False Friends and the Critical Text

For most of our readership you know about the term False Friends. This is a term co-opted by Mark Ward which is usually used in the context of comparing foreign languages. Still, Ward thought it best to bring the term into a comparison of English with English.

We understand the rhetorical play here in that Ward is using a term which belongs in the context of foreign languages and in so doing begins to construe Early Modern English as a foreign language. 5 points for the idea and 5 points for the effort. But as we have shown on this blog here, here, here, here, and here, Wards application of false friends to the KJV lacks considerable explanatory force and scope.

He has little problem noting the false friends in the KJV but has yet to make a list of false friends in modern versions. It’s almost like he thinks all the denotations of words in the modern versions are easily accessible, commonly used, and regularly understood. You may say, “Well that’s a to quoque fallacy.” No, I don’t think so.

I readily admit that some words in the KJV are words the reader thinks he understands but in the end he does not. But this is not grounds to reject the KJV. In like manner it stands to reason that some words in the multitudes of modern versions are words the reader thinks he understands but in the end he does not. But this is not grounds to reject the modern versions. There are other more robust, reasonable, and academically rigorous points of departure upon which we ought to reject the modern versions. False friends is not one of them.

But while we are talking about false friends let’s consider the crux or pith of what amounts to a false friend – the fact that a person believes they understand a word but in the end do not. In short, the reader thinks he knows but he does not.

Did you know that the modern critical text apparatus expresses this very thing?

Real quick. Anyone who is familiar with the critical text apparatus in the UBS 4th Rev or the N/A 28 knows that the readings in the apparatus are all rated. In the UBS the ratings are A, B, C, and D. According to the UBS 4th Rev edition, A indicates that the text is certain. B indicates that the text is almost certain. C indicates that the Committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text. D indicates that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision.

So A = certain. “Certain” like the rest of the text that has no footnote in the apparatus? Most of the critical text does not have a textual footnote in the apparatus which is to say that an “A” reading is less certain than the parts of the text that have no footnote in the apparatus at all. So what, the stuff in the critical text without a textual footnote is super certain while the textual footnotes with an A are only regular certain and B’s are almost certain?

No, the point is that A readings are not as certain as readings which have no textual footnote. And B readings are less certain than A’s. C and D readings don’t even use the word certainty. Rather they speak of degrees of difficulty in knowing what the right reading is.

In all these cases the Committee is doubtful either in their individual understanding of the evidence or of their certainty in their colleague’s opinions regarding the evidence. Either way, the five scholars of the Committee admit that they think they know what the right reading is but equally admit that they may not know.

At one point in the introduction to the UBS 4th Rev edition the Committee announces that

“the Committee selected 284 new passages for inclusion in the apparatus. Meanwhile 273 passages previously included were removed.”

UBS 4th Rev Edition, 2*

Setting aside the fact that the Committee had added 11 new places of doubt to the apparatus, it is obvious that the Committee previously thought 284 passages were not worthy of the apparatus while 273 no longer belonged in the apparatus. That is, they thought they knew the status of 557 readings but in the end they did not, but still printed a text and distributed it to colleges and seminaries.

The problem is the same as with false friends. In both cases the reader thought they understood the nature and meaning of a reading when in fact they did not – the KJV reader when reading the word “apt” and the textual scholar who thought 273 passages belonged in the apparatus but did not.

What is more the textual scholar in grading a reading admits to conflict within the Committee at that moment, especially ratings B, C, and D. Wherever you see these grades in the apparatus it means that the Committee itself disagreed on what reading to include. That is, in the case of a C rating 2 of the 5 scholars chose one reading and the other 3 of the 5 scholars chose a different reading. Either the 2 scholars are right or the 3 scholars are right or neither are right.

However the chips fall, somebody thinks they know what the reading is but in the end they do not know. This is the very definition [to think you know but in the end you do not know] that Ward leans on to call for a revision or abandonment of the KJV. The same substantial event is happening in the textual apparatus to the tune of 1,438 rated readings in the textual apparatus of the NT alone.

Scholars think they know what the reading is but in the end they do not.

Ward’s False Friends argument includes the OT with the NT, and yet in the UBS 4th Rev there are 1,438 variants over which scholars think they know but in they end they do not. Is this not grounds given Ward’s argument to at least consider throwing out or revising the UBS until there are nearly zero textual footnotes.

It seems Ward should put his own textual house in order before he starts throwing stones elsewhere.

Again, Ward’s goal is not scholarly because he does not point his theories against his own side. He only makes analysis of his opponents and not of the same troubles that crop up on his side of the fence.

We have no problem saying that double-inspiration is an untenable position. Ward seems incapable or disinterested in examining the modern versions and taking to task the inherent doubt in the text-critical process. This is the point of scholarly work in general. If your own position begins to crumble under your current investigation then you must admit your position is crumbling and amend your position to either bring it into conformity to the new investigation or to strengthen it to withstand the critique of the new investigation. Ward has done neither.

Charitably put, Ward’s argument on this point is intellectually dishonest and academically incestuous just so he can tell us and others that the TR and the KJV are not the Bible for the English-speaking Church. But before he takes it personally he needs to know that he is not alone in this on his side of the fence.

2 thoughts on “False Friends and the Critical Text

  1. Good points. Thanks.

    A few remarks on the sum:

    Without reference to the Bible, but to the English language in general, I often run across words I think I understand but do not. Sometimes this is when I am reading, and sometimes when I am writing. Does this mean I should quit reading and writing? Only read Pre-K level stuff? I think not! It means I have work to do.

    Great illustration about the NU apparatus. I would add to the A-D rating, but many scholars and text critics speak and write as if they are uncertain about words or verses without textual footnotes.

    I concur with your focus on the problem of Mark not consistently applying his arguments elsewhere than the KJV. Of course, the reason he does not is because he wants to convince us all to read some Bible other than the KJV.

    Liked by 1 person

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