Thursday, July 08, 2010
Video of the Week: The Text is the Issue
This video is from a conference “The Text is the Issue” (I think in the 1990s) that was held at Pensacola Christian College, a fundamentalist school in Florida, on the text of Scripture. Dell Johnson, a professor at Pensacola, describes his “conversion” to the traditional from the eclectic text. Of note, here is Johnson’s observation that even in fundamentalist circles which continue to use and value the KJV, the eclectic modern critical text of the NT was largely embraced by fundamentalist academics.
More interesting, however, are the remarks by Theodore Letis. Letis was a gadfly to those in the text critical guild. He held a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh and was a credentialed textual critic. He nonetheless rejected the eclectic text, criticized modern Bible publishers (whom he often referred to as the “Bible landlords”), and argued for a return to the traditional or ecclesiastical text of Scripture. Letis’ two key works on the topic were The Ecclesiastic Text: Text Criticism, Biblical Authority and the Popular Mind (1997) and a collection of essays he edited, The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate (1987). Letis suffered an untimely death at age 53 on June 24, 2005.
Doctrinally, in the works cited above Letis offered a critique of the evangelical doctrine of the inerrancy of the original autographs of Scripture which he traces to the Princeton giant B. B. Warfield. Letis charged Warfield with departing from the Reformation doctrine of the infallibility of the apographs, as expressed in creeds like the Westminster Confession of Faith. Rather than defend the divine preservation of the text of Scripture, Warfield pursued the restoration of the text of Scripture (meaning the attempt to reconstruct the original autographs through modern text critical study). The results for evangelicalism and the authority of Scripture, Letis said, have been disastrous.
The views presented here are often falsely associated with KJV-Onlyism. The argument, however, is not for the KJV per se but for the traditional text of Scripture (the Masoretic text of the OT and the received text of the NT) as the basis for translation into English or any other language. Many English speakers who hold to the traditional text also prefer the King James Version, in part due to its basis in the traditional original language text. The only other available English translations based on the traditional text are the Geneva Bible and the New King James Version.