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Dr. Julius R. Mantey and the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society
|The New World Translation of
the Christian Greek Scriptures (NWT) was first published in
1950. Ever since that time, its controversial rendering of John
1:1c as "And the Word was a god" has become a lightening rod
for criticism from a variety of sources. Many critics initially
responded that the NWT translation of John 1:1 was "grammatically
impossible." This criticism was based largely on a
misunderstanding of "Colwell's Rule" (for a summary of
Colwell's Rule and its application to John 1:1, click here).
Others responded that the NWT translation is unlikely from a grammatical
standpoint, and unacceptable contextually and when viewed in light of
other Scriptures. (Click here
for a review of recent scholarship on John 1:1c).
The Watchtower responded to its critics by publishing an appendix with its Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (1969) and later including it with the NWT (1971). This appendix lists several noted Greek scholars who appear to support the Watchtower's rendering of John 1:1.
One of the scholarly works cited is A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey. At the time, the Dana Mantey grammar was the most widely-used first-year Greek Grammar in the world; it is still in print and is used by many beginning Greek students at Bible Colleges and Seminaries in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
The citation by the Watchtower reads as follows:
Michael Van Buskirk of the Christian Apologetics: Research and Information Service (CARIS) wrote to Dr. Mantey (Dr. Dana had died), asking him if he had been quoted accurately by the Watchtower. Dr. Mantey replied in a letter dated February 25, 1974. It read:
Thus, one of the authors of the Grammar the Watchtower used in defense of its translation says that he was quoted out of context and was not even discussing what it quoted him as affirming. Read in context, Dr. Mantey's comments about the "parallel" cases refer to two specific points about copulative sentences:
Dr. Mantey's comments have nothing to do with the semantic force of
the predicate. Instead, he asserts
that John 1:1c is not convertible (since THEOS lacks the article), and
so THEOS and LOGOS are not 100% equivalent. That's it. He quotes the PN
in John 1:1c and Anabasis, not to advocate an indefinite force for the
anarthrous noun, but to demonstrate *how* the two examples are *not*
It is possible that the Watchtower made an honest mistake. In its zeal to find scholarly justification for its rendering of John 1:1, the words "parallel case" and the indefinite predicate (a market) may have appeared to give the Society exactly what it was looking for. However, when informed that the author of the Grammar believed himself to be quoted inaccurately and out of context, and when the author himself notified the Society of this fact, one would have hoped that honesty (or at least simple courtesy) would have persuaded the Watchtower to cease using the Manual Grammar as scholarly support for its translation; however, such is not the case.
The Society, instead, has chosen to justify its use of the Manual Grammar by arguing that it provides a grammatical basis for their translation after all, and Dr. Mantey's objections are not appropriate. This "stonewalling" tactic merely demonstrates the lack of true scholarly support for the Watchtower's translation. If their translation were as well supported by scholars as the Society would wish its members to believe, why not simply stop quoting Dr. Mantey and substitute a noted scholar who wholeheartedly endorses the NWT translation? By clinging to out-of-context quotations from scholars who do not actually support the NWT rendering, the Watchtower and its defenders prove they have little else to make their case. But beyond the lack of true scholarly support, the continued attempts to make scholars like Dr. Mantey say something other than what they mean calls into serious question the ethical foundation of the Watchtower itself. One would think that in an effort to "be above reproach" (Philippians 2:14-16), the Society would seek diligently to quote scholars accurately and provide adequate context so readers might know precisely what was being said. Instead, we find repeated examples of scholarly citations that are misleading, to say the least. One must wonder why the Society must mislead to proclaim what it believes to be the truth, and then to present itself as persecuted when its faults are brought into the open.
1. The fallacy of drawing an affirmative conclusion from a negative premise may be illustrated as follows:
Mickey Mouse and Felix are parallel in the sense that both are not dogs. But it is illogical to conclude that because Felix is a cat, Mickey Mouse must also be a cat. This is essentially what the WT has done:
The passage from Anabasis and John 1:1c are parallel in the sense that both are not convertible. But it is not logically sound to conclude that because Mantey translates "market" with the indefinite article, "God" must be so translated.
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