May 2010

In biblical translation classes, there’s a saying: “There is no translation without interpretation;” it’s a way of acknowledging that whenever a disputed passage is up for translation, you’re not likely to going to go against your biases.

But one group — one with an American origin — is in a unique position: their interpretations are based on a specific translation.

The group? The Jehovah’s Witnesses. The translation? The New World Translation.

The Witnesses go back further than the existence of the New World Translation, which their organization — the Watchtower Society — publishes. But many of their doctrines or teachings that stand in opposition to orthodox Christianity are best supported by the New World Translation.

For example, their Christology is supported by the NWT’s rendering of John 1:1-2:

1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. 2 This one was in [the] beginning with God.

Compare this to the Authorized Version, which many Witnesses used before the NWT was widely available:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

Likewise, the NWT is used to support their teaching that Christ was killed on a stake rather than the traditional cross; in fact, the NWT says he was impaled. See John 19:14-25a:

14 Now it was preparation of the passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews: “See! YOUR king!” 15 However, they shouted: “Take [him] away! Take [him] away! Impale him!” Pilate said to them: “Shall I impale YOUR king?” The chief priests answered: “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 At that time, therefore, he handed him over to them to be impaled.

Then they took charge of Jesus. 17 And, bearing the torture stake for himself, he went out to the so-called Skull Place, which is called Gol´go·tha in Hebrew; 18 and there they impaled him, and two other [men] with him, one on this side and one on that, but Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate wrote a title also and put it on the torture stake. It was written: “Jesus the Naz·a·rene´ the King of the Jews.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this title, because the place where Jesus was impaled was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, in Greek. 21 However, the chief priests of the Jews began to say to Pilate: “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered: “What I have written I have written.”

23 Now when the soldiers had impaled Jesus, they took his outer garments and made four parts, for each soldier a part, and the inner garment. But the inner garment was without a seam, being woven from the top throughout its length. 24 Therefore they said to one another: “Let us not tear it, but let us determine by lots over it whose it will be.” This was that the scripture might be fulfilled: “They apportioned my outer garments among themselves, and upon my apparel they cast lots.” And so the soldiers really did these things.

25 By the torture stake of Jesus, however, there were standing his mother and the sister of his mother…

Then, there’s the teaching that Christ was raised as a spirit person, based on the NWT’s rendering of 1 Peter 3:18:

Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous [person] for unrighteous ones, that he might lead YOU to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.

For comparison, again, here’s the Authorized Version:

3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The examples go on.

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses will adamantly demand that the NWT is the most accurate translation of the Bible ever rendered. That the most accurate translation ever rendered exactly affirms their teachings is not lost on them.

So, what great biblical scholars translated the NWT?

No one knows.

The translation committee was anonymous at their request, though some have hazarded a guess at who it could have been.

You can read the NWT online at the Watchtower Society’s website.


Just to let you know, I have two other blogs. I know this demonstrates hubris on my part, that I would even think that I have enough thoughts in my head to generate three blogs worth of work (heck, I only average a post a week here), but the other two exist so as  to keep the clutter here to a minimum.

The first of the others, Bone Saved, averages two posts a month (though not even all of those are substantial). It’s my considerations of American popular religion. I had much higher hopes for this when I started it, and I would love for this to become a group blog.

The second, Etude in V, is new. It’s more or less a personal musical listening archive.

This has been sitting in my drafts for six months.

WEST MONROE (KNOE 8)-Technology is becoming more evident in the church. If church-goers don’t have cash or checks they can make donations through the use of their debit card. A West Monroe Church has installed what resembles an ATM, as a way of letting its congregation give back.

It’s a church staying up to date with what some fondly describe as an automated teller machine of a spiritual kind.

[A] church in West Monroe is giving members like [Mr. Giver] the option to use debit cards instead of cash by using a giving kiosk.

Church member, [Mr. Giver], says, “I like being able to pay my bills online, not having to write checks, so the ease of being able to use my debit or credit card is just more faster and convenient.”

The kiosk is a computer device that resembles the everyday ATM.

By simply typing in select information, [Giver] can enter how much he wishes to give, and to which ministry his money will go.


Don’t look to get any cash back, the giving kiosk doesn’t do that or charge a fee.

The church hopes it will allow people to enjoy swiping as a means of showing their faith.

120 churches across the country are currently using the kiosk machines.

Read the whole story here: Source:

While I cannot find something outright objectionable about this, something about having a pay-as-you-go debit card swiping kiosk at your church doesn’t sit right with me.

Woe be unto me for criticizing anyone for giving (I’m terrible about it), but I’ve always thought that part of giving an offering is the idea of sacrifice, and sacrifice isn’t convenient. I know that there is a certain irony in this coming from a guy who has three blogs (albeit three blogs that aren’t well-maintained), but this seems symptomatic of the electronic disconnect more and more people appear to be experiencing;

I know that when I pay with cash, I always feel a bit more reluctant to part with my money than when I pay with a debit card, because debits are one computer exchanging a string of zeros and ones with another computer, whereas with cash you are physically parting with something — the sacrifice just doesn’t seem as strong when you can’t see it take place.

Anyway, food for thought.

I can sometimes have unsophisticated tastes. In fact, most of the time I have unsophisticated tastes (my most recent Netflix viewings were of the first two seasons of “My Name is Earl,” a startlingly accurate depiction of what would happen if trailer trash embraced eastern philosophy — it’s hilarious but often crude).

My musical tastes are — by the large and in a very broad sense — more refined. These days, when by myself I mostly listen to Eastern Church music and classical symphonic music (everything from Baroque through the Contemporary period, though I don’t listen to postmodern symphonies because they’re across the board crap. Postmodern opera has its moments.).

When with others — say, in the car — I listen to 90’s pop-rock, a smattering of Top 40s and contemporary country, though I only really like the first of the three. I do this because I know not everybody likes Rachmaninoff.

But I have a confession: I don’t pass up Lady Gaga on the radio dial, even if it is the musical equivalent of chasing a bottle of whiskey with a 10-pound bag of sugar followed by a can of lard with cocaine powdered in.

Gaga has a unique sense of pop music, both in what is creative and what is marketable. She walks the line very carefully, making music that is almost unbearable to endure and yet entirely catchy. She constantly employs electronic aids for vocals but is capable of singing and singing well; by her own description, her music is “soulless pop.”

But it is more than that — it is musical pornography. It is meant to arouse you while you listen to it, but once it is finished nothing is created and you aren’t left feeling satisfied. Even at its most tumultuous her music lacks any real emotion, and if you’ve seen her videos, she never breaks that dead-eyed stare. Ever.

So why do I keep listening to Lady Gaga? I can’t really explain it, except to go back to the pornography analogy for a second. Studies have shown that every time someone watches pornography, a small portion of their brain is rewired to think of pornography as the normal expression of sexuality; every subsequent viewing, that rewiring is reinforced, deeper entrenching those impressions.

And so it is with Gaga’s soulless pop; even though it is devoid of love (though not of creativity), every subsequent listen reinforces the idea that this is art.

My response to all of this, at least today, is to listen to Prokofiev.

Of course, I prefer his Russian contemporaries (and even moreso their successors), but this Chopin piece isn’t bad. Polish angst at its best. Of course, here it is performed by a Russian.

(I thought I’d borrow Serge‘s posting style)

From Fr. Ernesto:

To me hobbits are a wonderful picture of holiness in daily life. No, they are not perfect. But, they are mostly content. They live their lives in simple joy, carrying out their family duties generation after generation, faithful to their families and to the land. They are not worried about massive acts of asceticism, neither do they write long theological tomes. They are not the “great” of the land, nor are they pictured that way. But, they are a people of faithfulness and promise-keeping. They are committed to each other and their community.

But, when the time of testing comes, the hobbit turns out to be much more than what one expects. Their life of quiet family holiness, of consistency and of promise keeping, stand them in good stead when great evil befalls them. It is their actions during the time of great testing that is the proof of their quiet holiness.

If only we could all be Hobbits.

From Arturo:

In my life as a Catholic, it has veritably all been a game of “the more you know, the less you know”. You go through most of your life thinking that such-and-such is traditional, only to find out that it is less than a hundred years old: a drop in the bucket in the vast well of human history. The obsession of the Catholic Church, even prior to Vatican II, was an obsession for novelty, which was often compensation for the shame Catholic scholarship felt before that bitch goddess we know today as “historical scholarship”. Having not paid attention to what was really thought and believed, we found that what we had been doing and saying for centuries was all the fruit of novelty. And the only anecdote for novelty was more novelty. God forbid that we should actually stay the course.

What Arturo goes on to discuss is the evolution of Thomistic thought in the Catholic Church, a discussion that is about five levels above my pay grade, but his initial point certainly rings true, both in the traditional communions and in the lowest of the low church traditions: what we label as traditional Anglicanism is actually the work of 19th century Anglo-Catholic tract writers and the 1928 BCP, and many of those in the Orthodox convert movement are guilty of mistaking pious practices that aren’t that old in the grand scheme of things as dogma; in the low church arena, what is considered traditional Baptist practice is mostly the codification of 1920s and 1930s fundamentalist reaction to modernity and Pentecostalism, with Pentecostalism itself being barely a century old. Old time religion, indeed.

From Peter Leithart:

Marjorie Garber argues that our view of Romeo and Juliet has been altered by contemporary trends and events.  Romeo has become the standard American high school Shakespeare play, and some of its themes and sensibility were taken up by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s.

As a result, the play ends up being part of the framework for our interpretation of the play: Romeo affected our conceptions of love, especially young love, and our conceptions of generational differences, and we now read the play in the light of those conceptions.

Literary mores become social mores, creating an interpretive echo chamber; what was tragic and foolhardy (albeit an elegant observation) in the 1600s seems like the obvious end result to kids who would otherwise be reading novels about a teenage girl lusting after an undead centenarian with a glitter problem.

From Jesus Radicals (who I don’t wholly endorse but do like):

All governments operate on a model of ruling over people. But the Gospels claim that Christians should model Jesus’ suffering servanthood. These are fundamentally incompatible outlooks. Anarchism, at its best, is a commitment to systematically critiquing all structures that place one person or group in a position to dominate others or creation. So anarchism, as a political philosophy holds some promise for Christians because the two share a commitment to critiquing the power structures and working towards a more level playing field.

Because the term “anarchy” has recently worked its way back into political news reporting — and its applications haven’t been particularly flattering — I feel I should clarify what I mean when I use the term. Perhaps this is classic pseudo-postmodernism, defining a word to make it mean what I want it to mean, but I want to be met on my terms, not someone else’s pre-suppositions.

So, with that in mind, when I talk about being an anarchist, I don’t mean that I advocate the wild-eyed throwing of Molotov cocktails, or even of lawlessness. What I mean is that I do not believe that, just by the virtue of its existence, I necessarily owe a political system — even a very noble political system — my allegiance; that is, I am not obligated to unflinching loyalty to a given government or system of government just because I was born under it. People generally agree with this when you apply it to Communism, but when you point that same gun at post-liberal western democracies, you’re a traitor. Nevermind that post-liberal western democracies have gotten really efficient at generating the illusion of freedom without granting it.

As a Christian, I am obligated to obey the lawful laws of the land, but I cannot genuflect to Caesar while muttering about just following orders. My loyalties lie with a King and his kingdom, and — as institutions go — to the Church.I suppose this makes me more of a monarchist than an anarchist.

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