Saturday, December 22, 2007

Answers to Questions about the Doctrine of Preservation of Scripture

I'm asked questions about the text/preservation issue all the time. Most of the time those asking are attempting to trip me up, to find holes in the argument. I've found that they mostly don't answer questions themselves and are testy when they do. I don't think they like their own position. They don't like giving the answers. When I answer their questions, I know they sometimes don't like the answers. They want the answers to be something that is easy for them to sink. Unlike the MVO (multiple version only) guys, I start with Scripture for my position. A couple of verses that describe perfectly the differences between them and me is Romans 4:20-21:
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Abraham couldn't see everything that God had promised, but he believed God anyway. I can't prove everything that I believe historically and with tangible evidence. I can give enough historical and tangible proof to satisfy someone who is willing to believe Scripture. I believe that what we are doing when we show the historical aspects is to do what Luke was doing with Theophilus, as he describes in Luke 1:4:

That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
I've been asked some questions over at Jackhammer and at this blog that I'm going to answer and be open to some discussion. I have also included comments from Thomas Ross on this. I'm not going to give very long answers. Sometimes men will say that KJVO guys won't answer questions. I do. I have. What I have found all across the board is that the MVO guys will not answer questions and they get by with that. It's very sad in my opinion.

In no particular order, here are some of the questions (the questions in italic and color; answers in normal font).

No, there is not one single manuscript which is THE preserved, perfect text. We agree. But, if no manuscript is EXACTLY the same, how is it that, despite the differences between the earliest known MS and the received text, it is the received text which is the correct one?

We know that copies were not made of the earliest known manuscripts, which is why they are in the minority.

Thomas Ross adds: Actually, there has been, as far as I am aware, no actual objective dating method for aleph and b. It is simply internal evidence that is used to say that they are the oldest—so maybe they aren't even the oldest. Furthermore, codex w has the received text in large portions of the gospels, and it is, according to unbelieving textual critics, equal in age to aleph and b. Furthermore, the oldest papyri have received text readings in them (see Forever Settled by Jack Moorman, which is on the web).

Furthermore, the reason there aren't any perfect copies is because when one copies something by hand, it will never be exactly the same. The printed text under the KJV is perfect. Before that time, copies were available and the words were available, but they were not all in one location. Today, if the words under the KJV are not the right ones, we cannot have certainty, but God promises certainty (Matthew 4:4; Rev 22:18-19; Prov 30:5-6; etc.).

I continue: Believers have rejected the minority manuscripts. God has promised availability (Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; etc.), and the minority were not generally accessible. The churches agreed on the TR. The Holy Spirit is guiding believers (John 16:13). God has promised preservation. We look at what God did and we see it was the TR. We trust God. This is not an "academic" approach based upon "scientific" principles, but based upon biblical ones. That's how we walk by faith, that is, by obeying God's Word.

Thomas Ross adds: I don't have a problem calling this method scientific. I think it is scientific and academic, in the true sense of the words. It is not unbelieving science, etc.
And yet, the TR is not monolithic--it is a compilation of (fewer) MSS which, if the claim is correct, do not agree with one another in every aspect. Though they may be similar (from one MS family), they are not exact. How is it that the New Testament, assembled as it was by various scholars over many years, fell into a form (which we call the TR) not exactly identifiable prior to the 1500s, and yet is the perfectly preserved word of God?

The TR was what was available when the printing press was invented. There is not a basis of saying that men used just a few manuscripts to consolidate the words into one printed edition. Richard Capel, the puritan, expresses the historic (and my) position, when he writes (Capel's Remains, London, 1658, pp. 19-43):
[W]e have the Copies in both languages [Hebrew and Greek], which Copies vary not from Primitive writings in any matter which may stumble any. This concernes onely the learned, and they know that by consent of all parties, the most learned on all sides among Christians do shake hands in this, that God by his providence hath preserved them uncorrupt. . . . As God committed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament to the Jewes, and did and doth move their hearts to keep it untainted to this day: So I dare lay it on the same God, that he in his providence is so with the Church of the Gentiles, that they have and do preserve the Greek Text uncorrupt, and clear: 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.
Thomas Ross adds: Erasmus had access to a good number of mss--including the readings of Vaticanus, it appears, but he rejected them. This does not deal with editors after that time. The received medieval manuscript bible became the printed TR bible. Actually, the KJV/TR (Scrivener's) is the "majority" in a certain way, because it is the TR that is in print. If God has promised us certainty, then we have no basis for receiving a reading that was in Erasmus' 2nd edition and then never reappeared again, versus a reading that is in every TR that is in print, practically, in Scrivener's TR. There is no other TR that churches have agreed is perfect than that which is under the KJV. Therefore that is it, John 17:8; Matthew 28:18-20; etc. I would hate to preach through revelation in light of the curse of Revelation 22:18-19 and have to wonder if I had the correct reading or not.

And if they do not agree perfectly, then how can God be said to have perfectly preserved the actual words of the autographs?

The words were available even as they were consolidated into a printed edition. You can't prove otherwise, so why not go the direction of faith and not doubt, perfection and not errors. Our position is that God promised to preserve the very Words and Letters of the original manuscripts. He didn't promise to preserve ink and paper. God knows what the Words are so He made sure that we had them. He performed a miracle to do so.

Thomas Ross adds: I don't see why the God who works all things after the counsel of His own will could not have sovereignly made it happen without the kind of direct intervention in history that was the same as the kind that makes blind men see, Christ rise from the dead, etc.

I continue: I can explain the miracle, but I can't fully understand it because it is a miracle. The alternative is not believing God and having errors in Scripture, which is acceptable to textual critics and many modern MVO people.

Thomas Ross adds: I would like to hear the MVO people explain the certainty verses.
My initial response is to know how you understand the words "perfectly preserve" and what constitutes something being "not perfect." Is the addition or omission of a word sufficient, or the interpolation of a verse or phrase enough to make something "not perfect?" If what God gave was perfect, down to words and letters, then a different letter or word is no longer perfect.And since the churches (and I'm not sure how you are defining this term) settled on the TR for about 400 years, do we then say that the Vulgate preserved the word of God perfectly when the churches settled on it (and I am not referring here to the Catholic Church, which is not the true church)?

I don't believe that true churches settled on the Vulgate. As well, the Vulgate is not Greek and Hebrew. Scripture presents original language preservation.

Thomas Ross adds: The medieval Baptists used the received text--but because printing wasn't invented yet, when they copied it there were errors in copies. However, all the words were still available. In the ancient church period, as long as the autographs were around, all the words were obviously preserved and available (and the autographs were around a while, as far as we can tell, as I demonstrated in my essay on the subject on my website). Once the autographs were gone, the true words were available and preserved by the true churches. True churches did not agree on Jerome's Latin Vulgate--the Waldenses, for example, continued to use a version of the old Latin instead of the Catholic Vulgate. By the way, the Greek TR was called the "Greek Vulgate," and it was, through God's sovereignty, copied by the Greek Catholic Church, so believers in that area didn't even need to fight with the Catholics over the Bible, since the unconverted monks were copying the truth that they did not know.

Do you ascribe to the following statement made by Francis Turretin: "Although we give to the Scriptures absolute integrity, we do not therefore think that the copyists and printers were inspired (theopneustos), 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.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 approved manuscripts. It was not necessary therefore to render all the scribes infallible, but only so to direct them that the true reading may always be found out. This book far surpasses all others in purity."


In what substantial way does the textual criticism behind the KJV differ from the tc behind the newer translations?

Those men didn't apply modern evolutionary principles of textual criticism. They also believed in a perfect Bible and in perfect, Divine preservation of Scripture. What they did is not the equivalent to 19th century textual criticism, when the words "textual criticism" actually came into existence. I understand the point that CT and eclectic people want conceded, but it can't be conceded historically or definitionally, and they should admit that themselves. They won't because they want "providential preservation" to mean "textual criticism." Those two are not the same. Look at Capel's quote above and I can give many others like that to show that this was not their attitude.

How do you defend Erasmus' choice to include the very questionable rendering in 1 John 5:7-8 in spite of the textual evidence in the Byzantine manuscripts which argues vehemently against this?

Much good defense is written for the preservation of 1 John 5:7.

Thomas Ross add: On my website I link an excellent defense of 1 john 5:7 on evidential principles. Also, the CT people are not very consistent when they pull their hair out over receiving 1 john 5:7--which was also in the medieval baptist bible, and was received unanimously by baptist confessions for hundreds of years--when there are many, many places in the ubs/ct where they follow only one manuscript and don't even footnote it!

I continue: Consider what Gill says about 1 John 5:7:

That is, that Jesus is the Son of God. The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that as to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher's copy by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text. As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters. And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens's, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius (z), in the beginning of the "sixth" century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the "fourth" century; and it is cited by Athanasius (a) about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian (b), in the middle, of the "third" century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian (c) about, the year 200; and which was within a "hundred" years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the, first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation.
How can you say that the Gospel writers were 'quoting' Jesus when their Gospels don't agree word-for-word when 'quoting' Him in almost every instance. Furthermore, how do you handle the differences in vocabulary in Mt. 19:7-8 and Mk. 10:3-6 which I alluded to?

Ipsissima verba is clearly taught in Scripture. It is affirmed every time the NT states Christ "said" something. God means what He says, and if the declaration that the Lord said certain Words does not mean that He actually said them, language no longer has meaning. When the Bible declares, "these words spake Jesus" (John 8:20,30; cf. 8:31,37,43,47), who dares conclude He did not say those Words, but some "vox" paraphrase of them? The retort that the Words of the gospels are the Holy Spirit’s Words, so they are authoritative although Christ did not speak them, neglects the fact that He is the Spirit of truth, so He would not inspire a "Jesus said . . .," which Jesus did not say. Indeed, ipsissima verba is essential to spiritual growth, for the saints cannot live by His Words if they don’t have them (Mt. 4:4). God’s people must hear the Words of the Son (John 12:47), receive His Words (John 12:48; 17:8), keep His Words (John 14:23), have His Words abiding in them (John 15:7) and remember His Words as from the Father (John 14:10). Furthermore, were Christ’s Words not in the gospels, the declaration of Matthew 24:35 (and Mk. 13:31 & Lk 21:33) would be false. The penalty for being ashamed of Christ’s Words (Mk 8:38) would be irrelevant to today if only His "voice" was preserved. How horrible to say that the wonderful prayer of John 17, which begins, "These words spake Jesus . . ." (v. 1) is really only the words of John the apostle, who paraphrased to give the "genuine voice" of the Great High Priest! Of course, were this the case, the fact that the Savior, in that prayer, said, "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them . . ." (John 17:8) would be irrelevant, since it would only be John’s paraphrase of something else Christ actually spoke, which is now irrecoverably gone. Peter asked, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). A vox position means that those invaluable Words of eternal life are gone, replaced by whatever the human writers of Scripture apparently thought better met the needs of their community than the actual Words of the Christ of God. Peter’s recorded recollections of Christ’s Words are verbatim (Mt. 26:34,75; Acts 1:5; 11:16). John 21:15-17 provides an indisputable example of Christ repeating teaching several times with different Words. If He can do it here, why can He not have actually spoken the same teaching on either the same or different occasions? Christ promised that the Spirit would bring to the minds of the writers of Scripture "whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

While it is important to seek reconciliation of the gospel accounts for exegetical and apologetical purposes, to argue for a vox position because it makes reconciliation of the synoptics simpler is to come at the issue from an improper perspective. The saint must first see what Scripture teaches, and evaluate everything else from the presupposition of the absolute truthfulness of everything found in the Bible; to take the "evidence" first and try to accommodate Scripture to it is to live by sight, not by faith (Hab. 2:4), and to suppose that "facts" can exist and be evaluated independently from the truth of the God of Scripture—essentially an unstated presupposition of atheism. Furthermore, traditional non-redactive methods of harmonization are able to solve problems in Scripture without compromise on Biblical statements on inspiration. Scripture records clear instances where Christ repeated Himself in different words within individual gospels on what can hardly be viewed as amalgamations of different sources (cf. Mk. 10:23,24; Jn. 21:15-17); why cannot verbal differences among the synoptics be instances of the same sort of repetition, so that the gospels at times record different sets what are with equal truth the Words of Christ?

A good article that will answer this question is at:

How can you hold to the theory that Jesus was merely translating from the Hebrew behind the MT tradition when there are times when His quotations differ significantly enough from the Hebrew Text so as to make it such that a literal translation of the Hebrew would not have made His point? Specifically, I would ask you to deal with the passage I reference above - Matthew 13:14-15.

You could translate the Hebrew text of Isaiah 6:9 in the imperative or in the future. The Old Testament text renders them in the imperative and the New Testament quotation, an accurate one renders them in the future. Since the words may be understood the way they were used in Matthew 13:14, this vindicates this citation of them. Many Jewish commentators actually render the OT text in the future just like the NT text does in Mt. 13. This is an English translation of a Greek text rendering of a Hebrew text. We shouldn't be surprised when they are not exactly the same.

Thomas Ross adds: Why not just say that the NT is "targumming" or paraphrasing, rather than intending to give a direct, word for word translation? We do this all the time: "the bible says that if you don't get saved you will be eternally lost," etc. "The Bible says to obey the pastor, Hebrews 13:17." Why can't the gospels do this as well?

I continue: By the way, when I satisfy the demands of a question, does that mean a person is now willing to believe instead of continuing questioning? At what point should I require faith in God's promises of preservation and availability, Scriptural presuppositions, before we continue?

How do you defend a very literal reading of Mt. 5:18 that not one jot or tittle will pass from God's Word in light of the fact that prior to Erasmus (the vast majority of the church age) there was no agreement as to any 'preserved text' to the degree of 'jots and tittles' having been preserved?

I don't have evidence there wasn't agreement. Have you ever seen evidence besides reading Metzger and Ehrman? My Capel quote above states the positions that God's people have taken.

Thomas Ross adds: Actually, you don't have Baptist churches questioning what the words were before the Reformation era. There was agreement on the words. The words in the mss that the churches had became the printed TR. Notice that the NT never, ever says something like "manuscripts of the OT have been corrupted here" or something like that. The received OT was perfect, in that all the words were available and God's people could know where they were to live by them. And, based on Scripture, the received NT was also always perfectly available.

In what way had God preserved 'jots and tittles' in the NT manuscripts prior to Erasmus and the Textus Receptus?

My assumption, based upon my presuppositions, is that the Words were available. I haven't said that they were all available in one place at one time. I can't prove they were or they weren't. We don't possess the exact physical copies that were available to them at that time, and we never will. What we might find today doesn't represent what they had. I believe all the Words were generally accessible. I believe God's Word is perfect. I believe God promised preservation of every one of them.

Thomas Ross adds: We aren't responsible to know how a Waldensian church in the 1100's knew where the Words of God were. We are responsible to know where they are today. Scripture says we can know, so we can know. We don't even know how the Waldenses managed to not all get killed, but they did somehow--we can see that they were still around in the 1600s.

Did He preserve a little in this text and a little in that text prior to Erasmus putting them together in one? If so, in what sense is this a preserved text at all?

I would answer this the same way as I did the previous question.

Some are not satisfied with these answers, I'm sure. I am. They are answers based on Scriptural presuppositions. I won't stagger in unbelief at the promises of God.

Here are some questions for anyone else:
How can you add or take away from something that isn’t settled? In other words, what difference does Revelation 22:18, 19 make?
How is the Bible considered perfect if there are errors in it? If the errors aren’t related to the words, then what difference does verbal inspiration make? What is the Scriptural basis for errors in the Bible?
Where does the Bible say there would be sixty-six books? If it doesn’t say, then how do we know there are not more or less?
What is the pre-19th century historic basis for the doctrine of the errancy of Scripture, that is, the history of assuming that we don't know what the Words are or that there are errors in Scripture?
What is the historic position on the preservation of Scripture?
What is your developed Scriptural position on the doctrine of preservation that you have believed and believed before you began examining textual criticism?
What was Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that was profitable for doctrine, correction, etc.? If every Word and all of them was necessary for thoroughly furnishing us to every good work, then how could we do that without all of them?
When Jesus told us that man shall live by every Word in Matthew 4:4, should we assume that He meant that we would not have every Word?
When something passes away like heaven and earth will pass away, does that mean that it will disappear? If God's Words are not going to pass away or jots and tittles are not going to pass away, does that mean that we are still going to possess them?
Was the Critical Text available for believers from c. 1525-1825?
Does Scripture teach anywhere that man was responsible for restoring a lost text?
Can you show me physical, tangible evidence that the Ben Chayyim Hebrew Masoretic and the Scrivener TR are not the same words as the original manuscripts?
What is the tangible, physical evidence that we have for continued preservation of our salvation by God even though we sin many times after we have been justified? If there is no physical, tangible evidence, then why should we believe that God preserves our salvation despite our errors?
Where does Scripture say that a miracle is a greater and more thorough act of God than providence? Is something that God does providentially less God than it is when God does something miraculously?
In light of the following quote by E. D. Morris, expert on the Westminster divines, who contributed to Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, do you believe that the one-Bible-belief started in the 1970s or the mid-twentieth century?
As a Professor in a Theological Seminary, it has been my duty to make a special study of the Westminster Confession of Faith, as have I done for twenty years; and I venture to affirm that no one who is qualified to give an opinion on the subject, would dare to risk his reputation on the statement that the Westminster divines ever thought the original manuscripts of the Bible were distinct from the copies in their possession.
I'll be looking forward to those answers!! And then I will have more questions! Seeing that our position, according to MVO men, is intellectually bankrupt, laughable, and an embarrassment, these should be easy to answer for them!! Please do!!


Unknown said...

Again, an interesting article. I'll respond to your questions in a bit. I do have a family (a wife and three kids), so I understand you cannot respond immediately; if I thought otherwise, I would have written many other comments yesterday.
I do not retract the arrogance statement--your view staggers me. But I'll show you the courtesy you have shown me by answering your questions.
God bless you this Christmas.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I trust in God that He would do what He said He would do and you call that arrogance. What do you think that accomplishes, Enoch?

"Staggers" was a good choice of word in light of Romans 4:20, 21.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I didn't say, "And yet, the TR is not monolithic--it is a compilation of (fewer) MSS which, if the claim is correct, do not agree with one another in every aspect. Though they may be similar (from one MS family), they are not exact." That was one of the questions which somehow morphed into my answer. Also, I accidentally didn't capitalize the "g" in "God." Besides this, I stand by what I am quoted as. The website in question is:

-Thomas Ross

Kent Brandenburg said...

I made some corrections there, Bro. Ross.

Mike Hontz said...

Please see my detailed response on jackhammer's site at the following url. It is blog entry 55.



Kent Brandenburg said...

Enoch has seemed to disappear.

Unknown said...

I have not disappeared, nor have I forgotten that I said I would answer your questions.
Life, though, has been in the way.
For the moment, let me start with the first of the questions: How can you add or take away from something that isn’t settled?

The non-KJV Only group does not necessarily view the multiplicity of manuscripts as meaning the Scriptures are not settled. Rather, just as the compilers of the TR had to collate differing Greek manuscripts (with varying readings and words), the non-KJV Only crowd increases the manuscripts available for collation.
As I have been reading over the two verses, however, let me note that the intent of the statements (add or subtract) deal with the intentionality of the copyist, not the poor copying or the accidental error which inevitably creeps into copying. To make this stick against the non-KJV Only group, you must demonstrate the intentional adding or subtracting in the other manuscript families.
Are you willing to say that all those scribes who dropped/added words (even just in the Majority Text family) suffered the admonition in those verses?
(Remember, I'm not arguing for Wescott-Hort, I'm arguing against the notion of the TR = autographs).
By the way, the use of this passage is interesting given Erasmus, Rev. 22:19 and the Latin Vulgate.

Anonymous said...

I had always thought that Revelation 22:18-19 said, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." It is good to know that the verse really says, "If any man shall INTENTIONALLY add unto those things . . . and if any man shall INTENTIONALLY take away." I suppose that similar words are really in Proverbs 30:5-6; Deut 12:32; etc. There is a basis in the Greek for this addition, though, although you would never see it in English. If you look it up in the MVO Lexicon of Convenient Greek, you will find out that the verb "add" and the verb "take away" really mean "intentionally add" and "intentionally take away" in this particular passage, although no other passage in Scripture whatsoever has this sense for the verb. This is why God never punished people for sinning unintentionally (The story of Uzzah, and others like it, are really not in the best manuscripts). Whew! What a relief.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Enoch, my immediately preceeding comment is not meant to slam your apparent sincerity in your question. I simply intended to point out that Revelation 22:18-19 does not say "intentionally." A scribe who was sloppy and didn't care about what he was copying would unintentionally miscopy the book and violate Rev 22:18-19. It should be pointed out that the verbs in Rev 22:18-19 are present tense, so the actual interpretation of the passage is that someone who characteristically takes away or adds is not saved. It does not mean that all CT guys are not saved because they were convinced at BJU to take their position. However, it does show that, if someone who characteristically takes away is not saved, adding or taking away at all is a very serious thing.

P. S. The present tense verbs are only in the TR. Ironically, the CT has aorist tense verbs for "add" and "take away," so if someone does it one time, he isn't saved, according to the CT--I sure how that the 27th edition of the Nestle Aland has finally got it right, since everyone who has used the first 26 editions is unsaved...

Unknown said...

Continuing on, question 2: How is the Bible considered perfect if there are errors in it? If the errors aren’t related to the words, then what difference does verbal inspiration make? What is the Scriptural basis for errors in the Bible?

I'll take these all at once as they have a common issue--what is error?

An error is something that deviates from the truth in some way so that the truth is no longer “true.” The Bible can be considered perfect (or, in the negative, without error) because any drop/addition/interpolation does not cause it to cease being “true” in any of the statements it makes.

Of more important note, however, it is because of an error being something that makes truth cease to be true that we can allow for a difference in word order or the loss or addition of words. All of these are seen in the texts that combine out to form the TR of Scrivener.

Ergo, there are no “errors” in the scriptures—it is perfect, completely true.

Anonymous said...


The original manuscripts of the Bible did have certain errors in them, but they were still true. This is because of a common issue--what is error?

An error is something that deviates from the truth in some way so that the truth is no longer “true.” The Bible can be considered perfect (or, in the negative, without error) because any drop/addition/interpolation does not cause it to cease being “true” in any of the statements it makes.

Of more important note, however, it is because of an error being something that makes truth cease to be true that we can allow for a difference in word order or the loss or addition of words. Ergo, there are no “errors” in the scriptures—it is perfect, completely true. However, some of the words in the original maunscript were just in the wrong place, added, taken away, etc. The same idea still comes across.

Have a nice modernistic day,

Karl Barth

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for answering. Your first answer isn't true. You may think it is true, but it isn't. The MVO men don't have a settled text of Scripture. The MVO men don't believe we have a Hebrew manuscript of 1 Samuel 13:1. The "correct" the Hebrew MT with a Septuagint reading. They are still waiting for a Hebrew manuscript to be found with the "original reading." That doesn't sound settled, does it?

I agree with anonymous that you are reading into Rev. 22:18, 19 and then Prov. 30 and Dt. 12 as well. You can't take away or add to something that is nebulous and mutating.

On the second question, I agree with anonymous (aka Karl Barth) that you selectively define "error" depending on whether you are speaking about copies or about the originals. For original manuscripts, we say that they are the very words of God, every and all, so that one amended word makes it errant. For the copies, on the other hand, you have errors speak of teaching. This was all the work of Benjamin Warfield, who carefully distinguished in these definitions, because he saw where textual criticism was taking the doctrine of inerrancy. You have followed suit with this non-historical view.

Unknown said...

I am slow in understanding things, but I think I finally see what it is you are saying when you speak of the Bible and errors.
When you speak of errors, you do include the misplaced/misspelled/lost/added word. But since the Bible is greater than any one MS, the "true" reading lost in one is found in the other. Ergo, the whole of the Bible--down to the correct word placement--is available (prior to Scrivener) in the totality of the MSS which, when combined, form the TR. These MSS were generally available to true Christians until their reformulation in the printed text (at which point they became widely available--I actually have a Greek interlinear of it on my desk).
Therefore, while the individual MSS contained errors, the Bible (as viewed by the whole, not the individual) was preserved complete and without error. No word was lost entirely from all MSS or misplaced.
I'll wait for confirmation and/or correction before I post anything else.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I understand the multiplicity of the manuscripts view. There still isn't a settled text in that view. The text is always in a state of flux. Without a belief in a text without errors, it will never be settled. MVO don't care. They are happy with 93-98% pure, something less than Tide detergent. Even if you take the multiplicity view, the MVO do not believe we have every word available (remember 1 Samuel 13:1).

The view does not jive with Scripture presuppositions.

Unknown said...

I appreciate your response, but you did not answer my post. Did I, in my previous post, correctly present your view on errors and the preservation of scripture? Specifically, each individual text may contain errors (added/lost words, mistakes in word order) attributed to the scribe, but when the MSS are taken as a whole (just those used to create the TR), the true reading, down to the placement of the word, is preserved. Thus, when the TR was compiled, it chose those correct readings which had been present throughout the ages and available to true Christians.
I'm not trying to trip you up. I am trying to get at the heart of what you mean--to be sure that I actually understand it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm sorry that I didn't get your question. Hand copied manuscripts had errors, but God preserved the letters and Words. Where hand copies made errors, they were corrected in another. The printed edition settled the text. The churches agreed upon the TR. We believe in a perfect TR today. Why? We expect the fulfillment of God's promises. We trust the Holy Spirit through His churches---a canonization of Words. We see the BIble as perfect and miracle book, not to be treated like Homer or Plato or some ancient writing. This is essentially Beza 1598, today what we call Scrivener's NT. Why do we believe it is this text? This has been the standard Greek text for hundreds of years. We assume preservation, not error.

Tell me if you still don't get it.

Unknown said...

I get it. I don't buy it. But I get it.
I have great difficulty reading your "preservation promise" verses with the same specific intent you see in them--as one commenter noted, the word "word" doesn't alway mean "word", if you get my drift. The real issue (as I see it) is in our hermeneutics--we disagree in how we read and understand language. Not that you weren't aware of this.
I will leave it here. I recognize that I have not exegeted the specific texts for your response. I guess if you cannot see the role of intention in Revelation 22:18-19, it will lead only to more postings with no results. I did check a couple of sources to see if I was out to lunch on the intention issue: A.T Robertson and Robert Mounce both describe the verses as concerning the "willful perversion" of the book. Just what I had at hand.
Peace to you.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally, you still are not answering the question---how can you add to or take away from something that isn't settled? Your answer, if I'm correct, is that it is settled in all of the manuscripts, as if one is wrong to add or subtract from manuscripts that could be added to or taken away from already. Your position doesn't allow for obedience or disobedience to that verse. It presupposes a settled text.

The word "word" is used because of the use of word, communication through language. We have a basis for believing that God preserved every and all of His Words, and that all of them would be generally accessible to believers. You're saying you don't believe that?

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Steven Avery said...

There is a problem in using the John Gill quote. One key part, the Stephanus 9 of 16 mss is known to be an error based on the placing of marks in the apparatus by his son.

John Gill really should have known that, since it had been suspected by Lucas Rrugensis c. 1600 and then written about by Richard Simon, John Mill, and the David Martin vs. Thomas Emlyn articles, and others.

John Gill is generally very accurate, but on this one he erred.

Steven Avery

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Steve,

You do a better job than me on keeping track of these types of details. In a lot of ways, I'm dealing with the macro issue, the big lie, and epistemology. Can we believe God preserved His Words? That each is available to us? This affects authority? What did men believe? What was available to them at the time? You IMO know the details better than me.

I preach through scripture every week and I look at textual variants, but I don't read into the history of the variants and know them like you. I wish I did, but on this someone needs to make choices, so it's good to have people around like you who are keeping track.

Steven Avery said...

You do a fine job on the macro issues, and often the micro. This one I just had to point out because it comes up in discussions a lot, and the AV-TR defender can make their position awkward.

The history is fascinating!