Revelation, Inscripturation, and Preservation


Much is said these days about the preservation of Scripture logically flowing from the inspiration of Scripture. To be honest, I would not take much time to debate that particular viewpoint, and would assent to it. After all, what good is an inspired Bible that will not be preserved for all generations?

On the other hand, preservation is seen by many to be an issue of textual families (Antiochian/Byzantine) and compiled texts such as the Textus Receptus and the King James Version.

It is the latter that came to mind when I read the following:
“..God provided for its inscripturation, so that His revelation now comes to us, not in the form of deeds and events, but as a description of these. In order to guard against volatilization, corruption, and falsification, He gave it permanent form in writing.”

Berkhof, Louis Systematic Theology pg 141; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans

Note what Berkhof said; not that the revelation would be preserved in a certain textual family, or version, but that the revelation would be preserved in words. In other words, a written record of Divine revelation would suffice to preserve the revelation. Spoken words, and the spoken interpretations of the deeds seen, and revelations experienced are easily corrupted. Just imagine playing the gossip game in which a message is whispered from person to person only to mangle the message terribly by the end of the game. Such is the nature of the spoken word. The written word is different. It is difficult to modify and change a written account after it has gone through multiple copies that are identical.

What is the relevance of this to the issue of preservation today? The significance is that we have the written record of revelation today. The various manuscripts that are in existence today are manifold. They also agree much more than they disagree, and where they do disagree the disagreement does not change a single important doctrine. Neither do the disagreements between manuscripts change Biblical morality. Thus it is that we contend that “ the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth … containeth the Word of God, nay, is the Word of God.” (The King James Version Translators Preface to The Reader)

Oh, I know we can get into a “jots and tittles” discussion. Honestly, that is a topic for another time. What is necessary for us to see is that we have Divine revelation preserved for us in many translations, and not in a lone English translation that is neither understood by people who can’t read English nor by many who do.

God gave us His revelation in verbal form, and we have it with us still today. That is what we must remember to be the important issue.

9 Responses to “Revelation, Inscripturation, and Preservation”

  1. James White highlights another facet of this by stressing the multifocality of the text. It’s his word to describe the fact that we have many streams of transmission and variety of wordings from different places such that it makes it impossible to claim there was a widespread corruption of the text. Since we don’t have a total uniformity, we are assured that the text came to us through normal human transmission. The fact that we have so many copies of it, and such a great degree of textual data attests to God’s care in its preservation. The fact that such a divergent text agrees 98% of the time, and there are good reasons to believe we are fairly certain of the other 2% is amazing. And of the 2% we have two competing readings but we have both of the readings attested widely. So we have the text, we just may not yet have 100% certainty on which readings to accept as primary. Even in the disputed readings, the cardinal doctrines of the faith are clear.

    So yes, it is wonderful that God’s revelation is written and preserved for us.

    Good thoughts.

    Thanks,

    Bob

  2. CD-Host says:

    Just to throw in a quick point there is a real distinction here regarding preserved from when. We have excellent evidence that the originals we have today look a lot like the originals of say 250 CE. Where we have a problem is the assertion that the bible of 250 CE looks much like what these documents looked like in 100 CE. The textual evidence does nothing to back this assertion and what limited evidence we have backs the opposite assertion.

  3. CD-Host says:

    Well the first link I’d send you to is the list of papyri, what we have and from when.

    After that it gets rather books specific. For example for the synoptic gospels you have the synoptic problem which leads to possible solutions like the four document hypothesis.

    For John you have Bultmann’s reconstruction Das Evangelium des Johannes (1941) which gives us the Signs gospel the original order and finally the current order for John (though there are still some changes after that).

    Acts since Knox in the 1932 has been seen as a response to Marcion canon.

    For the Pauline epistles you have problems as well, for example Gnosticism in Corinth by Walter Schmithals does a great job in breaking apart 1Cor and 2Cor and why these works couldn’t have emerged in their current form.

    I could keep going but it is probably easier to focus on a book rather than the NT as a whole.

  4. CD-Host says:

    Jason –

    The argument that we have almost no texts from before 250 is basic archeology not even lower criticism. Lower criticism shows the general direction of the text from the 3rd to 5th centuries, Orthodox Corruption as we have mentioned.

    Determining the general direction / flow is lower criticism, determining which text is older is lower, determine what would have been in the original is higher criticism. Your whole post is addressing the point that we have textual evidence that the “revelation” from the first century was preserved and that’s what I’m disputing. Bultmann is not doing mainly higher criticism but rather lower in his construction of Signs.

    In terms of the relevance for the KJVonly discussion one of the key points of dispute is whether the Greek preserved the original. Some of the KJonlyists argue that the Greeks we have are of poor quality and do not preserve the original. In other words they argue that by the 3rd century substantial corruption had occurred. My point is that lower criticism says little about this point, and what it does say fully supports the the KJVonlyist position, in general, that early corruption is evident. In fact it argues that the corruption is far far worse than the KJVonlyist assert.

    • JasonS says:

      CD,
      I shall concede your point about which form of criticism it is that we’re discussing.
      The point I’m trying to make is that one cannot conclusively determine that there was a “direction” for the text prior to the manuscripts that we have. It will be mostly supposition and guesswork simply because of the absence of the autographs. It is not unreasonable to accept God’s revelation being preserved. After all, look again at the quote that is given in the OP. That quote presents us with a reason for a written form for the revelation of God so that it would be preserved. That is a very plausible argument.
      From what I have seen in my wee bit of reading in the ECF is that they do not quote any substantially different text from what we have. Considering the closeness of some of them to the originals, I think that speaks volumes.
      I believe we’re back at the point (unless something concrete can be given to substantiate a reason for rejecting the stability of the text) that this is not truly relevant to the KJVO issue except by merit of the fact that the revelation is indeed preserved in the myriad of texts that we have.

  5. PeterAV says:

    So many fibs going uncontested here.
    Here is a classic bullfudging of the truth.

    [quote] What is necessary for us to see is that we have Divine revelation preserved for us in many translations, and not in a lone English translation that is neither understood by people who can’t read English nor by many who do.[/quote]

    True to a point. Yes there are some verses that are passable as scripture in the newer versions, but this not validate all the purposeful corruption of using tainted materials pimped out by Gnostics, Jesuits and secret Ghost groups.

    My boy could read the Bible when he was five years old in the original King James font and spellings.
    Many Bibles around the world has used the AV as their TR into another language and that yet happens today. Others use both the TR and the AV.
    *******
    Also, one can never say truthfully, that the AV is TOO HARD to read. Generations of uneducated folk have used it and did VERY well.
    The real reason you bleat, is because you don’t want any final authority other than your own puny opinions. How dare God actually preserve his word in ONE BOOK. You think that using the works of known heretics is far better than the very words of God.
    For shame. Give your head a shake and check your heart. You are found wanton.

    God gave us His revelation in verbal form, and we have it with us still today. That is what we must remember to be the important issue.

  6. JasonS says:

    Peter,
    It would be nice for you to give us proof of corruption,Jesuit conspiracies,etc. instead of simply posting your opinion all over the site.
    Give us PROOF, or be banned.

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