Why New Testament Textual Criticism Can Never Arrive at Truth

Chris ThomasRestorationist Textual CriticismLeave a Comment

RTC as a Thought Experiment

So let’s pretend we have completed such an experiment. We begin our experiment by printing off a copy of the book of Matthew. This printed copy (autograph) is then given to 10 people to copy by hand. Each of their 10 copies are given to 10 more people to copy. Each of these 100 copies is now given to another 10 people to copy. And each of these 1000 copies are given to another 10 people to copy. These 11110 copies are then collated using the principles of RTC (Restorationist Textual Criticism) and the result is then compared with the printed copy (autograph). But is this realistic? The short answer is no. Why? Because it is not consistent with the history of textual transmission. Has every single copy ever produced survived to this day? Have all of these copies been copied with the desire to accurately copy them? In the real world can we validate the textual claims of RTC advocates by an appeal to the autographs? The answer to these questions is no. So let us construct a more realistic example.
We start with the printed copy (autograph) of Matthew and we give this to 100 people to copy. Now a certain unknown percentage of these 100 copyists are heretics. We don’t know this percentage, because this happened over 2000 years ago. And we have no way of determining if the copies of heretics were the basis of copies of those that came after them. To make matters worse, some of these copiests also altered the text for orthodox reasons. Again, we have no idea what percentage of the texts were altered for orthodox reasons. For argument’s sake we will assume that all 100 copies survived to be copied. And each of these were copied by 10 people resulting in 1000 manuscripts being produced for a total 1,100 total copies. We have no idea how many of the new 1000 copies were copies of the the copies produced by heretics, well-intentioned orthodox believers who altered the text, or those who strove to produce an accurate copy of the text they had. Now, assume all 1,100 texts survived, an assumption that cannot be proven, each of these 1,100 copies were copied by another 10 people. This results in 11,000 new copies. Some of them are the copies of heretics, copies of orthodox who altered the text, and copies of those sought to provide an accurate copy of the text they had. 12,100 copies in total. Now we have have no idea what percentage are the copies of heretics, well-intentioned orthodox, or the copies of those attempting to accurately copy the text they had. Again we assume all 12,100 copies exist for copying. and each of these 12,100 copies is copied again by another 10. And again, we have no idea if these 121,100 copiests are heretics, well-intentioned orthodox who alter the texts, or those who attempt to accurately copy the text before them. Whatever text that is. This results in 121,000 new copies. Add to this the already produced 12,100 copies for a total of 133,100 copies now extant. Now today, some RTC advocate attempts to collate all 133,100 copies to determine from among them the autographic reading. This of course is still an inaccurate picture as not all Greek mss ever produced have survived until this present day. So we must make an even more realistic example.
The autographic text is copied 100 times by orthodox, heretics, and well-meaning orthodox who alter the text. The copies of these by the same 3 categories results in 1,100 copies. But of the original 100, we will be nice, 50 survive. Therefore, these 1,050 are copied but the same three categories resulting in 10,500 new copies. Of the 1,050 that were copied, only 525 survive. These 525 plus the newly copied 10,500 are copied resulting in 110,250 new copies. of the original 11,025 that were copied only 5,510 survive for a total of 155,760 surviving copies. These are then collated. Now, how do we verify the accuracy of the collation? By comparing it to the original. Let that sink in. The ONLY way to verify the collation is by comparison with the original. And the autographic text of Scripture no longer exists. Which means that the text of RTC advocates (Critical Text, CBGM, Majority Text, Byzantine Priority Text, etc.) can never be proven as the authentic reading.
But again, this experiment assumes that God has not “by his singular care and providece kept pure” his word in all ages. Keep in mind, such an experiment assumes a rejection of the doctrine of Providential Preservation.  Now if we assume that Scripture in such places as Isaiah 59:21, Matthew 5:18, John 17:17, etc. is correct and God has kept his word pure in all ages, then only those Greek texts preserved by continual usage among God’s people throughout the history of the Church are to be considered viable for collation. This also necessitates that the true text was known in all ages by God’s Church. Not just a possibility of being known, but was known and identified by God’s Church in every age. Otherwise, God has lied.
So what can such an experiment prove? Nothing except that RTC, regardless of flavor, has no objective foundation for its conclusions. Even if it comes to the correct conclusion, it has no objective justification.  It can never arrive at absolute truth. And so its conclusions are nothing but examples in arbitrariness.  Why?  Because without the autographic text, RTC advocates have no way to verify their textual decisions.  That’s right.  ALL RTC advocates, regardless of flavor, ARE GUESSING.  And their arbitrary guesses are not an objective foundation for reason. In other words, if you believe what any RTC advocate claims the text should read, you have rejected the authority of God for the authority of man.

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