Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Brief Consideration of the Bibliology & Theology of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society

by Michael R. Burgos Jr., PhD

§ I. Introduction
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WB&TS) is one of the more prominent theological cults in the United States. It's Kingdom Halls and literature are seemingly ubiquitous in most cities. For this reason, I have provided a brief consideration of two important doctrinal issues to assist you in your evangelism to Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs).

§ II. Bibliology

To begin with, the WB&TS’s New World Translation (NWT) is an erroneous and biased “translation,” which divulges the doctrinal pre-commitments of the Society. The text of the NWT’s New Testament is primarily based upon Westcott & Hort’s New Testament in the Original Greek (1881). However, the NWT contains significant alterations to the text, and this undeniably for theological reasons. The WB&TS claims that their New Testament is the combination of a hodge-podge of sources, many of which are completely irrelevant to the determining to the actual Greek New Testament. In conventional translations such as the KJV, NASB, or ESV, scholars evaluate and weigh ancient Greek manuscripts, engaging in the art and science of textual criticism. While there are stated rules for textual criticism (called “canons”), it appears as though the “New World Translation Committee” made up their own rules. For example, while there exists no New Testament manuscript which contains the Hebrew tetragrammaton (i.e., the divine name Yahweh in the Old Testament), the WB&TS has included what they identify as twenty-three 14-20th century “Hebrew Versions.”[1] Any textual critical methodology which supposes the veracity of 14-20th century Hebrew manuscripts over and against every single ancient Greek manuscript New Testament manuscript is preposterous! The WB&TS has taken to defending this view by claiming nothing short of a monumental conspiracy theory:
Those copying the [i.e., ancient NT] manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyʹri·os, the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.[2]
The WB&TS further claims that the removal of Jehovah from the New Testament “evidently took place in the centuries following the death of Jesus and his apostles”[3] by “so-called Christians…who replaced the Tetragrammaton by kyrios in the Septuagint.”[4] This however, is non-sensical and grossly inaccurate. Because there are manuscripts of the Septuagint which translate the tetragrammaton YHWH as Kurios (i.e., Lord), and these before the New era Testament, the WB&TS has anachronistically argued that “so-called Christians” corrupted the text. The grand difficulty here, aside from the amazing anachronism, is that postexilic Jews had developed a well-documented tradition[5] of substituting the Hebrew term Adonai (“Lord”) for the tetragrammaton, and the Septuagint simply follows that tradition by translating Jehovah (i.e., Yahweh) and Adonai as Kurios (“Lord”). While there are a handful of Septuagint manuscripts which buck this norm by either including the four consonants YHWH, or using some other Greek substitute, the vast majority of Septuagint manuscripts translate the tetragrammaton Kurios, just as the New Testament does every time.

To put the WB&TS theory into perspective, this would mean that the original reading of the New Testament in at least 237 places was lost and that we now must rely upon rely upon versional translations from the “14th-20th centuries” to restore the original text. Such a view thoroughly erodes any reason for believing in the authenticity and veracity of the New Testament. Moreover, it is incredible to assert that every genuine New Testament manuscript that had disappeared without some much as even one copy or church father quotation surviving. Currently, there are about 5,800 extant ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts in existence. Not one of these manuscripts attest to the WB&TS’s claims. Moreover, the WB&TS plainly contradicts itself when it argues for the veracity of Scriptures:

No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines.[6]
Not only are there thousands of manuscripts to compare but discoveries of older Bible manuscripts during the past few decades take the Greek text back as far as about the year 125 C.E., just a couple of decades short of the death of the apostle John about 100 C.E. These manuscript evidences provide strong assurance that we now have a dependable Greek text in refined form.[7]
There are other places within the NWT which unambiguously reject the reading of any New Testament manuscript whatsoever. For instance, Colossians 1:16-20 states,

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What is Apologetics? Pt.1

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Apologia: Defensive & Offensive

In 1st Peter 3:15, the apostle Peter commands all Christians to always be ready to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. The word translated as defense is the Greek word ἀπολογία (apologia), which Frederick W. Danker defines as —
‘response to charges of misconduct’, defense freq. In legal context —a. with focus on speaking in defense Ac 22:1 (legal); 1 Cor 9:3 (general sense). —b. the act of defensive response: in a legal venue Ac 25:16; 2 Ti 4:16; general sense 2 Cor 7:11; Phil 1:7, 16; 1 Pt 3:15.[1]
Peter is, then, commanding Christians to give a defense for the faith. But what precisely does this mean in 1st Peter’s context? If we want to understand what Peter is teaching us, we need to look at the passage in connection with its previous and succeeding verses.

Beginning in 1st Pet 3:8, Peter admonishes Christians to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Christians are not to “repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless.” We have been “called [to blessing others],” and we will “obtain a blessing,” for God blesses his people when they bless others. Peter goes on to cite Ps 32:12-16 in support of his statements, showing that this is the Christian’s duty according to the Word of God. He then goes on to ask —
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?
Doing good is not grounds for fear, so obedience to God’s law should not be hindered by fear of being harmed/punished by those to whom we show kindness. In fact, the implication of any such harm/punishment coming to us for blessing our enemies is that they are acting unjustly and will, therefore, receive their due punishment in God’s time. Thus, Peter continues by arguing that “even if [we] should suffer for righteousness’ sake, [we] will be blessed.” Whether we are blessed in the present for blessing others, or we receive unjust punishment from those enemies of Christ whom we bless, we are and will be blessed by God for obeying his commandment to love our enemies. There is no justification for fearing or being troubled in our hearts, even in such circumstances, therefore, since we are and will be blessed. Rather, Peter says we are to “honor Christ the Lord as holy,” and “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us].”

In this passage, then, the goal of defending the faith is directly connected to (i.)our lives as Christians being distinct from the world, and (ii.)our enduring in hope in this world, even when we are unjustly persecuted, punished, ridiculed, and mocked by the enemies of God. Why do we continue to trust in Christ and show mercy and love toward our enemies in the world? Why do we not, as Job’s wife once commanded him to do, “curse God and die”?[2] Why not forsake the Lord Jesus Christ’s commandment of love and turn on those who unjustly harm us? Peter commands us to be ready to give a defense of the faith, of the hope we have. And this is what makes the word apologia so significant. We are not called to give a defense of a belief that we understand but do not ourselves embrace; we are commanded to give a defense of the beliefs that we fully embrace, to the extent that our lives are marked by adherence to its precepts and faithfulness to the giver of those precepts, despite what losses we will experience. An apologia, in other words, can only be given by a Christian, one whose hope is fully in the Word of God, and whose life, therefore, demonstrates this in no uncertain terms.

Given that Peter states that we are to be ready to give an apologia in the event that we are asked about the hope we have in Christ, some have taken this to mean that apologetics is only defensive and not offensive. But is this the case?