Loyally Advocating the Word of God
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Timothy 2:15.
1, 2. What is one way in which Jehovah’s Witnesses loyally advocate God’s Word?
“READ GOD’S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE DAILY.” Those words appear on the side of a large building situated in Brooklyn, New York, near the approach to the famous Brooklyn Bridge. On whose building do these words appear, and why?
2 They are on one of the printing factories operated by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a religious corporation associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Such a sign is just what one would expect Jehovah’s Witnesses to paint on the side of one of their buildings. Why? Because they firmly believe that the inspired psalmist was telling the truth when he long ago wrote: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) This sign is just one of the many ways in which we Witnesses show that we loyally advocate God’s Word.
3. How did our loyal predecessors advocate God’s Word?
3 In being such loyal advocates of the Word we have many loyal predecessors, even as the Bible itself shows. Some 3,500 years ago there was Moses. There is no question about his loyally advocating God’s Word. He first transmitted some of it to God’s people orally and then in written form. These divine utterances are found in the Pentateuch. After using this devoted prophet, Jehovah God used many more who served as His spokesmen and penmen, all of whom, like Moses, loyally advocated God’s Word. (2 Peter 1:21) Among such were Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, to mention but a few.
Jesus Christ and His Apostles
4. Who was foremost of all advocates of the Word, and how did he show this to be so?
4 But without a doubt, the foremost of all those loyally advocating God’s Word was none other than Jehovah’s only-begotten Son, who became the “man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15) Time and again he loyally advocated his Father’s Word by saying, “It is written,” as when answering Satan’s temptations and when making reply to his religious opposers. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 21:13; John 6:45; 8:17) More than that, by serving faithfully as a prophet greater than Moses, he was also loyally advocating God’s Word. (2 Corinthians 1:20) Yes, he preached and lived by the principle that “Your [God’s] word is truth.”—John 17:17.
5, 6. (a) How did Peter and Paul show their loyal advocacy of the Word? (b) In this connection, for what purpose was the “faithful and discreet slave” brought forth? (c) Why was the “slave” temporarily eclipsed?
5 Jesus’ apostles followed his example. Forcefully, on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter loyally advocated God’s Word by showing how Jesus fulfilled the words of David! (Acts 2:22-36) And the writings of the apostle Paul abound with references to the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how concerned he was with loyally advocating God’s Word. He took the position: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:3, 4) In fact, Peter, Paul and other faithful followers of Jesus Christ served as a “faithful and discreet slave,” “the faithful steward,” commissioned by their Master, Jesus Christ, to provide spiritual food for God’s congregation.—Matthew 24:45-47; Luke 12:42-44.
6 After the death of the apostles, that “faithful and discreet slave” class all but passed off the earthly scene, eclipsed in time as the Christian wheat field became largely a weed field.—Matthew 13:37-43.
Coming to Modern Times
7, 8. (a) When and how did the “slave” again appear? (b) How has its advocacy of the Word been demonstrated since the 1870’s?
7 However, about a hundred years ago the “faithful and discreet slave” class again began to come forward as a loyal advocate of God’s Word. With the years it has become ever more visible and noticed by the world. The facts show that today this “slave” is identified with the Watch Tower Society.
8 This “faithful and discreet slave” is comprised of faithful Christians, wholly dedicated to Jehovah through Christ and begotten by God’s spirit. They are earnest Bible students who, since the mid-1870’s, have come out strongly in defending the Bible as God’s Word by means of books, booklets, magazines and tracts, newspaper articles and public lectures. In 1886, they published Volume I of Studies in the Scriptures. In chapter 3, entitled “The Bible as a Divine Revelation Viewed in the Light of Reason,” this set forth a particularly masterful defense of the Bible. Another notable defense of God’s Word was chapter 1 of Volume VI (published in 1904). This chapter was entitled “In the Beginning,” and it most ably refuted the evolution theory.
9-11. (a) During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, how has the “slave’s” loyalty to the Word been shown? (b) Since 1950, what major contributions has the Watch Tower Society made toward the spreading of God’s Word?
9 During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, these faithful Bible Students, as they termed themselves, were zealous in loyally advocating the Bible as God’s Word. They published much to prove its authenticity, as well as a great deal explaining the fulfillment of its prophecies and how to apply Bible principles to one’s life. In 1914, they also produced the eight-hour Photo-Drama of Creation, which was explicitly prepared “in defense of the Bible as the Word of God.”
10 Loyally advocating God’s Word and indicating that they were active in circulating it in print, the name of their agency was changed in 1896 to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. In 1902 the Society gained possession of Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott and supervised its distribution. In 1907 the Society published an edition of the King James Version, which they called the Berean Bible, named after the early Berean Christians who ‘carefully examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things the apostle Paul told them were actually so.’ (Acts 17:11) It had an appendix of over 700 pages consisting of comments on individual scriptures, lists of scriptures in support of some 40 prominent Bible themes and a 100-page concordance. In 1926 the Society began printing The Emphatic Diaglott on its own presses at Brooklyn. In 1942 the Society published an edition of the King James Version with many valuable study helps, and in 1944 it published the American Standard Version, with similar study helps, and which version faithfully rendered the name Jehovah according to the original Hebrew text.
11 By 1950 the Society’s loyally advocating God’s Word moved it to publish the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The translation of the Hebrew Scripture sections followed in installments of five volumes, and the complete Bible in one volume in 1961. Between 1926 and 1980 Jehovah’s Witnesses produced 43,860,000 Bibles.
Why a New Translation Needed
12, 13. What is a first reason why the “faithful and discreet slave” has been interested in a new Bible translation?
12 Why was this “faithful and discreet slave” interested in a new translation, namely, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures?
13 First of all, due to the activities of archaeologists and Bible scholars, older and more reliable Bible manuscripts have been discovered, many of which are in the original tongues. Thus today there exist some very fine Bible manuscripts that were transcribed in the fourth and fifth centuries of our Common Era and some papyrus fragments of the Christian Greek Scriptures that go back to the middle of the second century. Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls of books of the Hebrew Scriptures, dating back to before our Common Era, have thrown added light on Bible passages. The older the Bible manuscript is, the closer it is likely to be to the original autographs of the inspired writers, none of which are in existence today.
14. What is a second reason? Illustrate.
14 A second reason why a newer translation was needed and would be an improvement on older ones is that the Greek language of the first century is now much better understood. With the passing of time archaeologists discovered many papyrus fragments that have survived from the very time the Christian Greek Scriptures were written. These papyrus fragments, dealing with everyday secular matters, shed light on the kind of Greek used by the Christian Greek Scripture writers. A typical instance is the word “Raca” at Matthew 5:22 in some of the older versions. Not knowing its meaning, all that the translators could do was to transliterate it into meaningless English. But now its meaning is known and so the New World Translation renders it “an unspeakable word of contempt.” As you can see, the increased knowledge of the languages in which the Bible was originally written makes for a more understandable translation.
15. Illustrate a third reason.
15 A third reason why a new translation was needed is the fact that the very languages into which the Bible is translated undergo changes in the course of years. The English used by 14th-century Bible translator Wycliffe differs greatly from the language used by the translators of the King James Version in the early 17th century. And the English language has seen a vast number of changes even since then. Some words have actually taken on opposite meanings. Thus “let” in King James’ day meant “to hinder,” but today it means “to allow.”
16 Finally, there is the matter of correctly understanding the Bible, which is one of the main reasons why the New World Translation was produced. We cannot escape it, one’s religious beliefs will color one’s translation efforts. In fact, it is bound to be that way when a word or text can be rendered in more than one way. Because translators at times, either consciously or unconsciously, do violence to the original tongue in passages that seem to conflict with their creeds, it became imperative that a version be produced by men who did stick loyally to God’s Word.
Failure to Stick Loyally to God’s Word
17. What are some examples of spurious verses creeping into the Bible text?
17 Because some scribes failed to stick loyally to God’s Word, entire sections of spurious verses have crept into the “Received Text,” on which the King James Version is based. These verses were added to the original inspired text. Among such are John 8:1-11 and Mark 16:9-20. Another example of a spurious passage is found at 1 John 5:7, 8. Here the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” seem to support the Trinity. But research has revealed that these words were added by a dishonest scribe more than 1,000 years after the writing of the inspired Scriptures was completed.
18, 19. (a) How have some translators tampered with and misinterpreted God’s Word? (b) How has this occurred with regard to scriptures on the condition of the dead?
18 In particular have producers of modern paraphrase Bibles freely taken liberties, sometimes in the text, sometimes in footnotes. For example, at Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, Taylor’s The Living Bible reads: “For the living at least know that they will die! But the dead know nothing.” And “Whatever you do, do well, for in death, where you are going, there is no working or planning, or knowing, or understanding.” Because of not agreeing with these inspired words, the translator added the footnote: “These statements are Solomon’s discouraged opinion, and do not reflect a knowledge of God’s truth on these points!”
19 This translation also misrepresents God’s Word at Psalm 115:17. There the King James Version reads: “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.” But the translator of The Living Bible apparently believes that the dead live on somewhere else, and implies this by rendering the verse: “The dead cannot sing praises to Jehovah here on earth.”
20. With regard to John 1:1, how has belief in the Trinity colored some translations, but what other accurate rendering is acceptable?
20 But let it be noted that even with the best intentions, without a correct understanding of God’s Word, a Bible translator is bound to err at times. For example, nearly all the translators believe in the Trinity and so they render John 1:1 as: “And the Word was God.” But it can also be rendered accurately otherwise, taking into account the absence of the definite article before the Greek word Theos. Thus, An American Translation renders the phrase, “And the Word was divine.” The New World Translation renders this phrase, “And the Word was a god.” Nor is it unique in doing so. This is exactly the way a revision of Archbishop Newcome’s translation rendered the phrase back in 1807.
Loyally Advocating God’s Name
21. How do most modern Bible versions take issue with God himself?
21 However, a very serious way in which most modern versions fail to stick loyally to God’s Word is in their failure to do justice to God’s distinctive name Jehovah. It is represented in Hebrew by a four-letter word known as the Tetragrammaton. Proof that Jehovah God himself takes his personal name seriously can be seen from the fact that he inspired his Hebrew penmen to use it for a total of 6,961 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (This includes the 134 times that the Hebrew scribes purposely left it out.)
22, 23. (a) What shows it is wrong to translate God’s name by a common noun? (b) What honest appraisal does The Jerusalem Bible make of this? (c) According to some authorities, why is it preferable to use the name “Jehovah” rather than “Yahweh”?
22 The fact is that the Creator is referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures more often by his distinctive name Jehovah than by all other designations put together. More than that, it simply does not make sense to translate a proper name, such as Jehovah, by a common noun such as Lord; no more than it would make sense to translate “Rolls Royce” (the name of the world’s most costly automobile) simply by the word “auto” or “car,” when there are so many other autos or cars. The Jerusalem Bible, though preferring “Yahweh” to “Jehovah,” makes a strong point for using it instead of “Lord.” The preface of that translation states: “To say, ‘The Lord is God’ is surely a tautology [a needless repetition], as to say ‘Yahweh is God’ is not.”
23 Then should “Yahweh” be used instead of “Jehovah”? Not necessarily so. According to Canon D. D. Williams of Cambridge, the “evidence indicates, nay almost proves, that Yahweh was not the true pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton.” The Biblia Hebraica, published in Stuttgart in 1951, vowel points the Tetragrammaton to read “Yeh·wahʹ.” This edition was used by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Tübingen professor Gustav Oehler states: “From this point onward I use the word Jehovah, because, as a matter of fact, this name has become more naturalized in our vocabulary, and cannot be supplanted.” The Bible translator Rotherham, in his Emphasized Bible, was among the first to use the form “Yahweh.” However, in his Studies in the Psalms, first published after his death, he returned to the form “Jehovah,” stating he did so because of “the desirability to keep in touch with the public eye and ear.”
“Jehovah” in the Christian Greek Scriptures
24. (a) How many times does the New World Translation use Jehovah’s name in the Christian Greek Scriptures? (b) What are some examples of earlier translations doing the same?
24 But what about the use of “Jehovah” in the so-called New Testament, the Christian Greek Scriptures? In the New World Translation it appears 237 times. While this may seem to be most unusual, this translation is by no means the first to use this name in this part of the Bible. Its use goes back at least as far as 1796, when German translator Brentano used the form “Jehovah” at Mark 12:29. There is also the Emphatic Diaglott, an interlinear translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, first published in 1864. Repeatedly it uses “Jehovah” in its quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures where this name appears, for a total of 18 times. For example, see Matthew 22:37, 44; Mark 12:29, 30; Luke 20:42.
25. (a) What recent evidence indicates that God’s name appeared in the original text of the Greek Scriptures? (b) What dual change apparently took place in the second century C.E.?
25 The reason that it seems most unusual for the name “Jehovah” to appear in the Christian Greek Scriptures is that, for centuries, it was thought that this name did not appear in the Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Scriptures used by Jesus and his apostles. But more recent discoveries definitely prove that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the Septuagint in those times. Thus Professor Howard of the University of Georgia states: “We know for a fact that Greek-speaking Jews continued to write [the Tetragrammaton] within their Greek Scriptures. Moreover, it is most unlikely that early conservative Greek-speaking Jewish Christians varied from this practice. . . . It would have been extremely unusual for them to have dismissed the Tetragram from the biblical text itself.” So he concludes: “Since the Tetragram was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text. On the analogy of pre-Christian Jewish practice we can imagine that the NT text incorporated the Tetragram into its OT quotations.” Professor Howard also notes that when the Tetragrammaton was removed from the Septuagint it was also removed from the quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures appearing in the Christian Greek Scriptures. This change evidently took place at the beginning of the second century C.E. There is no question that the name Jehovah does belong in the Christian Greek Scriptures, as we find it in the New World Translation.
26. What precedents does the New World Translation have for its extended use of the Name?
26 The New World Translation also uses the name “Jehovah” in addition to where the name appears in quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. Why? So as to help the reader to know whether Jehovah God or Jesus Christ is referred to when “Lord” (Kyrios) appears in the Greek text. Is there any good precedent for doing so? Yes, for in some 20 Hebrew versions of the Greek Scriptures we find this to be the practice. Also, there are many missionary translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures that do the same. For example, one of the earliest translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Japanese freely uses the name “Ehoba” (Jehovah).
27. Regardless of what, and because of what, should loyal servants of God make full use of the New World Translation?
27 Regardless of whether Hebrew and Greek scholars of Christendom praise or criticize the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the fact remains that it was produced by men who loyally adhered to God’s Word. It is indeed a great help in ‘making us wise for salvation and in aiding us to be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3:15-17) May all of us who have this fine translation available in our language be blessed in using it to the full.
WITH REGARD TO LOYALLY ADVOCATING GOD’S WORD, HOW HAVE THE FOLLOWING MEASURED UP, AND WHY?
□ The headquarters buildings of Jehovah’s Witnesses
□ Jesus Christ and his apostles
□ The “faithful and discreet slave” of modern times
□ Scribes who copied and recopied the Bible text
□ Earlier translators into modern languages
□ Translators of recent versions of the Bible
□ The New World Bible Translation Committee
[Box on page 22]
One time an American translator was berated by a Bible reader for ‘having wrecked the beautiful English’ of the King James Version, the complainer no doubt being enamored by its archaic English. Upon the translator’s trying to explain that the beauty of the message was more important than the beauty of the language, the accuser replied: “I don’t care anything about the message. I’m an atheist.”
[Box on page 22]
The goal of Bible translation, in fact, of all translation, should be to help the reader of the translated word to receive the same impact, mentally and emotionally, yes, spiritually, as if he were reading the Scriptures in the original tongue.
[Box on page 23]
Bible translator Edgar Goodspeed wrote to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in regard to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures: “I am interested in the mission work of your people, and its worldwide scope, and am much pleased with the free and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify.”
Hebrew and Greek scholar A. Thompson of Britain, writing in The Differentiator, stated regarding a portion of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures: “I would recommend it as an honest and straightforward effort to render Holy Writ into modern English. No attempt appears to be made to press any special doctrines or theories.”
Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible lists the New World Translation among the 14 “main 20th-century English translations.”
[Picture on page 25]
Tetragrammaton in Septuagint fragments from Egypt (Fouad Papyri 266)
These papyri were early publicized by Jehovah’s Witnesses and the appearance here of God’s name gave basis for using “Jehovah” in the New World Translation