Why WT translates Parousia as "Presence" and not "Coming" (Matt. 24:3)?

by ProfCNJ 18 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • ProfCNJ

    WT had translated "parousia" as presence instead of "coming". It has explained time and again that in 1914, Jesus came invisibly and since then, we are living in the last days under his invisible presence.

    Now I was a bit puzzled if that would really be the appropriate translation after reading Matthew 28:19, 20.

    19 " Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. "

    I pondered repeatedly and asked myself: Why should Christ "come invisibly in 1914", when he committed/promised he would be with his peopole/disciples until the end of the age?" If he has stayed with his followers since uttering that important commission up until today - and until the end of the world or system of things as they say, then he is guiding them invisibly for hundreds of years. And if that is the case, there was no need to come invisibly in 1914. It does not really make sense.

    Hence, the WT could have mistranslated the word to support its 1914 doctrine.

  • Jeffro

    The whole 'parousia' = 'presence' thing is irrelevant misdirection.

    Parousia does mean 'presence', at least in modern Greek. (See for yourself.)

    But that's not the point. Jesus didn't come or arrive or become present or do any other thing in 1914. Nothing significant happened in October 1914, and especially not anything remotely resembling what the Bible Students had 'expected'.

    Jesus, if he ever actually existed at all, died a long time ago, and he ain't coming back.

  • cofty

    This was my question that led to my exit. I wrote to London Bethel about it and was told to mind my own business. That led me to investigate other doubts that I had.

  • cofty

    double post

  • besty
    I wrote to London Bethel about it

    cofty - can you post the letter if you have a copy?

  • Terry

    Having identified (an interestingly erroneous word in itself) the date (by Pyramidology and cherry-picking scriptures) of THE END, C.T.Russell

    either had to allow the evidence to refute him (intellectual honesty) or he had to resort to reframing and recontextualizing.

    What must THAT have been like?

    Sort of like misplacing your car keys and saying to yourself: "I know they're right here in this room but I just can't see them."

    A reader of Second Adventist writings named B.W. Keith wrote a letter which proved useful. This man "noticed" when reading the Emphatic Diaglott that the word coming could also be translated as presence.

    Russell seized upon this and decided the car keys really were in the room but were actually invisible.

    Next year the Watchtower Society will be forced by world events (i.e. NO Armageddon yet) to confront a FULL CENTURY of Christ's presence

    with NOTHING to show for it!

    The "splainin'" that Lucy will have to do should prove to be entertaining, to say the least.

    William Miller (1782-1849), preached that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur some time between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.

    Miller was invited to preach his "proofs" to churches in many locations. Many heard and became convinced.

    Miller’s followers may have numbered as many as 100,000.

    Churches split everywhere over who believed and who refused to be taken in.

    Those who pinned their hopes on Miller's arguments did whatever necessary to prepare for the event--an event which never took place. What followed has been termed THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT.

    When Christ failed to materialize within the appointed time, Miller set a new date, October 22, 1844. When this new date failed he apologized and admitted he was wrong.

    Many honest and disappointed souls hung their heads in shame and returned to their old churches. But, about a third did not. They dug in. They tried to "fix" the problem.


    Joseph Bates, James White and in particular Ellen Harmon White, chose to believe there was nothing wrong with Miller’s date calculations and started to teach that Christ had indeed returned in 1844

    This return was not to Earth but to His heavenly Sanctuary. (fulfilling Daniel chapter 8 verse 14), and thus started a day of preparation. The actual Second Coming, the Parousia, was imminent. (Smylie 1988)

    The merit of such an argument was that it provided a flimsy scriptural dodge, an excuse, which gave them temporary plausible deniability until they could repair the damage to their chronology.


    Another Millerite, Nelson H. Barbour, came to believe that the correct date for Christ’s Second Coming was 1873, not 1844.

    He started to spread this message, in particular through his 1870 pamphlet called Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry, and his monthly The Midnight Cry from 1873. In the meantime, 1873 had become 1874, but that did not prevent another disappointment.

    The loosey-goosey nature of these dates should have embarrassed further speculation. It didn't.

    One of Barbour’s readers, B. W. Keith, came up with a solution.

    Having obtained a new translation of the New Testament, Benjamin Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, Keith noticed a marginal alternative translation of Parousia, the Greek word normally translated ‘coming,’ namely ‘presence.’

    None of these men were skilled in Biblical Greek, but the idea took hold that what had started in 1874 was indeed Christ’s invisible presence. (Jonsson 1983)

    This year, Barbour said, started a millennial morning, and the periodical The Midnight Cry became The Herald of the Morning.

    Barbour failed to convince many of his original readers, but he did manage to convert one young man. This man was Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916).

  • AndDontCallMeShirley

    The WT's original doctrine was the the 'last days' began in 1799 and that Jesus' return occurred in 1874.

    When that failed, suddenly the last days began in 1914 and Jesus' return became "presence".

    Invisibly, of course.

    Invisible 'evidence' is so much easier to defend (and change).

  • TD

    Russell Barbour seized upon this and decided the car keys really were in the room but were actually invisible.

    Barbour convinced Russell about a year and a half later and Russell ran with it.

  • Bobcat


  • cofty

    Besty - I will see if I have a copy. I think I posted it here a while ago in a discussion with Alan F who had written something similar.

    I was still an elder at the time and the rest of the BOE agreed to add a favourable cover letter.

    I later sent it to Brookyln but heard nothing. There was a comment in a WT study article many months later that sounded like a specific reference to a point in my letter but I will never know for sure.

  • cofty

    I found it on an old hard drive and posted it here...

  • besty

    thanks cofty - saw the other thread - v interesting.

  • Rattigan350

    Because the Greek word means presence and not coming.

    And they would not ask Jesus what would be the sign of his coming as they would not need to if he was coming visibly. They could just see him.

    They knew that Jesus does not come back to earth. No reason to. But people think that they are so important that they want Jesus to come here with them. That is about as arrogant as their believing that they go to heaven to be with Jesus.

    "after reading Matthew 28:19, 20." Are you sure that Matt 28:19 is proper considering that 1 John 5:7 added the trinitarian formula. How can one know that Matt 28:19 is correct in that manner?

  • cofty
    they would not ask Jesus what would be the sign of his coming as they would not need to if he was coming visibly

    Please have a read at this and let me know what you think...

  • TD
    Because the Greek word means presence and not coming.

    There is not actually a single English word with a direct one for one correspondency with παροσíα because the concepts of "Appearance" and "Presence" are so closely intertwined. A presence, of necessity would have a prior point of commencement (An appearance) and an appearance of necessity would have subsequent period of physical presence.

    Therefore, while παροσíα certainly does mean "presence" or "appearing," from ancient Greek times it has also had the meaning of "arrival," "occasion" and "visitation by a high official."

    Adolf Deissmann points out that when Roman emperors paid a visit to remote eastern provinces, the roads were repaired, crowds flocked to do homage, there were processions of white-clothed subjects, there were trumpet blasts, acclamations, speeches, petitions, gifts and festivities. Often a new era was reckoned from the presence of the king or emperor, and special παροσíα coins were struck to commemorate it. The parallel here should not be lost on anyone who has ever read the NT

    At the visit or παροσíα of Emperor Nero, in whose reign Paul wrote his Corinthian letters, the cities of Corinth and Patras both struck "advent-coins." These coins bore the inscription Adventus Aug Cor, showing that the Latin "adventus" was used in the 1st century as an equivalent of παροσíα on those occasions.

    However I think a debate over "coming" vs. "presence" as the best translation is wide of the point because Jehovah's Witnesses don't use the word, "presence" in the conventional sense: They assign a special esoteric meaning to it. (i.e. Invisible presence) There is absolutely nothing about the Greek word, παροσíα that means or even suggests invisibility.

  • Larsinger58

    the parousia is likened to the days of Noah and so begin 120 years before the end of the 1914-generation of 80 years. The parousia officially began in 1874, a generation of 120 years from 1874-1994. The generation Jesus focussed on that began with a world war begins in 1914 and lasts 80 years from 1914-1994.

    Christ's actual coming occurs 45 years after the Jews come out of exile. The end of Jewish exile occurred on November 30, 1947; this ends the "1290 days". The "1335 days" end 45 years later in 1992.

  • sarahsmile

    I really do not read the NWT. Did you quote from NWT because Holy Spirit is capitalized?

    Okay, If I remember right presense is still some one in front of you. Someone you can see. If you look up the verses about Jesus presence it does not change because you will see him. The scripture does not say invisible presence.

    It just a silly concept because everyone knows we can not see Jesus but believe.

  • sarahsmile

    After reading this again my head is spinning!

    Religions make up doctrines to mess with your head and suck out your brains then make you give money. Did we pay for someone to make us stupid.

  • Bobcat

    Parousia, as is found in Matthew's Olivet Discourse is most interesting. It occurs only four times: 24:3, 27, 37, 39

    The first time is in the second of the disciples questions:

    (Matthew 24:3) . . .While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: "Tell us,"

    1. "When will these things be (concerning the destruction of the temple), and

    2. what will be the sign of your parousia and of the conclusion of the system of things?"

    The first use by Jesus is in:

    (Matthew 24:23-28) . . .Then if anyone says to YOU, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,' or, ‘There!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 Look! I have forewarned YOU. 26 Therefore, if people say to YOU, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,' do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,' do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the parousia of the Son of man will be. 28 Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

    This instance indicates that there was expected to be a universal recognition aspect to Jesus' parousia. Everyone would know.

    The other two occurrances are in 36-42 and a comparison with "those days before the flood" and when "the flood came."

    (Matthew 24:36-42) . . .Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For just as the days of Noah were, so the parousia of the Son of man will be. 38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; 39 and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the parousia of the Son of man will be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; 41 two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because YOU do not know on what day YOUR Lord is coming.

    In this instance Jesus' parousia is associated with some 'pre-coming' period (24:42), wherein people were expected to acknowledge Jesus in some way, but instead, either ignored him or were too busy otherwise. ("Took no note" - See here for variations.) The context seems to fault such ones, as if, they should have known, but their own lives interferred with their 'taking note' or 'knowing.' But the context also associates the parousia with the 'day and hour' of Jesus 'coming.' In the context, "the day and hour" and Jesus' "coming" are equated with the arrival of the Deluge.

    The parallel in Luke 17 words this a bit differently:

    (Luke 17:22-30) . . .Then he said to the disciples: "Days will come when YOU will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man but YOU will not see [it]. 23 And people will say to YOU, ‘See there!' or, ‘See here!' Do not go out or chase after [them]. 24 For even as the lightning, by its flashing, shines from one part under heaven to another part under heaven, so the Son of man will be. 25 First, however, he must undergo many sufferings and be rejected by this generation. 26 Moreover, just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, women were being given in marriage, until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood arrived and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it occurred in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. 29 But on the day that Lot came out of Sod′om it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.

    Luke 17:22-30 is in whole, what Matthew splits into two parts. Luke 17:22-24 matches Matthew 24:23-28. And Luke 17:26-30 matches with Matthew 24:36-42

    Luke uses "the days of the Son of man" and "that day when the Son of man is to be revealed" in place of Matthew's parousia.

    Luke's usage links "the days of the Son of man" and "that day when the Son of man is to be revealed" with events that happened in the 1st century (the fleeing).

    Matthew's account distances the parousia from the 1st century events surrounding Jerusalem, as if it is a seperate event. It treats the parousia question as different from the temple destruction question.

    Its late here. I have to think about this more.

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