Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Inerrancy and Textual Criticism

I have been reminded that some time ago I promised to open a discussion on the relationship between inerrancy and textual criticism. This is it. I’ll start with my thoughts and hope that others will contribute theirs as well as explore specific applications of the principles explored.


Luke in Cod. Bodmer 25 (credit)
The first thing I should say is about the relationship between inerrancy and this blog. As the blog’s founder I am very, very happy to sign inerrancy statements in almost whatever shape or form they take. However, the term I preferred when establishing this blog was simply to say that the scriptures were ‘true’. Although this might seem a weaker term, I do not mean it in a weaker sense. Moreover, it has the advantage of being self-evidently in continuation with all historic mainstream views of scripture that have been articulated down church history. Using the term ‘true’ also means that I am not forced into instant qualifications of the term I use because I am not using a technical term.

The second belief that I see as fundamental to this blog is the belief that God may be said to be the author of specific sequences of words which constitute scripture (i.e. belief in verbal inspiration). Though this belief is not without its problems, it is less problematic than alternative accounts of inspiration (e.g. that God inspired thoughts in scripture, but may not be said to be the author of specific words—the question ‘which thoughts?’ is even harder to answer than the question ‘which words?’).

That said, for the sake of discussion I want to use the term ‘inerrancy’, since, in this context, I believe it will optimise the point I am trying to make.

Basic thesis

My basic thesis is that inerrancy may only be used as a secondary criterion for the original reading. It cannot be used to overturn strong external support or to support conjecture.

If inerrancy is allowed to be a primary criterion then we are adopting a method that is
  1. highly subjective
  2. does not adequately control human bias
  3. beyond the remit of an evangelical textual critic
1. Apologists are often naturally concerned to be able to present a Bible ‘without problem’. There can therefore be a tendency to want to solve problems prematurely. There are therefore numerous cases where apologists adopt readings in the name of inerrancy that are text-critically highly dubious otherwise. For one example you can see a brave but misguided attempt to suggest that the name Cainan was not originally in Luke 3:36 (I do not intend to ‘shame’ this site, which has some merit to it).

For me a major problem with the attempt to solve a problem by taking a text-critical decision that would otherwise be judged unlikely is that it is hard to see any non-subjective criteria by which one could decide when to take such a step. There are, after all, difficult texts of various kinds within scripture: texts that can readily be read to suggest that Jesus’ would return to earth within a generation of his ministry, texts that make the relationship between Synoptic and Johannine chronology problematic, etc. Who is to decide which texts are so problematic that the doctrine of inerrancy can be invoked with the result that the reading otherwise judged best be set aside? This is the problem of subjectivity.

2. Evangelicals have often taken a rather dim view of when critics of other persuasions have allowed their own interpretative framework to be decisive in adopting readings. Thus we have not been too impressed by von Soden’s adoption of the reading without the virginal conception in Matthew 1:16 (on the basis of the Sinaitic Syriac), nor by the way Ehrman sometimes allows his framework of ‘orthodox corruption’ to be decisive in deciding between readings. The problem with these approaches is that the doctrinal framework does not appear to be adequately constrained by the external evidence. Advocates of inerrancy need to demonstrate to others that they too are accountable to the external evidence and will not ignore it simply to demonstrate the truthfulness of their position.

3. Ultimately, I think that to use the doctrine of inerrancy to override the manuscripts is to enter into a domain to which we are not called. I, personally, am of the conviction that an editor of the NT should never accept a conjecture into a text (though see earlier debate on this blog, e.g. ‘Ephesians 1.1 update’, ‘conjectural emendation’, ‘more on conjectures’), not because I hold the absolute conviction that no conjecture could ever be correct. I strongly doubt that any conjecture is correct, but acknowledge in theory that some may be. My view that an editor should not accept an emendation into the text is not based on the view that there are no correct emendations, but on the view that even if some were correct it would not be an editor’s business to print them.

Similarly, if it be that God has not given us every word he inspired within the manuscripts that is essentially his business, not ours. I do not have to take it upon myself to ‘restore’ what he has not seen fit to preserve. That’s why if editing 1 Samuel 13:1 I would simply preserve MT. If something has dropped out, I have no way of knowing what it is (despite the conjectures of the early versions), so it is not my business to put it in. My job as a textual critic is not to ensure that readers have an inerrant edition of the Bible in their hands.

Inerrancy is a belief that is derived from God’s character as one who does not err and the inference that if words may rightly be said to be ‘his’ they should therefore share that characteristic. Historically, authors like Jerome or Calvin were convinced that God’s words were entirely true, but almost certainly did not believe that they had an errorless copy of those words in their own possession.


  1. Can you provide an example of inerrancy as a secondary criterion in a text-critical argument?

    Would this be in cases where the primary criteria are inconclusive, and recourse is then taken to the fact that one reading appears to alleviate the text of an error?

    And if so, would this mean that the secondary criterion of inerrancy would be at work against the criterion of the more difficult reading?

  2. Although freshly posted, this is something I drafted several years ago. I think that perhaps by secondary I mean that the doctrine of inerrancy (i.e. of divine truthfulness + verbal inspiration) might highlight the presence of a problem. It doesn't, however, tell you what to do with it. Without giving an example, we might say that if option A appeared to have 51% probability and option B 49% based on primary criteria, if inerrancy fits with option A but seemingly not with option B then it might 'confirm' option A. If it fits better with option B, I'm still not sure I'd want to print anything other than option A.

  3. I perhaps would put it another way (perhaps not as precisely as might be, but nevertheless):

    Inerrancy as a theological concept should be a derivative, formulated from a text previously established within a normative text-critical framework. That framework necessarily encompasses a working theory regarding textual origin and subsequent transmission, as well as the application of specific principles that properly comport with that theory when determining the best approximation to the "original" (whether considered as autograph or Ausgangstext).

    Inerrancy therefore does not take on the role of an overriding master for establishing the text, but rather that of a hermeneutical servant regarding the understanding and interpretation of the text as previously established.

    When understood in that light, many of the more problematic textual claims based on a preconception of what inerrancy "must" entail at any given point of the text might be laid to rest (which is not to say that problems both textual and interpretative will themselves vanish into oblivion).

    Of course, those not holding to a concept of scriptural inerrancy necessarily will differ in regard to many points of theory, praxis, and interpretation. That is only to be expected.

  4. Thanks Pete,
    I agree that "true" in a strong sense is an excellent word for Scripture for the reason you mentioned. It is also a bit more helpful in working across the different genres within scripture.
    I also agree that, in this sense, "inerrancy" is not a helpful criterion for judging between readings. One problem for this is because we don't know precisely what the truthfulness of Scripture entails except from a study of how the true Scripture actually functions.

    1. I hadn't seen Maurice's comment when posting this. I think I also agree with him.

  5. Helpful post. Thank you for this.

  6. No textual decision concluding contradiction or error in the original should ever be considered the right decision.

    After all, the criteria for textual criticism as a whole, is a servant of the text, not its master. I would rule out any option, regardless of the external evidence, that concludes an errant original (and/or contradiction). I appreciate the art and science of textual criticism. it is essential in biblical studies. But it seems to me that there are unavoidable theological and philosophical commitments that prop up the field of TC. Some hold to one method while others differ. Assumptions must be made along with their commitments before one even opens the book for practice. And since that is an unavoidable fact, I see no reason why a prior commitment to an inerrant autograph should not serve as a safety line for those aiming to solve textual difficulties.

    How can anyone claim an authoritative text while denying that it came from an authoritative source through divine process?

    1. "[C]oncluding contradiction or error in the original" is not something that a textual decision by itself can ever do. The textual decision only attempts to establish the text. Interpreting the meaning of the text plays a role in that textual decision, but the interpretation and the text itself are not the same thing.

      I think that in practice, the way your rule would work would be: "No textual decision should ever be considered the right decision if I as the ultimate judge decide that that decision results in a contradiction or error in the text."

  7. The more basic question is whether "textual criticism", in today's usage, is conceptually compatible with either evangelicism or inerrancy. Hmmm...

    For the thread, a good study verse is:

    Mark 6:22 (AV)
    And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced,
    and pleased Herod and them that sat with him,
    the king said unto the damsel,
    Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

    The ultra-minority Vaticanus-primacy variant (with Sinaiticus) is accepted by WH and NA and is translated properly as in the NetBible.

    Mark 6:22
    When his daughter Herodias came in and danced,
    she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
    The king said to the girl,
    “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.

    Daniel Wallace, by theory an evangelical who signs inerrancy statements, has written claiming his preferred Bible text is "ok" for inerrancy. Yet he is responsible for this NETBible text which is a disaster for apologetics and inerrancy. Daniel Wallace always would take verses with smaller issues for discussion, avoiding the hard cases.

    Should Wallace (and others with Critical Text theory) abandon ship here? Should he say "Bible perfection trumps my textual theory"? Or just dance and evade?

    Granted, for Received Text and Majority proponents there is no issue. And since this only gets a "D" in the infamous ABCD code system, an editor can jump ship claiming personal prerogative. Meaning the word of God is simply your preference. Or you can come up with a creative translation theory that does not give the NETBible text. When folks simply want an "out", they can be quite creative.

    Steven Avery

    1. Why not just say Mark got it wrong Steven if that is what you want to say. People can also be quite creative in introducing supposed contradictions and errors whose existence cannot possibly be solved regardless of whatever plausible explanation might be offered. There may be variants in the text that will never be solved in this life. I would rather say, "I do not yet have the solution" than to say, Mark made a blunder here and Matthew was wrong there. So far as I can tell, there is nothing unreasonable about being humble where humility is clearly the appropriate response.

    2. Hi Ed,

      Why would I say that Mark got it wrong?

      The actual evidence vastly favors the no-problem all fine Received Text / Byzantine reading. What got it wrong was Vaticanus and a handful of mss. The evidence in Greek mss, Lectionaries, Old Latin and Vulgate is simply massively preponderant. And a second variant says basically the same thing and has strong Syriac, Coptic and versional support, plus the Diatessaron.

      The evidence for the corruption is very minor. Why should Christian apologetics be hamstrung by Hortian blunders?

      You can, however, ask the question to Daniel Wallace. (And any others supporting the NA text here.)

      Steven Avery
      Asheville, NC

  8. Do supporters of the Byzantine text (of whatever stripe) believe that their preferred text presents no problems for inerrancy? Or do they just believe that it holds fewer than most eclectic texts?

    Ed, when two texts present an apparent contradiction, how does your ideal textual critic know which one to amend?

    1. Speaking for myself, difficulties remain. I hold to a Byzantine-priority position, but not because I hold to inerrancy. I hold to inerrancy, but not because I find every passage easy to understand and/or easy to reconcile with other passages.

    2. Gurry: "Do supporters of the Byzantine text (of whatever stripe) believe that their preferred text presents no problems for inerrancy? Or do they just believe that it holds fewer than most eclectic texts?"

      My answer is fewer (Mt 27:9 remains a prime example).

      I also concur with Brown: "I hold to a Byzantine-priority position, but not because I hold to inerrancy."

      Even as a practicing reasoned eclectic (45 years ago) I still held theological presuppositions regarding inerrancy, and these have continued to the present day, even as my text-critical position has changed dramatically.

  9. Apologetics, including inerrancy, is always fascinating, and edifying. And you are often working with "problems".

    If you have all the errors in the modern Critical Text, it is basically a zero-sum game. As an example, you end up trying to defend Gerasa, the swine marathon, when it is clear that this is a spot 35 miles from the Sea of Galilee. So you make up stories about regions.

    And there are many hard errors.

    To make it even more absurd, you often have to choose what text you are going to defend. Do you vacillate between competing variants?

    Warfield "solved" this problem by claiming that the person claiming errancy has to supply the original text. This type of nonsense (when noticed) makes the modern Christian apologetics that uses the Critical and Vacillating Texts a laughing stock.

    Steven Avery

    1. Steven,
      I would take the bait but I think Peter wishes to avoid an apologetic entanglement on the doctrine of inerrancy itself. I would be willing to take it offline if you preferred.

  10. Sorry, Steve, I'm not going to rise to the bait and take this discussion off in a different direction. Inerrancy is a broad category which allows many different types of answer to particular problems.

    I disagree (I think) with Ed, because I think he merges two different things: (1) what it is responsible for a textual critic to edit or what it is responsible for a believer to receive as scripture (scriptura = something that has been received in writing and therefore excludes pure conjecture); (2) the wording which God actually breathed (what he calls 'the original'). These two may be identical, but they do not have to be. In Augustine's, Luther's, Calvin's or Wesley's days I think they were bound to follow what they had in manuscripts (i.e. 1) even if subsequent evidence has drawn us closer to (2).

    Textual critics do not have the job of presenting an inerrant Bible. I don't know by what criteria you would conclude that a particular problem in the Bible had to have a text-critical solution, rather than another kind.

    1. Last comment needed editing so I deleted it. Here is the corrected comment:

      Isn’t the textual critic a believer who is also responsible for receiving Scripture? I am not sure I understand the distinction you made here.

      My point goes more to the philosophical/theological commitments of TC. I am arguing this point specifically: any method that elevates the criteria of textual criticism above the theological conviction of an inerrant text is inappropriate and misguided.

      I really like the way Dr. Robinson put it if that helps clarify my point.

      Steven seems to be a good example of one who may enter this discussion holding exactly to the opposite view: it is possible that the original record of the biblical authors got some things exactly wrong when they pinned what we call the original. My concern would be that this approach places human reason in the driver’s seat, elevates the canons of criticism above Scripture itself, and in the end, the sinner becomes the judge, and the the Judge becomes subject to the finite, fallible, distorted judgment of the sinner.

      In the end, I think TC must be a field that serves the church. It cannot be an academic discipline operating in a silo. It must be submissive to the elders within the church. It must read Scripture with the community, providing its help with humility, where its help is needed. And its help is needed often.

  11. Steve,

    You wrote:

    "Warfield “solved” this problem by claiming that the person claiming errancy has to supply the original text."

    Reference please?

  12. Hi Peter Williams,

    The year was 1881, the new Critical Text was very vulnerable, since it was so weak in terms of internal consistency and elements like geographical truth, and the new textual theory made the Bible into a variable and changing writing (How do you choose what to defend? Do you defend clearly errant ultra-minority variants as authentic, infallible and inerrant?) And thus the new text needed a type of 'protectia'.


    The Presbyterian Review, Volume 2 (1881)
    Inspiration - April, 1881 p. 225-260
    Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield

    "A proved error in Scripture contradicts not only our doctrine, but the Scripture claims and, therefore, its inspiration in making those claims." ...

    "We do not assert that the common text, but only that the original autographic text was inspired. No 'error' can be asserted, therefore, which cannot be proved to have been aboriginal in the text."


    As Rogers and McKim point out:

    "the only way for this to be disproved was for someone to prove that an error existed in the original (lost) autographa or original text of Scripture."

    Clearly a nonsensical demand to make to the errantist, unbeliever, islamist or liberal.

    This astute summary of the Warfield demand is in:

    The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach
    Ch. 6 - The Defense of Reformed Scholasticism in America
    Princeton Scholasticism's Resistance to Biblical Criticism:
    B. B. Warfield versus C. A. Briggs
    written by Jack B. Rogers, Donald K. McKim


    Help that helps!

    Yours in the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ,

    Steven Avery
    Asheville, NC

    1. So far as I can tell, your only rebuttal of this argument is that it is nonsense. But clearly, it is not nonsense. That is insurmountable does not make it nonsense. If you are going to categorize an argument as nonsense, you should probably interact with it in an effort to demonstrate why it reduces to nonsense. If you have done this somewhere already, I would love to read it.

    2. We can actually go back a bit to a more expansive source from Hodge.

      The footnote 172 from Rogers and McKim point you to the 1879 (actually 1878, the first edition had been 1860) revised edition of Archibald Hodge's Outline of Theology. There we have the first and larger expression of this position. The reference is to pp. 66-67. 75-76.

      Outlines of Theology (1878)
      Archibald Alexander Hodge

      Go forward to p. 76 and you find the amazing:

      " ... they must prove over and over again in the case of each alleged discrepancy each of the following points: (1.) That the alleged discrepant statement certainly occurs in the veritable autograph copy of the inspired writing containing it."

      So we see even more directly that this is simply a shell game, a scholastic con.

      Steven Avery
      Asheville, NC

    3. Steven, Warfield is quite clear elsewhere that he does not think the autographic text is free from apparent errors:

      "Another curiosity of controversy is found in the representation that the Church, affirming the entire truthfulness and trustworthiness of the genuine text of Scripture, asserts that this text is wholly free from all those difficulties and apparent discrepancies which we find in ‘the Scriptures as we have them.’ Of course the Church has never made such an assertion. That some of the difficulties and apparent discrepancies in current texts disappear on the restoration of the true text of Scripture is undoubtedly true. That all the difficulties and apparent discrepancies in current texts of Scripture are matters of textual corruption, and not, rather, often of historical or other ignorance on our part, no sane man ever asserted.… The Church does indeed affirm that the genuine text of Scripture is free from real discrepancies and errors; but she does not assert that the genuine text of Scripture is free from those apparent discrepancies and other difficulties, on the ground of which, imperfectly investigated, the errancy of the Bible is usually affirmed…. It would be a miraculously perfect text indeed with which imperfectly informed men could not find fault." From “The Inerrancy of the Original Autographs” in The Princeton Theology 1812-1921: Scripture, Science, and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benajamin Breckinridge Warfield, edited by Mark A. Noll (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 272. The whole essay is worth reading as it addresses a number of misunderstandings of Warfield's position, most of which persist down to today.

    4. Very good point Peter. And thanks for pointing to an essay that looks worthy of the effort for sure.

    5. Gurry (quoting Warfield): "That some of the difficulties and apparent discrepancies in current texts disappear on the restoration of the true text of Scripture is undoubtedly true."

      Ah yes ... but what about those instances where eclectic scholars prefer certain minority readings from their highly "preferred" MSS and end up making a less errant text even more errant?

      The cited examples of "his daughter Herodias" or the matter of "Gerasa" are cases in point, just as are the names of "Amos" and "Asaph" in the Matthean genealogy.

      Why not allow for what seems to be a far more appropriate explanation -- one well in line with known scribal tendencies -- and simply say (pace Ehrman): perhaps the "preferred" MSS in such instances simply made a mistake?

    6. Warfield: Not all difficulties and apparent discrepancies in current texts of Scripture are matters of textual corruption.

    7. Steven, do you actually disagree with that Warfield quote?

      “We do not assert that the common text, but only that the original autographic text was inspired. No ‘error’ can be asserted, therefore, which cannot be proved to have been aboriginal in the text.”

    8. Of course I disagree This is a logically absurd assertion. e.g. A person who does not believe the Bible would have to assert and prove the origingal text before he can claim an error? Total nonsense. Logic turned upside-down.

      In a world of real logic, the person who claims inerrancy would show clearly and specifically for what he is claiming inerrancy.

      As for my position, I defend the "common text", defined and readable. And I do not do ethereal inerrancy, for unknown texts. As I prefer working with real logic, rather than pseudo-Christian modern logic that has been deformed by corrupt text.

      Steven Avery

    9. It is not logically absurd though. As Ed pointed out, even if it is impossible to prove that the original autographa had the error that the received text has, there's nothing illogical about those quotes from Warfield and Hodge.

    10. Maurice Robinson
      > eclectic scholars prefer certain minority readings from their highly “preferred” MSS ... “his daughter Herodias” or ...“Gerasa” ... the names of “Amos” and “Asaph” in the Matthean genealogy. Why not...simply say (pace Ehrman): perhaps the “preferred” MSS in such instances simply made a mistake?

      It is important to mention that there are more places where there is a (usually ultra-minority Vaticanus) reading that is very difficult for apologetics and inerrancy. While a pure TR-Bzy variant is the historic Greek Bible, with no problems.

      This list includes more, and is trimmed to be all rather easy to see, find and understand.

      Mark 6:22 - his daughter Herodias
      Mark 5:1 Luke 8:26 8:37 - Gerasa, swine marathon
      Matthew 1:7 - Asa vs Asaphe (wrong person)
      Matthew 1:10 - Amon vs Amos (wrong person)
      John 7:8 - "not yet" go to the feast (Jesus as liar)
      Mark 1:2 - prophets vs Isaiah (OT prophecy error)
      Luke 4:44-Matt 4:23 Galilee vs Judea (geography error)
      Luke 23:45 - eclipsed vs darkened (scientific error)
      Hebrews 9:4 - golden censer vs altar of incense (OT contradiction)

      The skeptics have a field day with these, and others similar.

      Keep in mind that if the error goes over too high a bar of absurdity, like Nazareth in Judea in Luke 1:26 in Sinaiticus, it can be kept out of even the apparatus.

      Steven Avery

    11. In some of those places, the problem with the critical text reading does not actually relate to inerrancy, except according to the interpretation pressed upon such by certain objectors.

      I would not have issues, for example, with either Ησαια, ουπω or εκλιποντος had these appeared in the Byzantine rather than the critical text, since certain contextual issues or range of meaning readily could allow for such. My decision in those places thus becomes text-critical, again without a need to impose inerrancy as a primary consideration (one need only compare the extended treatment of the Mk 1.2 variant in my "Two Passages in Mark" article to see the point, since inerrancy is not even made an issue in that regard).

    12. What is the "common text"? The Vulgate? It was very common.

    13. Peter, Common Text as used by Warfield would be the Received Text and/or the Authorized Version. And I was using it in the same way.


      Maurice, your Mark 1:2 study is superb. (You sent it to me before it was TRENS available.)

      > Maurice Robinson
      "I would not have issues, for example, with either Ησαια, ουπω or εκλιποντος "

      Maurice, this can get a little existential/philosophical.

      The question becomes: what corruption would you support and defend if there was no alternative? :)

      Yet, there is an alternative, a superior reading, so the question itself can be a misdirection. :)

      Reading your words, you sound like you are saying that in the eclipse, Isaiah, and going to the feast, you would accept the harder minority reading if it were the majority.

      So does that imply that in the other six so far listed here you would in fact:

      "impose inerrancy as a primary consideration"?

      Even if it did not match your textual theory? hmmm...

      By contrast, Daniel Wallace will live happily with Amos and Asaphe:

      "variant spellings of proper names were in existence in the first century"

      Wallace avoids discussing Herodias, which corruption is in his NETBible, but even it has its (rare) semi-defender. Here is William Milligan:

      "If, then, this reading of the masculine pronoun, as yet placed in the text by Westcott and Hort alone, be accepted, we have a new fact added to ancient history, and another ray of lurid light thrown upon the iniquitous character of Herodias and the dissoluteness of the Herodian family."

      Thus the ultra-minority corruption itself changes history!

      And there are lots of ways to do a Gerasa region dance, or a Judea geographical white-wash. The attempts are a bit weak, but in most cases the apologist can get away with the attempted hand-wave.

      To a large extent the issue is cumulative. Hortian Vaticanus-primacy theory combined with lectio brevior have brought very difficult readings into modern Critical Text editions.

      When an apologist is stuck with these readings (e.g. Norman Geisler, J. P. Holding, Lee Strobel) he simply does the best he can. Sometimes he learns the good ol cheap debating tricks. Sometimes they jump shift to the TR-Byz text as with Herodias.

      My contention is that such an apologist is wasting a lot of capital and energy defending ultra-minority corruptions that are exceedingly difficult and problematic and that properly are seen as simply errant piddle corruptions, wrongly put into the modern Critical Text.

      And the modern textual criticism ongoing deadly embrace of the Vaticanus-primacy perspective, combined with largely errant theories like lectio brevior and lectio difficilior, are in fact major roots of he problem.


    14. SA: "The question becomes: what corruption would you support and defend if there was no alternative?"

      Were there no alternative, by definition there would be no "corruption", but only a reading possessing interpretative difficulties.

      Already some readings among the Byzantine majority of MSS are "problematic" (Mt 27:9 previously noted; one also might include Lk 2:22; Ac 12:25, or Jas 2:18, as have been mentioned by those representing various textual positions).

      SA: "you sound like you are saying that in the eclipse, Isaiah, and going to the feast, you would accept the harder minority reading if it were the majority."

      Indeed, that is what I said, albeit with the clear qualification that "certain contextual issues or range of meaning readily could allow for such".

      In contrast, certain of the other readings would be far more difficult of interpretation were they solidly Byzantine -- but of course they are not, so speculation by "what if" hypotheses isn't necessary. Such can be left to those who desire to defend the critical text at those points, e.g., Poythress' attempt to maintain inerrancy regarding Asaph and Amos in the Matthean genealogy as opposed to Metzger simply admitting these names were erroneous; so also Bock and others at Lk 4:44, suggesting "Judea" supposedly could include Galilee, in order to avoid the obvious conflict with the direct parallels Mt 4:23/Mk 1:39). Were these clearly the dominant Byzantine readings, perhaps such interpretative gymnastics would be necessary; since they are not dominant, it is far simpler to recognize scribal error at some point in that particular transmissional line as opposed to elevating such to the level of authoritative readings (which is basically what I said before).

  13. Certainly, I desire for all problematic texts to be resolved. Yet, if I hold to both the scriptures being God- breathed and inerrant I, for one, am not sure how I can place myself or any group of Elders or the 'Church' over the text that has been preserved. Admittedly, most of the texts with specific geographical questions have 'corrected' texts within the manuscript tradition but, this is were Textual Criticism functions. If the evidence within the manuscripts indicates that the 'corrected' text is not the ausgangstext then I would propose that the TC's responsibility is to print the text that is based on the manuscript evidence even when problematic.
    It also seems to me, that a TC position based on external evidence whether MT or otherwise is in the best position to allow the evidence to speak and then deal with solutions to the evidence. The use of internal evidence as a primary source allows for a easier acceptance of the 'corrected' based on inerrancy. Of course, the VAST majority of TC who do use internal evidence are NOT using inerrancy as a criterion!
    Personally, I have not found solace in relying on inerrancy as a criterion when dealing with these texts. I cannot square my belief in inspiration with a correction or emendation that another human, even if in a Greek manuscript, added to the text.


    1. Tim: "I cannot square my belief in inspiration with a correction or emendation that another human, even if in a Greek manuscript, added to the text."

      And thus the issue remains whether a problematic reading represents a correction or emendation due to scribal activity or whether such represents the original form of the text. It seems to me that such in effect becomes a major line of demarcation separating the varying theories of NT textual criticism.

    2. Dr R.,
      I agree that this is a major line of demarcation separating the varying theories of NT textual criticism and I would contend there is an even greater separation between manuscript based options and eclectic texts on this issue than most.

  14. I don't know how helpful this thought is, but if the goal of using inerrancy as a text-critical canon was to produce an edition the inerrant quality of which was self-evident, it seems to me that even if one was to find the easiest reading in every variation unit throughout the Bible, the Bible would still have those who attempt (ultimately unsuccessfully, to be sure) to show discrepancies and counterfactual claims to be present within it. Unless one resorts to many conjectural emendations, a defense of inerrancy has to operate primarily at the exegetical and apologetic levels.

    Certainly, adopting a scribal error can occasionally pose problems for exegesis and apologetics, but the adoption of such a secondary reading is most likely to have been made based on limited information or a faulty text-critical methodology, not a commitment to inerrancy as such.

  15. Steve, So he's really saying that the person claiming errancy has to prove that the text in which they claim there is error is the original. The fact that the task is impossible does not make BB's challenge logically unreasonable.

    1. Peter Williams,
      Eh? Could you rephrase that?
      Are you suggesting that it is impossible to accurately reconstruct the text of the New Testament? If you don't have a definitive text, what is it that you are calling /actually/ inerrant, rather than /theoretically/ or /probably/ inerrant?

    2. What is impossible is the task that Warfield claimed for the person asserting errancy.

      He made it their responsibility to first find the original autographic text, prove it was the original text, and then assert the error.

      This is in fact an impossible requirement, AND it is clearly logically unreasonable.


      All appeals to inerrancy that is only in ethereal original autographs are logically weak. The extra caveats, as above, put in by Hodge and Warfield are insipid.

      My own position is different, I defend the perfection of the Bible in the apographa, the Bible I read, not the autographa.

      And I do believe that using "textual criticism" as the window to look at these Bible issues is a zero-sum endeavor. Since textual criticism today has a basic underlying precept that the pure and perfect word of God is not identifiable. So it could never find an inerrant, infallible and perfect Bible. Mostly, it is a probability game, one where the calculations are wildly skewed.


    3. Steven,
      What bible do you read that has not been subjected to TC decisions? Certainly not the KJV, if we can rely on the reports from the KJV editors themselves! Do you rely on a particular manuscript, which you are certain that the scribe or the scribes before him did not make any TC decisions? For sure both MT and Byzantine Priority texts have had TC decisions made. What apograha that you use is perfect?


    4. "My own position is different, I defend the perfection of the Bible in the apographa, the Bible I read, not the autographa."

      What about the Bible someone else reads, when it's different from yours? Should they also defend the perfection of the Bible they read? Or should they defend the perfection of the one you read?

    5. Steven,
      It does not follow that just because something is practically impossible (I am not convinced it is), that does not mean it is illogical or unreasonable. You may not like Warfield's challenge because you cannot refute it, but that does not make it logically unreasonable.

      Textual Critics either take a confessional approach to their field or they take a secular one. There is no neutral ground where the nature of Scripture is concerned. Either one is committed to the historic claims of the church regarding full inspiration or they are not.

    6. Again, you are engaged in a logical fallacy. Using a couple of web sources:

      Correlative based fallacies
      Suppressed correlative: where a correlative is redefined so that one alternative is made impossible.

      aka fallacy of lost contrast
      the fallacy of the suppressed relative.

      Warfield committed precisely this logical fallacy. The two alternatives are inerrancy and errancy.

      If you are not convinced that this is "practically impossible", then explain with an example of how the person claiming errancy (who could believe would prove the aboriginal text.



    7. And I was adding that the person claiming errancy might simply believe the whole New Testament was created as a docu-drama.

      You claim inerrancy for some unknown text and then claim that the mythicist has to find a text?

      By Warfield's standards the mythicist belief would prove inerrancy.

      This is a bizarro world of illogic.


    8. I am merely pointing out the difference between what is logically fallacious and what is practically impossible. It is not logically impossible that I can fly but it is practically impossible.

      I do not believe that TC can deliver an errant text. I do not believe that one can arrive at the conclusion that the text is fallible, contains errors, and contradictions based on TC. However, I do think one can construct a doctrine of inerrancy that is clearly supported by textual evidence.

      I do not know your position on inerrancy. It might be useful if you stated it plainly so that I could understand which position you subscribe to.

    9. Even if Warfield and Hodge committed what you called a suppressed correlative, Steve, that is not necessarily a violation of the laws of logic.

      And I am not so sure that your position escapes whatever charge you can make against them. If it is some copied text that is inerrant, and not the original autograph, then you still don't know which copied text out of all the different ones, is the inerrant one. Once having shown what appears to be an error in some manuscript, the one charging it with inerrancy must also prove that that manuscript, and not some other extant one, is the inspired and inerrant manuscript, which is as impossible as proving that an alleged error was in a now lost autograph.

    10. Eric,
      You are exactly correct. The claim of an errant Bible (rightly understood as a claim against the possibility of a perfect text produced in cooperation with fallible humans) is a philosophical objection, not a scientific one. And I think the points that Warfield and Hodge made not only recognized this all too well, but they also knew that the claim is logically untenable because no matter what evidence can be presented, it is not evidence that can touch the autographa, only the copies. And since we don't claim inspired copies, the objection turns out to not to be an objection after all. Case dismissed.

      On the flip side, we do have ample evidence supporting the doctrine of inerrancy within the manuscripts. We can reconstruct a solid thread indicating the biblical documents viewed themselves as coming directly from God and fully authoritative.

      If we allow the text to speak for itself, there is clearly a claim of divine inspiration.

  16. Speaking of the "brave but misguided attempt . . ."
    The attempt appears to be guided by an unhealthy loyalty to the Masoretic Text, which is clearly a recension in the chronogenealogies of Genesis chapters five and eleven. That misguided loyalty may be a holdover from a reverence for the KJV, which (mostly) follows the MT, or it may go all the way back to the eventual triumph of Jerome's Vulgate over the traditional Latin translation of the LXX.
    There is no need to grant such authority to a text that leaves out Cainan in Genesis 11. Support for Cainan is found in Ephiphanius and Demetrius, as well as the Book of Jubilees, which is an independent line of evidence, since it agrees with the chronology of the Samaritan recension for all dates before the birth of Cainan, only diverging with the inclusion of the one, and the exclusion of the other.
    I have been working for over a year on a defense of the LXX plus of Cainan over the competing recensions, and I'm finally getting close to having it ready for publication.

  17. And let NT textual critics not forget that the additional Cainan in the Lukan genealogy not only appears in all printed editions, but also is attested (with some orthographic variation) by all MSS except p75vid? and D -- both likely omitting the name due to a haplographic skip (from του to του) rather than from any intentional cause.

    And yet certain conservative apologetic sources (e.g., Answers in Genesis) willingly declare the extremely well-established and accepted Lukan text to be in error, merely to force a preferred overly literal alignment with the Hebrew Masoretic text -- a text that itself may be problematic at this point and at the very least permit alternative explanations (as noted in various commentaries). Such becomes a perfect illustration of what happens when one makes a particular concept of inerrancy into the overriding master of the text rather than its more humble servant.

  18. Jim Snapp asked:
    "Are you suggesting that it is impossible to accurately reconstruct the text of the New Testament?"

    No, but I don't see why our ability to reconstruct the NT has anything to do with inerrancy. God could have spoken the words of Scripture inerrantly even if we didn't have access to a single word. Just because the book of the law is lost in the Temple doesn't mean it's not true. Inerrancy is not like Schrödinger's Cat. Whether the inerrancy is observable or not by humans is irrelevant, because there's a Divine Observer. The belief in the inerrancy of Scripture only requires that God has given words in Scripture and that these words displayed God's characteristic of truthfulness. It does not require that anyone ever received the Scriptures. Of course, I believe that the Scriptures have been received on a very large scale. All I'm insisting is that that's not logically necessary for the doctrine to be meaningful. We can have meaningful discussion about what God can and cannot do or did or did not do, which are worthy discussions in their own right.

    1. I appreciate your points in the comments Peter. They increase the precision of your position nicely. Warfield's argument rightly concludes that it is impossible for issues within the field of textual criticism to provide evidence that contradicts the doctrine of inerrancy rightly understood. The position that there are errors in the autographs is untenable. That some do not like this argument does not at all make it logically fallacious or suspect in any way so far as I can see.

  19. The lesson: if you set up a nice tautology, that has no practical meaning or purpose at all, it can not be overthrown.

    True and well-known in Logic 101.

    That is now the current popular ETC view of inerrancy. (Maurice Robinson as one apparent exception on this thread, since he remains concerned with practical inerrancy in actual Bibles.

    "Whether the inerrancy is observable or not by humans is irrelevant, because there’s a Divine Observer." - Peter Williams

    Thus inerrancy for Peter Williams, Ed Dingess and others is a doctrine that has nothing to do with Bibles that actually exist. The only one who observes the inerrancy is God, on a Bible unknowable to humans.

    Inerrancy is now, we may say, a prayer doctrine, when evangelicals become textual critics.


    1. Steven,
      With all due respect, this is not a tautology. You continue to want to classify this problem is nothing more than a logical blunder of some sort but with that said, you have yet to provide an example, an explicit example for why you believe it is.

      The doctrine of inspiration/inerrancy has never extended to copies, EVER. This is an equivocation on your part. And that is a logical fallacy.

      Small areas of uncertainty in our copies of the autographa do NOT make it impossible to formulate the theological position that the text of Scripture reveals itself to be divinely inspired, fully authoritative, and therefore, inerrant.

      The Bible can mean the originally inspired collection of divine documents or it can mean some a collection of some copy of those documents.

      The evidence is overwhelming that we do have in the MSS the original wording of the divinely inspired, inerrant, and fully authoritative Scripture. That this doctrine is the necessary conclusion of the MSS evidence is abundantly clear. One's own uncertainty about a very small part of the original wording of Scripture is not sufficient reason to make us uncertain as to the identity of the other parts as Peter rightly points out in his article in "The Enduring Authority of Scripture."

      The Bible that actually exists informs us clearly that "All Scripture is God-speaking." So when you say that inerrancy for us is a doctrine that has nothing to do with Bibles that actually exist, you are mistaken. On the other hand, those who hold to an opposite position are not able to say that their view is derived from the Bible we have nor, in your own words, the Bible we do not have.

      Your skepticism is self-defeating here as is skepticism everywhere. The necessary condition for skepticism is that which they so desperately want to deny: knowledge. The necessary condition for the doctrine of an errant text is knowledge of that errant text. That is a straightforward logically plausible proposition. There is nothing tautologous about it.

    2. > Ed Dingess
      > The doctrine of inspiration/inerrancy has never extended to copies, EVER. This is an equivocation on your part. And that is a logical fallacy.

      Ed, every statement and claim you make is simply wrong.

      (And this is beyond your still not understanding the blatant, absurd fallacy in the Warfieldian construct that the person claiming errancy must find and prove the aboriginal text.)


      Kent Brandenburg gives some of the refutation of your position, in a blog post where he is working with:

      Richard A. Muller's Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, Holy Scripture: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology

      Richard Muller and the History of the Preservation of Scripture pt. 1
      Kent Brandenburg - April, 2010

      Richard Muller
      By "original and authentic" text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no one can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions.... The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice . . . . rests on an examination of the apographa and does not seek the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility. ... Turretin and other high and late orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa.

      And note this quote, especially appropriate to the moderns:

      "All too much discussion of the Reformers' methods has attempted to turn them into precursors of the modern critical method, when in fact, the developments of exegesis and hermeneutics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both precede and, frequently conflict with (as well as occasionally adumbrate) the methods of the modern era."

      This also applies to the approach to textual analysis, inspiration and preservation and infallibility and inerrancy.

      Steven Avery

    3. > Ed Dingess
      "The necessary condition for the doctrine of an errant text is knowledge of that errant text."

      This is your basic error, the correct way of placing this works with the simple concept of he who affirms, must prove. A person who does not believe the Bible does not have to prove an original text.

      And thus the fundamental affirmation here is that there is a Bible text, given by God, that is inerrant. And then we can tweak your statement to be 100% correct.

      Ed Dingess corrected corollary:

      ** "The necessary condition for the doctrine of an inerrant text is knowledge of that inerrant text." **

      Amen! Thank you, Jesus!

      This is the fundamental logical and textual and spiritual point. Hopefully, this simple truth is something upon which we can agree.

      Steven Avery

    4. Steven,
      The question becomes, in my mind anyways, "do we have evidence of or knowledge of an inerrant text?" My comment stated clearly that we do. We have reliable copies, the MSS, in which that text lives. Second, we have clear evidence in those MSS that the original text claimed to be divinely inspired and fully authoritative. In other words, there is NOTHING in the MSS evidence that we do have to support the position that the Bible (original collection of autographa) was fallible. The doctrine of inerrancy is nowhere at risk where textual issues are concerned. That is the point.

      The denial of inerrancy cannot be argued on the ground of textual criticism. It must be denied based on theological and philosophical commitments. At least that is how I understand the matter. I am open to correction in my thinking on the matter (but not open to an errant original).

  20. Wow, 54 comments!

    Interesting post, Pete.

    I'm not sure about this line though:

    "The second belief that I see as fundamental to this blog is the belief that God may be said to be the author of specific sequences of words which constitute scripture (i.e. belief in verbal inspiration). Though this belief is not without its problems, it is less problematic than alternative accounts of inspiration (e.g. that God inspired thoughts in scripture, but may not be said to be the author of specific words—the question ‘which thoughts?’ is even harder to answer than the question ‘which words?’)."

    I agree with you that it is difficult to answer the question "which thoughts." I also agree it would be difficult to answer the question "which words". I do not agree, however, that the former is self-evidently more difficult than the latter. In fact, from my perspective, the opposite would be true, and I think I'd have a lot easier time defending a "thoughts" doctrine of scripture than a "words" doctrine.

    And I think that's important. "true" may not be a technical word, but it is still a pretty big word. I would be happy to sign any statement that says the scriptures are "true" and I would mean that in a "thoughts" sense of the word, not a "words" sense.

    Maurice wrote

    "Inerrancy as a theological concept should be a derivative, formulated from a text previously established within a normative text-critical framework. That framework necessarily encompasses a working theory regarding textual origin and subsequent transmission, as well as the application of specific principles that properly comport with that theory when determining the best approximation to the “original” (whether considered as autograph or Ausgangstext).

    Inerrancy therefore does not take on the role of an overriding master for establishing the text, but rather that of a hermeneutical servant regarding the understanding and interpretation of the text as previously established. "

    I couldn't agree more Maurice. I think you put that perfectly.

    That's one of the reasons though that I would not sign a statement that used the word "inerrant". I simply do not see the doctrine of inerrancy as being supported by the evidence of the text. Firstly, I do not see any specific texts that teach the doctrine. I know many are offered by inerrancy proponents and claimed to support the doctrine, but I think they're stretching it in every case. Secondly, I see the doctrine as disproved by numerous contradictions or difficulties in the text. Finally, I don't see the doctrine as at all required by a healthy or robust Christian faith.

    I would love to see a historical study of the origins of the doctrine. My suspicion is that it developed primarily as a misplaced response by fundamentalists to the challenge offered to their misinterpretation of Gen 1-3 by evolutionary science. Outside of that response, I have my doubts that the doctrine of inerrancy would have arisen on its own. But I could be wrong (errant) on that point.

    Ed wrote
    "No textual decision concluding contradiction or error in the original should ever be considered the right decision."

    I don't know what to say about this, Ed, except that its a text book example of confirmation bias, and while it may be theology, its certainly not scholarly. You are - quite literally - saying that you will choose your conclusion first, and then proceed based on that conclusion and simply reject a priori any evidence that appears to challenge the conclusion you have already selected. That is, quite truly, the opposite of how scholarship works. As Maurice said, a true doctrine of scripture must be derivative, flowing from the evidence of the text.

    1. Ryan, the book on the origins of inerrancy to read is still Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal by Woodbridge.

      And unless you think Augustine (see 1.3) was reacting to evolutionary science, I don't think that explains the doctrine's origin. ;)

    2. Ryan: "My suspicion is that it developed primarily as a misplaced response by fundamentalists to the challenge offered to their misinterpretation of Gen 1-3 by evolutionary science."

      On the contrary, it clearly goes back to the church fathers, e.g., Augustine (Wm. Harmless, ed., Augustine in his own words, 188):

      "Only to those books of the Scriptures that are now called canonical have I learned to pay such honor and respect as to believe most firmly that not one of Scriptures’ authors has erred in writing anything. If I do find anything in those books that seems contrary to truth, I decide either that the text is corrupt, or that the translator did not follow what was really said, or that I have failed to understand it."

      Nor are all ETS members (who do affirm inerrancy) necessarily wild-eyed fundamentalists who might overly elevate the concept when dealing with NT textual criticism -- indeed, most ETS members would accept the critical text as superior (wrongly so in my estimation, but not primarily for inerrantist reasons).

    3. And it looks like Peter Gurry and I reacted the same way at the same time -- and we don't even favor the same form of the text!

    4. Great minds think alike, Maurice. Except, I guess, when it comes to text-critical theories!

    5. And, oddly enough, Augustine not being known for his literal interpretation of Gen 1-3!

      I'm not an augustine scholar, I wonder overall how his interpretive method would compare with that of the typical inerrantist today?

      The question in the back of my head there, of course, is whether Augustine generally was open to more allegorical or alexandrian style interpretations than would be accepted by the typical inerrantist today, and consequently whether that wouldn't make it easier for him to "explain away" various difficulties and thereby hold such a high view.

      In other words, I would like to know a little more about how Augustine used the word "error" in that except, and how his usage would compare to that of modern inerrantists.

    6. Thinking further, I would also wonder a) how much Augustine discussed the doctrine (is there much more than the excerpt Maurice quoted?) b) how many other patristics discussed it in similar manner?

      In other words, when we say "it goes back to the church fathers" what exactly are we claiming there? Is this a case where there is a consistent and thorough-going discussion and development of the doctrine from that time onward? Or is this a case where the vast majority of the development - i.e. words printed on pages - has been done in the modern era, and we just happen to have one or two minor references to it in the patristics?

      In other words, if inerrancy could be said to play an X-sized role in the theology of the typical modern evangelical, would the doctrine's role in Augustine's theology be X, X?

      I'm just thinking out loud here, perhaps I would have to read the work Peter cites.

    7. hmmm... looks like the html code is mangling my last line there. It should read
      "In other words, if inerrancy could be said to play an X-sized role in the theology of the typical modern evangelical, would the doctrine’s role in Augustine’s theology be X, < X or > X? "

    8. Thank you for the Michael Graves reference. And agree on the Woodbridge nod, lots of fine historical backdrop. Also in the mix is Richard Alfred Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics - Holy Scripture Vol 2, which I mention in a post about the apographa and autographa issue.

      For a survey of the early church writings, we have a fine earlier book available online:

      The inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture : a study in the literature of the first five centuries (1919)
      George Duncan Barry

      Augustine is on p. 137-146 with the quote given by Maurice Robinson on p. 146 " single error due to the author..." in a differing translation.

      When I checked the composite quote from Theophilus of Antioch (used by Pickering from Barry) I noticed that the composite method needs careful checking of the original source for context.

      Note that Barry is more involved in inspiration than infallibility and inerrancy.

      Steven Avery

    9. From John Frame: "Sometimes attempts to reconcile apparent discrepancies are hugely implausible (one thinks of the assertion of some that Peter must have denied Jesus six times), and appeals to textual corruption can be an asylum of ignorance, unless actual evidence of textual corruption exists. Often it is better to leave these problems unanswered." From his Doctrine of the Word of God, pp. 544-545

    10. For some examples cf. Frame's Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization

    11. You mean Poythress's? And you mean examples of what is "hugely impossible"?

    12. My bad. You are right. I was wrong. I confused them.

    13. Ryan,
      It is absurd to think that scholarly = the requirement that one be open to the possibility of an errant autograph. Faithless scholarship has, for years now, placed the Scripture in the dock and called upon autonomous human reason to judge its nature. I have a newsflash for you, the doctrine of a divinely inspired text is not "known" except by divine illumination. Why would I make such an outrageous claim? The doctrine of inspiration claims that the Bible, as originally given was given by God supernaturally through human instruments. No amount of evidence you could ever offer can deliver the doctrine of inspiration. It is a spiritual commitment that can only be genuinely held by those whom God has called to himself. It is NOT similar to a Muslim believing that the Qur'an, for example, is inspired. This has MUCH MORE to do with faith than it does with much more.

      To say that my commitment to inerrancy is unscholarly while the other man's commitment to human reason is not, is itself guilty of pretentious and arrogant bias if ever there was one.

  21. Overall, I think the idea of inerrancy is doing much more harm than good these days. I don't know if that disqualifies me from being an evangelical or not. Frankly, I'm not sure who would have the authority to decide that. I believe the scriptures are inspired, and I believe they are true in the theology that they affirm. I'm sure God could have given us an inerrant set of scriptures if he'd chose to, but the evidence suggests to me that he did not make that choice, and instead allowed the scriptures to be just as errant as the people who preach them. I don't see the benefit in pretending otherwise.


    1. Ryan,
      Why don't you parade your evidence out for evaluation Ryan? I would be willing to wager that your evidence is little more than your own philosophical bias and theological prejudice controlling your approach and interpretation of the evidence.

      You believe the doctrine of inerrancy is doing more harm because, if you're like others whose faith rests as much in your own reason as it does in anything else, you cannot figure out how to harmonize the Bible with modern sensibilities. And so, where these two clash, the Bible must give. You fellows call it removing obstacles to belief. I call it a pseudo-factory. The move to compromise Scripture does little more than manufacture pseudos, filling the pews with fakes and frauds, all the while living in the delusion that somehow the compromise makes Christianity intellectually respectable in the eyes of the academy again. How many seminary professors earn a living sowing unbelief rather than true godly faith?

  22. We should point out an example where even Critical Text aficianados, evangelical or atheist, reject their normal textual approach simply because it is unacceptable from the perspective of inerrancy.

    "under a candlestick" in Mark 4:21.

    ἐπὶ] B2 2427 Byz ς WHtext
    ὑπὸ] ‭א B* f13 33 1071 pc WHmg

    Mark 4:21
    And he said unto them,
    Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel,
    or under a bed?
    and not to be set on a candlestick?

    Hort put it in his margin, he respected the reading, yet by textual evidences it would easily have been in the text. Why not?

    "under" went over the high bar threshold of errancy, so it was included in the Critical Text. The real question then is not the concept, but how high the bars of errancy and/or absurdity before a reading will be rejected.


    To some Jesus being angry in Mark 1:41 is the original text. Yet to others, it is over the bar of absurdity, even if it had any substantive textual evidence (which it does not.)

    Steven Avery

  23. Correction:
    so it was ** not ** included in the Critical Text.

    1. But the oil lamp (λυχνος) still should have been placed on a lampstand (λυχνιαν) rather than upon (επι) a culturally anachronistic KJV "candlestick".

  24. Inerrancy and Textual Analysis

    Overall, I think the most germane Bible verses to the OP may be those, like Mark 1:41 above, where the inerrancy component is already packed into the Critical Text. And thus invisible to most of our theorists, who use the CT and its apparatus and its biases and its rigging as a normal starting point.. Thus our textual critics are being driven, or ruled, by inerrancy concerns without even being aware of the process!

    Here is another:

    Matthew 27:49
    The rest said, Let be,
    let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

    The following is the addition in the Alexandrian mss and given double confusion brackets by Westcott-Hort:

    “And another [soldier] took a spear and pierced him in the side, and water and blood flowed out.” - NETBible note

    This one they have removed from the Critical Text, pretty clearly because of the inerrancy concerns with John 19:34 and the question as to whether Jesus was alive or dead at the time.

    Hort had it in the text with his double bracket confusion. Today it is the rejected section, with the omission getting a B in the ABCD system.

    By manuscript evidence, by Critical Text sensibilities, this sentence would easily be included, with Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and much more evidence in support.

    Thus our evangelicals, and even the atheists, who are Critical Text aficianados, have a sentence that is omitted with inerrancy as a prime consideration.


    Looking at Whitney and Weiss discussing Hort, there are other verses where the rejection was possibly the weakness, or errancy, of the Vaticanus-primacy text. Mark 4:21, Galatians 2:12, James 1:17 Revelation 18:21 Hebrews 1:8 and Acts 12:25 are some that could be checked..

    1. SA: "like Mark 1:41 above, where the inerrancy component is already packed into the Critical Text."

      Even if the sole Greek MS reading in Bezae were original, I fail to see how either an "angry" or "compassionate" Jesus in the actual context would impact inerrancy one way or another. Such seems too much of an overreach at this point.

    2. Steven,
      So, if I understand you, your contention is that since the CE does not follow the earliest external evidence in these verses the editors had to have been motivated by inerrancy, even if they did not realize it. I assume you don't buy their eclectic argument based on internal evidence or that they are not really attached to the 'Alexandrian Manuscripts'?

    3. Just for the record, I consider the Mt 27:49 longer addition clearly to have been part and parcel of the Alexandrian archetype, and I do think that those favoring the critical text approach should include such (even within double brackets), just as did Westcott and Hort (inerrancy or lack of such not being a central issue in that regard).

    4. SA: “like Mark 1:41 above, where the inerrancy component is already packed into the Critical Text.”

      Maurice properly questions this above. He is correct, I meant to be referencing Mark 4:21, under a a candlestick. My error.

  25. Timothy, great question, and the answer is a very slightly qualified YES,

    Matthew 27:49 is a good example. By Alexandrian Critical Text standards the evidence for the inclusion is massive. Thus the note from Maurice Robinson right above, which de facto expresses puzzlement that the sentence is given sort shrift in CT circles.

    And I think it is well known that the Metzger internal considerations, often passed down from Hort and others, are based on moving the target to match the Alexandrian-Vaticanus arrow. They are apologetically based. You can easily find inconsistencies. (James Snapp is good on that kind of stuff.)

    There are lots of legitimate reasons why Matthew and John could use similar wording to describe the same event.

    Thus I contend that errancy embarrassment is at the core. Similarly for "his daughter Herodias" being left out of most English Bibles despite being preferred in the NA CT (not sure of the ABCD code offhand.)

    Now I don't want this to sound too dogmatic, I am certainly open to counterpoint, this is simply sharing what I sense to be the underlying cause. And thus, is directly germane to the Peter Wiliams blog post.


  26. Contra what some believe, Textual Criticism has its limitations. It can neither confirm nor rebut the Christian's knowledge that the Scripture is truly the Word of God, or God speaking. At best, it TC can only make conclusions about what the Bible, the Scripture, claims itself to be. The source for the conviction that the Bible is or is NOT the Word of God is either natural or it is something else. If it is natural, then it parallels other religious beliefs like, for example, the Muslim's belief that the Qur'an is God's perfect revelation. But the Christian belief is not that. The Christian conviction regarding the nature of Scripture has no parallel. I am not saying that some individual Christian's conviction in the concrete, has no parallel. Surely it can and does. I am saying that the biblically genuine Christian conviction regarding the nature of Scripture as infallible is not the product of natural investigation, argument, textual research, etc. It is something much greater than that. Some apparently do not like the notion that TC is limited, that it cannot establish nor overturn the doctrine of inerrancy in and of itself. Others think my viewpoint is unscholarly. My only interest in discussions like this is to be faithful. The "best" scholarship in the world is worth less than a pile of steaming cow dung if it proves to be unfaithful.

  27. I would like to add a comment to this discussion. It was mentioned earlier that Warfield held the belief that only the original autographs of the Scripture can be described as being inspired and inerrant and that copies of the same Scripture do not share those same qualities. If that be the case, then what about the Old Testament that Jesus preached from in the Synagogues of his day? These Old Testament scrolls had been copied down for more than 1400 years from the time of Moses [or earlier if you accept the Patriarchal pre-authorship of of the records of Genesis [Gen 5:1] which Moses then compiled and edited into the present day book of Genesis [see Josephus].

    Therefore, according to Warfield, if only autographs of the Scripture are inspired and inerrant and copies do not share those qualities, doesn't that mean that the Scriptures that Jesus used were not inspired nor inerrant? Warfield's view makes no sense at all. If apographs of the Scripture are faithful in recording the exact words of the original
    "autographs" then by necessity they must also share the same inspiration and inerrancy qualities of those same original autographs. If not, then are we not doomed to a futile search for that one and only inspired and inerrant "original autograph" of the books of the Bible not unlike the futile search for the "holy grail"? The Bible itself and Jesus himself refutes such an idea as this.

    Talking of the copies of Scripture [Old Testament] of his day, he had this to say:

    Matt 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

    Thus, Jesus assigns inerrancy to the copies of Scripture of his day not to some "original autograph".

    Again, Jesus says,

    Jn 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken

    Just another example of Jesus referring to the copies of the Scripture of his day as "cannot be broken". He is not talking about some "original autograph".

    Another example:

    Matt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    Here, Jesus assures us for all time the inerrancy of the copies of Scripture to the very jot and tittle [letters] until the passing away of the present heaven and earth.

    And now for the New Testament:

    Matt 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

    Christ promises that his words shall not pass away even to the end of heaven and earth. Of course, we believe these are in reference to his words in the four Gospels.

    Even Peter declares that their preaching of the Gospel is the word of the Lord that endures forever:

    1 Peter 1:24-25 “All flesh is as grass,
    And all the glory of man[a] as the flower of the grass.
    The grass withers,
    And its flower falls away,
    25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”[b]
    Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

    Of course, that preaching of the Gospel is found in the Epistles of the New Testament.

    Many more passages of Scripture could be cited, however, for now this is sufficient.

    I must agree with Steven Avery that the qualities of inspiration and inerrancy have been passed on to those copies of Scripture that have faithfully recorded the words of the original autographs. Warfield is not correct in asserting that only the original autographs of Scripture are inspired and inerrant. The Bible and Jesus himself refutes such an idea.



    1. GB,
      The issue is related to the process of human copying. Manuscripts whether OT or NT were hand copied for hundreds of years. I can affirm that the Autographs are both inspired and inerrant while still acknowledging the human process. At least in this discussion, I have not seen anyone that holds to this or a similar position argue that because we do not have inerrant copies our present bibles do not accurately represent the ausgangstext. I would go so far as to claim that because of the quantity and quality of the manuscript tradition that we have the inerrant/inspired text of the NT however, in some limited instances we can not yet be absolutely sure which of two viable variants are original. This last situation is really the crux of this post. When there are multiple viable variants and at least one of them seems inconsistent with what we would prefer and another variant is consistent do we follow our normal rules for identifying the ausgangstext or do we decide based on our view of inerrancy. I for one, would rather struggle with understanding the text based on a consistent process than a text that I chose because it was easier.

    2. Thanks for your response. I am glad that we agree that even in our copies of Scripture we have the inspired, inerrant word of God. And,yes, in the minority of passages we have to choose between variants. But let us also remember that in the vast majority of the passages of Scripture both the Majority text and the neolgian or nu text agree somewhere in the 90% level I have heard from amywhere from 90-97% of agreement which is really quite amazing.

      Perhaps I misunderstood what Warfield meant by what he said. I should go to the source itself rather than depending on other people's view of what he said.

      Therefore, I have copied a quote of Warfield from one of Steve Avery's comments:

      The Presbyterian Review, Volume 2 (1881)
      Inspiration - April, 1881 p. 225-260
      Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield

      “We do not assert that the common text, but only that the original autographic text was inspired. No ‘error’ can be asserted, therefore, which cannot be proved to have been aboriginal in the text.”

      It seems to me [at least from this quote of Warfield] that he is saying that the "common text" [guessing the TR] is not inspired but only the autographs. If words mean anything how else can I take what he says here? Again, I must disagree with Warfield here. The common text is just as "inspired" and "inerrant" as the "original autographic" where it has copied correctly the "autographic" text. So, can you tell me what Warfield's point is? Because it seems very contradictory to me.

  28. One final word on Warfield [at least for a while]. St. Paul has this to say about the inspiration of Scripture:

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    A more accurate rendition would be "God-breathed" [inspired]. So, it is quite clear from this Scripture that Paul is not talking about some "inspired original autograph" from the past but a fully "inspired" copy[ies] of the Scripture of his day that he and other Christians possessed at that moment. So, not only is Warfield absolutely wrong about only the original autographs being inspired and not copies [sharing that inspiration] he outrights contradicts the Scripture in saying so. And I believe it is a very serious error and contradiction he has made here. His theory is simply not true.

    While most people that I have talked to believe that Paul is talking only about the Old Testament inspiration here, I believe he is also talking about the New Testament as well.


  29. GB,
    Last from me also. Warfield believed in and preached the Gospel from the 'common text'. His statement just acknowledges that there is variance in the manuscript tradition and that men have decided which variant to include in the common text. By stating his claim as he did, he can uphold the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the scriptures even if someone showed a real error in the common text. His last sentence above makes this clear.


    1. Tim,

      Thank you for responding to me. I really appreciate it. I do understand your explanation of why Warfield said what he said. I do believe, however, that we are not in full agreement about the "inspiration" issue. I will leave it at that. Anyway, thanks again for your response, I have enjoyed chatting with you.


  30. P.S.


    I wanted to correct my statement. I believe we are in agreement on inspiration. I do believe, however, that we are not in full agreement as to Warfield's statement on inspiration cited above. Thanks, again.


  31. CAINAN LK 3:36

    I wanted to add this to this blog because I thought it was interesting. The explanation of Cainan [Cain] found in Lk 3:36 is from Francis Turretin's 21 Questions on the Doctrine of Scripture . Now, whether it is the solution of the problem of the geneology of Luke let each one here decide. I give it without comment.

    XII. Luke 3:36, concerning the younger Cain who is placed between Arpachshad and Shelah,
    contrary to the truth of the Mosaic record (Gen. 11:13), offers indeed a difficult problem, which learned
    scholars interpret in different ways, but it should not be regarded as an insoluble one, since various forms
    of solution are possible. For our part, not mentioning other opinions, we consider most appropriate that
    which regards this Cain as a suppositious and spurious [person], who crept in, through the carelessness of
    copyists, from the Septuagint version, in which he had existed before the time of Christ, as the chronology
    of Demetrius quoted in Eusebius's De praeperatione evangelii witnesses; or through some pious intent [of
    copyists], who did not want to oppose Luke to the Septuagint, whose authority was then considerable. The
    following data support this: (1) the authority of Moses and of the Books of Chronicles, which make no
    mention of him in their genealogies, in which there are three places where clearly he should have been
    included (Gen.10:24 and 11:13; I Chron.1:18). (2) The Chaldean paraphrase, which altogether omits this (3 of 5) [23/11/2006 09:40:04 p.m.]
    Apparent Contradictions in Scripture by Francis Turretin (1623-1687)
    Cain both in Genesis and in Chronicles. (3) Josephus does not mention him, nor does Berosus to whom he
    refers, nor [Julius] Africanus whom Eusebius quotes. (4) [If his existence is upheld] the sacred chronology
    would be confused, and the Mosaic record would be brought into doubt, if Cain is inserted between
    Arpachshad and Shelah, and Noah becomes the eleventh after Abraham, not the tenth as Moses states.
    (5)[This Cain] is not found in all the codices. Our Beza witnesses to his absence from his oldest
    manuscript, and Ussher states (Dissertatio de Cainane, p.196) that he has seen a copy of Luke in Greek
    and Latin on a very old parchment, in large letters without breathings and accents, which was long ago
    taken from Greece to France and placed in the monastery of Saint Irenaeus near Lyons, and in 1562
    removed, and then taken to England and given to Cambridge University, in which Cain in not listed.
    Scaliger affirms, in his prologue to the chronicle of Eusebius, that this Cain is lacking in the oldest copies of
    Luke. Whatever may be the facts, although this passage in Luke may be said to contain an error, Luke's
    authenticity cannot be brought into doubt on account of it, for (1) the corruption is not universal; (2) little
    falsehood is contained in it, and the correction for that is easily supplied from Moses, so that there was no
    need for the learned Isaac Voss to be concerned over the purity of the Hebrew codices, that he might
    defend the authenticity of the Septuagint.



    According to Bibleworks 9 apparatus

    Cainan is missing in mss P75 and D05

    At least for some Critical scholars, doesn't P75 and D05 carry some weight? I have seen some textual decisions made on basically B vaticanus by itself or literally by itself and even D05 literally by itself [Hort]

    Also, while Cainan is in the Septuagent version of Gen 10:24 and 11:13 it is mysteriously missing in the Septuagent version of 1 Chronicles 1:24 and instead follows the Hebrew text.

    Hebrew Text:

    1:24 ¶ Shem,º Arphaxad,º Shelah,º
    1:25 Eber,º Peleg,º Reu,º

    Septuagent text:

    1:24 ¶ and Arphaxad, Sala,
    1:25 Eber, Pheleg, Ragan,

    Curious, huh?

    So, the Septuagent contradicts itself.

    So, which is it Septuagent? arphaxad, Sala or arphaxad,Cainan, Sala?

    Does this not change the evidence somewhat to know that the Septuagent contradicts itself in the geneologies and in one of the verses above actually confirms the Hebrew text?


    So, where did Cainan come from? Who knows?

    I would usually not spend this much time on this but the issue is very important. If the Cainan variant of the Septuagent is the correct reading, then the Hebrew text is in error in 5 verses not just one.[(Gen.10:24 and 11:13; I Chron.1:18, 1 Chronicles 1:24 and the verse Turretin mentions as 10 from Abraham [not sure where that is].

    This changes the whole perspective for me.

    If I had a choice between the Hebrew or or Septuagent text. I would prefer the Hebrew[original] over a [translation] Septuagent that has now been shown to contradict itself and in one place confirm and agree with the Hebrew text in omitting Cainan[whoever he is].

    Although I haven't made my final decision yet, I am leaning in favor of the Hebrew text and the omitting of Cainan.

    There, I said it.