THE RISE OF RATIONALIST CRITICISM WITHIN CONSERVATIVE THEOLOGY

The orthodox Presbyterian school, Westminster Theological Seminary, was heavily involved in the original New International Version. Despite this, the project has an interesting pedigree, the roots of its family tree reaching deep into seventeenth century German rationalism. Princeton Seminary founded in 1812 was for many years a bastion of orthodoxy. The rise of liberals within northern Presbyterianism, exemplified by the tirades against ‘fundamentalism’ by Harry Emerson Fosdick, began to make its mark. In 1903, the standard of the Westminster Confession had been watered down somewhat to the advantage of liberal theology. By 1914, Princeton Seminary began to make adjustments to reflect the growing influence of liberals within Presbyterian ranks. Princeton soon disappeared into a cesspit of godless theology where it still wallows to this day. At the frontline in opposing these changes stood Drs. Gresham Machen, Oswald T. Allis, and Dick Wilson. Whilst we cannot share all their perspectives, we stand in awe at their courage. By 1929 conditions within Princeton had become too much for many, this led to the departure of Machen, Wilson and others to found Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The great problem at Westminster was that although they left behind every vestige of modern theology, and whilst they abhorred ‘higher criticism’, little was done to divest themselves of the rationalist methodology of Warfield in the field of textual studies, ‘lower criticism’. Had they taken the biblical course, maybe, just maybe, we would not have seen the involvement of Westminster Theological Seminary in the birth of the New International Version. For a mother to give birth to a stillborn child is tragedy enough, but to wrap it in swaddling clothes, feed and nurture it, is sad beyond words. Here we observe an alma mater whose milk appears to have turned distinctly sour!

As there is a direct godly line, so there is an ungodly line of unbelief and rebellion. Richard Simon’s book, Critical History (1689), greatly influenced the father of German rationalist theology, J. S. Semler (1684-1766). This was the cradle of godless higher criticism. The very sad fact about Semler is that before taking up his professor’s chair at Halle University, he was educated at the pietist Orphan Schools of August Hermann Francke, which so inspired the godly George Müller in his work in Bristol. Semler had a markedly negative stance towards the Bible, rebuilding nothing he tore down; his was a lifelong revolt against the Word of God. He thought to defend ‘the faith’ against deism, pantheism, and atheism by laying bare the foundations upon which it was built, the Scriptures themselves. He moved onto his opponents’ ground in order to defend that which they were attacking, he fought unbelief with yet further unbelief. He ended the conflict by capitulating to the enemy. Student of Semler and arch-sceptic towards the New Testament text, J. J. Griesbach (1745-1812), was professor at Jena. He continued the crusade begun by the Roman priest, Richard Simon, to discredit the text by trying to show a single sola scripture, one authentic text, could not exist. If it cannot be banned or burned, butcher it! Griesbach wrote, in 1771 that the New Testament "abounds in more glosses, additions, and interpolations purposely introduced than any other book". Apparent differences in the four Gospels have long been used to discredit verbal inspiration. Around 170 A.D., Tatian composed his Diatessaron, meaning ‘through the four’, a harmony to demonstrate their agreement. Griesbach constructed a synopsis to highlight the differences in the Gospel accounts of the life of the Lord Jesus with the express purpose of showing them to be not entirely reliable.

Perhaps, this is where the story becomes all rather sad. Between 1826 and 1828, Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary was in Germany studying theology, despite the misgivings of the seminary’s founder, Archibald Alexander. Here he made the acquaintance of the church historian, Neander. He also became friendly with the theologian, Tholuck, responsible for disseminating the myth that Luther had a loose view of Scripture. He would also have heard apostate Schleiermacher, (English, ‘veil-maker’!). Hodge was tutored in the German language by a young and recently converted George Müller. Müller had, according to his Autobiography, fallen into a period of backsliding at the time. Whilst Hodge retained his orthodoxy, his subsequent writings on biblical criticism betray the influence of Griesbach, despite hanging on to the received text as standard at Princeton. Hodge would have been very much aware that Griesbach denied the deity of the Lord Jesus and was otherwise far from orthodox in theology. What father Hodge had begun, his son, C. W. Hodge, continued. As is often the case, the son took matters further than had his father, even refusing to acknowledge the most obvious link between ‘lower’ and the ‘higher’ criticism of Semler. He believed matters of the biblical text belonged to an essentially neutral realm.

The word ‘criticism’ when applied in any sense to the Bible ought to arouse more than caution in the mind of any Bible believer. In this context, it is used to mean the exercise of judgement based on human reason. Criticism is never neutral. To make autonomous human reason the final court of appeal when considering the Bible is entirely misplaced. Quite the opposite, we take what the Bible says on any issue as being a statement that is true and beyond question because it comes from God. From such statements, we then interpret the world about us, which will involve the use of reason subject to Scripture. Our reason must always be subservient to Scripture and not stand above it as judge or critic. ‘Lower’ criticism concerns itself with a literary text, be it Shakespeare, Goethe, Dickens or the Bible. Its task is to recover the best possible original text. As we have seen, the Bible cannot be approached in this way without first setting aside God’s promise to preserve His Word. Textual criticism can only give us an approximate text of the Bible and this is inadequate and unthinkable. Who then can trust a Bible upheld only by fallible human reason?

‘Higher’ criticism concerns itself with such matters as authorship, dates, and structure. Critics will compare what evidence is found within the Bible itself with the findings of secular historians, archaeologists, and others. Again, the final judge is human reason. Early critical studies by Astruc (1753), Eichhorn (1783), De Wette (1805), and Ewald (1823) gave rise to the now notorious ‘documentary hypothesis’ of the Pentateuch, postponing its written form until four or five centuries after Moses death. It was said that writing was not invented until after Moses. Although archaeological discoveries have since shown this to be untrue, the theory has not been thrown out! The first five books of Scripture were said to be a compilation from sources beginning before Moses rather than the work of one man. Critics then began crawling all over the sacred text, even splitting single verses into two, deciding who wrote what. This hypothesis was developed into a more stable form by two Hebrew scholars, Graf and Wellhausen. Criticism did not stop there. Isaiah was supposed to be the product of multiple authorship and Daniel could not possibly have written the book that bears his name. In this way, the entire prophetic and supernatural element in the Old Testament could be attributed to myth and legend and Bible history made to conform to its rationalist counterpart. Does one believe the plain statements of Scripture or those of godless men intent on pulling the Bible apart?

In Britain, the Graf Wellhausen hypothesis was expounded by men like Professor Driver, who published his Literature of the Old Testament in 1891, and by Robertson Smith in Scotland. Robertson Smith was tried for heresy by the Scottish Church, who took a dim view of these things and deprived him of his professorship. Some prominent voices thought he was suffering persecution caused by ignorant prejudice and so the decision was reversed. Many found some reassurance in Driver’s claim that his views ‘did not affect the authority or inspiration of the Scriptures’. Unless he had something else in mind than that which others would have understood by the words ‘inspiration’ and ‘authority’, his comments were blatantly untrue.

The New Testament fared no better than the Old at the hands of critics. A theological professor at Heidelberg University, H. E. G. Paulus (1761-1851), tried to provide natural explanations for all the miracles of the Lord. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they were hallucinating. Jesus fainted on the cross and it took the coolness of the tomb to revive Him. Let us be clear, crucifixion is not an experience anyone survives and lives to tell the tale. The disciples then wrote down these events as miracles. In 1835, David Strauss’ book Leben Jesu appeared, in which he does not see the miracles just as the supernatural embroidery of everyday events, but as total myths – they never happened. Eventually, an Englishman, J. A. Robinson (1902), came up with a clever explanation for the miracles. He reckoned that when John wrote his Gospel, he was getting on a bit and his memory was failing, a touch of dementia perhaps, and he got a little confused about what was real and what was mythical. Other scholars tell us that John’s Gospel was not written by the apostle John at all, but by someone else of the same name!

Both higher and lower criticism are the seriously deformed children of rationalist theology. They are Siamese twins, and the separation of either one from the other would spell instant death for both. The connection between higher and lower criticism is plain enough. The American literary critic, Northrop Frye, makes the point in his book, Anatomy of Criticism (1957), that ‘higher criticism’ is in fact but another kind of ‘lower criticism’. Semler made no secret of the fact that he believed that manuscripts had been edited and not just copied by scribes, who altered them in their favour. Graf-Wellhausen and those who have followed them rest on a rationalist approach to handling the Old Testament text – ‘cut and paste’ theology! The New Testament critics would assume that the writers would have either added bits and pieces themselves or introduced the mythology that had grown up around the life of the Lord Jesus, providing ‘supernatural’ explanations of events. Griesbach believed orthodox Christians had corrupted their own texts. As copyists had tended to favour their own teaching, this was to be edited out, especially any references to the trinity or of the Lord Jesus as God. He wrote,

      "When there are many variant reading in one place, that reading which more than the others manifestly favours the dogmas of the orthodox is deservedly regarded as suspicious."

To help in the dismantling of the text, he classified manuscripts into three ancestral groups called ‘rescensions’. What is a man like Warfield doing even contemplating co-operation with the successors of such men? Working with God’s enemies can never deliver us victory over them, but is always a sell-out to evil!

Like many since, Warfield made the mistake of thinking he could answer rationalism by moving across to its own ground without becoming infected with it himself. The scandal is that today most conservative evangelical and fundamentalist institutions of learning still repeat Benjamin Warfield’s mantra that textual criticism is neutral. Warfield regarded textual criticism as dealing with ‘facts’ rather than with the speculation of higher criticism. Yet, facts are what the Bible says they are.

In defending the doctrine of ‘verbal inspiration’, Warfield was convinced that after careful revision, the Scripture could be placed beyond the machinations of rationalist critics. In this he went so far as being prepared to say the account of the Lord’s resurrection and ascension in Mark 16:9-12 was not part of the Word of God. In 1876, Warfield also undertook the now customary pilgrimage for a year’s study to Germany at the University of Leipzig. In 1887, he became professor at Princeton. By this time, the New Testament text was being worked over with such rigour that someone mockingly suggested that the critics must be questioned each morning as to what was now the Word of God lest it had changed over night! It did not take C. W. Hodge and Warfield long to embrace the work of Westcott and Hort, followers of Griesbach’s methods. Westcott and Hort’s text, they claimed, was neutral and arrived at scientifically, it represented that from which all others had diverged and would become the standard. The Westcott and Hort text was carried uncritically across to Westminster. Only one small piece of leaven was all it took for the whole lump to be contaminated.

By now, Warfield is caught in something of a cleft stick. On the one hand, he wants to preserve his growing reputation in textual criticism and on the other, defend his position of a verbally inspired Bible. Some balancing act would now be required. What he emerged with was quite simple: only the original autographs were inspired! Error in Scripture could then only be proved, if it had been in the original texts. Clever that, since he has already said we do not have them. Off the hook! Warfield’s view states that God has not preserved the inspired text of Scripture beyond the original autographs. The conclusion must be that we therefore cannot know with certainty the precise wording of Scripture. He wrote in the Presbyterian Review in 1881,

      "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."

This was an innovation. Owen made clear that God had preserved that which

      "As the Scripture of the Old and New Testament were immediately and entirely given out by God himself, his mind being in them represented unto us without the least interveniency of such mediums and ways as were capable of giving change or alteration to the least iota or syllable; so, by his good and merciful providential dispensation, in his love to his word and church, his whole word, as first given out by him, is preserved unto us entire in the original languages; where, shining in its own beauty and lustre (as also in all translations, so far as they faithfully represent the originals), it manifests and evidences unto the consciences of men, without other foreign help or assistance, its divine original and authority." (Works, XVI, p.349-50)

No real criticism could now be levelled at the Bible and he was free to join every higher and lower critic in the task of reconstructing what might be the inerrant original. This remains the position of virtually all evangelical and many fundamentalist seminaries to this day.

This marks a significant change from the conviction that was formerly held with respect to both the originals and copies. The test of Presbyterian and ‘reformed’ orthodoxy since 1643 has always been the original unaltered Westminster Confession. Those who claim to be the heirs of the Puritans must be held to their own confession!

      … The Old Testament in Hebrew, (which was the native language of the people of God of old,) and the New Testament in Greek, (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations,) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical so as in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto and interest in the scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come…" (Chapter 1; Sections IV & VIII, ed. italic ours.)

The originals were immediately inspired and "…by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical so as in all controversies of religion". The originals being no longer available, these words can only properly apply to the copies. If the copies are already pure and they are still in our hands because kept by God’s singular care and providence, why is there then all this talk of a reconstruction of the text?

In 1855, C. H. Spurgeon republished the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. It is in effect the Westminster Confession given a Baptist slant. It repeats these words almost word for word. In 1966, the Strict Baptist denomination in the UK, many of whose members would consider themselves the heirs of men like Spurgeon – mistakenly, we believe – adopted a new Affirmation of Faith. Two things are strikingly different, although it takes a sharp eye to spot them. Evidently they have swallowed the Warfield line "we accept the whole Bible, in the very words of the original Scriptures, as given by inspiration of God, to be our rule of faith and life" (italics ours). What they are telling us is that their ‘rule of faith and life’ is a book that is no longer available to us – not much use that! Just as worrying is the statement "the divine authority of the Bible is not contrary to reason, but is demonstrated by convincing evidence " (italics ours). This is the credo of rationalists. These people have to squeeze themselves somewhere into the picture with their tuppence worth of wisdom. Note the words of the 1689 Confession (identical to the Westminster Confession), which are very different:

      "The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God." (I, 4)

Scripture is to be received, not because it can be upheld by human reason and demonstrated as though it were part of some laboratory experiment, but ‘because it is the word of God’. God says it, so it is true! That is believing the Bible! All we need to do now is look at the world and all things in the light it sheds and that is biblical reasoning! Missing in this later confession too is all reference to the Scriptures being ‘sufficient, certain, and infallible’. These changes have been introduced by leaders intent on taking their people in a different direction whilst at the same time pretending it is the old.

This is quite scandalous and sooner or later they will reap what has been sown. Certainly, these people are not treading in the footsteps of their great men of the past, whom they say they honour.

The suggestion made is that only scholars can tell us approximately what the inspired text was like, but as this has now gone, the possibility of having an inspired Bible has also gone. This is an unbelievable travesty of the truth. Who are these men who would take from us an inspired Bible? Sure, the originals were God-breathed and that which God breathed was written by the authors on a piece of paper. So what? It was written down, captured for posterity. What they wrote was the product of the inspiration of the authors by the Holy Spirit; this ensured total written accuracy. A copy of what these men wrote is not less the authentic Word of God for that. It is totally illogical to conclude that copies of the words of that which was God-breathed, inspired, become less the product of inspiration for being copied. This is utter nonsense. These people are either saying there was something magical or mystical in the original documents that disappeared when they were gone, or they concentrate so much on the process of inspiration that the product of it and God’s purpose for it are ignored. Must God then inspire every copyist for us to have an inspired Bible; must He inspire every printer? If I copy John 3:16 word for word as God breathed it out, does it become any less the inspired word of God? Original or copy, what is the difference? The words that God gave are identical, and they remain words God gave; they carry the thoughts of God; they still exist, whether we have the actual paper on which the authors wrote or no. Has God taken His hands off His Word? Never! No one seems to have thought to ask these people how they would know without doubt when their task would be complete, since they have no originals to signal their arrival at journey’s end. Only a Bible upon which we can depend is a book we can defend!

We have a clear choice between one of two diverging pathways, the road of faith or the road of human reason and unbelief. Do we begin with the Word of God or do we begin with the word of men? This is the question and it has in the first instance little to do with texts, but with the faithfulness of our God. To decide these things we need only a believing heart and the ability to read. Of course, textual scholars will deem all non-academics meddling in what they regard as their exclusive area of work unworthy to tie their bootlaces, still less to steal their clothes! Only after giving a positive answer to this question, do we turn to the manuscripts and texts, and scoop away the dross and scum from the gold, to uncover the authentic Word of God. For it to be of any use, textual study must be grounded upon what the Bible already says about itself. If we do not begin with the Word of God, we shall never end with it!

 

A replacement for the received text

Around 1860, more Greek manuscripts became known and New Testament criticism received further impetus. The oldest and most complete of these manuscripts were Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph). As its name suggests, Codex B was uncovered in the Vatican library and is thought to have been written around the middle of the fourth century. The discovery of Codex Aleph in a wastepaper basket in St Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in 1859 by Tischendorf is well known. This was perhaps written in the late fourth century. Alexandrinus (A), thought to date from the first half of the fifth century, was considered for many years to be the oldest New Testament manuscript. Given to the English king in 1627 by the Patriarch of Constantinople, it still sits today in the British Museum.

Professors B. F. Westcott (1825-1901) and F. J. A. Hort (1828-1892), two Anglican theologians – by no stretch of the imagination to be regarded as anything approaching Bible believers – found themselves appointed to correct alleged ‘errors’ in the Authorised Version and work on a Revised Version. They seized the moment to falsify the Greek text. Avowed followers of Griesbach, they made no secret of an aversion to all orthodox readings and texts or of their intense dislike of the textus receptus. Their contention was that the traditional text was corrupt having been put together from selected readings from various texts already to hand to create a completely new text. As Griesbach, Westcott and Hort believed orthodox scribes had altered text in favour of such doctrines as divinity of Christ and the trinity, which is why they struck them out. This is hardly surprising given that the revising committee also included a Unitarian.

This all flies in the face of Bible teaching on two grounds. The first is doctrinal in that the deity of our Saviour and the trinity are integral to the faith once delivered and not to be denied. Even today, these two doctrines are the first to be attacked by our enemies. Denial of the deity of the man Christ Jesus, according to 1 John 4:3, is the spirit of antichrist! Second, we reject Westcott and Hort because the traditional text, which they sought to destroy, has been carried to us directly on the breath of God! That which was found in the hands of true believers is the true Word of God for God has preserved what the prophets and apostles wrote even as the Bible says He would. All textual evidence coming our way must be interpreted in the light of this fact, which is founded on the rock of Scripture. What Westcott and Hort did was to call false that which had always been recognised among genuine believers as the text preserved by God and to substitute it with a false text of their own making. Their reconstructed text was to replace the textus receptus as that which was nearest to the originals. This latter claim appealed to Warfield at Princeton. Westcott and Hort refused to accept that heretics had tampered with text Aleph and B, they implied rather that believers had tampered with the traditional text. When textual questions arose, error was invariably left in and that which reflected the truth was taken out.

These two men were not even consistent with their own rationalist principles for much was done without ‘evidence’, relying purely on conjecture. Much was obscured behind ingenious theories and technical terms that would bamboozle the uninformed. They spoke of ‘intrinsic probability’, ‘transcriptional probability’, ‘internal evidence of readings’, and ‘internal evidence of documents’. This is all, as literary criticism in other fields can sometimes be, ‘expert’ opinion plus a little subjective guesswork. They are little better than saloon bar cardsharps trying to win their game by sleight of hand. Those who begin by denying what the Bible says about itself will build up a dossier of ‘evidence’ and argument that demonstrates their point of view. Sure, we too are prejudiced and do nothing to conceal this. We are prejudiced in favour of the unadulterated Word of God preserved among His people and of the teachings contained within it.

Their underlying principle was that these early texts, being in almost perfect condition, were the nearest we could have to an authentic New Testament. The text they most favoured was B along with Aleph and other texts such as D. D, we recall, had already been rejected in the 17th century. Their rationalistic methodology was much the same as that used by any literary critic on the works Shakespeare or other writer, and perhaps with even less honesty because they were dealing with matters of personal belief. The fact that they were handling the Word of God was in this respect entirely ignored. Their approach was,

      "We dare not introduce considerations which could not reasonably be applied to other ancient texts, supposing them to have documentary attestation of equal amount, variety, and antiquity."

What we see evolving here is not only a godly and ungodly line of scholars, but also of texts and readings. Believers working on the principle of faith accept that God has preserved His own sacred Word as a deposit of the truth and reject that which is false. Scholars relying on rationalist methodology thereby already have a predisposition to refuse the true and accept the false, which is precisely what Westcott and Hort did.

The preference for earlier texts is often supported on the grounds that being older they would have been closer to the originals. Against this, it can also be said that early manuscripts, which differ from the traditional text, survived only because they had been laid aside as unreliable and had therefore fallen into disuse. Genuine texts would have been worn out with constant use and so few are likely to have remained. We are thrown back repeatedly on God fulfilling His promise to preserve Scripture as the final guarantee of a reliable text. Let us be clear as to what these men are doing. They are taking the words God has given and changing them so that they mean something else.

Our methodology in approaching the sacred text must begin and end in faith. There are those who, whilst abhorring Westcott and Hort’s work, have sought to substantiate the authentic texts using what are in essence rationalistic methods. The last thing we would want to do is diminish the most valuable insights emerging from the writings of men like Dean Burgon. Despite this, the evidence for the authenticity of Scripture must lie in the first instance within Scripture because it is the only authoritative Word of God and we accept it for that reason alone. Our faith cannot be built on anything less than this, however well intentioned. Burgon’s premise is insufficient, when he says that,

      "We imitate the procedure of the courts of justice in decisions resulting from the converging product of all evidence, when it has been cross-examined and sifted."

We cannot drag God’s Word before the bar of human judgement, no way! ‘Facts’ are always what God’s Word reveals them to be. The only safe judge of Scripture is Scripture and we begin with its own statements to determine what is true and what is false. We must also reject revisions of the textus receptus such as Hodges-Farstad, "The Greek NT according to the Majority Text" (1982). It is a rationalist reconstruction. Based as it is on statistical probability, it cannot give us the Word of God, but can only lead in the end to yet more uncertainty.

Conservative textual critics still live in hope of restoring word for word that which God gave by inspiration. To be fair to Warfield, this is doubtless what motivated him. His mistake was to think that he could do so by leaving the ground of faith; this is where he went astray and many there are who have followed his in his steps with the inevitable tragic consequences. Liberal critics have long since recognised that restoring the texts is impossible and in this respect they are right, for this is where a rationalist route must inevitably lead. An authentic text can only be assured us by supernatural means, through inspiration and preservation. To unbelievers this is not possible, they do not believe in an inspired Bible, let alone one preserved miraculously by God in our own age. Indeed, they see their work as a means of combating what the Bible presents as the truth.

J. L. Hug (1765-1846) and Carl Lachmann (1793-1851) shared the scepticism of Griesbach. They believed the New Testament text was corrupted beyond the recovery of the original. Lachmann claimed we could only go back to around the fourth century using extant manuscripts. To bridge the gap between these and the original we must use ‘conjectural emendation’. In plain English, this amounts to little more than guesswork based on theological prejudices! Eventually, liberal scholars gave up all pretence of recovering original texts. In History of New Testament Criticism (London 1910), W. J. Coneybeare said, "the ultimate text, if there ever was one that deserves to be so called, is for ever irrecoverable." The New Testament critic, Kirsopp Lake, wrote in 1941 "we do not know the original form of the Gospels, and it is quite likely that we never shall". Whilst still respected among their own, the consensus that had surrounded Westcott and Hort has eroded. The hope of ever recovering the originals has been abandoned. The task was now to uncover the ‘process’ by which the New Testament acquired its form. Now many ‘Matthews’ and several ‘Lukes’ appeared on the scene. What confusion! As long as there was the goal of recovering an original, the discipline at least had some sense of direction even if it was heading straight for the rocks. Without the divine preservation of the originals, we have no way of knowing whether any single word in it is from God or no. It is precisely to this point that the enemies of God would lead us. The rival to the textus receptus today is the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament.

The infallible Spirit of God continues His work after the completion of inspiration in preserving that which was given in an extraordinary manner. All those who have transcribed Scripture since have done so under the special providence of God. Not that any of them were inspired as were the writers, for they brought nothing new. To say that scribes may have slipped here and there for one reason or another is one thing, but to claim that the original text has been deliberately corrupted is quite another. They would have been diligent to see that every jot and tittle was as it should be, believing as they did that these were matters of eternal import. Assuming there were any error in any document, there would have been innumerable other copies by which to identify the mishap and overall this in no way distracts from the fact that God has kept His promise despite the weakness of men. In the case of the Old Testament, men like Ben Asher spent years making perfect copies of it. What we must say is that the whole Bible as it came from God has been preserved by Him without error, to use Owen’s words, "in the copies of the originals yet remaining" (XVI, p.357). Every letter, every word that God ever gave is to be found there and is the standard by which all else is measured or corrected. The text has been preserved by the special providential care of God not in the least through the care of believers who have since watched over God’s Word, preserving authentic copies. If our generation does not do the same, we shall be found wanting, for this task is now committed to us.

So many today claim to believe in Scripture and yet demand proof of us based on unbelief. These are they of whom John Owen said, "they render themselves obnoxious unto every testimony that we produce from it that so it is, and that it is to be received on its own testimony" (XVI, p.314). We have no need of any other testimony to Scripture than Scripture itself. It is the Word of God and not to be refused. If we will not accept its own testimony, then we deny it and there is little point to trying to prove it to be true, for then we do not accept it from the start. The test of all the words of men must always be: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20)

Those who read a different 'word' preach a different gospel. To the modern linguist it makes no sense to say that the thought of one person can be replicated in the mind of another through the medium of language. This denies all possibility of the Word of God reaching human hearts. We totally reject the convoluted word-games of modern bible  translators, pseudo-scientific robber barons sent by the enemy of our souls to snatch from us the pure Word of God.

David W. Norris

Taken from David’s book THE BIG PICTURE: the authority & integrity of the authentic Word of God. See publications page.