Friday, May 12, 2017

Responding to Jeff Riddle - Regarding James White and (the real) Turretin

Our brother in Christ, Jeff Riddle (JR), has posted some comments regarding James White (JW) and the real Francis Turretin (FT), which because I'm a friend of the former and a fan of the latter, I would like to address:

JR wrote:
1. JW typically confuses the TR and Majority text position with KJV-Onlyism. Furthermore, he criticizes KJV-Onlyism for all the wrong reason.

I note that the problem with KJV-Onlyism is not, as JW argues, that the KJV was translated from 1604-11 and is, therefore, outdated, but that KJV-Onlyism is inconsistent with confessional Christianity’s assertion that the Bible was immediately inspired in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) and not in an English translation.
a) JW distinguishes amongst a variety of related positions in his book, the King James Only Controversy. So, I don't think "typically confuses" is very accurate. He does sometimes lump them together, but that's because they often use similar (flawed) arguments.
b) JW agrees with JR that one reason KJVO is wrong is that the text was inspired in the original languages as distinct from the translations. However, there are also other reasons for opposing the KJVO position. Moreover, not all KJVO folks necessarily say that the KJV/KJB was immediately inspired.

JR wrote:
2. JW wrongly describes Scrivener’s edition of the Greek NT as “not a real Greek NT” since it represents an edition of the TR which underlies the KJV.
Scrivener's edition is an attempt to (in essence) create a Greek text from the English text, by matching up the corresponding Greek reading that would go with the English reading. In that sense, it's like a back translation into Greek from another language, and consequently although it is in Greek, it's not a Greek text in the usual sense.

3. JW rejects the TR and Majority text positions on the basis of the fact that this is not, at present, the position taught “in every major” Reformed seminary” or by “leading scholars.”
JW may mention that point, but it's not the main reason for rejecting the TR position or any of the Majority text positions.

4. JW asserts that Protestant scholastics, like Francis Turretin, were just “wrong” when they defended the traditional text of the Bible, including texts like the traditional rendering of 1 Corinthians 15:47, the ending of Mark, the pericope adulterae, and the comma Johanneum.

I point out that Turretin likely was not denying the existence of textual variants but affirming that the traditional text was indeed found in all “faithful,” “received,” or “orthodox” copies of the Bible. See my upcoming article in PRJ “John Calvin and Text Criticism.”
He does assert that they were wrong (in specific cases), but he also explains why they were wrong (in those cases where JW thinks they are wrong). Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

5. JW argues that p75 and Vaticanus (B) were “the text of the early church” and were more reliable than the text which was affirmed in the Reformation era.
There was not one single text that was affirmed in the Reformation era. There were multiple printed editions, and folks like Calvin and Turretin endorsed the use of textual criticism to restore the original text. Hopefully it is also clear that there was not one single text of the early church, either, for the ancient uncials and papyri have differences amongst them. Nevertheless, those ancients texts certainly have the advantage of being older, whatever else one might say about their reliability.

I point out that although the TR was not printed until the Reformation era, it was based on mss. with antiquity equal to that of p75 and B. In addition, the line represented by p75 and B came to an end in the 500s and ceased to be copied, not appearing again till revived in the 1800s.
a) It's simply not true that the TR was based on manuscripts with antiquity equal to P75 and B.
b) The Alexandrian text type definitely was copied less after Muslims decimated the Christian populations in North Africa and the middle east.
c) But there is at least one Alexandrian text type manuscript from as late as 1044 (minuscule 81). There is also ninth century minuscules (minuscules 33 and 892), which are from the Alexandrian text type. So, the "ceased to be copied" claim is not really true.

JW and other Reformed evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text have a rather difficult problem on their hands. They express admiration for the Protestant fathers (like Turretin—or Calvin, Owen, the framers of the 1689 confession, etc.) then are rather embarrassed to discover that these men defended the traditional text out of conviction and not, as they too often assume, out of ignorance.
Conviction and ignorance aren't opposites. Knowledge and ignorance are opposites. As mentioned above, Turretin (and other Reformers) methodologically agreed with the use of collation to obtain the original readings. We have more knowledge of the text than they did. Thus, the difference between JW's position and FT's position is not so much much because of different convictions, but because of different information.

Lastly, I make reference to my sermon last Sunday on the Trinity based on chapter two, paragraph three of the 1689 confession, noting not only the use of 1 John 5:7 there as a leading prooftext for the Trinity but also how the 1689 Baptist Confession refers to the second person of the Godhead as “the Word or the Son,” making specific and explicit use of the comma Johanneum in the articulation of the Trinity (cf. chapter two, paragraph three in the 1689 with the WCF and the Savoy here). This represents a significant problem for those who affirm the 1689 confession but reject the comma.
John 1:1 teaches that Jesus is the Word, and John 1:34 teaches that Jesus is the Son of God. So, there is no problem. The comma does not use the phrase "Word or the Son," so that is not an explicit or specific use of the comma. Moreover, while the prooftexts of the confessions include I John 5:7, that's obviously not the only prooftext provided, and the doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on the authenticity of that text.