Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How high the mental barrier sealing off the modern Bible versions from effective criticism

I did lose my momentum on the Bible versions topic, but I may take it up again soon. I've read more in Dean Burgon's Revision Revised as well as James White's The King James Only Controversy, plus some in Thomas Holland's Crowned with Glory and Edward F. Hills' The King James Version Defended.

I recently got an email notice from a local church that a well-known textual critic was to give a seminar in my area on the reliability of the transmission of the Bible, hyped in glowing terms as a fantastic opportunity not to be missed. Of course I really wanted to say something. But wasn't sure I should. I wrote a reply and put it aside. Then looked at it again and rewrote it. And finally sent it as a Reply to the notice. I wrote:

It sounds like he isn't going to discuss the difference between the Greek texts that underlie all the modern Bible versions and those that underlie the King James (and a very few others), or if he mentions the difference will simply give the usual apologetic for the Alexandrian/Sinaiticus/Vaticanus/Westcott and Hort/Nestle-Aland group of texts. This textual tradition was soundly denounced as corrupt by some of the best scholars (Burgon, Scrivener) of the time of Westcott and Hort, yet seminaries today treat them as superior. It seems to me it would be more valuable to have a debate between the Textus-Receptus defenders (not KJV defenders though) and the defenders of the W&H texts and their offshoots.

I did pray about it too. I did get a brief answer from a pastor:

. . . forwarded your email to me and I need to say, as one who has studied textual traditions, transmissions and criticism for years, that you are profoundly mistaken about the TR.

Burgon's conspiracy theory didn't prove anything, and in fact proved too little. Scrivener agreed with some of Burgon's textual arguments, but did not agree with his conspiracy theory.

The Byzantine text form, which underlies the Textus Receptus (the TR only represents a few Byz MSS) has a few modern defenders, such as Maurice Robinson. The only advocates of the TR are usually KJV only folks. The Byz priority has some good arguments, but it also some major weaknesses.

The bottom line is that the textual differences between an eclectic text (NA or UBS) and the TR is less than 5%. Neither text is "superior" in defending the deity of Christ or any other Christian doctrine. They simply represent two different textual traditions, which vary slightly. Many have made comparisons on such supposed differences and there is no substance to the arugment. (As a side note, I am constantly comparing the Byz text with the NA 27th as I read, and the differences are truly miniscule and virtually predictable.)

My caution to you would be against imbibing the conspiracy theories which are unfounded. If a person wants to argue for Byz priority, that is fine. But those who demonize Westcott and Hort and other textual critics who have given their lives to labor in the Greek New Testament, are unecessarily divisive, unkind and untrue.

Funny, I didn't say anything about the TR, so how could I be so clearly "profoundly mistaken" about it? I guess he's saying there's no defense possible for it so the idea of a debate is ridiculous? I did say the texts underlying the modern versions were denounced as corrupt by some trustworthy critics, and that happens to be a fact.

I also had said nothing to indicate that I share in any conspiracy theories. I did write back, mostly to say that I find no conspiracy theory in Burgon.

I wonder where he gets that idea, or if he has Burgon confused with someone else. Burgon was not KJV-only in the sense that more recent writers are, some of the most extreme of whom do get into conspiracy thinking. As I read him, Burgon conceded a need for some revision of both the TR and the KJV, which sets him apart from recent KJV-onlies, but besides that, rather than accusing Westcott and Hort of evil motives he accused them of stupidity and "schoolboy" level Greek and extremely bad judgment.

Wish I'd included some links in my answer. So much good material out there. Here's a link to David Cloud's answer to James White for instance.

1 comment:

The Puritan said...

You're not alone.

You don't like my harsh language, but the modern perversions are the foundation of the system of the Beast. Not just the corruptions themselves, but their availability for fallen man to lord it over God's Word and attempt to pull others into the same dark camp.