A Declaration of My Own Position on the Inspiration and Preservation of Holy Scripture

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A Declaration of My Own Position on the Inspiration and Preservation of Holy Scripture

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A Declaration of My Own Position on the

Inspiration and Preservation of Holy Scripture

             In light of modern controversies over the matters of the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, and to prevent misunderstanding of my own position on these questions, I have thought it appropriate to write a confession of my faith on these essential Biblical truths.

            I confess that God, through a supernatural operation of His Spirit, used holy men to miraculously produce the autographs of the 66 canonical books of the Bible, controlling them in such a manner that the very words, and all of the words, that they recorded were the very words of God Himself (2 Peter 1:16-21).  This miraculous production of the autographs of the Bible was absolutely unique.  It never has been, and never will be, replicated by any individual or group of individuals whatever who copy, collate, compile, or translate Biblical manuscripts.  Consequently, all views that affirm that any copyist, compiler, or translator of the Bible was controlled in the same miraculous manner as the original writers of Scripture must be rejected.  I therefore reject the views of Peter Ruckman, Gail Riplinger, and all others who affirm that the King James Version contains advanced revelation or is superior to the original language texts of the Bible.[i]

I confess that the verbally, plenarily inspired Scriptures are the product of this miraculous process (2 Timothy 3:16).  While entirely rejecting the idea that inspiration or enscripturation as a process ever has been or ever will be replicated, I confess that accurate copies of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic autographa are God’s Word, having in them the breath of God (Matthew 4:4) in the same manner that the original manuscripts were the Word of God, inasmuch as the words of such copies are identical to the words of the autographs.  Furthermore, any copy, to the extent that it has the same words and sentences as the autographs, is to that extent the inspired Word of God.  I further confess, in accordance with classical Baptist and orthodox Protestant Bibliology,[ii] that, in the same sense that Scripture, when translated, is still Scripture, and thus is still holy, living, powerful, sharper than any twoedged sword, and able to save (Romans 1:2; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:21), it also still has both the quality of having the breath of God in it and the resultant quality of being profitable (2 Timothy 3:16, pasa graphe Theopneustos kai ophelimos).[iii]

            Concerning the preservation of Scripture,[iv] I confess:

1.) God revealed the Scriptures so men could know His will both in the Old and New Testaments and in the future (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-29; 1 John 1:1-4, 2:1-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:12-15).  The Bible is clear that no Scripture was intended for only the original recipient (Romans 15:4, 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:11).  God intended for His Word to be recognized and received by the churches as a whole (Colossians 4:16; Revelation 1:3-4).  The inspired text of Scripture is to be guarded (1 Timothy 6:20-21) as a “form (pattern) of sound words” for the church (2 Timothy 1:13-14) and used to instruct all future churches (2 Timothy 2:2).

2.) The Bible promises that God will preserve every one of His words forever down to the very jot and tittle,[v] the smallest letter (Psalm 12:6-7, 33:11, 119:152, 160; Isaiah 30:8, 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Matthew 5:18, 24:35).

3.) The Bible assures us that God’s words are perfect and pure (Psalm 12:6-7; Proverbs 30:5-6).

4.) The Bible promises that God would make His words generally available to every generation of believers (Deuteronomy 29:29; 30:11-14; Isaiah 34:16, 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:18-19; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 17).

5.) The Bible promises there will be certainty as to the words of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19; 2 Peter 1:19; Luke 1:4; Proverbs 1:23, 22:20-21; Daniel 12:9-10; 1 John 2:20).

6.) The Bible promises that God would lead His saints into all truth, and that the Word, all of His words, are truth (John 16:13, 17:8, 17).  Believers are not to set themselves above the Word but receive it (John 17:8; with the faith of a little child, rejecting secular and worldly “wisdom” (Matthew 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

7.) God states that the Bible will be settled to the extent that someone could not add or take away from His words and effectually corrupt them (Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 12:32).

8.) The Bible shows that the true churches of Christ would receive and guard these words (Matthew 28:19-20; John 17:8; Acts 8:14, 11:1, 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 3:15).

9.) The Bible presents as a pattern that that believers would receive these words from other believers (Deuteronomy 17:18; 29:29; 1 Kings 2:3; Proverbs 25:1; Acts 7:38; Hebrews 7:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Philippians 4:9; Colossians 4:16).

10.) The Bible shows that God’s promises may appear to contradict science and reason.  In Genesis 2 we see that a newly created world may look ancient.  However, the Scriptures remind us that “it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8).  We believe in order that we may understand.

11.) Christ taught the preservation of His very words, since they will be the standard in the future judgment (John 12:48) and men will be accountable to obey all of them.  He also warned of the vanity of ignoring His actual words (Matthew 7:26).  Christ emphatically declared, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).  In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebuked men, saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.”  If the Scriptures were only accessible in long-lost original autographs then why would the Lord chide people for being ignorant of words that were not available?  Believers are commanded to contend for the faith (Jude 3) and this faith is based upon the words of God (Romans 10:17).

12.)  In summary, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4) and “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Scripture, and faith in the promises of God, must be the “glasses” through which we evaluate historical data about the preservation of the Bible.  Scripture teaches the verbal, plenary preservation of the verbally, plenarily inspired autographa (Psalm 12:6-7; Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35);   that the preserved words would be perpetually available to God’s people (Isaiah 59:21);  and that  Israel was the guardian of Scripture in the Mosaic dispensation (Romans 3:1-2), and the church the guardian in the dispensation of grace (1 Timothy 3:15).  The Holy Spirit would lead the saints to accept the words the Father gave to the Son to give to His people (John 16:13; 17:8).  Believers can know with certainty where the canonical words of God are, because they are to live by every one of them (Matthew 4:4; Revelation 22:18-19) and are going to be judged by them at the last day (John 12:48).

            I further confess that, receiving with the faith of a little child (Matthew 18:3; Luke 18:16-17) God’s own testimony to His own perfectly inspired, preserved, and self-authenticating Word, only the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Received Texts of Scripture, those original language texts from which the Authorized Version of the Bible was translated, fit the Biblical model of preservation.  I confess that the modern critical Greek text of Scripture, represented in the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society editions, being a modern creation that was not in use by the people of God for well over a thousand years, differing in c. 7% of its text from the Received Bible, and denying the possibility of certainty about the text of Scripture,[vi] can by no means be reconciled with God’s promises about the preservation of His Word.  I likewise confess that the printed Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts, while far superior to the critical Greek text and far closer to the perfectly preserved Textus Receptus, do not fit the Scriptural pattern for the preservation of Scripture when they differ from the Received Text, for true churches have not been led by the Spirit of God to receive their texts as perfect, the idea that the pure Word of God was not available for century after century but only came into existence in print in 1992, and that God’s people have not had the pure Word in their vernacular languages, as no major translations in any language whatever have been made from the Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts, is impossible.  Furthermore, I confess that the Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts are most improperly designated the “Majority Text,” for neither of them is a collation of the 5,000+ Greek manuscripts currently in existence, but they are rather collations of only a few hundred manuscripts, and there are hundreds of verses where they do not follow the reading of the majority of manuscripts.[vii]  Rather, the Textus Receptus that underlies the Authorized Version of the Bible, that holy Word that was in use by Baptist churches and believers in other denominations[viii] both in the time from the invention of the printing press until the present day, and also the type of text in use by the line of true churches and believers, who were first denominated Christians, and then Baptists or Anabaptists, in the ancient and medieval periods, is the true Majority Text, and the only text that the Spirit has led Bible-believing churches who accept the testimony of Scripture to its own preservation to receive as canonical and perfectly preserved.[ix]  I therefore confess with true churches, countless martyrs, and the humble and faithful people of God, that the Textus Receptus, loved, copied, printed, translated, read, memorized, meditated upon, and preached for century after century, is indeed God’s very living and holy Word, delivered miraculously from heaven, providentially[x] and perfectly preserved, and with holy joy and wonder received by me in faith as His own living oracles in my hands.

I likewise confess that I reject all textual criticism that denies or ignores God’s own promises about His providential work in preserving His Word, and that approaches the holy Scriptures in an atheistic and naturalistic way as if God’s Word were to be evaluated as if it were any common, uninspired and unpreserved book, instead joyfully receiving, with love, holy reverence, awe, and fear (Psalm 119:97; 119:120; Isaiah 66:2), that very Received Text that has been in use by true churches and the people of God from the time that God gave the autographs until this day.  I confess with such true churches and saints that the Scriptures I can with reverent delight hold in my hands, “being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore authentical,” and likewise join such churches to confess that, while there is plentiful external evidence for the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, nonetheless our “full persuasion, and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”[xi]

In relation to the English translation of the Authorized Version, I confess that I receive it with veneration, believing that the God who providentially works in all of history would certainly providentially work in relation to the translation of His Word that would be in use by Baptist churches for over 400 years in the language that God ordained would become the first truly world-wide language since the tower of Babel.  I confess that I do not believe that modern Baptist churches should use any other English translation than the Authorized Version, nor do I see any necessity for revising the KJV at any time during my lifetime.[xii]  However, I also confess that the promises of preservation are specifically made for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, not English words (Matthew 5:18), and that there are no specific promises that state that Scripture would be translated without error.  Since no verses of the Bible promise a perfect English translation, I respect the views of brethren who, while receiving the promises of God concerning the preservation of His perfect Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, believe that there are places where the English of the King James Version would be better rendered otherwise.[xiii] Furthermore, I recognize that there can be more than one accurate way to translate a verse from the original language into the vernacular.[xiv]  Nevertheless, because the people of God who do not know the original languages should have (a justified) confidence that when they hold the King James Bible in their hands, they have God’s very Word in their own language, and because I respect the high confidence that the Head of the church has led His congregations to place in the English of the Authorized Version, and because I have found in my own language study that, time and again, there are excellent reasons for the translation choices in the Authorized Version, and because I am not aware of any single place where I can, with a certain confidence and definitiveness, affirm that the English of the King James Version cannot possibly be justified as a translation but is indubitably in error,[xv] I refrain from criticizing the English of the King James Bible, and when it is appropriate in preaching and teaching to mention a different way the text can be translated, I choose to say, “this word (or verse, etc.) could also be translated as” rather than “this word (or verse, etc.) would be better translated as.”  This is the faith that I confess in relation to the translation of the Bible into my mother tongue.

All of the above is the faith in the inspiration and preservation of Scripture I believe and confess with my whole mind and heart.  Unless convinced otherwise by the Scriptures, I will continue to believe and confess this faith, by the enabling grace of God, until Christ’s return or my death.

—Thomas Daniel Ross, January 24, 2012

[i]               See the articles “What About Ruckman?” and “The Problem with New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger” by David Cloud, accessible, like the other resources mentioned in this confession, at http://faithsaves.net/Bibliology.

[ii]           The affirmation of absolute verbal and plenary inspiration for the original language text, and a secondary, derivative inspiration for accurate translations, is the classic position confessed by Baptists and Protestants in the Reformation and post-Reformation era, in continuity with earlier periods of church history.  For Baptist sources, see the reference in endnote #3.  Richard Muller explains the historic Protestant position:

[Alongside] the insistence of the Reformed that the very words of the original are inspired, the theological force of their argument falls in the substance or res rather than on the individual words: translations can be authoritative quoad res because the authority is not so much in the words as in the entirety of the teaching as distributed throughout the canon. . . . [T]he issue of “things” (res) and “words” (verba) . . . is crucial to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture and is, as many of the other elements of the Protestant doctrine, an element taken over from the medieval tradition and rooted in Augustine’s hermeneutics. . . . [T]he words of the text are signs pointing to the doctrinal “things.” This distinction between signa and res significata, the sign and the thing signified, carries over into the language typical of scholastic Protestantism, of the words of the text and the substance of the text, of the authority of translations not strictly quoad verba but quoad res, according to the substance or meaning indicated by the original. . . . [O]nly the [original language] sources are inspired (theopneustoi) both according to their substance (quoad res) and according to their words (quoad verba)[.] This must be the case, since holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21, who dictated to them not only the substance (res) but also the very words (verba). For the same reason, the Hebrew and the Greek are the norms and rules by which the various versions are examined and evaluated. . . . [There is] a distinction between authenticity and authorship quoad verba, which belongs only to the Hebrew and Greek originals, and authenticity and authority quoad res, which inheres in valid translations. . . . Thus translations can be used, but with the reservation that only the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the authentic norms of doctrine and the rule by which doctrinal controversy is to be decided[.] Versions that are congruent with the sources are indeed authentic according to substance (quoad res); for the Word of God [may be] translated into other languages: the Word of God is not to be limited, since whether it is thought or spoken or written, it remains the Word of God. Nonetheless they are not authentic according to the idiom or word, inasmuch as the words have been explained in French or Dutch. In relation to all translations, therefore, the Hebrew and Greek texts stand as antiquissimus, originalis, and archetypos. Thus, translations are the Word of God insofar as they permit the Word of God to address the reader or hearer: for Scripture is most certainly the Word of God in the things it teaches and to the extent that in and by means of it power of God touches the conscience. Even so, in translations as well as in the original the testimony of the Holy Spirit demonstrates the graciousness of God toward us. All translations have divine authority insofar as they correctly render the original: the tongue and dialect is but an accident, and as it were an argument of divine truth, which remains one and the same in all idioms. (pgs. 269, 326-327, 403, 416, 427-428,  Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; volume 2, Holy Scripture:  The cognitive foundation of theology (2nd ed.), Richard Muller. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003;  quotations and original sources not reproduced)

[iii]             See “Are Accurate Copies and Translations of Scripture Inspired? A Study of 2 Timothy 3:16,” at http://faithsaves.net/Bibliology.

[iv]          A book length exposition of the Biblical doctrine of preservation is Thou Shalt Keep Them:  A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture, ed. Kent Brandenburg, El Sobrante, CA:  Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2003.  The book is a fine presentation of the doctrine by a separatist Baptist.  It can be purchased at http://faithsaves.net/Bibliology.  The website also contains an exposition of a number of passages related to the preservation of Scripture.  Compare the list of presuppositions on the preservation of Scripture found on pgs. 73-74, “Preservation of the Bible:  Providential or Miraculous?  A Response to Jon Rehurek of the Master’s Seminary,” Paul Ferguson.  The Burning Bush 15:2 (July 2009) 67-100.

[v]              See “The Debate over the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points” and “Evidences for the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points,” by Thomas Ross, and “The Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowels, and Accents” by John Gill at http://faithsaves.net/Bibliology for the implications of this confession to the question of the inspiration and authority of the Hebrew vowel points.

[vi]             Westcott and Hort, whose critical Greek New Testament is fundamental to the modern critical text, were very clear that, on their principles, certainty about the Words of Scripture was impossible:

Are there as a matter of fact places in which we are constrained by overwhelming evidence to recognise the existence of textual error in all extant documents? To this question we have no hesitation in replying in the affirmative. . . . But there is no adequate justification for assuming that primitive corruption must be confined to passages where it was obvious enough to catch the eye of ancient scribes, and would naturally thus lead to variation. Especially where the grammar runs with deceptive smoothness, and a wrong construction yields a sense plausible enough to cause no misgivings to an ordinary reader, there is nothing surprising if the kind of scrutiny required for deliberate criticism detects impossible readings accepted without suspicion by all transcribers. . . . There may be and probably are other places containing corruption which we have failed to discover[.] (B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882], 279-281)

Likewise, the modern textual critics, defenders, and authors of the Nestle-Aland critical text are clear that certainty about the New Testament text is impossible on their presuppositions.  Their text suggests many emendations where, supposedly, every single Greek manuscript is corrupt.  Thus, for example, the Nestle-Aland 26th edition contained “c. 130 . . . conjectures in the apparatus” (pg. 568, New Testament Textual Criticism:  The Application of Thoroughgoing Principles:  Essays on Manuscripts and Textual Variation, J. K. Elliott.  Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2010).  The Nestle-Aland 27th edition “listed over 100 . . . explicit conjectural emendations” (http://danielbwallace.com/2014/04/18/review-of-trobischs-users-guide-to-the-nestle-aland-28), and the text contains conjectural emendation in Acts 16:12 (prw¿thß meri÷doß).  The Nestle-Aland 28th edition contains a conjectural emendation in 2 Peter 3:10 (oujc euJreqh/setai).  Aland wrote:

The text of the early period of the second/third century was frequently characterized by erratic traits . . . such as the free expansions still permitted by the standards of the second century when the New Testament text was not yet regarded as ‘canonical,’ much less as sacred in the same sense as Jewish scribes regarded the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. . . . Until the beginning of the fourth century the text of the New Testament developed freely . . . scribes . . . felt themselves free to make corrections in the text, improving it by their own standards of correctness, whether grammatically, stylistically, or more substantively.  This was all the more true of the early period, when the text had not yet attained canonical status, especially in the earliest period when Christians considerd themselves filled with the Spirit. . . . Well into the second century Christians still regarded themselves as possessing inspiration equal to that of the New Testament writings which they read in their worship services. . . . Until the third/fourth century, then, there were many different forms of the New Testament text . . . not until the fourth century . . . did the formation of text types begin. . . . [There are] instances  [where] . . . the New Testament tradition presents an insoluble tie between two or more alternative readings. . . . If a critic prefers to identify a different reading as the original, there is no problem.  (Kurt & Barbara Aland, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes, The Text of the New Testament:  An Introduction to the Critical Editions and the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism [Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1989], 51, 55, 64, 69, 295, 321)

Similarly, Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament editor Bruce Metzger was clear that, on his presuppositions, certainty about the text of the New Testament is impossible.  He admits that the Textus Receptus was regarded for centuries as a certain and preserved text identical with the autographs, and rejection of the Textus Receptus, a rejection of certainty, and a rejection of providential preservation underlies the entire textual-critical endeavor and the modern critical text.  Modern textual criticism proceeds upon a rejection of the Textus Receptus and the presupposition that Scripture was corrupted for a long period of time and then partially restored by modern critics, although certainty is impossible and will never again be restored:

Having secured . . . preeminence, what came to be called the Textus Receptus of the New Testament resisted for 400 years all scholarly effort to displace it. . . . [The] “Textus Receptus,” or commonly received, standard text . . . makes the boast that “[the reader has/ the text now received by all, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” . . . [This] form of Greek text . . . succeeded in establishing itself as “the only true text” of the New Testament and was slavishly reprinted in hundreds of subsequent editions.  It lies at the basis of the King James Version and of all the principal Protestant translations in the languages of Europe prior to 1881. So [allegedly] superstitious has been the reverence accorded the Textus Receptus that in some cases attempts to criticize or emend it have been regarded as akin to sacrilege. . . . For almost two centuries . . . almost all of the editors of the New Testament during this period were content to reprint the time-honored . . . Textus Receptus. . . . In the early days of . . . determining textual groupings . . . the manuscript was collated against the Textus Receptus[.] . . . This procedure made sense to scholars, who understood the Textus Receptus as the original text of the New Testament, for then variations from it would be “agreements in error.” . . . The first recongized scholar to breatk totally with the Textus Receptus was the celebrated classical and Germanic philologist of Berlin Karl Lachmann[.] . . . In editing the New Testament, Lachmann’s aim was not to reproduce the original text, which he believed to be an impossible task. . . . In their edition of the Greek New Testament, Westcott and Hort marked . . . about 60 passages that they (or one of them) suspected involve a ‘primitive error,’ that is, an error older than the extant witnesses, for the removal of which one is confied to conjectural emendation. . . . [Burgon dissented from Westcott and Hort and defended the Traditional Text because] he could not imagine that, if the words of Scripture had been dictated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God would not have providentially preserved them . . . it was inconceivable to Burgon tha the Textus Receptus, which had been used by the Church for centuries, could be in need of the drastic revision that Westcott and Hort had administered to it. . . . Textual criticism is not . . . an exact science at all. . . . It is possible that after the original was placed in circulation it soon became lost or was destroyed, so all surviving copies may conceivably have derived from some single, error-prone copy made in the early stages of the book’s circulation. . . . How did Mark end his Gospel?  Unfortunately, we do not know . . . [among the] endings [that] are current among the manuscripts . . . probably none of them represents what Mark originally intended. . . None of these . . . endings commends itself as original. . . . [T]he possibility of non-Pauline interpolations that occurred before any of the surviving manuscripts had been produced . . . show why it is difficult—some would say impossible—to talk about the orignal text of the Pauline epistles. . . . [O]ne [or more] passage[s] . . . d[o] not appear to have been part of the original letter(s) at all but to have been interpolated into [Paul’s] letter[s] at a later time by a later hand[.] . . . It would seem to be an impossible task to establish those texts since they now only exist in their edited form, with parts omitted and/or edited . . . many scholars have come to think that all of our surviving manuscripts derive ultimately not from the “originals” that Paul produced but from a [later] collection of Paul’s writings[.] . . . If that is the case, it would be difficult to get behind the texts presented in that collection to the original texts.” . . . [Not the soverignty of God, but] very often chance has entered into the survival or loss of manuscript evidence that existed in previous centuries. . . . [Concerning various passages of Scripture,] the textual critic musc simply acknowledge an inability to decide[.] . . . [The] critic must sometimes be content with choosing the least unsatisfactory reading or even admitting that there is no clear basis for choice at all. . . . Occasionally, none of the variant readings will commend itself as original. . . . In textual criticism . . . one must seek . . . to become aware of what . . . cannot be known. . . . [W]e simply do not know what the original author wrote. (Bruce M. Metzger & Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament:  Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed.  [Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2005], 129, 149, 152-153, 170, 181, 229, 232, 273-275, 315-316, 322-323, 340, 343-344)

Texual-critical views of the Old Testament likewise utterly reject certainty and providential preservation:

[A] critically reconstructed “original text” (or a textual form approaching the original text) . . . do[es] not exist for the complete Hebrew Bible[.] . . . Interest in the orignal shape of the biblical text is a relatively new development in the history of research.  Before that interest developed, the biblical text was considered to have once existed in exactly or approximately the same form as that known from the medieval manusripts and the printed editions of M [the Masoretic text]. . . . In spite of the apportance attached to this issue, the question of the original text of the biblical books cannot be decided unequivocally[.] . . . Because of the many problems inherent with it, the supposition of an original text has often been rejeced by scholars. . . . [E]verything that is said about the pristine state of the biblical text must necessarily remain hypothetical. . . . Most of the biblical books were not written by one person nor at one particular time, but rather contain compositional layers written during many generations[.] . . . [T]he original text of the Bible . . . if such texts ever existed. . . was far from identical with . . . M [the Masoretic text]. . . .  The presumed existence of alternative readings has given impetus to the view that there never existed any single original text. . . . During the textual transmission many complicated changes occurred, rendering the reconstruction of the original form of that text almost impossible. . . . [E]ven the more modest aim . . . [to] reconstruct the various texts that were current in the fourth to third centuries BCE . . . is impossible . . . [and this] would not have provided a replacement for the reconstructed original text. . . . A textual theory which could explain the development of the biblical text in its entirety does not exist[.] . . . The period of relative textual unity reflected in the assumed pristine text(s) of the biblical books was brief at best, but in actual fact it probably never existed[.] . . . [T]he random preservation of evidence . . . by chance . . . determines . . the textual nature of the books[.] . . . The biblical text developed and changed much throughout many generations of copying and transmission[.] . . . It is not clear whether it is possible to reconstruct the original orthography of the biblical books[.] . . . [T]extual criticism . . . [of] the Hebrew Bible . . . [does not] ai[m] . . . at the compositions written by the biblical authors[.] . . . [Many scholars affirm] the books of the Hebrew Bible never existed in one original written form, but only in several parallel oral formulations. . . .  [O]ften it is impossible to make a decision with regard to the originality of readings. . . . The comparative evaluation of variants . . . is necessarily subjective. . . . [T]he original reading . . . [is] not necessarily the best[.] . . . In such cases in which scholars believe that no reading has been preserved . . . emendations may be suggested[.] . . . These emendations need not be evaluate since they are based on imagination rather than evidence. . . . [T]extual rules . . . as we have seen propunded are of little if any use.  No one is guided by them in practice.  Nor can they secure an accurate judgment in all cases. . . . [I]t is difficult to present examples which can unequivocally prove the correctness of any given rule. . . . [Th]ere is no unanimous view on . . . any . . . reading[.] . . . [O]ften no decision is possible . . . one will often suggest solutions which differ completely from the one[s] suggested on the previous day. . . . In modern times, scholars are often reluctant to admit the subjective nature of textual evaluation[.] . . . [For many variant readings] it is questionable whether textual evaluation has any application to them at all. . . . This lack of clarity could cause scholars always to refrain from expressing an opinion on the originality of readings in general. . . . Scholars also realize that sometimes [not even] . . . conjectural . . . emendation is acceptable, at which point they are likely to be content with merely stating that the text is corrupt. . . . Many readings have been lost, among which were necessarily readings that were contained in the first copies. . . . [T]he evidence that has been preserved is arbitrary from a textual point of view. . . . [‘C]ritical edition’ is the most inappropriate of all names for the thing to which custom applies it, an edition in which the editor is allowed to fling his opinions in the reader’s face without being called to account and asked for his reasons. (Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd rev. ed.  [Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2001], 18, 164-180, 187, 189, 196, 199, 223, 288-289, 291, 293-297, 303-304, 310, 348, 350, 353, 371)

The teaching of Scripture on its own perfect inspiration, preservation, and availablity is utterly inconsistent with the ungodly presuppositions and product of the Biblical critical texts.

[vii]            For example, in Ephesians 5:21 the Textus Receptus follows about 70% of MSS with the reading e˙n fo/bwˆ Qeouv, while both the CT/UBS and both editions of the printed “Majority” text, Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont, contain e˙n fo/bwˆ Cristouv, following c. 30% of Greek MSS; in Romans 13:9 the Textus Receptus, with 67% of Greek manuscripts, reads ouj yeudomarturh/seiß, while the Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont “Majority” texts follow 33% of manuscripts in omitting the words and removing the ninth commandment from between the eighth and the tenth;  in Romans 6:1, the Textus Receptus reads e˙pimenouvmen with the majority of Greek manuscripts while the Robinson and Hodges “Majority” texts follow 19% of manuscripts to read e˙pime÷nomen. Sometimes the Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont texts contradict each other;  for example, in Romans 12:2, the  Textus Receptus, as well as the Hodges/Farstad text, supported by 65% of Greek manuscripts, contain the imperatives suschmati÷zesqe and metamorfouvsqe, while the Robinson/Pierpont “majority” text follows 35% of Greek manuscripts to print the infinitives suschmati÷zesqai and metamorfouvsqai.

In the book of Revelation, Pickering notes that very early on, probably within the second century, three main independent lines of transmission developed, and then a variety of variations within those streams.  Thus there are some 150 variant sets where no reading receives even 50% attestation, and another 250 sets where the strongest numerical attestation falls below 60%.  In these 400 places to speak of a “majority” text is not convincing (cf. http://walkinhiscommandments.com).  However, the Textus Receptus tends to follow the largest of these three divisions in Revelation, but that grouping does not always represent the actual majority of MSS. Hoskier declared, concerning the TR text of Revelation:  “I may state that if Erasmus had striven to found a text on the largest number of existing MSS [manuscripts] in the world of one type, he could not have succeeded better” (cited on pg. 16, J. A. Moorman, When the KJV Departs from the “Majority” Text, 2nd ed. Collingswood, NJ:  Bible For Today, 1988).

Of course, there are certainly instances where, because of the evidence of ancient versions or a variety of other reasons, in the providence of God the Textus Receptus follows a smaller number of Greek manuscripts than the majority (e. g., 1 John 5:7).  Indeed, there are instances where the Textus Receptus, the Hodges-Farstad, Robinson-Pierpont, and modern critical texts all follow a reading that has less than 50% support (e. g. 2 Timothy 3:7, where all printed texts, whether TR, CT, or H/F & R/P, read Mwu¨sei√ with c. 30% of Greek MSS, while Mwu¨sh has c. 60% of Greek MSS, but has never been put in print in any edition).

[viii]         Historians recognize that the Received Text was identified with the autographs by both Baptists and even the general body of Protestantism.  The Textus Receptus “was . . . the Bible of the Middle Ages and much more, since it was independent of interpretation by Popes, councils, canon lawyers or university doctors.  In one sense both Zwingli and the radicals [such as the Baptists] were uncritical about the Bible in that they made no attempt to go behind the received Hebrew and Greek texts to original manuscripts, and were not concerned that alternative readings were possible — quite the contrary, there was but one text . . . Zwingli and the Anabaptists . . . both accepted the received text, and both agreed that tradition, the hierarchy and any human authorities, however ancient or eminent, must give way to the Word. . . . [the Baptists defended what this unbelieving historian calls] narrow and uncompromising bibliolatry” (Pg. 172-173, Zwingli, G. R. Potter.  London: Cambridge University Press, 1976).  Kurt Aland, editor of the critical Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, stated:

It is undisputed that Luther used the Greek Textus Receptus for his translation of the German New Testament in 1522 and all its later editions (although the term itself was not yet in use at the time). . . . [So did] all the translators of the New Testament in the 16th century (e.g., the Zürich version). All the translations of the 17th century, including the King James version of 1611, the “Authorized Version,” were also based on this text. Thus the New Testament of the church in the period of the Reformation was based on the Textus Receptus.  It is equally undisputed that in the 16th or 17th century (and for that matter well into the 18th century) anyone with a Greek New Testament would have had a copy of the Textus Receptus. . . . Finally it is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus . . . [which] was regarded as “the text of the church” . . . from the 4th . . . century. (“The Text Of The Church?” Kurt Aland. Trinity Journal, 8:2 (Fall 1987), 131, 143)

It is therefore not surprising that throughout Baptist and Protestant Christiandom in the Reformation and Post-Reformation era the “Textus Receptus . . . was regarded as preserving even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself” (pg. 11, The Text of the New Testament, Kurt & Barbara Aland, trans. Erroll Rhodes. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1989).

[ix]             See “The Canonicity of the Received Bible Established From Baptist Confessions” at http://faithsaves.net/Bibliology.

[x]              I confess that the preservation of Scripture is providential rather than miraculous.  No miracle of the sort performed by Christ and the Apostles took place when scribes were copying Scripture, or when Scripture was being translated, or when any edition of the Textus Receptus was being compiled and printed.  Therefore, the Scrivener edition of the Textus Receptus, the edition that exactly underlies the English Authorized Version, was not the product of a miracle or the product of an act comparable to that through which the Scriptures were given to holy men of God in the autographs (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Nonetheless, the providence of God was involved in all stages of the transmission of the Bible, and there is nothing imperfect about God’s providence.  Since all of history takes place in accordance with the decree of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), and God can bring about in perfect detail the sort of astonishing acts of providence that are recorded in the book of Esther without a specifically miraculous action, and the providential preservation of the Bible did not cease with the invention of the printing press, and there are no verses of Scripture that affirm that God is unable or unwilling to lead His people to certainty about the text of the Bible through having His pure words printed, and, while Christians before the age of printing could know with certainty what the words of the canon were but a perfect, mass-produced edition was not possible without miracle before the age of the printing press in the centuries after the autographs and their earliest apographs passed away, I therefore confess with the vast numbers of Baptist churches who receive the testimony of the Spirit to the words He dictated and preserved, and who believe the promises of Scripture concerning its own preservation, that the canonical words of God have been through Divine providence perfectly preserved in the common printed Received Text, the Scrivener edition underlying the Authorized Version.

[xi]             2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689.

[xii]            In the unlikely event that the Lord were not to return for some hundreds of years into the future, and the English language changed in such a manner that the early modern or Elizabethan English of the Authorized Version were to have the comprehensibility of the Old English of Beowulf, it would certainly be right to update Biblical language.  However, I believe that the Holy Spirit would lead Biblical Baptist churches to have general agreement that such a revision of the English Bible is needed.  Without such clear Divine leadership, any revision would be inferior to the Authorized Version (as such versions as the NKJV most certainly are), and detrimental to the cause of Christ.

[xiii]           E. g., someone who affirmed that baptize would be better rendered as immerse.

[xiv]           E. g., rendering peripateo as “walks” instead of “walketh” in a text such as 1 Peter 5:8 would not make such a translation inaccurate or erroneous.

[xv][xv]         That is, for example, baptize rather than immerse more clearly communicates the character of the baptismal ceremony as a religious ordinance, immerse does not specifically indicate that the person who receives baptism is not only to be plunged under the water but also to arise out of it, and the verb to immerse was not commonly used in the English language in 1611 (and thus appears nowhere at all in the KJV; cf. the Oxford English Dictionary).  Furthermore, the argument sometimes advanced that men like King James were seeking to cover up the fact that baptism was properly performed by dipping is highly questionable in light of the fact that King James, Queen Elizabeth, and other English monarchs actually were dipped as infants, not sprinkled or poured upon, following the dominant Anglican liturgical practice of their day.

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Thomas Ross