A Fair View of Fred Franz' Translation Abilities

by IW 47 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    The problem that I have when confronted with the NWT and Fred Franz's ability with the original languages of the Bible is not whether Franz knew those languages competently enough to translate them into English, but rather whether he used his ability to enlighten his readers regarding what the sacred text says, or, if, emboldened by a supposed higher calling, he sought to confuse the issue by interpreting the text as written.

    I rather suspect that Franz laboured under the misaprehension that he was some sort of spiritual oracle especially chosen by the God of the Bible to impart a deeper, more protracted wisdom than was generally accessible to other mere mortals who felt called to render the Bible text into another tongue. It is this hubris that is so offensive when reading the subtext that is inherent in the NWT. The writer of the NWT presumed to know, not simply what the text says, a knowledge available to any other translator, but what it means. This evidently was a specialized knowledge conveyed to Franz exclusively by this god he worshipped. Herein, according to the WTS, is the true value of their "translation"

    The problem here is that a fine line exists between the rigours of translating, and interpreting, the latter falling under the purview of the exegete, not the translator.By rendering these two disciplines indistinguishable within the text of the NWT, its value is diminished, not enhanced.

    At the risk of sounding pretentious let me give two simple examples of what I am describing.

    1 The little word "EN" -"IN'' in the Greek NT occurs 2701 times in the text. Yet Franz saw fit to "translate" this two-letter word in 82 seperate ways, some with paraphrastic combinations involving some 12 letters. [Jude 1: the word "en" is rendered "in relationship with" ] When confronted with this anomaly, the typical WT response is to quote other renderings such as the 20Th Century NT. But this, and other translations like it are admitted by their translators to be paraphrastic, not literal, whereas the NWT categorically denies submitting to any paraphrase [Foreword KIT pg 10 1969 ed] Presuming that this renders the text more "understandable" is nonsense, since equally it may be said that it renders it distorted.

    2 Franz expressed a deep concern on the part of the WTS to see what was described as the "name" of God "restored" to the NT text. Evidently the Almighty God of the Bible was incapable of transmitting His word down through the centuries without it being "corrupted" He required the office of Franz et al to restore what He was not Almighty enough to do.

    Hence the existence of the word "jehovah" in the NWT NT text. I would have had a greater respect for Franz if he had expressed his concern in a consistent way, rendering the Tetragammaton in such places as was indicated by the so-called "J" printed documents. That he did not is a sad reflection on the artful deceit of a man consumed by his own presumed divine mandate. By being selective, and refusing to place the Tetragrammaton in such places as 1Cor 12:3 as sanctioned by J 14, Franz left himself open to the ridicule of dishonesty.

    There is not a fraction of a doubt that Franz went to great lengths and took a lot of trouble, not to enlighten the readers of his "translation" but to obscure the word of God.He resorted to angular word usage and banalities so that the doctrinal perversions he purveyed may get a hearing, entrapping the unwary. I was one.

    It is this dishonesty, this crass overbearing arrogance that should rightfully discourage any endorsement of the NWT and it main architect, Fred Franz.


  • AlanF

    Fred Franz was THE NWT translator. This was confirmed on this board some years ago by the poster maximus, who actually worked on the NWT as a proofreader. He observed that Franz took great pains to conceal his work from anyone not directly approved to know, such as the others on the NWT committee and a few other highly trusted people. Not even the proofreaders were supposed to know. But occasionally someone slipped up, and so all of the proofreaders knew who was doing what. The other NWT committee members did administration tasks and general busywork, such as cross-referencing.

    That Franz could read Hebrew was confirmed for me by Ray Franz, who told me some years ago that on an oversees trip they visited some museum. Fred was intently looking at some ancient Hebrew inscription, and Ray observed that he was actually reading it.

    People who argue that Franz didn't know Greek or Hebrew just don't know what they're talking about. Someone in the bowels of Bethel certainly knew enough to produce a translation, because the NWT didn't just appear out of thin air. Franz was obviously self-taught in Hebrew, and I think that was a real limitation.

    Nevertheless, I think that the NWT is a very good literal -- sometimes too literal -- translation as long as JW doctrine doesn't get in the way. In many cases I've compared a NWT rendering with those from a large number of other Bibles, along with lexicons, interlinears and commentaries, and found that the NWT often comes out as accurate or better than others. Of course, when doctrine gets in the way, the NWT is often flat out dishonest. Overall, I completely agree with moggy lover's final assessment: "It is this dishonesty, this crass overbearing arrogance that should rightfully discourage any endorsement of the NWT and it main architect, Fred Franz."

    Excellent posts, Narkissos and moggy lover!



    AlanF,I remember reading an article about a court case in Scotland..Franz was asked to read ancient Hebrew a first year University Student should be able to read.The article said he couldn`t do it..Do you know anything more about this?.Thanks...OUTLAW

  • hillary_step


    The NWT is not the best translation of the Bible that I have used, but it is certainly not the worst. Apart from the obvious bias that tilts it toward WTS doctrines I have found it quite accurate, if stilted.

    The point is however, that the JW's claim it be *the* most accurate translation of the Bible and almost a neccessary part of the Armageddon survival equipment. Try sitting in an elders meeting while using the New International Version and this is what you will see : .



    Armaggedon Survival Equipment???..Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!..hillary_step,I`ve read a few of your posts since I`ve been back.Bud,you have cracked me up more than once.Your really getting your comedy chops down..Too funny!!...OUTLAW

  • IW


    Try sitting in an elders meeting while using the New International Version and this is what you will see : .

    Lol, I agree!


  • AlanF

    OUTLAW said:

    : AlanF,I remember reading an article about a court case in Scotland..Franz was asked to read ancient Hebrew a first year University Student should be able to read.The article said he couldn`t do it..Do you know anything more about this?

    What you've read is a distortion of the court case transcript written originally by Walter Martin in Kingdom of the Cults. Martin's distortion has been widely distributed, mainly among trinitarian fundamentalists like Martin himself.

    In the Douglas Walsh case, Franz was not asked to read some Hebrew, but to translate some English into Hebrew, which is a lot harder for amateurs to do than for people truly conversant in both languages. Franz declined to so translate. This reinforces my conclusion that Franz was self taught in Hebrew, because as you mentioned, a real university student would have had the practice in translating both ways. Since Franz didn't have to translate English to Hebrew, but only the other way around, he had no practice, and would naturally decline.


  • VM44

    So Fred Franz did NOT know Hebrew forwards and backwards. He could probably translate from Hebrew to English, but could not readily express English into Hebrew. This indicates only a partial knowledge of the language and also indicates that Fred Franz probably would have trouble understanding the subtle nuances of the ancient hebrew language. This would result in a stiff translation of the ancient text, which is exactly what happened in the NWT according to the comments of some in this thread.

    Someone here at JWD posted awhile ago that Fred Franz could not read the hebrew menu at a Jewish Deli. This is probably incorrect. He probabaly could read the menu, but translating the english menu into hebrew would have been more difficult for him.

    I am greatly oversimplifiing with that example, but I think it makes the point of what Franz could do in terms of translating.


  • VM44

    Bottom line, Fred Franz could not THINK in ancient hebrew.


  • Forscher

    In my comment I only posted about Franz's formal education in the biblical languages. That doesn't mean that he didn't improve on that in 25 years or so before he took on the task of translation. Neither does that mean that he didn't learn Hebrew in at the same time.

    Barbara Anderson posted here one time about an old Jewish scholar who she found out helped Franz alot with his knowledge of all things Jewish. Some yodels took that one the wrong way and tried to make connections that angered her. What I sat back and asked myself was whether this gent could've actually taught Franz his Hebrew and possibly helped him with difficult aspects of the translation work. There are world class scholars of Hebrew on record who have no big problems with his work on the OT. That kind of impressive skill had to come from more than just going through some language textbooks on one's own. I know, that is how I've gone about trying to learn Hebrew and I know how difficult that language is.

    I stated my problem with the NWT rather clearly. Muggy made it clear he has basically the same problem with it. That doesn't mean I've thrown all my copies away by any means. At least where the OT is concerned, enough folks out there who would know have been good enough in their comments to make throwing the thing away foolish. However, as has been noted, the NT portion is problematic enough in parts critical for doctrine that one needs to investigate it carefully and confirm a rendering before trusting it.

    I liked the observation about "schoolish, rather than scholarly" that kind of hit the nail right on the head!


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