Question on the NWT translation

by Nowhere 32 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Buster

    Earnest: You clearly know what you are writing about. But I want to take one more step. It isn't just the they used the Westcott-Hort text, they also did a little restoration work to come up with the NWT. I don't think they lose a lot by keeping the Westcott-Hort basis. The problem lies in the introduction of the 'Jehovah' every place they could squeeze it. A new translation committe could just as easily use the same basis. But they will have to come to grips with the question of whether to replace all/most of the 'Kyrios' references with Jehovah - as they did in the current version.

    I doubt that an honest committee would be able to justify using Greek-to-Hebrew translations from the 16th to 19th centuries as a reason. But to fail to do so, would leave them with a bible with some new meanings - some subtle, others more overt. The GB is not loaded with idiots - though they are undereducated - I doubt they would take the risk.

  • Earnest


    I agree that a revision of the NWT which did not include God's name in the NT might well shake the faith of many. However, I think such a scenario unlikely. The reason that the New World Translation Committee believed that 'Jehovah' had originally been used by the NT writers and subsequently removed is because there is manuscript evidence that early copies of the LXX (Greek translation of the OT used by Jesus and disciples) did contain God's name but it was later replaced by 'Lord'. This seems to have happened in the first or second centuries. That reason has not changed.

    The NWT footnote references to Hebrew translations of the NT which also have God's name is, in my opinion, irrelevant and misleading. It gives them more weight than they warrant.

    Edited by - Earnest on 25 October 2002 22:56:49

  • Buster


    I agree that the Septuagint did have a translation of the tetragrammaton. But the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew text that had been completed at least 250 years before the writing of the Greek scriptures in latter half of the first century. I suppose it could be argued as to who modified later editions of the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, but I doubt it matters.

    My key point here is that the basis for deciding that the earliest LXX scripture had the divine name is that the oldest extant versions of the LXX scriptures contain the divine name. From there it no is no leap to decide that it belongs in the LXX scriptures. Does that logic hold?

    Now, somehow, the NWT tranlsation committee (aka Fred Franz):

    1. decides that the above argument implies that the first century scriptures must have also contained the divine name

    2. Then they take the LXX Greek word that the Tetragrammaton became in the 2nd and third centuries, and decide that all such words from both sets of scriptures should be retrofitted back to the divine name.

    The problem is that the impetus that they use to restore the divine name to the Hebrew scriptures is not a valid reason to also introduce the same name into the Christian scriptures. The opposite is true: The oldest versions of the Christian scriptures have no references to the divine name - either spelled out, or in some Greek version of the tetragrammmaton.

    One more, and I can't back this up without yanking out a boat load of stuff - but I think the earliest Greek texts predate second century translations of the septuagint that still contain the tetragrammaton. Implications:
    - If I was to pick one, I would say that the ommision of the divine name from the Greek is more likely to have influenced later LXX versions - not the opposite

    - Without any evidence of the divine name in the earlier Greek Christian scriptures, there is no basis to the 'somebody must have taken it out' argument.

    Man, do I have a headache. ; Looking forward to hearing from you,

    - Buster

  • Kenneson

    Pork Chop states that "Countess is just another Trinitarian and pretty thoroughly debunked by Stafford."

    Well, I found another Trinitarian by the name of Bowman, who pretty thoroughly debunks Stafford.

  • annalice

    While researching different bible translations I found an article titled "Why So Many Versions ?" By Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D. His research is on modern bible translations. He goes into which ones are are faithful to the original and should we use the ones that are translated word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase? He writes about several different versions including the NWT. When writing about the NWT he says this " Finally, a word should be said about the NWT by Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the sectarian bias of the group, as well as to the lack of genuine biblical scholarship, I believe that the NWT is by far the worst translation in English dress. It purports to be word-for-word, and in most cases is slavishly literal to the point of being terrible English. But, ironically, whenever a sacred cow is demolished by the biblical writers themselves, the Jehovah's Witnesses twist the text and resort to an interpretive type of translation. In short, it combines the cons of both worlds, with none of the pros. In his summary he says its best to own versions that offer word-for-word translations and also some that use phrase-for-phrase translation

  • Earnest

    Hi Buster:

    You are correct that it is the older copies of the Septuagint that contain God's name in archaic Hebrew characters, in Aramaic script, or in Greek letters as the phonetic description JAO. In fact, no published manuscripts of the LXX prior to the second century C.E. contain a substitute for God's name.

    The following manuscripts of the LXX confirm that it contained God's name prior to the second century C.E.:

    P. Fouad 266 It contains fragments of Genesis and Deuteronomy with the tetragrammaton in Aramaic script. It has been variously dated as:

    • the second century B.C.E. (G.Bertram)
    • the second or first century B.C.E. (W.G.Waddel, B.J.Roberts, H.Stegemann)
    • c.100 B.C.E. (P.Kahle)
    • first century B.C.E., not later than 50 B.C.E. (F.Dunand)
    • the middle of the first century B.C.E. (Z.Ali & L.Koenen)

    8HevXIIgr It contains portions or fragments of the twelve minor prophets with the tetragrammaton in archaic Hebrew. It has been variously dated as:

    • between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. (C.H.Roberts)
    • late first century B.C.E. (P.J.Parsons)
    • first century C.E. (D.Barthelemy - 1963)
    • near the end of the first century C.E. (D.Barthelemy - 1953)

    4QLXXLev b Contains fragments of Leviticus with God's name as JAO. It has been variously dated as:

    • a little later than P.Fouad 266 (P.Kahle)
    • first century B.C.E. (P.W.Skehan, P.J.Parsons)
    • the end of the first century B.C.E./first century C.E. (C.H.Roberts)

    Although palaeography and radiocarbon dating are not exact sciences it is interesting that no LXX manuscripts prior to the second century C.E. have a substitution for God's name.

    Now, if we consider the manuscripts of the NT which have been discovered, the earliest (p52) is dated to about 125 C.E. but the fragment (John 18:31-38) doesn't allude to the OT. Thereafter the earliest fragments are dated towards the end of the second century (p32, p46, p64, p66). In other words, all of these copies postdate the copies of the LXX which contained God's name. It is reasonable to suggest that when it was decided to replace God's name with 'Lord' in the LXX the same decision was applied to the NT documents. Why? Because by this time the LXX had been adopted by the Christians as their bible and they were almost certainly responsible for copying it.

    Did the earliest NT documents include God's name? If they were quoting from a LXX passage which included God's name it is inconceivable they would change it. It is also likely (but not certain) that they would use it in common expressions such as "the angel of Jehovah". However, in the absence of textual evidence I suggest it should have been relegated to marginal notes despite my conviction that the earliest Christian writers must have used it.

    Hope your headache has gone.


  • Earnest


    Daniel B. Wallace obtained both his Th.M and Ph.D. from the Dallas Theological Seminary in 1979 and 1995 respectively. He is currently Professor of New Testament Studies at that same seminary.

    In the doctrinal statement of the Seminary they say (

    While our faculty and board annually affirm their agreement with the entire doctrinal statement, students need only agree with these seven essentials:
    • the Trinity
    • the full deity and humanity of Christ
    • the spiritual lostness of the human race
    • the substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection of Christ
    • salvation by faith alone in Christ alone
    • the physical return of Christ
    • the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.
    I wonder if Dr. Wallace is not guilty of sectarian bias!

    Edited by - Earnest on 26 October 2002 17:13:23

  • Buster

    Of course I can only assume that your life has stopped cold as you wait for a reply from me.

    Seriously though, I haven't even had a chance to read your last post to me. But I guarantee I will. It is a bit intimidating and I wnat to give it some time.

    It has been a pleasure so far.

  • Buster

    Earnest, let me know what you think of this.

    I agree that the divine name was not removed from the LXX until later - 2nd c CE and later.

    I found some references to the age of the fragments you listed. The book had an update that explained that numerous methods for dating papyri have become available since those fragments were dated in the 30's and 40's. The dates I got: p52 100, p32 175, p46 85, p64 60, p66 125. I thought that was pretty interesting - surprising even. Maybe the source is disputeable. I had never heard of the group that put the info on the web:

    Probably the most interesting of the above is p46, dated 85 CE includes most of Paul's letters and Hebrews. But all of these predate the LXX manuscripts that have a substitution for God's name.

    Your question: Did the earliest NT docs include God's name?

    Honestly, I too find it a bit odd to picture that a NT quote from a LXX passage would change the Divine name. I have a couple thoughts there:

    • If the writer (scribe) was working in a 'court stenographer' mode, technically it wouldn't matter what was contained in the LXX. We would be reading what the character said. Regardless of what the LXX contained, if the speaker did not say the divine name, it wouldn't be in the NT text. This feels like a very sterile way of looking at it though. I can just hear the arguments over a stone desk with an olive-oil lamp "I know what it says in the old book, Joshua. But this is what John said he said."
    • This my sound awfully naive, but weren't there proscriptions against speaking the actual name?
    • and you may think this is weak - I think that a huge portion of the Christian message is a move toward Christ. I think that the overall message was/is an emphasis on our mediator and savior. I am implying that it was a Christ-initiated, conscious decision that was reflected in the first Christian writings and was eventually echoed in later LXXs.

    It certainly seems reasonable the scribes would feel a pressure to make the two sets agree. The Christian adoption of the LXX would only increase the pressure to make them agree. Here is my point, the earliest extant papyri for the NT predate, by 100 years or more, LXX versions that substitute God's name. If one were to determine which influenced which, I would suggest that it would be the NT influencing the LXX.

    Critique away. I am no biblical scholar, but I am enjoying this exchange immensely.

    Boy can this stuff bring back a headache,

    - Buster

  • Earnest

    Hi Buster,

    Those are some interesting thoughts and dates you have there. But I reckon the dates are a bit suspect. Unfortunately, I couldn't check the site ( as my computer (Norton Security) blocked me by categorizing it as intolerant.

    But having a look through The Text of the New Testament (Kurt Aland, 1987), he gives the following dates: p52 ca.125, p32 ca. 200, p46 ca. 200, p64 ca. 200 and p66 ca. 200. Carsten Thiede did suggest that p64 had an earlier date as your link suggested but I don't think he is supported by the majority of textual scholars. The following site ( has a discussion of this and dates it to within 50 years of 200. It also has links to photographs of 8HevXIIgr, 4QLXXLev b and p64 which are of interest.

    I'm getting a bit of a headache now so will touch on the rest of your comments when my head clears.


    Edited by - Earnest on 1 November 2002 19:23:4

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