Thursday, September 17, 2009

NWT - Criticism by Zondervan's So Many Versions? - "Peculiar Translations"

Criticism by Zondervan's So Many Versions?

Zondervan, the respected trinitarian publishing, company prints a book which examines most twentieth century English versions of the Bible: So Many Versions? (SMV), by trinitarian Bible scholars Dr. S. Kubo and Dr. W. Albrecht. They have published this book since 1975. I purchased my copy new in 1991 from a "Christian" book store. So, for over 15 years this popular trinitarian publishing company has been printing the following criticisms of the NWT. We will examine them in the order they appear in my copy of this book (1983 revised edition.).

"Peculiar Translations"So Many Versions (SMV) also gives us a page and a half of what it calls "peculiar translations" (pp. 108-109) by the NWT. Many of these "peculiar translations" are comparable to translations found in more popular Bibles of Christendom. But these comparable renderings are not criticized at all in SMV's critique of them.

1. Gen. 7:15 - "force of life was active" vs. RSV's "breath of life." - - But examine this verse in NEB (`had life in them') and Young's Literal Translation of the Bible (`a living spirit'). The Hebrew word here is ruach (or ruah) which can be translated "wind," "breath," "spirit," etc.
"By extension when applied to a person ruah … comes to mean vital powers or strength. It is the spirit that sustains a person through illness (Prov 18:14), but the spirit of the troubled person can be crushed (Psalm 34:18). This dynamic force can be impaired or diminished as well as renewed or increased. It was a drink that caused the spirit (strength) of Samson to return and revive him (Jud 15:18-19) and the coming of the wagons from Egypt that revived Jacob's numb heart (Gen 45:26-27). Spirit also bespeaks limitations. When taken back, the person returns to dust (Psalm 104:29-30)." - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
of Biblical Theology.

"Basic range of meaning of ruach [OT Hebrew] and pneuma [NT Greek]... 1. Wind, an invisible, mysterious, powerful force... 2. Breath,... or spirit..., the same mysterious force seen as the life and vitality of man (and beasts). .... 3. Divine power, where ruach is...a supernatural force..." - p. 1136, New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1984, Tyndale House Publ.

"[Ruach (and Pneuma)] denotes the life-FORCE of the individual.... As a life-FORCE it manifests itself in varying degrees of intensity, the dominant idea being that of its accompanying vitality rather than that of breathing. .... The thought implicit in ruach is that breathing, with the movement of air which this involves, is the outward expression of the life-FORCE inherent in all human behaviour." - pp. 690, 691, Vol. 3, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986.

2. Gen. 8:21 - "Jehovah began to smell a restful odor" vs. RSV's "the Lord smelled the pleasing odor." [Also notice the disgraceful "pollution" of God's name in this scripture by the RSV (and most other translations) at this verse.]

The OT Hebrew word translated here as `odor' is reach (ray'- ack). Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament explains this word: "Most frequently reach is used of the `odor' of a sacrifice being offered to God. The sacrifice, or the essence of the thing it represents, ascends to God as a placating `odor.'" - p. 352, Thomas Nelson Publ., 1980.

More important, however, is the Hebrew word nichoach which RSV translates in this verse as `pleasing' (and KJV as `sweet'). The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, tells us nichoach literally means "quieting, soothing, tranquilizing." - 1981 ed., #5207, p. 1561.

The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon also tells us nichoach means "soothing, tranquilizing odour of sacrifice" - p. 629, #5207, Hendrickson Publishing, 1979.
And Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Abingdon Press, tells us this same OT word literally means `restful'! - "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary" section, #5207; p. 78.

This explains why the NASB (which SMV praises so highly for its great accuracy) translates this verse (Gen. 8:21): "...smelled the soothing aroma." - Compare NEB, REB, AT, NKJV, LVB, and Moffatt translations also.

Again we see the NWT's literally accurate translation being derided by SMV because it does not follow the tradition of the KJV (or RSV).

3. Gen. 16:12 - "he will become a zebra of a man" vs. RSV's "He shall be a wild ass [pere] of a man." This may be one of SMV's most accurate criticisms. But notice how very nit-picking it really is. Both translations refer to a man by the metaphor of a wild, stubborn donkey-like animal. What real difference is there if one is very slightly more accurate than the other? And what purpose would there be for anyone to invent such a definition?
Granted, "wild ass" is the more popular definition of the Hebrew word here, but "zebra" was not invented by the translators of the NWT as SMV seems to imply:

"The word `pere,' rendered `zebra' (NWT) has also been translated `wild ass.' Because of their similar characteristics, both zebra and wild ass fit the context of the scriptures cited above [which include Gen. 16:12]. However, a recent Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon by Koehler and Baumgartner defines `pere' as `ZEBRA.'" - Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1682.

Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, (eds.)
A Bilingual Dictionary of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament
"English and German. The publication of the first edition of A Bilingual Dictionary of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament by Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner in 1953 marked a major event in Old Testament studies. It presented a vast treasure of lexicographical material, with renderings into both German and English. Its publication superseded at once all other existing dictionaries, mostly stemming from the 19th century. The Dictionary offered for the first time a strictly alphabetical order of entries, rather than a simple arrangement by roots. This feature not only saved the scholar much time and work, it also set the standard for future lexicographical work on the Old Testament." - from Abebooks (on-line bookseller) blurb.

4. Gen. 17:4 - "you will certainly become father of a crowd of nations" vs. RSV's "you shall be the father of a multitude [hamon] of nations." - Good grief!! Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this one is the most nit-picking of all!! (Cf. NAB, NEB - "host of nations".)

The OT Hebrew Hamon here means "noise, tumult, crowd" - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #1995, Abingdon Press, 1974 printing.
It is also defined as:

"Sound, murmur, roar, crowd, abundance;.... 1. sound, murmur, rush, roar, esp. sound made by a crowd of people.... 2. tumult, confusion... 3. crowd, multitude" - p. 242, #1995, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 1979.

The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible also defines Hamon as:

"a sound, murmur, roar, crowd,…., p. 1512, Holman Bible Publishers, 1981.
Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament tells us:

"Hamon represents the stirring or agitation of a crowd of people.... Hamon sometimes means a `multitude or crowd' from which a tumult may arise." - p. 256.
5. Gen. 21:9 - "Sarah kept noticing the son of Hagar...poking fun" vs. "Sarah saw the son of Hagar...playing with her son Isaac." Cf. NASB (`mocking'); NIV (`mocking'); KJV (`mocking'); NKJV (`scoffing'); ASV (`mocking'); MLB (`teasing') ; LB (`teasing'); NLV (`make fun of'); MKJV (`mocking') ; Darby (`mocking'); Webster (`mocking'); Lamsa ( `mocking'); Young's (`mocking'); JPS Version - Margolis (`making sport'); and Beck (`mocking').

The NASB renders this word (tsachaq, 8(6) only once as "play," but three times (including the above verse) as "mock" or "make sport of." Likewise the KJV renders it only twice as "play," but six times as "mock," "sport," or "make sport" (including the above verse).

6. Ps. 1:2 - "But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, And in his law he reads in an undertone day and night" vs. "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates [hagah] day and night." (Cf. Jerusalem Bible; NJB - "murmurs." Footnote for Ps.1:2 in Tanakh: "Or `recites'; lit. `utters.'")

The Hebrew word hagah here means

"to meditate; moan, growl, utter, speak... reflecting the sighing and low sounds one may make while musing, at least as the ancients practiced it." - Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, p. 245, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1980.

Gesenius also tells us that hagah means

"(1) to murmur, to mutter, to growl.... (2) poetically, to speak. - absolutely (to utter sound)....[and] (3) to meditate (prop. to speak with oneself, murmuring and in a low voice, as is often done by those who are musing...)...Ps. 1:2" - Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, p. 215, Baker Book House. (And again we see RSV polluting God's only personal name!)

7. Is. 58:1 - "Call out full-throated; do not hold back" vs. "Cry aloud, spare not."
The Hebrew here is qara "to call" and garon "(with) the throat" -Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, pp. 28, 213, Eerdmans Publishing.

And Gesenius tells us:

"[garon]...the throat,.... Isa. 58:1 [qara garon] `cry with the throat,' i.e. with the full voice. For those who speak in a low voice use only the lips...while those who cry with a loud voice propel their words from the throat and breast." - p. 179.

The NJV (New Jewish Version or Tanakh published by the Jewish Publication Society) is highly praised for its accuracy by SMV:

"The NJV is a monument to careful scholarship .... It ranks as one of the best translations of the Hebrew Bible [the Old Testament] available." - p. 143, SMV.

And how, then, does NJV translate Is. 58:1? - "Cry with FULL THROAT." Also compare NAB (1970), NAB (1991), NLV (1993), Young's, and ASV [footnote].

8. Malachi 3:8 - "Will earthling man [adam] rob God?" vs. "Will man rob God?"
The Hebrew word here, adam, in contrast with other Hebrew words which may be translated "man" (e.g., ish), is often "a collective, referring to mankind" - The New Oxford Annotated Bible (1977 ed.) footnote for Gen. 1:27. Since this noun can stand for mankind in general, it would be appropriate to translate it in such a way as to make that understanding clear when so required. But why did the NWT use "earthling man" for such a designation? Because of the further inherent meaning of the word adam.

Yes, SMV itself tells us in its glowing review of the NIV:

"`The Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ground (Adamah); it is also the name Adam (see Gen. 2:20).'" - p. 271.

The Universal Standard Encyclopedia also states:

"The name Adam is taken from the Hebrew adam, `man', from adamah, `ground' or `earth'; the word is used in the Bible both as a proper name, to designate a person [Adam], and as a common noun, to designate man in general, or all mankind." - Vol. 1, p. 40, 1955.

Therefore, the NWT, in order to bring out the distinction between this word and others like ish, included "earthling" which brought out the probable meaning actually inherent in the Hebrew word adam (`earth' or `ground'). Is this a "peculiar" translation, then, because it is not the "traditional" one? Or because it is too accurate?

9. Of all the minor criticisms of the "peculiar" translations of the NWT that are found on pp.108-109 of So Many Versions?, one of the most interesting to me is that Matt. 6:17 reads "grease [aleipho] your head" in the NWT whereas the most-respected RSV has "anoint your head." As minor as this is, it does show the great efforts taken by the NWT translators to translate accurately.

Since "anoint" in traditional Bible English has strong connotations of "consecration to a holy or sacred use" - Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 40, Bethany House Publ. - and "to signify holiness, or separation unto God" - New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., p. 50, Tyndale House Publ., it should come as no surprise that the accuracy-seeking NWT translators used "grease" for all 8 instances of the word aleipho found in the NT to distinguish it from the word which is more properly rendered "anoint" (chrio in NT Greek).

"In contrast with the more important word `chrio,' it [aleipho] refers consistently to the physical action of anointing, performed exclusively on people: for care of the body (Matt. 6:17); as a mark of honor to a guest (Lk. 7:38, 46; Jn 11:2; 12:3); to honor the dead (Mk. 16:1); and to heal the sick (Mk. 6:13; James 5:14)." - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 120.

That same source also tells us that
"aleipho ... denotes the process by which soft fat [grease]... or oil ... is smeared upon ... a person." - p. 119.

And Thayer tells us that aleipho is "allied with lip-os grease." - p. 25.
On the other hand, W. E. Vine tells us

"`Chrio' is more limited in its use than [aleipho]; it is confined to sacred and symbolical anointings .... in the Scriptures it is not found in connection with secular matters." - pp. 50, 51.

The RSV has been revised. Significantly, the revisers have changed SMV's model for the "correct" rendering of "anoint your head" to "put oil on your head." - NRSV, 1989.

So the NWT, instead of being criticized, should be praised for properly showing the clear distinction between the actual meanings of these two NT Greek words. The same thing can be said for most, if not all, of the criticisms of the NWT made by So Many Versions?.

10. 1 Cor. 2:7 - NWT`s "sacred secret" vs. (according to SMV ) RSV's "mystery." Examine NIV, NEB, TEV, and GNB. But above all, look at the RSV, 2nd ed., 1971. This was the current edition of the RSV at the time this edition of SMV was written (see review on p. 58). And yet, in spite of the fact that SMV claims to compare the NWT's "peculiar" translation here with the RSV's, we find that the RSV, 2nd ed., 1971, actually says, "We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God" and not "mystery" as SMV claims! And even the earlier 1946 RSV version reads the same! And the 1989 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) still has "God's wisdom, secret and hidden" !

Notice what the word actually means:

"In the N[ew] T[estament] mysterion signifies a secret which is being, or even has been, revealed, which is also divine in scope, and needs to be made known by God to men". - New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., p. 805, Tyndale House Publishers, 1984. (Also see the MINOR study paper.)

Now, I ask you, why shouldn't the NWT translate mysterion as "sacred secret" when it actually means "divine secret"?

11. The final "peculiar" translation according to SMV: Rev. 13:1 - "wild beast [therion]" vs. RSV's "beast."

The NT Greek word here is therion. This word (therion) means "wild beast" in distinction to ktenos ("beast" or domestic animal) - New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., Tyndale House, p. 127.
And W. E. Vine states that therion

"almost invariably denotes a wild beast....Therion, in the sense of wild beast, is used in the Apocalypse [Revelation]...[Rev.] 11:7; 13:1-18; 14:9, 11..." - p. 95, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publ., 1984 printing.

Noted NT scholar Gerhard Kittel agrees: see p. 333, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Abridged in one Volume), Eerdmans Publ., 1985.
And highly respected NT scholars Liddell and Scott write:
"[therion] a wild animal, beast .... of savage beasts" - p. 396, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell and Scott, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing. (Cf. A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. vi, p. 398.)

Adam Clarke agrees: Commenting on the word often translated as `beast' in Rev. 13:1, Clarke refers us to its use for the four beasts in the Book of Daniel. The Hebrew word used for these beasts was %*( (chaiyah).
"This Hebrew word [%*(, chaiyah] is translated in the Septuagint by the Greek word qhrion [therion], and both words signify what we term a wild beast; and the latter is the one used by St. John in the Apocalypse. Taking up the Greek word qhrion [therion] in this sense, it is fully evident, if a power be represented in the prophetical writings under the notion of a wild beast, that the power so represented must partake of the nature of a wild beast. Hence an earthly belligerent power is evidently designed." - pp. 1109, 1110, Vol. 6B, Adam Clarke's Commentary.
Also examine NAB (1970); CBW; and Weymouth which all use "wild beast" at Rev. 13:1.
And here's how most Bibles translate therion at Mark 1:13:

"Wild beasts" - RSV; NRSV; NKJV; KJV; ASV; NASB; JB; NAB (1970); NAB (1991); NEB; REB; AB; CBW; Mo; Byington; Webster (and Revised Webster); KJIIV (Green); Darby; Weymouth; and Lamsa. "Wild animals" - NIV; NJB; GNB; AT; NLV, Beck; and Phillips.
We can see the same thing at Rev. 6:8 where RSV; NASB, ASV; NIV; NEB; REB; NJB; NAB (`70); MLB; GNB; Moffatt; and Phillips translate therion as "wild beasts." Also LB; CBW; NRSV; and AT render it as `wild animals.'

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