I believe I have gotten myself into a spot of trouble. You see, last week I was wandering around on the Internet and happened to find myself on a blog called Jackhammer
. The contributors to this blog have written a series of posts
arguing for the preservation of the scriptures in the vein of KJV onlyism, though they deny being straight KJV onlyists.
Under the most recent post on this subject written by Kent Brandenburg called, Multiple Versions Only (MVO): No Scripture, So Invent a Fake History
, I was compelled to leave a comment in response to some comments Kent left for another commenter.
It was like I had taken a broom handle and made a swipe at a wasp nest, because I received a stinging post from Kent himself. In fact, I was wounded by his opening paragraph where he told me, a Van Tillian presuppositionalist none the less, that my position on the Bible is not based on a scriptural doctrine of preservation, but on evidence. Whoa! Kent truly knows how to hurt a guy.
Now, I will say at the outset that I tend to like Kent. He has left a handful of comments under the various posts I wrote examining the arguments of King James onlyism. Though he may not claim to be a full fledged KJV only apologist, by all practical purposes he is; but I believe he is a level headed KJV onlyist. Kent attempts to deal with the textual issue itself and not a full on, fidelistic defense of the KJV text based upon crazy Gail Riplinger style conspiracy theories and historical revisionism.
I thought my interaction with his comments was worthy of bringing to the forefront of my blog so that a wider audience can benefit from the exchange.
I will highlight my original comments in GREEN
, Kent's original comments in BLUE
and my present comments in BLACK(Fred) Was the Holy Spirit guiding the churches to accept with all agreement the Latin Vulgate for 1,000 years? Seeing that the use of the Latin Vulgate was uninterrupted for 1,000 years and served Bible believing Christians well, why would God need to direct the Christians to adopt a newer translation? Sounds rather subjective.“The Italic or pre-Waldensian Church produced a version of the New Testament which was translated from the Received Text by the year A.D. 157.” Fredrick Henry Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 1874“The Bible translation of the Italic Church came to be known as the Itala translation. The point of all this is that the Itala Bible was translated from the Received Text.” Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 1859.
(Fred) A few comments are needed:
First, It would had been nice if Kent provided us a specific page number for these citations. I spent an hour or so on Saturday in the library combing through these two books looking in vain for these specific quotations. Regrettably, I couldn't find them.
Second, I find it a bit surprising that both Scrivener and Kenyon would confuse the Received Text
with the Majority Text
. The Received Text
is the textual apparatus originally edited by Erasmus and utilized by the King James translators to translate the KJV, where as the Majority Text
, or Byzantine text, is that group of manuscripts from where the Received Text was edited. There is a stark difference between the two. I am also surprised Kent equates them as being one and the same.
Third, to suggest that the Italic translation and the pre-Waldensian Church used the Received Text is absurd, seeing that the Received Text is a 16th century production. One can attempt to argue that the Italic, or Old Latin translation, is based upon similar readings found in the Received Text, but this is also not true. Even Kenyon and Scrivener admitted as much in the chapters outlining the development of the Old Latin. The Italic translation contains readings that are Western in origin, as opposed to Eastern, or from the Byzantine. Any similarity between them doesn't imply a similarity in family as it demonstrates a overall uniformity between all the biblical manuscripts and the subsequent translations which means these families didn't diverge from each other as much as KJV onlyists insist they do.Under constant persecution, for one thousand years the Waldenses, Albigenses, and other groups of Christians rejected the Catholic Church and their Latin Vulgate, and copied the Received Text as used for the Itala Vulgate.The “Waldensian,” or “Vaudois” Bibles stretch from about 157 to the 1400s A.D. The fact is, according to John Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza, that the Vaudois received the Scriptures from missionaries of Antioch of Syria in the 120s A.D. and finished translating it into their Latin language by 157 AD. This Bible was passed down from generation, until the Reformation of the 1500s, when the Protestants translated the Vaudois Bible into French, Italian, etc.
(Fred) A couple of thoughts:
First, it is also disingenuous to claim the Waldensian Bibles were translated from the Old Latin, just as it is to claim the Old Latin is based upon the Received Text. All historical evidence points to the fact that the Waldensian Christians utilized the Latin Vulgate. Doug Kutilek has an article outlining this error
Secondly, independent fundamentalist Baptists will often appeal to groups like the Waldensian and the Albigensian Christians as their fundamentalist fore-fathers, as if these persecuted groups were proto-IFBs. But it is important to note that probably the only thing independent Baptists like Kent and his Jackhammer
crew hold in common with these type of medieval groups is their rejection of the Roman Catholic Church as an authority. Other than that, they virtually have nothing in common theologically and doctrinally with these groups.
Peter Waldo, for example, who was the founder of the Waldensian movement, believed in a mystical view of spiritualism similar to that of Francis of Assisi. He saw poverty as a virtue that gained spiritual favor with God. The Albigensian movement was more of a pseudo-Christian cult that held to Gnostic-Arian views of the Christian faith.
These factors do not justify the persecution brought upon these groups by the Roman Catholic Church, but I would not appeal to them as the sole keepers of God's true, received Word during the period of Roman Catholic domination. In fact, of the two groups, only the Waldensians produced alternative translations of the Bible, specifically the NT, but again, it wasn't from the Old Latin as Kent asserts, but the Latin Vulgate.There was the Syriac Peshitta, a translation into Syrian from the TR in AD150 by the Bible-believing churches around Antioch where believers were first called Christians. Peshitta is a Syrian word meaning “common,” a word parallel with the term “Received Text.”
(Fred) Again, the TR (Received Text) is a 16th century production, and it is anachronistic to claim it existed before Erasmus's work. I am guessing that Kent and his friends have redefined the idea of a "Received Text" to mean something along the lines of "that text received and read by all Bible-believing Christians," rather than the common use of, "that textual edition published by Erasmus."It is also important to note that most of the Greek copies that have existed throughout history are no longer with us today. Several well known Christians mention Greek texts that contained 1 John 5:7 that existed in their days centuries ago. Among these are Theodore Beza, John Calvin and Stephanus. Beza remarks that the reading of 1 John 5:7 is found in many of their manuscripts; Calvin likewise says it is found in “the most approved copies”; and Stephanus, who in 1550 printed the Greek text that bears his name, mentioned that of the 16 copies he had 9 of them contained 1 John 5:7. John Gill, who also believed in the inspiration of this verse, likewise mentions in his commentary that nine of Stephanus’ sixteen manuscripts contained this verse.
(Fred) If it is true that 1 John 5:7-8 is a part of the original epistle John wrote, then why didn't God preserve what would sure to be without question one of the most single disputed passages in all of scripture among Christians? Additionally, we have here a passage that affirms the Trinity without a doubt, and none of the orthodox quoted it during the Arian controversy. As to the claim by Kent that these various men believed 1 John 5:7-8 was originally part of John's first epistle, but none of these important manuscripts are no longer with us today (because I reckon God didn't preserve them) much of the claim is speculative at best. "There could have been copies," or "It may had been in the originals but dropped out" doesn't cut it. I am sorry, but that is too important of a verse for it to accidentally "drop out." To speculate that certain copies contained it is purely hear-say and doesn't prove anything.(Fred) The science of textual criticism was practiced in the day of Erasmus when he edited his first editions of what would become to be named the TR. Of course it was textual criticism in its infancy, because the original languages were just being re-discovered by Christians. It took a while for the discipline to develop, but it was with in the 50-75 years after the KJV was published, not 350 years later.Philip Schaff, certainly no perfect preservationist wrote at least three times, once each during the history of the reformation: “The science of textual criticism was not yet born…” You won’t find the words “textual criticism” for centuries after the KJV.
(Fred) This is another example where it would be nice to have some citation for Schaff's comments. If we mean to say the "science of textual criticism as we know it today in its fullness was not yet born," then that is true. However, all of God's people who transmitted the biblical text through copies and translations practiced a form of textual criticism regardless of how infantile it might had been.
Erasmus was constantly checking his work against newer textual finds. Hence the reason why there were 4 to 5 editions of his text during his life time. The same with Tyndale and his translations, and even the King James translators. Moreover, by the end of the 17th century, Christian scholars were beginning to discover more and more ancient manuscripts to help sharpen our accuracy of the original text of the Bible. Johann Bengel, for example, was a German born Christian who spent a good deal of his life combing through many Greek manuscripts and identifying specific reading that showed a similarity among textual families. It is believed he was the first textual critic who identified the Alexandrian family. He was also the individual who wrote out basic principles of textual criticism that many Christians had been utilizing years before him and that are foundational to modern day textual criticism. So, for Kent to imply the "science of textual criticism" was not born until centuries later does not honestly recognize the historical facts.Now, just a couple of final thoughts before I close this up.
First off, the Jackhammer
guys identify those non-KJV only people, like myself, as Multiple Version Onlyists
. A MVO. In other words, I am suppose to believe, according to my Jackhammer
detractors, that God's Word is preserved in a multitude of versions, not just one. Hence, when pressed to identify God's preserved Word, I don't have a copy to point to.
However, that description doesn't accurately portray my true position on the matter.
Though I would believe God's Word is preserved in those translations as far as they accurately translate the original text, I would admit that not all translations are equal in accuracy of translation. In other words, not all modern translations are equally good. There are some better translated than others and those better ones are to be preferred over the lesser ones.
A better description of my position, and I think the biblical position, is original autographs only
. Meaning, God's perfect, infallible and inerrant Word is to be found only in the original autographs.Ahhh Haaa!
screams my preservationist critic, we don't have any original autographs. They have all been destroyed and gone to the sea of time. "Where's your perfect, infallible and inerrant Word of God now?" I will be asked.
I believe, along with the biblical writers and including our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that God has preserved those original autographs in the multitude of copies made from those original autographs.
Those copies of scripture are viewed with as equal authority as the originals, even with all their human mistakes and variant readings, and is the way God preserved His written revelation from true corruption and tampering. The thousands upon thousands of copies that spread out across the ancient world in Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Near East, protected God's revelation from being gathered up and either destroyed, lost, or messed up. Then, God raised up men over the years to collate and piece together what we know to be the Word of God in a textual apparatus used for translating. As more and more manuscripts have been found, textual critics have been able to sharpen our understanding of what the original said.
Secondly, as I noted at the first, Kent's comments suggest that if a person is a true presuppositionalist in his approach to the authority of God's Word, well then that person will recognize what the Bible says of itself regarding its own preservation. In fact, Kent even contributed to and edited a book on the subject called, Thou Shalt Keep Them
, in which he, along with a handful of other men, argue this point.
One of Kent's Jackhammer
cohorts, Dave Mallinak even wrote an article
invoking Greg Bahnsen as his support that their view of preservation is the purely presuppositional approach. Any other viewpoint falls into the category of man determining truth autonomously, apart from the fear of God.
I would agree with him that the Bible affirms its own preservation. Even I take that as an authoritative presupposition. I just understand scripture's preservation taking place in a different manner than the one defended by the Jackhammer
guys, and I do not believe my position is in any fashion my own autonomy seeking to displace God's authority.
Now, what would had been helpful for our discussion is not Dave quoting Greg Bahnsen's from his book on general apologetic methodology, but from his article in the book Inerrancy
that was edited by Norman Geisler. Dr. Bahnsen contributed an excellent article to that massive book entitled The Inerrancy of the Autographa
(pgs 151-193) that addresses the very subject of preservation under debate here from a Reformed presuppositional perspective, yet, his article concludes affirming my position on preservation, not the Jackhammer
For example, after Bahnsen explains the
importance of inscripturation, or the written form of God's revelation, he writes,
Yet this admirable feature of inscripturation itself generates a difficulty for the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy - a difficulty that we must now face. A written word may have great advantages over oral tradition but it is not immune from what Kuyper called "the vicissitudes of time." The spreading of God's Word by textual transmission and translation opens up the door to variance between the original form of the written word and secondary forms (copies and translations). This variance requires a refinement of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, for now we must ask what constitutes the proper object of this inerrancy that we attribute to Scripture. Does inerrancy (or infallibility, inspiration) pertain to the original writings (autographa), to copies of them (and perhaps translations), or to both? [Inerrancy, p. 155]
Dr. Bahnsen then goes on to document that the common conviction among Christians through the centuries has been that inerrancy of the Scripture pertains only to the text of the original autographa.
He then notes,
The time-honored and common-sense perspective among Christian believers who have considered the inescapable question raised by the inscripturation of God's word (viz., do inspiration, infallibility, and/or inerrancy pertain to the autographa, to copies of it, or to both?) has been that inerrancy is restricted to the originals, autographical text of Scripture. [ibid., pg 157]
Dr. Bahnsen then moves on to demonstrate from the text of scripture that the biblical attitude toward the autographa and the copies of those autographa is that "the copies were deemed adequate to perform the purposes for which God originally gave the Scripture" [ibid pg. 159].
After providing a couple of pages of documentation, Dr. Bahnsen comments,
These illustrations show that the message conveyed by the words of the autographa, and not the physical page on which we find printing, is the strict object of inspiration. Therefore, because that message was reliably reflected in the copies or translations available to the biblical writers, they could be used in an authoritative and practical manner ... the exhortation and challenges based on the copies of Scripture pertain to the conveyed message and tell us nothing about the extant texts per se. Much less do they demonstrate that the biblical authors made no distinction between the original text and its copies ... Because Jesus raised no doubts about the adequacy of the Scriptures as His contemporaries knew them, we can safely assume [or, presuppose - fred] that the first-century text of the OT was a wholly adequate representation of the divine word originally given. Jesus regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the originals in their message that He appealed to those copies as authoritative. [ibid., pg. 161]
I do not wish to weary the reader, but if the person will take the time to read the entire article which is available on line
, Dr. Bahnsen documents clearly that the true presuppositional approach is the one that recognizes what Jesus did, that is, the faithfully preserved copies and the translation of those copies, in spite of their transmissional flaws, variant readings, and copying mistakes, are as authoritative as the originals themselves, and are adequate in and of themselves to reflect to us God's divine revelation.