Restorationist Textual Criticism’s Verification Problem

In Providential Preservation, Textual Criticism by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment

Ignoring the Issue

With every textual claim put forth by advocates of RTC, whether Critical Text, Majority Text, or something else, they all suffer from the same flaw:  an inability to verify their textual choices.  And because of this, they constantly ignore this issue.  This is an issue that has always plagued RTC from its Roman Catholic inception as an attack upon Sola Scriptura during the counter-reformation until today.  How do we verify that the Greek manuscripts and the variants RTC advocates choose are correct?  But doesn’t this also pose a problem for those who affirm the confessional view of Scripture (CVS)?

Reformed Method of Verification:  Impossibility of the Contrary

The reformed method of verifying manuscript and variants among them does not rely upon conjectural emendation or arbitrary algorithms fed into a computer that will provide the “true” reading.  It relies upon the same foundation that all doctrinal issues rely upon:  Scripture.  This underlying principle is stated in Richard Capel’s Remains:

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 SchooleNow 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.

And as Edward Leigh stated:

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. 44. the new Testament of the Old, 2 Pet. 11920. Peter gives testimony of Paul’s Epistles, 2 Pet. 315. 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.

Again in Calvin’s Institutes (I.vii.5):

5. Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture, carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit.  Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own Judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and Judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge. Hence, God most justly exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he,” (Isa. 43:10).

In Louis Gaussen’s Theopneusty:

The knowledge that we receive of the authority of the Scriptures has,
  • for its objective cause the Holy Bible itself which proves its own divinity by its own beauty, and by its own doings
  • for its subjective or efficient cause the Holy Ghost who confirms and seals to our souls the testimony of God
  • for its instrumental cause, the Universal Church (Theopneustia, p. 136) (1 Tim 3:15)

It is also stated in the following Scriptures:

Isaiah 59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

Psalm 12:6, 7 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Matthew 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.

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Romans 3:1-2 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

By now it should be obvious that Scripture teaches that it is self-authenticating and that there is no greater epsitemic authority by which we can evaluate truth claims.  And this necessarily includes truth claims made about Scripture itself.  Furthermore, God has promised to preserve his word and must necessarily do so down to the jot and tittle otherwise we cannot trust we will be truly sanctified or that we have a sure rule for life and faith.  In other words, whatever the Scripture said in its original inspiration must still be contained in the Scripture’s today.  And it must be identifiable to his sheep.  We know this from the following verses:

  • John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
  • John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

The above demonstrates that the Textus Receptus is the authentic Scripture in Greek an that neither the critical text nor the Majority/Byzantine Priority text is the authentic Scripture in Greek.  How so?  The premise of RTC is that the TR contains additions that are not Scripture.  The problem with this of course is that the Holy Ghost for millennia has allowed His people to believe that passages that are now rejected were in fact Scripture.  Did the Holy Ghost lie?  Or are RTC advocates wrong?  There is only one conclusion that is consistent with Scripture:  RTC advocates are wrong in philosophy, methodology, and results.

Reformed Method of Verification:  The Process

  1. All Greek manuscript and variant choices must be verified
  2. How can we verify these choices without the autographs?
  3. We need an objective, universal, and self-authenticating standard by which to verify these choices
  4. This standard must originate from the same place as the autographs: namely God
  5. The only standard that is objective, universal, and self-authenticating which originates from God is Scripture
  6. Therefore, Scripture must provide the framework by which we evaluate Greek manuscripts and their variants
  7. From this we know because of Scripture that only those manuscripts which reflect the text in constant use throughout the history of Christendom are to be regarded as authentic.
  8. Furthermore, the variants between these authentic apographs are to be evaluated from the doctrine clearly taught in the rest of Scripture and by comparison with ancient and Reformation era versions, sermons, and commentaries, along with the  patristic writings

We see this line of reasoning in the writings of Calvin, Turretin, & others.

John Calvin & Text Criticism by Dr. Jeffrey Riddle and audio presentation

Francis Turretin, Question 5 on Apparent Contradictions Section XII

These two examples show that the way the Reformed dealt with textual issues is philosophically different than the way RTC advocates deal with differences.  Furthermore, from the following examples we know that they rejected Greek manuscripts that contained known heresies: “only begotten Son” in John 1:18, their inclusion of the Comma Johanneum, and their support of “God manifest” in 1 Timothy 3:16, along with Beza’s warning about using Codex Bezae in manuscript collation, and their rejection of Codex Vaticanus readings.

Restorationist Textual Criticism:  Verification Methodology

By now you should be asking yourself, just what exactly is the method of verification utilized by RTC advocates in evaluating Greek mss and their variants that is universal, absolute, and self-authenticating?  To put it simply, there isn’t one.  They have no universal, absolute, and self-authenticating standard of verification.  This is why you can have a multitude of textual changes between NA26 & NA27 and have words like “ουκ” inserted into 2 Peter 3:10 with ZERO Greek manuscript support. (Word Magazine 91& Text note on 2 Peter 3:10.)  Many of the textual changes advocated by RTC are a return to heretical corruptions long rejected by God’s people.  Furthermore, in their literature, which can be found here for mostly free (RTC-Library), you will find that their underlying philosophy for making textual choices is anti-Biblical.  This is why they will reject “only begotten Son” in favor of the Valentinian heretical reading of “only begotten God” and reject θεος for ος, (see The Revision Revised) a reading preferred by Arians, in 1 Timothy 3:16.

Their new gimmick is called Coherence Based Genealogical Method (read here and here) which they claim is supposed to be less arbitrary because of computers.  Which of course highlights a naivete among supporters like Mr. James White.  Computers cannot do anything apart from a program.  And anyone who has ever written code knows that it is impossible to keep one’s biases out of it.  These biases usually aren’t a problem when writing games or when writing utilities.  And it is these biases, or quirks if you will, that can identify the author of a piece of code.  The “choices” the CBGM program makes reveals the biases of its programmers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, whenever an RTC advocate makes a claim about Greek mss, variant choices, implications that the Textus Receptus is wrong, the response should be:  How do you know your choice is correct?  An appeal to anything other than Scriptural principles should immediately be met with informing them that Scripture teaches it is the final authority for evaluating manuscripts and variants and not the RTC advocate.

Leave a Comment