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Making a Man

I saw Frank Mulicotti at the last circuit assembly. He was weaving his way through the seats, soaking up the good will, hugging folk in his path. It was enough to make a guy wish he were Italian. I told him so when he approached me. I'm not Italian, of course. Sheepandgoats (der Shep.und.goots) is Germanic in origin, and Germans do not embrace. They shake hands by appointment. So it wasn't second nature for me to hug and embrace - it took me awhile to get the hang of it - but I do it now with the best of them, excepting only Italians.

There used to be more Italians in Rochester than you could shake a stick at, and still are, I guess, though they've long been augmented with other nationalities, so their presence seems less. In fact, it was Italians who brought Bible teachings to Rochester in the first place. Six Italian families - Mulicotti was among them - emigrating from 50-mile-away Mt Morris back in 1910 . They mostly settled in the Northeast part of the city, speaking Italian just like in the old country, and merged with an English speaking group only at the insistence of Bethel - I think, in the 1930's. But as late as 1970, Ed Eaton worked the Irondequoit territory, and some householder would not believe that he really was a Witness. That's an Italian religion, the fellow insisted. The Irondequoit congregation used to meet on Culver Road, not 100 yards [!] from Nelson Barbour's old Church of the Strangers. Mulicotti was an elder in the congregation, then, and I was brand new as a Witness.

Now, you know how when you approach someone you like to say something complimentary if you can at all manage it - something genuine and specific, naturally, not some boiler plate nicety about how they 'are to be commended' that might fit anyone. So I recalled to Frank about the time I stopped by his house way back in my early days - a couple other young brothers were with me - and he was waxing philosophical about the truth. "It's made a man of me," he said. He'd forgotten ever saying it, as I expected he would, but it's an observation I'd never forgotten. For, here I was - an inexperienced kid, just starting out in life. Would I succeed? Would I amount to anything? Would I ever earn others' respect and good will? Would I be able to take on responsibility? Raise a family? All the concerns that any young man my age might feel, if he's at all given to introspection. I'd had some school under my belt by then, but as Royal Copeland used to say, you can learn everything at school except how to live. (Senator Copeland is lionized in the Senate, no doubt, being known for his successful efforts to bring air conditioning to that body.) So how would I actually do at life? And now here was Frank Mulicotti saying the truth made a man of him; it wasn't just getting your bible questions answered, nice though that might be. It wasn't just seeing Bible prophesies come true, and feeling one knew the final outcome of things. It was a personal path of growth and success.

Mac Campbell used to carry on about how simple was the truth. Once you learn it, he'd say, it doesn't change. It doesn't flip around like worldly reasonings. Once you know it, just do it, was his motto. It pays handsomely, as it did with Frank. You could liken it - in fact, the Bible does - to a road with a destination - a road not just flitting every which way, turning in upon itself, so that one would be, to quote Paul "tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching." A road that, once you reached the destination, you'd know it was worth reaching - a road to "being a man" or woman. On the road you have good range of motion, plenty of room for personal expression - after all, you do the steering - yet there are guardrails, which might be likened to Bible laws and principles. Now, you don't bitch about guardrails in real life. You don't go charging to bust through them. You realize they serve for your protection. Plus, before you'd ever hit the guardrails, you come across rumble strips - those grooves in the pavement that shake the daylights out of us. They're self-imposed for the most part, set in place by our own conscience guided by Scriptural principles that cover time and place and circumstances specific to us. What do you expect of other people, for instance. How do you deal with their shortcomings? How do you deal with your own, for that matter? How do you separate what is 'God' from what is 'human?' Traveling the road over time, by degrees, without one's even being aware of it, one does "become a man."

Then there was Ray Huck. I have a lot of respect for that guy. Has anyone ever said an unkind word about him? He told me once how he'd made an in depth verse by verse study of Proverbs, with special application to business matters. But he must have applied it to everything else as well, for here is a guy who really has his act together - I've seen him gain in stature over the years. I like that about the scriptures, and about the truth in general. One can dig into them, ponder them, by degrees apply them in one's own life. There's no end of things written about any given passage - you benefit by considering how others have viewed and applied the scripture. You do the same at meetings, particularly the Watchtower study, during which all get to comment on whatever topic is under consideration, and you hear it all - from seasoned, insightful and mature - to inexperienced and green and sometimes even cockeyed. You can put in your own two cents as well.

I cherish these guys, and the faith that made them what they are. And I cherish them more and more each time I read of some spectacular train wreck like that Carolina Governor Sanford, who said he was leaving town four days to hike the Appalachian Trail and who even left a car full of camping gear at one of the entrance points to throw off the media hounds, but who actually went to Argentina with some gorgeous Argentine bombshell. He got caught, of course - don't they all? - and weepingly confessed all at his news conference, (I don't know why people bother watching soap operas!) and whose marriage and career is now in tatters. (HA! look at this. He figures he's like King David, only with a South American Bathsheba!) Or even our own former Governor Elliot Spitzer, hailed as New York State savior only a few years ago - I mean, I have an entire category on this guy, he was so interesting - but who self-destructed just like his Carolina brethren. Yeah, whenever I read these sorts of things, I cherish our guys and the road they followed.


Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Translators, Qualifications, and the New World Translation

In the midst of discussing Coptic translations of the 3rd century - practically the earliest of all translations yet discovered - did you know they translate John 1:1 exactly as the New World Translation – “the Word was a god”? - one grouser has had enough. He wants to know who translated the NWT. What qualifications did they have? 


Grouser:  Just b/c I understand what you mean when you say this, doesn’t
mean I’m qualified to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.

What were the qualifications of the men who translated the NWT into English?


What in the world does that statement have to do with anything? No one’s asking you to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.

The point is that, in a language closer in time to the actual usage of Koine Greek, the translators rendered John 1:1 exactly as does the NWT today. Viewed in this light, the NWT is not "changing" John 1:1. Rather, manuscripts well after John penned his letter changed the verse, and NWT has restored it to as it should be.

But he’s done with Coptic. He wants a new topic.

What he is hoping is that I will admit we didn’t really use translators at all, but hired trained orangutans for the job. It’s a common taunt from those who can’t stand Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just who are these translators, anyway? Do they have letters trailing their name? Do they really know any language besides Pig Latin?

It’s not easy to satisfy on this point since the NWT translating committee has ever remained anonymous. Not just the NWT - everything Watchtower published is anonymous. One consequence is that people must focus on the work itself and not just who wrote it. But it’s a lot easier to do the reverse: find out who wrote it, and then figure on that basis if it’s any good or not. It's the tactic of a lazy lout. After all, examining a work takes time. Examining credentials of the author can be done in 2 seconds.

Is the New World Translation any good or not? One ought to be able to determine that without knowing the “qualifications of the translators.” Instead, qualifications become apparent through examination of the work itself. That holds true in any other aspect of life. Why should it not hold true here as well? When Mrs Sheepandgoats and I moved into our present house, we looked it over for quality. We even hired an inspector. Satisfied, we purchased it. But we don’t know who built the house, and we’ve not lost any sleep on that account. The qualifications of the builders are evident from what is built.

Shortly after the New World Translation’s release, back in 1963, the Andover Newton Quarterly wrote: “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.” How do they know the “scholars” are “qualified”? They examined the work itself. Does it bother them that the translators are anonymous? It doesn’t seem to. “The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed — a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek,” the journal wrote in 1966. They could tell the work was well done without knowing the authors, just as you can tell the earth is beautiful without knowing its Creator. But stupid and lazy persons insist they have to know the authors first. Rubbish. To insist that credentials determine a work’s value is to insist that Microsoft is a nickel-and-dime third rate outfit because Bill Gates is “unqualified” – he holds no degrees in computer science, and never completed college.

Or what about Marilee Jones, the MIT Dean of Admissions who was carted out like yesterday's trash when it was found she was “unqualified” for her job. She’d forged her credentials! Those letters and degrees she carried - all made up! Yet before she was found out, they'd sung her praises to the heavens! She was a leading expert in her field! On the other hand, the most qualified financial people in the world darn near destroyed the entire world economy. Evolutionists positively reek with qualifications, and they’ve determined there is no God at all! Not to berate qualifications, of course – God forbid! - but they are frequently used merely to screen persons, as any job-seeker knows. And to pad the education industry.


Opponants sneered at the apostles for lack of qualifications: "Now when they [qualified religious leaders of the day] beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering,” Acts 4:13 tells us. Jesus fared no better: “Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?" (John 7:15) Got it? Christianity’s a flop because its founder was not “qualified.”

Frankly, Watchtower, through its program, structure and dedication, is a "school" in its own right. Can one learn languages only through the world's universities? Sheesh! A two-year-old raised in a bilingual homes picks up both tongues without effort. Put him in a tri-lingual home, and he picks up three. Okay, ancient language adds a degree of complication, I admit, but still, language is just a means of communication and surely there are many avenues through which one may learn it. Besides, what do they do most there in Bethel? What are they known for? TRANSLATING! The Watchtower magazine is presently translated into 174 languages. Try to find any material of any sort so widely translated!

So, IF it turns out that NWT translators bypassed the advanced degrees of prestigious universities, that's not the big deal detractors make it out to be. Yet, even THAT can't be determined for sure. Detractors claim to know who the translators were, and have a field day with their supposed "lack of qualifications." But how you positively identify a group which has never identified itself is beyond me. And even if those guessed-at persons chaired a committee, that by no means says they personally did all the work, just as a builder might farm out various areas of expertise on the home he's building.

"Maybe there were many others," admits another sorehead. "But again, in a matter like this, what or why would they hide? Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl? Honestly, provide one reasonable excuse why these men should be anonymous."

What’s wrong with modesty? By remaining anonymous, they direct attention to the work (and its real author), and not themselves. “Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl,” my rear end! They’ve not put the work under a bowl. They’ve put themselves under it. Now, having accomplished a great work, people today are given to strutting around and basking in the praise of their peers. To forsake that shows unusual modesty. We live in a culture in which people are obsessed with personalities, and in which they focus, not so much on words said, but on who said the words. Anonymity thwarts such laziness.

Most criticism of the New World Translation arises because it does not translate certain verses in the precise words necessary to uphold the Trinity doctrine. This is extremely important to Trinity people, because the Trinity teaching derives almost all of its authority from such 'formula' verses. Many translations have rendered such verses similar to the NWT over the years, but such translations all tank because they depend on the world's commercial marketplace for distribution - and Trinitarians won't touch them with a ten foot pole. The NWT would also tank if distributed that way, no doubt, but it's distributed in an entirely unique way by dedicated Christians, outstripping anything the world’s commercial system could accomplish, and at a very nominal cost.

If you believe in the Trinity, you'll loathe the NWT and do everything possible to discredit it. But if you don't carry that baggage, and you're permitted to look at it without preconceived ideas, it speaks well for itself. In fact, Jason Beduhn, who has theological qualifications coming out of his ears, compared 9 popular translations and concluded the New World Translation is the most accurate, containing the least bias, of all of them. His 2003 book is entitled Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. He's not hung up at all about anonymous translators. He has enough ability to look at the work itself, and not just who produced it.


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!




Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Heart of a Lion, Courage of a Warrior

When someone comes along and tells his story better than you ever could, you don't try to tell it for him. Especially when he's a holocaust survivor. Especially when he's 103 years old. 103! Leopond Engleitner is the world's oldest known male holocaust survivor. He's one of our people - one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

At 103, he still travels widely. Here, he's on the California leg of his "Unbroken Will" tour. He's a "happy boy" who has "no time to die." And, in a nod to Governor Schwartzenegger's Terminator days, he concludes with the promise "I'll be back!" A man with the heart of a lion and the courage of a warrior, says the reporter:[email protected]

You can search the internet and find a lot on this fellow. The Watchtower magazine carried his experiences in their 5/1/05 issue. And he has a website of his own.

[Edit 2/23/17] Englieghtner died. He was 107 years old. But California should not relax. He will be back. It will just have to be in the new system.



Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

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."


"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.


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!


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'