Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Replying to My Reformed Brethren
03/12/2006 - James WhiteI would like to offer some replies to those commenting on the textual issue on the "Puritanboard."
However, it's unfortunate that White has a bee in his bonnet about the Greek Text. What heresy is one imbibing if one holds to the Johannine Comma? That 1John 5:7 is true is beyond dispute. Why all the fuss?I believe I have explained this: if we are going to be consistent in our apologetics, we cannot use one standard in defending the text against the likes of Ehrman or Ally and another "internally." The defense offered of the Comma would be torn to pieces by any well-read Islamic apologist, and for good reason, since the vast majority of competent critics, including conservative Calvinist scholars, reject it for the later addition it so clearly is. Are we truly to defend the inspiration and preservation of the text of Scripture by arguing, "Well, you see, history may tell us that John did not write this, however, we believe the Reformation was a great move of God, and this text had a small role therein, and was part of the text generally used at that time, so, it must be original because it has been blessed of God!" Would anyone accept that kind of argumentation if it was used in reverse? "Oh, yes, there may be variants in the text of the Qur'an, however, Ayatollah Khomeini read this Surah in this fashion, and he was blessed by Allah, so the historical fact of the variants is irrelevant." I do not get the idea that those defending the Comma are the same folks doing front-line defense of the faith in the apologetic realm. I simply do not see how their defense could be presented with a straight face in that context.
Moreover, to discard the views of men like Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry and Robert Dabney because they are not 'modern' is a wretched argument.The question at hand is a textual one. The state of the body of data available on that subject has radically altered since the days of Poole, Henry and Dabney. Beyond that simple and compelling fact--a fact that has been sufficient to convince the vast majority of those who study in the field--having read these men I find their arguments utterly convincing for one major reason: the consistent application of their arguments would demand the utter overthrow of the TR as a Greek text of the New Testament. As I pointed out in my comments in The King James Only Controversy, there are all sorts of readings with similar manuscript support to the Comma that would, by logical necessity, have to be inserted into the TR. But, of course, none of these men argued in that fashion. They stand convicted, therefore, of inconsistency, one borne, to be sure, of orthodox desires, but inconsistency nonetheless, and unless we are going to openly admit that we will use one set of arguments in defense of orthodoxy and hold our opponents to a completely different set, we cannot follow them no matter how well meaning they may have been.
All these men were well aware of the lack of textual evidence of the Comma; their support for it came from the internal evidences rather than from the manuscripts.However, the external manuscript evidence is simply insuperable, as I have noted previously. All the internal argumentation in the world is simply irrelevant when its application would result in the overthrow of the entire text of the New Testament as a whole. Beyond this, the argumentation offered is grossly unconvincing: the grammatical argument is flawed in numerous ways, and is surely not new: Gregory Nazianzus responded to the same argumentation long ago and found it less than compelling then as well.
I could not help but note with irony how accurately I had described the motivations of the KJV Only movement (and the TR Only movement as well) when I read these words, posted only earlier today:
I have to confess that I am moving from a M.T. position to a T.R. position. On the one hand, I am not preared to let Nestle/Aland tell me what my Bible is, and have them change it every time a new edition comes out, but on the other, I note that the M.T. supporters cannot decide among themselves what the Majority Text is. I want to be able to pick up my Bible and say, "This is the word of God" and the Bible I'm picking up is a NKJV.Not only is it not very scientific, it is utterly indefensible in the apologetic realm, too. First, Nestle/Aland provides you with a wealth of textual information. It is not like most editions of the TR which do, in fact, simply tell you what your Bible is without telling you about variants. I have never really understood that mindset, at least on the part of practicing Calvinists who are supposed to believe in practicing sola scriptura. Anyway, please note the final statement: this writer wants a firm text, no questions. I understand that desire. But what good is it to close your eyes to the historical reality of the means by which God communicated the text to us, ignore the existence of textual variation, and just grab hold of the work of Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza, run it through the KJV translators, and say, "Voila! The perfect text"? What kind of "certainty" does this actually provide? None, especially if you dare take your "perfect text" into the realm of apologetic encounter with an ever more antagonistic Western culture that is well armed with Bart Ehrman books. If all you want to do is sit in your little Calvinistic enclave, that kind of thinking can work. But my dear brothers, we cannot do that. We have to follow the Apostles' example and enter the market place of ideas and engage the world and its claims. And that is why such thinking does not "work for" me, and cannot work for anyone else, either.
Not very scientific, but it works for me! :bigsmile:
Finally, Sean P. M. McDonald wanted me to mention his name specifically, for some reason (I guess he does not understand that I don't happen to believe that personalities are relevant here---who is making these comments and arguments doesn't matter, does it?) Anyway, he wrote,
I guess what I'm saying is, historically, Reformed scholars didn't try to pick on the weakest exponents of a position in order to slam it -- in the Reformation period and following, they attacked Bellarmine, Episcopius, et al. I realize that Tom Holland was the individual in question, but at least give mention somewhere, anywhere, to the fact that John Gill (with whom you agree 95% of the time), and Robert Dabney and Matthew Henry (with whom you agree 85-90% of the time) argued for the textual basis of the Johannine Comma, and go after that, not some guy most Reformed and Presbyterians have never heard of.And I will repeat what I have said before: I can greatly appreciate John Gill or Robert Dabney in many areas and not follow them lock-step in other areas where they were, manifestly, wrong. The fact is none of these men had access to the body of textual data available today. None. Hence, their conclusions were based upon at best partial external information. I do not believe for a moment they realized that the only logical conclusion to the application of their arguments would involve the utter and complete overthrow of the textual basis of the New Testament. But we are in a different situation. We can see this, and, as a result, not follow them in their errors. The only reason I can see to follow them today is pure devotion to a tradition, nothing more. If Erasmus was right to go against the tradition that enshrined the Vulgate as the final authority in 1516, why should I allow another tradition to hold me in its grips and rob me of a meaningful basis of defense of the text today?