Modern Critical Text Advocates Cannot Say Anything About Originality or Authenticity


There are a number of ways the textual criticism discussion goes awry. Sometimes the conversation is hyper focused on textual variants and “textual data,” other times the topic of discussion is Erasmus or the Reformed. What is almost always ignored is what the Scriptures say. There is a reason the Critical Text advocates do not ever wish to talk about theology, and it is because the theology of the modern critical text system is completely bankrupt. It has strayed so far from Protestant orthodoxy that it shares similarities with Rome.

In this article, I will discuss why the Critical Text Advocate cannot justifiably debate variants in relation to the Divine Original.

The Methodological Gap

The Modern Critical Text methodology, which is allegedly the only “meaningful” and “consistent” apologetic, has what the scholars call a “methodological gap.”

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

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

“There still remains a gap between the form of the text from which we conclude by critical examination that the extant witnesses must be descended and the yet older forms from which that oldest recoverable text must be descended…Recognizing that there is a gap between the oldest recoverable forms of the text and the creation of the work requires us to address one final topic…The New Testament philologist’s task is not to recover the original authorial text, not only because we cannot at present know on philological grounds what the original text might have been, nor even because there may have been several forms of the tradition, but because philology is not able to make a pronouncement as to whether or not there was such an authorial text”  

(DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. Kindle Edition. 26-27).

This means that the text critical methodologies employed by modern scholars and apologists cannot speak to the authenticity of any variant in relation to the original because modern textual criticism isn’t designed to deal with the concept of the original.

The scholars and apologists are quick to brag about the “scientific” nature of textual criticism, but in doing this, they give up the ground necessary to actually defend any singular textual variant as “authentic”, or the whole of Scripture for that matter. When such a methodological gap is recognized, so too is recognized the reality that this gap prevents advocates of the Modern Critical Text from speaking to the authorial text of Scripture based on the “textual data.” The textual data does is limited by the reality that there is nothing that connects the “earliest and most reliable manuscripts” with the autographic text. There is no way to verify that the reconstructed text is the original text, hence the methodological gap.

This is where the discussion of textual variants is extremely misleading and even deceitful. When Critical Text advocates make claims about the “authenticity” of a variant reading, they have stepped away from their “consistent methodology” to argue from a totally different epistemic starting point which assumes the concept of the Divine Original. As noted above by DC Parker, even the concept of one authorial tradition is not certain because of this methodological gap.

The concept of an “authorial” or “original” text is something that is theological in nature. It is something that is assumed a priori from Scripture. If the Scriptures were inspired by God(2 Tim. 3:16), there is one text that was inspired, and therefore Christians argue for one inspired text. This concept is not something that can be demonstrated from the textual data and is something that has been increasingly called into question in today’s world of textual scholarship.

“Books and the texts they preserve are human products, bound in innumerable ways to the circumstances and communities that produce them. This is also true of the New Testament, despite its status as a uniquely transcendent, sacred text, held by some to be inspired by God…Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved – the purported meaning of texts also change…Paradoxically, attempts to edit and preserve these important books multiplies rather than settles the many forms in which they appear, as each generation revises both the New Testament and the Gospels in concert with its own aspirations, assumptions, theological perspectives, and available technologies.”

Jennifer Knust & Tommy Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15-16.

The Bible, according to these so called “Evangelical” textual scholars, is nothing more than a human product which reflects the communities of faith that produced it.

The methodological gap is the death of defending the Scriptures for Christians. It is an admission that any conclusion that scholars and apologists arrive to cannot be said about the authenticity or originality of any given verse or word in Scripture.


Think about this methodological gap the next time you engage with a Modern Critical Text advocate. They will vigorously debate passages such as Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7, despite the fact that they have no “consistent” reason to do so. What they actually can debate is whether or not those verses or passages should be printed in our Modern Critical Texts, but that’s it. The nature of this modern text has no credentials, no progeny. All that we know about these manuscripts is that they were created, and that a small number of them survived. We have no clue who created them or used them or if they were even a part of the manuscripts used by actual Christians. The methodological gap proves that modern critical text advocates have surrendered the ground necessary to defend any place of Scripture as authentic. It is simply inconsistent to do so, because the methodological and axiomatic foundation of the Modern Critical Text has nothing to say about the original, let alone if there ever was one original.

When a Critical Text advocate tries to argue for authenticity, they are borrowing a concept that does not exist in their system from another system, one that is theological. They borrow from a system that asserts the concept of an original from Scripture, which some would call an “a priori” assumption. This a priori assumption is one which is not consistent with the modern critical methodology. As some popular apologists point out, this is the sign of a failed argument. It proves that if the point of the discussion is the Divine Original, the Modern Critical Text advocate has no consistent reason to contribute. While the goal of some Evangelical textual scholars may be the original, there is certainly nothing in the methodology that can actually make that happen.

That is why those in the Received Text camp say that there are no modern critical textual scholars trying to find the original, because a desire to find the original doesn’t and cannot actually translate to anything tangible due to the methodological gap. Instead of rejecting the Modern Critical Text, scholars instead say, “No doctrines are affected” and hope that Christians don’t think too hard about it. It is a failed system if the goal is the Divine Original, and scholars know it. So when a Modern Critical Text advocate tries to say that a passage or verse is not original, the simple response is, “What does your system have anything to do with the original?” They cannot argue such claims from their system, and that is the brutal reality that Modern Critical Text advocates continue to ignore.

The Defense of the TR is Not the Same as the Vulgate


Recently, Dr. Peter Gurry posted an article called “Cardinal Bellarmine, Trent’s Major Apologist, On Important Variants” on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. The article is a continued effort to conflate the TR with the Vulgate. Gurry ends the article with this conclusion:

“One last observation about Bellarmine’s discussion. I notice a similarity, mutatis mutandis, between Trent’s view of the Vulgate and some present-day Protestant defenses of the TR. Both believe that usage has a key role in confirming authority. For Trent, the Vulgate’s authority is confirmed “by the lengthened usage of so many years.” For TR proponents, the TR’s authority is confirmed by the usage of such great theologians (the Reformers). Neither view convinces me, but it remains instructive to see how Bellarmine argues for his case.

Peter Gurry. Cardinal Bellarmine, Trent’s Major Apologist, On Important Variants. March 11, 2021.

In the first place, Gurry is incorrect that “present-day Protestant defenses of the TR” are confirmed by “the usage of such great theologians.” I have written over 250,000 words describing and defending the “present-day” Protestant TR position without having once argued for authority of the TR by virtue of Reformed Theologians who used it. In all of my correspondence with Dr. Jeff Riddle, Pastor Truelove, and many other defenders of the TR, I have never once heard this argument presented as it is in the article. We of course utilize Protestant theologians in our defense of the Received Text, but we appeal to the doctrines they espoused, not the authority of the Protestants themselves.

The unfortunate reality is that Gurry’s audience will continue to believe that the defense of the TR is based on what some called “Reformationolatry” or something similar as a result of this kind of argumentation. This of course is a not-so-subtle polemic which is intended to reduce the TR position to simple adherence to tradition or perhaps an appeal to the authority of the Reformed. To be fair to Dr. Gurry, his portrayal of the TR position is far less disingenuous than that of James White, but still deserves some clarification nonetheless. In this article, I will clarify the argument that is made by present-day Protestant defenders of the TR, and my reader can decide if the TR position has a mutatis mutandis with Rome.

The Argument from Providence

The argument made by the present-day Protestants in defense of the TR is that the authority of the text is vindicated by usage by the people of God. That is to say that the average person can look into history and see the text that was actually used. The argument is not, “As Reformed theologians used the TR, so do we.” When a person opened up a Bible post-Reformation, it was a TR or translation of it. The appeal to Calvin, Turretin, Ussher, or Owen is done due to the fact that these theologians represented the orthodoxy of the day. I would find it peculiar if anybody studied in Reformation and post-Reformation history would take issue describing Turretin and Owen as accurate representations of Protestant Orthodoxy. To give some context, Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology was the standard textbook at Princeton Theological Seminary until the late 19th century when it was replaced by Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. This points to the historical reality that Turretin not only represented the orthodoxy of his day, but orthodoxy well after he died.

Assuming that my reader is willing to accept simple facts of history, the argument as presented by Gurry should be recognized as a poorly articulated simplification of the actual position presented as defended by present-day Protestants. There are two important components to the argument for the authority of Scripture that I will present to my reader. The first is that the authority of the Bible as presented by the TR position is given by God. The Scriptures are self-authenticating, not authenticated by the people or theologians that have used them. The second is the argument from Providence which simply points to historical record to vindicate this theological reality. The reason this has become such a controversial topic is possibly due to the fact that some Critical Text apologists have taken up the opinion that the TR didn’t even exist during the Reformation.

The important distinction that I want to make sure my reader understands is the difference between something that gives authority to the Scriptures vs. something that vindicates the authority of the Scriptures. The average person can look into history, see that the text of the Protestants was the TR, and note the historical record vindicates the theological position presented by present day Protestant defenders of the Received Text. The TR is said to be a providential text because it was the one that was used. That is how providence works. This has been a difficult thing for Critical Text advocates to admit. For example, in an unguarded moment, James White recently asserted that The Vulgate was the text of the Protestant Reformation in a video made with Stephen Boyce.

Interestingly enough, Apologists for the Critical Text also try to make the argument from Providence about their “earliest and best” texts, so it seems that they have no issue with the form of the argument. They claim that the existence of their manuscripts proves they were used and therefore by God’s providence, their text is vindicated, not recognizing that the record of history shows that their darling manuscripts were not propagated forth in transmission. They argue that their text evolved to some degree or another, which again refutes their argument from providence even further. The average person can inspect the analysis of the textual scholars, see that the manuscripts which form the textual basis for the Critical Text do not have a singular extant common ancestor and are not copied forth unmaimed into the manuscript tradition. In other words, Providence rules against their text.

Actual Similarities between the Critical Text and the Papacy

Now what is interesting is the Critical Text advocate’s failure to see the similarities between their own position and Bellarmine’s. Bellarmine set forth clearly the doctrine of the Magisterium.

“When we say the Church cannot err, we understand this both of the entire body of the faithful and the entire body of the bishops, so that the meaning of the proposition that the Church cannot err is this: that what all the faithful hold as of faith is necessarily true and of faith; and likewise what all the bishops teach as of faith, is necessarily true and of faith.”

Robert Bellarmine. De Ecclesia militante, III: 14

Both Bellarmine and the Critical Text methodology establish the authority of the Bible in the interpretation of the text. In the case of the Papists, it is the Magisterium, the interpretation of the Church. In the case of the Critical Text, doctrine cannot be affected by changes to the text and therefore the authority is not in the words of the text but rather in the interpretation of the text by the church. The difference is only in how “church” is defined. This is the necessary conclusion of the doctrine that the Bible is preserved in its doctrines and ideas and not the words. If the words themselves cannot change the meaning of the text, then the authority is not in the matter, but rather in the sense – the interpretation of those words. This is a theological necessity as a result of rejecting the doctrine of providential preservation.

For example, if a Christological doctrine is less clear in the Critical Text than the TR, such as in 1 Tim. 3:16, they say that the overall doctrine is not affected because it can be interpreted elsewhere. This is an admission that the textual variant indeed says something materially different, though they maintain that the sense remains the same by way of interpretation. The material has changed, and the meaning has not. Since the meaning is gathered by way of interpretation, the authority of the text is not in the material, but rather the interpretation of the material. The Critical Text advocate would not agree with the interpretation of this passage by the Unitarian, so therefore has bestowed the authority of the text in the Trinitarian interpretation of the passage. That is to say that the orthodox interpretation of the church is the thing that cannot err.

The Difference between Rome’s Usage Argument and the TR

Now that I have offered a comparison between the Critical Text doctrine and Rome, I will describe the difference in the “usage” argument of Rome and the Protestants. The argument from usage is quite different between Rome and the Reformed. Bellarmine’s argument for usage is based on the doctrine of the Magisterium, which is the opposite of the argument made by the Received Text position. It is important to remember the historical fact that the Council of Trent was a Counter-Reformation effort. This means that they espoused doctrines in opposition to the Protestants, not the same as the Protestants. The appeal to Protestant theologians by present-day Protestant defenders of the Received Text is an appeal to the Counter-Papacy doctrines they espoused. I want to ensure that my reader understands completely what I am saying here: The Reformation doctrine of Scripture was established in opposition to the Papist doctrine of Scripture. There seems to be a lot of confusion on this point recently, so I want to make sure that people know that the Protestants were not Papists.

The Papist doctrine proposed that the Vulgate must be authoritative because the Church has used it, and the Church cannot err. The response to the Papists by the Protestants was that the Scriptures were self-authenticating and therefore authoritative by virtue of God who inspired them. This was articulated in what we now call Sola Scriptura. In order for Scripture to be authoritative in itself, it has to be materially preserved. The text that was available to the people of God during the time of the Reformation was the text that was used by God’s providence. The Protestants recognized this very clearly and defended this very boldly. The modern day defense of the TR is an appeal to that doctrine, not the theologians themselves. Put very simply, adopting the Received Text is a position that is established on two principles: the adoption of Protestant Bibliology and the rejection of Modern Textual Criticism. It is not a modern day Protestant spin of the doctrine of the Magisterium. The argument against the Magisterium is founded on the reality that the Church can err. This was kind of the point of the Protestant Reformation.


The recent conflations with the Received Text position and the Papist doctrine of Scripture is befuddling. The doctrinal position of the Received Text is explicitly the doctrine of the Protestants’, which is why present day Protestant defenders of the TR quote Protestant theologians (gasp!). It is also likely the reason Critical Text apologists so desperately try to brand what they believe as that of the Protestants. I will provide yet another reminder to my reader that the Protestants were protesting…Rome. The argument that the defense of the TR is the same as the defense of the Vulgate completely ignores the doctrinal foundation for both, seeing as the Protestant defense of the Scriptures was actually in opposition to the Vulgate.

As I have demonstrated in this article, the argument from “usage” is different between the Papists and the Protestants. Those in the Critical Text camp may very well take issue with the Received Text position, but it does not make sense to conflate it with the position it opposes. The Received Text position is still explicitly a Reformation doctrine. It affirms against the Papacy the same today as it did in the 16th century. Ironically, it is the Critical Text position that now has no ground to stand on with Rome – though it appears the scholars of the Critical Text are more interested in comradery with the Papacy than protestation. It is difficult to understand why a position that has housed and eulogized Jesuits such as Cardinal Martini would be so bold as to compare the Received Text position with Popery.

I’ll leave my reader with this definition of projection from Sigmund Freud:

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves by attributing them to others.[1] For example, a bully may project their own feelings of vulnerability onto the target, or a person who is confused will project their own feelings of confusion and inadequacy onto other people.

Why the Doctrine of Inerrancy Demands the Defense of the Received Text


On this blog, I have highlighted many of the doctrinal errors underpinning the modern critical text, as well as set forth positively the historical orthodox position on the Holy Scriptures. I have been critical of the doctrine of inerrancy as articulated by modern scholars and compared it to the historical doctrine of providential preservation, demonstrating how they are different. That is not to say that the doctrine of inerrancy is completely bad, though it has a critical flaw which I highlight in the linked article above. For those that do not have the time to read the above article, the essential flaw is that it founds the “great accuracy” of the text of Holy Scripture on modern text critical methods and thus allows for a changing text. In this article, I will demonstrate why the current articulation of inerrancy undercuts any meaningful arguments against the Received Text.

Inerrancy vs. Providential Preservation

If a proponent of the modern critical text adheres to the doctrine of inerrancy, as opposed to the historical definition of providential preservation as stated in WCF 1.8, they have no grounds for attacking the Received Text. I am defining inerrancy as the doctrine which teaches that the original manuscripts of the New Testament were without error, and that those originals have been preserved in all that they teach in the extant copies. This is in opposition to providential preservation,which teaches that in every age, the Holy Scriptures have been kept pure essentially in what they teach and also preserved in the words from which those teachings are derived. If one limits the doctrine of inerrancy to only the autographs, then the defense of the Scriptures is pointless, because we don’t have the originals. So, if it is the case, as the doctrine of inerrancy teaches, that the Scriptures are without error in all that they teach while the words of the material text are changing, then it must also be said that the material text of the Scriptures can change and be inerrant, so as long as they can be said to teach the same doctrines. If no doctrine is affected between the Reformation era printed Greek texts and the modern critical printed Greek texts, then the necessary conclusion is that both are inerrant. That, or neither are inerrant. 

Since, according to the modern critical perspective, the Reformation era text teaches the same doctrines as the Critical Text, then according to the modern doctrinal formulation of inerrancy, the Reformation era text must be inerrant too.

If, then, the Reformation Era text teaches the same doctrines and is therefore inerrant, advocates of the modern critical text have no argument against it from a theological perspective. This is the logical end of the claim that “no doctrine is affected.” If no doctrine is affected between the Reformation era printed Greek texts and the modern critical printed Greek texts, then the necessary conclusion is that both are inerrant. This is an important observation, because it means that opponents of the Received Text have no theological warrant to attack the text of the Reformation, seeing as it is an inerrant text. Until they say, “There is a final text, this is it, and it teaches different doctrine,” not only is it inconsistent to attack the Received Text, it is hostile to the text of Holy Scripture, by their own doctrinal standard. It stands against reason that a modern critical text proponent would attack a text, which is, by their own admission, inerrant. 

 In order to responsibly attack the Received Text from a modern critical vantage point, one must admit and adopt several things:

  1. They must admit that doctrine is affected between texts.
  2. They must adopt a final text to have a stable point of comparison between texts. 
  3. They must assert that the Received Text is not inerrant, and thus not Scripture.

This of course, is impossible for a modern critical text advocate, since the modern critical text is changing, and will continue to change. Since, according to the modern doctrinal standard of inerrancy, the Bible is without error in all that it teaches, any Bible that is without error in all that it teaches should be considered inerrant and actually defended as such. If, at the same time, a proponent of the modern doctrine of the modern critical text and inerrancy wishes to add a component of providence to the equation, then they necessarily have to defend the Received Text. If providence is considered, there is no change to Holy Scripture, based on text critical principles, that can affect the teaching of the Scriptures. Consequently, if one were to argue that changes to the printed texts of Holy Scripture can affect doctrine, preaching, and theology, then the doctrine of inerrancy must be rejected outright, as the previous iterations of that text would have contained doctrines that were improved upon, and thus erred, prior to those changes. If a change, introduced by text critical methods, changes doctrine, then the Critical Text cannot be inerrant. This presents a theological challenge to those who continue to advocate against the Received Text and also wish to uphold the inerrancy of a changing modern critical text. There are two necessary conclusions that must be drawn from this reality:

  1. Either the Scriptures are inerrant, and text-critical changes cannot affect doctrine, and thus the Received Text is inerrant along with the modern critical text,
  2. Or the Scriptures are not inerrant, as the changes introduced by new modern text critical methods will change doctrine. 

The necessary conclusion of maintaining that the words of Scriptures have changed and will change and that they are also inerrant is that those material changes must not affect doctrine. If it is the case that these changes will affect doctrine, then the Bible is necessarily not inerrant and the conversation is now far outside the realm of even modern orthodoxy. 


The question we should all be asking is this: If no doctrine is affected between the Received Text and the modern critical text and the Bible is inerrant, why do modern critical text advocates attack an inerrant Bible? Is it consistent to affirm the modern doctrine of inerrancy and also attack the historical Protestant Scriptures? It seems that the answer is no, it is not consistent. One might argue that the modern critical text is “better,” but better in what way? If no doctrine is affected, how is it better? In order to make the argument for a “better” text, one has to first argue that doctrine is indeed changed in the new critical Bibles, and thus admit that the Scriptures are not inerrant. And even if one were to admit that the modern critical text is better, and admit that the Bible is not inerrant, they would need to produce a standard, stable text to defend that claim. So, until the advocates of the modern critical text are willing to admit that doctrine is changed and thus the Scriptures are not inerrant, they simply are attacking the Received Text, which by their own doctrinal standard, is inerrant. 

This article should demonstrate one of the chief inconsistencies of those who uphold inerrancy of Scripture and also attack the Received Text of the Reformation. It seems, based on the axiom that “no doctrine is affected,” there actually is no warrant to attack a version of the Scriptures that is inerrant. In order to do so, one would have to adopt the view that the Scriptures have been kept pure in both what they teach and the words that teach those doctrines, and then defend a finished text. And if it is the case that the Bible has been kept pure in all ages, and is providentially preserved, then it stands that adopting a critical text which differs from the text of the previous era of the church is not justified in the first place and incompatible with the argument.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the modern critical text advocates joining the fight to defend the inerrant Received Text!

So You’re a Presuppositionalist? Prove it.


Presuppositional Apologetics has been critically acclaimed as the “only Biblical defense of the faith” by many who advocate for the method. Yet there is a critical inconsistency in the vast majority of those who champion Greg Bahnsen and Cornelius Van Til, especially when it comes to the text of Holy Scriptures. Bahnsen provides a starting point in his critically acclaimed book, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. 

“Faith is humble submission to the self-attesting Word of God. Faith accounts God truthful, faithful, and powerful on the basis of His own Word, not requiring to see demonstrable proof or evidence outside of God’s Word that could confirm it as trustworthy” (64). 

Bahnsen proposes in his book that every system must give an account for it’s claim to intelligibility. The Christian, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit in salvation, has had his mind renewed and operates from the epistemological starting point that God has spoken in His Word. The Christian system provides all of the meaningful conditions for logic, induction, and absolute morality.  If a system cannot provide a foundation for such intelligibility, then all claims that follow must be operating from another system that does provide those conditions for intelligibility. They must borrow from the Christian worldview. The goal of the apologist is to first present Biblical truth, and then step into the opposing system and perform an internal critique, demonstrating the foolishness of the opposing system. If the presuppositionalist first begins by assuming neutrality, which is to admit the other system does provide the preconditions for intelligibility outside of the Christian worldview, then they are violating the principles laid out in 1 Peter 3:15 and have lost the argument. 

Step 1: Answer Not a Fool According to His Folly

In order for this system to work, one must first presuppose that God exists (natural truth), and that He has spoken (revealed truth). In these last days, He has spoken through Jesus Christ in His Holy Scriptures (Heb. 1:1). Therefore, all meaningful presuppositional defenses of the Christian faith must begin with this premise. This presupposition is that the Holy Scriptures are the ultimate standard that all other standards must be evaluated by, because this standard is the only standard that provides the aforementioned preconditions for intelligibility. That means that the only standard that is capable of examining the standard set forth in the Holy Scriptures are the Scriptures themselves. If at any point an external standard is applied to this ultimate standard, then the Scriptures are no longer the ultimate standard. That is why the standard is presupposed, hence the name, presuppositional apologetics. 

Based on this starting point, any attempt to defend the Holy Scriptures outside of the Scriptures themselves is to immediately surrender the argument, and adopt the folly of the fool. 

Step 2: Answer a Fool According to His Folly

A modern trend in the practice of presuppositional apologetics is to defend the Scriptures evidentially. Evidence certainly has its place, as Van Til put forth, but not when it comes to evaluating an ultimate standard. The ultimate standard is presuppositional. Therefore, any attempts to “prove” the ultimate standard sets another standard above the ultimate standard, and the “ultimate standard” is no longer ultimate. In other words, the person has given up their claim to the preconditions of intelligibility, and they themselves have become the fool. A great example of this is to examine a situation wherein an atheist attacks the credibility of the ultimate standard by calling into question the ending of the Gospel of Mark. The presuppositionalist has two options here. 

The first option is to say, “Well our earliest and best manuscripts do not contain that passage, so it is not a part of the Scriptures. It is not part of the ultimate standard I am appealing to.” At that point the opponent should ask, “By what standard are you defining the parameters of your ultimate standard?” The presuppositionalist responds, “There are thousands of manuscripts that testify to the New Testament, it is the best testified document from antiquity. Our earliest and best manuscripts date back to the third and fourth century AD, and they do not have the ending of Mark. There is no other book in the history of the world that gets that close to the authorship event.” The opponent continues, “So it is the ultimate standard because it is the best testified document in antiquity?” The Presuppositionalist, realizing his error, responds, “No, it is the ultimate standard because it is God’s Word”. The opponent, noticing that he has won the exchange, presses harder. “So what standard do you use to determine the parameters of the Bible?”  The presuppositionalist has lost his right to claim that he can account for the preconditions of intelligibility, because in order to respond, he must apply an external standard upon the standard he has set forth as ultimate. He has stepped off of his proposed system and borrowed the canons of some other worldview.

The second option is to say, “By what standard are you calling into question the validity of the ending of Mark?” This answer is consistent with presuppositionalism, the first is not. By answering in this way, the presuppositionalist continues to point out that in order to call into question the authority of the Scriptures, one must assume the truths of Scripture in the first place. The opponent may not see this as a valid response, but the presuppositionalist has remained consistent. 


There is an interesting phenomenon within the people who adopt a presuppositional apologetic. On one hand, they claim that the Scriptures are the ultimate authority, and on the other, apply external standards to that ultimate authority. If the Scripture truly is the ultimate authority, it must be, well, ultimate. It is one thing to do this in an apologetic scenario – occasionally somebody outmaneuvers a Christian in debate. That has happened to anybody who has engaged in a difficult conversation with a learned atheist. It is an entirely different thing to claim that the Bible is the ultimate standard, and then adopt an entire system which says the Bible must be validated by way of the standards set forth by that other system. That is to say, that the Bible is not the ultimate standard because it is the Word of God, it is the ultimate standard because an individual thinks it is based on the work of that other system. The standard shifts from objective to subjective, and at that point it’s simply a matter of personal preference if one wants to consider the Bible to be the Word of God. 

This forces one to admit that the Bible is not ontologically the ultimate standard, it becomes the ultimate standard when shaped by the canons of some other system. So it does not follow that the presuppositionalists have any sort of meaningful, consistent claim to the preconditions of intelligibility if they adopt the ultimate standard of some other system, like modern textual scholarship. They must borrow from the worldview that says that the Bible is self-authenticating. In order to make such a claim that Mark 16:9-20 is not Scripture, one must apply some external principle to determine that. I wonder, does that standard meet the preconditions for intelligibility? 

A Meaningful, Reformed Defense of the Scriptures

Before reading this article, I recommend listening to this electrifying sermon by Pastor Joel Beeke:


Charles Spurgeon once said in a Sermon dealing with the defense of the Scriptures:

“I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so; and there is never any necessity for Christian ministers to make a point of bringing forth infidel arguments in order to answer them. It is the greatest folly in the world. Infidels, poor creatures, do not know their own arguments till we tell them, and then they glean their blunted shafts to shoot them at the shield of truth again. It is folly to bring forth these firebrands of hell, even if we are well prepared to quench them. Let men of the world learn error of themselves; do not let us be propagators of their falsehoods. True, there are some preachers who are short of stock, and I want them to fill up! But God’s own chosen men need not do that; they are taught of God, and God supplies them with matter, with language, and with power” (New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 1, 110). 

This has always been the Reformed defense of the Holy Scriptures. Greg Bahnsen, in his work, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, writes:

“Faith is humble submission to the self-attesting Word of God. Faith accounts God truthful, faithful, and powerful on the basis of His own Word, not requiring to see demonstrable proof or evidence outside of God’s Word that could confirm it as trustworthy” (64). 

While many in the Reformed camp do not subscribe to a presuppositional method, this thought is pervasive throughout the Reformed Scholastics. See Francis Turretin on the topic: 

“But the orthodox church has always believed far otherwise, maintaining the revelation of the word of God to man to be absolutely and simply necessary for salvation” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, 55). 

“The authority of the Scriptures depends on the origin. Just because they are from God, they must be authentic and divine” (62). 

“The Bible proves itself divine, not only authoritatively and in the manner of an artless argument or testimony when it proclaims itself God-inspired (theopneuston)” (63). 

Turretin then details the external and internal arguments for the authority of the Scriptures, which follows the same form as that of the Westminster Divines, and post-Reformation Divines:

“With regard to the duration; the wonderful preservation (even to this day) of the divine word by his providential care against powerful and hostile enemies who have endeavored by fire and sword to destroy it…the consent of all people who, although differing in customs (also in opinions about sacred things, worship, language and interest), have nevertheless received this word as a valuable treasury of divine truth and have regarded it as the foundation of religion and the worship of God. It is impossible to believe that God would have suffered so great a multitude of men, earnestly seeking him, to be so long deceived by lying books” (63). 

Turretin goes on to detail the internal testimony to the authority of the Scriptures:

“The internal and most powerful marks are also numerous. (1) With regard to the matter: the wonderful sublimity of the mysteries such as the Trinity, incarnation, the satisfaction of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the like; the holiness and purity of the precepts regulating even the thoughts of the internal affections of the heart adapted to render man perfect in every kind of virtue and worth of his maker; the certainty of the prophecies concerning things even the most remote and hidden. (2) With regard to the style: the divine majesty, shining forth no less from the simplicity than the weight of expression and that consummate boldness in the commanding all without distinction, both highest and lowest. (3) With regard to the form: the divine agreement and entire harmony of doctrine, not only between both testaments in the fulfillments of predictions and types, but also between particular books of each testament; so much the more to be wondered at, as their writers both were many in number and wrote at different times and places so that they could not have an understanding among themselves as to what things should be written. (4) With regard to the end: the direction of all things to the glory of God alone and the holiness and salvation of men. (5) With regard to the effects: the light and efficacy of the divine doctrine which is so great that, sharper than any two-edged sword, it pierces to the soul itself, generates faith and piety in the minds of its heareers, as well as invincible firmness in its professors, and always victorious triumphs over the kingdom of Satan and false religion.” (64). 

A Return to the Power of God in the Gospel 

So the opinion of the Reformed, both presuppositional and classical, is that the nature of the Scriptures is self-authenticating (αυτοπιστος). The Scriptures testify to themselves that they are the Word of God. Where will one turn to find a sufficient apologetic outside of this testimony? Certainly not Bahnsen. The Lord has prescribed a sword to do battle (Hebrews 4:12), and many, supposing their own prowess, charge into battle with a shield as though God will honor that vain effort. 

The Scriptures are not to be put on trial, and the faithful of God are to go forth with the power which is the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). The heathen and infidel are not to be entertained with debate, as though a careful examination of corruption found within the manuscripts will convince them that God’s Word is inspired and preserved. Evidence of such attempts are well documented by the opinion of Muslims, Atheists, and Momons, who readily use the failed efforts of apologists who have put the Word of God on trial. The effort of the Christian is not to convince, it is to proclaim. This is in fact the testimony of the Apostle when he went forth to the pagan city of Corinth. 

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Christians, do not lose sight of the covenantal purpose of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), or the covenantal purpose of God, which is to make all things new (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 21:5). Our approach to the Muslim, and to the Atheist, and to the Mormon is not to demonstrate that Christians have a defense, it is to bring forth the power of God in the preaching of the Gospel. Remember, that when the Apostle arrived in Athens, the “spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city was wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). He then calls them to note their great idolatry and then “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18). He did not tarry on about the opinions of various gnostics who were already want to corrupt the orthodox profession of the faith. He proclaimed Christ. 

The faithful in Christ should remember the words of Bahnsen:

“Finally, it remains for us to see that according to the Bible a man cannot come to an understanding of God’s Word or a knowledge of God without regeneration and faith. Hence the apologist cannot give the unbeliever convincing understanding, rational demonstration, probable verification, or knowledgeable proof and expect these to bring him to faith in God’s Word. All the argumentation in the world, all the scholarly explanation that we can set forth cannot effect saving knowledge in the unbeliever, for as dead in his vanity of mind he needs regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Thus the apologist presupposes the Scripture and focuses on the unbeliever’s intellectual rebellion or sinfulness, witnesses to the Word of Christ, and argues upon its self-attesting authority, looking to God rather than secular “wisdom” to give success to his words of proclamation and defense. The apologist does not expect the unbeliever to be able properly to understand and thereby be convinced of the truth of the gospel as long as he remains unrepentant for his guilty rebellion against God and does not begin by faith in his approach to God’s Word” (64-65). 

The Reformed method of prolegomena is to first detail Natural Theology, then to describe the weakness of Natural Theology as it pertains to salvation, and finally to detail the particular beauty, power, and infallibility of the Special Revelation of God in His Holy Writ. The post-Reformation Divines emphatically declared the foundational, Trinitarian nature of God and salvation, the self-authenticating nature of the Scriptures, the inability of man to reconciled of His own accord, the great distance between God and man and the necessity for God’s voluntary condescension, and the importance of practical, experiential religion. 


If the purpose of our apologetic is not to win souls to Christ, than our apologetic has failed. And if the Gospel is only a footnote or even lacking in our presentation to the unbeliever, than we have not used the tools prescribed by Christ. And if we put the authority of Scriptures in the hands of men, we are no better than the Papists which the Reformers fought so vigorously against. There is a war waging which dates back to the time of Adam and Eve, and the weapons of choice chosen by the enemy are “Yea hath God said” (Gen. 3:1) and then “God hath said” (Gen. 3:3). The methodology of the enemy is simple and twofold: 

  1. Question the authority of God’s Word
  2. Assert himself as the authority over God’s Word

The Christian should not be so foolish as to fall to the same error as Adam and Eve. The seed of all errors is to believe that we owe a response to the method proposed by the enemy. Even when Christians proclaim, “I want to know what Paul wrote!” they suppose the thoughts of the enemies of faith which says we are still attempting to find out what Paul wrote, as though God has not delivered His Word and kept it pure. Thus, when one declares that they “want to know what Paul wrote!” as though they don’t know, they really are saying, “Yea hath God said?” When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he attempted the same method that he tried with Adam and Eve. Jesus responded with Scripture. When Satan and his minions attempt to attack the authenticity of Scripture, our only response is to turn heavenward and declare, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). 

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:18-21). 

Does the Modern Apologetic Offer a Meaningful Response to Bart Ehrman?


It is often stated that the Confessional Text position, which was the position that the post-Reformation divines defended against the Papists and Anabaptists, offers no meaningful answer to critics like Bart Ehrman. It is said that in order to defend the text of the New Testament, one has to adopt the epistemology and methods of modern textual scholarship. There are two problems with this claim. The first is that Bart Ehrman is a huge influencer in the scholarship that is said to refute him. In other words, he is one of the top scholars in the field and has contributed a vast amount of work to the method that is said to refute him. He is the editor on the Brill series, New Testament Tools and Studies, which represents the latest research in New Testament Textual scholarship. In the recent work on the Pericope Adulterae produced by Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust, the authors thank Bart Erhman for pointing them in the right direction. Additionally, he is the editor of the textbook that is standard curriculum in most seminaries (The Text of the New Testament)

Either Ehrman doesn’t know his own discipline well, or the claim is woefully lacking in any sort of support. In fact, one has to severely downplay the tremendous influence Ehrman has in the current effort of textual scholarship, obfuscating the fact that Erhman’s position is not all that different than the believing version of his view. Despite the fact that many New Testament scholars disagree with his conclusions, the fact stands that at its foundational level, the methods Ehrman uses to come to his conclusions are nearly the same as anybody else who adheres to the modern critical text as it is represented in the NA/UBS platform. In a debate held five years ago between Ehrman and a popular apologist, Ehrman rightfully comments that the apologist agreed with 8.5 out of 9 points presented in his book, Misquoting Jesus ( 

The apologist had no response to this pointed observation. At this point, the debate was definitely lost, and Erhman walked out of that room with a victory against the text of the Holy Scriptures (Not to mention that the whole of the debate was akin to a cat playing with a mouse). That is what happens when Christians put the Word of God on trial. So despite the claim made that this is a valid defense against Erhman, Erhman himself finds the position not significantly different than his own. It seems reasonable, that in order to refute Erhman, one must adopt a position different than is espoused by the books that Ehrman himself penned, or edited. It stands to reason that in order for a position to be potent apologetically, it must be different than the position that it is trying to refute. 

The second problem with the claim that defending the Bible requires an adoption of modern critical methods is that the method itself is not capable of proving anything one way or another as it pertains to what is considered the “original” or “authorial” text of the New Testament. Scientific methods do not care about Christians who believe the Bible to be preserved. Scholars and apologists can make conclusions regarding the data, but those conclusions are simply not definitive or demonstrable using the data itself. This is the entire claim of those who hold to a presuppositional method of apologetics. Yet, by adopting this method, one must adopt the folly of the fool to try to prove the fool wrong. Ehrman actually offers the same critique of the methods that those in the Confessional Text camp do, which certain apologists have pointed out. When this is pointed out, there is never a defense offered to silence the critique. Rather than refuting the claim, one must resort to various ad hominem attacks, assaults on the Bible that the Christian church used for centuries (and those that produced it), and other uncharitable schemes that do not provide a substantial argument. Is this really the best possible defense of the text of the Holy Scriptures? I argue no on several accounts. 

Does the Modern Critical Text Apologetic Refute Bart Ehrman?

The answer is a simple “no”. For those that are familiar with a presuppositional method of apologetics, the reason should be clear. It leaves the Christian unequivically incapable of answering the claims of Bart Erhman, and the Muslim apologist at that. Typically, if one wishes to refute somebody, one needs to take an opposing position, not the same one. I cannot think of a more apt example of a Christian handing their Bible over to the unbeliever in apologetics for the sake of neutrality. In this example, it is not just a metaphor, it is quite literally the case that the believer has handed their Bible over to Bart Ehrman to stand as judge over it. In the premise of the argument, the believer has already lost the debate by allowing the unbeliever to decide what the Bible does and does not say.  

Charles Spurgeon offers a great response to those that believe they need to prove every line of Scripture to the unbeliever using evidence.

“I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so; and there is never any necessity for Christian ministers to make a point of bringing forth infidel arguments in order to answer them. It is the greatest folly in the world. Infidels, poor creatures, do not know their own arguments till we tell them, and then they glean their blunted shafts to shoot them at the shield of truth again. It is folly to bring forth these firebrands of hell, even if we are well prepared to quench them. Let men of the world learn error of themselves; do not let us be propagators of their falsehoods. True, there are some preachers who are short of stock, and I want them to fill up! But God’s own chosen men need not do that; they are taught of God, and God supplies them with matter, with language, and with power” (New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 1, 110). 

There is a difference between defending the texts of the Holy Scriptures, and adopting the methods of modernity which say that the Bible has been lost and needs to be reconstructed, and then trying to defend that it has not been lost. So what is the difference between the modern critical text apologist and Bart Ehrman? The difference is that both the modern critical text apologist and Bart Erhman look at the same dataset, and one says that the dataset is the preserved Word of God, and the other doesn’t. On this point, I agree with the modern critical text apologist that God has preserved His Word. I disagree, however, with the conclusion that the modern critical text has demonstrated that, or can demonstrate that. 

The way that this position is defended is by simply saying that God has preserved His Word. There is no evidence to support this claim, however, because there is not a single person who defends this method who will point at a text and say, “This is God’s preserved Word!” They must argue that God has generally preserved all the words, and that it is the task of human scholars to dig through the decaying manuscripts to find out which words He preserved. The modern critical text apologist says that this can be accomplished, and Bart Ehrman, along with a multitude of his peers, say that it cannot be done. Which is to say that the scholars who have all of the credentials, all of the accolades – the masters of this method – say that it cannot be done. That is why Christians should take the opinions of DC Parker and Bart Ehrman seriously when they critique the modern methods and the inability of such methods to produce a final form of the text. Of course there are more optimistic scholars than DC Parker and Bart Ehrman, but even they will not say that God’s Word has been preserved down to the word. Yet the problem does not lie in the fact that God’s Word has not been preserved, it rests in the reality that the methodology itself is incapable of proving such a claim. 

If it were able to prove this claim, the work of modern textual scholarship on the New Testament would have been completed decades ago. It is not that God has not preserved His Word that is the problem, the problem is that the modern methodology has decided this to be the case. So in adopting this modern method, one must adopt the various methods that have led scholars, both atheist and believer alike, to abandon the search for the Divine Original. In its premise, the argument admits that the Word of God still needs to be found, and the original (as I have defined it here) cannot be found. In admitting that the Word of God still needs to be found, the Christian has lost all claims on a Bible that is preserved. In a very real sense, this position says that while God has indeed preserved His Word, we simply will never know which one He preserved. This “defense” of the Holy Scriptures is no defense at all, it is surrender. It is like standing in a pile of keys that open a door, and not ever being able to find the key that opens the door. What a capricious God, who would dangle His Word in front of His people, declaring that He preserved His Word for them but never allowing them to know what that Word is that He preserved! 


The only meaningful apologetic for the Holy Scriptures is one which does not adopt the speculations and theories of modern scholarship. A Christian does not need to believe that in order to defend the Scriptures, they must capitulate to the opinions of Bart Ehrman and Muslims. We do not need to place the Holy Writ on an alter in a mosque or the academy and stand by as opponents of the faith critique and dismantle each line of God’s Word. We do not need to wait until 2032, when the scholars have handed the Bible back to the church with a big red stamp reading, “Undecided”. The defense for the Scriptures remains the same as it has for centuries – that God’s Word is self authenticating. It is in itself the rule of faith. It does not stand judged by men, but it is the judge of men. 

It is high time that the mockery of those who adhere to this divine truth be cast out of our favor as Christians. Those who truly wish to defend the Holy Scriptures must begin by rejecting the model that says the Bible has not been preserved perfectly, and kept pure in all ages. Christians should abhor those who mock the self-authenticating nature of the Sacred Deposit, and reject the opinions of those who do not see the Scriptures as any different than the Iliad. We must stop blindly believing the unfounded claims that the modern method has produced a meaningful apologetic for the Holy Scriptures when it clearly hasn’t, and return to the theological foundations of the protestant faith. God alone has spoken, and He does not need men to decide what He did, or did not say. I will follow up this article with a positive defense of the Holy Scriptures using a theological method, which is the method espoused by the giants of the faith whose shoulders we, as modern Christians, stand on.