Carson’s 14 Theses: Horse and buggy arguments in a C8 Corvette World

Chapter 7 Carson begins, “In what follows I shall not argue that the vociferous defenders of the TR are knaves or fools. I shall seek to demonstrate, rather, that their interpretation of the evidence is mistaken…Their presuppositions in favor of the TR have made most of them careless about determining the truth of many of the oft repeated contentions, with the result that not only their interpretation of the facts is incorrect, but also their alleged ‘facts’ are too often simply untrue.” Carson disapproves of the notion that departure from the KJB is a sign of “corruption and degeneracy” while citing the error that Warfield, Machen, and Fee all considered the Byzantine text type late.

Carson is beset by the erroneous foundation that late is inherent bad and early is inherently good, believing that proximity to the autograph is a measure of manuscript adherence to the original writing. It’s interesting to note, that in Myths and Mistakes, p. 66, no manuscript evidence exists for Mark chapters 2,3,10,13,14,15,16 in the first four centuries, but amazingly, we have 16 chapters of Mark. How does Carson account for the corruption of the Apostolic writings in the 1st c., cf., 2 Thess. 2:2, making a 1st c. copy early but spurious.

Theses 1: There is no unambiguous evidence that the Byzantine text type was known before the middle of the fourth century. See below: Dean John William Burgon, The Traditional Text, 1896, 99-101. “Traditional Text” is Burgon’s nomenclature for Byzantine and “Neologian” for the Westcott/Hort tradition.

Like today, Burgon’s work was suppressed by the academy’s information dominance who supported Westcott and Hort. Burgon’s genius and research was ignored. Carson can make the false assertion that there is no unambiguous evidence because of the traditional censoring of this evidence, e.g., there is no resurrection of the dead if you deny all those who have been raised from the dead. Who in grad school or post-grad school has heard of the brilliant and erudite scholar Dean John William Burgon? Burgon crushed the Westcott and Hort method, not theologically but evidentially. Carson mentions Burgon, only to discredit his work, p. 43. If you can’t beat them, demonize them.

Answer 1: There is unambiguous evidence of Byzantine readings before the 4th c.

Objection 2: But let’s say, for arguments sake, Burgon fabricated the numbers and there is no evidence in the first four centuries.

Answer 2: Is this argument a deal breaker for the TR/KJV position? The answer is no. In Myths and Mistakes, p. 115-116 we read the following:

“The entire textual stream — including the Byzantine tradition – is far more stable than typically admitted. As mentioned above, certain scholars tend to privilege the earlier majuscules and papyri (or the so-called Alexandrian text type) [read Carson and White] and pit the Byzantine tradition against it as largely corrupt and secondary; the reverse holds among Byzantine proponents. Only recently, however, have we been able to quantify rigorously the overall stability of the textual stream. For Acts and the Catholic Epistles (one-fifth of the Greek New Testament) 15 percent of the text is completely nonvariant among the hundreds of collated Greek witnesses, including the Byzantine; and additional 54 percent is likewise nonvariant among the most frequently cited sixteen majuscules and minuscules (including four Byzantine) spanning over one thousand years….Put differently, the core tradition remains remarkably stable over time, in that the differences between the two texts usually thought to be most polarized is actually fairly small.”

That is, Carson is making a fabricated and polarizing argument as his first of 14 theses that has been in print since 1979. Continuity in the textual stream is the point. Early or late is not how the argument is made. If the textual stream is cohesive and the differences “very small”, essentially the Alexandrian text type could likewise be characterized as “Byzantine” effectively making the categories of text types superfluous. Cason’s hyperbolically stated first thesis is, evidentially speaking, making a mountain out of a mole hill, which for someone who lives in the realm of probability should be of little or no consequence.

Objection 3: Carson writes as a secular author

Answer 3: Carson writes about manuscripts and translations (Syriac Peshitta) but not about Scripture, or the written words of God, read by the Church throughout history. In this regard, Carson writes as a secular author. The trajectory of his book is the discrediting of any author who hoped to defend the credibility of TR/KJB position as if writing so the saint in the pew can trust his Bible is a liability to the Church. [This is also what we heard from White.] There is something very twisted about this trajectory, but it is Carson’s contribution to the debate. Before he can plea for realism, he must demonstrate the erroneous path defenders of a standard sacred text were leading the Church. But the Scripture cannot be spoken of in secular terms; while historic documents, Scripture is not solely historic, in that they have a transcendent origin and transcendent quality as the very written words of God, taught by the Holy Spirit to the covenant keeper. This formula is foreign to Carson. His problem is that of so many who have lost their way; the manuscript evidence is so problematic that it is impossible for a seminary professor to take God at His word. Furthermore, because of the information dominance over and in the academy, if he writes from a pre-critical, theological, historical, exegetical perspective, he would have been in danger of loosing any accrued academic credibility and perhaps his livelihood.

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.

4 thoughts on “Carson’s 14 Theses: Horse and buggy arguments in a C8 Corvette World

  1. Your allusion to the academic suppression of formal testimony to the early support of Byzantine readings is interesting. Same thing happens in the area of creation studies; there is a mountain of evidence supporting the biblical account of creation, but the unbelieving academy suppresses it in favor of the naturalistic view. Same thing happens in the textual arena, but to correlate these as analogous comes under White’s charge of a category error (which is merely asserted, not argued). But White’s assertion is nonsense, they are entirely analogous, which highlights his hypocrisy. He accepts to testimony of Scripture, despite the opposition of the academy on naturalistic grounds, in one area but not another. He does not consistently submit to the authority of Scripture, but does so selectively. Of course, he’s making a lot of money by deferring to the view of the academy on the issue of texts, but surely that doesn’t have anything to do with it…


    1. Thanks for the note. Ted Letis first brought the issue of suppression and censoring to my attention back in the 80’s when discussing the role of publishers to the debate. The notion that the critical side is on the defense is absurd. Information dominance in the academy is arrogantly monolithic. And yes, it is pervasive. The professors I knew who fought hard for genuine scholarship and pushed back against ideological pandering, which in the end is not scholarly, are either retired or close to it. I am very thankful for the privilege of studying under them.

      Liked by 1 person

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