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Jehovah`s Witness/NWT of John 1:18 "Only begotten god?"

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Hello Brenton,  I'm an avid reader of the Word, all translations, but being raised a JW I have particular interest in the NWT and the inconsistency of.  I'm sure you are aware that the KJV was used to translate the NWT. I am using the Restoration Study Bible which is based on the old and new testaments of the KJV along with Strong's Exhaustive concordance in the text with Hebrew and Greek dictionaries.  Now the NWT rendering of John 1:18, "Only begotten god", compared to RSB , "only begotten Son".  Greek strong's for Son is 5207 huios, kinship-child,foal,son. Why is NWT john 1:18 translated only begotten god?

Answer
EDIT in response to comments left  

Hello Keno,

You are correct, the age of text does not necessarily equal accuracy.  That is one reason  the NWT translation committee used many sources in preparing the NWT and not just one master Greek text.  

Now just a brief comment about the wording “God only begotten”.    The word  order originally breathed by God was  “μονογενης  θεός”  - only-begotten god, not, “God only begotten”.  The writer of that quote - (Robinson) was echoing the non Biblical idea from Origen  of the  "the Eternal Generation of the Son".  He changed the order of the Greek words  into English when there was no grammatical reason to do so.   Robinson believes in the Trinity.  He has acknowledged that, in his view, the oldest and the best manuscripts use the word word god and not son.  However his theological bias has seen him rearrange the words to suit his theology instead of presenting them as was. It is a difficult thing for some people to understand that Jesus could be “a god”.  That is why I gave a brief explanation on the origins of the word god. To see John 1:18 as saying “only begotten god' in stead of “only begotten son” may seem to case a contradiction.   

All the manuscripts put “only begotten” (μονογενης  ) before either theos (θεός)  or   huios (υἱός), and all English Bibles put those words in the same order “only begotten” god or son.  The Greek text is not calling God  (that is the Almighty “mighty one”) an “only begotten” otherwise, that is saying God had a beginning having been  “begotten”, that is  - came into being – was born – was made.   God is never referred to in that way, but his son  (a mighty one) is.

end of edit  

ORIGINAL REPLY

Hello Keno

Thank you for your question.  It is always nice to hear that people have a keen interest in the Bible

I have over 30 different Bibles in both paper and computer form, and most of them agree with the KJV at John 1:18 and use the word “son”.  There are a few that read “god”. These are

The English Standard Version (2001)
KJV-2011
James Murdock  New Testament (1851)
New Hart English Bible (2008)
Noyes English New Testament (1869)

And of curse the NWT


A very basic answer to your question is that the NWT and the others that use “god” are rendered from much older manuscripts than the KJV.  Being older, there is less copying form the originals and less prone for mistakes.

That in a nut shell answers your question.  But.....

Seeing you have such a keen interest in the Bible, if you like a more in-depth detailed answer, please read on.

In my RSV there is a foot note that says “other ancient authorities read god”  - more on that in a moment.

First a little history of the KJV.   You may know that the NT of the  KJV is said to be translated from the Textus Receptus (TR). Some claim that the TR is the text that has been used for 2,000 years by Christians . This is not true. The TR was finished being complied in 1551.

There are 4 families of Biblical manuscripts that scholars recognise.  These are from the different geological regions where  they were found

 Alexandrian Text  

Western Text  

Caesarean Text  

Byzantine Text    or  Syrian text  or Majority Text

The New Testament part of the KJV was translated form a master Greek Text that became known as the Textus Receptus (TR) or received text of 1551. The TR come  mainly out of the Byzantine family of text. Many people call this the  “majority texts”.  That is because there are far more texts in this family of ancient Greek texts than the other family of texts.  Here is an interesting web site on the Majority Text  http://www.gotquestions.org/majority-text.html

The TR text was originally complied by a man named Erasmus  who lived between  1466 and  1536. His text was edited several times . His first edition was published in 1516.   Erasmus used only eight Greek manuscripts in producing the first edition. These are now known by the following names

Codex Basilensis A. N. IV. 2  The codex contains the entire New Testament (except of Book of Revelation) dated to the 12th century

Codex Basiliensis A. N. IV. 1  The codex contains a complete text of the four  Gospels   dated  11th or 12th century.

Codex Basilensis A. N. IV. 4  The codex contains a complete text of the Acts of the Apostles, General epistles, and Pauline epistles  dated to the 12th century

Minuscule 7  The codex contains the complete text of the four Gospels  dated to the 12th century

Minuscule 817   The codex contains the complete text of the four Gospels dated to the 15th century

Minuscule 2814  The codex contains the   Book of Revelation   with a commentary of   Andreas from Caesarea. Last six verses were lost (22:16-21) dated to the 12th century   

Minuscule 2816 The codex contains a complete text of the Acts of the Apostles, Pauline epistles, and General epistles dated to the 15th century

Erasmus adjusted the text in many places to correspond with readings found in the  Latin Vulgate, or as  were quoted in the Church Fathers; consequently, although the Textus Receptus is classified by scholars as a late Byzantine text, it differs in nearly two thousand readings from the standard form of that text-type, as represented by the "Majority Text"

In His second editing (revision - 1519)  he  also consults Minuscule 3   .  The codex contains the entirety of the New Testament except the Book of Revelation

He made a few revision of his work.  After his death   Robert  Stephanus (1503–1559), a printer from Paris, edited the Greek New Testament four times, in 1546, 1549, 1550 and 1551 .  It is this text that became know as the Textures Receptus


Many Bibles have used the TR as the basis of their rendering into English the NT.  There are other, shall we call them, “Master Greek Texts”, that are complied from different families of ancient texts. As a result we get some variances in what we read in English.

Basically then different families of ancient texts do vary.  It is generally considered by scholars that the older the text, the less copying it had, therefore the likely hood there is of errors. If you go back and look at the manuscripts used in preparing the TR you will see that that ranged from the 11 century to the fifteenth century, so they were a long way down the line of copies of copies of copies etc

My electronic version of Robinson New testament Word Pictures  says this about John 1:18


QUOTE
But the best old Greek manuscripts (Aleph B C L) read μονογενης θεος (God only begotten) which is undoubtedly the true text. Probably some scribe changed it to ο μονογενης υιος to obviate the blunt statement of the deity of Christ and to make it like #3:16. But there is an inner harmony in the reading of the old uncials. The Logos is plainly called \theos\ in verse #1. The Incarnation is stated in verse #14, where he is also termed μονογενης. He was that before the Incarnation. So he is "God only begotten," "the Eternal Generation of the Son" of Origen’s phrase.

End Quote

(This can be found at http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/john/john-1 )

Bellow is from a software package known as “E-Sword”  The text is called GNT-V (Greek New Testament with variants) . This is one of the interlinears in that software

Joh 1:18  θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε (TSB) ο μονογενης (A)θεος (TSB) υιος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο


Notice in the Text above that it shows the variants  θεος  (god)  and υιος (son) the letters “A” and “TSB” are explained  further down the page along with some other information about that interlinear


The NWT was based on the Greek text of Westcot and Hort. (W&H) The W&H Greek master Greek  text was based on older manuscripts than the TR   Besides the W&H  the NWT had the benefit of the following manuscriots

   Armenian Version
   Coptic Versions
   Syriac Versions—Curetonian, Philoxenian, Harclean,
    Palestinian, Sinaitic, Peshitta
   Old Latin
       Latin Vulgate -  Sixtine and Clementine Revised Latin Texts
  
Greek Cursive MSS.
       Erasmus Text
       Stephanus Text
         Textus Receptus
         Griesbach Greek Text
         Emphatic Diaglott
  
Papyri—(e.g., Chester Beatty P45, P46, P47; Bodmer P66, P74,
    P75)
  Vatican 1209 (B), Sinaitic (א),
    Alexandrine (A), Ephraemi Syri rescriptus (C), Bezae (D)
      
       Bover Greek Text
       Merk Greek Text
       Nestle-Aland Greek Text
       United Bible Societies Greek Text

SO as I mentioned earlier the difference is because of the master Greek text that the various Bibles use.  It is thought that the later change from θεος  (god) to υιος (son) was done by scribes who had difficulties with the idea that there could be an “only begotten” god.  

Most people do not realise this, but there is no real equivalent in Hebrew or Greek to the English word “god”.  The English word god is derived from a Germanic word that means “invoked one” where as the Hebrew and Greek words we render as “god”  has the basic meaning of a “mighty” or a “strong” one.

Jesus certainly was a “mighty one”.  Only his Father is ever called the “ALMIGHTY, MIGHTY ONE”  (Almighty God).  The Hebrew and Greek words for god are used favourably to refer to angels and men, as well as with disfavour to refer to Satan and his demons as well as false “mighty ones“ (gods) that men served / followed in a religious manner.



Here is some information on that verse from the Software

QUOTE

Greek New Testament with variants identified and tagged for reference to source of transmission and schools of emphasis.

Verse Numbers
For ease of reference, the verse numbering scheme has been made to conform closely to that found in most standard English versions of the New Testament, following the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611.  Where considerate verse numbering differences occur, they are added to the text in brackets.

Breathings, Accents, And Diacritical Markings
All breathings, accents, capitalization, punctuation, and diacritical markings have been omitted.  These are primarily a product of modern editorship and are lacking in ancient mss.

Book Titles And Colophons
Book titles do not appear within the present files. The Greek closing colophons to the epistles which appear in the English of the Authorized Version have been placed in brackets [ ] wherever they occur in the Stephens 1550 edition (only).

Variant Tagging Method
The following tags have been applied to those words peculiar to one stream of transmission, or scholarly group which emphasizes a particular variant word.  Those words with no tag are do not differ in the various printings of the Greek.

T = Stephens 1550 Textus Receptus.
The text used is George Ricker Berry's edition of "The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament."  This text is virtually identical to Erasmus 1516, Beza 1598, and the actual Textus Receptus: Elzevir 1633.  Berry states that "In the main they are one and the same; and [any] of them may be referred to as the Textus Receptus" (Berry, p.ii).

These early printed Greek New Testaments closely parallel the text of the English King James Authorized Version of 1611, since that version was based closely upon Beza 1598, which differed little from its "Textus Receptus" predecessors. These Textus Receptus editions follow the Byzantine Majority mss., which was predominant during the period of manual copying of Greek New Testament manuscripts.

S = Scrivener 1894 Textus Receptus
The text used is "h Kainh Diaqhkh: The New Testament.  The Greek Text underlying the English Authorised Version of 1611" (London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1977).  This is an unchanged reprint of Scrivener's "The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Text followed in the Authorised Version" (Cambridge: University Press, 1894, 1902).

Scrivner attempted to reconstruct the Greek text underlying the English 1611 KJV for comparison to the 1881 English R.V. In those places where the KJV followed the Latin Vulgate (John 10:16), Scrivener inserted the greek reading, as opposed to back-translating the Latin to Greek--which would have produced a Greek word with no Greek mss. evidence.  Scrivner's work follows the Byzantine Majority texts, and in many places matches the modern Alexandrian based editions.

B = Byzantine Majority
The text is that identified by Freiherr Von Soden, "Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer altesten erreichbaren Textgestalt" (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1911) and Herman C. Hoskier, "Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse" (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1929).  This technique of Byzantine identification and weighting, was utilized by Hodges and Farsted in "The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text" (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982; 1985).  It was subsequently utilized by Robinson and Pierpont, resulting in 99.75 percent agreement between the two texts.

The Byzantine Majority text is closely identified with the Textus Receptus editions, and well it should with greater than 98% agreement.  As Maurice Robinson pointed out in his edition of the Byzantine Majority: "George Ricker Berry correctly noted that 'in the main they are one and the same; and [any] of them may be referred to as the Textus Receptus' (George Ricker Berry, ed., The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament [New York: Hinds & Noble, 1897], p.ii).

A = Alexandrian
The differences are those identified by United Bible Society 3rd ed., and utilized by modern translations such as NIV and NASB.  While these variants come from mss. with less textual evidence than the Byzantine Majority, many of the differences are exactly the same as those identified by the Byzantine Majority and Scrivner.  The percentage of variants are quite small and occur mainly in word placement, and spelling.  Many of the variations identified are omitted or bracketed words, which is not surprising due to a significantly smaller base of text from this stream of transmission.

End Quote

I hope that has been of some help in seeing the differences between Bibles.

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I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .

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I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

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I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

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