Review: The King James Version Debate – Chapter 3

Introduction

Similar to the second chapter, the third is mostly just information condensed from Metzger. Carson begins the chapter by presenting an accurate picture, even today, of Modern Textual Criticism.

“The aim of the textual critic is to ascertain, as precisely as possible, what reading of any particular passage is closest to the original, or accurately reflects the original.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 25). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Note that he does not say, “The aim of the textual critic is to ascertain exactly what the original contained.” Rather, he states accurately that the aim of the textual critic is to find the reading that is “closest to the original.” This is a common way that modern critical text advocates confuse the conversation. They will say, “The goal is to find the original or the closest thing to it.” It is extremely important to understand exactly what is being said here. What Carson is saying essentially is that textual critics goal is to find the passage that a) accurately reflects the original and when they cannot b) to find the passage that is closest to it. The second part of that statement is where the Critical Text position finds itself in serious theological trouble.

I won’t tarry any further on that point, as I have written at length on this blog about the issues surrounding this particular topic. The main substance of this chapter is giving an overview of text-types.

A Brief Presentation on Text-Types

What I was surprised to notice in this chapter is how well Carson presents the topic of text types.

“The most common general classification of text-types is summarized in the following paragraphs; but I should point out that research continues, and the classification may prove somewhat idealized. A greater number of early manuscripts boast a mixed text than has often been thought.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 26). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It seems Carson anticipated the retirement of text times well before it actually happened. He identifies and defines four distinct text-types:

  1. Byzantine
  2. Western
  3. Caesarian
  4. Alexandrian

The only thing I will comment on is Carson’s high-evaluation of the Alexandrian text-type.

“Nevertheless the Alexandrian text has excellent credentials, far better than its harshest critics have been willing to concede.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 28). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Alexandrian texts are far from being well credentialed. In the first place, we have no clue who created them and they disagree with a vast majority of the 5,000 manuscripts that are often cited. This alone is enough to question Carson’s statement here. Second, scholars have recently determined that the Alexandrian manuscripts are in fact not a text type. Third, there have been extensive analyses done of Codex A and B by men such as John Burgon and HC Hoskier, which very clearly demonstrate that these manuscripts are not of particularly great quality. Carson unfortunately does what many Critical Text apologists do, and assert that the former Alexandrian text family are of great quality, well, because they are early and extant and the scholars prefer them.

Conclusion

In chapter 3 of The King James Version Debate, Carson gives a brief overview of the text-types traditionally accepted by Modern Textual Criticism. He shows a great amount of insight which was eventually vindicated when textual scholars recognized that text-types are not necessarily a meaningful tool to categorize manuscripts. Interestingly enough, he makes the claim that the Alexandrian text has “excellent credentials,” and the “harshest critics” seem to have been vindicated in their critiques when the Alexandrian texts were demoted as a text-type.

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