Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Another Example of Tradition
03/10/2006 - James WhiteI noted that my brief commentary on the Comma Johanneum came up on a web board recently. One of the participants commented,
So I guess that John Calvin, Theodore Beza, the Westminster Assembly, Francis Turretin, Matthew Poole, the 1689 Baptist Assembly, Matthew Henry, John Gill, John Brown of Haddington, Robert L. Dabney, and Edward F. Hills are all to be considered "outside the realm of meaningful scholarship"?What caught my eye was the constant (and errant) assumption on the part of such folks that these great names from the past are, in fact, relevant to the current discussion. They are not. The only person on the list that could be put in the modern era (i.e., after the finding of the papyri manuscripts) would be Hills, and he honestly admitted that his reasons for accepting the Comma were theological, not historical/textual. (I note with a smile the lack of Burgon's name: at least this writer knows Burgon rejected the Comma). The others were all pre-papyri and hence, quite honestly, are not relevant to the discussion any longer, anymore than citing the viewpoints of medical doctors who lived in the 1700s would be relevant today.
Further, many of those listed could in no way be said to be textual scholars, or to have been involved in in-depth textual study, so that they somehow made a knowing "decision" in support of the Comma. Just because someone commented on the text, or even accepted it because it was in the default text they used, is hardly relevant to determining if they made a concerted effort that led them to accept it over against rejecting it.
But beyond all of this, what disappoints me most is that in reading through these commentaries there is almost zero interaction with the real issue: if you accept the Comma, you have to do so on the basis of abandoning all consistent textual practice. If you argue its textual basis is sufficient for inclusion, then you would have to logically argue for a radically different form of the NT than the TR (and none of these folks will do that). If you refuse to say that all texts with the same almost nonexistent Greek manuscripts support levels should be included, you convict yourself of defending the TR simply out of tradition, not out of a desire to know the original text. In either case, you have abandoned any meaningful position from which you can defend the text of the NT against the likes of Bart Ehrman or his ilk, that is for certain. If these folks are going to actually address these issues, they need to come up with some kind of answer that is not purely circular in nature, or, as one man on the list, purely ad-hominem in nature.