The 'honesty' remark of the 1951 New World Translation appendix on John 1:1.
Below is a criticism by Robert Hommel on the 1951 New World Translation appendix on the translation of the Greek of John 1:1c and this publications remarks regarding the translations by Moffatt and Goodspeed, two translators who translated the anarthrous QEOS there with the English adjective "divine" and a reply by a JW poster. This brief exchange occurred on a christian discussion board.
"Let's start at the very beginning. The author of the Appendix[1951 NWT, p.773-774]cites "The Complete Bible - An American Translation" and James Moffatt as both translating Jn 1:1c as "the Word was divine." The author then says: "Every honest person will have to admit that John's saying that the Word or Logos 'was divine' is not saying that he was the God with whom he was. It merely tells of a certain quality about the Word or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same God" (1951 NWT, pp. 773-774) But James Moffatt was an orthodox Trinitarian who suported both the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedon Confession: "'The Word was God...And the Word became flesh,' simply means "The word was divine...And the Word became human.' The Nicene faith, in the Chalcedon definition, was intended to conserve both of these truths against theories that failed to present Jesus as truly God and truly man..." Moffatt, _Jesus Christ the Same_, Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1945, p.61. Moffatt apparently *did* believe that "divine" signified that Jesus was "one and the same God" with hO QEOS.. So, I submit that the statement from the appendix represents at least two errors: 1) The "divine" translation does not *mean* that the Logos is not the God with whom He was - many scholars believe that "divine" means "the nature of the true God." 2) James Moffatt's "divine" translation does not support the author's contention, because *he* believed "divine" signified "Jesus as truly God." Please provide a cogent defense of the author's statement. Please provide quotations from the preponderance of Greek scholars contemporary with the author of the appendix who prefered the "divine" translation and believed that it "does not identify him as one and the same God." Please provide quotations from James Moffatt to the same effect.
Reply by a JW poster:
"You mis-state and mis-understand the point of the appendix author's words!
The appendix did not say: "Every honest person will have to admit that Moffatt and Goodspeed are saying that the Word or Logos 'was divine' is not saying that he was the God with whom he was. It merely tells of a certain quality about the Word or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same God" but that by "John saying...."
As the word "divine" in these translations is an adjective and actually means, from Websters online dictionary "of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god <divine love> b : being a deity <the divine Savior> c : directed to a deity <divine worship.." so the appendix was not saying what Moffatt or Goodspeed meant that as the Word was "divine" this did not make him the "God" he was with but that those translations admit if one was to read them without reading anything but the words meaning into them, even perhaps without reading trinitarianism into them, to an understanding that shows what John meant and that was that the Word was not "God" but "divine" and even "a god."
I am not sure if there were other translations or commentaries at the time who differentiated between the meaning of the Word being "divine" or "God" in a translation of John 1.1c but Hugh J. Schofield I do remember around that time also translated as Moffatt and Goodspeed did and he certainly did not mean that the Word was "truly God" in the trinitarian/Nicene sense(see his footnote under Rev.3.14 for instance.) And did not J.H.Thayer state: "The Logos was divine, not the divine Being himself"? ("Joseph Henry Thayer's personal copy of Griesbach's Greek New Testament text, 1809, with Thayer's handwritten comments on John 1:1 interleaved.") And even today we have this as a preferred translation, and this is the one preferred by your old adversary Dr. Jason BeDuhn, and he does not think that here the Word is being presented as "God" in any trinitarian sense(though it could still accord with it I think he admits). And you ask for "Greek scholars contemporary" with both Moffatt and Goodspeed. What you mean though is trinitarian Greek scholars! Hence, it matters not what Moffatt or Goodspeed, nor any other trinitarian scholars, intended to convey or understand by translating the Greek noun QEOS with an English adjective "divine," as any normal reading of this translation, this word "divine," devoid of any pre-concieved ideas about who or what the Word was,(and the apostle John knew nothing of "Nicene" did he?) would understand that "the Word" being "divine," and sandwiched between two "was with God" statements by the apostle, that the Word was not the same being the Word was with. Hence, not "God." This was the "honesty" the appendix author was talking of I have no doubt. It was being honest with the English word "divine" and the context in which it is found."
Trinitarians are not being "honest" with themselves or with the apostle John and his readers in English if they think their "and the Word was divine" translations mean what they would like it to mean and to accord with a post-NT, even alien NT understanding of the nature and being of God. However, anyone who is "honest" with the English word "divine" and in the context of John 1:1, 2 would, as the 1951 New World Translation appendix state:
".....will have to admit that John's saying that the Word or Logos 'was divine' is not saying that he was the God with whom he was. It merely tells of a certain quality about the Word or Logos, but it does not identify him as one and the same God."(bold emphasis ours)
John 1:1 files