The JW Name of God Documentary – Rolf Furuli Comments

Rolf_FuruliIn response to our first instalment looking at the documentary The Name of God, Rolf Furuli, one of the experts in the film, wrote to Reachout. I promised I would publish his email and my own reply and allow readers to decide for themselves how best to judge the film. Here is his email and my reply:

Dear Reachout Trust

A friend of mine directed me to your article dealing with the film on God’s name. I will point to the following facts:

Fritz Poppenberg is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and has never been. But he has found that different subjects in relation to JW are suited for documentary films.

The idea of making a film about God’s name came from Poppenberg and not from JW. He himself formed all the questions in his interviews with Gertoux and me. And as the editor, he chose the answers that he wanted to use in the film.

As far as I know, no JW had any influence on any part of the film, except Gertoux and me, who as scholars answered Poppenberg’s questions. Therefore, Poppenberg has the full responsibility for every part of the film. So, the claim that “there is a Jehovah’s Witness agenda” is wrong.

Jehovah’s Witness has not made the claim regarding the film that it is an “independent, non-denominational production.” But because no JW, or, as far as I know, no member of another denomination, has had anything to do with the film, it is per definition”independent” of any denomination.

I suggest that you print this letter below your discussion of the film.

Regards,

Rolf J. Furuli

———————————-

Dear Professor Furuli,

Thank you for your kind and helpful note regarding my article about the film on God’s Name. I am especially grateful that you have been able to confirm for me that Franz Poppenberg is not a Jehovah’s Witness. I thought as much but I was getting conflicting answers on the issue. Now I know and so will my readers. Perhaps you can confirm for me the association of Lorenz and Laura Reibling with the Watchtower Society if you are able. It would be very helpful to have clarity here.

I will be happy, of course, to publish your letter in the next newsletter, which I am happy to send to you if you wish.

I do understand your assertion that, since the film-maker is not a JW, and the Watchtower Society had nothing to do with the production of the film, it cannot then be regarded as anything but independent. I would take issue with the claim on several counts.

You write Poppenberg, a non-JW, formed all the questions in his interviews with you and I have no reason to doubt it. However, it is remarkable how those questions leant so easily towards peculiarly JW answers. Indeed, if he chose the answers it is remarkable how those answers chimed so with Watchtower teaching, never challenging it, but cast suspicion on mainstream Christian thinking without exception.

There is no fairly presented alternate view from mainstream Christian scholars, which makes the documentary rather one-sided. The point of my commentary on the film is to highlight the fact that there are respectable alternative views to explain and help understand what you are discussing.

While you are both the experts you say you are, no attempt is made to inform the viewer that both the experts in this film are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Declaring such an interest would lend greater integrity to the project, although I see how it might perhaps detract from credibility.

The arguments presented in the film as ‘academically independent’ are easily recognisable as influenced by and presenting peculiar Watchtower teachings. I especially think of the unjustifiable insertion of the word ‘other’ into the text of Philippians 2:9. Indeed, you quote from the NWT without informing the viewer this is the translation you are using. Is this altogether integrous?

As I pointed out in the article, the distributor, Stoops Manufacturing, is owned by and run for Jehovah’s Witnesses, indeed I am not aware of any other major outlet promoting the film outside JW circles. I came across it because it was being presented by a JW to a Christian friend as ‘an independent film that confirms JW claims.’ You may not be aware of these claims but they are being made, and understandably so since the film thoroughly promotes, from an apparently ‘independent’ view, JW beliefs regarding the Name.

The June edition of the Reachout newsletter will look further at the claims in the film and I will explain these things in greater detail. I will be sure to let you see what I have written and will be happy to consider any and all comments you may want to make. Your email will be published with the article, along with my reply, giving readers full disclosure. Meanwhile, I thank you again for getting in touch and sharing your thoughts.

Regards

Michael Thomas

Chairman

Categories: Jehovah's Witnesses

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2 Comments

  1. Phil 2:9?
    “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name.” NWT
    “For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.” GNT
    “So God raised Christ to the highest place. God made the name of Christ greater than every other name.” ICB
    “Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.” CEV
    “So God raised him up to the most important place and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.” ERV
    “So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name.” NCV
    “This is why God has given him an exceptional honor— the name honored above all other names.” GW
    “Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name.” TLB
    “Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.” NLV
    “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” NLT
    Dear Sir,
    You said,
    “The arguments presented in the film as ‘academically independent’ are easily recognisable as influenced by and presenting peculiar Watchtower teachings. I especially think of the unjustifiable insertion of the word ‘other’ into the text of Philippians 2:9. Indeed, you quote from the NWT without informing the viewer this is the translation you are using. Is this altogether integrous?”
    Reply,
    “I especially think of the unjustifiable insertion of the word ‘other’ into the text of Philippians 2:9.”
    With respect, what you accuse the NWT of, you yourself do and that is to neglect (and omit) to inform your readers of, and that is, from the small smattering of examples above, from TRINITARIAN bibles, be it noted, you omit to inform your “Reachout Trust” readers, that your own Trinitarian bible translators do exactly the same or similar to the NWT and insert “other”!
    What is it that these (non-JW) translators admit to and acknowledge, that you do not? If you need to point the finger of criticism at the NWT, perhaps, it would be better and fairer, if you started with your own Trinitarian translating house, then you could take the rafter out of your own eye, before you take the straw out of the NWT eye!
    If we take the example from the NASB at Phil 2:9:
    “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”
    Since we see the expression “every name”, are we to conclude, that, the name given to Jesus , by “God”* is “exalted” and which was, “bestowed on Him” “the name”, which is more exalted than that of the Father’s name or it is more likely what Paul intended and that is, since the creation was brought into existence, “by means of/through” Christ (passive) Christ stands in relation to and apart from that, which he brought into existence, thus, Christ in relation to and apart from…and has “bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”, are we to understand, that Jesus’ name has even been exalted above that of his own Father?
    * Or, to write it more accurately, from the original Greek “ho theos”, which translates into “the God”, so, here we see, that Jesus had to be exalted by another, the one called “ho theos” (the God).
    Dear Sir,
    There are several flaws in your response to R. Furuli:
    Phil 2:9?
    “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name.” NWT
    “For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.” GNT
    “So God raised Christ to the highest place. God made the name of Christ greater than every other name.” ICB
    “Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.” CEV
    “So God raised him up to the most important place and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.” ERV
    “So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name.” NCV
    “This is why God has given him an exceptional honor— the name honored above all other names.” GW
    “Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name.” TLB
    “Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.” NLV
    “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” NLT
    Dear Sir,
    You said,
    “The arguments presented in the film as ‘academically independent’ are easily recognisable as influenced by and presenting peculiar Watchtower teachings. I especially think of the unjustifiable insertion of the word ‘other’ into the text of Philippians 2:9. Indeed, you quote from the NWT without informing the viewer this is the translation you are using. Is this altogether integrous?”
    Reply,
    “I especially think of the unjustifiable insertion of the word ‘other’ into the text of Philippians 2:9.”
    With respect, what you accuse the NWT of, you yourself do and that is to neglect (or omit) to inform your readers of, and that is, from the small smattering of examples above, from TRINITARIAN bibles, be it noted, you omit to inform your “Reachout Trust” readers, that your own Trinitarian bible translators do exactly the same or similar to the NWT and insert “other”!
    What is it that these (non-JW) translators admit to and acknowledge, that you do not? If you need to point the finger of criticism at the NWT, perhaps, it would be better and fairer, if you started with your own Trinitarian translating house, then you could take the rafter out of your own eye, before you take the straw out of the NWT eye!
    If we take the example from the NASB at Phil 2:9:
    “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”
    Since we see the expression “every name”, are we to conclude, that, the name given to Jesus , by “God”* is “exalted” and which was, “bestowed on Him” “the name”, which is more exalted than that of the Father’s name or it is more likely what Paul intended and that is, since the creation was brought into existence, “by means of/through” Christ (passive) Christ stands in relation to and apart from that, which he brought into existence, since he pre-existed it, thus, Christ in relation to and apart from…and has “bestowed on Him the name which is above every name”, are we to understand, that Jesus’ name has even been exalted above that of his own Father? (See Col 1 for “other” in the NWT)
    * Or, to write it more accurately, from the original Greek “ho theos”, which translates into “the God”, so, here we see, that Jesus had to be exalted by another, the one called “ho theos” (the God)
    Regards,
    A. Graham (Former Trinitarian of over 20 years, now by choice a JW) 


    Reply
    • Andrew,

      Thanks for your observations. I note you ignore the greater part of the substantial commentary, including the fact the film-maker consistently appeals to sources without actually telling the viewer who that person is, where that quote came from. I suggest this makes this film a poor and unreliable product. I would like to know what you make of this. Would you be happy to trust a source that doesn’t cite his sources? He also misrepresents sources and some of this film may be described, at best, as disingenuous. Would you be happy to put your name to such a work? I would appreciate your engaging with these issues since they do form an important part of a commentary over forty pages in length.

      You have, unsurprisingly, lighted on the issue of Christ’s deity and Philippians 2. No doubt you think you are on firm ground here. Thankfully, you do cite the sources you quote. Nevertheless, I feel you have trawled the internet for sources that appear to agree with you, and have failed to reflect on what those sources are actually saying, even whether they are reliable sources.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses make the cardinal error of confusing unity and uniformity. That mindset sees Witnesses expecting the Christian Church to be uniform, much-of-a-muchness, seen one, seen them all. There is no ‘Trinitarian translation house. Since you self-identify as a former Trinitarian I would have thought you would understand this. The church is not like that, and quoting different translations that appear (only appear) to agree with the NWT does not by any means ‘prove’ anything, except some translators use the same words and phrases that you mistakenly believe make your point.

      Given the above, you might understand why an Evangelical believer might not be so impressed by your choice of translations, nor with your very selective presentation of ‘evidence.’ Let’s look at them.

      Phil 2:9

      GNT “For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.”

      This is an ‘easy to read’ Bible and, although a proper translation, the purpose of the translators is not academic but accessibility. It is a good translation – a favourite of mine – but not widely appealed to in the pulpit. But we must ask what the translators intended when they wrote ‘greater than any other name.’ This is clear from Philip.2:5-6

      ‘The attitude you should have is the one Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God…’

      Does this read as though they meant by the word ‘other’ what the NWT translators meant?

      ICB “So God raised Christ to the highest place. God made the name of Christ greater than every other name.”

      Need I say more than, albeit a translation rather than a paraphrase, the ICB is a children’s Bible? When one considers the raft of serious and scholarly translations we might consult (NIV, ESV, NASB, RSV) one has to ask why a children’s Bible? The answer, of course, is it says what you want it to say; or does it? But what of Christ in this translation?

      ‘In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. He was equal with God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be held on to. He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.’ (Philip.2:5-7)

      CEV “Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.”

      Again, while being a good translation, the CEV is an ‘easy to read’ Bible, written at a fourth grade reading level. Clearly, accuracy is partnered with accessibility. But do the translators, who add ‘other’ to the text, mean what JWs mean?

      ‘Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us.’ (Philip.2:6-7)

      ERV “So God raised him up to the most important place and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.”

      The ERV is – well the name gives it away; Easy to Read Version. The aim here was to make the written text more accessible to deaf people used to sign language rather than sound language. But what do the translators think of Jesus?

      ‘In your life together, think the way Christ Jesus thought. He was like God in every way, but he did not think that his being equal with God was something to use for his own benefit. Instead, he gave up everything, even his place with God. He accepted the role of a servant, appearing in human form.’ (Philip.2:5-7)

      NCV “So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name.”

      The New Century Version developed from the ERV for the deaf and has the same aim of combining accuracy and accessibility. What do these translators make of Jesus?

      ‘Christ himself was like God in everything. He was equal with God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be held on to.’ (Philip.2:5-6)

      GW “This is why God has given him an exceptional honor— the name honored above all other names.”

      God’s Word Bible is a “natural equivalent translation,” consciously combining scholarly fidelity with natural English. The grammar is simplified; the style is informal; and sentences are shorter and less complicated than other versions. Again, we have a reliable enough translation whose primary aim is simplification. And Jesus?

      ‘Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance.’ (Philip.2:5-7)

      TLB “Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name.”

      The Living Bible is a paraphrase. I have time for some paraphrases but you really are aiming low appealing to something that isn’t a translation. Still, how does this translator understand Jesus?

      ‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,…’ (Philip.2:5-7)

      NLV “Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.”

      The New Life Version is ‘a must for new readers and people learning English as a second language!’ Who is Christ in this translation?

      ‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form…’ (Philip.2:5-7)

      NLT “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” This is the most recent version of the TLB and so the same applies.

      NWT “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name.”

      This is universally regarded by Bible translators as the most inaccurate translation on the planet, fatally flawed in being influenced by deliberate interpretations designed to support otherwise insupportable JW claims. What does the NWT say in Philip.2:5-7?

      ‘Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form…’

      Where every translation has Jesus ‘equal with God’ but prepared to give up ‘his divine privileges,’ the NWT has the opposite meaning, having Jesus not presuming to ‘seize’ equality with God. I would be impressed if you could come up with a reliable and respectable translation that comes up with, ‘Consider a seizure?’

      Since every translation you quote recognises the deity of Christ, agreeing with what the church has taught for two thousand years, why add ‘other’ in Philippians? The first thing to recognise is that your own Interlinear shows ‘other’ is not in the Greek text so the assertion stands.

      Clearly, these translators mean that Christ was given the name above all other names than the name he is given. Translation inevitably involves interpretation and they want to make clear that no other name stands with, alongside, or above the name of Jesus. Every other name stands below his. The text doesn’t say ‘every other than the name of God.’ The text doesn’t say ‘every other name.’

      Reply

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