Critical Text Onlyism: A New Doctrine

In Critical Text Onlyism by Chris Thomas1 Comment

Can We Trust the Reformers?

He never saw it coming.  He had just started attending a strict confessional church and was completely unprepared for the onslaught when he posted the Confessional view of Scripture to his FaceBook page.  Fellow Christians now accused him of being a KJVO, a Reformed Scholastic, an ignoramus, and said he would never be able to do apologetics.  He couldn’t understand such animosity toward the Historic Reformed position that said of Scripture, “being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages; are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.”  And he further couldn’t understand the animosity towards the position of the Confession, that the texts referred to by the writers of the Confession were the Textus Receptus and the Bomberg Hebrew Bible.   He was told, “Why don’t you use the best Greek text?  There’s no doctrinal differences between the better text and the Confessional text.”  And no matter how much he explained to them that it affected the Doctrine of the Canon or introduced Arian renderings, they would always ignore such arguments and begin the ad hominem attacks.  He was further asked, “Which edition of the Textus Receptus?  There are at least 30 of them.”  He always found this an odd question as it is understood by those that hold to the Confessional Text View that they are referring to all of the editions of the Textus Receptus & Bomberg Hebrew Bible.  And whenever he asked his critics which Greek text they held to as finally authoritative they always refused to answer.

Upon further research he learned the name of this hitherto unknown position:  Critical Text Onlyism.

Critical Text Onlyism

Group 1:  This group believes that the modern Greek New Testament and translations from it are better than the Reformation era Greek texts and translations.  The people in this group do very little reading, if at all, of books by actual textual critics.  Nor do they read on the counter-reformation history of Restorationist Textual Criticism.  The members of this group generally stick to populist literature by such men as Dr. Dan Wallace and Mr. James White.

Group 2:  This group is generally unaware of the textual issues.  They use modern translations approved by evangelical Critical Text Onlyists.

Group 3:  This group consists of atheists and liberal theologians such as Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. D. C. Parker.  This group believes in the corruption of the New Testament text, but doesn’t believe it can be restored to it’s autographic form.  At best they believe it can only be restored to a 2nd or 4th century form.  They are logically consistent in that they admit the Rationalism of reasoned eclecticism inevitably leads to subjectivity and then skepticism.  It is perhaps best expressed by this quote from Dr. Parker,

The text is changing. Every time that I make an edition of the Greek New Testament, or anybody does, we change the wording. We are maybe trying to get back to the oldest possible form but, paradoxically, we are creating a new one. Every translation is different, every reading is different, and although there’s been a tradition in parts of Protestant Christianity to say there is a definitive single form of the text, the fact is you can never find it. There is never ever a final form of the text. – Dr. D. C. Parker, Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, 2012

Group 4:  This group is composed of evangelical Critical Text Onlyists.  Most of these men are not trained textual critics such as Dr. D. A. Carson, Mr. John MacArthur, Dr. John Piper, & Mr. James White.  The notable exceptions are textual critics Dr. Dan Wallace & Dr. Bruce Metzger.  This group, like Group 3, believes the text of the New Testament was corrupted and essentially lost.  The differ from Group 3 in that they believe that by naturalistic methodologies and the philosophy of Rationalism masquerading as reasoned eclecticism, the autographic form of the text can be recovered.

Critical Text Onlyism is, at its core, a rejection of the Historic Reformed position on Scripture while affirming the counter-reformation view begun by Roman Catholic priest, Richard Simon.  The difference between CTO and the Confessional Text View, hereafter CTV, is one of final authority.  To the Reformers, Puritans, Westminster Divines, London Baptists, etc., the final authority for all reasoning was Scripture.  This is expressed in the follow writings:

Wherefore it is uncertain whether Matthew first wrote in Hebrew, Syriac, or Greek, yet it is more probable that he did first write in Greek…howsoever it is, the Greek edition

[of the NT] which we have in the Church at this day is authentical; for that it was both written and approved while the Apostles were yet living.

– Robert Rollock (1555-1598), Select Works p121

For the CTO advocates, final authority does not rest in Scripture, but instead rests in the college of textual critics.  This is similar to the final authority of the Roman Catholic church which rests in the traditions of the church and the words of the pope and his college of cardinals.  With its Rationalistic philosophy approach to textual criticism, the CTO position is diametrically opposed to the testimony of Scripture about Scripture:

As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever. – Is 59:21

Or to put it simply, the words of Scripture were never corrupted to the point that they needed to be restored through naturalistic methods.  They were instead kept pure and will be kept pure “henceforth and for ever.”

(This post is done in the same style as the introduction of James White’s King James Only Controversy:  Can You Trust Modern Translations.  It also commits the same logical fallacies of poisoning the well and creating an ad hominem out of the term Critical Text Onlyist.)

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