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.



Mad Jack said...

I plowed through this. I don't really understand it all that well, but lately there seems to be a lot of things I don't understand.

For instance, I understand (so to speak) that my dear mother is in Heaven, and that I wouldn't have her back in this lousy world for anything, but I still miss her. I understand that I should have attended church services last Sunday, and did not because the inevitable Mother's Day service was a bit much for me. So I stayed at home.

Most days I thank the Lord for the comfortable, excellent life He has provided for me, and which I've done nothing to deserve; other days I forget to thank him, and I'm sorry about that.

What else could I be doing?

And, by the way, I enjoy reading your blog. It's valuable to me, and I suspect to others as well. Please keep up the good work!

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

MJ, thanks for the comment. You make a good point about the gap between intellectual and experiential understanding. I think many of the Lord's people have an immediate, intuitive reaction against the "science" of text criticism, because they perceive a threat to the authority and integrity of Scripture.

Thanks also for sharing about grieving the loss of your mother. My mother is also gone. Yes, I've seen evangelical services on Mother's Day that have not been Christ-centered. You might be interested to know that at CRBC last Sunday I preached on the ending of Ecclesiastes (am) and God's decrees (pm) so we did not focus on the Hallmark holiday. Still my children and I did celebrate by honoring my wife (their mom).

Thanks for reading the blog and checking in from time to time. Nice to know folk are reading and benefiting. JTR