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A Clash Within Modern Textual Criticism

"The inerrant autographs were a fact once; they may possibly be a fact again, when textual criticism has said its
last word on the Bible text. In proportion as they are approached in the process of textual criticism, do we have
an ever better and better Bible than the one we have now." - Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921), the
late American Professor of Theology at Princeton Seminary.

Today’s Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament is in its 28th edition and has been since its 2012 release. It is
commonly called the NA28. The United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament follows the exact same text and is
in its 5th edition, known as UBS5. These two critical texts differ from their previous editions with the dawn of a
computerized method for determining “the initial text” called the “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method”
(CBGM), also known as the “Coherence Method.” This method was developed and is being utilized by the staff
of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research within the University of Munster, Germany. Please note
the Institute was founded in Munster by Professor Kurt D. Aland in 1959, and that no one in the Institute even
claims to be an evangelical. The Institute is working on the revision of the Greek New Testament which will
replace all previous critical New Testament texts with the “Editio Critica Maior” (Greater Critical Edition). The
NA28 reflects over thirty changes within the General Epistles (James-Jude) based upon the CBGM. With the
utilization of the CBGM, the longstanding view of the Wescott-Hort theory the “oldest manuscript is the best” is
no longer the case. In certain places, Byzantine readings are favored over uncials (Sinaiticus/Vaticanus mss.) and
papyrus readings. In fact, the entire theory of text-types or families (such as the Alexandrian texts vs. the
Antiochian texts) is no longer an issue because the application of the Coherence Method is not interested in a
manuscript per se, but rather “the states of the text that they convey and that may be far older than the
respective manuscript” (Dr. Gerd Mink’s Preliminary remarks about the Coherence Method; Dr. Mink is the
Academic Director for the Institute and Co-Editor to the Editio Critica Maior).

In November of 2017, the world was introduced to yet another new critical Greek New Testament, “the Greek
New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge,” (GNT-TH). A team of scholars studied and analyzed
the extant uncials and papyri documents. Each manuscript was re-evaluated with the idea of addressing scribal
habits or tendencies (“harmonization”) in the earliest manuscripts to shape their editorial decisions. The result
they believe, is a restoration of a more accurate and authentic text but not the restoration of the originals. Here
they would differ from text critics of the past, but at the same time they also reject the Coherence Method and
seem to double down on the standard Wescott-Hort theory. The GNT-TH is published by Crossway in the USA.

The current changes within New Testament textual criticism reflects a further evolution of a Bibliology that is
void of verbal preservation. Were the New Testament left in the hands of textual critics, Christianity would have
no settled word. Numerous Scripture passages would disappear or be severely edited such as Matthew 6:13b;
Mark 16:9-12; John 1:18; 6:69; 7:53-8:11; Luke 23:34; Acts 8:37; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 3:10; 1 John 5:7-8.

Thankfully, the New Testament (as well as the Old Testament) is the treasure of the Lord’s churches, not the
academicians nor commercial moguls. If there is only one word of promise of verbal preservation in the Bible,
that one verse alone would be sufficient to inform us that we have God’s perfectly preserved word today
notwithstanding textual editions and variants. The Scriptures are not silent concerning God’s singular care of His
Word. We not only have one word of promise; we have many. Consider the following: Deut. 30:11-14; Ps. 12:6-
7; Matt. 4:4; 5:17,18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23-25. Our faith rests upon God’s for ever settled Word. Although modern
systematic theology textbooks reflect no doctrine of verbal preservation, historical confessions of faith, which
are systematic in their theology, do indicate such Bible doctrine within their respective statements (e.g. the
1646 Westminster Confession, the 1675 Helvetic Consensus Formula, and Baptist confessions such as the 1655
Midland Confession, the 1677 & 1689 Second London Confession, and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession).
We are not interested in the latest Greek New Testament critical edition, nor the latest modern translation of
the English Bible favoring those texts. The King James Bible remains peerless in its textual traditions and
translation. The year 2019 marks the 250-year anniversary of its 1769 standardization distinguishing it as the
magnificent Bible that it is by God’s good hand of providence.