Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Gone Astray like a Sheep

The longest psalm of all, Psalm 119, concludes with these words:

Psalm 119:176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

The prophet wrote:

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Peter the apostle likewise wrote:

1 Peter 2:25
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus said:

Matthew 18:10-14
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

And again, Jesus said:

Luke 15:1-6
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Let's not think overly highly of ourselves.  Sheep are many things, but they are not wise.  Left to their own devices, they get themselves into trouble and need to be rescued.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

1 John 5:7 - Francis Turretin and the Textual Evidence

Some "TR friendly" questions/comments, I recently received.  I'm posting them without attribution for now, but I'll update with attribution if my interlocutor would like.  After all, these issues are less about him (or me) and more about the truth of the matters we are discussing.  His comments are bold in quotation marks, whereas my responses are in plain font. 

"You seem, like most, to judge Turretin's statement based upon extant (in 2022) evidence rather than what he had in his time. This is wrong headed."

For the reader's background, Turretin made the statement regarding the Johannine Comma, at 1 John 5:7, "although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it."  I had pointed out that Turretin's statement was wrong.

My interlocutor is raising an important nuanced point.  The evidence available to Turretin in the 1600s was different from the evidence that we have today.  My interlocutor is mistaken in thinking that my judgment about Turretin is based only on the evidence we have today as distinct from what was available in Turretin's time.

For example, we know the seven manuscripts that Erasmus used in creating his first printed edition of the New Testament: minuscules 1eap, 1rk, 2e, 2ap, 4ap, 7p, and 817 (the "modern" numbering of these is respectively 1, 2814, 2, 2815, 2816, 2817, and 817- we could add to these, 2105, a commentary by Theophylact on Paul's epistles).  Only 2815 and perhaps 1 are witnesses to 1 John 5:7. There are a few other manuscripts that some have suggested Erasmus may have had for the first edition, none of those include 1 John.

Minuscules 1 and 2815 do not have the Johannine Comma. 2815 was apparently the Greek manuscript sent by Erasmus to the printer to serve as the primary basis for his printed text. We still have manuscript 2815 in the University of Basel library. I haven't checked Basel's records, but I'm confident that 2815 was there throughout Francis Turretin's life.  1 has been in the University of Basel library since the late 1500s.

Likewise, we know of other manuscripts that were known during Francis Turretin's life, and which don't have the Johannine Comma.

It would be wrong to judge FT's statement based on manuscripts we only discovered after his death, but that's not what we're doing when we say he was wrong to claim, "all the Greek copies have it."  It's ok.  People make mistakes.

"We do not judge people in the past based upon modern extant evidence." 

We can and do judge them that way.  For example, as I mentioned above, we have located most (if not all) of the manuscripts that Erasmus' first edition relied on.  We can judge the quality of his collation based on that "modern extant" evidence.  We can do the same for Turretin's claims.  Had Turretin been more vague and said, "I've seen it in a manuscript in Basel," then it might be harder to judge his statement.  We could, however, still judge it.  We would just have to be more tenuous in our conclusions.  In this case, it's very straightforward that the great Turretin was just wrong.

"That is the problem with your method, you use modern evidence with no regard to manuscript destruction."

Manuscript destruction can happen.  I was just lamenting the other day the loss of a Georgian translation of the Didache.  It was last seen, that I could find, in the 1930s in Germany. Sometimes things like that happen.

However, sometimes we can still know something about those lost or destroyed manuscripts.  For example, we have a collation of the Georgian translation of the Didache against the single Greek example of the Didache.  It's of very little scholarly value, but at least it's something.

"How many early manuscripts do you think we have with 1 John 5 (the whole chapter)?"

The ECM project currently lists 265 witnesses to 1 John 5:7, though some of the witnesses may have a gap in the text at that point.  It seems fair to say that there are at least 150 witnesses to the short reading (i.e. the text without the Johanine Comma), with the manuscript copies having the Johaninne Comma coming from the 1500s or as later insertions into the margins of the pre-1500 manuscripts.  In short, there is no reasonable basis for the great Francis Turretin to claim that "all the Greek copies have it." They didn't all have it in his day.  There were some made in the 1500s and still around in the 1600s that had it, and there were some older ones where it had been added into the margins.  

"The 'which TR?' is just a false 'gotcha' that makes me roll my eyes." 

It's false for folks who accept revisions to the TR, but true for those who don't.  The "which KJV" question was a legitimate question for me to ask Will Kinney in my debate with him, and he had his answer.  The "correct" answer for folks who are open to revisions to the TR is that they use such-and-such as their base text, but that they are open to corrections to it. 

Will Kinney asked me a similar question about which Greek text, and I was able to hold up the printed NA27 and tell him that NA27 with its critical apparatus has the original text.  It may not always be the main text of the NA27, but it's all there.  Nothing has been lost.  

"Turretin answers it, the TBS introduction to the Greek NT answers it (first sentence of the last paragraph), and it has been answered many times, but yet people try the gotcha." 

Turretin was open to revisions, as I assume you know.  I'm glad the TBS folks have their answer, though I don't think their continued inclusion of the Johanine Comma is reasonable.

"Once again, for those in the back, the TR is the family of printed editions, based upon manuscripts, and these include but are not limited to the editions of Beza, Stephanus, Elzivirs, and others, and there are minor variants between them."

Usually, the TR also includes Scriveners' "final" addition to that family in 1894.  In fact, many TR folks simply mean that one.  

And there are minor differences between that family of printed texts and the NA28.  There are only two differences that are more than two verses (the end of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery), as I'm sure you are aware.  I think it would be accurate to say that there are fewer differences between the NA27 and any TR of the TR family and an early Byzantine uncial (like codex Washingtonianus) and any TR of the TR family.  

That said, there are a few differences that typically matter to "TR preferred" folks, such as the long ending of Mark, the story of the woman caught in adultery, the doxology of the Lord's Prayer, the Johannine Comma, and maybe a dozen or so others.  That said, we're still talking about a small number of potentially significant differences.

Many TR advocates like to play up the rhetoric as though the Nestle-Aland editions represent an overthrow of the text or some kind of revolutionary different Bible.  They don't.  They are just a more accurate reflection of the original text than the older work, not a radical departure.

"I am still interested in whether you believe Mark 16, John 8, and the 16 other disputed/absent verses are inspired or not. I don't need any argument for or against, I want to know if you believe they are the word of man or the word of God."

My opinion doesn't matter absent the arguments.  At least, my opinion shouldn't matter unless I can support it by arguments.  Moreover, it is fascinating that this particular interlocutor is so transparently uninterested in hearing the arguments.  I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he thinks he's already heard the arguments.  If so, then he just seems to be looking for some kind of tribal affiliation.  I'm happy to weigh in on each one, one by one, I guess, but the bottom line is that I'm more confident about my own conclusions on some texts than others.  It would be mind boggling if the Johannine Comma or the story of the woman caught in adultery turned out to be original.  It's very hard to imagine that the doxology of the Lord's prayer or "Father forgive them for they known not what they do," were original.  It would be easier to understand how the long ending of Mark might be original.

"It would be better to believe the explicit statements of Turretin rather than a Platonic form of Turretin. I believe in the 'Turretin of history,' you believe in the 'Turretin of faith.'"

This sounds very lovely, but what my interlocutor is focused on is Turretin's conclusions about the originality of certain texts, rather than on Turretin's arguments leading him to that conclusion.  Turretin's arguments on textual matters appear to be poorly informed as to the facts, and consequently it is unwise to follow him down the garden path on those points.  Turretin's arguments themselves are not always well founded (consider his arguments, such as they are, about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary - a point that made it into a Reformed confession!).