Some have commented that we need to be more positive in this forum. We quite agree. We would like nothing better than to speak only of positive and upbuilding truth from God’s word. However, to build upon ground where a structure already exists, one must first tear down the old. My last post is a case in point. I personally found the conclusion most upbuilding as did a number of others, to go by the comments. Still, to make that point, it was necessary to clear the way by demonstrating the fallacy of our policy which inserts the divine name into scriptures where it never existed in the first place.
The problem we face is the same problem all humans face all the time and in virtually every endeavor. I’m referring to our propensity to believe what we want to believe. This was highlighted by Peter at 2 Peter 3:5, “For, according to their wish, this fact escapes their notice…”
They missed the point because they wanted to miss the point. We may think we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are above this, but in fact the only way for any human to escape this self-laid trap is to want or wish to believe what is true. One has to love truth above all other things—all other ideas and concepts—to meet this challenge successfully. This is no easy thing to accomplish because there are many weapons arrayed against us, and adding to the burden is our own weak and sinful self with all its own wants, desires, prejudices and hang-ups.
Paul warned the Ephesians about the need to maintain vigilance: “So we should no longer be children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Eph. 4:14)
Our publications contain many fine principles to live by and are often beautifully written by good Christian men who only want what is best for us. However, the self-deception that Peter spoke of works not only toward the one taught, but also in the mind and heart of the teacher.
Whatever teaching is handed down, we must be willing to put aside the natural preferentialism we may be inclined to feel for those in authority and examine all things dispassionately. Perhaps I misspeak. Perhaps ‘dispassionate’ is precisely what we should not be. For it is a passion for truth that will steer us clear of falsehood. Of course, above all else is our love for the source of all truth: our Father, Jehovah God.
How can we avoid being misled? We must stop acting like children for one. Children are easily misled because they are too trusting and lack the skills to examine evidence discerningly. That is why Paul exhorted us to be children no longer.
We must develop the reasoning skills of adults. Sadly, that analogy is weakened by the fact that many adults today lack sound reasoning skills. So as Christians, we need something more. We need to ‘attain to the stature of a full-grown human, a measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.’ (Eph. 4:13) To accomplish this, one of the things we must acquire is a knowledge of the techniques used to deceive us. These can be most subtle.
For instance, a friend who was working on the public talk outline, “A Loyal Congregation Under Christ’s Leadership”, noticed how subtly the idea of loyalty to the Governing Body was introduced and given weight. In abbreviated form, the outline introduces the following train of logic.
- Christ deserves our loyalty.
- All must show loyalty.
- The faithful slave cares for the earthly interests of the congregation.
- Faithful ones stick loyally to the faithful slave.
Notice how the outline never actually says we should be loyal to Jesus; only that he deserves our loyalty, which we supply to him by showing loyalty to the faithful slave which now is fully personified in the Governing Body?
This is a faulty generalization, a type of inductive fallacy; drawing a conclusion based on weak premises. The fact is that we must be loyal to the Christ. The faulty premise is that our loyalty to Christ can be achieved by being loyal to men.
While much of what we teach in our publications is uplifting, sadly we do not always attain to the high standard set by our Leader, the Christ. So we do well to understand the techniques that can be used to mislead us from time to time.
Let’s take a case in point. Our latest release of the New World Translation has removed the J references appendix which was formerly used to justify the insertion of Jehovah’s name in the Christian Scriptures. Instead it has given us Appendix A5 wherein it states there is “compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts.” It then presents this compelling evidence in nine bullet-point paragraphs starting on page 1736.
Each of these nine points seems convincing to the casual reader. However, it doesn’t take much thought to see them for what they are: logical fallacies that lead to faulty conclusions. We’ll examine each one and try to identify the fallacy employed to convince us that these points constitute real evidence, rather than just human supposition.
The Strawman Fallacy
The Strawman Fallacy is one where the argument is misrepresented to make it easier to attack. Essentially, to win the argument, one side constructs a metaphorical strawman by making the argument about something other than what it really is. The nine bullet points of the translators’ argument when taken together constitute a typical strawman fallacy. They assume that all that is needed is to prove that the first century Christians knew and used Jehovah’s name.
This is not the argument at all. The fact is that those arguing against the practice of inserting the divine name into any translation of the Christian Scriptures will gladly stipulate that the disciples both knew and used the divine name. The argument isn’t about that. It is about whether they were inspired to include it when writing the Holy Scriptures.
Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent
Having constructed their strawman, the writers now only have to prove A (that the writers of the Christian Scripture both knew and used Jehovah’s name) to automatically prove B, (that they must have also included it in their writings).
This is a propositional fallacy referred to as affirming the consequent: If A is true, B must be true also.
It seems obvious superficially, but that’s where the fallacy comes in. Let’s illustrate it this way: When I was a young man I was abroad for several years during which time I wrote a number of letters to my father. I never once used his name in those letters, but addressed him only as “father” or “dad”. I also wrote letters to friends who were coming to visit me. In those I asked them to contact my father so that they could bring some gifts from him to me. In those letters I gave them my father’s name and address.
Years from now, if someone were to look at this correspondence they could prove that I both knew and used my father’s name. Would that give them the basis to argue that my personal correspondence with my father must have included his name also? That its absence is proof that it was removed somehow by persons unknown?
Just because A is true, doesn’t automatically mean that B is true as well—the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
Let us now look at each bullet point and see how the fallacies build one upon another.
The Fallacy of Composition
The first fallacy that the writers use is what is called the Fallacy of Composition. This is when the writer states a fact about one part of something and then assumes that since it applies there, it applies to other parts as well. Consider the first two bullet points.
- Copies of the Hebrew Scriptures used in the days of Jesus and the apostles contained the Tetragrammaton throughout the text.
- In the days of Jesus and his apostles, the Tetragrammaton also appeared in Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Remember, these two points are being presented as compelling evidence.
The fact that the Hebrew Scriptures contain the Tetragrammaton doesn’t require that the Christian Greek Scriptures also contain it. To demonstrate this is a fallacy of composition, consider that the book of Esther does not contain the divine name. Yet according to this reasoning, it must have contained the divine name originally, because every other book of the Hebrew Scriptures contains it? Therefore, we have to conclude that copyists removed Jehovah’s name from the book of Esther; something we do not claim.
The Fallacies of Weak Induction and Equivocation
The next bullet point of so-called evidence is a combination of at least two fallacies.
- The Christian Greek Scriptures themselves report that Jesus often referred to God’s name and made it known to others.
First we have the fallacy of weak induction. Our reasoning is that since Jesus used God’s name, then the Christian writers also used it. Since they used it, they would have recorded it when writing. None of this is proof. As we’ve already illustrated, my father knew and uses his own name, I used it to on occasions where appropriate. That doesn’t mean that when I spoke of him to my siblings, I used it in lieu of dad or father. This line of weak deductive reasoning is made all the weaker by the inclusion of another fallacy, the Fallacy of Equivocation or Ambiguity.
For a modern audience, saying ‘Jesus made God’s name known to others’ means he told people what God was called. The fact is the Jews all knew that the name of God was Jehovah, so it would be incorrect to say that Jesus made this, God’s designation, known to them. It would be like us saying that we preach in a Catholic community to make known the name of the Christ. All Catholics know he’s called Jesus. What would be the point of preaching in a Catholic neighborhood just to tell Catholics that the Lord is called Jesus? The fact is, when Jesus plainly stated: “I have come in the name of my Father”, he was referring to a different meaning of the word, a meaning that would be readily understood by his Jewish audience. The fallacy of equivocation is used by the writer here to focus on the wrong meaning of the word “name” so as to make his point, rather than the point Jesus was making. (John 5:43)
We baptize in the name of the Father, Son and holy spirit. The holy spirit has no designation, but it does have a name. Similarly, the angel told Mary that her child would be called “Immanuel, which means…’With Us Is God’.” Jesus was never called Immanuel, so the use of that name wasn’t in the nature of a designation like “Tom” or “Harry”.
Jesus was speaking to Hebrews. There is evidence that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew. In Hebrew, all names have a meaning. In fact, the word “name” literally means “character”. So when Jesus said “I come in the name of my Father”, he literally was saying, ‘I come in the character of my Father’. When he said that he made God’s name known to men, he was actually making known the character of God. Since he was the perfect image of this Father, he could say that those who saw him, saw the Father also, because to understand the character or mind of Christ, was to understand the character or mind of God. (Mat. 28:19; 1:23; John 14:7; 1 Cor. 2:16)
In light of this fact, let’s look at our Appendix A5 bullet point on more time.
- The Christian Greek Scriptures themselves report that Jesus often referred to God’s name and made it known to others.
Jesus came to reveal God’s name or character to people who already knew the designation, YHWH, but not the meaning; certainly not the enhanced meaning Jesus was about to reveal. He revealed Jehovah as a loving Father, not just a Father to the nation or to a people, but the Father of each individual. This made us all brothers in a special way. We became brothers of Jesus as well, thereby rejoining the universal family from which we had been alienated. (Rom. 5:10) This was a concept virtually alien to the both the Hebrew and Greek mentality.
Therefore, if we are going to apply the logic of this bullet point, let’s do so without the fallacy of equivocation or ambiguity. Let’s use the term “name” as Jesus used it. Doing that, what would we expect to see? We would expect to see the Christian writers painting Jehovah in the character of our loving, caring, protective Father. And that is precisely what we see, some 260 times! Even more than all the bogus J references that merely confuse Jesus’ message.
The Fallacy of Personal Incredulity
Next we encounter the Fallacy of Personal Incredulity. This is when the person making the argument reasons that something must be true, because it seems incredible that it couldn’t be true.
- Since the Christian Greek Scriptures were an inspired addition to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, the sudden disappearance of Jehovah’s name from the text would seem inconsistent.
It may seem inconsistent but that is just human emotion speaking, not hard evidence. We have been prejudiced into believing that the presence of the divine name is critical, so its absence would be wrong and therefore has to be explained as the work of nefarious forces.
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
This is Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”.
- The divine name appears in its abbreviated form in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
So the argument goes like this. The divine name is abbreviated to “Jah” and inserted into names like “Jesus” (“Jehovah is Salvation”) and expressions like “Hallelujah” (“Praise Jah”). The Christian writers knew this. Under inspiration, they wrote names like “Jesus” and words like “Hallelujah”. Therefore the Christian writers also used the full divine name in their writings.
This is a stupid argument. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but sometimes you just have to call a spade, a spade. The fact is that the word “Hallelujah” is used often these days. One hears it in popular songs, in movies—I even heard it in a soap commercial. Are we therefore to conclude that people know and use Jehovah’s name as well? Even if people are made aware that “Hallelujah” contains the divine name in abbreviated form, are they consequently going to start using it in speech and writing?
Obviously, this bullet point is intended to shore up the Strawman fallacy that the disciples knew God’s name. As we’ve discussed, that isn’t the issue and we will agree that they did know his name, but it doesn’t change anything. What makes this all the more ridiculous is that, as we’ve just demonstrated, this particular point doesn’t even prove the strawman argument.
Appeal to Probability
Remember that we are discussing items which are presented as “compelling evidence”.
- Early Jewish writings indicate that Jewish Christians used the divine name in their writings.
The fact that Jewish Christian writings from a century after the Bible was written contain the divine name is given as ‘probable cause’ to believe the inspired word contained it as well. Probability is not the same thing as evidence. Additionally, other factors are conveniently left out. Were these later writings directed to the Christian community or to outsiders? Of course, you would refer to God by his name to outsiders, just as a son talking to strangers about his father would use his father’s name. However, a son talking with his siblings would never use his father’s name. He would simply say “father” or “dad”.
Another key factor is that these writings by Jewish Christians were not inspired. The authors of these writings were men. The author of the Christian Scriptures is Jehovah God, and he would inspire the writers to put his name in if he so chose, or to use “Father” or “God” if that were his wish. Or are we now telling God what he should have done?
If Jehovah inspired the writing of some ‘new scrolls’ today, and chose not to inspire the writer to include his name, but perhaps refer to him only as God or Father, future generations could question the authenticity of these new inspired writings on the very same basis we are using in Appendix A5. After all, to date, The Watchtower magazine has used Jehovah’s name over a quarter million times. So, the reasoning would go, the inspired writer must have used it as well. The reasoning would be as wrong then as it is now.
Appeal to Authority
This fallacy is based on the assertion that something must be true because some authority is asserting it.
- Some Bible scholars acknowledge that it seems likely that the divine name appeared in Hebrew Scripture quotations found in Christian Greek Scriptures.
- Recognized Bible translators have used God’s name in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Many Bible scholars acknowledge that God is a Trinity and that man has an immortal soul. Many recognized Bible translators have removed God’s name from the Bible. We cannot appeal to the weight of authority only when it suits us.
Argumentum ad Populum
This fallacy is an appeal to the majority or to the people. Also known as the “bandwagon argument”, it holds that something must be true because everyone believes it. Of course, if we were to accept this line of reasoning, we’d be teaching the Trinity. Yet, we are willing to use it when it suits our cause, as we do for the final of the nine bullet points.
- Bible translations in over one hundred different languages contain the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The truth of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of Bible translations have removed the divine name. So if the bandwagon argument is what we want to base our policy on, then we should remove the divine name altogether because there are more people riding that particular bandwagon.
Having reviewed the “evidence”, do you consider it to be “compelling”? Do you even consider it as evidence, or is it just a lot of supposition and fallacious reasoning? The writers of this appendix feel that, after presenting these facts, they have just cause to say “without a doubt, there is a clear basis for restoring the divine name, Jehovah, in the Christian Greek Scriptures.” [Italics mine] They then go on to say regarding the NWT translation team, “They have a deep respect for the divine name and a healthy fear of removing anything that appeared in the original text.—Revelation 22:18, 19”
Alas, there is no mention of a corresponding “healthy fear” of adding anything that didn’t appear in the original text. Quoting Revelation 22:18, 19 shows that they are aware of the penalty for adding or subtracting from the word of God. They feel justified in doing what they have done, and the final arbiter of that will be Jehovah. However, we have to decide whether we accept their reasoning as truth or merely the theories of men. We have the tools.
“But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one. “ (1 John 5:20)
It’s up to us to use this gift from God. If we don’t, we are in danger of being swayed by “every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.”