Making Mountains Out of Molehills – Part 1

In James White, Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Making Mountains Out of Molehills

Part 1

[Part 2] [Part 3][Part 4]

This series will cover the timeline of Mr. White’s Apologia episode and provide some refutations to the more notorious claims made by Mr. White. As Mr. White has a tendency to make definitive claims on little or no proof this series is called Making Mountains out of Molehills.

My comments will be italicized.

04:24 Mr. White claims most people are ignorant of textual criticism primarily because it is so sensitive.

I have found most people are ignorant of textual criticism because they believe that understanding it is too difficult for them. Many people have regrettably read Mr. White’s error ridden book The King James Only Controversy which is a gross over-simplification of Dr. Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament. The reality is that textual criticism is easy to understand once you realize that the heart of the issue is the underlying philosophy of textual criticism. (See PTC & RTC)

04:47 Mr. White claims the people who are ignorant of textual criticism think the Bible floated down from heaven.

I seriously doubt there are many people who believe the Bible floated down from heaven.

05:42 Mr. White talks about his presentation The Reliability of the New Testament Text. This video will be covered after I’ve gone through his Apologia discussion and his diatribe against Confessional Text advocates in his Dividing Line.

06:00 Revelation 15:3 and discussion of “nations”, “ages”, & “saints”. This textual variant is mentioned in the AV, even in the TR editions.

Mr. White mentions Revelation 15:3 and the variants of “nations”, “ages”, & “saints”. This is little more than a red herring. Throughout his interaction in the various Pub threads that dealt with the text critical issues, Mr. White was repeatedly asked to provide an objective foundation for his view of textual criticism. He has never done this. The reality is that he cannot provide such a foundation. In order to do so he must appeal to Scripture as the foundation for textual criticism. He is unwilling to do this as he considers appealing to Scripture as a final authority in textual criticism to be circular reasoning.  He holds to an arbitrary final authority (the opinions of textual critics) and an inconsistent view of Scripture.

06:56 copies of Revelation fewest

7:20 mentions controversy in the early church over the acceptance of Revelation
7:24 claims to be glad for it;
7:28 early church dialogue over Revelation (why is this important concerning his ET comments?)
8:00 “nations” – majority, “ages” – p47 has “king of the ages”

08:50 “when we go to the King James Version of the Bible…”

9:00 “saints”

9:20 the AV wasn’t a translation from specific mss of the NT

This is an example of poor reasoning. Yes, the AV was translated from the Texti Recepti and primarily from Beza’s 1598 edition. However, to imply as Mr. White does that they did not consult any Greek mss is mere speculation on his part. But then again, where does Mr. White think the TR came from? It came from a collation of Greek mss. The idea that a translation must be based on Greek mss and not a printed edition of a collation of Greek mss is not only a red herring, but another of Mr. White’s many inconsistencies. Because the modern translations he champions were primarily translated from the NA/UBS Greek printed text.

9:54 claims they weren’t doing a new study of ancient mss.
10:02 “They were operating from printed editions of the Greek NT.”

Again, this assumes that the TR was not a collation of Greek mss and that the AV translators did not consult Greek mss. There is no evidence for Mr. White’s claim. Furthermore, he seems to be unaware of the fact that the AV translators did in fact make a new translation as each was required to translate the text assigned to his committee. A book that refutes Mr. White’s claims about the production of the Authorized Version can be found here: God’s Secretaries. The page also has a video presentation by the author at the end. 

10:10 Claims they only used 7 printed editions of the TR.
10:21 1525 Bomberg text
10:27 7 printed edition; 5 printed editions by Erasmus, then Stephanus 1550 & Beza’s 1598

Mr. White’s claims are false. Yet another example of his habit of over statement.  See the above book and Dr. Riddle’s Word Magazine #49.

11:02 Latin translation of Erasmus
11:28 infallible vulgate
11:40 Fresh Latin translation

11:55 Claims Erasmus didn’t put a whole lot of work into the Greek

Here he essentially repeats a common myth about Erasmus made by those who try to undermine his work. Namely, that Erasmus rushed to print and didn’t put a lot of work into his Greek text which was riddled with errors.  It was disproven by Oxford Scholar, Dr. M. A. Screech in his introduction to Anne Reeve’s Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament. The Gospels. The following blog post and Word Magazine by Dr. Jeffrey Riddle utterly refute Mr. White’s claims:

Erasmian Myths:  The Rush to Print

Response to Ryan M. Reeves: “Church History’s Greatest Myths: Erasmus and the Greek NT”

The following points will be dealt with together:

12:03 lot of problems with the Greek, moved to Basle because he couldn’t find enough Greek editions to work with?
12:15 claims Erasmus had about half a dozen mss, nonsense
12:20 primary text from 14th or 15th century and only half a dozen
12:29 claims he didn’t trust the best ms he had

Regrettably, Mr. White has again demonstrated his historical ignorance. This will become a common theme as we go through this Apologia episode, his diatribe on the DL after this episode, and his poorly researched, The Reliability of the New Testament Text. The following quotations will show Mr. White to be a poor researcher and that he is merely pushing his bias against Erasmus.

Nothing was more important at the dawn of the Reformation than the publication of the Testament of Jesus Christ in the original language. Never had Erasmus worked so carefully. ‘If I told what sweat it cost me, no one would believe me.’ He had collated many Greek mss. of the New Testament, and was surrounded by all the commentaries and translations, by the writings of Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil, Chrysostom, Cyril, Jerome, and Augustine. Hic sum in campo meo! he exclaimed as he sat in the midst of his books. He had investigated the texts according to the principles of sacred criticism. When a knowledge of Hebrew was necessary, he had consulted Capito, and more particularly Oecolampadius. Nothing without Theseus, said he of the latter, making use of a Greek proverb. He had corrected the amphibologies, obscurities, hebraisms, and barbarisms, of the Vulgate; and had caused a list to be printed of the errors in that version. (J.H. Merle D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, New York: Hurst & Company, pg. 961, 962).

Through his study of the writings of Jerome and other Church Fathers Erasmus became very well informed concerning the variant readings of the New Testament text. Indeed almost all the important variant readings known to scholars today were already known to Erasmus more than 460 years ago and discussed in the notes (previously prepared) which he placed after the text in his editions of the Greek New Testament. Here, for example, Erasmus dealt with such problem passages as the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13), the interview of the rich young man with Jesus (Matt. 19:17-22), the ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), the angelic song (Luke 2:14), the angel, agony, and bloody seat omitted (Luke 22:43-44), the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), and the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16) (Dr. Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, p. 160).

Erasmus uses the Fathers of the Church as independent witnesses for the early text of the Vulgate. In his dedicatory letter to the pope he mentions that the special care due to the sacred writings caused him not only to compare ‘the oldest and most correct manuscripts’ but also to ‘run through all the writings of the old theologians and to trace from their quotations and expositions what each one of them had read and changed (W. Schwarz, Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation, p. 145).

As you can see, Mr. White’s definitive claims are not so definitive. You can also listen to Dr. Jeffrey Riddle disprove Mr. White’s untenable assertions here: Dr. Riddle’s Commentary on Mr. White.

The following will be dealt with as a group:

12:43 Comma Johanneum
12:59 Claims Codex Monfortianus written to confute Erasmus

During this part Mr. White repeats the myth about the Comma Wager & Erasmus. It never happened. Again this is an example of Mr. White demonstrating his historical ignorance by making bold assertions that have no basis in history. You can read about here: Erasmian Myths: The Comma Wager and in Word Magazine #26 Dr. Riddle’s Commentary on Mr. White.

14:45 mentions textual criticism but doesn’t differentiate between the types
14:58 Claims Erasmus inserted things from the Vulgate into the Greek.

This is a common claim.  It is primarily about the last 5 1/2 verses of Revelation. However, if Erasmus had done so, two questions must be asked:

  1. Why was he able to defend himself against the charge made by Edward Lee that he had back translated from the Vulgate for his Greek text?
  2. One of his reasons for not using Codex Vaticanus readings, to which he had access, is that he considered it to possibly have been back translated from the Vulgate. So why would he do the same?

These claims will be dealt with in an upcoming post about the assertion that Erasmus printed his back translation of the last 5-1/2 verses of Revelation in his Greek collation. But let’s assume that Erasmus did as Mr. White has claimed. What difference does it make? There are two problems with this red herring of Mr. White’s:

  1. Mr. White assumes that if this did occur that none of the Reformers who worked on the Textus Receptus after Erasmus dealt with this issue. 
  2. It is hypocritical of Mr. White to bring this up as an issue for the Textus Receptus when the NA/UBS text has back translations from other languages. (See Word Magazines #25 to 27 and the Greek word “ουκ”.)

15:10 Erasmus was a Roman Catholic priest.

This is an ad hominem and a red herring.  It also is an anachronistic way of looking at history. Martin Luther was still a Roman Catholic in 1516. Even John Calvin started out as a Roman Catholic. Should we therefore discount the entire Reformation?

17:13 – 17:37 no church council has ever sat down and said, okay we are going to create the final text, we’re going to examine all the variants, and we’re going to make a you know Sixtus the 5th, sort of did that with the Vulgate but Rome has run away from that screaming in terror. Because it was filled with errors and it was really bad, and all that infallibility stuff…

This is another red herring and a straw man. No Confessional Text (Ecclesiastical Text) advocate holds to the view that the TR is the authentic text because of a church council.

18:07 – 18:15 The King James and the New King James are based upon the Textus Receptus as vaguely defined as that is.

The idea that the TR is a vaguely defined text is ludicrous. Anyone can pick up and examine a copy. However, the modern critical text is a vaguely defined text as it is always subject to change if more manuscripts are discovered.

18:19 – Majority Text 1 John 3:1 missing from AV.
19:18 – Eclectic Methodology
19:26 weighing not counting; ms copied within 100 yrs of the original it has more weight than one copied 1000 yrs after the original; small exceptions
20:13 admits the one 100 yrs after originals could be a copy of a copy of copy and the one 1000 yrs after the original could be made of a much older copy and then says it’s very rare.
20:19 – 20:32 weight is determined essentially by age.  “In general, the older and closer to the original you are, the fewer generations of copying there are, between the manuscript you have and the original, gives more weight to those earlier manuscripts”

There is no objective foundation for the idea that an older Greek manuscript more closely represents the original reading than a younger manuscript. The only way Mr. White or anyone else can justify this claim is to have been present at the copying of every Greek manuscript and have compared the copies with the originals. Again we have an example of Mr. White making a claim that he cannot justify.

20:36 1930s found bunch of papyri. Which has no bearing on the CT.
22:00 More value/weight of p72, p66, p45, p46,etc. than one written in 1000 or 1300 AD because it is much closer to the original.

Mr. White overstates the case for the papyri and their influence on the critical text. (See Word Magazine #25 to 27 above links.) It is especially strange in light of the fact that prior to the discovery of the papyri the textual controversies over the Comma Johanneum, Pericope de Adulterae, the Longer Ending of Mark, 1 Tim 3:16 & John 1:18, et al were already known.

Again he assumes closeness to the original equates to greater accuracy. There is no proof for this. To prove this one would have to observe the copying of the autographs and then observe the copying of the copies, etc., until one gets to the papyri he mentions. Mr. White has never done this.

22:37 West abandoned Greek for Latin
22:54 Something called history took place
23:12 632AD to 732AD Islam conquests
23:54 Fails to see the providence of God in limiting the production of the Scriptures to the Greek speaking world.
24:47 Regional text types. Text types are somewhat arbitrary
25:15 cannot see the Providence of God in the fall of Constantinople
25:45 majority comes after 1000AD

This section is an example of how Mr. White’s unargued biases against the Confessional Text position lead him to make the wrong conclusions.  He sees that Islam was used to destroy the manuscripts that came out of Egypt; which was a hotbed of heresy at the time. Yet he sees this as a bad thing due to his rejection of the Biblical doctrine of Providential Preservation and his holding to the unbiblical, naturalistic view of preservation. When Constantinople fell, it was used by God to bring about the Reformation. If Codex Vaticanus is as important as Mr. White claims, then why didn’t God use it and/or the Colines Greek text which is very close to the NA-UBS text, to bring about the Reformation? Erasmus had access to Vaticanus as did the Reformers. Yet they rejected it. Calvin for a while used the Colines Greek text and yet later he replaced it with the Textus Receptus. If the readings of the Alexandrian texts are closer to the autographs than the Textus Receptus, then why did God wait until now? Why did Christendom abandon the Alexandrian texts for 1500+ years if they are better than the text that was in constant usage?  And why didn’t he cause the authentic text of the Reformation to fall by the wayside and cause the Reformers to favor texts like Vaticanus and Colines? The answer is obvious.

26:35 He mentions the papyri and their text type

Below Kurt Aland talks about the papyri:

P66 confirmed the observations already made in connection with the Chester Beatty papyri. With P75 new ground has been opened to us. Earlier, we all shared the opinion, in agreement with our professors and in accord with NT scholarship, before and since Westcott and Hort, that, in various places, during the fourth century, recensions of the NT text had been made, from which the main text-types then developed. . . . We spoke of recensions and text-types, and if this was not enough, we referred to pre-Caesarean and other text-types, to mixed texts, and so on. I, too, have spoken of mixed texts, in connection with the form of the NT text in the second and third centuries, but I have always done so with a guilty conscience. For, according to the rules of linguistic philology it is impossible to speak of mixed texts before recensions have been made (they only can follow them), whereas, the NT manuscripts of the second and third centuries which have a “mixed text” clearly existed before recensions were made. . . . The simple fact that all these papyri, with their various distinctive characteristics, did exist side by side, in the same ecclesiastical province, that is, in Egypt, where they were found, is the best argument against the existence of any text-types, including the Alexandrian and the Antiochian. We still live in the world of Westcott and Hort with our conception of different recensions and text-types, although this conception has lost its raison d’être, or, it needs at least to be newly and convincingly demonstrated. For, the increase of the documentary evidence and the entirely new areas of research which were opened to us on the discovery of the papyri, mean the end of Westcott and Hort’s conception. – Kurt Aland Significance of the Papyri pp 334-37

Mr. White fails to understand that the papyri have no bearing on the text of Scripture unless one rejects the doctrine of Providential Preservation. If Scripture has, as stated in the WCF/2LBCF Confessions, been kept pure in all ages by God’s singular care and providence, then to change the text based on readings in the papyri discoveries, which readings Christendom had abandoned for over 1500 years, is to reject the Confessions at 1.8.

28:15 gets back to Rev. 15:3 King of Saints, “How can we defend that reading in light of the fact that when we look at the NT texts themselves, really there’s one manuscript that reads saints. And that’s a manuscript that came after Erasmus’ printed Greek NT.”

Again Mr. White assumes near omniscience for himself. We have no idea which manuscripts Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, et al had in their work. And for all we know, we may at some future time discover a cache of even more ancient Greek mss which may all read “saints” at this point. And then Mr. White would be forced to change his opinion on what the text should read. Again. This is the problem with Mr. White’s unbiblical view of textual criticism. As it is not based upon Scripture, it is arbitrary and the critical Greek text is always in a state of flux.

Leave a Comment