Wednesday, November 20, 2019

WM 140: Responding to the "Which TR?" Objection

WM 140: Responding to the "Which TR?" Objection has been posted. Listen here.

In the chapter “Why Not the Textus Receptus” (pp. 87-91) in his Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Crossway, 2019), Jongkind poses a version of the “Which TR?” objection.

Is this challenge an insurmountable defeater for the TR position?

Jongkind’s Objections:

Jongkind begins, “Before we start discussing the Textus Receptus we should clarify which printed Greek NT we are talking about” (88).

He makes reference and brief comparisons to the printed editions of Stephanus (1550) and Elzevir (1624, 1633).

He adds, “Each of these printed Greek New Testaments has some problems, though most of these are minute” (88).

He lists three examples:

First: Revelation 7:7 involves the spelling of the name Issachar. He gives the variants as Isaschar and Isachar. The differences is one letter (sigma). Jongkind does not tell us in which printed editions he located this variation.

Second: Revelation 8:11 reads το τριτοv in Stephanus (1550), while Elzevir (1633) has το τριτον των υδατων.

Third: 2 Peter 1:1 reads σωτηρος in Stephanus (1550) and Elzevir (1633), but σωτηρος ημων in Elzevir (1624). BTW, Scrivener (1894) also reads σωτηρος ημων, though Jongkind does not mention this.

He then writes: “I give these examples to demonstrate that even if one holds to the originality of the Textus Receptus, one cannot avoid the critical task of having to judge which wording to accept. Admittedly, there is a difference in the scale of the critical task, but it is not a difference in kind.” (88).

Toward some general principles in response to the “Which TR?” challenge:

Let me offers some responses, since we do indeed have no desire to avoid making an informed and reasonable determination when such slight differences are discovered between the various editions of the TR.

First, it is important to point out that there is no single “perfect” printed edition of the TR. This does not mean, however, that the various printed editions of the TR taken collectively fail to provide for us a reasonable and reliable witness to the received text.
At the Text and Canon Conference Jonathan Arnold made mention of the TBS’s helpful “Statement of Doctrine of Holy Scripture” which, for the NT, refers to the received text as “a group of printed texts” adding that “the scope of the Society’s Constitution does not extend to considering the minor variations between the printed editions of the Textus Receptus.”

Second, we should not let the fact that such minor variations exist among the various printed editions of the TR overshadow the fact that those editions are overwhelmingly uniform and, particularly so, with regard in those places where there are major differences with the modern critical text. All printed editions of the TR include the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:13b), the traditional ending of Mark, “the only begotten Son” at John 1:18, the PA, Acts 8:37, “God was manifest in the flesh” at 1 Timothy 3:16, the CJ, etc.

As for the remaining minor variations, each of these, should be evaluated on a case by case basis. If this is done, I believe that most of them will be easily resolved, while only a few will call for more careful deliberation.

Let me lay out at least four tentative principles for how this might be done:

First: The various printed Greek editions of the TR should be consulted.

If this is done, one may find that a variant is discovered in only one or two printed editions (perhaps due to a printing error) and a determination can quickly and easily be made in favor of the dominant reading.

The editions which should be primarily consulted are those of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza. The Elzevir editions should also be consulted, but with the understanding that they appeared after most of the translations of the TR had first been made into the modern languages of Europe.

Second: The early vernacular translations based on the printed editions of the TR, as well as original language editions and other versions, should be consulted.

If this is done, one may find that a variant is found in only one or two translations and a determination can quickly and easily be made in favor of the dominant reading.

Third: If available, early annotations and commentaries made by the editors of the printed editions of the TR and/or by the early translators of the versions may be consulted.

This would include the annotations of Erasmus and Beza.

Fourth: With regard to extremely minor variations in spelling, word order, definite articles, separation of words, and collective possessive pronouns it should be determined whether the detected difference makes any significant impact in determining the conceptual meaning of the reading.

In such cases, consultation with the early versions will be helpful, as it may be determined that the variant has no impact on the conceptual understanding of the text.

“Scale” versus “Kind”?:

Let me also address the assertion of difference in “scale” versus “kind.” Jongkind says that the differences in the printed edition of the TR are only ones of “scale” and not “kind.” The implication is that deliberating among the minor variations in the printed editions of the TR is no different than the deliberations made by modern text critics using reasoned eclecticism. They are of the same “kind” and, therefore, offer no greater degree of epistemological certainty. But is this, in fact, the case?

I would counter, to the contrary, that I do not think that the variations in the printed editions of the TR could be said to be equitable (of the same “kind”) with those variations encountered using the modern text critical method. The differences within the printed editions of the TR and the differences within the various modern critical text reconstructions is one both of “scale” AND “kind.”

Key to this is the fact that the variants found among the printed TR editions are necessarily and historically limited. There will not be previously unknown printed editions of the TR discovered in the sands of Egypt or the caves of the Dead Sea. Modern text critics may suggest it is unlikely that there will be any major finds of Greek manuscripts that will profoundly alter the modern critical text in the next five hundred years or beyond, as does Peter J. Williams when he writes, “If discoveries in the future are anything like discoveries in the last five hundred years, then we do not expect editions of the Gospels to change much” (Can We Trust the Gospels?: 116). Still, the method must inherently affirm its openness to the possibility of radical alteration of the text. Thus, the modern critical text can never attain the measure of stability and confidence that is assured by the adoption of the Textus Receptus.

To compare, therefore, the variations in the printed editions of the TR with the variations found in the mass of existing Greek manuscripts, versions, Patristic citations, lectionaries, etc. not to mention those that are, at least conceptually, still to be found, is to compare apples with oranges.

Jongkind’s three examples:

Let’s return to a brief and tentative examination of Jongkind’s three examples:

BTW, notice that all three of his examples come from those parts of the NT where the manuscript evidence is latest and weakest: the catholic epistles and Revelation.

First: Revelation 7:7 involves the spelling of the name Issachar. He gives the variants as Isaschar and Isachar. The difference is one letter (sigma). Jongkind does not tell us where he located the variation.

A quick check reveals that Stephanus (1550) reads ισαχαρ as does Scrivener (1894).
I assume that the other variant is in one or both of the Elzevir editions.

This would fall under the category of principle four above, a minor spelling variation that makes no significant impact on the conceptual understanding of the text.

My hunch would be that if we were to check the various versions we would find that they would offer a translation that favors Isachar (without the sigma) and this is the proper reading.

Second, Revelation 8:11 involves a more significant difference. Should the text include the genitive plural των υδατων modify the nominative noun το τριτον?

Jongkind notes that Revelation 8:11 reads το τριτοv in Stephanus (1550), while Elzevir (1633) has το τριτον των υδατων.

Let’s look at the larger context of the clause in dispute in several printed editions:

Revelation 8:11 in Stephanus (1550): και γινεται το τριτον εις αψινθον

Literally: “and the third part became into wormwood [bitterness]”

Revelation 8:11 in Elzevir (1633): και γινεται το τριτον των υδατων εις αψινθον

Literally: “and the third part of the waters became into wormwood [bitterness].”

To follow our tentative principles above, we would begin by comparing the printed TRs. I found that Erasmus, like Stephanus, had only το τριτον, while Beza (assuming it is the same of Scrivener) like Elzevir has το τριτον των υδατων. There does not seem to be a predominant reading.

Next, I go to the early versions based on the printed TR and other evidences.

Again, this sketch is tentative and limited.

I found that Tyndale (1534) follows the reading of Erasmus and Stephanus: “and the third part was turned to wormwood.”

But the other versions seemed predominantly to follow Beza and Elzevir:

Luther (1522): “Und der dritte Teil der Wasser wurde zu Wermut”

Reina-Valera (1569): “Y la tercera parte de las aguas fué vuelta en ajenjo”

Károlyi Gáspár (1589): “változék azért a folyóvizek harmadrésze ürömmé”

Geneva (1599): “And that third part of the waters became wormwood”

King James Version (1611): “and the third part of the waters became wormwood”

It appears that the predominant reading as evidenced by the versions favors το τριτον των υδατων, and I would suggest that this is the proper text.

Third, 2 Peter 2:1 reads σωτηρος in Stephanus (1550) and Elzevir (1633), but σωτηρος ημων in Elzevir (1624). BTW, Scrivener (1894) also reads σωτηρος ημων, though Jongkind does not mention this.

The question is should there be a first person plural genitive pronoun ημων following σωτηρος.

Again, it might help to look at the larger context for the passage in several printed editions:

2 Peter 1:1b in Stephanus (1550) and Elzevir (1633): εν δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου

Literally: “in [through] the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”

2 Peter 1:1 in Elzevir (1624) and presumably Beza [as in Scrivener (1894)]: εν δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου

Literally: “in [through] the righteousness of our God and our Savior Jesus Christ”

In this case we might also profit from consulting and comparing the printed Greek editions of the TR, where we find again that Erasmus is in harmony with Stephanus.

Next, we consult the versional evidence (see below).

As we do so we also notice that this variant seems to fall under the category of principle four since the variation does not impact the concept conveyed. A translator might well render either text with the same translation.

A quick survey of the versions finds that none duplicate the pronoun whatever text they might have used:

Tyndale (1534): “in the righteousness that cometh from our God and saviour Jesus Christ”

Luther (1522): “die unser Gott gibt und der Heiland Jesus Christus”

Reina-Valera (1569): “en la justicia de nuestro Dios y Salvador Jesucristo”

Károlyi Gáspár (1589): “a mi Istenünknek és megtartónknak Jézus Krisztusnak igazságában”

Geneva Bible (1599): “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”

King James Version (1611): “through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”

This survey indicates that no version uses the first-person plural possessive pronoun with both nouns “God” and “Savior.” Most explicitly apply it to “God” and at least one to “Savior” (KJV). All seem to assume it is collectively applied to both nouns. The best text then would seem to be that in Scrivener (Beza): εν δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου,since it allows for the pronoun's explicit application to either the noun and its collective application to both.

The study of these three examples demonstrates that the vast number of variations in the printed editions of the TR are far from insuperable if they are examined on a case by case basis. All the same, we readily admit that there are some variants which will present special difficulties, though Jongkind does not raise any of these particular objections (like Rev 16:5). In the end, once more we can affirm that these minor differences are not the same either in “scale” or “kind” with those encountered by those using the modern reconstruction method.


In the end the “Which TR?” objection is by no means a defeater for the Confessional Text position.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.8: Irenaeus on the Canon of the NT and the Septuagint

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Here is Book 5, chapter 8. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In this chapter Eusebius discusses Irenaeus’s comments on the canon of Christian Scripture.

First, he cites Irenaeus’s description of the four Gospels and their Evangelists:

Matthew is described as a “written” Gospel, first published among the Jews in their own language. This reinforces the traditional view that Matthew was first written for a Jewish audience.

Mark is described as “the disciple and interpreter (herméneutés) of Peter.”

Luke was a “follower of Paul” and conveyed Paul’s understanding of the gospel.

John was disciple of the Lord and the one who rested on his breast (thus the “beloved” disciple), who later lived at Ephesus.

Next, he cites Irenaeus’s reference to Revelation and the number of the Antichrist (Rev 13:18). Irenaeus noted that the proper number (presumably 666) is found in all the “good and ancient copies [antigraphoi].”

Reference is also made to Irenaeus’s citation of 1 John and 1 Peter.

Next, however, Eusebius notes that Irenaeus held some non-canonical books to be “Scripture.” This included the Shepherd of Hermas and perhaps the Wisdom of Solomon.

Eusebius also notes that Irenaeus cited the Apostolic Fathers Justin Martyr and Ignatius, and he mentions that Irenaeus “promised” to refute Marcion.

Finally, Eusebius discusses Irenaeus’s treatment of the Greek OT. He makes references to conflict over the proper translation of Isaiah 7:14, noting that rather than “virgin [parthenos]”, some translators (Theodotian and Aquila) used “young woman [neanis]”, a rendering preferred by the Ebionites, who denied the deity of Christ.

Eusebius then relays Irenaeus’s account of the legend of the origins of the Septuagint, as produced by seventy Jewish scholars for the library at Alexandria by Ptolemy.

He closes by noting Irenaeus’s statement that it was little wonder for the Lord to so inspire Scripture, since he had also inspired Ezra the priest to restore the Scriptures after the time of the Babylonian exile.


This chapter continues Eusebius’s periodic interest in the EH of giving accounts of how the canon of Scripture came to be recognized by the early church (cf. earlier descriptions of Papias of Hierapolis and Melito of Sardis). According to Eusebius, Irenaeus acknowledged, most importantly, the Gospels, as well as Revelation, 1 Peter, and 1 Joh, but no mention is made of the rest of the canonical books of the NT (especially Paul’s letters), and it is noted that he also accepted non-canonical works (at least the Shepherd). This emphasizes the fact that the canon was only slowly recognized among early Christians This account also stresses the value of the Septuagint among some early believers as the preferred translation of the Greek OT.


Another Challenge to James White on Calvin and Text Criticism

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled "John Calvin and Text Criticism", which appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 2017): 128-146. You can read the entire article here.

At the beginning of the article I challenged the notion, often put forward by evangelical advocates of the modern critical text, that "the foundational theologians and preachers of the Protestant Reformation era were largely unaware of many of the disputed textual passages in the Greek New Testament” (129).

I used as an example of this the claim made by the popular internet apologist James R. White in his King James Version-Only Controversy book that Calvin and the other Reformers embraced the traditional text of Scripture, as White puts it, “by default, not particular choice” (130). I also point out that White makes this assertion without providing any meaningful evidence to support it.

Here is the section of the article (pp. 129-131) where I engage with White’s position:

My article proceeds to demonstrate that White’s statement is not accurate with regard to Calvin.

White has shown some interest, of late, in some of my academic work relating to the Confessional Text of Scripture. I would look forward to seeing his response to the challenge offered in this article relating to Calvin’s understanding of the text of Scripture.

Update (11.20.19): I have been informed that Mr. White has declined my invitation to offer a scholarly response to my article. Instead he has asked that I listen to his internet podcasts to hear a response to these challenges. Someone has suggested that "Listen to my podcast!" sounds something like "Read my book!" Smiles. If anyone who is a regular listener to the DL can find the specific podcast(s) wherein he responded to my article and provided concrete evidence that Calvin and the other Reformers were ignorant of the major textual variants in the NT and, therefore, embraced the TR "by default, not particular choice" please send me a link and time stamp and I will be glad to listen.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.7: Irenaeus on Extraordinary Gifts

Image: St. Irenaeus Church in Lyon, France, which dates to the 9th century and is named for the early bishop Irenaeus.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 5, chapter 7. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In this chapter Eusebius again draws on Irenaeus’s Against Heresies [book 2] (called here: Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge falsely so-called). We again see the importance of Irenaeus as a source for Eusebius.

The subject is the continuation of extra-ordinary gifts in the early post-apostolic church.

On one hand, Irenaeus describes the continuation of various miraculous gifts in this time, including the casting out of evil spirits, foreknowledge of future events, visions, prophetic speech, healing of the sick, and even the raising of the dead.

On the other hand, Irenaeus seems to acknowledge a difference between what was being done in his days in comparison to what Christ and the apostles had done. So, he says, “But they [the extraordinary deeds of his times] fall so short of raising the dead as did the Lord and his apostles….”

The focus instead is on making the case from the prophets that Jesus is the Son of God and that his miracles were true and that the brethren who had the “gifts of prophecy” were using them so as to “bring the hidden things of men into clearness for the common good and expound the mysteries of God.”

The particular stress is on the fact that these extraordinary acts of ministry were for “the benefit of the heathen, deceiving none and making profit from none”, and so it is a defense of the purity and wholesomeness of the early Christian movement.

What is more, Eusebius seems to be looking back on this from the perspective of the early fourth century as something that was taking place in the days of Irenaeus, but which had ceased in his own day.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Closer Look at Papyrus 46 and Ephesians 3:9

The conversation continues on Ephesians 3:9...

In the comment thread for the WM 138 post, CC shared another striking observation:

"Take another look at P46 in the NTVMR. It seems to me that it only reads κονομια. A case could be made that the exemplar had κοινονια (ο rather than ω) and the ι got squished into the Ν and the second Ν became μ. The transcription includes the οι in red brackets, but those letters aren't actually on the page...."

And, indeed, when I took a look at p46 the evidence in favor of the MCT is not as clear as it first seems. Here is a larger picture of the section in question:

Here's a closeup of the section at the end of a line (underlined in blue) reading (παντας τις η):

And here is a closeup of the beginning of the next line (underlined in red) which apparently reads κονομια not οικονομια:

This closer look reveals that p46, the earliest ms. of Ephesians 3:9, is, at the least, not a clear  witness to the οικονομια reading. Textual scholars will suggest the possibility that the οι- was either omitted by error or that it was there and the ink has rubbed away.  CC suggests an alternative possibility, "that the exemplar had κοινονια (ο rather than ω)." This would, in fact, argue in favor of the TR reading of κοινωνια.


Note: Post updated 11/17/19.

Eusebius, EH.5.4-6: Irenaeus, the "Thundering Legion," and the bishops of Rome

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 5, chapters 4-6. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters cover at least three matters. First, they introduce Irenaeus of Lyons. Second, they relay a legendary anecdote about the “Thundering Legion,” and third they include Irenaeus’s listing of the bishops of Rome.

Chapter 4 introduces Irenaeus as a presbyter of Lyons who was commended by the martyrs to Eleutherus, bishop of Rome. One might assume that Irenaeus had either traveled or fled to Rome during the time of persecution. This note also reflects the importance of Rome as a Christian center among the early churches.

Chapter 5 relays a legendary anecdote that took place when Marcus Aurelius Caesar (brother of the emperor Antoninus) was in battle. The account says that some soldiers of the Melitene legion (which apparently included some Christians) offered prayer to God and a storm came which both sent lightening to push away the enemy and rain to satisfy the thirst of the Romans.

Eusebius says this account is relayed through secular historians though they do not say that “it happened through the prayers of the Christians.” Note: K. Lake says the incident is relayed by Dio Cassius and by Marcus Aurelius. Eusebius also says it was recorded by Apolinarius (who said this was the reason of these soldier being called the “Thundering Legion”) and Tertullian.

At the close of chapter 5 and continuing in chapter 6, Eusebius notes that after the martyrdom of Pothinus at age 90, Irenaeus, “a listener of Polycarp,” succeeded him as bishop at Lyons. And Ireneanus listed the bishops of Rome in book 3 of Against Heresies.

The bishops of Rome, after the apostles:

Clement (mention is made of his epistle to Corinth)
Telesphorus (who was “martyred gloriously”)

The list thus has twelve in all to this point.


These chapters commend Irenaeus and also show the importance of the church at Rome, the capital of the empire in early Christianity, and the desire to trace a line within that church through the bishops to the apostles, as had also been done in other key cities in early Christianity.


Friday, November 15, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.2-3: The Piety of the Martyrs

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 5, chapters 2-3. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters continue to discuss the piety and faithfulness of the early Christian martyrs.

In chapter 2 it is noted that the martyrs, out of humility, refused the title of being called martyrs but instead pointed to Christ himself as “the faithful and true martyr (witness).”

A form of the term “confessors” is also used to describe those who suffered for the faith.

The confessors and martyrs are also compared to Stephen, “the perfect martyr,” from Acts 7,  in that, like Stephen they prayed for the very persons who tortured them and put them to death.

It is noted that the martyrs loved peace but were treated brutally.

Chapter 3 begins with an anecdote about a certain Alcibiades who was fasting even in jail, taking only bread and water, but who was exhorted by Attalus not to deny the goodness of creation (a form or ascetic Gnosticism?), so that he began to eat normally with thanksgiving to God.

From there it mentions the spread of the teaching of those of “the party of Montanus and Alicibiades [the aforementioned ascetic prisoner?] and Theodotus in Phyrgia” who claimed to be prophets, and how the Christian of Gaul helped by letters from the imprisoned martyrs were able to make a “pious and orthodox” judgement on the Montanists, thus even while in prison the martyrs served as ambassadors, keeping “the peace of the churches.”


These chapters continue to praise the early martyrs, but they also indicate the diversity of Christians during these times and the distinctions that were bring drawn between the orthodox and the heterodox, both of whom were being imprisoned and persecuted.


The Vision (11.15.19): Unseasonable leniency toward ungodliness

Image: Berries, North Garden, VA, November 2019

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 20.

“And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria” (1 Kings 20:43).

1 Kings 20 ends with the note that king Ahab went away “heavy and displeased” (v. 43). This morose state of mind came about after the king was rebuked by God’s prophet for sparing the life of Israel’s enemy, Benhadad of Syria. The prophet announces the Lord’s condemnation of Ahab, “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I had appointed to utter destruction….” (v. 42). The spiritual problem here is that Ahab had extended unseasonably leniency to an ungodly enemy.

We might draw spiritual lessons from Ahab’s actions. The Puritans used to speak about “bosom” sins and “darling” sins. These are sins that are nurtured and held close, which bring compromise and destruction. John Owen said, “We must kill sin, or sin will kill us.”

If I were to choose a parallel passage from Christ’s teaching to illustrate this point it would be his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee” and “if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast, it from thee” (Matt 5:29-30). Holiness requires radical surgery. It requires the removal of “bosom” and “darling” sins.

There are some interesting descriptions of Ahab in these final chapters of 1 Kings. Ahab’s spiritual state is debated (cf. 1 Kings 21:27-29). When rebuked here, he walks away “heavy and displeased”. There is never, however, any sign of Ahab expressing the kind of contrition that David did in Psalm 51, after he was rebuked by Nathan. Ahab expresses a carnal form of repentance, but not an “evangelical” form of repentance. The apostle Paul makes a distinction between “godly” sorrow and “the sorrow of the world” (2 Cor 7:9-10).

May the Lord keep us from unseasonable leniency toward sin and ungodliness in our lives, and may he grant us “godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Cor 7:10) and not mere “worldly” sorrow.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Minuscule 2817 on Ephesians 3:9

Thanks to "CC" who discovered at least one minuscule which includes the TR reading for Ephesians 3:9. The manuscript is 2817 which the INTF dates to c. 1000-1099 is located in the Universitätsbibliothek Basel. This may well have been at least one of the mss. which Erasmus consulted in preparing his Greek NT of 1516.

Here’s the note from CC posted to the comments on the WM 138 blogpost:

Ah, I found a manuscript that reads κοινωνία: 2817 from the 11th century (according the Scrivener and the INTF). It's in the INTF's NTVMR, page ID 5190. Apparently this is where Erasmus got the reading from.

Here’s a big picture image of a section from the larger page (ID 5190):

Here is a closeup featuring the variant in question in Ephesians 3:9 in the main text (left side of big picture above): τις η κοινωνια του μυστηριου.

And here is a closeup of η κοινωνια in the main text:

Here is a closeup featuring the variant in question in Ephesians 3:9 in the side annotation (right side of big picture above): τις η κοινωνια του μυστηριου.

And a closeup of η κοινωνια in the side annotation:


Note: Post updated on 11/17/19. Thanks to CC and Elijah Hixson for their help in understanding and navigating 2817.