Question: Does the Watchtower Believe That the Existing Biblical Manuscripts Are Reliable and Essentially the Same as the Apostles Penned?
This question needs to be asked of sincere Witnesses. Proposition A are supporting statements from the Watchtower supporting the reliability of the Scriptures. Proposition B are statements from the Watchtower which claim the exact opposite. Which proposition is true?
Greek Manuscripts Have Been Preserved without Alteration
In many places, the Watchtower affirms that the text of the New Testament is essentially the same as that which was penned by the apostles. Barring minor copyists mistakes, which becomes evident when comparing the thousands of Greek manuscripts, the texts themselves have been Divinely Preserved:
11-15-1988Evidence of Divine Preservation, page 31
The complete manuscript of which the fragment is such a small part was therefore copied very close to the time of writing of the original Gospel account penned by
Johnhimself. Likely, the gap was as little as 30 or 40 years. We can also be sure that John’s account was not significantly altered by later scribes, for the text of the fragment agrees almost exactly with that found in much later manuscripts.
The Watchtower is in agreement with numerous Christian scholars that they are “free from variation”, and “no essential additions or omissions”.
June 11 1972page 7 How Reliable is Our Bible Text
Regarding the effect of such scrupulous care, Dr. Hort notes: “The great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed. If comparative trivialities . . . are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.”
The late Bible text scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon made this reassuring statement in the introduction to his seven volumes on the “
Beatty Biblical Papyri”: “The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them [the then recently discovered second- to fourth-century papyri] is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines. The variations of text affect minor matters, such as the order of words or the precise words used.” Chester
This theme is repeated, and expanded upon in the second volume of “Insight”. The Greek manuscript text is called “thoroughly reliable” and “authentic”.
Insight Vol. 2 Manuscripts of the Bible Pg 318
Extant Hebrew manuscripts of the Scriptures were prepared with great care. Respecting the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, scholar W. H. Green observed: “It may be safely said that no other work of antiquity has been so accurately transmitted.” (Archaeology and Bible History, by J. P. Free, 1964, p. 5) The late Bible text scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon made this reassuring statement in the introduction to his seven volumes entitled The
Beatty Biblical Papyri: “The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them [the Papyri] is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines. The variations of text affect minor matters, such as the order of words or the precise words used. . . . But their essential importance is their confirmation, by evidence of an earlier date than was hitherto available, of the integrity of our existing texts. In this respect they are an acquisition of epoch-making value.”— Chester , 1933, Fasciculus I, p. 15. London
Concerning the Christian Greek Scriptures, Sir Frederic Kenyon stated: “The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”—The Bible and Archaeology, 1940, pp. 288, 289.
Centuries ago, Jesus Christ, “the faithful and true witness” (Re ), repeatedly and emphatically confirmed the genuineness of the Hebrew Scriptures, as did his apostles. (Lu 24:27, 44; Ro 15:4) Extant ancient versions, or translations, further bespeak the exactness of the preserved Hebrew Scriptures. Manuscripts and versions of the Christian Greek Scriptures bear unassailable testimony to the marvelous preservation and accurate transmission of that portion of God’s Word. We are therefore now favored with an authentic, thoroughly reliable Bible text. A thoughtful examination of preserved manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures bears eloquent testimony to their faithful preservation and permanence, giving added meaning to the inspired statement: “The green grass has dried up, the blossom has withered; but as for the word of our God, it will last to time indefinite.”—Isa 40:8; 1Pe , 25.
All of The Greek Texts Have all Been Corrupted by Apostates
Yet, in other places, the Watchtower is insistent that the Bible (the NT or Christian Greek Scriptures in particular) has been deliberately and maliciously altered by apostates:
There are thousands of copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures in existence today, but most of them were made during or after the fourth century of our Common Era. This suggests a possibility: Did something happen to the text of the Christian Greek Scriptures before the fourth century that resulted in the omission of God's name? The facts prove that something did… Hence, while Jews refused to pronounce God's name, the apostate Christian church managed to remove it completely from Greek language manuscripts of both parts of the Bible, as well as from other language versions.
In Volume 2 of Insight, they reaffirm their belief that copyists deliberately removed the Tetragrammaton from all the New Testaments in existence, meaning they altered the scriptures in hundreds of places regarding a very important matter. (This is repeated verbatim in The Watchtower August 1st, 1971 “Why Gods Name Should Appear in the Whole Bible)
Insight, Volume 2: Jehovah
Why, then, is the name absent from the extant manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called New Testament? Evidently because by the time those extant copies were made (from the third century C.E. onward) the original text of the writings of the apostles and disciples had been altered. Thus later copyists undoubtedly replaced the divine name in Tetragrammaton form with Ky´ri·os and The·os´. (PICTURE, Vol. 1, p. 324) This is precisely what the facts show was done in later copies of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Was it merely a mistake based on superstition? A small scribal slip? According to the Watchtower, it was a satanically inspired and directed attack on the Word of God that successfully purged God’s Name from the various translations as well as the Christian Greek Scriptures themselves.
10-1-1997page 3 “The Word of God Endures Forever”
12 Other efforts to change the Scriptures involved more than rewording a few verses. These constituted an attack on the identity of the true God himself. The very nature and extent of the changes gave clear evidence of influence from a source more powerful than any individual man or human organization—yes, influence from Jehovah’s archenemy, Satan the Devil. Yielding to that influence, translators and copyists—some eagerly, others reluctantly—began to remove God’s own personal name, Jehovah, from his inspired Word in the thousands of places where it appeared. At an early date, some translations from Hebrew into Greek, Latin, German, English, Italian, and Dutch, among others, omitted the divine name entirely or retained it in only a few places. It was also taken out of copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The basis for the addition of the name Jehovah to the New World Translation in hundreds of places rests on the proposition B; that it was originally there, but maliciously removed. In the original forward to the 1950, the translation committee goes so far to say that they consulted, and apparently favored, translations made by Jesuits and monks made in the 14th to 19th century over the original texts. (Think about that one…the translation committee thought a translation from Hebrew, in some cases from the Latin Vulgate, from the Greek, made by Catholics during the dark ages was more reliable than just going to the original Greek in the first place.)
So, Proposition A and B are mutually exclusive. A lot of the accolades the Watchtower heaps on the idea of Divine Preservation seem to be lip service. However, if Proposition B is true, and all 5000 existing manuscripts in existence have been altered in hundreds of places, (what are the chances of that) and even all of the writings of the early Church fathers have been expunged that used the Tetragrammaton, then why would anyone put any stock in any section of the Bible at all?