Ecclesiastical Text — Response to James White

Discussion in 'Translations and Manuscripts' started by Robert Truelove, Jul 20, 2015.

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  1. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here is a video I did over the weekend in response to James White's recent video, "My Concerns With the Ecclesiastical Text Position". He was responding to an off handed comment I made on social media and this is my response to his video.

    It's my hope that this will be of help for all sides of the textual debate to have more irenic future interaction on the subject.
  2. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I've only watched the first 15 minutes, but wanted to say that I appreciated your non-combative approach.
  3. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    I just watched the whole thing. You did an awesome job of integrating your response with White's comments. I would love to hear how he responds to your apology (apology in the technical sense).
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Well done brother. You interacted with clarity and humility.
  5. Captain Picard

    Captain Picard Puritan Board Freshman

    As a big Dr. White fan, thank you for responding. Watching now.
  6. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    As someone who falls into your camp Rev. Truelove this was very gracious and well done.
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Exceptional work! What comes to the surface here is that Dr. White has allowed his apologetics to assume the lead on theological questions. From his perspective the position that effectively refutes Muslims must have superiority. Pastor Truelove has presented a truly pastoral perspective on this. His concern is to feed the flock of God, to endeavour to see the Word of God has free course and is glorified as a matter of first priority. I hope Dr. White will take time to listen and genuinely weigh what has been presented here.
  9. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Well done!
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    While I agree that Robert has done a good job of responding to Jame's concerns, yours is clearly not an accurate representation of the issue. The strength in Robert's response is precisly because he deals with legitimate concerns that James (and many others) have about the claim of an ecclesiastical text. Many defenders of this position do not labor (as Robert did) to acknowledge the legitimacy of the claim and even admit that certain verses with no Greek manuscript tradition appear in the text. He doesn't hand wave it away but interacts with what are valid theological questions.

    To claim that James adopts his position as superior due to its apologetic value to Muslims is beneath you. James only started his ministry to Muslims about 7-8 years ago and has had his theological position on the text for some time.

    Had Robert taken the tact (as you just did) to sum up his view so unfairly then he clearly would not hear anything but another unfair attack. I gave Robert a thumbs up because he's one of the few I've ever heard who have acknowledged some of the real concerns of the position without claiming that the persons raising the concern somehow lack the theological conviction of the preservation of the text of Scripture.
  11. Ken

    Ken Puritan Board Freshman

    Pastor Truelove,

    You represented our position well, this is a very timely discussion. I was raised on the KJV, learned how to read from it and just have always using it because I recognize it's voice. For the past few years I have been leading Bible studies and am the only one who uses the KJV, whenever I read scripture the people in my small group do not recognize the passages. Based on this, and the arguments that there are no doctrinal differences between the different translations, I tried to find a modern Bible for study; unfortunately, this put me in the position of not recognizing what I was reading.

    I have been studying this issue for months, my wife thinks I am nuts (that's another story :duh: ). I had no idea how controversial deleting 40 verses from the Bible could be; though, studying this issue has raised way more questions than answers. For example, I had no idea that modern versions use a different OT text variant, this is not near as controversial; though, for some reason it has been swapped out.

    I have been gleaning many gems from the early Christian writers; though, it is strange when an early reference cannot be found in a modern Bible. I am not sure how to react, it obliterates what the early Christian is saying. Being a lay-person, I am not sure how to react to early writers who chasten others for altering the Biblical text; for example, Gregory Nazianzen condemns removing the "comma", then James White says he cannot take anyone serious who defends the "comma". Another example, Irenaeus accuses Marcion of mutilating the text, this just causes more confusion, I do not know what to think.

    I agree with your concerns about the textual method, knowing that the strictness of the CT method does not allow for readings that support the TR that are older than the Alexandrian text because they are not Greek manuscripts or they are found in the writings of the early Christians. As you pointed out, the CT method applied to Biblical texts had never been used before, I wounder what the text would look like using a more traditional method and allowing the entirety of the Christian textual record?

    For the mean time, I am going to continue with the KJV assuming that it is just as Biblical as the CT versions of the Bible, because that is what I have used for my entire life, I trust the reformers to have produced a good Bible.

    God bless you and keep you,
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    He claims ecclesiastical text folk cannot deal with Muslims like he does. It is beneath me to answer a low argument like that.
  13. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I'm honestly a bit stunned at this reply to what I thought to be a valid criticism. Did Pastor Truelove think James White believes his apologetic must have superiority because it refutes Muslims?
  14. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I don't know what Pastor Truelove believes on this. It only matters what James White himself has said. If you watch the video you will see that James White himself has said it. That should be conclusive.
  15. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I did watch it, and not only do I not recall him saying that, but I didn't even get that impression. He made the comment that TR people often seemed concerned with their own Reformed circle as opposed to apologetics, e.g., with Muslims. And he talked about how his position is useful it speaking with them, but that it must have superiority because it refutes Muslims? Really? If you were to ask Dr White that question directly, would he answer "yes"?
  16. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    What video have you watched? The video in question is this one:

    The whole video exults over the ecclesiastical text position in terms of his apologetic vocation, particularly in relation to Muslims. His basic position is that an ecclesiastical text position does not have a leg to stand on.
  17. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    The impression I got was that the Ecclesiastical Test position was in fact harmful to the Church's witness to Muslims. And this is hardly the first time he's expressed himself in this way.
  18. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I don't disagree with that, but that is not the same thing as saying "from his perspective the position that effectively refutes Muslims must have superiority."
    So I ask once again, if Dr White were asked "must your position have superiority because it effectively refutes Muslims?" would he answer "yes"?

    Side note: I'm not offended when Dr White says the ecclesiastical text position can be harmful to the church's witness, since he's painting with a broad brush and I agree that there are some who hold views that I do think harmful. But it's hard to know exactly who he means, because it seems to me like the "ecclesiastical text" position has so many variants that I've yet to see two people agree on much more than general ideas. Letis' beliefs were different from Hills, Steve's, Winzer's, or as an extreme example, Childs'. I wouldn't expect Dr White to know any specific "ecclesiastical text position".
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Only Dr. White can answer that, so we will have to leave that to him. Those watching the video can see for themselves how much weight he lays upon the apologetic value of his position over the ecclesiastical text position. Whether he agrees or not, that is what he has done.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Let me dispense with this silly "it's all about the Muslims" issue. I suppose blind spots exist for all of us but I'm frankly surprised some who display careful attention in some areas miss obvious points. It's sad to me because it doesn't serve the points they are trying to make.

    The point James makes when he brings Muslims into the mix is how well an apologetic works when one is not "preaching to the choir". It's quite like the man who yells "The Eucharist!!!!!" in a Roman Catholic debate and all the Catholics cheer or the Muslim who yells "Alluya Akbar!" in a Muslim debate. It fires up the base. The base shakes their head vigorously and exclaims: "Man, did you hear that dude yell 'The Eucharist'?! He totally shut James down. He had no response to that point!"

    Meanwhile, the rest of us are shaking our heads and wondering whether these folks have ever tried to defend their faith outside of the convinced.

    Is it a hard and fast rule that the *only* apologetic value is whether the argument has any force outside of a closed circle of the convinced? Of course not.

    That said, it is always worth considering whether we're arguing in an echo chamber and the only voices we're listening to sound exactly like our own. Having listened to much Muslim apologetics, I find it to be the worst kind of ingrown "preaching to the choir" that spends zero time reflecting on the challenges to plain reason that belief in the Muslim religion demands. Of course I believe that their is spiritual bondage involved but it is appropriate to point out to the Muslim that they have zero historic footing upon which to stand when they anachonistically make claims about the corruption of the Christian text not on a shred of evidence except what their text teaches.

    When the Muslim responds and asks the Christian how he trusts in the presrvation of the text in the presence of some variants, I think we have more to fall back on then the same kind of "pushing history to the side because we just know we have the ecclesiastical text" position. In other words, if our apologetic ignores even our own history (like the Muslim) then it weakens any criticism we can levy at him for being anachronistic for the sake of his "revealed" text.

    Now, you may take issue with this entire reasoning process but, that said, anyone who has spent even an ounce of time to try to listen to *why* James uses this argument will understand that this is his point. He doesn't think the critical text is superior to the ecclesiasticial text because of how it plays to Muslims. He brings up this point precisely because, when we're witnessing to Muslims, they want to hear answers to some things that have some questionable historical pedigrees. To his credit, Robert understood the *reason* James brought this up and it is lazy to wonder as to why James raises this point. One can play to the "echo chamber" and be applauded but it's pretty obvious to the casual observer why James poses the challenge. I think Robert did a commendable job of answering that concern and, if James takes up a response, I'll be interested in hearing it.
  21. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    This was also one of his arguments, and is as unconvincing coming from you, Rich, as it was coming from Dr. White. Why bother having a confessional discussion list if you agree with him? You are just creating your own echo chamber. There is no substance to these kinds of arguments.

    The fact is, the Koran upholds the authority of the Bible. So any argument which undermines the authority of the Bible has a negative effect on apologetics with those who believe in the Koran.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  22. Captain Picard

    Captain Picard Puritan Board Freshman


    MW: I'm not going to blaze away on this issue. But any book that says "they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them" does not consistently uphold the authority of the Bible.
  23. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If biblical authority were consistently maintained Jesus Christ would be believed in for the salvation of the soul. That is the point! The Koran provides an opening to make that case from the Bible.
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    How is it unconvincing coming from me? You were convinced that he was making the argument that I said he was making and you agreed with me that this is an argument he is making when he brings up Muslims. It seems you are rather convinced that this is one of his arguments so it is, in fact, convincing that James argues this way and that it is not a mystery.

    I recognize that there is a bit of an "echo chamber" here but it's a pretty big chamber with Baptists and Presbyterians on a pretty wide spectrum. The fact that we're disagreeing with each other and having to try to convince each other with arguments that we recognize is the issue. When I argue with a Baptist, I don't merely make the argument that the WCF teaches that to contemn baptism is a great sin and expect him to simply fold on the issue. If you followed my argument then I commended Robert for the manner in which he defended his conviction. I did not ask him to abandon his conviction. He didn't merely make arguments that resonated with his base.
  25. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    It seems to me that James White's position is best explained by his own words in the opening section of his book, The King James Only Controversy:

    "Finally, this leads to one more observation. In the nearly decade and a half since I first wrote this book, I have engaged in defense of the Christian faith against a wide variety of critics and opponents. I have debated leading scholars like John Dominic Crossan, cofounder of the Jesus Seminar, and Bart Ehrman. And in recent years I have engaged leading Islamic apologists. In May 2006 I debated Shabir Ally before an audience of twenty-five hundred at Biola University in Los Angeles on this very topic. And in the midst of all this study and apologetic engagement I have been reminded over and over again of one fact: Those who hold to the King James Only position could never, ever provide this kind of consistent defense of Scripture. King James Onlyism is, by its nature, anti-apologetic. Its leaders have not only declined one debate challenge after another from me, but they also are not the ones giving any kind of meaningful response to the likes of John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, Shabir Ally, Zulfigar Ali Shah, or Bart Ehrman. In other words, King James Onlyisnt cripples its adherents apologetically in a day when such can have devastating results. This has only convinced me again of the need to warn against this unbiblical, ahistorical, and illogical abuse of a fine seventeenth-century Anglican translation of the Bible in English." ​
    {emphasis mine}

    I realize that White's position is one against KJVOnlyism, but I have to wonder how he draws his apologetic line between those in the KJVOnlyism camp and those that view the Received Text as the underlying basis of the WCF. I realize that in his book he often waxes eloquent about the KJV and tips his hat at those that find it a "fine translation", yet those junctures in the book are often followed by the word "but" as he proceeds to make his case. Given his concerns over the debate in 2006 with Shabir Ally I also wonder if James was not quite prepared to respond to the KJV textual issues that arose which he later became at least more knowlegeable about in the writing of his KJVOnlyism book some three years later.

    As Rev. Winzer notes, the fact that the Muslim's holy book declares authority to the Bible, one need only observe the many cases wherein their book contradicts itself, not the least of which when Islam declares non-Trinitarianism, e.g., the caricature of "Father, Son, and Mother" in Surah 5:116. Given that Gabriel presumably revealed God to Muhammad one would think that this presumed corrective from God through Gabriel to Muhammad, several centuries after the close of the Biblical canon, would at least have its facts straight about the Christianity described in the Bible, God's special revelation, being denounced therein. It seems to me, the fact that it does not is prima facie evidence of the questionable origins of the Muslim's holy book, textual traditions notwithstanding.
  26. Ken

    Ken Puritan Board Freshman

    If I might attempt to put James White's Muslim apologetic using the "eclectic" text as being a better apologetic in simple words. What I heard Dr White say, is that the Bible is still the Bible even with the variant readings, that the variant readings do not change the doctrine of the Bible one bit. If someone says there is only one "variant" that is the correct "variant", how do you know which "variant" is the one?

    I do not believe Dr White was attacking from the perspective of TR versus the CT; as much, as he was making the point that (KJV onlyism) claiming that only one variant is valid, gives the Muslim a foothold to argue.

    God bless you and keep you,
  27. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    James says and writes a lot of things. I've listened to him consistently for years and I think I have a good sense of his basic tact and the *why* he does something. I'm not claiming to have a close friendship but I do consider him a friend.

    Do I agree with all his theological foundations? No.

    That said, I think his corpus is wide enough given how much he's spoken on this that his problems with certain forms of KJVO or TR are varied. It depends on the argument being made. The crippling effect that he's talking about for many KJVO owes to a superstitious approach to the issue that would require someone to adopt the same outrageous superstition about the inspiration of an English text. Those kinds of views are inaccessible to any historical investigation or any kind of debate. One either has to accept the inspiration of the English text by the hand of God or you're just not in the faith.

    Robert, I think, represents a spectrum on the Ecclesiastical text. At least this group makes historical arguments and deals with Greek manuscripts. They're not superstitious and their arguments are "accessible". Some TR fight tooth and nail over some things that were in the Vulgate and not in any Greek MSS so I think the approach differs.
  28. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore


    The approach does indeed differ. One thing that is helpful to understand between the differing methodologies of the Traditional Text position is this...

    Some approaches, such as Byzantine-Priority and Majority Text, approach the subject from a purely rationalistic perspective — that their text critical approach is simply a better evaluation of the evidence. They do so without acknowledging any presuppositional or doctrinal bias in how the evidence is weighed.

    On the other hand, you have the approach that presupposes the preservation of the text as "kept pure in all ages" and this a necessary corollary to the doctrine of inspiration. The Ecclesiastical Text position falls on this side of the fence. I use that label because it implies and admits the doctrinal bias behind the chosen methodology. In this way, someone can hold to both the doctrine of preservation (as taught in our confessions), and hold to one of the critical methods above though not on purely rationalistic grounds. I would say I hold to "Byzantine Priority" or "Majority Text" approach to textual criticism BECAUSE they are more consistent with my presuppositions (and I realize these two methods are not identical).

    Finally, I cannot say that I am completely happy with either the Byzantine Priority or the Majority Text approach to textual criticism though I think they get us far closer than any other present methodology without compromising my presuppositions. As I said in my video, a lot more work needs to be done in this area. For this reason, I am very glad that the Textus Receptus, despite its faults, is as accurate as it is. No one will be led astray by relying upon it as an authoritative edition of the Traditional Text.
  29. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I think that both Rich and Rev. Winzer bring up some good and valid points regarding this discussion. One the one hand, as Rev. Winzer has pointed out, Dr. White does seem to suggest that holding to the ecclesiastical text position weakens ones ability to engage in apologetics with Muslims and therefore it puts the Christian apologist at a serious disadvantage. At the same time, as Rich pointed out, this is certainly not the main reason why Dr. White prefers the critical text, nor why he argues for its superiority. Ultimately, I believe that the text tradition that we prefer should not be based on its perceived apologetic value, but rather on its perceived faithfulness to the revealed Word of God. Thank you for helping us to understand these difficult issues. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say that I have and continue to profit from the wisdom of both Rich and Rev. Winzer.
  30. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    From my viewpoint over the years, as an observer and not a participant, I have noticed that all three Reformed camps equivocate on the meaning of 'by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages'.

    KJO: The TR is 'pure'.
    ET: The Greek Text 'stream' is pure.
    CT: Anything we have or ever will have is pure because God 'preserved' it.

    Is this a good thumbnail of the different positions?
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