The Textual Confidence Collective’s View of Itself

So episode five of the Textual Confidence Collective [TCC] dropped today. My first reaction was to exclaim, “Someone call an ambulance! They are special pleading all over the place!” But I will try to avoid that route in this post. The perennial critiques of modern textual criticism remain firmly intact and completely unaddressed by the TCC. Those critiques are:

1.) What authority do textual critics have to determine what is or is not God’s word? There appears to be none and the TCC offers none.
2.) By what standard are a textual critic’s observations considered trustworthy?
The TCC simply asserted that they are but offer no rationale as to why other than their love for the work and the need for scholarship.
3.) What is the Church’s role in the modern text critical process?
Again, as far as I can tell, the Church is merely and simply a recipient of the knowledge of text critics unless of course someone in the Church were to become a text critic himself. So much for the plowboy. Ward’s silence on the point was deafening.
4.) When will their work be done? “Never” seems to be the answer. If the future is anything like the past the TCC would have us doubt something of the Bible until Jesus comes.
5.) What exegetical grounding does the TCC have for treating the Bible the way they do? Certainly they have Scripture on how to treat people, or the environment, or governments, or the Church, or their money, or their sin, but they seem to have exactly zero exegetical grounding for how they treat the Bible.

These things aside, let’s get into some of the things they did say.

1.) I am convinced that the TCC is simply a moderate form of Textual Skepticism. Remember how the TCC lumps all kinds of folks into the Textual Absolutist position and then go on to declare two groups as extreme and three groups as moderate and all on a sliding scale from extreme to more moderate. The same it true here for the TCC. They ardently resist the label of “absolutist” while simultaneously insisting on a measure of doubt in believing in the Bible. So, while the TCC is not as extreme as a Bart Ehrman who doubts all of Scripture; the TCC does in fact hold to and preach an unavoidable and necessary bit of doubt regarding portions of the Scriptures. In other words, the TCC is a moderate position under the greater umbrella of Textual Skepticism.

2.) In this episode, the doubt exhibited by the TCC is far more than I originally thought. In this post I observed the following regarding the TCC. They

1.) Doubt that the TR is the word of God down to the very words and letters.
2.) Doubt that “jot and tittle” means jot and tittle in Matthew 5:18.
3.) Stories of their own personal doubt [a doubt so strong 3 of the 4 rejected the doctrine of Preservation at some point in their professional journey].
4.) Doubt that anyone’s English Bible is absolutely God’s word.
5.) Doubt that the Bible even teaches Providential Preservation.
6.) Doubt that Psalm 12:6-7 speaks of preserving God’s words.
7.) Doubt that we will ever have every word of God between two covers.
8.) They attempt to cast doubt on Confessional Bibliology.
9.) Doubt that we can understand Early Modern English.

But episode five added more to this list, which are,

10.) There is doubt concerning how many New Testament witnesses we really have. [Starting at 11:48]
11.) There is doubt regarding the checking-test-passages method of assessing manuscripts. [45:35]
12.) There is doubt regarding what manuscripts are trustworthy. [49:39]
13.) Depending on the scholar, there is doubt about the goal of textual criticism. [50:10]
14.) There is doubt regarding what counts as a viable variant. [01:05:00]
15.) There is doubt regarding what counts as a meaningful variant. [01:05:00]
16.) There is doubt regarding the intention of the scribe. [01:06:55]

Two points, first there seems to be a whole lot of admitted doubt on issues central to the TCC program. It seems quite unnatural and even unlikely then that the TCC really understandings the difference between confidence and skepticism if this is how they go about instilling confidence. Perhaps confidence is another False Friend. Second, it seems that doubt is part and parcel of the whole whole TCC enterprise. In other words, it appears that confidence in the Biblical text cannot be had unless a necessary measure of doubt be part of that confidence.

I really don’t want to go back to this but it keeps coming up. The trauma of the TCC led them to doubt their Bible [i.e., the KJV] and now instead of overcoming that doubt they are simply asking others to come join them in doubting their current Bible at least a little bit, but this time it’s ok. So they traded doubt in their Bible for doubt in their Bible. Brilliant strategy!

3.) Then there is the question of the reliability of the text critical process itself which should cause us all to doubt it. Hixon says at [11:48] that sometimes we are not sure if Papyri manuscripts are from the Bible or from someone commenting on the Bible. Hixon goes on to say of the Minuscules, that of manuscripts of the NT these account for the largest portion [19:00]. But Hixon goes on to say that there are so many Byzantine manuscripts that most are left unstudied [45:55]. Hixon then says at [24:00] that lectionaries which also account for a large number of the manuscripts tradition are the least studied [23:10]. So what manuscripts are left? Majuscules the most prominent of which are Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The point, and the TCC helps us make this point, is that the modern textual criticism has focused the greater majority of its work on a handful of papyri scraps and a few hundred Majuscules two of which are ***surprise surprise*** considered to be the oldest and best. And why study the Byz manuscripts when Westcott and Hort regarded them as the most unreliable while the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were considered the Neutral Text? Very objective. Very scientific. Very trustworthy.

4.) Then there is the inherent doubt that we have in men as a general rule. The TCC overlooks this and to their own hurt. At [58:00] of episode three Peter said, “The people on in the congregation should trust what I say unless I give them reason other wise.” At [49:39] of episode five Hixon sets himself or those like him to be the judge of what is a “trustworthy” manuscript. Then at [01:04:14] Ward quotes Dan Wallace and Hixon disagrees with Wallace and Ward by implication on what counts as a viable and meaningful variant. Then at the [01:10:20] mark Peter tells us “the scribes had all sorts of influences on them and they made all sorts of mistakes and fundamentally the scribes didn’t change it very much and most of the changes that they made [at least the ones Peter and his friends know about] we can reverse because we know how scribes from over a thousand years ago tend to operate.” In short, scribes made mistakes, we know they made mistakes, even God knows they made mistakes, but that’s ok so get over it.

I can just feel my confidence in God and His word surging through my veins. Thanks TCC!

In sum, the TCC is rife with doubt and doubtful methods and that by their own testimony. Their claims to confidence seem quite disingenuous. They conveniently lump Confessional Bibliology into Textual Absolutism but totally miss their own ingrained skepticism which puts them more in the camp of Bart Ehrman than they realize.

3 thoughts on “The Textual Confidence Collective’s View of Itself

  1. Those questions you pose have been the same questions I’ve been wondering about for some time as I have continued to read about the CT and TR. It doesn’t seem that these questions are ever addressed in any helpful way by CT advocates unless I’m missing something?

    Liked by 1 person

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