Three Practical Ways to Teach Your Children to Read the KJV

Introduction

I recently wrote an article called, “A Low View of Parents and Pastors” and a reader of my blog commented and asked for some practical ways to help children learn the Bible. I am by no means an expert, but I was raised by educators and I might be able to offer some insights based on my personal experience. I’m sure some teachers can add more in the comments.

The basic argument that I have set forth is that if a child is raised reading a translation, they will know the vocabulary of that translation by the time they reach adulthood and even earlier. Since Ward has not produced any real data related to the actual literacy of KJV readers, I am stuck responding to an anecdotal argument with my own anecdotes. Carm.org, a site that has some valuable apologetic resources but is dogmatically modern critical text only, lists 171 archaic words in the KJV and their modern equivalents. Often times words considered “archaic” like “untoward” or “visage” are not actually archaic, just outside of the commonly used English vernacular. Pro-KJV sites like AV1611.com list many more, and most KJV’s have King’s English glossaries in the back which might include up to 700 words (many of which you probably know).

It is difficult to say exactly how many words in the KJV might be considered above the average reading level or archaic, but the number varies depending on whether or not geographical locations are listed or difficult words are included as archaic and how exactly one might define “difficult” or “archaic”. It is important to remember that many of these words are still in use today, especially in fiction and even video games. Part of the reason the KJV was easy for me to pick up, interestingly enough, was due to my video game hobby growing up.

The real issue is not necessarily “archaic” words, it is words that might be considered false cognates, or “false friends” as Mark Ward likes to call them. Normally, this concept is used in the realm of learning foreign languages so it’s application to the KJV is quite suspect. Despite what Ward says, the KJV is written in English. The only real challenge to reading the KJV for most people are words that have shifted in meaning, but these can be learned, and are still English. Unfortunately men like Mark Ward make the case that the smattering of “false friends” make the KJV altogether unintelligible, which is downright false and bordering on dishonest. The vast majority of words in the KJV are not “false friends.” In this article, I will examine several ways to help children and people of all ages learn how to recognize and understand these difficult words.

Practical Pedagogy

As I have stated before on this blog, the problem with not understanding the KJV is not one of textual criticism, it is one of language learning and vocabulary. In order to fluently read a language, most polyglots/language scholars say that you must recognize about 94% of the words on a page. This is important, because for some unknown reason, men like Mark Ward make it seem like 100% literacy is required for something to be intelligible.

While I think that Ward’s perspective demonstrates how little he actually understands about language learning and the English language overall, it is important to note that 100% literacy is never required in any language. Most seminary Greek professors can hardly get through one page of their Greek New Testament without stopping to check a dictionary and they still claim to know Greek. In Kostenberger’s advanced Greek textbook, he recommends an astonishingly low goal of 10 verses a day to maintain “proficiency”. Most native English speakers are at about a B2 fluency in English, which is levels beyond the average seminary Greek professor in Greek. The point is that many of these scholars have a strange understanding of language proficiency and learning and we should really take what they have to say with a huge grain of salt. Regardless, I want to present three practical ways to teach children the “historical” English of the KJV. Keep in mind this is catered to the average child, which means I am not taking into consideration the special needs of those with learning disabilities or other conditions that might hinder the educational process.

1. Teach Children How to Fish

As parents and Christians, we should know our Bibles well. That does not mean we know every single word. Nobody knows every definition of every word in their Bible, no matter what translation is used. A common tactic used by anti-KJV types is to take a vocab word out of its context and to quiz people on it. They gather lists of difficult words and ask people to define them, knowing that the average KJV reader will score 20% on their test. They then use this to say that KJV readers cannot understand the KJV.

If I asked the average person what dappled, portent, retinue, or satraps meant, I could make a solid case using Ward’s logic that the NIV is unintelligible to the modern English speaker. The simple solution to Ward’s perplexing non-issue is to teach children how to look up words they don’t know. This is a skill we all should have, but it is not a skill we know out of the box. Rather than teaching our kids that reading is impossibly difficult, we should give them the tools to learn new words. This follows the logic of the old proverb of teaching men to fish, rather than just giving them a fish.

2. Read to Your Kids, A Lot

The number one indicator for literacy is not how well children scored on their vocab tests. The average person is capable of memorizing ten words a week and writing the definitions down on paper. A better indicator of adult literacy is how often they were read to as a child. Even if you think your child cannot understand what you are reading to them, read to them anyway. Now apply this to Bible reading. Read the Bible to your kids daily. Take the time to define words that we do not use in our daily vernacular like “thee” and “ye.” My parents read to me until I was 9 years old, even when I already knew how to read. They only stopped when I complained that I “was too old” for them to read to me (and I probably was, but it is times like those I look back on fondly). If you are an adult and struggle reading your Bible, read your Bible more. This is also great advice for those that are learning other languages, like Greek. You will never attain proficiency in a language by rote memorization. You have to speak it, hear it, and read it.

3. Teach Your Children to Annotate Their Books

One of the best strategies for retaining information we read in books is annotating the margins or note cards and marking words or concepts we don’t understand. I personally also use sticky notes or color coded tabs to indicate places in books that I want to return to for review. One of the greatest mistakes we can make as teachers is simplifying literacy to vocab memorization. We need to be invested in learning how to learn, and teaching our children how to learn. One exercise that I used to do was mark words with a pencil that I did not understand, put a sticky note on the page, and then review the words with my mom after I had spent some time in the dictionary. This is a helpful exercise that can be applied to Bible reading and provide a great opportunity to be involved with your child’s education if you do not home school. A simple axiom to apply to this point is to be more involved in your child’s education. Behind every great adult reader is a parent that spent time with them as a child.

Conclusion

The solution to Mark Ward’s problem with the KJV is one that can be resolved by simply teaching children how to learn and being involved with their Bible education. On a somewhat related note, it is also imperative that we do not teach our children to be critics, but students. It is not our job to critique the Scriptures, but to learn from them. The critical schools have poisoned our brains to believe that we are to approach all texts as scholars and academics, including the Bible. We are taught to question the validity of a passage before reading it and to craft our own translation of a passage using a lexicon, even if we do not know the original languages. We are taught that “we know better” and that there is nothing valuable in the realm of language to be learned from the men of old. If you survey the modern landscape of scholarly theological works, they are filled with new translations and Greek word games. Whether you want to admit it or not, this is a fruit from the postmodern tree. This is a devastating perspective, and we are seeing the fruit of it now in our seminaries and churches.

We have to see past the rhetoric of men like Mark Ward and remember that God made us to be language learners. It is something that is truly remarkable about our brains. We often glance past the reality that children go from not understanding any language to being practically fluent by the grade school. The human brain is designed to learn language out of the box, and we need to apply that to learning the language of our Bible. To my reader, do not be discouraged by anti-KJV rhetoric, treat each new word as a way to expand your vocabulary and learn something new about what God is speaking to you in the Scriptures.

A Low View of Pastors & Parents

Introduction

One of the common arguments against the King James Version is that it is too difficult to read. The archaic words are said to be, at least to one degree or another, impossible to learn. I am going to use Mark Ward as an example here, because he is the architect of many versions of this argument. He often makes the case that even if you think you understand what a passage is saying, you likely don’t. He then will give a handful of anecdotes explaining how he didn’t understand the KJV growing up, or how he still can’t understand the KJV. I personally don’t believe that a man who sounds like a thesaurus has trouble understanding what the word “meat” means in the KJV, but that’s another conversation. This is one of the foundations for advocating for something like the Message or the New Living Translation. According to modern Bibliology, the Bible ought to be readable at every place, no matter your reading comprehension level. If you can’t understand every passage in one version, you are to adopt or consult another version rather than learning the word you don’t understand.

Now let’s set aside the fact that this is an absurd practice. The Bible is going to have words you need to learn, no matter the translation. We should be encouraging Christians to simply learn new words, rather than abandoning a translation every time they encounter a word that is too difficult. That being said, since the argument is often framed around the difficulty children have at learning difficult words in their Bible translation, we have to talk about what the real issue is here: parents and pastors. What is almost always left out of the discussion is the role that parents and pastors have in teaching both children and adults the Bible.

Like a Children’s Cartoon, the Parents Are Nowhere to Be Found

If you’ve ever watched a lot of children’s cartoons with your young kids, you may notice that many of them rarely give screen time to parents. In Disney movies and shows meant for young kids, a lot of the time it’s the kids figuring things out on their own without a parent to be seen. Instead of seeking help from their parents to solve a basic problem, these characters go on grand adventures and put themselves in great peril to figure things out on their own. Almost every argument I have seen leveled against the intelligibility of the KJV is the same way. These arguments seem to exclude the most important component of the discussion, which is how people learn to understand their Bible.

In this case, there should be two category distinctions that are almost never made: people raised in the church and people not raised in the church. In the case of Mark Ward, he was raised in the church, yet his arguments never seem to include stories about how he learned to understand his Bible. In fact, the only stories he does include are how pastors were too inept to understand relatively easy words in the KJV (For more, see my series on Authorized). He paints this picture that out of all of the people he knew growing up, none of them really understood what the KJV was saying. It is quite a condemnation on the community Ward grew up in. I often find myself feeling bad for the faithful men and women who Ward grew up with, because he often only highlights how inept they were. Clearly these people deserve more credit than Ward gives them, because he grew up to be somewhat of a leading scholar in understanding the KJV.

Perhaps it is true that the people in Ward’s community had remarkably low reading comprehension or that the parents in his community really didn’t invest in teaching their kids to read the KJV, but it seems very unlikely. If that is truly the case, his book must have been a harsh and necessary rebuke to all of the people he grew up with. In a recent video called, “A Pastor Asks: What if I Prefer the KJV Because it Gives My Kids a Broad Vocabulary?”, Ward really demonstrates his lack of understanding of the average parent. It also demonstrates how committed Ward is to steering people away from the KJV at all costs.

Ward makes the case against learning “historical” English because “the Bible values intelligibility more.” I have commented on this rhetoric before as being extremely condescending and disconnected. Despite Ward constantly asserting that the KJV is unintelligible, there are many, many Christians who can understand it. It also speaks to Ward’s lack of understanding of how English is taught and learned. I was brought up in the public school system, where as a foundation I was taught basic Latin root words as well as Shakespeare prior to getting to 9th grade. I imagine Ward had a similar experience, since he was educated in America. As Christians, we should never set the bar lower than secular institutions when it comes to our education. If you want to get a reality check on just how low the Christian standard for education is in 2020, spend ten bucks on this book that William Sprague wrote to his teenage daughter.

That point aside, Ward’s argument speaks especially to the fact that he sees pastors and parents as essentially irrelevant to the discussion of learning how to read the Bible. The only real way Ward has set forth to understanding difficult words is by having access to his preferred dictionary. In the real world, parents and pastors are the dictionary. I am currently watching my 2 1/2 year old learn English right now, and I am quite literally her dictionary. She asks, “What does that [word] mean?” and “What is this thing?” and “What does that do?” and “What is this color?” and so on.

As parents, we should be involved in the formation of our children’s vocabulary. When they do not understand a word, we teach them. If we do not know the definition of a word, we find out, and then teach our children. Our pastors do the same thing when it comes to our Biblical vocabulary. Yes, there is such a thing as “Biblical vocabulary.” I can’t count the times I’ve heard pastors take a moment to explain what the word “propitiation” means, because it is a word that we don’t normally encounter in our vernacular English.

In KJV churches, pastors do this all the time when they encounter an archaic word. If you’ve ever listened to KJV preaching, pastors pause briefly throughout the sermon to provide a definition for a word that is not a part of our normal vernacular English. If you are a KJV pastor that doesn’t do this, I highly recommend doing it. In the context of the Christian church, parents and pastors are the primary means that people learn new words that are outside of their daily vernacular.

Conclusion

The basic argument that the KJV is unintelligible speaks to a low view of parents, pastors, and the English language altogether. If you told my sister, a high school English teacher, that we should only be teaching kids contemporary vocabulary, she would laugh at you. If you told my mom, who runs a schoolhouse, that teaching middle schoolers Latin and Greek roots was unnecessary because it’s not “intelligible” to an English speaker, she’d write you off immediately.

If you listen to a conversation of what “contemporary vernacular English” sounds like, you would especially be exposed as disconnected. The irony of it all, is that Ward constantly uses flowery language that the average person has to google to understand. He sounds like a thesaurus that has the flu. Understanding “historical” English is a part of our toolkit for learning new words and understanding literature that is technically higher than our current reading level. Latin, German, and Greek are all a part of “historical” English, and we learn root words in these languages all the time to help us understand “contemporary” English. Even the secular system recognizes the importance of this.

The standard educational route of American children is adequate to read at least 95% of the KJV. Most passages in the KJV are written at a fourth grade reading level, with some pushing up to a 12th grade reading level. The same can basically be said for the ESV. The problem with continuing to paint the KJV as “unintelligible” is that it is actually not. Further, with the help of parents and pastors, most people can easily bridge the small gap of archaic words to fully understand the KJV without a dictionary or footnotes or commentary or internet search.

If you throw these tools into the mix, it is quite absurd to even make the argument that the KJV cannot be understood. You basically have to admit that you’ve never tried to read the KJV all the way through. The strategy of highlighting 20 difficult passages can be applied to literally any Bible translation. Most people are not so willing to insult their own intelligence, or the intelligence of the people in their church. Think about how ridiculous this argument is in a context where nearly everybody has access to a smart phone. In order to actually accept or make this argument, you not only have to believe that the average Christian is quite stupid, but you also have to believe that you are quite stupid.

Now it is true that many Christians pretend to understand things they don’t actually understand. It is true that there are KJV readers out there who think they understand every word but don’t. That is why we are a part of churches. That is why we have pastors and friends to help us. If your pastor preaches verse by verse through Scripture, you will learn difficult words organically through sermons and sermon discussions. If you read your Bible daily, this is especially true. If you grow up in a faithful house that does family worship as the confession prescribes, you will be equipped to read any translation you want, even the KJV.

The point is that the discussion of Bible intelligibility is primarily a discussion about education. When somebody makes the case that the KJV cannot be understood, it is really a condemnation of pastors and parents who did not bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We have to stop setting the bar so low for Christians and be reminded that Christians have always valued learning, not scoffed at it. Christians should be offended by Ward’s argument, because at its core, all it really is saying is, “You are too stupid to learn new words.”

The “Earliest and Best”

This is the first article in the series commenting on brother Robert Paul Wieland’s YouTube channel.

Introduction

Greetings and felicitations! In this first article I will be reviewing Robert Paul Wieland’s video, A Partial Answer to Dr. White, which happens to be the first video he posted on his YouTube in 2012. Amazingly, his commentary is still relevant today. Wieland opens his video by graciously offering a “handshake across the internet” and points out that he was simply commenting on White’s view, and not White himself. If we can learn anything in addition to Wieland’s actual arguments, it is how he approached the discussion with grace. I have not found any posts where White interacts with Wieland’s videos, so if you have any posts where James White interacts with Wieland, please link them in the comments so I can add them to this series.

In this 15 minute video, Wieland presents an argument that is hardly considered by those in the critical text camp: that the Byzantine text tradition can be dated as early as the Alexandrian text tradition.

The “Earliest and Best” Myth Addressed

James White has commonly made the claim that the early Papyri and Uncials are “all Alexandrian in form.” This may be hyperbolic, but it is inaccurate nonetheless. This is highly problematic, as there are Byzantine readings in both the Papyri and the Uncials. Wieland brings this fact to the forefront of his response to White by highlighting that this means Byzantine readings pre-date the Lucian recension.

The Lucian Recension Theory (hypothesis) was proposed by Westcott and Hort in part to prop up the supremacy of their new text. They argued that the Byzantine text emerged as a result of a text-critical effort led by Lucian which birthed the Byzantine Text, which was then propagated forth by way of Constantinople. That means that the Byzantine Text could not have been as early as the Alexandrian Text, and further was an adaptation or evolution from the earliest text types. At the time, this was a strong case for exchanging Westcott and Hort’s text for the previous standard, the Textus Receptus. While this is widely rejected within the text critical community now, the residual has stuck within the mainstream orthodoxy of text critical dogma.

Wieland addresses the claim that the Alexandrian Text is “earliest and best” by quoting scholars that are hostile to the Textus Receptus, Bruce Metzger and Gunther Zuntz. It is possible that the reason so few have interacted with Wieland is due to the fact that he uses scholars critical of the Textus Receptus to support his arguments. The quotes are quite lengthy so I’ll post partial quotes here. If you wish to see Wieland’s full presentation, I provided the link to the video in the introduction.

“During the past decades several papyri have come to light which tend to increase one’s uneasiness over Hort’s reluctance to acknowledge the possibility, though it be absent from all great uncial manuscripts. Since the discovery of the Chester Beatty Papyri (P45 and P46) and the Bodmer papyrus II (P66), proof is available that occasionally the later Byzantine text preserves a reading that dates from the second or third century for which there had been no other early witness.”

Metzger, Bruce. New Testament Studies, 189-203.

“To sum up, a number of Byzantine readings, most of them genuine, which previously were discarded as “late,” are anticipated by P46. Our inquiry confirmed what was anyhow probable enough: The Byzantines did not hit upon these readings by conjecture or independent error. They reproduced an older tradition.”

Zuntz, Gunther. The Text of the Epistles, 55-56.

It may come as a surprise to many people, but the Papyri are actually quite powerful in contesting Alexandrian priority, which is in large part responsible for the footnotes, asterisks, and brackets in modern bibles. I imagine this is why White continues to say that the Papyri overwhelmingly prove his point, because if people found out the Papyri actually do not support his claims, they would begin to be skeptical of his presentation overall. He assumes his audience will not look into it, and for the most part, they don’t.

Wieland notes that the “testimony of a hostile witness” carries more weight than that of a friendly witness, and he’s right. If the scholars critical of the TR are saying that the textual data shows the antiquity of the Byzantine tradition, there is credibility in what those in the TR camp are saying, even if the scholars and apologists for the critical text won’t admit it or mitigate the importance of this reality.

He makes another great observation when he points out that manuscript age is not all that important, it is the age of the reading is what matters. Seeing as this was made in 2012 it shows that Wieland was far more up to date in his knowledge of textual scholarship than White, or at least that White was not willing to discuss the challenges to his position. Having been on the receiving end of White’s critiques many times, I can attest to this personally. The point is, that it doesn’t matter how old the paper of the manuscript is if the readings can be shown to be ancient. In the case of Alexandrian vs. Byzantine, this is extremely important.

Conclusion

Wieland concludes by making the point that it is not responsible to say that Alexandrian readings are necessarily more ancient than Byzantine readings. In his first video on his YouTube channel, he delivers a powerful blow to the common orthodoxy of the critical text dogma. If the Alexandrian readings are not necessarily earliest, what ground is left for the modern critical text apologists to stand on? The two positions might as well be on the same playing field as it pertains to antiquity.

The problem is that modern critical text apologists commonly conflate the antiquity of a manuscript with the antiquity of a reading when they present their argument at a layman’s level. Most honest scholars will admit that the point Wieland made is valid, while arguing that the later date of the Byzantine manuscripts implies that the readings are late as well. It is possible that critical text advocates and scholars tend to avoid this fact because it is extremely problematic to the entire structure of the critical text methodology. If the Byzantine Text is as old as the Alexandrian Text, the case for the modern critical text becomes much less relevant. I’ll conclude with this: if the Byzantine tradition, which is commonly labeled as a later evolution of the Alexandrian Text, is actually as old as the readings which make up the modern critical text, the case for using modern bibles in the church all but falls apart.

One thing that you will not get from reading my analysis of Wieland’s videos is his tone and charitable demeanor. I highly recommend for my reader, if you haven’t, to watch his videos and see what I’m talking about. Wieland had the amazing ability to deliver powerful arguments in such a way that disallowed critics to go after his character. I hope you have enjoyed the first article in this series, and I look forward to what lies ahead.

Ever Learning, Never Able

This is the eighth and final article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

In the last installation of this series, I’d like to highlight possibly the number one reason people seek answers outside of the critical text, which inevitably leads people to either the Majority Text or the Traditional Text. What is likely the number one reason people abandon the critical text is the fact that it is incomplete, and has no function built into it that sets parameters on the scope of the work. In other words, it is not finished, and never will be. This is a challenging reality if you take into consideration even the standard view of Scripture held to by the majority of Bible believing Christians, let alone the Reformed view found in 1.8 of the Westminster and London Baptist confessions of faith.

When a pastor encourages his congregation that they have in their hands the very Word of God, it is objectively a false statement according to the critical text methodology. In the first place, textual scholars wouldn’t have a job if that were true. Secondly, the same scholars wouldn’t be working on new editions of the Greek New Testament if it were true that the church has in the critical text some sort of final product. In fact, the 2016 ESV was marketed initially as the “Permanent Text Edition”, which Crossway rolled back shortly after its release. While this reality is actually exciting for those that work in the field, this is the last thing that the majority of Christians want to hear. Most Christians don’t even know this about the modern critical texts. The changing nature of the modern critical texts can be broken into the categories of text and translation, which I will discuss in the final article of this series.

Text & Translation

There are very few realities other than this that should raise red flags to Christians when it comes to the modern critical texts. The general assumption made by most Christians is that we have over 5,000 manuscript copies of the Bible and those manuscripts give us enough information to know exactly what the Bible contains. This is probably due to the fact that most defenses of the Bible begin with, “We have 5,400 manuscripts!” Anybody who knows anything about textual criticism knows that this argument simply proves that a bible was written, not what that bible actually said. To many secular scholars, the manuscript tradition simply proves that there were multiple bibles that represent multiple Christianities that developed over time. The argument is completely bankrupt and should really not be used – especially to a textual scholar.

That point aside, the most problematic thing about the modern critical texts is that they are not finished and ever changing. Not a single scholar that I am aware of, Evangelical or not, will say that any edition currently available represents the original as it was penned, or that the versions we do have will not be revised in upcoming editions. In fact, the Evangelical scholars say the opposite! Here are several quotes just to give you a general idea of what I am talking about:

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

Gurry & Hixson, Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, xii. Quote Dan Wallace.

“The text is changing. Every time that I make an edition of the Greek New Testament, or anybody does, we change the wording. We are maybe trying to get back to the oldest possible form but, paradoxically, we are creating a new one. Every translation is different, every reading is different, and although there’s been a tradition in parts of Protestant Christianity to say there is a definitive single form of the text, the fact is you can never find it. There is never ever a final form of the text”

DC Parker, BBC Radio Program “The Oldest Bible”. Editor of the Gospel of John in the ECM.

“Clearly, these changes will affect not only modern Bible translations and commentaries but possibly even theology and preaching”

Gurry, Peter, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6. Discussing the changes that will be made by the CBGM.

It is easily established that the scholarly guild believes that the modern text is not finished, and is expected to change. As I stated in previous articles, TR advocates take these words very seriously. That is the first component of the discussion. The second is that modern translations are also changing.

Not only are the underlying texts from which bibles are translated changing, the translation methodology itself is adapting with the culture of the American church. There is a reason MacArthur has endeavored to adapt the NASB into the Legacy Standard Bible to avoid politically correct translation methodology being applied to his favorite translation. This has been a long standing critique of modern bibles that even the most staunch advocate can recognize is a problem. Most bible believing Christians do not want a their translation to go “woke”. Further, the bible industrial complex is a real thing. There is a lot of money in bible sales. Changing up a few words every few years is good for business. Groups that want to create a study bible do this all the time to avoid paying loyalties to an existing publishing house. The changing nature of the critical text is actually quite good for the companies that make money selling bibles.

Conclusion

The fact that modern bibles are constantly in flux is a major draw to the TR for most people. You don’t need to be a fundamentalist to want to read one translation your whole life. As somebody who has gone from the NIV to the NKJV to the HCSB to the NASB to the ESV to the KJV, I have Scripture memorized in all of these translations and it’s obnoxious. I wish I would have just had one translation from the start. It is especially concerning when three different editions of the same translation differ from each other, like the ESV. You don’t need to know anything about textual criticism to be turned off by this reality.

If you add to this problem the issue of the actual underlying Greek changing every few years, you begin to see how the average Christian might take issue. So this is the final reason I will give in this series why somebody might be drawn to the TR for reasons other than Fundamentalism, Textual Traditionalism, or Emotionalism. A changing and incomplete bible is no bible at all, and most Christians recognize that. The problem is, the vast majority of Christians don’t even know that this is the reality of modern textual criticism, in large part due to irresponsible apologists who give Christians false comfort with poor argumentation.

Modern Textual Criticism is Not Properly Scientific

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

Introduction

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

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

The Greatest Scam in Textual Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unholy Hands & Genetic Fallacies

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

Introduction

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

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

Evaluating Appeals to Authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamentalism, Traditionalism, Emotionalism

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

Introduction

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


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

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

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

The Fundamentalist Boogie Man

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

The Issue of Certainty

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

Introduction

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

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

How Do We Read Our Bible?

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

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

Take Their Word for It

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Socrates

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

They Think You’re Stupid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scholars Don’t Agree With You

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

Introduction

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

Shining a Light Through the Fog

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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