Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Commentary on the Steven Anderson--James White Interview, part two

Part one (which includes the link to the interview).  We left off at minute 46:40.

At 47, White is answering "codex Sinaiticus in a nutshell and codex B in a nutshell," and he starts by saying that "Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are the primary objects of vitriol of the King James Only movement."  That is aleph and b in a nutshell?  No, that is a propaganda-like answer.  Also in answer to that, White says, "I hope that you will have a fair and full discussion of Erasmus's development of his five editions."  That is in answer to the question of aleph and b in a "nutshell?"  A fair and full discussion should start with what does the Bible say about its own preservation, and then what did the churches and what did gospel-receiving Christians believe about the preservation of scripture?  This would be actually presuppositional, instead of just in name only, distorting the concept of presuppositionalism.  Erasmus is a red herring.  In many ways, White is more sure about what Erasmus said than he is about what the Bible says.  White is sure of what Christians for the first 1500 years never saw, but he isn't sure what is in the Bible itself.  Someone can't be sure of what Christians either did or did not see in the first 1500 years if he isn't sure of what is in the Bible today.

During White's "answer" about Sinaiticus "in a nutshell," he starts talking about church history and "the trail of blood," and I really have no idea what he is talking about.  He might know, but I have no clue of the point he was making during that foray.  Somehow, I think, he was trying to make a connection between ecclesiology and the text of scripture, but I don't know what it is.

Between 50:43 and 56, White talks about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, not really explaining what they were or why they were important.  He took part of his time to say that Erasmus wanted to use Vaticanus but didn't because he was rushing to get his Greek New Testament out in print.  All of this is to make the TR look shoddy and then make it look like it was a work of textual criticism.

With scriptural presuppositions, the most glaring issue with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus is that they weren't available to Christians for hundreds of years in contradiction to biblical teaching on the preservation of scripture.  If this was the Bible, why hadn't Christians received it and used it?  White says Sinaiticus was in use for a long time, due to the fact that people had written on it, but that is no explanation for why Sinaiticus should be trusted when it is not only much different than what Christians possessed and used for centuries, but also is hugely different than Vaticanus.  White says that Vaticanus first appeared in the Vatican library in the late 15th century.  That is not what I want to hear about the Bible, that the most trusted manuscript was sequestered in the pope's library for no one to use.

Regarding textual criticism, White says that the work in textual criticism done before the papyri is largely irrelevant.   At 56, White says that the new discoveries of manuscripts, the papyri, in the 20th-21st centuries has undercut the work of men attempting to undercut the faith of students in colleges and universities, naming Bart Ehrman an example of this especially.  White is saying there are those involved in textual criticism who are bad for the faith.  Anderson says "undercutting the faith only of those students whose faith stands in the wisdom of men and and not in the power of God."  White says he completely disagrees with that application.  I wish that they had decided to discuss that point, because this is primarily where this issue lies.  In fairness to White, Anderson was just trying to get footage for his documentary, and this must not have fit his agenda.

Based on the questions of Anderson, at 57 White discusses the principles behind textual criticism.  Anderson segues this into talk about variations between the modern versions and the KJV.   The two topics dovetail.  In this section, we hear the naturalistic explanations for discerning what are the words of God, White speaking against a theological basis for what the words are.  He says the King James shouldn't be held as a standard for comparison.  He assumes an older text was the text of the church in the early days without proof.  We know the KJV was the text of the church for hundreds of years.  White places more weight on earlier manuscript evidence as the standard, even though it is still hundreds of years after the originals.

Anderson points out that the KJV is careful not ever to refer to Joseph as Jesus' father, but in Luke 2:33 the modern versions say, "his father and his mother," instead of the KJV, "Joseph and his mother." Luke 2:43 makes the same error.  White calls these scribal changes of piety.  Bart Ehrman calls them "orthodox corruptions," saying that changes were made to the text in order to take away possible misconstruing in accordance with heretical Christology.  He says the orthodox were fine with changing the text to fit their theology, what White, again, calls changes of piety.  When White says what matters is what Luke said, he's saying that we understand that, not from the theology, but from the science.

Around 1:10 or so, Anderson and White delve into a philosophical discussion and it exposes the weakness of depending on principles of textual criticism to identify the words of scripture.  We don't know number of copies of the New Testament, but whatever the total, we don't possess 100% of them from the first century and over 99% of them from the second and third centuries.  Even though we possess more manuscript evidence for the Bible than any other ancient text, we are missing most of the textual evidence.   Even if we do find one page of a second century manuscript, it is just one page that is not going to tell us without doubt what are the exact words of the copied text of the New Testament. This exercise turns the conversation about the Bible into one of degree of exactitude.   It is a faithless task and conversation.

There were more copies made of the King James Version than any other rendering.  In 2011, Leland Ryken in an article about the King James Version in the Wall Street Journal called it the best selling book of all time and the most quoted book in the English language.  As a comeback to the truth of how many KJV Bibles have been published, at 1:12 or so, White hypothesizes if President Obama were to publish a billion copies of the Obama Version, would that make it the Bible?  It is hard to discuss an issue with someone who uses that kind of argumentation.  The KJV has been published and quoted because saved, Holy Spirit indwelt people think it is the Bible.  That might just be a difference between the KJV and the hypothetical Obama Version.  Ya think?

White makes the argument at 1:13 (and I'm not kidding) that every translator of the KJV would agree with him on his point.   After he says it, maybe he sees how ridiculous it sounds, so he starts to try to "prove it."  He brings up the preface by the translators, which is often referenced by modern-version-only as disproving KJVO.  I've read that preface several times before, and it does not make a point about changing the translation in the future in accordance with new textual evidence.  None.  The translators say that the translation could be improved in the future, if it can, much like they believed themselves to be doing. They say nothing about textual criticism and the uncovering of new textual evidence as a basis of future improvement.  They don't say anything about going back to "ancient codices," what White said.

White also references the translators discussion about the Septuagint.  He said that they said that the Septuagint should be relied upon as a basis for a translation.  Yes, the translators said that the apostles at times were using the Septuagint.  This was an argument by them for the making of a translation.   Many of the translators believed in a state church and in infant baptism.  White says that he has found some weird views about the Greek Septuagint among KJVO folks.  What is very weird is when White and folks like him would argue for a corrupt text of scripture, since they say that Jesus and the Apostles quoted one with the Septuagint (which he does at 1:17).  I would rather take a high view of scripture and use the same argument as John Owen in his article, "Digression on the Septuagint Greek Version of Scripture," from his Biblical Theology on p. 540.  I would venture to say that Owen's argument predates the weird stuff that White thinks he himself refers to.

More Later


Chris Gable said...

Bro. Brandenberg,
I enjoyed watching a debate between two people both of whom I disagree. It's very enlightening. I'm wondering if you may be able to address one of White's points. I have heard him use this argument before when I've seen him speak and it's kinda bothered me because I don't have clear answer for it. Can you respond to his disparaging of Erasmus and his Greek manuscripts recreating text in Revelation in his manuscripts from commentaries. Is that an accurate charge and how do you respond to that?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Bro Gable,

What I have found to be the case is that advocates of the eclectic or critical text have a strong belief in the preservation of historical data, including what they read about Erasmus, even greater trust in information God didn't promise to preserve than in the Words of God that the Lord did promise to preserve. First, we don't know all that Erasmus had as a basis for that first printed edition of the textus receptus. Second, Erasmus very likely was relying on manuscripts that had the Words he included in his printed edition of the book of Revelation in the Greek. Third, the churches didn't settle on Erasmus' edition of the textus receptus anyway, making this all a moot point.

Textual scholar Herman C. Hoskier argued that Erasmus did not go Latin to Greek. Instead, he suggests that Erasmus used other Greek manuscripts such as 2049 (which Hoskier calls 141), and the evidence seems to support this position. Hoskier collated all the manuscripts for the book of Revelation. Manuscript 2049 contains the reading found in the Textus Receptus including the textual variant of Revelation 22:19. To this we can also add the Greek manuscript evidence of 296, and the margin of 2067 (Herman C. Hoskier, Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (London: Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., 1929, p. 644).

The received text didn't originate with Erasmus. None other than Kurt Aland himself writes: "We can appreciate better the struggle for freedom from the dominance of the Textus Receptus when we remember that in this period it was regarded even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself."

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.

Bill Hardecker said...

Pastor Brandenburg,
a couple of questions from your reply to Bro. Gable.
"Third, the churches didn't settle on Erasmus' edition of the textus receptus anyway, making this all a moot point."
Question #1 - What edition of the TR did the churches settle on, if any? One reason I am asking is because there is a place where the KJV doesn't seem (at least to me) to go along with any Greek TR (and I am hoping to be wrong here) at all. Acts 22:28 - the word "freedom" (English) is "citizenship" (Greek; politeia). Is there a TR edition that reads freedom vs. citizenship. Is this a "mistake", or an "error", or a "variation" or what is it for the English (KJV) to translate that word as freedom, when the Greek has it as polity or citizenship.

Question #2 - Is is okay to think of the KJV as a variation of the TR (as in the thesis of Edward F. Hills)? I think you would be familiar with Hills and his reasoning (or what he called "logic of faith). Your thoughts on that, please.

BTW, I get what you are teaching and saying: God preserved His Word (words) not a text, or textual family or stream, or set of Mss. per se. (but do correct me if I am wrong). It's the words that are preserved, and we have his words in the M.T. & T.R.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Bill,

Just by looking at the text, it is essentially Beza 1598 with very little difference, something you won't hear pushed by White. I believe Hills (question #2) point is true, which is also something they don't want to refer to, that is, they translated from something, just that the translation didn't come from one printed edition, but from words that were preserved.

There is no variation between the KJV text and the modern versions on the word politeia in Acts 22:28. It's a translation issue, not textual there.

Answered #2. The position of preserving the Words is the biblical and historical position. I've shown that many times here and on Jackhammer for any of those who care. That has not been answered. They usually go to ad hominem and name calling and red herrings. When I said that, the portrait in my mind was Fred Butler, but it is many on the modern version side, how they argue.