In the midst of discussing Coptic translations of the 3rd century - practically the earliest of all translations yet discovered - did you know they translate John 1:1 exactly as the New World Translation – “the Word was a god”? - one grouser has had enough. He wants to know who translated the NWT. What qualifications did they have?
Grouser: Just b/c I understand what you mean when you say this, doesn’t
mean I’m qualified to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.
What were the qualifications of the men who translated the NWT into English?
What in the world does that statement have to do with anything? No one’s asking you to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.
The point is that, in a language closer in time to the actual usage of Koine Greek, the translators rendered John 1:1 exactly as does the NWT today. Viewed in this light, the NWT is not "changing" John 1:1. Rather, manuscripts well after John penned his letter changed the verse, and NWT has restored it to as it should be.
But he’s done with Coptic. He wants a new topic.
What he is hoping is that I will admit we didn’t really use translators at all, but hired trained orangutans for the job. It’s a common taunt from those who can’t stand Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just who are these translators, anyway? Do they have letters trailing their name? Do they really know any language besides Pig Latin?
It’s not easy to satisfy on this point since the NWT translating committee has ever remained anonymous. Not just the NWT - everything Watchtower published is anonymous. One consequence is that people must focus on the work itself and not just who wrote it. But it’s a lot easier to do the reverse: find out who wrote it, and then figure on that basis if it’s any good or not. It's the tactic of a lazy lout. After all, examining a work takes time. Examining credentials of the author can be done in 2 seconds.
Is the New World Translation any good or not? One ought to be able to determine that without knowing the “qualifications of the translators.” Instead, qualifications become apparent through examination of the work itself. That holds true in any other aspect of life. Why should it not hold true here as well? When Mrs Sheepandgoats and I moved into our present house, we looked it over for quality. We even hired an inspector. Satisfied, we purchased it. But we don’t know who built the house, and we’ve not lost any sleep on that account. The qualifications of the builders are evident from what is built.
Shortly after the New World Translation’s release, back in 1963, the Andover Newton Quarterly wrote: “The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation.” How do they know the “scholars” are “qualified”? They examined the work itself. Does it bother them that the translators are anonymous? It doesn’t seem to. “The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed — a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek,” the journal wrote in 1966. They could tell the work was well done without knowing the authors, just as you can tell the earth is beautiful without knowing its Creator. But stupid and lazy persons insist they have to know the authors first. Rubbish. To insist that credentials determine a work’s value is to insist that Microsoft is a nickel-and-dime third rate outfit because Bill Gates is “unqualified” – he holds no degrees in computer science, and never completed college.
Or what about Marilee Jones, the MIT Dean of Admissions who was carted out like yesterday's trash when it was found she was “unqualified” for her job. She’d forged her credentials! Those letters and degrees she carried - all made up! Yet before she was found out, they'd sung her praises to the heavens! She was a leading expert in her field! On the other hand, the most qualified financial people in the world darn near destroyed the entire world economy. Evolutionists positively reek with qualifications, and they’ve determined there is no God at all! Not to berate qualifications, of course – God forbid! - but they are frequently used merely to screen persons, as any job-seeker knows. And to pad the education industry.
Opponants sneered at the apostles for lack of qualifications: "Now when they [qualified religious leaders of the day] beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering,” Acts 4:13 tells us. Jesus fared no better: “Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?" (John 7:15) Got it? Christianity’s a flop because its founder was not “qualified.”
Frankly, Watchtower, through its program, structure and dedication, is a "school" in its own right. Can one learn languages only through the world's universities? Sheesh! A two-year-old raised in a bilingual homes picks up both tongues without effort. Put him in a tri-lingual home, and he picks up three. Okay, ancient language adds a degree of complication, I admit, but still, language is just a means of communication and surely there are many avenues through which one may learn it. Besides, what do they do most there in Bethel? What are they known for? TRANSLATING! The Watchtower magazine is presently translated into 174 languages. Try to find any material of any sort so widely translated!
So, IF it turns out that NWT translators bypassed the advanced degrees of prestigious universities, that's not the big deal detractors make it out to be. Yet, even THAT can't be determined for sure. Detractors claim to know who the translators were, and have a field day with their supposed "lack of qualifications." But how you positively identify a group which has never identified itself is beyond me. And even if those guessed-at persons chaired a committee, that by no means says they personally did all the work, just as a builder might farm out various areas of expertise on the home he's building.
"Maybe there were many others," admits another sorehead. "But again, in a matter like this, what or why would they hide? Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl? Honestly, provide one reasonable excuse why these men should be anonymous."
What’s wrong with modesty? By remaining anonymous, they direct attention to the work (and its real author), and not themselves. “Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl,” my rear end! They’ve not put the work under a bowl. They’ve put themselves under it. Now, having accomplished a great work, people today are given to strutting around and basking in the praise of their peers. To forsake that shows unusual modesty. We live in a culture in which people are obsessed with personalities, and in which they focus, not so much on words said, but on who said the words. Anonymity thwarts such laziness.
Most criticism of the New World Translation arises because it does not translate certain verses in the precise words necessary to uphold the Trinity doctrine. This is extremely important to Trinity people, because the Trinity teaching derives almost all of its authority from such 'formula' verses. Many translations have rendered such verses similar to the NWT over the years, but such translations all tank because they depend on the world's commercial marketplace for distribution - and Trinitarians won't touch them with a ten foot pole. The NWT would also tank if distributed that way, no doubt, but it's distributed in an entirely unique way by dedicated Christians, outstripping anything the world’s commercial system could accomplish, and at a very nominal cost.
If you believe in the Trinity, you'll loathe the NWT and do everything possible to discredit it. But if you don't carry that baggage, and you're permitted to look at it without preconceived ideas, it speaks well for itself. In fact, Jason Beduhn, who has theological qualifications coming out of his ears, compared 9 popular translations and concluded the New World Translation is the most accurate, containing the least bias, of all of them. His 2003 book is entitled Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. He's not hung up at all about anonymous translators. He has enough ability to look at the work itself, and not just who produced it.