Over the past couple week we have been discussing, among other things, the fact that the Post-Reformation Reformed dogmaticians were aware of many of the textual variants that we wrestle with today. Some of the take-aways of these observation is that the Reformed Orthodox were aware of these variants and still argued for a standard sacred text in the Greek and Hebrew apart from the standard sacred text Rome found in the Latin Vulgate. Furthermore, we have observed that the method and subsequent conclusions drawn were different in kind than those practiced and observed now.
Today we come to the biggest and perhaps most contested passages in the version debate: the ending of Mark, the story of the woman caught in adultery, and 1 John 5:7. The appropriate question at this point is, were the Reformers were aware of these variants and how did they conclude regarding them? If they were known, and if their explanations possessed sufficient explanatory scope and force then it seems their answers should suffice for us today unless of course new and meaningful objections were to arise.
In answering this question let us look again to Turretin to see if he was indeed aware of these variants and if he was, how did respond to their existence. As I have said several times before, Turretin is a unique and potent example because his Institutes of Elenctic Theology served as the first systematic theology at the Academy of Geneva, the first Protestant School of Higher Learning. So, fresh out of the Reformation and during the High-Scholastic period, Turretin formulates the systematic theology of the Protestant movement. So what you see in Turretin’s work is not merely the work of one man but the culmination of three waves of the Reformation with a backdrop of Medieval learning. As such, Turretin’s Institutes represent the systematized and crucial loci [i.e., topics] of the Protestant movement to that point.
Given the above historical context what did Turretin have to say about the three passages in question? He writes concerning the account of the woman caught in adultery,
“There is no truth in the assertion that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are said to be mutilated; nor can the arguments used by our opponents prove it. Not in the history of the adulteress (Jn. 8:1-11), for although it is lacking in the Syriac version, it is found in all the Greek manuscripts.”Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 11, Sec, X.
Concerning 1 John 5:7 he writes,
“Not 1 Jn. 5:7, for although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it, as Sixtus Senesis acknowledges: ‘they have been the words of never-doubted truth, and contained in all the Greek copies from the very time of the apostles.'”Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 11, Sec, X.
Finally, Turretin writes of the ending of Mark’s Gospel,
“Not Mk. 16 which may have been wanting in several copies in the time of Jerome (as he asserts); but now it occurs in all, even in the Syriac version , and is clearly necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ.”Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 11, Sec, X.
In short, like in the other cases mentioned on this blog Turretin and by implication, the Protestant scholastics were well aware that their various opponents tried to use these three passages as a means to weaken the authority and certainty of the Protestant Canon. Now it is Protestants telling other Protestants that their Bible is less certain and authoritative because it contains these passages.
Observe further that Turretin’s emphasis again falls on the multiplicity of manuscripts in drawing his conclusions and in the case of Mark, that the long ending is “necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ,” which is a theological consideration plainly stated as grounds for his text-critical decision. Overall, we see that there is nothing new under the sun. The accusations and attempted ends are the same though they are now coming from different quarters.
This is going to be the last of our examples from Francis Turretin on this point. Next time we will look at William Whitaker’s Disputations on Holy Scripture.