Friday, June 23, 2006

Opening a Can of Worms: The Problems of Textual Criticism Part 4

Concluding Thoughts



Alas, God’s Holy Word has been made a slave to the science of textual criticism (1 Timothy 6:20). True believers of Christ cannot worship at both the altar of faith and the altar of scholasticism. The exclusive, pedantic adherence to scholarly methods, coupled with the rejection of the logic of faith, will result in the following theological tragedy: the inerrancy of Holy Scripture will be replaced by the inerrancy of the hypothetical autographs.

Dr Bart Ehrman apparently understood the importance of the preservation of Scripture. Unfortunately, instead of embracing the doctrine of preservation, he chose to abandon the evangelical faith in rejecting the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture:

"As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost. . . . the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them." (Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, page 211.)

If we do not have the Word of God today, then our faith is in vain, and all the old-line fundamentals of faith are subjected to the scrutiny of unbelieving scholarship and philosophy (Colossians 2:8). If we cannot say that the Bible we possess is the preserved, inerrant and inspired Word of God, the textual scholars will decide for us what inerrant scripture is. Subjecting themselves to the ultimate authority of manuscript evidence and human scholarship, textual critics have substituted the authority of God’s Word with the supremacy of men’s intellect. They are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Ephesians 4:14).”

Ultimately, textual critics must concede with infidels that there is no perfect authority for the Church today. Criticizing the Church’s subservience to the Westcott and Hort theory, M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & Muhammad Ghoniem wrote:

“We have already seen above that the textual criticism has destroyed the concept of ‘textus receptus’ and ‘original text.’ The New Testament text that we have in our hands today is the work of a committee which decided on the readings which it thought are ‘original.’ The Church and textual criticism were antipodes. Therefore, any one who ventured into this field was condemned or ignored. The bravery of modern day Christians towards the textual criticism (“Who is afraid of textual criticism?”) is similar to the roar of a paper tiger. Since they can’t get away with the devil of textual criticism, they might as well try to befriend it. This is precisely what they did after the fall of ‘textus receptus’ during the time of Westcott and Hort. . . . In conclusion, it is quite clear that the Church did not like the idea of seeing the variant readings and abandonment of ‘textus receptus’ which was revered throughout the Christian world as the ‘inerrant’ word of God. The abandonment of ‘textus receptus’ overthrew the doctrine of inerrancy of the scriptures at hand. It was replaced by the inerrancy of the hypothetical 'original' manuscript. . . . We have discussed the response of Muslims and Christians to the textual criticism of the Qur’an and the Bible. Muslims have always been careful of how the Qur’an should be read and written. Detailed rules were formulated to achieve the transmission both orally and written. The Christian Bible on the other hand did not have any such rules and had to live a life of 'living text' which was constantly changing at the whims and fancies of the scribes and the leaders of the Church. And naturally when textual criticism was applied, the Church was up in arms. Very soon it was realized that the beast of textual criticism is here to stay. And the modern day Christians missionaries boastfully say, “Who is afraid of textual criticism?’” (M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & Muhammad Ghoniem, Who Is Afraid Of Textual Criticism? Internet; accessed 08 May 2006; available from http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/textcriticism.html, emphasis mine.)

It is notable that even unbelieving Muslim scholars are able to discern the logical inconsistencies and paralogisms inherent in so-called Christian textual criticism. The academic notion of verbal, plenary inspiration is, evidently, functionally incompatible with the concept of a “living text which was constantly changing at the whims and fancies of the scribes and the leaders of the Church.” The evangelical doctrine of inerrancy was effectively relegated to the realms of theoretical discourses, and the traditional text of the New Testament was replaced with an unfolding, eclectic text that will never be the infallible Word. Unavoidably, modernistic textual scholarship will require radical revision in order for it to be compatible with the evangelical doctrine of Scripture.

Dr Edward F. Hills, who was trained as a textual critic in Harvard University, comprehended the potential threat posed by rationalistic textual criticism to a believer’s faith. In his book The King James Version Defended, he warned Christians that “ . . . the logic of naturalistic textual criticism leads to complete modernism, to a naturalistic view not only of the biblical text but also of the Bible as a whole and of the Christian faith. For if it is right to ignore the providential preservation of the Scriptures in the study of the New Testament text, why isn’t it right to go farther in the same direction? Why isn’t it right to ignore other divine aspects of the Bible? Why isn’t it right to ignore the divine inspiration of the Scriptures when discussing the authenticity of the Gospel of John or the Synoptic problem or the authorship of the Pentateuch? . . . Impelled by this remorseless logic, many an erstwhile conservative bible student has become entirely modernistic in his thinking. But he does not acknowledge that he has departed from the Christian faith. For from his point of view he has not. He has merely travelled farther down the same path which he began to tread when first he studied naturalistic textual criticism of the Westcott and Hort type, perhaps at some conservative theological seminary. From his point of view his orthodox former professors are curiously inconsistent. They use the naturalistic method in the area of New Testament textual criticism and then drop it most illogically, like something too hot to handle, when they come to other departments of biblical study.” (Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, page 83, emphasis mine).

Sadly, Bart Ehrman is a fulfilment of Dr Hill’s earlier warning. Dr Ehrman has “merely travelled farther down the same path which he began to tread when first he studied naturalistic textual criticism of the Westcott and Hort type,” and has eventually arrived at the broad way that leads to eternal perdition and unbelief.

This concludes my current thoughts on this subject matter.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have followed your writings and am now at a loss. What is YOUR view in the matter?
Should we all follow the TR instead or what?

Frank

vincit omnia veritas said...

I cannot explain my views to you accurately unless I write another post (or posts). Why not I get you started with this book: "Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated & Established" by Dean John William Burgon? You should be able to purchase this book from Amazon.com or Alibris. If you have difficulty purchasing this book, kindly provide me with your email address and I will write you personally. If you must have an answer from me today, I can only say that I am a traditional text advocate. I will post further on this topic in the future - I have limited time now as I am trying very hard to finish off a book on ecclesiology and eschatology.

Please accept my sincere apologies if my actions caused distress or confusion to you (with compliments from Gomez :)). In the meantime, I think we should move on.

(I'm afraid only Singaporeans can understand my last paragraph.)

ddd said...

Haha.... Vincent... v. funny (your Gomez remark... -_-" )