An Open Answer to “The Vindicator”
Dec. 26, 1950
3111 Grover St.,
Fort Worth 6, Tex.
Attention of E. C. Fuqua, Publisher.
Someone was alert enough to send us a copy of the November, 1950, issue of your paper, calling our attention to your editorial on page 8 with the heading “ANOTHER ‘NEW BIBLE’ COMING UP”. As we are the publishers for Jehovah’s witnesses against which your editorial has considerable to say we feel called upon to answer and set some things straight in your mind. Not expecting you to publish our answer in your columns, we are turning over a copy for publication in the official magazine of Jehovah’s witnesses, The Watchtower.
That we may confront you as well as Watchtower readers with what you published in derogation of these devoted Christians, we first copy here your initial paragraph:
“Jehovah’s Witnesses,” 70,000 strong, have just had a convention in New York, making a great noise. Their leader, Nathan H. Knorr, has promised them extremely interesting things for “the near future,” among which is the abolition of Hell as set forth in the Scriptures. This will ease many minds—those who had read enough of the New Testament to understand that there is such a place in store for the wicked. Now they may rest in complacence, seeing (?) that such a place, if it ever existed, is to be finally removed.
It was three months from the holding of the international convention of Jehovah’s witnesses in Yankee Stadium, New York, July 30 to August 6, to your November issue, and yet with all the time and opportunity you had to inform yourselves from all the publicity and convention releases setting forth the facts, you have the rashness to publish such a paragraph under such a heading. Certainly you destroy all confidence of informed people in the soundness of anything you publish by your statement, “Their leader, Nathan H. Knorr, has promised them extremely interesting things for ‘the near future,’ among which is the abolition of Hell as set forth in the Scriptures.”
First of all, Mr. Knorr is merely president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. He disclaims being the “leader” of Jehovah’s witnesses and points to Jesus Christ as our God-given Leader; and Jehovah’s witnesses acknowledge and follow, not Mr. Knorr, but Jesus Christ as Leader. That is why during the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 to 1945 Jehovah’s witnesses in that land refused to heil Hitler! as their Fuehrer or Leader, and went to concentration camps and prisons, where 2,000 died cruel deaths, and of the 8,000 that came out alive, 2,000 were invalided for the rest of their lives. Concerning the “abolition of hell as set forth in the Scriptures”, Mr. Knorr never promised such a thing. He adheres strictly to what Revelation 20:14 says in the King James Version Bible (which we print and publish): “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” It is God by Jesus Christ who long ago promised to cast hell into the lake of fire or “second death” and thereby abolish it.
Consider with us now your 2d paragraph, which reads:
But most significant of the things attempted by the “Witnesses” is their undertaking to make a new Bible. They have announced through Nathan H. Knorr that they are getting out a “new translation” of the Scriptures, seeing the present translations do not suit them. One of the especial things to be set forth in this “new translation,” is the “interpretation” of “Hell” from the Greek “Hades.” That alone announces the heterodoxy of their coming “translation.” Hades never did mean “Hell,” but always the place of disembodied human spirits, which for short we call the grave. “Hell” is from “Gehenna,” and means the place of eternal punishment after death. To apply that to the grave is to defy inspiration. And no 70,000 fanatics can abolish that place of eternal punishment by the mere desire of their leaders.
This paragraph betrays you to be at least three months behind the times in news, for the “new translation” is not something yet to be gotten out but Mr. Knorr released the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures on Wednesday afternoon, August 2, and described a number of its features. And before the assembly closed on the following Sunday 85,850 copies of this New World Translation had been placed with the conventioners, and now our factory has passed printing 250,000 copies of it.
This translation does not give (to quote you) an “interpretation of ‘Hell’ from the Greek ‘Hades”’. Get yourselves a copy and see that it does not translate the Greek word “Hades” at all, but transliterates it bodily into the English text. This is also what the American Standard Version Bible, which we also print and publish, does. You say, “That alone announces the heterodoxy of their coming ‘translation’.” If so, then you must admit that the American Standard Version is also heterodox in its translation. That being the case, why is it that you follow heterodoxy? For your editorial page-heading announces: “All quotations in this paper are from the American Standard Revised Version, unless otherwise indicated.” Heterodoxically, the Revised Standard Version of 1946 reads like the New World Translation at Revelation 20:14, where it says: “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” Note Hades there!
You say “Hades never did mean ‘hell’”. Well, we have always taught that Hades never did mean the kind of “hell” that the religious clergy of Christendom teach. But next you say, “‘Hell’ is from ‘Gehenna,’ and means the place of eternal punishment after death.”
Evidently you do not know what this old English word “Hell” means. The Encyclopedia Americana says under “Hell”: “Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell.”
The Encyclopædia Britannica gives us the derivation of the word “Hell”, saying: “Old English hel, a Teutonic word from a root meaning ‘to cover,’ compare German Hoelle, Dutch hel.”
Webster’s New International Dictionary, 2d edition, unabridged, corroborates the above derivation, saying: “Hell [AS.; akin . . . to Anglo-Saxon helan to conceal, Latin celare, Greek kalyptein, Old Irish celim I conceal, Sanskrit śarman protection. See HALL; compare CELLAR, CLANDESTINE, COLOR, CONCEAL, HEL, HELE, HELMET, HULL, OCCULT, SUPERCILIOUS.]”
Now every honest person must admit, in the face of this evidence, that the basic meaning of “hell” is to cover or conceal. That is why this same Webster’s dictionary shows that “hell” is used as a verb meaning, oh no, not to torment in fire, but to “cover”; as when the Old English dialect spoke of “helling potatoes”, not meaning to roast them in fire, but meaning to put them in the ground as a cellar. Hence “Hell” corresponds with “Hades”, for “Hades” means “invisible, obscure, dark”.
For this reason it is wrong for men to translate the Greek word Gehenna as “Hell” and you are wrong in saying that Hell is from Gehenna. All authorities agree that Hell represents a covered or concealed place and hence Hell corresponds with the grave, which is the place where we cover or conceal our dead. On the other hand, Gehenna means “valley of Hinnom”. And if you know anything about the Gehenna which lay outside the western and southern walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, you know it was not a concealed or covered place but was a very open, uncovered place, a chasm which Jerusalem used as an open dump. There they cast sometimes the corpses (not living bodies) of criminals to be cremated in the fires mixed with sulphur or to be consumed by the maggots; all this picturing that such criminals were unworthy of a resurrection from the dead.
Hence the New World Translation could not render Gehenna by the word Hell, a covered place, but transferred Gehenna bodily into its English text. The Appendix explains what Gehenna was in Jesus’ day and shows it Scripturally symbolizes the “second death”. This is an eternal punishment, because it is the death from which there is no resurrection. Surely Gehenna cannot be a place for the fiery torment of living human souls eternally, for Jesus said: “If ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into Gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be pitched into Gehenna.” (Mark 9:43-46, NW) Being pitched into the fiery Gehenna is the opposite of ‘entering into life’. Now what is the opposite of life? Absence of life, death, is it not? Gehenna is not the same as the grave (Hades) from which there is a resurrection. So you are absolutely in error in inferring that the New World Translation applies Gehenna to the grave, “to defy inspiration.”
Here is what you said in your 3d paragraph:
When a teaching becomes so outlandishly anti-God, it needs a “new translation” of the Bible. That is, it needs another “Bible.” The one God gave us is not adequate to set forth the new religion.
Which Bible do you mean by your expression “the one God gave us”? Certainly when your paper quotes from the American Standard Revised Version, you are not using “the one God gave us”. Or are you naive enough to imagine that God really gave us that Version? The Bible God gave us is the one he inspired and which was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and common Greek, which are today practically dead languages. If to produce a “new translation” in modern speech and according to the latest findings on the Bible means to “make a new Bible”, “another ‘Bible’,” then tell us this: Why is it that the American Committee of Revision, which produced the American Standard Version from which your paper mainly quotes, brought forth in 1946 the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament and will shortly bring forth also a revised Old Testament? Will you level against their Committee the charge of ‘making a new Bible’? Have they ‘become so outlandishly anti-God’ as to need a new translation that they might set forth a new religion?
For you to charge modern Bible translation in such a manner means for you to indict also all the English translators from the fourteenth-century translator John Wycliffe down till those today. Yes, you indict all Bible translation from the very beginning, and you set yourself in opposition to Jesus’ prophetic command: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matthew 24:14); for this could be accomplished only by translating the Bible which God originally gave us.
After five more paragraphs in which you decry the making of “another Bible” or a “new Bible” you conclude with this paragraph:
The “Jehovah’s Witnesses” are a flesh-loving people. The doctrine offers them immunity from suffering in Hell, and that is precious in their eyes. But they do not discern that the offer is made them in terms the exact opposite to the language God employs. God tells them that there is such a place as Hell, and it is not Hades or the grave. Their leaders tell them that such a place does not exist. This is plainly anti-God and brands the “Witnesses” as having “the mark of the beast”. God says the wicked “shall go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46); but the “Witnesses” say there is no such place. But in so saying, they are preparing themselves to go there! What, therefore, do they gain by their opposition to God?
Out of your own mouth you condemn yourself. You say, “the offer is made them in terms the exact opposite to the language God employs.” How can this be? The New World Translation does not use the Old English word “hell”, but uses the very words God gave us in his original Bible, namely, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4, NW). Certainly this is not making another Bible, a Bible different from the one God gave us, but is using the exact language God employs. You are far-fetched, therefore, in branding this as “plainly anti-God” and as having “the mark of the beast”. Jehovah’s witnesses are not abolishing Gehenna, but are putting it back into the Scriptures where it belongs. Publicly and privately the witnesses teach that there are such places as Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus, and they show the Scriptural distinction between these three places. The Appendix of the New World Translation against which you declaim sets forth that Hades means the common grave of mankind whereas Gehenna is the place of “eternal punishment”. For Gehenna symbolizes the destruction with which God Almighty will utterly destroy the wicked and which destruction will last forever, for they will never have a resurrection.
This harmonizes with Jesus’ own words: “Rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28, NW) Our fear of Him moves us to turn from the course of living that leads to Gehenna and it prevents us from fearing men, be they worldly leaders, dictators or mobs who set themselves in opposition to God. Our guiding text from the Scriptures is, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Jesus warned his opposers with the admonition: “By your words you will be vindicated, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37, NW) By your words against Jehovah’s witnesses your paper The Vindicator stands, not vindicated, but condemned before God and all men of good will.
Sincerely in the vindication of the truth,
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY