Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Second Temple Literature Against McLaren

Apparently, Brian McLaren's new book rejects the fall and argues that this notion of the fall in Genesis 3 is based on Platonism. Here's two helpful summaries:

Brian’s first whipping boy is what he terms the “Greco-Roman six-line narrative.” Many of us are familiar with it’s story:
In Brian’s words, “To be a Christian has required one to believe that the Bible presents one very specific story line, a story line by which we assess all of history, all of human experience, all of our own experience.” (33) His quest for a new kind of Christianity begins by questioning this story line. How does he do this? By claiming that “it’s the shape of the Greek philosophical narrative that Plato taught!” (37)
In two conversations with two separate friends, “a suspicion began to grow in [him]” and he began to “realize it was also the social and political narrative of the Roman Empire.” According to Brian, the historical understanding of God’s Story of Rescue in terms of Creation, Rebellion, Rescue, Re-Creation (or Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation as it’s also known; this is my own re-framing) is Platonic.
According to Brian, this narrative framing mirrors the story line of Platonism: we start with a “Platonic Ideal,” which is a perfect Platonic paradise; from there we fall into darkness, which mirrors Plato’s famous parable, the Cave of Illusion; now our being has been transformed and the Greek blood-god Theos is furious because his perfect world is “spoiled and now decaying;” salvation occurs when the god of this Greco-Roman version of the biblical story finds a way to forgive this fallen, pathetic, detestable creation through justification, atonement, and redemption; those who are forgiven/saved are returned to an “eternal state in which they will be safe forever;” those who are not “are banished to hell-the Greek Hades” and the tainted universe is destroyed. (41-44)

Brian’s real beef with C-F-R [Creation-Fall-Redemption]is not the C or the R but the F. He does not believe that there was a Fall (or original sin or total depravity or hell) but that what we have traditionally called the Fall is actually “a coming-of age story” which—wait for it—describes “the first stage of ascent as human beings progress from the life of hunter-gatherers to the life of agriculturalists and beyond.” I have quoted him verbatim so you know I am not making this up.
Obviously however, Brian McLaren is less than adept in actual Jewish second temple literature and even its impact on Christianity. Consider this from Seyoon Kim:
"[I]n order to understand the various motifs in Paul's Adam-Christ typology we need to take into account the Jewish conceptions of Adam and his fall and their expectations of a restoration of the pre-fall state of man and the world with the coming Messiah. Thus the 'Jewish preparation', as sketched by Wedderburn, forms a broad background for Paul's Adam-Christ typology." The Origin of Paul's Gospel, 192.
"Of course, the theological truths that Paul expresses through his Adam-Christ typology must be understood in the light of his conception of God's saving event in Christ and against the background of the Jewish conceptions of Adam and his fall, especially those which, on the one hand, held Adam responsible for bringing sin into the world and death upon all his descendants and which, on the other hand, held each individual responsible for his own sin and death." (The Origin, 186).
Some examples:
1. Qumran expected the glory of Adam restored to their community (1 QS 4.23; CD 3.20; 1QH 17.15;)

2. 4 Ezra 3:4-36. Consider just verses 7: "And you laid upon him [Adam] one commandment of yours; but he transgressed it, and immediately you appointed death for him and for his descendants."

3. 2 Bar. 17.2-3 "For what did it profit Adam that he lived nine hundred and thirty years and transgressed that which he was commanded? Therefore, the multitude of time that he lived did not profit him, but it brought death and cut off the years of those who were born from him." Or consider 2 Baruch 54:15 "For, although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his time, yet each of them who has been born from him has prepared for himself the coming torment..."

4. "One strand of Rabbinic thought envisages that six things which Adam lost --his lustre, his immortality, his height, the fruit of the earth and the fruit of the trees, and the luminaries--would be restored in the Messianic age." (Kim, Origins, 189).

Kim sites other evidence and discussion as part of a larger thesis. We have also not teased out the difference or the variation in the lines of thought in Judaism. Second Temple Judaism believed in a fall from Adam in Genesis 3 [or in places Eve is blamed (Sir. 25:24). 

We draw two conclusions: 
(1) Creation-Fall-Redemption is something that we see as the Biblical pattern and more to the point it was a first century Jewish reading on the basic story line. It was hardly Greco-Roman or 'Platonic'. The Jewish/Christian hope is hardly heaven as disembodied existence--but this does not negate the basic C-F-R.

(2) A number within the emerging church consistently construct their meta-narratives concerning theology, history and the history of theology with scant attention to the evidence, or utter dismissal of any and all that stands in direct contradiction to it. 

It is true that the basic plot line of C-F-R can be used wrongly but that hardly makes it in itself wrong or the product of Platonism. Once more we see old bug-a-boo rolled out for the purpose of flagrant demonization. This whole process lacks simple integrity and examination of sources.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What can Proverbs 31 teach about Male Headship?

Proverbs 31:10 begins a famous section about the excellent wife, so it is not the passage that most people think of when they think of a description of male headship in the home. First, let me say, that I am committed the the position of complementarianism. In the marriage, God has designed different roles for men and women.   I am not so much as going to defend that thesis, but launch into a somewhat controversial thesis. I want to suggest that too many committed husband will never have a Proverbs 31 wife because they have a warped view of complementarianism. It is not complementarianism that is the problem. It is Biblical and of course as Biblical always attracts its cultured despisers. What I want to suggest is that some so misunderstand complementarianism that their wife would never or is never permitted to live out the life of 'the excellent wife.' It is not that we have so few honorable Christian women--it is that we have so few honorable Christian men who love and nurture their wives into actually becoming 'the excellent wife.'

Instead of holding our wives up to the standard set in Proverbs 31, as husbands we should be holding ourselves up to this standard asking: "Do I treat my wife with such trust and honor her above all else that I actually free her to fulfill her God given calling--to be a helpmate and a mother?" The main issue that goes to the main way that husbands exercise headship is simply this: trust. Some husband are so concerned with 'leading' and 'their responsibility' that they never actually trust their wives. If a wife is not trusted she will never become an excellent wife. Headship is in the home and marriage is never about the kind of control that lords authority over others. Some wives are not able to do anything, go anywhere or make any substantial decision without checking with or being instructed by the husband. On good marker is money: some wives cannot spend more than $10 or buy more than groceries without checking with their husbands who "control the finances." Some husband never trust to the level that they can give responsibility to others--and I suspect it goes deeper than how they treat their wives but it does manifest itself there. But consider Scripture:
Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

1. The excellent wife is entrusted to prepare food and clothes for her family.
Proverbs 10:13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
Here the excellent wife works diligently in the home. Most husbands have little problems with this so long as it "stays in the home." But consider in the ancient culture the amount of trading and commerce that would be needed to acquire wool and flax. The wife would have needed to have access to funds and the freedom to step out and make arrangements to acquire these things. Consider how shocking this would be in an ancient culture where woman often were treated no better than objects suitable for child bearing. Yet the godly woman works hard and the husband has such confidence in his wife that he trusts her ability. Notice the husband does not merely get the flax and wool for the wife to stay home and make clothes--the woman is entrusted to seek these things out. This means she has intelligence (again almost an unheard of way of treating women in the ancient world)--she knew enough about wool and flax to acquire the best.

Applications to are day are hardly controversial. In Christian homes women often are out shopping for food and clothes. They often cook and prepare meals for the family. Yet do husbands allow their wives the freedom and ability to seek out and extend themselves far and wife like a merchant looking for the best deal--even spending money when needed. Some husbands hardly respect the intelligence of their wives--the wife may know something, but the husband always knows better. This is often not headship but pride. While the husband may have an over-arching responsibility, it is deep character flaws and a legalist or perfectionist spirit that forces him to 'do' everything or oversee things in a way that most or all things must come back through him--cross his desk as it were.

2. The excellent wife is entrusted to earn and spend money.
Proverbs 31:16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
Is it Biblical true that a wife and mother can never work outside the home? The wife is so entrusted that she is able to buy a field--no minor purchase. But most husbands see "headship" and their "authority" of oversight so narrowly that they would never consider to let the wife make a major purchase. But imagine the wife buying a computer, property, a car, replacing furniture for the house--all without the husband feeling the need to "look over the shoulder" or double check to  see that she got the best deal.

Two caveats should be made: (1) I realize that cars, computers or land are not every woman's fancy--but some women do indeed have skill in this or other areas of finance. There is nothing in Scripture that says the husband must pay the family bills and balance the family checkbook. Headship does not mean the husband must control the purse strings. What if the women was involved in careful invest and planning for the couple's future retirement? What if the wife was an entrepreneur running her own business outside the home? (2) This verse says nothing about going into debt. It is sad that in our day the caricature abounds "men make the money and women spend it." Stereotypes of women doing nothing but running up the charge-card bill are far too real in too many marriages. The women in Proverbs 31 is not a rabid spender but a wise and careful user of money. It is a tool in her skilled hands--and the husband is blessed by his wife's skill and care.

In our verse the wife actually works engaging in commerce. It is not just a little selling or buying, she is up late at night with her "business." Consider how many men will not allow their wives to do anything productive outside the home because "a women's place is in the home." Sadly too many men feel their headship is threatened if the wife brings home anything more than a few dollars for personal spending.

The women in our passage is also a strong and confident women. This of course does not mean that she lacks grace and feminine charm. This does not mean that she shuns the strong loving arms of her husband to "strike out alone"--but what it does mean is that the women is not a push-over. She has strength of character and she is a diligent hard worker. She is not afraid "to break a nail," or "let her hair down and get her hands dirty." This women is no dainty Victorian women who never ventures out without a sun umbrella. Some men are in their marriage, quiet frankly, afraid of a women who shows any type of strength--physical or in character. But her again, rather than the husband be threatened by such spirit and physicality, the husband is blessed by it.

Again three caveats (1) there is a difference between a women being "butch" shunning womanhood to be man-like and a women being strong in her feminine character. While a wife should not be manly and just "one of the guys" in every sense, a godly Christian wife may enjoy things like playing baseball with guys, going to a football game, fixing a car--an in their own ways 'having a strong arm'--or she may be quite adept at actually working outside the home. (2) All this does not mean the woman can neglect her role as a mother if God has blessed her with children. Some women for various reasons need or must stay home--but Scripture nowhere obligates that a women never work "outside the home"--indeed this verse advocates a productive wife, so long as she does not neglect her children and household. Her role starts in the home caring for her family and spills over--too often today women reverse this order. Obviously some women never maintain this balance and sadly neglect their role in favor of their career. But the point is that the boundary for the women is not 'keep it inside the home.' (3) Husbands are never to neglect providing for their family and 'delegate it' to the wife. A productive wife is no excuse for a lazy husband.

3. The wife is so adept at providing for the home her business flows beyond the home.
Proverbs 31:21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Proverbs 31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
Here the wise provides for her family. But she also extends beyond the family. Again she is involved in the commerce. She and not her husband is delivering her goods to the merchant. She is strong and dignified. But she is active and prepares. She makes plans and prepares for the future not merely resigning that to her husband. Of course, this women is not rebelling against the care of her husband. Yet the husbands care does not restrict the wife.

4. The women is entrusted in raising and training up the children.
Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
The teaching of the children in the home is shared by the wife and the husband. Obviously, the husband cannot neglect his role in teaching Scripture in the home. But in his wife, the husband has a partner. Some husbands consider themselves to be the theologian and Bible student/scholar of the family. A good husband will never neglect or shun the wisdom of his wife. He will fully trust the abilities and gifts that God has given his wife to teach the children. While the husband should exercise responsibility and leadership, notice that in our passage their is no fear over what the wife might say--'what if she is not doctrinally precise?' Rather she is wise--and I would suggest that the husband today needs to pay extra attention to the wisdom that God gives wives. These verses do not preclude the idea that the wife might even be wiser then her husband (consider Abigail in 1 Samuel 25) or even more intelligent or even more knowledgeable in the Scriptures..

Some have so perfected the Biblical teaching of headship and submission that in all functionality their practice screams "a wife should be seen and not heard." As a husband do you listen to your wife's wisdom? Do you see her wisdom and trust her teaching abilities. Children cannot go without their fathers teaching and nurturing--but neither can they go without their mothers. Do they see their fathers honoring their mother? Or is the father so controlling that he is constantly checking up of his wife, looking to 'fix what might go wrong,' looking over her shoulder because 'he is the leader of the home'?

Leadership in the home that never entrusts things to the wife nor actually entrusts things under her careful hand is no leadership in the home at all.

5. The wife is entrusted to minister to the needs of those in the community through caring for the poor.
Proverbs 31: 20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
For some men, the wives would never be allowed to give out money to the poor and needy. Maybe she can write the tithe check--but any major decision, sponsoring a child, an end of the year donation, even an immediate need for help or hospitality, must be run through the 'head.' But again her our 'excellent woman' opens her own hand to the poor and reaches out her own hands to the needy. Again, in too many 'Christian' marriages headship is exercised in such a way that the woman would never be "allowed" to exercise these things--and so I suggest that many husband are what keep themselves from experiencing the Biblical 'excellent wife.'

There is much Proverbs 31 can teach us about the excellent wife--the kind of godly woman who is an asset and blessing to her family. She should be praised and exalted. This woman is so active and seems so energetic, it is no wonder many women stress out just reading this verses--to a perfectionist these verses seem hardly comforting when the wife is just trying to keep her head above water, her house from explode, and her kids for 'killing' each other. Being a wife is no easy task.

We have not dealt with outlining all Scripture says about marriage and headship. It is true that many favor egalitarian approaches or even feminist approach in their Christian marriages. Such approaches are unbiblical but they are not our concern her. Our concern is a wrong exercising of headship by the husband who believes the role of husband and wives are complimentary, which indeed they are.

But our verses in Proverbs 31 should equally serve as instruction to the husband. Not how to keep score over his wife, but how to trust his wife. The headship of a husband is not confining and restrictive a kind that merely lays out rules and simply 'tells the woman' what to do. The godly husband must nurture and care for his excellent wife. Entrusting her with freedom and liberty--treating her as a woman made in God's image who is given wisdom, talents, and insight--is precisely what causes the excellent wife to flourish. Now it is not as if it is the husband who makes his wife excellent--that would take this passage to far and indeed turn it on its head. Rather our point is simple: too many husbands exercise their headship in such a wife that the wife will never actually do what a Proverbs 31 women could do. Perhaps these husbands even think to themselves "my wife isn't this diligent and excellent"--instead of pointing at their wives and wondering why they aren't like that, they should look at how they treat their wives and ask: "How can I encourage her to be whom God has made her? How can I help her fulfill the tasks to which God has called her?" Too many husbands say they trust their wives, but they never actually entrust things to her care both inside and outside the home.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Perseverance of the Saints

Can I lose my salvation? That is a serious question. But equally serious is the question: can I live reveling in all kinds of sin, unbelief and turning from God but be assured that because I professed faith at one time, I am still truly saved?

The answer to the first question is: no. The answer to the second question is: no.

God who begins a good work in us, does not fail to loose us. However, there are people who outwardly appear saved and they act it with all sincerity and unction--but in the end show themselves to be what they are because they walk away from the faith. As 1 John 2:19 states: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

Coming to the truth of God's Word in these things and seeking to hear the whole of Scripture leads us to make the following summation sometimes called the doctrine of 'the perseverance of the saints." The emphasis falls on both God's great work in preserving those who are His true people and the serious warnings about falling away to those who claim to be God's people.

The doctrine of perseverance of the saints is defined as the continued work of God in those who have believed unto salvation so that they are not lost but receive final salvation and glorification. Because salvation is entirely a work of God, then it is in God alone whom our assurance of salvation lies. For this reason, God preserves His saints, those who he has foreknown, predestined, called, and justified will be glorified. They must be glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). Nothing at all can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:33-39). If God has placed us in His loving hands, and nothing can remove us, then even we, ourselves, cannot ‘jump’ out of the hands of God. Our union with Christ and the down-payment of the Spirit is evidence of eternal security. God began a good work in us and He will complete it (John 10:27-29; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:5,9; 2 Pet. 1:10; 1 John 3:9). John 6:37-39 is also clear that Jesus will not lose all who have been given to Him. However the true saints of God, who are kept by God, are those who remain faithful to the end by the power of God (Matt. 24:13). After quoting John 6:38,39, John Murray writes, “Security inheres in Christ’s redemptive accomplishment. And this means that, in respect of the persons contemplated, design and accomplishment and final realization have all the same extent.” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, [Eerdmans, 1955], 64]

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a complicated and disputed passage that must influence our understanding. The issue in the passage concerns those who have turned apostate, after having been involved in the church. For all intents and purposes they appeared saved and ‘played the Christian game’ yet upon going out and turning from the truth, they have in effect re-crucified Christ. Indicating that they are not saved. Lest we worry in despair over every sin we commit, we should point out that evidence of true repentance and desire to stop sinning is external evidence that one is saved and the Spirit of God is working in your life. The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 teaches us that those who are saved are those in whom the Word of God is brought to fruition by the power of the Word. Other passages that speak of people falling away include Matthew 24:10,12; 1 Tim. 1:9; 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:10; and 2 Pet. 2:20-22. This shows further that there is a category of ‘faith’ which can be described as temporal faith but is not true faith which is the work of God. John Murray summarizes in much clearer terms:
The Scripture itself, therefore, leads us to the conclusion that it is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with the supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life. (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 153)
The doctrine of perseverance of the saints is often flippantly and untheologically summarized as “once saved always saved.” While in some sense true, this statement is generally used to refer to all who made a confession of faith, no matter how flippant or superficial. This view further extrapolates that one can make such a confession, return to an ungodly lifestyle and give no indication of spiritual change but still maintain complete assurance of salvation. This is not the Biblical perspective of eternal security and perseverance of the saints. If we are to use the terminology “once saved always saved” we should add “God works in those who are truly saved to continually bring them to Him.” Romans 8:5-13 seems clear that if one is still consistently living in sin as a continual lifestyle that person is still a slave to sin. Douglas Moo comments on 8:13 “the truly regenerate believer, while often committing ‘fleshly’ acts, will be infallibly prevented from living a fleshly lifestyle by the Spirit within” (The Epistle to the Romans, [Eerdmans, 1996], 494).  

This doctrine is a tightrope. Often, we cannot (and should not) make resolute judgments on a person eternal condition based on their present actions. However, we can stir them to repentance by continual preaching of the Word (from the pulpit, in counseling, or personally) and call them to repentance because their lifestyle does not bear evidence of any change in position before God.

We must remain clear that those who have been reconciled to God and have been justified by the blood of Christ will be saved (Rom 5:9-10). The true believer has the Spirit of God within him preserving him and enabling him to persevere. The Word of God says, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6). In 1 Peter 1:3-5, Peter praises God for the salvation of believers that is secure as they are kept by the power of God:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Salvation is not for those who name it; claim it; yet reject the change in lifestyle, which evidences true conversion. This indicates that they were never saved to begin with (Matt. 7:21-23; Matt. 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). But to the true believer: “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thes. 3:3-5). The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints shows us the God keeps and does not lose those who are his; their salvation is secure because of the blood of Christ and the work of the Spirit in applying that blood. It is God who continues to work in the believer preserving them until the final day of redemption.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Comma Johanneum and the KJV

The Comma Johanneum is the addition of the following in the KJV:
1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
It is in no modern translation because it is not found in any of the earliest manuscripts.
1 John 5:7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
The Greek behind the KJV is found in eight manuscripts:
61 : 16th cent
88 : a variant added in the 16th cent.
221 : a variant added to a 10th cent. ms.
429 : 16th cent ms
629 : 14th cent ms
636 : variant reading on a 16th cent ms.
918 : 16th cent ms.
2318 : 18th cent ms.

Numerous manuscripts omit it including Alexandrian and Byzantine texts types. The church fathers omit it. The Old Latin and the Vulgate omit it in their earliest mss. It simply is not there. Of all the textual problems in the NT the evidence is hardly more overwhelming in favor of omitting.

Yet those who favor the King James alone, typical argue for other reasons, that it is original. So recently I was asked to comment on this article. Here are my thoughts:

The problem with the article is that a defense of the Comma Johanneum is just not historically sound. Imagine if you will that I added something to the text of Scripture, and I manage to get into a library and add it less than 1% of the manuscripts available. Two hundreds years from now, without knowing what I have done, you discover that less than 1% of the Biblical texts have the words that I have added. On top of that you find early manuscripts in preponderance that do not have the inserted phrase. Let us say that my phrase in impeccable in its Biblical theology, however do you then conclude that because it coheres theologically with the Bible it must be original. Without knowing me or what I have done you are going to use good logic and historical investigation to consider what is the most likely occurrence to explain the texts you have uncovered.

The Comma Johanneum is excellent theology for the Bible everywhere teaches the concept of the Trinity. However, it is simple not in the original text, nor is it in the majority of texts. The article says there are 501 manuscripts that contain 1 John yet only 8 manuscripts (10-20 according to the article).

While I won’t respond to every point the article makes, what follows is my thought on a few things. The article basically muscles a method to defend what it has deemed to be true. So when the argument suits its case it does argue that oldest is best: “While it is true that all but around 10-20 of the Greek texts contain the Comma, and most of these are late, the vast bulk of those without the Comma are also late, by the standards of the United Bible Society. Around 95% of these Comma-deleted texts are "late" by these standards (post-9th century). ”

But when oldest-is-best does not suite its case it dismisses it: “it ought to be evident that the weight of numbers on the side of Comma-deleted manuscripts is at least partially nullified by the "oldest-is-best" arguments which the Critical Text crowd loves to advance in favour of the Alexandrian texts.

If he truly supported “oldest-is-best” he would argue against Comma Johanneum. In fact, the writer is clearly and unscientifically biased against the Alexandrian text type. Typical such biases rely on faulty theology not actual historical evidence and weighing of manuscripts.

The writer builds no consistent method of textual criticism. In fact, the issue is not merely “oldest is best” but often late manuscripts (9th century) have early copies from which they were made. So a 9th century manuscript can be poor if there is a long chain of copies between it and the originals, or it can be good if for example it is a from a copy of an early manuscript. This is why text-type and copyist style are so important. This is a serious science that is largely dismissed by the article.

Statements like “we see that the Critical Text supporters include minority readings into the new versions of the Bible, whereas the King James' Textus Receptus reading is in the (sometimes large) majority of the pertinent manuscripts” lead me to believe he has no understanding of the basic practice of textual criticism, regardless of the article’s scholastic appearance. So is oldest best (as he suggests at one point) or is the majority the best (which he suggests here) The issues of textual criticism are not just about racking up a majority of readings nor merely picking the old-is-best. Scholars also see to evaluate which reading can easily explain rise of the alternate readings. In fact, on these grounds sometimes the minority reading is actually the best.

He writes:
“The point to mentioning this is not to cry foul over the inclusion of readings with minority Greek support into a textual edition. Rather, is it just the opposite, to demonstrate that even the modernistic textual critics recognise that there are other weighting factors than mere number of manuscripts which should be used to determine whether a reading belongs in the text, even if their particular weighting factors are based upon the spurious premise that "oldest always means best" (a premise which is difficult to swallow when the oldest texts are demonstratably inconsistent both within their manuscript body and with the bulk of extant Greek manuscript tradition at large)”

I agree there are other issues. But the issues driving this paper are not history but theology. Good theology of the Trinity however cannot invent history. So in the above quote he misses the reason why ‘oldest-is-best’ often (but not always is true). A reasoned eclecticism of the text will chose readings that best explain the variants (even if the variants are in the majority).

Think of it this way. If you are tracing a stream back to its source. In this river there is a unique species of fish found only in this stream. You want to identify the unique features to this fish so that you can work up its biology. You know that somewhere along this stream pollution was dumped in the river, this has caused the fish to mutate. Which fish is the mutation? You do not know. Some of the fish have two dorsal fins others have one. So at the end of the stream you find 1,000 fish. 900 have one dorsal fine but 100 have two dorsal fins. By majority you can assume that the 900 are original--they must be the true type of fish.

Upon further investigation you head up stream. The number of fish with two dorsal fins increase. As you move up stream you find a point of pollution. Upstream, in front of that point, you suddenly find only fish with two dorsal fins. This is the original makeup of the fish. Textual readings work in a similar fashion. The total number of fish in the stream may have only one fin, but that doesn’t make them original if they originate from a point after the corruption.

The analogy holds well for textual criticism. Yes, earlier readings aren’t always better, but in most cases, earliest readings are better. In the case of the Comma Johaneum it is virtually without question that the earliest readings are best. Four the eight manuscripts have the reading in the margins which clearly point to emendation. When early readings do not actually support the emendation it is grasping at straws to suggest that “the scholars were aware of earlier readings.” It is not a consistent historical method.

So when the author uses the majority of Byzantine reading to state that their are against a minority of Alexandrian readings stating “Further, the oldest witnesses (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Bezae, Alexandrinus, Codex "D05", Ephraemi Rescriptus) are all widely variant from each other and not as trustworthy as they are put forth. When we consider that these texts are in the small minority, and are also grossly variant from the dominant majority of the Greek manuscripts, the Byzantine tradition.” He uses the majority of later manuscripts to cast dispersion on the early manuscripts. The Alexandrian texts are not a divergent from each other as we are lead to believe by this author.

The author really has no knowledge of the Alexandrian text type. Yes, it has variants from the earliest papyri, this is why text critical scholars often prefer the papyri because they are often older. Yet the Byzantine text will often have a majority reading that disagrees with the papyri. So again our author has in inconsistent methodology. Impugning the theology of the Alexandrian text types as heretical is simply hog-wash. Not even serious scholars who favor the majority text make such arguments for they have been shown to be what they are. There were just as many heretics in Alexandria as their were elsewhere; and there were just as many defenders of orthodoxy in Alexandria as elsewhere--consider Athanasius.

It is simply ludicrous to state: “the very fact that there are variant readings for this verse among the Greek manuscripts which contain the Comma lends an air of authenticity to the presence of the Comma in these texts.” This is precisely the type of argumentation we see from Bart Ehrman when he seeks to undermine the text arguing essentially that the fact there are variants gives credence towards scholars intentionally changing the text. Variants tell us nothing more than that their are variants.

Regarding some of the evidence other than Greek manuscripts: With respect to the testimony of Cyprian you should read Dan Wallace article on this.
Cyprian never actually cited the text of 1 John as containing the Comma.

Jerome does not claim there were Greek Codices that left this out, but stating is not the same as proving. Jerome’s actually writings and the Vulgate he produced does not contain it.. In fact, according to Bruce Metzger it is the Codex Fuldensis, a copy of the Vulgate made around 546, contains a copy of Jerome's Prologue to the Canonical Gospels which seems to reference the Comma, but the Codex's version of 1 John omits it. The Prologue's reference is not accurate and has been falsely attributed to Jerome, either way the actual text of 1 John omits the words. [Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1993; and Wescott The Epistles of St. John, pp204-5; Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, p782.]

Suggesting things like Eusebius is responsible for the removal of the Comma Johanneum lacks any evidence whatsoever. The is silly when the manuscripts before Eusebius do not have the Comma Johanneum.

Bruce Metzger and others are quite clear that the Comman Johanneum is not found in the Old Latin. Issues of textual criticism arise for the Old Latin as well and it is simple not in the original manuscripts.

With respect to Tertullian it is not a quote or an allusion to 1 John 5 at all in Against Praxeus XXV. To suggest that it is simply shows the extent to which one is willing to go to force one’s case to be true. A church father defending the doctrine that the three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are one, is not the same as them defending the Comma Johanneum.

Again our author does not understand the disciple of textual criticism when we writes: “It is patently illegitimate to consider inconsistent Greek codices from the 4th-5th centuries to be of greater weight than the clear and explicit testimony to the verse from patristics such as Tertullian and Cyprian, who quite CLEARLY were referring to this verse in their writings from two centuries before (as will be seen below).” What he claims as “clear” is not clear--Tertullian is not quoting or alluding to 1 John but to John’s Gospel. Cyprian is giving an interpretation NOT reading the text.

In fact, it is the INTERPRETATION that best explains the variant. The variant was added to explain good Trinitarian theology but it is not what John had himself written.

Basically, what motivates this article is defending that all readings in the KJV are the true reading. He has faulty view of “preservation” to think that one can find a reading in any manuscript, even those translations, and it may actually be original. “its preservation through means other than the Greek witness in no wise disparages or dilutes the principle and doctrine of the preservation of God's Word.” But if no early manuscript actually has this reading, there is no evidence that God has preserved this from the original. I must look to history and evidence to ask: is the the reading or has someone corrupted God's Word. The best historical explanation is a later addition by a translator. Those of us coming hundreds of years later must follow the evidence not our theology of what preservation must look like.

To familiarize yourself with textual criticism I would suggest:
Harold Greenlee’s Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism
Bruce Metzger’s Introduction to Textual Criticism.

On the Comma Johanneum let me suggest

James White: The King James Only Controversy. --enter Comma Johanneum in the search bar.

Dan Wallace’s "The Textual Problem in 1 John 5:7-8"
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...