Monday, November 18, 2019

Miscellaneous notes about the 1549 Ethiopic

Orientalism, Aramaic and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation: The First Printing of the Syriac New Testament is a 2007 Brill book by Robert Wilkinson. Pages 68-70 provide some insight into the background of the printing of the 1548-9 Ethiopic (Ge'ez) Bible. Evidently, the printing was based on a single manuscript that had recently arrived in Rome from Ethiopia. In a footnote, Wilkinson points the reader to Metzger's "Early Versions of the New Testament" regarding the deficiencies of the manuscript.

Metzger, at p. 299, points out that the Latin translation in Walton's Polyglot was repeatedly criticized: "its Latin rendering has more than once been excoriated as being far from accurate." (p. 230). "Novum Domini nostri Iesu Christi Testamentum ex versione Aethiopici interpretis in Bibliis polyglottis Anglicanis editum ex Aethiopica lingva in Latinam" by Christoph August Bode (aka Bodius) (1753), may provide some improvements to Walton's translation, but only appears to address the four gospels (link).

Evidently then-Cardinal of Sana Croce, Marcello Cervini (later Pope Marcellus II), was a patron of the printing. The colophon "seems remarkably to claim that Cervini could read Ethiopic. If this were so, it would suggest an involvement in Oriental Studies beyond that which has been previously imagined." (Wilkinson, p. 69, fn. 23)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Critical Text, Textus Recptus, and Majority - an Example Collation

NA28 Beza 1598 Hodges-Farstad (Majority)
31Ἦν δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων, Νικόδημος ὄνομα αὐτῷ, ἄρχων τῶν Ἰουδαίων· 2οὗτος ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν νυκτὸς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ῥαββί, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος· οὐδεὶς γὰρ δύναται ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα ποιεῖν ἃ σὺ ποιεῖς, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετ’ αὐτοῦ. 3ἀπεκρίθη [] Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.  31ην δε ανθρωπος εκ των φαρισαιων νικοδημος ονομα αυτω αρχων των ιουδαιων 2ουτος ηλθεν προς τον ιησουν νυκτος και ειπεν αυτω ραββι οιδαμεν οτι απο θεου εληλυθας διδασκαλος ουδεις γαρ [] ταυτα τα σημεια δυναται ποιειν α συ ποιεις εαν μη η ο θεος μετ αυτου 3 απεκριθη ο ιησους και ειπεν αυτω αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου 31ην δε ανθρωπος εκ των φαρισαιων νικοδημος ονομα αυτω αρχων των ιουδαιων 2ουτος ηλθε προς αὐτὸν νυκτὸς και ειπεν αυτω ραββι οιδαμεν οτι απο θεου εληλυθας διδασκαλος ουδεις γαρ [] ταυτα τα σημεια δυναται ποιειν α συ ποιεις εαν μη η ο θεος μετ αυτου 3 απεκριθη ο ιησους και ειπεν αυτω αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου
ton Jesoun

I selected the above example at random, John 3:1-3 in "the critical text" (NA28), "the textus receptus" (Beza's 1598 printing), and "the majority text" (the Hodges-Farstad, which I couldn't simply paste in - so it's possible I made a transcription error).  

There are about 65 words, and about 62 of those words are the same in all three, for an agreement of about 95%.  You could express it this way: the NA28 agrees with the majority text 95% of the time (at least for this sample, which may or may not be representative).

There are three variant readings that I found amongst these printed texts.  The first is whether it should be "ton jesoun" (Jesus) or "auton" (Him).  On this variant, the NA28 and majority text agree.  On the other two variants, the majority and TR agree against the NA28.  

In this sample, I didn't come across a case where the three texts had entirely different readings, at least in part because it's a small sample.

When I say that no matter which text you pick, it's basically the same, this is what I mean.  In my opinion, the "Him" clearly is Jesus, the "can" is implied in the majority text and TR, and whether Jesus has an article in verse 3 is not translatable into English.  So, while these are differences, and while we should care about every jot and tittle, the differences are not really that great.

I know that the differences would be greater if we went to John 5:4 or John 8:1, but if we look at the New Testament as a whole, the differences are slight.  We should care about those differences, but we shouldn't let that get out of proportion.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Jeff Riddle and Ephesians 3:9

Jeff Riddle recently posted a lengthy "text note" regarding Ephesians 3:9.  My reactions follow.

The post is riddled with an even worse radical skepticism than that of Bart Ehrman.  Both Ehrman and Riddle oppose the Reformed orthodox position that we can reconstruct the original text from the extant copies. Ehrman, however, at least acknowledges that for the New Testament we have "much earlier attestation than for any other book from antiquity."

Erhman's radical skepticism is linked to his rejection of supernaturalism.  What about JR's?  JR's seems to be theologically motivated. He writes: "In the end, we can only be sure that in the providence of God the reading “the fellowship of the mystery” was that preserved in the TR."  That's the only thing that JR thinks we can know for sure.  Yet JR knows more than that conclusion lets on.  JR knows, for example, "Among current extant Greek manuscripts, of all eras, the Majority reading is indeed η οικονομια. In fact, the external evidence is so overwhelming that the NA28 does not even list any variants at this point in its critical apparatus."  Therefore, JR also know for sure that this state of affairs is also in the providence of God.  Why does JR pick God's providential ordering of the TR rather than God's providential preservation of Greek copies? Let the reader decide.

JR seems to acknowledge that there is no real argument to be made in defense of the TR position from the textual evidence.  Instead, after pointing out the obvious fact that one reading is likely a scribal error for the other reading (rather than a deliberate change) he offers a variety of mostly skeptical arguments:

1) Reasoned Eclecticism vs. Majority Text
JR states: "It seems particularly odd for [Dr. James R. White] to reject the TR reading at Ephesians 3:9 based on the fact that it is not the Majority reading since, supposedly, he is not himself an advocate for the Majority text but, instead, embraces an eclectic method (reasoned eclecticism)."
It's hard to figure out if JR just doesn't understand reasoned eclecticism or what.  Does he seriously not understand why reasoned eclecticism would favor a text that is supported by "p46, all known uncials, almost all minuscules, all known versions, and patristic quotations"? That's not simply picking the text because it is the majority text.  I think JR knows this.  Moreover, in any other case where "p46, all known uncials, almost all minuscules, all known versions, and patristic quotations" support a given reading, it would be shocking of editors following reasoned eclecticism concluded that a very late poorly attested minority reading were the original.  JR points to the variant of "through Jesus Christ" in the sane verse and asks why the majority is not followed here.  JR should know the answer: the situation is quite different.  "through Jesus Christ" is not found in "p46, all known uncials, almost all minuscules, all known versions, and patristic quotations."  There may be a majority in favor of inclusion of the phrase, but the witnesses for omission are not just a few scattered late manuscripts.  JR surely knows this, but chooses to ask the question as though he does not.

2) CBGM supports conjectural emendation?

JR states: "Furthermore, [Dr. James R. White] expresses great confidence in the new CBGM, despite the fact that in the NA28 it favors a reading in 2 Peter 3:10 based on NO extant Greek mss.! There seems to be a problem with consistency."

It's unclear whether JR is aware that Dr. White rejects the conjectural emendation proposed at 2 Peter 3:10.  It also seems that JR thinks that the CBGM some how spit out this conjectural emendation.  That's not the case.  The fault here lies with the ECM editors, not with the CBGM.

3) "Major Problem" of Insufficient Analysis

JR is aware that an analysis of the textual evidence has been done.  He quotes from Bruce Metzger, who provides a summary of the analysis. Nevertheless, JR asserts that Dr. White's analysis of the Greek manuscript evidence falls short.  JR implies that "proper analytical study" requires identifying the list of late manuscripts that apparently contain the TR reading. One wonders from where JR gets this standard.  It looks like he just made it up, presumably because he himself is having trouble finding any late manuscripts that support the TR reading.

Does JR offer any analysis that contradicts Metzger?  No. He just throws out a made-up standard and says it wasn't met.

4) Sometimes late manuscripts have early readings
This is one of those "true but irrelevant" statements, also known as red herrings.  There are a few late manuscripts that seem to be copied from very old manuscripts, and which consequently have early readings.  This is one thing that the CBGM should be good at helping us identify.

5) "Extremely thin" early Greek manuscript evidence?
What JR characterizes as "extremely thin" is actually pretty remarkable.  We have one papyrus that, despite bad damage to the edges of the page, does have this portion of the verse, dating back to about A.D. 200.  It contradicts the TR.  Then from the fourth to the seventh centuries we have five more uncial manuscripts.  As JR concedes, "Yes, η οικονομια is the reading found in the five early uncials and became the Majority reading ... ." 

6) Versional and Patristic Evidence
Once again, JR complains that Dr. White doesn't provide him with the information that JR himself can get from Metzger.  He says that Dr. White "never provides any specific examples from the versions for our comparison and analysis."  Here's an easy one: Codex Amiatinus (A.D. 700) is a Latin Vulgate manuscript produced in England.  It has "dispensatio", which is a Latin translation of the Greek. But, of course, where does this standard of having to provide specific examples come from? It's just something JR made up.

7) Why does the TR have the reading it has?
JR doesn't know why. Erasmus' first edition has the reading, and Stephanus and Beza maintained it.  The only 17th century (or earlier) exegete that I could find that mentioned the discrepancy was a Jesuit, Cornelius à Lapide.

JR says: "On what basis did the Reformed men affirm 'fellowship' here as the true reading, over against the Majority Greek ms. tradition? We do not know."
I reply: To the extent we don't know, it's because it seems they got the reading from the Roman Catholic, Erasmus, and didn't double check his work.  JR's comments seems to suppose some group of "Reformed men" huddling around the text and coming to a decision about whether to accept or reject each reading.  That's not how it worked.  There were some readings that were disputed, to be sure.  This does not appear to have been one of them.

Stephanus noted the variant issue in his 1550 edition (link to image - it's note 3) but we know he used the same manuscript Erasmus had (mentioned below).  If anyone digs up additional information, it would be interesting and useful.  As far as I know, Stephanus does not explain the decision to continue with Erasmus' choice.

8) They might have had other manuscripts!
JR makes the assertion: "It is certainly possible that they had access to Greek mss. which are no longer available to us."
I reply: "Certainly possible" sounds so much better than "this is just wild speculation, but ...." It means the same thing here.

We have figured out which manuscripts Erasmus borrowed for his work.  One of those was Minuscule 2817, which has the reading (both in the main text and apparently in the accompanying commentary)(link to whole manuscript)(editorial note: it's cool to be reading from the same page Erasmus read from). So, it would be most natural to blame this reading on that manuscript, rather than blaming it on Erasmus or his printer.  I have not checked the other three manuscripts that Erasmus had.

9) Some manuscripts have been lost since the 16th-17th centuries
Yes, some have. On the other hand, the ones that Erasmus used have survived.  It sad when Biblical manuscripts perish, but in God's providence, we still have most of the manuscripts identified in the 16th century, and others they did not know about.

10) The printed editions may testify to lost manuscripts
In the case of Erasmus' base text, we have reasons for thinking we know what manuscripts he worked from.  Accordingly, there is no particular need for its testimony.  Similarly, my recollection is that we have identified the manuscripts that Stephanus mentions.  If any of those are now lost, his marginal notes can provide a form of testimony to them.  But JR has not given us a reason to think that any relevant manuscripts have been lost, that any relevant manuscripts were used in the preparation of Erasmus' text, or that

JR argues: "It is only in the modern era that “Reformed” men have abandoned the traditional text for the modern reconstructed text."  Actually, the Reformers (especially Beza) worked on reconstructing the text and the high orthodox (e.g. Turretin) affirmed the continued use of collation to reconstruct the text.  This is nothing new or modern.

JR argues: "In so doing they have embraced a religious epistemology that abandons stability, continuity, and consistency." Actually, the Reformers fought against Rome's similar assertions for the Vulgate text.  They argued that the Greek apographa - the copies - provide the original text.


PS Upon reviewing this post before publishing, I note that there is an unintentional pun in the opening paragraph. No disrespect was intended to Pastor Riddle.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

John Owen versus the MARTs

The Modern Advocates of the Received Texts (MARTs) are a group of folks who argue that the textus receptus is not just the best text out there, it's jot and tittle the same as the original. Their position is thoroughly modern. Despite the fact that they like to characterize their position as being "Reformed Bibliology" or "Confessional Bibliology" or "The Confessional Text" position, their position is not one of the positions held by the early Reformers (obviously Luther was against their view, but also Calvin and Beza held a position contradictory to their view). It is also not the position expressed by the leading Reformed of the 17th century. One of the folks that I would associate with the MART viewpoint, Jeff Riddle, recently stated that John Owen is a "gold mine." I suspect that some of Owen's statements definitely will sound helpful. On the other hand, here are five examples of why it would be inaccurate to categorize the great John Owen as a proto-MART.

Example 1
Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel, Chapter 1

2. Ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ. Beza affirms that ἑαυτοῖς, “to themselves,” is absent from some copies, and then the words may admit of a sense diverse from that which is commonly received; for ἀνασταυροῦντας, “crucifying again;” may refer unto τινάς included and supposed in ἀνακινίζειν, that some or any should renew them. It is impossible that any should renew them to repentance; for this cannot be done without crucifying the Son of God again, since these apostates have utterly rejected all interest in and benefit by his death, as once undergone for sinners.

The variant being addressed her is the omission or inclusion of ἑαυτοῖς at Hebrews 6:6. Beza's 1598 printing includes the word in the text. What is significant here is that Owen does not simply rely on Beza's main reading of Hebrews 6:4-6, but Owen also consults the alleged variant reading that he says Beza mentions, and he does so in interpreting the text. Owen ultimately adopts the main reading, but look at the justification (on the next page of the same chapter):

But the word is constant enough in ancient copies to maintain its own station, and the context requires its continuance; and this makes the work of "crucifying again" to be the act of the apostates themselves, and to be asserted as that which belongs unto their sin, and not denied as belonging to a relief from their sin: "They crucify him again to themselves."

Notice that Beza relies on both external and internal evidence (i.e. evidence from the copies and evidence from the flow of the text). Most critically, notice that Owen places weight on the copies being ancient. Owen does not presume that ancient copies are worse because they are ancient. Instead, Owen takes for granted that the ancient copies should be a standard for evaluating the printed text reading.

Example 2
The Death of Death, Book 1, Chapter 5:

That which some contend, that by the eternal Spirit is here meant our Saviour’s own Deity, I see no great ground for. Some Greek and Latin copies read, not, as we commonly, Πνεύματος αἰωνίου, but Πνεύματος ἁγίου, and so the doubt is quite removed: and I see no reason why he may not as well be said to offer himself through the Holy Spirit, as to be “declared to be the Son of God, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” as Rom. i. 4; as also to be “quickened by the Spirit,” 1 Pet. iii. 18. The working of the Spirit was required as well in his oblation as resurrection, in his dying, as quickening.

The variant being addressed here is the substitution of αἰωνίου (eternal) for ἁγίου (holy) or vice versa. The main reading in Beza's 1598 is eternal, but notice that Owen goes to the variant reading both in the Greek and also in the Latin to interpret the text.

Example 3
The Death of Death, Book 1, Chapter 3:

Hence the Father himself is sometimes called our Saviour: 1 Tim. i. 1, “According to the commandment Θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν,” — “of God our Saviour.” Some copies, indeed, read it, Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν, — “of God and our Saviour;” but the interposition of that particle καὶ arose, doubtless, from a misprision that Christ alone is called Saviour. But directly this is the same with that parallel place of Tit. i. 3, Κατ’ ἐπιταγὴν τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Θεοῦ, — “According to the commandment of God our Saviour,” where no interposition of that conjunctive particle can have place; the same title being also in other places ascribed to him, as Luke i. 47, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

The variant being addressed her is the inclusion or omission of καὶ (and). Notice that Owen considers the variant, identifies the variant as a probable orthodox corruption, and then instead confirms the point from a place where there is no such variant issue.

Example 4
Vinidiciae Evangelicae, Chapter 22

1st. From the event: Heb. x. 2, 3, “For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sins every year.” The words of the second verse are to be read with an interrogation, conclusive in the negative: “Would they not have ceased to have been offered?” that is, certainly they would. And because they did not do so, it is evident from the event that they could not take away sin. In most copies the words are, Ἐπεὶ ἂ ἐπαύσαντο προσφερόμεναι. Those that add the negative particle οὐκ put it for οὐχί,. as it is frequently used.

The variant of interest here is the inclusion or omission of οὐκ. Interestingly enough, Beza's 1598 has the οὐκ. Owen seems to be willing to depart from Beza because the wording Owen adopts is allegedly found in "most copies."

Example 5
Vinidiciae Evangelicae, Chapter 13

Owen presents the following Q/A from his theological opponent:
Q. What dost thou answer to 1 Tim. iii. 16?
A. 1. That in many ancient copies, and in the Vulgar Latin itself, the word “God” is not read; wherefore from that place nothing certain can be concluded.

Owen replies:

1. Though the word “God,” be not in the Vulgar Latin, yet the unanimous, constant consent of all the original copies, confessed to be so both by Beza and Erasmus, is sufficient to evince that the loss of that translation is not of any import to weaken the sense of the place. Of other ancient copies, whereof they boast, they cannot instance one.

The variant here is the substitution of ὅς (he) for Θεὸς (God) or vice versa. Owen argues that the unanimous consent of the Greek trumps the Latin. Note as well that Owen is plainly relying only on the printed texts himself: particularly Erasmus and Beza. Owen does not pretend to be an expert in textual criticism himself, nor is he claiming personal knowledge about all the manuscripts.

Shortly thereafter, Owen responds to Grotius:

Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί. “Suspectam nobis hanc lectionem faciunt interpretes veteres, Latinus, Syrus, Arabs, et Ambrosius, qui omnes legunt, ο` ἐφανερώθη.” Addit Hincmarus Opusculo 55. illud Θεός, “hic positum a Nestorianis.” 1. But this suspicion might well have been removed from this learned man by the universal consent of all original copies, wherein, as it seems, his own manuscript, that sometimes helps him at a need, doth not differ. 2. One corruption in one translation makes many. 3. The Syriac reads the word “God,” and so Tremellius hath rendered it; Ambrose and Hincmarus followed the Latin translation; and there is a thousand times more probability that the word Θεός was filched out by the Arians than that it was foisted in by the Nestorians. But if the agreement of all original copies may be thus contemned, we shall have nothing certain left us.

Note especially Owen's assertion: "if the agreement of all original copies may be thus contemned, we shall have nothing certain left us." That is something we have heard Dr. James White say numerous times in other contexts. Owen does not appeal to some kind of TR canonization. Instead he appeals to the extant Greek copies. Owen also argues from the probabilities as to what possible heretical source of corruption may have affected the text. Furthermore, Owen downplays the significance of the translations.

Continuing in Chapter 14, Owen states:

The learned Grotius is pitifully entangled about the last two places urged by our catechists. Of his sleight in dealing with that of John xx. 28, I have spoken before, and discovered the vanity of his insinuations. Here he tells you, that after Christ’s resurrection, it grew common with the Christians to call him God, and urges Rom. ix. 5; but coming to expound that place, he finds that shift will not serve the turn, it being not any Christians calling him God that there is mentioned, but the blessed apostle plainly affirming that he is “God over all, blessed for ever;” and therefore, forgetting what he had said before, he falls upon a worse and more desperate evasion, affirming that the word Θεός ought not to be in the text, because Erasmus had observed that Cyprian and Hilary, citing this text, did not name the word! And this he rests upon, although he knew that all original copies whatever, constantly, without any exception, do read it, and that Beza had manifested, against Erasmus, that Cyprian adver. Judæos, lib. ii. cap. vi., and Hilary ad Ps. xii., do both cite this place to prove that Christ is called God, though they do not express the text to the full; and it is known how Athanasius used it against the Arians, without any hesitation as to the corruption of the text. This way of shifting indeed is very wretched, and not to be pardoned. I am well contented with all who, from what he writes on John i. 1 (the first place mentioned), do apprehend that when he wrote his annotations on that place he was no opposer of the deity of Christ; but I must take leave to say, that, for mine own part, I am not able to collect from all there spoken in his own words that he doth at all assert the assuming of the human nature into personal subsistence with the Son of God. I speak as to the thing itself, and not to the expressions which he disallows.

Once again, Owen appeals to "all original copies whatever, constantly, without any exception, do read it" to settle the question.

Interestingly enough, there are indeed ancient copies that have the pronoun rather than the word "God." So, it turns out that Owen was mistaken about the issue of unanimity.

John Owen ardently defended many TR readings, including readings close to the heart of MARTs. John Owen did so, however, from a point of view that is not a MART point of view.  Indeed, Owen did not feel compelled to follow Beza's 1598 printing, but departed when he believed the Greek copy evidence warranted.  Moreover, it's fair to say we know more now about the Greek copies than Owen did.  A lot of textual critical work, especially finding and collating manuscripts, has been done since the days of Erasmus and Beza - and even since the days of Owen himself.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Francis Turretin - the "Received Text" - "Confessional Text" and related Textual Critical Issues

Background - Name and the significance of Methodology
I've been using the nom de plume, TurretinFan, for over a decade. Why? It's certainly not because I slavishly follow everything that theologian taught. On the contrary, I have a number of disagreements with him, though typically about things that don't or shouldn't matter. The big examples that come to mind are geocentrism and the perpetual virginity of Mary. From time to time this leads to taunts of "You should stop calling yourself 'Francis Turretin'" or the like. I can live with that.

My reason for using that pen-name is because I enjoy the clarity of thinking that the real Francis Turretin had, as expressed in his elenctic methodology. His methodology has led to him sometimes being referred to as a Reformed scholastic. I don't think he would want to be lumped in with the medieval scholastics, but at least some of them (for example, Thomas Aquinas) can be admired for their systematic consideration of issues.

Methodology and Textual Positions
Methodology is key in distinguishing different textual positions, not just in distinguishing presentations of theology. I myself enjoy the King James Version and appreciate the beauty of the language used, as well as the useful clarity provided by distinguishing between "thou" and "you." Enjoying, however, is not really a methodology. I don't just enjoy the KJV, I preferentially use it as an English translation. Yet again, however, mere use is not a methodology.

When it comes to the text of the New Testament, there are many schools of thought. Depending on who you listen to, you may hear terms like "Critical Text," "Received Text," "Ecclesiastical Text," "King James Only," "Majority Text," "Byzantine Text," "Westcott and Hort Text" and so on.

At the risk of over-simplification, we can broadly group the positions into four schools of thought.

A. Non-Preservationist

This school of thought sees nothing particularly special about the Scriptures and treats them as being the same as any other ancient text. This group could be further sub-divided into naturalists (like atheists) and super-naturalists (like Muslims and Mormons). The latter groups may think that the New Testament was a special book, but they nevertheless insist that it was hopelessly corrupted due to (among other things) a lack of divine preservation.

Interestingly enough, when we read Reformation-era Reformers, we see them contending against Roman Catholics who had this same non-preservationist mindset as it applies to the Greek text. They would insist that the Latin was preserved, but would not extend this to the original Greek. Interestingly enough, we also see a similar mixture of views in certain KJV only groups who are open to the idea the New Testament has been preserved (in this time) only in English and not in the original language. Modern Roman Catholics (post Vatican II) seem to accept the preservation of the original text of the New Testament, and the Nova Vulgata reflects a reliance on the Greek text to correct the Latin text.

B. Preservationist

This school of thought views the Scriptures as the Word of God and understands (hopefully from the Scriptures themselves) that because of the Scriptures' purpose and nature, God will preserve them forever, or at least until we see God face to face.

1. Hard Traditionalist

This sub-group of preservationists take the position that the preserved text is a matter of hard tradition. This may take the form of a particular text being widely used by "the church" or the form of a particular text being supposedly authoritatively accepted by the church.

2. Soft Traditionalist

This sub-group of preservationists take the position that the preserved text is a matter of what we might call "lower case t tradition." They believe that because God has preserved his word through every generation, therefore we can examine tradition to see what text has been handed down.

3. Rationalist

This sub-group of preservationists take the position that the preserved text can be obtained without any particular reference to tradition, as such. In this view, the New Testament text can be established more or less the same way that we would establish the text of Homer's works, but with much higher certainty because of the much better evidence.

This is, of course, an over-simplification. Among the preservationists, there is probably something more resembling a spectrum, rather than the neat boxes I've provided.

The Confessional Position

The Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession have identical text at I:6:
8. 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 into the language of every people 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.
The key phrase for our discussion is, of course, "by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages."

The quoted phrase means at least that only the views in group B are confessional, while the views in group A should not be taught in the church. The confession does not specify to what degree we should be relying on tradition or reason to identify the providentially preserved Scriptures. As a result, the big tent of the confession is broad enough for a variety of views on this. There is not just one "ye olde Confessional Position" on that level of detail. I leave it to someone with more time on their hands to review the minutes of the Assembly to see if the wording was debated, but ultimately it matters what made it into the Confession, and such further detail did not.

The Confession's Proof Texts

Some folks like to point out that the Confession uses as proof texts, the following:
  • The long ending of Mark: 7:3(f), 8:4(g), and 17:3(m)
  • The Comma Johanneum: 2:3(o)
These same folks do not usually immediately note that the original WCF did not include these proof texts. Instead, these were added as an afterthought in response to the English House of Commons demanding proof texts.

To further complicate things, when the American Presbyterians revised the confession to (among other things) update the proof texts, those references were removed, such that the version of the WCF on the OPC website today does not use those proof texts (link to pdf version).

So, saying that the inclusion of the long ending of Mark and the Comma Johanneum is "confessional," is strained. It is probably most accurate to say that the original authors of the Confession probably accepted those passages without seriously investigating the matter.

The Real Francis Turretin's Position
The real Francis Turretin, however, did not simply hastily add a proof text to his work. In 1674, Turretin published a treatise, "De Tribus Testibus Coelestibus ex 1 Joann. V, 7" and in 1676 he published "De Spiritu, Aqua et Sanguine in terra testantibus, ex 1 Joann. V, 8." Moreover, near the start of the former treatise, Turretin attempts a defense of the passage against the Socinian accusation of insertion. His first argument? an appeal to the historical evidence as he understood it, with reference to Jerome and to the work of Erasmus, Complutensis, and Stephanus, among others who provided printed Greek New Testaments, based on his understanding that they drew the reading from the most ancient codices.

Turretin's second argument was an appeal to the wording of the remainder of the text. He reasons that verse 9's comparison between human and divine testimony only makes sense if the three earthly testimonies are in parallel with three heavenly testimonies.

Turretin's third argument is to appeal to the writings of Cyprian, Athanasius, and Fulgentius, who (he thought) used the verse approvingly.

Turretin's fourth argument is to question whether it is more probable that the Arians removed the verse or the orthodox added the verse.

In other words, while Turretin obviously reaches the opposite conclusion of the current editors of the ECM, he does so using a very similar methodology. In fact, the question of orthodox corruption of the text is one that remains of interest today (hundreds of years later).

This may not persuade the harder-tradition folk. So, an easier example is Turretin's rejection of the word "Cainan" in Luke 3:36. According to Turretin, the best explanation here is that the word was spuriously added by corruption via the Septuagint (see vol. 1, pp. 73-74 of Turretin's Institutes, In that case, Turretin is clearly departing from the "Textus Receptus" reading. His reason for doing so is mostly on internal grounds of needing to harmonize with the Old Testament.

And, of course, this gets us to Turretin's own clear statement about his methodology (emphasis supplied):
The question is not as to the particular corruption of some manuscripts or as to the errors which have crept into the books of particular editions through the negligence of copyists or printers. All acknowledge the existence of many such small corruptions. The question is whether there are universal corruptions and errors so diffused through all the copies (both manuscript and edited) as that they cannot be restored and corrected by any collation of various copies, or of Scripture itself and of parallel passages.
Notice that Turretin explicitly acknowledges small corruptions and argues that these can be restored and corrected. The tools for such correction are collation (which is exactly what CBGM and other "modern" textual critical techniques primarily rely on) and comparison with Scripture itself (the internal evidences that CBGM is (to my knowledge) less well equipped to perform, but which human editors nevertheless have to employ, and which we see in the most recent texts of the New Testament.

Turretin was not unique in these views. He was not alone in mistakenly accepting the Comma Johanneum, nor was he alone in doing so on faulty textual critical grounds. He was not alone in being unfamiliar with the manuscripts in existence, and he was not alone in relying heavily on the printed editions (and perhaps even only on reports about those printed editions).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Responding to Leighton Flowers' "Choice Beef" Argument

Leighton Flowers (transcription of oral comments):
When we ask about election, we're talking about mainly God having favor - Him choosing somebody over someone else. Matter of fact, when we use the word "choice," a lot of times we're thinking of kind of the verb form of it, like, "I made a choice between these options." But if you go into the grocery store, later today, and you go to the "choice meat" section. The word "choice" there is used more as an adjective. It's describing the type of meat. It's the type of meat that is favorable over the other lesser favorable meat. And so when you talk about something that is choice, you are not always talking about necessarily God choosing something for no apparent reason, but you're choosing that meat because it's a favorable meat. There's a reason to have the choice of that meat.
First, "choice" is usually the noun form of the verb "to choose." It is sometimes used as an adjective, where it typically connotes "the best." As Webster's dictionary explains (source):

choice adjective
choicer; choicest
Definition of choice (Entry 2 of 2)
1 : worthy of being chosen
accepting the choicest candidates
2 : selected with care
prepared his report with choice words
3a : of high quality
served choice wine with the dinner
b : of a grade between prime and good
choice meat

We see that use of the term "choice" in its superlative form ("choicest") in a couple of King James verses:

Isaiah 5:2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

Isaiah 22:7 And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.

We also see it in its simple form in other verses:

Genesis 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

We actually see it in connection with choosing in at least one verse:

2 Samuel 10:9 When Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians:

The thing is, God does not choose the way men choose, but sometimes just the opposite:

1 Corinthians 1:22-29

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.

Second, God choosing for "no apparent reason" is not the same as God choosing "for no reason." The reason for God's choices may not be apparent to us, but that does not mean that there is no reason.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Behold Your Mother" by Tim Staples - a Review by TurretinFan

"Behold Your Mother," by Tim Staples, "respectfully but clearly answers every conceivable Protestant objection to Mary, the Mother of God," according to Mitch Pacwa. Of course, Protestants don't object to Mary, but we understand he means the Marian dogmas of Roman Catholicism. Al Kresta, with unintentional irony, states that Tim "addresses objections I haven't seen addressed elsewhere." Robert Spitzer puts it this way: "Tim Staples presents a remarkable defense of the six major Marian doctrines, including a veritable compendium of source material from the Bible, Fathers, and Church documents." These quotations come from the endorsements on the back cover of Tim's book. Absent from the book are any official nihil obstat or imprimatur. Tim may have "street cred" with Mitch Pacwa, but he lacks the official approval of the magisterium.

Tim's book is dedicated, "For Valerie," presumably referring to his wife.

The book is not written to an academic audience. "Behold Your Mother" has about 473 footnotes and 352 pages. The list of works cited is the last five pages of the book. After Pacwa's claims for thoroughness, you may be surprised to discover that notable Protestant responses to the Marian dogmas are not listed. For example, Svendsen's "Who is My Mother," is not listed (though his much less relevant "Evangelical Answers: a Critique of Roman Catholic Apologists," is listed). Tim does include a few Protestant works, notably James White's "Mary--Another Redeemer" and Lorraine Boettner's "Roman Catholicism." Nevertheless, Tim does not provide much evidence of a deep familiarity with Protestant or other historical scholarship on the issues involved.

The book is structured around the five Marian Dogmas. After a brief introduction, the book is divided into the following parts:
  • Part I "Mother of God" (pp. 17-50);
  • Part II "Full of Grace" (pp. 55-127);
  • Part III "Ever-Virgin" (pp. 131-192);
  • Part IV "Assumed into Heaven" (pp. 197-230); and
  • Part V "Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix" (pp. 235-272).

The book then includes a section on "Queen of Queens: Mary's Regal Role in the Kingdom of God" (pp. 273-289) and a section on "Mary's Ongoing Place in our Lives" (pp. 291-92). A set of appendices follow, addressed to a variety of topics including things, namely: "Patristic Evidence for Theotokos," "Patristic Evidence for Mary's Perpetual Virginity," "Mary's Virginity in Partu," "Mary's Freedom from the Pains of Labor," "Answering Four False Charges about Patristic Mariology," and "Queenship has its Privileges."


The introduction is subtitled "Why Mary Matters." In some ways, the introduction serves to mis-frame the issues. It is true that among the Protestant objections are objections that Roman Catholic emphasis on Mary detracts from Jesus. That would be an objection that might be raised, even if the Marian dogmas were all true. What is even more significant, however, is the fact that Rome has dogmatized false doctrines. Some of the errors Rome teaches on these topics are allegedly essential to the Christian life.

Tim tries to address the first objection by suggesting that Mary should be an instrument of faith to lead us to Jesus. That doesn't fully answer the objection. You cannot fully answer a pragmatic objection with a merely theoretical response. The answer to "the emphasis on Mary detracts from Jesus" is not really answered by "well, it's not supposed to be that way." Even if we grant that Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary should point people to Jesus, we still often see that in practice the emphasis on Mary does not lead to Jesus, but rather leads to Mary.

Moreover, the emphasis on Mary is not a Biblical emphasis. The last clear reference to Mary is in Acts 1, where she and her other sons (described as Jesus' brothers) finally join the disciples. The Biblical emphasis is on Jesus, not Mary. Scripture is Christocentric.

Tim argues that "In seeing the truth about Mary's Immaculate Conception and Assumption, we will not only see the glory of Mary, but we will see the immeasurable dignity and calling of all Christians in her" (emphasis original). That has a vaguely Scriptural sound to it, but recall that Tim has (perhaps unwittingly) stolen from Abraham to give to Mary: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8) or perhaps from Jesus himself: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:" (Galatians 1:6) or "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;" (1 Peter 2:9).

In point of fact, Christians are not called in Mary. They are called in Jesus. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." (Isaiah 42:1) "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (2 Timothy 1:9).

Similarly, Tim argues that "we will see God's glory and faithfulness to his promises concretized--his grace perfected--in the life of a real human person." Once again, Tim is stealing from Jesus to give to Mary: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10) and "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Tim's comment about "real human person" leaves one wondering whether Tim is refusing to acknowledge that Jesus is one person who is fully and really human while also fully and really divine.

Tim tells us that "Our Lady will teach us of the holiness of marriage ... ." This is truly a most curious assertion. According to Rome's view of Mary's virginity, she never knew her husband, Joseph. What a curious model for marriage!

Tim argues that "Behold your mother" (John 19:27) were Jesus' words not only to John but "to each of us." No argument is presented (at least, in the introduction) for this assertion. The text states: "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." (John 19:26-27) I've maintained the KJV wording here partly to make clear that the text says "thee" singular and not "you" plural. There is nothing in the text or the context that imply that Jesus had in mind something other than John caring for his mother after Jesus' death. There is nothing here to suggest the universal motherhood of Mary any more than there is anything to suggest the universal sonship of John. Is John the son of every woman? Surely not. Likewise, Mary is not the mother of every Christian. The text itself shows how John interpreted this command. He did not start praying the not-yet-invented rosary, he took her to his house.

In the next post in this series, we will take a look at "Part I" of Tim's book.