Textus receptus Variant passages and witness of the Spirit

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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Note: All references to the Textus Receptus have been removed from OP since it has caused confusion. The question is over variants in general, particularly disputed longer passages.

I am not highly versed in this debate, and I should be, and hope soon to be. I am interested to pose a question, and see if anyone has resources or insights to share on the matter.

WLC 4
Q. 4. How doth it appear that the scriptures are the word of God?
A. The scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.

I don't doubt or question that we should examine historical manuscripts to ascertain what is the purest text, and is one way to help ascertain truth. However, the WLC puts the witness of the Spirit as the final persuader of the truth of the Scriptures.

1 John tells us that no truth is of a lie, and so no passage may be expected to be owned by the Spirit as "the voice of the Lord" (Ps 29) if it not actually is so. Contrarily, that which is the word of God can and will be used to produce faith by its hearing (Romans 10), and all the effects of the Word of God as outlined above. It will ultimately prove itself to be the Word of God by power and demonstration of the Spirit. It will speak like no other man speaks.

So among the disputed passages, we have the alternate ending of Mark, Romans 8:1b, 1 John 5:7, and a few others.

Stepping aside questions of manuscripts, the proposed question:

Have these disputed passages been owned by the Spirit as the very word of God?

Interested in answers, resources, treatises, etc. Please note that manuscript discussion is intended to remain peripheral in this matter--which I don't doubt in some part helps answer the question, but isn't my main interest.

And seeing as the witness of the Spirit is called upon here, let's also bear the fruit of the Spirit in peace :) (Admins, you are free to shut this down quickly if there is heat)
 
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Logan

Puritan Board Senior
WLC 4 is magnificent, but I don't think that is quite what it is getting at. It's not even trying to answer that question.

The point of the answer is to say that other arguments convincing us of the divine nature of Scripture are useful, but only the Spirit can ultimately convince our hearts of its divinity, taken as a whole.

It is NOT to say that the Spirit in our heart is the final arbiter of which individual variants are identical with the autographa. That would be trying to extract something from WLC 4 which it was not intended to weigh in on one way or the other.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
WLC 4 is magnificent, but I don't think that is quite what it is getting at. It's not even trying to answer that question.

The point of the answer is to say that other arguments convincing us of the divine nature of Scripture are useful, but only the Spirit can ultimately convince our hearts of its divinity, taken as a whole.

It is NOT to say that the Spirit in our heart is the final arbiter of which individual variants are identical with the autographa. That would be trying to extract something from WLC 4 which it was not intended to weigh in on one way or the other.

I do agree. Textual criticism isn't in view in WLC 4.

My idea in bringing WLC 4 to bear on this (really, more the passages quoted in the next paragraph), is that the Scriptures do something that no human writing can do, and have a witness that no human writing can, which ultimately undergirds the authority of the Word of God. In any case, the Holy Spirit must be the prime witness.

So if these passages are the Word of God, has the Spirit given any witness to it?

I won't be attempting to answer that question myself in this thread. I want to see what others come up with, or to know if others may have written from this angle. I feel like I've seen quite little from this angle, though I've not been a deep diver on this matter.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
The point of the witness of the Spirit is that it is an internal witness to God's truth, able to stand apart from external, human witnesses. It is in contrast to the Romanist claim that truth cannot be known apart from the church of Rome. Has the Spirit persuaded individual believers of which books or words are canonical Scripture? Yes. But that's not an external authority one can hold up on a sheet of paper at Presbytery saying "eureka, folks, we got it!" Only external evidences may be used in that manner.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
The point of the witness of the Spirit is that it is an internal witness to God's truth, able to stand apart from external, human witnesses. It is in contrast to the Romanist claim that truth cannot be known apart from the church of Rome. Has the Spirit persuaded individual believers of which books or words are canonical Scripture? Yes. But that's not an external authority one can hold up on a sheet of paper at Presbytery saying "eureka, folks, we got it!" Only external evidences may be used in that manner.

Thanks for clarification on intent. Agreed, but the supposition of WLC 4 seems to me to be that the final and absolute authority of the veracity of the Scriptures is the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps revealing my perspective a little more may help. I am also thinking of this in regards to what John Calvin has said on the Scriptures. In the Institutes, Book 1, Ch. 7, Sec 2 and onward he makes an argument against the authority of the Scriptures resting in the church, pointing out that the affirmation of the church is not necessary to solidify our confidence in them. He brings out 1) the Scriptures testify of themselves in the same way that white and black, sweet and bitter distinguish themselves, and 2) the only sure evidence that the Scriptures come from God is that God testifies they they are His.

Section 4 (Hendricksen edition, Battles),

"Thus, the highest proof of Scripture derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it. The prophets and apostles do not boast either of their keenness or of anything that obtains credit for them as they speak; nor do they dwell upon rational proofs. Rather, they bring forward God's holy name, that by it the whole world may be brought into obedience to him."

So Jonah, he shows up and speaks, the city repents, not because he successfully disputed, but no one that day doubted they heard the voice of God.

"The testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason. For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men's hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit."

Of course, Calvin does go on to discuss rational proofs as to the Scriptures, but his own order is: 1) God's witness, and then 2) other evidences. He goes on somewhere to say (I don't remember where) that the other proofs for veracity of Scripture will strengthen faith when conjoined with the Spirit's persuasion in us.

If the character of the whole Scripture is that they evidence themselves to be the voice of God, then it's valid to test the disputed passages by this as well as other evidences. And in my thinking, this is the most important.

So, has anyone written for or against the disputed TR passages from this perspective?
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I am not aware of anyone writing from that position. It's something that works on a macro and personal level, not a micro and public level. By that, I mean that the Spirit convincing you personally as to the divine nature of the whole of Scripture, is vitally important. That is not a reasonable criteria for the church at large to make decisions on the variants or minutiae.

And let's be clear on the point that "Textus Receptus" is not one uniform document. That's an illusion. It is a "family" of variants, and there are differences among the many editions. The variants among themselves may be fewer and minor in comparison with variants outside of that "family" but there is still no criteria even within "Textus Receptus" to say that Erasmus, Stephanus, the Elzevirs, Beza, or Scrivener is verified by the Spirit in any particular reading. We have no way to discern that for public use (and it's doubtful that it is even possible for private use).

The framers of WLC 4 understood that there were variants among the manuscripts and the published texts (even the "received texts") and still wrote WLC 4. The principle behind WLC 4 cannot answer the question you've posed.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
Jake, let me pose this problem to you. I addressed a similar theme a few months ago.
Steve,

I have found it interesting comparing two esteemed Reformation Bibles - the Geneva Bible (1599 ed) and the Authorised Version (1769 ed).

The Geneva Bible says Rev 16:5 "And I heard the Angel of the waters say, Lord, thou art just, which art, and which wast: and Holy, because thou hast judged these things." This follows the Greek text.
The Authorised version says "And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus." This follows Beza's conjectural emendation.

The Geneva Bible says 1 John 2:23 "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father."
The Authorised version says "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also." In my AV this extra portion is in italics.

Here we have textual variances among two esteemed Reformation Bibles. Which one is correct? It seems to me you cannot simply appeal to the Reformation Bibles for, in your words, "a settled and sure Bible".

I'll stick to my ESV and my NASB :)
Both the Geneva Bible and the Authorised Version use the Textus Receptus. Does the Holy Spirit bear witness to one translation over the other? In other words one still has to deal with variants even among Reformation Bibles.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Jake, let me pose this problem to you. I addressed a similar theme a few months ago.

Both the Geneva Bible and the Authorised Version use the Textus Receptus. Does the Holy Spirit bear witness to one translation over the other? In other words one still has to deal with variants even among Reformation Bibles.
Not to mention, you have this problem even with key passages like I John 5:7 which was not in earlier versions of the TR or Bibles based on it, like the Luther Bible, even as it was in most later editions and translations.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Jake,

I suppose I'm known as a TR/KJV defender here. Still, I would agree with what Logan and some others here are saying, that WLC 4 does not address this matter. Some thoughts: the day in 1968 I was converted from a New Age spirituality to Jesus Christ and the true God, the woman witnessing to me about Him and His dying on the cross for sinners – I was arguing with her, and her fervency was giving me a headache – I was wanting to get away from her, when of a sudden the Holy Spirit shone into my heart revealing the risen crucified Christ in His glory and heart-rending love. I was His at that moment; as Charles Spurgeon put it, “I looked at Him and He looked at me, and we were one forever.” This was as the Scripture says, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom 8:16). I didn't say a word to the woman, but just left, stunned and joyous beyond words. On the way out she gave me a Gospel of John (AV), which I read later when I arrived from upstate NY back to my apt in NYC. Later I wrote of how the written Gospel affected me:

What a joy to be in the presence of the Light I had so long sought among the world’s sages, and for this Illumination to be in the friendship and love of – heart-union with – a Person! The little Bible tract of John’s Gospel, when I read it, was illumined by Him just as was my heart: the words of the Gospel were one with the Spirit of Him whose presence shone so ravishingly within me! They were His words! And this holy Spirit continued to shine in my heart with an ineffable radiance that bespoke infinite wisdom, love, and power – this was the Person of the living God!​
It was this I knew, and nothing else. I did not have a Bible at this time. And I did not know the commandments the Lord gave to those who would follow Him. [from the book, A Great and Terrible Love]​

At my conversion it was the Spirit Himself bearing witness to my spirit of the risen Saviour, and also Him bearing witness to me later re the Gospel words that, as the Catechism says, He "alone [is] able fully to persuade...that they are the very word of God."

It wasn't until years later that I settled upon the TR being the utter fulfillment of that, and realizing other versions were a very close fulfillment.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
@Stephen L Smith
@Jake

To be clear, what is being discussed isn't the defensibility of the TR (I really don't want to touch that), but the potential role of the Spirit in accepting/rejecting variations. I'm kind of wishing I had left reference to TR out of my original post since it's muddying things up too much. Perhaps I should just have referred to "the disputed passages", ie. John 8, ending of Mark, 1 John 5:7, last half of Romans 8:1, etc.

For myself, until I am better studied I am not taking a strong stance on textual families even if I do have some preferences on the subject of textual criticism. I had done that previously here, and I don't think it was wise.

So, I don't wish to concern the thread in variations or the manuscript evidence for/against either. That has been discussed exhaustively at other times.

For that matter, WLC 4 was better left out too, I can see. It's a QA in reference to personal witness, not corporate. I would only argue that if the Spirit's witness is needed to testify in order to our personal acceptance, much more the church's, but I won't press that extension from WLC 4.

The main ground for my question is that in order for something to be accepted/rejected in concerns to being Scripture, the first witness is that it has the marks of being Scripture, the prime being that the Holy Spirit owns its authority, making it to be like no man can speak. Other evidences and such may will buttress our confidence in accordance but do not come first. Do we have this for the disputed passages, is the question.

Perhaps I'll reflect and agree later that this is straining a principle to a place it doesn't belong, though it's worth asking when and how the Spirit's witness has come into play in consideration of textual criticism.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Jake,

I think the problem comes in that, by its nature, the convincing of the Holy Spirit is a very personal, and perhaps subjective experience. How would that become the rule for the church? If one says he is convinced that the Spirit is behind this portion and another is convinced that the Spirit is not, where do we land? Unfortunately that puts us in the pickle of man being the arbiter.

I think the comments that have been made here are apropos even if the TR isn't in view. Determining which variants are true by the witness of the Holy Spirit, is too personal a criteria, although that guidance certainly ought to be sought and prayed for. Might this be more akin to the situation at the Council of Nicaea? They did not determine what was Scripture, but they did affirm it.

I'm happy to affirm the variants as Scripture (or certainly as congruous with Scripture), even if I can't determine for sure if it is. I feel like this was the attitude of the Reformers and the Puritans: they could learn from the variants, and there was nothing in them counter to the rest of Scripture, so just accept that the autographs are contained among the variants and move on. Matthew Henry would sometimes consider multiple possible readings and apply lessons from each, just to have them all covered. He didn't seem to lose too much sleep over which was the only one :).
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
@Jerusalem Blade let me say thank you for your contribution... and your joyous testimony of the Spirit working on you! I agree, WLC 4 is not addressing the Spirit working corporately, at least not directly.

@Logan I feel like we're getting close to home now. You mentioned the church affirming what the Spirit is revealed, and perhaps this is what I am ultimately aiming for. I made the mistake of using a catechism question that has more to do with personal witness. But to be clear, I am going to try to keep this strictly in the realm of the Spirit working on the church corporately.

And also, thank you for your insight on how others have dealt with variations. The king's message is the king's message, even if his transcribers have slipped in a few places.

This is highly subjective, and I posted knowing this would make the discussion interesting. But I'm not sure it can be avoided. The Scriptures evidence themselves in many internal objective excellencies, but part of the witness is the power of the Spirit in them experience subjectively, particularly in convincing and converting sinners, building believers up in holiness and comfort. Our books "speak like no man spake" and "speak with authority" as Christ had done, and not like our philosophers and other teachers. Far as the Spirit is concerned, this authority and marvelous speaking were evidence that Christ was to be believed, and woe unto them that did not believe it. If individuals must accept it, certainly must the church.

Far as I know we're not fully agreed on the author of Hebrews. Why do we accept Hebrews, and not the Apostle's Creed? The book "speaks like no other man spake", and speaks with a clear authority, as we can testify from the preaching of Hebrews, our prayers over it, and our own private reading; and we dare not go against its authority.

I have to think that the witness of God to the book is the primary basis on which a book is accepted by the corporate church. If the church is going to be the pillar and buttress of the truth, the church needs God's own record as to what is the truth.

Admitted too, books vs. variants, we're treating a different subject. And we can't possibly be fruitful and fret over every variation, there's so many. Yet I think for some of the more extended passages (ending of Mark, John 8's account), I think it's at least worth it to ask if that same "light and power" is in these passages.

If not, then for sure they are not given by the Spirit, regardless how edifying or interesting. If they are His Word, may the Lord evidence it by the light and power He always intended they should give.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
This is highly subjective, and I posted knowing this would make the discussion interesting. But I'm not sure it can be avoided. The Scriptures evidence themselves in many internal objective excellencies, but part of the witness is the power of the Spirit in them experience subjectively, particularly in convincing and converting sinners, building believers up in holiness and comfort. Our books "speak like no man spake" and "speak with authority" as Christ had done, and not like our philosophers and other teachers. Far as the Spirit is concerned, this authority and marvelous speaking were evidence that Christ was to be believed, and woe unto them that did not believe it. If individuals must accept it, certainly must the church.
Jake, I am in broad agreement with you. Part of the difficulty is the criteria for determining which variant is correct. Eg, do we rely on a Byzantine text tradition with its large number of mss and broader geographic spread? Or do we rely on the Critical text tradition with its more narrow geographic spread, but generally older text. Do we use a mixture of these? If so what criteria do we use?

James White, commenting on Mark 16:12 "After these things he appeared in another form" says that the phrase "another form" is troubling from a theological perspective and possibly may have come from an ancient heresy. If so the Holy Spirit could not bear witness to this, could it? My point is that textual scholars will continue to debate external and internal evidences.

I do have to say I struggle with this issue myself. Calvin's Institutes 1:9 has an excellent section on the relationship between the Word and the Spirit. The Spirit speaks in all His perfections and speaks through the Word. Yet the Word has textual variances. I do struggle with this. Perhaps Deut 29:29 applies here "“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Jake, I am in broad agreement with you. Part of the difficulty is the criteria for determining which variant is correct. Eg, do we rely on a Byzantine text tradition with its large number of mss and broader geographic spread? Or do we rely on the Critical text tradition with its more narrow geographic spread, but generally older text. Do we use a mixture of these? If so what criteria do we use?

James White, commenting on Mark 16:12 "After these things he appeared in another form" says that the phrase "another form" is troubling from a theological perspective and possibly may have come from an ancient heresy. If so the Holy Spirit could not bear witness to this, could it? My point is that textual scholars will continue to debate external and internal evidences.

I do have to say I struggle with this issue myself. Calvin's Institutes 1:9 has an excellent section on the relationship between the Word and the Spirit. The Spirit speaks in all His perfections and speaks through the Word. Yet the Word has textual variances. I do struggle with this. Perhaps Deut 29:29 applies here "“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

That's interesting on Mark 16:12. Did Dr. White provide any more detail than that?

Upon reflection, I understand what's being said to me by those participating here. I asked if the Spirit has given testimony to these variants, my emphasis being on the role of the Third Person, but perhaps I narrowed my scope too much to the "inward illumination" aspect. Reflections on canonics helps a little, as the principle in general seems to apply to textual criticism too. The witness of the Spirit includes the providential guidance of the church in authenticating what is really "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2). God's record of Himself not only shows in the power, efficacy and majesty of the books and letters, and the testimony of the Spirit to us personally, but in their true connectedness to the apostolic foundation in history. God's providential witness by historical truth is still the Spirit's testimony just like His illuminating witness.

Also, the church being "the pillar and buttress of the truth" (Eph. 2), she too as a corporate body will have the Spirit in order to rightly affirm and receive what the Holy Spirit has given, by the means that God has given.

The original question: Are these disputed passages testified by the Spirit as authentic? Although the inward illumination is prime, the historical witness is still necessary to answer that question, and you cannot answer the question without both aspects. I feel better settled as to where to go. Though I'll still be interested to see if anything out there exists on the "inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness" (WCF 1.5) in relation to these disputed passages.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
That's interesting on Mark 16:12. Did Dr. White provide any more detail than that?
I do recall his comments on this text but alas I cannot find it :) You might be interested in this debate between James White and Jeff Riddle on Mark 16. Both sides debate the big issues. I would sincerely be interested to learn how the inward witness of the Spirit solves the textual debate; it seems to me you cannot get around the subjectivity problem.

 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
We must keep in mind that the witness of the Spirit in canonization is not merely an individualistic affair. It's not simply what is witnessed in my own heart, but also in the broader church. That is, believers share in this witness. Where one is alone in their understanding in such things, one should perhaps rethink.

This is why we see some Christians rejecting the Antilegomena (all the way to Luther), the long standing dispute over the status of the Apocrypha, and the authority of the LXX.

My own thinking on the subject of the OP is that, for the longer, traditional readings such as Mark 16:9-10, and the Pericope Adulterae it is clearly a matter of the Holy Spirit authenticating these readings. The scope of each is broader than other complete books such as 3 John yet we acknowledge the witness of the Spirit in the later and Christians historically have also acknowledged the witness of the Spirit in the former.

Lest one on this point say I conflate text and canon, this is a modern confusion. Historically, the canon was not merely a recognition of the books but also of its "parts." When you read the defenses given for the texts referenced above, virtually ALL of them include argumentation on the witness of the Holy Spirit to these pericopes.

As for the smaller variant units, the case is similar but needs proper clarification. I'll leave that for a future time so this doesn't get too long for a forum.
 
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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
We must keep in mind that the witness of the Spirit in canonization is not merely an individualistic affair. It's not simply what is witnessed in my own heart, but also in the broader church. That is, believers share in this witness. Where one is alone in their understanding in such things, one should perhaps rethink.

This is why we see some Christians rejecting the Antilegomena (all the way to Luther), the long standing dispute over the status of the Apocrypha, and the authority of the LXX.

My own thinking on the subject of the OP is that, for the longer, traditional readings such as Mark 16:9-10, and the Pericope Adulterae it is clearly a matter of the Holy Spirit authenticating these readings. The scope of each is broader than other complete books such as 3 John yet we acknowledge the witness of the Spirit in the later and Christians historically have also acknowledged the witness of the Spirit in the former.

Lest one on this point say I conflate text and canon, this is a modern confusion. Historically, the canon was not merely a recognition of the books but also of its "parts." When you read the defenses given for the texts referenced above, virtually ALL of them include argumentation on the witness of the Holy Spirit to these pericopes.

As for the smaller variant units, the case is similar but needs proper clarification. I'll leave that for a future time so this doesn't get too long for a forum.

Thank you for weighing in Dr. Truelove. The first paragraph confirms what I've been thinking, that the witness of the Spirit must be corporate and historical as well. A work is in question if it doesn't have both witnesses.

I can understand not stressing too much on immaterial word changes here and there for practicality sake, but yes, the Pericope Adulterae, the alternate ending of Mark, they are comparable to some of the smaller books of the Bible. I rather think that Romans 8:1b is rather material to how you understand the first part of the same chapter. I rather feel the weight of 1 John 5:7 speaks for itself.

In concerns to the witness of the Spirit on these more extended passages, what's generally been said in regards to the witness of the Spirit? If we are talking the more subjective witness, what's the criteria used, and on what basis might some of these passages pass muster in regards to it?
 
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