Friday, January 31, 2020

The Vision (1.31.20): Be like Spurgeon, not Gehazi



Image: Elisha punishes Gehazi with Naaman's leprosy, by Augustin Hirschvogel (1503-1553)

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 5:20-6:7.

“But he went in, and stood before his master” (2 Kings 6:25).

Gehazi is an intriguing character in the Biblical narrative. He was a man given incredible privileges and advantages. He was the servant of the prophet Elisha. But sin crouched at the door, and Gehazi squandered all the advantage he had been given.

His demon, as it were, was lust for material gain. He lied to Naaman in order to get silver and raiment for himself.

The apostle Paul warned Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10).

There are modern day Gehazis in the church. For every Gehazi, however, there is a day of reckoning.
Gehazi perhaps thought no one knew what had happened. He got away with it. But we all know that you cannot fool God. Numbers 32:23 says, “And be sure, your sin will find you out.”

Adam found this out in the garden when the LORD asked, “Where art thou?” (Gen 3:9).

Cain found this out when he struck down his brother, and the Lord asked, “What hast thou done?” (Gen 4:9).

Saul found this out when he kept back the best of the flocks and the spoils of the Amalekites, until the prophet Samuel confronted him, saying, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Sam 15:14).

David found this out when Nathan said to him, “Thou art the man” (2 Sam 12:7).

Ahab found this out when he took the life and vineyard of righteous Naboth, and Elijah confronted him, saying, “I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 21:20).

And Gehazi had his moment of reckoning too.

It begins in v. 25a: “But he went in and stood before his master.” Elisha asked him, “Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” (v. 25). And when Gehazi lied, Elisha said, “Went not mine heart with thee…” (v. 26). In the end, there was also for Gehazi a just temporal punishment, as the leprosy of Naaman clung to him (v. 27).

Contrast Gehazi with Charles Spurgeon, one of the most popular and prolific preachers and writers of the Victorian era, whose printed sermons and books sold millions, which would have made him a millionaire. It is said, however, that when he died, he left behind only a small sum. Why? Because he had given almost everything he had made to Christian causes, to his church, to a college for training pastors, to an orphanage, to an almshouse, to a book ministry, and others.
We should be like Spurgeon, not Gehazi.
Know that God is omniscient (all-knowing). Know too that he is a God of justice. Fear him. Let us learn from this inspired narrative, and let us also remember that there are worse punishments than merely temporal ones.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Follow Up: Talking Text on Talking Christianity Podcast



I was on Josh Gibbs’s "Talking Christianity" podcast Wednesday evening/Thursday morning, along with James Snapp, Jr. (JS) and Peter Gurry (PG) to discuss the topic, “How should Christians approach textual criticism, or how should they deal with textual variation in our manuscripts?” I forgot that Josh was on central time, so a scheduled two hour 9-11 pm podcast became a 10 pm-12 midnight podcast, and then the feed broke in the middle, had to get reconnected, and then stretched into an over three hour conversation, that did not end till after 1 am!  You can watch part one here and part two here. Just now getting around to jotting down a few notes/reflections on the exchange:

My view in the discussion: Surprise, surprise, the Confessional Text. The other two represented, respectively, reasoned eclecticism (PG) and “equitable” eclecticism (JS; his own unique view, leading to a variety of the Majority Text).

After opening introductions, we were supposed to pose four questions to each other in turn, but we only made it through one round of questions (I to PG, PG to JS, and JS to me). From there the conversation sort of went off the rails. There was a lot of talking over and interruptions (of which I’ll claim my fair share).

Anyhow, I think my fellow guests (and probably some listeners) got pretty frustrated with me, since the conversations often went like it sometimes goes for confessionalists when they speak with reconstructionists:

Reconstructionist: So, what empirical evidence would you use to reconstruct the text of this passage?

Confessionalist: I would just accept the TR reading. My approach assumes “preservation” not “reconstruction.”

Reconstructionist: You mean you just accept the TR?

Confessionalist: Yes.

Reconstructionist: Which TR?

Confessionalist: I would look to the family of the printed editions of the Reformation era, which are generally uniform.

Reconstructionist: Would you even accept the CJ?

Confessionalist: Yes.

Reconstructionist: (While clutching pearls) How could you? No reasonable person could ever hold such a ridiculous view!

Reconstructionist: So, what empirical evidence would you use to reconstruct the text of this other passage?

Confessionalist: I would just accept the TR reading….

PG had some particularly interesting comments, including:

Suggesting that twenty-first New Testament criticism has not really abandoned the nineteenth century and twentieth century goal of restoring the original text, even suggesting most contemporary text critics assume the “initial text” is the “authorial text”(?).

Suggesting that David C. Parker, advocate of the “living text” view and editor of the Gospel of John in the ECM, in partnership with the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in M√ľnster, which will be incorporated into the Novum Testamentum Graece, has not really exerted that much influence on the academic text (?).

Suggesting that the ending of Mark in the NLT (2015), with its inclusion of the non-canonical “shorter ending” (in the text) and the “Freer Logion” (in the footnotes) is not really an example of the “trickle down” influence of current trends in postmodern text criticism (?).

Suggesting that there really wasn’t much that was providentially significant about the Reformation era with respect the text of Scripture, and that the nineteenth century, with the discovery of the uncials, was of greater significance than the Reformation for text criticism (?).

Wholeheartedly defending the omission of the Pericope Adulterae (PA: John 7:53-8:11) from the text of the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT), rejecting it as part of Scripture, and suggesting that it would be the addition of this passage to the text that would, in fact, be a violation of Revelation 22:18-19 (?). On reflection this phrase came to mind: “Today’s evangelical is yesterday’s liberal.”

Suggesting, on one hand, that the role of text criticism in the church isn’t the sort of big deal that confessionalists like me make it out to be; while, on the other hand, suggesting that he and other elite scholars were doing the same sort of vital work in text criticism for the church that Origen and Jerome did, and that they use the exact same methods that Origen and Jerome did, and not a method reflecting Enlightenment era influenced historical-critical methodology (?).

Piously suggesting in his closing statement that rather than wanting the Bible of Owen and the Protestant orthodox (as I had stated was my desire in my closing remarks), he wanted the text of the apostles (?). The problems with this assertion: (1) As I had previously stated, the Reformed orthodox (like Owen) believed that when they read the apographs (as presented in faithful printed editions) they were reading the autographs (the text of the apostles); (2) Despite PG's protestations to the contrary, contemporary reasoned eclecticism does not seek to recover the autograph of the apostles but only some approximation of the so-called initial text.

JS spoke less (hard to get a word in edge wise at times), but he also had some points of note. This included a unique definition of “kept pure in all ages”, not according to its use in WCF 1:8, as meaning that any valid reading must appear in a currently extant Greek manuscripts culled from all ages of Christian history. In his closing statement, he took aim at any position based on “tradition.” I noted in my introduction that I was the only confessionally Reformed person in the discussion, with PG an evangelical and JS from a Campbellite “Christian Church” restorationist tradition with a decidedly anti-creedal bent. Given this, JS’s interest in “restoration” text criticism and his rejection of “authority in appeal to a tradition” fits perfectly with his ecclesiastical orientation.

I did not get to pose any of my prepared questions to JS. Here is what I would have asked if opportunity had allowed:

First: If the proper text of the NT should be some reconstructed form of the Majority Text, why didn’t the Protestant Reformers reach this conclusion, and why has this text not yet been conclusively defined in any widely used printed edition? And why have no widely used translations of it been made in any language? Does this mean that Christians are still waiting, after c. 2,000 years, to have a Bible?

Second: If you were preaching through Acts 8, how would you handle v. 37? Do you reject this passage as part of the Word of God?

I can’t say it was a great conversation. It was what it was. Despite this, hope it can be useful to some.

JTR

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.12: Serapion of Antioch and the Gospel of Peter



Image: Ruins near modern day Arsuz, Turkey,  and the ancient Roman city of Rhossus

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 6, chapter 12. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter focuses on the ministry and apologetic writings of Serapion, bishop of Antioch, and a contemporary of Origen.

In Eusebius’s catalogue of the writings of Serapion the following are mentioned:

First, a work addressed to Domnus, who had fallen away from the faith during the time of persecution.

Second, a work addressed to Pontius and Caricus, and others.

Finally, a work Concerning what is known of the Gospel of Peter.

It is this final work that the remainder of the chapter discusses.

Eusebius explains that Serapion wrote this work to a community in Rhossus, who had been influenced by the apocryphal Gospel of Peter to embrace heterodox views relating to Christology, the doctrine of Christ.

An excerpt from the book is share in which Serapion says that though he accepts Peter and the other apostles, he does not accept works falsely written in their names, like, presumably the Gospel of Peter.

Serapion also notes that he at first believed that all in this community “clung to the true faith.” Thus, when he heard there was a dispute among them about this work attributed to Peter he at first approved its reading among them, but he then later learned that some in this community had their minds “luring in the hole of heresy and reversed his decision on the usefulness of this book.

He notes that the heresy that had infiltrated this community was doceticism (from dokeo, to seem to be), the denial of the true humanity of Christ, a teaching associated with someone named Marcianus.

He adds that review of the Gospel of Peter revealed that although some of it was in accord with “true teaching”, other things were added (docetic content) which disqualified it from use among the orthodox.

Conclusion:

This chapter is important for demonstrating the ongoing battle against heresy, in this case Docetism, and also the related battle over the canon of Scripture. The so-called Gospel of Peter is rejected, both because it was a pseudonymous work, not truly written by the apostle Peter, and because it contained false doctrine (Docetism). Thus, it was rejected and denounced by the bishop Serapion, who, like other bishops, served as a guardian of truth.

JTR

Monday, January 27, 2020

Rejoinder to Hixson on the CJ: Part Two of Three



Enjoyed a trip to DC last weekend (Friday-Saturday) to visit my daughters and take our Korean exchange student to see the highlights on the mall [we went to the Jefferson, Lincoln and Korean War memorials, saw the Capital building, visited the US Botanic Garden Conservatory, the Air and Space Museum, the National Art Gallery, the Museum of American History, went to the top of the Washington Monument, and the National Archive (where we saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights)]. Wow!

Now, back to my rejoinders to Dr. Elijah's Hixson's comments posted to my blog on WM 149.

For part one of my rejoinder look here.

Here is the continuation of the rejoinder (EH's comments in blue and my responses in black):

(2/~3) You write: “This ms. only has a short entry. EH concludes, ‘Still, the King James Version already existed by the time this manuscript rolled around.’ One wonders about the mention here of the KJV, in particular. The implication, of course, is that defense of the TR is simply a variety of KJV-Onlyism.” This was not at all my implication though. My implication is that the manuscript it so late that it doesn’t support the presence of the Comma in editions of the TR. 1611 is such a well-known date that it’s a good way to represent how late this manuscript is.


You write: “Because this likely does not fit with EH’s assumption that defense of the TR can only be perceived as a variety of KJV-O.” This is not my assumption at all. I would grant that it’s one possibility of four (explained at the end).


JTR: Interesting. So, does this mean that you recognize the Confessional Text preference for the TR as not being a variety of KJVO? So, this means that you also disagree with those like Mark Ward who have recently suggested that “Confessional Bibliology” is really just “upscale KJVO”?

Are you also saying that your specific mention here of ms. 2473’s suggested date of c. 1634 as being after the KJV (1611) is not related to any attempt to make a connection between the TR preference and KJVO? OK. Sounds good. If this is the case, might I offer a friendly suggestion: Given that many modern text advocates (like Mark Ward) do, in fact, argue that any defense of the TR is really just some variety of KJVO, you might want to be sensitive to making singular references to the KJV (and ignoring other Protestant translations based on the TR in English and other languages) if you write something again that specifically addresses the TR position.

A few more questions on ms. 2473 since your comments here were so brief: On what basis is ms. 2473 dated to c. 1634? Does this date come from Wachtel? On what basis did the person assigning this date make this assessment?


You write: “One wonders what EH means by “grand claims.”” I’m happy to elaborate. The TR position is essentially a “grand unified theory of textual criticism.” That is the only way it can be legitimate for TR advocates to claim that they can interpret the evidence correctly (or even that they can do it more correctly than someone like me). By ‘grand unified theory’, I mean that every single page of every single manuscript is an outworking of “kept pure in all ages” throughout history. This includes not only every page of Vaticanus and Bezae but also minuscules 177, 1739, 35, 1582, every Latin manuscript that supports “In Isaiah the Prophet” at Mark 1:2, and the 99 (or more?) Armenian manuscripts that lack Mark 16:9–20 and the ~1600 Greek manuscripts that do have it. Every single one of the Byzantine Greek minuscules that lacks the Comma and every single one of the ones that have it fall under the purview of ‘kept pure in all ages’ and as a result, a TR advocate should be able to make a better case for how to interpret the evidence than I have given.




JTR: I found this paragraph confusing. I had asked what you meant by your reference to the “grand claims” of TR advocates, since you cited no authors or works directly. I even suggested what I thought you might have meant by this: “Is it simply the claim that the TR has historically been and should continue to be looked to as the authoritative and authentic text of Protestant Scriptures?”

Your elaboration here, however, seems to be something completely different. You describe the TR position as a “grand unified theory of textual criticism” that must take into consideration “every single page of every single manuscript” in order to satisfy the “kept pure in all ages” view of preservation (presumably as articulated in WCF/SD/2LBCF 1:8).

Again, this seems to be a departure along a completely different track. When you made reference in your original article to “the grand claims” of TR advocates, I was assuming you were attempting to address “grand claims” actually made by those who hold to some form of TR advocacy, and especially to those of us who do so on a confessional basis, since this was stated as a special interest and focus in your article. The paragraph in your original article in which you mention these “grand claims” begins, in fact, as follows (bold added): “Maybe I have been reading too much from textus receptus advocates, but it struck me that some of the arguments I hear from them actually works against the textus receptus position once you take the time to step away from the grand claims and look at how the specifics about manuscripts fit with those grand claims.”

Your “grand unified theory” noted above, however, is not a “grand claim” made by any TR advocate I have read. It certainly does not reflect my view. Instead, you seem to have shifted the focus of the term “grand claims” from what TR advocates actually hold (as seemed to be the intent in your original article) to what you think they should hold (what you address in these comments). Do you see why I find this so confusing? I’m probably not the only one.

Again, this “grand unified theory” is not one held by any TR advocate of whom I am aware but seems to be your own theory (your own “grand claim”, as it were). Your view, if I understand you correctly, is that any legitimate view of the text of Scripture must take into consideration the legitimacy of every extant ms. (Greek and versional) to the NT (“every single page of every single manuscript”).

With all due respect, I must tell you that I completely disagree with your “grand unified theory of textual criticism.” I believe, for example, that the c. 900 Armenian mss. that omit the traditional ending of Mark (along with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus at this point) were in error, and their reading should be rejected.

Your “grand unified theory”, in fact, seems to describe the classic modern critical text view of reconstruction, but not the confessional view of preservation. This was not the view of providential preservation held by the men who framed the WCF/SD/2LBCF. I know your training is not in historical theology and, as I understand it, you are not yourself confessionally Reformed. If you have not yet done so, I’d encourage you to read vol. 2 of Richard Muller’s PRRD, as well as Garnet Howard Milne’s Kept Pure in All Ages to understand what the Protestant orthodox meant by “kept pure in all ages.” I think you would profit from it. If you think I have misread you here, please feel free to clarify things for me and point me in the direction of what I should read.


“I’m not sure about his drift in reference to lectionary markings in Codex Bezae. Is his point that it was used in some church tradition? But its obscure readings were, in fact, rejected as authentic, right?” In a sense, no they weren’t, not by the church that used it. And that church falls under the purview of ‘kept pure in all ages’, unless that phrase means little more than special pleading. Codex Bezae is the text received by that church.




JTR: With all due respect, I completely disagree with your premise here. Are you really saying that just because any church or churches made use of any reading in any manuscript in the entire history of Christendom, then that reading should be accepted as being as legitimate and authoritative as any other?

What you are proposing here, I am afraid, is a radical redefinition of “kept pure in all ages” which has nothing to do with how the framers of the Protestant confessions would have understood it (see suggested reading above). In fact, I hardly see how this view could even be comprehended as being broadly evangelical. It seems more in line with Bart Ehrman’s view that we should talk about “early Christianities” (plural) rather than “early Christianity” (singular), or Elaine Pagel’s view that the Gnostic writings should be acknowledged with equal legitimacy in the “Christian” tradition alongside those received by the “paleo-orthodox.”

In contrast, consider Eusebius’s account of Serapion of Antioch in EH 6:12. When he heard that those in Rhossos were making use of the apocryphal Gospel of Peter, he at first permitted it to be read by them, having never read it himself, assuming it was orthodox, and that it actually came from Peter. When he later examined the document, however, and found that it was pseudonymous and included heretical docetic teaching, he rejected it as non-Petrine and spurious, and warned against its acceptance. According to the view you have articulated above, however, the Gospel of Peter should, however, perhaps be received, since it was once used (received) by a church.

The Serapion anecdote demonstrates that not every text was received by the orthodox in the history of the church just because it was received and used by any particular church or churches. If this was true of the rejection of the Gospel of Peter, surely it is also true of discernment applied to the NT canon. This type of discernment, for example, led to the rejection of the following: the canonicity of the so-called “Shorter Ending of Mark”, the omission of the traditional ending of Mark, as in codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the insertion of the spear piercing the side of Jesus before he died on the cross in codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, et al. at Matthew 27:49 [from John 19:34], the inclusion of Psalm 151 in the Psalter in codex Sinaiticus, the inclusion of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas in the NT in codex Sinaiticus, the omission of 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude and Revelation in the early Syriac NT, etc.

In short, not every reading in Bezae or any other early ms. should be conferred legitimacy, just because it is extant and was used at some point by some church or churches. Not all evidence is to be treated equally. We cannot separate the matters of canon and text. We are not dependent on empirical reconstruction but on providential preservation of the self-authenticating Scripture.


“Does EH realize he writes this after an exercise in which he has literally been “scrambling” through the extant CJ evidence attempting to show the impact of RC provenance?” But this is not true. As I clarified earlier, I merely set out to see what the manuscripts themselves said. I had no idea what I would find. It sounds like you are projecting motives onto me that aren’t there.


JTR: Despite the protests here to the contrary, you clearly stated more than once in your original article that one of your purposes was to refute those who defended the CJ on the basis of their Protestant, confessional convictions. The particular attempt you made to show the RC provenance of some of these witnesses to the CJ and to argue that this was an example of inconsistency in the Protestant confessional defense of the CJ seems to be an especially obvious example of how your implicit bias shaped the article’s “findings.” On one hand, you protest here that you “merely set out to see what the manuscripts themselves said”, but, on the other hand, you plainly tell us in the original article that you did some special “scrambling” to look for RC provenance for these mss. Why did you especially look for RC provenance for these mss.? You wanted to buttress your preconceived argument against the Protestant defense of the CJ.

Do you really think that one can approach the study of the text of Scripture without any preconceived notions or presuppositions? If so, how very modern of you. But even in the modern period, didn’t the text critics always argue that the discipline was both an art and a science? IMHO, your article clearly reflects a good deal of art and not merely dispassionate, objective scientific description. I’m not necessarily downing you for this. I gladly admit that I have a bias toward the TR as I examine the empirical evidence. My question is simply, “Why not acknowledge that?”


In summary, three main headings of responses.

1. First, you make some incorrect assumptions. “… he assumes that TR advocates are engaged in the same sort of reconstruction methodology as modern/postmodern text critics.” “Because this likely does not fit with EH’s assumption that defense of the TR can only be perceived as a variety of KJV-O.” “EH wrongly implies that TR advocates affirm the CJ based on analysis of extant Greek mss evidence.” “Does EH realize he writes this after an exercise in which he has literally been “scrambling” through the extant CJ evidence attempting to show the impact of RC provenance?” Not only are you saying things about me and my assumptions that simply aren’t true, in some of these cases, your incorrect assumptions led you to incorrect conclusions (such as why I mentioned the KJV).



JTR: This paragraph protests that I misunderstood and misrepresented your position in my review. I’m not convinced of that. I guess we will have to leave it to the readers/listeners to draw their own conclusions.

To be continued...

JTR

Saturday, January 25, 2020

WM 150: Resource: John Owen on Scripture



I have posted WM 150: Resource: John Owen on Scripture. Listen here.

In this WM I discuss a book I have recently complete under the title, John Owen on Scripture: Authority, Inspiration, Preservation from our publishing ministry, Trumpet Books, 2019. It is in paperback and is 157 pages in length.

The book is available to order here at amazon.com, or if you search by the author name and title.

This book consists of three parts:

1.    An introductory essay on Owen’s Bibliology.
2.    An abridgement and simplification of Owen’s essay The Divine Original.
3.    An abridgement and simplification of Owen’s essay A Vindication.

If you attended the Text and Canon Conference in Atlanta back in October, you know that I made mention of this book project and suggested it would be of interest to anyone interested in the whole text and translation matters.

I read the two essays by Owen more than 15 years ago, and they were very influential in shaping my views on the text of Scripture and helping me to understand how the godly men of Owen’s age saw these things.

Some of you know that I completed a similar project back in 2012 for Grace Publications in their series Great Christian Classics. That work was titled Gospel Church Government and was an abridgement and simplification of Owen’s classic work on ecclesiology The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government.

I started this new project around that time and have now added this introductory essay. The point is not for this book to replace reading Owen directly, but it is to serve as a supplement to it.

In this podcast I read my Introduction (pp. 1-13) to this work (without reading the footnotes) in hopes it might interest listeners to get the book and read the remainder of it.

JTR

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Vision (1.24.20): Wash, and be clean



Image: Contemporary view of the Jordan River


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 2 Kings 5.

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable… but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1).

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth and went away… ( 5:10-11a).

And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee to do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? (5:13).

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God…and he was clean (5:14).

Naaman was an honorable man, “but he was a leper.” His humility and his obedience were tested by Elisha’s command to wash seven time in the Jordan. This is usually true when we are asked to do something we do not want to do. It is easy to be obedient when we are simply doing or not doing whatever we want.

Naaman was “wroth”, angry, and went away. He explains that Elisha’s command did not fit his expectation. It is said that most of us have in our minds a mental script, and we expect our lives to go according to this script, the way we want It to go. But when it does not turn out the way we want, and we are asked or forced by circumstances to face a different reality, we become “wroth.”

Naaman’s servants intervene and speak wisdom to him. They challenge him by asking him to consider how he would have responded if the prophet had asked him to do something he considered to be great or noble. Would he not have done it?

If he had been willing to do some great thing, should he not be willing to do some lowly thing. To wash and be clean?

Think of the script again. Most of us envision great things for ourselves. Making big decisions, leading great movements, tacking great problems, achieving great outcomes and receiving great acclaim.

But what if we are asked only to do lowly things? Simple things? Self-forgetting things?

May we learn obedience to Christ in all things, great or small. Let us wash and be clean.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Rejoinder to Hixson on the CJ: Part One of Three



After I posted WM 149, Dr. Elijah Hixson (EH) posted three rather long comments (totaling over 2,000 words) to my blog in response to my review of his article. I took some time today to read and begin to write a few responses to his comments. I thought it might be better to post my rejoinders as a series of three new blog articles, rather than adding to the pile of comments.

I’ll copy EH’s comments below (in blue), along with my responses:

(1/~4?) Jeff, thanks for this. Forgive me for responding to what you’ve written. I rarely have time to listen to things, and responding to audio/video is much more difficult than responding to a recording, so I have got to go by what you’ve written.

JTR: Thanks for responding to the written notes for this episode. There were a few things in the audio version that expanded and clarified a few points. Feel free to listen if time allows, but happy you took time to respond to the written article (I think this is what you meant to write above, rather than “responding to a recording”). Hope you don’t mind me offering this rejoinder and some clarifications to your comments.


Perhaps the best way to start is to say explicitly why I did the work for the post. I’ll come back to it at the end. I decided that, since the THGNT lists more than the usual few manuscripts at 1 John 5:7–8, the best way I could prepare myself to write about that variant when I got to it in the textual commentary would be to look at all the manuscripts myself. I had no intentions of blogging about it when I started, nor did I have any idea what I would find. At some point in the middle, I realised how valuable the info is, and in light of how difficult it would be to get all the appropriate permissions to use the images in a printed book, I thought a blog would be a good way to get the info out there.

JTR: Thanks for providing this background info on how you came to write the article. As I pointed out in the WM 149 audio, everyone should appreciate your labors (whatever his views) in collecting this material (and images) together as an online resource. Thanks for this.

I had read some TR advocates appealing to known provenance (I think blog post(s) by Taylor DeSoto most recently, but I’ve seen a similar line of argument used in KJV-only literature—I draw a distinction particularly because my criticism of appealing to provenance isn’t relevant to KJV-onlyism), and that argument has always been strange to me—because (as you mention) the default Christianity before the reformation was Catholic or Orthodox, “known provenance” often includes things like Mary-worship, 2nd commandment violations, etc. It’s fine to appeal to known provenance as long as we’re clear that these are not churches that Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians would ever approve of in any other sense, and all of them accepted a lot more into the canon (Psalm 151 for example) than we do now as well. It’s difficult for me to take the ‘unprovenanced/heretical church use’ objection seriously when the provenanced manuscripts were used by churches that most reformed Christians would probably consider heretical. There’s no point in whitewashing that.

JTR: This is where things get a little cloudier for me. As I’m sure you’ll understand, without specific references to which authors or articles you’re responding to, it’s hard to know exactly where this critique was aimed, or to access its validity. In short, as I’m sure you can understand, without specifics, it might even come across as a “straw man” argument.

Contrary to what you say here, it seems to me that confessional TR advocates, in particular, are well aware of the shortcomings within the Christian movement that necessitated the Reformation, while also affirming the providential preservation of the text, despite these ecclesiastical shortcomings, and the definitive affirmation of the text by the Protestant orthodox during the Reformation.

Given that the confessional TR position does not depend on a “reconstruction” method, but a “preservation” method, the fact that the pre-Reformation churches which produced and used the now extant mss. had errant beliefs or practices seems less relevant, while it would, on the other hand, necessarily be highly relevant to the “reconstruction” approach.

You make reference to the fact that prior to the Reformation, some Christians “accepted a lot more into the canon”, and you use the apocryphal Psalm 151 as an example of this. Would you not agree, however, that any acceptance of non-canonical, uninspired writings as part of Scripture at any point in Christian history would have been in error? Psalm 151 is an interesting example. As I understand it, Psalm 151 appears in Codex Sinaiticus and some other LXX mss., but it was never accepted by Jews as part of the Hebrew Bible (and no Hebrew version of Psalm 151 was known until an expanded version of it was uncovered in the DSS), nor was it ever confessionally affirmed as canonical by Christians. This example, it seems to me, actually supports quite nicely the Confessional Text emphasis on text as a canonical issue (ergo, the title of last fall’s “Text and Canon” conference). Those who accepted Psalm 151 as canonical were in error, as were those who accepted the so-called shorter ending of Mark, the freer logion in Mark, or the expanded “Western” readings in Acts, etc.. The Protestant Reformation offered a needed providential occasion for giving clear definition to the canon of Scripture (and the canonical text).

You write: “One of the main problems I see here is that EH seems to imply that the reason TR advocates embrace the CJ is because of this sort of external evidence. That is, he assumes that TR advocates are engaged in the same sort of reconstruction methodology as modern/postmodern text critics.” Though you may have inferred it, I assure you I did not imply that. I have not ever assumed that TR advocates are “engaged in the same sort of reconstruction methodology” as I am. I do see TR advocates embracing evidence when it is convenient for the TR position though, and my point here is that it is inconsistent to do so in every case. The bigger point is that the mis-handling of evidence where mis-handling can be clearly seen points to mis-handling of evidence when it cannot be as clearly seen. Your own words about GA 177 (source: http://www.jeffriddle.net/2010/08/daniel-wallace-on-comma-johanneum.html) are: “Wallace is no friend to the traditional text, and he dismisses the value of this new witness. Still it adds some weight to the argument for the authenticity of the comma.” Going from your own words, you were quick to affirm that 177 “adds some weight to the argument for the authenticity of the comma.” Except 177 is the one that was written with a verse number in a hand that signs and dates the manuscript to a (presumably) Catholic priest in 1785—well after the Reformation.

JTR: Sorry, but it still seems to me that your discussion of these mss. as empirical evidence and your conclusion that this serves as some sort of "defeater" to the TR position misses the point of confessional TR advocacy, which is not based on “reconstruction.” I think I made a point in the introduction to the WM 149 audio (but not in the notes) that has been often made in my podcasts, namely that TR advocates readily concede that some TR readings, especially like the CJ, are not well supported by extant external evidence and are more difficult to defend on empirical grounds (if you don’t have time to listen to the entire podcast you can listen to the first few minutes and will be able to hear this). This is hardly a "whitewashing" of the evidence.

Though it may seem to you that confessional TR advocates are only pointing to the empirical evidence “when it is convenient” I do not think this is, in fact, the case. Again, many times over we have acknowledged that some TR readings (like the CJ) are harder to defend than others. The argument for the CJ is not made on the basis of empirical evidence by confessional TR advocates.

You then move on to a “bigger point” about “mishandling of evidence.” Here you give as a lone example a blog post I wrote nearly ten years ago (August 26, 2010), in which I made the briefest of references to Dan Wallace’s discovery of the CJ in the margin of ms. 177. This discovery had been made a month earlier in July 2010, and the images of it had not yet posted online. Note that at the end of DW's post from July 2, 2010, he expressed a hope that one day the micro-film of mss. like 177 would be digitized and made available for others to see online.

I stand by my comments in the article. Dan Wallace is not a friend of the traditional text. He, like everyone else (from KJVO to modern text advocate), has implicit bias and operates under the influence of his own presuppositions. The only point I was making was that the discovery of this ms. provided, from my perspective, yet more evidence for the tenacity of the CJ in the Christian tradition. And this is true even if the marginal addition is late. In this sense it does indeed “add some weight” (however slight one might assess that weight to be) to the argument for the CJ. For these reasons, I hardly think one could call my very brief comments in that blog post a “mishandling of the evidence.”

Getting back to your 2020 article and away from my ten-year old blog post, you note that the CJ in 177 includes the verse notation, it was owned by a priest who signed the ms.in 1785, and this leads to your conclusion that the CJ addition was composed “well after the Reformation.”

Let me offer some responses:

First, on the verse notation: This well may show that the addition comes after the appearance of the CJ in printed editions of the Greek NT and the editorial addition of versification in the sixteenth century. Question: Is it also at least in the realm of the possible that the person who added the CJ had BOTH an ancient ms. or mss. AND a printed edition of the Greek NT which included the CJ? If this were the case, then it would be impossible to ascertain the date for the source of the CJ addition on the basis of the appearance of the verse notation.

Second, you note that this 11th century ms. was signed by a RC priest in 1785 and you make a subjective conjecture that the same person who signed the ms. also added the CJ, though you acknowledge that the ink is different and “some of the letters are a little stylized.” You may be right about this conjecture, but I am sure you will also be willing to say that this speculation cannot be definitively proven. If the CJ was not added by the same person who signed his name, then the question of date is less certain. Whatever the marginal CJ's date in 177, the fact that this mss. was at one time owned and signed by a RC priest is irrelevant to establishing anything, pro or con, with regards to the authenticity of the CJ as part of the text of Christian Scripture.

Third, perhaps the CJ addition was made to 177 “well after the Reformation.” If it were, what exactly does this prove? The Protestant consensus on the authenticity of the CJ was settled by at least 1600. Calvin, for example, affirms it in his commentary on 1 John. It had, in fact, been known and accepted in the Christian tradition long before the Reformation. As I note in WM 149, various pre-Reformation theologians had assumed its authenticity in their theologizing, including Bernard of Clairvaux (c. 1090-1153), Peter Lombard (c. 1095-1160), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Peter Abelard (1079-1142), and Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) (for a listing of these and other medieval theologians who made ready use of the CJ, see Grantley McDonald’s 2011 dissertation “Raising the Ghost of Arius”, pp. 57, 62.). The fact that the CJ was added to “correct” 177 only shows the tenacity of the CJ within the Christian tradition, whatever the date given to the marginal addition of the CJ in 177.

You say it’s not about evidence, but you were appealing to evidence to support it. Without checking to see what 177 was and by assuming that it would support the TR you appealed to the evidence of a priest in 1785 as if it supports the authenticity of the CJ. What I was implying was that TR advocates would do better to admit up front that the evidence is against the TR here.

JTR response: Again, my less than 500-word blog article from August 2010 only makes brief reference to 177, a ms. which had only been “discovered” one month earlier and was not yet available to view online. One can hardly fault me for failure to examine the ms. when its images were not yet available to examine at the time I wrote this popular-level blog article, which never claimed to be an exhaustive academic study of 177. If anything, my comments on 177 were measured. For these reasons, I hardly think it is reasonable or fair to use this as any kind of an example of a TR advocate’s “mishandling of evidence.”

If we want to see real “mishandling of evidence” let’s examine how many modern critical text advocates like James White have propagated the “rush to print” and “rash wager’ anecdotes about Erasmus’s 1516 Greek NT and the CJ’s inclusion into it. Smiles.

JTR