Theology Thursday - The Superiority of the Fideistic Approach to the Preservation of Scripture

How has God preserved His Word? Should you place your faith in the science of textual criticism to restore the New Testament text, bit by bit? Or, should you simply believe, by faith, that God has already preserved His Word in the manuscript tradition which has been preserved and used by the church down through the centuries?

In a book which he edited, entitled Thou Shalt Keep Them, Kent Brandenburg argued for the primacy of the Textus Receptus and, more specifically, the King James Version of the Bible. In this excerpt, he explains why he believes a Christian must accept this by faith.1

Living by faith is so integral to and synonymous with Biblical Christianity, and such a foundational truth in the New Testament, that this declaration of the Lord to Habakkuk is quoted three times in New Testament passages (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). The believer is a believer; he lives by faith because that is what it is to be a Christian. Faith is the basis of the righteousness from which someone lives (Rom 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Those who do not live by faith are apostates and the Lord has no pleasure in them (Heb. 10:38). Faithlessness is a serious issue for serious people.

Scripture promises the perfect preservation and availability of all the Words of God to every generation. Since this is what God says, it is what faith expects. Based on these promises, one assumes that before the printing press all the Words were available in handmade copies, and afterwards in the printed editions. Fulfillment of the Biblical teachings of perfect preservation and availability require the amalgamation of all the Words into one canonical, printed edition. The view of a perfect and available text fits with all the passages on preservation, and, therefore, this is the fideistic view of preservation of Scripture.

Brandenburg continued, and discussed how God “repeatedly repudiates reliance on human understanding and philosophy” on this issue:2

Men who question what God said, rather than believing it, insult the Lord. Scripture thoroughly dispels this human claim of divine impotence. God does not want His ability questioned or His way (timing or manner) disputed; since He has proven Himself totally and sufficiently, He simply wants to be believed. The hypothesis that God did not preserve His Words, so man needs to restore them, lies at the root of textual criticism. This line of thinking rejects what Scripture states about preservation, depending instead on the uninspired words of men, both contemporary and historical.

On the basis of their futile, temporal thoughts, men argue that it is unreasonable to accept that somehow every Word has remained available for every generation. In so doing, these men have wrested from their particular circle of influence the assurance of a perfect Bible. The responsibility exhorted and the example patterned in the New Testament is the reception, not restoration, of God’s Words. The willingness to receive them and the assurance that they are all perfectly available is based upon God’s promises to preserve every Word.

Faith and doubt are mutually exclusive (Rom. 14:23). Any application of the pertinent passages on preservation that does not leave one with the assurance that he has a Bible with all the Words of God cannot be accepted from a position of faith. The position that all the Words exist somewhere, but are still yet to be found, does not fit into the teaching of Scripture, and, therefore, must be rejected.

If you’re a Christian who only has “little faith,” you will not withstand opposition. You will fold. Brandenburg discusses how, for many Christians, their “little faith” has made them assume God has not done what He promised He would:3

The Lord Jesus Christ, impressed with the faith of a centurion in Matthew 8:10, said concerning him, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” The understanding of “great faith” is qualitative, not quantitative; it is not an amount of faith, but a kind of faith. That great faith is not qualitative is seen in the Lord’s expression, “faith as a grain of mustard seed,” (Matthew 17:20). The term “great” carries with it a temporal aspect. “Great faith is a long-termed faith.” Such faith persists through the kinds of opposition that normally hinder people from believing. When the Lord said that someone has “little faith” (Mt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8), He meant he had faith that would not endure opposition.

Brandenburg elaborated on this theme, then summarized:4

The refutation from “textual scholars” is most often enough to expose the “little faith” of those who do not believe in the perfect preservation of Scripture. The “little faith” of these wavers under mounds of published writings of men. Perfect preservation requires a miracle. The absence of sufficient human explanation and “adequate” historical documentation is enough of a hindrance to the “little faith” of many on the issue of preservation. The need for a miracle from God is the consolidation of all the Words into one available edition of Scripture is enough to stop the belief of some. To many, there is no reasonable justification to depend on Divine providence, so alternative views are concocted and the numbers of “doctrines of Scripture” that have been preserved are emphasized.

The basis for perfect preservation is faith; other views are built on human rationalism; “the doctrine that human reason, unaided by Divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to attainable religious truth.” People who take a view that is “unaided by Divine revelation” are not normally known as Bible-believers; therefore, most people that profess to be Bible-believers do not usually want to consider their positions rationalistic.

Those who espouse the “majority” text view claim to simply determine what words are found in the majority of the manuscripts, and the words that survive that test are essentially deemed to be the text of Scripture. Counting is the sole criterion. This is rationalistic.

The proponents of the minority text view use the humanly devised laws of textual criticism, which treat the Bible like uninspired books, in an attempt to ascertain the readings most likely found in the original manuscripts. This view also applies human reason as the sole guide.

Neither of these could be considered the God of the Bible, for neither of them provide perfection, and God is perfect. He is perfect, and He is powerful enough to keep something perfect, from the soul of a man to every Word of Scripture.

In contrast, the received text position receives what God has supernaturally preserved by faith. Some advocates of the received text do not believe in perfect preservation, basing their position on Divine providence alone. However, received text people at least depend on Scriptural principles to defend their position. In many cases, the other points of view do their best to argue away as many texts on preservation as possible, and contend that faith is an invalid criterion for receiving the perfect text of Scripture. This is in line with centuries of satanic rationalism.

Do you have the “little faith” of a child? Do you trust that God preserved His Words, despite what critics tell you? Brandenburg explains that, for him, any other position is rationalistic and un-Biblical:5

On more than one occasion, the Lord Jesus Christ asserts a prerequisite for kingdom citizenship is becoming “like a little child” (Matthew 18:2-5; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17). Little children are simple, dependent, helpless, unaffected, unpretentious, and unambitious. A little child is sinful, but he is naïve and unassuming, trusting of others. These are the applicable qualities of one who will enter the kingdom of God. So much in the plan of salvation is unbelievable to the intellectual, from the virgin birth, to the incarnation itself, to the blood atonement. The simplicity of God’s plan results in Him receiving the praise and glory. This is His stated purpose for choosing the weak and foolish things of the world – that n flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:21-29).

The rationalist considers the doctrine of one perfect, available edition of the complete Bible untenable because of rationalistic concerns. The one with the faith of a little child can suspend these concerns and receive by faith that God did what He said He would do.

Faith is often ridiculed as unintelligent or unreasonable, almost naïve (a “leap in the dark”). The rationalist will attack inspiration with apostate source criticism, to give a humanistic explanation for the origin of Scripture. Such theological liberals say that their approach is the intelligent alternative to the doctrine of inspiration. The attack on perfect preservation is founded on the same premise. Instead of just believing God, men speculate on the percentage of error assumed to exist. The wobbly foundations upon which the rationalist-preservationist stands is the assertion that “all of the doctrines alone have been preserved,” which effectually leaves the believer with a conceptual preservation. This is not applicable to the “little child” type of faith. The “little child” is “naïve” enough to believe that no matter how complex the rationalistic is against one perfect edition of the Bible, it must be rejected.

He concluded with this:6

A common critique by theological liberalism of Biblical fundamentalism is that it is “anti-intellectual and otherworldly.” Professing fundamentalists levy this same critique against New Testament churches that believe God has perfectly preserved His words in one printed edition. What is called “anti-intellectual” is actually faith. New Testament churches have always believed the Bible to be their only authority for faith and practice, knowing that the “just shall live by faith.” God is pleased by faith, not by man’s reasoning. The only Scriptural approach to the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is the fideistic approach. The only view based on a response of faith in God’s Word is the view that God has perfectly preserved His Words and that they are and have always been available to every generation.

Notes

1 Kent Brandenburg (ed)., Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture, revised ed. (El Sobrante, CA: Pillar & Ground Publishing, 2007), 260, 261.  

2 Ibid, 262.  

3 Ibid, 262-263.  

4 Ibid, 263-264.  

5 Ibid, 264-265.  

6 Ibid, 266.  

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There are 29 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

OK, let's apply Brandenburg's thesis to the Textus Receptus.  It is well known that there are about 20 or so verses in the TR compiled by Erasmus that do not appear in any manuscript known to exist in Europe at the time; obviously Erasmus translated them back from the Latin into the Greek.   Or, more specifically, he translated from HIS copy of the Vulgate (which was of course not likely to be exactly like what Jerome wrote) to create the TR.

In other words, the very origins of the Textus Receptus directly contradict Brandenburg's hypothesis that the perfect preservation of God's Word per Matthew 5:18 and elsewhere requires that there be no ambiguities in a particular letter or word in a given manuscript.  Ironically, Brandenburg's very hypothesis in light of his preferred text highlights the need for serious textual analysis to uncover the most likely form that th autographs took.  

Thank you, brother Brandenburg, for a powerful argument for taking the Alexandrian manuscript family, as well as the Majority Text family (neither of which is the TR family), seriously in terms of Bibliology.

TylerR's picture

This is a short excerpt from a much longer book that addresses these issues. I've read it, and don't agree with it. But, it is the best defense of the TR and the KJV I've read. Nothing else comes close to touching it. You should read the book.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

....if the most basic test of the preservation of the Textus Receptus, that of its very existence in that form prior to Erasmus, fails, what is the point of reading his whole book?   

And I write this as one who has a hunch that Jerome did in fact have a manuscript with those verses in it when the Vulgate was translated.  That noted, the evidence was simply not to be found in Europe between the fall of Rome and Erasmus, and that's fatal for his hypothesis.

dcbii's picture

Tyler, I've owned that book since about 2004 -- I bought it right after it was released, since my former pastor wrote/edited one of the chapters.  I've read it through twice, the 2nd time marking up a bunch of sections of the book.  I agree that it may be the best of the KJVO works, but in the end, it still didn't convince me, and one of my problems is the same thing Bert mentioned.  Since the various editions of the TR do not match (even if there are no significant disagreements, they are more than 1 jot/tittle different, and yes, I understand that jot/tittle are Hebrew, not Greek), I wasn't convinced that the TR was a product of perfect preservation.  Due to the evidence, I would probably consider myself "Byzantine text preferred," but that's a far cry from the KJVO camp.
 

Dave Barnhart

josh p's picture

Tyler, thanks for this. For those of us who do not accept his position it's important to understand it fully. I am going to read it.
I would just like to point out that this is a straw man:
"The hypothesis that God did not preserve His Words, so man needs to restore them, lies at the root of textual criticism."
Textual Criticism is about discovering WHERE he preserved them. He can preserve them in the totality of manuscripts and not necessarily one text type (which itself had examples of textual criticism).

TylerR's picture

The core of the matter is about presuppositions. This is what I understand Brandenburg to be saying:

  1. In the Bible, God said He'd preserve His words.
  2. God can work miracles, and He can do anything He wants. He has the power to perfectly preserve His words
  3. God doesn't want His people to be without His Words,
  4. Therefore, God's Words must have actually been available to every generation of Christians
  5. We must start with these presuppositions

Implications:

  1. This means new textual discoveries, lost to mankind for hundreds of years, have not been available to every generation of Christians and therefore are not God's Words
  2. We can find God's Words in a manuscript tradition that has always been available to God's people, and that tradition is the manuscripts which support the TR.

Is there inconsistency in the critical text thinking?

  • The evidence suggests God preserved His word in the multiplicity of manuscripts scattered abroad throughout the whole Mediterranean.
  • So, we assume that preservation was done providentially in the multiplicity of all manuscripts, which is a messy process. 
  • And, by the common-sense method of textual criticism, we can "get back" to what the actual Words of the Bible are.

I believe Brandenburg is saying this is backwards. For example, should we look at the world, see it looks old, and then read the Bible backwards and allow general revelation to influence our understanding - therefore the earth must be old, because the "evidence" says it's old? Many Christians wouldn't accept this. But, Brandenburg's point seems to be that this is precisely what so many of us do with preservation.

Thoughts?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Aaron Blumer's picture

I gave the book a good bit of analysis in a series a few years back. It has four parts, so the link is to part 4 which has links to 1,2, and 3.

Preservation: How and What, Part 4

If memory serves, I debated a bit with the author also at the time, at his site. There were basic questions I never could get a clear answer to, though I don't remember now what they were.

As the series shows, one of the most basic issues the book does not resolve is this: if Scripture itself does lead us to believe there should be word-perfect preservation in the form of a single translation (assuming single-translation per language I guess), on what basis can we claim it's "biblical" to hold that TR and KJV are that text/translation?

I think I conceded at the time that it's possible that there is a word-perfect preserved text and translation, but even granting that, there is no way to give "biblical" status to that view or to give "unbiblical" status to alternatives (alternatives that better fit the known facts, I might add--facts both biblical and extrabiblical).

TOvermiller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

On what basis can we claim it's "biblical" to hold that TR and KJV are that text/translation?

Perhaps I'm mistaken and perhaps I'm being simplistic, but here is my understanding for how the viewpoint Brandenburg is espousing answers this question. The "basis" is ecclesiological.

  1. The "promise" is that every believer, from the very first moment special revelation was given, has always had access to all the special revelation given to that point in time. Why? Matthew 4:4.
  2. The "basis" is that true, baptistic (Baptist) churches from the first century church forward are the agents for this word-perfect, completely available copy of God's Word. Why? 1 Timothy 3:15.

On this basis then, the Scrivener TR becomes the default perfect Greek text. Why? The reasons appears to be backwards, in this way: because true Baptist churches have used the KJV for centuries now, the Scrivener TR (which happens to match the KJV word-for-word), becomes the de facto Greek manuscript. What is the historical record of this?

It doesn't matter, according to this view. Why? Because true baptistic churches have never been viewed or treated favorably by mainline church historians, whether Catholic or Protestant, and so they are "off the record books." But since true baptistic churches are the kind of church that 1 Timothy 3:15 is speaking about, then regardless of historical evidence, we know that churches similar to Baptist churches today have always had complete, perfect Bibles. What do these churches use today? The KJV. What is the Greek text that matches that text? The Scrivener TR (not one of Erasmus's editions). So then,

  1. True, baptistic churches have always had perfect Bibles available to them.
  2. These churches are "off the record books," but we don't need historical evidence anyway. 
  3. Those Bibles were identical to the KJV / Scrivener TR because that is what Baptist churches are using today.
  4. This is the correct view because of 1 Tim. 3:15.
  5. 1 Timothy 3:15 is the basis for Matthew 4:4.

I do not agree with this perspective, but I am sharing my understanding of it. Perhaps I am mistaken somehow.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

Mark Ward had some lengthy interactions with Brandenburg and others last year about the MEV. It is a new translation from the TR (ca. 2008). Ward asked if Brandenburg would be willing to accept the MEV as God's Word. Brandenburg was uncomfortable with the MEV, because the translation wasn't a project planned, organized and executed by true churches. There was much more to it, but I can't find the link now to direct anybody there - it's somewhere on Brandenburg's blog!

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Forgive me for being cheeky here, but this sounds an awful lot like what I hear Dispensationalists arguing.  Something like this:  "We can't give greater weight to OT interpretations as explained by inspired NT authors because that indicates that the true meaning was not available to OT saints at the time the OT was written.  Since the original readers had to be able to understanding the true meaning, we can and should adjust the apparent interpretation of inspired NT writers to reflect what OT readers would have understood."

It seems to me that this reasoning is problematic in support of the TR, and it is also problematic in support of DT.

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

....might or might not help the KJVO hypothesis precisely because we have old discoveries that are not of the TR variety.  Hence the assumption that Bible-believing churches through the ages had the TR is dubious at best.

Not surprised, per Tom's comment, that KJVO and Trail of Blood are linked, and it's worth noting that even more significant than this is that the theory has a crisis of falsifiability; they're relying on "spectral evidence", manuscripts and such not seen, to support their claims.   Since you can't prove that those TR manuscripts are not indeed below a new piece by P.D.Q. Bach waiting for Peter Schickele to discover in an old latrine or brewery or something, you can't falsify the theory, which means you can't prove it.

TylerR's picture

I think Bro. Overmiller's comment about ecclesiology are well taken, and I believe it is an important component in understanding the perspective of TR folks.

I haven't heard anybody address my comments about whether a critical text approach is doing things backwards. That is the heart of Brandenburg's argument - epistemology matters here, and we must have faith that God can and did preserve His Words for every generation. What do ya'll say to his argument?

Aaron cut right to the heart of the issue - even we did agree that God perfectly preserved His words in a single manuscript tradition, how would we know it was the TR?

  • The fact that it has been used for so long? The fact the churches used it faithfully for so long? I see a run of perhaps 300 years for the manuscripts behind the TR, ending in the late 19th century. That isn't too long of a time.
  • Also, if one landmark standard is "what the churches recognized and used," then on what basis do we dismiss the NA28 and UBS-5? Haven't the vast majority of churches today "recognized" that as the "right" printed Greek text? I assume the issue of what a "true church" is would then come up (see Bro. Overmiller's comments).

If we're talking about epistemology, then my main concern echoes Aaron's - which manuscript tradition should we look to, and why that tradition? Why the TR?

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, regarding Brandenburg's case, one could theoretically do things that way, but it's (again) got the insuperable problem that every ancient Greek manuscript we have is different.  So if you argue perfect letter for letter preservation, you're simply assuming something that's directly contrary to everything we know about the available manuscripts. 

It's also worth noting that around the time of Christ, the Jews had also become painfully aware that centuries of copying the Old Testament books had left some portions dangerously inconsistent, and around that time, they did institute a program of textual criticism and analysis, replacing flawed copies with those of the known, good, standard.  Paul, and the other New Testament writers, would likely have been very aware of this.  So the known "good" copies of our Old Testament, and the ones known to the Apostles, would have been the fruit of textual analysis and criticism.  So that also is contrary to Brandenburg's teaching.

Really, what Brandenburg is doing is assuming a particular view of how God preserved His Word, that it's letter for letter accuracy more or less, and it's entirely at variance with what happens in making repeated copies of manuscripts.  

So I think we need to redefine what it means for God to preserve His Word here in terms of this.  We are going to get letter errors, we are going to get missing words, so how is the meaning preserved?  (FWIW, I've been writing my own copy of the Torah for a while....I'm in Leviticus, 430 pages or so already, and about an error or so each page that I try to correct....it ads up!  So while I'm sure the old scribes were way better than me, this is unfortunately a reality)

First attempt; God in His sovereignty chose for His Word to be delivered in languages where verbs are conjugated, and nouns and pronouns are declined.  Hence if we skip a verb or noun ending, the meaning is often preserved.  You can even skip entire words and infer the subject from the verb ending--this is really what is done a LOT in the KJV itself in those italic words.  The sense is there, the words we usually use are not.

Second, God in His sovereignty chose for His Word to be preserved in separate streams where copyists would make different errors.   Again, you average it out, you're a lot closer to the original.

Third, God in His sovereignty apparently chose for some copies of His Word to be hidden from view for many centuries--preventing those copies from being degraded in use, and hence they were not copied to create new errors.

Fourth, God in His sovereignty chose for most manuscripts to be handled by those who spoke the language--hence they would know when errors crept in and be able to fix some of them.

Which would place me, personally, somewhere between the TR, eclectic text, and majority text.  But at least I can defend this historically and textually. 

TOvermiller's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

One could theoretically do things that way, but it's (again) got the insuperable problem that every ancient Greek manuscript we have is different.

The differences between manuscripts, according to Brandenburg's case, is inconsequential because his case does not rely upon manuscript evidence. It relies upon the Matt. 4:4 and 1 Tim. 3:15 paradigm, that true baptistic churches preserved the word-perfect Bible in every era of church history. It therefore has very little or nothing at all to do with the manuscripts we have available. That's why, as he would say, you must rest your faith on Matt. 4:4 and 1 Tim. 3:15, regardless of manuscript evidence, church history, and so forth. Of course, this all assumes that you interpret 1 Tim. 3:15 and Matt. 4:4 in the unique way that his view proposes. And in doing so, you are exercising the "faith of a child" that he advocated for in the excerpts Tyler has provided. Unless I'm missing something (which is definitely possible), it seems that Brandenburg's extensive argument rises and falls on 1 Tim. 3:15 - period.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I haven't heard anybody address my comments about whether a critical text approach is doing things backwards. That is the heart of Brandenburg's argument - epistemology matters here, and we must have faith that God can and did preserve His Words for every generation. What do ya'll say to his argument?

But God is under no obligation to make all of his words available to any generation. Josiah's men found God's word in the temple renovations after it had been lost to that generation for ... how many years? ... the text doesn't say, but it implies that what it said was BRAND NEW to them - they had never heard it before.

God certainly can preserve his words. God DID preserve his words. But not in the way Kent thinks.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TOvermiller's picture

TylerR wrote:

Thoughts?

For what it's worth, I'm not a critical text proponent. (Mark Ward would be an excellent, gracious advocate for this view, and perhaps most SI contributors would share his view.) My conscience is most comfortable with a Majority Text view. Furthermore, I hold my MT persuasion graciously, recognizing the complexities of the discussion and respecting those who disagree and prefer a CT paradigm. But a TR-only view, though commendable, raises very unusual questions, like "which TR," and "what manuscripts did Erasmus access," and "what rules governed the textual decisions Erasmus made as a Roman Catholic," and "how does the reverse-edited Scrivener TR fit into this discussion, when the KJV provided the pattern for the Scrivener TR and not vice versa"? In the end, a TR-only view ends up being nothing more than a more academic sounding variety of the KJVO view.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TOvermiller's picture

TylerR wrote:

if one landmark standard is "what the churches recognized and used," then on what basis do we dismiss the NA28 and UBS-5? Haven't the vast majority of churches today "recognized" that as the "right" printed Greek text? I assume the issue of what a "true church" is would then come up

That's the point. Brandenburg's position, as I understand it, says a lot of things. He says a lot of things on his blog about Bible preservation. On one hand, he would probably tell you that his view is based entirely upon clear statements of the Word of God and must be accepted with simple, childlike faith. But it seems to me (and again, perhaps I am missing something in his reasoning) that his entire argument - everything he says about this - rests upon the fulcrum of his ecclesiology, which assumes that 1 Tim. 3:15 is alluding to an unbroken, poorly documents stream of baptistic/Baptist churches with constant, unbroken access to every word of God, perfectly preserved in written form. So churches that embrace the NA28 and UBS-5 are not biblically faithful churches in the tradition of those who have used KJV/TR-type Bibles; they are compromised. For all of the things that are said, the logic ends up being this simple, or so it seems.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Bert Perry's picture

OK, so to get an argument for one particular set of manuscripts and a particular translation from them, Brandenburg is using texts that occur in virtually all of them, and ignoring the actual manuscript evidence?

Somehow this comes to mind.

I can make an argument for the MT out of the # of texts, the ET from the age of primary texts and the laws of averaging, and the TR from the simple probability that Jerome had a copy in front of him when he translated from the Greek to the Latin.  I love the KJV.  But KJVO advocates simply do themselves no favors with logic like this.

TOvermiller's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Brandenburg is using texts that occur in virtually all of them, and ignoring the actual manuscript evidence?

It may be more accurate, from the perspective being espoused, to say that this view is not using any manuscript evidence at all, but rather - in their view - is using biblical evidence, choosing to place faith in the promises God has made regarding preservation, and not to place faith in manuscript evidence.

It seems that they view this as a conscientious, responsible way of beginning with biblical presuppositions (as they interpret Matt. 4:4 and 1 Tim. 3:15), then interpreting (or disregarding) all manuscript evidence with these "faith" and "Bible" lenses. If that is the case, then to base arguments upon actual manuscript evidence (which is how a CT or MT perspective would be re-framed) would be to allow historical records to circumvent Scripture promises.

They would suggest that this is the same error as looking at the apparent age of the earth and assuming that the earth is millions of years old, rather than looking at an earth that appears to be old but is actually young, based upon Scripture. Again, this is not my reasoning. But it is the reasoning that seems to undergird Brandenburg's position.

If you accept this reasoning, then you will like his explanation. If you do not accept this reasoning, then you will be scratching your head over his preservation arguments for a long, long time.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

I've read Robinson's comments in his printed MT. I also have a sort of "three views" book, where Robinson is a contributor, that I need to go through again.

Honestly, this is all rather abstract and unhelpful until you open your Greek text (Mark Ward would probably prefer you do it in Logos! Smile and actually look at the variants on a case by case basis. This is when it becomes practical, and you see past the rhetoric on both sides. Is the "real" reading a participle in 1 Pet 1:21, or is it a substantival accusative? The Byz and TR have the former, the UBS-5 the latter. What is the practical difference? Does it matter? Most people who have strong passion about the issue don't have the training to address the problem at this level.  

But, as Ward has written elsewhere, this discussion seems to inevitably degenerate into a discussion about the minutiae of textual criticism, and that isn't particularly helpful for "normal people." I still think Aaron's point is the real heart of the issue. That, and the rationale for the willingness (or unwillingness) to accept a new translation from the TR.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Aaron Blumer's picture

I didn't give much thought to the ecclesiological angle when I studied this in 2010. It's an interesting point of view, but still relies at some point on quite a bit of extrabiblical/external evidence vs. biblical evidence.

Scripture can get that line of reasoning started, but as several have pretty much already said, it can only take you so far. And we don't have anything like the kind of church consensus for a particular word-for-word preserved text that we have for the books of the canon. So the parallel there is tenuous.

But a point tried to emphasize w/in the lengthy back and forth with Roland Pittman back in 2010--and I believe it was a topic in my exchanges with Kent also--is that a view built mostly on external evidence (or in R. Pittman's case, a view not based on evidence at all, because that's the wrong paradigm to begin with) can't rise to the level of what we can properly call "Bible doctrine."

On the other hand, you have the problem of first principles. You have to have a doctrine of canon, for example, before you can all the doctrine that is Bible-derived and assumes the canon.

This view (TSKT) tries to say, again that this is also the case with text. But I went to some lengths to show in that earlier study why there doesn't need to be (or even can be by the same process) a "canonical word for word text." Short version: believers can look at whole books of the Bible an evaluate their authenticity. But how do you evaluate the authenticity of "they" vs. "we" in a verse? It can be done, but it's nothing like the evaluation involved in canon. ... and it's called textual criticism.

.... I think I also pointed out somewhere along the way that a view that says the church accepted a word for word text as canonical would have to have the church evaluating at some point which wordings to accept and reject. It would have to do textual criticism.

... and the whole point is supposed to be that TC is bad.

dcbii's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

On the other hand, you have the problem of first principles. You have to have a doctrine of canon, for example, before you can all the doctrine that is Bible-derived and assumes the canon.

This is my other big problem with his argument.  Most of us here want to base what we believe on what the Bible says (like accepting the Genesis account), but that means we need to know what the Bible is before we can believe it, so on this particular doctrine, we need to know that what we have is the Bible *before* we believe what it says about what the Bible is.  It's easy to say just have faith in what was received, but what does that do to those who read those words in a translation based on a different text (received and accepted by an independent, even Baptist, church) or even a poor or heretical translation?  Even though I personally believe the traditional texts are closer to what the Holy Spirit breathed out, I think it's fairly obvious that most solid Bible-believing churches today have accepted translations from the critical text as the Word of God, so what does that say about the ecclesiological argument?

I think it's fairly obvious that God knew that his people would encounter the argument that the Bible is no different from any other religious text, so (as we have all heard/learned) at the time it was written, he gave external evidence and witnesses that what was written is true.  We know that the Word itself is more sure than Peter's transfiguration experience, but we still have to know that that's the true word before we can believe and trust it.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

@Dave:

A common counterargument on that point is that the churches that "receive" the text they believe to be oldest and most genuine -- and believe that isn't TR or even Majority -- are heretical/apostate at worst, or disobedient at the very least. But it's pretty hard to make that stick if they believe and practice all the same things other than which text is best. (Along with all the other arguments.)

"Received" is also a problem in a post-Reformation world. Unless you have a monolithic church (or as close to monolithic as it's ever been) under a Pope, there is going to be a great deal of diversity of belief and practice around the edges. 

And we all know that "receiving" the TR has not proven to be a safeguard against serious error, heresy, and apostasy on other matters of the faith. (Mormonism comes to mind!)

This might be a place to point out that TSKT sets a very, very high standard for both "preservation" and "receiving": the preserved and received text has to be word for word identical at all points in the history of the church. There is a great deal of evidence that there has never been any such text.

JBL's picture

Aaron wrote:  This might be a place to point out that TSKT sets a very, very high standard for both "preservation" and "receiving": the preserved and received text has to be word for word identical at all points in the history of the church. There is a great deal of evidence that there has never been any such text.

 

I have not yet heard a credible rebuttal to this point from anyone holding a TSKT view.  I'd be very interested in reading one.

John B. Lee

TylerR's picture

You mentioned Lk 4 and Isa 61. Yes, I think the LXX is a problem for this issue. It seems clear to me the Christians quoted from the LXX extensively, which indicates they likely considered the LXX as a good and faithful translation. I know some folks disagree, but I haven't yet taken the time to read a responsible explanation about why. One potential objection is that there are numerous odds and ends in the LXX that are not canonical; see, for example, the strange and lengthy additions to the "fiery furnace" section of Dan 3.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

J Ng's picture

TylerR wrote:

You mentioned Lk 4 and Isa 61. Yes, I think the LXX is a problem for this issue. It seems clear to me the Christians quoted from the LXX extensively, which indicates they likely considered the LXX as a good and faithful translation. I know some folks disagree, but I haven't yet taken the time to read a responsible explanation about why. One potential objection is that there are numerous odds and ends in the LXX that are not canonical; see, for example, the strange and lengthy additions to the "fiery furnace" section of Dan 3.  

Thanks. Yes, there are numerous issues textually for the OT as well. But my point is simple--notwithstanding the substantial differences between Jesus' Bible and our Masoretic Text, He did not shrink from pronouncing His Bible "hai graphai" the canonical and authoritative, Scriptures no less. Nor do the Apostles do any differently, whether quoting out of the LXX or some other OT Bible. This kinda puts in doubt Kent Brandenburg and the rest of the Onlyism crew's (whether Ben Wilkinson's, PS Ruckman's, Tridentine Council's, DA Waite's, etc.) assertions about their one correct version and aspersions about the rest. They sound pious and, problematically, too pious for Jesus and the Apostles.

TSKT and other Onlyist positions base their ideas on only selected parts of Scripture that only seem to support their monolithic notions of the text, but that's been enough to capture the hearts and minds of the simple. Yet once you include the rest of the evidence, they're not going to know what to do with Christ and the rest of the NT's choice and endorsement of Bibles!

Bob Hayton's picture

The ecclesiological argument is key to Brandenburg's thesis. He is local church only - does not accept any sense of universal church, so that comes into his argument.

My contention has been, what does it mean to "receive" a text? Could it be that good churches used the best available text they had and were happy to do so - but did not necessarily by their use endorse each and every reading of that text?

It took a long time before the King James Version was accepted as the main English heir of the concept of "textus receptus" - the Geneva Bible held pride of place among the pilgrims and the religious leaders of early America. By many accounts it was 50 or more years after 1611 before the quality of the King James Version led it to be accepted and used more often than the Geneva (but the other fell out of print due in part to persecution and the religious wars of England).

When it comes to the Baptist churches - which are the only true churches in Brandenburg's view (which is a few steps short of full blown landmarkism/Baptist bride-ism) - everyone forgets that in the 1800s American Baptists created their own versions which did not use the neutral term "baptize" but the denominationally preferred term "immerse." See this link for more information.

Additional problems with this view stem from the fact that commentaries from Calvin and Luther, Poole and Henry (to some extent) and also Wesley (to a greater extent) discuss textual variants siding with or against the common language versions of their day. Even the KJV itself has marginal notes that sometimes focus on alternative readings. In an earlier post on my blog entitled "The Role of the Church in King James Version Onlyism" I drove this point home with the following thought:

If the average John in 1600 was dependent on comparing a few English versions and trying to keep abreast with different Greek editions of the TR in order to really have each word that was inspired available to him, how is this any different from the average Joe today?

One last thought on this: Brandenburg also holds to the inspiration of the Hebrew vowel points -- which don't exist in paleohebraic script and don't appear even in the block Hebrew script used in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Evidence truly is assumed to exist - but if the Greek is primary, yet key readings (1 John 5:7, Acts 8:37) are almost entirely found only in Latin - then which church had God's text - the Greek or the Latin?  And why is it that the English Bible based on Beza's TR of 1598 is primary in determining the correct version of the Greek? Why not the continent's preferred Greek text of Elzevir's 1633, or the Stephanus 1550 preferred by the English?

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

... what he said.

TSKT et al. relies on history rather than Scripture to support its view, but history is even less supportive than the Bible is.

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