Why are variations within the manuscript tradition raised as a prima facia defeater to Matt. 5:18? Acknowledging that no two manuscripts are identical is enough for almost everyone to say, “Turn off the lights on your way out.” How then, does the historical record confirm the truth of Matt. 5:18 for the Canon of Scripture?
- The process by which the words of the Canon were collated cannot be classified, categorized, or easily referenced because all external criteria for canonicity fails. Also, because the result of divine providence is only recognized after the fact. The product, or Canon, does not divulge how the words were identified as canonical other than that they were immediately inspired and show the evidence of that inspiration as surely as does the presence of light. The question of the truth of Matt. 5:18 then deals with the inspired character of a product brought about by a historically unquantifiable process. Unquantifiable means unspecifiable or unidentifiable. That is, the historical collating process of the canon is not bound to a system based on a text type, a neutral text, an older, shorter, harder to read text, a text from which another text would derive its origin, is not part of a genealogical system by any name, is not part of any system. This assessment is not theological, dogmatic or of a religious nature. It is undeniable, that after 150 years of failed attempts to recover the words of the canon, the unquantifiable aspect of the canon’s formulation is no longer in question and should be accepted as settled science. Work continues in the CBGM project, but its trajectory is not canonical, more like verbal archeology. To deny unquantifiability of the historic canonical collating process it therefore should be considered unscientific. Though all external scientific criteria have failed, vestiges of the failed system persist now only by slowing scholarly momentum. In another generation, I suspect, the entire historical critical enterprise will be a forgotten novelty. It is difficult but not insurmountable for the critic to admit that their life’s work had little enduring worth, or that the disciples of these men to admit they were misled.
- Returning then to the argument of mainstream Protestant Orthodoxy, after the Enlightenment’s incursion into the Christian principium, the historical canonical collating process is bound only to the text’s nature as the word of God, and to the capacity of the Church to identify that inspired text through the leading of the Holy Spirit. The capacity to identify inspired words throughout the course of history is unquantifiable. Science, also observed and validates the unquantifiability of the process. Though the text is a literary phenomenon, the identification of the inspired text transpires through the dynamic relationship between the Spirit, Word, and Covenant keeper whereby the written revelation of God and God the Spirit moves the Church to accept the inspired word.
- The inspired product of this process, because the process is historically unquantifiable, existed in history as canonical iterations, the historical process not yet complete. To say that Matt. 5:18 fails because the unquantifiable historic process had not yet concluded the final canon is historically premature, not accounting for the historical limitations of the collation of canonical words. After Christ uttered the words recorded in Acts 5:18 the unquantifiable canonical collating process was eschatologically secure and assured. When Matt. 5:18 was uttered by the Lord, those that only possessed part of the whole of the canon, not knowing the final scope of the canon, nevertheless knew that the canon as God designed it would be infallible. The book of Matthew was synecdochically as a part of the whole to speak canonically for the whole of the canon. And because Acts 5:18 is true, and the source of all truth as God’s Word, this assessment is also scientifically consistent. Both the promise of God and science concur that the historical canonical collating process of inspired words is phenomenally unquantifiable. Each word or each Book of Scripture, designated an “iteration” was the word of God, it was canonical, it was self-authenticating, evidencing its inspiration but only as far as the collation of the canon existed to that point in history. To be continued. Blessings!