Monday, April 26, 2010

Refutal of the "Ecclestiastical Text Theory" Position

The Old Testament Studies Blog refutes the "Ecclesiastical Text Theory” position here.

Update: In this connection, I would like to remind about the blog "King James only?" maintained by former proponents of KJV-onlyism who have made their own journey out of that movement.


  1. Refutation, that is.

    Whatever that verbose composition is, it is not a refutation of the view that the ecclesiastically-approved text is the one we ought to use. Perhaps it is inaccurate to call it a refutation of *the* "ecclesiastical Text Theory" Position," since there might be more than one view that could claim such a title.

    I hesitate to say more. Isn't there a moratorium on discussing KJV-Onlyism or TR-advocacy here, even in dull moments?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. James, I haven't heard about any moratorium ... it was just a link to a blogpost which might be of interest to some readers.

  3. I wouldn't want a moratorium. KJVO and TR advocacy are important and interesting phenomena with a complex taxonomy and effects on our discourse. Google 'Westcott and Hort' and you will clearly see that the controversy has added significantly to the fame of these two men.

    I think that discussion of these issues is not a problem provided it is an informed discussion.

  4. I should also remind of the blog "King James only?" maintained by former proponents of KJV-onlyism who have made their own journey out of that movement:

  5. OT:
    Hello Tommy,

    any problems with your email?
    I sent you two emails regarding the Harnack file.

  6. Hello Wieland, apparently there is a problem... I will contact you.

  7. Since in the "Refutal" essay an ETC comment of mine happened to be cited, I should perhaps burst one further bubble regarding the so-called "Ecclesiastical Text" of the New Testament as claimed by supporters of such.

    Should one really want to see the "Ecclesiastical Text" of the Greek NT, the solution is not to appeal to the various printed TR editions (compiled, as they were, from a small number of Greek MSS plus Latin-based intrusions), but from the liturgically related usage of the Greek church itself.

    In such a case, the real "Ecclesiastical Text" is neither a printed TR edition nor even the Byzantine consensus reflected among continuous-text Byzantine Greek MSS. Rather, the "Ecclesiastical text" is that found among the Greek Lectionary MSS and those recensional (Kr) continuous-text MSS that have been adjusted to serve lectionary related purposes.

    To date, none of the "Ecclesiastical Text" claimants (except perhaps Wilbur Pickering) appear to be moving in that particular direction, and if so, their entire claim continues to fall to the ground.

  8. Did the refuter skip Matthew 4:4 or did I miss it?

  9. Thanks Tommy, for the link to our site again. We link to your site in our blogroll, and appreciate your insights (when we can understand them!)

    I appreciated this article very much. The person he refutes is someone who is familiar with our little blog and actually was writing in reference to some of our arguments.

    Sometime down the road, we'll have to reach out and see if we could interview some of you on what it is to be a believing scholar in the textual critical field. And what your perspective is on issues relating to this Ecclesiastical Text debate. (Which at the popular level is mostly about the KJV, not the Greek text.)

    Thanks again,

    God Bless,

    Bob Hayton

  10. Thanks Bob, I am glad that it was useful for someone.

    As for an interview, I can tell you that I already planned to post a link to an interview with another scholar (not ETC blogger) next week which brings up "what it is to be a believing scholar in the textual critical field."

  11. Thanks Tommy. I'll check for that post.

  12. Hey Everyone!

    Just for clarification, my article was not intended to deal with every possible view that might claim the title "Ecclesiastical Text Theory." As background, I am a Presbyterian, and I am dealing with the view that cites the Westminster Confession 1.8 as follows:

    WCF 1:8 The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical;(1) so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.

    After citing this passage, they will argue that the text which the Westminster Divines had, the Textus Receptus in the New Testament, and the Masoretic Text in the Hebrew Bible, are the texts which God has purely and providentially preserved throughout all generations. They will therefore argue that the Masoretic Text and the Textus Receptus, therefore, contain the infallible, pure readings, and have existed in all generations.

    I realize that there are other ecclesiastical text claims that may be more valid. In fact, adding to what Dr. Robinson said, the Septuagint, for the longest time in the early church, was the translation that was the most popular. That is why I found this theory I have written about odd, since one of the understandings of the development of the different recensions of the Hebrew Bible uses the fact that the text of the Septuagint was heavily used by the Christian church [that of Dr. Shemaryahu Talmon].

    It just always seemed odd to me that we can have a scholar like Dr. Talmon writing on the basis of the idea that the LXX was the text primarily used in the Christian community, and then have someone argue that the Masoretic text was the text of the church.

    Also, Pastor Snapp is correct in his criticism. I do tend to be very verbose. When I write, I am often writing things down and crossing them out and trying to be as clear as possible by stating what I have to say in a number of ways until I think that I have been clear enough. Sometimes this approach can, itself, lead to unclarity, and I apologize if it has happened in this instance. It is, indeed, a valid criticism of my writing.

    Also, I do want to thank Dr. Wasserman for the link. I guess I can hope that the scriptures would ring true that in my weakness, God's power would be perfected [2 Cor. 12:9].

    God Bless,

  13. Adam,
    My warning would be to avoid simplistic acceptance of the view that 'the LXX' was the Bible of the early church. What is now called 'the LXX' is not a single translation, and the different parts of it do not have a uniform history of use by the church. In the case of many OT books there were probably several (related) forms of Greek translation theoretically available at the time of the NT. Sometimes later translations existed precisely because people wanted translations that stuck closer to the Hebrew.

  14. Dr. Robinson -

    Thank you for weighing-in. I have for a few years been an admirer of your work.

    Bob -

    If you are going to interview scholars at the kjvodebate blog, I don't imagine you could find some someone more knowledgeable and relevant to your work there than Dr. Robinson (provided he were interested and available, of course).

  15. Yes, that is right. I've been interested in the MT position too, and he could enlighten us on that.

    If you're reading this Dr. Robinson, we'd love to arrange an interview. If you are amiable to that, I could do some prep work with my contributors at the blog we'd come up with some questions and we could do the interview by email or phone whichever is best for you.

    If you aren't reading these comments, I'll try to track you down later!

    My contact info is:

    In Christ,


  16. PJ Williams,

    On the LXX question, is it safe to conclude that the availability of Greek translations from the Old Testament for Palestinian Jews in Jesus' day is without doubt? I understand a single LXX as a whole entity may postdate the NT. But barring a few places here and there, generally speaking the NT borrows rather than the LXX adjusting to the NT in its translation, right?

    It's my belief this is the case, I mention it as it has been a big topic on our KJV Only debate bog of late. Some teach that the existence of the LXX prior to Origen is questionable. And that the LXX harmonized its readings with the NT. They do this to avoid the implications to the debate over the necessity of an available word-perfect translation (or text).

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    In Christ,

    Bob Hayton

  17. I'm currently writing a paper on the evolution of the idea that there is a pre-Christian translation of the whole OT called 'the Septuagint'. The changes in conception take place so gradually over time that many people miss them.

    In brief:

    1) There is the change from the 70 (earlier 72) referring to people who translated to the translation they made. This is very slow and gradual taking the best part of two millennia.

    2) There is the change from thinking that the 70 translated just the law (Pentateuch) to thinking that their translation included more. Justin Martyr first extends their work to include things like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms and Ezra. Origen includes Susannah, but in his day the books of Maccabees would not have been included. Some modern computer users believe that the LXX consists of everything their computer tells them is LXX.

    3) Then there is the question of how many pre-Christian translations (or versions) there were of any particular book. For some, e.g. Ecclesiastes, it is not agreed that there was a pre-Christian version. For others: Daniel or the Minor Prophets there were more than one. We tend to call one of these 'the Septuagint' now, but we have no reason to believe that Paul or others would have seen these as part of the work of the 70.

    4) Then there is the question of unity of translation. What grounds do we have for seeing what is now known as 'LXX Isaiah' as part of a unified translation work with, for instance, 'LXX Exodus'?

    For these reasons I encourage people not to use the word 'Septuagint' or at least to use it with many caveats. Of course Septuagint scholars know all these things, but the unwary can be led astray. Some of my friends think that I take my warnings against speaking of the LXX too far, but even then, they usually concede that I have a point.

    One Greek Bible scholar recently suggested that we should just have a 10 year temporary moratorium on the term 'Septuagint'. Maybe that would be enough.

    As far as a KJVO debate, I'm not exactly sure how all this would play in.

  18. Dr. Williams,

    Thank you for your concern about that issue.

    Yes, I am well aware of the complexities in the development of the LXX, and the differences in translators for individual books [even sometimes possible multiple translators within one book], the many revisions and recensions of the LXX [even one in Hessichius (sp.?) which we have not been able to find any evidence of], the long time period of the translation process, etc. I am using the term "the LXX" for convenience, much like one might use the term "Masoretic Text," even though there are differences within the masoretic manuscripts. I probably should make that more clear.

    I don't know that I would agree that one can conclude that there were probably many different Greek translations besides the LXX, as the history of the LXX is very complex. For example, not only do have major revisions and recensions, but you also have the readings of the MT altering the text of the LXX later on down the line, and simple copy errors in the transmission of the LXX even after all of these things were completed. Unless one could show that the suggested readings of other pre-Christian translations could not have arisen by any of the afore mentioned ways, the idea that there were different translations other than the LXX would seem difficult to prove.

    In terms of what I was talking about as the LXX being taken up and used by the Church, I was referring to something like this quotation by Emmanuel Tov:

    The first Christians quite naturally chose G as their Holy Writ and as the source for additional writings since Greek was their language. As a result, G influenced them not only by the content of the translation in general, but also by its terminology. The frequent use of G by the Christians caused the Jews to dissociate themselves from it and to initiate new translations [Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible p.143].

    I just think this statement would be rather odd if the first Christians thought the ecclesiastical text was the MT.

    God Bless,

  19. Thanks, that helps. Basically, whether it is a Hebrew source for an "LXX" translation or if it is the Greek translation itself, the NT authors did use sources which were not MT. At times they may have emended the text intentionally but many times they just used the translation they had available (or a different Hebrew text).

    This being the case, the belief of some KJV Only advocates or Ecclesiastical Text theorists that the MT was what was available and used by the church from the NT on, is suspect. Furthermore, the fact that the NT authors made use of translations or varying texts also indicates that their concern for a word-perfect authoritative copy or text-stream was not very high.

    The intro to Matthew Poole's commentary from the 1680s also makes a similar point from the NT use of the LXX.

    Thanks again for taking the time to interact on this.

  20. Adam,
    I think that the terminology that Tov uses here is unhelpful. Essentially he assumes, rather than demonstrates that 'G' can be talked of as more-or-less an entity. It is this assumption which then governs his taxonomy of Hebrew manuscripts, whereby some are defined as showing affinity to G. However, the fact that Hebrew manuscript A agrees with Greek text B in location C, does not to me indicate that it has any textual affiliation with Hebrew manuscript D that agrees with Greek text E in location F. If you use a unifying term (e.g. 'G' or 'LXX') to designate both text B and text E then you get a sense of common textual affiliation to Hebrew manuscripts A and D which may not be justified.

    One theological concern I have is that one should not deem that NT use of what we now call the LXX in one location gives the NT's authority to every part of what we now call the LXX.