Home From The Tetragrammaton & the CGS Chapter 7: The Limit of Inspiration      

The search for the Greek Scriptures Inspired of God

    It is our desire today to possess the most accurate reproduction possible of the original writings of the inspired Christian authors. We want each word in our Greek text to be exactly those words which the authors themselves used. Specifically, in each of the 237 instances in which the New World Translation uses Jehovah in its translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, we want to know if the original authors wrote יהוה or κύριος. However, since the original writings have long since been lost, we must resolve this question from copies of their writings.

    Epistles and gospels from many authors were circulated among the growing first century congregations. There were many more writings than the 27 in the canon of the Christian Greek Scriptures we accept today. Paul himself wrote a letter to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16) which is not included in the canon. However, among all the numerous writings of the first two centuries, it is only the 27 "books" found in the New World Translation Christian Greek Scriptures which have been acknowledged for two millennia as the written revelation of God.[10]

[10] Of course, we include the Hebrew Scriptures within the writings we accept as canonical. However, this chapter is considering only the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    The limit of inspiration is the dividing line between the writings we will accept as inspired by Jehovah and writings which do not carry the weight of inspiration. Other early Christian writings may give insight into the words of the original writers. For example, The First Epistle of Clement may give valuable information regarding the wording of the Septuagint Scriptures. However, these extra-biblical sources can never have greater textual importance than the canonical writings themselves. Therefore, a Hebrew translation which uses the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) cannot be used to alter the original Greek manuscript text. This is particularly true in that we can determine that the Tetragrammaton was not used in the Greek manuscript from which any given Hebrew version was translated.[11]

[11] See Appendix E for the Greek text used in the early Hebrew translations.

    Figure 15 indicates the process used by the New World Bible Translation Committee to bring the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) into the Christian Greek Scriptures. To do so, it cited 26 Hebrew translations from a considerably later era. By using this method, the reality of inspired Scripture is seriously undermined by claiming that recent Hebrew versions are a better indication of the intent of the divine author than are the best preserved Greek manuscripts copied only a century after the original writings.

Authors inspired by God wrote a total of 27 Gospels and Epistles. These writings were completed by 98 C.E.
All verification points toward the canon    recognized by the early Christian congregation
The early Christian congregation attests to the inspiration of these writings by their acceptance, obedience, and willingness to endure persecution for their preservation.
All verification points toward the canon    recognized by the early Christian congregation
The limit of inspiration. The canon of Scripture is established by general acknowledgment of the early Christian congregation. It may be affirmed by later church councils, but it may not be altered.

—Death of the last inspired Christian writer.—

All verification points toward the canon    recognized by the early Christian congregation
After the close of the first century, all copies of the original writings were lost. As a result, later scholarly research is conducted to determine the precise words used by the apostolic writers. No new material is added; the sole objective is to authenticate the original writings.
All verification points toward the canon    recognized by the early Christian congregation
There is no indication that יהוה was used in the original Greek writings. It is found only in 14th century (and later) Hebrew translations made from the Greek text which contains κύριος. It is a violation to the canon of Scripture to add יהוה to the inspired text.

Figure 15. The canon of the Christian Greek Scriptures and its subsequent verification.

Bringing the issue into focus

    We all share a deep commitment to God's inspired Scriptures wherein we fully accept the absolute reliability of the original writings of the inspired Christian authors. We must, then, be careful that we do not lose our focus. We give allegiance to the original writings, not mere translations of those writings.

    The "J" reference Hebrew versions are not early apostolic texts. They are not even writings of the early Hebrew Christian congregation. They are late Hebrew translations; a Gospel of Matthew was available as early as 1385;[12] the remainder were published in 1537 and later from the Greek texts of Erasmus and the Textus Receptus.[13]

[12] As noted in Chapter 5, this may be a recension of an earlier Gospel written by Matthew in Hebrew.
[13] Erasmus' Greek text was generally favored at this time, however other similar texts reflecting Erasmus' editions were also available. In the above comments we are using both Erasmus' Greek text and the Textus Receptus as general terms rather than attempting to give precise source identifications.

    The Hebrew versions are not a canonical source of verification for the original inspired writings of the apostolic writers. They are merely late translations from a known Greek text.

The weight of the evidence

    Figure 15 is a summary of our prior discussion of the original Greek Scripture text, its transmission through two millennia, and our belief in its divine inspiration.

    It is the objective of this book to look at the textual and historical evidence for the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Insofar as it is humanly possible, each of us must step aside from our theological positions and return to a simple evaluation of the text itself. It must never be our objective to force Scripture to say what we want it to say. We must allow the divine author to say what he intended to say through the original, inspired writers.

    We must objectively evaluate the evidence for the original Greek word in each of the 237 instances in which the New World Translation reads Jehovah in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Our final conclusion must be based on the supporting evidence of textual and historical information.

    Clearly, the 26 "J" reference Hebrew versions contain the Tetragrammaton. However, we must then pursue the source of the Hebrew translators' original texts. With the possible exception of the Shem-Tob Matthew and the Hebrew versions derived from this source, we must accept the statement of the New World Bible Translation Committee that the remainder of the these Hebrew versions are translations of the Greek text itself.[14]

[14] On page 78 the Hebrew versions which were translated from a Greek text were identified.

    As we have seen earlier, the writers of Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom,[15] view the Greek text of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation as a reliable reproduction of the written Greek of the inspired writers. From this interlinear translation we see both the early evidences for the Greek word Kyrios and a complete body of information describing the Hebrew versions, their recent dates of publication, and their textual source in translation.

[15] See Chapter 27 entitled "Printing and Distributing God's Own Sacred Word" in Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. For a description of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, refer to page 610 in this same book.

    From this information, each of us must come to a personal conclusion regarding the place of the Tetragrammaton in the original Christian Greek Scripture writings. In light of our strong belief in the inspiration of Scripture, we must strongly object to any claim which alters Jehovah's Word merely because certain Hebrew versions use the Tetragrammaton when translating Kyrios from a known Greek text. To accept late Hebrew translations as a higher authority than the best preserved Greek manuscripts from which they were translated violates our understanding of the canon of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    In closing this chapter on the limit of inspiration, we are left with a startling question. With all of Jehovah's care in producing and preserving his inspired Scriptures, is it reasonable to think that he allowed the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures—and the important truth it conveys—to be entirely lost from all extant Greek manuscripts? Was the presence of the Tetragrammaton lost so completely that it is only found in Hebrew translations made since 1385?