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 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.