Clergy Voice Unwarranted Criticism
ON August 2 the Watchtower Society released the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The very next day the Toronto Daily Star published on page one the following:
“UNWARRANTED LIBERTY, SAY CLERGY OF WITNESS BIBLE
“Several clergymen and students of the Bible said today Jehovah’s witnesses have taken unwarranted liberties in rejecting the idea of the Holy Trinity in a new translation of the Greek scriptures comprising the New Testament. Revealed yesterday, the version substitutes the words ‘the spirit and the water and the blood’ for the phrase ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’. The latter translation is found frequently throughout the King James version of the New Testament, used by orthodox churches.”
These critical clergymen are poorly informed, and in their haste to strive they open themselves to shame. They should have heeded the proverb: “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.” (Prov. 25:8) Informed Bible students know that the phrase “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” is not found once in the King James Version. Found once is the phrase “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost”, at 1 John 5:7. And what about the phrase “the spirit and the water and the blood”? Is it a substitution for the other phrase? No; those identical words appear in both the King James Version and the New World Translation, at 1 John 5:8. What the New World Translation did was merely drop the King James Version phrase at 1 John 5:7: “The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
Well, was that an “unwarranted liberty”? The critical clergymen thought so, for the press report continued: “Prof. B. W. Horan, Wycliffe College Bible authority, said the translation approved by the Watch Tower and Bible Society—official name of the Witnesses—can have no factual basis. He added: ‘The words “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” are clear in the original Greek, our only authority, and are thus translated in all English versions. They are taking an unwarranted liberty, and once you do that sort of thing you can get almost anything out of the scriptures. They have no warrant at all for their interpretation.’ Officials of the Anglican, United, Baptist, Presbyterian and Christian Science Churches agreed with Prof. Horan.”
How can Horan be a “Bible authority” for Wycliffe College, and yet say this phrase is in the original Greek and is translated “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” in “all English versions”? The Greek originals were written in the first century of our common era, but it was not until the sixteenth century that these spurious words crept into a Greek manuscript. In 1516 Erasmus produced a Greek “New Testament” text. He brought out several editions, and the first two did not contain the spurious words at 1 John 5:7. However, the omission of this forged text was noted by Catholic authorities, particularly by Stunica, and through subsequent contriving Stunica prevailed upon Erasmus to insert it in a later edition, against the better judgment of Erasmus. William Tyndale used this Erasmus later edition to revise his English translation, and it is this Tyndale version that is the basis of the popular King James Version of 1611. Thus we see how 1 John 5:7, never in the original Greek Scriptures, wormed its way into the King James Version.
And what about Horan’s claim that this spurious trinitarian text is in “all English versions”? It is extremely difficult to believe he is so ignorant of the facts, yet that belief is perhaps more charitable than to think he deliberately falsifies. In 1881 there was published a revision of the “New Testament” of the King James Version, called the “English Revised Version”. It omitted the spurious text 1 John 5:7, as had Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott version a few years earlier. Almost invariably modern versions in English omit it.
The American Standard Version of 1901 did. When the Greek Scriptures of this version were revised and published in 1946, the spurious text was still missing. It is likewise omitted in Moffatt’s modern translation (1922), in An American Translation by Goodspeed (1935), in The New Testament in Basic English (1941), in Darby’s version (1949), in Weymouth’s version (fifth edition, 1929), in the Twentieth Century New Testament (1901), in Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible (1897), and so on through practically all modern English versions. The Baptist cleric, J.B. McLaurin, that protested against the New World Translation should have known that the American Baptist Publication Society copyrighted and published in 1924 a modern version of the Greek Scriptures, in which they omitted the spurious verse. (The other hasty critics of the New World Translation were D. B. Rogers, Church of England, F. W. Boorer, Christian Scientist, V. T. Mooney, United Church, and J. A. Munro, Presbyterian church.)
Catholic Monsignor Knox completed a translation in 1943, and while including the spurious text admitted in a footnote: “This verse does not occur in any good Greek manuscript.” The Catholic Confraternity translation explained that it retained the text because the Holy See reserved to itself the right to pass on the text, but did admit that according to the evidence of many manuscripts the verse was spurious. The fact is that every informed clergyman knows that the words of 1 John 5:7, as in the King James Version, are not found in the most reliable Greek Scripture manuscripts, namely, the Vatican 1209, the Sinaitic, and the Alexandrine. The Greek text used as the basis of the New World Translation is the widely accepted Westcott and Hort text (1881), by reason of its admitted excellence. It does not contain the spurious words at 1 John 5:7.
In view of all this, what do we conclude? That the New World Translation did not take any unwarranted liberties, but that these clergymen voiced unwarranted criticism, and in their haste to do so have demonstrated ignorance or prejudice, or both, to their shame.