Thursday, 26 June 2008

Beechick on the KJV, pt 2 of a very long rebuttal

Before you read this, please consider reading my previous post which consisted of a rebuttal of two previous paragraphs from Ruth Beechick's description of "How the Bible Came to Us". Text in Courier is from Ruth Beechick's A Biblical Home Education, pp 18-20. Beechick's thesis seems to be that the King James Version is the only reliable version of the Bible. Text in Georgia is mine. I disagree with Beechick's thesis. I have been greatly helped in my research by DA Carson's The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1979). I have also made use of Bruce L Shelley's Church History in Plain Language (2nd ed, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995) and Justo L Gonzales's The Story of Christianity: Volume 1 (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1984).

Just to recap, Beechick claimed that the KJV was based upon 5000+ New Testament manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus, all of which "say the same thing". In reality, it was based upon a handful of partial Greek New Testaments all older the 9th century (and the Latin Vulgate in a few places), critically compiled by the Catholic humanist, Erasmus, in the 16th century. Erasmus' text came to be known as the Textus Receptus after the KJV was translated, based upon a publisher's advertising claim made on its cover. The TR belongs within the Byzantine text-type tradition, for which there is no unambiguous evidence prior to the middle of the 4th century, unlike the other three extant text-types, the Alexandrian, Western and Caesarean. No known Greek manuscript is exactly identical to any other.

Further, Beechick argued that the Septuagint (LXX) was translated by Jews in "the third century" based upon a corrupt Jewish Old Testament and that a New Testament was also produced by them. She also made claims that Origen (one of the early church fathers) was not orthodox in many of his beliefs and that his writings were passed on to Eusebius. Beechick's argument regarding the LXX's history is erroneous (it was translated 400-600 years earlier than she claimed) and her claim of Alexandrian Jews translating the NT is preposterous. Jesus, the New Testament authors and all the early church fathers quoted from the LXX, not Beechick's preferred Masoretic text. Beechick's attack on Origen is both a misinformed and misleading ad hominem attack and is the beginnings of an irrelevant straw man argument against the validity of the non-Byzantine NT text-types, given that Origen worked with the OT not the NT.

So now on with the following paragraph:

Emperor Constantine asked Eusebius for fifty copies of the Bible to send to fifty cities, so he used Origen's writings to make those for the emperor. ~~~Exaggeration #4: It took me ages to find a reliable source that confirmed this as a historical event. In the end I had to check out Eusebius' own Life of Constantine Bk4 Ch34-39, which testifies to this event. Eusebius' account does not include the detail of whether he used Origen's writings as source material, so I am unable to verify the accuracy of Beechick's statement. [Later in this paragraph, Beechick connects Eusebius' Bible with the Alexandrian and Caesarean text-types, so I will address those from now on.]  The papyrus known as p75 is a prime example of the Alexandrian tradition and has been dated to about AD200 and possibly earlier, predating Origen's writings. For comparison, Origen lived AD185-254 and Eusebius is thought to have lived circa AD260-340. According to Carson, all of the text-types except Beechick's preferred Byzantine pre-date Origen. The churches of the day did not receive that heretical version. ~~~Exaggeration #5: I have already shown that Beechick's ad hominem attack on Origen as a heretic is exaggerated, and even if it was not, it does not follow that his Hexapla would be heretical also. Eusebius was the author of the majority of the AD325 Nicean Creed, the foundational creed for all Christian denominations, so Eusebius' orthodoxy cannot be questioned. He would therefore have no reason to propagate heretical manuscripts. ~~~Error #6:  Aside from this, Eusebius' Bible was indeed received favourably, according to Eusebius' own historical account above. For example, Eusebius recounts (Ch37) that the receipt of the manuscripts by Constantine "is attested by another letter, which the emperor wrote in acknowledgment, in which, having heard that the city Constantia in our country, the inhabitants of which had been more than commonly devoted to superstition, had been impelled by a sense of religion to abandon their past idolatry, he testified his joy, and approval of their conduct." They did not use it or make copies of it, and it almost became lost to history. ~~~Error #7: The ante-Nicene church fathers did use the Alexandrian text-type: they quoted from it. There are multiple Greek papyri from the second and third centuries which reflect mixed Alexandrian/Western text-types. With regard to the OT text, Augustine of Hippo (AD354-430) vigorously criticised Jerome's use of the Masoretic text in his Latin translation (the Vulgate), writing of "the Septuagint, whose authority has no equal." Then in the 1800s two manuscripts were found that could possibly be two of those fifty, one found in the Vatican and one in a monastery in the Sinai. ~~~Error #8: Both of these manuscripts are uncials which have been dated to the fourth century, and they belong to two different text-types (that is, they originate from two different ancestor manuscripts). It is possible that one of these is a descendant copy of Eusebius' Bible, but I fail to see the relevance of this in establishing its authority, given that the church fathers accepted these text-types as authoritative. One of these manuscripts belongs to the Alexandrian text-type, which as I have already said, predates Origen: Vaticanus, aka B. The other belongs to the Caesarean (mixed Alexandrian/Western) text-type: Sinaiticus, aka Chi. The Caesarean text-type may have been brought to Caesarea by Origen, but this is irrelevant because its existence predates his work.  Those two were not complete and they had many differences between them. Yet a couple of men (Brooke Westcott and Fenton J. A. Hort) made a Greek New Testament from those two manuscripts. ~~~Observation: For comparison, none of the Greek NT manuscripts used by Erasmus was a complete text, and several verses in his published edition are found in no extant Greek manuscript at all; they were translated into the Greek by Erasmus himself from the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus constructed his Greek NT editions from four to six manuscripts. Just for the record, Erasmus staunchly remained a confessing Catholic at the height of the Reformation, not exactly a model of (Protestant) orthodoxy himself, if there is any benefit to considering the doctrinal beliefs of the compilers and translators. These men, like Origen, did not believe in many essential Christian doctrines. ~~~Observation: Another unsubstantiated ad hominem attack. As with the criticisms of Origen, it has no bearing, because a heretic can still be a perfectly able scholar when it comes to technical analysis and comparison of manuscripts. They said the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts were older and better than the over 5000 manuscripts of the Textus Receptus (also called the Majority Text). ~~~Exaggeration #6: The Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are older than the manuscripts used in compiling the TR by half a millenia. This is not a matter of opinion, established only by "they said", but a matter of established fact. Older does not necessarily mean better, but neither does a greater number of texts. Again, the fallacious "5000" is referred to, but calling the TR "the Majority Text" does not guarantee its integrity. While it is true that 95% of the Greek manuscripts available belong to the Byzantine text-type (which the TR falls within), it also must be recognised that around 95% of these are miniscules which are dated later than the 7th century. The Byzantine manuscripts almost all come from the Greek-speaking Byzantine (Eastern Orthodox) empire, which collapsed after the fall of Constantinople (AD 1453). This happened shortly before Erasmus collated his Greek NT, providing the manuscripts he used. Even the fact that the Byzantine manuscripts were written in Greek does not necessarily give them greater authority. Greek manuscripts were not propagated in the Western Roman Catholic church after the middle of the fourth century. This was because Latin had supplanted Greek as the vernacular language of the West and they used Old Latin translations and then Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Careful textual analysis of Vaticanus, p75 and other closely related manuscripts suggests the Alexandrian text-type, as preserved in the Vaticanus, is the closest to the lost original autographs of all the known manuscripts. We might ask whether God's true Word was lost for those many centuries until somebody found it again, or did God preserve it for all those generations through the Majority Text? ~~~Exaggeration #7: It is true that God preserved the Byzantine text-type in one small corner of the world for one thousand years. However, it must also be recognised that apart from within the Eastern Orthodox church, the Latin Vulgate was used almost exclusively by the much larger Roman Catholic church, and this translation was based mainly upon a non-Byzantine text-type. I do not think that Beechick would follow her argument to it's natural conclusion and suggest that we all forsake our KJVs along with the NIVs and revert to Jerome's Vulgate. Most new English versions today come from the Greek New Testament begun by Origen. ..." ~~~Final summation: this statement has been shown to be fallacious. On the contrary, most new English versions today, such as the NIV, are carefully based on an eclectic selection of the best testified and most authoritative manuscripts available.

At the end of this paragraph Beechick cites One Book Stands Alone by Dr Douglas D Stauffer (Milbrook, AL: McCowen Mills Publishers, 2001). I haven't read it, so I am not sure how much of the preceeding is taken from this book, and how much is Beechick's own argument.

1 comment:

Mrs. Edwards said...

After I first studied all of this years ago, I decided that the KJV was decidedly inferior. But, in that response I was making the same error that I was reacting to, namely, deciding that only one translation is "true." We are so blessed by centuries of textual scholarship that now English translations are well footnoted to bring our attention to the various contradictions in texts or give the alternate word or phrase from other manuscripts for our consideration.

I currently use the ESV for my devotions, a text that "is based on the Masoretic text as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia..." However, the translation team factored in modern scholarship and textual discoveries, improving upon the KJV or RSV. And I have NIV on the shelf along with some other translations.

Translations will always be flawed to some degree and for some this admission feels threatening. I don't agree. I like how the preface to the ESV concludes: "We know that no Bible translation is perfect or final; but we also know that God uses imperfect and inadequate things to his honor and praise."

I have faith that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me through the Bible. While I don't need a textual analysis to bolster that faith, I am satisfied knowing that the English Bible's accuracy and faithfulness to the original manuscript has held up very well to scholarship. (By contrast, the keepers of the "sacred" text of another world religion prohibit outside scholarship, until methinks they protest too much.)

Thanks again, Sharon.
(I kept getting interrupted writing this, so it is a bit disjointed; sorry.)