Wednesday, February 26, 2020
WM 158: "If the Text-Critics Went to Lunch and Didn't Come Back"
I have posted WM 158: "If the Text-Critics Went to Lunch and Didn't Come Back." Listen here.
In this episode I do something a little bit different in that I offer a spoken word version of an article by Taylor DeSoto (TD), an elder at the Agros RBC in Gilbert, AZ. This article was posted to Taylor’s blog “Young, Textless, and Reformed” on January 23, 2020.
In this article Taylor puts forward a humorous hypothetical to make some serious points: What would happen if all the evangelical text critics went to lunch and never came back?
What do I like about this article?
First, I like the way TD uses humor here to make some serious points.
Second, I like the way TD turns on its ear the modern evangelical text critic’s argument that all his changes to the text of Scripture do not, in the end, affect any major doctrines by asking, why, then, if this is so, he wants to continue tinkering with our Bible.
Third, he makes the great point that if evangelical text critics ceased their tinkering we’d still have a stable text (the TR) upon which to base study and scholarship, and the people in the pews would have translations that are not having to be replaced by the newest updated edition every few years.
Fourth, he makes the point that if modern evangelical text critics walked away from their work, they would then be able to give their time to exegesis of the text and perhaps even to pastoral ministry within the church.
This raises a not so subtle point about evangelical academics who see themselves as “elite” teachers, but who rarely serve as elders in local churches.
As one such scholar recently told me, he sees himself and his colleagues as doing the same exact work that Origen and Jerome did in the early church. He asked why we should accept the providential editorial work of the men of the Reformation period when we could be doing exactly the same thing in our day to create a “new and improved” text.
As Grantley McDonald, however, pointed out in recent work on the reception history of the CJ, those men were operating under what McDonald (borrowing from Foucault) calls a “pre-modern episteme” while modern evangelicals are working under an Enlightenment influenced “modern episteme.” Here’s how EH Hills put it: “During the Reformation period the approach to the New Testament was theological and governed by the common faith in Holy Scripture, and for this reason even in those early days the textual criticism of the New Testament was different from the textual criticism of other ancient books.”
One of the unspoken ironies of Taylor’s hypothetical rests on his use of the adjective “evangelical” before “text critics.” The truth is that if all the “evangelical” text critics went to lunch and never came back not only the church but the academy also would hardly be affected. The modern-historical-critical, secular academic study of the Bible would not skip a beat. The Liste would continue to be updated, the Editio Critica Maior would still be published, the Institute for New Testament Textual Research and the United Bible Societies would still produce the next editions of their handbooks, based on their application of the CBGM, and the Society of Biblical Literature would continue to host academic conferences where papers would be produced and presented on the minutia of scholarly research. What is more, “evangelicals” would be spared the embarrassment of, on one hand, “debating”, writing apologetic books or giving apologetic talks critical of Bart Ehrman, while, at the same, on the other hand, continuing to approve and make use of his scholarly research and adopt his identical method.
The central point the article makes is simply this: The supposedly “vital” work of evangelical modern text criticism, is not, in the end, all that vital to the church if it believes that it already has the Bible, and is not waiting on scholars possibly to give it a near approximation [reconstruction] of the Bible (perhaps someday).