Talking to a JW at Coffee Time (2 of 3): Translation and Trust

On October 19, I wrote my first of three posts on a conversation I had with a Jehovah’s Witness at a Coffee Time in Guelph, Ontario. I promised to write two more posts. Originally, I planned to continue writing about that first meeting I had, but I met with that same man last week. Thus, though I shall keep my promise of writing two more posts on my dialogue with the JW at Coffee Time, this post (and the third one) will recap my most recent talk with him, which again, was at a Coffee Time in Guelph.

Again we met for about two and a half hours. Thus, we talked about many things, but one very important observation we keep coming to was that of our differing translations. Different translation means different meaning which means different truth and therefore, a different faith. Accordingly, we talked about translations.

Though I have only studied three years of Greek and two years of Hebrew, I know for certain that when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, ego eimi” (John 8:58), ego eimi is in the Present Indicative Active. For those of you who do not know what Present Indicative Active means, simply know this, it means ego eimi should be translated “I am.” Accordingly, “Before Abraham was, I am” is the correct translation of John 8:58. I spent quite bit of time explaining this to my JW friend, but he would not accept it. His translation says something like, “Before Abraham was, I have been.” I showed him that Jesus is alluding to Jehovah’s self-description in Exodus (3:14). Jesus is saying that He is Jehovah. Jesus is saying He is God. He would not believe it. I explained that Jesus’ pronouncement of being God is the very reason that “the Jews picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59). 

In response, he took me to Proverbs 8:22, where wisdom personified seems to be a description of Christ. However, the JW translation says something like, “Jehovah produced me at the beginning of his work.” However, the ESV says, “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work.” Produced and possessed contain very different meanings. Did the Lord produce Jesus OR did He possess Jesus? The Lord did not produce Jesus. Jesus is eternal. We looked at various texts and I continued to see that the JW translation was different at many points.

Sadly, this man trusts the JW translation and he believes that all the other translations are wrong. He does not know any Greek or Hebrew. He has not questioned the JW translation. He has not fixed his hands to the task of studying these things. He simply accepts the JW translation, trusts it and prizes it.

In my first meeting with him, I had my Greek NT with me and I explained how John 8:58 is not translated correctly. However, he would not accept what I said. He only believes what the Watchtower society tells him. I asked him what he reads. He only read three things: the JW Bible and two magazines produced by the Watchtower society (Watchtower and Awake) – that is it. I also noticed that he uses a book called something like Reasoning from the Scripture, which tells him the meaning of various passages of the Bible that may be controversial. He used this book a few times when I asked him questions on texts that he could not answer and that contradicted JW theology. Therefore, other JW authors interpret the Bible for him. Some of their reasoning is certainly NOT reasonable.

I challenged him, “What if they are wrong? These other sources are simply the word of man. They can be wrong.” He replied, “If they are wrong then I am wrong, but they teach the truth – everything is right from the Bible. I am not learned like you . . . I don’t know the Bible like you, so I trust them.” I responded, “So what if I approached you before the JW’s did, you would believe me?” He said, “Maybe I would.” I said, “So you are banking all your trust in what they say?” He said, “Yes, I trust them. They show me the truth from the Bible.”

This was a very interesting talk that went on for some time. I told him that they are wrong about Jesus and I tried to show him why, but he would not really listen to me – he will only think about the Bible in ways that the JW’s have told him to think. I kept reminding him that he is trusting in the word of man.  I really challenged him to read more widely but as far as he is concerned, as he said, “If I have the truth, why look elsewhere?” I assured him that he doesn’t.

I also told him that his view of the Bible has been dictated by two magazines for twenty-three years. I assured him that I was telling him the truth but that he will not accept it simply because it is not in agreement with the teaching of two other magazines that have shaped his theology. He openly admits that these two magazines have largely shaped the way he sees and understands the Bible. However, he sees this as a good thing.

We both agreed that we are not worshipping the same God, nor the same Jesus. I am sobered and saddened by his blindness. I cannot help but think of 2 Corinthians 4:4 (“the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers”). But, I believe that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) . . . and how will JW’s believe? By hearing the Gospel (Rom 10:17). I believe there is hope. May the Lord have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

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One response to “Talking to a JW at Coffee Time (2 of 3): Translation and Trust

  1. Looking into your encounters is edifying. I would love to ask a JW why they put the name of Jehova in places of the NT where there is no mention.

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