The unquantifiability of the historic canonical collating process, part 2

In part one of this series, we argued that the historical critical method’s failure after 150 years of scientific discovery to identify the canon is sufficient grounds to say that the historic collation of canonical words is unquantifiable which agrees with Protestant orthodoxy, but of course for obviously different reasons. Consider this agreement the coming together of General and Special revelation – what takes a lifetime of General revelation to uncover God’s will, Special revelation states in a moment of reading. General revelation has shown critical scholars the unquantifiability of historical canonical collating process of inspired words after 150 years of failure. For the saint, and for the Church throughout history, we trusted the words of Christ in Matt. 5:18 and came to the same conclusion by faith. In part two we explore this commonality, while exposing further the futility of the historical critical method and popular denials of the truth of Matthew 5:18. The Church should be thankful that God did not reveal the “how” of his providential plan to preserve his word in history but only that he did. Truly, John’s note that “even the world could not contain the books that should be written” about Christ is nowhere truer than considering the magnitude of the unquantified mechanism of verbal preservation. This divine work of inestimable component parts accents the absurdity of the textual critical method to quantify the work of God as if the critic could capture the “how” of God’s infinite wisdom and oversight to keep his inspired word pure. Albeit, even if thousands of volumes were written describing to the smallest detail how preservation unfolded in history, the fallen mind would have thousands of volumes to reject as spurious. God gave us what we needed in one small library of books called the inspired canon and asks us to accept the “how” by faith.

Picking up, then where we left off,

  1. Repeat point 2 in part 1 an unspecified number of times an unquantified number of times since the autographa was penned.
  • The inspired product of this unquantifiable historic process comes to be received by the Church as its last iteration, which brings us to accepting or rejecting the last iteration. The idea of “last” is unknowable because the process is unquantifiable. “Last” is therefore what is “received” by the Church as canonical in and by Scripture through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, “last iteration” should not be understood as exclusive or unique in respect to its place in the process. Matt. 5:18 has always been historically accurate within the scope of the unquantifiable, historical collating process of inspired words, either for the part or the whole. The last iteration is a synecdochic iteration – the canonical whole standing for the multiple canonical historic iterations; the prior iterations were also synecdochic – the canonical part standing for the canonical whole, the last inspired, canon.


Supposition: The received, last iteration of Matt. 5:18 is rejected as being historically indefensible.

Answer 1:This is the position of the modern critic who fecklessly argues that the historic collating process of the inspired word of God is quantifiable according to some preconceived and arbitrary system therefore finding the Canon to be merely phenomenal as scientifically qualified. But as we have seen, the historic collating process of inspired words is not quantifiable for phenomenal and noumenal reasons. Phenomenally, all external criteria for canonicity fail — apostolicity, antiquity, public reading, doctrinal, ecclesiastical authority, and the historical critical method. Likewise, noumenally, the wisdom of God’s providence is seen only after the fact. Providence cannot be classified, categorized, or easily referenced being beyond the mind of man to comprehend until after its manifestation. Therefore, the prolonged failure of the critical, closed, and empirical method to make the argument for or recreate a scientifically quantified canon lends its support to the unquantifiable truth content of Matthew 5:18. Not only is Matthew 5:18 defensible, the historical critical method’s failure to provide scientific criteria or a standard over the past 150 years serves to confirm the unquantifiable truth claims of Matthew 5:18. Science’s failure has demonstrated that historic canonical collation is unquantifiable. This statement is not theological or dogmatic. Science cannot get the scholar back to the autographs, nor can science explain how the autographs transitioned through history. The answers to these queries are unquantifiable. Furthermore, because the scientific method confirms the object predicated by the subject, the only canon that could be located would be anthropological. The scientific method does not allow the object to transcend the subject.

Answer 2: To reject the last iteration, an error in the historically unquantifiable process must be scientifically demonstrated. With the failure of textual criticism’s qualified methodology to locate the canon comes the end of a scientific platform real or proposed to reject the last iteration of the historically unqualified process of canonical collation and therefore there are no longer any scientific grounds or criteria for showing an error in the historically unquantified process of canonical collating the inspired words. After 150 years of failed attempts to recover the autographa using quantified methods, the unquantifiable aspect of the canon’s formulation can no longer justly be in question in the mind of the serious scholar, because the scientific methodology, after a long search, has itself concluded that discovering the how of canonical formation is unquantifiable. All criticism of the last iteration is therefore ad hominem.

Answer 3: Appeal to prior iterations that differ from the last received iteration is not a negative witness against the last received iteration to the degree that the prior iteration’s inspired words are canonical or consistent with the historic unquantifiable collation of canonical words. Indeed, to varying degrees, all iterations support the collation of inspired canonical words up to a certain historical point. Corrupted 1st century manuscripts to appear apostolic undoubtedly mimicked inspired documents containing or removing the same inspired words and thus Paul’s warning in 2 Thess. 2:2. Such corrupted manuscripts may have had inspired words and sentences that served a moral or perhaps even an evangelistic purpose but were rejected as documents as corrupt and non-canonical pseudepigrapha.

Answer 4: To remove the long ending of Mark or the Pericope de adultera is recognized now as scientific fraud, lingering systemic remnants of the false assumption that science could quantify the canon. These exclusions falsely suggest that the editors, based on their qualified system, were constructing a canonical exemplar they had never seen. This illustration is precisely why a qualified critical system for canonical reconstruction fails, and in the gravity of its failure lends its support to the unquantifiable historical collation of inspired words called providential preservation. The choices now are either providential preservation or nothing. This quantified, closed system assumed a prior iteration of the last received iteration is the canon, when by the critics’ own admission, their findings were tentative, uncertain, and thus evolving, three signs of the system’s failure and incapacity of creating a “new” canon out of a possible prior canonical itration. At best, manuscripts absent these two passages were prior iterations of the canon, as were all Scriptural corruptions, of the unquantifiable collating process not received as canonical by the Church.

Answer 5: In effect, modern textual criticism is trapped in a closed scientific system of the critics own making, infinitely bouncing between prior possible iterations which are a mixture of inspired canonical words and false readings whether by modification, addition, but primarily subtraction. This process would continue ad infinitum because the system does not allow for any determinative authority external to the system to determine its worth, authority, or produce a last iteration. It seems that if not for avarice and superbia the intellectual fatigue of digging a hole only to fill it back up again repeated for decades should have pointed the scholar to a more constructive academic exercise some time ago.

Answer 6: Modern versions reflect the bouncing between possible prior iterations and are also a mixture of inspired canonical words and false readings whether by addition or subtraction. Following the critical text, modern versions serve a utilitarian purpose, as do lectionaries and gospel pamphlets, but fail to meet the standard of a vernacular, authoritative canon. The mixture of inspired words and non-inspired words, or the absence of inspired words, in conjunction with the failed persisting notion that the historic collation of the canon is quantifiable are the principal points of contention between pre-critical and post-critical Bibliology.

Summary: Therefore, by the failed limits of its own closed, empirical, quantifiable constraints, no scientific method or criteria exists to reject the unquantifiable historic collation of inspired, canonical words guaranteed by Matthew 5:18. In the simplest terms, “No one can argue scientifically that the Received Text and traditional Masoretic Hebrew text are not the Christian canon because no one has ever seen the autographa to say otherwise.” Indeed, the prolonged inability and ultimate failure of the historical critical method to locate or reconstruct the autographa scientifically reinforces the Protestant orthodox apologetic, which has been argued for at length at Standard Sacred Text, for the unquantifiability of the truth content of Matthew 5:18 based on the promise of Jesus Christ. To be continued. Blessings!

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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