Within Christendom there are two opposing views concerning the intent of the phrase by His [God’s] singular care and providence, [the Scriptures are] kept pure in all ages. Does it refer to a generic preservation that doesn’t guarantee textual purity throughout the historic life of God’s people, the Church? And does it require the Church to turn to atheists, theological liberals, and papists to provide us with our Scripture? Or does it refer to something more. Does it refer to the total purity of the text unmixed and uncorrupted by error? To answer this we will turn to the Reformers and let their words speak for themselves. My comments will be in red.
The WCF/2LBCF 1.8:
VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), 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. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.  MAT 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ISA 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. ACT 15:15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written. JOH 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.  JOH 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  1CO 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come undo you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, of by prophesying, or by doctrine? 9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.  COL 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  ROM 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.
John Calvin (1509 – 1564)
Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16
16 All Scripture; or, the whole of Scripture; though it makes little difference as to the meaning. He follows out that commendation which he had glanced at briefly. First, he commends the Scripture on account of its authority; and secondly, on account of the utility which springs from it. In order to uphold the authority of the Scripture, he declares that it is divinely inspired; for, if it be so, it is beyond all controversy that men ought to receive it with reverence. This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.
If it be objected, “How can this be known?” I answer, both to disciples and to teachers, God is made known to be the author of it by the revelation of the same Spirit. Moses and the prophets did not utter at random what we have received from their hand, but, speaking at the suggestion of God, they boldly and fearlessly testified, what was actually true, that it was the mouth of the Lord that spake. The same Spirit, therefore, who made Moses and the prophets certain of their calling, now also testifies to our hearts, that he has employed them as his servants to instruct us. Accordingly, we need not wonder if there are many who doubt as to the Author of the Scripture; for, although the majesty of God is displayed in it, yet none but those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit have eyes to perceive what ought, indeed, to have been visible to all, and yet is visible to the elect alone. This is the first clause, that we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.
And is profitable Now follows the second part of the commendation, that the Scripture contains a perfect rule of a good and happy life. When he says this, he means that it is corrupted by sinful abuse, when this usefulness is not sought. And thus he indirectly censures those unprincipled men who fed the people with vain speculations, as with wind. For this reason we may in the present day, condemn all who, disregarding edification, agitate questions which, though they are ingenious, are also useless. Whenever ingenious trifles of that kind are brought forward, they must be warded off by this shield, that “Scripture is profitable.” Hence it follows, that it is unlawful to treat it in an unprofitable manner; for the Lord, when he gave us the Scriptures, did not intend either to gratify our curiosity, or to encourage ostentation, or to give occasion for chatting and talking, but to do us good; and, therefore, the right use of Scripture must always tend to what is profitable. *n192
For instruction Here he enters into a detailed statement of the various and manifold advantages derived from the Scriptures. And, first of all, he mentionsinstruction, which ranks above all the rest; for it will be to no purpose that you exhort or reprove, if you have not previously instructed. But because “instruction,” taken by itself, is often of little avail, he adds reproof andcorrection
It would be too long to explain what we are to learn from the Scriptures; and, in the preceding verse, he has given a brief summary of them under the wordfaith. The most valuable knowledge, therefore, is “faith in Christ.” Next follows instruction for regulating the life, to which are added the excitements of exhortations and reproofs. Thus he who knows how to use the Scriptures properly, is in want of nothing for salvation, or for a Holy life. Reproof andcorrection differ little from each other, except that the latter proceeds from the former; for the beginning of repentance is the knowledge of our sinfulness, and a conviction of the judgment of God. Instruction in righteousness means the rule of a good and holy life.
John Jewel (1522- 1571), Treatise of the Holy Scriptures
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. Cities shall fall : kingdoms shall come to nothing : empires shall fade away as the smoke ; but the truth of the Lord shall continue for ever. Burn it, it will rise again : kill it, it will live again: cut it down by the root, it will spring again. ” There is no wisdom, neither understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Prov 21)
Thomas Cartwright (1533 – 1603), Confutation of the Rhemist Translation
Firstly, we thinke it not amiss to set downe the generall doctrine, that no one oracle or sentence of God can fall away. Whereby it will bee evident that the holy Scriptures both in the old and new Testament written in their original tongues, cannot either by addition, detraćtion, or exchange be corrupted. Whereunto the consideration of the authour of them, ministreth a substantiall proofe. For seeing they are of God, all whose workes remaine for euer; it followed that all the holy scriptures, being not only his handyworke, but as it were the chieſe, and masterworke of all other, must have a continuall endurance. And if there be not the least and vilest creature in the world which either hath not heretofore, or shall not hereafter, (by the mighty hand of God upholding all things) be continued: how much less is it to be esteemed, that any sentence of God, wherein a greater glory commeth to him, and greater fruit to his people then of many of those creatures, which (for these two ends) he doth so carefully continue, should perish and fall away.
Secondly, they all are written generally for our instruction, and more particularly for admonition and warning, for comfort and consolation, &c. unless we will say that God may be deceived in his purpose and end wherefore he ordained them; it must needs be, that it must continue whatsoever hath been written in that respect. For if it, or any part thereof fall away, the same cannot, according to the ordinance of God, either inform us against ignorance, or warn us against danger, or comfort ss against afflictions; or finally do any other dutie unto us which we have need of and they were prepared for.
Thirdly, if the authority of the authentical Copies in Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek fall: there is no high court of appeal, where controversy, (rising upon the diverstie of translations, or otherwiſe) may be ended; so that the exhortation of having, recourſe vnto the Law and to the Prophets, and of our Sauiour Christ asking how it is written, and how readest thou are now either of none effect, or not sufficient : whilest disgracers and disgraders of the Scripture have taught men to say, that the copies are corrupted, and the sense changed.
Fourthly, nay, not only our estate is worse then theirs under the law, and in our Saviour Christs time: but worse then theirs which lived some hundred yeares after Christ, when the ancient Fathers exhorted in such cases, that men should make suite unto the originall Scriptures,to have an end of their controversies.
Fifthly, Yea their owne Gratiian out of Augustine falsly (alleged for Jerom) sendeth us in deciding of differences, not to the old translator, but to the originals of the Hebrew in the old,and of the Greek: in the new Teſtament. They use quarrelously surmise againſt us, that we abbridge the priviledges of the Churches of our dayes, becauſe we accord them not to be so ample in every point, as they were when the Apostles lived.
Sixthly, But woe unto the Churches of our days, if the Scriptures be (as the Papiſts would beare us in hand) corrupted, if the Charters and records whereby we hold the inheritance of the kingdom of heauen, are razed, or otherwise falsified, if we have not wherewith to convey our selves to be children unto the heauenly Father, & Prieſts unto God in Jeſus Chriſt, further then from the hand of ſuch a scribe and Notarie as both might erre, and hath erred diverſy.
Seventhly, these evidences were safely and surely kept, when one only Nation of the Jewes, and the same sometimes (a few excepted) unfaithfull, bare the keyes of the Lords Librarie : now when there be many Nations that have the keyes unto the Arke or Counter wherein they are kept, it is altogether uncredible, that there should be such packing, or such defect as the adverſary doth wickedly suppose.
Eighthly, Again, if the Lord have kept unto us the book of Leviticus, and (in it) the ceremonies (which are abolished and whereof there is now no practice) for that they have a necessary and profitable use in the Church of God; how much more is it to be esteemed, that his providence hath watched over other bookes of the Scripture which more properly belong unto our times.
Last of all (passing by other reasons which might further be alledged) let ss hear the Scripture itself, witnessing of it own authority and durableness to all ages
Of all which matter, it is evident, that not only the matter of the Scripture, but also the words, not only the sense and meaning of them, but the manner and frame of speech in them do remain. For seeing the Scripture remaineth, which wholly both for matter and words is inspired of God, it must follow that the same words wherein the old and new Testament were written and indited by the hand of God, do remaine. For how great difference there is between the things both words and matter, that have Passed through the mouth or pen of God, and those which come from a mortal man, may appear by the sayings of the Poets taken up of the Holy Ghost.
James Ussher (4 January 1581 – 21 March 1656), A Body of Divinity
The marvelous preservation of the Scriptures; though none in time be so ancient, nor none so much oppugned, yet God hath still by his providence preserved them, and every part of them.
Only the [Greek & Hebrew] Scriptures are for the letter to be held authentical; and as the water is most pure in the Fountain by the springing thereof, so the right understanding of the words of the holy Scriptures is most certain in the original tongues of Hebrew and Greek, in which they were first written, and delivered to the Church, out of the which Languages they must be truly translated for the understanding of them that have not the knowledge of those tongues. He didn’t say for the sense of the doctrine. His emphasis was on the very words.
David Dickson (1583 – 1662) Truth’s Victory Over Error
DOTH the Authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depend upon the testimony of any man, or Church? No. 2 Pet.1. 19. 21. 2 Tim. 3. 16. 1 Thes. 2. 13.
Well then, do not the Popish Writers err, who maintain, the Authority of the Scriptures, to depend upon the testimony of the Church, as to us? Yes.
This argument also applies to the UBS committee and those who produced the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament as they seek to replace the authority of Scripture with their own arbitrary whims of what the text should say.
By what reasons are they confuted?
(1.) Because, the Word is to be received by us, not as the word of man, but as the Word of GOD, 1 Thes. 2. 13. (2.) Because, the Doctrine of Christ, to be received by Beli∣vers, dependeth not upon mans testimony, Ioh. 5. 34. (3.) Because, GOD only is true, and in∣fallible, and all men are liars, Rom. 3. 4. Heb. 6. 18. He is of incomprehensible wisdom, Ps. 147. 5. Of great goodness, Exod. 18. 9. Rom. 11. 12. Ps. 34. 8. Of absolute power and dominion, Gen.17. 1. Ps. 50. 1, 2. Of infallible truth, who can neither deceive, nor can be deceived. Ro. 3. 4. Tit. 1. 2. Heb. 6. 18. Therefore ought he to be credited, in all his Narrations, Promises, Threatnings, and Prophesies, and obeyed in all his Commandements all an early; because he himself hath said so.
Hath the Lord by his singular providence and care, keeped pure in all Ages the Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek? Yes. Matthew 5:18.
Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, the Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, which are the Fountains, to be corrupted; and that their common Latine Version is authentick? Yes.
Again, this answer also applies to those who advocate for the Critical Text or the Majority Text. Both views assume the Fountains to be corrupted and in need of restoration via new testament textual criticism which has a host of issues that it cannot overcome. See The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism & R. L. Dabney’s The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek
By what reasons are they confuted?
(1.) Because, Christ sayes, till Heaven and Earth pass, one jot, or one title shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled, Matt 5:18. (2.) Because, there can be no urgent necessity shown, why the Fountains are corrupted. (3) If any such corruption had been in the Scripture, Christ, his Apostles, and the Orthodox Fathers had declared so much. (4) Because, they never have nor can make out any manifest corruptions in the Fountains, albeit most manifest and undenyable demonstrations, are given of the corruptions of their Latine Version, which they make authentick.
Richard Capel (1586 – 1656), Capel’s Remains
Therefore I like that of Bellarmine, who stands upon it, that of such like things a certainty may be had from the testimonies of men, in some sort comparable to natural evidence it self, for that it leaves no scruple or dubitation in our minds: But what of all this? Why it shewes that the general consent of (in a manner) all Hebricians and Grecians in the Christian world, consenting that our Originals are by the good hand of God preserved uncorrupt, and pure, is a sufficient persuasion, to breed a moral certainty answerable to natural evidence, excluding all reasonable dubitation to the contrary.
Here we have a clear statement which contradicts the notion of those advocates of Restorationist Textual Criticism.
That the Originals were for the provision and food of the soules of his Church kept pure and uncorrupt by the Prophets and Jewes for the old; by the Apostles and Christian Churches for the New Testament, sealed up by St. John the Secretary of Christ, as Scotus calls him. Else the Lord must have been wanting to his Church, which cannot be imagined. And that acquired faith makes way for infused faith to act I have learned long since out of Scotus.
Again we have a Reformer clearly stating that advocates of Restorationist Textual Criticism are claiming that “the Lord must have been wanting to his Church.”
Thus the case stands. The Originals are to be received and believed. That the Hebrew and Greek are the true Originals we believe by humane testimonies, which leave the mind without perplexitie, without all doubting, and so it follows, that by mans testimonie the Originals are to be received, and believed by us, so that the heart stands free from any true cause of any doubting at all, which being equivalent to the highest certainty that is, it cannot but lay a foundation to build our faith upon, this certainty being a meanes by which we come to the other of the Scriptures, being the last ground on which we build our faith; we are not to look for demonstrations in arguments of this nature. It’s a foolish thing to expect from a Mathematician to deale by persuasion: his Art lies in evident and ocular demonstration. Now ’tis as absurd to expect demonstration from an Orator or Moralist; his businesse lies in persuasion. But yet in our point in hand, our persuasions must be grounded on such moral certainty as is to us without question, and without feare of the contrary. It is a piece of wise counsel of Aristotle, That it is the wisdome of a learned man so farre forth to seek after proofs of truth in any matter as the nature of the subject matter will beare. And it is agreed upon, that in all learning, in the highest science of all, the principles are proving, but not proved: For that which is the first cannot be proved by any thing before it; else the first were not the first; as the first mover is never moved And in all Inferiour Sciences, the first principles of that Science, must be proved in an higher Schoole. Now the first principle in the School of Christ is the Scriptures, which being the first is to prove, not to be proved but in an higher School the Schoole of heaven, by evidences unprovable, and unreprovable evidences taken from the Prover, and Spirit of God. Of which hereafter.
I cannot but confesse that it sometimes makes my heart ake, when I seriously consider what is said, That we cannot assure our selves that the Hebrew in the Old Testament, and the Greek in the New, are the right Hebrew and Greek, any further then our Masters and Tutors, and the General consent of all the Learned in the world do so say, not one dissenting. But yet say these, since the Apostles, there are no men in the world but are subject to deceive, and to be deceived. All infallibility in matters of this nature having long since left the world. Again, too like unto this is that of Master Wotton, who can tell (saith he) what the signification of the Hebrew and Greek words is even in the Bible, but by the report of men? And to the like purpose is that observation, That the two Tables written immediately by Moses and the Prophets, and the Greek Copies immediately penned by the Apostles, and Apostolical men are all lost, or not to be made use of, except by a very few. And that we have none in Hebrew or Greek, but what are transcribed. Now transcribers are ordinary men, subject to mistake, may faile, having no unerring spirit to hold their hands in writing
These be terrible blasts, and do little else when they meet with a weak head and heart, but open the doore to Atheisme, and quite to fling off the bridle, which onely can hold them and us in the wayes of truth and piety: this is to fill the conceits of men with evil thoughts against the Purity of the Originals: And if the Fountains run not clear, the Translation cannot be clean.
The argument of those who promote Restorationist Textual Criticism (RTC) is that the Fountains do not run clear. This is an amazing assertion by Protestants. For those who promote RTC side with Rome. But instead of a Roman Catholic magisterium, they wish to replace the authentic texts of Scriptures with a new magisterium of atheists, papists, and heretics.
The best is, this doth concern the learned, who can best get out of such scruples as these, it being made plaine to them by the Jewes themselves (no friends to Christian Religion) That the Hebrew Text is curiously preserved by them in its integrity. For if the Oracles of God were (as they were, Rom 3:2.) committed them, it deeply concernes the Providence of God to look to it, that the Jewes should keepe the Oracles of God not onely safe but pure, not onely from not being lost, but also from not being corrupted.
It’s out of question that the same God, who committed the Oracles to the Jews, did also take care that they should preserve them safe and sure, uncorrupt and pure.
It is the use of Saint Paul, much to follow the Greek translation, which doth use to use the Greek word translated Oracles, to meane the Scriptures of Moses and the Prophets. And what if there be scapes in some Copies, yet other Copies runne clear? But sith this concernes the Learned, whom I much look not after, from the Originals, let us turne to the businesse of the Translations. As for other matters about the Greek and Hebrew, which it is, and what is the meaning of the words, I passe, as a meere excrement of wit, sith this is cried downe by all the learned world, whither Christian or unchristian, and therefore is not like to take to doe any hurt unto the soules of any.
And now saith a sick soule, What shall a poore feeble-hearted Christian do?
My counsel is, that when he is come to be certain without actual doubting by reasons, arguments, consent of times, & of the Church, that our Bible is the Word of God, that he would in all humility and sincerity apply himselfe to read it, to hear it read, to heare it preached; and he may promise to himself that by the use of the word the Spirit of God will infuse & inspire divine & saving faith into his soul, and free him not only from all actual, but possible doubting, that the Bible translated is the word of God. And if the translation, then the Originals: For what ever is the instrument to convert the soul; must needs be the pure word of God.
Some are firme that God never works a miracle, but to confirme truth: This is past question, that the Spirit of God doth never work this miracle to convert the soule, but by Gods word: So say, Now I know that it is the pure word of God, for that it is a means to convert my soul: so Psal. 19. 7: The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; By this then I know that it is without dispute the perfect Law of the Lord, because it doth not only evince and convince me, but convert my soul
John Maynard (1600 – 1665), A Memento to Young & Old
Remember now thy Creator in the daies of thy youth, while the evil daies come not, &c. and had there been any defect in the pen-man, yet I am sure the Holy Ghost which held his hand, would not have suffered him to write one syllable amiss. Neither doth the Psalmist return an answer sutable to these mens conceits when the question is moved, Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way?(Psalm 119:9) but quite contrary, By taking heed thereto according to thy word. Where ye see both the Rule by which, and the manner how they are to frame their Courses, requireth a special strictness. The very Word of God, that pure and holy Rule of Righteousness, and not the customs of the time, nor the ordinary practice, nor lusts of youth must guide them, and this Rule they must heed with much attention and watchfulness, having one eye upon their ways, another upon the word: taking heed thereto according to the word, ever marking the steps they tread, and observing how it suiteth with the precious truth of God. This is the wisdom of the Ancient of daies, and whatsoever is contrary to it, gray hairs cannot exempt from folly.
If God’s word has been corrupted over time, through either addition or subtraction as advocates of Restorationist Textual Criticism affirm, then it becomes impossible to obey Psalm 119:9. For if the word of God is corrupted, then how can we trust it to guide us?
Edward Leigh (24 March 1602 – 2 June 1671) , A Treatise of Divinity
Preservation of the books of the Scripture: the fury of many wicked Tyrants which sought to suppress and extinguish them, Many of the Bibles were taken from Christians and burnt in those cruel persecutions under Dioclesian and Maxminianus his Collegue. but could not. As God caused it to be written for the good of his people, so by divine providence he hath preserved the same whole and entire. Leigh doesn’t speak of a general preservation. Nor of a preservation of the sense of it. He speaks of Scripture being preserved whole and entire. He doesn’t mention the idea that Scripture’s true reading was lost to the Church and is in need of restoration.
Here we have three arguments in one,
1. The hatred of the Devil and his wicked instruments against the Scripture more then any other book. Antiochus burnt it and made a Law that whosoever had this book should die the death;
2. It was preserved in spite of the fury and the rage of Dioclesian, Julian, and other evil Tyrants.
3. The miserable end of Julian, Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod, Nero, Domitian, and Dioclesian, and other persecutors of this doctrine. The bookes of Salomon, which he wrote of naturall philosophy and other knowledge, the profitablest bookes that ever were, the Canon excepted, are perished, but those alone which pertaine to godlinesse have been safely kept to posterity; which is the rather to be observed, since many more in the world affect the knowledge of naturall things then godlinesse: A precious Gospell, that was purchased by the blood of Christ, and sealed with the blood of Martyrs. and yet though carefull of keeping them they have not been able to preserve them from perpetuall forgetfulnesse; whereas on the other side these holy writings hated of the most part and carelesly regarded of a number, have notwithstanding as full a remembrance as they had the first day the Lord gave them unto the Church. The Roman Empire for 300 yeeres set it selfe to persecute and extirpate this new doctrine; and in all these troubles the Church grew and increased mighily Acts 12. 1. Herod killed James with the sword, yet v. 24. the word grew and multiplied.
Scripture it self doth give testimony to it self, that it is divine; it is called a light, Psalm 119:105. because it discovers it self; the testimony, and the testimony of the Lord: because it beares witnesse to it self. The Prophets give testimony of Moses, Mal. 4. 4. the new Testament of the Old, 2 Pet. 1. 19, 20. Peter gives testimony of Paul’s Epistles, 2 Pet. 3. 15. and Paul witnesseth that all Scripture was given of God, Christ commends Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms, by which names are meant all the bookes belonging to the Canon of the Hebrews. 2 Tim. 3. 16. which must be meant of all Scripture even of the new Testament, that being the last Epistle which Paul wrote, as appeares, Chap. 4. v. 16.
Thomas Manton (1620 – 1677), A Second Volume of Sermons
By the wonderful preservation of Scriptures, even to our Times. There is no Doctrine so ancient, it describeth the whole History of the World from the very Creation: Moses was ancienter than the Gods of the Heathens. No Doctrine can produce such Records of the Original of the World. The Doctrine of the Gospel is as Old as Paradise, where God preached it to Adam: Gen. 3.15. I will put enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy Seed and her Seed: It shall bruise thy Head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel. The Foundation was laid long since, tho it was more explicitly revealed upon the coming of Christ. None so much oppugned. We have some ancient Writings of the Heathens, tho nothing so ancient as Scripture. Other Writings, by tract of Time, have been much mangled, tho they have been cherished by Men, as not contrary to their Lusts; but the Scripture is still opposed, persecuted, maligned, and yet it continueth. Psal. 129.1, 2. Many a time have they afflicted me from my Youth, mayIsrael now say. Many a time have they afflicted me from my Youth: yet they have not prevailed against me. The Church hath been always bred up under Afflictions; Enmity against it began betimes, yet still it holdeth up its Head. Errors are not long-lived. 1 Cor. 3.12, 13. Now if any Man build upon this Foundation, Gold, Silver, precious Stones, Wood, Hay, Stubble: Every Man’s Work shall be made manifest. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by Fire, and the Fire shall try every Man’s Work, of what sort it is. The World hath had time enough to enquire into the Scripture, and to discover the vanity and falshood of it, if there were any. Nay, not only the main Doctrine of the Scripture hath been continued, but no part of it is falsified, corrupted, or destroyed. The World wanted not Malice, nor Opportunity; the Powers of the World were bent against it, and corrupt Persons in the Church were always given to other gospelling. Gal. 1.6, 7. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the Grace of Christ, unto another Gospel: Which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. 1 Tim. 6.3. If any Man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholsome words, &c. But still the Scriptures are wonderfully preserved, as the three Children in the Furnace, not an Hair was singed; not a jot or tittle of the Truth is perished or corrupted. If it were corrupted, it must be before Christ’s Time, or after it: not before, then Christ would have noted it; not after, for then the Parts would not agree; but we find no such thing but an exact Harmony: Nor is there any lost, for here is a sufficient Instruction and Guide to Happiness. Christ hath promised not a tittle shall fall to the ground. The Word hath been in danger of being lost, but the Miracle of Preservation is therefore the greater. In Joshua’s Time there was but one Copy of the Law. In Dioclesian’s Time, there was an Edict to burn their Bibles, and Copies were scarce and chargeable, and yet still it hath been kept.
Again, we see that the idea of Scripture being corrupted, or portions lost for 1500 yrs is not consistent with the views of the Reformers
John Owen (1616 – 1683)
It can, then, with no color 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 offense, 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.
Thirdly, We add, that the whole Scripture, entire as given out from God, without any loss, is preserved in the copies of the originals yet remaining; what varieties there are among the copies themselves shall be afterward declared. In them all, we say, is every letter and tittle of the word. These copies, we say, are the rule, standard, and touchstone of all translations, ancient or modern, by which they are in all things to be examined, tried, corrected, amended; and themselves only by themselves.
That which he speaks of is προφητεια γραφης, the “prophecy of Scripture,” or written prophecy.
There were then traditions among the Jews to whom Peter wrote, exalting themselves into competition with the written Word, and which not long after got the title of an oral law, pretending to have its original from God.
These the apostle tacitly condemns; and also shows under what formality he considered that which (verse 19) he termed λογος προφητικος, the “word of prophecy;” viz., as written . The written Word, as such, is that whereof he speaks. Above fifty times is η γραφη, or αι γραφαι, in the New Testament, put absolutely for the Word of God. And ֪כחב is so used in the Old for the word of prophecy. ( 2 Chronicles 21:12.) It is the η γραφη that is θεοπνυστος, ( 2 Timothy 3:16,) “the writing, or word written, is by inspiration from God.” Not only the doctrine in it, but the γραφη itself, or the “doctrine as written,” is so from him.
Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine, after a sufficient discovery of the insufficiency of all other means for that end and purpose. And hence the malice of Satan hath raged no less against the book than against the truth contained in it. The dealings of Antiochus under the Old Testament, and of sundry persecuting emperors under the New, evince no less. And it was no less crime of old to be traditor libri than to be abnegator fidei. The reproach of chartacea scripta, and membranae, (Coster. Enchirid., cap. 1.), reflects on its author. It is true, we have not the αυτογρφα of Moses and the prophets, of the apostles and evangelists; but the απογραφα or “copies” which we have contain every iota that was in them.
Again we see the familiar theme that we have lost none of Scripture and do not need the work of RTC advocates
Francis Turretin (1623 – 1687), On Holy Scriptures
QUESTION 10: Has the original text of the Old and New Testaments come to us pure and uncorrupted?
Affirmative, against the Roman Catholics.
I. This question is forced upon us by the Roman Catholics, who raise doubts concerning the purity of the sources in order more readily to establish the authority of their Vulgate and lead us to the tribunal of the church.
II. By “original texts” we do not mean the very autographs from the hands of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, which are known to be nonexistent. We mean copies (apographa), which have come in their name, because they record for us that word of God in the same words into which the sacred writers committed it under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
III. There is no question of the sources being pure in the sense that no error has crept into many sacred codices, either from the ravages of time, or the carelessness of copyists, or the malice of Jews and heretics. This is recognized on both sides, and the variant readings, which Beza and Robert Stephanus have noted in Greek, and the Jews in Hebrew, witness sufficiently to this. But the question is whether the original text, in Hebrew or in Greek, has been so corrupted, either by the carelessness of copyists or by the malice of Jews and heretics, that it can no longer be held as the judge of controversies and the norm by which all versions without exception are to be judged. The Roman Catholics affirm this; we deny it.
IV. Not all Roman Catholics are of this opinion. There are many, who are called Hebraists, who uphold the purity of the sources, and defend it explicitly, among them Sixtus Senensis, Bannes, Andradius, Driedo, Arias Montanus, John Isaac, Jacob Bonfrerius, Simeon de Muis, and many others. Others, however, maintain strongly the corruption of the sources; among them, Stapleton, Lindanus, Cano, Cotton, Morinus, Perronius, Gordon, and others. There are some who, following a middle road, assert neither that the sources are corrupt nor that they flow with purity and integrity, so that they maintain everything must
be studied and emended in connection with the versions. This is the teaching of Bellarmine (De Verbo Dei 22), who on this matter, as on others, must be understood as inconsistent.
V. That the sources are not corrupt is demonstrated by (1) the providence of God, which would not allow (cui repugnat) that the books which he had willed to be written by inspired men for the salvation of the human race, and which he willed to remain to the end of the world so that the waters of salvation could be drawn from them, should be so falsified that they would be useless for that purpose. And since new revelations are not to be expected after God has committed his whole will concerning the doctrine of salvation to the books of Scripture, what could be more derogatory to God, who has promised always to be with his church, than to assert that the books in which this doctrine is preserved have been corrupted so that they cannot be the canon of faith? (2) The faithfulness of the Christian church, and its diligent work in preserving Scripture. Since Christians always watched over it with great care, to preserve the sacred deposit unharmed, it is unbelievable that they either falsified it or allowed anyone else to do so. (3) The religion of the Jews, which looked upon the sacred codices with great faith and concern, to the point of superstition, so that Josephus could say that after the passage of centuries no one dared add to
or subtract from or change the books of the Jews, and that among them it was almost instinctive to be prepared to die for Scripture (Against Apion, book 2). Philo in his work on the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, quoted by Eusebius, goes further when he states that, up to his time, during a period of more than two thousand years, no word in the Hebrew law was changed, and that any number of Jews would rather die than allow the law to undergo any change (Preparation for the Gospel 8.2). Indeed, they were overcome with foolish superstition about the sacred codex, so that if a written book of the law touched the ground they proclaimed a fast, and they said that it was to be feared that the universe would revert to primeval chaos–so far were they from allowing fraud with the sacred codices. (4) The care with which the Masoretes not only counted, but recorded in writing, all variations in pointing and writing, not only with regard to verses and words, but to individual letters, so that there could be neither place for, nor suspicion of, forgers, an argument used by Arias Montanus in his biblical preface. (5) The large number of copies. Since the sacred codices are so widely scattered, how could all of them have been
corrupted either by the carelessness of copyists or by the malice of falsifiers? “Far be it,” as Augustine says, “from any prudent man to believe that the Jews, however perverse and evil-minded, could have done this with so many and widely scattered copies” (City of God 15.2). Vives says that this argument should be used against those who “argue that the Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New have been falsified and corrupted, so that the truth of the sacred books cannot be found in them.”
VI. (6) If the sources were corrupted, it was done either before or after Christ. Neither is possible. Not before, for Christ never suggested it when he discussed various errors of doctrine, and he would not have upheld the use of corrupted books. Was the Lord so indifferent to the salvation of his people that he never even mentioned, personally or through the apostles, that the books of Moses and the prophets were falsified, when at the same time he refuted the Jews from these same books (but in vain, if they were corrupted and changed), and summoned and urged his ‘disciples to read and examine them? Not afterward, both because the copies scattered among Christians would have made such effort useless, and also because there is no trace of such corruption. For if anything of the kind had taken place, why are the passages which Christ and the apostles quote from Moses and the prophets the same today and always, and not corrupted at all? Why did Origen and Jerome, who had magnificent knowledge of the sacred languages, so specifically absolve the Jews from this wrong? Therefore if the corruption was not done either before or after Christ, it follows that it was never done, an argument that Bellarmine brings forward (De Verba Dei 22).
VII. (7) The Jews neither wanted to corrupt the sources nor could have done so. They did not want to, because, if they had wanted to corrupt any part, they would certainly have weakened the oracles which speak of Christ and confirm the Christian faith. Who indeed would believe that if, as is supposed, they did it from hatred of Christians, they would falsify the passages from which nothing against Christians can be drawn, and leave unchanged those in which Christians place the foundation for the triumph of the truth of the gospel? But this is exactly how the matter stands. The passages said to have been weakened by the Jews are little or no problem for Christians, while the most striking oracles concerning Christ remain unchanged, and are much plainer and more specific in Hebrew than in the translations, as has been pointed out by Jerome (epistle 74, to Marcellus), John Isaac (Against Lindanus 2), and Andradius in his defense of the Council of Trent, chapter 2. That they could not have done it no matter how badly they wanted to is shown not only by the large number of copies but also by the vigilance of Christians, not all of whose copies could the Jews have corrupted, and by the provident wisdom of God, who, if he will not permit one jot or tittle of the law to perish until all is fulfilled (Matt. 5:18), will be much less willing for the body of heavenly doctrine to be weakened by the Jews, and for us to be deprived of this treasure; rather, as Bellarmine well remarks, “for this purpose he willed to scatter the Jews throughout the world, and to disseminate the books of the law and the prophets, that, unwillingly, they might bear witness to our Christian truth” (De Verbo Dei 22 argument 5) …. and Augustine calls the Jews “a book-preserving people, carrying the law and the prophets; they used to carry the codices as a servant, that they might lose by carrying, and others gain by reading; they indeed serve us; the Jews were like book carriers and librarians, who by their efforts carried the codices for us,” and again, “in their hearts, enemies; in their books, witnesses.”
Richard Muller, Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2, 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.”
“Turretin and other high and late orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa.”
In other words, the “original and authentic texts” are the Textus Receptus and the Bomberg Hebrew Old Testament
“The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice . . . . rests on an examination of the apographa and does not seek the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility.”
“A rather sharp contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox arguments concerning the autographa and the views of Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. . . . Those who claim an errant text, against the orthodox consensus to the contrary, must prove their case. To claim errors in the scribal copies, the apographa, is hardly a proof. The claim must be proven true of the autographa. The point made by Hodge and Warfield is a logical leap, a rhetorical flourish, a conundrum designed to confound the critics—who can only prove their case for genuine errancy by recourse to a text they do not (and surely cannot) have.”
“All too much discussion of the Reformers’ methods has attempted to turn them into precursors of the modern critical method, when in fact, the developments of exegesis and hermeneutics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both precede and, frequently conflict with (as well as occasionally adumbrate) the methods of the modern era. “
To conclude, the Reformers held to a view of Preservation that is contrary to the modern views of General Preservation and Preservation of the Sense. They believed, and their confessions teach, that they held to a view of preservation that precludes the use of RTC. Since God’s word has been kept pure in all ages, it does not need to be recovered, restored, etc., by unbelieving scholars using arbitrary methods. They held that within the Textus Receptus & Bomberg Hebrew Bible, that they had the words of the autographs without loss or addition.