|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|We continue our examination of Jehovah’s Witness mistranslations by looking at how the New World Translation treats these verses: Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, and John 1:1. (NWT).|
In the following material we have utilized the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation [NWT] and Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (1969). It gives the Greek text, a word for word English translation below the Greek text, and, has a column containing the New World Translation to the right.
In the following examples we have provided the New World Translation and the New American Standard translation so the reader may make a quick comparison prior to a brief discussion. The NWT mistranslation is supplied in capital letters for emphasis.
[In this verse “deity” is translated as “divine quality” in order to circumvent Christ’s deity.]
The great grammarian, A. T. Robertson, author of A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, declares:
Bruce Metzger asserts:
Edmund Gruss states:
[Cf., Eph. 5:5, 2 Thess. 1:12 “our great God and Savior” is translated as “the great God and the Savior” in order to deny Christ’s deity.]
The Greek of these first two verses (in 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13) is very similar (megalou being absent in 2 Peter):
|(THE) TOU||MEGALOU||THEOU KAI|
|(of our)||great||God and|
|savior||of us||Christ Jesus|
The New World Translation changes the proper translation to separate Jesus Christ from the term God, thereby denying His deity. In the NWT, the verse is trans- lated as if two persons are being spoken of, God and Jesus, rather than one person only, i.e., Jesus Christ.
This violates a rule of Greek grammar called the Granville Sharp rule. In simplified form it states that, when two singular personal nouns [The rule applies to per- sonal nouns, singular not plural. A personal noun is distinguished from a proper noun in this rule] of the same case ending (God and Savior above, genitive case) are connected by “and” (kai) and only the first noun has the modifying article “the” (tou) (the second noun does not), it always means both nouns uniformly refer to the same person. When defined properly, the rule has no exceptions in the New Testament. In an exhaustive study of the Granville Sharp rule, including its critics, C. Kuehne in the
Journal of Theology—Church of the Lutheran Confession (September 1973 to Dec. 1974, Vols. 13, nos. 3, 4; Vol. 14, nos. 1-4), found the Sharp rule to be without demonstrable exception in the entire New Testament. Thus “God” and “Savior” (underlined above) must both refer to one person, i.e., to Jesus in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. In fact, in ancient times the same phraseology (“god and savior”) was used of a ruling King so that it is obvious only one person was meant. These verses must read “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Bruce Metzger observes:
The Kingdom Interlinear explanation of their translation on page 1163 is typically biased in its own defense—sounding scholarly but misquoting Moulton’s Grammar, as we will later document. Dana and Mantey in A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament state: “The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true:… 2 Pt. 1:1…means that Jesus is our God and Savior. After the same manner Tit. 2:13…asserts that Jesus is the great God and Savior.”
One may also note the Greek scholar A. T. Robertson in his Word Pictures Volume 6, page 147 (“One Person not two”) and Winer-Schmiedel’s Grammatik 8th ed., Leipzeig, Germany, page 158 (“Grammar demands that one person be met.”)
The reason why the King James Version, the American Standard Version and a few additional earlier versions incorrectly translate such passages as Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, etc., is, in part, according to Robertson, due to the influence of the grammatical work of George B. Winer. For over 100 years his work was considered the best available and scholars were not inclined to disagree with him.
However, Winer himself, being an anti-trinitarian, admitted that it was not grammatical grounds that led him to reject the correct rendering of Titus 2:13, but theological ones. In the Winer-Moulton Grammar (as cited by Robertson), page 162, Winer said, “Considerations derived from Paul’s system of doctrine lead me to believe that soteros is not a second predicate, co-ordinate with theou, Christ being first called megas theos, and then sotar.” However, Robertson put it well when he said, “Sharp stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. We must let these passages mean what they want to mean regardless of our theories about the theology of the writers.”
[“God” as “a god” in order to deny Christ’s deity.]
The transliterated Greek of this verse looks like this:
In essence, the Watchtower Society claims it can translate theos as “a god” because there is no definite article before this usage of “theos” (God) in the last clause of John 1:1. Note that the first use of the term God (“pros ton theon”) has the article (“ton,” the). The second use simply states “kai theos” (and “God,” not and “the God”). Because it does not say “and the God” Jehovah’s Witnesses argue they are free to interpret this second usage of God as figuratively meaning a lesser deity, “a god”—signifying Christ’s exalted status, even though he is still only a creature. Their main concern here is to escape the clear meaning of this passage. Christ is here called theos, God.
The difficulty is that had the apostle John used the article, he would have de- clared that “the God was the Word.” Had he done so, he would have confused the persons of the Trinity and supported modalism (in the early church known as the heresy of Sabellianism). In other words, to declare that “the God was the word (Jesus)” would have stated that all of God, i.e., the whole trinity, was Jesus. This would have supported modalistic belief that there is only one Person in the Godhead (i.e., Jesus) and that the terms Father, Son and Spirit in Scripture only refer to modes or offices of the one God who exists as one person.
The apostle John had to make a finer distinction and, on the one hand, clearly declare that the person of Jesus was deity, but, on the other, not make it seem as if all three persons in the Godhead were to be considered the same as the person of Jesus. To make this fine distinction he had to use the exact wording he used.
We should also note that The Kingdom Interlinear (p. 1158-59) utilizes both Mantey and Robertson’s Grammar in defense of their John 1:1 translation. However, Mantey observes:
As for Dr. Robertson, they misstate his own position by selectively quoting him. As they observe, Robertson does say that, “the absence of the article here is on purpose.” But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not explain why he says this. He does so to indicate that to include the article “would have been Sabellianism.” In his Word Pictures, Robertson provides a succinct analysis:
The Watchtower Society appendix defending the “a god” rendering (Kingdom Interlinear, p. 1158-60) again, appears scholarly, but is not. For example, they misquote Dana and Mantey’s Grammar. In a letter dated July 11, 1974 to the Watch- tower Bible and Tract Society, Mantey even demanded a public apology for these repeated misquotings—as well as requested their discontinuance of the use of his grammar: After citing numerous examples of mistranslations, Mantey writes:
Van Buskirk has also documented Watchtower deception in detail in his Scholastic Dishonesty of the Watchtower noting they also misquote A. T. Robertson’s Grammar and other sources as well. They further claim, “At Acts 28:6 we have a case paralleling that of John 1:1 with exactly the same predicate construction, namely, with an anarthrous [i.e., no definite article] OEOS [theos]” (The Kingdom Interlinear, p. 1160). This at first seems to be true for there is no definite article in Acts 28:6. What the Witnesses fail to mention is that in John 1:1 the predicate nominative (theos) precedes the verb; here in Acts it follows the verb and thus is not applicable. Colwell’s rule (which is at issue here) states that a definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb and lacks the article when it precedes it:
Van Buskirk points out that the Witnesses have attempted to deny Colwell’s Rule by quoting Phillip B. Harner’s article in Journal of Biblical Literature, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1” (Vol. 92, 1973, p. 87). However, a full year earlier Dr. Mantey’s own letter to the Watchtower Society demanding they stop misquoting him pointed out that not only had they misquoted Colwell’s rule but that it is impossible to quote Harner in denial of Colwell since Harner himself supports the rule and denies the possibility of an “a god” translation. Van Buskirk observes:
Van Buskirk goes on to discuss exactly what Harner concluded and how his research is complementary to Colwell’s; it simply brings out new information.
Nevertheless, even if we were to assume the truth of what the Watchtower Society claims in their appendix, they have violated their own “rule” in John 1:1 94 per cent of the time. Robert H. Countess, writing in The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament, documents this in detail. In John 1 alone they violate their principle at least five times. Checking their interlinear (pp. 417-19) we see the following:
If the absence of the article demands the “a god” rendering, why is it not so rendered here? In fact, where is it in 94% of the instances of such construction in the NWT? Clearly translating John 1:1 “a god” is not only a violation of Greek grammar, it is unjustified even in light of the vast majority of their own translation. Obviously then, in the above passages in John 1:1 (NWT), the translation should be “God,” not “a god.”
(As an aside, the NWT at John 1:23 translates the Greek kurios (Lord) as “Jeho- vah,” since it is a clear reference to Jehovah God from Isaiah. Yet, according to their John 1:1 rendering, with no definite article it should be “a Jehovah.” If “a god” must be different from God, “a Jehovah” must then be different from Jehovah. At this point we would have three Gods: “Jehovah,” “a god” and “a Jehovah.”)