Saturday, November 30, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.13: Rhodo the Asian

Image; Marble bust of the Roman emperor Commodus as Hercules, c. AD 192, Capitoline Museum, Rome, Italy. Rhodo the Asian would have written, in  part, sometime during the time of Commodus (emperor, AD 180-192).

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 5, chapter 13. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter introduces Rhodo the Asian, who had been a pupil of Tatian in Rome. For Tatian and his involvement with a heretical sect known as the Encratites, see EH 4.29.

Rhodo is said to have composed several works, including one against the arch-heretic Marcion.

Citations are given from Rhodo's work, noting several heretical teachers within the Marcionite movement, who often put forward contradictory opinions, including:

Apelles, an aged man, how taught one “Principle” (Lake: “Source of being” or “Beginning” or “God”), but who was influenced by the utterances of a “possessed maiden” named Philoumene.

Marcion himself, meanwhile, argued for “two Principles” and was followed by Potitus and Basilicus. He is called “the wolf of Pontus.”

Finally, a man named Syneros even argued for “three Natures.”

Rhodo is cited as having personally spoken to and argued with Apelles. Two problems are noted with his thinking: (1) he did not provide any argument to justify his belief in “one Principle” (God); and (2) persistence in good works were needed for salvation.

Citing again Rhodo’s writings (addressed to Kallistio), reference is made to a work by Tatian “on Problems”, in which “he undertook to set out what was unclear and hidden in the divine Scriptures.”

Eusebius also notes a work by Rhodo on the Hexaëmeron (the six-day creation), while Apelles is condemned for “countless impieties against the law of Moses.”


This chapter reflects ongoing concerns related to distinguishing orthodoxy from heresy. Rhodo seems to be a teacher who stood somewhere in the middle of these contentions. On one hand, he describes and refutes heretics like Marcion, but, on the other, he was a student of Tatian. Defense of the truth is often engaged in murky circumstances.


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Vision (11.29.19): Ahab’s hostility to the Lord’s prophet

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 22:1-29.

And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so (1 Kings 22:8).

Ahab’s description of Micaiah recalls his interactions with the better-known Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 18:17-18; 21:20).

Some kings only want to surround themselves with “Yes-men.” Ahab only wanted prophets who could give him good news, confirm him in his own desires. He did not want a prophetic minister who would bring the word of the Lord to rebuke him, exhort him, admonish him.

There are parallels between this account of Micaiah son of Imlah and the ministry of Jeremiah which took place in later generations. Jeremiah will say of the false prophets of his day: “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer 6:14). Paul, likewise, will write to Timothy with a similar warning: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3).

Just think of how silly that is? What if you went to your physician to have a physical, but you told him ahead of time, I only want you to give me a good report. If you find a tumor or an irregular heart beat or high blood pressure, just ignore that and tell me I’m fine.

Wouldn’t you want your physician to tell you the truth? What about your spiritual physician?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.12: Narcissus of Jerusalem

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 5, chapter 12. Listen here.
Here ends Book 5, chapter 12.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter returns the focus to the church in Jerusalem. Again, Eusebius places emphasis on the succession of bishops in the key early cities and centers of Christianity, Jerusalem, quite naturally being one of them.

In EH 4.5, Eusebius had traced the line of the first fifteen bishops, all Jewish Christians, beginning with James the elder, from the ascension of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem under the emperor Hadrian.

In this brief chapter in perfect symmetry he outlines the succeeding bishops in Jerusalem, after Jerusalem’s destruction under Hadrian, all of whom were Gentiles.

Then line ends with the thirtieth bishop, Narcissus, who, Eusebius says, was “widely famous.”

K. Lake points out that Eusebius here lists only thirteen names, and suggests two names be added after Capito (Maximus II and Antoninus) to make fifteen, as it appears in his Chronicon. Here then would be the lists of Gentile bishops:

Gaius II
Julian II
[Maximus II]


The symmetry in the listing of Jewish and Gentile bishops implies divine order. It also notes the shift in the Jerusalem church from Jewish to Gentile control, given the political and historical circumstances. Nevertheless, whether led by Jewish or Gentile bishops, Jerusalem remains a key center of Christianity.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Iain Murray on the Evangelical Search for "Academic Respectability"

Recent discussion on the text of Scripture and academic scholarship, sent me back to skim again a chapter in Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000 (Banner of Truth, 2000). The entire book is worth reading for its narrative of the doctrinal compromise that led to the word “evangelical” becoming essentially meaningless with regard to Biblical fidelity by the end of the twentieth century.

The chapter that I returned to was chapter 7 ‘Intellectual Respectability’ and Scripture (173-214).

Murray traces, in particular, the efforts of evangelicals in the late twentieth century to seek degrees and teaching posts in major academic institutions (particularly in the UK) in hopes of gaining respectability for the evangelical cause in the wider academic community and exerting a traditional Christian influence on scholarship. Sadly, rather than seeing the evangelicals influence the academy, Murray suggests it has been the academy that has influenced evangelicals. As is often quipped in Christian home-school circles: “If you send your children to Caesar to be educated, don’t be surprised if they come back as Romans.”

In this regard he traces the careers of the likes of F. F. Bruce, James Barr, James D. G. Dunn, I Howard Marshall, etc. He also traces the trajectory of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVF) and its Tyndale Fellowship of Biblical Research, founded in 1944, whose establishment was, according to Murray, “a move to counter the image of evangelicals as people who did not believe in intellectual labour and who held blindly to traditions regardless of scholarship” (175).

Let me illustrate some of Murray’s points made in this chapter with a few brief quotations:

First, he describes the goal of this rapprochement:

Applying this to the academic level, evangelicals would work with liberals on the human aspects, using the same critical tools, while retaining their own overall position. The immense cleavage of opinion over the actual authority of the Bible could be by-passed, yet with the ultimate intention of making the other side sit up and rethink the credibility of the conservative position (180).

Second, the problems inherent with this approach:

The academic approach to Scripture treats the divine element—for all practical purposes—as non-existent. History shows that when evangelicals allow that approach their teaching will soon begin to look little different from that of liberals (185).

Third, the consequences:

I turn now to the consequences which always follow a lowered view of Scripture. It is that biblical truth become a matter of possibilities or probabilities, rather than of certainties. According to liberalism this is an asset, not a defect, for it is ‘dogmatism’ and the ‘closed mind’ which are indefensible and ‘incompatible’ with scholarship (198).

He adds a range of further consequences including:

First: A proper understanding of the Bible passes from the hands of ordinary men and women to the professional scholar…. (202).

Second: It follows that, if Christian belief in Scripture is reduced to conjectures and uncertainties, then a broad toleration of almost all opinions is allowable. Any dogmatism over ‘points of view’ has to be unscholarly as well as uncharitable…. (203).

Third: Finally, it follows that a denial of the full inspiration of Scripture leads to theological teaching and education which is destructive and futile rather than enriching and upbuilding in the faith. Instead of certainties, worthy to be preached and taught, students are introduced to what their lecturers trust are the latest results of Biblical scholarship. The fact that this scholarship is so quickly out of date, and to be replaced by new ‘insights’, seems to cause the instructors no misgivings. Presumably they regard change as the inevitable result of progress, and think that theology is no different from any other branch of learning (204).

I don’t think it will take much prompting for thoughtful readers to connect the dots here between Murray’s assessment of the “evangelical crisis” (especially with regard to the search for “academic respectability”) at the end of the twentieth century, and how that crisis has continued into the twenty-first century, or why some academic evangelicals (and I’m not talking about the PIA here) have been among the most intense, active, and impassioned critics of the Confessional Text movement.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Eusebius, EH.5.9-11: Pantaenus and Clement of Alexandria

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 5, chapters 9-11. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These three chapters focus on the bishops and teachers at Alexandria, Egypt.

Chapter 9 notes the imperial transition from Antoninus to Commodus (sole emperor, 180-192). In Alexandria Julian succeeded Agrippinus as bishop.

Chapter 10 introduced Pantaenus, a man “very famous for his learning”, who directed a “school of sacred learning” in Alexandria, which, Eusebius says, continued to his day. It is noted that Pantaenus had been influenced by Stoicism and that tradition holds he had been a herald of the gospel to the East and had gone as far as India as an “evangelist.” It is also noted that when he arrived in India, he found that there were already those who knew Christ, since the apostle Bartholomew had preached to them and left them the Gospel of Matthew “in Hebrew letters.”

Chapter 11 turns to Clement of Alexandria (named after Clement of Rome), who had studied the Scriptures with Pantaenus. Eusebius says that Clement made reference to Pantaenus in his Hypotyposes and alluded to him also in his Stromateis, where he also makes reference to having consulted various men who had known the ancient men and preserved the “true tradition” directly from the apostles.


We see another emphasis on imperial and ecclesiastical succession. We also see an emphasis on Alexandria as a key center of early Christianity and especially a center of learning, scholarship, and study of the Scriptures.


Friday, November 22, 2019

WM 142: Rejoinder to James White on p46: Refutation Refuted

WM 142: Rejoinder to James White on p46: Refutation Refuted is available. Listen here.

The first word that came to mind while listening to yesterday’s DL (11/21/19) from the PIA JW was “bombastic.” An online dictionary defines “bombastic” as high-sounding but with little meaning; inflated. It gives as an example: "bombastic rhetoric."

This was vintage PIA. This DL is now titled, in part, “Jeffrey Riddle’s abuse of p46.” IMHO, it should instead be titled, “The PIA abuses Jeff Riddle’s blog posts on textual witnesses to Eph 3:9.”

In this DL, JW essentially rifled through three recent blog posts and comments from my blog (, appropriated ideas from that material, sometimes to make them sound like they were his own (when in fact they came from others; see e.g., his references to minuscule 2817, the Complutension Polyglot, etc.), or misrepresented the facts as they were presented. I would encourage anyone interested in this matter to read my three posts for yourself and this will be evident.

What he did was lacking in honesty and scholarly integrity. I can see better now why for many, the more contact they have with the PIA, the less contact they often want. I’m in that category.

His treatment of my post on p46 was a total straw man and misrepresentation of the facts.

The shame is he missed out on a very interesting discussion across all three blog posts.

I was reminded of comments apparently from Bart Ehrman which were posted in the comments section to the video of the one and only joint appearance he had with the PIA nearly 11 years ago. He wrote:

"I wasn’t sure whether I should post this debate or not. Frankly, it was not a good experience. I normally do not have an aversion to the people I debate. But James White is that kind of fundamentalist who gets under my skin….  He’s not a scholar because he does not have scholarly training, does not have scholarly credentials, and never publishes any works of scholarship. My aversion to him is simply rooted in the fact that he does not seem to be a nice guy. I have no problem with him being a committed Christian believer; but when someone is that offensive, I tend to take offense!"

My blog posts and the conversations within them via the comments which the PIA grossly misrepresented began with my first blog post on WM 138: Text Note on Ephesians 3:9 (to which he is supposedly writing a response). The comments section on this post were extensive, with back and forths primarily between me, a commentor named CC, and Elijah Hixson.

One of the challenges I had offered JW in WM 138 was to provide the minuscule evidence for the TR at Eph 3:9. I offered this challenge since it seemed apparent to me that the PIA had no first-hand information drawn from his own study of this variant but was completely dependent on secondary literature, probably Metzger (and Hills).

After Elijah Hixson offered some suggestions in the comments about Metzger’s confusion in his Textual Commentary, he suggested that perhaps there was no minuscule evidence other than that which came from mss. influenced by the printed TR editions. It was CC who was able to discover that minuscule 2817 actually has the reading κοινωνια. Elijah Hixson then suggested its possible relationship to two other minuscule mss., in an effort to suggest that the 2817 was in error.

I then did a second post on minuscule 2817 and Ephesians 3:9, in which I initially posted an image of only the citation of the verse in the side annotation, and which I later updated to include an image of the verse as it also appears in the main text. So, minuscule 2817 actually provides a double witness to the κοινωνια reading, demonstrating it as a minority tradition in the extant Greek ms. tradition.

Then CC also pointed out that p46 did not, in fact, clearly read οικονομια but only κονομια.

This led to the third post on a closer look at p46 that included images from p46.

Aside: This was actually a very interesting conversation, and we uncovered collectively some pretty cool things about Eph 3:9. The conversation was charitable, even though we were in disagreement about the evidence.

This is what I wrote in the post about p46:

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.

And here was the concluding paragraph:

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.

Please notice three things about this post that the PIA egregiously misrepresents and distorts:

First: Neither CC nor I ever claimed that the reading in p46 is anything other than κονομια. CC’s speculation was about whether the “exemplar” (the source from which p46 was copied) might have read κοινονια (ο rather than ω).

All of JW’s computer screen overlay showing the reading to be κονομια was literally knocking down a straw man, attacking an argument that was never made in my blog post by anyone! No one ever disputed that the current extant reading at p46 is κονομια.

Second: My blog post clearly acknowledged the possibility that, as I wrote, the “the οι- was either omitted by error or that it was there and the ink has rubbed away.” So all that self-important, arrogant, supposed “expert” instruction by JW was to make a point that was clearly already acknowledged in the blog post itself and in the blog comments.

Third: The suggested reconstruction (by JW or anyone else) that the original reading was οικονομια must of necessity remain an unproven speculation, no matter how probable one might consider it to be. As CC points out the INTF transliteration lists the reading as [οι]κονομια. The brackets here are a sign of intellectual honesty and transparency, which I respect. I, therefore, stand by what I wrote in my blog, “p46, the earliest ms. of Ephesians 3:9, is, at the least, not a clear witness to the οικονομια reading.” This is a plain fact and is hardly “abuse” to p46.

JW was not alone in misreading the blog post. One person posted this question in the comments: “On what authority can one uphold this reading (κοινωνία)? I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind why you could ever think it's authentic.”

And this was my response:

Please re-read the post. I wrote: "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."

CC was not saying that p46 reads κοινωνία here. It is κονομία. If I understand him correctly his question was about whether the *exemplar* of p46 might have read κοινονια, a form of κοινωνία, and it got written as κονομία here. I do not think he was dogmatically saying this was the case but just raising the possibility. If this were the case it would support the TR reading at Eph 3:9.

Again, my point is to say that p46 is not (for whatever reason) a clear witness for οικονομια. Therefore, it takes the number of extant pre-800 witnesses down from six to five and means there are no clear papyri witnesses for Eph 3:9, and it makes the earliest clear witness to the οικονομια reading a fourth century uncial. I think these are facts upon which all can agree.

Again, in his most recent DL, JW the PIA completely misunderstands, distorts, and misrepresents this online conversation on p46. He seems to do so in order to make himself look like some sort of scholarly “expert” by debunking claims that were never made and claiming discoveries that were already thoroughly comprehended.

His doctrinaire pronouncements about p46 and “what the Reformers would definitely believe” about it, if they lived today and had the glories of modern text criticism, demonstrate a deficit not only of scholarly insight, but also humility.

One of the many odd things about this DL were the digs that PIA took at my scholarly credentials, noting that I teach adjunctly at a community college (as if this is some kind of inferior responsibility?) and that my page lists a number of my scholarly articles and book reviews which have appeared in various supposedly subpar journals. I say it is particularly odd given questions that might be raised about the PIA’s own academic credentials (see this post by a RC apologist). Yes, I am “guilty” of having a credentialed PhD from an accredited seminary (accredited by the same agency which accredits all major universities, graduate schools, divinity schools, and seminaries in the US), where I had to pass graduate level exams in subject areas, complete a doctoral dissertation overseen by a committee, and publicly defend my thesis before being granted my degree. And I am guilty of having an page where I share some (but not all) of my published works. The PIA fails to note, however, that my primary calling is not as an academic scholar, but as a pastor of a confessional Reformed Baptist church, where I pursue a Word and Sacrament ministry. But apparently this doesn’t count for much or make me legit enough to be able to comment on these things on my own personal blog.

BTW, can anyone point me to the PIA’s page where I can check out his published scholarly articles and book reviews from peer reviewed journals on text criticism?

This pseudo-scientific academic “Gnosticism” reinforces everything that makes the Enlightenment text a dead-end for spiritual fidelity and vitality, and it makes the confessional text, in comparison, all the more winsome. Has God’s Word been kept pure in all ages? Is it self-authenticating?  Or is it a hopeless jumble of puzzle pieces that the self-appointed academic experts have to reassemble for us, and then reassemble again every couple of years based on “the newest discoveries” or the “newest algorithms” to give us a rough approximation of what it is?

One of the things experientially that prompted my interest, as a pastor, in the subject of text and translation was the doctrinal and practical impact on the church that have resulted from the abandonment of confidence in the confessional text in favor of the ever-shifting, naturalistically constructed critical text.

In my recent devotional reading, I ran across this quote from Gregory of Nyssa in his Life of Moses: “For truly barren is profane education, which is always in labor but never gives birth.”

I don’t see any evidence that this Enlightenment text method produces faithfulness or fruitfulness in the church; reverence for the inspiration, authority, preservation, and sufficiency of the Word of God; and practical piety, virtue, and godliness in the people of God. And this DL is just one more contribution to that conviction.

In the end, I’d rather follow John Owen’s approach to Scripture than Bruce Metzger’s or JW’s.

As the apostle John said, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1a).

And as Christ himself said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16a) and “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt 11:15).


The Vision (11.22.19): The Lord’s strange kindness to Ahab

Image: Stoning of Naboth from Chronique universelle de Rodolphe (c. 1350).

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 21.

Seest thou how Ahab humbled himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house (1 Kings 21:29).

I think the most salient spiritual truth in 1 Kings 21 comes to us in these final words. In this strange kindness to Ahab, we see the heart of a good, kind, compassionate and merciful God.

If he showed mercy to such an ungodly man, what will his mercy be towards those who are born again by grace?

We might also consider how that righteous Naboth is presented as a type of Christ.

Who was Christ but a righteous man who perfectly kept the law of God?

Still, wicked men plotted against him.

False witnesses were assembled to slander him (see Matthew’s account of two false witnesses against Christ in Matt 26:59-61).

He was accused of blasphemy and of making himself a king.

He was deserted by even his closest disciples. No one stood up to defend him.

He was taken out not to be stoned, but to be nailed to the cross.

Unlike Naboth, however, he did not remain in the grave but was gloriously raised.

And what has God done? He has taken those who killed his dear Son and rather than condemn them he has given them grace, mercy, and truth.

Ahab was spared punishment merely in this life. Justice was not removed but only postponed. Those redeemed by Christ have something greater. We escape the second death.

So then, in light of such great grace given us in Christ, let us not be slaves to sin, sold to work evil in the sight of the Lord, but let us be slaves of Christ and slaves of righteousness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, November 21, 2019

WM 141: Resource: TBS Statement of Doctrine of Holy Scripture

WM 141: Resource: TBS Statement of Doctrine of Holy Scripture is posted. Listen here.

In this shorter episode, I offer a reading of the Trinitarian Bible Society's statement on Scripture first adopted in 2005 (read it here). I mentioned this in WM 140. It was noted by Jonathan Arnold at the Text and Canon Conference (listen to his conference talk here). Very helpful resource.


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 the classic Protestant printed editions of the TR, for example, 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 the classic Protestant ones of Stephanus and Beza, based on Erasmus' foundational work. 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.