Charity...Rejoiceth in the Truth:
A Critique of Schnaiter and Tagliapietra's
Preservation and the Providence of God
Dr. Thomas M. Strouse
Dean, Emmanuel Baptist
Theological Seminary Newington, CT
David Beale, in observing the inherent weakness of soft conservatives'
capitulation to Neo-Liberalism in their churches in the 1930's, states,
"The tolerant conservatives were quite willing to accept peaceful
coexistence, though most did not realize that it would mean gradual
extinction for them." (In Pursuit of Purity [Greenville, SC:
Unusual Publication, 1986], p. 245). Peaceful coexistence with those
who deny the Biblical doctrine of verbal plenary preservation of the
Words of God is certainly not what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he
warned Timothy, stating,
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the
words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according
to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions
and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil
surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute
of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw
thyself [all bold the reviewer's] (I Tim. 6:3-5)
Exemplary of the capitulation to theological error is the
recent book entitled Bible Preservation and the Providence of God
(Philadelphia: Xlibris Corp., 2002, 349 pp.) by Bob Jones University
professor Sam Schnaiter and Bob Jones University writer Ron
Tagliapietra. These authors, holding to different textual views, give
an informative and perhaps helpful survey of seven textual theories,
including representative proponents and translations, in the field of
the transmission of the Bible text. However, this volume is both
revealing and alarming as it purports to discuss Bible preservation and
the transmission of the text. It is revealing in that it demonstrates
the apparent need that Bob Jones University has to give the final
warning ("Christians espousing the KJV Only view should protect
themselves against the charge of heresy by not majoring on minor
issues," p. 165) and the last word ("Is there not a place for
charitability amongst Christians...We submit this book with the hope that
God will be glorified for inspiration, preservation, and providence, and
that God's people will focus on obeying His Word instead of arguing over
trivia," pp. 280-281) on the subject of Bible texts and
translations. It also reveals the desire for BJU to target fundamental
churches that use the KJV and reassure them concerning the supposed
orthodoxy of their faculty in Bibliology. This book alarms by exposing
several weaknesses of the Bible faculty of BJU and other Bible schools
of their textual ilk.
First, the readers of the book should be alarmed because
it manifests the deficiency of the Critical Text advocates to exegete
Scripture for their Bibliological arguments.
Second, it reveals the
obdurate attitude of the Critical Text devotees toward the TR/KJV
proponents who do exegete Scripture for their position (i. e., E. Hills,
D. Waite, and D. Cloud).
Third, it emphasizes the limits of human
scholarship in restoring the Words of God since only three (conservative
eclecticism, majority text, independent text) of the seven textual
theories (the remaining four are radical eclecticism, critical
eclecticism, textus receptus, and King James Version Only) may be
"offered to the readers for mature consideration" (p. 182).
suggests that the allies of the position of the book are moving further
into the Neo-Orthodox practice of "term changing" while pleading for
charity (p. 120).
Fifth, the authors attribute to the Lord Jesus Christ
a cavalier attitude toward the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy by
alleging that "he (sic) called the extant copies inspired in
spite of any typos' in them" (p. 26)
These men have the
audacity to declare that the Lord Jesus Christ taught the doctrine of
"inspired typos" (= inspired errors)!? The omniscient Lord Jesus, Who
is the Truth (Jn. 14:6), never questioned the pure Words of the truth of
the preserved OT (Prov. 30:5-6; Ps. 19:9), referred to the OT as truth
(Mk 12:14; Lk. 4:25; Jn. 17:17), and bore witness to the truth (Jn.
16:7; 18:37). To suggest that the Lord's view on the inerrancy of the
OT was an "errant inerrancy" position
of inspired and preserved errors ("typos')
is not only an example of blatant Neo-Orthodoxy but of horrific blasphemy.
pernicious errors, which must be repudiated with Scripture, permeate this
volume. Beginning with the most serious error facing fundamentalism, this
reviewer focuses on the fact that Schnaiter deliberately rejects the
Biblical identification of the "Word" of God with the "Words" of God and
espouses that God's Word refers to the "Message" of God's Word and not to
the precise wording (p. 284). This book by professed fundamentalists is
an example of the escalating tendency toward the Neo-Orthodox practice to
re-define what is the Word of God. In contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ
identified the Words of the Father with the Word of God (Jn. 17:8, 17) and
promised the preservation of His Words (= Word). Again He said, "He
that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words
(remata), hath one that judgeth him: the word (logos) that
I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (Jn. 12:48).
The Just God of the Bible will judge all mankind with the canonical
Words, not merely the message, He has preserved for every
generation since their inscripturation. Again, Luke identified the Words
of God with the Word of God in Peter's preached sermon, which was
eventually inscripturated (Act. 10:44; I Pet. 1:23-25).
Another example of this re-defining of terms (Neo-Orthodoxy) manifests in
the statement "every Christian is a textual critic" (p. 29). This
nonsensical statement is not only Biblically wrong (where were the textual
critics in the Ephesian church who were to preserve the Book of Revelation
for the six other churches [Rev. 2-3, 22]?) but historically insensitive.
The Biblical criticism movement of the 17th century spawned the
critical discipline designated "textual criticism" with it various canons
or axioms. No Christian walks into a Christian bookstore and says "I am
going to apply Axiom #1 the oldest is best' and Axiom #2 the hardest is
preferred' to my selection of a translation."
brief and rather elementary discussion of the process and product of
inspiration, he seems to indicate that the originals were inspired (pp.
15-20). Indeed, theopneustos ("is given by inspiration of God") is
a very technical word and can only refer to the autographa.
However, Schnaiter says in conclusion "we need never be ashamed to hold up
an English Bible and declare this is the inspired
Word of God'" (p. 67). This loose usage of "inspired" is Ruckmanism
redivivus, and if Schnaiter's statement is true, then there is no need
for Bible Preservation and the Providence of God.
With regard to
the doctrine of preservation, Schnaiter gives another Biblically imprecise
definition, stating, "These passages [Ps. 119:89-90, 160; Isa. 40:8; Mt.
4:4; 5:18; 24:35] give us every right to believe that those who want God's
Word are not now, nor ever will be, substantially without the Word
of God" (pp. 23-24). The promises of Scripture are far more precise:
"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of
earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt
preserve them from this generation for ever" (Ps. 12:6-7). The Lord
has promised the preservation of every jot and tittle, not merely a
substantial amount of His Words (Mt. 5:18).
One would think
a book with Bible preservation in the title would deal with what the Bible
says about preservation. However, Schnaiter and Tagliapietra devote two
paragraphs, maybe four, to any explication, and sophomoric at that, of
verses dealing with preservation (pp. 21, 23-24), in a 349 page book. The
book really gives what man says about preservation and what theories man
attempts to use to determine the exact Biblical wording (pp. 25-183).
Although the authors may be credited with bringing together seven
"theories" for evaluation, ultimately they can not state which "theory" is
correct, nor do they demonstrate the Biblical foundation of the five
theories which require Textual Criticism (the Textus Receptus and
KJV Only "theories" excluded).
Part and parcel
of the Critical Text position is the unproved assumption that Christ and
the Apostles quoted or cited the Greek OT (cf. pp. 26; 120; 181; et al).
The Bible teaches neither the example nor the necessity of Christ and the
Apostles using the LXX. In fact, the Bible argues against this
false assumption. The Lord taught that the Scripture He used was the
preserved Hebrew OT ("is written" gegraptai) which had jots and
tittles and the three-fold Tenak division (Torah, Nabiim, Kethubim)
starting with Genesis and ending with II Chronicles (Mt. 4:4; 5:18; Lk.
24:44; Jn. 11:50-51, respectively). When He and the Apostles dealt with
Jews and Gentiles, they used the appropriate Hebrew OT Scriptures or their
Greek NT words. In fact, the example the authors put forward to prove
that Christ "quoted" the LXX was His citation of Ps. 8:2 in Mt.
21:16. But their own words disprove their assumption since Schnaiter and
Tagliapietra state that the Lord quoted the Hebrew when speaking to
"Hebrew speaking Jews," who were His audience in this case (v. 15) as
"chief priests and scribes" (p. 65). The historical evidence for the
pre-Christian LXX is suspect and unconvincing, and cannot pre-empt
this Biblical teaching, the KJV translators notwithstanding (p. 205).
texts and translations differ in words, Schnaiter assumes that "no
doctrine is lost" (p. 122), "no doctrinal variations arise" (p. 263), and
"differences...never affect doctrine" (p. 247). Schnaiter attempts to
assure his readership that although there remains doubt as to the exact
wording of 12.5% of the NT, about 7.5% of these differences are
insignificant, stating "None of these variants affect (sic) meaning much
less doctrine" (p. 83). How can he be sure that no doctrine is affected
since doctrine is built upon precise words (e.g., Gal. 3:16). In fact the
doctrine of verbal, plenary preservation is lost if the Words are lost
(Mt. 24:35; Jn. 12:48). These assumptions must be proved Biblically, and
of course, they cannot.
assume that there is Biblical value in Textual Criticism. They state,
"Textual Criticism is the comparison of manuscripts with the goal of
eliminating typos' and obtaining a copy of the autographs. Textual
Criticism seeks to find the true history of God's providence over His
Word" (p. 29). This view assumes that Christ did not promise to preserve
His Words and man's responsibility is to restore them by applying the
axioms of Textual Criticism to the mass of manuscript evidence. The Bible
teaches that God has promised to preserve His perfect Words and man's
responsibility is to recognize (Jn. 10:27), receive (Jn. 17:8, 20; Acts
2:41, 8:14; 11:1; 17:11; I Thess. 2:13), preserve (Mt. 28:20; Rev.
22:7-11), and obey God's Words (Dt. 4:6; 5:1; 7:12; 12:28; 28:1; 29:9;
Heb. 5:9). The Apostle Paul believed this Bible teaching since he never
instructed Timothy in any principles of Textual Criticism to be passed on
to future generations (cf. II Tim. 2:2). Paul was opposed to things such
as "manuscript evidence" since it cannot "build up believers" (p. 11) but
ministers "questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith"
(I Tim. 1:4).
Neglected Biblical Means
chant the popular mantra that God did not reveal the "means" or the "how"
of Bible preservation (pp. 26-33). And yet the Bible is profoundly clear
on the teaching that the Lord used His people, the Jews of the OT (Rom.
3:1-2), and the Baptist churches of the NT, to preserve His Words. The
Lord's Great Commission, organized around at least three significant parts
of speech (imperative, three participles, and an infinitive), mandated
that His disciples "teach" all nations, "go[ing]," "baptizing," and
"teaching," with the purpose of these baptized church members "to
observe," guard, or preserve Christ's Words (Mt. 28:19-20). Paul confirms
this theological interpretation (I Tim. 3:15) and several other passages
give Biblically historical examples (Col 4:16; Rev. 22:16). Failure to
receive and believe the integrative role of Ecclesiology in Bibliology
severely limits one's understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ has
stated about the preservation of His Words. The Lord's immersionist
churches have recognized, received, and preserved both the NT canonical
Books and canonical Words of the Books, while at the same time rejected
the false canonical books (II Thess. 2:2) and false canonical words (II
Pet. 3:16; Rev. 1:3-7; 22:7-19).
inherent inconsistencies in the book are worth pointing out. The authors
seem to approve of the KJV translators who advocated that "All
translations (even poor ones) are the Word of God and deserve respect" (p.
319), while condemning the TEV and NWT for their deliberate theological
bias (p. 264). Furthermore, they state that the subject of bibliology is
"an enormously important matter" (p. 7) while calling the same subject
"trivia" (p. 281). Even more egregious is their blatant perverseness in
stating, on the one hand, that the Radical Eclecticism theory "cannot
identify the autographic text" and "leaves doubt as to whether the true
wording can be known at all" (p. 180), and then asserting, across from
this page, that "all seven modern theories are orthodox and viable" (p.
Attitude toward KJV
tenor of this book is both patronizing toward and condemning of the KJV
Only advocates. The authors pontificate, stating "the KJV Only position,
then, displays serious weaknesses but need not be heretical...Some...remain
quietly convinced' and do not make it a test of fellowship...While the
exact inspired-English wording sounds comforting, God expects study,
comparing thought and preaching with Scripture, and even comparing
Scripture with Scripture. Such demands ensure that Christians get the
tenor of Scripture and will not be ensnared by some copyist's error or
translators quirk..." (p 163.) Schnaiter's Critical Text view places him
in an awkward position. Dr. Schnaiter, professor of NT Language and
Literature and chair of the Ancient Languages Dept. at BJU, needs to
appeal to fundamental churches that use the KJV, which position his book
openly denigrates, for students because churches which use the other
theories' translations (RSV, NEB, NIV, NAS), if available, are either
liberal or few and far between. Pastors of KJV Only churches should
beware that their pastoral students going to Critical Text Bible colleges
and seminaries will undoubtedly be indoctrinated in Custer's conservative
eclecticism and Schnaiter's totality of manuscript text criticism.
Bible explicitly teaches that God has promised to preserve His Words (Ps.
12:6-7; Mt. 4:4; 5:18; 24:35). It teaches Satan's ongoing attack on the
Lord's Words (Gen. 3:1 ff.; II Thess. 2:2; II Pet. 3:16), and that local
Baptist churches are currently responsible to guard His Words from the
demonic attack (Mt. 28:19-20; I Tim. 3:15; Col. 4:16; Rev. 22:16).
Schnaiter and Tagliapietra reject these Biblical doctrines and are
therefore, severely benighted toward and heavily handicapped from
producing a book on Bible preservation. They reject these Biblical claims
because they do not think history verifies the promises of God. To them
historical evidence must have the last word (pp. 25; 28; et al).
For the fundamental Christian, one's faith is based on what the Bible
teaches, not on what "historical evidence" seems to teach. The Lord Jesus
Christ said, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
believed" (Jn. 20:29; cf. Heb. 11:1-3). It appears that Prof.
Schnaiter and his colleagues would rather reject the blessing of the Lord
Jesus Christ and remain under the cloud of the charge of Neo-orthodoxy.
Can the Christian co-exist with those who deny the clear promises
of the Bible about verbal, plenary preservation of the Words of God? If
the believer will not heed the Pauline warning about withdrawing from Bibliological unbelief (I Tim. 6:3-5), will he at least learn from
history, as Beale observed, and recognize he can not co-exist with
Neo-Orthodoxy? Is this review un-loving? Was Paul un-loving when he
rebuked the Apostle Peter (Gal 2:11-14)? Paul said, Charity...rejoiceth
in the truth (I Cor. 13:6).