So a friend of mine beseeched me to read “Truth In Translation (And Bias in English translations of the New Testament)” by Jason David BeDuhn. After giving it the once over, I decided to go through it detailing some strong notes in hopes that I may encourage at least one Jehovah Witness to come into the fullness of Faith and Truth about who Jesus Christ is. Fully divine and fully man. Also, I recommend to others to also read the book and compare my notes for yourself. Please do not take this critique as an attack, but as an exhortation so that “iron sharpens iron.”
I believe this short treatise would be of interest for anyone who is intested in Bible studies, linguistics, Bible translations, and also a little about the history and formation of various translations of the Bible. This of course can be expanded and I welcome any criticisms or questions. At the very least, I hope my dear friend, that you see by asking me to go a mile for you and reading through the book you recommended, that I am willing to go two for you, because of the love of you and of Jesus Christ who wants you to know Him in fullness as our Lord and Savior.
A Treatise on “Truth In Translation” and the New World Translation for Jehovah Witnesses:
Let’s begin with the preface where author Jason BeDuhn of “Truth in Translation” states – “sola scriptura (“the Bible alone”) — remains
the dominant voice in Christian reasoning and argument today, powerfully
felt even in non-Protestant forms of Christianity.”
But even many Protestant schisms don’t believe this doctrine. And the Catholic Church certainly has never in any of our Rites.
BeDuhn states “There is no system of control, or of editorial
oversight, in the market of popular biblical “scholarship.””
Thessalonians 5:12 tells us to submit to those ahead of us in authority in the Church
The author paints KJV as th staple for all English translations.
Catholic Church has always went back to the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate
BeDuhn states “The steps
of adaptation from that crumbling manuscript to a modern, compact,
convenient, and readable Bible are what interest us here.
4th century, the list
of books to be included in the New Testament, what we call the “canon,”
was generally agreed upon.
Since the autographs were already long gone, there was no way to know
for sure how the manuscripts should read, but examples that differed
dramatically from the many other copies to which they could be compared
Not true at all. The manuscript had been known by the Church well before canonized and they knew of the obvious false ones to be destroyed
DeDuhn states “The ambition of dynamic equivalence translation is to condense
all of this explanatory commentary into a paraphrase of the biblical
Also, as someone who loves linguistics and speaks multiiple languages, the author’s analysis of “dynamic equivalence” translation is a begging the question fallacy to give it a mild criticism. I haven’t researched if there are already critiques out there of this book, but I wouldn’t doubt that others have called out Jason BeDuhn here for stretching the truth here of how this is applied in Bible translations.
DeBuhn “But eventually Christian missionaries reached places where even
Greek wasn’t spoken. By this time, the books of the New Testament had
been written, and so the missionaries began to translate these books into
local languages such as Latin”
Wrong again. The Latin Vulgate was already made by this time by St Jerome as comissioned by Pope Damasus in 382. Before that the Northern African Christian areas spoke Latin and used the earlier Latin texts from the first and second century and the Asian and European areas that spoke Greek used those.
DeBhun “The principal example of a dynamic equivalence translation i s the
Today ‘ s English Version, commonly known as the “Good News Bible,”
whose New Testament was translated by Robert Bratcher. But the New
Revi sed Standard Version and the New International Version often
incorporate ” dynamic” readings in thei r generally literal text.”
This part is true. Which was the purpose the Good News Bible stated it was trying to accomplish. Everyone who read their preface and publishing notes knows this. Also, notice how he mentions how the Catholic NRSV is literal to the text 😉
Nextly, his points about some versions adding brother and sister versus keeping it as brother in the Greek are moot points. There has been countless explanation on this both by Biblical scholars, linguistic scholars, and so on, andis well known knowledge to the Church of when brother and sister is implied. Actually much of this book is pedantic points, stating as he has figured them out, which had already been widely publicized, sometimes even in the very preface notes and Bible study books of the very mentioned Bible translations he criticizes. But I digress…
DeBuhn – “The common contrast between “formal equivalence” and “dynamic
equivalence” is, in my opinion, something of a false dichotomy.”
Sure there is some overlap, like a venn diagram. But his oversimplification is brutal reductionism.
DeBuhn – “This comb ined, eclecti c approach has been
adopted in principle by the N RSV, with its famous dictum of “as l iteral as
possible, as free as necessary,” and by several other modern translations
although, as we will see, not consi stently.”
One of the more accurate things he said. Only thing, how consistent does he mean? He doesn’t really elaborate on this point. I’m guessing because the consistency is relative to the translator’s descretion and any ruling to when they should be literal vs dynamic is completely up to the translators and a weigh-in on that would be subjective. Something that can be weighed in however is accuracy, which the NWT is not to the Greek text…
His knowledge of KJV seems to be severely lacking. He is correct in that it is a more literal text, but he acts as if it’s idioms pop up out of nowhere. The KJV brought in those expressions to make sense of the text from the Douay-Rheims, which was released in the 1500s and the full version in 1609. The KJV even mentions this in it’s own critique of the Douay-Rheims, which can be found in the very preface of the 1611 KJV.
His criticism of the NRSV is spoiled in bitter quotes over it being “authorized.” It’s funny because he goes on to admit that the council who agreed upon it’s authorization was among Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox (by the way he forgot to mention also a few Jewish scholars). Aslo, that the inclusion of adding “sister” to certain passages somehow delegitimizes it being a a good literal translation is absurd. That is clearly there by the authors of NRSV’s own admission of being “free as necessary” which he had said he agreed is necessary in translation only a few some odd pages ago.
His critiques of the next few are decent, except for the Living Bible, which he seems to completely miss the point of. But more to the critical part here, he goes through trying to disect what is wrong with each translation, but the plays softball on NWT. He admits that it is a translation of “an example of a translation which must have a
theol ogical bias,” which he had went on for pages about how that is a no-no in a good translation earlier in the book. But instead of digging into it at all, he just concludes that oh well the other versions have a bias too. This is the most anti-scholarly cop out of his book right here. The short-sightedness here is so transparent, I don’t know how you can render this book an honest critique of Biblical scholastics. Nextly, he argues that it’s better than the NRSV because it doesn’t have the shadow of the KJV, but it had already admitted that the KJV is a good literal translation. So which is or which isn’t it? Talk about double-minded. Lastly, DeBuhn just states that oh it has “peculiarity” that it uses Jehovah instead of Lord, but yet nowhere in this book does it mention that term didn’t come until 1200s if we are being very liberal for argument’s sake. However, Israelites and later Jews never used that term. It was transliterated as YHWH or YahWeh, to which is the unspeakable Name given the title Adonai in reverence, which is where we get the translation Lord. But apparently only the NWT is allowed to make up it’s own terms and phrasings of the Greek and it still be considered a literal text?
The explanation for using “do obeisance” isn’t very strong. Who thinks that falling down to worship a king in the old days is worshiping God? In a modern English speaking audience? If he tried to make this case for say, Malaysia where they have a king he may have a point. But in America or even England where they are closer to that, there is still no one who would take that interpretation in the English speaking world. The rest of the explanation is slight of hand from that false premise. But okay, for argument’s sake, let’s say he is completely right in interpretation of the Greek word proskuneo, there still lies a major problem with the NWT. We all know kurios simply means Lord and is the translation of Adonai as obviously even the NWT translators acknowledge because they translate it as their term Jehovah.
So the big question is why does NWT translate kurios as Jehovah everywhere else except when it’s applied to Jesus? (For example Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, and Revelation 22:21)
Also I want to present a theological question here, and I’ll even do it using the NWT version: “Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form.
gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be
equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s
form and came to be in the likeness of men.”
Even if you take out all the Greek they just didn’t translate here (equality of God to be exploited), –
How can a man who is not God, take on God’s form? Is “God’s form” (or the nature of God if you prefer) not only reserved for…God?
(and simply saying image here doesn’t make sense because that isn’t the Greek used as even NWT acknowledges here)
BIG RED FLAG
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
creation; because by means of h i m all [other] things were
created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible
and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones
or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] th ings
have been c reated through him and for him. Also, he is before
all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were
made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the
congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the
dead, that he might become the one who is tirst in all things;
because [God] saw good for all fu l lness to dwell i n h im, and
through him to reconcile again to himself all [other] things by
making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture
stake, no matter whether they are the things upon th e earth
or the things in the heavens. Colossians 1:15-20
DeBuhn goes on “Only the ital icized words in brackets are marked as additions in the NW;
those that appear outs ide of brackets above are not marked in any way i n
the text. But none o f those u nmarked additions alters the mean ing o f the
Wait! Hold up, no we can’t just skip past that. The admittedly added words that aren’t in the Greek here completely change the text! They know God created all things, so by superfluously taking it in their discretion to add “other” here they are subverting the fact that Jesus is God by creating all things in order to falsify Scripture to fit their doctrine.
The additions here in Colossians and in other places like Philippians 2:9 completely REFUTE the assertion that NWT actually strives for a translation that is “as literal a translation as possible.” Even the society’s own Interlinear translation (which I also own a copy of), as well as other Hebrew and Greek sources, show that NWT added words that aren’t in the Greek and also removed certain words. It is no wonder that the watchtower society uses the smokescreen of deceptiveness to not release any of the information of how theey translated the Bible, which the KJV and NRSV and all reputable English translations have made accessible, some even in the forewards of the Bible itself.
DeBuhn continues “The additions to the text made by the N IV, N RSV, and AB are much more
significant, in quantity and in alteration of meaning, than those of the
translations we have al ready considered.”
As I already mentioned, not even close. Changing “of” to “over” is not at all the same thing as adding completely new words that weren’t there before.
DeBuhn “He stops and
clarifi es that “of course” when he says “all things” he doesn’t mean that
God himself will be subject to Christ”
Exactly…Paul clarified. Therefore if clarification is needed to the all, the Word suffices in clarification. That doesn’t give the “translators” to make up their own “clarifications” where the Word in Greek simply said All.
DeBuhn “So what exactly are objectors to “other” argu ing for as the
meaning of the phrase “all things”? That Christ created himself?”
Absolutely not. Obviously that isn’t what any objector is saying. That’s like him arguing “did God create Himself?” God is infinite and exists out of time. He was not created but is Creation Himself. Did DeBuhn think he was arguing against atheists here or something? What a completely facile assertion.
READ THIS PLEASE
DeBuhn next tries to break down Titus 2:13 as meaning it is saying God, (and the) Savior Jesus Christ. He also compares this with how NWT translates 2 Peter 1:1 of the God of us and ( of the) savior .Jesus Christ.
Okay that’s fine and all. I’ll give that grace. But if Jesus is the Savior as even NWT admits. THEN HE IS GOD. Because as God’s Word says from the Prophet Isaiah, “I, yes I, am the LORD, and there is no Savior but Me.” Isaiah 43:11. Thus proving that Jehovah Witness doctrine is false, because God alone is the Savior. And by admitting here that Jesus is the Savior you must then admit that He is God or you are saying that God is lying in His Word.
The part DeBuhn talks about Hebrews 1:8 and states about ho theos simply isn’t true. Theos means God. Ho means oh. They are taking a great liberty from the direct translation. He tries to justify his claim here by saying the “Within the Jewish tradition, Psalm 45 has never been taken to call
the king “God.”” But it doesn’t say that in Psalm 45. King David is talking to God, not the other way around. Plus…that part of the Bible, the original is in Hebrew not Greek, so it doesn’t even correlate to DeBuhn’s claim here at all.
The tampering with tenses paragraph is actually fairly strong from a linguistic sense. But from a bias sense it’s ridiculous. He states “Inconsistency in translation is often an indicator of bias,” while ignoring the numerous inconsistencies in the NWT. Also, I must note, he misses the painstaking importance of why other English translations left the literal “I Am” rather than changing the grammar. This is in direct correlation with “I Am Who I Am” as Adonai first announced His Name to Moses. But of course it is those key nuances that NWT goes out of it’s way to eliminate.
As for the bit with John 1:1, I’ll simply put this question forth (despite all the rationalizing for why they added all the words they did there, such as arguing against one guy Colwell’s observation centuries after KJV)- Even if as NWT translates it, the Word was with God in the beginning and just “god” (lower case, despite the exact same Greek word being used there)
- If the Word was with God in the beginning, then the Word (Jesus) has always been, hasn’t He?
I will note something here that was left out on DeBuhn’s breakdown of the Colwell rule here though (which again, is what I see to be more of a sound obeservation rather than a definite rule, although interesting enough other linguistics have found that even the contrapositive of his rule hold true). “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article” and “a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a ‘qualitative’ noun solely because of the absence fo the article”. This is Colwell’s rule. Notice that simple being in front of the verb does not make the noun definite. If it would otherwise be definite, the placement prior to the noun explains the lack of an article. I thought I should point that out, because it actually refutes DeBuhn’s further points on Colwell’s rule further in this chapter on other verses. Really though, I find this entire section superflous though, as the infiniteness of the Word (Jesus) is still eminent here which still leaves the burden of proof on the doctrine of Jehovah Witnesses.
The most obvious breakdown in his chapter on Holy Spirit is with suggesting difference between God’s Spirit and “one’s own spirit” when One can do nothing without the branch we are attached to. John 15:5 completely dismantles his argument about how the Holy Spirit intereacts with us and that we can not be separated from the One who gives us Spirit otherwise we do not abide in Him. DeBuhn’s understanding of Holy Spirit is pure hubris and against the pious beauty that our Spirit comes from God.
In his final word DeBuhn declares, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, are more similar to
the Protestants in their view that the B ible alone must be the source of
truth in its every detai l .”
Again, not all Protestants believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. It also isn’t Biblical. The Bible doesn’t say that the Bible is the only source of truth, but rather that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
So while all Scripture is true, it is not the only source of truth for God can not be contained to just Scripture, or even all of Heaven and Earth, for “There are many more things that Jesus did. If all of them were written down, I suppose that not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written.” John 21:25 But what does God’s Word tell us what will bring us to all Truth? “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into All Truth” John 16:13
Thus, not only does Sola Scriptura lead to all types of divisions of individual interpretations (Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, Associated Bible Students, Free Bible Students, etc etc), but it is also false to what God’s Word in fact states. Leaving the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ created and entrusted Peter to lead and pass down as the fullness of the Faith.
Furthermore, it continues to go off the KJV traslations and state that other English translations simply try to correlate with the KJV, but that simply isn’t true. First of all, we don’t have the earlier manuscripts to go off anymore that St Jerome had to translate from. Also, this book does not take into the English translation prior to KJV, the Douay-Rheims. Furthermore, the way it deescribes how scholars for new translations are rendered is simply untrue. There is thorough cross-examination and peer review which is highly publicized for scholars to let critiques of newer translations be known. It’s not like it is simply done like how St Jerome had access to and went about his translation in the 300s. It is also a far cry from the anonymity the NWT translators to keep form being accountable for their errors.
Further still, yet another thing “Truth in translation” ignores in it’s critique of only KJV and versions that were inspired from it, is why Bibles in other languages from English, such as over here in the Catholic nation of the Philippines, our version of the Bible Magandang Balita Biblia, which was translated from Hebrew and Greek, renders far closer to the KJV than it does to the forcefully mistranslated NWT. I should also note here, that I used to live in Central America as well as having friends in Spain, and have attended quite a bit of Spanish mass, and all the Spanish Bibles that I’ve read from read much closer to an NASB. Why do even other language Bibles look closer to the Scripture everyone has always known, yet the NWT by would-be anonymous translators is the only one with these very drastic changes that just so happen can be “interpreted” to the JW doctrine?
On top of finishing this book and taking notes, I also did some further research as well.
Also I found that the “committe” of translators were identified later on. The translation committee was headed by (then vice -president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses), Frederick W.Franz. Other members included Nathan H. Knorr (then president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses), Albert D. Schroeder, Ceorge D. Gangas and Milton Henschel.
The Watchtower Society claims their work to have been made directly into English from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages. Yet none of the “translators” were educated in Hebrew nor Greek. And the supposed head of the translation Franz, is the only one with any education beyond high school. And he admitted that he in fact couldn’t translate in a court trial. So it is clear that they actually just took the KJV and then changed the parts they needed to, to fit their false doctrine.
From Kurt Godelman:
“The information as to the identity of the translation committee was made known by former Jehovah’s Witness William Cetnar. (See further, We Left lehovah’s Witnesses, A Non-Profit Organization; Edmond C. Gruss.) Cetnar was able to supply this information as he worked at the International Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the time the translation was being prepared.
In addition, former member of the Watchtower’s Governing Body, Raymond V. Franz, in his book, Crisis of Conscience, lists the translators’ names as Franz, Knorr, Schroeder and Cangas. His list omits Henschel. Franz further acknowledges his uncle Frederick Franz as the “principal translator of the Society’s New World Translation” (Crisis, pg. 50).
Yet, Frederick Franz’s translation ability is open to serious question.
During a court trial held in Scotland in 1954 (during the same period that the New World Translation was being made) Franz was asked if he had made himself familiar with Hebrew. His reply was “Yes.” He also acknowledged under oath that he could read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French. The following day, during the same court trial, his linguistic abilities were put to the test.
He was asked to translate Genesis 2:4 into Hebrew. He failed the test as he was unable to do so. In fact he did not even try, but rather stated “No, I wouldn’t attempt to do that.” (See, Court of Session, Scotland – Douglas Walsh vs. The Right Honourable James Latham Clyde – November 1954.) “