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Is it permissible to use textual criticism to explain some historical difficulties in the Old Testament?

The Baptist pastor and theologian John Gill (1697-1771) thinks so, and in his Exposition, offers the following advice:

[I]ndeed it is more to the honour of the sacred Scriptures to acknowledge here and there a mistake in the copiers, especially in the historical books, where there is sometimes a strange difference of names and numbers, than to give in to wild and distorted interpretations of them, in order to reconcile them, where there is no danger with respect to any article of faith or manners; and, as a learned man [one John Gregory of Christ Church] has observed of the New Testament,

“[I]t is an invincible reason for the Scripture’s part, that other escapes should be so purposely and infinitely let pass, and yet no saving and substantial part at all scarce moved out of its place; to say the truth, these varieties of readings, in a few by-places, do the same office to the main Scriptures, as the variation of the compass to the whole magnet of the earth, the mariner knows so much the better for these how to steer his course.”‘

And, with respect to some various readings in the Old Testament, Dr. Owen [in The Divine Original, Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of the Scriptures] observes, God has suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search of his word.

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