12851Re: Providential Purity
- May 5, 2005
> What good is it simply to know that there is anDan:
> original out there somewhere?
I think what I am saying is that we know about the providential purity
of the Scripture text (a priori) and so any corruption must
necessarily be insignificant by definition, or preservation isn't
The autograph is not some hypothetical entity existing at the end of
research, it is present with us in the apogpraphs (copies) by virtue
of providential preservation (WCF 1:8). This isnt Kantianism, where
the ding-an-sich is unknowable and always beyond perception. The
apographs are of course pure themselves.
I just thought this up and the logic of it might be wrong but it seems
to me as if your position is the one that puts the Scripture outside
somewhere. True, you believe we can by a leap of pure faith all
together 'reach' out and grab the original variant. You therefore
think any sincere Christian can know the words of the original.
But your position, if I followed you correctly (which I am not certain
I have!), considers all but the autographical readings impure and the
entire manuscript tradition literally a big mass of inchoate corrupted
uninspired variants. You suggest we can by "inner ostention", pick
out individually (or corporately in some capacity) the autographical
reading through sincere faith (and perhaps, some scholarship).
However it seems to me that is inadequate, since it more or less
treats the manuscript tradition as wildly infused with corruptions.
How can God by a singular providence kept the autograph readings pure
if the autograph reading must by definition be only a single variant
among the several that usually exist for each sentence?
(Forgive me if I reduced a strawman to absurdity, Daniel!)
The proper confessional way to view it seems to me to say the
manuscripts in church use have been kept pure from heresy or schism or
infidelity. Isn't that what WCF 1:8 is saying? The TRs of the
Reformation are the RPNA's ecclessiastical text(s) because it was a
homologated text of the Reformers and it is a known pure text. Other
printed texts (or even manuscripts) are of indeteriminate purity and
so can't be authoritative use until we have a Covenanted synod or
assembly trained in all the requisite fields homologate that those are
[For instance, what if someone wanted to teach doctrine today based
off a manuscript of Marcion?! Or another gnostic hacked up text?
Providential purity protected only the visible church's
ecclessiastical preaching texts and not mutilated versions of damnable
heretics. One big reason to put a question mark on the Alexandrian
and Western (and now Caesarian) text types is John Burgon's
scholarship to prove these were isolated, heretical texts that never
had widespread ecclessiastical use. Was he right?]
The apograph variants are all literally insignificant on this way of
viewing things, and the lost autographs are not of any great relevence
to us today. Of course the fact that the many variants for any given
pericope originate from a single original entail that only one variant
is autographical, and textual criticism works towards that. But the
enterprise of suggesting most likely autographical readings (which is
what textual criticism is) is not of any great importance because of
the known factor of providential purity of the manuscript tradition.
That's why it is not right to think of the implications of accepting
textual criticism as implying some sort of
Letis-style-interpretion-of-Warfield, the eternal and unreachable
search for the autographs, and replacing the apographs with some
scholarly probabilistic autograph reconstruction. Who knows, maybe a
lot of people who deny the enduring providential purity of the text in
the framer's sense might believe that. Not sure if Warfield did.
So that is kind of why I think textual criticism doesnt make the bible
the preserve of the "specialist" and the scholar and destroy
infallibility. I think if anything your view (or the one I am
ascribing to you in this post for the sake of argument) of treating
any non-autographical variant as a life-or-death end of inerrancy
(saved only by our inner ostending--a Wittgenstein word--the one and
only pure variant) is the death of infallibilty.
What do you think?
Sincerely in Christ,
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