Greek Scholars & The Watchtower: Julius Mantey

 Julius Mantey was arguably the greatest Greek scholar of the 20th century. He was co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, a Greek grammar that was in use for half a century to teach Greek in prominent schools. Along with other Greek grammar book authors A. T. Robertson and Daniel Wallace, Mantey disagreed with the Watchtower’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses’) book, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). For several years, Mantey was quoted in a footnote to the NWT, with the Watchtower trying to use Mantey’s grammar book to support their view of the bible. Mantey took offense, and wrote the letter below.

The significance of this letter is that it is from a respected author of a Greek grammar. We live in a free country, and Wathtower supporters have, and likely will continue, to disagree with any point they desire.

I am not in a position to defend Mantey; a scholar of his caliber does not need a defense from me. I am not a language scholar, do not pretend to be one, nor will I hide my ignorance of the languages. Concerning grammar and translation, too many arguments are made from those who should have remained silent, and I do not wish to contribute to the problem by adding my words to the conversation.

But I know enough to use the tools and quote the scholars. Of the three Greek grammars I mentioned, all specifically disagree with the NWT. The Watchtower can protest all they want, but their disagreement is with the unified opinion of all the language scholars. If the Watchtower ever publishes a Greek text that is used in accredited schools to teach Greek, or can find one that is in agreement with them, they will be taken seriously. Until then, they will not. Below is a top-tier scholar’s view of the Watchtower and their book.

Anyone can write a book claiming to know what they are talking about, but this does not make them true. The only objective reference we have for language is the recognized grammars. If the Watchtower claims all of the grammars are wrong, they have made a self-refuting statement.

Julius R. Mantey
414 Palmette Road
New Port Richey, FL 33552
July 11, 1974

Watchtower Bible & Tract Society
117 Adams St.
Brooklyn
New York 11201

Dear Sirs:
I have a copy of your letter addressed to Caris in Santa Ana, California, and I am writing to express my disagreement with statements made in that letter, as well as in quotations you have made from the Dana-Mantey Greek Grammar.

(1) Your statement: “their work allows for the rendering found in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1.” There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply at “a god” was a permissible translation in John 1:1.

A. We had no “rule” to argue in support of the trinity.

B. Neither did we state that we did have such intention. We were simply delineating the facts inherent in Biblical language.

C. Your quotation from p.148 (3) was in a paragraph under the heading: “With the Subject in a Copulative sentence.” Two examples occur there to illustrate that “the article points out the subject in these examples.” But we made no statement in the paragraph about the predicate except that , “as it stands the other persons of the trinity may be implied in theos.” And isn’t that the opposite of what your translation “a god” infers? You quoted me out of context. On pages 139 and 140 (VI) in our grammar we stated: “without the article theos signifies divine essence . . . theos en ho logos emphasizes Christ’s participation in the essence of the divine nature.” Our intepretation is in agreement with that in NEB and the TEV: “What God was, the Word was”; and with that of Barclay: “The nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God”, which you quoted in your letter to Caris.

(2) Since Colwell’s and Harner’s articles in JBL, especially that of Harner, it is neither scholarly  nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 “The Word was a god”. Word-order has made obsolete and incorrect such a rendering.

(3) Your quotation of Colwell’s rule is inadequate because it quotes only a part of the his findings. You did not quote this strong assertion: “A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a ‘qualitative’ noun solely because of the absence of the article.”

(4) Prof Harner, vol. 92:1 (1973) in JBL, has gone beyond Colwell’s research and has discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. He found this true in 53 passages in the Gospel of John and 8 in the Gospel of Mark. Both scholars wrote that when indefiniteness was intended the gospel writers regularly placed the predicate noun after the verb, and both Colwell and Harner have stated that theos in John 1:1 is not indefinite and should not be translated “a god”. Watchtower writers appear to be the only ones advocating such a translation now. The evidence appears to be 99% against them.

(5) your statement in your letter that the sacred text itself should guide one and “not just someone’s rule book”. We agree with you. But our study proves that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the opposite of that whenever the “sacred text” differs with their heretical beliefs. For example the translation of kolasis as cutting off when punishment is the only meaning cited in the lexicons for it. The mistrnalstion of ego eimi as “I have been” in John 8:58. The addition of “for all time” in Heb. 9:27 when nothing in the Greek New Testament supports it. The attempt to belittle Christ by mistranslating arche tes ktiseos “beginning of the creation” when he is magnified as “the creator of all things” (John 1:2 and as “equal with God” (Phil. 2:6) before he humbled himself and lived in a human body here on earth. Your quotation of “The father is greater than I am” (John 14:28) to prove that Jesus was not equal to God overlooks the fact stated in Phil. 2:6-8. When Jesus said that, he was still in his voluntary state of humiliation. That state ended when he ascended to heaven. Why the attempt to deliberately deceive people by mispunctuation by placing a comma after “today” in Luke 23:43 when in the Greek, Latin, German and all English translations except yours, even in the Greek in your KIT, the comma occurs after lego (I say) — “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” 2 Cor. 5:8, “to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.” These passages teach that the redeemed go immediately to heaven after death, which does not agree with your teachings that death ends all life until the resurrection. Cf. Ps. 23:6 and Heb. 1:10.

The aforementioned are only a few examples of Watchtower mistranslations and perversions of God’s Word. In view of the preceding facts, especially because you have been quoting me out of context, I herewith request you not to quote from the Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament again, which you have been doing for 24 years. Also that you not quote it or me in any of your publications from this time on.

Also that you publicly and immediately apologize in the Watchtower magazine, since my words had no relevance in the absence of the article before theos in John 1:1. And please write to Caris and state that you misused and misquoted my “rule”. On the page before the Preface in the grammar are these words: “All rights reserved — no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.” If you have such permission, please send me a photo-copy of it.

If you do not heed these requests you will suffer the consequences.

Respectfully yours,

Julius R. Mantey

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Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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10 Responses to Greek Scholars & The Watchtower: Julius Mantey

  1. There are three reasons why Trinitarian translators translate these words as HE and HIM. (1) Trinitarians believe, due to their creeds, that the Son existed “in the beginning.” (2) they see that the Bible says all things were created through Jesus in places like 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:3, and (3) one can translate houtos as HE and autos as HIM when these words are referring to a person. However, (1) their own creed is no basis for interpreting Scripture, (2) if the Word was God’s spoken Word then once the Word became flesh we could of course say all things were created through Jesus from this point in time and thereafter, and (3) one should not translate anything by excuse but rather translate by what is intended, and if it cannot be absolutely established beyond all doubt what is intended, a neutral translation should be chosen (which they did not do). The Trinitarian apologist is really left with nothing but his own insistences that a person is in view. Absolutely nothing in the immediate context or the Greek grammar suggests a person is in view “in the beginning.” And indeed, since we already know that God created all things by His spoken Word when we come to this verse, this should be our first assumption, if any.

    • humblesmith says:

      Your reply is not clear as to which passage you are speaking about or the point your are trying to make.

      First, you are falsely labeling people as “trinitarian translators” as if their theology biased their translation. Translators of Greek or Hebrew merely use the language tools to translate the words. If their theology is involved at all, the theology is driven by the translation, not the other way round. Further, you seem to be accusing translators of viewing their work through the lens of the creeds, which they have not done. As stated in the blog post, if you have a dispute, it is with the unified agreement of every author of a Greek grammar or text. Unless you can cite a published source of this same caliber, you have no argument, for anyone can make a claim that is unsupported.
      As for houtos, I can only assume you are speaking about Strongs 3778 which is used several times in John 1. It is used four times in John 1:2-4, all as a masculine singular. The appropriate word for a masculine singular is “he.”
      If you want further support for the Trinity, Acts 13:2 specifically has the Holy Spirit referring to Himself as “I have called” (proskeklemai) and “to Me” (moi).

  2. silver price says:

    There are three reasons why Trinitarian translators translate these words as HE and HIM. (1) Trinitarians believe, due to their creeds, that the Son existed “in the beginning.” (2) they see that the Bible says all things were created through Jesus in places like 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:3, and (3) one can translate houtos as HE and autos as HIM when these words are referring to a person. However, (1) their own creed is no basis for interpreting Scripture, (2) if the Word was God’s spoken Word then once the Word became flesh we could of course say all things were created through Jesus from this point in time and thereafter, and (3) one should not translate anything by excuse but rather translate by what is intended, and if it cannot be absolutely established beyond all doubt what is intended, a neutral translation should be chosen (which they did not do). The Trinitarian apologist is really left with nothing but his own insistences that a person is in view. Absolutely nothing in the immediate context or the Greek grammar suggests a person is in view “in the beginning.” And indeed, since we already know that God created all things by His spoken Word when we come to this verse, this should be our first assumption, if any.

    • humblesmith says:

      You forgot the fourth reason: The lexicons and the grammars tell us that is what the word means. You might also want to stick to what the subject of this blog post is, which is Manety’s letter. Houtos is not mentioned, so why are we bringing it up? And again, as I said previously, the appropriate translation of a masculine singular is “he.”

      The creeds are only a reflection of the Bible, and not the other way around. That Jesus was a person before he was born on earth is well established orthodoxy, built upon Biblical teaching. Modern major translations do not use creeds for determining grammar and meaning of words.

      As for the intent of the author, this type of thinking is commonly thrown around but is a dead end. We can never determine an author’s intent, all we have are the words that they have written. If we seek an author’s intent, we not only cannot get into their mind, but then we have our interpretation of what we think was in their mind, which is one step further removed from meaning. For more on this, see here: http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/the-folly-of-trying-to-find-an-authors-intent/

      I can only assume you are speaking of John 1. The immediate context of John 1:1 includes the verse that says the word became flesh and dwelt among us, clearly indicating a person is in view.

      But again, all this does not take away from Mantey’s letter. First, he is the greek scholar, and we are not. If you disagree, you are disagreeing with the whole of greek scholarship. The Watchtower says, in effect, that every greek translation committee is wrong, every greek textbook is wrong, but they are somehow right.

      I will not follow an organization that sets itself against the whole of greek scholarship, and suggest the same to you.

  3. Dear readers I am a FORMER JW but found that much of the teachings and NWT texts are in most cases correct and or acceptable.
    I will show you some quotes about the Joh 1:1 mentioned in their reosoning book and show you that not only this RULE .. is with the word GOD but also the same thing with the word SATAN.

    What do I mean … pleas look/read next citations and my own found outs of it.

    [portions removed due to comment policy]

    *** rs p. 212-p. 213 Jesus Christ ***
    Does John 1:1 prove that Jesus is God?
    John 1:1, RS: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [also KJ, JB, Dy, Kx, NAB].” NE reads “what God was, the Word was.” Mo says “the Logos was divine.” AT and Sd tell us “the Word was divine.” The interlinear rendering of ED is “a god was the Word.” NW reads “the Word was a god”; NTIV uses the same wording.
    What is it that these translators are seeing in the Greek text that moves some of them to refrain from saying “the Word was God”? The definite article (the) appears before the first occurrence of the·os′ (God) but not before the second. The articular (when the article appears) construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous (without the article) predicate noun before the verb (as the sentence is constructed in Greek) points to a quality about someone. So the text is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god. (See 1984 Reference edition of NW, p. 1579.)
    What did the apostle John mean when he wrote John 1:1? Did he mean that Jesus is himself God or perhaps that Jesus is one God with the Father? In the same chapter, verse 18, John wrote: “No one [“no man,” KJ, Dy] has ever seen God; the only Son [“the only-begotten god,” NW], who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (RS) Had any human seen Jesus Christ, the Son? Of course! So, then, was John saying that Jesus was God? Obviously not. Toward the end of his Gospel, John summarized matters, saying: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, [not God, but] the Son of God.”—John 20:31, RS.

    [portions removed due to comment policy]

    This is educionally not completely ment to defend JW’s just to show you how soon you might can make a false conclusion in the case of Joh 1:

    • humblesmith says:

      I am shortening your post because most of it does not refer to the specific issue in this post. Further, it was so long as to remind me of the typical approach I’ve seen from Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is to travel through the internet cutting and pasting pre-written statements trying to sound scholarly. If you want to speak to a specific point, fine, but if you want to copy and paste lengthy statements, please do so on your own blog.

      As stated in the blog, every published Greek scholar and every English translation committee disagrees with the Watchtower, and the position you are stating. Your lengthy statement does not change this, for you quote no published scholars to support your position. Merely quoting Strong’s lexicon does not refute how every Greek grammarian and translator used the term in the specific context of a particular verse. I suggest you consult more recent lexicons than Strongs, namely Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich (BDAG) and grammarians such as Mantey, Robertson, and Wallace, all of which disagree with your position.

      As stated in several posts in my blog, there is no middle ground between God and man. The Bible makes no distinctions between “mighty god” and “almighty god.” If a being is God in a good sense, He is the one true God. All other gods are false gods. Trying to create a middle ground of a created god that is god in a good sense violates every passage of scripture that shows there is one true God and He is the only one worthy of praise or worship. Worshipping a created being is blasphemy, yet Jesus accepts worship many times in the New Testament.

      I have already dealt with most of the claims in your lengthy post…..merely search for the terms in my search box.

      One specific post you might want to see is this one:
      http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/jehovahs-witnesses-and-the-trinity/

  4. Ok thanx for quick respons. Pitty you had to shorten my post. The resources you mentioned the most of them I already have by using software with a lot of resources. I use some programs to extend my research possibilities and I am able with that to (if needed) that a lot of critic about NWT and as well some teachings of JW are just nonsense. Many greek/Hebrew words can have a lot of meanings. So if NWT choses one of the possible meanings of a word and some other translations prefer other possible meanings it is not crazy of wrong just like that (automatically). So it is not only about John 1:1 but the generally critics about NWT as well. John 1:1 is just an well known topic/item.

    I hope next picture can show how much Hebrew words are translated with to the English word “Thing” Form an translation (non JW) if pics can be copies to here….?
    I tried to copy it and does not work.. … so I show you the hebrew words without the pic:
    דבר כלי גדל ל עשׂה מלה יקום קדשׁ ה קדשׁ רמשׂ מעשׂה תועבה כ זאת אלה זאת ה רמשׂ חי חרם שׁקוץ ה דבר קשׁה ל
    שׁאל פחד כ הנה הפך ירא אל היא היה ה כלי נדה זאת לא זאת שׁערורה אכזב

    The Greek words are:
    ὁ ὅς ὁ ῥῆμα πρᾶγμα ἔργον ῥῆμα τὶς οὗτος λόγος σκεῦος ἀλίσγημα περί φωνή τοσαῦτα πᾶς ὁ πᾶς ψυχή

    • humblesmith says:

      Your comment appears to be collecting words in Hebrew and Greek that could possibly be translated “thing” in English. I see no need to go through the list one by one.

      In languages, it is a very elementary concept that the same word can have more than one meaning. For example, the word “dog” can be either a noun or a verb, and have multiple uses depending on the context. That is why the basic unit of meaning in a language is the sentence, not a word.

      But language scholars know this, and had no trouble translating accurately for thousands of years. None of this says anything against the point of this blog post. The language scholars know quite well how to use the context and sentences of the original to correctly translate a word.

      As I pointed out in the blog, the only way we know Greek or Hebrew is through the published grammar books and texts. There are many people who have written about the Greek and Hebrew languages, some of whom know what they’re talking about and some which do not. Of the people who have published Greek and Hebrew grammar books or published Greek or Hebrew texts, 100% of them disagree with the Watchtower’s New World version. None of them would agree with the Watchtower on this, not one. Sure, there are people who claim expertise, but as the letter from Dr. Mantey shows, the published scholars do not agree. As I also pointed out in the link I provided, the Watchtower did not have any Greek scholars on their translation committee.

      I am sure you are sincere; however, you have given nothing that challenges the statements made in this post. If you have sources as you say, you will know they all disagree with the Watchtower. Please note my comment policy which will stop comments when they get repetitive.

      Another post you might find helpful is this one:
      http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/the-new-world-version-translation/

      Peace and blessings.

  5. Sorry I forgot to say that the mentioned Hebrew/Greek words can maybe also mean as well:
    (every)thing, all kinds off, all ….. everyone and so on…. so think big and not too small (like synonyms).

  6. Pingback: The New World Version & Translation | Thomistic Bent

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