Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, February 12, 2018

Biblical Inerrancy, Plenary Verbal Inspiration, and Textual Criticism: Is There an Apparent Contradiction?

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I visited an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cayce, South Carolina. I decided to go early enough to visit the Sunday school class, which was being taught by one of the elders. To my delight the class was studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The question being studied this day was question 6. Little did I know that this would become a source of controversy and debate in the class.

Question 6

How many persons are there in the Godhead?

There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. (1 John 5:7, Matt. 28:19)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism: With Scripture Proofs, 3rd edition. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

The issue came up that part of the verses that are in the King James translation are not in the modern translations. The King James Version in regards to 1 John 5:7 reads as follows:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), 1 Jn 5:7–8.

The problem is that verse 7 does not exist in the modern translations:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:7–8.

I could quote other modern translations but they all edit the text the same way. It should be remembered as well that the verse numbers were not part of the original autographs and were not in the manuscript copies handcopied and passed down to us.

There was a heated debate on the part of the elder teaching the class because I challenged him when he said that some people think the KJV is an inspired tranlsation. But then he seemed to imply that modern translations are inspired. He did not seem to know that the the original autographs alone are the inspired word of God and not the KJV or even modern translations. I further noted that some folks are so oriented to modern translations that they go to the opposite extreme and make dogmatic assertions that anyone who reads the KJV or the NKJV or other translations based on the Textus Receptus or the Majority Text or the byzantine textual family must automatically be called King James Only advocates. That simply is not the case since not everyone who disagrees with the axioms of the proponents of the “science” of textual criticism takes the view that the KJV is an inspired translation. Some advocate the Majority Text as the basis for modern translations while not going to the extreme of saying that the KJV is an inspired translation.

The elder further stated that the NIV is the word of God. That is not technically correct since both the KJV and the NIV are translations of the word of God and one of the translations was based on the Textus Receptus edition of the Greek New Testament, which was an eclectic text collated by Desiderius Eramus, and the other translation, the NIV, was done from the eclectic Greek New Testament or the Nestle-Aland 26th edition and/or the United Bible Societies 4th edition. 

To further complicate matters, going beyond which text family is used for translation, is the issue of the theory of translation. Some translations use what is called the dynamic equivalency method where idioms and sayings in the original language do not exactly translate into modern English. In such cases the translators have decided to paraphrase the idiom into something more understandable in the receptor language of English. The NIV and the ESV both use the dynamic equivalency approach while the NASB is a more literal translation. It is my advice and opinion that anyone using a modern translation of the Bible should take the time to carefully study and read the preface to that translation, looking up terms or jargon not familiar to them. The presupposed biases of the translation committee should be duly noted. Furthermore, when reading the actual text of the translation be very careful to read the footnotes to the text because this will alert the reader to issues of translation and issues of what the translators thought were textual issues relating to manuscript evidences of what they thought should or should not be in the Bible in the first place.  But deciding what the manuscript evidence indicates was in the missing original writings penned by the biblical writers is still a subjective call on the part of the textual critics.

Moreover, I have been mulling over another problem in regards to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy lately. The problem as stated from a Clarkian Scripturalist point of view is that we do not have the original autographs. This is particularly problematic since the axiom of Christianity is the inspired and infallible and inerrant Holy Scriptures. Since we do not have the original autographs and only the autographs are inerrant--that is without error--how can the Christian consistently claim to affirm absolute biblical inerrancy and not a limited inerrancy that depends on reconstructing the original text from extant manuscript evidence? It is the contention of both liberal and Evangelical textual critics that the Majority Text or Byzantine text family is late and therefore not the best representation of the what the autographs contained. Therefore as new evidence is brought forth from the extant manuscripts and other new discoveries, the contents of the Bible is subject to correction and redaction based on the opinions of text critics as those are laid out in an eclectic hodge podge of collected manuscript readings. In short, the contents of the Bible could change from one decade to the next depending on the subjective opinions of textual critics and the axioms of textual criticism.

If the contents of what is supposed to be the original text in the autographs changes, does this not imply that there are errors in the Bible? It is one thing to acknowledge that translations of the Bible into other languages can be in error but quite another thing to say that the manuscript evidence is relative to our presupposed axioms of determining what should or should not be in the Bible. First of all, the committee on the translation of the King James version of 1611 acknowledged in the preface that the original languages were the true word of God:

There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and Religious affection in Your Majesty but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of the accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labors, both in our own, and other foreign Languages of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; Your MAJESTY did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.

The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

The King James translators recognized that in all matters of doctrinal controversy the original tongues or languages of the Bible were to decide the controversy but with the caveat that they recognized their own translation skills were not on the same level as the original inspired writings:

So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make GOD’S holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil; we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; . . .

The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

Ironically, however, some Evangelical textual critics like James White and Daniel Wallace claim to believe in biblical inerrancy while at the same time making dogmatic assertions about what passages of Scripture should or should not be included in the canonical text of Scripture. Canonical listing of books is not an infallible listing remember. But is it the same thing to say that the contents of canonical books accepted since the 4th century are authoritative while the books themselves contain errors or additions that should not be in the text or subtractions where erroneous deletions of the inspired text occurred? I think not.

Another problem is that even modern attempts to define biblical inerrancy have glossed over the issue of textual criticism rather than dealing with the problem indepth:

Transmission and Translation

Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.

Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).

The problem here should be obvious to anyone. Does the passage in John 8:1-11 of the woman caught in the act of adultery belong in the Bible? How about the longer ending to Mark 16:9-20? There are other passages as well but these come immediately to mind. Of course the textual critics say that deletions from the text make no major difference to saving faith and the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy says the same thing. But is it really a non-issue that the Bible might contain erroneous passages that might not be in the original autographs? If the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35) and the textual critics say that the Bible contains passages that are not inspired of God, how do we know who is right or wrong on this? Would not the text critics be claiming infallibility in their judgments about what the “science” of textual criticism can determine to be in the Bible and what should not be in the Bible? Some Evangelical textual critics like James White and Daniel Wallace have dogmatically stated that they would not preach on a passage of Scripture included in the modern translations in brackets because these passages most probably were not in the original autographs. That would include John 8 and the longer ending to Mark’s Gospel account.

Textual critics are therefore effectually operating as a magisterium. They claim to believe in biblical inerrancy while daring to tell the rest of us what is in all probability not in the text of Scripture. But is Scripture relatively the word of God or is it merely a probability?  (Proverbs 16:33). Or as the Bible says, is every single word of Scripture inspired of God?  (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16).  Do we have a plenary verbally inspired and inerrant text or is the text of Scripture subject to constant revision by the magisterium of liberal and Evangelical scholars every year? Can the Scriptures be broken? (John 7:23; 10:35).

As a Clarkian Scripturalist I prefer to start with the axiom of Scripture. Either the Bible is the Word of God or it isn’t. But this begs the question of which Greek text should be the basis for our translations of the Greek New Testament? Here I want to return to the issue of 1 John 5:7. The problem here is that the King James Version utilized the Textus Receptus, which was in turn based on Erasmus’s eclectic Greek New Testament. In the 16th century Erasmus only had access to a few Greek manuscripts available to him. But since that time literally thousands of late manuscripts in the Majority text or byzantine text family have been discovered. Furthermore, in Erasmus’s day 1 John 5:7 occurred only in the Latin Vulgate and could not be found in any Greek manuscript available to Erasmus. But when Erasmus refused to then include this verse in his eclectic Greek New Testament the Roman Catholic scholars, who were arguing for the verse to be included, suddenly produced a late Greek manuscript that did include the verse. Dr. Gordon H. Clark comments on the longer verse 7 of the KJV:

5:7 Because there are three witnesses.

The text: The Textus Receptus and the King James version contain several lines that are found in only one, and a very late, Greek manuscript. The words come from a fourth century Latin version. The story is that the Latin-reading ecclesiastics were incensed when Erasmus, in his first Greek edition, omitted the word in question. To defend himself Erasmus told them he would include the words if they could find a single Greek manuscript that had them. They quickly had a monk, so the story goes, write out a new manuscript in which he inserted his translation of the Latin into Greek. Compliant Erasmus thereupon inserted the words in his edition, and the King James Version strangely kept them.

The recent effort to restore the authority of the so-called Byzantine cursives as opposed to the uncials that the Christians for some reason did not see fit to reproduce, is not committed to the Textus Receptus in its entirety. The cursives do not support Erasmus’ verse, and it will be omitted if a new edition based on the majority of manuscripts appears.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark. First John: A Commentary. (Trinity Foundation: Jefferson, 1980). Pp. 156-157.

The New King James Version, unfortunately, does not follow Dr. Clark’s advice and includes the reading inserted into the Textus Receptus by Erasmus. Some scholars have noted that Erasmus had only six Greek manuscripts available to him:

Erasmus had been studying Greek New Testament manuscripts for many years, in the Netherlands, France, England and Switzerland, noting their many variants, but had only six Greek manuscripts immediately accessible to him in Basel.[6] They all dated from the 12th Century or later, and only one came from outside the mainstream Byzantine tradition. Consequently, most modern scholars consider his text to be of dubious quality. [8]

With the third edition of Erasmus' Greek text (1522) the Comma Johanneum was included, because "Erasmus chose to avoid any occasion for slander rather than persisting in philological accuracy", even though he remained "convinced that it did not belong to the original text of l John."[9] Popular demand for Greek New Testaments led to a flurry of further authorized and unauthorized editions in the early sixteenth century, almost all of which were based on Erasmus' work and incorporated his particular readings, although typically also making a number of minor changes of their own.[10]

Wikipedia: Textus Receptus.

The so-called Comma Johnneum is a reference to 1 John 5:7. Even Zane Hodges’ Greek New Testament, based on the Majority Text and not the Textus Receptus, does not include verse 7 of 1 John 5:

7 Ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες·3 8 τὸ Πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.

Zane Clark Hodges, Arthur L. Farstad, and William C. Dunkin, The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text, 2nd ed. (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1985), 1 Jn 5:7–8.

So basically this one verse, 1 John 5:7, is the only verse in the Bible where the text critics can say definitively that this verse does not belong in the Bible. The other questionable passages and verses raised by the textual critics are in doubt based on the biases of the textual critics.

(See also: Dr. Gordon H. Clark, “Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism.” Trinity Review.)

(For a weak defense of the inclusion of 1 John 5:7 in the text see:  Johannine Comma: 1 John 5:7)

Addendum:  See also:  Gordon H. Clark, "The Inerrancy of the Bible."   Audio transcript. 

Audio:  The Inerrancy of the Bible.


John Bradshaw said...

Hi Charlie ,
Is it true that Christ used a translation sometimes?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Jesus most likely spoke both Hebrew and Aramaic. Aramaic is the language that developed among the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity. As far as I know there is no Aramaic translation of the OT. Even though they spoke Aramaic the Jews continued to read the Hebrew Old Testament. There are some scholars who say that the Gospel account of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and then translated into Koine Greek. But this is speculation as there are no Hebrew original autographs of Matthew's Gospel account.

John Bradshaw said...

Thx Charlie. I didn't know that about the Babylonian captivity and Aramaic.

I've heard that Jesus or Paul may have used the Septuagint? Do u think this was likely?

Dead Theologian said...

Charlie - Greetings from Oviedo. I have a volume I picked up back in the late 90's by Michael Maynard on this issue titled "A History of The debate Over 1 John 5:7-8. It runs about 382 pages with lots of copied manuscript pages. The publishing company was Comma Publications PO Box 1625 Tempe AZ 85281-1625. ISBN 1-886971-05-6 I picked it up used but you may find a copy in a seminary library near you. But on the topic of the Erasmus quote of what I assume came from E. Rummel, there is a loose revision page in the back of the book that addresses that with a letter from Henk J. de Jonge Faculty of Theology Rijksuniversteit, Leiden with the full quote not shortened and commented on. Bottom line from de Jonge he says "In short, Rummel's interpretation is simply wrong (wrong is underlined in the letter). The passage she quotes has nothing to do with a challenge. Also she cuts the quotation short, so that the real sense of the passage becomes unrecognizable. She is absolutely not justified in speaking of a challenge in this case or in the case of any other passage on the subject." This letter became page 383. Not sure the volume was ever revised so you would want the loose page with the error list on the back.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Dead Theologian, I'm not sure what quote you're referring to since you didn't quote it here. As for Erasmus, I didn't quote him but I quoted from an article on Wikipedia that has footnotes and linked articles to the footnotes. It seems that even though there were a few hundred Greek manuscripts available in Erasmus's time and in the time of the KJV translators, the Textus Receptus itself was based on only six manuscripts that were immediately available to Erasmus. Also, the KJV translators used the Bishop's Bible and other sources such as the Geneva Bible to make their translation choices. Sometimes they translated the same Greek or Hebrew word by different English words for public reading style and to make rote memorization more practical.

Charlie J. Ray said...

John Bradshaw, I have a copy of the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The back of the book has a long list of either direct quotes from or allusions to the Greek Septuagint. So it would appear that Jesus and the Apostles were very familiar with the Alexandrian Greek translations of the Hebrew Old Testament and probably the apocrypha or deuterocanonical books listed by the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. But if you read Luke's Gospel account Jesus read from a scroll, not a bound book written on papyrus. This would indicate he was reading from the Hebrew because the Jewish synagogues used velium and scrolls to preserve the original Hebrew text. Luke 4:17

Charlie J. Ray said...

021 βιβλίον
βιβλίον, βιβλίου, τό (diminutive of βίβλος), a small book, a scroll: Luke 4:17,20; John 20:30; Gal. 3:10; 2 Tim. 4:13, etc.; a written document; a sheet on which something has been written, βιβλίον ἀποστασίου (bill of divorcement): Matt. 19:7; Mark 10:4; see ἀποστάσιον, 1. βιβλίον ζωῆς, the list of those whom God has appointed to eternal salvation: Rev. 13:8 (Rec. τῇ βίβλῳ); 17:8; 20:12; 21:27; see ζωή, 2 b. (From Herodotus down.)

Charlie J. Ray said...

That's from Thayer's Greek Lexicon.

Charlie J. Ray said...


Charlie J. Ray said...


John Bradshaw said...

Thx for the links Charlie.
So how do I know I have the Word of God in my hand if I only have an English translation, and a copied one at that, if God only inspired the 1st edition of the original languages? I have struggled with this question for a long time. Thx.

Charlie J. Ray said...

John, I would say that you cannot be 100% sure if you are reading a modern translation because the companies doing the the translations all have copyrights on their particular "spin" on the translation. Secondly, the modern translations are all based on an "eclectic" gathering of manuscript evidences. There is no single book of the NT that exists in its entirety. There are bits and pieces here and there put together like a jigsaw puzzle in the United Bible Societies 4th and 5th editions and the Nestle-Aland 28th edition of the critical text of the Greek New Testament. Even the Majority Text or Byzantine majority, which has the greatest number of manuscripts with the most consistent readings are not complete copies. The closest we have to a complete copy is the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus texts of the NT, which contain almost all of the New Testament. In fact I think Sinaiticus has all of the books of the NT. Sinaiticus dates to the 4th century. The problem is the liberal textual critics favor earlier texts--the majority texts are mostly later copies but very numerous. The earlier texts have the weakness of having deletions and rougher readings which the liberals have unjustly assumed to be original simply because they presuppose rougher and shorter readings are earlier and better representations of the original autographs. But what if a later manuscript family preserves an earlier and longer reading that is more logically coherent while the earlier manuscript that still exists was edited by a gnostic heretic in Alexandria and had an agenda to edit out of the Bible doctrines the gnostics of the 4th century didn't like?

Liberals are merely speculating, in my opinion. Despite the fact that I don't think 1 John 5:7 is part of the autographs, it is much better to go with the Byzantine Majority text family rather than the Alexandrian text family for the simple reason that the number of manuscripts alone attests to a desire to preserve with accuracy what the canon of church has always received since the 4th century under Athanasius in the eastern church and Jerome in the western church.

Textual criticism is important and every sincere Christian should have some knowledge of what translations are about so that you can make good decisions in deciding which translation to use for public teaching, reading and worship as well as which translations to use for comparison in your private studies. It is my opinion that the three best translations to use are the New American Standard Bible 1995 (based on the Nestle-Aland 27th? edition of the Greek New Testament) and the KJV 1789 or 1900 edition and the New King James Version 1985. The NKJV is based on the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Majority Text. But I disagree with the NKJV including the verse in 1 John 5:7, though it could be that the late Latin Vulgate versions are translations of an earlier Greek manuscript that no longer exists.

This is why I think, despite

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't trust the "science" of textual criticism because the eclectic editions of the Greek NT, Nestle-Aland 28th and the 5the United Bible Societies, are both done by liberals from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the liberal Princeton Theological Seminary as well as a liberal German seminary in German. That is not to say that I don't think we should not study textual criticism. But to sell out to textual criticism as if it is no big deal the way James White and Daniel Wallace and other "Evangelical" scholars here in America have done is just capitulating to liberal presuppositions and speculation in my opinion. I am very glad that I studied textual criticism in seminary and I still look at the manuscripts that point out variant readings the in the Greek New Testament.

The Old Testament is fairly set and the Dead Sea Scrolls affirm that the Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts are an accurate copy of the Hebrew texts. The Masoretic Text dates to the 5th or 6th century if I remember correctly but the Dead Sea Scrolls date to a couple of centuries before Christ.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Another good site to learn a bit about textual criticism is Bible Researcher.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Greek NT 5th Edition and 28th Edition

Charlie J. Ray said...

Logos video demonstrating how to use Logos Bible software to do textual critical studies of the NA 28th edition with apparatus: NA 28 with Apparatus - PDP

Charlie J. Ray said...

When you click on that last link you have to scroll down the page a bit to see the video below.

John Bradshaw said...

This is very helpful information. Thx so much. Its an interesting comment you make also about the more modern translations. I have recently returned to reading the kjv.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I grew up reading the KJV and I see absolutely nothing wrong with using it for public teaching and preaching. In fact, when I was growing up the vast majority of preachers on TV used the KJV. Now all that has changed. I mostly read the NKJV now but I still read the KJV and most of the memory verses I learned growing up are stuck in my mind in the KJV translation. Do not let anyone put you down for reading the KJV as your preferred translation.

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