Archive for the ‘Kurschner’ Category

Further Roundup of Kurschner Responses

September 15, 2007
The present author recently responded to Alan Kurschner’s “8 Reasons.” (link to the present author’s rebuttal and the original article) Assuming, however, that there might be other responses, the present author went looking and found:

One other commenter suggests that Kurschner is unfairly lumping majority text advocates in with KJVO “kooks” (the commenter’s word, not mine), and provides detailed responses to each of Kurschner’s arguments in a thread format with other commentators interspersed. (link) It’s really worth clicking through and reading the detailed response, even if one does not end up agreeing with the author.

I think that Kurschner is actually attempting to respond to KJVO-ism, and is less interested in the remainder of the majority text advocates. Perhaps, in the process, Kurschner fails to recognize the difference between the two, as well as the weakness of the arguments as applied to anything beyond KJV-only-ism.

Other than that, this author hasn’t seen too much of a further response to Kurschner’s article, though perhaps something is being overlooked. If any reader has links to other treatments of the article, those links would be most welcome.

Centuri0n on Kurschner – Some Comments

September 4, 2007

Brother Centuri0n has posted a brief article (link) commending Kurschner’s eight reasons (link), which the present author had previously addressed (link).

I’m not sure whether Centuri0n actually read the article (he mistakenly claims that AK lists 10 reasons), and Centuri0n’s post may be taken as representing support of the anti-KJV position more than anything else.

Nevertheless, the present author wishes to clarify a few things in response to Centuri0n’s comments:

1) Yes, in Western Europe the primary language in which the Bible was preserved was Latin, and the Latin Bible transformed Western Europe. This is actually a significant argument in favor of the KJV preferred and “majority” argument and especially the Textus Receptus argument, as the Latin tends to frequently align with the Textus Receptus and to be reflected in the KJV translation.

2) History does matter, and it is important to recognize that the English Bible was first a translation from the Latin (first with a partial translation by Bede and later a New Testament translation by Wycliffe) and only after printed Greek Testaments were made available in the form of Erasmus’ 1516 edition did the Bible get translated with reference to the Greek. The Latin influenced the English translators resolution of many Greek ambiguities, as well it should.

3) Centuri0n makes a great point, which is that God has a plan for His word, and that God preserves His word. Francis Turretin (the original, not the present author) made the same point before there was a KJVO movement.

4) The Vulgate may have defects, but it gained traction because it was an excellent translation, not despite being an inferior translation. That traction was assisted by the fact that it was given assistance by the bishops of Rome. Nevertheless, the very reason that Jerome’s work was commissioned was to improve on the various Latin translations that were in circulation in his day.

5) Centuri0n’s last paragraph is a tad bit off-target. He writes:

This is not an argument against integrity in translation, or having right methods — because we are receivers of the text, and we ought to receive it with some kind of faith-fortified, Christ-exalting humility. But the purpose of right methods is discipleship and evangelism (not necessarily in that order). Right methods ought to lead us to the right view of what God is doing and has done, rather than replacing one human work with another and then arguing which is really the least-errant.

TurretinFan responds:

That sounds great, but the only way to try to achieve high integrity in translation and collation is by replacing one human work with another and debating the relative merit of each. The purpose of the right methods is to maintain the text in as close to its original, unaltered state as possible. It is the purpose of commentaters and evangelists to expound upon the text for the purpose of edifying and adding to the flock (not in that order).

6) Finally, it is worth noting that there are other important ecclesiastical texts besides the Vulgate, the KJV, and the Byzantine Greek. There are also the Slavonic, Armenian, Syriac, Georgian, the Coptic, and even the Ethiopic (and others in addition to those). They are not all equally good, and they are not necessarily good in proportion to the number of Christians who used them. Nevertheless, they play a role in reconstructing the original text, a role that many anti-KJV advocates tend to overlook.


Question for Kurschner Regarding

September 1, 2007

“If You Understand One Thing About The “King James Only” Phenomenon it is Imperative to Know This … The textual end justifies the textual means. They are motivated only in defending a modern printed text and any questions of methodology are irrelevant because they are governed by their a priori that the Textus Receptus (the Greek printed edition that lies behind the KJV) is without error. ” (source)

Brother K,

Is it really their position that the Textus Receptus (i.e. one of Stephens’ editions of the Greek testament) is without error, or is it rather that the English translation is without error?

I’ve always had the impression in my discussions with folks who consider themselves KJVO that it is the translation that is without error, not the underlying Greek (or Hebrew, for that matter). Take, for example, this comment: “the pure and whole Word of God, the traditional text (in English) Authorized Version, 1611.,” from “Plain Path Puritan” (source).

Did you have a different impression, or what?

As to the underlying point of the article linked above (namely, don’t take your sources out of context), that’s a perfectly valid criticism and something I see all the time not only from KJVO advocates but from armchair theologians of these Internet times.


Response to Kurschner’s "8 Reasons"

September 1, 2007

Brother Alan Kurschner has posted an article entitled, “8 Reasons Why It Is Fallacious for KJVO Advocates to Invoke the Majority Rule” (link)

Turretinfan Responds:

As a preliminary matter it is important to note that the present author is not a KJVO advocate, but rather a KJV-preferred advocate. With that caveat, the present author commends Kurschner for pointing several important weaknesses in the KJVO position, but recommends several refinements.

1. The first reason AK proposes is that the Greek text behind the KJV is not the “Majority Text,” but the Textus Receptus. AK’s underlying point is valid: the KJV translators did not count the number of Greek manuscripts on each side of a reading and side with the majority of available manuscripts. So, to claim that the KJV should be accepted on a democratic principle of majority rule does not fully fly.

Several clarifications should be made, though:
a) the raw number of differences between the “Majority Text” and the TR may seem pretty large. Nevertheless, the vast bulk of those differences are inconsequential (spelling differences/word order differences/typographic ommissions) to translation.
b) both the raw number and number of significant differences is higher between the majority text and the Westcott & Hort (WH) text (or its modern offshoots, such as the Nestle-Aland text, and what I assume is AK’s preferred text at the moment, the NA27). Thus, if failure to conform to the MT is supposed to be a criticism of the TR, it applies with greater force to the NA27.
c) the KJV was not simply a translation from the Hebrew and Greek testaments and manuscripts. Both AK and (to be fair) the KJVO advocates seems to have overlooked that the KJV translators relied not only the Greek documents but the available versions: most notably the Latin Vulgate.

2. The second reason AK provides is five examples of passages where the differences allegedly matter for translation purposes, and where the KJV reads in accordance with the minority of Greek texts. AK provides one example, Ephesians 3:9, where he asserts that the KJV follows a variant found in only one half of one percent of the Greek documents (there is apparently at least one typo in AK’s article: he either intends to say what the present author has reported, or the more extreme claim of five hundreths of one percent of the Greek documents).

It may be worth digging in a bit on this verse:

(KJV – 1769) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

The variant in question is “fellowship” as opposed to “administration/dispensation/stewardship.” The two words sound much a like in Greek, but have a somewhat different spelling. Furthermore, in some cases, the sense between the two words is not that different (see, for example, 2 Corinthians 8:4).

As a matter of clarification, the present author is suspicious of Mr. Kurschner’s statistical claim. Tischendorf acknowledges this reading to be found in the margin of 37 (a cursive manuscript) , and suggests that all other manuscripts and versions have the majority reading. Obviously, though, not all of the manuscripts had been collated in Tischendorf’s day. Furthermore, somehow “fellowship” got into the English text.

It did not get there from the Wycliffe translation (because Wycliffe translated from the Vulgate). It was not in the Rheims New Testament, because the RNT also primarily translated from the Vulgate (though, clearly, from a later Vulgate than Wycliffe used).

The minority reading is found in Tyndale’s Bible, the Coverdale Bible, (the Matthew-Tyndale Bible and the Great Bible were not checked, but almost certainly contain the reading – any reader who has ready access and can verify, please do), the Bishops’ Bible, and the Geneva Bible.

The variant is also found in Beza’s New Testament (in Latin) and in Stephens’ printed Greek Testament (though not in the Complutensian Polyglott, according to the testimony of Gill).

Tyndale apparently relied on Erasmus’ 1516 translation as one source of his English translation of the New Testament. Sadly, the present author does not have a copy of Erasmus’ 1516 translation to confirm whether it contained the variant.

In any event, the most apparent source of the variant in the English Bible is Erasmus’ printing, and the adoption of Erasmus’ reading in Beza’s Latin, Stephens’ Greek (aka Textus Receptus), and Tyndale’s English Bibles.

Nevertheless, there is no indication that Erasmus had access to manuscript 37 of Paul’s epistles, and there is no reason to suppose that Erasmus would have gleaned such a reading by reverse translation from the Vulgate. Accordingly, there are two other hypotheses: either Erasmus had access to another manuscript (now lost, inaccurately collated, or uncollated) that included such a reading, or Erasmus made the same “error” that was made in manuscript 37.

So, in any event, there is at least one and probably two or more Greek manuscripts that support the variant reading. Thus, 99.5% of the manuscripts against the reading may be a bit of an extreme claim (that would mean that there are 199 manuscripts that have the majority reading, and I’m not confident that there are even 199 manuscripts of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians that include the 9th verse of the 3d chapter.

But, frankly, the precise statistical claim is really a minor detail compared with the main point here. The main point is that the vast weight of the textual evidence from handwritten manuscripts and versions suggests that the original text was “dispensation/stewardship” not “fellowship.” Thus, while “fellowship” is an excellent translation of the text of the TR, the TR itself may be incorrect in its transcription, on account (perhaps) of following Erasmsus’ printed edition.

Nevertheless, while this may provide a point on which the KJV translation could be improved, it’s not a reason to adopt the modern translations. For example, the modern translations typically omit “by Jesus Christ” at the end of verse 9, while the KJV properly retains that phrase and the doctrine that phrase teaches. In contrast, the semantic difference between fellowship and stewardship/dispension is small both in English and Greek.

3. AK’s third reason is to assert that the “Byzantine text-form” has more Greek manuscripts attesting it than the “Alexandrian” and “Western” text-forms because historical reasons: Alexandria was taken by the evil forces of Islam, and Western Europe abandoned Greek for Latin. AK asserts that but-for those historical reasons, the copying of the other text forms would have continued apace. This point is just speculation on AK’s part. AK does not know (and cannot establish) that those events are the cause for the disappearance of the Alexandrian and Western text-forms. Nevertheless, if this argument is going to be used, one might add that there was more intense persecution of Christians in Western Europe and North Africa under the pre-Christian Roman empire, and consequently more Bible-burnings there. If one is going to speculate – the sky is the limit.

4. AK’s fourth objection is: why should we conclude that more attestations of a reading is better than fewer attestations? This question has a rather obvious answer. We expect that scribes tried to copy well from good sources, and not from just any manuscript that they could find. We don’t expect to see many copies of the mutilated gospels produced by early heretics. Also, even if a scribe could not tell a good copy from a bad copy, we have no reason to suppose that bad copies were generally used as sources more often than good copies. Accordingly, if a reading is found in a majority of the manuscripts, we would ordinarily expect that such a reading would be more likely to represent the correct reading. Of course, the use of a majority principle cannot be a rigid rule, and there certainly may be cases (the Johanine comma is one) where the majority of texts may have been corrupted.

5. AK’s fifth reason is the fact that many KJVO advocates “incessantly denounce” the use of “rational principles” by modern critics. Clearly such a denunciation is inappropriate. And AK is quite right to point out that KJVO advocates attempt to use “rational” principles of their own. Clearly, the problem is that there is a vocal anti-intellectual movement that is reacting emotionally to the mutilation of Scriptures by modern “scholars.” Don’t throw the baby of scholarship out with the bathwater of modern textual critical trends and theories. It is important to be reasonable in the discussion, and one cannot do that without rational prinicples.

6. Next, AK argues that the Majority Text was not the majority before 900 A.D. This assertion, however, is uninformed speculation. AK simply does not have the data to support it. The Majority Text is not the majority among texts that were written before 900 A.D. that survive to the present day, but virtually all such texts have perished. To imagine that the handful of pre-900 texts we have today is a valid statistical sample of the then-extant texts is to betray one’s lack of familiarity with history, geography, and statistics.

7. AK’s seventh point relies on his flawed sixth point.

8. AK’s eighth point is to note that there are additional problems with respect to the transmission of the Old Testament. That’s an interesting topic, but without examples, it doesn’t really add much to the debate. It is instructive to consider some of the recent work that is being done in critical reassambly of the LXX translation of the OT by Prof. Pietersma (link) and others.

Finally, AK’s conclusion is a bit different from what I would suggest. There is value in a majority principle of textual criticism. Of course, mere quantity absolutely alone is not a textual critical technique that makes sense. Nevertheless, a majority principle is a useful tool for providing some kind of default position in a textual analysis.

AK’s underlying apparent view that one should not ignore the quality of the texts is also important, though perhaps not in the way that AK intends. Having W&H’s stamp of approval does not make a manuscript good, nor does (necessarily) having homogenous readings making a manuscript bad.

Furthermore, AK should be aware that (at least some) KJVO advocates do consider the quality of the texts. In fact, it is a frequent criticism of the Alexandrian family of texts that they are of low quality. If there are KJVO folks who claim that the only way to decide whether a text is good whether it conforms to the majority, then they are inconsistent (or simply bootstrapping) when they argue at a later time that Alexandrian manuscripts are of low quality.

This inconsistency feeds back into the comment above about what AK is probably thinking. AK seems to have largely adopted the late 19th century principles and attitudes of New Testament textual criticism. If so, when he speaks of a manuscript being good, he may just mean “old,” because a number of facile assumptions have led the modern textual critical community to equate “old” and “good.”

Old can be a good thing for a text, but other considerations can vastly outweigh the age of text in considering its importance for the purposes of textual criticism. Furthermore, in some instaces, age can be a negative factor: it can indicate disuse, which can suggest contemporary distrust.

So, on the whole, hats off to AK for highlighting some inconsistencies of argument among KJVO advocates, for highlighting a verse (Ephesians 3:9 “fellowship”) where the KJV might reasonably be amended to conform more closely to the original text (apparently “stewardship/dispensation” or perhaps “administration” as the NASB and NIV have), and for providing an illustration of the importance of knowing the history of the text.

I would encourage AK to consider that Ephesians 3:9 provides an illustration of how our English text came to us: not by a work of magic by the KJV translators, but by the translators standing on the shoulders of previous translators and copyists. Occassionally, as a result of overreliance on the work of others, the KJV translators may have erred. Nevertheless, of the versions widely available in print, the KJV is the best English translation available for overall faithfulness to the original.


Response to Kurschner on Revelation 5:9-10

June 23, 2007
Response to Mr. Alan Kurschner
On Revelation 5:9-10
The Present Author Slightly Favoring
The Reading of the Authorized Version


In a recent article (link), Mr. Kurschner argued that the Authorized Version (aka the KJV) has several incorrect readings at Revelation 5:9-10. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Kurschner, and I believe that the Authorized Version generally has the better reading, based both on the internal and external evidence. Before I continue, I should point that although I believe that the KJV (in the 1792 edition) is the present paragon of excellence in translation of the Bible in the English language, I am not a KJV-only (KJVO) advocate. I have explained why I am not, previously (link). It is possible that some readings of the KJV could be improved, but this is not such a case, in my opinion, although I leave open the possibility that I could be wrong.

Reference English Readings

For reference, the Authorized Version’s reading of the disputed passage is:

Revelation 5:9-10
9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

In contrast:

Revelation 5:9-10 (NASB, notes omitted, italics and quotation marks original)
9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10″You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

For further comparison, here is the Westcott & Hort translation, “The Twentieth Century New Testament,” (revised ed. 1904) for comparison (formatting omitted):

And they are singing a new song — ‘Thou art worthy to take the book and break its seals, for thou wast sacrificed, and with thy blood thou didst buy for God men of every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, and didst make them at Kingdom of Priests in the service of our God, and they are reigning upon the earth.’


For reasons that will be clear rather quickly, Mr. Kurschner begins with the second, rather than the first verse. I’ll proceed in the order in which the verses would be read.

With respect to verse 9, Mr. Kurschner takes the position that the omission of “us” is the better reading, with the sole external evidence being the lone testimony of “A”. The problem with Mr. Kurscher’s view here is that it fails to account properly for the transcriptional evidence. The harder reading is “us” (not its omission). It appears that A (in the Apocalpyse) was copied by ear.

In evidence of the auditory copying of A, note, for example, who A also has a unique spelling of αδουσιν as αδωσιν. Two obvious explanations for this error spring to mind. One would be an error of the eye, the other of the ear. A, if it is as old as is claimed, was copied from an Uncial manuscript written in all capitals. If so, it would be difficult to confuse omicron-upsilon with omega. Accordingly, we can discard the error of eye hypothesis. Instead, it seems more that is simply an itacism, and that the scribe misheard the vowel pair as omega, and copied phonetically. (It is interesting to note, by way of comparison, that A alone likewise omits ημων in the phrase “our God” in verse 10, at which point Mr. Kurshner, Messrs. Westscott and Hort, and the NASB do not follow A.)

Once we recognize that A was copied by hearing, it would be reasonable, then for A simply to fail to hear the word ημας composed, as it is, entirely of vowels and soft consonents, and accidentally omit it.

Mr. Kurschner provides a counter argument that:

there was a scribal tendency to “clarify” ambiguous readings. And in this case, it makes much more sense that a scribe would add an object to clarify who is being purchased, rather than a scribe omitting the object of God’s purchasing.

There is a significant problem with Mr. Kurschner’s argument here. While it may be possible that a scribe would attempt to clarify who is being purchased, it is unclear why (if the scribe had before him) a text reflected by the NASB, the scribe would choose to insert “us” rather then “men” or “them,” unless the scribe had a reason for believing that “us” was intended by the context. If one accepts NASB text as accurately reflecting the context, one is left wondering how “us” could have been the intent.

Furthermore, the internal evidence favors the reading from the standpoint of difficulty. Omission creates no serious difficulty, but insertion creates the difficulty that one must explain how (apparently and on its face) the twenty four enders and four beasts were redeemed out of every kindred, etc.

Furthermore, the versional testimony in favor of “us” is overwhelming. The Vulgate (all versions and old translations I could find except the Vatican II edition), Horner’s translation of the Coptic, all the translations of the Peshitto I have (Murdoch’s, Lamsa’s, and Etheridge’s translations), and my copy of the Slavonic.

When we come to verse 10, the reason for Mr. Kurschner’s opposition with respect to verse 9 becomes apparent. In verse 10, there is a mixture in the external evidence as to whether the pronoun should be “us” or “them.” The majority of the early Greek texts have “them.” There are, however, very few early Greek texts of the Apocolypse. Unlike most of the Bible, there are no lectionaries of the Apocalypse presumably because it was not read in church, and accordingly there is no lectionary data at all for the text of the Apocalypse. Thus, the remaining evidence are patristic quotations (which favor “us”) and versional evidence, which is mixed with the Coptic, Peshitto, and Armenian favoring “them” and the Slavonic and Vulgate favoring “us.”

Furthermore, if we have established that reading of 9 is “us,” then the internal evidence favors “us,” because it makes more sense. This, of course, raises a slight transcriptional argument in favor of corruption of the text to smooth between 9 and 10, and this raises a slight amount of evidence that “them” could be the original in 10.

However, I’m not persuaded by that transcriptional argument, because the more likely transcriptional variation would flow from the verb “shall reign” (which, in many instances, is 3rd person plural), which is more directly connected with being made kings, than is the foregoing redemption.

This brings us to the final textual variant, the conjugation of the verb “to reign” in verse 10. Again, the same versional information applies in favor, the Vulgate and the Slavonic favoring the third person singular. There is a further split among the Greek witnesses and versions on this very verb, however. At least the following are presented among the various witnesses and versions: basileian, basileis, basileusousin, and basileuiusin (in addition, of course, to basileusomen).

Mr. Kurschner selects basileusousin, but this is not the reading provided by A (his favored text elsewhere in this same argument). A has basileian.

In view of the variety of textual evidence for and against the conjugation of “to reign,” I leave open the possibility that the KJV may have the wrong tense expressed. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe that the verb conjugation has been corrupted, and that we should restore the verb ending by the context. In the context, the preferred verb ending is first person plural, future.


Accordingly, I conclude that the KJV reading is slightly preferably here, primarily on the weight of the versional testimony of the Vulgate and Slavonic versions, against the apparently accidentally corrupted Greek text.

Almost by way of an afterword, it is important to note that Mr. Kurschner includes an argument that would be better omitted, as it can only weaken his position. That is Mr. Kurschner’s argument that suggests that KJVO advocates insist on the KJV’s reading here because of an a priori commitment to pretribulation premillenial theology. It seems completely unreasonable to suppose that such a commitment would force one to adopt the KJVO position – it would be sufficient simply to dispute the translation of the text (as, for example, the present author has done above). On the other hand, Mr. Kurschner could more readily be accused (and the accusation would be a false one, in my own estimation) of seeking to maintain a corrupt reading in the text in order to oppose pretribulation premillenialism. Because the KJVO position does not permit monkeying with text, suggesting that it is motivated by the readings of particular passages is not a reasonable critique.

I would encourage Mr. Kurschner to omit this argument in future versions of this same presentation, reserving it instead, for posts such as this one of his, on another site (link).

I would also continue to encourage Mr. Kurschner to address the actual problems with the KJVO position, rather than trying to find fault with Authorized Version. In most, if not all, of the cases of alleged incorrect readings of the KJV there is going to be a substantial argument in favor of the KJV, even when that substantial argument is wrong.

It would seem better to go after the root of the problem: the lack of a reason to suppose that the KJV (in any of its edititions) is entirely free from even the most trivial errors of reading.


Torching of the Text?

May 29, 2007
Torching of the Text?
A dubious argument in favor of the received text commented upon, with several objections thereto readily discarded.

Mr. Kurschner recently wrote a follow-up article (link is here) to an early article he had written (my response to that article is linked here) against the King James Version Only crowd. This presnt article of Mr. Kurschner’s is stronger than the last, but still deserves some correction, and I still want to encourage Mr. Kurschner to address the easier topic of the alleged Scriptural basis for the KJVO movement.

In his article, Kurschner continues to perpetuate a fundamental misunderstanding of the textual scenario, writing: “In a recent article, I explained the historical facts that before the fourth century there were no distinct Byzantine readings in any Greek MSS of the papyri, majuscules, and other versions as well that would give for us a suggestion that the Byzantine textual family (or text-type) existed during that time.”

Notice that the way this is worded, two possible views of the alleged historical facts are possible: first, that there are early Byzantine readings, but just not enough to suggest an early Byzantine textual family, and second that there are no early Byzantine readings, and thus no reason to suppose an early Byzantine textual family.

Mr. Kurschner continues, however, thereby eliminating the ambiguity: “Further, the 800-pound gorilla is that there are no Byzantine texts or distinct readings used in the voluminous writings of any early church fathers for the first 300 years of church history!” And there Mr. Kurschner is plainly wrong. The facts are against him.

Kurchner claims that no distinctively Byzantine readings are found in early texts. Rather than just assert that he is incorrect, I will refer the reader to Barbara Aland’s “New Testament Textual Criticism, Exegesis and Early Church History: a discussion of methods,” pages 16-17, and to the references cited therein, including Kurt Aland and B.M. Metzger, whose fame in the modern textual community should silence any fan of modern textual criticism. The following website, without citation, identifies some particular papyri that are alleged to contain Byzantine readings, if one would rather forgo buying a book.

Nevertheless, the generally accepted fact is that are early distinctive Byzantine readings, unless one automatically denies that a reading is distinctively Byzantine if it is found in any manuscript outside the Byzantine text-type.

Accordingly, the 800 lb. gorilla turns on its creator. If the absence of such readings was supposed to disprove the early presence of the Byzantine text-form, so much more does the verified presence of them rebut that argument.

But Mr. Kurschner is not content to stop there. He continues: “The Ante-Nicene fathers cited all the text-types, except the Byzantine.” Considering that Mr. Kurschner got the issue of manuscript support wrong, I would like to see Mr. Kurschner’s evidence for this claim, before accepting it as fact. It is somewhat similar to Hort’s claim (although as I recall, Hort merely asserted that they failed to quote distinctive Byzantine readings). In any event, as we know, few of the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers have been preserved, the authenticity of many of the Ante-Nicean fathers’ writings are in question, and (the autographs of the Ante-Nicean Fathers having perished, and in some case even the original language copies have perished as well) the Ante-Nicean Fathers are also beset by various textual critical issues in themselves. I wonder whether Mr. Kurschner believes that the extent copies of any of the Ante-Nicean Fathers date from before the 9th century, and – if so – which ones and how many?

Mr. Kurschner continues on even further, stating: “I have responded with asking if the Byzantine text was so “highly valuable that they wore out,” then why do we find all of the early church fathers for 300 years using other texts such as the Alexandrian text-type, mix-types, etc., but absolutely no Byzantine texts?”

There are two responses: first “distinct” Byzantine readings are much fewer than Byzantine readings in general. There is plenty of evidence of Byzantine readings in the early church fathers, just not evidence of the “distinct” Byzantine readings. Second, the number of early church father writings is relatively small, is not well preserved, and is not necessarily authentic or representative.

Furthermore, they were highly valuable to scribes who devoted themselves to copying, not to the “fathers” who devoted themselves to teaching. It’s not like the “fathers” could log on to (R) and download a copy of the Byzantine text-form to their Palm Pilots (R). They had to work with what they had, and – in some cases – may have had to work from memory.
Mr. Kurschner then concludes: “There is no evidence that anyone possessed or used this phantom “popular” and “highly valued” Byzantine text because it was a conflation after the turn of the fourth century.” One supposes that Mr. Kurschner concludes that there were autographs of the New Testament, without any of them surviving to the present, yet his argument could be used with equal force to assert their non-existence. None of the early church fathers quote from a pure original text, and none of the manuscripts show any evidence of belonging to a family of error-free copies of the originals. Are then the autographs phantoms? Are they non-existent because direct evidence of them is absent? Of course not. Mr. Kurschner’s argument is a logically fallacious appeal to the absence of evidence. It is an argument from silence.

Mr. Kurschner recognizes that there is explanation for the absence of early manuscripts (in the Byzantine textual family) besides the “worn-out” explanation, and that is the “intentional scribal destruction” theory.

Mr. Kurschner states: “another explanation for the silence of Byzantine readings have been offered: After a scribe made a copy of a manuscript, he “destroyed” the exemplar.” This is not a particularly strong alternative explanation, for various reasons, several of which Mr. Kurschner states. The explanation seems to be based itself on the absence of parent texts for any of the early texts. In other words, nowhere do we find both a parent and its child (at least as far as we know). Even if that fact is so, it is weak support for the intentional destruction hypothesis.
There is some further basis in the fact that sacred items that had become unusably worn were sometimes cremated when they could not be washed. Accordingly, it would be unsurprising that such a practice could have been applied to very old manuscripts, a sort of Korvokian death-with-dignity for the early manuscripts at the hands of their keepers.

Mr. Kurshner provides 8 attempted resposes to this argument.

Mr. Kurschner’s first argument states that the result would be only one copy per manuscript. However, Mr. Kurschner notes that sometimes there were scriptoriums with several copyists copying at once from a single manuscript. This argument is flawed, because if the alleged practice of burning the document was done after the copying was complete, since the multiple scribes were copying in parallel, the original would be destroyed when the scriptorium finished its parallel copies.

Mr. Kurschner’s second argument states that if this practice were followed, there would always only be one copy of the Bible. However, as noted above, multiple parallel copies alleviates this difficulty to the alleged practice.

Mr. Kurschner’s third argument is more persuasive, which is that there is no historical documentation for its practice, and no obvious reason to make such a practice standard. I agree with Mr. Kurschner and would add that one reason for doing so would be to conceal omissions and/or insertions (i.e. to intentionally corrupt the text). If such texts were in the Byzantine family, the family would fall under harsh scrutiny.

Mr. Kurschner’s fourth argument is that manuscripts were very expensive, and it would have been very costly to engage in such a practice. This is also a sound argument and weighs against intentional destruction. I would add that we see evidence of the reuse of old parchments, writing be removed by sponge (or other techniques) and new writing placed on top.

Mr. Kurschner’s fifth argument is not entirely cogent: it asks which scribes were destroying documents, and then states that it was not the orthodox fathers, a fact that is utterly aside from the question. No one supposes that any of the ante-Nicean fathers were copyists.

Mr. Kurchner’s sixth argument is that early Christian Scribes would not “dare think about destroying God’s Word” in view of the warning against adding or subtracting to God’s word in the book of Revelation. The idea that burning a copy (or even an autograph) would be within the scope of Revelation’s warning seems superstitious and unsupported by exegesis. That warning would encourage the scribes to copy accurately, but it would say nothing to them about the parchment being available as kindling or a spill. One wonders whether Mr. Kurschner personally believes that discarding a worn out Bible subjects one to being blotted out of the book of life. I would find that hard to believe. Why then attribute such superstitious nonsense to the early scribes?

Mr. Kurschner’s seventh argument is more of a question plus a hypothesis. He asks why there are so many copies of the Byzantine textual family after 350 a.d. and none before. He posits that the explanation may be that the practice of burning the original died out around then. A simpler explanation is that in a time of less persecution, preparing multiple copies in parallel became easier, and simple geometry took over.

Mr. Kurschner’s eighth argument is “Lastly, it is special pleading to argue that only scribes who copied Byzantine texts destroyed their texts, and the scribes who copied other non-Byzantine text-types did not, since they have early attestation.” This argument, however, is not quite correct. There is no need to further plead anything with regard to copies of the non-Byzantine text-type manuscripts. The answer is that those manuscripts are rejects that were not copied, consequently not burnt, and therefore their presence indicates their untrustworthiness in the eyes of the early church, or at best that they never fell into the hands of copyists. Nevertheless, the whole mechanism of copy and burn appears to be special pleading (at least to me), because of the absence of historical documentation of the procedure, and the lack of motive by reputable scribes sufficient to outweigh to the economic incentive to preserve the manuscripts as long as possible.

Mr. Kurschner concludes: “All of this brings us back to the 800-pound gorilla sitting on the KJVO’s desk: There are no distinct Byzantine readings in the writings of the Ante-Nicence fathers of the first 300 years of church history, not to mention any early versions testifying to it as well.” Of course, I’m not KJVO, so if this gorilla exists, it is not sitting on my desk. But if it were, I’d question its weight. It is an argument from silence – pure and simple. It weighs little, because it could easily be overturned if we were to find a single cache of a half dozen ancient Byzantine text-form manuscripts that were reliably dated to the second century.

Mr. Kurschner goes on to explain that the explanation for the absence of Byzantine text-form manuscripts is that there was conflation in the manuscript collection in the Byzantine region around 400 and that the rest of the world stopped using Greek around that same time, thereby permitting the errant manuscripts to preponderate. Mr. Kurschner concludes that the Alexandrian text-form is therefore the superior Greek text. Leaving aside the lack of historical documentation that conflation occurred in the Byzantine region at that time, Mr. Kurschner’s claim is puzzling for a few reasons. With a few exceptions, the ancient versions other than Greek did not follow the Alexandrian text-form. Thus, the explanation does not match the evidence, and should be discarded.


Dean John William Burgon vs. Alan Kurschner

April 20, 2007
Where are the Manuscripts?

In a recent article, Mr. Kurschner challenged Dean Burgon’s view of the manuscript ancestry of the so-called Byzantine text. Mr. Kurschner’s article appears simply to adopt modern methodologies and claims of the mainstream textual critical movement, and does not significantly interact with Dean Burgon’s position.

Mr. Kurschner justifies this lack of substantial interaction by descibing Dean Burgon’s views as not having been significantly advanced by “KJVO advocates.” This author notes that the world is not divided into KJVO advocates and those who uncritically accept the tenets of modern textual criticism. Others, like the present author, believe that modern textual criticism is fundamentally flawed in certain respects at a presuppositional level, and thus reject many of the claims of modern textual critics.

Mr. Kurschner notes one argument that is advanced to explain why copies of Byzantine text-type manuscripts are not available prior to the earliest known Byzantine text-type manuscript (which is at least a couple of centuries separated from the autographs). The argument that Mr. Kurschner notes is the “worn out” argument.

The “worn out” argument has the following rational basis. It supposes that most scribes would have been able to identify high quality manuscripts and would have selected those manuscripts from which to make copies. The frequent use of these manuscripts would have led to their deterioration, decay, and eventually destruction. Hence, this argument reasons, one would not expect to find very old, very high quality manuscripts – but would instead expect to find mostly old, unused manuscripts.

Mr. Kurschner, doubting this explanation, refers to such manuscripts as “phantom manuscripts.” This author will refer to those manuscripts as “valued second generation manuscripts” (VSGM).

Mr. Kurschner raises several questions:

1) Why didn’t the church father’s quote from the VSGM?

2) How could it be that ALL of the VSGM could perish?

3) If the VSGM wore out through use made by copying, where are all the copies?

Mr. Kurshner supposes that these questions settle the matter contrary to the KJVO position, and, accordingly, concludes that KJVO advocates are forced to retreat to the use of prooftexts to support their position.

Before continuing, this author wishes to make clear that what is being advocated by Thoughts of Francis Turretin is not a KJVO position. Furthermore, this author notes that the issues raised above would pose no obstacle for a presuppositional KVO-ist. If one presupposes that the KJV is uniquely inspired, then one does not need evidentiary support and one will not be swayed by arguments that purport to be evidentiary in nature.

Mr. Kurschner’s analysis of the alleged proof texts would be far more value to the Reformed community than the three issues that Mr. Kurshner raised in the article above. The reason why is simple: the issues raised by Mr. Kurschner have reasonable, logical answers.

0) There is more than one explanation for the absence of VSGM. In addition to overuse, climate is one explanation and another is persecution.

1) Mr. Kurshner’s argument states that the early Christian writers did not quote from the Byzantine text-type. There are several problems with this assertion.

First, it is hard enough to determine “text-type” from a fragment. It is harder still to determine text-type from reading an epistle or even commentary that may quote Scripture without rigid punctuation rules, or may paraphrase Scripture.

Second, of course, the patristics are not autographs and have their own textual critical associated issues. Determining whether certain patristic writings are authentic is sometimes a prerequisite to determine whether they are accurate, which – in turn – would be a prerequisite to determining the effect of their testimony as to the correct reading.

Third, it’s puzzling why Mr. Kurshner emphasizes text-type but overlooks readings. While there may not be Byzantine text-type documents, there are certainly many areas of agreement as to the Byzantine readings.

Fourth, it is unclear whether Mr. Kurshner is asserting that the patristic writers were simply all over the place, or whether Mr. Kurshner supposes that the patristic writers had access to truly superior Greek manuscripts, and quoted from them.

Fifth, viewed narrowly as to the “worn-out” claim, those would be the manuscripts possessed by expert, professional scribes, not bishops who happened to be persuasive writers.

2) As to how all the VGSM could perish: well, very few manuscripts at all have survived from before 5th century. Generally those that do are those that are not documents kept in daily constant use but are documents stored in a relatively arid climate, such as the Nag Hammadi collection or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3) The third argument is the strongest argument, but the answer is that they are represented in the Byzantine text-form. The argument is not that the copies were all made before the 5th century.


We have reason to believe that at least a modicum of textual criticism was practiced among the ancients. We can also reasonably suppose that the Byzantine church had manuscripts that have been lost over time. Those manuscripts may be those from which many Byzantine copies were made, and they may have been selected as models for copying based on their quality in that day.

IF that is so, there is no reason to downplay a fifth century Byzantine text, simply because it is younger than Vaticanus.

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