My Personal Journey: How Are We Supposed To Live With Textual Variants in Our Bibles? Part 3
Wisdom is our mother, and speaks to us as to her children. "Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not" (Prov. 8:32-33). In this image, wisdom is our mother, but viewing wisdom as a mother enables a man to see his wife as a mother as well, and this teaches him to respect her high calling.This approach to wisdom--treating her as a woman--collides sharply with the approach of modernity, which sees wisdom as a pile of rocks. These rocks are to be sorted out, counted, and organized into smaller piles according to size, color, and weight. The world is thought to be a place of brute facts, all needing to be fashioned into a more efficient ball-bearing factory. The ancient word says that wisdom is a woman to be approached with a rose, a sonnet, or both; we think it is a mountain to be razed with strip-mining equipment." pp. 5-6
Thinking that I was called to ministry not long after my conversion (I had help from a lot of people who mistook my zeal for God as a call to preach, and I was heavily encouraged), I then got licensed through my local church to preach the Bible to the masses and change the world (So I thought). It wasn't long after my decision to preach that I set a course to go to Seminary. It was there that I found some sanity, but not any confidence in any position regarding the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. In fact, I was more perplexed by learning about the many variants and issues with the Greek New Testament, and then eventually the Greek Old Testament and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
While in seminary, I also found that textual studies don't make a whole lot of sense if they aren't married to Church History. However, most scholars take a secular approach and divorce Text Criticism from Church History. Personally, I don't think one can study the history of Bible manuscripts without studying Church History. The subjects are inextricably linked. Linking the two subjects, I learned how the development of Modern Textual Criticism (Reconstructionism) was a result of Enlightenment philosophy, and was the child of the Reformation. The Ancient and Medieval Philosophies concerning the text were also an early form of Text Criticism (Preservationism), but they had more of a Supernatural mindset and believed God's Divine hand was involved in not only the inspiration of the original writings, but the preservation of them as well. Skepticism of the way in which manuscripts had been preserved by men over the centuries fueled the thinking of scholars like Wescott and Hort along with a number of others afterward. However, while scholars in the early years of the Bible reconstruction movement had hopes of recovering the original meaning, today they have given up that hope and have indiscriminately added manuscripts into the mix that may be questionable. I think the reasoning for this is that the leading scholars in North America and Great Britain are unbelievers. Known Atheists and Agnostics are now the gatekeepers of Textual Criticism, which seems to muddy the waters even more. Historically the text of Scripture was the province of the Church, but is now the domain of the world. The skepticism kindled by Rationalists within the church in the 19th century made the text of the Bible equal with all other texts, and over the years has dwindled in value. This is evident in our culture today. Many of the men involved didn't realize the damage that their skepticism would cause, nor did they know how the once sacred document would lose its influence and credibility in the minds of so many.
I have read a lot of the popular scholars on the pro Critical text side like Dr. James White, Dr. Dan Wallace, Dr. Bruce Metzger, and Dr. Bart Ehrman. While I can't compete with their knowledge of the languages, I have found some issues that seem to have been overlooked concerning the big picture. If we are going to be consistent rationalists, then it seems that we need to put forward "all" of the information available to us and not only the stuff that promotes our agenda. I have been guilty of this, but it seems that frequently we want to hide the blemishes and put forward the facts that promote our view. I have discovered that many of these modern scholars promote their view with bogus or even outright false evidence. One example was given in the first post concerning Erasmus and the "made to order manuscript" of 1 John 5:7 into his Greek New Testament. This was proven false by a European scholar Dr. H.J. De Jonge titled "Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum." Bruce Metzger in his book: "The Text of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration 4th edition" on page 101 quoted the Erasmus false tale without rescinding the story from the main text. Instead, he placed a footnote on page 291 stating the following:
"What is said on p. 101 above about Erasmus' promise to include the Comma Johanneum if one Greek manuscript were found that contained it, and his subsequent suspicion that MS. 61 was written expressly to force him to do so, needs to be corrected in light of the research of H. J. de Jonge, a specialist in Erasmian studies who finds no explicit evidence that supports this frequently made assertion; see his Erasmus and The Comma Johanneum', Epemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, lvi (1980), pp. 381-9."
What is odd to me is that I have seen video and heard audio in recent years where Dr. James White and Dr. Dan Wallace still share the fictional anecdote. James White shared it not too many years ago on Todd Friel's Wretched Radio, and Dr. Wallace told the story on the White Horse Inn Podcast less than a year ago. I suppose they either don't know about De Jonge's research, and didn't read the footnote 190 pages after the fictional anecdote in Metzger's work, or they still believe the story and tell it as undisputed fact in spite of the research done by Dr. De Jonge. I don't know for sure. Another thing that is overlooked often is that Erasmus knew of Codex Vatacanus, which is used today heavily in our Popular Critical Greek Manuscripts. He said that the text was "highly Latinized," and he didn't want to use it. Now I am not 100% sure what he meant by that, other than to presume the text wasn't worthy of deeming an authentic source, but modern popular scholars don't tell us that bit of information. Another thing that they don't tell us is that the Papyri Fragment discoveries that are older than the oldest complete manuscripts we possess do not help us determine which manuscript family is the best. There just isn't enough information. What we normally hear is how the Papyri are instrumental in our understanding of the original manuscripts. I suppose all they have really helped us understand is that the Bible is as old as it claims to be. It is a fanciful bit of prevarication on their part in my opinion. Many times these men use great presumption in rejecting the Traditional texts of the New Testament, and the more I have studied the issue, I have had less confidence in their judgment.
The Bible no matter what translation you use says:
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." 1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV (Traditional Text)
"for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints," 1 Corinthians 14:33 ASV (Modern Critical Text)While God may not be the author of confusion, I have sure been very confused over the years, and have to admit that I am probably more perplexed than ever. I have read many treatises and apologetic works by Christians defending the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and they usually say something like this:
"The original autographs were inspired by God, but the transmission of the written word has been entrusted to us."What is tough about this is that a couple of centuries ago, Christians held firmly to the Doctrine of Preservation. You can see this view best illustrated in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession, which states clearly that God's word has been preserved throughout the years. The confessions put it this way:
"His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages"It wasn't until the dawn of the Enlightenment Era (Pastor Doug Wilson calls it the Endarkenment!) that the trusted sources of our Bibles began to be questioned. Many things in that era were turned upside down and inside out, and we are just now reaping the harvest of those philosophical ideas and systems. It was like a freight train that swept the Western world, and like most of mankind's philosophies, there is always a downside to whatever upside there may be. People can say what they will, but there is no doubt that the skepticism by those involved in this Textual Reconstruction Movement has been a seed that has challenged and even toppled the faith of many professing believers. Today in 2019 we are far removed from the original Manuscripts, and like the Christian and non-Christian scholars, I don't think there is any hope of reconstructing the originals with certainty. This is only because if we are skeptical of what we have presently, then there is nowhere to place our confidence. Church History muddies the waters in many ways due to the many heretical movements that arose and almost took over the Christian Church. Gnosticism and Arianism were two of those movements and could explain why there are so many deletions in the Egyptian (Alexandrian) witnesses, which are now our primary source for Textual evidence according to the Christian and secular scholars. Most of the other variants are due to the fact that some of those scribes who copied the texts just made simple clerical mistakes that are easy to spot and don't really alter the meaning. Dr. Bart Erhman who was once an Evangelical Christian who eventually turned Agnostic due to this issue capitalizes on this fact. He will tell you about the thousands of errors in the manuscripts without telling you that most of them don't really change the meaning of the text. This is another way someone pushes forward what they want you to hear and not how things really are in the world.
Next time, I will continue the journey and address some of the issues with the Old Testament. I know this journey is messy and you might even be wondering: "What does this guy believe?" I'll get to that later. I did want to add one thing. While I learned a lot in seminary and was helped greatly by its teaching and ministry, due to money issues and my uncertainty concerning my calling to preach, I dropped out with a year under my belt. Seminary mostly consisted of reading a lot, writing papers, and being critiqued by peers and professors. I have continued my reading habits and writing habits, and I still do get criticized by peers. As far as I know, no professors have come calling.