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The New World Translation

What the Scholars Really Said

 

The Watchtower and Jehovah's Witness apologists have often cited scholars in support of the New World Translation in general, and particularly its rendering of John 1:1c ("and the Word was a god").  Scholarly citation is a form of an "argument from authority."  Such an argument cannot establish the truth or falsity of a given assertion; it can merely lend credence or cast doubt.  Sound arguments from authority will consist of an accurate quotation from the scholar in question, which entails insuring that the context of the authority's statements are consistent with the argument being presented, and that contrary statements in the same passage are not removed with creative use of ellipses ("...").  Further, the scholar must be a recognized authority in a field that pertains directly to the assertion being made.

When Jehovah's Witnesses produce scholars that support the NWT, we must first establish that the scholar is, indeed, a recognized expert in the field of Biblical Languages, and that he or she has been quoted accurately.  When given careful consideration, many of the scholars used by Jehovah's Witnesses do not actually constitute a sound argument from authority.  I'm not suggesting that no scholars may be found in support of the NWT or its translation of John 1:1, but these are in the minority and often are not as qualified in their field as the scores of scholars who advocate the traditional translation.

In the chart, below, we will examine how some scholars have been used in defense of the NWT and whether they actually support the Watchtower translation as claimed.  It is not my intent to be exhaustive; however I've tried to cover the scholars most often cited; I think you'll find that any omissions will be obscure scholars that are not generally recognized as authoritative in the scholarly community.  If you know of a prominent scholar that I've missed, please let me know so that I may include him/her in a future revision of this article.

Index of Scholars

William Barclay 

BDAG 

Hans-Jürgen Becker 

Jason BeDuhn

Steven T. Byington

Vivian Capel

Lant Carpenter

William D. Chamberlain

E.C. Colwell 

Frederick Danker 

C.H. Dodd

MacLean Gilmour

Edgar J. Goodspeed

Johannes Greber  

S.G. Green

Ernst Haenchen 

Phillip B. Harner  

Murray J. Harris

Robert Harvey (Strachen) 

Herman Heinfetter 

George Horner (Coptic New Testament)

C. Houtman  

George Howard 

A.N. Jannaris

Felix Just 

Benjamin Kedar

Thomas O. Lambdin 

William Loader

Jon Madsen

Julius R. Mantey

Eilat Mazar    

Robert M. McCoy

John L. McKenzie

James Moffatt 

C.F.D. Moule

Archbishop Newcome

Andrews Norton

AM Perry

JD Phillips

Charles Francis Potter

Joseph Priestley

A.T. Robertson

Johannes Schneider 

Siegfried Schulz

William Carey Taylor

Vincent Taylor

Rijkel ten Kate 

John Thompson

Alexander Thomson

C.C. Torrey 

W.E. Vine

J. W. Wenham

Paul Wernle

B.F. Westcott

Allen Wikgren

Benjamin Wilson

Thomas Winter

Robert Young

 

Scholar Quotation Used in Support of NWT What the Scholar Really Said
William Barclay "theos [in John 1:1c] becomes a description, and more of an adjective than a noun...[John] does not say that Jesus was God" (Barclay, Many Witnesses, One Lord, p. 23 - 24).

- The Watchtower, May 15, 1977, p. 320

 

 

When Barclay says that John didn't write that "Jesus was God," he merely means that Jesus was not God the Father.  That Barclay sees an ontological unity between ho theos and ho logos is apparent in the following passage omitted from the Watchtower article:

"The only modern translator who fairly and squarely faced this problem is Kenneth Wuest, who said: 'The Word was as to his essence, essential deity.'  But it is here that the NEB has brilliantly solved the problem with the absolutely correct rendering: 'What God was the Word was'" (Barclay, p. 23).

Barclay also makes his position clear in a response to the Watchtower's citation:

"The Watchtower article has, by judicious cutting, made me say the opposite of what I meant to say.  What I was meaning to say, as you well know, is that Jesus is not the same as God, to put it more crudely, that is of the same stuff as God, that is of the same being as God, but the way the Watchtower has printed my stuff has simply left the conclusion that Jesus is not God in a way that suits themselves.  If they missed from their answer the translation of Kenneth Wuest and the N.E.B., they missed the whole point" (A letter to Donald P. Shoemaker, 8/26/1977.)

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  It has been brought to my attention that William Barclay "lied" when stating the following about Jn 1:1:

The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament translations. Jn 1:1 is translated : ‘Originally the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god,’ a translation which is grammatically impossible. [Col 2:1-17 is translated : ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because by means of him all other things were created... All other things have been created through him and for him. Also he is before all other things and by means of him all other things were made to exist.’ Four times the word other is introduced and every time without justification. Ph 2:6 becomes ‘Christ Jesus, who, although be was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.’] It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest (The Expositor, Oct 1953, Vol 65, bold and brackets added; brackets indicate ellipsis on all pro-NWT websites that I'm aware of using Google 8/14/12).

Barclay's admission of his "lie" supposedly came 21 years later in a letter to Mr. David Burnett dated May 2, 1974:

Dear Mr. Burnett,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter of 16th April. You have
four questions and they must be answered, I am afraid, briefly in
order to get on to one airmail and because I have a heavy
correspondence.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the
Word was God." You could translate, so far as the Greek goes: "the
Word was a God"
; but it seems obvious that this is so much against
the whole of the rest of the New Testament that it is wrong. I am
quite sure myself that the following is the correct translation.

Even if the claim is true, and Barclay knowingly lied, it is logically fallacious to claim this fact exonerates the WT from twisting its quote from him.  It is an obvious example of the "poisoning the well" fallacy.  

But it is not clear that Barclay lied in the first place.  Notice his "grammatically impossible" comment does not refer to Jn 1:1c, but the entire verse.  This verse starts with the phrase "Originally the Word was" (reflecting the wording of the 1950 Edition, later revised to the more familiar "In the beginning").  This rendering obscures the parallel with Gen 1:1,  which John was echoing.  Notice that the original NWT translates the Greek as an adverb, not a noun.  No Greek grammar or lexicon states it is permissible to translate a dative noun as an adverb.  Also, the traditional rendering follows the Greek precisely. So, Barclay may have possibly been referring to the verse in its entirety, not merely the "a god" rendering.  

Also, as you can see by the inclusion of Barclay's original comments (replaced with "..." on all JW websites I could find, which suggests a common source), the phrase "It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest" actually referred to more than just Jn 1:1.  

Or, more likely, he did not remember what he had said about the NWT some 20-odd years before.  It was, after all, a brief article written just 3 years after the release of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures.  At the time, he may well have been convinced by the so-called Colwell's Rule (see here for more details) and thought it was grammatically impossible, but over the intervening years, revised his opinion.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the WT is guilty of "judiciously cutting" Barclay's remarks so as confuse its readers, if not openly deceive them.

BDAG "The upgraded 3rd Edition of the Baur, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon (BDAG) supports our view of Jesus as 'a god' 100%.  This authority represents the best in modern scholarship, and if you wish to differ with it, you bear the burden of proof.

BDAG 405-406 2 "Some writings in our lit. use the word Q. w.
>ref. to Christ (without necessarily equating Christ with the Father and therefore in harmony with the Shema of Israel Dt. 6:4; cp Mk
10:18 and 4a below), though the interpretation of some of the pass. is in debate. In Mosaic and Gr-Rom traditions the fundamental semantic component in the understanding of deity is the factor of performance, namely saviorhood or extraordinary contributions to one's society. Dg. 10:6 defines the ancient perspective: hOS hA PARA
>TOU QEOU LABWN EXEI TAUTA TOIS EPIDEOMENOIS XORHGWN QEOS GINETAI TWN LAMBANANTWN one who ministers to the needy what one has received from God proves to be
a god to the recipients..."

- from a Jehovah's Witness posting on an online discussion board.

Christian writer Robert Bowman responds:

One should not rest theological conclusions on tersely written
lexicon entries, especially when those terse comments are
problematic. Also, contrary to your assertion, BDAG often fails to
reflect "the latest Greek scholarship." Case in point: your quotation of BDAG. 

As to the substance of what the article says, I will offer some
brief comments:

"2. Some writings in our lit. use the word q. w. ref. to Christ
(without necessarily equating Christ with the Father, and therefore
in harmony w. the Shema of Israel Dt 6:4; cp. Mk 10:18 and 4a
below), though the interpretation of some of the pass. is in debate."

The above comment is confusing. It assumes without argument or
explanation that equating Christ with the Father would be out of
harmony with the Shema. It depends on what "equating" means. Does the author mean *identifying* Christ *as* the Father _per se_? Doing so would not compromise any form of monotheism because it would be modalistic. Does the author mean treating Christ as a second God equal in status to the Father? That would be out of harmony with the Shema. If that is what he meant, I would agree with his statement but would point out that it doesn't challenge the orthodox position. We don't think Christ is a second, separate God. Unfortunately, it appears that the author(s) of this entry have the first meaning in mind (see below), which shows they are simply confused.


"In Mosaic and Gr-Rom. traditions the fundamental semantic component in the understanding of deity is the factor of performance, namely saviorhood or extraordinary contributions to one's society. Dg. 10:6 defines the ancient perspective: o]j a] para. tou/ qeou/ la,bwn
e;cei, tau/ta toi/j evpideome,noij corhgw/n, qeo.j gi,netai tw/n lambana,ntwn one who ministers to the needy what one has received from God proves to be a god to the recipients (cp. Sb III, 6263, 27f of a mother). Such understanding led to the extension of the mng. of q. to pers. who elicit special reverence (cp. pass. under 4 below; a similar development can be observed in the use of se,bomai and cognates)."

It is suspicious when an author tells us that a particular view is
fundamental in "Mosaic...traditions" but then fails to quote Moses
or anyone clearly in his tradition in support of the assertion.

"In Ro 9:5 the interpr. is complicated by demand of punctuation
marks in printed texts. If a period is placed before o` w'n ktl.,
the doxology refers to God as defined in Israel (so EAbbot, JBL 1,
1881, 81-154; 3, 1883, 90-112; RLipsius; HHoltzmann, Ntl. Theol.(2 ) II 1911, 99f; EGünther, StKr 73, 1900, 636-44; FBurkitt, JTS 5, 1904, 451-55; Jülicher; PFeine, Theol. d. NTs(6 )'34, 176 et al.; RSV text; NRSV mg.). A special consideration in favor of this
interpretation is the status assigned to Christ in 1 Cor 15:25-28
and the probability that Paul is not likely to have violated the
injunction in Dt 5:7.—If a comma is used in the same place, the
reference is to Christ (so BWeiss; EBröse, NKZ 10, 1899, 645-57 et al.; NRSV text; RSV mg. S. also eivmi, 1.—Undecided: THaering.—The transposition by the Socinian scholar JSchlichting [died 1661] w-n o`=`to whom belongs' was revived by JWeiss, D. Urchristentum 1917, 363; WWrede, Pls 1905, 82; CStrömman, ZNW 8, 1907, 319f)."

It appears from this part of the entry that the author(s) assume
that designating Christ as "QEOS over all" would violate the First
Commandment (Deut. 5:7). This is a bizarre claim in a work
supposedly produced to service the Christian community. It proves
theological bias has influenced the reference work here (as it does
elsewhere). Again, as I explain above, describing Christ as God in
the highest sense would not violate the Shema or the First
Commandment UNLESS one understands this description to mean that he is a second, separate God. Likewise, the claim that designating Christ as QEOS in Romans 9:5 would contradict 1 Corinthians 15:25-28 is unsupported by any argument and theologically prejudicial.

It is also evident that this entry does NOT represent "the latest
Greek scholarship." The secondary sources all date from the
nineteenth and early twentieth century, except for inserted
references to the RSV and NRSV.

"In 2 Pt 1:1; 1J 5:20 the interpretation is open to question (but
cp. ISmyrna McCabe .0010, 100 o` qeo.j kai. swth.r VAnti,ocoj)."

Again, no recent Greek scholarship reflected here.


"In any event, q. certainly refers to Christ, as one who manifests
primary characteristics of deity, in the foll. NT pass.: J 1:1b (w.
o` qeo,j 1:1a, which refers to God in the monotheistic context of
Israel's tradition. On the problem raised by such attribution s. J
10:34 [cp. Ex 7:1; Ps 81:6]; on qeo,j w. and without the article,
acc. to whether it means God or the Logos, s. Philo, Somn. 1, 229f; JGriffiths, ET 62, '50/51, 314-16; BMetzger, ET 63, '51/52, 125f), 18b."

The scholarship is somewhat more recent here, extending up to the early 1950s (a half century after the latest edition!). That's still
far too behind the times to support your characterization.

I have commented at length elsewhere on the tendentious and
misleading nature of these comments. To run to Exodus 7:1 to explain John 1:1 is simply indefensible. The LOGOS is called QEOS in a context where there do not yet exist any physical beings to which he might have appeared as representing God (the usual spin based on Exodus 7:1). That is, the LOGOS was QEOS in the beginning, before all things were created (vv. 1-3). Indeed, the LOGOS is called QEOS in the context of the original creation, as the one in whom we are to find our life and light (vv. 3-5).

I have also treated elsewhere the citation of Psalm 82:6 (81:6 LXX)
in John 10:34-36. Again, to run to another passage because it seems more conducive to one's theological assumptions instead of
addressing the text at hand in its own context is hermeneutically
flawed.

Much more could be said on this subject, but the key points here are that the entry's comments on John 1:1 are selective, biased, and not reflective of recent scholarship.

"o` ku,rio,j mou kai. o` qeo,j mou my Lord and my God! (nom. w.
art.=voc.; s. beg. of this entry.—On a resurrection as proof of
divinity cp. Diog. L. 8, 41, who quotes Hermippus: Pythagoras
returns from a journey to Hades and appears among his followers
[eivse,rcesqai eivj th.n evkklhsi,an], and they consider him qei/o,n
tina) J 20:28 (on the combination of ku,rioj and qeo,j s. 3c below)."

Although I disagree with BDAG in its attempt to explain away (that's what it is) the language of John 20:28 using the account about Pythagoras (!), since John's milieu is Jewish and his religious canon is the Old Testament, I note that BDAG acknowledges that in
John 20:28 QEOS "certainly refers to Christ." Do you agree?

"Tit 2:13 $me,gaj q.%. Hb 1:8, 9 (in a quot. fr. Ps 44:7, 8). S.
TGlasson, NTS 12, '66, 270-72. Jd 5 P(72)."

Again, I note that BDAG acknowledges that Christ is certainly called QEOS in Titus 2:13 and Hebrews 1:8-9. Do you agree?

"But above all Ignatius calls Christ qeo,j in many pass.: qeo.j
VIhsou/j Cristo,j ITr 7:1; Cristo.j qeo,j ISm 10:1. o` qeo.j h`mw/n
IEph ins; 15:3; 18:2; IRo ins (twice); 3:3; IPol 8:3; to. pa,qoj
tou/ qeou/ mou IRo 6:3. evn ai [mati qeou/ IEph 1:1. evn sarki.
geno,menoj qeo,j 7:2. qeo.j avnqrwpi,nwj fanerou,menoj 19:3. qeo.j
o` ou[twj u`ma/j sofi,saj ISm 1:1.—Hdb. exc. 193f; MRackl, Die
Christologie d. hl. Ign. v. Ant. 1914. o` qeo,j mou Criste. VIhsou/
AcPl Ha 3, 10; Cristo.j VIhsou/j o` qÎeo,jÐ 6, 24; cp. ln. 34 (also
cp. Just., A I, 63, 15, D. 63, 5 al.; Tat. 13, 3; Ath. 24, 1; Mel.,
P. 4, 28 al.).—SLösch, Deitas Jesu u. antike Apotheose '33. Cp.
AWlosk, Römischer Kaiserkult '78."

BDAG agrees that Ignatius frequently called Christ QEOS. Odd, isn't it, that once the field of texts goes outside the Bible the author (s) feel no need to offer an explanation for the designation of
Christ as QEOS?

All in all, the BDAG entry here is seriously deficient, both in its
argumentation and in its scholarship. Still, I think you will have
to disagree with it on at least a couple of texts.

(from a post on Rob Bowman's Jehovah's Witness discussion board, December 17, 2005).

Hans-Jürgen Becker "ein Gott war der Logos

"a god was the Logos

"Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Jürgen Becker"

- New World Translation, 1984, Appendix 6A.

 

It is true that Becker renders John 1:1c in German as "ein Gott," and he appears to have done so on the basis of the anarthrous theos.  But if one reads his accompanying commentary, it is clear that he does not regard the Logos as "a god" in the way the Watchtower does.

After discussing the words of creation spoken in Genesis 1:1, Becker says:

Joh 1,1 states at the very point of the Originating Expression this fact:  That the Logos was in the Beginning; that is, at the creation of the world, he already was...V 1 does not speculate about pre-existent things, but declares: The world which we know (V 3) came about by the creative mediation of the Logos, who was with God already before the universe came to be" (Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, p. 72).

Becker does see a hyper-subordination of the Logos to ho theos in John's Gospel, and says the Father and the Son are not of the same rank (German: Stufe).  Becker bases this view, apparently, on Philo's distinction between ho theos and theos, as do other German scholars of his generation (e.g., Haenchen). Few modern Biblical scholars would agree with Becker on this point.

But Becker goes on to say that the Logos deserves to be called "God" due to his divine nature (Gottlicher Art).  He is a divine Person who is, "at the same time the only Mediator of the one God."  And, if one considers his comments in context, Becker does not mean "divine" to mean anything less than eternal and coeval with God: 

Through this Mediator all things came to be.  In contrast to Genesis 1:1, the creation comes into existence not directly from God, but from the Logos.  This corresponds with the Wisdom literature...There is no past creation of the Logos.  The totality of Creation is his work" (Ibid).

Thus, Becker does not understand his translation to imply that the Logos was a created being.  When Becker says that the Logos has a "divine Nature" and is a "divine Person," he means the Son has the same eternal nature as God.  His emphasis on the distinction between theos and ho theos is to safeguard against modalism, not Trinitarianism.

Jason BeDuhn "The bottom line is that "The Word was a god" is exactly what the Greek says. "The Word was divine" is a possible meaning of this Greek phrasing. "The Word was God" is almost certainly ruled out by the phrasing John uses, and it is not equivalent to "The Word was divine" because without any justification in the original Greek it narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)."

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness website

Unlike most of the scholars used by Jehovah's Witnesses, DeBuhn has not been quoted out of context.  He does, indeed, believe the NWT and KIT to be generally accurate, and uses the latter when teaching Greek at Northern Arizona University.

BeDuhn received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.  This degree requires an intermediate level of competence in Greek.  BeDuhn's PhD from the University of Indiana is in Comparative Religious Studies, not in Biblical languages.  He is not recognized in the scholarly community as an expert in Biblical Greek.  

This is not to say that BeDuhn is to be dismissed lightly.  He is certainly knowledgeable in Greek, and says that he is doing work on untranslated Greek texts.  He says that he is "not a theologian," by which he means, I suppose, that he is not biased in favor of one theological viewpoint, but rather approaches the text purely from a grammatical standpoint.  However, it is questionable whether one approaching the text from a professed "non-theological" standpoint is any less free from bias than one professing a theological commitment; nor that a theological commitment necessarily precludes an objective analysis.  Further, Dr. BeDuhn as a "non-theologian" may limit his familiarity with much relevant scholarship (see, for example, Dr. BeDuhn's statement that he is unaware of who Murray J. Harris is, below).

BeDuhn argues that the traditional translation is extremely "unlikely" from a grammatical standpoint.  To my knowledge, however, Dr. DeBuhn has not interacted publicly with the majority of scholarship on this topic (a summary of which you may find here) which his views contradict.  This includes his recent book, Truth in Translation..  Further, his statement that the traditional rendering "narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)" seems a strawman argument: Those who argue that theos has a qualitative force in John 1:1c do not argue that Jesus is the individual, God, but rather that he possesses all the qualities or attributes of God.  Trinitarians could even accept Dr. BeDuhn's substitution of "categorical" for Harner's "qualitative," so long was we understand that for John, the category that includes the true God is a category containing only one Being (see Harris, Jesus as God, p. 298, n93).

BeDuhn attempted to defend the NWT to Catholic apologist John Pacheco.  You'll find their discussion of John 1:1 here.  You will notice that a necessary presupposition of BeDuhn's argument is that John's beliefs about God were not consistent with those professed in Deuteronomy.  John is not "concerned" with the radical monotheistic commitment of Deuteronomy, BeDuhn suggests.  He tells us that Paul does not "control" what John meant and vice versa.  However, those who hold to the harmony of Scripture - as do Jehovah's Witnesses - do not accept this necessary presupposition.  Therefore both Trinitarians and Witnesses should reject his conclusions, for they are based on presuppositions with which we cannot agree.

Finally, BeDuhn prefers the translation "and the Word was divine."  Dr. BeDuhn has stated in a private email that this rendering "leaves open" a Trinitarian solution (BeDuhn to Steven S. 12/26/2001).  In this same email, he states that he does not know who Murray J. Harris is.  It would seem that any cogent defense of Dr. BeDuhn's views would require interaction with Harris' thorough survey and analysis in his book, Jesus as God (see particularly Harris' comments regarding "the Word was divine," p. 63ff).

BeDuhn sees "divine" as merely meaning a non-physical being, which may be the true God or lesser spirit beings, such as angels.  We may ask, however, if John's intended meaning was "divine" simply in the sense of a non-physical being, why he did not use the Greek word theios ("divine"), which would have expressed this sense in unambiguous terms?

You may find a lengthy dialog between Dr. BeDuhn and me here.

Steven T. Byington

STEVEN T. BYINGTON: (Steven T. Byington translated the version known as "The Bible in Living English"). 

"If you are digging for excellent or suggestive renderings this is among the richer mines." (Christian Century, "Review of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures," November 1, 1950 page 1296).

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness website

 

When read in context, Mr. Byington's comments are rather less than enthusiastic about the merits of the NWT:

"The book does not give enjoyable continuous reading; but if you are digging for excellent or suggestive renderings, this is among the richer mines."

Read Mr. Byington's full review of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures and his interaction with the Watchtower here.

 

Vivian Capel Capel, V.21st Century New Testament. The Literal/Free 
Dual translation: "At the beginning of Creation, there dwelt with God a mighty spirit, the Marshal, who produced all things in their order."

- from a Jehovah's Witness posting on an online discussion board.

Mr. Capel's idiosyncratic translation is not regarded as authoritative by Biblical scholars.  His translation of John 1:1 is unique, so far as I'm aware, in rendering Logos as "Marshal," which he bases not on any known Greek lexicon, but on his theological conclusions about the Son's rank as supreme created angel.

Mr. Capel has not provided his readers with his qualifications as a translator.  Indeed, I have been able to learn very little about him, other than the fact that he is one of Jehovah's Witnesses and that he produced his translation over a period of four years.  His being a Witness, of course, does not preclude him from being a legitimate scholar, but the fact that his translation has not been recognized as authoritative and that he apparently lacks an advanced degree in Greek studies would seem to indicate that he is not.

It remains for Witnesses who cite his translation in support of the NWT to prove that he is a scholar worth considering, and not a member of a particular religious sect who has produced a Bible that happens to line up perfectly with his beliefs.

Lant Carpenter “a God” - Lant Carpenter, LL.D (in Unitarianism in the Gospels [London: C. Stower, 1809], 156).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

The views of a 19th Century Unitarian are interesting from an historical perspective, but not convincing in demonstrating the proper translation of John 1:1c.  Carpenter did not have the benefit of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek that emerged over the past 100 years; he did not have Colwell or Harner's studies available to him, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the subject.

Carpenter is not regarded as authoritative by modern Biblical scholars.  They do not cite the work quoted by Mr. Stafford, nor any other work by Carpenter.

William D. Chamberlain "An Exegetical Grammar Of The Greek New Testament, William D Chamberlain, page 57:

 

d. A qualitative force is often expressed by the absence of the article: en tois propsetais (Heb. 1:1), 'in the prophets,' calls attention to a particular group, while en uio (Heb. 1:2), 'in son,' calls attention to the rank of the Son as a 'spokesman' for God. The ARV in trying to bring out the force of this phrase translates it, 'in his Son,' italicizing 'his.'

 

The predicate of a sentence may be recognized by the absence of the article: theos en ho logos (Jn. 1:1), the Word was God; kai ho logos sarx egento (Jn. 1:14), 'And the Word became flesh'; esontai oi eschatoi protoi (Mt. 20 :16), 'the last shall be first.' The article with each of these predicate nouns would equate them and make them interchangeable, e. g., ho theos en ho logos would make God and the Word identical. The effect of this can be seen in ho theos agape estin (1 Jn. 4 :8), 'God is love.' As the sentence now stands 'love' describes a primary quality of God; the article he with agape would make God and love equivalents, e. g., God would possess no qualities not subsumed under love.

 

"Summary

The primary function of the article is to make something definite. It may point out something new to the discussion, or something already mentioned.  "Theos en ho logos" is describing the quality of the Logos-Word in that he possessed divine or divinity as the only begotten son of God who was a spirit being like God but not identical to Jehovah God"

 

William D.Chamberlain was professor of New Testament language and literature at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  It is a text book on Greek grammar that has been recommended by Bruce Metzger.

- from a Jehovah's Witness website.

The passage, as quoted by the Jehovah's Witness website, concludes with  the following sentence:

"Theos en ho logos" is describing the quality of the Logos-Word in that he possessed divine or divinity as the only begotten son of God who was a spirit being like God but not identical to Jehovah God"

This sentence does not appear in the Chamberlain's Grammar.  This addition may be the inadvertent inclusion of the apologist's own remarks - although the placement of the final quotation mark, followed by the biographical information suggests something more intentional.

The anonymous author correctly notes that Bruce Metzger expresses high regard for Chamberlain's Grammar, as do several other Evangelical scholars.

The following endorsements appear on the dust jacket of Chamberlain's Grammar:

BRUCE M. METZGER "as a comprehensive and helpful grammar written to enable the average minister to feel at home in the Greek New Testament."

NED B. STONEHOUSE "a convenient handbook for the student who is seeking to apply his knowledge of the fundamentals of Greek grammar in the exegetical study of the New Testament."

WILLIAM F. ARNDT  "To all pastors and theological students who would like to review the chief grammatical facts pertaining to the Greek of the New Testament and who are looking for a somewhat new approach, we cordially recommend this book."

It would seem odd that a professor at a Presbyterian Seminary would understand John 1:1 in the same manner as the Watchtower, let alone have such a view endorsed by the likes of Metzger, Stonehouse, and Arndt.

In point of fact, Chamberlain is strictly orthodox in his theology, and so is his grammar. The quoted section of Chamberlain's Grammar discusses the absence of the article in copulative phrases to signify the non-convertibility of the subject and predicate nominative. This is precisely the same point made by Julius Mantey - that is, had John used the article with theos, he would have been asserting a form of modalism - that there was nothing of God apart from the Word.

Chamberlain's orthodox views are implicit in the quoted passage (if we remove the additional sentence), and are explicit in Chamberlain's other works dating from the same time period (2).

Witnesses, then, may use Chamberlain's words to support their view, if they choose to pour their own meanings into them, or worse add their own words to Chamberlain's.  However, Chamberlain's Grammar,  as he intended it to be read, does not support the NWT, but rather upholds the traditional understanding of John 1:1.

E.C. Colwell "I understand that a group of Bible scholars made comparison of various Bible translations. Was the New World Translation included in this study?

"It appears that what your letter inquires about is a book written by Professor Ernest Cadman Colwell, entitled "What Is the Best New Testament?" This book is published by the Chicago University Press and was first printed in 1952. In 1947 Professor Colwell made a study of a number of translations and put them to the test as to sixty-four citations in the book of John. The book contains what Professor Colwell considers the correct rendering of each of those sixty-four citations. The New World Translation was not released until 1950, hence Professor Colwell could not include this translation in his list of tested ones.
However, if any reader will look up what Professor Colwell has to say about these sixty-four citations and will compare these with the New World Translation he will see that the New World Translation merits a score of sixty-four along with Dr. Goodspeed's translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, which the book gives a perfect score of sixty-four. Colwell's book being first published in 1952, it was not available until two years after the release of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, which occurred in 1950 at Yankee Stadium. Consequently the New World Bible Translation Committee did not have Colwell' s book for reference when work on the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was being done."


-
Question From Readers, The Watchtower Jan 1, 1963, p.95

 

The Watchtower's claim is that in Colwell's book, the 64 citations represent what Colwell "considers the correct rendering of each."  The word "rendering" implies that Colwell was using the term "accurate" in the sense of an accurate English translation of the Greek.  Accuracy in translation is clearly intended by the reader asking the question, and there is nothing in the Watchtower's response to indicate otherwise.

But reading Colwell's chapter, "How Accurate is your New Testament?," it is clear that he means "accurate" in a different sense:

If you care about your New Testament," you will want to know what 'make' it is, who translated it, and, above all, how accurate it is.  The translator may diminish, but he cannot materially increase, the accuracy of the particular Greek New Testament from which he makes his translation.  In the matter of accuracy, therefore, the primary question is: "How accurate a New Testament was it translated from? (Colwell, What is the Best New Testament, p. 85).

Thus, Colwell's primary concern in ranking New Testament translations was not how accurately the English reflected the underlying Greek, but from which edition of the Greek New Testament the translation was made.  Colwell believed the Textus Receptus, the Greek New Testament from which the KJV was translated, was the "worst or most corrupt text" (p. 86), while the Westcott Hort was the "best or more accurate text" (ibid.).

Colwell defined his methodology as follows:

The ranking of these translations was based originally on the translator's own statements as to their source; but this has been checked and corrected by a test as to the relationship of each on of these translations to two forms of the Greek New Testatment - The Westcott Hort text and the Textus Recptus or Received Test.  I carried out this test for the entire Gospel of John.  In this gospel the two Greek texts were compared verse by verse; and from the large list of differences noted, sixty-four passages were selected in which even the freest English translation must show which to the two Greek texts it supports (ibid.).

Here, again, one can see that the underlying text was Colwell's criteria for "accuracy."  The more closely a translation matched Westcott Hort (WH), the higher the score.  The more closely a translation matched Textus Receptus (TR), the lower the score.  That Colwell was not concerned with an accurate translation into English is apparent when he says, "even the freest English translation must show which of the two Greek texts it supports."  Thus, for example, for John 1:18, Colwell is not comparing how the entire verse is rendered, but which variant is being translated:

TR:  only-begotten Son

WH: only-begotten God (Ibid., p. 100)

The allowance for a "free" translation is most apparent in the Goodspeed translation, which Colwell ranks at the top of his list with a score of 64.  John 1:18 in Goodspeed's translation reads, "it is the divine Only Son."

It has been suggested by some JW apologists that Colwell is concerned not only with GNT on which the translation was based, but also on how well the translation rendered the Greek.  This is simply not true, as the evidence above demonstrates.  Colwell's final ranking appears in Table 1 on page 87, and it demonstrates the scores were based solely on whether the basis of the text was WH or TR (or could not be determined):

Translation                    WH               TR          Other

Goodspeed         64          0

Twentieth Century 59          4        1

Westminster       58          6

American Revised  58          6

English Revised   57          7

Revised Standard  56          8

Moffatt           56          7        1

Riverside         55          9

Weymouth          53          11

Spencer           51          13

Basic English     51          12       1

Ferrar Edition    50          14       1

Centenary         47          16       1

Confraternity     35          27       2

Knox              33          29       2

Challoner         25          37       2

King James         0          64

Thus, the WT's use of Colwell to substantiate the accuracy of the NWT's English translation cannot be justified.  It is true that because the NWT is based on the WH text, the NWT would score 64 on Colwell's scale.  But the WT is not citing Colwell to demonstrate which GNT underlies its translation, but to endorse its accurate rendering of the text.  This is at best a gross misunderstanding of Colwell, and at worst, blatant deception.

Frederick Danker Frederick Danker (of BDAG fame): "Not to be snubbed is the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Rendered from the Original by the New World Bible Translation Committee (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tact Society of New York, Inc. 1950 - 1963).  The translation of the New Testament appeared first (1950) and was then combined in 1963 with the various volumes of the Old Testament (1953, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1960).  The "orthodox" do not possess all the truth, yet one does well to "test the spirits" (Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, p. 194).

- from a Jehovah's Witness website.

Dr. Danker is certainly a recognized scholar and he has been quoted accurately.  It will be noted that his lukewarm comments about the NWT are with regard to the Old Testament.  Few scholars have complained about the Watchtower inserting its dogma into the Hebrew Scriptures.  Indeed, since the OT contains far fewer explicit Scriptures teaching the orthodox doctrines that the Watchtower denies - Christ's deity; the existence of the soul; and hellfire - it is not surprising that the NWT Hebrew Scriptures are relatively bias-free.

Dr. Danker, of course, says nothing of the relative merits of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures - he simply notes that the NT appeared prior to the Hebrew Scriptures.

Dr. Danker's estimation that the NWT Old Testament should not be "snubbed" is not shared by other scholars.  H. H. Rowley, an eminent Old Testament scholar from England, wrote regarding the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures:

"The translation is marked by a wooden literalism which will only exasperate any intelligent reader - if such it finds - and instead of showing reverence for the Bible which the translators profess, it is an insult to the Word of God" (Rowley, H.H., "Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the Bible" The Expository Times 67:107, Jan. 1956).

See also the comments of Dr. Goodspeed as well.

Regarding Dr. Danker's contribution to BDAG on theos in John 1:1, see here.

C. H. Dodd Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: "A possible translation. . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted." However, The New English Bible does not render the verse that way. Rather, John 1:1 in that version reads: "When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was." Why did the translation committee not choose the simpler rendering? Professor Dodd answers: "The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole."— Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, Volume 28, January 1977.

- from a Jehovah's Witness posting on an online discussion board.

Here are Dodd's comments in full:

"If the translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible translation would be, ‘The Word was a god.’ As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted, and to pagan Greeks who heard early Christian language, Theos en o Logos, might have seemed a perfectly sensible statement. The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole" (The Bible Translator, Vol. 28, No. 1, Jan. 1977).

Dodd doesn't say "a god" is an "acceptable" translation. He says it can't be faulted as a "literal" translation, but there's a big difference. Notice how Dodd qualifies the quote I provided: "If translation..." His point is that translation is not merely a wooden substitution of one English word for one Greek word. If it were, "a god" could not be "faulted." However, "only grammatical considerations" do not a proper translation make!

Dodd cites several examples where theos has the meaning of the "essence" of God (p. 104). He then concludes that the NEB translation "What God was the Word also was" is "an attempt" to get at the idea that John was expressing - namely, that in every sense that the Father is God, the Logos is also God (p. 104).

In this view, Dodd is in agreement with the overwhelming number of commentators and grammarians who've written on this subject

If the WT and Witness apologists use Dodd to defend the NWT translation in the face of accusations that it is ungrammatical, I cannot find fault with such a citation. However, that's not what this Jehovah's Witness was saying. He was advocating the NWT as a translation supported by scholars like Dodd. His selective quotation gives the impression that Dodd believes such a translation might be proper or acceptable, when this is not the case at all.

MacLean Gilmour "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 Use and Abuse of the Book of Revelation," Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966).

- Awake! (March 22, 1987)

Here are Gilmour's comments in full:

"In 1950 the Jehovah's Witnesses published their New World Translation Of The New Testament, and the preparation of the New World Old Testament translation is now far advanced. The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed -a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek and that made the Westcott and Hort Greek text basic to their translation. It is clear that doctrinal considerations influenced many turns of phrase, but the work is no crack-pot or pseudo-historical fraud" ("The Use and Abuse of the Book of Revelation," Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966).

Aside from the negative portrayal of "doctrinal considerations," Mr. Gilmour made several factual errors in his comments about the NWT, indicating that he may not have been particularly familiar with the work he was reviewing (for more information, see Ian Croft's "The New World Translation and its Critics").

Edgar J. Goodspeed "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."

- Awake! (March 22, 1987).  This is reported to be a quote from a personal letter from Goodspeed to the WTB&TS

Bill Cetnar, who worked at Watchtower Headquarters in New York during the period when the New World Translation was being prepared, was sent to interview Dr. Goodspeed in March, 1954 to seek his comments on the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures. Cetnar writes:

"During the two-hour long visit with him it was obvious that he knew the volume well, because he could cite the pages where the readings he objected to were found. One reading he pointed out as especially awkward and grammatically poor was in Judges 14:3 where Samson is made to say: `Her get for me....' As I left, Dr. Goodspeed was asked if he would recommend the translation for the general public He answered, `No, I'm afraid I could not do that. The grammar is regrettable. Be careful on the grammar. Be sure you have that right" (Cetnar, W.I. & J., Questions For Jehovah's Witnesses Who Love The Truth [Kunkletown, Pennsylvania: W.I. Cetnar, 1983], p. 64).

Dr. Goodspeed was, of course, not speaking here about the Greek (New Testament) Scriptures, but about the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures, while his earlier, favorable comments related to the Greek Scriptures.  However, as Robert Bowman notes in his book, Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses (Baker Books, 1991), there is some doubt as to the authenticity of Goodspeed's letter.  The letter does not bear a written signature and appears to be a copy of the original, if such ever existed (to date, the Society has not produced a signed original).  Second, though the letter was dated 1950, it was not used by the Society as an endorsement of the NWT until 1982.  Third, the letter contains several very minor criticisms of the NWT, but none relating to the more controversial translations - which would seem odd, in that Goodspeed's own translation differed dramatically with the NWT in several key texts.  Finally, Dr. Walter Martin, whom Bowman knew, reported that Goodspeed forthrightly criticized the NWT rendering of John 1:1 in a personal conversation in 1958.  Thus, there is no sure evidence that Goodspeed actually endorsed the NWT; there is solid evidence that he refused to endorse the NWT Hebrews Scriptures, and suggestive circumstantial evidence that he did not approve of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures, either.

Johannes Greber "and the Word was a god."

- Johannes Greber, The NewTestament - a NewTranslation and Explanation Based on the Oldest Manuscripts

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Watchtower Society occasionally used the translation of the New Testament by Johannes Greber to support their similar renderings of John 1:1 and Matthew 27:52-53. 

In 1983 they officially stopped using his translation because of its "close rapport with spiritism." The information that Geber was a spiritist was readily available to the Society's writers. In 1955 and 1956 the Society's writers themselves wrote of Greber's spiritism. Their use of Greber's translation to support their New World Translation and their explanations for it is evidence of shallow scholarship.

For more information, see here.

S. G. Green "Then this Handbook adds some sentences to illustrate this general rule regarding an anarthrous predicate, such as, "thy word is truth," "the Word was God," "God is love": and next the Handbook says: "Had the article been employed with the predicate in the above case, the sentences would have read thus:..Thy Word is the Truth, and nothing else can be so described; the Word was the entire Godhead, and God and Love are identical, so that in fact Love is God." Such an explanation is, in itself, an unintended admission that "the Word" of John 1:1 is not the same god as the God with whom the Word is said to be. Hence, the omitting of the article in the predicate of the simple sentence is shown to be only a general rule, and not one that holds in every case. One such case where that general rule does not hold true is John 1:1. The definite article "the" was there omitted, but not according to that general rule; it was not omitted with the idea that it should be understood by the reader."

- New World Translation, 1971, p. 1362 (appendix on John 1:1, quoting Green's Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament, p. 178).

It is true that in all likelihood, John did not omit the article solely or even primarily to indicate that theos in John 1:1c was the predicate nominative, as opposed to the subject (so Harris, p. 61).  Few scholars have ever argued that such was the case (click here for a grammatical analysis and summary of scholarship on John 1:1c).

The question, then, is what did John mean by the anarthrous theos?  The overwhelming majority of scholars who've addressed the subject understand John to be emphasizing the qualities or character of the Logos, particularly given that the noun is not only anarthrous, but preverbal as well.  The Watchtower, too, recognizes the qualitative aspects of theos in John 1:1c, though it differs from what most scholars mean by the term.

A larger issue, however, is the accusation that Green's analysis is "an unintended admission that 'the Word' is not the same god as the God."  Such a statement indicates that the Watchtower really doesn't understand Green's comments at all.  Green is demonstrating a rather elementary point of Greek grammar - that when two nouns are joined by a form of the verb 'to be,' if they both have the article, the clause may be termed a "convertible proposition."  In a convertible proposition, the two nouns are equivalent.  For example, "Jesus is the Son of God" is convertible - Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of God is Jesus.  The two terms are exactly equivalent.

Green's point is that John 1:1c is not convertible - if it were (that is, if theos were articular), John would have been asserting an exact equivalence between the God and the Word.  As Green puts it would mean that "the Word was the entire Godhead."  All of God would have been the Word, and the Word would have been the totality of God (to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit).  To argue that this statement is a tacit admission that the Word is "not the same god as the God" is both a strawman (because it fails to address the Trinitarian view of the Word's relationship to the Godhead) and a circular argument.  For only by assuming that the "Godhead" is one Person can one conclude that the Word cannot be the God He is with.

The Watchtower's confusion about what constitutes a convertible proposition may be seen in this same appendix, where we find on the one hand, "We agree with Dr. A. T. Robertson when he says: 'God and love are not convertible terms any more than God and Logos" (NWT, 1971, p. 1362); and on the other, "The proposition 'And the Word was a god' is a convertible one" (IBID, p. 1363).  Theos ên ho logos either is or is not a convertible proposition; it cannot be both.

Ernst Haenchen "After giving as a translation of John 1:1c "and divine (of the category divinity) was the Word," Haenchen goes on to state: "In this instance, the verb ‘was’ ([en]) simply expresses predication. And the predicate noun must accordingly be more carefully observed: [the·os´] is not the same thing as [ho the·os´] (‘divine’ is not the same thing as ‘God’)." (pp. 110, 111)"

- Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 2, "Jesus Christ"

The full citation of this quotation is:  Ernst Haenchen, Das Johannesevangelium. Ein Kommentar, 1984, John 1. A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 1-6, translated by Robert W. Funk.

If one reads his Commentary in its entirety, one discovers that Haenchen, like many German scholars of his generation (e.g., Becker), believes that John subordinates the Son of God to the Father.  However, in the very same paragraph quoted by the Watchtower, we see that Haenchen's view of subordination is not one of class of being, but of rank and order:

But there was no rivalry between the Logos as theos and as ho theos (in English the distinction is expressed by "divine" and "God"); the new (Christian) Faith does not conflict with the old monotheistic faith. That becomes clearer in verse 1c: "and divine in essence [German: Gott von Art]  was the Logos" In this instance, the verb "was" (en) simply expresses predication...

Funk's translation of "Gott von Art" as "divine (of the category divine)" is highly misleading.  For a discussion on the proper translation of this term, see the entry for Siegfried Schultz.

Earlier, Haenchen says that the Logos "existed before the creation and was not therefore created; it shared the highest of all distinctions with 'God, the Father' himself: the 'Logos' is eternal" (p. 108).

The Watchtower seems unaware (or uncaring) about the subtleties of Haenchen's Commentary.  The distinction he draws between the theos and ho theos is intended to prevent a modalistic equating of the two - a distinction upheld by Trinitarians.  The Watchtower is, apparently, content to use the words of scholars when they seem to support its theology, even when the meaning of those words does not.

Phillip B. Harner

In John 1:1, I think that the qualitative force of the predicate is so prominent that the noun cannot be regarded as definite.

- Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1985, p. 1140  (appendix on John 1:1, quoting Harner's JBL article, "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1", p. 85).

When reading Harner's article, it becomes abundantly clear that he in no way supports the Watchtower translation. 

 

Harner stresses that when considering whether a pre-verbal predicate noun is definite, indefinite, or qualitative, it is important to consider how the writer might have expressed his intentions using another, and possibly less ambiguous, syntax as well as what he actually wrote.  Thus, with John 1:1c, Harner notes the following possibilities:

 

A.  hO LOGOS ÊN hO THEOS

B.  THEOS ÊN hO LOGOS

C.  hO LOGOS THEOS ÊN 

D.  hO LOGOS ÊN THEOS

E.  hO LOGOS ÊN THEIOS

 

Clause A, with an arthrous predicate, would mean that logos and theos are equivalent and interchangeable.  There would be no ho theos which is not also ho logos.  But this equation of the two would contradict the preceding clause of 1:1, in which John writes that`o logoV hn proV ton qeon.  This clause suggests relationship, and thus some form of "personal" differentiation, between the two (Harner, p. 84-85).

So, Harner, in agreement with Robertson, Dana & Mantey, and most other scholars cited in this article, notes that if both theos and logos were articular, the two terms would be convertible.  Since John did not use this syntax, his intended meaning must be something else.  Harner continues:

 

Clause D, with the verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that the logos was "a god" or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of theos but as a distinct being from ho theos.  Clause E would be an attenuated form of D.  It would mean that the logos was "divine," without specifying further in what way or to what extent it was divine.  It could also imply that the logos, being only theios, was subordinate to theos (IBID).

Thus, Harner notes that had John wished to express the idea that the logos was "a god," or a divine being distinct from ho theos, he had at least two unambiguous ways of doing so.  Since he did not, we may conclude that John in all likelihood chose the syntax he did because he wished to express something else with regard to the logos.

 

Clauses B and C, with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning.  They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos.  There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite.  This would make B and C equivalent to A, and like A they would then contradict the preceding clause of 1:1 (IBID).

Note here that Harner equates a definite semantic force in a pre-verbal PN without the article to an articular noun.  He sees both forms as examples of a convertible proposition.  This is the major point of contention between scholars who regard theos in 1:1c as definite as opposed to those who see it as qualitative.  Scholars on both sides interpret this clause in more or less the same way, as Harner himself notes:  "In many cases their [commentators'] interpretations agree with the explanation that is given above" (IBID).  Those who agree with Harner reject a definite force because they view it as semantically the same as a convertible proposition, which would present problems with regard to the previous clause (1:1b).  Those who view theos as definite believe the absence of the article precludes the possibility of convertibility.  Yet both generally agree that the meaning of 1:1c is as Harner himself translates it: "The Word had the same nature as God" (IBID, p. 87).

 

Harner continues:

 

As John has just spoken in terms of relationship and differentiation between ho logos and ho theos, he would imply in B or C that they share the same nature as belonging to the reality theos.  Clauses B and C are identical in meaning but differ slightly in emphasis.  C would mean that the logos (rather than something else) had the nature of theos.  B means that the logos had the nature of theos (rather than something else).  In this clause, the form that John actually uses, the word theos is placed at the beginning for emphasis (IBID, p. 85).

Thus, Harner says that not only is John attributing the nature of theos to the logos, but emphasizes that nature by placing theos at the head of the clause.  The emphasis of theos would seem unaccountable if John intended an indefinite nuance, but is perfectly understandable if theos is qualitative, signifying that the Son's nature is that of God.

Murray J. Harris "From the point of view of grammar alone, qeoV hn`o logoV could be rendered 'the Word was a god'...But the theological context, viz., John's monotheism, makes this rendering of 1:1c impossible" (Harris, Jesus as God, p. 60).  Harris's objection to the NWT rendering is not based on grammar, but on his theology.

- from an email dialog with the webmaster of the now-defunct Trinity Exposed Website.

The "..." in the previous quote reads: "just as, for example, if only grammatical considerations were taken into account, umeiV ek tou patroV tou diabolou este (John 8:44) could mean 'you belong to the father of the devil'" (Harris, p. 60).  Thus, Harris demonstrates that grammatical possibilities do not yield accurate translations.  He goes on to say, "it would not be impossible, from the point of view of grammar alone, to translate 1:1c as 'God was the Word'" (Harris, p. 61).  Anyone reading Harris' chapter on John 1:1 will see that he favors the traditional translation ("The Word was God") not merely on theological grounds (John's monotheism, by the way; not Harris'), but on strong grammatical and contextual grounds as well.
Herman Heinfetter “a God” - Herman Heinfetter, author of Rules for Ascertaining the Sense Conveyed in Ancient Greek Manuscripts, Objections to Bishop Middleton’s Doctrine of the Greek Article, and An Enquiry Respecting the Punctuation of Ancient Greek (in A Literal Translation of the Gospel According to St. John on Definite Rules of Translation, and an English Version of the Same, 6th ed. [London: Evan Evans, 1864]).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

This is how Heinfetter explains his translation: "Was this used as an Appellation of Almighty God, the Article would certainly have been expressed before it; its omission therefore determines, that it must be used as an Appellation of some other, and this other, I judge from the context to be what I have expressed in the Paraphrase."

One need only glance a few verses later to see that Heinfetter is mistaken that God (when referring to the Almighty) is "certainly" preceded by the article (cf., v. 18).  Interestingly, Heinfetter translates this verse:  "No one hath perceived truth yet."  Needless to say, there is no manuscript evidence for this rendering, nor does Heinfetter remark on it.

With some exceptions, his translation only appears in JW websites or publications (the exceptions being sites that exhaustively list Bible translations).  It is notable in the scarcity of its appearance in scholarly citations, even by Unitarian scholars.  One reason for this may be the highly idiosyncratic nature of Heinfetter's translation.

Thus, it does not appear that Heinfetter is anything like a recognized scholar in the field of Biblical Languages.

Regardless of Heinfetter's view of John 1:1c, he did not have the benefit of Colwell or Harner's studies, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the proper translation of John 1:1c.  His opinion is interesting from an historical perspective, but is of little value in determining the proper translation of John 1:1c, beyond perhaps demonstrating that "a god" is not impossible grammatically.

George Horner Horner, George William, The Coptic Version of the New Testament, 1911:    "[A]nd (a) God was the word."

Here is what one expert has to say on the matter:

"The is of interest because, in Coptic versions, John 1:1b is commonly translated "the word was with God and the word was a God" using the Coptic indefinite article; with some variation in word order" (J. Warren Wells, "IMPORTANCE OF THE SAHIDIC LANGUAGE: IN RESEARCH AND TRANSLATION."

- from an online debate with one of Jehovah's Witnesses

This reference is to an English translation of John 1:1c in the Coptic dialect known as Sahidic.  One feature of Sahidic that makes it interesting in terms of understanding the meaning of the underlying Greek is that it has both an indefinite and definite article.  It is thus closer to English than Greek in this regard.  The quotation from Mr. Wells is from a section of his paper called "Note on Christology in the Coptic Versions of John."  Though he does not say directly, he implies that the use of the indefinite article in the Sahidic translation indicates that the Coptic translator understood the anarthrous theos in his Greek original of John 1:1c to be indefinite (that is, "a god").

If an early translator (third Century or earlier) understood John to have written "and the Word was a god," this would appear to be evidence in favor of the NWT's rendering.  But, as we shall see, appearances can be deceiving.

The full citation of Horner's Coptic New Testament is as follows:

The Coptic Version of the New Testament in the Southern Dialect otherwise called Sahidic and Thebaic, 4 Volumes (Oxford, 1911).

Horner's English translation of John 1:1c is as follows:

"...and [a] God was the Word."

Horner's critical apparatus defines the use of square brackets as follows:  "Square brackets imply words used by the Coptic and not required by the English" (p. 376).

How can Horner say that the indefinite article, while present in the Sahidic original, is not required in English?  

The answer lies in the usage of the Sahidic indefinite article itself.  We may first note that, unlike English, the indefinite article is used in Sahidic with abstract nouns and nouns of substance (Walters, CC, An Elementary Coptic Grammar of the Sahidic Dialect, p. 12).  An example of this usage may be found in John 1:16, which Horner translates:

Because out of fulness we all of us took [a] life and [a] grace in place of [a] grace.

More importantly, the indefinite article does not always denote class membership.  It can also used to attribute qualities or characteristics (what in Greek grammars is called a "qualitative usage" [e.g., Wallace, p. 244]):

Indefinite Article

one specimen of the lexical class of ... ;

one specimen having the quality of the lexical class of ... (Layton, Bentley, A Coptic Grammar With Chrestomathy and Glossary - Sahidic Dialect, 2nd edition, p. 43, "..." in original).

Dr. Layton explains further:  

The indef. article is part of the Coptic syntactic pattern. This pattern predicates either a quality (we'd omit the English article in English: "is divine") or an entity ("is a god"); the reader decides which reading to give it. The Coptic pattern does NOT predicate equivalence with the proper name "God"; in Coptic, God is always without exception supplied with the def. article. Occurrence of an anarthrous noun in this pattern would be odd.3

Examples of qualitative usage may be found in John 1:33 (which Horner renders "this is he who will baptize in [a] holy spirit and a flame") and John 3:6:

That which was begotten out of the flesh is [a] flesh, and that which was begotten out of the spirit is [a] spirit (Horner's translation).

So, the use of the indefinite article in the Sahidic does not necessarily mean that the Coptic translator understood John to have written "a god."  He was not equating the Word with the proper name God, but he could have understood John to be using theos in a qualitative sense, as many Greek scholars have argued.  Dr. Layton says it is up to the reader to decide, but is there any indication in the immediate context to help us?

I believe there is significant evidence in favor of a qualitative reading.  In the Sahidic version of John 1:18b, the anarthrous theos in the Greek is translated with the definite article.  Horner's translation reads as follows:

"God, the only Son."4

It would seem unlikely in the extreme that a translator would understand John to have designated the Word "a god" in John 1:1 and "the God" in John 1:18.  Instead, his use of the definite article in verse 18 would make more sense if he understood John to be ascribing the qualities of Deity to the Word in John 1:1.

 

Click here to see an image with the first few verses of John's Gospel in Horner's Sahidic edition.  I have blogged on this topic further here.

 

See also Brian Wright, "Jesus as Theos: Scriptural Fact of Scribal Fantasy," note 34.  I did not have the benefit of Mr. Wright's article when I wrote my comments about Horner, and he has indicated in private email that he was unaware of my website.  Thus, we have each independently arrived at a similar conclusion, for much the same reasons.

 

Further, see Wright and Tim Ricchuiti, "From God (QEOS) To God (NOYTE)" (The Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol. 62, Pt 2, October 2011).

C. Houtman Mr. Houtman notes that on the point of translator bias "the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses can survive the scrutiny of criticism." (Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, [Dutch Theological Magazines] 38 1984, page 279-280)

 - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

 

Professor Houtman's article is not about the NWT, but a recent Dutch translation of the Bible.  His tangential reference to the NWT occurs in a portion of his review in which Houtman expresses his view that while some doctrinal bias may be present in a variety of translations, it is not as great as some might suppose.  He writes:

"The translator must know the subject. As we have seen in the past, people expressed distrust of translations by those belonging to another denomination or religious community, fearing that theological points of view would affect the translation. When translations are assessed in a professional manner it must be concluded that only in exceptional circumstances can one point to passages in which the doctrinal  (or political and social) point of view of the translators can be traced. Even the New World translation of the Jehovah Witnesses can withstand criticism on this point" ("De Kritiek op de Groot Nieuws Bijbel," Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, 38, 1984, pp. 279-280). 

Click here for a somewhat longer excerpt from Houtman's article in Dutch, followed by a rather literal English translation.

Houtman says that the NWT may withstand criticism on the point that "only in exceptional circumstances" can one identify bias.  He does not claim the NWT is bias-free, as the JW website implies.

Further, while the article quoted only mentions the NWT tangentially, Professor Houtman has written two articles that specifically evaluate the NWT - and in his own words, those articles are "very critical."  Houtman assesses the NWT as follows: 

In my view, the New World Translation is an inadequate translation.  The Watchtower Society misuses my articles by quoting sentences without their context.5

Thus, it is certainly incorrect to claim that Professor Houtman endorses the NWT.

George Howard "Thus, Professor George Howard, of the University of Georgia, U.S.A., made this comment: 'When the Septuagint which the New Testament church used and quoted contained the Hebrew form of the divine name, the New Testament writers no doubt included the Tetragrammaton in their quotations' (Biblical Archaeology Review, March 1978, page 14).

"The same thing occurred in the "New Testament," or Christian Greek Scriptures. Professor George Howard goes on to say: 'When the Hebrew form for the divine name was eliminated in favor of Greek substitutes in the Septuagint, it was eliminated also from the New Testament quotations of the Septuagint. ... Before long the divine name was lost to the Gentile church except insofar as it was reflected in the contracted surrogates or remembered by scholars.'"

- "God's Name and the 'New Testament'", The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, WTBTS, 2001)

George Howard's theory has been rejected by most - if not all - modern Biblical and Textual scholars.  In any case, his theory is that the New Testament authors retained the Tetragrammaton whenever they quoted verses from the Old Testament that contained it. His theory thus has no relevance to most of the 237 instances where the NWT translators inserted "Jehovah" into their "Christian Greek Scriptures."

 

Professor Howard wrote two letters that have been made public which clarify his position:

 


The University of Georgia
College of Arts & Sciences

June 5, 1989

Bob Hathaway
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624

Dear Mr. Hathaway:

My conclusions regarding the Tatragrammaton and the New Testament are:

1) the N.T. writers might have used the Tetragrammaton in their Old Testament quotations, and 2) it is possible (though less likely) that the Tetragrammaton was used in a few stereotype phrases such as "the angel of the Lord." Otherwise it probably was not used at all. I disagree with the Jehovah Witness translation that uses Jehovah many times. This goes beyond the evidence. I do not believe Jesus Christ is Jehovah. If the Jehovah Witnesses teach this (I’m not aware of most of their theology) they are off the mark.

Sincerely,

George Howard
Professor


The University of Georgia
January 9, 1990

Steven Butt
P.O. _____
Portland, ME 04104

Dear Mr. Butt:

Thank you for your letter of 3 January 1990. I have been distressed for sometime about the use the Jehovah’s Witnesses are making of my publications. My research does not support their denial of the deity of Christ. What I tried to show was that there is evidence that the Septuagint Bibles used by the writers of the New Testament contained the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. I argued that it is reasonable to assume that the NT writers, when quoting from the Septuagint, retained the Tetragrammaton in the quotations. This does not support the JW’s insertion of "Jehovah" in every place they want. To do this is to remove the NT from its original "theological climate." My opinion of the New World Translation (based on limited exposure) is that it is odd. I suspect that it is a Translation designed to support JW  theology. Finally, my theory about the Tetragrammaton is just that, a theory. Some of my colleagues disagree with me (for example Albert Pietersma). Theories like mine are important to be set forth so that others can investigate their probability and implications. Until they are proven (and mine has not been proven) they should not be used as a surety for belief.

 

Sincerely,


George Howard


For a detailed evaluation of Howard's study with reference to Watchtower claims, click here.

A. N. Jannaris “a god” - A. N. Jannaris, Ph.D, author of An Historical Greek Grammar and Lecturer on Post-Classical and other Greek dialects at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (in ZNW 2 [1901], 24-25).

 

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

Jannaris does, indeed, suggest "a god" as the proper translation of theos in John 1:1c, but in doing so, he does not provide support for the NWT rendering.  Jannaris argued that ho logos did not refer to the pre-incarnate Son, but rather "that well known oracular utterance which God made unto (pros) Himself and which having been instrumental (di' autou) in the creation, is naturally represented as a creative power, a creator, that is a god, - god and creator being two synonymous terms" (Jannaris, "Logos," pp. 20-21).

Click here for the text of a letter to me on the subject of Jannaris and John 1:1 from Dr. Robert Keay of St. Andrews University, Scotland.

Felix Just Prof. Felix Just, S.J. - Loyola Marymount University, "and god[-ly/-like] was the Word."

 - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website


Dr. Just's "Hyper-Literal" translation of John 1:1 originally read as the Witness website has it.  However, he has revised it as follows:

In origin was the Word,
and the Word was toward [the] God,*
and god/deity/God* was the Word.

In a recently added note, Dr. Just explains what he was attempting in both versions of his translation:

So what did the Evangelist mean in John 1:1c? He certainly did not consider Jesus to be just one "divine being" or "deity" among many others. If he meant "divine" in this broader sense, he easily could have used the related Greek adjective, "ThEIOS," rather than the noun "ThEOS." (See, for example, the adjective "ThEIOS" used twice in 2 Peter 1:3-4, referring to "divine power" and "divine nature"). Other texts in John clearly show that the Fourth Evangelist sees Jesus in a unique relationship with God, calling him "the only-begotten son" (TON hUION TON MONOGENH; 3:16), challenging us to believe "in the name of the only-begotten son of God" (EIS TO ONOMA TOU MONOGENOUS hIOU TOU ThEOU; 3:18), referring to his glory "as of a father's only son" (hWS MONOGENOUS PARA PATROS; 1:14), and even calling him "the only-begotten God" (MONOGENHS ThEOS; 1:18 - another difficult phrase, with several ancient textual variations).

To summarize: The Fourth Evangelist may not yet have thought of Jesus as the "second person of the Trinity" (theological language that took several centuries to develop in early Christianity - itself strongly influence by this Johannine passage); yet John certainly thought of Jesus as "divine" or "deity" or "god" in a unique sense, not merely "a god," or one deity among many. Exactly what he meant in John 1:1c may not be easy to understand, and it is even harder to translate into English because of the difficulties mentioned above. So rather than fixate on any particular English translation, even the best of which might confuse us or lead us astray, we should try to continue deepening our understanding of what John's entire Gospel says about the uniquely close relationship of Jesus and the Father.

You can read Dr. Just's translation and note here.

Benjamin Kedar

"In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translation, I often refer to the English edition as what is known as the New World Translation. In doing so, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this kind of work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible. Giving evidence of a broad command of the original language, it renders the original words into a second language understandably without deviating unnecessarily from the specific structure of the Hebrew....Every statement of language allows for a certain latitude in interpreting or translating. So the linguistic solution in any given case may be open to debate. But I have never discovered in the New World Translation any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain."

- The Watchtower, 3/1/1991, p. 30

Benjamin Kedar received his PhD from Yale in 1969, but not in Hebrew.  He is professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  No doubt, Professor Kedar is knowledgeable about Hebrew, but he is not a recognized scholar in Biblical Languages.

In a form letter written to those asking for clarification of his apparent endorsement of the NWT, Professor Kedar writes:

"A translation is bound to be a compromise, and as such it's details are open to criticism; this applies to the NWT too. In the portion corresponding to the Hebrew Bible, however, I have never come upon an obviously erroneous rendition which would find it's explanation in a dogmatic bias."

It will be noted that Professor Kedar limits his comments to the Hebrew Bible.  Few scholars have complained about the Watchtower inserting its dogma into the Hebrew Scriptures.  Indeed, since the OT contains far fewer explicit Scriptures teaching the orthodox doctrines that the Watchtower denies - Christ's deity; the existence of the soul; and hellfire - it is not surprising that the NWT Hebrew Scriptures are relatively bias-free.

Professor Kedar, of course, says nothing of the relative merits of the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures.

Professor Kedar's preference for the NWT Hebrew Scriptures is not shared by other scholars.  H. H. Rowley, an eminent Old Testament scholar from England, wrote regarding the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures:

"The translation is marked by a wooden literalism which will only exasperate any intelligent reader - if such it finds - and instead of showing reverence for the Bible which the translators profess, it is an insult to the Word of God" (Rowley, H.H., "Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the Bible" The Expository Times 67:107, Jan. 1956).

See also the comments of Dr. Goodspeed as well.

Thomas O. Lambdin Scholar Thomas O. Lambdin in his work Introduction to Sahidic Coptic says: "The use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite, corresponds closely the use of the articles in English."  Hence, the Coptic translation provides interesting evidence about how John 1:1 would have been understood back then.  What do we find?  The Sahidic Coptic uses an indefinite article with the word "god" in the final part of John 1:1.  Thus, when rendered in modern English, the translation reads: "And the Word was a god."

- The Watchtower, 11/1/2008, p. 25

The first thing to note is that the WT cuts off the quote mid-sentence.  Lambdin goes on to say: "only exceptions to this general correspondence will be noted in the following lessons when appropriate" (Lambdin, p. 5).  The WT author has not quoted this scholar 100% accurately and gives the casual reader the impression that Lambdin actually endorses the "a god" translation, which he no where does.  

Secondly, Lambdin is only speaking of a general correspondence, he is not going into exhaustive detail.  It is true that Lambdin does not specifically define the indefinite article as "qualitative;" but this is to be expected from someone writing an introductory text (few introductory Greek grammars go to this level, either).  Better to consult a more advanced grammar on this matter, such as Bentley Layton's (see the entry on George Horner).

While this example is hardly as egregious as some in this list, it certainly overreaches if its intention is to provide scholarly support for the "a god" rendering.

Further, see Brian J. Wright and Tim Ricchuiti, "From God (QEOS) To God (NOYTE)" (The Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol. 62, Pt 2, October 2011).

 

 

William Loader “a god” - William Loader, Ph.D. and New Testament Lecturer for the Perth Theological Hall, Australia, teacher at Murdoch University as a member of the Perth College of Divinity, and author of several books and journal articles (in The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Structure and Issues [Peter Lang 1992], 155). Loader refers to “a god” as the “most natural reading of the text.”

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

Dr. Loader's book is hardly the unequivocal support for which I was asking Mr. Stafford.  Here is the text of a letter I received from Dr. Loader on this subject:

Dear Robert

Thank you for your email. I am enclosing in this email the wording of my book which shows what I  was saying in its context and makes it clear that I would not consider 'the Word was a god' as an appropriate translation.  Context must determine meaning not just choices among possible grammatical alternatives.

Cheers,

Bill Loader

Dr. Loader is quite liberal in his approach to John's Gospel.  He ultimately defines the relationship of Father and Son as "not in substantial but in functional terms" (Loader, p. 202).  However, he clearly does not support "a god" as an appropriate translation of John 1:1c.

Jon Madsen J. Madsen, New Testament A Rendering , 1994, "the Word was a divine Being"

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

Jon Madsen replies:

"As regards the expression 'divine being': one should perhaps not too quickly come to the conclusion that it necessarily means a 'secondary', 'lower', entity than God.  As you are aware, the mystery of the Trinity is just this, that the 'persons' can be both one Being and separate Beings at the same time.

"Thus Christ can say both, 'I and the Father are One', and 'the Father is greater than I'; further: 'I in the Father, and the Father in me.'

"To the everyday human mind, these seem incompatible statements.  How very appropriate, therefore, that we also hear the Comforter (coming from the Father and in the name of Christ) will 'teach us everything'.

"In other words, a new kind of thinking is needed which will not only help us 'understand' this mystery but will 'bring to mind all that Christ said and did', so forming the basis for the Christian life." (Jon Madsen to Robert Hommel, email dated 1/27/2006).

Julius R. Mantey

Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas an anarthrous construction points to a quality about someone.  That is what A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey remarks on page 140, paragraph vii.  Accordingly on page 148 paragraph (3) this same publication says about the subject of a copulative sentence:

"The article sometimes distinguishes the subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence.  In Xenophon's Anabasis 1:4:6, ...and the place was a market, we have a parallel case to what we have in John 1:1, ...and the word was deity.  The article points out the subject in these examples.  Neither was the place the only market, nor was the word all of God, as it would mean if the article were used with qeoV." 

Instead of translating John 1:1, and the word was deity, this Grammar could have translated it, and the word was a god, to run more parallel with Xenophon's statement, and the place was a market  

- The New World Translation (1971), p. 1362

 

Michael Van Buskirk of the Christian Apologetics: Research and Information Service (CARIS) wrote to Dr. Mantey (Dr. Dana had died), asking him if he had been quoted accurately by the Watchtower.  Dr. Mantey replied in a letter dated February 25, 1974.  It read:

In response to your request, I give you the following facts:  In Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the New Testament, where I am quoted in a footnote on John 1:1 (cf., D-M Gk. Gram. Pg. 148 (3)), I was writing on how the article "distinguishes the subject from the predicate in a copulative sentence," not on the significance of the absence of the article before THEOS.  My closing statement in the paragraph was: "As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity may be implied in THEOS."  My interpretation of John 1:1 in that same paragraph was "The Word was Deity," i.e., that Christ is of the same essence as the Father, of the same family.  So I was quoted out of context.  Is that honest scholarship?

Thus, one of the authors of the Grammar the Watchtower used in defense of its translation says that he was quoted out of context and was not even discussing what it quoted him as affirming.  Read in context, Dr. Mantey's comments about the "parallel" cases refer to two specific points about copulative sentences:

1.  If one noun has the article, it is the subject of the sentence or clause (the place and the word).

2.  If only one noun has the article, the sentence is not a "convertible proposition" (that is, the two nouns are not interchangeable, as they would be if both nouns have the article).  Thus, place is not interchangeable with market; word is not interchangeable with Deity.  

Dr. Mantey's comments have nothing to do with the semantic force of the predicate (whether indefinite, as in Xenophon, or qualitative, as in John 1:1).

Dr. Mantey spoke out forcefully against the Watchtower's misuse of his Grammar on several occasions, including a famous letter to the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society itself.  For more information on Dr. Mantey and the Watchtower, click here.

Eilat Mazar "Archaeologist Eilat Mazar reports unearthing a small clay seal impression, or 'bulla'.  It was found in 2005 in a supervised excavation of a layer dating back to when Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E."

- "God's Word through Jeremiah," WTBTS, 2010

NOTE:  Even though not directly related to the NWT, the 607/586 BC controversy is so vital to Witness Theology, I wanted to include it here. 

The following link leads to a video commentary of the Watchtower's deceptive use of Dr. Eilat Mazar:

Eilat Mazar Video

The WT is wrongly implies Dr. Mazar supports the 607 date, when she demonstrably does not.  This fact is made clear in the video and in the excerpt from her interview, below.

Here is a selection from the PBS/Nova interview with Dr. Mazar:

How did the palace of David come to an end? Have you found evidence in your excavation?

We do not yet have clear evidence of the destruction. We may in future seasons. But I believe that it was part of the great destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians. We have lots of other evidence of this destruction nearby.

What was some of the first evidence of the destruction that you and other excavators found in nearby areas?

At the beginning of the 1980s, Professor Yigal Shiloh, a mentor of mine, excavated an area that includes what is known as the Burnt Room and the Bullae House. In their destruction layer, he found pottery typical of this period together with arrowheads that show that some fight was conducted here. It really revealed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

A typical response from a Witness apologist:

The publication does not cite Mazar as the source for our belief that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE.

The publication cites Mazar only as a source of information about the bulla.

There is no deception at all. Rather, you are knowingly or unknowingly misinterpreting the information in the publication.

This response is disingenuous.  While factually correct - the WT does not claim outright that Dr. Mazar supports a date of 607 BCE.for Jerusalem's destruction - it certainly implies it, given that the 607 date occurs just one sentence later.  One must wonder why it is that the WT must resort to such obvious tactics.

Robert M. McCoy "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."

- Andover Newton Quarterly (January, 1963)

Here are McCoy's comments in full:

"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. This translation, as J. Carter Swain observes, has its peculiarities and its excellences. All in all, it would seem that a reconsideration of the challenge of this movement to the historical churches is in order (Andover Newton Quarterly, January, 1963).

McCoy, though generally well-disposed towards the NWT, is not above offering some criticism, which is not generally included when Jehovah's Witnesses cite McCoy as an endorsement.  

For example, he chides the NWT for rendering Matthew 5:9 as "Happy are the peaceable" rather than "the peacemakers:"  "One could question why the translators have not stayed closer to the original meaning, as do most translators" (IBID).

McCoy continues with a more general assessment of the presence of theological bias in the NWT: "In not a few instances the New World Translation contains passages which must be considered as `theological translations.' This fact is particularly evident in those passages which express or imply the deity of Jesus Christ." (IBID).

Mr. McCoy was a graduate of Andover Newton Seminary.  He held degrees of Bachelor of Divinity (1955) from the Boston University School of Theology, and Master of Sacred Theology from Andover Newton. Though well-educated, he does not have the academic or professional credentials of a Biblical scholar, nor is he recognized as one by those who are.  His opinion, of course, is worth hearing, particularly when all of it is heard.

John L. McKenzie John 1:1c  "...should rigorously be translated 'a divine being'" (John McKenzie, A Dictionary Of The Bible).  "A divine being" = "a god."

- from an online debate with one of Jehovah's Witnesses

First, McKenzie states on the first page of his article on "God" that the God of Israel is "a divine being."  He uses the term "divine being" in reference to Jewish monotheism as referring to the True God.  Thus, MacKenzie is not stating that the Logos is "a god" or a secondary divinity; he is not using "a divine being" in the same sense as Witnesses do.

Second, McKenzie seems to have fallen prey to source critical thought, in that he apparently believes that the Pentateuch was authored by at least 3 redactors, that there were two Isaiahs (the latter writing hundreds of years after the first), that Judaism arose out of pagan polytheism, that el "may" have been the supreme god of some pre-Jewish Semitic pantheon, that Shaddai was a supreme "god of the mountain" worshipped prior to Abraham, and the list goes on.  Now, simply because he's liberal in his approach to the Bible does not mean that McKenzie is wrong, or should not be considered authoritative with regard to the proper translation of John 1:1.  However, McKenzie certainly has some presuppositions that influence his beliefs about ancient Judaism (most of which are contradicted by current scholarship, which has pretty well laid to rest not only the source critical model, but also the idea that polytheism antedates monotheism, and the use of El/Elaya/Elohim.  If he believes that the OT is a mélange of several theological belief systems, some rigidly monotheistic and some henotheistic or even polytheistic, he will no doubt read ambiguous passages to suit his beliefs.

Regardless of McKenzie's interpretative biases (if any), he believes that by "second Isaiah," Israel had embraced a rigid monotheism, and it is clear that he views Jesus in this context.  Thus, his reference to the Word as "a divine being" cannot be construed in the fashion Witnesses would like - he means the phrase exactly as he does of Jehovah in the opening sentence of his article, and his subsequent comments make clear that he views Jesus as the embodiment of God on earth, and he cites John 20:28, Col 2:9 and other verses in which Jesus is called ho theos or is called fully God in other terms

James Moffatt John 1:1c:  "the Word was divine." 

- James Moffatt, A New Translation of the Bible

"Every honest person will have to admit that John's saying that the Word or Logos 'was divine' is not saying that he was the God with whom he was. It merely tells of a certain quality about the Word or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same God" 

- New Word Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, (1951),  pp. 773-774

James Moffatt was an orthodox Trinitarian who supported both the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedon Confession:

"'The Word was God...And the Word became flesh,' simply means "The word was divine...And the Word became human.' The Nicene faith, in the Chalcedon definition, was intended to conserve both of these truths against theories that failed to present Jesus as truly God and truly man..." Moffatt, Jesus Christ the Same, (Abingdon-Cokesbury), 1945, p.61
.

 

Moffatt apparently did believe that "divine" signified that Jesus was "one and the same God" with ho theos.

C.F.D Moule See entry under Westcott, below. See comments under Westcott, below.
Archbishop Newcome Newcome, 1808, "and the word was a god"

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness website.  The Watchtower has provided a somewhat fuller citation: 

"and the word was a god." The New Testament in an Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text (SYBT, p. 27 ).

 

This citation is actually not from Newcome's translation. Instead, it appears in a version that was "corrected" by Thomas Belsham and an unnamed Unitarian Committee using unknown translation principles.  Newcome's New Testament was published in 1796 (click here to see the title page and Newcome's original translation of John 1:1); the "corrected" version appeared in 1808.

It is misleading, to say the least, to imply that Newcome himself (a bona fide Greek scholar) is responsible for the rendering of a Unitarian Committee whose credentials we are not able to verify. 

Andrews Norton “a god” - Andrews Norton, D.D. (in A Statement of Reasons For Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians [Cambridge: Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833], 74).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1.

I have been unable to locate the 1833 edition of Norton's work, but I have a revised edition with the same title published in 1880 (Boston: American Unitarian Association).  There is no mention of "a god" in relation to John 1:1 on page 74 of this edition; however we find the following discussion regarding the meaning of John 1:1c a bit later:

"The earlier Fathers understood the term 'god,' as here used by St. John, in an inferior sense, regarding it as denoting what we might express in English by saying, that the Logos was a "divine being.'  But this, unquestionably, is not its true sense.  St. John, having just used the word qeoV, 'God,' to denote the Supreme Being, would not in the next clause thus vary its signification; and corresponding likewise to what I have before observed, his general use of this term, like that of the other Apostles and Evangelists, was the same with our own use of the name 'God'" (Norton, pp. 319-320, emphasis added).

Andrews was a Unitarian who denied the orthodox interpretation of John 1:1.  He argues that the Logos is a "personification" of the "Power" of God.  He offers the following paraphrase of John 1:1:  "In the beginning was the Power of God, and the Power of God was with God, and the Power of God was God" (IBID, p. 324).  We need not go into all the reasons why such a view is inadequate; the key point is that Andrews (at least in the revised edition of his work) does not argue for "a god" as the proper translation of theos in John 1:1c, and thus does not support the NWT rendering.

A.M. Perry A.M Perry, (theologian), Journal of Biblical Literature, 1949, pages 329-334 “’John 1:1 indefinite with qualitative force, deity, god…’ a deity, a god”.

- from a post on a Jehovah's Witness discussion board

Here is a fuller selection of Perry's comments:

 

"Definite  a) Specific, - the deity, the god (already designated)
qeoV b) Personal, - the Deity, God
c) Generic, - Deity, God
   
Indefinite d) Unrestricted, - a deity, a god
(qeoV) e) Qualitative, - deity, god

 

...The generic centers on the class, the qualitative on the instance.  And the qualitative use, particularly when it stands in the predicate, has nearly the force of an adjective, - as qeoiV (cf. Jn 1:1)" (Perry, p. 330).

 

It is true that Perry understands theos in John 1:1c as an indefinite/qualitative noun, but as such, he does not regard it as "a deity, a god" as the Witness quote suggests.

JD Phillips J.D. PHILLIPS:  (J.D. Phillips was a Church of Christ Minister, schooled in the original tongues).    "Last week I purchased a copy of your New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures of which I take pride in being an owner. You have done a marvelous work...I was happy, indeed, to see the name Jehovah in  it. But you have made a marvelous step in the right direction, and I pray God that your Version will be used to His glory.  What you have done for the Name alone is worth all the effort and cost!"

     - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

It would be interesting to see Phillip's entire letter.  Some statements have apparently been edited out ("...") and the statement, "But you have made a marvelous step in the right direction" seems to indicate some sort of negative prior comment.  In the quote provided, Mr. Phillips is complimentary of the inclusion of Jehovah in the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures.  This would be an odd compliment for one "schooled in the original tongues," given that there is no manuscript evidence supporting the appearance of the Divine Name in the New Testament.

I have been unable to learn much about JD Phillips, other than his connection with the Church of Christ and a peculiar dispute over the order of communion.  Phillips wrote a pamphlet advocating his view that a single cup should be used, while others in his denomination favored a less legalistic approach.  In responding to one of his critics, Phillips commented: 

"I assure my readers that it was far from my intention in writing the tract to indicate anything "learned" on my part. So far from trying to indicate any learning on my part, I appealed to the best authorities on language, such as lexicographers, grammars, concordances, professors of languages, historians, etc., and then quoted verbatim et Ilteratim. What education I have was gained in the University of Hard Knocks. In Bro. G.C. Brewer's review of my booklet in the Gospel Advocate, he does me an injustice by speaking of the work as a 'show of learning'" (Old Paths Advocate, 10/1/1936).  

Thus, it does not appear that Mr. Phillips was formally "schooled" in the original languages, and had no particular skill in them beyond his use of standard lexical works.  His endorsement of the NWT is therefore hardly that of a noted Biblical scholar.

Charles Francis Potter CHARLES FRANCIS POTTER: "the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures...the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best  manuscript texts...with scholarly ability and acumen." (The Faith Men Live By [sic], 1954, Page 239)

     - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

Here are Potter's comments in full:

"Apart from a few semantic peculiarities like translating the Greek word stauros as "stake" instead of "cross", and the often startling use of the colloquial and the vernacular, the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts both Greek and Hebrew with scholarly ability and acumen" (The Faiths Men Live By, 1954 [fourth printing, 1955] (NY: Prentice Hall), p. 300).

In the Preface to his book, Potter writes the following:

"This book is written to help people appreciate the good in religions other than their own....It is true to some extent that 'every man grows in error,' but too much stress has been put on that point by captious critics of religion.  In this book the emphasis is rather on the more inspiring fact that 'every man glimpses a truth" (IBID, p. v).

Thus, it does not appear that Potter's intention is to render a critical evaluation of the NWT.  His words must be taken in the context of his attempt to emphasize the "good" he finds in all religions.  We must also consider what criteria Potter uses to consider the merits he finds in the NWT.

An interesting biography of Potter may be found here.  The following remarks are excerpted from this source:

He earned a B.D. in 1913 and an S.T.M. in 1917 from Newton Theological Seminary as well as an M.A. from Bucknell in 1916. 

Reflecting the continual development of his personal religious thought away from orthodoxy toward more liberalism, Potter founded the First Humanist Society of New York in 1929. The organization stated as its philosophy a "faith in the supreme value and self-perfectibility of human personality, conceived socially as well as individually." The First Humanist Society, whose advisory board included such notables as Julian Huxley, John Dewey, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, served as a model and catalyst for other humanist organizations and for the humanist movement in general. 

In founding the Humanist Society, Potter left the Unitarian ministry behind and declared that the Society would have no creed, clergy, baptisms or prayers. "I had given up my fast dwindling belief in the deity of Jesus and the doctrine of the Trinity," he wrote. "Now, fifteen years later, I was leaving not only Christianity—if Unitarianism is Christianity—but Theism as well." 

With his Humanist philosophy serving as a platform, Potter now became a vocal advocate for social reform, campaigning vigorously against capital punishment, promoting "civil divorce laws," and supporting birth control and women's rights. In 1938 Potter formed the Euthanasia Society of America, which eventually boasted a membership of 40,000 and raised the issue of euthanasia before the American public. 

In 1958, soon after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Potter published perhaps his most popular book, The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed, an interpretation of the scrolls' contents and their contribution to the understanding of Jesus as a historical figure. Potter also developed an interest in extrasensory perception and telepathy, subjects that were an anathema to other humanists but which Potter believed were of prime concern to Humanism

_____ End of Excerpt _____

Potter's education does not reflect that of a trained Biblical scholar, and he has not been recognized within the scholarly community as such.  The reader may judge to what degree Potter's theological "development" influenced his favorable opinion of the NWT, which (as the full quote indicates) is not entirely without criticism, despite the stated intention of his book.

Joseph Priestley

“a God” - Joseph Priestley, LL.D., F.R.S. (in A Familiar Illustration of Certain Passages of Scripture Relating to The Power of Man to do the Will of God, Original Sin, Election and Reprobation, The Divinity of Christ; And, Atonement for Sin by the Death of Christ [Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1794], 37).

 

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

Joseph Priestley was a noted scientist and Unitarian theologian.  He helped establish the Unitarian church in America.  He was Socinian in his theology, meaning that while he held the Scriptures to be God's inerrant revelation to Man, nevertheless, Scripture was always to be read in light of Man's reason.  He thus rejected the Trinity and other orthodox doctrines because he believed them to be counter to reason.  His philosophic commitment to "monism" precluded any thought of a tri-personal God.

With such presuppositions, it is not surprising to find that he translates John 1:1 the way he does - it is not grammatically impossible and is more conducive to his philosophic a priori.  

As a Socinian, Priestley also denied the pre-existence of the Son.  He viewed the Father alone as the Creator, and passages that speak of the Son as involved in Creation must be interpreted figuratively:  

"These verses, I will venture of say, are the texts that most strongly favor the notion of Christ's pre-existence; and no person can doubt but that, if they must be interpreted to assert that Christ pre-existed at all, they, with the same clearness, assert that he was the maker of the world.  But if these texts admit to a figurative interpretation, all the other texts, which are supposed to refer to the pre-existence only, will more easily admit of a similar construction.  These two opinions, therefore, viz. that Christ pre-existed, and that he was the maker of the world, ought, by all means, to stand or fall together; and if any person think the latter to be improbable, and contrary to the plain tenor of the Scriptures, (which uniformly represent the supreme being himself, without the aid of any inferior agent or instrument, as the make of the universe,) he should abandon the doctrine of simple pre-existence also (Priestley, A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God; and Against the Divinity and Pre-Existence of Christ; from Reason, from the Scriptures, and from History [London: Johnson & Co, 1812, emphasis added).

Thus, while his translation supports the idea that "a god" is not impossible grammatically, Priestley does not mean "a God" in the same sense as the Watchtower - that is, of an "inferior agent or instrument" of creation.  Further, a necessary presupposition of Priestley's translation is that the Word of John 1:1-3 is not the Son - for if it were the Son, Priestley would admit - based on the passage quoted above - that He was therefore the Creator, who is the "supreme being himself."  Thus, since Witnesses do not agree with Priestley's necessary presupposition, they cannot use him to support their translation - apart from, perhaps, demonstrating the grammatical possibility of "a God."

In any event, Priestley is not recognized as authoritative by any modern Greek scholar, no doubt because he wrote so long ago and did not have the benefit of any of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek over the past 100 years.  His views are interesting historically, but carry little weight in the debate about the proper translation of John 1:1.

A.T. Robertson Here we agree with Dr. A.T. Robertson when he says: "'God' and 'love' are not convertible terms any more than 'God' and 'Logos' or 'Logos' and 'flesh.'  . . . The absence of the article here is on purpose and essential to the true idea."  (Page 768, A Grammer of the Greek New Testament).

 

- New Word Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, (1951),  pp. 775.

 

One sentence before the Watchtower quotation, we find the following:  "It is true also that o qeos hn o logos (convertible terms) would have been Sabellianism."  Thus, the very thing - the presence of the Greek article -  that the Watchtower insists should be there to support the doctrine of the Trinity, A.T. Robertson writes should not be there, lest it teach a form of Modalism.
Robert Harvey Strachen John 1:1c:  "divine, a divine being" (Robert Harvey [sic], The Historic Jesus in the New Testament).

     - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

The correct reference for this quote is Robert Harvey Strachen, The Historic Jesus in the New Testament, Student Christian Movement Press: London, 1931, p. 187).

If one reads Strachen's comments in context, it becomes obvious that by "divine," he is referring exclusively to the Divine Nature of the true God:

"These he [the Hebrews author] revealed as the divinely-ordained preparation of Jesus for the office of High Priest.

"The whole story of the life of Jesus is recast [by John] and reinterpreted as the manifestation in time of the Eternal Logos.

"We have at the very outset that the 'Logos' was 'in the beginning' and that he was a divine being (theos).

"The Eternal Word has uttered itself finally in the historical person,  Jesus Christ...His words are 'signs' of the Divine Presence" (Strachen, p. 187).

Strachen goes on to say:

"The bare words 'I am' are put in the mouth of Jesus in the saying, 'Before Abraham was, I am,' and it is obvious that a reference is intended to the utterance of God to Moses at the burning bush.  As the Logos, the Divine Word, Jesus naturally utters himself" (p. 189).

Thus, while Strachen's words may be taken out of context to substantiate the NWT rendering of John 1:1c, one cannot do the same with Strachen's meaning.  Strachen regarded the "divine being" of the Logos to be eternal, the Divine Word, the "I am" of the burning bush.

 

Johannes Schneider "Und Gottlicher Art war der Logos.

"and godlike sort was the Logos.

"Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Johannes Schneider"

- New World Translation, 1984, Appendix 6A.

The Watchtower's English translation is highly misleading.  The term "Gottlicher Art" (Literally: "Godlike/divine kind") is better translated "divine nature."  See comments on Siegfried Schultz for more information.
Siegfried Schultz "ein Gott (oder: Gott von Art) war das Wort.

"and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word.

"Das Evangelium nach Johannes, Siegfried Schultz"

- New World Translation, 1984, Appendix 6A.

The Watchtower's English translation is misleading.  The term "von Art" (literally: "from/by kind") is idiomatic German for "by nature" or "in essence."  Martin Luther used the term "Gott von Art" of Jesus in his hymn, "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" ("Now Come, Savior of the Gentiles"):

 

Gott von Art und Mensch ein Held

By nature God and Man, a hero

Certainly, Luther would never have written that Jesus was "of a divine kind," any more than he would have written that He was "of human kind."  "Von Art" is commonly used by German Bible scholars to signify what Harner defines as a "qualitative" sense.  That this is the meaning Schulz intends, we need look no further than his commentary on John 1:1:

"The third phrase sets forth the basic premise concerning the pre-existent "Word": "and God was the Word" (German: und Gott war das Wort).  In verse 1c "God" stands in contrast to the clearly articulated divine concept in verse 1b emphasized at the beginning by lack of the article...In so much as the last word of verse 1b was dealt with, the whole imparts a divine being to the "Word".  The obvious "and God" is the predicate and in no way identifies the Word with the latter "with the God."  Thereby "the Word" is identified as "God" just as the other one is, with which this "Word" stands in close association. The Deity [German: Gott-Sein, literally "God-Being"] denotes the essence of the "Word" as it does God himself.  The word "God" in the predicate of verse 1c is not the subject - as in Luther's translation "God was the Word," on the contrary it is the predicate.  The "Word" is not "the God" (verse 1b) or God the Father.  Likewise, Logos is "Gott von Art," divine essence, essentially equal to God, so that one has to translate them interrelatedly: "and the Word was God by nature." The religious traditions of monotheism in the Old Testament and the late Jewish period are supported and honored by this pre-Johannine, Hellenistic eulogy. In no way, however, as we have already stressed, is a simple inter-identification to be had."

Thus, Schulz says that The Word is "identified as 'God' just as the other one is" (i.e., just as ho theos is), and "essentially equal to God."  Schulz is not saying that the Word is "a god," in the sense one might think by just looking at the literal English translation of "ein Gott," but rather is very clearly distinguishing the Logos from the Father, yet emphasizing that His "divine essence" is that of ho theos, and thus is equal in nature to God - which, of course, supports the Trinitarian view of what qualitative theos means in John 1:1c.

William Carey Taylor "Just when the infidel universities of this land thought they had laughed out of court the very Name Jehovah, up surges...Jehovah's Witnesses...and with considerable scholarship they get out their own New Testament and, lo and behold, they put Jehovah into the New Testament two or three hundred times...it ought to be there many times" (The New Bible: Pro and Con, p. 75).

     - from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

The New Bible: Pro and Con is a polemical analysis of the Revised Standard Version, in which the Baptist Taylor finds many more "cons" than "pros."  The section from which this quote appears is entitled: "Jehovah - The Completely Banished Word."  Taylor laments the RSV's complete removal of JEHOVAH from its text, in favor of LORD or GOD.  Taylor's overall tone can be surmised from the conclusion he draws just prior to the quoted passage:  "This blackout [of the Divine Name], a vindictive intolerance of God himself as revealed, is a scandal before the bar of the American conscience" (Taylor, p. 75).

Taylor continues:

"Sometimes God chastens his people with pagans.  Just when the infidel universities of this land thought they had laughed out of court the very Name Jehovah, up surges that plebeian and outrageous movement the Name as their name, 'Jehovah's Witnesses.' And they gather in assemblies under the very shadow  of Columbia University, one hundred and twenty thousand strong.  And they baptize (real meaning of the word, too) over three thousand converts to their Jehovah one day, and next year over four thousand in a day.  And one of their lawyers goes before our august Supreme Court and defies the Catholic judge on it to hold back their liberties, and that judge votes for him.  And with considerable scholarship they get out their own New Testament and, lo and behold, they put Jehovah into the New Testament two or three hundred times. And then our curious America says: 'What's it all about?  I bought a copy of the new Bible [the RSV].  But I didn't find that word even in it.  How come, professor?  Weren't you on that committee of translators?'  Then will the professor-translator have to confess: 'We are guilty of suppression of that Name.  It ought to be there many times.  We banished it, from professorial pride and self-sufficiency.  And God has judged us with these pagan barbarians and brought it back into the thought of all people.  We ought not to have made that wrong and arbitrary decision.  The next Bible, I assure you, will not repeat our folly.'  God said: 'This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations' (Ex. 3:15).  No.  Not to the generation of readers of the RSV.  But wait a minute.  Enter Jehovah's Witnesses.  He is remembered, in judgment if not in grace" (Taylor, pp. 75-76).

Taylor, quite clearly, is not endorsing the scholarship of the NWT, beyond its inclusion of the Divine Name.  Even here, it cannot be said that he approved of the use of the Divine Name in the NWT Christian Greek Scriptures - beyond the fact that it raised the issue of the Divine Name in Bible translation to the public's attention.  Indeed his "it ought to have been there many times" refers to the "the new Bible" as a whole, not the New Testament.

Taylor's work is more polemical than scholarly; for example, his complaint that Paul's salutation to the saints "at Ephesus" has been placed in a footnote: "Can you beat this?...This address, I say, has been dropped down to the margin and put on the same level with so much spurious stuff" (IBID, p. 76).  Taylor seems unaware that three early MSS of Ephesians lack this phrase.  Thus, Taylor's credentials as a Bible scholar are questionable, at best.  Be that as it may, with the numerous attacks Taylor levels at far less offensive translations in the RSV, one can only speculate what Taylor would have said about the more controversial translations in the NWT.

Vincent Taylor "Here, in the Prologue, the Word is said to be God, but as often observed, in contrast with the clause, 'the Word was with God', the definite article is not used (in the final clause). For this reason it is generally translated 'and the Word was divine' (Moffatt) or is not regarded as God in the absolute sense of the name. The New English Bible neatly paraphrases the phrase in the words 'and what God was, the Word was',....In neither passage is Jesus unequivocally called God...." ("Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?", Expository Times, 73, No.4 [Jan.1962], p.118).

- from a post on a Jehovah's Witness discussion board

Here are Taylor's comments in full:

"We reach a more difficult issue in the Gospel of John. Here, in the Prologue, the Word is said to be God, but, as often observed, in contrast with the clause, 'the Word was with God', the definite article is not used (in the final clause). For this reason it is generally translated 'and the Word was divine' (Moffatt) or is not regarded as God in the absolute sense of the name. The New English Bible neatly paraphrases the phrase in the words 'and what God was, the Word was'. In a second passage in the Prologue the textual evidence attests 'only-begotten God' more strongly than 'only-begotten Son', but the latter is preferred by many commentators as being more in harmony with johannine usage and with the succeeding clause, 'who is in the bosom of the Father'. In neither passage is Jesus unequivocally called God, while again and again in the Gospel He is named 'the Son' or 'the Son of God'. In a third passage, however, there is no doubt that the name 'God' is assigned to Him. When Thomas is bidden to see the hands and side of Jesus, he cries in adoring love, 'My Lord and my God'. This cry is spontaneous and devotional and illustrates an aspect, and not the whole, of the Evangelist's Christology. Like the author of Hebrews he thinks and speaks of Christ in the category of Sonship" (Taylor, "Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?", Expository Times, 73, No.4 [Jan.1962], p.118, emphasis added).

Witnesses often assume that the rendering "The Word was divine" supports their view; however, most scholars who consider theos to be adjectival in this verse, understand "divine" to signify the nature of the one True God.  It is clear that Taylor understands "divine" in this way when he lauds the NEB paraphrase, for what God was (divine nature of the True God) the Word also was.

Rijkel ten Kate New World Translation Impresses a Scholar

ACCORDING to classical Greek scholar Dr. Rijkel ten Kate,
Dutch Bible translations fail to render certain words  accurately. For example, in Luke chapter 2, we find three different Greek words (bre'phos, pai·di'on, and pais) employed to describe the successive stages of Jesus' growth.

Each of these words has a different shade of meaning. However, in many Bibles, two or all three of these words are vaguely rendered "child." What is the correct translation?

Dr. ten Kate explains that in Lu 2 verse 12 the Greek word bre'phos means "a newborn, or baby." Pai·di'on, used in Lu 2 verse 27, means "little boy or child," and pais, found in Lu 2 verse 43, should be rendered "boy." "As far as I know," wrote Dr. ten Kate in the March 1993 issue of Bijbel en Wetenschap (Bible and Science), "not one Dutch translation has rendered this adequately, that is to say, completely in harmony with the original text."

Later, Dr. ten Kate was shown the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which is available in 12 languages, including Dutch. His reaction? "I am very surprised," he said, "that there is actually one Dutch Bible in which the different use of the three Greek words bre'phos, pai·di'on, and pais is rightly taken into account." Does the New World Translation translate these verses in harmony with the original Greek text? "Completely in agreement," responds Dr.ten Kate.

- The Watchtower, 4/15/95, p. 32

This article has been quoted by a number of Witness apologists, and is referenced in an online article comparing the NWT with the NIV and NASB.

Ten Kate's comments, of course, center on the three Greek words meaning "baby," "child" or "boy" in Luke 2. It may be that the NWT is more accurate in this verse than other Dutch versions, but the same does not hold true with the NWT compared to other English Bibles.  Both the NASB and NIV render the three Greeks words correctly, per ten Kate; and the KJV makes the distinction in 2 of the three cases  (it renders Luke 2:43 as "child" - "child," of course, is non-adult, synonymous with
"boy").

 

Other English versions that render these three words as Dr. ten Kate suggests are the RSV, ESV, Darby, and the ASV.  Young's Literal follows the KJV.

We may applaud the NWT for rendering these three words of no theological significance accurately in Dutch.  However, to imply that ten Kate's comments support the NWT apart from this specific context is implying too much.

 

When asked to comment on the WT article, Ten Kate's reply is as follows:

 

I can reassure you it has never been my intention or purpose the declare that the whole translation of the Watchtower Society is right and an adequate translation.  Only the cited verses in Luke 2 .... What about the whole Bible:  I did not read their edition, so I cannot give a judgment about it....so, their article, "New World Translation Impresses a Scholar" is exaggerated in its title.6

John Thompson "and the Logos was a god."  John S. Thompson, The Monotessaron; or, the Gospel History, According to the Four Evangelists, 1829.

- Kingdom Interlinear Translation (1985), p. 1139.

Mr. Thompson claimed to be directed by "some being" who entered his room at night and directed him: "in all your writings, be careful to represent Jesus as only the instrument of God in all he does" (American Quarterly Review, 1830, Vol. 8, pages 227-245). You can find an extended quote here.  For more information, see Witnesses of Jehovah by Leonard and Marjorie Chretien, p. 169-171.
Alexander Thomson "The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing" (Alexander Thomson in The Differentiator (April 1952, pp. 52-57).

- Awake! March 22, 1987, p. 14.

Thomson had no formal training in Greek or Hebrew.  He published several articles on the NWT in The Differentiator, apparently a privately published journal that appeared briefly in the 1950's.  The Differentiator is not considered a scholarly journal - indeed, I have been unable to locate a single copy in print or on microfilm - and there is no evidence that it was so considered during its publication.  

Thomson later wrote that while he generally endorsed the NWT, he found it to be "padded with many English words which had no equivalent in the Greek or Hebrew" (The Differentiator [June 1959], cited in Ian Croft, "The New World Translation and Its Critics").

Thus, Thomson does not appear to have been a recognized scholar in Biblical Languages, his review of the NWT was not published in a scholarly journal, and his endorsement is not quite as positive as the Watchtower might hope.

C.C. Torrey And The Four Gospels—A New Translation, by Professor Charles Cutler Torrey (second ed., 1947), says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was god. When he was in the beginning with God all things were created through him ; without him came no created thing into being." (John 1:1-3) Note that what the Word is said to be is spelled without a capital initial letter, namely, "god."

- Aid to Bible Understanding (1969), pp.1669

Two editions of Torrey's Gospels were published in 1933.  One reads "and the Word was god" and the other reads "and the Word was God."  I have been unable to ascertain the reason of the change.  The revised edition in 1947 reads "god."

So far as I know, Torrey never indicated publicly his reasons for "god" with a lowercase "g."  It may be, as Unitarian writer Anthony Buzzard asserts, that Torrey's intention was to indicate that the Word had the quality of God without being equated with God.  If this is the case, Torrey could be viewed as supporting the traditional understanding of John 1:1c, for while Trinitarians assert that the Word was fully God, He is not 100% equivalent to the Father with whom He was in the beginning.

In any case, Torrey cannot legitimately be used as an authority to support the NWT's "a god" translation without further clarification of what Torrey meant.

Here is the bibliographic information for Torrey's translation from The Bible Researcher website:

1933. Charles Cutler Torrey, The Four Gospels, A New Translation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1933. Revised 1947. Based on Torrey's reconstruction of hypothetical Aramaic documents underlying the Greek Gospels.

You will notice that Torrey bases his text on "hypothetical" Aramaic documents.  As he states in his Preface:

"The Aramaic Gospels, both the originals and the copies made from them, perished utterly, not even a fragment is known to have survived."

Not only is the Aramaic origin of the Gospels highly disputed by scholars, it is doubtful that such a work (based as it is upon "retroversion" of Greek into the purported underlying Aramaic) could even loosely be considered a "translation."

W. E. Vine "Literally, 'a god was the Word'

- from an email dialog with the webmaster of the now-defunct Trinity Exposed Website.

Here are Vine's comments in full:

"'and the Word was God'; here a double stress is on theos, by the absence of the article and by the emphatic position.  To translate it literally, 'a god was the Word,' is entirely misleading" (Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, "God", p. 272).  "Literally" merely signifies that "a god" is possible from the standpoint of grammar alone; a "literal" translation is not necessarily an accurate one, and other "literal" translations are possible, including the traditional rendering (see entry for Murray J. Harris, above).

J. W. Wenham "as far as grammar alone is concerned, John 1:1c could mean either, 'The Word is a god', or 'The Word is the god' (The Elements of NT Greek. See p. 35, note 1. Wenham is another who rejects the "a god" rendering because of theology ).

- posted by one of Jehovah's Witnesses on an Internet discussion board

Here are Wenham's comments in full:

"In ancient manuscripts which did not differentiate between capital and small letters, there would be no way of distinguishing between QeoV ('God') and qeoV ('god').  Therefore as far as grammar alone is concerned, such a sentence could be printed: qeoV estin `o LogoV, which would mean either, 'The Word is a god', or, 'The Word is the god'.  The interpretation of John 1.1 will depend upon whether or not the writer is held to believe in only one God or in more than one god" (Wenham, The Elements of New Testament Greek, p. 35, n. 1).

We may add Wenham to the list of scholars who acknowledge that "a god" is not a grammatical impossibility.  If Wenham is cited to counter such a claim, we cannot find fault with such a citation.

However, the claim that Wenham rejects "a god" simply on the basis of his theology is questionable.  Wenham says he rejects "a god" because of John's theology, not his own.  While Wenham's theology may color his perspective of John's, there are numerous other elements that shape our understanding of John's theology.  These elements include one's interpretation of the remainder of John's Gospel, his other writings, the NT as a whole, the history of Jewish religious beliefs and practices, the works of the early church fathers, particularly those with a connection to the Evangelist, and much more.

Further, Wenham also acknowledges that "the Word is God" is grammatically possible (since that is the way he translates theos estin ho Logos earlier on this page), and we may characterize those who reject this rendering as doing so on the basis of their theology.

Paul Wernle “a God” - Paul Wernle, Professor Extraordinary of Modern Church History at the University of Basil (in The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. 1, The Rise of Religion [1903], 16).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

Here are Wernle's comments in full:

"It is important to realize clearly the distinctive feature in the Jewish faith in God.  It cannot be monotheism.  For a long time past that had become the common property of the enlightened Greek world, as far as it had any understanding for religion, and even in Israel itself it had been modified by a belief in angels which bears clear marks of its polytheistic origin.  One need read, for instance, the Epistle to the Colossians if one would form some idea of the weakness of Jewish monotheism, not to mention the Greek prologue to the Fourth Gospel, which places 'a' God, the Logos, by the side of 'the' God" (Wernle, p. 16).

Wernle may have been a professor of modern Church history, but that does not make him a recognized scholar of Biblical Languages.  I'm unaware of a single scholar who has cited Wernle as authoritative with regard to the proper translation of John 1:1, and no Witness apologist I have asked has produced one.  

Wernle did not have the benefit of Colwell or Harner's studies, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the proper translation of John 1:1c.  His opinion is interesting from an historical perspective, but is of little value in determining the proper translation of John 1:1c, beyond perhaps demonstrating that "a god" is not impossible grammatically.

Wernle's work is heavily influenced by the long-defunct "History of Religions" school, popularized in the 19th Century by Wrede and Bousset, which posited a polytheistic origin for Judaism and the influence of Greek philosophy on the NT writers.  Wernle argues that the Prologue of John's Gospel is "Greek," that is to say, Platonic or Philonic, rather than essentially Jewish, as is generally believed today.  With such presuppositions, it is not surprising that Wernle chooses to interpret John 1:1c in a polytheistic fashion.

B.F. Westcott Bishop Westcott, coproducer of the noted Westcott and Hort Greek text of the Christian Scriptures says:  "It is necessarily without the definite article inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify his person." (Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom Book Of New Testament Greek, by Professor C. F. D. Moule, 1953 ed.).

- from Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 919, in support of the NWT rendering of John 1:1

Here are Westcott's comments in full:

"On the other hand it needs to be recognized that the Fourth Evangelist need not have chosen this word-order, and that his choice of it, though creating some ambiguity, may in itself be an indication of his meaning;  and Westcott's note (in loc.), although it may require the addition of some reference to idiom, does still, perhaps, represent the writer's theological intention: 'It is necessarily without the article (theos not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person.  It would be pure Sabellianism to say "the Word was ho theos".  No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of the expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word. Compare the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ v. 27 (hoti hious anthropou estin...).'" (Moule, p. 116, emphasis added).

Neither Moule nor Westcott support the NWT's rendering of John 1:1c.

Allen Wikgren (Allen Wikgren was on the New Revised Standard Version committee, as well as on the committee which  produced the UBS Greek text). 

"Independent readings of merit often occur in other modern speech versions, such as...the Jehovah's Witnesses edition of the New Testament (1950)." (The Interpreter's Bible, 1952 Vol. 1 page 99)

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

Here are Wikgren's comments in full:

"Independent readings of merit often occur in other modern speech versions, such as Verkyl's New Testament (1945) and the Jehovah's Witnesses edition of the New Testament (1950)" (The Interpreter's Bible, 1952 Vol. 1 page 99).

Dr. Wikgren was quoted accurately and completely.  That is to say, he does not go on to define which "independent readings" of the NWT he finds to be "of merit."  We do not know what Dr. Wikgren thought about the NWT's more controversial renderings, such as John 1:1 or Colossians 1:16.  

Dr. Wikgren, referring to all of the modern English versions he has been discussing says this: "A free, idiomatic rendering is not concerned about literal meanings" (IBID).  Thus, his endorsement may be less than Witnesses would like.

Verkyl's New Testament (also known as the New Berkley Version) reads "and the Word was God" for John 1:1c, and does not insert "other" into the text of Colossian 1:16.  None of the dozen or so other modern English versions Dr. Wikgren discusses render these verses as does the NWT.  It is therefore unlikely that Dr. Wikgren would include the NWT readings of these verses among those he considers meritorious.

Benjamin Wilson 1864: "and a god was the word." The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear reading, by Benjamin Wilson.

- SYBT, p. 27.

We may first note that Mr. Wilson was not formally trained in Greek.  He appears to have been a follower of John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphian movement.  

The views of a 19th Century Unitarian are interesting from an historical perspective, but not convincing in demonstrating the proper translation of John 1:1c.  Wilson did not have the benefit of the advances in the understanding of Koine Greek that emerged over the past 100 years; he did not have Colwell or Harner's studies available to him, nor the subsequent scholarship that bears on the subject.

Wilson is not regarded as authoritative by modern Biblical scholars.

Interestingly, the actual text of the Diaglott reads:

"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God"

This obviously supports the traditional rendering.  However,as the Watchtower notes, in the interlinear we find:

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

Now by using the Diaglott as a support for 'a god,' Witnesses argue that the interlinear translation is to be preferred over the text.

However, Witnesses do not follow this same approach with the KIT.

The interlinear translation in the KIT reads:

"In beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward the God, and god was the Word." (The use of the small "g" is, of course, not based on the Greek, as the older manuscripts did not distinguish between capital and lower case letters).

Witnesses may choose to resolve this apparent inconsistency by arguing that the translation principles practiced by Wilson and the NWTTC are not the same; however, this claim would need to be substantiated - on the surface, it would appear that in general terms, both texts seek to provide a 'literal' translation in the interlinear and a clear, idiomatic translation in the text.

When one considers that Wilson denied that the Word was the pre-existent Son of God, it becomes clear how he could view the "literal" Greek as being "a god," (indicative of the noun being anarthrous), and "God" being the proper translation - for if the Word is the Foreknowledge, Wisdom, and Power of God (as opposed to the Person of the Son), Wilson - like other Unitarians (such as Andrews Norton) - could view these attributes as pertaining to the Supreme Being Himself.

In any event, using Wilson to support the NWT is problematic in the extreme, given that Wilson translated John 1:1c as "The Logos was God."

Thomas Winter (Thomas N. Winter taught Greek at the University of Nebraska). 

"I think it is a legitimate and highly useful aid toward the mastery of koine (and classical) Greek. After examining a copy, I equipped several interested second-year Greek students with it as an auxiliary text.  After learning the proper pronunciations, a motivated student could probably learn koine from this source alone. ...the translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up to date and consistently accurate. ...In sum, when a witness comes to the door, the classicist, Greek student, or Bible student alike would do well to place an order." (The Classical Journal, "The Kingdom Interlinear", April-May 1974,  pages 375, 376)

- from a prominent Jehovah's Witness Website

Mr. Winter's positive comments are almost all directed towards the literal translation in the KIT - very little is said of the NWT.  The literal translation in the KIT is generally very good and often may be used to demonstrate problems with the NWT translation.  Mr. Winter also liked the layout of the KIT, with the English word appearing below the Greek word, rather than in a side column - which is how the classical Greek interlinears to which Mr. Winter compares the KIT are laid out.  The fact that Mr. Winter seems unaware of identically laid out Interlinear Bibles, such as those published by Zondervan featuring the literal translation of Alfred Marshall, would seem to indicate that he was more familiar with classical Greek resources than those for Biblical Greek.

Indeed, Mr. Winter was trained in and taught classical Greek.  His familiarity with Biblical Greek is unknown, and he is not recognized as an authority on the subject by Biblical Greek scholars.

Mr. Winter later wrote, "I am not happy with the use now being made of the review," and he went on to note a few problems, such as Jesus' words in John 8:58 (which NWT translates as "I have been"). Winter commented, "No way to go here but 'I am'" (Thomas N. Winter, in a letter to M. Kurt Goedelman of Personal Freedom Outreach, dated 3 October 1980).

Robert Young “a God” - Robert Young, LL.D. (in his Concise Commentary on the Holy Bible [Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d.], 54).

- from Greg Stafford's second reply to me on the Julius Mantey letter to the WTB&TS.  I had asked Mr. Stafford for a list of scholars who unequivocally support the NWT rendering of John 1:1c.

Here are Young's comments in full:

"John 1:1  And the Word was God, ] more lit. 'and a God (i.e., a Divine Being) was the Word,' that is, he was existing and recognized as such" (Young, Concise Critical Comments on the Holy Bible).

It is doubtful Dr. Young intended his words to support something akin to the NWT rendering, "The Word was a god."  Young was a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland at a time when some of the more liberal members of that church were questioning the adherence to the Westminster Confession as their defining rule of faith.  Young was staunchly in the conservative wing that upheld the Confession.  Some, like Fergus Ferguson, were bought under scrutiny by the leaders of the Free Church for (among other things) advocating anti-Trinitarian views.  That someone as prominent as Young could remain in the conservative wing of the orthodox Free Church and have advocated Christ as a secondary "god" is unlikely (1).

It is significant that Young capitalizes "God" and "Divine Being" in his commentary.  His definition of theos reads "God, a god."  In the list of verses which follow, "God" with a capital is the true God, while lower-case "god" is a pagan god or idol.  

Further, Young says that this "God" was "existing" in the timeframe of "the Beginning" which he defines as "the beginning of creation."  Thus, it seems clear that Young believed John 1:1c pointed to the Word as "a" God that was already existing when creation began.

Finally, Young's own "literal" translation of John 1:1 reads, "And the Word was God."

Thus, regardless of what Young may mean by the indefinite article, it seems probable that he understood theos in this context as signifying "God" in an underived and absolute sense.

The rendering "a God" is probably Young's attempt to indicate the absence of the article in the Greek ("more lit.").  It allows him to emphasize the distinction between Jesus as "a Divine Being" and the "great God" of John 1:1b, and also their unity as truly Divine, existing together before all creation.  While Young provides Witnesses with a reputable Greek scholar that proves that anarthrous theos in Greek may be "literally" rendered as an indefinite noun (just as it can be "literally" rendered a definite or qualitative noun), there is little evidence Young understood John 1:1c as anything like the NWT rendering, "a god," a secondary divine being who was created "in the Beginning."

 

Notes

____________________

1.  c.f., Cameron, ed., The Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology [Intervarsity Press, 1992], and Hamilton, Erosion of Calvinist Orthodoxy : Seceders and Subscription in Scottish Presbyterianism [Rutherford House, 1990]

2.  Chamberlain renders John 1:1c as "the Word was God" in the quoted passage.  He renders John 8:58 as "before Abraham became I am" (Chamberlain, Grammar, p. 170).  He speaks specifically of the "three Persons of the Trinity" working in the sanctification of believers (The Manner of Prayer [1943], p. 46) and in redemption (The Meaning of Repentance [1943], p. 173).

3.  Bentley Layton to Robert Keay, quoted in private email from Robert Keay to Robert Hommel 1/12/2006.  Dr. Layton is specifically addressing John 1:1c.  A Witness apologist posted the following from J. Warren Wells, originator of the Sahidica Project as follows:

"Yes the Coptic does use the indefinite article. Yes it does
literally say the Word was a god.

"The idea in this context to me is that the Word was like God. The
literal text simply doesn't say the degree to which he was like God;
be it partly or absolutely.

"But when it comes down to it, the Sahidic does literally say a god.
So it depends on whether the translator puts being literal first, or
being sense oriented. One way or another, the text really does need a
footnote; or perhaps an alternate reading." -- e-mail, 9/16/06

It will be noted that Mr. Wells actually supports a qualitative meaning with he says "The Word was like God."  The Sahidic "literally" includes the indefinite article, as it does in many other verses, but that does not prove that the Coptic translators understood the Word to be "literally" a god or a God anymore than they understood the second use of 'spirit' in John 3:6 to be a spirit.  Other scholars who agree that ounoute should be understood as a qualitative noun include Ariel Shisha-Halevy: "In the passage you refer to, I would suggest that the latter interpretation is best, qualifying "the Word" as "divine" or "godly". (Ariel Shisha-Halevy to Andrew, posted here: http://my.opera.com/NT_Greek_Grammar/blog/ January 10, 2007) and Nicholas Perrin: "I think you're on the right track. The Sahidic version's decision to go anarthrous in John 1:1 is no proof that the translator was thinking of an indefinite God. As in Greek, the absence of the article denotes, as you already know, a qualitative sense, e..g 'and the Word was divine.' (BTW, I think this is the proper way to understand the Greek.) (Nicholas Perrin to Robert Hommel, May 25, 2007).

4.  Several online Witness apologists, have offered the translation, "the god who is the only Son."  In private email, I asked Bentley Layton:  "Is there another rendering of John 18b [i.e., other than Horner's] that would harmonize with an indefinite semantic sense of 'noute' in 1:1c?"  Assuming that I favored in indefinite sense, he replied:  "I don't think there is another rendering that would produce the meaning you want" (Bentley Layton to Robert Hommel, 9/7/2006).  I have blogged on this topic further here.

5.  C. Houtman to George Medina, February 18, 1995.  Click here for full text.

6.  R. Ten Kate to George Medina, April 19, 1995.  Click here for full text.