Ruckman & the Critical Text: Theological Cousins

Introduction

When people hear the term “King James Onlyism,” there are a number of definitions that might come to mind. Some think of the version of King James Onlyism which believes that the Bible didn’t exist until 1611 and that the English King James was immediately inspired. This is often called “Ruckmanite” KJVO, or something similar. Others might think of somebody who only reads the KJV due to the lack of quality of modern translations or somebody who simply prefers the KJV. On my blog I rarely address Ruckmanite King James Onlyism because I personally have never talked to somebody who believes after Ruckman or Gipp. If people weren’t constantly bringing him up, I probably would not have even heard of it from anybody in real life.

Recently I was talking to a brother who lives in Tennessee, who told me that it is a pretty serious problem where he lives, which made me realize I’ve never really addressed it. In this article, I’d like to examine the theology of this position and critique it by comparing it theologically to the Critical Text position. One of the major issues with this discussion is that the Modern Critical Text apologists cannot seem to bring themselves to make the proper category distinction between the Traditional Text position and Ruckmanite KJVO, so I will demonstrate in this article that it is actually the Critical Text position and Ruckmanite KJVO that are similar, not the TR position. Perhaps this will even demonstrate to the Ruckmanite that their theology is quite liberal in reality. In this article, I am using the term “Ruckmanite” to describe those who believe that the Bible was re-inspired in the English King James Version (double inspiration) and who reject the authority of the Hebrew and Greek texts over the KJV as a result of that doctrine.

The Similarities between the Modern Critical Text and Ruckmanite KJVO

Interestingly enough, the only thing that Ruckmanite KJVO and Traditional Text advocates share is their use of the King James Bible, and even then, some Traditional Text guys read the NKJV, MEV, or Geneva Bible. The Ruckmanite and the Modern Critical Text (CT) advocate actually have a lot more in common than a Ruckmanite and Traditional Text advocate. I am not saying that the theology of the CT and Ruckman are exactly the same, just that they share a serious overlap in the doctrinal core of their respective positions.

First, both the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite reject that the Bible was providentially preserved in the Hebrew and Greek. The CT proponent says that the Bible has fallen away, or perhaps was stashed in the desert in Egypt and needs to be reconstructed. There is no way to adhere to the WCF or LBCF 1.8 as a Critical Text advocate unless we redefine 1.8 in a Warfieldian way. Alternatively, the Ruckmanite will say that the Bible didn’t officially exist until 1611. While each camp arrives at extremely different conclusions, both accept the premise that the Bible was not handed down perfectly in the original manuscripts. See this quote from Dr. Andrew Naselli in his widely read How to Understand and Apply the New Testament.

“The Bible’s inerrancy does not mean that copies of the original writings or translations of those copies are inerrant. Copies and translations are inerrant only to the extent that they accurately represent the original.”

Andrew Naselli. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament. 43.

The Ruckmanite would agree that the the copies and translations of the copies of the original are not inerrant. They disagree with Naselli in the fact that they believe the KJV is the only inerrant Bible, whereas Naselli believes the Bible is only inerrant where it can be proven to be original (which is the standard view of inerrancy set forth by the Chicago Statement, article X). So both camps say that the copies that were handed down are not providentially preserved, whereas the Traditional Text advocate believes as Turretin did, that the original writings are represented by the apographs, or copies.

“By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, 106.

Second, both the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite are okay with treating translations as authoritative. The CT scholars use the Septuagint as authoritative above the original Hebrew, whereas the Ruckmanite views the KJV to be authoritative over the Hebrew and Greek. Even though the extant versions of the Septuagint cannot be proven to represent the original, these versions are used to correct the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Both, due to the first belief that God did not providentially preserve His Word in the original Greek and Hebrew, are perfectly fine treating a translation as authoritative over the original text.

While the doctrine of inerrancy as set forth by the CT advocate may sound different than the view of Ruckman, it really is quite similar. Since there is no mechanism of textual criticism that can demonstrate an extant copy or translation of a copy to “accurately represent the original,” the only thing that remains is the belief that the translation is more authoritative than the Hebrew original. The CT does this in many places in the Old Testament. If you were to inspect the footnotes of the Old Testament in a 2016 ESV for example, there are readings on nearly every page that are taken from translations such as the Latin, Syriac, and Greek over and above the Hebrew. This again is quite different from the Traditional Text view, which aligns with the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689.

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith. 1.8.

The Traditional Text view is that the authentic Scriptures are the Hebrew and Greek, which have been providentially kept pure in all ages, so the concept of taking a translation over the original does not exist in the TR view. Both the CT proponent and Ruckmanite appeal to translations as authoritative over the original. While the CT advocate may offer lip service to the Reformed doctrine above, they contradict themselves when they take the LXX or any other translation as more authoritative than the Hebrew or even Greek (2 Peter 3:10). The Ruckmanite is simply more transparent about the practice. At face value, the CT advocate and the TR advocate may sound like they are saying the same thing about translations being authoritative insofar as they represent the original, but there isn’t a concept of an available original in the CT position. In order for Article X of the Chicago Statement to actually mean something, there needs to be a defined original that can be used as a final authority. Further, the CT scholars reject this in practice when they place readings in the text over the original languages from other translations such as the Latin, Syriac, and LXX. In this sense, they share far more in common with the Ruckmanite when it comes to Bibliology than the TR proponent.

Conclusion

In both the case of the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite, the core belief is that the Bible was not providentially preserved in the original Greek and Hebrew. The CT advocate applies this doctrine by enthusiastically supporting the ongoing effort to reconstruct the Bible, whereas the Ruckmanite applies the very same doctrine by saying that the Bible was finally inspired in the KJV in 1611. It is the same doctrine with two different conclusions. It is the same problem answered in two very different ways. The tactic that the CT camp employs is to focus on the the fact that both the Ruckmanite and the TR believer read the KJV and not the theological core and practical application of that doctrine. The CT believer looks at the Traditional Text advocate and the Ruckmanite, sees that they both use the KJV, and concludes they are the same. This is a massive blunder.

The important distinction occurs in the doctrinal substance of both positions, and when considered, the CT advocate and the Ruckmanite have much more in common than the Traditional Text proponent. Both the CT supporter and Ruckmanite believe that the inerrant text was not transmitted in the copies. Both the CT supporter and the Ruckmanite believe that translations can be more authoritative than the original language texts as a result of the first belief. The Traditional Text advocate affirms against both. The only similarity between the Ruckmanite and the TR advocate is that they use the KJV, and this isn’t even true in every case as many TR believers read the NKJV, MEV, or perhaps the Geneva Bible.

There is a reason some have appropriately labeled the CT position as “Reformed Ruckmanism,” because there is serious overlap in the theology of both positions. The overlap is so significant, that it is perplexing that the CT apologist even takes issue with Ruckmanite KJVO at all. They slam the Ruckmanite for viewing a translation as more authoritative than the original language texts, but they do the very same thing with the Latin, Syriac, and LXX. There is no theological reason for a CT advocate to object to Ruckman. The only place they really disagree is in the severely incorrect answer Ruckman has to their shared problem.

Ultimately, the CT proponent has a playground tier argument against the Ruckmanite. They called “dibs” on correcting the original with a translation, and don’t like that the Ruckmanites aren’t respecting the authority of “dibs.” Ironically, the Traditional Text camp is the only position that consistently critiques both positions, despite being labeled as “KJVO” by CT apologists. As I have noted before on this blog, the Modern Critical Text position has yet to explain how their practices can be consistent theologically with Scripture. That is what happens when you focus on textual data and variants all day and fail to stop for a second to think about doctrine.

The Absurdity of Anti-KJV Rhetoric

Introduction

There are a number of reasons people choose a Bible translation. For those in the Modern Critical Text crowd, it’s often the same logic that caused many people to vote for Joe Biden – because he wasn’t the other guy. In the same way, the modern axiom seems to be, “So as long as it’s not the KJV it’s fine.” In fact, this is exactly the logic found in mainstream, “Reformed” New Testament exegesis textbooks such as How to Understand and Apply the New Testament authored by Andrew Naselli. All translations are permissible, even the Message, so as long as it’s not the KJV. The Living Bible even has more to offer than the King James, according to Naselli!

This, in my opinion, is astronomically stupid. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the King James is the best available translation without believing that the English of the King James was re-inspired. This is true, even if the modern scholars and armchair warriors disagree. In this article, I will examine two common arguments made by anti-KJV Christians to see if what they say actually makes any sense.

Reading One Bible Version is Bad

This is a rather common complaint from the Modern Critical Text crowd. They suppose that being an “onlyist” is a bad thing. Yet when we look at this claim simply, it doesn’t make all that much sense. There are plenty of people who read the NIV and only the NIV. Same goes with the ESV and the NASB. They do this because they prefer one translation over another. Despite this being quite common, I’ve never seen a Gospel Coalition article condemning people for preferring the ESV or people writing books about people who only read the ESV. What this reveals is that the issue, at least when considered broadly, is not with people only reading one translation, the problem is with the KJV itself. So when somebody says, “I just have an issue with people who only read the KJV because they believe all of the other translations are bad,” they are really saying that they just don’t like that people read the KJV. It’s okay if somebody only reads the ESV, just not the KJV.

The problem is not with the “Onlyist” part of KJVO, it’s the “KJV” part of KJVO. Ironically, when I was in the critical text crowd, I constantly saw people bickering, especially on behalf of the NASB, about how their choice translation is the BEST translation. This may be news for some people, but it’s okay to have an opinion about which translation is best. It demonstrates that somebody cares about the words on the page of their Bible. It’s actually more concerning, in my opinion, when people give so little concern about the words in their Bible that they actually think all Bibles are made equal. This is drawn to its absurd end when respectable scholars such as Andrew Naselli defend the MSG in a textbook marketed to Reformed Christians. If somebody says it is more profitable to read the MSG than the KJV, what would you say the real issue is? If Naselli and the critical text advocate’s only issue is “Onlyism,” I’d like to see a chapter dedicated in the next “Reformed” textbook about why “ESV Onlyism” is heresy. Of course they won’t because the issue isn’t with “Onlyism,” it’s with the KJV.

KJV Onlyism is Bad Because it Rejects Modern Translations

The premise of this argument assumes that modern translations are not bad, or that somebody is not allowed to believe that modern translations are bad. This again, is absurd. The scholars who claim to specialize in this topic, such as Mark Ward and Dan Wallace, admit as much when they say there are no perfectly accurate modern translations. They write this off as the inevitability of sinners having produced them, but secular scholars accurately translate things all the time. Modern Scholars talk about modern translations like a mother talks lovingly about her child who got held back two years in grade school. “He’s gets the answers wrong a lot, but he has a huge heart and has a lot to offer in other areas.”

If the modern Bible translations, by admission of the scholars, get it wrong a lot, why is it so absurd when people choose something else? If the top scholars tell Christians that reading all modern translations is profitable because none of them get it 100% right, is it possible that the “KJVO” crowd might be onto something? Who am I kidding though, it might pain a modern critical text advocate to be overly charitable to people who read the KJV or admit that a gap-toothed KJVO might be correct about something. This again highlights that the real issue that the modern critical text advocate has is with the KJV and nothing else.

Further, people that don’t read the KJV reject modern translations all the time. There is a reason John MacArthur made his own translation rather than subjecting himself to the NASB 2020. Is John MacArthur now a Legacy Bible onlyist? Should somebody write treatises against him too? I’d like to see Mark Ward issue a “sincere” offer to John MacArthur like he did to Trinitarian Bible Society to convince him to change his ways. Since rejecting translations is common in the modern critical text crowd, it seems reasonable to say that rejecting Bible translations isn’t the unforgiveable sin of somebody who reads the KJV. As one would expect, reading the KJV is the unforgiveable sin of the person who reads the KJV.

Conclusion

Whenever I interact with people who think they doing the world a service by eradicating “KJV Onlyists” from the face of the earth, it always comes to light that they aren’t actually talking about “KJV Onlyism.” I run a somewhat-popular blog in the “KJV Only” world and I have only ever had one person in support of Peter Ruckman comment on my blog or YouTube. Ultimately, the term “KJVO” is just another tool for people to bludgeon people on the internet. If you actually make somebody define what they mean by “KJVO,” they are simply talking about people who read the King James. The great sin of only reading one translation, despite being something that many people do, is only wrong when that one translation is the KJV.

I have pointed this out before on this blog, but the “KJV Onlyists” seem to be the only people that are actually paying attention to what the scholars are saying. Scholars are praised for saying the same exact thing that “King James Onlyists” are saying. The “KJV Onlyist” will say that all modern translations have error, and that is why they read the KJV. Dan Wallace will say the same thing and he gets invited to speak in your churches and seminaries. So what makes the “KJV Onlyist” different than Dan Wallace? Dan Wallace doesn’t read the KJV. The problem that modern critical text advocates have is not with “KJV Onlyism,” it is with the KJV.



“We do not have now – in any of our critical Greek texts or in 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.”

Elijah Hixson & Peter Gurry. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii. Quote by Dan Wallace.

The real problem is when somebody believes that the theology behind the above Dan Wallace quote is less dangerous than believing than God has preserved His Word and the KJV is an accurate translation of it. Perhaps we will see some scholars writing treatises about that in the future, but I won’t hold my breath.

New Dead Sea Scrolls Find Gives Hope

Introduction

On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that archaeologists discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments in a desert cave. The manuscript fragments include lines of Zechariah and Nahum in Greek. Crossway and Zondervan have already begun preparing the ESV and NIV 2021 to account for the changes. Among the find includes 2,000 year old coins along with a 6,000 year old body and a 10,500 year old basket. The basket is reported to possibly be the oldest surviving in the world.

Scholars have not yet determined how the mummy had earned that much gold 4,000 years after dying, or how the oldest basket in the world was found with a 6,000 year old body. Dan Wallace has not issued a statement yet regarding the lack of fragments from the Gospel of Mark in the find. If the discovery had yielded any fragments of Mark, that would have made them older than any text from the New Testament to date, putting them around the 3rd century BC.

3 Terrible Reasons You Should Trust Modern Evangelical English Bible Translations

Introduction

I recently watched this video by Mark Ward entitled, “3 Reasons Why You Should Trust Modern Evangelical English Bible Translations” and thought it would be helpful to write an article demonstrating just how ridiculous these points are. Without any further introduction, I will evaluate each of his reasons which are as follows:

  1. You have to
  2. Trustworthy people made them
  3. Trustworthy people use them

You Have to Trust Modern Evangelical Bible Translations

The simple and obvious answer to Ward’s first point is that no, you actually don’t have to trust or use any modern Bible versions. Now, Ward may have meant that “you have to trust a Bible translator” as he talks about that briefly, but the video says “3 Reasons Why You Should Trust Modern Evangelical Bible Translations.” So if point one is, “because you have to,” it’s clearly wrong. I have read the NIV, ESV, HCSB (CSB), and NASB and I can happily say I will never be returning to them other than for research. Most of my scripture memorization is in the ESV, and in my opinion, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on compared to the KJV.

The basic point Ward makes here is that everybody, for the most part, has to trust a translator of some sort, so why not trust a modern translator? If you don’t know Greek and Hebrew, then you can’t actually make a determination one way or the other as to the quality of a translation. On that point, he is only correct in that most people don’t know Hebrew and Greek. He is wrong when he acts as a Gatekeeper to the conversation, telling Christians that if they do not know the original languages, then they cannot know if a translation is trustworthy. Using a slightly different and better argument, Christians can know if a translation is trustworthy by looking at the scholarship (not the scholar) of other Christians. Christians do not have to understand Hebrew and Greek if they are able to read an accurate analysis of the Hebrew and Greek in their original tongue.

Further, Ward tries to normalize the idea that Bible translations cannot be “perfect”, or rather, do not contain translational errors. This is a common strategy used by men of the Critical Text. They make the equivocation between “perfect” and “accurate”. A Bible can be 100% accurately translated, and why would Christians want to be comfortable with a Bible that isn’t? If it is discovered that a translation has made an error, it should be fixed in the next edition, right? Shouldn’t we hold these trustworthy men to that standard? They have a text before them in one language, and their task is to translate it into a target language. The expectation isn’t that a translation come out of the translators committee perfect on the first go, but shouldn’t it get there eventually? Greek and Hebrew are languages that can be known and translated, and if Mark Ward thinks something has been translated incorrectly in the Bible he reads, why doesn’t he tell all of his translator friends that they made an error so they can fix it? Apparently having a poorly translated Bible is something Christians should just accept. Why would a Bible version that isn’t accurately translated, by Mark Ward’s own admission, be considered trustworthy? This seems to actually be an argument against his point.

Trustworthy People Made Modern Evangelical Translations

In this segment of the video, Ward appeals to the character of the people on various translation teams to demonstrate why we should trust modern versions. According to Ward, somebody being able to hike the Grand Canyon and having a good sense of humor are among some of the reasons to trust a Bible translation. Plainly stated, it is remarkably absurd to say that we should trust a Bible because the person who translated it virtuous Christian. There are plenty of trustworthy people in the church that have error in one area or another. It is astounding that an argument like this could even make a list of 3 items. According to Ward, if a Bible translation is made by somebody trustworthy, the translation therefore must be trustworthy.

If this is the case, let’s take Dan Wallace, who Mark Ward lists as a trustworthy source for whether a Bible translation is trustworthy or not, at his own words.

“We do not have now – in any of our critical Greek texts or in 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.”

Dan Wallace

According to Mark Ward, the trustworthiness of our Bibles should be at least in part based on the trustworthiness of the scholars who created them and use them. If this is the case, it seems that there actually aren’t any Bibles that can be trusted. In opposition to Ward’s conclusion, if we are to trust these men, it doesn’t appear the Modern Evangelical Bible translations are trustworthy at all if we as Christians are concerned with exactly what Paul wrote.

Trustworthy People Use Modern English Bible Translations

This is the same form of argument as the second point on Mark Ward’s list, only it is applied to those that use these Bibles as opposed to those who created those Bibles. Ward appeals to the Holy Spirit for this argument to say that God would not let so many Christians read a bad text. I don’t have to engage further because Ward actually refutes his own argument in the video itself when discussing a pamphlet called “Trusted Voices on Translation”.

“It doesn’t prove that any given Modern English Bible translation is trustworthy, it shows only that countless Evangelical luminaries of the past, thought it was possible to trust the KJV and newer translations of their day”

The same thing can be said about Ward’s argument in this video. According to Ward, if a trustworthy Christian uses a Bible translation, then that translation must be trustworthy. All Ward has demonstrated is that people he trusts made and read modern translations.

His argument can be further refuted by using his own logic when he says that a translation cannot be perfect because the people translating are sinners. By this logic we can easily say that a Christian can’t be the determining factor in whether a Bible is trustworthy because they are a sinner! If a sinner can be wrong in translation, they can be wrong in discernment too, and Ward’s argument again falls to the ground. It’s not God’s fault that a sinner is imperfect, and we don’t hastily blame God for the sins of men. I’m not saying that reading an ESV makes somebody a sinner, just that if we are to assume Ward’s premise of sinful men making errors in translation, we can apply it readily to sinful men making errors in which Bible translation they read.

Conclusion

In short, a response to Ward’s three points can be answered in much less words than I’ve written here. I’ll end by answering Ward’s argument simply.

Do Christians have to trust modern bible translations, because, well they have to?

No.

Do Christians have to trust modern bible translations because the scholars who produced them are trustworthy?

No.

Do Christians have to trust modern bible translations because people that use them are trustworthy?

No.

As far as I can tell, this video said nothing of significance other than, “Trust the scholars and the people who trust the scholars.” I for one am not convinced by this presentation, and I would argue that nobody should be. The scholars and people that use Modern Evangelical Bible translations may very well be trustworthy, but that has nothing to do with whether or not a translation is trustworthy. And if we do adopt Ward’s arguments as true, we have to also adopt Ward’s arguments as false simultaneously! Ultimately it comes down to what threshold we set for a translation being considered trustworthy, and Ward has set the bar extraordinarily low.

I’ll end by leaving my reader with an analogy. I am a software analyst. If I were to commit code to our production servers at work, the company I work for expects that code to work. They would expect that I have tested every line of my code. They would expect that I wouldn’t release code with errors in it. They expect it to be trustworthy. If I submitted code and it breaks the application, I’d have to answer for it. If my response to my boss was, “There are many, many places in which my code is uncertain,” I’d be fired or at the very least reprimanded for knowingly releasing bad code. It doesn’t matter how virtuous, nice, or agreeable I am. It doesn’t matter how trustworthy I am.

When it comes to our Bibles, we have to be willing to hold our translators to at least the same standard that a secular company holds its employees to, even if they do happen to be the nicest and funniest and well-meaning people in the whole of the world. Christians should have higher standards than the world, not lower, and if I can’t get away with this kind of work in my day job, why should we give translators a pass for something far more important such as the translated Word of God that Christians use daily? Is this really our standard? Because somebody is trustworthy we ignore their work product? It is undiscerning and unwise to admit that the translational work product isn’t perfect and then give a pass simply because the men who made the translations are well intentioned, trustworthy people. If you want people to trust modern bible translations, it would make sense to stop advertising them as “imperfect” and then appealing to the Christian character of the people that made them.

Anti-KJV Discussion Board Sustains Injury While Highfiving Each Other

Introduction

I recently discovered a Bible Version Discussion board devoted to people who love cheering each other on in an Anti-KJV bubble. I spent some time perusing the post titles and content and I’ll admit, it was very entertaining. I imagine in some alternate timeline I would enjoy hanging out with these people, as they have a similar sense of humor to mine. If we can learn anything from this discussion board, is that Christians need to be able to take an insult and not record 20 hours of Dividing Line content demonstrating what thin skin looks like in real time. So my reader can have some context, I will be very loosely using a post entitled, “Dane Johnson Writes About Preservation But Says Nothing Important” as a mold for this post. I am particularly entertained by this post title because it a) in accordance to the Chad handbook, intentionally spells Pastor Johannsson’s name wrong and b) is dismissive in a way that I find particularly fun. The first rule to asserting dominance is to pretend like you don’t know somebody’s name. In any case, this article is not going to be a rebuttal, but rather an introduction. Hello, my name is Taylor “Hernando” DeSoto and I accept your invitation to banter.

Finding a Needle in a Haystack with No Points

I’m sure there are plenty of things to critique my articles for, which is unfortunate that “Maestroh” couldn’t find any. Unfortunately, for somebody who calls themselves “Master”, he is equally awful at thinking and spelling. Or perhaps he’s going with the Spanish word for teacher…in any case, the mispelling of either is rather unfortunate. I’m actually not a fan of correcting grammar or spelling, but in this case I felt it appropriate.

Now you may think that I am being quite uncharitable, and you’d be correct. This is how we have fun together, right? If I were to take every critique seriously I’d have pulled all my hair out years ago. Out of the rebuttals given, the most substantial I could find were claims of strawmen and simply ignoring what was said in the article being addressed. Since there is nothing substantial to rebut in the post responding to Pastor Johannsson, I’ll simply offer a critique to demonstrate to my reader the “kind of argumentation you’re going to find out there.” Shouts of “strawmen” and “Genetic Fallacy” might mean something if Maestroh and his pals didn’t do so themselves at every turn (Although I do like that I’ve been fondly nicknamed “hernando” and “The little bald guy”). I rather like the alternate reality in which I am descended from a Spanish Conquistador and am not a 200 pound fat man. In any case, the examples given of strawmen and genetic fallacies weren’t relevant to the points made by Pastor Johannsson, which I suppose I’ll investigate in further detail in a later post. This is an introduction after all.

The real problem with all of Maestroh’s critiques, as I can tell, is that he refuses to take the scholars at face value. For example, he looks at what Dan Wallace says, and shouts “context!” when Dan Wallace clearly says that there is no Bible and will never be a Bible. The surrounding context is that Dan Wallace doesn’t think that not having the Bible shouldn’t give Christians any discomfort because finding the original text isn’t in Dan Wallace’s per view. Unlike those in the Critical Text crowd, we let our reader decide if such statements should be cause for concern. Furthermore, Maestroh, despite engaging in polemics himself, seems to dislike it when others engage in polemics. If you’re wondering why I haven’t actually rebutted anything our critic has said (yet) is because he hasn’t actually engaged with anything said other than to blame “context” or “strawmen” or “genetic fallacies” for his inability to offer a meaningful response. I highly advise my reader to check the article linked above out to see for yourself the quality of argument we see from our dear Maestroh.

In Maestroh’s world, the scholars don’t mean what they say and nobody is questioning our beloved passages such as John 3:16. It would be easy enough to simply read my articles or the quoted source material to find that he is characteristically wrong. Perhaps Maestroh and MMR can have fun finding the “context” of the quotes from this article in his next post. I suggest the title, “Funny Bald Man Tyler Soto Can’t Read”. For those that perhaps don’t know me in real life, I write this article with a light heart as I sip my third cup of black coffee. I have a feeling Maestroh can handle critique better than James White. If not, I suppose I read the room wrong, which is common for a person like me.

Conclusion

As I understand it, our dear Maestroh is away at a funeral, so I’d appreciate if my reader would join me in praying for him and those near him. And no, that is not tongue and cheek. I look forward to engaging with our Masked Maestroh in the future. I hope my reader is excited for articles that address his specific rebuttals. As for now, consider this an introduction to a new series in which I will demonstrate to the world what Critical Text argumentation looks like in the blogosphere and beyond. Hopefully you can have as much fun as I did reading the absurdity that is the KJV Only discussion board on Tapatalk.

Quickly Dismissing the Septuagint(s)

Introduction

One of the most common places of confusion when it comes to The Textual Discussion as it pertains to the Old Testament is how the Septuagint (LXX) should be viewed. I wrote a lengthy article back in 2019 on the topic, but I thought it would be profitable to scale it down and transform it into a more digestible article. There are really three major categories that need to be addressed when discussing the Septuagint: Theology, Text, and Translation.

Theology

The first topic that needs to be addressed as it pertains to the LXX is how it is to be viewed theologically. At the object level, the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew. So the theological implication of using the LXX as an authoritative text is that utilizing translations as authoritative is acceptable. Practically speaking, this means that the Ruckmanite doctrine shouldn’t be particularly offensive to those that believe the Septuagint is authoritative. If the LXX, a translation, can be considered authoritative, then so too can the KJV. Theologically, using the KJV as an authoritative text and using the Septuagint as an authoritative text are categorically the same.

Additionally, in order for the LXX to be viewed as authoritative, one must believe that it is more authoritative than the Hebrew original. The common argument for using the LXX as authoritative is that the New Testament quotes “the LXX”. This is a poor argument, however, because the New Testament is written in Greek, and therefore any quotations of the Hebrew Old Testament would be “the Septuagint”. The basic argument is that since the Apostles quoted it, the text they quoted must be inspired. If that is the case, there are some pagan authors Paul quotes that we should probably sew into our Bibles. The Apostolic use of a text does not make a text inspired, the text is inspired by God. So then the logical conclusion of both of these arguments is that Ruckmanite KJV Onlyism is perfectly acceptable by the Modern Critical Text position and that texts are inspired by virtue of Apostolic use. Both are unorthodox and absurd. The Scriptures were immediately inspired by God in Greek and Hebrew and translations are mediately inspired insofar as they accurately reflect those original, immediately inspired texts.

Text

If we can establish that the theological premise for using the LXX as more authoritative than the Hebrew is unorthodox and inconsistent, then the rest of the discussion is easy. In terms of the text, the LXX is to be viewed as any other translation. Where it translates accurately from the Hebrew original, it is perfectly acceptable to use, just like any other translation. In the places that it departs, the LXX should not be used. One might say that this is an issue, since the Apostles used a text that is seemingly different than the original Hebrew, but when evaluated these differences can be explained by way of translational nuance and loose quotation practices common in the early church.

Ultimately, translations should be used consistently across the board. We must apply the same standard that every Christian uses for evaluating a translation to the LXX, a Greek translation of the Hebrew. I know “consistency” is a fruit of the spirit in some corners of the Reformed world, so this should be especially acceptable to all. One final note on the text of the LXX is that it contains apocryphal books and additional text. If the text is authoritative, should not also be the apocryphal books? Should we take “Bel and the Dragon” into our modern texts at the end of Daniel? If the LXX is authoritative, than I don’t see why not. What argument that states the LXX is authoritative can then reject that all of the LXX must be authoritative? It cannot be done consistently, only arbitrarily. The only way that this conclusion could be avoided would be if there was a master copy of the LXX that could be identified as “The LXX” in addition to the Hebrew text it was translated from. We do not have either.

Translation

The idea that a translation should not be used as authoritative over the original text is extremely uncontroversial, except for in Ruckmanite and Modern Critical Text circles. The easiest appeal to people who think it acceptable to use a translation to override the authority of the original is simply to appeal to the fact that by doing so, they are actually just committing the same error as the people they demonize. What problem does the person who thinks the LXX is more authoritative than the original have with the person that thinks the KJV is more authoritative than the original? At least the Ruckmanite can say he can consistently reject “Bel and the Dragon” as Scripture. The conversation over textual data actually does not matter, because the form of the argument is a Pandora’s box of absurdity and theological error.

So the LXX should be used in the same way that other translations are used – as a way to consult other interpretations of how a text should be translated. Bible translators use other translations all the time in translation, and so too can the LXX be used for such a purpose.

Conclusion

The discussion of the Septuagint is quite simple. It is a translation and should be used in the same way all other translations are used. If somebody wishes to use it as authoritative, then they have no reason to critique the Ruckmanite. There is nothing complex about how we are to understand the Septuagint when we create correct category distinctions and compare those distinctions against our Bibliology. Translations are only authoritative insofar as they agree with the original. If we untether our translations from the original, there isn’t a tether to any objective reality that defines Scripture, only speculation. That is the same view set forth in Westminster as well as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. So unless the LXX enthusiasts wish to allow for the Ruckmanite category of Bibliology into the fold of orthodoxy, the conversation over the LXX is moot. The controversy over the LXX is actually not a controversy at all, when we apply categories and theology consistently.

Quotes That Everybody Should Copy and Paste on Any Post About Textual Criticism

Introduction

Have you ever wanted to disperse the crowd of Critical Text enthusiasts from a Facebook feed? Here are some quotes that should help you demonstrate to the fool his folly.

The Modern Critical Text is Not the Original, Inspired Text

“We do not have now – in any of our critical Greek texts or in 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.”

Elijah Hixson & Peter Gurry. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii. Quote by Dan Wallace.

“I do not believe that God is under any obligation to preserve every detail of Scripture for us, even though he granted us good access to the text of the New Testament.”

Dirk Jongkind. An Introduction to the Greek New Testament. 90.

The CBGM Isn’t Going to Give Us the Original Text

“I do not think the method is of any value for establishing the text of the New Testament”

Bengt Alexanderson. Problems in the New Testament: Old Manuscripts and Papyri, the New Coherence-Based-Genealogical Method (CBGM) and the Editio Critica Maior (ECM). 117.

“The reason is that there is a methodological gap between the start of the textual tradition as we have it and the text of the autograph itself. Any developments between these two points are outside the remit of textual criticism proper. Where there is “no trace [of the original text] in the manuscript tradition” the text critic must, on Mink’s terms, remain silent.” 

Peter Gurry. A Critical Examination of the Coherence based Genealogical Method. 93.

“Many of us would feel that Initial Text – if inadequately defined and therefore open to be understood as the First Text or Starting Text in an absolute sense – suggests greater certainty than our knowledge of transmission warrants.”

Eldon J. Epp. Which Text?. 70.

“In all, there were in the Catholic Letters thirty-two uses of brackets compared to forty-three uses of the diamond and in Acts seventy-eight cases of brackets compared to 155 diamonds. This means that there has been an increase in both the number of places marked as uncertain and an increase in the level of uncertainty being marked. Overall, then, this reflects a slightly greater uncertainty about the earliest text on the part of the editors.”   

Peter Gurry & Tommy Wasserman. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 7.

“At best, pregenealogical coherence [computer] only tells us how likely it is that a variant had multiple sources of origin rather than just one…pregenealogical coherence is only one piece of the text-critical puzzle. The other pieces – knowledge of scribal tendencies, the date and quality of manuscripts, versions, and patristic citations, and the author’s theology and style are still required…As with so much textual criticism, there are no absolute rules here, and experience serves as the best guide

Peter Gurry & Tommy Wasserman. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 56,57. Emphasis mine.

Articles on the CBGM

The Initial Text is Not the Authorial or Original Text

“The New Testament philologist’s task is not to recover an original authorial text, not only because we cannot at present know on philological grounds what the original text might have been, nor even because there may have been several forms to the tradition, but because philology is not able to make a pronouncement as to whether or not there was such an authorial text”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 27.

“But we need not then believe that the Initial Text is an authorial text, or a definitive text, or the only form in which the works once circulated”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 29.

What Textual Scholars Believe About Scripture

“In practice New Testament textual critics today tend to be Christians themselves, but not always. It does not matter, for the quality of their work does not depend on their faith but on their adherence to academic standards.”

Jan Krans. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2020/10/why-textus-receptus-cannot-be-accepted.html. October 22, 2020.

“I should add a word of warning, that in the case of biblical research and bibliography will inevitably find theology dragged into it at some point. Where a text is revered by some people as divinely inspired, in some cases as verbally precise pronouncement by an all-powerful God, or even at its least dramatic when it is viewed as a helpful guide for daily life, the findings of the bibliographer may be of particular importance. And in case we get too carried away with the importance of penmanship and of the texts by which it is preserved, let us remember that our codices are not all in all, and may be no more than a byproduct of our lives”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 30,31.

“We are trying to piece together a puzzle with only some of the pieces.”

Peter Gurry. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 112.

The Textus Receptus Was the Text of the Protestant Reformation

“Historically speaking, the Textus Receptus was the Greek New Testament of the Reformation.”

Jan Krans. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2020/10/why-textus-receptus-cannot-be-accepted.html. October 22, 2020.

“Beza acquired a very high status in Protestant and especially Calvinist circles during his lifetime and in the first generations after him. His Greek text was not contested but faithfully reprinted; through the Elzevir editions it was elevated to the status of ‘received text’, textus receptus. ”

Jan Krans. Beyond What is Written. 197.

Article: No, Beza Was Not Doing Modern Textual Criticism

The Reformed Did Not Believe, As Modern Scholars Do, That “The Original” Meant the Lost Autographs

“By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, 106.

Hopefully this gives you some helpful ammunition when dealing with people who reject that God has given His Word to His people.

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.

1 John 5:7 and Unbelief

Introduction

I recently read a thorough and fair defense of the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7) which reminded me of how the approach of many Christians in the modern church is absolutely backwards when it comes to Scripture. In today’s world of Modern Textual Criticism, Christians seem to take a backwards approach when seeking to determine if they should accept a textual variant as authentic. The method employed by the author of the linked article demonstrates, in my opinion, how textual data should be viewed, so please read the article prior to this one. In this article, I will comment on the two approaches to textual variation and conclude by explaining why I believe the approach taken by the exemplar author is correct.

Method 1: Modern Textual Criticism

I have spent a great deal of time and word count (222,197 words to be exact) on this blog explaining the methods and theology of the Modern Textual Critics and advocates. I have pointed out, using the words of the textual scholars, that there is no Modern Critical Text, there is no end in sight to the current effort, and adopting the Modern Critical Text means also to reject providential preservation. In all these words, I have yet to describe the approach of the Modern Textual Critic and advocate.

When a defender, advocate, or scholar of the Modern Critical Text approaches a place of textual variation, they do so by first questioning its authenticity. Practically speaking, a variant is to only be questioned if the scholars who produced the NA/UBS platforms have called it into question. That is not to say that others in history haven’t called such texts into question prior to the 20th century, just that these questions are exemplified in the modern critical texts. The reason this is problematic is that there is no consistent application of this skepticism applied to every line of Scripture.

See, the epistemological foundation for the Modern Textual Critic, according to Dan Wallace and his colleagues, is that we don’t have what the authors originally wrote, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know it.

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

Dan Wallace. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

This kind of foundation cannot conveniently stop at our favorite three passages. It must apply uniformly across the whole text of the New Testament. If 200 years of textual transmission which saw such a great change to the text from the “Alexandrian” text form to the “Byzantine” text form, then the first 200 years of textual transmission, of which we have basically zero extant evidence for, could also be equally or more significant. That is to say, our 200 year gap in the manuscript data in the first 200 years of the church is enough of a gap to call into question every single passage of the New Testament. This is the logical end of the Critical Text position. There isn’t a single line of Scripture that can be said to be 100% authentic to the pen of the apostolic writers, according to the Modern Critical Text advocate. This is further evidenced by the fact that there is not a single textual scholar or apologist that will lay claim to any specific percentage or list of authentic passages.

So when an advocate of the Modern Critical Text challenges a textual variant, they do so selectively and arbitrarily. Once they have identified a passage, verse, or word that they do not believe original, the goal is to then “disprove” that the reading was authentic. The text is on trial, and the Modern Critical Text advocate is the prosecutor. It is not a question of “Is this text authentic?”, it is a question of, “Why is this text inauthentic and how did it get there?” If they were consistent, they would apply this same approach to every line of Holy Scripture, and have no evidential reason to accept one reading or another. The evidential foundation for their approach is based upon manuscripts that are dated 200 years or more after the New Testament was written without any supporting evidence that those texts date back to the Apostles. This is the fatal flaw in Modern Textual Criticism – there is nothing that ties their text back to the original, and there never will be. That is why approach matters.

Method 2: Preservationist

In contrast to the first method, the Preservationist perspective approaches places of textual variation with the assumption that the original has been preserved, and it can be easily discerned. The preservation of Scripture did not stop with Codex Vaticanus, it carried on through the middle ages and into the Reformation when the world could finally print and mass distribute texts. There is a reason the vast majority of extant manuscripts do not look like Vaticanus or the Modern Critical Text. The church, through transmission and by God’s providence, kept the text pure. Therefore, if a text made it to the mass distribution era of the church, it had been passed along by the era that came before it. Since the church was by and large divided into two represented by the East and West, the combination of these texts yielded the original. That is why the advent of the printing press, the fall of Constantinople, and the Protestant Reformation is such a significant time in church history. It was the first time the church had authentic texts that were being used in one place with the ability to combine them and distribute them church-wide.

So then, to the Preservationist, the question is not, “Is this text authentic?”, it is, “Why did the people of God understand this to be authentic in time and space?” Thus, the burden of proof is not placed on a smattering of early manuscripts that have been in favor for the last 200 years. The Preservationist’s chief effort then is to support the text that has been handed down, rather than question its validity at every place disagreeable to the Vatican Codex. The assumption is that God preserved the text, and we have it. It is a matter of defending what is in our hands, rather than reconstructing what is not in our hands. 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. Further, there is no way to validate that any conclusion on a given text speaks conclusively about the original text itself. That is why the current effort is focused on the initial text, not the original. What can be proved is limited to hundreds of years after the Apostles, and even then, “proved” is much stronger language than textual scholars are comfortable with.

1 John 5:7 is a perfect example where the two approaches come to two separate conclusions. Since 1 John 5:7 is thinly represented in the extant manuscript data, the difference in conclusion on the text is really a matter of approach. The Modern Critical Text crowd has already admitted that even if 1 John 5:7 was original, they wouldn’t know it, so any conclusion jumping off from that point is irrelevant. Nothing they determine can actually be concluded by textual data, and so they engage in story telling. “The passage was brought up from a footnote. It was added to bolster the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.” Yet they do so without any direct evidence claiming this is what happened. Strangely enough, these critics also conveniently reject any evidence offering explanation as to why a passage is not in certain manuscripts. The bias in Modern Textual Criticism to favor manuscripts that have been historically rejected is strong.

If we approach this text from a preservationist perspective, we see that the wording is referenced by Tertullian (2nd century), Origen (3rd Century), Athanasius (4th Century), Priscillian (4th Century), Augustine (4th Century), and directly quoted by Cyprian (3rd Century). The direct quotations can be found in this article. This is not the only support for the passage, but it is enough for the preservationist to support 1 John 5:7 as original. It is enough to defend the text we have in hand, and the text handed down to us from the Reformation era. Accepting the Johannine Comma is not an issue of evidence, because the evidence exists. It is a matter of Bibliology and approach.

Just because a manuscript is surviving today does not mean it is the only manuscript to ever have existed. Textual scholars and apologists carry on about how many Bibles were destroyed during times of persecution and war and fail to acknowledge that those destroyed manuscripts could very well have contained the passages they reject today. The abundance of quotes and references to the passage, along with the reception of the text by our Protestant forefathers informs us that manuscripts with the passage existed, we just don’t have them today. Paradoxically, this is not enough for Modern Critical Text advocates to adjust how they approach textual data. The fact that we do not have an abundance of handwritten manuscripts in 2021 should not be a surprise, seeing as handwritten manuscripts of the Bible haven’t been produced or used in over 400 years. The Protestants and those that came after believed 1 John 5:7 to be original, and even claimed that authentic copies in their day had the passage. They even recognize that there was a time where manuscripts did not have the passage. See Francis Turretin commenting on the three major variants still debated today.

“There is no truth in the assertion that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are said to be mutilated; nor can the arguments used by our opponents prove it. Not the history of the adulteress, for although it is lacking in he Syriac version, it is found in all the Greek Manuscripts. Not 1 John 5:7, for although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it…Not Mark 16, which may have been wanted in several copies in the time of Jerome (as he asserts); but now it occurs in all, even in the Syriac version, and is clearly necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Volume 1. 115.

See, an honest scholar would admit that the position of the Protestant and Post-Reformation church was that of the Preservationist. It was that of the TR advocate. Behind closed doors, many prominent modern scholars admit this, they just don’t like it. For more quotations on the passage from historical Protestant theologians, see this article here.

Conclusion

So I argue here in this article that there is a stark difference in approach between the Modern Critical Text advocate and the Preservationist and that the difference in approach is far more significant than the textual data itself. Those in the Modern Critical Text camp are determined to answer “Why is this not Scripture and how did it get in the text?”, whereas the Preservationist says, “This is in our text, how do we support it?” The interesting thing is, that if the Critical Text advocate took the approach of a Preservationist, they would find that the burden of proof they accept for many passages would be enough to accept John 7:53-8:11, Mark 16:9-20, and 1 John 5:7. The issue is not evidence, it is approach.

If you approach a text with the belief that it is not Scripture as the Modern Critical Text crowd does, you will find that it is not Scripture in your eyes. Yet, as with all claims based on extant textual data, there is no warrant to come to any conclusion. That is why the scholars never do. If you approach the text with the belief that it is Scripture, you will find the the evidence to support that claim. Since the belief of the Preservationist is not based on extant data, the extant data is merely a support, not a foundation. The Preservationist recognizes that extant data will never “prove” the Bible. It is a theological position similar to the resurrected Christ. The most important question is not “what evidence do you have?”, it is, “What does the Bible say?” If it is preserved, than the conclusion is that 1 John 5:7 is original. If Scripture is not preserved and needs to be reconstructed, than the conclusion is not only that 1 John 5:7 is inauthentic, but so is all the rest of Scripture. There is nothing conclusive against 1 John 5:7 that cannot also be conclusive against all of the rest of Scripture. This is inevitable considering the significant gap in our extant manuscript data from the apostolic period to the 3rd century.

This is the reality that those who continue to advocate for Modern Textual Criticism do not understand. The Papyri do not give us a complete look at the first 200 years of textual transmission. Not even close. If we use the argument against John 7:53-8:11 from the Papyri against the rest of Scripture, then we lose everything that’s not in the Papyri. For those that do not know much of the Papyri, we essentially wouldn’t have a Bible. If we apply the same approach that the Modern Critical Text advocate applies to 1 John 5:7, there are no texts in the Bible that are safe. If you are tuned into the textual discussion, you know that this is absolutely the case among the elite textual scholars. See this quote from a recent book by Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust on the Pericope Adulterae.

“Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved – the purported meanings of texts also change”

Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15,16.

Do not be mistaken, Christian, the scholars of the Modern Critical Text cannot “prove” any passage, verse, or word of Scripture authentic. Not only that, they openly say they cannot. So then it is a matter of approach, which is determined by theology. What you believe about Scripture will determine what Bible you have in your hands. Do you believe the Bible needs to be reconstructed? You will have in your hands a text that nobody believes represents the original text. Do you believe that the Bible is preserved? You will have in your hands a Bible that was produced by men who believed it was the original text. It is that simple.