The question arose on the PB, “Why is it OK that we don’t have the original autographs?”
As I understand textual criticism, we do have the autographa contained in the texts that we have. Because textual criticism isn’t perfect and never will be, we haven’t settled on exactly what the autographa is, within the textual variants, but don’t we say that it’s in there? It seems like an overstatement to say flatly, “We don’t have the autographa.” I know of no textual variant that changes a biblical teaching. Many, if not most, variants are easy to spot as scribal emendations. Some are quite obvious (e.g. the three witnesses). The variants have never been a problem for me. The quality of the NT text far surpasses any other such text in our possession, as I think someone else already suggested. Fear not: we have the Word of God in the original languages and we have the Word of God in faithful translations.
After more discussion and the questioner asks:
1. Yes, even if we had the autographa (not contained within a translation, but the actual documents themselves), they would need to be translated into different languages, thus the autographa would, in practice, only be available to those who could read greek/ hebrew.
2. And yes, even for those that could read the greek / hebrew / aramaic of the autographa, they cannot infallibly interpret an infallible set of autographs.
Is that correct?
If the above is true and if it is also true that the doctrine of Scripture is what is preserved through all of this rather than every single letter, then why should we reject a Barthian view of the Bible with respect to inerrancy? That is, why shouldn’t we be satisfied that we can know the doctrine without having to say we can’t know the doctrine unless inerrancy is held?
To which I reply:
I find a false premise or two in your summary.
1. We do have the autographa. They not a chimera but a reality.
2. The church has ministers whose vocation it is to read God’s Word in the original languages. (This is why it’s so important to well-taught ministers). We graduate 30-40 MDiv students a year who can read the original languages. I guess we’ve graduated close to 1000 students who can read the original languages. This doesn’t account for any other schools who’ve graduated even more.
3. The concern about having autographa is to have God’s Word. We have faithful translations that accurately render the original in English such that those translations can be said to be God’s Word.
4. Your point about infallible interpretation is a red-herring. We don’t claim to have an infallible interpretation. WCF 1.4:
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
We confess that Scripture interprets itself infallibly. There is an infallible interpretation. Your summary assumes a sort of skepticism we reject. We confess that Scripture is perspicuous.
…those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other….
5. For the life of me I cannot see what Barth’s doctrine of Scripture has to do with this discussion. Have you ever read Barth? What connection do you see between the commitment to the authority of the autographa and Barth? Inerrancy is an objective fact not the result of our reception of or interpretation of Scripture. We don’t make Scripture inerrant. It is inerrant.
Are you looking for some way to make some translation (as such) inerrant?