Making Mountains Out of Molehills – Part 4

In James White, Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Making Mountains Out of Molehills

Part 4

This is part 4 of the Apologia radio episode featuring James White.  You can read the other parts here: 

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3].  Again my comments below will be italicized.

At the end of the last post we covered in detail that what the Reformers and writers of the Confessions considered as the doctrine of Providential Preservation is rejected by Mr. White for “multi-focality” and the view of Scripture held by Restorationist Textual Criticism.  In holding to these views Mr. White rejects the confession at 1.8 which states that God’s word has been, “kept pure in all ages by His singular care and providence”.  Furthermore, as we saw from the quotations from the last post, Dr. Dan Wallace openly admits that Restorationist Textual Criticism(RTC) was created as a weapon against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and was formulated by Roman Catholic Priest Richard Simon. (Richard Simon Critical History of the Text of the New Testament and A Critical History of the Old Testament)

56:26 “First of all, I do believe in the providential preservation of Scripture”

This is equivocation on Mr. White’s part.  Mr. White does not believe in the doctrine of Providential Preservation as espoused by the Reformers and the writers of the Confessions.  If that is his claim, then he is quite simply lying.

56:33  “You know it’s funny, a lot of these folks who loved to take shots at me have never debated Bart Ehrman…”

This gets quite tiresome.  The fact that he has debated Bart Ehrman and others has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he does not hold to the doctrine of Providential Preservation nor can he provide an objective foundation for Restorationist Textual Criticism.  It amazes me that he thinks any of the things he has mentioned have in any way dealt with the questions that were raised in the various threads in the Reformed Pub.

57:08 “There’s no question, no one can question my bona fides when it comes to defending inerrancy, defending the providential preservation of Scripture”

We can, we have, and we have demonstrated Mr. White rejects the doctrine of the Providential Preservation of Scripture.  Unless Mr. White wishes to play the equivocation game of men like N. T. Wright, then he must stop claiming to hold to that which he does not.

57:15 “The problem is when you decide that your theory of how that is done is the only one that can be out there, that’s where the issue is.”

This is perhaps one of the most ironic parts of the episode.  It is ironic because Mr. White is the one who has decided that only his theory of how it is done is the only one that can be out there.  This demonstrates a few problems with Mr. White.  1) He does not get his view of what he calls Providential Preservation from Scripture, but instead he gets it from RTC.  But since RTC places the reasoning of men above Scripture, he is guilty of the very thing of which he accuses Confessional Text advocates.  2)  The true issue is where do we get our doctrine of Providential Preservation?  Do we go to Scripture as the Reformers and writers of our Confessions did?  Or, like Mr. White, do we go to vain men who rejected the doctrine of Providential Preservation stated in our confessions, and thereby rejected Scripture’s teaching about Providential Preservation?  The choice should be evident.

57:27 “I’ve liken it to this, well I didn’t liken it.  Rob Bowman presented an illustration to Dan Wallace…but Rob Bowman put it this way, what we have in the NT is like having a jigsaw puzzle a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  And we have 10,100 pieces.  Now what’s he mean by that?  The tendency of later scribes was to expand, not to contract.  For example, I love, what translations…”

Rob Bowman’s illustration is immaterial.  Scripture identifies itself as Scripture. To rely on anything other than Scripture to identify Scripture is to make that other thing more authoritative than Scripture.  Therefore, we do not rely upon naturalistic methods and arbitrary reasoning, but upon Scripture itself to inform as to how we should judge manuscripts and deal with textual variants.  Mr. White’s view does not begin with Scripture and is therefore in error.  As to the tendency of later scribes, again, neither he nor the textual critics know this as they were not there when the copies where being made.  Such speculation is arbitrary and therefore is worthless.

58:54 “So you don’t believe there’s differences in the Bible?  Well ok…read for me please John 5:4…there is no 5:4, why?  It’s the explanation of the angel coming down and troubling the waters.  You know how that got there?  In all probabilities, I can’t prove this, I don’t have an mp4 video of the day this textual variant entered into the transmission stream.  But in all probabilities that was a marginal note.”

One the one hand he admits his inability to know it.  But on the other hand he wishes to assert dogmatically that John 5:4 isn’t Scripture and that it came from a margin note.  His proof?  Mere opinion.

In A Textual Commentary on the GNT by Bruce Metzger on page 179 it gives the reason as to why it isn’t considered Scripture.  And you will find in the first reason given that the Greek manuscripts which support its removal are mentioned.  And the two primary ones are of course Codices Vaticanus & Sinaiticus.  Which are the primary reason for almost all textual variants between the Confessional Greek Text and the naturalistic Critical Text.  But again, the issue is one of presuppositions.  For it is our presuppositions that determine how we will judge manuscript evidence.  Those of use who hold to the Confessional view go to Scripture to determine how we should judge Greek manuscripts and their variants.  Mr. White goes to the textual critics.  Now what makes men more authoritative than Scripture?  Unless you’re a Roman Catholic, nothing.

1:02:43 “Am I non-confessional, because I believe it’s important to utilize everything God has given us in defense of the NT?  Well, I always ask, as I mentioned before, ok show me where “the church” examined the evidence about the Pericope Adulterae, no this is what John wrote.  And no one can do it.”

As we’ve shown, Mr. White does not hold to the doctrine of the Providential Preservation of Scripture as formulated by the Reformers and the writers of the confessions.  Furthermore, as I stated earlier, Scripture must determine which of the Greek manuscripts are apographic and which of the variants are correct.  Mr. White wants to approach the textual evidence without Biblical presuppositions.  This is not only folly, but it is sin.  As to the Pericope, see the previous 3 posts in this series and Word Magazine episodes 49 to 52 by Dr. Riddle.  As to the Vulgate, he is again confusing the issue by mixing categories.  The issue is about the Greek text and not about translations.  

1:03:24 “So there’s no way, I do not believe there’s any way for the ET advocate to be consistent in their argumentation without radically altering the text of the NT.”

At this point Mr. White starts straw-manning the Confessional Text view.  I guess it’s a good way to avoid the issue, but it doesn’t refute our position.

1:05:07 “I don’t believe that the ET theory can produce a meaningful text that can then be put out there and debated against a Bart Ehrman…because you can’t define what the Church is.”

This is perhaps one of his more ignorant statements.  The Ecclesiastical Text has been around in printed form since the 16th century.  And it was the text that God used to bring about the Reformation.  The Colines text, which is close to the NA-UBS text, was not.  Codex Vaticanus was not.  As to his Church comment, see the previous articles and Dr. Riddle’s Word Magazine.

1:05:22 “And then you can’t answer specific questions about what the text is supposed to be.”

This is false.  Again Mr. White brings up red herrings.  The Confessional Text position has already answered the question about what the text is supposed to be.  And unlike Mr. White, we begin the process of answering this question with Scripture.  Mr. White in failing to start his reasoning process about textual criticism with Scripture has placed arbitrary human reasoning above Scripture.  Furthermore, due to the arbitrary nature of Restorationist Textual Criticism, it is Mr. White, Dr. Ehrman, Dr. Wallace, et al who can provide no definitive answer to specific questions about the text because of future discoveries and the whims of textual critics leave the answer subject to change.  Again, Mr. White is projecting the problems of his own view upon the confessional view.

1:06:03 “Didn’t the Reformers have a default text?”

In this section Mr. White attempts to claim that the Reformers only picked the Textus Receptus because they had no other Greek text.  However, again Mr. White demonstrates his historical ignorance.  

Dr. DeJong says of this note in Erasmus annotations: “The manuscript to which Eramus refers at the end of this passage is the Codex Vaticanus…designated B, Erasmus regarded the text of this codex as…inferior.” In his textual work from 1519 to 1535 Paul Bombasius and Sepulveda would provide Erasmus some 350 readings from the Vaticanus.

“Reverend Winzer is most correct here as to the Assembly’s being fully aware of the Vaticanus manuscript. I am preparing a book right now, answering James White’s book The King James Only Controversy. White makes the silly claim that, had Erasmus known of the Vaticanus manuscript, he would have used its readings.

I prove that entirely wrong. Erasmus references the Vaticanus manuscript in the Preface to his 1535 edition of the Textus Receptus, and he condemns it. 350 readings from it were made available to him, and he rejected it on the ground that it did not follow the Scripture citations of the orthodox fathers like Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa. I cite Erasmus’ own remarks in my book. I might add that John Owen cites the Vaticanus manuscript as well, in his book defending the integrity of Ecclesiastical manuscripts of the Hebrew and the Greek: namely, the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic Text. With respect to the Greek text: Erasmus strongly favoured the text that was supported by the Cappadocian Fathers. But he also amended it to follow minority readings in the Textus Receptus stream, where the overwhelming majority of Latin manuscripts favoured that reading – as is the case with Acts 8.37.”

~ Al Hembd, Trinitarian Bible Society, Jerusalem, Israel

Source:, Comment #73

And this was mentioned in part 1 and for even greater detail, read and listen to Dr. Jeffrey Riddle’s presentation John Calvin & Textual Criticism which he presented at Houston Baptist University’s Erasmus Conference.

1:07:22 “If they had been shown, if they knew what we know today would they have done that?”

We know that the majority of variants that Mr. White brings up were known by the Reformers and the writers of the Confessions.  Their textual decisions were guided by their presuppositions which were informed by Scripture.  They rejected Vaticanus, and they set aside the Colines text.  Therefore, we can conclude with certainty that future manuscript discoveries would not have changed their view of Scripture.  Why?  Because the manuscripts discovered in the last 200 years have essentially added nothing new to our knowledge about the text of Scripture.  And because the Reformers didn’t make textual decisions independent of Scripture.  They were no Rationalists as is Mr. White.  For him to ignore this when looking at how they judged manuscripts and their variants is anti-historical and an abuse of history.

1:07:32 “I think there are some people that may go beyond confessionalism to traditionalism.  And I believe in Semper Reformanda.  And if the Reformed doctrine of Scripture is so set in stone, that the state of affairs in the middle of the 17th century, that’s it.  Can’t go beyond that.”

A couple of things.  1)  Mr. White does not hold to Semper Reformanda or he would abandon Restorationist Textual Criticism and its naturalistic methods and arbitrary human reasoning that seeks to sit in judgment over God’s word.  2)  The idea that the Doctrine of Scripture is not set in stone should be extremely worrisome to all Christians.  For if Scripture and the doctrine of Scripture is to be always subject to change, then not only is the doctrine of Providential Preservation a lie, but Christianity has no foundation for its faith.  And that is the end result of Mr. White’s position.  And he is right, he is not Confessional as he rejects the doctrine of Scripture in the confession in favor of the doctrine of Scripture of Rome.

1:08:14 “And that’s why, as far as I understand it, the vast majority of Reformed believing scholars today don’t view it that way.”

This is another red herring.  Truth isn’t determined by popular vote.

I’m wrapping this up here.  The rest of the episode until the end (about 17 minutes left) is just more mischaracterization of the facts and fallacies from Mr. White.  If you care to go through it yourself, then I would read this article first:  Argument Analysis Checklist

And then familiarize yourself with informal fallacies.

Hopefully this series has been of some benefit in showing that Mr. White offers nothing more substantial against the Confessional Text view than arbitrariness and inconsistency.  But when you, as Mr. White, refuse to start with Scripture in the beginning of your reasoning about Scripture, Scripture will make you look foolish.

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