An Obedient Heart or an Understanding Heart—Which Is It?

So grant your servant an obedient heart to judge your people,” Solomon asked in a dream, “to discern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this numerous people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

Imagine such a request—for an ‘obedient heart.’ From a king!—who normally isn’t concerned with obedience to anything or anyone.

Furthermore, God equates this request for an obedient heart to ‘understanding:’

It was pleasing to Jehovah that Solomon had requested this. God then said to him: “Because you requested this and you did not request for yourself long life or riches or the death of your enemies, but you requested understanding to hear judicial cases, I will do what you asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that just as there has never been anyone like you before, there will never be anyone like you again. Furthermore, what you have not requested I will give you, both riches and glory, so that there will be no other king like you in your lifetime.” (vs 10-13)

I was just getting ready to comment on this at the midweek meeting when I thought I’d check how other translations put it. We have a handful of them on our own app, some mainstays like King James and American Standard Versions, some eclectic ones like Rotherham and Byington, and a few permutations of our own New World Translation. But for sheer scope, I like Biblegateway.com. Enter your scripture, append “in all English translations” to the result, and you have a list of 54 translations to choose from. It is not “all English translations,” as they say. It is all they have. Rotherham and Byington aren’t there, nor is New World Translation. But it still is a lot. Let’s check how many render 1 Kings 3:9 as “obedient.”

Whoa! None of them do! Well—just one, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. 53 of the 54 translations have something different!

By far, the most frequent rendering is an ‘understanding heart’ that Solomon requested, as opposed to an ‘obedient heart.’ 31 of the 54 versions say ‘understanding,’ with two more saying, ‘a heart that understands’—almost the same thing. The next most common is ‘discerning.’ Some versions change the ‘heart’ to ‘mind,’ as though what Solomon wants is to be the smartest kid in class.

So the New World has an ‘obedient’ rendering that only one other translation has! Did they just write it in? You know how our people like to lay it on with obedience. I was just entertaining the notion that the Witnesses got it wrong when I noticed a handful of versions that suggested they were on to something after all—maybe something others had missed.

The New American Bible—Revised Edition, the one I employed as house Bible in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why (because the New World Translation is there declared ‘extremist’) says ‘listening heart.’ The Names of God Bible says ‘heart that listens.’ Oh yeah? Listens to what? Or should it be who?

Indicating it is the ‘who’ to be listened to, the Wycliffe Version reads: “Therefore thou shalt give to thy servant an heart able to be taught, that is, enlightened of thee . . . And the Message Translation, which is sometimes so paraphrased as to veer into ludicrousness, here is spot-on. Solomon requests a ‘god-listening heart,’ it says.

So now I’m thinking that the brothers aren’t so daft after all, that they’re on to something that most miss and nobody but one says explicitly. Hmm. How to research this? Look up ‘obedience’ in the Insight book. There I find that the Hebrew word is ‘shama.’ Is 1 Kings 3:9 one of the places shama is used? The article doesn’t say.

Look up ‘understanding’ in that same encyclopediac work. Nothing.

Okay. Nothing remains than to hop on the great internet with the search terms, ‘1 Kings 9:3,’ ‘shama,’ and ‘obedient.’ This is a little risky because Witness apostates have peppered the internet with a gazillian tirades about how their former religion stinks to high heaven. But in this case, ‘obedient’ is the furthest thing from their minds, and nobody has bothered to weigh in on this particular verse. Instead an article by Daniel Hoffman is pulled up.

“When Solomon prayed for wisdom,” he says, “surprisingly, he did not use the word “wisdom.” What he prayed for, according to the ESV, [Easy-to-Read Version] was “an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil”

There is a Hebrew word for ‘wisdom.’ Solomon doesn’t use it! What word does he use? ‘Shama,’ the one that Insight on the Scriptures identifies as the root word of ‘obedience!’  Quickly the New World Translation has risen from ‘dog of the pack’ to ‘top dog!’

It is not that ‘understanding’ is wrong as a rendering. It’s fine as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far. If it does not convey the idea that ‘understanding’ comes from listening to God rather that simply being innately smart it does its readers a great disservice. Here’s how Hoffman puts it:

“So the ESV translation is not wrong. But I think maintaining the literal translation is better in this case. The more concrete “hear” reminds us that wisdom, discernment, or understanding, biblically conceived, is a matter first of all of hearing the word of the Lord. Wisdom in its biblical conception is not an abstract trait that some people just naturally have, but is a result of hearing the word of the Lord and digesting and embracing it.” (He says “hear” because shama has the connotation of hearing someone, in this case God.)

Is it really necessary to go so far as the New World Translation goes (and the Holman Christian Standard Bible) and say ‘obedient.’ No, I don’t think it is. But it just may be the best choice of renderings. After all, what is the point of ‘hearing’ God if you blow off what he says as nothing? Disobedience is afoot today. It is like what was said to Ezekiel: “Look! You are to them like a romantic love song, sung with a beautiful voice and skillfully played on a stringed instrument. They will hear your words, but no one will act on them.” (Ezekiel 33:32)

Ha! The words are a “romantic love song.” They are inspirational—the stuff of stirring song, moving poetry, rousing prose, but as to obeying them? No. And so Dee mentioned to me the other day how she had commented on someone’s ornate religious edifice he was carrying on about, that yes, people have built many beautiful things for God, “but I almost think it’s better when they find out what he wants and obey him instead.” That got her the fisheye from her recipient but I thought she hit the nail on the head. It’s not unlike what Samuel told Saul: “Look, to obey is better than sacrifice.”

That being the case, that obedience is important to God and we live in a time of marked disobedience, and we strive to avoid “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” (Eph 2:2) you can make a case that ‘obedient heart’ is the best rendering of all.

This is not the first time I’ve spotted the New World Translation with a rendering that at first seems suspect but turns out to be superior. Ronald Sider, in his book ‘The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience grumbles that Galatians 5:13 literally reads, “be slaves to each other,” yet most popular translations dilute the verse to a more independence-savoring “serve one another in love”—a rendering promoting disobedience that he says contributes to the deplorable state of his own people, whose overall moral conduct is identical to that of the greater world whereas it is supposed to be a notch above. The New World Translation, however, holds to the original Greek, with “through love slave for one another.”

I noted it here as well with Psalm 22:16, where the New World Translation stuck to the literal Hebrew whereas almost everyone else succumbed to an at least arguably fraudulent reading.

If the New World ranks with the best translations in these three instances, why is it sometimes said that it is the worst? In almost all cases it is because it does not render certain verses in the formalistic, even if less rigorous, way that they must be rendered to support the trinity doctrine—and adherents to the trinity take offense. There is such a thing as letting beliefs dictate scholarship, whereas it ought to be the other way around.….

028A3395-E560-4286-B720-827CABF8E208 

Painting: ‘The Wisdom of Solomon”—James Tissot

(1 Kings 3:9, which this post expounds on, was included in the recently assigned week’s Bible reading. Therefore this post will fill in for that week’s meeting notes.)

 

******  The bookstore

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

If You Occupy Yourself with Spreading the Gospel You Just Might be a Christian

When Vladimir Putin said Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians too, “I don’t know why we persecute them,” Russian Witnesses were cautiously optimistic. They weren’t naive. They didn’t forget where they were. But when Darth Vader says, “I don’t know why we’re so mean to the Light Side,” you sort of think that maybe he will stop.

Did the top brass of the Russian Orthodox Church pull him aside to say, “What is wrong with you, Vladimir? Get with it! They are not Christian at all!” It is pure speculation, but for whatever reason, nothing came of Putin’s words. In fact, it has been just the opposite; persecution of JWs has only increased.

Would they dare talk back to him that way? They might. Countries that nurture a “house church” and suppress everyone else expect that church to be the spiritual equivalent of the military, a force to bind together the nation. The military top brass no doubt speaks freely before Putin, so why not the Church top brass?

At any rate, a senior cleric, Metropolitan Hilarian, is adamant that no way are Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian. Crowing at the aftermath of the 2017 ban on the Witness organization, he said: “It's hard to deny that these cultists will remain and continue their activity... but at least they'll stop openly claiming to be a Christian faith, in other words, in the market place of existing Christian confessions this product will no longer be on display.”

The reason that Putin did think Jehovah’s Witnesses were Christian, most likely, is that at the annual Kremlin picnic, his third cousin, with an interest in the Bible, bended his ear on things that Christians do. “Go, therefore, and make disciples,” Jesus said, as well as, “This good news of the kingdom will be declared in all the inhabited earth” at which point Putin reflected on who most visibly does this, openly approaching people, Bible in hand, right in their homes. It means Witnesses are Christian, he would have told himself.

But this is plebeian thinking, the Church clerics convince him. He must not be such a donkey in this regard. He is one of the ruling elite and he must act it. He must not be taken in by the fact that JWs alone, as a lifelong course, take the Christian message directly to people wherever they happen to be. It’s a ruse. They’re really not Christian.

They’ll have to correct BusinessInsider.com, too. Lamenting that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not vote, it nevertheless describes them as a “Christian denomination.” This identification as a Christian denomination is picked up by most secular sources.

Maybe religionnews.com can straighten them out. “Scholars call out Putin and the ‘escalation’ of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia,” it announces on October 2, 2020. It is a thorough article. It included the assessment of the scholars, that they “are left with the impression that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are being punished for their success in gaining new adherents, and because they are perceived as a ‘foreign’ religion.”

Still, it cannot close the article without stating: “They are not recognized as Christian by Orthodox and other Christian traditions, primarily because they do not believe in the Trinity.”

Ah—there is the sticking point! It is the Trinity. Lack of it is a deal-breaker. This is very strange because virtually all scholars will concede that the Trinity doctrine was 300 years in development and was cemented into place first only at the 325 CE council of Nicaea. It is not explicitly taught in the Bible. Nearly all verses said to support it, were they to be seen in any other context, would be instantly dismissed as figure-of-speech. When the impaled Jesus cries out, “My God, my God—why have you forsaken me?—What! has he forsaken himself? It makes no sense. Nonetheless, it has become the steamroller that flattens all before it.

Again and again you get the sense that the ordinary people of common sense, barring only some indoctrinated religionists, accept in a heartbeat that Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian because they most notably approach people with the Bible. Too, their stand of non-involvement in wars most notably dovetails with Jesus’ words that “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” and that “all who live by the sword will die by the sword.” People of common sense instantly recognize this.

But the higher you climb in the religion food chain, the more you find ones who have educated themselves beyond this common sense. I wrote previously of how the aforementioned religionnews.com doesn’t even seem to have a category for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and furthermore opined that such a circumstance might be perfectly agreeable to the JW headquarters—on a list of “religions of the world,” they do not appear.

It is reminiscent of Victor V Blackwell, a lawyer representing our people during the tumultuous World War II years. He writes of how he would point out for this or that small town judge that, per the scriptural definition, Witnesses enrolled in full time service of preaching and teach the Word were plainly ministers. However, those judges recognized as ministers only persons who “had a church” and “got paid.”

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Skirmish #873090 - Will the Real Greg Stafford Please Stand Up?

“There has also been another book by Greg Stafford, who might no longer be a JW.”

Who is this guy? Opposers have likened me to him. 

Perhaps his book is on Amazon.com, and the reviewers may have commented on who he is (was?).”

You know, that’s not a bad idea. I went there. 

He has a couple of books on ‘defending Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ I guess that I should applaud, because I claim to do the same, but I find books like these such yawners (granted, I have not read his) because they defend only in a doctrinal sense, whereas I like to believe that I defend in a more practical and strategic sense. These guys give the impression that they know the Bible and nothing else. First thing you know, their head has grown so big that they almost come to believe in themselves as the faithful and discreet slave—they have pointed the way and the supertanker organization doesn’t follow. Disgruntled, off they go as the True Light unheeded. In time, they are launching vicious attacks agains the hand that once fed them—the very place from which the learned the truth in the first place. (Wilma strikes me as one of them)

It is a shame that you are such a blowhard, James, because I rather like complaint of being Gog and Magogged to death. Exactly. You know when there are things “too great for me.” So do I. You don’t think that from your Appalachian still you are going to be emanating cutting edge scholarship. You wait for someone else to say it, and then you ask yourself, ‘Does it hang together.?’ If only you would learn to put things on the shelf when you suspect they do not rather than go all insolent (brazen) online over it and denounce everyone not doing what you think they should. 

Greg apparently devotes chapters to ‘disproving’ the Trinity. It is ridiculous. You can’t disprove it. The trick is to show that, since the doctrine defies common sense, the burden of proof is on their adherents to show that it is so. The default position favors the Witness. With very few exceptions, all ‘proof’ of the Trinity is based on taking literally certain passages which, if they were spotted anywhere else, would instantly be dismissed as figures of speech. I can picture these yo-yos reading of ‘crocodile tears’ and seizing upon it as proof that the writer is a crocodile. 

There are other Greg Stanford books on Amazon, too. they are of subjects that could represent the real one having gone over to the dark side. Or maybe they are a relative. Dunno.

I did contact him many years ago via email when people began to say of me that I sounded like another Greg Stanford. I asked who he was and he told me (then) that he was a Witness in good standing.

2116E01B-655F-4E8C-81EC-69FDE1045467

Photo by regard 1400

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Most Church Doctrines Are Not Found in the Bible

It is the attempt to read them in that causes people to throw up their hands in despair, sometimes even in disgust, of ever understanding it. To the extent that happens, it makes such doctrines very destructive.

From time to time, this is acknowledged by some clergyman or other.  For example, Richard Lowell Bryant, a United Methodist minister, rained on ‘Trinity Sunday’ recently by declaring of the doctrine: We made it up, saying in part:

“The truth is:  God was nowhere to be found when we made up the Trinity and turned it into a tool to isolate, annoy, and explain God’s expansive love in terms of dysfunctional family.”

His brethren men and women of the cloth hastened to correct him. Especially did one Dr. Hunter, who says: “Several of my students sent me the article, knowing the central place the doctrine of the Trinity holds in the courses I teach at United Theological Seminary.” Dr. Hunter responds with a twelve-paragraph reproof to his fellow minister.

Two things can be observed about his reply.

1. It will barely be comprehensible to the person of common sense, and

2. No appeal is made to scripture for support, a tacit admission that none is to be found there. After all, the New Testament is the origin, if not the blueprint, of Christianity. Is it not telling that he does not go there?

He goes there only a little, to cite John 16 and Jesus’ statement therein that the helper will come along later and reveal all things. He appears to have in mind, per a previous paragraph, the decree of the Council of Nicaea, which took place 300 years after Christ, and in which the Doctor expresses confidence that it was directed by Holy Spirit. But as to the scriptures themselves teaching a triune God—zip. He doesn’t touch it.

The Bible verses can be tortured for that meaning, of course, but tortured is what they must be. They involve taking literally numerous passages which, in any other context, would instantly be recognized as figure of speech. However, it does serve to complicate the obvious and thus serves to supply Dr. Hunter with a teaching career.

Not that Dr. Hunter is a bad man. No, he possibly is a very good man. But he is likely a product of what Jesus spoke of long ago to religious leaders of his day: “Woe to you who are versed in the Law, because you took away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not go in, and you hinder those going in!”

Since they took the key away, later generations don’t necessarily know that there is a key.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

No Scrapping on My Watch

I don't do the following often, for it is a little mean. I wouldn't do it just on account of a differing point of view. I reserve it for someone obnoxious and condescending from the fundamentalist religious world, someone trying to denigrate the work Witnesses do, someone saying dismissively: "No thanks. I'm Christian." As though they own the word.
 
I reply that only a Christian would do the work I am doing, adding "frankly, I'm a little surprised you're not doing it yourself." Always it vanquishes the smug smile.
 
However, one does not stop there, upon seeing that the blow has landed. Immediately you move on to soften it somehow, perhaps by returning to whatever you were discussing in the first place.
 
I am not thrilled speaking with these ones. If they try to start a fight - and it is always over the Trinity - I deflect. Hopefully I share my verse and leave it at that.
 
When I offered a verse to one of these fellows, he immediately wanted to know my religion. Anyone else I would tell immediately, but to him I acted as though - well, it's rather a personal question, don't you think? I mean, this is the Bible. What is more Christian than to talk about it?
 
Too many of these folks have their scholarship defined by their beliefs, and not the other way around. Too many have had a religious awakening of some sort. How do you tell them that their experience is not theirs? I don't try. If they find what they learned by revelation confirmed in Scripture, they are happy, but they are not unduly put out when they find it is not.
 
Reliably, being saved by faith and not by works will come up. 'Of course,' I reply. 'Everyone knows that. But the works don't hurt, to they? They certainly give us some street cred.'
 
What about "there has been a child born to us...his name will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace," he challenges. What about it? I reply. Does he think I should have a problem with it? Why should I?
 
He will have to get a little more specific than that if he wants to get into a shoving match. No scrapping on my watch. Wrestler
Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Scholars, Experts, and the Transfiguration

The question was: how were Jesus words at Luke 9:27 fulfilled?

“But I tell you truthfully, There are some of those standing here that will not taste death at all until first they see the kingdom of God.”

It was multiple choice! The options were (with hints from the blogmaster):

 A.  The Transfiguration (already widely refuted by Christian scholars)
 B.  Jesus' Resurrection (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
 C.  Jesus' Ascension into Heaven (has Jesus going somewhere else, not coming in His Kingdom)
 D.  Pentecost (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus or His Kingdom*)
 E.  When the Gospel message was preached to the world (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom with power*)
 F.  When the Roman legions, under the command of Titus, crushed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE (has nothing to do with seeing Jesus come in His Kingdom)
 G.  When Jesus established His "mediatorial" Kingdom (which nobody can actually see)


Of course, I can't resist multiple choice, especially on the internet! I jumped in both feet and said: “A! It's A!" What clinches it is that “A” is "already widely refuted by Christian scholars. If these guys refute it, it must be so.”

The blogmaster caught my drift: “Always the contrarian, huh tom? Do you run a hedge fund, by any chance?”

I don't. But it is a fact that when all the experts are screaming “sell,” that's the time you buy. And so with choice “A.” All the 'experts' are selling it. I'll buy.

Alright, alright, so it's a little more involved than that. We must look at why the experts refute the transfiguration, which Luke goes on to describe (Luke 9:28-37)

“In actual fact, about eight days after these words, he took Peter and John and James along and climbed up into the mountain to pray. And as he was praying the appearance of his face became different and his apparel became glitteringly white. Also, look! two men were conversing with him, who were Moses and Elijah. These appeared with glory and began talking about his departure that he was destined to fulfill at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those with him were weighed down with sleep; but when they got fully awake they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. And as these were being separated from him, Peter said to Jesus: “Instructor, it is fine for us to be here, so let us erect three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah,” he not realizing what he was saying. But as he was saying these things a cloud formed and began to overshadow them. As they entered into the cloud, they became fearful. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the one that has been chosen. Listen to him.” And as the voice occurred Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet and did not report to anyone in those days any of the things they saw. On the succeeding day, when they got down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.”

Frankly, how could anyone not take this as the fulfillment of Jesus words. It's the very next event to follow! Luke even throws in a transitional phrase: "in actual fact." ("And it came to pass that"....KJV)  Talk about connecting the dots! How could anyone miss it?!
 
The answer to how anyone could miss it is that “we don't see things like this happening today.” Thus, if the “scholars” and “experts” give “A” as their answer, they will be laughed off  the stage by those intellectuals whom they so desperately want to be counted among. This is but an NT manisfestation of the OT “we are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What's next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?” syndrome. Far better to choose from answers “B” through “G,” options which can all be presented as “inspiring” or at least “open to many interpretations” (both the province of intellectuals) rather than “miraculous” (the province of dunces).

These guys are spineless. And faithless. They ought not label themselves Christian experts, but something more along the lines of “deistic-flavored philosophers.” Why wouldn't Jesus' words just prior to Luke 9:27 apply to them?

“For whoever becomes ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of man will be ashamed of this one when he arrives in his glory and that of the Father and of the holy angels”   Luke 9:26

The laugh is that these Christian experts ignore the scripturally obvious answer to Luke 9:27, to suggest less miraculous and thereby more respectable interpretations, only to find that these choices also are ridiculed by today's intellectuals, who lean increasing atheistic. They sell out faith, and gain nothing in return! I'll side with Paul any day, who was “not ashamed” of the good news. (Rom 1:16)

This sucking up to the world is by no means a modern development. Rather, it's a recurrent NT theme, expressed here, for example: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.”   2 Tim 4:3

To be sure, not “putting up with healthful teaching” was to happen for a variety of reasons. Not all could be chalked up to currying favor with intellectuals, but a lot of it could.

For example, the New Encyclopedia Britannica (remember encyclopedias?) writes: “Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for the own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” The Trinity teaching wormed in this way. It's not to be found in scripture, unless you take rather obvious metaphors literally. At various church councils, according to scholar Charles Freeman, those who came to believe Jesus was God “found it difficult to refute the many sayings of Jesus that suggested he was subordinate to God the Father.” So they began to elevate intellectual opinion (the sayings of Church Fathers) over the scriptures themselves!

Now, everyone knows that Christianity began as a working-class religion, not an educated intellectual religion. From the former come folk who can call a spade a spade. From the latter come folk who can lift scripture to a loftier plane, make it respectable, and monetize it. Get a load of this snooty comment from theologian Gregory of Nyssa, mocking the 'lowlife' that were dumb enough to take scripture at face value:

“Clothes dealers, money changers, and grocers are all theologians. If you inquire about the value of your money, some philosopher explains wherein the Son differs from the Father. If you ask the price of bread, your answer is the Father is greater than the Son. If you should want to know whether the bath is ready, you get the pronouncement that the Son was created out of nothing.”

The above three paragraphs incorporates much that was presented in the Jan 15, 2012 Watchtower, including the quote from Gregory. JW detractors apparently accused the Watchtower of making up this quote out of thin air, since they couldn't find it themselves on the internet, and figured if it's not such low-hanging fruit, it must not exist! But Weedhacker [!] would have none of it and tracked down Gregory's words in Greek, Latin, and obscure places. So there.

Back to my “Transfiguration” answer, the one "already widely refuted by Christian scholars."......this is a beaut: the blogmaster summarizes their attitudes thus (with apparent agreement): they “dismiss it by mentioning it in passing, as if it was not worth their effort to rebut because it is already known to be false.” Of course! There's my mistake! I'd overlooked how substantial  their talents and valuable their time must be that they cannot deign to waste them analyzing the verses that immediately follow Jesus' words with regard to coming into his kingdom.

The important thing is for scholars to intellectualize the subject. Armchairify it. Steer far away from any interpretations that give credence to miracles, and especially any that might suggest commitment or action is required. Analyze the words....make a living off analyzing them, in fact. But don't be dumb enough to trap yourself into having to do any of them. Just like at Ezek 33:32: “you are to them like a song of sensuous loves, like one with a pretty voice and playing a stringed instrument well. And they will certainly hear your words, but there are none doing them.” They love to hear them. They love to debate them. They love to discuss them. But they don't love to do them. Not the experts. That's not their gig.

***********************************

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 ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Michael

Whitepebble's son asked me to go with him on a return visit, so we took a few minutes to get our ducks lined up. You want to do that before a call.  You don't script every word, of course, but you want to get some general idea of where discussion may lead, and how you will respond if it goes here and how you will respond if it goes there. This particular fellow, Whitepebble Jr told me, had some questions about Michael in the Bible. Who is he? Is he really the same as Jesus?

Now, I don't especially like return visits where the main topic is 'who is Michael.' Nineteen times out of twenty, they are simply back door entries into a Trinity discussion, and I don't really like Trinity discussions. Unless handled with care, they can easily run on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on with neither side budging an inch. I bring them to an end fairly promptly if the other side doesn't respond to what strikes me as common sense. If both sides are dug in, it's just a time-waster. Let God sort it out. He knows if he's a trinity or not. But some of those evangelicals are quite happy to blow through acres of time in such debate. Truth be known, some of our own people, as well. But I'm not one of them.

Still, not every call goes by formula. You do have to probe around some to be sure you have a rigid trinitarian dogmatist on your hands...not everyone is. It may be different in your neck of the woods, but here, such a 'Michael' call is usually, not always, an invitation to spend forever locked in fruitless discussion. 'Who is Michael' is just a sneaky way to get into it. See, if Jesus is the same as Michael, then he is NOT God, since nobody anywhere (to my knowledge) claims that Michael is God. That's what riles Trinitarians, the implication that Jesus is not God. Were it not for trinitarian considerations, they'd have no issue with Jesus a/k/a Michael, just as they have no issue with Jesus a/k/a 'the Word', or Jesus a/k/a 'King of kings and Lord of Lords.'

The Witness understanding of this is fairly straightforward. Both Jesus and Michael are described as having the same role. They both carry the same title. So why not conclude they are the same individual, referred to, at different times, by different names? Makes sense to me.

Michael, for instance, leads God's army to battle Satan's forces:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.    Rev 12:7-10   NIV

That's the same role Jesus has, here described as the Word of God and KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (all-caps a device of the NIV):

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.    Rev 19:11-19

So two generals, Michael and the 'Word of God', have the same role. Why not conclude they are the same person?

Of another occasion, 1 Thes 4:16 says:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

The “Lord himself” uses a voice lesser than his own? No. If he has “the voice of the archangel,” it's because he is the archangel. (a word, by the way, which never occurs as plural, but only singular. There are not archangels, but only one)

And 'the archangel' is? Michael.

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses.....        Jude 9

It always steams me to come across evangelical sites and read there that "Jehovah's Witnesses say that Jesus was only an angel." No. He is, as one of his titles, the archangel; there's only one. (Not to mention how it steams me even more if they claim JWs say Jesus was "only a man." No, again. His life-force was transferred from long heavenly existance, as God's first-born son, to be born on earth as a perfect man; there have only been two. And by his faithful course, he undid, for those who put faith in the arrangement, the damage done by the first perfect man. Upon his resurrection, he's granted even greater authority than before, as king of God's Kingdom.)

So the Lord himself is the archangel Michael. Is that so hard to comprehend?

Dan 12:1 foretells:

At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.

Right! That's just what Jesus role is in the heavens. He is the 'great prince' [prince of peace] who protects God's people. He is Michael.

Nonetheless, I'm willing to yield on this point in the ministry. It's not central. If you “win,” you've won very little, much like winning on a flood discussion. Moreover, you will not win if speaking with a firm Trinitarian. They have it rock-solid in their head (like concrete, Lee Chugg used to say...all mixed up and firmly set) that Jesus is God, and if he is God, he certainly is NOT the archangel. Don't spend a lot of time on this. Instead, discern that the underlying issue is the Trinity, and deal with that if it seems fruitful. Look, I'm not crazy about Trinity discussions; I've already said that. But I'd rather have an open Trinity discussion than a masked one. In an open one, you can appeal to texts to show that Trinity for what it is. And the texts you'll use are not ones about Michael the archangel.

**************************

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

No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

So There was this Lutheran Evangelical, and he Approaches this Rabbi

so as to SAVE him. Only, he doesn't know he's wearing a big "kick me" sign on his behind. No sooner does he finish his pitch and the rabbi does kick him. Hard! HA!!

[Okay, okay, Tom Sheepandgoats, don't gloat. Stop it!. The rabbi doesn't like you any more than him, most likely. Maybe he'll try to kick you, too. Well....maybe, but at least I have one saving grace. I'm using a decent Bible translation.]

Dear Rabbi [Tovia Singer, who runs Outreach Judaism, and responds to issues raised by "missionaries, cults, and Jew for Jesus."]:

".......I admire your commitment to your faith." [Roll eyes. Does he also admire the Pope's committment to his faith. Sheesh! When you're writing a someone like the rabbi, you don't lead off with patronizing twaddle about admiration. If you truly admire him, the tone of your letter will show it.]

Brackets mine, by the way.

yet I am perplexed as to why you so assuredly reject Jesus Christ as your messiah. [Not the Messiah, but your Messiah. What, is he trying to get this fellow mad? Not that I disagree with the "your," necessarily, but you have to know your audience. Even Jesus' disciples referred to him as the Messiah. (John 1:41) Do these modern day evangelicals simply love him more than the original twelve?]

He came not only for the gentiles, but for the Jews as well. He was born to a Jewish mother and came to the Jewish people. [Perhaps the rabbi has never heard this.]

[Wait a minute....haven't church Christians treated Jews abominably through the centuries? Better defuse that one. Shouldn't be a problem:]

"I know that the Jews have been maligned and persecuted by so-called Christians. This has certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of the Jewish people against Christ; but certainly you must know, rabbi, that these were not real Christians, for a believer in Christ must love the Jew, for his Savior is a Jew....The true Christian loves the Jewish people." [There! Done! Easy as Pie! Hundreds of years of persecution out of the way! Now, on to business:]

"You surely have read the 22nd Psalm which most clearly speaks of our Lord’s crucifixion. Read verse 16. [Do it, rabbi. NOW!] It states, “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” Of whom does the prophet speak other than our Lord? This Old Testament prophecy could only be foretelling Jesus’ unique death on the cross. What greater proof is needed that Jesus died for the sins of mankind than this chapter which was written a thousand years before Jesus walked this earth?"

I'll concede I'm being somewhat hard on this Lutheran fellow. He's certainly sincere enough But these guys come after us all the time, too, set to save us. Positively cooing love, until you refute them, and then you're likely to catch a hellfire backhand. Well....if you're going to pull stuff like this on the rabbi (and us), you'd better have your ducks lined up. As it turns out, this fellow's ducks are waddling all over the place, and the rabbi calls him on it.

His verse is fraudulent translating, the rabbi replies. It does not read in Hebrew "they pierced my hands and my feet." It reads "like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet." The Hebrew word is kaari. It means "like a lion." It does not mean "pierced." Furthermore, this is no accident of translating, the rabbi goes on to assert. It is deliberate. Other places in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 38:13, the Hebrew work kaari is translated "like a lion," as it should be. Only at Psalm 22:16 (some translations have it vs 17) is it "pierced." a word that, in this setting, just sounds so much better for religionist church translators! Never mind that there actually are Hebrew words that mean pierced - words that are not used in the verse. No, we'll just change the word kaari so as to support an image we like!

Well.....honest mistake, reply some churchy types that know of the switch. You see, they explain, those early church translators mistook kaari for kaaru.....it's only one letter off, and kaaru means "pierced." They probably suppose Jesus maneuvered matters this way. The only trouble, says the rabbi.....is that there is no kaaru. No such word. Or, at least, not until those religionists coined it to justify their mistranslation.

Now, I didn't know any of this. I checked various translations, some in my own library and some on the internet. The website BibleGateway.com has a feature by which one may compare different translations. I refer to it a lot. Out of the 18 English translations listed, none have "like a lion" at vs 16. They all say "pierced" or (in two cases) phrases that mean pierced.

StudyLight.org makes 37 complete English translations (there is some overlap with BibleGateway) available for comparison. Only four say "like a lion." The Easy to Read Version, trying to please everybody, I guess, uses both: Like a lion, {they have pierced} my hands and my feet." [are lions known to pierce hands and feet?]

Four translations out of fifty! So I look up the verse in the New World Translation, the one used by Jehovah's Witnesses:

For dogs have surrounded me; The assembly of evildoers themselves have enclosed me. Like a lion [they are at] my hands and my feet.

The NWT gets it right, one of only a handful of translations to do so! Since the other accurate translations are all somewhat obscure - not well known - for all practical purposes, the NWT is the only accurate one available. Moreover, in translating the word kaari accurately, the NWT works "against" its translators own interests, since we also believe the Christ is foretold in various psalms, including the 22nd. We'd love it to say "pierced," too. but it doesn't. No fair stacking the deck. Accuracy in translating comes first. The Foreword of the New World Translation says, in part: The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They ought to cite Ps 22:16 as a case in point, for here they ignore a rendering they must instinctively agree with doctrinally, because the original Hebrew word does not allow it!

I've seen how born-again Bibles alter the New Testament, trying to sneak their Trinity doctrine in, but I've not seen it before with the Old Testament. Moreover, I am so sick and tired of these know-nothings, buttressed only by the opinions of ones who think like them, shouting that the NWT is a shoddy translation. And maligning it's authors, making much of the fact they haven't gone to their seminaries, in striking similarity to how religious leaders of Jesus' day sneered at the first century Christians (and even Jesus himself):

Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

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)

There was some trial somewhere, decades ago...you see it all over the internet.... in which Fred Franz is asked to translate an English phrase into Hebrew and he replies "I won't attempt to do that." This means, say his detractors, that he doesn't know Hebrew at all, and yet he chaired the NWT translating committee! Does he even know Pig Latin? But all sneering aside, the New World Translation got Ps 22:16 right, when virtually nobody else did. Everyone else repeats uncritically (they surely by now have had opportunity to correct matters) the faulty King James rendering! Rather, they vigorously defend it. Possibly, one might (gingerly) allow that the verse, in Hebrew, is homonymic. Alas, such wordplay, along with poetic devices as alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia, and so forth, is not translatable. Even if you were to attempt it, you still need a good dose of "translator privilege" to derive pierced. Not to be lost sight of is the fact that this verse is not cited as messianic in the New Testament although several other Ps 22 verses are. In the end, responsible translating demands you translate only what is actually there. (in a footnote, the NWT Large Print with References includes two alternate readings: Biting like a lion my hand and my feet (Targum) and They bored (dug through) my hands and my feet. (Septuagint, Vulgate))

.............................................

By the way, the rabbi's not buying into this "love the Jews" slogan, either [his word]. Doesn't this Lutheran character know of Luther's reputation? "Among all the church fathers and reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no lips that uttered more vulgar curses against the children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation whom you apparently revere. Even the anti-Semitism of the New Testament and the church fathers pales in comparison to the invectives launched by Luther’s impious tongue during his lifetime.....Have you not read his odious volume entitled 'Of the Jews and Their Lies'?"

"Although evangelicals repeatedly declare that true believing Christians love the Jewish people, the annals of history clearly do not support this slogan. With few exceptions, the tormentors of the Jewish people emerged out of the fundamentalist genre of Christianity. Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not have a strong history of anti-Semitism."

[It's true. Didn't I go to bat for Dov Hikind when everyone else wanted his head on a platter?]

..........................................

And while we're at it, the rabbi also takes a swipe at Trinitarianism, which he wrongly equates with Christianity. Psalm 22 opens with "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If these words are to be attributed to a Trinitarian Jesus on the cross, asks the rabbi, (Matt 27:46) can it really be that God has forsaken himself? This is the sort of nonsense you have to buy into repeatedly when you accept the Trinity doctrine. It's nonsense that clears up instantly once you appreciate that Jesus and his Father are two separate beings, just like any other son and father we can imagine. Indeed, that's why the Bible uses that bit of personification - in order to highlight the intense closeness and absolute harmony existing between them, while all the time making clear they are separate beings.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

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?


Sheepandgoats:

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 ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

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.

*********************************

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 ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’