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Textual Criticism 2

29 Jul
  1. Elitism

Many charges are leveled at the Bible and Dr. Wegner mentions some of them. I will refer to three in my defense of my stated position. The first is found on page 38:

‘Bart Ehrman takes a somewhat different direction and suggests that when an early scribe changed a text to provide a more orthodox theological viewpoint, he may have then created a new original text.

This charge is like all the rest in that it is not provable but it says more as it assumes that the scribe or copyist had the authority to make any changes and that they did not care about the warnings God made when He stated a person would be in trouble if they added or subtracted from the words of the Bible.

It also suggests that the church people were naïve and unaware that someone was changing scripture and did nothing about it.  Statements like the one quoted, shows how little the modern scholar thinks of his ancient or medieval counterparts. If they lay these kins of charges against their forerunners, then why can’t we lay the same charges against them and discredit all their work?

What gives them the right or qualifies them to stand in judgment of those who dealt with the Bible before them? This is one of the major problems in the field of modern textual criticism, their elitism.  They do not have all the facts about the past, so they make something and make claims about how only they in the modern world is capable of determining what the words of God really are.

The Roman Catholic Church, did something similar when they made it clear that only priests and higher officials could understand the Bible and the common folk had to listen to their words for they were not qualified to determine what God was saying. He only spoke through the priests, bishops and so on.

The second charge that will be looked at moves along the same lines and is found on page 44:

“In a similar way, the text of the Bible has undergone centuries of hand copying by scribes who were prone to human error.”

And the modern scholar is not? This elitist attitude now assumes that the ancient and medieval worlds were completely inept and could not figure out how to put oversight protocols in place to catch any ‘mistakes’ made.  The infer that the person doing the copying simply decided one day to copy the Bible for the fun of it and picked up feather or other writing utensils and started copying. The insult to the people of the past is very clear and demonstrates that the modern scholar thinks they can read long dead minds over thousands of years.

They do not know what took place in the past, they do not know if protocols were implemented or not, they do not know if they followed God or not in their endeavors. They assume because they think there are errors, even though they do not have the original writings to confirm their assumptions.

On page 51 we find the third charge leveled at the ancient copyist:

“In their zealousness to preserve scripture, scribes had a tendency to include everything in the text…rather than to omit anything…”

If the scribes were Christian, why would they ignore God’s warnings and add in words that He did not put in the text? They would be placing their eternity at risk by doing so thus this charge just doesn’t holdup as it assumes that the scribe was a fearful person and could not do their jobs properly. This also assumes that the ancient employer of scribes was unable to provide direction and aid to his employee copyists.

The arrogance of the modern scholar creates these false scenarios based upon no fact or evidence for whatever reason they have in mind. Maybe to make themselves look better but who knows, as we see this attitude in the Dead Sea Scroll controversy of a few years ago (scholars did not share their portions with others or let them get copies until they published themselves. Some died before publishing anything and their successors were no better).

This elitism in the modern field impairs their work and perception of their ancient counterparts and shows an ignorance of God’s creative work, for the ancients were no different than their modern counterparts, they have the same type of brain, the same desires, the same goals thus it is safe to conclude that their work was as careful as those who do the same job today.

What else these three charges say is that God was incapable of keeping His promise of preserving His word and that it is up to the modern scholar to do it for Him. Yet, again we return to the same old problem that comes with the purpose of textual criticism. How can they reconstruct the original text when they claim they do not know what they said and have no way of proving they were successful?

If God was incapable then how will these men succeed? These questions are supported by Dr. Wegner’s own words when on page 61 he says:

“Since there is so little evidence concerning this early period, (pre-400 B.C.), we are left with several significant questions. First, in what language(s) were the earliest biblical manuscripts written?…Our final question, Who maintained these biblical texts in this early period”

If the modern textual scholar does not know which language the Bible was originally written in then how can they even consider reconstructing the original text or get a reasonable reading? They would not know if the translated the words correctly or came close to what the originals actually said.

Then is it really important as to who maintained them? Will the modern scholar change the texts we have now simply because they disproved of God’s choice of caretaker? The questions can go on for we do not know all the details of the past and we never will. They are lost to time forever and we will always have a partial picture which makes this field of textual criticism more of a waste of time than a help.

 

Conclusion

So it seems that the textual critics are pursuing an unreachable goal and one they can never verify. I will place just one more example here, any more and they will become redundant, as it exemplifies the reasons why I reject textual criticism in its present form. On page 140 Dr. Wegner has the following to say:

“…the better we know the sources, the better we will understand their purpose, possible corruptions, relationship to one another and value for Old Testament textual criticism. Waltke states correctly: “No one source perfectly preserves the original text of the Old Testament and in case of disagreement the critic must decide on the original reading in light of all the sources and his knowledge about them.”’

I am going to go through this quote piece by piece, with some pieces larger than others, before spending time on what I believe the believer should be doing when it comes to God’s word.

First, the better we know the sources, the better we will understand their purpose: Here the believer simply needs to know God’s word best, by doing so we know the purpose of those altered texts and sources, to deceive and lead people away from the truth. Too often, altered mss. or ‘corrupted’ material have their source in those who do not believe and their authors will not take care in how they cop the Bible for their intent is not to spread the truth but their own ideas and philosophies.

We have to know what God’s word is saying before we can see the errors and the purpose in the other works for if we do not, then how will we be able to identify which is truth and which is the error? It is quite possible to include corrupted, untruthful material when one does not know the word of God, they will not know what to look for and will remove the wrong material by mistake.

Second, No one source perfectly preserves the original text of the Old Testament. Yet how does he know this? If it is referring to fragmentary material, then he would be correct but the textbook kept on praising the accuracy of the MT editions and their copyists skillful work.

It is clear that Waltke does not believe that God will keep His promise and thinks that it is the job of man to find what is ‘missing’ from the texts we do have. Without the ‘originals’ one cannot say if they have the complete text or not, for as I said earlier, they have nothing to with which to double check their work. Nor do they have the ‘originals’ which would allow them to make that statement, and see what is actually missing.

Third, in case of disagreement the critic must decide on the original reading in light of all the sources and his knowledge about them. This is the clincher for it states that it is up to the human to decide what God has said not God. If we do not have the originals, if we do not know what the originals actually said, then there is no way that the textual critic can decide what is the original text.

How can he, for he may be making an error in judgment or another textual critic would disagree with his choice and publish his own decision, placing the people who read their work on the path to confusion. This subjectivity allows for too much doubt to enter in a believer’s mind, opening the door for evil to do its destructive work.

It also places God’s word in the hands of a few, something God did not intend to do. For if the people do not get to know God’s word but are only allowed to hear the scholar’s version, then how will they know if the scholar is a true or false teacher. The ramifications of the idea that only the critic gets to decide are immense and too dangerous.

There are no checks and balances in place which over-rule the scholar save for the their own rules of conduct but those are written by fallible man as well and are not perfect thus we have danger in every aspect of this field and nothing in place to safeguard the Word of God. The people are at the mercy of the critic and that is just not right.

The very assumption that initiates their work is enough to tell someone that they are not headed in the right direction. That assumption, ‘we do not have the words of God and we must search for them…’ is not a very peaceful proclamation especially in light of the fact that the Bible promises us, ‘the peace that passes all understanding…’

We can’t have peace if we are questioning the very words granting us that relief. We wouldn’t even know if those words were actually originally God’s, given the premise behind the assumption. But what are we to do? What follows is what I believe God wants me to say and follow when it comes to knowing His words

  1. We Must Have Faith:

First, we need to have faith that God has kept His word and provided us with at least one source that contains His complete word. If we do not then we might as well give up right now. In evangelism or apologetics work, if we are questioned if we think we have all of God’s word and we say no, then we have lost.

For what have we to offer the unbeliever if we do not present all of God’s word? Nothing, because they, and we, will never know which passages are God’s original word and which aren’t. They all will be called into question coupled with the charge how do you know this is God’s word and this isn’t? Our answers drive the unbeliever away because why should they believe if we do not.

Second, we need faith to please God, which means that we have faith that God has kept His word and that we have all of the original passages with none missing. How cruel would that be if God gives the promise that His word will endure forever then provides us with copies that do not contain His original message and revelations?

How could we get to know God, we would not, could not, be sure if what He tells us about Himself is actually true, nor could we defend Genesis 1 against the opposition created by the evolutionists or other origin alternative theories.

Thus by saying that we do not have the original words, we are crippling ourselves and defeating our purpose for believing in Jesus.

Does this mean that we do not need to learn the ancient languages or study the past? NO, for not only do we need to know what is the truth so we can pass it on tour children and students, we also need to have the unbelieving world realize that we know the truth and are on watch for their distortions, alterations and lies.

If we cannot defend against the attacks of the devil, and spot error, then what good is believing the Bible? We will lose that belief once a more knowledgeable secular person comes along who has studied the ancient languages and starts changing the translation of God’s word to what they want it to be.

We are not excused from learning, we just have to do it God’s way so that we can withstand the attacks and survive without being lead astray.

  1. The Holy Spirit:

In reading this textbook, it was amazing to see how the author ignored or omitted the working of the Holy Spirit. As I quoted earlier, he places the burden of deciding what is or isn’t God’s word upon the fallible and sinful human critic and did not point to the Holy Spirit or His/Its(?) job to lead us to the truth.

Everything was to be done the scientific way, via humanistic rules which do not even obtain for us , according to them, all the words of God and the critic, then, must decide what is the original text. I am not a believer in science, it is a too limited field which depends upon too limited and fragmentary data and bases its conclusions upon assumption not fact or truth.

Textual Criticism has a problem, it lets the human be in charge of what he is not supposed to have authority over-God’s word. But this is typical of those who believe in science as they look to humans to ferret out the answer and leave God and the Holy Spirit on the sideline, if they acknowledge them at all.

Yet, Jesus never told us to use science, especially if it is governed by the secular world and its ways, He said, ‘However, when the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth.” {John 16:13} Jesus gave us our method, we are to lean upon the Holy Spirit to learn the truth not science.

Being guided by one who knows all the answers, knows where al the information is buried and what is truth and error is far better than being guided by humans who sin, are influenced wrongly and have never seen the original documents (according to them), let alone which text has the truth and which has the errors.

  1. The Spiritual View:

This couples with the previous points as we can use ancient languages, we can use science in part but we must use them God’s way with His view not human’s. We have to apply scripture to our work to aid us in determining what is the correct passage and what is the wrong one. As we have seen earlier, people like to edit scriptures to fit their own ideas and that has not stopped with Marcion but has travelled up through the centuries via people like Rev. Moon, Jim Jones, and so many others.

If we practice textual criticism in the secular way then we are just doing the exact same thing as the cultists and putting our own stamp on scripture and making it like we want it to be instead of vice versa. But if we do it from a spiritual view, then our eyes are open and we can see the difference between the truth and the error. We have many scriptures which guide us in our quest to know God’s word:

“ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”; “If any man brings a different gospel than the one Jesus and the disciples brought…”; “My words shall not pass away…”

And so many more, which tells us that we do not have to rely on elitists who think they alone get to determine what God has said. It says that we with the Holy Spirit’s help will know the truth and that was addressed to all men, not just the ones who studied theology or ancient languages. But we have to start with faith and rely on the Holy Spirit not the limited vision of men and science.

  1. Confidence:

We then can have the confidence that the Bible is the word of God and not only that we can have peace that we have all of His words so that we do not have to keep on searching and wondering if we got it right. We know we have it right and we know we can preach it to the unbeliever and not worry when they question us about those words.

But we have to do it God’s way not man’s and we have to rely on the Biblical verses which give us the clues we need.  It is not hard to see that Marcion was wrong because he changed the Bible to fit his ways in disobedience to God’s command and we then know to dismiss and discard his codex for it does not contain the words of God and they have no bearing on what the true documents tell us.

To end this paper, I need to say that I am not a science person nor am I a supporter of textual criticism done in the manner of secular thinking. I do not believe in those things, I believe in the Trinity and what the Bible tells us. It is after all God’s instructions to His followers and we need to adhere to that, learn all the verses which guide us in knowing what is the right scriptures and which are the wrong ones so that we do not go astray and cripple ourselves.

We cannot preach the Bible if we do not follow it in all fields of study and place it above all such fields. If we demote it then we have nothing to offer the unbeliever and they have no alternative to escape what they do have.

We either have the original words of God or we have nothing and textual criticism practiced Dr. Wegner’s way, tells the world we have nothing and it is up to man to decide and if it is up to man to decide, then why would we need God and the Bible?

In its present form, textual criticism is a waste of time and money for its results are too few to justify the expense of either.  Its lack of confidence, use of the Holy Spirit, its humanistic subjectivity are all dangers which keep leading us away from the truth not towards it and allows for those like Marcion and others to write their own versions and confuse the people.

We need to do what God says, ‘get knowledge, wisdom and understanding’ and apply those to our work with God’s word so that we can find the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit for such are not limited perspectives but enabled by God so we will not cripple ourselves and be defeated by evil.

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Posted by on July 29, 2016 in academics, Bible, church, comparative religions, education, faith, family, leadership, theology

 

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