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Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text

Posted By: Tom

Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:26 PM

I came upon an article titled “Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text” and as I read it, I started to realize that although I have studied this subject before and have even participated in a few discussions of this nature on the Highway’s boards. At present some of it is above my present knowledge concerning whether or not the article has its facts straight and even if it does, is it biasing those facts in order to project them towards their faulty presupposition? Although it is a study that one day I would like to go deeper on, at present to attempt such a study would take away from other important priorities. I thought however, it might be helpful to enquire on the Highway to see if the author’s claims are true.
To give an example, the author seems to believe that only the “Greek Textus Receptus (the printed edition of the Greek text at the time) along with the Byzantine manuscripts (the Traditional Text) upon which it was largely based and the Hebrew Masoretic Text” match what Matt. 5:18 says: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”KJV
He goes on to say that this is what the Reformers themselves believed and he quotes some of them to prove his point. One quote he uses seemingly shows how John Owen himself believed the Textus Receptus to be authentic. The author says that John Owen (or the Reformers) would not agree with the conclusions in the modern critical text
By extension (if I understand the author’s point), I think he is probably saying that only Bible versions that have been translated from those texts are consistent with Matt. 5:18.
He also says something that I found interesting and I quote.
When the confession speaks of the original Greek and Hebrew as “being immediately inspired by God” it is often thought today to only be referring to the original autographs which are now lost. However, the confession proceeds to make clear that “immediate inspiration” is not referring merely to the autographs, but the text that came down to us through history for it goes on to states that it was “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic”.

The main reason I bring this up is because almost without exception, when I listen to Reformed pastors or theologians on this subject, they almost always refer to only the original autographs as inspired and without err. Most see no real problem with this in terms of doctrinal accuracy; they seem to pay more attention to the issue of Formal Equivalence vs. Dynamic Equivalence; at least in Reformed circles.
Another point the author made, in using only certain manuscripts was that the Reformers used them in direct opposition to Roman Catholic claims.
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:18 PM

One of the main problems I have with the author's quote, " the confession proceeds to make clear that “immediate inspiration” is not referring merely to the autographs, but the text that came down to us through history..." is that anyone who has studied this subject knows that the manuscripts, parchments, uncials, etc. which came down through history are many, i.e., these sources of texts aren't like a bound book. No, they are various objects which have been found in myriad locations. And, there are many discrepancies to be found between them. It is an arduous task to try and determine which is correct and which is not. What I believe is the "immediate inspiration" can only belong to the original writings written by the original authors and only those which belong to the canon; the 66 books of what we call The Bible. The Spirit of God did NOT "inspire" any copy of those original autographs, i.e., preserved them without contradiction or error. However, It seems to me to be more than satisfactory to believe that the Spirit guided those who sorted through all those various manuscripts, parchments, uncials, etc. to choose the correct ones from which translations were based. Translations are certainly not "inspired", i.e., guaranteed to be inerrant and infallible for minor errors and discrepancies can be found in every one of them. Just one example of errors which one can find in the KJV is that the translators in many places translated "uios" as child/children and "tekna" as son(s), when in fact, "uios" without question (except in KJV only circles) is the Greek word for "son(s)" and "tekna" is without question the Greek word for child/children. And it is not a minor thing that this error appears for the understanding of the texts where this is done is dependent upon the correct meaning of the words. Having said that, with confidence every Christian can be assured that no major or critical doctrine in the more traditional translations is negatively effected. I can say without wavering that my KJV and ASV both are the Word of God and trust my very soul to their content. :BigThumUp:
Posted By: Tom

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:17 AM

Thank you, that was quite helpful.
Can you comment on the author's quotes by theologians such as John Owen that supposedly prove his presupposition?
What comes to my mind, based on my current knowledge is all it shows is that theologians like Owen only had manuscripts like the Textus Receptus. I might be wrong about that; but if that is correct would not it also be correct to say, that these theologians believed what they had were accurate?

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Fri Feb 16, 2018 11:00 AM

John Owen had his opinion about which textual evidence was more correct based upon what was available to him in the 17th century. I do no recall Owen ever writing that he believed that the TR was "inspired". That would have been unlike Owen to make such a claim knowing the process that took place throughout the centuries and for nothing else the reality that there were copiest errors. Since we do not have the ORIGINAL handwritten autographs which came from Moses, the Apostles and others, e.g., the writer of Hebrews, EVERYTHING we have is a copy all of which were also handwritten by a human being, many of which were unregenerate. Yes, God the Spirit attended the transmission of the Scriptures, but none but the originals were written by the Spirit's inspiration and were thus infallible and inerrant. As I have written here on numerous occasions and elsewhere, it is impossible to make a statement, e.g., that the TR is the ONLY true infallible and inerrant manuscript evidence. And again, the majority of the variants which exist between alternatives which others prefer are extremely minor. No crucial, fundamental of the Christian faith is compromised between them. How these texts are TRANSLATED is a far more important matter to my mind because a bad translation can and has resulted in heretical doctrines being embraced and taught in the Church.
Posted By: Tom

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:48 AM

As I said earlier, I agree with you. The author of course, claims the quotes prove his points and I am not quite sure what to make of these quotes. Perhaps, I missed your something you said that answer this?
In Turretin’s Systematic Theology he wrote:
By ‘original texts’ we do not mean the very autographs from the hands of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, which are known to be nonexistent. We mean copies (apographa), which have come in their name, because they record for us that word of God in the same words into which the sacred writers committed it under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit…Faithful and accurate copies, not less than autographs, are norms for all other copies…and for translations

Again Owen states of the Textus Receptus…
“Let it be remembered that the vulgar copy [being the Textus Receptus] we use was the public possession of many generations,—that upon the invention of printing it was in actual authority throughout the world with them that used and understood that language, as far as any thing appears to the contrary; let that, then, pass for the standard, which is confessedly its right and due, and we shall, God assisting, quickly see how little reason there is to pretend such varieties of readings as we are now surprised withal.”
First note that Owen clearly does not see a huge dichotomy between the Textus Receptus and the manuscript tradition from which it was derived.
Secondly, he states it should be the standard against which variants in the manuscripts are compared. He is saying that the Textus Receptus should be the starting place of enquiry.
This again demonstrates that those in the era of the great English confessions believed their Received Text was a functionally pure text in spite of any variant issues which they saw as so trifling as to be virtually dismissive of them. It is therefore inconceivable that men like John Owen would accept many of the conclusions found in the modern Critical Text.

We can go one step further with John Owen and demonstrate that he saw Codex Vaticanus (seen by modern critics as one of the “best manuscripts”) as a corrupted text. He stated that we should reject readings that…
“Arise out of copies apparently corrupted, like that of Beza in Luke and that in the Vatican [Codex Vaticanus] boasted of by Huntley the Jesuit, which Lucas Brugensis affirms to have been changed by the Vulgar Latin, and which was written and corrected, as Erasmus says, about the [time of the] council of Florence, when an agreement was patched up between the Greeks and Latins.”

At least I can learn a few things about this subject.
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sat Feb 17, 2018 12:05 PM

The parts of Scripture which speak of itself, aka: self-attestation (unless one wishes to discredit the credibility of any manuscript group) clearly says that the original authors of the Bible were inspired and because they were inspired what they wrote possess infallibility, inerrancy and supreme authority (cf. Ex 24:4, 34:27,32; Num 11:16-29; Lev 26:46; 2Chron 33:18; Ps 78:5; Jer 30:2; Dan 10:21; Hos 8:12; Zech 7:12; Lk 1:1-4; Acts 1:16, 28:25; Rom 3:1-2; 1Cor 2:12,13, 14:37; 1Thess 2:13; 1Tim 6:3f; 2Tim 3:16,17; Heb 1:1,2; 1Pet 1:11,12; 2Pet 1:21; 2Pet 3:2,15,16; 1Jh 1:1-5; Rev11,2,11,17-19; 22:6-8; et al). Thus, we speak of the original autographs as being inspired. But I see nothing to indicate that after all that God had instructed His servants to write, inspiration continued. Of course, Pentecostals, Charismatics, sects, cults, and others disagree and believe that God continued and even continues to speak inspired truth, aka: divine revelation, today. To me, to say... regardless who said/wrote it, that copies of the originals share the same inspiration, i.e., they are directly written by the Holy Spirit through men is without warrant and even dangerous.

One of the problems which you certainly are aware of is the perennial argument over which manuscripts are "genuine"; the TR or some other? I sat through classes dealing with Textual Criticism and never was convinced that either side was correct. Much of it was argued in pride and not substantial evidence to make the case either way. So, again..... my concern is not whether the TR or the Majority Text, or Westcott-Hort, or Kurt Aland, has the "correct" manuscript evidence, but rather, how the evidence we have is translated. I have 100% confidence that what I read in a KJV or ASV is the Word of God which God through the Spirit gave to His prophets and apostles. grin
Posted By: Tom

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:56 PM

What you just stated is basically my understanding on the matter.
That is also the bottom line as well. Yet, what I am trying to understand is what the writers of the Confessions believed on the issue. Also what the quotes I provided mean.
The author of the article I provided as you probably noticed built most of his argument on that aspect.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sat Feb 17, 2018 11:56 PM

1. To find out what the framers of the "confession"; which one? WCF, LBCF, Savoy, would have to search for writings which those individuals addressed on that subject.

2. Textual criticism was hardly developed during the 1600's. Many more manuscript evidence has been found over the past 400 years.

3. What the quotes mean; assuming they are taken in context, is that they believed the textual evidence they had at the time was reliable.

4. As I stated before, the debate between those who believe the TR, aka: Received Text is the best and genuinely preserved text and those who think otherwise has gone on for a very long time. And, I seriously doubt it will ever end. I have had courses on textual criticism and I found it to be one which "Scholars" love to delve into. I'm ambivalent on the whole matter. My main version for reading, devotions, etc., is the KJV. My main version for study is the ASV. Being quite familiar with both versions I have not found any major difference between the two and I am more than comfortable using both without any doubts or fears that one of them could lead me astray from the truth and even more importantly, from Christ.
Posted By: Tom

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:46 AM

Thank you
Concerning number 3, I think you are correct. I do not think without more information you can really say more that that.

On number 4, when you said
I'm ambivalent on the whole matter.
I must say that I am becoming that way myself.
I have on my cell phone the KJV; so I do a lot of reading from that. At home I read three different versions. The KJV, the NKJV and the ESV, the later because that is what my pastor preaches from.

Posted By: Dutch Michael

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sat Mar 10, 2018 7:08 PM

Yes I use the KJV, NKJV and ESV also .Our congregation uses the ESV and it seems to be the translation of choice among Reformed congregations.
Posted By: Dutch Michael

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:02 PM

This issue of Textual criticism and manuscripts just makes my head spin. There is so much information out there on both sides.
Posted By: Nigel J

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sun Jun 10, 2018 2:42 PM

I thoroughly recommend Dean John Burgon's work 'Revision Revised' which is available though Amazon from the USA.

John Burgon (Chichester 1813-1888) wrote just after the Revised version's appearance in 1881 and strongly resisted the introduction of the Westcott & Hort text. His book is a thorough analysis of the whole subject of Textual Criticism. He, himself, amassed 96,000 Patristic Citations, that is to say quotations of scripture by the early fathers (Jerome, Eusebius and so forth) which is further evidence (as well as manuscripts, translated versions and lectionary quotations) which, together, form conclusive indication of the genuine Greek text as written by the apostles themselves.

I read 'Revision Revised' as a convert in 1966 and have remained thoroughly convinced of his arguments for the past 50 years.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Reformed Confessions of Faith and the Traditional Text - Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:43 AM

Okay, so you prefer the 'Textus Receptus' vs. Westcott-Hort or the Nestle-Aland texts. I have read Burgon's book and others who defend the 'Textus Receptus' and I have also read many books that defend the 'Majority Text'. There are valid arguments on both sides which makes it very difficult to choose between them. However, I am curious if you go further than siding with the Textus Receptus and also believe that only one of the many translations based upon the Textus Receptus is equally inspired, i.e. the translation shares the same divine authorship and the original autographa, aka: The King James Bible?
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