July 17, 2023 an article was posted to the blog of the Covenant Baptist Theological
Seminary website under the title, “Does our confession require a printed text or indicate the need for a text critical methodology?” The article was written
by Timothy Decker, an elder at Trinity Baptist Church outside Roanoke, Virginia.
Decker’s article came on the heels of
another article by Geoff Thomas posted to the same site just a few days earlier
(on July 12, 2023) presenting ten points in opposition to hyper-Calvinism. The
tenth point, oddly enough, associated hyper-Calvinism with “the exclusive use of the King James
translation of the Word of God, the finality of the
text, women wearing hats, a rejection of modern hymn tunes and writers.”
There are some
fellow laborers in the gospel, some who I personally know and consider friends,
men who are solidly confessional and faithful ministers, who advocate for a
“Confessional Text” for the New Testament identified to be the
That might sound like a broad-minded opening statement,
but in an added footnote, Decker provides a reference, supposedly to explain
our position to the unfamiliar, to a 2020 article by Mark Ward titled “Which
In addition, the Ward article is also riddled with basic factual errors, including stating that there were 28 printed editions of the TR prior to Scrivener’s which was the 29th edition. Ward fudges the facts in a misguided attempt to draw a parallel with the 28 previous editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. His article is neither a trustworthy account of general facts relating to the Textus Receptus nor of our position.
desired fairly and accurately to represent the Confessional Text position he
might well have cited references in this opening footnote to works, articles,
or websites produced by men who actually hold to our position and not to
those who not only do not hold it but who also have misrepresented it. It would
have made natural sense, for example, to have cited the book I co-edited just
last year under the title Why I Preach from the Received Text which
includes essays from Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist church officers (elders
and one deacon) from Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. The anthology even
includes an article by a pastor who serves as a trustee at Covenant Baptist Theological
The failure to
footnote from the outset actual men who hold to the Confessional Text position
and instead to footnote an inaccurate and controversial interpreter of our
position not only represents a poor standard of academic rigor but also undermines
a sense of fair-minded assessment.
Decker then proceeds
to offer a citation from a Confessional Text advocate (myself) as follows:
One such pastor
explained this position to teach that “the authoritative text of the Bible is
found in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Old Testament and the
The footnote cited here reveals that this
citation comes from comments made in a podcast. The footnote also makes
reference to an article I wrote under the title, “A Defence of the Traditional
Text of Scripture” (Sword & Trowel, 2022), but it offers no direct
citations from the written article. I find this particularly curious, because this
article at several points does indeed address directly a Confessional Text position
on the immediate inspiration of the text in the original autographs and their
divine preservation in the faithful apographs (copies). It then describes the transmission
of this text and its appearance in printed editions during the Reformation and
post-Reformation eras. This material has direct relevance for the focus of this
article, but it is never cited.
rely on primary written sources which accurately explain and represent our
position, Decker seems to rely instead on his own misconceptions of it. Thus,
he sets up a straw man, arguing against positions which we do not hold. In
my opinion, the “fatal flaw” of Decker’s analysis is that he confuses the Confessional
Text position’s emphasis on the inspiration and preservation of the words of
Scripture in Hebrew and Greek (the form of Scripture) with a providential and
historically important medium of its transmission (printed editions).
He builds his
argument primarily on only one quotation, taken out of context, from a brief online
article posted to the Pulpit and Pen website which was written by Dane
Johannsson in 2019. Decker cites the author as saying, “For the framers of the
confessions, the ‘authentic’, ‘pure’ and ‘perfectly preserved’ texts are [sic;
it should read “were”] the printed editions of the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT
then in their possession.” From this one statement, taken out of context,
Decker proceeds to make an assertion that will become the linchpin of the rest
of his argument. Namely, he contends that when Confessional Text advocates
speak of the “preserved texts” of Scripture we exclusively mean “printed
editions” per se.
Aside from the
problem of Decker building an argument on one out-of-context statement made, no
less, in a blog article, I believe he fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents
this particular statement and the position held by advocates of the
Confessional Text overall. He does this by failing to recognize an inherent distinction
between the formal content of Scripture (i.e., the immediately inspired words
in Hebrew and Greek, preserved down to the jot and tittle) and the media
through which it has been transmitted. The blog author’s point was that the
framers of the Confession believed that the form of Scripture (its words)
were to be found in their day in faithful printed editions of the Hebrew and
Greek text, not that the printed editions themselves, as a medium of transmission,
were immediately inspired.
confusion on this point is the fatal flaw of his intended critique of the
Confessional Text. This mistake having been made, almost everything else Decker
says in this article is tainted by this foundational error.
Second: Decker continues to construct his straw
man in the next section titled, “What is ‘Authentic” Scripture?”
Decker accuses advocates of the Confessional Text
of misunderstanding and placing undue emphasis upon the proper definitions of
the terms “authentic” (the original term is actually “authentical”) and “pure” as
they appear in Confession 1:8.
As noted, he erroneously
implies that the Confessional Text position teaches something like the “immediate
inspiration” of printed editions of the Bible, or, as he puts it, that our view
“demands” a “printed text.”
Contrary to Decker’s
assertion, however, the Confessional Text view holds that the “authentical”
text is indeed only that which has been immediately inspired by God in the original
Hebrew of the OT and the Greek of the NT and that these words have been kept
pure in all ages by God’s singular care and providence through the means of various
historical media (including handwritten manuscripts, printed editions, and, in the
modern era, even digital editions).
describes as supposedly representing our view (i.e., immediate inspiration of
printed editions) simply is not an argument anyone in our camp is advocating.
Simply put, the
Confessional Text position does not argue that the term “authentical” refers exclusively
to “printed editions” (a mere medium of transmission) rather than to the immediately
inspired and preserved words of Scripture (i.e., its written form) in the
Decker next offers
several citations related to the Council of Trent that offer no clear relevance
to this discussion. The Confessional Text view, with its emphasis on the
immediately inspired and preserved words of Scripture in the Hebrew and Greek
original as “authentical”, according to Confession 1:8, is clearly in keeping
with the Protestant critique of Tridentine Bibliology.
Decker then proceeds
to make another kind of error (this time a historical one) when he suggests
that the framers of the confession held there to be no “historical connection” between
the immediately inspired words of Scripture and the media through which these
words (the form of Scripture) have been preserved by God.
Simply put, it
makes no sense to say that the framers of the Confession believed the Scriptures
had been immediately inspired and preserved by God if they could not also point
to the media through which it had been or was being transmitted (whether in apographic
manuscripts or in printed editions).
In the end,
Decker makes much of the fact that the term “authentical” refers to the original
Hebrew and Greek words, but he overlooks another key aspect of this term;
namely, it refers to the Hebrew and Greek words that are true and accurate to the
Edward Leigh (1602-1671)
provided this definition of “authentical”:
The question betwixt
us and the Papists, now cometh to be considered, which of these Editions is
authentical, that is, which of it self hath credit and authority, being sufficient
of it self to prove and commend it self, without the help of any other Edition,
because it is the first exemplar or Copy of divine truth, delivered by the
Prophets and Apostles (A System or Body of Divinity, as cited by G. H,
Milne, Has the Bible been kept pure?, 133).
By “Edition” or “Copy” Leigh is referring to
the media of transmission. Such media can only be judged “authentical” if it accurately
relays what the prophets and apostles wrote. G. H. Milne explains: “In other
words, the authentical edition is the correct copy of an author’s work” (133).
Third, Decker continues to build on his
confusion of the Confessional Text position in his next section titled “What is
In the opening paragraph of this section, Decker
specifically states that it is the “Old Testament in Hebrew… and the New
Testament in Greek” which is . But does the reference to the OT in Hebrew and
the NT in Greek equate to a specific printed text? Or is there an historical
rootedness to this kind of language, just as “authentic” was anchored to a
particular doctrinal matter?
Once again, Decker confuses the immediate inspiration
of the form of Scripture (the words) with the medium of printed editions, while,
at the same time, putting aside the historical reality of how the framers of
the Confession would have identified the means by which those immediately
inspired words had been preserved.
several citations from William Whitaker on “the authentic edition of Scripture,”
inaccurately assuming that these statements somehow contradict the Confessional
Text position. They do not. Decker concludes by stating that Whitaker’s “emphasis
was never on a certain printed edition but the original language itself.”
This, again, is a straw man argument which confuses the inspiration of the
words of Scripture (in written form) with a medium of their preservation.
Decker next cites
historian Richard Muller’s observation that the Protestant orthodox made a distinction
between the autographa (the no longer extant original manuscripts written
by the Biblical authors) and the apographa (faithful copies of them), and
the fact that these men received as original and authentical “the legitimate
tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa.” Decker then offers this conclusion,
“This is not an appeal to a printed edition. It was an appeal to the original
languages of the OT and NT and the manuscript tradition from which they
disseminated.” Once again, however, this is a straw man argument. No one
I know has ever suggested that Muller was saying the Protestant orthodox believed
in the “immediate inspiration” of printed editions per se.
assumes Muller is saying that the Protestant orthodox believed the original and
authentic text was only somewhere in the “manuscript tradition” and their goal
was then to reconstruct this elusive text, much as modern textual critics did. This,
however, is a serious misreading of Muller’s analysis of Protestant orthodox
Just after the
passage cited by Decker regarding the Protestant orthodox adherence to “the
legitimate tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa”, Muller makes clear that
the Protestant orthodox were NOT committed to a modern reconstruction method, a
la Warfield. He writes (bold added):
This case for
Scripture as an infallible rule for faith and practice and the separate arguments
for a received text free from major (i.e., non-scribal) errors rests on an
examination of the apographa and does not seek infinite regress of
the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility” (PRRD, Vol.
In a footnote, Muller adds:
A rather sharp
contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox arguments
concerning the autographa and the views of Alexander Hodge and Benjamin
Breckenridge Warfield…. The point made by Hodge and Warfield is a logical trap,
a rhetorical flourish, a conundrum designed to confound the critics—who can
only prove their case for genuine errancy by recourse to a text they do not
(and surely cannot) have (433, n. 165).
According to Muller, to suggest that the
Protestant orthodox were seeking reconstruction of the text by examining the extant
manuscript tradition, as Decker would suggests, is an anachronistic error.
One need only examine
Muller’s definition of the term “Textus Receptus” in his Dictionary of Latin
and Greek Theological Terms to discover his view on how Protestant orthodoxy
viewed the printed editions of the Received Text. He writes (bold added):
Receptus: the Received Text; i.e., the standard Greek text of the New
Testament published by Erasmus (1516), and virtually contemporaneously by
Ximenes (the Complutension Polyglot, printed in 1514 but not circulated [i.e.,
published] until 1522), and subsequently reissued with only slight emendation by
Stephanus (1550), Beza (1565), and Elzevir (1633). The term Textus Receptus
comes from Elzevir’s Preface: Textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum,
“Therefore you have the text now received by all.” The term was adopted as
standard usage only after the period of orthodoxy, although it does refer to
the text supported by the Protestant scholastics as the authentic text quoad
verba, with respect to the words of the text (357).
This entry explains and sheds light on Muller’s
previously cited comments. According to Muller, later Protestants would come to
see the printed editions of the Textus Receptus as representing “the legitimate
tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa.” It was, to use Muller’s words, “the standard Greek
text of the New Testament” and “the text supported by the Protestant
especially the distinction Muller makes between the printed editions of the TR (what
I have called a medium of transmission) and the Protestant view of “the
authentic text quoad verba, with respect to the words of the text.” This
is the essential distinction which Decker repeatedly confuses or ignores in his
The hand copied
manuscripts and the printed editions are only the media for conveying
the immediately inspired and providentially preserved words of
lines, it would also be helpful to review Muller’s entry in his dictionary on the
authoritas divina duplex or “twofold divine authority” of Scripture. In
that entry he makes a distinction between “(1) the authoritas rerum,
authority of the things of Scripture, the substantia doctrinae (substance
of doctrine); and (2) the authoritas verborum, or authority of the words
of Scripture, arising from the accidens scriptionis, the accident of
divine authority of the Scriptural originals is evidenced in Turretin’s discussion
of the “Authentic Version” of Scripture when he makes this same distinction
(bold added): “Finally, authenticity may be regarded in two ways: either materially
as to the things announced or formally as to the words and mode of
annunciation” (Institutes, 1:113).
The Protestant orthodox
tradition held that the formal words of Scripture in the accident of writing
were conveyed first in the medium of the faithful apographa and later in
the medium of printed editions.
concludes his section on the purity of the originals by offering a quotation of
John Owen stating that the Scriptures have been preserved “in the copies of the
originals” and that they serve as “the rule, standard, and touchstone of all
John Owen was,
of course, a chief author of the Congregationalist Savoy Declaration (1658) and
a man much admired by early Particular Baptists. This is indeed an important
quote from Owen which Decker cites. I have appealed to it myself many times. This
citation, however, in no way supports Decker’s critique of the Confessional
Text position. Yes, Owen held that the Bible had been carefully preserved in
faithful copies, but he was not advocating a reconstruction method like that
found in modern textual criticism. If anything, the main thrust of this
quotation has more to do with Owen’s advocacy of the original Hebrew text of
the OT as the standard for translation of the OT, over against those who were
suggesting the Hebrew text be corrected by the Septuagint, the Syriac, Aramaic
Targums, etc.. This point is totally missed by Decker.
If addition, one
should also give attention to another quotation from Owen, which I cited in my
aforementioned 2022 Sword & Trowel article, but which is left
uncited by Decker. This citation makes clear Owen’s view that the invention of
printing provided a medium through which this faithful, preserved apographic text
might be faithfully conveyed in his own day. He wrote:
Let it be
remembered that the vulgar copy we use was the public possession of many
generations, that upon the invention of printing it was the actual authority
throughout the world… let that then pass for the standard, which is confessedly
its right and due…. (Collected Works, 16: 366).
What we find in Owen, in fact, fits hand in
glove with the analysis provided by Muller in his definition of the Textus Receptus.
D. A. Thompson,
a former bishop in the Free Church of England and editor of the Bible League
Quarterly from 1961-1970 likewise observed:
Until about one
hundred years ago most evangelical Protestants… felt that in the Textus Receptus
they had substantially the reproductions of the autographs of the New Testament
considered that the Reformation was the greatest blessing the Lord had sent to
the Visible Church since Pentecost, and that it largely centered around the
works of Erasmus, Ximenes, Stephens, and Beza, whose labors led to the printing
of the text common to the great majority of the Greek manuscripts. In all this
they could see nothing less than the “singular care and providence of God”
giving them substantially the text of the autographs (Valiant for the Truth,
The significance of the printed editions of the
TR rest not in themselves per se, but in the fact that they served as a means or
medium for conveying that which had been received by confessional Protestants as
the immediately inspired and preserved autographic text.
Fourth: In the next section titled “Textual
Criticism and Our Confession” Decker wrongly suggests that the framers of the Confession
were actually just modern reconstruction/restorationist textual critics all
If the above is
historically accurate, then the demand for a “confessional text” or to read the
Confession as requiring a printed text is anachronistic and incorrect. Rather,
it seems to be assuming a manuscript tradition from which the church should
By now, one can
clearly see that Decker’s analysis is simply not, in fact, historically accurate.
He foundationally misreads the Confessional Text position, confuses the
distinction between the words (form) of the text and the media through which it
is conveyed, and fundamentally misunderstands both the primary writings of
theologians like Turretin and Owen, as well as Muller’s historical analysis of Bibliology
in the Protestant orthodox era.
It is, in fact,
Decker’s assertion that the Confession teaches that the church should “draw”
upon the “manuscript tradition” to reconstruct the text of the Bible that is anachronistic
citations from Turretin and Owen which show their awareness of variants that
appear in the handwritten manuscript tradition, as if this somehow invalidates
the Confessional Text position. Of course, the Protestant orthodox well knew of
variants within the handwritten manuscript tradition, but they also affirmed,
contra Roman Catholic and Free-thinking critics of their day, that such variants
in no way invalidated the meticulous divine preservation of Scripture.
were not promoting a modern text critical methodology that sought to reconstruct
the autograph, nor were they interpreting “preservation” as some kind of vague assurance
that the true text was somewhere to be “drawn from” (read “restored” or “reconstructed
from”)” the mass of extant manuscripts.
In his essay “The Reason of Faith” John Owen offers an extended defense of the meticulous preservation of God’s Word. He writes:
God’s perpetual care over the Scriptures for so many ages, that not a letter of it should be utterly lost, nothing that hath the least tendency towards its end should perish, is evidence of his sufficient regard unto it.
He then cinches his
For my part, I cannot but judge that he
that seeth not an hand of divine Providence stretched out in the preservation
of this book and all that is in it, its words and its syllables, for thousands
of years, through all the overthrows and deluges of calamities that have
befallen the world… doth not believe there is any such thing as divine
providence at all (Collected Works, Vol. 4, 24).
that Owen upheld not some vague sense of the general preservation of Scripture,
but what could rightly be called its meticulous verbal preservation.
Furthermore, he maintained that to deny such preservation is to deny the
doctrine of God’s providence altogether.
likewise, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, repeatedly
affirms a similar view of the doctrine of the divine preservation. He writes,
Unless unimpaired integrity characterize
the Scriptures, they could not be regarded as the sole rule of faith and
practice, and the door would be thrown wide open to atheists, libertines,
enthusiasts and other profane persons like them for destroying its authenticity
(authentian) and overthrowing the foundation of salvation…. It will not
do to say that divine providence wished to keep it free from serious corruptions,
but not from minor.
Nor can we readily believe that God, who
dictated and inspired each and every word… would not take care of their entire
preservation. If men use the utmost care diligently to preserve their words… in
order that it may not be corrupted, how much more, must we suppose God would
take care of his word which he intended as a testament and seal of his covenant
with us, so that it might not be corrupted…. (Institutes, 1:71).
godly men of old affirmed as a vital necessity both the inspiration and the meticulous
preservation of the Scriptures, not merely their general and indistinct preservation
in an amorphous “manuscript tradition.”
At the close of this section, Decker offers
a final citation from William Bridge. Unfortunately, Decker completely misunderstands
the point being made by Bridge in the citation. Bridge is arguing that though
there are minor variations in the handwritten manuscripts of the NT this does
not mean there are what he calls “material differences” between them.
He uses the word “material” here as a
technical term, referring to the content of Scripture aside from its “form” or the
accident of its writing. This is the distinction Muller points out in his
dictionary article between the autoritas rerum (substance of doctrine) and
the autoritas verborum (authority of the words in the accident of
writing). This distinction is also made in the passage I previously cited from
Turretin between the material (content) and formal (words)
authenticity of Scripture. Bridge’s point might be taken as something like this:
If some manuscripts spell a word in one way and some manuscripts spell it in a
different way, this minor formal difference between these manuscripts does
not affect the major material content of Scripture.
Decker’s conclusion that Bridge’s discussion
of “material differences” means “that
he placed the authority not to a printed edition but to a textual tradition of
Greek manuscripts,” is, simply put, a complete misreading of the primary point
Bridge is actually making.
At the end of his article Decker draws this
If we compile
all this information, can we truly say that our
Confession is demanding a “confessional text” such as the Textus
Receptus for the New Testament? We must admit a
resounding “no” to such a claim. The historical reality is, the Confession
appeals to the Hebrew and Greek textual tradition of Scripture. And as this
textual tradition has within it, admitted by all, variations among them; the
necessary result demands we engage in textual criticism. What the Confession
should do for us is inform a .
As previously noted, Decker’s analysis
throughout this article is fraught with serious misunderstandings, misinterpretations,
and straw men.
Decker closes by
shifting the first of the two questions posed in the title of his article. The
title asks, “Does our confession require a printed text?” In this conclusion, however,
Decker shifts the question to, “Can we truly say that our Confession is
demanding a “confessional text” such as the for the New Testament? He then “admits” (declares?)
what he calls a “resounding ‘no’” to this substitute question.
It seems impossible,
however, to ignore the fact that the Confession does, in fact, “assume” (rather
than “demand”) a received text. Historically speaking, according to no less an
expert than respected historian Richard Muller, the Textus Receptus was “the
standard Greek text of the New Testament.” It represents the text “supported by
the Protestant scholastics as the authentic text, quoad verba, with
respect to the words of the text.” What Muller affirms about the classic
Protestant view of the Greek TR, can no doubt also be said of the Masoretic
Hebrew text of the OT. The burden rests with Decker to demonstrate to us how
Richard Muller’s conclusion is wrong. This article offers no such convincing
reviews the Baptist Confession (1689) and the Baptist Catechism (1693), he sees
that the language and content within the works themselves reflect the usage of
the traditional text (cf. the statement “the Son is eternally begotten of the
Father” in Confession 2:3 with reference to John 1:18’s “the only-begotten Son”;
or Catechism Q. 114’s exposition of the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew
6:13b). The prooftexts used in the Confession are likewise drawn from the
traditional (confessional) text (cf., e.g., the citation of Mark 16:16; Acts
8:37 at Confession 29:2).
A person might
choose to depart from the Bibliology inherent in the Confession, or propose
that this Bibliology should be fundamentally updated or re-imagined, but it
seems irrational to ignore the Bibliology that was and remains present within
however, suggests that the Confession “demands we engage in textual criticism.”
He then teases the reader with the promise that he will soon present to us a “confessional
text critical methodology.”
From what I have seen and read from Decker thus far, and given his closing quotation from Warfield, it seems likely that the methodology he will propose will be something with which we are already well familiar. That is, it will be an approach to textual criticism largely akin to the modern reconstruction/restoration method.
If one posits such a method he must assume, however, that the text of Scripture has been corrupted. Decker would then be proposing the study of the mass of extant manuscripts in order to restore the proper text. Simply put, this does not represent the classic view of the text, especially its preservation, among the Protestant orthodox.
It will be interesting to see what Decker does with Muller’s contention that the approach of the Protestant orthodox to the text of Scripture was, in fact, at wide variance to the Hodges/Warfield method of an “infinite regress” to the autograph.
In the end, a
proposal to embrace a reconstruction text method is hardly anything new. Most mainstream
Protestants and evangelicals long ago embraced the spirit of Wescott, Hort, and
Warfield. The result is that they have spent the last 150 years wandering about
in the modern textual criticism wilderness.
consensus of those who have embraced modern textual criticism is that actually getting
back to the autograph is an “impossible possibility” (Robert Grant) and that
the best we can do is to approximate an early Ausgangstext (“initial
text”) but never the “authorial text” (Gerd Mink). It will be interesting to
see how Decker proposes he can succeed where the last several generations of
the best and brightest in the top universities and institutes around the world have
I also noticed in
Decker’s article that there are no specific references made to any particular texts
of Scripture, which he is willing publicly either to deny or defend.
When the rubber
meets the road the ability to have a text of Scripture which one can
unreservedly identify as the Word of God is crucial, especially for confessional
Protestants, given that our epistemology is based primarily on the authority of
denies that the Confession affirms the traditional Protestant text as authoritative,
it is clear that the framers of the Confession had no difficulty in making such
affirmations. To demonstrate this point, we need only look at the introduction
to Thomas Manton’s Commentary on James (1693). Manton had been one of
three clerks appointed to the Westminster Assembly.
In a discussion
of questions raised by some against the canonicity of James, Manton wrote the
Now it would exceedingly
furnish the triumphs of hell if we should think their private cavils to be
warrant sufficient to weaken our faith, and besides disadvantage the church by
the considerable loss of a most considerable part of the canon;
For the case
doth not only concern this epistle, but diverse others, as the Second of Peter,
the Second and Third Epistles of John, the Book of Revelation.
He then proceeded to address not only contested
books but also disputed texts:
chapter of Mark, some passages in the 22nd of Luke, the beginning of
the 8th of John, some passages in the 5th chapter of the
First Epistle of John.
Finally, Manton asks these probing questions:
profaneness stay? And if this liberty should be allowed, the flood of atheism
stop its course?
Manton here defends some of the most
contentious passages found in the Received Text: the traditional ending of Mark
(16:9-20); the ministering angel and the sweat like drops of blood (Luke 22:43-44);
the Woman Taken in Adultery Passage or Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53—8:11);
and the Three Heavenly Witnesses or Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8).
Notice that he does not suggest that the reader examine the “manuscript
tradition” for each of these variants, but, instead, he simply dogmatically affirms
them to be part of the rightly received text.
approach to the text of Scripture is generally indicative of that taken by men of
this age and especially those who served as the framers of the classic Protestant
Confessions. It is this position we are suggesting as worthy of retrieval in
Let me return again to the two questions which
Decker posed in the title to this article:
First, Does our confession require a printed
The answer to that question is “No.” The
printed text is merely a medium of transmission. If you ask instead, Does our
confession require an immediately inspired and providentially preserved text of
the Word of God in the original Hebrew and Greek which has been kept pure in
all ages? The answer is emphatically “Yes.”
Second, Does our confession indicate the need
for a text critical methodology?
The answer to that question is “No.” The
Confession does not promote in any manner anything like a reconstruction or restoration
method of textual criticism. It has no need for this, because it already has a Received
I hope this
rejoinder helps to tidy up some of the misrepresentations of the Confessional
Text position inherent in Decker’s article and to provide a clearer and more
accurate perception of it.