Copies, Copies Everywhere

Having established certain points of agreement between our position and that of the opposition here and here, we turn now to a discussion of the following:

“Given the absence of the original documents all that we have at our disposal are copies. Indeed, in most cases we have copies of copies or copies of copies of copies etc.

I think we can also agree that these copies were not the product of immediate inspiration. That is, each copy was not a product of the Holy Spirit bearing along the copyist in doing his work of copying. Rather, the copying came about by mere secondary causes. The faithful copyist produced a copy which was relatively consistent with his exemplar and to the degree of competence he possessed in the field of scribal copying. As a result, errors crept into the copies.

On this point our interlocutors would like to make a fine distinction between errors and variants. They often maintain that a variant like Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς [Jesus Christ] vs. Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς [Christ Jesus] is not an error but a variant. To this we respond that if God gave Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς in the Greek then God intended not just the words and meaning but even the order of the words. The original written at the hand of Paul had an original order and our opponents have offered no meaningful argument to expunge word order from the act of inspiration. As such, and seeing that the burden of proof rests upon them to prove word order is exempt from the act of inspiration, it seems that variants of this type are properly understood as errors when construed in light of divine inspiration.

So then, drawing on yesterday’s post, the emphasis falls not to whole document but to the words contained in those documents. On this point I am happy to see that the editors of the ECM and practitioners of the CBGM are finally coming around to the idea that it is the individual words that matter and not manuscript families or neutral texts though much of that stench still remains on these scholars.


The emphasis for our position has always been on the words, indeed our emphasis on the words has been deemed radical by some. It is our side that has vehemently argued not only for the preservation of every word but the preservation of every letter and even piece of letter. At this point I wanted to share an anecdote from yesterday. I was speaking with a pastor who does not hold to the Standard Sacred Text position nor does he read from the KJV. Furthermore, he did not know that I hold the TR and KJV by argument and conviction. In this environment he made the comment, now being 52 years old, that in his estimation the deliverances of modern evangelical textual criticism seem to make Bibles more and more like the TR/KJV tradition as the years pass. He started with making some observations about the RSV and then to the NIV and the finally concluding with the ESV only to note that these iterations have become more like the TR/KJV tradition and not less. This pastor’s observations are of course not pie in the sky.

We know now that the editors of the ECM have found a renewed appreciation for the Byzantine text-form in recent years and the Byzantine text-form makes up the greater bulk of the Greek which underlies the KJV. We also know that while the Critical Text demands that the long ending in Mark be removed and that the story of the woman caught in adultery be removed, these text still remain in the Bible. For over a hundred years the Critical Text crowd as decried the inclusion of these passages in the modern versions and yet they remain even amidst the protest. The modern versions are bending toward the Traditional Text, the Ecclesiastical Text, the Confessional Text. The reason behind this is unclear. There are gracious, realist, and non-gracious interpretations of this bending phenomenon which we will have to leave for another time.


Seeing that it is the words of the copies that matter and not necessarily the document as a whole, then the mechanism whereby we are to identify the original must be aimed not at whole documents but at whole words and parts of words. The editors of the ECM are finally starting to do this and they think they can do it with the help and speed of computers as in the formulation of the CBGM. Modern textual scholars have combined their relative genius with the artificial “genius” of computing speed. Which is to say that they are looking beyond man to machines in order to divine the original words of the New Testament.

We of course have no problem with using computers to do the work of textual criticism. The discipline itself is subjective and it remains subjective with or without computers. I suppose we should congratulate modern textual criticism for finally making it to the Information Age. But we have repeatedly asked that they look not beyond man to machine but to look beyond man to God in the person of the Holy Spirit in order to make determinations about what is or is not the New Testament.

The main difference between us and our interlocutors on this point is that while modern textual critics have turned their attention to computers as their new hope in finding the original words, we in accordance with our Reformation era forefathers have looked beyond the terrestrial and have compelled our interlocutors to consider that it is the Spirit of God that teaches us which words are God’s word and that the Christian receives these words as God’s words by the divine gift of faith. We continue to affirm the transcendent as the answer to which words are God’s words and they continue to mire themselves in the transcendentless.

To this day our modern evangelical text-critics turn to lifeless machines to help answer their textual questions while we here at Standard Sacred Text clearly and explicitly enjoin upon them to turn to the Source of all that is good, true, and beautiful in answering their textual questions. If you think my comparison here to be too simplistic then please by all means provide six or so recent scholarly sources that make a robust argument for the exegetical and theological grounding of modern textual criticism and its use of the CBGM. You know, help fill in the gaps for me. Between six sources you should be able to easily conjure up 200 or so double-spaced pages of scholarly material. Then after the material is presented we’ll see if and to what degree it can withstand scrutiny. Furthermore, be prepared to have this new material comport with Wasserman and Gurry’s A New Approach or else be ready to deny their work as cogent or authoritative.

In the mean time it is either scholars with their computers that are going to locate the original inspired infallible words of the New Testament or it is going to be the Spirit of God working through the people of God in receiving the original inspired infallible words of God by faith. We demur on the former and heartily embrace the latter.

One thought on “Copies, Copies Everywhere

  1. I continue to be appalled with the refusal of modern text critics to use theological considerations in authenticating certain variants. If one variant introduces a factual error or internal inconsistency into the text of Scripture, whereas another does not, why is the choice not clear on theological grounds alone? To me, this reveals that they are disingenuous when they profess to believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the “original”, since that profession is clearly not informing/guiding their scholarly work. At what point do we stand up and say such professions from so-called evangelical textual critics are meaningless at best, dishonest sophistry at worst?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: