Arguments Against John 7:53-8:11 That Prove a Man a Fool

Introduction

It is certainly in vogue to reject portions of Scripture, especially within what might be called “conservative” or “reformed” Christianity. I use quotes because there is nothing conservative or reformed about this practice. By definition this is quintessential progressivism. The defining qualities of conservatism as it pertains to any discipline is that it is averse to change. It seeks to conserve that which has come before it. Additionally, the Reformed Protestant movement was defined by its protest against the Papacy. As it pertains to textual criticism, those that advocate for the modern critical text are quite literally advocating for a text platform that is essentially the Vatican manuscript. So the popular effort of deconstructing the Bible is not only progressive as it seeks to change the text of Scripture based on every new idea, it also establishes its text base from the Vatican manuscript, Codex B. I say this to remind my reader that the apologists for the Critical Text cannot be conservative, and they cannot be Reformed, at least in this area of their theology and practice. It is no surprise then that these same apologists frequently attempt to claim that reconstructionist textual criticism is “conservative” and “it’s what the Reformers would believe if they were alive today!” This is not only unconvincing, but it demonstrates the lack of intellectual integrity of those who make such arguments.

Now, it should be evident that the effort of reconstructing the text of Scripture is a progressive movement, which at face value dismantles much of the credibility of those who seek to defend the critical text. That is to say, that at its premise, those Christians who consider themselves to be orthodox should reject it outright. In this article, I want to further demonstrate the foolishness of this progressive effort by weighing popular arguments against John 7:53-8:11 against what the Pericope Adulterae scholars actually say about the passage.

Show Me the Evidence

Since the chief claim of modern critical text advocates is that the science – or the textual data – supports their claims, I want to begin by providing my reader with what the experts on the Pericope Adulterae actually say. I will use To Cast the First Stone by Dr. Tommy Wasserman and Dr. Jennifer Knust as my source, as that is the most recent and comprehensive look at the current academic consensus on the passage.

“We are therefore left with a conundrum, wanting to know something that cannot be known on the basis of surviving evidence. Still, of this we can be sure: By the fourth century, two different Gospels of John were circulating, one with the pericope adulterae and one without it.”

Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 50. Emphasis mine.

The scholarly opinion then, is that by 301AD, the church had this passage in their manuscripts. Codex Vaticanus is dated between 300-325AD, for reference. The most important point to notice from this quote is that the scholars of the Pericope Adulterae plainly state that the textual evidence is simply inconclusive in terms of determining the originality of John 7:53-8:11. At best, the scholars are left in a paradox in which they can see that the church accepted this pericope as a part of John’s Gospel, but do not know if it was originally there or added later. What they can say is that references to the passage are found in the 3rd century text called the Didascalia.

“In the Didascalia, church leaders are reminded to receive the repentant back into the fold in imitation of Jesus, who did not condemn “she who had sinned” when “elders” brought her before Jesus for judgement. Jesus’s saying, “Go, neither do I condemn you” is quoted, and the circumstances of the episode (men bring a sinning woman before Jesus and ask his opinion on the matter) are identical to what is found in the later Johannine pericope adulterae.”

Ibid. 63

The argument from the papyri is equally thin. P45 (3rd Century), which is a fragmentary copy of John, only retains two pages from John 11. P66 (3rd Century) omits the passage but the scholars note that it is “evident from the scribe’s own attempts at correction, he or she was quite careless when copying” (Ibid. 67). P75 (2nd Century) omits the passage but again the scholars note that the scribe was “preoccupied in communicating the significance of the text over and against an exact fidelity to the exemplar being copied” (Ibid. 68). Dr. Jim Royse notes that, “As a result, the text of this manuscript does not align clearly with any codices of later centuries” (Ibid. 69, footnote 60). The poor quality of these papyri is further demonstrated when compared to other manuscripts using the textual clusters tool on the INTF website. P75 does not share more than 79.1% coherence with any other manuscript, which is lower than the bottom end of what is required to be considered significant in the CBGM. Even so, the scholars conclude that the scribes of P66 and P75 “were wholly unaware of a Johannine pericope adulterae” based on the manuscript witness.

I provided this analysis to my reader for the simple purpose of demonstrating that the textual scholars are unwilling to come to a conclusion on the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11 based on the textual evidence. The official position of the academy is that the story may be a historical fact of history, but the textual evidence is not conclusive to its originality in John and it was likely added at a later date(8). There were manuscripts with it and without it as early as the fourth century, and that is the end of the story as told by textual data.

“It is impossible to pinpoint the moment – or even the century – when the pericope adulterae first became Johannine. Perhaps the writer of the Didascalia knew the passage from John…The lesson of the pericope adulterae as it was circulating in the second and third centuries is not that a foolish interpolator corrupted a previously unspoiled text of John but that sacred texts are preserved by human actors who apply their historically and culturally situated points of view to the texts they copy and interpret…In this sense, the pericope adulterae was always “gospel,” whether or not it was present in the first copies of John.”

Ibid. 95

That is all to say that any person making claims rejecting the authenticity of John on the basis of textual data is out of step with the textual scholars and reaching above their pay grade. What we have from the highest echelon of pericope adulterae scholars is educated speculation when it comes to the originality of this passage to John.

Conclusion

It is evident now that making any sort of conclusive argument against the Pericope Adulterae based on the textual data is a fool’s errand. If the scholars won’t do it, than neither should the theologians, pastors, and apologists of the critical text. To do so is foolish, because only a fool would make such claims based on a handful of shredded papyri. Anybody who attempts to state with certainty that there is any sort of conclusive textual evidence for such a claim has disqualified themselves from honest dialogue. Even if the scholarly consensus is that it the passage is not original to John, it is imperative that we contrast that conclusion with their own words when they say, “We are therefore left with a conundrum, wanting to know something that cannot be known on the basis of surviving evidence.”

In fact, all claims made by the apologists for the critical text should be compared against their foundational statements.

“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.

“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.

Only a fool would take their cues from such a framework. What Dan Wallace has said is an admission that any claim regarding a passage is simply speculation. The authors of To Cast the First Stone affirm the reality that textual scholars cannot make the conclusive claims that are propagated by the apologists for the critical text. The obvious conclusion that all Christians should come to is that faith is not based in extant evidence. Nobody believes that Christ has died for them because somebody made a convincing case for a literal bodily resurrection. In the same way, nobody believes the Bible to be the Word of God because of a tattered manuscript dated 200 years after Christ died.

If there is anything that my critical text friends need to realize, it’s that the champions of the discipline simply do not know what was original, and have no way of knowing. They have said it in their own words – directly and indirectly. So to carry on acting like there is any sort of certain argument against passages like the Pericope Adulterae is to consent to being a fool. What benefit is it to your soul, and to the health of the church, to continue attacking this passage, when the chief scholars themselves admit that no such conclusion is possible based on their methodology? There is no reason I can think of for such an effort. It is a fool’s errand, and as a Christian, there are better and more noble things to do than to strip God’s Word of a passage based on inconclusive extant evidence.

Just Give Me a King James

We are in tumultuous times, dear reader. Pastors are being arrested and fined for obeying the command to meet. Cowards and effeminate men abandon pulpits for Zoom conferences while the people of God hunger for the preached word. An entire generation missed a whole year of communion, fellowship, hugs, school, and more due to these men. Many people learned of the term “Pediatric Suicide” in the last year. Even more people were far more concerned with their personal safety and not getting sick than the aforementioned horror. The youth do not respect their parents, but that should not be a surprise, given that the elders in our society have delegated child-rearing to the state. The parents who should have been bold examples capitulated at every turn, and the children saw it happen.

Meanwhile, the church is doing what it has done best for decades – bicker. She squabbles about textual variants while Mark Ward makes videos about how the English language is too difficult to understand. The academic-seminary-elites have replaced the authority given to pastors by God. In 2021, the church is ruled by “Thus saith the doctor” rather than “Thus saith the Lord.” Moses borrowed from Hammurabi because the doctor said so. The Old Testament isn’t about Christ because the doctor said so. Christianity is inseparable from white supremacy because the doctor said so. Going to church is selfish because the doctor said so. Christians cannot sing together because the doctor said so. Humans are subservient to the Earth because the doctor said so. We don’t have a Bible because the doctor said so. Welcome to 2021, where as long as a doctor says it, it must be so. Christians are more fearful of being “anti-scientific” than of God Himself.

The church faces a new papacy, and its priests and cardinals are men with letters after their name. Christians have turned from the I AM to the PhD for their authority, and the resulting fruit is rotten. The church needs another Reformation, and like the first, it must begin with a return to God’s Word. What the church needs is for the saints to be radical, and not in the Dave Platt sort of way. God has not bestowed the means of grace to the academy, and where the academy disagrees with God’s Word, so too must Christians disagree with the academy. The most simple way to do this, is to just give the people of God a KJV.

Before you balk at this, think of it this way. The academics say, “We do not have now -in 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). Those very same academics who reject the infallibility and preservation of Scripture devote chapters of their books to “debunking” the text basis for the KJV. They hold seminars dedicated to convincing the church that the KJV should be retired. They create entire units in seminary for the same cause. Why is that? Because the Christian who reads the KJV is not swept up by their pseudo-intellectual clanging. The Christian who reads the KJV is immune to the drivel of the doctor.

The Christian who reads the KJV has a Bible that does not change, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian who reads the KJV has a Bible with clearly defined gendered language, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian who reads the KJV has a higher reading comprehension than those that read a modern version, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian that reads the KJV rejects the entire scope of modern, liberal, academic effort to change and dismantle the Bible, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian who reads the KJV trusts that translations can be accurate, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian who reads the KJV isn’t a cash cow to the Christian publishing complex, much to the dismay of the doctor. The Christian who reads the KJV makes the work of the doctor irrelevant, because the doctor has nothing relevant to say.

Just give the people of God a KJV, and if the doctor wants the ear the of church, make him say something the church is actually interested in. The people of God do not need to hear about how the Bible is impossibly corrupt, they get that from the world. The Christian does not need a lesson on how Christ is void from the Psalms, they get that from the world. The Christian does not need to be told of the “historical Jesus”, they get that from the world. If the doctors want the respect of the church, they must say something different than what the world is saying – and right now, they are saying nothing other than what the world is saying. And since the church takes its lead from the doctor, the church is saying what the world is saying. The world doesn’t need a worldly church, it needs a faithful church. It needs a bold church. It needs a church that trusts the I AM and not the PhD.

Why the KJV Should Be Burnt First in the Event of a Socialist Takeover of America

Many people are worried that the United States is in a rapid free fall towards socialism. The media says that Joe Biden is a moderate, so these people are obviously wrong. In any case, all Christians are known for their irrational behaviors, such as prepping. Storing months worth of food at a time is not logical, because you can just go to the store and buy food, just like you can go get money from an ATM. This is obvious for the scientifically minded. It’s unfortunate that we are bound to the white construct of having food and money, but that’s the racist world we live in. One day we can hope to live in a perfect socialist society where we don’t have to work (white supremacy) and we can just order food to our door from our iPhone via Doordash. Capitalists just don’t understand how the world works because they are too busy contributing to the patriarchal structure of laboring and raising a family.

My audience happens to be anti-science fundamentalists, however, so I thought I would prepare them for the situation where we need to burn our books for warmth. Most people think that the book burning under a socialist regime is entirely ideological, and they are wrong. It is also a practical way to stay warm for a few minutes. Rather than start with invaluable works such as “Woke Church” and “Stamped from the Beginning,” I suggest that we start with our Bibles. Specifically the King James Bible. We want to save our most important works for last.

In the event of a socialist takeover, we want to ensure that all of our ESV’s survive. Except for the 2016 permanent edition. We only want Bibles that aren’t permanent to survive. In addition to this important foundation, we need to take into account that the average adult has a fourth grade reading level, and we want our Bibles to be readable. The KJV is basically written in Latin, and it isn’t changing, so that is two strikes against it. Finally, and the most important reason, nobody who will live in comfort in the academic class reads the KJV, and we want them to stay spiritually fed while they continue to make new Bibles during the socialist decline. If we burn all the ESVs, there will be nothing for them to mount as a trophy on their wall to show that they did something for us. We have to make sure our textual scholars stay encouraged while we stand in the bread lines.

The socialist takeover of America will be difficult for most of us, but I see it as a great opportunity to get rid of the KJV once and for all.

The Academic Veil: Modern Research Methods

Introduction

This article is going to be different than my usual brand of writing, as it does not directly pertain to textual criticism, but rather research methods. Research methods is the most neglected topic of study, in my opinion. Many people are easily fooled by academics because they are unfamiliar with how to evaluate footnotes and sources. I recently had a book recommended to me called Stamped from the Beginning, which I was told was legitimate because it had “hundreds of footnotes.” When I began to read it, I noticed that many of the footnotes were simply references to the author’s peers and colleagues. When I studied The King James Only Controversy, I found many issues with the way footnotes were employed. In both cases, the authors utilized footnotes and citations to give the guise of credibility despite the footnotes not providing any value to the point that was being made.

In almost every modern controversy that I have taken the time to research, it seems to be the case that the way authors cite their sources and approach historical studies is rather vacuous. This is especially the case with popular level writers more so than scholars. This effectively means that a scholar or non-scholar can cite another work while simply imposing their own viewpoint over the historical data without regard to the citation itself. The citation does not need to be relevant, nor does the author need to represent the cited material accurately, because the chances of the reader actually checking the validity of the citations is extremely low. This creates the effect of a work being well researched, well cited, while at the same time being nothing more than assertions presented by the author. Yet, it has “hundreds of footnotes,” and is therefore “legitimate.” In this article, I’d like to detail what is called gatekeeping (probably a different application of the word than you are used to) while pointing out how various modern tactics can mislead readers under the guise of “proper scholarship.”

Research Methods: Gatekeeping

Gatekeeping is one of the most valuable skills any reader can employ as they approach a new text. Simply put, a gatekeeper is someone that stands in between two points. Gatekeeping, as it pertains to studying, is a method that stands in between the reader and the author. In the application of evaluating a work, gatekeeping allows a reader to identify the quality of a citation. It is easy to read a book with hundreds of citations, and think that it is well sourced and legitimate on those grounds alone. It gives the reader a false sense of security that the material is more trustworthy than it actually is in reality. That is why gatekeeping is so important. It protects the reader’s mind from any unlawful access.

Simply put, gatekeeping is the process of researching the research. When a reader stumbles upon a footnote, he should test the quality of that citation. Who is the author citing? What are the qualifications of the cited source material? What are the beliefs or systems set forth by the author of cited material? Does the cited material directly apply to the point the author is making within the main text? Is the cited material well sourced itself or just the same assertion being made by another author? Answering these questions will help a reader develop a mature understanding of the material.

It is not enough simply to cite a source, that source has to be meaningful to the point the author is making. It has to amplify the credibility of an assertion by adding weight. It grounds an assertion to reality. Many footnotes fail to do this, yet give the reader a false sense of security that a point is legitimate simply because the footnote or citation exists. It is often the case, especially in modern scholarship, that scholars will incestuously cite scholars within their own camp to prove a point that was no more established in the cited source material than it is in the work where the citation is employed.

Another way that gatekeeping protects the reader is by evaluating the system of the of the author of cited material. In a book recently published by a well known Reformed Baptist on Covenant Theology, the author makes repeated reference to Meredith Kline, JV Fesko, Tom Schreiner, and John Owen when making points supporting his framework of Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology. It is always a red flag when an author utilizes source material to arrive at a different conclusion than the cited text. The author may not be wrong for doing so, but the reader must ask, “Why is the author using material to support a point that the cited material wasn’t making?” The reader must demand that the author justify the use of every citation, and connect that justification to the actual point being made. It is not wrong to cite sources from people who disagree, but it is important that the reader scrutinize those citations if the author does not make the purpose of using such a citation abundantly clear in his point.

Simply put, the reader must ensure that the author is accurately representing the data, or at least explain why he is using a citation to support a different system than that which was set forth in the cited material. A careful reader examines the validity of every citation. In this example, it is important to try and understand why modern Reformed Baptists are using John Owen to support a new system on Reformed Baptist covenant theology. If the claim is that “this is what Baptists believed,” why must the author travel to different systems to support it? The author may be justified in the citation, but the reader must apply a careful eye to ensure that he does not adopt an incongruent view. It is not the case that Reformed Baptist is necessarily incorrect for citing a Paedobaptist or New Covenant Theologian, but the reader must take the time to ask and answer the questions if the author doesn’t make it abundantly clear. Do not allow an author to smuggle an idea into your brain in the trojan horse of a footnote. A careful reader must demand that an author justify his citations. If the author has not done that, there is no reason to accept any assertion supported by such a citation.

Conclusion

In every discipline, whether it be political science, critical studies, Biblical studies, etc., modern academic methods have played on the reader’s ignorance in evaluating cited material to make assertions that the cited material does not support. As a reader, you must demand that an author not only cite his sources, but also justify those sources. Why is the author employing this source? Is the cited material saying the same thing as the author? Did the author of the cited material arrive at a different conclusion than the author who cited it, and did the author interact with that disagreement? Is the cited material sound in itself or is it just another scholar making the same assertion? In short, what is the value of the cited material, and how does it support the point the author is making?

Taking the time to be a gatekeeper will protect your mind from adopting vain philosophies. It will teach you to scrutinize new teachings. It will teach you to avoid adopting a new perspective on something too hastily. As a reader myself, I never adopt a position on the grounds of one author’s perspective. It is important to read a wide body of material, representing many sides of an issue, prior to settling on a topic. This is especially relevant to the discussion of textual criticism. Most people approach the conversation as an argument, seeking to prove their point while doing research into other viewpoints. If this is how a reader operates, he will most certainly arrive at the conclusion he started with in the beginning. It is the same phenomenon that occurs with low information voters. Assertions are as good as absolute truth, and nothing can change that in the minds of the undiscerning. When it comes to the issue of textual criticism, the practice of gatekeeping could not be more important when it comes to evaluating the claims of modern scholars. Hopefully this article, though off-topic for this blog, will help my reader as they approach the discussion of textual criticism.

The Practical Theology of the Two Textual Positions

Introduction

I have been a Calvinist for about as long as I have been a Christian. At that time, I did not know about Reformed Theology, nor did I call myself Reformed. When I entered the “Reformed” space on the internet via the Reformed Pub, I was introduced to a number of Theological debates. The first two years of my time as a “Reformed” Christian was spent debating various topics that internet Reformedom deems most important. This debate culture led me to believe that being Reformed was mostly an exercise of having a fully developed Theological menu. In essence, you picked out your stance on a list of ten issues, and then debated them online.

This of course is an unfortunate meme of Reformed Theology. When I began reading the English and Dutch Puritans, I realized that the way the divines of old discussed Theology was entirely different than the way modern Reformed Christians discussed Theology. In the first place, many of the pet issues of Internet Reformedom were not even a concern for the post-Reformation and Puritan divines, such as Theonomy. As I got off the internet and onto the writings of the Reformed, I realized one important emphasis that I had completely neglected – practical Theology. In this article, I will be discussing the practical Theology of the Critical Text and Traditional Text. It is important to clarify that I am not talking about the text itself, but the Theology of each text.

The Purpose of Scripture and Theology

Theology is the study of living unto God. In 2 Timothy 3:15-16, God tells His people exactly what Scripture is to be purposed for, “to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and to be “profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” He finishes this thought by saying that this is so “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” In other words, the study of doctrine is to have direct application in every way to practical Christianity. Every line of Theology in the brain of a Christian should also have a place in the heart.

This is the greatest difference between Internet Reformedom and actual Reformed Christianity. Internet Reformedom almost never discusses practical, experiential Christianity. It never emphasizes the practical impact and use of believing various doctrines. According to Internet Reformedom, doctrine is something to be debated and that’s it. This is the case in the discussion of textual criticism as well. Christians spend hours upon hours debating variants without considering what it means to reject a variant. The reality is that the practical application of the Critical Text dogma to the common Christian is absolutely detrimental to Christian practice.

The practice of the Critical Text doctrine diminishes Christian experiential religion in every way imaginable. In private devotion, it teaches that Christians ought to question the text underneath what is written in their translation. It encourages its users to “go back to the Greek” to determine what the Bible “really says.” The English translation must be flawed, and it is up to the reader to find out what the translators “really should have said.” It teaches that somebody who does not know anything about the original languages of the Bible can actually correct those who do know the languages by simply using an online tool. In Theological study, it teaches Christians that textual criticism is the first step to understanding God’s Word. In order to exegete the text you have to decide what the text says first. Christians have to stand over God’s Word first in order to sit under it. This leads to every Christian having a different text, and those that are really learned to have no text at all. In Evangelism, it teaches that Christians must learn textual criticism to have an apologetic to the unbeliever rather than just preaching the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). In Ecclesiology, it teaches that every Christian should rejoice in using a different Bible than the person next to them in the pew. Churches are to dance in the chaos that is produced by the “embarrassment of riches” that is our modern Bible situation. Practically, it misdirects and distracts Christians from every aspect of practical, experiential, religion.

The Theology of the Traditional Text is much different than that of the Critical Text. It teaches believers that they can trust what is on the page of their Bible, which is what you would expect from a book that is said to be the “very Word of God.” Learning Greek and Hebrew is not a requirement for the layperson because the languages can and have been translated accurately. It encourages its readers to sit under the Word as a student rather than over it as a critic. It is not up to the person who doesn’t know Greek and Hebrew to determine what the words “really mean” because they couldn’t do it even if they tried. It assumes that a Christian does not need to learn, or pretend to know the original languages in order to access the Scriptures. It allows for churches to share a common Theological vocabulary because they all have the same text. In matters of controversy within the church, the discussion of “which Bible is correct” isn’t relevant because the church is unified on that matter. In Evangelism, there is no call to convince the mind of man that the Bible is the Word of God, because that is not the requirement of Scripture, and is impossible for the unregenerate man in the first place. In preaching the Gospel, the Gospel is preached without any other requirement, as the Scriptures say. The Word of God is accessible, easy to use, and straight forward. The point of reading it is to be taught and refined. The point of studying is not to judge the text, but to be judged by the text. In short, it teaches Christians to trust their Bible, not question it. In every single place, the Traditional Text brings harmony to a church, whereas the Critical Text brings chaos, confusion, and division.

Conclusion

The difference between the practical Theology of the Critical Text and Traditional Text could not be more dramatic. The Critical Text methodology trains skeptics and puffs up the individual while the Traditional Text encourages humility and a teachable spirit. The average Christian does not know Greek and Hebrew, and finding an online lexicon does not change that or give a Christian the ability to provide a “correct” translation. In every case I have a seen a layperson “go back to the Greek,” they are horribly mistaken as to what the Greek actually says and further, incredibly ignorant as to how language works in general. They confuse the text of the Bible rather than providing clarity.

Despite the fact that Critical Text apologists are desperately trying to reframe the modern Bible embarrassment as an “embarrassment of riches,” it constantly causes division. If you’ve ever been in a small group with somebody who reads the NASB you know exactly what I’m talking about. Christians who have actually gone out and preached the Gospel on the street know that the massive number of Bible translations is a common reason people do not trust the Bible. If you’ve ever carried a KJV into a New Calvinist church you know that you will not leave that church without being told to watch the Dividing Line and to buy an ESV. Carrying a KJV into a modern “Reformed” church is as taboo as wearing a Trump hat onto a college campus. Scholars and apologists have made textual criticism a requirement for the average Christian without actually equipping them to answer the difficult questions. They leave them with the apologetic of Dan Wallace, which is to agree with Bart Ehrman and then say, “But that’s not a good reason to be skeptical!”

When a scholar or a pastor imposes the Critical Text methodology on the layperson, they are really just peddling skepticism and chaos. When a scholar or pastor argues against the Traditional text, they are arguing against unity and putting the believer on the same ground as the unbeliever. Every flaw that Critical Text apologists offer as a critique to the Traditional Text is actually a deficiency of the Critical Text. There is no practical application to Christian life and practice within the Critical Text methodology. The scholars admit that they approach the text agnostically, without the input of their Christianity. This is how they teach Christians to approach the Bible as well. Yet, we are supposed to be unabashedly Christian in how we read our Bible. I have spent many words discussing the Theological problems with the Critical Text on this blog, but it is also important to highlight the practical problems as well. Any methodology that teaches Christians to be “scientific” about how they read their Bible has unequivocally missed the mark. As with any area of Theological study, there must be practical application. The practical application of the Critical Text and Traditional Text could not be more different. One methodology teaches Christians to be critics of the Bible, and the other teaches Christians to be students.

The Critical Text Is Never Finished: Why You Should Not Support Textual Criticism

Introduction

There are few facts that should cause Christians to be as skeptical of the critical text as the fact that it will never be finished. In a recent article written by Dr. Jan Krans, he plainly states that this is the case.

“An immediate consequence of this position is that in principle the text-critical task is never finished. Methods can be refined and fresh manuscripts finds can be made. Readers of the New Testament – just as for instance readers of Plato’s works – will have to live with a degree of uncertainty, even more so since there are cases that the available evidence does not allow for firm conclusions.”

I want to make three observations from this quote above which should cause my reader to sincerely question the validity of the effort of modern New Testament textual criticism.

Three Observations

Those in the TR camp have been called many names and have been misrepresented greatly for saying exactly what this Evangelical textual scholar has said in this article, posted October 22, 2020. I have written before that TR advocates listen to the scholars much more closely than those in the critical text camp, because if those in the critical text camp were actually listening, they might be raising the alarm along side of the TR advocates.

If you take the time to listen to the textual scholars, you will realize that they do not have the ability to scrutinize the TR because they do not believe that their methods are even capable of allowing for “firm conclusions” on the text. If their methods cannot do this for their espoused text, why would their methods be able to do so for any other text, such as the TR? The reality is, these scholars can have no more certainty in their conclusions on the readings of the TR as they have for the readings of the critical texts. And it is abundantly clear that they do not have the level of certainty in their own text as they have against the TR.

The first thing to note is that the effort of creating critical texts “will never be finished.” Dr. Krans states that this is the case because “methods can be refined and fresh manuscript finds can be made.” What this means is that the critical text is subject to change based on updated methodologies and new manuscript finds. Pastor Jeff Riddle asked this very question to James White in a recent debate, and White proceeded to insinuate that Riddle was mischaracterizing and misunderstanding the discussion entirely.

The second note is that Dr. Krans compares the work of textual criticism of the New Testament to Plato. TR advocates have been saying that the work of Evangelical text criticism is no different than text criticism of any other ancient body of work for years.

“Textual criticism of the New Testament does not fundamentally differ from that of any other text from Antiquity.”

For those of us that believe in God’s providence and sovereignty over the text of Holy Scripture, this is clearly problematic. The Bible is not the same as any ancient text, and should be treated as such. This is a clear admission that modern textual scholars are not engaging in the same effort as Beza, because Beza treated the effort of textual criticism within the bounds of his Christianity and Theology.

The third and final note is that Dr. Krans states plainly that “the evidence does not allow for firm conclusions.” Once again, those in the TR camp have been saying this for years, and have been met with ridicule and scorn. I have written on this topic at length. Similar to the first two notes, this claim made by TR advocates has been repeatedly and aggressively dismissed by critical text adherents for as long as the claim has been made. Yet here we have it being plainly stated by an Evangelical textual scholar. How many scholars need to say this before Christians wake up to the dangers of this ongoing effort? Here is Dan Wallace stating the same thing, in no uncertain terms.

“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.

How long will conservative Christians, who claim to stand on the doctrine of inerrancy, settle for this incredibly low view of Scripture?

Conclusion

The critical text is not finished, and never will be. It is subject to the ebbs and flows of modern critical methods as well as new manuscript finds. It is created by methods that do not treat the Bible any differently than any other ancient text. The methods these scholars employ are not capable of arriving at any “firm conclusion” in any place. These facts simply cannot be disputed at this point. The question is, are you comfortable having an unfinished Bible in your hands? Does this align with your view of Scripture? What would it take for you to admit that this is an incredibly dangerous and volatile view God’s Word? Most importantly, is this what the Bible teaches about itself?

If you consider yourself to have a high view of Scripture, it is time that you start listening to the Evangelical textual scholars. Scholars will continue to say that you should not be worried about the reality of modern text-criticism and that the uncertainties they have about Scripture shouldn’t concern you. What every Christian needs to realize is that their uncertainty does not need to be your uncertainty. You do not need to adopt this incredibly skeptical view of the Bible. This is clearly not a “high view” of Scripture. It is not noble. These scholars are not doing what Tyndale or Beza did. As James White often says, studying church history will protect you against a number of errors. This is probably the most clear example of our time. I will say this again, my dear reader, listen to the scholars.

An Honest Admission from the Scholars

Introduction

Every so often we are gifted with the words of a textual scholar that confirm my belief that those in the Textus Receptus camp listen to the scholars more than those in the Critical Text camp. In an article hosted on Dr. Peter Gurry’s blog, Dr. Jan Krans offers his insight into the discussion of the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text. As we would expect, Dr. Krans is not in favor of the Textus Receptus, but he does offer some valuable insight to be submitted into the marketplace of ideas. As a staunch “fundamentalist” TR advocate, I can appreciate the straightforward, scholarly, communication style of Dr. Krans.

His thesis is basically that the Textus Receptus cannot be accepted on the grounds that its production was void of any scholarly standard, and any retention of the TR is due to some form of nostalgia. While I think that this conclusion is lacking nuance and rather reductionistic, I won’t devote time in this article attempting to ‘refute’ his claims. Rather, I’d like to highlight some of his main points and offer commentary which should help my reader understand the effort of Modern Textual Scholarship better.

A Scholarly Admission That the Textus Receptus Was the Text of the Reformation

The first point that I’d like to highlight is one that has strangely been contested recently by a number of advocates for the Critical Text, James White being one of them. Dr. Krans writes when describing the TR position, “Historically speaking, the Textus Receptus was the Greek New Testament of the Reformation.” He later affirms this historical reality by saying that the TR view, “Concludes from a historical phenomenon (the Reformation) to actions that God must have taken.” Now I wouldn’t argue so strongly that this is the main argument for the Textus Receptus, but it is certainly a part of the framework. The point I want to highlight is that Dr. Krans dispels any notions that the TR wasn’t the text of the Reformation. In order for Dr. Krans to make his argument, he is not only assuming but plainly stating the historical premise that the TR was in fact the text of the Reformation. He goes on to say that it was merely a default text, but that does not dismiss the fact that it was the default text of the Reformation.

A Scholarly Admission That the Methods That Produced the TR Are Different Than That of the Critical Text

The second point I want to draw your attention to is that Dr. Krans clearly states that the scholars of the Reformation were not doing Textual Criticism in the same way as scholars do today. For those that are not familiar with Dr. Krans, he wrote what I consider to be the definitive work on the methods of Erasmus and Beza, so his input is quite valuable as it pertains to this topic. He argues what I argued in this article, which I wrote after reading his book in the New Testament Tools and Studies Brill series , that Beza in fact was not doing ‘Modern Textual Criticism’. In fact, this is his chief argument against using the TR. He writes,

“Historically speaking the Textus Receptus is undoubtedly outdated, as said, resting as it does upon far fewer sources and a far less developed method than known today. Moreover its editors did use the manuscripts available to them in a very irregular way, and did not follow consistently any method they had, whereas the demands of present-day scholarship guarantee that all evidence is taken into account and that methods are made explicit and subjected to scrutiny.”

Here we have an analysis from whom I would consider the most authoritative scholarly source on the topic, stating without ambiguity that their method was “far less developed” and even that they “did not follow consistently any method they had.” He then continues to contrast this with Modern Textual methodology, which highlights that these two methods, and the scholars who employed them, were engaging in distinct methods. Those that claim that “Beza was doing the same thing as we’re doing today,” like James White, seem to have been refuted by one of highest caliber scholars alive today. Either that, or this would be a strange admission that the Modern Critical method, like the TR, does “not follow consistently any method they” have.

Conclusion

Now it may be the case that Dr. Krans has irrefutably destroyed the TR position, though I don’t think his case is all that strong. The TR does not argue from product to evidence, it argues from Scripture to product. When TR advocates argue evidence, it is always to demonstrate that a reading has some evidential foundation, not that the evidence is the foundation. This is the same way evidence works in Apologetics as well. We all begin a Priori with something and interpret evidence through that lens.

His argument has been made by James White and everybody else before, though Dr. Krans does it much more intelligently. If you’d like to see my response to his basic argument, I can point you to this article and this article for further reading. Most importantly, Dr. Krans has definitively settled the matter on whether the TR was the text of the Reformation and whether or not Beza was doing Modern Textual Criticism. Hopefully we will see these arguments filter out of the mainstream, but I am not confident they will, as proponents of such arguments are not typically willing to correct themselves.

The Textus Receptus: A Defense Against Postmodernism in the Church

A long essay on the impact of Postmodernism in the Christian church.

Introduction

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know that the issue of the Critical Text against the Textus Receptus is far broader than just textual variants and which text platform is superior. Critical methodology, translation philosophy, Bibliology, ecclesiology, and even Bible reading philosophy are all baked within this discussion and deeply connected. The conversation of textual criticism reaches its apex in which Bible you actually read, which is the only real part of this conversation that practically matters. That is why those in the TR camp often pragmatically say, “The best Bible is the one you read every day.” You can know endless amounts of information about textual criticism and nothing about the Bible.

What the average person may not be aware of is just how expansive the methodology of the Critical Text is and how it impacts their practical religion. The practice of “going back to the Greek” and spreading your Bible reading across multiple translations are perfect examples. Further than a shift to the way we read our Bibles today, the Critical Text methodology has impacted the way we view church history and the church itself. This is the Postmodern smoking gun hiding behind the scenes, masked by deeply intellectual conversations over textual data. If you have, like me, had your ear to the ground as the modern church has taken a Postmodern bath over the last ten years, this should greatly concern you. In this essay, I will address several ways that the Critical Text invites Postmodern thinking into the church and how the Textus Receptus is an answer to it.

Postmodernism and the Critical Text

My goal here is to convince you that the discussion of textual criticism is not only Postmodern in nature, but that its impacts are far reaching well beyond which Bible you read. Starting with the Critical Text, we have to understand that the process of reconstructing a Bible is at its core a fruit of Postmodernism. It begins with the assumption that the previous structure must be torn down and replaced with empirical methodologies. The faith based systems of the past were good for their time, but the modern men of science know better. We shouldn’t be enslaved to the chains of tradition and the narrow thinking of the men of old.

In order to step into modernity, the Christian church has felt the need to adapt to the climate of empiricism and skepticism. It is not enough to know by way of faith that we have the Scriptures, we have to prove it. Yet, in the context of Postmodernism, reality is not something to be proved, it is something to be understood through various critical perspectives. In the case of Biblical criticism for example, the Scriptures are not to be understood didactically, but rather as the experiences of various communities of faith. There is not a single passage that has direct application to the people of God today, just perspectives on how religious communities experienced and understood the various contexts of the world in which they lived. In Postmodernism, the Bible is an artifact of how long dead people articulated how they viewed the world.

Keeping this in mind, we may begin to see how this perspective has left its signature all over textual scholarship. The various manuscripts do not represent a clean transmission from an architype or original, but rather different doctrinal articulations that represent how various communities were impacted by the life of a man named Jesus in the first century. The perspective that textual criticism is definitively seeking to produce an original text or hypothetical architype is idiosyncratic when the vast majority of textual scholarship is not all that concerned with that effort.

If you peruse the most recent literature coming out of the text critical scholarly community, you will find that these academics are attempting to understand not the text itself, but the scribe who copied the text. You will find that the discussion of the Pericope Adulterae is not so much about proving its originality or authenticity, but why this story was so beloved by the early church and what it meant to them from a cultural and political perspective. You will find that any real discussion over textual variants is not overly concerned with whether or not a passage or word belongs in a modern Bible, but rather what those textual variants meant to the Christians who introduced them into the text. Modern Textual Scholarship is far more interested in understanding what a textual variant meant to the community who produced it than the meaning of the text, or even if that variant belongs in the text. To these scholars, there is not one text to which a variant belongs, there are simply different communities to be understood. For example, a scholar engaged at the highest levels of Textual Scholarship is more interested in the differences in beliefs between the two communities who included and excluded Mark 16:9-20 than whether or not the text properly belongs in our Bibles today. There is no Bible, just bibles and the communities they represent.

This is the environment that Evangelical Textual Scholars are working in, which is why the premier academics working in the field often refer to them as “fundamentalists” or other pejoratives, is overwhelmingly Postmodern. The work they are doing is completely disconnected with the reality of the scope of Modern Textual Scholarship. Reconstructing an original Bible is sort of the pet project that isn’t taken all that seriously, because no serious Textual Scholar would say that this work can even be accomplished. That is why, even in the most Evangelical of contexts, scholars are more concerned with the significance of a particular manuscript or group of manuscripts as it pertains to the transmission history of the Bible rather than whether or not that text or group of texts has any relation to the original, which we don’t have.

This is the reality for those Evangelicals who wish to publish in any relevant academic series. They must provide some analysis which aligns with the current goals of Modern Textual Scholarship. That is why most published work pertaining to the CBGM is concerned with analyzing the method, rather than using the method to produce anything tangible. Since the goal of Modern Textual Scholarship is not to produce a single text, the stated goal of the Editio Critica Maior is simply to document the history of the transmission of the text. This tool is then used to create new printed editions which, according to the editors, is a close representative of how one community experienced the Bible in a certain location at a certain time.

As with all Critical Theories, the goal is not to produce a single truth, but to understand the importance of a piece of data to the story of the people who experienced that data. What is perceived as “truth” can always change depending on the perspective used to approach the data. The story can always change, because they way we understand those communities can expand and evolve as we spend more time with the artifacts. This is the Postmodern reality of the Bible in 2020, and why not a single scholar or apologist for the Critical Text will proclaim that any one verse in their text is definitively original.

Practical Postmodernism and the Bible

Now, you may acknowledge that everything I have laid out is true and still defend the notion that this has zero impact on the church. I would like to convince you now that this has reached to every corner of your practical Christianity. It is important to note, that even if there are a group of stalwart defenders of the Bible within the scholarly community, none of them are in agreement on what the Bible contains, and this is easily demonstrated not only by the ongoing effort of Textual Criticism, but also in the fact that there is not one single Critical Text. The NASB, ESV, NIV, and so on are all different texts translated differently. This reality demonstrates that there is no agreement on what the Critical Text is, or how it should be translated. If you survey your current church, it is likely that the Bible your pastor preaches from is different from the Bible(s) you read and the Bible(s) your fellow members read. The fact that a church can have seven different texts, and all of those texts can be called “The Bible” is proof that Postmodernism has impacted you directly.

When seven different texts, with different underlying textual platforms and different translational methodologies can all be called “The Bible,” we have to recognize that the label “The Bible” is not accurate. If a number of different texts can be categorized as one single thing, then the thing is not a singular object. It is a number of objects generally categorized under one heading. It is similar to how a Honda Civic and a Toyota Camry are both cars. They are not the same car, but they are both cars nonetheless. So if our definition of the Bible requires uniformity, then we are already at odds with this definition of “The Bible.” And if our definition of the Bible does not require uniformity, then we have adopted to some degree or another the Postmodern perspective of the Bible.

This perspective flows into every aspect of practical religion. When you read the Bible with this lens, the words on the page are not so much important as what the author was trying to communicate. And what the author was trying to communicate is not set in stone because what the author was trying to communicate can be interpreted differently. This of course demands that we “go back to the Greek” to discern the “actual” meaning. It demands that we consult a number of translations, which may communicate different meanings, to get a general idea of what the text is saying and not the “true” meaning of what the text is saying. It is not so much important to understand what God has communicated, but rather what we think God has communicated or perhaps how the scribe experienced what God communicated. There is no single meaning of the text, just different interpretations of how we experience the text.

This flows down into ecclesiology, Bibliology, translation philosophy, and how we approach our Bibles in private devotions and study. At an ecclesiological level, we can understand the word εκκλεσια differently, and therefore manage our churches differently. We can understand the word deacon and pastor differently. We can understand the word immerse differently. In fact, we can understand any word differently, so as long the definition that we are looking for is listed in our favorite online concordance. It doesn’t matter what God actually communicated, because what God communicated must be interpreted by the perspective of the communities who wrote them down. If our understanding of those communities change, which they often do, so does the meaning of the text. New translations will adopt this new understanding and actually translate accordingly, providing a different meaning then older translations.

Most importantly, adopting this framework impacts the way we read our Bibles personally. In order to understand the Bible, we are asked to understand “the context” and the “original Greek and Hebrew.” We are told that understanding these languages is as simple as applying a lexicon. We are told that the translators of our Bible “got it wrong” and the “word actually means this.” In this example, “context” does not mean a real, historical context, it means our understanding of the communities at the time. This being the case, “the context” is ever shifting, along with the meaning of “The Bible” and our understanding of it.

What this practically boils down to is that we should not trust our translation, Greek and Hebrew must be looked at to understand the text, and the meaning of the Bible is changing as fast as our understanding of the communities that produced it. At its core, it is the Postmodern perspective that we know better. Even though you can’t read Greek, you know it better because you have a lexicon and concordance. You can actually correct your translation despite not being able to order a glass of water in Greek. The words on the page don’t actually matter, because the words underneath the words have the “actual meaning.” And the way we determine the “actual meaning” is by looking at a language we don’t know through the lens of a lexicon that we don’t know how to use.

This is how you take the Bible away from an entire generation. You teach them that the text isn’t “the” text, that the words on the page aren’t “the” words on the page, and that “the” Bible is really just a number of bibles. This produces a context that requires an earthly authority, a “pope.” Somebody must direct the church to answer these questions. Somebody must say, “This is the text and this is what it means.” For many people this is the actual Pope, or in Calvinist circles, James White. Otherwise, you must admit that all we have today is a number of texts, with an infinite number of meanings. This is in fact perfectly acceptable by most modern Christians. Anybody who does not accept this Postmodern reality is just a traditionalist, a fundamentalist, or perhaps stupid.

The Textus Receptus as a Salve to the Wound of Postmodernism

Similar to the Modern Critical Text, the Textus Receptus has a methodology and a theology that underlies it. The Bible is a single thing that we have today, it has a specific meaning that can be discerned, and it is what God said, not an interpretation of what God said. This standard stands in stark opposition to the modern view of the Bible. It not only understands that the words we have are the words God delivered, but that those words can be translated. So as long as those words are translated correctly, there is no need to “go back to the Greek.” There is not hidden meaning under every word, just the meaning of the word.

This standard is undaunting and unfailing. It cannot be moved, because there is no way to move it. No scholar can “prove” that this is not the case in the same way the seven-day creation narrative cannot be disproved. Any opposing dissertation to this view is simply a matter of opinion, a matter of interpretation. That is the fatal flaw of Postmodernism. Since there is not a single truth to be discovered in anything, there is not a single truth to be proven in anything. The methodologies are not designed for this cause, and are poorly utilized in trying to do so.

Practically speaking, the TR methodology teaches that when you read your Bible, you are reading the Very Word of God. It allows for your whole congregation to be reading that very same Word. It dispels disputes over “the true meaning of the text” because words have value in themselves, not in the communities who used them. It recognizes that Greek is a language like any other, and not some mystical secret language that can shift meaning from person to person. Most importantly, it does not require that every Christian study Critical methodologies in order to read their Bible. They simply read it and benefit. God’s Word is recognized as powerful in itself without some external interpretive principle. It is the ultimate defense against Postmodernism because it rejects the notion that meaning is derived by lived experience. The meaning of the Bible, and the Bible itself, exists ontologically and does not change based on our understanding of historical communities of faith.

This is how God continues to speak clearly in the 21st century. Despite changes and adaptations of history, God’s Word does not change. It does not falter and it does not fail. If we accept the idea that God’s Word and meaning can change, we must admit that the Scriptures themselves have failed in their purpose. If God’s Word has changed in meaning, it has failed in its purpose. If God has failed in communicating His purpose or meaning, then He is like us and is not God.

The popular response to this point is that “all Bibles are effective at communicating the requirements for salvation to all men.” I agree that this is often the case, but it is not the standard God has communicated in Scripture. God is not only concerned with the salvation of men, He is concerned with His glory and our living unto Him. If we admit that God has failed in one aspect of His communication, we neglect His concern for His glory. If we admit that God has only communicated what is necessary for salvation and not what is required to live unto Him, we admit that God has communicated imperfectly. Both pose serious problems if we are to maintain that God Himself is perfect, providential, and powerful.

Conclusion

The conversation over Textual Criticism often reaches too shallowly into the bag of Textual Scholarship. It is not just about textual variants and deciding which is correct. It is about the methodologies that lead us to thinking that we need to act as an arbiter over the Words God has given to His people. What this thinking truly says is that Christians believe the Lord has ordained a “pope” to deliver His Word effectively to the people of God. In most cases, Christians believe that this pope is themselves. In other cases it’s the literal Roman Pope or perhaps James White or Dan Wallace. If God hasn’t communicated clearly, such that seven different bibles can be “the Bible,” then He must ordain a chief arbiter to make clear what is mysterious or His Word itself will be mysterious. Since God has not ordained such an office, men are quick to step into this role of their own authority.

Ultimately, the Postmodernism evident in Modern Textual Scholarship has translated into a Postmodern view of God that has been adopted as widely as Arianism was in the early church. Even though most Christians would reject the Postmodern view of the academy, the effects of this scholarship is evident everywhere in practice. Accepting seven different texts as one single text is an example. Needing to “go back to the Greek” is an example. Believing that there are “no perfectly accurate translations” is yet another example.

We find ourselves at the brink of yet another crisis in the Christian church. It is one that has infiltrated all of our seminaries at the deepest levels. It has infected our pulpits and our churches, and it leaves the average Christian utterly unequipped for the challenges facing the church. How are we to fight the onslaught of liberal dogma if we ourselves have adopted the very same principles? How can we possibly provide a defense of the faith if we have accepted the axioms which say that there is not “one” faith? I may not have convinced you that the Textus Receptus is the answer to these issues, but hopefully I have made you aware of the significant problems facing the church in the context of Modern Textual Scholarship and the ways these problems practically impact you on a daily basis. The point is that this is a problem, the TR and its theological axioms offer a solution, and Christians ought to take the time to investigate whether or not their Bibliology lines up with the Critical Methodologies pushed on them in seminary, small groups, and churches.

20 Articles That Refute Modern Textual Criticism

Introduction

Every time I write an article, my blog becomes increasingly difficult to navigate. I probably need to revamp how the site is organized, but until then I thought I’d put together an article that serves as a glossary to some helpful articles that respond to common claims made by Critical Text apologists.

I have heard it said that in the refutation of the Critical Text, TR advocates are being unnecessarily negative and critical without offering any solutions. This is not true, because the TR position has a rich doctrinal structure, furnished with historical and Scriptural support. If you want to read a summary of the argument in support of the TR, see this article. If you want to read a number of articles I have written on the topic, see this category here.

Common Claims Made by Critical Text Apologists Answered

  1. TR Advocates are more skeptical than Bart Ehrman
  2. Treating Text and Canon the same is a category error
  3. P75 proves that Vaticanus is early and reliable
  4. Beza was doing the same thing as modern textual critics
  5. The CBGM can get us to 125AD
  6. There is a “fatal flaw” in TR argumentation
  7. The CBGM is going to give us a Bible more accurate than before
  8. The CBGM is “God’s gift to the church”
  9. The TR position offers no meaningful apologetic to Bart Ehrman
  10. The TR position is “anachronistic”
  11. The TR position starts with the TR and is circular
  12. Adopting the critical text is consistent with presuppositional apologetics
  13. There is no doctrine affected between the TR and CT
  14. The TR position is “textual mythology”
  15. Learning textual criticism is necessary for apologetics
  16. The burden of proof is on the TR advocates
  17. The Bible does not teach providential preservation
  18. There is no difference between Critical Bibliology and Reformed Bibliology
  19. It is possible to reconstruct the original autographs with extant evidence
  20. The TR position is just fundamentalism, emotionalism, and traditionalism

The Skepticism of the TR Position

Introduction

Recently James White made the claim that he was astonished at the skepticism of the TR position, comparing it to that of Bart Ehrman. What men like James White do not seem to understand is that this skepticism is not a skepticism of the Scriptures, it is in the modern critical text, which isn’t even finished. What is actually astonishing is the lack of skepticism from people who know this system inside and out. It demonstrates a complete lack of discernment and a troubling adherence to the axioms of modern textual criticism. Now, I can see White now, reading the first four sentences of this article and talking about how wrong I am (with props and all!), but for the discerning reader, I want to present my case as to why it’s not astonishing at all to be extremely skeptical of the Modern Critical Text.

Three Reasons Christians Should Practice Discernment When Approaching the Critical Text

1 – Modern Critical Text Advocates and Bart Ehrman Agree in Almost Everything

While White loves to level the claim that TR advocates are the real skeptics by comparing them to Bart Ehrman, he fails to highlight the fact that him and Bart Ehrman essentially agree on everything. Here is a video of Bart Ehrman saying as much. The only thing that these two men disagree upon is the conclusion that God has anything to do with the Bible. So when White comments that TR advocates are skeptical like Bart Ehrman, he’s really just saying that TR advocates are better students than he is.

We listen to what the scholars have to say about the critical text, and believe them, because they created it. It should not be surprising that Reformed Christians who take church history seriously might reject something new to the church from the 20th century and on. What is really going on when White and others make this argument is that they are distracting from the reality that it is actually their system that agrees with Bart Ehrman.

Not only does the textbook that the critical text advocates use have Ehrman’s name on the front, the main academic book series that is putting out the latest scholarly writing on the topic also has his name on it! In fact, pretty much any book you want to read that represents the critical text position has Bart Ehrman’s name on it or in it. As White loves to point out, this is a clear, and intentional, confusion of categories. TR advocates are skeptical of the critical text, not the Scriptures which they have received. Even if none of this was reality, in order to make this argument consistently, critical text apologists should first retract any claims that those in the TR camp are adhering to blind faith fundamentalism. The fact is that the TR methodology is fundamentally not skeptical, which is a common critique of the position.

2 – What Is Said About the Critical Text is Often Not True of the Critical Text

This is probably the biggest grievance I have with those that advocate for the critical text – they either are ignorant of what the critical text is, or are simply misrepresenting what it is they are advocating for. The critical text is not a Bible in the way that most people think it is. It is a lot of bibles packaged together or perhaps a compendium of manuscript readings. Scholars that produce these texts do not advertise them as “the very Word of God.” These printed volumes simply represent a reconstructed snapshot of the transmitted text at a certain point in time in the transmission history of the New Testament. The readings in each of these texts are simply the editors’ opinions on which reading is the earliest. In the case of the Modern Critical Text, all versions of it represent closely one or two manuscripts from a single geographical location dated around the fourth century. There is not a single scholar or apologist for the Critical Text that would say that any Bible translation is translated from the full record of the original, inspired text. James White touched on this in his recent debate with Pastor Jeff Riddle when being questioned about the authenticity of the ending of Mark, which just confirms he lines up with Dan Wallace and the rest of the intelligentsia on the topic.

“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. Quote Dan Wallace.

I recognize that people have different perspectives on a wide array of theological topics, but it would be nice for the men who advocate for the Modern Critical Text to at least be straight forward about what their text actually is. TR advocates are skeptical of this text because the scholars that created it are skeptical of it. There is no wide spread conspiracy theory, because the scholars themselves believe what the TR advocates are saying.

3 – Modern Critical Text Advocates Pretend That A Healthy Dose of Skepticism is Outlandish

No matter how loudly somebody denies this reality, there is a good reason people are skeptical of the Modern Critical Text(s). In the first place, it’s not finished. In the second place, the goal of Modern Textual Criticism isn’t to find the autographic readings, it’s to find the earliest possible readings. In the third place, the scholars themselves admit that their text is not verifiable. If you aren’t skeptical of this, you probably should be.

If somebody was trying to sell you a car, and they told you that they weren’t sure if it had all the parts, that they had no way of knowing if it had all the parts, and that another model was coming out soon that also didn’t have all the parts, would you buy that car? Would you let your kids drive it? Probably not, I hope. You would hopefully go and buy a car that at least advertises itself as being a full car. It is time that Modern Critical Text advocates stop pretending that it is absurd for TR advocates to be skeptical of a product that quite literally describes itself as something to be skeptical about.

Conclusion

At this point in the discussion of New Testament Textual Criticism, there is more than enough information available to at least make a determination on whether or not the array of critical texts should be trusted. Shifting the argument and projecting doesn’t change the reality of what textual scholars are actually saying. As it pertains to this argument, you don’t need to know anything about the TR to know that the Critical Text(s) is not what apologists claim that it is. If the claim is that TR advocates are too skeptical, the person making the claim is either misinformed or intentionally conflating categories.

It is revealing that in one breath, a Critical Text apologist can claim that TR advocates have “The same view as Mormons” on Scripture while also asserting that they are “Skeptical like Bart Erhman.” Instead of conflating categories so irresponsibly, it’s important to recognize that when TR advocates are called skeptical, the thing they are skeptical about is the Modern Critical Text. If you aren’t skeptical of the Modern Critical Text, read what the scholars are saying about it before blindly listening to the shock and awe arguments of James White and co. Believe it or not, there are really great reasons to believe that the scholars who created the various Critical Texts are accurate in describing what they created. What the TR advocates are actually setting forth is that Christians have every reason to believe that God has preserved His Word, and that we have that very text today. We simply disagree upon which text that is.