Thursday, September 17, 2009

NWT - Parousia ("Presence")

Parousia ("Presence")
Martin's big complaint here is that the NWT always translates the NT Greek word parousia as "presence." It's ironic that he often complains about the "inconsistencies" of the NWT (see "NWT - Pneuma"), and now he is complaining that it is too consistent. Nevertheless, Jehovah's Witnesses readily agree that some NT Greek words, like modern English words, can have more than one meaning. When translating those words one must carefully determine as best as possible which meaning was intended by studying the context. It may still be impossible, at times, to be absolutely certain which meaning was intended. In cases like this it is to be expected that the translators' own understanding and interpretation will decide which meaning to use.

Martin's own understanding and interpretation is that when speaking of Christ's parousia, the Bible writers meant his visible, physical coming to earth. Therefore, he, and most "orthodox" members of Christendom, want parousia to mean "coming" in all such instances. This does not make it so!

Martin himself admits that sometimes parousia does mean "presence" as the NWT translates it - p. 80.

So it is not a "grammatical perversion," etc. as Martin would like us to believe, but a matter of honest interpretation! If context or other clear Bible statements make it absolutely certain that a visible "coming" was intended in these scriptures - so be it. Then the Witnesses would have made a relatively minor interpretational error. They are not perfect and freely admit it.

I believe, however, that the Witnesses are correct in their interpretation of parousia in the NT. After all, it is readily admitted by all NT Greek scholars that parousia "lit[erally means] a presence, para, with, and ousia, being" - W. E. Vine, p. 201, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. No one disputes this literal meaning of parousia. Even Young's Analytical Concordance gives this as the literal meaning (" a being alongside, presence" - p. 188.)

As J. B. Rotherham (noted Bible scholar and translator of The Emphasized Bible) wrote in the appendix of his translation:

"in this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered `presence' (`coming,' as a representative of this word, being set aside). .... The sense of `presence' is so plainly shewn by the contrast with `absence' (implied in 2 Co. x.10, and expressed in Ph. ii. 12) that the question naturally arises, - Why not always so render it? The more so, inasmuch as there is in [2 Peter 1:16] also, a peculiar fitness in our English word `presence.' This passage, it will be remembered, relates to our Lord's transformation upon the Mount. The wonderful manifestation there made was a display and sample of "presence" rather than of "coming." The Lord was already there; and being there he was transformed (cp. Mt. xvii. 2)" - p. 271. [Also cf. 2 Pet. 1:16, Young's Literal Translation; and Lattimore's translation]

In other words, context clearly demands "presence" in some instances. And, although context would allow either "presence" or "coming" in other instances, why should a translator insist on "coming" when the word in question does not even mean that in the first place? Rotherham's answer to this question was to render all uses of parousia into "presence" in his translation.

So it is the meaning "coming" that demands a clear need from context to establish its use instead of the more literal "presence"! If context clearly shows that "presence" cannot be properly used, then, and only then, we may properly consider a different meaning. (For more on this subject see The Watchtower, 15 August 1996, pp. 9-14 and Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, article entitled "Presence" - also compare pp. 201 and 1271, W. E. Vine.)

If it should turn out that the translators of the NWT are mistaken, it would not shake my confidence in the essential doctrines which are of greatest importance taught by the Watchtower Society which are clearly provable and which are important enough to mean one's very eternal life!

Also see:
PAROUSIA: "coming" or "presence"-Which? (INDNWT)

Presence (SFBT)

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