In July of 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia criminalized the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout that entire country. As a followup to that story, on the news and legal developments page of the website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, JW.org, there is an article titled, “Russia Moves to Declare the Bible ‘Extremist'”.
“On July 28, 2017, the Vyborg City Court will resume hearing the case to declare “extremist” the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian language.”
Russia is not declaring the bible itself extremist; it’s declaring the bible that has been translated and used by Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremist.
This is an important difference, as the bible translation used by Jehovah’s Witnesses is just that; a translation. God didn’t speak from the heavens directly into the ears of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and give them “the bible”; JWs translated certain texts to come up with their own version of the bible. It’s not only misleading to say that Russia is moving to declare “the bible” extremist when they’re simply banning one version, but it’s also presumptuous and borderline blasphemous to confuse your translation with “the bible” itself.
Being an atheist, I have issues with the bible as a whole, so I don’t typically get into discussions about which translation is the one to follow; as a matter of fact, one of my concerns about the bible is that god should be able to preserve it, completely and accurately, throughout history, without question as to its translation. If your eternal life depends on following the bible, I’d think you should have no question as to its meaning.
However, the article on the JW website did say something that caught my eye; it noted an “expert study” that was submitted to the court, explaining why the JW bible should be declared extremist:
“Its authors object to the New World Translation’s rendering of the Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” and falsely claim that the text was altered to fit the Witnesses’ doctrine.”
This is interesting, because the text of the bible has been altered by Jehovah’s Witnesses to fit their doctrine. Their own booklet, The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, page 23, says, “…no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books of Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full.” The New World Translation itself, in the 2013 version, appendix A5, page 1736, says, “Bible scholars acknowledge that God’s personal name, as represented by the Tetragrammaton (יהוה), appears almost 7,000 times in the original text of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, many feel that it did not appear in the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures.”
By the Witnesses’ own admission, the bible does not have god’s name or the Tetragrammaton in the Greek manuscript, or the “new testament.” Yet, in that same appendix, they defend adding the name “Jehovah” to those scriptures, some 237 times. This is done to support their doctrine that the name be used in worship, rather than referring to god as “lord.” This also supports their doctrine or belief that Jesus is not god. Referring to god by a different name, Jehovah, helps to differentiate between the two entities.
So, the article on their website says that the study submitted to the Russian court “falsely” claims that the text of their bible was altered to support their doctrine, but the facts say otherwise; Witnesses admit that they added the name to the text, and that’s an alteration.
It’s the Deception
While the ban of The New World Translation has gone into effect (see this news story), there are, of course, many legal and practical arguments against it, as this may open the door for scrutiny over other bible translations. Being an atheist who doesn’t believe that the bible can be translated correctly, in my opinion, it’s absolutely impossible to declare one translation of the bible, or even a limited number of translations, as being accurate or grossly inaccurate. How is a Russian court qualified to make this decision about every single translation out there?
However, that’s not the point. The point is that the headline of the article is very misleading, as Russia was not looking to ban “the bible” as a whole. It’s also misleading to say that the study “falsely” claims that the Witnesses altered the text. No matter their argument or defense when it comes to adding the name Jehovah into the bible, that’s what they did, and that’s an alteration. A bit of homework and research can show other instances of how the Witnesses may have mistranslated the bible by adding and taking away verses, words, and so on.
The decision on this ban aside, it’s the deception and dishonesty of the article title and the information inside that disturbs me. The religion is feeding into the hysteria and the persecution complex of its members by inflating the scope of the Russian probe, and by failing to own up to their actions of creating a bible that even the Russians see as being questionable at best.
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