Thursday, February 27, 2020

WM 159: The Confessional Text Position: A Succinct Statement

Image: Beza's 1582 NT, title page (part)

I have posted WM 159: The Confessional Text Position: A Succinct Statement. Listen here.

In this shot episode (just over 8 minutes in length) I offer a brief and succinct statement on what I have come to call the Confessional Text position.

This statement is taken from some brief introductory comments I made as part of a discussion on Josh Gibbs’s “Talking Christianity” podcast where the subject was different approaches to text criticism. The podcast took place on January 29, 2020. In the discussion I was a guest (representing the Confessional Text position) along with two other guests: Dr. Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary (representing an evangelical modern text criticism position) and Pastor James Snapp, Jr. of Curtisville Christian Church of Elwood, Indiana (representing a variety of the so-called Majority Text position).

I did not feel too great about this discussion overall, since it sort of ran off the rails, but my friend Howie Jones suggested that it might be helpful to share just the opening statement as a succinct summary of the Confessional Text position, so that is what I have done. The sound quality is not that great but hopefully listeners will be able to hear it well enough.

Blessings, JTR


Howie said...

Dr. Riddle, thanks for taking the time/effort to splice this audio out of the wider panel discussion you were part; an excellent summary.

I personally use the terms "Traditional Text" and "Confessional Text" interchangeably; however, I think the latter is arguably a bell call to those of us holding to the Westminster, Savoy or London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. To avoid any misunderstanding of this term, I think it perhaps worthwhile to note that those brethren currently not holding to the Confessional Text does not mean we presuppose such do not have a high view of Scripture. I'll try and explain a little what I mean:

1. Having a sound Biblical + Confessional foundation to Text Criticism and being willing to apply these two foundations consistently, means the multi-faceted details of Text Criticism are significantly less likely to carry anyone astray into questioning the sacred text or ultimately denying it (in parts or whole). Put another way, if one does not have these two "foundation" rails in place on the "high view of Scripture" bridge, it matters not what the sincere intent is, the landing will go very poorly and have negative long-term implications at the seminary, in the pulpit, and for those of us like me in the pew. This is not meant to suggest our fellow brethren holding to the Critical Text and the Confession do not have a principled high view of Scripture itself; but there are implications when jettisoning what our forefathers held (one of many is noted in #2 below).

2. It strikes me that the "Confessional Text" term can usefully serve to jolt those of us holding to the Confession into some head and heart searching, into considering some implications. Here's just one, presented as a question: are not brethren and churches faithfully confessing Reformed standards such as the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechism (i.e. that *rightly include* the doxology of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13b) while simultaneously having Critical Text versions such as the ESV, NRSV, RSV or NIV in their pews or pulpits (i.e. which *omit* the doxology of the Lord’s prayer [Matthew 6:13b] amongst other omissions) at odds with what is concurrently confessed and what the framers held? Inconsistency is not so much the point (we're all that at times, I being chief), but rather what's the textual issue driving this sort of thing? How did we get to confessing one thing only to not confess it when reading the actual Scriptures, the very thing we’re confessing? What's driving the "how did we get there"?

The term "Confessional Text" challenges one to come to terms and alignment with what was chiseled out in Chapter 1 "Of the Holy Scriptures". It charitably says, "enough" rather than being blind-sided or indifferently accepting of the "forever changing text" of the NA, UBS, CBGM and ECM flowing out from the largely secular Academy in M√ľnster.

In short, perhaps one way of viewing the "Confessional Text" term is that of a gracious yet firm bell call to all confessing believers (myself included) -- to a re-set, to re-affirm all aspects of Sola Scripture just as our forefathers did when framing the Confessions. It's also a warm invite to our Dispensational brethren presently holding to the ever-changing modern Critical Text. Such brethren, while perhaps holding differing distinctives in other parts of our Confession, can no doubt heartily "amen" Chapter 1 "Of the Holy Scriptures" especially when we, as Confessing brethren, are united in presenting what the framers presented us.

Blessings in Christ,


Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Thanks for the comment. Great point about consistency. If one holds to one of those classic confessions and it cites the "traditional" text as a prooftext (like Matt 6:13b), then can one clearly affirm the confession if he does not believe it is properly citing Scripture? Must he claim an exception on those points where such prooftexts appear?