Inerrancy: Not Absolutely Certain because Restricted to Autographs?

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manuelkuhs

Puritan Board Freshman
Theodore Letis and Richard Muller (PRRD 2:414) claim that Warfield's view of inerrancy departed from the historical view of infallibility in restricting infallibility to the lost autographs. It is the concern of many in the BP/MT/TR/KJV camp(s) that this leaves the church without an infallible extant bible.

In his book, "The King James Version Debate", D.A. Carson (defending reasoned eclecticism) makes the following comment regarding this concern (location 1114, emphasis mine):
Now both of the above statements, the Ligonier Statement and the shorter one I offered before it, stress the fact that inerrancy, infallibility, or any other similar term or phrase, obtains in the original documents, the autographs. It is a simple fact that we do not possess these autographs. Does this mean we are lost in a sea of uncertainty? Does it mean we possess nothing but a relatively inspired Bible after all? These questions bring me to the third point, which I shall take up in a moment

A page later, he gets to this "third point":
Third, to concede that total inerrancy or verbal inspiration is restricted to the autographs does not mean we have no sure word from God. This point is well discussed by Montgomery.38

The reference is to chapter 1 of "God's Inerrant Word", edited by John W. Montgomery, 1974. A quick look at the authors and occasion suggests the book plays a critical part building up towards the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy (1978) and may shed light on the thinking behind it (I would be happy for someone with more knowledge of the connection to correct/improve this sentence).

Thankfully the work by Montgomery referenced is available online: http://www.ccel.us/godsinerrantword.ch1.html

First, (p.35) Montgomery agrees with Carson in restricting inerrancy to the (lost) autographs:
If the Bible is inerrant, where is that inerrancy to be located? Not in translations of the text, since these are but approximations of the original; not in printed texts, for these are but representations of manuscript copies, subject to correction by comparison with them; not in the manuscript copies themselves, since they likewise endeavor, with greater or less fidelity, to reproduce the manuscripts on which they are dependent. Unless, therefore, one wishes to maintain that a given stream of transmission or translation was kept inviolable by God (and Scripture itself nowhere gives ground for such an affirmation), inerrancy must be said to reside in the original manuscripts written by the biblical authors, i.e., in the autographs of Scripture.

Then comes the shocking conclusion (p. 38):
Evidence for biblical inerrancy (whether viewed from the angle of Textual Criticism or from the more general perspective of Apologetics) is never itself inerrant, but this by no means makes the inerrancy claim irrational. Warfield (like Fuller) is perfectly willing to admit that his case is a probability case, yet (unlike Fuller) he affirms the inerrancy of the Bible in all matters to which it refers — not just to those "germane to salvation" (whatever they may be!). Why? because, as he correctly observes, the evidence that Christ (God Himself incarnate) held to exactly this inerrancy view of Scripture "is about as great in amount and weight as 'probably' evidence can be made" and thus warrants conviction on our part.

Carson actually quotes part of this quotation and explicitly agrees (location 1143):
On the epistemological question—a subject too vast to be adequately probed in this paper—I agree that the “evidence for biblical inerrancy … is never itself inerrant, but this by no means makes the inerrancy claim irrational.”40

I hesitate to use strong language in case I am misunderstanding Carson/Montgomery(/Warfield?) at this point. However, this seems the logical conclusion of naturalistic textual criticism (as science can only give probability, never certainty), and it seems to be explicitly stated here.

Granted, Montgomery specifies that he is discussing evidence "whether viewed from the angle of Textual Criticism or from the more general perspective of Apologetics", which might leave open theological evidence that gives full certainty. Carson, however, explicitly applies this to epistemology, i.e. how do we Christians know (if I understand it correctly).

If so, this seems to be astoundingly shocking and an attitude of unbelief. Our certainty that the Scriptures are inerrant based on Scripture's own testimony thereto is technically only a "probability", albeit an "extremely high probability"?

Surely faith begins with receiving the extant Scriptures as the Word of God, and finds therein the claim to infallibility, and then believes this claim with absolute certainty? I am aware of the circularity of this reasoning, which I think is my point - we know the Word of God is the Word of God because it claims to be, and we believe it. This, however, is not truly circular because ultimately it is a work of the Spirit in us, giving us this (complete) certainty regarding the (extant) Scriptures.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
WCF 1:5. "...yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

I fear that some Christians are led down a rabbit-trail of promised rationalist "certainties," rather than having the creaturely confidence that God has simply and reliably preserved his Word to them.

Get rid of every scrap of ancient manuscript evidence (even though this is contrary to the blessed facts), and there should not be doubt in a sincere believer's mind that God has spoken in his faithful Word. Why? Because the Word itself is the sufficient witness to its own authority. God is his own Witness.

The "telephone game" critics made a proposal long, long ago: that they would soon discover all the stages in the piecing together that the Bible "must" be. And they quickly set forth a host of theories and hypotheses, and half-baked investigations that were instantly accorded the status of fact. The history of the Critical Theory of Scripture is a long trail of walking-back those boastful claims. The process is still ongoing.

But along the way, some of the Bible's defenders conceded the point to the critics: that the truest confidence men could have of the reliability of Scripture was to establish the indisputable provenance of the present Bible. And in this way, by a kind of "Cartesian" deduction, the evidence (or some chosen/preferred subset of the data-points) would inevitably demonstrate the critics were wrong, and traditionalists were right.

Win the battle, lose the war. Or, at least, drag out the conflict much longer than it ever needed to be, costing undue lives and treasure.

I have little problem with the textual studies, the investigations, the production of numerous Bible translations based on this or that basis. Carry on; let God be true and every man a liar. The more facts are known, the less room for mischief among "scholars" with an axe to grind against the Almighty.

Each man, by virtue of his creation, is a "revelation-receiver." The Scriptures are the divinely chosen principal medium by which intelligible communication is given from God--special revelation--for reception and understanding by man.

The "quality" of your copy/translation will inevitably affect the degree of perfection, or the pristine accuracy, of the reception. And (sadly) there are some real "clunkers" out there. But even with such problems, more often than not the Voice of the Lord comes through.

It's like listening to one of the classic radio-and-TV commentators from the golden-age of the news, mid-20th Cent. Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney or Charles Kuralt. Your radio might not be the greatest, lousy speakers, and might have more static than you liked, but you knew you had the program because you knew the voice.

What both Critix and Xian leaders have been saying to believers for too long now, is that unless you have their vetted, checked-out, goes way back reconstructed product--then you can't be sure you're hearing the Word of the Lord.

Really? Before this project commenced, could people be sure? Could Augustin be sure? Aquinas? Bede? Bernard? Waldo? Wycliff? Hus? Luther? Calvin? These men had what they had--in Latin, in Greek, in Bohemian, etc.--and they knew the Word of the Lord.

I don't accept that the general modern attitude about "certainty" renders the earlier confidence foolish. I think they were fine, and more realistic as well. And we ought to be as confident as they were. By all means, avail yourself of the best translation you can find, what "sounds" clearest to you. If there are problems, they are not going to be in the origination of the signal.

And God has shown down through time that he is fully capable of ensuring that his people hear him with sufficient clarity that they need not fear for their salvation to understand and believe and obey.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think that is just right, Bruce—a sound and healthy understanding. Nonetheless, I labor to defend particular readings, and along the way I say that a particular compilation of such readings is a preservation of the Scripture in the minutiae, while those that may differ are a preservation in the main. Where I strongly agree with you—to use my own language—is in the legitimatization of these versions / editions that differ in their variant readings.

I think you put the basic truth of it better than I do. Thank you.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
However, this seems the logical conclusion of naturalistic textual criticism (as science can only give probability, never certainty), and it seems to be explicitly stated here.

This is the inherent problem with empiricism. Faith is suspended until the word of God is found. At some point a leap of faith is needed to overcome Cartesian doubt and settle on "something" as God's word, but the doubts are bound to remain and the vagueness of merely believing "something" is always unsettling to faith. It is sad to see this lived out in Christian experience, especially when we reflect on the fact that empiricism had nothing to do with us coming to faith in the word. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Bavinck's Certainty of Faith is a step in the right direction.
 

manuelkuhs

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for all the answers guys.

I would appreciate feedback from any who agree with Carson/Montgomery on some of these points, and who believe in an empirical identification of Scripture. Do you really want to say that our certainty of the bible being inerrant is only a "high probability"?

Lastly, I raise this because this seems to me to demonstrate a fundamental flaw of Warfield's development of infallibility/inerrancy.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
Lastly, I raise this because this seems to me to demonstrate a fundamental flaw of Warfield's development of infallibility/inerrancy.

I wouldn't be one of those who agree with Carson/Montgomery, but would encourage you to read some of Warfield's own articles on the subject, instead of Letis' description of Warfield's views. In the Puritans' day, they were aware of multiple readings and were uncertain which was the "original", yet were confident they had the very word of God.

Also, keep in mind that in Warfield's day, the very autographs were under assault: men denied that the apostles and other writers were kept free from error, especially in things besides spiritual matters. It was this attack that prompted Warfield to defend the autographs.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
[does anyone] really want to say that our certainty of the bible being inerrant is only a "high probability"?

IF one is going to meet the critic/atheist on his own turf, then the answers one has to give are partly dictated by the terrain under the battle. In some sense, Warfield may be justified in answering the "reasonable doubt" of the critic, by showing that--so far from there being these great holes in the tissue-paper of confidence of the record maintained by the traditionalist--it was the critic's theory that was supported by nothing but gauze. If he was really as "reasonable" as he claimed to be, then he would be forced back to the "best interpretation" of the available evidence.

Warfield showed that if the critic was a man who honestly went with the "highest probability" established by the evidence, then he must concede that the strongest case remained with the traditionalist view. Grant him the "reasonableness" of his doubt, for the sake of argument, and he fails on his own criteria.

If Warfield--and I don't want to impute too much weakness to a man on whose shoulders I stand--if he partook himself a deep drought of the strong current of rationalism in his day, I don't finally think he belongs to the rationalists. He was a man of faith, a WCF man, one whose own confidence in the Bible (I daresay) was NOT based on the weak reed of probability, but on its intrinsic authority.

Men deserve to have their efforts judged mainly against their contemporary opponents, by the standards of their own day, more than by the lights of another time (even if we feel the need to critique them). Besides, men grow in knowledge and faith. Their experience typically makes them wiser later than earlier. Warfield is a case-study with regard to scientific rationalism, inasmuch as he appears through his writings (I am led to believe) to find the claims of naturalistic evolution less and less worthy of respect.

Along with Logan's suggestion, I propose you read Warfield in his own words, understanding the nature of the debate in his day, and with sympathy for him--as much as you would appreciate being read by a later generation who can see better than you your own blind spots (if they can).

Having heard Montgomery's apologetic presentation and his encouragement, even to Christians so it sounds to me, to let the weight-of-the-evidence support their faith (instead of the other way around), I think it quite possible that some men promote a dangerous fallacy as a strategy, not a tactic. But they do not do so with an evil heart, only good intentions.

Others, Letis perhaps being one of them, end up attacking erstwhile allies as unreliable co-belligerents, oblivious to their own reliance on the prevailing currents. Again, to draw an analogy from the world of natural sciences, the same sort of thing sometimes happens when a creation-scientist sees nothing but "compromise" in the efforts of other Christians, who may not share 100% of his assumptions about the straight-line story he chooses to defend by relying on what he thinks is "the best evidence."
 

manuelkuhs

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a little confused how this thread has gone from a very specific question about very specific statements by Carson and Montgomery, to focussing on Warfield who I only mentioned in passing because Montgomery mentioned him in the quotation I gave, to the concern that I may be willing to throw out Warfield entirely because I may disagree with a very small part of what he may have taught.

For the record, I am sure that Warfield was a great defender of the faith, and that the majority of what he taught has done a great service to the faith. I hope one day to have time to read his writing, which I assume would be of great spiritual benefit to me.

In the Puritans' day, they were aware of multiple readings and were uncertain which was the "original", yet were confident they had the very word of God.

I am fully aware of this. In fact, despite being aware of the textual variants, the Reformers and Puritans like John Owen refused to retreat infallibility to (lost) autographs (which is exactly what Carson and Montgomery seem to be doing in the quoted sections).

Also, keep in mind that in Warfield's day, the very autographs were under assault: men denied that the apostles and other writers were kept free from error, especially in things besides spiritual matters. It was this attack that prompted Warfield to defend the autographs.

Indeed a defense of the autographs in such a context is absolutely necessary. However, I am concerned about the context of liberals (and historically, Roman Catholics in the Counter Reformation) using the presence of textual variants to call into question the existence of an EXTANT infallible text, which is what Montgomery is responding to, from what I understand. Carson and Montgomery, in response to textual variants, seem to be retreating strict infallibility to the lost autographs exactly in response to the presence of textual variants.

Having heard Montgomery's apologetic presentation and his encouragement, even to Christians so it sounds to me, to let the weight-of-the-evidence support their faith (instead of the other way around), I think it quite possible that some men promote a dangerous fallacy as a strategy, not a tactic.

Indeed, this is exactly my concern. And it seems to me that the modern inerrancy position of retreating true infallibility to lost autographs seems to logically lead to this.

But they do not do so with an evil heart, only good intentions.

I have no doubt that this is true, but I fail to see how I ever called this into question or how this relates to the question of whether their statements here are correct or not. In fact, often errors promoted by godly men with good intentions can have devastating effects.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
[does anyone] really want to say that our certainty of the bible being inerrant is only a "high probability"?

IF one is going to meet the critic/atheist on his own turf, then the answers one has to give are partly dictated by the terrain under the battle. In some sense, Warfield may be justified in answering the "reasonable doubt" of the critic, by showing that--so far from there being these great holes in the tissue-paper of confidence of the record maintained by the traditionalist--it was the critic's theory that was supported by nothing but gauze. If he was really as "reasonable" as he claimed to be, then he would be forced back to the "best interpretation" of the available evidence.

Warfield showed that if the critic was a man who honestly went with the "highest probability" established by the evidence, then he must concede that the strongest case remained with the traditionalist view. Grant him the "reasonableness" of his doubt, for the sake of argument, and he fails on his own criteria.

Very well put!
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Lastly, I raise this because this seems to me to demonstrate a fundamental flaw of Warfield's development of infallibility/inerrancy.

I wouldn't be one of those who agree with Carson/Montgomery, but would encourage you to read some of Warfield's own articles on the subject, instead of Letis' description of Warfield's views. In the Puritans' day, they were aware of multiple readings and were uncertain which was the "original", yet were confident they had the very word of God.

Also, keep in mind that in Warfield's day, the very autographs were under assault: men denied that the apostles and other writers were kept free from error, especially in things besides spiritual matters. It was this attack that prompted Warfield to defend the autographs.

In the late 19th century is was fashionable to deny many figures of ancient history altogether.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
I am a little confused how this thread has gone from a very specific question about very specific statements by Carson and Montgomery, to focussing on Warfield who I only mentioned in passing

Likely it's related to this statement (which seemed to be more than a passing remark):

Lastly, I raise this because this seems to me to demonstrate a fundamental flaw of Warfield's development of infallibility/inerrancy.

You may not completely understand Warfield's position if you only read Carson, Montgomery, and Letis.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I generally avoid these discussions like the plague, but it may be helpful to let B. B. Warfield speak for himself. So, here are some extracts that I once posted on a blog:

In the assault on the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, with which the Presbyterian Church has been vexed for the last few years, two closely related but separable assertions have been made prominent. One of these concerned the gift of Scripture, or in other words the doctrine of Biblical inspiration. The other concerned the transmission of Scripture, or in other words the doctrine of Biblical preservation. In the course of the discussion attention has been chiefly concentrated upon the former topic. But the assailants of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures have no more sharply denied the plenary inspiration of the Bible as God gave it to men than they have denied the safe preservation of this Bible as God gave it to men. Their contention has ever been twofold: that God never gave an errorless Bible, and if he did, that errorless Bible is no longer in the possession of men. The air has been thick with satirical references to autographic copies which no man has ever seen, which are hopelessly lost, which can never be recovered. And the defenders of the trustworthiness of Scripture have been sarcastically asked what the use is of contending so strenuously for the plenary inspiration of autographs which have thus forever passed away.

The answer is very obvious that such a contention would be undoubtedly very foolish indeed; but that no one ever made such a foolish contention. It has not been those that have been defending the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the autographs who have asserted the hopeless loss of this plenarily inspired text. The denial of the plenary inspiration of the autographs and of the safe preservation of the inspired text have rather gone hand in hand. The defenders of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures have constantly asserted, together, that God gave the Bible as the errorless record of his will to men, and that he has, in his superabounding grace, preserved it for them to this hour – yea, and will preserve it for them to the end of time. […] that not only was the inspired Word, as it came from God, without error, but that it remains so; that the Church still has this inspired Word and still has it without error. […] it is as truly heresy to affirm that the inerrant Bible has been lost to men as it is to declare that there never was an inerrant Bible.

B. B. Warfield, ‘The Westminster Confession and the original autographs’ in Selected shorter writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. J. E. Meeter (2 vols, Philipsburg, 1973), ii, 588-90.

It is thus perfectly clear that, according to the Confession, the preservation of the Scriptures in their purity is of as vital importance to the Church as their original inspiration. The Presbyterian Church is committed by its Confession of Faith […] to the doctrine that the inspired Scriptures have been preserved pure through the ages, as truly as to the doctrine that the Scriptures were given by the immediate inspiration of God. […] We must take the language of the Confession as it stands, and in its natural and historical meaning. […]

But Professor [Henry Preserved] Smith goes as far astray in the opposite direction, in misinterpreting the Confession, when he would urge us to believe that its language here asserts the absolute purity of every, or of any one, copy of Scripture. When he says, “What the Confession affirms, it affirms of the seventeenth century Hebrew and Greek editions which are more imperfect than our own,” he puts into the Confession something which its authors did not put there. Thus he would drive us into a dilemma and force us either to modify the Confession’s assertion of the truth of inspired Scriptures, or to declare, with what he affirms to be the meaning of the Confession, the “absolute purity” of every copy of Scripture.

It is not difficult to decline so factitious a dilemma. The Confession knows nothing of it. It does assert the preservation of Scripture in “absolute purity”: but it does not assert the “absolute purity” of “the seventeenth century editions,” or of every copy, or of any copy of Scripture. We scan the text of the Confession in vain for any allusion to such a monstrous assertion. It would be to convict its authors (who had variant copies in their hands) of incredible folly to suppose them capable of such an assertion. The most cursory appeal to their writings on the subject will exonerate them from so unheard-of a charge. They do assert the preservation of Scripture to the Church in absolute purity by God’s singular care and providence. But they did not find that Scripture, in all its purity, in any one copy in any one printer’s impression. They recognized the fallibilities of copyists and typesetters; and they looked for the pure text of Scripture, not in one copy, but in all copies. “What mistake is in one copy,” they declared through one of their number, “is corrected in another.” And so they proclaimed the perfect preservation of Scripture, in its absolute purity, through all ages, in entire consistency with the recognition that many copies might come from the press filled with corruptions, and that no copy would ever be made by men, wholly free from error.

B. B. Warfield, ‘The Westminster Confession and the original autographs’ in Selected shorter writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. J. E. Meeter (2 vols, Philipsburg, 1973), ii, 591-2.

We must not confound inspiration and providence – either by reducing the inspiration by which the Scriptures were given to the level of providential guidance of the writers, or by raising the providence by which they have been preserved to the level of inspiration. The Confession intends the distinction to be taken at its full value: one was an immediate and the other a mediate activity of God. And the product correspond to the difference: one produced the plenarily inspired Bible, every word of which is the Word of God; the other produced the safe transmission of that Word, but not without signs of human fallibility here and there in the several copies.

We thus have brought before us by the Confession, in turn, the original autograph of Scripture, produced by the immediate inspiration of God; the preservation of this autographic text in a multitude of copies whose production is presided over by God’s singular care and providence; and the ordinary Bibles in the hands of the people, each of which conveys divine truth to the reader with competent adequacy for all the needs of the Christian life.

And the Presbyterian doctrine of the Bible, therefore, embraces these three points: (1) the plenary inspiration of the Bible as God gave it, by which it is made the Word of God, trustworthy in every one of its affirmations; (2) the safe preservation of the Bible as God gave it, so as to be accessible to men, in the use of the ordinary means of securing a trustworthy text; and (3) the adequate transmission of the saving truth in every and any honest translation, so that the Word of God is accessible to all at all times for all ordinary purposes. The hearty acceptance of all three of these propositions is necessary, if we would range ourselves alongside of the Westminster Confession.

B. B. Warfield, ‘The Westminster Confession and the original autographs’ in Selected shorter writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. J. E. Meeter (2 vols, Philipsburg, 1973), ii, 593-4.

N.B. My posting of these extracts should not be taken to mean that I entirely agree with B. B. Warfield on the subject of textual criticism.
 

manuelkuhs

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a little confused how this thread has gone from a very specific question about very specific statements by Carson and Montgomery, to focussing on Warfield who I only mentioned in passing

Likely it's related to this statement (which seemed to be more than a passing remark):

Lastly, I raise this because this seems to me to demonstrate a fundamental flaw of Warfield's development of infallibility/inerrancy.

You may not completely understand Warfield's position if you only read Carson, Montgomery, and Letis.


My apologies to you and Rev Buchanan. This is what happens when you attempt to have a detailed discussion on PB on your phone!

I did actually want to focus on the statements of Carson and Montgomery, and it seems the sidetracking to Warfield is my fault.

I agree that I do not know enough to make a judgment about Warfield.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I hope this doesn’t drag me into a long drawn-out debate, but I would like to clarify some things here. I wholeheartedly believe Pastor Bruce’s remarks in his post #2 are a crucial truth we all need to recognize: our Lord and Saviour speaks to us through His word, whichever version (or language) our Bible is. Even when I state I prefer a version due to its intrinsic merits, I equally seek to make clear that all other honest versions (a dishonest version would be the JW’s NWT) have been so adequately preserved they are well fit for the Lord to save whom He will through them, as well nurture both individuals and churches unto mature godliness. That said, I still do reserve to myself the right to critique what I consider variant readings that do not reflect the preserved text, and on that basis claim that the version I prefer to be not only “adequately preserved” but minutely so.

It is widely known that B.B. Warfield discarded the older views of preservation held by the Reformers and written in the WCF in lieu of the modern view—heralded by Westcott, Hort and others—that through scientific examination, not the presuppositional approach based on Scripture (being theological not scientific), the autographic text can be restored. One may argue that this or that person in the Westminster Assembly varied from the overall view of the Assembly, but the real point to note is that Warfield adopted, not the majority or Byzantine text editions to choose from, but the texts in line with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.

BBW put it like this:

In the sense of the Westminster Confession, therefore, the multiplication of copies of the Scriptures, the several early efforts towards the revision of the text, the raising up of scholars of our own day to collect and collate MSS., and to reform the text on scientific principles—of our Tischendorfs and Tregelleses, and Westcotts and Horts—are all parts of God’s singular care and providence in preserving His inspired Word pure. (The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, by B.B. Warfield, New York: Oxford University Press, 1931, p. 239)​

It is also known that he meant to defeat the modernists and their attacks on the reliability of the Bible through his scientific approach, that is, he was a passionate defender not a detractor of the Bible. The view of many today is that his strategy erred and backfired, and the Church’s Bible is considered less reliable and sure than in earlier times. Few today hold to Westcott and Hort’s theories, although Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are still the basis for the modern Critical Text.

One of Warfield’s early statements on text critical issues, published in The Sunday School Times, Vol. XXIV (December 1882): 755, in the [misnamed] article, “The Genuineness of Mark 16:9-20”, openly attacks these 12 verses:

This passage is no part of the Word of God. The evidence will prove not only that Mark did not write it for this place, but also that he probably did not write it at all. We are not, then, to ascribe to these verses the authority due to God’s Word.​

John Burgon answered the initial instance of this attack in a stinging letter to Bishop Ellicot, chairman of the Revision Committee which supplanted the Traditional Greek text with the Westcott/Hort critical text; Burgon summarized his research as follows:

Similarly, concerning THE LAST TWELVE VERSES OF S. MARK which you brand with suspicion and separate off from the rest of the Gospel, in token that, in your opinion, there is “a breach of continuity” (p.53), (whatever that may mean,) between verses 8 and 9. Your ground for thus disallowing the last 12 verses of the second Gospel, is, that B and a omit them: – that a few late MSS. exhibit a wretched alternative for them: – and that Eusebius says they were often away. Now, my method on the contrary is to refer all such questions to “the consentient testimony of the most ancient authorities.” And I invite you to note the result of such an appeal in the present instance. The verses in question I find are recognized,

In the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] century, – By the Old Latin, and – Syriac Verss. – by Papias; – Justin M.; – Irenaeus; – Tertullian.

In the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] century, – By the Coptic – and Sahidic versions: – by Hippolytus; – by Vincentius at the seventh Council of Carthage; – by the “Acta Pilati;” – and the “Apostolical Constitutions” in two places.

In the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] century, – By Cureton’s Syr. and the Gothic Verss.: – besides the Syriac Table of Canons; – Eusebius; – Macarius Magnes; – Aphraates; – Didymus; – the Syriac “Acts of the Ap.;” – Epiphanius; – Leontius; – ps. – Ephraem; – Ambrose; – Chrysostom; – Jerome; – Augustine.

In the 5[SUP]th[/SUP] century, Besides the Armenian Vers., – by codices A and C; – by Leo; – Nestorius; – Cyril of Alexandria; – Victor of Antioch; – Patricius; – Marius Mercator.

In the 6[SUP]th[/SUP] and 7[SUP]th[/SUP] centuries, – Besides cod. D, – Georgian and Ethiopic Verss.: – by Hesychius; – Gregentius; – Prosper; – John, abp of Thessalonica; – and Modestus, bishop of Jerusalem.*

* John William Burgon, B.D., The Revision Revised (Paradise, Pa.: Conservative Classics, 1883), 422-23.​

There still is debate on this, and it is excised from many Bibles.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
One of Warfield’s early statements on text critical issues, published in The Sunday School Times, Vol. XXIV (December 1882): 755, in the [misnamed] article, “The Genuineness of Mark 16:9-20”, openly attacks these 12 verses:

This passage is no part of the Word of God. The evidence will prove not only that Mark did not write it for this place, but also that he probably did not write it at all. We are not, then, to ascribe to these verses the authority due to God’s Word.​

How does "original inerrancy" bear up under a theory which supposes Scripture may contain "incomplete documents," as in the hypothesis that Mark's Gospel has no ending? It is clear at this point that textual criticism has made historical, higher-critical, assumptions relating to the "original," and does not confine itself to the bare transmission of the text.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't understand your point. Mark has an ending--just not the long ending.

Warfield stated, "We have an incomplete document in Mark's Gospel." Numerous scholars have drawn the same conclusion.
 
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SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
Ah, I didn't realize Warfield held that position. Seems rather subjective. I always found that Jonah ends abruptly. Doesn't mean that's not the ending.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Ah, I didn't realize Warfield held that position. Seems rather subjective. I always found that Jonah ends abruptly. Doesn't mean that's not the ending.

Perhaps it doesn't come out so clearly in English but in Greek the Gospel ends with a conjunction. That has been explained as a narrative technique, but it is explained in terms of leaving the narrative incomplete. Internally, this Gospel relates that Jesus would go before the disciples into Galilee after He was risen (14:28), which is only confirmed as something yet to happen in the shorter ending. Additionally, the Gospel is known to follow the order which Peter preached in Acts 10, beginning with John's baptism and ending with the commission to preach. The shorter ending would leave out the latter components of the Gospel and thereby exclude the post-resurrection appearance to the disciples which explains their mission. Also, the longer ending has an unique "inclusio of preaching" -- beginning with John and ending with the disciples, with the central focus on the Lord Himself. This is interrupted by the shorter ending.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
A new book is out on the last 12 verses, for those interested in this passage:

The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Kindle Edition), by Nicholas P. Lunn. I haven't had time to start it yet, though it looks to be very good. Some editorial reviews:

''Nick Lunn effectively throws a huge brick into the calm waters of the status of Mark 16. Looking at the matter from a multitude of perspectives, he makes a strong case for the authenticity of the last twelve verses. Lunn's scholarship is impressive and this masterly book has to be compulsory reading for anyone dealing with Mark and/or the text of the New Testament.''
--Pieter J. Lalleman, Academic Dean and Tutor of New Testament, Spurgeon's College, London, UK

''A well-written tour de force, interacting with contemporary critical viewpoints that support Markan termination at 16:8 while offering numerous plausible reasons--some totally new--that favor retention of the traditional 'Long Ending.' Highly recommended reading for anyone generally interested in textual criticism or this passage in particular. Even readers who differ regarding various elements of Lunn's discussion should be enticed into further study of this well-known textual crux by his work.''
--Maurice A. Robinson, Research Professor in New Testament and Greek, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

''Nicholas Lunn has thoroughly shaken my views concerning the ending of the Gospel of Mark. As in the case of most gospel scholars, I have for my whole career held that Mark 16:9-20, the so-called 'Long Ending,' was not original. But in his well-researched and carefully argued book, Lunn succeeds in showing just how flimsy that position really is. The evidence for the early existence of this ending, if not for its originality, is extensive and quite credible. I will not be surprised if Lunn reverses scholarly opinion on this important question. I urge scholars not to dismiss his arguments without carefully considering this excellent book. The Original Ending of Mark is must reading for all concerned with the gospels and early tradition concerned with the resurrection story.''
--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada --Wipf and Stock Publishers
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
I hope this doesn’t drag me into a long drawn-out debate, but I would like to clarify some things here. I wholeheartedly believe Pastor Bruce’s remarks in his post #2 are a crucial truth we all need to recognize: our Lord and Saviour speaks to us through His word, whichever version (or language) our Bible is. Even when I state I prefer a version due to its intrinsic merits, I equally seek to make clear that all other honest versions (a dishonest version would be the JW’s NWT) have been so adequately preserved they are well fit for the Lord to save whom He will through them, as well nurture both individuals and churches unto mature godliness. That said, I still do reserve to myself the right to critique what I consider variant readings that do not reflect the preserved text, and on that basis claim that the version I prefer to be not only “adequately preserved” but minutely so.

Steve, I appreciate these words. I think it is crucial for us to maintain this sort of grace when dealing with the textual/versions issue. It is also true that all good versions have their faults but yet are the word of God and sufficiently communicate the whole body of doctrine of the Christian faith. I think it is tragic that some people question the Bible's ability to speak authoritatively because of the subject of textual variants. Unbelievers try to get far more mileage out of this subject than the facts allow.
 
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