Guest Article: Pastor Dane Johannsson Addresses Spurious Claims About Doctrine Not Being Affected

I invited Pastor Dane Johannsson to write an article for my blog as an appendix to this article that I wrote about 1 John 5:7 and unbelief. He demonstrates not only that doctrine is affected, but that all texts of Scripture are fair game for revision and removal.

Introduction

Greetings and felicitations in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to thank Taylor for allowing me to write a guest post on his blog. After reading his article, titled, “1 John 5:7 And Unbelief”, a striking example was brought to my mind which demonstrates the veracity of what Taylor puts forward in that article. Confessional Text advocates have long pointed out that the views of both the men who are compiling the new editions of the critical text (the completed volumes of the ECM and their corresponding handbooks, most recently the NA28) as well as the “conservative evangelical” men working in the field (Dr. Wallace, Dr. Gurry, Dr. Hixson etc.) do not match the views of the vast majority of reformed and evangelical Christians and pastors who utilize either translations of the handbooks or the handbooks themselves.

The average reformed/evangelical pastor who may consult an NA28, and the average Christian sitting in their pews with an ESV or NASB, do not share the theology of the men who gave them their New Testament texts. In most cases, they are completely unaware of what those men believe. For instance, as has been cited by Taylor himself on this blog countless times, “evangelical” scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace, who professes to hold to both the inspiration of the Bible and its inerrancy, in the introduction to Drs. Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixon’s book, “Myths and Mistakes”, writes,

“We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”

Gurry & Hixson. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

Granted, Dr. Wallace also flat out denies the doctrine of preservation (specifically as articulated in the Westminster Confession 1.8, that the Scriptures were “kept pure in all ages” by God’s “singular care and providence”). But most Pastors and Christians who appeal to Dr. Wallace, as any kind of an authority, are completely unaware of this. Hence the problem. If you survey the average evangelical/reformed Christian or pastor, they will likely say that they agree with the statement, “We know with great certainty that at least 99.9% of the text of the New Testament is certain and settled.” They would reject as problematic and unorthodox the assertion, “We do not have certainty that any of our Greek texts or translations thereof, exactly represent what the original authors of the New Testament wrote. We simply cannot know if any reading is original. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.” Most Christians would reject such a doctrine, and they should.

A Case-study In Reconstruction

Many Christians who trust modern evangelical textual scholarship and translations, even when shown that this is the doctrinal beliefs of those who are creating the text and translation of their Bibles, tend to dismiss it as a non-issue. For them, at the end of the day, it is not really that big of a problem. This is where Taylor’s article becomes particularly helpful. He writes,

Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.

https://youngtextlessreformed.com/2021/03/08/1-john-57-and-unbelief/

“Surely this must be an exaggeration”, respond some, “This is a mere emotional response! You cannot actually be implying that literally any text of Scripture could be called into question or changed, that is just a conspiracy theorist mindset!” I wish I was making it up, but this is the exact response that I myself have had from many Christians. A great litmus test (or could I say, “litmus text”) to demonstrate a Christian’s experiential awareness of the self-authentication of the Scripture, that they do indeed hear the Shepherd’s voice in His Word, in its relation to text criticism, is to take them to John 3:16.

I have sometimes asked Christians, “If there were to be some massive discovery of ancient manuscripts, and 100 complete copies of the gospel of John from 150A.D. were found, but they were all missing John 3:16, and the leading evangelical scholars determined, based upon this evidence, that John 3:16 should be removed from the Bible, would you be okay with it?” The vast majority of people I have asked have responded with a resounding, “NO”.

“This is an interesting point of argument, Pastor Dane”, someone might say, “but the this is only hypothetical, no one is actually removing or changing John 3:16. The differences between the critical text and the received text do not affect doctrine or beloved passages like John 3:16.” For the sake of argument, let’s just ignore the fact that it can be demonstrably proven that the changes in the modern critical texts do affect doctrine. What if I were to tell you that beloved passages, key doctrinal passages, one’s which contain the very gospel itself, like John 3:16, actually are affected by changes in the modern critical texts? What if I were to tell you that Taylor’s assertion (“Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question”) can be proven by looking at John 3:16 in the NA28, the most trusted and widely used modern critical Greek text, from which the most popular modern Bible translations are made?

The Authorised Version, representing the reading of the Textus Receptus and the overwhelming majority of Greek manuscripts, reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16, KJV)  In the ESV it reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16, ESV) All the major modern translations read the same way, and most of them claim to be based off of the NA28 critical text. 

What we want to look at is not the lack of “eth” on the verbs, or the difference in translation between, “only begotten Son”, and, “only Son”, but the pronoun, “his”, in the first clause, “his only begotten Son”. There is something alarming in the NA28 Greek text, which is said to underlie the translation of the ESV 2016. It demonstrates both Taylor’s assertion and how practically problematic the theological underpinnings of men like Dr. Wallace are. In the NA28 the pronoun, “his”, is not in the text. If one were to translate the first clause of John 3:16 as it stands in the main text of the NA28, it might read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave the one and only/unique son.” (For those of you who read Greek, “οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν” ; I have rendered τὸν μονογενῆ as, “one and only, or, unique”, to be consistent with the “scholarly consensus” found in the ESV and the NET, even though I agree with the KJV’s rendering, “only begotten”).

Doctrine IS Affected

It should also be noted that this is not new information. The NA27, the UBS 4th edition corrected, the Tyndale House GNT, the Zondervan Reader’s GNT, and the UBS 5th also do not contain the pronoun, “his”, in John 3:16. I also checked the NA25 and it too was missing “αὐτοῦ” from the text. Thus, we can conclude, from at least 1962, the modern critical text, from which modern “evangelical” Bible translations are made, has not contained the pronoun, “αὐτοῦ”, in the main printed text of John 3:16. We must therefore ask, If this is the case, that the text from which modern Bible translations are made does not have, “his”, in the text, then why does it appear in all editions of the NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT and even all editions of the RSV and NRSV?

I can think of a few reasons, the most important of which is that if they were to translate the clause as it reads in the text (“For God so loved the world that he gave the one and only son”) they would open the flood gates for a host of theological problems and difficulties, specifically in the realm of Christology. Is Jesus Christ God’s Son, is Jesus Christ “his” Son, or is Jesus Christ “the” Son? Was Jesus given to the world as a divine messenger, a created being (even the most glorious created being), “the” son through Mary, or is He the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Triune God, incarnate to save His people from their sins? Could not an Arian, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, and many other heretics use the reading, “God gave the unique son”, to discredit the sonship and the deity of Jesus Christ? Is not the sonship, and thus the deity, of Jesus Christ, if not under direct attack, at least compromised and complicated by such a reading? I think an orthodox, conservative, evangelical, reformed protestant would be hard-pressed to deny it.

Someone might respond, “Ah, but even with the reading, we can still conclude that ‘the son’ is God’s Son. The doctrine of Christ’s divine sonship is taught in many other places in Scripture, so even if someone tried to twist this passage to say that Jesus Christ is not God’s eternal Son, we can still point them to many other places that prove it. Even with this reading, Pastor Dane, no doctrine is affected.” If we look at the entire picture I do not think such a response has any legs to stand upon. We are not dealing with a problem in only this one verse, but problems in the seeming vast majority of key Christological verses.

Assuming that one could still argue that the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ can still be demonstrated with the NA28 reading, what happens when we add in the rest of the problematic readings in key Christological verses? To serve as a small sampling, consider, John 1:18 in the critical text, which reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”(ESV), compared to the received text, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”(KJV) Or what about when we add in 1Timothy 3:16 in the critical text, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh”(ESV), compared with the received text, “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”(KJV) Still further, what shall we conclude when 1John 5:7 is also considered, which teaches that the Word (that is, Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son) is one with God, being contained in the received text and completely absent from the critical text? The KJV in this place reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” In the ESV it reads … well, nothing … because it is not present in the text. We simply do not have time to look at every problematic reading in the critical text concerning Christology, but there are many more.

When we zoom out and see that a great many of the key Christological passages that teach the eternal sonship of Christ and the divinity of Christ have problematic readings in the critical text, the reading now before us in John 3:16 cannot simply be brushed aside as unimportant or said to have no effect on doctrine. I believe this is the main reason that all the major modern Bible translations completely deviate from the text they are translating and retain the reading, “his only son”, found in the received text and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. To translate the text in front of them would cause serious theological problems and sully the most beloved verse in the Bible.

Conclusion

 Whether it is due to ignorance, self-preservation, or a willingness to burry one’s head in the sand and hide from the dire reality of the situation, most Christians and pastors who use the critical text and translations of them do not acknowledge the truth of Taylor’s statement, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.” If you want a tangible test of the veracity of this claim, I propose the following steps:

  1. If you can read Greek, open up your NA28, UBS5, or Tyndale GNT to John 3:16 and simply read it as it stands in the text, you will immediately notice that the Bible no longer says, “God gave his only begotten son”, as you have so long quoted. If you do not know Greek, grab a black sharpie, open up your ESV, NASB, NET or NIV and fix the translators’ error by returning the text back to the form accepted by the scholars who printed the Greek text your translation is from, cross out the word, “his”, in John 3:16.
  2. As you look down at the page, echo aloud the words of Dr. Dan Wallace, “I do not have now exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if I did, I would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”
  3. If you follow these steps, I assure you that you will not be able to so quickly dismiss Taylor’s assertion, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.

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