Westcott, Hort, Erasmus, Anglicans, and logical fallacies

While this post sits without apology within the realm of the version debate, it is not intended to take a side, nor to ignite that debate here. This post is to discuss a logical position as well as common fallacies within this sphere.

First, it should be noted that there are many logical fallacies committed on both sides. Often, these happen innocently, and sometimes they are purposeful. Especially obvious are fallacies such as “Poisoning the Well,” “Questionable Cause,” “Red Herring,” and “Straw Man.” I’m sure there are others. Fallacies are committed when the true argument of the other side is ignored.

It is my belief that the attack on Westcott and Hort (though often fallacious) is not of necessity so. The real attack against W&H is to attack the discarding of the centuries old tradition of the church. The attack is based on the beliefs of W&H (they did not believe in original inspiration). In fact, this belief is so basic that it might be said to be the beginning premise when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture — it is inspired and perfect, or it is not. It is then argued that the church today should not accept their work which derives from their premise. Though often times I have heard them attacked in ways that are fallacious, this argument is not so.

Every logical argument begins with a premise. Let’s look at an analogy that I invented. Suppose that the premise of the firefighters in your area is that their first priority is to save the people in the burning building. They do this best using a system of ladders, hoses, etc. They debate over the size of the trucks, length of the hoses, material of the ladders, etc. The firefighters from the next town over come to your town with a new system: jet packs, and trampolines. They argue that this is in fact a better system. They leave some equipment with a manual. The manual begins “This equipment is to help firefighters. We do not believe that the saving of the people in the burning building is of the highest importance. Indeed, it might not be very important at all.”

It is reasonable to question the equipment and method being proposed now because these men do not believe that saving the life is most important. Without this belief, we would wonder what drove them to produce such an odd system for saving people. Was it money? Was it fame? Was it boredom? What was it? Questioning their belief is not a fallacy because their whole argument on using their system over another has no basis in what qualifies as “best” since they begin with a different value system. “Best” has become relative because they do not prioritize saving life. If they prioritized having fun while on the job, then I’m certain their way is “best.”

This is what W&H are rightly (within the realm of logic) criticized for. W&H state in the beginning of their greek text “Little is gained by speculating as to the precise point at which such corruptions came in. They may have been due to the original writer, or to his amanuensis if he wrote from dictation, or they may be due to one of the earliest transcribers.” As this has been quoted before without being understood, let me clarify as much as possible that if corruptions occur with the original writer, then there is no doctrine of inspiration. If Paul wrote Romans with corruptions, then Romans has never been perfect. This is the whole doctrine of inspiration, and W&H denied this.

To attack their beliefs on anything else is fallacious. In the same way, to attack Erasmus for his beliefs, or the translators of the KJB for other beliefs not in any way applicable to the argument at hand is a pointless character attack. Stating that the translators were of the Anglican church says nothing of their skill or mindset at the work of translating. In fact, that is stated elsewhere.

Good debate can and should be had on this topic. The point dealing with H&W’s belief in inspiration is logical and should not be taken as a leap to which everyone will delve from the argument to attack non-vital (to the argument) beliefs for a few minutes after which it will all be ignored and then the original argument will be resumed.

Note, I have not here stated that the point is in fact correct, but that it is logically valid. That is my point. It is not a fallacy to argue that. Whether the argument wins or not is not discussed here.


4 thoughts on “Westcott, Hort, Erasmus, Anglicans, and logical fallacies

  1. I will have to humbly disagree with you on that (and you probably knew I would).

    To QUESTION methods that stem from different beliefs that one holds is certainly valid – but to out and out REJECT them because of the difference of beliefs (no matter how huge the difference is) is not valid. In fact, it should work both ways. It is EQUALLY valid to question methods that stem from the SAME beliefs one holds. In fact, I would say that for ANYONE to accept methods WITHOUT studying them first to make sure they really are best, regardless of similar or dissimilar beliefs that these methods stem from, is not wise.

    As per your firefighter analogy – I think that it matter little what their motives are in coming up with their unique system, so long as their system INDEED is better. Why does it matter a bit if, with jet packs and trampolines, you can rescue trapped civilians inside a building faster than conventional methods, if the inventor’s motivation was boredom and not saving people? If it works better, it works better. Question it? Yes. Do your research. Study it. Find out if it IS better or not. But just REJECT it off hand? No. Just because hoses and ladders is how we have been fighting fires for centuries is, frankly, no reason at all to assume there is not a better way out there. Do we question whether or not telephones are legitimate? The inventor was trying to make a hearing aid. He messed up – we have the telephone. His premise wasn’t to make cross country calling possible – he wanted to make deaf people hear. It doesn’t matter what the motivation behind the method come from, as long as it is indeed better. I am sure you will always disagree with me here – but I am not just rejecting the argument off-hand… I do have solid reasoning backing me up.

    W&H’s only contribution to the CT is that they discovered that if there was a mistake in a MSS (and both sides will agree that all extant MSS are filled with mistakes – everyone HAS to accept this if for no other reason than there is NO MSS that matching the TR word for word.), every MSS copied from that particular one would carry its mistake. Because of this, instead of counting the amount of MSS that contain a wording, it would be better to count the amount of FAMILIES of MSS that contain wordings. If all but 1 family contain a wording, even if the one family that does NOT contain that wording has been copied MANY more times (or more copies exist), it is more likely that the OTHER wording is correct.

    Anyone who puts together a Greek New Testament MUST use textual criticism – even the TR was put together using textual criticism. The use of textual criticism does not indicate a lack of faith in God, or the inerrancy of Scripture, or divine inspiration. That said, if someone comes up with a better method of textual criticism, whether or not they believe in divine inspiration, it is still a better method – and our using that better method doesn’t invalidate our work due to the beliefs of the inventors of this method.

    Obviously it is quite possible to disagree on this and be dear brothers in Christ so I NEVER wish to come across any other way. But I am more than happy to discuss this! 🙂

    Your brother,

  2. First, let me say, I’m not going to respond to all of that because that wasn’t at all what I was doing here, and we have already covered much of it. Suffice to say, I disagree plainly with some of it, and think you assume your case in other spots.

    Second, I don’t think I said it out and out discounted it. My only point was that it is a valid argument to bring up. Unlike accusing Erasmus of any doctrine he is off on, this one actually applies to the argument. I wasn’t assuming the KJB side to be correct in what they said about it, just that logically it applied. You are correct about the firefighters. But while the fact that they did not value life is something worth noting when considering their method, it would not be worth noting that they all wear red hats. One has nothing to do with the situation and one does. W&H not believing in inspiration does pertain to the argument. Whatever conclusion is reached is not within the bounds of my post, but it is not illogical to bring it up.

    Third, I am rereading my post to clarify if possible where I might have seemed to come to imply that the point was not just valid but correct.

  3. I think you misunderstand my purpose for the reply as well. Probably because I was very long winded (can you say that for print?).

    My real point is that when it comes to method, the beliefs the method’s creators have do not ultimately matter. What ultimately matters is if the method is best or not. EVERY method should be tried and tested, and that is without regard to the beliefs of those behind them.

    I am not here to indicate whose method (W&H or Erasmus’) I think is best – you already know the answer to that one – I just mean to say that the methods of BOTH need to be questioned. Not due to their beliefs, but because that is just sound wisdom. Even if a 5-point-Calvinistic-baptize-adults-through-emersion-penal-substitutionary-Bible-preaching pastor told me that he had the answer to what the best method of figuring out what the autographs said exactly, I would still absolutely NEED to question his method. If I didn’t, I would be being led by a man, and not being a Berean Christian. We SHOULD question W&H methods. We should also question Erasmus’ methods. We should question the fire-fighters methods who believe saving fire-fighters is of primary concern. We should also question the ones who believe that saving the life of the citizen is most important. And yes, you’re right, regardless of what color hats they wear, because that is ALSO not important in the decision of whose method is best.

    I am sorry – I may be inadvertently sabotaging your blog with my replies. If you didn’t really want to get into all this – don’t feel like you need to respond, I understand. If you ask me to take this discussion somewhere else, I will gladly honor that request. I guess my point, in a nutshell is: Question EVERYONE’S method – regardless of their beliefs. We shouldn’t take anyone’s word on those things. Not W&H’s, not Erasmus’ – not anybody’s. Erasmus’ method needs to be judged not based on his beliefs, but based on it’s merits as they stand alone. W&H’s method needs to be judged in the same way – it’s stand-alone merit, not in relation to the beliefs of it’s creators. If anyone’s beliefs in any way make the method bad, the method will be bad whether we even KNOW the beliefs or not.

    I am truly sorry if I took this somewhere you didn’t want it to go.

  4. I wasn’t contradicting your point of “question everyone.” My point is that within the practice of logical debate and the avoidance of many common fallacies, that indeed it is acceptable to look to the beliefs of W&H. If you say their beliefs don’t matter, as I do believe you are saying, then we disagree.

    Yes, I’d rather not get into it here since it is so encompassing, and I am seeing another large difference in our approach to the issue that I had not noticed before. I would argue with Fuller and Hill that the belief of the textual critic concerning Scripture makes a very large difference. The unsaved person cannot create an adequate method. I would argue (with I believe the reformers) that it would be impossible. Anyone who would then think Scripture is not perfect will not be taking the necessary steps in their approach as those who see it is in fact the Word of God. However, now we are arguing the point.

    Feel free to shoot me an email in response. I can’t promise any speed or length, but will be happy to continue.

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