Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Recent James White Videos and the Bible Version Issue, pt. 2

As we continue analysis of James White's Bible version videos, Eric Hovind asks again about folks who try to correct the original language text with an English translation.  Maybe he didn't think White had answered that.  For his second round, White says the King James translators didn't know the Granville Sharp rule, so modern translators are better equipped with this new rule to do a better translation, a way to disparage the translation used and trusted by most Christians for 400 years.   According to White, people had missed the meaning of Titus 2:13 until the arrival of Granville Sharp. White then channels the translators, speculating that if they were alive, they would support a revision utilizing new grammatical discoveries.  Of course, the bigger issue is the underlying text, since God inspired and preserved His Words in the original language.

Even though White's reply didn't answer Hovind's question, everyone should agree that the KJV translators wanted as accurate a translation as possible.  Other factors exist though in deciding to change a translation.  There is a nonchalance about revising the Bible to "evangelical scholarship," like the Bible is its personal plaything.  People think and should think of their Bible as settled and established, as heavenly, as divinely provided, the domain of God, not a work in progress. Men change to fit the Bible.  They don't hold sway over the Bible.  The Bible isn't a changing item.  It is finished, done, available.

As I evaluate White's answers to Hovind, I want people to know that there is a silliness, a lack of seriousness, about the tone of the interview.  I would do better with something less reality show, that would elevate the subject matter, instead of attempting to make it more casual.  Regular exclamations of "wow" are over the top.  They too diminish the doctrines represented.

Beginning at about 5:15, Hovind asks White why there are so many translations?  This seems to relate to the question Hovind just asked.  White gives a good answer here. He says there are too many and that there are so many mainly for financial reasons. Publishers don't want to pay to use another translation, so they do their own to save money.  White has a problem with the simplified translations too.  He says some very good things here.  He gives an excellent explanation of the various levels of Greek that should be seen in a good translation.  The books with the most complex Greek should reflect that in their translation instead of dumbing all the books down to the same level.  A translation of the New Testament should be at the level of the New Testament.  The funding used for new English translations should go to languages that have no Bible. This was good.

White finishes the second question at about the 9 minute mark, and then Hovind asks him about textual criticism, whether we've "beat this horse to death" so that 'the Bible is dismantled to the degree that we don't know what it's saying'?  White says,

There's two different kinds of textual criticism.  You have.  We need to differentiate them.  Uh, what I engage in is called lower textual criticism, where you actually have factual material to deal with.  So we're talking about manuscript based textual criticism.  We're actually talking about trying to reconstruct the original text, based upon having more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other work of antiquity, earlier manuscripts than any other work of antiquity, better manuscripts than any other work of antiquity.  OK.  So we have an embarrassment of riches.
And you've got people like Dan Wallace running around the world right now, running himself ragged, uh, with the center for the study of New Testament manuscripts, trying to digitize the entire world's collection of Greek manuscripts and there's a reason for that. Have you heard about what's happening in the Middle East? Libraries being destroyed, things like that, if, and those manuscripts are gone, if they were not digitized, if they're only on, on microfilm and that microfilm is next to impossible to read, uum, this has to happen.  And that, that, is the area of textual criticism that believers can engage in, because we are confident that in those currently 5771 catalogued manuscripts of the New Testament, uum, which that number is always changing all the time, that within all of those manuscripts, every original reading is still there.  It's like having a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  And what we have, thank God, is 10,100 pieces, not 9,900 pieces.  You see, we have, we have to go through and examine those variants and see what has been added later, but we can have absolute confidence that we have the original readings. That's, that's a wonderful thing.
Now there is a quote-unquote textual criticism or form criticism that doesn't depend upon having manuscripts to examine, where your trying to go, uh, into the construction of the original text, and, and uh, could it be that, that John wrote, uh, part of his gospel and then went back and edited and then there's someone that edited that and it's all hypothetical.  It's all based on, 'well, I sort of think that John initially would have thought this or initially believed that,' and it's, it's, it's pure, it's pure theory, it's not real and it's all based upon the idea that whatever the Bible originally was, it can't be what Christians thought it was.  And so that's a completely different thing.
And I went to a, my first master's degree was from a very even more today liberal seminary and I wondered why the Lord let me go through that.  Now I know why.  Now I know exactly why it was.  Now I can look at liberalism and say, 'been there done that and got the t-shirt, and the degree for that matter,' but that kind of criticism is not believing, it's not believing criticism, but is based upon the idea that we simply cannot, uh, believe what the Bible, uh, says about itself.  We have to start with the assumption that Paul contradicted Peter and Matthew is off on his own thing over here someplace. And what it produces is always, always self-contradictory.  It can never give you any foundation for truth whatsoever.
But unfortunately that's what you're going to find in the most dangerous place for a Christian.  It's called a Christian book store.  You've got to be, you've got to understand when you're walking down the aisles of a Christian book store, you might as well think that there are vipers and pythons coiled on each side of you.  Because, for example, when you look commentaries of the Old Testament today, with a few glowing, thank-you-God exceptions, we gave the Old Testament to liberals a long time ago.  And so, people say, what, what commentary series should I, should I buy.  And I go, I can't tell you, because in a commentary series, you might find one book that is just great, and the one sitting next to it might be just absolute poison to your faith, so we have to have discernment. 
I, I, I mean, we live in a day where the world is so opposed to our faith, that the days of my grandparent's generation where you didn't have to worry where you got the Bible and you didn't have to worry about textual criticism and you didn't have to worry about sexual ethics and marriage and everything else.  That day's gone.  If we want to be salt and light today, then, uh, we have got to know these things.  It's a tough calling, but if we want to be salt and light, we've got to do it (13:41).

White talks about "lower textual criticism" like it is an assumed, biblical activity.  If people could just stop and listen to what he's saying, he's telling us that we're still recovering the original text of scripture, that is, we don't have it.  The way we recover it, White says, is through this lower textual criticism.  White supposes errors in the present text of scripture.  How does he know that?

Do these men go to churches, their churches, and say, "The Bible has errors we're still correcting." That's what they believe.  They don't want people thinking that way, so instead they say, as White essentially does here, "We have an embarrassment of manuscript evidence and all the words of the originals are in there somewhere."  The good news according to White is that we have far more words than what are in the originals, so it really is a matter of whittling those down to the actual number, and this textual criticism is the God prescribed method for that.  'Meanwhile, folks, live what you've got while we spend time at the drawing board to get this thing right.'

Does White believe that all the words of the originals in their proper order are found in the available manuscript evidence for the Bible?  Why?  He never says.  Is there some kind of scriptural presupposition for saying that all the right words are even in there somewhere?  What I have read and know is that these men say these things and they don't really believe them.  They aren't saying that we know we have 100% of the words in the manuscripts.  Twice White says we have all of them.  All.  I don't think he means 100%.  What I've read and know is that most evangelicals don't believe we have an accurate manuscript available with the actual text of 1 Samuel 13:1 in it.  They hope we'll find one some time, but they believe there is an error there in search of the original reading.  So the most sure thing that they have to say, that all the words are all in available manuscripts, they say with fingers crossed or a bit of a wink.

I could say that all the right words in the Bible are available on planet earth.  Those words exist somewhere.  Is that the biblical doctrine of preservation?  I call it the buried text view.  They won't say this, but many take the tack that God has preserved His Words, and He has preserved them both in heaven and then somewhere on earth possible still buried somewhere, ready to be unearthed in some future century perhaps.  That does not represent what scripture says about preservation.  Neither is it the historic view of preservation.

You don't hear a biblical answer from White.  You hear his take on the condition of the biblical text, not that much different than Bart Ehrman's. I watched the White-Ehrman debate and the two do differ, but not on most aspects of textual criticism, not on the nuts and bolts of it.  Really, the only difference between the two is their interpretation of the so-called evidence.  In both cases, their evidence is man-centered human discovery.  Both sides say that you can't let biblical presuppositions effect your textual criticism, and Ehrman doesn't at all.  White would say that Ehrman is dishonest with his interpretation, that if he applied the same scholarship to other books of antiquity, he would conclude to a high enough percentage what was in the original manuscripts of the Bible.  Ehrman, on the other hand, would say that we have something far different than what we should expect from a divine book that promises its own preservation.

The difference between Ehrman and White, even though neither will say it, is their presuppositions. White doesn't take his presuppositions from scripture, but he also doesn't abandon his faith in scripture even though he doesn't believe we know what all the words are.  What I'm saying is that White relies on a kind of presupposition without saying he's relying on it.  Ehrman knows he's relying on it.  You can't rely on scriptural presuppositions and stay in the textual critic club, so you just rely on them to the degree necessary not to eject from the faith and say that you are letting the evidence lead you to the truth.

Do we trust in the Bible as a supernatural book, as divine, because we can get a high degree of certainty based on manuscript evidence?  What is our basis for believing that?  If that isn't it, we should at least hear from White and others like him what is the biblical basis for trusting what we do have, even though according to them, we know there are errors in it.  I understand if that doesn't teach very well.  It's a tough sell.  Nevertheless, despite evangelical admonitions not to trust in scriptural presuppositions for textual criticism, White relies on modified ones to preserve his faith in a Bible that he thinks has errors in it.  White calls that "providence" in the tradition of Benjamin Warfield, who read textual criticism into the Westminster Confession of faith.  It's very similar to evangelical scholarship calling the evolution of a day-age theory, "creation."  They redefine terms to fit human discovery.

Evangelical scholars should just be honest.  They've already caused tremendous damage, because young people are abandoning Christianity in great numbers in part because they can't muster faith from a Bible with only a percentage, albeit a high one, of reliability.  They can't stand in a world hostile to the truth on an unsure foundation.   Bart Ehrman will win most times, if we are left with a shade of certitude.

More to Come.


Jim Camp said...

"People think and should think of their Bible as settled and established, as heavenly, as divinely provided, the domain of God, not a work in progress."

That, my friend, is a mouthful. A Bible college professor many years ago stated (roughly from memory), that one of the most profound reasons to accept the KJV & reject the modern perversions is the attitude of the translators. The former believed they were involved in a holy work of transmitting God's Holy Word from one language to another. My view of them is limited, but modern translators don't seem to believe the book they are translating IS God's Word.

This is probably not a very good argument, but it still made sense to me.
Thanks for the article.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm sorry I didn't answer this. I agree! Thanks.

Sometimes the comments from those I think I'm closest too, I just let go, but I think it's better to respond. I have been very busy this week, using the little extra time to write this very late at night.

Steven Avery said...

The Granville Sharp reference is basically James White trickery or ignorance. Erasmus,Beza, Drusius and the scholars of that day were well aware of the omission of the article. It was a vibrant scholastic consideration, since there is a smidgen of grammatical ambiguity.

They were also sharp, so they would not to invent a bogus rule which then, in Granville Sharp's iteration, is shown to be clearly bogus in various attempts to "correct" the AV (e.g. Ephesians 5:5, 1 Timothy 5:21, 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:12) See Calvin on Ephesians 5:5. While leaving two verses where, although there is a minor consideration, it is easy to see that the AV text is solid and true, and the "correction" dubious. The Geneva did have the inferior text in 2 Peter 1:1, but not Titus 2:13.

There was never a "rule", at most a translational consideration, and that is why we can call the whole thing, the special pleading New Testament Greek rule (it does not exist outside of NT studies) the Granville Sharp Rule for Fools.

Steven Avery

KJB1611 said...

Dear Steve,

Thanks for the comment.

I don't believe we should jettison the Granville-Sharp rule--it is valid every time the construction appears in the NT (Wallace has a good discussion of it in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics), and at least for the Tit 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 words, it appears to be valid in thousands of instances in the patristic literature (see Wallace's discussion). I believe a better answer is to note the following marginal note in the KJV on 2 Peter 1:1: "Greek God and Savior."

Steven Avery said...

Thomas, I would suggest that arguments for the GSR are largely special pleading, with flexible rules changed to convenience. And the argument that the early church writers (ECW) support the rule is totally bogus, once you look closely at the source material. Lots of sleight of hand there. Ironically, Wallace even accused some of "naive modalism" in order to explain away their statements that were not consistent with the supposed rule.

Remember, the purpose was to change the AV (at a time when 1 Timothy 3:16 God was manifest and the heavenly witnesses were under attack and wrongly conceded by some, some made it clear it was a tit-fo-tat attempt) on specific verses specifically for the Christology debate. And most of the claims of Sharp (whose work really should be checked for certain plagiarism aspects that were noted in the 1800s) were quickly discarded, as I mentioned above.

And I would suggest the recent b-greek thread on the Granville Sharp issues:

Examples of the Granville Sharp rule outside the NT - 2011

A couple of really pizazz comments in there, including the gentleman from Athens.

Also on CARM, although starting slowly, there is a thread with a ton of info:

Granville Sharp Rules

And I would suggest we set up a discussion with TR and AV defenders in a no-corruptions forum, public or private. (Where we at least all agree on the Greek text, allowing that there is a variant in Titus 2:13 in the TR Greek.)


Incidentally, recently on CARM there has been fine success in eliminating the years of confusion by some totally bogus arguments that were fabricated to try to say that there is no difficulty with the CT text of the earthly witnesses. This is currently in process on CARM and Facebook forums. On that one we may be in full agreement on the basics :).

Steven Avery

Steven Avery said...

"the following marginal note in the KJV on 2 Peter 1:1: "Greek God and Savior."

This is not in the AV-1611.

Likely wrongly put in the text either in the 1800s, under GSR confusions, or in some recent editions.


Steven Avery said...

Correction: the variant is in 2 Peter 1:1. :)

KJB1611 said...

Dear Steven,

Thanks for the comment. You are right on 2 Peter 1:1-I made a mistake. Thanks for pointing that out. I still don't see any reason to deny the Granville-Sharp rule, though. I'll check out the links.