Saturday, 22 May 2010

Answering StandFirm's Defence of 237

In this post I want to address, point by point, the defences made by Jehovah's Witness apologist StandFirm of the addition of the word "Jehovah" 237 times to the Greek text from which New World Translation is based.

Before I do so, it's important for readers to understand why this matters. The word Jehovah is a transliteration of the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH. YHWH was one of the names the Lord and God of Israel made himself known by. In the 13th century a monk named Raymundus Martini Latinised YHWH and thus it became Jehovah. However, as there is no J or V in the Hebrew alphabet, Raymundus was in error. In other words, God isn't, and never has been known as Jehovah. Perhaps Yahweh more closely transliterates the tetragrammaton, but there's no way of knowing how the Jews pronounced YHWH as by around 300BC they had a superstitious fear of saying the name and instead preferred to use 'adonai' or 'elohim'. Therefore, whenever the Gospels depict Jesus reading or quoting from the Hebrew scriptures, he most certainly would not have said "Jehovah" or even YHWH, no matter how it was pronounced (and as noted above, it definitely wasn't pronounced as "Jehovah" due to two of the letters not existing in his language). He would have kept within Jewish tradition by saying 'adonai' or 'elohim'.

In the Greek text of the New Testament the word 'kyrios' is used frequently and is translated as "Lord" in English. Within the text, Jesus is identified as 'kyrios' or Lord. The belief that Jesus is Lord* is an absolute corner stone of Christianity, and any deviation from holding up Jesus as Lord, and recognising that he alone holds this position, would be an act of apostasy**.

So, when the translation committee of the NWT, as endorsed by the Governing Body, decided to replace the word 'kyrios' with Jehovah in the Greek text, they significantly altered the meaning of the inspired word of God, shifting the focus away from Jesus as Lord and onto the name Jehovah. This is an act of apostasy and as such makes the NWT an apostate Bible, a Bible that cannot - and should not - be trusted***.

It is from this position that I requested that StandFirm defend the 237 times Jehovah has been inserted into the Greek text. His defence can be found here.

The thrust of his defence focuses on my accusation that the NWT is an apostate Bible for adding Jehovah to the Greek text, and he aims to expose my accusation as inconsistent by citing 7 other Bibles that use the word Jehovah also. In fact, he calls it a "massive double standard" Therefore I'll address this first.

"1. Translations into native African, American, and Pacific languages-Many of these contain 'Jehovah'. These translations have drawn many to Christianity. Are they apostate?"

Where do they contain Jehovah? In the Hebrew, or Old Testament? And if they do contain Jehovah in the Greek, or New Testament, is it 237 times? Do these Bibles specifically shift the focus and attention away from Jesus as 'kyrios'?

"2. The Emphatic Diaglott-It contains God's name multiple times in it. Is it apostate?"

Where, exactly, does the Diaglott (a Greek interlinear New Testament translation) use Jehovah (let's not get confused by referring to it as "God's name" when it clearly isn't)?

"3. Translations of the New Testament into Hebrew-These contain the Tetragrammaton (God's name). These are the sources for the Name in the New World Translation. Are they apostate?"

As already explained in this rebuttal, using translations of the Greek into another language, such as Hebrew, as the basis for replacing 'kyrios' with Jehovah is an act of intellectual stupidity at best, dishonesty at worst. If the Greek text says 'kyrios' why appeal to a translation in a completely different language that uses a totally different form of alphabet to justify changing the text - and therefore, meaning - of the inspired word of God?

"4. Today's English Version-It adds the name 'Jesus' at Revelation 22:12, even though that is not in the original Greek at all. Is it apostate?"

First of all, what is "Today's English Version"? I've Googled it and find no reference to it. However, does the addition of Jesus completely change the meaning of the text, and by extension, the Christian belief that Jesus alone is Lord (kyrios)? The text says "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done." Who is coming soon? The Lord (kyrios) Jesus, as is adequately borne out by the context.

"5. The Douay Version-The Douay Version is a translation of the Latin Vulgate. Similarly, the New World Translation where God's Name appears is a translation of the aforementioned Hebrew versions. Is the Douay Version apostate?"

Once again, appealing to Hebrew translations of the original Greek manuscripts is not how to answer the accusation of the 237 insertions of Jehovah. And then we have the need for evidence; where, exactly, does the Douay Version use Jehovah? I think you may be mistaken in citing it as a Bible containing Jehovah. Lastly, the Douay Version was the Bible favoured by Catholics for many, many years; are Jehovah's Witnesses now appealing to the Catholic faith to back up their insertion of Jehovah 237 times into the Greek text of the New World Translation?

"6. The English Standard Version-It is a revision of the Revised Standard Version, itself a revision of the American Standard Version, yet again iself [sic] derived from the Revised Version, itself a revision of the King James Version. The New World Translation's Divine Name is taken from the Hebrew versions mentioned. Are all these translations apostate?"

I'm not sure I follow your reasoning, other than to notice that you're again appealing to Hebrew translations of the Greek manuscripts.

As for the likes of the ESV (my preferred choice of Bible version as it's a word-for-word translation) being apostate, only if they are abandoning religious beliefs; ie. are they taking attention away from Jesus being Lord and placing the focus of the reader elsewhere.

"7. The Living Bible-It is a paraphrase and translates many verses much differently than the original Greek. Is it apostate?"

Does the paraphrasing of the Living Bible lead people away from the teaching that Jesus is Lord (kyrios) by significantly altering the text of the extant Greek manuscripts to place the focus on the name Jehovah? If not, then no, it's not apostate.

StandFirm then concludes his defence of the NWT by making this statement;
"As is obvious by now, the New World Translation does not add to God's Word at all. Rather, what it did is perfectly acceptable by the standards applied to other Bibles. Could it be that opposers call the New World Translation apostate simply because they hate Jehovah's Witnesses, who made it?"

Firstly, it's obvious that the NWT does add to the God's Word. It does so by replacing 'kyrios' dozens of times with the Latinsed word Jehovah, thus taking attention and focus away from Jesus as Lord. This is serious and throws all teachings based on the NWT into question. It is also far from "perfectly acceptable".

As yet StandFirm has not addressed the other occasions whereby the NWT adds to God's Word, such as at Philipians 2:9,10 (adding the word 'other' to change the meaning of the original text) and Colossians 1:16,17 (again adding 'other', which changes the meaning of the text, removing Jesus from his position of Creator of all things in heaven and on earth).

I have to take issue with this accusation;
"Could it be that opposers call the New World Translation apostate simply because they hate Jehovah's Witnesses, who made it?"

That's quite a statement, and it's in error on a couple of counts. Firstly, Jehovah's Witnesses didn't "make" the NWT. The NWT was "translated" by a committee appointed by the Governing Body. As the Watch Tower Society refuses to name the translators, let's assume that it was a team of 20 individuals. Let's also assume that the Governing Body at the time consisted of 18 members. That makes around 38 men who were involved in the translating and approval of the NWT. Jehovah's Witnesses number around 7 million today. But even based upon their numbers back in the 1950-60s, 38 men is a minute fraction of the over all sect. Therefore, "Jehovah's Witnesses" didn't "make" the NWT. A very tiny minority of their number did on the authority of the Governing Body, who will one day render an account for misleading millions of sincere people.

And since when is questioning the honesty of a Bible translation equatable to hating the group who use it? This is a huge red-herring and certainly places doubt over the intellectual honesty of the one making the claim.

If a small group of men get together and significantly alter the text and meaning of God's inspired word, and then push forward their apostasised version as the only accurate translation of the Holy Bible, then the ones who have placed their trust in these men aren't to be hated, but rather pitied.

In fact, it is incumbent upon those of us who have found the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord to expose the dangerous lies and falsehoods found in religious organisation such as the Watch Tower Society, which itself bears this out in their publications;
"It is not a form of religious persecution for anyone to say and to show that another religion is false. It is not religious persecution for an informed person to expose publicly a certain religion as being false, thus allowing person to see the difference between false religion and true religion. (Watchtower, Nov. 15, 1963, p. 688)"

"We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with Gods Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what Gods will is for us, and then to do it." John 8:32 (The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, 1968, p. 13)

"Consequently, is it unchristian today to offer Bible-based comments about another's religion? The scriptural answer must be No. True, criticism that reveals faults in the teachings or practices of someone's religion might at first seem severe. Yet, how should one react? Not like those who became violently enraged over Stephen's criticism. Rather, note the fine reaction of some Athenians who heard Paul's comments. They accepts the Bible truth and became believers, to their eternal benefit. Compare Acts 17:11, 12. Far from being rejected as unchristian then, criticism based on gods word should be carefully considered, for it can bring real benefits". (Awake! Nov. 22, 1974, p. 28) "

StandFirm has attempted to rebut my concerns about appealing to Hebrew translations of the extant Greek manuscripts by stating;
"What if they led Jews to Christianity?"

Indeed, but does that make it acceptable to change 'kyrios' to Jehovah, drawing attention away from Jesus as Lord? Could the same argument be applied to Islam? Would it be acceptable to translate the Greek manuscripts into Arabic, changing 'kyrios' to Allah, or worse, Muhammad?

He then continues;
"Obviously it is not, and you know that full well. That was a short debate, huh? Are you happy now that I've said it?"

I'm not sure if to interpret that statement as petulance due to realising that both his arguments and his Bible are in error. However, the point remains; the NWT is an apostasised version of the Holy Bible and StandFirm, by his own admission, realises that Jehovah is not found anywhere in the Greek text of the Bible. So, why defend its insertion? And why trust a version of the Bible that has been corrupted to take attention away from Jesus as 'kyrios'?

Finally, he concludes;
"By the way, you must admit, by your own standards, that all 7 of the Bibles I mentioned are apostate also; or else demonstrate how your standard does not apply."

I believe I have done so in this text.

* Romans 10:9, 2 Cor 4:5
** apostasy is defined as "the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief."
*** if Jesus is 'kyrios' and is to be revered as such, then to shift the focus away from Jesus onto another person is an abandonment of 1st century Christianity.

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