Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NWT - Kolasis - "Cutting Off"

Attacks on the Scholarship and Honesty Of the Translators of the New World Translation

The late Dr. Julius Mantey, noted NT Greek scholar and strong trinitarian, allegedly wrote a powerful attack against the accuracy and honesty of the NWT. We will look at all the points raised concerning the NWT in a July 1974 letter to the Watchtower Society attributed to Mantey which anti-Watchtower writers are fond of reproducing and quoting.

Kolasis - "Cutting Off"

Next we find, in Mantey's letter attacking the NWT, his condemnation of "the translation [by the NWT] of kolasis as `cutting off' when `punishment' is the only meaning cited in the lexicons for it."

This is easily checked out! And easily proven false!

Dr. Young in his popular Young's Analytical Concordance, p. 995, defines this word, kolasis, as "a pruning, restraining". And although Strong's Exhaustive Concordance merely tells us kolasis derives from the source words kolazo and kolos (which means "to curtail"), The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance tells us that kolasis comes from kolazo and kolos and that kolos means "docked" ("dock .... 1. to cut off" - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary).

And what does highly respected NT Greek expert W. E. Vine say about the source word (kolazo) for kolasis in his An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 903 ?: "kolazo primarily denotes to curtail, prune, dock (from kolos, docked)."

An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon says that kolazo is "Properly, to curtail, dock, prune" - p. 441, Liddell & Scott, Oxford, 1994 printing.

Dr. Mantey must know this. Young's Analytical Concordance ("Index-Lexicon to the New Testament" section) is certainly among the more popularly known lexicons. And merely knowing the meaning of the source words for kolasis (as Mantey must) makes his criticism of the NWT misleading (at best).

We should also note that kolasis appears in only two places in the NT: Matt. 25:46 (the verse that bothers Mantey) and 1 John 4:18. Whether we infer the meaning of "punishment" ("judgment" in some translations) or "cutting off" at 1 John 4:18 may be a little difficult to decide from context. But at Matt. 25:46 it seems clear that "death" (or "cutting off") is the proper interpretation. Notice that "everlasting kolasis" is contrasted here with "everlasting life"! Certainly "death" is the most appropriate contrast to "life"! (Even if we insisted on a "punishment" meaning here, there is no reason why that "punishment" could not be understood as death as context demands in this verse. - compare the use of kolasis at Ezek. 18:30 in the ancient Greek Septuagint: the "punishment" here is also to be understood as death as the context of the entire chapter clearly shows. - Also note the everlasting punishment meted out at 2 Thess. 1:9 and the contrast of life with destruction at Jn 3:16 and Matt. 7:13, 14.)

Presbyterian minister and anti-Watchtower writer R. H. Countess admits that "the root meaning of [kolasis] is that of `checking' in the realm of trees..." - p. 81, The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament, 1987 ed. However, it is more accurately described (as shown above) as pruning of trees and vines and docking of animals (tails, horns, etc.). He attempts to apply this `pruning of the tree' as a `corrective punishment' for those who are so `punished.'

But if we are referring to those persons or things which are pruned, docked, or cut off (the `branches,' `horns,' etc.), we are speaking of things that are no longer living but dead! These things are not being `corrected'! It is the remaining body (which loses that which was `pruned') that is being `corrected' through the destruction of that `limb,' `branch,' `horn,' etc.

This figurative use of cutting off branches and completely annihilating them is clear in John 15:5, 6 -

"I am the vine, you are the branches. .... If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is thrown away as a mere branch and is dried up; then it is picked up and thrown into the fire and burned up [kaiw, kaio]" - CBW.

Obviously when a branch is cut or broken off from the vine (or tree), it immediately begins to die. By the time it is dried up it is dead. Then, after it is dead, it is completely burned up, annihilated. Such figurative examples leave no place for the eternal torment concept favored by those who insist on the more ambiguous "eternal punishment" rendering.

The word used in this verse is kaio (kaiw in NT Greek) and defined by Thayer as: "to burn; consume with fire: pass. Jn. xv. 6; 1 Co. xiii. 3." – p. 319, #2545, Baker Book House, 1984 printing.

Popular NT scholar Dr. William Barclay writes about this verse: "The only thing that could be done with the wood pruned out of a vine was to make a bonfire of it and destroy it [not torture it - RDB]." – p. 174, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, Revised Ed., The Daily Study Bible Series, 1975.

One of Christendom's most respected Bible dictionaries, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology ("Indispensable for advanced theological students and scholars as well as for ordinary Bible students." - Christianity Today) agrees:

"Jesus did not teach, like Plato and others, that the soul was intrinsically immortal and that it would necessarily go on after death. References to the eternal fire (Matt. 18:8; cf. Mk 9:43-48; Jude 7) are necessarily figurative


"Eternal judgment is referred to in Heb. 6:2 and 2 Thess. 1:9. This, like the idea of eternal fire, does not necessarily imply that those concerned go on being judged or continue to be consumed. If the metaphor of fire is to be pressed at all, it would imply that the fire of righteousness continues to burn, but that what is consumed once is consumed for good (cf. also Paul's observation about works being consumed by fire, 1 Cor. 3:15)." - p. 99, Vol. 3, Zondervan Publ., 1986.

While this particular attack by Mantey may have more merit (when measured by the standards of most "orthodox" Bible scholars) than the rest of his attacks, it does not appear to bear directly on a matter that is essential to eternal life (such as exactly who is the only true God - John 17:3). It seems somewhat similar to the question of how harpagmos should be translated at Phil. 2:6, but that particular translation does bear on the essential matter of exactly who God is! And you will find that the NWT is one of the very few Bibles that actually translates that word properly in spite of the rarity of occurrences of that word in the NT (as with the word kolasis). Yes, the only proper translation of this word, harpagmos, (as in the NWT and TEV Bibles - the NEB is very close also) proves that Jesus was not God in his pre-human existence in spite of the majority of translations to the contrary! - See the study paper on Philippians 2:6 (PHIL).

Also see:
Matthews 25:46. KOLASIS : "cutting-off"- New World Translation (INDNWT)

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