Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses by Greg Stafford,

published in 2002 by Elihu Books, P.O. Box 3533, Huntington Beach,   CA   92605-3533, www.elihubooks.com

    This quotation from Greg Stafford is endnote 33 on pages 224-227 of Three Dissertations…. In order to allow Greg Stafford to be fully understood, we have quoted his entire footnote. This can be viewed as a comprehensive (yet limited) statement from him inasmuch as this endnote includes the entirety of his comments in Three Dissertations… regarding his debate with the author of The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    I again wish to express my desire that this debate will reflect my respect for Greg Stafford. Its purpose is not to "win an argument," but rather to find a more accurate foundation of truth. We are not merely debating a small detail of academic interest. The presence (or absence) of the Tetragrammaton in the original Christian Scripture writings has momentous implications for the eternal destiny of each of us, both Witness and non-Witness alike.

    Separate documents containing Greg Stafford's comments and the author's response would be difficult to follow. In order to simplify the reader's use of this exchange, my answer was embedded in Greg Stafford's text

    See Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 2d ed., pages 12-53.  In my previous discussion of this issue I considered a variety of claims made by Lynn Lundquist in his book, The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, 2d ed. (Portland, Oregon: Word Resources, 1998).  In response, Lundquist added a four-page insert to his second edition.  After describing my response to his book as "fair and carefully written," Lundquist proceeds to outline our basic differences.  He claims that a fundamental difference between us is that I would likely not allow for the possibility that the New Testament writer could identify Jesus as Jehovah, while Lundquist himself is not bound by any such restriction.  But the fact is I have no "restriction" in identifying Jesus as Jehovah.  [It would be arrogant for me to claim that I read the Bible with complete objectivity while a Witness must read the Bible with highly defined "restrictions." Both of us will struggle with Scripture when it says other than what we have always been taught. Nonetheless, I believe in all fairness, that one of Jehovah's Witnesses must read his or her Christian Scriptures with a highly defined "restriction" that defines Jesus as a created rather than Eternal being. I will make additional comments later.] Indeed, in chapter 2 of my second edition I suggested the possibility that Jesus was identified as Jehovah in a sense similar to the manner in which other created spirits were given the divine name or viewed as though they were Jehovah.  This practice is found in the Old Testament and in Jewish literature circulating prior to and during the time of the New Testament (Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 2d ed., pages 84-90, 354).

    Biblical monotheists do not have a problem identifying Jesus as Jehovah in a representational, non-ontological sense, for this is consistent with the biblical data concerning Jesus and other spirit representatives for God. For example, I have no problem accepting "the name that is above every name" in Philippians 2:9 as "Jehovah," which is given to Jesus.  But the fact that such a name is given to Jesus by God shows that 1) Jesus is not the God who gave him the name nor a "person" of that God, and 2) he is not Jehovah by nature, otherwise there would be no need for him to be given the divine name.  But this assumes that the name here given to Jesus is Jehovah, and I am more than willing to grant that assumption and accept it as consistent with the biblical concept of God and Christ.  The limitation that Lundquist believes exists in terms of my "frame of reference" concerning the use of the divine name does not in fact exist. [Greg Stafford has just enumerated three highly defined restrictions. 1) Jesus can be identified as Jehovah in a similar manner as other created spirits. 2) Jesus can be identified as Jehovah in a representational, non-ontological sense. And, 3) Jesus is not Jehovah by nature. I think it is a fair statement to say that one of Jehovah's Witnesses is not free—and I will avoid defining "free"—to read Scripture while allowing it to define Jesus as Eternal God. There must always be a pre-formulated reason which will explain that Jesus is other than Eternal. This pre-formulated reason will, among other things, attempt to establish that the original writers used the Tetragrammaton in spite of the absence of any manuscript evidence, and will attempt to prove that there was an alteration of the manuscripts in the second and third centuries without any supporting historical evidence from the voluminous writings of the church fathers. In spite of the highly speculative nature of these claims, they then become the foundation truth by which one of Jehovah's Witnesses views Scripture. Clearly, if the Christian Scripture writers quoted Hebrew Scripture passages which could describe only Jehovah, and then applied them to Jesus in a sense that implied identical nature, the writers would have said that Jesus was God. A careful reading of the entire Isaiah 45:18-24 passage clearly identifies a Sovereign Jehovah God who can say of himself "I am Jehovah, and there is no one else." In that context, as almighty God, "every knee will bend down" before him. That passage is then quoted in Philippians 2:10-11 and applied to Jesus. The same is true of the passage in Romans 14:11. An alternative to acknowledging Jesus as having the nature of God was to develop a textual apparatus which directs the reference to "Jehovah" rather than the "Lord." In this case, the textual apparatus employs the hypothesized Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures with a buttressing argument describing a heresy among copyists in the second and third centuries. Consequently, I want to clearly state that when I say that Jesus is identified with Jehovah, that I mean He is Eternal and possesses the full nature of God.]

    Lundquist also comments on my reply to his claim that the NWT gave more authority to various late Hebrew translation of the New Testament than the Greek New Testament itself. [This objection has been raised before. In my opinion, it does not have merit. The simple standard one can use to measure the highest authority is the final result. If the Greek text of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation is used as the highest authority, then the word used in 223 of these 237 instances will be "Lord." If any other word is used, something else has supplanted the best Greek text as the highest authority. It cannot be argued that Scripture is the highest authority when speculation about the Tetragrammaton in the absence of textual and historical evidence determines the word selection.] In his new insert, under the heading "The perspective of authority," Lundquist notes that I myself refer to 144 instances in the NWT New Testament where the divine name is used with "no Hebrew Scripture precedent of any kind."  But this has nothing to do with my point of criticism about Lundquist's comment concerning NWT's alleged favoring of late Hebrew translations over the Greek New Testament.  My point of criticism against Lundquist on this matter was very clearly made at least two times on page 29 of the second edition of my Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, in both the main text and in note 64.  The main text reads, "Lundquist seems to think that the NWT chose various Hebrew translation of the NT (which are referred to in many of the NWT's New Testament footnotes) over the Christian Greek Scriptures in every instance." In note 64 on page 29 of Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 2d ed., I quoted Lundquist's book, page 54, where he explicitly claimed, "The suitability of the Tetragrammaton for the 237 Jehovah passages is derived only from later Hebrew translations. (the italics are Lundquist's; the underlining is mine).  My conclusion was that Lundquist should have known better than to make such a claim with respect to all 237 instances of the divine name in the NWT New Testament (NWTNT), especially since elsewhere in his writing he reveals an awareness of NWT's dependence on OT quotations for its use of the divine name, not merely later Hebrew translations. [Greg Stafford is correct that the New World Bible Translation Committee used multiple criteria when selecting "Jehovah" in each reference. Essentially this included: 1) passages quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures, 2) passages identified in J20, and, 3) confirmation from Hebrew versions. However, the single sentence of the citation quoted above is incomplete outside of its context. The entire quotation says:

CHAPTER SUMMARY. The footnote information supplied with each Jehovah reference in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation leads to the following conclusions:

  1. In all 237 Jehovah references found in the New World Translation, the Kingdom Interlinear Translation gives two sets of dates. The earliest dates verify that Kyrios (Lord) was in all Greek manuscripts between 301 and 400 C.E. The later dates support the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew versions dated 1385 C.E. and following.

  2. In most instances outside of the 237 Jehovah references, the Greek word Kyrios (when used as a title) is identified with the person of Jesus Christ by the New World Translation. (Kyrios is translated as Lord 406 times. See Appendix C for further explanation.)

  3. The suitability of the Tetragrammaton for the 237 Jehovah passages is derived only from later Hebrew translations. The earliest supporting evidence comes from 1385 C.E., with the bulk of the evidence coming from 1599 C.E. and later. In fact, no direct textual evidence showing the Tetragrammaton in the original Christian Greek Scriptures is given by the Watch Tower Society. (Italics in the original text.) (The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, page 54.)

    The quotation used by Greg Stafford comes from #3 in my tabulated list above. The topic under consideration is textual suitability. Though the word textual occurs in the paragraph, it would have been better placed preceding the word suitability. However, with the qualification that the subject is dealing with textual material, we can ask if that is a correct statement. In Appendix 1D of the New World Translation Reference Edition, page 1565, the entire list of textual evidence for Jehovah is given for each of the 237 occurrences. With only one exception (1 Cor. 7:17), the sole textual references cited are "J" references. With only the exception of J20, all "J" references are Hebrew translations (or, as noted elsewhere, the Shem-Tob family are probably Hebrew recensions).] The fact that I list examples of texts in the NWTNT that do not have "Hebrew Scripture precedent of any kind" is irrelevant to my criticism of Lundquist on this point.

    Nowhere in Lundquist's four-page insert does he address what I presented as significantly damaging information to his position, namely: 

  1. Since according to the available manuscript evidence the Hebrew and Greek Old Testament (OT) texts that were used by the NT writers contained the divine name, why, then, if the divine name is not part of the original NT documents, did God not preserve His word from the OT into the NT? [This question is not dealing with manuscript evidence, but rather with a theological pre-supposition. Because the Witness sees Jesus as a created being, his theology will require that he ask the question as stated above. On the other hand, one that claims that Jesus shares the nature of God will make the statement that God intentionally used the word (Kyrios) in these same verses to identify Jesus with Jehovah. According to this second individual, inasmuch as Kyrios was understood in its day to refer to Jehovah in the LXX, its use in the Christian Scriptures assigns the qualities of God to Jesus. But neither theological persuasion can be permitted to dictate the form of Scripture. The ultimate test for the correct wording within the Greek text must come from the best textual reconstruction from extant Greek manuscripts.]
  2. If Lundquist's view is correct, namely, that we should only translate what is in the copies of the NT that we have in our possession, the earliest of which are considered approximately fifty years removed from the originals (see Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 2d ed., pages 18-19, note 40), then God did not preserve His own Word in those instances where his Word in the OT, containing the divine name, is quoted by the NT writers.  Yet, Lundquist believes God would have preserved his Word, in which case he should be arguing for the use of the divine name where the NT writers quote divine-name-containing OT texts. [Again, a theological pre-supposition cannot be used to dictate how God must act in preserving Scripture. However, there is a stark reality which any one of Jehovah's Witnesses must face when using this argument. There is a great commonality between us in our demand for an accurate Christian Scripture. (We need to be careful in this discussion that we do not imply otherwise.) Neither of us could ever conceive of a faith based on anything other than a Christian Scripture text which was a faithful reproduction of exactly that which the original authors wrote. However, for a Witness to argue that something as central to a true faith as the Tetragrammaton could be entirely lost—and lost so completely that there is no manuscript or historical evidence for it—places his or her faith in extreme jeopardy. I would need to ask if the same uncertainty for the evidence of the Tetragrammaton could be carried to every other part of the inspired Christian Scriptures. Could any of us be satisfied with a text that was so corrupted that nothing could be held as reliable because it was believed to be altered by scribal sabotage in the second and third centuries? And further, that the corruption was so complete that all evidence that it even took place has been expunged? We cannot have one isolated area of corruption without acknowledging that it would have happened simultaneously throughout the entire text. Thankfully, as every Witness believes, we have a Greek text which has been reconstructed to a level of accuracy substantially as it was written by the inspired authors.]
  3. In view of the fact that the available evidence supports the belief that the Hebrew and Greek OT texts used by the NT writers contained the divine name, the manuscript support for the use of the divine name in the NT texts which quote the OT, where the OT contains the divine name, is solid.  The fact that later copies of the NT do not have the divine name is irrelevant since we know that during roughly this same period of time those who were likely responsible for the transmission and copying of the NT manuscripts were also responsible for the transmission and copying of the LXX manuscripts, and the evidence we have shows that the divine name was removed from the LXX.  It should not be hard to accept, then, that the same or similar people during the same or roughly the same period of time removed the divine name from the NT, especially since the LXX was likely considered to be the product of inspiration by many if not all of these individuals before the entire NT was made part of the inspired cannon. [Excuse me for so forcefully returning to what I have said before. That the divine name was required in the Christian Scriptures is based on a particular theological viewpoint. Equally, requiring that the single word Kyrios was used by God to identify Jesus as having the eternal nature of God is also based on a theological viewpoint. Defining the autographs by either viewpoint is in error. The autographs must be defined by the best available extant manuscripts. As to the final question of this paragraph, it raises a greater quandary for you than it does for me. There are far more extant copies of early Christian Scripture manuscripts than there are LXX manuscripts. Laws of random distribution would assure that approximately equal proportions of altered and unaltered manuscripts would survive. Why, then, did some LXX manuscripts using the Tetragrammaton survive within a small sampling of extant LXX manuscripts while no Christian Scripture manuscripts using the Tetragrammaton survive from such a large sampling? This is particularly true because many manuscripts that have ultimately survived have been discarded manuscripts (such as those found in the Cairo geniza). The fact that they were hidden reduces the probability that they were altered. Thus, I would turn this question back and say that the very fact that the history of the "corruption" of the LXX can be traced is part of the reason that I would say that a theory of the Tetragrammaton's removal during the same period is faulty. We have very old manuscripts from the same period of time verifying the one but none verifying the other.]

    Obviously, then, my position regarding the use of the divine name in the NT is based on my consideration of the manuscript evidence, particularly the source material for NT quotations of the OT.  Yet, in a green insert titled "Jehovah's Witnesses Defended . . . demands a response," that Lundquist mailed to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, he claims that in [sic] I tried to "justify the 237 occurrences of Jehovah in the New World Translation NT on other than manuscript evidence" (see footnote on the insert).  But, again, I do not try to justify all 237 occurrences of the divine name in the NWTTNT and for those occurrences I do attempt to justify I most certainly do argue in part from the available NT and LXX manuscript evidence.  However, given the fact that we do not have any NT originals we cannot argue conclusively from NT copies in light of the way the LXX was treated during roughly the same period of time and possibly against the use of the divine name in the NT must be more sophisticated than a simple consultation with various NT manuscript copies. [I acknowledge and appreciate that you have given different weight to the permissibility of the 237 Jehovah references.]

    Thank you, Greg, for this opportunity for an open forum. It has been helpful to me, and I trust it will also be helpful to our readers. I respect your scholarship.

                Lynn Lundquist