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Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

24 Comments

  1. avatar

    Edward Andrews

    Jason:

    Jason wrote: The most controversial aspect of this book is not just BeDuhn’s decision to include the JW New World Bible in his analysis, but his conclusion that in many passages the NW translation is less biased than mainstream translations such as the NIV or NASB.

    Response: This comment within itself expresses a measure of bias. If you had simply worded it: ‘surprising,’ instead of “most controversial.”

    Jason wrote: However, he deals almost exclusively (seven out of nine chapters) with passages surrounding the deity of Jesus Christ. Is this the only doctrine which might be subject to bias in Scripture? Further, several of the passages he cites are passages which are consistent with the deity of Christ, but would not be used to prove the deity of Christ.

    Response: While bias is not entirely focus around verses that woulf be used for the Trinity, they are the ones that draw the most ferver. If you look at the doctrinal statement of most conservative seminaries, it is the Trinity that will disallow one from studying there. The Trinity is the only doctrine that brings heat on the Witnesses, leaving them out of the big boy’s club: Christianity. The rest of their doctrinal positions are held by one form of Christianity, or another. So, to make bias stand had quite readily, BeDuhn did quite well in focusing on this area. Also, you are quite mistaken about the texts that he chose, they are used widely to establish the Deity of Christ, and proof texts for the Trinity. I am not certain what you are reading?

    Jason Wrote: BeDuhn seems to operate under the impression that he has avoided all bias in his analysis. At no point in the book does he reveal his own personal theological biases (not even to the point where you could confidently nail him as an evangelical). Yet I would argue that it is impossible for him not to have theological biases. He could have engendered a much higher level of trust with his readership had he admitted his position and biases early on in the book. If I had to peg him based on what little he gives away about himself, I would suspect he is a theological Liberal.

    Response: I appreciated his conceealing his position. And I am certain that he is well aware that all are bias. Your selection of him as a liberal is based on his being honest in translation. I noticed that you failed to overturn his arguments, to deal criticially with the book, and have tried the character attack. Interesting.

    Jason Wrote: I felt that BeDuhn’s understanding and awareness of the modern debate on translations, at least within Christian Fundamentalism, was lacking. This revealed itself in a lot of ways, but once in particular where he made a statement which seemed to indicate that he hadn’t studied the preface of the 1611 publication of the Authorised Version though trying to make a point about that edition.

    Response: You write the above, and then you say the following about yourself: “I wouldn’t claim to have done significant in-depth consideration of this book, but I did want to record my impressions after a quick perusal.” Really?

    Truly,

    Edward Andrews

    Reply
  2. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Edward Andrews,

    Thanks for your response.

    1) True. I am biased. I believe the JW’s are a cult of Christianity and I believe the NWT, while having many good qualities as a translation, has been deliberately manipulated to defend the doctrinal deviance of the JW’s.

    2) You seem to equate the trinity with the deity of Jesus Christ. They are separate, though connected, doctrines. I disagree about the trinity being the main point of controversy between JW’s and Christianity. There are a range of Christian doctrines that the JW’s reject altogether. Still, the point is moot because BeDuhn does not claim to be addressing the differences between JW’s and Christianity. Instead, he presents himself as if he were a Christian theologian addressing matters of translation without bias. The trinity may be controversial for JW’s, but it is not controversial within Christianity.

    3) I was not debating his points. I was attempting to give an overview of the book and my points of concern. That said, I did not attack his character at all. I made a guess as to his theological position.

    4) I do not see any hypocrisy in my statement. The primary meaning of the word peruse is “to read or examine with care.” That is the sense in which I used it.

    I was just pointing out that he did not seem to have a good understanding of one of the significant debates touching the topic on which he published a book. Additionally, that he didn’t seem to have read a key historical document. That is something that concerned me and I felt the reader should be aware of.

    Reply
  3. avatar

    Chris

    I’ve read quite a lot of this book myself, and in fact Jehovah’s Witnesses directly quote from it in one of their publications (‘Bearing Thorough Witness About God’s Kingdom’, published in 2009, I believe) as proof that unbiased individuals consider JWs as ‘basing their beliefs on the Bible’.

    BeDuhn comments as much, yet paradoxically he spends an entire appendix demolishing the JWs’ justification for using the divine name JHVH in the New Testament. He says that they engaged in ‘conjectural emendation’ and did not obey the most basic rule of translation in remaining faithful to the original text. This is obvious in that they do not substitute ‘Jehovah’ for ‘Lord’ in all the cases where ‘Lord’ appears, even when Old Testament scriptures are being quoted by New Testament writers, because it would create problems for their personal beliefs. Not to mention that they substitute ‘Jehovah’ for ‘Lord’ in many cases where no Old Testament verse is being quoted at all, despite the original Greek text making no mention of ‘Jehovah’.

    Also, BeDuhn seems to express a complete ignorance of the origins of JWs–their connection to the Second Adventists and how much of the theological structure is (or was) at least influenced by them. But BeDuhn states that they approach the Bible ‘with a kind of innocence’ rather than putting their own preconceived ideas into it. How one arrives at Jesus’ invisible presence starting in the year 1914, or teaching that Jesus is only Mediator for 144,000 people, or how Matthew 24:45-47 refers to a group of men appointed by Jesus in 1919 to provide spiritual food to everyone else, without having a preconceived idea or two, is beyond me.

    The New World Translation cannot realistically be judged as superior simply on the basis of a handful of verses, even if they rendered them without bias (which would be a good thing, if it were true). JW literature is filled with numerous statements from scholars that are taken out of context and used to support their theology. That’s called dishonest scholarship. There are more subtle changes in the New World Translation that were definitely made to support their doctrine and that actually have no basis at all in the original languages. Revelation 20:4 (“Yes, I saw the souls of those” instead of “And I saw the souls of those”) and Jeremiah 29:10 (“at Babylon” instead of “for Babylon”) are good examples of where one word was changed and thus altered the whole meaning of the verse, but without legitimate basis in the original languages for doing so. Given their long record of dishonest statements and dubious reasoning, and the considerable lack of credentials amongst their ‘anonymous’ translation committee, it would be hard to conclude that the New World Translation is the best overall translation.

    Revealing my own bias, I am a former JW myself, but I have done considerable research and study on these matters and wouldn’t just say that to take a jab at Jehovah’s Witnesses, as I do agree with them on certain things, even the Trinity issue, for example. Still, there is considerable factual data to support my assertions. I just don’t think this work is sufficient to address the real problems in the New World Translation, so it has led a lot of people to accept BeDuhn’s conclusions without sufficient scrutiny.

    Reply
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  5. avatar

    Bruce Barnard

    Jason, you wrote:
    “BeDuhn develops a serious credibility leak in his dealing with several established Greek grammar rules. Particularly, he addresses Colwell’s Rule …… Instead of merely critiquing [it]and offering adjustments or developments to [it],…. he simply says [it is] wrong and should be ignored.”

    Dear Jason. Recent kione Greek scholarship is now of the opinion, and on sound grounds, that Colwell’s Rule 2b is indeed irelevant to deciding the definitness of the anarthrous QEOS of John 1.1 and indeed any anarthrous noun in the type of construct. I would refer you to Paul Dixon who stated “No longer
    should Colwell’s rule mislead us into thinking that an anarthrous
    predicate nominative preceding the verb is just as definite as the
    articular predicate nominative following the verb and that “there need be
    no doctrinal significance in the dropping of the article, for it is
    simply a matter of word-order…….Finally, we may conclude three things about John 1:1. First,
    Colwell’s rule cannot be applied to the verse as an argument for
    definiteness. Colwell’s rule says that definite predicate nominatives
    preceding the verb usually are anarthrous. The rule asserts nothing
    about definiteness. It does not say that anarthrous predicate
    nominatives preceding the verb usually are definite. This is the
    converse of the rule, and as such is not
    cessarily valid.” Some scholars in the past, such as Metzger and Barclay both misunderstood this rule and then miused used it to malign the NWT’s “a god” translation. In this they erred seriously. This then shows that this particular criticism of Beduhn’s work by you can now be retracted. Beduhn is right re Colwell!

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Bruce Barnard,

      Thanks for the comment. I would point out that you did not dismiss the rule. Nor did Dixon. To argue that the rule does not apply in John 1:1c is something different all together. Since I don’t have a copy of the book on hand, I can’t go back and verify what he said exactly, but your comment doesn’t seem to contradict anything I’ve said in the review.

      Best regards.

  6. avatar

    Doug C.

    Jason,

    Thank you for taking your time to express your thought on BeDuhn’s book. It can be enlightening to hear other people’s perspective. However, as an ardent student of the Bible, and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I thought it was a shame that you resorted to name calling i.e. “I believe J.W.’s are a cult of Christianity.” I do not follow any man but base my beliefs on what I see for myself in God’s Word. I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to honestly and certainly prayerfully study the Scriptures. I may not agree with someone, but I do appreciate their opinions.

    You also made the statement that, “The trinity might be controversial for J.W.s but it is not among Christianity.” I have been actively involved in the ministry for over 40 yrs. And, from first hand experience, I can testify that many many people do not accept the concept of the trinity. For those that do, they tend to get defensive sometimes even angry. I will discuss the Bible, but I will not argue. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, I believe the answer is found in the Bible. Honest prayerful study is the only way to find the truth.

    Many seems to put much stock in the idea of ‘mainstream Christianity’. It seems as if the feeling is, “If everyone believes this, then it must be true!” ie. Perception is reality. Just because many teach something doesn’t make it true. Jesus took exceptions to the religeous leaders of the time that had been influenced by worldly ideals. How violent they became in attacking the first century congregation! The religeous leader’s perception of the truth was wrong. They did not have the truth. The Bible states in 1 Timothy 4:1 states that “some will drop out of the faith”. Byington Jesus also stated that by their fruits you will know them. What was the fruit of a lot of relgious leaders back then? Violence. Such is the case in many religions today. It is easy to get angry over debates, which the Bible discourages.

    As you take exception to Jehovah’s Witnesses, their being a cult, I wanted to share something with you. As a young boy, my parents went to the Baptist Church. Later, they studied with and became Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I got a little older I began to research its teachings. What I found touched me deeply. The Baptist Church along with the Catholic and most Protestant chuches, will go to war. They will do this even to the point of killing people of their own faith! Yet, what did Jesus say in John 13:34,34? He said that he was giving them a new commandment. That command was to love one another. It was to be the identifying mark of his disciplies. No matter what doctrinal points that we might discuss, how much will it matter if we break Jesus’ command by killing each other? How do we say we have the truth if we will be part of the world and kill one another? Jesus also said that his disciples would be not be part of the world in John 17:14. And yet, many ‘Christians’ will get involved in politics to change the world. The Kingdom that we pray for is the catalyst to bring peace to the earth. (Ps. 37:10,11,29) The Bible sanctifies our loving God, Jehovah and is a message of hope.

    I know of no other religion that invests as much time and effort in studying the Bible with individuals. Our lives are wrapped around preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Matt. 24:14. Jesus’ last command in Matt. 28:19,20 was to go forth and makes disciples, teaching them to observe the things he commanded. That has been and continues to be the main focus of my life.

    You might enjoy prayerfully considering the book, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” with whatever Bible you are personally comfortable with.

    I wish you the best in your spiritual journey.

    With Sincerity,

    Douglas R. Crosby

    Reply
    1. avatar

      jackiehorner

      Douglas, thank you for that, and I see Jason Harris has nothing to refute, because how could he? You nailed it with your response. I too have been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, second generation, for 30 years, and having once been Catholic, and having studied many religions and religious ideas, without a doubt, Jehovah’s witnesses not only display the love that Christ said true followers would have, but they also have picked up where Jesus left off in the proclaiming of his Father’s Kingdom as the only hope for mankind on earth. Teaching in all lands, in 700 languages. The trinity is a pagan, man-promoted teaching, whose concept is not even found in the Bible, and Jesus never alluded to it. The pharisees of the time accused Jesus of making himself “God”, and Jesus’ reply was “are you going to stone me because I said I am God’s Son”? Trinitarians’ actions today are very much the same as the pharisees of Jesus’ day in that they claim Jesus made himself out to be God, when in reality, he clearly said he is “God’s son”. It’s no doubt that most of so-called Christianity believes in the Trinity, because “broad and spacious is he road leading to destruction and it is cramped with people…but narrow is the road to life, and few are finding it…” I would expect the true religion to be small in comparison to the many on the broad road. Just something to think about.

    2. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Hey Doug, Thanks for the note.
      First, I don’t do name calling. The JWs are a cult. I’m not using that in the sense of a “compound” cult, but rather in the theological sense of the word which has an objective meaning. A cult of Christianity, in that sense, is a group that is based on the historic Christian faith, but does not accept the deity of the Christ after which Christianity is named. Which JWs don’t.
      Second, the doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental to the Christian faith and has been since the early church.
      Third, I’m not what I am because it is “mainstream.” I am what I am because it is biblical. The JWs teach a works gospel. Jesus Christ plus. That’s the problem. When JWs get off their side issues (e.g. pacifism) and start preaching salvation by grace through faith without works, it will be different.
      Fourth, I’ve been to my local “Kingdom Hall” for some of that “Bible study” you speak of. It’s not Bible study at all. It’s indoctrination. When I do Bible study, I don’t give the people a magazine that conditions them to see what I want them to see in the Bible. I tell them to open their Bible and then I take them through it word by word. That’s Bible study.

    3. avatar

      Robert

      Jason. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not preach salvation by works. A person cannot legitimately consider himself reasonable if he has to invent or interpret another person’s beliefs in a way that suits his own argument. Yes, you’re free to draw your own conclusions, but your premise needs to be accurate if you want anyone to take your conclusions seriously.

      However, we believe what the bible explicitly says at James 2:17 – that faith without works is dead. It seems to me that the context of that verse (14-26) doesn’t really leave much room for interpretative debate. In particular, it explains WHY it would be hypocritical to say you have faith but not have works.

      So let’s say I make the statement that “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.” What is it that I’m saying? Simply that I believe in him? Reading the verses I just mentioned should disavow you of that notion. I’m sure you know as well as I do that being a Christian means being a follower of Christ. If, in turn, you are a follower of Christ, that means that you seek to take seriously the things he took seriously, you try to view God as Jesus viewed Him and, rather obviously, you do your best to obey any instructions he has given you to follow. If you think that’s not correct, then can you really say you are a Christian?

      So where does that leave us on the works issue. Well that depends on whether Jesus has given us any work to do. Happily, we are not left in the dark about this. Matthew 28:19 tells us what that work is. And, in a parable in Matthew 25, Jesus speaks frankly about his feelings about those who do not want to do his work.

      So is it a contradiction to say faith is what saves you, but works are important? No. Let’s say you are homeless and penniless and Jesus has offered to buy you a house that is worth trillions of dollars. He says that you need to show appreciation be taking good care of it. All that remains to do is accept his offer.

      So you accept his offer and you start a routine of gardening and internal maintenance to keep the house in good condition. After a lifetime in that house would you argue that you earned it? Would you be able to calculate the hours you’d spent working on the house and apply an hourly rate and realistically say “I’ve paid for this now”? No, if you did you’d be showing a lack of appreciation for the gift.

      So it is with faith and works. I do not believe that I can come remotely close to earning my salvation. No Jehovah’s Witnesses do. But I think if I don’t work hard and do my best to obey my Lord and my God, then I’m showing a lack of appreciation for the gift he’s given me. And I would also be showing that my faith was not genuine.

    4. avatar

      Robert

      Jason, your use of the word “Pacifism” makes it easier for you to relegate the idea it conveys to a political side issue. But “not killing your brothers” is certainly not a minor point. And if you can’t see why Christendom’s approval of killing might raise a huge red flag to those who are searching for God, then I feel sorry for you. 1 John 4:20; Matthew 26:42

    5. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Robert,

      “Preach” might indeed be too strong a word. “Hold to” is not. The JW faith does not and cannot affirm the five solas. It typically takes some digging around to get to the point where a JW will admit it, but usually it comes out in discussion of the atonement and what the cross truly means or in questions about what one may do to lose his salvation, but it is there in the very DNA of JW doctrine. Salvation by works.

    6. avatar

      Robert

      Jason

      If you want to believe that you know better than me about what I think and believe, go ahead and believe it. There is only so much a person can do to try to help another understand.

      But, once more for the record: I believe that were it not for the ransom sacrifice of Christ I would be a condemned man. I believe Jesus paid the price for my sin, ultimately dying instead of me. I believe what Ephesians 2 says regarding faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. Salvation is not a RESULT of works. I believe that.

      I believe James 2:17: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
      But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” So, if there are no works, that means your faith is dead. If your faith is dead then there is no salvation because salvation is through faith. Dead faith is not faith. I believe that too. There is no contradiction with the two scriptures. I believe that.

      These are my beliefs. You say they’re not. I guess there’s nothing more I can say on the matter.

      I wish you well, and trust you won’t be offended when I say I hope you take the time to listen more to Jehovah’s Witnesses about our beliefs rather than what others say about them. Then, I believe, you will find the Truth. I don’t mean it in a patronising way because I know that you would have the same wish for me.

      Take care and thanks for taking the time to reply.

    7. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Robert,

      Not letting this slip by. Of course I have no idea what YOU believe. But my comments were not about YOUR beliefs, but the JW beliefs. Try to pay attention.

      If you do not believe in salvation by works, then you can happily affirm the five solas. If you can’t, then explain to me exactly why and we’ll know where works comes into your gospel. As for the JWs, they do not affirm the five solas and for good reason.

      And btw, almost everything I know about JWs I learned from JWs. I don’t read anti-JW literature.

    8. avatar

      Robert

      Jason

      Regarding your false claim that you speak for Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are demonstrating publicly that you are not a reasonable man. Your readers will understand why I stated “my beliefs” as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses even if it escaped you. Of course, I’m sure it didn’t escape you, because you are not stupid—unreasonable and perhaps dishonest in this particular instance—but not stupid. So your “pay attention” comment, as though I was the one who misunderstood you, was childish.

      For the benefit of the readers of this site. I hope that this exchange demonstrates at least one thing: When people make claims about Jehovah’s Witnesses, sometimes those claims are false. That’s ok, because people make mistakes. But you have to start asking questions about motives when someone insists on telling falsehoods to the public even after he’s been corrected by a member of the religion he is libelling.

      I have read some of Jason’s other posts and he seems to be a thoughtful and intelligent man. But time and again, when church members turn their attention to Jehovah’s Witnesses they seem to take leave of their day-to-day personalities and engage in this puzzling form of intellectual dishonesty. I’m sure they sincerely believe that their own religion is true (as I believe mine is) so perhaps they feel any and all tactics are fair game if it results in tearing down the reputation of a ‘false religion’. But dishonesty is not a Christian trait (John 8:44)

      Jason’s OPINION may be that Jehovah’s Witnesses put too much emphasis on works. We say works are important because the Bible says they are. I’m sure if Jason were helping a fellow member of his religion rather than engaging with a Jehovah’s Witness he would have no problem agreeing with me. How could he not? If he follows the Bible he will not ignore 1 Corinthians 15:58, 2 Timothy 4:5, Matthew 7:21-27, Ephesians 2:10, James 1:27, James 4:4 etc. All these scriptures indicate that actions (or works) are important and are related to salvation in that they demonstrate that faith is alive in that person. But do those works “buy” your salvation? No! Salvation is a gift bestowed on those who demonstrate faith – James 2:24-26.

      Another thing: I will not try to justify my beliefs according to human requirements. If Jason can show the scriptural basis for the “five solas”, and explain why he thinks my explanation of the relationship between faith, works and salvation is in discord with these scriptures, fair enough. At least I’ll have an opportunity to answer.

      What he cannot continue to do is misrepresent our position in order to disprove it. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not Christian behaviour.

      Jason claims that his understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs comes from JWs themselves, and not from anti-JW literature. This is hard to believe – precisely because Witnesses DON’T believe what he says they do, whereas anti-JW literature often make this claim. I have my suspicions, but I cannot KNOW why Jason is saying what he’s saying. What I do KNOW is that he’s wrong.

      Ironically Jason has implied that I’m the one who has misrepresented the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses (he said: “my comments were not about YOUR beliefs, but the JW beliefs.”) Perhaps the following quotes from our literature will help:

      *** it-2 p. 1205 Work ***
      Faith and Works.
      Works of the Mosaic Law, which included such things as sacrificial offerings, purifications, and circumcision, did not make a person righteous. (Ro 3:20; 4:1-10; Ga 3:2) Yet, the disciple James—who is not discussing works of Mosaic Law—says “a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone” (Jas 2:24), for there must be practical works that demonstrate one’s faith, giving proof of it. (Compare Mt 7:21-27; Eph 2:8-10; Jas 1:27; 2:14-17; 4:4.)”

      *** gm chap. 7 pp. 91-92 pars. 11-14 Does the Bible Contradict Itself? ***
      …Our considering the context also helps us to understand what some have claimed is a disagreement between the apostle Paul and James. At Ephesians 2:8, 9, Paul says that Christians are saved by faith, not by works. He says: “You have been saved through faith . . . not owing to works.” James, however, insists on the importance of works. He writes: “As the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) How can these two statements be reconciled?

      Considering the context of Paul’s words, we find that one statement complements the other. The apostle Paul is referring to the efforts of the Jews to keep the Mosaic Law. They believed that if they kept the Law in all its details, they would be righteous. Paul pointed out that this was impossible. We can never become righteous—and thus deserve salvation—by our own works, for we are inherently sinful. We can only be saved by faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.—Romans 5:18.

      James, however, adds the vital point that faith in itself is valueless if not supported by actions. A person who claims to have faith in Jesus should prove it by what he does. An inactive faith is a dead faith and will not lead to salvation.

      The apostle Paul was in full agreement with this, and he often mentions the kinds of works that Christians should engage in to demonstrate their faith. For example, to the Romans he wrote: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Making a “public declaration”—sharing our faith with others—is vital for salvation. (Romans 10:10; see also 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 5:15, 21-33; 6:15; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 10:23-25.) No work, however, that a Christian can do, and certainly no effort to fulfill the Law of Moses, will earn him the right to everlasting life. This is “the gift God gives” to those who exercise faith.—Romans 6:23; John 3:16″

      ***End of quotes***

      Sincerely

      Robert

  7. avatar

    Paul

    Jason you would probably be interested to know that DeBuhn is quoted by the Watchtower on their website JW.org in order to authenticate their NWT. I would suspect that if I begin digging into the other commentators I will find similar such concerns. You may want to go a little further into who DeBuhn actually is, if you can.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Thanks for the comment Paul. Yes, I was originally introduced to the book by JWs. Of course this doesn’t invalidate anything, but it does highlight the need to think critically in reading the book.

  8. avatar

    Fred Hamlet

    Opportunity missed; sad.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jason BeDuhn explains in the preface (iirc) that he is not associated with any church or religious organization. He is a professor of comparitive religions and his interest is not in promoting any particular theological position because he has none of his own. I don’t think he would identify himself as a Christian at all.

      While some would consider this as reason to dismiss everything he says, I’m inclined to see this as a positive thing, at least in regard to the nature of the book.

      BeDuhn is an excellent scholar and probably unaffected by the usual biases that most (all?) scholars are going to have.

      The book actually grew from discussions with his students who asked questions about their perceived errors in the New World Translation, expecting BeDuhn to agree with them. But, in most cases, he did not. Instead, he explained why he agreed with the NWT in disputed verses.

      I had a roommate who was in Beduhn’s class for nine months. He did not agree with BeDuhn on everything, but he did say that he is very smart and perceptive.
      I met him twice, the last time at Northern AZ University when he did a program on the restoration and translation of a very old Manichean papyrus document. He is a respect authority on Manichaeism as well as on Christian religion.

  9. avatar

    Robert

    In the book you are reviewing, Beduhn answers many of the concerns you raised in points 2-5 by saying

    “When there is no way to resolve rival possible meanings, we really can ‘t blame translators for following the one that corresponds with their beliefs. But they owe it to their readers to make a note of the uncertainty. In passing judgment on how well or poorly translators have done in avoiding bias, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. If the translation given is at least within the realm of possibility for the meaning of the Greek, we must grant that fact and not be too hard on the translators for preferring one possible meaning over another. But if they stretch beyond that rather generous range and reach for the truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek, we must be very suspicious of their motives. We have to wonder why they couldn’t let the Bible say what it has to say, why they had to put some other idea there in place of the more likely, obvious meaning of the original biblical text.”

    Regarding your fourth point you ask “But is it not also necessary to understand the overall interpretive/theological context as well?”. Debuhn addresses this point in certain online blogs and in the book (if my memory serves me well) His argument is that our theology must come from what the Bible says not the other way around. So it’s Bible first, theology second. Whilst theological bias might is bound to play a part sometimes, it should be avoided whenever and wherever possible in the translation work.

    Regarding point 7, I’m not entirely sure what you’re arguing for, so forgive me if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. You seem to be suggesting that it’s not fair to criticise a translation if a rendering is possible, the problem only arises if the chosen rendering tries to prove a theological point. If I’ve represented your argument correctly, I would argue that your chosen example falls into the latter category, and thus why it was chosen as an example of inappropriate bias. For example, humor me here and let’s just suppose that we Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in our understanding of who Jesus is. That would mean the translation “did obeisance to” was correct in the contentious places. But “did obeisance to” does not put you into an awkward position as a trinitarian. However, rendering the word as “worship” could cause problems for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now I appreciate that Bible Translators aren’t going about their tasks worrying that they might make life difficult for minority religions. But when you consider that Jehovah’s Witnesses are frequently accused of choosing renderings that suit our beliefs, it puts things into perspective. It’s perfectly acceptable when mainstream Bibles are translated according to religious biases, but heresy when Jehovah’s Witnesses do it.

    The fact is that when a Witness shows a verse that is rendered “did obeisance to” in the NWT but “worship” in the householder’s bible, the most common assumption is to assume that we bent the rules of Greek to fit our beliefs. Beduhn shows that “did obeisance to” is culturally, historically, and linguistically more likely the intended meaningful the word when it is used in reference to Jesus. Yet we will still be seen as the dishonest ones because people trust their translations.

    Regarding your 8th point I believe your assessment of Beduhn is inaccurate. You say he doesn’t critique Colwell’s rule but simply says it is wrong and should be ignored. But the discussion of Colwell’s rule begins on page 117. There are 5 pages devoted to how we know the rule is wrong, and how it has been misapplied in an attempt to prove that John 1:1c MUST be translated “the Word was God”. You say words to the effect of how silly it is to show exceptions to disprove a rule. But he explains why this is true in the case of Colwell’s rule.

    And again with Granville Sharp. His discussion of Sharp’s rule begins on page 92. He explains what the rule is, on p93 he explains how other scholars have demonstrated the flaw in Sharp’s conclusion and then attempts to explain how Sharp came to that wrong conclusion.
    Having said all of the above, I applaud you for leaving a positive review in spite of your misgivings, but, unless I misread all your comments, I felt your misgivings were not justified.

    Reply
  10. avatar

    Russell M

    I was really hoping that Jason would address the points made by Doug C. when he said the following:

    “Baptist Church along with the Catholic and most Protestant churches, will go to war. They will do this even to the point of killing people of their own faith! ”

    As someone who keeps searching for the truth, that question really concerns me since according to my KJV Jesus said at John 13:35 that “By this shall all men [that includes me] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to the other”

    If indeed Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate that love then it would be worth it to investigate that religion. From what I’ve heard about them, they certainly are not loved by the majority of those professing ‘Christianity’. But most of the people who I have heard riled against them lead hypocritical and debauched lives. I would like to hear Jason’s response to the points made by Doug C. regarding ‘Christians’ killing ‘Christians’. Since Jesus said that love would be the identifying mark of his disciples I think the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on my door I will be asking them regarding this matter of not killing fellow JWs. I think they should not only not kill fellow JWs but not kill people of any religion. From my standpoint all these mainstream religions ARE part of the world that Jesus said regarding his disciples:
    “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are no part of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17:14
    “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17:16
    I will be asking my God to make the truth known to me, even if it comes via the unloved Jehovah’s Witnesses who may be the very ones that Jesus was talking about when he said: “the world hath hated them”. I hope I can keep an open mind and not let the rather negative portrayal of these people by the majority of ‘Christians’ cause me to have a veil when I speak with them. I wonder if they are upright like the apostles and other disciples of the dawn of Christianity were or are they hypocritical like the VAST majority of mainstream ‘Christians’. As Jesus said “wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them [the wolves is sheep’s covering]”.
    For those of you that are still searching for the truth, I hope that my comments herein will help you to keep searching for the truth and see if it’s the JWs or some other religion that demonstrates the love Jesus spoke about that should be evident among HIS disciples and not those who are part of the world.
    Jason how about addressing what Doug C. stated about obeying Jesus words at John 13:34, 35.

    Sincerely.
    Russell M

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Russell M,

      Thanks for the comment. Passivism is not a matter of doctrine for Christians since Scripture does not address it directly. Each Christian is free to follow his own conscience in such matters.

      Let me point out the two fallacies that many lean on in this question. First, the fallacy that killing is murder. Second, the fallacy that love is niceness.

      First, killing is not always murder. We know this because God authorises war on a number of occasions in Scripture as well as instituting capital punishment in ancient Israel. This doesn’t mean modern societies must do these things necessarily, but it does mean that killing is not always inherently wrong. You’ll find that most translations make this distinction in the giving of the Ten Commandments: “You shall do no murder.”

      Second, love is not always nice. When the choice is between protecting the innocent and killing, love for the former requires the practice of the latter. Obviously few scenarios are that black and white, but the point remains. Which means that John 13:34-35 doesn’t necessarily forbid killing in every circumstance. Nor is that what the context of Jesus’ statement addresses. Rather, it addresses the way Christians will generally be known within society. It is disingenuous to ignore the context and focus on what is clearly an exception to the normal interactions of society (i.e. war).

      If your primary test of a church is what you perceive to be love, you will never settle in a church because the church is, by definition, full of sinners. Failures of love are the norm in such bodies of sinners. The distinction is that Christians admit the failures (repent) and seek reconciliation and make things right. This gospel process of repenting and forgiving is the distinctive of the church. In short, we are to be known by the love that drives this gospel process.

  11. avatar

    Russell M

    Jason I have been a Bible reader and student for many many years (over 50 years). So cheap statements are not going to be influential to me or anyone who is an avid student of the Bible. First, your last statement “If your primary test of a church is what you perceive to be love, you will never settle in a church because the church is, by definition, full of sinners” is not scripturally logical. It was JESUS the founder of Christianity that said that others will be able to tell his disciples by the love they would have: “By this shall ALL men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to the other”. (John 13:35) Your statement is directly opposite to Jesus statement. It seems to assume that Jesus would not be able to have such a group of genuine disciples. I believe he does HAVE such a church and that it is my responsibility to find that church. Therefore, I will try to follow what my Lord and Savior stated as to what to look for in the church that would make up true Christians and not allow specious statements by ANYONE to sidetrack me from my quest to be among those to whom my Lord will say “Well done, good and faithful servant….enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

    Your statements fail to address the real issue that causes the conflicts among professed Christians. Jesus said that HIS followers will be no part of the world and THIS is the real issue that causes Baptists to kill fellow baptists, to kill Catholics, Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox……. and the list goes on. So your statements do not hold water when Jesus standard for his followers is lined up against the practices of mainstream Christian religions. Why, it has been my experience that even locally they have feuds among themselves, racially, politically, economically…. Regarding these I think my Lord will say: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23

    I tell you if those Jehovah’s Witnesses can demonstrate to me that they are no part of the world as Jesus said regarding his follows as well demonstrate that they have genuine love among themselves, they will go a long, long way in showing me that they are teaching the truth from God’s Word the Bible. Your statements have served to provide me with a greater determination to hear out these maligned Jehovah’s Witnesses. If they could demonstrate to me that they follow those 2 statements by Jesus, namely: “they are no part of the world” and “ye have love one to the other” I will be most satisfied that I have found the genuine disciples of Jesus.

    Addressing the first point your made. I agree that killing is not always wrong. That is why the apostle Paul said with regard to the governmental authorities that it “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to EXECUTE wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Romans 13:4.

    But I believe that there is a need to balance Paul’s statement (the State’s use for force) with the statements of Jesus. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Also, after instructing his disciples to buy swords (Luke 22:36) he demonstrated that fighting for the greatest cause there ever could be, namely, ‘the protection of Jesus, himself’ was not allowed among HIS disciples: “Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. (Matthew 26:52) So Jesus thereby demonstrated that his disciples (who were to be “no part of the world”) were not to involve themselves in the conflicts of the world even if it were to adversely affect Christians, even the arrest and execution of their Lord, Jesus. There could be no greater cause than that. So the excuses propounded by those who ARE “part of the world” to try and show that it is okay for a Christian to take up arms against fellow Christians, even to defend local Christians ring real hollow. Why not be honest and admit that mainstream Christians have made themselves a part of the world that Jesus said he and his disciples were no part of?

    History tells us that early Christians refused to be involved in the secular conflicts and the army of the Romans; even when they were attacked. Note the following overwhelming historical statements regarding the first Christians:

    “The first Christians thought it was wrong to fight, and would not serve in the army even when the Empire needed soldiers.”—The New World’s Foundations in the Old, by R. and W. M. West

    “In the second century, Christianity . . . had affirmed the incompatibility of military service with Christianity.”—A Short History of Rome, by G. Ferrero and C. Barbagallo

    “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans. ”
    “Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers.”—Our World Through the Ages, by N. Platt and M. J. Drummond

    “It will be seen presently that the evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier between 60 and about 165 A.D. is exceedingly slight.”
    “Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least, no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.”—The Early Church and the World, by C. J. Cadoux

    “While they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience, they refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. ”
    “It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon

    Christ followers “refused to engage in [war]; whatever were the consequences, whether reproach, or imprisonment, or death.”—Jonathan Dymond

    “Until the time of Marcus Aurelius no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—The Rise of Christianity, by E. W. Barnes

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Russell,

      You’ve commented here under the pretense of being non-JW (e.g. “I think the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on my door I will be asking them…”). In reality, you’re quoting the NWT and copy/pasting large sections from the Watchtower.

      I’m happy to debate a JW on the odd occasion, but you’ve been disingenuous from the get go so the benefits are almost certainly nil in this situation.

      My advice to you is this:

      First, stop obsessing over pet issues. Pacifism is one among a million minor issues you could obsess over. Get to the core doctrines of the Christian faith and if they are right, commit to the Christian faith no matter what smaller issues you might have with this or that group or person.

      Second, stop playing with conspiracy theories. Yes, one out of ten might have some basis in truth, but if you continue to obsess over them, you will feed the arrogance that is letting you explore a cult that denies basic Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the deity of Jesus because they feed your unhealthy desire to be smarter than the people who are falling for these “conspiracies.” Walk away. This thinking will destroy your soul.

      Third, walk away from any group that has their own exclusive Bible translation. There is no legitimate form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian translations of Scripture.

      Fourth, learn to think for yourself. Copy/paste is a sure sign that you’re not. When you go to the assemblies, do they speak directly from Scripture? Or does the magazine guide the study of Scripture? I know the answer in our local assembly. If it’s the same there, don’t kid yourself that that is Bible study.

      Fifth, stop confusing niceness with love.

      Sixth, focus on the centre or you will live on the peripheral. Your last comment actually categorises the people who will be accepted by God, based on their membership in a church with certain views on Pacifism! That is sad and lame and will damn your soul if you don’t get back to the centre. What is the centre? God. Through Jesus Christ. Crucified. In your place.

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