A Tribute to Brother Robert Paul Wieland: Introduction

Robert Paul Wieland was one of the most gentle and sincere defenders of the Textus Receptus in the 21st century. His YouTube videos were a foot in the door for many newcomers to the TR scene. He faithfully and accurately took on some of the toughest questions raised by critical text defenders and was one of the first men along with Pastor Jeff Riddle that I saw take on James White head on on the topic of textual criticism. I wish that I had the chance to meet him before he went to be with our Lord.

One aspect of Paul’s approach that has always stuck with me was his bold reliance upon the Reformed doctrine of the witness of the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the believer with the Word of God. He was unashamed to appeal to the self-authenticating nature of Scripture. This doctrine is often avoided by Reformed believers, and incredibly controversial in the scholarly climate we exist in today. I was incredibly humbled the first time I heard him make this appeal. I have used his material and have benefited from it greatly, as have many others. We can still learn from his faithful approach to the discussion of textual criticism. I rejoice that he is with our Lord and no longer suffering from his temporal afflictions.

This blog is officially one year old as of September 4, and I thought it would be cool to share some of Wieland’s arguments and comment on them in this blog. His insights are still valuable today, and my audience would be blessed to get exposure to his ideas. I have plans to transcribe his YouTube videos into text at some point, which I am looking forward to starting soon. To my reader, be on the lookout for future articles interacting with brother Wieland’s material. Hopefully it will continue to be a blessing to the church.

Here is a link to his channel, I recommend you take advantage of his content.
https://www.youtube.com/user/RobW0071/videos

Modern Textual Criticism is Not Properly Scientific

This is the seventh article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

The best claim to support the methods and conclusions of modern textual criticism is that it is scientific. You can’t argue against its conclusions, because well…science. This is one of the only real positive reasons critical text apologists ever give for why people should fully embrace the modern critical text. James White for example will offer a brief assertion to the scientific and trustworthy nature of modern textual criticism and then spend the rest of the segment slamming the TR and those who use it. In the mind of the critical text apologist, there shouldn’t even be a debate, because the science is settled. Yet, according to these scholars, the science is far from settled. It is still a work in progress, and anybody who claims otherwise simply isn’t up to date with the scholarship.

This is one of the biggest problems that those in the TR camp have with modern textual criticism, and why many people leave the critical text. Most of the claims that are made by textual scholars cannot be falsified, replicated, or tested. Additionally, when a hypothesis is found to be falsifiable in actual science, the hypothesis is modified or discarded. Despite this basic principle of the scientific method, the textual scholars tend to double down on falsified hypotheses or modify their hypotheses with non-falsifiable claims to try and support a failed hypothesis. In short, it’s more religious and dogmatic than it is scientific.

The Greatest Scam in Textual Criticism

The perfect example of this is what is often called Alexandrian priority. Early modern text critics like Westcott & Hort hypothesized that the Vatican Codex (B) was the earliest type of manuscript to exist. All later manuscripts evolved from this text type through scribal errors and emendations. Dean Burgon and Herman Hoskier dismantled this hypothesis so thoroughly it is amazing that anybody still holds to this today. Yet, when you open an ESV, NASB, CSB, or NIV, they follow Codex Vaticanus in nearly every place that deviates from the TR. You can do this comparison yourself by comparing a KJV to an NASB and then seeing if the NASB takes Vaticanus in places of deviation.

Not only did 19th and 20th century textual critics overwhelmingly falsify Hort’s hypothesis, the newest method called the CBGM also suggests that Alexandrian priority is problematic. Most honest textual scholars will admit that “later” Byzantine readings could very well be original, and there are Byzantine readings in the earliest Papyri which tell us that the “text type” considered to be an evolution from the Alexandrian text was actually, at least in part, contemporaneous with the early Alexandrian texts. Instead of trying to modify the hypothesis to account for early Byzantine readings, almost every modern Bible prints a text platform that assumes Vaticanus is “earliest and best”. Certain individual scholars may hold to some hybrid hypothesis of Hort’s theory that accepts the occasional non-Alexandrian reading, yet this has no bearing on the actual bibles the church reads.

The Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) is a great case study of this phenomenon. In the latest and most respected work on the topic called To Cast the First Stone, the author suggests that the church was reading the passage, at John 7:53, as early as the fourth century. This is consistent with the conclusions of other Pericope scholars like Chris Keith. The same can even be said about the so called longer ending of Mark. Bart Ehrman, in Lost Christianities asserts that there were two contemporaneous versions of Mark circulating in the early church, one with and one without the passage.

Despite this scholarship, the dogma of the modern critical text still adheres to the supremacy of Vaticanus. In other words, the standing tradition of the modern critical text seems to point to Hort’s hypothesis existing as a theory, not a hypothesis. Meaning that the actual product of the modern critical text assumes that Hort’s hypothesis was not falsified. Even if it is the case that the modern scholars do admit Hort’s hypothesis was bad, our modern bibles are agnostic to their opinion.

Now, if you have read any of the recent works in textual scholarship, you will see that textual scholars are mostly attempting to interpret data to support Hort’s theory, at least some version of it. Rather than reworking the hypothesis, the methods of modern textual scholarship are simply reinterpreting data with the assumption that the Alexandrian text platform is the earliest, even though many scholars readily admit that earliest does not necessarily equal best.

In the case of the CBGM, the goal seems to be to create a hypothetical archetype of Vaticanus and other contemporaneous texts to find what is called the initial text. The CBGM, practically speaking, doesn’t really consider the Byzantine manuscripts in the same way Metzger didn’t really consider the Byzantine manuscripts. In other words, the earliest manuscripts we have are the best manuscripts we have, and the effort has doubled down on Hort’s hypothesis using modern computer tools and genealogical modeling. Most of the 5,000 plus manuscripts you always hear about are, for the most part, not even considered in the CBGM, despite the computer tools suggesting that many readings that exist in later manuscripts could very well be extremely early.

Conclusion

All that said, the major problem with calling modern textual criticism “scientific” is that the methods quite frequently violate the scientific method. Non-falsifiable assertions are added to the mix frequently, and falsified hypotheses are assumed to be true all the time. For example, the Pericope Adulterae is assumed to be a verbal tradition that recalls an actual event that was added to the text around the fourth century. How can this claim be falsified? How can it be tested? It can’t. Yet it is essentially the academic orthodox position on John 7:53-8:11. It could just as easily be said that the passage is original to John and removed from several manuscripts in the fourth century, which actually has historical support from men like Augustine.

The underlying principle that causes modern textual scholars to assume passages were added rather than removed finds its basis in the old school of modern textual criticism. The shortest text must be the earliest because the text expanded and evolved over time. This is yet another axiom that cannot be falsified and is therefore not scientific. There are many principles like this that are not only problematic scientifically, but also from a Christian perspective. If you hold to the doctrine of Inerrancy, then you believe that the original manuscripts were perfect. That means that the text must have devolved by the time we get to the fourth century Alexandrian manuscripts, not evolved. The grammar didn’t get better, it got worse.

An easy explanation for this de-evolution is that scribes unfamiliar with Greek were copying Greek manuscripts. It makes sense that a scribe might make blunders in a language they are not comfortable with. This supports the hypothesis that the text must have gotten more grammatically troubling in our early Alexandrian manuscripts, not less. Further, from a Christian perspective, taking the shorter, more difficult reading is in conflict with the doctrine of Inerrancy because the originals are said to be without error. If we really want to consider historical context, the Alexandrian Uncials are said to be created right around the time where Arianism was having its field day. Those are two explanations that are not even considered in the modern critical axioms.

This is yet another appeal to the TR that doesn’t include fundamentalism, emotionalism, or traditionalism. If the axioms of the modern critical text are hardly scientific, then what basis does one have to claim that the reason to support it are founded upon science? It may be the case that the modern method is scientific, but it is certainly not the case that the method is good science. If we take on the lens of a scientific perspective and try to offer an alternative explanation to their hypothesis, we can easily paint a picture where the Alexandrian manuscripts are the anomaly, not the archetype.

The early Byzantine readings in the Papyri and the Uncials may point to an early Byzantine text from a scientific perspective. The text traveled to Alexandria, where it was poorly copied, and we have evidence of this in the handful of manuscripts that survived due to the desert climate. This hypothesis may be further supported by the reality that many of our Papyri were discovered in trash heaps. The texts that we have later evidence for are largely uniform and grammatically better than the early manuscripts, so why would we assume they evolved from poor manuscripts? Again, this claim that the text evolved is not falsifiable. So if the only real reason to adopt the critical text is because it is “scientific”, the critical text is really not standing on solid ground.

The TR position recognizes that we do not know a lot about the manuscript transmission history. There is a lot of data missing. The most important data that could support or falsify any hypothesis regarding the transmission of the text from the first to fourth century is incomplete. There is a staggering gap in our manuscript data from this time period. So instead of entertaining the bad science of liberal scholars, those in the TR camp look back to a time where men weren’t trying to “do science”. They believed that the manuscripts they had were the manuscripts that God providentially delivered, and made a text from it. The TR position is not scientific, it is theological. Considering the scientific approach of the critical text has many flaws which compromise the integrity of the method, Christians should especially stick with what the Scriptures say, not what the scholars say.

Unholy Hands & Genetic Fallacies

This is the sixth article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”. As a disclaimer, no emotions were involved in the crafting of this article.

Introduction

In the context of the textual discussion, there are many appeals to the character of the scholars which had their hand in creating the available Greek New Testaments. It’s important to note that the qualifications and character of the scholars which produce Greek texts is not necessarily a positive argument for or against one text, but this should at least be considered. The CT side is quick to point out that Erasmus was a “Roman Catholic Priest”, and the TR side is quick to point out that men like Bruce Metzger denied many fundamental doctrines of Christianity, such as the virgin birth of Christ.

There is a serious difference between the two camps in the way they make appeals to the creators of each respective text platform, which I will attempt to highlight in this article. If you wish to understand the TR position better, it is important to know how these kinds of appeals are made from both sides, and to evaluate whether or not these appeals are even factors that should be considered when discussing the text. Both sides do it. The question is, for what purpose?

Evaluating Appeals to Authority

An appeal to authority is not always bad, despite it technically falling into the category of informal fallacy. There are times where appealing to the character or qualifications of a person is actually quite important in determining if what they have to say is valuable. If I want to talk to somebody about improving my golf swing, I’m going to go find a golf trainer. There are other times where this is irrelevant and unnecessary. Somebody can have a great golf swing, despite not being a golf trainer, and give great advice on how to improve my swing. The point is that appealing to qualifications or character is helpful, but ultimately doesn’t credit or discredit the truth of something. A golf trainer can give bad swing advice. His advice isn’t true because he’s a golf trainer.

Erasmus is a great example in the context of textual criticism. He is often depicted in church history lectures as being “the smartest man alive” during the Humanist Renaissance. He wrote scathing satire and was a brilliant scholar. He also shared correspondence with Michael Servetus and never technically abandoned Rome, in part due to Martin Luther’s callous response to the peasant revolt which gave license to the nobles to slaughter thousands of rioting peasants. Disgusted with Luther’s endorsement of violence and the general lack of organization of the Reformers, Erasmus considered it better to distance himself from the Reformation and try to fix the papacy from the inside. His decision led to him being ostracized by both Rome and the Reformers, and he died alone in isolation as a result of rejecting the Reformers and also being heavily critical of the papacy.

Erasmus is a good character to study, because he is the focus of many of the critical text arguments. There is likely no other scholar from the Reformation era whose character and qualifications have come under more scrutiny than Erasmus. Those in the critical text camp say that he was a papist, and therefore his text should not be lauded by those in the TR camp. The title “papist” would be an important appeal to consider, if by papist it meant that Erasmus represented counter-reformation principles. Yet Erasmus was one of the most brutal critics of the Latin Vulgate and the papacy. Two of his most notable works are his Latin translation and the satire piece which is now credited to him called, “Julius Excluded from Heaven”. These two facts alone tell us that a) Erasmus was such a critic of the Vulgate he deemed it necessary to create a new Latin translation and b) Erasmus was so critical of the papacy he literally wrote a satire piece where he describes the pope getting rejected from heaven. In other words, calling Erasmus a papist or a Roman Catholic Priest is a sort of bait and switch which attempts to appeal to people’s Protestant sentiments.

A brief survey of Erasmus’ writings tell us that he was not in lock step with the counter Reformation, and he was also not a fan of the text of the counter Reformation. That is why genetic fallacies can be dangerous. Simply calling Erasmus a “papist” or “Roman Catholic Priest” intentionally portrays Erasmus as a loyalist to the papacy and doesn’t give an accurate picture of the role he played in the Reformation. There are other reasons to cast doubt on Erasmus’ work on the text, such as his association with known heretics, such as Michael Servetus. If Erasmus was sympathetic to anti-Trinitarian theology, this would be something to consider when evaluating his textual decisions.

This is the reason those in the CT camp desperately wish to paint Erasmus as the text-critic of the Reformation, despite not being championed as such by those in the TR camp. In fact, those in the TR camp take on Stephanus and Beza as representative scholars, and are somewhat neutral or even critical when it comes to Erasmus’ work. You can understand the importance and weight of Erasmus’ work without hailing him as the chief architect of the TR. This is one area that CT apologists are absolutely unwilling to do. They constantly paint the Reformation era scholars as ignorant and careless when it comes to the topic of the text. They will praise these scholars in the context of the Reformation, but interpret them in the most uncharitable light when it comes to their Greek bibles. This lack of objectivity and fair handling of church history is a huge reason many are turned off of the CT position. Many people do not take kindly when scholars and apologists try to reinterpret church history to prop up their position on textual criticism.

I have argued many times before that Erasmus’ text is not even representative of the TR corpus in it’s first two editions, as these two editions were widely rejected due to their exclusion of the Comma Johanneum. His correspondence with Stunica and Leigh, and his commentary on why he eventually included the Comma demonstrate why those in the TR camp reject these two editions. Erasmus himself stated that he included the Comma because the people of God simply wouldn’t have read it if it was excluded. This points to the consensus that existed on this verse at the time, but that is also conveniently ignored as a part of the historical record from the CT perspective. It is why appealing to the character of Erasmus is a very misleading and even deceptive rhetorical strategy. When people from one side of an argument constantly appeal to Erasmus, who does not represent the TR in the way that CT apologists say, it should tell everybody that CT apologists are willing to play with the details of history to push their point. This might be expected from those in the liberal schools, but not from “Evangelical” textual scholars.

As we have seen recently, those in the CT camp are willing to do this without shame. For example, saying that the Latin Vulgate was the text of the Reformation, that there simply wasn’t a TR, and that the Puritans didn’t have a unified text. In the same presentation, they will say that the Puritans were simply wrong for believing that the text they had was “pure in all ages.” So what is it? Were they wrong about the text they had, or were they critical text advocates who didn’t have a text? This screaming contradiction should give pause to every onlooker. The willingness of CT apologists and scholars to play with history and misrepresent men like Erasmus to bolster their argument is a clear indication that their argument is not all that strong.

Conclusion

It is true that those in the TR camp appeal to the credentials and character of those that have created and are creating critical texts. I am not saying that CT advocates are the only ones who do this. The important thing is to try and understand is how these appeals are made. In the case of CT advocates, these appeals are made in such a way that portrays the scholars of the Reformation as papists, Vulgate loyalists, and general ignoramuses – all of which are simply untrue. These are often dishonest attempts to discredit the work of the Reformation. The character attacks made today against the Reformation era textual scholars by critical text apologists are often the same exact attacks made by the counter-Reformation Jesuits in the 16th century. We can learn a lot by examining the form of an argument.

When TR advocates appeal to the character and qualifications of those that have been historically responsible for crafting critical texts, they do so to point out that many of these men were objectively not even Christian or had interests which contradict the gospel. The popularization of the critical text as it exists today involved Unitarians, Jesuits, and others who did not have the interests of the Christian church in mind. Even today, the vast majority of scholars responsible for creating bibles and contributing to the scholarly material openly reject the idea of The Bible and are deeply entrenched in critical theory and historical criticism. In my opinion, the reason CT apologists go after Erasmus so hard is to distract from the reality that the scholars that represent the CT are far more scandalous.

This is especially important because the Christian church is under the assumption that Evangelical Text Criticism is different from other forms of textual criticism, when it is in fact, no different at all. I am confident that most Christians have no idea who is making their bibles or what they believe. In the same way we analyze Erasmus, we should analyze modern textual scholars, and recognize how their character, beliefs, and qualifications may impact the textual decisions they are making.

The TR isn’t disqualified because Erasmus was a papist, but we should try to understand if Erasmus was influenced by his alignment with the Roman church. In this case, we know that he was one of the most severe critics of the Roman church and her text! If we were being objective about Erasmus, we would be talking about his sympathetic disposition towards anti-Trinitarian heretics. History tells us that Erasmus wasn’t just some loyalist to the papacy. He despised the Latin Vulgate. That is why he rejected the readings he was sent from Vaticanus, because he considered them to follow corrupt Latin readings. Erasmus is far better described as one of the top minds of the humanist renaissance and outspoken critic of the corrupt papacy, not simply a “Roman Catholic Priest”. He obviously wasn’t a Reformer, but he played an integral role in the Reformation.

In the same way, we can evaluate the background of critical text scholars and see if their beliefs, character, and qualifications might impact their ability to objectively create Greek texts. I argue, as do most TR advocates, that rejecting the notion of The Bible is something that might stand in the way of being objective when engaging in the task of reconstructing The bible, which is what they are supposedly claiming to do depending on the day. It is concerning when prominent Evangelical critical text scholars reject the notion that the Holy Spirit has anything to do with the task of delivering bibles to the church. It is alarming that the scholarship which influences whether or not a text is in your Bible takes very seriously the opinions of gender and feminist studies professors when they form their opinion on a text. It is especially concerning when the academic consensus, which these evangelical scholars appeal to, uniformly rejects the notion that the church has ever had a bible, or that the church ever will have a bible. This is the “scientific” orthodoxy of textual scholarship, and putting the word “Evangelical” in front of “textual criticism” doesn’t change that fact. Simply because a scholar considers themselves an Evangelical doesn’t mean they are engaging in the topic as an Evangelical. You may think that I’m attacking them now, but I’m not. I’m simply describing them according to their own words. This blog is full of quotes which overwhelmingly prove my point here.

So I turn to my reader to be the judge for themselves. Is it important that the textual scholars who create the bible you read believe in such a concept as The Bible? Is it important that one of the most influential textual scholars of the 20th century, upon whose scholarship is the basis of much of the modern critical text position, denied the virgin birth of Christ and other key doctrines? Do you consider it valuable to know that every bible that is produced today is done so with the assumption that it is not the Divine Original? The Evangelical textual scholars will try convince you that these are not important, but I think the average Christian would disagree.

You, my reader, have the ability to think for yourself, and you should. When it comes to understanding the TR position, it is wise to take into account the measures the critical text advocate will go to spin history to work in their favor. It is valuable to know that these scholars likely do not agree with you on the definition of what The Bible is. Instead of answering these questions head on and taking a firm stance in one direction or another, the scholars and apologists of the critical text will squirm and deflect and project. They will argue in bad faith, say that your arguments are “emotional outbursts”, and try to have you disciplined by your presbytery. Many people have come over to the TR position because they see these things as unbecoming. They do not wish to align themselves with people who capitulate to critical scholarship, twist history, and tattle on somebody’s pastor because they had the nerve to disagree. There are many simple reasons other than blind fundamentalism to adhere to the TR, and this kind of argumentation and behavior is one of them.

Fundamentalism, Traditionalism, Emotionalism

This is the fifth article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”

Introduction

Many people have the perception that those in the TR camp are driven by rabid fundamentalism and tradition, or are swept up in an emotional frenzy. This perception is largely due to James White, who frequently pushes this argument as often as he talks about the TR. “The TR is bad because of fundamentalism!” Before we get into the article, let’s remember what Bart Ehrman has to say about James White.


“James White is that kind of fundamentalist who gets under my skin. To be fair, he would probably not call himself a fundamentalist. Then again, in my experience, very few fundamentalists *do* call themselves fundamentalists. Usually a “fundamentalist” is that guy who is far to the right of *you* — wherever you are! Someone on the blog can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe White does hold to the absolute inerrancy of the Bible. If so, given what else I know about him, I’d call him a fundamentalist.”

https://ehrmanblog.org/tag/james-white/

It appears this is just another case of James White borrowing arguments from Bart Ehrman, but it should be helpful to actually look at this claim and try to understand it.

The Fundamentalist Boogie Man

The term “Fundamentalist” has certain connotations that come from a 20th century movement within broader evangelicalism. In the 20th century, the term “Fundamentalist” was associated with a movement that read the Bible “literally” and were dispensational and somewhat separatist. Fundamentalism was a response to the increasingly liberal evangelical church with a large dash of Scofield and Hal Lindsey thrown on top. In today’s world, the term fundamentalist as it existed in the 20th century has become somewhat of an irrelevant title, perhaps due to the shift in the Overton window, failed second coming predictions, or something else entirely. In any case, the term “Fundamentalist” could mean a wide range of things, as we see clearly from Bart Ehrman’s definition.

If you want to understand those in the TR camp better, it is helpful to recognize that being a “fundamentalist” or a “traditionalist” isn’t exactly a bad thing, depending on how you define it. According to Ehrman, simply being a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God makes one a fundie. I myself have a strong tradition founded in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Does that make me a traditionalist? Does simply having a tradition make one a traditionalist? I’ll take that title any day over somebody who is convinced he has no tradition. So why exactly does White believe this argument to be so damning to those in the TR camp? Well, it seems that it polls well among his audience, despite the fact that most people in White’s camp would just as easily be called a “Fundamentalist”, depending on who is doing the analysis.

The reason this has been one of White’s go to arguments over the years is because of the negative sentiments that people feel when they hear these terms. Typically, nobody wants to be referred to as a “Fundamentalist” or a “Traditionalist” or an “Emotionalist”. So the weight of the argument is actually an appeal to the emotions of his audience. We don’t really use those terms to describe one group of beliefs anymore in 21st century Christianity, so White can appropriate them for his purpose and craft it into one the platforms of his textual position. “The other guys are fundies taken up by emotion, whereas we are sensible and scientific!”

Yet, anybody who has taken a survey of the available scholarship knows that modern textual scholarship is far from scientific, and it is quite often the textual scholars who wind up losing their head and demanding that TR pastors be defrocked or disciplined by their Presbytery. I can name three prominent scholars who have done this in the last year to a TR advocate. In any case, those in the critical text camp should really take a moment and evaluate the absurd reality in which everybody that holds to a TR position is just taken up by effeminate sentiments or dogmatic fundamentalism. As I’ve pointed out in previous articles in this series, if you actually take modern textual scholars seriously, there really is no need to have some sort of fundamentalist blindfold to see that the critical text position isn’t exactly the strongest theological position on Scripture.

Ironically, it is those in the critical text camp who seem to be more driven by blind fundamentals when it comes to the text. They openly admit that there is no complete Bible, agreeing with the intelligentsia, while simultaneously holding onto historical orthodox theological statements regarding the nature of Scripture. When challenged on their doctrinal inconsistencies, they tend to double down and reinterpret history, like one would if they were blindly defending a tradition. If you get the chance, observe how a typical exchange between a CT and TR advocate goes. One side ends up throwing a fit and it’s typically not the TR advocate. It’s almost impossible to get through a critical text presentation without hearing some diatribe about how the papist Erasmus was an ignoramus or how the text of the Reformation was actually the Latin Vulgate.

Conclusion

All that said, the point is that any argument claiming that those in the TR camp are just blind fundamentalists can easily be turned around on those in the CT camp. They have their traditions and fundamentals, and so do TR advocates. At the end of the argument, calling somebody a fundie isn’t a case for or against either position. Pointing out somebody’s emotions is irrelevant to the merits of a theological position, and often times is simply the result of making an argument in bad faith. Slamming somebody for having a tradition isn’t the worst possible critique in 2020, and again, isn’t an argument for or against the CT or TR.

It may be true that TR advocates are “traditionalists”, but the important thing to investigate is whether or not the tradition is Biblical. The title traditionalist could actually be a badge of honor in our evangelical church, because as we have seen, the modern church looks more like the world than it does the body of Christ. A church without a tradition is susceptible to less virtuous traditions. As the church has abandoned its historical traditions, it has readily adopted every new tradition under the sun. Everybody is a traditionalist when it comes down to it, the question is whether or not that tradition is Scriptural.

If you want to step further into the mind of the TR advocate, you need to realize that we don’t consider being called names a devastating critique of our position. In fact, it might even be a badge of honor, considering that some of the most respected up and coming modern textual scholars are off marching in #BLM rallies and rambling about their white privilege when not giving accolades to feminist studies professors at prestigious universities. The traditions and fundamentals of the TR camp are that of the old paths, unstained by postmodernism and critical scholarship. The fundamental principles of the TR position affirm nothing more than what the Bible affirms: that we have God’s Word, providentially preserved and totally delivered to His people, even today.

The Issue of Certainty

This is the fourth article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

A common discussion point within the textual discussion is the issue of certainty. How much certainty is allowable when it comes to our Bible? When we say, “I believe I am reading the very Word of God when I open my Bible”, what exactly does that mean? The average Christian understands that doctrine to mean that what is on the page is a translation of what God had written down. The critical text platform does not affirm this without disqualifying nuance. The TR platform affirms this wholeheartedly, without reservation.

One major critique of the critical text methodology is that it demands, to one degree or another, a level of analysis prior to reading the Bible. Those that educate the Christian church practically encourage this by advising readers to inspect the critical footnotes in their Bible to understand the textual data provided on the page. The average Christian does not know what to do with this information, and those that do often do not realize that the sparse critical footnotes never tell the entire story of the text-critical discussion as it pertains to one passage or another. This is an exhausting practice for the average Christian because this reading methodology requires the reader to add an additional, non-Biblical step in order to access God’s Word. More importantly, it requires that the Christian approaches their bible with a certain level of scrutiny.

How Do We Read Our Bible?

From a critical perspective, the Christian is advised to read multiple translations in order to understand the Bible. This is particularly complicated, because each Bible may use different texts to translate from, and even render words inaccurately or imprecisely. This forces the reader to use some sort of lexicon dictionary just to read their bible(s). Since most Christians do not understand translation methodology or have the training to use a lexicon responsibly, this method leads people into wild word studies which often obfuscate the text. Further, it teaches Christians to be decoders, not receivers.

Now, the larger issue here is the reason why many Christians are flocking to Rome, Greek Orthodox, Neo-Orthodoxy, and Word of Faith movements. Since the foundation of critical methodology is empirical, and that empirical standard doesn’t claim to have produced the original text at any given place, the question of certainty is at the forefront of this discussion. It isn’t just the fundies who recognize that the foundation offered by the various critical methodologies is three feet off the ground. Now, if the espoused method of the critical texts doesn’t claim to offer certainty, yet all Christians are required to use it just to read their bible, the effect is that many people flock to a system that offers what the critical texts do not.

Take Their Word for It

Modern scholars recognize this issue of certainty and foundation and have presented a view that Christians are not to have absolute certainty that what they are reading is God’s Word, but they also should not have radical skepticism over each passage. This is essentially Dan Wallace’s response to the issue of an ever-changing, never settled text. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this an adequate theological framework that explains how we should read our Bible?” Most Christians become so enamored with the humility, niceness, and scholarliness of the critical text presentation that they don’t stop and think what exactly is being said.

What is actually being said here, is that there is no reason to believe that we have the original in our modern texts, and despite this, it should not concern us. It is reasonable to be skeptical, and it is reasonable to be relatively certain in reference to that skepticism, but it is not reasonable to be absolutely certain or absolutely skeptical. Practically, this tells men like Bart Ehrman that he is wrong for being so skeptical, and it tells Christians that they are wrong for being so certain. Christians, according to modern scholars, are to compromise somewhere in the middle and be grateful that we have as much as we do.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that this view is problematic. It isn’t just the fundamental emotionalists who take issue with this framework. That is because there is a logical reason to challenge this balance between skepticism and certainty. See, if we do not have exactly the original today, and even if we did we wouldn’t really know that we did, there is no reason to have any level of certainty at all in the available bibles. The modern evangelical scholars scoff at this, but without cause. The argument that men like Dan Wallace sets forth is easily defeated by men like DC Parker and other scholars. The Living Text view is quite compatible with this spectrum between radical skepticism and absolute certainty.

In admitting that there is no valid means of verification of a given passage, evangelical scholars have quite literally given up the case for an inspired, preserved bible. As much as they argue that the text we have is “good enough”, this isn’t based on any definitive empirical analysis. If it were, Bart Ehrman would likely still be sitting in a pew on Sundays. It’s a faith claim. It is a claim that says, “Yes, we know we don’t have the Bible, but I believe in God, so therefore we have something”. It is a claim that says, “Bart Ehrman is right in his analysis, and wrong in his conclusion”.

The support for this argument is simply to make the case that the amount of evidence is proof of some level of accuracy. That may be true, but there is a significant lapse in the manuscript tradition from the 1st century to the first complete manuscripts, and there is no way of proving that what we have from the 3rd and 4th century represents what existed in the 1st century. Therefore, any claim that proposes such a view extends beyond textual criticism and into the realm of faith.

Conclusion

Again, the discussion of certainty is another topic where those in the TR camp listen to the scholars far more closely than those in the critical text camp. All of the scholars, both evangelical and secular, agree that we do not have the original Bible (yet). Most of them will admit that we will never have the original pending some miraculous discovery. That is to say, that empiricism cannot produce certainty, and never can produce certainty. If you are among the group of Bible believing Christians that say the Bible is the “very Word of God”, the scholars are telling you that you have no reason to actually believe that based on text-critical scholarship. In other words, you must suspend your trust in textual scholarship and take on a “fideist” view of the Scriptures. You have to do the very thing that the critical text camp accuses the TR camp of doing. The only difference is that the critical text camp must do so in spite of their Bibliology, whereas the TR camp does it as a fundamental component of their Bibliology.

Because those in the TR camp listen to the scholars, they recognize that textual data cannot produce the certainty the Bible requires. That is why the TR position isn’t an empirical framework, it is a theological one. It isn’t just blind fundamentalism, it actually takes very seriously the claims of textual scholars. TR advocates recognize that empirical proofs can bolster a theological position, but they cannot “prove” that what we have is original. It is the exact same case for creationism vs. naturalistic origin stories. Because the thing being examined cannot be replicated, scientific methods are an inadequate tool. So why is it the case that people who listen to the scholars, recognize the self-proclaimed flaws in the methodology, and reject the conclusions are portrayed as wide eyed fundamentalists bound to tradition? There is no good reason.

The reason the apologists in the critical text camp must paint people in the TR camp as fundies driven by emotion is because it distracts and diminishes what those in the TR camp are saying. It is the same kind of rhetoric that is used by propaganda media outlets. If you can’t answer the intellectual question, discredit the opposition. When Christians start seeing that this is happening, the TR position becomes attractive simply because propagandist arguments typically indicate that the position itself cannot be defended from a theological or intellectual standpoint.

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser”

Socrates

If you want to understand why people adopt the TR over the critical text, take a look at the core arguments. While it is true that both sides engage in ad hominem, the core methodology of the critical text is often founded on ad hominem. The Reformation scholars didn’t know Greek. They actually loved the Vulgate. They didn’t know they were wrong. Erasmus was a papist. TR folks are fundamentalists, traditionalists, and emotionalists. Those in the TR camp are dangerous, divisive, and combative. All of those things may be true, but none of them defend the critical text or discredit the TR. When Christians start to see this, they begin investigating the TR position more carefully, and often times see that the theological merits of the TR are far more sturdy than that of the critical texts.

They Think You’re Stupid

This is the third article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding” .

Do you remember during the reformation when they said, “Ad Fontes, back to the Latin Vulgate?” Yeah, me neither. Yet this is the kind of rhetoric that props up the critical texts. Every convert from the critical text position to the TR position has a moment where they realize that many of the attacks against the TR are simply attacks against the history and theology that they believe in. It’s a very similar experience that many people have when they realize that the mainstream media has been lying to them about almost everything. See this quote from James White just two days ago.

“The reformers and puritans would have used what we have today [the modern critical Greek text, they just did not have it], there is no question about that, and I would simply challenge the whole idea of a singular text of the Reformation. There was a general … uhhh …. 11th to 14th century primarily Byzantine manuscript tradition text that was used in general, but if you really want the text of the reformation, (let’s be honest) it was the Latin Vulgate. I mean, I mean, they, most of the reformers were significantly better in Latin (they spoke and preached and everything else in Latin) than they were in Greek .”

Ironically, this quote could serve as a “red pill” for many people in conservative Christianity. White would have you believe that the text of the Reformation was actually the Latin Vulgate. That the visible church, which, as White often says was captive to the Vulgate for 1,000 years, decided to continue defending the very text that had held them captive. Yes, the very text that the Papists defended, was in fact the text of the Reformation. It’s as if the Reformers had Stockholm syndrome and defended their abuser.

The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that these people genuinely believe that their audience is stupid. They think that you are stupid. If this quote is indeed true, we have to rewrite the entire history of the Reformation, where the Reformers defended the Latin Vulgate and weren’t able to translate ancient works from Greek into Latin without BDAG. This kind of defense of the critical texts is actually a beautiful boon to the church, because anybody with a basic understanding of Reformation history knows that the text of the reformation was not the Latin Vulgate. In fact, the Latin Vulgate was officially the text of the counter reformation, codified at the Council of Trent.

Now, from a very practical perspective, this is the kind of argument that might cause even the most average student of church history to pause. It is actually an argument that breaks out of the text-critical realm and into one that many more people have access to: church history. See, the vast majority of the church is generally unaware of textual scholarship. However, and thanks in large part to James White, a huge chunk of conservative Christians are quite familiar with Reformation history.

It should be apparent to everybody reading this article why mere fundamentalism doesn’t adequately explain the appeal to the TR when defending the critical text involves saying that the text of the Reformation was, unironically, the Latin Vulgate. Most importantly, our theology should be pulled from Scripture. As I noted in the last article in this series, the theology of the critical text is something along the lines of “quasi-preservation”. Instead of dealing with this, many choose to attack the historical account of the Reformation itself. The example in this article is probably the most obtuse that I have seen yet.

This is another reason why many flock to the majority text or TR position – the arguments for the critical text read more like conspiracy theories than an actual theological position. Now, an argument against something is not an argument in favor of another, I recognize that wholeheartedly. This article is not a defense of the TR. Rather, it is yet another reason, other than rabid fundamental emotionalism, why people begin to search outside of the critical text for answers about the bible they read.

The Scholars Don’t Agree With You

This is the second article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

In the last article, I discussed the reality that those in the TR camp tend to take critical scholarship far more seriously than those in the critical text camp itself. Bible believing Christians say their Bible is preserved, and the scholars uniformly say that it is preserved enough. Reasonable Christians take that seriously. In my opinion, this basic reality is enough to definitively end the discussion over which bible is acceptable for use in public and private. If you don’t have the original, and you can’t know if you have the original, you might as well pack up the church and go home. Yet well meaning conservative Christians will state that every word in their bible is Scripture, and in doing that, contradict the scholars they claim to agree with.

Shining a Light Through the Fog

This is one of the most fundamental concepts to understand for those that are genuinely trying to get in the mind of a TR advocate. Despite the common talking point which says that TR Onlyism is a symptom of fundamentalism, emotionalism, or some other “ism”, this is simply not the case for many who read a Traditional bible. Before I continue on in this series, I have to hammer home one very important point:

If you believe that the Bible is preserved and you have it today, every single New Testament scholar fundamentally disagrees with you.

Take for example this quote by John Piper from Desiring God:

Evangelicals believe — indeed most Christians through history have believed — that since the original writings of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew have been faithfully preserved, and the translation faithfully rendered, we hold in our hands the very word of God. It is a breathtaking affirmation, and an infinitely important reality.

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-infinite-worth-of-the-word-of-god


The above quote is readily affirmed by all Bible believing Christians, yet it is incompatible with modern scholarship. This quote, rendered according to the scholarship of Evangelical text critics, might read:

Evangelicals believe – indeed most Christians through history have believed – that since we have good reason to believe that the original writings of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew have been adequately preserved, and the translations faithfully rendered, we may hold in our hands the Word of God.

This is a sore spot for those that identify as “Evangelical text critics” and apologists. I have seen reasonable discussions end in Presbyteries being contacted when this is pointed out. It is for this reason that most arguments for the critical text don’t actually answer any of the important questions. Many “defenses” of the critical texts are simply arguments against Erasmus, the people use a TR translation, or perhaps that a translation is too difficult to read. They attack the scholars of the Reformation, often times using the same arguments the papists did in the 16th century. They rarely offer a comprehensive theological defense of their own text, and when they do, it does not come out sounding like what most Christians believe.

When you actually press an honest scholar (which most scholars are honest, it’s the apologists that tend to bend the rules) or advocate of the critical text who is current on the scholarship, they will respond that their view of preservation is something along the lines of “Quasi-Preservation”. Others will simply lower the bar and state something along the lines of, “We have what we need. If what we have is good enough for the Holy Spirit, it’s good enough for me.” This response is a thinly veiled rejection of preservation. Anybody who simultaneously argues for the critical texts and also that “we have the very word of God” is likely misinformed on the current scholarship.

Conclusion

I would argue that the number one reason people claim the critical texts is due to simply not being informed on the current scholarship. In other cases, Christians focus so much on the rhetorical devices of critical text apologists and don’t realize that points made in a debate don’t adequately answer the important theological questions that are necessary to have a stable view of Scripture. In other words, being able to effectively communicate does not mean that what is being communicated is correct. Often times the arguments of critical text apologists do not even comport with the scholarship that they claim to be advocating for.

Most Christians want to know one thing when it comes to their Bible. They want to know that what they are reading is the original Word of God, or a translation thereof. The scholars do not affirm this without caveats and nuance. Within that nuance you will find a view that says that we do not have the whole bible, just enough of it to get by. Those in the TR camp are not satisfied with that view of Scripture, and that is typically the catalyst that leads people to explore views outside of the academic mainstream. If you find yourself perplexed as to why somebody might turn to the TR, it is vital to understand exactly what the textual scholars are actually saying about the bibles they produce. It may be beneficial for all critical text advocates to turn down the volume on the apologists, and turn up the volume on the scholars.

Faith Seeking Understanding

This is the first article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

I have been thinking a lot recently about what sort of content would be the most helpful to people at this point. There are many hard hitting content creators that engage in the public discussion surrounding Bibliology and textual issues, so I want to do something different than those that are tackling variants or participating in public discussion. This article is the first in a series that I’ve titled, “Faith Seeking Understanding.” The audience of this series is the people who genuinely wish to understand a TR position on Scripture, not those that wish to enter into the debate arena. While many of my articles are quite informal, this series will be especially casual. I hope that it will be a helpful addition to what is already available on this topic. In this introductory article, I will answer the question, “What exactly is the appeal of a TR position?”

What is the Appeal of the TR?

Many people have a misinformed answer to this question due to the well-poisoning that occurs in this discussion. You have probably heard that TR Only/KJVO people are clinging to tradition, or are exchanging truth for safety, or perhaps are simply ignorant of the available text-critical data. The inevitable outcome is that a vast swathe of people have a shallow perception of the people who use translations made from the Masoretic Hebrew and Received Greek Text.

So why do so many people still read the KJV and in some cases the other translations made from the Traditional text? If you are coming from the modern evangelical or neo-Calvinist church, you have likely heard for years that the Traditional text has added verses or is outdated for a modern context. I’m sure you have listened to John MacArthur or John Piper presenting cases against certain passages of Scripture. Many well respected men repeat the same talking points that effectively give the impression that those who still read TR translations are unlearned, unfaithful, unthinking men and women.

Rather than rehash what I have already covered in over 200,000 words on this blog so far, I will give a more human reason. At the core of conservative Christian Orthodoxy is the belief that God will speak clearly to His people until He returns. The method in which God communicates in the church age is the Holy Spirit working with Scripture in the heart of the believer. When Christians who believe the Bible want to hear God’s voice, they open their Bible and believe that God has something to offer in every line for matters of faith and practice. This is not controversial, and I would bet that those who describe themselves as Bible believing Christians would agree with this basic doctrine.

The appeal to the TR is so strong for the average, conservative, Bible believing, Christian because the scholars who produce the critical text do not offer a product that aligns with the standard, orthodox, doctrine of Scripture. The leading scholars within all corners of the text-criticism community frequently renounce the idea that the Bible is preserved, or that the bibles we have today represent the original text that was inspired in the Hebrew and Greek. So if you are perplexed as to why so many people still read Traditional Text Bibles or have ditched their ESV, perhaps take this reality into more serious consideration. This is not a blind appeal to tradition, or a naive exchange of truth for comfort. It is a reasonable response from folks who listen to what the text-critics are saying, and take them seriously. When prominent scholars, all in unison, say “The Bible we’ve given to you is not entirely original that we know of,” you should probably believe them.

Conclusion

It is easy to believe that the appeal to the TR is only for those not brave enough to weather the scholarly storm. This is a rather shallow reading of what those in the TR camp are actually saying, however. When scholars say very clearly that none of the bibles produced represent the original text, and that the quest for the original is all but impossible, it is quite reasonable to head another direction with your doctrine of Scripture. Many get caught up debating individual variants when, as the scholars admit, the critical methodology cannot be used to make any sort of definitive conclusion on those variants. This is one of the most interesting bits of commentary about those in the TR camp that often goes overlooked – in many cases, those in the TR camp seem to take the critical scholars far more seriously than those that claim the critical methodology for themselves.

When a high-caliber textual scholar like DC Parker argues that the text is changing and will always change, TR folks take his word for it. When well established critics like Tommy Wasserman claim that he does textual criticism as though God does not exist and that he doesn’t want to be put in the box of his white privileged perspective, TR folks take his word for it. When Dan Wallace, a champion of the critical text, claims that we don’t have the original, inerrant Scripture and that we never will have it, TR folks take his word for it. When Peter Gurry, a rising star in the text-critical world, states that the upcoming changes will affect doctrine, theology, commentary, and preaching, TR folks take his word for it.

It does not take rabid fundamentalism to want to distance from this kind of Bibliology, and if you are truly attempting to understand the TR position, you will see that. That is not to say there are not academic and historical defenses of the TR, there are plenty. What I am saying, from the perspective of the average Christian, it is not unreasonable to listen to the scholars, take what they are saying seriously, and find that what they are saying is utterly wanting. This is not fundamentalism, or traditionalism, or emotionalism. It is a perfectly logical conclusion drawn from actually listening to what the scholars are saying in very clear terms about modern bibles.

The Diversity Within the TR Camp

Introduction

Many people are introduced to the TR position through its critics. This is often unhelpful in understanding just exactly what “the” TR position is, and what those that adhere to some form of it actually believe. It may be shocking to men like James White and Mark Ward, but the TR position, while mostly uniform, has subsets of people who differ in various ways. As a point of clarity, I will not be discussing the topic of translation here. In this article, I want to highlight two major camps within “the” TR position as it pertains to the underlying Greek and Hebrew. It may be helpful for those that are new to the discussion, or perhaps to those who want to see an inside perspective that isn’t tainted with the aggressive argumentation of modern apologists.

The Two Kinds of TR Adherents

The Corpus TR View

This is a very common view within the TR community. Due to minor variations between editions of the TR and the translations thereof, those in this camp believe that the TR is the collection of readings contained within Reformation era Greek texts and translations. Some in this camp rightfully argue that Erasmus’ editions do not properly represent what has been come to be known as the TR, and others accept Erasmus with open arms. This group is more open to accepting various readings at certain places like Rev. 16:5. As with all people that fall in the TR camp, they reject the critical text and versions made from it.

The KJV as a TR View

This is also a very common view within the TR community. This camp recognizes the variations within the TR corpus, but believes that there is not sufficient evidence to make any ruling on one variant or another based on the extant evidence. This skepticism towards the authority of the available manuscript evidence in 2020 necessitates that this group validates readings by measuring the reception of a reading by the church rather then the preponderance of extant evidence for or against a reading.

The basic argument justifying this view is that, due to how many manuscripts have been lost or destroyed and the lack of documentation detailing which manuscripts were available in the 16th century, there is no way to tell with confidence which manuscripts were available throughout time. A common practice within the modern camp is to simply assume that we know everything there is to know regarding the availability of manuscripts during the 16th century, when we clearly don’t. As a result of recognizing this reality, the editorial decisions made by the KJV translation team using Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and editions effectively becomes a definitive TR, as these readings have been received and used more than any other edition in the last 400 years.

Critiques

The Corpus TR View

One of the major critiques of those in the corpus view group is that they are essentially engaging in the same kind of text criticism as the modern camp, only with a smaller subset of data. The difference is said to be in “number and not in kind”. This group is still faced with the reality that we do not have a clear perspective on the sum total of manuscripts that were available to those producing the TR corpus. Despite this critique, this position more readily recognizes some of the difficulties of the variants that exist within the TR corpus, and leaves some room for discussion as to what exactly is “the” TR.

The KJV as a TR View

The most common critique of this position is that it is no different than Ruckmanite King James Onlyism. This is often set forth by men like Mark Ward and James White. The argument is essentially that, because the basic reality is that this group only reads the KJV, it doesn’t matter how they arrived to this position, as the end result is the same. This is a rather uncharitable interpretation of the position, and unhelpful if you are actually trying to understand what is being set forth. All adherents of this position vehemently deny any association to the methodology of Ruckman or Gipp. A fair reading of this position easily reveals that this group does not view the KJV as “reinspired” or esteem an English translation more highly than the inspired original texts.

The basic objection to this critique is that the position is far more nuanced than a blind adherence to the KJV. Often times, those in this camp begin with the corpus view, and through careful study and application of a faith-based criteria, end up adopting all the readings chosen by the KJV editors. Though this is actually quite common, there are still many people within this camp who adopt the KJV as a TR due to how widely and consistently the church has used the KJV for faith and practice. It is important to remember that the reception of Scripture is a theological issue, not an issue of modern criticism.

Conclusion

While both the Corpus view and the KJV as a TR view are practically the same, there are careful nuances within the two camps that deserve recognition. The TR camp should not be swept into one monolithic tribe, as there are differing opinions that may change how one person approaches the debate compared to the next. For example, somebody in the corpus view may be more willing to discuss manuscript evidence in certain places, whereas somebody in the KJV as a TR group might not due to skepticism about the progeny of the manuscripts being discussed.

In both cases, those within the TR camp recognize the absurdity of making hard claims regarding the early surviving manuscripts, often called “Alexandrian”, which make up the critical text. The TR camp finds unity in understanding that we simply do not know enough about the transmission history of the text until we see relative uniformity in the manuscripts leading up to the Reformation period. In the end, both groups agree that the best text is a TR type, as it is the text that God has providentially and unquestionably used most powerfully since the time Bibles began being mass produced via the printing press.

Having Discernment in the Age of Unreason

Introduction

We live in the age of unreason, where many people are uncertain if this world is real, or simply a simulation. Scholars with the highest level of credentialing are advocating for silly nonsense like “2+2=5”. The 24 hour news cycle is wrong more than it is right, and people’s discernment is at an all time low. You can literally watch a video of a person throwing an explosive into a building and thousands of people will call that “peaceful protesting”. You can blame the schools and universities or perhaps parents failing to bring up their children in nurture and admonition of the Lord and you’d be right on both accounts. If you have ever had an argument with somebody in the last four years, you have likely experienced what I call “The Post-Modern Zeitgeist”.

The Post-Modern Zeitgeist is the inability for somebody to fairly assess an argument or be persuaded from their current position no matter how strong the evidence is against their current position. Instead, those overcome with this spirit of the age will ignore sound reasoning and engage in projection, pejoratives, and ad hominem attacks. They will accuse you of doing exactly what they are doing, and then claim victory after offering character attacks and saying nothing of substance. If you’ve ever talked with somebody who believes they are correct simply because they said their point emphatically and repeatedly without considering any objections, you likely know what I’m talking about. This zeitgeist has infected the minds of Americans in every sphere whether it be politics, medicine, and for the purpose of this blog, Bibliology. This post-modern zeitgeist prevents many well meaning, good-hearted Christians from seeing the legitimate flaws in modern text critical methodology.

Discernment in the Age of Unreason

There are certain arguments, realities, or facts that are so compelling that they can discredit the validity of an argument simply by being true. 2 + 2 cannot be 5, because it is 4. These kinds of arguments should be able to at least get you to question whether your view is incomplete, or perhaps needs work. For example, in the text critical world, otherwise faithful men continue to defend the modern critical text, despite its methodology being completely empty and devoid of anything sound enough to adopt its various theories. Most people who adopt a modern bible assume that they have the word of God. They defend their bible assuming this same premise, despite having absolutely no ground to do so. It is not the case that the Word of God isn’t preserved and available, it is that the scholars who produce these modern texts literally say that the bible isn’t perfectly preserved or available in any of their texts. This is what one of the most trusted authorities, Dan Wallace, has to say regarding the authenticity and originality of modern bibles:



“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

This quote is contained within one of the newest works in Evangelical Textual Criticism. This view, espoused by Wallace, is lock-step with the greater Evangelical community as it pertains to Bibliology. This quote is important, because it says plainly what I have been saying on this blog since I started it last year – the methods of textual criticism are not adequate to arrive at a final product, and are not adequate to claim any amount of certainty in a given passage. This is not some theory of mine, these scholars and advocates readily admit it. Let me explain by breaking down this quote:

We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote.”

This is an admission that there is no product that the modern Evangelical community believes to be the original Word of God. Even if some people within this camp are willing to say they are certain enough in their bible to read it, if pressed on which passages they believe to be original, they will not answer directly. This is a necessary conclusion of the methodology. Wallace continues:

“Even if we did, we would not know it.”

This is an admission that there is no text-critical methodology that can validate the product of any current text-critical effort. In other words, even if modern textual critics produced something final, they could not say, “This is the original bible” according to the methods they used to produce it. Because modern textual criticism is completely empirical, it can never arrive at a final answer because we do not have the required empirical data to validate the end product. Dan Wallace admits it along with all of his peers.

Conclusion

The necessary conclusion and argument I want to present now is this: The modern critical text does not represent the original Word of God, and the scholars that produced it and advocate for it do not claim that it does represent the original Word of God. Therefore, any and all claims that those who advocate for the originality of a verse by way of this methodology do so erroneously. Further, any claims made regarding other texts not produced by this method are likewise hollow because the evidence is evaluated by the same methodology that does not claim to have a way to know if a text is original. Thus, any and all claims made by a method which says, “Even if we did, we would not know it”, is bound to the methodological fact that it does not have any authority to make claims regarding the originality of any text.

The plain reality of this argument is that those that defend the modern critical text do so on shifting sand. Apologists may make compelling arguments for one text or against another, but these apologists are bound to the axiomatic reality that their method cannot make such claims responsibly. It is the same paradox that a moral relativist encounters when he is outraged at a perceived injustice. No matter how angry this injustice makes him, he does not have the proper framework to argue for the logical coherence of his anger. In the same way, the advocate of the modern critical text(s) has no basis by which they can responsibly make any claims regarding the authenticity, or lack of authenticity of a given text. Like the moral relativist, his defense or attack is simply arbitrary. To say that the modern critical text(s) is the original Word of God, you are saying that 2 + 2 = 5. You must ignore what all of the scholars are saying along with what the methodology and theology they are using to produce such texts. Such argumentation should be marked and avoided. If you claim that your view aligns with Dan Wallace as some popular internet apologists claim, or any of these other evangelical scholars, you must necessarily reject WCF 1.8, LBCF 1.8, and any idea of a preserved and available bible.