John-1-1-Colossians-1-16-all-other-things - Part 2

by Wonderment 59 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Wonderment

    Continued from Part 1 (

    The NW Translation and some of its unique renderings, like John 1.1- "a god," and Colossians 1.16 - "all other things," have been consistently at the top of the most debated topics here in this forum and elsewhere from the beginning.

    The anger felt by detractors of the NWT rendering of John 1.1 (a god) has diminished considerably if compared to the furious debates surrounding the verse that raged on during the 1950 thru 1970s. I remember very well those years being a JW back then of the prevalent feeling people had of JWs being some sort of translation "lunatics" by their infamous Bible renderings. It was the general feeling back then, that only the Witnesses could come up with such ludicrous translations. It was kind of "the talk of the town" in religious circles.

    But a strange thing happened after the 1970s: Various scholars have come out publicly addressing that the rendering "a god" was a grammatically permissible literal rendering, even when they still held that the interpretation was wrong. Harner's study in 1973 on anarthrous nouns was greatly responsible for this change, convincingly taking the wind out of Colwell's argument of definiteness of such nouns. He was not alone. Even William Barclay who previously denounced JWs as ‘intellectually dishonest’ morons, admitted afterwards that the "a god" rendering was ‘a grammatical possibility’ from the Greek text, but an interpretation error in his view. In top of that, various individuals have published articles on the internet showing how dozens of other translators have deviated from the traditional rendering ("the Word was God") at John 1.1, which according to scholar Murray J. Harris, "cannot stand without explanation." The sum of all these statements have somewhat diminished the heat and the quantity of the criticisms leveled against the NWT reading "a god" at John 1:1. So I am not going to elaborate further on this text at this time.

    Instead, I will look at another hot topic which seems to be more prevalent (in this forum) than is the scripture mentioned above. It's the one at Colossians 1.16 ("all other things"). Here's one scripture which clearly shows ‘the stupidity’ of the NW translators, or so is the claim. The NW translators added the word "other" to "all things" at Col. 1.16 to imply that Christ was created before everything else. The problem was aggravated with the NWT revision in 2013 which omitted the brackets, which until the said year were shown printed in the verse. This of course hurts some ex-JWs who have adopted the majority view that the Trinity is a biblical teaching.

    I will start with the premise that the main objection here is likely to be the "trinity" doctrine. Trinitarians for the most part have no problem doing away with the divine name "Jehovah" in the Bible, and many show a clear aversion to the sound of the English name. Even when they insist that "Jehovah" is wrong, and "Yahweh" is more likely right, they use neither. Their hate for Jehovah's Witnesses is so great that it overshadows any faithful adherence they profess to the Hebrew original. Some ex-JWs too have that inclination, it seems. Thus, one example mentioned here, removing God's name, is depicted as not being equal in badness as is adding the obnoxious "other" to Col 1.16. Adding to Scripture is not that bad either when mainstream translations do so, right? Various examples have been pointed out to members here. One example is adding the word "true" to "the true God" in the Hebrew portion of the Bible. If a JW does it (as in the NWT) it must be "error." But when a Baptist scholar does it (like Watts), it is admissible. He has a Ph.D, right? Such inconsistency is not fair to one of the parties under attack. I don't hear much noise when others translators do the same thing as the NWT does, but perhaps in different contexts. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the problem lies. It is not grammar the issue, it comes down to interpretation: "My religion (or belief) is better than yours," seems to be the general mantra.

    And so it is with the word "other." The addition of "other" at Col. 1.16 is recognized as "blatant error" by traditionalists. Let's look at some facts:

    The word "other" is added by some translators as a personal choice to clear matters up in various scriptures. In another post, Exodus 18:11 was mentioned: Ex 18:11. This link ( ) shows that four versions in the list added the word "other" to the hebrew expression "than all the gods" (mikkol-ha'elohim) when the biblical language was seen as not explicit enough to where it now reads: "the Lord Yahweh is greater than all the [other] gods." Brackets indicate the addition.

    If we take the common assumption that the NWT added "other" at Col 1.16 for mischievous reasons, where would that leave the four versions listed above in the link? But someone will reply: "These translators are justified, the NW translators are not." Really? A Greek authority brings up a little matter which Trinitarians would rather ignore in reference to Col. 1.16.

    A Greek Grammar wrote: ἄλλος [állos] is sometimes omitted where we would add ‘other.’” (Blass, Debrunner and Funk, Ibid, p. 160.)

    This means that Trinitarians who endorse Christ as the equal of Jehovah are overlooking a common Greek practice of not using "other" when the context is already clear enough. Christ was never looked upon by Jews as the equal of Yahweh. It was later when Christendom's traditions began to set the trend away from Scriptural tradition that "Christians" confused Christ with God.

    If we make judicious use of concordances we will find that many biblical expressions are freely and customarily rendered into modern languages by usually adding several words throughout to complete the sense in our language. The translator has the job to decide where, and where not, to do that. In the case of "other," it is a matter of exegesis. In both Hebrew and Greek, as well as many of our modern languages, the word "all" is not all-encompassing or all-exclusive. In English, for example, one could say of one who is serving in the office as "President" of a certain country, that he or she is more "aggressive" in its policies than "all" the "presidents" in his/her party. Would this statement rule out the politician himself as being one of the presidents? Of course, not! What is meant in the statement is that the President in consideration is more aggressive in his political agenda than "all" the [other] presidents before him. If I were to translate that to another language, I could as well add "other" to the statement to make it explicit in the receptor language without distorting the intended meaning. The thought of "other" is implied. The same applies to biblical languages.

    Sometimes we also use "all" or "everyone" to exaggerate a statement: "Everyone in America drink sodas." Or: "All" the French people drink wine." That's an exaggeration, because not "all" or "everyone" in America drink sodas, but the majority do. Likewise, a majority of French people may drink wine, but not literally every person living within the French borders. And so on. The same principle applies to the biblical "all." "All" in the Bible is used frequently as a hyperbole. Three examples of usage:

    1 Kings 10:23 (ESV), “Thus King Solomon excelled all [Hebrew: kōl; Greek (LXX): pántas] the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.” We might as well translate: “Thus King Solomon excelled all the [other] kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.” Solomon was himself a king.

    Esther 2:17 (ESV), “The king [Ahasuerus] loved Esther more than all [Hebrew: kōl; Greek (LXX): pásas] the women.” We could translate: “The king [Ahasuerus] loved Esther more than all the other women.” Esther was a female.

    Acts 2:4 (ESV) says: “And they were all [Hebrew: kulam' (kōl); Greek, pántes, UBS] filled with the Holy Spirit.” Was “all” of Jerusalem or Judea included in this ‘filling’? No, the "all" here applies to only those disciples who were present at the Jerusalem gathering.

    Charles H. Spurgeon rightly observed: “...The whole world is gone after him. Did all the world go after Christ? Then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan. Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem baptized in Jordan? Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one. Does the whole world there mean everybody? If so, how was it, then, that there were some who were of God? The words world and all are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture; and it is very rarely that all means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts—some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted his redemption to either Jew or Gentile.” (Particular Redemption).

    Okay then, the Greek word for "all" can include or exclude others within some contexts. What about Christ? Was he excluded by the "all" in Col 1.16? That's where interpretation comes in.

    First-century Christians were not trinitarians. They were simply monotheists to their Jewish core. Thus, the Christian authors could not view Christ as the second member (Or: person) of a so-called "trinity." (1 Cor. 8:5,6) That language came after the 1st-century. Hence, there was no need at that point to make clarifying declarations in Scripture to the effect that Jesus was not the same individual as Yahweh, because Jews only believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Yahweh). They already believed that Yahweh was "the" Creator. What they needed to believe now was that Jesus was sent as God's representative to save the dying world. Jesus was the closest person to God, and thus endowed with divine authority and power -- fit to represent God in every way. (John 1.18; Col. 2.9; Hebrews 1.3) Jesus now holds a position so great in the Universe, that Paul had to mention that it was through Jesus that God made everything.

    Hence, when the Jewish people saw Jesus, in a way it could be said that they were "seeing" God. (John 14.9) However, that did not make Jesus the same as the "Almighty" God, "the one true God" of Hebrew Writings. Many Bible readers tuned to the "Trinity" believe that Christ created "everything," excluding him from creation.

    But the "all" or "everything" in Scripture has exceptions. Paul, the author of both Colossians and the letters to the Corinthians did not believe that Jesus was God Yahweh . He describes Jesus as being in subjection to God both in heaven and earth. He wrote that "God is the head of [the risen] Christ." (1 Cor. 11.3 ) And toward the end of his first letter to Gentile Christians, he endeavored to emphasize that Christ was above "all" things (pan'ta) in heaven and earth. Yet, it was at this point of argumentation, that Paul used a moment to define the Greek word pan'ta in the universal scheme. The Greek word for "all" did not mean Christ is above or equal to God, but that Christ himself had to submit to God to sum it all up to God's glory. (cf., Phil. 2.11)

    In 1 Corinthians 15.27 Paul states according to a Jewish translation (CJB): For He put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says that everything has been subjected, obviously the word [pánta] does not include God, who is himself the one subjecting everything to the Messiah.

    Now, the question is: Does the principle expounded by Paul defining pan'ta ("all things") at 1 Cor. 15.27 apply to Col. 1.16? Apparently so, because he in Colossians spoke very highly of Christ to the point of nearly equating him to God, but never reached the point of placing Christ in first place: "God is the Father of Christ," he says. ‘God raised Christ from the dead.’ "Christ is seated at the right hand of God" he adds. And so on! Even when Paul addresses the subject of creation, he is plain at declaring that "Christ is the firstborn of all creation." (Col. 1.15) It was through Christ that God made the Universe. Observe how a Bible translator (J. B. Phillips) dealt with this verse:

    Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He was born before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made.” (The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Student Edition, 1972)

    Similarly, the Good News Bible renders Col 1:16 this way:

    For through him [Christ] God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him.

    Therefore, those who think Trinitarians are right in this matter should revisit the letter to the Colossians to see if the letter specifically expresses anywhere, unequivocably, that Christ was eternal, uncreated. If Jesus is second after God, then the use of "other" in "all things" is justified in translation to clear things up in the present trinitarian-inclined world (within "Christians" that is.)

    Scholar Jason BeDuhn in his book Truth in Translation, brought up some interesting questions about the addition of "other" to the NWT rendering ("all other things") in this regard:

    Yet in many public forums on Bible translation, the practice of these four translations [NIV; NRSV; TEV (Today's English Version); and LB] is rarely if ever pointed to or criticized, while the N[ew] W[orld Translation] is attacked for adding the innocuous ‘other’ in a way that clearly indicates its character as an addition of the translators. Why is that so? The reason is that many readers apparently want the passage to mean what the NIV and TEV try to make it mean. That is, they don't want to accept the obvious and clear sense of ‘first-born of creation’ as identifying Jesus as ‘of creation.’ ‘Other’ is obnoxious to them because it draws attention to the fact the Jesus is ‘of creation’ and so when Jesus acts with respect to ‘all things’ he is actually acting with respect to ‘all other things.’ But the NW is correct.” (p. 84)

    BeDuhn adds: “So what exactly are objectors to other arguing for as the meaning of the phrase all things? That Christ created himself (v. 16)? That Christ is before God and that God was made to exist by means of Christ (v. 17)? That Christ, too, needs to be reconciled to God (v. 20)? When we spell out what is denied by the use of other we can see clearly how absurd the objection is.” (p. 85)

    He goes on: “‘Other is implied in all and the NW simply makes what is implicit explicit. You can argue whether it is necessary or not to do this. But I think the objections that have been raised to it show that it is, in fact, necessary, because those who object want to negate the meaning of the phrase firstborn of creation. If adding other prevents this misreading of the Biblical text, then it is useful to have it there.” (p. 85)

  • prologos

    "-Jesus now holds a position so great in the Universe, that Paul had to mention that it was through Jesus that God made everything.-"

    That " in" captured my attention, the creator would not be in, but be external, prior to the universe, whether it is relevant, is another matter.

  • Wonderment

    prologos: "That " in" captured my attention, the creator would not be in, but be external, prior to the universe, whether it is relevant, is another matter."



    Wonderment- So the NWT is still the most accurate bible in existence, right?

    just asking

  • Wonderment

    TTWSYF: "So the NWT is still the most accurate bible in existence, right?"

    I couldn't say that, even if I wanted to. All translations in existence fail in some way in their efforts to accurately reproduce the original versions. As Moffatt once said: "No translation can preserve intact the full content and the symmetrical beauty of the original; in the transition from the old language to the new, much must be lost by the way."

    That said, many versions do an adequate job in transmitting the information available in the extant manuscripts. I feel the NWT is a good translation overall, but far from perfect.

  • jw-verite

    The problem with adding "other" in Colossians is that it contradicts all other scriptures saying that ALL things where created by Jesus. So Jesus could not create himself could he ?

    Cf. John 1:2; 1:10; 1 Co 8:6; Heb 1:2

    In all these verses there is no "other".

    If everything was created by Jesus then Jesus was not created. As simple as that...

  • prologos
    The problem with "other" is that it would classify the prehuman "jesus" as a thing, whereas to be a co-creator he would have to be a non-material entity; --spiritual, invisible, like his presence since 1914.
  • Clambake

    Ever heard the expression “ can’t see the forest because of all the trees “ ?

    The book of John is making reference to Jesus being “ the angel of lord “ from the old testament. The figure that was identified as being with god and god at the same time. The how never seeing the face of god and being able to live but people seeing god and living. “ No one has seen the father only the son “.

    Now how does that work ?? Well, I don’t know ( this is where a JW feel morality superior to you ) .

    I think it is quite arrogant to think we have figured out the nature of god.

  • jhine

    Wonderment , I will go with what I said in response to part one , it is about context , and I think that jw-verite and prologos make good points


  • oppostate

    The whole deal with the Trinity concerns the essence of being.

    The orthodox belief in the Trinity teaches that Jesus is God, and JW's will agree that Jesus is a divine being. The orthodox Church Fathers' opinions differed and at the two extremes we may think of Athanasius and Arius and their ideas.

    My understanding is that the essence of the Divine Being is like, (if I may use the illustration), an amount of water, the water of life--and that the son is poured as a cup of that water, it is separate, only a cup of that essence, but having the same source. The Holy Spirit is like a stream of this water. It flows from the source; it has power. But it is of the same essence even when it is sent forth to accomplish something.

    If the Father is the essence and source of this water, people may have seen Jesus, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit, but we aren't close enough to God, we are separated from the essence of life, the source. Jesus was the cup that was poured out on behalf of humanity to bring them closer to the Essence of life.

    Anyway, that's my understanding, and all the quibbles and quarrels between trinitarians and unitarians has become a lot of noise to me.

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