Guest Article: Pastor Dane Johannsson Addresses Spurious Claims About Doctrine Not Being Affected

I invited Pastor Dane Johannsson to write an article for my blog as an appendix to this article that I wrote about 1 John 5:7 and unbelief. He demonstrates not only that doctrine is affected, but that all texts of Scripture are fair game for revision and removal.

Introduction

Greetings and felicitations in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to thank Taylor for allowing me to write a guest post on his blog. After reading his article, titled, “1 John 5:7 And Unbelief”, a striking example was brought to my mind which demonstrates the veracity of what Taylor puts forward in that article. Confessional Text advocates have long pointed out that the views of both the men who are compiling the new editions of the critical text (the completed volumes of the ECM and their corresponding handbooks, most recently the NA28) as well as the “conservative evangelical” men working in the field (Dr. Wallace, Dr. Gurry, Dr. Hixson etc.) do not match the views of the vast majority of reformed and evangelical Christians and pastors who utilize either translations of the handbooks or the handbooks themselves.

The average reformed/evangelical pastor who may consult an NA28, and the average Christian sitting in their pews with an ESV or NASB, do not share the theology of the men who gave them their New Testament texts. In most cases, they are completely unaware of what those men believe. For instance, as has been cited by Taylor himself on this blog countless times, “evangelical” scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace, who professes to hold to both the inspiration of the Bible and its inerrancy, in the introduction to Drs. Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixon’s book, “Myths and Mistakes”, writes,

“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.

Granted, Dr. Wallace also flat out denies the doctrine of preservation (specifically as articulated in the Westminster Confession 1.8, that the Scriptures were “kept pure in all ages” by God’s “singular care and providence”). But most Pastors and Christians who appeal to Dr. Wallace, as any kind of an authority, are completely unaware of this. Hence the problem. If you survey the average evangelical/reformed Christian or pastor, they will likely say that they agree with the statement, “We know with great certainty that at least 99.9% of the text of the New Testament is certain and settled.” They would reject as problematic and unorthodox the assertion, “We do not have certainty that any of our Greek texts or translations thereof, exactly represent what the original authors of the New Testament wrote. We simply cannot know if any reading is original. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.” Most Christians would reject such a doctrine, and they should.

A Case-study In Reconstruction

Many Christians who trust modern evangelical textual scholarship and translations, even when shown that this is the doctrinal beliefs of those who are creating the text and translation of their Bibles, tend to dismiss it as a non-issue. For them, at the end of the day, it is not really that big of a problem. This is where Taylor’s article becomes particularly helpful. He writes,

Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.

https://youngtextlessreformed.com/2021/03/08/1-john-57-and-unbelief/

“Surely this must be an exaggeration”, respond some, “This is a mere emotional response! You cannot actually be implying that literally any text of Scripture could be called into question or changed, that is just a conspiracy theorist mindset!” I wish I was making it up, but this is the exact response that I myself have had from many Christians. A great litmus test (or could I say, “litmus text”) to demonstrate a Christian’s experiential awareness of the self-authentication of the Scripture, that they do indeed hear the Shepherd’s voice in His Word, in its relation to text criticism, is to take them to John 3:16.

I have sometimes asked Christians, “If there were to be some massive discovery of ancient manuscripts, and 100 complete copies of the gospel of John from 150A.D. were found, but they were all missing John 3:16, and the leading evangelical scholars determined, based upon this evidence, that John 3:16 should be removed from the Bible, would you be okay with it?” The vast majority of people I have asked have responded with a resounding, “NO”.

“This is an interesting point of argument, Pastor Dane”, someone might say, “but the this is only hypothetical, no one is actually removing or changing John 3:16. The differences between the critical text and the received text do not affect doctrine or beloved passages like John 3:16.” For the sake of argument, let’s just ignore the fact that it can be demonstrably proven that the changes in the modern critical texts do affect doctrine. What if I were to tell you that beloved passages, key doctrinal passages, one’s which contain the very gospel itself, like John 3:16, actually are affected by changes in the modern critical texts? What if I were to tell you that Taylor’s assertion (“Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question”) can be proven by looking at John 3:16 in the NA28, the most trusted and widely used modern critical Greek text, from which the most popular modern Bible translations are made?

The Authorised Version, representing the reading of the Textus Receptus and the overwhelming majority of Greek manuscripts, reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16, KJV)  In the ESV it reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16, ESV) All the major modern translations read the same way, and most of them claim to be based off of the NA28 critical text. 

What we want to look at is not the lack of “eth” on the verbs, or the difference in translation between, “only begotten Son”, and, “only Son”, but the pronoun, “his”, in the first clause, “his only begotten Son”. There is something alarming in the NA28 Greek text, which is said to underlie the translation of the ESV 2016. It demonstrates both Taylor’s assertion and how practically problematic the theological underpinnings of men like Dr. Wallace are. In the NA28 the pronoun, “his”, is not in the text. If one were to translate the first clause of John 3:16 as it stands in the main text of the NA28, it might read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave the one and only/unique son.” (For those of you who read Greek, “οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν” ; I have rendered τὸν μονογενῆ as, “one and only, or, unique”, to be consistent with the “scholarly consensus” found in the ESV and the NET, even though I agree with the KJV’s rendering, “only begotten”).

Doctrine IS Affected

It should also be noted that this is not new information. The NA27, the UBS 4th edition corrected, the Tyndale House GNT, the Zondervan Reader’s GNT, and the UBS 5th also do not contain the pronoun, “his”, in John 3:16. I also checked the NA25 and it too was missing “αὐτοῦ” from the text. Thus, we can conclude, from at least 1962, the modern critical text, from which modern “evangelical” Bible translations are made, has not contained the pronoun, “αὐτοῦ”, in the main printed text of John 3:16. We must therefore ask, If this is the case, that the text from which modern Bible translations are made does not have, “his”, in the text, then why does it appear in all editions of the NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT and even all editions of the RSV and NRSV?

I can think of a few reasons, the most important of which is that if they were to translate the clause as it reads in the text (“For God so loved the world that he gave the one and only son”) they would open the flood gates for a host of theological problems and difficulties, specifically in the realm of Christology. Is Jesus Christ God’s Son, is Jesus Christ “his” Son, or is Jesus Christ “the” Son? Was Jesus given to the world as a divine messenger, a created being (even the most glorious created being), “the” son through Mary, or is He the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Triune God, incarnate to save His people from their sins? Could not an Arian, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, and many other heretics use the reading, “God gave the unique son”, to discredit the sonship and the deity of Jesus Christ? Is not the sonship, and thus the deity, of Jesus Christ, if not under direct attack, at least compromised and complicated by such a reading? I think an orthodox, conservative, evangelical, reformed protestant would be hard-pressed to deny it.

Someone might respond, “Ah, but even with the reading, we can still conclude that ‘the son’ is God’s Son. The doctrine of Christ’s divine sonship is taught in many other places in Scripture, so even if someone tried to twist this passage to say that Jesus Christ is not God’s eternal Son, we can still point them to many other places that prove it. Even with this reading, Pastor Dane, no doctrine is affected.” If we look at the entire picture I do not think such a response has any legs to stand upon. We are not dealing with a problem in only this one verse, but problems in the seeming vast majority of key Christological verses.

Assuming that one could still argue that the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ can still be demonstrated with the NA28 reading, what happens when we add in the rest of the problematic readings in key Christological verses? To serve as a small sampling, consider, John 1:18 in the critical text, which reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”(ESV), compared to the received text, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”(KJV) Or what about when we add in 1Timothy 3:16 in the critical text, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh”(ESV), compared with the received text, “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”(KJV) Still further, what shall we conclude when 1John 5:7 is also considered, which teaches that the Word (that is, Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son) is one with God, being contained in the received text and completely absent from the critical text? The KJV in this place reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” In the ESV it reads … well, nothing … because it is not present in the text. We simply do not have time to look at every problematic reading in the critical text concerning Christology, but there are many more.

When we zoom out and see that a great many of the key Christological passages that teach the eternal sonship of Christ and the divinity of Christ have problematic readings in the critical text, the reading now before us in John 3:16 cannot simply be brushed aside as unimportant or said to have no effect on doctrine. I believe this is the main reason that all the major modern Bible translations completely deviate from the text they are translating and retain the reading, “his only son”, found in the received text and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. To translate the text in front of them would cause serious theological problems and sully the most beloved verse in the Bible.

Conclusion

 Whether it is due to ignorance, self-preservation, or a willingness to burry one’s head in the sand and hide from the dire reality of the situation, most Christians and pastors who use the critical text and translations of them do not acknowledge the truth of Taylor’s statement, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.” If you want a tangible test of the veracity of this claim, I propose the following steps:

  1. If you can read Greek, open up your NA28, UBS5, or Tyndale GNT to John 3:16 and simply read it as it stands in the text, you will immediately notice that the Bible no longer says, “God gave his only begotten son”, as you have so long quoted. If you do not know Greek, grab a black sharpie, open up your ESV, NASB, NET or NIV and fix the translators’ error by returning the text back to the form accepted by the scholars who printed the Greek text your translation is from, cross out the word, “his”, in John 3:16.
  2. As you look down at the page, echo aloud the words of Dr. Dan Wallace, “I do not have now exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if I did, I would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”
  3. If you follow these steps, I assure you that you will not be able to so quickly dismiss Taylor’s assertion, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.

1 John 5:7 and Unbelief

Introduction

I recently read a thorough and fair defense of the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7) which reminded me of how the approach of many Christians in the modern church is absolutely backwards when it comes to Scripture. In today’s world of Modern Textual Criticism, Christians seem to take a backwards approach when seeking to determine if they should accept a textual variant as authentic. The method employed by the author of the linked article demonstrates, in my opinion, how textual data should be viewed, so please read the article prior to this one. In this article, I will comment on the two approaches to textual variation and conclude by explaining why I believe the approach taken by the exemplar author is correct.

Method 1: Modern Textual Criticism

I have spent a great deal of time and word count (222,197 words to be exact) on this blog explaining the methods and theology of the Modern Textual Critics and advocates. I have pointed out, using the words of the textual scholars, that there is no Modern Critical Text, there is no end in sight to the current effort, and adopting the Modern Critical Text means also to reject providential preservation. In all these words, I have yet to describe the approach of the Modern Textual Critic and advocate.

When a defender, advocate, or scholar of the Modern Critical Text approaches a place of textual variation, they do so by first questioning its authenticity. Practically speaking, a variant is to only be questioned if the scholars who produced the NA/UBS platforms have called it into question. That is not to say that others in history haven’t called such texts into question prior to the 20th century, just that these questions are exemplified in the modern critical texts. The reason this is problematic is that there is no consistent application of this skepticism applied to every line of Scripture.

See, the epistemological foundation for the Modern Textual Critic, according to Dan Wallace and his colleagues, is that we don’t have what the authors originally wrote, and even if we did, we wouldn’t know it.

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

Dan Wallace. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

This kind of foundation cannot conveniently stop at our favorite three passages. It must apply uniformly across the whole text of the New Testament. If 200 years of textual transmission which saw such a great change to the text from the “Alexandrian” text form to the “Byzantine” text form, then the first 200 years of textual transmission, of which we have basically zero extant evidence for, could also be equally or more significant. That is to say, our 200 year gap in the manuscript data in the first 200 years of the church is enough of a gap to call into question every single passage of the New Testament. This is the logical end of the Critical Text position. There isn’t a single line of Scripture that can be said to be 100% authentic to the pen of the apostolic writers, according to the Modern Critical Text advocate. This is further evidenced by the fact that there is not a single textual scholar or apologist that will lay claim to any specific percentage or list of authentic passages.

So when an advocate of the Modern Critical Text challenges a textual variant, they do so selectively and arbitrarily. Once they have identified a passage, verse, or word that they do not believe original, the goal is to then “disprove” that the reading was authentic. The text is on trial, and the Modern Critical Text advocate is the prosecutor. It is not a question of “Is this text authentic?”, it is a question of, “Why is this text inauthentic and how did it get there?” If they were consistent, they would apply this same approach to every line of Holy Scripture, and have no evidential reason to accept one reading or another. The evidential foundation for their approach is based upon manuscripts that are dated 200 years or more after the New Testament was written without any supporting evidence that those texts date back to the Apostles. This is the fatal flaw in Modern Textual Criticism – there is nothing that ties their text back to the original, and there never will be. That is why approach matters.

Method 2: Preservationist

In contrast to the first method, the Preservationist perspective approaches places of textual variation with the assumption that the original has been preserved, and it can be easily discerned. The preservation of Scripture did not stop with Codex Vaticanus, it carried on through the middle ages and into the Reformation when the world could finally print and mass distribute texts. There is a reason the vast majority of extant manuscripts do not look like Vaticanus or the Modern Critical Text. The church, through transmission and by God’s providence, kept the text pure. Therefore, if a text made it to the mass distribution era of the church, it had been passed along by the era that came before it. Since the church was by and large divided into two represented by the East and West, the combination of these texts yielded the original. That is why the advent of the printing press, the fall of Constantinople, and the Protestant Reformation is such a significant time in church history. It was the first time the church had authentic texts that were being used in one place with the ability to combine them and distribute them church-wide.

So then, to the Preservationist, the question is not, “Is this text authentic?”, it is, “Why did the people of God understand this to be authentic in time and space?” Thus, the burden of proof is not placed on a smattering of early manuscripts that have been in favor for the last 200 years. The Preservationist’s chief effort then is to support the text that has been handed down, rather than question its validity at every place disagreeable to the Vatican Codex. The assumption is that God preserved the text, and we have it. It is a matter of defending what is in our hands, rather than reconstructing what is not in our hands. Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question. Further, there is no way to validate that any conclusion on a given text speaks conclusively about the original text itself. That is why the current effort is focused on the initial text, not the original. What can be proved is limited to hundreds of years after the Apostles, and even then, “proved” is much stronger language than textual scholars are comfortable with.

1 John 5:7 is a perfect example where the two approaches come to two separate conclusions. Since 1 John 5:7 is thinly represented in the extant manuscript data, the difference in conclusion on the text is really a matter of approach. The Modern Critical Text crowd has already admitted that even if 1 John 5:7 was original, they wouldn’t know it, so any conclusion jumping off from that point is irrelevant. Nothing they determine can actually be concluded by textual data, and so they engage in story telling. “The passage was brought up from a footnote. It was added to bolster the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.” Yet they do so without any direct evidence claiming this is what happened. Strangely enough, these critics also conveniently reject any evidence offering explanation as to why a passage is not in certain manuscripts. The bias in Modern Textual Criticism to favor manuscripts that have been historically rejected is strong.

If we approach this text from a preservationist perspective, we see that the wording is referenced by Tertullian (2nd century), Origen (3rd Century), Athanasius (4th Century), Priscillian (4th Century), Augustine (4th Century), and directly quoted by Cyprian (3rd Century). The direct quotations can be found in this article. This is not the only support for the passage, but it is enough for the preservationist to support 1 John 5:7 as original. It is enough to defend the text we have in hand, and the text handed down to us from the Reformation era. Accepting the Johannine Comma is not an issue of evidence, because the evidence exists. It is a matter of Bibliology and approach.

Just because a manuscript is surviving today does not mean it is the only manuscript to ever have existed. Textual scholars and apologists carry on about how many Bibles were destroyed during times of persecution and war and fail to acknowledge that those destroyed manuscripts could very well have contained the passages they reject today. The abundance of quotes and references to the passage, along with the reception of the text by our Protestant forefathers informs us that manuscripts with the passage existed, we just don’t have them today. Paradoxically, this is not enough for Modern Critical Text advocates to adjust how they approach textual data. The fact that we do not have an abundance of handwritten manuscripts in 2021 should not be a surprise, seeing as handwritten manuscripts of the Bible haven’t been produced or used in over 400 years. The Protestants and those that came after believed 1 John 5:7 to be original, and even claimed that authentic copies in their day had the passage. They even recognize that there was a time where manuscripts did not have the passage. See Francis Turretin commenting on the three major variants still debated today.

“There is no truth in the assertion that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are said to be mutilated; nor can the arguments used by our opponents prove it. Not the history of the adulteress, for although it is lacking in he Syriac version, it is found in all the Greek Manuscripts. Not 1 John 5:7, for although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it…Not Mark 16, which may have been wanted in several copies in the time of Jerome (as he asserts); but now it occurs in all, even in the Syriac version, and is clearly necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Volume 1. 115.

See, an honest scholar would admit that the position of the Protestant and Post-Reformation church was that of the Preservationist. It was that of the TR advocate. Behind closed doors, many prominent modern scholars admit this, they just don’t like it. For more quotations on the passage from historical Protestant theologians, see this article here.

Conclusion

So I argue here in this article that there is a stark difference in approach between the Modern Critical Text advocate and the Preservationist and that the difference in approach is far more significant than the textual data itself. Those in the Modern Critical Text camp are determined to answer “Why is this not Scripture and how did it get in the text?”, whereas the Preservationist says, “This is in our text, how do we support it?” The interesting thing is, that if the Critical Text advocate took the approach of a Preservationist, they would find that the burden of proof they accept for many passages would be enough to accept John 7:53-8:11, Mark 16:9-20, and 1 John 5:7. The issue is not evidence, it is approach.

If you approach a text with the belief that it is not Scripture as the Modern Critical Text crowd does, you will find that it is not Scripture in your eyes. Yet, as with all claims based on extant textual data, there is no warrant to come to any conclusion. That is why the scholars never do. If you approach the text with the belief that it is Scripture, you will find the the evidence to support that claim. Since the belief of the Preservationist is not based on extant data, the extant data is merely a support, not a foundation. The Preservationist recognizes that extant data will never “prove” the Bible. It is a theological position similar to the resurrected Christ. The most important question is not “what evidence do you have?”, it is, “What does the Bible say?” If it is preserved, than the conclusion is that 1 John 5:7 is original. If Scripture is not preserved and needs to be reconstructed, than the conclusion is not only that 1 John 5:7 is inauthentic, but so is all the rest of Scripture. There is nothing conclusive against 1 John 5:7 that cannot also be conclusive against all of the rest of Scripture. This is inevitable considering the significant gap in our extant manuscript data from the apostolic period to the 3rd century.

This is the reality that those who continue to advocate for Modern Textual Criticism do not understand. The Papyri do not give us a complete look at the first 200 years of textual transmission. Not even close. If we use the argument against John 7:53-8:11 from the Papyri against the rest of Scripture, then we lose everything that’s not in the Papyri. For those that do not know much of the Papyri, we essentially wouldn’t have a Bible. If we apply the same approach that the Modern Critical Text advocate applies to 1 John 5:7, there are no texts in the Bible that are safe. If you are tuned into the textual discussion, you know that this is absolutely the case among the elite textual scholars. See this quote from a recent book by Tommy Wasserman and Jennifer Knust on the Pericope Adulterae.

“Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved – the purported meanings of texts also change”

Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15,16.

Do not be mistaken, Christian, the scholars of the Modern Critical Text cannot “prove” any passage, verse, or word of Scripture authentic. Not only that, they openly say they cannot. So then it is a matter of approach, which is determined by theology. What you believe about Scripture will determine what Bible you have in your hands. Do you believe the Bible needs to be reconstructed? You will have in your hands a text that nobody believes represents the original text. Do you believe that the Bible is preserved? You will have in your hands a Bible that was produced by men who believed it was the original text. It is that simple.



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

Introduction

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

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

Show Me the Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

Ibid. 63

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

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

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

Ibid. 95

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Dan Wallace. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

“Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved – the purported meanings of texts also change”

Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15,16.

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

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

The Practical Theology of the Two Textual Positions

Introduction

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

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

The Purpose of Scripture and Theology

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Three Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gurry & Hixson. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

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

Conclusion

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

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

The Textus Receptus: A Defense Against Postmodernism in the Church

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

Introduction

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

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

Postmodernism and the Critical Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical Postmodernism and the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Textus Receptus as a Salve to the Wound of Postmodernism

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

20 Articles That Refute Modern Textual Criticism

Introduction

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

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

Common Claims Made by Critical Text Apologists Answered

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

The Incorrect Category Distinction of Text and Canon

Disclaimer: This article is pretty long. I intended for this to be a short article and it turned into an essay.

Framing the Discussion

Creating distinct categories for the text of the New Testament and the Canon of the New Testament is a theological and logical error because the substance of the Canon is defined by the text. It may be a helpful distinction to make when defining terms, but it does not make sense to handle them separately as different theological categories. It is an error that has been propagated by some of the most highly esteemed scholars within the modern Christian church. This is likely due to the fact that defending the canonical list of books is far more simple than defending the text within those books. It is probably the least controversial theological assertion within textual scholarship, and any disputes over which books belong are outright rejected by the larger Christian church.

The reason scholars must separate the text and canon into separate categories is because if they are not separate, then the current effort and defense of textual criticism is plainly foolish. The basic argument to defend this distinction is that the canon of the Scriptures arrived at an unofficial consensus in the Patristic era of the church while the text never achieved the same consensus. Those in the TR camp assert that this consensus occurred shortly after the arrival of the printing press to Europe.

It seems shocking that those who advocate for the Critical Text advocate for an open text of Scripture, but this is indeed the case. Any endorsement of the ongoing effort of textual criticism which claims to be after “the original” is an admission that the text of the New Testament is not closed. If it was the case that the Critical Text was closed, then there would be no effort of Textual Criticism of the New Testament that was endorsed by Christians.

Interacting with the Argument

The basic argument goes that while we can be certain of the originality of a high percentage of the New Testament, we cannot be absolutely certain. Dan Wallace has framed the most popular version of this argument, which James White employed in his most recent video debate with Pastor Jeff Riddle. The argument goes that while we cannot be absolutely certain of the text of the New Testament, we have no reason to be radically skeptical of the text either. He argues that there is a place somewhere between radical skepticism and absolute certainty when it comes to our Bible. There is a huge problem with this view from logical, theological, and practical perspectives.

Logical Problems with Separating Text and Canon into Separate Categories

Logically, if we say that the canon of Scripture is separate from the text of Scripture, we have to define what exactly makes up the substance of each of these categories. Category distinctions are useless unless we actually define what is in those categories.

In the context of this discussion, these two categories are typically defined as the books of the Bible (canon) and the text of the Bible (text). According to this argument, so as long as the canon is available, the Christian church has “The Bible” in her possession. “The Bible” exists despite the text not being clearly defined. This does not follow, as the substance of the Bible is not simply defined by the names of the books, it includes the text within those books. You would not say that an empty glass which formerly contained orange juice was a glass of orange juice now, simply because at one point there was orange juice in it. You would say it’s an empty glass.

The logical conclusion of this necessarily demands that if you say that we have the Bible (canon), but only have x% of the text, then we really only have x% of the Bible. The glass has some juice in it. See, the Bible is not defined only by the canon, it is defined by the text and the canon in combination. You can’t have a glass of orange juice without the glass and the liquid. That is why this category distinction is logically wrong. You cannot say you have something when the substance which defines that thing is not available.

The person demanding this category distinction is actually making the argument that “The Bible” is something that can be had without a clear definition of the substance which makes up the Bible. Simply put, the category distinction of “text” is made without actually defining what that text is. Using symbols, the argument looks like this:

T = Full Text

C = Full Canon

t = Established places in the text

x = Places of uncertainty within the Text

B = Books of Bible

The TR methodology says that C = T. The canon is made up of words, and without those words, it is not the canon. We have the canon and the text within that canon, therefore we have the Bible.

The Critical Text methodology says that C = B and that T = t + x. The canon is made up of the books, and those books make up the Bible. The Bible has words in it, but we do not need all of them to have the Bible. The Bible is not necessarily defined exactly by the words contained within it.

Since we cannot find the value of t + x empirically, Critical Text apologists make the argument that C = Bible. According to this argument, since we know the names of the books which belong in the canon, we have the Bible. We can “tinker” with the words and the outcome of that tinkering does not change the substance of the Bible, because the Bible isn’t defined by the text. This is the necessary conclusion if the text of the Bible can change while saying that we still have the same Bible we had prior to those changes.

Theological Problems with Separating the Text and Canon into Separate Categories

If the text of the Bible can be “tinkered” with or changed without the Bible changing, the Bible is not fundamentally defined by the text that is within it. This means that any theological statement which affirms that the Bible is the “very Word of God” is wrong. You would have to argue that the original Word of God as it was delivered to the prophets and apostles was the very Word of God when it was penned, and that the text that was delivered then is different from the text we have today. This is essentially what the doctrine of Inerrancy teaches. The original Bible was perfect, but the Bible we have today is not to one degree or another. This is incompatible with any doctrine which adopts any form of Sola Scriptura because according to this theological framework, we do not have the substance of the Scripture which is set forth by the doctrinal statement.

Practical Problems with Separating Text and Canon into Separate Categories

If it is the case that the original manuscripts of the New Testament were perfect, but we no longer have everything those original manuscripts set forth, then practically speaking, we have zero foundation for upholding any sort of Sola Scriptura doctrine as a foundation for all matters of faith and practice. Instead, we would have to adapt this doctrine to state that the Scriptures are sufficient to things pertaining to justification. It is often said, “All Bibles contain what is necessary for somebody to be saved.” This is fundamentally different from all things pertaining to faith and practice. Practically speaking, according to this doctrine, the Christian church today has everything necessary for salvation, and some or most of what they need for practice.

The Amount of Uncertainties Has Not and Cannot Be Defined

It is especially important to press on the fact that whatever percentage of certainty we have in the text of Scripture is necessarily arbitrary if we adopt the Critical Text method. At the time of writing this article, there have been zero attempts to define which words are safely in the text and which are not. So when a proponent of the critical text throws out a number, like 99.9%, it is not backed by any empirical analysis and is by definition arbitrary. If one wanted to actually make a claim like this, he would have to actually set forth a base text in which all of the included words are certain(t), and then present the words that are uncertain(x). If t + x = 1, he would have to define t and x and further make the bold claim that the collection of extant material = 1, or the original. Most modern formulations do not even set t + x = 1, because there is no way of establishing that 1 exists within our extant materials according to the critical text methodology. In actuality, the modern scholars say that .9 < t + x < 1. The problem is this boundary cannot be drawn and cannot be defined by the modern critical methodology, so the argument for any amount of certainty is purely founded on what we might call an “educated guess.”

The reality is, once the distinction between canon and text is made, one must necessarily argue for the preservation of each category on different grounds. The canon is said to be providentially preserved, but the text is not. Since “The Bible” is being defined primarily as the canon, proponents of this argument can claim that “The Bible” has been preserved, despite the substance that makes up the Bible having “many many places” where it is uncertain or unclear. This category distinction is made simply to affirm the doctrine of preservation at face value while really denying the substance of it. At best, this doctrine states that what we have is a partially preserved text, or a quasi-preserved text.

If you have made it this far, I will conclude by summarizing my argument in the simplest possible form. The distinction between text and canon is illogical because the substance of the canon is a necessary part of the definition of the canon itself. Just like an empty glass that formerly had orange juice in it isn’t a glass of orange juice, the books of Scripture that formerly had a completed text in it is not a Bible. The apologists for the critical text say that the glass of orange juice is 99.9% full, but also say that they have no way of telling how full the glass is. In other words, the glass is painted black and an unknown portion of the top of the glass has been sawed off. They have no way of telling how tall the original glass was or how much liquid the glass originally had, just that it has some amount of liquid in it now. They make the assumption that the liquid currently in the glass is at least 90% of the liquid that was originally there, but have no way of actually testing or supporting that hypothesis. They can say that we have a Bible because they can see the glass, but they cannot say what that Bible is because they cannot measure the liquid or even know how much liquid the glass originally held.

In opposition to this view, the traditional view of Scripture is that the canon contains the text, and God has preserved and delivered both to His church, even today.

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 Double Speak of Modern Criticism

Introduction

“Textual criticism is that discipline that tries to recover the original wording of a work whose original documents have now been lost. Since no original document survives for the New Testament and since the existing copies disagree with one another, textual criticism is needed for all 27 books. Since we cannot study, teach, and apply the Bible if we don’t know what it says, textual criticism—whether we know it or not—plays a foundation role in pastoral ministry.”

Gurry, Peter. https://ps.edu/busy-pastor-know-developments-nt-textual-criticism-part-1-new-editions/. 2018.

If you ask the average pastor what is the goal of textual criticism, they will tell you it is the process of finding the original, inerrant text of the Bible. That is largely due to the definitions that modern scholars assign to the discipline and what is communicated in seminaries. The scholars that contribute to the consensus will assure you that even the non-Evangelical sources admit that, “with only a few minor exceptions, we can be confident that the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole reliably report what was originally written.” What they don’t tell you is that those same scholars believe that what was originally written was “a product of developing traditions.” In other words, the definition of “original” is highly co-opted for some other definition.

This is the reason why many well-meaning pastors are still on board with the idea of “Evangelical Text Criticism.” They think, along with most Christians, that there is a group of stalwart scholars trying to find the original Bible. This, without a doubt, is the stated goal of many Evangelical textual scholars, but has no basis in the scholarly works of said scholars. In short, what the scholars desire is not synonymous with what they are actually publishing or doing. While it is true to say that said Evangelical textual scholars desire to find the original wording of the Bible, it is also true that none of them believe this is possible with the current data. The way they get around this conundrum is by asserting theological interpretations of empirical processes. They engage in doublespeak.

Two Opposite Things True at Once

The Evangelical scholars often say that they are in pursuit of the original wording of the text of the New Testament. This is true, if by “in pursuit” we mean, “is emotionally invested in finding the original.” The reality is, in order to actually substantiate this claim, they must add an additional 20 lines of nuance. What the average Christian hears when Evangelical textual scholars talk about the original is that there is a very real, vigorous process that is currently honing in on the final jots and tittles of the Bible that remain uncertain. What is actually going on is the attempt to reconstruct a hypothetical initial text that represents the earliest form of the manuscripts scholars have decided are “earliest and best.” Notice that this doesn’t have anything to do with what is ontologically original.

Since the actual effort that is taking place is not actually being done, for the most part, by the Evangelicals, nothing that they say actually matters all that much. Regardless, let’s suppose that the Evangelicals were in charge of creating the texts that the Bible the average Christian reads are translated from. Even if it were the case that these were the people making Greek Bibles, they wouldn’t be doing so from the standard assumed in the definition they provide of text criticism. In the actual methodology, they admit that they are trying to find a substantially accurate representation of the original Bible, even though there is not a single method that can validate the “substantially” part of that claim.

Assuming that the Evangelicals weren’t just glorified commentators, they wouldn’t be doing what they say that text critical efforts are doing. Objectively, the effort of text criticism is trying to scrape together an early form of a handful of manuscripts that in no way can be verified to be what was originally written. Theologically, they deal with this by saying that what is earliest should be considered original. In other words, the original assumption of “earliest and best” should be considered “as good as original.”

Conclusion

When Evangelical scholars discuss the original text of the New Testament in the context of the actual product that Bibles are translated from, they aren’t actually talking about a word-for-word representation of the original. They are talking about an early form of the text that they assume to be original. This assumption is based on no empirical grounds, and is not warranted by the methodology that created the text itself. So it is comforting for the average pastor and Christian to see that Evangelical text critics desire to find the original, that desire in no way comports with reality. After all, “there are many, many places where the text of the New Testament is uncertain” (Dan Wallace).

This is the doublespeak of Evangelical textual scholars. They will provide a definition of textual criticism, which states the goal of the effort while simultaneously making no effort to actually achieve that goal. Not only does the methodology itself not claim to arrive at a final product, the scholars engaging in the effort are quite open in admitting that they can’t arrive at a final product. So the next time you hear an Evangelical textual scholar talk about the original, remember that the actual work they are doing is an effort to find the earliest possible text, not the original. Any assumptions about that earliest possible text being original is not warranted by the methodology itself. It is fanciful double speak.