Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rejoinder to Jamin Hubner: Part 7 (Reformed Text)

Note to readers: I have added the label "Jamin Hubner"at the end of this and the other rejoinders in this series. If you click on the "Jamin Hubner" button, you can read all the rejoinders in this series.

This post is a rejoinder to Jamin Hubner’s article “Case Studies in King James Onlyism: The Text of the Reformers?” (which is essentially part 7 in his series “The ESV Translation: A Response to Jeff Riddle” which he began in response to my blog article, “Three Basic Challenges to the ESV”).

In this post Hubner challenges the fact that the traditional text was “the text of the Reformers.”

He begins by citing my summary of the traditional text and concedes that this is “generally true” but then claims that it is only relevant if one assumes that the traditional text is superior to the modern critical text. My response: Yes, this is my assumption based on study and consideration of the evidence.

Hubner then offers an aside on the Comma Johanneum. As I have previously noted Hubner has a tendency not actually to interact with statements I have made but to present arguments made by others or ones he imagines I might make (straw men) and then attacks those. Notice how he does this in this passage:

Regarding the Comma Johanneum, I do wonder if Riddle agrees with Hills' assessment on this variant. If so, given the facts about the reading being in the Latin Vulgate and not in the Greek text, Riddle must believe that the Greek manuscript tradition can be so corrupted as to lose, without a trace, an entire reading (even Dean Burgon, a hero of KJV Only advocates, admits that is a later addition without a legitimate claim to being original! See The Revision Revised, 1883, 483). That's quite a belief, indeed - and it is a attitude I would hope no Pastor would instill, either intentionally or unintentionally, immediately or slowly, indirectly or directly, in the minds of God's people.

First, notice how Hubner states what Riddle “must believe” but has not actually said. This is classic straw man.

Second, notice that what Hubner says about the Comman Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8) is factually inaccurate. He claims this passage is only found “in the Latin Vulgate and not in the Greek text.” This is simply wrong. In the summer of 2010 Dan Wallace, hardly a friend to the traditional text, discovered the CJ in Codex 177 making it the ninth Greek manuscript to include the passage (see this post). The CJ is often criticized not because it appears in no manuscripts (as Hubner erroneously claims) but in only a few. Before slamming the TR for including the CJ with so little textual support, remember that the ESV includes a reading in Psalm 145:13 that appears in just a single late Hebrew manuscript!

Third, Hubner’s error then invalidates the insinuations he makes about the Greek text being so “corrupted” that such readings could “be lost, without a trace.” This is certainly not true with the CJ.

Fourth, Hubner implies that it would be inappropriate for any pastor to uphold the credibility of the CJ in the text of Scripture: “That's quite a belief, indeed - and it is a [sic] attitude I would hope no Pastor would instill, either intentionally or unintentionally, immediately or slowly, indirectly or directly, in the minds of God's people.” My first thought: Wow, I sure am glad that advocates for the modern critical text don’t make the same kind of emotional and outlandish attacks that those wild-eyed KJV-Only folk do! Seriously, is Hubner saying he hopes no pastor would teach that a text could be so corrupted that it would only be supported by a few (or no) manuscripts? In that case, I guess he has issues with any pastor who teaches on the ESV of Psalm 145:13 or 1 Samuel 6:19. Or, is he saying that it is pastoral malpractice to defend or teach from the CJ? In that case, he must have problems with John Calvin who cites it in his Institutes (Book III.1.1); with Charles Spurgeon who preached a sermon titled “The Three Witnesses” with 1 John 5:8 as his text; and with R. L. Dabney who wrote a brilliant defense of the CJ on the basis of internal evidence.

Next, Hubner concedes that the ESV (and other modern translations) do, indeed, “depart” from the traditional text as their basis, but he claims I have failed to demonstrate why this matters. He states:

But what Dr. Riddle has yet to establish is why that matters. I mean, obviously they depart for a reason, don't they? Why doesn't Riddle critique these reasons since that appears to be the elephant in the room? It seems enough for Dr. Riddle just to say "modern translations depart from the text used during the Reformation era. Therefore, you shouldn't use them." Is that not the substance of the argument? That we should simply follow popularity during the Reformation era, and reject the latest products of the "secular academy"?

Let me try to state as clearly as I can that I believe the departure from the traditional text matters. It matters because the traditional text is superior to the modern critical one. It matters because the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is at stake. It matters because doctrinal issues of the authority and canon of Scripture are at stake.

Hubner next cites a rather extended paragraph from part four of the rejoinder. I must say that I am glad that Hubner takes the time to interact directly with my arguments. Maybe my nagging about “straw man” arguments has paid off.

He cites the following paragraph:

In my ESV article I state that, “the ESV is not based on the traditional texts of Scripture that were used by the Protestant Reformers in their vernacular translations….” Note: I am discussing the ESV. Hubner quotes this passage and responds: “and how is it that this text is used ‘by the Protestant Reformers,’ since neither Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli lived when it came into existence around 1611?” Hubner is discussing the KJV. Furthermore, he apparently mistakenly believes that the received text did not come into existence until the KJV translation. The traditional text, however, was around long before the KJV (Erasmus’ first edition of the Greek NT came out in 1516 and Bomberg’s Hebrew Bible in 1524-25, some 75-100 years before the KJV; see the list above of English Bibles prior to the KJV that relied on the traditional text). This point is even conceded by James White in the quote that Hubner cites to refute my position (!): “Everyone admits that the Greek text utilized by Luther in his preaching and by Calvin in his writings was what would become known as the TR.” My concern is that the ESV is not based on this text. It has followed in the path of translations that have abandoned this text in favor of the modern critical text.

He then remarks:

There is so much confusion packed into this paragraph that it's difficult to know where to start.

Sorry, but I don’t think it is confusing. My point stands that while I was making an argument in my original article about the ESV’s departure from the traditional text of Scripture, Hubner attempted to focus the conversation on the KJV.

What is more, he attempts to drive an unnatural wedge between the text of the KJV and the text of the traditional text. As for his remarks about the unique nature of the underlying text of the KJV, it certainly was not radically different from the traditional text, drawn from the various printed editions of the Bible, which undergirded the other Reformation era translations. Any comparison of the Geneva Bible and the KJV will reveal that the underlying text of both translations is essentially the same.

It simply cannot be denied that the traditional texts (the Masoretic text of the OT and the printed versions of the received text of the NT) were the Biblical text standards for the Reformation era and served as the basis for all Reformation era translations. Contra White, the received text was not merely the “default” choice of the Reformers. Rather, they knew of all the major textual variants and chose the received text as their standard. Luther’s translation of the German NT, for example, was taken from Erasmus’s second ed.

White, citing Hills, notes that Calvin sometimes in his writing indicated preferences for non-TR readings.

Again, I would invite readers to consult Calvin’s commentaries on the major textual variants.  Here are several to ponder:

Calvin on the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13, omitted in the modern critical text):

“Even though this is not extant in Latin versions, it is appropriate to this place and ought not to be omitted” (Institutes, Book III.XX.47).

Calvin on the pericope adulterae (John 7:53-8:11):

“It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should not apply it to our advantage” (Calvin’s Commentaries).

Calvin on the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8):

“The whole of this verse has by some been omitted. Jerome thinks that this happened through design rather than through mistake, and that indeed only on the part of the Latins. But as even the Greek copies do not agree, I dare not assert anything on the subject. Since, however, the passage flows better when the clause is added, and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies, I am inclined to receive it as the true reading” (Calvin’s Commentaries).

N.B.: Calvin was fully aware of the textual challenges in these passages. Again, the Reformation era theologians and scholars were well aware of the major textual variations long before the discovery of the papyri. The point is that they rejected these readings in favor of the traditional text.

I would add that another way to evaluate where Calvin eventually landed is by looking to the work of his colleague and successor at Geneva, Theodore Beza, who embraced the traditional text. In fact, Scrivener’s 1894 edition of the text underlying the KJV is based on Beza’s 1598 edition of the Greek NT. Whatever Calvin’s individual private or public musings, this is a discussion about translations. Again, when it comes to translations, the Reformation era used only one text: the received text. Thus, it is completely appropriate to refer to this as the text of the Reformers.  Furthermore, we should prefer the text of Calvin to that of Ehrman.

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