“IGNORANT OF HIS DEVICES” Creation Ministries International (CMI) Errs Again on Textual Criticism

“IGNORANT OF HIS DEVICES” Creation Ministries International (CMI) Errs Again on Textual Criticism

© 2018, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

[N.B. READ THE FOOTNOTES, FOLKS. THEY ARE IMPORTANT!]

We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices, we are told in 2 Corinthians 2:11b.  Indeed, Satan has more than one device to tempt and mislead, and prominent (and perhaps preeminent) among these is to undermine people’s trust in the Bible, the word of God.  This was his approach from the beginning, when he said to Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1), thus trying to induce her to doubt the word of God.  If that can be accomplished, it becomes much easier to contradict flatly the word of God, as Satan did, moving on to say, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4b).

Things have not changed since then.  Attacking the trustworthiness of the word of God remains in the forefront of Satan’s devices, and this is not surprising.  While Christianity is at its heart about reconciliation with God through His Son Jesus Christ (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:19), all the objective knowledge we have about Jesus Christ, about the Triune God, about sin and salvation and Godliness and eternal life comes from the Bible, so our view of its reliability is crucial.

In fact, it is Jesus Himself who said

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

Just so; if we cannot trust the Bible on things we can check, such as matters of history and science, why would we trust it on things we cannot check?  Indeed, why should we trust it on spiritual matters, which we cannot check, if it is unreliable on ordinary matters?[1]  It is not surprising, then, that Satan focuses especially on destroying the credibility of the Bible in the minds of people.

The Three-Headed Monster

As we have demonstrated elsewhere, the attack on the trustworthiness of the Bible has been concentrated in three areas: historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism.[2]  Historical criticism was the first of these, going well back into the 17th century; its focus was on denying the eyewitness testimony of the Gospel books and presenting their accounts as symbolic mythology about a historical Jesus who was an ordinary man later deified by His followers.

Darwinism was the latest salvo, the theory of evolution itself being preceded by claims that the Earth was hundreds of thousands of years old.[3]  The tipping point came in 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the gradual acceptance of the theory of evolution.[4]  Darwinism not only denies the Biblical account of the origin of man and the world in which he lives, it insists stridently that science, with all of its cachet, has proven deep time and the theory of evolution to be facts, which means the Bible is certainly wrong on these fundamental matters and therefore certainly cannot be trusted.[5]

In between these came textual criticism, which was fundamentally different in its nature from historical criticism and Darwinism.  The latter two set claims from external evidence against those of the Bible and argued that such external knowledge proved the Bible to be wrong “on earthly matters.”  One could, of course, maintain that Bible was actually correct in these matters, and that the external evidence was either wrong or had been misinterpreted.  It is another matter entirely in the case of textual criticism, however, as textual criticism does not set external evidence against the Bible, but insists that there are mistakes in the original text of the Bible itselfIf the claims of mainline textual criticism are accepted, then there are indeed errors in the Bible itself, and the belief in Biblical inerrancy is rendered impossible.[6]

The evangelical response to these attacks has largely been to surrender.[7]  Evangelical leaders accepted deep time virtually wholesale and began devising Procrustean schemes to align the Bible with deep time, while the exegetically certain meaning of Genesis 1 and of the chronological data that limited the age of the Earth to a maximum of 7,683 years[8] was almost universally abandoned.  And many, particularly among the scholars, accepted the theory of evolution to one extent or another.  And it remains so to this day.

Regarding the claims of historical criticism, evangelical scholars naturally rejected the extreme conclusions reached by liberal scholars, but accepted many of the assumptions and assertions that were made as the basis for these conclusions, assumptions such as the formal anonymity of the Gospel books, late dating (“decades after the events they describe”) of the Gospel books, Markan priority, literary dependence, and Pauline priority,[9] and by doing so severely weakened the reliability, and thereby the authority, of the Bible.  It remains so to this day, and, in fact, is rapidly moving further along this path.[10]

Textual Criticism: The Most Subtle Device

Of Satan’s devices to undermine the credibility of the Bible, the most subtle was textual criticism,[11] because this discipline seems, prima facie, to be a theologically neutral practice, devoid of presuppositions, and the overwhelming majority of evangelical scholars and leaders have been induced to believe this.[12]

Mainline textual criticism is by no means theologically neutral, however; quite the opposite.  It is based fundamentally on the canons (i.e. methodological rules) published in 1796 by Johann Jakob Griesbach, a German Rationalist who eschewed empiricism and believed true knowledge was attained by mental cogitation.  To him it seemed reasonable to believe that the original Bible contained errors of fact (history, geography, and science as then known) and that scribes would presume to alter the text as they copied it, in order to correct these original errors.  As a Rationalist, he of course made no attempt to verify these canons by studying empirical evidence; it was enough that they seemed reasonable to him to believe.

Griesbach’s canons were swallowed wholesale and formed the warp and woof of virtually all subsequent textual criticism, as it is today with mainline textual criticismThe fact that his canons were, in fact, wrong seems to be of not the slightest interest to today’s textual critics.  And wrong they are; all of the studies done in the twentieth century on actual scribal habits showed that it was accidental omission that was by far the most common scribal error, and that deliberate alterations were rare.[13]  Furthermore, as Dr. Michael Kruger has shown in his work on “inscriptional curses,” there was an extremely strict prohibition in the early church against altering Holy Writ,[14] which is a second line of powerful evidence against the idea that scribes took it upon themselves freely to alter the text as they copied it.

What these two lines of evidence do is decisively destroy the idea that had seemed reasonable to Griesbach, that scribes altered the text to correct mistakes in the original.  And considering that this idea is the sine qua non, the linchpin, of mainline textual criticism,[15] its claims and conclusions are knocked into a cocked hat, and it needs to start again, from ground up.  It also means that Griesbach’s rules are not just wrong but backwards, and that textual decisions reached on the basis of these rules ought to be reversed.[16]  It also means that, contra Griesbach’s Rationalist belief, the original text of the New Testament did not contain errors that scribes felt compelled to correct, but that errors were subsequently introduced into the manuscript tradition as a result of scribal mistakes.

Yet mainline textual critics, both liberals and evangelicals, did not bat an eye at these facts, but continue blithely to use Griesbach’s canons and the linchpin assumption that scribes freely altered the text to correct mistakes.  Hard evidence to the contrary has had the same effect on them as the copious evidence against the theory of evolution and against the Big Bang Theory has had on evolutionists; it is simply ignored. The net result of this is our scholars, both liberal and evangelical, assume that the original text of the Bible had errors in it and these errors (of fact, history, geography, and science) are inserted as part of the reconstructed putative original text of the New Testament that is published as the critical texts that are used, endorsed, and promoted by an overwhelming majority of evangelical scholars today.[17]

And, as we have pointed out, if the errors are part of the original text, as mainline textual criticism maintains, then the doctrine of inerrancy is finished; one cannot believe the Bible is inerrant when he can see for himself the errors of fact, history, geography, and science in the text itself.[18]  It is unsurprising, then, given the near universal acceptance of mainline textual criticism by today’s evangelical scholars, that exceedingly few of them hold to genuine inerrancy.[19]  Ministries that defend young-Earth creationism should not find it strange, therefore, that evangelical scholars are uninterested in holding to the plain meaning of Genesis 1 and of the Biblical data on the age of the Earth in the face of what they wrongly believe to be overwhelming scientific evidence for deep time and/or the theory of evolution; there is no compelling reason to believe the Bible cannot be wrong on these matters inasmuch as textual criticism has shown them it is wrong on others.

Now, certainly a number of ministries have arisen to respond to one or another of these challenges, particularly that of Darwinism; there are several ministries doing excellent work in this area.[20]  There are far fewer who challenge the liberal paradigm assumptions of historical criticism[21] or who stand against the errors of mainline textual criticism.[22]

CMI and Textual Criticism

The problem is that very few evangelicals stand against even two of the heads of the monster, let alone all three.[23] A good defence in one area is, of course, laudable, and if one stayed focused only on his allotted ministry and core competency, the church would benefit greatly. But when a ministry steps out of its core competency and engages in the other areas in such a way as to support the paradigm assumptions that undermine the Bible, it becomes counterproductive – and all the more so if the good cachet they built up for their work in the area of their core competency induces their followers to accept these erroneous paradigm assumptions.

CMI (Creation Ministries International) knows this well; they have not hesitated to take to task publicly evangelical leaders who compromised the Biblical testimony about the age of the Earth and the six-day creation week.[24]  For example, after CMI senior scientist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati took R.C. Sproul Jr. to task for disagreeing with CMI on the issue of plant death[25] (this despite the fact that Sproul Jr. does believe in young-Earth creationism), Sarfati subsequently received complaints about the tone he used.  He responded that “it was necessary to answer an influential theologian in a way that would get the attention of those who might have been misled by his arguments” and “Since this error is evidently so widespread, it was important to refute it in a way that would alert people on both sides” and “We also think that a public article can be answered just as publicly.[26]

Just so! And if this applies to the issue of plant death, it most certainly applies to textual criticism. Yet in this matter CMI is doing what those they criticize are doing: teaching things that undermine the reliability of the Bible, and they are as deaf to correction in this matter as are those they criticize for teaching or endorsing deep time and other elements of Darwinism. The errors (and danger) of mainline textual criticism have been brought to their attention in the past yet they continue to accept and endorse it.[27]

The latest example is an article posted on the website on January 30, 2018, called “How can we be sure we have the Word of God? How accurate are our copies of the Bible?” by Gary Bates and Lita Cosner.[28]  In this short article, Bates and Miss Cosner blithely pass on some standard tropes of mainline textual criticism, and they make quite a number of errors in such a short article:

  • Bates and Miss Cosner write, “There are nearly 6,000 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek NT … Also, various lectionaries exist (documents which contain calendrical readings of Scripture).[29]  In fact, the “nearly 6,000” (actually, fewer than 5,800) include the lectionaries; 2,465 of the “nearly 6,000 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek NT” are lectionaries.[30]

  • Bates and Miss Cosner write, “We have over 10,000 manuscripts in Old Latin (the Latin translation that existed prior to Jerome standardizing the Latin Bible with his Vulgate translation).”  Actually, there are over 10,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate, Jerome’s standardization (I have several leaves in my own collection), while there are only some fifty Old Latin manuscripts.[31]

  • Bates and Miss Cosner write, “Copyists called scribes took great care when reproducing texts because they believed they were handling God’s Word.”  On the contrary, many of the manuscripts, including the key ones used in mainstream textual criticism, were copied with extreme carelessness.  Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, considered the two most important manuscripts, contradict each other more than 3,000 times in the Gospel books alone – and that does not include trivial differences such as spelling errors.[32]

  • Bates and Miss Cosner write, “Just like plotting when a mutation first appeared in a genome, text critics can trace variants back to their earliest occurrence in the extant record.”  That is what is known as the genealogical method, and it has never been applied to NT manuscripts because it cannot be; there simply are not enough manuscripts to do so, particularly from the earliest centuries.  What Bates and Miss Cosner claim here has not and cannot be done.

Furthermore, it should be noted that it is rather misleading to claim that “We have ‘an embarrassment of riches’” and speak of the “nearly 6,000 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek NT” when in fact the mainline textual criticism embraced by Bates and Miss Cosner considers the Byzantine manuscripts – which constitutes a good 95% of all manuscripts – worthless for establishing the original text of the New Testament.  In reality, mainline textual critics essentially use two manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (which two contradict each other more than 3,000 times in the Gospel books alone), and buttress them with a dozen or so other manuscripts, which are also quite corrupt,[33] to reconstruct the putative original New Testament text.

What is more troubling still is the attempt by Bates and Miss Cosner to downplay the significance of the textual variants, along with their conclusion that “when we weed out the many, many variants we can be confident that our Bible conveys what God inspired.”  Regarding the former, Bates and Miss Cosner say,

The most important thing to note is that 99% of the variants do not change the meaning of the text— they are misspellings or differences in word order.

Now, if that were true, it would still mean that there are some 4,000 variants that do change the meaning[34] – and that is more than fifteen in every chapter of the New Testament, or one for every 35 words.  That would seem to be rather significant, given that Jesus said that

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”[35]

Now, this is passing strange.  CMI clearly affirms that they believe that “The Bible is God’s word to us—every single word inspired by God[36] and that “every word (in the original autographs) is the exact word that God wanted there for all people for all time.[37]

Now, if every single word is inspired by God and “is the exact word that God wanted there,” then every single word matters, no?  We want to reconstruct the exact original text of the New Testament, no?  So why are these two CMI functionaries so blasé about the fact that we can’t actually be sure about four thousand of these “exact words that God wanted there”?[38]

And in fact it is much worse than that.  There are some 6,577 translatable differences between Hodges and Farstad’s The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text and the Nestle-Aland text, comprising some 8% of the total text[39] (about 11,000 words).  As Pickering points out,

In a Greek text with 600 pages that represents 48 solid pages’ worth of discrepancies.[40]

Do we have CMI’s attention yet?  Furthermore,

About a fifth of that reflects omissions in the [NA/UBS] text, so it is some ten pages shorter than the majority Text.[41]

Given that CMI rightly maintains that “every word (in the original autographs) is the exact word that God wanted there for all people for all time,[42] is not the omission of ten full pages of God’s word from the New Testament something to give one pause before blindly accepting the claims of mainline textual criticism?

One would think CMI would find this troubling indeed.  By ignoring the facts on textual criticism, they willingly dance to Satan’s deception “Has God indeed said?” a full 6,577 times.  And yet Bates and Miss Cosner risibly say,

You can be confident that God has preserved His Word!

How is that, pray tell, if we cannot know certainly what the words were in about 8% of the entire New Testament?  How has “God preserved His Word” if ten full pages are now missing?  How did this escape their notice?

Unless, of course, they assume that the textual decisions made by the editors of NA-28/USB-5 are correct and represent the original text, and that does seem to be their assumption, as they write,

text critics can trace variants back to their earliest occurrence in the extant record.  So, when we weed out the many, many variants we can be confident that our Bible conveys what God inspired.

That doesn’t really solve the problem, however. If one clings to mainline textual criticism in spite of the evidence, we must ask this: Given that 95% of the manuscripts, which were used throughout church history until very recently, included these ten pages of text, how did God allow ten pages of man’s uninspired word to infiltrate His inspired word, so that we could not tell which was which?  How is that “preserving” His word?

Nevertheless, Bates and Miss Cosner insist that

text critics can trace variants back to their earliest occurrence in the extant record.  So, when we weed out the many, many variants we can be confident that our Bible conveys what God inspired.

But how are they “weed[ed] out,” folks? By Griesbach’s rules.  By assuming that the original text had errors in it and restoring those errors wherever possible.

That brings us to the other problem; Bates and Miss Cosner downplay the significance of the variants, repeating the standard boilerplate that

no essential Christian belief rests on one verse, so no essential Christian belief is challenged by any of these variants.

Dr. Sarfati does the same, claiming that

Only about 1% of the variants make a difference in meaning, but even so, no doctrine depends on a disputed passage.[43]

So the differences aren’t really significant, are they?

Or are they?  Well, depending on which variants are considered to be the original, the Bible has errors of fact, science, and geography; has theological problems;[44] omits important theology;[45] looks silly;[46] and makes Jesus seem deceptive, if not an outright liar.[47]  Should CMI think these things are significant?  I think they are significant.

And that brings us to the issue of inerrancy.  CMI states their belief that “The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs[48] – and yet they accept and promote a text critical methodology and its resultant critical text that renders that belief impossible.  By accepting these, CMI accepts the following readings as part of the original text:

Mark 1:2-3: “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’”

  • Inasmuch as “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way” is not written “in Isaiah the prophet” (it is from Malachi 3:1), this is undoubtedly an error.[49]

Matthew 1:6b-10: “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah.”

  • The son of Abijah in the line leading to Jesus was Asa (2 Chronicles 14:1 ff.), whereas Asaph was a Levite Psalmist (1 Chronicles 25).  The son of Manasseh was Amon (2 Chronicles 33:20 ff.), whereas Amos was a prophet who ministered during the reign of Uzziah, some decades before Manasseh even began to reign.  Now, 98% of the manuscripts have the correct names Asa and Amon in these verses, but Nestle-Aland has Asaph and Amos, and this is undoubtedly an error.

Luke 23:45a: This passage reads “Then the sun was darkened” (καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ὁ ἥλιος).

  • A mere 0.8% of manuscripts read instead “the sun was eclipsed” (τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλιπόντος), and, in light of the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus occurred at Passover, which happens at the time of a full moon, and a solar eclipse is impossible during a full moon, this is a blatant scientific error.[50]

Mark 5:1 (Luke 8:26, 37): Here we read that “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes,” where Jesus expelled many unclean spirits from a demoniac, and “Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.”

  • In these three passages, the Nestle-Aland text reads “Gerasenes” (found in 0.3% of the manuscripts) instead of “Gadarenes.”  Now, Gadara is some six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, and its “country” would have extended around the city, so it is eminently reasonable that the herd of swine could have run “down the steep place into the sea,” but Gerasa is about thirty-six miles away from the Sea of Galilee, so there was no way the herd of swine could have run “down the steep place into the sea.”  This is a blatant geographical error.

We could give many more examples,[51] but this is more than enough to show that if the Nestle-Aland text is accepted as the original (or the “best representative of the original”), then the Bible is not inerrant.  That idea becomes a nonstarter. It is supremely ironic, then, in light of CMI’s clear statement of its belief in inerrancy, that Sarfati would claim that “no doctrine depends on a disputed passage[52] and Bates and Miss Cosner would again repeat the old chestnut that “no essential Christian belief rests on one verse, so no essential Christian belief is challenged by any of these variants.”  This is missing the forest for the trees, for there is certainly one doctrine that is “challenged” by these variants – and, in fact, destroyed by them if the Nestle-Aland text best represents the original text of the New Testament, and that is the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.  That doctrine, as we have seen, is destroyed. It may not be an “essential” doctrine in terms of being salvific, but it is certainly a crucially important doctrine.

Conclusion

In 2 Corinthians 2:11b, Paul wrote,

we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.

Tragically, it seems that since then many sincere Christians have indeed become ignorant of Satan’s devices.  From the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Satan’s foremost device was to get people to doubt God’s word: “Has God indeed said?”  And he does not do this in only one way, but in three primary areas: historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism.  The more that the church in the Western world has given way on these things, the more powerless and moribund it has become.  Sincere Christians who think they are following sound scholarship and good proper science have unwittingly become party to this.

It is incumbent on Christians to resist Satan’s attacks in each of these areas, for if we defeat him in one or two, he will still undermine the Bible via the third.  And particularly troubling is textual criticism, because (a) it puts errors into the Biblical text itself, from which there can be no escape, and (b) it has successfully been presented as a valid, scholarly, and even “noble” pursuit devoid of theological bias.  Its deceptive claims are even now spreading through the church like dimethylmercury, a compound whose deadly effects are completely unnoticed until death is near.  And sitting through a few seminary classes on the topic of textual criticism, in which the student is indoctrinated into the mainline view, no more prepares a Christian to face this challenge than a few seminary classes on Genesis equips him for the battle against Darwinism.[53]

CMI does great work in the battle against Darwinism, but on the issue of textual criticism it is very different.  They are happy to accept uncritically the mainline claims of textual criticism; for some reason it doesn’t seem to occur to them that if mainline evangelical scholarship is wrong on deep time and origins, it may well be on wrong on other things, too.  But no, on textual criticism, CMI seems to accept blithely the “scholarly consensus” and refuses to heed the warnings about it.

It is indeed ironic. CMI seems palpably (and rightly) frustrated when evangelical scholars and leaders refuse to hear and think about what CMI teaches them about origins.  These people refuse to look fairly at the evidence.  They refuse to consider the damage they are doing to Biblical authority by embracing their wrong views.  Yet CMI is doing the selfsame thing when it comes to textual criticism.  The next time a CMI functionary complains, saying, “This man refuses to listen to the facts and insists on holding on to views that undermine the credibility of the Bible,” it is to be hoped that a modern-day Nathan will arise and say to him, “You are that man!”


Endnotes

[1] There is no question but that Jesus was an “evidentialist” who never asked for blind faith but called on people to believe in Him because of the evidence He gave that proved His claims; in fact, He told people not to believe in Him if He did not prove His claims: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38).  Only the true God can put Himself to such a test.

[2] See Tors, John. “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible” at https://truthinmydays.com/the-three-headed-monster-and-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible-exposing-the-major-weapons-levied-against-the-trustworthiness-of-the-bible/.  Note that we use “Darwinism” as a term of convenience to refer to any version of the theory of evolution and its concomitant claim that the Earth is billions of years old (i.e. “deep time”).

[3] This grew to the current claim of 4.6 billion years old.

[4] Theories of evolution were floated long before Charles Darwin, going back, in fact, to Anaximander of Miletus in 520 BC, but it was not generally accepted until after the publication of Darwin’s book.

[5] While some try to marry the concept of God to the theory of evolution, forming a hybrid known as “theistic evolution,” the theory of evolution dispenses with the need for God, which was the whole driving force for its promotion and acceptance.  As Professor Edward J. Larson says, in the Teaching Company course “The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy,” “During the Enlightenment, during, say, the 1700’s, notions of evolution began creeping back in, that, is, creation by natural law.  If a people are intent in pushing out God, or rejecting divine causation, really the only alternative is where species, well, they could be eternal, as Aristotle said, or they had to come from other species.  Where else could they come from?”  (Bolding added.)

[6] See Tors, John. “Textual Criticism and the End of Biblical Inerrancy: Follow-up Comments on the Tors/Costa New Testament Text Debate (Part 1)” at https://truthinmydays.com/textual-criticism-and-the-end-of-biblical-inerrancy-follow-up-comments-on-the-torscosta-new-testament-text-debate-part-1/.

[7] For details, see Tors, “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible,” op. cit.

[8] See Tors, John. “Is a 4.6-Billion Year-Old Earth Compatible with Biblical Inerrancy? A Response to Norman Geisler” at https://truthinmydays.com/is-a-4-6-billion-year-old-earth-compatible-with-biblical-inerrancy-a-response-to-norman-geisler/; Hardy, Chris and Robert Carter. “The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth.” Journal of Creation 28:2 (2014), pp. 89-96; Tors, John. “Who is Fallible? Proper Exegesis and the Origins of the Earth” at https://truthinmydays.com/who-is-fallible-proper-exegesis-and-the-origins-of-the-earth/.

[9] This is the belief that Paul’s letters are the earliest Christian writings, predating the Gospel books by perhaps decades.  According to the actual evidence, the Gospel According to Matthew, the Gospel According to Mark, and probably the Gospel According to Luke were all published prior to Paul’s first letter.

[10] The current darling of evangelical scholarship, Dr. Michael Licona, claims in his latest book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), that there are differences in the Gospel books because the writers freely altered some facts and added some fictional material made up out of whole cloth.  (Some examples: “The discrepancies in details between Mark and Luke pertaining to who accused Peter … one or more of the evangelists reported the details as he or his sources recalled them, crafted, or creatively reconstructed them as part of their literary artistry” (pp. 160-61); “If Plutarch can alter the year in which Caesar wept … in order to emphasize Caesar’s ambitious character, John could alter the day and time of Jesus’s crucifixion to symbolize the sacrificial quality of Jesus’s death.” (p. 164); “Either Luke displaces an event or Mark // Matthew alter details.” (p. 167); “At minimum, it appears that either Matthew or John has relocated the appearance to Mary Magdalene.  This shows the extent to which at least one of the evangelists or the sources from which he drew felt free to craft the story.” p. 176); “Either Luke conflated two appearances into one or John has crafted an appearance.” (p. 182) (Italics added.))  Note that “crafted” means made up out of whole cloth.

[11] We are not talking about textual criticism in the broad sense of comparing manuscripts to determine the original text, but textual criticism as it has been practised from Griesbach to this day, with its assumption of original errancy and scribal attempts to correct them (what we call “mainline textual criticism”).  See Tors, John. “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism (in Manageable, Bite-sized Chunks)” at https://truthinmydays.com/a-primer-on-new-testament-textual-criticism-in-manageable-bite-sized-chunks/ for a brief overview of the field.

[12] For example, CMI’s Lita Cosner speaks of “the legitimate discipline of textual criticism (an important and God-honouring pursuit) determining which of the subsequently copied manuscripts is in this regard faithful to the original revelation.” (“Errors in the Bible?” Posted on March 13, 2010, at https://creation.com/claimed-bible-errors.)  There have been a few wise scholars who have stood against the acceptance of the methods and claims of mainline textual criticism; such men include the late Dean John Burgon and Dr. Wilbur Pickering.

[13] See Tors, “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism,” op. cit. for some of these studies.

[14] Kruger, Michael J. “Early Christian Attitudes toward the Reproduction of Texts,” in Hill, Charles E. and Michael J. Kruger. The Early Text of the New Testament. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 63-80

[15] A perusal of Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/German Bible Society, 1994) will show how quintessential this assumption is to mainline textual criticism.

[16] A perusal of Metzger, A Textual Commentary, op. cit., will show that the large majority of textual choices should be reversed.

[17] The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, now in its 28th edition, (NA-28) and The Greek New Testament, now in its fifth edition (UBS-5). Very few use the Majority Text.

[18] See Tors, “Textual Criticism and the End of Biblical Inerrancy,” op. cit.

[19] And those who claim to hold to it generally redefine inerrancy so that it does not mean “without error of any kind,” which is the only meaningful definition of inerrancy.  See Tors, “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible,” op. cit.; Tors, John, “Drowning in Deeper Waters: A Response to Nick Peters and Another Look at the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible” at https://truthinmydays.com/drowning-in-deeper-waters-a-response-to-nick-peters-and-another-look-at-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible/; and Tors, John, “The Assault on Inerrancy and What Is at Stake: A Final Word to Nick Peters” at https://truthinmydays.com/the-assault-on-inerrancy-and-what-is-at-stake-a-final-word-to-nick-peters/.

[20] These include the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International, and Answers in Genesis.

[21] The late Dr. John Wenham was one.  His book Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992) is a must-read.

[22] Dean John Burgon in the late 19th century, was a giant.  Dr. Zane Hodges in the 20th century was to textual criticism what Dr. Henry Morris was to young-Earth creationism.  Dr. Wilbur Pickering, author of The Identity of the New Testament Text (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1977; now in its fourth edition with Wipf & Stock Publishers) and collator of The Greek New Testament According to Family 35, and Dr. Maurice Robinson, co-editor with William G. Pierpont of The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005 (Southborough, MA: Chilton Book Publishers, 2005) have also done magnificent work in this area.  Robinson’s essay, “The Case for Byzantine Priority,” in the latter volume is not to be missed.

[23] For details, refer to Tors, “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible,” op. cit.

[24] For example, Sarfati, Jonathan. “William Lane Craig’s intellectually dishonest attack on biblical creationists.” Posted on September 17, 2013, at https://creation.com/william-lane-craig-vs-creation and Faulkner, Danny. “The dubious apologetics of Hugh Ross,” Journal of Creation 13:2 (November 1999), pp. 52–60

[25] Sarfati, Jonathan. “R.C. Sproul Jr. blunders on plant death: another theologian who needs to do his homework.” Posted on February 11, 2015, at https://creation.com/r-c-sproul-jr-plant-death

[26] Responses to Comments, posted with ibid.

[27] According to Andrew Kulikovsky (“Scripture and general revelation,” Journal of Creation 19:2 (August 2005), pp. 23–28), “the principles of textual criticism suggest that the ‘more difficult’ reading is preferable.”  This is one of Griesbach’s cardinal rules, and the rationale for the rule is that scribes would freely alter “more difficult readings” (e.g. errors) to correct them.

According to Lita Cosner (The ‘gender neutral’ Bible: Emasculating Scripture for political correctness.” Posted September 10, 2009, at https://creation.com/gender-neutral-bible-translations), “Through textual criticism (also known as “lower criticism”) Bible scholars can analyze the minor variations in these copies to discover which variant was original.  These efforts result in texts such as the Nestle–Aland and United Bible Society Greek New Testaments, which combine the most reliable variants from the manuscripts to give us the closest possible match to the original text.”  According to, again, Lita Cosner (“Politicizing Scripture: Should Christians welcome a ‘conservative Bible translation’?” Posted on December 24, 2009, at https://creation.com/politicizing-scripture-conservative-bible-translation), “in the 400 years since the creation of the King James Version, we have discovered many manuscripts which are earlier and more accurate witnesses to the original text of the New Testament, though the differences are not so great that they make the King James a bad translation.  Rather, it is simply not the most up-to-date textually, and as the Conservative Bible Translation seeks to be a new translation for the 21st century political conservative, one would suppose that they might as well start from scratch rather than use a 400-year-old translation, and use the best textual evidence available today.  An accurate translation of the Bible based on the KJV which seeks to be faithful to the best manuscript evidence would have to include thousands of changes, almost creating an entirely new translation.”  (Note: The textual basis of KJV is not the best, but it is certainly much closer to the best than that of the ESV and all other modern translations (except the NKJV), which are all based on the Nestle-Aland text.)  For more details, see Tors, John. “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster: Why the Monster Wins” at https://truthinmydays.com/creation-ministries-international-and-the-three-headed-monster-why-the-monster-wins/.

[28] Bates, Gary, Lita Cosner. “How can we be sure we have the Word of God? How accurate are our copies of the Bible?” Posted on January 30, 2018, at https://creation.com/bible-word-of-god

[29] Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Bates and Miss Cosner are from ibid.

[30] McDowell, Josh & Sean McDowell. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017), p. 48

[31] ibid., p. 50.  According to this source, Houghton lists 110 Old Latin manuscripts and Gryson lists eighty-nine, but “Old Latin MSS are counted differently from most other MSS … a count of fifty MSS is a more accurate apples-to-apples comparison.”

[32] Hoskier, Herman C. Codex B and Its Allies: A Study and an Indictment. 2 vols. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1914.

[33] See Pickering, Wilbur N. The Identity of the New Testament Text. Revised Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), p. 121-129 for an eye-opening discussion.

[34] According to Bates and Miss Cosner, “There are about 140,000 words in the NT and about 400,000 variants.” One percent of 400,000 is 4,000.

[35] Matthew 4:4b/Luke 4:4b, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3b.  (Bolding added.)

[36] Weinberger, Lael (interviewer). “Creation and Redemption: A Conversation with Albert Mohler.” Creation 33:1 (January 2011). Posted at http://creation.com/albert-mohler-interview.  (Italics added.)

[37] Ham, Ken. “A low view of Scripture.” Creation 21:1 (December 1998). Posted at http://creation.com/a-low-view-of-scripture.  (Italics added.)

[38] In fact, the actual “scientific” way of doing textual criticism – which should certainly be embraced now that the mainline view is shown beyond doubt to be wrong – allows us to know the entire exact wording.  See “The Tenth Bite” in Tors, “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism,” op. cit.

[39] Pickering, Dr. Wilbur N. The Identity of the New Testament Text II. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), p. 169.  This is based on UBS-3.

[40] ibid.

[41] ibid.

[42] Ham, op. cit.

[43] Sarfati, Jonathan. “Should we trust the Bible?” Creation 33:1 (January 2011). Posted at http://creation.com/trust-the-bible

[44] John 1:18 refers to Jesus as “The only begotten Son,” which is a reference to His incarnation (see Tors, John. “How Not to Do Hermeneutics: A Response to Daniel Mann’s “Jesus: The ‘Begotten of the Father’” (Christian Research Journal 34(2), 2011, pp. 8-9) at https://truthinmydays.com/how-not-to-do-hermeneutics-a-response-to-daniel-manns-jesus-the-begotten-of-the-father-christian-research-journal-342-2011-pp-8-9/).  Following 0.4% of the manuscripts, NA-28 instead selects the reading “The only begotten God,” yet God qua God cannot be begotten, although pagan gods could be and were begotten.

[45] John 3:13 reads, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”  As far as I know, it is the only passage that explicitly states that the divine Second Person of the Triune Godhead exists simultaneously as the incarnate Jesus.  NA-28, following 1% of the manuscripts, omits the crucial second part of this verse, reading only “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven,” and thus losing this explicit statement of important theology.

[46] In the ESV (which seems to be CMI’s de facto official translation), John 5:2-7 reads, “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’”  Now, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” and the man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

What kind of answer is that to the question?  It is senseless and silly.  But that is because the ESV follows Nestle-Aland, which omits v. 4, which reads, “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.”  With that verse in place, the man’s answer makes perfect sense.  But the Nestle-Aland editors omitted it, following 0.8% of the Greek manuscripts.  Do note that the ESV does include a footnote saying, “Some manuscripts insert, wholly or in part [verse 4].”  That doesn’t seem to quite capture the reality, unless “some” is generally considered to mean 99.2% of the manuscripts, which include the verse wholly.

[47] John 7:8-10 has Jesus saying to His brothers, “‘You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.’ When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.”

No problem there.  But Nestle-Aland reads, “I am NOT going up to this feast … But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.”  This is obviously the “more difficult” reading, since it makes Jesus look deceptive, if not an outright liar, so of course scribes would want to change it, and so Nestle-Aland picks this reading as the original – following 3% of the manuscripts, and even going against their usual favourites, Codex Vaticanus when it is in agreement with P75, and P66, so baleful is the influence of Griesbach’s canons that put errors and problems into the original text. ESV dutifully follows suit, omitting “yet” in this verse.

[48] “What We Believe.” Posted at https://creation.com/about-us.  See also Sarfati, Jonathan. “The authority of Scripture.” Posted at http://creation.com/the-authority-of-scripture; and Kulikovsky, Andrew S. “The Bible and hermeneutics.” Journal of Creation 19:3 (December 2005), pp. 14-20. Available at http://creation.com/the-bible-and-hermeneutics#_ftnref14

[49] The ludicrous attempts of CMI and other evangelicals to explain away this error – even to the point of resorting to epistemological relativism – has been decisively been debunked.  (See Tors, John. “Why There Is an Error in Mark 1:2 in your Bible: Another Example of the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible” at https://truthinmydays.com/why-there-is-an-error-in-mark-12-in-your-bible-another-example-of-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible/ and Tors, John. “Mark 1:2 Revisited: A Response to James Patrick Holding” at https://truthinmydays.com/mark-12-revisited-a-response-to-james-patrick-holding/).

[50] The ESV translates this as “while the sun’s light failed,” but that is not correct.  In many contexts, ἐκλείπω does indeed mean “fail,” but when the reference is to the sun or the moon, it means “eclipse” (BDAG, p. 636).  It is interesting that the overwhelming majority of those who embrace the Nestle-Aland text also believe in literary dependence and believe that Luke used Mark as a source.  So they have to believe that Luke intentionally changed a correct word for darkness, σκότος, used in Matthew and Mark, to an incorrect word, ἐκλείπω (while adding a mention of the sun), even though it is σκοτίζω that is found in 96.8% of the manuscripts of Luke.

[51] See Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text II, op. cit., pp. 169-179 for a selection.

[52] Sarfati, Jonathan. “Should we trust the Bible?” op. cit.

[53] There are certainly notable parallels between Darwinism and mainline textual criticism. In both cases the ideas were promoted and accepted before real evidence for them was offered; in both cases the subsequent examination showed the ideas to be wrong; in both cases the ideas continued to be held and promoted by the opinion makers; and in both cases most evangelicals go along with some, most, or all of the claims with very little critical reflection.  The claim of Bates and Miss Cosner, then, that “Textual criticism is really like a science” is risibly wrong; it is more exactly the opposite of science.  Science is supposed to examine the evidence and from that draw conclusions; textual criticism, as we have seen, starts with the conclusion of an erroneous Bible and judges the data on that conclusion.

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