More Questions Regarding KJV/Textus Receptus Onlyism

Pulpit & Pen ran an article from Pastor Dane Johannsson on the superiority of the Textus Receptus. Although P&P does not take have an official position on the subject and uses the ESV in our Scriptural citations, we believed the conversation was worth having, especially as so many shrill, angry voices are on both sides. P&P values serious discourse and polite exchange of ideas, and so we posted Five Good Reasons Reformed Christians Should Use the KJV.

Responding to Johannssen with three questions was Corbin Hartterr, and we posted his Three Questions for the Textus Receptus or KJV-Only View. And then we posted Johannsenn’s article in response to those questions.

James White responded to Johannsenn’s article on The Dividing Line with accusations that holding to the King James or Textus Receptus (TR) was a “dangerous” position and that he could not debate against Muslims alongside a TR advocate, as he will soon do with a Charismatic Chaos advocate, Michael Brown. If Dr. White would like to provide a written response to the direct arguments presented by Johannssen in written form, rather than through an invective monologue via his webcast, we would be happy to publish his retort (so long as it is with gentleness and respect).

However, Michael Remus has some additional questions for Johannssen regarding the TR-only position, which we are publishing below. We pray that people will continue to interact on this issue in a responsible and mature fashion.

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I am a church layman whose church uses the ESV. After reading Dane Jöhannsson’s arguments for what he calls the Confessional Text View (CTV), I had some questions for Mr. Jöhannsson following up on Corbin Hartterr’s article. Although I know little about the TR’s history or textual criticism, I believe these questions go to the heart of the matter, and answers to them would be immensely helpful for all parties involved.

Question #1: Did the TR editors hold to a Confessional Text View?It is all very well and good to make a historical, evidence-based textual critical argument for holding to the TR. However, Jöhannsson appears to elevate the TR to a level of inerrancy and authority that the NASB/ESV lack; he says these latter versions contain “much” of the Word of God, but not all of it as the TR does. It seems to be a reasonable question to ask if the editors of the TR themselves thought this text was the perfectly accurate God-given continuation of His revelation.

The TR editors’ work was monumental and important, but what did they think of it theologically? Did they ever intend for future Christians to rely solely on their text, even if a massive textual discovery were to happen down the road? Was their theological position a prototype of what we now call CTV?—and, if their views were, how do we know they weren’t wrong or misguided? If the TR editors themselves had a different view of evidence and variant readings contrary to CTV, if seems odd to appeal to their text but not to the views that produced it.

Question #2: Would the TR editors have changed their text if they had access to today’s data?If the choices of the TR editors weren’t mysterious, ipse dixit infallible pronouncements, then it stands to reason that they had textual critical methods which they applied to the available evidence. It also stands to reason that we can analyze and critique those methods, and it makes sense to wonder if they would have made different decisions if they had different evidence or a more complete understanding of textual transmission.

Would the TR look different today if the TR editors had’ve had the data we currently do? If yes, then one must conclude the TR as we have it should, for accuracy and truth’s sake, be replaced by better versions. But if not, if the TR is immutable and immune to updated historical knowledge, if the TR is the final word on God’s Word: why? Are we not departing from a commitment to discovering what the Scriptural authors actually said? Or has God, supernaturally, mysteriously, and sometimes against good manuscript evidence, given the Gold Stamp of Inerrant Approval to every one of the TR readings? And how would we know if He did?

The answers CTV might give to Questions 1 & 2 seem very similar, if not functionally identical, to an argument for a “re-inspiration” of the Bible in the 16th century—”anything post-TR can only live in light of it, and efforts to ‘improve’ it go against God’s purpose to preserve His Word in the TR”. I am not sure we can say CTV wants to discover the original manuscript readings at all, given that (as Jöhannsson himself says) CTV determines the Word of God not by historical evidence but by looking to a Reformation-era text. The words of Scripture, and any variants readings therein, are determined by the mere fact of their inclusion in the TR, even if they don’t seem original. If CTV wants to deny the TR is in a sense re-inspired, how is such a denial not a distinction without a difference?

Thanks, and I hope Mr. Jöhannsson interacts with these questions!

[Editor’s Note: Questions or responses regarding the TR position may be sent to talkback@pulpitandpen.org]



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