In a manner of what I hope is familiar to my reader, I intend to comment on the scholar types in the Christian church, and demonstrate that the issues of yesterday are the very same that rear their ugly head today and will yet again come out tomorrow to do more of the same work. What I have observed in my study of history and the present is that the work of the scholar, while presented as “scientific” and objective, almost never attempts to hold itself to such standards. When a layperson attempts to provide basic critiques of the conclusions of the scholar class, they are derided and set aside as “cultish” or something similar. Yet the “simpleton” knows that something of scientific nature should not be so fragile and delicate that it cannot withstand the objections of such a simple minded person. So let it be said, that if one follows a pattern of thinking which is called “scientific” that cannot withstand the critiques from the class of the unlearned, it is likely the case that whatever is being paraded around as “science” is nothing more than a superstition.
The Superstition of the Scholar-Adjacent
Recently, in an article posted on the Evangelical Text Criticism Blog, Richard Brash states that “The biblical evidence thus suggests that accurate copies of Scripture are to be distinguished from inaccurate ones.” He also states that, “…it is unwise to tether our doctrine of providential preservation to particular “approved” manuscript or manuscript tradition. The Bible does not give the church today the authority to do this.” In other words, the Bible ‘states ‘suggests’ that accurate copies of Scripture can be distinguished, but God has not given the church authority to do so. Well, that leaves the people of God in quite the predicament, does it not? The Bible is preserved, but not specifically. He concludes by stating, “In conclusion, God has preserved his written word by his singular care and providence, with great accuracy and in great purity. Despite its complexities, preservation by ordinary providence in both special and general modes seems to be the best theological account of providential preservation based on the biblical data.”
After reading Brash’s pamphlet along with this article, I am no closer to arriving at any particular truth than I was at the outset. Since God, according to the author, has not bestowed any authority on the people of God with an ability to distinguish which manuscripts (or more accurately readings) are original, it surprises me that any scholar would dare pick up any particular version of the Scriptures. See, if we do not have such authority, it would seem to be stepping over a line to give such a vote of confidence to a Bible such that we would read it and assume that the pages we read are indeed original. Such would be an exercise of pride and a demonstration of our own vanity!
We find ourselves yet again at the scholarly conclusion of uncertainty. What we have is “good enough” and so on. Yet, the scholar class betrays themselves by writing such articles and hosting such blogs. If what we have is something of “great accuracy and in great purity,” what exactly is the purpose of such endeavors? It appears contradictory to invest such time and effort in providing such nuanced analysis of texts that are perfectly adequate! If it is the case that the church has no authority to decide upon texts, then how can we justify our esteemed departments of textual studies at our beloved seminaries? Or does this only apply to those that disagree with our author? Forgive me, a simpleton, for asking such questions.
If I dare venture into the realm of speculation, I suspect I could conclude with great accuracy and in great purity that the cohort of authors supporting this blog do see the necessity of making conclusions on the text of Scripture. It is perhaps why they have spent so much time and effort pointing people in the other direction. If the simpletons in the pew were to conclude that that the Bible requires a stable text, well, that would be tragic to the field of textual studies and textual criticism. This is the inescapable conclusion of the whole matter, as I see it. The entire discipline in question serves to produce texts that are translated and distributed to the masses. If it were the case that the available texts were as “pure” as these authors say, it seems that they are engaged in an exercise of futility at best. Yet we do not see these scholar types behaving as men who have a greatly accurate, pure text. What can be seen with a common eye is a class of men who produce new editions and translations year after year, each differing from the previous editions. This effort is an apparent contradiction, if it is the case that a) God has not given the authority to men to do this and b) if the texts were of such quality as stated in the article and other similar places. In summary, the scholars have said nothing new.