A Short Response to James White

Faulty Facts and Assumptions

On Thursday, June 9th, James White posted in the Reformed Pub about the Comma Johanneum.  Like most of Mr. White’s previous interactions with those of us that hold to the Confessional view of Scripture, Mr. White failed to understand the key difference between our position and his, he then claimed victory, and did a Dividing Line episode engaging in ad hominems.  This time however he was called out for his uncharitable behavior after which he deleted the thread.  There was no new material in his opening post and all of it has been previously dealt with by Confessional Text advocates.  When people hear Mr. White’s oft repeated claims they can come to this post and see information that disproves Mr. White’s contentions.  Mr. White’s comments will be offset as quotations and my responses will be below the quotation in RED.

About the Comma Johanneum:

I commented on a post earlier today on my phone regarding the insertion into the Greek text of line, ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσὶν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον, or, if you prefer, I have attached an image of Codex Montfortianus’ rendering, which seems to have been quite central in the insertion of this material into 1 John.

This is a rather odd comment from Mr. White.  Codex Montfortianus is dated at 1520. However, the Complutensian Polyglott is dated between 1504 – 1514 and it includes the phrase.  And Codex 629, which contains the Comma Johanneum, is dated at the 14th century.  Again, this is before 1520.  Lest we forget, there were 9 Greek manuscripts used by Robert Stephanus that contained it and we have no idea what their age was.  To claim that one 16th century text is the reason for the insertion of the CJ into the text of 1st John is just ridiculous.  Implicitly he’s asserting that it’s inclusion into early translations was not based upon it being found by those translators within their Greek texts.  But how does he know this?  And Mr. White is assuming that the extant Greek manuscripts we have today accurately reflect the content of ALL Greek manuscripts ever produced.  The only way for Mr. White to substantiate his claim is to assert omniscience for himself. 

[ADDENDUM:  Apparently someone took exception to the above.  A few points of clarification.  1) Codex Montfortianus was not the Codex used by Erasmus to justify his inclusion of the CJ. (See the following post:  NT Manuscripts Made to Order ) 2) How do I know that Stephanus had 9 texts containing the CJ?  John Gill mentions it in his Exposition of 1 John 5:7.  Rather common knowledge.   3.)  According to Dan Wallace, Codex 629 is dated from the 14th century.  4) Matthew Henry deals with the claim that the Complutensian Polyglot only has the CJ because of Thomas Aquinas.  Matthew Henry, Cyprian, & the Comma  5)  As written, Mr. White’s comment isn’t specifically about the CJ’s insertion into Erasmus GNT, but into the text of 1 John itself.  I took it as such.  But either way, Mr. White is wrong.]

Those who promote the TR (NOT those who promote the Byzantine Text Platform—Dr. Maurice Robinson, for example does not believe the Comma original, and you will search in vain for it in his GNT—in fact, if the ET guys wish to defend the indefensible, they now get to contradict themselves: if they want to defend the Pericope Adulterae based upon Greek manuscripts “used by the church,” those exact Greek manuscripts do NOT contain the Comma) have come up with a whole group of arguments in its defense. All of them, of course, have been answered many times over the years, but I want to focus upon the most obvious issue here.

Apparently Mr. White is unaware we are not evidentialists.  The reason we mention the textual evidence for the Pericope and Mark’s Ending is to demonstrate that Mr. White himself is being arbitrary.  The foundation for those of us who hold to the Confessional Text view is not counting manuscripts.  Nor is our foundation Mr. White’s method, human reasoning and naturalistic methods.  We believe that Scripture alone provides us with the foundation for judging Greek manuscripts and how we are to deal with textual variants.  The issue isn’t over Greek manuscripts nor textual variants; it’s over the presuppositions of how we do textual criticism.  Mr. White’s overly optimistic attitude about his dealing with the Confessional Text positions arguments is unjustified.  He hasn’t even begun to understand our position. 

There simply is no textual critical methodology to TROism. Well, I guess there is: if it is in the TR, it is true, if it isn’t, it isn’t. But the why and the how—there’s nothing there. And the defense of the Comma proves that this is not a textual critical theory but a tradition, plain and simple.

First, TRO is little more than a pejorative and an attempt to lump us in with KJVOs like Peter Ruckman through the usage of “Onlyist”.  That’s bearing false witness.  And strictly speaking, not all who hold to the Confessional Text view have the same view about the TR.  TR-preferred and strict-TR are the two main views.  The “textual critical methodology” of the Confessional Text position is that Scripture alone judges Greek manuscripts and textual variants.  We deny that man, independent of Scripture, may judge Greek manuscripts and variants and consider such behavior by Restorationist Textual Critics and their advocates to be equivalent to Satan’s, “Yea hath God said?”  Scripture judges man, man does not sit in judgment and determine what is and is not Scripture.  This is something Mr. White does not understand.  We, like the Reformers and the writers of our confessions, begin with the self-authenticating Scriptures in the textual criticism process.  Mr. White considers that begging the question.  But all appeals to final authority are inherently circular.  Mr. White should know this as he claims to know about presuppositional apologetics.  The only other starting point is man.  And not only is that sinful, it is also arbitrary and inconsistent. In the end, we affirm that Scripture is self-authenticating and therefore only Scripture can determine what is Scripture.  Mr. White rejects this Orthodox view in favor of the counter-reformation view first espoused by the papist Richard Simon.  (Even Dan Wallace admits “In one sense, we might say that New Testament textual criticism was born as a polemic against Protestants, intended to show that they couldn’t really trust the Bible!”)

As an example of the Confessional Text approach to textual criticism let us look at Matthew 1:7-8:

In Dr. Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, he claims “It is clear that the name “Asaph” is the earliest form of the text preserved in the manuscripts, for the agreement of Alexandrian (Aleph, B) and other witnesses (f1, f13, 700, 1071) with Eastern versions (cop, arm, eth, geo) and representatives of the Western text (Old Latin mss. and D in Luke [D is lacking for this part of Matthew]) makes a strong combination.  Furthermore, the tendency of scribes, observing that the name of the psalmist Asaph (cf. the titles of Pss. 50 and 73 to 83) was confused with that of Asa the king of Judah (1 Kgs 15.9 ff), would have been to correct the error, thus accounting for the prevalence of Ασα in the later Ecclesiastical text and its inclusion in the Textus Receptus…It is necessary, therefore, to suppose that Ασαφ is a very ancient [scribal] error.  Since, however, the evangelist may have derived material for the genealogy, not from the Old Testament directly, but from subsequent genealogical lists, in which the erroneous spelling occurred, the Committee saw no reason to adopt what appears to be a scribal emendation in the text of Matthew.”

What ungodliness Dr. Metzger espouses.  For him to assert that Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost made an error is contradictory to the teaching of Scripture not only about inspiration, but also about infallibility.  Since Scripture is given by inspiration and is infallible, then not only is Dr. Metzger wrong, but Dr. Metzger demonstrates the utter futility of man’s reasoning independent of Scripture.  The correct reading is Asa.  Those who claim it is Asaph are denying inspiration and infallibility.  (Editors of the NA28 & the translators of the ESV fall into this category.)  So much for Mr. White’s oft-stated, No doctrine of Scripture is affected by these differences.  And what do the Reformers know of this issue?

John Gill:  And Abia begat Asa, who was a good king; his mother’s name is the same with the name of his father’s mother; and perhaps it is not his proper mother, but his grandmother who is meant in (1 Kings 15:10). He is wrongly called Asaph in the Persic and Ethiopic versions, and in one copy

Matthew Poole:  Matthew 1:7  This exactly agrees with the history of the Old Testament, 1Ki 11:43 (where he is called Rehoboam); he reigned but seventeen years, and died. 1Ki 14:21,31. Abijam his son reigned in his stead; he is here called Abia; but we shall observe frequent alteration of names, both as to the final terminations, and where the quiescent letters in Hebrew fall into the name.  Abia, or Abijam, reigned but three years, and was succeeded by Asa his son, 1Ki 15:2,8. Asa reigned forty-one years, 2Ch 16:13. So as these three princes reigned sixty years. 

And what principle of Preservationist Textual Criticism can we derive from this?  We cannot select a textual variant that contradicts the doctrines of Scripture or the nature of Scripture.  This is quite different than Mr. White’s view of textual criticism.

And here’s how I prove it: name me a SINGLE other text where you use the SAME textual critical argumentation to defend its appearance in the biblical text. You see, if you go back to Erasmus and use his TC position, you won’t have the Comma, because he knew it was not original, included a lengthy note in the Annotations on the issue, etc. So, his own TC theory did not support the insertion (it was inserted under pressure, as everyone knows).

Again Mr. White misses the point.  Our textual method has Scripture as its objective foundation and therefore we do not reason as textual critics and sit in judgment over God’s word.  Furthermore, Erasmus method of textual criticism would include the CJ if it could be found in a Greek manuscript.  He didn’t include it because originally he could not find it in one.  It would be nice of Mr. White would stop repeating the fictional story of Erasmus and the Comma Wager.  That is just poor scholarship.

If Erasmus had not caved to that pressure, or, if he had been just a little less acerbic as a scholar, no one might have bothered to write out an entire manuscript (such as Montfortianus) to confute him. And you wouldn’t have the Comma in your KJV or your TR, and we would have more time to lament the judgment plainly seen in having Clinton and Trump as the only two viable Presidential candidates in the US. But, Erasmus was that acerbic, and the codex was written, and so we get to discuss it.

Dr. de Jonge refuted the claim that Codex Montfortianus was made to order to confute Erasmus. You can read about that here:  Erasmian Myths: The Comma Wager

But here’s the point: there are ALL SORTS of readings found in the Latin tradition that have patristic support, for example.

White should not have mentioned this in light of the inclusion of “ουκ” in 2 Peter 3:10 which has zero Greek mss support.  For this information, and Mr. White’s failure to understand the significance of this see Dr. Jeffrey Riddle’s Word Magazine episodes 25 to 29 and the interaction between Mr. White and James Snapp Jr at the Confessing Baptist website.  (Link on the Word Magazine page.)  Even worse for Mr. White is this list of 105 verses that have ZERO foundation in the Greek manuscripts.

So, IF the argumentation presented in the comments here in the Pub are to be taken seriously, then those making those arguments SHOULD be inserting THOSE texts into the TR as well, right?

This is a non sequitur and again demonstrates Mr. White’s ignorance that those of us who hold to the Confessional Text position begin with Scripture in our reasoning process about Greek manuscripts and textual variants and not man.

Well, no, of course not, because they are not even TRYING to be consistent and could totally and could not care LESS about readings in the Latin text that are unknown in the Greek text.

This is James White on 2 Peter 3:10 and the 105 verses.

They do not even THINK about the mess they are introducing to the field by alleging that entire, deeply theological texts, can disappear from the Greek manuscript tradition FOR A MILLENNIUM only to be found in other traditions (yeah, so much for the ET argument, huh?)

It is false to assert that it disappeared for a millennium. This assumes that the amount of extant copies of 1 John are reflective of all copies of 1 John ever produced. This is an unsubstantiated assumption of Mr. White’s nor can he ever substantiate it.  And it is a very weak argument to base conclusions on incomplete evidence and assume the missing evidence is the same as the extant evidence.  Furthermore, this ignores the Greek manuscripts used by Stephanus, 9 of which contained 1 John 5:7.

So, how about unique readings in the Coptic, or Syriac translations? Shall we start inserting these as well?

This is Mr. White’s problem. He affirms “ουκ” in 2 Peter 3:10 and the 105 verses.

Oh, but, see, they do not even give a second thought to these issues because consistent textual critical practice is NOT their goal or even their interest.

How does he know what our goals are without us stating our goals. So let me state one goal:  To establish a Biblically consistent method for dealing with Greek manuscripts and the variants and not use the inherently atheistic textual criticism now in vogue.

Their goal is to defend the TR, period, end of discussion. Who cares if all meaningfully consistent textual critical practice has to be thrown out the window?

This is Mr. White’s ultimate problem:  Restorationist Textual Criticism does not begin with Scripture as the foundation for evaluating Greek mss and textual variants. It begins with man. In doing so, it sets man up as the final judge of Scripture and therefore is quoting Satan’s “Yea hath God said.”  It is Mr. White who has no consistent textual critical practice.  Arbitrary reasoning and naturalistic methods can never produce a consistent method.

Our ultimate goal is to get folks to agree with our tradition (TROism) so it doesn’t matter, even if that involves our using fully contradictory methods (as has been seen here in the Pub just over the past few months—go back and look at what was posted in defense of the Pericope Adulterae). Someone has said inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument. And indeed, such is the truth. And when you find Reformed folks promoting such traditionalism, well—that’s an inconsistency of great weight and import.

He assumes what our method is and is wrong. Our method is presuppositional, his method is rationalistic. Ours starts with the self-authenticating Scripture and his starts with man. Over the past few months Mr. White has obfuscated and avoided one simple question: what is your objective standard for textual criticism? He has even gone so far as to bear false witness against a pastor. The posts using manuscript evidence in favor of the Pericope were to demonstrate Mr. White’s inconsistency and did so quite successfully. Textual preponderance is only one of the methods in Preservationist Textual Criticism.  And unlike Mr. White’s methodology, ours is consistent with Scripture and with the practice of the Reformers.  Lest any doubt that the Reformers rejected Mr. White’s view of textual criticism, I present the following:

12 propositions that describe the way in which John Owen believed divine providence operated to ensure that the Scripture was “kept pure in all ages”:

1. The providence of God in taking care of His Word, which He hath magnified above all His name, as the most glorious product of His wisdom and goodness, His great concernment in this Word answering His promise to this purpose;

2. The religious care of the church (I speak not of the Romish synagogue) to whom these oracles of God were committed;

3. The care of the first writers in giving out authentic copies of what they had received from God unto many, which might be rules to the first transcribers;

4. The multiplying copies to such a number that it was impossible any should corrupt them all, wilfully or by negligence;

5. The preservation of the authentic copies, first in the Jewish synagogues, then in the Christian assemblies, with reverence and diligence;

6. The daily reading and studying of the word by all sorts of persons, ever since its first writing, rendering every alteration liable to immediate observation and discovery, and that all over the world; with,

7. The consideration of the many millions that looked on every letter and tittle in this book as their inheritance, which for the whole world they would not be deprived of: and in particular, for the Old Testament (now most questioned [i.e., in Owen’s day]);

8. The care of Ezra and his companions, the men of the great synagogue, in restoring the Scripture to its purity when it had met with the greatest trial that it ever underwent in this world, considering the paucity of the copies then extant;

9. The care of the Masoretes from his days and downward, to keep perfect and give an account of every syllable in the Scripture…

10. The constant consent of all copies in the world, so that, as sundry learned men have observed, there is not in the whole Mishna, Gemara, or either Talmud, any one place of Scripture found otherwise read than as it is now in our copies;

11. The security we have that no mistakes were voluntarily or negligently brought into the text before the coming of our Saviour, Who was to declare all things, in that He not once reproves the Jews on that account, when yet for their false glosses on the Word He spares them not;

12. Afterward the watchfulness which the two nations of Jews and Christians had always one upon another—with sundry things of the like importance, might to this purpose be insisted on.

From “Of the Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text of the Scripture”, by John Owen.  This is taken from the following:  John Owen’s Defense of the Traditional Texts

And let us look at the following quote by John Owen on Restorationist Textual Criticism:

“It can, then, with no colour of probability be asserted (which yet I find some learned men too free in granting), namely, that there hath the same fate attended the Scripture in its transcription as hath done other books. Let me say without offence, this imagination, asserted on deliberation, seems to me to border on atheism. Surely the promise of God for the preservation of his word, with his love and care of his church, of whose faith and obedience that word of his is the only rule, requires other thoughts at our hands.”

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1853), 357

This is the historic Reformed judgment of Mr. White’s view of textual criticism.  It is a sad day indeed for Christ’s Church when people will affirm a view of textual criticism that is considered to border on atheism! 

To see how Francis Turretin approached textual issues from a Biblical perspective see the following: The Authenticity of the Hebrew Text

In conclusion, until Mr. White abandons the counter-reformation dogma of Restorationist Textual Criticism and makes Scripture the foundation for how he deals with textual issues, he will continue to promote an anti-confessional and anti-Orthodox position of the Doctrine of Scripture and continue to do damage to Christendom.

About the Author:

I hold to the historic Confessional view of Scripture as found in Chapter 1 of the WCF/2LBCF. I reject Restorationist Textual Criticism and affirm Preservationist Textual Criticism

3 Comments

  1. Jared Foy June 14, 2016 at 4:12 am - Reply

    Your erudition is obvious but this is disingenuous: “Arbitrary reasoning and naturalistic methods can never produce a consistent method.”

    There is certainly a science to textual criticism, both camps make use of its means, albeit with different presuppositions, it’s uncharitable to imply Dr. White is a tool in the devil’s hands.

    I enjoyed your refutation.

    • Chris Thomas June 14, 2016 at 4:29 am - Reply

      It is not disingenuous but factual that, “Arbitrary reasoning and naturalistic methods can never produce a consistent method.” Textual criticism is not a science. It has no relationship with physics, biology, chemistry, etc. It does have a relationship with the pseudo-science evolutionism. And it is a collection of naturalistic methods that are applied with the arbitrary philosophy of Rationalism or Empiricism. How we approach Greek manuscripts and textual variants must begin with Scripture and not man. And therefore it is not a science. Science by definition cannot contradict Scripture, but must conform to it.

      I have not implied that Mr. White is a tool in the Devil’s hands. I have stated he is sinning by promoting an unbiblical and counter-reformation textual criticism and that he needs to repent. Considering his arrogance and narcissism on this issue we should pray that God brings him to repentance over this.

  2. A J MacDonald Jr June 24, 2016 at 3:37 am - Reply

    One of White’s biggest errors is denying the text is determined by the church while acknowledging the canon is determined by the church. White doesn’t know the canon is the text? To be consistent, White would have to 1) Admit the canon-text is determined by the church; or 2) Admit that scholar-specialists should determine the canon-text.

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