Some might be thinking that it’s unfair to hold Carson’s 1979 offering to contemporary “standards” as if Carson’s writing is reminiscent of your local weatherman’s forecast. No one holds the meteorologist liable for erroneous forecasts, except in sever circumstances, due to the always fluctuating conditions of seasonal weather. But Carson, who received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, has not chosen an intrinsically fluid topic upon which to write; he has decided to comment on the immutable principium cognesendi of the Christian Faith. As such he is striking at the very foundation of Christianity. And while he argues that the differences between manuscript traditions are minor, he is asking the reader to accept a 35-inch yardstick because it is mostly a yard. Indeed, anyone who argues for the importance of the inch is unreasonable and unrealistic, which is to whom he pleads for realism. After all, just be realistic in evaluating the evidence and everything will be fine. The 36-inch yard stick people are the schismatics because they will not settle for Carson’s definition of realism. Now, after 40 years of building the spiritual house of the church with a mostly one-yard stick of the critical method, how has the Church fared under the tutelage of a Ph.D. from Cambridge? Rather than being the “pillar and ground of the truth” the Church has been loosed from its foundation and has been shook to is core as Carl. R. Trueman’s book, “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” has so acutely illustrated.
In 1979 text types were still in vogue (chapter 3) and the shortest, hardest, and transcriptional probability as source for others paradigm was considered valid (chapter 4). Chapter 4 concludes with these words meant to reassure the reader that in spite of the technical issues, the person in the pew has nothing to worry about because, “the vast majority of lines of the Greek New Testament may be regarded as textually certain. A number of others are certain to a high degree of probability. A relative handful constitute famous problems that are debated constantly in books and journal literature.” p. 31. The notion of “textually certain” is a straight up prevarication in that, for the text critic, every word of Scripture is subject to the textual critical method. The notion of “high degree of probability” is likewise nonsense in that the text of Scripture is again subjected to the evaluation of the critic. The last outright rejects portions of Scripture as “famous problems” that have arisen since the 19th century such as the rejection of the long ending of Mark and the Pericope de Adultera.
Carson’s reference to the shortest and hardest readings to be preferred sets the stage to discredit the Byzantine text which is over all longer and easier to read. In Myths and Mistakes, we read “The entire textual stream – including the Byzantine tradition – is far more stable than typically admitted.” p. 115, and on p. 116, “Distinctly Byzantine readings often have ancient roots.” Pleased note how wrong a Ph.D. from Cambridge University was on this issue in 1979, and yet, his writings were published by Baker, and with other books of this ilk, erroneously lead readers to believe that this is the course, the realistic course, the Church should take.
Chapter 5 is entitled the “Origins of the Textus Receptus” which is a regurgitation of Bruce Metzger’s evaluation of the role of Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536). Carson wanted to make sure he did not deviate from party orthodoxy on this pivotal point in his argument arguing against the authenticity of 1 John 5:7. Nestled close to Metzger he could be assured of wide academic approval. Carson, Metzger, et al, have found Erasmus to be a manageable starting point for their attack of the Reformation Greek and English Bible tradition. With minimal primary source documents, the usually a-historical critical apologist fills in the many early 16th c. blanks with analysis favorable to their argument giving the impression that the Received Text depended on one historic link, Erasmus, which the critic will argue was very weak. As with all poor scholarship, it wins the day by omitting evidence because of information dominance giving the reader the impression that theirs is the only reasonable answer. See however substantiation for 1 John 5:7, for example, in Francis Antony Knittel,, New Criticisms on the Celebrated Text, 1 John 5:7, translated by William Alleyn Evanson (London: C. and J. Rivington, St. Paul’s Church-yard, J Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly, 1829, 1785), Translators Preface, ix-xi, xxv-xxviii. The church fathers before 400 a.d. quote the Traditional text or the Greek text that supports the KJB over the Critical Text tradition in a 3:2 preponderance of the time (2630/1753 quotes). The early church fathers quoted the TR tradition and extensively. See John William Burgon, The Traditional Text, 1896, 99-101. On 1 John 5:7 Francis Turretin in the Institutes Q. XI, Sec. X writes, “all the Greek copies have it [habent tamen omnia Exemplaria Graeca], as Sixtus Senensis acknowledges: “they have been the words of never-doubted truth, and contained in all the Greek copies from the very times of the apostles” [et in omnibus Graecis exemplaribus ab ipsis Apostolorum temporibus lecta] (Bibliotheca sancta , 2:298). Also, earlier in his 1566 edition of the Bibliotheca Sancta, Sixtus writes the following regarding 1 John 5:7, “there has always been the undoubted truth in all Greek copies from the very times of the apostles” [indubitatæ semper veritatis suisse , & in omnibus græcis exemplaribus ab ipsis apostolorum]. Sisto (da Siena), Biblotheca Santa (Bavarian State Library: Franciscius, 1566, digitized Nov. 30, 2011), 972. 1,069 pages
Do you think a Ph.D. from Cambridge, who writes on this topic, should be familiar with Turretin, Knittel, and Burgon? Just asking.
Erasmus, nor any individual or body of translators, would not have the last say as to what was and was not New Testament Scripture, including 1 John 5:7. Whether 1 John 5:7 should be in Scripture was determined by the Apostle John when he penned the words, the Church would be the final arbitrator of the manuscript evidence, and was impelled to receive the passage as authentic over 500 years ago. The point is, Carson is caring water for a post-critical textual tradition that wanted to be freed from ecclesiastical oversight and created a novel text. Erasmus is merely a convenient focal point in the demonization of the ecclesiastical text.