Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Puritanboard and the Comma Continued
03/13/2006 - James WhiteThe discussion continues in articles posted on the Puritanboard by my fellow Reformed believers regarding the Comma Johanneum. Two immediate things: I have been asked why I don't just join the Puritanboard and post there. Simple answer: I don't have time to join all the web boards out there where relevant conversations are taking place. However, I have received a number of e-mails thanking me for this particular discussion on this blog, and, though this sounds self-serving, it is merely a statement of fact: a lot more people read this blog than read the Puritanboard. Therefore, as long as I believe the wider audience would benefit from the conversation, I will continue to invest time in it.
Secondly, I am disappointed that my primary objection to the inclusion of the Comma has seemingly passed by the supporters of the Comma on the Puritanboard without so much as a single attempt at response. Once again, let me make it as plain as I can. There are plenty of readings found in Codex Bezae Catabrigiensis that are likewise mirrored in a small number of Greek manuscripts as well as Latin versions (Bezae is a bilingual manuscript in Greek and Latin) that, if the textual arguments proffered by supporters of the Comma are consistently applied would have to be included in the TR, calling for a very large realignment of the text itself. Yet, we all know why it is that no one is calling for this re-editing of the TR: the TR is the standard here, and its readings are being defended, albeit in a circular fashion. The only reason these brothers find any of the arguments put forward in defense of it compelling is because they are already pre-disposed to the acceptance of the TR (well, at least the TR that is post-AV, depending on just how you define the term "TR" in the first place). If these same arguments were used to support an emendation of the TR, such arguments would be dismissed instantly (and rightfully so). But such inconsistency is the sign of untruth, is it not? Personally, I would like to hear a meaningful explanation of this objection.
Now, to some of the statements posted since our last installment:
Yes, it's a pity that Dr White has his textual criticism blinkers on and can't see that the question of the Comma is decidedly nothing to do with T.C. If it were, then the question would be long over since there are precious few Greek texts in which it occurs.Am I wearing textual criticism "blinkers" or is this brother wearing "TR Tradition" blinkers? But please note the admission inherent in this statement: this brother accepts the Comma not because it has been transmitted within the manuscript tradition. Instead, "internal evidences" take precedence: once again using one standard for the TR, another standard for all others. Would this person, for example, accept the "internal evidence arguments" for reading "God" at John 1:18 over "Son"? If not, why not?
The question, insofar as there is one, concerns the internal evidences as I posted before. Did the Holy Spirit inspire John to use some rather dodgy grammar at that point, or was the Comma excised at some stage from most Greek texts by over-zealous Arians?Note again that this would, logically, open up a Pandora's box whereby all readings that could be questioned on a grammatical basis (as if we have a basis for so doing) no matter what their textual basis become "fair game." Again, this is clearly not this writer's intention, but he is operating within a context that not only allows the use of double standards, but encourages it by avoiding apologetic defense of the text outside theological circles. As I have pointed out before, this kind of argumentation goes absolutely positively nowhere in dealing with critics of the faith.
Secondly, if the Arians could do this to one text (a text that is not nearly as strong against Arianism as so many others), what did the Sabellians manage to mess up before the Arians came along? This brother simply does not see that he is, in essence, sacrificing the entirety of the NT for the sake of a tradition regarding the TR. And given the relatively late date of the Arian controversy, we know that numerous manuscripts would already exist containing the reading that no Arian could ever get to, and many would have read those manuscripts and would have continued to use the text in defense of the truth. This kind of "internal argument" is vacuous at best, and tremendously dangerous at worst.
I wish Dr White well in his discussions with the Moslems, but I seriously doubt if anyone is likely to be converted one way or the other by arguing about the text. In my, admittedly limited, discussions with Moslems, the matter has never come up. The question to broach with Moslems IMO is the need of a Saviour.I'm disappointed this brother would think that all I do is "argue about the text" with Muslims. But I would like to ask him: how do you proclaim a Savior to the Muslim who does not believe the Bible is the Word of God because it has been corrupted? And if this brother has not spoken to a Muslim who believes that, well, he obviously has not spoken to many Muslims.
Dr White is of course right that Henry, Dabney et al did not have access to all the Greek manuscripts that are available today. However, they had sufficient to know that the Comma was not in most of them. Their support for it was based on other reasons than the texts.The point that this brother is missing is that with the tremendous expansion of knowledge of the earliest form of the manuscript tradition, our confidence in the entirety of the text, including the exclusion of the Comma as a much later addition, has been greatly increased.
Finally, this particular brother wrote, "Dr White can have his Critical Text and God bless it to him. However, I feel very confident using the NKJV and cannot see where it is likely to lead me into theological error." I never said using the NKJV leads you to theological error. I have, however, lamented the willingness to abandon, en toto, a defensible, historical, consistent view of the transmission of the text of the New Testament just so that a later addition will remain in one's tradition. I do believe a person who commits himself to the text underlying the NKJV (which Byzantine priority proponents will confirm demands emendation and editing) for the reasons this brother has offered is putting himself in a very difficult position should he ever find himself having to "refute those who contradict" as is the duty of every elder.
I will respond to brother McDonald as time allows. Honestly, I believe I have responded to much of what he said by posting my comments from The King James Only Controversy. Let me just respond to his first statement regarding the nature of the arguments in defense of the Comma by referring he, and others, to a disputatio I did with Douglas Wilson a number of years ago where, I believe, we find Wilson (following Letis) presenting just such an argument as he says is not being made. Here's the link.