Questions From Readers
● In what way were the evildoers who were impaled alongside Jesus Christ fastened to the torture stake? Were they nailed or tied?—R. P., England.
It is possible that they were tied to the stake. Regarding Roman methods of impalement, The Imperial Bible Dictionary (Vol. I, page 377) states: “When the place of doom was reached, the criminal was stripped nearly naked, and either bound or nailed to the cross, which was then hoisted and set up.” If Jewish impalement procedures had been followed in the case of Christ and the evildoers, they would first have been killed and then their corpses would have been placed on the stake. (Deut. 21:22, 23; Josh. 10:26) However, they were impaled while alive. (Luke 23:32-46) Hence, their impalements were performed according to Roman methods, which included either tying or nailing.
We know that Jesus Christ was nailed to the torture stake. On occasions following his death and resurrection, Jesus materialized fleshly bodies bearing the marks of such impalement. In one instance, he invited Thomas to inspect the wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the nails. (John 20:19-29) Yet, while the Scriptures show that Jesus was nailed to his torture stake, they do not specifically say whether the evildoers impaled beside him were nailed or tied to their stakes. So, on page 141 of its book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, for example, the Watch Tower Society has shown regard for Biblical indications as well as acknowledgment of the fact that Roman impalement methods included both nailing and tying. There Jesus is depicted as nailed to his torture stake, whereas the illustration shows the evildoers fastened by the simplest method, by tying.
● Why is Matthew 17:21 omitted from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures?—L. F., U.S.A.
This and some other texts, or portions thereof, in the Christian Greek Scriptures are not included in the New World Translation because they are not found in the Greek text prepared by Cambridge University scholars B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort. This master text was the one principally used by the New World Bible Translation Committee in rendering the Greek Scriptures into English in the 1950 and 1961 editions of the New World Translation.
Consideration of Matthew 17:21 will prove to be enlightening. While this text is not included in the New World Translation, there is a helpful footnote on it in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, 1950 edition. There one finds a translation of the reading of this text according to the Codex Ephraemi rescriptus of the fifth century C.E. and the Cambridge Manuscript (Cantabrigensis) of the sixth century C.E. It reads as follows: “However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” This is given as part of Jesus’ answer to his disciples when they asked why they had been unable to expel a demon in a certain case. It is noteworthy, though, that various important manuscripts omit these words. Among them are the Sinaitic Manuscript and the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, both of the fourth century C.E., and hence older than the sources just quoted. Therefore, verse 21 of Matthew, chapter 17, lacks adequate ancient textual support.
It might be observed in passing, however, that some authorities have viewed it as an interpolation from Mark 9:29. This chapter 9 of Mark contains a parallel account of the same incident and includes this detail omitted by Matthew.
The New World Translation is not alone in omitting Matthew 17:21, or in showing its questionable nature in an explanatory footnote. Among other translations doing so are the American Standard Version, An American Translation, Revised Standard Version and The New English Bible.
Evidently, then, copyists made some additions to the Greek text of the Bible at times, being more prone to do this than to omit material. However, careful Biblical research has resulted in uncovering such scribal elaborations. Consequently, the most dependable Greek texts are found to be the most condensed.
From this we should not take the view that the text of the Christian Greek Scriptures has suffered measurably in transmission. Scholar Jack Finegan has stated: “The total number of New Testament manuscripts is very impressive. . . . No other Greek book has anything like this amount of testimony to its text. It is true that there are numerous textual variations among these different New Testament manuscripts, but the majority of them are of a relatively minor character . . . As a matter of fact, it has been estimated by careful students that there are substantial variations in hardly more than a thousandth part of the entire text.”—Light from the Ancient Past, page 352.
In all these cases where a full verse that is found in the King James Version is not included in the New World Translation, the 1961 edition of the New World Translation shows the verse number and follows it by a long dash. Details as to which manuscripts contain the verse and which ancient ones do not can be found in the footnotes of the large-print edition of the New World Translation.—See also The Watchtower of February 1, 1962, pages 88-92.
“Keep my commandments and continue living, and my law like the pupil of your eyes. Tie them upon your fingers, and write them upon the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom: ‘You are my sister’; and may you call understanding itself ‘Kinswoman.’”—Prov. 7:2-4.