In a recent interaction I had on the frontier of the digital Wild West an accusation was brought against the Standard Sacred Text position by Dr. Elijah Hixon which stated that TR specific or KJV specific arguments are fine so long as they don’t address the details. But as soon as the details are taken with sufficient seriousness said arguments fall apart in his view. Today I would like to address the fact that we here at StandardSacredText.com do indeed take the ”details” quite seriously but it seems to me that those of Hixon’s persuasion do not. Let’s take a look.
First, Hixon is not entirely clear about what accounts as the “details”. That said I assume he means the textual critical details – the nuanced ins-and-outs of lower textual criticism – things like manuscript families, manuscript types, internal evidence, external evidence, the host of error types that come about by scribal error, conjectural emendation, textual criticism as an art, and perhaps even the greatness and utility of the CBGM.
Second, I acknowledge and admit text critical material should be pursued, examined, and deliberated over. I admit that a form of textual criticism is part of the process that brought us the TR and the TR tradition. That said, there are two details which I would ask Hixon et al to consider – one methodological and the other epistemological.
Methodologically, while we admit textual criticism is part of the process of getting the TR we do not admit that modern textual criticism is the method whereby that process took place. That is, by our lights, there are significant differences between a species of textual criticism proceeding from the Renaissance Humanism of Erasmus or the decidedly Christian approach of William Tyndale and the Modernist/Post-Modernist/Post-Christian textual criticism enjoined upon us at present.
Epistemologically, while we admit textual criticism is part of the process of getting the TR we do not admit that modern textual criticism is the primary impetus or even means whereby the church recognizes/knows the Bible to be the Bible. In fact, modern textual criticism is at best, given the methodological objection above, the handmaid, the maidservant of theology and particularly the church. Textual criticism is slave to the church and particularly the Scripture through the church.
The Scripture is canon and is therefore the rule. The Scripture is rule and textual criticism is ruled by the rule. Do the work, but know that said work is more like the prodigal son tending swine, especially in the context of Post-Modernism, than it is a Saruman-like scholar musing is his white tower. It is indeed the case that textual critical work is the work of a bondslave but you needn’t labor as you do under the presuppositions of Post-Modernism. The primary mode of knowledge that this or that passage is the New Testament/the word of God is the Spirit of God speaking through the word of God to the people of God by faith.
“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.Ecclesiastes 10:5-7
We have lived to see this evil in the church. While textual critics, the servants, ride on the horseback in a place of honor; the church, the bride and fellow heir with Christ, are made to walk. In the end, according to Solomon, it is the church’s fault that this is the case. But that is for another post.
Third, the TR position has wrestled with the “details” of textual criticism which is clear by virtue of the fact that the TR has made decisions about trouble passages like the long ending in Mark, the story of the woman caught in adultery, and the longer reading of 1 John 5:7. They are all included. Indeed, decisions were made about every reading in the New Testament. Decisions were made and the details dealt with. There are Greek readings and Old Latin readings which are older than many Greek manuscripts supporting the decisions made by those like Erasmus and the KJV translators.
Admittedly, there are other manuscripts that have come to light since the collation of the TR, but given my second point, who determines if those readings are the New Testament/God’s word? Answer: Not scholars, not the CBGM. The believing community, the church does. So while the Greek underlying the ESV does not have the woman caught in adultery, the ESV does because the believing community calls for it regardless of the scholar’s opinion. Sure, there’s those ominous brackets but the text is in still there. So which side is failing to deal with the details now?
Fourth, if anyone is failing to deal with the details it is the critical-text position. For starters they seem to fail in dealing with the observed details above. After that I encourage you to read the leading material on textual criticism especially among evangelicals to see how much of their argument is anchored in Scripture or Christian theology or a distinctively Christian worldview. You will find that these details, distinctively Christian details are largely absent. There is little more than a nod at very best that it is the Spirit of God through the word of God to the people of God that decides on what is or is not the New Testament/the word of God. In other words, they do not deal with these details. To borrow words from Dr. Hixon, the evangelical text-critical argument stands until it’s called to wrestle with distinctively Christian details.