Now the majority of Protestant churches concur to a large degree with the once discredited epistemology of papal Rome. The modern textual critics have largely accepted the Roman Catholic view of the impurity of the original language texts of Scripture. Now instead of the Council of Trent asserting that the Latin Vulgate is the authentic text, today’s Roman Catholics and Protestants have granted the power to decide to what constitutes authentic Scripture to theologically liberal Roman Catholic and Protestant textual critics who have provided a Greek New Testament which has allocated different degrees of certainty to the texts of the New Testament books. Today’s “authentical” Scripture, therefore, is an eclectic collation of texts decided upon by supposedly scientific criteria not found in Scripture, but are rather the subjective ideas of scholars.
Although these textual critics and their supporters will proclaim that they are fairly confident that they possess a mostly accurate text, their own presuppositions mean that they can never acquire complete certainty. Who knows what other ancient manuscript might be located in the Jordanian desert which will now need to be added to the mix?
On the other hand, the Puritan divines of Westminster were certain that they possessed the scriptures in totality and that confirmation was provided by the Holy Spirit confirming the authority of Scripture from the Scripture as the undoubted word of God. They could, therefore, rest in the certainty of the promises of God and were assured of eternal life. Today such certainty is tempered by the view that we cannot be fully certain that we possess the text of Scripture. And if we cannot, how can we be certain that all its promises are yea and amen in Christ?
If the Westminster divines were correct in their doctrine of Scripture, then we can expect to see the New Testament Received Text and Old Testament Masoretic Text continue to be preserved and used by the Lord’s people. We also expect to see the Wescott, Hort and Warfield approach to textual criticism eclipsed by a return to the Puritan epistemology so clearly defined in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1:8).
There are scholars today who are challenging the present consensus. Jakob van Bruggen has detected irrational bias, poor scholarship and faulty reasoning among the framers of the modern eclectic text behind the majority of modern versions of the Bible. As more Christians become educated on the developments of modern textual-critical theory they are likely to see the beauty, simplicity, and the scriptural basis for the old religious epistemology of the Reformation and authentic status of the common text of Scripture.
By G Garnet Milne, “Has the Bible Been Kept Pure?”
(Jimmy Hamilton aka The Street Preacher.