Making Mountains Out of Molehills – Part 3

In Critical Text Onlyism, James White, Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Making Mountains Out of Molehills

Part 3

This is part 3 in this series.  Here are Part 1Part 2, & Part 4.  Again, my responses are in Italics.

43:28 “What I did, is I responded to, you know, some people started saying, for example Paul Barth quoted from Augustine. And Augustine wrote a short little book. It’s a available in Latin online. I pulled up when we got here quite easily. And here’s one of the translations: “Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin.” – Augustine, De Adulterinis Conjugiis, 2:6–7.  And so Augustine made a comment about the Pericope Adulterae, and Augustine’s primary text was the Latin. He could muddle around with Greek. He could not read Hebrew”

44:27 The only 2 major church fathers that could read both Greek & Hebrew: Jerome & Origen

45:21 Augustine defended the duetero-canonical;

What does this have to do with Augustine’s defence of the Pericope?  Nothing.  It’s an ad hominem.

46:38 How did Augustine know, what manuscripts in Greek, in Caesarea said, when he is in Hippo and can barely read Greek. How does he know what motivations there where?

Paul Barth effectively deals with Mr. White’s erroneous comments during this section.  Read Paul’s response here:  Response to James White on Augustine and the Pericope Adulterae

47:00 “Paul Barth’s response when I said, when I questioned Augustine on this was ‘But apparently modern liberal scholars know better than someone who lived contemporaneously with Codex Sinaiticus. Silly Augustine and his tin foil hat.’”

Mr. White’s bias against Confessional Text advocates have led him to misrepresent the facts. Check out the time stamps for the posts in question:

As you can see, Paul Barth was not responding to James White.  Again, this is an example of Mr. White’s biases clouding his judgment.

47:17 “The fact of the matter is, Augustine would not have had access to the information that we have today.”

Again Mr. White puts forth his opinion as a definitive truth claim. How does Mr. White know what Augustine had access to in his day? He doesn’t. The reality is, we have no idea how much information Augustine had access to himself and through his contemporaries. We do know that he could read Greek and translate it.  Unless of course Mr. White wants to reject the doctrine of Original Sin which is based in part off of Augustine’s translation from the Greek of Rom 5:12.

47:45 “I mean the amount of textual data that we have available to us today is astounding and something to be greatly thankful for.”

Of course he has an unargued bias that the Alexandrian mss should supersede the Confessional Text. Again he is refuted by the simplest of questions. What is your objective foundation for believing that the manuscript data we have today should overturn the authentic Greek text? Mr. White and his ilk bear the burden of proof. They must provide an objective argument derived from the authentic texts to reject and replace the authentic texts. And this is a self-defeating argument for them.

48:00 At this point Mr. White goes into the so-called textual evidence for the Pericope.
49:15 It is omitted by p66 & p75. The two earliest papyri manuscripts we have of the Gospel of John.

Again Mr. White equates great age to accuracy. He must first prove that great age correlates to accuracy. Neither he, nor any RTC advocate has ever done this.

49:53 It is unknown in the first 400 years of the church

This is what is called an argument from silence. It is a logical fallacy.

50:13 How do we know what Iraeneus wrote?

Dr. Riddle deals with Mr. White’s erroneous claims during this segment.  The Pericope Adulterae

54:54 In the year 500, the Majority Text would not contain this. (Pericope)

This is yet another instance of Mr. White claiming omniscience for himself. He has no idea what the MT of 500AD is unless he has access to EVERY Greek manuscript that was available in the year 500 AD. He does not. This is why Mr. White offers no challenge to those of us who hold the to the Confessional Text. His holding to a naturalistic view of preservation means he offers nothing more substantial against the Textus Receptus than mere opinion.  A child can defeat that with one question. 

54:59 “And so those who are ET advocates who say its church usage, I guess the church for the first 400 years is just irrelevant. Because they didn’t have it.”

Again Mr. White makes a claim that is impossible for him to prove without his having omniscience. He does not have every Greek manuscript produced during the first 400 years of church history and therefore he can make no definitive claims based upon the miniscule amount of evidence that he does have from that period. Furthermore, his desire to determine what is and is not Scripture from incomplete records shows his rejection of the doctrine of Providential Preservation which states that God’s word, “has been kept pure in all ages”. We don’t change the text of Scripture based on new manuscript discoveries or else the text of Scripture will always be in a state of flux.

55:16 “So again it comes down to this nebulous, vague definition of ‘church’. And now let’s get a little more specific. I’ve been told, I’ve been accused of not being confessional as a Reformed Baptist elder…There are people who will honestly say, you should not be in that position…Because you do not hold that view…There was a quote here, yeah, fellow by the name of Sean McDonald wrote to me and said, ‘Mr. White, other than the line about continuing revelation what would be inaccurate about what I stated? It is demonstrable that your doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is not that of the Protestant Reformers or of the Puritans who drew up our confessional standards.’”… After this point he goes into bragging about himself and his debates. Look at me, look at me.

Sean McDonald’s statement is factually true. Regardless of what Mr. White claims, he does not hold to the doctrine of Providential Preservation as originally intended by the Reformers and the writers of the confessions. He has stated multiple times that he hold to the so-called “multi-focality” view. And he is an advocate for Restorationist Textual Criticism.  But do we find these views among the Reformers and the writers of the Confessions?  The answer is no.

Commenting on Isaiah 59:21, Calvin affirmed his belief in the perfect preservation of all the Words of Scripture in every age in the true Church,
The word of Christ shall always continue in the mouths of the faithful; there shall be some in every age who, believing with the heart unto righteousness, shall with the tongue make confession unto salvation. The word shall never depart out of the mouth of the church; for there shall still be a seed to speak Christ’s holy language and profess his holy religion. Observe, The Spirit and the word go together, and by them the church is kept up. For the word in the mouths of our ministers, nay, the word in our own mouths, will not profit us, unless the Spirit work with the word, and give us an understanding. But the Spirit does his work by the word and in concurrence with it; and whatever is pretended to be a dictate of the Spirit must be tried by the scriptures. On these foundations the church is built, stands firmly, and shall stand for ever, Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.

The liberal historian, McCabe accepted that the Reformers had no time for rationalistic textual principles,
The reformers, indeed, extended little patronage to the exercise of reason in religious matters; they denounced it and its fruit, philosophical speculation, as an evil not to be tolerated; and Luther went so far as to assert (even to the disgust of the Church of Rome) that a proposition may be true in theology and false in philosophy.

As we search the Reformation writings this fact becomes quickly apparent.  Samuel Tregelles notes,
Beza’s text was during his life in very general use among Protestants; they seemed to feel that enough had been done to establish it, and they relied on it as giving them a firm basis….After the appearance of the texts of Stephanus and Beza, many Protestants ceased from all inquiry into the authorities on which the text of the New Testament in their hands was based.

Brook records that,
Mr. Cartwright defended the holy Scriptures against the accusation of corruption, and maintained that the Old and New Testaments written in the original languages were preserved uncorrupted. They constituted the word of God, whose works are all perfect, then must his word continue unimpaired; and, since it was written for our instruction, admonition, and consolation, he concluded that, unless God was deceived and disappointed in his purpose, it must perform these friendly offices for the church of God to the end of the world. If the authority of the authentic copies in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek were lost, or given up, or corrupted, or the sense changed, there would be no high court of appeal to put an end to disputes; so that the exhortation to have recourse to the law, the prophets, and the New Testament would be of very little effect. In this case our state would be worse than theirs under the law, and in the time of Christ; yea than those who lived some hundred years after Christ, when the ancient fathers exhorted the people to try all controversies by the Scriptures. Their own Gratian directs us, in deciding differences, not to the old translation, but to the originals of the Hebrew in the Old Testament, and of the Greek in the New.

Thomas Cartwright observed this about preservation,
Woe unto the churches, if the Scriptures, the charters and records of heaven be destroyed, falsified, or corrupted. These divine charters were safely kept in one nation of the Jews; and though they were sometimes unfaithful, yet they kept the keys of the Lord’s library: but now, when many nations have the keys, it is altogether incredible that any such corruptions should enter in, as the adversaries unwisely suppose. If the Lord preserved the book of Leviticus, with the account of the ancient ceremonies, which were afterward abolished, how much more may we conclude that his providence has watched over other books of Scripture which properly belong to our times and to our salvation? Will not the Scriptures bear witness to the perpetuity of their own authority? “Secret things belong to God;” but things revealed belong to us, and to our children forever. Jesus Christ said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” Notwithstanding the sacred writings were disregarded, and even hated by most persons, they had been preserved entire as they were the first day they were given to the church of God.  More than fifteen hundred years had elapsed, during which not any one book, nor part of any book, of canonical Scripture had been lost: and it was evident not only that the matter of the Scripture, but also the words; not only the sense and meaning, but also the manner and form of speech in them remained unaltered.

William Whitaker said,

Now we, not doubtfully or only with some probable shew, but most certainly, know that this Greek edition of the New Testament is no other than the inspired and archetypal scripture of the new Testament, commended by the apostles and evangelists to the Christian church….. If God had permitted the scripture to perish in the Hebrew and Greek originals, in which it was first published by men divinely inspired, he would not have provided sufficiently for his church and for our faith. From the prophetic and apostolic scripture the church takes its origin, and the faith derives its source. But whence can it be ascertained that these are in all respects prophetic and apostolic scriptures, if the very writings of the prophets and apostles are not those which we consult?

Whitaker went on to say he accepted the Received Text handed down by faith,
Now the Hebrew edition of the old, and the Greek of the New Testament, was always held the authentic scripture of God in the Christian churches for six hundred years after Christ. This, therefore, ought to be received by us also as authentic scripture. If they doubt the major, we must ask them, whether the church hath changed its authentic scripture, or hath not rather preserved, and commended to all succeeding generations, that which was in truth authentic from the very first? If it lost that which was published by the prophets and apostles, who can defend that negligence, who excuse so enormous a sacrilege?

Whitaker also cleverly rejected the argument that the Masoretes had corrupted the Hebrew Text,
Besides, if the Jews had wished to corrupt the original scriptures, they would have laid their sacrilegious hands specially upon those places which concern Christ and confirm the faith. But in those places these fountains run so clear that one feels no lack: nay, they sometimes run far clearer than the Latin streams.

He also showed how that God protected the Scriptures in the ages, God protects the scriptures against Satan, as being their constant enemy. Satan hath frequently endeavoured to destroy the scriptures, knowing that they stand in his way: but he hath never spent any trouble or thought upon these unwritten traditions; for he supposed that his whole object would be gained if he could destroy the scriptures. In pursuance of this plan he hath raised up such impious tyrants as Antiochus, Maximin, Diocletian, and others, who have endeavoured utterly to quench the light of scripture. Now, if religion could remain entire even when these books were lost, it would be in vain for Satan to labour with such furious efforts to remove these books. William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture: against the Papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1588 reprinted 1849)

Bishop of Salisbury and eminent Divine, John Jewel (1522-1571), who was a strong apologist against the Church of Rome, also makes clear the need of perfect preservation,
By the space of so many thousand years, the word of God passed by so many dangers of tyrants, of Pharisees, of heretics, of fire, and of sword, and yet continueth and standeth until this day, without altering or changing one letter. This was a wonderful work of God, that having so many, so great enemies, and passing through so many, so great dangers, it yet continueth still without adding or altering of any one sentence, or word, or letter. No creature was able to do this, it was God’s work. He preserved it, that no tyrant should consume it, no tradition choke it, no heretic maliciously should corrupt it. For His name’s sake, and for the elect’s sake, He would not suffer it to perish. For in it God hath ordained a blessing for His people, and by it He maketh covenant with them for life everlasting. Tyrants, and Pharisees, and heretics, and the enemies of the cross of Christ have an end, but the word of God hath no end. No force shall be able to decay it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Cambridge-educated Puritan preacher, Nicholas Gibbens also retorted in 1602, For by these authorities it may seem apparent, that the Hebrew Text has been corrupted by the Jews: which if it be; where is the truth the Scriptures to be found, but either perished, or only remaining in that translation which the Papists so greatly magnify. For answer whereunto, we affirm and testify by the authority of the Scriptures themselves, (which is the voice of God) of the Fathers, and of the adversaries themselves; that the Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue are pure, and unspotted of all corruption.

Johannes Andreas Quenstedt (1617 – 1688) the German Lutheran dogmatician argued,
We believe, as is our duty, that the providential care of God has always watched over the original and primitive texts of the canonical Scriptures in such a way that we can be certain that the sacred codices which we now have in our hands are those which existed at the time of Jerome and Augustine, nay at the time of Christ Himself and His apostles.

English Presbyterian clergyman, John Flavel (1627 – 1691) argued in response to a question: “What was the end of writing the word?” answered, That the church to the end of the world might have a sure, known, standing-rule, to try and judge all things by, and not be left to the uncertainty of traditions.

English Puritan and theologian, Edward Leigh (1602–1671) explained why we needed confidence in a pure text for our Bibles,
If the authority of the authentical copies in Hebrew, Chaldee and Greek fall, then there is no pure Scripture in the Church of God, there is no high court of appeal where controversies (rising upon the diversity of translations, or otherwise) may be ended. The exhortations of having recourse unto the Law and to the Prophets, and of our Saviour Christ asking “How it is written,” and “How readest thou,” is now either of none effect, or not sufficient.”

The great Puritan Thomas Watson (c. 1620 -1686) makes clear,
The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light, but could never blow it out; a clear sign that it was lighted from heaven….The letter of Scripture has been preserved, without any corruption, in the original tongue.

Another Puritan, John Owen adopted the same stance,
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.

Owen did not accept every “obscure private copy…to be admitted as a various lection” or Rome’s textual critics views of variants, as Owen explains,
Let it be remembered, that the vulgar copy we use, was the public possession of many generations; that upon the invention of printing, it was in actual authority throughout the world, with them that used and understood that language….men may, if they please, take pains to inform the world, wherein such and such copies are corrupted or mistaken, but to impose their known failings on us as various lections, is of course not to be approved….

[t]he generality of learned men among Protestants are not yet infected with this leaven…And if this change of judgment which hath been long insinuating itself, by the curiosity and boldness of critics, should break in also on the Protestant world, and be avowed in public works, it is easy to conjecture what the end will be. We went from Rome under the conduct of the purity of the originals, I wish none have a mind to return thither again, under the pretence of their corruption.

Swiss Hebraist, Johannes Buxtorf (1599 –1664), who defended the preservation of even the Hebrew Vowel points against the attack of Louis Cappel with studies published in 1624 and 1650. Buxtorf also affirms the purity of the Received Text in 1620,
From the extremity of the East to the extremity of the West the word of God is read with one mouth and in one manner; and in all the books that there are in Asia, Africa, and Europe, there is discernible a full agreement, without any difference whatever.

A typical presuppositional approach based on providential preservation was that of the Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Robert Rollock (1555-1599). He argued for the “the preservation of the divine oracles of God unto our times74” and the retention of may disputed passages such as I John 5:7, Mark 16, John 8 based on the fact that these are, “our Greek books, which we hold for authentical, have this verse and our Church receives it.” He rejected all the textual critical assaults of Rome on the Received Text by summarizing, Thus we see then the adversaries cannot prove by these places that the Greek edition of the New Testament is corrupted, and so act authentical. Wherefore it resteth that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament is only authentical.

Dr Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), provost of the College of Dublin and later Archbishop of Armagh writes against one sceptic who attacked the Hebrew Masoretic Text,
It may be suspected, that the intention is to bring it into doubt, whether we have any such thing, as a true Bible at all, which we may confide in, as God’s Word… However, I doubt not, but that, by God’s Providence, as the Hebrew Text hath hitherto stood firm, so it will stand on its own bottom to wear out all assaults against it, and be, what it always was, received as the undoubted Word of God, when all the arguments and objections against it are vanish’d into smoke.

Baird tells us, “Simon sharpened historical criticism into a weapon that could be used in the attack on Protestantism’s most fundamental error: the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.” Indeed, Simon himself explains plainly his purpose, “the great changes that have taken place in the manuscripts of the Bible – as we have shown in the first book of this work – since the first originals were lost, completely destroy the principle of the Protestants…if tradition is not joined to scripture, there is hardly anything in religion that one can confidently affirm.” They assembled many of the variant readings into Polyglots to aid this attack. The Cambridge History of the Bible accepts the universal standard of the TR amidst the Reformed Churches, In creating the phrase textus receptus they had confirmed acceptance of the third edition of Estienne and Beza’s recension of it as the standard version. Effective awareness of the significance of textual criticism for the ancient versions of the biblical text may be said to begin only with the Biblia Polyglotta of Bishop Walton in 1657.

Even Dan Wallace accepts that, “New Testament textual criticism was born as a polemic against Protestants, intended to show that they couldn’t really trust the Bible!”

Reformed church historian, Richard Muller summarized the post-Reformation Reformed view of the providential preservation of the Holy Scriptures,
By “original” and “authentic” text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no one can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions. The Jews throughout history and the church in the time of Christ regarded the Hebrew of the Old Testament as authentic and for nearly six centuries after Christ, the Greek of the New Testament was viewed as authentic without dispute. It is important to note that the Reformed orthodox insistence on the identification of the Hebrew and Greek texts as alone authentic does not demand direct reference to autographa in those languages: the “original and authentic text” of Scripture means, beyond the autograph copies, the legitimate tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa.  The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice and the separate arguments for a received text free from major (non-scribal) error rests on an examination of the apographa and does not seek the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility. – Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993),

There simply is no higher authority than the Word of God. Naturally, this confessional position can only work when one can particularise his starting point of where this self-authenticating revelation of God is perfectly found. Richard Muller insightfully observes,

The orthodox definition of the truth of Scripture – like the orthodox definitions of infallibility and authority – treads a very narrow line. Scriptural truth is never allowed to rest upon empirical proof: truth depends upon divine authoriship and can be defined as a “truth of promise” or as an intentional fidelity or veracity upon the part of God as author.

These were pulled from here:  Preservation Quotations by Dr. Paul S. Ferguson

Many more quotes could be produced demonstrating that Sean McDonald’s assessment of Mr. White was spot on.  This concludes part 3.

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