Grace Theological Journal 12.1 (1992) 21-50.
Copyright © 1992 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
AND NEW TESTAMENT
DANIEL B. WALLACE*
THE Bible has always been of central importance to evangelicals. It
not only defines what we are to believe; it also tells us how we are
to behave. A clear and faithful exposition of the scriptures has, histori-
cally, been at the heart of any relevant pastoral ministry. In order for a
particular passage to be applied legitimately, it must first be understood
accurately. Before we ask "How does this text apply to me?" we must
ask "What does this text mean?" And even before we ask "What does
this text mean?" we must first ask, "What does this text say?" Determin-
ing what a text says is what textual criticism is all about. In other words,
textual criticism, as its prime objective, seeks to ascertain the very
wording of the original. This is necessary to do with the books of the
Bible--as with all literary documents of the ancient world-because the
originals are no longer extant. Not only this, but of the more than five
thousand manuscript copies of the Greek New Testament no two of
them agree completely. It is essential, therefore, that anyone who
expounds the Word of God be acquainted to some degree with the sci-
ence of textual criticism, if he or she is to expound that Word faithfully.
The relevance of textual criticism, however, is not shut up only to
those who have acquaintance with Greek, nor only to those in explic-
itly expository ministries. Textual criticism is relevant to every Chris-
tian, precisely because many of the textual differences in Greek can be
translated into another language. Thus the differences between the New
B. Wallace (B.A.,
logical Seminary) is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological
This article is a reprint of the author's chapter by the same title in New Testament
Essays in Honor of Homer A. Kent, Jr., edited by Gary T. Meadors (Winona Lake, IN:
BMH, 1991). The Grace Theological Journal editorial committee felt that Professor
Wallace's article was worthy of wider circulation and that it would benefit the readership
of the Journal.
22 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Testament of the King James Version, for example, and that of the New
American Standard Version are not just differences in the English; there
are also differences in the Greek text behind the English-in fact, over
5,000 differences! And with the publication of the New King James New
Testament in 19791 (in which the KJV was rendered in modern English),
the translational differences are diminished while the textual differences
are heightened. The average modern American Christian who lacks the
requisite educational background to read Elizabethan English now has
no excuse for not reading the (new) King James Version. In light of the
heavy promotion by Thomas Nelson Publishers,2 that oft-asked ques-
tion, "What is the most accurate New Testament?," is increasingly a
question about a version's textual basis as much as it is of the transla-
tional philosophy behind it.
What is the textual difference, then, between the (new) KJV NT and
other modern translations? In a nutshell, most modern translations are
based on a few ancient manuscripts, while the (new) KJV NT is based on
a printed edition of the Greek New Testament (called the Textus Recep-
tus or TR) which, in turn, was derived from the majority of medieval
manuscripts (known collectively as the majority text [MT] or Byzantine
text). In one respect, then, the answer to the question "What is the most
accurate New Testament?" turns on the question, "Which manuscripts
are closest to the original-the few early ones or the many late ones?"
In this paper it is not my objective to answer that question.3
Rather, I wish to address an argument that has been used by TR/MT
advocates-an argument which is especially persuasive among lay-
men. The argument is unashamedly theological in nature: inspiration
and preservation are intrinsically linked to one another and both are
intrinsically linked to the TR/MT. That is to say, the doctrine of ver-
bal-plenary inspiration necessitates the doctrine of providential preser-
vation of the text, and the doctrine of providential preservation
necessarily implies that the majority text (or the TR)4 is the faithful
New King James Bible, New Testament (
2 One of the promotional means of the publisher is the sponsoring of concerts. On
approximately 18,000 people were in attendance. At the end of the concert, Dr. Arthur L.
Farstad, editor of the NKJV, promoted this Bible. His chief "sales pitch" was text-critical
in which he argued that Mark 16:9-20 was authentic and that modem translations, by de-
leting it (or at least by casting doubts on its authenticity), delete Christ's resurrection
from Mark's gospel. His statement, however, was not altogether accurate, for although
there is no resurrection appearance by Christ if the gospel ends at v 8, there is still a res-
urrection! Whether intentional or not, the impression left on the audience was that the
NKJV is a more orthodox translation than other modem versions.
3 For a discussion of this, see my article, "The Majority Text and the Original Text:
Are They Identical?," BSac 148 (1991) 151-69.
4 This statement is not meant to imply that MT = TR, but that within this school of
thought are two divisions-those who hold that the printed edition of Erasmus (TR) is
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 23
replica of the autographs. Inspiration (and inerrancy) is also used for
the Byzantine text's correctness in two other ways: (1) only in the Byz-
antine text do we have an inerrant New Testament; (2) if any portion
of the New Testament is lost (no matter how small, even if only one
word), then verbal-plenary inspiration is thereby falsified.
If inspiration and preservation can legitimately be linked to the
text of the New Testament in this way, then the (new) KJV NT is the
most accurate translation and those who engage in an expository min-
istry should use this text alone and encourage their audiences to do the
same. But if this theological argument is not legitimate, then New Tes-
tament textual criticism needs to be approached on other than a theo-
logical a priori basis. And if so, then perhaps most modern translations
do indeed have a more accurate textual basis after all.
Our approach will be to deal first with the arguments from preser-
vation, then to deal with the arguments related more directly to inspi-
ration and inerrancy.5
A. The Statement
On a popular level, the TR-advocating and "King James only" fun-
damentalist pamphleteers have waged a holy war on all who would use
any modern version of the New Testament, or any Greek text based on
the few ancient manuscripts rather than on the many late ones.6 Jasper
James Ray is a highly influential representative of this approach.7 In his
the original and those who hold that the reading of the majority of extant Greek wit-
nesses is the original.
5 This breakdown is somewhat artificial, since the arguments from inspiration and
inerrancy are closely tied to preservation as well. However, our organization is due
chiefly to the fact that the arguments from preservation are more traditional and univer-
sal among TR/MT advocates, while the arguments from inspiration/inerrancy are of
more recent vintage and are more idiosyncratic.
6 In passing, Peter Ruckman could be mentioned as the most extreme "King James
only" advocate, going so far as to argue that even the Greek and Hebrew text need to be
corrected by the KJV! Cf. his The Christian's Handbook of Manuscript Evidence (Pensa-
Pensacola Bible Institute, 1970) 115-38; Problem
Bible Institute, 1980) 46-48.
7 Not only has he influenced many laymen, but David Otis Fuller dedicated the
book, Counterfeit or Genuine[;] Mark 16? John 8?, of which he was the editor (2d ed.;
Missionary Scholar of Junction City, Oregon, whose book, God Wrote Only One Bible,
moved me to begin this fascinating faith-inspiring study" (p. v). Further, even Zane C.
Hodges, formerly professor of NT at Dallas Theological Seminary, and arguably the
prime mover in the modern revival of the "Traditional Text," "admits that it was the
reading of Ray which began his investigation of textual criticism" (David D. Shields,
"Recent Attempts to Defend the Byzantine Text of the Greek New Testament" [Ph.D.
24 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
book, God Wrote Only One Bible,8 Ray says that no modern version
may properly be called the Bible,9 that salvation and spiritual growth
can only come through versions based on the TR,10 and that Satan is
the prime mover behind all versions based on the more ancient manu-
scripts.11 If Ray's view is correct, then those who use modern transla-
tions or a Greek New Testament based on the few ancient manuscripts
are, at best, dupes of the devil and, at worst, in danger of forfeiting
their immortal souls.
Ray's chief argument on behalf of the TR is based on preservation.
In the following statements, notice how closely inspiration and preser-
vation are linked-and how both are linked to the Textus Receptus.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,
26. This is based on an interview Shields had with Hodges on
9 " A multiplicity of differing Bible versions are in circulation today, resulting in a
state of bewildering confusion. Some versions omit words, verses, phrases, and even
chapter portions. ...Among these [versions] you'll not find the Bible God gave when
holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. . ." (ibid., 1).
10 The following are representative statements: "... the TEXTUS RECEP-
TUS . . . is God's sure foundation on which to rest our eternal salvation" (32). "It is im-
possible to be saved without 'FAITH,' and perfect-saving-faith can only be produced by
the 'ONE' Bible God wrote, and that we find only in translations which agree with the
Greek Textus Receptus refused by Westcott and Hort" (122). "Put poison anywhere in
the blood stream and the whole becomes poisoned. Just so with the Word of God. When
words are added or subtracted, Bible inspiration is destroyed, and the spiritual blood
stream is poisoned. In this respect the revised Bibles in our day seem to have become
spiritual guinea pigs [sic], with multiple hypodermic shots-in-the-arm by so called Doc-
tors of Divinity, who have used the serum of scholasticism well mixed with modern free-
thinking textual criticism. When the Bible words are tampered with, and substitution is
made, the Bible becomes a dead thing with neither power to give or sustain life. Of
course, even under these conditions, it is possible to build up church membership, and
report many professions. But what about regeneration? Are they born again? No person
can be born again without the Holy Spirit, and it is evident the Holy Spirit is not going
to use a poisoned blood stream to produce healthy christians. Therefore, beware, beware,
lest your faith become marred through the reading of corrupted Revised Versions of the
11 In his introduction, Ray states that he "knows that the teaching of this book, re-
garding Textual Criticism, goes contrary to what is being taught in almost every college,
seminary, and Bible school. ...The reader may say, 'How can so many good, sincere ed-
ucated people be wrong?' Herein lies the 'mystery of iniquity' (2 Thess. 2:7)" (ii). Later
he argues: "Many of these men [who use modern versions] are true servants of the Lord,
and we should; with patience and love, try to reveal the truth to them. They have been
'brain-washed' by their teachers; who were 'brain-washed' by other teachers in a 'chain-
reaction' on back to Westcott and Hart who, in 1881, 'switched' most of our seminaries
and Bible schools from the dependable TEXTUS RECEPTUS to inferior manuscripts,
such as codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. Of course this 'chain-reaction' could be
traced on back to its beginning in Genesis 3:1, where (Satan) the serpent said unto the
woman, 'Yea, hath God said?' In the humanistic theology of today we would hear some-
thing like this: 'These words are not in the best manuscripts'" (101).
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 25
Ray says, for example, that "the Textus Receptus . . . was given by the
inspiration of God, and has been providentially preserved for us
today.12 He further adds that "the writing of the Word of God by
inspiration is no greater miracle than the miracle of its preservation in
the Textus Receptus.13 Preservation, then, for Jasper James Ray, takes
place on the same level as inspiration--i.e., extending to the very
Even in works which are dressed in more scholarly garb, this
theological presupposition (along with the witch-hunting invectives15)
is still present. David Otis Fuller, for example, has edited several vol-
umes in which professors and Bible scholars have contributed-all for
12 Ibid., 102.
13 Ibid., 104.
14 Further, inspiration and preservation are linked to tradition-especially the tradi-
tion of the English Bible, for Ray argues: "The Bible God wrote has been providentially
preserved for us in the Greek Textus Receptus, from which the King James Bible was
translated in 1611. Any version of the Bible that does not agree with this text, is cer-
tainly founded upon corrupted manuscripts" (ibid., 106). j
15 David Otis Fuller, for example, in Counterfeit or Genuine, speaks of "bastard "
Bibles" (10) and echoes J. J. Ray in condemning virtually all evangelical institutes of
higher learning for using other than the Textus Receptus or the King James Version:
"This is a David and Goliath battle with practically all of the evangelical seminaries and
colleges, Bible institutes, and Bible schools slavishly following essentially the Westcott
and Hort Greek Text and the Westcott and Hort theory, both of which are fallacious in
every particular" (12). He adds further, as did Ray, that Satan is the mastermind behind
this defection from the King James and TR: "born-again Christians in this twentieth cen-
tury are facing the most malicious and vicious attack upon God's inspired Holy Word
since the Garden of Eden. And this attack began in its modern form in the publication of
Revised Version of the Scriptures in 1881 in
Donald A. Waite, a Dallas Seminary graduate, argues in his The Theological Here-
sies of Westcott and Hort (Collings
wood, NJ: Bible for Today, 1979), that the two
bridge dons were unregenerate, unsaved, apostate, and heretical (39-42). David D.
Shields in his dissertation on "Recent Attempts to Defend the Byzantine Text of the
Greek New Testament," points out that "the evidence on which [Waite] bases these con-
clusions often would indict most evangelical Christians. Even in the author's perspective,
Westcott and Hort have theological problems, but the extreme severity of Waite's ap-
proach would declare anyone apostate and heretical who does not hold to his line" (55).
Wilbur Pickering, another alumnus of Dallas Seminary, and the president of the
Majority Text Society, although normally not as prone as many others to such language,
does sometimes imbibe in vitriolic speech. For example, in :his master's thesis, "An Eval-
uation of the Contribution of John William Burgon to New Testament Textual Criticism"
(Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), he declares that the most ancient manuscripts
came from a "sewer pipe" (93). In his book, The Identity of the New Testament Text
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977)-a book which has become the standard text in sup-
port of the majority text-Pickering states, for example, that "Aleph and B have lied"
and that "Aleph is clearly a bigger liar than B" (126), and that all the ancient manu-
on which modern critical texts are based are "convicted liars all"
has toned down his language in his second edition (1980), perhaps due to book reviews
such as R. A. Taylor's in JETS 20 (1977) 377-81, in which such "emotionally-loaded
language" is seen as clouding the issue (379). (In this second edition he says that "Aleph
26 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
the purpose of proving that the TR or MT is the best Greek New Tes-
tament. In Which Bible? he declares:
Naturalistic New Testament critics seem at last to have reached the end
of the trail. Westcott and Hort's broad highway, which appeared to lead
so quickly and smoothly to the original New Testament text, has dwin-
dled down to a narrow foot path and terminated finally in a thicket of
trees. For those who have followed it, there is only one thing to do, and
that is to go back and begin the journey allover again from the consis-
tently Christian starting point; namely, the divine inspiration and provi-
dential preservation of Scripture.16
The sequel to Which Bible?, entitled True or False?, is "DEDI-
CATED TO All lovers of the Book; who believe in the Verbal, Plenary
Inspiration of the Scriptures; and who, of necessity [,] must believe in
the Providential Preservation of the Scriptures through the centuries;
and who hold that the Textus Receptus (Traditional Text) is nearest to
the Original Manuscripts."17
This theological refrain-the linking of inspiration to preservation,
and both to the majority text-got its major impetus from John William
Burgon. Burgon, a high Church Anglican, Dean of Chichester, toward
the end of the nineteenth century was both prolific and vituperative in
attacks against Westcott and Hort (the
duced the Greek text which stands, more or less, behind all modern
and B have . . . mistakes, . . . Aleph is clearly worse than B" , and the ancient
manuscripts are "blind guides all" .)
Theodore P. Letis, editor of The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continu-
ing Debate (Fort Wayne, IN: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1987), seems to use
fulminatory language against everybody, for he is in something of a theological no man's
land: his volleys are directed not only at modem textual criticism, but also at majority
text advocates (since he advocates the TR)-and even against inerrantists! He speaks, for
example, of "the idolatrous affair that evangelicals are having with the red herring of in-
errancy" (22); those who advocate using modem-language Bibles (including the transla-
tors of the New King James Version) are "in pragmatic league with the goddess of
modernity-Her Majesty, Vicissitude" (81); virtually all modem translations imbibe in
Arianism (203); ad hominem arguments are everywhere to be found in his book.
Bible?, 5th ed. (
17 True or False? The Westcott-Hort Textual Theory Examined, ed. D. O. Fuller
(Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1973) 5. This linking of inspi-
ration and preservation is also seen most clearly in Fuller's statement that "The Scrip-
tures make it quite clear that He [God] is also well able to insure the providential
preservation of His own Word through the ages, and that He is the Author and Preserver
of the Divine Revelation. The Bible cannot be accounted for in any other way. It claims
to be 'Theopneustos,' 'God-breathed' (II Timothy )" (Which Bible?, 5). It is signifi-
cant that Fuller gives no proof-text for preservation here, for to him if the Bible is in-
spired it must be providentially preserved.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 27
translations). There is no question that Burgon is the most influential
writer on behalf of the TR-indeed, that he is the father of the majority
text movement-for he is quoted with extreme approbation by virtually
every TR/MT advocate.18 He argued that "there exists no reason for
supposing that the Divine Agent, who in the first instance thus gave to
mankind the Scriptures of Truth, straightway abdicated His office; took
no further care of His work; abandoned those precious writings to their
Wilbur Pickering, president of the Majority Text Society, has con-
tinued this type of argument into the present debate. In his 1968 master's
thesis done at Dallas Seminary (" An Evaluation of the Contribution of
John William Burgon to New Testament Textual Criticism") he argued
that this doctrine is "most important" and "what one believes does make
a difference.20 Further, he linked the two together in such a way that a
denial of one necessarily entails a denial of the other: "the doctrine of
Divine Preservation of the New Testament Text depends upon the inter-
pretation of the evidence which recognizes the Traditional Text to be the
of the autographa.21 In other words,
saying: "if we reject the majority text view, we reject the doctrine of
E. F. Hills, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on NT textual
If the doctrine of the Divine inspiration of the Old and New Testament
scriptures is a true doctrine, the doctrine of providential preservation of
the scriptures must also be a true doctrine. It must be that down through
the centuries God has exercised a special providential control over the
18 In Shields' dissertation ("Recent Attempts"), the first three chapters are entitled
Popular Defenders of the Textus Receptus,"
"The Scholarly Defenders of the
tus Receptus," and "The Defenders of the Majority Text." In each chapter there is a sec-
tion (or two) on Burgon and the impetus he provided for the various groups (there is
even a Dean Burgon Society which quite explicitly promotes his views). One may, with
some justification, feel that very little new has been said by MT/TR advocates after
19 J. W. Burgon, The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Estab-
lished (arranged, completed, and edited by E. Miller;
Testament Textual Criticism," 86.
21 Ibid., 91.
22 More recently,
he argued that a denial of one was a denial of the other: "Are we to say that God was un-
able to protect the text of Mark or that He just couldn't be bothered? I see no other alter-
native-either He didn't care or He was helpless. And either option is fatal to the claim
that Mark's Gospel is 'God-breathed'" ("Mark 16:9-20 and the Doctrine of Inspiration"
[a paper circulated to members of the Majority Text Society, September, 1988] 1).
28 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
copying of the scriptures and the preservation and use of the copies, so
that trustworthy representatives of the original text have been available
to God's people in every age.23
Hills adds that "all orthodox Christians, all Christians who show due
regard for the Divine inspiration and providential preservation of
Scripture, must agree with Burgon on this matter.24
These writers are just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, so universal is
the doctrinal underpinning of preservation found among MT/TR advo-
cates that Bart Ehrman could say:
One cannot read the literature produced by the various advocates of the
Majority text without being impressed by a remarkable theological con-
currence. To one degree or another, they all (to my knowledge, without
exception) affirm that God's inspiration of an inerrant Bible required His
preservation of its text.25
And even Theo Letis, a TR advocate himself, flatly states, "The only
reason that the Majority Text proponents even argue for the Byzantine
text is because theologically they have both a verbal view of inspira-
tion-and as a hidden agenda an unexpressed (at least as part of their
present method) belief in providential preservation.26
23 E. F. Hills, The King James Version Defended! (4th ed.;
Research, 1984) 2.
24 "The Magnificent Burgon," in Which Bible?, 90.
25 Bart D. Ehrman, "New Testament Textual Criticism: Quest for Methodology"
(M.Div. thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1981) 40. Shields echoes the same
viewpoint in his dissertation ("Recent Attempts") where in each of his first three chapters
in which he interacts with various proponents of MT/TR, there is extensive material on
"theological perspective," including inspiration and providential preservation. He sum-
marizes that "the strong theological basis from which all advocates for primacy [of the
Byzantine text-type] argue is a poor starting-point for determining the text of the New
Testament and creates a history of the text which contradicts known facts" (p. 3 of ab-
stract). Since Ehrman wrote his thesis and Shields his dissertation, Theo Letis has altered
this picture to some degree: he is the first member of the MT/TR school (as far as I am
aware) who, though affirming providential preservation, denies inerrancy (see n. 15).
26 Letis, Continuing Debate, 9. One might argue that Zane Hodges does not have
such an agenda and that therefore he is an exception to the rule. At one point, in fact,
Hodges himself seems to say this. In his interaction with Gordon Fee over this issue,
Hodges states: "To speak of 'all modem advocates of the TR' as having a 'hidden agenda'
is an impermissible argumentum ad hominem. It also is not true. I, for one, would be
quite happy to accept the Westcott-Hort text as it stands if I thought that the grounds on
which it rested were adequate. . . . My agenda at least-and I speak here only for my-
self-is precisely what I have expressed it to be-namely, a call to re-examine the
claims of the majority text in the light of increasingly perceived deficiencies of the the-
ory that underlies today's editions. I happen to think that a man's theology can affect
his textual theories, but I am perfectly willing to entertain sensible arguments from any
NEW TEST AMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 29
To sum up: on a lay level, as well as on a pseudo-scholarly level,
and even on a scholarly level, inspiration, preservation and the TR/MT
are linked intrinsically. According to Byzantine text advocates, you
cannot have one without the other.
B. The Critique
There are a number of serious problems with the theological
premise of Byzantine text advocates. Generally speaking, however,
they all fall into one of three groups: (1) a question-begging approach,
(2) faulty assumptions, and (3) a non-biblical doctrinal basis. As will be
readily seen, there is a great deal of overlap between these three areas.
1. Question-Begging Approach
Majority text proponents beg the question for their view on at
least three fronts.
a. What do you count? First, they only count Greek manu-
scripts. Yet, there are almost twice as many Latin NT manuscripts as
there are Greek (over 10,000 to approximately 5,500). If the Latin
quarter no matter what theology they may be associated with" ("Modern Textual Criti-
cism and the Majority Text: A Response," JETS 21  145-46).
As Ehrman points out, however, there are two objections to Hodges' alleged neutral
stance: (1) "While Hodges is right that some theological presuppositions may have no
effect on one's approach toward textual criticism, it is equally clear that others certainly
will. If one affirms as a theological 'given' that God would not allow a corrupted form of
the New Testament text to be widely accepted, then, despite disclaimers, any argument to
the contrary must be rejected out of hand. For the sake of personal integrity an individual
such as Hodges may adduce strictly historical arguments for his position; but if one as-
sumes this doctrine to be true and refuses to reconsider, then any textual method that
does violence to it will be automatically rejected. For this reason, Hodges cannot 'enter-
tain sensible arguments from any quarter no matter what theology they may be associated
with'" (49-50). (2) "The other problem with Hodges's position is that he himself does
hold to it consistently. In another work ["A Defense of the Majority
Seminary, n.d., p. 18], Hodges openly states that his historical (note, historical, not theo-
logical) arguments for the superiority of the Majority text will appeal only to those of
similar theological conviction. . . ." (50). Not only this, but elsewhere Hodges rejects
Hort's views because of their rationalistic presuppositions, arguing that the "New Testa-
ment text is not like any other ancient text" and that "the logic of faith demands that
documents so unique cannot have had a history wholly like that of secular writings"
(Hodges, "Rationalism and Contemporary New Testament Textual Criticism," BSac 128
 29-30). Ehrman concludes from this that "apart from the fact this amounts to
little more than rhetoric, a paradigmatic argumentum ad hominem, it is clear that Hodges
chooses to reject the principles of Wes[t]cott and Hort simply because they do not accept
his doctrine of revelation and preservation. Under such circumstances, to turn around and
say that all arguments for the contrary position will be given rational consideration is
nothing short of misleading" (51).
30 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
manuscripts were to be counted, then modern translations would be
vindicated rather than the King James, because the early Greek manu-
scripts which stand behind the vast bulk of Latin manuscripts and
behind modern translations are quite similar.27 At one point, E. F.
Hills argued that "God must preserve this text, not secretly, not hidden
away in a box for hundreds of years or mouldering unnoticed on some
library shelf, but openly before the eyes of all men through the contin-
uous usage of His Church.28 Preservation is therefore linked to public
accessibility. It is precisely at this point that the argument for counting
only Greek manuscripts begs the question. As Ehrman points out:
[According to Hills,] the subsequent preservation of the New Testament
text did not extend to guaranteeing the accuracy of its translation into
other languages, but only to protecting the relative purity of the Greek
text itself. Here, of course, his prior argument that God preserved the
text for the sake of His church becomes irrelevant-since only a select
minority in the church has ever known Greek.29
b. When do you count? Majority text advocates tacitly assume
that since most Greek manuscripts extant today belong to the Byzan-
tine text, most Greek manuscripts throughout church history have
belonged to the Byzantine text. But this assumption begs the question
in the extreme, since there is not one solid shred of evidence that the
Byzantine text even existed in the first three centuries of the Christian
era.30 Not only this, but as far as our extant witnesses reveal, the Byz-
antine text did not become the majority text until the ninth century.
Furthermore, for the letters of Paul, there is no majority text manu-
script before the ninth century. To embrace the MT/TR text for the
corpus Paulinum, then, requires an 800-year leap of faith. Not only is
this a severe instance of petitio principii, but it also is a cavalier treat-
ment of historical evidence unbecoming of those who boast a faith
which cannot be divorced from history. No majority text advocate
would tolerate such a fideistic leap regarding the person and work of
Christ;31 how then can they employ it when it comes to the text?
c. Where do you count? Suppose we were to assume that only
Greek manuscripts should be counted. And suppose further that public
27 B. M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin. Trans-
mission and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977) 359.
28 E. F. Hills, The King James Version Defended!, 31.
29 Ehrman, "Quest for Methodology," 43.
30 See Wallace, "The Majority Text and the Original Text," 159-66.
31 Ironically, in this instance majority text advocates-all of whom are theologi-
cally conservative-share by analogy some similarities with Bultmann's separation of
the Christ of history and the Christ preached by the early church (i.e., the Christ of faith
or Kerygmatic Christ).
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 31
accessibility is a legitimate divine motive for preservation. Given these
two assumptions, one would expect the Byzantine text-type to be
readily accessible in all pockets of the ancient Greek-speaking world.
But that is demonstrably not true. For example, it was not readily
to Christians in
fully investigating the Gospel quotations of Didymus, a fourth-century
Egyptian writer, Ehrman concludes, "These findings indicate that no
text existed in
least if it did, it made no impact on the mainstream of the textual tra-
dition there.32 What confirms this further is that in several places Ori-
gen, the great Christian textual scholar, speaks of textual variants that
were in a majority of manuscripts in his day, yet today are in a minor-
ity, and vice versa.33 Granting every gratuitous concession to majority
text advocates, in the least this shows that no majority text was readily
to Christians in
they argue for a majority on the basis of public accessibility?
2. Faulty Assumptions
More serious than a question-begging approach are several decid-
edly faulty assumptions made by MT/TR advocates. These assumptions
are shown to be faulty either by the force of logic or empirical
a. Preservation is a necessary corollary of inspiration. E. F.
If the doctrine of the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testament
Scriptures is a true doctrine the doctrine of the providential preservation
of these Scriptures must also be a true doctrine. It must be that down
through the centuries God has exercised a special providential con-
trol God must have done this. . . . 34
In other words, preservation proceeds from and is a necessary conse-
quence of inspiration. Or, in the words of Jasper James Ray, "the writ-
ing of the Word of God by inspiration is no greater miracle than the
miracle of its preservation. . . . 35 Ehrman has ably pointed out the
logical consequences of such linkage:
Any claim that God preserved the New Testament text intact, giving His
church actual, not theoretical, possession of it, must mean one of three
things-either 1) God preserved it in all the extant manuscripts so that
32 B. Ehrn1an, Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels (
Press, 1986) 260 (italics added).
33 See Wallace, "The Majority Text and the Original Text," 166.
34 Hills, King James Version Defended!, 8.
35 Ray, God Wrote Only One Bible, 104.
32 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
none of them contain any textual corruptions, or 2) He preserved it in a
group of manuscripts, none of which contain any corruptions, or 3) He pre-
served it in a solitary manuscript which alone contains no corruptions.36
The problem with these first and second possibilities is that neither one
of them is true: no two NT manuscripts agree completely-in fact,
there are between six and ten variations per chapter for the closest two
Is it possible that the NT text was preserved intact in a single
manuscript? No one argues this particular point, because it is easily
demonstrable that every manuscript has scribal errors in it. However,
one group does argue that a particular printed edition of the NT has
been providentially preserved. Proponents of the Textus Receptus (as
opposed to those who argue for the majority text37) believe that the TR
satisfies this third requirement. There are numerous problems with
such a view,38 but it should be noted that TR advocates are at least
consistent in putting preservation on the same level with inspiration.
Nevertheless, there seems to be one major flaw in their approach,
from a biblical standpoint: If the TR equals the original text, then the
editor must have been just as inspired as the original writers, for he not
only selected what readings were to go in this first published edition,
but he also created some of the readings. To be specific, the last leaf of
Erasmus' copy of Revelation was missing, so he "back-translated"
from Latin into Greek and thereby created numerous readings which
have never been found in any Greek manuscript. This should cause
some pause to those conservative Protestants who hail Erasmus' text as
identical with the original, for such a view implies that revelation con-
tinued into at least the sixteenth century. Not only this, but Erasmus
was a Roman Catholic who battled papists and Protestants alike-the
very man against whom Martin Luther wrote his famous Bondage of
the Will. Are conservative Protestants willing to say that this man was
just as inspired as the apostle Paul or John? What is especially ironic
about this is that most TR advocates reject the text of Westcott and
36 Ehrman, "Quest for Methodology," 44.
37 These two text deposits are not identical: there are almost 2,000 differences be-
38 E.g., which TR? One of the editions of Erasmus, or Beza, or the Elzevir broth-
ers? The TR has gone through numerous changes, not the least because Erasmus did a
rather poor job of editing the text. Further, once one argues for the infallibility of the
TR, any arguments drawn from public accessibility must be limited to the time of the
Reformation and beyond, since the TR has scores of readings which not only were not in
the majority beforehand, but were also nonexistent.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 33
Hort because (in Eart), as high church Anglicans, they had Roman
b. Preservation must be through "majority rule." To be sure,
most scholars who employ the doctrine of preservation as a text-critical
argument do not embrace the TR as equal to the original text. In this,
they are not as consistent about the corollary between inspiration and
preservation, but they are certainly more rational in other ways. Never-
theless, there are four serious objections to the argument that presera-
tion must be through majority rule." First, no where does the Bible
state how God would preserve the NT text. Thus their argument is based
squarely on silence.
Second, as Sturz points out,
. . . the Bible tself reveals that there have been occasions when there
has been a famine or dearth of the Word of God. One thinks, for ex-
ample, of the days of Josiah (II Kings 22:8ff.) when apparently the
Scriptures were reduced to one copy. Nevertheless, it still could be said
that God's Word was preserved.40
Third, in light of this biblical precedent of how God preserved a
portion of the Old Testament, can we not see the hand of God guiding a
man such as Constantin von Tischendorl to St. Catherine's monastery at
complete NT known to exist--before it met an untimely demise as kin-
dling for the fumace?4l There are, in fact, countless stories of manuscript
39 Not infrequently MT/TR advocates quote from the Life and Letters of Fenton
John Anthony Hort, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1896). A favorite passage is where Hort
to Westcott on
Mary-worship and 'Jesus'-worship have very much in common in their causes and their
results (). Cf. B: C. Wilkinson,. "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated," in Which
Bible?, 279; D. A. Waite, The Theological Heresies of Westcott and Hort, 39-42.
In passing, it could, with equal justification, be mentioned that not only was Eras-
mus more Catholic than either Westcott or Hort, but even Burgon had a hidden agenda in
his vigorous defense of the longer ending of Mark: he held to baptismal regeneration and
Mark seemed to him to be the strongest proof-text of this doctrine. E. F. Hills
writes that he was "strenuously upholding the doctrine of baptismal regeneration" ("The
Magnificent Burgon," in Which Bible?, 87). That this is not an argumentum ad hominem
is evident by the fact that his personal beliefs directly affected his text-critical approach.
(It is perhaps not insignificant that when Hills' essay was reproduced in True or False?
[in Fuller's introduction], this line about Burgon's beliefs was dropped.)
40 H. A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type and New Testament Textual Criticism
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984) 41-42.
41 Contrary to popular belief, although the monks were indeed burning old biblical
manuscripts to keep warm, codex Sinaiticus was not the next in line. (Cf. B. M. Metzger,
The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3d, enlarged
34 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
discoveries which seem to speak quite eloquently for God's providential
preservation of the text.42 A more biblically based view of God's provi-
dential ways would not argue that God's hand is only seen or always seen
in "majority rule."
Fourth, theologically one may wish to argue against the majority:
usually it is the remnant, not the majority, that is right. If the history of
Christianity teaches us anything, it teaches us that the majority is
. . . Hills' understanding of God's providential dealings in history fails
to account for greater problems than the comparatively minor differences
between the Textus Receptus and its modern rival. For example, God in
His providence allowed in the medieval ages the doctrine of justification
by faith to be almost eclipsed from public understanding until the Refor-
mation leaders again called attention to that doctrine. Would Hills have
God concerned that an exact form of the New Testament text be avail-
able but unconcerned about serious and widespread soteriological mis-
The weight of this argument is especially felt when one considers that
the variations between the majority text and modern critical texts are
qualitatively very minor; most would say that no doctrine is affected
by such differences.44 If God did not protect a major doctrine like jus-
tification, on what basis can we argue that he would protect one form
of the text over another when no doctrinal issues are at stake?45
manuscript was out of harm's way, in light of the midwinter practice at the monastery.
42 0ne thinks, for example, of C. H. Roberts rummaging through the basement of
John Rylands Library of
scrap of papyrus which included portions of five verses from John's gospel (-33,
37-38), and was dated in the first half of the second century. In light of the radical Ger-
man view of the date of John as c. A.D. 170 (harking back to F. C. Bauer a century ear-
lier), this small fragmentary copy of John's gospel, as one scholar put it, "sent two tons
of German scholarship to the flames."
43 R. A. Taylor, "The Modem Debate Concerning the Greek Textus Receptus: A
Critical Examination of the Textual Views of Edward F. Hills" (Ph.D. dissertation, Bob
44 Cf., e.g., D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 56.
45 Sturz gives some further helpful analogies (Byzantine Text-Type, 38): "Preserva-
tion of the Word of God is promised in Scripture, and inspiration af1d preservation are
related doctrines, but they are distinct from each other, and there is a danger in making
one the necessary corollary of the other. The Scriptures do not do this. God, having
given the perfect revelation by verbal inspiration, was under no special or logical obliga-
tion to see that man did not corrupt it. He created the first man perfect, but He was under
no obligation to keep him perfect. Or to use another illustration, having created all things
perfect, God was not obligated to see that the pristine perfection of the world was main-
tained. In His providence the world was allowed to suffer the Fall and to endure a de-
facement of its original condition."
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 35
c. Public accessibility of a pure text is a theological necessity. We
have touched on this to some degree already-at least by way of anal-
ogy. But the argument is also contradicted by
believes that "God has preserved the text of the New Testament in a very
pure form and it has been readily available to His followers in every
age throughout 1900 years.46 There are two fundamental problems with
First, assuming that the majority text (as opposed to the TR) is the
original, then this pure form of text has become available only since
1982.47 The Textus Receptus differs from it in almost 2,000 places-
and in fact has several readings which have "never been found in any
known Greek manuscript," and scores, perhaps hundreds, of readings
which depend on only a handful of very late manuscripts.48 Many of
these passages are theologically significant texts.49 Yet virtually no
one had access to any other text from 1516 to 1881, a period of over
years. In light of this, it is difficult to understand what
means when he says that this pure text "has been readily available to
[God's] followers in every age throughout 1900 years.50 Purity, it
seems, has to be a relative term-and, if so, it certainly cannot be mar-
shaled as a theological argument.
Second, again, assuming that the majority text is the original, and
that it has been readily available to Christians for 1900 years, then it
have been readily available to Christians in
centuries. But this is demonstrably not true, as we have already
luted" and as coming from a "sewer pipe.,,52 Now if these manuscripts
46 Pickering, "Burgon," 90.
and the Textus Receptus have been the best available up to now. In 1982 Thomas Nelson
Publishers brought out a critical edition of the Traditional Text (Majority, "Byzantine")
under the editorship of Zane C. Hodges, Arthur L. Farstad, and others which while not
definitive will prove to be very close to the final product, I believe. In it we have an ex-
cellent interim Greek Text to use until the full and final story can be told" (Identity, 150).
48 Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, 100.
49 Cf., in particular, 1 John 5:7-8 and .
50 To be sure,
tween the TR and Majority Text when he wrote this note. Originally, his estimate was
between 500 and 1,000 differences ("Burgon," 120). But in light of the 2,000 differ-
ences, "purity" becomes such an elastic term that, in the least, it is removed from being
a doctrinal consideration.
51 Literally scores of studies have been
done to prove this, none of which
to be aware. Gordon Fee speaks of
scholarly studies that contravene his assertions" and "The overlooked bibliography here
is so large that it can hardly be given in a footnote. For example, I know eleven different
on Origen alone that contradict all of
is even recognized to have existed" ("A Critique of W. N. Pickering's The Identity of the
New Testament Text: A Review Article," WTJ 41 [1978-79] 415).
52 "Burgon," 93.
36 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
really that defective, and if this is all
four centuries, then this peculiar doctrine of preservation is in serious
jeopardy, for those ancient Egyptian Christians had no access to the pure
stream of the majority text. Therefore, if one were to define preservation
in terms of the majority text, he would end up with a view which speaks
very poorly of God's sovereign care of the text in ancient Egypt.53
d. Certainty is identical with truth. It seems that the underlying
motive behind MT/TR advocacy is the equation of certainty with truth.
For TR advocates, certainty is to be found in a printed edition of the New
Testament. Hills' despair of finding absolute textual certainty through the
standard means of textual criticism ultimately led him to abandon textual
criticism altogether and replace it with a settled text, the Textus Recep-
tus. Theo Letis, the self-proclaimed heir of Hills' mantle, argues that
"without a methodology that has for its agenda the determination of a
continuous, obviously providentially preserved text. . . we are, in prin-
ciple, left with maximum uncertainty, as
versus the maximum certainty afforded by the methodology that seeks a
providentially preserved text.54
For MT advocates, certainty is found in the majority of manu-
been preserved then the doctrine of Inspiration is a purely academic
matter with no relevance for us today. If we do not have the inspired
Words or do not know precisely which they be, then the doctrine of
Inspiration is inapplicable."55 At one point Pickering even states that
uncertainty over the text also makes inspiration untrue.56
In response, several things can be mentioned. First, it should be
noted that in one respect TR advocates are much more consistent than
MT advocates: not only do they put preservation on exactly the same
level as inspiration, but they also can be more certain about the text,
53 We could add here an argument concerning the early versions. None of the ver-
sions produced in the first three centuries A.D. was based on the Byzantine text. But if the
majority text view is right, then each one of these versions was based on polluted Greek
manuscripts-a suggestion that does not augur well for God's providential care of the
NT text, as that care is understood by the majority text view. But if these versions were
based on polluted manuscripts, one would expect them to have come from (and be used
in) only one isolated region (for if only some Christians did not have access to the pure
text, God's sovereignty might be supposed still to be left intact). This, however, is not
the case: the Coptic, Ethiopic, Latin, and Syriac versions came from allover the Medi-
terranean region. In none of these locales was the Byzantine text apparently used. (For
further discussion and documentation, see Wallace, "The Majority Text and the Original
54 Letis, Continuing Debate, 200.
55 Pickering, "Burgon," 88.
paper distributed to members of the Majority Text Society, September, 1988) 1.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 37
since they advocate a printed edition. But their argumentation is so
palpably weak on other fronts that we will only make two observations
here: (a) since the TR itself went through several different editions by
Erasmus and others, TR advocates need to clarify which edition is the
inspired one; (b) one simply cannot argue for the theological necessity
of public accessibility throughout church history and for the TR in the
same breath-for the TR did not exist during the first 1500 years of the
Christian era. (Rather inconsistent, for example, is the logic of Theo
Letis when he, on the one hand, argues that God must have preserved
the pure text in an open, public, and accessible manner for Christians
in every generation57 and, on the other hand, he argues that "the Latin
and non-majority readings [of the TR] were indeed restorations of
ancient readings that fell out of the medieval Greek tradition"!58)
Second, regarding MT proponents, several criticisms can be lev-
eled, two of which are as follows. (a) Pragmatically, there is in reality
less certainty in their approach than there is among reasoned eclectics.
In the Byzantine text, there are hundreds of splits where no clear
majority emerges. One scholar recently found 52 variants within the
majority text in the spaces of two verses.59 In such places how are
majority text advocates to decide what is original? Since their method
is in essence purely external (i.e., counting manuscripts), in those
places the majority text view has no solution, and no certainty. At one
presently unable to specify the precise wording of the original text, but .
it will require considerable time and effort before we can be in a posi-
tion to do so.60 Ironically, therefore,
theological construct, inspiration for him must be neither relevant nor
tnie. (b) Logically/theologically, the equation of inspiration with man's
recognition of what is inspired (in all its particulars) virtually puts God
at the mercy of man and requires omniscience of man. The burden is so
great that a text critical method of merely counting noses seems to be
the only way in which human beings can be "relatively omniscient." In
57 Letis, Continuing Debate, 192-94.
58 Ibid., 17,
59 K. Aland, "The Text of the Church?" (TrinJ 8  136-37), commenting on
2 Cor 1:6-7a. To be fair, Aland does not state whether there is no clear majority 52
times or whether the Byzantine manuscripts have a few defectors 52 times. Nevertheless,
his point is that an assumption as to what really constitutes a majority is based on faulty
and partial evidence (e.g., von Soden's apparatus), not on an actual examination of the
majority of manuscripts. Until that is done, it is impossible to speak definitively about
what the majority of manuscripts actually read.
60 Identity of the New Testament Text, 150. In
then, the doctrine of inspiration has no significance, for elsewhere he argued "If we do
not have the inspired Words or do not know precisely which they be, then the doctrine of
Inspiration is inapplicable" ("Burgon," 88).
38 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
what other area of Christian teaching is man's recognition required for
a doctrine to be true?
Finally, a general criticism against both the MT and TR positions:
the quest for certainty is not the same as a quest for truth. There is a
subtle but important distinction between the two. Truth is objective
reality; certainty is the level of subjective apprehension of something
perceived to be true. But in the recognition that truth is objective
reality, it is easy to confuse the fact of this reality with how one knows
what it is. Frequently the most black-and-white, dogmatic method of
arriving at truth is perceived to be truth itself. Indeed, people with
deep religious convictions are very often quite certain about an
untruth. For example, cultists often hold to their positions quite dog-
matically and with a fideistic fervor that shames evangelicals; first-
year Greek students want to speak of the aorist tense as meaning
"once-and-for-all" action; and almost everyone wants simple answers
to the complex questions of life. At bottom this quest for certainty,
though often masquerading as a legitimate epistemological inquiry, is
really a presuppositional stance, rooted in a psychological insecurity.61
To sum up so far: The TR/MT advocates get entangled in numer-
ous question-begging approaches and faulty-even contradictory--
assumptions in their arguments concerning the providential preserva-
tion of the text. That is not the worst of it, however. Their view also is
3. Non-Biblical Doctrinal Basis
We are often told that the consistently Christian view, or the only
orthodox view of the text is one which embraces the Byzantine text-
type, and that to embrace a different form of the text is to imbibe in
heresy. Although this charge is vigorously denied by non-MT/TR
evangelicals, the tables are rarely turned. It is our contention, however,
that to use the doctrine of preservation in support of the MT/TR is to
have a non-biblical view which cannot consistently be applied to both
testaments. The majority text-preservation connection is biblically
unfounded in four ways, two of which have already been touched on.
a. Biblical silence. As we have argued concerning the faulty
assumption that preservation must be through "majority rule," the
scriptures nowhere tell us how God would preserve the NT text. What
61 Along this line is a significant corollary: those Christians, who must have cer-
tainty in nonessential theological areas have a linear, or "domino," view of doctrine: if
one falls, all fall. A more mature Christian, in our view, has a concentric view of doc-
trine: the more essential a doctrine is for salvation (e.g., the person of Christ), the closer
it is to the center of his theological grid; the less essential a doctrine is (e.g., what he be-
lieves about eschatology), the more peripheral it is.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 39
is ironic is that as much ink as MT/TR advocates spill on pressing the
point that theirs is the only biblical view, when it comes to the pre-
served text being found in the majority of witnesses, they never quote
one verse. Although they accuse other textual critics of rationalism,
their argument for preservation via the majority has only a rational
basis, not a biblical one. "God must have done this62--not because
the Bible says so, but because logic dictates that this must be the case.
b. Old Testament examples of preservation. Again, as we have
already pointed out, the few OT examples of preservation of scripture
do not herald the majority, but only the mere existence of a written
witness. This fact leads to our third point-that the argument from
preservation actually involves bibliological contradictions.
c. A Marcionite view of the text. Marcion was a second century
heretic whose literary remains are found only in essays written against
him. Metzger points out that
The main points of Marcion's teaching were the rejection of the Old Tes-
tament and a distinction between the Supreme God of goodness and an
inferior God of justice, who was the Creator and the God of the Jews. He
regarded Christ as the messenger of the Supreme God. The Old and New
Testaments, Marcion argued, cannot be reconciled to each other.63
It is our contention that majority text advocates follow in Marcion's
train when it comes to their doctrine of preservation because their
theological argument does not work for the Old Testament. If our con-
tention is true, then the dogmatic basis for the majority text is biblio-
logically schizophrenic. The evidence is of two kinds.
First, the argument that the divine motive for preservation is pub-
lic availability-as poor an argument as it is for the Greek text-is
even worse for the Hebrew. Not only is it alleged that "God must do
more than merely preserve the inspired original New Testament text.
He must preserve it in a public way. . . through the continuous usage of
His Church",64 but that "down through the ages God's providential
preservation of the New Testament has operated only through believ-
ers . . . .65 But the Hebrew scriptures were neither preserved pub-
licly-on display through the church as it were nor only through
Christians. In light of this, how can majority text advocates escape the
charge of Marcionism? In what way can they argue that a bibliological
doctrine is true for the NT but is not true for the OT?
62 Hills, King James Version Defended!, 8.
63 B. M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin. Development. and
Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) 91-92.
64 Hills, King James Version Defended!, 29.
65 Ibid., 26.
40 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Second, it is demonstrable that the OT text does not meet the cri-
teria of preservation by majority rule. Although the Masoretic textual
tradition (which represents almost the entirety of the extant Hebrew
manuscripts) is highly regarded among most OT textual critics, none
(to my knowledge) claim that it is errorless.66 Most OT scholars today
would agree with Klein that "Samuel MT is a poor text, marked by
extensive haplography and corruption-only the MT of Hosea and
Ezekiel is in worse condition.67 In fact, a number of readings which
only occur in versions (i.e., not in the extant Hebrew manuscripts at
or are found only in one or two early
indisputable claim to authenticity in the face of the errant majority.68
Furthermore, in many places, all the extant Hebrew manuscripts (as
well as versions) are so corrupt that, scholars have been forced to
emend the text on the basis of mere conjecture.69 Significantly, many
66 E. Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979),
for example, argues that "an arbitrary procedure which hastily and unnecessarily dis-
misses the traditional te;xt . . . can lead only to a subjective form of the text which is un-
historically and without any claim to theological relevance" (
argues that the Masoretic text "has repeatedly been demonstrated to be the best witness
to the text. Any deviation from it therefore requires justification" (113). Yet, as conser-
vative as he is, he hastens to add, "But this does not mean that we should cling to [the
Masoretic text] under all circumstances, because it also has its undeniable faults. .."
(ibid.). For similar statements regarding the value, but not inerrancy, of the Masoretic
tradition, see F. E. Deist, Toward the
Text of the Old Testament (
ment: The Septuagint after
Second Thoughts on the
67 Klein, Textual Criticism of the Old Testament, 70. Cf. also F. M. Cross, The An-
cient Library of
Proceedings: IOSCS and Pseudepigrapha, ed. R. A. Kraft (
Press, 1972) 3; and especially E. C. Ulrich, The Qumran Text of Samuel and Josephus
(Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978) 193-221.
68 Cf. the discussions (and demonstrations) to this effect in D. Barthelemy, Critique
Textuelle de l'Ancien Testament: 2. Isai.e, Jeremie, Lamentations (
hoeck & Ruprecht, 1986) 361-62 (Isa 49:12),403-7 (Is a 53:11); Wurthwein, Text of the
Old Testament, 106-10 (on 108 he argues that Qumran MS lQIsaa at Isa is superior
MT); J. A. Sanders, The
E. Tov, The
Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (
mor, 1981) 70-72, 288-306; W. H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the
the Bible (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1964) 216-35; G. Vermes, The
Ancient Library, 169, 189, 191; Bruce, Second Thoughts, 61-62, 66-69; Klein, Textual
Criticism of the Old Testament, 62, 71, 74-76; C. E. Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and
the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969) 101-9.
69 Cf. especially J. Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old Testa-
ment (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928). In the editorial note N. Levison comments that
"Dr. Kennedy was very conservative theologically. . . . [yet] he was possessed with an
intense passion for the correction of the Massoretic Text, and, as will be seen from the
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 41
such conjectures (but not all) have been vindicated by the discovery of
with these OT textual phenomena. And if they were to do so and were
even to prove many minority text readings or conjectures false, our
point would still stand. Only if they could demonstrate that all minor-
ity text readings and all conjectures were inferior (or at least probably
so), could their argument hold water. The indisputable fact is that OT
textual criticism simply cannot be conducted on the basis of counting
noses. Since this is the case, either majority text advocates must aban-
don their theological premise altogether, or else be subject to the
charge of a bibliological double standard.
d. The biblical doctrine of preservation. In light of the occasional
necessity of conjectural emendation for the OT text, it is our contention
that not only is the majority text argument for preservation entirely
wrong-headed, but so is any doctrine of preservation which requires that
the exact wording of the text be preserved at all. In spite of the fact that
even opponents of the MT/TR view embrace such a doctrine,71 it simply
does not square with the evidence. Only three brief points will be made
here, in hopes of stimulating a dialogue on this issue.
First, the doctrine of preservation was not a doctrine of the ancient
church. In fact, it was not stated in any creed until the seventeenth
contents of this book, it was no mere speculation but considered and conscientious study
led him to his conclusions" (p. vii). But note also Brownlee, Meaning of
Scrolls, 231 (where he accepts an emendation by C. C. Torrey for Isa 53: 11, since "if the
verse is to be scanned as poetry at all, some such alteration is necessary"); Klein, Textual
Criticism of the Old Testament, 76 (on 1 Sam ); Wurthwein, Text of the Old Testa-
ment, 108 (on Jer ); Bruce, Second Thoughts, 69 (on Isa 21:8; 53:11; and Deut 32:8);
Deist, Towards the Text of the Old Testament, 247-49, 260; D. M. Fouts, "A Suggestion
for Isaiah XXVI 16," Vetus Testamentum 41 (1991) 472-74.
70 UIrich notes that Josephus preserved "at least four genuine Samuel readings
which were preserved by no other witness until 4QSama was recovered" (Samuel and Jo-
sephus, 2). Cf. also Cross, Ancient Library, 189 ("4QSama and I Chron. preserve a
verse [2 Sam. 24:16b] which has dropped out of MT by haplography ..."); Wurthwein,
Text of the Old Testament, 142 (lQIsaa confirms conjectures at Isa 40:6 and 40:17); Bar-
thelemy, Critique Textuelle, 361-62 (IQlsaa at Isa 49:12) 403-7 (Isa 53:11); Brownlee,
Meaning of the
71Taylor's comments in "Modern Debate" are representative: "It is essential, then,
that this distinction be maintained between the concepts of inspiration, which insures the
reliability of the divine revelation, and preservation, which insures the availability of the
divine revelation" (148); "It is certain that if God took such pains to insure by inspira-
tion the accuracy of the original manuscripts, He would not leave to an undetermined
fate the future of those writings" (154); "Nothing of the inspired writings has been lost
as a result of the transmission of the text. This, too, is in keeping with God's preservation
of the Scripture" (163). Cf. also Sturz, Byzantine Text-Type, 37-49, et al.
42 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
century (in the Westminster Confession of 1646). The recent arrival of
such a doctrine, of course, does not necessarily argue against it-but
neither does its youthfulness argue for it. Perhaps what needs to be
more fully is precisely what the framers of the
Confession and the Helvetic Consensus Formula (in 1675) really meant
by providential preservation.
Second, the major scriptural texts alleged to support the doctrine of
preservation need to be reexamined in a new light. I am aware of only
one substantial articulation of the biblical basis for this doctrine by a
majority text advocate. In Donald Brake's essay, "The Preservation of
the Scriptures," five major passages are adduced as proof that preserva-
tion refers to the written Word of God: Ps 119:89, Isa 40:8, Matt -
18, John 10:35, and 1 Pet 1:23-25.72 One of the fundamental problems
with the use of these passages is that merely because "God's Word" is
mentioned in them it is assumed that the written, canonical, revelation
of God is meant.73 But 1 Pet 1:23-25, for example, in quoting Isa 40:8,
uses r[?ma (not lo<goj)-a term which typically refers to the spoken
word.74 Brake's interpretation of Ps 119:89 ("For ever, 0 Lord, your
word is settled in heaven") is, to put it mildly, improbable: "The Word
which is settled in heaven was placed there by a deliberate and purpose-
ful act of God Himself.75 It seems that a better interpretation of all
these texts is that they are statements concerning either divine ethical
principles (i.e., moral laws which cannot be violated without some kind
of consequences) or the promise of fulfilled prophecy.76 The assump-
tions that most evangelicals make about the doctrine of preservation
need to be scrutinized in light of this exegetical construct.
72 Donald L. Brake, "The Preservation of the Scriptures," in Counterfeit or Genu-
ine?, 175-218, This essay is a modification of Brake's Th.M. thesis (Dallas Seminary,
1970), "The Doctrine of the Preservation of the Scriptures,"
73In passing, it should be noted that all these proof-texts, if they refer to the written
word at all, refer to the OT. The bibliological inconsistency is thus heightened, for MT/
TR advocates apply this doctrine only to the NT.
74 BAGD, 735 (1).
75 Brake, "Preservation," 181-82. Apparently Brake means by this that an exact
written copy of the originals was brought to heaven. Not only is this difficult to believe,
but it renders the "public accessibility" idea absolutely worthless.
76 "The scripture cannot be broken" (John ), in its context, means "all will be
fulfilled" or "all of it is true" rather than "we must have every word preserved." "Not
one jot or tittle from the law will pass away until all is fulfilled" (Matt ) plainly re-
fers either to the ethical principles of the law or the fulfillment of prophecy, or both,
(The validity of each of these options turns, to some degree, on how plhro<w is used else-
where in Matthew and the weight given to those texts-e.g., are Matthew's aT quotation
introductory formulae [i!na plhrwq^? in 1:23; 2:15; 4:14, etc., connecting the term toes-
chatological fulfillment] more significant or is Jesus' own use of plhro<w [in , con-
necting it to ethical fulfillment] more significant?) Either way, the idea of preservation of
the written text is quite foreign to the context.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 43
Third, if the doctrine of the preservation of scripture has neither
ancient historical roots, nor any direct biblical basis, what can we
legitimately say about the text of the New Testament? My own prefer-
ence is to speak of God's providential care of the text as can be seen
throughout church history, without elevating such to the level of doc-
trine. If this makes us theologically uncomfortable, it should at the
same time make us at ease historically, for the NT is the most remark-
ably preserved text of the ancient world-both in terms of the quantity
of manuscripts and in their temporal proximity to the originals. Not
only this, but the fact that no major doctrine is affected by any viable
textual variant surely speaks of God's providential care of the text. Just
because there is no verse to prove this does not make it any less true.77
C. Conclusion on the Arguments concerning Preservation
In conclusion, MT/TR advocates argue from a theological vantage
point which begs the question historically and logically. More serious
Occasionally Matt 24:35 ("Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not
pass away") is used in support of preservation. But once again, even though this text has
the advantage of now referring to Jesus' words (as opposed to the OT), the context is
clearly eschatological; thus the words of Jesus have certainty of fulfillment. That the text
does not here mean that his words will all be preserved in written form is absolutely cer-
tain because (I) this is not only foreign to the context, but implies that the written gos-
pels were conceived at this stage in Heilsgeschichte-decades before a need for them
was apparently felt; (2) we certainly do not have all of Jesus' words recorded-either in
scripture or elsewhere (cf. John and ).
77 A possible objection to this statement might be that, on the one hand, we criticize
MT advocates for their rational leap of linking preservation to the majority, while on the
other hand, here we argue for providential care without having a biblical basis. Is this
not the same thing? No. That preservation is to be seen in the majority is an a priori as-
sumption turned into a doctrine; that the doctrinal content of the Bible is not affected by
the variants is an a posteriori demonstration which stops short of dogma. Thus if a via-
ble variant were to turn up that affected a major doctrine, our view of God's providential
care would not be in jeopardy, though it would be reworded. An analogy might be seen
in two twentieth century wars: One could say that God's hand was seen in the Allies' de-
of the Axis in World War II, as well as the Coalition's defeat of
Gulf War. But on occasion, a given battle in which the weather conditions had previ-
ously been reported as quite favorable to the Allies'/Coalition's cause turned out to be
unfavorable, this would not alter our overall picture of God's sovereignty. Rather, we
simply could not appeal to that battle in support of our view. Similarly, our view of
God's providential care of the text does not depend on the nonexistence of viable vari-
ants which teach heresy precisely because we are not affirming such on a doctrinal level.
Our statement is made solely on the basis of the evidence. And just as historical investi-
gation might uncover certain environmental conditions, or mechanical failures, etc.,
which were unfavorable to the Coalition forces for a given battle, still the outcome of the
Persian Gulf War is not at all altered by such evidence-even so any new discoveries of
manuscripts may cause us to reshape how we speak of God's providential care of the
text, but the overall fact derived from empirical evidence is still the same.
44 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
than petitio principii, they make several faulty assumptions which not
only run aground on rational and empirical rocks, but ultimately backfire.
The most telling assumption is that certainty equals truth. This is an
evangelical disease: for most of us, at some point, the quest for certainty
has replaced the quest for truth. But even for majority text advocates, this
quest must, in the last analysis, remain unfulfilled. The worst feature of
their agenda, however, is not the faulty assumptions. It is that their view
of preservation not only is non-biblical, it is also bibliologically schizo-
phrenic in that it cannot work for both testaments. And that, to a majority
text or Textus Receptus advocate-as it would be to any conservative
Christian--is the most damaging aspect of their theological agenda.
Under the general topic of inspiration are two arguments: (1) if
any portion of the NT is lost, then verbal-plenary inspiration is thereby
falsified; and (2) only in the Byzantine text-type do we have an inerrant
NT. This first argument is really the converse of the argument from
preservation, while the second argument is a corollary of a corollary.
A. Does Loss of Text Falsify Inspiration?
In his paper, "Mark 16:9-20 and the Doctrine of Inspiration",78
Wilbur Pickering argues that if any portion of the NT is lost, then
inspiration is not only irrelevant-it also is not true:
Among those who wish to believe or claim that Mark's Gospel was
inspired by the Holy Spirit, that it is God's Word, I am not aware of any
who are prepared to believe that it could have been God's intention to ter-
minate the book with efobount gar.79
Are we to say that God was unable to protect the text of Mark or that
He just couldn't be bothered? I see no other alternative-either He didn't
care or He was helpless. And either option is fatal to the claim that
Mark's Gospel is "God-breathed."80 . . . if God was powerless to protect
His Word then He wouldn't really be God and it wouldn't make all that
much difference what He said.81 . . . If God permitted the original ending
of Mark to be lost then in fact we do not have an inspired text.82
Anyone who denies the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 cannot consis-
tently affirm the Divine Inspiration of Mark 1:1-16:8. I now submit the
question to the reader: have I not demonstrated that to reject Mark 16:9-
20 is to relinquish the doctrine of Divine Inspiration-for Mark, cer-
tainly, -but by extension for the rest of the Bible?83
78 A paper circulated to members of the Majority Text Society, September, 1988.
79 Pickering, "Mark 16:9-20 and the Doctrine of Inspiration," 1.
83 Ibid., 4.
NEW TEST AMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 45
Majority text advocates, as we have seen, argue that if there is
uncertainty over the wording of the text, inspiration becomes irrele-
lost, then "we do not have an inspired text."
This argument seems flawed on five fronts. First, it is special
One has to accept
to be true: if God was not able or did not care to protect the text, then
inspiration is not true. Why is it not possible for the text to be origi-
nally inspired but now lost? Apparently, once again, inspiration neces-
sitates preservation. Further, why is it necessary to impugn either
God's power or his goodness if part of the NT is lost? Analogously,
would anyone argue that if Christians-who are born of God-sin,
then God is either powerless or not good enough to prevent them from
Second, as we have already mentioned in the first section of this
Yet, if our arguments against this supposition are correct, then this new
argument (viz., lack of preservation implies non-inspiration) carries no
Third, this approach is also Marcionite if there is ever a need for
conjectural emendation for the Old Testament. Since that is .the case,
the loss of text. (whether it. be one word or a whole chapter) in prin-
ciple cannot be used as a theological argument for a text critical view-
point-otherwise proponents of such a view have to say that the OT is
Fourth, there is a tacit assumption on the part
everything a biblical author writes is inspired. But this is almost cer-
tainly not true, as can be seen by the lost epistles of Paul and the
agrapha of Jesus. The argument is this: there seem to be a few, fairly
well-attested (in patristic literature), authentic sayings of Jesus which
are not found in the Gospels or the rest of the New Testament. Of
course, evangelicals would claim that they are inerrant. But they would
not be inspired because inspiration refers strictly to what is inscriptur-
ated within the canon. Further, Paul seems to have written three or four
letters to the Corinthians, perhaps a now-lost letter to the Laodiceans,84
and apparently more than a few letters before 2 Thessalonians.85 If
some NT epistles could be lost, and even some authentic sayings of
This is either now lost (the known "Letter to the Laodiceans" is forged) or is the letter to
Ephesians which circulated counterclockwise through
85 The statement in ("this greeting is in my own hand, Paul's, which is a sign
in every letter [of mine]") seems to imply a well-known practice. Yet, most NT scholars
would date only Galatians and 1 Thessalonians as coming prior to this letter-i.e.,
among the known letters of Paul.
46 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Jesus could show up outside the NT, then either they were not inspired
or else they were inspired but not preserved. Assuming the former to be
true, then the question facing us in Mark's Gospel is whether an
inspired writer can author non-inspired material within the same docu-
ment-material which is now lost. Such a possibility admittedly opens
up a Pandora's box for evangelicals, and certainly deserves critical
thought and dialogue. Nevertheless, the analogies with the lost epistles
of Paul and the authentic, non-canonical agrapha of Jesus seem to dam-
lost, then inspiration is defeated.
thinks Mark ended his Gospel at verse 8, there does indeed seem to be
an increasing number of scholars who believe this, evangelicals
included among them.86 Ernest Best states, for example, that "It is in
keeping with other parts of his Gospel that Mark should not give an
explicit account of a conclusion where this is already well known to
his readers.87 Further, he argues that "it is not a story which has been
rounded off but an open story intended to draw us on further.88 At
one point he makes a rather intriguing suggestion:
Finally it is from the point of view of drama that we can appreciate most
easily the conclusion to the Gospel. By its very nature the conclusion
forces us to think out for ourselves the Gospel's challenge. It would have
been easy to finish with Jesus' victorious appearances to comfort the dis-
ciples: they all lived happily ever after. Instead the end is difficult. . . .
86 So much so that W. R. Telford could argue, "While a number of scholars would
still adhere to the view that the Gospel originally extended beyond 16:8, more and more
are coming to the opinion that it was intended to end at 16:8, and that it does so indeed,
in literary terms, with dramatic appositeness" ("Introduction: The Gospel of Mark," in
The Interpretation of
ed. W. R. Telford [
also C. S. Mann, Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Vol. 27
in the Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1986) 659 ("Mark did indeed finish his
gospel at v. 8, and . . .he had a specific and well-defined purpose in doing so"); R. P.
Meye, "Mark 16:8-The Ending of Mark's Gospel," BibRes 14 (1969) 33-43; H. Ander-
The Gospel of Mark, in the New Century Bible Commentary (
mans, 1976) 351-54; H. Paulsen, "Mark xvi. 1-8," NovT 22 (1980) 138-70; N. R.
Petersen, "When Is the End Not the End? Literary Reflections on the Ending of Mark's
Narrative," Interp 34 (1980) 151-66; T. E. Boomershine and G. L. Bartholomew, "The
Narrative Technique of Mark 16:8," JBL 100 (1981) 213-23. Among those who are
evangelicals (in the strictest sense of the word-i.e., inerrantists) , a number of authors
Matthew and Mark to
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1944) 86-118;
The Gospel of Mark in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 582-92; J. D. Grassmick also seems to lean toward this view
(Mark in the Bible Knowledge Commentary [Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983] 193-94).
87 E. Best, Mark: The Gospel as Story (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983) 73.
88 Ibid., 74.
NEW TEST AMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 47
The readers or hearers of Mark know the disciples did see Jesus. . . . Lis-
ten to the story as a believer and work it out for yourself. It is like one of
Jesus' own parables: the hearer is forced to go on thinking.89
Although one would not say that Ernest Best is an arch-conserva-
tive, his overall interpretation of the reason for the shorter ending
should cause no offense to evangelicals, as is evident by the fact that a
number of evangelicals do believe that the Gospel was intended to end
at verse 8.90
The argument that loss of text invalidates inspiration is, therefore,
seen to be logically fallacious, bibliologically inconsistent, and irrele-
vant for those evangelicals who believe that Mark intended to end his
Gospel at the eighth verse of chapter sixteen.
B. Does the Byzantine Text-type Have Sole Claim to Inerrancy?
Occasionally, MT/TR advocates appeal to inerrancy in support of
the Byzantine text-type's superiority. The argument is not new,91 but it
has received a clear articulation recently by James A. Borland. In his
article, "Re-examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles and
Practices Used to Negate Inerrancy",92 Borland argues that the Alex-
andrian readings of ]Asa<f in Matt 1:7, ]Amw?j in , and tou? h[li<ou
e]klipo<ntoj; in Luke are errors and must, for this reason, be
rejected (for otherwise they impugn the character of the biblical
authors and thereby falsify inerrancy). The reason such are errors,
according to Borland, is that, with regard to the Matthean passage,
Asaph and Amos were not kings (thus, spelling errors on the part of
early Alexandrian scribes); and with regard to the Lukan passage, since
"a solar eclipse is impossible astronomically during the full moon of
the Passover when sun and moon are 180 degrees apart in relation to
the earth93 and since the verb e]klei<pw, when used with h!lioj,
89 Ibid., 132.
90 See n. 86. Besides literary criticism, another argument could be used to support
the view that the gospel ended here: only if Mark's Gospel were originally published in
codex form (in which case the last leaf could have possibly fallen off) could one argue
that the ending of Mark was lost. But if, as extrabiblical parallels are increasingly show-
ing to be more likely, the Gospel was originally written on a scroll, then the last portion
of the book, being at the center of the scroll, would be the least likely portion of the
book to be lost.
91 Cf., e.g., G. Salmon, Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the New Testa-
ment (London: John Murray, 1897) 26; H. C. Hoskier, "Codex Vaticanus and Its Allies,"
in Which Bible?, 143.
92 J. A. Borland, "Re-examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles and
Practices Used to Negate Inerrancy," JETS 25 (1982) 499-506; reprinted in Letis, Con-
tinuing Debate, 46-57. All references in this paper are to the original article in JETS.
93 Borland, "Negate Inerrancy," 504.
48 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
normally indicated an eclipse,94 Luke would err if he had written this.
In both the Matthean texts and the Lukan passage, the Byzantine text-
type has readings which do not involve such errors (respectively, ]Asa<,
]Amw?n, kai> e]skoti<sqh o[ h!lioj ["and the sun was darkened"]). Borland's
conclusion is that (1) only in the Byzantine text-type do we have an
inerrant Bible and (2) we must pour our text-critical methodology
through the doctrinal grid of inerrancy.95
Our critique of Borland's linking of inerrancy to the Byzantine
text-type is fourfold. First, his argument seems to question either the
intelligence or the doctrinal conviction of virtually all members of the
Evangelical Theological Society as well as any other non-MT/TR iner-
rantists-stretching from B. B. Warfield to D. A.
so far as to say: "I cannot think of a single great theological writer
who has given his energies to defend a high view of Scripture and who
has adopted the TR, since the discovery of the great uncials and, later,
the papyri and other finds.96
Second, Borland's view suffers from historical myopia. That is to
say, he is superimposing his modem-day, twentieth-century definition
of inerrancy on the text. But should not our definition of inerrancy be
shaped by both the biblical statements which imply this doctrine as
well as the phenomena which indicate how the biblical authors under-
stood it? One is reminded of a typical layman's understanding of iner-
rancy: the events of the Gospels must be in strict chronological
sequence, the red letters in the Bible refer to the ipsissima verba (exact
words) of Jesus, etc. Faced with the contrary evidence, would it be
appropriate to change the text to suit one's doctrine? More analogous
still is the Purist controversy in the seventh century.
The beginning of the seventeenth century was marked by the rise of the
Purist controversy. The Purists maintained that to deny that God gave
the New Testament in anything but pure classical Greek was to imperil
the doctrine of inspiration. The Wittemberg Faculty, in 1638, decreed
that to speak of barbarisms or solecisms in the New Testament was blas-
phemy against the Holy Ghost. Hence, a correct conception of the pecu-
liar idiom of the Apostles was impossible, and the estimate of different
readings was seriously affected by this cause.
tions were arbitrarily mingled, the manuscripts employed and the
sources of variants adopted were not properly specified, and a full sur-
vey of the apparatus was impossible.97
94 Ibid., 505, n. 22.
95 Ibid., 506.
96 D. A.
ids: Baker, 1979) 71.
97 M. R. Vincent, A History of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (New
pointing out this quotation to me.
NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM 49
In other words, in the seventeenth century many evangelicals argued
that the Textus Receptus was not inspired and that many of its readings
were even "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost." They too had a myo-
pic view of inerrancy, and they too poured their text-critical method
through a dogmatic grid-but their conclusions were exactly the oppo-
site of Borland's!
Third, in letting his doctrinal position dictate the outcome of his
textual criticism, Borland proves his own position wrong. There are
plenty of passages far more troublesome to inerrancy than Matt l:7 or
Luke 23:45. In fact, these passages hardly constitute a serious
difficulty.98 To be consistent, Borland ought to advocate conjectural
emendation wherever inerrancy seems to be in jeopardy. Who would
not like a clean harmony between the two records of Judas' demise,
uniform parallel accounts of Peter's threefold denial of Jesus, or an
outright excision of the census by Quirinius? If Borland is unwilling to
perform such radical surgery to the text under the guise of inerrancy,
then why does he wave this doctrinal stick at significantly lesser prob-
lems? One can only suspect that inerrancy is not driving his decisions;
rather, a preservation-majority connection is.99
Finally, we question whether it is an epistemologically sound
principle to allow one's presuppositions to dictate his text-critical
methodology. It is our conviction that this is neither honest to a his-
torical investigation nor fair to one's evangelical heritage. If our faith
cannot stand up to the scrutiny of rigorous investigation, then our
beliefs need to be adjusted. But if we always jerk back the fideistic
reins when the empirical horse goes too fast for us, then the charges of
obscurantism, scholasticism, even pietistic dribble are well deserved.
Borland believes that "unhappily our widely accepted textual-critical
principles and practices may help to accommodate them in their jesting
against the inerrancy of Scripture."100 But surely the jesting will be
louder and stronger if we change the rules of the game because the
other team is winning!
98 All that needs to be noted is that variant spellings of proper names were in exis-
tence in the first century, as well as in the LXX (thus, "Asaph" and "Amos," though un-
usual spelling, are hardly to be classified as errors); and, as Borland himself admits,
e]klei<pw with h!lioj, though usually meaning "to eclIpse, does not always have this tech-
nical nuance. Nevertheless, Borland is quite right that both passages strike one as a bit pe-
culiar. But if they strike us a little odd, then surely they did the same for the ancient
scribes-who would have changed the text out of their own pietistic motives. What Bor-
land simply cannot explain is how the Alexandrian readings arose in the first place, ren-
dering them more probably original.
99 Throughout his article Borland speaks of "the vast numerical superiority" of his
.preferred reading ("Negate Inerrancy," 504). He concludes the article by saying, "In our
quest for the true reading we must not confine ourselves to a few early MSS while forget-
ting the thousands of MSS that each bear an independent testimony to the text" (ibid., 506).
l00 Ibid., 506.
50 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
In many respects, the theological premise of the TR/MT propo-
nents is commendable. Too many evangelicals have abandoned an
aspect of the faith when the going gets tough. That certain students of
the NT have held tenaciously to a theological argument concerning the
text of the NT speaks highly of their piety and conviction. If their view
were biblically founded, it would also speak highly of their orthodoxy.
But, as we have seen, their theological a priori is neither biblically,
nor logically, nor historically sound.
Concerning preservation, their underlying motive that the quest
for certainty is identical with the quest for truth speaks volumes about
their method. Their most self-defeating argument is that truth must be
found in the majority--for not only does this contradict God's normal
modus operandi, but it does not at all work for the Old Testament.
Thus those who practice textual criticism by "majority rule" end up
with a doctrine which promotes a bibliological double standard. At
precisely this point they are out of step with orthodoxy, resembling
more the ancient heretic Marcion in their view of the text.
Byzantine text advocates' arguments which are related more
to inspiration and inerrancy also falter.
that loss of text falsifies inspiration is, once again, Marcionite (for
there is loss of text in the OT), and his lone example-the longer end-
ing of Mark-is irrelevant to anyone who thinks that the evangelist
intentionally ended his Gospel at 16:8. Borland's argument is that the
presuppositions of inerrancy must drive our text-critical methodology
and that, consequently, only in the Byzantine text-type do we hav_e an
inerrant text. This view was found to be not only isolationist (in which
inerrancy is defined only in twentieth century terms which are, more-
over, not shared by the vast bulk of twentieth century inerrantists), not
only inconsistent (otherwise he would have to appeal to conjectures
wherever he felt the text erred), but also epistemologically, histori-
cally, and evangelically unsound.
In sum, there is no valid doctrinal argument for either the Textus
Receptus or the majority text. A theological a priori has no place in
textual criticism. That is not to say that the majority text is to be
rejected outright. There may, in fact, be good arguments for the major-
ity text which are not theologically motivated. But until TR/MT advo-
cates make converts of those who do not share with them their peculiar
views of preservation and inspiration, their theory must remain highly suspect.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org