Friday, January 18, 2019

The Vision (1.18.19): Christ's Posture in Prayer

Image: North Garden, Virginia, January 18, 2019
Note: Devotion taken from sermon on John 17:1-5 from 12/30/18.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee (John 17:1).
We learn about fitting prayer through Christ’s actions and example as he begins his High Priestly Prayer (John 17).
His prayer was one spoken aloud: “These words spake Jesus….” There is a place for quiet prayer, for meditation, for speaking from the heart for only God to hear, but there is also a place for spoken prayer. Prayer is preeminently vertical, but when spoken aloud it is also horizontal, meant to exhort and encourage others. Christ spoke in this prayer to the Father, but he spoke also to his disciples.
And he “lifted up his eyes to heaven.” We usually think of prayer with eyes closed and head bowed, but Christ prayed with his eyes open and his head uplifted to the Father. Scripture gives warrant for many ways to express prayer. In Luke 18:13 Jesus says that the publican when he prayed, “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven.” In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul speaks of men praying everywhere “lifting up holy hands.”
Calvin notes that Christ’s posture indicates “an uncommon ardor and vehemence.” He adds that it was fitting for Christ to pray in this manner “for he had nothing about him of which he ought to be ashamed.”
Calvin also says that when we pray we should not be so much concerned with the “outward gesture” as “the inward feeling” which directs “the eyes, the hands, the tongue, and everything about us.”
Let us learn from Christ’s example in prayer, as in all things.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Note: Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God

T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Eerdmans, 1952; Wipf and Stock reprint, 2015): 128 pp.

This essay consists of two parts. Part One is on “The Knowledge of the Creator” and Part Two on “The Knowledge of the Redeemer.” This reflects the design of the opening two books of the Institutes, since “The first books deals with the knowledge of the Creator; the second with the Knowledge of the Redeemer” (2). For Parker, the Institutes is the “chief source for our understanding Calvin’s doctrine of the Knowledge of God” (3).

Some notes from Part One: The Knowledge of the Creator:

Parker begins by contrasting the beginnings of Calvin’s Institutes and Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica and his famous five proofs for the existence of God.

“Calvin, however, presupposes the existence of God, on the very ground, the validity of which St. Thomas denies, that men have an innate knowledge of the existence of God” (7).

For Calvin all men have a sensus divinitas. “All men, even atheists, the grossly wicked and the complacent bourgeois, know that there is a God” (8). Thus, he does not need to argue for God’s existence.

“The problem of the Knowledge of God is the problem of revelation” (13).

God reveals himself in the opera Dei, the works of God, “by which Calvin means all the creative and providential activity of God” (14).

Parker: “We shall be disappointed if we look for disparagement of man in the pages of Calvin” (16).

“For Calvin the creation has no meaning in itself, apart from the Creator” (17).

“The universe is a mirror in which is to be seen the effigies Dei, the portrait of God…. Thus, in creating the universe God made it a representation of himself” (18).

“For Calvin, history—public and private—is not a confused miscellany of events and actions” (21).

“Man in his created state of purity was capable of the knowledge of God…. But such a soul and mind ceased when Adam fell” (27).

“When the seed of religion is cherished man is not led by it to the true worship of God, but into superstition or idolatry…. In this lies the abuse of the sensus divinitatis” (31).

“Although the universe does show forth God’s glory, man is too blind to see it” (35).

Thus the oracula Dei (as Calvin was fond of calling the Scriptures) are necessary to the understanding of the opera Dei” (39).

“Calvin tells us, on the basis of the Biblical witness, that the faculty of perceiving the Creator in His works is not merely impaired, but lost; that man is not suffering from bad eyesight, but from total blindness” (39).

Parker says Calvin’s “Rational Proofs to Confirm Belief in the Scriptures” (Inst. 1.8) “collectively constitute a blemish on Calvin’s doctrine of the Word of God which has had for its progeny the busyness of fundamentalists to prove the truth of the bible to the neglect of discovering and preaching the Truth of the Bible” (43)!

Parker cites Peter Barth calling the Institutes “Calvin’s forefinger, pointing to the Scriptures” (45).

“Therefore, he regards the Scriptures as a school, the Holy Spirit as a schoolmaster, and believers as the pupils” (46-47).

“The Scripture is a thread, guiding us though the labyrinth, the enigma of the universe in which we live” (48).

“The oracula Dei both confirm the opera Dei and in turn are confirmed by them” (51).

Some notes from Part Two: The Knowledge of the Redeemer:

Parker begins with Calvin’s “perfectly orthodox” view of the Trinity from the first edition of the Institutes (61).

He also notes that “Calvin’s knowledge of patristic theology was not extensive” (61) and that “new quotations from the Fathers” were “being continually added” to succeeding editions of the Institutes (62). The 1536 edition “is not remarkable for its dependence on the past. Only 5 Fathers are directly cited: Ambrose (once), Augustine (ten times), Jerome, Sozomenus and Tertullian (one each)” (62, n. 3).

“The identification of Jesus of Nazareth with the eternal Word of God, made by faith on the authority of the Scriptural witness, means that He is regarded as the valid revelation of God” (70).

“Jesus of Nazareth is the revelation of God” (74).

“For Christ is called the image of God on this ground, that He makes God, in a manner, visible to us” (75).

“Calvin thus regards the death of Christ as the summa, the intensive focal point, of His life, and hence places the emphasis upon it, but comprehending and not excluding the rest of His life and actions” (86).

“We are not saved by contemplating Christ from a distance, but by being united with Him…” (91).

“For Thomism, the knowledge of God is a part of epistemology; i.e., it is a part of our general knowledge and differs from other sorts of knowledge in that its object is different. For Calvin, however, the knowing itself differs from general knowing” (101, n. 3).

“There is, then, according to Calvin, a certain knowledge which precedes and begets faith; which is indeed a praeparatio fidei” (102).

“The knowledge of God cannot be regarded as one of the branches of epistemology, but differs fundamentally from all other forms of knowing” (106).

“Knowing God is a unique activity in man’s experience, having its own categories” (106).

“The fall, for the Thomists (although by making a closer connection between the nature of man and the dona superaddita than the Scotists, they were committed to holding that the loss of the one meant at least the impairing of the other) was not the irreparable cataclysm of human nature that it was for the Reformers. Whatever qualifications are made, the final Thomist word is that man’s soul is wounded, but not dead” (107).

On the debate as to whether Calvin held the analogia entis, see 109 ff.

“…Calvin admits a certain likeness between the mind of man and the mind of God” (109).

“Calvin does not use this likeness between God and man in the way that Thomism and Calvinism do” (110).

Man has not lost his “natural endowments” but his “supernatural endowments” (111).

Finally, the book has an Appendix: a book review of E. A. Downey, The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology (1952).

Parker does not approve of Downey’s view of Calvin on creation and revelation:

“There can be no doubt that Calvin must be cleared of any charge of being a natural theologian, or of having an ‘apologetic’ programme” (125).


Monday, January 14, 2019

WM 115: Review: Beza and Revelation 16:5

I have uploaded WM 115: Review: "Beza and Revelation 16:5" (Listen here). This episode has three parts: (1) Introduction; (2) A review of the online article "Beza and Revelation 16:5"; and (3) Three Final Thoughts/Reflections.


In WM 114 I offered ten observations on a recent lecture from apologist JW on “Text Criticism and the TR” which ended up being a review of a twitter exchange between JW and someone going under the name “Textus Receptus” regarding the text of Revelation 16:5, which is one of just a few places where there is significant divided reading in the printed editions of the TR. Beza’s 1598 TR reads “which art, and wast, and shalt be” (so rendered in the KJV), whereas earlier editions like Erasmus’ 1516 TR reads “which art, and wast,…and holy” (as in Tyndale, Geneva Bible, etc.).

Gathering from what I heard by email and text this was a much-discussed topic last week.

I discovered a couple things:

First: The twitter disputant with JW is a fellow from Australia named Nick Sayers.

Second: Nick has written an over 80-page booklet titled Revelation 16:5 and the Triadic Declaration in response to JW’s views on Revelation 16:5, which provides some background to the twitter exchange.

Third: One of Nick’s key sources for his booklet is an online article on the website titled “Beza and Revelation 16:5” (about 16 pages in length in a printer friendly version).

So, I thought it would be helpful to read this shorter article first and offer a review of and some reflections upon it.

This is a very well written and thoughtful article—hardly the mad ravings of the straw-man KJV Onlyist—though I do wish it had a name, date, and some better documentation, at points, of sources cited.

The article makes a generally reasonable and compelling argument as to why Beza’s reading at Revelation 16:5 should be taken seriously and not simply discarded or rejected without critical examination (and certainly not villainized, as JW does). There are also, however, some weaker and less compelling arguments within the article.

Review of online article: “Beza and Revelation 16:5”:

Here is a review of some of what I see as the stronger and weaker points made within the article:

First: Nice introductory statement:

“Since there is no existing manuscript with Beza's reading, critics dismiss Beza's reading as an unwarranted conjectural emendation.  However, an in-depth study of the issue will reveal enough evidence to validate Beza's conjectural emendation.”

Second: It provides an English translation of Beza’s footnote, but does not provide a transliteration of the original Latin note or identify the translator (the author? His credentials for making the translation?).

One of the things I would be most interested to know is whether Beza made a pure conjectural emendation or if he had some manuscript evidence to support this reading.

The article observes: “Although Beza is silent, he could have been influenced in making his change based on a minority Latin textual variant.  There are two Latin commentaries with readings of Revelation 16:5 which agree with Beza in referring to the future aspect of God.”

These are later identified as Beatus of Liebana (c. 8th century) and Haimo Halberstadensis (9th century).

Third: It provides references to two Church Fathers who made use of the Greek term ho esomenos in reference to God: Clement of Alexandria (third century), The Stromata, V.6; and Gregory of Nyssa (fourth century), On the Baptism of Christ (no reference notion given).

I agree that this information is by no means a “red herring.”

Fourth:  It rightly stresses the fact that the text of Revelation was perhaps the most corrupted of the NT books through the transmission process, and this has ramifications that would perhaps argue in favor of emendation [Though I’d still rather leave it as an open question as to whether Beza’s emendation was a “pure” conjecture].

 Opening statement here: “Conjectural emendations are justified if we know that the text we are dealing with has a history of extensive and early corruption. The book of Revelation is such a text… We trust that God was able to preserve the true reading of Revelation 16:5 until the advent of the printing press during the Reformation.”

Fifth: A good point was made related to a scribal error in p47 at Revelation 15:4 omitting the word “holy”: “If there is evidence of a scribal error involving "οσιος" at Revelation 15:4, it seems reasonable to suspect a scribal error involving the same word just one chapter later at Revelation 16:5.”

Sixth: Excellent point made about the parallel omission of kai ho erchomenos in the modern critical or Majority texts at Revelation 11:17, but, in this case, there is supporting Greek evidence for the TR reading.

Seventh: The article rightly points out the paucity of extant early mss. evidence for Revelation. It states that there are only 4 ms. of Rev 16:4 from before the tenth century and that p47 is the only papyrus ms. to include Rev 16:5.

I made a similar point in WM 114 in observation # 8 citing, Tobias Niklas, “The Early Text of Revelation” in Charles E. Hill & Michael J. Kruger, Eds., The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2012): 225-238.

I think the article errs, however, in suggesting a degenerating chain from

p47 kai hosios
to Sinaiticus ho hosios
to Alexandrinus hosios

This is speculative and assumes without proof a connection between these three mss. These changes are more likely to have evolved independently.

Eighth: The article provides four theories for how Revelation 16:5 might have become corrupted.

Theory 1: John wrote ho esomenos in nomen sacrum from.
Theory 2: Bad conditions gave rise to corruption.
Theory 3: A scribe harmonized 16:5 with 11:17.
Theory 4: A Hebraist imposed Hebraic style onto the text.

Of these I find Theories 2 and 3 to be credible, and Theories 1 and 4 to be suspect.
Theory 1 is highly speculative. Examples:

“Perhaps the Apostle John himself wrote the words that refer to God in "κυριε ει ο ων και ο ην και ο εσομενος" (O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be) in an abbreviated nomina sacra form.”

“In nomen sacrum form, ‘ο εσομενος’ might be abbreviated as OЄC.”

The problem: This seems highly speculative to me. Just note how many times the words “may” “perhaps” or “might” is used by the article’s author. This is not one of the usual nomina sacra and there are no extant examples of it (see James Snapp’s online article). The argument for this in Sinaiticus without overlining seems strained to me.

Theory 4 based on the suggestion that Jewish readers would have taken the future participle as superfluous to indicating the name of God also seems strained and speculative.

Three Final Thoughts/Reflections:

First: Revelation 16:5, the Textus Receptus, and the KJV

Interpretation of Revelation 16:5 raises the question of what the standard text of the TR should be.

I think there is room in the TR camp both for those who follow the Erasmus/Tyndale reading and those who follow the Beza/KJV reading here.

I think the best reasons to accept the Beza/KJV reading at Revelation 16:5 are the following:

-The text of Revelation was corrupted in its early transmission and it is admitted by all to be difficult to reconstruct.

-p47 at least provides evidence for the conjunction kai in the earliest extant mss.

-Internal evidence in Revelation argues for a three-fold description of God as present, past, future (see Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8; and 11:17).

-The reading ho esomenos, however, argues for originality, in part, based on its uniqueness. If invented for the purposes of harmonization why would it not have read ho erchomenos, as at Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8; and 11:17?

-We do not completely understand all the evidence and reasoning of Beza and the KJV translators in choosing this reading, but we might reasonably assume they had compelling reasons to adopt it, especially since it went against the tide of respected earlier editions of the TR and, especially, English translations of it.

-One can see the inclusion of this reading in the KJV as of providential importance without arguing for the KJV as a product of special revelation (a view which would be contrary to WCF 1:8).

Second: On the most difficult to defend TR readings and the propriety of conjectures:

I think that in general we would prefer to have TR readings supported by at least some extant Greek NT mss, even if they represent a minority of mss., which may also be late mss. In addition, we would prefer to have early versional and Patristic evidence. Thankfully, we usually have this.

We should recognize, however, that the NT books which were acknowledged the latest in the canonical recognition process will provide the least sufficient and reliable extant evidence. Our most difficult texts to defend will not most generally be with the Gospels or Pauline epistles but with Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and Revelation.

This admission goes against a standard conservative evangelical apologetic which has typically stressed the great number of existing NT mss. whatever their date, content, and condition.

Finally, this raises the question of the propriety of conjectures. As the author of the article noted, this was not a problem of Bruce Metzger (see the quote in the article from The Text of the NT, 182). It is not a problem for the modern editors of the NA28 using the CBGM (see the rendering of 2 Peter 3:10). So, it is affirmed in both modern and post-modern text criticism.

This brought to my mind the modern historical-critical study of the Synoptic Gospels and the conjecture of a hypothetical reconstructed sayings source Q. Such a view is embraced by evangelical scholars like Craig A Evans, who argued for the “two source” in the recent book The Synoptic Gospel: Four Views (Baker Academic, 2016). I find it ironic that Evans’s and others’s embrace of Q (an entire hypothetical book with no external support) does not raise an eyebrow, while Beza’s supposed conjecture of perhaps few words in Revelation 16:5 is pilloried as outrageous and absurd?

This is another reason I was puzzled by JW’s stated rejection of any conjectural emendations. Does this mean he rejects Metzger? The CBGM? The NA28, 29, 30…?

Third: On Method:

First, I think the historical study of the text of the Bible (textual criticism) is vital and a discipline from which we have nothing to fear. Second, I think defenders of the TR can and should make able use of historical evidence yielded by this field of study. Given this, however, I also think we should be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking we might simply use the modern reconstructionist method to defend the TR. This is perhaps the biggest problem I perceive with the article reviewed. It does not explicitly rely on a confessional method. If you try to fight the modern “methodists” only with their method, in their eyes you will always come up short.

I thought this comment from Maurice Robinson on the Evangelical Text Criticism blog related to the discussion of my review of the THGNT (here) was perceptive:

In terms of attempting to establish the original text (or the Ausgangstext if one is so inclined), a "TR-priority" position indeed is illogical, as Mr Spock would say. 

However, within the "Confessional Bibliology" or "Ecclesiastical Text" framework, holding such a position actually appears quite reasonable to its practitioners, much in the same way that the Greek Orthodox church remains quite content to use a form of the 1904/1912 Antoniades text for all their practical purposes, even though from a more scientific text-critical standpoint (including my own) their position is equally defective.


Friday, January 11, 2019

The Vision (1.11.19): The Power of Christ

Image: North Garden, Virginia, January 2019
Note: Devotion taken from sermon on 12/30/18 on John 17:1-5.
As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him (John 17:2).
Within his High Priestly Prayer, Christ addresses the Father, “As thou hast given him [the Son, a reference to himself] power [exousia, authority] over all flesh….” (v. 2a)
Compare the risen Christ’s words to his apostles in Matthew 28:18: “All power [exousia] is given unto me in heaven and on earth.”
This authority is a special exercise of sovereign power which the Father has bestowed upon the Son from eternity past. It is the power of salvation: “that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (v. 2b).
Notice it is not: “that he should give eternal life to all men without exception on the condition of their free will acceptance of the gospel.” No, the Son has been given authority by the Father to give eternal life to those who have been given to the Son. The Father gives them to the Son (election) and the Son gives to them eternal life (salvation). This is God’s plan of salvation from eternity past. Those whom the Father sovereignly chooses, the Son perfectly saves.
Compare Luke’s description in Acts 13:48b of Paul and Barnabas’s ministry in Pisidian Antioch: “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
Calvin observed: “it is only the elect who belong to his peculiar flock, which he has undertaken to guard as shepherd.” Though his kingdom extends to all men, “it brings salvation to none but the elect.”
Let us then consider with thanksgiving Christ’s power: If we are counted among the elect of God and have been saved by his grace, it has only been by the power of Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Alford's Greek New Testament

I was preaching last Sunday at the RB church plant in Lynchburg and after services one of the brethren gave me a late Christmas present he had picked up at a used bookstore, a six book set of the four volumes of Henry Alford's Greek New Testament and Commentary.

In Metzger and Ehrman's The Text of the New Testament it is noted that Henry Alford (1810-1871) was dean of Canterbury and the author of several popular hymns, including "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come." He was also "an ardent advocate of the critical principles formulated by those who, like Lachmann, had worked for the 'demolition of the unworthy and pedantic reverence for the received text, which stood in the way of all chance of discovering the genuine word of God'" (p. 174; the embedded quote is from Alford's The Greek New Testament with a Critically Revised Text).

I'm thankful for this new resource to add to my library and to use, no doubt to what would have been Alford's chagrin, to defend the received text.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Book Review Posted: All That is in God

I have posted to my site a book review of James E. Dolezal, All That is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism (Reformation Heritage Books, 2017): 176 pp (find a pdf of the review here).

The review was published in Midwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall 2018): 122-126.

I also recorded and posted an audio version of the review to (listen here).

A draft of the review was also covered on WM 96.


Sunday, January 06, 2019

WM 114: James White, the TR, and Revelation 16:5

I have uploaded WM 114: James White, the TR, and Revelation 16:5 (listen here).

My notes for this episode are below:

Preface: Several folk contacted me last Friday, pointed me in the direction of apologist James White’s recent lecture at Covenant Baptist Seminary on “Textual Criticism and the TR,” and suggested I offer a rejoinder.

Yes, there is plenty in JW’s presentation with which those who affirm the “confessional text” will be less than pleased.

On the other hand, the very fact that JW was trying to address this issue on some level (even if he does not really seem to understand or appreciate the confessional defense of the TR as the standard Greek text of the NT) shows that it is an emerging perspective that he and other Calvinistic evangelicals who have embraced the modern critical text are having to face.

Though it is tempting to do a complete review of the session, I want to offer ten observations:

First: The title of JW’s lecture is misleading: “Textual Criticism and the TR.” This interesting topic title was never really addressed. JW might have taken the opportunity to describe the history of the printed TR beginning with Erasmus (1516), the various Protestant printed editions (and even differences among them), how the TR became the basis for the Protestant translations, how the TR was challenged and eventually toppled during the nineteenth century, and how there are those who still hold to the TR as the standard text.

Second: This lecture actually ended up being a review of a twitter exchange between JW and an unnamed person who happens to have a twitter handle that includes the words “text receptus.” For some reason, JW seems to take this unnamed person as representing the best of the pro-TR position. Better title: “JW reviews a twitter exchange he had with an unnamed person who attempted to defend the KJV rendering of Revelation 16:5, on the basis of some supporting textual and other evidence.”

A long-standing critique of JW’s tendency to confuse matters in this way was articulated by Theodore Letis in his review of the KJV Only Controversy, which appears as Appendix B in The Ecclesiastical Text, which begins with the caustic observation, “James White and Gail Riplinger are both cut from the same bolt of cloth….” This lecture shows that JW apparently has not yet profited from Letis’s critique.

Third: The lecture came to focus on a single controversial verse in the TR tradition: Revelation 16:5. No explanation or distinction was made between the TR, the modern text, and the Majority text (and all three have different readings here):

Modern (NA 28): dikaios ei, ho ōn kai ho hēn, ho hosios (“you are righteous, who is and who was, the Holy One”)

P47: dikaios ei, ho ōn kai ho hēn kai hosios (“you are righteous, who is and who was, and holy”)

Majority (Hodges/Farstad): dikaios ei, ho ōn kai ho hēn, hosios (“you are righteous, who is and who was, holy”)

TR (as in Scrivener and Beza, 1598): dikaios, Kurie, ei, ho ōn kai ho hēn kai ho esomenos (“righteous, Lord, are you, who is and who was and who will be”)

TR (as in Erasmus, 1516): dikaios Kurie ei ho ōn kai ho hēn kai ho hosios (“righteous, Lord, are you, who is and who was and who [is] holy”)

Fourth: JW repeated his disparagement of the TBS’ reprinting of the Scrivener Greek NT. He called it “a Greek text based on an English translation” (c. 3:15) and “the KJV NT in Greek” (c. 4:15). This is an outright misrepresentation of Scrivener’s work and might mislead a neophyte to think that Scrivener “backtranslated” the KJV into Greek!

In his preface to his original 1881 work (not the TBS reprint of it), Scrivener explains:

….Beza’s fifth and last text of 1598 was more likely than any other to be in the hands of King James’s revisers, and to be accepted by them as the best standard within their reach. It is moreover found on comparison to agree more closely with the Authorised Version than any other Greek text; and accordingly it has been adopted by the Cambridge Press as the primary authority….All variations from Beza’s text of 1598, in number about 190, are set down in an Appendix at the end of the volume, together with the authorities on which they respectively rest. (viii-ix).

Correction: In the podcast I gave the wrong date for this work (I said 1898, probably thinking of the 1598 Beza; verbal scribal error!). As best I can understand Scrivener published The New Testament in Greek According to the Text Followed in the Authorised Version Together with the Variations Adopted in the Revised Version in 1881 and it was reprinted numerous times (second printing in 1881, 1883, 1884, 1886, 1890, 1908, 1949). The preface cited above is from that edition. Another printing was apparently done of The New Testament in the Original Greek According to the Text followed in the Authorised Version, that is, without the notes on the variations adopted in the Revised Version, in 1894 and 1902 (see preface to the TBS Greek NT). As far as I can understand, the text of the TBS Greek NT is, however, the same as that in this 1881 work (again without notes on the Revised Version) and so the information in the preface applies. Namely, it follows the 1598 Beza, except for c. 190 variations.

I would hope that JW would be more careful and accurate when he discusses this edition of the TR.

Fifth: Revelation 16:5 is admittedly a difficult text for TR advocates, as are all points where the TR varies from the Majority/Byzantine text (as with others, like the CJ). It illustrates the need for a critical edition of the TR. Please note: To say that it is difficult, however, does not mean that it is incomprehensible or indefensible.

Sixth: The difficulty is enhanced by the fact that Revelation 16:5 represents one of the few places where there is a significant variation in the printed TR editions of the Reformation era. The reading in Beza diverges other TR editions (e.g., Erasmus, Stephanus) and the reading in Beza is also followed in the KJV.

The KJV reading at Revelation 16:5 thus stands out in comparison to other Protestant versions:

Luther’s NT (1522; from Die Bibel nach der übersetzung Martin Luthers): “Gericht bist du, der du bist, und der du warst, du Heiliger”

Tyndale (from David Daniell’s modern spelling of 1534 ed.): “Lord, which art and wast, thou art righteous and holy”

Károlyi Gáspár Hungarian Bible (1590): “Igaz vagy Uram, a ki vagy és a ki valál, te Szint”

Geneva Bible (Tolle Lege reprint of the 1599 ed.): “Lord, thou art just, which art, and which wast: and Holy”

KJV (1611): “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and which will be”

Edward F. Hills has a valuable discussion of Beza’s ten editions of the Greek NT in The King James Version Defended (pp. 206-208). He suggests that Beza’s humanism was restrained by “the common faith.” He notes two “conjectural emendations” from Beza that entered into the KJV at Romans 7:6 and Revelation 16:5.

Those who defend the TR as the foundational Greek NT text and respect the KJV as an English translation will necessarily have to examine these two texts, among others.

Seventh: Beza’s reading at Revelation 16:5 (and its usage in the KJV) requires thoughtful analysis.

Here is Eramus’s 1516 text of Revelation 16:5:

Here is Beza’s 1598 text of Revelation 16:5 with his commentary on the verse:

On what basis did Beza make the editorial decision to have the text read as it does? Was it a pure conjectural emendation or did he have some Greek or versional evidence? What does Beza mean when he writes, “Itaque ambigere non possum quin germana sit scriptura quam ex vetusto bonae fidei manuscripto codice restitui, nempe ‘ho esomenos.’”?

He calls attention to the parallels with Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8; and 11:17 which speak of God as “the one who is, and was, and is to come.” If this verse was simply a harmonization to these others, however, why then does the final part not read ho erchomenos (“which is to come”), but ho esomenos (“which will be”)? Beza says the text is different because it speaks here of Christ (quoniam ibi de Christo).

We must also keep in mind that even if one adequately understood Beza’s decision here, this does not necessarily mean that we understand the decision of the KJV translators to follow Beza’s text here and not other TR readings or versions based upon them. What, for example, did it take for them to depart from Tyndale here? We simply have insufficient evidence to understand the editorial decisions made by Beza or the KJV translators at Revelation 16:5.

One thing is for certain, the Beza/KJV reading at Revelation 16:5 should not be discounted from the outset but given serious and reasonable consideration, while acknowledging that it has no extant Greek mss. support, making it one of the more difficult readings to defend, if one accepts it.

Eighth: JW at one point does at least acknowledge that the Greek text of Revelation is one of the most disputed in the NT, but this was not given enough emphasis. Most of the extant Greek mss. of Revelation are late and there are many disputed texts.

Here is some analysis from Tobias Niklas’s chapter, “The Early Text of Revelation” in Charles E. Hill & Michael J. Kruger, Eds., The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2012): 225-238:

“…compared to other New Testament writings—we have only a very few extant traces of an ‘early text’ of the book of Revelation” (225).

“Among the more than 300 manuscripts that contain Revelation only four can with some probability be dated earlier than (or at least around) the year 300 CE. None of these (p18, p47, p98, p115) contains the whole text of Revelation: p18 and p98 have only a few words or sentences” (226).

“…it is only poorly represented in the uncial manuscripts.” He cites J. K. Elliott’s overview that only eleven uncials contain Revelation, adding, “five of them from the eighty century or later” (226).

“No portions of Revelation can be found in extant Greek lectionaries” (227).

His conclusion: “All of these circumstances have long made research into the textual history of the book of Revelation an extremely complex task” (227).

We should not, therefore, be at all surprised that there are many passages in Revelation that are difficult for modern text critics to reconstruct.

Ninth: This leads to a general critique of the “reconstructionist” approach. Since the extant Greek ms. evidence only provides limited evidence as to the earliest text of the NT in general can we ever hope to have a reliable reconstructed text?

I found this statement intriguing from Wasserman and Gurry in their discussion of the “limitations” of the new CGBM:

As Richard Evans reminds us, our historical knowledge is always contingent on “the extent to which it is possible to reconstruct the past from the remains left behind.” What is left behind are fragments, chance survivals from the past—we are trying to piece together the puzzle with only some of the pieces. In the case of textual criticism, this means that we have only a selection of the manuscripts that once existed, and sometimes incomplete manuscripts. Although New Testament textual critics are used to straining under the number of manuscripts that we possess, there must be an even greater number that are forever lost (Wasserman & Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism [SBL Press, 2017]: 112).

Tenth: Pointing to a single difficult verse in the TR where there is a question essentially of a couple of words by no means overthrows the confessional text position. There is no disagreement in the TR tradition on the ending of Mark, the PA, the CJ, etc. To embrace the modern critical text is to ensure constant epistemological uncertainty.

I found it interesting that JW in this lecture disavowed all conjectural emendations, including the NA 28 text of 2 Peter 3:10, no doubt attempting to anticipate the charge of “inconsistency” in criticizing the Scrivener TR reading at Revelation 16:5 while winking at a conjectural emendation in the NA 28 at 2 Peter 3:10. JW is fond of asking TR advocates, Which TR is authoritative? We need to ask him, “Which modern critical text is authoritative?”

Let me close with a quote I recently ran across in Grantley McDonald’s Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2016), regarding the CJ, another of the most disputed texts in the TR tradition:

…it marked a fork in the road. One path was followed by those who insisted on providential preservation or Scripture. The other taken by those who believe that Scripture, whatever its source, is subject to the same process of transmission as any other text. (Suffice it to say that these two positions have rather different claims to verifiability.) (12).

Reformed evangelicals stand at a fork in the road. Do you take the path of providential preservation or modern critical reconstruction?