Friday, January 31, 2020
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?
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?
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 Münster, 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.