Monday, April 06, 2009

The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism part three

In his private notebooks, Jonathan Edwards wrote:

If we look over all the accounts we have of the several nations of the earth, and consider everything that has been advanced by any or all of the philosophers, we can meet with nothing to induce us to think that the first religion of the world was introduced by the use and direction of mere natural reason.

Edwards believed that man's reason and speculations led to "false and ill-grounded notions" of the Creator. In Edward's view, divine revelation alone had provided man with the correct notion of the "true nature and the true worship of the deity." Edwards' was the Christian epistemology until the age of the enlightenment in the 18th century.


The period of the enlightenment was mainly a result of conditions in France and the relationship between the government and Roman Catholicism. The people began to question their ties to religion and the Bible. The French philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau gave the revolution justification for breaking from the old regime. At the core of the enlightenment period was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals. The ideas of this age bled into many other countries, culminating with the writings of Immanuel Kant in Germany and David Hume in Scotland. Kant defined the enlightenment as "man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity," and he went on to write that "religious immaturity is the most pernicious and dishonorable variety of all."

Deductive reasoning is often defined as pre-enlightenment thinking because it's based in the commonly held belief that God created the universe. Inductive reasoning is considered to be the scientific, non-religious formula that gained authority after the enlightenment. This follows from two different types of logic, deductive and inductive. In a deductive argument, the conclusion is said to be true if it follows from the premises. Deductive logic does not appeal to empirical evidence, so long as the premises are true and the argument is valid then the conclusion must be true. On the other hand, inductive logic is concerned with making generalizations about the empirical world based on observation. It is closely connected with experimental science, a particular type of observation. Garth Kemmerling, a well-known professor of philosophy with his PhD from the University of Iowa, writes (2002):

In a deductive argument, the truth of the premises is supposed to guarantee the truth of the conclusion; in an inductive argument, the truth of the premises merely makes it probable that the conclusion is true.

The original method of deductive logic based its premises on the presence of agreed upon truths which led to an otherwise unknowable conclusion. Christians accepted the Bible as the fountainhead for truth, but the enlightenment led to the criticism of the Bible as a dependable and authoritative source for such.

Dialecticism or Hegelianism

The new logic is a combination of deduction and induction in the form of a dialectic. Dialectic is rooted in the ordinary practice of a dialogue between two people who hold different ideas and wish to persuade each other. The aim of the dialectical method is resolution of the disagreement through rational discussion and ultimately the search for truth. At the root of dialecticism is the idea that there is no absolute truth. Truth comes from an ongoing synthesis of a thesis and antithesis to form a new and better thesis.

Most today also call this dialecticism Hegelianism, a philosophy developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and can be summed up by Hegel's philosophy that "the rational alone is real." His thought was that we take a concept where we first find it and combine it with an opposite one to find a higher, truer, richer, and fuller concept. Hegel's influence in the 19th century changed the entire nature of Christian theology by revolutionizing the means by which men acquired their beliefs. The application of his dialecticism led to the challenge of long accepted scriptural truths by historical investigation. New theologies emerged from the synthesis of the Bible and rational inquiry into external sources.

Before Enlightenment and Dialecticism

Before Hegel's dialecticism produced these historic investigations to synthesize with already established truth, men relied on biblical presuppositions to make their theological conclusions. This was the deductive logic mentioned earlier. During the time period preceding the enlightenment, Kurt Aland, world renouned textual critics reports ("The Text of the Church?" in Trinity Journal, Fall, 1987, p.131) a different mindset:

[I]t is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy's doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the 'original text.'

Kurt Aland's wife, Barbara Aland, writes in her book The Text of the New Testament (pp. 6-7):

[T]he Textus Receptus remained the basic text and its authority was regarded as canonical. . . . Every theologian of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (and not just the exegetical scholars) worked from an edition of the Greek text of the New Testament which was regarded as the "revealed text." This idea of verbal inspiration (i. e., of the literal and inerrant inspiration of the text) which the orthodoxy of both Protestant traditions maintained so vigorously, was applied to the Textus Receptus.

Christians before enlightenment believed they had a text verbally, perfectly preserved by God. They based that upon scriptural presuppositions, a logical deduction from promises of God in His Word. You see this position advocated as well in the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession.

The original method of deductive logic was the position of sole scriptura. Christians took their bibliology from Scripture alone. They deduced from biblical promises that God had preserved His Words. They deduced from biblical instruction alone that the Holy Spirit had led the church to all truth. For that reason, they viewed not just the autographa, but the apographa as the very Words of God, verbally inspired. This understanding is reflected in the above quotes of Kurt and Barbara Aland. Pre-enlightenment believers viewed the Bibles in their hands as infallible in line with their sole scriptura.

Textual criticism is not the historic position of sole scriptura. When I've been on the road, I've visited some reformed Baptist churches. Many will have banners decorating their auditorium with the five solas at the front of the auditorium, to announce to anyone who visits their view of the world. The preaching starts and the pastor often begins reading out of the New American Standard Version. I mentally pull down one of his banners from his auditorium wall. He is lying to his people and the visitors either knowingly or ignorantly. He does not have the same epistemology as the history he espouses to represent.

Biblical Criticism, Textual Criticism, and Warfield

Despite the protests of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, Biblical criticism and textual criticism are two bedfellows of post-enlightenment thinking. They come out of the same philosophical underpinnings. What does Biblical criticism do? It says Scripture isn't trustworthy, not sufficient, and not good enough. It adds to the thesis of the Bible the antithesis of man's reasoning, science, and observations. The latter is the inductive logic relied upon post-enlightenment. I know that most conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists would want to reserve that category for solely the liberals.

Not so. Consider what Mark Noll writes in his book, Faith and Criticism, concerning Hodge and Warfield:

Hodge and Warfield, on the other hand, profess more willingness to let "induction" take its course and (perhaps) to doubt what merely appears to be "the plain implication" of biblical passages. For them, the recovery of the texts "in all their real affirmations" is the key. They stress that the books of the Bible "were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or human history as such," and that the writers depended on "sources and methods themselves fallible."

You should read the whole section here to get the flavor of it. Well, were Hodge and Warfield liberals? So what happened to them here? Of course, they were influenced by post-enlightenment empiricism and dialecticism. Noll continues on p. 29:

Theologians acquainted with recent scholarship advanced sophisticated arguments in defense of infallibility and of conservative literary conclusions. In this effort, B. B. Warfield led the way. His work was both negative, to strip concepts of "inerrancy" of mechanical or dualistic connotations, and positive, to affirm the right of critical, scientific study of the Bible within reasonable confessional guidelines.

What Warfield did was overturn the whole concept of infallibility as was believed by centuries of Christians. He created a new position that applied the newly coined word of "inerrancy" to only the original manuscripts. Why?

Christians believed that their Bibles were perfect, in the original languages identical to the autographa. Then began the scientific inquiry into the external evidence. Men began searching for copies. These scholars compared the manuscripts and found variations. They found older manuscripts with even more differences. Influenced again by the Hegelianism, they took the original thesis based on the truth of Scripture and combined it with their reasoning and observations to invent modern textual criticism. The old source of authority was no longer trustworthy or sufficient. It wasn't alone good enough.

The dialectic of Warfield was in view in his combining the Genesis account with evolution to form theistic evolution. Warfield's dogmatics were apparent as he agreed with the Westminister Confession that the New Testament text had been “kept pure in all ages” by God’s “singular care and providence,” but in the realm of New Testament textual criticism he agreed with Westcott and Hort in ignoring God’s providence. He staggered at the science of textual criticism.

Warfield bridged the gap between historically accepted scriptural truth and human observation by suggesting that God had worked providentially through Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort to restore the New Testament text. Of course, none of these claims anything at all like what one reads about the doctrine of preservation in Scripture. Warfield's dialectic leads to conclusions which are extremely bizarre and inconsistent---the text used by the Protestant Reformers was the worst of all, the true text was not restored until post-enlightenment, when Tregelles exumed it from the Pope’s library (Vaticanus) and Tischendorf rescued it from a waste basket on Mt. Sinai (Sinaiticus).

Out of these same conclusions Westcott and Hort did their work in the mid to late 19th century by using rules of textual criticism that were also applied to any other secular manuscript. They were considered to be scientific laws of literary forensics that would identify the text closest to the original. Concerning the work of Westcott and Hort, Mark Noll, no critic of the two, wrote (Faith and Criticism, p. 69):

Yet their work as a whole pushed further into the background the older view of the Bible as a divine gift from heaven.

The older view was the view of deductive logic, starting with scriptural presuppositions. The newer one was that of induction, combining the thesis of scripture with the antithesis of human reasoning and observation to produce a critical text of the New Testament with no claim to perfection either verbally or even theologically.


mike said...

Well, Kent, once again, the more I read your work, the more I agree with you both theologically and philosophically.

The question for me continues to be historical. That is: "Is the text of the 16th -18th centuries identical with the original text?" As far as I can tell that's a historical question rather than a theological one (unless you have an explanation otherwise).

And if the answer to that question is "No" - and I think it is, then it is just as much Erasmus and Beza who "added" and "removed" words and verses from the Bible as it is Metzger, Aland & Aland, Wallace, and all the others.

Kent Brandenburg said...


If you agree with me historically and theologically, then you must also believe like the pre-enlightenment theologians, who believed that preservation was settled in the textus receptus.

Anonymous said...

Brother Brandenburg,
Once again I want to thank you for writing what is a simple, very important explanation of the differences between the TR & the CT positions.
In seminary we were taught [without explanation as to why] that "higher criticism" was unacceptable, but that "lower criticism" was a great thing. Yet, both are based upon rationalism.
This is the very reason that I reject the "Majority Text". It takes the textual evidence that the churches have preserved, but then uses a rationalistic approach to come up the "inspired & preserved" text.
Perhaps you could - for the edification of our CT friends - make a simple list of the BIBLICAL principles of textual criticism. For example: as opposed to "the shortest reading is preferred" & "the oldest is preferred", we would have principles like, "the reading most commonly used by NT churches is the best, I Timothy 3:15", & "the reading of the Masoretic Text trumps the reading of the LXX, Romans 3:2", etc.
What do you think?
G. Webb

mike said...

Hmmm, we do part ways there. I missed that implication of what you wrote. I believe that the pre-enlightenment theologians believed that, but:

1) I have no reason to believe that they were necessarily correct. I have a feeling that both of us would be quick to say that none of the pre-enlightenment theologians were inerrant in their theology and beliefs

2) I find the TR, as a text, rather disconcerting. Erasmus as he worked from the hand full of manuscripts he had access to regularly and consistently were the manuscripts disagreed, followed the reading closest to the Vulgate (!) and put the reading he viewed as correct in the margin. So while Vaticanus may have come from the Vatican library, the TR is actually just as much as Catholic text (big "c") as it is, if not more so - not to mention the fact that Erasmus himself was Catholic.

Anyway, if you're near a library, Beyond What Is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectoral Critics of the New Testament is an illuminating book on the work that those two scholars did.

Kent Brandenburg said...

G. Webb,

Good idea on the biblical principles in a list in contrast to the list or man-invented rules of textual criticism. Of course, those are the presuppositions that lead us to the correct Words.


You've read the epistemology that I've presented here and you've agreed with it, unless I've got you wrong. My conclusions are based on the correct epistemology. If that is your epistemology, you have to stick with its conclusions. Those conclusions are really not about our comfort and our fitting in with another more popular epistemological approach. Either it is correct or it isn't. If you don't like it's conclusions, you don't pick a new one that will fit the conclusions that you want to have. That's what it seems you are doing.

You are trusting a whole lot in your skills at interpreting what you think is evidence, that is, the biography of Erasmus and the notes of Bezae. You can't extrapolate an evidentialistic position on pre-enlightenment non-evidentialists. I know about the position that Bezae involved himself in conjectural emendation. That is not a blow worthy of staggering in unbelief. I recognize I'm typing a short, simplistic answer, but this is the comment thread of a blog, not a full-fledged paper.

I will be answering more of this kind of thing in installments four and five or six, depending on when I'm settled that it is good to stop.

Lamblion said...

One quick comment on the so-called "Majority Text."

This is a pure red-herring, just like the uninformed statements of those who say, "which TR?"

Wallace demonstrated once again how ignorant he is of the actual evidence by stating that there were about 2,000 differences between the Majority Text and the TR.

As usual, wrong again. By light-years.

The so-called Majority Text is culled from Von Soden's collation. That includes the H&F Majority Text and the R&P Majority Text.

BOTH are culled fromo Von Soden's collation.

Von Soden's collation employed a grand total of 414 manuscripts in this category. That means a grand total of 414 manuscripts out of WELL OVER 5,000 manuscripts.

Furthermore, out of those 414 manuscripts, only about 200 of them were even REMOTELY collated with any degree of coverage. In other words, more than half of the 414 manuscripts were only very partially collated.

Now, divide 200 by 5000 and see what you come up with. If you want to be liberal, divide 414 by 5000.

Either way, the absurdity becomes quickly apparent.

So much for the so-called "Majority Text", and so much, once again, for MODERN biblical scholarship.

This is just ONE of the reasons why this generation of biblical scholars will go down as the most inept and incompetent generation of biblical scholars in the history of Christianity.

mike said...


As I see it, there is a distinct and unfilled gap between your epistemology as described in the past three posts and the acceptance of the TR as the original text. And you've given me very little reason as to why I should leap across that gap.

I said nothing about Beza's work on the text at all. Everything I said was about Erasmus and the Vulgate, which has very little to do with interpretation because its quite clearly historically documented. I'm not extrapolating anything. We know that

1) Erasmus used multiple manuscripts.
2) Those manuscripts did not agree.
3) Erasmus preferred to followed the Vulgate in his text.

The only one of those facts that could at all be debated is #3 and it would be quite easy to determine whether its true.

Our differences are not epistemological, but historical.

I completely believe in the doctrine of preservation, but I cannot see how it logically follows that a text that didn't exist until the 16th century is the one that God preserved.

The first issue, Preservation, is a theological question about which we agree. The second issue, the TR, is a historical question about which we do not agree.

Anyway, I continue to hope that you might fill the gap in your upcoming posts, so that I don't have to leap over it.

Lamblion said...


I don't know how to contact you privately so could you please email me at --

comments (at) lamblion (dot) net

I would like to ask you about the methods you use to publish your books.

If you don't want to type in the email address you can go to my website from the link in my name above and then click on the "contact" button.

Anonymous said...

Looking at my calender I believe it is that time of year ....again.