We haven't seen Christ and yet we are to believe He's returning merely on the force of Words that have been written. Why? The prophecies always come true. You have always been able to count on what God said. You always will. That makes those Words evidence, more evidence than what men typically depend on as proof. It may not make sense to give up one's whole life to a Person as his Lord, His Despotes (2 Pet 2:1), His Sovereign Boss, Who He has never seen, just based upon Words. That may not seem like enough evidence. But those Words are trustworthy.
I see what God promised regarding His Words and so I believe that He did that. I reject textual criticism because it clashes with what God said He would do. It might seem more smart. But I trust that God would lead His people to the Words they would need to live, assuming that they wanted to live what He said. Should we doubt the authority of God's Words, doubt either God's ability or willingness to follow through what He said He would do with regards to His Words? Of course not.
In my last post in this series, I answered a few comments under an essay written by Aaron Blumer at SharperIron, Preservation: How and What? In the 17th century, John Owen had quite a bit to say about bibliology, and he speaks regarding the understanding of the "Word of God" as the written Words of God. In his Biblical Theology, just recently translated from the Latin and only yet in hard copy, he wrote (p. 791):
I freely grant that God spoke before any of His words were ever committed to writing. And so, in that sense, I freely agree that the Word of God existed before the Bible. But when the same word came to be written down, did it somehow cease to be God's Word? The nature of the word is in no way changed by its being reduced to a written form. . . . [T]he word of God came to be written, so that we might God's will from God's Book (2 Timothy 3:16). To the Scriptures we are constantly sent by God Himself in order to learn of His will from His Word (Deuteronomy 17:19; Isaiah 8:20; John 5:39). Special blessings are reserved for those who are found constantly meditating on God's written Law (Psalm 1:1-2).
He continued going after those who would spiritualize the idea of the Word of God (pp. 791-792):
A[n] . . . objection is as follows, 'The word is near us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts (Romans 10:8), and the word of Christ is said to dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and obviously that word is not a letter, is not written.' To which I make reply that the word which dwells in us is the word of faith which the Apostles preached (Romans 10:8), and the Apostles preached nothing but what was written by Moses and the prophets (Romans 16:26). Indeed, Paul asserts that word to be the written word most openly and unambiguously (Romans 10:11).
The Word of God is the written Words of God. God promised to preserve those Words in perfection. We should assume the perfection of God's Words. Owen wrote (p. 828):
Our contrary doctrine asserts the perfection of the Scriptures, and that from the following considerations: 1. From its Author, who is God. God operates with nothing imperfect, means or end. from a perfect cause only perfect results may be expected. And why could, or should, God, wishing to reveal His will, not reveal it in a perfect manner? Shall it be said that he was unable to do so? That would be to blaspheme His infinite wisdom and omnipotence. Was He unwilling to do so? That would be a slur on His infinite grace and goodness. God must, therefore, have provided a faultless revelation of His will. . . . In every respect, then, is the written Word perfect.
Please notice that Owen says the written Word is perfect. Not was. Christian men viewed the apographa as perfect, the copies they used to be identical to the originals. Inerrant originals is a new concept, originated by Warfield in the late 19th century. The term inerrancy itself was a word concocted to separate the autographa from the apographa in the matter of perfection. This wasn't how men believed until then. They assumed God fulfilled His promises.
The Septuagint Argument
A major argument for the sake of proving that Scripture does not teach perfect preservation is that Jesus quoted from the Septuagint, which was a corrupt text, with different wording than the original Hebrew text, therefore, He wasn't concerned about the very Words of Scripture. What is important, the argument would go, is that we get the message, so these small numbers of textual variants (hundreds of thousands according to Bart Ehrman) do not matter, and this is buttressed by the example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint.
I've mentioned in posts and in the comment section here that Owen had already obliterated that argument. Someone then commented that they had read his material and didn't see that. Let me show you.
Beginning on p. 540 of his Biblical Theology, Owen starts a small section entitled: "Digression on the Septuagint Greek Version of Scripture." In his second line, Owen wrote:
About this version I might as well say what Protagoras puts in the mouth of Laertius, when discussing the gods of the nations, "But concerning such gods I make no claim to know whether they exist or not."
He ended his first paragraph:
[T]here are not lacking scholars who dismiss the entire story of its origin as being hopelessly embroiled in worthless Jewish fable.
On the end of p. 543, we read:
Whenever and by whoever completed, it is quite clear that the Septuagint was a product of the time when the Jewish Church was rushing headlong to ruin, and from that fact alone we should know how much it had been carried down to our own time whole and uncorrupted (author note: Owen is assuming how much it actually was not whole and was corrupt).
He continued on p. 544:
However, despite all of this, the point will be made that our Savior used this version and so commended it to the Church. This is rather like that of the author who solemnly tells us how our Lord used to sing mass and perform as a sacrificing priest! This could be brought out of the New Testament writings with about as great degree of probability as his endorsement of the Septuagint!
Owen then gave the better explanation for what people see in similarity between Septuagint and Jesus' quotations. First he admits some of the sameness: "Certainly, there are frequent phrases in the Greek New Testament which agree in wording with the Septuagint, where the version differs from the Hebrew." And his explanation is several fold. However, he ended the paragraph on p. 544 with this:
Christian users and copiers of the Septuagint would naturally adapt their quotations to those given in the New Testament. The asserters of this certainly have strong probabilities for their opinion.
Luke 4 is often used as an example of Jesus' quoting the Septuagint, since the Luke quotations of Jesus does differ from the Hebrew text there. Owen makes one comment on the Luke 4 passage on p. 812:
Further, we might note how, in this work of Bible exposition, Christ Himself anticipated His ministers by His expositions of the prophets in the synagogues of the Jews.
Owen called what Jesus did in the synagogue in Luke 4 to be "expositions." I along with others have said that Jesus "targummed." Owen calls them "expositions," not quotes.
Owen isn't sure about the origination of what is called "the Septuagint." He certainly doesn't believe that Jesus quoted from it. He says that Jesus was expositing in Luke 4, not quoting. He did not think that Jesus quoted from it or endorsed it, and has other explanations for the similiarities between the Septuagint and the New Testament quotations, one of which is that the copyists of the Septuagint stuck in the New Testament quotations as their translation. Those targums were not in line with the Old Testament Hebrew text, but they would then follow along with the wording in the Septuagint.
This leaves us with a high view of inspiration and preservation. It gives an explanation for the Septuagint that fits with God's promise of perfect preservation. Or in other words, it takes away a "reason" not to live by faith.