PAROUSIA: "coming" or "presence"-Which?
This word the New World Translation has rendered, in all of it's 24 occurrences in the Greek text of the Christian Scriptures, as "presence."
So, instead of reading at Matthew 24:37:
"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming[Gk.parousia]of the Son of Man." -New International Version.
The New World Translation reads, "For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence [Gk.parousia]of the Son of man will be."
The question to be asked is: Which is the better rendering?
It would be good to quote the British scholar and clergyman who produced the Emphasised Bible. In an early edition of his translation of the Christian Greek Scripture in a footnote to 1 Thessolonians 2:19, which he translated as, "For what [shall be] our hope or crown of boasting? [Shall] not even ye before our Lord Jesus at his arrival?[Gk.parousia]", we can read:
"The word parousia occurs twenty four times in the Greek New Testament, and is in this translation rendered "arrival" twenty times, and "presence" four: namely (1), "arrival," Mat.xxiv.3,27,37,39; 1Co.xv.23; xvi.17; 2 Co.vii.6,7; 1 Thes.ii.19; ii.13; iv.15; v.23; 2Thes.ii.1,8,9; Ja.v.7,8;2 Pe.iii.4.12; 1Jn.ii.28; and (2), "presence," 2 Co.x.10; Phi.i.26; 11.12; and 2 Pe.i.26. The sense of "presence" is so plainly shown by the contrast with "absence," implied in 2 Co.x.10, and expressed in Phi.ii.12, that the question may be asked, why not always so render it? The answer is, because parousia, in some cases, plainly marks an event rather than a condition, a transitional point rather than a continous line. Take for example, 1 Co.xv.23. Here are three points: first, Christ's resurrection; second, his PAROUSIA; third, his delivering up of the kingdom, etc. The parousia will not fall into series, will not file off a "rank" in the resurrection, except as a point. Hence, for this place, "presence," a state , is not the word: "coming" or "arrival" may be. For "coming," eleusis would be the word, covering the entire line of movement, from, to. Beside, "coming" is not so near to "presence" as "arrival" is, since the latter seizes the very next thing to "presence," the point of junction between "coming" and "presence:" it is the termination of the process of coming, the beginning of the state of being present. "Arrival" is the decisive word: "the forthshining of his arrival"(2 Thes.ii.8)altogether satisfies the unbiased mind. "Advent" is a good word; but the looseness of usage would almost certainly conceal it's exact force. "Arrival," familiar, but not undignified, arrests the mind with a clear and striking significance. For reasons in favour of "presence," 2 Pe..i.16,see note there."
Turning to that note under 2 Peter 1:16 which Rotherham translates "parousia" as "presence," we read:
"Or, "arrival," (parousia, on which see 1 Thes.ii.19, note). The reason for here for preferring "presence" is that the transformation on the mount was a display and sample of "presence" rather than "coming." The Lord was there. Being there, the "majesty" of his glorified person was dislosed. His bodily "presence" was one which inferred and exerted "power" of course in the case of the "absent," "coming" is needed to give "presence." For this reason and for the partial appropriation of the word parousia to our Lord's advent, "arrival" and "presence" melt into each other, and one can hardly be dogmatically preferred to the other. We have not a happy bi-vocal word like parousia."
However, in a later edition of his translation Rotherham 'moved his ground', and in an Appendix said this under the word PRESENCE:
"In this edtion the word parousia is uniformly rendered "presence" ("coming," as a representative of this word,being set aside). The original term occurs 24 times in the N.T..,........... The sense of "presence" is so plainly shown by the contrast with "absence" (implied in 2 Cor.x.10, and expressed in Phi.ii.12)that the question naturally arises, -Why not always so render it? The more so, inas much as there is in 2 Pe.i.16 also, a peculiar fitness in our English word "presence." This passage, it will be remembered, relates to our lord's transformation on the Mount. The wonderful manifestation there made was a diplay and sample of "presence" rather than "coming."(cp.Mt.xvii.2.n.)and the "majesty" of his glorified person was then disclosed. His bodily presence was one which implied and exerted 2power"; so that "power" befitting such a "presence": and the three favoured disciples were at one and the same moment witnesses of both. The difficulty expressed in the notes in the 2nd edition of this N.T. in the way of so yielding to the weight of this evidence as to render parousia always by "presence," lay in the seeming incongruity of regarding "presence" as an event which would happen at a particular time and which would fall into rank as one of a series of events, as 1 Co.xv.23. especially appeared to require. The translator still feels the force of this objection, but is withdrawn from taking his stand upon it any longer by the reflection that, after all, the difficulty may be imaginary. The parousia, in any case, is still in the future, and may therefore be enshrouded in a measure of obscurity which only fullfillment can clear away: it may,in fine,be both a period, -more or less extended, during which certain things shall happen, -and an event, coming on and passing away as one of a series of divine interpositions. Christ is raised as a firstfruit-that is one event; He returns and vouchsafes his "presence," during which he raises his own-that is another event, however large and prolonged; and finally comes another cluster of events constituting "the end," Hence, after all, "presence" may be the most widely and permanently satisfying translation of the looked-for parousia of the Son of man."
So, Rotherham opted to translate all 24 occurences of parousia as "presence."
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Reference Edition(1984) contains an Appendix 5B discussing this very word. It quotes from Liddell and Scott's A Greek English Lexicon and Israel P. Warren in his work The Parousia, which the latter we will reproduce here:
" 'We' often speak of the 'second advent,' the 'second coming,' etc., but the Scriptures never speak of a 'second Parousia.'. Whatever was to be its nature, it was something peculiar, having never occurred before, and being never to occur again. It was to be a presence differing from and superior to all other manifestations of himself to men, so that its designation should properly stand by itself, without any qualifying epithet other than the article,- THE PRESENCE.
"From this view of the word it is evident, I think, that neither the English word "coming" nor the Latin "advent" is the best representative of the original. They do not conform to its etymology; they do not correspond to the idea of the verb from which it is derived; nor could they appropriately be substituted for the more exact word, "presence", in the cases where the translators used the latter. Nor is the radical [root] idea of them the same. "Coming" and "advent" give most prominently the conception of an approach to us, motion toward us; "parousia" that of being with us, without reference to how it began. The force of the former ends with the arrival; that of the latter begins with it. Those are words of motion; this of rest. The space of time covered by the action of the former is limited, it may be momentary; that of the latter unlimited . . . .Had our translators done with this technical word "parousia" as they did with "baptisma,"- transferring it unchanged,- or if translated using its exact etymological equivalent, "presence," and had it been well understood, as it then would have been, that there is no such thing as a "second Presence", I believe that the entire doctrine would have been different from what it now is. The phrases, "second advent," and "second coming," would never have been heard of. The church would have been taught to speak of THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, as that from which its hopes were to be realized, whether in the near future or at the remotest period,- that under which the world was to be made new, a resurrection both spiritual and corporeal should be attained, and justice and everlasting awards administered."
So it is not surprising that the New World Translation is following other translators in regard to this word "parousia". We have mentioned The Emphasised Bible and quoted extensively of Rotherham. Another translation that has "presence" rather than "coming" at Matthew 24:3, is Ferrar Fenton's The Complete Bible in Modern English.(1922) At Matthew 24:37 he reads; "And as in the days of Noah, so will also be the appearence of the Son of Man."
This verse also plays a part in how parousia might more correctly be translated, especially in reference to the "parousia" of Jesus Christ. The two volume encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, makes a pertinent point in this matter in the article 'Presence':
" That Jesus parousia is not simply a momentary coming followed by a rapid departure but is, rather, a presence covering a period of time is also indicated by his words recorded at Matthew 24:37-39 and Luke 17:26-30. Here "the days of Noah" are compared to "the presence of the Son of man" (" the days of the Son of man," in Luke's account). Jesus, therefore, does not limit the comparison just to the coming of the Deluge as a final climax during Noah's days, though he shows that his own "presence" or "days" will see a similar climax. Since "the days of Noah" actually covered a period of years, there is basis for believing that the foretold "presence [or "days"] of the Son of man" would likewise cover a period of some years, being climaxed by the destruction of those not giving heed to the opportunity afforded them to seek deliverance."
It might be here included, from the appendix in the New World Translation of 1950, the following, where the NWT editors are aware of and also cite Dr Adolf Deissman who gives a technical meaning for parousia as 'arrival, "It is true...in his Light from the Ancient East on pages 368, 369, that from the Ptolmemaic period down into the 2nd century A.D. one of the Eastern technical meanings of parousia was the arrival or visit of a king or emperor. However, this does not deny or disprove that in the Christian Greek Scriptures the word has the meaning of presence where it is used in connection with Jesus Christ and others.To prove what a word means the Scriptural context is more decisive than any outside papyrus usage of the word in a technical way."-p.779-emphasis ours.
The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson reads:
"....and "What will be the SIGN of THY PRESENCE[parousia].and of the CONSUMATION of the AGE?"; and "For as the DAYS of NOAH, thus will be the PRESENCE[parousia] of the SON of MAN."-Matthew 24: 3, 37.
The Concordant Literal New Testament with the Keyword Concordance reads at Matthew 24:3:
"....And what is the sign of Thy presence[PAROUSIA] and the conclusion of the eon?" -Concordant Publishing Concern, 1983 3rd printing.