Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism part four

I was in a hotel in southern California last week and the USA Today newspaper showed up in the hallway in front of the door to my room. I paged through it until I got to an article in the opinion section, entitled Fightin' Words. It was a positive review of Bart Ehrman's book Jesus, Interrupted. I'm settled that Ehrman is scourge of the earth. What most sealed that for me in this column was this quote:

Ehrman's central message is that the New Testament is a human book, written by different people in different situations with different audiences and different objectives. Is this a bid to disabuse believers of their Christianity? Absolutely not, Ehrman says.

What a bold-faced lie. He knows exactly what he's doing. That's all that he wants to do, that is, pull people away from Christianity, well, besides making money and being the beloved pseudo-scholar of the atheist and Islamic. He more than others, because of his background in evangelicalism, understands that he is trying to get people to forsake Christ. I'm thinking that his chair at UNC motivates him to say he isn't trying to get people (college kids) to leave Christianity (that would be a separation of church and state issue too, wouldn't it?).

With all that being said, a recent debate between James White and Bart Ehrman revealed only minutiae of differences between the two in their approach to the preservation of Scripture---they both have about the same view. They differ greatly as to the conclusions to be made, but their differences on preservation itself aren't much. James White and Daniel Wallace are about the same too and here's what Daniel Wallace said in an interview about textual criticism:

I have quite a few heroes! Colwell for his method; Metzger for his learning and insights; Fee for his ability to burst bubbles with data; Tischendorf for his dogged determination in search of manuscripts; Kurt Aland for his vision for INTF; Jerome and Origen for their handling of the textual variants in the pursuit of truth; Sturz for his humility. The list is endless, frankly. I could add Michael Holmes, Bart Ehrman, . . . .

Bart Ehrman is a hero to Wallace. He said it. There are some strong similarities between Ehrman and Wallace. Ehrman assumes the Bible must not be true if God promised preservation, because he's looked at the evidence and that ruins everything about Christianity for him. Wallace has also shaped his view of inerrancy around evidence. Ehrman kept what he thought Scripture said, looked at evidence, and apostatized his beliefs completely. Wallace looked at evidence and then changed what he believed about Scripture. Both have allowed evidence to alter their beliefs. Wallace has said:

Up until the last few years, I would say—and have said—that the practice of textual criticism neither needs nor deserves any theological presuppositions. For example, I am not convinced that the Bible speaks of its own preservation. . . . As for the broader realm of the integration of theology and scholarship, . . . sometimes that pursuit seems to be in conflict with bibliology. My own views on inerrancy and inspiration have changed over the years. I still embrace those doctrines, but I don’t define them the way I used to. The evidence has shaped my viewpoint . . . . What I tell my students every year is that it is imperative that they pursue truth rather than protect their presuppositions. . . . When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines start to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down. . . . The irony is that those who frontload their critical investigation of the text of the Bible with bibliological presuppositions often speak of a ‘slippery slope’ on which all theological convictions are tied to inerrancy. Their view is that if inerrancy goes, everything else begins to erode. I would say that if inerrancy is elevated to the status of a prime doctrine, that’s when one gets on a slippery slope.

Since Wallace starts with evidence, which is in his case the textual variants and then the theories that he believes in, he submits his view of preservation and inerrancy to evidence to arrive at what he believes about the perfection of Scripture. He suggests that in order not to push the eject button on Christianity like Ehrman, everyone should dumb down their doctrine so as to spare themselves the falling away from the Christian faith, essentially adjusting Christian doctrine to external evidence.

What Wallace has done isn't anything different than what Benjamin Warfield did to come to his view of an old earth and a day-age creation account. He also revised the meaning of the Westminster Confession because of similar concerns as those communicated above by Wallace. Warfield was also afraid that once men saw variants, they would sort of freak out theologically and not hang on any longer to what they believed. Warfield also had history to deal with, so like is often the case with modern historians, he revised the history of the doctrine of preservation and extrapolated new beliefs for the reformers and the post-reformation divines. We call this revisionist history (sometimes also called politically correct history). Now Warfield's belief, altered by evidence, also had a "history." D. G. Hart and John R. Muether write:

For a variety of historical reasons American Presbyterians throughout the nineteenth century were fully committed to the Enlightenment and scientific methods as the surest means for arriving at truth. Though still believing in the authority of Scripture, the best—or at least the most widely accepted—way of demonstrating the truth of the Bible was by appealing to reason and Scripture's harmony with nature and the self-evident truths of human experience. Even though the Presbyterian theologians who taught at Princeton Seminary, such as Charles Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, believed in and defended the sinfulness of man, including human reason, their fundamental acceptance of the Enlightenment also produced apologetics that in many cases deemed the mind to be a reliable and authoritative guide to truth, including the truths of the Bible.

What Presuppositions?

James White in his debate with Ehrman decries Ehrman's unbelieving presuppositions. The USA Today article makes mention of this:

One of Ehrman's chief critics is the theologian and author James White, a leading practitioner of apologetics, the branch of theology devoted to defending and proving the orthodox faith. White denounces Ehrman as an apostate guided by deep anti-Christian bias. He charges in one Internet post that Ehrman has "moved far beyond the realm of his narrow expertise in his last three most popular books, all of which are designed to do one thing: destroy Christian faith."

This was White's biggest point in the debate. It was really all he had to debate, since they were both in such agreement on textual criticism. The key phrase from White in USA Today is "an apostate guided by deep anti-Christian bias." He is saying that Ehrman shouldn't be guided by theological bias in his view of the text. White and Wallace would say that they don't have a theological bias at all, only Ehrman. I again point you to these words from Daniel Wallace:

Evangelicals tend to allow their doctrinal convictions to guide their research. It is better to not the left hand know what the right hand is doing: methodologically, investigate with as objective a mind as possible, allowing the evidence to lead where it will.

Wallace's statement agrees with the idea of not having a theological bias in our approach to the text. Of course, this isn't the historic position, the one recorded in the Westminster Confession and London Baptist Confession, but it is the view of textual critics. The biblical and historic Christian approach to the preservation of scripture, and, therefore, the identity of the New Testament text, has been guided by biblical presuppositions, so a presuppositional epistemology.

Bart Ehrman, even by testimony of White and Wallace, is one of the foremost textual critics in the world. Ehrman comes to his conclusions through evidence. Since they themselves do not rely on scriptural presuppositions, White and Wallace must rely on evidence to overturn Ehrman. Credentials are an important factor in modern textual criticism. White and Wallace aren't as credentialed as Ehrman. That hurts any argument they make in a world that depends on credentials.

White and Wallace live and die by textual criticism, since they both hang on it so absolutely. Textual criticism, as a science, turns and shifts. New discoveries and then conclusions are made. Consensus is reached in the scientific community. We can see a new kind of paradigm being reached in the textual criticism world. The outstanding textual critics seem to be splitting from the evangelicals. It is obvious that something is driving this, and based on what White has plainly said and Wallace has intimated, it is their theological presuppositions that seem to be causing the split.

If one is guided by theological presuppositions, then those must be what we see in scripture. Wallace has done a couple of things to make sure that his textual criticism and his beliefs are compatible. First was this:

I am not convinced that the Bible speaks of its own preservation.

If you have a hard time believing your eyes, then consider what Detroit Baptist Theological professor, William Combs, wrote about Wallace's position on preservation:

In an article entitled “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism,” by Daniel B. Wallace, we find what is apparently the first definitive, systematic denial of a doctrine of preservation of Scripture.

But what is the epistemology of William Combs? Notice what he wrote as a comment to someone asking him about Matthew 5:18 and his approach to its interpretation:

I think perhaps you are correct--Matt 5:18 probably does deserve more attention than I gave it in the article. . . . As far as it being a hyperbole, I also cited Robert Stein in support, and there may be others, but I can’t remember. But I wonder how it could be anything else but hyperbole? Taken literally, it would seem to demand perfect preservation, which, of course, the evidence flatly refutes.

Even if the Bible does teach perfect preservation (which it does), Combs isn't going to believe it, because "the evidence flatly refutes" it. Do you see how he is willing to make his interpretation of Scripture depend on external evidence? This is not presuppositionalism. It is the equivalent of Thomas not believing in the bodily resurrection until he could physically touch Jesus. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

We see Wallace go to a brand new "Christological-incarnational based" approach to the text, which is very difficult to understand and is a brand new doctrine. Wallace has said:

As for the broader realm of the integration of theology and scholarship, I would fundamentally disagree with Michael Fox’s definition of faith as having nothing to do with evidence. Genuine Christian faith is a step, not a leap. The driving force in my pursuit of truth is the Incarnation. Unfortunately, too many evangelicals make Christology the handmaiden of bibliology, rather than the other way around. But the Incarnation requests us and even requires us to investigate the data. And sometimes that pursuit seems to be in conflict with bibliology. My own views on inerrancy and inspiration have changed over the years. I still embrace those doctrines, but I don’t define them the way I used to. The evidence has shaped my viewpoint; and I must listen to the evidence because of the Incarnation.

Maybe you have a hard time wrapping your brain around that too. Shouldn't evangelicalism be questioning this new position? I wonder why we don't see other evangelicals criticizing something that has no historic basis, and I speculate it is the evangelical credentials of Wallace that are the reason.

On the other hand, White just attacks Ehrman's anti-theological bias without mentioning that he himself has his own bias. Why? Textual critics aren't supposed to have theological bias. It's a science. You can see the problem. Do we have theological presuppositions or do we not? Of course we are supposed to and they are the basis for what we believe about preservation of the Bible and, therefore, the text.


One word that stuck out to me in Wallace's quote was the word "integration." It is quite fitting for him, "the integration of theology and scholarship." Integrationism is a big problem in evangelicalism. Normally when we think of integrationism, we think of the integration of the "science" of psychology with biblical counseling. This is the new Christian psychology. The critique of this would be the same as for Wallace's integrationism. He mixes his science of textual criticism with biblical doctrine. We will corrupt the Bible, in this case the teaching of God's Word and its text, when we practice this integration. And this all relates to epistemology. Can we trust man's observations in either of these fields? The consequence as related to the text of Scripture is a lack of certainty in the text of God's Word.

In integrationism, there is an attempt to find truth in two places: in God's revelation and in human observations. Often this act is justified by a misused mantra from history: "All truth is God's truth." This raises the level of man's observations to "truth," the same authority as scripture. Nowhere in the Bible do we see science to have a role in enhancing what God has said. We have no scriptural model for submitting the truth of Scripture to man's findings or discoveries. Man's discoveries do not even rise to the level of general revelation, let alone the truth of Scripture. By nature man doesn't discover something that is authoritative.

Examining the Explanations

Examination of the explanations of Ehrman and White (Wallace would be like White) indicate the failure of being able to make a significant point of certainty about the text of scripture by means of evidence. I've been watching this closely and let me tell you what's happening. To start, everyone knows that we have no original mansuscripts, so we're all depending on copies for the preservation of God's Words.

Both sides, White and Ehrman agree that the earliest even fragment of a hand-written copy of Mark dates to around AD 220, called P45, only eight chapters of the gospel of Mark. If Mark was completed as late as AD 70, P45 is 150 years after its original writing. P45 might be six generations of manuscripts after the original.

Both also believe that the worst copying and the greatest errors came into the earliest manuscripts. The explanation is that the copyists were not trained as scribes and neither did they have the right conditions for copying like men did three hundred years later, when scriptoriums were built. Therefore, the most errors came into copies in those early years. This theory is backed up by a comparison of the two oldest manuscripts of the New Testament, Vaticanus (AD 300) and Sinaiticus (AD 350). Those two manuscripts differ in thousands of places and yet they provide the primary basis for almost all of the modern versions of scripture. There are as many differences between them as there are verses in the New Testament. Despite the fact that most of the mistakes were made early on, according to their theories, they say that still means that the oldest manuscripts are the best, because more years equals more errors. Period. They speculate that the Byzantine manuscripts, those that are the basis for the textus receptus, come from one copy that dates around the same time as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in a different family or line of manuscripts.

Since we don't have the original manuscripts, we don't know how much different the copies are from the originals. Hypothetically, they could be vastly different. We don't have the evidence to make that decision. But we are talking about one bad copy being made from another bad copy, which is made from another bad copy, and so on. Even by the time they were trained in copying and had good resources to accomplish the task well, they were starting from poor copies with unknown numbers of errors because a lot of bad stuff happening before anyone knew what he was doing.

All the textual critics believe in everything I've written so far. White's theory for what happened next is that by looking at vast numbers of copies with similarities and at translations that match up with those manuscripts, we can extrapolate what the original text was enough to give us assurance that none of the doctrines of scripture are lost. So we look at copies that look similar, have most of the same words, and we get attestation from that of what the original words likely were.

Ehrman says "no." He says that we can't come to that conclusion. He contradicts that with a few points. He says that the similarities between copies just mean that they were made from the same manuscript and probably the same very corrupt manuscript. He also says that we're talking about books that were copied based on a bias of those copying. They had a particular view of Jesus that they wanted to support with the words that they wrote down. Their understanding of Jesus may be different than what we might read in the originals if we had them. Therefore, we can't be absolutely sure what was even the content in the original copies, let alone the words. On top of that, Ehrman would say that other books written at that time and refused by the churches will give a fuller texture and description of the people and times than what we see in only the apocryphal books.

White says that Ehrman gets his position based on his own "anti-Christian bias." Ehrman says again, "No, I got it from looking at the evidence, allowing the evidence to lead me, like the evidence leads all major textual critics. And who are you to criticize me? What have you done and who do you know?" Ehrman says that the bulk of the experts agree with him, their all reaching the same conclusions the same way that he did. And, therefore, Ehrman means that White's position is based upon White's own bias to give more accreditation to the Bible, because he needs what the Bible says in order to support his faith.

When White says that Ehrman is wrong, he says that Ehrman is holding the Bible to a higher standard of preservation than he does other secular writings. He says that the Bible has more textual attestation than Tacitus for instance. Ehrman retorts that all textual critics hold their particular texts, whether secular or scriptural, in a great deal of doubt, so they shouldn't handle the books of the New Testament any differently. Ehrman goes further in his writings by saying that we're not even sure that the gospels themselves are the true version of Christ's life, but just the ones that made it through the scrutiny of some very biased followers who wanted to keep His story alive to give them hope.

So between White and Ehrman you get two interpretations of the evidence. Ehrman says we really don't know what exactly Jesus said because there are so many variations. Based on this, he gets the title of his book, Misquoting Jesus. White counters by saying that, based on earlier textual critics, who came to different conclusions than Ehrman, we should think that there is great textual attestation for the Bible, enough to say that at the bare minimum all the teachings are intact. Both of the views depend on the interpretation of the evidence by men, irregardless of doctrine or the Holy Spirit.

No matter which side you believe in the battle of the textual critics, you get a 150 year period that we have no evidence whatsoever, a time from the originals to the first fragment. Both sides say that we should assume lots of corruption. One side says that it could be amazing amounts of alteration. The other says that we should conclude that it is very little change in content. Both are relying on naturalistic, humanly-derived process and analysis, probably coming at it from a certain bias, but both not admitting that they do so.

How Certain Are They in Their Science?

I'm going to use Ehrman for this, because he would be the one between White and him, who would be the most sure about his methodology. He's the expert. He's the one who other experts have on speed dial. Consider these lines from Ehrman in Misquoting Jesus:

It appears (emphasis mine) that Erasmus relied heaviy on just one twelfth-century manuscript for the Gospels and another, also of the twelfth century, for the book of Acts and the Epistle---although he was able to consult several other manuscripts and make corrections based on their readings" (p. 78, this last part, saying that he consulted other manuscripts, is often left out).

All of these texts, however, relied more or less (emphasis mine) on the texts of their predecessors" (p. 79).

Erasmus's edition princeps, which was based on some rather late, and not necessarily (emphasis mine) reliable, Greek manuscripts (p. 80).

It appears that someone copied out of the Greek text of the Epistles, and when he came to the passage in question, he translated the Latin text into the Greek (p. 82).

One of the reasons that someone must say "appears" and "necessarily" and "more or less," as well as other qualifiers, is because he isn't completely sure. First, we don't have the originals, so based upon evidence, we can't say that a certain wording isn't in there. If we aren't sure about a text that has thousands of copies, then how can we be sure about a history that has far less validation? As a basis for textual criticism, the textual critic must perform the function of erasing what was the text received by the churches in order to create the new text received by the scientists, based upon their theories. They do this by attempting to break down what Erasmus, Bezae, and Stephanus did in the sixteenth century.

Normally in a dialogue between textus receptus believers and critical text supporters, we get a pushing match over Erasmus versus Westcott and Hort. I think this happens mainly because of the critical text side. Why? The method used by men is what they depend upon to come to their conclusions. To establish how good their work is, they start by bashing Erasmus. In response to that, the textus receptus side often smacks around Westcott and Hort. Then you get a tit-for-tat walloping of both sides. In the end, Erasmus played with silly string and Westcott and Hort were demon worshipers. This is the textus receptus side arguing on the same terms as the critical text side. It's not good.

I don't think I've ever written in all of my work one critical word about Westcott and Hort. I don't reject the critical text because of who Westcott and Hort were. I reject it because it doesn't fit the presuppositions that we read in scripture. I believe God would do what He said He would do.

The bigger problems should be that the position of the textual critics doesn't fit what God said about the preservation of His Word. Instead, we should believe what God said He would do, not what men speculate had happened. Faith is what pleases God. Since everyone is in different degrees of doubt based on evidence and since no one can prove what happened between AD 70 and 220 anyway, we trust in the Lord as our evidence. This includes the intangible witness of the Holy Spirit. His truth is good enough.


mike said...

You need to change "BC" to "AD" regarding P52.

And I don' t think I've seen anyone date it as late as White or Ehrman do. Comfort and Barrett date it to 100-125. Kenyon, Deissman and Roberts (its discoverer) held a date of the first half of the 2nd century according to Metzger and Aland & Aland agrees with him.

I'd say White and Ehrman are rather idiosyncratic on that point.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Mike.

I had actually changed it before I read your comment. I was getting a little weary writing this thing today between everything else I was doing. I usually edit these posts after I've published them. They are easier to read in the print that comes out.

Even if they do date P52 very early, we're still only talking about a tiny, tiny piece of text there.

mike said...

I'll take a shot at P46 then.

Kenyon dated it to 200, but Young Kyu Kim argued for the reign of Domitian (81-96) based on other documents with the same style from the 1st century AD. Comfort thinks that's a too early, but still holds to a date as early as 150 AD, a date virtually identical to that of Zuntz in his highly acclaimed The Text of the Epistles.

But the thing is, scholars, including Ehrman, aren't against Kim's dating because of Textual Criticism but because of their view of the compiling of Paul's letters together. Its claimed that could not have happened before 90-100 AD, but based on the work on ancient letter writing by Randolph Richards (Paul and First Century Letter Writing), some have argued that the Pauline Corpus was compiled by Paul himself and thus would have been completed by the early 60s. If that is the case, then there is no *documentary reason* to reject Kim's date of 81-96.

If that's the case, then potentially we have a copy of Paul's letters from within 30 years of Paul's letters being written at best and even at work, 100 years.

That's not bad at all.

Kent Brandenburg said...

That would be very interesting if Kim were correct. However, there is a lot of contradiction to Kim on many fronts. Have you read this on P46?


Of course, this is a series on epistemology in which I am opposing evidence in favor of presuppositions.

Jason said...

"Of course, this is a series on epistemology in which I am opposing evidence in favor of presuppositions."

So you're giving evidence to support presuppositionalism?

Sorry Kent! Couldn't resist that one!

reglerjoe said...

We don't have the autographs, but if we found one, how would we know it was an autograph? I think if we found every single complete, intact original manuscript the textual critics would still debate whether or not they were the originals.

Even if these hypothetical autographs were proven (somehow) beyond any shadow of a doubt to be the real deal, the Ehrmans of the world would still dismiss them as biased works of men who concocted fantastic stories to justify their own homegrown religion.

Ehrman's faithlessness is not about evidence, it's about a desire to reject the Gospel. He, and others like him, judge the motives of early Christians and Scripture copyists. They say Scripture was changed to fit an agenda. How do they know? They don't know. It's a presuppositional position.

There will never be enough evidence for the Ehrman's of the world to believe.

Anonymous said...

Brother Brandenburg,
Thanks again for providing a review of textual arguments from the basis of Bible teaching.
For a number of years I have struggled with the straightforward judgments pronounced in Revelation 22:18-19. Many of the men that I regarded as definite Christians seemed to fall under these curses. Of course, I know that Christians can commit terrible sins just like the unsaved came (i.e. - David, Samson, Peter, etc.). However, it is beginning to become clear to me that those who fully embrace the "doctrines" of textual criticism are men without faith (Titus 3:10-11).
Of course, I am not the ultimate judge, but I could in no way regard Daniel Wallace as a genuine Christian after reading what he has written about Biblical presuppositions (Isaiah 8:20). If he is saved, he is deceived & blinded by his progression into sin.
I know that my comments here would greatly offend many of our "brethren", but I am not concerned with having their approval. I am simply seeking to understand what I see by what the Bible itself teaches.
G. Webb

Damien said...

I believe presuppositionalism is a much better approach than evidentialism. But do we not believe that evidence can have an effect at all?

If we were purely presuppositional, we'd have to be geocentric. I know some people, few as they may be, still hold to geocentrism - and they use biblical presuppositions to support the view! It wasn't until very recently in church history that Christians started to reinterpret Joshua 10:12, 13; Habbakkuk 3:11, etc. to mean something other than it plainly says. And why? The evidence.

God uses things outside the Bible as evidence, such as miracles (I Kings 18:37,38) or creation itself (Rom 1:20) to lead people to the truth.

I agree with you on presuppositions, I really do, and I don't know how else to convince you of my sincerity. And I do think this series gives some food for thought. But history shows that sometimes Christians can be lead to a greater understanding of biblical things over time. Even if the majority of Christians held to one kind of bibliology (which I would dispute), so did the majority of Christians hold to geocentrism. What's to say that we were allowed to change in one area but not another?

Kent Brandenburg said...


All of these textual critics say, "don't argue from presuppositions," but then they attack Ehrman from arguing from "presuppositions." Of course, all of them are arguing from presuppositions, an unbelieving presupposition that says that God didn't preserve Hi Word. Wallace makes that clear. White doesn't come out and say that, but it's the way he argues. And maybe White has said it, but I've never read it.

Notice how that Wallace says 'don't let the truth get in the way of your presuppositions," when the presuppositions are scripture. He relegates scriptural presuppositions somewhere below truth. And Combs may say he doesn't do that, but look at his comment on Matthew 5:18 where the interpretation is based on "textual evidence."

Bro. Webb,

I do believe we must come to an understanding of what Rev 22:18-19 is about. The critical text guys normally say that it has to do with the teachings or something like that, adding doctrines, and again they come to that interpretation from their textual criticism. This itself is very postmodern in that it plays loose with a text of scripture. It is very plain in Rev 22:18-19 that it is someone that adds or takes away from the words. I think we have to decide how we will regard certain men. Obviously God is their final judge, but like Matthew 18, we treat them as publicans and sinners.


J Adkins said...

Minor correction.

I'm working through the Ehrman and White debate, and I believe that White holds (rightly, by the way) to an early date for P52, not AD 220.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi J. Adkins,

I just did a search in the written transcript of the debate. I hadn't read the transcript, just listened to the debate once. It was P45 that was the 70 and 220 date that Ehrman mentioned and that White didn't disagree with. A fragment of Mark. Ehrman, I believe, thinks that p52 is younger too. I'm going to change that in my post. It doesn't change my point, but it does change the detail. Thanks.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Here's a cut and paste from the transcript about P52 (I had the wrong manuscript, although some do date P52 175-225 (Aland):

"What can we say about the ages of our copies? Well, the oldest copy we have is another papyrus: P52 it’s called, because it was the 52nd papyrus found. This is a little scrap of the Gospel of John. It looks rather large, here on the screen, in fact it is the size of a credit card. It’s the size of a credit card, written on front and back—which is important to know, since it was written on front and back it means it came—not from a scroll, the way most people wrote ancient books—but from a codex like our books, where you write on both sides of the page and bind them together into a book. It’s a little bit hard to date a fragment like this, experts in ancient handwriting—who are called paleographers, who do this for a living—paleographers date this thing, probably to the first half of the second century. So, maybe 30, 40, 50 years after John was originally written plus or minus 25 years—don’t really know exactly when something like this was written—but maybe 125, plus or minus 25 years. This is from—it’s a very important piece, this P52—it’s an account of the trial before Pilate from the Gospel of John. With a few words from the trial here, ending it on the back side—if you were to flip this over you would see some more words—and so this is a very interesting little fragment, and it’s the earliest thing we have. Of any fragment—of anything from the New Testament, from maybe 30 or 40 years after John was originally written.

Most of our manuscripts are nowhere near that early. Ninety four percent of the manuscripts that we now have—Greek manuscripts—date from after the 9th century. So, eight hundred, nine hundred years after the originals is when we start getting lots of copies. So you’ll sometimes sit and have people tell you that the New Testament is the best attested book from the ancient world, and they’re absolutely right! It is absolutely the best attested book from the ancient world, the problem is the attestation of the book comes centuries after it was originally written; many, many, many centuries after originally written is when most of our manuscripts come from."

So we cam get into a discussion about dating, and that might be interesting, but it still leaves us a big evidence problem, especially for people who believe in inerrancy and inspiration, if we depend on "evidence."

Kent Brandenburg said...


Your geocentricism is, granted, a classic point on this issue. However, it is very much different than the day-age theory. Have you read any geocentric materials? They start with scriptural presuppositions, but then they show scientific evidence for their point. Many of them have PhDs, etc. I think that it would be easy, however, to say that on that debate, that even if the Bible shows geocentricism, that is is only poetic or anthropomorphic (from man's perspective) geocentrism. In other words, take the passages literally, but take into account figures of speech. This is still classic harmonization.

Damien said...

but harmonization of what? It's harmonizing biblical texts with outside evidence, which I thought you were arguing against doing.

The most I've read on the subject is actually from Sungenis, though I encountered him first because of Roman Catholic issues. But his viewpoints were interesting.

I think all of us are using evidence. Let's assume psalm 12 really does say that the words will be preserved in a generally available form to God's people for every generation. To go from that biblical presupposition to 1611 is a leap of over 2000 years. To fill in the gap, you need evidence. And you're using it. That's why you’re discussing the age of papyri, no? You can say that the evidence seems to point to the TR from the 16th century onward, but what of the evidence that suggests the first few centuries of Christianity had no uniquely Byzantine readings?

I think that the interpretations of biblical passages dealing with preservation have varied throughout Christendom. As far back as Augustine, variants were being discussed. Wycliff said the "word" that Christ said should not pass away were His "knowledge." Calvin and Beza didn't interpret Psalm 12 like KJVO do. Yet, Christianity seemed rather unanimous in accepting geocentrism until the scientific evidence became convincing enough. If we have no problem overturning centuries of one, nearly unanimous belief, supported by extremely perspicuous passages like "the sun stood still", then why is it no problem to grow in our knowledge about a position that has varied, supported by passages that are not as perspicuous?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Harmonization of evidence with the Bible, not vice versa. How it is that you could see it otherwise may be tell-tale for you.

If Psalm 12 were the proof-text for preservation, you might have a point, but it is far more developed than that. What I see on Psalm 12 today is the opposite. We come out with something that is not found in any commentary or literature on Psalm 12, the intentional disagreement of pronominal gender as applied to God's Words, and you hear crickets from the other side. We've proven that point completely and they won't even acknowledge it. Who has an agenda?

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing---Damien, you are going to have a hard time arguing that reformation and post-reformation dogma was not perfect preservation. You might be able to find select passages they don't interpret like us if you cherry pick the literature, but the major point is that they believed like we do, I do, pre-enlightenment. I ask you to enjoy thinking about that and figuring about how that affects your interpretation of "evidence."

Damien said...

"I think that it would be easy, however, to say that on that debate, that even if the Bible shows geocentricism, that is is only poetic or anthropomorphic (from man's perspective) geocentrism. In other words, take the passages literally, but take into account figures of speech. This is still classic harmonization."

I don't know how that's tell-tale for me to think you didn't harmonize the Bible with the evidence by saying that. Who had reason to interpret those passages that way prior to the discovery of heliocentrism?

It's been pointed out many times about Calvin and Beza' interpretations of PSalm 12, it's nothing "new" to disagree with the KJVO perspecitve on that chapter. And I"m hearing more than crickets about the issue. In fact, you can watch Kenneth Barker refute that very argument, the proniminal argument, to Thomas Strause's face on the John Ankerberg show.

And. . I don't know who has an agenda. Was I supposed to answer that?

Kent Brandenburg said...

If you have an pre-heliocentric commentary, I would interested in seeing it. I mean that.

A problem with your Barker/Ankerberg example is that it was before what I'm talking about. I haven't seen the video, but Strouse probably argued proximity. Until Thou Shalt Keep Them, which was long after that show you're talking about [I think White has hair in it and he's thin (I've seen clips of it)], there wasn't any commentary that showed this Hebrew idiosyncrasy, and Strouse has done much work on it since then. At that time, they said that gender overturned proximity. This debunks that. And we still get silence.

mike said...

I think I lost a comment somewhere.

Anyway. Life goes on.


I really don't understand on what basis you can argue that Revelation 22:18-19 has any application beyond the book of Revelation. When those words were written there wasn't a New Testament compiled yet.

Jason said...

My response to part two and three is now up over at InFocus (click on my name above).

Damien, you're asking some good questions. There is no inherent contradiction between presuppositionalism and evidentialism.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought the issue between those who hold to Perfect Preservation and the other side (Wallace, etc.) is that Perfect Preservation deals mostly with an English Translation and Wallace's side deals with the Greek. Is that correct? If not, what is the Perfect Preservations position on Rom 5.1, which word did God preserve, the Subjunctive or Indicative of ECW?

Anonymous said...

All the literature that I have read on Bibliology - Revelation, Inspiration, & Preservation - applies each passage that may refer to the OT, for example, to all the Scriptures [Deut. 4:2, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:20-21, etc.]. Of course, since the text of the book of Revelation is usually heavily attacked by the Critical Text approach, Revelation 22:18-19 directly applies to the subject at hand. Also, everyone I have ever encountered within the Christian faith considers Revelation to be the last book written & the capstone of Divine revelation. That is the basis for using Revelation 22:18-19. It does apply to the text of Revelation specifically, but it also has an application beyond that to the text of all the Bible.
G. Webb

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree with Bro. Webb on this. It is interesting to me that in systematics on bibliology and in sermons on bibliology and presentations on bibliology, when there is no view of talking about textual criticism or preservation, definitely is speaking of all of God's Words since Revelation is culmination of God's special revelation. But bring in this issue and suddenly the meaning changes. You can't have it both ways.

For the sake of argument, let's say that it's true, that we're only talking about Revelation, just that book. The book can still serve as a microcosm of what is done to the rest of the Bible. How can you add words and take away words from a book that isn't at all settled? And He did say Words, because I think another argument is to make "Words" mean "doctrines." You can't change the rules to the game after the game has already started. "Words" has meant "words" and just because someone suddenly has a problem with his theology if it means "words," he doesn't get to change it to "doctrines" when it is convenient for him.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Damien and Jason,

Damien is attempting to open up space for biblical criticism with the geocentrism/heliocentrism argument. I don't think that you get to place a stamp of approval on biblical criticism based on that one example. What is difficult about that particular point is that geocentrism is ridiculed today and so it shuts down any kind of conversation if heliocentrism is accepted. The Bible without an anthropomorphic view that is often applied to biblical text is geocentrism for sure. Do you disagree with that? That doesn't open the door to allegorizing the first three chapters of Genesis, does it? But you are saying that we've allowed evidence to affect our understanding of Scripture, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret the evidence. I don't think geocentrism works because I don't think anyone can prove either point scientifically. I don't want this to move to an argument on that point, because I think the science is over the heads of everyone here.

I don't think you drive a truck through geocentrism, that's all I'm saying. You say that you are presuppositional, and yet you are interpreting your preservation passages in light of biblical criticism. That's where we're at on this. That also opens the door to all biblical criticism, which is what we see with Ehrman. Once you open that door, I don't believe it is consistent not to open it all the way.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous on Rom 5:1,

The TR is indicative. I think the subjunctive in the Westcott and Hort text and then the recent NA texts until the most recent has the subjunctive which changes something in that verse on the doctrine of salvation. That's an example of doctrine changed, which is a big eclectic text mantra---no doctrines changed---but you get a doctrine changed with the subjunctive in Rom 5:1.

We have peace with God when we're justified by faith, not might have it.

mike said...

The book can still serve as a microcosm of what is done to the rest of the Bible.Sure, of course it can, but does it? You've just walked away from authorial intent. And I'm extremely cynical about any attempt to apply some sort of sensus plenior to John's words about Revelation to the rest of Scripture. And I would suggest that any appeal to systematics is definitely putting the cart before the horse. There is no Biblical presupposition to appeal to in making such a move. None whatsoever. I would consider it exegetical negligence (with the caveat that neither of us has provided any exegesis in either direction in this comment thread).

But even with the textual issues of Revelation, who is adding and removing? The scribes who transmitted the text did its just as much as any textual scholar. Even Erasmus who put together the TR did so. And Revelation 22:18-19 is a perfect example of that - the VAST majority of manuscripts read "ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς" (from the tree of life), but Erasmus based on the Vulgate's "de libro vitæ" (from the book of life) caused the TR to read, "ἀπὸ βίβλιω τῆς ζωῆς" (from the book of life). I honestly don't even know if there are any Greek manuscripts that have the reading. And even if there are, that wouldn't matter because its clear that Erasmus didn't know of them and based his reading on the Vulgate and in the very verses where he was commanded not to make changes to the text, he introduced a change.

Has Erasmus fallen under the curse of these verses and why / why not?

I haven't said anything about how we should understand this verse at all - others have brought up the question of whether it refers to doctrine rather than the text itself.

My question is different. Is Erasmus under this curse? Are the scribes under this curse?

I'll take any number of explanations, including a defense of "book" being the reading that John wrote, but there's no Biblical presupposition in Scripture that says, "John wrote 'book' not 'tree.'"

Kent Brandenburg said...


We come full circle when asking who is adding and taking away. How do we know what the Words are? Is it by presuppositions or by evidence? You are quite sure of what Erasmus did and hence Bezae, Stephanus, etc., or maybe not quite so sure. What about the agreement of the church? What about the testimony of the Holy Spirit? What about the assurance of believers for hundreds of years after the printed edition that they did have the Words? They were settled on Words for centuries until post-Enlightenment biblical criticism.

If we are just discussing the evidence for book versus tree, that's all about evidence and this isn't the point of this post or thread? A few points though:

When talking about those six verses, there are 18 textual variants between the TR and the CT. Those are the ones that supposedly Erasmus back-translated. We have 14 textual variants in the previous six verses from which all sides agree on manuscript evidence. In 21:3-8, again with manuscript evidence, 20 textual variants between TR and CT. If he was backtranslating then we would assume agreement between the Vulgate and the TR, when the TR has "even so" in Revelation 22:20.

Hoskier writes that Erasmus did have miniscule 2049 of Revelation that included those verses.

The TR wording of Revelation 22:16 looks like the TR in Revelation 3:7 with the TR in contrast to the critical text placing the article before "David."

I haven't looked at the manuscripts personally, but from what I read, there is Greek manuscript evidence (296, 2049, and 2067) for "book of life" in addition to all the Latin, among other, translations coming from something.

Lastly, how much sense does Revelation 22:19 make when it is "tree of life"? So we look forward to being IN the "tree of life"?

Anonymous said...

Your article made me laugh. I will let you interpret what that means.

mike said...

Let's go line by line here.

We come full circle when asking who is adding and taking away. How do we know what the Words are? Is it by presuppositions or by evidence?I'm at a loss as to what presupposition *grounded in Scripture* there is that says the TR is the true text. Yes, we have Scripture saying it is preserved. Yes. But beyond your assertion that the TR is the true text, there is no Biblical basis for it.You are quite sure of what Erasmus did and hence Bezae, Stephanus, etc., or maybe not quite so sure. What about the agreement of the church?The agreement of the church is found in the manuscripts and its clearly against Erasmus here.

What about the testimony of the Holy Spirit?He's said very little to me lately about the text of the New Testament beyond that its been preserved.

What about the assurance of believers for hundreds of years after the printed edition that they did have the Words? They were settled on Words for centuries until post-Enlightenment biblical criticism.What about the assurance of believers for one thousand five hundred years before the printed edition that they did have the Words? They also were completely content for centuries and millenia until post-Enlightenment Biblical criticism (And incidentally, your appeal to each of these things, functionally speaking, is evidence).

We share a presupposition that the text of Scripture has been preserved.


Your presupposition about which text was preserved is barely 500 years old.

My presupposition about which text was preserved is going strong at 2000 years old.

And as for how much sense "tree of life" makes, I'd suggest reading Proverbs. See if you can find some helpful connections.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I've gone ahead and approved your comment even though you're a coward. Typical in spirit, however, of what I've found among most critical text commenters though. I would say you're right there with James White, among others.


Presupposition: Availability, general accessibility of every Word to every generation of believer (Is 59:21, etc.).

In the 1500 years before, since it was available in 1500 and onward, I assume that it was available before that.

You say the church is against Erasmus and yet that's what the church settled on, received, agreed upon. It is the only text whose adherents even mention scriptural presuppositions.

I don't understand this statement: "My presupposition about which text was preserved is going strong at 2000 years old."

Those with the same presuppositions as me agreed upon the TR. I don't have record or know of anything else from believers.

The difference here, Mike, is that I'm coming to my conclusions about the evidence by means of the presuppositions. Presuppositions are not disconnected from evidence. The interpretation of the evidence comes from the presuppositions and not vice-versa.

I don't see anywhere in Proverbs that says anything about someone having their part taken away from the tree of life. "Tree of life" is in there, but that's not my point.

mike said...

Presupposition: Availability, general accessibility of every Word to every generation of believer (Is 59:21, etc.).Yes.

And if the TR didn't exist before Erasmus then it cannot be that divinely preserved text because the TR has not been available to every generation. It didn't exist before 1516.

So, let's look at the generations to whom the TR wasn't available:

It wasn't available to the generation of Jan Hus.
It wasn't available to the generation of John Wyclif
It wasn't available to the generation of John Duns Scotus
It wasn't available to the generation of Peter Abelard
It wasn't available to the generation of Anselm
It wasn't available to the generation of Augustine of Canterbury
It wasn't available to the generation of Gregory Palamas
It wasn't available to the generation of Symeon the New Theologian
It wasn't available to the generation of Maximus the Confessor
It wasn't available to the generation of John Chrysostom
It wasn't available to the generation of Cyril of Alexandria
It wasn't available to the generation of the Cappadocian Fathers
It wasn't available to the generation of Athanasius
It wasn't available to the generation of Augustine of Hippo
It wasn't available to the generation of Tertullian
It wasn't available to the generation of Irenaeus of Lyons
It wasn't available to the generation of Justin Martry
It wasn't available to the generation of Ignatius
It wasn't available to the generation of Polycarp
It wasn't available to the generation of the Apostle Paul.

Yes, this is "evidence." You're arguing from presuppositions, I know, but as you just said,

"Presuppositions are not disconnected from evidence. The interpretation of the evidence comes from the presuppositions and not vice-versa."

Exactly how do you interpret this evidence? That's what makes absolutely no sense to me. And that's what I've been hoping you would explain for the past four parts of this series.

You've got me on every other point. Fill in this gap - how you interpret the evidence between Paul and Erasmus - and you've got me the whole nine yards, hook, line and sinker.

Kent Brandenburg said...

"this debate is not one between experts with data and non-experts with dogma, but rather one between experts with the same data, but different dogma—the dogma of neutrality versus the dogma of providence"(pp. 201-204). [From, The Majority Text: Essays And Reviews In The Continuing Debate, the essay, “In Reply to D.A. Carson’s ‘The King James Version Debate’”.]

“…it is undisputed that from the 16th century to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed… [the] Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the ‘original’ text.” (Kurt Aland, “The Text of the Church” Trinity journal 8 (1987), p. 131.

We're talking about the Words being available. We're not talking about the actual copy of the TR itself. Do you understand that? The words of the eclectic or critical text can't be what God preserved because it wasn't available for hundreds of years. I can't very well call a text reliable that depends on two copies that contradict each other in tens of thousands of places.

It must be original language text (Matthew 5:18). The evidence becomes more difficult before printed editions. In the hand-copying phase, I believe that based on our presuppositions, we should assume that the text received by the churches was also generally accessible. I'm not saying that everyone used it. I think it would be helpful for you to read Muller's Volume on Post-Reformational Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3. And read everything that I've written here. I answer those questions.

Mike, you tell me if I'm wrong. It would appear you believe the believers from 1500 to 1800 only possessed something which approximated to the Word of God, and that they did not possess the word of God in its purity -- that the authors of the WC and LBC were in fact incorrect in their claim to possess the authentical word of God. Would this be a fair assessment of your position?

mike said...

We're talking about the Words being available.Agreed.

We're not talking about the actual copy of the TR itself. Do you understand that?If that's the case, I can only assume that you do not believe the TR is God's divinely preserved word.

The words of the eclectic or critical text can't be what God preserved because it wasn't available for hundreds of years.Are you talking about Aland's text? Or Erasmus' text? Because while one is a post-enlightenment text based on Biblical criticism and the other isn't, they both fit that bill. So I can only assume that you don't consider the TR to be God's word preserved. The TR is based on manuscripts with just as much variation as Aland's text. And I haven't once been talking about Aland's text. I've only been referring to manuscripts.

I can't very well call a text reliable that depends on two copies that contradict each other in tens of thousands of places.But all the manuscripts are like that - not just those two. You need to spend some time collating. Go to Wallace's TC site and download images of manuscripts and start comparing difference.

So I have a few questions I that I would really like to see answered:

1) What is God's preserved word? Is it the TR?

2) Did John Chrysostom have Scripture available to his generation? Every single word? (<- that's an easy "yes" or "no" question)

mike said...

Hmmm, if I expect others to answer my questions, I should answer theirs.

the authors of the WC and LBC were in fact incorrect in their claim to possess the authentical word of God. Would this be a fair assessment of your position?My position is that the Bible is Inerrant, Inspired word of God. The WC and LBC are neither inerrant nor inspired.

Roger Pearse said...

I was wondering how many of the books on our our shelves would pass some of the tests for "preservation" that we are here demanding of the bible. For how many does the autograph exist? How many have we checked? How many were revised during printing and proofing?

I feel that a category error is lurking around, you know. We live in an imperfect world. Therefore everything we do and handle is going to be imperfect. Books are copied imperfectly (even by photocopier/scanner, as a look at a few Google PDF's will reveal). That's life.

But it's got nothing to do with the bible, its transmission or inerrancy. If we think for a moment, Jesus and the apostles lived in the era of hand-copying, and didn't worry about this, so it clearly wasn't an issue to them. The people who determined the canon didn't worry about it. (They did try to eliminate errors, but that's a separate issue -- we're talking about the *inevitable* errors in any one copy).

Where do we get the idea that God has said that every handwritten and printed copy of the Greek New Testament, in the past, the future, and to the end of time, will be identical to every other? Because isn't that the insinuation here? That the bible cannot be inspired by God unless this is the case?

To which we need merely reply; prove it. Show me the divine revelation that says so.

The reality is that the bible is copied by human hands, that God uses it in a special way, and that we find from experience (as Christ teaches) that it is inspired and inerrant in all that it affirms.

In other words, Ehrman is trying to pull a trick here. It's a standard atheist ploy; sneer that "So, the sky is blue! That proves your religion is false!" and the unwary Christian falls into the trap and havers that it isn't always blue, etc. But the real fallacy is in joining together two disparate ideas; and trying to get the Christians to buy into them.

The bible is inspired and inerrant. That has nothing to do with the fake issue of whether every copy is a photocopy of every other one (which it isn't).

Kent Brandenburg said...


The WBC and LBC statements on preservation represent the doctrine of God's people for three hundred years. Were they wrong? Was theirs not a doctrine that scripture taught? Had they apostatized on Scripture? Were we saved by post-enlightenment scholars, who lead us to a view, a superior one, that advocated no theological or scriptural presuppositions?

Kent Brandenburg said...


The view of inerrant of most evangelicals and many fundamentalists and then the view of infallibility by God's people, pre-enlightenment are different. The modern doctrine of inerrancy also means something entirely different than what most Christians think it does.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Kenneth W. Clark asserts:

We should not attribute to Erasmus the creation of a "received text," but only the transmission from a manuscript text, already commonly received, to a printed form, in which this text would continue to prevail for three centuries.

UBS editors Kurt and Barbara Aland themselves admit:

[W]e remember that in this period [the textus receptus] was regarded as preserving even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself.

I do believe that the TR is God's divinely preserved Word. It is the only Greek text with any claim on being Divinely preserved. We have on record Christians believing that for over three years. I've never heard anyone make the same claim for the Critical or Eclectic text.

Vaticanus (B) has been in the Vatican Library at least since 1481, when it was catalogued. Erasmus knew of it, as one of his friends in Rome, Professor Paulus Bombasius, often sent him readings from it, many of them, and he rejected them as departures from the common text accepted by the people of God, and from the Greek texts he came into contact with during his travels and searching out of manuscripts.

The idea that the TR is the product of Biblical Criticism like the W & H, NA, and UBS is false. You know that too. That whole idea is just a late invention to deal with the doctrine of preservation.

Yes, I believe every Word was generally accessible to Chrysostom. Did he himself use it? That's another question.

Who wrote this? "having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins."

Does that sound like someone who believes a scriptural doctrine of salvation or is it baptismal regeneration?

I have a different view of the church than you. I don't see Roman Catholicism as "the church." http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/search?q=Waldenses

Damien said...


you would know more about this than me, as far as exactly what was being discussed on Ankerberg between Strouse and Barker. But I've tried to reproduce the dialogue as best I can:

Barker : “knowing Hebrew the way I do, I would not translate it the way the King James Translators did. I think the King James translators occasionally made some mistakes; I think this is one of them. . . “

Sam Gipp quotes the KJV rendering of Psalm 12:6, 7

and says, “the Hebrew Old Testament that I have is third person plural, “thou shalt keep them”; the NIV translates that first person plural, “thou shalt keep us”, which is wrong."

Ankerberg, “so you’re [Gipp] saying, ‘thou shalt keep them’ refers to the words, and you’re [Barker] saying it isn’t true”

Barker then reads the passage, beginning in verse 5, out of the NIV, stressing the “them” in verse 5 as similar to the “them” in verse 7. “When verse 7 goes on to say, ‘O Lord, you will protect (or preserve) them (or keep them safe), we wanted to make it clear that the reference is still to people, as the vast majority of scholars and Hebrew experts would agree, and so we said, ‘O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people. That’s exactly the way I would translate it, for clarity, because it makes “them” refer to people.”

Strouse: “but the King James translators of 1611, in their Masoretic Text, read thou shalt preserve him, and they have a note in their margin. Their text, at the pronominal suffix has “him” rather than “them.” And so their argument is, that it should be the Word of God.”

Barker: “the pronominal suffix doesn’t help you there, because the reference for the suffix is not the Word of the Lord. The Hebrew is clearly, “words”, previously. Not ‘word’ but ‘words’.

I'm sure you have great counter arguments, which is fine, I'm not versed in Hebrew at all, and I haven't read your book. But the point is there's honest disagreement about this verse. And I know you said it isn't just a proof text for KJVO, but it certainly is one of the more important passages for you presuppostion. What I'm saying is that it's possible your presupposition is wrong. IT's been pointed out that Calvin and Beza interpreted that differently. Spurgeon's note on verse 7 seems to favor their view as well (though he's post-enlightenment). The LXX translates it "us" -though with your view of the LXX, I guess that doesn't add much to the issue. But if my contention that Christ and the Apostles used the LXX is correct, it means a lot. The Geneva Bible and John Gill are also of this interpretation.

Going back to heliocentrism, no, I haven't done the research into pre-heliocentric commentaries on that verse. It's a task I'd like to do, though. I was assuming this was simply a well known fact, but I'm totally open to the fact that I could be wrong on it.


It is evident you don't understand brother Kent's argument at all. He never suggests there ought to be perfect photocopies or that every mss must agree. So your "show me the divine revelation that says so" is attacking a straw man. He believes the words are preserved, and generally accessible to God's people, being kept in the original languages, and recognized by the true church.

But Kent, building upon Roger's argument, faulty as it is, it brings in this question which you may have answered already. If we accept diversity among manuscripts and versions leading up to the KJV of 1611, and declare that was a time of "general accesibility", why can we not say the same today? What changed in 1611?

mike said...

I'll answer your question after you answer mine.

Did John Chrysostom have God's divinely preserved Scripture?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I have answered that question amidst all my work on the side column on the preservation issue, among other places. The longer answer is better, but the diversity was much smaller, the agreement much greater, and they believed that where there was an error in one copy, it was corrected in another and that essentially by the end of this printed edition phase, they had all the errors corrected. Of course, my canonicity argument comes in here, which I deal with in depth on several articles on the side and the book, Thou Shalt Keep Them.

Regarding Psalm 12:6-7, I believe that men go both ways on people versus words, but that the oldest interpretation on record is ours and that we have added an item of Hebrew grammar and syntax that clinches it our direction. Related to "us," ironically some are relying on a textual variant to make their point. The King James translators has the singular, masculine pronoun in front of them and still translated it "them" instead of "him" and it wasn't because they didn't understand the Hebrew. Strouse deals with that particular point in detail in his chapter on Ps 12:6-7 in our book.

mike said...

Its true. we do have a different view of the church. Though I've intentionally avoided saying anything about the RC for that very reason. I wouldn't have expect you to think that Chrysostom was RC. I'd consider that highly anachronistic. The irony here is that Calvin and the rest of the Reformers held Chrysostom in extremely high esteem.

And I'd suggest that you might be taking Chrysostom out of context. Several lines before that, he makes it clear that any benefit there is from baptism comes directly from the Cross. This parallels nicely both Calvin's and Luther's views on baptism. And we both know that Chrysostom wrote significantly about Christ's work on the cross (I've translated his discussion of John 3:14-15 HEREHe knew the power of the Cross. That's clear. Crystal clear.

But back to the issue at hand:

Were they wrong? Was theirs not a doctrine that scripture taught? Had they apostatized on Scripture?No. They were not wrong, not on the theology. There's a difference between wrong on the theology and being wrong on the text. The first one they got right. The second one they got wrong.

1) WC articulates the doctrine of preservation.
2) The authors of the WC believed the TR was that preserved text.
3) Therefore, the TR is God's divinely preserved Scripture.

The huge gap is between two and three. #3 doesn't logically follow from #2. More on this below.

We should not attribute to Erasmus the creation of a "received text," but only the transmission from a manuscript text, already commonly received, to a printed form, in which this text would continue to prevail for three centuries.I would consider this statement baseless. The TR may not be based on Biblical criticism, but it is still an edited text from multiple manuscripts. And on that basis, a text edited from multiple manuscripts, the TR is an eclectic text. The Textus Receptus is not the Majority text so you cannot get away with claiming that its the continuation of an already existing manuscript text. It isn't. Its very similar but its not the same.

I'm glad we're coming back to Erasmus' work. And I'm delighted that we've brought the Waldenses into this discussion too. This relates to our syllogism above.

They rejected the Vulgate with a preference for the Old Latin, yes? And yet, when we talk about the TR, we are continuing to ignore (though I've pointed it out previously), that where Erasmus found multiple readings in the divergent manuscripts he used, he followed the reading that agreed with the Vulgate by default.

I can only assume then that either the Waldenses didn't have God's word preserved for them or the Reformers didn't have God's word preserved for them. We can't have it both ways on that one. And again, Revelation 22:19 is a decent example. The Old Latin says "tree of live" not "book of life." We're talking about the words, right? So either the Waldenses didn't have that particular word or the Reformers didn't have that particular word.

After writing all of this, I must say, though, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to dialog on this. I've learned a lot about your position and I think I'm beginning to, at the very least, understand it. Thank you for that.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Was justification by faith invented by the reformers? Of course not. But we don't have plenteous evidence of the doctrine of justification before the reformation. I don't think we should assume that it wasn't around before then. When we come to the doctrine of preservation in writing for centuries, the profession of believers, we assume that the Holy Spirit is at work there. This is what your syllogism was missing that made it fallacious. It also is missing that what the WC and the LBC states is orthodox doctrine from Scripture, so it stands authoritative against the attacks of rationalism.

I don't think your Chrysostom point is a strong one. I believe, based on presuppositions, that every Word was available to believers. Does this assume that this one man, Chrysostom, uses those Words in his writings? I think it is weak. It's worth considering, but I think we could agree too that he used the text approved by the state church.

We probably shouldn't turn this into a thread about whether Chrysostom was saved or not, and then move into one that discusses whether Luther or Calvin were.

The explanation of the TR as the text received by the churches I have in many other posts on this subject. Richard Muller has the long term explanation of this belief in the history of this period in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. He examines more than English, but German and Latin writings of history, making him uniquely qualified for this. I don't know of anything just like what he has written. He shows how that Christians believed what I am espousing here.

The following about "book of life"

The Textus Receptus reads, "book of life," with the Latin Vulgate (including the very old Vulgate manuscript F), the Bohairic version, Ambrose (d. 397), and the commentaries of Primasius (6th century) and Haymo (9th century).

"We have said that the form in which the Bible was first made known to the Latin-speaking people of the West was that of the Old Latin version." Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts by Sir Frederick Kenyon, formerly Director of the British Museum, Copyright Sir F Kenyon 1895.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia reads on this:

"Scholars now recognize a European type of Old Latin text. And Westcott thinks a North Italian recension (at least in the Gospels) was made in the 4th century and known as the Itala (see LATIN), and which he recognizes in the Itala mentioned in Augustine's De doctr. christ., xv, as "verborum tenacior cum perspicuitate sententiae"

Thomas Holland writes:

"The word "libri" means "book" and is where we derive our English word "library." This is true of not only the Vulgate, but also of Codex Fuldensis (sixth century); Codex Karolinus (ninth century); Codex Oxoniensis (twelfth to thirteenth century); Codex Ulmensis (ninth century); Codex Uallicellanus (ninth century); Codex Sarisburiensis (thirteenth century); and the corrector of Codex Parisinus (ninth century). It is also the reading of the Old Bohairic Coptic Version. Further, it is supported by Saint Ambrose (340-397 AD), by Bachiarius (late fourth century), and by Primasius in his commentary on Revelation (552 AD)."

Here is someone that I don't even know, hadn't met, and hadn't conferred with, that takes the same point of view. He and many others on the puritanboard, I've found, take an almost identical position as I do.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered this mode of inspiration. I think understanding this mode of inspiration, erodes all the foul talk of inspiration. Ultimately it helps one understand that just because words are changed here and there the thought is king and therefore remains the same.

Anonymous said...


sorry i didn't post a link to what i was talking about "thought is king"