I have had a recent visitor to my home. It is someone that most people are familiar with. A Jehovah’s Witness man and woman stopped by my house to deliver me a copy of Watchtower, and let me know that they would be happy to talk to me more about it. I looked at the “cover story” of that issue of Watchtower, and it simply posed the question, “Can you trust the Bible?”. Being an instructor at a small, local Bible College, and currently teaching a class on Bible Interpretation, I was actually a bit intrigued.
When I let my spontaneous visitors know that I taught at the Bible College, they quickly left encouraging me to read their materials. One of the interesting things that I discovered was that much of what they taught about the source and reliability of the Scriptures was almost verbatim from what I’ve been teaching my class. So I figured that we had something in common, and I wanted to learn more about what the differences are between what they believe and what I believe as a Non-Denominational Christian.
One thing that I teach in my Bible Interpretation class is about where the Bible came from, and what the difference is between the many translations that exist. I even had my class do papers that researched several different translations and asked about their translation methods, what motivated them to do the translation (political, public opinion, textual problems off earlier versions, etc.), and what the public (and expert) opinions are of these translations. The purpose of that exercise is to help them learn about how they can find a translation (or two, or more) that they can trust.
Typically, when you look at a translation of the Bible, there is a certain method used to describe how the text is translated. Versions like the King James, New King James, English Standard Version use a word-for-word (literal) method. Versions like New International Version and New Living Translation use a thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalent) method. Then some translations like The Message are more of a paraphrase (free) than holding to a stong “translation” technique. The point here is that each of these different types of translations has value, but in different ways. More importantly, each of these are very clear about how they were translated, and who did it and why.
For example, the English Standard Version (my current preferred literal translation) used scholars with varying backgrounds, from various theologies and denominations, and also from different English speaking countries. The reason for having such a variety of influence was to eliminate any personal bias in translating the text.
The one thing about what the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim about the Bible is that their New World Translation is the ONLY correct translation. Since we are not reading the text in it’s original Greek and Hebrew forms, then it seems to me that there cannot be only one way for me to look at and evaluate how words have translated into the English language.
When I study the original language used in the Scriptures, I find 3 or 4 different words used in the Greek (and in Hebrew) that we translate into the English word “love”. I also find at least five different words that we commonly translate into the one word “worship”. If there are so many more deeper meanings to these words, then how can I rely on one English translation to understand the original message?
The other thing that I noticed is that they were also very clear on the fact that the authors of this “New World Translation” were completely anonymous. Every other group, team or committee of scholars that have worked on the other translations were open about who the people were. There is an issue with understanding the credentials of the people in order to guarantee quality. We can verify the quality of the other translations. Not to mention that the only reason that I can think of that you would be so secretive about this type of thing is that you have something that you are trying to hide. We simply can neither confirm nor deny the quality of the the “scholars” doing the translation.
But why would there be something to hide? I don’t want to answer that question without having factual information, otherwise I run the risk of unfairly passing judgment. Suffice it to say at this point that the very “scripture” that they use to base their faith on has some serious questions about whether it can actually be called the true Word of God, or if it is something that someone has rewritten to reinforce concepts important to their agenda. I plan to continue this series by bringing up other issues that I find with the Jehovah’s Witness faith. I am finding some very large theological cracks in the very foundation of these beliefs, and would love to share my findings here…
Other posts in this series: