Friday, November 30, 2018

The Vision (11.30.18): The Practical Syllogism

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 15:8-15.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (John 15:8).

Here is a simple Biblical test of assurance: Am I bearing spiritual fruit so that the Father is glorified in me? If I am bearing this fruit and the Father is glorified in me, then I give evidence that I am truly his disciple.

Some of the Reformation and Puritan Fathers used verses like this in discussions related to assurance of salvation: How do I know that I’m a Christian?

They developed what is known as the syllogismus practicus or “practical syllogism,” based on the logical deduction that a conclusion could be drawn from an action (see Joel R. Beeke, The Quest for Full Assurance [Banner of Truth, 1999]). So, the practical syllogism would go something like this:

Major premise: Only those who do x are saved.
Minor premise: I do x.
Conclusion: Therefore, I am saved.

Alongside this practical syllogism, some also developed what was called the “mystical syllogism”:

Major premise: Those who are saved have an inward confirmation of their salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Minor premise: I have this inward work confirmation of the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion: Therefore, I am saved.

We see here in this verse and in some of the other teachings in these upper room discourses the Biblical basis for the practical syllogism. But we need to be careful, because we know that such tests can be wrongly used to convey false assurance (cf. Matt 7:21-23). One can say, I must be a Christian, because I pray, I attend services, I read the Bible, I serve others, etc. And it can all be a load of false assurance and works righteousness.

The thing that cannot be overlooked is the stress on abiding in Christ. How do we know we are truly in Christ? We abide or remain in him, because without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 24:13: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Text Note: Luke 9:55-56

Image: NA 28 apparatus for Luke 9:50-58

The issue:

Translations based on the TR read as follows (disputed text underlined):

KJV Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

Compare translations based on the modern critical text:

ESV Luke 9:55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

The question: Is the passage found in the traditional text authentic, or is it spurious?

External evidence:

First: The following mss. and versions are listed in support of the traditional reading in the NA28:

Greek mss: K Γ Θ family 1 family 13 (579) 700* 2452 pm [permulti, divided reading in the Majority Text];

Versions: Old Latin, Clementine Vulgate, Wordsworth Vulgate, (Curetonian Syriac), (Peshitta Syriac), Syriac Harklean, Bohairic Coptic

Second: A shorter variant is also listed which reads: “and he said, you do not know what spirit you are [kai eipen ouk oidate poiou pneumatos este].” It is found only in codex D and in the Church Father Epiphanius of Constantia (d. 403). Note: NA26 also lists Marcion (c. II century) as a support for this reading but this mention is omitted in NA27 and NA28.

At the least, this shorter version of the variant provides evidence for at least part of the variant’s antiquity, with D dated to c. V century.

Internal evidence:

In his Textual Commentary (second edition, see pp. 124-125), Metzger connects the variant in Luke 9:55-56 with one that precedes in v. 54. In v. 54 the phrase “even as Elijah did” is omitted in the modern critical text but supported in the Majority text.

Metzger admits that the material omitted in the modern critical text in Luke 9:54, 55-56 “had fairly wide circulation in parts of the ancient church.” The absence of the disputed variant in v. 54 from “early witnesses’ like the heavyweight uncials Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (though it is present in Alexandrinus), according to Metzger, “suggests that they are glosses derived from some extraneous source, written or oral.” Metzger provides no further support or explanation for this conjecture.

Regarding the variants in vv. 55-56, Metzger adds that they “are somewhat less well attested than the additions to v. 54.” He adds, “The addition to v. 56 echoes Lk 19.10 (cf. Jn 3.17).” Compare:

KJV Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

KJV John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

In the end, Metzger gives the modern critical text reading at v. 54 a {B} reading and at vv. 55-56 an {A} reading.


There were clearly some disputes that emerged over the proper text of Luke 9:54-56.

The case for the modern critical text reading:

The modern critical text assumes that the earliest text omitted the variants that emerged as the consensus in the Majority text (there are some variations in the Majority text, but Pickering suggests that the variants are included, with some minor variations, in c. 75% of the extant mss.). This reflects the canon that the “shorter reading” is to be preferred.

On external evidence, it appeals to the omission of the variant in some early mss. which they favor, like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

On internal evidence, Metzger suggests that the addition to v. 56 is a harmonization with Luke 19:10 and John 3:17.

The case for the traditional text reading:

Must we necessarily assume that the shorter reading is authentic? Can we imagine any reasons why these variants might have been omitted for either unintentional (scribal errors) or intentional (theological) reasons?

The 1881 commentary on Luke by F. Godet sheds some light on possible theological disputes that might have occurred over Luke 9:54-56 (see pp. 288-290).

Regarding the omission of “even as Elijah did” in v. 54, Godet notes: “Perhaps this addition was meant extenuate the fault of the disciples; but it may also have been left out to prevent the rebuke of Jesus from falling on the prophet, or because the Gnostics employed this passage against the authority of the OT (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iv.23).”

Regarding the omission in vv. 55-56 Godet suggests “it is probable that the cause of the omission is nothing more else than the confounding of the words” in these verses. One possibility is that a scribe confused the “and he said [kai eipen]” of v. 55 with the “and they went [kai eporouthēsan].”

Godet is not a hard and fast TR advocate. He also entertains the possibility of “glosses” that might have been introduced that led later copyists to take “the liberty of making arbitrary corrections” in the passage, adding that “the suspicion of Gnostic interpolation may have equally contributed to the same result.”

Certainly, we can see how this passage might have resulted in theological dispute. Perhaps some deemed the words of Christ to the disciples to be too harsh. On the other hand, perhaps some thought the words of Christ to be too lenient (i.e., that he came not to destroy but to save).

Whereas modern scholars see the parallels with Luke 10:19 and John 3:17 as textual harmonization, the traditional might only see a consistent and accurate overlap of the teaching of Christ faithfully preserved among the various Gospels.

When it comes to external evidence, even Metzger must admit that the traditional reading “had fairly wide circulation in parts of the ancient church.” It was the dominant reading of the early versions (Old Latin, Syriac, Coptic).
In the end, this was the reading that prevailed in the Majority of Greek mss. and was incorporated into the printed TR text.


There are plausible explanations for the intentional or unintentional omission of the disputed passage in Luke 9:55-56.

What is at stake here? The Majority tradition holds that this is an authentic dominical saying of the Lord Jesus Christ. The modern critical text view holds that this passage is spurious and that it was wrongly preserved in those texts and translations which contain it. But what if the modern view is wrong? What if this is an authentic and original part of Luke’s Gospel? If this is true, we are rejecting the words of Christ.

I see no prevailing reason to abandon the traditional text here.


Friday, November 23, 2018

The Vision (11.23.18): The purging of the fruitful branch

Image: Red berries, North Garden, Virginia, November 2108

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 15:1-7.

John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Christ declares himself in v. 1 to be the true vine. In v. 2 there follows both a warning and a promise.

The warning: The branch that does not bear fruit is taken away (v. 2a). It is removed. This relates to the fruitless unbeliever who is removed from Christ. Later, in v. 6 Christ will speak of the man not abiding in him as being “cast forth as a branch,” becoming “withered,” and then being cast into the fire to be burned.

The promise: Next he addresses the fruitful branch. We might have preferred for Christ to have said that this branch was simply left alone. Instead, Christ says that the branch that bears fruit is purged (kathairo: cleansed or pruned), so that it becomes even more fruitful. This refers to the believer. He is not removed from Christ, but he goes through a process of cultivation. This refers to the process of progressive sanctification. It often involves things that are painful for a season: pruning, taking away, cleansing.

Calvin says this shows that believers need “incessant culture, that they may be prevented from degenerating; and that they produce nothing good, unless God continually apply his hand; for it will not be enough to have been once made partakers of adoption, if God does not continue the work of his grace in us.”

May the Lord be pleased to continue his work of sanctification in us that we might bear fruit for him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, November 17, 2018

WM 109: Gurry on the Quiet Renaissance in NT Text Criticism

Image: Build-a-Bear workshop? You'll have to listen to this episode to get it.

I have uploaded WM 109: Gurry on the Quiet Renaissance in NT Text Criticism (listen here).

In this episode I offer a reading and some off-the-cuff commentary of a recent article by Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary on "The Quiet Renaissance in Textual Criticism" in Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education 2.3 (2018): 40-42 (find a pdf of the article here).

In this episode, I make reference to several past WMs. Here are some links:

On the "newest" method of modern text criticism:

On the two most controversial "updates" to the critical text:

On the Greek New Testament produced by Tyndale House:


Friday, November 16, 2018

The Vision (11.16.18): Martin Luther on the Psalms as "a little Bible"

At the end of October, we marked the five hundred and first anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg (October 31, 1517), thus igniting the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s rediscovery of the Biblical doctrine of salvation came not only from his study of New Testament books like Romans and Galatians, but also from his study of the Psalms. Luther described the book of Psalms (the Psalter) as “a little Bible.” He saw what previous generations of Christians stretching back to the apostles has also discovered: The Psalms speak of Christ. Luther wrote:
The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason than this: it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly—and pictures his kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom—that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible. It is really a fine enchiridion or handbook. I fact, I have a notion that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble himself to compile a short Bible and book of examples of all Christendom or all saints, so that anyone who could not read the whole Bible [could] have here anyway almost an entire summary of it, comprised in one little book (as cited in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers, p. 186).
May we continue to read, pray, preach, and sing this “little Bible” of the Psalter so that we might learn more of Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, November 10, 2018

WM 108: Review Modern English Version (MEV) Bible

I have posted WM 108: Review: Modern English Version Bible (MEV) (listen to the audio here).

In this episode I share a draft of a written review of the Modern English Version (MEV):

Here is the opening to the review, the headings, and the concluding observations:

James F. Linzey, Ed., The Holy BibleModern English Version (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, 2014): 625 pp.

The Modern English Version (MEV) is yet another contemporary English translation of the Bible. This version is distinct, however, for several reasons. First, and most importantly, it is a translation based on the traditional original language texts of the Christian Scriptures (the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Greek Textus Receptus of the New Testament), rather than the modern critical texts, which form the basis for most modern vernacular translations. Second, it also aims to be an “updating” of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, the venerable English translation that was based on these same traditional original language texts.

The history and perspective of the MEV

MEV layout, design, and formatting

The MEV and the text of Scripture

The MEV and the translation of Scripture

Concluding observations:

Though the MEV is “yet another contemporary English translation of the Bible,” its differences from other modern translations are significant. This is the first widely available modern translation since the New King James Version (completed 1982) which aims to follow the traditional original language texts and emulate the translation style and wording of the KJV. It is, in fact, similar in many ways to the NKJV and thus shares in some of its strengths and weaknesses.

The MEV, no doubt, reflects the ongoing popularity of the KJV in the English-speaking world and the respect it continues to enjoy among evangelical Christians despite decades of the marketing of “new and improved” translations based on the modern critical text.   The MEV could easily be read and used in the pew in churches that ordinarily use the KJV or NKJV. It might even enhance and further the appreciation of the Tyndale/King James Version tradition. For these reasons it is a distinctive and even refreshing addition to a crowded Bible market.


Friday, November 09, 2018

The Vision (11.9.18): Calvin on the Comforter as "not a builder of new revelations"

Image: Morning worship at the Lynchburg Reformed Baptist Mission (11.4.18)

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).

Christ told his disciples that one of the works of the Holy Spirit would be to bring his words to the remembrance of his disciples. Indeed, the Spirit inspired the apostles and evangelists to write not only the Gospels but also the other NT writings, infallibly recording the words of Christ, and completing the canon of the Christian Scriptures. We now have the word written and need not crave or expect the continuation of extra-ordinary experiences. Scripture is sufficient.

Here is what Calvin had to say about the cessation of extra-ordinary experiences and the work of the Spirit in this age:

Hence it follows that he [the Comforter] will not be a builder of new revelations. By this single word we may refute all the inventions which Satan has brought into the Church from the beginning, under the pretense of the Spirit. Mahomet and the Pope agree in holding this as a principle of their religion, that Scripture does not contain a perfection of doctrine, but that something loftier has been revealed by the Spirit. From the same point the Anabaptists and Libertines, in our time, have drawn their absurd notions. But the spirit that introduces any doctrine of invention apart from the Gospel is a deceiving spirit, and not the Spirit of Christ.

Let us trust and be content with the work of the Spirit through the Word in this age.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, November 08, 2018

WM 107: Majority Text and TR; Text Note: John 14:15

I have posted WM 107: Majority Text and TR; Text Note: John 14:15 (listen here).

The second part of this episode is a text note on John 14:15. For details on content you can look at this blog post.

In the first part, I respond to some recent questions, including one about the differences between the Majority Text and the TR. Here are my notes on those questions:

Introduction: Responding to recent questions:

After the last WM, I received a couple of questions from listeners:

Question one: On the TR and the Majority Text:


I enjoyed your podcast where you reviewed Mr Plummer’s critique of the traditional text which underlies the KJV. Your comments were very helpful in demonstrating the history of the textual differences between the traditional text and the modern critical text.

Would you please consider doing a podcast which explains the differences between the traditional text and the newer majority text view? In particular the texts by Robison-Pierpont and Farnstad-Hodges. I am not a scholar, and my rudimentary understanding is that the majority text position is one which tries to advocate for a text which was providentially preserved, and that in most cases it supports the received text, with a few exceptions, most notably the book of Revelation.

If you could do a podcast about this issue it would be greatly appreciated.

Response: I have addressed this topic in several past episodes of WM but will consider addressing it in greater depths in a future episode. For now, we can say that the Majority and TR are very close to one another, but they also differ from one another and not just in the book of Revelation.

The most common difference is that the TR includes a verse or part of a verse that the Majority Text excludes. Examples:

Acts 8:37
Acts 9:5b-6a 
1 John 5:7b-8a

But there are also cases where the Majority includes material not appearing in the TR. Example:

Revelation 21:21:

TR: “with you all”

Majority: “with all the saints”

And cases where words are placed in a different order. Example:

Revelation 22:13:

TR: “the beginning and the end, the first and the last”

Majority: “the first and the last, the beginning and the end”

In other cases, the Majority text has a different arrangement of verses than in the TR. See:

Romans 16:25-27

The Majority text has vv. 25-27 after Romans 14:23.

In still others, the Majority text provides a different reading. Examples:

Revelation 16:5:

TR: “the one who is and who was and who is to be” [NKJV]

Majority: “the One who is and who was, the holy One” (Pickering)

Revelation 22:19:

TR: book of life

Majority: tree of life

To trace differences between the TR, Majority text, and modern critical text, I suggest flowing the textual notes in the NKJV.

Question 2: On a RB TR Study Bible:

Pastor Jeff, Do you know if there will ever be a Reformed Baptist TR Study Bible. Maybe you and your Keach Conference Pastor friends could do it.

Response: Sounds like a great idea, but I’m not sure what the market would be for this. If funding/opportunity allowed, I’d be glad to work on it.


Text Note: John 14:15

The issue:

John 14:15 is an important instruction which Christ gives to Philip and the other disciples in the upper room.

In the KJV (following the traditional text), the verse is rendered as follows:

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

In the Greek text, the verse contains a slight textual variant in the apodosis, regarding the verb téreo “to keep.” In the traditional text, as reflected in the KJV, it is an imperative or command: keep my commandments (cf. NKJV, MEV).

In translations based on the modern critical text, however, the verb is in the future tense. Here is the ESV:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The variation here is slight, but not insignificant. What did Christ say (cf. John 14:26)?

External evidence:

John 14:15 is a third class conditional [probably future sentence] sentence, with the protasis introduced by ean and “you love” in the subjunctive. The apodosis in such constructions can appear in any mood.

According to the NA 28 apparatus there are three primary variations here (given in reverse order from NA 28):

First, there is the reading taken by the modern critical text:

térésete, the future active indicative, second person plural: you will keep

It is supported by the codices B, l, Psi, as well as by the Coptic and by the Church Father Epiphanius of Constantia (d. 403).

Second, there is minority variation:

téréséte, the aorist active subjunctive, second person plural: you should keep

This variation is found in p66, Sinaiticus, 060, 33, and 579

Finally, there is the reading found in the Majority of Greek mss. and included in the TR:

térésate, the aorist active imperative, second person plural: keep

This reading is supported by A, D, K, Q, W, Gamma, Delta, Theta, family 1, family 13, 565, 700, 892, 1241, 1424, Lectionary 844, and the majority of the remaining extant mss. of this verse.

So, the difference comes down to a single letter: Is it epsilon (making the verb a future active indicative), eta (making the verb an aorist active subjunctive), or an alpha (making the verb an aorist active imperative). The majority reflects a consensus on the latter, while modern reconstructionists prefer the former.

Notice also that here is a place where three of the earliest uncials all have different readings: Alexandrinus: traditional; Vaticanus: modern; Sinaiticus: minority variation.

Internal evidence:

What prompted modern text critics to depart from the traditional text?

Metzger’s Textual Commentary (second ed.), gives the modern text only a {C} reading (see p. 208). He relays that the majority of “the Committee” preferred the future tense reading, rather than the imperative, though conceding the latter is “rather well supported.” He also suggests that the modern text reading is “perhaps indirectly supported by witnesses that read the aorist subjective.” The only specific internal argument put forward is that the traditional reading, in Metzger’s opinion, “accords less well with erótésó in the following verse.” See v. 16: “And I will pray [ask] the Father and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”

Questions: Could one not suggest, however, that the modern reading reflects an attempt to smooth out the text by making it agree with the future tenses in v. 16? Would this not make the imperative reading in the traditional text a more difficult, and thus by the canons of modern text criticism, a preferred reading? Is this an example of inconsistent application of those canons and a rather arbitrary decision to depart from the traditional text? Could the variants from the traditional text possibly be explained simply as an unintentional scribal blunder in the copying of a single letter?


This is a minor variation, compared to several much more significant variations elsewhere in the NT. It is not, however, without significance. What did the Lord Jesus say? Have his words been faithfully preserved? Did he issue a command to his disciples to obey his commandments?

The traditional reading is grammatically fitting and, as even Metzger concedes, “rather well supported” by external evidence. The internal evidence against the traditional text is weak. This was the reading embraced by the majority of Greek mss. I see no compelling reason to abandon it.


Saturday, November 03, 2018

WM 106: Plummer on the KJV

After a hiatus of several weeks, I have posted a new Word Magazine: WM 106: Plummer on the KJV (listen here).  A regular listener suggested a review of this video in the "Honest Answers" series from the Southern Baptist Seminary, featuring NT Professor Dr. Robert Plummer, on the topic: "Is the King James Version of the Bible the most accurate translation?"

Unsurprisingly, Plummer not only rejects the KJV but also rejects the traditional text which under girds it. As happens too frequently among modern translation and text advocates, he lumps in defenders of the traditional text with the bogeyman of KJV-Onlyism. He suggests that the Greek text of the NT is based on the Byzantine text, rather than the Textus Receptus. Finally, he perpetuates the myth of Erasmus' "rash wager" leading to the insertion of the Comma Johanneum into the third edition of his Greek NT.

Some resources mentioned in this episode:

My blog post on WM 54: The Comma Johanneum and the Papyri, which points out that we actually have no papyri evidence pro or con on the originality of the CJ. This dulls the argument against the CJ based on the Greek manuscript evidence.

My article "Erasmus Anecdotes" from the Puritan Reformed Journal (January 2017), which demonstrates that the "rash wager" anecdote is a modern scholarly legend which began in the nineteenth century in order to undermine the Textus Receptus and which continues to be uncritically perpetuated by scholars today.

Grantley McDonald's Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge Press, 2016) , based on his 2011 dissertation at the University of Leiden, which explores the history of early modern controversy over the CJ. McDonald does not believe that the CJ is original, but his work (especially his dissertation) provides the most up to date analysis of the evidence relating to this disputed text.


Friday, November 02, 2018

The Vision (11.2.18): The Ministry of the Comforter

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 14:22-27.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).

Christ promises his disciples that the Spirit will be sent by the Father in his name (v. 26). Christians in East and West have differed over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone (the East) or from the Father and the Son (West).

This verse is very important for teaching us about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in “this present evil world” (as Paul names it in Gal 1:4) and also about the inspiration of the Scriptures.

First, Christ promises the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things.

The Spirit is the primary Teacher of the church. The Spirit is the primary Preacher of the church. He is the great Instructor, Exhorter, Proclaimer, who stands behind every ordinary officer.

Calvin calls the Spirit “the inward Teacher,” noting that “outward preaching will be vain and useless, if it be not accompanied by the teaching of the Spirit.” He explains:

God has therefore two ways of teaching; for first, he sounds in our ears by the mouth of men; and secondly, he addresses us inwardly by his Spirit; and he does this either at the same moment, or at different times, as he thinks fit.

Second, Christ promises the apostles that the Spirit will bring to their remembrance all the things that Christ had said unto them.

This is key to understanding the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. The apostles would be the men entrusted with the writing down of the Gospels (cf. “the apostles’ doctrine” in Acts 2:42). They recorded the commandments of Jesus, which we must obey. Paul says that all scripture is given “by inspiration of God” (1 Tim 3:16). Peter says that the “holy men of God” who wrote the Scriptures were “moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

The Bible is not a book that can be explained merely on naturalistic terms. How could the evangelists perfectly record all the things that Christ said? Because the Holy Spirit was bringing this into the remembrance of the inspired penmen. The Bible is a supernatural work.

The Lord has not left us comfortless in this age. He has sent to us the Comforter to teach us and to bring to our remembrance the words of Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle