An article in The Watchtower of October 1, 1972, page 588, was entitled, “Facing up to questions of conscience.” It discussed how Christians could use their consciences to make different decisions. Under the heading “Difficult decisions of conscience” we read the following:
It would therefore be wrong in such matters to try to extract from someone else, from a body of elders or from the governing body of the Christian congregation, some rule or regulation that ‘draws the line’ on matters. Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so.
The point is that we cannot let others make the decisions for us. But we must use our knowledge of God’s Word and our conscience to make our own decisions. The last part of the quotation is particularly important. No one has the right to make a rule and a law that is binding for Christians that is not directly based on the Bible.
Unfortunately, in connection with disfellowshipping offenses, the members of the Governing Body have grossly violated this rule. In the article, “What kind of persons deserve to be disfellowshipped?” In the category, “Disfellowshipping,” I show that there are 11 disfellowshipping offenses that are based on the Bible and 37 disfellowshipping offenses that are invented by the members of the Governing Body without any basis in the Bible. In this article, I will show how the members of the Governing Body have mistreated Greek words in order to find support for some of their invented disfellowshipping offenses.
There will be many discussions of the meaning of Greek words in the article. Those who do not want to go deep into these discussions can skip them and consider the conclusions and other material.
ILLICIT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE
One of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses that are mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures is porneia. A word can have a core meaning and one or more references. For example, the core meaning of the Greek word nomos is “law,” and its references are: the law of Moses, the law of Christ, and the law of the husband.
THE SCRIPTURAL MEANING AND REFERENCES OF PORNEIA
How can we find the meaning of the word porneia and other Greek words? The Watchtower of January 1, 1972, page 31, answers this question:
“But the sense in which Jesus used the word porneia at Matthew 5:32 and Mt 19:9 must be ascertained from the context.”
This quotation is very important because the meaning of Greek words in Classical Greek is often different from the meaning of the same words in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Greek-English lexicons list both the classical Greek meanings and the meanings in the Christian Greek Scriptures without distinguishing between them. So, we cannot just look at a lexicon to find the meaning of a Greek word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. We can only find the meaning and references of a Greek word by looking at how it is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, as the quotation above shows.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 19:5, 6 may illuminate the issue we are discussing:
5 and said: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together, let no man put apart.”
The key expression here is “one flesh,” and it is obvious that this expression primarily refers to sexual intercourse. On this background, I will discuss the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:16-18. I give a literal translation of these words.
16 Do you not know that anyone who is gluing together (kollaō) with a prostitute he is one body [with her]? For it is being said “the two to one flesh [will become].” 17 The one who is being glued to the Lord is one spirit [with him].” 18 Flee from illicit sexual intercourse (porneia)! Any sin that a man would do is outside the body. But the one who is practicing illicit sexual intercourse (porneuō) is sinning against his own body.
The Greek word kollaō has the meaning “stick or cling to something” according to Louw and Nida, and “to glue or weld together,” according to Mounce. And “one body” is the same as “one flesh.” The words “gluing together” with a prostitute and become “one body” with her refer to sexual intercourse, and this is connected with porneia two times in verse 18. So, both Matthew 19:5 and 1 Corinthians 5:16-18 show that the core meaning of porneia is illicit sexual intercourse. The word porneia occurs 24 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But no other meaning than illicit sexual intercourse is found in any of these occurrences.
What are the references of porneia? I quote Matthew 5:32 (above), 1 Corinthians 7:2 (middle), and Jude 7 (below):
32However, I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality (porneia), makes her a subject for adultery (moikheuō), and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (moikhaō).
2 yet, because of prevalence of fornication (porneia), let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband.
7 So too Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication (ekporneuō) excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before [us] as a [warning] example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.
The core meaning and reference of the Greek verb moikheō (noun moikheia) is sexual intercourse between a married person and another person to whom he or she is not married. Matthew 5:32 shows that this is one reference of porneia. 1 Corinthians 7:2 shows that sexual intercourse between persons who are not married to each other is another reference, and Jude 7 shows that sexual intercourse between homosexuals is a third reference of porneia. No other references are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Table 1.1 Meaning and references of porneia
|Meaning||Illicit sexual intercourse|
|Reference||Sexual intercourse between one who is married and one to whom he or she is not married.|
|“||Sexual intercourse between unmarried persons.|
|“||Sexual intercourse between homosexuals.|
Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 5:11 that a person who is a pornos — one who is practicing illicit sexual intercourse and refuses to stop doing this, must be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation.
THE MISTREATMENT OF THE WORD PORNEIA
As we see in table 1.2 below, there has been many different definitions and references of the word porneia in the Watchtower literature during the last 67 years.
THE CORRECT DEFINITION AND APPLICATION OF PORNEIA
The Watchtower of January 1, 1952, page 31, said:
Fornication [porneia] is sometimes, esp. in the Bible, used to include all sexual intercourse except between husband and wife or concubine.
This is the true biblical definition of porneia. It always includes sexual intercourse, and none of the 24 occurrences of the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures refers to other sexual acts than illicit sexual intercourse. Whether homosexual intercourse is included is not mentioned in the quotation. But this is discussed in The Watchtower of January 1, 1972, pages 31, 32:
The Greek word for fornication is porneía. It can refer to illicit sexual relations between either married or unmarried persons. The ancient Greeks, in rare instances, may have understood this term to denote acts other than illicit sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. But the sense in which Jesus used the word porneía at Matthew 5:32 and Mt 19:9 must be ascertained from the context…
While both homosexuality and bestiality are disgusting perversions, in the case of neither one is the marriage tie broken. It is broken only by acts that make an individual “one flesh” with a person of the opposite sex other than his or her legal marriage mate.
This definition shows that porneia only refers to illicit sexual intercourse, and the view is that sexual intercourse between homosexuals is not included in the word porneia. However,
However, The Watchtower of December 15, 1972, page 767, says:
Does this mean that unnatural and perverted sexual relations such as those engaged in by homosexuals are included in the meaning of this term used by the apostle in recording Jesus’ words? Yes, that is the case. This can be seen by the way Jesus’ half brother Jude used por·neiʹa when referring to the unnatural sex acts of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 7) Concerning the use of por·neiʹa by Greek-speaking Jews around the start of the Common Era, the sixth volume of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says: “πορνεία [por·neiʹa] can also be ‘unnatural vice,’ . . . sodomy.”
Now we have the full meaning and references of porneia from the Watchtower literature until the year 1972. The meaning of the word is illicit sexual intercourse, and its references are, 1) sexual intercourse between a married person and one to whom he or she is not married, 2) sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, and 3) sexual intercourse between homosexuals.
THE WRONG DEFINITION AND APPLICATION OF PORNEIA
According to the life histories of the members of the Governing Body, none of them know the Greek language of the Christian Greek Scriptures, and none of them have studied linguistics or lexical semantics. However, the revision of the New World Translation of 2013 shows that there are other persons at Bethel in the USA who have a good knowledge of Greek. So, the members of the Governing Body are dependent on these when they seek definitions of Greek words. It does not appear that these persons have a good knowledge of the rules of lexical semantics because those who have made the definitions of Greek words like porneia, asēlgeia, and akatharsia have made several rookie mistakes.
One example of an inexperienced person’s mistakes is seen in The Watchtower of March 15, 1983, page 30.
What do we understand here by “fornication”? The Greek word in this text is porneia. In discussing the matter, The Watchtower of December 15, 1972, pages 766-768, showed that porneia “comes from a root word meaning ‘to sell.’” Thus it is tied in with prostitution, such as that practiced in many pagan temples in the first century and in ‘houses of ill fame’ today… But to this day, the term porneia embraces the various kinds of sexual activity that might take place in a house of prostitution, where sexual favors are bought and sold.
First, the writer is guilty of what is called the etymological fallacy, Wikipedia says:
An argument constitutes an etymological fallacy if it makes a claim about the present meaning of a word based exclusively on its etymology.
The word “thus” in the quote from The Watchtower shows that the argument for connecting porneia with prostitution and the sexual activity that takes place in a house of prostitution is the etymological fallacy — the etymology goes back to “sell,” and prostitutes sell sex to their customers. But this argument is complete nonsense.
Second, the writer confuses the meaning of words in Classical Greek and in the Christian Greek Scriptures. No one will deny that Greek words used in the Christian Greek Scriptures may have different meanings compared with the same words in Classical Greek. This is, for example, the cases with the words psykhē (“soul”), hadēs (“mankind’s common grave”), and agapē (“love based on principles”). So, even if the word “sell” had influenced the application of the word porneia in Classical Greek, that has nothing to do with the application of porneia in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The right approach for those who follow the principles of lexical semantics is mentioned in The Watchtower of January 1, 1972, which I already have quoted: The meaning “must be ascertained from the context.” This I have done above, and the only meaning of porneia in the Christian Greek Scriptures is illicit sexual intercourse. Table 1.2 shows how the members of the Governing Body has given porneia other meanings and references than those that are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Table 1.2 Different definitions of porneia i the Watchtower literature
|1956||Artificial insemination from another man than her husband.|
|1969||Bestiality is not porneia, but it is a disfellowshipping offense.|
|1970||The word porneia can possibly include homosexuality.|
|1972, January||The word porneia does not include homosexuality and bestiality.|
|1972, November||The word porneia includes homosexual acts.|
|1974||The word porneia can be applied inside marriage to anal an oral sex and other lewd practices performed by married persons.|
|1978||The word porneia cannot be applied inside marriage to anal an oral sex, and such actions cannot lead to divorce. However, one marriage mate can view sexual actions by the other mate so lewd that he or she defines them as porneia. On this basis, the married mate can rightly demand a divorce.|
|1978||No Scriptural instruction regarding sexual relations inside marriage exists. Only the married couple can decide how their sexual relations should be performed.|
|1983||The GB decides that they have the right to make rules for sexual relations between married couples: While oral and anal sex by a married couple are not porneia, they are “perversions”. Such actions are not reasons for divorce, but they can still lead to disfellowshipping.|
|1983||The word porneia includes sexual relations between a human being and a beast.|
|1999||The word porneia includes deliberate fondling of the genitals of a person to whom he or she is not married.|
|2018||The word porneia can include the mimicking of sex actions of fully clothed persons without any skin-to- skin contact.|
The Greek word porneia is a disfellowshipping offense according to Paul. When the members of the Governing Body violate the basic rules of lexical semantics and attach meanings to porneia that are not found in the Holy Scriptures, the result is that a great number of Witnesses are disfellowshipped on the basis of human commandments that are not based on the Bible. The Governing Body has in many cases “drawn the line” without any basis in God’s Word, and by this have added to God’s Word.
. For a discussion of how we can find the meaning of words, and the difference between the meaning and the references of a word, see My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 222-224.
. For a detailed discussion of the word porneia, see my article, “Illicit sexual intercourse (porneia)” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.
GROSS UNCLEANNESS — UNCLEANNESS WITH GREEDINESS (AKATARSIA)
The heading that is an umbrella term under which eight disfellowshipping offenses are subsumed is in its entirety invented by the Governing Body, and neither it nor the eight disfellowshipping offenses have any basis in the Holy Scriptures. The eight invented disfellowshipping offenses are as follows:
- Momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts.
- Immoral conversations over the telephone or the Internet.
- Viewing abhorrent forms of pornography.
- Misuse of tobacco.
- Use of marijuana, betel nut.
- Abuse of medical, illicit, or addictive drugs.
- Extreme physical uncleanness.
- Oral or anal copulation inside marriage.
THE MISTREATMENT OF THE WORD AKATHARSIA
The meaning of the term akatharsia is “uncleanness,” and The Watchtower of July 15, 2006, page 30 says:
Uncleanness (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa) is the broadest of the three terms rendered “fornication,” “uncleanness,” and “loose conduct.” It embraces impurity of any kind—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships. “Uncleanness” covers a wide range of serious sins.
As recorded at 2 Corinthians 12:21, Paul refers to those who “formerly sinned but have not repented over their uncleanness and fornication and loose conduct that they have practiced.” Since “uncleanness” is listed with “fornication and loose conduct,” some forms of uncleanness warrant judicial action. But uncleanness is a broad term that includes things that are not of a judicial nature. Just as a house may be somewhat dirty or completely filthy, uncleanness has degrees. (My italics.)
Here we again see several rookie mistakes. The words that “‘uncleanness’ covers a wide range of serious sins,” are misleading because of the word “serious.” In the vocabulary of the members of the Governing Body, “serious sins” in many or most instances refer to disfellowshipping offenses. It is true that akatharsia “embraces impurity of any kind.” We can, for example, characterize porneia (“illicit sexual intercourse”) as akatharsia (“uncleanness”). However, the agenda of the members of the Governing Body is to show that the word akatharsia alone and in itself can refer to disfellowshipping offenses, such as the eight ones that are mentioned above. To lay the groundwork for this view the words “serious sins” are used.
Then comes a nonsensical argument: “Since “uncleanness” is listed with “fornication and loose conduct,” some forms of uncleanness warrant judicial action.” The expression “judicial action” only refers to disfellowshipping offenses. In this situation, I think it is good to use the maxim quoted at the beginning:
Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so.
There are two serious errors with the expression we are discussing.
First. The maxim says that if God’s Word does not draw the line, no one has the right to do so. This means that to “warrant judicial action,” a sin must be mentioned in the Scriptures as a disfellowshipping offense. And that is not the case with akatharsia (“uncleanness”).
Second. The argument that because “uncleanness” is mentioned together with “fornication and loose conduct” it must be a disfellowshipping offense is not only wrong but it is simply absurd. We can see this by quoting Galatians 5: 19, 20:
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.
In verse 19, the three words are mentioned together. However, there are also 12 other bad things that are mentioned together with these. So, if “some forms of uncleanness” are disfellowshipping offenses because “uncleanness” is mentioned together with “fornication and loose conduct,” then some forms of all the other 12 bad things must also be disfellowshipping offenses. But that is, of course, impossible. Persons cannot, for example, be disfellowshipped because of enmities, strife, and jealousy because these are abstract inclinations and not actions.
The conclusion regarding akatharsia is that there is no text in the Bible showing that this word refers to a disfellowshipping offense. And the same is true with the eight actions that are subsumed under akatharsia as disfellowshipping actions. So, everything the Shepherd book says about akatharsia and the mentioned eight actions is pure fiction!
THE CONCEPT “UNCLEANNESS WITH GREEDINESS” IS NONEXISTENT IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
In order to create an umbrella term for different disfellowshipping offenses, the members of the Governing Body have created the term “gross uncleanness.” But this is not a term applied to Christians in the Bible. In addition to this term, the term “uncleanness with greediness” has been created. The Watchtower of July 15, 2006, page 30, says:
Paul said, according to Ephesians 4:19, that some individuals had “come to be past all moral sense” and that “they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” Paul thus puts “uncleanness . . . with greediness” in the same category as loose conduct. If a baptized person unrepentantly practices “uncleanness . . . with greediness (pleonexia),” he can be expelled from the congregation on the grounds of gross uncleanness.
The arguments above are untenable:
First, if we look at the context of Ephesians 4:19, we see that the words “loose conduct” (asēlgeia) and “uncleanness” (akatharsia) with greediness” do not refer to Christians but to the people of the nations. Therefore, these words cannot be applied to disfellowshipping offenses inside the Christian congregations.
Second, the rendering “greediness” in NWT13 for pleonexia is inaccurate. The word pleonexia, which is rendered as “greediness,” is mentioned in Colossians 3:5. The study note of NWT13 defines “greediness” in the following way:
The Greek word pleonexia, here rendered “greediness” denotes an “insatiable desire to have more.”
The Wikipedia defines “greed” in the same way:
Greed (or avarice) is an insatiable desire for material gain (be it food, money, land, or animate/inanimate possessions) or social value, such as status, or power. Greed has been identified as undesirable throughout known human history because it creates behavior-conflict between personal and social goals.
There is no Greek or Hebrew word with the meaning “greediness.” The closest we come is “covetousness.” The difference is that covetousness is a weak or strong, positive or negative, desire for something. And this desire can be satisfied. Greed is a strong negative feeling that never can be satisfied. In my article “Greed” in the category “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses,” I have analyzed pleonexia and related words in detail, and my conclusion is that the meaning of pleonexia is “exploited gain” and not “greed.” Below is the translation of NWT13 of Ephesians 4:19 (above) compared with my translation (below):
19They have lost all feeling of shame; they gave themselves over to unrestrained lust (asēlgeia) so as to practice every kind of uncleanness (akatharsia) by exploitation (pleonexia).
19Having gone past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to brazen conduct (asēlgeia) to practice every sort of uncleanness (akatharsia) with greediness (pleonexia).
If the definition in NWT13 of pleonexia as “an insatiable desire to have more” is correct, then the rendering “with greediness” in Ephesians 4:19 is wrong, and the concept “uncleanness with greediness” is nonexistent even among people outside the Christian congregations.
Third, the use of the concept “uncleanness with greediness” is ambiguous and unclear, and this is the case with many of the disfellowshipping offenses that are invented by the Governing Body as well. Greediness is a desire, and we cannot read the minds of other people knowing which desires they have.
For example, “Momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts” is subsumed under the umbrella term “Gross uncleanness — uncleanness with greediness.” When the judicial committee is interrogating a brother, how can they know whether his action is based on a strong attraction to the sister, which is natural, or whether it is based on an insatiable desire to go as far as possible with the sister? “Abuse of medical, illicit, or addictive drugs,” is also mentioned. How can the elders know if very much use of medical or addictive drugs is conditioned by illness, which is natural? And if not, how can they know whether the brother or sister has become addicted to a particular drug, or whether he or she has an insatiable desire for this drug and cannot get enough of this drug? Because the situation is so unclear the decision of the elders of disfellowshipping or not very often is based on their gut feelings and not on concrete data.
The umbrella term in the heading under which three or more disfellowshipping offenses are subsumed is in its entirety invented by the Governing Body, and neither it nor the three or more disfellowshipping offenses are based on the Holy Scriptures. The three or more invented disfellowshipping offenses are as follows:
- Unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated individuals.
- Dating, though not Scripturally free to remarry.
- Brazen conduct in different situations.
I use the words “three or more” because the elders can conclude that a brother or sister has a brazen attitude in many situations. For example, if they are interrogating a brother in connection with too close contact with a sister, they can conclude that his behavior is brazen, and so they can disfellowship him because he is brazen.
THE MEANING AND REFERENCES OF THE WORD ASELGEIA
The Watchtower of July 15, 2006, page 30, has a definition of the Greek word asēlgeia. We note that NWT84 translated asēlgeia by “loose conduct” while NWT13 has the rendering “brazen conduct.”
As the foregoing definitions show, “loose conduct” [aselgeia] involves two elements: (1) The conduct itself is a serious violation of God’s laws, and (2) the attitude of the wrongdoer is disrespectful, insolent. Therefore, “loose conduct” [aselgeia] does not refer to bad conduct of a minor nature. It pertains to acts that are serious violations of God’s laws and that reflect a brazen or boldly contemptuous attitude—a spirit that betrays disrespect or even contempt for authority, laws, and standards. Paul links loose conduct with illicit intercourse. (Romans 13:13, 14) Since Galatians 5:19–21 lists loose conduct among a number of sinful practices that would disqualify one from inheriting God’s Kingdom, loose conduct is grounds for reproof and possible disfellowshipping from the Christian congregation.
Here we again see several rookie mistakes — the definitions in this quotation are taken out of thin air. The word aselgeia occurs ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and in none of the contexts of these occurrences is it shown that the word represents “serious violations of God’s laws” or that “the wrongdoer is disrespectful, insolent.” And nowhere is it shown that aselgeia is a disfellowshipping offense.
However, the same argument is used in connection with aselgeia as in the case of akatharsia. Because aselegeia is found in Galatians 5:19-21 together with 14 other bad things, it refers to serious violations of God’s laws and can lead to disfellowshipping. This is a nonsensical argument. If aselgeia can be a disfellowshipping offense because it is mentioned together with the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, all the works of the flesh must be disfellowshipping offenses. But the Governing Body does not claim that. And enmities, strife, and jealousy that are mentioned in Galatians 5:20 cannot be disfellowshipping offenses because these are abstract inclinations and not actions.
I quote the maxim one more time: Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so. The members of the Governing Body have drawn the line and claim that aselgeia is a disfellowshipping offense. But according to the maxim, only offenses that in God’s Word are said to be disfellowshipping offenses can be treated as such. And this is the case with aselgeia.
The fact that the meaning of aselgeia is uncertain also shows that it cannot be a disfellowshipping offense. God would not use terms whose meanings are unclear as disfellowshipping offenses. One important question in connection with the meaning of aselgeia is whether the word refers to something that is concrete or abstract. In nine of the ten occurrences of the word (Mark 7:2, Romans 13:13, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 4:19, 1 Peter 4:3, 2 Peter 2:2, 18, and Jude 4), aselgeia is a part of different lists of several words, and there is nothing in these lists that can suggest its meaning and reference of this word. The only thing we can construe from these lists is that the word refers to something that is bad in the eyes of God.
The tenth occurrence is in 2 Peter 2:18, and this text may suggest that aselgeia is abstract rather than concrete. Below I have listed 11 different translations of the Greek words epithymiais sarkos aselgeiais in this verse. The word epithymia (singular of epithymiais) has the meaning “earnest desire; impure desire; lust” according to Mounce, and the noun sarkos means “flesh.” Because sarkos is in the genitive case, it has an “owner” relationship with epithymia. So, the rendering “desires of the flesh” for epithymiais sarkos is certain. The noun aselgeia (singular of aselgeiais) stands next to sarkos, and there is no kai (“and”) in between. Because both epithymiais and aselgeiais stand in the same case (dative plural), the noun sarkos (“flesh”) may have an “owner” relationship to both the words. The following six translations take sarkos (“flesh”) in an “owner” relationship both with epithymiais and aselgeiais.
New American Bible
For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped from people who live in error.
New Revised Standard Version
For they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error.
English Standard Version
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
New International Version)
For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.
Revised Standard Version
For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error.
New Living Translation (2nd ed.)
They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception.
The word epithymiais is rendered as “desires” and “passions,” and aselgeiais is rendered as “licentious,” “sensual,” and lustful.” These six translations view aselgeia as having an abstract meaning. The two translations New Jerusalem Bible and New King James Version take aselgeia in a concrete sense, as “debauchery” and “lewdness,” and the rendering “lasciviousness” of American Standard Version can either be concrete or abstract:
New Jerusalem Bible
With their high-sounding but empty talk they tempt back people who have scarcely escaped from those who live in error, by playing on the disordered desires of their human nature and by debaucheries.
New King James Version
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
American Standard Version
For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error;
Both NWT84 and NWT13 take aselgeia as a concrete action:
18 For they utter swelling expressions of no profit, and by the desires of the flesh and by loose habits they entice those who are just escaping from people who conduct themselves in error.
18 By appealing to the desires of the flesh and with acts of brazen conduct, they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error.
The rendering “brazen conduct” of NWT13 is strange. I have consulted five different Greek-English Lexicons, and none of the different meanings and references they give for aselgeia, either for Classical Greek or for the Greek of the Christian Greek Scriptures include the idea of something that is brazen. A common denominator for all the meanings and references the lexicon gives is that aselgeia refers to something that is morally inferior, something that may refer to sexual lusts, as we find in the rendering of the American Standard Version.
On the basis of this common denominator, I suggest “unrestrained lust” as the meaning of aselgeia. But as I already have mentioned, none of the contexts of the ten occurrences of aselgeia in the Christian Greek Scriptures give any clues as to the meaning of the word. So, my suggestion “unrestrained lust” is just an educated guess. The three Greek words porneia (“illicit sexual intercourse”), aselgeia (“unrestrained lust”) and akatharsia (“uncleanness”) occur together in 2 Corinthians 2:23 and Galatians 5:19. I suggest the following meaning of the occurrence of the three words together:
asēlgeia refers to strong sexual desire, porneia shows that the strong sexual desire leads to illicit sexual intercourse, and akatharsia shows the result of the illicit sexual intercourse, which is uncleanness.
The conclusion to this section is that the rendering “brazen conduct” for aselgeia has no lexical basis. The meaning “brazen” is far away from any meaning or reference found in Greek-English lexicons, and “conduct” assumes that aselgeia refers to different actions. But as the six Bible translations above show, it is likely that aselgeia refers to abstract passions or desires and not to actions.
Claiming that aselgeia represents disfellowshipping offenses is a violation of the principle of sola scripture, that the Bible is our sole authority, because no text shows that aselgeia represents disfellowshipping offenses. And listing “Unnecessary association with disfellowshipped or disassociated individuals” and “Dating, though not Scripturally free to remarry” as disfellowshipping offenses because these actions are aselgeia (“brazen conduct”), simply is stupidity. These actions have nothing to do with brazen conduct, the meaning that the members of the Governing Body have given aselgeia. And even more important: because we do not know the meaning of aselgeia, it is completely nonsensical to claim that particular actions are aselgeia.
This is a sad article. It is sad because it reminds us of all the tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters who have been disfellowshipped because the members of the Governing Body have elevated themselves as a government with unlimited power, and have made binding laws for all Witnesses, laws that are not based on the Bible. It is also sad because the illiterateness of these men in connection with the Greek language has led to the ruin of tens of thousands of lives and to great suffering of tens of thousands of families.
I have no doubt that the members of the Governing Body believe that what they do is right. But such a belief does not make what they do right. The main point is expressed by the quoted maxim: Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so.
Most of the different meanings the members of the Governing Body have applied to the Greek word porneia, according to Table 1.2, show how they “have drawn the line” in different contradictory directions without a basis in the Word of God. And the meaning and references they give the Greek words akatharsia and aselgeia are below par linguistically speaking. And the 11 disfellowshipping offenses that they base on the completely wrong understanding of these two words are the same as “drawing the line” 11 times where the Word of God does not draw the line one time.
So, we must be sad on the part of the members of the Governing Body who believe that they are doing what is right but what they do is wrong. And our heart is overflowing with sadness on the part of the tens of thousands of Witnesses whose lives have been ruined because of the wrong actions of the members of the Governing Body.