Archive for the ‘Textus Receptus’ 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.


Dr. White Explains Textual Transmission to Kent Hovind

June 16, 2008

Dr. White has provided a series of three video responses to some rather uninformed comments by Kent Hovind on Bible versions. Hovind’s comments appear to be gleaned from the book he recommends, a book by Gail Riplinger, one of the prominent promoters of KJV-Onlyism.

The problems in Hovind’s presentation are numerous, and even Dr. White’s presentation is unable to snag all of them.

Part I

Ultimately, the video series demonstrates that one has to be careful in who one listens to. Hovind probably sounds like he knows what he is talking about to someone who doesn’t understand the history of the transmission of the text of Scripture. In fact, however, he’s wildly off the mark.

Some of his points may ring true (for example, a manuscript in constant use is less likely to survive for more than a millennium while a manuscript in disuse will last a long time). On the other hand he makes such egregious errors as to identify the Textus Receptus with the Majority Text and to imagine that the Textus Receptus was based on 5,000 or so Greek manuscripts (when, in fact, more realistic estimates are at least a couple of orders of magnitude less), as well as to confuse the manner of transmission of the Hebrew text by the Jews with the manner of transmission of the Greek text by the Christians.

All in all, I found the video series enjoyable and educational. I hope that if the transmission of the text of the New Testament interests you, you’ll also find the series profitable.


P.S. As an aside, I would be very cautious about relying on Hovind’s work. That’s not to say that everything he says is wrong – for example he has many right things to say in other areas than the areas noted in the video series above. The problem is that Hovind doesn’t appear to have a good idea of the limits of his own knowledge, as demonstrated in this video series.

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