An Answer to “The Baptist Record”
Oct. 11, 1950.
The Baptist Record,
Jackson 105, Miss.
Attention of A. L. Goodrich, D.D., Editor
In your edition of The Baptist Record of Thursday, August 31, copy of which has been referred to us, you call public notice to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures released on August 2 at Yankee Stadium, New York city, at the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses. Your page 1 presents verbatim the Religious News Service (RNS) announcement of this new translation, but it is on your editorial page (4) where you make your attitude known toward this twentieth-century translation of the Christian Scriptures from the original Greek into language that people talk and understand today. A Christian work of this kind is certain to make the sacred Scriptures more understandable to the people and more loved by them, with a transforming effect on their lives in these days when godless communism is cutting deep swaths through the ranks of Christendom.
But you find no commendation for it. Your editorial comment is headed “The Cross Is Not A Stake”. First it calls attention to the RNS announcement and then at once declares your lack of confidence in the New World Translation. The prejudice that stamps your editorial is plainly because the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society obtained possession of this Scripture Translation and is publishing it. We observe that on page one your article headed “Georgia Senators Will Oppose Ambassador to Vatican” reflects your opposition to the Roman Catholic religious system. So we wonder whether you are likewise prejudiced against the Douay Version of the Bible and other versions of the Holy Scriptures recently brought out by such men as Monsignor Ronald Knox, Rev. F. A. Spencer, Rev. Cuthbert Lattey, S.J., the Episcopal Committee of the Catholic Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, etc., just because of their being Catholic translators.
In its English publications the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society has made many quotations from all these Roman Catholic translations, quoting all together from upward of 70 different Bible translations. But you discourage the use of the New World Translation by Baptists and any other readers of your paper because of who publishes it. You do this without investigation.
To further bias your readers against the New World Translation you comment sarcastically on the fact that the translators have chosen to remain unnamed, letting the merit of the translation rest, not on names, but upon its faithful rendition of the Scriptures from their original language. You impugn the motives of the translators for doing so. Your second paragraph reads: “Note that the translators ‘wish to remain anonymous even after death.’ We don’t blame them. If the facts as stated in the article mentioned above are true, they deserve to remain anonymous both before and after death.”
Your comment is on a par with that of The Catholic Telegraph Register, of August 18, section two, pages 1, 4, which says: “Although the Witnesses claim that their translation is the ‘product of three years’ research by an international commission of Biblical scholars in New York city’—albeit the identity of the translators is being withheld at their own request—they are not likely to make much impression on either Catholic or Protestant scholars. It is no wonder that the translators wish to remain unknown.” (Monsignor Matthew Smith) Although they disagree violently among themselves on many points of doctrine and practice, how alike in attitude the clergy of the various wings of orthodox religion of Christendom are toward what is unorthodox!
However, is a work of Scripture to be condemned because the producers do not choose to advertise themselves but let all the glory go to the Author of the Scriptures, God? Then The Twentieth Century New Testament is to be condemned without investigation because those responsible for it, “a company of about twenty persons, members of various sections of the Christian Church,” chose to remain anonymous and merely signed their Preface “The Translators”, November, 1898. Likewise any other anonymous translations of the Scriptures. Then, too, the anonymous books of the Bible, such as 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and Hebrews, and those which give a name but no details about the one named, are to be condemned, their scholarship is to be doubted and contemned, and their ableness for the task of writing is to be suspected. In its appraisal of the New World Translation Committee, The Baptist Record has shown an absence of scholarship. A true scholar would first investigate and honestly study a newly produced work before passing judgment upon its producers according to his own preconceived notions and indoctrination. A trustworthy scholar will in this case follow the Scriptural rule, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.”—1 Thessalonians 5:21.
There is no excuse for your position. The New World Translation was released August 2 and various news agencies at once published this event. Between then and the date you published your paper you had four weeks in which to procure a copy. But your editorial betrays that you failed to get a copy and make a thorough examination of all its many features which are well documented and authenticated. And yet you presume to pass judgment on the New World Translation and condemn it without investigation to all your readers. For this, your responsibility is great before the Bible’s great Author.
The pitfall into which such a course will lead a clergyman is revealed in your third paragraph, which makes you ridiculous before all true Biblical scholars. You say therein: “It is also stated that reference to the Trinity have been omitted. [sic] Instead of the phrase ‘Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’ the new translation uses the words ‘the spirit, the water, and the blood.’ That is just one sample of the unscriptural teaching Jehovah’s Witnesses. [sic] In other words the phrase ‘the spirit, the water, and the blood’ in the place of the ‘The Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ [sic] is not according to the original Greek in which the New Testament was written.”
Of course, The Baptist Record should know that the word “trinity” does not occur in any English edition of the Bible, nor even in the Latin translation of the original Greek, but the equivalents for it, triás and trinitas, were introduced into ecclesiastical writings by Theophilus and Tertullian in the late second century. The Baptist Record should know, too, that the words “Holy Ghost” do not occur in the American Standard Version of the Bible but that it uses the words “holy spirit”; and so do other modern versions.
Hence your statement that “reference to the Trinity have been omitted” is begging the question. Had you been cautious and procured first a copy of the New World Translation and read Matthew 28:19, you would have seen that this translation reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”
But the scripture text to which The Baptist Record particularly refers is the one upon which trinitarians have relied for centuries as their strongest buttress, namely, 1 John 5:7, 8. The New World Translation renders the phrase “the spirit and the water and the blood” because they are there in the authentic Greek text, but it does not render what is not there in the Greek text. So you are absolutely false when you say, “The phrase ‘the spirit, the water, and the blood’ in the place of the ‘The Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ is not according to the original Greek in which the New Testament was written.”
The New World Translation does not substitute the one phrase for the other here, but it translates only what is in the Greek. It refuses to violate the Bible rule: “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”—Proverbs 30:6; also Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18.
And when talking of the “original Greek in which the New Testament was written”, we ask you, To which edition of the Greek text do you refer? You are referring to a Greek text from which the King James Version of 1611 was translated, but which is a text now rejected by true scholars because of the many mistakes, additions and omissions which mark it, so that the King James Version has been convicted of containing over 20,000 errors. On page 8 of its Foreword the New World Translation apprizes us that the Greek text it used as its basis was the Westcott and Hort text of 1881, while at the same time it considered three other twentieth century editions of the Greek text by Protestant and Catholic scholars. Dr. Philip Schaff called the Westcott-Hort text “the purest Greek text” and “the last and best edition of the Greek Testament”. So your reference to the original Greek text was indeed a fast play to deceive your readers; for the Westcott-Hort Greek text does not contain the phrase “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” at 1 John 5:7, 8, but it reads just as the New World Translation has faithfully rendered it.
You show ignorance of the contents of your own Baptist publications. We refer to the translation of The Holy Bible of the American Baptist Publication Society, of 1913. At 1 John 5:7, 8 it also reads: “7 For there are three that testify; the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; 8 and the three agree in one [testimony].” Is this Baptist rendition guilty of substituting “spirit, water and blood” for “Father, Son and Holy Ghost”? Is this Baptist rendering contrary to the “original Greek in which the New Testament was written”? Your charge against the New World Translation of omitting “reference to the Trinity” you are now obliged to level against your very own Baptist translation.
You call the New World Translation fantastic in its translation, when you say in your fourth paragraph: “Another sample of their fantastic translation is the fact that the terms ‘hell,’ and ‘cross’ have been omitted in favor of ‘hades’ and ‘stake’. There is absolutely no authority for translating the cross as stake.”
You might as well accuse the American Standard Version for fantastic translation, because in the 8 places where “hades” occurs in the Greek text it renders that word “Hades” in English and never “hell”. Your Baptist Bible chooses to render “hades” as “underworld” instead of “hell”. But in the 13 places in the American Standard Version where the word “hell” does appear, it is not translated from the Greek “hades”. It is translated 12 times from “gehenna” and once from “tartaroʹo”; and in its footnotes the American Standard Version is honest enough to admit that these are original words in the Greek text.
The New World Translation is not fantastic but is literal in its translation when it renders the Greek words “hades, gehenna and tartaros” into English as “Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus”. In a 43-page Appendix those words are explained according to their Scriptural meaning. While we are on that point, note the famous text of Matthew 16:18. There the Revised Standard Version of 1946 translates Jesus as saying to Peter “the powers of death” instead of “the gates of hell”; and in its footnote it says: “Greek the gates of Hades.” Does that strike you as fantastic translation? It knocks one prop for your medieval hell from under you.
Your heading says, “The cross is not a stake,” and your paragraph four says it is fantastic to use “stake” instead of “cross”. Infected unwittingly as you are with Roman Catholic doctrine, you could be expected to speak that way. If you had not been so foolish as to blurt out before investigation but had gotten a copy of the New World Translation and read what pages 768-771 of the Appendix say on Matthew 10:38 and “torture stake”, you would have been more restrained in your editorial. You would have learned that the instrument of torture which the Greeks called staurós, and the Latins crux, was originally only a stake without a crossbeam at any angle. Consult your International Encyclopedia or other exhaustive reference work upon the subject for yourself. There is no factual, historical proof that Jesus was nailed to a cross such as Roman Catholics idolize. It is only a fiction that Helena, queen mother of Emperor Constantine, found by miraculous agencies the “true cross”.
The New World Translation is not alone in maintaining that Jesus was executed upon a stake. If you have a copy of The Companion Bible Part V. The Gospels, published by the Oxford University Press, then turn to its Appendix No. 162 entitled “The Cross and Crucifixion” (page 186). After a lengthy discussion of considerable evidence the article concludes: “The evidence is thus complete, that the Lord was put to death upon an upright stake, and not on two pieces of timber placed at any angle.” Evidently you, in your reading of the Bible, have failed to attach due significance to the fact that the apostle Peter speaks of it only as a “tree” (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1 Peter 2:24), and the apostle Paul speaks of it also as a “tree”, at Acts 13:29 and Galatians 3:13. It was easy for you to assert that it was not a simple stake upon which Jesus died, but your editorial fails to provide a shred of proof or argument that the New World Translation is fantastic, incorrect and unscriptural on this point.
Your editorial concludes: “But read the article for yourself.” (Meaning the RNS announcement) It might better have read: “But read the New World Translation for yourself.” Then your readers would be getting at the facts uncolored by your prejudicial comments and would be able to reach independent, just conclusions. Even for this adverse publicity we are glad, for, as the apostle Paul says: “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:8) We consider it a privilege to serve as publishers of the New World Translation. Nonetheless, we shall continue to print on our presses and to publish the King James Version and the American Standard Version Bibles to aid and encourage the groping multitudes to study God’s Word.
We are handing a copy of this letter over to the Watchtower magazine for publication. In the meantime The Baptist Record has the privilege of publishing in its columns this reply to its editorial. You owe it to your readers to do so, to rectify the misimpression you have caused. But you owe it especially to the Lord God to do so, for you have grossly misrepresented a faithful translation of his inspired Word and thus hindered the cause of his truth with many.
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY