Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Confessing Textual Variants

        Years ago, James White posted a brief debate that he had with Douglas Wilson over textual critical issues. Wilson represented the traditional viewpoint of using the textus receptus or the received text, which the Refomers used, while White pressed the matter of getting back to the original wording of the Apostles though the course of the debate. One point concerning a particular definition is interesting to look at.

        During White's rubuttal, he asked Wilson to define what he ment by the "confessing historical Church" to which Wilson responded, "Confessing refers to creeds and confessions, and historical refers to the providence of God as He has protected and led the Church over time. Thus the confessing historical Church has determined that the Bible contains 66 books and that Mark 16:9-20 is in one of them. A few readings remain to be settled, but the settling is to be done by the confessing historical Church—not Zondervan. Individualistic efforts may be believing work, and yet not submitted to the authority of the Church. Secular canons of academic text criticism do not require ecclesiastical review."

        The assuption is that the canon of scripture includes all of the verses that were held as canonical at the time that the confessions were written.  It is dubious since the denotative definition given in the first chapter of the Westminster Confession, for instance, does not clearly articulate all the chapters and verses that are cannonical, only the books. More generaly, Wilson trusts the sources that the Reformers used for their textual selections. But Erasmus had a ten manuscripts to work from, which is far less than the thousands of manuscripts that scholars have access to today.