After several episodes of James White’s Dividing Line criticism of the Textus Receptus, Jeff Riddle posted a rebuttal yesterday. I plan to listen to the episode tomorrow but I had some feedback on the blog post itself first.

I’ve been listening to every single Dividing Line episode lately and I can tell you that James White’s use of Beyond What Is Written has been twofold:

  • He quotes Erasmus in his own words.
  • He shares historic facts about Erasmus and his work.

Jeff spends a lot of time in his blog post talking about how James is not consistent in his use of this book. But there’s no conceivable line of argumentation that could make those two uses illogical on the grounds of inconsistency. It’s just letting the facts speak for themselves.

Most of this blog post was “agree to disagree” territory for me1 until the final paragraph:

For now, suffice to say that I believe there are many good reasons to believe that the entire back-translation of the final verses of Revelation does not rest on solid foundations but was likely promoted beginning in the nineteenth century, like other anti-Erasmus anecdotes, in order to undermine the reliability of the TR in favor of the then-emerging critical text. That study, however, will have to wait for another day….

This part floored me when I read it this morning. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Jeff Riddle has exchanged truth for certainty. He has to feel certain that his Scrivener TR is the infallible Word of God, and he must defend that at all costs, even if that paints him into a ridiculously narrow corner. I look forward to hearing this defense of the contention that Erasmus did not back-translate the last 6 versus of Revelation. There are only two ways I can see him going with this. First, he could try to argue that when Erasmus said he’d back-translated, he was somehow mistaken.2 Or he could try to argue that we’ve been misquoting Erasmus and that Erasmus never actually said he back-translated. As I’ve quoted earlier, Erasmus said, “I added [Rev 22:15-21], following the Latin codices.” Jeff would have to prove that this letter as well as the annotations are fake news and added later; that they were never actually written by Erasmus. If that’s not exchanging truth for certainty, I don’t know what is.

Good luck with that.

  1. For example, let’s say that Erasmus actually did have a Greek manuscript for his reading of Revelation 16:5. I think I speak for both James White and myself in saying that this knowledge would increase the chances of Erasmus’ reading being the correct one from 0% to, say, 5%. It wouldn’t be even close to enough evidence to persuade us to change the text. The mere knowledge that a solitary text existed — and was then lost to time — is not enough to trump the rich body of proof against it. Jeff only is concerned with proving that Erasmus could have had a Greek text backing up his emendation. A true textual critic who isn’t mired in ecclesiastical tradition would be concerned with not only proving that there is support for Erasmus’ reading, but that this must be the correct reading — that there’s sufficient proof across the full body of evidence to warrant this reading usurping the other. Whether Jeff realizes it or not, this is a first class example of the difference between someone who simply follows an ecclesiastical tradition versus someone who applies consistent textual criticism. The burden of proof is completely different. The traditionalist is only interested in proving a reading could be correct, however miniscule that likelihood. The textual critic is interested in proving a reading must be correct, given the currently known evidence. These are two completely different standards and criteria, and it’s no wonder James and Jeff constantly seem like they’re talking past each other. ↩︎
  2. This would be a contradiction in argumentation of Jeff’s rejection of the much-more-plausible argument that Jan Krans makes that Erasmus was mistaken in thinking his Rev 16:5 conjectural emendation came from a Greek text. It’s much easier to believe that Erasmus mistakenly thought he had a corroborating text but didn’t than it is to think that Erasmus mistakenly thought he had to back-translate Rev 22:16-21 but didn’t. ↩︎