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.



Noah W said...

Dr. Riddle,

I'm a bit fuzzy on Muller's terminology here. Perhaps you can help me out.

In the first quote (p. 433) Dr. Muller seems to be using "autographa" to refer to manuscripts of the NT in the authors' handwriting (or that of their amanuensis) while the "apographa" refers simply to all Greek and Hebrew copies of the autographa.

Have I got that right? Also, is this autographa/apographa distinction standard in textual critical literature?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Noah, Yes and Yes. Autographa (autographs) refers to the original writings (now lost) and apographa (copies) to the existing, extant copies. This is standard terminology. JTR

Noah W said...

Thank you. Couple follow-up questions:

(1) As you understand it, then, inerrancy extends to the autographa but not the apographa, correct?

(2) Would a recently discovered manuscript like Codex Sinaiticus be a member of the apographa?

Thanks for bearing with my ignorance here.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Noah, thanks for the comment. Follow ups:

1. On inerrancy, see my most recent post on this topic. As indicated there, the idea of inerrant autographs versus errant apographs did not develop until the 19th century. I prefer to use the confessional term "infallible" to describe the apographs which accurately reflect the autographs, not because I believe there is any error in Scripture (to borrow the language of the New Hampshire Confession, it is "truth without any mixture of error") but because I want to affirm their total trustworthiness without adopting the scheme of hypothetically reconstructed autographa.

2. By definition aleph is a copy (an apograph) but it is one that diverges from the traditional text which prevailed and was essentially a "dead-end" line of transmission till revived in the 19th century. BTW, it is also notoriously riddled with copyist blunders.


Noah W said...

Thank you for your help and patience, Dr. Riddle. This is helpful.

I'm sure I will have more questions when I take the course in textual criticism from PRTS this fall. I would love to buy you a coffee sometime so we can talk in a lot more detail.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Ok Noah, thanks. Yes, let's do the coffee sometime. Let me know if you're in Virginia. Look forward to hearing about your experiences in the text class at PRTS. JTR