Series of Letters to Jack P. Lewis:
February 20, 1994
Jack P. Lewis
Professor of Bible
Harding Graduate School of Religion
1000 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
Thanks for sequestering the time out of your busy academic schedule to consider my review of the critique of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION found in your book THE ENGLISH BIBLE FROM KJV TO NIV - A HISTORY AND EVALUATION. My comments will be based on your analysis as reported in the second edition.
You noted that the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION "falls in the category scholars designate ‘tendentious translations’ because it fosters the distinctive views of a particular sect, as those familiar with Jehovah’s Witness’ teachings will recognize." I find this often repeated criticism somewhat amusing since I know that these scholars, by and large, prefer translations that could be accused similarly. Undoubtedly most theological scholars professing to be Christian are trinitarians. This "distinctive view" has, for sure, influenced how they have translated the Bible. Let me show a brief example before we move on. The NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION translated Exodus 3:14 as follows: "God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’ : The expression "I am who I am" is a translation of the Hebrew אהיה אשר אהיה. From both modern and Classical Hebrew, the proper translation of this verse is not "I am who I am" but "I will be what I will be" (which, in fact, the NIV admitted in its footnote) or "I will prove to be what I shall prove to be." Now it turns out that the word translated "I am" in NIV is היה a word appearing some 42 times (without the Vav consecutive) in BIBLIA HEBRAICA STUTTGARTENSIA. It is regularly translated "I will be" in English Bibles. It is most amazing to me that at Exodus 3:12 - just before the subject text at Ex 3:14 - the Hebrew word occurs and is translated, in all the translations that I have seen "I will be." That means that NIV translated it correctly at Exodus 3:12. Notwithstanding this, the trinitarian bias bleeds through with the "I am" translation at verse 14. If that wasn’t enough, it was capitalized. Now if the NWT can be accused of being tendentious for not capitalizing "holy spirit," then the NIV can be equally accused for capitalizing "I AM." Hosts of examples like this can be cited in the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, the REVISED STANDARD VERSION, the NEW ENGLISH BIBLE and the KING JAMES VERSION.
Next, you said: "The manifestation of this trait [of being tendentious] begins with the name given to the two divisions of the bible. ‘The Hebrew - Aramaic Scriptures’ and ‘The Christian Greek Scriptures’ are used to avoid the use of the words ‘Old Covenant’ and ‘New Covenant,’ for Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that portions are rightly designated ‘Covenant’... This peculiarity does not preclude the use of ‘Covenant’ in other settings: ‘new Covenant’ (Jer.31:31), ‘blood of the covenant’" Apparently you take exception to our way of dividing the two great sections of the Bible.
Firstly, your comment that Witnesses "deny that portions are rightly designated ‘covenant’" is not accurate. We can see clearly that Exodus through Deuteronomy contains the "Law Covenant," also called the "Old Covenant" (Exodus 19:5; 2 Corinthians 3:12-15). Furthermore Genesis 6:17-21 contains the ‘Covenant with Noah,’ while Genesis 9:8-17 presents the 'Rainbow Covenant.' Then there is the ‘Covenant of Circumcision’ at Genesis 17:9—14. Since there are numerous covenants in the material from Genesis through Malachi, is it not misleading to call all of it the "Old Covenant" or "Old Testament"? To avoid misleading the readers, the NWT preferred the titles "Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures," an appellation that, for sure, describes what they are and "Christian Greek Scriptures" for the same reason. It has not failed to get my attention that, on occasion, I see that some Jewish, Catholic and Protestant Scholars refer to these two divisions using the same terminology. I would imagine that you have seen the same.
Following the question of using the expressions "Hebrew Scriptures" and "Christian Greek Scriptures," you remarked: "While admitting that ‘Jehovah’ is a mispronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the New World translators insist that it should be used. After all, the sect’s name comes from this mispronunciation! While questionable enough in the Old Testament, the use of ‘Jehovah’ is entirely without justification in the New Testament. Yet the name ‘Jehovah’ has been introduced 237 times in the New Testament despite the fact that the Greek had (Kurios) Lord in each instance."
It has always captured my interest that many of the same people who take exception to our using the name "Jehovah" have no problem promoting the name "Jesus." Jesus’ name in Hebrew is ישוע and his name in Greek is ιησους; neither of these sounds like "Jesus." And, I would venture to argue that, by and large, the majority of English speaking professed Christians will "insist" upon the pronunciation of "Jesus", nevertheless. I am fairly certain that you understand what I am stating here. Indeed, very few Bible names in the standard translations receive faithful sound transmissions from Hebrew / Greek over to English. One of the most interesting examples that comes to mind just now is the name of the writer of the book of "James." Now, in Koine Greek the writer is called "ιακωβος," which, of course, does not sound like "James." In French it is "Jacques" while in Spanish it is "Santiago." If accurate "pronunciation" from the original language is the question, then "James," "Santiago" and "Jacques" are mispronunciations. For Anti-Employers of the Divine Name to reject the appellation "Jehovah" on the basis of its probable influence from "Adonai" becomes somewhat comic if not unscholarly when you look at how other accepted Bible names in non-Biblical languages have evolved and become accepted by these same critics. What did not disturb me when I was a Baptist instructor now does as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that is the systematic policy on the part of most church institutions to eradicate God’s name from the Bible and from church service. That to me, is the highest insult to the Creator, especially when he has made it unequivocally clear that it is his purpose for all men to know him by his name. (Ezekiel 36:20-23; Exodus 3:15; Psalms 91:14; Luke 11:2; Hebrews 6:10). If you think about it, you will have to agree that, at least in the general public, Christendom has gone out its way to eliminate the Tetragram, the very opposite objective of the creator.
But what is the basis of using "Jehovah" or any other form of the Tetragram in the "New Testament"? That question, for sure, deserves a response.
At Genesis 4:8 the New International Version, in part, reads: "Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Lets go out to the field.’" The Masoretic Text says:
ןיהרנהן ןיאמר קין אל הכל אחין ןיהי כהיןתם כשרה ןיקם קין אל הכן אחין
The MT, the basic text, omitted the phrase: "Let’s go out to the field" though the Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint included it. The NIV committee decided, never mind the MT omission, that the original Hebrew document evidently included this phrase. I doubt if they will be criticized for this inclusion and conclusion. Indeed, textual critics and others have developed the discipline sufficiently to determine, at least, some cases in the Biblical MSS of omissions either deliberate or non-deliberate. This, in turn, has affected translators who have produced the Bible in their respective languages. The real question then is: Is there any evidence that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures used the Tetragrammaton even with the absence of the Divine Name in early copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures? And the answer to that question is Yes.
First, it should be mentioned that the Divine Name is expressed in early Christian MSS. Look at Revelation 19:1-6 where four times the Greek text uses the expression "αλληλουια," which is the Greek way of saying "הללן יה." There you have the Divine Name in the "New Testament" for sure.
Next, it is not difficult to make the case that the original writings of the "New Testament" contained numerous appearances of the Tetragram and that later copies deliberately excised that name. We have indisputable evidence that Catholic Christian copies of the Septuagint did not follow in the footsteps of the Jewish copies of the Septuagint when it centered on the question of the Tetragram.
You may remember what Professor Paul Kahle said about this in his famous work THE CAIRO GENIZA, p.222: "We now know that the Greek Bible text [the LXX] as far as it was written by Jews for Jews did not translate the Divine Name by Kurios, but the Tetragrammaton written with Hebrew or Greek letters was retained in such MSS. It was the Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton by Kurios, when the Divine Name written in Hebrew letters was not understood anymore." More recently Dr George Howard noted: "When the Hebrew form of the divine name was eliminated in favor of Greek substitutes in the Septuagint, it was eliminated also from the New Testament quotations of the Septuagint" - "the Name of God in the New Testament," BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, March 1978, p.14.
I refer you to the book THREE ROLLS OF THE EARLY SEPTUAGINT: GENESIS AND DEUTERONOMY" by Rudolf Eabelt Verlag for page after page of illustrations showing LXX fragments containing the Tetragrammaton. These scroll fragments demonstrate that when Jesus and the Apostles were on the earth, LXX manuscripts contained the Divine Name. That axiomatically means that when the "NT" writers quoted from LXX passages that included the Divine Name, that they would have included the Divine Name. As you must know, there are many such undisputed quotes - (Matthew 3:3, 4:4, 4:7, 4:10, 5:33, 22:37, 22:44, Mark 1:3, 12:36, etc...)
As a number of scholars have argued - and I concur - as the doctrine of the Trinity evolved, the name and persona of the father diminished and was replaced by that of the Son. Even today, few people that profess to be Christians have any real interest in the name of the Father. Indeed the late Edwin H. Palmer, Executive Secretary, of the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Committee wrote "Here is why we did not [use "Jehovah" or "Yahweh"]... Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate f or example, Psalm 23 as ‘Yahweh is my shepherd’. . .furthermore, we do not know if we should say Jahu or Yahweh or Jehovah... "A tendentious view point seemed to have prevailed because among other things it made ‘good business sense.’
Before we move on to the next point, I should mention that Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman a well known Jewish Dead Sea Scroll scholar has published a book entitled "Who Was a Jew?" in which he makes the case that the BABYLONIAN TALMUD in the section called SHABBATH actually mentions that the Early Christians wrote the Tetragrammaton in their Scriptures. Conclusion: The NWT translation of "Jehovah" into the N.T. was not without a substantive basis. In his critique of the REVISED STANDARD VERSION, William Carey Taylor said it well respecting the Divine Name: "The most thorough and complete banishment of Bible words to be found at all is the utter vanishing of the covenant name of the God of Israel — Jehovah. To begin with, this is one of the great boasts of the translators... But in the text itself no trace of the word occurs. It is a carefully planned and executed blackout of the covenant Name" - THE NEW BIBLE - PRO AND CON, p.70. Jehovah’s Witnesses are being challenged for their love and respect for God’s name, primarily by those holding a tendentious view regarding his Son Jesus. If you have evidence to the contrary, I am not opposed to investigating it.
Next you noted: "The cross is a ‘torture stake’ (Matthew 10:38; 27:32); and Jesus was ‘impaled’ (Luke 23:21), instead of crucified on his stake.. .Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was nailed to the cross, but argue that it was an upright pole and that the position of the victim was different from that ordinarily excepted... The position Witnesses contend for ignores the fact that classical sources speak of that slave about to be crucified carrying the crossbar to his crucifixion, and that the Epistle of Barnabus 10:8 compares the cross to the Greek letter tau. See also Irenaeus’s Against Heresies 2:24.4. Their position also ignores the evidence from the remains of the crucified man discovered in a tomb near Jerusalem in 1968."
Are the Witnesses in error for translating the Greek "σταυρος" as "torture stake" instead of "Cross"? Is this just another "tendentious" view? Consider the following data:
1.) GREEK - ENGLISH LEXICON by Liddell and Scott: σταυρος ...an upright pole or stake, Hom; etc.: of piles driven in to serve as a foundation, Hat; Thuc. II the cross, N.T. : its form was represented by the Greek letter T. Luc.
2.) EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS by W.E. Vine: Cross, Crucify... Stauros (σταυρος) denotes, primarily an upright pole or stake...Both the noun and the verb stauroo, to fasten to a stake or pole, and originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross...
3.) THE ANALYTICAL GREEK LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by George V. Wilgram: σταυρος ... a stake; a cross...
Now, without much elaboration, it ought to be evident what stauros first and foremost means. There it is. Of course, we cannot ignore the comments of "Barnabas" or Ireneaus. What is to be said about them? In the CYCLOPAEDIA OF BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL LITERATURE, Vol 1, p.(70, 67) we find : "Barnabas, Epistle of. An epistle has come down to us bearing the name of Barnabas, but clearly not written by him... The probable opinion is that this epistle existed anonymously in the Alexandrian Church and was ignorantly attributed to Barnabas. It was probably written by a Jewish Christian, who had studied Philo, and who handled the O.T. in an allegorical way in behalf of his view of Christianity" The discussion goes on to itemize viewpoints of the writer that were not congruent with those of the First Century Church and that were mistaken conclusions about material in the "Old Testament." Although this does not therefore nullify everything "Barnabas" wrote, it certainly settles a cloud of suspicion there. And, if you have read Irenaeus and the other Ante-Nicene "fathers," as I have, I am fairly certain that you do not believe or accept everything that they wrote. Accretions and distortions are not hard to find when you read that literature. However, if it turns out that it was indeed a "cross," then it was a cross. The Witnesses are simply looking for accuracy. The case for the "cross" over the "upright stake" is not conclusive, while there is, at least, some evidence that Jesus may have provided his unique sacrifice for our sins on a pole. That being the case, we are not entirely without a basis for our conclusion.
In my second letter, I plan to finish most of the remainder of my comments on your critique of the NWT. I expect to have that in your hands within the next three weeks.
P.S. I thought that it might be worthwhile to make a comment regarding your remark on page 230. Regarding the use of the Divine Name in the New Testament, you said " The translators attempt to justify their choice on the evidence of nineteen Hebrew translations of Scripture from the fourteenth Century onward ...". A Witness friend of mine who has been a researcher in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic for many years noted "..that there are a number of scholars that believe that either the Hebrew version of Matthew found by Jean Du Tillet or the Matthew version found in the writings of Shem Tob NWT’s J1 and J2) IS A DESCENDANT of Matthew’s original Gospel account. There were over 13 writers of the first four centuries C.E. that wrote that Matthew originally wrote the account in Hebrew. In both of these Manuscripts there are abbreviations of the Divine Name over 17 times as: ייי Du Tillet, or ה or השם Shem Tob." I have to assume that you now see the significance of the NWT’s reference to the NT Hebrew manuscripts containing the Divine Name.
May 4, 1994
Jack P. Lewis
Professor of Bible
Harding Graduate School of Religion
1000 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
This is my second letter to you centering on your evaluation of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
On page 231 you commented: "Luke 23:43 is punctuated to read: 'Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.' Here the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ bias clearly come through. The antithesis between the thief’s indefinite ‘When you come in your Kingdom’ and Jesus’ ‘Today you shall be...’ is destroyed." First let me point out that this way of punctuating or rendering the sentence is not unique to the Witness translation:
"Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise." --Concordant Literal
"Verily do-I-say unto-thee to-day-With me, thou-shalt-be, in Paradise."--THE GOSPEL OF HISTORY, Charles A.L. Totten
"Verily I say to thee to-day that with me thou shalt be in the Eden’s garden."--FOUR GOSPELS IN SYRIAC, John Murray
"Amen, I say to thee to-day that with me thou shalt be in the Garden of Eden"--CURETONIAN VERSION OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Francis Crawford Burkitt
I have to assume that you know that commas do not exist in the early Greek MSS. If we begin at that point, your understanding of this text has no more value than mine. Then if you wanted to argue that MOST scholars admit to your view, we then have nothing more than the typical Argumentum Ad Verecundiam. You, of course, remember the weight of that species of thinking from your university course in Logic. The criticism of the NWT at that point amounts to mere bullying because it does not conform to "accepted" theological views.
Notwithstanding the foregoing comments regarding commas, In Dr. Friedrich Blass’ work GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, page 17 we find: "As regards punctuation, it is certain that the writers of the NT were acquainted with it, inasmuch as other writers of that time made use of it, not only in MSS., but frequently also in letters and documents; but whether they practised it, no one knows, and certainly not how and where they employed it, since no authentic information has come down to us on the subject. The oldest witnesses (Ν and B) have some punctuation as early as the first hand; in # the higher point on the line (στιγμη) is, as a rule, employed for the conclusion of an idea, the lower point (υποστιγμη viz. ΑΓΤΟΝ) where the idea is still left in suspense." Agreeing, A.T. Robertson in his A GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH page 242 noted: "Some of the oldest N.T. MSS. show these marks to some extent. B has the higher point as a period, the lower point for a shorter pause." Now, if you look at Luke 23:43 in B you will find a LOWER point AFTER the Greek word f or "today", which equates to a comma.
There is more. Jesus did not go to Paradise THAT day. The Bible declares that he died and was resurrected on the third day. After his resurrection, Jesus himself said to Mary Magdalene: "Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father." (John 20:17) Also, certainly the EARTHLY paradise mentioned in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, was not yet in place. (Isaiah 66:22-24; 2Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5) Therefore whether one wants the "paradise" to refer to the "new heavens" or the "new earth" the evildoer did not enter either on the day of his death.
We arrive at your comments on how the NWT translation team rendered John 1:1. You wrote: "In the effort to manipulate John 1:1 against Greek usage of the article, the NWT reads ‘The word was a god’ and the footnote reads ‘A god in contrast with the God’. There is no way to understand this rendering except to understand it as teaching polytheism... E.C. Colwell (‘A Definite Rules for the Use of the Article in Greek Testament’, JOURNAL OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE 52 : 12-21) demonstrated that definite predicate nouns which precede verbs are regularly anarthrous in Greek. In the case of John 1:1, ‘and the Word was God’ is correct."
You may not be aware that over the years in various languages there have been translations of John 1:1 that are like the John 1:1 of NWT. Some of these translations were generated by trinitarians. Let me supply you some samples:
1. "and the Word was a god"--THE NEW TESTAMENT IN AN IMPROVED VERSION, 1808, T. Belsham
2. "the Word was a God"--THE NEW TESTAMENT IN GREEK AND ENGLISH, 1822, ABNER KNEELAND
3. "and (a) God was the Word"--THE COPTIC VERSION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT-IN THE SOUTHERN DIALECT, 1911, GEORGE WILLIAM HORNER
4. "The Word was with God, and the Word was god"-THE FOUR GOSPELS, 1947, C.TORREY
5. "the Word was a God"--THE NEWS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS ANOINTED, 1958, James L. Tomanek
6. "and a god was the Logos"--DAS EVANGELIUM NACH JOHANNES 1979, Jurqen Becker
A number of anti-Witness books give the impression that the NWT rendition of John 1:1 is unique to the "Jehovah’s Witness sect". As you can see, that has never been the case. And never mind the fact that this has been pointed out to the critics numerous times, the accusation is repeated over and over again. But there is more.
I wonder if you were aware of what Professor C.W. Dodd, director of the NEW ENGLISH BIBLE project, said about John 1:1? He wrote: ‘A possible translation...would be, ‘The Word was a god.’ As a word-for-word translation it CANNOT be faulted.. .The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought as a whole." --TECHNICAL PAPERS FOR THE BIBLE TRANSLATOR, Volume 28, January 1977. To argue that the "a god" translation is grammatically unacceptable has never been tenable. Of course, there is Colwell’s Rule to address. What about this rule?
Colwell’s Rule has been seriously challenged in recent times by a number of reputable scholars. I refer you to Moulton’s A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, Vol. III, p.184 where we find: ". . .while the [Colwell] canon may reflect a general tendency IT IS NOT ABSOLUTE BY ANY MEANS; after all, it takes no account of relative clauses or proper nouns, and he has also omitted a considerable class of ‘qualitative’ nouns like that in ο θεοσ αγαπη εστιν. Moreover, he is the first to admit the lack of objectivity in his method of counting..." You may have on your book shelf Dr. D.A. Carson’s challenging book entitled EXEGETICAL FALLACIES. In it Carson provides clear evidence that Colwell’s Rule is not a rule at all and that it is overstated. Despite this, the anti-Witness literature continues to appeal to it. To me, that is unfair, unscholarly and tendentious.
For the record, I would be interested in how you would render the Greek at John 6:70 and III Kings 18:27 (LXX). I’d like to know whether or not you would follow Colwell in these instances.
But what of your comment: "There is no way to understand this rendering [the NWT rendering of John 1:1] except to understand it as teaching polytheism."? Jehovah’s Witnesses admit but to one REAL God, one almighty God. But given that statement, how do they reconcile that with obvious references to Jesus as a "God"? --(John 1:1;1:18;20:28; Isaiah 9:6,7) Indeed the question expands when we take in account that OTHER servants of Jehovah have been called "god" also--not just Jesus. Probably one of the most referenced cites, in this vein, is the 82nd Psalm. Here Jehovah himself refers to his earthly servants as "gods":
אני אמרחי אלהים אחם
Earlier, in the 8th Psalm, the holy angels are also called "gods" in the Hebrew text:
ןתחסרהן מעט מאלהים
You may remember that Paul quotes this passage at Hebrews 2:5-7 and specifically identifies the "gods" as angels. Also, in this context, it is probably worthwhile to mention that some Jewish and Christian scholars understand the "gods" at Psalm 136:2 to be the "holy angels." Obviously, these servants of Jehovah are not false gods but neither are they the "true God". So then the question is not:
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses advocates of a kind of polytheism? The question is: In view of the Bible’s reference to faithful servants of God as "gods", does the Bible advertise such a view? The Witnesses say NO. Let us explore this.
Regarding the term "god" Vine’s EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORD’S says: "The word is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as REPRESENTING God in his authority..." Also, in THE NEW BROWN-DRIVER-BRIGGS-GESENIUS HEBREW-ENGLISH LEXICON under אלהים, we discover: "...a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and powers... b. divine ones, superhuman beings including God and angels.." There are many more comments like these in the standard reference works. Now, it is most amazing to me that Trinitarian scholars have no difficulty recognizing that the holy angels could be called "gods" while still maintaining there is only one real God distinct from them but have incredible difficulty recognizing that Jesus could also be called "god" and be just as distinct as are the angels without polytheism emerging. To put it briefly, if the angels can be "gods" and not be GOD, then Jesus can be "god" and not be GOD. The one proposition is isomorphic with the other. It, to my mind, is unfair to allow one proposition but not the other.
I hope to follow up with the next letter very shortly.
August 14, 1994
Professor of Bible
Harding Graduate School of Religion
1000 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
This is my third letter to you. Thanks for your letter to me dated May 18, 1994.
In your review of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION you commented:
"While insisting that other modern versions reflect religious and higher critical bias, the NWT has not hesitated to reflect its own bias and to engage in criticism of its own. ‘Adonai’ us rendered ‘Jehovah’ in Genesis 18:3 against the Hebrew text, when the story actually turns on Abraham’s ignorance of the identity of the guests. ‘Sirs’ would have been a better choice." A number of popular translations/versions reflect your thinking. Notwithstanding this, apparently you have overlooked what has been said about this text by Hebraists. For example, C.D. Ginsburg wrote: "We have seen that in many of these one hundred and thirty-four instances in which the present received text reads Adonai in accordance with this Massorah, some of the best MSS. and early editions read the Tetragrammaton, and the question arises how did this variation obtain? The explanation is not far to seek. From time immemorial the Jewish canons decreed that the incommunicable name is to be pronounced Adonai as if it were in writing ארני [Adho-nair] instead of יהןה [YHWH]. Nothing was, therefore, more natural for the copyists than to substitute the expression which exhibited the pronunciation for the Tetragrammaton which they were forbidden to pronounce".--THE MASSORAH, Vol. IV, p.28, #115. Ginsburg listed the 134 places and cited Genesis 18:3 first. I do not think I am overstating the matter when I say that the NWT team exhibited better than average technical skills here as in other places. Not many others translators seem to have caught this. It seems that you missed it as well.
Next you added: "While claiming that it has not paraphrased, it has in fact done so, as one can see by examining Matthew 26:26 (‘This means’)...." Let us see what the NWT really said in connection with paraphrase: "We offer no paraphrase of the Scriptures. Our endeavor all though as been to give as literal a translation as possible, where the modern English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not f or any clumsiness hide the thought."--NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES, 1950, Forward, p.9. No competent translator will translate literally where such a translation would hinder the transmission of the meaning of the original text. Even other "literal" translations of the Bible have taken that into account and then got as close to "literal" as possible while trying to capture the meaning. The NWT team did add a "qualifier" which you did not consider in your criticism: "[We are literal] where the modern English allows and where a literal rendition does not for any clumsiness hide the thought." That, ipso facto, meant that you would find some nonliteral translation in the material. The text that you cited at Matthew 26:26 presents such an example. Now, did the unleaven bread REPRESENT Christ’s body or was it LITERALLY Christ’s body? You probably can see my view here without much more elaboration.
Your next criticism intersects my comments above. You submitted: "‘Other’ has been added four times with no support in Greek in Colossians 1:16,17 to make Paul say that Jesus Christ is one among ‘other’ created things. Thus Paul’s statement is falsified to make it state exactly what Paul is refuting." The addition of the word "other" to clarify the meaning of a text is not unique to the NWT. THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, THE NEW ENGLISH BIBLE, THE REVISED STANDARD VERSION, and THE KING JAMES VERSION all add the word "other", for example, at Exodus 28:10 and Leviticus 11:23 despite the fact that the Hebrew text does not have the word "other". To my mind, the addition was justified in order to convey correct meaning. Now, consider for a moment the RSV rendering of Colossians 1:16 which says, "for in him ALL things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible..." Jack, even if Jesus was Yahweh, would not even then a better translation be, "for in him all OTHER things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible"? After all, given that perspective, did God create God or was God the exception to things in heaven that were created?
The more fundamental disagreement here centers on the identity of Jesus Christ--and his infinite or finite existence into the past. Since ‘other’ has been added in conservative translations for years it ought to be transparent that the real issue here is not the Greek text but conflicting theology. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is the SON of God. Nearly, everyone knows what a son is. I will have more to say about this later.
September 7, 1994
Professor of Bible
Harding Graduate School of Religion
1000 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
This is my fourth letter to you. Thanks for the time that you have given my correspondences.
In your next consideration of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION you wrote: "The plural pronoun is printed in all capitals ("YOU"). While fine distinctions are admirable, the method used in this case is disastrous, for the ordinary reader will need to realize that "YOU" is not capitalized for emphasis." This criticism surprised me since it is a common practice for major translations to contain a "preface", "introduction" or some notice mentioning any special features or peculiarities for which the reader should take note. Consistent with this practice, the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES, 1950 edition, on page 33 specifically stated: "‘YOU’ printed in all capital letters denotes the plural number of this pronoun." You will find the same notice on page 26 of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES (Genesis-Ruth), 1953 edition, on page 26. How can the translators be rightfully accused of doing something that was "disastrous" in view of this patently clear explanation? If you wanted to argue that most readers do not spend time with the introductory or explanatory material and that that makes your case, then I have to say that the other major translations/versions stand equally accused. How?
The NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION stated in its Preface: "Sometimes a variant Hebrew reading in the margin of the Masoretic Text was followed instead of the text itself. Such instances, being variants within the Masoretic tradition, are not specified by footnotes." Could the NIV translators be accused of committing a "disastrous" act for not alerting the "ordinary reader" to this difference on the text page, not even footnoting it? Many translations render the Tetragram as LORD in all capital letters. Unless the reader has consulted the introduction, he will not know this. Will he conclude that it was capitalized "for emphasis"? Would this, as a consequence, be "disastrous"? More examples like these are reportable.
Immediately after the foregoing, you added: "By the use of certain auxiliary words, the translators have attempted to strengthen the expression shown by the verb. However, when the same verbal construction is ‘began’ in Exodus 14:10 but ‘continue’ in Numbers 14:1, we have arbitrariness that is misleading. The translators in such cases are rewriting the Bible." We will place the subject texts before us:
ןיבאן בניֿיבראל אחֿעינהם
Exodus 14:10 NWT: "When Pharoah got close by, the sons of Israel BEGAN TO RAISE their eyes...
ןיבכן העם כלילה
Numbers 14:1 NWT: "Then all the assembly raised their voice, and the people CONTINUED GIVING VENT to their voice and weeping all through that night."
I should mention that I have had the opportunity of teaching both Classical and Modern Hebrew. That has given me some facility with the language. I suspect that you have some formal background in the language as well. Now, I must agree with you that the subject verbal construction is the same in both texts as you mentioned. Maybe because of that, nearly every other translation that I consulted in my personal library translated the verbs in both texts similarly. I must admit that, at first glance, I felt that your criticism was valid. But then I remembered a comment found in a Witness reference manual entitled INSIGHT ON THE SCRIPTURES, volume 1, page 1075, under "Hebrew" which stated the following: "For English translation the time feature of the [Hebrew] verb is determined by the context. The context shows whether the action being narrated is viewed as having occurred earlier, taking place now, or as yet to occur."
Now, look at Exodus 14:10. The action "when Pharaoh got close by" precipitated the action "Israel began to raise their eyes". In other words, one action FOLLOWED the other; it "began" after the other. The context unambiguously shows this to be true. A good translator would catch that "subtle" fact. Over at Numbers 14:1 ONE action commenced and "continued" as the context shows. The NWT translators were guided by the context rather than a word for word rendering of the Hebrew text. I would argue that the NWT gave a better rendering of these texts than most others that I have seen.
September 17, 1994
Jack P. Lewis
Professor of Bible
Harding Graduate School of Religion
1000 Cherry Road
Memphis, Tennessee 38117
My fifth letter to you continues my review of your critique on the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
On pages 232 and 233 you wrote: "The denial of the divinity of Jesus by the Jehovah’s Witnesses comes out in the rendering of Titus 2:13 and II Peter 1:1 as ‘Our God and [the] Saviour Jesus Christ’, which properly should be, ‘Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’". Let us facilitate matters by viewing the subject texts:
Titus 2:13 "...του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων χριστου ιησου..."
2 Peter 1:1 "του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ιησου χριστου..."
I am assuming that in these passages you are appealing to what is called Sharp’s Rule. The sum and substance of the rule is that when two nouns of the same grammatical form are connected by the word "and" (και) if only the first noun carries the definite article, "the", but not the second noun, then both nouns refer to the same entity. Given that conclusion, in the subject texts the article "the" is found with "God" but not "Jesus Christ" and both "God" and "Jesus Christ" are joined by the word "and". If the rule is true, then one could argue that this would suggest if not prove that "God" and "Jesus Christ" are one and the same Being. But, contemporary and even early New Testament Greek scholarship have challenged Sharp’s Rule as the following will demonstrate:
"Lastly, several examples of what is called Granville Sharp’s rule, or the inference from the presence of the article only before the first of two substantives connected with και that they both refer to the same person or class, MUST BE DEEMED VERY DOUBTFUL. The rule is sound in principle, but, in the case of proper names or quasi—proper names, cannot safely be pressed."--Charles John Ellicot, B.D., AIDS TO FAITH--A SERIES OF THEOLOGICAL ESSAYS, p.530
"In Tit.2:13 ‘manifestation of the glory of the great god and of savior of us Jesus Christ’ for reasons which lie in the doctrinal system of Paul, I do not regard ‘of Savior’ as a second predicate by the side of god, as if Christ were first styled the great god and then savior -
George Benedict Winer, A GRAMMAR OF THE IDIOM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, 1893, p. 130
In apparent recognition of the weakness of Sharp’s Rule, consider the translations below:
"of the Great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ."-Samuel Sharpe, THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TEXT OF J.J. GRIESBACH, 1840
"of the great God and of Jesus Christ our Savior."-J.B. Phillips, THE NEW TESTAMENT, 1958
"of the great God and of our Saviour Christ Jesus"-THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 1970
Before New Testament Greek scholar, F. Wilbur Gingrich, died, he wrote me a letter in which he made this comment regarding Sharp’s Rule: "The longest and best discussion of Granville Sharp’s Rule I can find is in A.T. Robertson’s large Grammar, pp.785 and 786, though Sharp’s name is not mentioned, his work is mentioned in Robertson’s bibliography; it was published in 1803. From this discussion, it would seem that Sharp’s Rule, like a great many other grammatical rules, is useful, but not necessarily ironclad." Some New Testament researchers have documented instances in the "New Testament" where texts subject to the characteristics of Sharp’s Rule could not possibly mean that the pair of substantives were synonymous. For this reason, I feel that the "attack" on the NWT committee is unjustified.
Moving forward, you observed: "An effort is made to render each major biblical word by the same English word without regard to the requirements of context. The outcome is a specious show of faithfulness resulting in a woodenly awkward English style. For example, psuche is rendered ‘soul’ in each of its 102 occurrences; but when it designates animal life and bodily appetites (Matt 2:20; 6:25; 10:39; 20:28; Luke 12:19; 14:26; John 10:11; 1 Cor 15:45) perhaps ‘self’ would be a better rendering." The NWT translators addressed their policy on this on page 9 of the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES: "To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as the context permitted. This, we know, has imposed a restriction upon our diction, but it makes for good cross—reference work and a more reliable comparison of related texts or verses."
In my opinion, your comment that this policy was a "specious show of faithfulness" appears to be highly subjective. If you just had said that because of the self-imposed restriction of limiting the way a given word was translated that this produced a less "creative" or less expressive translation that would be hard to challenge, even the NWT team acknowledged: "This, we know, has imposed a restriction upon our diction.". Clearly, they were interested in certain efficiencies not often found in other translations. The notion of effective and meaningful cross—referencing has its merits. Because of the teams’ more targeted translation style, they sacrificed a degree of color and literary pizzazz found in other translations. I would submit that for the serious Bible student the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION provides certain benefits, particularly in the area of comparative textual studies, that few other translations can match. In saying this, I am not denying that there are other translation styles that are also valuable.