Home > Jack Hammer, King James Only > From Francis Turretin (1623-1687): 21 Questions on The Doctrine of Scripture

From Francis Turretin (1623-1687): 21 Questions on The Doctrine of Scripture

February 11, 2007

Three [needs] in particular support the necessity of Scripture: (1) the preservation of the word; (2) its defense; (3) its proclamation. It was necessary for the written word to be given to the church to be the fixed and changeless rule of faith of the true religion, which could thus more readily be preserved pure and whole in spite of the weakness of memory, the perversity of humanity, and the shortness of life; more surely defended against the frauds and corruptions of Satan, and more readily proclaimed and transmitted not only to people who were scattered and separated from one another, but to future generations as well. As Vives reminds us (De causis corruptium artium 1), “By letters all the arts are preserved as in a treasury, so that they can never be lost, although transmission by hand is uncertain.” “Divine and marvelous is this blessing of letters,” says Quintilian, “which protects words and holds them like a deposit for an absent person.” Nor are the statutes and edicts of kings and commonwealths inscribed in bronze or posted in public places for any other reason than that this is the surest means of preserving them in their original form, and of proclaiming throughout the ages matters which it is important for people to know.


We do not deny that many functions of the church with respect to Scripture are proper. (1) That it be a guardian of the oracles of God, which were entrusted to it, who protects the authentic record of the covenant of grace with the highest fidelity, like a notary (Rom. 3:2). (2) A guide which points to the Scripture, and leads toward it. (3) A defender (vindex) who protects and vindicates it by distinguishing the genuine books from the corrupted, in which sense the church is called Scripture’s bulwark (I Tim. 3:16 [15]).


When the French Confession says (article 5), “We believe the books of Scripture to be canonical, not so much by the common consent of the church as by the witness and internal urging of the Holy Spirit,” by “Holy Spirit” must be understood the Spirit speaking both in the Word and in the heart. So the same Spirit, acting objectively in the Word to set forth the truth, acts also efficiently in the heart to impress this truth on our minds, and so is very different from fanatical enthusiasm (Spiritus Enthusiasticus).


III. The first question regarding the canon is its wholeness, whether any canonical book may have disappeared, or, whether the collection of Scripture as it now is lacks any book which God placed in the canon. On this matter both the Roman Catholics and the Reformed (orthodoxi) divide into different groups. Many Roman Catholics maintain that a number of canonical books have disappeared, so that they may show the imperfection of Scripture and the necessity of the tradition by which the gaps may be filled. Some of our theologians, such as Musculus and Whittaker, teach the same thing, following Chrysostom, but with two reservations; first, they affirm this only with regard to some books of the Old Testament, not any of the New, as do Roman Catholics; second, they maintain that nothing is taken away from the perfection of Scripture, which the Roman Catholics attack, by this, because the wholeness of the canon is not measured by the number of the sacred books, or their quantitative perfection, but by the completeness of the dogmas and the essential perfection of all things necessary for salvation, which is amply found in the existing books. But the more common and wiser opinion is that of others, who hold that no genuinely canonical books have disappeared, and that if any books have, they were not endowed with this quality.

IV. The reasons are to be sought (1) from the witness of Christ, who said that it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the law to perish (Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17). But if not even a jot, or the smallest mark, can perish, how could several books vanish? Although Christ is speaking of the teaching of the law, not the books, yet this can be applied to the sacred books by analogy, and their immunity from destruction can be affirmed, the more so because not only is reference made to the letters and marks by which Scripture is written, but also God willed that this teaching be preserved in written books. (2) From the statements of Luke and Paul. For neither could Luke have spoken of all the prophets and all the Scripture (Luke 24:27) if any part of them had disappeared, nor could Paul have said, “Whatever . . . was written was for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), unless he assumed that the whole written Old Testament was in existence.

V. (3) From the providence of God, who always keeps watch for the continuing safety of the church. It cannot be conceived that providence would will that such a destructive loss occur; what would become of the wisdom, goodness, and power of God if he willed that such a precious treasure be shown to his church and then withdrawn, and that the body of Scripture exist now in a tom and wounded state? (4) From the duty of the church, which is commissioned to preserve zealously the oracles of God for herself. That this commission was not neglected is evident from the fact that neither Christ nor the apostles ever accuse the Jews of this, a sacrilege which those who do not overlook lesser ones would by no means have hidden, if [the Jews] had been guilty of it; indeed, Paul emphasizes this privilege of the Jews–that the oracles of God were entrusted to them (Rom. 3:2; 9:4). (5) From the destiny (fines) of Scripture which is sealed in the canon of faith and life even to the consummation of the age. This could not be so if only a mutilated and truncated canon were left for the church of this age, because of the loss of some canonical books; that is, it would be impossible without the canon. (6) From the custom of the Jews, because books of the canon of the Old Testament other than those which appear in our canon were never recognized, or interpreted in the Targum, or translated in the Septuagint.


Although various corruptions might have crept into the Hebrew manuscripts through the carelessness of transcribers and the waste of time, they do not cease to be a canon of faith and practice. For besides being in things of small importance and not pertaining to faith and practice … they are not universal in all the manuscripts; or they are not such as cannot easily be corrected from a collation of the Scriptures and the various manuscripts.

There is no truth in the assertion that the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament and the Greek edition of the New Testament are said to be mutilated; nor can the arguments used by our opponents prove it. Not the history of the adulteress (John 8:1-11), for although it is lacking in the Syriac version, it is found in all the Greek manuscripts. Not 1 John 5:7, for although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it, as Sixtus Senensis acknowledges: “they have been the words of never-doubted truth, and contained in all the Greek copies from the very times of the apostles” (Bibliotheca sancta [1575], 2:298). Not Mark 16 which may have been wanting in several copies in the time of Jerome (as he asserts); but now it occurs in all, even in the Syriac version, and is clearly necessary to complete the history of the resurrection of Christ.

  1. February 12, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Just thought I’d point out something about Turretin, and particularly the last 2 paragraphs cited above. First, Turretin was somewhat naive about the state of the Greek text. See how in the second paragraph he says “all the Greek copies have it” regarding 1 John 5:7! That is obviously false, as at the most only 4 Greek copies have it today. Same is true regarding his statement about Jn. 8:1-11. Just because he was a scholar doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been in error on those points.

    It is interesting to note that even Turretin, who defended the vowel points, even he allowed for some errors in the TR. Just read this article about Turretin which shows how he argued for different readings of the text in much the same fashion that later text critics have done, preferring older copies and citing the evidence of other versions, etc.

  2. February 12, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Bob, how about all the Greek copies of 1 John? And why was it false for him? Why does the fact that all of the copies of 1 John that he saw had it make him naive?

    When you say “errors in the TR” you are misleading people reading this site. You are saying textual variants, but you say errors and that is misleading. It also misrepresents what Turretin believed.  It is a horrible thing to do.  Of course, Turretin saw textual variants among the TR editions, and so do we. That doesn’t mean that ultimately the churches did not recognize which were the perfectly preserved Words, which is also what Turretin’s position was; they did recognize the Words.

    Incidentally, you don’t need to read the article Bob linked, because in an exact quote above, you see the context of the use of the term “errors” by Turretin.  In other words, we weren’t hiding anything.  Turretin actually gives THE SAME EXACT EXPLANATION AS WE WOULD GIVE for the variants and their correction.  Notice that Turretin gives credit for their correction to THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD.   He doesn’t give credit to textual criticism.

  3. February 13, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Kent, Turretin does use the word ‘corruption’, not ‘variant’. Would you say that the word ‘corruption’ is closer to ‘error’ or to ‘variant’?

    Turretin’s naivetee would be in assuming that having seen some Greek copies and having read the quote of Senensis that he therefore could make a dogmatic statement concerning ALL the Greek manuscripts. Evidence has later shown him to be quite wrong with respect to the mss, especially on 1 jn 5.7.

    Personally I think there is sufficient evidence to receive Jn 8.1-11, but the evidence for 1 jn 5.7 just isn’t there.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. February 13, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Please do read the article I linked to. You will then see how Pastor B. is twisting it. In two places (that the article cites) Turretin says the TR should be corrected by the readings of older manuscripts. He claims the TR’s reading is wrong. There are no editions of the TR that have the reading he opts for. He is saying that there are a few errors in the TR, that it does not reflect the autograph in at least a few points. In no way does he give “the same exact explanation as we would give” for the variants.

    Please read that article yourself and be your own judge.

    Also the article demonstrates that Turretin was ignorant of some of the issues surrounding the manuscripts. Such ignorance coupled with what is absolutely known and attested to by people of Turretin’s day (that only 1 known manuscript of that time had 1 John 5:7) leads us to the sure conclusion that Turretin was overspeaking regarding 1 John 5:7 and he didn’t have his facts straight. Again read the article yourself.

  5. February 13, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I should be clear, that perhaps Pastor B. did not read that article completely. He may be unclear as to what it says. But it sure seems like he is twisting what it says.

  6. February 13, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Wow, Bob. So we’re definitely not keeping your tone standards now. I just wag my head in amazement on this issue. You guys take advantage of people’s ignorance of Biblical languages. I don’t know how else to look at it. I don’t know how to explain it. Turretin said there are differences in the editions of the TR, that’s all. His explanation of something that is not in the originals is that it is corrupt. Interesting huh? Not a mistake, not a variant, but corrupt. You are exactly right, Don, and Bob. Turretin said that alterations of the original manuscripts were corruptions. We believe they are corruptions too. We have a whole chapter in our book Thou Shalt Keep Them, on this. So you have a corrupt Bible, based on Turretin’s language, Bob. Are you sure you want to be quick to embrace that? I agree with him. I believe one error makes Scripture corrupt. God is Perfect, Holy. His nature demands Perfection. His Word is Perfect, without Corruption. See 1 Peter 1:23-25. I stick with my original assertion. We didn’t leave anything out. We purposefully left it in, wanted it in. It mirrors the Scriptural position, the position that we take.

    Why do you guys pick and choose Turretin?  You won’t say the truth, that is, that he says that they had every jot and tittle available at that time, and he explained how.

    When it is convenient, you bring up the editions of the TR and when we explain that, then you act like the TR doesn’t have editions that differ.  Turretin called those variants corruptions.  Yes,  Turretin called them corruptions.  I’m glad to hear that you believe that he thought that a textual variant was a corruption.

    We have a perfect Bible and you have a corrupt Bible.

  7. February 13, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I have read the article and it seems to me that Turretin is saying that any spurious readings should be “corrected” by the “accepted/received” text. If that is his standard operating procedure, he would not have accepted any of the “spurious” readings that have been discovered of late because they are inconsistent with the text God had providentially preserved from the time of inspiration.

    It also seems that some (including the author of this article, Michael Marlowe) question Turretin’s academic qualifications to make these claims. I think two points should be considered: (1) maybe Turretin was a man of faith rather than “science” (2) I think the point of using Turretin is to say that our position is a historical (as opposed to novel) position.

  8. February 13, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Okay, you guys are amazed at me. I am amazed at you. Let’s stop and see where we are talking past each other.

    Here is my point in referencing the article on Turretin. Listen closely now. In Luke 3:36, Turretin argued that the words [using English words so as not to be hiding behind my acquaintance with the Greek] “which was the son of Cainan” are spurious. He calls these words “a mistake” and “the corruption”, and “this error”. (See the last sentence in the third block quote in that article.) In plain English, Turretin is saying those words are not really the original words of Scripture. Now, no TR edition does not contain those words. ALL TR EDITIONS contain those words. Therefore, this is not a case of dealing with editions. In this place (at least) Turretin argues that these words are included in the TR (all editions of it) in error. He argues his case based on older copies which do not have them (as the author of this article points out later, Turretin thought that two separate old codices left these words out, come to find out, however, it was only the same one codex which left them out. Turretin was wrong there.) Just so you know, the modern text agrees with the TR that these words should remain in the text–they are original. Turretin was wrong, and that isn’t the main point. The main point is that Turretin argued that the TR (all editions of it) erred at this point. He called that error a corruption, a mistake, and an error. No semantics here, he said the TR was wrong there.

    A similar thing happens with Matt. 1:11 and the words “Josiah begat Jeconiah and his brethren”. On this point let me quote from the article which introduces and then quotes Turretin on this point:


    he suggests that one solution of the problem would be to suppose that the text was corrupted, and that “Iacheim should be supplied between Josiah and Jechoniah, Jehoiachim being the son of Josiah and the father of Jechoniah (which is proved by the authority of the ancient manuscript which R. Stephanus and Henry his son used, with whom Stapulensis and Bucer agree); and so the restoration would stand more truly Iosias de egennese ton Iacheim – Iacheim egennese ton Iechoniam.” In this, and in the treatment of Luke 3:36 quoted above, he shows a preference for the most ancient manuscripts in establishing the true reading when the case requires such “restoration.”


    So again, Turretin felt this was a corruption in the TR and that it should be corrected. Just like later textual critics, he relied on the readings of older, non Byzantine texts for support for his claims.

    Again this is not a matter of differing editions of the TR. No TR edition (again the modern text agrees with the TR) includes the name Jehoiachim in between Josiah and Jeconiah in that text.

    Based on the above evidence from Turretin’s writings, we can conclude that when he stated things like “we have every word and letter etc. of the original text today” that he was speaking in somewhat general terms. His version of “TR Onlyism” if it can be called that, allowed for at least 2 very real errors or corruptions in the TR that he accepted.

    Turretin is not an example of a church man simply receiving the text passively. No, he was not afraid to point to older manuscripts and say the TR as a whole needed correction in two or so places.

    Now that I have bent over backwards to be clear on this, can you please tell me how I am wrong in reading the evidence as presented in the article I linked to?

    I hope it will be clear that Pastor Jeff Voegtlin’s latest response (#7) is negated at least in some kind of significant way by my telling of the evidence above. Sure he may have been a man of faith rather than “science” but that didn’t stop him from pointing out very real errors in the TR (in his mind, anyway). Also, it is wonderful to point to Turretin and claim you position is historical. Hopefully, you can see how myself and the author of this article I linked to, can also point to that same Turretin and show that some of the current methodologies used in textual criticism find a friend to some extent in Turretin as well.

    In short, Turretin was no perfect pereservationist in your sense of the word. He was though in my sense. He felt that the words were generally available in both the Byzantine family and the other extant textual evidence we have. Therefore he had no problem dropping a TR reading in a place or two for a reading contained outside the Byzantine readings.

  9. February 13, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Jeff is right on with both counts, 1 and 2, he is correct.

  10. February 13, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Bob, you say that Turretin takes your position. I can grant that he had it wrong on those specific words, and we can be thankful to the sovereignty and providence of God that we do not have the Turretin Version. However, you misrepresent what he says and spin him into your position. You say this in the last couple of days, something that Turretin would never, ever say, and we don’t say:

    “Man’s ability to understand the text has undoubtedly improved. Man’s ability to ascertain which text, from those God has left us, is has improved. The text needs no improvement. But we are in the midst of a debate over what the preceise wording of that text is. I allow that mankind today is much more equipped to ascertain what that wording is, than he was in two hundred, four hundred, and certainly a thousand years ago.”

    Notice Bob, man’s ability, man’s ability, mankind more equipped to ascertain.  You are someone who says you believe that man can’t respond in any way spiritually, he is dead, his heart is deceitful, and yet we should depend on man getting better and better as a basis for our acceptance of textual criticism.  You trust in man.  We don’t.

    Turretin says and differently than Bob:

    “So the basis of the purity and integrity of the sources does not rest on the inerrancy of human beings but on the providence of God, who, although the men who copied the sacred works could have introduced many errors, always carefully looked after them and corrected them, or else they can easily be corrected either by comparison with the Scripture itself or with better codices. Therefore it was not necessary to make all the scribes infallible, but only so to guide them that the true reading can always be found, and this book far surpasses all others whatsoever in purity.”

    What Turretin says here is what I see in Bob and others:

    “Moreover, [controversy] is not the fault of the sources but of those who abuse the sources, either not understanding them or twisting them to their own opinions, and stubbornly sticking to the same.”

    Bob and others like him are in an ever present, ongoing, and never-ending process of restoring the Bible. This will never stop as long as there is the possibility that another manuscript can be found. God’s people have received God’s Word. The books of the Bible were received by God’s people. They settled on God’s Books. If we do not settle, trusting the Holy Spirit, receiving what those Books are, then we are open to more books as they are found and as new evidence is unearthed. When we got to the printed edition period of the text of Scripture, the churches could recognize by the Spirit’s guidance which were His Words. That is the providence of God. The Words of the King James, the text behind it, became the accepted text of the churchs. The Bishop’s and the Geneva felll by the wayside. The printed edition phase ended because God’s people settled on the Words.

    Turretin would in no way accept the Critical Text. It was not available to God’s people. It was not received by the churches and passed down and therefore recognized by the churches.

    We may come to a slightly different conclusion than him on the application of the principles, especially in light of where he was in history, but we agree with the principles he espouses, because they are Scriptural.

    The two points: God’s providence (faith) which results in perfection (a concept Turretin reiterates again and again), and then that this position is not new, but very old. This is the purpose for the quoting of Turretin.

  11. February 13, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Pastor B.,

    Thank you! Thank you for admitting that you were wrong. I was wondering if you would admit it. You actually didn’t admit it directly, but did admit that Turretin was wrong on these points. Twice you accused me of twisting the truth through my link to this article, and then when you finally understand that Turretin wasn’t pointing to a different edition of the TR, but was pointing out what he thought was an error in all TRs, your apology is non existant.

    Let me apologize though. My last point may have made it seem that Turretin was definitely a text critical man. I hope my comments didn’t make it sound that way. His pointing out two errors surely wouldn’t make him into a TC man. However, it was interesting to note that he appealed to older and better manuscripts.

    “Better?” you might ask. Notice that second blockquote from your most recent comment (#10). Turretin says, “or else they can easily be corrected either by comparison with the Scripture itself or with better codices.” Considering that he specifically appealed to Codex D and considering the fact that almost all the old codices are not Byzantine (or TR-ish), this means he views the older texts to be better texts than the many less ancient copies upon which the TR was largely based. He didn’t extrapolate from this belief a need to correct the TR in a broad way, as did some of Turretin’s contemporaries and many of his successors. So he wasn’t through and through a TC guy. Nevertheless, this presupposition that older texts might be better and his appeals to older texts show the beginnings of a methodology that later became textual criticism.

    I will admit that much of what Turretin says appears to support the perfect preservation view. But as I stated before, his perfect preservation included the assumption that some of those words were included in the non Byzantine manuscripts / non TR texts.

    Sure go ahead and claim him as your guy, but notice how in several points he foreshadows textual criticism. Oh, and I’d appreciate an apology or a recanting of your firm statements in #6 and #2. (But I won’t wine. I know you don’t allow it! Just appealing for fair play.)

    One other thing, repeatedly both in the post above and in the comments, you guys are purposely ignoring the facts we have (from Turretin’s predecessors, contemporaries and later scholars) about 1 John 5:7. You are choosing to suppose that Turretin knew of many copies which have since passed out of existence. Go ahead and entertain such fancies if you like. Wishful thinking doesn’t help out your position, though. The facts are, and they were clear in Turretin’s own day, that only four Greek manuscripts have that reading. E.F. Hills said that reading was preserved in the Latin texts, due to the overwhelming Greek evidence against that reading. If Turretin had made a statement supporting textual criticism’s findings, you surely would have discounted it and given many reasons for him to have made such a blunder. But since his statement supports your view, even while contradicting all known evidence, you jump at the chance to let it slide. I think it is obvious that such scholarship is merely wishful thinking and clearly biased.

  12. February 13, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Bob, I’M NOT ADMITTING I’M WRONG!! :)  Thanking me for something I didn’t do stands as a bit of uncivility that deserves an apology.

    If you haven’t noticed, we don’t base our position on counting manuscripts. That would fit under natural process, man’s ability, in fitting with your view. I believe you misrepresent the historic evidence for 1 John 5:7 as well, because of how you count the manuscripts. Some manuscripts didn’t have 1 John in them, let alone 1 John 5:7, so we would do better when talking percentages to talk about the % of times 1 John 5:7 is in a manuscript with 1 John. We believe the Bible has been settled by the churches.

    You want an apology from me when I have never said that Turretin or we didn’t believe there were textual variants. They exist and existed. You make way too much out of the word “codices.” You miss the entire forest for a few trees. Turretin himself didn’t believe that his own opinion was enough to canonize a text. He believed in God’s providence. God’s providence left out some of Turretin’s opinion. I don’t have anything I said that I would recant of. Turretin has a position that said that God’s Word, every jot and tittle, would be preserved by God by means of His providence. He believed that corruption of men, including his own, would not interfere with that.

    And again, you have no developed doctrine of preservation from which you take your position. It would be dangerous for you to do so. Think of that—a position taken that is threatened by Scripture. I wouldn’t want to be taking that one.

  13. February 14, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Please admit that these statements of yours were wrongheaded.

    When you say “errors in the TR” you are misleading people reading this site. You are saying textual variants, but you say errors and that is misleading. It also misrepresents what Turretin believed. It is a horrible thing to do. Of course, Turretin saw textual variants among the TR editions, and so do we. [from #2]

    Turretin actually gives THE SAME EXACT EXPLANATION AS WE WOULD GIVE for the variants and their correction. [from #2]

    You guys take advantage of people’s ignorance of Biblical languages. I don’t know how else to look at it. I don’t know how to explain it. Turretin said there are differences in the editions of the TR, that’s all. [from #6]

    In number #10 you said:

    I can grant that he had it wrong on those specific words, and we can be thankful to the sovereignty and providence of God that we do not have the Turretin Version.


    We may come to a slightly different conclusion than him on the application of the principles, especially in light of where he was in history, but we agree with the principles he espouses, because they are Scriptural.

    The above two statements show that your accusations and claims in the first three quotes here were wrong. You accused me of twisting Turretin’s words basically, and of taking advantage of my limited knowledge of Greek. Turretin was giving preference to variants that were outside of the TR tradition and wanted to correct the TR with them. Thus you should stand corrected.

    What is so hard about admitting you were wrong in this tiny claim?

  14. December 9, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Hi Folks,

    The accusation against Turretin on the heavenly witnesses is a modern error based simply on a poor English translation of his Latin. From “De tribus testibus coelestibus” it is clear that Turretin knew a lot more about the evidences for and against the verse than most all writers today, including manuscript issues.

    For more information on this, I suggest you work backwards from this post on the TC-Alternate forum:

    [TC-Alternate-list] Francis Turretin, the heavenly witnesses – Professor Henk van den Belt


    Steven Avery
    Queens, NY

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