Weekly Question – What is the difference between Confessional, Traditional, Ecclesiastical, and Standard Sacred Text?

If you’ve been around the “version debate” long enough and if you have read at least some of the relevant literature or listened to relevant podcasts you most likely have heard of terms like “Confessional Text position,” or “Traditional Text position,” or the “Ecclesiastical Text.” In today’s post I wanted to give a brief summary/definition of each position and then make some comments.

First, it is important to note that each of these terms/positions have the same goal. That goal is to closely adhere to the teaching of Scripture in the things it says about itself and then believe and defend those teachings. So why the different terms?

Second, the reason for the different terms is two fold: 1.) Just as it is currently the minority position in Western thought to believe that homosexuality and homosexual civil unions are immoral so also a desire and a call to believe and defend what the Bible says about itself is a minority position in the Church at large. As such, systematic pre-critical defenses of what the Bible says about itself have cropped up at different times and under different denominations. Dean Burgon was an Anglican. David Otis Fuller was a Baptist. Theodore Letis was a Lutheran. Jeff Riddle is a Reformed Baptist. The Van Kleecks would be Reformed Baptists as well. This diversity of time and denominational disposition has lead to the multiplication of terminology, and for good reason. 2.) The different terms exists because they focus on different aspects of what the Bible says about itself and the Christian’s relation to that Bible.

Traditional Text – The Traditional Text position anchors in the idea that there has been a traditional text and traditional text tradition in the Greek and Hebrew Original of the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek TR as well as an English text/textual tradition for the English-speaking Church found in the King James Version tradition. The focus here is on the tradition that the believing community has handed down to our believing communities from centuries past. To this we ask of our multiple version only brethren, “What tradition do you hand down to us?” “What ecclesiastical Greek tradition, Hebrew tradition, and English tradition?”

Ecclesiastical Text – The Ecclesiastical Text position retains the elements of tradition and the handing down of a Bible across the centuries while at the same time placing a greater emphasis on the notion that the Bible belongs to the Church. The Bible is not a commodity or asset in some publisher’s printing portfolio. The Bible belongs to and is stewarded by God’s people, the bride of Christ, the Church. Nor is the Bible a possession of academia. The Bible does not lie behind gates of a seminary education. The Bible belongs to and is accessible by both the most educated and the least educated Christian. To this we ask our multiple version only brethren, “In what way is the 1972 NASB possessed by and stewarded by the Church seeing it is no longer in print?” “What is the relevant difference between depending on a Roman Catholic priest for the truth of Scripture who reads only the Latin to us and depending on the evangelical textual critic for the truth of Scripture while he speaks in the academese of minuscules, majuscules, P52, internal/external evidence, CBGM, and the like?”

Confessional Text – The Confessional Text position seems to embody both of the above terms in that “Confessional” infers both the traditional and ecclesiastical custody of the Scriptures. Confessional not only speaks of confessing Christian belief in Christian theology and the Christian Scriptures, but in theological parlance, a Confession of Faith is also a distilled body of historical Christian doctrine. For our purposes, the Confessional Text position confesses belief in a distilled body of historical Christian Bibliology. As such, the term Confessional Text embodies the historical/traditional, ecclesiastical, theological, dogmatic, and practical aspects of orthodox Bibliology. Again we ask our multiple version only brethren, “What theological apparatus do you confess in substantiating the claims, oldest is best, hardest is best, and shortest is best?” What is your confessional ground for giving modern textual criticism its privileged position?”

Standard Sacred Text – As the name implies, the emphasis here is to argue for a single sacred text around which the English-speaking believing community can gather. That single text is the standard whereby all other current and subsequent English sacred texts are to be judged. Because it is in English it is a translation and is therefore dependent upon a standard sacred Greek and Hebrew. Here at StandardSacredText.com we regard the Greek and Hebrew to be the first standard from which the English sacred text is derived. The Greek and Hebrew standard are sacred because God providentially preserved every letter of every word of that standard per its own words about itself. The standard sacred English text is sacred in that the substantia doctrinae found in the original standard transfers to the translation – not immediately but derivatively. We hold these original standards to be the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek TR, and the standard sacred text of the English-speaking community is the King James Version of the Bible.

Postscript: Dear Sceptic, I hope you can begin to see that the arguments promulgated here as traditional, ecclesiastical, confessional, and standard sacred are not King James Onlyism or Ruckmanism or Riplingerism in a different dress. Instead, we hope you see it for what it is, an argument for the superiority of historical pre-Enlightenment Bibliology grounded in the self-attesting, self-authenticating, and self-interpreting testimony of Scripture concerning itself.

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