Recently one of the fairly large group of “JW Internet Apologists” wrote to CRI to complain about my identification of the New World Translation as one of the “ugly” translations of the Bible in my recent articles on Bible translation. I went so far as to identify it as one of the most dangerous anti-Christian pieces of literature around, and I stand by that assessment, for Christianity is a faith based upon divine revelation, so when you purposefully twist that revelation, you are indeed attacking the faith at its root.
What I found rather humorous about the letter was that the author, while clearly impressed with the standard arguments used by Witness apologists, did not seem at all aware of the responses that have been provided to them for quite some time. So I thought I would try to work some of these comments into the blog since I have really not had the time to focus upon these areas in quite some time. I have so many topics I want to get to here, but they have to compete with so many other writing projects that I confess to a certain level of frustration.
Our JW correspondent begins by asserting that “anyone having even a basic knowledge” of comparative Bible analysis and criticism knows that many Bible versions, various commentaries, and “lexicon readings,” “support the NWT renditions.” Of course, that rather begs the question, for the issue is whether these sources are being read accurately and fairly and whether the context supports the rendering. He then says (before providing any documentation of his position) “I am somewhat surprised that White continues to attack the NWT using old arguments that have already been pulverized.” I like when folks find imaginative ways to use expressive terms like “pulverize.” And that’s a great term, “pulverize.” Very visual. Unfortunately, when you use terms like that, you sorta set the bar pretty high for yourself. I mean, it is one thing to say “I believe I can make a strong case in support of argument X against position M” but something completely different to say, “I can pulverize position M with argument X.” But that is actually a mild portion: he continues immediately with,
He perpetuates the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses are only familiar with and use only one Bible version. The apologetics of White are so weak – well it’s a compliment to call them weak – that anyone using them will be ill-prepared for the responses by the diligent and indefatigable Jehovah’s Witness evangelist. No wonder more and more Evangelicals and others are studying and joining the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses!
I am not sure what my critic means that I perpetuate a myth that JW’s use only one Bible translation: it is a fact, beyond all dispute, that the “translation” used in official Watchtower materials 99.9% of the time is the NWT; that the translation used in the Kingdom Hall is, 99.9% of the time, the NWT; and that if your average JW is forced into the corner, the translation they will default to 99.9% of the time is…the NWT. A small portion of JW’s (normally apologetically minded ones) may utilize other translations, but any honest person would admit that the comments I made about the centrality of the NWT in the Watchtower’s materials and practice in the CRI article are perfectly valid.
As to the final statement that “more and more Evangelicals” are joining the Watchtower, that claim flies in the face of the statistics published by the Watchtower itself. Since the turn of the millennium the Society’s growth numbers have decreased. In 1999 they reported baptisms numbering 323,439. But in 2004, 262,416, a 19% decrease. It seems our JW friend is a bit…exuberant.
At this point our correspondent begins dragging out some of the oldest, most often examined and refuted arguments–arguments I had encountered decades ago in dialogue with a much earlier generation of JW apologists, almost as if the folks at CRI, or myself, had never seen such things. For example, if you will peruse the articles found in our rather dated, admittedly, Watchtower section, you will find an article that goes through a number of translations utilized by the Watchtower over the years to substantiate their translation of John 1:1. It is painfully obvious that this particular apologist is utilizing only secondary resources, for even though at one point he cites Murray Harris’ work, he surely does not even begin to try to interact with Murray’s thesis or the context of his comments. But at the same time, he seems to think that rendering the phrase “the Word was divine” is equivalent to saying “the Word was a god.” Obviously, such is not the case at all. Likewise, he seems to think that if one recognizes that qeo,j is describing the nature of the Logos that this, likewise, substantiates the rendering “the Word was a god.” In all of this, our correspondent does not show himself overly familiar with the field he so confidently addresses. In fact, ironically, I see no evidence that he who so confidently identifies my apologetics as “weak” has, in fact, read The Forgotten Trinity. Those who have followed some of our interaction with similar tactics on the part of Roman Catholic e-pologists have seen this tactic before, but any person who strives for truthfulness should still be shocked at such behavior.