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An Excellent Review of Truth in Translation

···Dr. Thomas Howe is Professor of Biblical Languages and Director of the Apologetics Program for Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is in the process of writing a scholarly response to Dr. Jason BeDuhn’s work Truth in Translation. This is a link to an early draft of his review. It is very good but it is not the complete response. The complete response will be available early 2010.

···Some quick words about the linked version:

  • As mentioned earlier, it is partially done. Fuller work is being done to it, so consider this a (very in-depth and worthwhile) preview.
  • The contrast is stark from the two works. In fairness to Dr. BeDuhn, his work is intended to be for general consumption and Dr. Howe’s is intended to be more technical. Of course, that does not shield BeDuhn from critique, but the reader should simply note the difference in writing and detail.

···I’ll post another link of where one can get hold of the response when it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy Dr. Howe’s work.

Truth in Translation: Evaluating Dr. BeDuhn’s Treatment of Granville Sharp’s Rule

Some time ago I began what was intended to be a series of articles addressing translation issues raised by Dr. Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University. It certainly was not my intention to take so long to return to the articles, and some of our readers have gently, but consistently reminded me (not to mention a certain elder at my church) that such a work beckons a response if for no other reason than to dispose of some of the erroneous arguments and conclusions put forth by BeDuhn. Considering the rather high standard he set for himself in his work and considering the amount of play his name is getting by Jehovah’s Witnesses as a neutral Greek scholar, it seems important to address.

But, first, I would like to make a correction from my first post. There I mentioned that Dr. BeDuhn’s doctoral studies were in Manichean studies. That is incorrect. His doctoral degree is in Comparative Religion. His doctoral dissertation was on Manicheaism. Indeed, that is where his specialty lies. It is important to point this out because Dr. BeDuhn denigrates the qualifications of many Old and New Testament scholars of various translations by stating that they were theologically trained and possess some adequate training in the biblical languages. When one considers the considerable weight of scholarship that was on the original translation committee of the NASB, for example, one must acknowledge that there is a significant imbalance to the words Dr. BeDuhn gave in regards to the scholarship of such projects. Dr. Moises Silva, for example, is a well-known scholar with many significant works relating to biblical linguistics and translation, hermeneutics and exegesis (some which have been standard textbooks for colleges and seminaries such as Biblical Words and their Meanings: And Introduction to Lexical Semantics). Men such as Dr. Bruce Waltke were on the original translation committee as well. Dr. Waltke still has the standard 2nd year textbook for Hebrew Syntax. Many other recognizable names are here: (and let’s not forget that certain highly recognizable name for the textual consultants of the NASB Update – something of a household name for readers of this blog).

Such dismissals did not serve Dr. BeDuhn well since it positioned him to a higher level of scholarship than men such as these who have written significantly on and contributed greatly to the biblical scholarship Dr. BeDuhn claims to uphold. As I have mentioned earlier, I am willing to assign Dr. BeDuhn the status of scholar, but there is nothing in his writings that have persuaded me that he is a biblical scholar, and that distinction is significant to this conversation.

To that end, I wish to discuss some of the chapters of his work Truth In Translation. It is not my intention to address every issue he raises, but merely to demonstrate that Dr. BeDuhn seems to lack either the information or the neutrality he claims to have in order to approach this subject.

For this article I have chosen Chapter 8: Words Together and Apart. Here, Dr. BeDuhn addresses Granville Sharp’s Rule looking at certain passages of Christological significance. Dr. BeDuhn cites Titus 2:13 as evidence of theological bias inserted into the translation. He cites numerous translations to make his point, but two will suffice for this discussion.

KJV Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the
great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

NASB Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of
our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

Immediately you may notice that there is a distinct manner in which the two nouns ‘God’ and ‘Savior have been translated. The KJV translates the two nouns as referring to two distinct persons, presumably of the Father and of Jesus Christ. The NASB, however, translates the two nouns as both referring to Christ. Why the difference’ Dr. BeDuhn explores this question by citing what he believes are parallel passages within Titus (Tit 1:4) and 2 Thessolonians (2 Thess 1:12).
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Witnesses Now for Jesus (Live)

Every year, Personal Freedom Outreach put together a convention for former Jehovah’s Witnesses in New Ringgold, PA (what a beautiful place this time of year*). If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, a former JW, or simply interested, you can watch many of the sessions live online (this is the first time they are broadcasting live).

I am not familiar with all the speakers, so I can not account for everything you will hear. I do know some of them (e.g. Don Veinot, Bob Anderson, Dick Fisher, and others), who have been in Countercult ministry for quite some time.

Here is a brochure with all the sessions and speakers, and if you want to listen live go here (I believe you need to create an account, which is easy to do).

*Funny thing is, when we were living in PA I would travel up Saturday (with my wife) to the retreat center, stop in and say hello to a few folks, then leave. It is such a beautiful time of year in Mountains of PA, we couldn’t resist simply driving around looking at the trees.

I do know that many are encouraged during this weekend. Last time I went, there were former JWs who traveled from Japan to attend the convention.

Reflections on a Two and a Half Hour Conversation with a Witness Elder

   I have really missed having the opportunities I had back in the 80s and 90s to spend time meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I used to have many opportunities to go to homes and meet with Witnesses. Most of these came about when the Witnesses came by someone’s home and asked to have a meeting with them. I would be invited and we would have a great time of discussion. Well, it was a great time for me, anyway! On a humorous note, the only time I’ve been physically accosted was during one of those meetings, and that by a little old Jehovah’s Witness lady! I was kneeling next to her as she sat on a couch, showing her where the NWT had deleted the word “me” from John 14:14. When she had nothing to say in reply, she slapped me across the face, sending me sprawling in the middle of the floor! From the look on her husband’s face, I got the feeling this wasn’t the first such incident!
   Anyway, it has been a number of years since my last encounter with JW’s. They skip my house these days. My last conversations were on my front porch with a woman who insisted that she could, in fact, read my book on the Trinity. So when a member of my church (Bill) told me he had talked to Witnesses last Saturday, and that they wanted to come back to talk, I pulled out my NWT and my Kingdom Interlinear, dusted them off, and made the appointment.
   We met for 2.5 hours on Friday afternoon. The gentleman, an elder in his congregation, is named Albert. He has been a Witness for over thirty years. I began by introducing myself, letting him know that I teach apologetics, and asking if I could summarize my understanding of his beliefs. I have found this to be a useful approach in the past, as most Witnesses have never encountered anyone who showed them enough respect to accurately study their faith. This normally gives me at least some time to present the “other side,” as they generally do not know how to respond to a fair, accurate representation of their own views, replete with the use of their own “in-house” language. Of course, you have to emphasize that you have never been associated with the Watchtoewr Bible and Tract Society (as they will assume anyone who “knows the lingo” has been).
   The conversation focused, properly, on Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father. Even more importantly, it focused on the text of Scripture. It was not, however, the normal game of Bible ping-pong, one verse cited on each side, back and forth. Though I was happy to respond to any texts he raised, for the most part I was presenting to him key texts demonstrating that the NT writers identified Jesus as Yahweh. Then I added in examples of mistranslation on the part of the NWT as well.
   I would love to report that Albert abandoned thirty plus years of dedication to the Society in one meeting, but to be honest, I have never heard of that happening. Leaving the WTBTS is a long and often difficult process. In the vast majority of instances where someone leaves the Watchtower and embraces true faith in Christ, the process began when someone went toe-to-toe with them in the arena of the Bible, and cracked the cocoon of assurance that nobody out there knows the Bible as well as the Watchtower Society. I pray that is what happened in this instance. For though Albert would not take my book, or even my business card, he did walk out with…his Bible. It is my prayer that the discussions we had about the texts that identify Jesus as Yahweh, or the text in Revelation 5 where all the created universe worships He who sits on the throne and the Lamb (a fact he refused to acknowledge no matter how plainly it was explained), or the Carmen Christi, will remain clear and vivid in his mind.
   I should note that the meeting did not just have one goal in mind. Those who observed and listened (Bill, two young people from our congregation) were able to see as well the clear testimony of Scripture to the truth of the Trinity. My hope is that they will be greatly encouraged to proclaim those truths in the future as well.
   I pray that God will bring Albert into contact with many more solid believers who will re-enforce the things he was told during our encounter, and that God will glorify Himself by bringing another of His own to saving faith in Jesus Christ.