A Critique Of W. N. Pickering’s “The Identity Of The New Testament Text” -- By: Gordon D. Fee

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 41:2 (Spring 1979)
Article: A Critique Of W. N. Pickering’s “The Identity Of The New Testament Text”
Author: Gordon D. Fee

A Critique Of W. N. Pickering’s “The Identity Of The New Testament Text”

Gordon D. Fee

A Review Article

In recent years there has been a revival at the popular level of an advocacy of the Textus Receptus and the King James Version. Much of this is simply the rhetoric of misinformed fundamentalism, although it has recently found some cohesive visibility by the formation of the (tax-exempt) Dean Burgon Society.1 An attempt at a more informed defense of this text has been offered by Zane Hodges of Dallas Seminary, although it is not the TR per se but rather the Majority text (= the Byzantine text-type) that he has advocated. More recently one of Hodges’ students, W. N. Pickering, has published a monograph which spells out this position in some detail.2 Since this book is apparently having considerable influence among translators in the Third World, not to mention the American Bible belt, and since the arguments of this book may appear convincing to the non-expert, I offer the following critique to show why the book offers no serious challenge to textual studies.

It should be noted at the outset that the book suffers on page after page from misrepresentations of scholarly research, the use o rhetoric in the place of argument, and an apparent lack of first-hand acquaintance with much of the primary data. It is tempting in such a case to go through the book seriatem and to point out its many errors, hoping that the cumulative effect of such a display will tell its own story. However, I shall limit myself here to three of the more substantial matters, which taken together seem totally to negate Pickering’s arguments: (1) his understanding of text critical methodology; (2) his understanding of the causes of textual corruption; (3) his un-

derstanding and use of the Church Fathers. But before we examine each of these in turn, an attempt should be made to understand what Pickering is trying to do.

An Overview of the Argument

The urgency behind Identity is clearly a theological one. From Pickering’s point of view, the great fault of contemporary NT textual criticism is that it cannot offer us total certainty as to the original NT text.3 Therefore, in its place he hopes to establish a new theory of textual transmission (or at least to restate an old one in a new way), which in turn will lead to a different methodology (actually an adoption of a methodology spelled out by Dean Burgon).

To get at this new theory of transmission and d...

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