Friday, May 26, 2017

The Vision (5.26.17): In the beginning was the Word

Note: I began a new sermon series through John last Sunday. The devotion below is taken from the initial message on John 1:1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

How might one begin to tell the story of the life of Jesus? How would you begin to tell about why Jesus means so much to you and to the world? Where do you start speaking about Jesus, telling about his life?

Do you begin with his baptism by John (see Mark 1)? Do you begin with his birth in Bethlehem (see Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2)? The apostle John knew of those things, but he chose to begin the story of Jesus in his Gospel in pre-history, before creation, before the foundation of the world. This reminds us that Jesus was and is the incarnation of the second person of the Godhead, who has always been, is now, and will always be.

So, John begins, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (v. 1). Notice three things about this verse:

First: Notice the echo of the creation narrative (Genesis 1:1). The eternal Son of God did not begin with the incarnation of Jesus, but he was there at the beginning (even before the beginning).

Second: Notice that the Son of God is called here the Logos. He is the Word. When the Gospel of John was translated into Latin, they used the word Verbum to translate the Greek word Logos. In Calvin’s Latin translation, he rendered it with the word Sermo, “Speech.”

The Greek term Logos is the root for all our words that end with ____ology (e.g., theology, biology, chronology). It is also the root for the English word “logic.” Indeed, it was a term popularly used in the first century by some philosophers to refer to reason or a rational principle that they believed exists within and which guides the world. Some think John is being here like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 when he speaks of becoming all things to all men. That is, John takes a secular concept and applies it to Jesus in a way that non-Christians (and non-Jews) could understand.

Third: Notice that this verse (the very first line of this Gospel) declares that the Son of God (the Word) is God: “and the Word was God.” That is a very uncomfortable statement for those who deny the deity of Christ. The New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (who deny the deity of Christ), for example, does damage to the straightforward interpretation of the underlying Greek of this verse by giving the tortured translation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” They do this all to avoid escaping the plain meaning of this verse. But it does not help them in the end, because the same thing is said over and again in John (cf. John 10:30 where Jesus declares: “I and my Father are one”; and John 20:28 where Thomas declares before the risen Jesus: “My Lord, and my God!”).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Word Magazine # 76: Rejoinders to TurretinFan

Image: Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener (1813-1891)

I have posted Word Magazine # 76: Rejoinders to TurretinFan. This is a follow up to my recent dialogue with TF which began with his response to my critique of James White in WM 75. I have already pointed out what I believe is the major flaw in TF's critique: anachronistically asserting that (the real) Turretin took the same approach to text criticism as contemporary reconstructionist (restorationist) advocates for the modern critical text (see this post and this one).

It might be overkill on this subject, but I thought I'd share some of my other notes on TF's initial critique. This includes rejoinders on various other issues, including a confessional apologetic against KJV-Onlyism, the value of Scrivener's Greek NT (1881), logical fallacies in JW's arguments against the TR, a defense of the antiquity of the traditional text, the problem of lack of ubiquity for the "Alexandrian" text, and the significance of the comma Johanneum as a prooftext in the 1689 confession.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Calvin on the Text and Punctuation of John 1:3

I began a new sermon series last Sunday through the Gospel of John with a message on John 1:1-5. I had also decided to read John Calvin’s commentary on John as I preach through the book.

I was intrigued by Calvin’s remarks on the text of John 1:3. He argues that the last phrase “that was made [ho gegonen]” be taken with what comes before in v. 3, so that it read “and without him was not anything made that was made [kai choris autou egeneto oude en ho gegonen]” rather than with what follows in v. 4 (so that it would read: ho gegonen en auto zoe hen: “what was made was in him life”).

The Calvin Translation Society editors note here that “the difference in readings lies wholly in the punctuation.” Calvin makes appeal to the Greek witnesses, writing: “and in this almost all the Greek manuscripts, or at least those of them which are most approved, are found to agree; besides, the sense requires it.” One wonders if by “Greek manuscripts” he means hand copies or printed editions (or perhaps both). At any rate, we see here Calvin’s interest in examining external and internal evidence to affirm a traditional reading (or, in this case, interpretation of the traditional punctuation of the text). At the least, the reference illustrates his interest in establishing the proper text of the NT ultimately by appeal to the readings in “the divine original” (i.e., in the copies written in the immediately inspired Biblical languages).


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Epaphroditus and the Ordinary Means of Healing

In our midweek Bible study in Philippians last week, we read Paul’s commendation of Ephaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30. Paul calls Epaphroditus in v. 25 “my brother [adelphon], and companion in labour [synergon], and fellowsoldier [systratioten], but your messenger [apostolon].” The description of Ephaphroditus as an apostolos, shows the flexibility of this term, which sometimes refers specifically to one of The Twelve (which Epaphroditus was not) and sometimes to “a sent one,” a representative, or “messenger” (cf. Acts 14:4, 14). The early Particular Baptists took this term to refer to those sent to associational meetings. The passage does indeed show the “communion” enjoyed among the early believers and churches, as Epaphroditus had been sent to minister to the imprisoned Paul's needs.

I was also struck by Paul’s references to Epaphroditus’ grave illness, suffered while ministering to Paul’s needs. He was “sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him” (v. 27). Paul commends Epaphroditus to the Philippians, exhorting them to “hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death” (vv. 29-30). What I find striking is the rather ordinary way that Paul addresses this illness. Counter to the modern, charismatic “faith-healing” narrative, there is no mention of any attempt at or expectation of extra-ordinary healing. Epaphroditus might well have died, yet God, in his mercy, had providentially granted him recovery. God would have been no less just or powerful if Epaphroditus had not recovered. It is like Paul’s instruction to Timothy to take wine “for thy stomach’s sake and thine own infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23). An illness is met not with calls for extra-ordinary intervention but ordinary remedy.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Youth and Young Adult Conference

We had our second annual Youth and Young Adult Conference this weekend (Friday-Saturday, May 19-20) at the Machen Retreat and Conference Center in Highland County, Virginia. Pastor Alpheus Atkins of Trinity RBC in Roanoke gave five short messages on the Doctrines of Grace (the Five Points of Calvinism):

Message One: Total Depravity

Message Two: Unconditional Election

Message Three: Limited Atonement

Message Four: Irresistible Grace

Message Five: Perseverance of the Saints

It was a very encouraging time with a great group of young people.


Friday, May 19, 2017

The Vision (5.19.17): The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 12:8-14.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The word of the wise are as goads, and as nails, fastened by the masters of assembly, which are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh.

In v. 11 Solomon describes the words of the wise as being like goads. The term refers to an object used to prod animals (Currid, Ecclesiastes, p. 153). It is that which nudges and moves one in the right direction.


And who of us does not need the goad? Slumbering as we are in cold formality—hearing the word as if we heard it not—what a mercy it is to feel the piercing point of the goad…. Is it not fearful to be under the power of the word and yet to continue insensible? As if the goad just touched the skin and did not penetrate the heart? (Ecclesiastes p. 306).

Then Solomon says they are also like nails. Nails are what holds a structure together. For the nomad they were stakes driven into the ground to hold fast a tent. For the ancients who lacked modern closets, the nail driven into the wall provided a place to hold or store things of value, that could be easily reached and drawn upon as needed.

They are nails drive by the masters of assemblies. Finally, he says these goads or nails are given by one shepherd. In Israel, the king was often described as being like a shepherd. So too the Lord was like a shepherd (cf. Psalm 23). Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Peter called Christ the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

On one hand, we might say that the Bible has many authors, but on the other it is right to say that it has but one author. We can say of any passage in God’s word, not only, The Bible says, but also, God says.

He adds, in v. 12, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished….” These are the instructions of a father to a well-beloved son. Solomon addresses us here as Paul did Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:2: “unto Timothy, my own son in the faith”; 2 Tim 1:2: “to Timothy, my dearly beloved son”; Titus 1;4: “to Titus, mine own son after the common faith”, as Peter did Mark (1 Peter 5:13; “so doth Marcus my son”).

Some of us had Christian fathers (imperfect though they might have been). Others did not. But all of us have father Solomon, and father Moses, and father John, and father Paul. These goads and all of Scriptural wisdom are as a surrogate father to the child of God.

The second half of v. 12 is the scholar’s verse or the student’s verse. There is no end of book-making. And this was written before the digital age! I think the point here is to contrast this with the inscripturated word. Yes, there are more and more books being made, always. But then there is the one book, that cannot be added to or taken away from.

Bridges cites Reynolds: “Other writings are useful in their order. These only are the rule of faith and life” (p. 308).

In the blurr of the many books, don’t forget the one book. It has been said of some Christians that they were walking Bibles. The missionary Hudson Taylor rose before daylight each morning to read the Bible, working his way through its pages scores of times throughout his life. The nutritionists used to say, You are what you eat. Solomon might say, You are what you read, or, You are what you allow your mind and your heart to be most saturated in and absorbed by. Are you being more shaped by popular entertainment, by sports, by politics, or by the nails fastened by the one Shepherd?

Bridges calls the Bible “a portable book,” noting that it contains all that is necessary to make a man wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15) “in so small compass” (p. 308). It is not exhaustive of all knowledge but selective of that which is essential (see John 20:30-31; 21:25). The Bible is large enough, expansive enough to challenge a man and give him life-long food for his journey. But it is also small enough that one can within a lifetime live in its pages and under its hearing so that it gets within his bones and shapes his living. It is a written John the Baptist meant to point us toward Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Orthodoxy, Icons, Eusebius, and Visual Art in Early Christianity

I’m reading Robert Letham’s Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective (Mentor, 2007). In an interesting chapter on icons, Letham notes, “The Orthodox claim that the first icons date from the lifetime of Jesus” (p. 145). He adds that to support their use of icons the Orthodox appeal to intriguing references in Eusbeius’s Ecclesiastical History to visual representations of Jesus and the apostles which existed in his day and which Eusebius claims went back to the earliest days of Christianity.

In EH 7.18 Eusebius claims that in Caesarea Philippi the woman with the issue of blood who had been healed by Jesus erected a stone memorial to this event in front of her home. It included “a brazen figure in relief of a woman, bending on her knee and stretching forth her hands like a suppliant.” Opposite to this was “an upright figure of a man, clothed in comely fashion in a double cloak and stretching out his hand to the woman.” He adds, “This statue, they said, bore the likeness of Jesus. And it was in existence even to our own day, so that we saw it with our own eyes when we stayed in the city.” Eusebius observes that one should not be surprised that grateful pagans “should have made these objects, since we saw the likenesses of his apostles also, of Paul and Peter, and indeed of Christ himself, preserved in pictures painted in colours.”

What do we make of this description? Does it justify the use of icons? No. More likely it shows how quickly corruption had entered into “Christian” practice. It does not reflect Christianity of the first century but the fourth century. In EH 7.19 Eusebius adds that “the throne of James” was also preserved and revered by men of his day. We see already the rise of relics and religious objects, usurping the simplicity of Biblical spirituality. Already, we see movement away from the written word and the mind to the visual and emotional. Letham notes, “there is no evidence in the Bible that pictures of saints were expected to be located in the place where the church worshipped, still less was this required. This is a development additional to Scripture” (p. 157).


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even more thoughts on Muller and (the real) Turretin

TurretinFan (TF) posted a rejoinder yesterday (5.15.17) regarding whether it is accurate to say that (the real) Turretin took the same approach to the text of Scripture as James White (JW) and other evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text. In my post I had cited the work of historical theologian Richard Muller on the Bibliology of Turretin and the other Protestant orthodox.

In his new post TF dismisses my rejoinder by saying the following:

Unfortunately, brother Riddle's post entirely misses the main point of my response. I argued:

Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

Riddle responded by quoting Richard Muller's discussion of views of issues related to inerrancy, contrasting folks like Turretin with later folks like B.B. Warfield. Even assuming that what Muller says is correct, Muller is addressing a different issue from the one I was addressing.

So, TF says I have completely missed the point. He suggests that the citations I offered from Muller, contradicting his thesis that (the real) Turretin’s views on text were identical with JW, are irrelevant, because I am confusing Muller’s discussion of inerrancy and text criticism.

I’ll have to leave it to those who read Muller for themselves to make their own judgments as to whose reading of his views on (the real) Turretin are accurate. Let me just say that I agree that Muller’s whole point is indeed to say that (the real) Turretin did not, in fact, hold the view of “inerrancy” as originated and articulated in the nineteenth century by Hodges and Warfield, and which continues to be embraced today by evangelicals, like JW and TF. Where TF goes off the rails, however, IMHO, is in failing to see that this discussion of inerrancy is inextricably and vitally related to this issue of text criticism.

What Muller is saying is that the Protestant orthodox, like (the real) Turretin, did not seek the “infinite regress” of the reconstruction (restoration) of the hypothetical inerrant “original autograph.” This reconstructionist method was not, in fact, articulated until the nineteenth century, by Hodges and Warfield, as an apologetic response to modernism’s gleeful attacks upon the integrity of Scripture in light of the accumulation of textual variants. Just look through the writings of the Protestant orthodox, whether the WCF, the 1689 confession, Owen, Turretin, etc., and you will not find the term “inerrancy.” Instead, they speak of the “infallibility” of Scripture. The term “inerrancy” was not coined until the nineteenth century. To say that (the real) Turretin held the same views as JW (which is to say, the same views as Hodges and Warfield) with regard to text is, therefore, a historical anachronism.

The point is that (the real) Turretin did not think his task was the reconstruction of the original, inerrant autograph through the method of text criticism, but that he believed the autograph was present in the preservation of the text in the existing apographs (copies), which had now achieved a standard form in the most widely used and available printed text of the Reformation.

As for the other longer quote he shares from Muller, noting that the printed editions of the textus receptus were established by the Protestant orthodox as “a normative or definitive text of the NT” but that it did not ultimately provide “some sort of terminus ad quem for the editing of the text of the Bible,” I’d suggest one read the quote in context to get Muller’s point. Yes, this era saw continued study of the text of the NT, which would eventually flower in modern text criticism. This was seen in the text critical works of the likes of the French Protestant Louis Cappel and in the Anglican Brian Walton’s Biblia Polyglotta. His point, however, is to say that this approach to the text was not embraced by the Protestant orthodox but resisted by them. See John Owen’s critique of Walton’s Polyglotta in A Vindication of the Purity and Integrity of the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Old and New Testament (in Volume XVI of his Collected Works).

BTW, in citing Muller’s scholarship I do not mean to suggest that he in any way supports the authority of the textus receptus as the normative text of the NT. In fact, he makes plain in PRRD, Vol. 2 that he thinks Owen’s critique of Walton was ill conceived (see, e.g., p. 134). Where Muller is helpful is in his historical description and analysis of the Protestant orthodox and their defense of the traditional text (Hebrew MT of the OT and TR of the NT).

So, to sum up:

1.    (The real) Turretin did not approach the text of Scripture in the same manner as JW and other evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text.

2.    One cannot separate Muller’s discussion of inerrancy and text criticism.

Finally, to understand the confessional text movement (if we can call it that), one has to undergo a “paradigm shift” (though I hate to use that over-used term). The goal of text criticism is not to use an empirical method to “reconstruct” the text. The goal of text criticism is to establish and defend the text that has been providentially preserved.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Responding to TurretinFan on (the real) Turretin

A friend pointed out to me that an associate of James White (JW) who goes by the name TurretinFan (TF) had posted a critique on Friday (5.12.17) of my recent blog post introducing WM # 75 (read TF's critique “Responding to Jeff Riddle” here).

Though I would take exception to most of TF’s critique I wanted to offer an initial response to what I believe to be the central intellectual area where this critique is problematic (if I have time I’ll try to record a WM next week with a more detailed response to this and other issues raised in his critique).

Here is the central problem/question with his critique: Did (the real) Francis Turretin and others of the Protestant orthodox embrace the same methodological approach to the NT as modern evangelical advocates of the critical text (like JW). In other words: Did Calvin, Owen, Turretin, etc. hold to a reconstructionist (restorationist) view of text criticism, which envisioned its goal as the accumulation of textual variants in order to approximate a reconstruction (restoration) of the lost autographa?

This is the view that is suggested by TF when he writes the following in criticism of my views:

Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.

And later:

As mentioned above, Turretin (and other Reformers) methodologically agreed with the use of collation to obtain the original readings. We have more knowledge of the text than they did. Thus, the difference between JW's position and FT's position is not so much … because of different convictions, but because of different information.

So, again, TF contends that my view is flawed since (the real) Francis Turretin held a view that is essentially identical with that held by Bruce Metzger, Dan Wallace, D. A. Carson, John Piper, John MacArthur, James White, and a host of other men who have embraced the modern reconstructionist (restorationist) view of text criticism. The only difference is that the men of the past had less information (textual data) with which to work than we have today.

This is, indeed, a very intriguing historical question. It is also at the heart of the distinction that must be drawn between those who embrace the modern critical text (and the restorationist methodology that has produced it) and the small but apparently growing number of those, like me, who prefer the traditional text (and the confessional, preservationist theology that affirms it).

I admit that I do not consider myself to be an expert on the writings of Francis Turretin, and I do not claim to have studied his Bibliology in detail. I’ve done much more detailed work on John Calvin and John Owen on this topic. My sense, however, is that Turretin is in essential agreement with Calvin and Owen and that their view is, in fact, fundamentally different from that which has emerged since the rise of modern text criticism in the nineteenth century.

My understanding of (the real) Turretin’s Bibliology has been influenced by reading the views of historical theologian Richard A. Muller, especially as expressed in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (Baker, 1993). Muller would be considered among the most preeminent contemporary scholars of Reformation and post-Reformation theology. I highly commend this book as must reading to those who are interested in this topic.

What does Muller say in this work about the question of how Turretin and other post-reformation dogmatic theologians approached the text of Scripture?

Here are a few excerpts from Muller (p. 433):

By “original and authentic” text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no person can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions…. It is important to note that the Reformed orthodox insistence on the identification of the Hebrew and Greek texts as alone authentic does not demand direct reference to the autographa in those languages; the “original and authentic text” of Scripture means, beyond the autograph copies, the legitimate tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa.

Footnote 165 for the statement above on p. 433:

Cf. Turretin, Inst. theol., II.xi.3-4, with Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theol., I.ii.10. A rather sharp contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox statements concerning the autographa and the views of Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield. This issue must be raised because of the tendency to confuse these two views…. The point made by Hodge and Warfield is a logical trap, a rhetorical flourish, a conundrum designed to confound the critics—who can only prove their case for genuine errancy by recourse to a text they do not (and surely cannot) have….

Muller continues on p. 434:

The orthodox discussion of autographa and apographa was designed, therefore, to point toward continuity of text-tradition between the original authors and the present day texts…. For them the autographa were not a concrete point of regress for the future critical examination of the text but rather a touchstone employed in gaining a proper perspective on current textual problems…. The orthodox tended to address issues of infallibility of Scripture in matters of faith and practice from an entirely different vantage point.

And on p. 435:

Even so Turretin and other high and later orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa…. The orthodox do, of course, assume that the text is free of substantive error and, typically, view textual problems as of scribal origin, but they mount their argument for authenticity and infallibility without recourse to a logical device like that employed by Hodge and Warfield.

Muller’s conclusion is clear: The Protestant orthodox view of the text of Scripture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was NOT equivalent to the modern reconstructionist (restorationist) view of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as popularized among evangelicals by Hodges and Warfield. This distinction was not due to differences in the amount of data each had but to a fundamental difference in intellectual (theological) outlook. TF is, then, in error when he states that (the real) Turretin embraced the same modern textual methodology as JW. According to Muller, this would be an example of “the tendency to confuse these two views” (p. 433, n. 165).

The small but growing number of those who embrace the traditional text (the MT of the Hebrew OT and the TR of the Greek NT), driven by confessional considerations, are simply saying that they prefer the approach of Calvin, Owen, the 1689 framers, and Turretin to that of Metzger, Piper, and White.


Friday, May 12, 2017

The Vision (5.12.17): Remember Now Thy Creator

Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 2017.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 12:1-7.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draws nigh, when thou shalt say, I have not pleasure in them (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

Solomon begins, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth….”

The OT scholar John Currid points out that the verb “remember” here does not simply mean “to recall something or to bring something to memory,” but “it actually bears the idea of commitment that results in action” (Ecclesiastes, pp. 149-150). So, it might be rendered, “Serve now thy Creator,” or “Commit yourself now to thy Creator.”

Some men are always thinking about how they might one day trust the Lord or how they might one day serve the Lord, but they never get around to doing it. This is a call for urgency. Don’t wait any longer!

There is something else that stands out here about the language. The noun “Creator” comes from the Hebrew verb to create (see Gen 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”). Though it is translated in the singular here, it is actually a plural noun, so it might be literally rendered, “Remember now thy Creators in the days of thy youth.” In this way, the language recalls Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” The liberal scholars said this means the ancient Jews were not pure monotheists. They were, at best, henotheists. But Christians said, No. This is the triune God of the Bible. This is the one God in three persons.

The Bible can affirm with no contradiction that creation is an act of all three persons of the Godhead. The Father is the creator (Gen 1:1). The Son is the creator (John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:1). The Spirit is the creator (Gen 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30). Creation is the work of a glorious triune God. Creator is one of his most magnificent titles.

It is not just that God made the first man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into him, so that he became a living soul (Gen 2:7) or that he made the first woman from man’s rib (Gen 2:22), but that he also creates every man and every woman who has ever lived: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14).

Will you remember your Creator while you are in the strength of your youth, in the prime of your life? Some are always putting off such a commitment. Some think: Youth is for sowing wild oats; religion is for old folks. Bridges cites an “ungodly adage” heard in his day: “Youth for pleasure—age for business—old age for religion,” which he interprets as, “Let the devil have the prime, and God the dregs” (Ecclesiastes, p. 285). Some simply procrastinate, putting off to tomorrow what should be done today.

Bridges, however, observes: “Every day is lost that is not spent for him. Let not the deceiver cheat us out of all time, by cheating us of the present time” (p. 287).

Will we remember now our Creator while we have the strength and vigor to do so?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: Stanley E. Porter's "How We Got the New Testament"

I have posted my review of Stanley E. Porter, How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2013) which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (January 2017): 306-310 (read it here). I've also posted a spoken word version of the review (listen here).


Friday, May 05, 2017

Word Magazine # 75: James White Versus Francis Turretin

I have posted WM # 75 James White Versus Francis Turretin to (listen here). In this episode I review JW’s May 3 issue of the Dividing Line: Thoughts on the King James, TR, Ecclesiastical text movement, etc. (watch it here or listen here) in which he interacts with Robert Truelove’s April 28 video: James White & the Received Text (watch it here).

I cover five points in the review:

1.    JW typically confuses the TR and Majority text position with KJV-Onlyism. Furthermore, he criticizes KJV-Onlyism for all the wrong reason.

I note that the problem with KJV-Onlyism is not, as JW argues, that the KJV was translated from 1604-11 and is, therefore, outdated, but that KJV-Onlyism is inconsistent with confessional Christianity’s assertion that the Bible was immediately inspired in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) and not in an English translation.

2.    JW wrongly describes Scrivener’s edition of the Greek NT as “not a real Greek NT” since it represents an edition of the TR which underlies the KJV.

3.    JW rejects the TR and Majority text positions on the basis of the fact that this is not, at present, the position taught “in every major” Reformed seminary” or by “leading scholars.”

4.    JW asserts that Protestant scholastics, like Francis Turretin, were just “wrong” when they defended the traditional text of the Bible, including texts like the traditional rendering of 1 Corinthians 15:47, the ending of Mark, the pericope adulterae, and the comma Johanneum.

I point out that Turretin likely was not denying the existence of textual variants but affirming that the traditional text was indeed found in all “faithful,” “received,” or “orthodox” copies of the Bible. See my upcoming article in PRJ “John Calvin and Text Criticism.”

5.    JW argues that p75 and Vaticanus (B) were “the text of the early church” and were more reliable than the text which was affirmed in the Reformation era.

I point out that although the TR was not printed until the Reformation era, it was based on mss. with antiquity equal to that of p75 and B. In addition, the line represented by p75 and B came to an end in the 500s and ceased to be copied, not appearing again till revived in the 1800s.

JW and other Reformed evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text have a rather difficult problem on their hands. They express admiration for the Protestant fathers (like Turretin—or Calvin, Owen, the framers of the 1689 confession, etc.) then are rather embarrassed to discover that these men defended the traditional text out of conviction and not, as they too often assume, out of ignorance.

Lastly, I make reference to my sermon last Sunday on the Trinity based on chapter two, paragraph three of the 1689 confession, noting not only the use of 1 John 5:7 there as a leading prooftext for the Trinity but also how the 1689 Baptist Confession refers to the second person of the Godhead as “the Word or the Son,” making specific and explicit use of the comma Johanneum in the articulation of the Trinity (cf. chapter two, paragraph three in the 1689 with the WCF and the Savoy here). This represents a significant problem for those who affirm the 1689 confession but reject the comma.


The Vision (5.5.17): The Vanity of Youth

Image: Rose, North Garden, Virginia, May 2017

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 11:7-10.

Ecclesiastes 11: 9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Solomon begins, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth….” (v. 9a). How are we rightly to divide or understand this? Some have suggested that Solomon was being sarcastic here: You want to act like a young fool, lacking seriousness, following the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes? Go ahead and see what ruin you come to!

Others, however, have argued that Solomon is not being sarcastic here but genuinely sincere. John Currid observes:

I don’t agree with that [sarcastic] interpretation. It appears that Solomon realizes that the days of youth are high-spirited and active. Days of youth are ones of great liveliness, adventure, and discovery. This is good, and as it should be (Ecclesiastes, p. 144).

One of the great blessing of being a parent is being able to be around your children in their youth, seeing their energy, watching their learning, observing their development. Young people should rejoice in their youth.

That being said, Solomon adds: “but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”

Enjoy the liveliness and the thrills and the excitement of youth, but remember that there is a God in heaven and one day he will be your Judge (see Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:27). This is not meant to frighten the hearer, but it is meant to put within him a healthy and respectful fear of God.

We all have a sinful tendency to be men-pleasers. That is a particular snare for the young, who want to be accepted and approved by their peers, and so risk becoming “a companion of fools” (Prov 13:20). We should fear God, however, rather than men.

Solomon proceeds to deliver two particular admonitions in v. 10:

First: “Therefore, remove sorrow from your heart.” I think this is an admonition or warning to the Christian youth to avoid those things in your life that will bring regret. Listen to mature Christians. Learn from their testimonies.

Second: “and put away evil from thy flesh.” A godly young person is to be a good steward of his spiritual life and a good steward of his body. Here is a verse that every Christian youth might well consider:

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

And here is another that I heard taught when I was a college student, that has always stuck with me:

Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word (KJV)

Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word (NASB)

Imagine your life as like a river. If that river stays within its boundaries, and is channeled and directed in its proper course, it brings much good. But if it becomes swollen and overflows its bounds it can bring much harm and grief.

There are few things more attractive and winsome to see than a young person who loves Christ with all his heart, who, by God’s grace, exercises godly self-control, and who follows after righteousness, faith, charity, and peace. Do you want to stand out? Do you want to be different from the crowd? Do you want to avoid being just another cookie-cutter young person? Then live for Christ. It will make all the difference in the world.

Solomon ends the passage with this sober statement: “For childhood and youth are vanity” (cf. the ending in v. 8). Indeed, apart from Christ all the wonderful and exciting and joyful and hopeful things about being in the springtime of your life are meaningless.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Book Review: The Church Impotent

I'm still uploading some print and audio versions of articles and reviews.

I have posted my review of Leon J. Podles, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Spence, 1999), which appeared in Faith & Mission, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Spring 2001): 115-117 (read it here). I also posted an audio version of the review (listen here).

I also posted my review of Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (Oxford, 2013), which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1 (January 2017): 293-296 (read it here). I posted an audio version of this review in 2015 (listen to it here).