articles from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Numbers 3,4 and 5, 1990.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
The New World Translation
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Number 3, 1990
Dr. Julius R. Mantey was a first-rate scholar who studied Greek for more than 65 years. He was well known for A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament , which he co-authored with Dr. H. E. Dana. The following is a discussion that took place between Dr. Martin and Dr. Mantey on the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation.
Dr. Martin: In John 1:1, the New World Translation (NWT) says that "the Word was a god," referring to Jesus Christ. How would you respond to that?
Dr. Mantey: The Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) have forgotten entirely what the order of the sentence indicates -- that the "Logos" has the same substance, nature, or essence as the Father. To indicate that Jesus was just "a god," the JWs would have to use a completely different construction in the Greek.
Dr. Martin: You once had a little difference of opinion with the Watchtower about this and wrote them a letter. What was their response to your letter?
Dr. Mantey: Well, as a backdrop, I was disturbed because they had misquoted me in support of their translation. I called their attention to the fact that the whole body of the New Testament was against their view. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is glorified and magnified -- yet here they were denigrating Him and making Him into a little god of a pagan concept.
Dr. Martin: What was their response to what you said?
Dr. Mantey: They said I could have my opinion and they would retain theirs. What I wrote didn't phase them a bit.
Dr. Martin: I don't know whether you're aware of it, but there is not a single Greek scholar in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I did everything I could to find out the names of the translating committee of the NWT, and the Watchtower wouldn't tell me a thing. Finally, an ex-JW who knew the committee members personally told me who they were, and the men on that committee could not read New Testament Greek; nor could they read Hebrew; nor did they have any knowledge of systematic theology -- except what they had learned from the Watchtower. Only one of them had been to college, and he had dropped out after a year. He briefly studied the biblical languages while there.
Dr. Mantey: He was born in Greece, wasn't he?
Dr. Martin: Yes, he read modern Greek, and I met him when I visited the Watchtower. I asked him to read John 1:1 in the Greek and then said, "How would you translate it?" He said: "Well, 'the word was a god.'" I said: "What is the subject of the sentence?" He just looked at me. So I repeated, "What is the subject of the sentence?" He didn't know. This was the only person in the Watchtower to read Greek and he didn't know the subject of the sentence in John 1:1. And these were the people who wrote back to you and said their opinion was as good as yours.
Dr. Mantey: That's right.
Dr. Martin: Often we find JW publications quoting scholars. Do they quote these people in context?
Dr. Mantey: No. They use this device to fool people into thinking that scholars agree with the JWs. Out of all the Greek professors, grammarians, and commentators they have quoted, only one (a Unitarian) agreed that "the word was a god."
Dr. Martin: You have been quoted as saying that the translators of the NWT are "diabolical deceivers."
Dr. Mantey: Yes. The translation is deceptive, and I believe it's a terrible thing for a person to be deceived and go into eternity lost, forever lost because somebody deliberately misled him by distorting the Scripture!
Dr. Martin: What would you say to a JW who was looking for the truth?
Dr. Mantey: I would advise him to get a translation other than the NWT, because ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the JWs. People who are looking for the truth ought to know what the majority of the scholars really believe. They should not allow themselves to be misled by the JWs and end up in hell.
These words were excerpted from the tape, "Martin and Mantey on the New World Translation" (catalogue number C-118). It is available from CRI for $5.95.
Reincarnation and the Bible
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Number 4, 1990.
One of the key teachings of the New Age movement is the doctrine of reincarnation. The latest survey on reincarnation indicates that more than 58 percent of Americans polled either definitely believe in it or believe it to be a distinct possibility.
The New Age movement relies heavily on the concept of "cyclic rebirth" operating according to the "law of karma" (i.e., what you sow, you reap in identical proportions). Justice is satisfied in that no matter how long it takes and how many successive reincarnations are necessary, a person keeps on paying for his misdeeds until his "bad karma has been balanced by good karma."
New Testament passages are often cited by New Agers to substantiate the doctrine of reincarnation. Let us briefly examine three of these:
"And if you are willing to accept it, he [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was to come" (Matt. 11:7-14, NIV). Reincarnationists claim Jesus was stating here that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of the prophet Elijah.
Christian Response: This argument can be diffused by simply pointing out that the role or ministry of John the Baptist was "in the spirit and power" of Elijah's ministry (Luke 1:17). The text nowhere states that John the Baptist was literally Elijah reincarnated. The fact is that when John the Baptist was asked whether he was Elijah, he flatly denied it (John 1:21). Jesus was simply stating that John the Baptist was fulfilling functionally and prophetically the ministry of Elijah as the "voice of the one crying in the wilderness."
"Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Reincarnationists argue that Jesus was referring to cyclic rebirth when He said that one must be born again.
Christian Response: The context of John 3:1-12 is clearly speaking of spiritual rebirth, not physical rebirth. Jesus made this very point in verse six when He said, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." Furthermore, the phrase "born again" is often translated "born from above," keeping true to the original language. Implicit in this statement is the biblical doctrine of regeneration or conversion, an event that takes place only once and has nothing remotely to do with cyclic rebirth. Peter states the same thought when he wrote: "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).
"As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'" (John 9:1-2). Reincarnationists argue that this proves the disciples believed in karma and reincarnation: this man was born blind because of wrongdoing he had committed in his previous life.
Christian Response: Whatever the disciples believed (and there are several possibilities), Jesus did not endorse it: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). Had this been a situation involving reincarnation and karma, Jesus clearly would not have said what He did.
I believe that the doctrine of reincarnation is a subtle and masked attack against the salvation that Jesus Christ purchased at the Cross. Scripture tells us that "by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Heb. 10:14). The writer of Hebrews does not fail to remind us repeatedly that Christ "by himself purged our sins, [and] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (1:3).
As for a so-called "second chance," Hebrews tells us that "it is appointed for men to die once [Greek: "once for all"] and after this comes judgment" (9:27). Scripture tells us that we are appointed to die "once," but the reincarnationist in his teaching is appointed to die almost endlessly, and in the end to no avail. How true the words of Scripture ring: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
These words were adapted from Dr. Martin's book, The New Age Cult. It is available from CRI for $5.95.
Confronting Doctrinal Error
by Dr. Walter Martin
From the From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 3: Number 5, 1990.
In the course of delivering numerous lectures on the cults and their relationship to the Christian church, one of the most frequent questions addressed to me has been, "Why should Christians oppose and criticize the beliefs of others -- whether they be cults or other world religions?"
To answer this question, we must first recognize that to oppose and criticize is neither unethical, bigoted, or un-Christian; rather, it is the epitome of proper Christian conduct where a very vital part of the Christian witness is concerned. Some people feel it is beneath their dignity to engage in criticism of the beliefs of others, and the society in which we live has done much to foster this attitude. "Live and let live" is the motto of our civilization; don't buck the tide of uncritical tolerance, or, as the saying goes, "bend with the wind or be broken."
We must remember, however, that controversy in itself has always been a stimulus to thought, and in our own great country has provoked many needed reforms in numerous instances. Moreover, the criticism of another's religious beliefs does not necessarily postulate personal antagonism toward those who entertain such beliefs. Hence, it is possible for a Protestant to criticize Roman Catholicism or Judaism, for example, without being in the least antagonistic to members of either faith.
Let us not forget that honest criticism and debate involves the basic right of freedom of speech within constitutional limits; and the New Testament itself reflects in a startling way the fact that Christianity was built and nourished upon the controversy which it provoked. It was said of the early Christians that they "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6); indeed, the message of the Cross itself is offensive and controversial by nature. Robert Ingersoll, the late great agnostic and renowned antagonist of Christianity, was wise enough to recognize this fact and stated in his famous lectures, "If this religion is true, then there is only one Savior, only one narrow path to life. Christianity cannot live in peace with any other religion."
There are many reasons why Christians should speak out against false beliefs. First and foremost is the historical fact that Jesus Christ and His apostles warned repeatedly of the danger of false prophets and teachers. And just as Jesus and the apostles constantly spoke out against religious error to protect the church from peril, so must Christians today.
Throughout His entire ministry, our Lord was constantly on guard against professional interrogators who masqueraded as religious, pious, and even tolerant zealots, and who professed that they were the descendants of Abraham -- heirs to the covenant and the servants of God. To these people our Lord addressed His most scathing denunciations, calling them among other things "whited sepulchres," "children of the devil," "dishonorers of God," "liars," "murderers," and "wolves."
Using language similar to our Lord, the apostle Paul warned against the same kind of people, calling them ""enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18). He describes these dangerous individuals as "false apostles and deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13).
For Christians to neglect such heretical individuals and not challenge their teachings head-on is to do so at the peril of the church. The warnings Christ and His apostles have given in Scripture represent a call for Christians to act -- a call to confront doctrinal error wherever and whenever it surfaces.
Unpopular though it may be, all true Christians should be unequivocally committed to challenging false teachers for no other reason than out of respect for our Lord. Certainly if our mothers, wives, children, or country were attacked and misrepresented, our love for them would compel us to defend them. How much more, then, should love for our Redeemer so motivate us in the defense of Him and His gospel.
These words were adapted from Dr. Martin's book, The Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House Publishers). It may be purchased from CRI for $15.95.
End of document, CRN0031A.TXT (original CRI file name), "The New World Translation," "Reincarnation and the Bible," and "Confronting Doctrinal Error" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.
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