Preservation and the Biblical Text

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larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
My Belief on Preservation

God has perfectly preserved His word in the extant manuscripts, but textual criticism is not to the point yet where we can perfectly extract it. As textual criticism grows and more extant manuscripts are discovered i believe that it will be possible to come to a perfect text.

What to term my belief on preservation

* Theoretical VPP (Verbal Plenary Preservation)
* Practical EPP (Essentially Pure Preservation)


-OR-

* EM-VPP - Extant Manuscript Verbal Plenary Preservation (to distinguish from KJV/TR-VPP)
* CT-EPP - Critical Text Essentially Pure Preservation (not referring to any particular critical text)


So that the VPP is theoretical and not confined to a specific text family, but to all extant manuscripts.

EPP is what we practically have and this essential preservation is found in a critical text.

I purposefully kept my belief on the underlying texts separate from my belief on preservation as these beliefs are exclusive to each other to a degree.

I think it is important to have a distinction between theoretical and practical preservation. It keeps us from the mistake of seeing mistakes in our critical text and thinking that means the Scriptures are not "purely" preserved. And it keeps us from the mistake that we fall into when we try to hold on to the doctrine of preservation, and seeing differences in manuscripts and versions, we seek to pick one manuscript or version and claim "this is purely preserved."

I hope that makes some kind of sense.

Underlying Original Language Texts

My view on underlying original language texts goes back and forth a bit. Here are some thoughts on that...

When I prefer the KJV and its underlying texts

why the TR?

It is from the text line that the Church has accepted for thousands of years.

The Alexandrian text line was known and consistently rejected by the Church. Even Erasmus had readings from the Vaticanus and other similar manuscripts, and consistently rejected them.

The modern Church does not have some special knowledge regarding these texts that the Church throughout history has not had, and the modern Church is not correct simply because it is modern. We must not break with the history of the Church unless there is a very compelling reason to do so. All of the methods of modern textual criticism are merely theory, and not compelling enough to break with so much Church history.

why KJV?

It is the best translation that uses the TR...

The translators themselves were very pious and scholarly men who believed themselves to be translating the very words of God. As a comparison, the General Editor of the NKJV (Farstad) did not believe that the TR was the very words of God as he held to the MT theory, therefore he felt that the TR that the NKJV was based on was flawed.

The methods of the translation companies were second to none - all books went through each company, not just one.

They employed certain "biblical English" methods of relating more clearly the underlying original language text. For instance they used "ye/you" for the plural and "thou/thee" for the singular, even though those were not in common use during the time of translation.

The KJV has been blessed for hundreds of years by God. Modern Bibles generally don't even last 50 years.

It is the only Bible widely available today that the Church as a whole has used as the word of God. The modern Church is divided as to which Bible to use.

When I prefer the ESV and its underlying texts

Why the Critical Text?

The Critical Text (Nestle-Aland/UBS) best represents the original texts.

In the tradition of the Received Text, it considers all available documents to ascertain the original reading. It does not limit itself to one particular family of manuscripts, but considers all the manuscripts God actually has providentially preserved.

Although there are early Byzantine readings, there is no unambiguous evidence that the Byzantine text type was known before the 4th century.

Although it is possible that scribes may have removed sections based on theological prejudice, the evidence shows that scribes were more likely to harmonize and add to the text. And if they would have removed sections based on theology they would have been more consistent in carrying it out.

It is also a mistake to think that the Church of the 17th century was more authoritative than the Church of the 21st century. Especially in areas where they did not have all of the evidence that the modern Church currently has at its disposal.

Why the ESV?

The ESV is an essentially literal translation. As such it attempts to make the original biblical languages as transparent as possible to the reader using the formal equivalence method of translation.

In my opinion the ESV demonstrates a step forward in literary style. There have not been many literal translations of the Bible that have also had literary beauty. As a matter of fact, it has often been said of the more literal versions that they are quite wooden in their literary style. The ESV has made large strides forward in coupling literal translation with literary beauty.


Thoughts???
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
I'll stick with the TR/KJV dear brother. It is hard for me to believe that the church used a defective text for the last 1900+ years and that modern scolarship has retored the text through the CT. I have no problem with a new translation as long as it is faithfull to the reformation text.:2cents:
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
I'll stick with the TR/KJV dear brother. It is hard for me to believe that the church used a defective text for the last 1900+ years and that modern scolarship has retored the text through the CT. I have no problem with a new translation as long as it is faithfull to the reformation text.:2cents:
That is where i am heavily leaning at this time. The most convincing to me was Theodore Letis as well as some folks on this Board.
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
As folks probably already know...Critical Text advocate here. As for the arguments presented to the contrary...

"It is from the text line that the Church has accepted for thousands of years."

It is the text the EASTERN church used for 2 thousand years. In the first 3-4 centuries, the church of upper Egypt used the Alexandrian copies, and most of the rest of the empire used Western copies. The Western church after this time used the Latin Vulgate, which textual scholars generally agree is most in conformity with the Western Greek Text Type (it certainly is not 'thoroughly Byzantine' when it comes to variants).

Protestantism used the Byzantine text for 400 years because it was the 'default' Greek text type in the Eastern church by that time and it was at this time that we went back to the Greek.

"The Alexandrian text line was known and consistently rejected by the Church. Even Erasmus had readings from the Vatican’s and other similar manuscripts, and consistently rejected them."

From notes in some of the ancient Alexandrian manuscripts we know that they were in use for centuries. They weren't 'rejected', they rather fell out of use.

Erasmus was not doing much 'textual criticism'. His first edition was rushed to market to get out ahead of the Complutension Polyglott to earn the distinction of being the first Greek text in print.

"The modern Church does not have some special knowledge regarding these texts that the Church throughout history has not had, and the modern Church is not correct simply because it is modern. We must not break with the history of the Church unless there is a very compelling reason to do so. All of the methods of modern textual criticism are merely theory, and not compelling enough to break with so much Church history."

There should be no question that having discovered more manuscripts and superior access to most (all?) of the extant manuscripts (computer, Internet, copies, etc.), that the modern church is in a vastly better position to investigate the issue of textual variants.


However, I'll give you all your arguments for the KJV save for the TR. I'd rather be in a church that 'standardized' on the KJV than one with no standard text.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Prepastor,

From notes in some of the ancient Alexandrian manuscripts we know that they were in use for centuries. They weren't 'rejected', they rather fell out of use.
How many centuries did the Church use the Alexandrian manuscripts for? By Church i don't mean exclusive to the region of Egypt.

Isn't saying they "fell out of use" just a nicer way of saying the were "rejected?" Why else would they fall out of use?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
Based on the actual real evidence, there has never been 1 manuscript type the church (in part or whole) has used throughout history. There is no hard evidence that the church used the Byzantine type of text for the first 4 centuries. In fact, all of the evidence points away from that.

But I am not going to get into a copy and paste war from the text books. I suggest you take some of my basic points as propositions and take the time to study it all out for yourself.

In my journey on this subject I went from being a convinced Traditional Text advocate to a convinced Critical Text advocate. The more I came to understand the arguments on both sides of this debate, the closer I came to knowing what questions needed to be asked.

Prepastor,

From notes in some of the ancient Alexandrian manuscripts we know that they were in use for centuries. They weren't 'rejected', they rather fell out of use.
How many centuries did the Church use the Alexandrian manuscripts for? By Church i don't mean exclusive to the region of Egypt.

Isn't saying they "fell out of use" just a nicer way of saying the were "rejected?" Why else would they fall out of use?
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Based on the actual real evidence, there has never been 1 manuscript type the church (in part or whole) has used throughout history. There is no hard evidence that the church used the Byzantine type of text for the first 4 centuries. In fact, all of the evidence points away from that.

Yes, i have done much studying in this area. I agree that there is no evidence of a Byzantine text-type in the first 4 centuries, but i was under the impression that there is also no evidence of an Alexandrian text-type in the first 4 centuries.

If you would rather say that there are more Alexandrian readings in the first 4 centuries, i would tend to agree. But that doesn't really prove anything to me as i believe that the early Scriptures may have gone through the same process as the Jewish Scriptures did...once a copy was made the original was discarded because the copy was considered superior (due to it's lack of wear and tear). So i would not expect to see early copies of Scriptures because i wouldn't expect the early Church to be so devoid of the Jewish roots. Of course, this would come later as the Church came into its own.
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
What purpose does the CT serve? How has it helped the church? Was anything brought about by the CT that we did not have with the TR? Why did the Lord use the TR for the reformers and not the CT?
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Another question that comes to my mind is, "when will the canon be closed?"
If we have no problem with deleting and inserting text based on new evidence, why would we have problems with deleting and inserting books based on new evidence?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yes, i have done much studying in this area. I agree that there is no evidence of a Byzantine text-type in the first 4 centuries, but i was under the impression that there is also no evidence of an Alexandrian text-type in the first 4 centuries.

Please clarify this statement. 'no evidence of an Alexandrian text-type in the first 4 centuries? I'm just not sure how you can say that or is that just an honest statemnt; that you are not aware of the data?

Here is a conservative breakdown of the manuscripts by number through the 4th Century...

Papryi = 57
Uncials = 19

None of these are Byzantine...care to guess what text type comprises the 'majority' within these manuscripts?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
That is the wrong question to ask in relation to the problem of textual variants.

Keep in mind...we are not 'chaning' the Bible according to our fancy...these variants are in actual manuscripts that were copied and used by Christians in ages past.

I think it is easy to overstate what is at stake here. People here this debate and think there are like several completely Bibles out there and that is what we are arguing for the right one.

Textual variants in the manuscript tradition is just a completely different issue than the closing of the canon of Scripture.

Scholars before the age of modern textual criticism acknowledged variants and were not freaked out that the authority of the Scriptures was overturned because of them...even when they were uncertain as to the correct reading.

Calvin went so far in his commentary on 2 Thess. 2:4 to change the text to reflect a reading not found an any Greek manuscript (that he knew of anyway) but based upon the Vulgate and some 'Greek commentaries'. Consider how Calvin approached this subject in the following statement...

"Where I have rendered -- everything that is called God, the reading more generally received among the Greeks is, every one that is called. It may, however, be conjectured, both from the old translation and from some Greek commentaries, that Paul's words have been corrupted. The mistake, too, of a single letter was readily fallen into, especially when the shape of the letter was much similar; for, where there was written παν το, (everything,) some transcriber, or too daring reader, turned it into παντα, (every one.)"

Clearly Calvin believed that the Greek text of his day (as well as all of the manuscripts) contained errors that needed attention. Had our Reformers known of the Greek manuscripts we have today, I am convinced by many such quotes that they would have favored something like the Critical Text.

I'm going to bow out and let someone else step in. I don't want to get into another protracted discussion on this topic right now (I've got some time management issues I am having to deal with).


Another question that comes to my mind is, "when will the canon be closed?"
If we have no problem with deleting and inserting text based on new evidence, why would we have problems with deleting and inserting books based on new evidence?
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Yes, i have done much studying in this area. I agree that there is no evidence of a Byzantine text-type in the first 4 centuries, but i was under the impression that there is also no evidence of an Alexandrian text-type in the first 4 centuries.

Please clarify this statement. 'no evidence of an Alexandrian text-type in the first 4 centuries? I'm just not sure how you can say that or is that just an honest statemnt; that you are not aware of the data?

Here is a conservative breakdown of the manuscripts by number through the 4th Century...

Papryi = 57
Uncials = 19

None of these are Byzantine...care to guess what text type comprises the 'majority' within these manuscripts?
The Aland's state that it was from the fourth century that there was a well-defined Alexandrian text...
The Text of the New Testament

The early papyri witness to early Alexandrian text readings, but it those early stages of the Church the text-types were not really developed yet.

Perhaps if you mention some specific papyri i could be more specific.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
I would like to re-iterate that i do go back and forth a bit between my preferred underlying text. Currently i am leaning toward KJV/TR, but i do understand that both sides have arguments in their favor.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Another question that comes to my mind is, "when will the canon be closed?"
If we have no problem with deleting and inserting text based on new evidence, why would we have problems with deleting and inserting books based on new evidence?

That's it in a nutshell. If you can delete 1 John 5:7 and associated texts why can't you delete 2 John or any of the other Antilegomena? And why can't you include the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, or the First Epistle of Clement, since these are to be found in the so-called "oldest and most authentic codices," Aleph and B? Modern textual criticism is arbitrary, resting on unsound theological principles, which is why I suppose these days they call it an "art" instead of a "science."
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
How did God preserve the NT text?
Did He do it through a multitude of manuscripts and then expect man to pull the correct readings together?
Did He do it through a family of manuscripts?
Did He do it through one manuscript?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How did God preserve the NT text?
Did He do it through a multitude of manuscripts and then expect man to pull the correct readings together?
Did He do it through a family of manuscripts?
Did He do it through one manuscript?

God preserves His word in all ages through His people, Isa. 59:21. MSS are merely a form of "evidence" of that preservation. The evidence still requires interpretation and evaluation. The true church is the "witness" of the Word of God and hence of preservation.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
God preserves His word in all ages through His people, Isa. 59:21. MSS are merely a form of "evidence" of that preservation. The evidence still requires interpretation and evaluation. The true church is the "witness" of the Word of God and hence of preservation.

I love that answer!
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
Another question that comes to my mind is, "when will the canon be closed?"
If we have no problem with deleting and inserting text based on new evidence, why would we have problems with deleting and inserting books based on new evidence?

That's it in a nutshell. If you can delete 1 John 5:7 and associated texts why can't you delete 2 John or any of the other Antilegomena? And why can't you include the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, or the First Epistle of Clement, since these are to be found in the so-called "oldest and most authentic codices," Aleph and B? Modern textual criticism is arbitrary, resting on unsound theological principles, which is why I suppose these days they call it an "art" instead of a "science."

I think canon issues (which books should be in the Bible) fall into a different category then textual issues (what is the text of those books). The canonical history of the text requires us to include 2 John, but not the Epistle of Barnabas. But which version of 2 John should we include now that we know that it should be included? That is a textual question. The textual question doesn't really become important until you have established an answer to the canonical question.

I have a question for those who hold to KJV primacy: Which Hebrew text do you prefer? The one the KJV translators used? Do you think there is any value in any of the older manuscripts that have been found, say at Qumran? (honest question, I don't know the KJV position on this!)
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
There may be a difference between canonical and textual preservation, but both have histories. We shouldn't really say that canonical history is critical in establishing the canon, but then ignore the textual history when choosing which text to follow. It is the history of the Byzantine type that i am pretty impressed with.

You bring up a good question about "value." I wonder what the value of trying to "get back to the originals" is when you consider that there never was an original bound Bible. The original manuscripts were never bound together. Also, we don't have the originals anymore, so how can we know that we are closer to them? In the end we rely on speculation and theories.

So i ask "is there value in such a dramatic shift in the textual basis as we see in the critical text?"
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I think canon issues (which books should be in the Bible) fall into a different category then textual issues (what is the text of those books). The canonical history of the text requires us to include 2 John, but not the Epistle of Barnabas. But which version of 2 John should we include now that we know that it should be included? That is a textual question. The textual question doesn't really become important until you have established an answer to the canonical question.

If one accepts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as being "the earliest and most reliable mss.," then that applies canonically as well, even though these mss. include non-canonical books.

The Antilegomena were doubtful inclusions in the canon, so their presence wasn't settled in "the canonical history of the text." If the traditional text can be called into question again as a result of new discoveries, then canonicity becomes an open question also.

As for the last sentence, this simply parrots modern scholarship's bifurcation of higher and lower criticism. But the division cannot be made practically. The books are accepted on the basis that they are inspired; inspiration is determined by content; and content can be nothing other than textual. If you call into question the text, then you must also do the same for the content as taught by the text, which requires one to re-evaluate the claim for inspiration, which is the sole basis of the book's canonical authority.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Mark,

You asked,

I have a question for those who hold to KJV primacy: Which Hebrew text do you prefer? The one the KJV translators used? Do you think there is any value in any of the older manuscripts that have been found, say at Qumran? (honest question, I don't know the KJV position on this!)

Dr. Thomas Holland, in his excellent Crowned With Glory: The Bible from Ancient Text to Authorized Version, has a chapter (#7), "Understanding The Dead Sea Scrolls", which presents the exceedingly strong case the scrolls make for the Masoretic (i.e., Traditional) text of the Old Testament. It is remarkably well done, and I highly recommend it. If you don't want to spring for it, you could get it from your Interlibrary Loan system. He shows in specific detail how the scrolls validate the Masoretic Text. Another link on the OT text (but slightly off your question):

http://www.wayoflife.org/ency/ency003e.htm

I quote from the Answering Kurschner thread:

See also, SCHOLARLY MYTHS PERPETUATED ON REJECTING THE MASORETIC TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, by Thom. Strouse.

I give Hills’ comments at this point:

The Infallible Inspiration of the Scriptures

The Holy Spirit persuades us to adopt the same view of the Scriptures that Jesus believed and taught during the days of His earthly ministry. Jesus denied explicitly the theories of the higher critics. He recognized Moses (Mark 12:26), David (Luke 20:42), and Daniel (Matt. 24:15) by name as the authors of the writings assigned to them by the Old Testament believers. Moreover, according to Jesus, all these individual Old Testament writings combined together to form one divine and infallible Book which He called "the Scriptures." Jesus believed that these Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36), that not one word of them could be denied (John 10:35), that not one particle of them could perish (Matt. 5: 18), and that everything written in them was divinely authoritative (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).

This same high view of the Old Testament Scriptures was held and taught by Christ's Apostles. All Scripture, Paul tells us, is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). And Peter adds, No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Scriptures were the living oracles through which God spoke (Acts. 7:38), which had been committed to the Jews for safekeeping (Rom. 3:2) which contained the principles of divine knowledge (Heb. 5:12), and according to which Christians were to pattern their own speech (1 Peter 4:11). To the Apostles, "It is written," was equivalent to, "God says"….

The Providential Presentation of the Scriptures

Because the Scriptures are forever relevant, they have been preserved down through the ages by God's special providence. The reality of this providential preservation of the Scriptures was proclaimed by the Lord Himself during His life on earth. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). Here our Lord assures us that the Old Testament text in common use among the Jews during His earthly ministry was an absolutely trustworthy reproduction of the original text written by Moses and the other inspired authors. Nothing had been lost from that text, and nothing ever would be lost. It would be easier for heaven and earth to pass than for such a loss to take place.

Jesus also taught that the same divine providence which had preserved the Old Testament would preserve the New Testament too. In the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew we find His "Great Commission" not only to the twelve Apostles but also to His Church throughout all ages, go ye therefore and teach all nations. Implied in this solemn charge is the promise that through the working of God's providence the Church will always be kept in possession of an infallible record of Jesus' words and works. And, similarly, in His discourse on the last things He assures His disciples that His promises not only shall certainly be fulfilled but also shall remain available for the comfort of His people during that troubled period which shall precede His second coming. In other words, that they shall be preserved until that time. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). (Hills, The King James Version Defended, chapter 4 CHAPTER FOUR)​
 
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