Friday, June 16, 2006

Opening a Can of Worms: The Problems of Textual Criticism Part 2

Logical Fallacies of Textual Criticism

Avoiding further circumlocution, I will state my point very simply: textual critics will decide which are, and which are not, the words of God. While the Church once possessed the Masoretic Hebrew and the Greek Received texts as Scripture, this certainty and confidence in having an unchanging text is replaced by an allegedly superior, eclectic text, which is perennially updated to give us the unchanging Word of God.

Indeed, the logical fallacy of contemporary, evangelical scholarship is astounding. Let me furnish some examples:

Statement A: “While we do not have the autographs today, we are confident that the Bible is inerrant and infallible.”

Logical fallacy A: If the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture apply only to the autographs, and not to the apographs, does it not necessarily mean that what we possess today are not inerrant and infallible? Furthermore, which Bible is inerrant and infallible - the autographs or the one in our hands?

Statement B: “The inspired Word of God contains no errors.”

Logical fallacy B: The inspiration of Scripture is verbal and plenary. This means that each and every word given to the Church is inspired, inerrant and infallible. But these words are, according to textual critics, lost to antiquity. The words of the Bible today contain scribal errors and copyist mistakes, and no sane textual critic will admit that he is absolutely confident that every word and sentence of the Bible today is a perfect reconstruction of the autographs. Also, can any textual critic give us the assurance that a particular variant reading is the original Word of God? The textual critic may claim that a particular variant is closest to the original reading, but can he affirm that it is the original reading? Hence, by logical deduction, can we say that the Word of God as we have it today is inerrant and infallible?

Statement C: “Although there are scribal errors in our Bibles today, they do not affect the fundamentals of faith. The Bible is still inerrant and infallible.”

Logical fallacy C: If the words of Scripture are not preserved for us today, and if our Bible as we have it contains copyist errors scattered throughout its text, how can we be sure which words are in the autographs and which are not? It is God’s Words that are inspired, not just the message of His Words. But according to the theory of textual criticism, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture exist only in the hypothetical autographs. The syllogistic deductions of textual criticism inevitably lead to this conclusion: in essence, the Bible that the church possesses today is not inerrant and infallible Scripture. This conclusion, in any case, affects the fundamental doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration of Holy Writ.

Who can, therefore, blame Dr Ehrman for arriving at the logical conclusion of naturalistic textual criticism? He rants, “It would be wrong . . . to say - as people sometimes do - that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case. (Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, page 208)” Is it, then, true that Dr Ehrman’s faith in textual criticism has partially attributed to his apostasy from the true faith? The “theological conclusions” he drew would include questioning the deity of Christ and the veracity of Scripture.

As Evangelicals, we have to agree that, at the very least, every jot and tittle of Scripture is the very Word of God. The psalmist proclaimed: “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name (Psalm 138:2).” If God has magnified His Word even above His name, I would be very worried if any of His Words are no longer available for us today, for it brings into question his omnipotence. An omnipotent, omniscient and omnisapient God must be able to preserve His Words for his Church.

Again, if man requires each and every Word that proceeds out of God’s mouth, it is a serious, if not fatal, logical error to claim that God has failed to preserve His every Word. For “it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4, cf. Deuteronomy 8:3, Luke 4:4).”

To be continued in Part 3


ddd said...

Eh... Vincent... so are you pro-VPP?

vincit omnia veritas said...

Hi Daniel, welcome home!

Hmmm ... to be honest with you, I have to answer you in three points. Firstly, VPP is a term now loaded with unnecessary theological affiliations and biases. I would be very careful to slap a label on anyone, especially myself. Secondly, it is true that textual criticism as we have it today is logically flawed and incompatible with “functional” verbal plenary INSPIRATION. I would recommend you to read Bart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus”, which is a layman’s version of his more technical “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.” It is available in (no surprises!) MPH and Kinokuniya bookstores. What he wrote IS the logical conclusion of contemporary textual criticism. His book elucidates NOTHING new, but only pulls a skeleton out of the closet, which had been shut up by some very confused scholars. Thirdly, let me finish my article, and tell me whether what I wrote make sense.

In Christ,

Brandon Giromini said...


Saw your post over at Slice of Laodicea and thought I would check you out. Your statement that Bart Ehrman's book is the logical conclusion of modern textual criticism is exactly what I have been saying. He just takes it to the logical conclusion while conservative scholars try to play both sides, i.e. "The bible is inerrant yet it has errors." My question is this, if we know what the errors are (as many will point to the supposed errors of the AV) why can't we just correct them and then make a perfect bible? I will keep you on my radar.

In Christ,

Brandon Giromini

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Brandon,

You hit the bull’s eye. The “perfect bible” is a major part of the doctrinal controversy splitting many Bible Presbyterian churches in Singapore. The issue had been brewing in this denomination, as well as some other fundamentalist churches. Jeffrey Khoo’s article “A Plea for a Perfect Bible” in the Bible Presbyterian journal Burning Bush brings the issue out of the closet and into the “open fire.” You can read this at The Burning Bush online (found in the January 2003 issue, Volume 9 Number 1):

Also see