|Jehovah's Witnesses: Just Incredible!|
Poor knowledge of the Sacred Texts favours the spread of garish and awkward manipulations
It has been a quarter of a century now since the Catholic intelligentsia thundered against Jehovah's Witnesses' massive preaching activity in the pages of Civiltà Cattolica, [the Jesuit Journal] (18 February 1984, n. 3208, p. 327).
Today, mutatis mutandis, the alarmism of that time seems no longer justified, albeit a greater awareness of the problem demands a more mature reflection that takes into account all that it has been possible to observe and examine in recent decades.
First of all the numbers: although it is true that in Western Europe (including Italy), enrolments in the movement is close to zero — if it is not actually decreasing — it must not be forgotten that this is mainly due to those who, having belonged to it for a certain period, willingly or unwillingly leave the group.
Pastoral attention must therefore be addressed to these people first. It must seek to alleviate the suffering and psychological hardship that arc inevitable after "severance" and rebuild a spiritual life in the face of the loss that nearly all of the disillusioned from any religious horizon experience.
However, if care for those who have left must be the main purpose of every community effort, one cannot forget to follow up on the task of gathering information on the parishes and movements within the organization, which is the only true "vaccine" to prevent people from becoming enmeshed in the Brooklyn movement and in the subsequent mental conditioning that can result.
As I have been able to document in my research, the "New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures" (TNM) [The Bible of Jehovah's Witnesses] is the principal tool for the work and proselytism of Jehovah's Witnesses (I Testimoni di Geova e la falsificazione dela Bibbia, Bologna, EDB, 2007).
In fact, one needs to know that all Jehovan missionaries are equipped, as in the best Protestant tradition, with an anthology of biblical verses to support their proclamation.
So far, so good, if it were not that among the translations in use by Jehovah's Witnesses (the TNM, precisely), and all the other translations in circulation, there are extremely important differences, especially in the key points, that concern precise theological topics: the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, to mention only the most important.
Let us consider a few examples: one of the most well-known distortions of the TNM, perpetrated to revive an Arian type of Christology, concerns the Prologue to John's Gospel, in which we do not read: "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1; NAB) but rather "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god" (TNM, 1987). [This translation] is consistent with the singular Jehovan assumption that Jesus Christ is none other than the Archangel Michael in disguise: not God but "a god", in other words an intermediate being between the Creator and the creature.
Again, the TNM rewrites no less ex novo the words of the Institution of the Eucharist and Jesus' words over the Bread: "this is my body" (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; I Cor 11:24; RSV) becomes "this means my body", with an equally presumptuous transformation of the verb "to be" with the aim to justify abolishing the Sacrament and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species.
In certain cases the result of the falsification is grotesque — either because the text does not always lend itself to the "adjustments" of the Brooklyn editors or because of the translator's limited perspicacity.
For example, so that we in turn might make known "the glory of God shining on the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6 NAB), becomes "to illuminate [them] with the glorious knowledge of God through the face of Christ", a somewhat clumsy attempt to hide the Apostle's belief in the full divinity of Jesus Christ.
The same goal prompted the translator not only to manipulate the text but also to make completely arbitrary additions or subtractions: "This is the word he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36; NAB), is rendered with "through Jesus Christ: this One is Lord of all [others]. Here, the difference between "Lord of all" and "Lord of all [others]"; (moreover unclear as to who these others might be), marks the distance between God and the minor god mentioned in Jn 1:1 (TNM).
But that is not all. If in John 16:27 Jesus says: "I came from God" (NAB), according to the TNM committee Jesus said instead: "I came out as the Father's representative", producing an unheard-of vision of an Archangel Michael with sumptuous robes in order to "represent Jehovah legally" (as was said in the issues of Watchtower of 1 September 1989 and 15 December 1978).
The manipulations concern every aspect of doctrine: the Governing Body (the organ that directs the Watchtower Society to which Jehovah's Witnesses refer) has established that one may not pray to Jesus Christ yet one finds in John 14:14 "If you ask anything of me, I will do it" (NAB), whereas "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it" (TNM), has lost something. This is in order to indicate that it is not Jesus who should be asked (as in the Gospel) but rather Jehovah (as the Governing Body desires).
Similarly, in the account in Acts, while Stephen was being stoned he was not praying to Jesus Christ but "made appeal" (TNM, Acts 7:59).
Once again, in the past century, in the 1930s it was determined that Jesus was not crucified but rather "died on a torture stake". Here the Cross disappears from the Gospel, arbitrarily replaced by a "stake" (unknown to the Fathers of the Church and absent from all the iconography), a successful marketing ploy of the late "Judge" Rutherford, (the second president of the Society) against Christianity's main symbol.
All things considered, the directors in Brooklyn were concerned above all with creating a strong spirit of identity; so it is that about 6,000 "Jehovah" make their entry into the text, replacing the words "God" and "Lord", also and above all when the Lord in question is Jesus Christ, creating no small confusion for those who start to read the New World with no biblical background.
This mass of falsifications is already in itself an antidote to Jehovan proselytism fur those who are familiar with the sacred texts. However, it should not be forgotten that biblical culture in the Western world is slowly but constantly fading and if on the one hand the advance of secularism poses serious problems also for the preaching of Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other, a certain religious illiteracy can offer them on the contrary a terrain that is still fertile.
It is, therefore, vital to work in this direction to promote at all
levels (school, parishes, the media), and especially among the new
generations, an education in basic biblical culture.
Weekly Edition in English
29 October 2008, page 26
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
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