Chas recently wrote in asking the following question:
My question for the day – I had asked you regarding the faith of Erasmus – I used him because as I understand it he would not have had a perfectly collated TR in his hand thus it was still in need of maturing. Thus if as you have said true faith must have a perfect Bible as its object what would you say regarding his faith in what he had as well as all others before 1611? How do you describe faith in something which was not then perfect?
This is a question we have dealt with in two of our printed works, but I think it would be good to address it here as well.
Often the TR/KJV side is charged with special pleading because we claim the TR/KJV to be special, and to our opponents, we give no reason for making that claim. This objection quickly morphs into, “Well, what about the people before 1611? Did they not have the Bible? Did God all of a sudden just show up in 1611 while leaving the rest of the faithful to languish without a Bible?”
To answer this question I offer a historically viable scenario as an example which goes something like this:
1.) Before the writing of the NT all the 1st Century Church had for Scripture was the OT.
2.) Those who held to the OT as the only rule of faith and practice were moral and biblical in holding that belief mentioned in #1.
3.) Then at some point in the 1st Century Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, which is currently thought to be the earliest written book of the NT.
4.) Believers who held to the OT alone as the rule of faith and practice came in contact with 1 Corinthians.
5.) By the Spirit speaking through His words [1 Corinthians] the believing community accepted by faith the belief that the Canon is now the OT + 1 Corinthians.
6.) Furthermore, those believers came to believe that the Canon was not only the OT.
7.) Arguably there were saints that believed the OT to be the Canon but did not know about 1 Corinthians and yet did know about Ephesians.
8.) So then you could quite possibly have one group of believers that believed the whole Canon was just the OT, another group that believed the Canon was the OT + 1 Corinthians, and yet another group that believed the Canon as the OT + Ephesians.
9.) Each group is morally and spiritually justified in their belief so long as they don’t come in contact with these other books of the NT.
10.) If and when they do, the Holy Spirit will speak to His people through His words and in time all three groups of believers will believe the Canon is composed of 66 books – the 39 books of the OT and the 27 of the NT.
Now apply this not to books of the Bible but to words of the Bible. Erasmus was like the believers who held to the whole OT and some of the NT [e.g. the OT + 1 Corinthians]. I argue that the maturing of the TR’s is like the 1st Century Church coming to realize which books were from God and which were not [i.e., a more “mature Canon”] except for the Reformation Church that realization was on a word-by-word level rather than a book-by-book level.
As a result, Erasmus in Erasmus’ time and place could regard his TR with full confidence that it was indeed the very words of the total and original Canon of the NT, much in the same way the 1st Century saint believed that the OT + 1 Corinthians was the total and original Canon. But when a further refinement of Erasums’ TR was developed, Scrivener’s for example, it is not that Erasmus was morally and theologically wrong for believing what he believed at his time any more than we can fault 1st Century Christians for believing the whole Canon was the OT + 1 Corinthians.
But we can fault the 1st Century Christian after the advent and knowledge of the entire Canon for believing the whole Canon to be merely the OT + 1 Corinthians when really the whole Canon is the 39 books of the OT and the 27 books of the NT. In like manner, we can look back on Erasmus’ text and claim that it is not complete, it is has not matured. Put tersely, Erasmus’ belief was warranted and rational in his time and place, but his belief is not rational and warranted in our time and place.
This is why we construe this change [Erasmus’ belief in time and place and our belief in our time and place] as an act of sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, a sanctification of the mind in Christ. At one point 1st Century saints believed the total Canon was the OT. At another point they believed that the total Canon was the OT + 1 Corinthians. And yet at another point God’s saints come to believe that the total Canon was the OT + 27 books of the NT.
Never in the moment are the 1st Century saints castigated for their “poor Bibliology.” Only when there is a refinement, and a refinement that the Christian is aware of, do we then look back on prior iteration [e.g., OT only or OT + 1 Corinthians only] do we call that belief into question. Questioning doesn’t come in the moment. Questioning comes after a refinement and the Christian’s knowledge of that refinement.
Take for example those in the 1st Century Church who had received the baptism of John but not the baptism of the Holy Ghost [Acts 19:1-5]. Paul doesn’t blast them and tell them they are not Christians because they had not the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Now, once the Holy Ghost had come upon men at Pentecost and once these saints who had only John’s baptism had come come to know of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, then those saints would be compelled to accept the truth of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and if they did not then they would be rejecting the teaching of Christ.
In like manner, at one point many believed Erasmus’ text to be the complete words of God in Greek equal to the original, and in the moment we don’t question their belief. Then at a different point in time the Holy Spirit led His people to believe Scrivener’s TR was the complete words of God in Greek equal to the original, at which point we can then look back on Erasmus’ text and question its maturity.
The question now is, “Are the modern versions and critical texts a refinement?” Well, first, who determines what a refinement is? We would say God the Spirit speaking through His words to His people in the pew will determine what is or is not a refinement. Has the believing community determined if there has been a refinement of the TR/KJV? If so, which text is that? Are we not told by our Critical Text overlords that all variants are relatively minor and that no major doctrine is at stake? So what refinement, given their own testimony, have they affected? At best it is negligible and that by their own admittance rather than the admittance of the believing community.
At the moment things are upside down. The academic popes are telling the believing community what they should believe. In this sense they have put themselves in the place of God, truly anti-God where the Greek preposition “ἀντί” means “instead of”. The textual critics stand in God’s stead to tell God’s people which words are God’s words. When it is the reverse that is true. The correct order of operation is God tells the believing community what is or is not God’s word and then the believing community “tells” the academic popes and they submit to that leading and with great humility carry on their work.