Archive for the ‘Jeff Riddle’ Category

Muller on Turretin and Textual Criticism – Follow-Up Response to Jeff Riddle (and company)

May 15, 2017

Our brother in Christ, Jeff Riddle, provided a follow-up post (link to post) responding to my previous post (link to post) to him.

Unfortunately, brother Riddle’s post entirely misses the main point of my response. I argued:

Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

Riddle responded by quoting Richard Muller’s discussion of views of issues related to inerrancy, contrasting folks like Turretin with later folks like B.B. Warfield. Even assuming that what Muller says is correct, Muller is addressing a different issue from the one I was addressing.

When Muller gets to the issue I was discussing, you will find him saying things like this:

Not only was the era of orthodoxy a time of the flowering of textual criticism, it was also an era in which the critical establishment of the text of the Bible on the basis of collation and comparison of manuscripts and codices was understood as fundamental to the task of the orthodox exegete and theologian.

(Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Scripture: the Cognitive Foundation of Theology, p. 398)

Similarly (and more telling):

… Testament published in Geneva and the annotated texts offered by Beza were all produced by using the critically established texts of Erasmus and the Complutensian Polyglot together with an examination of the available codices, with variants noted, typically in the annotations. Beza and other humanistically trained editors of the Bible saw no problem in establishing the text on the basis of a comparison of the available codices, nor did they blanch at the work of sorting out corruptions that had crept in during the historical transmission of the text – drew the line, however, at the point of emendation of an original language of the text on the basis of pure conjecture, or of the witness of a single variant codex, or of the sole witness of ancient versions, unconfirmed by the original languages. Using a method similar to that of Beatus Rhenanus, Protestant editors of the biblical text typically confined such variant readings to the annotations and viewed them as a matter of interpretation rather than as a basis of textual emendation. We have, for example, Beza’s comment ont he publication of a highly variant Greek New Testament by Simon de Colines: Beza commented that he could not “give much weight to it” unless its variant readings were “supported by other codices” and criticized what he viewed as unsupported conjectural emendation. Emendation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek text of the New on the basis of ancient versions would become a matter of extended controversy in the seventeenth century.
It needs be noted here that the so-called textus receptus, was merely a part of the sixteenth- and seventeen-century process of establishing a normative or definitive text of the New Testament. The phrase “textus receptus” or “received text” comes from the Elzevir New Testament of 1633 — and as the context of the phrase itself and the use of the Greek New Testament in the seventeenth century both testify, there was no claim, in the era of orthodoxy, of a sacrosanct text in this particular edition. Nor did it, in the era of orthodoxy, provide some sort of terminus ad quem for the editing of the text of the Bible: the statement that this was the “text now received by all” simply meant that it was the text, produced by Stephanus and Beza, and slightly reedited by the Elzevirs, that was then regarded (by Protestants!) as the best available text of the Bible: namely, the critically examined combination of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the so-called Byzantine …

(Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Scripture: the Cognitive Foundation of Theology, p. 399)

Hopefully you get the point this discussion.

Now, was Turretin’s view of textual criticism exactly the same as ours today? Probably not. For example, as hinted at in Muller’s discussion above, folks like Turretin insisted that the Vulgate, Septuagint, and other ancient translations should essentially have no weight at all in textual criticism. By contrast, we would probably grant them at least a little weight. That, however, actually puts Turretin (and company) farther from Textus Receptus advocates of today, as the latter adopt a number of passages where the strongest textual transmission evidence comes from translations (1 John 5:7 is the most prominent example).

I got a few other responses, as well, so I’ll briefly address them here:

Robert Wieland wrote: “Since the matter of collating mss is not the issue, then it would follow that your statement above is a non sequiter. The issue is not collation. The issue is what is collated.”

I respectfully disagree that collating manuscripts is not the issue. It is the main issue. Certain TR advocates would like to (in essence) lock in the TR on the basis of it (or some form of it) being widely accepted by Protestants in the 17th century. There are separate (and less significant) debates over things like whether the Byzantine text type should be given priority, or whether non-Greek sources should be used for determining the text of the NT. Likewise, there are questions about whether to give priority to age of the manuscripts or number of the manuscripts, how much weight to give to internal evidence, and the like. These are all subordinate questions to the question of whether collation should be used.

RW again: “Again, the issue is not the use of Textual Criticism, but the practice of it. Turretin/Calvin/Stephens/Beza did not use modern principles like: Genealogy, The Shorter Reading is to be Preferred, the Harder Reading is to be Preferred, or Conflation (to name a few).”

The tools of textual criticism have improved over the years, but they all flow from the basic idea of the need for collation. If TR advocates (or anyone else) can make a case for why alternatives to these tools are better, then that’s one of those subordinate debates I mentioned above. Turretin didn’t have all the original language study tools that we have today, but his basic principles of exegesis are the same. The same goes for textual criticism.

I had written: “…those ancients texts certainly have the advantage of being older…”
RW responded: “This is the part of the modern philosophy where if it is older it is better, and if it is younger it is false. (I am parodying JW).”

Having older copies is advantageous, if you’re trying to do collation to determine the original readings. That’s not “modern philosophy.” For example, even if one has a Byzantine priority view, one is going to favor older Byzantine copies to a copy that a seminary student created for his Greek class last week. It doesn’t mean that the younger copy is “false,” just that it carries less evidentiary weight.

RW: “Can you define for us what an “Alexandrian Text Type” or “Alexandrian Form” (as JW puts it) looks like? Can you show us in the apparatus of the Nestle/Aland text (any of the 28 editions) the symbol used for the Alexandrian Text Type? Maybe you can answer these questions that JW has been avoiding for years? One has to say that when two mss P75 and B happen to agree in many parts (not all) means that all mss fall into families? Such defies credibility.”

You can read about it here: (link to wikipedia page). In very short, it’s a label that textual critics apply to a group of texts that have similar characteristics and some historical connection with Alexandria, Egypt. The other two main groupings are Byzantine and Western, although the use of the Western label is (I think) falling out of favor.


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

May 12, 2017

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.


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