Monday, February 09, 2009

The Paradigm for Preservation of Scripture

We open the cover of our Bible and the first page is a test of faith. Why? No one was there. We have no way of knowing Genesis 1:1 was true, except for the Word of God. Should we interpret what we see in the world based upon what Scripture says or should we interpret the Bible based on what we see in the world? Do we go ahead and accept the Genesis account of origins, even if it reads against our own reasoning?

Kevin Bauder, dean of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, recently wrote in his In the Nick of Time an interesting thought experiment that I believe illustrates this paradigm:

Imagine that God comes to you with the announcement that He has just created an entirely new world, and He wants to show it to you. You agree, and in an instant you are transported into that world. At first you marvel at its beauty, but then you begin to notice phenomena that strike you as odd.

First, you notice that many of the trees in this world are already fully grown. Then you notice that they are surrounded by saplings and young trees in various stages of growth. You even notice seeds hanging on branches and, in some cases, lying on the ground. Plant life exists at every stage of development.

Then you notice that the world is populated by animals and birds. Many of these appear to be mature creatures, but you also notice their young. You find yourself surrounded by calves and foals and chicks and cubs of every sort. With a bit of investigation, you discover that there are already birds’ nests, and that some of them have eggs in them. Animal life exists at every stage of development.

As you wander, you discover a canyon with a river at the bottom. In the sides of the canyon you can plainly see the various layers of rock. You know that these geological strata are supposed to take many years to form. Geological formations exist at every stage of development.

As night falls, you cast your gaze toward the heavens. You behold a spangled expanse that is brighter and more piercing than any you’ve ever seen. But then you recall that this world is supposed to be less than a day old. Since stars are supposed to be light-years away, you wonder how you could be seeing them already. Yet you behold astral phenomena at every stage of development.

If you had no other source of information, you would assume that this world had been in existence for ages, not for mere hours. Interpreted within your normal frame of reference, the facts indicate an old world. At this point you must make a choice. You may choose to interpret the facts within your normal frame of reference and believe in an ancient world, or you may accept what the Creator said, and then search for some other interpretation of the facts.

This choice can never be made on the basis of the evidence itself. The evidence is what requires explanation. It does not explain itself. If you know that the Creator is capable of making Himself understood, and if you know that the Creator means to be understood and does not deceive, then you will believe in a young creation. If, on the other hand, you choose to interpret the evidence according to your normal assumptions, then you must conclude that perhaps the Creator is mistaken, or that He means to mislead, or perhaps that He is incapable of expressing Himself; at any rate, His words must be construed differently than He plainly intended.

Bauder ends his essay with this:

Christians must begin with an absolute commitment to the infinite-personal, faithful, apseudes God. This God can and does say exactly what He means. What He affirms is always true. Since the Bible is always His Word, it may always be trusted in anything that it asserts. The Bible is never to be interpreted by the facts of general revelation. On the contrary, the Bible itself communicates the grand context, the Truth (with a definite article and a capital T), the framework within which all facts must be interpreted.

Once we have presupposed the truth of Scripture, the facts remain interesting to us. We will certainly attempt to explain them. But our explanation never begins from some detached or neutral starting point. It certainly never begins with an assumption that facts are transparent or self-explanatory. We take God at His word.

Christians must never interpret facts from a position of autonomy. To do so is the essence of arrogance. Rather, humble submission to the Word of the Creator is the starting place for a right understanding of the world. When the Lord God speaks, His Word alters the entire frame of reference within which the facts are to be understood. A newly created world may look ancient but still be young. A divinely inspired text may look as if it had been produced like other literature, yet remain unique in its truthfulness. We can only know what a thing is if we are willing to begin by accepting what God says about it.

The approach Bauder describes for origins should be ours in any matter where we are not present to observe physical evidence. Much of what God expects for us depends on us believing what He said without any tangible proof. Jesus made this point in Luke 5 when he forgave the sins of a paralytic who was lowered before Him through the roof. He asked this question of the doubtful Pharisees and scribes (v. 23):

Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?


It was easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee. It was easier to say because anyone could say those words and no one would know if they had actually occurred or not. There would be no proof that his sins were forgiven, because you couldn't see anything. It was much more difficult to say, "Rise up and walk," because everyone would know whether those words were credible. Of course, Jesus then heals the man, so that they would know that his sins were forgiven him. However, we're supposed to believe Jesus did something that we couldn't see, just because He said so. Believers don't need the sign that followed. They can believe something Jesus said, whether they had any other proof of it or not.

The story in Luke 5 illustrates again the paradigm for accepting the preservation of Scripture. God didn't promise that He would provide all the evidence that we need to believe. He didn't promise that for inspiration either. We weren't there when God inspired Scripture. We weren't there when the men wrote the Words. Most likely none of us have seen the original manuscripts. We don't know of anyone alive who has seen them.

What we believe must fit what we read the Bible saying about its own preservation. If our view of the evidence and our own reasoning doesn't fit what Scripture says, then we go ahead and believe God's Word and reject our view of evidence and our own reasoning. Not believing doesn't please God.

I guess that brings me to the typical strawman. The Bible doesn't say that God would preserve the King James Version. I want everyone that uses that argument right now to understand that it insults everybody's intelligence. We all know that Scripture doesn't say that.

The Bible does say things, however, that would have us reject the critical text. It says things that would have us expect general accessibility of God's Words. It says things that would have us expect perfection. It says things that would have us believe that God was at work in preservation. It says things that would have us believe that God preserved every Word and all of them---not physical pages without variants, but the Words. It says things that would have us believe that the Holy Spirit would be at work to ensure that we know what those Words are. It says things that would ensure us that we would not have to restore the text of Scripture but to receive it. That is the paradigm that we should follow for our belief in the preservation of Scripture.

What do you think it is like for God to tell us exactly how He created the world and yet we don't believe Him? Why not? Because we don't have any physical evidence or eyewitnesses for the origin of all things. What do you think it is like for God to tell us that He would preserve every Word so that all people for every generation could obey every One of those Words, but we won't believe Him? Why not? Because we don't have enough physical evidence to believe that, so we "believe" in textual criticism instead.

21 comments:

Philipians 2:5-11 said...

Christians must begin with an absolute commitment to the infinite-personal, faithful, apseudes God.

What is an "apseudes"?

I tried google to no avail.

very good article. I will willing,albeit grudgingly, admit that while I am KJV and a preservationist. I am not 100% how to articulate it.

I am learning although and you are helping. I appreciate this Bro Brandenburg.

R/S

Bro Steve

Gal 2.20

Damien said...

What exactly do you mean by "general accessibility"? Because those of us on the non-KJVO side would probably agree that the words have always been generally accessible throughout history. The difference is that we believe they are still generally accessible, whereas you're saying that now we're blessed with a more specific text, no? And also, how much does evidence play a role in determining which Bible it is? Because I could fully agree with this post and still say, "therefore, the NASB is God's only true Word, despite the evidence against it." Well maybe not quite like that but my point is you still have to go outside the Bible to come up with the KJV position.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Steve,

apseudes---faithful, true, reliable.

Damien,

We have no originals. We have no copies before AD220. We are 150 years removed from the originals with our copies. We have the absence of evidence, so what took place in those years?

Scripture says perfection. Scripture says availability. We live by every Word. We receive every Word. Believers agreed on the TR. The critical text wasn't available, so it doesn't fit the paradigm.

Damien said...

But they didn't agree with the 1894 Scriviner TR! You know that and I think that's what you mean by "general" accessibility. so the only difference is a matter of degree. The current TBS TR is probably 1% or less different than Erasmus first edition, but since the CT is 2-5% different, it's no good. what do you do with readings that weren't "available" prior to certain centuries? and the evidence for that is not just in the manuscripts but quotes as well. I know what you're saying about scriptural presuppositions. .but they can be wrong. I have scriptural presuppositions of my own - Jesus and the apostles had no problem quoting from a version different than the Hebrew OT, which tells me that they didn't see things the way you do. I see a promise of the endurance of God's word, but not a promise of verbal, plenary preservation. I believe many non-KJVO authors have articulated things similar to this but it seems those on your side will constantly claim that we don't have a theory of preservation or we don't start with the Bible. Well, we do. Sorry it differs from your theory. . .but we can still be friends.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm glad you commented again, because I obviously didn't explain accessibility/availability well enough. It has nothing to do with the printed edition period. I say general accessibility because it must be accessible enough that a believer could read it if he wanted to do that. I'm mainly speaking about the hand-copying period where not everyone had each book in their town, during those early centuries of copies and even more. Availability doesn't mean printed edition in a binding with all 66 books.

The CT wasn't available during hundreds of years for God's people and particular years where copies of the Bible was plenteous and all over. You know that. There is actually 7% difference by words between the CT and the TR. It isn't a matter of degree here. And you are saying that because we didn't have Scrivener's, we didn't have those Words. That's wrong. They translated from something and we can look at what it was.

You also still don't get, it doesn't seem, that we're talking about Words, not the one perfect, hard, hand copy without variants. That is what Scripture teaches---preservation of Words---not the parchment or the ink.

Now you are telling me that your presupposition is a presupposition of errors. That contradicts quite a few passages of Scripture. You would do better to harmonize what Jesus did with those promises of perfection. He was targumming the Hebrew text, like we often do while teaching. We don't say the whole verse, but part of the verse and the particular doctrinal point from the verse.

Damien said...

he wasn't targumming. i remember you saying that before. nice theory, but it flies in the face of what the text says. it (Luke 4)specifically says he opened the book (or scroll), read from it, and sat down.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Nice try for you too, because if your read Luke 4 (I'm in Luke 5 on Wednesday nights right now), He comes from at least two separate Old Testament texts---Isaiah 61:1-2a and then Isaiah 58:6d. I have not doubt that He read (because it says so), but He was obviously targumming there.

Several commentators affirm Christ's employment of the Targum, including Geldenhuys who states: "As far as we know, He read in Hebrew and translated into Aramaic, the common spoken language at that time." G. Dalman finds reflections of the traditional Aramaic paraphrase (Targum) in the present passage in Luke [4:18 ff.]. Norval Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ, Co., 1979), p. 167. Cf. also Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1992), p. 155; Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, Luke (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publ., 1990), p. 73; and William Manson, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Luke (London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1955), p. 41.

This is from the Encyclopedia Britannica. It explains it. You say "theory," but I say explanation that harmonizes with a high view of inspiration and preservation.

Kent Brandenburg said...

http://www.bible-researcher.com/aramaic3.html

I'm even referring to a site where the operator doesn't agree with me. I'm just giving you a resource on targumming.

Damien said...

what He reads in Luke 4 is identical with the Septuagint. I've checked that for myself. (is your position that there was no Septuagint before the 1st century?). Compare it if you haven't.
If Jesus read from a targum wouldn't that prove that He endorsed a paraphrase seeing He referred to it as scripture?
I don't believe that He targummed Himself. The text is plain. It doesn't even say, "and Jesus said." It says, He found the place where it was written. .
So Luke records what was written. I think the words are typically in red because we assume He read verbatim. But the point isn't so much what He said - it is what He was reading. He was able to authoritatively read from something that is not equivalent to our Hebrew text.
the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary says it was from the Septuagint, as does this link, http://www.bible-researcher.com/quote01.html - from the same website you offered, in which the author says Luke followed the septuagint interpretation.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Damien,

You say that He quoted from the Septuagint. Presently we have no "the Septuagint." I haven't read anyone who would not agree that any version of the Septuagint is corrupt. Myself and those who believe like me, are not the only ones who say that the Christian translators of the Hebrew OT into the New used the quotations of Jesus in the New Testament as a basis for their own translations of the Old Testament. We read this in Invitation to the Septuagint by Jobes and Silva. You see, you're going to have a difficult time saying that Jesus used the Septuagint when on a large number of occasions, the text of Jesus in the NT does agree with the OT text. Sometimes it doesn't agree with the Hebrew or the Septuagint. What then?

I like the Jobes-Silva interpretation, as it harmonizes with a high view of inspiration and preservation, in fitting with the passages that teach these doctrines.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Oh, and your view justifies a corrupt Bible. That would seem to clash with a view of verbal inspiration and the authority of Scripture.

Damien said...

Kent,

whew. . this going back and forth is interesting.

you sort-of asked a question, so i'll comment on that, and then you take the last word, it's your blog.

you said that sometimes the text employed by Christ doesn't agree with either the Hebrew or the LXX, so what then? I'm interested in your answer, actually. I feel the burden lies mainly on those who say we must cling to one text and reject the others.

My personal view is Christological: Christ didn't reject variant readings, neither do I. I believe the Word is found generally in the variety of translations today as well as throughout history. Sometimes Christ paraphrased, added a phrase, rearranged words, or omitted words. But these times He still refers to His quotes as the scriptures or the Word of God. I believe the Word of God is his revelation, generally speaking, and it transcends even the scriptures (writings). The scriptures have been preserved to give us a reliable testimony of the Word of God.

Damien said...

sorry i just caught the last comment. believing that what we have today is not absolutely inerrant like the originals has no bearing on the originals. God is perfect, He verbally inspired the scriptures, the scriptures, as originally given, were perfect. I don't deny that - it's a blatant biblical teaching.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Damien,

I hear all the time that the TR guys don't answer questions. They won't answer your questions...etc., etc. I've found the same thing with CT guys. They don't always answer my questions. It is a moot point.

Regarding the times it doesn't agree with either, it doesn't because Jesus wasn't either quoting it precisely or He was targumming. That explanation covers all the usages. Those who date an early LXX do so based on one letter that is extremely doubtful that it gives any proof of a Septuagint any earlier than the second century.

He does refer to his usage of the OT as still being written, yes, which would fit into my belief in perfection. "It is written" perfect passive of grapho, says that what was completed originally also remains. If it was written and wouldn't be preserved as written, He would have used the aorist tense.

I don't think the burden is on me. I gave answers that reflect what the Bible teaches on preservation. What I get from multiple versionists are several problems for which the burden of proof is upon them.\
1) The preservation texts clash with their understanding of the apographa.
2) Their understanding of these preservation texts is new.
3) Their understanding of the doctrine of preservation is new and clashes with the historic position.
4) They have Jesus quoting from a corrupt translation of the OT. That is wrought with problems for both the doctrine of inerrancy and verbal inspiration.

In 2 Timothy 3:15, Scripture are the temple copies. They aren't the originals. In that context, the copies are said to be inspired, every graphe, none missing. And all the Words are a basis of doctrine, correction, etc. It is assumed that we would have all the Words to live by, just like Mt. 4:4.

The Puritan said...

John Owen, in the 17th century, put an entire chapter in his only Latin work (translated for the first time in 1993 or thereabouts) Biblical Theology absolutely sticking a satirical dagger into anyone who believes in a 'Septuagint'. And he does it in the context of these manuscript issues. In fact he does it in a way that mirrors the same debate going on today. The back-translating, the spuriousness of the LXX, the ridiculous arguments made for it being genuine. Critical Text champions try to act like these views are somehow new to the 20th century.

reglerjoe said...

A few slow-pitch questions for the sake of us in the minors:

1. What is the difference between the TR and the Majority Text and how are they related?

2. So...there is no actual LXX?

3. Can one be TR/MT only and not be KJVO?

4. Is the only manuscript difference between the MT and the CT the inclusion of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the CT?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Joe!

You're no slo-pitch or minor, but I appreciate the self-depreciation. I cut and pasted the questions.

1. What is the difference between the TR and the Majority Text and how are they related?

The TR was once called the Majority Text until a text called the Majority Text came out about 20 or so years ago. The Majority of the existing Greek manuscripts of the NT are from the Byzantine empire, the Byzantine manuscripts, which happen to be where Paul started a number of his churches (look at where the seven churches of Rev. 2 & 3 are). Those manuscripts were the ones available when the TR editions were put together. They also agree with one another than any other manuscript type. What is called The Majority Text today sort of tries to put together all the words that agree with each other in those manuscripts. I call it the Math Greek Text, because their strategy is counting. Unfortunately, all of the Byzantine manuscripts haven't even been collated, so that it could in no way represent the Majority Text. The TR comes from those Byzantine manuscripts.

2. So...there is no actual LXX?

Silva and Jobes in their Invitation to the Septuagint write: "Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the Septuagint. This may seem like an odd statement in a book entitled Invitation to the Septuagint, but unless the reader appreciates the fluidity and ambiguity of the term, he or she will quickly become confused by the literature."

They also write: "The term Septuagint, which has been used in a confusing variety of ways, gives the inaccurate impression that this document is a homogeneous unit."

3. Can one be TR/MT only and not be KJVO?

I am not technically KJVO, because I believe that we have other translations from the TR/MT (masoretic text) in other languages. However, I don't mind being called KJVO because I know they are using it as a pejorative, knowing that it will lump me with the English double inspirationists and preservationists. They don't care in being accurate on this. In the English language, I believe the churches have agreed on the KJV as their translation from the preserved text of Scripture. If we're going to change, it should not be a decision made by men who do not even prefer the KJV or the TR/MT or believe in preservation.

4. Is the only manuscript difference between the MT and the CT the inclusion of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the CT?

The MT in my abbreviation system is Masoretic Text, not Majority Text. There is much more difference than Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. There is also Old Testament textual criticism which includes the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint.

Did you know that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus differ the number of times as there are verses in the NT?

Thanks for asking Joe.

Terry McGovern said...

Kent,

I appreciate your defense of the Bible. The simplicity of the argument for perfect presevation is too often lost in our day of intellecualism. Much the same way many people will even miss out on salvation itself.

reglerjoe said...

okay. still processing info...

More Q's:

1. "Majority Text" and "Received Text" refer to different texts? Which is better and why?

2. Is there one, settled "Critical Text"? When people refer to the CT are they referring to one, homogenized text?

3. Are there any extant LXX?

4. Were the Dead Sea Scrolls Masoretic or LXX or both? If there were Masoretic texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls, then wouldn't it make sense to assume that that is what Jesus used? Is the Lord's usage of the LXX an assumption based on similarities only? Do any patristics purport the usage of the LXX by Jesus and the Apostles?

Kent Brandenburg said...

1. "Majority Text" and "Received Text" refer to different texts? Which is better and why?

Received Text is better because it was the text received by the churches. There is no majority text in the sense that those who produced a "majority text" mean it.

2. Is there one, settled "Critical Text"? When people refer to the CT are they referring to one, homogenized text?

There is definitely no settled critical text. It is constantly changing and there are various versions of it.

3. Are there any extant LXX?

There are various LXX about which we are still unsure about. They have different words and disagree with each other.

4. Were the Dead Sea Scrolls Masoretic or LXX or both?

The DSS are their own separate Hebrew text. The LXX is Greek.

If there were Masoretic texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls, then wouldn't it make sense to assume that that is what Jesus used?

The DSS weren't used by Jesus.

Is the Lord's usage of the LXX an assumption based on similarities only?

I haven't heard or read otherwise. It is an interesting question though.

Do any patristics purport the usage of the LXX by Jesus and the Apostles?

I can't answer that question. It's an interesting question though.

reglerjoe said...

Kent,

Regarding the Schaap versus Fugate controversy, I would be interested in reading your refutation of some of the things mentioned in Fugate's "Church Bus News".

Not that you weren't busy enough...