Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Response to Ron

I received a comment to a previous post: Even the Commas Count from Ron Rhoades. While we disagree on many things, I thought his comments were fair and deserving of a response. I decided to post it here due to it length and importance.

So here is my response:

Hello Ron! Thank you very much for leaving a thoughtful response. I really appreciate any feedback I get to my posts.

Let me begin by saying that after re-reading my post, the only part I think would have changed is using the word “poorly” when speaking of the NWT translation. I would have rewritten this paragraph:

“This translation is notorious for poorly translating verses that seem to contradict their doctrine and theology.”

As this:

“This translation is notorious for using alternate translations that have been traditionally rejected for verses that seem to contradict their doctrine and theology.”

As far as the translation of Luke 23:43, I disagree that the problem here is any personal bias on my part. I think the problem is that ALL translation to some extent involves a bias and that the problem is with those unwilling or unable to recognizing this. And again the problem is not that there is a lack of evidence in my position, but existing evidence for BOTH positions – here is where bias enters. Truth be told, there is no exegesis without a little eisogesis.

I believe this to be the only honest a position one can hold.

The point of my post is not that the NWT’s translation is grammatically impossible from the Greek texts, in fact it is exactly the opposite! The aim was to point to the need for an authority above translation since more than one translation in some cases is indeed possible. My apologies if this was not made clear.

In your first point, you speak of Professor Jason David BeDuhn’s book, and while I am sure the professor is very bright, I unfortunately have no idea who he is and have never read the book. And after a little research into the book I have found that the results of his findings is not that the NWT is the most accurate, but that it was one of two finalists for the spot. The other translation held up by the author as being most accurate was none other than the Catholic Church’s NAB. The reality of it is that you can find studies and books on both sides, and again I ask how we know who is right?

Your second point was that there have been translators who have placed the comma where the NWT does, and I completely agree! As to my main point, there is more than one way to move the Greek into English being that there is no one-to-one relation between the two languages. And if correctness lies in a list of translations which supported our claim, I think I’d have you beat. But the truth doesn’t depend on a majority’s consensus, it exists outside opinion. So with there being valid opinions on either side, how can we know who is right?

Yes, the Codex Vaticanus is “the most important of all manuscripts of Holy Scripture” – thank God that the Catholic Church has protected and shared such a treasure! I took some time this morning to look at the text (http://www.biblefacts.org/church/pdf/Codex%20Vaticanus.pdf page 114 fourth line from the bottom in the first column - thank God for todays' chapter and verse!). I did not noticed a comma at all – none. I also tracked down a copy of the text that the Whatchtower Society has published for fairness sake. In their text, you do see a very small dot, but you would have to argue pretty hard to convince me it was a comma.

The Codex Vaticanus uses punctuation very rarely, and when it does, it places whitespace after the punctuation (for example Luke 22:31). This mark you speak of occurs between two letters with absolutely no extra whitespace, it appears to me (and many others much more learned than I) to be simply a miscellaneous, unintentional mark on the page (not at all uncommon). But who is right? How do we know?

Your fourth point really hits at the heart of the matter. We now enter into the theological bias that all have. As a Catholic and a Jehovah’s Whitness we simply do not agree on many things, the state of the soul after death being just one of them. You have listed many scriptures that when read in isolation COULD hold the possibility of you interpretation. But Ron, you and I both know that I could begin listing the standard passages that contradict the standard passages you list.

We would have some that would appear to hold that the soul dies until the resurrection and some that would hold that the soul is eternal and thus never dies. These arguments go on every day with great detail, passion, and conviction. If you think there is a chance I can change your mind, please let me know and I’ll give it my best shot ;-).

But what results most often are the people on either side digging their heels in and people undecided getting confused. When an issue of this type is left in the realm of argumentation, only a subjective answer for each individual can possibly result. But as we can see, if each individual’s subjective answer can contradict another’s, how can unified, universal truth be known? How do we know which possible translation is the correct translation?

For that something objective must exist for all individuals to look to. A source that can be trusted with this truth because it has been given this authority by the one who is the author of truth. This source is the Holy Catholic Church. I know that we firmly disagree here. But the scriptures have authority because the Catholic Church has said so. And She has said so because the Holy Spirit has led Her to.

Your arguments on proper grammatical translation are lost on about 99% the world’s population who can neither read Koine Greek with mastery - nor read any language at all. How can these people “evaluate the facts”? For some great truth to be hidden in nuances of the text, only to be found in 1950 with the translation of the NWT, is a hard one to swallow. For Christ to leave this world with the only possibility of finding truth to be in how “properly” Scripture is translated is something I find unreasonable. Jesus has not abandoned his sheep to the wolves of “accurate and solidly based on rules of translation”, He had foreseen this, and given the world the Catholic Church.

Thanks again for your response Ron. I do appreciate a thoughtful discussion. Of course I hope you will someday find the truth of the Catholic Church, even if it’s not tomorrow. There is a lot we disagree on for sure, but I do pray that the world will be led past these disagreements and to the truth of Jesus Christ, and I know we can both agree on that.

God Bless,

Serviam!

8 comments:

Germanicus said...

The Greek is not definitive. This ought to present a problem to those holding to sola scriptura, inerrancy (Chicago statement) and various other fundamentalist groups including the watchtower society. However for Roman Catholics that the Greek is not definitive is only more evidence that the book needs a translator. The translator then becomes the authority. It cannot be argued otherwise. Ron’s translator and therefore his authority is the Watchtower society. It is really a matter of who you believe is telling the truth about God and scripture.
The purpose of scripture is to convey meaning. Due to the literary nature of scripture it is necessary to interpret the text in order to grasp that meaning. Fundamentalists like Ron, would have you believe that they “just believe what the bible says” and the bible is their final authority on the truth. This line of reasoning is poorly thought out because it is incomplete. One must also use reason and philosophy and linguistics and all those other things lumped under the term hermeneutics (Osborne; The Hermeneutical Spiral is an excellent introduction to the difficulties involved in thinking about scripture as both literal and in need of interpretation as understood from the fundamentalist position). Then comes the actual living out of what has been understood and that is, among other things, tradition. (Vanhoozer; Scripture and Tradition for fundamentalist view of the need for tradition.).
Only the most cursory (or evasive) examination of the questions involved will allow one to claim that the interpretation and the therefore meaning of scripture remains unaffected by the interpreter.
Which brings us back to the original statement; The Greek is not definitive and must be interpreted. The interpretation will determine meaning. Who will you believe, who is your authority? I maintain this is the primary question.

Joshua 24:15 said...

Exegesis?

Eisogesis?

Gee, thanks for bringing the discussion down to the level of us dumb ole country boys... :)

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

...and GALS (cue banjo music here).

Ron Rhoades said...

Greetings Serviam,

Thank you for your reasoned answers and for posting my response.

>[You said]: after re-reading my post...I would have rewritten this paragraph: “This translation is notorious for using alternate translations that have been traditionally rejected...”<

Thank you, that is better, while a completely neutral statement would follow the lines of: “This translation has been widely accused of...” and then facts would be presented for the readers. Of course, your “appeal to tradition” is a logical fallacy and should never be used as a basis for determining correct translation nor doctrine.

>[Serviam]: As far as the translation of Luke 23:43, I disagree that the problem here is any personal bias on my part.<

My “personal bias” statement was directed primarily at the assertion that JW’s “poorly translate” verses because these “contradict their doctrine.”

>[Serviam]: if correctness lies in a list of translations which supported our claim, I think I’d have you beat. But the truth doesn’t depend on a majority’s consensus...<

You have misconstrued the purpose for my mentioning scholars of many different religions who rendered Lk.23:43 exactly as the NWT does. These were not given as evidence for where the comma should be placed (your statement regarding the majority is correct). Rather, I made it clear that they were strong evidence that theological bias was not the basis for the NWT’s rendering.

>[Serviam]: I think the problem is that ALL translation to some extent involves a bias...the problem is not that there is...existing evidence for BOTH positions.<

After a thorough examination of both sides’ grammatical evidence, I believe the weight of evidence points to the comma being placed after “today.” (And grammatical arguments are not as difficult to understand as you state–it’s more a matter of making the effort.)

Yet, IF it were left up to *just* grammatical evidence, “bias” would ultimately determine how a translator rendered this verse. However, that is not the case here, nor is it the case in 99.9 percent of all translation or doctrinal differences. That is because the evidence which I provided tells us where the comma *must* occur, which you now mention:

>[Serviam]: We now enter into the theological bias that all have...the state of the soul after death being just one of them. You have listed many scriptures that when read in isolation COULD hold the possibility of your interpretation. But Ron, I could begin listing the standard passages that contradict the standard passages you list.<

I gave you no “theological bias” nor did I simply give you “isolated passages.” I gave you the “context” of Scripture: Jesus is explicitly said to be in hADES (grave) for three days not paradise, and even the “early” resurrection would not occur until Christ’s future return. The comma cannot go before “today” without forcing a contradiction in Scripture.

Exegesis means that you get the meaning out of the text, not read a meaning into it (eisogesis). The rules of exegesis are designed to eliminate or control personal bias. One of those rules is that explicit statements must be accepted over implication. In the very few examples where grammar is unclear, the translation MUST be decided by conformity to such absolute contextual proof.

Similarly, regarding the state of the soul, I gave you a sampling of what the total witness of Scripture states. There are over 100 scriptures that *explicitly* say that the soul is mortal. Can you show me even one that explicitly says the soul is immortal? There is not even one. And without exception, every one of the few “standard passages” cited in support of an immortal soul is an example of using implication to force a presupposition into the text.

This belief is a good example of why those who want to incessantly argue for an immortal soul or any other unscriptural belief are without excuse. The Scriptures are very clear and there is no interpretation required to understand what they are saying here. The soul dies and is no more. We must only accept what they explicitly say. While this admittedly can be difficult due to our prior indoctrination, it is a requirement of Scripture.

>[Serviam]: The Vaticanus...places whitespace after the punctuation (for example Luke 22:31). This mark you speak of occurs between two letters with absolutely no extra whitespace, it appears to me...to be simply a miscellaneous, unintentional mark.<

You have accepted arguments from a prejudiced source who has misled you by incomplete facts. If you look again you will see that the punctuation between Lk.22:30 and 31 is a high dot which marks a full stop or period. The dot after SHMERON in 23:43 is a low dot (hypostigme) which marks a pause or comma.

Notice this comment describing the types of punctuation in early MSS:

“Three different types of punctuation are used in this small sample: low dot, middle dot, and blank space (which could follow a high dot).”--Fragments of Six Newly Identified Greek Bible Manuscripts in a Cambridge Collection: A Preliminary Report; Peter M. Head

Other scholars have also mentioned examples of such punctuation without spaces and the member of the Vatican staff who responded regarding the low dot being in the original color did not seem to find it surprising that there was no white space following. I am searching for a list of where punctuation occurs in the Vaticanus and better images to check this myself, though I see several that look just like Lk.23:43.

>[Serviam]: Professor Jason David BeDuhn’s book...The other translation held up by the author as being most accurate was none other than the Catholic Church’s NAB.<

Yes, I agreed in many ways with his study. The NAB continues to be one of my favorite translations (especially good footnotes) along with the ASV and a couple of others. Although, I didn’t get out of it that he concluded the NAB was the most accurate:

“While it is difficult to quantify this sort of analysis, it can be said that the NWT emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared. Holding a close second to the NWT in its accuracy, judging by the passages we have looked at, is the NAB. Both of these are translations produced by single denominations of Christianity.”

Though, I could be wrong since I only have my notes and I don’t own my own copy. I’ll have to borrow my friend’s again.

>[Serviam]: For some great truth to be hidden in nuances of the text, only to be found in 1950 with the translation of the NWT, is a hard one to swallow.<

Of course you are the one who opened your original post by claiming Luke held “a hidden message.” Personally I find appealing to “hidden messages” is a very questionable method to derive doctrine. Nor is your statement here accurate, in fact it is a logical fallacy called a “straw man.” There was no truth suddenly revealed by the NWT. By the time of the NWT Witnesses had already identified correct doctrine by using the KJV and the ASV. Even today, Witnesses state that correct belief can be derived from any version since the problem is not translation, but ignorance of (or ignoring) what the Bible teaches.

>[Serviam]: When an issue of this type is left in the realm of argumentation, only a subjective answer for each individual can possibly result...how can unified, universal truth be known?<

That is why it is not left simply to argumentation and subjective opinion. We have been given an objective and sure guide that contains no contradiction. God’s Word states that “Scripture” is inspired and determines doctrine (2Tim.3:16; 1Cor.4:6; Mt.22:29; Ac.17:10,11). Nothing is given this same authority (Mk.7:9,13).

When doubt and disagreements arose the authoritative representatives of God’s true organization determined what was true doctrine by examining Scripture (Ac.15:15-21; Tit.1:9; 2Pet.3:16). No belief could ever go contrary to explicit teaching in Scripture. And there is evidence that true doctrine was present throughout history even while being eclipsed by the foretold weeds of falsehood (Mt.13:24).

>[Serviam]:The point of my post...was to point to the need for an authority above translation since more than one translation in some cases is indeed possible.<

The stress should be on “in some cases.” The fact of the matter is that disputed renderings which make any real difference are rare. There is no doctrine that is not clearly and understandably stated in Scripture. No true doctrine rests upon disputed renderings.

>[Serviam]: Something objective must exist for all individuals to look to. A source that can be trusted with this truth because it has been given this authority...the Holy Catholic Church...But the scriptures have authority because the Catholic Church has said so.<

No representatives of any “church” (EKKLESIA) are an objective source of Truth. While Witnesses believe that there is an authoritative body of believers who have been given governing power to dispense and enforce doctrine over God’s congregation, the *final* authority and source of doctrine is always the Bible as God’s Word (Matt.18:15ff; 24:45 Eph.4:11-13; 2Tim.3:16,17).

The true “church” or congregation (EKKLESIA) would be identified by their adhering to true belief (Jn.17:17; 1Cor.4:6; 1Tim.3:17), but the “church” would not be the ultimate source or final authority of true belief. The Scriptures never say "Know the truth because the Church (magisterium) teaches it,” rather it says *Scripture* is inspired and corrects doctrine (2Tim.3:16). Instead of accepting some authority’s claim of teaching truth, the Scriptures warn that each individual would have to "test" or examine the teacher by means of Scripture and truth (Ac 17:11; 1Jn.4:1; 1Tim.2:3; 4:1-3; 1Jn.5:20).

Scriptures consistently show that we would also be able to identify the true Christian church by the results of their teachings (Mat.7:16-23; Jn.13:34,35). As a young man, when I examined the history and current actions of many religions I found a historical record of bloodthirsty wars, immorality, sectarian violence and factional splits (Mat.7:21-23; 2Tim3:5; Gal.5:19-23). Today Catholics continue to kill Catholics and Protestants kill Protestants, something true Christians would not do.

I found only one which presented absolute evidence of truly being Christian and which requires every member to unitedly hold to Scriptural truth in every facet of their life: Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.1:10; 5:9-13; 6:9-11; Gal.5:19-22). I challenge anyone to compare their religion’s actions with the evidence of true Christianity and see for themselves if I’m not right.


Sincerely,

Ron Rhoades

Germanicus said...

Ron,
The issue remains one of whose authority you accept.

Ron Rhoades said...

Greetings Germanicus,

>[You said]: The issue remains one of whose authority you accept.<

Some of my previous post dealt with this issue. The truth of the matter is that we all must accept some authority whether it be religious, governmental, parental or some other human peer system. The important questions are: “Why do you accept the authority you do?” and “How much authority do you give them?” The basic response to your question is that Christians accept God as having absolute authority (Ac.5:29). He communicates to us through His written Word the Bible and has made it clear that this is the primary authority on earth (2Tim.3:16,17; Mt.22:29; Jn.17:17; Ac.17:11). No human authority can contradict what is found in Scripture (Mk.7:9,13; 1Cor.4:6; Gal.1:6-8).

However, the Scriptures also explicitly state that God did set up organizational authority within the Christian Congregation (Ac.14:23; Eph.4:11-13; 1Cor.12:18-31; Tit 1:5,9). And this organized body would be given expanded authority during Christ’s “presence” (PAROUSIA) in the “last days” (Mt.24:45-47; 25:19-21). Therefore, we must ask: “How do we objectively identify that true Christian authority?”

Because God foretold that there would arise “false apostles” (2Cor.11:12-15; Ac.20:28-30; 2Pet.2:1) God’s Word tells us that we would have to "test" or examine any claimed authority (or even Spirit) by means of Scripture and the truth found therein (Ac.17:11; 1Jn.4:1; 5:20; 1Tim.4:1-3).

The Scriptures do not leave us in the dark, subjectively deciding for ourselves or blindly accepting some authority’s claim to be God’s representative. Scriptures gave clear and specific requirements for authoritative “overseers” that would allow Christians throughout history to be able to identify genuine Christian teachers (1Tim.3:1-7; Tit.1:5-9; cf. Gal.5:22,23). Scriptures also give us characteristics that would identify false shepherds (Mat.7:15-23; 15:7-9; Ac.20:29,30; 2Pet.2:1-3; 3Jn.1:9; cf. Gal.5:19-21).

True Christian “overseers” would be “teachers” and “shepherds,” not “leaders” or “masters.” They would not even take elevating religious titles commonly used today such as “Father” or “Reverend” (Mt.23:9,10; cf. Ac.10:25, 26; Lk 22:25-27). Any such practice would signal a false teacher and a deviation from true Christianity.

Those who have been given oversight of the congregation would not contradict Scriptural teaching (Mk.7:13; Gal.1:6; 1Cor.4:6). For instance, the Scriptures clearly and repeatedly state that the soul is mortal. Therefore any authority which teaches that the soul is immortal cannot be the true church. We could use many other obviously unscriptural teachings held by Christendom.

Another example is religion’s record of supporting warfare; Catholics against Catholics, Protestant against Protestant and Muslim against Muslim. Jesus said that True Christians would be identified by the love they show--even for enemies (Jn.13:34,35; Mat.5:43ff; 1Pet.2:21-23; cf 2Cor.10:3). The unbroken historical record of Catholic and Protestant clergy prove that they cannot be genuine shepherds of God’s flock.

Christ foretold that Christianity would be oversewn with weeds and apostate wolves until the end times when True Christians would be separated and become clearly identifiable (Mat.13:24-43,49; 2Thes.2:3,4; Dan.12:3,4). History has proved this prophecy to be correct.

In sum, Christian authority could be identified in at least three main ways: Scriptural doctrine, love, and fruitage. Conversely, by this we can also identify the false.

What are the fruits of most of today’s religions? Do they participate in war, killing their fellow Christians at the command of nations? Most do. (Rwanda was 90% Catholic and Protestant). Is this the fruitage of *true* Christianity?

True Christian authority would *require* every congregation member to live a moral life, and excommunicate anyone practicing homosexuality, fornication, or adultery (1Cor.6:9,10; 5:11-13). There would be doctrinal unity in the true Christian EKKLESIA (1Cor.1:10).

The true EKKLHSIA would be associated with God's name: (Jn.17:3,6,26; Acts 15:14; Ps.83:18). They would not remove the Most Holy Divine Name of God from their bibles, replacing it with the common noun "Lord." Removing Jehovah/Yahoweh from God's word brings a curse on anyone who approves it (Rev.22:18,19).

I have examined almost every religion and I have found that only Jehovah's Witnesses meet these requirements. Only Witnesses have demonstrated proof of holding genuine Christian authority.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely,

Ron Rhoades

Serviam! said...

Ron,

I think the argument you try to make in your last response begins with, and depends on, an assumption/premise that I’m not really ready to grant you. In your first paragraph you wrote:

"He communicates to us through His written Word the Bible and has made it clear that this is the primary authority on earth (2Tim.3:16,17; Mt.22:29; Jn.17:17; Ac.17:11)."

You depend on the assumption/premise that the Bible (specifically the NT) is God’s written Word. It seems that any discussion we can have must begin with firmly establishing this point. Now I know this based on the authority given to the Catholic Church. But if you reject that authority, I’m going to have to ask you to prove to me how you know that the New Testament writings are inspired. I don’t think it’s possible for you to reject the Church’s authority based on arguments built on scriptures which have been declared inspired by the same authority.

Without establishing that the New Testament writings belong in the body of inspired scripture, the verses you cite (2Tim.3:16,17; Mt.22:29; Jn.17:17; Ac.17:11) don’t carry the same weight:

2 Timothy 3:16
16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, what was considered inspired scripture? The Gospels? The Epistles? No, one would have to draw the conclusion that the scripture inspired by God here that Paul talks about is the scripture of the Old Testament.

Matthew 22:29
29 Jesus said to them in reply, "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God.

Here, the "you" Jesus is talking to are the Sadducees. The Sadducees, being Jewish, would have considered the “scriptures” to be the Jewish Bible at the time and in no way would have considered the writings of the New Testament to be included.

John 17:17
17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.

Here we have God’s word being equated rightly to truth. But we also have you equating God’s word to be not only the scriptures of the Old Testament but also that of the New. How do you know that to be true?

Acts 17:11
11 These Jews were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with all willingness and examined the scriptures daily to determine whether these things were so.

Again, being that these people were Jewish, wouldn’t the scriptures here be referring to the Jewish Bible and not the Christian Bible?

So Ron, if you want to use the scriptures to argue against the Catholic Church's authority, you need to establish their authority apart from the Catholic Church.

Joshua 24:15 said...

Ouch.

I think it's a good thing Serviam! has 2000 years of Church authority to help him, instead of 200.....