Variae Lectiones (Variant Readings)

variae lectiones: variant readings;

specifically, variant readings in the several ancient codices of Scripture that led to debate concerning the infallibility of the scriptural Word.

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: variae lectiones.

First, the Reformed Scholastics, or the Third-Wave Reformers, understood that there were variant readings among the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts available to them.

Second, because the Reformed Scholastics recognized and admitted that no two manuscripts agree in every place a debate about the infallibility of the scriptural Word arose between the Protestants and the Catholics.

Third, we admit that the current believing community probably has more manuscripts than the believing community had in the Reformation. That said, it important to note that the debate over infallibility was still very much a contention. The point being, it does not matter how many manuscripts you have for a debate about infallibility to ensue. You can have 10 or 10,000 and so long as they disagree the orthodox will rise to defend the infallibility of Scripture.

Fourth, their debate was about infallibility not about inerrancy. This shift in terminology took place at B.B. Warfield and most modern scholars have never looked back. The former teaches that the Bible cannot err, and the latter teaches that the Bible has not erred. The former denotes an inability to err while the latter denotes a possible yet unrealized potential to err. If God possessed a possible yet unrealized potential to err, He would not be God. Why then would we argue such a possibility for His words?

“The orthodox, Lutheran and Reformed, generally argued that the meaning of the original can be recovered by careful collation of texts.”

Muller, Dictionary, Term: variae lectiones.

First, the orthodox maintained that the original could be recovered. We now exist in a time when many textual critics, evangelical and otherwise, do not believe we can recover the original.

Second, the recovery could easily be accomplished by a comparison of texts.

“But the latter consists in this, that the autographs and also the accurate and faithful copies may be the standard of all other copies of the same writing and of its translations. If anything is found in them different from the authentic writings, either autographs or apographs, it is unworthy of the name authentic and should be discarded as spurious and adulterated, the discordance itself being a sufficient reason for its rejection.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 11, Sec. IV.

Where many have given up the search for the original in the face of manuscript differences, the Reformed orthodox concluded their work and put their emphasis on the Textus Receptus.

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