Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Text of the New Testament - Lecture 3 Part 2

At the Family Conference 2014, Pastor Jeff Riddle presented three lectures on the text of the New Testament.  His third teaching was on 11/15/2014 and titled "The Text: Postmodern Challenges to the Text of the New Testament."  Pastor Riddle opened his talk by reading Psalm 11:3.  His teachings on the Traditional Text are highly important for all Christians, so I'm posting my notes from his lectures.  You can read my notes from Pastor Riddle's first lecture here & here and his second lecture here & here.  You can read my notes for the first part of Pastor Riddle's third lecture here.  The following notes conclude his third lecture:
This new diversity view is beginning to be seen in some of our modern English translations already.  For example, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) prints the ending of the Gospel of Mark as such:
The Shorter Ending of Mark
[[All that they had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter.  And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]]
If this sounds unfamiliar it is because this verse has never appeared in a printed copy of the Bible until 1989.  It's a reading that appears in a handful of Greek manuscripts (7 Greek, 1 Latin).  It is never part of the Traditional Text of Scripture, but it's now included in the NRSV alongside the text that has always been received by faithful Christians.

The NRSV also includes the longer ending of Mark, but there's a footnote on verse 14 that includes another verse called the Freer Logion which appears in only 1 Greek Manuscript, Codex W.  According to the editors, there are multiple texts and each must be given equal validity and authority.

This is not just a movement of liberal mainline Protestants.  The English Standard Version (ESV) also has the shorter ending of mark in the footnotes (rather than being placed in the text), which leads the careful reader to question whether or not the footnote should be part of Scripture.

This shift is a problem for many evangelical text critics who are still attempting to use modern methods to reconstruct the original autographs of Scripture, such as Dan Wallace and James White.  They are aware of the shift in secular academic text criticism, but they haven't come to grips with it.  For postmodern critics, people who are still trying to recover the autographic text of Scripture are using 20th century methods in a 21st century world.  It is these postmodern academics, like Professor Parker, who are the real gatekeepers and custodians of the modern critical editions of the text of Scripture, NOT evangelicals who make use of modern translations based on those modern Critical Texts.

It is these secular academics who will determine what future editions of the modern Critical Text will look like; thus, it is they who will determine what future modern translations of the Bible will look like.  This is why we need to sound a warning now--to stand for the Traditional Text in a fixed and standard form as has been held by Christian historically through the ages before we reach a period when that text is corrupted by postmodern methodology.

What are the key theological issues at stake with abandoning the Traditional Text?  Contrary to popular belief, vital Christian doctrines ARE affected.

1. Modern text criticism affects the doctrine of the providential preservation of Scripture (2 Kings 22 & 23; Jer. 36; Psalm 119:89; and Deut. 4:2).  The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (Chapter 1, para. 8) states that (1) the Bible was immediately inspired in the original languages of Hebrew & Greek.  (2) The Bible in these languages has been providentially preserved in all ages.  (3) Translations are to be made from these providentially preserved texts.  The texts referred to by the LBCF are the copies or apographa that had been faithfully preserved and NOT autographs that were reconstructed in some scholar's study.

Pastor Riddle summarizes John Owen's position:  The Scriptures have been faithfully preserved by the providence of God in the extant copies of Scripture.  The vulgar copy or the Received Text achieved a fixed form with the invention of printing and now serves as the standard text for God's people.

This is in stark contrast to the postmodern perspective.  To embrace modern text criticism is to depart from the classic, reformed, and biblical view of the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture as articulated in the reformed Confessions.

2. Modern text criticism affects the doctrine of the canon of Scripture.  This is not just an issue of which books should be part of the Bible, but also which texts make up those books.  To embrace the modern critical approach is to abandon any notion of textual, and thereby, canonical stability.

We are already seeing problems with the canonical text of Scripture in the pulpits of evangelical churches today.  A couple of years ago John MacArthur completed his exposition through the books of the NT, and the last book he handled was the Gospel of Mark.  When he got to the ending of Mark he preached a sermon on Sunday morning at his church on Mark 8:1-8, and then in his Sunday evening service he did a message on Mark 16:9-20.  He doesn't believe verses 9-20 are part of the Word of God; he doesn't believe it is Scripture.

In 2012 John Piper preached a sermon on John 7:53-8:11 about the woman caught in adultery. He ends the message by saying that it's a true story, whether it happened or whether it belongs in the Gospel of John.  John Piper doesn't believe that the passage should be part of Scripture.  Christians should believe that the Scriptures are true and everything described in the Scriptures truly happened.

Every preacher has to have a view on the text of Scripture.  If he preaches expositionally, he has to decide if Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are part of the Word of God.

3. Modern text criticism affects the doctrine of the authority and reliability of Scripture.  If the text of Scripture is constantly up for grabs based on the findings and conjectures of modern critical scholars, what does this do for the average readers and their confidence in the authority and reliability of the Bible?  What does it do for the average hearer in the pew?  It undermines our confidence in the authority and the reliability of Scripture.

The danger of embracing the modern critical text is that it leads to seeing the Bible as a jumble of puzzle pieces, including many stray pieces that do not fit.  Those who embrace the Received Text see the Bible as an intact, beautiful picture that has been expertly framed by our Protestant and reformed for-bearers and preserved by our heavenly Guardian.  The modern critical Bible texts are the scientific, artificial productions of the "Word of God."

The old, organic, natural Word of God is better.  It was given by the Lord to the men who wrote it down.  It was faithfully copied by God's people.  Under providential circumstances it came into a standard, printed form.  It is still read, preached, and taught by God's people today.

"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3).  We can hold fast to the Word of Truth.

~~This ends Pastor Riddle's third lecture~~
My 6-part series on the Text of the New Testament has undoubtedly shown that holding to the Traditional Text is extremely important for all Christians now and in the future.  This is not just a question of translation preference.  The crucial, underlying issue is the text used in translation.  I read, study, and memorize from the King James Bible because it is the only English version still in print that is based on the Traditional Text (both OT and NT without modern Critical Text footnotes) which God has providentially preserved for His Church.

"The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience," (LBCF, Chap. 1, para. 1).  This statement can only be true for a Bible that is based on a fixed, standard text--the Traditional Text.  All other modern Bible translations that are based on the modern Critical Text are built on shifting sand.  When the rain descends, the floods come, the winds blow, and these man-made Bibles will fall; and great will be the fall of them (Matt. 7:26-27).

God's warning is clear: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD," (Amos 8:11).

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," (2 Tim. 3:16).