Richard Muller's PRRD as a defense for TR-Onlyism

Lance Jones

Puritan Board Freshman
I've noticed an increased referencing of volume 2 of Muller's PRRD as an appeal and support of TR-Onlyism as the historical position of the Reformers. While that statement on it's face is obviously true based upon when the Reformer's were alive in the context of available Bible translations and manuscripts etc., the appeal and reference is more of an attempt to demonstrate that the Reformed Orthodox and even Reformers were overtly against Textual-Criticism either in their day or (anachronistically?) as it is practiced and utilized today.

My contention is that Muller himself seems to kick back (rather obviously) against this idea and notion, and it seems that TR proponents are reading portions of Muller's historical treatment in a vaccuum. For example, Muller writes:


"It needs to be noted here that the so called Textus Receptus, was merely a part of the sixteenth and seventeenth century process of establishing a normative or definitive text of the New Testament. The phrase "Textus Receptus" or "received text" comes from the Elzevir New Testament of 1633 --and as the context of the phrase itself and the use of the Greek New Testament in the seventeenth century both testify, there was no claim, in the era of orthodoxy, of a sacrosanct (meaning regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with) text in this particular edition. Nor did it, in the era of orthodoxy, provide some sort of terminus ad quem (meaning the point at which something ends or finishes) for the editing of the text of the Bible: the statement that this was the "text now received by all" simply meant that it was the text by Stephanus and Beza and slightly reedited by the Elzevirs, that was then regarded by (by Protestants!) as the best available text of the Bible..."

Again he says:

"It would be a major error of historical interpretation, however, to place the work of text-criticism on one side of an intellectual and theological divide and the Reformed or their orthodox successors on the other. Not only was the era of orthodoxy a time of the flowering of textual criticism, it was also an era in which the critical establishment of the test of the Bible on the basis of collation and comparison of manuscripts and codices was understood as fundamental to the task of the orthodox exegete and theologian."


I've heard varying responses to this and in general ranging from, the Reformed Orthodox were dogmatically of the opinion that since the Autographs could not be proven by any extant manuscripts, Textual-Criticism was essentially foolish (which seems to be a rather self defeating argument and contra Muller's treatment) to defining what the Reformed Orthdox did (with regard to collating) as "Not doing text criticism, but having a method of collation that was simply an application of sola scriptura, under the assumption that scripture was principium cognoscendi and therefore self-evidencing and indemonstrable (thus incapable of being proven)." And setting that definition over and against "Textual Criticism", something I've never seen or heard any NT Text Criticism Scholar or Historian do.

Any thoughts anyone cares to share (on either side of the spectrum) are welcomed.

Soli Deo Gloria
 
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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I agree with Muller's assessment of the evidence. What the Reformers were doing with the texts of the NT is not fundamentally different from what believing text critics do today, even in the CT world. That there have been unbelieving text critics who have practiced incorrect methods (or exaggerated methods at the expense of other concerns) that are due to their unbelief is not particularly in question. However, that does not mean all their methods are problematic, nor does it mean their results are necessarily wrong. The biggest issues I see today that are problematic are the following: 1. over-generalizing (sliding into the poisoned well fallacy) of CT scholars and their methods, resulting in failure to appreciate nuance among scholars; 2. exaggerating the differences between the TR and the CT; 3. narrowing of the doctrine of God's providential care (it only applies to manuscripts in use and not to manuscripts that were not in use).
 

Lance Jones

Puritan Board Freshman
agree with Muller's assessment of the evidence. What the Reformers were doing with the texts of the NT is not fundamentally different from what believing text critics do today, even in the CT world. That there have been unbelieving text critics who have practiced incorrect methods (or exaggerated methods at the expense of other concerns) that are due to their unbelief is not particularly in question. However, that does not mean all their methods are problematic, nor does it mean their results are necessarily wrong. The biggest issues I see today that are problematic are the following: 1. over-generalizing (sliding into the poisoned well fallacy) of CT scholars and their methods, resulting in failure to appreciate nuance among scholars; 2. exaggerating the differences between the TR and the CT; 3. narrowing of the doctrine of God's providential care (it only applies to manuscripts in use and not to manuscripts that were not in use).
Thank you Lane! By the way, I'm reading your journal article on the Sabbath (for the Confessional Presbyterian) and greatly enjoying it.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
It's not surprising that Muller is not a TR-only guy. His scholarship is too good and too thorough for him to hold that position. Textual criticism does now what it did then. The difference is that we have more manuscripts and parts of manuscripts to work with than they did in the 16th and 17th centuries.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
It is wrong to use Muller to say that the Reformers were against textual criticism, that is true. But it is also true that Muller demonstrates fundamental differences between the Reformation era views of scripture and those of Warfield, Hodge, and the moderns. These differences influence how textual criticism is done.

No major variant has been fundamentally influenced by “new discoveries”. Every major variant was well known and discussed by Calvin, Beza, Gill, Whitaker, Turretin, etc. The Reformed orthodox came to different conclusions than modern CT not because of a paucity of evidence (after all, they also had many texts that we do not), but because of different presuppositions and methodology. Not to say that every man came to identical conclusions at every locus, but by and large were in strong agreement.

For my part, God promised to preserve his word as handed down from the apostles to the churches. We “receive” that text and do textual criticism in that context. For the most part, the Reformation era saints did that work for us as God spread his word around the globe through the Protestant Reformation.

Modern (i.e. German rationalist) CT methods, on the other hand, represent a departure and regression, not receiving the scriptures, but ever trying to discover and recover the “truer” Word of God as handed down to us by the Academy. The word is always provisional, waiting for the next “earliest” ms. What happens when tomorrow’s archaeological dig discovers a flawless 2nd century copy of Romans that seamlessly omits chapter 9? I don’t think it would matter one iota to the reformed orthodox.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
It is wrong to use Muller to say that the Reformers were against textual criticism, that is true. But it is also true that Muller demonstrates fundamental differences between the Reformation era views of scripture and those of Warfield, Hodge, and the moderns. These differences influence how textual criticism is done.

No major variant has been fundamentally influenced by “new discoveries”. Every major variant was well known and discussed by Calvin, Beza, Gill, Whitaker, Turretin, etc. The Reformed orthodox came to different conclusions than modern CT not because of a paucity of evidence (after all, they also had many texts that we do not), but because of different presuppositions and methodology. Not to say that every man came to identical conclusions at every locus, but by and large were in strong agreement.

For my part, God promised to preserve his word as handed down from the apostles to the churches. We “receive” that text and do textual criticism in that context. For the most part, the Reformation era saints did that work for us as God spread his word around the globe through the Protestant Reformation.

Modern (i.e. German rationalist) CT methods, on the other hand, represent a departure and regression, not receiving the scriptures, but ever trying to discover and recover the “truer” Word of God as handed down to us by the Academy. The word is always provisional, waiting for the next “earliest” ms. What happens when tomorrow’s archaeological dig discovers a flawless 2nd century copy of Romans that seamlessly omits chapter 9? I don’t think it would matter one iota to the reformed orthodox.
This post demonstrates some of the issues I brought up. The last paragraph, in particular, lumps all modern CT methodology together, ignoring the various nuances that are present. Modern Reformed text critics in the CT tradition do NOT believe that the Word of God is always provisional. The Word of God is present in the manuscripts. So this sweeping dismissal of modern CT methodology lumps together some unbelieving critics who probably do believe at least some of the things in the paragraph with Reformed CT guys (like myself) who don't believe in ANY of the methodological ideas rejected in the last paragraph.

As for the second paragraph, what texts did the Reformers have that we do not have? I have not heard this argument before. We have thousands more manuscripts than the Reformation era possessed. The TR was not based on very many manuscripts, though Erasmus did have access to the readings of more manuscripts than those on which he based his edition. As I said, the TR's differences with the CT are usually vastly exaggerated by the TR defenders.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
"Textual criticism" is a loaded term, and probably an anachronistic one at that when comparing our time & the perspective of those living in the 16th & 17th centuries. No doubt extant manuscripts differed with one another and so care was taken by scholars of the Reformation and post-Reformation to examine the available evidence but there was and is a major difference in methodology in times past with that of today. For nuances of views contemporary view aside, Richard Muller does indicate a difference between the Reformed orthodox position of textual criticsm and that of Hodge & Warfield which, arguably, has influenced most, if not all, Reformed non-TR men today (this certainly was the case at Westminster West where I was trained):

By "original and authentic" text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no one can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions . . . It is important to note that the Reformed orthodox insistence on the identification of the Hebrew and Greek texts as alone authentic does not demand direct reference to autographa in those languages; the "original and authentic text" of Scripture means, beyond the autograph copies, the legitimate tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa. The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice and the separate arguments for a received text free from major (i.e. non-scribal) errors rests on an examination of apographa and does not see the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility. ... The orthodox discussion of autographa and apographa was designed, therefore, to point toward a continuity of text-tradition between the original authors and the present day texts." PPRD, Volume 2, pages 413-414.
Thus in a footnote in Volume 2, page 414 Muller also writes: "A rather sharp contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox arguments concerning the autographa and the views of Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield."

Jerusalem Blade has also highlighted this difference of methodology in this post here and throughout this thread here.
 
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Lance,

Quoting from Dr. Theodore P. Letis, in the book he edited and contributed to, The Majority Text: Essays And Reviews In The Continuing Debate, this is from his essay therein, “In Reply to D.A. Carson’s ‘The King James Version Debate’ ”:

If D.A. Carson’s book illustrates nothing else it shows there are two schools of thought. Both schools interpret the data of NT textual criticism and modern translations differently, and both groups fill in the gaps in the data with assumptions which favor their given position. I hope some are beginning to see that this is not an argument between scholarship (the established school represented by Carson) and non-scholarship (the challenging school which has traditionally been treated as non-scholarly and completely uncritical). To the contrary, the best representatives of both schools display genuine scholarship. Why is it, then, that these two schools co-exist on this all-important issue of the very wording of the NT text? And is this a recent or a long-standing debate? It is these questions that we hope to broach—and answer—in this essay. . . .​

Near the end of the essay Letis says,

Some will fault me for not answering every objection of Carson’s, but it was only our intention to raise the old issue of presuppositions and to underscore the fact that this debate is not one between experts with data and non-experts with dogma, but rather one between experts with the same data, but different dogma—the dogma of neutrality versus the dogma of providence…(pp. 201-204)​

[From the thread, “What is the authentic New Testament text?” (post #31) https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/what-is-the-authentic-new-testament-text.15134/page-2]

____


Having been in many searching discussions here on Ted Letis I realize he did not always get everything right, yet he is of value in understanding “the continuing debate”.

Folks may quote Richard Muller’s volume 2 of PRRD to the effect of going against RM’s own views, but this is nothing new, as writers may unearth historical facts that may support aspects of a different interpretive paradigm than their own. A case in point is Dr. Maurice Robinson and his work on the Majority or Byzantine Text; despite his immensely valuable work on the Byz, and his arguments against the Critical Text deriving from Westcott and Hort’s text and theory, he nonetheless strongly disavows the TR / AV position.

Should one thus not use Dr. Robinson’s brilliant work which, in part, contributes to a robust TR defense? As I once said in this context,

The Received Text (Textus Receptus) is not at a far remove from the Byzantine / Majority textform – or the “Traditional Text” of Burgon, Hoskier, Miller, Scrivener, which is pretty much the same. I have said this of the situation via-à-vis the MT and the TR,

Be it known that while I fully use what is of value in the Byz/MT labors, which are immense and of precious value, I go beyond what they allow. We of the TR and AV school stand on their shoulders – or to perfect the metaphor, we leap from their shoulders to a high rock, upon which we take our stand.​

It is this leap of faith (which is not without evidences) in God’s providence bringing certain readings back into the Biblical text that had been taken out of the Byzantine textform so the Reformation Bible could be made intact, it is in this leap that many Byz folks cannot follow us.​
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
The biggest issues I see today that are problematic are the following: 1. over-generalizing (sliding into the poisoned well fallacy) of CT scholars and their methods, resulting in failure to appreciate nuance among scholars; 2. exaggerating the differences between the TR and the CT; 3. narrowing of the doctrine of God's providential care (it only applies to manuscripts in use and not to manuscripts that were not in use).
Lane, could you expand on points '1' and '3'? I understand you hold a position between the critical text and the Byzantine priority text. Is that correct?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Stephen, yes, I hold a methodology that doesn't really sit comfortably in any particularly well-defined "camp" of today. I find myself disagreeing with the CT just as often as I disagree with the TR. For example, I agree with the TR that the longer ending of Mark is original. I agree with the TR that the original reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 is "God" manifested in the flesh, not the pronoun "who." I agree with the CT that the Comma Johanneum is not original. What I typically find in discussions of the best text-type is that if a person disagrees with the TR or the MT at all, then they tend to get painted with the colors of the unbelieving text critics. My methodology, however, rates internal evidence much less highly than CT folks do. I rate geographical distribution much higher than CT and TR folks tend to do (though not higher than MT, usually). Against the CT, I am not convinced that manuscript "families" are as well defined as they think.

Against the TR, I am not convinced that God's providence of purity only applies to manuscripts in use. God's providence of purity of manuscripts can also apply to manuscripts less in use, or not in use at all. In other words, God's providence governs the hiding away of manuscripts for later use. There is no biblical requirement that a manuscript must be in use for it to be considered a good manuscript, and this is hardly self-evident. The age of a manuscript can have some weight, but I don't give it as much weight as the CT guys do. Against the TR position, I do not find convincing the argument that if a manuscript is old, it is because it was not in use, and is therefore worthless. Against the CT position, older is not necessarily better. The typical rules for textual criticism are too often taken to an extreme, whatever position one takes. There are many rules which have to be weighed in each case. When I argue with TR folks, I tend to get tarred with the CT brush, and argued against as if I am attacking God's Word. But there is nuance necessary in the discussion, and positions are on a continuum, not in hermetically sealed camps about which there is no overlap whatsoever. I also firmly believe that most of the discussion can be considered an in-house debate (what would be excluded is the pernicious effects of unbelief in the matter, which do need to be reckoned with very carefully). I would never claim that a person using the TR or the MT is without the Word of God. They have the Word of God. But so do those who use the NA28th. So also, I would claim that the user of the KJV has the Word of God just as the user of the ESV does. Some TR advocates are more gracious than others in this regard. For some, my position puts me outside the camp of orthodoxy entirely, seemingly. For others who can see more nuance, the wording of the confession "kept pure in all ages" does not have to mean one particular manuscript or a group of them. It means that the original reading is in the manuscripts. It may not always be obvious in every case which is the original reading. But the process of examining manuscripts and comparing them, seeking to find what is the true reading is something that has been going on for a long while now. And while there might be minor differences between Hodge/Warfield, on the one hand, and the Reformers, on the other, there seems to me to be far more continuity than discontinuity.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Stephen, yes, I hold a methodology that doesn't really sit comfortably in any particularly well-defined "camp" of today. I find myself disagreeing with the CT just as often as I disagree with the TR. For example, I agree with the TR that the longer ending of Mark is original. I agree with the TR that the original reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 is "God" manifested in the flesh, not the pronoun "who." I agree with the CT that the Comma Johanneum is not original. What I typically find in discussions of the best text-type is that if a person disagrees with the TR or the MT at all, then they tend to get painted with the colors of the unbelieving text critics. My methodology, however, rates internal evidence much less highly than CT folks do. I rate geographical distribution much higher than CT and TR folks tend to do (though not higher than MT, usually). Against the CT, I am not convinced that manuscript "families" are as well defined as they think.

Against the TR, I am not convinced that God's providence of purity only applies to manuscripts in use. God's providence of purity of manuscripts can also apply to manuscripts less in use, or not in use at all. In other words, God's providence governs the hiding away of manuscripts for later use. There is no biblical requirement that a manuscript must be in use for it to be considered a good manuscript, and this is hardly self-evident. The age of a manuscript can have some weight, but I don't give it as much weight as the CT guys do. Against the TR position, I do not find convincing the argument that if a manuscript is old, it is because it was not in use, and is therefore worthless. Against the CT position, older is not necessarily better. The typical rules for textual criticism are too often taken to an extreme, whatever position one takes. There are many rules which have to be weighed in each case. When I argue with TR folks, I tend to get tarred with the CT brush, and argued against as if I am attacking God's Word. But there is nuance necessary in the discussion, and positions are on a continuum, not in hermetically sealed camps about which there is no overlap whatsoever. I also firmly believe that most of the discussion can be considered an in-house debate (what would be excluded is the pernicious effects of unbelief in the matter, which do need to be reckoned with very carefully). I would never claim that a person using the TR or the MT is without the Word of God. They have the Word of God. But so do those who use the NA28th. So also, I would claim that the user of the KJV has the Word of God just as the user of the ESV does. Some TR advocates are more gracious than others in this regard. For some, my position puts me outside the camp of orthodoxy entirely, seemingly. For others who can see more nuance, the wording of the confession "kept pure in all ages" does not have to mean one particular manuscript or a group of them. It means that the original reading is in the manuscripts. It may not always be obvious in every case which is the original reading. But the process of examining manuscripts and comparing them, seeking to find what is the true reading is something that has been going on for a long while now. And while there might be minor differences between Hodge/Warfield, on the one hand, and the Reformers, on the other, there seems to me to be far more continuity than discontinuity.
I petition the Puritan Board moderators, on the basis of this post, to institute a “heart” reaction. This is fantastic, Pastor Lane. Thank you. I actually needed this right now. I have a huge tendency to stress about these things, precisely because of the extreme language used in both sides, and because I so often forget that translations and textual criticism are tools.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Thank you Lane. I found that an enjoyable read. A couple of points:
I agree with the TR that the longer ending of Mark is original.
What about the passage on the woman caught in adultery?
Against the CT position, older is not necessarily better. The typical rules for textual criticism are too often taken to an extreme, whatever position one takes.
Some CT advocates such as James White argue that the discovery of the papyri in the early 20 century established a solid argument for the CT. presumably because the oldest mss strongly support a CT position. However, it is my understanding they are in a very narrow geographical spread. I understand some argue that the Byzantine text, although generally younger, has a bigger geographical spread. Do you think that one should not only consider age but also geographical spread? The oldest mss seem to bring us very close to the NT text. However I do wonder that if we put a heavy reliance on the oldest mss we do not have the checks and balances of the wider church/geographical spread. Thoughts?

Also, do you know of a book on textual criticism similar to your view?
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would never claim that a person using the TR or the MT is without the Word of God. They have the Word of God. But so do those who use the NA28th. So also, I would claim that the user of the KJV has the Word of God just as the user of the ESV does.
This is charitable and a view that I've always held myself, but increasingly I have begun to be mildly troubled a bit by it. It seems to work fine when talking broadly about the entire body of the NT and OT knowing that the differences are relatively minor and do not impact doctrine or practice; however, when examined at the granular level (word-for-word / phrase-for-phrase) the differences are such that one can't escape the fact that one particular reading either omits some of the Word of God, adds some to the Word of God, or changes some of the Word of God even if the variation in reading is inconsequential in the whole.

I sometimes wonder what changes will be ushered into modern translations tomorrow based on the work of the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). Perhaps these changes too will not alter the big picture, but I fear that over time the rubber band of charity shown above will snap as the biblical text continues to change and the idea of a 'fixed text' is irrecoverable. I think some recognize this tension and adopt statements of faith about the scriptures that focuses entirely on the original manuscripts, which makes sense until realizing those don't exist.

At home I use a combination of the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NLT with my kids. Depending on the activity we're engaged in and the study material we're using will determine the translation we use. As my kids have gotten older they are keen to notice translation differences that exist. This is exciting to see them engage the text at this level, but it recently led to an interesting observation by my oldest who asked a very pointed question after we read Chapter 1 of the WCF together. After reading "kept pure in all ages" in paragraph 8 she asked a question that has haunted me for years...."if God has kept the OT and NT pure in all ages why do some translations omit certain words and verses while others add certain words and verses?" I still don't have a good answer to that...
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Stephen, as to the woman caught in adultery, I am uncertain at this time. I am leaning toward genuine, though it may not be in its original spot. It is a plausible argument to suppose that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omitted the passage because of its semi-scandalous nature.

I rate geographical distribution much more highly than the CT or TR guys tend to do. I know of no text-critical book that lays out a position exactly like what I hold. What I see is certain canons enunciated here, some there, and I tend to hold most of them in a more modified form from what the scholar himself holds. The thing is, each text-critical issue has to be considered on its own merits, and the rules don't apply in the same force to every issue, so there is a constant weighing that has to occur.

B.L., I can understand your uneasiness. I won't deny that the same uneasiness has occurred to me at times. But then I remember this: we don't have the original autographs. God didn't want them preserved for all time. He wanted their readings preserved. Why is that? Several possibilities exist. My favorite is this one: we would be tempted to worship a piece of paper if the original autographs survived. Then there is also this: it is an inestimable privilege, yet terrifying at the same time, to handle God's Word. By learning that some scholars omitted, others added (even accidentally, as they did perhaps the majority of the time), we can be warned by the Scripture how much care we should take over God's Word. I don't think such a position as mine should be any justification for a cavalier approach to the subject. On the contrary, we should be very careful. At the same time, we also have to acknowledge that history is messy, and God works in the messiness of history partly at least to prove how much we need His guidance and grace.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I would argue the every paragraph of Chapter 1 of the Confession presupposes providential preservation extending only to texts in use and custody of the churches, and NOT to texts buried in the desert for hundreds or thousands of years. You can’t appeal to a non-existent authority. As soon as you allow some “new discovery” (I.e. with no history of use throughout the ages) to replace what has been commonly received and used, there’s in theory no foundation to reject a radically altered text of Romans or a gospel according to Bartholomew when dug up tomorrow and is “ancient and reliable”.

Now, I’m not a purist in terms of taking Scrivener’s 1881 or Stephen’s 1550 etc. as THE word of God over against others in the TR tradition, and think there is still a place for textual criticism but within the bounds of the received texts. Since the Printing Press and the reformation and the textual work of our orthodox church forefathers in that era, the locus of textual examination largely shifted from mss to printed editions, because that’s what church then used and propagated. I think one could hold an MT position within a “received” framework as well (not just an evidentialist approach of counting noses, and also must account for the printed editions and not reverting solely to mss).

I’m also not KJV only, and recognize the authority and authenticity of other translations within the reformed tradition, like Tyndale, Geneva, etc. Neither do I think Bibles outside the TR lack all authority, but at the points of discrepancy the true word is to be found in the TR. We use the NLT a lot in our family devotions, particularly through the OT and the gospels.

@greenbaggins , I love your last paragraph in #14!
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Just when I thought that I was the odd one out for admitting that the NIV was my guilty pleasure, I am quite surprised to see how many people here admit to using the NLT. :stirpot:
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Just when I thought that I was the odd one out for admitting that the NIV was my guilty pleasure,
Well, as long as we're doing translational confessions here... I personally find the '84 NIV to read the most fluently among all of the English offerings. Many times I find it actually brings immediate clarity to a passage without differing with what, for example, the ESV (sometimes after re-reading it over a time or two) ultimately conveys. I do think later editions of the NIV have introduced some problematic things.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Well, as long as we're doing translational confessions here... I personally find the '84 NIV to read the most fluently among all of the English offerings. Many times I find it actually brings immediate clarity to a passage without differing with what, for example, the ESV (sometimes after re-reading it over a time or two) ultimately conveys. I do think later editions of the NIV have introduced some problematic things.
Yes, I like the earlier editions of the NIV - the 1978 and 1984, though I maybe should be suspicious of anything with that date attached to it. ;)
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Just when I thought that I was the odd one out for admitting that the NIV was my guilty pleasure, I am quite surprised to see how many people here admit to using the NLT. :stirpot:
I actually love the NLT. I think it is an excellent translation. In my elementary Hebrew course in seminary, we would always do all our language and exegetical work, which was the bulk of the work, but then we would take a few minutes in class to compare translations of those passages. People often criticize the wordiness of dynamic translations, but oftentimes the NLT, we found, captured some nuance of the Hebrew that none of the "literal" translations did (or could, due to their philosophy). In one particular passage, we actually found The Message to be the most accurate!
 
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JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I have been doing the M'Cheyne 1 year reading plan for the past 6 years. A different translation for each of those years. Beginning with the KJV, following with the 1599 Geneva, NASB, NIV, NKJV, and this year (don't hate me) the NRSV. All of those years I'd use the formal equivalent (literal) as the main translation, and a functional equivalent (dynamic) to check on passages I felt the need to better understand. For the first 5 years it was the NIV but this year it is the NLT.

I looked down my nose at the NLT. It was, I felt, beneath the dignity of a man of my caliber to read the NLT. When I found out that Chuck Swindoll was using it in his preaching, and had published a study Bible with that translation I was shocked. Later I read a post by Bill Mounce on FB where he said, "I like the NLT when I want to see what some really good scholars think the Bible means. It’s strength is in the clarity of the biblical revelation. Its weakness is that you are not sure if the words are a reflection of the Greek/Hebrew or the interpretation of the translation committee. I think they almost always get the interpretation right, but it still is highly interpretive."

I freely admit that I'm not the 'sharpest tack in the box,' but I have come to love the NLT. Matter of fact, I never in my 71 years could understand Romans 14:23 until I read it in the NLT a couple of weeks ago; "But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning."
 

Timotheos

Puritan Board Freshman
Stephen, yes, I hold a methodology that doesn't really sit comfortably in any particularly well-defined "camp" of today. I find myself disagreeing with the CT just as often as I disagree with the TR. For example, I agree with the TR that the longer ending of Mark is original. I agree with the TR that the original reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 is "God" manifested in the flesh, not the pronoun "who." I agree with the CT that the Comma Johanneum is not original. What I typically find in discussions of the best text-type is that if a person disagrees with the TR or the MT at all, then they tend to get painted with the colors of the unbelieving text critics. My methodology, however, rates internal evidence much less highly than CT folks do. I rate geographical distribution much higher than CT and TR folks tend to do (though not higher than MT, usually). Against the CT, I am not convinced that manuscript "families" are as well defined as they think.

Against the TR, I am not convinced that God's providence of purity only applies to manuscripts in use. God's providence of purity of manuscripts can also apply to manuscripts less in use, or not in use at all. In other words, God's providence governs the hiding away of manuscripts for later use. There is no biblical requirement that a manuscript must be in use for it to be considered a good manuscript, and this is hardly self-evident. The age of a manuscript can have some weight, but I don't give it as much weight as the CT guys do. Against the TR position, I do not find convincing the argument that if a manuscript is old, it is because it was not in use, and is therefore worthless. Against the CT position, older is not necessarily better. The typical rules for textual criticism are too often taken to an extreme, whatever position one takes. There are many rules which have to be weighed in each case. When I argue with TR folks, I tend to get tarred with the CT brush, and argued against as if I am attacking God's Word. But there is nuance necessary in the discussion, and positions are on a continuum, not in hermetically sealed camps about which there is no overlap whatsoever. I also firmly believe that most of the discussion can be considered an in-house debate (what would be excluded is the pernicious effects of unbelief in the matter, which do need to be reckoned with very carefully). I would never claim that a person using the TR or the MT is without the Word of God. They have the Word of God. But so do those who use the NA28th. So also, I would claim that the user of the KJV has the Word of God just as the user of the ESV does. Some TR advocates are more gracious than others in this regard. For some, my position puts me outside the camp of orthodoxy entirely, seemingly. For others who can see more nuance, the wording of the confession "kept pure in all ages" does not have to mean one particular manuscript or a group of them. It means that the original reading is in the manuscripts. It may not always be obvious in every case which is the original reading. But the process of examining manuscripts and comparing them, seeking to find what is the true reading is something that has been going on for a long while now. And while there might be minor differences between Hodge/Warfield, on the one hand, and the Reformers, on the other, there seems to me to be far more continuity than discontinuity.
And here I thought I was the only reformed version of the Sturzian TC methodology.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I like where this thread is going. I will now also confess that I primarily read from the Latin Vulgate. It's totally changed my opinion on the authority of the Church.

Hey that's a mighty fine looking river over there...think I might go for a swim...
Huh?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Lane had asked me offboard about any debate in the Westminster Assembly Minutes at 1.8. I checked again, and am still sure there is simply no recorded debate to shed light on what "kept pure" means. One has to as with many acillery questions about the meaning of the WCF, go to external literature which is not decisive on intent but can inform what the Assembly may or may not have known and one can make suppositions.

Here was my post to one of the last humongous threads on the text debate, and see comments fore and aft. However, I don't recall and did not see that anyone touched the point Ben Shaw made in his review of Milne, that the "errors" in the Romanist's text that the Reformers polemically used to debate them over the RC's charge the Protestants' text was corrupt, are fewer than the changes in the critical text; hence the Reformers and Romanists' texts are closer in agreement than the TR and CT. According to Shaw and Milne:
I asked this above also. I have found a partial answer to it in a review done in last year's issue of The Confessional Presbyterian. Garnet Milne in his book offers a whole chapter on the question of what is meant by "pure in all ages", for which he marshals sources (I don't have the book but I assume he found the same thing that the Minutes themselves shed no light on the question of what was meant by pure in all ages). But you can see from the below review by a trustworthy scholar, Dr. Ben Shaw (GPTS) that the chapter is not clear. Ben offers his summation of what he thinks Milne means, with which he agrees. Ben also gives me an answer to my other question, that in actuality the differences in the critical text are more significant than the corruptions the Reformers noted in the Latin text in their polemics against Rome in her claims the Latin text was superior because of the many corruptions they saw between the Greek texts of the day. So I have to ask, what would the reformers have thought, and the Romanists, of a critical text that upturned the argument completely in being more 'corrupt' than the vulgate was 'corrupt' compared with the Greek manuscripts the Protestants had up to the time of the Westminster assembly? Again the context of 1.8 is Rome's claim. What impact does that have on the Westminster divines' intent in 1.8. Ben Shaw, "Review: Garnet Howard Milne, Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture (Author published, 2017), The Confessional Presbyterian 14 (2018), 226. You can purchase the journal here. Milne's book can be bought in digital version for $2.99 here.
Milne concludes this key chapter with the following statement: “When the Westminster divines wrote that God had kept the Scriptures pure in all ages (WCF 1:8), they specifically stated that these were the original texts that had been immediately inspired by God. This means that the very same text God had dictated to the penmen of Scripture had been kept intact and as a consequence, it was deemed “authentical”, containing their own intrinsic authority, and this text was therefore to be appealed to by the Church “in all controversies of religion’” (149). This again appears to be a problematic statement. It is at best unclear, and certainly confusing.​

I think that what Milne ultimately intends to communicate is the following: first, the Westminster divines believed in the preservation of the biblical text by a special providence of God. Second, this special providence did not extend to the perfection of each manuscript copy. Instead, by a careful collation of the copies available, the pure Scripture was attainable. Third, this Scripture, preserved among many copies, was available to the church in any age, and would continue to be so available, due to the special providence of God.​

If that is indeed what Milne intends, I have to agree with him. However, I found the book less than helpful. There were too many instances, like those cited above, where Milne was unclear, or his language was insufficiently precise. I agree with his assessment of the modern situation, in that it often appears that New Testament text critics have little confidence that the Word they have is the final Word of God. I do not, however, think that Warfield and a few others are those primarily responsible for the present situation. Instead, that responsibility goes to Westcott and Hort, and the many who adopted the Westcott-Hort approach to textual criticism in the late nineteenth century. In some sense, textual criticism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been a long footnote to the work of Westcott and Hort.​

As an interesting aside, I found in the course of researching for this review that the New Testament text held as standard by both the Roman Catholic Church (the Vulgate) and the Eastern Orthodox Church are both much closer to the Textus Receptus than to the modern eclectic text. Both the Vulgate and the Eastern Orthodox Greek text contain the long ending of Mark, the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) and 1 John 5:7, the so-called Johannine Comma.​
 
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