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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Holy Spirit" in the Original Greek is Neuter - "It," "Itself" are Used in the Original New Testament Greek

It is true that the word for God (theos) in the New Testament is masculine, and masculine pronouns ("he," "him," "himself") are always used with it. The word "Father" is also in the masculine gender in the original Greek of the NT, and masculine pronouns are always used with it. The word "Son" is also in the masculine gender in the NT Greek, and masculine pronouns are always used with it. Certainly this is not surprising since God (Jehovah, the Father alone) has always been represented to his people as a living, conscious being, and Christ (Jesus, the Son) is always represented as a living, conscious person. It would be very strange, indeed, if they were not so described!

But "Holy Spirit" in the original Greek is neuter and therefore the neuter pronouns "it," "itself" are used with it in the original NT Greek! Any strictly literal Bible translation would have to use "it" for the holy spirit (since it is really not a person, but God's active force, a literal translation would be helpful in this case).

As the trinitarian New American Bible (Catholic), 1970 ed. admits:

"The Greek word for 'spirit' is neuter, and while we [trinitarians] use personal pronouns in English ('he,' 'his,' 'him'), most Greek manuscripts employ 'it.'" - New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., (footnote for John 14:17).

And the revised NAB of 1991 has actually changed "he/him" back to the literal "it"!

Also see An American Translation by trinitarians Smith and Goodspeed which uses "itself" and "it" for the holy spirit at Romans 8:16, 26, 27.

Here are the rules of Greek grammar that govern this situation. Professor Machen, writing in his New Testament Greek For Beginners, tells us:

"(II.) The noun for which a pronoun stands is called its antecedent. Thus in the sentence, 'I see the disciple and teach him', the antecedent of 'him' is 'disciple.'

(III.) A pronoun agrees with its antecedent in GENDER and number.
"Examples: (a) Bleto ton matheten kai didasko auton, [is translated] 'I see the disciple and teach him.' Here matheten ['disciple'] is the antecedent of auton ['him'], and since matheten is of masculine gender and singular number, auton is also masculine singular."(b) Meno en to oiko kai ginosko auton [is rendered in English as] 'I remain in the house and know it.' Here oiko ['house'] is the antecedent of auton ['him' in the original NT Greek] and since oiko is of masculine gender and singular number auton also is masculine singular [in the NT Greek]. In English the neuter pronoun 'it' is used, because the noun 'house' like all nouns denoting inanimate objects, is neuter in English. But in Greek the word for house is masculine, and therefore the masculine pronoun is used in referring to it. Hence the translations, 'he,' 'she,' etc...for the masculine and feminine of the Greek pronoun of the third person are correct only when the antecedents are denoting persons. In other cases, the pronouns will be neuter in English even when they are masculine or feminine in Greek." - pp. 47-48.

In other words, even if the Greek words for 'holy spirit' were in the masculine gender (and, therefore, the Greek masculine pronouns would be used with it), it still would not indicate that the holy spirit must be a person! Just as in many other languages things are often given feminine and masculine genders in Bible Greek.

However, since its literal title ("holy spirit") is really neuter in the NT Greek and really uses the neuter pronoun ("it") and takes the neuter definite article (Gr. to), there is the extremely high probability, from grammar alone, that it is not a person.

If we search through a concordance that shows the gender of Biblical Greek words, we will see that, in the vast majority of cases, words that are used mainly to literally describe persons use the appropriate gender for that person [similar to Spanish and other languages]:

"husband" (masculine), "wife" (feminine), "daughter" (feminine), "son" (masculine), etc.

Often the same basic Greek word is used for both sexes, but it will be given a feminine ending when applied to female persons and a masculine ending when applied to male persons: For example, "god" (theos - masculine) and "goddess" (thea - feminine), "prophet" (prophetes - masculine) and "prophetess" (prophetis - feminine), "king/queen," etc.

And even when, on occasion, we find a word that is applied equally to men or women, the gender of that individual is still shown by the gender of the article or pronoun used with it: For example, "doorkeeper" (thuroros) can be used for both men and women, but, when it is used in the NT for a male, the masculine article (ho) comes before it: ho thuroros (John 10:3), and when it is used in the NT for a female, the feminine article (h - looks like an elongated n in the Greek and pronounced 'hay.' ) comes before it: h thuroros (John 18:17). - Compare Mark 13:34 and John 18:16.

So, you see, in the vast majority (if not all) of cases a person's gender is shown by the gender of the Greek words and titles that literally[2] describe that person and/or by the gender of the article and pronouns that go with that Greek word.[3]

But not only is the literal "Holy Spirit" neuter in the original Greek, but so are the article (to - p. 34, Machen) and the pronouns (auto ['it'] and o [with two small breathing marks above it meaning 'which']- pp. 19, 68, Marshall) which go with it! [4]- See John 14:17 and 1 Cor. 12:4, 11 in any interlinear Bible or Greek text, for example. Cf. Ro. 8:16 in KJV, AT, and The Interlinear Bible, Jay P. Green, Baker Book House, 1982.

The only exception to this that I have found deals with very young, immature persons and animals. Young children sometimes are called paidion ("young child" - Matt. 2:8) and brephos ("infant" - Luke 1:41). These two Greek words are neuter and so are the article and pronouns that usually accompany them! Why these words are exceptions, I'm not certain. Perhaps one was not considered fully a person (at least as far as gender is concerned) until he reached maturity. (At any rate, the Holy Spirit would certainly be considered mature if it were really a person!)

It is quite clear, though, (from going through a New Testament Bible concordance that shows gender and examining an interlinear text) that it is extremely rare, if ever, that a mature person is not distinguished by a noun (or its article and pronouns) which shows the appropriate gender. And, although the word for an impersonal thing is often given a neuter ending, it is also very common for an impersonal thing to be given a masculine or feminine gender in all those areas!

Most trinitarian Bibles, then, go against the bulk of the literal grammatical evidence when they use "he," "him," etc. in translating the original Greek neuter pronouns with "holy spirit" as their antecedent. There are a very few places, however, where the Greek appears to use the masculine article and pronouns with "holy spirit."

If, when you examine the Greek text (as found in interlinear Greek-English New Testament Bibles), you occasionally find a masculine pronoun seeming to refer to the holy spirit, you will find that the actual antecedent is not "holy spirit" but some other noun (which, although representing a thing, does have the masculine gender assigned to it in NT Greek).

Even modern English is similar. If, for example, we have been speaking about death (an impersonal thing) and suddenly begin using the common personified figure for death, "the Grim Reaper," even in modern English we properly change pronouns from "it" to "he." E.g., "Death was fast approaching Mary. She could feel it coming. But when the Grim Reaper actually placed his hand on her and said, 'it's time, Mary,' she drew on her inner strength, pushed him back, and said, 'not yet!' She wasn't ready to accept it [death]."

The Greek word paraclete, parakleto", (rendered "comforter" in KJV; "helper" in some other translations) is in the masculine gender. So when paraclete is the actual antecedent (even though we understand that it may figuratively represents the holy spirit), its pronoun in the Greek must also be masculine.

We know that the masculine paraclete may be figuratively applied to an impersonal (neuter) thing as is so frequently done by the Jews in the languages used in the Bible. (See p. 37, Barclay's Letters of John and Jude, "The Daily Study Bible Series," The Westminster Press, Revised Edition, 1976.)[5]

See John 14:16, 26; and 16:7 for all the uses of "comforter" (paraclete - masculine) applied to holy spirit. You can see that the masculine pronoun (auton) does follow "comforter" after the word was introduced as the antecedent in John 16:7 (remember, the Greek pronoun, as well as the article, must agree with its antecedent in gender in NT Greek).

Sometimes it is not easy to determine what the actual antecedent is, as it may have been introduced sentences earlier.[6] If we look at John 14:16, for example, we see that paraclete is introduced. This means that, in spite of the introduction of "the spirit" (neuter) in John 14:17, the pronouns in that verse could have referred back to paraclete in verse 16 as their antecedent, and, in that case they would have to be masculine in the Greek! Instead, they obviously refer to the neuter "spirit" in verse 17 and, therefore, must be the neuter auto ('it').[7] - see AT, Ro, Byington, and The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English (literal translation).

Just the opposite may be occurring at John 16:7, 13. Although paraclete is introduced in verse 7 and "spirit" is introduced in verse 13 itself, many translators (including the NWT) refer the genitive reflexive pronoun in verse 13 back to paraclete as its antecedent. Therefore, they literally translate the 3rd person verbs and the 3rd person reflexive pronoun in verse 13 as "he will guide," "he hears," and "himself." I believe, however, that this may be an arbitrary choice. Since the third person verbs and the third person reflexive pronoun (eautou) can be interpreted as masculine, feminine, or neuter, a translator could use "spirit" (verse 13) as the antecedent and, therefore, translate the ambiguous third person verbs and reflexive pronoun literally in the neuter gender ("it hears," "itself," etc.).

Either way, however, there is no real reason to regard the holy spirit as a person because of the figurative use in a very few places of the masculine paraclete.[8] (It's too bad paraclete wasn't feminine in the Greek, as it could just as well have been. The feminine verbs and pronouns that would have resulted in the Greek would not have been literally translated then!) The much more frequent use of the neuter "holy spirit" and its neuter article and pronouns more strongly indicates just the opposite! (This is similar to the figurative use of the neuter "Lamb" in Rev. 5:6; 5:12; and 6:1 for Jesus. The masculine "Jesus" and "Christ," etc. of his literal name and descriptions show that he is a male person in spite of the neuter articles and pronouns that must be used in the NT Greek to agree with the neuter "Lamb.")
When we combine the gender use for the holy spirit in the New Testament Greek with the gender use for the holy spirit in the Old Testament Hebrew, we have a doubly significant statement.

For more, see:

Holy Spirit - Links to Information (Examining the Trinity)

Exposing the False Reasoning Behind Holy Spirit 'Proof-Texts' (SFBT)

Trinity Index (Examining the Trinity)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Translation and revision of Lev 23:21 proves that the New World Translation Bible translators DID know Hebrew

Some critics of Jehovah's Witnesses claim that the New World Translation Bible wasn't translated from the Hebrew and Greek, but was just a revision of other English Bibles such as the KJV, ASV, and Rotherham.

However, a mistranslation that occurred in the first volume of the 1953 New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures helps to demonstrate that the translators did indeed know Hebrew.

The NWT is the only Bible translation to have "Jehovah" in Lev 23:21.

In 1953, The first volume of the NWT of the Hebrew Scriptures was published, which had Leviticus 23:21 read:

"And you must proclaim on this very day Jehovah's holy convention for yourselves."

This stood for 26 years, when it was changed to:

"And you must make a proclamation on this very day; there will be a holy convention for yourselves."

Lev. 23:21 has יהיה ("there will be") which is remarkably similar to יהוה ("Jehovah"). The translators misread יהיה as יהוה and later corrected this as noted in the 8/15/79 Watchtower's notice to it's readers on page 31:

"A Correction
In making the New World Translation of Leviticus 23:21, the Hebrew יהיה (“it will be”) was misread as יהוה (“Jehovah”). Hence, the first sentence of this verse should read: “And you must make a proclamation on this very day; there will be a holy convention for yourselves.”'

The original mistake definitely shows that the translators were either working from or comparing a Hebrew text and not simply “revising” English bibles, and the revision shows that the later revisers were also checking the Hebrew.

Click on the following link to view:

Index of Links and Pages that Defend the New World Translation

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Do Jehovah's Witnesses View the Consumption of Alcohol?

Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to the Bible as the standard for all their beliefs. So when it comes to alcoholic beverages, they acknowledge that the Bible’s view of alcoholic beverages is balanced. On the one hand, the Scriptures say that wine is a gift from God “that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:1, 15) Jesus himself often drank wine with his meals. (Matthew 11:18, 19) On the other hand, in condemning overindulgence the Bible uses the expressions “heavy drinking,” “excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches,” ‘given to a lot of wine,’ and being “enslaved to a lot of wine.” (Luke 21:34; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3) The Bible forbids overindulgence in drinking. Drunkenness is a sin against God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

As a result, drinking alcoholic beverages is not central in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do not come dangerously close to drunkenness nor do they allow alcoholic beverages to impair or in any way interfere with their serving God with their whole soul and with a clear mind. (Matthew 22:37, 38)

The Bible helps to determine what constitutes a godly view of alcoholic beverages. Any amount of alcohol that may impair your “practical wisdom and thinking ability” as a Christian is too much alcohol. (Proverbs 3:21, 22) It also would seem unreasonable to conclude that a Christian would be “acceptable to God” if he drinks alcohol to the point of relinquishing his “power of reason”. (Romans 12:1)

For more, see:

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES (INDEX; Watchtower Online Library)

Alcohol (Search results from the Watchtower Online Library)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is the New World Translation the only Bible to phrase John 1:1c as "the Word was *a* God"?

(Also see: John 1:1 - A Number of Trinitaran Translations and Scholars Admit "a god"; Defending the New Translation)

"Is the New World Translation the only Bible to phrase John 1:1c as "the Word was *a* God"?"

Consider the following:

1808: “and the word was a god.” - The New Testament in an Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation: With a Corrected Text.

1864: “and a god was the word.” - The Emphatic Diaglott, interlinear reading, by Benjamin Wilson.

1928: “and the Word was a divine being.” - La Bible du Centenaire, L’Evangile selon Jean, by Maurice Goguel.

1935: “and the Word was divine.” - The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed.

1946: “and of a divine kind was the Word.” - Das Neue Testament, by Ludwig Thimme.

1958: “and the Word was a God.” - The New Testament, by James L. Tomanek.

1975: “and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word.” - Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Siegfried Schulz.

1978: “and godlike kind was the Logos.” - Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider.

Even Origen, the most knowledgeable of the early Christian Greek-speaking scholars, tells us that John 1:1c actually means "the Word [logos] was a god". - "Origen's Commentary on John," Book I, ch. 42 - Bk II, ch.3.

Jehovah's Witnesses have been criticized for allowing the indefinite article (a) at John 1:1c. However, the true fault lies with their critics. It is the other way around...the absence of the indefinite article at John 1:1c has been purposely mistranslated in most Trinitarian-produced Bibles to fit their doctrine that Jesus is God.

For much more concerning John 1:1, see:

John 1:1 (Links to Information)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

J. F. Rutherford and "Beth-Sarim"


Opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses have occasionally made references (most of the details being incorrect) to J. F. Rutherford and "Beth - Sarim" in an attempt to discredit the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. A look at the context and actual records would be beneficial:

The 1975 Year Book tells us that

"Brother Rutherford had a severe case of pneumonia after his release from unjust imprisonment during 1918-1919 because of his faithfulness to Jehovah. Thereafter he had only one good lung. It was virtually impossible for him to remain in Brooklyn, New York, during the winter and still carry out his duties as the Society's president. In the 1920's he went to San Diego under a doctor's treatment. The climate there was exceptionally good and the doctor urged him to spend as much time as possible in San Diego. That is what Rutherford did ultimately.

"In time, a direct contribution was made for the purpose of constructing a house in San Diego for Brother Rutherford's use. It was not built at the expense of the Watch Tower Society. Concerning this property, the 1939 book Salvation stated: `At San Diego, California, there is a small piece of land, on which, in the year 1929, there was built a house, which is called and known as Beth-Sarim.'" - p. 194.

By November of 1941 Brother Rutherford's condition compelled him to return to Beth-Sarim for his final illness. He died there January 8, 1942.
However, the Salvation book (written by Brother Rutherford) quoted above goes on to say:

"The Hebrew words `Beth Sarim' mean `House of the Princes'; and the purpose of acquiring that property and building the house was that there might be some tangible proof that there are those on earth today who fully believe God and Christ Jesus and in His kingdom, and who believe that the faithful men of old will soon be resurrected by the Lord, be back on earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth. The title to Beth-Sarim is vested in the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in trust, to be used by the president of the Society and his assistants for the present, and thereafter to be for ever at the disposal of the aforementioned princes on the earth. .... and if and when the princes do return and some of them occupy the property, such will be a confirmation of the faith and hope that induced the building of Beth-Sarim." - p.311.

Apparently Brother Rutherford had earlier written that he expected the return of these princes in the year 1925. I don't have a copy of that, but I see no reason to doubt it. Note, however, that Beth-Sarim wasn't built until 1929.

Money had been contributed for the specific purpose of "constructing a house in San Diego for Brother Rutherford's use" during his illnesses. The money, of course, could not be legally (or morally) used for any other purpose.

It's not surprising that in his book Brother Rutherford didn't care to detail these conditions which would have necessarily put his physical illnesses on public display. His decision to also dedicate this ground and building to those princes whom he truly expected to soon return is certainly understandable.

The fact that the princes did not return as soon as he expected was obvious even before Beth-Sarim was even built and certainly does not make Brother Rutherford a False Prophet.

Related Article:

Beth-Sarim (1929 - 1947) (Pastor Russell)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Should the name Jehovah not be used because it is said that the letter "J" isn't in Hebrew?

We can easily understand why many scholars prefer "Yahweh" since it clearly uses the four consonants YHWH. But why do we find so many Bibles using the name which has a "J"?

In the Middle Ages, the "Y" sound of the Greek "I" came to be written as either "I" or "J" (for the first letter of words, at least), and "Iesvs" became either "Iesvs" or, more ornamentally, "Jesvs." And, finally, the "v" came to be written as "u" and the name came into its final written form (in English) as "Jesus." (In fact, even the first editions of the King James Version still used the initial "I" instead of the equivalent "J" which shows that it was still pronounced "Yay-soos" in the English of 1611:

"In form, J was originally merely a [more ornamental] variation of `I,' arising in the 14th century .... Not until the middle of the 17th century did this usage [the new pronunciation of the new letter `J'] become universal in English books; in the King James Bible of 1611, for example, the words Jesus and judge are invariably Iesus and iudge." - p. 4823, Vol. 13, Universal Standard Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls), 1955.

"In the word `hallelujah' the j retains its early consonantal value of i or y." - p. 571, Vol. 15, The Encyclopedia Americana, 1957.

So even for some years after the KJV began using the new letter "J," the pronunciation of it was still "Y." But eventually (18th century?) we began to have "Jesus" (and other "J" words, including "Jehovah," "Jeremiah," "Jerusalem," "Joshua," etc.) with the modern English pronunciation of those letters: "Jee-suz." Nearly all modern English Bibles have purposely retained the earlier tradition concerning biblical names, and "Jesus" (and "Jeremiah," "Jerusalem," "Joshua," etc.) remains in all modern English Bibles.

Many believe that there is nothing wrong with retaining this tradition even though it is not the original pronunciation of the name of the Messiah (Yehoshua) nor even the original Greek rendering of it (Yaysoos). It is still an honest transliteration of the original proper name of the Messiah, however, and it is common to all speakers of English. (In like manner, although `Cristobal Colon' may be the original pronunciation, many do not object to calling the famous explorer `Christopher Columbus' in modern English.)

In the same way the only proper name of God Himself, YHWH, which is used nearly 7000 times in the original writings of the Old Testament is sometimes transliterated as "Jehovah" in English (ASV, Young's, KJIIV, NWT, Byington, and, in some verses only, in NEB, MLB, KJV, and Living Bible) and, more rarely, as "Yahweh" (JB, NJB, and Rotherham). (Of course it is more often improperly rendered "LORD" in most places in most Bibles.)

So which is the proper pronunciation of God's name - "Jehovah" or "Yahweh"? Well, many Bible scholars in more recent times have preferred "Yahweh" as the probable original Hebrew pronunciation. But there is still more to say for "Jehovah" in addition to the fact that it is the older, more traditional, and better-known form.

"In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters 'u' and 'v' were the same letter as were and 'i' and 'j'." -

So "Iehouah" (Yehowah) could also be written "Jehovah."

We are to know and use Jehovah's name. We also must not misunderstand how extremely important it is to Him (and to us). One of God's Ten Commandments, for example commands:

"You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name." - Ex. 20:7, NJB [cf. NRSV, NIV, NEB, REB, GNB, NLV, ETRV].

God certainly didn't say, "Don't ever use my Holy Name"! By direct Bible statements and commands and by the clear, thousand-fold repeated examples of all the prophets of God in the OT we know that God's Holy Name must be known and used by his people. (Mt. 6:9) This surely wouldn't mean for it to be withheld from usage or omitted from His Word the Bible, as unfortunately many copyists have kept to following the tradition of eliminating the distinctive name of God by replacing it with Ky´ri·os and The·os´ ("LORD" and "GOD").

God Himself makes it clear in the Bible how important His name is:

"Jehovah ... This is my name for ever; this is my title in every generation." (Ex. 3:15) - NEB