Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Correction on some videos.

Just to let anyone know, I took down two of my videos that contained a question regarding Romans 10:9 and ha ahdohn. After some consideration and thought, I felt that my question was answered adequately. Furthermore, the content on the video wasn't accurate enough for me to feel comfortable in leaving it up. I still have massive problems with the insertion of the divine name in the New Testament as well as problems with the inconsistent use of the "J" documents by the New World Translation. So until I state my case concerning this issue, i'm going to hold of on it for the time being.

16 comments:

Shawn said...

I've done some research into this subject so I thought I'd share what I have so far. At first, I thought there might be some merit for including the divine name at points in the Greek scriptures. It seemed reasonable to me that early Christian writers who were quoting Hebrew scripture would use the divine name in their quotes.

Clearly the Watchtower Society's (WTS) New World Translation (NWT) committee was not consistent in its 'restoration' of the divine name to the Greek scriptures. The NWT appendix states that haAdohn is a title limited exclusively to Jehovah God and that Adoni refers to Jesus as My Lord. They mostly followed this rule, breaking it when Jesus is referred to as Jehovah.

I think the bigger question is why were the 'J' documents even used? The 'J' documents used were not copies of scripture, but translations from Greek into Hebrew. The two most heavily used texts used by the WTS were a translation (version) of the original Greek Scriptures into Hebrew published by Elias Hutter of Nuremberg in 1599 and a translation published by an organization in England identified as THE TRINITARIAN BIBLE SOCIETY. How are these texts an authoritative witness? The dates of documents J1-J9 range from 1385-1661. The 14th and 15th centuries produced some of the most inaccurate translations that we have today. A translation from that time would have most likely have been based on the Textus Receptus which was basically any translation based on the the work of Desiderius Erasmus who based his translation primarily on two 12th century Greek texts which are known to contain many errors. In our time, we have so many sources that represent the oldest, best known manuscripts that date back to the 2nd,3rd, and 4th centuries that it seems odd at best that the WTS would choose a text from an era known by 20th century text critics to be a time of inaccurate translations. I could not find much information about the J17 and J18 documents by the Trinitarian Bible Society except that they were published in 1877 and 1885 respectively. Even so, why would a translation from Greek to Hebrew be any more of an authority than a translation from Greek to Japanese?

The WTS also used Codex Sinaiticus, an early uncial Greek manuscript and Codex Vaticanus (MS No, 1209), also an early uncial Greek manuscript as sources for their translation. Both of these texts are considered pretty reliable, however the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is never used in these texts even when early Christian writers were quoting Hebrew scripture.

As it turns out, there are no Greek texts that use the tetragrammaton. There is no evidence that the divine name was removed from the Christian Greek scriptures. The WTS justifies adding the divine name to its English translation by saying that when translators translated Greek scripture that quoted Hebrew scripture, they used the tetragrammaton where the scripture quoted used the tetragrammaton.

Why would an English translation of the Greek scriptures be more accurate if it were first translated into Hebrew? Why stop there? Would we get an even more accurate translation if we went from Greek to Hebrew to Tagalog to English? The truth is that there is no evidence that some apostate movement in the 2nd century intentionally removed the divine name from the Greek scriptures. The controversies at the time had nothing to do with whether the divine name should be used. There were four main schools of thought at the time.

There were the 'adoptionists', who thought that Jesus was entirely human, not born of a virgin, who God adopted as his son at baptism.

There were the Docetists, who believed that Jesus was entirely divine, only appearing to be in the flesh on earth.

There were the separationists who believed that Jesus was a human who was also inhabited by the divine Christ that joined Jesus at baptism and separated from him at his execution.

Then there were those that held to what we think of as 'orthodox' Christianity... who eventually acquired enough believers to reduce the other schools of thought to static.

There were fierce debates about the nature of Jesus, but apparently no arguments over the use of the divine name. We have evidence of the disagreements of the time, which is why we know about these other 'Christian' teachings. It would follow that if there were some debate over the use of the divine name that we would see some kind of evidence that the debate existed. I would also expect that if the WTS had evidence of this anti-divine name debate, they would let the rest of us know about it.

Another facet of this issue that should be examined is whether, in fact, the WTS translation committee was qualified to produce a translation of the scriptures. The names of those on this committee are kept secret so as to 'give all glory to Jehovah God'. We know from other sources that the NWT translators were: Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder, George Gangas, Fred Franz, M. Henschel

* "Fred Franz however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but was only self-taught in Hebrew." ["Crisis of Conscience"; by Raymond Franz; Commentary Press, Atlanta; 1983 edition; footnote 15; page 50.]

However, in 1954 the WTS was on trial in Scotland in order to prove that Jehovah's Witnesses were a genuine religion whose members could be exempt from military service, Franz was put to the test regarding his abilities as a translator. I have the scan of the entire transcript of this trial if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, 23rd November, 1954:
Frederick William Franz, Examined:

Q. Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?
A. Yes....
Q. So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?
A. Yes, for use in my biblical work.
Q. I think you are able to read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French?
A. Yes.
Q. It is the case, is it not, that in 1950 there was prepared and issued what is called the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
A. Yes....
Q. I think that it was your duty, was it not, before the issue of that New World Translation by your Society to check that translation for accuracy?
A. That is true.
Q. In light of your studies and in light of your knowledge?
A. That is true.
Q. And did you do so?
A. I did so....
Q. And was it your duty on behalf of the Society to check the translation into English from the original Hebrew of that first volume of the Old Testament Scriptures?
A. Yes....
Q. In so far as translation of the Bible itself is undertaken, are you responsible for that?
A. I have been authorised to examine a translation and determine its accuracy and recommend its acceptance in the form in which it is submitted.
Q. Are the translators members of the Editorial Committee?
A. That is a question which I, as a member of the Board of Directors, am not authorised to disclose....
Q. When did you go to the University?....
Q. Did you graduate?
A. No, I did not....
Q. Had you done any Hebrew in the course of your University work?
A. No, I had not, but in the course of my editorial work, my special research work for the president of the Society, I found it was very necessary to have knowledge of Hebrew, and so I undertook a personal study of that.

ADJOURNED

Wednesday, 24th November, 1954:
Frederick William Franz, Cross Continued:

Q. You, yourself, read and speak Hebrew, do you?
A. I do not speak Hebrew.
Q. You do not?
A. No.
Q. Can you, yourself, translate that into Hebrew?
A. Which?
Q. That fourth verse of the Second Chapter of Genesis?
A. You mean here?
Q. Yes?
A. No, I won’t attempt to do that.
— Douglas Walsh Trial, Pursuer’s Proof, 1954, pp. 7-9, 88, 91-92, 102-103

What Franz "wouldn't attempt" to translate into Hebrew is what many have said as a simple exercise an average first or second-year Hebrew student in seminary would be able to do. Franz could neither speak Hebrew nor translate the English to Hebrew. The President of the Watchtower allowed Jehovah's Witnesses to believe he is a Bible scholar having an education in Biblical languages. The facts show otherwise. He is not a scholar.

So arguing about whether the WTS was consistent in their use of the 'J' documents is a red herring. The truly disturbing elements of this issue are:

* Why were Greek to Hebrew translations used as sources for an English translation of the New Testament?

* Why didn't the WTS use the oldest, best Greek texts as their source?

* Why is there no evidence that there was a movement in the 2nd and 3rd centuries against the use of the divine name in Greek scripture?

* Why were there no qualified Bible translators on the WTS translation committee?

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

Your commentary on the Franz cross examination is in error. It is pretty well established that Franz could read and translate Hebrew. Ray Franz has even confessed his observation Fred doing as much. The reality is that the NWT could not have been made had somebody not know Greek or Hebrew.

The problem with translating into a language is the same that we see in English bibles today. Certain things can be said in more than one way. There are many, many English bibles and they all say things a little differently, do they not? Yet if in translating into Hebrew Franz did not say it exactly as the Hebrew text reads and rendered it a bit differently could not people have been even more critical of him in claiming he was in error if only he rendered in a slightly different way that was an accurate reflection of the Enlgish.

Shawn said...

Actually, anonymous, my commentary on the Franz cross examination is not only correct, it's part of the public record of Great Britain. You can't just declare something to be false because that something disturbs you.

There are plenty of translations that have been made where the translators did not know Hebrew or Greek... and they are bad ones, which is my point. There were no qualified translators on the translation committee.

Franz did not translate anything into Hebrew. The translation committee used a few Hebrew translations of the Greek scriptures to justify inserting the divine name where it suited them in the English translation. The fact of the matter is, there are zero Greek texts that have the divine name in them. A translation from Greek to any other language has no business adding the divine name when translating a document that did not have it in the first place. The 'J' documents were actually translations written with the intent of attracting Hebrew speaking Jews to Christianity, they were not necessarily claiming to be high quality translations. Certainly the WTS should have used higher quality sources for their translation as texts from the 14th, 15th and 17th centuries were not the best known to those in the 20th century.

You should really read up on the subject before you make a rebuttal. First, you deny a matter of public record that anyone can verify, then you go on about Franz translating the Greek scriptures into Hebrew, which is neither the topic of the blog post nor my comment.

Anonymous said...

Yes the cross is correct, your interpretation of it is not. Please not my specific reference to "your commentary."

An examination of the NWT reveals 1) that it was not based upon a preexisting translation (at least not the OT) because it is so wooden. I am aware of not translation that comes close to it in this regard, necessitating that it was translated. Additionally, the footnotes in the ref. edition could only have been accomplished by individuals who did know the language. As I have pointed out, Ray Franz has even recognized that Fred Franz could read Hebrew.

I am probably more familiar with this account than you are, as is apparent as you are unaware of Ray Franz' testimony on this matter.

Please carefully note that I am not commenting on the J documents, only the NWT in general.

Mike-e said...

Thanks Shawn for your time in providing such a well thought-out commentary on this issue. Anonymous, would you please provide documentation for your assertion that "Ray Franz has recognized that Fred Franz could read Hebrew?" Shawn has provided documentation to the contrary. So far you have neither refuted the documentation Shawn provided or evidence for what Ray Franz supposedly said.

Shawn said...

Anonymous,
My commentary may have been unclear. Here's the point about the cross examination of Fred Franz that is important. The whole point of the cross examination was to establish whether or not Mr. Franz was qualified to do what he claimed he did as head of the translation committee. He did not have any evidence that he could read and write Hebrew in the form of a college degree. He claimed to have learned Hebrew on his own, which is certainly possible. By asking Mr. Franz to translate a simple sentence,

"4 This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. " Genesis 2:4

...the examiner was asking Mr. Franz to prove that he could in fact translate a sentence from English to Hebrew. This is important because earlier, Mr. Franz testified that not only did he posses 'a substantial linguistic apparatus' at his command, but that he was responsible for checking the accuracy of the NWT. At that moment, the legitimacy of the NWT was on trial and all Franz had to do was translate a simple sentence in order to show that he was possibly qualified to do the job assigned to him. This would be a bare minimum proof. This should have been an easy task that a translator could have done without much trouble at all. Is it possible that at this trial where Jehovah's Witnesses were fighting for the status of a legitimate religion that Mr. Franz was being coy? Did he not want to brag about how much he knew about translating from one language to another even if the only other conclusion people would draw is that he couldn't accomplish this simple task?

Let's re-frame this situation to get rid of all of apologetic nature of the Walsh trial. Let's say we have someone (D) who is on trial as a tailor who makes bespoke men's suits. This tailor should be a master of his craft. The prosecution (P) holds that he is a fraud.

P: Sir, where did you go to school to learn your trade?
D: I am self taught.
P: So you can make custom men's suits.
D: I can.
P: Will you attempt to sew this jacket button to this piece of wool?
D: Which button?
P: The one I have in my hand.
D: To that piece of wool?
P: Yes.
D: No, I won't attempt to do that.

What would the one hearing the case think? Wouldn't anyone who saw this play out think that if the person claiming to be a tailor wouldn't even sew a button to a piece of cloth, how could this person manage to make a whole suit? Likewise, why would a person who claims to be a Bible translator not translate a simple sentence into a language he not only claims to know, but claims is necessary "for use in my biblical work"?

It's possible the Fred Franz learned Hebrew sometime after this trial. You don't mention _when_ Ray Franz recognized Fred's command of Hebrew... assuming that Ray goes into any kind of detail about the subject. In 1954, after he headed the translation committee for the NWT and based on the evidence from this trial in Scotland, I cannot believe that he knew Hebrew well enough to claim to be qualified to translate a work as significant as the Bible.

Now, on to your assertions.

"An examination of the NWT reveals 1) that it was not based upon a preexisting translation (at least not the OT) because it is so wooden."

Then please reveal this examination to us! Correct me if I'm wrong Mike... but that is what this blog is about. I also think there is something lost in the translation of the phrase "because it is so wooden". Are you using Google translator? Do you mean 'because it is so solid'? Qualifying your statement with "(at least not the OT)" drive your assertion out of the scope of the conversation. We are not talking about the OT, we're specifically talking about whether the WTS were justified in inserting the divine name into the New Testament.

"I am aware of not translation that comes close to it in this regard, necessitating that it was translated."

This argument is known as argumentum ad ignorantiam or argument from ignorance. You are asserting that your position is true because you are ignorant of anything that proves it false. I'm assuming you are stating that since the NWT is so solid, and that you are unaware of any equally 'solid' translation, then it must have been translated. Well, what makes the NWT so solid? Is it merely the insertion of the divine name in the NT? Many people would argue that because the oldest, best Greek texts that we have are devoid of the divine name, the NWT translation is an inferior translation.


"Additionally, the footnotes in the ref. edition could only have been accomplished by individuals who did know the language."

Not true. Commentary on translation can be made by anyone. The real question is, where did that commentary come from? Did it come from qualified translators? Was it quoting external commentary from qualified translators?... Or worse, do the footnotes misquote qualified translators? Here is evidence of the worst possible option, that the Watchtower society misquotes legitimate scholars to justify its own translation.

This is a letter from Julius R. Mantey, author of Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament which the Watchtower society quotes to support its translation. I have a scan of this document also.

http://www.forananswer.org/Top_JW/Mantey.htm

Here are some highlights...

"(1) Your statement: "their work allows for the rendering found in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1." There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that "a god" was a permissible translation in John 1:1.

A. We had no "rule" to argue in support of the trinity.

B. Neither did we state that we did have such intention. We were simply delineating the facts inherent in Biblical language.

C. You quotation from p. 148 (3) was a paragraph under the heading: "With the subject in a Copulative Sentence." Two examples occur here to illustrate that "the article points out the subject in these examples." But we made no statement in this paragraph about the predicate except that, "as it stands the other persons of the trinity may be implied ;in theos." And isn't that the opposite of what your translation "a god" infers? You quoted me out of context. On pages 139 and 140 (VI) in our grammar we stated: "without the article, theos signifies divine essence...'theos en ho logos' emphasizes Christ's participation in the essence of the divine nature." Our interpretation is in agreement with that in NEB and TED: "What God was, the Word was"; and with that of Barclay: "The nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God," which you quoted in you letter to Caris.

(2) Since Colwell's and Harner's article in JBL, especially that of Harner, it is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 "The Word was a god." Word-order has made obsolete and incorrect such a rendering.

(3) Your quotation of Colwell's rule is inadequate because it quotes only a part of his findings. You did not quote this strong assertion: "A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a 'qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the article."

(4) Prof. Harner, Vol 92:1 in JBL, has gone beyond Colwell's research and has discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. He found this true in 53 passages in the Gospel of John and 8 in the Gospel of Mark. Both scholars wrote that when indefiniteness was intended that gospel writers regularly placed the predicate noun after the verb, and both Colwell and Harner have stated that theos in John 1:1 is not indefinite and should not be translated "a god." Watchtower writers appear to be the only ones advocating such a translation now. The evidence appears to be 99% against them.

(5) Your statement in your letter that the sacred text itself should guide one and "not just someone's rule book." We agree with you. But our study proves that Jehovah's Witnesses do the opposite of that whenever the "sacred text" differs with their heretical beliefs. For example the translation of kolasis as cutting off when punishment is the only meaning cited in the lexicons for it. The mistranslation of ego eimi as "I have been" in John 8:58, the addition of "for all time" in Heb. 9:27 when nothing in the Greek New Testament support is. The attempt to belittle Christ by mistranslating arche tes kriseos "beginning of the creation" when he is magnified as the "creator of all things" (John 1:2) and as "equal with God" (Phil. 2:6) before he humbled himself and lived a human body on earth. Your quotation of "The father is greater than I am, (John 14:28) to prove that Jesus was not equal to God overlooks the fact stated in Phil 2:6-8. When Jesus said that he was still in his voluntary state of humiliation. That state ended when he ascended to heaven. Why the attempt to deliberately deceive people by mispunctuation by placing a comma after "today" in Luke 23:43 when in the Greek, Latin, German and all English translations except yours, even in the Greek in your KIT, the comma occurs after lego (I say) - "Today you will be with me in Paradise." 2 Cor 5:8, "to be out of the body and at home with the Lord."

These passages teach that the redeemed go immediately to heaven after death, which does not agree with your teachings that death ends all life until the resurrection. (Ps. 23:6 and Heb 1:10)"

So, far from supporting your assertion that footnotes could only have been accomplished by individuals who did know the language, the footnotes and the outrage that they have generated by those who were quoted support my assertion that the translation committee of the Watchtower society is ill-equipped for the task of producing an accurate translation of the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say that while I would love to continue this discussion, you have vastly expanded the scope of the discussion with the import of the Mantey letter so that I just don't have the time to continue. If you would like to narrow it to certain points, such as specific reference to whether or not Franz knew Hebrew as I was focusing on I'm happy to continue with possible later expansion into the Mantey letter, but I cannot dedicate the time to all of this at once.

Shawn said...

Anonymous,
You weren't focusing solely on whether Franz knew Hebrew. You asserted that the WTS translation committee knew Hebrew because of the footnotes in the reference addition of the NWT of the Bible. I responded with a single Greek scholar quoted by the WTS who was upset by how he was misquoted. There are many more respected Greek scholars who have objected to misquotes by the WTS. In order to refute a claim, one needs to offer evidence that the claim is false and that's what I did. When I mentioned that your qualifying phrase "(at least not the OT)" took the discussion outside the scope of the topic, I explained why. It was because we were specifically talking about the use of the 'J' documents to justify the insertion of the divine name into the NT. While I'm flattered that you've adopted elements of my debate technique, I still have to insist that you follow through and offer a reason as to why the Mantley letter is not relevant to the discussion.

Besides, there's not much more that can be said about the Mantley letter. He simply objected to being misquoted and demanded that the WTS discontinue citing him as a reference to support the NWT.

You still have not offered evidence that Franz was proficient in Hebrew to English translation at the time he was leading the translation committee. Even if such evidence exists, why would he refuse to translate a simple sentence into Hebrew in order to defend his position as a qualified translator?

You mentioned that you "would love to continue this discussion", but you spent most of your last post excusing yourself from addressing my assertions. If you really would love to continue the discussion, please continue it, preferably with more evidence and reason and less anecdotal statements.

It also would be nice if you posted with some sort of identity. The grammar and writing style of the second post compared to the first and third lead me to believe that I'm not speaking to a single person.

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

Anybody (but you apparently) reading my remarks can see I was focusing on if Franz knew Hebrew, for that is all I talked about! You then went into the Greek and Mantey, which is an entirely different manner.

You may have been talking about something else or something more, but *I* have not been. There is in fact much to be said about the Mantey letter, I only lack the time at present.

So again, if you would like to return to addressing only the specific matters I was discussing, we can continue, otherwise I must take leave.

Your call.

Mike-e said...

Anonymous, then let's tackle one thing at a time. You raised the point that Ray Franz confessed that Fred knew Hebrew. Can you substantiate this point with documentation?

I understand your need to focus the discussion, as we all live busy lives. So let's start here and you can reply at your convenience.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to substantiate my position. For example, in this post we have a first person account of somebody who spoke with Ray Franz on the matter of Fred knowing Hebrew:

http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/10/118479/2083203/post.ashx#2083203

On page 56 of the 4th edition of his book Crisis of Conscience in commenting on the NWT Committee, Ray Franz confesses that Fred Franz was "self-taught in Hebrew."

Shawn said...

The link you provide is a second and third hand account. Ray Franz said that Fred was looking intently at a Hebrew inscription and apparently reading it... I can do that. By that standard I could claim to read every human language alive or dead.

Ray Franz states that Fred was self-taught in his book. Fred also made this assertion on the stand but refused to actually translate a simple sentence into Hebrew when his reputation was on the line.

What we don't have is an independently verifiable account from an actual scholar of ancient Hebrew. A story about someone who knew a proofreader who heard someone slip and say Franz was the translator is not evidence.

What we really need is someone who is not a Jehovah's Witness going on record as saying that Franz had a command of the language... even better if this person was on the opposite side of a debate with Franz. That would establish that not only could Franz read Hebrew, but he could argue his case.

What, really, did Franz need to know about Hebrew when using the 'J' documents as justification for the insertion of the d1vine name into the Greek scriptures? The Hebrew translations he was using had the chapter and verse of the NT. It's reasonable to conclude that all he really needed to do was look for the tetragrammaton in a particular verse and 'translate' it to Jehovah in the English NWT.

If Franz really did know Hebrew, why would he even need the 'J' documents? Those documents were merely translations, not copies that existed in the first few centuries of our common era. A Hebrew scholar like the ones who translated the 'J' documents in the first place would just cross reference the OT quotes in the NT and translate.

What we really have here is the WTS making it look like they were justified in inserting the divine name by referencing some old translations that would have been difficult for the average person to get their hands on. People could look at the appendix and footnotes, see a reference to something and move on.

It's simply another case of intellectual dishonesty on the part of the Watchtower society.

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

You do not seem to read carefully. The link I posted provided a first person account of somebody who spoke with Ray Franz. This is what I claimed and this is found in the link. This first person testimony is confirmed by Ray Franz' own words in his book.

If you'll notice the comments made Ray did not merely suspect that Fred was reading it, but it came across clearly to him.

You seem unaware of who Ray Franz is, for he is on the opposite side of the issue. Ray is a former governing body member who was disfellowshipped and wrote a book about his experiences as a JW. I don't know how much more opposite you can get!

The reality is that nothing in Franz' testimony indicates that he could not do what was asked of him, only that he did not and would not. I have clearly articulated a significant reason for his unwillingness to do this to which you have offered no refutation. If you want to assume that Franz was unable to do as much you may, but you have nothing to support that supposition.

Shawn said...

Ray Franz didn't speak Hebrew. How could he possibly verify that Fred knew Hebrew. So if I offer you the following text...

这座瞭望塔社会,是不诚实的智力。

...and tell you it says

"This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven."

...then by your method of determining fitness as a translator, you would have to accept me as an authority on Chinese. Just because someone goes through the motions of translating something does not mean that person can actually translate.

Your 'clearly articulated' reason for why Franz refused to attempt what should have been a simple task for someone who is the lead translator of the Bible is not significant. You said...

"Yet if in translating into Hebrew Franz did not say it exactly as the Hebrew text reads and rendered it a bit differently could not people have been even more critical of him in claiming he was in error if only he rendered in a slightly different way that was an accurate reflection of the English."

First, a slightly different translation would have been better than none at all. A real Hebrew scholar would have been able to refute a claim that his translation was inaccurate by arguing the intricacies of the language, which would have proven that he had enough of a command of the language to hold an opinion and defend it. Expert witnesses are used during trials all the time. If an expert witness is actually an expert, they can handle cross examination.

Second, as the principal translator on the translation committee and the only one who claimed to know Hebrew, isn't it reasonable to assume that Franz had run across this particular passage of the Hebrew scriptures? This was, after all, his core competency wasn't it?

You are right that Franz "did not and would not" attempt a simple exercise in translation. But here the context is very important. It's a lot like when one child dares another to do something on a playground and the child given the challenge responds "I can do that, I just don't want to!" Do any among the children on that playground believe that the second child merely doesn't care to do whatever was asked? No, everyone knows what that phrase means, even as children. It means that the person is not, in fact, able to do the task. Franz was there to prove he was qualified to perform the task of producing a translation of the Bible. Regardless of whether Franz couldn't do the translation or he just didn't care to do it, what was apparent on that day in 1954 was that he failed to prove that he could translate a sentence with which he should have been familiar when he was asked to offer the most basic evidence that he was competent.

Like the rest of the children on our playground illustration, the people who have examined the transcript of the Walsh trial have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that he must not have been able to perform the task asked of him. Now just because a lot of people believe something doesn't make it true, but it does highlight another point. Franz may not have been able to translate Hebrew, but he wasn't an idiot. Surely he knew just how important his testimony was. He must have known that legal cases in Great Britain serve as precedents, not only for GB, but many of the former colonies including Canada and Australia. He must have known that the question "Can you, yourself, translate that into Hebrew?" was going to go down in recorded history as the moment he was asked to prove that he knew Hebrew. What did he do? He stalled. He said "Which?" followed by "You mean here?" when the examiner said "Yes?". He needed time to figure out how he was going to wiggle out of this one. His response was equivalent to "I can do that, I just don't want to!"

He is now the principal translator who 'just didn't want to' justify his claim that he was qualified for the job.

Baloney! Fred Franz was disingenuous at best and a blatant liar at worst.

I am aware of who Ray Franz is, I quoted his book in my initial comment. The reason he is not opposite Franz regarding the translation of Hebrew is because Ray didn't know Hebrew. Here's another quote from Ray Franz from Crisis of Conscience (page 21).

" The Society's vice president, Fred Franz, was acknowledged as the organization's principal Bible scholar. On a number of occasions I went to his office to inquire about points. To my surprise he frequently directed me to Bible commentaries, saying, "Why don't you see what Adam Clarke says, or what Cooke says," or, if the subject primarily related to the Hebrew Scriptures, "what the Soncino commentaries say." Our Bethel Library contained shelf after shelf after shelf filled with such commentaries."

Not really a glowing reference for the principal Bible scholar of the WTS, is it? Sure, Ray is probably disgruntled, but it does set the scene for how Fred Franz went about his task of 'translating'... which brings us back to the actual topic of the blog post, the 'J' documents.

* Why were Greek to Hebrew translations used as sources for an English translation of the New Testament?

* Why didn't the WTS use the oldest, best Greek texts as their source?

* Why is there no evidence that there was a movement in the 2nd and 3rd centuries against the use of the divine name in Greek scripture?

* Why were there no qualified Bible translators on the WTS translation committee?

Anonymous said...

Shawn,

Let us gather several points then from your arguments.

1) Fred Franz had a mental disorder that caused him to stare at texts where he did not know the language for extended periods where it would appear to all who saw him that he could read it but in fact he was just staring at what to him were meaningless symbols just for the sake of doing it.

2) Franz memorized the Hebrew text of all passages he 'came across' in translating.

3) Franz had the mentality of a school-aged child.

4) Those opposed to Franz who do not know Hebrew (the majority, no doubt) would not jump on the fact that his Hebrew translation might not have perfectly followed the Hebrew text (for whatever reason, even though those knowing the language would find it sufficient) because they saw a difference and knew no better.

5) Fred Franz would not want people to do their own research rather than turning to him for answers but instead he just didn't know the answers so he sent them searching.

I find your arguments really quite silly. You are stretching these events to a point of absurdity in order to make an argument where you have only your own assumptions to substantiate your case. The Hebrew scriptures demonstrate somebody's translation ability. While you can suggest that other translations were used or commentaries were appealed to for it, there is absolutely no evidence in support of this and one could just as easily claim as much for any other translation. The fact is that Ray Franz does testify that his uncle knew Hebrew. There is no reason to doubt as much as the existence of a translation he did supports the conclusion.

btw, the reason I gave for Franz not translating the text comes from his own words in private conversation.

Shawn said...

OK, lets address your misconceptions...


1) I never said that Fred Franz had a mental disorder. I said that he was a liar.

2) I never said he memorized the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures. I said that as a Hebrew scholar of the Bible, the passage in Genesis that he was asked to translate when he was representing the Watchtower society should have been a simple task. The fact that he refused to do so raises serious doubts as to whether he could do so.

3) I did not say Franz had the mentality of a school age child. I said that when presenting the same scenario to a school age child, that even that child would have serious doubts as to whether Franz could perform the task he was challenged to do in court.

4) Well... Franz didn't give us a translation, so I guess we'll never know how people would react, will we? I think you are assuming that everyone observing the Walsh trial was opposed to Franz, but I beg to differ. The trial was held to establish facts in public forum... and on that day, the fact that was established was that Franz refused to demonstrate that he could translate Hebrew. We wouldn't even be having this conversation if he had simply performed the task. We might be arguing whether he did a good job, but that would have been a much harder argument to make on my part. That's not the reality though. The reality is that he didn't even try. He gave up before the fight even started... and for that, he should be called into question because he let everyone who believed him down and he brought reproach upon those who shared his faith for years to come. If he did know Hebrew and still refused to defend his position, shame on him!

"15 But sanctify the Christ as Lord in YOUR hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of YOU a reason for the hope in YOU, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect." - 1 Peter 3:15

It was his responsibility as a Christian to make a defense before everyone that he was an honest biblical scholar, but that's not what happened is it? In the light of cross examination he had no where to go but to simply refuse to comply with the request. I respect your attempt to defend a person who was the principal translator for the Bible that your sect of Christianity uses, but unfortunately, there is no evidence that Fred Franz was qualified to accomplish this task.


5) There's a difference between not wanting people to do their own research and shirking your responsibility as the principal biblical scholar of an organization. An honest scholar of the scriptures would reason from not only the scriptures, but his knowledge of the languages those scriptures were written in. Then he would direct the person asking the question to other sources. That's not what Franz did is it? He would often redirect scriptural inquiries to actual biblical scholars when the person asking the questions wanted Franz's input because they believed he had some insight on the matter.

I agree that the events that I've relayed are quite absurd... and completely inappropriate for someone who claims to be a scholar of the bible to act out. Unfortunately, these absurd events are not some figment of my imagination. They are the sworn testimony of the then vice-president of the Watchtower society.

You said... "The Hebrew scriptures demonstrate somebody's translation ability." What it doesn't demonstrate is Fred Franz's ability to translate Hebrew. The fact that one day in the Walsh trial he said that he not only was familiar with Hebrew, but that he had 'a substantial linguistic apparatus' at his command and the very next day he refused to even attempt to prove that assertion combined with Ray Franz's statement that "Fred Franz however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind" tells me that there were no members of the translation committee who were qualified to perform the task they were assigned.

Ray Franz could not 'testify' that his uncle, Fred, knew Hebrew because Ray did not know Hebrew. He could, at best, testify that Fred appeared to be able to read Hebrew. An amateur liar could appear to be able to read another language if the person he was reading to didn't know that language.

You said...
"While you can suggest that other translations were used or commentaries were appealed to for it, there is absolutely no evidence in support of this..."

Actually, there is... they're called the 'J' documents and they are at the center of this discussion. They are the very documents that the WTS claims as the source for the NWT Greek scriptures.

Next you say...
"...and one could just as easily claim as much for any other translation."

No one denies this. What is important is the quality of the documents used as the source. The 'J' documents are a questionable source for the justification of the insertion of the divine name into the Greek scriptures.


Then you say...
"btw, the reason I gave for Franz not translating the text comes from his own words in private conversation."

So what? My assertion is that Fred Franz was a liar. Why would he not continue to lie to cover himself? Secondly, who cares if he said this in 'private conversation'? When it really mattered... when he was on trial... he told the world that he was unwilling to demonstrate that he could do what he claimed to be his job.