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.”
“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.