Saturday, November 29, 2008

JW Study Meeting #11

Uriah dropped by today, and I was caught off-guard a bit because I was upstairs, browsing TheologyWeb through the mysterious wireless Internet access that my laptop sometimes gets and for which I'm sure not the one shelling out any cash. After hopping downstairs, I let Uriah in, and we made a bit of small talk at the start. I told him how I'd watched two of the videos he'd let me borrow, Jehovah's Witnesses: The Organization Behind the Name and No Blood: Medicine Meets the Challenge. The second one is all about, needless to say, the medical progress being made in developing bloodless surgical techniques to accomodate, not just Jehovah's Witnesses, but also any other individuals who have a preference for avoiding blood transfusions for some reason or other. One case given as an example of this technology in action was a young JW girl who needed surgery to deal with a very severe case of scoliosis, and for whom they used the substitute techniques of hemodilution and use of a Cell Saver. The other video, which I'd initially hoped would cover some of the history of the organization, was really more about the operation as it stood in the late 80s... so there was plenty of footage from inside Bethel and the related complex, including an extremely lengthy tour of the printing presses. It was pretty interesting at first, and I especially enjoyed checking out brief clips of the library and information on how their publications come to be written... but by the time I was about halfway through, I was bored out of my mind.

I was chatting with Uriah for a bit, and he was telling me about a tour of Bethel he took a year or so ago, and we were discussing the computer technology they have, and he was mentioning how impressive the presses are. Then he mentioned that while there, he got to take photographs of Russell's and Rutherford's personal Bibles, and that reminded me to show him my copy of Russell's The Divine Plan of the Ages, which I'd discovered in a box in the basement a few weeks ago and which he was delighted to see. Then I showed him the chart in front, which was Russell's "pyramid scheme" (forgive the pun), and I talked for a while about all the cool stuff I have in PDF format, including Harvest Gleanings, Russell's will, some of his earlier writings, and collections of his comments arranged by verse--which, it occurred to me, is just the sort of thing that I'd be likely to do.

From there, I asked about some of the books I'd asked for and some others that interest me. Uriah's ordered in a copy of Jehovah's Witnesses--Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, whereas "The Word"--Who is He? According to John is proving to be a rather elusive fellow. He could've sworn he'd already transferred a copy of Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life to me last time he was here, but I don't have record that he did, so he thinks it might still be at home, in which case I'll receive it next time. I then mentioned that I'd seen a two-volume work called Insight on the Scriptures, which is sort of their current Bible encyclopedia. He's going to look into the possibility of finding me a copy. He explained how he uses it, and he gave as an example a time recently when he was curious about the meaning of 1 Peter 3:19 and found some answers in the Insight book. Around here, we got on a tangent of discussing Mormonism--evidently the Mormons don't visit him anymore. At first they get excited, but after they realize that he's interested in the Bible and not the Book of Mormon, they tend to wander away. We then spent some time discussing Mormon doctrine, such as eternal progression and exaltation, and he brought up how he had a book on Mormonism (I don't think he remembered the title), and he questioned them on the relative recentness (is that a word?) of admitting blacks to the priesthood. I've always wanted to see a Jehovah's Witness and a Mormon throw down. When we found ourselves back on books, I asked about Aid to Bible Understanding, and he actually wasn't sure what it was, though he recalled that the cover had blue lettering and a yellowish/goldish background. He said it was pretty old, but he'll see if maybe he can find one somewhere. From the sounds of it, nobody really uses it anymore, so it sounds perfect for me. Jehovah's Witnesses these days don't really read the older material too much, since they're busy getting through the newest and latest. I eventually asked about the difference between the Emphatic Diaglott and the Kingdom Interlinear, and he didn't seem entirely certain, actually. From the sounds of it, they don't really use either very much, or at least he doesn't. The Diaglott, he said, is arranged in three columns, each a different language, with one frequently empty depending on which testament the page is. He wasn't sure about any specifics of the Kingdom Interlinear, but he's going to look into the possibility of getting one for me. I can buy an Emphatic Diaglott from one of the Christadelphian bookstores, since the translator of the Diaglott, Benjamin Wilson, was a Christadelphian.

Somewhere in here, we went on some tangents, first about Joyce Meyer and how she insists that if people don't believe that Jesus was tormented in hell by demons for three days to further atone for our sins, they can't be saved, and then second about the bailouts, which both Uriah and I think was a rather abysmal decision.

Also, Uriah told an interesting story about how full-time Pioneers get a chance now and then to attend a special two-week school (I asked if it was Gilead, but then I remembered that that's specifically a missionary training school), and one time, an instructor there had his class spend a day in the field with nothing but their Bibles. No tracts, no study helps, just Bibles. Uriah said that the purpose was to remind them to teach the Bible, not the study book, which at least comes across as an atypical JW sentiment, considering their organization's history of insisting that the Scriptures need to be clarified through the organization's helps. (Uriah's remarks at this point sounded very... Protestant, at least for a JW. It was interesting.)

After almost an hour, Uriah and I finally turned to What Does the Bible Really Teach?, and after we determined where we were, we decided to just do two paragraphs and call it a day. We're getting into the fifth chapter, which is on the atonement. Should be interesting. Nothing controversial so far. It's just introductory material saying little more than that the atonement brought by Christ was the greatest gift that we could ever receive. No argument there! So we talked about it for a while, and then prepared to part ways. I wished Shem well, and Uriah mentioned that although we don't pray together at our studies, he does still pray for me, and that he thinks I've got a lot of potential.

Oh, also, he gave me the latest two issues each of The Watchtower and Awake!. While I think I'll thoroughly enjoy many of the articles in the November Watchtower, since they primarily concern the issue of hell, my attention was immediately drawn to the 1.5-page article on pp. 24-25, concerning John 1:1. My favorite! It basically contains a single argument to the effect that the Sahidic Coptic translation of the Gospel of John, being very early, supports their position, because the Coptic equivalent of theos in John 1:1c has the indefinite article. Unfortunately for this article, I've already run into this very same argument in other literature--I think it might've been in "The Word"--Who is He? According to John, though I could be totally mistaken--and I know its fatal flaw. Although Coptic scholar Thomas Lambdin is quoted in the article as saying, "The use of the Coptic articles, both definite and indefinite, corresponds closely to the use of the articles in English", I'm extremely confident that he's been misunderstood and/or taken out of context--probably both. Why? Because while the similarity to English is that it has both definite and indefinite articles, the Coptic indefinite article has some quirks, such as attaching to nouns that wouldn't ordinarily get it in English. Hence, just a few verses later in the same copy of the Gospel of John, we get references to being "baptized in a water". Once one understands exactly how the Coptic indefinite article functions, it becomes clear that it doesn't at all support the JW rendering of John 1:1.

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