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The Watchtower Letter to CARIS

With Comments

(an excerpt from the entire letter, published in The Scholarly Dishonesty of the Watchtower 1976 by Michael Van Buskirk)


Dr. Mantey's response to this letter provides a more than adequate answer to the Watchtower.  I will, however, provide some brief comments of my own, to provide additional clarification and links to related material that bear on this topic.

My comments will appear in red, interspersed with the original text of the Watchtower's letter to CARIS.


Dear Friend,

We have your recent letter in which you ask why the New World Bible Translation Committee felt justified in using the quotation from A Manual Greek Grammar of the New Testament by Dana and Manty [sic] on page 1158 of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures in support of their translation of John 1:1.

It is unfortunate that whoever penned this letter on behalf of the Society was so unfamiliar with the subject at hand that he or she routinely misspelled Dr. Mantey's name.

Of course, for us to quote them and to show that their work allows for a certain understanding is quite different than saying that Dana and Manty [sic] personally agree with that view.  Dana and Manty [sic] may have their personal views about the trinity, but their work allows for the rendering found in The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1.

The quotation that appears in the appendix of the KIT and NWT does not use the word "allows."  It does not state that a mere grammatical possibility is being demonstrated.  Instead, it implies that the Grammar supports a rendering that is close to the NWT ("the word was deity) and that the Grammar "could" have translated John 1:1 as "the word was a god" because the predicate "a god" is "more parallel" to "a market."  This issue is not Dana and Mantey's "personal views" but rather what they were writing about in the passage quoted.  As is clear from the context (the section heading is "With the Subject of a Copulative Sentence") and from Dr. Mantey's subsequent comments, the Grammar was discussing the use of the article to identify the subject and to signify that the sentence is not a convertible proposition.  The Grammar says nothing about the semantic force of the predicate of such sentences.

In their grammar, Dana and Manty [sic] set out the rule.  From that rule they attempt to argue in support of the trinity.  The rule, however, that they propose is plainly and unmistakably stated in their book.  In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and also in the Interlinear, the same rule was taken that they used and accept for just what it says.  It was shown that it is possible to argue in favor of the fact that the Word of God was "a god" or a divine personality.  Of course, Trinitarians do not like this.

Nor should any who love the truth.  The Dana Mantey Grammar provides no "rule" regarding the semantic force of a predicate nominative in any grammatical construction.  The Grammar does not use the word "rule" in the quoted paragraph, and instead says "the article sometimes distinguishes the subject from the predicate."  Even if a "rule" may be inferred, it pertains only to the subject, not the predicate, of a copulative sentence.

But it must be borne in mind that in quoting a person's statement or presentation of the facts, one does not have to agree with the interpretation put on those facts....We, in quoting the facts, do not oblige ourselves to agree with the conclusions or interpretations presented by the authorities we quoted.  Similarly, in quoting the "rule" set out by Dana and Manty [sic], we are not obliged to accept their interpretation of how this rule might bear on the trinity concept.  We can take the plainly stated "rule" and with it show that the rendering of John 1:1 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is consistent and reasonable.

But the "rule" must be fairly applied as stated by the original authors.  If one takes a "rule" (that does not even appear to exist in the context specified) that refers to the subject of a sentence and uses it to substantiate a translation of the predicate of John 1:1c, this is not a fair, consistent, or reasonable use of scholarly citation.

....Despite the claims of some that Colwell's rule is inflexible, he himself recognizes that it cannot be.  Rather, how the translator interprets the surrounding verses, and, indeed, the whole Bible, is what will determine how he translates John 1:1.

Please see the discussion of Colwell and subsequent scholars here.

....However, Jehovah's Witnesses believe the simple, clear words of Jesus when he said: "The Father is greater than I am." (John 14:28).

Please see the article on this verse here.

....Incidentally, Bishop Westcott, co-producer of the noted Westcott & Hort Text of the Christian Scriptures said:  "It is necessarily without the article (the'os not ho the'os) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person." (Quoted from page 116 of An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, by Professor C.F.D. Moule, 1953 ed.)

Please see the comments on Bishop Westcott here.

Sincerely in Jehovah's service,

Watchtower B&T Society of New York, Inc.

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