A Review of
“TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING” by David Sorenson
Reprinted from “As I See It,” 5:12,
December 2002, revised
Not The Unclean Thing: The Text Issue And Separation
by David H. Sorenson. Duluth, Minnesota: North Star Ministries, 2001.
295 pp., paperback. $15.
The Babylonian Talmud admonishes the reader “If you wish to strangle, be hanged on a good tree.” This is explained to mean that if you must rely on someone as an authority, you would do well to make sure he is reliable. Unfortunately for the author of this book, he has hanged himself on some very bad trees, that is, writers who are terribly inaccurate, remarkably uninformed, and in some cases willfully deceptive. Sorenson tells us that his attention to the subject at hand--the Bible version issue--was first drawn by the reading of David Otis Fuller’s book Which Bible? And the influence of this book is found repeatedly throughout this volume. Sorenson would have done well to have read the analysis of that book by myself and Gary Hudson, “The Great ‘Which Bible?’ Fraud” (Baptist Biblical Heritage vol. 1, no. 2, Summer, 1990), and its follow-up, "Wilkinson's Incredible Errors" (Baptist Biblical Heritage, vol. 1, no. 3, Fall, 1990). Had he read these articles, he would have perhaps been cautioned to not trust anything in Fuller’s book without independent confirmation from genuinely reliable sources. (Sorenson surprisingly shows absolutely no knowledge of anything written by myself or Gary Hudson on the text and translation issue, even though we have both written extensively and published widely--including web-site postings--on the subject and have had our writings mentioned, and sometimes attacked, in some of the writings listed in his bibliography.) A gullible, uncritical, unquestioning dependence on a narrow range of sources characterizes Sorenson’s book and has led him into numerous errors of fact and of emphasis. This book takes its cues all but entirely from the bold but false assertions of D. O. Fuller, D.A. Waite and David Cloud and therefore sadly disappoints. In truth, there is little here that doesn’t come wholesale from Fuller, Waite and Cloud and all without the least critical evaluation of these sources. The author tells us that this book was accepted as a major project for his D. Min. degree from Pensacola Theological Seminary, which, frankly, does not speak well of academic standards at Pensacola. Yet another blot on their escutcheon.
Sorenson expressly claims that he has aimed at accuracy with regard to the information he presents and fairness with regard to those who differ from his point of view. We find that he has failed badly in achieving these aims, especially the former.
Among his grosser errors, one of the most glaring is a failure to use--and I suspect, to even understand--terms correctly. He fails miserably and utterly to adequately distinguish the term textus receptus (TR) from the terms Byzantine, traditional, ecclesiastical or majority text, treating textus receptus as though it were the same in meaning as these terms. He also de facto presumes that the term textus receptus describes a specific and uniform text, being, he supposes, the text behind the KJV (pp. 38-9). None of these assumptions is true. The terms “Byzantine” (not a “prejudicial” term used by critics of this text as he alleges, but rather a simple description of the region in which it held sway), or “traditional” or “ecclesiastical” as used by advocates of that text, including Burgon, refer to the text preserved in the majority of manuscripts, or, in short, a text virtually identical to those published Greek texts of Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont, not the Erasmian texts collectively referred to as the textus receptus (My published booklet, Westcott & Hort vs. Textus Receptus: Which is Superior?. (Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1996) demonstrates the necessity of carefully distinguishing these terms, and the confusion that arises when such distinctions are not made).
Even though a major segment of his book is taken up with vigorously supporting the readings of a majority of Greek NT manuscripts against the minority readings commonly followed in critical texts, Sorenson nevertheless strangely denounces the “majority text” editions of Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont as products of the same kind of rationalism which he claims is behind the critical texts. In truth, these “majority” texts are the least “rationalistic” of all printed Greek texts since they were NOT based on evaluation or weighing of witnesses and variants, but simply “counting noses” and printing whichever reading was found to be numerically predominant in the manuscripts, thereby being subject to considerably less human judgment than even the text of Erasmus. That an author would so badly misrepresent the nature of these printed majority text editions is strong evidence that his own grasp of the facts and information about which he writes is remarkably deficient and inadequate.
There is no such thing as THE TR (as Sorenson assumes) but rather only varying printed editions of the Greek New Testament dating from 1514 to 1633 which are collectively and rather loosely called the textus receptus (a term first used in 1633), though they differ from each other in numerous details, in some cases differing among themselves in thousands of details. None of these printed texts pre-dating 1633 is identical with the majority text (the Hodges-Farstad majority text differs from the standard TR edition used in England in 1,838 places by actual count, often involving whole clauses or even verses, and frequently agrees with the so-called “critical texts”; the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine text differs from that TR edition in a similar number of places). Finally, the KJV NT does not follow any TR edition precisely; according to Scrivener, it most closely follows the Beza edition of 1598, but departs for some early printed edition in 160 places, and in at least 90 places abandons all then-available printed texts and follows precisely the Latin Vulgate! Sorenson also writes of the critical text as though it was uniformly alike in all editions; there are in fact dozens of varieties of the so-called “critical text,” though they generally agree together against the various TR editions.
Sorenson also speaks of the TR as the text used in antiquity while the critical text is a modern invention. Strictly speaking, there was NO TR until at least the 16th century when those texts began to be printed, since there is no Greek NT manuscript that precisely conforms to the TR (in any edition). If Sorenson should assert that by TR he means the Byzantine text-type (although he demonstrates that he doesn’t know the difference), he still is guilty of inaccuracy, for the Alexandrian text-type is attested as early as the mid-second century, while the Byzantine text-type is not found until the 4th century, and does not become the “majority” text in the extant manuscripts until at least the 9th century or later.
Such careless inaccuracies (spawned by uncritical dependence on unreliable sources, in part) litter the whole of this book, and practically every page.
In spite of his professed claims of accuracy and fairness, Sorenson heavily lards his writing with prejudicial descriptions. He speaks of “the time-honored King James Version,” “the tried and true anvil of the King James Version,” “modernistic critical text,” “the Received (or Preserved) Text” (as though the critical text is somehow excluded from God’s providence; his use of capitals speaks volumes), etc. Any author engaged in fact- and truth-seeking research, rather than merely scraping together evidence to support a pre-conceived conclusion would not write in such a manner.
Sorenson speaks condescendingly toward those who embrace the critical text. He states, “The problem is that most Fundamentalists who still cling to the critical text and its concomitant translations simply have not done their homework. For the most part they are unaware of the apostasy and major problems connected to the critical text from its origin to the present hour,” (p. 9). In short, critical texts advocates are to be viewed as probably ignorant, and also lazy. This argument is wholly false. While there is plenty of ignorance to go around on this issue, the truth be told, on the whole, the degree and depth of knowledge of the subject on the part of advocates of the critical text among theological conservatives is greatly superior to that of TR advocates. In all that I have read, I have never once read an article, chapter, booklet or book by any adherent of the critical text that abounded with errors and misrepresentations as the writings of Fuller, Waite, Cloud and Sorenson regularly do. In truth, I would estimate that there are more and far grosser factual errors in this one book of Sorenson’s that in all the pro-critical text literature I have read put together. When the best “scholarship” that the TR side can muster is D.A. Waite, Ted Letis, and E. F. Hills, they would better serve themselves by remaining quiet of the issue of thoroughness of study and depth of knowledge.
As for the claim that the critical text was conceived, birthed, nurtured and presented to the world from within the womb of apostasy and unbelief, this is simply a gross deception. This notion is the brainchild of David Cloud, editor of O, Timothy, a disseminator of much misinformation on the text and translation issue.
In accessing Cloud’s--and Sorenson’s--claim, let it first be noted that not even Dean Burgon, the most vigorous opponent of Westcott and Hort’s text in the 1880s and the darling of KJVO/TRO advocates today, accused them or their text of apostasy, either in its origin or its readings.
And there is, to the contrary, a solid stream of devote, God-fearing, Bible-believing and Bible-defending men who have been at the heart of the rise and propagation of the critical texts (I mention only some of the more important). Early on, Theodore de Beza (1519-1605), successor and biographer of Calvin, set about collecting and recording variant readings from Greek manuscripts (as Stephanus had done before him); the collection and classification of such variants was an essential preliminary to the work of correcting the TR. Later, John Mill (1645-1707) spent 30 years rigorously examining Greek manuscripts, compiling detailed lists of variant readings in these manuscripts. He published, just before his death, an edition of the NT with a critical apparatus listing 30,000 variants he had discovered (all this was necessary groundwork to revising the TR on the basis of genuine evidence). His Greek text was highly prized and long-used by scholars, including Burgon, because of its very extensive listing of variants.
Later, Sir Richard Bentley (1662-1742), acclaimed as one of the two or three greatest classical scholars of all time and a staunch opponent of 17th and18th century English atheists and deists, was among the first to propose a revised Greek text, based on his extensive knowledge of NT Greek and Latin manuscripts. Of this project, only a sample of Revelation was ever completed.
On the Continent, Johann Bengel (1687-1751), the famous Bible commentator, a man conservative in doctrine and noted for his consistent Christian piety, undertook the study of Greek NT manuscripts and their variant readings first of all to settle in his own mind the issue of the effect if any such variants might have on the doctrinal content of the NT (for his conclusion, see the quote below). Bengel was the first to identify two major groupings of manuscripts (what today we call Byzantine and Alexandrian), and due in part to his extensive list of principles of textual criticism, he is the acknowledged father of modern textual criticism.
In the mid19th century, two men stood head and shoulders above the rest as examiners of manuscripts and collectors of variant reading, and had a profound impact on the content and direction of the textual criticism of the NT. I speak of Samuel P. Tregelles (1813-1875) and Constantin Tischendorf (1815-1874), both of whom published revised Greek texts which differ markedly from the TR but agree substantially with the text later published by Westcott and Hort. Tregelles was raised a Quaker but as an adult was long associated with the Plymouth Brethren. His contribution to Christian scholarship was immense and his theological orthodoxy is beyond quibble or dispute (let the carping critic examine Tregelles’ note under the word “almah” in his translation of Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, and then fall into embarrassed silence). As for Tischendorf, while my exposure to him and his writings is much more limited, I have never read a word about him or by him that suggested that he was anything other than conservative and orthodox in theology.
For Sorenson--and Cloud, whom he gullibly follows--to claim that these men--major players in the work of NT textual criticism that led to the publication of revisions of the TR--were apostates and enemies of the Gospel is vicious slander of the worst sort. “In as much as you have done unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto Me.”
Do we pretend that every critical text advocate was orthodox? Not in the least. But just because some enemy of the Gospel employs a text does not discredit it--after all, the apostate Greek Orthodox Church uses a Byzantine text and the Mormons use the KJV. This “guilt by association” argument just doesn’t wash, and the claim that the critical text is part and parcel of apostasy is absolutely false. In as much as such devote men as Stephanus, Beza, Mill, Bentley, Bengel, Tregelles and Tischendorf were important, even front and center in the chain of events leading to the development of critical texts should make one hesitant to label the critical text as the product of apostasy.
It should be pointed out that conservative scholars and well-read pastors among Baptists (as was also true among conservative Presbyterians, Methodists, and others) in the 19th and 20th centuries rather consistently accepted the revised, critical texts as more faithful representations of the NT originals than the TR. Among these: H. B. Hackett, Thomas Armitage, John Broadus, J. P. Boyce, B. H. Carroll, A. T. Robertson, Charles Spurgeon, and many, many others (see my unpublished Th.M. thesis at Central Baptist Seminary, Plymouth, Minnesota, The Text and Translation of the Bible: Nineteenth Century American Baptist Views.) Are we to suppose that all these devote and faithful and informed men were somehow complete ignoramuses on the text issue (which was a big issue in their day and received very extensive publicity), that somehow they were gullibly sucked into dreadful apostasy and unbelief, that none of them was wise enough to even suspect the truth, which has only now been brought to our attention by the likes of Ruckman, Fuller, Waite, Cloud and Sorenson?
Where is the inseparable union between apostasy and critical texts in all this? In fact, it was just the opposite--theological conservatism and deep devotion to truth and the text of Scripture--that led these men to produce and embrace Greek texts that differed from that of Erasmus. They saw that the text of Erasmus did not always conform to what the evidence indicated was the true original text of the NT. As a result, and out of deep respect for Scripture and zeal for truth, they felt compelled to revise Erasmus in order to conform to the infallible original.
Sorenson was briefly an associate in the early 1970s of Richard V. Clearwaters, late pastor of Fourth Baptist Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota and founder of both Central Baptist Seminary and Pillsbury Baptist College, schools from which Sorenson graduated. He would have done well to have considered more carefully Clearwaters’ published remarks (Sorenson does actually quote them, but simply dismisses them as evidence that all Fundamentalists before the advent of Fuller, et al. were simply ignorant, and gullible):
"Honesty compels us to cite the 1901 American Revised as the best English Version of the original languages which places us in a position 290 years ahead of those who are still weighing the King James of 1611 for demerits."
"We know of no Fundamentalists. . . that claim the King James as the best translation. Those in the mainstream of Fundamentalism all claim the American Revised of 1901 as the best English translation" (Richard V. Clearwaters, The Great Conservative Baptist Compromise (Minneapolis: Central Seminary Press, n.d., pp. 192, 199). As a true Fundamentalist’s Fundamentalist, Clearwaters was surely in a position to know whereof he spoke. Yet we are to dismiss all these mainstream Fundamentalists as abysmally ignorant, just because Sorenson affirms that it is so. More than once, Sorenson pretends that the KJV is the Bible of real Fundamentalists, while critical-text-based versions are part and parcel of neo-evangelicalism and liberalism. If true (and I deny that it is), then the situation has changed since Clearwaters wrote in the late 1960s. As a historical note, let us remember that, R. A. Torrey, one of the editors of the famous book set of the 1910s, The Fundamentals, regularly used and highly recommended the ASV of 1901, which of course has a “critical text” base. I guess the KJV is NOT the Bible of all “real Fundamentalists” after all.
In truth, a strong case could be made that the production of the TR in its various forms, and continued adherence to it is evidence of Roman Catholic influence. Who produced the first TR-type text? Catholic Cardinal Ximenes who in 1514 printed the NT portion of the Complutensian polyglot, using manuscripts borrowed from the Vatican library in Rome. In 1516, Catholic priest Erasmus printed (and dedicated to Pope Leo X) the first of 5 editions of the Greek NT, which became the pattern for printed texts for the next 300 years. In his text, he made numerous alterations on the basis of the Rome-sanctioned Latin Vulgate and in at least 20 places invented readings which have never been found in any Greek manuscript; his basis for these inventions: the Latin Vulgate alone, Rome’s professed absolute standard. In the 19th century, when Protestant scholars were moving away from the TR on the basis of Greek manuscripts, at least one scholar, J. M. A. Scholz (1794-1853), Roman Catholic theologian and professor, published a text (1830, 1835) that is very much akin to the earlier TR editions. Is this not proof (at least of the sort sufficient to persuade Fuller, Waite, et al.) that clinging to the TR is to dance with the devil and prostrate oneself before the Pope?
Or we could note that the seminal work of the modern KJV-only/TR-only movements (and of which half of Fuller’s Which Bible? is a badly edited partial reprint) was the book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, published in 1930 by Seventh-day Adventist missionary, theologian and college president Benjamin G. Wilkinson. Willkinson’s objections to the ERV NT and the Westcott-Hort text were in large part based on the fact that they robbed Adventists of some important “proof-texts” used to propagate their brand of the Galatianism heresy! (a great many of the false arguments and factual errors that are still employed by the TR-only/KJV-only cult had their origin in Wilkinson’s book)
So, would it not be fair to say (using their standards of “proof”) that being a TR advocate means that you have either sold out to Rome or have become a cultist? Which is it?
And we must say a word about Sorenson’s borrowed belief that Westcott and Hort were rabid apostates (material first proposed by Adventist Wilkinson, and uncritically reproduced by Fuller, with much supplementation--and blatant distortion of the worst kind--by Waite). As long ago as 1985, I published an article exposing the dishonest nature of most of Wilkinson’s “quotations” put forth to prove their, especially Westcott’s, supposedly apostate theology. I also pointed out that in truth, if theological views alone could accredit or discredit a text, then the text of Erasmus (and all its dependent TR forms) must be summarily discredited because of Erasmus’ documentable heretical theology, while on the other hand, the critical text should be summarily embraced because of the demonstrable and documentable orthodoxy of S. P. Tregelles, editor of one of those critical texts. “Sauce for the goose” and all that. Of course, the real basis for evaluating any text is the evidence of manuscripts, versions, and ancient Bible quotations, governed by sound principles of textual criticism. (see my Erasmus: His Greek Text and His Theology. Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1986. This first appeared as two studies published in The Biblical Evangelist, 19:19, October 1, 1985, and 19:20, October 16, 1985.)
Sorenson makes much of the claim that the variants of the critical texts from the TR undermine and weaken fundamental NT doctrine. In AISI we have published numerous quotations, some from TR advocates of the 19th century such as Burgon, Scrivener and Dabney, that the variants are doctrinally insignificance and that both the TRs and the critical texts are doctrinally orthodox (see "The Preservation of Scripture," AISI 2:3 [quoting Burgon, Scrivener, and Dagg]; “T. H. Horne’s Expert Opinion on the Preservation of Scripture,” AISI 4:2; “The Providential Preservation of Scripture: the Views of Bentley, Dabney, and Kenyon,” AISI 4:7; see also “Do ‘Critical’ Greek New Testament Texts Undermine the Doctrine of Blood Atonement?” AISI 5:8). To these we add Bengel’s expert opinion: “If the sacred volume, considering the fallibility of its many transcribers, had been preserved from every seeming defect, this preservation would have been so great a miracle, that faith in the Written Word could no longer be faith. I only wonder that there are not more of these readings than there are, and that none in the least affect the foundation of our faith.” (Bengel’s New Testament Commentary, translated by Charlton T. Lewis and Marvin Vincent. Kregel reprint, 1981. Vol. 1, p. xxxv; italics added).
In order to bolster and render more serious their case, TR advocates are forced to claim that great doctrinal issues are at stake, when in fact this is precisely not the case, as even Burgon, Scrivener and Dabney, Byzantine or TR advocates all, and surely more expert than today’s advocates, readily affirm. Such exaggerated claims by Sorenson, Cloud, et al. can only have the negative effect of undermining the average Christian’s confidence in the Bible, whatever version based on whatever Greek text it may be.
Sorenson speaks of “the well-written, well-documented books of evident scholarship which support the Received Text position.” Just what books he is talking about I cannot tell. I have read from Fuller, Waite, Letis, Hills, Cloud and others he lists in his bibliography and must confess that I found none of them either genuinely scholarly or well-written. He claims conservative critical text advocates are ignorant of these books. Could it rather be that having examined these books and authors they have been rejected because of their inaccuracies, defects, and errors? And need I add that Sorenson repeatedly demonstrates ignorance of numerous published articles that would have spared him from innumerable and gross mistakes?
Sorenson claims infallible transmission of the inspired text, a preservation which continues to the present hour. This is an absolutely impossible position, and one which no one who has even a passing acquaintance with Greek manuscripts and printed editions would ever claim. No two Byzantine manuscripts agree precisely in all details (Carson estimates variants between even closely related manuscripts to average 6 to 10 per chapter, which with 260 NT chapters would by extrapolation total between 1,560 and 2,600 for the whole NT, the former being slightly below, the latter somewhat above the number of variants between the “majority text” editions and Stephanus’1550 text). No two of the TR editions published from 1514 to 1633 are precisely alike, and none agrees precisely in all details with the KJV (not even the 1881 edition designed to conform to the KJV does). And there are no two editions of the KJV which are precisely alike. If God really did infallibly preserve His word until the present hour, then it should be quite easy to trace that preservation in time and place, in versions and manuscripts, every step along the way historically. Yet we find no such infallible preservation. Variants are a universal fact in all manuscripts, translations and printed editions. Sorenson and all other infallible preservationists engage in flights of wishful thinking based on nothing but their own imagination (certainly not the teaching of Scripture, nor the evidence of texts and versions), then condemn the rest of us for refusing to go along with their self-delusion.
And he advocates the novel position that faithful manuscripts were preserved among Bible-believing churches. Yet where is there the smallest shred of evidence in any extant Byzantine manuscripts that they were made by Waldensians or any other similar group? From surviving Greek manuscripts of the Byzantine type, it is clearly evident that virtually all of them were copied in Greek Orthodox or Catholic monasteries by monks and priests, not in pre-Reformation ‘Baptist-like’ congregations. Sorenson actually mentions the famous scriptoria of Mt. Athos in Greece, noting that huge numbers of Byzantine Greek NT manuscripts were copied there by monks, but he never makes the connection with how this undermines his fantasy of “preservation by faithful churches.”
And having mentioned the Waldensians, let me note Sorenson’s gullible acceptance of the views of Wilkinson regarding the Waldensians and their Bible: he accepts without questioning the claim that the Waldensians used the Old Latin version, that this version is the same as the TR, and that this was the Bible used by Waldensians since the 2nd century. This is all 100% moonshine, fabricated without the smallest shred of truth behind it by Wilkinson, the Adventist, and reprinted and propagated by Fuller. A decade before Sorenson’s book was published, I fully documented that 1. the Waldensian Bible originated in the 11th century; that 2. it was based on the Latin Vulgate, not the Old Latin; that 3. the Waldensians sought papal sanction for their version; and that 4. the Old Latin by no honest use of language could be identified as the same in content with the TR. I gave a random list of 26 places where the Old Latin differed markedly from the TR, some of them places where TR advocates mercilessly denounce the critical texts for subverting fundamental doctrine (e.g., I Timothy 3:16, where all Old Latin manuscripts have a relative pronoun, just like the critical texts and the Latin Vulgate, rather than the word “God,” as in the TR). (See “The Truth About the Waldensian Bible and the Old Latin Version," Baptist Biblical Heritage, vol. II, no. 2, Summer, 1991, pp. 1, 7-8). I have been collecting Old Latin variants from the TR since writing that article and have located hundreds of them. I estimate that an exhaustive examination of all Old Latin manuscripts of the NT would reveal departures from the TR to number literally in the thousands, many of them agreeing precisely with the “critical text.”
And let me note in passing Sorenson’s serious misrepresentation of the views of at least two of his quoted sources. On pp. 78, 79, Sorenson is making his bogus claims regarding the Old Latin, and tries to bolster his claims by references to two recognized scholars. He writes, “The Italic or pre-Waldensian Church produced a version of the New Testament which was translated from the Received text by the year 157 A.D.” As his source he footnotes F. H. A. Scrivener’s famous A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 2nd edition. Being familiar with Scrivener as I am, this did not sound to me at all like something Scrivener would write (I had long before read his discussion of the Old Latin and Vulgate versions). While I do not have the second edition of Scrivener, I do have both the 1st and 3rd editions, and since there is virtually no change between these editions, I think it safe to assume that the 2nd edition reads the same. In his discussion of the Old Latin version, Scrivener never once suggests, hints, states or quotes anyone to the effect that the Old Latin was made from the Received Text. To claim this is to force into the mouth of a writer words which he certainly did not write or believe. Second, Scrivener in no way says the Old Latin was translated by pre-Waldensians or anyone else by 157 A.D. Rather, he merely says that the opinion of John Mill (1645-1707), text critic and compiler of some 30,000 NT manuscript variants, was that the Old Latin version arose in Italy by 157 A.D. Scrivener dissents from this view, based on 150 more years of accumulated study of the Old Latin, and concludes that the Old Latin arose in North Africa, not Italy. Nothing in any case is said about “pre-Waldensians.” (see Scrivener’s 3rd edition, pp. 341-2).
A footnote on p. 79 ascribes to noted British NT scholar Sir Frederick Kenyon (1863-1952) the following: “Kenyon, though acknowledging that the Itala (Old Latin) was based on the Received Text, . . .” Upon examining the passage in the Kenyon book in question (Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 4th edition), I once again find absolutely nothing like what Kenyon is claimed to have written. Rather, Kenyon, who accepts a date ca. 150 A.D. for the origin of the Old Latin version and North Africa as the probable place of translation, declares (p. 173 of my 1941 Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, printing of the 4th edition), “the Old Latin version testifies to a type of Greek text of the class which has been described as ‘Western.’ This applies especially to the African group of the Old Latin, which is often found in alliance with Codex Bezae. The European MSS. have less strongly marked divergences from the ordinary text [he means the Byzantine text, not the TR--ed.], and may perhaps have been affected by comparisons with Greek MSS. The earlier forms of the Old Latin, however, are distinctly Western, as has been shown in describing the peculiar readings of this class of text.” No claim here that the Old Latin was made from the Received text!
I suspect that in both of these quotes, Sorenson merely relied on some reference in either Waite, Cloud or Fuller and failed to check the sources for himself, merely letting himself be led astray by his favorite authors. This is only slightly less culpable (yet still inexcusable in a research paper) than if he grossly distorted these authors on his own. At any rate, the fact of immense distortion in the use of these two “sources” undermines any confidence we may have in anything else Sorenson writes in this book.
In discussing the Peshitta Syriac, Sorenson presents a view that has been discredited by solid evidence for more than a century, namely dating the Peshitta translation to around 150 A.D. It is now admitted by virtually all familiar with the evidence that the Peshitta was made after 420 A.D., and therefore is at best a witness to the state of the Greek text in the early 5th century, not the mid 2nd century (see my review of F. Crawford Burkitt, S. Ephraem's Quotations from the Gospel, in AISI 3:4). There were Syriac versions of the Gospels earlier than the Peshitta, namely the Diatessaron of Tatian, and the Curetonian and Sinaitic Syriac, none of which is typically Byzantine in text, and all of which frequently support either the Western or Alexandrian text form. Furthermore, even granting for the sake of discussion the premise of a 2nd century date, let it be noted that the Peshitta, like the critical text, reads “God” and not “Son” at John 1:18; lacks entirely John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37; I John 5:7 (and other passages found in the TR); has a relative pronoun at I Timothy 3:16 rather that “God;” and has besides many other readings which favor the critical texts instead of the Byzantine text or the TR.
The Gothic version of the 4th century is called as a further witness to the Received text. Odd, for its translator, Ulfilas, was an Arian heretic, denying the doctrine of Christ’s Deity. Haven’t we been assured that all these versions in the TR line were the work of the theologically orthodox, and that heresy was reserved for the critical text line alone? It should be noted that the Gothic, like the critical texts, lacks John 7:53-8:11, and has other readings which favor the critical text. Oops! (Sorenson is either ignorant of these embarrassing--to him--facts about the Gothic, or chose to willfully conceal them).
Gross factual errors abound in the book, some regarding Erasmus and his textual views, some regarding manuscript B (Sorenson claims, pp. 92, 103, that B was printed as early 1587, apparently not knowing that that printing was only of the OT portion, and included none of the NT). Sorenson in absolute ignorance claims (p. 124) that the Trinitarian Bible Society has always favored the Received Text and the KJV. An alert reading of its own history, The Word of God Among All Nations by Andrew J. Brown, which Sorenson lists in his bibliography and even refers to repeatedly, would have revealed that during the time that E. W. Bullinger led the TBS, several versions based on the critical text were published by it (p. 84).
Regarding Erasmus, Sorenson blunders badly. He declares (p. 192) that the 3rd edition of Erasmus’ Greek text differs from the second only in its introductory notes. Can Sorenson be so wholly uninformed as to be unaware of the famous insertion into Erasmus’ 3rd edition of I John 5:7 on the basis of one manuscript fabricated ad hoc, a reading absent in editions 1 and 2? (Scrivener, 3rd ed., p. 434 quotes Mill’s claim of at least 118 changes between Erasmus’ 2nd and 3rd editions, a figure Scrivener considers “much below the truth.”). Further, we learn(?) that Erasmus was really a ‘closet Anabaptist’ and not a Roman Catholic at all by 1522. I have read four full-length biographies of Erasmus and other information about him, and compiled a very extensive series of quotes from his own mouth about his theological views (see my Erasmus, His Greek Text and His Theology mentioned earlier), and affirm that the evidence is irrefutable--Erasmus was a loyal son of the Roman Catholic Church, adhering to its dogmas and embracing its heresies as long as he lived. This pathetic attempt by TR advocates to remake Erasmus in their own image would be almost laughable were they not actually serious.
Regrettably, Sorenson repeats (based on a secondary source) the base public lie (and lie it certainly was) of D. O. Fuller that in the last year of his life Spurgeon renounced the Revised Version and the Westcott-Hort text. I responded to and exposed Fuller’s knowing deception in a booklet “An Answer to David Otis Fuller,” which was published by Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, Texas in the early 1990s. Spurgeon often quoted, even preached from the ERV, praised it and never rejected it or its base text.
Sorenson also repeats the lie about Westcott and Hort’s supposed occult connection, not merely limiting it to their college days (as the original version of this false story had it), but actually continuing “through much of the time they were developing their new Greek text,” (p. 223). Yet one more perversion of the truth from the Tr-only/KJV-only camp. Back in the early 1990s, Robert Sumner, founder and editor of The Biblical Evangelist wrote an expose of the blatant twisting of quotes and the real facts behind this false rumor (that article, “Were Westcott & Hort Members of a Ghost Society?" Target, January, 1994, and many of my own noted in this review can be found at www.kjvonly.org).
Sorenson closes the body of his book with an appeal for ecclesiastical separatism by Fundamentalists from critical texts since they are tainted from stem to stern by apostasy and unbelief. He fails utterly to show (indeed never tries to do so) how a single variant reading accepted in the critical texts teaches anything other than orthodox doctrine. Most of the textual variants known today were not even collected by liberals--this work was done by conservatives such as Stephanus, Beza, Mill, Bentley, Bengel, Tregelles, and Tischendorf. Nor were the foundational principles of textual criticism composed by liberals; the credit for that goes to Bengel. Conservative scholars who accept in general the readings of the critical texts nevertheless show no hesitation to dissent from the text editors if a careful evaluation of the evidence warrants it. Liberal theology in truth finds no solace or support in any critical text edition that I have ever examined (I have more than 30 different Greek texts in my library).
On the other hand, Sorenson does not call for a separation from the TR, even though its compiler (contrary to his protestations) was indeed a Roman Catholic, whose text is in general in the mainstream of the Byzantine text-type, a text all but entirely conserved and propagated within the confines of the Greek Orthodox Church, an apostate religion whose main tenants--salvation by works through the sacraments of the Church, prayers to saints, veneration of Mary, persecution of dissent, etc., etc.--are identical to Romanism (see “The Eastern Orthodox Church,” AISI 5:11). If the taint of apostasy lingers on the critical text, then it hangs heavy on the TR also. By consistent application of Sorenson’s principles here, we would have to reject all printed Greek texts and all manuscripts, too. And we won’t even talk about the Hebrew Old Testament which was copied and propagated by none but unbelieving Jews for centuries! (And did you know that editors of many modern editions of the Hebrew Masoretic text were apostates? Why isn’t the Masoretic text likewise denounced by Sorenson and company?)
In several appendices discussing--and condemning wholesale--critical texts, the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version, there are numerous passages from the KJV printed, with marking showing which words are “omitted” (a prejudicial term, let it be noted) by these texts and versions. Not one single word is said about manuscript evidence in evaluating any of these variants. For example, it is noted that Acts 8:37; I John 5:7; Luke 17:36; etc. are absent from these texts and versions, but the reader is never told that in each of these (and several other) cases, the verse in question is absent from the majority of Greek manuscripts. Even the KJV notes in its margin (1611 edition) the absence of Luke 17:36 from the majority of manuscripts (it was also absent from several early English translations, including Tyndale; Luther’s own version, similarly, never included I John 5:7). The mere possibility that Erasmus improperly inserted words into his text on insufficient grounds seems to have never even been considered.
I could go on interminably exposing error after error in this small book (and there are whole battalions of error that I have left untouched), but as noted repeatedly above, I have already dealt with most of the major ones in articles and booklets written over the past 15 years, and find it needless to go on further here, lest I weary the reader. The only positive comment I can make about the book is that it expressly rejects the extreme “infallible-KJV, correct-the-Greek-by-the-English” view of Ruckman et al. (that Waite, like Ruckman, also holds to the unalterable perfection of the KJV somehow failed to lead Sorenson to question what Waite had to say on other aspects of the controversy). And for this, Sorenson has been savagely attacked by the KJVOers!
Sorenson wrote in his introduction, “Many good people in good churches and good educational institutions alike are confused regarding the Bible translation controversy and particularly the undergirding textual issue” (p. 1). An entirely apt self-description. “Medice, cura teipsum.”
This volume will make no contribution to the text and version debate, beyond merely spreading yet further gross misinformation, misrepresentation, distortion and error that has been the “current wisdom” among TR-only/KJV-only advocates for the past 3 decades. Christian writers have a solemn and serious obligation to do all that they can to insure that what they present to the reading Christian public is accurate and true. Mr. Sorenson has apparently not taken that responsibility seriously enough. If I had written and published a book that was so palpably false and filled to overflowing with gross error and misinformation, I would immediately issue public disclaimers renouncing my own book and do all in my power to recall and destroy as many copies as possible.