Thy Word, O LordJason Barker
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.1
Pseudo-Christian groups are particularly cognizant of this passage. Because the Bible is the unchanging Word of the unchanging God, groups whose doctrines are not in tune with biblical truth are forced to somehow alleviate the problems caused by the discrepancy. Many groups, such as the Christian Science church, will use their publications (e.g., Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) to reinterpret the biblical passages that contradict their distinctive teachings. As we shall see, however, other groups go so far as to change the Bible itself in order to uphold their teachings.
The New World TranslationPerhaps the best known revision of the Bible is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. As of 1988, the Watchtower Society had printed 53,500,000 copies of the NWT.2
The Society's widely published rationale for issuing the NWT is that pagan religious traditions had influenced the previous English-language translations of the Bible. For example, in the Forward to the original 1950 edition of the NWT, the Society wrote, "Religious traditions, hoary with age, have been taken for granted and gone unchallenged and uninvestigated. These have been interwoven into the translations to color the thought. In support of a preferred religious view, an inconsistency and unreasonableness have been insinuated into the teachings of the inspired writings." In a later reiteration of this accusation, the Society claims that "some modern translators have completely eliminated the personal name of God from their works. Others have wrongly translated the word Gehenna as "hell fire."3
Ironically, considering what readers shall see regarding the integrity of the NWT, the Society states regarding non-Witness Bible translators, "If someone deliberately changes or omits part of the contents of the Bible, he is on dangerous ground."4 The article concludes by asserting the superiority of the NWT: "On the point of translator bias 'the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses can survive the scrutiny of criticism.'"5 Unfortunately, this claim is not accurate.
The NWT inserts the name Jehovah 237 times into the New Testament when, in fact, the name does not appear once in any significant Greek manuscripts. The name does not even appear in the 1948 Hort and Westcott critical Greek text, which is the Greek text published by the Society itself in its Kingdom Interlinear Translation. The additions were clearly given to support the Watchtower claim that Witnesses must continually use the divine name in order to be saved.
Even more significant than these additions are the substantive changes the Society has made to detract from the deity of Christ. The most widely known change in the NWT is in John 1:1, where the NWT reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." This is in direct contradiction to the Greek texts, which uniformly read (transliterated), "En archee een ho Logos, kai ho Logos een pros ton Theon, kai Theos een ho Logos," or "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word." The Society clearly added the article "a" to make John 1:1 support their belief that Jesus Christ is not truly God.
Interestingly, the Society has supported its revision of John 1:1 by referring to an identical alteration in Johannes Greber's 1917 The New Testament - A New Translation and Explanation.6 This is highly problematic for the Society, however, because the Watchtower Society has, at various times, admitted that Greber was a spiritist who received his New Testament as it was revealed to him by unseen spirits.7
These brief examples show that, contrary to the claims of the Watchtower Society, the NWT cannot withstand scrutiny.
Joseph Smith Translation
Less familiar to many people, but just as egregious in its alterations of the Bible, is the version created by Joseph Smith from October 1830 - July 1833. Smith changed at least 3,410 verses in the Bible in order to make Scripture support his developing theology.8
The eighth Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, written by Joseph Smith, states the reason for Smith's revisions: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." Smith elaborates elsewhere upon his understanding of translation by saying, "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors."9 In other words, by "translation" Smith actually means "transmission:" because errors occurred in the transmission of the Bible, he needed to create a new version that would return altered passages and themes.
The Bible was, according Smith and his previously written Book of Mormon, missing many "plain and precious" things that were removed by clerical scribes.10 In fact, only fourteen books remain unchanged after Smith completed his revisions, and only three of these (Philemon and 2 and 3 John) were in the New Testament. He deleted entirely the Song of Solomon as being uninspired. The fact that there are major doctrinal changes between the original Bible and the JST thus cannot be unexpected.
One of the most dramatic changes in the JST are the changes that it makes in Genesis 1-8 to teach that Adam, Enoch, and Noah all accepted and taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also notable is the fact that the patriarchs received the Holy Ghost, something the unaltered Bible teaches did not happen until Pentecost.
The JST also adds several sentences to the end of Matthew 2: "And it came to pass that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh."11 It further alters the passage in which Jesus appears in the temple for his bar mitzvah from teaching that Jesus "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions," to "they were hearing him, and asking him questions."12 The passage clearly alters the relationships that Jesus had with his family and religious teachers as depicted in the Bible.
Another significant change in the JST (and there are many others besides the ones covered here) appears in the Lord's Prayer, which the JST changes from "lead us not into temptation" to "suffer us not to be led into temptation."13 This change, in which Joseph Smith attempts to answer what some people see to be a problematic passage, accounts for many of his textual changes. For example, to prevent his readers from believing that God personally causes His followers to be tempted, Smith changed his translation of Isaiah 63:17 from "O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart?" to "O Lord, why hast thou suffered us to err,.and to harden our heart?"
It is particularly interesting to note that the LDS Church does not accept the JST as one of their Standard Works. They instead continue to use the King James Version that Joseph Smith found to be entirely inadequate (the LDS Church does, however, include footnotes in its KJV to indicate approximately 700 of Smith's 1,150 alterations14).
The Book of YahwehMuch like the Watchtower Society, Yisrael Hawkins and the House of Yahweh believe that God's name was deleted from the biblical manuscripts. In fact, Hawkins criticizes the Watchtower Society for acknowledging that Yahweh is the Hebrew pronunciation of the divine name, but nonetheless deciding to use Jehovah.15 Hawkins extends his criticism to the anglicizing of Hebrew names: "By changing Yeremyah, which means, 'May Yahweh lift up,' to Jeremiah, which means nothing, the later translators effectively hid the Name of Yahweh; therefore, not even a hint of Yahweh's Name remains in this name."16
In order to rectify this perceived sacrilege, Hawkins created The Book of Yahweh (BOY), a new Bible with the sacred name allegedly restored to the Scripture. Hawkins states regarding the goal for the translation:
Hawkins is emphatic the changes he made in his version of the Bible restore the Bible to its original textual purity:
It has been our purpose and goal to go far beyond all other conscientious Scholars. We who have worked on this Translation have purposed, not only to replace Yahweh's Name in all the Scriptures in which it was inspired to be written, but we have also purposed to replace Yahweh's wonderful Name in each of the hundreds of places where it was used in compound with place names, and within personal names. As you read these Scriptures, you will see how many times the Name of Yahweh was honored by our forefathers. and [sic] how many times the translators HID this wonderful Name.17
"However, the Scriptures themselves have been thoroughly studied, compared, and critiqued; every Scripture that has been changed from the King James Version can be PROVEN beyond any shadow of doubt; thereby building your faith and trust in Yahweh our Heavenly Father, and Creator of the universe.
We have purposed to REPLACE the many vital words which were deliberately left UNTRANSLATED in today's modern English versions; words which, untranslated, disguised the true message which Yahweh inspired to be written, or else perpetuated the many 'traditions of men'--not according to the Scriptures--but rampant in this world!To summarize Hawkins' actions: he deleted some of the biblical passages, added others, and rewrote still others so that their meanings are clear to his followers. Unfortunately, the impact of such changes is highly detrimental to his stated goals.
We have also purposed to remove all words and WHOLE VERSES that have been ADDED to the original Scriptures (such as the 'footnotes' that became 'inspired' Scriptures, as a later copyist included them in the Holy Writings).
Most of the time, these added words change, hide, or contradict the original message of Yahweh; effectively confusing the reader, who is in search of the Truth of Yahweh. We have not omitted these Scriptures arbitrarily; indeed, the commentaries of the Religious Scholars themselves have stated these Scriptural facts. We, only, have acted upon the facts presented.
We have purposed, as well, to clearly translate the many verses that have been left unclear, and not understandable, in other translations. The Book of Yahweh is written in modern English; yet, at the same time with the thought of presenting all the truth of Yahweh. One of the most frequently heard complaints about the translations today, is against the hundreds of unintelligible verses they contain.18
A particularly vivid example of the changes Hawkins made in the BOY is his alteration of Zechariah 5:5-11. Below is the passage from the KJV:
Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.Note the dramatic additions in Zecharyah from the BOY (all emphases and errors are in the original):
Then the malak who was speaking with me came forward, and said to me: Lift up your eyes now, and understand that which is sent by commandment.The revisions are clearly intended to support Hawkins' unique theology. The passage from Zechariah becomes, through Hawkins' theological filter, a prophecy of the founding of the House of Yahweh by Yisrael and Yaaqob [a.k.a. Buffalo Bill and J.G.] Hawkins. Particularly interesting, considering Hawkins' highly misogynistic worldview that resulted in his first wife leaving him, is that he changed the two women in verse nine into two witnesses, representing his brother and himself. Despite Hawkins' claims to the contrary, the only support for such revisions is in his theology.
And I asked: What is it? And he answered: This is the ephah; The Standard of Perfection, which is sent by Yahweh's Law. Then he added: This is honor, knowledge, and understanding throughout the whole earth.
And behold, the sum total of the heaviest cover; of deception and delusion, was taken. And there was the First Woman; The First Era of the House of Yahweh, established in the midst of the ephah; The Standard of Perfection which is sent by Yahweh's Laws.
And this is the wickedness: And Satan overthrew The House of Yahweh within the midst of the ephah; The Standard of Perfection sent by Yahweh's Laws - by casting the same weight of lead; cover of deception, against her mouth;successfully suppressing the Word of Yahweh (the Law and the Prophets).
Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold: Two women; The Last Two Eras of The House of Yahweh, sent with commandment. The Spirit of Yahweh came to overspread them; and they were covered with the covering of saints. And they exalted, magnified, and extolled the ephah; the Standard of Perfection sent by Yahweh's Laws, separatingthe of the world from the Way of Yahweh [sic].
Then I said to the malak who was speaking with me: Where are they; The Two Witnesses, going with the ephah?
And he said to me: To build The House of Yahweh according to The Standard of Perfection sent by Yahweh's Laws, in a Babylonish land which does not yet exist. And it will be established at that time; when The Two Witnesses are called out to their work; as the Established Place; the Habitation of Yahweh; THE HOUSE OF YAHWEH.
ConclusionThe Psalmist wrote, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."19 The eternality of God's Holy Scripture is ultimately the bane of pseudo-Christian groups; they must attempt to change the Bible in order to claim the Bible's support for their doctrine and practices. Unfortunately, the same Scripture that they alter is the on by which they will ultimately be judged.
1 Hebrews 4:12.
2 Information in frontispiece of 1988 printing of the New World Translation (1984 edition).
3 "Insight on the News," The Watchtower, October 15 (1985), p. 21.
6 See The Word, Who is He? According to John (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1962), p. 5.
7 See The Watchtower, February 15 (1956).
8 "Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible," [Online]. URL http://www.mormons.org/basic/bible/jst_eom.htm.
9 The Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327.
10 1 Nephi 13:21-41.
11 Matthew 2:24-26.
12 Luke 2:46.
13 Matthew 6:13 in the KJV; Matthew 6:14 in the JST.
14 Sharon Lindbloom, "The Bible: Restored and Revised," [Online]. URL http://www.answeringlds.org/awisBibleResRev.html.
15 "The Book of Yahweh," [Online]. URL http://www.yahweh.com/pages/bookad/boy.shtml.
17 Ibid. Emphasis in original.
19 Psalm 119:89.