SharperIron (SI, Tyler Robbins there) twice published excerpts (here and here) from Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT), a book our church published in 2006, a biblical theology of the perfect preservation of scripture. Many opposed, essentially took pot shots, in the comment section. I want to assess those comments (39 comments as of right now) in this post.
Almost none of the comments interact with TSKT. They anticipate perhaps another book and speculate on a conclusion, but they don't disprove any of the biblical exegesis of TSKT, which means the teaching of TSKT stands. Much of what is written are falsehoods, lies, or misrepresentations. I can't decipher the first comment, but Bert Perry represents a contrast with TSKT by adapting his understanding of Matthew 5:18 to variations in manuscripts. The meaning of Matthew 5:18 didn't change upon the production of a critical text. The meaning of verses should be judged based on exegesis. The meaning of Matthew 5:18 (that chapter written by Gary Webb) isn't based on a "hypothesis" either. Perry also writes the third comment and from both, you can see that he doesn't know what TSKT is even about. No other commenter disabuses him of his ignorance.
Dave Barnhart takes the same point of view on preservation passages. They can't mean what they are saying, because of "textual evidence." The trajectory of understanding preservation passages in this hermeneutic is, first consider manuscript evidence and then apply that knowledge to the understanding of scripture, rather than first understand scripture and then apply that to so-called "manuscript evidence." He admitted he couldn't take the view of the book because of what he had heard, not because of the exegesis, but because of material outside of scripture. This is the same as Perry.
If scripture is not preserved, then it is in need of restoration. "Josh P" says this is a "strawman" about textual criticism. In actuality, he says, textual criticism is locating the preserved word. It's out there preserved, but just needs to be found. TSKT actually deals with this contemporary view of so-called preservation. Preservation assumes we have the words in our possession, that is, they are available. I call Joshu P's view the "buried text view." It isn't preservation and it isn't a view taught anywhere in the Bible, so it's no wonder TSKT wouldn't take the view. No one in the world thought that something was preserved that nobody possessed until this recent strange view.
I think Tyler Robbins is attempting to help in the next comment at SI, where he writes what he says he thinks that TSKT is saying. He is off some. God said He would preserve every one of His Words and that they would all be accessible in general to every generation of believer. We don't conclude availability from other arguments. We show how scripture actually promises availability. No one on the critical text side believes we have have all the words in our possession. They don't base that on a scriptural presupposition. Tyler posits the "restoration" situation that Josh P earlier said was a strawman. He should call Tyler on the strawman.
Aaron Blumer comments next, pointing out a series he wrote about TSKT a few years ago, and he says he didn't especially get one question answered. However, the point of TSKT wasn't to answer that question. His comment fundamentally misses the point of the book with his mention of KJV translation because TSKT says that the Bible teaches that preservation is original language. The Bible wasn't written in English.
Thomas Overmiller says that the basis of the TSKT position is ecclesiological, namely that true Baptist churches are the agents of word-perfect and available preservation. That particular point doesn't appear in TSKT at all. It doesn't seem like he has either read the book or knows what it is about (he told me in an email he hasn't read TSKT), but that doesn't stop him from writing and writing and writing like he an expert on it. If someone can only come to this position with "true Baptist churches," then why do many, many Presbyterians, Free Presbyterians, and Reformed take the same position? Ecclesiology doesn't buttress the position. D. A. Waite is a Baptist of a very different kind than I, a contrasting ecclesiology, and he believes word perfect preservation and availability. Overmiller doesn't know what he's talking about on this.
Based on his speculated premise, which isn't our premise, Overmiller says Scrivener's text becomes the default perfect Greek text. It's fascinating to read someone tell the world what my (our) position is, who doesn't have a clue. He says that I believe that since true Baptist churches use the King James today, that is what God kept through the centuries. He says that 1 Timothy 3:15 is crucial for us, a passage that was not a chapter in TSKT (strange for something so crucial), and then he says TSKT tied that to Matthew 4:4. He offers zero proof that this horrible argument, he asserts, is our argument. Nothing. At the end of this giant misstatement (as good as a giant lie), he tags the disclaimer, "Perhaps I'm mistaken somehow." Yes, you are "mistaken." If you think you are mistaken, however, then you clear that up first, before writing to the world. If someone believes in word perfect preservation and general accessibility, which is what the Bible teaches, his view of the church isn't going to be what makes or breaks that position.
Next Tyler comments again, saying that I wouldn't accept the MEV because it wasn't a project of true churches, sort of acceding to Overmiller's speculation. I went back and read those posts, and I didn't make that statement. I believe that agreement of churches would be a slow down on the glut of translations, which causes more confusion. The impetus for translation should start with churches, not publishers, and 1 Timothy 3:15 does buttress that thought, something wholly different than Overmiller's speculation. The church is God's container for truth, and we can see through scripture that the church took responsibility just like the congregation of Israel in the Old Testament. This is regulating practice by scripture, which is how Christians ought to live.
I'm skipping the next two comments at SI, because they are so off the wall. Tyler seems to try to get things back on track in the next comment. The question arises of the basis for knowing the words. What the churches received was very homogeneous as it was. If you look at the back of Scrivener's annotated Greek text, he has the differences between the TR editions, and they are very small, negligible, especially next to the massive differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which were unavailable, again presumably because they were rejected texts. The presupposition of a settled text presumes God's people will know. That assumption should reign rather than doubt. It is a doctrinal position that has practical ramifications.
Perry comes next with the urban legend that no two manuscripts were alike, a claim debunked by Wilbur Pickering's, The Identity of the New Testament Text, where he actually observes identical manuscripts and identifies them by name. I'll take someone who saw it and proved it over Perry.
Overmiller, someone who confesses he hasn't read TSKT, doubles down with absolute confidence, that 1 Timothy 3:15 is the basis of the argument, period. He asserts that TSKT is not based on manuscript evidence. TSKT is an exegesis of biblical passages on preservation. In one section, it does deal with textual variants, showing how that doctrine does change with variants, against a statement that the differences don't change doctrine.
Don Johnson makes one comment, and he says that the Josiah story is a basis for rejecting preservation for every generation. I admire that he attempts to make an actual scriptural argument. I have written about that story and I believe that it doesn't help Don's position of non-availability. If the Bible was in the temple, then it was being preserved. The people just didn't care until Josiah came along, and that agrees with our position that it is available to those who want it. That supports our position. I see that as an argument for providential preservation.
Overmiller touts his own graciousness in the next comment, assuming the non-graciousness of men who don't believe like him. I don't get his point except to put other people down who are more narrow than he, which isn't in fact gracious. I reject his personal assessment of himself. It is a faulty understanding of graciousness. If I tell a Roman Catholic that "works salvation" will send him to Hell, that isn't ungracious. I don't agree to disagree. Accepting false doctrine isn't more gracious. We live in a pluralistic society. Men can take different views. If we oppose one vehemently, that doesn't mean we are less gracious.
Next Overmiller comments again, first obviously insulting me for writing so much on biblical preservation on this blog, emphasizing "a lot" in italics. For about the fourth time, he says that our entire view rests on 1 Timothy 3:15, which is, he says, is debunked by the majority of churches being critical text today. That shows that he truly doesn't understand what we say on this. Churches would always have God's Words. They didn't have the critical text for at least 400 years, so those words couldn't be God's Words. The critical text doesn't even accept a doctrine of preservation and doesn't even believe it possesses all the Words. TSKT is based upon biblical presuppositions that he does not interact with at all. None. Instead he quadruples down (we caught it the first time, Thomas) on something we never wrote.
I ignore the next comment to arrive again at another Overmiller comment. He's writing a lot of comments. TSKT is a biblical theology, so it isn't going to look at manuscript evidence. We do examine the variants in TSKT though, as seen in two chapters comparing the doctrinal differences in both the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT, two different words that cannot mean the same thing. The application of what the Bible says would look at what manuscripts were actually available and received by the churches. Overmiller writes the following as his last little paragraph, "If you accept this reasoning, then you will like his explanation. If you do not accept this reasoning, then you will be scratching your head over his preservation arguments for a long, long time." That scratching your head for a long time would be an example of the Overmiller graciousness.
I appreciate that Aaron Blumer's next comment does deal with a biblical argument in TSKT, which serves to elevate him in the comment section. I don't want that to go unnoticed. He mentions the canonicity argument that is made in TSKT, that is, scripture teaches a canonicity of words, not books. He, however, conflates canonicity with textual criticism, something I've never read elsewhere, so it seems brand new to me. Has anyone anywhere ever taken the position that textual criticism is a form of canonicity? Canonicity would be a settled judgment, not an ongoing, never ending process. That would clash with actual canonicity. The "whole point" of TSKT, as Aaron calls it, is not that TC is bad. The whole point is what the Bible teaches on the doctrine of preservation of scripture, which is that all of God's Words were available for every generation of believer.
To Be Continued (leaving about 18 comments from the two posts, out of the 39)