How to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness’ Publication “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” — Part Two
The Bible – A Book From God
GENERALLY, what is presented in this chapter about the Bible is rather accurate. However, even if it might sound good on the surface, you need to understand what it comes out to in reality. While the Watchtower Society claims to believe all the Bible and that it is the inspired Word of God, yet it still teaches that the whole Bible was written only for the 144,000, referred to as the “anointed,” so it does not believe the Bible can be read and understood by the average person. The Society continually quotes the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch to try to prove that the Bible must be interpreted. Acts 8:30-31 reads, “Philip ran alongside and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet, and he said: ‘Do you actually know what you are reading?’ He said: ‘Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?’ And he entreated Philip to get on and sit down with him” (NWT). Of course, the Society ignores the promise that the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth as found in John 14:26.
To prove that the Watchtower Society clearly teaches that a person cannot come into the truth by just reading the Bible on his or her own, I would like to quote from an article in the February 15, 1981, Watchtower, page 17. “From such experience it can be seen that Jehovah God caused the Bible to be written in such a way that one needs to come in touch with his human channel before one can fully and accurately understand it. True, we need the help of God’s holy spirit, but its help also comes to us primarily by association with the channel Jehovah God sees fit to us.” (Many more such quotes can be found in Watchtower literature.)
Since the Society teaches that almost all of the Jehovah’s Witnesses today are not of the “anointed class,” but of the “great crowd,” then the greater majority of Witnesses cannot read and understand the Bible themselves. They must have it explained to them. The Society says that the Bible must be “illuminated,” and this can only be done by the men on the Governing Body. It presents this illumination in the Watchtower publications, so the Jehovah’s Witnesses read these instead of the Bible. When a Jehovah’s Witness speaks about a “Bible study,” he actually means reading and studying what the Watchtower publications teach, rather than letting the Bible speak for itself.
In addition, though the Society claims to believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, from what is written in paragraph 5 on pages 19-20 it is clear that the Watchtower Society believes in “thought inspiration,” instead of “verbal inspiration” as most Bible-believing Christians do. “Thought inspiration” means that God merely gave the main ideas to the authors and then they worked out the details in their own words. “Verbal inspiration” means that God not only guided in the main ideas but also in the choice of words the human authors used.
As a matter of information, there is an important comment in the previous book used by the Watchtower Society for its propaganda purposes, KNOWLEDGE That Leads to Everlasting Life, but left out of this book, which I want to mention. (This is found on page 12, paragraph 3.) “But if you were given a legal document outlining what you had to do in order to receive a valuable inheritance, would you not take the time to study it carefully? If you find certain parts of the document hard to understand, likely you would get the help of someone experienced in such matters.”
The above statement is a very subtle way of getting people to buy into the Watchtower Society’s propaganda that the Bible is really a very difficult book to understand and you need some “specialist” to tell you what it actually means. (I started reading the King James Bible daily when I was saved at the age of 14. I didn’t find it forbiddingly difficult to understand, but was surprised to find out just how personal it was! Often I felt like someone had followed me around with a camera and was now portraying my life. I wondered how the Bible, which had been written thousands of years earlier, knew me so well! Yes, there are some difficult parts, but most of it is understandable by the average person.) Of course, like some other religious groups, it teaches that it is the only organization that has the authority to interpret the Bible. If the Society can convince a person on this point, then it can control the person’s mind and teach almost anything it wants to without ever being questioned. (Of course, the book doesn’t mention the fact that the Society has been trying to find out what the Bible really teaches for over 100 years, but it hasn’t gotten it right yet, because it constantly keep changing its teaching–often completely reversing its teachings.)
For years the Watchtower Society used the Bibles that were on the market. In 1929 it printed the Holy Bible, American Standard Version of 1901. It printed the King James Version in 1942, the Diaglott New Testament also in 1942, and then The Bible in Living English, by Steven T. Byington in 1972. In 1961 it completed its own Bible, known as the New World Translation (NWT), and revised it slightly in 1984. I realize that this Bible has been intentionally corrupted; yet even so— though I avoid the controversial, corrupted passages, I still use the NWT instead of any other Bible when conversing with a Jehovah’s Witness. There is a good, sensible reason for doing this. Too often when another Bible is used in witnessing you get into an argument as to which Bible is correct instead of discussing what the Bible teaches.
Probably the most glaringly corrupted passage in the NWT is found in Colossians 1:16-17 where Paul speaks about Jesus Christ being the Creator. (Note carefully the use of the added word “other” in brackets “”.) “Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities, all [other] things have been created through him, and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist.” You cannot find the words “other” added in any other version of the Bible. Since the Watchtower Society teaches that only the Father is eternal, that He created the Son and then the Son created everything else, if these verses were left standing as they are actually found in the original Greek text they would prove the Watchtower Society’s teaching in error when it states that Jesus was created. Thus the Society changed the Bible to conform to its teachings instead of changing its teaching to be in accordance with the Bible.
When reading the NWT, you will soon note that the word “Jehovah” is found about 6000 times in the Old Testament and 231 times in the New Testament. If the Watchtower Society had of been consistent with it own rules for inserting the word “Jehovah” in the New Testament, there are at least 72 places where this would prove that Jesus is Jehovah God, but of course it could not do that, since it would disprove its own teachings about Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the NWT is a very “scholarly” translation and the most accurate. Below I will give a number of indirect questions that might cause the Jehovah’s Witness you are dealing with to question its scholarship. But first I need to give some important information that will help you understand the questions.
The committee for working on this new translation of the Bible for the Watchtower Society was set up in 1950. The committee was headed by Frederick Franz, who was then vice-president of the Society, Nathan H. Knorr, president, and three other men serving in the Brooklyn, NY, headquarters, Albert D. Schroeder, George D. Gangas, and Milton Henschel who later became the president of the Society. The Society has never come out with a list of the men on the committee; in fact, its publications say that the men on the committee were very humble and did not want their names to be mentioned so that God would receive the glory. (If you were to ask a Witness why the men were not named, he might point out that neither are the men’s names mentioned who did the American Standard Bible of 1901. Yes, their names are not written within the Bible, but you can go on a computer and very
easily find the names.) The NWT names, however, are omitted for a very obvious reason, and that is because none of the men were Greek or Hebrew scholars? the languages the Bible was originally written in. Of the five, only Frederick Franz had any formal college education and that was for only three years. He had, at best, only three years of formal Greek and one year of Hebrew. This in no way makes him a scholar. George Gangas was a Greek by birth, but not a language scholar. The other three had never studied Greek or Hebrew. So the very important question comes, “How can you have a scholarly translation if no scholars were involved on the committee?” As far as I have been able to determine, the
committee took about 25 different Bibles in English and then began picking and choosing from the translations whatever they wanted.
Some Jehovah’s Witnesses might claim that Frederick Franz was so brilliant that he was offered a “Rhodes Scholarship” with the privilege of going to Oxford or Cambridge in England. This claim has been investigated and found to be false. Since Frederick Franz was the only one that had studied even a little Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, let me quote from the Douglas Walsh Trial Transcript, Tuesday, November 24-25, 1954, when Frederick Franz (four years after he started working on the NWT) was examined under oath in a court of law in Edinburgh, Scotland, and failed a simple Hebrew test.
“Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?”
“So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?”
“Yes, for use in my biblical work.”
“I think you are able to read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French?”
The following day, Franz was put on the stand again, and the following interview
“You, yourself, read and speak Hebrew, do you?”
“I do not speak Hebrew.”
“You do not?”
“Can you translate that into Hebrew?” (He was asked to translate a simple Bible text: Genesis 2:4-6.)
“That fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis.”
“You mean here?”
“No. I won’t attempt to do that.”
When dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness, there is one thing about the NWT that you can use to your advantage. If you have access to this Bible, you will notice that there are a lot of cross-references. After a word or phrase you will find a letter of the alphabet, and when you look in the center of the page for the same letter you will find one or more Scripture references where that word or phrase is used. This often helps you understand the usage of the word or phrase better. It so happens that the Watchtower Society did not produce these references itself but bought this information from someone else, who was evangelical. Apparently the Society never checked out these references because they often prove what Bible-believing Christians believe instead of what the Watchtower Society teaches. Thus many times you can use the references in the NWT Bible to disprove the Society’s
teachings and help re-enforce what you believe. Let me give you just one example.
Remember, the Watchtower Society teaches that birthdays are “pagan” and should not be observed. But by using the references in the NWT you can show that Abraham had a birthday party for Isaac on the very day he was three years old. Surely Abraham was not a pagan! Genesis 21:8 reads, “Now the child kept growing and came to be weaned; and Abraham then prepared a big feast on the day of Isaac’s being weaned.” When you look at the reference to “e” in the center column it refers you to 1 Samuel 1:22. This verse speaks about when Samuel was weaned. Then after the word “weaned” in this verse there is a reference that refers you to 2 Chronicles 31:16. This verse reads, “Apart from their genealogical enrolment of the males from three years of age upward, of all those coming to the house of Jehovah as a daily matter of course, for their service by their obligations
according to their divisions.” By referring to these verses we learn that a child was weaned at the age of three. Thus Abraham had a large birthday party for Isaac on the very day he was three years old, which proves that birthday parties are not “pagan” or forbidden by Yahweh like the Society teaches. This is only one of hundreds of illustrations where these references prove the teachings of Bible believing Christians.
Page 19, paragraph 4 states, “In whole or in part, the Bible has been published in more than 2,300 languages and thus is available to more than 90 percent of the
Question #1: I think it is really wonderful that the Bible is in so many languages and that most of the people in the world can read it. Could you please tell me how the Bible was translated into so many languages? (The Witness you are talking to is probably not aware of the Christian groups who have been and are active in translating the Bible into other languages. The purpose of this question is to get the person to think.)
Question #2: This seems to show that there are many groups beside them Watchtower Society who are interested in getting the Bible into the hands of people in their own languages so they can read it. Don’t you think so?
Question #3: I see or understand that the Watchtower Society has produced its own Bible. Will you tell me by whom and when it was translated? (He or she might be able to tell you that the whole Bible was first published in 1961 but will give you no details about who translated it. He or she might give you the argument mentioned above that the men who did the Bible were humble men and didn’t want to receive any glory.)
Question #4: Would the Watchtower-produced Bible be considered a “scholarly” Bible? (To this question you will probably receive an emphatic “Yes.”)
Question #5: Since you consider the NWT a scholarly Bible, was it translated by scholars inside the Watchtower organization or did it request the help of recognized scholars? (They will probably tell you that it was done by members of the Watchtower Society.)
Question #6: Will you help me understand something? I understand that most of the people who go to the headquarters, some spending their life there, go immediately out of high school. Would that be a true assessment of the people at the headquarters? (You should receive a “Yes” answer.)
Question #7: I have heard that for many years the Watchtower Society has been against its followers going to college, let along going to graduate school? which would be absolutely necessary for anyone to even claim to be a scholar. Is what I have heard correct? (He or she should say, “Yes.”)
Question #8: (This is the question you have been working up to.) Since the men who worked on the translation committee were all from within the organization and had never gone to college, let alone graduate school, then where would these scholars come from who translated the Bible? (At this point, you are not necessarily interested in the answer they give but you have planted the seed that it is impossible for the NWT to be a scholarly translation. If they should happen to say, “They were self-educated men,” you can ask them how they know such a thing if they do not know even the names of the men who did the translation in order to check out the claim? Spend some time on this question and cause the Witness to wrestle with this problem.)
Question #9: How many different languages has the New World Translation been translated into? (They might be a little vague, but as of 2006 the Society claims to have translated the whole Bible or the New Testament into 42 languages. I just checked with the Society and received these figures.)
Question #10: As we have seen, it would have been difficult to have any scholars who knew Hebrew and Greek work on the English translation of the NWT. Do you know for certainty that all of these other 42 (or the figure they give) translations of the whole Bible or the New Testament were translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek languages? (You probably won’t receive a clear answer. In this case, ask them to investigate and bring you back an answer. You will probably have to ask many times to get an answer.)
Note: I am able to read Japanese and I noted that a number of the different renderings in the English NWT turned up in the Japanese. Furthermore, I have a friend whose native tongue is Spanish, and he also knows Portuguese, Italian, and some French. He likewise noted the same changes in these languages. So I have long suspected that all the translations of the NWT into other language were taken from the English NWT. Then I found the answer in The Watchtower magazine of October 15, 1997. In an article starting on page 8 titled HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO US, on page 12 I found my hunch was correct, that all the translations into other languages were taken from the English. Here is what is stated in this article. “Translating from English, rather than working directly from the Hebrew and Greek, offers important advantages. Besides shortening translation time, it makes possible greater unity of expression in all languages. Why? Because it is much easier to translate precisely from one modern language into another than to translate from an ancient language into various modern ones. After all, translators can consult with native speakers of modern languages but not of languages spoken thousand of years ago.”
Therefore, all the errors in the English NWT are automatically continued in the other languages in which the NWT has been translated.
Question #11: Was the New World Translation ever the first translation of the Bible in any of the languages the NWT is translated into? (The answer should be “No.”)
Question #12: Since the Watchtower Society is active in many countries where it does not have it own translation, then what Bible do the Jehovah’s Witnesses use? (They will have to say they use the translation that is available in that language.)
Question #13: Since the Watchtower Society sanctions the translations of the Bible in many different languages then it apparently admits that there are other groups that are able to produce an accurate and reliable Bible. Would this be true?
Question #14: How many languages is The Watchtower magazine translated into? (If they have the correct information they will say, “About 100 languages.”)
Question #15: This seem strange to me. This Watchtower book we are studying is explaining how important the Bible is, but in actuality it seems like it is more important to translate The Watchtower publications into foreign languages than it is the Bible! Can’t you see this possibility? (You are planting seeds of doubt.)
Question #16: Since it is so important to have an accurate translation of the Bible in the hands of all people, and still 10 percent of the world’s population does not have the Bible in its native language, does the Watchtower Society have any people, financed by the Society, who are working full time translating the Bible into these other languages? (I once asked a J.W. I was dealing with this question and he said he was not sure and would get back to me. I kept pressing him but he never answered me because I think he knew the Society does not have any such work. Jehovah’s Witnesses are never the first people to go into a country or tribe to evangelize. They only come after seed has been planted and they are able to
Page 26, paragraph 20, states: “The Bible truly is a book from God. It is a book that is to be read, studied, and loved. Show your gratitude for this divine gift by
continuing to peer into its contents.”
Question #1: I believe what is written here is wonderful advice. Since you are going to be my teacher, I was wondering if you make it a practice to read the whole Bible, every word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, once every year? (It is important to say “Every word,” otherwise they will give a false answer. I am almost sure that the person will not give you a firm positive “Yes.”)
Question #2: How many times would you say you have read the complete Bible from cover to cover since you became a Jehovah’s Witness? (You will probably get a very vague answer. They might say, “I really don’t keep track.” Ask them if they can’t give you some idea. Is it once, twice, or how many times?) (Note: I have never met a J.W. who makes it a practice of reading the Bible through every year on his or her own. I once met a Jehovah’s Witness who was a circuit overseer [that is, over 30 congregations] for twenty years. He admitted to reading the Bible completely through only two times since he became a Witness. I talked to another man who had been a J.W. for forty years, and he said he had read the Bible through only four times.)
Question #3: Would you say that most of the J.W.’s make it a practice to read the Bible through every year? (I don’t think you will receive a positive answer.)
Question #4: Does the average J.W. spend more time reading the Bible than they do Watchtower publications? (The Bible-reading schedule set out by the Watchtower Society calls for the J.W. to read two hundred pages of the Bible in a year? which very few do. Following this plan, it would take a J.W. over five years to read the whole Bible, while if they read just the Watchtower and Awake magazines, which most do, they will read about 1,500 pages of Watchtower material in a year. This shows that Watchtower publications are more important than the Bible.)
Next Time: What is God’s Purpose for the Earth?