God Has Preserved His Text.pdf - GOD HAS PRESERVED HIS TEXT The Divine Preservation of the New Testament Wilbur N Pickering ThM PhD \u00a9 1 CONTENTS PART I

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Unformatted text preview: GOD HAS PRESERVED HIS TEXT! The Divine Preservation of the New Testament Wilbur N. Pickering, ThM PhD © 1 CONTENTS PART I: A Review of the Premises Introduction Page 5 The Autographs Early Recognition The apostolic period 6 8 9 The second century 10 Were Early Christians Careful? 13 The apostles The early fathers Irenaeus 14 14 15 Tertullian Who Was Best Qualified? 15 16 Access to the Autographs Proficiency in the source language The strength of the Church 16 17 18 Attitude toward the Text Was the Transmission Normal? 20 21 The normal transmission The abnormal transmission 22 23 Most damage done by 200 A.D. The aberrant text forms The Stream of Transmission 24 25 25 What Is the Actual Evidence? The uncials 30 30 The cursives Concluding Remarks 36 37 PART II: The Best Line of Transmission Introduction 40 Family 35 Profile for the Whole New Testament Copyist Care Quotient f35 in Mark—raw data A representative case Incredibly careful transmission 43 63 65 68 69 Incredibly Careful Transmission Performance of f35 MSS in the Thessalonian epistles Performance of f35 MSS in 2 & 3 John and Jude 2 71 71 75 The Best Complete New Testament 77 Concerning the Text of the Pericope Adulterae 83 M7 profile 83 M6 84 85 M5 profile profile Unambiguous M7 (f35) representatives = 245 MSS The Divine Preservation of the Original Wording of the General Epistles Performance of f35 MSS in individual books for the General Epistles Interpretation 86 88 89 91 But Is the Archetypal Text of Family 35 the Autograph? PART III: Some Residual Questions Is Family 35 Ancient? 93 95 Kr The Dating of Revisited Early Uncial Support for Family 35 in the General Epistles 96 102 When Is a Recension? An Alexandrian recension? A Byzantine recension? 104 105 106 Mt. Athos Mt. Sinai An f35 107 108 Megistis Lavras (Kr) recension? 109 111 Down with Canards! Archetype in the General Epistles—f35 yes, Kx no James 1 Peter 2 Peter 112 119 119 120 122 1 John 2 & 3 John and Jude ‘Concordia Discors’ and f35 Minority Readings in the General Epistles 122 123 124 James 1 Peter 124 128 2 Peter 1 John 132 135 APPENDIX “Accumulated Errors of Fourteen Centuries” 35 f Subgroups in the General Epistles 139 Group 1 148 149 Group 2 150 3 Down with Forgery! 153 K. Aland on Egypt 154 Eusebius (Caesarea) 154 Jerome (Bethlehem) Addendum 155 155 Is NT Textual Criticism a Science? A bit of relevant history The nature of a scientific exercise 155 156 159 The transmission of the Text 162 The ‘crux’ of a ‘lost’ Original 164 The Root Cause for the Continuous Defection from Biblical Infallibility and Consequent Objective Authority A bit of relevant history Why the defection is continuous Is there a way to stop the defection? Vehicles for promoting the truth A convincing presentation Neutralizing the interference The ‘crux’ of a ‘lost’ Original 167 167 171 174 174 175 178 183 4 PART I: A Review of the Premises Introduction If the Sovereign Creator exists, and if He has addressed a written revelation to our race, then nothing is more important for us than to know what He said (with a view to obeying it, if we are smart). This because such a revelation will have objective authority over us (although the Creator gives us the option of rejecting that authority [but due regard should be given to the consequences]). The enemy has always understood this better than most of us, and began his attacks early on—“Yea, hath God said, . . .?” (Genesis 3:1). Of course many books have been written, pro and con, and I will here content myself with declaring these as presuppositions that I bring to my task: the Sovereign Creator exists, and He has addressed a written revelation to our race. The discipline of textual criticism (of whatever text) is predicated on the assumption/ allegation/declaration that there is a legitimate doubt about the precise original wording of a text. No one does textual criticism on the 1611 King James Bible since copies of the original printing still exist. With reference to New Testament textual criticism, the crucial point at issue is the preservation of its Text. For any text to have objective authority, we have to know what it is. It is often assumed by the ignorant and uninformed—even on a university campus—that textual criticism of the New Testament is supported by a superstitious faith in the Bible as a book dictated in miraculous fashion by God. That is not true. Textual criticism has never existed for those whose New Testament is one of miracle, mystery, and authority. A New Testament created under those auspices would have been handed down under them and would have no need of textual criticism.1 Thus wrote Colwell in 1952. In 1948 he was even more antagonistic.2 In simple terms his argument went like this: If God had inspired the New Testament text, He would have preserved it; He did not preserve it, so therefore He did not inspire it. I tend to agree with his logical inference [if his facts were correct], only I propose to turn the tables: It is demonstrable that God preserved the New Testament Text, so therefore He must have inspired it! I consider that the preservation of the NT Text is a strong argument for its inspiration, and since it is inspiration that gives it its authority, the two doctrines go hand in hand.3 Of course my use of the term ‘demonstrable’ is the red flag here; anyone who has not read my recent work could argue that I am begging the question. Objective authority depends on verifiable meaning; if a reader/hearer can give any meaning he chooses to a message, any authority it ends up having for him will be relative and subjective (the ‘neo-orthodox’ approach). As a linguist (PhD) I affirm that the fundamental principle of communication is this: both the speaker/writer and the hearer/reader must respect the norms of language, in particular those of the specific code being used. If the encoder violates the rules, he will be deceiving the decoder (deliberately, if he knows what he is doing). If the decoder violates the rules, he will misrepresent the encoder (deliberately, 1 E.C. Colwell, What is the Best New Testament? (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. 8. 2 Colwell, “Biblical Criticism: Lower and Higher”, Journal of Biblical Literature, LXVII (1948), 10-11. 3 I consider also that the preservation of the NT Text is a strong argument for its canonicity. Why did God preserve only the 27 books that form that canon, no more, no less, no others? 5 if he knows what he is doing). In either event communication is damaged; the extent of the damage will depend on the circumstances. Several times the Lord Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of the Truth”, and Titus 1:2 affirms that God cannot lie—it is one thing He cannot do, being contrary to His essence; “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). It should be obvious to one and all that the Sovereign will not take kindly to being called a liar. To interpret the Sacred Text in a way that is not faithful to the rules of Hebrew and Greek, respectively, is to ascribe to the Author the intention of deceiving us, is to call Him a liar—not smart. But to interpret the Text, we must have it, so I return to the subject of preservation. I invite attention to the following evidence, in relief of the term ‘demonstrable’. The Autographs When I speak of the divine preservation of the New Testament Text, I am referring to the precise wording of the original documents, the Autographs. When I speak of preservation, I am presuming divine inspiration; they are logically interdependent. Why would God inspire a written revelation if He was not going to preserve it? Why would God preserve writings that He had not inspired? I consider that the preservation of the NT Text is perhaps the strongest argument in favor of its inspired nature. The same holds true for the precise selection of books that make up the NT Canon. Since I consider that Matthew’s Gospel was the first NT book to be released to the public (‘published’), I will begin with it. By the time that Matthew 'published' his Gospel in AD 38,1 the production of books in the Roman Empire was widespread, but there was no 'copyright'. As soon as a book was turned loose it became 'public domain', anyone could use it and change it. Now then, if the Holy Spirit gave thought to protecting the works that He was inspiring, protecting against free editing, what could He do? I suggest that the most obvious way would be to have those works 'published' in the form of multiple copies. Today the first run of a book will usually be thousands of copies, but in those days each copy had to be handwritten (manuscript). A book the size of Matthew's Gospel would represent a considerable investment of time and effort, as well as papyrus and ink. I believe the NT writings were prepared in book form from the first (not scroll), and the material used was probably papyrus.2 However, papyrus cannot stand a lot of handling, and by the year 38 there were many Christian congregations just in the Jewish territory, not to mention elsewhere. If the Holy Spirit intended that the NT writings should have a wide circulation, which would seem to be obvious, it would be necessary to start out with multiple copies. A single copy of Matthew would be falling apart before it got to the twentieth congregation (if on papyrus). But why do I insist on papyrus instead of parchment? Well, a single copy of Matthew would represent around fifteen sheep or goats; on that basis, who could afford multiple copies? That said, however, the master copy may indeed have been done on parchment, for two reasons: if a master copy was to be kept, for quality control, it should be on durable material; if multiple copies of the master copy were to be made before turning it loose to the public, a master copy on papyrus could not last. 1 The colophones in 50% of the MSS, including Family 35, say that Matthew was 'published' eight years after the ascension of the Christ. Since Jesus ascended in 30 AD, Matthew was released in 38. The colophones say that Mark was published two years later (40), and Luke another five years later (45), and John in 62. 2 "Bring the books, especially the parchments" (2 timothy 4:13). We may gather from this that parchment was already in use, but the 'books' were presumably on papyrus; otherwise, why the contrast? 6 The idea of publishing a book in the form of multiple copies may be inferred from the Epistles. 2 Corinthians was written to “the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia” (verse 1). How many congregations would there have been “in all Achaia”? Was Paul thinking of multiple copies? 1 Corinthians was addressed to "all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 2). Now how many copies would that take? Galatians was written to “the churches of Galatia” (verse 2). Could a single copy get to all of them? Consider the case of Peter’s first letter: it is addressed to believers in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (verse 1). Well now, what basis could Peter (apostle to the circumcised, Galatians 2:8) have for writing to people in those places? Probably a good number of the older leaders had been with Peter at Pentecost, and had sat under his ministry until the persecution under Saul sent them packing back home, presumably (Acts 8:4). Notice that the list of places in Acts 2:9-11 includes the following places in Asia Minor: Asia, Cappadocia, Pamphylia, Phrygia and Pontus. Three of the five are in Peter’s list, and we need not assume that his list was exhaustive; for that matter, the list in Acts 2:9-11 is probably not exhaustive. Have you ever looked at a map to see the location of Peter’s five provinces? They basically represent the whole of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey)! ‘Asia’ seems to have been used in different ways. Acts 27:2 has Asia including Cilicia and Pamphylia (verse 5). The glorified Christ put the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4). In Acts 16:6 the term seems to refer to a more limited area, which, however, presumably included Ephesus, to which Paul returned later. Proconsular Asia included Mysia and Phrygia. Now how many congregations would there have been in all of Asia Minor? And how could a single copy get around to all of them? If the letter was written on papyrus (as seems likely—cheaper, more abundant) it would be falling apart by the time it got to the twentieth congregation, if not before (papyrus cannot stand all that much handling). Now let us just suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Peter sent five copies of his letter, one to each province. What would the implications be for the transmission of its Text? It means that you multiply the process and progress of transmission by five! It means that you have the beginnings of a ‘majority text’ very early on. It means that the basic integrity of the text would be guaranteed (the more so if God was superintending the process). If Peter sent out more than five copies, so much the more. And what about James; how many copies would it take to reach “the twelve tribes that are in the dispersion” (verse 1)? (Does not the very term ‘dispersion’ suggest that they were widely scattered? And what if the ‘twelve tribes’ is literal?) Peter’s second letter does not list the five provinces, but 3:1 would appear to indicate that he was targeting the same area. To see that I did not pull the idea of multiple copies out of thin air, let’s consider 2 Peter 1:1215. Verses 12 & 13 refer to repeated reminders while he is still in his 'tent', which would be his own ongoing activity; so why the 'moreover' in verse 15? In the NKJV verse 15 reads: “Moreover, I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease”. Well, how can you ‘ensure’ that someone will ‘always have a reminder’ of something? It seems clear to me that the something has to be written down; a reminder has to be in writing, to be guaranteed. So what is Peter’s intention? He specifies “a reminder of these things”, so what are the ‘these things’? They are evidently the things he will discuss in 7 this letter. But he must be referring to something more than the initial draft of the letter (or the verse becomes meaningless)—hence, multiple copies.1 If Peter wrote his second letter under divine inspiration, then 1:15 is inspired, and in that event the idea of multiple copies came from God. It would be an efficient means of preserving the Text and guaranteeing its integrity down through the years of transmission. The churches in Asia Minor could always cross check with one another whenever a doubt arose or need required. If it was God's idea that a small letter be 'published' in the form of multiple copies, then how much more the larger books. Obviously God knew what He was doing, so the practice would have begun with the very first NT book, Matthew.2 The idea is so good that it became the norm, the more so if it was a divine order. I believe all the NT books were released in the form of multiple copies, with the exception of the letters addressed to individuals. (Since Luke and Acts are addressed to an individual, they also may have started out as a single copy, unless Theophilus was a 'benefactor' who was financing the multiple copies. Luke and Acts are the two longest books of the NT, and multiple copies of them would represent a significant financial investment.) Again I say, the idea is so good, I would not be surprised if once they got it the churches would set about making multiple copies of other writings they considered to be inspired, such as letters to individuals. A ‘majority text’ would be well established throughout the Aegean area (Greece and Asia Minor) already in the first century. The ‘heartland of the Church’ (to use K. Aland’s phrase) simply kept on using and copying that form of text—hence the mass of Byzantine MSS that have come down to us. Early Recognition3 Naturalistic critics like to assume that the New Testament writings were not recognized as Scripture when they first appeared and thus, through the consequent carelessness in transcription, the text was confused and the original wording ‘lost’ (in the sense that no one knew for sure what it was) at the very start. Thus Colwell said: “Most of the manuals and 1 It was Mike Loehrer, a pastor in California, , who called 2 Peter 1:12-15 to my attention and got me started thinking about it. With reference to verse 15 he wrote me the following: “Could choosing to use mneme with poieo in the middle voice mean to ensure a way of always being able to validate a memory? In those days most people could not afford their own copy of a writing, and the church would no doubt become the repository of an autograph anyway. The usual way of getting the Scripture back then was by committing it to memory when hearing it during the public reading. Having multiple autographs in multiple locations would definitely ensure a way of validating a memory. Even if the leaders of a church or synagogue were imprisoned and their autograph was seized or destroyed, they could rest assured that they could locate another autograph to validate their memory of the way a verse or passage was actually written.” The idea of validating a memory is as interesting as it is suggestive. Peter’s use of mnhmh, basically reflexive, with poiew in the middle voice, makes Mike’s suggestion a reasonable one, as it seems to me. It goes along with the multiple copies. Irenaeus puzzled over verse 15 and came up with the suggestion that Peter intended to get copies of Mark’s Gospel to those regions. Evidently the idea of multiple copies was not strange to him. And how about other books? 2 Quite apart from the idea of 'publishing' via multiple copies, consider what would happen when a congregation received a copy of 1 Peter, James, or any of Paul's Epistles, accompanied by the instruction that they had to pass it on. If you were one of the elders of that congregation, what would you do? I would most certainly make a copy for us to keep. Wouldn't you? The point is, as soon as an inspired book began to circulate, the proliferation of copies began at once. And that means that a 'majority text' also began at once! 3 From this point on, this Part I is basically a reproduction (with a few embellishments) of Chapter 5 in my book, The Identity of the New Testament Text IV, available from Amazon.com, as well as from my site, . 8 handbooks now in print (including mine!) will tell you that these variations were the fruit of careless treatment which was possible because the books of the New Testament had not yet attained a strong position as ‘Bible’."1 And Hort had said: Textual purity, as far as can be judged from the extant literature, attracted hardly any interest. There is no evidence to show that care was generally taken to choose out for transcription the exemplars having the highest claims to be regarded as authentic, if indeed the requisite knowledge and skill were forthcoming.2 Rather than take Hort's word for it, prudence calls for a review of the premises. The place to start is at the beginning, when the apostles were still penning the Autographs. The apostolic period It is clear that the apostle Paul, at least, considered his writings to be authoritative—see Romans 16:26,3 1 Corinthians 2:13 and 14:37, Galatians 1:6-12, Ephesians 3:4-6, Colossians 1:25-26, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6-14. And it is reasonable to infer from Colossians 4:16 and 1 Thessalonians 5:27 that he expected his writings to have a wider audience than just the particular church addressed. In fact, in Galatians 1:2 he addresses "the churches of Galatia"; not to mention 2 Corinthians 1:1, "all the saints in Achaia", and 1 Corinthians 1:2, "all who in every place"! John also is plain enough—Revelation 1:1-3 and 21:5. And so is Peter—1 Peter 1:12, 22-25 and 2 Peter 3:2. Both Paul (Romans 16:25-6, Ephesians 3:4-5) and Peter (1 Peter 1:12, 25; 2 Peter ...
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