As we continue our discussion regarding those things in which both we and our interlocutors agree, we come now to the agreement that no two Greek manuscripts agree at every point. Put simply, they are all different. Usually our interlocutors follow this observation up with something like, “See, God did not preserve every jot and tittle.” Which of course is ridiculous as are similar conclusions like, “Given the evidence, Jesus could not have literally meant letters and parts of letters will be preserved.”
A point of nuance which our interlocutors seem to either miss or ignore is that the promise to literally preserve every jot and tittle of God’s word does not mean that every jot and tittle will be between two covers or in a single book at all times. Certainly this was the case at Jesus’s time in that the canon was only the Old Testament at His time while simultaneously the elements necessary for the inspired Gospels were being played out at the very moment Jesus declared that not one jot or one tittle will pass from the law. The point, that the Old Testament was not between two covers until perhaps Ezra’s time and the New Testament was not between two covers at the end of the first century.
But the lack of being between two covers does not somehow militate or render effete Jesus’ promise that every jot and tittle would be preserved. That said, it is fair to ask, “Ok, so then how do we know that the words that are between to covers are indeed the words of God and not men?” Good question.
As we have discussed in our last two installments on this topic, a second observation is that the emphasis on the originals has for us always fallen to individual words and only recently fallen to the editors of the ECM. The Standard Sacred Text position argues for every word in our TR/KJV being the word of God properly construed. And so it is a reasonable question not to ask, “Is some manuscript X the original words of God”, but to ask, “Which words in manuscript X agree with the Original?” And what proposals do we have as means to determine which words are original to the autograph?
On the one hand, the prevailing modern evangelical text-critical approach is to claim that the oldest reading is best reading, the hardest reading is the best reading, and the shortest reading the best reading.
On the other hand, the Standard Sacred Text position maintains that the Spirit of God speaks in the words of God to the people of God and in those words the people of God hear the voice of their Shepherd and they receive those words by faith as the words of God and not of men.
As you can see we and our interlocutors propose vastly different methods for determining which words are God’s words and which words are not. Thiers is predominantly if not exclusively naturalistic, relative, and transcendentless. Ours is predominantly supernatural, absolute, and transcendent. What is more, we can account for the use of textual criticism, in fact we encourage it, but we do so within the bounds of exegesis and orthodox Christian theology. Our interlocutors on the other hand can and do largely ignore the bounds of sound exegesis and orthodox Christian theology and such despising will not/does not affect their method at all.
As such, the Standard Sacred Text position has greater explanatory scope and force than the prevailing modern evangelical position. We can account for the role and use of textual criticism while simultaneously putting forth an argument that is predominantly supernatural, absolute, and transcendent. Our opponent got the text-critical part down but they wholly lack, or quite nearly to it, any exegetical and theological grounding for their position.
Our method demands Christian pre-commitments, and their method can do just as well without Christian pre-commitments. Our method is distinctively Christian and their method is distinctively not Christian.
So while we agree with our interlocutors on the evidence that no two Greek manuscripts agree; we disagree obviously and sharply on how we are to treat that evidence.