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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

The Inerrancy of Scripture: Are There Any Errors in the Bible?

Posted on: April 4th, 2011 by Matt No Comments

Article by: Wayne Grudem

Most books on systematic theology have not included a separate chapter on the inerrancy of the Bible. The subject has usually been dealt with under the heading of the authority of Scripture, and no further treatment has been considered necessary. However, this issue of inerrancy is of such concern in the evangelical world today that it warrants a separate chapter following our treatment of the authority of the Word of God.EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS

A. The Meaning of Inerrancy

We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God’s words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23:19; Pss. 12:6; 119:89, 96; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35). God’s words are, in fact, the ultimate standard of truth (John 17:17).

Especially relevant at this point are those Scripture texts that indicate the total truthfulness and reliability of God’s words. “The words of the LORD are words that are pure silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6, author’s transl.), indicates the absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30:5), indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being, it is the characteristic of God’s speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that it is never false and that it never affirms error: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent” (Num. 23:19) was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God had spoken through his own lips.

With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.

This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.
It is important to realize at the outset of this discussion that the focus of this controversy is on the question of truthfulness in speech. It must be recognized that absolute truthfulness in speech is consistent with some other types of statements, such as the following:

1. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech. This is especially true in “scientific” or “historical” descriptions of facts or events. The Bible can speak of the sun rising and the rain falling because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens. From the standpoint of an observer standing on the sun (were that possible) or on some hypothetical “fixed” point in space, the earth rotates and brings the sun into view, and rain does not fall downward but upward or sideways or whatever direction necessary for it to be drawn by gravity toward the surface of the earth. But such explanations are hopelessly pedantic and would make ordinary communication impossible. From the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes.

A similar consideration applies to numbers when used in measuring or in counting. A reporter can say that 8,000 men were killed in a certain battle without thereby implying that he has counted everyone and that there are not 7,999 or 8,001 dead soldiers. If roughly 8,000 died, it would of course be false to say that 16,000 died, but it would not be false in most contexts for a reporter to say that 8,000 men died when in fact 7,823 or 8,242 had died: the limits of truthfulness would depend on the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.

This is also true for measurements. Whether I say, “I don’t live far from my office,” or “I live a little over a mile from my office,” or “I live one mile from my office,” or “I live 1.287 miles from my office,” all four statements are still approximations to some degree of accuracy. Further degrees of accuracy might be obtained with more precise scientific instruments, but these would still be approximations to a certain degree of accuracy. Thus, measurements also, in order to be true, should conform to the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by the hearers in the original context. It should not trouble us, then, to affirm both that the Bible is absolutely truthful in everything it says and that it uses ordinary language to describe natural phenomena or to give approximations or round numbers when those are appropriate in the context.

We should also note that language can make vague or imprecise statements without being untrue. “I live a little over a mile from my office” is a vague and imprecise statement, but it is also inerrant: there is nothing untrue about it. It does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In a similar way, biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.

2. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations. The method by which one person quotes the words of another person is a procedure that in large part varies from culture to culture. In contemporary American and British culture we are used to quoting a person’s exact words when we enclose the statement in quotation marks (this is called direct quotation). But when we use indirect quotation (with no quotation marks) we only expect an accurate report of the substance of a statement. Consider this sentence: “Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away.” The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliot’s actual statement to his father, “I will come to the house to eat in two minutes,” even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker’s original words.

Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, and an accurate citation of another person needed to include only a correct representation of the content of what the person said (rather like our indirect quotations): it was not expected to cite each word exactly. Thus, inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting.

3. It Is Consistent With Inerrancy to Have Unusual or Uncommon Grammatical Constructions in the Bible. Some of the language of Scripture is elegant and stylistically excellent. Other scriptural writings contain the rough-hewn language of ordinary people. At times this includes a failure to follow the commonly accepted “rules” of grammatical expression (such as the use of a plural verb where grammatical rules would require a singular verb, or the use of a feminine adjective where a masculine one would be expected, or different spelling for a word than the one commonly used, etc.). These stylistically or grammatically irregular statements (which are especially found in the book of Revelation) should not trouble us, for they do not affect the truthfulness of the statements under consideration: a statement can be ungrammatical but still be entirely true. For example, an uneducated backwoodsman in some rural area may be the most trusted man in the county even though his grammar is poor, because he has earned a reputation for never telling a lie. Similarly, there are a few statements in Scripture (in the original languages) that are ungrammatical (according to current standards of proper grammar at that time) but still inerrant because they are completely true. The issue is truthfulness in speech.

B. Some Current Challenges to Inerrancy

In this section we examine the major objections that are commonly made against the concept of inerrancy.

1. The Bible Is Only Authoritative for “Faith and Practice.” One of the most frequent objections is raised by those who say that the purpose of Scripture is to teach us in areas that concern “faith and practice” only; that is, in areas that directly relate to our religious faith or to our ethical conduct. This position would allow for the possibility of false statements in Scripture, for example, in other areas such as in minor historical details or scientific facts—these areas, it is said, do not concern the purpose of the Bible, which is to instruct us in what we should believe and how we are to live.1 Its advocates often prefer to say that the Bible is “infallible” but they hesitate to use the word inerrant.2

The response to this objection can be stated as follows: the Bible repeatedly affirms that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) and that all of it is “God-breathed.” Thus it is completely pure (Ps. 12:6), perfect (Ps. 119:96), and true (Prov. 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks truthfully.

The New Testament contains further affirmations of the reliability of all parts of Scripture: in Acts 24:14, Paul says that he worships God, “believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets.” In Luke 24:25, Jesus says that the disciples are “foolish men” because they are “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” In Romans 15:4, Paul says that “whatever was written” in the Old Testament was “written for our instruction.” These texts give no indication that there is any part of Scripture that is not to be trusted or relied on completely. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul can refer even to minor historical details in the Old Testament (sitting down to eat and drink, rising up to dance) and can say both that they “happened” (thus implying historical reliability) and “were written down for our instruction.”

If we begin to examine the way in which the New Testament authors trust the smallest historical details of the Old Testament narrative, we see no intention to separate out matters of “faith and practice,” or to say that this is somehow a recognizable category of affirmations, or to imply that statements not in that category need not be trusted or thought to be inerrant. Rather, it seems that the New Testament authors are willing to cite and affirm as true every detail of the Old Testament.
In the following list are some examples of these historical details cited by New Testament authors. If all of these are matters of “faith and practice,” then every historical detail of the Old Testament is a matter of “faith and practice,” and this objection ceases to be an objection to inerrancy. On the other hand, if so many details can be affirmed, then it seems that all of the historical details in the Old Testament can be affirmed as true, and we should not speak of restricting the necessary truthfulness of Scripture to some category of “faith and practice” that would exclude certain minor details. There are no types of details left that could not be affirmed as true.
The New Testament gives us the following data: David ate the bread of the Presence (Matt. 12:3–4); Jonah was in the whale (Matt. 12:40); the men of Nineveh repented (Matt. 12:41); the queen of the South came to hear Solomon (Matt. 12:42); Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:25–26); Naaman the Syrian was cleansed of leprosy (Luke 4:27); on the day Lot left Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven (Luke 17:29; cf. v. 32 with its reference to Lot’s wife who turned to salt); Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14); Jacob gave a field to Joseph (John 4:5); many details of the history of Israel occurred (Acts 13:17–23); Abraham believed and received the promise before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:10); Abraham was about one hundred years old (Rom. 4:19); God told Rebekah before her children were born that the elder child would serve the younger (Rom. 9:10–12); Elijah spoke with God (Rom. 11:2–4); the people of Israel passed through the sea, ate and drank spiritual food and drink, desired evil, sat down to drink, rose up to dance, indulged in immorality, grumbled, and were destroyed (1 Cor. 10:11); Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek (Heb. 7:1–2); the Old Testament tabernacle had a specific and detailed design (Heb. 9:1–5); Moses sprinkled the people and the tabernacle vessels with blood and water, using scarlet wool and hyssop (Heb. 9:19–21); the world was created by the Word of God (Heb. 11:3);3 many details of the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and others actually happened (Heb. 11, passim); Esau sold his birthright for a single meal and later sought it back with tears (Heb. 12:16–17); Rahab received the spies and sent them out another way (James 2:25); eight persons were saved in the ark (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5); God turned Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes but saved Lot (2 Peter 2:6–7); Balaam’s donkey spoke (2 Peter 2:16).

This list indicates that the New Testament writers were willing to rely on the truthfulness of any part of the historical narratives of the Old Testament. No detail was too insignificant to be used for the instruction of New Testament Christians. There is no indication that they thought of a certain category of scriptural statements that were unreliable and untrustworthy (such as “historical and scientific” statements as opposed to doctrinal and moral passages). It seems clear that the Bible itself does not support any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks with absolute authority and truth; indeed, many passages in Scripture actually exclude the validity of this kind of restriction.

A second response to those who limit the necessary truthfulness of Scripture to matters of “faith and practice” is to note that this position mistakes the major purpose of Scripture for the total purpose of Scripture. To say that the major purpose of Scripture is to teach us in matters of “faith and practice” is to make a useful and correct summary of God’s purpose in giving us the Bible. But as a summary it includes only the most prominent purpose of God in giving us Scripture. It is not, however, legitimate to use this summary to deny that it is part of the purpose of Scripture to tell us about minor historical details or about some aspects of astronomy or geography, and so forth. A summary cannot properly be used to deny one of the things it is summarizing! To use it this way would simply show that the summary is not detailed enough to specify the items in question.

It is better to say that the whole purpose of Scripture is to say everything it does say, on whatever subject. Every one of God’s words in Scripture was deemed by him to be important for us. Thus, God issues severe warnings to anyone who would take away even one word from what he has said to us (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18–19): we cannot add to God’s words or take from them, for all are part of his larger purpose in speaking to us. Everything stated in Scripture is there because God intended it to be there: God does not say anything unintentionally! Thus, this first objection to inerrancy makes a wrong use of a summary and thereby incorrectly attempts to impose artificial limits on the kinds of things about which God can speak to us.

2. The Term Inerrancy Is a Poor Term. People who make this second objection say that the term inerrancy is too precise and that in ordinary usage it denotes a kind of absolute scientific precision that we do not want to claim for Scripture. Furthermore, those who make this objection note that the term inerrancy is not used in the Bible itself. Therefore, it is probably an inappropriate term for us to insist upon.

The response to this objection may be stated as follows: first, the scholars who have used the term inerrancy have defined it clearly for over a hundred years, and they have always allowed for the “limitations” that attach to speech in ordinary language. In no case has the term been used to denote a kind of absolute scientific precision by any responsible representative of the inerrancy position. Therefore those who raise this objection to the term are not giving careful enough attention to the way in which it has been used in theological discussions for more than a century.

Second, it must be noted that we often use nonbiblical terms to summarize a biblical teaching. The word Trinity does not occur in Scripture, nor does the word incarnation. Yet both of these terms are very helpful because they allow us to summarize in one word a true biblical concept, and they are therefore helpful in enabling us to discuss a biblical teaching more easily.

It should also be noted that no other single word has been proposed which says as clearly what we want to affirm when we wish to talk about total truthfulness in language. The word inerrancy does this quite well, and there seems no reason not to continue to use it for that purpose.

Finally, in the church today we seem to be unable to carry on the discussion around this topic without the use of this term. People may object to this term if they wish, but, like it or not, this is the term about which the discussion has focused and almost certainly will continue to focus in the next several decades. When the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) in 1977 began a ten-year campaign to promote and defend the idea of biblical inerrancy, it became inevitable that this word would be the one about which discussion would proceed. The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” which was drafted and published in 1978 under ICBI sponsorship (see appendix 1), defined what most evangelicals mean by inerrancy, perhaps not perfectly, but quite well, and further objections to such a widely used and well-defined term seem to be unnecessary and unhelpful for the church.

3. We Have No Inerrant Manuscripts; Therefore, Talk About an Inerrant Bible Is Misleading. Those who make this objection point to the fact that inerrancy has always been claimed for the first or original copies of the biblical documents.4 Yet none of these survive: we have only copies of copies of what Moses or Paul or Peter wrote. What is the use, then, of placing so great importance on a doctrine that applies only to manuscripts that no one has?

In reply to this objection, it may first be stated that for over 99 percent of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said. Even for many of the verses where there are textual variants (that is, different words in different ancient copies of the same verse), the correct decision is often quite clear, and there are really very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning. In the small percentage of cases where there is significant uncertainty about what the original text said, the general sense of the sentence is usually quite clear from the context. (One does not have to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to know where these variants are, because all modern English translations indicate them in marginal notes with words such as “some ancient manuscripts read …” or “other ancient authorities add …”)

This is not to say that the study of textual variants is unimportant, but it is to say that the study of textual variants has not left us in confusion about what the original manuscripts said.5 It has rather brought us extremely close to the content of those original manuscripts. For most practical purposes, then, the current published scholarly texts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the same as the original manuscripts. Thus, when we say that the original manuscripts were inerrant, we are also implying that over 99 percent of the words in our present manuscripts are also inerrant, for they are exact copies of the originals. Furthermore, we know where the uncertain readings are (for where there are no textual variants we have no reason to expect faulty copying of the original).6 Thus, our present manuscripts are for most purposes the same as the original manuscripts, and the doctrine of inerrancy therefore directly concerns our present manuscripts as well.
Furthermore, it is extremely important to affirm the inerrancy of the original documents, for the subsequent copies were made by men with no claim or guarantee by God that these copies would be perfect. But the original manuscripts are those to which the claims to be God’s very words apply. Thus, if we have mistakes in the copies (as we do), then these are only the mistakes of men. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts then we are forced to say not only that men made mistakes, but that God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely. This we cannot do.

4. The Biblical Writers “Accommodated” Their Messages in Minor Details to the False Ideas Current in Their Day, and Affirmed or Taught Those Ideas in an Incidental Way. This objection to inerrancy is slightly different from the one that would restrict the inerrancy of Scripture to matters of faith and practice, but it is related to it. Those who hold this position argue that it would have been very difficult for the biblical writers to communicate with the people of their time if they had tried to correct all the false historical and scientific information believed by their contemporaries. Those who hold this position would not argue that the points where the Bible affirms false information are numerous, or even that these places are the main points of any particular section of Scripture. Rather, they would say that when the biblical writers were attempting to make a larger point, they sometimes incidentally affirmed some falsehood believed by the people of their time.7
To this objection to inerrancy it can be replied, first, that God is Lord of human language who can use human language to communicate perfectly without having to affirm any false ideas that may have been held by people during the time of the writing of Scripture. This objection to inerrancy essentially denies God’s effective lordship over human language.

Second, we must respond that such “accommodation” by God to our misunderstandings would imply that God had acted contrary to his character as an “unlying God” (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). It is not helpful to divert attention from this difficulty by repeated emphasis on the gracious condescension of God to speak on our level. Yes, God does condescend to speak our language, the language of human beings. But no passage of Scripture teaches that he “condescends” so as to act contrary to his moral character. He is never said to be able to condescend so as to affirm—even incidentally—something that is false. If God were to “accommodate” himself in this way, he would cease to be the “unlying God.” He would cease to be the God the Bible represents him to be. Such activity would not in any way show God’s greatness, for God does not manifest his greatness by acting in a way that contradicts his character. This objection thus at root misunderstands the purity and unity of God as they affect all of his words and deeds.

Furthermore, such a process of accommodation, if it actually had occurred, would create a serious moral problem for us. We are to be imitators of God’s moral character (Lev. 11:44; Luke 6:36; Eph. 5:1; 1 Peter 5:1, et al.). Paul says, since in our new natures we are becoming more like God (Eph. 4:24), we should “put away falsehood” and “speak the truth” with one another (v. 25). We are to imitate God’s truthfulness in our speech. However, if the accommodation theory is correct, then God intentionally made incidental affirmations of falsehood in order to enhance communication. Therefore, would it not also be right for us intentionally to make incidental affirmations of falsehood whenever it would enhance communication? Yet this would be tantamount to saying that a minor falsehood told for a good purpose (a “white lie”) is not wrong. Such a position, contradicted by the Scripture passages cited above concerning God’s total truthfulness in speech, cannot be held to be valid.

5. Inerrancy Overemphasizes the Divine Aspect of Scripture and Neglects the Human Aspect. This more general objection is made by those who claim that people who advocate inerrancy so emphasize the divine aspect of Scripture that they downplay its human aspect.

It is agreed that Scripture has both a human and a divine aspect, and that we must give adequate attention to both. However, those who make this objection almost invariably go on to insist that the truly “human” aspects of Scripture must include the presence of some errors in Scripture. We can respond that though the Bible is fully human in that it was written by human beings using their own language, the activity of God in overseeing the writing of Scripture and causing it to be also his words means that it is different from much other human writing in precisely this aspect: it does not include error. That is exactly the point made even by sinful, greedy, disobedient Balaam in Numbers 23:19: God’s speech through sinful human beings is different from the ordinary speech of men because “God is not man that he should lie.” Moreover, it is simply not true that all human speech and writing contains error, for we make dozens of statements each day that are completely true. For example: “My name is Wayne Grudem.” “I have three children.” “I ate breakfast this morning.”

6. There Are Some Clear Errors in the Bible. This final objection, that there are clear errors in the Bible, is either stated or implied by most of those who deny inerrancy, and for many of them the conviction that there are some actual errors in Scripture is a major factor in persuading them to challenge the doctrine of inerrancy.
In every case, the first answer that should be made to this objection is to ask where such errors are. In which specific verse or verses do these errors occur? It is surprising how frequently one finds that this objection is made by people who have little or no idea where the specific errors are, but who believe there are errors because others have told them so.

In other cases, however, people will mention one or more specific passages where, they claim, there is a false statement in Scripture. In these cases, it is important that we look at the biblical text itself, and look at it very closely. If we believe that the Bible is indeed inerrant, we should be eager and certainly not afraid to inspect these texts in minute detail. In fact, our expectation will be that close inspection will show there to be no error at all. Once again it is surprising how often it turns out that a careful reading just of the English text of the passage in question will bring to light one or more possible solutions to the difficulty.
In a few passages, no solution to the difficulty may be immediately apparent from reading the English text. At that point it is helpful to consult some commentaries on the text. Both Augustine (A.D. 354–430) and John Calvin (1509–64), along with many more recent commentators, have taken time to deal with most of the alleged “problem texts” and to suggest plausible solutions to them. Furthermore some writers have made collections of all the most difficult texts and have provided suggested answers for them.8

There are a few texts where a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek may be necessary to find a solution, and those who do not have firsthand access to these languages may have to find answers either from a more technical commentary or by asking someone who does have this training. Of course, our understanding of Scripture is never perfect, and this means that there may be cases where we will be unable to find a solution to a difficult passage at the present time. This may be because the linguistic, historical, or contextual evidence we need to understand the passage correctly is presently unknown to us. This should not trouble us in a small number of passages so long as the overall pattern of our investigation of these passages has shown that there is, in fact, no error where one has been alleged.9

But while we must allow the possibility of being unable to solve a particular problem, it should also be stated that there are many evangelical Bible scholars today who will say that they do not presently know of any problem texts for which there is no satisfactory solution. It is possible, of course, that some such texts could be called to their attention in the future, but during the past fifteen years or so of controversy over biblical inerrancy, no such “unsolved” text has been brought to their attention.10
Finally, a historical perspective on this question is helpful. There are no really “new” problems in Scripture. The Bible in its entirety is over 1,900 years old, and the alleged “problem texts” have been there all along. Yet throughout the history of the church there has been a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in the sense in which it is defined in this chapter. Moreover, for these hundreds of years highly competent biblical scholars have read and studied those problem texts and still have found no difficulty in holding to inerrancy. This should give us confidence that the solutions to these problems are available and that belief in inerrancy is entirely consistent with a lifetime of detailed attention to the text of Scripture.11

C. Problems With Denying Inerrancy

The problems that come with a denial of biblical inerrancy are not insignificant, and when we understand the magnitude of these problems it gives us further encouragement not only to affirm inerrancy but also to affirm its importance for the church. Some of the more serious problems are listed here.

1. If We Deny Inerrancy, a Serious Moral Problem Confronts Us: May We Imitate God and Intentionally Lie in Small Matters Also? This is similar to the point made in response to objection #4, above, but here it applies not only to those who espouse objection #4 but also more broadly to all who deny inerrancy. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God. But a denial of inerrancy that still claims that the words of Scripture are God-breathed words necessarily implies that God intentionally spoke falsely to us in some of the less central affirmations of Scripture. But if this is right for God to do, how can it be wrong for us? Such a line of reasoning would, if we believed it, exert strong pressure on us to begin to speak untruthfully in situations where that might seem to help us communicate better, and so forth. This position would be a slippery slope with ever-increasing negative results in our own lives.

2. If Inerrancy Is Denied, We Begin to Wonder If We Can Really Trust God in Anything He Says. Once we become convinced that God has spoken falsely to us in some minor matters in Scripture, then we realize that God is capable of speaking falsely to us. This will have a detrimental effect on our ability to take God at his word and trust him completely or obey him fully in the rest of Scripture. We will begin to disobey initially those sections of Scripture that we least wish to obey, and to distrust initially those sections that we are least inclined to trust. But such a procedure will eventually increase, to the great detriment of our spiritual lives. Of course, such a decline in trust and obedience to Scripture may not necessarily follow in the life of every individual who denies inerrancy, but this will certainly be the general pattern, and it will be the pattern exhibited over the course of a generation that is taught to deny inerrancy.

3. If We Deny Inerrancy, We Essentially Make Our Own Human Minds a Higher Standard of Truth Than God’s Word Itself. We use our minds to pass judgment on some sections of God’s Word and pronounce them to be in error. But this is in effect to say that we know truth more certainly and more accurately than God’s Word does (or than God does), at least in these areas. Such a procedure, making our own minds to be a higher standard of truth than God’s Word, is the root of all intellectual sin.12

4. If We Deny Inerrancy, Then We Must Also Say That the Bible Is Wrong Not Only in Minor Details but in Some of Its Doctrines as Well. A denial of inerrancy means that we say that the Bible’s teaching about the nature of Scripture and about the truthfulness and reliability of God’s words is also false. These are not minor details but are major doctrinal concerns in Scripture.13

Article From:

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (90–100). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Is the Critical or Majority Greek Text the Best

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

Is the Critical or Majority Greek Text the Best?

(Article from the  Greek Majority Text by Farstad and Dunkin, 2nd Editon)

INTRODUCTION

The New Testament was originally written by its inspired authors in the Greek language. Through many centuries, until the invention of printing (about a.d. 1450), it was handed down in handwritten copies. Of these there now survive approximately 5,000 complete or partial manuscripts. The available witnesses to the text of the New Testament are far more numerous than for any other ancient book.

The process of reconstructing the original wording of the Greek New Testament is known as textual criticism. The history of this discipline is long and complicated. But the most basic question that must be answered has always remained the same. That question is: How should the surviving materials be used in order to recover the exact wording of the autographs?

The two most popular editions of the Greek New Testament in use today are those produced by the United Bible Societies (Third Edition) and by the Deutsche Bibelstiftung (the Nestle-Aland Text, Twenty-sixth Edition). These two texts are nearly identical. Although eclectic, both rely heavily on a relatively small number of ancient manuscripts that derive mainly from Egypt. Among these, Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (א) are the most famous uncial (large letter) manuscripts. The most important papyrus witnesses in this group of texts are the Chester Beatty papyri (P45 46 47) and the Bodmer papyri (P66 75). The text which results from dependence on such manuscripts as these may fairly be described as Egyptian. Its existence in early times outside of Egypt is unproved.

In contrast to this kind of text stands the form of text found in the vast majority of the remaining documents. This text is recognizably different from the Egyptian text and has been appropriately designated the Majority Text. It is true that the documents that contain it are on the whole substantially later than the earliest Egyptian witnesses. But this is hardly surprising. Egypt, almost alone, offers climatic conditions highly favorable to the preservation of very ancient manuscripts. On the other hand, the witnesses to the Majority Text come from all over the ancient world. Their very number suggests that they represent a long and widespread chain of manuscript tradition. It is necessary, therefore, to postulate that the surviving documents are descended from non-extant ancestral documents of the highest antiquity. These must have been in their own time as old or older than the surviving witnesses from Egypt.

It follows from this that the Majority Text deserves the attention of the Christian world. When all the issues are properly weighed, it has a higher claim to represent the original text than does the Egyptian type. The latter is probably a local text which never had any significant currency except in that part of the ancient world. By contrast, the majority of manuscripts were widely diffused and their ancestral roots must reach back to the autographs themselves. In the light of this consideration, it is important for the Church to possess a critical edition of the majority form. It is precisely this need that the present edition is designed to fill.

The editors do not imagine that the text of this edition represents in all particulars the exact form of the originals. Desirable as such a text certainly is, much further work must be done before it can be produced. It should therefore be kept in mind that the present work, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, is both preliminary and provisional. It represents a first step in the direction of recognizing the value and authority of the great mass of surviving Greek documents. The use made of those documents in this edition must be subjected to scrutiny and evaluation by competent scholars. Such scrutiny, if properly carried out, can result in further progress toward a Greek New Testament which most accurately reflects the inspired autographs.

THE WESTCOTT-HORT TRADITION

In modern times, the popularity that has been attained by the Egyptian form of text is due chiefly to the labors of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort. Their work on the Greek text of the New Testament was a watershed event in the history of textual criticism.

In 1881, Westcott and Hort published their two-volume work, The New Testament in the Original Greek. To produce this text they relied heavily on the witness of א and B, but especially B. Both of these documents come from the fourth century and were the oldest available manuscripts in their day. The kind of text found in them was described as “neutral.” By this term Westcott and Hort meant to indicate a kind of text largely untouched by editorial revision. In their view the Neutral Text had descended more or less directly from the autographs and was exhibited in its purest form in B.

A key element in the scheme presented by Westcott and Hort was their theory of a Syrian recension of the Greek New Testament. It was their opinion that the great mass of surviving Greek manuscripts descended from an authoritative ecclesiastical revision of the text produced sometime about the fourth century. The locale where the revision might have been made was Syrian Antioch. As a result they held that the majority of the Greek manuscripts were of secondary character and should be accorded little weight in determining the original text.

Subsequent scholarship has wisely discarded the term “neutral” to describe the Egyptian group of texts. The theory of a Syrian recension has also been widely abandoned. In spite of this, the critical texts in current use differ relatively little from the text published by Westcott and Hort a hundred years ago. In fact, the discovery of the papyri has been thought by some to strengthen the claims of Westcott and Hort about the superiority of א and B. This point has especially been urged in connection with P75, a third-century text substantially similar to B. But actually P75 proves nothing more than that the kind of text found in B is earlier than B itself.

Today scholars generally do not argue that the Majority Text stems from a revision of earlier texts. Instead it is often viewed as the result of a long-continued scribal process. But this view is usually presented in vague and general terms. This is not surprising, because it is virtually impossible to conceive of any kind of unguided process which could have resulted in the Majority Text. The relative uniformity within this text shows clearly that its transmissional history has been stable and regular to a very large degree.

It is often suggested that the intrinsic character of the Majority Text is inferior to the Egyptian. This too was one of Westcott and Hort’s arguments. But this approach usually partakes of an unduly large element of subjectivity. The fact is that excellent reasons almost always can be given for the superiority of the majority readings over their rivals. In sum, therefore, the Westcott-Hort tradition in textual criticism has failed to advance convincing objections to the authenticity of the Majority Text.

A MAJORITY TEXT METHOD

The premises which underlie the present edition and determine its methodology are two. Both of these premises need to be clearly understood by the users of this text.

(1) Any reading overwhelmingly attested by the manuscript tradition is more likely to be original than its rival(s). This observation arises from the very nature of manuscript transmission. In any tradition where there are not major disruptions in the transmissional history, the individual reading which has the earliest beginning is the one most likely to survive in a majority of documents. And the earliest reading of all is the original one. Unless an error is made in the very first stages of copying, the chances of survival of the error in extant copies in large numbers is significantly reduced. The later a reading originates, the less likely it is to be widely copied.

It should be kept in mind that by the time the major extant papyrus texts were copied, the New Testament was well over a century old. A reading attested by such a witness, and found only in a small number of other manuscripts, is not at all likely to be a survival from the autograph. On the contrary, it is probably only an idiosyncrasy of a narrow strand of the tradition. The only way in which the acceptance of a substantial number of minority readings could be justified is to reconstruct a plausible transmissional history for them. This was, of course, precisely what Westcott and Hort tried to do in defense of א and B. But the collapse of their genealogical scheme under scholarly criticism has nullified their most essential argument. Nothing has replaced it.

In the present edition, wherever genealogical considerations could not be invoked, readings overwhelmingly attested among the manuscripts have been printed in the text. But this leads to a second premise.

(2) Final decisions about readings ought to be made on the basis of a reconstruction of their history in the manuscript tradition. This means that for each New Testament book a genealogy of the manuscripts ought to be constructed. The data available for this in the standard sources is presently inadequate, except for the Apocalypse. In this edition, therefore, a provisional stemma (family tree) of manuscripts is offered for that book only. Textual decisions in Revelation are made on the basis of this genealogical reconstruction. Also, a provisional stemma is offered for John 7:53–8:11; and here, too, decisions about the text are based on stemmatic factors.

It is true, of course, that most modern textual critics have despaired of the possibility of using the genealogical method. Nevertheless, this method remains the only logical one. If Westcott and Hort employed it poorly, it is not for that reason to be abandoned. In fact, the major impediment to this method in modern criticism has been the failure to recognize the claims of the Majority Text. Any text-form with exceedingly large numbers of extant representatives is very likely to be the result of a long transmissional chain. All genealogical reconstruction should take this factor into account. If persistent preference for a small minority of texts cannot be surrendered, then naturally genealogical work will prove impossible. Its impossibility, however, will rest on this preference and not on the intrinsic deficiencies of the method itself. The present edition is in no way fettered by a predilection for a small handful of manuscripts, whether very ancient or somewhat later. It seeks to track the original text in the vast body of the surviving documents. Where possible, this has been done stemmatically.

B Codex Vaticanus

אԠCodex Sinaiticus

P Papyrus

45 Papyrus 45: third century (extensive portions of the four gospels and Acts)

46 Papyrus 46: ca. 200 (extensive portions of the Pauline corups and Hebrews)

47 Papyrus 47: third century (extensive portions of Revelation)

66 Papyrus 66: ca. 200 (extensive portions of John)

75 Papyrus 75: third century (extensive portions of Luke and John)

Hodges, Z. C., Farstad, A. L., & Dunkin, W. C. (1985). The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text (2nd ed.) (ix). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

 

The Greek Text of the King James Version

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

The Greek Text of the King James Version

by Zane C. Hodges

[Zane C. Hodges, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The average well-taught Bible-believing Christian has often heard the King James Version corrected on the basis of “better manuscripts” or “older authorities.” Such corrections are often made from the pulpit as well as being found in print. If he has ever inquired into the matter, the Bible-believing Christian has probably been told that the Greek text used by the translators of 1611 is inferior to that used for more recent translations. He has perhaps also been told that the study of the Greek text of the New Testament (called textual criticism) is now a highly developed discipline which has led us to a more accurate knowledge of the original text of the Bible. Lacking any kind of technical training in this area, the average believer probably has accepted such explanations from individuals he regards as qualified to give them. Nevertheless, more than once he may have felt a twinge of uneasiness about the whole matter and wondered if, by any chance, the familiar King James Version might not be somewhat better than its detractors think. It is the purpose of this article to affirm that, as a matter of fact, there are indeed grounds for this kind of uneasiness and—what is more—these grounds are considerable.1

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Dynamic Equivalence and Some Theological Problems in the NIV

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

by J. W. Scott

The translators of the New International Version moved away from the principle of literal translation (i.e. “formal equivalence”) more than most evangelicals had previously been willing to move. They adopted a more idiomatic, and sometimes even paraphrastic approach, seeking to convey the meaning of the original in contemporary English style (i.e. moderate “dynamic equivalence”). There is certainly much to be said for such an approach. However, a high level of exegetical and literary skill is required for the successful execution of it. If translators do not understand the original text particularly well, a free translation of it will ordinarily convey less of the original meaning, and introduce more spurious meaning, than will a literal one. Furthermore, if the original grammatical structure and vocabulary are simplified in order to clarify the general sense (without paraphrastic expansion), some loss of meaning is inevitable. In other words, the reality of dynamic equivalence may turn out to be more dynamics than equivalence. A more “readable” translation may sacrifice substance to style.1

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The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

The Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy*

Preface

*The International Council on Biblical Inerramcy, headquartered in Oakland, California, selected a draft committee from its membership to produce this statement on Biblical inerrancy in a three-day series of marathon sessions at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, October 26-28, 1978.

The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.

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Re-Examining New Testament Textual-Critical Principles and Practices Used to Negate Inerrancy

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

by James A. Borland*

Perhaps it is not shocking to assert that Satan uses every means at his disposal to attack the credibility, reliability and authority of God’s Word. He began the assault in the garden with Eve and has not stopped yet. But often his ways are more subtle than the blatant lie succumbed to by Eve. We live in a modern era of sophistication. Even in Biblical and textual studies we hear more and more about the use of computers and other highly technical tools. And Satan is more than willing to accommodate our sophistication in the area of textual criticism. Especially is this so when it occasionally allows men to assert fallibility in the NT autographs based on widely accepted principles and practices of textual criticism.

Historically the period 1830–1880 was one of gathering information, collating more NT manuscripts, and proposing and evaluating textual theories. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tregelles and Tischendorf dominated the field. By 1880, however, B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Holt advanced a new textual theory. With minor changes it was adopted by the scholarly world and has proven to be the guiding force in the field for the past century. In simple terms the Westcott and Hort theory distinguishes between various textual families of MSS commonly known today as Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine, Caesarean, etc. The theory postulates the Alexandrian to be a fairly early text while holding the Byzantine to have originated not earlier than the first quarter of the fourth century A.D. It further advocates the primacy of the two earliest uncial MSS, Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vati-canus), which date from the middle of the fourth century A.D. These two MSS were given the question-begging designation of being the “neutral text.”

In short, the resultant practice of these new sophisticated principles was to completely overturn the textual critical practices of the past. Since the majority Byzantine text was judged to be a later text, the supposedly more ancient, more pure neutral text was substituted at the junctures of innumerable variants. The overwhelming majority of these changes did not materially affect the text, often involving only slight differences in word order or variations in spelling. Frequently, however—and in many cases for good reasons—words, phrases, or even whole sentences and verses were removed from the commonly accepted text. A perusal of the footnotes of some modern translations (RSV, NASB, NEB, NIV) will give an example of how extensively these textual critical principles have been followed in our generation.

In referring to the Westcott and Hort theory George Ladd approvingly writes, “The basic solution to the textual problem has been almost universally accepted.”1 He goes on to assert that “it is a seldom disputed fact that critical science has to all intents and purposes recovered the original text of the New Testament.”2 Ladd believes that “in the search for a good text, piety and devotion can never take the place of knowledge and scholarly judgment.”3 Yet it is precisely this “almost universally accepted … knowledge and scholarly judgment” that if rightly followed too often leads to the conclusion that the very autographs of Scripture recorded errors and blunders.

Everett F. Harrison notes a trend toward re-evaluating the Byzantine text since some early papyri indicate that particular readings of the majority text are frequently older than those of the so-called neutral text. This has resulted in an eclectic methodology in which the scholar seeks to “give weight to all the factors in the situation.”4 He maintains, however, that the significance of this “only means that Byzantine readings should be taken into account instead of being dismissed out of hand.”5 Harrison also believes that in this eclectic approach “the relegation of the external evidence to a secondary role is almost inevitable.”6 This is highly unfortunate. J. Harold Greenlee points out that “to disregard external evidence and depend too completely upon internal evidence may lead to unduly subjective decisions.7 Instead a balance of consideration must exist between the external and the internal evidence.

Westcott and Hort, however, developed a species of circular reasoning that practically eliminated a reasoned consideration of the mass of MSS that compose the external evidence. They held that the best external evidence was to be found in those MSS that contained the “best readings.” Of course the “best readings” were to be seen in their “neutral text.” To establish what were the preferred readings they argued on the basis of two concepts: (1) Intrinsic probability seeks to determine which of the variant readings is characteristic of the author; (2) transcriptional probability seeks to ascertain which of the variant readings may have originated from the scribes and copyists. The first canon, as one might imagine, has been subject to misuse and speculation even by the most careful and pious scholars. Its basis is fairly subjective. The second canon takes note of both the intentional and unintentional changes that scribes sometimes introduced into the text of a M S. Additions due to harmonization, explanation, dittography and con-fiation have been recognized. Omissions unhappily occur due to haplography, homoioteleuton, and perhaps intentional editing. Various other changes may have come through theological controversy and even through the work of heretics and adversaries of the Church.

The basic rules used to decide cases of internal evidence have often been stated and may be summarized as follows: (1) Prefer the reading that best explains the rise of other variants; (2) prefer the shorter reading; (3) prefer the more difficult reading; (4) prefer the reading most characteristic of the author. Naturally each of these canons to a large degree must be subjectively applied. When a decision is difficult in the area of the internal evidence of readings, scholars often resort to the old circular reasoning that “certain MSS tend to support the ‘original’ text more often than others and that those MSS are the early Alexandrian. Therefore, when internal evidence cannot decide,” Gordon Fee advises, “the safest guide is to go with the ‘best’ MSS.”8 Thus all too often external evidence is the last resort, and when it is appealed to the results already have been determined by a preconception of which MSS are the “best.” A safer alternative will be outlined in the final section of this paper, but first let us notice several examples of this prevalent textual-critical method that result in the fullblown assertions that the autographs did indeed contain incontrovertible mistakes. In other words, the prevalent textual methodology can be and is being used to deny the inerrancy of the original autographs.

Nearly a century ago George Salmon astutely observed that Westcott and Hort had attributed to the gospel writers “erroneous statements which their predecessors had regarded as copyists’ blunders.” Salmon noted that “there was indeed but little rhetorical exaggeration in the statement that the canon of these editors was that Codex B was infallible and that the Evangelists were not. Nay, it seemed as if Hort regarded it as a note of genuineness if a reading implies error on the part of the sacred writer.9

I. The Case Of Asa And Amon

One example of current import is found in the readings of Matt 1:7, 10. These texts contain part of the kingly genealogy of Christ. Many conservative commentators seem almost oblivious to the problem.10 But scholars who do not adhere to the doctrine of inerrancy do not pass up a chance to point out what they consider to be a fallacy in Matthew’s autograph. The majority of all MSS read Asa (Asa; v 7) and Amen (Amon; v 10), easily recognized as two kings of Judah through whom Christ descended. Matthew’s point is to demonstrate our Lord’s royal lin-

eage. But the UBSGNT text chooses instead alternate readings based on what they consider the “better” manuscripts as well as some very subjective internal considerations. They substitute for the kings Asa and Amon the names “Asaph” and “Amos,” a psalmist and a prophet respectively. They reason that “the evangelist may have derived material for the genealogy, not from the Old Testament directly, but from subsequent genealogical lists, in which the erroneous spelling occurred.”11 Prior to that confident assertion Metzger et al. claimed that “most scholars are impressed by the overwhelming weight of textual evidence supporting Asaph.”12

What is the composition of this “overwhelming weight of textual evidence” in favor of the Asaph blunder? Heading the list are the fourth- and fifth-century codices Aleph, B and C. Next come the minuscules of families 1 and 13 and two eleventh- and twelfth-century cursives, 700 and 1071, followed by fourteenth-century manuscript 209. Among the versions are several OL MSS, notably k, Bobiensis, a fourth- or fifth-century production, along with others of the seventh century and beyond. The Coptic, following the basic Egyptian text of Aleph and B, agrees, and the Armenian, Ethiopic and Georgian translations, each perhaps related to Caesarean origins (of f1 and f13), indicate Asaph also. In the Harclean Syriac it merits only a listing in the margin. In summary, barely more than a dozen Greek MSS carry the Asaph reading, followed by a few OL MSS, the Coptic and several minor versions.

On the other hand the expected reading of Asa is found in literally hundreds of Greek witnesses beginning with uncials E K L M S U V W Γ Δ and II. These MSS date from the fifth through the tenth centuries and no doubt represent a wide geographical distribution, including Washingtoniensis (the Freer Gospels of the fifth century) and Regius (L), which in Metzger’s opinion has a good type of text, “agreeing very frequently with codex Vaticanus.”13 In addition, hundreds of cursives lend their support including numbers of those known to “exhibit a significant degree of independence from the so-called Byzantine manuscript tradition.”14 These would include 33 (the queen of the cursives and constant ally of Aleph and B) and other minuscules beginning with the ninth century. To this may be added the entire bulk of the cursive MSS that must represent nearly every geographical point where Greek was studied and copied throughout the middle ages and demonstrates an unbroken continuity of evidence sorely lacking in the paucity of material supporting the Asaph reading.

The lectionaries too stand solidly behind Asa, as do a number of OL MSS including the notable fourth-century Vercellensis. The entire Vg is another early and uniform witness to Asa as are the Curetonian, Sinaitic, Peshitta, Harclean and Palestinian versions of the Syriac. To these may be added both Epiphanius and Augustine of the first quarter of the fifth century. Only a preconceived notion as to which witnesses were supposedly the best to begin with would cause anyone to deny that the truly “overwhelming weight of textual evidence” clearly favors the traditional reading of Asa.

If such is the case—and I submit that it is—then Asaph should be viewed as an early scribal blunder unjudiciously copied into fortunately but a handful of Greek MSS. The evidence for Amon versus Amos in Matt 1:10 is somewhat similar. It is difficult to believe that Matthew, no doubt an educated literary Jewish writer, was incapable of distinguishing between the Hebrew ʾāsāʾ and ʾāsāp or between the even more distinguishable ʾāmôn and ʾāmôs. Not only would he have known the names of Israel’s kings by memory, but he probably would have used the I Chr 3:10–14 genealogy in securing the names he used.

Lest one thinks this all amounts to academic irrelevance, we should be aware that the RSV places the prophet’s name Amos in the text of Matt 1:10 with the note “other authorities read Amon.” The Catholic NAB (1970) reads Amos without explanation. The ASV, RSV and NASB each read Asa for Matt 1:7 but append a note indicating that the Greek reads Asaph. But where does the reading for Asa come from if not also the Greek? The ASV and NASB do the same for Amos in Matt 1:10, and the JB is similar. This nomenclature is certainly inconsistent with the usual way of introducing a textual variant, to say the least. It might lead us to believe that Matthew got his kings, prophets and psalmists a bit confused.

II. The Case Of Luke 23:45

But the case of Luke 23:45 is equally striking, if not more so, and has led numerous Bible translators and commentators to blatantly question Luke’s intelligence.

Each of the synoptic gospels in describing the crucifixion events contains the identical phrase skotos egeneto, “There was darkness” (Matt 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Only Luke adds an additional phrase with regard to the sun. The uncials A C3 K Q R W X Γ Δ Π Ψ and 0117 read kai eskotisthē ho hēlios, “and the sun was darkened” (D agrees, but replaces kai with de). This is also the reading of families I and 13 as well as practically every minuscule manuscript in existence. A host of lectionaries concur. The OL, Vg, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic and Slavonic versions are unanimous in their testimony to this text. Among the Church fathers this is the reading of Marcion (A.D. 140), the Diatessaron (170), Hippolytus (200), Origen, Tertullian, Julius Africanus, Athanasius, Ephraem Syrus, Gregory Nazianzen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Cyril of Alexandria. Even Lachmann and Tregelles favor this text.

A second reading, however, places sun in a genitive absolute phrase, tou hēliou eklipontos. The translation of this phrase will be discussed below. Support for this reading is found in the third-century p75 (Bodmer) and the uncials Aleph, C* and L. Not a single Greek MS besides these four can be found to substantiate this text, nor can a single version be shown to favor this reading. Only Origen (who did not accept the reading) and Cyril of Jerusalem can be cited among the ancients who know this text. A similar reading substitutes the present participle ekleipontos for the second aorist participle eklipontos. This word finds support in p75c, B, the Coptic and several lectionaries.

Clearly the earliest testimony, as well as catholicity and variety, combine with the vast numerical superiority of the first reading, “the sun was darkened.” In addition the lack of continuity for the second reading should be viewed as a fatal flaw. Nevertheless the second reading is adopted by Westcott and Hort with the present tense of ekleipō 15 and the UBS and Nestle’s text chooses the aorist of the same verb. That reading is evident in the translations of ASV, Moffat, Twentieth Century, RSV, New Berkeley, Goodspeed, Phillips, Authentic, NEB, NASB, TEV, NAB, JB and NIV. Most of these translations clearly teach that the words tou heliou eklipontos mean that the sun was eclipsed by the moon. When ekleipō is used in relation to the sun that is precisely what it indicates.16

Moffatt says that the darkness was “owing to an eclipse of the sun”; the Twentieth Century version says “the sun being eclipsed”; the Authentic Version reads “due to an eclipse of the sun”; Phillips says “for there was an eclipse of the sun”; NEB says “the sun was in eclipse”; New Berkeley says “due to the sun’s eclipse”; NAB reads “with an eclipse of the sun”; and JB says “with the sun eclipsed.” The RSV note says “or the sun was eclipsed. Other ancient authorities read the sun was darkened.” The ASV, NASB, TEV and NIV, based on the same Greek reading, each say the sun failed or stopped shining, without specifying an eclipse as the cause.

Thus the textual-critical guidelines that tolerated and even promoted this ill-advised, poorly-attested reading have given rise to numerous bold assertions of errors in the autographs. The reason for this is that 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 earth. This is why A. R. C. Leaney tersely comments on Luke 23:45: “Strange, since the Greek would naturally mean ‘the sun being eclipsed,’ impossible at the time of full moon.”17 S. MacLean Gilmour declared, “Probably even Mark’s version was intended to imply an eclipse but Luke makes this explanation explicit.”18 Similarly William Manson writes, “Luke or his source rationalize by adding ‘owing to an eclipse of the sun.’ A solar eclipse was of course impossible at the Passover time—which had to coincide with the full moon—but Luke might not have known this.”19 A. B. Bruce observes of tou heliou eklipontos that “this phrase… ought to mean the sun being eclipsed, an impossibility when the moon is full. If all that was meant was the sun’s light totally failing, darkness, e.g., by a sand storm, the natural expression would be eskotisthē.20 H. K. Luce concluded of the supposed eclipse and similar events that “these portents are legendary additions to the story made with the idea that miraculous occurrences must have attended such an event as the death of the Son of God.”21 Unfortunately the widely accepted canons of NT textual criticism have allowed these statements to be uttered with virtual impunity.

Some conservatives, in an effort to save Luke’s credibility, argue for a non-eclipse translation of eklipontos based on its usage in the NT and elsewhere. Appearing only four times in the NT, ekleipō is used figuratively twice (of the failing of money and of faith, Luke 16:9; 22:32) and once of years coming to an end (Heb 1:12). However, it is never used of the supernatural darkening of the sun or moon (unless this is the exception) for the simple reason that it would signify a literal eclipse. When the sun and moon are said to be supernaturally darkened in the Olivet discourse (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24) and in the cataclysms of the Apocalypse (Rev 8:12; 9:2) the verb skotizomai is selected. The figurative use of the latter verb is limited to the other three of its eight NT occurrences (Rom 1:21; 11:10; Eph 4:18). The heavenly bodies are always in view when it is used of a literal darkening. I would submit that such is the case in Luke 23:45 also.

Having discussed external evidence, resulting translations, and views of Luke’s untrustworthiness, let us briefly examine the internal evidence regarding Luke 23:45. Intrinsic probability might argue that Luke twice used ekleipō̄ (16:9; 22:32) and may have used it a third time for the sun’s failing. However, Luke was an astute Greek writer and was aware of the usual connotation his intended readers would gain from ekleipō when connected with hēlios.22 This awareness may have caused him to use skotizomai. Also Luke no doubt was aware of the repeated oral tradition that resulted in the use of the latter verb for the darkening of the sun in both Matthew and Mark. Then again, although Luke is fond of the genitive absolute the sentence under consideration contains a finite verbal construction on either side of the questioned phrase. Additionally the verbs form a string of aorists, the third of which is aorist passive. It would seem that the better argument could be made for Luke’s use of the finite aorist passive construction of skotizomai rather than the genitive absolute of ekleipō.

Transcriptional probability also might be argued both ways. H. A. W. Meyer believes some early scribes (like C2 and 33) omitted the darkening phrase in v 45 because of the previous skotos egeneto of v 44. He postulates that others added the eclipse phrase as a gloss.23 Alfred Plumruer says, “The fact that it might mean an eclipse, and that an eclipse was known to be impossible, would tempt copyists to substitute a phrase that would be free from objection; whereas no one would want to change eskotisthē ho hēlios.”24 But this argument can run both ways. Origen thought it possible that some early readers may have assumed an eclipse took place because of the darkness of v 44 and as a result altered the text accordingly.25 But both Origen and Jerome thought the eclipse phrase was more likely due “to the enemies of Revelation who sought in this way to provide themselves with a pretext for cavil.”26 Unhappily our widely accepted textual-critical principles and practices may help to accommodate them in their jesting against the inerrancy of Scripture.

III. Conclusion

In closing I would like to propose that more care be given to examining both internal and external evidence. The subjectivity of the former should not be allowed to overshadow the reality of the latter. We need to take a hard look at MSS that are supposedly the “best” and yet suggest errors in the autographs. Some yield too readily to long-held concepts about the purity of certain texts and overlook the full wealth of the external evidence.27 In our search for antiquity we must not overlook the many early versions, Church fathers and even the later uncials. In evaluating the geographical spread of MSS we must not ignore the mass of cur-sive witnesses that must have come from every part of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.28 In our quest for the true reading we must not confine ourselves to a few early MSS while forgetting the thousands of MSS that each bear an independent testimony to the text. Virtually no MSS are known to be copies of any others in existence. A final caution is to suspect any variant supported only by a few early witnesses. Any claim to genuineness should have at least some substantial testimony down through the ages. The latter is precisely what was totally lacking in the eclipse phrase of Luke 23:45.

If we accept the inerrancy of the Scriptures and yet countenance a textual criticism that voids inerrancy, something is amiss—and I would suggest that it is not the Word of God that needs reconsideration but rather our principles of textual criticism. For too long, lower criticism has been guided by those who cared little about the inerrancy of the autographs. The time has come for a change. We must re-examine and divorce ourselves from a biased, narrow and settled view of the field. Unless we do, it will not be long before some in our own ranks will be singing the tune against inerrancy.

1 G. E. Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 77. But G. D. Fee claims that Hort’s genealogical method was rejected, resulting in the modem eclectic method noted below; “The Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” Expositors Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), I. 419–433; “Rigorous or Reasoned Eclecticism—Which?”, Studies in New Testament Language and Text (ed. J. K. Elliott; Leiden: Brill, 1976) 174-197.

2 Ladd, New Testament and Criticism 80. Fee is equally bold in asserting that “the task of NT textual criticism is virtually completed”; “Modern Textual Criticism and the Revival of the Textus Receptus,” JETS 21 (1978) 19-33. But note I. A. Moir’s word of caution regarding the UBS text; “Can We Risk Another ‘Textus Receptus’?”JBL 100 (1981) 614-618.

3 Ladd, New Testament and Criticism 81.

4 E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 82.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 J. H. Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) 119.

8 Fee, “Textual Criticism of the New Testament” 431.

9 G. Salmon, Some Thoughts on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: John Murray, 1897) 26.

10 No mention of the question is found in J. A. Alexander (London, 1861), D. Thomas (London, 1873), A. Plumruer (London, 1909), or even A. Carr’s Cambridge Greek Testament commentary. Even such careful exegetes as R. C. H. Lenski and W. Hendriksen in over 1000 pages each seem unaware of the questioned reading. J. Broadus and H. Alford avoid comment and append only one line to note an alternate reading.

11 B. M. Metzger et al., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: UBS, 1971) 1.

12 Ibid

13 B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (2d ed.; New York: Oxford, 1968) 54.

14 Metzger, Textual Commentary xvii.

15 B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hart, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction, Appendix (2d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1896) 69-71.

16 See G. A. Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: Scribner’s, 1929) 139, who cites Luke 23:45 to indicate “the sun in an eclipse”; J. H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: American Book, 1886) 197 claims it was often used in classical Greek from Thucydides onward for “the failing or eclipse of the light of the sun and the moon”; A. T. Robertson agrees as to that normal usage in connection with the heavenly bodies (Word Studies in the New Testament [Nashville: Broadman, 1930], 2. 287). See also J. W. Burgon, The Revision Revised (London: John Murray, 1883) 61-65; J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930) 195-196.

17 A. R. C. Leaney, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke (2d ed.; London: Black, 1966) 287.

18 S. M. Gilmour, “The Gospel According to St. Luke,” IB, 8. 412.

19 W. Manson, The Gospel of Luke (London: Harper, 1930) 261.

20 A. B. Bruce, “The Synoptic Gospels,” The Expositors Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; reprint 1961), 1. 461.

21 H. K. Luce, ed., The Gospel According to St. Luke (Cambridge: University Press, 1936) 246.

22 Classical Greek regularly used ekleipō with hēlios to indicate an eclipse; see Thayer and others listed under n. 16.

23 H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book of the Gospels of Mark and Luke (New York: Funk and Wagnails, 1884) 560-561.

24 A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of the Gospel According to St. Luke (ICC; New York: Scribner’s, 1925) 537.

25 Burgon, Revision Revised 63.

26 Ibid.

27 To this end I believe J. W. Burgon’s principles for evaluating textual evidence should be given careful consideration. Originally published in The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established (ed. E. Miller; London: Bell, 1896), they have been given greater visibility more recently by W. N. Pickering, “John William Burgon and the New Testament,” True or False (ed. D. O. Fuller; Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International, 1972) 248-274; The Identity of the New Testament Text (rev. ed.; Nashville: Nelson, 1980) 139-148.

28 It is instructive to remember that practically the entire corpus of the NT autographs was sent originally to Asia Minor and Europe—e.g. Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Ephesus, Colossae, Crete, Asia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Galatia, etc. The earliest generations of copies would have been made in those same areas. It is perhaps fortunate that the great majority of our extant MSS come to us from those very areas.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Volume 25. 1982 (vnp.25.4.487-25.4.506). Lynchburg, VA: The Evangelical Theological Society.

New Testament Textual Criticism: The Case for Byzantine Priority

Posted on: October 13th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

Maurice A. Robinson

There has been no change in people’s opinions of the Byzantine text. Critics may be kinder to Byzantine readings–but for reasons not related to their Byzantine nature. It’s not really much of a change.

Bob Waltz (Internet email)

Introduction

1. From the beginning of the modern critical era in the nineteenth century the Byzantine Textform has had a questionable reputation. Associated as it was with the faulty Textus Receptus editions which stemmed from Erasmus’ or Ximenes’ uncritical selection of a small number of late manuscripts (hereafter MSS), scholars in general have tended to label the Byzantine form of text "late and secondary," due both to the relative age of the extant witnesses which provide the majority of its known support and to the internal quality of its readings as subjectively perceived. (more…)

Is the Critical or Majority Greek Text the Best?

Posted on: October 10th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

(Article from the  Greek Majority Text by Farstad and Dunkin, 2nd Editon)

INTRODUCTION

The New Testament was originally written by its inspired authors in the Greek language. Through many centuries, until the invention of printing (about a.d. 1450), it was handed down in handwritten copies. Of these there now survive approximately 5,000 complete or partial manuscripts. The available witnesses to the text of the New Testament are far more numerous than for any other ancient book.

The process of reconstructing the original wording of the Greek New Testament is known as textual criticism. The history of this discipline is long and complicated. But the most basic question that must be answered has always remained the same. That question is: How should the surviving materials be used in order to recover the exact wording of the autographs?

The two most popular editions of the Greek New Testament in use today are those produced by the United Bible Societies (Third Edition) and by the Deutsche Bibelstiftung (the Nestle-Aland Text, Twenty-sixth Edition). These two texts are nearly identical. Although eclectic, both rely heavily on a relatively small number of ancient manuscripts that derive mainly from Egypt. Among these, Codex Vaticanus (B) and Codex Sinaiticus (א) are the most famous uncial (large letter) manuscripts. The most important papyrus witnesses in this group of texts are the Chester Beatty papyri (P45 46 47) and the Bodmer papyri (P66 75). The text which results from dependence on such manuscripts as these may fairly be described as Egyptian. Its existence in early times outside of Egypt is unproved.

In contrast to this kind of text stands the form of text found in the vast majority of the remaining documents. This text is recognizably different from the Egyptian text and has been appropriately designated the Majority Text. It is true that the documents that contain it are on the whole substantially later than the earliest Egyptian witnesses. But this is hardly surprising. Egypt, almost alone, offers climatic conditions highly favorable to the preservation of very ancient manuscripts. On the other hand, the witnesses to the Majority Text come from all over the ancient world. Their very number suggests that they represent a long and widespread chain of manuscript tradition. It is necessary, therefore, to postulate that the surviving documents are descended from non-extant ancestral documents of the highest antiquity. These must have been in their own time as old or older than the surviving witnesses from Egypt.

It follows from this that the Majority Text deserves the attention of the Christian world. When all the issues are properly weighed, it has a higher claim to represent the original text than does the Egyptian type. The latter is probably a local text which never had any significant currency except in that part of the ancient world. By contrast, the majority of manuscripts were widely diffused and their ancestral roots must reach back to the autographs themselves. In the light of this consideration, it is important for the Church to possess a critical edition of the majority form. It is precisely this need that the present edition is designed to fill.

The editors do not imagine that the text of this edition represents in all particulars the exact form of the originals. Desirable as such a text certainly is, much further work must be done before it can be produced. It should therefore be kept in mind that the present work, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, is both preliminary and provisional. It represents a first step in the direction of recognizing the value and authority of the great mass of surviving Greek documents. The use made of those documents in this edition must be subjected to scrutiny and evaluation by competent scholars. Such scrutiny, if properly carried out, can result in further progress toward a Greek New Testament which most accurately reflects the inspired autographs.

THE WESTCOTT-HORT TRADITION

In modern times, the popularity that has been attained by the Egyptian form of text is due chiefly to the labors of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort. Their work on the Greek text of the New Testament was a watershed event in the history of textual criticism.

In 1881, Westcott and Hort published their two-volume work, The New Testament in the Original Greek. To produce this text they relied heavily on the witness of א and B, but especially B. Both of these documents come from the fourth century and were the oldest available manuscripts in their day. The kind of text found in them was described as “neutral.” By this term Westcott and Hort meant to indicate a kind of text largely untouched by editorial revision. In their view the Neutral Text had descended more or less directly from the autographs and was exhibited in its purest form in B.

A key element in the scheme presented by Westcott and Hort was their theory of a Syrian recension of the Greek New Testament. It was their opinion that the great mass of surviving Greek manuscripts descended from an authoritative ecclesiastical revision of the text produced sometime about the fourth century. The locale where the revision might have been made was Syrian Antioch. As a result they held that the majority of the Greek manuscripts were of secondary character and should be accorded little weight in determining the original text.

Subsequent scholarship has wisely discarded the term “neutral” to describe the Egyptian group of texts. The theory of a Syrian recension has also been widely abandoned. In spite of this, the critical texts in current use differ relatively little from the text published by Westcott and Hort a hundred years ago. In fact, the discovery of the papyri has been thought by some to strengthen the claims of Westcott and Hort about the superiority of א and B. This point has especially been urged in connection with P75, a third-century text substantially similar to B. But actually P75 proves nothing more than that the kind of text found in B is earlier than B itself.

Today scholars generally do not argue that the Majority Text stems from a revision of earlier texts. Instead it is often viewed as the result of a long-continued scribal process. But this view is usually presented in vague and general terms. This is not surprising, because it is virtually impossible to conceive of any kind of unguided process which could have resulted in the Majority Text. The relative uniformity within this text shows clearly that its transmissional history has been stable and regular to a very large degree.

It is often suggested that the intrinsic character of the Majority Text is inferior to the Egyptian. This too was one of Westcott and Hort’s arguments. But this approach usually partakes of an unduly large element of subjectivity. The fact is that excellent reasons almost always can be given for the superiority of the majority readings over their rivals. In sum, therefore, the Westcott-Hort tradition in textual criticism has failed to advance convincing objections to the authenticity of the Majority Text.

A MAJORITY TEXT METHOD

The premises which underlie the present edition and determine its methodology are two. Both of these premises need to be clearly understood by the users of this text.

(1) Any reading overwhelmingly attested by the manuscript tradition is more likely to be original than its rival(s). This observation arises from the very nature of manuscript transmission. In any tradition where there are not major disruptions in the transmissional history, the individual reading which has the earliest beginning is the one most likely to survive in a majority of documents. And the earliest reading of all is the original one. Unless an error is made in the very first stages of copying, the chances of survival of the error in extant copies in large numbers is significantly reduced. The later a reading originates, the less likely it is to be widely copied.

It should be kept in mind that by the time the major extant papyrus texts were copied, the New Testament was well over a century old. A reading attested by such a witness, and found only in a small number of other manuscripts, is not at all likely to be a survival from the autograph. On the contrary, it is probably only an idiosyncrasy of a narrow strand of the tradition. The only way in which the acceptance of a substantial number of minority readings could be justified is to reconstruct a plausible transmissional history for them. This was, of course, precisely what Westcott and Hort tried to do in defense of א and B. But the collapse of their genealogical scheme under scholarly criticism has nullified their most essential argument. Nothing has replaced it.

In the present edition, wherever genealogical considerations could not be invoked, readings overwhelmingly attested among the manuscripts have been printed in the text. But this leads to a second premise.

(2) Final decisions about readings ought to be made on the basis of a reconstruction of their history in the manuscript tradition. This means that for each New Testament book a genealogy of the manuscripts ought to be constructed. The data available for this in the standard sources is presently inadequate, except for the Apocalypse. In this edition, therefore, a provisional stemma (family tree) of manuscripts is offered for that book only. Textual decisions in Revelation are made on the basis of this genealogical reconstruction. Also, a provisional stemma is offered for John 7:53–8:11; and here, too, decisions about the text are based on stemmatic factors.

It is true, of course, that most modern textual critics have despaired of the possibility of using the genealogical method. Nevertheless, this method remains the only logical one. If Westcott and Hort employed it poorly, it is not for that reason to be abandoned. In fact, the major impediment to this method in modern criticism has been the failure to recognize the claims of the Majority Text. Any text-form with exceedingly large numbers of extant representatives is very likely to be the result of a long transmissional chain. All genealogical reconstruction should take this factor into account. If persistent preference for a small minority of texts cannot be surrendered, then naturally genealogical work will prove impossible. Its impossibility, however, will rest on this preference and not on the intrinsic deficiencies of the method itself. The present edition is in no way fettered by a predilection for a small handful of manuscripts, whether very ancient or somewhat later. It seeks to track the original text in the vast body of the surviving documents. Where possible, this has been done stemmatically.

B Codex Vaticanus

אԠCodex Sinaiticus

P Papyrus

45 Papyrus 45: third century (extensive portions of the four gospels and Acts)

46 Papyrus 46: ca. 200 (extensive portions of the Pauline corups and Hebrews)

47 Papyrus 47: third century (extensive portions of Revelation)

66 Papyrus 66: ca. 200 (extensive portions of John)

75 Papyrus 75: third century (extensive portions of Luke and John)

Hodges, Z. C., Farstad, A. L., & Dunkin, W. C. (1985). The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text (2nd ed.) (ix). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

 

Which Biblical Greek Text Is The Best?

Posted on: October 10th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Wilbur N. Pickering, ThM PhD

It has been commonly argued, for at least 200 years,[1] that no matter what Greek text one may use no doctrine will be affected. In my own experience, for over thirty years, when I have raised the question of what is the correct Greek text of the New Testament, regardless of the audience, the usual response has been: "What difference does it make?" The purpose of this article is to answer that question, at least in part.

The eclectic Greek text presently in vogue, UBS3/N-A26, represents the type of text upon which most modern versions are based.[2] The KJV and NKJV follow a rather different type of text, a close cousin of the Majority Text.[3] The discrepancy between UBS3 and the Majority Text is around 8% (involving 8% of the words). In a Greek text with 600 pages that represents 48 solid pages’ worth of discrepancies! About a fifth of that reflects omissions in the eclectic text, so it is some ten pages shorter than the Majority Text. Even if we grant, for the sake of the argument, that up to half of the differences between the Majority and eclectic texts could be termed "inconsequential", that leaves some 25 pages’ worth of differences that are significant (in varying degrees). In spite of these differences it is usually assumed that no cardinal Christian doctrine is at risk (though some, such as eternal judgment, the ascension and the deity of Jesus, are weakened). However, the most basic one of all, the divine inspiration of the text, is indeed under attack.

The eclectic text incorporates errors of fact and contradictions such that any claim that the New Testament is divinely inspired becomes relative, and the doctrine of inerrancy becomes virtually untenable.  If the authority of the New Testament is undermined, all its teachings are likewise affected. For over a century the credibility of the New Testament text has been eroded, and this credibility crisis has been forced upon the attention of the laity by the modern versions that enclose parts of the text in brackets and have numerous footnotes of a sort that raise doubts about the integrity of the Text.

The consequences of all this are serious and far-reaching for the future of the Church. It seems unreasonable that individuals and organizations that profess to champion a high view of Scripture, that defend verbal plenary inspiration and the inerrancy of the Autographs, should embrace a Greek text that effectively undermines their belief.[4] Since their sincerity is evident, one must conclude that they are uninformed, or have not really looked at the evidence and thought through the implications. So I will now set out some of that evidence and discuss the implications. I wish to emphasize that I am not impugning the personal sincerity or orthodoxy of those who use the UBS text; I am challenging the presuppositions that lie behind it and calling attention to the "proof of the pudding."

In the examples that follow, the reading of the Majority Text is always given first and that of UBS3 second, followed by any others. (Where UBS3 uses brackets, or some modern version follows Nestle25, that will be clearly explained.) Immediately under each variant is a literal equivalent in English. To each variant is attached a statement of manuscript and versional support of the sort one can find in the critical apparatus of UBS3, for example. (Many lay persons will not know how to interpret the statements of support; in that event one should move on to the discussion—it is worth noting, however, that "Byz" usually represents over 90% of the extant Greek MSS [known manuscripts]). The set of variants with their respective supporting evidence is followed by a discussion of the implications. First I will present errors of fact and contradictions, then serious anomalies and aberrations.

Errors of Fact and Contradictions

 

Luke 4:44 GalilaiaVA,D,E,G,K,M,U,X,Y,G,D,Q,P,Y,047,0211,+6unc,f13,33,Byz,lat,syrp      
                         [in the synagogues] of Galilee                                                                                                 

 

                       IoudaiaV   –P75vid,À,B,C,L,Qvid,R(W)f1,Lect,syrs,h,cop         
                         [in the synagogues] of Judea

 

Problem: Jesus was in Galilee (and continued there), not in Judea, as the context makes clear.

 

Discussion: In the parallel passage, Mark 1:35-39, all texts agree that Jesus was in Galilee. Thus UBS3 contradicts itself by reading Judea in Luke 4:44. Bruce Metzger makes clear that the UBS editors did this on purpose when he explains that their reading "is obviously the more difficult, and copyists have corrected it . . . in accord with the parallels in Mt 4.23 and Mk 1.39."[5] Thus the UBS editors introduce a contradiction into their text which is also an error of fact. This error in the eclectic text is reproduced by LB, NIV, NASB, NEB, RSV, etc. NRSV adds insult to injury: "So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea."

 

Luke 23:45  eskotisqh –A,Cc,D,E,G,K,M,Q,R,U,V,W,X,Y,G,D,Q,P,Y, 0117,0135,+5unc,f1,13,Byz
                           [the sun] was darkened                                                                       
Lect,lat,syr,Diat

                         eklipontoV–P75,À(B,Cvid)L,0124(cop)[6]
                           [the sun] being eclipsed

 

Problem: An eclipse of the sun is impossible during a full moon. Jesus was crucified during the Passover, and the Passover is always at full moon (which is why the date for Easter moves around). UBS introduces a scientific error.

 

Discussion: The Greek verb ekleipw is quite common and has the basic meaning "to fail" or "to end", but when used of the sun or the moon it refers to an eclipse ("eclipse" comes from that Greek root). Indeed, such versions as Moffatt, Twentieth Century, Authentic, Phillips, NEB, New Berkeley, NAB and Jerusalem overtly state that the sun was eclipsed. While versions such as NASB, TEV and NIV avoid the word "eclipse", the normal meaning of the eclectic text that they follow is precisely "the sun being eclipsed."[7]

Mark 6:22  authV thV HrwdiadoV–A,C,E,G,H,K,M,N,S,U,V(W,Q)Y,G,P,å,F,W,f(1)13,33,Byz,Lect,
                        [the daughter] herself of Herodias                                               lat(syr,cop,Diat)                

                       autou – – HrwdiadoVÀ,B,D,L,D
                         his [daughter] Herodias

 

Problem: UBS in Mark 6:22 contradicts UBS in Matthew 14:6.

 

Discussion: Matthew 14:6 states that the girl was the daughter of Herodias (Herodias had been the wife of Philip, King Herod’s brother, but was now living with Herod). Here UBS makes the girl out to be Herod’s own daughter, and calls her "Herodias". Metzger defends the choice of the UBS Committee with these words: "It is very difficult to decide which reading is the least unsatisfactory" (p. 89)! (Do the UBS editors consider that the original reading is lost? If not it must be "unsatisfactory", but are those editors really competent to make such a judgment? And just what might be so “unsatisfactory” about the reading of over 99% of the MSS? I suppose because it creates no problem.) The modern versions that usually identify with UBS part company with it here, except for NRSV that reads, "his daughter Herodias."

1 Corinthians 5:1  onomazetai–P68,Àc,Y,Byz,syr
                                          is named         

                                                      –P46,À*,A,B,C,D,F,G,33,lat,cop

 

Problem: It was reported that a man had his father’s wife, a type of fornication such that not even the Gentiles talked about it. However, the UBS text affirms that this type of incest does not even exist among the Gentiles, a plain falsehood. Every conceivable type of sexual perversion has existed throughout human history.

 

Discussion: Strangely, such evangelical versions as NIV, NASB, Berkeley and LB propagate this error. I find it interesting that versions such as TEV, NEB and Jerusalem, while following the same text, avoid a categorical statement.[8]

 

Luke 3:33  tou Aminadab,                  tou Aram–A,E,G,K,N,D,P,Y,047,0211(D,Q)+7unc(f¹)33,Byz,
                      of Aminadab                   of Aram                                                       
Lect,lat,syrp,h

 

                      tou Aminadab, tou Admin, tou Arni  –none!!
                      of Aminadab    of Admin  of Arni

                                                          tou Admein, tou Arnei–B
         
              tou Adam,                  tou Arni?–syrs
            
           tou Adam,        tou Admin,  tou ArneiÀ*
         
              tou Adam,        tou Admein, tou Arnei–copsa
                     
tou Admein,      tou Admin,  tou Arni –copbo
         
              tou Aminadab, tou Admin,  tou ArneiÀc
            
           tou Aminadab, tou Admin,  tou Arhi –f13
                          tou Aminadab, tou Admh,    tou Arni –X
                     
tou Aminadab, tou Admein, tou Arni –L
         
              tou Aminadab, tou Admein, tou Aram–0102(P4?)

 

Problem: The fictitious Admin and Arni are intruded into Christ’s genealogy.

 

Discussion: UBS has misrepresented the evidence in their apparatus so as to hide the fact that no Greek MS has the precise text they have printed, a veritable "patchwork quilt". In Metzger’s presentation of the UBS Committee’s reasoning in this case he writes, "the Committee adopted what seems to be the least unsatisfactory form of text" (p. 136). Is this not a good candidate for "chutzpah" of the year? The UBS editors concoct their own reading and proclaim it "the least unsatisfactory"! And just what might be "unsatisfactory" about the reading of over 99% of the MSS except that it doesn’t introduce any difficulties?

           There is complete confusion in the Egyptian camp. That confusion must have commenced in the second century, resulting from several easy transcriptional errors, simple copying mistakes.  APAM to APNI is very easy (in the early centuries only upper case letters were used); with a scratchy quill the cross strokes in the A and M could be light, and a subsequent copyist could mistake the left leg of the M as going with the L to make N, and the right leg of the M would become I. Very early “Aminadab” was misspelled as “Aminadam”, which survives in some 25% of the extant MSS. The "Adam" of Aleph, syrs and copsa arose through an easy instance of homoioarcton (the eye of a copyist went from the first A in "Aminadam" to the second, dropping "Amin-" and leaving "Adam"). A and D  are easily confused, especially when written by hand—"Admin" presumably came from “AMINadab/m”, though the process was more complicated. The "i" of "Admin" and "Arni" is corrupted to "ei" in Codex B (a frequent occurrence in that MS—perhaps due to Coptic influence). Codex Aleph conflated the ancestor that produced "Adam" with the one that produced "Admin", etc. The total confusion in Egypt does not surprise us, but how shall we account for the text and apparatus of UBS3 in this instance? And whatever possessed the editors of NASB, NRSV, TEV, LB, Berkeley, etc. to embrace such an egregious error?[9]

Matthew 19:17  Ti me legeiV agaqon; oudeiV agaqoV ei mh eiV, o qeoV–C,E,F,G,H,K,M,S,U,V,W,Y,D,å,F,W,
             
Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, God.     f13,33,Byz,Lect,syrp,h,copsa,Diat                                                                                                                                                                                                          

                         Ti me erwtaV peri tou agaqou; eiV estin o agaqoV   À,L,Q(B,D,f1,syrs)
                        
Why do you ask me about the good? One is good.

                 Ti me erwtaV peri tou agaqou; eiV estin o agaqoV, o qeoV–lat,syrc,copbo

 

Problem: UBS in Matthew 19:17 contradicts UBS in Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 (wherein all texts agree with the Byzantine here).

 

Discussion: Presumably Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but there is no way that whatever He said could legitimately yield the two translations into Greek given above.[10] That the Latin versions offer a conflation suggests that both the other variants must have existed in the second century—indeed, the Diatessaron overtly places the Byzantine reading in the first half of that century. The Church in Egypt during the second century was dominated by Gnosticism. That such a "nice" gnostic variant came into being is no surprise, but why do modern editors embrace it? Because it is the "more obscure one" (Metzger, p. 49). This "obscurity" was so attractive to the UBS Committee that they printed another "patchwork quilt"—taking the young man’s question and this first part of the Lord’s answer together, the precise text of UBS3 is found only in the corrector of Codex B; further, with reference to the main Greek MSS given as supporting the eclectic text here (À,B,D,L,Q,f1), the fact is that no two of them precisely agree! (Should they be regarded as reliable witnesses? On what basis?) Most modern versions join UBS in this error also.

Acts 19:16   autwn       –H,L,P,S(Y)Byz,syrs
                    them

                    amfoterwn–P74,À,A,B,D,33,syrp,cop
                    both of them

 

Problem: The sons of Sceva were seven, not two.

 

Discussion: To argue that "both" can mean "all" on the basis of this passage is to beg the question.  An appeal to Acts 23:8 is likewise unconvincing. "For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both." "Angel" and "spirit" if not intended as synonyms at least belong to a single class, spirit beings. The Pharisees believed in "both"—resurrection and spirit beings. There is no basis here for claiming that "both" can legitimately refer to seven (Acts 19:16).[11] Still, most modern versions do render "both" as "all". NASB actually renders "both of them," making the contradiction overt!

Matthew 1:7-8  Asa –E,K,L,M,S,U,V,W,G,D,P,å,W,33,Byz,Lect,latpt,syr
                         Asa 

                        AsafÀ,B,C,f1,13,latpt,cop
                        Asaph

 

Problem: Asaph does not belong in Jesus’ genealogy.

 

Discussion: Asaph was a Levite, not of the tribe of Judah; he was a psalmist, not a king. It is clear from Metzger’s comments that the UBS editors understand that their reading refers to the Levite and should not be construed as an alternate spelling of Asa; he overtly calls Asaph an "error" (p. 1).  In fact, "Asaph" is probably not a misspelling of "Asa".  Not counting Asa and Amon (see v. 10) Codex B misspells 13 names in this chapter, while Codex Aleph misspells 10, which undermines their credibility. However, their misspellings involve dittography, gender change, or a similar sound (z for s, d for t, m for n)—not adding an extraneous consonant, like f, nor trading dissimilar sounds, like s for n.

           In response to Lagrange, who considered "Asaph" to be an ancient scribal error, Metzger writes: "Since, however, the evangelist may have derived material for the genealogy, not from the Old Testament directly, but from subsequent genealogical lists, in which the erroneous spelling occurred, the Committee saw no reason to adopt what appears to be a scribal emendation" (p. 1).  Metzger frankly declares that the spelling they have adopted is "erroneous". The UBS editors have deliberately imported an error into their text, which is faithfully reproduced by NAB (New American Bible) and NRSV. RSV and NASB offer a footnote to the effect that the Greek reads "Asaph"—it would be less misleading if they said that a tiny fraction of the Greek MSS so read. The case of Amon vs. Amos in verse 10 is analogous to this one. Metzger says that "Amos" is "an error for ‘Amon’" (p. 2), and the UBS editors have duly placed the error in their text.

Matthew 10:10  mhde rabdouV–C,E,F,G,K,L,M,N,P,S,U,V,W,Y,G,D,P,å,F,W,f13,Byz,syrh,copbo                                                                                       neither staffs                          

                         mhde rabdon  À,B,D,Q,f1,33,lat,syrp,copsa                                                                                                                                                                                       neither a staff

 

Problem: In both Matthew 10:10 and Luke 9:3 UBS has "neither a staff," thus contradicting Mark 6:8 where all texts have "only a staff."

 

Discussion: In Luke and Matthew the Byzantine text reads "neither staffs", which does not contradict Mark—the case of the staffs is analogous to that of the tunics; they were to take only one, not several. A superficial reader would probably expect the singular; that some scribe in Egypt should have trouble with "staffs" and simplify it to "a staff" comes as no surprise, but why do the UBS editors import this error into their text? Almost all modern versions follow UBS both here and in Luke 9:3.

Mark 1:2  en toiV profhtaiV        –A,E,F,H,K,M,P,S,U,V,W,Y,G,P,å,F,W, f13,Byz,Lect,syrh                                              [as it is written] in the prophets                

                en tw Isaia tw profhthÀ,B,L,D,33(D,Q,f1)lat,syrp,pal,cop                                                                                          [as it is written] in Isaiah the prophet

 

Problem: The UBS text ascribes extraneous material to Isaiah.

 

Discussion: The rest of verse 2 is a quote from Malachi 3:1 while verse 3 is from Isaiah 40:3. Once again Metzger uses the "harder reading" argument, in effect (p. 73), but the eclectic choice is most probably the result of early harmonizing activity.[12] Almost all modern versions agree with UBS here.

Luke 9:10  eiV topon erhmon polewV kaloumenhV Bhqsaida(n)–(A)C,E,G,K,M,U,Y,W,G,D,P,047,0211,                          into a deserted place belonging to a town called Bethsaida                      f(1)13,Byz,syr(p)h

                  eiV polin kaloumenhn Bhqsaida                          –(P75)B,L,X,X,33 (syrs)cop                                                             into a town called Bethsaida                          

                  eiV topon erhmon                                                      À,syrc,bomss                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  into a deserted place

 

Problem: UBS has Jesus and company going into Bethsaida, but in v. 12 the disciples say they are in a deserted area; thus a contradiction is introduced. UBS here is also at variance with UBS in the parallel passages.

 

Discussion: In Matthew 14:13 all texts have Jesus going to a deserted place, and in v. 15 the disciples say, "the place is deserted . . . send the crowd away to the towns." In Mark 6:31-32 all texts have Him going to a deserted place, and in v. 35 the disciples say it is a deserted place, etc. So UBS not only makes Luke contradict himself, but sets him against Matthew and Mark. The modern versions do not surprise us.

 

I pause to register a case where the chief "Alexandrian" witnesses introduce a contradiction that the "critical" texts have not adopted, thankfully, although Westcott and Hort included it in double brackets in their text. This gives a further illustration of the tendency of those MSS.

Matthew 27:49                                                                    –A,D,K,W,   D,Q,P,090,f1,13,33,Byz,Lect,lat,syr,cop,Diat

                         alloV de labwn logchn enuxen autou thn pleuran, kai exhlqen udwr kai aimaÀ,B,C,                                              but another taking a spear pierced His side, and water and blood came out              L,G

 

Problem: The "Alexandrian" reading here has Jesus being speared before His death (presumably becoming the direct cause of that death), which contradicts John 19:34 that states plainly that Jesus’ side was pierced after He dismissed His spirit.

I am well aware that the foregoing examples may not strike the reader as being uniformly convincing. However, I submit that there is a cumulative effect. By dint of ingenuity and mental gymnastics it may be possible to appear to circumvent one or another of these examples (including those that follow), but with each added instance the strain on our credulity increases. One or two circumventions may be accepted as possible, but five or six become highly improbable; ten or twelve are scarcely tolerable.

Serious Anomalies/Aberrations

John 7:8  oupw–P66,75,B,E,F,G,H,L,N,T,W,X,D,Q,Y,070,0105,0141,0250,f1,13,Byz,Lect,syrp,h,pal,cosa                                                    not yet

                ouk À,D,K,P,lat,syrs,c,cobo                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              not

 

Problem: Since Jesus did in fact go to the feast (and doubtless knew what He was going to do), the UBS text has the effect of ascribing a falsehood to Him.

 

Discussion: Since the UBS editors usually attach the highest value to P75 and B, isn’t it strange that they reject them in this case? Here is Metzger’s explanation: "The reading ["not yet"] was introduced at an early date (it is attested by P66,75) in order to alleviate the inconsistency between ver. 8 and ver. 10" (p. 216). So, they rejected P66,75 and B (as well as 99% of the MSS) because they preferred the "inconsistency". NASB, RSV, NEB and TEV stay with the eclectic text here.

John 6:47  eiV eme –A,Cc,D,E,G,H,K,N,D,P,Y,0141,0233,f1,13,33,Byz,lat,syrp,h(c,s),cop,Diat                       [believes] into me

                     –P66,75vid,À,B,C*,L,T,W,Q                                                                                                                           [believes]

 

Problem: Jesus is making a formal declaration about how one can have eternal life: "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes into me has everlasting life." By omitting "into me" the UBS text opens the door to universalism.

 

Discussion: Since it is impossible to live without believing in something, everyone believes—the object of the belief is of the essence. The verb "believe" does occur elsewhere without a stated object (it is supplied by the context), but not in a formal declaration like this. The shorter reading is probably the result of a fairly easy instance of homoioarcton—three short words in a row begin with E. And yet Metzger says of the words "in me", "no good reason can be suggested to account for their omission" (p. 214). The editors grade the omission as {A}, against 99% of the MSS plus 2nd century attestation!  TEV, NASB, NIV, NRSV and Jerusalem reproduce the UBS text precisely.

 

Acts 28:13  perielqonteV–P74,Àc,A,L,P,048,056,066,0142,Byz,Lect,lat,syrp,h                                                                                                                                                                                             making a circuit [we reached Rhegium]

                  perielonteV  À*,B,Y,cop(sa)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              taking away (something) [we reached Rhegium]

 

Problem: The verb chosen by UBS, periairew, is transitive, and is meaningless here.

 

Discussion: Metzger’s lame explanation is that a majority of the UBS Committee took the word to be "a technical nautical term of uncertain meaning" (p. 501)! Why do they choose to disfigure the text on such poor evidence when there is an easy transcriptional explanation? The Greek letters O and Q are very similar, and being side by side in a word it would be easy to drop one of them out, in this case the theta. Most modern versions are actually based on the "old" Nestle text, which here agrees with the Majority reading. NRSV, however, follows UBS3, rendering it as "then we weighed anchor."

Mark 16:9-20  (have)–every extant Greek MS (a. 1,800) except three,Lect,lat,syrp,h,cop,Diat                                              

                       (omit)–Àvid,B,304,syrs

 

Problem: A serious aberration is introduced—it is affirmed that Mark’s Gospel ends with 16:8.

 

Discussion: UBS3 encloses these verses in double brackets, which means they are "regarded as later additions to the text," and they give their decision an {A} grade, "virtually certain". So, the UBS editors assure us that the genuine text of Mark ends with 16:8. But why do critics insist on rejecting this passage? It is contained in every extant Greek MS (about 1,800) except three (really only two, B and 304—Aleph is not properly "extant" because it is a forgery at this point).[13] Every extant Greek Lectionary (about 2,000?) contains them (one of them, 185, doing so only in the Menologion). Every extant Syriac MS (about 1,000?) except one (Sinaitic) contains them. Every extant Latin MS (8,000?) except one (k) contains them. Every extant Coptic MS except one contains them. We have hard evidence for the "inclusion" from the II century (Irenaeus and the Diatessaron), and presumably the first half of that century. We have no such hard evidence for the "exclusion".

 

In the face of such massive evidence, why do the critics insist on rejecting this passage?  Lamentably, most modern versions also cast doubt upon the authenticity of these verses in one way or another (NRSV is especially objectionable here). As one who believes that the Bible is God’s Word, I find it to be inconceivable that an official biography of Jesus Christ, commissioned by God and written subject to His quality control, should omit proofs of the resurrection, should exclude all post-resurrection appearances, should end with the clause "because they were afraid"!  If the critics’ assessment is correct we seem to be between a rock and a hard place. Mark’s Gospel as it stands is mutilated (if it ends at v. 8), the original ending having disappeared without a trace.  But in that event what about God’s purpose in commissioning this biography?

John 1:18  o monogenhV uioV–A,Cc,E,F,G,H,K,M,S,U,V,Ws,X,D,Q,P,Y,063,f1,13,Byz,Lect,lat,syrc,h,pal                            the only begotten son                 

                  monogenhV qeoV–P66,À*,B,C*,L,syrp                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  an only begotten god

                 o monogenhV qeoV–P75,Àc,33,copbo                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the only begotten god

 

Problem: A serious anomaly is introduced—God, as God, is not begotten.

 

Discussion: The human body and nature of Jesus Christ was indeed literally begotten in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit; God the Son has existed eternally. "An only begotten god" is so deliciously gnostic that the apparent Egyptian provenance of this reading makes it doubly suspicious. It would also be possible to render the second reading as "only begotten god!", emphasizing the quality, and this has appealed to some who see in it a strong affirmation of Christ’s deity. However, if Christ received His "Godhood" through the begetting process then He cannot be the eternally pre-existing Second Person of the Godhead. Nor is "only begotten" analogous to "firstborn", referring to priority of position—that would place the Son above the Father. No matter how one looks at it, the UBS reading introduces a serious anomaly.

 

PresumablymonogenhV is intended to mean something more than just monoV, "only". In Luke 7:12, even though for reasons of style a translator may put "the only son of his mother", we must understand that he is her own offspring—he could not be an adopted son. The same holds for Luke 8:42 and 9:38.  In Hebrews 11:17, with reference to the promise and to Sarah, Isaac was indeed Abraham’s "only begotten", even though he in fact had other sons with other women. Note that in Genesis 22:12 & 16 God Himself calls Isaac Abraham’s "only" son. John uses monogenhV  five times, always referring to the Son of God (Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9). I see nothing in NT usage to justify the rendering "unique".

 

That P75 should have a conflation of the first two readings is curious, but demonstrates that the discrepancy arose in the second century. (Articles modify nouns not adjectives, when in a noun phrase such as we have here, so the article is part of the same variation unit.) Most modern versions avoid a straightforward rendering of the UBS reading. NIV offers us "but God the only [Son]"—a bad translation of a bad text. (A subsequent revision has "God the One and Only"—a pious fraud since none of the variants has this meaning.) TEV has "The only One, who is the same as God"—only slightly better. NASB actually renders "the only begotten God"! (the reading of P75). Not to be outdone Amplified serves up a conflation, "the only unique Son, the only begotten God." Ho hum!

John 7:53-8:11  (retain)–D(F)G,H,K,M,S,U,G((E,L,P))Byz,lat,syrpal,p(pt)

                         (omit)  –P66,75,À,Avid,B,Cvid,L,N,T,W,X,Y,D,Q,Y,0141,0211,33,f1,13,Lect(?),                                                                                                                                                              syrc,s,p(pt),cop,Diat

 

Problem: UBS3 encloses these verses in double brackets, which means they are "regarded as later additions to the text," and they give their decision an {A} grade, "virtually certain". The omission introduces an aberration.

 

Discussion: The evidence against the Majority Text is stronger than in any of the previous examples, but assuming that the passage is spurious (for the sake of the argument), how could it ever have intruded here, and to such effect that it is attested by some 85% of the MSS? Let’s try to read the larger passage without these verses—we must go from 7:52 to 8:12 directly. Reviewing the context, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus, to no avail; a "discussion" ensues; Nicodemus makes a point, to which the Pharisees answer:

 

(7:52) "Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee." 

(8:12) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world . . . ."

 

What is the antecedent of "them", and what is the meaning of "again"? By the normal rules of grammar, if 7:53-8:11 is missing then "them" must refer to the "Pharisees" and "again" means that there has already been at least one prior exchange. But, 7:45 makes clear that Jesus was not there with the Pharisees. Thus, UBS introduces an aberration. And yet, Metzger claims that the passage "interrupts the sequence of 7.52 and 8.12 ff." (p. 220)! To look for the antecedents of 8:12 in 7:37-39 not only does despite to the syntax but also runs afoul of 8:13—"the Pharisees" respond to Jesus’ claim in verse 12, but "the Pharisees" are somewhere else, 7:45-52 (if the Pericope is absent).

 

Metzger also claims that "the style and vocabulary of the pericope differ noticeably from the rest of the Fourth Gospel"—but, wouldn’t the native speakers of Greek at that time have been in a better position than modern critics to notice something like that? So how could they allow such an "extraneous" passage to be forced into the text? I submit that the evident answer is that they did not; it was there all the time. I also protest their use of brackets here. Since the editors clearly regard the passage to be spurious they should be consistent and delete it, as do NEB and Williams.  That way the full extent of their error would be open for all to see. NIV, NASB, NRSV, Berkeley and TEV also use brackets to question the legitimacy of this passage.

1 Timothy 3:16  qeoV–A,Cvid,F/Gvid,K,L,P,Y,Byz,Lect[14]                                                                                                                                           God [was manifested in flesh]

                          oV   À,33,syrpal                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          who [was manifested in flesh]

                                 o    –D,lat,syrp,h?,cop?                                                                                                                                                                      that [was manifested in flesh]

 

Problem: A grammatical anomaly is introduced. "Great is the mystery of godliness, who was manifested in flesh" is worse in Greek than it is in English. "Mystery" is neuter in gender while "godliness" is feminine, but "who" is masculine!

 

Discussion: In an effort to explain the "who" it is commonly argued that the second half of verse 16 was a direct quote from a hymn, but where is the evidence for this claim? Without evidence the claim begs the question.[15] That the passage has some poetic qualities says no more than that it has some poetic qualities. "Who" is nonsensical, so most modern versions that follow UBS here take evasive action: NEB and NASB have "he who"; Phillips has "the one"; NRSV, Jerusalem, TEV and NIV render "he". Berkeley actually has "who"! The Latin reading, "the mystery . . . that," at least makes sense. The true reading, as attested by 99% of the Greek MSS, is "God". In the early MSS "God" was written QC, "who" was written OC, and "that" was written O. The difference between "God" and "who" is just two cross strokes, and with a scratchy quill those could easily be light (or a copyist could be momentarily distracted and forget to add the cross strokes). The reading "who" can be explained by an easy transcriptional error. The reading "that" would be an obvious solution to a copyist faced with the nonsensical "who". Whatever the intention of the UBS editors, their text emasculates this strong statement of the deity of Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:10  katakahsetai–A,048,049,056,0142,33,Byz,Lect,lat,syrh,copbo                                                                                                                                                                                [the earth . . .] will be burned up

                     eureqhsetai   –(P72)À,B,K,P,syrph(copsa)                                                                                                                          [the earth . . .] will be found

 

Problem: The UBS reading is nonsensical; the context is clearly one of judgment.

 

Discussion: Metzger actually states that their text "seems to be devoid of meaning in the context" (p. 706)! So why did they choose it? Metzger explains that there is "a wide variety of readings, none of which seems to be original"—presumably if "shall be burned up" were the only reading, with unanimous attestation (it has 94% of the MSS), he would still reject it, but he can scarcely argue that it is meaningless. The UBS editors deliberately chose a variant that they believed to be "devoid of meaning in the context." NASB abandons UBS here, giving the Byzantine reading; NEB and NIV render "will be laid bare"; TEV has "will vanish".

1 Peter 2:2  auxhqhte            –L,Byz,itpt                                                                                                                                                      [desire . . . the word that] you may grow [thereby]

                    auxhqhte eiV swthrian–(P72)À,A,B,C,K(P)Y,33,lat,syr,cop                                                                                        [desire . . . the word that] you may grow [thereby] into salvation

 

Problem: A doctrinal anomaly is introduced. Peter is writing to the "elect" (1:2), to the "redeemed" (1:18), to the "born again" (1:23), to “a holy priesthood” (2:5), to “believers” (2:7), to “slaves of God” (2:16)—they do indeed need to grow, but not "into salvation".

 

Discussion: Metzger explains: "The TR . . . omits ["into salvation"] either through an oversight in copying . . . or because the idea of ‘growing into salvation’ was theologically unacceptable" (p. 689). Notice that the UBS editors understand their text to mean "growing into salvation." TEV, NRSV and Jerusalem render UBS literally, putting the salvation in the future. NIV renders "grow up in your salvation," something the text doesn’t say, while LB has a looser variation on that theme (NEB is looser still).

 

Jude 15  pantaV touV asebeiV–A,B,C,K,L,Y,049,f1,Byz(99.5% of the MSS)lat,syr                                                                [to convict] all the ungodly [among them of all their ungodly deeds]

              pasan yuchn          –P72,À(only one other MS)copsa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             [to convict] every soul [of all their ungodly deeds]

 

Problem: UBS3 introduces a serious anomaly.

 

Discussion: Certain very evil persons have been rather graphically described in verses 4, 8 and 10-13. In verse 14 Jude introduces a prophecy "about these men," the same ones he has been describing, and the quotation continues to the end of verse 15. Verse 16 continues the description of their perversity, but verse 17 draws a clear distinction between them and the believers that Jude is addressing. So, Enoch cannot be referring to "every soul"—the UBS3 reading is clearly wrong. In fact, Nestle25 and UBS2 stayed with the Majority, reading "all the ungodly." UBS3 changes to "every soul," without comment! Is this not a curious proceeding? The UBS editors reverse an earlier position, following just three MSS and the Sahidic version, and do not even mention it in their apparatus. This is especially unfortunate, given the serious nature of the change. Most modern versions are with the Majority here, but NRSV has "convict everyone."

There are dozens of further examples some of which, taken singly, may not seem to be all that alarming. But they have a cumulative effect and dozens of them should give the responsible reader pause.  Is there a pattern? If so, why? But for now enough has been presented to permit us to turn to the implications.

Implications

How is all of this to be explained? I believe the answer lies in the area of presuppositions.  There has been a curious reluctance on the part of conservative scholars to come to grips with this matter. To assume that the editorial choices of a naturalistic scholar will not be influenced by his theological bias is naive in the extreme.

To be sure, both such scholars and the conservative defenders of the eclectic text will doubtless demur. "Not at all," they would say, "our editorial choices derive from a straightforward application of the generally accepted canons of NT textual criticism" [“generally accepted” by whom, and what basis—that is, what are the presuppositions behind them?]. And what are those canons? The four main ones seem to be: 1) the reading that best accounts for the rise of the other reading(s) is to be preferred; 2) the harder reading is to be preferred; 3) the shorter reading is to be preferred; 4) the reading that best fits the author’s style and purpose is to be preferred. It could be said that the first canon sort of distills the essence of them all, and therefore should be the ruling canon, but in practice it is probably the second that is most rigorously applied. From B.M. Metzger’s presentation of the UBS Committee’s reasoning in the examples given above it appears that over half the time they based their decision on the harder reading canon (for four of them he has no comment because the UBS apparatus does not mention that there is any variation; for two of them he says that all the variants are unsatisfactory!). But, how are we to decide which variant is "harder"? Will not our theological bias enter in?

Let’s consider an example: in Luke 24:52 the Nestle editions 1-25 omit "they worshipped him" (and in consequence NASB, RSV and NEB do too). UBS3 retains the words, but with a {D} grade, which shows a "very high degree of doubt." Only one solitary Greek manuscript omits the words, Codex D, supported by part of the Latin witness. In spite of the very slim external evidence for the omission it is argued that it is the "harder" reading—if the clause were original, what orthodox Christian would even think of removing it?  On the other hand, the clause would make a nice pious addition that would immediately become popular, if the original lacked it. However, not only did the Gnostics dominate the Christian church in Egypt in the second century, there were also others around who did not believe that Jesus was God—would they be likely to resist the impulse to delete such a statement? How shall we choose between these two hypotheses? Will it not be on the basis of our presuppositions? Indeed, in discussing this variant set, along with Hort’s other "Western non-interpolations," Metzger explains (p. 193) that a minority of the UBS committee argued that "there is discernible in these passages a Christological-theological motivation that accounts for their having been added, while there is no clear reason that accounts for their having been omitted." (Had they never heard of the Gnostics?)

Why Use Subjective Canons?

It is clear that the four canons mentioned above depend heavily upon the subjective judgment of the critic. But why use such canons? Why not follow the manuscript evidence? It is commonly argued that the surviving MSS are not representative of the textual situation in the early centuries of the Church. The official destruction of MSS by Diocletian (AD 300), and other vagaries of history, are supposed to have decimated the supply of MSS to the point where the transmission was totally distorted—so we can’t be sure about anything. (Such an argument not only "justifies" the eclectic proceeding, it is used to claim its "necessity".) But, the effectiveness of the Diocletian campaign was uneven in different regions. Even more to the point are the implications of the Donatist movement which developed right after the Diocletian campaign passed. It was predicated in part on the punishment that was deserved by those who betrayed their MSS to destruction. Evidently some did not betray their MSS or there would have been no one to judge the others. Also, those whose commitment to Christ and His Word was such that they withstood the torture would be just the sort who would be most careful about the pedigree of their MSS. So it was probably the purest exemplars that survived, in the main, and from them the main stream of transmission derives.

Since the Byzantine (Majority) textform dominates over 90% of the extant MSS, those who wish to reject it cannot grant the possibility that the transmission of the text was in any sense normal. (If it was then the consensus must reflect the original, especially such a massive consensus.) So it is argued that the "ballot box" was "stuffed", that the Byzantine text was imposed by ecclesiastical authority, but only after it was concocted out of other texts in the early IV century. But, there is simply no historical evidence for this idea. Also, numerous studies have demonstrated that the mass of Byzantine MSS are not monolithic; there are many distinct strands or strains of transmission, presumably independent. That at least some of these must go back to the III century (if not earlier) is demonstrated by Codex Aleph in Revelation, in that it conflates some of those strands. Asterius (d. 341) used MSS that were clearly Byzantine—presumably most of his writing was not done on his deathbed, so his MSS would come from the III century. There are further lines of evidence that militate against the eclectic position, not least the very nature of their canons.

"The shorter reading is to be preferred." Why? Because, we are told, scribes had a propensity to add bits and pieces to the text. But that would have to be a deliberate activity. It is demonstrable that accidental loss of place results in omission far more often than addition—about the only way to add accidentally is to copy part of the text twice over, but the copyist would have to be really drowsy not to catch himself at it. So, any time a shorter reading could be the result of parablepsis it should be viewed with suspicion. But even when deliberate, omission should still be more frequent than addition. If there is something in the text that you don’t like it draws your attention and you are tempted to do something about it. Also, it requires more imagination and effort to create new material than to delete what is already there (material suggested by a parallel passage could be an exception). Further, it is demonstrable that most scribes were careful and conscientious, avoiding even unintentional mistakes. Those who engaged in deliberate editorial activity were really rather few, but some were flagrant offenders (like Aleph in Revelation).

"The harder reading is to be preferred." Why? The assumption is that a perceived difficulty would motivate an officious copyist to attempt a "remedy". Note that any such alteration must be deliberate; so if a "harder" reading could have come about through accidental omission (e.g.) then this canon should not be used. But in the case of a presumed deliberate alteration, how can we really ascribe degrees of "hardness"? We don’t know who did it, nor why. Due allowance must be made for possible ignorance, officiousness, prejudice and malice. In fact, this canon is unreasonable on the face of it—the more stupid a reading is, whether by accident or design, the stronger is its claim to be "original" since it will certainly be the "hardest". It does not take a prophet to see that this canon is wide open to satanic manipulation, both in the ancient creation of variants and in their contemporary evaluation. But in any case, since it is demonstrable that most copyists did not make deliberate changes, where there is massive agreement among the extant MSS this canon should not even be considered. Indeed, where there is massive agreement among the MSS none of the subjective canons should be used—they are unnecessary and out of place. Of the 6,000+ differences between UBS3 and the Majority Text, the heavy majority of the readings preferred by the UBS editors have slender MS attestation.

The Myth of Neutrality

We need to lay to rest the myth of neutrality and scholarly objectivity. Anyone who has been inside the academic community knows that it is liberally sprinkled with bias, party lines, personal ambition and spite—quite apart from a hatred of the Truth.[16] Neutrality and objectivity should never be assumed, and most especially when dealing with God’s Truth—because in this area neither God nor Satan will permit neutrality. In Matthew 12:30 the Lord Jesus said: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad." God declares that neutrality is impossible; you are either for Him or against Him. Jesus claims to be God. Faced with such a claim we have only two options, to accept or to reject.  ("Agnosticism" is really a passive rejection.) The Bible claims to be God’s Word. Again our options are but two. It follows that when dealing with the text of Scripture neutrality is impossible. The Bible is clear about satanic interference in the minds of human beings, and most especially when they are considering God’s Truth. 2 Corinthians 4:4 states plainly that the god of this age/world blinds the minds of unbelievers when they are confronted with the Gospel. The Lord Jesus said the same thing when He explained the parable of the sower: "When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts" (Mk. 4:15, Lk. 8:12).

Furthermore, there is a pervasive satanic influence upon all human culture. 1 John 5:19 states that "the whole world lies in the evil one." The picture is clearly one of massive influence, if not control—NASB, RSV, NEB and Jerusalem render "in the power of," TEV has "under the rule of," NIV has "under the control of," NKJV has "under the sway of." All human culture is under pervasive satanic influence, including the culture of the academic community. Ephesians 2:2 is even more precise: "in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Satan actively works in the mind of anyone who rejects God’s authority over him. Materialism has infiltrated the Church in Europe and North America to such an extent that what the Bible says on this subject has been largely ignored. But I submit that for someone who claims to believe God’s Word to accept an edition of the Bible prepared on the basis of rationalistic assumptions is really to forget the teaching of that Word.

Interpretation is preeminently a matter of wisdom. A naturalistic textual critic may have a reasonable acquaintance with the relevant evidence, he may have knowledge of the facts, but that by no means implies that he knows what to do with it. If "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10), then presumably the unbeliever doesn’t have any, at least from God’s point of view. Anyone who edits or translates the text of Scripture needs to be in spiritual condition such that he can ask the Holy Spirit to illumine him in his work as well as protect his mind from the enemy.

In Jesus’ day there were those who "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43), and they are with us still. But, the "praise of men" comes at a high price—you must accept their value system, a value system that suffers direct satanic influence. To accept the world’s value system is basically an act of treason against King Jesus, a type of idolatry. Those conservative scholars who place a high value on "academic recognition," on being acknowledged by the "academic community," etc., need to ask themselves about the presuppositions that lie behind such recognition. Please note that I am not decrying true scholarship—I have three earned graduate degrees myself—but I am challenging conservatives to make sure that their definition of scholarship comes from the Holy Spirit, not from the world, that their search for recognition is godly, not selfish. I rather suspect that were this to happen there would be a dramatic shift in the conservative Christian world with reference to the practice of NT textual criticism and to the identity of the true NT text.

Conclusion

To sum it up, I return to the opening question:  "What difference does it make?" Not only do we have the confusion caused by two rather different competing forms of the Greek text, but one of them (the eclectic text) incorporates errors and contradictions that undermine the doctrine of inspiration and virtually vitiate the doctrine of inerrancy; the other (the Majority Text) does not. The first is based on subjective criteria, applied by naturalistic critics; the second is based on the consensus of the manuscript tradition down through the centuries. Because the conservative evangelical schools and churches have generally embraced the theory (and therefore the presuppositions) that underlies the eclectic text (UBS3/Nestle26), there has been an ongoing hemorrhage or defection within the evangelical camp with reference to the doctrines of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy (especially). The authority of Scripture has been undermined —it no longer commands immediate and unquestioned obedience. As a natural consequence there is a generalized softening of our basic commitment to Christ and His Kingdom. Worse yet, through our missionaries we have been exporting all of this to the emerging churches in the "third world". Alas!

So what shall we do, throw up our hands in despair and give up? Indeed no! "It is better to light one candle than to sit and curse the darkness." With God’s help let us work together to bring about a reversal of this situation. Let us work to undo the damage. We must start by consciously trying to make sure that all our presuppositions, our working assumptions, are consistent with God’s Word. When we approach the evidence (Greek MSS, patristic citations, ancient versions) with such presuppositions we will have a credible, even demonstrable, basis for declaring and defending the divine preservation, the inspiration and the inerrancy of the New Testament text. We can again have a compelling basis for total commitment to God and His Word. The present printed Majority Text is a close approximation to the original, free from the errors of fact and contradictions discussed above. Until such a time as a good translation of the Majority Text becomes available, the best current English version of the NT is the NKJV—an excellent translation of a good Greek text.

 



[1]John Bengel, a textual critic who died in 1752, has been credited with being the first one to advance this argument.

[2]The Greek New Testament, New York: United Bible Societies, 3rd ed., 1975. Novum Testamentum Graece, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 26th ed., 1979. The text of both these editions is virtually identical, having been elaborated by the same five editors: Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo Martini, Bruce Metzger and Allen Wikgren. Most modern versions were actually based on the "old" Nestle text, which differs from the 26th edition in over 700 places. UBS4  and N-A27 do not offer changes in the text, just in the apparatus—it follows that the text was determined by the earlier set of five editors, not the present five (Matthew Black and Allen Wikgren were replaced by Barbara Aland [Kurt’s wife, now widow] and Johannes Karavidopoulos).

[3]The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2nd ed., 1985. This text was edited by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad. It differs somewhat from the Textus Receptus upon which the KJV and NKJV are based.

[4]Probably no two known Greek manuscripts of the NT are in perfect agreement. In consequence, claims of Biblical inerrancy are usually limited to the Autographs (the very original documents actually penned by the human authors), or to the precise wording contained in them. Since no Autograph of the NT exists today (they were probably worn out within a few years through heavy use) we must appeal to the existing copies in any effort to identify the original wording.

The text-critical theory underlying UBS3/N-A26 presupposes that the original wording was "lost" during the early centuries and that objective certainty as to the original wording is now an impossibility. A central part of the current debate is the argument that the text in use today is not inerrant—this is a recurring theme in The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987), for example.

I am prepared to offer objective evidence in support of the contention that the original wording was not "lost" during the early centuries. I further argue that it is indeed possible to identify with reasonable certainty the original wording, based on objective criteria—today.

[5]A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, New York: United Bible Societies, 1971, pp. 137-38.

[6]More recent statements of evidence have 070 instead of 0124, because 0124 and several other partial MSS have been judged to be parts of a single copy, now numbered 070, but it is 0124 that actually contains his passage.

[7]Arndt and Gingrich (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, p. 242), referring to this passage, state: "Of the sun grow dark, perh. be eclipsed." One suspects that this statement was designed specifically to defend the reading of the eclectic text. We are not surprised to find Metzger dismissing the reading of over 99% of the MSS as "the easier reading" (p. 182).

[8]The UBS apparatus gives no inkling to the user that there is serious variation at this point; in consequence Metzger doesn’t mention it either. He would probably have told us that the reading of 96.8% of the MSS is “unsatisfactory”.

[9]Luke 3:33 offers yet another related textual difficulty. I would say that the H-F Majority Text abandoned the TR prematurely by inserting Joram between Aram and Hezron. Out of 27 extant uncials only nine read Joram; 18 do not, and they are supported by the three earliest Versions. It appears that some 60% of the cursives, including Kr, do have Joram, but the earliest MS to do so is from the VIII century—all earlier MSS lack it.  In terms of Burgon’s "Notes of Truth," Joram wins in "Number" but loses in "Antiquity," "Variety" and "Continuity". Joram was probably an early corruption of Aram (as per the ancestor of MS 1542) that was subsequently conflated with it; the conflation survives in a large segment of the Byzantine tradition, which is seriously divided here.

[10]In His teaching on general themes the Lord presumably repeated Himself many times, using a variety of expressions and variations on those themes, and the Gospel writers preserve some of that variety. In this case we are dealing with a specific conversation, which presumably was not repeated.

[11]Arndt and Gingrich’s note (p. 47) seems designed to protect the reading of the eclectic text here. Metzger’s discussion is interesting: "The difficulty of reconciling [seven] with [both], however, is not so great as to render the text which includes both an impossible text. On the other hand, however, the difficulty is so troublesome that it is hard to explain how [seven] came into the text, and was perpetuated, if it were not original, . . ." (pp. 471-72). Notice that Metzger assumes the genuineness of "both" and discusses the difficulty that it creates as if it were fact. I would say that his assumption is gratuitous and that the difficulty it creates is an artifact of his presuppositions.

[12]The only other places that Isaiah 40:3 is quoted in the New Testament are Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4 and John 1:23. The first two are in passages parallel to Mark 1:2 and join it in quoting the LXX verbatim. The quote in John differs from the LXX in one word and is also used in connection with John the Baptist. The crucial consideration, for our present purpose, is that Matthew, Luke and John all identify the quote as being from Isaiah (without MS variation). It seems clear that the "Alexandrian-Western" reading in Mark 1:2 is simply an assimilation to the other three Gospels. It should also be noted that the material from Malachi looks more like an allusion than a direct quote.  Further, although Malachi is quoted (or alluded to) a number of times in the New Testament, he is never named. Mark’s own habits may also be germane to this discussion. Mark quotes Isaiah in 4:12, 11:17 and 12:32 and alludes to him in about ten other places, all without naming his source. The one time he does use Isaiah’s name is when quoting Jesus in 7:6. In the face of such clear evidence the "harder reading" canon cannot justify the forcing of an error into the text of Mark 1:2.

[13]Tischendorf, who discovered Codex Aleph, warned that the folded sheet containing the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke appeared to be written by a different hand and with different ink than the rest of the manuscript. However that may be, a careful scrutiny reveals the following: the end of Mark and beginning of Luke occur on page 3 (of the four); pages 1 and 4 contain an average of 17 lines of printed Greek text per column (there are four columns per page), just like the rest of the codex; page 2 contains an average of 15.5 lines of printed text per column (four columns); the first column of page 3 contains only twelve lines of printed text and in this way verse 8 occupies the top of the second column, the rest of which is blank (except for some designs); Luke begins at the top of column 3, which contains 16 lines of printed text while column 4 is back up to 17 lines. On page 2 the forger began to spread out the letters, displacing six lines of printed text; in the first column of page 3 he got desperate and displaced five lines of printed text, just in one column!

In this way he managed to get two lines of verse 8 over onto the second column, avoiding the telltale vacant column (as in Codex B). That second column would accommodate 15 more lines of printed text, which with the other eleven make 26. Verses 9-20 occupy 23.5 such lines, so there is plenty of room for them. It really does seem that there has been foul play, and there would have been no need for it unless the first hand did in fact display the disputed verses. In any event, Aleph as it stands is a forgery (in this place) and therefore may not legitimately be alleged as evidence against them.

[14]For an explanation of this statement of evidence please see footnote 42 to chapter V of this book.

[15]A pronoun normally requires an antecedent, but quoted material might provide an exception. Thus, 1 Corinthians 2:9 is sometimes offered as an instance: the quote from Isaiah 64:4 begins with a pronoun, without a grammatical antecedent (although "mystery" in verse 7 is presumably the referential antecedent). However, the words from Isaiah are formally introduced as a quotation, "as it is written," whereas the material in 1 Timothy 3:16 is not, so there is no valid analogy.  Colossians 1:13 or 1:15 have been suggested as analogies for "who" in 1 Timothy 3:16, even claimed as "hymns", but there is no objective support for the claim. The antecedent of the relative pronoun in Colossians 1:15 is "the son" in verse 13, and the antecedent of the relative pronoun in verse 13 is "the father" in verse 12. Again, there is no valid analogy.

[16]By "the Truth" I mean the fact of an intelligent and moral Creator, Sovereign over all, to whom every created being is accountable. Many scholars will sacrifice the evidence, their own integrity and other people rather than face the Truth.

Bible translation foundations – collocations

Posted on: June 7th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

I am fascinated by the varying lexical collocations different languages have in their linguistic toolkits. In English we use the metaphor of distance or travel to refer to time. For instance, in English we can say that some romantic episode is “past” or that my birthday will “come” soon. But English does not collocate time words with elevation (“up” or “down”) or thickness (“thin” or “thick”). Hebraisms in the biblical language texts contain a number of references to time in terms of capacity. So, the equivalent of English the time has “come” would, in Hebrew thought, be that the time is “full.”

The Cheyenne language, which has been the focus of my study since 1975, collocates price with degree of “ease”. So, something which is inexpensive is literally “easy-priced.” English, on the other hand, allows price references to collocate with vertical words such as “up” or “down”. The stock market goes “up” and “down.”

In English the color green collocates with the emotion of jealousy, while red can collocate with anger. A major mistake can be a “black” mark on someone’s reputation. In some languages there are no color collocations with emotions.

English speakers can, according to English lexical rules, refer to someone in terms of their intelligence as “bright”, or “sharp,” or “dull.” None of these terms is an appropriate collocation with references to intelligence in Cheyenne.

What English translation equivalents would you consider most appropriate for expressing the meaning of the following literal translations of biblical language collocations:

  1. ripeness: “He lived to a ripe old age.”
  2. easy: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  3. say in the heart: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
  4. taste: “Some standing here will not taste death until the kingdom of God has come.”
  5. rich: “God is rich in mercy.”

A Defense of the Bible

Posted on: January 22nd, 2010 by Matt No Comments

In order to support their claim that the Qur’an is the inspired word of God, superseding all previous revelations, Muslims sustain an attack upon all competing claims. For the most part their efforts are directed against their chief rival, the Bible. Their accusations fall into two basic categories: first, the text of Scripture has been changed or forged; second, doctrinal mistakes have crept into Christian teaching, such as the belief in the incarnation of Christ, the trinity of the Godhead, and the doctrine of original sin.1

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The Importance of Biblical Inerrancy

Posted on: January 6th, 2010 by Matt No Comments

Every generation has its doctrinal problems and this one is no exception. Sometimes those problems develop within the circle of conservatism, a fact which is also true of this day. The discussions which have arisen among conservatives in the field of eschatology are well known, but the debates and sometimes defections in the area of bibliology are less evident. However, they are more serious, since they touch the heart of the authority—to say nothing of the truth—of our faith.

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