Hi Jeff,

Hope this finds you well!

I want to get a better understanding of your view of the preservation of scripture. I've been thinking about what we can both agree it's not. Do we agree on these bullet points? 

  • Preservation does not mean a guarantee that God's people somewhere on earth will have the perfectly preserved word at any given point in time. The Textas Receptas did not exist until the 16th century. There was no Greek manuscript that perfectly matched the TR prior to the TR. Thus, if the TR is the perfectly inspired and preserved Word of God, then no single person contained the perfectly inspired word of God prior to the 16th century. And moreover, it was centuries after Christ before any Christians had the full cannon in possession anyway.
  • Preservation does not mean a guarantee that translations won't mess things up. No translation is perfect. Theological Propaedeutic on page 193 gives a list of places where the KJV mistranslates things, for instance, including a place where it gets the gender wrong, being imprecisely gender-neutral instead of masculine.
  • By extension, preservation does not mean a guarantee that meaningful numbers of Christians will have access to the perfectly preserved Word. Most people cannot read Greek and Hebrew. Therefore the overwhelming majority of Christians in church history have not had meaningful access to the perfectly preserved word of God.
  • Preservation does not guarantee that the Bible does not change from one generation to the next. The TR changed much in the 16th century, and conjectural emendations such as the TR's reading of Luke 2:22, based purely on theological reasons, were later found to have (admittedly very narrow) manuscript evidence. I don't think it's putting words in anyone's mouth to say that a TR advocate would point to this as a divine attestation that the conjecture was providential and well-founded; but underlying this conviction betrays the admission that new manuscript discoveries can indeed influence our position and that this need not be shied away from. 

You talk about how your disagreements with modern textual critics are a fundamental disagreement about the preservation of God's word. You also talk about the fact that maybe there are impurities in the TR or slight changes that ought to be made. Please correct me if I'm overstating the case of our agreement in these above tenants. I'm struggling to understand what a TR-only advocate's view of preservation is. 

As a point of reference, this is what I've mentally constructed, based on our areas of agreement, as to what a TR advocates' view of preservation looks like. "For the first 15 centuries nobody had the Word of God in its full purity. There were editions that came close, but none of them fully hit the mark, for none of them matched the TR. And then through a one hundred years of editing through textual criticism of liberals who denied justification by faith and who in their doctrinal impurity are similar to modern 20th and 21st century textual critics, we went through the process of getting the TR. The changes were evolutionary and demonstrably based on scientific study of the available texts when we read these scholars in their own words. Lots of changes were made throughout this 100 years, many of them speculative, many of them seemingly in error, but through God's providence, what emerged is the closest thing we're ever going to get, nay, even the perfect Word of God. And any attempt to revisit this (including the efforts of Maurice A. Robinson at assembling a Byzantine priority text that seeks to fix the perceived problems in the TR) are unnecessary and should be decried as a rejection of the Received Text and a waste of time." 

Is that woefully missing the mark? How off am I? I want to fairly understand the case as best as possible. 

What is the TR advocate's view of preservation? If we agree on the bullets, where does the disagreement lie, exactly? It seems we both agree that things were messy for the first 15 centuries — failing to do so is to deny history, inasmuch as the TR has important deviations from the majority text and has no full support of any single manuscript. It seems we disagree on whether that messiness has continued for the past 5 centuries or not. But for two people to have a disagreement about something that occurred 75% into New Testament history does not require a fundamental disagreement about the nature of the preservation of scripture, which tells me that there's something more here. Something I'm missing or misunderstanding. Can you help me here? 


Martyn Chamberlin