Another Reader's Contribution: The Tetragrammaton and the autographs.

    Seldom have I received as knowledgeable, articulate, or diplomatic a criticism of anything on my website as the following comments by K.STACK-M.... For these reasons alone, his comments merit posting.

    In addition, I believe the author is adding valuable insights to the debate. That, too, merits posting his comments. Irrespective of which side of the debate any of us may be on, we have not answered with anything other than a simplistic bias if we do not understand the depth of the argument from the other side. K.STACK-M...'s comments help us see more depth.

    I do not want to detract from his comments by placing my arguments at the beginning, or even by attempting to comment on everything he said. Therefore, I will merely place a limited number of notes within the body of his comments, and leave it at that. If you want to know what I think on any of the issues he raises, you have access to this entire website. To aid you in that, I will place a few links enclosed in brackets ([...]) within the body of his comments.

    You, as the reader, should understand that this is a complex issue. Both the Witness reader thinking he or she has finally found "truth" in the New World Translation, and the critic condemning the New World Translation because it is "wrong" have missed the mark. This debate must bring each of us to an understanding of the importance of the written Greek manuscripts in defining our faith—manuscripts which are copies of copies of the original writings at best. This debate must also cause each of us to evaluate our individual expectations from the translators of the Bible we read. If you are not familiar with the subject of Textual Criticism, I suggest you carefully read through the material on this website as a starting point.

    Thank you, K.STACK-M..., for both the content and the gentle spirit in what you wrote.

Hello Lynn,

    I was just observing the arguments between yourself and Greg Stafford. [Debate with Greg Stafford] You seem to have a pretty objective approach to textual criticism. While I am not nearly as qualified as the two of you are, I do enjoy considering the alternate points of view.

    I noticed that in asserting what Greg`s (I don`t know Greg Stafford personally, hence the reference to him as "Greg") probable frame of reference was, you implied that he may have felt that the writers of the New Testament could not have identified Jesus Christ with Jehovah in their composition of the original Greek Text (apparently based on Greg`s possible bias toward the teachings of the Watchtower Society). I think most of us would agree that private interpretation is a very dangerous slope for any mortal to traverse. Yet, understanding how to deal with making decisions regarding specific emendations to the Greek Text is not merely a matter of exegetical criticism of "The Text" but must also involve a contextual consideration of how the observer or explicator of the particular text involved contributes to and/or participates in the specific text(s) under discussion - (see Matthew 13:10-15). Indeed it is very sobering to make any emendation that could taint the overall understanding of any extant scriptural text, especially an emendation involving the insertion of the essence of Tetragrammaton into a translation of the NT when no extant manuscripts of the NT (New Testament) contain the Divine Name.

    In this respect, the decision of Watchtower Society to make 237 insertions of the Tetragrammaton into the NT text for any reason, is not merely sobering and risky, but very bold. Hence, there would have to be a very sound basis upon which to make such emendations, one not merely based on an analytical or exegetical assessment of the Text, but one that considers the impact that such an adjustment would have upon it`s readers, regardless whether they are adherents to that particular version of the emended text or just mere critics of it.

    Yet, in this case, I believe that the issue at hand is not necessarily one of a person`s particular frame of reference but rather one that addresses the nature of the specific contextual authority of the individual(s) conducting the exegesis (the phrase "contextual authority" is here used to refer to the specific authority bestowed upon an individual(s) who by being both a student of the text and actual participant in the outworking or fulfillment of the text becomes an authority in the text by virtue of specific evidence acknowledging the striking relationship between the Divine Text and that particular participant). In fact, in the case in which it is alleged that the Divine Name was extracted from the original NT based solely on what may be called 'Circumstantial evidence', and hence 'Restored' to it`s 'rightful places' (NWT- {New World Translation} Introduction, pg. 6 par. 10) what could have possibly been the motive behind such a decision? Well for one thing, even if the motive of the Watchtower Society was to obscure the Divinity or Eternal God-Ship of the Lord Jesus Christ, would not the very notion of 'restoring' the Divine Name to the NT Text merely mimic the attitude and disposition of the Lord Jesus Christ in his apparent devotion to making the Divine Name known during an era in which "The Name" was not known properly? ( Compare John 17:6, 11, 12 and 26 ). Hence it does not appear as if there is any particular bad intent behind the decision of the Watchtower Society to make such emendations. [See Chapter 4 from the book The NWT and Hebrew Versions and Chapter 6 from the book The Divine Name in the NWT] From a exegetical point of view, of course it could be argued that the various insertions of the Divine Name into the Greek text of the NWT were not justifiable or even irrational. Others (like the Watchtower Society) might reasonably disagree in a manner reminiscent of the Sopherim scribes , believing that there is an abundance of evidence that support the particular emendations made, while at the same time assuming the responsibility of being very cautious, honest, and forthright about the rationale behind such a decision, and therein lies the true beauty of Free Will.

    Yet, I think that none of us would dare to take the alternate point of view dogmatically, that the original occurrences of "kyrios" in extant Greek texts and the possibility of early emendations or even deletions of the Divine Name in the Greek Text is beyond possibility, consideration and/or scrutiny, especially since no one can be absolutely sure that a NT text containing the Divine Name, does NOT exist somewhere in some undisclosed place.[Note 1] Even still, while it is totally possible that the writers of the Greek scriptures actually penned the words (that is, "kyrios" in the various locations where NWT has extracted it in exchange for the Tetragrammaton) as they presently appear in extant Greek texts, this still does not constitute authoritative license to assume that "kyrios" in each occurrence in which the context mentions or contains Jesus necessarily is an inference to Jesus.[Note 2] In the case of Hebrews 1:10-12 where Paul clearly quotes the 102nd psalm which he applies to Jesus in what almost all of us indisputably would agree applies directly to Jehovah in the Hebrew text, does not unassailably confirm that the two (Jehovah and Jesus), are one in the same.[Note 3]

[Note 1] Both Witness readers of the New World Translation and theologically conservative readers of all other English translations most certainly take a dogmatic and opposite view that "early emendations or even deletions of [and then we would name any manuscript issue] in the Greek Text is beyond possibility." For example, in spite of known references in ancient Greek mystic manuscript "evidence" that Jesus was the bastard son of a named Roman soldier (I am writing from memory and did not verify the account), we staunchly hold to the veracity of the existing Greek Scripture manuscripts which say that Mary was a virgin. We do this because we have—at least intuitively—acknowledged that the best Greek manuscript evidence for the Christian Scriptures will define what we accept as God's communication to man. Why, in the one area dealing with the presumed Tetragrammaton, would we accept any other standard? And further, we define what the Scripture writer believed (or intended to say) by what he actually said. Why, then, would we be so reluctant to admit that these same writers intended to say (or write) the word Kyrios when that is the only manuscript evidence available?

[Note 2] I agree. Obviously there are times in which the context clearly points us to Jehovah, such as Mary's statement in Luke 1:38 "Look! Kyrios' slave girl!" But we must still recognize that there is a distinction in our minds today between יהוה and Kyrios which was not expressed by Luke in this passage. It is inappropriate for a Bible translator today to add precision to a passage for a theological purpose which the original writer did not. This is particularly true of those passages in the Greek Scriptures in which there is a great theological significance in which person (Jehovah or Jesus) was the referent. There is an inescapable implication when inspired writers do not make that distinction. The original writer's intentional lack of precision is then lost when the translator presumes to bring that precision to the text. (We presume that inspired Scripture was written exactly as God intended it to be written. Thus, we can say that the writer intended to write that which is written.)

[Note 3] The reader needs to be aware that the Watch Tower Society's publications always present the unity of Jesus with Jehovah as modalistic. Modalism was the heresy of the second century and following that God was a single person but that he manifested himself in three modes—as the Father, as Jesus, and as the Spirit. That is, that Jehovah and Jesus (and the Spirit) "are one in the same." Ones of Jehovah's Witnesses need to be aware that only a very small number within Christendom (either historically or currently) subscribe to the "trinity" as represented by the Watch Tower Society's publications. Most who describe themselves as "Trinitarians" are as repulsed by the "trinity" the Watch Tower Society publications describe as are the readers of those publications in their respective Kingdom Halls.

    There is a genius in God's preservation of Scripture. Contrary to our first impression, hand copied documents greatly enhanced its preservation. Because the process was so random (as compared to printed Bibles) changes were often inconsistent and varied from copy to copy. (Although textual critics have divided extant manuscripts into "families" in which certain emanations define a particular group of manuscripts.) Rather than obscuring the text, that random process has actually made reconstruction of the original writings much more accurate, in spite of the immense effort it required. (Imagine how difficult it would be to reconstruct the text if the 5,000 extant copies had been printed on modern day printing presses. For example, say that the 5,000 copies came from only 47 different printing "runs." We would actually, then, have only 47 copies and the preserved numbers of a particular printing would be meaningless. But more importantly, there would not be random changes within a given printed edition and the changes between editions would not be nearly as traceable. The printed text would also lack the handwritten notations made by later scribes which have been an invaluable aid in reconstructing the text.) All of that to say, it is untenable that the Tetragrammaton could have been used in the Christian Scripture documents in the first century only to disapear without leaving a trace. That we have a small number of second century Greek Scripture manuscripts today tells us that they remained hidden and unused for lengthy periods of time. Can we believe that all first century manuscripts were removed from hiding and destroyed in such a short period of time? And then, nowhere else can this magnitude of abrupt change be shown. If the Tetragrammaton was originally used, and then unanimous approval was won for its change, it would not have resulted in an abrupt change to the single word Kyrios. Had that change taken place, we would find random manuscripts with alternate words, abbreviations, transliterations or even phrases. There is simply no way to explain such a change without violation to that which is known about the preservation of both Greek Scripture and secular manuscripts from that era. And finally, we would need to reconcile the impossibility of an abrupt change with the early spread of the Christian Scriptures on three continents.

    In fact, sometimes, I think we forget the whole purpose of the Lord`s arrival, death, resurrection and ascension to Heaven as well as the fact that prophetic scriptures almost invariably have multiple applications or fulfillments. In view of the specifics involving Jesus pre-human activities as well as the outstanding nature of his regal glorification, that is, being the very first individual in the history of all creatures to be granted immortality, thus possessing God-ship, it should not be so difficult to believe that some things that at one time applied to Jehovah alone now apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, the one whom all creatures are now subject to! (Compare - Isaiah 44:6 with Rev 1:17 and Rev 22:13 - all of which would easily have always been attributed to Jehovah and more recently to Jesus Christ especially after Jesus' resurrection and ascension to heaven, not to mention the fact that as the pre-eminent one of all those whom God Himself has placed in the stream of time, Jesus has indeed, in sense, become "God" to all creatures in both Heaven and Earth - Compare Isaiah 9:6,7 and Ex 4:15, 16 ; 1 Peter 3:22 and Hebrews 5:9 ; Acts 4:12 exc.).

    Hence even if the original NT writers actually penned "kyrios" in the specific locations that extant texts presently reveal today (specifically referring to the 93 places in which the NT quotes the Hebrew Scripture equivalent), it is still not an authorization to assume that "kyrios" must in some of those cases refer to Jesus. In such instances we must defer to the context itself, not merely of the particular verse, chapter, or book, but the context of the entire Word of God, which as mentioned earlier, includes the reader and real-time participant in the text itself. As discussed previously, it is not impossible or unreasonable for a particular verse in the Hebrew Scriptures to have applied to Jehovah at one point of time and later a quotation the very same verse in the NT apply to Jesus in two very distinct and separate ways. Again, I agree both points of view merit consideration (that is yours and Greg`s), but neither are the sole basis upon which to make a life-altering choice regarding the conformance to a doctrine or viewpoint with a view to salvation.

    This note applies to the previous two paragraphs, and much of what is said in conclusion. There seem to be two points of view between K.STACK-M... and myself, and all who have defended or argued against the New World Translation: The first point of view intuitively says that God's entire revelation of Himself was complete in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the information given in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) is restricted to amplification but not revelation of His person. The second point of view says that God is free to reveal Himself in time as He wishes, and that the Christian Scriptures may reveal more of His person than He revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. It simply seems to me as though most of this debate is defending one or the other of these two points of view. In so doing, in order to defend the first point of view, the words of the earliest Christian Scriptures become subservient to the point of view.

    Since this is the last note I will add, I want to express my appreciation for a thought running through the closing paragraphs. We are not dealing only with dry, ancient manuscripts. As K.STACK-M... reminds us so well, we are dealing with a living God who has chosen to communicate with his creation. K.STACK-M... expressed that truth very well. Thank you.

    In truth, without exception to exegetical criticism (Which is indeed an essential component of true understanding of the Text) the only way one can truly make a decision as to whether to prescribe to the view that the quotations of the Hebrew text containing the Divine Name in the Greek scriptures should correspondingly contain the Divine Name (as well as the 144 other text in which the Divine Name is inserted), or to merely accept that the text "is what it is" and "kyrios" is indeed the original penned words of the NT writers, comes down to basically four things:

  1. Having an exhaustive understanding and comprehension of the context of the Word itself and its purpose,
  2. Having evidence to identify the primary medium for divine enlightenment today as the evidence supporting such an identification is presented and consequentially revealed within the context of the Word,
  3. Having an absolutely proper and unbiased motive in trying to ascertain the best way to translate what the accumulated evidence on the particular scriptural matter seems to lead one to, and probably the most important,
  4. Having an intimate and personal relationship with the One behind the inspirational text, Yahweh, Jehovah Himself.

    As most biblical scholars would agree, it is not merely the literal words of the biblical text, that make it "The Word of God", but the message of the Word, and without that vital component kept closely in view, we are almost assuredly bound to misunderstand just how it is that "the word of God" is in fact "alive". Yes it is indeed "alive" in a close-knit, symbiotic type of relationship that exists between the 'message of God`s Word' and the authorized stewards of God`s Sacred Word. The 'Word of God' has always been a 'living document' especially in view of it`s real-time connection to the people it was written to, by, and for, as well as it`s ability to reflect the present and future realities of the already existing "eternal purpose" of the "Living God" who Himself exists in an eternity of time! While the human assessment of matters has always quite limited, of one thing we can be certain: it is what our heart moves us to do with what we know that will be the deciding factor in our cases. The accuracy, truthfulness and fruitage of each doctrinal point of view will be manifestly revealed in time. In the meantime, all lovers of righteousness should unite to help those without knowledge find the truth, thus truly demonstrating the power of the doctrine that we as individuals claim to adhere to, and in essence revealing whether it's contents will survive the crucible of time and results, as it`s works become manifest to all and it's truthfulness exposed as either fraudulent or not. I most certainly welcome any comments you may have on this matter.

Sincerely, K.STACK-M...