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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Emphatic Diaglott

In the year 1857 Benjamin Wilson, a newspaper editor in Geneva, Illinois, U.S.A., published the first section of his interlinear translation of the inspired Greek Scriptures. The final section was issued in 1863. It was issued as one bound volume in 1864 and was called “The Emphatic Diaglott.” The name “Diaglott” means, literally, “through tongue,” but is understood to signify “interlinear.” In 1902 the copyright and plates of the Diaglott were bought from the Fowler & Wells Company of New York city and were presented as a gift to the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, Charles Taze Russell being then president of the Society. In the year 1927 this Society began issuing the Diaglott as printed on its own presses, and continues publishing it till now.

In the broad left-hand column of each page the Diaglott presents the Greek text, using the recension made by the German Dr. J. J. Griesbach in 1775-1777, and under each Greek word is presented its English equivalent. In the slim right-hand column of each page is presented a modern English translation as made by Benjamin Wilson.

It was through The Emphatic Diaglott that the Society’s first president, C. T. Russell, learned that the inspired Greek Scriptures speak of the second “presence” of Christ, for the Diaglott translated the Greek word “parousía” correctly as “presence,” and not as “coming” like the King James Version Bible. Accordingly when C. T. Russell began publishing the new Bible magazine in July of 1879, he called it Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Today, ninety years later, this magazine is entitled “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom,” and is published in seventy-two languages. Apparently, in first naming the magazine in 1879 Editor Russell was unaware that in 1862, or a year before The Emphatic Diaglott was completed, Dr. Robert Young had published in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Bible translation called “Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible” and that this translation also translated the Greek word “parousía” as “presence” and not as “coming.” He also produced the Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, which, on page 188, column 1, shows parousía to mean “a being alongside,” or “presence.” The Watch Tower issue of April, 1883, recommended this Concordance to Bible students.

- November 15, 1969 Watchtower, WTB&TS

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Benjamin Wilson's main legacy consists in two areas

The original 1865 Fowler and Wells edition of the Emphatic Diaglott was one of the earliest interlinear Greek-English New Testaments published in America and thus had considerable influence. After Wilson's death the copyright was purchased by the Millenial Dawn Bible Students (later the Watchtower Society) which from 1902 distributed Wilson's work widely around the world. For this reason Wilson's name is often incorrectly associated with Jehovah's Witnesses, though Wilson never had any association with the founder of that group Charles Taze Russell. Further Wilson's own views on the allegorical nature of the devil, non-preexistence of Christ, literal return of Christ, - increasing in conflict with the Watchtower Society after 1914 - are occasionally reflected in the side column of the Diaglott giving Wilson's own English translation.

The church Wilson was a leading figure in founding still exists today. In 1921 the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith split into two, primarily over the issue of whether the devil was to be understood as literal or figurative, both taking the name Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith, resulting in some confusion today: The smaller group, which retained the view of Wilson on the devil as allegory, is now sometimes also known as the Church of the Blessed Hope. This group is in unity talks with Christadelphians. The larger group, which today predominantly believe in a supernatural devil, are also known as the Church of God General Conference. Their publications commonly cite Joseph Marsh (1802-1863) rather than Wilson as their spiritual forebear, though Marsh's role in the formation of the group is not clearly documented.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A nephew of Benjamin Wilson wrote this account of the production of The Diaglott:

"While I was a boy, my father put me into The Gospel Banner office to learn the printing business. It was during this time, that the EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT was translated and printed. I can now in my mind’s eye see my Uncle Benjamin, sitting at his desk, making a literal word for word translation of the New Testament. I remember seeing the Greek type arrive from England. Many readers of the Diaglott may not be aware that my Uncle not only translated the Diaglott, but took charge of the mechanical work as well. He electro-typed the entire book himself. The following was the process he followed. As each page of the Diaglott was put into type, he took an impression of the page of type in wax. This wax mold was then blackened with very fine blacklead dust. He had a vat containing acid. In this acid he hung a copper plate, and also the wax mold, before he went home at night. In the morning he would find the wax mold would be covered with a thin sheet of copper. This acid dissolved the copper, and the black lead attracted it to the wax mold. He then made metal plates out of melted metal and fastened the copper sheet upon it. He then printed the first edition of the book, from these plates, on a hand press. I used to ink the plate by a soft roller, while he worked the press."

- Peter Hemingray. A preface to the new edition of The Emphatic Diaglott, The Abrahamic Faith Beacon Publishing Society, Miami 2003


We are in receipt of many letters asking, whether this work is of any value to English readers who have no knowledge of the Greek. We answer, Yes; it is specially designed for such: and the Diaglott, together with Young's Analytical Concordance, are worth more than a year's study of the Greek. Both should be in the hands of every Bible student; but if you cannot afford both, the Diaglott is the most valuable--indeed almost indispensable.

Many orders come for the Diaglott from persons not subscribers to the TOWER, and for extra copies for friends from those who are subscribers. Hence, we must explain particularly, why we can supply this work to TOWER subscribers only, and to these only one copy each, at the special price $1.50. The reasons are as follows:

Some years ago a Brother, who is a great friend to the TOWER, and a great admirer of the Emphatic Diaglott also, suggested that, Every student of God's plan, as presented in the TOWER, ought to have the aid which the Diaglott affords. The difficulty which seemed to stand in the way was, that it is of necessity an expensive work (Retail price in cloth binding $4.00, postage 16 cts. = $4.16.) and the great majority of our readers are far from wealthy, like the majority of the saints in all ages. To meet this difficulty, the Brother proposed to the TOWER PUB. CO., that, if they would be at the trouble and expense of mailing the books, he would supply one copy each to all TOWER subscribers, at a price to bring the book within the reach of all, viz. $1.50, including postage.

This was begun when our subscription list was much smaller than now, and is still continued: New readers of either DIAGLOTT or TOWER need both. Subscribers will please save us the annoyance of refusing, and returning their money, by ordering only one copy of the Diaglott: unless your first copy has worn out,--in which case, in ordering another, mention this fact. The only way for others to get the book at this special price is to subscribe for the TOWER: and the Diaglott must be mailed direct to the subscriber and not to another person.

- July, 1888 Watchtower, WTB&TS


This very valuable work, published under the author's copyright by Fowler & Wells Co., New York City, until now (A.D. 1902), has been sold by them at $4 in cloth and $5 in half leather binding. For several years a friend, an earnest Bible student, desirous of assisting the readers of our Society's publications, has supplied them through us at a greatly reduced price; now he has purchased the copyuright and plates from the Fowler & Wells Co., and presented the same to our Society as a gift, under our assurance that the gift will be used for the furthering of the Truth to the extent of our ability, by such a reduction of price as will permit the poor of the Lord's flock to have this help in the study of the Word.

REDUCED PRICES.--These will be sold with ZION'S WATCH TOWER only. In cloth binding $1.50 (6s. 3d.)--includes postage and one year's subscription, new or renewal, to Z.W.T. On thin paper, in full morocco leather, divinity circuit, red under gold edges, silk sewed leather lined, $2.50 (10s. 6d.)-- includes postage and one year's subscription to Z.W.T. The morocco bound edition will not be ready for some time, but orders may be sent in now, for later delivery.

- December 15, 1902 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Christadelphians will know him best as the author of The Emphatic Diaglott. In my experience, however, the knowledge of his work often exceeds that of the author himself. For instance, I have often noted CGAF connections with Wilson only to hear the reply: "Oh yes, he was a Russellite!" I can assure you he was never such. The confusion probably arises because the copyright for The Diaglott was purchased in the early 20th century by an anonymous buyer who then donated it to the Watchtower Society. The fact that they published his work is a sad, ironic twist of history — nothing more. It must be emphasized that there was never any connection between Benjamin Wilson and the group now known as the "Jehovah’s Witnesses". By the time they had acquired the copyright, Wilson had died, and there is no evidence at all that Benjamin Wilson ever came in contact with anyone from the "Millennial Dawn Bible Students", as the denomination was popularly referred to before 1931. (There is a much happier ending to this story, as many may know. In 2004, the Abrahamic Faith Beacon Publishing Society brought home The Emphatic Diaglott and re-published a new version of it, working in partnership with The Christadelphian Advancement Trust.)

Benjamin Wilson was a towering man of faith. He was a printer by trade and printed a newspaper, The Western Mercury, after he settled in Geneva — a small town west of Chicago — in 1844. But he was far more than just a printer. He was also a diligent Bible scholar, to which The Diaglott attests. This translation was truly a labor of love for him. Not only did he spend hours, days, and months poring over the Greek — he probably spent just as much time setting the type for its publication:

"I can now in my mind’s eye see my Uncle Benjamin, sitting at his desk, making a literal word for word translation of the New Testament. I remember seeing the Greek type arrive from England. Many readers of the Diaglott may not be aware that my Uncle not only translated the Diaglott, but took charge of the mechanical work as well. He electro-typed the entire book himself" (Thomas Wilson, "How, When, Where, and By Whom was the Gospel of the Kingdom First Introduced into the Western States?", The Restitution, Nov. 28, 1906).

Benjamin Wilson believed in the virtue of independent Bible study. He fully understood that it falls to each of us to "prove what is true" and "hold fast that which is good." It was evident in the many columns he wrote as editor of The Gospel Banner for some 15 years.

This leaning on the Word is nowhere more evident than the Confession of Faith that he, along with fellow brethren, crafted in 1868 when they formed their first congregation of believers in Geneva. It is both elegant in simplicity and gracious in expression. The main points are listed here:

- Reflection, January 2009, The CHRISTADELPHIAN TIDINGS of the Kingdom of God


To trouble the reader with any lengthy remarks on the important advantages to be derived from a new translation of the Sacred Writings is deemed altogether unnecessary. Much information on this point has been given by others who have published modern Versions of the New Testament, with the reasons which have induced them to do so. Those reasons will serve in a great measure also for this. It is generally admitted by all critics that the Authorized or Common version of the Scriptures absolutely needs revision. Obsolete words, uncouth phrases, bad grammar and punctuation, etc., all require alteration. But this is not all. There are errors of a more serious nature which need correction. The translators of the Common version were circumscribed and trammeled by royal mandate; they were required to retain certain old ecclesiastical words which, accordingly, were left untranslated. Thus the minds of many who had no means of knowing the meaning of the original words have been misled and confused. Biblical criticism, however, during the last two hundred years, has done much to open up and elucidate the Word of God, by discovering many things which were unknown to the old translators, making great improvements in the text, detecting numerous interpolations and errors, and suggesting far better renderings of many passages. Many modem versions have availed themselves of this valuable assistance, and it is believed they have thereby been enabled to give the English reader a better understanding of what was originally written.

Without presuming to claim any superiority for this, as a translation of the New Testament, over any other modern version, it is thought that the present Work presents certain valuable features, not to be found elsewhere, and which will be of real practical utility to every one who wishes to read the books of the Evangelists and Apostles, as they were written under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These features are;—An approved Greek text, with the various Readings of the Vatican Manuscript, No. 1209; an Interlineary literal Word for Word English translation; a New Version, with the Signs of Emphasis; a copious selection of References; many appropriate, illustrative, and exegetical Foot-notes; and a valuable Alphabetical Appendix. This combination of important items cannot be found in any other book. The reader will find further remarks on this subject, on the page headed, "Plan of the Work;" and he is also invited to read the pages with the respective captions;—"To the Reader;" "History of the Greek Text;" and "History of English Versions." Also, on another page will be found the "Letters and Pronunciation of the Greek Alphabet," for the special benefit of those who may wish to obtain a rudimentary knowledge of that language.

The intelligent reader will at once perceive the utility and importance of this arrangement. Readers who are familiar with the original tongue obtain in this Work one of the best Greek Testaments, with important ancient Readings, well worthy of their attention; and, it is presumed, that there are even few Greek scholars who are so far advanced but may derive some help from the translation given. Those who have only a little or no knowledge of the Greek may, by careful reading and a little attention to the Interlineary translation, soon become familiar with it. This work, in fact, places in the hands of the intelligent English reader the means of knowing and appropriating for his own benefit, with but little labor on his part, what has cost others years of study and severe toil to acquire.

Scrupulous fidelity has been maintained throughout this version in giving the true rendering of the original text into English; no regard whatever being paid to the prevailing doctrines or prejudices of sects, or the peculiar tenets of theologians. To the Divine authority of the original Scriptures alone has there been the most humble and unbiased submission.

In the preparation of this Work for the press, all available help to be derived from the labors of great and learned men has been obtained and appropriated. Lexicons, Grammars, ancient and modern Versions, Commentaries, critical and explanatory. Cyclopedias, Bible and other Dictionaries, etc., have been consulted and culled from. Also, the suggestions, opinions and criticism of friends, on words, phrases and passages, have been duly considered, and sometimes adopted. It is not presumed that this Work is free from faults or errors. Infallibility is left for others to claim. Great care, however, has been exercised to make it as correct as possible.

The Work is now sent forth to the public, to stand or fall on its own merits. True, it cannot boast of being the production of a council of learned men as King James' version; but let it be remembered that Tyndale alone, under very disadvantageous circumstances, did far more for the English Bible than that learned body, for they only followed in the wake of his labors.

This Volume, principally designed for the instruction and advantage of others. is now reverently committed to the blessing of our Father in the heavens, with an earnest and sincere desire that many of those who peruse its pages may be led by the knowledge, faith and obedience inculcated therein to obtain an inheritance in the aionian kingdom of Jesus the Anointed One.

Geneva, Ill. Aug., 1864


So who was this earnest Bible student, anonymous friend and benefactor?

The answer was established in a court hearing in 1907. And it is not rocket science to guess who it really was.

The hearing was in connection with CTR’s difficulties with Maria Russell, and in April 1907 testimony was taken on CTR’s financial situation. At this hearing he explained quite openly how the Society obtained the Diaglott.

He stressed that the aim had been to allow as many as possible to obtain the Diaglott, and so had made it available on a not for profit basis.

Quoting from pages 204-205 of the transcript of the April 1907 hearing, CTR said (quote and CAPITALS MINE)

We publish also a brief New Testament, with an interlinear translation in English, and the marginal translation. It was published originally and for many years, for 30 or 40 years, by Fowler and Wells, of New York. THE PLATES WERE PRESENTED TO THE SOCIETY BY MYSELF. The Society had certain corrections made in the new plates etc., as they were considerably worn, and the edition which Fowler and Wells retailed at $4.00 and wholesaled at $2.66 – 2/3 the Society is now publishing at $1.50 per copy, and it includes postage of 16 cents on this, and as they are nearly all purchased by subscribers to the Watch Tower it goes additional with each volume, and in his subscription to the journal; that is to say, that the Watch Tower for the year and this book that was formerly sold for $4.00 go altogether, with postage included, for $1.50, WITH THE VIEW OF INTERESTING PEOPLE IN THE WATCH TOWER PUBLICATION, and permitting the Watch Tower subscribers to have the Diaglott in every home possible (end of quote).

So CTR personally donated the plates to the Watch Tower Society.

- Research by Jerome, for the Watch Tower History Blog.