Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Honesty About the Historical Position on Preservation

Recently I've taken up the cause of the preservation of Scripture, mainly in view of an edition of Frontline magazine, which has an article by David Shumate, entitled: "The Doctrine of Preservation: The Need of the Hour in the Bible Version Debate."  John Vaughn referenced this same statement, "the doctrine of preservation is 'the need of the hour in the Bible-version debate.'"  He refers to our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them, in his article.

In so many posts through the years, I've repeated the point that this doctrine of perfect preservation that we teach is the biblical and historical doctrine.  I've mentioned that Dan Wallace agreed with this.  I've mentioned that presentation of renowned historian, Richard A. Muller, and his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: Holy Scripture : The Cognitive Foundation of Theology. The position we take is the one found in John Owen and Francis Turretin and the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of Faith, and more.  Nothing else was taught as a position.  There was not a debate on this fact.

Men know that it wasn't until we get Benjamin Warfield, reading a new position into the WCF, that we get the modern position.  It's brand new.  Warfield had his reasons for inventing it.  It should be admitted that he did this.  Admit it.

Of course, I know why men don't admit it.  Dan Wallace does though.  And again, we're talking about the doctrinal position on preservation.  This is what Christians believe.  Was there a total apostasy on the correct doctrine?  This really needs to be established if we're going to go with a new doctrine and it should be developed by the theologians.  Where are the developed doctrinal statements with the new position?  And if not, why not?

33 comments:

Ken Lengel said...

Kent,

Shumate writes in his piece:

Intertwined with these questions of textual criticism are varying ideas about church history. Some have maintained that the traditional use by the institutional church through the ages has given particular sanction to a group of texts. Others hodl that the rise of the printing press and the Reformation marked a high-water mark of theological history and led to the identification of the most accurate Biblical texts. Others believe that the true text of the Scriptures must haven been passed down by separatiss groups. These issues hinge upon human notions and investigation and not upon divined revelation. As such, they have no authority to bind the conscience of believers. We have no right to insist that the children of God, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, must conform to our textual or historical theories. That prerogative belongs solely to the Scriptures, which alone can command the conscience.

So, what about canonicity?

Ken

Thomas Ross said...

Unless we can know what the text of the Bible is so that our consciences can be bound by it alone, nothing can be binding upon the believer at all. Unless we are going to accept that absolutely nothing is binding, we must accept that there are certain principles by which we determine what readings are actually Scripture – and to do that we can either follow the biblical principles (John 17:8; Isaiah 59:21; etc.) that lead by good and necessary consequence to the received text, or we can follow the principles of ungodly textual critics that cannot in any way be derived from Scripture.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ken,

It's true. It's inconsistent, their view of both. Both have the same arguments. You can't believe one or the other, but both.

Thomas,

That is an excellent statement. I hope people consider it.

Andy Efting said...

Kent,
I don’t normally comment on this issue anymore because I think we are all fairly entrenched in our positions. You do mention this particular historical point often and since the historical aspect of this debate is of interest to me, I thought I would put in my two cents in from the other side. FWIW

Basically, I think Warfield is correct in how he views the WCF. The confession does make a distinction between the autographs which were “immediately inspired” by God and the copies which were kept pure by God’s providential care. Pure cannot mean that any particular copy is completely without error or corruption but that “the genuine text has been kept safe in the multitude of copies, so as never to be out of the reach of the Church of God, in the use of the ordinary means.” He goes on to assert that the gathering and analysis of the multitude of manuscript evidence are “all parts of God’s singular care and providence in preserving His inspired Word pure.” (quotes from “The Westminster Doctrine of Holy Scripture” in The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, 1893).

Regarding John Owen, it appears that his “Of the Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text of the Scripture” was at least partially a response to textual information and logical assertions that came about when Brian Walton published his Polyglott Bible. This effort highlighted more variation in the manuscript evidence than what Owen was comfortable with. I think there was also a question about the origin of the Hebrew vowel pointing. I don’t think Owen was at his finest here, mainly due to his general unfamiliarity with the manuscript evidence and the fact that he felt that “by a continuous miracle, extending over ages, every point and letter of Scriptures have been indubitably preserved as they came from the inspired penmen” (Donald Mckim, John Owen’s Doctrine of Scripture in Historical Perspective) – that was his position and this new information contradicted it. I think he overstated his case and misrepresented what the Bible actually teaches.

At any rate, the point is this. Owen and the Westminster divines were at a turning point in history when the reality of manuscript evidence was just coming into general understanding. I think this explains much of what you read from Owen, Turretin, and others from that era. Plus, I don’t think it is accurate to say that there was no debate because Walton and Owen debated.

Can you point me to where Wallace says your position was the historical position? I recall you mentioning that before and I’d like to just see what Wallace has to say. Also, where does Muller state that in his work? I think I can find a copy at a nearby library and I’d like to see what he actually says as well.

Andy

KJB1611 said...

Dear Andy,

For Baptist history, you might find the essay here of value:

http://faithsaves.net/canonicity-of-the-received-text-or-textus-receptus-established-from-reformation-and-post-reformation-baptist-confessions/

I don't have specific quotes from Muller easily accessible, but his book (indeed, the entire 4 volume set) is very worthwhile reading.


While the McKim quote phrased things in a way Owen would not--providence would have been Owen's language, not "continuous miracle," but this sort of thing is what McKim does with inspiration to try to attack the historic position on that doctrine also--at least it is evident that Owen agreed with us.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for coming over and at least considering this, or I hope you are considering it. People should deal with this, not what I am saying, but what it is, whether I existed or not, it's still true.

I can't answer your whole comment right now, but I will. To start, I believe that evangelicalism and fundamentalism has been influenced by the modern or postmodern idea (a little of both) that there is an upper story of "truth" that is subjective and personal, and, therefore, varied. It isn't in the realm of fact or objectivity, and so disagreement is fine, and both can be right -- that kind of thing. It's not true. There is one God and one truth, one story. We can't both be right here. So however entrenched it may seem we are, we are still responsible for the truth, and we can't say it isn't plain. It is plain.

So, are you saying that everyone believed the Warfield position and that was not the new position, just explaining to us what people already believed? Muller says that is absolutely NOT the case. No way. He does history for a living. I do too in the sense that I've been teaching history for 25 years. It doesn't mean that you can't have a point, but there are not two positions on this, and we both can't be right.

The right approach is to look at the Bible first, which we did in Thou Shalt Keep Them, our book. That's what everyone should do. What I've experienced is attack for even doing it or representing it as, you were defending a KJVO position. I have no skin in the KJVO game. Nothing is holding me back from a Warfield/eclectic text/BJU/ evangelical/etc. position. I am independent.

Your presentation above reads as a spin of history --- I say that respectfully though. You've got have a history, you would think, so it would be what you're left with.

When I say my position is what Christian's believe, the only position, it doesn't mean that it wouldn't have been attacked, but it was the only doctrinal statement on this. And I have written on this all over the place again and again.

Wallace said this to me in public in a protracted blog comment conversation that he since took down. I saved it, however, and will go looking for it. Nobody challenged Wallace in that conversation, that he was wrong about admitting that this was the historical position. Neither did Frank Turk in my debate with him that is still online. This position is also what Kurt Aland said was the belief. And that you can find in his books. Muller says it. And then when you go into the individual theologians and statements, this is clearly what they believed, according to their own explanation. I'm not saying that wasn't attacked by some, but the attacks, just like today, are not a laid out position. When Warfield gave his progressive, loose construction of the WCF, people said this was new. They said that wasn't what it was teaching. And at that point in history, we know that Warfield was inventing more than that, along with others influenced by the same schools in Germany.

Anyway, I have some other appointments today, but I'll put in links of the historical articles I've written. You're the first person to come along to say that it wasn't the history. You've done little to prove it -- just saying there was a debate with Owen and that Warfield was right. You have a lot of evidence to climb over to sustain your theory and it would be interesting to see you do it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Andy,

Here are links to historical articles I have written, and then a paper from Paul Ferguson is last. There is a ton besides Owen and Turretin.

This first article references the Daniel Wallace admission on the doctrine of preservation that I talked about. I could go find it, but I'm asking you to trust me, in light of my referencing it. If not, I'll go looking. Richard Muller would seem to be good enough.

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/09/criticizing-professor-wallace-part-two.html

Here are the others in no necessary order. Some are from the old Jackhammer blog, still online. I'd be happy to have you point me to the doctrinal statements and confessions with the eclectic text position. I would appreciate that.

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2010/04/richard-muller-and-history-of.html

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2008/01/why-i-keep-talking-about.html

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2012/06/embarrassing-history-of-doctrine-of.html

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2006/04/revisionist-history-on-perfect.html

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2012/04/actual-history-of-king-james-onlyism.html

http://jackhammer.wordpress.com/2007/02/26/multiple-versions-only-mvo-no-scripture-so-invent-a-fake-history/

http://jackhammer.wordpress.com/2007/02/25/quotes-quotes-quotes-we-take-the-historic-position/

http://jackhammer.wordpress.com/2007/02/18/john-owen-on-perfect-preservation-of-scripture/

http://oldfaith.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/pb-preservation-quotes.doc

Andy Efting said...

Thank you Kent. I will take a look at these. I also have the Muller book now and have been reading through it. I think you are overstating the historical case but it will take me some time to write up why I think so. Plus I want to do a little more research. It's a pretty interesting study.

I don't know if you saw my previous comment about John Owen. Do you guys agree with him? I want to think about what I have read from him some more but my initial take is that he has an even more difficult position to defend than you do.

Andy

Kent Brandenburg said...

Andy,

I'll await your assessment of my overstatement. Muller is just reporting as a historian. You'll have to see what he says about Warfield. I do agree with Owen. I'm interested in seeing how you say, how not. There is so much that can be said historically. You seem to be saying that everyone, everyone, is just reacting to something else. No. This is the view. I'm sure there were deniers, just like in all periods. Catholics, obviously, questioned the authority of scripture, period.

I'm also interested in a question you haven't answered. Where are the doctrinal statements purveying your view, showing yours a historic view, pre-19th century.

Andy Efting said...

Kent,

Just a quick update -- the paper by Paul Ferguson is going to take me sometime to work through, so don't expect a response too soon. I'm not going to be able to respond with the same thoroughness as Paul but I think I will be able to at least summarize my position for you.

However, just for fun, I thought I'd point you to my latest blog posting. I have pictures there of a 1516 version of Erasmus' Greek NT and a 1522 printing of Luther's German translation of the NT. Neither of these reformation era documents, as I'm sure you know, contain the Johannine Comma.

http://unsearchableriches.blogspot.com/2014/11/martin-luther-and-german-bible.html

Andy Efting said...

Kent,

I tried to leave a fairly lengthy response here in your comment section, but it won't let me because it was too long. So, I have posted my response over on my blog:

http://unsearchableriches.blogspot.com/2014/11/is-perfect-preservation-historical.html

Andy

Kent Brandenburg said...

Andy,

I'm going to answer the comment posted at your blog, paragraph by paragraph.

First paragraph.

Paul writes on page 40 of his paper that “the Westminster Divines never argued for the preservation of a copy, but the preservation of the Words, because that is what the Bible teaches.” I tend to agree with that statement but I’m not sure that you guys are consistent with what that says, because later on Paul argues for a “reformation text” (p 42) which was “immediately inspired by God because it was identical with the first text that God has kept pure in all the ages” (p 43) with “no mistakes in the Hebrew Masoretic texts or in the Textus Receptus of the New Testament” (p 43). These later quotes argue for the perfect preservation of a copy, not the preservation of words within the available manuscript evidence. But let’s move on to what the WCF actually claims.

Answer.

When I said that you don't get it, I know that might sound offensive, but you don't get it, and it's important you do get it, or it's a strawman. If you miss this very first point, then you missed everything.

You say that Paul (and me) are representing two different positions. That's wrong. The textus receptus is not one copy. It is the traditional text, but the editions are slightly different. You can get a taste of that in Scrivener's Annotated Greek New Testament (which I have a copy). It's very few differences, but they would be the kind of differences between two identical manuscripts. Very few, minor variations, extremely unlike the differences between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

This text, however, was generally available in addition to being preserved. All the words were there. That is the first gauntlet in a scriptural position. This is also what God's people were accepting.

So, "Words" and "textus receptus" are the same thing. The textus receptus is not one single copy. You know that, so I don't know why that didn't occur to you that Paul's (and mine) was a consistent position.

This is what the WCF possessed and so whatever it was the divines said was pure wasn't the eclectic text. That's not how they thought.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Second Paragraph.

The Westminster divines “were men of prodigious learning and were aware of many minor textual disagreements going back to the days of the Early Fathers” (p 42). This quote corresponds with what B.B. Warfield says, and what I highlighted in my first comment to you, that the WCF recognizes a difference between the original autographs (“immediately inspired by God”) and subsequent copies (by God’s providence, “kept pure in all ages”). When the WCF states that the scriptures have “by his singular care and providence [been] kept pure in all ages” it can’t mean that every copy has been kept free from all error or alteration, or that a single copy always exists that has been kept free from all error or alteration. It must mean that the scriptures have been kept pure within the multitude of extant copies. In other words God has kept his word pure providentially so that no one group, person, church, or government could corrupt the reading of the text without those changes (intentional or unintentional) being noticed and correctable through the process of textual criticism.

Answer.

This is where you do not understand their position. No one came out with a preservation within the "multitude of extant copies." No, all the words were preserved in the copies that were available to them, which would only be the textus receptus. And through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God would canonize the Words. They would know them. It is communicated by Capel: "As for some scrapes by Transcribers, that comes to no more, than to censure a book to be corrupt, because of some scrapes in the printing, and tis certain, that what mistake is in one print, is corrected in another." Yes, there would be variants, a few minor that would be corrected. The eclectic text position is that it is never corrected and it is never certain. Capel wrote, "tis certain." You don't say that, Andy. No modern critical text or eclectic text person takes that position. That was not the position of Warfield. I wish I did not think you knew this and were ignoring it on purpose.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Third Paragraph.

Warfield is not the only one who suggests this about the WCF wording. Writing before Warfield, in 1857, Robert Shaw, in his An Exposition of the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, writes, “Copies we now possess generally coincide with the originals . . . Every succeeding age increase the difficulty; and though the comparison of a multitude of ancient manuscripts and copies has discovered a vast number of various readings, occasions by the inadvertency and inaccuracy of transcribers, yet not one of these differences affect any one article of the faith and comfort of Christians.”

I agree that Shaw and Warfield are saying something similar, but we already knew that men in the mid 19th century were writing this way. There are some nuances of difference that make Warfield still significant. I wasn't the first one to make the point that Warfield started something with his article in 1893 (not the same as the new concept of inerrancy in 1881, which may have been even bigger).

Shaw is saying that the Westminster divines had in their possession in the original text all of the Words, just like I'm saying. He says, "generally coincide," and I believe that is a loose way of expressing it that is adjusting to textual criticism.

This is where I don't think you are being accurate. I'm going to assume you're not doing it on purpose. Warfield read into the WCF modern textual criticism, actually stating the names of Westcott and Hort and Tischendorff and Tregelles as God's providential care. That was what was new. That was not preservation. That was saying that it wasn't available and would always need to be restored. Warfield, U of Berlin grad, says "to reform the text on scientific principles." Wow. Shaw doesn't say that. He doesn't represent the WCF either, but he isn't reading in scientific principles into the WCF. You think they were thinking "scientific principles"? Which is U of Berlin language, a part of modernism.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Four.

In my previous note I mentioned that Brian Walton contended against Owens’ position after his publication of the Polyglott. Here is what Walton said in his Considerator Considered, “that the special providence of God hath watched over these books, to preserve them pure and uncorrpt against all attempts of Sectaries, Hereticks, and others, and will still preserve them to the end of the world, for the end for which they were first written, That the errors or mistakes which may befall by negligence or inadvertency of Transcribers or Printers, are in matters of no concernment (from whence various readings have risen), and my by collation of other copies and other means there mention be rectified and amended” – so he agrees with Warfield and me.

Neither Walton or Owen were in the Westminster Assembly, and Walton's Polyglott is an outlier as to what the assembly and Owen and Turretin wrote. Walton does not represent a presentation of a doctrine of preservation, which you still have not pointed to. Owen is very involved in this way and so are some of the assembly members who wrote the WCF. This would be an approach that many, including Warfield, would mock as apriori, but it was pre-enlightenment thinking. Carl Trueman interprets Walton as very much into the study of manuscripts, original languages, in contradiction to the Vulgate, for instance; however, ironically leading to modernism and liberalism. He admits that there was a change or shift in the faith, which takes the trajectory you are approving of, and I am not.

Read here: http://www.theologynetwork.org/biblical-studies/getting-stuck-in/the-status-of-scripture-in-theology-from-the-enlightenment.htm

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Five.

I think it is fair to say that both your position and mine requires the use of textual criticism. You just use different criteria (giving priority to TR texts and KJV readings), while I would make use of more manuscripts and use a different method of textual criticism. Warfield says the same when he says, “Men like Lightfoot are found defending the readings of the common text against men like Beza; as there were some of them, like Lightfoot, who were engaged in the most advance work which up to that time had been done on the Biblical text, Walton’s Polyglott, so others of them may have stood with John Owen, a few years later, in his strictures on that great work; and had their lot been cast in our day it is possible that many of them might have been of the school of Scrivener and Burgon, rather than that of Westcott and Hort.” (PRR, 644).

It's not fair, and it is a very old zinger to compare the 16th century to scientific textual criticism. Mine is a faith position based on the promises of God, that would believe in a settled text. Yours is an unsettled text, always in need of restoring. This is where there is eclectic text entrenchment, when you can see Trueman knows there is a difference, Muller knows there is a difference, Warfield communicates a difference, and these are men who don't have the skin in the game that you do.

I'm not going to make an entire presentation of the historic position, the only one laid out from 1500 to 1800 and longer, but you can read my debate against Frank Turk to see me lay it out with him.

To take the biblical position one step further, we believe that there is a settled text and that God would guide believers (churches) to it, based on his promise. An unrestored, unsettled text is unacceptable doctrinally and isn't the historical position.

Andy Efting said...

Regarding your comments on my first paragraph, it is not clear when someone states there are “no mistakes” in a text but actually mean there are errors in individual manuscripts within a subset of manuscripts but that this particular set of manuscripts contains all the words and phrasing as originally breathed out by God. It’s inaccurate because there are mistakes in those manuscripts and you don’t have “a text” you have a set of manuscripts that have differences, some of which, like the Johannine Comma, you consider to be very significant.

Regarding your comments on my second paragraph, this is good to see exactly what you mean. The WCF does not say anything one way or the other about what manuscript evidence they considered to be valid. You are putting your view, “copies that were available to them”, into the statement, and I don’t see any reason why that has to be so. Second, Capel doesn’t say textual critics would be infallible in making the corrections, only that mistakes in one document are not mistakes in some other document. What is “tis certain” for Capel (at least in this statement) is not the final product but that we haven’t lost anything, the correct readings are certainly within the extant manuscript evidence. I am not convinced at all that the WCF meant pure within the limited copies “available” to them, i.e., the TR group of manuscripts. But I see this is really what you are contending for.

Regarding your comments on my third paragraph, my point is that Warfield is not alone or even the first to read the WCF as pure through a comparison of the multitude of ancient manuscripts. It’s funny that you read your position into what Shaw says, too (“just like I’m saying”). I doubt very much that was what he was thinking – he refers to vast numbers of various readings, etc.

Regarding your comments on my fourth paragraph, the point is that there was not uniform consensus to Owen’s position. Walton’s Polyglott was a compilation that incorporated the work of several men from that era. One thing I could not find was a list of the men who wrote the WCF – do you have that? Was Lightfoot one of them, because he participated in the production of the Polyglott.
I’m not sure why you pointed me to that article by Trueman, because in it he states that Warfield’s “thinking is consistent with traditional orthodox approaches stretching back through the Reformation and Middle ages…as Richard Muller has shown.” That’s what I’ve been saying…

Regarding your comments on my 5th paragraph, I do think it’s fair and I think Warfield is right on. Of course, that is just part of our disagreement. Your comment raises a question in my mind, though, when was your text finally settled? And by text, I think you mean a single manuscript, or at least a single reading, right?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Andy,

I will come back and answer your last comment after I'm done answering your post/comment at your blog.

Paragraph Six.

Contra to this, Paul Ferguson tries to argue that the Westminster divines were referring to a “perfectly preserved TR (as cited in the confession)” (p 44) by supplying several quotes from men of that era to that effect. Of course, any text they might be talking about was surely an edition of the TR because that was the Greek text currently printed and in use at the time. However, to say that they uniformly viewed the TR family or any particular version of the TR as the perfectly preserved text identical with the autographs is not quite right. I don’t doubt that some thought that way. It appears that some like Turretin and Owen believed than any corruption in the text throws the entire text, words, message, and all into doubt. This argument, though, is not sound and does, as Wallace says, paints them into a corner. The quote from Lightfoot (p 46) does not identify where God preserved “every part so that not so much as a tittle should perish.” His participation in Brian Walton’s Polyglott makes me think Lightfoot did not have a particular text in mind when he wrote that quote. I’ll have more to say about Lightfoot’s views below.

I'm happy here to hear you admit that Turretin and Owen, two theological giants, took our position. Just because Walton disagreed with Owen doesn't mean that the Westminster Assembly was reflecting Walton. They read as reflecting Owen's thinking. Providential care doesn't read like "science," something you have yet to admit, which is one feature of eclectic text entrenchment syndrome.

On the other hand, I don't know enough about Walton's view to say what he believed on the preservation of scripture. Does his book present a doctrine of preservation of scripture of some kind? Pages?

When you say "text" for Lightfoot, do you mean single copy/edition or textus receptus? When speaking of manuscripts, what I read of these men, is that they believed that we possessed every Word in the manuscripts and that the exact Word would find its way into a settled text by God's providential care, communicated by the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Seven.

Same goes with Paul’s quote from Capel (p 45-46). Warfield quotes Capel as saying, earlier in the same document that Paul quotes from, “we have copies in both languages which copies vary not from the primitive writings in any matter that may stumble any. This concerns only the learned, and they know what by consent of all parties, the most learned on all sides amongst Christians do shake hand in this, that God by his providence hath preserve them uncorrupt [AE – he goes on to explain what he mean by this -- ] What if there be variety of readings in some copies? And some mistakes in writing or printing? This makes nothing against our doctrine, sith for all this the fountain runs clear.” Capel admits that “Translators and Transcribers might erre, being not prophets nor indued with that infallible Spirit in translating or transcribing, as Moses and the prophets were in their Original Writings” but says that doesn’t matter because “the fountain runs clear”, meaning that the original were perfectly inerrant, and any such errors do not effect doctrine (“this makes nothing against our doctrine”). So you cannot appeal to Capel, who basically takes the same position as I do.

If I'm wrong on Capel, then Muller is on all these guys. They believed that they had in essence the same text as the originals. Yes, there were variations, but where they were there was an error in one copy, it was corrected in another. That is not Warfield's position. He doesn't believe they are corrected. Neither do you. You believe that they are all in there somewhere, and not really, because there is more to be found. And there is more to it, because it isn't an apriori or theological predisposition in critical thought, but let the evidence (science) lead you to the truth. As a foundation, they believed in preservation. Wallace doesn't. This is not a doctrine that buttresses the critical text position.

Capel isn't like you, because he believed in a settled text, unlike you. The eclectic text position is an ongoing changing, morphing Bible without authority, and it is vastly different than what Capel had and believed was a pure fountain.

7% difference is not a pure fountain. The stream is diluted beyond purity.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Eight.

In fact, Warfield quotes several WCF era theologians to show that they were aware of errors in the texts and the need for textual criticism to restore the text.

“That Divine Truth in English, is as truly the Word of God, as the same Scriptures delivered in the Originall, Hebrew or Greek; yet with this difference, that the same is perfectly, immediately and most absolutely in the Orginall Hebrew and Greek, in other translations as the vessels wherein it is presented to us, and as far forth as they do agree with the Originalls. . . We do not say that his or that Translation is the Rule and Judge, but the Divine Truth translated; the knowledge whereof is brought to us in the Translation.” (William Lyford, The Plain Man’s Senses Exercised, 1657).

This quote highlights confidence in the original manuscripts and the fact that no one translation should be considered the sole final authority – others are valid and authoritative as they correspond to the original Hebrew and Greek.


I don't believe you here. You can't be serious -- that Lyford is offering an early version of Warfield. All he's saying is that a translation is only as good as it represent the originals, which they thought was found in the Hebrew and the Greek apographa. I believe that too. This isn't the Warfield position. Warfield was saying that "providential care" equals the science of textual criticism. You know this.

As an aside to above comments, I pulled out my Muller tonight and was flipping through it, and on p. 432, he writes regarding Walton: "Walton, whose views on the late origin of the vowel points was so angrily disputed by Owen in the name of the doctrine of Scripture, was himself an advocate of a high doctrine of scriptural inspiration and authority: 'the Original Texts,' he wrote, ' are not corrupted, ... are of Supream authority in all matters,' and 'the copies we now have are the true transcripts of the first autographa written by the sacred Penmen.'" I wasn't even trying with this, and it is absolutely indicative of your misrepresenting these men. It's something I already knew and everyone else should know. It is sheer revisionist history with which you are participating.

Muller, next page, writes: "By 'original and authentic' text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no one can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Nine.

Samuel Rutherford says in 1651 that “for through scribes, translators, grammarians, printers, may all erre, it followeth not that an unerring providence of him that has seven eyes, hath not delivered to the Church, the scriptures containing the infallible word of God.” In other words, just because we have “only copies written by men, who might make mistake” that does not mean God was unable in his providence to nevertheless preserve his infallible word for us, in spite of the presence of those mistakes.

I've used this quote myself. You believe it supports Warfield. Anyone would know that's not true. I guess I understand your using it, but it's just weaving something together that isn't there. Infallible doesn't mean 'with error' to these guys. The seven eyes of the Holy Spirit means that the Holy Spirit knows what the words are despite the variations.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Ten.

“How shall we hold and keep fast the Letter of Scripture, when there are so many Greek Copies of the New Testament? And these diverse from one another? . . . For though there are many received copies of the New Testament, yet there is not material differences between them.” (William Bridge, Scripture Light the Most Sure Light, 1656).

Do you really think this is "not material differences between Sinaiticus/Vaticanus and the TR?"

Muller writes, p. 435, "Turretin and other high and late orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa. . . . they mount their argument for authenticity and infalliblity without recourse to a logical device like that employed by Hodge and Warfield." I guess you're saying Muller is wrong. He's read everything these guys have written in English and Latin.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paragraph Eleven.

“Consider how many copies were abroad in the world. The Old Testament was in every synagogue and how many copes would men take of the New Testament. So that it is impossible but still Scripture must be conveyed. . . .It was their [the Masorites] care and solicitude to preserve the text in all purity . . . yet could they not, for all their care, but have some false copies go up and down among them, through heedlessness and error of transcribers. . . To which may be added that the same power and care of God, that preserves the Church, would preserve the Scriptures pure to it, and he that did, and could, preserve the whole could preserve every part so that not so much as a tittle should perish.” (John Lightfoot, Works) – Here Lightfoot connects the many copies of scripture with God’s providence to preserve each part, even though careful copyists still make mistakes. In other words, he is basically saying the same thing as us – that God preserves his word within the multitude of extant copies.

So Lightfoot says textual variants exist. Who says they don't? You then put words in his mouth for a conclusion. His view wouldn't be, "All the words are in there, but we don't know what they are." No, his view is, tiny number of differences (because of the Masoretic copyists God used) but all the Words there in the copies available to us. By extant, you don't mean available, but somewhere on planet earth unavailable for hundreds of years. Lightfoot believed they were there, so that there was no need to restore the text.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Next paragraph I will comment upon.

I’ve been going on for quite some time, so instead of adding all my comments from Muller, maybe I’ll just close with what I consider to be his “money” quote concerning this issue. Here is what he says on page 401:

“…scholars have tended to overlook the fact that the practice of most exegetes of the seventeenth century was somewhere in between the fairly radical conjectural emendation on the basis of ancient versions recommended by Cappel and the virtual denial of the usefulness of text-critical efforts that can be elicited from Owen’s attack on the London Polygot.” (Muller, 401)


By the way, Cappel and Capel are different people. And you are quoting from a different edition from me, so the page numbers are off for me, I would think (that's not on p. 400 in my book), but Muller is discussing the debate over the Hebrew vowel points between Levita the Catholic and Owen the Protestant. Cappel supported Levita -- late added versus original Hebrew vowel points. Muller says that Cappel's reasoning found few Protestant supporters, i.e., Roman Catholics were the supporters of Cappel.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Last Two Paragraphs.

In other words, Owen’s position did not represent a consensus but an extreme. Honestly, how could it be otherwise? It’s not surprising that people would use the TR text of the day for their work, as there was no real printed competition. Textual scholars of that day, though, knew the TR was not the “be all and end all.”

As far as your basic premise goes, that your position is the historical position, that just cannot be sustained. In my last post, I jokingly referred to Erasmus and Luther and their exclusion of the Comma, but in all seriousness, how can your text (based on your position) be the historical text when it wasn’t always the historical text and when there was no consensus among 16/17th cent believers for your position or text? There was controversy, just like we have today.


Muller says there was consensus. Everyone knew there were variants. Everyone believed what error was in one copy would be corrected by another, but the text was in God's providential care for every generation, to which the Holy Spirit would guide through the church, just like He would and did the books of the Bible. Canonicity is determined by the very same faith. Owen and Turretin were giants. Sure, Walton and Cappel were outliers, but not on the basic premise of preservation, everyone was in agreement on that, just on the nature of the Hebrew vowel points, for instance, and for the value of other ancient manuscripts of even other non-canonical books.

To say that certain editions didn't have certain verses (the comma) didn't mean that there wasn't relatively quick consensus on a text. Luther didn't believe that all 66 books were canonical, even. Do you think there was no consensus then on the 66 books? Because your argument would have to follow to be consistent.

They actually considered the TR to be the be all, end all, so you're wrong on that. So far the only conclusion one could take, as proven from what you've written, is that they agreed that there were textual variants.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Andy,

Now to your long comment after I started answering your post. By the way, I am thankful that you gave this a shot over here. Others wouldn't do it, but they are just putting their heads in the sand on this. You've considered it and it is worth considering for a number of reasons. I agree that it is a huge amount of material, but as you are looking for anything on preservation, it is amazingly consistent and the same view.

Alright now to the...

First Two Paragraphs.

Regarding your comments on my first paragraph, it is not clear when someone states there are “no mistakes” in a text but actually mean there are errors in individual manuscripts within a subset of manuscripts but that this particular set of manuscripts contains all the words and phrasing as originally breathed out by God. It’s inaccurate because there are mistakes in those manuscripts and you don’t have “a text” you have a set of manuscripts that have differences, some of which, like the Johannine Comma, you consider to be very significant.

Regarding your comments on my second paragraph, this is good to see exactly what you mean. The WCF does not say anything one way or the other about what manuscript evidence they considered to be valid. You are putting your view, “copies that were available to them”, into the statement, and I don’t see any reason why that has to be so. Second, Capel doesn’t say textual critics would be infallible in making the corrections, only that mistakes in one document are not mistakes in some other document. What is “tis certain” for Capel (at least in this statement) is not the final product but that we haven’t lost anything, the correct readings are certainly within the extant manuscript evidence. I am not convinced at all that the WCF meant pure within the limited copies “available” to them, i.e., the TR group of manuscripts. But I see this is really what you are contending for.


Ultimately an edition of the TR is a copy, not handwritten, but a copy. Between the manuscripts they received and the editions of the TR, they came to consensus on the TR. I recognize TR is more general than one physical copy that made its way through, but there is a homogeneity to the text then that was unlike anything like now, because of their faith. After the King James, you see that the editions of the TR phase ended. That was what they were talking about when they said what they said 'kept pure by his providential care.'

The WCF assembly was saying the text was available, for sure, which rules out Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and the science of textual criticism. If you agree on the common faith, then you end that whole pursuit right there. It was the post-enlightenment "science" that revved up what we have today, just like the new interpretations of Genesis 1-3.

Gotta go.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I was in a rush on the last comment, and wasn't able to finish, so this is to finish that comment.

What they were saying and I'm saying is that all the words were available in what they had. God would make sure that the church had all of His Words. You've got to know that eclectic text, Warfield, and textual critics see the words as unattainable, not ever to be determined. That's the not the language of these men at all. What mistake was in one copy would be corrected by another, but it would be corrected. It wasn't, "they're out there somewhere and we won't know what they are."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Last few paragraphs.

Regarding your comments on my third paragraph, my point is that Warfield is not alone or even the first to read the WCF as pure through a comparison of the multitude of ancient manuscripts. It’s funny that you read your position into what Shaw says, too (“just like I’m saying”). I doubt very much that was what he was thinking – he refers to vast numbers of various readings, etc.

Regarding your comments on my fourth paragraph, the point is that there was not uniform consensus to Owen’s position. Walton’s Polyglott was a compilation that incorporated the work of several men from that era. One thing I could not find was a list of the men who wrote the WCF – do you have that? Was Lightfoot one of them, because he participated in the production of the Polyglott.
I’m not sure why you pointed me to that article by Trueman, because in it he states that Warfield’s “thinking is consistent with traditional orthodox approaches stretching back through the Reformation and Middle ages…as Richard Muller has shown.” That’s what I’ve been saying…

Regarding your comments on my 5th paragraph, I do think it’s fair and I think Warfield is right on. Of course, that is just part of our disagreement. Your comment raises a question in my mind, though, when was your text finally settled? And by text, I think you mean a single manuscript, or at least a single reading, right?


I do believe Shaw is saying to a certain extent what I'm saying, insofar that the Westminster divines believed they had all the Words in the manuscripts they possessed. They went further than that, but they went at least that far.

Here are the quotes from Trueman that are the reason why I linked. I assumed you would just take them at face value. He like Muller doesn't have an axe to grind. I don't agree with everything there, but he is saying there is a difference between a pre-enlightenment thinking and Warfield.

shifts in epistemology also contributed to the weakening of the traditional approach to Scripture.

You say they were the mirrored by Warfield, same thing.

The Warfield thesis on Scripture has been criticised as a novelty or innovation and as not representing a longstanding tradition within the church, most notably by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim. They see it as the result of `scholastic’ (seen here as equivalent to `rationalist’) streams of thought within Reformed theology, combined with the impact of Scottish common sense realism (SCSR). The case is overstated. Certainly, Warfield was influenced by SCSR, and also had a na├»ve confidence that historical text criticism would bring scholars closer and closer to textual consensus

Evangelicals like Trueman are pro-Warfield. But he knows that Warfield changed thing. He thinks that the critique is overstated, but he gives legitimacy to the critique. I don't know why he refers to Muller, because actually Muller is scathing on Warfield on this point.

the terms of debate continue to be those set by the pre-Enlightenment testimony to the Bible as verbally inspired, refined by the work of such as Hodge and Warfield in the nineteenth century

Hodge and Warfield "refined" pre-enlightenment testimony. They didn't leave it alone. Now, I don't see it as a "refinement," but it is still not the same as what they said "pre-enlightenment." The quoting of Trueman is for the purpose of showing that people who support an eclectic text know it was a change.

Lastly, there was a short period of time in which there was agreement among God's people on the canon and on the text. This was essentially done by the beginning of the 17th century. You don't see new editions of the TR after then and all the translations were being done from the TR. This was the testimony of God's people. To keep changing and changing is not in line with their bibliology and with biblical teaching on preservation.

KJB1611 said...

I see some irony in Ken's arguing, if I understand him properly, that the Bible is preserved in all available MSS, and arguing that this is the position of or at least consistent with historic orthodoxy, while at the same time conceding that the critical text that he prefers was not available for centuries, so the men of the 16th-18th centuries employed the Textus Receptus because it was the only Bible available.

Ken Lengel said...

I didn't see my comment posted here. For the record, Ken never suggested (that's me) the critical text is what I prefer. I want to be clear on that. I am not sure if this was directed to me or not, but I wanted it to be posted.

Thanks,
Ken

Andy Efting said...

Kent,

Thanks for taking the time for a detailed response to my reply. I would like to respond, and plan to, but am trying to figure out a way that isn't so lengthy. One thing is for sure and that is I think I understand more precisely what you are arguing for, why you believe it is an historic position, and why it seems both sides can claim the same quotes for their position!

At any rate, in a few days, I will try to respond as succinctly as I can.

Andy Efting said...

Kent,

I had an idea that I would reply point by point to each of your responses to my blog post, but such a response would just make our interaction grow exponentially. Instead, I will try to summarize my position much more succinctly. Doing it this way doesn’t answer or respond to many of your individual points, but to do so would take more time and space than what I am willing to give now. I do think that I could expand on each point I’m about to make and thoroughly document and justify it. I know it will not be satisfying to you but at least you will know why I disagree. While I can understand why you take certain quotes from Muller and others as support for your position, I honestly don’t believe it is accurate to say that yours is the historical position.

All of the quotes that you use in support of your position come from an historical context in which Protestants and Catholics were debating the text of Scripture, with Catholics claiming that the Greek and Hebrew texts were not as reliable as the Vulgate and official church dogma.
For protestants, the “central issue” was that ancient VERSIONS should not be used to “alter the Hebrew and Greek ‘originals’ of the Old and New Testaments” (Muller, 2nd Ed., 400, section 6.2.A.1 – the whole section is worth reading). It is in light of this controversy and corresponding central issue that we should evaluate what the theologians of that day were saying.

With that in mind, it is not surprising to read things like, "Turretin and other high and late orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa. . . . they mount their argument for authenticity and infalliblity without recourse to a logical device like that employed by Hodge and Warfield." (Muller, your version, p. 435). It was important for them to argue that their current Heb and Gk manuscripts provided better reliability and authenticity than the alternative Catholic position based on the Vulgate and church dogma. Therefore they tended to defend the infallibility of Scripture via exegetical explanations rather than appealing to scribal error, or the need for textual emendation based on some ancient version. Muller makes this clear.

In contrast, Hodge and Warfield and other modern day apologists are more inclined to appeal to possible textual corruption/scribal error because the debate is no longer framed by Rome to be an issue of the textual reliability of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Back in the post-reformation era, though, because of how the debate was framed, many people, like I think Owen (probably) and some others that you have quoted, “painted themselves into a corner” to use Wallace’s terminology, in how they argued for their position, basically leaving no room for any errors in the extant Gk/Heb manuscripts (or uncorrectable in the small subset of TR manuscipts). Yet if you read these guys more completely, it becomes evident that their actual position is not quite as extreme or unyielding as some statements, taken in isolation, might lead one to believe. Muller, for example, refers to Owen, who in his commentary on Hebrews often appealed to ancient versions, including the Syriac (which would have contained readings different than those in the TR), in support of his interpretations (Muller, 2nd Ed, 401).

Continued in next comment...

Andy Efting said...

Thus, there were two big problems that impacted how these men argued for their position. First, they let Rome frame the debate when they should have insisted that the minor textual corruptions in the manuscripts did not impact any significant core doctrine of the faith, and that imperfections of the manuscript evidence really had no bearing on the final interpretation understanding of scripture – this remains so to this day, even considering the vast new manuscript evidence we have available. Christians differ from each other doctrinally and practically not because of the text family they embrace but because of how they interpret the text they use.
Second, most of the theologians of that day had no realistic hope of finding additional manuscripts that would shine additional light on the correct reading of the original text. Muller says, “the orthodox of the seventeenth century had, after all, no archaeological hopes for the discovery of ever-more-ancient manuscripts.” (Muller, 2nd Ed, 414). Those, like Turretin, who did comment on the state of the manuscript evidence, often got it very wrong (e.g., http://bible-researcher.com/turretin-text.html). Textual criticism and understanding of the extent of the extant witness to the text of Scripture was just in its infancy and so it is to be expected that many men argued incorrectly at the time.
So, I would argue that the quotes you use in support of your position, when understood in their total historical context, are not the “slam dunks” you think they are. Where does this leave us as to the question at hand?

First, Warfield shows that WCF era theologians do realize that absolute priority of the original autographs and that no translation should be considered to be the final rule and judge. Many of the quotes that Warfield uses are used to establish that point. The other thing Warfield does with his quotes, is to establish the fact that the WCF divines understood the need for textual criticism. Now, I know you protest that it is not the same, but it really doesn’t matter. The main point is that “kept pure” legitimately means within the manuscript evidence – and it doesn’t specify or limit what that manuscript evidence is.

Now, at that time of the WCF, the manuscript evidence consisted mainly of the TR family of manuscripts that were used and readily available at the time. But there were people who started working on textual criticism in the late 1600’s and 1700’s. There were people publishing polyglots (e.g., Antwerp Polygot, 1569-1572; Paris Polygot, 1629-1645; London Polygot by Brian Walton, 1655-1657) that would have challenged the readings of the TR textual base. By the early 1700’s, you had Richard Bentley, John Mill, and others who were making real progress in trying to correct some of the mistakes in the TR. So, even though it is true that the TR dominated and was considered a standard for a long time, the field of TC was developing and people how affirmed the WCF were part of that and continue to be a part of that.

Second, even if you were right regarding the 16th and 17th centuries, the fact of the matter is that you can’t take a 200-year slice of history and make that normative as the “historical” position. The true historical position must take into account all of history. It must be true for the church fathers, the middle ages, Wyclif, Tyndale, Luther and Calvin, and the 1700 and 1800’s. What Muller reports in relation to the controversy about the origin of the Hebrew vowel points and what Warfield says about textual criticism has always been true – well-meaning believers have debated the issue, and therefore I claim there is no recognizable historical consensus by the church for your doctrine of perfect preservation.

I could go on but I think that should suffice. I will probably give you the last word. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interact with you on this.

Andy