Scholars, Bias, and the New World Translation

If reviews of a film all rot, that tells me the movie's a stinker. If reviews gush with praise, that tells me the film's great. But if some reviewers savage a film and others praise it - the same film - what that tells me is not so much about the movie. That tells me  about the reviewers.

So it is with the New World Translation, a Bible used primarily by Jehovah's Witnesses. Scholars give mixed reviews, with extremes at both ends.

Here's a nasty one:

Finally, a word should be said about the New World Translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the sectarian bias of the group, as well as to the lack of genuine biblical scholarship, I believe that the New World Translation is by far the worst translation in English dress. It purports to be word-for-word, and in most cases is slavishly literal to the point of being terrible English. But, ironically, whenever a sacred cow is demolished by the biblical writers themselves, the Jehovah's Witnesses twist the text and resort to an interpretive type of translation. In short, it combines the cons of both worlds, with none of the pros.                      

On the other hand:

Original renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures into the English are extremely few. It therefore gives us much pleasure to welcome the publication of the first part of the New World Translation [of the Hebrew Scriptures], Genesis to Ruth. This version has evidently made a special effort to be thoroughly readable. No one could say it is deficient in its freshness and originality. Its terminology is by no means based on that of the previous versions.

Another sorehead:

Once it is perceived that Jehovah's Witnesses are only interested in what they can make the scriptures say, and not in what the Holy Spirit has already perfectly revealed, then the careful student will reject entirely Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower translation.                      

Then, again:

Edgar J. Goodspeed, translator of the Greek New Testament in An American Translation. (in a letter dated Dec. 8, 1950): "I am interested in the mission work of your people, and in its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank, and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify."

And:

"The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation."                    

What we learn here has little to do with the New World Translation and everything to do with scholars. They are not gods. They are humans, with the same mix of opinion, bias and pig-headedness suffered by all the rest of us. They put their pants on as we do. They are like psychiatrists in a murder trial, where both prosecution and defense searches for one compliant to their respective side. They are like Supreme Court nominees, where the liberal President appoints one with like-minded views, and a few years later the conservative President appoints his polar opposite. You don't tremble with fear when the other side produces a scholar who doesn't agree with you. You expect that to happen. Even sheer numbers of opposing scholars don't mean much. The view currently in vogue will always produce the greater number of scholars. Humans are like that. They run in herd mentality.

Line up all scholars with similar views and their writings indeed seem impressive. Line up the scholars with opposing views, and their writing also seems formidable. But combine the two, and one is sorely tempted to equate scholarship with so many rolls of toilet paper. They squabble no less than we lesser mortals. No one's saying to ignore them, but too many people employ them the way lawyers employ psychiatrists: they decide up front what they want to believe, then they search for scholars to buttress their case.

The other thing we learn about scholars is that the ones who can't stand the New World Translation are, with very few exceptions, Trinitarians. Believe that Jesus and God are synonymous and you will loathe the New World Translation. Believe otherwise, and you will be okay with it. You may critique it on this or that point, as with any translation. But you will rank it as a legitimate and intelligent translation, with both strengths and weaknesses.

There are few redder flags one can wave before the Trinitarian bull than John 1:1. It's easy to see why. The King James Version and most popular Bibles today render the verse:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Other than the insertion at 1 John 5:7, an insertion long recognized as spurious, John 1:1 most directly states the Trinity, or at least two of the three parties to it. But the New World Translation - unforgivably in Trinitarian eyes - renders that verse:

In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

It's not the only translation to do so, but there aren't many. However, there are any number of translations that straddle between the two poles - that is, while not translating the Word as "a god," they render it in terms of an adjective or quality. Such as:

"and the Word was divine" - The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, Chicago.

"so the Word was divine" - The Authentic New Testament, by Hugh J. Schonfield, Aberdeen.
"the Logos was divine - A New Testament: A New Translation (James Moffatt)
"was face to face with God" - The Centenary Translation (Helen Barrett Mongomery)
 "and godlike sort was the Logos" - Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider, Berlin.

Trinitarians grumble about these, but have evidently decided they can live with them. Not so with "a god" of the New World Translation.

Turning the tables on those who would charge the New World Translation of bias is a recent (2003) book by Jason Beduhn entitled Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. Dr Beduhn teaches at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Illinois, an M.T.S. in New Testament and Christian Origins form Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Study of Religions form Indiana University, Bloomington. He has a lot of letters trailing his name, I can tell you.

His book compares 9 popular English translations, viewing selected verses, and concludes that the New World Translation is the most accurate, the most free of bias! John 1:1 is among the verses he examines. He writes:

"Surprisingly, only one, the NW, adheres to the literal meaning of the Greek, and translates "a god." "Translators of the KJV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NASB, AB, TEV and LB all approached the text at John 1:1 already believing certain things about the Word... and made sure that the translations came out in accordance with their beliefs." He also responds to those who charge the NWT translators with doctrinal bias: "It may very well be that the NW translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. It just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek"

Search the internet and you will find furious discussion of Dr Beduhn, his book, John 1:1 and the other verses examined. Indeed, though I'm told he's active in the blogosphere, I can't find him anywhere. He is absolutely buried amidst attacks from Trinitarians, in near panic mode, desperate to undermine his credentials. Isn't his real language of expertise Pig Latin? Didn't he buy his degrees online? Doesn't he pick his nose a lot?

There is even some report that Jeopardy, the TV show, featured his book in asking what was the most accurate translation. The answer, of course, was the New World Translation. I'd be delighted to say the report's true, but I can't verify it. The mean Watchtower organization makes me go to meetings and knock on doors and read all their books and magazines, so I don't have enough time to sit at home and watch all the Jeopardy shows like I want. But frankly, I don't believe the report. Sounds too much like internet rumor to me.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 


Snake Handling in Worship....You Can't be too Careful

Some things you don't forget.

Like that time I was doing magazine work with Tom Pearlsenswine. He was new then, and deadly serious. This was back when the magazines had no pictures on the cover - back when there was only a list of the articles within, like Craigslist. We were working with the issue about Snake Handling in Worship - that article had top billing. Now, in all fairness to Pearlsenswine, how do you offer an article about snake handling in worship?

"Sir, we are speaking with our neighbors about the alarming practice of snake handling in worship," he led off.

“I don't think we have to worry about that here," the householder quite sensibly replied.

Soberly and deliberately, Pearlsenswine answered: "You can't be too careful."

No, you can't. The article Tom offered focused on that verse in the last chapter of Mark, really the only verse you could have written such an article  from:

Furthermore, these signs will accompany those believing: By the use of my name [Jesus] they will expel demons, they will speak with tongues, and with their hands they will pick up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly it will not hurt them at all. They will lay their hands upon sick persons, and these will become well.”    Mark 16:17,18

It’s an odd verse, to say the least. You mean we have to carry snakes and Draino with us, in case anyone wants proof of discipleship? I mean - use of God's name, obedience to the Christ, proclaim God's Kingdom, love and unity among selves, no part of the world - yes, all these things we hear about as earmarks of discipleship. But snake handling? Drinking poison? It doesn't really fit the pattern, does it? You can't quite imagine Jesus saying it.

Further, the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) notes that "it's vocabulary and style differ so radically from the rest of the gospel, that it hardly seems possible Mark himself composed it," - that is, verses 9-20, not just verses 17-18. Of course, the King James Bible of 1611 uncritically runs all verses, but not so newer translations - translations which, counter-intuitively, are generally more accurate, since they reap the benefits of archeological progress - that is, the discovery through the years of more ancient manuscripts. And the most ancient manuscripts are without verses 9-20.

The New International Version, wishing to spare its readers boring details, inserts just before verse 9, the phrase "the most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." That's further than most translations go. The Revised Standard Version, wishing to step upon nobody's toes, states: "Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concluded the book by adding after verse 8 the following: [text supplied]....Other authorities include the preceding passage and continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8; a few authorities insert additional material after verse 14."

They're all "authorities!" No attempt is made to distinquish the windbags from the knowledgeable. Choose whichever you like. All roads lead to heaven. It’s the classic milquetoast take-no-stand approach.

The New World Translation is more helpful. It lists (through abbreviations - the key to which is provided in the preface) just which "authorities" (manuscripts and versions) contain the passage and which do not. If you're a student of the Bible, and not just one willing to be talked down to with drivel about "authorities," this information is crucial. You can do research. And you will find that the manuscripts not including the verses are more ancient than the ones that do. Bible translator Jerome, in the fifth century, said that "almost all the Greek codices [are] without this passage."

And yet, it's not such an obvious fraud as the more cleverly written insertion  at 1 John 5:7 that explicitly states the Trinity. That insertion appears in no manuscript before the sixth century CE. Since its only effect is to plainly state a doctrine not plainly stated anywhere else, it's hard not to conclude that it was stuck in for that purpose by some Trinitarian translator getting madder and madder in the course of his work that his favorite dogma is not really in the Bible, so he determines to slip it in himself.

Yet, if Jerome, in the fifth century, said almost all Greek codices were without the extra verses of Mark, that means that some included it. So few translations pull the verses entirely (as many do with the 'trinity' insertion); instead, they footnote it.

It’s not real clear just why extra verses would have been added to Mark, but you might get some idea through reading that last chapter. It ends very abruptly, so maybe you can picture some scribe, who likes tidy endings, figuring he might "flesh it out" a little. Maybe he thought there actually had been an ending which, somehow, got lost, so he figured he himself would rise to the occasion. You’re not really supposed to do that, but perhaps it is understandable.

Mark’s style is abrupt. There’s strict economy of words. Not chatty at all. It lends that gospel a peculiar power, even an urgency. For example:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?”   Mark 4:37-41

Much more gripping than Luke’s account, found at Luke 8:22

Note, too, Luke’s account of a woman seeking help from Jesus:

And a woman, subject to a flow of blood for twelve years, who had not been able to get a cure from anyone, approached from behind and touched the fringe of his outer garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped.   Luke 8:43-44

 

Luke, it must be pointed out, was a doctor. But Mark wasn’t, and apparently had little patience with the breed. His description of the poor woman is that "she had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse."

 

Pop would approve.

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So snakes are not necessary in one‘s book bag. This is very good news and makes it likelier that Indiana Jones may someday become a Witness. He does, after all, know God's name.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The New International Version and the Tetragrammaton

The world’s most popular Bible translation today is The New International Version. It does not even once mention God’s distinctive name Jehovah. Edwin H Palmer, Executive Secretary for the NIV committee, was asked about that.

“Here is why we did not,” he replied. “You are right that 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, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful [of] others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James [which does include the name in four places], than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh. . . . It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you.”    (2nd set of brackets mine)

Who can’t empathize with this fellow? Do you want your new Bible translation to be read by everybody or by nobody? All you need do to ensure the former is remove the feature people loathe so much that its inclusion would send sales into the toilet. Yes, you must be “wise and practical.” As Jesus said, “the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.” (Luke 16:8) So the sons of this system of things remove God’s name from their Bibles and sales go through the roof, whereas the dopey and pious sons of the light won’t compromise an inch and sell a thousand copies of theirs.

What can one say when you have to pull the author’s name from his own book in order to get anyone to read it? This might not be a big deal if the original text featured that name a half dozen times or so, but it appears in the Hebrew almost 7000 times!  [the tetragrammaton: YHWH] You don’t think that if God includes his own name 7000 times, he must consider it important, perhaps the most important aspect of the scriptures? After all, the Son’s name, Jesus, appears only 1000 times and you can just imagine the furor if some translator saw fit to take that out! And yet the sons of this system of things pull God’s name, and consider themselves “wise and practical” in doing so.

Over the years, some have pointed outwhat a blunder that is. For instance...."the most common "error" made by most translators in the last 3500 years...is their elimination of heaven's revealed Name of the Most High, Yahweh (Jehovah)" - A. B. Traina; in the Preface of the Holy Name Bible

and    "The substitution of the word "Lord" is most unhappy; for...it in NO WAY represents the meaning of the sacred name (Jehovah)..." - The 1872 edition of Smith's Bible Dictionary

 

 

Various sons of the light through the years have produced some translations that consistently translate the tetragrammaton as “Jehovah:”  such as the American Standard Bible of 1901, or the Bible in Living English (Stephen Byington - 1972), or the Holy Name Bible (1963). Have you heard of any of them? True to Mr. Palmer’s prophesy, they have all slipped into obscurity. Alas, there would appear to be no way to highlight the name of the Bible’s author!

But there is a way, and the sons of the light have proved themselves less dopey than they may at first appear. The key is to dispense with commercial distribution channels and not try to run Christianity as a popularity contest. There is one translation today that both faithfully publishes the divine name Jehovah and enjoys widespread circulation: the New World Translation. It is both translated, published, and distributed by faithful servants of Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized as a separate Bible society in no way beholden to the commercial interests Dr. Palmer felt held hostage to. The translators were free to focus on accurate translating, unconcerned with any popular or commercial verdict, feeling no need to come up with familiar and favored renderings lest money-conscious executives turn thumbs down.

It’s master text in Greek is Westcott and Hort, the same as the Revised Standard Version (1946), the Emphasized Bible (1902), An American Translation (1923) and others…..and in Hebrew, the Masoretic Text, same as most versions. Again, it is by no means the first Bible ever to incorporate God’s name throughout. Many others have done so. It is merely the first such Bible to receive widespread distribution. It’s success lies in the fact that distribution depends upon the efforts of dedicated Christians, and not upon the world’s commercial interests.

If the churches in general reject use of God’s name, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as put out about it as one might expect. Instead, they have suggested [strongly] that the situation is of God’s doing:

God’s name Jehovah is hated so badly that the clergy of Christendom…. have denied it as being the Creator’s name, have removed it from their modern translations of the Bible, have said it is not the name of the God of Christians and thereby have left Jehovah’s witnesses alone to bear the distinguished divine Name. Little do they know that this is a maneuvering of God, for he respects his sacred name, and has arranged it so that only those devoted to him may bear it.              Watchtower 1966, pg 634

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The parable giving rise to the expressions sons of this system of things and sons of the light is an odd one. Several of Jesus’ illustrations are downright quirky…..not at all the syrupy drivel you get at church…and the reader isn’t entirely sure who to root for:

“A certain man was rich and he had a steward, and this one was accused to him as handling his goods wastefully. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Hand in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer manage the house.’ Then the steward said to himself, ‘What am I to do, seeing that my master will take the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, I am ashamed to beg. Ah! I know what I shall do, so that, when I am put out of the stewardship, people will receive me into their homes.’ And calling to him each one of the debtors of his master he proceeded to say to the first, ‘How much are you owing my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred bath measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and sit down and quickly write fifty.’ Next, he said to another one, ‘Now you, how much are you owing?’ He said, ‘A hundred cor measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and write eighty.’ And his master commended the steward, though unrighteous, because he acted with practical wisdom; for the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.     Luke 16:2-8

Ain't that the truth.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Turning the Hose on Hell

To swelling crowds the shiek rails against “the traitor Souleiman Ghali” and called for jihad....holy war....against Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He works the crowds to fever pitch. "Our killed ones are in paradise, and their killed ones are in hell!"

How come the really mean groups always believe in hell?

Is it that hell appeals to mean people? Isaac Asimov called hell "the drooling dream of a sadist" If unlimited retribution for limited wrongs [80-90 years at most, and that assumes you were an unmitiaged louse through and through] strikes a warm and fuzzy chord…..well, hell is your doctrine.

Or is it that the hell teaching makes people mean? After all, if God’s going to fry your enemy forever, why….what objection could there possibly be to getting a few licks in yourself?

Either way, there could be no finer a service to humanity than to put out the fire. Which is exactly what Charles Taze Russell did, Jehovah's Witnesses founder. In his lifetime he was known as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Not that big of a deal now when only zealots take hell seriously, but a huge deal in the late 19th - early 20th century, when general society thought it axiomatic. Jehovah's Witnesses have never bought into the hell doctrine.

Putting out the fire is not so hard as one might imagine, at least from the Bible’s perspective. With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Easier still, two of those words mean the same thing: the Hebrew “sheol” [Old Testament] is rendered into the Greek as “hades.” [New Testament]

For example, this scripture in the Old Testament [Hebrew]: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol; you will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”    (Ps 16:10)    is quoted this way in the New Testament [Greek]: “…because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.”    Acts 2:27

Both words simply mean the grave. Not the individual grave where this or that individual is buried, but the common grave that is waiting for all of us. There’s no distinction between good and bad…..all end up in sheol, or hades:

All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going   Eccl 9:10

This leaves only the third word: gehenna. All instances of hellfire stem from gehenna.

“And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be pitched into gehenna. And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.”       Mark 9:43-48

That doesn’t sound pleasant at all, does it? Still, it’s not because gehenna was a place of eternal torment. In fact, it was a garbage dump - in the valley surrounding Jerusalem. Fires were kept burning always. Worms crawled through the crud. Its history was more sordid still. It had once, centuries ago, been the location of child sacrifice:

And he [Ahaz] himself made sacrificial smoke in the valley of the son of Hinnom [Hebrew term, translated into Greek as gehenna] and proceeded to burn up his sons in the fire, according to the detestable things of the nations that Jehovah had driven out from before the sons of Israel.     2 Chron 28:3

In time, Jesus used gehenna...everyone knew what it was on account of garbage day.... as a symbol for persons so despicable that they might not merit a resurrection. Just heave their dead carcass into gehenna!

Three words…..sheol, hades, gehenna....and not one of them means eternal torture! Yet these are the three words which Bible translators render as “hell.” Some transations do so at every single instance. More frequently, they pick and choose, sometimes rendering the word hell, sometimes grave, sometimes death, pit, or what-have-you.   The New World Translation makes matters simple. Each time "sheol" occurs, NWT renders it sheol. Each time "hades" occurs, NWT renders it hades. "Gehenna" likewise transliterates to gehenna. This methodis so intrinsically honest one wonders why it is not more widespread. It makes hell easy to track, and when you do so, the fire promptly goes out!

To be sure, there are a few backeddies, fakes, fades, asterisks, and addendums, but nothing that changes the big picture, especially if you know not to take obvious metaphors literally.

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More here and here (second part)

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The Divine Name and the Old Testament

When you are translating your Old Testament from the original Hebrew to English, it's perfectly acceptable to render the Divine Name as "Jehovah." Nobody who knows anything will give you any grief over this. All you have to do is translate the four-consonant tetragrammaton, and there it is, over 6000 times, in the original writings. You don't think if someone puts their name in a document 6000 times that they want it known?

Even translations that decline to render the name as a name do so for reasons philosophical, not technical. They simply don't want to do it. So they usually render the tetragrammaton as (the title, not name) LORD, in all caps to distinguish it from the actual word Lord. It can make for odd reading, such as at Ps 110:1.

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?  RVS

Who is speaking to whom? Obviously, there's a difference in the two original language terms rendered Lord.

It's a bit clunky, too, when context indicates a name:

Let then know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.    Ps 83:18

Hi, my name's "the LORD." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Or take those ancient Israelites in Charlton Heston's "The Ten Commandments." There they are whining and crying in the movie's first half: they don't even know their God's name. Even the Egyptians taunt them about this. Later on, they do know: it's "the LORD." Everybody's happy.

Translations that pull the name often do so without a trace, and you have to reason on Ps 110:1 (above) to show there is a difference in the original language. Other translations pull it in all but a few places. Thus, the King James Version leaves the name intact in four locations, Ps 83:18 being one of these. Still other translations pull it entirely, but explain why in their prefaces. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is one of these:

"For two reasons the [translation] Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version [rendering YHWH as LORD]: (1) the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church."

Note the philosophical, not technical, basis. Neither argument holds water.

1. Okay, okay, so "Jehovah" is not the Hebrew pronunciation. Neither is Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, indeed, most names from the OT. We all know names change when we cross languages. In Ecuador, they call me "Tomas." You think I don't answer? If you want to be so picky, then render the name "Yahweh." We could live with that. But removing the name entirely in order to slap in a title betrays a callous attitude toward the Book's author.

2. It is? Inappropriate? What about 1 Cor. 8:5?

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.    (KJV)

We've all experienced cases of mistaken identity. We speak with someone of a name we both know, yet the attributes don't line up. We soon realize we're speaking of two different persons who share a common name. It's that way with "God." The God who would torture people forever and ever in hellfire is entirely different from our God [Jehovah] who would never dream of such a thing. (Jer 2:35)

You're safe, therefore, putting "Jehovah" in the Old Testament. You ought to do it, in fact, rather than presume to hide his name. Putting it in the New Testament is another matter. It's a move readily justified, yet it is bolder, not without controversy. A future post will deal with the subject.

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Tom Irregardless and Me         No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Textual Criticism and the Bible

"If comparative trivialities such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the works in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly mount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament."

Then too, one must remember that Jehovah's Witnesses put great stock in the jig-saw puzzle analogy.

Even those who flatly reject them rarely attempt to point out any inconsistencies. Some mistake the certainty Jehovah's Witnesses project for pride. They should not. It's nothing haughty if the guy with the phone book claims he can find every number in the city.It may comprise half their rationale for accepting the beliefs they do. And why not? If your car runs, you don't spend as much time under the hood as your neighbor whose car doesn't run. Your car does. The individual components can't be all that defective. So JW beliefs form a network that give satisfying, consistent and coherent explanations for the important questions of our day.

So that guy next door owns an automobile of which each component is exquisitely crafted by award winning engineers, graduates of the finest engineering schools. He looks askance at that mongrel car of yours - who knows where its component parts have been? Yet for all his high pretensions, his car doesn't run. Yours does. Incredibly, this fact does not humble him. He continues to labor on his respectable yet inoperative car and loudly denounces you as a naive buffoon.

Or, take that Neil Young song which they play all the time up here: When God Made Me. Okay, so Neil Young has paid his dues and earned his place in music. I like his songs as well as anyone. But he's no theologian. He plaintively whines spiritual questions that any ten year old with Bible knowledge can answer. Yet nobody labels the lyrics as lacking depth. To the contrary, they hail him as a great spiritual seeker, a visionary on the noble quest to learn all, and so forth. Noble, perhaps. But if you've spent tons of time telling others Bible answers to questions which they have, only to have many roll their eyes at your far-too-unsophisticated message, "noble" isn't the first adjective that comes to mind.

They caught Sheepandgoats in a rash statement. He had insisted that there are no contradictions in the Bible. So he had to back off a bit.

Of course there are contradictions in the Bible, at least as it has come down to us. There are contradictions in every aspect of life. The important question is - how significant are they?

"We do not even have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the original." It's true enough. But it's equally true with all ancient writings....with any ancient historian, with any ancient philosopher. With all of them we have not even a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the original. Yet are we ever admonished to discount these writings for fear that scanty manuscripts make them worthless? No. Only the Bible. Go figure. I suspect Brandon nailed it. People don't like the Bible because it roundly condemns much of what society embraces. They don't like it's conclusions. They don't like the responsibilities it places upon us. Or as James puts it:

Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him. Jas 4:17

Better not to know it. Better to shoot down the source.

I might not feel this way if all ancient writings were looked at askance. But they're not. Only the Bible.

Grounds for textual criticism of the Bible are not comparable to these other secular writings. They are far superior. For example, the gap between the original writings of Thucydides and the oldest extant manuscript of his work is 1300 years. For Herodotus' writings it is 1400 years. for Tacitus, 800, Pliny: 750. Josephus, 1000. With the New Testament, however, the gap shrinks to 200 years, sometimes less. The smaller the gap, of course, the less room for errors to creep in.

Moreover, the New Testament was the source material for evangelizing. For that reason, copies increased exponentially, a fact which ensures accurate preservation. Today, there are over 4000 extant manuscripts covering portions of the NT, a number astronomically greater than the writings of other ancients. It is therefore not difficult to reconstruct the original. If you have ten copies of an original, of which nine are identical and one is different, which one do you think contains the copyist's error? That's how they ferreted out the spurious verse at 1 John 5:7 which the Trinitarians tried to slip in.

On the other hand, ancient secular writings were copied much more sparingly. Should a copyist make an error on, say, Aristotle, we're sunk. There's not the plethora of competing copies with which to compare. Still, nobody suggests these writings are so unfit that they best belong in the dumpster, as they do the Bible.

Are there errors in the Bible manuscripts? Yes, there are many thousands of them. Yet they are virtually all insignificant, a mispelling here, transposition of words or letters there, insertion or deletion of an article in another place. Note, for example, the viewpoint of Westcott and Hort, who produced the Greek master text which the most recognizable modern New Testament translations use as source material:


Hezekiah, Rabshakeh, and Sennacherib

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field. Then came forth unto him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder.

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? I say, thy counsel and strength for the war are but vain words: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou hast rebelled against me?

Behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust on him. But if thou say unto me, We trust in Jehovah our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. How then canst thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? And am I now come up without Jehovah against this land to destroy it? Jehovah said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.

Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, to eat their own dung, and to drink their own water with you?

Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you; for he will not be able to deliver you: neither let Hezekiah make you trust in Jehovah, saying, Jehovah will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make your peace with me, and come out to me; and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig-tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, Jehovah will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?

But they held their peace, and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh. And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of Jehovah.

And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of contumely; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be Jehovah thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to defy the living God, and will rebuke the words which Jehovah thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left. So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.

And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith Jehovah, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, and he shall hear tidings, and shall return unto his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah; for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come out to fight against thee.

And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, which my fathers have destroyed, Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden that were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivvah?

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up unto the house of Jehovah, and spread it before Jehovah. And Hezekiah prayed unto Jehovah, saying, O Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, that sittest above the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O Jehovah, and hear; open thine eyes, O Jehovah, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, who hath sent to defy the living God. Of a truth, Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries, and their land, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Jehovah our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art Jehovah, even thou only.

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word which Jehovah hath spoken concerning him: The virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou defied and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. By thy servants hast thou defied the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the innermost parts of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir-trees thereof; and I will enter into its farthest height, the forest of its fruitful field; I have digged and drunk water, and with the sole of my feet will I dry up all the rivers of Egypt. Hast thou not heard how I have done it long ago, and formed it of ancient times? now have I brought it to pass, that it should be thine to lay waste fortified cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as a field of grain before it is grown up.

But I know thy sitting down, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy raging against me. Because of thy raging against me, and because thine arrogancy is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. And this shall be the sign unto thee: ye shall eat this year that which groweth of itself, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of mount Zion they that shall escape. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.

Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come unto this city, nor shoot an arrow there, neither shall he come before it with shield, nor cast up a mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come unto this city, saith Jehovah. For I will defend this city to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.

And the angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead.

Isaiah 36 & 37   American Standard Version


Spurious Words at 1 John 5:7,8

It’s intuitive that the older the Bible translation, the greater the accuracy. After all, it’s closer to the events. It's intuitive, but incorrect.

Thus, a fellow I met in the ministry was peeved because the modern New International Version deletes words from his favorite scripture: 1 John 5:7, a verse that, in the King James Version, clearly states the Trinity.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

The reason he misses these words so much is that it is the Bible's only direct statement of the Trinity. All other Trinity texts require various degrees of wishful thinking. Often they are merely figures of speech taken literally.

But since the Bible is inspired and the King James Version was the only version in use for a few hundred years, surely there must be mischief in removing words. Our householder did note some explanation about the deleted words not appearing in any manuscript before the sixth century CE, but he still smelled a rat. If it was good enough for the Pilgrims, it should be good enough for us.

But the way it works is this:

The Bible writers were inspired. The Bible copyists were not. The Bible translators were not. The latter two groups were devout people doing the best they could with what they had. But they were not inspired.

The goal, then, is to get as close as one can to what the Bible writers wrote, not just what the copyists and translators produced.

Because paper and parchment is perishable, scribes had to copy and recopy and recopy to keep the message from disintegrating. Also, because early Christians were evangelizers, they had to copy and recopy to keep them supplied with the texts they would use in their ministry. Each copy is an opportunity to make a mistake. Thus, the older the copy, (manuscript) the more accurate it probably is, since there have been fewer opportunities to mess it up.

So it is a big deal when, in 1 John 5:7, the words the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one appear only in manuscripts dated after 600 CE. It means that those words were not written by John, but were inserted by a copyist around 600 CE, probably because he wanted the Bible to support the Trinity more than it actually did. It’s also unique in that it’s hard to think of it as an honest mistake. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to change Scripture, without any justification other than the Bible nowhere says what the copyist wanted it to say!

Note his cleverness. The spurious words immediately precede a legitimate group of three.

First, the 400 year old King James Version: (spurious words in bold)

7. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Next, the New International Version, published in 1973: (note the adjustment of verses)

7  For there are three that testify:
8.  the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

   

Translators of the 400 year old KJV did not have access to the most ancient manuscripts; modern archeologists have since discovered ever older source material. So the newer Bible versions are usually more accurate than the older ones, not to mention being easier to read….no thee’s, thou’s or ye’s.

There are many dozens, probably hundreds, of English translations of the Bible that have appeared since the KJV. Few of them contain those inserted words at 1 John 5:7. Of those that do, almost all include a footnote to inform that the words only appear in later manuscripts. NIV is one of these. Here is their explanatory footnote:

Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)

Very few modern Bibles include those added words without explanation, and, it seems apparent, those that do are not being honest. They give the impression that those words were originally part of the John’s letter, when they certainly were not. Do you want to guess where those authors stand with regard to the Trinity doctrine?


Acts of the Pioneers: an Important New Find

When the National Geographic Society announced the discovery of the Book of Judas, folks at the Whitepebble Research Institute were not happy. Religious studies, along with government studies, constitute their bread and butter, and they get nervous when someone else makes a big splash in the pool they would like to own. Thus, the Whitepebble outfit put its own manuscript sniffing operation in high gear, and shortly came up with an important find, (if you’re not fussy) the Book of Howard.

The institute is now pleased to announce a 2nd  manuscript, one-upping the National Geographic Society, entitled Acts of the Pioneers. Eminent archeologist Tom Wheatandweeds presented his find at the last Institute meeting, where it was quite a hit, let me tell you. While perhaps not as important as the book of Judas, it certainly has the stature of the book of Howard.

                                                Acts of the Pioneers               

Now in Rochester there were dwelling pioneers, reverent men and women, about thirty in number, having been gathered for the purpose of attending the pioneer service school. At the ninth hour of the day the disciples Richard and Andrew stood up before them all and said: Brothers, above all things, let us go and publish the word of Jehovah throughout all the district of Greece." And they gave them further instructions, saying: "As you go, preach, saying "I have a message from outer space." And if anyone demands of you a reason for your call, say to them "C. O. D." which means when translated "Come On Down." Moreover, if anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house, say "How do you feel about the Bible?"

However, some of those gathered began to say "Who will give us coffee to drink?" and "How we remember the donuts that we had yesterday and, in fact, every other day." So after having refreshments downstairs, they departed into the field.

And the thirty returned with joy and began to related to each other the many wonderful experiences that had been worked by means of them. And the place in which they were gathered was shaken, so that letters fell from the year text, and the screens fell out of the windows, and the fluorescent lights would flicker on and off all afternoon. Moreover the disciples named Peter and Kathern and Herb and Erna began to rejoice more than the others because they knew who would wind up with all those return visits.

However, while they were yet rejoicing, it became the twelfth hour. And immediately, the disciple named Herb stood up and began proclaiming loudly and repeatedly before them all, "What's for lunch?" So they all paid attention to his voice and went down to see.

And by day, they would relate to each other how they came to be disciples. And by night, they would carefully examine the scriptures to make sure of all things they were learning. But the disciple named Richard would go over to Remley's and watch television till dawn.

Now all that remains is to get those finicky authorities to stuff this new manuscript into the Bible cannon....um, I mean canon.


Gospel of Judas and the Breakaway Sect

April 2006, the National Geographic Society surprised us with the Gospel of Judas, (not to be confused with the Gospel of Howard) found in the 1970’s Egyptian dessert.

Background on gospels: the Bible has four of them, each named after its author: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Gospel means good news. Did Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, write the Gospel of Judas? If so, he had to write fast. Jesus gave him secret revelations only days before Judas took his own life.

No, Judas is not supposed to have written the gospel himself, but even so, when would he have told anyone his inside information? He was busy around that time, handing Jesus to the authorities, then feeling remorse over the deed, then taking his life over it.

Like different newspapers covering the same events, gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke overlap a lot. The Gospel of John, written many years afterwards by the nearly 100 year old apostle, contains about 90% new material. You shouldn’t be surprised at that. The needs of the Christian community would have changed in 30 years, and so John highlighted different deeds and teachings of Jesus, more relevant to Christians of his time. He acknowledges in his final sentence that there is no end to material he could have drawn on. 

The Gospel of Judas was written long after this time, and thus the connection to Judas, who lived only a few days after Jesus gave him his claimed secret revelations, has to be shaky. The content is heavily mystical, not at all like the other writings.

Elaine Pagels of Princeton University says texts like Judas are “exploding the myth of a monolithic religion” in favor of Christian diversity. Nonsense. It explodes nothing that the Bible canon itself doesn’t explode.

Below are 5 separate scriptures from the New Testament. Look them up if you like. The statements make clear that the authors were indeed striving for monolithic unity, and not Christian diversity. And why not? They were the apostles after all, the same fellows in the Last Supper painting. They knew what Jesus had done and said, and they wanted to keep the record untainted, a fight they ultimately lost, at least in the short run. Do you really think, for the sake of diversity, that they would welcome a new gospel, written years after their own deaths, by someone who couldn’t possibly be in position to know anything?

The Gospel of Judas is useful if we keep in mind what it represents….the view of a breakaway sect, not Christianity itself. Unfortunately, you know and I know that next years’ Christmas or Easter sop from the TV networks will be the “real” story of Jesus, based on the Book of Judas.

2 Pet 3: 15   Furthermore, consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote YOU, 16 speaking about these things as he does also in all [his] letters. In them, however, are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

1 Tim 4:1   However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, 2 by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; 3 forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth.

Acts 20:29   I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, 30 and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.

1 John 2:18   Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as YOU have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But [they went out] that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.

2 John 9   Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to YOU and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash