The Theology of the Text: How Do We Make Determinations?

This article is the sixth in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text: How Do We Make Determinations?

One of the most common impacts of modern criticism is that Christians have been taught for the last several decades that it is their job to make determinations on which verses of Scripture they are to read as authentic. It is even common to believe that all Christians make a decision on whether or not each verse is authentic as they read it. While this view is practically crippling to the effort of actual Bible reading, it also assumes that Christians should view the text in this way. It also demands that every Christian have a functional knowledge of the original Biblical languages and access to a textual apparatus.  Is it Scriptural to treat the text of Holy Scripture as though every verse is corrupt until proven pure? The answer is obviously no. Is it necessary to burden the average Bible reader with the responsibility of navigating and using a critical apparatus in Greek? Again, the answer is clearly no. 

The Scriptures set forth the truth that God immediately inspired the Scriptures and promised to preserve those Scriptures, and in time the people of God can see that He actually has done it. That means that it is not the Christians job to put every line of Scripture to the test (Luke 4:12). The assertion that simply reading a passage in Scripture as authentic is “making a decision” on the text is a thought that flows from a modern critical perspective of the Scriptures. Christians are to receive the text of Holy Scripture and be tried by them experientially. It is not their job to try them and determine which texts they ought to be tried by. Such a practice invites textual chaos into the church. 

Even if it were the task for Christians to “make decisions” on the text of Holy Scripture, there is not an objective standard by which to do this. In the first place, complete extant manuscript data is missing for the first 300 years of the church, so any determination made by such data is hanging three feet in mid air. It’s completely arbitrary. Further, there is no way to determine that the reading a Christian decides upon wasn’t a reading introduced by somebody like Marcion or Valentinius. Even if it can be demonstrated that a reading has been introduced or removed or changed by a heterodox source, Christians may decide that they like that reading better and decide to add it to the text! Since the early manuscripts that are used to make such determinations have no provenance, or determinable origin, there is no way to tell that the reading is even orthodox, let alone original, based on that extant data. 

In short, Christians in the 21st century must resolve to receive the Scriptures as they have been delivered, not decide which verses they will receive. It is dangerous and haughty to even assume that the early extant manuscripts can provide the adequate data to make such a choice. The fruit of such decision making is evident when it can be plainly observed that the most trained textual scholars cannot even agree among themselves which readings are “best.”  If the most trained scholars cannot come to a consensus on the text, why should the average Christian be told that they are responsible for making such decisions? Not only is this theologically erroneous, it is practically burdensome and likely impossible for most people who read the Bible. 

Conclusion

The mindset that Christians are responsible for “deciding” upon every line of Scripture is one that flows from the belief that the Scriptures are currently in the process of being reconstructed, in contradiction to the Biblical testimony. I present this contradiction in the first five articles in this series. Even assuming that the Scriptures do teach that they would fall away, Christians in the 21st century do not have the adequate materials to responsibly make such decisions and know that they’ve made the correct choice. It is an approach to the text that inevitably results in Christians believing that the text is lost to some degree or another and will never be completely found. It is an approach that teaches Christians that they are the judge over Holy Scripture. 

Fortunately, this approach is not necessary, because the Scriptures have not fallen away and do not need to be “decided upon.” It is not the task of the Christian to be the hero of the modern church and restore the text that God has allegedly let fall away. Now that I have established several important theological principles in this series of articles, I will move on to presenting the text of Scripture that I believe should be received, translated, read, and preached by the modern Christian church.  

The Theology of the Text: How Should Evidence Be Used?

This article is the fifth in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text: How Should Evidence Be Used?

There are approximately 5100 to 5600 extant Biblical manuscripts today, depending on how they are counted. Some scholars estimate that there are 525 manuscripts still awaiting discovery (Gurry & Hixson. Myths and Mistakes. 62), and a multitude of manuscripts that were once catalogued have been lost or destroyed. Approximately 83% of these manuscripts are dated after AD 1000, and around 60 of the extant manuscripts are complete New Testaments (Parker, New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts, 70). The first complete extant New Testament is dated to the fourth century. That means that of the 5,100 or so manuscripts available today, many of these are only a portion of Scripture, especially the earliest witnesses. Further, some of these extant manuscripts are preserved only in microfilm images, which means the physical copy no longer exists or has been lost. That is to say that the extant manuscript evidence is not an entirely stable dataset. 

In the modern church, the popular belief is that these manuscripts should be used for reconstructing the lost text of Holy Scripture. The first four articles in this series lay out the theological errors associated with this perspective. While it is a theological error to affirm this position, the ongoing nature of the effort itself demonstrates that the evidence cannot be used for such a task. Viewing the extant evidence as adequate material for reconstruction is both theologically and realistically problematic. Since the 19th century, scholars adopting the view that the Scriptures need to be restored or reconstructed have tried their hand at producing an original text from the extant data to no avail. There has not been a single text produced by critical methodologies in the modern period which has been received as original or final. At the time of writing this article, the effort to find the original as it has been historically defined has been abandoned for the “initial text,” or the earliest reconstructable text that can be produced by the extant manuscripts. Some scholars suppose that this hypothetical initial text can be said to represent the original, though there is no warrant for this based on the extant data, which is largely incomplete until at least the fourth century. Further, even if one single reconstructed initial text was produced, the methods of reconstructionist text criticism have no mechanism which can actually verify that the final product resembles the original, because the original manuscripts do not exist. 

Should this cause Christians alarm or dismay? Certainly not. Since the Bible hasn’t fallen away in the modern period, the evidence does not need to be used to reconstruct it. God preserved the text, and the church has it today. The frustrated efforts of textual scholars should also serve as a reminder that God works in all things, “from the greatest even to the least” (LBCF 5.1). If God is not using the reconstruction effort to actually deliver His Word, it may be wise to observe what He is doing by frustrating the efforts of textual scholars – more on that in later articles. It should be apparent that in the 21st century, the extant data has not proven useful to reconstruct the original New Testament. So what is evidence to be used for in this modern context? 

The extant manuscript data serves the same use as any other evidence for a Christian. Since churches haven’t actually used manuscripts in reading and preaching in at least 300 years, it is safe to say that they are not the means that God is speaking to His church today. It is not that God is not speaking, it is simply the case that the advent of the printing press in Europe caused a format shift from handwritten manuscripts to printed editions. This plain observation is important. If the extant handwritten manuscripts are no longer being used “to make men wise unto salvation” and “for instruction in righteousness,” their use to the church has shifted. That is not to say that these manuscripts are useless, simply that Christians should have a perspective of this evidence that recognizes what God has done in time to continue speaking to His people. 

If these manuscripts are not to be used for reconstruction, what is their purpose? First, they may serve some role in evidential apologetics. Some people claim that Christianity was “invented” in the fourth century, and early manuscript evidence is powerful to respond to these claims at a lay level. It is important to note, however, that ancient evidence isn’t particularly compelling to those who have actually studied these early manuscripts. Second, they may serve as evidence of God’s providence. Despite the New Testament being similarly attested to other books of antiquity in its ancient witnesses, it is still the most attested to book of antiquity if all of the extant data is considered. Third, they may serve as source material for historical studies of Christianity. 

Conclusion

Scripturally, there is no warrant for believing that the Scriptures have fallen away in such a manner that they need to be reconstructed. Practically, modern scholars have tried and failed to do this for nearly 150 years now. Realistically, even if these scholars did produce such a final product using the extant manuscripts, they would have no way of knowing that they actually had done it. Experientially, Christians no longer use these manuscripts in faith and practice. It should be apparent then, that the Christian perspective on these handwritten manuscripts should align with what God has actually done in time to deliver His Word to His people. All of these observations should point to the reality that men’s opinions on today’s extant evidence was never meant to be the authentication method of the text of Holy Scripture. 

In a world post-printing press, Christians access the Scriptures in printed editions. The handwritten manuscripts are an artifact of a pre-printing press world. The extant manuscript data may be used in apologetics and historical studies, but since this evidence cannot be used to establish a reading as original, it should not be used as such. As far as apologetics is concerned, no man has ever been brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by a convincing argument about the number or quality of extant New Testament manuscripts. God has given the Scriptures to His people, even today, and men are brought to faith by hearing the Gospel preached, and believing that Gospel for salvation. Christians do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God because there are a lot of manuscripts. The only Scriptural response to men who doubt that God has delivered His Scriptures pure in all ages, is to appeal to the Scriptures that God has preserved, and trust that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of men by the Scriptures. 

“Although when the divinity of the Scriptures is proved, its infallibility necessarily follows, yet the enemies of the true religion of Scripture in every age flatter themselves that they have found not a few contradictions in it and boast of their discoveries in order to overthrow its authenticity” 

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1. 71. 

The Theology of the Text: Is “Text Criticism” Necessary?

This article is the fourth in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text Part IV: Is “Text Criticism” Necessary??

Due to the nature of transmission, or how the Bible was copied and used, comparing and correcting manuscripts has been a practice done by Christians since the beginning of the church. When copies were made, scribes made various types of natural errors which resulted in different spellings, omission of words, skipped lines, duplicated lines, and so forth. Some men of little faith, or perhaps hostile to the Christian faith, also edited the Scriptures according to their own doctrinal errors. This is especially the case during times where the church was fighting for orthodoxy during the time of Christological controversies leading up to and during the Nicene period. Starting with the Scriptural truth that God has preserved His Word for the purpose of saving and sanctifying men, Christians can rightly believe that text delivered to the church by God through inspiration has been kept pure today, despite the existence of errors and intentional corruptions in extant manuscripts. 

The question that many people have is, “How was this accomplished? Don’t we need text-criticism? Hasn’t the church always practiced text-criticism?” Despite the gainsayers, who say that the Bible was corrupted irreconcilably early in the transmission of the Scriptures, Christians affirm against this notion. By God’s providential oversight, scribes, which created manuscripts for the church, made faithful copies to be read and preached from, and did not willingly add or subtract to the text without the people of God noticing (Heb. 1:3; Isa. 46:10,11; Mat. 10:29-31). Any error made would be recognized, either by another scribe who noticed a natural error, or by those that used the manuscript, who were familiar with other manuscripts available in every age. Some call this process “text-criticism,” though the term isn’t accurate if the modern definition is used. These transmitters of the Scriptures were not re-inspired, but guided by God’s providence. Manuscripts of completely poor quality would have been recognized in the generation they were created, and either stored or discarded. Many manuscripts bearing such poor qualities have been preserved by their storage or disposal in old monasteries or trash heaps. Christians, like the men of faith of old before them, were deeply concerned with the fidelity of their copies of Holy Scripture. 

In every generation, there have been men who affirm against this truth, even today within mainstream, conservative evangelicalism. The notion that the Scriptures came down to modernity pure has even been called “textual mythology” by popular conservative voices. The first three articles in this series demonstrate the folly of such a belief. Christians should not be dismayed or swayed by such unfaithfulness.

Now to the topic at hand, text criticism. It is important to note that not all text-criticism is alike, and many practices called text criticism are erroneously called such. There is a common myth propagated in the seminaries and at a popular level that higher criticism and lower criticism are completely divorced from one another. This may be somewhat accurate by definition, but is demonstrably false is it pertains to the actual “text criticism” practiced today. It should also be noted that historical practices of transmission which were not critical in nature have been erroneously deemed “text criticism” by modern scholars, typically to justify many of the methods being employed today. Many modern scholars deem themselves text-critical heroes responsible for restoring God’s Word to the church, which they believe has fallen away. It is important to recognize that anybody who declares that Scripture has fallen away is not a “hero,” but is in error. Rather than confuse the conversation by employing ambiguous terms like “text criticism” to describe scribal practices, it is more accurate to simply say that the people of God faithfully transmitted the Scriptures by comparing and copying manuscripts in every age.

The errors in the extant manuscripts do not “prove” that the Scriptures are totally corrupt to such a degree that they must be reconstructed, nor does the testimony of unfaithful men who have stepped beyond the simple process of receiving, comparing, and propagating the original text “prove” that the Scriptures were not kept pure in all ages. The existence of manuscripts of particularly poor quality simply demonstrates that these manuscripts existed at one point. Christians should recognize that manuscripts of such suspect origin and poor quality should not be used as the foundation for any doctrine. Many choose to believe that scribes and the people of God in history would have been too dumb, or perhaps too flippant or ignorant, to take appropriate care of the transmission of manuscripts. This points to the reality that text-criticism as it exists today, steps far beyond the practice of receiving, comparing, reproducing approved manuscripts for use in the church. 

Conclusion

Biblical “text-criticism” is simply the process of collecting, comparing, and producing manuscripts or editions with the readings passed down through the history of the church. This process was accomplished in every age of the church, by the people who used those manuscripts in churches. The first time this practice was implemented in print was during the 16th century, shortly after the printing press was introduced into Europe. The doctrinal position that the Scriptures needed to be “reconstructed” from manuscripts no longer in use did not become the objective of orthodox Christian textual scholars until the modern period. In later articles in this series, I will examine the different kinds of text criticism, and the use of the extant manuscript data today. Theologically, Christians affirm that the methods employed in comparing and reproducing manuscripts in history did not cause additions to, or subtractions from, the Biblical text as a whole as it was transmitted. 

“Although we give to the Scriptures absolute integrity, we do not therefore think that the copyists and printers were inspired, but only that the providence of God watched over the copying of the sacred books, so that although many errors might have crept in, it has not so happened (or they have not so crept into the manuscripts) but that they can be easily corrected by a collation of others (or with the Scriptures themselves)”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Vol. 1. 73.

The Theology of the Text: Who Gives Authority to Scripture?

This article is the third in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text Part III: Scripture as Self-Authenticating

The doctrine of the self-authenticating (αυτοπιστος) Scriptures has been largely neglected in the modern Reformed-ish church. This is the principle that the Reformers stood upon against Rome, and the foundation for Sola Scriptura. More importantly, it is the only meaningful, orthodox  understanding of Scripture which affirms God as the authority of the Scriptures. It is necessary for the first principle of any final authority to be self-authoritative, or it is not a final authority. 

The Scriptures are from God, and therefore are divine and authoritative by their origin, which is said in Scripture to be θεοπνευστος (2 Tim. 3:16), God inspired or God breathed. Though men claim otherwise, the false claims of men regarding the Scriptures do not weaken or detract from any truth set forth by the Scriptures. The truth of Scripture is not contingent upon worldly opinions. This truth is confirmed in the believer when the Holy Spirit works by the Word in the mind and heart of the believer. Those that reject the truths of Scripture do so by their carnal mind and heart. 

“And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”

John 5:37-39

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you”

John 16:13-16

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” 

1 Corinthians 2:10-13

Conclusion

The doctrine of the Scriptures being self-authenticating affirms that the inspiration, preservation, and power of the Scriptures is all of God. Even the affirmation of this doctrine is all of God, as it cannot be affirmed in any other way than the Holy Spirit working by the Word in the heart and mind of a believer. No man can usurp the authority of the Scriptures because it is God Himself who gives the Scriptures authority. Even when man attempts to act as judge over the Sacred Writ, the people of God will not be deceived because of the work of the Holy Spirit working in them. “Sanctify them through they truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The Scriptures do not give any license or warrant for external authentication, because the authority of the Scriptures is all of God. 

In today’s context of false-intellectualism and self-imposed authority over the text, this doctrine stands as strong as it did in the time of the apostolic fathers. This doctrine is most practically applied when considering the various approaches that men take towards the Scriptures. Any doctrinal, hermeneutical, or text-critical method which denies the self-authenticating nature of the Scriptures should be discarded as unfaithful and antithetical to what the Scriptures say about themselves. It is by this doctrinal truth that Christians can firmly and lovingly call those who reject it to repentance, that they may be blessed by the power of God in the Scriptures.

“Though the above or like arguments be sufficient to silence gainsayers, and produce a rational conviction, that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are indeed the word of God, – yet it is only the Holy Ghost’s effectual application of them to our mind, conscience, and heart, in their self-evidencing life, light, and power, which can produce a cordial and saving persuasion of it. – The word of God thus applied, brings along with, and in itself, such light, such authority, and such convincing, quickening, sanctifying, and comforting power, that there is no possibility of shutting our eyes or hardening our heart against it, of continuing blind or unconcerned about it; but all the faculties of our soul are necessarily affected with it; as impressed with evidences of its divinity, attended by almighty influence.”

John Brown of Haddington. Systematic Theology. 81. cf. 1 Thess. 1:5, 2:13; John 6:63; Jer. 23:29

The Theology of the Text: What is Preservation?

This article is the second in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text Part II: What is Preservation? 

In the modern church, there has been a concentrated effort to redefine what the word “preserved” means as it pertains to the Scriptures. According to most of the conservative evangelicals today, the Bible is preserved in such a way that the original text exists in all of the extant manuscripts, though text critics have not fully determined what that preserved text is completely. Another perspective that is growing due to the influence of evangelical textual scholars, is that the original text has not been fully preserved, and that the text available today is all that God intended to preserve. Both of these doctrinal positions are flawed because they do not take into consideration 1) the purpose of Scripture and 2) the definition of preservation. 

Neither of these definitions satisfy what is required for the Scriptures to be preserved. In the first doctrinal position, the Bible can only be said to be preserved in theory because the people of God don’t actually have that preserved text. In the second doctrinal position, the Bible can only be said to be quasi-preserved, or partially preserved, because it readily admits that some portions of Scripture have indeed fallen away. It seems that the second doctrinal position is simply the first brought to its logical conclusion.

Preservation is simply defined as an object remaining the same. This means that if the Bible is said to be preserved, it must today be in the same state as it was when it was written. The doctrines, and the words which detail those doctrines, must be intact. Scripture In order to provide a Biblical definition of preservation, both the purpose of Scripture and the definition of preservation must be considered. 

The Purpose of Holy Scripture 

“The holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

2 Timothy 3:15

“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

2 Timothy 3:17

The Scriptures affirm that they are the means God uses for 1) justification and 2) sanctification. 

How much of this Scripture is purposed for this use?

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”

2 Timothy 3:16

The Definition of Preservation

With the purpose of Scripture defined, it is now appropriate to set forth the scope of this preservation. 

“But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

1 Peter 1:25

In this text, the Scriptures affirm what is preserved, “the word of the Lord,” and how long it will be preserved for, “endureth forever,” and how it is used,”by which the gospel is preached unto you.” The word of the Lord, which is “all Scripture,” is the thing that will “endureth forever.” 

Conclusion

The Scriptures set forth clearly that “all Scripture” is given by God for the purpose of being used for all matters of faith and practice, and that God will not stop giving the Scriptures to His people. Rejecting this doctrine, is to reject that God spoke perfectly the first time, and is still failing to speak perfectly “in these last days” (Heb. 1:1). In the first place, if some Scripture has fallen away, then “All Scripture” as it was inspired by God was not “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16), and therefore God spoke fallibly. In the second place, if some Scripture has fallen away, then the word of the Lord does not endure forever, and therefore God spoke fallibly. In order to affirm that the Christian church has all they need in the Holy Scriptures, Christians must affirm that “all Scripture” has been preserved, and given to the people of God by God Himself. God sets forth all that man needs, and all that man needs is “all Scripture,” not some.

If it is denied that “All Scripture” has not been preserved and delivered in every age, then the next logical step is to deny God’s providence itself. One may affirm that God works by way of means and reject the Scriptural definition of preservation, but those means are conveniently whatever men are doing with the Scriptures, regardless if those means are Biblical. Men are left then, assuming authority upon themselves to determine which is an “important” doctrine and which is not, and which passages of Holy Scripture are to be received or rejected. There is no longer a “sure word of prophecy,” (2 Peter 1:19) but a word of prophecy which is dictated and determined by the fallacious reasoning of sinful men. If preservation is denied, the mechanism by which God’s Word is given is no longer God, but man. 


“All truths of Revelation are of unspeakable importance, and even especially necessary in their own place , – and as all attempts to determine which are fundamental, and which not, are calculated to render us deficient and slothful in the study of religious knowledge; – To fix precisely what truths are fundamental and what not, is neither necessary, nor profitable, nor safe, nor possible.”

John Brown of Haddington. Systematic Theology. 97.

The Theology of the Text: What is Scripture?

This article is the first in the series called “The Theology of the Text,” designed to cover the topic of the text in short, accessible articles. 

The Theology of the Text Part I: What is Scripture?

Christian theology is built from the ground up from Scripture. Without Scripture, there is no stability to the Christian religion. If the Scriptures are rejected as the ultimate foundation for the Christain religion, subjectivism and human experience become the god of the church. What we believe about Scripture is of utmost importance, as it is the foundation for all Christian faith and practice. The reason that the Scriptures are the foundation for faith and practice, is because God declares them such, and gives them to His people for that purpose. 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

2 Timothy 3:16

There are two points from this passage that are important to know: 

  1. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God
  2. All Scripture is given as a sufficient rule of faith; for practice and interpretation

The first point means that every line of Scripture is delivered from God to man by way of His inspiration. That is to say, that God is the author, and the men who physically wrote the Bible were the instrument, or writers. There are two points that should be observed from this first point: 1) The Scriptures are God’s words written down, and therefore pure and perfect. 2) The use of human means to write the Scriptures does not suppose human error, as God inspired those human authors. The process of giving the Scriptures to the church was not an accidental that God simply used in a reactionary way. Scripture is something He Himself caused and delivered. The nature of inspiration is such that the very words are inspired, and also that the vocabulary and experiences of the writers were employed by God. This has been called “organic” or “verbal plenary” inspiration by some, but it is important to remember that the nature of inspiration was not so organic that the words of Scripture are simply human words and ideas that God used. All Scripture is given by God, and therefore all Scripture is God’s words, regardless of the means that He used to accomplish such inspiration. 

The second point means that the Scriptures were given as a sufficient rule of faith to the people of God for all matters of faith and practice, “instruction in righteousness.” This serves as both a rule for what the Scriptures are to be used for, and also gives the people of God the necessary “self-interpreting” hermeneutic principle. First, the Scriptures are given “for instruction in righteousness.” That means that there are other ways to learn things outside of the Scriptures. There is benefit in reading history books, maths textbooks, theological commentaries and works, and other works of literature which cover various disciplines not pertaining to faith and practice. That does not mean that the Bible does not say anything about math, or science, or history, just that the Bible itself does not say it is the only means to get knowledge in all things. The Scriptures provide the foundation for how a Christian approaches all other disciplines, but does not contain exhaustive knowledge of all other disciplines in itself. It is sufficient as it pertains to Christian faith and practice, and also sufficient in its declarations about the Christian should approach other disciplines. Second, since the Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice, that means that the hermeneutic principle of “let Scripture interpret Scripture” is warranted from this text. There is no need to interpret the Scriptures through Biological science, ecclesiastical tradition, critical approaches, or using various numerological systems. Further, this also means that no further revelation is necessary “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Scriptures are fully sufficient for understanding all of Scripture. Historical studies may help one understand context better, but Scripture should always be read with the self-interpreting principle. 

Conclusion

The Scriptures set forth in 2 Timothy 3:16, and many other passages, that the Word of God is pure (Ps. 12:6) and perfect (Ps. 19:7), and sufficient for use in all matters of faith and practice. The source of a multitude of modern errors stem from rejecting this doctrine. When a Christian reads Scripture and hears Scripture correctly and faithfully preached, they are hearing God’s words (John 10:27). The Scriptures are lacking nothing, in word count and in what they teach. There is no prophetic word, vision, or dream which is necessary, because the Scriptures are sufficient. God gave the Scriptures to His people so that He could speak surely in every age until the last day (Mat. 5:18). In an age where the Bible is viewed as a corrupt, man-made document, this doctrine is essential to affirm for the sake of assurance of faith, and unity among the people of God. 

The Academy and the Church

Introduction

One of the major appeals that those in the Received Text camp make to support the continued use of the historical Protestant text over and above the modern critical text, is that the “modern critical text” is an academic text, not an ecclesiastical text. In other words, it is a text produced without the “kind consideration of the church.” This has been challenged by some as a conflation, as there are evangelicals working in text criticism, which means “the church” is involved in the production of “the” modern critical text. It is said that there are indeed evangelicals producing editions of the modern critical text, so it cannot be said that the modern critical text is an “academic text.” 

In order to understand this appeal against the modern critical text, it is important to note what is meant by “the” modern critical text as it pertains to this argument. I have written before why I do not typically address niche textual positions and texts, and this is why. In order for a text to be a “church” text, so to speak, it has to actually be created by and used by the people of God. So the Greek texts which may have some evangelical origins may be considered a text produced “within the church,” but if they are not translated into the vulgar tongue for the people of God to use, what good are they to the people of God? These texts are used perhaps by Greek students and academics, but not by churches in the ministry of the Word, which makes them academic texts. Further, and more importantly, the main text platforms that are used for translation into every vulgar tongue, are produced within the scholarly ecosystem, not the church. Many men and women who contribute to the scholarship and editorial work of the Greek texts used for translation are often times not properly evangelicals at all. So while it is great that evangelicals are contributing to the work of textual scholarship, the texts used for translation are those of an academic kind. What is meant then, by “the” modern critical text, is any modern critical edition that is used as a base Greek text for translations used by the church. That being said, I thought it would be helpful to offer some analysis and definitions of an academic text and an ecclesiastical text. 

What Makes a Text an Ecclesiastical Text? 

There are three necessary criteria which should be used to identify a text as ecclesiastical or academic text – faith, methodology, and use. 

Firstly, an ecclesiastical text must be produced by men who affirm the orthodox fundamentals of the Christian religion. They must hear the voice of their Shepherd (John 10:27). This includes affirming the Trinity, verbal plenary inspiration, salvation by grace through faith alone, a literal eternal hell, and so forth. In other words, they must be believers in the “message that ye heard from the beginning” (1 John 3:11). Those that produce a text within the church must be chiefly concerned with God’s glory, and must be orthodox believers themselves. There is no reason that mormons, jesuits, and other non-orthodox scholars should be involved in producing a text made for use in the Christian church. There is no room for an “eccumenical” text to share with religious groups who do not affirm the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The Scriptures were given by inspiration of God for the people of God for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). 

Secondly, the methodology of an ecclesiastical text must incorporate Scriptural principles in its axioms, the most important being verbal plenary inspiration. A text made by the church must be bound by what the Scriptures say about themselves. 

Thirdly, an ecclesiastical text must be produced for the purpose of being translated so that the people of God can actually use it. A text that is created with no plans for translation is by necessity an academic text, as only students and scholars of the Greek language can make use of it. That is to say, an ecclesiastical text is made for use by the people of God in public and private reading and preaching (1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). It must benefit the people of God by way of translation in the tongue they speak. 

What Makes a Text an Academic Text? 

An academic text is one that is produced within the realm of the scholarly community, and typically isn’t primarily motivated by the three principles I laid out above. Those involved in such an effort may not affirm the essentials of the Christian faith, or even consider themselves evangelicals in any sense of the word (1 Tim. 6:3-6). Such texts are produced eccumenically, or perhaps by men and women who do not affirm Christianity at all. Jesuits, Mormons, Unitarians, and theological liberals are often consulted or even included on the teams which produce such texts or whose scholarship influences the textual decisions of these teams. The methods used to produce these texts do not consider inspiration or the Holy Spirit as a necessary axiom. They are produced by academic axioms, driven by the scholarly consensus on what the text of Scripture is or isn’t. Academic texts are not exclusively or necessarily produced due to need by the church in normal use for faith and practice. Many of these academic texts stay in the original Biblical languages, for use by students and scholars for research or language learning purposes. An academic text may be used in the church, but that does not make it a text produced by the church. 

Conclusion

In the modern church, academic texts are purposed for translation, but I argue they should not be. Christians should not use a Bible that is not produced by scholars who cannot affirm the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Christians should not use a Bible that is not produced according to methods which agree with Scriptural principles. Further, Christians should not support the production of texts that are not needed, or will not be translated for use by the people of God in the ordinary ministry of the Word. 

A true text produced by the church is one that is produced by orthodox believers, using principles which align with what the Scriptures say about themselves, purposed for settling controversy in the original languages and translated into vulgar tongues for ordinary use by the people of God. A text produced by the academy is one that is not exclusively made by believers and which uses principles that are driven by academic and not Scriptural standards. Christians may make use of such texts, but academic texts do not become a church text simply because Christians decide to translate them and use them. 

I am not saying that God cannot use unbelievers as means to accomplish His divine decree, He certainly has in history. What I am saying is that Christians should be wise to discern an academic text from an ecclesiastical text, especially considering the church doesn’t need and shouldn’t endorse unbelievers handling a text which they cannot understand by the Spirit. The question is not, “Can unbelievers be used by God to create Bibles?” It is, “Should Christians endorse and support academic texts?” Such a question is quite important for the people of God to answer in our modern context.  

The Difference Between Appeals to Authority and Appeals to Providence

Introduction

Recently, the claim was made that appeals to God’s providence are the same as appeals to authority regarding the Received Text. The argument goes, that TR advocates simply appeal to the authority of those that used the TR in history to justify retaining the historical text of the Protestants. This argument presents the case that the defense of the TR is simply a dull-minded and lazy appeal to theologians of the past, and for those that have not investigated the argument, it likely is convincing. While it is important to be clear as to why we appeal to a particular authority, it is false that an appeal to God’s providential use of means is categorically the same as a fallacious appeal to authority.

The Westminster Confession of Faith says, 

“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the elast, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy”

(WCF 5.1)

An appeal to God’s providence is an appeal to God working in all things, not an appeal to the authority of those means. God uses the means of men preaching the Gospel to bring people to a saving knowledge of God, that does not mean that somebody is saved by the person who delivered the message. The authority is God’s, not the means He uses. Now, that is not to say that Received Text advocates do not make appeals to authority, they do. The same can be said for those in the modern critical text camp.

When a modern evangelical appeals to DA Carson, or John MacArthur, or John Piper, that is exactly what they are doing. In fact, in John Piper’s “sermon” on why the Pericope Adulterae is not Scripture, one of his points is that most scholars do not believe it to be Scripture. It is important to note that not all appeals to authority are necessarily bad. There is a reason people become authorities in various disciplines, and appealing to the scholarship of somebody who has invested their life studying something isn’t immediately fallacious, if that scholarship is well founded. In academic, scholarly, and even casual blog writing, quoting a well reputed scholar is helpful to give external witness to the idea that you are setting forth. Appeals to authority should be done with care, and should not be the entire foundation of an argument, but sometimes an appeal to authority can be helpful, and is often necessary to give an argument more credibility. Regardless of whether or not appeals to authority are good or bad, the real question that I want to answer in this article is, “Are appeals to God’s providence mere appeals to human authority?” 

No They Aren’t

When an appeal is made to God’s providence, the appeal is first to what God has done in time by use of means. At a time where the printing press was introduced to Europe, and the church was going through the most significant revival in the history of Christianity, the first effort of editing handwritten manuscripts into printed editions started taking place. The appeal to providence here is that God worked in this technological improvement to distribute His preserved Word during the time where people could actually use it. This is vindicated by the fact that the Reformation simply doesn’t happen without the distribution of Holy Scripture to the people outside of the Roman church polity. Further, the language capabilities of those men exceeded many of those working in New Testament and Old Testament studies today. Men like Erasmus and Melanchton were champions of teaching the classical languages to proficiency, and as a result, many men knew the languages much better than the average scholar today. Not to be disparaging, but many of the men who teach Greek in seminary demonstrably couldn’t watch an episode of Spongebob in Greek and understand it, count to 20, or even order a sandwich in Greek. Despite this, the modern perspective says, “I have a bigger lexicon, therefore I know Greek better.”

That is not to disrespect the men who hold teaching posts at seminaries, or men who have learned Greek at seminaries, it is just a gentle reminder that owning a bigger dictionary than Shakespeare doesn’t make one better at English than Shakespeare. The goal of seminary Greek is exegesis and use of tools, not fluency. This approach serves its purpose when used appropriately and with a bit of humility. The problem is that this approach is often used inappropriately, and without much humility. Simply knowing grammar doesn’t make one qualified to translate a text. You wouldn’t hire somebody who knew the grammar of Spanish to be a Spanish translator unless they also knew the nuances and idioms of Spanish. This requires fluency.

Appealing to the language skills and theology of the men of the 16th century is not an appeal to authority, it’s an appeal to the fact that they were simply more adept at languages and theology than most modern scholars, and thus more capable of examining evidence and translating than these scholars. If you’ve ever watched a modern pastor “Go back to the Greek” in a sermon, and know anything about languages, you know this is true. Today, the Biblical languages are viewed as mystical symbols which surpass the normal value of words in any other language, to the point where it’s actually damaging to modern exegesis. 

So are “appeals to authority” used by those in the Received Text camp? Yes, if appeals to authority means appeals to the skills of those men. Yet those appeals are not the foundation of the Received Text argument, they simply point out the weakness of modern thinking. It is important to distinguish between the means God uses by His providential care, and the authority of those means apart from God’s providential oversight. The crux of the Received Text argument is that in time, and by God’s providence, the manuscripts which were providentially kept pure were received, examined, edited, and printed. These printed editions were tried, tested, edited, and reached a point of maturity in Beza’s text where the Protestant church accepted it as the main text from which translations should be made.

Hyper focusing on the early editions of that process misses the point of the argument completely. The fountainhead of the textual effort in the 16th century does not represent the full breadth of that effort. The orthodox did not believe that the text was a “reconstruction,” they believed it had been “kept pure in all ages.” The text was received, not lost. The appeal to providence is not an appeal to the authority of those that received that text, it is first an appeal that the Scriptures had not fallen away prior to the 16th century effort , and secondly to the fact that the text was received almost universally by the late 16th century and into the high orthodox period. It is an appeal to God doing an extraordinary work through ordinary means, not an appeal to the authority of those means. There certainly is a powerful argument to be made by comparing the skill set of the 16th century scholars to many modern scholars, but that is a secondary appeal, not the foundation.

Conclusion

At this point in the discussion, the real issue is not about which Greek text is “better.” It is about “Which Greek text” is the text that should be used. By God’s providence, the fruit of modern text criticism is doubt, unbelief, and skepticism towards the Word of God. It has resulted in the belief that a proper translation cannot possibly be made that accurately reflects the original Biblical languages. It has produced the mindset that if Christians really want to know what God said, they have to go back to the Greek and study text criticism. It has revealed that if Christians cannot claim intellectual authority over the Scriptures, they are unwilling to believe that the Scriptures have been preserved. If men and women honestly believe that the modern effort of text criticism is “the same” as what has been done historically, there is nothing really more to say. Ironically, the strong trust in authorities has led to this kind of thinking. Since all of the authorities are saying, “We know Greek better” and “We have better data,” modern evangelicals have bought into the idea that our modern Greek scholars are standing on the pinnacle of knowledge in church history. There are certainly cases where the great scholars of the past were wrong, and very much so. However, these errors should not used to assume they were wrong in every case. Further, the amount of data that the 16th century scholars had is irrelevant to the conversation of God’s providence, because by God’s providence, they had the right data at the right time. It may be the case that having access to more data makes one a better scholar, but perhaps it is more wise and humble, in our modern context, to view the scholarship of the past with slightly more respect than it is currently given.

While appeals to authority are not the foundation of the Received Text argument, it is warranted to discern the actual skill set of the authorities we trust. If a pastor is not aware the wealth of new ideas in text criticism over the last decade, perhaps they should avoid making comments on the discussion that assume axioms that have evolved or have been abandoned. If a Greek scholar cannot translate an episode of Spongebob from Greek to English, should they be making determinations on the text of Holy Scripture? That also applies to the average person who thinks they know Greek because they can use Biblehub or some other lexicon. People wouldn’t do that with any other language, and yet with the Biblical languages it is allowed for some strange reason. The men at the time of the Reformation could debate in the original Biblical languages. They wrote treaties from scratch in Latin and Greek. They didn’t need a Greek lexicon because they actually knew Greek. Yet we still say, “We know better.” Perhaps it’s time, in our modern context, to become students of the great theologians of the past again, rather than asserting our intellectual superiority over them. In a time where the church is fighting downgrades in every category of theology, it seems a return to the old paths would be greatly beneficial to all. In any case, it should be clear, that an appeal to providence is not a fallacious appeal to authority. They are two different categories, and should be treated as such. The theologians and scholars could have been equally yoked with the modern scholars in their language skills, and by God’s providence, had the right theological framework and the right manuscripts, to be the means God used to continue delivering His pure Word to the church.

Examining Epistemological Foundations

Introduction

The most significant element to the discussion of text-criticism and Bible translations is that of epistemology. Christians recognize two forms of revelation, natural and special. In the first place, men and women know things because they are made in the image of God, and can use their reasoning to come to conclusions. This natural reasoning and sense observation is not sufficient to bring anybody to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Secondly, in special revelation, God speaks so that men may know His revealed will. The question we have to ask ourselves as it pertains to the textual discussion is, “Is my epistemological starting point in line with what God has revealed in Scripture?” 

One of the purposes of this blog is to demonstrate that “modern text criticism” begins epistemologically in a different place than the Scriptures. That does not mean that self-identifying Evangelicals who engage in text-criticism necessarily have anti-Scriptural epistemological starting points, just that the various methods, as defined, assume a certain epistemological starting point that is incompatible with Scripture. In other words, one can employ modern text criticism from a Christian epistemological perspective, and still be starting from the wrong place by adopting some or all of the axioms of a method that assumes no such foundation. 

For example, in mainstream textual criticism, the most popular and accepted position is that the Scriptures went through a recension, or editing process, which resulted in what is commonly called the Byzantine text platform. Some say this happened all at once (Lucian), and others say that this happened gradually (Wachtel). The concept of a Scriptural recension is not a historical fact, or a neutral fact, it is an interpretation of data which has an epistemological starting point. That starting point is that the Scriptures were not kept pure in continuous transmission. In order to arrive at this conclusion, one must assert that the Scriptures changed dramatically in their transmission to explain why the majority of the later manuscripts look very different from the early minority of manuscripts. The reason that this is an epistemological problem is because the extant evidence in the 21st century cannot demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, either of these perspectives. 

Evidence or Epistemology? 

There is no way to prove by way of extant data that the original text of Holy Scripture looked like Vaticanus, or P75, or any of the commonly called Alexandrian manuscripts. In the same way, there is no way to prove that family 35, or the TR, or the Tyndale House Greek New Testament exists in exactly the same form as the originals. The same goes for individual readings within the manuscript tradition. Even if we had 1,000 copies of Mark from the fourth century that looked exactly the same, evidence driven models cannot validate that those copies are accurate to the original because we don’t have the original. That does not mean that we cannot know what the original New Testament said, just that the modern text criticism in the 21st century is not a justifiable means to determine the text. So then, in the absence of sufficient building materials for a reconstruction effort, epistemology is without question, the most important component to this discussion. 

If the Scriptures teach that the Word of God will not fall away, and that in every generation, God’s people had access to that pure Word, then such ideas as a recension cannot even be entertained without violating that epistemological principle. On the same premise, any idea that supposes that a small sample of early extant manuscripts represents the scope of the whole of the manuscript tradition, or at least does so in part, also is a violation. In order to adopt an Evangelical epistemology and a modern critical epistemology, one must interpret the conclusions of modern criticism, which violate Christian epistemology, by Christian epistemological foundations. This is perfectly exemplified in the discussion of creation. If Darwin’s premise (or something similar) is adopted as the epistemological starting point, then Christians must make sense of Genesis 1-12 in light of that starting point. Rather than rejecting Darwin and friends, evolutionary theory is adopted as a hermeneutic principle rather than the Scriptures themselves. The result is the rejection of a literal creation, a literal Adam, a literal flood, and so forth. This is yet another issue that is said to be doctrinally “neutral,” I’ll remind you. 

It would be irresponsible to say that adopting any form of theistic evolution is purely based on examination of evidence and making the best determination possible from that evidence. Rather, one must say that from a certain epistemological starting point, the data must be interpreted in this way or that. In the same way, extant manuscript data is not examined neutrally. One is not simply making the “obvious conclusion based on the data” when they reject 1 John 5:7, they are making an “obvious conclusion based on the data” from one particular epistemological starting point. If one wants to make the claim that a lack of evidence for 1 John 5:7 in many manuscripts demonstrates that all manuscripts before those didn’t have it, he is doing so from his epistemology or interpretive lens.

A manuscript says nothing absolute regarding the manuscript it was copied from, unless one makes certain assumptions. If the manuscript is truly the only guide, then the only thing that can be determined is that this manuscript, at this point in time, looked this specific way. The scribe of that manuscript could have easily removed a reading from his exemplar, which was then copied forward. One can make observations of scribal habits of one particular manuscript, but the scribal habits of one manuscript says nothing about the exemplar from which the scribe copied. If there is an extant archetype of that manuscript, more can be said, but in the case of the Scriptures, there is not a continuous line of transmission that can be observed, so any difference form one text to another must be interpreted from an epistemological starting point. Did scribes copy carefully, or did they not? Are the “original” readings longer, or shorter? Do earlier manuscripts contain more errors, or less? Since there is no extant pure line of manuscripts that goes back to the apostles, the amount of “neutral” observations that can be made about a manuscript is extremely limited. Thus, a Christian should be chiefly concerned with whether or not the lens he is examining evidence with is that which comes from the Scriptures. Anything else is a critical perspective of the Christian Scriptures as interpreted by a Christian. 

Epistemology Has Consequences to the Text of Scripture

The reason that those in the Received Text camp perceive modern critical text positions as so “dangerous” is because of the epistemological starting points of modern critical methods, not necessarily the Christians who adopt these methods. These methods, regardless of who uses them, do not assume basic Christian epistemological realities. An example is how evangelicals affirm that the Scriptures were “without error in the original” and also adopt the modern critical perspective that grammatically difficult readings are to be preferred as earlier than grammatically smooth readings. A system which does not comport with Scripture is not something that needs to be “redeemed,” but rejected. 

“Text criticism” itself is not the problem, it is the type of text criticism that is the problem. It was recently said that the Reformation era printed texts, and possibly all copied texts, were simply all “reconstructed texts” from the past. The Received Text position then is no different than modern text criticism other than the selected “reconstructed text” is different. That is to impose an epistemological concept upon the men of the past that simply did not exist prior to the age of reason in any meaningful way within the bounds of orthodoxy. One of the greatest errors of modernity is believing that “we know better” or to impose our modern epistemology upon men of the past. This is especially demonstrated when modern interpreters of historical theologians read their perspective into men of the past. 

It is often the case that the most “powerful” arguments against the Received Text are simply unfounded assertions that can in no way be substantiated in the kind of way that the argument requires. For example, it was recently said that the burden of proof is equally upon somebody to prove a reading original as it is to prove it unoriginal. This assumes that without reconstruction of every line of the text, there simply wouldn’t be a Bible, and that Scripture is guilty until proven innocent. If the belief is that the people of God had the pure Scriptures in every generation, then the burden of proof is demonstrably upon this generation to prove a Scripture not original from the previous generation. When the extant evidence is examined, it does not seem that engaging in such a practice is warranted, or profitable in any way. Can extant evidence demonstrate a reading to be original or unoriginal? Absolutely not. Therefore it is far more important to examine the epistemology from which a claim flows in the textual discussion. Is it the job of Christians today to determine the text of Scripture from evidence, or receive the text of Scripture from the previous generation? These are epistemological questions, not text critical ones. 

The Epistemological Foundations of Both Sides

In order to cut directly to the heart of the issue, the most fundamental epistemological starting point of modern text criticism is that there was no continuous line of transmission of the text, that the text was incorrectly identified at the advent of the printing press, and as a result, modern Christans and non-Christians must work together to reconstruct the text as it existed prior to a major recension, or perhaps various gradual recensions. This task is of such a tall order that after nearly 150 years, no method and no scholar has ever achieved success in reconstructing the original, and those still working are increasingly skeptical that that can actually be done. Despite this, the primary purpose of the extant data is still seen as adequate building materials. 

On the other hand, those in the Received Text camp begin by stating that the immediately inspired Word of God has been “kept pure in all ages.” The extant data is not to be used as building materials today, because nothing needs to be built. The purpose of the extant data then serves the people of God in a different way than is assumed by modern critical methods. The task of the church today is not to reconstruct the New Testament, but to receive and defend the text handed down from the previous generation. This is the major disconnect between those in the Received Text camp and modern critical camp. In the modern critical perspective, since the text is assumed to have fallen away such that it needs to be rebuilt, the extant evidence is purposed to demonstrate that the Received Text is not pure, and thus to justify reconstruction. Since the text from the previous generation is deemed impure, extant evidence resembling the text of the TR must also be counted as such, discrediting nearly all of the extant New Testament data. If it could be agreed upon that the responsibility of the church is reception, not reconstruction, then the question of determining “which TR?” would not be one that serves a mere polemic purpose. The church should be rallying around receiving a text, not dividing over which modern reconstruction is the most accurate, and why the Received Text is wrong. 

While it is easy to think that the first assumption of the modern critical perspective is that the TR is in error, it is that God did not continuously preserve the Word in every generation. In other words, it is not a data driven assumption, it is an epistemologically driven assumption. It is an assumption that rests almost entirely on the claim that what is extant today represents what the church had historically. In order to conclude that the TR is in error in the first place, one must assume that the extant data available today is also better than the data available in Europe at the time of the advent of the printing press, and even further that the data available in every generation before that could not have looked like the TR. One has to discount the reality that countless thousands of manuscripts have been destroyed since the 1st century. It is a terribly rash conclusion to make, considering how dangerous the outcome of that conclusion is. 

There is simply no way to responsibly say that the extant data today is “better” than the extant data available during the times when that extant data was being used and copied. So when somebody makes the claim that “the church didn’t read this in the text for the first 1,000 years,” they are doing so from an entirely assumptive and arbitrary place. They are interpreting extant data through an epistemological lens which says, “I know for sure that we know more,” even though that is a lofty claim to make based on the history of the text as it exists in extant manuscripts. Is it not a fair assumption to make that there were more than three manuscripts of Revelation circulating in the third century, and that the people of God knew what was in those manuscripts? And yet the modern critical method says, “Yes, we know more with our three manuscripts about Revelation as it existed in the third century than those who used manuscripts of Revelation in the third century.” Such a perspective is clearly driven by epistemological assumptions. 

Conclusion

In this discussion, I have found that epistemology is rarely addressed. It is easier to focus on extant data rather than discussing the lens by which men are viewing that data. Yet, if the lens that the data is viewed is flawed, then the conclusions made about that data can also be flawed. And if that lens is in opposition to Scripture, it is necessarily flawed. The common justification for approaching the Bible from a reconstructionist perspective is that, “God didn’t keep His Word pure, so we shouldn’t impose that perspective on the text.” Yet, there are a fair number of verses that teach that God’s Word will not pass away. Matthew 5:18 affirms down to the jot and tittle. Jesus connects the fulfillment of His ministry with His words (Matthew 24:25). The Psalms constantly speak of the Law being perfect, pure, and refined. The Scriptures say that “all Scripture” is necessary for matters of faith and practice, not just “some.” 

If we can agree that God did promise to continue speaking in the Scriptures, and that those Scriptures would be preserved until the Last Day, then a meaningful dialogue can take place on how we define the precision of that preservation. This conversation cannot take place currently, however, because those on both sides stand on different epistemological foundations. There is no common ground to be had between a person who says the Word of God is preserved and a person that says that the Word of God is not preserved. If the goal is to give confidence to the people of God in their Bible, it does not follow that we do so by starting with the premise that we have not yet successfully found God’s Word. And if our goal is to approach matters of text criticism faithfully, it does not follow that in our text critical axioms we assume that the earliest texts we have were not grammatically harmonious. The problem is not with “text criticism,” it is with epistemology, and the type of “text criticism” we advocate for and support.