Monday, October 22, 2012

It Pays to Know Your Books

While thumbing through the religion books at Brused Books in Pullman, Washington, I came across a book I knew I had to buy. “What was it?” you ask, in eager anticipation. Why, it was The Emphatic Diaglott. “Oh, awesome!” you say, unsure of what that might be, other than that it’s something with two tongues.

The Emphatic Diaglott is an interlinear Bible – but not just any interlinear Bible, it’s a bad interlinear Bible. Originally published by Benjamin Wilson, who was anti-Trinitarian in his beliefs (being a Christadelphian). His anti-Trinitarian leanings show up in his translation, originally published in 1865 and based on the Codex Vaticanus. Where this monologue finally gets interesting is the entrance of a mystery person who buys the rights to Wilson’s Bible. The mystery man is Charles Taze Russell, the inventor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Russell was interested in The Emphatic Diaglott because of its anti-Trinitarian and anti-hell bias, as well as its usefulness in backing up Russell’s belief in Christ’s invisible return to earth in the 19th century.

The Watchtower printed the Diaglott, using the original plates obtained from Wilson, in 1902. They reset the type for publication on their own printing presses, running editions in 1927 and 1942. Eventually, the Watchtower tired of this Bible, translating and adding and subtracting to their own Bible, The New World Translation, in 1961. The Diaglott is useful because it can be used to show the Witnesses, using their own materials, how the Diaglott and The New World Translation differ. Of course, the easier route to take is to obtain a copy of the Watchtower’s own interlinear, called the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, and use it to show how the Greek markedly differs with their translation. You can download the Kingdom Interlinear (lovingly called the Purple People Eater by Christian apologists because of the purple cover of the 1965 edition) here.

So why was I so intent on buying The Emphatic Diaglott? Partly because I didn’t have one – it’s one of the few significant JW books I didn’t have. The other reason? It was $9.00, and the actual value for this early print edition is at least ten times that price – not that I’d sell it. It pays to know your books.

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