Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Diakonos (Minister)

Countess accuses the NWT of being "inconsistent" for rendering diakonos with the word "minister" (and various forms of "minister") in all but one of its uses ("servants" - Mt. 22:13). He also criticizes the NWT for translating the noun diakonos as though it were a participle ("those ministering") twice in Jn 2:5, 9. - p. 77.

But even the "most literal" modern Bible of Christendom, the NASB, translates diakonos three times as "deacons," seven times as "minister" and 19 times as "servant(s)"! How consistent is that?

As for translating a noun as though it were a participle, this is done in all translations (and in all other combinations of parts of speech) in order to make something as clear as possible to modern readers.

For example, the related diakonia is rendered in these various ways at Ro. 15:25 in these literal Bibles: "a ministry" [noun], NRSV; "to minister" [verb infinitive], KJV; "in the service" [noun], NIV; "aid" [noun], RSV; "ministering" [participle], ASV; "serving" [participle], NASB.

And this same word (diakonia) at 2 Tim. 1:18 is also rendered: "services" [plural noun], NASB; "service" [singular noun], RSV, NRSV; "ministered" [verb], KJV, ASV; "helped" [verb], NIV.

The real question should be: why does the NWT consistently render diakonos with some form of "minister" (with the single exception of Matt. 22:13) and doulos as "slave"? We can see that other literal Bibles frequently render both diakonos and doulos as "servant(s)" (cf. Acts 4:29 [doulos] and Jn 2:9 [diakonos] in KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, for example).

The reason for the NWT rendering can undoubtedly be found in the actual meaning of the two NT Greek words. What is the difference between diakonos and doulos?

"diakonos represents the servant in his activity for the work; not in his relation, either servile, as that of the doulos, or more voluntary, as in the case of the therapon, to a person" - Thayer, p. 138 (#1249), Baker Book House.

"Diakonos is generally speaking, to be distinguished from doulos, ... diakonos views a servant in relationship to his work; doulos views him in relationship to his master." - p. 265, W. E. Vine, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1983 printing.

"The difference between [diakonos] and doulos (slave), is important for our understanding of diakonos. doulos stresses almost exclusively the Christian's complete subjection to the Lord; diakonos is concerned with his service for the church" - p. 548, Vol. 3, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan Publ., 1986.

So, if you were to translate diakonos and doulos correctly, you would try to choose words that at least suggested the difference between them. The translators of the NWT obviously decided that "minister" (for diakonos) suggested the idea of service and emphasized that person's work or activity rather than his subjection. And, of course, they decided that the term "slave" (for doulos) emphasized his subjection (or "relationship to his master") more than his relationship to his work. Most objective people would readily agree.

The NWT has attempted to distinguish between the uses of diakonos and doulos in such a way as to honestly show the originally intended meanings. It has done this more consistently than other literal translations. Countess' criticism of this is unfair and hypocritical.

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