Friday, August 26, 2022

Richard Brash on Preservation (again)


Over at the TCI website, Richard Brash has a short argument about providence and textual preservation. Along with his careful distinctions between two methods and two modes of providence, I appreciated this part:

In the New Testament era, the picture is more complicated. The church is called to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and part of this calling is surely to take care of the text of the Bible. God’s providential preservation of his people is still tied closely to the providential preservation of his written word. It is therefore reasonable to identify the process of canonization as an instance of special providence. But just as it can be spiritually dangerous to attempt to define the precise contours of special providence in our own lives, or even with respect to the preservation of the church, it is unwise to tether our doctrine of providential preservation to a particular “approved” manuscript or manuscript tradition. The Bible does not give the church today the authority to do this.

Read the entire article here.


  1. One way that I think the doctrine of providence relates to preservation of scripture is to apply it in a backward looking rather than forward looking way.

    I don't think the doctrine of providence provides us with any guarantee before the fact that God will preserve scripture in any way that fills in the particular details about in what way, to what degree, for how long, etc., it will be preserved.

    But it does give us a guarantee that we have access to what God has chosen to give us access to. It shouldn't matter to us theologically if there were some saints in Corinth at one time who had access to another now lost letter from Paul that was as authoritative for them as 1 and 2 Corinthians. In light of the doctrine of providence we can be satisfied that it was not in accordance with God's decree that that letter should be preserved for us.

  2. Kristofer Moore9/02/2022 5:20 pm

    I think it was providential that history has preserved significant details about Egypt in the first 300 years of the Church, so that biblical scholars who tell us that the New Testament was lost and then found in Egypt so recently, must give an account for the historical fact that Egypt was grossly steeped in Gnosticism, even as K. Aland related in book on the Greek N. T., that the diocese in Alexandria itself was largely influenced by it.

    1. It's worth thinking about, but not everything comes form Egypt, and even the papyri that were dug up there may well not have come from there. Epp has discussed the question of whether or not they are representative of the text throughout the Mediterranean in an article or two. If we use bad theology found in a region to dismiss manuscripts found there, that might pose more problems for Byzantine manuscripts or the textus receptus than it does for manuscripts found in Egypt. We don't have any manuscripts (to my knowledge—I admit I could be forgetting something) that prove that they came from actual Gnostic circles, but we *do* have Byzantine scribes writing prayers to Mary at the ends of their manuscripts and thanking her for the grace she has given them enabling them to finish copying them.

    2. Kristofer Moore9/03/2022 9:05 pm

      I meant for my reply to be attached directly to this comment but it ended up below.

  3. Kristofer Moore9/03/2022 9:01 pm

    Where can you find a manuscript that was not edited by the Catholics or the Orthodox Churches after the 4th century? The point I am making is that before the 4th century, which is the era that the Alexandrian Textform is believed to date from, Egypt is probably the hub for Gnostic “Christianity.” The likes of Valentinus, Carpocrates, Cerinthus and Basiledes either came from Egypt, had their training in Egypt or went there to spread their gnosticism syncretised with Christianity. The Nag Hammadi, the famous gnostic /so-called “Christian” library was found in Egypt. The Alexandrian Textform has Gnostic elements in its theology inherent in its variants (assuming the Textus Receptus to be the base text), 1 Tim 3:16 being chiefest of examples though not the only. Ος εφανερωθη is probably a Gnostic change to suit the Gnostic belief that Jesus could not have come in the flesh, all physical things being, in the mind of many Gnostics, inherently evil.

    If entire Gnostic gospels were invented to bolster Gnostic elements of Gnostic “Christianity” why should we put it past the Egyptian Gnostics to subtly alter the sacred scriptures themselves so that their sect could have it’s own text?

    Mark’s gospel, which, in Egypt, lacks the resurrection is decidedly Gnostic in this behalf since another element of Gnosticism was the rejection of the resurrection.

    Catholicism was not so much prevalent in the church until the time of Constantine after which theology takes a nose-dive with people like Augustine inventing the doctrine that justified killing saints, etc. But Gnosticism ante-dates Christianity and certainly was mingled in to the church prior to Catholicism and biblical scholars need to be aware of this before embracing the likes of the NASB, NIV, NLT, NET and Co. who repeatedly rely on the Critiical Text found in both the Nestle/Aland and United Bible Society printed Greek texts whose boards in both projects were chaired by the same man, Kurt Aland.

    You apparently think that an influence of Catholicism in to textual criticism is a negative thing. Do you promote the Critical text? K. Aland admits in his “The Text of the New Testament” that a Catholic was on their board of editors of their Greek New Testaments!

    1. Kristofer Moore9/03/2022 9:22 pm

      What is also chilling about Mark is that Eusebius believes his gospel originated in Egypt. If this is the case, then that would explain why his gospel alone has been seemingly tampered with and edited to leave out the resurrection and this only in Egypt.

    2. Kristofer Moore9/06/2022 3:51 pm

      I take it nobody can refute this?

    3. Alexander Thomson9/07/2022 9:46 am

      Having myself made unanswered comments in various places, I’m not too surprised that your comments, which are worthy of an answer, have not been addressed as yet. This is one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of controlled online “conversations” : they can be one-sided, with interruptions of silence.
      “We wish you good luck in the name of the LORD” : Coverdale’s rendering of the ending of Psalm 129:08.

    4. Kristofer Moore9/07/2022 6:59 pm

      Hello Alexander. I have a reply to you that is awaiting approval. I may have acted brashly to your reply to me. I thought you were mocking me. I just read it while I was working and admit I didn’t really read it carefully. I assumed you were just someone that was ignoring my comments and wishing me the best in a mocking way. I just re-read it and realizes it was just a kind reply. Best regards to you.

  4. Kristofer Moore9/07/2022 6:04 pm

    Can’t you all see the Germans who you follow are known for their intellectual insight reaching so far as to try to disprove God! Let’s not kid ourselves. The origin of this movement towards Egypt is with the Germans. The Germans, Schaff told you, were known for not believing God but were very educated. They used their Christian commentary so often to disprove the Bible. (I don’t mean all of them, but that was what the Germans were notorious for in the late 19th century). Not only this: Westcott and Hort were Catholics! Their private letters revealed this. This is old news. The only reason you are able to do what you are doing is because most Christians don’t care enough to read about anything pertinent to their salvation. It’s the proverbial blind leading the blind. You all are just as blind but with degrees in technical fields, but even educated people can be blind when they follow their predecessors blindly assuming they did careful research to arrive at their conclusions. You admit Westcott and Hort were wrong. Will it take another century for you to see the ineptitude of Kurt Aland. He admits he didn’t really perform much textual criticism to arrive at the critical text but used the law of averages and just put the text found the most in Tischendorf’s and Aland’s works and Westcott-Hort’s in to yet another mathematically produced text, all the while further muddying the pure original text which is obviously found when comparing all the texts throughout early Christendom. And there are early Majority and Textus Receptus witnesses. I have read that many of the witnesses to the Majority Text have been arbitrarily marked by Aland as mainly Alexandrian when, in actuality they are also Majority representatives. But to the unsuspecting casual peruser of textual apparatuses, the oldest manuscripts have nothing to do with the Majority Text, according to their schemes. This is very one-sided because you say the majority of textual scholars agree with the Alexandrian school of thought. This is no marvel! Majority adherents don’t need to study textual criticism for a text that they already believe was preserved well enough by providence and with the work of Erasmus. The biggest problem may be in 1 John 5:7. I think it is possible that some Latin texts may have preserved that portion that was lost early in the Greek transmission. There may be need for improvement on the Textus Receptus (but I doubt it is very much if any), but I don’t think you will find it looking in the place where the #1 enemy of Christianity, Gnosticism, was headquartered during the timeframe that that Textform dates to!

  5. Kristofer Moore9/10/2022 3:28 pm

    I see I was mistaken: the Vulgate had the same ending as the Textus Receptus in Mark 16 including the resurrection.