A Welcome to Everyone Who is New
There are many of you who are new to this issue or having heard someone expound the Confessional view in the Reformed Pub, you realized that it has nothing to do with what is commonly called King James Onlyism. And if you’re new to this view, then you may have no idea where to start. And that’s what this post is for.
So Much Information
Where do I start?
With all the various books on textual criticism, all the reprints of the works of the Reformers and Puritans, and modern works defending the Confessional Textual View, one can easily get overwhelmed. Do you start with Turretin and Owen as so many recommend? Or perhaps move to Dr. Edward Freer Hills & Dr. Theodore Letis? What about books like Ford’s Logos Autopistos, Leigh’s Treatise Vol 1, or Whitaker’s Disputations?
The best place to start is with the doctrine of Scripture laid out in the Reformed Confessions. In Chapter 1, Of The Holy Scriptures, we have expressed in both the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, the Biblical view of Scripture laid out for us. Below are sections 4 through 10 of the 2nd LBCF:
4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God who is truth itself, the author thereof; therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.
2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 John 5:9
5. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church of God to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scriptures; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, and the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole which is to give all glory to God, the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, and many other incomparable excellencies, and entire perfections thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet not withstanding, 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.
John 16:13,14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12; 1 John 2:20, 27
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
2 Timothy 3:15-17; Galatians 1:8,9; John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 14:26,40
7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.
2 Peter 3:16; Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:130
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew which was the native language of the people of God of old, and the New Testament in Greek which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations, being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.
Romans 3:2; Isaiah 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39; 1 Corinthians 14:6, 9, 11, 12, 24, 28; Colossians 3:16
9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture which is not manifold, but one, it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.
2 Peter 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16
10. The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.
Matthew 22:29, 31, 32; Ephesians 2:20; Acts 28:23
Within the above paragraphs we have outlined for us some important concepts concerning the nature of Scripture. They are:
- Scripture’s authority is self-attesting
The knowledge that we receive of the authority of the Scriptures has,
for its objective cause the Holy Bible itself which proves its own divinity by its own beauty, and by its own doings
- for its subjective or efficient cause the Holy Ghost who confirms and seals to our souls the testimony of God
- for its instrumental cause, the Universal Church (Theopneustia, p. 136) (1 Tim 3:15)
- Scripture is the foundation for all reasoning
- God has Providentially Preserved his word and kept it pure in all ages (Isa 59:21, Ps 12:6, 7, Rom 3:1-2, 1 Tim 3:15)
- The authentic texts are the Textus Receptus (the Greek text used by the Reformers), and the Bomberg Hebrew Bible (the Hebrew text used by the Reformers)
- The authentic texts are the final arbiter in all manners of controversies, including textual criticism
- Faithful translations of the authentic texts are necessary
These biblical principles should be our guide in how we reason about Scripture. This old idea was foundational to the Reformers’ view of Scripture, but has over the past 200 years been abandoned for the rationalist/empiricist view of Scripture. Today many people will claim that basing our reasoning about Greek manuscript differences and textual variants on Scripture is circular reasoning. And normally this would be a problem. However, all appeals to a final authority are inherently circular because nothing can be more authoritative than our final authority. For the Confessional Textual View, Scripture is the final authority. For the modern textual view, man reasoning independently from Scripture about Scripture is the final authority. These two views can be expressed as follows:
Preservationist Textual Criticism –
PTC is the view that God’s word has been kept pure in all ages by God’s providential preservation. (WCF/2LBCF 1.8) It can be simply expressed as, only Scripture can attest to what is Scripture.
Restorationist Textual Criticism –
RTC is the view that the text of Scripture must be restored because it has become corrupted over time either through carelessness or deliberate corruption by heretics. This is a rejection of the Confessional view that the text of Scripture was kept pure in all ages and an affirmation of naturalistic preservation
Below I’ve listed perhaps the most important books (or sections of Books) that will provide you with a solid Confessional Textual View. And with the above concepts pulled from the Confession, will help to remove the modern way of thinking that attempts to start the reasoning process independently of Scripture. I have also provided you with books that have most influenced the Restorationist Textual Criticism view. They should be read in the order listed to ensure the development of a strong foundation. Start with the PTC books and finish the first five before beginning the RTC books. On the Right Estimation should be read with Introduction to the NT by Westcott & Hort. Dr. Hill’s book should be read after the previous book, but before Dr. Aland’s and Dr. Metzger’s books.
Preservationist Textual Criticism
- Disputations on Holy Scripture by William Whitaker. (PDF)
- Truth’s Victory Over Error by David Dickson (PDF & EEBO via ePub Just the section on Scripture)
- Logos Autopistos Scriptures self-evidence to prove its existence, authority, certainty by Thomas Ford (ePub)
- Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol 1 by Francis Turretin (Chapter 1 On Holy Scripture is available as a PDF)
- The Church & The Bible (Vol 16) by John Owen (PDF Read the section on The Bible)
- On the Right Estimation of Manuscript Evidence in the New Testament (PDF)
- The King James Version Defended by Dr. Edward Freer Hills (PDF)
Restorationist Textual Criticism
- Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek by B.F. Westcott & F.J.A. Hort (PDF)
- The Text of the New Testament. 2nd ed. Transl. by Errol F. Rhodes by Kurt & Barbara Aland (PDF)
- The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 4th Ed. Dr. Bruce Metzger & Dr. Bart Ehrman (PDF)
These books by no means cover the entirety of the subject of Textual Criticism. However, they will provide you a solid foundation upon which to build your studies. I recommend reading Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book before beginning these books. It is regrettable and true that many of us were never truly given the skill set necessary for reading non-fiction books for depth and understanding. Adler’s book is a great way to begin to remedy this problem.
Here you will find links to sermons and lectures that cover a variety of textual issues. Rev. Greer’s series is an exposition of Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Rev. Riddle’s resources deal with his interactions with various people and you will notice he also deals specifically with the Pericope de Adulterae (John 7:53, 8:1-11), the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), and the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7). These are the three most common textual problems. Future posts will provide audios, articles, and posts dealing with the various textual issues and will be under the tab The Textual Issues.