Saturday, February 09, 2019

Kent Brandenburg and Frank Turk Debate on the Preservation of Scripture -- Part Two

Introduction to the Debate    Part One (please reread the end, Mr. Turk's question answered here)

by Kent Brandenburg

To Answer Q1

The KJV translators in their preface do not disclose the rectitude of the original language text from which they translate.   On a completely different subject, they do comment on the caliber of their translation.  However, we cannot logically assume their opinion or belief about the condition of the original language text upon which they relied for translation by their mere silence concerning it.  In general, no inferences can be drawn from a lack of evidence. This is often summed up in epigrams such as “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Their silence could as well be interpreted as assent to the purity of the text, since men in that day believed in the perfect preservation of God’s Words.

In his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (I:71), Francis Turretin (1623-1687) wrote:
For if once the authenticity . . . of the Scriptures is taken away (which would result even from the incurable corruption of one passage), how could our faith rest on what remains? And if corruption is admitted in those of lesser importance, why not in others of greater? W ho could assure me that no error or blemish had crept into fundamental passages? Or what reply could be given to a subtle atheist or heretic who should pertinaciously assert that this or that passage less in his favor had been corrupted? It will not do to say that divine providence wished to keep it free from serious corruptions, but not from minor. For besides the fact that this is gratuitous, it cannot be held without injury, as if lacking in the necessary things which are required for the full credibility...of Scripture itself. Nor can we readily believe that God, who dictated and inspired each and every word to these inspired . . . men, would not take care of their entire preservation.
More important than the answer to the question of the negative is the question itself.  The question defies accurate definition of terms.  The King James Translators did not use a singular “volume of the textus receptus.”  They did not rely upon a “volume produced by Erasmus.”  There was no single edition of the textus receptus that was the basis for the KJV; however, the Greek words behind the KJV are nearly identical to Bezae 1598 with relatively few exceptions.

Mr. Turk also errs, I believe, in his representation of the work of Erasmus.   First, saying he “produce[d]” the Greek NT doesn’t fit what actually occurred.  Kenneth W. Clark asserts:
We should not attribute to Erasmus the creation of a “received text,” but only the transmission from a manuscript text, already commonly received, to a printed form, in which this text would continue to prevail for three centuries.
Kurt and Barbara Aland themselves admit:
[W]e remember that in this period [the textus receptus] was regarded as preserving even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself.
My opponent also speculates that Erasmus “produced” an edition of the TR from “dissimilar texts.”  Kenneth W. Clark, a scholar who actually looked at the edition of the TR that Erasmus sent to the printer, wrote: “The Erasmus text is largely a printing of Codex 2, just as the Westcott-Hort text is largely a printing of Codex B.”

Of course, that was the text that Erasmus sent to the printer.  In his preface, Erasmus claimed to have consulted the oldest and best manuscripts (p. 100).  Another scholar says that “he collected many manuscripts, surrounded himself with the commentaries of the best of the fathers.”  Descriptions vary greatly about what Erasmus did.  We do know that it was not that edition of the TR that confessing Christianity settled upon.  “Among the editions printed about the middle of the sixteenth century those of Robert Stephens claim a special notice, from his having collated many manuscripts which had not before been consulted.”  Since God has promised certainty in His Word, we have no basis for receiving a reading that was, for instance, in Erasmus’ second edition and then never appeared again, versus a reading that is practically in every TR that is in print.

Lastly God’s people did not receive the books printed in the original 1611.  They rejected the Apocrypha as non-canonical.  They did, however, receive the Words of the textus receptus as canonical.

To Comment on A1

Mr. Turk did not answer my question, one that did not make any assumptions, contrary to his accusation.  In assertion-[1] he admits that we do not have and have not had one copy of the Greek NT with all of God’s Words in one place at one time.  That uncertainty contradicts the second part of his own assertion.  He separates “errors” from the “wrong words,” that is, the Greek NT could have the wrong words and yet be without error.  What if he applied this same view to inspiration?  He would reject verbal inspiration.

In assertion-[2], he embraces some kind of preservation of concepts, theology, or history.  He still won’t believe that we know what all the Words of Scripture are, even though God expects us to live by all of them (Matthew 4:4).  He doesn’t believe that God has preserved the letters of Scripture, despite God’s explicit promise in Matthew 5:17-19.  Based on the only possible usage of “grammatical promises” out of the four on the entire world-wide web, Mr. Turk would be saying that God didn’t make any promises to anyone in the Bible (Genesis 12:1-3?).

In his last paragraph he writes that Scripture has no theological or historical errors in it, which he separates from actual words, so that in his estimation, the words can be non-Divine and yet still give inerrant theology and history.  Essentially, he is saying that the Bible is God’s theology and history but written in man’s own words.  Based on that definition, unless “Word” means something different than “Word,” Mr. Turk opens “Man’s Word” to find God’s theology and history.

A comparison of the TR with the UBS indicates something different than Mr. Turk’s disconnect of theology/history from words.  When someone changes words, he changes theology/history.  For example, in Matthew 1:7-8 the KJV/TR reads, “And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; And Asa begat,” etc. The UBS changes “Asa” to “Asaph,” and thus takes king Asa out of the line of Christ to put the Levite Asaph, the author of some of the Psalms, in instead. This is a clear historical/theological error.

The last line of my opponent’s “answer” says that he doesn’t believe that God kept every copyist of Scripture from making errors (strawman I too reject).  The Bible warns about adding and taking away from God’s Words (Revelation 22:18-19) because men add to and take away from God’s Word (2 Corinthians 2:17).   However, men can’t add or take away words from an unsettled and uncertain text.  Because copyists make errors, we depend on God for the preservation of His Word.  Of course, that shouldn’t make any difference to Mr. Turk—based on his last assertion he believes that biblical theology and history are actually separate from words at least and perhaps from grammar too.

Since verbal inspiration is required for Scriptural authority, then verbal preservation is also mandated.  Bart Ehrman understood and pushed the eject button on Christianity.  Daniel Wallace understands, so he simply denies Scripture teaches its own preservation and then he relegates inerrancy of Scripture to a tangential doctrine.  My opponent presently evades the question.  Rather than believing what the Bible teaches about its own preservation, he chooses as “evidence” the uncertainty spawned by modern criticism of Scripture.

Is the Bible evidence, and if so, is it superior to all other possible or potential evidence from all other sources?


by Frank Turk (I cut and pasted this straight from Mr. Turk, so anything you see is him)

I don't want to contradict Kent so early in this exchange, but when I said, "God didn't make any grammatical promises to anyone in the Bible," I did in fact answer his question. If his concern is that I didn't cite any Scripture to support this affirmation, you can't cite what isn't there.

To answer the first half of his second question plainly, I would say this:
The Bible is not merely evidence, but it is in fact testimony, and as testimony it falls into the unique category of revelation.
I make this qualification to point out that the Bible is not merely a list of true things, or a place where truth resides among other things, but it is in fact Truth. As we work forward in this 10-question exchange, we'll find that this is a very significant problem for the KJVO advocate.

To answer the second part of Kent's question plainly:

When we reference the Bible, we are referencing the only text which God Himself has breathed-out. Ontologically, this makes the Bible not only reliable, but metaphysically authoritative.

The issue of "evidence" is of course an interesting category, given Kent's first answer. For example, Kent has cited Turrentin as an alleged supporter of his (Kent's) view of the TR, but let's double-check the link Kent has supplied for us, because Turretin also wrote this:
Although we give to the Scriptures absolute integrity, we do not therefore think that the copyists and printers were inspired (theopneustous), but only that the providence of God watched over the copying of the sacred books, so that although many errors might have crept in, it has not so happened (or they have not so crept into the manuscripts) but that they can be easily corrected by a collation of others (or with the Scriptures themselves). Therefore the foundation of the purity and integrity of the sources is not to be placed in the freedom from fault (anamartesia) of men, but in the providence of God which (however men employed in transcribing the sacred books might possibly mingle various errors) always diligently took care to correct them, or that they might be corrected easily either from a comparison with Scripture itself or from more approve will be wiser to acknowledge our own ignorance than to suppose any contradiction.
And also again, that same link said this:
An authentic writing is one in which all things are abundantly sufficient to inspire confidence; one to which the fullest credit is due in its own kind; one of which we can be entirely sure that it has proceeded from the author whose name it bears; one in which everything is written just as he himself wished. However, a writing can be authentic in two ways: either primarily and originally or secondarily and derivatively. That writing is primarily authentic which is autopiston ('of self-inspiring confidence") and to which credit is and ought to be given on its own account....The secondarily authentic writings are all the copies accurately and faithfully taken from the originals by suitable men....
While Kent may want to appeal to some parts of Turretin as somehow a part of his reasoning, it turns out Turrentin didn't believe anything like what Kent believes about the texts of the NT which we possessed either in his day, or today -- the real irony being that Turrentin was not a native-language English speaker, probably didn't read the King James, and lumped it in with the various "veracular translations" as "not authentic formally ... yet they ought nevertheless to be used in the church because if they are accurate and agree with the sources [notice the plural], they are always authentic materially and as to the things expressed."

Let's keep that distinction between "formally authentic" and "materially authentic" in mind as we discuss this matter.
It seems, Kent, that you have overlooked something in the KJV translators' preface, which I will cite here:
The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the original in many places, neither doth it come near it for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it, ...which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the appellation and name of the Word of God.
And so on -- to help me to obey my word count, you can read it at this link.

True: not a comment on the question of variant Greek texts of the NT, but a clear comment on their view of the apostolic use of a plainly-aberrant text.

How should we apply the KJV translators' view of the LXX to modern translations of the NT?


Jim Camp said...

Hi Kent,

Thanks for posting these up. Good material.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jim. I put some time into these at the time and I'd like them still to be available.