I’ve already responded to WM 120 in a couple different ways the past couple of days, each one from a different angle. The first was about the danger of exchanging truth for certainty and then about the importance of not confusing methodology with philosophy.
Now I want to demonstrate how relative some of the core arguments that Jeff is making truly are. Close to the end of WM 120 we have this sound bite:
Erasmus was important in the providence of God but really the definitive Textus Receptas came when Godly men like the Calvins and the Stefanuses and the Bezas embraced this text and printed it and it became the basis for the Protestant translations of the Bible into the various vernacular languages.
What he’s saying here is that we can know that the TR has God’s blessing on it as the confessional text because some great men (who had no printed alternative) happened to use it. Taken at face value, what Jeff is saying is that if Erasmus’ text had simply remained an obscured entity, it wouldn’t need to be taken as seriously. We know it is the definitive “received” text, the argument goes, because of the host of people who jumped on board with it at a specific time in church history. Here’s the problem with that argument: you can use this exact same argument for the critical text too. To demonstrate this, I’m going to switch up the quote a bit.
Eustathius of Antioch was important in the providence of God but really the definitive Alexandrian text came when Godly men like Athanasius of Alexandria embraced this text and quoted it and it became the basis for expelling the heretical teachings of Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia who happened to be using a corrupted Byzantine text.
See how relative this is? Jeff is using the 16th century and I’m using the 4th century. Or how about a more modern example:
Wescott and Hort were important in the providence of God but really the definitive Critical Text came when Godly men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper embraced this text and quoted it and it became the basis for the majority reading of millions of Christians in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Two can play this game. One is as persuasive as the other. Something becomes quickly clear in all of this: the criteria for defending a text must be more than merely, “I think this is the canonical text because these people were using it at this particular time in history and they seemed to have God’s blessing on them.” If that’s your argument, you’re defending an ecclesiastical tradition and in so doing you’re rejecting other equally noble ecclesiastical traditions. This is why true textual criticism must be employed. True textual criticism says, “I acknowledge that varied texts were employed at various times in church history. That’s all very fine and good. But what did the original autographs say?” That is the question, after all, isn’t it? TR-onlyists like Jeff are, by their own words, rejecting this approach, and instead going with a relative buffet of historical anecdotes from which to cherry-pick a preferred favorite, hoping against all odds that they hit the jackpot, despite demonstrable evidence to the contrary.1
Moving a minute later into the audio, we encounter this:
When James White and others attack Erasmus you should understand that sometimes that is a diversion from the real attack, which is on the Textus Receptas. Our embrace of the Textus Receptas does not depend on the piety or the scholarly erudition of Erasmus.
Once again, I’m going to change the names on this and spin the quote. Here we go:
When Robert Truelove and others attack Wescott and Hort, you should understand that sometimes that is a diversion from the real attack, which is on the Critical Text. Our embrace of the Critical Text does not depend on the piety or the scholarly erudition of Wescott and Hort.
If you want to use Jeff’s argument to defend the TR, be consistent and never again criticize the piety of Wescott and Hort. I don’t want to hear it.
When Martin Luther responded to Desiderius Erasmus in his On the Bondage of the Will in 1525, he argued among other things about the basis of justification. Erasmus did not believe in Martin’s concept of sola fide. The business about how man becomes right with God is a gospel issue, core to the faith. If you’re going to say anything against the theology of Wescott and Hort and not say anything against the theology of Erasmus, you’re being inconsistent.2
In his notes for WM 120, Jeff wrote that “[James White] does not seem to be making much effort or progress toward attempting to understand or represent our position.” Candidly, I think James White understands Jeff’s position quite well, actually. Perhaps better than Jeff himself understands it. There are these very blatant holes in the TR-onlyist line of argumentation that hinder me from connecting with any of it. The more I study it, the more its contradictions glare, and the more it makes no sense.
- The fact that Athanasius used an Alexandrian text to defeat Arianism is not the reason I subscribe to the Critical Text, but if that were my reason, it would have equal footing to Jeff’s reason for using the Textus Receptas. It would be amusing in a debate to watch the inevitable impasse that would occur if Jeff’s opponent used Athanasius as their Erasmus. Stalemate! ↩︎
- Critical Text advocates will point out that the number of doctrinally sound people who have arrived upon the textual criticism scene subsequent to Wescott and Hort nullifies any DNA fallacy that TR-onlyists try to bring up regarding these two men. I get that. I’m simply raising this accusation of inconsistency to demonstrate that you don’t even have to be familiar with how much has happened in textual criticism in the past 100+ years in order to be able to expose the fallacy of whining about “modern liberal scholars” when your own TR was put together by a guy who disputed with Martin Luther about the basis of salvation. ↩︎