Jehovah's Witnesses' translation of Bible goes to court


Critical moment in the case for finding Jehovah's Witnesses' translation of Bible to be extremist

by Evgenii Ikhlov

Kasparov.Ru, 28 July 2017


As is known, on 26 April 2016 the Vyborg city court of Leningrad province began consideration of a lawsuit by the Leningrad-Finland transport prosecutor's office for finding publications of the Jehovah's Witnesses (who are, as is known, banned by the Supreme Court on the territory of the RF) that were seized by Vyborg customs to be extremist.


Among them is the "Sacred Scripture in the Translation of the New World" (published in 2007), that is, the Bible in the Jehovah's Witnesses' Russian translation. At the 26 April session, the court made the decision to order a religious studies expert analysis and to recess the proceedings on the case until the announcement of its results.


The edition of the Bible was detained by customs in July 2015, and in February 2016 the prosecutor's office sent to the court a lawsuit for finding the publication extremist.


And now on 28 July the conclusion of the Moscow "Center for Socio-Cultural Expert Analysis" (110 pages with appendices), which was made from August 2016 to late May 2017 and gave an affirmative answer to the inquiry about extremism, is being presented to the court. The conclusion was prepared by two political scientists! It was confirmed by the center's director, a teacher of English!


Acquaintance with the expert analysis shows that its authors were struck, in a rather childish way, by the eschatological judgment of the world and of the opponents of the new faith, which was characteristic of the first generations of Christians and also 12 to 14 centuries later of the protestants (and yet another half century later, of the Old Believers).


Such is the "healthy" ancient Roman view of the emergence of Christianity.


The experts do not like the divergence from the Synodal translation (an analytical translation made as a Russian literary translation from an English original that is obviously based on the King James Bible), like, for example, that "stauros" is rendered as "torture stake"* and not the customary "cross."


And then I recalled that 508 years ago, in August 1509, Emperor Maximilian instructed the renegade Johannes Pfefferkorn to prepare a rationale for destroying the Talmud. And at that time the flower of contemporary humanist thought—Johann Reuchlin, Ulrich von Hutten (who wrote a pamphlet, "Letters of Obscure Men," in defense of Reuchlin), Erasmus of Rotterdam, and even Martin Luther, who at the time was a philo-semite—launched such a campaign that Pope Leo X lifted the ban from the Talmud and even ordered its translation into Latin, as a resource to aid Christians, and its widespread publication.


From this struggle for freedom of acquaintance with Jewish theology there also began the philosophical preparation of the Reformation.


But such will not be in our country. The liberal community has not rallied in the name of defense of the right to read new translations of the Bible.


*"Stauros" is in Greek simply a post. But "torture stake" better renders the semantics of "tree for hanging": Deut. 21.23: "His body shall not hang overnight on a tree, but you shall bury him that day, for [everyone] who hangs [on a tree] is cursed by God, and you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (tr. b PDS, posted 28 July 2017



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 27 July 2017


On 28 July 2017 in the Vyborg city court (Leningrad province) hearings will be resumed in the lawsuit of the Leningrad-Finland transport prosecutor's office for finding the canonical Bible, seized at customs from Jehovah's Witnesses, to be "extremist material." The court received an "expert analysis," whose authors criticize this edition from the position of Orthodox apologetics and they ascribe to it extremist contents!


This "expert analysis" was conducted by a teacher, Natalia Kriukova, the author of about 50 similar conclusions against Jehovah's Witnesses, and also her constant co-authors: an Orthodox religious studies scholar, V. Kotelnikov, and a translator from English, A. Tarasov. Earlier, the Investigative Committee of the RF was given a declaration of opening a criminal case against Kriukova for giving false expert conclusions (article 307 of the Criminal Code of the RF). For example, on the basis of conclusions by said "expert," two believers in suburban Moscow were subjected to unjust criminal prosecution for many years.


The actions of N. Kriukova with respect to her assessment of the Bible seized from the Jehovah's Witnesses are significant. In her conclusion of 6 June 2017, Kriukova, trying to prove that this edition is not a Bible, reports: "The book 'Sacred Scripture—New World Translation' lacks the titles 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament,' and these divisions are called respectively 'Jewish-Aramaic Scriptures' and 'Christian Greek Scriptures.' And as an argument for the 'extremist' nature of the material presented for expert analysis, the authors of the conclusion cite the following quotation no fewer than 12 times: 'God rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and the neighboring city of Gomorrah. All their wicked residents died."


The attempt to find the Bible itself to be extremist seems to be implausible against the background of the fact that in the autumn of 2015 the president of Russia promoted and signed a law protecting Sacred Scripture, including the Bible, from the reach of anti-extremism legislation. Nevertheless, the prosecutor's lawsuit is a fait accompli. On Friday, 28 July 2017, the court may for the first time in history find the canonical Bible to be "extremist material."


The decision in this case may affect very many people, since the Bible is a book respected and widespread in Russia. There are no fewer than 50 different translations of the whole Bible or parts thereof in the Russian language. The lawsuit of the prosecutor's office has already evoked unanimous condemnation from rights activists and religious studies scholars. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 July 2017)



by Anton Chivchalov

for Portal-Credo.Ru, 26 July 2017


On 28 July in Vyborg one of the most ridiculous judicial proceedings in the history of Russian jurisprudence will be resumed, a trial which cannot occur in a secular state, a trial of a translation of the Bible. On the basis of a lawsuit of the Leningrad-Finland transport prosecutor, the Vyborg city court is trying to establish the extent to which the Bible in the Jehovah's Witnesses' edition (full name: "Sacred Scripture—New World Translation") correctly renders God's Word, Revelation, and also whether it is "extremist."


It is this trial in which an expert for the prosecution, Natalia Kriukova (by education a mathematician), has already stated that the Bible "taken as a book, ceases to be the Bible, which it becomes only in the Church," and the Jehovah's Witnesses' Bible "permits transmitting some other system of doctrinal and ethical texts, distinguished from the Christian tradition." The prosecution is sending to society a clear signal: society may read only books that "transmit" correct traditions, and none others.


Indeed, in 2015 the State Duma adopted a law forbidding the finding of sacred scriptures of principal religions to be "extremist material." Therefore the prosecutor's office is trying by all its powers to prove that the Jehovah Witnesses' Bible is not a Bible but a simple book. Consequently, it may be (and must be) declared "extremist." In the opinion of the Sova Center for News and Analysis, "The New World Translation does not contain signs of extremism," and it is very difficult to imagine how a translation of the Bible, however (theoretically) bad, may be "extremist."


But the first hearings in Vyborg have already shown that logic and law are absent in this court. The sides of the proceedings are discussing the Bible, holy fathers, and church statutes under the astonished gazes of foreign observers.


For the hearing of 28 July, the prosecutor's office has prepared a new, intensive expert analysis of the New World Translation which is simply shocking in its illiteracy and outright mockery of law of a secular state. In a sort of "secular" and "scientific" expert analysis, the provisions of the Orthodox faith are defended by the open text, for example the doctrine of the Trinity, while it cites a seminary student as an academic authority. It declares unacceptable the use of the name of God in the form of "Jehovah," despite the fact that this same name in the same form is used in the official Orthodox Synodal translation [see Ex. 3.14; Ex. 15.3; Ex. 17.15; Jud. 6.24; Hos.12.5]. All of this shows that the prosecutor's office now does not hide the fact that it is fighting with the Jehovah's Witnesses from a purely doctrinal, theological position.


The expert conclusion was conducted by persons who do not have the necessary education and qualifications. The court ordered a complex linguistic and religious studies expert analysis, which was not done. Besides the mathematics teacher Natalia Kriukova, there is another expert, V.S. Kotelnikov, who is declared to be a religious studies scholar, although in reality he graduated from the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Humanities University. A third expert, A.E. Tarasov, is a translator from English and German languages, but he is not a linguist. The expert analysis is essentially plagiarism, since it copies various public sources about Jehovah's Witnesses from the Internet, which naturally have an anti-cult bias. Instead of a qualified expert analysis, the prosecutor's office offers the court, at best, a theological abstract with a substantiation of the truth of the Orthodox faith and, at worst, an outright profanation.


A member of the Council on Human Rights under the president of the Russian federation, Liudmila Alekseeva, comments on the trial of the Bible thus: "If knowledgeable people do not stop them, it will be a disgrace before the whole world, because the Bible is a great book which is read not only be Christians of the whole world but by the whole world in general. They just have to be very ignorant people." The trial will become a litmus test, which will show whether we really live in a secular state, where all religions are equal, or whether in our country once again some turn out to be more equal than others. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 July 2017)



by Anton Chivchalov

28 July 2017


Today in the city court of Vyborg, a group of experts consisting of a mathematician, translator, and Orthodox religious studies scholar will try to analyze expertly the most widely distributed translation of the Bible in the world, the so-called "New World Translation." Or more precisely, they will try to prove that this Bible is not at all the Bible but is a strange book in a gray cover.


Here are three significant arguments from this expert analysis.


The title of the book does not include the word "Bible," but only "Sacred Scripture."


Apparently the authors are not up to date and do not know that in biblical studies and generally in Christianity "Sacred Scripture" is a synonym for "Bible." Numerous biblical translations also are titled "Sacred Scripture." For example, Muslims prefer the variant "Sacred Scripture" when they speak about the Bible. And in general it is difficult to understand how the presence or absence of some word in a title affects the contents of the book itself. Can one say that the novel "Anna Karenina" is not a novel because the word "novel" is not in the title? Textual analysis never relies on the title of the text.


It does not contain the words "Old Testament" and "New Testament," but "Jewish-Aramaic Scriptures" and "Christian Greek Scriptures."


These titles are relative; they are not a part of the biblical text and they were devised much later. The very division of the biblical canon into two parts is relative and arbitrary. This issue is completely the responsibility of the translators and publishers. Strictly speaking, they are not at all obliged to use these phrases. It is possible to publish a Bible without this division and it will not thereby turn the Bible into a tale about Tsar Saltan.


The Russian "New World Translation" represents a translation from the English.


The authors are not up to date and do not know that many other translations, if not the majority (including the Synodal translation) also are not direct translations from the original text. They do not know how the Russian translation of the New World Translation was accomplished. It is not a running translation from the English but a translation based on English, taking into account the Russian equivalents of the words of the original.


The mathematical, translation, and Orthodox education of the three "experts" is seriously deficient for having even an approximate understanding about biblical translation. They do not know how the work on the New World Translation was performed, how it is different from the Synodal and other translations, and how in general the translation of the Bible is conducted. Soon these learned men (and one lady) will explain to all citizens of the country which Bible they may read and which they may not. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 July 2017)


Russian original posted by ReligioPolis, 28 July 2017


Portal-Credo.Ru, 28 July 2017


The notorious proceedings in the case for finding the Bible in the translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be "extremist material" was resumed on 28 July in the Vyborg city court, a Portal-Credo.Ru correspondent reports.


Several minutes after the start of the session, the hearing was postponed because of inadequate notification of one of the sides in the administrative case, Rain LLC. The lawyer for the respondent petitioned for the postponement.


At the same time, the court refused to grant another petition from the respondent, regarding providing a large room for the trial. Because of this, only seven observers were permitted into the session.


The next hearing on the case will occur on 9 August at 9:30, Moscow time. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 July 2017)

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