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12814Re: Text types

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  • forisraelssake
    Apr 29, 2005
      Chris-My post is necessarily weird, since I am using Tim and Dan's
      remarks as a jumping off point to explain how the RPNA handles these
      questions, so I am quite aware I am going off on tangets and these
      aren't meant to be personal remarks directly just at Tim or Dan. They
      are meant to inform the list members how the Reformed Presbytery has
      treated this question. I consider our treatment to be relatively
      unique and novel, and yet quite rational and compelling and so it
      might be of intellectual interest to some people here.

      > > Tim-What I have said is that no fundamental doctrine of the
      > > Christian faith is lost if a) the Byzantine text is correct and b)
      > > we rely on an Alexandrian text alone, something no major modern
      > > translation does. For it is possible to establish all doctrines
      > from
      > > the Alexandrian text, we just establish them from different
      > > Scriptures.

      Chris-Talk about "fundamental" doctrines is inconsistent with Reformed
      Presbyterianism, in my opinion. Any doctrine, known to be true with
      certainty, is necessary to be believed and embraced as a matter of
      church discipline. We can distinguish conceptually between the
      essentials required for faithfulness, and the much smaller set of
      doctrines considered essential for salvation, but spelling those out
      in practice has proven more or less impossible.

      It is trivially easy to imagine situations where a doctrine may hold
      because of one manuscript but not in another. For instance if the
      verse saying Paul left his cloak in Troas was omitted in a manuscript,
      then a Christian theology formed on the basis of the said manuscript
      could not authoritatively declare as a 'doctrine' that Paul did leave
      a cloak in Troas at one point in his life.

      Hence the reason why the Reformed Presbytery holds to the idea of an
      Ecclessiastical text, which is an idea first really fleshed out in the
      prelate John Burgon's writings.

      To hold to an authoritative Greek and Hebrew bible as the determiner
      of controversies is a procedural matter for the purposes of church

      We know that any ecclessiastical text the Church officially sanctions
      can only be an interim standard, based on the best available evidence
      the faithful church has, and that in principle it could be ammended to
      be more accurate. The "fact" of the KJV being "authorized" for the
      Church of England by church and state created a de jure
      ecclessiastical text for the Presbyterian Church in 1611, which
      effectively amounts to the Scrivener 1894 Textus Receptus (in the New
      Testament) and the Bomberg and ben Chayyim Old Testament of 1524-25.

      Of course both ecclessiastical standards should be ammended according
      to the best witnesses. Many such efforts have already done that, to
      both texts, in all kinds of directions, some wildly implausible and
      some pretty convincing. Yet of course, since Reformed Presbyterian
      Covenanters have NOT formally and authoritatively gone about doing
      this work themselves (lack of manpower and scholarship being the
      reason), all these revisions amount to only informal and private
      critical attempts to Covenanters. We continue to hold the Scrivener NT
      and the ben Chayyim OT as standards of doctrine and discipline until
      such time as we can ourselves properly accomplish the task of textual

      > Dan- What about my point that there are more doctrines than the
      > fundamentals and that they all are important? You can never prove
      > that the Alexandrian text has them all if you can't know all. Also,
      > if that is your justification then that must mean you are judging
      > whether a text is sound or not from doctrines but where do you get
      > those doctrines in the first place? Those doctrines logically precede
      > your textual criticism!!! This seems like KJV only mischief to me
      > (just a friendly joke).

      Chris-My answer to this paradox would invoke the idea that the
      Reformation printed texts are competently exact teaching and preaching
      authorities, and collating out corruptions using textual criticism
      would not nullify or contradict any Reformation doctrine at all.

      > > Tim-Even if we knew which text type was correct, I don't think we
      > > will ever arrive at a full understanding of Scripture this side of
      > > glory. As Paul said, we know in part. But what we know from
      > > Scripture is sufficient for our salvation and our life in this
      > world.
      > Dan- This proves my point. If we can't know all how can we be so bold
      > as to say that they are all in the Alexandrian texts. The
      > fundamentals are not the only important doctrines, things are
      > important simply because God says them.

      Chris-Yeah, I agree. It is important just because God said them and
      wants us to believe them. So the work of textual criticism is verily
      important, since we absolutely want to restore what the human authors
      of the books of the Bible carried by the Spirit of God originally
      wrote by inspiration.

      > > No major modern translation presumes Alexandrian mss. to be correct
      > > at all points. We cannot know with certainty whether A type mss
      > > omit, differ or add anything. What we can conclude is a) there is a
      > > likelihood in any given case that a particular difference goes back
      > > to originals and b) by comparing scripture with other scripture in
      > > the same tradition whether the difference in question is biblical
      > or
      > > not. A mss. may omit detail 1 at Scripture a but teach it at
      > > scripture b.
      > Dan- This still doesn't answer my objection as to the fact that not
      > just the ideas are important but the words as well. Yes, if we don't
      > find a doctrine in scripture A we might find it in scripture B but
      > again this implies that the ideas are more important than the words.
      > Please answer this question directly. If God put a doctrine there two
      > or more times then He did it for a reason.

      Chris-I agree. However the operation words are *if* God put a doctrine
      there. That is the entire question. There is no a priori argument that
      lets us know automaticalyl without looking up manuscripts and other
      witnesses what God actually wrote there. We can't simply refer chapter
      and verse to the Scrivener 1894 or the ben Chayyim 1525 except by way
      of expediency and orderliness (since in the abscence of the autographs
      the Church requires a fixed standard).

      Saying a particular sentence is found in the Scrivener 1894 three
      times proves nothing other than it is found in the Scrivener 1894
      three times. It doesn't actually tell us whether it was in the
      autographs three times in-and-of itself, does it? Of course not.

      > > Tim-Not so.
      > > All known mss families have Jn. 3:16 and its truth is confirmed by
      > > other texts as well. (eg the Son of man came not to be served but
      > to
      > > serve and give His life a ransom).
      > Dan- But my point is that you can't know if you accept textual
      > criticism. What if they find earlier and more reliable manuscripts
      > that don't have it. I know that all texts *presently* do but how can
      > we be sure that others won't be discovered in the future. Before they
      > had a means to discover the date of the Alexandrian texts some
      > assumed that the majority was right (a little over simplification but
      > enough to illustrate my point). This is because at the time they had
      > no reason to think otherwise, proving that scientific discovery
      > changes with new discoveries.

      Textual criticism is a priori necessary. That is unavoidable, Dan.

      Consider this syllogism, the facts of which as far as I know are
      1) The autograph copies of all the books of the bible either do not
      exist or if they do exist we don't realize they are autographs rather
      than apographs.
      2) Many copies exist for each book of the bible.
      3) No two copies agree with each other perfectly.

      It follows from this that we have to select among two or more variants
      which one is original and which one is a corruption. That is just an
      inescapable fact. There's no avoiding textual criticism by saying it
      shouldn't be done. It *has* to be done.

      > > Tim - you have the same problem with differences in the mss. of the
      > > TR but to a different degree.
      > Dan- I understand that the TR manuscripts, as well, have variants
      > amoung them. But that doesn't mean that there isn't one edition
      > that's correct, does it? If it is true that we can't obtain altimate
      > certainty from textual criticism, which textual critics seem to agree
      > on, then there must be some other means. Namely the Holy Spirit
      > confirming it in our conscience (This is why I am more certain that
      > the Bible is true than that the earth is round). So how far fetched
      > is it to think that He could lead us to the right manuscript?

      Yes well that is Edward Hills argument, basically. We could push this
      further, and argue God also lead us to the right translators who
      providentially picked the rigth variants among a variety of choice and
      providentially provided the perfect translation for it as well,
      perhaps the KJV 1611 or perhaps only the 1769 Oxford edition.

      A few things off the top of my head though against this:

      1) If these "perfect" versions (pick one manuscript or one printed
      edition or one translation) were themselves eclectically assembled and
      the people involved denied infallibility, it undermines the claim of
      perfection and the unlawfulness of using eclecticism today.

      2) Lets say, speaking of the NT only, that we pick the Scrivener TR as
      the perfect NT. Then we realize this TR never existed until 1894 since
      it was reversed engineered from the presumed Greek thought to underly
      the KJV1611.

      Ignoring that, we have the even larger problem of no one hand-copied
      manuscript anywhere in the world agreeing perfectly with the Scrivener
      TR, so were the true readings lost until then?

      Ignoring that problem, we have the even larger problem of even if
      there was a perfect pre-printing press manuscript of some book of the
      NT somewhere, no perfect copy exists of it anywhere else (since no two
      copies of a book agree at all points), so was the 'true' readings lost
      until that point?

      Then we have the problem that any TR edition differs in about 1,800
      places from the majority readings found in the late medieval
      miniscules. So did the majority of manuscripts lose the true doctrine?

      Then we have the problem that the TR (any edition) is an example or
      instantiation of one branch of the Byzantine text type found in the
      Byzantium region. Other regions had different text types, such as the
      widespread "Western" type, the Alexandrian type of Egypt and North
      Africa and the Caesarian text type of Palestine. Did all these
      regions, which form the majority of Christendom population wise, lose
      the true readings from their stock of manuscripts? Are we really to
      believe God's word wasn't preserved anywhere until the 16th century
      when God miraculously used Erasmus, Estienne, and Beza to provide a
      100% restoration of the text?

      Or maybe, and this is my conclusion, imposing a standard of certainty
      and perfection on any one existing translation or printed edition or
      manuscript (extant now or extant at least in 1516) is the false way to
      proceed, and that using eclecticism is the only way that makes much sense.

      I am really trying to learn myself. I find this topic really
      fascinating. It is extremely interesting to learn how God preserved
      the holy writings in the vast amount of time that existed between teh
      original writing of it and printing them up with immoveable type
      (which finally could create 100% perfect copies of the examplar).

      This is the heart of the debate though, not the manuscript data but
      the notion of certainty and infallibilty and whether textual criticism
      is even a lawful enterprise after the Reformation (perhaps it was
      lawful until 1611 and then unlawful afterwards when perfect
      restoration was attained?). Do we really want to say that using the
      methodology of eclecticism forces you to deny bible infallibility? Do
      we really want to accept that and then deal with all the hard
      consequences of investing one particular bible version or printed
      edition or manuscript with supreme perfect authority in all its jots
      and tittle, because believe me the consequences will hit like a ton of

      As far as I can see, there are only two reasonable positions in the NT
      textual criticism debate:

      1) eclecticism leading to Byzantine-priority: exemplified by Maurice


      2) eclecticism leading to extant-early-and-diverse-prioritism:
      exemplified by Kurt Aland and Gordon Fee

      > Thanks again for your responce. I respect you and realize that you
      > are just *trying* to preserve God's word, but I am still not
      > convinced. And dispite that respect, I honestly think that you are
      > unwittingly promoting an unorthodox understanding of the Bible,
      > namely that the ideas only are inspired and not the words also and as
      > a result a corrupt text!
      > In Christ,
      > Daniel Drost

      I understand Tim's position I think because I once held it, but I
      don't believe you are proposing something orthodox either. In fact, I
      think both of you fall outside the RPNA range of acceptable opinion.
      Tim's view is much too loose and BB Warfield-like, and your position
      (in as much as you have one) is much too extreme and Edward
      Hills-like. Tim apparently doesn't hold to an ecclessiastical text in
      the way the RPNA does, while you Dan would make a schismatic out of
      anyone who didn't agree the particular bible
      version/manuscript/printed edition you declared supreme and final was
      as perfect and uncorrupted as you say it must be.

      I honestly think something in between both your views is actually the
      right view in this matter. But I am open (Lord willing!) to anyone's
      patient and loving instruction in this matter if I myself have veered
      off toward some false opinion. Believe me, I'd like to know!

      Chris Tylor
      Montreal, QC

      Member of the Reformed Presbytery of North America (General Meeting)
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