“Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.”William of Ockham
Ockham’s famous dictum gives us another occasion to demonstrate how Multiple Version Onlyism is not only out of touch with historic Christian doctrine but it is also out of touch with reasonable argumentation in general. As we have pointed out time and again, MVO’s seem woefully dependent on almost exclusive abductive reasoning. Their arguments regularly violate the Law of Non-Contradiction, and, as we will see in a moment, scholarly MVO advocates make it a cornerstone of their position to violate Ockham’s Razor.
Ockham’s Razor was postulated as early as Aristotle Posterior Analytics, but this philosophical razor bears it name by way of William of Ockham, a 14th century friar. Though Ockham offers different formulations of the razor his most popular rendition is quoted above, translated from the Latin. To put a little meat on the bones, the purpose of Ockham’s Razor is to be parsimonious [i.e., stingy] regarding the number of things [i.e., points to your argument, parts of your machine, beings in reality etc.] you admit in the explanation of a given thing or phenomenon. Unless necessity dictates, do not multiply entities/things when few would due to explain X. Put another way, the simplest answer which accounts for all relevant phenomena is the best answer.
My experience with Ockham’s Razor comes from my Ph.D. work in moral philosophy which served as the bulk of my class work. In the context of moral philosophy, Christians are often accused of lacking parsimony or violating Ockham’s Razor for including God in our ethics. Atheists believe they can account for objective morality without the entity called God. As such, according to the atheist, when Christians invoke God as the ground of morality they have unnecessarily multiplied entities in asserting the entity called God as the ground of morality. But of course, Ockham’s Razor can be used in any branch of philosophy or science. Here we employ it in the question of how many English version entities must necessarily exist to account for the Hebrew and Greek originals? How many versions it is going to take to account for the Hebrew and Greek originals at one time, for one people speaking one language. How many…1, 2, 3?
Well, it is readily received by most Christians that the number is at least one – one version for one people group speaking one language. This of course is where we stand in arguing for a standard sacred text. But for the MVO advocate the question now is, recalling Ockham’s Razor regarding necessity, “Is it necessary at this time that we have more than one version for one people group speaking one language?” If the answer is, yes, then the burden of proof rests with the MVO crowd and they have presented no such argument for the necessity of multiple versions at the same time for one people group speaking one language. As such the scholarly proponents of the MVO position show themselves to be generally unreasonable…again, and we haven’t even discussed exegesis, theology, or the manuscript evidence yet.
On the flip side, if the answer is, no, then the current and continued multiplication of versions of the Bible is a violation of Ockham’s Razor and ignores an important use of the Razor in the scientific method. Regarding the latter Ockham’s Razor is regularly used across the hard sciences to decide between two theories. Each theory’s force and scope depends on the number of entities it takes to explain the phenomena in question. Theories which account for the data but multiply entities beyond necessity are often accused of “extravagance” – a technical term meaning the excessive multiplication of entities in an attempt to account for some phenomenon.
For example, on the one hand, it sufficient to claim that humans built the Egyptian pyramids. On the other hand, we would violate Ockham’s Razor, unnecessarily multiply entities if we asserted that man + aliens built the Egyptian pyramids. Both account for the data but the later is extravagant because multiplies entities and that without necessity.
Until scholarly MVO advocates can offer a robust accounting for the necessary multiplication of entities call “English versions”, the current MVO position is indeed extravagant in the technical sense. That said, there is a simpler non-extravagant way of answering the question, “How many versions it is going to take to account for the Hebrew and Greek originals at one time, for one people speaking one language?” The answer is, One version, and that one we call the standard sacred text.
2 thoughts on “Yet Another Place Where MVOism Fails: Ockham’s Razor”
One version will not do particularly since it has many deficiencies as Mark Ward and others have effectively demonstrated. Plus there is the problem of the anglican bias.
First, if Ward’s arguments are the standard, I have shown his arguments to be largely effete on at least three occasions, therefore one version will do. Second, the “problem of Anglican bias” seems to be the kind of problem that led Baptists and Presbyterians and Christian Reformed and Methodists and Wesleyans and Charismatics and Anglicans to read one version for hundreds of years and hardly recognizing the so called “Anglican problem” as a substantive problem. But I’m open to contrary opinions so Dr. Purdy could you name 6 17th century treatises from prominent Protestant theologians pointing to the “Anglican Problem”? I’d be interested to read those. Thanks and blessings.