Chapter 1, Section 8 of the Westminster Confession declares the Biblical text the framers possessed is the infallible word of God. This is what is meant by “authentic”. We only have to look back to the Council of Trent to see that this is a counterclaim to Rome for Rome used the same language regarding the Latin Vulgate. Rome was declaring the original language texts to be corrupt. The Roman church being the authenticating authority declared the Latin Vulgate to be “authentic”. Protestants declared the original language texts to be “authentic”—authoritative and infallible. Protestants made this claim not based upon the authority of the church, but the Holy Spirit Himself as the authenticating authority (See Westminster Confession, Chapter 1, Sections 4-5).
Put another way, God inspired the text in a verbal plenary fashion. In His providence he preserved it in “essential purity” so that the full power and authority of the text remains. Whatever scribal issues may have been allowed to creep in (which are all debatable), God has so preserved the text that what we have in the corpus of the Received Texts of the Protestant Reformation is “infallible” (it does not err because it cannot).
On the other hand, if we say it merely represents the original, we are claiming no more authority for our Greek text than we do for a reliable translation of it. This is “mediate inspiration” and means it is only infallible to the degree it is in accords with the original autographs which we do not have. This would mean there is no edition of the New Testament that we may properly call “infallible” and no amount of critical studies will ever be able to make this claim.
This is both a teleological (misunderstanding the purpose of the Scripture) and epistemological (misunderstanding the authority of the Scripture) error of epic proportions if you believe the Bible is God’s infallible word. To claim the original language text as the ultimate, infallible authority but deny that we actually posses the full authority of that text creates a great inconsistency when it comes to our appeal to the Scripture as the ultimate authority for all faith and practice.
I hold that the full power of immediate inspiration is found within the Received Text. Not because God inspired scribes, but because He preserved the full power of the text by special providence. What I mean by the words “full power” is that the text has been so preserved in the Received Text as to contain all the force and authority of the original autographs (warning: a barbarian will miss the nuance in what I am saying).
A precedent for this is found in canon 2 of the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675) which was chiefly framed by Francis Turretin. There we find…
“But, in particular, The Hebrew original of the OT which we have received and to this day do retain as handed down by the Hebrew Church, “who had been given the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2), is, not only in its consonants, but in its vowels either the vowel points themselves, or at least the power of the points not only in its matter, but in its words, inspired by God.”
The issue there is very similar to the one regarding the preservation of the Greek text in the Received Text of the Reformation. For the Old Testament Hebrew text, the question was whether or not the vowel points were originally inspired or if they were added later.
The Helvetic Consensus Formula declared “in its vowels either the vowel points themselves, OR AT LEAST THE POWER OF THE POINTS” were “inspired by God””. That is, if the vowel points were added later by scribes, God so directed it as to actually be a part of the preservation of the original since the vowel points are important for a proper understanding of the text (and especially so as Hebrew would be a dead language).
In like fashion, God has so preserved the Greek New Testament as to render the full power of the originals in the Received Text of the Reformation.
Take up a sound translation of our Received Text and read, for there you read a translation of the covenant of the King of Kings, God Almighty!