More of D.A. Carson’s Plea

For those that are following this thread, Carson writes of the Textus Receptus as if it were the creation of Erasmus, uniquely named by Elzevir publishers in 1624, years after the publication of the KJB. Named the Textus Receptus in 1624, the Church finally had the Textus Receptus. This old and worn-out line of reasoning persists to this day and is designed to isolate the standard sacred text of the Church to a short epoch of time, making pre-critical analysis a glitch so to speak in history, unworthy of the significance TR/KJB advocates attribute to it. Granted, the text was not called the Textus Receptus until 1624, but the substance of the text has existed since the autographs, making the statement, “The text of the Textus Receptus existed in the 1st century and is equal with the autographs” a valid statement based on the Church’s 400-year validation of the TR/KJV as the standard sacred text. This text is indeed the received text of the Church. For Carson, the origins of the TR are the 15th century; for the Church, the origin of the TR is the 1st century. On balance, the dating of the TR should be of no consequence to Carson. The text he advocates did not exist until the 19th century and has been constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed based on changing scholarly notions of transmission.

As pathetic as this might sound, Carson is pleading for the critical text to be the received text of the Church and English translations of the critical received text to be the standard sacred text of the Church. Any reasonable thinker would say 150 years has been enough time for the critic to make his case and overcome and surpass the KJB as the English standard sacred text especially when Myths and Mistakes show the myths and mistakes of the method endorsed by Carson. It’s not the KJB guys who point out the myths and mistakes; it is scholars in his own camp. Carson, in the final analysis, does not know what he is pleading for, or what the definition of realism is. But the damage has already been done. His pusillanimous offering has already poisoned the well. Dr. Van Kleeck called this genre of apologetic writing “bandwagon theology.” Carson is a bandwagon theologian, a theological opportunist who contributed nothing to the literature, who wrote uncritically protected by publishers that secured information dominance. The theological bandwagon in 1979 was to disparage and demonize the KJB and its supporters as being in need of realism.

In chapter six Carson names the culprits who reject eclecticism or examining “each reading on its own individual merits” as opposed to those who “slavishly” hold to one text as authoritative. You see, holding to a standard sacred text is written of in derogatory terms. You don’t want to hold “slavishly” to a standard sacred text. Rather, the scholar should let every reading stand on its own merits. Again, we ask, who is to establish what is meritorious? Carson? David Otis Fuller, Zane Hodges, and Edward F. Hills are listed as his interlocutors as well as Jacob van Bruggen and Wilbur Pickering. It was clear before 1979 that the critical method to determine the words of Scripture had miserably failed. In 1979 critics were no more closer to recovering the autographs than they are today. And yet, Carson and his ilk persisted in trying to breathe life into an academic corpse. Indeed, after another 40 years has passed, the same academic corpse of modern textual criticism remains dead.

On page 41, Carson includes a diatribe encapsulating what he holds as the errors of the current KJB defense. It revolves primarily around the rejection of the Westcott/Hort method, (which in Dr. Van Kleeck’s debate with James White was never introduced into the apologetic) and an appreciation for the Byzantine text type that underlies the TR. Carson, as was in vogue in 1979, rejects the importance of the Byzantine text type. While modern text critics continue to show appreciation for the work done by Westcott and Hort, they have moved well beyond their methodology, especially in regarding Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as neutral texts. Myths and Mistakes never mention neutral texts. For Carson, the Byzantine text is the culprit. Myths and Mistakes, p. 114, “The Byzantine text is not monolithic and thus cannot be so easily thrown out en masse,” and p. 166, “Distinctly Byzantine readings often have ancient roots.” I wonder what Carson would do with that finding. This is turn erodes the notion that the oldest, shortest, hardest, and reading that explains the origin of another reading are to be preferred turning Carson’s entire apologetic on its head.

Based on his antiquated assessment of the data, he charges the KJB men of systemic errors. His entire rant is a ruse. Which of the versions derived from the WH text will he argue are verbally inspired? Out of which passage of a modern version will Carson exegete the passage for the verbal preservation of the critical text? It was and is still argued that the critical position rejects both verbal preservation and providential preservation of the critical text that a defense of a standard sacred text was made in the first place. The Church’s reception of texts found in the Byzantine text type is historic evidence for the TR/KJB tradition. Carson, at points, seems to be imbecilic. When a KJB proponent argues that manuscripts would wear out due to use, does that sound absurd or reasonable? Is it reasonable to argue that there were far more manuscripts in transmission than we currently have today — does that sound absurd or reasonable? That past recorded calamities destroyed thousands of manuscripts points to the institutional and personal truth that the manuscripts Carson is referring to do not represent the manuscript transmission tradition. And yet, he mocks the KJB supporter for making that valid assertion. Furthermore, Carson omits the research of Dean John William Burgon, who shows decisively that Byzantine reading were current among the early church fathers before 400AD in the preponderance of citations. This is another demonstration of one-sided, uncritical research. Carson is like the CNN of scholars; he has his agenda — forget the facts. If you have information dominance, as Carson had in 1979, his book published by Baker (while Edward F. Hills, for example, a genuine textual critic, had to be self-published), then the facts don’t matter, only one voice was heard and it was Carson’s.

Carson wraps up the chapter with perhaps one of the most self-serving paragraphs yet. He presents himself as the savior of the church, showing those who may be influenced by the KJB/TR proponents the way out of the version wilderness. Listen to this: “This theory is being presented in popular literature [such as the trilogy edited by Dr. David Otis Fuller] to pastors and laymen everywhere, many of whom have never read a rebuttal at the same level and who are not equipped to do the more advanced work that demonstrates the theory to be false.” p. 42. The critical rebuttal to a standard sacred text was the publishing of modern bibles, the critical notes contained in the bibles, the missing and changed verses and pericopes; the pastors who moved their churches to accept the modern versions; the schism that the new versions made in the Church. Carson, as expected, speaks of the critical position only in glowing, positive terms. He doesn’t like the fact that his ilk longer the only team on the field. Actually, his job is to save the Church from any competing perspective on the bible transmission.

And this idea of those “who are not equipped to do the more advanced work” is another shot at the Church. In 1979 and before and after, the critical position is one that requires the Church to lay aside their own personal responsibility to believe the Bible and trust another source of authority — that of scholars. In 1979, some undoubtedly trusted Carson’s now debunked notions of textual transmission; trusted his glowing approval of the Westcott/Hort method; trusted his disregard for the Byzantine text type; trusted a scholarly system that by its nature is approving fluid. Carson is arguing complexities like stringing beautiful pearls on a silk string hanging it space. While the necklace is aesthetically pleasing it has no basis is reality because it is grounded in nothing but probability and conjecture.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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