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A Collection of Notes

On Garnet Milne’s Has the Bible been kept pure?

Shared for the sake of other readers, or those who might find the references of useful service.

By Jeremy T. Kerr.

Publication Author: Garnet Howard Milne

Publication Title: Has the Bible been kept pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the providential preservation of Scripture.

Published independently and copyright 2017.

Finished reading in Winter of 2019 (Jan/Feb/Mar).

Overall conclusion: Important and Useful, Well documented. Faith’s outlook on the topic of Scripture Preservation and Purity.

In this book, Garnet Milne brings to us the documented information needful to assess both (1) the historic Protestant and Reformation view of the Holy Scriptures and their purity as we presently possess them; and also (2) how this view has degenerated among the professed heirs of the Protestant Reformation.  Because the Reformed confessions, and especially the Westminster Confession of Faith received by Presbyterians, include creedal / confession statements about this matter, it is important that we understand the meaning intended, and hold one another accountable to prevent any deviation from the biblical doctrine of the Scripture’s Preservation.  The men raised up by the Lord in times of Reformation, and for contributing to the work of the Westminster Assembly during the Second Reformation, did not fail to leave a testimony for us, with substantiated reasons, about this matter.  Author by Author, Controversy by Controversy, Garnet Milne offers us the details.

But before he does that, he puts us in mind of present realities.  The ideas of Wescott, Hort, and Warfield, and their present influence, need to be considered.  As much as modern technology and communications have secured for us an ease of access to the best historic writings of the Reformed Churches, many still give undue credence to the thoughts of later generations which drifted from the Biblical doctrines of the Reformation.  An assessment of B.B. Warfield’s views on the topic of Scripture and its Preservation puts things in perspective.  It helps us understand why modern Presbyterian churches typically use English Bible versions based on defective original language texts, omitting words, verses, and entire sections of the Lord’s Word.  It also verifies the seriousness of the new theology that stands behind these decisions.  The theology of our Confession, as of the Reformation, affirms, that the Scriptures, in the original language texts “being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore Authentical.”  A question has been started, “How pure is pure?” and unless we will answer with a Scriptural faith, we cannot identify whether the authors and churches of later times are helping us believe the Scriptures are pure, or helping us believe that they are corrupt while we tell ourselves we believe the same thing as the Westminster Divines.

Differences of opinion and expression have always existed, and Garnet Milne does not hide such realities.  Some of the early Reformation writers conceded ideas which the strong Westminster theology would not have conceded.  Milne gives the honor of factual accounts to each party described, while it is evident his commitment remains to the theology of the Westminster Confession and those who drafted it.  In general, however, we find that all of the orthodox Christians of the Reformation and Puritan eras were committed to affirming the non-corruption of the original Greek text of the New Testament, in an opposition to the Roman Church with its pro-Vulgate claim that the Greek had been corrupted.  It is here, in this consensus, that the modern advocates of the RSV, NIV, NASB, ESV, etc. cannot honestly claim to identify with the Reformation, or the Protestant belief of Scripture and its Authority.  Will they, nill they, the position of the Roman Church is what they have embraced, and with it they inherit the need for a “Priesthood” to govern God’s people in their reception of the Scriptures as a faulty and changing standard that must ultimately yield to the guidance of a higher standard residing in the Priesthood itself.  In opposition to such a state of affairs, Milne shows that the whole body of the faithful has a role in discerning and preserving the authentic Scriptures through history, and this has been done much more successfully than some would have us believe.

Among other valuable points drawn from the extensive research contained in the book, I find it important to note two realities observed, generally rejected in our age of scepticism and willing (plainly preferred) uncertainties.  These both come as corrections to erroneous conclusions many draw from man’s sinfulness and tendency to err, and they should be understood as a rejection of the idea that God cannot do any good or perfect thing when he uses man:  1. It is possible for a scripture manuscript to be copied without mistakes; and 2. It is feasible to have an errorless translation.  Modern Christians have made a leap in logic from affirming man’s fallibility to denying God’s infallibility when he uses man as his instrument.  The Reformers and Puritans did not.  Although Garnet Milne does not work through all of the implications, we need to consider how this has serious consequences when it comes to our beliefs about (1) the preservation of the Scriptures, (2) the standard we should insist upon for Translations of the Scriptures, and (3) the use of Creeds and Confessions in the Church as enforceable standards of doctrine.

--------- Notes ------------


Introduction about Warfield, and Chapter 1 about Calvin

35Warfield referred to the printed NT text as “extremely corrupt.”
33Warfield considers the texts which come to us as corrupted to a considerable degree (27) and thinks that “no copy would ever be made by men, wholly free from error.” (33)
   (Irony is that W’s pretensions about man’s inability to copy God’s word is quite contradicted by his admiration of sinful man in the attempt to reconstruct the word.)
36Warfield makes conjectural emendation necessary.
41In the Westminster Confession of Faith it is same text which is inspired that is also “kept pure in all ages.”
44Warfield favors idea of evolution in compliance with the science of his day, and attributes idea to Calvin.
59Calvin’s view involves reliability of OT for correcting NT manuscripts when affected by copyist errors, as part of God’s providential preservation of the NT.

Chapter 2: Context of Westminster: Cartwright, Whitaker, and Jewel

71Change in the Papist perspective on the Greek NT [briefly described.]
72Protestant change is the reason Papists cooperate with them on the Greek text.
73Rowan Williams’ identification of Puritan views with Islam. (Description and Quote.)
76When Beza followed Latin over general concurrence of Greek text, he yet had some Greek ms. to follow.
77Ending of the Lord’s Prayer is taken out of Chronicles.
78The quote from Beza Rhemists tried to use.
78-79Concept of correcting NT copies from OT mentioned again.
79Conflict in Greek genealogy vs. Hebrew due to use of LXX.
89Protestant Religious Epistemology has two elements: Autopistic Scriptures and Spirit's Inner Testimony.
90The whole body of the Church have a role in recognizing the canon of scripture.
93-94Whitaker asserts that Hebrew and Greek scriptures are "in all respects" prophetic and apostolic in those we [still] have to consult - quote.
95Quote from John Jewel affirming every letter and point preserved [in the Holy Scriptures.]

Chapter 3: Puritans on the Purity of the Text

97-110[Discussion of what is meant by Purity.]
110-[Alexander Mitchell claims WCF is referring to Sense rather than Words.]
110-120[John Lightfoot, Richard Vines, Anthony Tuckney, James Ussher, Thomas Hill.]
121-122Translating Hades / Sheol.
121KJV criticized for Church-of-England prelatical translations.
125To doubt whether scripture is true is to doubt whether God is true — Thomas Valentine.
125Believing creation (doctrine) is not based on proving creation.
126-127Wayne Grudem quoted favorable re: Scripture.
128Insoluable problems in Scripture arise from our understanding, not Scripture itself.
128Some have an agenda to fill men’s minds with evil thoughts against the “purity of the originals.”
129Capel says we have copies which “vary not from the primitive....”
131[Capel] against idea that because all man does is subject to mistake, therefore the product of his work cannot be pure.
134Featly affirms KJV corrected translation errors of Geneva Bible.
134It is feasible to have an errorless translation.
137-138Featly rejects a speculation of Beza about a missing verse for which there is no evidence. (No conjectural reconstruction.)
141Possibility of a grammatical error in all copies discussed.
145“First copies” (Baynes) Milne takes as referring to extant texts.

Chapter 4: Providential Preservation

151Use of italics for words added in translation.
154John White’s observation on language as a symbol of a rule.
154-155John White affirms the possibility of an English translation without Error.
161-162Buxtorf’s account of Masoretes and the “singular care and providence”.
165John Vicars strongly opposed including the Apocrypha in the Bible.
166Charles Hills (modern) and others show Church Fathers believed [the] Scriptures [had been] preserved.
169Gouge explains three respects in which Scriptures are Truth.
169Gouge gives Eph. 5.32 example to show why learning Greek and Hebrew is important.
171Gouge describes dilemmas involved in supposing any part of the Scripture was lost.
173Capel on Providence governing Translators; Milne on Inerrant Translation.
174Slight textual variations could be considered the word of God if they contain the same “matter”.
175Letter of Scripture must be taken with true sense [in order] to be the Word of God.
176W. Bridge on Greek texts differing from one another and difference of Old Testament between Marginal reading and Line reading.
178Complete “matter” is preserved [W. Bridge] [therefore] criticism [using variants] should not change received text.
179Edward Leigh asserts that notions, phrases, and words were put into brains of Bible writers, and appeals to Peter Martyr Vermigli.
180Faith’s resolution to contradictions in Scripture text: our apprehension is the problem. [See conclusion of book.]
181Partial arguments used by Leigh, etc. to undercut scepticism.
182Triple negative inspired by Spirit of God in Heb. 13.5.
184John White led prayer at initial subscription of Solemn League and Covenant.
185White affirms both “matter” and “very form of expression” are from God.
186White quote on how God speaks through Scripture writers using their style.
187There can be only one correct meaning of God’s Word: Scripture interprets scripture.
188Anthony Burgess affirms from 2 Tim. 3.16 that in OT there could not be any mistake.
190-191Richard Muller cited about 17th century and 19th century Reformed Differences concerning apographa and preservation.
192John Owen affirms the apographa preserve every iota of the autographa.
194In Owen’s observation the OT was more questioned than the NT.
197Case when Thomas Gataker did not get his way in Assembly.
198Gataker maintained unity by silence and not publishing discourses expressing his dissent.
202Cyril Lucar affirms priority of Scriptures over the Church; and their perpetual authority.
202Concensus Helvetica (1675) affirms inspiration of vowels in Hebrew, and preservation as words [rather than matter only].
203 Also reject those who seek to correct Hebrew as if corrupted.
203-204John Atkinson an 18th century Presbyterian cited about “every word”.
204Footnote 467 refers to Alexander Campbell and Millennial Harbinger.
204Summary of Westminster View.

Chapter 5: Controversy with John Goodwin

205John Goodwin, Independent Arminian, asserted that only the Doctrine and not the text of Scripture had been preserved.
Note 471Ordinance of Parliament to Punish blasphemies was for those who promote them, not for those who hold them.  [See Text of Ordinances Online.]
207Goodwin opposed to discovery of Truth from Scripture by Good and Necessary consequence.
207Goodwin rejects testimony of Holy Spirit as assurance Bible is the Word of God.
Note 476 Rejects Presbyterian dependence on illumination and favors apologetics.
211 Asserts substance or matter of Christian Religion does not depend on the Scriptures.
212 Specifies three ways in which Scriptures have been preserved from corruption.
213 Effectively makes his reasoning about what scriptures should be the way to verify they are true.
214 Makes observation that the very originals might have been corrupted by alteration.
216Jenkyn cites John 20.31 against Goodwin to show Scriptures [are the] object and matter of faith.
217 Shows Goodwin’s position like Romanists and calls all Scripture into Question.
218Words of Scripture not mere ink but the signs of what is conceived.
219-220Jenkyn quotes Augustine, Daniel Chamier (French Reformed) and John White of Eccles.
220Jenkyn quotes Whitaker that Structure and Composure of Scripture is all divine.
222N. Byfield affirms that both archtype and writing of Bible cannot be destroyed.
222Solomon Glassius - Lutheran Scholar - quotes by Jenkyn.
223John Vicars responds “The Divine Authority of the Scriptures Asserted.”
225Rutherford answers Goodwin’s use of Scripture issues to argue for Liberty of Conscience.
227Milne distinguishes between means/text that is corrupt vs. fallible. [Just because fallible does not imply actually corrupt.]
227-228Rutherford analogy about four fallible men correctly identifying wife’s husband.
228 Disproof of Goodwin from John 5.34: I receive not testimony from men.
231Quote from Rutherford’s Unpublished mss. of lectures to students on Scripture.
232Rutherford shows we must have correct text of autographa by Scripture implication from 1 John 4.1, John 15.22, and Acts 17.
232By Goodwin’s principles Moses & the Prophets could not be sure that what they heard was the Word of God because they were not taught Grammar by Him.
233-234Rutherford on what we must believe among fundamental Truths & circa fundamentalia.
235Rutherford also responds to Saltmarsh view of Dead Letter.
236Gillespie refers to doctrines of Reformed Churches as infallible. [Doctrines infallible, not churches infallible.]
236Goodwin stirring debate pitting probability against certainty.
240Lyford: that which is to be regulated, cannot be the rule to regulate.
241Believers recognize the Truth of God [therefore] Know translation agrees with original.
243Richard Baxter commends Goodwin’s book, but later expresses caveat.
243Example of Thomas Ford, Westminster Divine possibly expressing JG type ideas.
243 Edmund Calamy (the younger) ascribes Logos Autopistos to Thomas Ford.
245Logos Autopistos / Milne: God chose to convey revelation in writing knowing objections to come.
245 Should sooner say God never committed his will to writing than say it is not preserved.
246White says doctrine is the rule and words are the conveying vessel, perfect in original.
247L. Autopistos affirms we know Bible as word of God principally by illumination of God’s Spirit.
248L. Autopistos references Goodwin’s book but also asserts preservation of written scriptures.
249L. Autopistos / Ford items of problematic concurrence with Goodwin, which are inconsistent.
252Goodwin’s view that the text of God’s word was not preserved was rejected by the orthodox as a heretical doctrine.

Chapter 6: James Ussher

253Alexander Mitchell attempted to use Ussher to prove WCF taught providential preservation of sense of inspired text.
253Description of Ussher’s relationship with English Reforming Efforts.
253Louis Capel stirred controversy by claiming ancient translations could correct OT.
254Arnold Boate opposed Cappel and involved Ussher in controversy.
254Ussher acknowledges debates about scribal errors but is confident about preservation of several necessary things including Form of Prayer.
255Footnote references to Ussher’s whole works and Buxtorf on faults in mss.
255-256Buxtorf against sceptical conclusions drawn from defects in some Hebrew copies.
256-258Ussher firmly opposed correcting Hebrew from LXX & Samaritan Pentateuch as full of peril.
258-259 Does allow use of ancient translations in choosing between Hebrew variants.
264Ussher and Boate reject the collection of variants to the OT Capellus takes from translations.
265Variants from other ancient translations provide only conjectures, even for Boate / Ussher.
266 Not even conjectures can be gathered from the LXX.
267Two cases when it is “lawful to depart” from the common text of the OT.
267 Either from other variants in Hebrew copies or from text of OT itself (number issues)
267 Many commentaries of the period made attempt to reconcile disparate numbers.
267Neither Boate nor Ussher give examples: Possibly they think of future corruption of text.
268-269Erlington argues that Ussher did not believe variations in OT could be collected from translations of Hebrew as if they represented copies of original.
269Owen opposed Brian Walton because he allowed translations to contribute variants and he opened the Bible to conjectural emendations.
273Ussher observation about the transposition of letters, etc. (relates to 2 Maccabees).
274Difference between conjecture that variant existed in Hebrew and recognizing a reading as a candidate for a conjectural emendation.
275In “Catholica Assertio Integritatis Fontium” Ussher quotes Jerome to Mercellus.
277We should not think that the authority of the originals needs to depend on the authority of a human translation.
280Body of Divinity: “God hath still by his providence preserved them, and every part of them”
280To suggest the Scriptures have been corrupted is to accuse them wickedly.
281Acknowledging defect on one occasion leads to presumption that other parts of text are also able to fail.
281Reason explained why Protestants uniformly harmonized extant received texts in exegesis rather than offering conjectures to harmonize problem texts.
281“The testament which fails in part, fails in total.”
283Explanation of how Ussher shows the Vulgate departed from original Greek and Hebrew.
284Ussher defends “and sought to slay him” in John 5.16 against Vulgate/Papists.
285Ussher reconciles 70 & 75 of Jacob’s family arguing for both Hebrew OT and Greek NT.
287Our opposition to Romanists is due for their denying the OT Hebrew can be entirely trusted.
287Summary of Ussher, Westminster Divines, Featley, Whitaker, etc.

Chapter 7: Reformed Religious Epistemology

289Observations on man’s religious inclinations, search for meaning, & the Bible.
290Protestant argument for Bible was based on self-authenticating nature & effect of regeneration.
290 (1) Bible is the first & primary source for religious knowledge.
290 (2) Authority of the Scripture is Self-Evident.
291Auto-pistic Nature of Scripture: They teach that the assurance they give us themselves is better than an audible voice from heaven.
292Only certain “proof” of Scriptures comes from inner testimony of Holy Spirit.
293Promise in Isa. 59.21 leads to conclusion about preservation of accurate text.
294Because of the Necessity of the Scriptures for our salvation, we can be sure of their preservation.
294-297The preservation of all the words of Scripture is ensured by God’s character.
297His Word is locatable in the Masoretic text of OT and Majority text of NT.
298Hearts not spiritually awakened are the reason many do not recognize the divine authority of the word nor submit to it.
298Lesser measure of the Holy Spirit and lack of Spiritual insight the reason why some Christians have (1) Rejected some books of Scripture as Scripture, and (2) adopted translations based upon the ever-changing and uncertain eclectic texts of modern textual critics.
298Difference between modern viewpoint and 17th century Puritans is that the latter believed from the Bible that God would preserve the autographic text and were convinced by Holy Spirit God had not failed.

Conclusion

299Westminster Divines inherited Reformation Views — Summary, How Canon is recognized.
299Consensus disrupted by arguments favoring newly discovered mss., fathers, & translations.
299-300Enlightenment Philosophy, Inductivism, Confidence in Human Reason led to new approaches.
300Warfield approach was to see autographic text in all mss. allowing it might yet not be found.
301Protestant Churches & Textual Critics now agree with Rome that original language texts are corrupted.
30217th Century Reformed view believed entire autographic NT/OT is available.
302Modern / Warfieldian view is that Reformation text is in error and NT text must be reconstructed.
303Quote from Edward Reynolds: Difficulty of Scripture and sense of our blindness leads us to rely on God’s help.

[ 2019.03.28. Notes Published 2019.03.30. ]