct ties back to this text, and the theology built upon it. The case for the Confessional Text is really quite simple, when you think about it. God preserved His Word in every generation in hand copied manuscripts until the form of Bibles transitioned to printed texts. Then He preserved His Word in printed Greek texts based on the circulating and approved manuscripts. This method of transmission was much more efficient, cheap, and easily distributed than the former method of hand copying. This text was received, commented on, preached from, and translated for centuries, and is still used by the majority of Bible reading Christians today. The argument for this text is not one based in tradition, it is one based on simply looking back into history and seeing which text the people of God have used in time. Not simply the story that the choice manuscripts of the modern scholars tells.
Any theories on other text forms are typically based on a handful of ancient manuscripts that were not copied or used widely, and the idea that this smattering of early manuscripts represents the original text form is simply speculation. What history tells us is that the text vindicated in time is the text the people of God used, copied, printed, and translated. This does not mean that every Christian at all times has used this text, just the overwhelming testimony of the people of God as a whole. The fact is, that we know very little about the transmission and form of the text in the ancient church in comparison to what we know about the text after the ancient period. The critical text, while generally looking like the Received Text, is different than the historical text of the protestants, which is why those in the Confessional Text camp do not use them. The few Papyri we have even demonstrate that later manuscripts known as the Byzantine text family were circulating in the ancient church.
So why is there a discussion regarding which text is better? Up until this point in history, the alternative text, the critical text, has been thought to be much more stable and certain than it is now. Currently, the modern critical text is unfinished, and will remain that way until at least 2030 when the ECM is finished. Those in the Confessional Text position might ask two very important questions regarding this text: Does a text that represents the text form of a handful of the thousands of manuscripts, a text which is incomplete, sound like a text that is vindicated in time? Does a changing, uncertain, unfinished text speak to a text that has been preserved, or one that has yet to be found? I suppose these questions aren’t answerable until 2030 when it is complete. This alone is a powerful consideration for those investigating the issue earnestly. Most people in the Confessional Text camp do not anathematize those who read Bibles from the critical text, or break fellowship over it, but we do encourage and advocate for the use of Traditional Text Bibles, as it the historical text of the Protestant church.
For More Information on Why I Prefer the Received Text, Click Here
For Interactions with Arguments Against the Received Text, Click Here