Isaiah 40:26

alanf00 at home.com alanf00 at home.com
Thu Jul 19 09:57:50 EDT 2001


I'd like to thank everyone for their comments regarding my question about the proper translation of Isaiah 40:26. 
Since the topic is still ongoing and many participants may be on holiday, I'll reserve comments until later.

I'd also like to partially answer some of Monty Self's questions regarding the translators of The New World 
Translation. Since all but two of the men on the original New World Bible Translation Committee are dead, including 
the main translator, I don't know that it is possible even in principle to answer questions about motives for a 
particular rendering. Of course, the men who make up the present-day NWT Committee might know, but they 
remain anonymous.

The following list of translators is a compilation from a variety of sources:

Frederick W. Franz: Main translator. Took liberal arts sequence at University of Cincinnati; 21 semester hours of 
classical Greek, some Latin. Partially completed a two-hour survey course in Biblical Greek in junior year; course 
titled "The New Testament--A course in grammar and translation." Left in spring of 1914 before completing junior 
year. Self-taught in Spanish, biblical Hebrew and Aramaic. Entered Brooklyn headquarters facility of Watchtower 
Society in 1920. Probable ghost writer for J. F. Rutherford (2nd president of WTS) from late 1920s through 1942. 
Vice president of WTS from 1942 to 1977, president from 1977 until death in 1992 at age 99.

Franz writes in his autobiography: "What a blessing it was to study Bible Greek under Professor Arthur Kensella! 
Under Dr. Joseph Harry, an author of some Greek works, I also studied the 
classical Greek. I knew that if I wanted 
to become a Presbyterian clergyman, I had to have a command of Bible Greek. So I furiously applied myself and 
got passing grades" (_The Watchtower_, May 1, 1987, p. 24). Franz gives the impression that the bulk of his Greek 
studies were "Bible Greek" under "Professor Kensella" and that classical Greek was secondary under "Dr. Joseph 
Harry." The opposite is true. As mentioned above, Franz only took one 2-hour credit class of "Bible Greek" but 21 
hours of classical Greek. According to the course catalog of 1911, Arthur Kensella was not a professor of Greek, as 
Franz wrote, but an "instructor in Greek." Kensella did not have a Ph.D. and he therefore taught entry-level courses.

Nathan H. Knorr: No training in biblical languages. Entered Brooklyn headquarters in 1923; 3rd president of WTS 
from 1942 to 1977. Died 1977 at age 72.

Milton G. Henschel: No training in biblical languages. Private secretary and traveling companion to N. H. Knorr from 
late 1940s until early 1970s. 4th president of WTS from 1992 to 2000. Still living, age mid-80s.

Albert D. Schroeder: No training in biblical languages. Took 3 years of mechanical engineering, unspecified 
language courses in college, dropped out in 1932 and soon entered Brooklyn headquarters. Registrar of "Gilead 
School" from 1942 to 1959. Still living, age 90.

Karl Klein: No training in biblical languages. Entered Brooklyn headquarters in 1925; member of Writing Dept. since 
1950. Died 2001 at age 96.

George D. Gangas: No training in biblical languages. Greek-speaking Turkish national, entered Brooklyn 
headquarters in 1928 as a Greek translator from English to modern Greek publications. Died 1994 at age 98.

Franz was the only man capable of doing translation work. Gangas was a native Greek speaker, knew little of Koine 
Greek, and apparently helped out with a variety of non-translation tasks including reviewing the English grammar for 
continuity of expression. From all information published about him personally, one readily concludes that Knorr was 
the business administrator for the Translation Committee. Henschel might have been on it to take care of 
legal/secretarial matters. Schroeder and Klein did the copious footnotes (which included textual sources) and cross 
references and marginal notes, which in the original six volumes of the NWT were more extensive than in the 1984 
edition.

The NWT Committee has always been extremely secretive, and so information about who was on it has only 
trickled out of the Brooklyn headquarters as various staff members have left and revealed what they knew. Scant 
information has been published, other information has leaked by word of mouth.

Frederick Franz has been criticized for supposedly not being proficient in Biblical Hebrew. This is patently false, 
since *someone* had to be competent enough to produce a workable translation, and it certainly was not the other 
men on the NWT Committee. Franz's nephew, Raymond Franz, who resigned from the Jehovah's Witnesses 
Governing Body in 1980 and was excommunicated in 1981, listed some of the members of the NWT Committee in 
his 1983 book "Crisis of Conscience". He has told me and others that he once observed his uncle silently reading 
an ancient Hebrew manuscript in a museum display case, which the elder Franz is not likely to have done in private 
unless he was actually able to make sense of it. But because the elder Franz has internally been termed "the 
oracle of the [JW] organization" and was clearly its "head theologian" from 1942 until his gradual retirement in the 
1980s, he certainly inserted his religious biases into his translation work.

Now for a few of Monty's specific questions:

"Are theologically charged words translated the same on every occurrence or was their translation dependent more 
upon context?"

Both. This is the basic rule as stated in the "Introduction" (p. 7) to the 1984 "New World Translation of the Holy 
Scriptures--With References":

"Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by assigning one meaning to each major word and by holding to that 
meaning as far as the context permits. At times this has imposed a restriction upon word choice, but it aids in 
cross-reference work and in comparing related texts."

In certain cases Franz slavishly adhered to this rule of "one Hebrew/Greek word goes to the same English word." 
An example of this is the Greek word "parousia", which is always rendered as "presence" in the NWT. This is 
definitely a "theologically charged word" for the Jehovah's Witnesses.

An example of translating by context is the word in Isaiah 40:26 that we are here considering, " 'ohnim ". There are 
12 passages of interest, where the word is translated as follows:

As "generative power":

Genesis 49:3
Reu'ben, you are my firstborn, my vigor and the beginning of my generative power, the excellence of dignity and the 
excellence of strength.

Deuteronomy 21:17
For he should recognize as the firstborn the hated one's son by giving him two parts in everything he is found to 
have, because that one is the beginning of his generative power.

Psalm 78:51
Finally he struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, The beginning of their generative power in the tents of Ham.

Psalm 105:36
And he proceeded to strike down every firstborn in their land, The beginning of all their generative power.

As "valuable things":

Job 20:10
His own sons will seek the favor of lowly people, And his own hands will give back his valuable things.

Hosea 12:8
And E'phra·im keeps saying, 'Indeed, I have become rich; I have found valuable things for myself. As regards all my 
toiling, they will find, on my part, no error that is sin.

As "vigor":

Job 18:7
His steps of vigor will become cramped. Even his counsel will cast him off.

Job 18:12
His vigor becomes famished, And disaster stands ready to make him limp.

As "dynamic energy":

Job 40:16
Here, now, its power is in its hips, And its dynamic energy in the tendons of its belly.

Isaiah 40:26
Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one [of them] is missing.

Isaiah 40:29
He is giving to the tired one power; and to the one without dynamic energy he makes full might abound. 

Hosea 12:3
In the belly he seized his brother by the heel, and with his dynamic energy he contended with God.


Next question:

"How much paraphrasing did the translator(s) of the NWT intend to employ?"

I'll let the "Introduction" to the 1984 NWT Reference Bible answer (p. 7):

"Paraphrases of the Scriptures are not offered. Rather, an effort has been made to give as literal a translation as 
possible where the modern-English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not, by any awkwardness, hide 
the thought. In that way the desire of those who are scrupulous for getting an almost word-for-word statement of the 
original is met. It is realized that even such a seemingly insignificant matter as the use or omission of a comma or 
of a definite or an indefinite article may at times alter the correct sense of the original passage.

Taking liberties with the texts for the mere sake of brevity, and substituting some modern parallel when a literal 
rendering of the original makes good sense, has been avoided. Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by 
assigning one meaning to each major word and by holding to that meaning as far as the context permits. At times 
this has imposed a restriction upon word choice, but it aids in cross-referencing work and in comparing related texts.

Special care was taken in translating Hebrew and Greek verbs in order to capture the simplicity, warmth, character 
and forcefulness of the original expressions. An effort was made to preserve the flavor of the ancient Hebrew and 
Greek times, the people's way of thinking, reasoning and talking, their social dealings, etc. This has prevented any 
indulgence in translating as one may think the original speaker or writer should have said it. So, care has been 
taken not to modernize the verbal renderings to such an extent as to alter their ancient background beyond 
recognition. This means the reader will encounter many Hebrew and Greek idioms. In many cases the footnotes 
show the literalness of certain expressions."


Next question:

"Another realm that must be addressed in evaluating a translators skills or the validity of a translation is 
understanding the presuppositions of the translators."

You are absolutely correct that "Every translator translates with presuppositions." You may have noted Dr./Mr. 
Swift’s observation that Franz ‘freely admitted his presuppositions’. These were set by previous Watchtower 
doctrines, some of which he himself had a hand in formulating. Some of these are clearly enunciated in the 
introductory material to specific volumes. A solid discussion of these is probably beyond the scope of this forum, 
but an idea can be readily derived by understanding the very basic doctrines held by the Watchtower Society when 
the NWT originally was produced, from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. These include the notions that the 
Bible is absolutely inspired and inerrant, that Christ returned invisibly in 1914 (hence the concern with "parousia"), 
that a special group of Jehovah's Witness leaders are God's exclusive and collective 'spokesman' to all mankind, 
that the Bible does not teach the Trinity, and so forth. As "head theologian" and vice-president of the Watchtower 
Society, Franz was required to ensure that his work was consistent with existing doctrine, just as any group of 
translators is required by those who commission them to follow the precepts of the group. Deviation from accepted 
ideas may be grounds for dismissal.


Next comment:

"Knowing his or her name permits a scholar to look at the corpus of the translators writings and discover the 
translators presupps."

Frederick Franz either wrote or contributed to most of the WTS's large-format bound theological books published 
from the late 1920s through the early 1970s. He also wrote or contributed to countless articles appearing in "The 
Watchtower" magazine. Once one becomes acquainted with Franz's distinctive writing style, it is not hard to see 
which publications he wrote or contributed substantially to. Of course, these are not easy to come by for people 
outside the Jehovah's Witness organization, and the task of reading them is daunting, so I don't know what to tell 
you.

Alan Feuerbacher




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