Warfield: We Have The Autographic Text Of The New Testament

Warfield makes this distinction even clearer in an article he wrote for The Independent in 1893 titled, “The Inerrancy of the Original Autographs.” There he spoke of the autographic codex and the autographic text.6 The autographic codex, for example, is the original piece of papyrus on which Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. However, multiple churches cannot all be in possession of one autographic codex or the original letter, so copies or apographs were made. These apographs are not the autographic codex, nor can they be, but they do contain the autographic text. Perhaps an example might help to clarify.

Warfield illustrates his point using Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There is but one autographic codex of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that is, the one that Shakespeare actually penned, the codex that Shakespeare authored. However, since the printing press there are numerous apographs or copies of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. What is more, the printing of many copies also has a way of producing many print errors. Thus, we may no longer have the autographic codex of Hamlet but through the study of the printed copies we are able to reconstruct, that is, eliminate scribal or printer errors and so have the autographic text of Hamlet.

In a way similar, God has preserved his truth. Yet, the issue of mediate providential preservation raises three crucial questions with which Warfield must deal.  First and often asked is the question, do we have the autographs?  This was the question Dr. Henry Van Dyke was asking in Warfield’s day and it was this question to which Warfield felt obliged to answer in his article “The Inerrancy and the Original Autographs.”  Warfield wrote, “Thus, we have heard a vast deal, of late, of ‘the first manuscripts of the Bible, which no living man has ever seen,’ or ‘Scriptures that have disappeared forever,’ or ‘original autographs which have vanished’” of which men claim to have no knowledge.7 The liberals of Warfield’s day argued that we do not have the autographs and many conservatives today might agree.

…Not surprisingly and in Warfield’s quick witted way he rebukes the critics saying that we must stop speaking “as if it were the autographic codex and not the autographic text that is in question.”

…Thus, according to Warfield, we do have the autographic text though we may not have the codex. Read More»
Jeffery A. Stivason | “Benjamin B Warfield and the Preservation of Scripture” | July 19, 2022


6. Benjamin B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, ed. John E. Meeter (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), 2.583.

7. Ibid.


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One comment

  1. If I recall correctly, Dr. Baugh argued in a similar manner, with similar (if not exact) conclusions, in NT courses at WSCal. Nice to see another example of the spirit of Old Princeton living on at WSCal!

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