[From ws17/9 p. 18 –November 6-12]
“The green grass dries up, the blossom withers, but the word of our God endures forever.”—Isa 40:8
(Occurrences: Jehovah=11; Jesus=0)
When the Bible speaks about the Word of God, is it only referring to the holy writings?
This week’s Watchtower study uses Isaiah 40:8 as its theme text. In the second paragraph, the congregation is asked to read 1 Peter 1:24, 25 which loosely quotes from Isaiah and is rendered in the New World Translation this way:
“For “all flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like a blossom of the field; the grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the saying of Jehovah endures forever.” And this “saying” is the good news that was declared to you.” (1Pe 1:24, 25)
However, this isn’t exactly what Peter wrote. To better understand his point, let’s look at an alternate rendering of the original Greek text starting with verse 22:
Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth, so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,
“All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was proclaimed to you.
(2 Peter 1:22-25)
“The word that was proclaimed to you” was proclaimed by the Lord Jesus. Peter says that we “have been born again…through the living and enduring word of God.” John says that Jesus is “the Word” at John 1:1 and “the Word of God” at Revelation 19:13. John adds that “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Then he goes on to explain that “he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:4, 12, 13) Jesus is the principle part of the prophesied seed of the woman of Genesis 3:15. This seed, Peter explains, does not perish.
John 1:14 shows that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt with Mankind.
Jesus, the Word of God, is the culmination of all God’s promises:
“. . .For no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him. . . .” (2Co 1:20)
This Watchtower study is about examining how the Bible came to us. It confines its analysis to the written word of God. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to give our Lord his due and ensure that those studying this article are aware of the full scope of the expression-cum-name: “The Word of God”.
Changes in Language
Five years back, during the Friday sessions of the 2012 District Convention, there was a talk titled “Avoid Testing Jehovah in Your Heart”. It was a significant turning point for me. Conventions were never the same after that. Quoting from the outline, the speaker stated that if we doubt the teachings of the Governing Body, even if we keep such doubts to ourselves, ‘we are testing Jehovah in our heart.’ It was the first time I became aware of the fact that we were expected to follow men over God. It was an emotionally-wrenching moment for me.
I had no idea how rapidly this turn of events was to progress, but I was soon to learn. Just a few months later, at the 2012 Annual Meeting, the members of the Governing Body bore witness about themselves that they were the appointed “Faithful and Discreet Slave.” (John 5:31) This gave them a whole new level of authority, one which most Jehovah’s Witnesses have seemed quick to grant them.
Voltaire said, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
The Governing Body jealously guards its authority. Thus, the aforementioned convention program talk instructed brothers not to support independent Bible study groups and web sites. Additionally, brothers and sisters who were learning Greek or Hebrew so as to be able to read the Bible in the original languages were told that “it was not necessary (a pet phrase used often in WT correspondence to mean ‘Do not do this’) for them to do so.” Apparently, this was now the purview of newly self-appointed faithful and discreet slave. Critical analysis of its translation work was not invited.
This article shows that nothing has changed.
“Some have felt that they should learn ancient Hebrew and Greek so that they could read the Bible in the original languages. That, however, may not be as profitable as they imagine.” – par. 4
Why on earth not? Why the need to discourage sincere Bible students from expanding their knowledge? Perhaps it has to do with the many accusations surfacing of bias in the 2013 Edition of the NWT.[i] Of course, one doesn’t need to know Greek or Hebrew to discover these. All one needs is a willingness to go outside of the Organization’s publications and read Bible lexicons and commentaries. Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from doing this, so most brothers and sisters believe that the NWT as the “best translation ever” and will use nothing else.
Self-praise for this translation is found in paragraph 6.
Even so, much of the wording in the King James Version became archaic over the centuries. The same is true of early Bible translations in other languages. Are we not grateful, then, to have the modern-language New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures? This translation is available in whole or in part in over 150 languages, thus being available to a vast part of the population today. Its clear wording allows the message of God’s Word to reach our heart. (Ps. 119:97) Significantly, the New World Translation restores God’s name to its rightful place in the Scriptures. – par. 6
How sad that many Jehovah’s Witnesses will read this and believe that, were it not for the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, we’d all still be using archaic Bible translations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is now an abundance of modern language translations to choose from. (For but one example of this, click this link to see alternate renderings of this study’s theme text.)
It’s true that JW.org has worked very hard to render the NWT in many languages, but it has a long way to go to catch up to other Bible societies which count their translated languages in the many hundreds. Witnesses are still playing in the minor leagues when it comes to Bible translation.
Finally, paragraph 6 states that “the New World Translation restores God’s name to its rightful place in the Scriptures.” That may well be true when it comes to the Hebrew Scriptures, but with regard to the Christian Scriptures, it is not. The reason is that to claim “restoration” one must first prove that the divine name existed in the original, and the plain truth is that in none of the thousands of extant manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures is the Tetragrammaton to be found. Inserting the name where Jehovah chose to leave it out means we’re undermining his message, a fact revealed in this excellent article by Apollos.
Opposition to Bible Translation
This section of the study reviews the work of the Lollards, followers of Wycliffe, who traveled through England reading from and sharing copies of the Bible in the modern English of the day. They were persecuted because knowledge of God’s Word was seen as a threat to the religious authority of the day.
Today, it is not possible to block access to the Bible. About the best that any religious authority can do is to create their own translation and by biased renderings support their own interpretations. Once they have done that, they have to get their followers to reject all other translations as “inferior” and “suspect” and through peer pressure, force everyone to use only their ‘approved’ version.
The True Word of God
As we discussed at the start, Jesus is the Word of God. It is through Jesus that the Father, Jehovah, now speaks to us. You can make a cake without milk, eggs, and flour. But who would want to eat it? Leaving Jesus out of any discussion about the Word of God is just as unsatisfying. That is what the writer of this article has done, not even mentioning the name of our Lord once.