Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Defending the charge that the NWT translators made up a rule for the word for "God/god" (theos). (John 1:1)

Another major attack on the honesty of the NWT by Mr. Countess concerns the use of the definite article ("the") with the word for "God/god" (theos) in NT Greek.

He implies that the NWT translators have made up a rule that whenever the article appears with the word theos, it should be rendered into English as "God," and whenever theos appears without the article, "a god" should be used:

"What, then, is the import of translating theos `a god'? If it is simply a matter of the presence or absence of the article, then why cannot a principle be established and followed throughout the New Testament that ho [`the'] theos be translated `God' and theos be rendered `a god'? This is, to be sure, the implication of the line of reasoning set forth in the NWT appendix." - p. 44.

This is not what the NWT appendix said. And it is not implied. As Mr. Countess well knows, the use of theos at Jn 1:1c is in the nominative case (the form used for subjects and predicate nouns and which has the surest use of the article) and has no other words to modify or describe it further. This eliminates the many exceptions to article use (or non-use) found in other situations.

The nominative case for theos is theos. This very same word in its other cases is: theou; theon; theo ; thee. Most of these cases, unlike the nominative case (but see the THEON study), use the article very irregularly and cannot be relied on to use or not use the article in a meaningful way to speakers (and writers) of English! (see DEF study paper).

However, in addition to different cases, there are still several exceptions to the use of the article even with the nominative case theos. The most notable is the irregularity caused by using a preposition ("in," "on," "of," "with," "to," etc.) in conjunction with theos: "Man of God;" "God of Israel;" "with God;" etc. (The other exceptions are found in the writings of Paul, but since Paul did not write John 1:1, we will not go into these additional details. - See the MARTIN study.) That Countess is not ignorant of this commonly known fact of NT Greek is shown by his own statement on p. 47:

"Blass-Debrunner, basing comment upon an exhaustive study by Bernhard Weiss, observed that whenever the Jewish or Christian God is in view, the article is present, but that it may be omitted after prepositions and if in the genitive when depending on an anarthrous noun."

Countess devotes 44 pages (33% or 1/3 of the entire book!) to showing the NWT's "dishonest" and "hypocritical" use of theos (`God/god'). 27 pages in the appendix list all uses of the word (whether theos, theou, theon, theo or thee or with prepositions or not) in the left column to show that it has the article with it in the NT text. In the right column, of course, he lists all of the other uses which do not have the article in the NT text. In those columns he shows how the NWT has translated the term. He gleefully points out that a few of the uses of the term that have the article are not translated "God" in the NWT, and a few of them that do not have the article are not translated "a god." His conclusion that the NWT has dishonestly, hypocritically not followed a rule that he says they made concerning this usage is incredibly dishonest itself.

Of course some of the forms of the word which often have irregular article usage (as discussed above) are sometimes translated in the NWT contrary to Countess' "rule" for the NWT rendering of theos! But these forms are not the form as used in Jn 1:1c and are well known by NT Greek scholars as forms that use the definite article irregularly: sometimes they have the article when it seems (in English) that they should not, and sometimes they do not have the article when it seems (in English) that they should!

But when we eliminate all the forms which use the article irregularly and stick to the nominative theos without prepositions (as found at Jn 1:1c itself), we find that in all the writings of John (and the other Gospel writers) the article is used with theos whenever he truly intends the meaning "God"!

Countess concludes Chapter 4:

"Finally, and most importantly, table V demonstrated how NWT applied or did not apply its principle formulated in the appendix to John 1:1. And it is the investigator's [Countess himself] firm conclusion that NWT demonstrates utter disregard for the canon thus set forth in its own appendix. .... It bears repeating: NWT has been 94 percent of the time unfaithful to its own principle of translation."

Although the "rule," "principle," or "canon" that the article ("the") is always with theos (in all its forms) when it means "God" and is not with theos (all forms) when it means "a god" IS NOT SAID NOR INTENDED BY THE WRITERS OF THE NWT APPENDIX, but INVENTED by Countess himself, nevertheless, it actually is the case 80% of the time in the New Testament! The NWT, however, really said in the appendix referred to by Countess that in constructions similar to Jn 1:1c the indefinite article ("a") is usually inserted by all Bible translators. It lists a number of such places (including John 4:19 "a prophet;" 6:70 "a devil;" 9:24, 25 "a sinner;" 10:33 "a man;" 12:6 "a thief") where a predicate noun (nominative case and without prepositions) which is without an article comes before its verb (as in Jn 1:1c).

It then concluded: "If the indefinite article can be inserted before the predicate noun in such texts, no objection can rightly be raised against inserting the indefinite article `a' before the anarthrous [without article] theos in the predicate of John 1:1 to make it read `a god'." - p. 776, Appendix, NWT, 1951 ed.

For much more concerning John 1:1, see:
John 1:1

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