On October 25-26, 2019, a conference called the Text & Canon Conference conference, which cost $29 to attend, was hosted by Jeff Riddle and Robert Truelove. It extolled the virtues of the medieval Textus Receptus above the older manuscripts that all major English translations in the past century have been based upon.
On November 8, James White addressed some of the clownish academic missteps of this conference on his Dividing Line. I documented this episode, noting the disappointing character assassination that went on at this conference in the name of good fun. To quote myself from that piece:
My heart especially goes out to the poor Christians in the pews listening to this propaganda. They have an up-hill battle if they’re ever going to come out of this. The resources exist for this to happen, but they’re going to have to take the initiative.
An important part of the November 8 DL episode is that James White exposed the blatantly incorrect reading in the Textus Receptus at Ephesians 3:9, in which it mistakenly substitutes οἰκονομία for κοινωνία.
On November 13, Jeff Riddle posted a response to this, and attempted to defend the indefensible TR reading of κοινωνία.
On November 14, Jeff Riddle posted a second followup response and pointed out that an 11th century miniscule, 2817, supports this TR reading.
On November 21, James White went into great depth on his Dividing Line, looked at P46 carefully, and soundly refuted Jeff’s attempts to say that the evidence of P46 is mixed.
On November 22, Jeff Riddle responded to James’ Diving Line episode from the previous day, and attempted to refute James’ refutation.
All of this back-and-forth provides the necessary context for this post. Here is my response to Jeff’s November 22 piece. I’ve also left a slightly abridged version of this as a comment, but because of its length, and because comments are moderated, it could be weeks before he approves it, or never.1
No brother, I’m sorry. Refutation not refuted. It’s misleading and a serious academic misstep for you to call the οι part “unproven speculation.” The brackets don’t mean that at all. All evidence (the traces of ink, the margin buffer, the proper spelling of the rest of the word, and the 100% agreement in all other manuscripts save one with an error) means that this isn’t really even a debate. Nobody other than your narrow TR-only circles pretends like this is “unproven speculation.”
Here’s what’s ironic and inconsistent: you say that if the TR is wrong here, then God did not preserve his word. But I say that if the TR is right here, then a consistent application of this faulty view of preservation means that for every single Bible that we know about for the first thousand years, God did not preserve his word. Your view functionally means that the state of the Bible before the Reformation matters not. If we went to a Christian living in 800 AD and asked, “Has God preserved his Word?” the answer would be a resounding “Yes.” But he would have οἰκονομία in his Greek Bible. Was God being faithful or not?
This is my biggest problem with your position, Dr. Riddle. Your definition of preservation necessarily means that the overwhelming majority of Christians did not in fact have the Word of God until the Reformation.
An attack on the TR reading of Eph 3:9 is an attack on preservation, you say. You’re not willing to entertain so much as the possibility that οἰκονομία is the correct reading here. Every Christian we know for the first millennia didn’t have this reading. Thus, every Bible was “faulty” here, by your definition. Thus, every Christian we know for the first thousand years didn’t have the fully preserved Word of God. That’s a very dangerous view, and it’s one that we will fight. It necessarily has a very low view of preservation and a low view of the importance of Christians’ Bibles before the Reformation. You deny this of course, but functionally you affirm it.
As far as how “the Reformers would definitely believe,” I direct your attention to Calvin’s commentary on 1 John 2:14 where he states, “copyists presumptuously filled up the number.” His view does not reflect yours. He was open to alternate readings of the TR. You’re anachronistically sabotaging Calvin and Beza and the rest of the Reformers when you play these games.
Appropriating 1 John 4:1 at the close of your post is also dangerous. John’s giving a litmus test for whether someone is a believer. Either you intend that verse to be understood in its context (i.e. White is perhaps a heretic) or you’re muddying the waters for nilo de roock (in comments) to consider it a viable possibility. Willingly or otherwise, because White does the same textual criticism that produced your TR in the first place, you’re questioning his Christian profession. You haven’t the decency to call him by name, but condescend to a sarcastic acronym. He is a published author, professor, and debater. He’s two years into a PhD on this very field of study. And all you do is call him the “popular internet apologist.” Please consider how this comes across. It’s pompous, arrogant, prideful, bombastic. White is far from perfect, nor is he likable for many. But please do not use his imperfection as an excuse for your own.
I feel bad for you. You think that if one jot or tittle of one of the 30+ revisions of the TR is wrong, God didn’t preserve his word, and therefore you have to defend it at all cost, even where the evidence is blatantly, irrefutably to the contrary. This is undermining any credibility you have in textual criticism circles. This Eph 3:9 debate is ground zero. Until there’s an admission that the TR got it wrong here, we’re at an impasse.
Lastly, it’s a false dichotomy to think that you must either have the TR or the Critical Text (the so-called “Enlightenment” text). A text I regularly use is the Robinson-Pierpont Greek New Testament which uses the Byzantine Priority Textform. It has the correct οἰκονομία reading in Eph 3:9.
This last paragraph is in response to Jeff’s desire to call people ETOs (Enlightenment Text Onlyists) as demonstrated in one of his comments on the November 22 piece. This kind of nomenclature is absurd. Any rejection of the Scrivener TR as the final Greek New Testament we’ll ever need is being labeled as ETO, apparently.
More importantly though, the group that holds Jeff Riddle’s position is turning into a cult. People in his camp are already openly questioning the salvation of anyone who doesn’t hold to the TR, and Jeff is at least implicitly doing so by pulling 1 John 4:1 into the discussion. This is very dangerous ground.