It is important for now however to note that the Reformed orthodox did not see variant readings as impacting the purity of Scripture. Indeed, the Bible commentary that was so associated with the Westminster Assembly that it became known as the Westminster Annotations (1645-57) advertised ‘various readings observed’ in its very title.
(In the Annotations Codex Alexandrinus (an Alexandrian manuscript) is cited over 100 times, with many of those readings making it into the Modern Critical Text. Leading Westminster Divine Thomas Goodwin appealed to Alexandrinus over against the TR. Leigh mentions Alexandrinus in his very chapter entitled ‘Of the Authenticall edition of the Scripture’: ‘There is a most ancient rare Parchment M. S. copy of the Bible in Greek in the late King’s Library at St James’s’. Five years earlier, Alexandrinus had been cited in Parliament as evidence that the TR postscripts at the end of certain NT books were ‘but the bold and spurious additions of some Easterne Bishop or Monke’.)
Leigh is one of many contemporary writers to note that even the Hebrew manuscripts that have come down to us contain variant readings in the form of the Ketiv and Qere.
Leigh can distinguish between ‘a corruption’ and ‘a divers reading in certain Copies [even in the majority, in the example he uses] by the mistake of the Scribes’. (Leigh’s example, Psalm 22:16, is a verse which Calvin believed had been ‘fraudulently corrupted’ by the Jews – Derek Kidner explains that ‘All the major translations reject the Masoretic vowels (added to the written text in the Christian era)’.
It seems that for Leigh a corruption would be an error that had crept into all copies.
James Ussher, after explaining that ‘the edition which proceeded from the Holy Spirit himself, and was first delivered by the Prophets and Apostles of the Church, must be recognised as authentic’, goes on to say: ‘These fountains are not so contaminated as to have lost their αὐθεντέια for their normative function’.
Francis Turretin explicitly stated that: ‘The various readings which occur do not destroy the authenticity of the Scriptures because they may be easily distinguished and determined, partly by the connection of the passage and partly by a collation with better manuscripts’ (2.11.8).
Yes, Turretin goes on to discuss variants that most evangelical Bible scholars today believe are not in the ‘better manuscripts’ (to use his phrase). However what is significant is that Turretin appeals to the Greek manuscript evidence rather than tradition. That some of his claims about the Greek manuscript evidence are pretty much the opposite of the truth (the reasons for which we will come back to in a later article) simply proves that a better collation of the manuscripts was needed than had yet happened in his day.
Stephen Steele | “Reading the Confession in Context (1): ‘Authentical'” | July 5, 2023
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