Volume 10, Issue 3: Sharpening Iron
If you've ever cracked open this magazine before, then you might notice that, with this issue, we've changed our format a bit. We got tired of our former landscape and wanted to wander into a new format frontier. Too many fonts tried out for the roles, but the winners seemed to match our collective personality the best. The strict engineers among you will miss all the oppressive boxes and straight lines, but hey.
Starting next issue, our beloved Ben Merkle will take over as the new managing editor and will do things like write these "From Us" notes, learn to fuss about em—dashes, weed the parking lot, and milk the pig. We were so delighted when the governor commuted his sentence.
Millennium is a very hard word to spell. All across America people continue to try to sneak in only one "n" in the middle there. The stakes were even higher for us when we wrote this issue which invoked that word so many times. It provided so many opportunities to fall into the misspelling abyss. We intentionally left one use of millennium misspelled deep within the cracks of these pages. If you can find that one or any others, then we'll cut your subscription fee in half and announce it in our upcoming national convention to spell millennium correctly, or as we snappily call it: NCTSMC
Thank you for your magazine. Our family enjoys the articles, insights, and humor that fills its pages. I have just one problem. How does one read your magazine in the presence of others? Bursts of laughter and the necessity of discussing points with which I agree so heartily or disagree just as heartily cause frequent vocal outbursts (I am a victim?). These vocal outbursts are very interruptive to the others in the same or adjacent rooms. I will continue to search the pages of your tomes for appropriate advice. I tried a psychologist but could not find a therapy group for Credenda/Agenda readers (is there a lesson here?).
You guys are great! I love reading your magazine. I have never read a magazine that is so committed to publishing reformed theology in such a candid way (some times I roll on the floor). I am glad to see that you are uninhibited to teach the unadulterated Truth, and I look forward to receiving your magazine in the future. Keep up the good work. God Bless.
A little salt on the wound, as it were. Your magazine is a much needed cold cup of water in the face, refreshing and always appreciated. The humor the magazine brings necessitates the need for tummy exercises in anticipation of much laughter. Not in any way last, and certainly not least, spiritual blessings abound. Thank you!
Your selection from Turretin on the purity of the Bible (Vol. 10, No. 1) suggests that the fuss over competing Greek texts may be a tempest in a teapot.
Our Protestant forefathers were concerned to establish the supreme authority of the Scriptures in the original languages over against popish claims for the Vulgate and the Roman church. They admitted the possibility—no, the reality—of minor faults creeping into texts through careless copying or by other means.
Since the 16th and 17th centuries, in the wise providence of God, hundreds of ancient copies have come to light, allowing us to compare and analyze many small differences. This has enabled believing scholars to demonstrate further the reliability of the Hebrew and Greek Bible text as "the judge of controversies," "a canon of faith," and the sure source for our true knowledge of the only way of salvation. Our Bible was not corrupted early on but has been kept pure by God's sovereign care.
So, where does that leave us? Arguing mainly over the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53_8:11) and the longer ending of Mark's Gospel. And what's at stake? Divine approval to handle snakes and drink poison without harm! Surely God's infallible Word contains far more important things for us to know, believe, understand, and obey.
A few observations from a glassy-eyed defender of the critical text:
First, Erasmus did the TR for money, for cash.
Second, Erasmus was a "priestly scientist." He was ordained, but he never pastored a church.
Third, Erasmus employed much the same "suspect, modern method" as today's priestly scientists: he compared the manuscripts that were available to him, and, with a few exceptions, chose the readings that he thought were the best. (At least today's priestly scientists don't force readings into the New Testament from the Latin Vulgate, as Erasmus did.)
Fourth, Erasmus did not have church approval to produce his New Testament. In fact, he deliberately rushed his product to publication in order to beat out Cardinal Ximenes, who had gone through proper channels and was awaiting final ecclesiastical approval. Erasmus knew he wouldn't make as much money if he had to compete with a text that had the Pope's seal of approval.
Fifth, Erasmus believed that John 8:1_11 was a spurious passage, and put it into the text against his better judgment. (See Schaff's History of the Christian Church, volume VII, page 413.)
Sixth, Pastor Wilson's position in effect freezes all investigation into the biblical text in the year 1535, the year Erasmus' last edition was produced. He is telling us to not look at any manuscript discovered after that year. What should we do with these other manuscripts? Burn them?
On a separate but not unrelated matter, if you agree to join us now, I can promise you positions of influence in our new world order. Come, join us. Don't be afraid. . . .
I would like to express my appreciation for your boldness in dealing with the text issue. It is refreshing to see the eclectic text's modern monopoly challenged. Yet, I do not find your discussion entirely satisfying.
You write that the TR is "a collation of readings taken from the majority Byzantine texts." That is only partly true. Although the TR leaned heavily upon the Byzantine manuscripts, it also borrowed readily from the Vulgate. This is particularly true of the TR after the first two editions of Erasmus. For example, he inserted what we know as 1 Jn. 5:7-8a into his third edition—and every TR edition since followed him. This reading appears in no Greek manuscripts.
The TR is not the text of the Church. The Church has not used the TR throughout her history. The large majority of Greek manuscripts which have come down to us are Byzantine. They come to us via the Eastern Church. The TR, on the other hand, has suffered emendations from early on, apparently because Rome (Erasmus's church) was not kindly disposed to see Vulgate readings go by the wayside.
As you can see, there is only a limited appeal possible to church history. For we must ask: WHAT church history? Since the Reformation? That would be to ignore God's work of text-preservation for over 14 centuries. As you remind us repeatedly, we may not dismiss the medieval church in such a cavalier fashion. It is to them that we owe our text! But if we go back that far, we are faced with a second question: are we to assume priority for the Latin tradition or the Greek? The TR answer was to wed the two. But only the Greek tradition represents a carrying forward of the original text in the original language, rather than in a translation. And isn't that the point?
Even this does not close the matter. The manuscripts were hand-copied, not xeroxed. Naturally, there are variants. We may not appreciate the so-called neutral science of the modern text critics, but we still must answer the question of what is going to be done with the variants. Simply saying that we will adopt whatever reading the TR did is not a reasonable answer. Erasmus, Stephens, Beza, et al., also had to make such choices. (Note that they did not say, "Oh, an edition of the TR is already available—I guess there's no textual work for me to do"!) The printing press, of course, meant that their own work was preserved in the form they wrote. As a result, since the Reformation, published texts reflect few variants. But the TR should not earn its place simply on the basis of Gutenburg.
Admittedly, the TR is much better in many respects than the Nestle-Aland text that is now dominant. But if we are speaking of the original language text, the MT is unquestionably closer to providing us with the Bible of the historical Church than is any alternative. I apologize for the length of this letter. I recognize that these are complex issues, but I raise them because we need to be clear about the nature of the problem if we are to have any clue concerning how to approach it.
Our three letter writers raise many good points, and though we would take issue with some things, we concur with much of what they say. But this agreement still doesn't touch the central issue in our minds—textual matters cannot be separated from the issue of authority. In other words, who is competent to answer these questions and any other legitimate question raised? The answer must be the faithful Church. God entrusted the "oracles of God" to the Jewish church. He did not do this so that the Christian church would ignore the example and turn her sacred canon over to nonbelievers for mutilation and marketing.
So the question is never whether "textual criticism" is to be done, but rather by whom and how. The center of our critique is the insistence that secular academics and businessmen must be shown the door.
While I agree that one who would have their tongue pierced is filled with self-loathing, I did smile at the thought of them trying to say so.
All Y'all's Study Bible
In your last issue Doug Wilson claimed that contemporary English has no distinction between the singular and plural forms of you. Around here contemporary English recognizes ya'll as the singular form and all ya'll as the plural. Regretfully, my NIV Unreconstructed Southerner's Study Bible does not observe this distinction.
A Sensitive and Gentle Guy
I enjoy visiting the Credenda/Agenda website frequently. I also enjoyed reading the article, "Bitter Husbands," and was in general agreement with its message. However, there was one remark in this article that offended me as a single Christian man.
"To some extent, one of two things is happening. The first option is that the man is attempting to get the woman into bed dishonorably. The other possibility is that he is trying to do it honorably."
This depicts even Christian men as self-centered sex fiends, and only serves to reinforce the "all men are pigs" theme to our female readers. Some of us guys are really sensitive and gentle, and are actually mature enough to look for genuine companionship with a woman—not just sex.
Looking For Love
I just wanted to write to tell you how much I loved the "Husbandry" department article from Volume 10, Number 1 ("Choosing A Wife" by Douglas Wilson). It reiterated everything I have long believed about finding a wife but have sometimes doubted because I am almost 29, still single, and not loving it so much. As much as I long for a wife, I have for a long time said that I would still rather be single than be yoked with the wrong woman, for that would be far more miserable than being lonely. Shouldn't finding a woman be a step forward? Some people feel that I am just too picky, and I have sometimes wondered, "Are they right?" Thank you for helping me to say more comfortably, "No, they are not." For example, I am also tired of the refrain that sexual attraction should not be important. Not #1 priority, I agree, but the last thing my wife deserves to hear me say is, "Honey, you're the greatest despite the fact that you're so ugly. I'm so glad looks weren't important to me when I married you." Nor do I want my wife to feel that way about me!
Eric J. Finley
This letter is in response to Nancy Wilson's recent article in the "Femina" column of Credenda Agenda titled "Chastity." As I have found with the articles written by her husband, Doug, Mrs. Wilson's articles almost always reflect careful insight and sound theology. However, the recent well-meaning article on "Chastity" was sadly a poor reflection of good Reformed thinking.
Obviously no one can disagree with Mrs. Wilson that imagining another person's husband in bed is sinful and outside the Biblical mandate to be "chaste" (Matthew 5). Dressing in a way that is purposely intended to illicit the sexual lusts of other men is also "unchaste," as Mrs. Wilson wisely pointed out. However, the next several examples Mrs. Wilson offered violated the line between conscience and commandment, and ultimately implored an entirely unreformed view of ethics.
Watching a movie with a "bed scene," or being interested in the way famous people dress, are not actions in and of themselves that can be described as "unchaste." If it violates one's conscience, they should avoid such behavior (Romans 14), but the categorical labelling of such things as "unchaste" and thereby "sinful" is completely unwarranted Scripturally. Most upsetting about Mrs. Wilson's article was her insistence that married women "should not have `men' friends," should not "go to coffee with men who are not their husbands," and not "spend one on one time with men even if it is ministry." I fully realize the noble intentions Mrs. Wilson has in making these claims, but they reflect a "slippery slope" fallacy and a poor application of Christian liberty from a Reformed view. Given Mrs. Wilson's line of reasoning in her article, one could easily say this: "One should avoid the drinking of alcohol at all times because it MAY lead to bad behavior." I could obviously give dozens of other examples.
My point is this: chastity and purity are important things that need to be pursued and studied diligently. However, there is a better way of doing that than prescribing an ethical normative that God Himself did not prescribe.
David L. Bahnsen
Thanks for the thoughtful letter. We plan to have more on this in upcoming issues, but note for now our agreement in principle. We do not want to say that certain things should be avoided for what they might lead to. Our concern is not that one-on-one friendships could become unchaste, but rather that they are unchaste.
Your contrasting covers have made a point in our home. Whenever I go to pick up the latest issue I find that the last reader has invariably left it "Precious Moments" side down. As usual it was an interesting and discussion provoking issue.
I keep looking, apparently in vain, for a VeggieTales stir-fry. Why has this obvious target escaped your skewer? I hope you at least devote an editorial to it sometime.
Our household is thankful for your humour and love for the truth.
Woodstock, Ont. Canada
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